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Let’s Write a Practice Sonnet

Let’s Write a Practice Sonnet

You want to write a sonnet. 

It’s a good goal, and easily achieved!

You just need fourteen lines, one right after the other. And some kind of order within and between the lines.

Since we’re speaking English, we’ll start our careers with the Shakespearean sonnet. 

So our lines will all be iambic pentameters — ten syllables long, with a beat structure of unstressed, stressed, … unstressed, stressed.

And, we’ll arrange the lines in the following rhyme pattern: 
ABABCDCDEFEFGG

Anyone can do it.
No one even cares.

Here, let’s do one together:

Let’s write a practice sonnet, you and me!

That was our first line. Notice the beat: if you read the sentence without meaning to do poetry, your speech still naturally follows the unstressed, stressed, … unstressed, stressed pattern. 

For the next line, we needn’t think about rhyming. So we’ll just try to continue with some kind of a coherent thought:

Let’s write a practice sonnet, you and me!
Together I believe we will succeed. 

Read over the first line, counting out each syllable and exaggerating the natural emphasis of each syllable - to verify that it is indeed an iambic pentameter. 
And then do the same for the second line.

OK! All we’ve got to do next is find an iambic pentameter that continues a meaningful thought and whose final syllable rhymes with “me”. 

Many words end with a stressed “eee” sound. 
Like “tree”: it’s just one word, and if the word before it is unstressed, it will be, relative to that word, stressed. 
Or like “poetry”. The “po” is stressed. The “eh” unstressed. And the “tree” sound again stressed.
Or like “dignity”. 
And so on.

Let’s write a practice sonnet, you and me!
Together I believe we will succeed.
It was so lonely until poetry

And then we ought to complete that thought with an iambic pentameter ending in a stressed “eed” sound.

Let’s write a practice sonnet, you and me!
Together I believe we will succeed.
It was so lonely until poetry’s
clear, steady structures came to intercede.

For the sake of the sentence’s meaning, we had to make “poetry” into “poetry’s”. That’s OK. The rhyme’s still basically intact.

Whether we meant to or not, we’ve now created a thought. Do you feel it growing inside? It is whispering, it is suggesting, it is pleading that perhaps communication and human affairs could be less scary and lonely and hopeless lost if we applied a little more form, a little more structure. Perhaps if we could stick to reliable rules while expressing ourselves, we’d find the discipline, security, and solidity necessary for us to stand up tall and share not the frothy flighty passions at the top of our thought, but the deeper, more essential, and thus more universal and less egotistical underbelly of our conscious moments. We needn’t flush that thought out too much. It is enough to feel it wiggling inside as a vague thought, a titch of a joke, a dab of a conjecture, a touch of a desperate wail.

Let’s write a practice sonnet, you and me!
Together I believe we will succeed.
It was so lonely until poetry’s
clear, steady structures came to intercede.

We met in autumn’s softer, fonder light
and spoke glad hearts from out our eager minds.
I shook and quaked and trembled that I might
betray my weakness - where I slip behind.

Can I accept limitations without
abandoning the deeper, wider game?
It’s wise to work around those errant doubts
reflecting side-mes - not me in the main.

So write I you a poem to share my heart:
It shows up brighter wrapped and cloaked in art.

That was pretty good!

We began sensing a notion and then, cleaving to the sonnet’s structure, we made our way carefully around the notion like mountaineers feeling their way up the mountain along a steep, narrow, winding path. With prose we might’ve blasted a staircase for ourselves right up to the top of the mountain. But that vista would’ve lacked nuances that we discovered via the more arduous route.

We could’ve just said that classical poetry’s insistence on form provides one with a structured environment that creates a reassuring safety net (the predictability and thus reliability of the form itself) while demanding discipline and encouraging invention and strangeness/obliqueness; and that this combination can help one gain insight in areas where one, for whatever reason(s), struggles to progress with a more direct and unfettered approach.

But that’s not quite what the poem is about, is it?

And you don’t feel that analysis as viscerally as you feel someone meditating around the hope that poetry will help them to be brave and poised enough to share their true feelings.

The poem did miss one important point. Part of what is critical in poetry’s structure is the rhythm: that is how poetry connects to the body, allowing us to physically participate in the language — in addition to the emotional and intellectual participation that this circuitous route to insight compels us towards. Poetry lends itself to whole-being meditations.

In any case, the poem’s kind of cool, and it is one example of a sonnet, and it is our practice sonnet — thanks for being a part of it!

But that’s not quite what the poem is about, is it?

I’m afraid that we at Bartleby’s Poetry Corner almost always cheat on our sonnets. 
We usually give up on the structure after ten lines, like we do here:

Hike Mt. Thumb Sonnet

A town beneath the shadow of a thumb.
A mighty thumb of splintered stone atop
a pleasant hike wound through thick needles clumped
on twisted rough-barked arms, through boulder crops.

We posed in cotton shorts and Ts beside
a giant wooden sign upon a wall
of river rocks so smooth and cool we liked
to hug and pat it like a pet or doll.

Me first up winding trail, crisp dried pine air!
Me first through sprinkling sunlight, proud I’m there.

And here again:

Christmas 2019 Sonnet

A child on whirring elbows makes her way
through wrapping rubble, hotwheels, boxes, blocks.
A child on dancing toes at manic play.
The grownups keep their chairs, content in talk.

A walk with Uncle, Aunt, and cousin all
High boulders heaped along the slipping sea.
Between bouncing boy and where ocean lalls,
with scamp’ring collie-beagle snagged on leash.

A silent shepherd mouths what Mary speaks
while parents grin and pews and programs creak.

Ah well!
What’re you gonna do?

Author: Bartleby Willard
Editor: Amble Whistletown
Copyright: Andrew Mackenzie Watson

On Voting Third Party

On Voting Third Party

Our sense of things is that the US is a two party system and the best way to effect change in a two party system is to choose the party that aligns more closely with your goals and while also working within that party to move it more towards your vision. And to work to create more diversity within both political parties — maybe even to the point that you could vote Republican in some races and Democrat in others. We think that stopping gerrymandering and changing the primary process so that it stops choosing extreme candidates would do much more towards righting our democracy than promoting third party alternatives. We’ve had eras of much healthier democracy and we had a two party system then — so it is hard to see how that is the critical issue at play here.

Now we gather some articles that we hope to later review

America Isn’t Really Set Up For Third-Party Presidential Bids

https://www.voanews.com/usa/us-politics/how-third-party-candidates-could-upset-us-presidential-election

https://whorulesamerica.ucsc.edu/change/science_egalitarians.html

https://www.texastribune.org/2020/09/09/libertarian-third-party-close-election/

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/12/too-much-democracy-is-bad-for-democracy/600766/

https://people.howstuffworks.com/primary3.htm

Voters need help: How party insiders can make presidential primaries safer, fairer, and more democratic

https://scholars.org/contribution/do-primary-elections-promote-extremism-us

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51273719

The Impact of Partisan Gerrymandering

https://thefulcrum.us/worst-gerrymandering-districts-example

chrome-extension://gphandlahdpffmccakmbngmbjnjiiahp/https://scholarworks.uni.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1955&context=etd

Lobbying & Corruption in Trump Admin

Lobbying & Corruption in Trump Admin

To make information about Trump’s use of public office for private gain more accessible, The American Prospect has created an interactive map:

“Mapping Corruption: Donald Trump’s Executive Branch”
https://prospect.org/power/mapping-corruption-donald-trump-executive-branch/

The executive summary begins with a few examples of eyebrow-raising brazenness, such as spending one-third of his presidency at his own hotels and “Ivanka Trump snags a valuable set of Chinese trademarks on the same day she dines with Xi Jinping. Kellyanne Conway hawks Ivanka’s products in TV interviews.” The Trumps have openly profiteered from Trump’s presidency. However, the authors maintain, these surface cash-ins distract public attention from worse crimes.

The Trump Administration takes the corrupting influence of money in politics to its logical conclusions, and much of the executive summary of the interactive map (we’re only discussing the executive summary in this overview) involves uberexamples of the kind of technically-not-bribery bribery that will to some degree undermine US American democracy until we enact adequate campaign finance and lobbying reforms.

Campaign/lobbying reform is needed to push our democracy in a more healthy and sustainable direction. But first we have to keep Trump from completely destroying our democracy. The complete corporate hand-over of we US citizen’s largest public good (our shared government and its resources) is just one prong of how Trump’s actions undermine democracy.

When you read the below consider whether the policy decisions are in the public interest, or even in Trump’s interest. Who’s benefitting and why is Trump helping them?

The payday lending industry gave an “estimated $2.2 million donated by payday groups to the Trump campaign and inaugural committees during the 2016 election cycle”. The Trump administration cancelled “an Obama-era plan to protect borrowers from being sucked into long-term debt at triple-digit interest”.

Mike Hodges, CEO of Advance Financial:

{Q “I’ve gone to [Republican National Committee chair] Ronna McDaniel and said, ‘Ronna, I need help on something,’” Hodges said on an industry webinar. “She’s been able to call over to the White House and say, ‘Hey, we have one of our large givers. They need an audience.’”}

The private prison industry—in dire straits after the Obama Justice Department, in response to a series of scandals, began phasing out federal use of private prisons—donated $575,000 to the newly elected Trump, and “a month after Inauguration Day, Sessions revoked the Obama-era guidance, by which time GEO’s stock market value had doubled, and CoreCivic’s was up 140 percent.” [GEO & CoreCivic are the Department of Homeland Security’s two biggest private prison providers.] Per the report, the private prison industry have provided Trump with “roughly $1 million in contributions to his election and re-election campaigns, at last count.”

After highlighting several examples like the above two, the executive summary of the American Prospect provides a long but “partial” list of former industry lobbyists heading agencies charged with keeping them in check (“the former coal lobbyist charged with protecting our air and water, …” etc).

The executive summary then gives several instances of corrupt-seeming behavior by heads of various departments in the Trump administration. At some point when an area stinks and stinks and stinks like a swamp, it is time to admit that what you are smelling is indeed a swamp.

Wilbur Ross, secretary of commerce: “before selling his stake in [shipping company] Navigator, which happens to own ‘the world’s largest fleet of natural gas carriers,’ Ross personally negotiated a deal to facilitate the export of American-produced liquefied natural gas to China. The ethics officer who signed off on Ross’s continued investment got a promotion.”

Betsy DeVos, secretary of education has not enforced “a presidential demand for measures to ease the impact of $1.5 trillion in ballooning student debt on millions of recent college attendees and the state of the economy. DeVos, whose department would have to implement this directive, has essentially ignored it; and Trump, whose re-election prospects depend on her money and Michigan campaign ties, has done nothing to force the issue.”

Steve Mnuchin (Goldman Sachs – see the summary for his role in the subprime collapse and his for-profit exploitation of the disaster): “as head of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and leader of the agency overseeing the IRS, Mnuchin became the administration’s point man in efforts to weaken bank regulations, obscure scrutiny of financial activities, and provide favorable tax rulings for wealthy individuals and businesses—an expanse of territory filled with opportunities for him to bestow favors on his industry cronies. In 2017, Mnuchin’s office released recommendations for tax regulations that were almost entirely lifted from a memo put out by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce [a lobbying group for business interests].”

Scott Angelle, Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: “Scott Angelle came to his Interior Department job overseeing safety and environmental enforcement after earning roughly $1.5 million on the board of an oil and gas pipeline company. Before that, he fought the BP-spill-triggered moratorium on Gulf Coast drilling while serving as Louisiana’s secretary of natural resources, a job from which he resigned when a brine company he was in charge of regulating created a giant sinkhole. Addressing an oil industry audience in 2017, Angelle gave out his cellphone number and advised his corporate listeners to communicate with him by phone in order to avoid leaving a paper trail.”

“Nancy Beck, named to head its office of chemical safety after holding a top job at an industry lobbying group, on whose behalf she had battled against an EPA proposal to halt the sale of a trio of chemicals linked to birth defects, nerve damage, and a disturbing number of deaths. Within weeks of her arrival, Beck was leading the charge against that proposal, based on the same arguments she had developed as a lobbyist, and over the protests of agency professionals who had been working on the issue.”

And so on.

Giving power to industry representatives while they fill your campaign coffers is fundamentally corrupt. Instead of bestowing power and respect upon openly demonstrated competency, cronyism and lobbyists-draft-laws favors those willing to sacrifice honesty, decency and actual-usefulness for mind-/heart-less loyalty. Trump does not appear to understand or care about the essentially evil nature of putting business in charge of regulating itself. In general, it is Donald Trump’s fundamental lack of insight into what is good about the United States of America that makes him so unfit to be its president.

One might reason that lobbyists simply give money to those politicians who already support their policies, and/or that Trump’s getting rid of bureaucratic red tape by essentially letting established powers within industries regulate themselves. The former argument weakens in instances where the money so obviously talks – such as DeVos ignoring a presidential directive that would, if implemented, be both good for the country and for Trump’s political reputation (good – but apparently not as good as all the money DeVos sends Trump’s way); or Trump helping the payday industry bilk American workers/voters. The latter argument becomes less convincing if you just stop and think about it for a second: we regulate business because people invariably sympathize too much with the material interests and security of themselves and their friends/allies and not enough with everybody else’s.

The relative lack of corruption in the Obama administration and in Joe Biden’s long political career will be covered later.

The executive summary of the interactive map of Trump’s corruption ends with a pitch for the democrats to focus on anti-corruption in the 2020 election. In this context, they touch upon Hunter Biden’s work as a lobbyist while his father was vice president. They do not let the Bidens off the hook:

“Unfortunately, voters all too often set their corruption outrage aside out of a weary sense that things will be pretty bad regardless of which way they go. That perception was one of Trump’s triumphs in the 2016 campaign; it was achieved through a combination of his ‘drain the swamp’ chants and his endless attacks on a Democratic nominee [Hillary Clinton] who had made herself conveniently vulnerable. He will no doubt deploy the same techniques again if Joe Biden is the nominee, pounding away at Hunter Biden’s high-paid corporate board gigs (emblematic, if truth be told, of small-time, bipartisan corruption that masks the much worse stuff), and ginning up whatever other scandals or pseudo-scandals come to mind. His assignment could be tougher if the Democrats end up making a different choice.”

But democratic voters did choose Biden, and so Trump has recourse to:
Look at Hunter Biden cashing in as a lobbyist while his father holds important government positions! This is Trump’s rhetorical move: If people are inclined to willfully hide from heaps of readily available evidence, then they can enjoy agreeing with Trump that everyone is out to get him and the media is overlooking the real political criminals; while those who cannot help but notice the corrupting influence of money on Trump the businessman as well as Trump the politician, but who still want to enjoy the nearness of Trump and his more rabid fans, can shrug their shoulders and say they all do it and at least Trump’s a real man.

Either Joe Biden or Don Trump will be president of the US in 2021. We who would save US democracy must demonstrate that though Biden is imperfect, he is sane and decent and very willing to work for democratic reforms. This, along with the kind of people and ideas he will bring into the White House makes him a viable option for those who believe that the US democracy is unlikely to survive another four years of Donald Trump. Joseph Biden is also the only option.

Hunter Biden in the News

Hunter Biden in the News

I want to compare various news outlets treatments of Hunter Biden.

For now I’ll just gather the articles that come up from a quick google search.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/09/report-trumps-favorite-puppet-master-vladimir-putin-behind-anti-biden-smear-campaign

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/09/23/gops-own-star-witness-just-blew-up-trumps-huntergazi-smear/

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/hunter-biden-gop-report-claims-prostitution

https://www.forbes.com/sites/sethcohen/2020/09/26/the-truth-about-hunter-biden—and-why-republicans-are-so-disappointed/#6745d8675b79

https://nypost.com/2020/09/23/hunter-biden-received-3-5m-from-russian-billionaire-report/

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/09/biden-ukraine-report-hunterjohnson-republican-burisma-trump.html

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/23/916021299/gop-report-hunter-bidens-ukraine-job-problematic-effect-on-policy-unclear

https://www.wsj.com/articles/hunter-bidens-business-11600901745

Politicizing Independent Institutions

Politicizing Independent Institutions

The US has many independent institutions — like law enforcement and the civil service — that have a fundamentally nonpolitical job to do and that are expected to perform that work competently and without political bias. Trump has managed to co-opt such institutions to an alarming degree. We must stop him to prevent a further consolidation of his power at the expense of the integrity and usefulness of our nation’s institutions and our shared democracy.

Below are excerpts from a along article about how Trump is corrupting the civil Service, and links to articles about Trump’s corruption of the Justice Department, security institutions, and national health information.

The Civil Service
Atlantic Monthly – April 2020 – The president is winning his war on American institutions – How Trump is destroying the civil service and bending the government to his will. By George Packer.

“This is the story of how a great republic went soft in the middle, lost the integrity of its guts and fell in on itself—told through government officials whose names under any other president would have remained unknown, who wanted no fame, and who faced existential questions when Trump set out to break them.”

Section 1 is “‘We’re Not Nazis'”, about Erica Newland, formerly of the US Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“Days after Trump’s inauguration, Newland’s new boss, Curtis Gannon, the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel, gave a seal of approval to the president’s ban, bigoted if not illegal, on travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries.”

” A civil service that rotates with the party in power would be a reversion to the 19th-century spoils system, whose notorious corruption led to the 1883 Pendleton Act, which created the modern merit-based, politically insulated civil service.”

“Things got worse in the second year. It seemed as if more than half of the Office of Legal Counsel’s work involved limiting the rights of noncitizens. The atmosphere of open discussion dissipated. The political appointees at the top, some of whom had voiced skepticism early on about the legality of certain policies, were readier to make excuses for Trump, to give his fabrications the benefit of the doubt. Among career officials, fear set in. They saw what was happening to colleagues in the FBI who had crossed the president during the investigation into Russian election interference—careers and reputations in ruins. For those with security clearances, speaking up, or even offering a snarky eye roll, felt particularly risky, because the bar for withdrawing a clearance was low. Steven Engel, appointed to lead the office, was a Trump loyalist who made decisions without much consultation. Newland’s colleagues found less and less reason to advance arguments that they knew would be rejected. People began to shut up.”

The article recounts an episode where Newland took a White House press release “What you need to know about the violent animals of MS-13”, which used the word “animals” more than ten times to the lunchroom. No one wanted to talk about it.

“[Newland:] ‘It’s a White House press release and I’m happy to explain why it bothers me.’ The conversation quickly became awkward, and then muted. Colleagues who had shared Newland’s dismay in private now remained silent. It was the last time she joined them in the lunchroom.”

“In 1968, James C. Thomson, a former Asia expert in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, published an essay in this magazine called “How Could Vietnam Happen? An Autopsy.” Among the reasons Thomson gave for the war was “the ‘effectiveness’ trap”—the belief among officials that it’s usually wisest to accept the status quo”

Newland’s description of the Office of Legal Counsel under Trump:

“Loyalty to the president was equated with legality. ‘There was hardly any respect for the other departments of government—not for the lower courts, not for Congress, and certainly not for the bureaucracy, for professionalism, for facts or the truth,’ she told me. ‘Corruption is the right word for this. It doesn’t have to be pay-to-play to be corrupt. It’s a departure from the oath.'”

Section 2 is “Cashing In”, about using political career experience and connections to make money in the private sector.

“There’s always been corruption in Washington, and everywhere that power can be found, but it became institutionalized starting in the late 1970s and early ’80s, with the rise of the lobbying industry.”

“Former members of Congress and their aides cashed in as lobbyists. Retired military officers cashed in with defense contractors. Justice Department officials cashed in at high-paying law firms. Former diplomats cashed in by representing foreign interests as lobbyists or public-relations strategists. A few years high up in the Justice Department could translate into tens of millions of dollars in the private sector.”

“The revolving door didn’t necessarily induce individual officeholders to betray their oath—they might be scrupulously faithful public servants between turns at the trough. But, on a deeper level, the money aligned government with plutocracy. It also made the public indiscriminately cynical. And as the public’s trust in institutions plunged, the status of bureaucrats fell with it.”

Section 3 is “‘How is your Wife?'”, about Andrew McNabe, formerly #2 at the FBI and for a short time acting director

While Trump was running for President:
“Jill McCabe, a pediatric emergency-room doctor, had run for a seat in the Virginia Senate as a Democrat in 2015 in order to work for Medicaid expansion for poor patients. She lost the race. On October 23, 2016, two weeks before the presidential election, The Wall Street Journal revealed that her campaign had received almost $700,000 from the Virginia Democratic Party and the political-action fund of Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton friend who had encouraged her to run. ‘Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official’s Wife,’ read the headline, with more innuendo than substance. McCabe had properly insulated himself from the campaign and knew nothing about the donations. FBI ethics people had cleared him to oversee the Clinton investigation, which he didn’t start doing until months after Jill’s race had ended. One had nothing to do with the other. But Trump tweeted about the Journal story, and on October 24 he enraged a crowd in St. Augustine, Florida, with the made-up news that Clinton had corrupted the bureau and bought her way out of jail through’the spouse—the wife—of the top FBI official who helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s illegal email server.’ He snarled and narrowed his eyes, he tightened his lips and shook his head, he walked away from the microphone in disgust, and the crowd shrieked its hatred for Clinton and the rigged system.”

“Within a few days, The Wall Street Journal was preparing to run a second story with damaging information about the FBI and McCabe—this time, that he had told agents to “stand down” in a secret investigation with the Clinton Foundation.” …

“As Trump prepared to take power, the Russia investigation closed in on people around him, beginning with Michael Flynn, his choice for national security adviser, who lied to FBI agents about phone calls with the Russian ambassador. Trump made it clear that he expected the FBI to drop the Flynn case and shield the White House from the tightening circle of investigation. At a White House dinner for two, the new president told his FBI director that he wanted loyalty. Comey replied with a promise of honesty. Trump then asked if McCabe ‘has a problem with me. I was pretty rough on him and his wife during the campaign.” Comey called McCabe “a true professional,’ adding: ‘FBI people, whatever their personal views, they strip them away when they step into their bureau roles.'”

During a conversation with Trump directly after he’d fired Comey:

“’Your only problem is that one mistake you made,’ McCabe later recalled Trump saying. “That thing with your wife. That one mistake.” McCabe said nothing, and Trump went on: ‘That was the only problem with you. I was very hard on you during my campaign. That money from the Clinton friend—I was very hard. I said a lot of tough things about your wife in the campaign.'”

“’I know,’ McCabe replied. ‘We heard what you said.’ He told Trump that Jill was a dedicated doctor, that running for office had been another way for her to try to help her patients. He and their two teenage children had completely supported her decision.

“’Oh, yeah, yeah. She’s great. Everybody I know says she’s great. You were right to support her. Everybody tells me she’s a terrific person.’”

The next morning:

“The president was upset that McCabe had allowed Comey to fly back from Los Angeles on the FBI’s official plane after being fired. McCabe explained the decision, and Trump exploded: ‘That’s not right! I never approved that!’ He didn’t want Comey allowed into headquarters—into any FBI building. Trump raged on. Then he said, ‘How is your wife?’

“‘She’s fine.’

‘When she lost her election, that must have been very tough to lose. How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?’

“McCabe said that losing had been difficult but that Jill was back to taking care of children in the emergency room.

“’Yeah, that must have been really tough,’ the president told his new FBI director. ‘To lose. To be a loser.’”

“‘It elevates the pressure of this idea of loyalty,’ McCabe told me recently. ‘If I can actually insult your wife and you still agree with me or go along with whatever it is I want you to do, then I have you. I have split the husband and the wife. He first tried to separate me from Comey—”You didn’t agree with him, right?” He tried to separate me from the institution—”Everyone’s happy at the FBI, right?” He boxes you into a corner to try to get you to accept and embrace whatever bullshit he’s selling, and if he can do that, then he knows you’re with him.’”

“Comey’s firing, and the White House lies about the reason—that it was over the Clinton email case, when all the evidence pointed to the Russia investigation—raised the specter of obstruction of justice. On May 15, McCabe met with his top aides—Baker, Lisa Page, and two others—and concluded that they had to open an investigation into Trump himself. They had to find out whether the president had been working in concert with Russia and covering it up.”

“The tweets abruptly resumed on July 25: ‘Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!’ By now Trump knew McCabe’s name, but Jill would always be the ‘wife.’ The next day, more tweets: ‘Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got … big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!'”

“The purpose of Trump’s tweets was not just to punish McCabe for opening the investigation, but to taint the case. ‘He attacks people to make his misdeeds look like they were okay,’ Jill said. ‘If Andrew was corrupt, then the investigation was corrupt and the investigation was wrong. So they needed to do everything they could to prove Andrew McCabe was corrupt and a liar.’”

“The extraordinary rush to get rid of McCabe ahead of his retirement, with the president baying for his scalp, appalled many lawyers both in and out of government. ‘To engineer the process that way is an unforgivable politicization of the department,’ the legal expert Benjamin Wittes told me. McCabe lost most of his pension. He became unemployable, and ‘radioactive’ among his former colleagues—almost no one at headquarters would have contact with him. Worst of all, the Justice Department referred the inspector general’s report to the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C. A criminal indictment in such cases is almost unheard of, but the sword of the law hung over McCabe’s head for two years, an abnormally long time, while prosecutors hardly uttered a word. Last September, McCabe learned from media reports that a grand jury had been convened to vote on an indictment. He and Jill told their children that their father might be handcuffed, the house might be searched, he might even be jailed. The grand jury met, and the grand jury went home, and nothing happened. The silence implied that the jurors had found no grounds to indict. One of the prosecutors dropped off the case, unusual at such a crucial stage, and another left for the private sector, reportedly unhappy about political pressure. Still, the U.S. Attorney’s Office kept the case open until mid-February, when it was abruptly dropped.”

“Every member of the FBI leadership who investigated Trump has been forced out of government service, along with officials in the Justice Department, and subjected to a campaign of vilification. Even James Baker, who was never accused of wrongdoing, found himself too controversial to be hired in the private sector.”

Section 4 is called “Ends and Means”, about Attorney General William Barr’s radicalism.

“Barr and Trump are collaborating to destroy the independence of anything that could restrain the president.”

Section 5 is called “‘No Statement'”, about the State Department.

“Under Pompeo, 42 percent of ambassadors are political appointees, an all-time high (before the Trump presidency the number was about 30 percent). They ‘are chosen for their loyalty to Trump,’ Elizabeth Jones, a retired career ambassador, told me.”

“The story of how the first family, Rudy Giuliani, his two former business associates, a pair of discredited Ukrainian prosecutors, and the right-wing media orchestrated a smear campaign to force Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch out of her post in Kyiv because she stood in the way of their corrupt schemes has become famous as the origin of Trump’s impeachment. The story of how Yovanovitch’s colleagues in the State Department responded to the crisis is less well known. It reveals the full range of behavior among officials under unprecedented pressure from the top. It shows how an agency with a long, proud history can be hollowed out and broken by its own leaders.”

” … on March 20, The Hill, a Washington newspaper, published an interview with Yuriy Lutsenko, one of the dirty Ukrainian prosecutors who had been thwarted by Yovanovitch. Lutsenko accused her of trying to stop legitimate prosecutions. The article also reported that the ambassador was heard to have openly criticized Trump. The president retweeted the story, which was composed almost entirely of lies. …”

“On the same day the first Hill story about Yovanovitch was published, diGenova appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show and said that Yovanovitch ‘has bad-mouthed the president of the United States to Ukrainian officials and has told them not to listen or worry about Trump policy because he’s going to be impeached. This woman needs to be called home to the United States—’ ‘Oh, immediately,’ Hannity interjected.”

“The State Department called The Hill’s original story a “complete fabrication.” But as the lies spread among conservative media, triggering a barrage of attacks, …”

“Yovanovitch felt that she couldn’t do it [release a statement about her loyalty to Trump, as some in the State Department had suggested]. Like Erica Newland, she had taken an oath to defend the Constitution, not the president. Instead of tweeting allegiance to Trump, Yovanovitch recorded a public service announcement urging Ukrainians to vote in that country’s upcoming presidential election. She tried to connect this civic duty to her role as a nonpartisan government official. ‘Diplomats like me make a pledge to serve whomever the American people, our fellow citizens, choose,’ she told the camera. Presidents Bush and Obama had both appointed her to ambassadorships, ‘and I promote and carry out the policies of President Trump and his administration. This is one of the marks of a true democracy.'”

“On April 21 Volodymyr Zelensky, who ran on an anti-corruption platform, was elected president of Ukraine in a landslide. Right away, the White House let Pompeo know that Trump wanted Yovanovitch gone. The media storm kicked up again.” Yovanovitch was ordered to leave the Ukraine.

“When, in late May, Giuliani resumed his campaign of lies, telling Ukrainian journalists that Yovanovitch and Kent were part of a plot against Trump led by George Soros, there was no rebuttal from the State Department.”

“On July 25, after Ukraine’s parliamentary elections, Trump called Zelensky and asked for ‘a favor’—an investigation of the Bidens that was tantamount to Ukrainian interference in the U.S. presidential campaign in exchange for the release of American military aid and a personal meeting in the Oval Office.”

The attacks against her continued.

“On March 24, unable to function in her post, Yovanovitch wrote a desperate email to David Hale. She asked for a statement from the secretary of state saying that she had his full confidence, that she spoke for the president and the country.”

“The next day, at a weekly meeting of senior officials in the secretary’s office, Hale brought up Yovanovitch’s request. Pompeo was confronted with a dilemma—stand up for his people or appease the White House. He solved it by punting, saying that no statement would be made on her behalf until Giuliani, Hannity, and others were asked for their evidence. Later that week Hale sent word to the European bureau: ‘No statement.'”

“On September 25, the White House released a rough transcript of the July 25 call. In it, Trump said that ‘the former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news’ and ‘she’s going to go through some things.’ During the impeachment inquiry Hale explained, in high bureaucratese, ‘That was not an operational comment that had been operationalized in any way.’”

“At the state department, Ambassador Michael McKinley read the transcript and had a visceral, almost physical reaction: He was appalled. McKinley was Pompeo’s senior adviser, having been brought back from his post in Brazil to serve as a link between the secretary and the Foreign Service. He and Hale were the only career officers among the department’s leadership, … ”

“In the last days of September, McKinley kept pushing for a statement praising Yovanovitch’s professionalism and courage. He heard from eight or 10 colleagues that the State Department’s silence in the face of an ugly presidential attack was demoralizing. On September 28 he emailed five senior colleagues, including Hale, insisting that the department needed to say something. Four wrote back agreeing. Hale didn’t reply; he told a colleague that he didn’t think McKinley’s effort would go anywhere. A few hours later Pompeo’s spokesperson informed McKinley that, in order to protect Yovanovitch from undue attention, the secretary would not release a statement.”

“Before leaving, McKinley paid a visit to Hale and told him, one Foreign Service officer to another, that the department’s silence was having a terrible effect on morale. Hale flatly disagreed—he asserted that morale was high. Afterward, Hale met with Pompeo and identified a different threat to morale—McKinley’s negativity.”

“David Hale, pale and terse, also testified. Toward the end of his testimony, Democratic Representative Denny Heck of Washington begged Hale to say that Yovanovitch was a courageous patriot and that what had happened to her was wrong. Hale’s voice faltered as he replied, ‘I believe that she should have been able to stay at post and continue to do the outstanding work—’

“Heck wasn’t having it. ‘What happened to her was wrong?’

“’That’s right,’ Hale said.

“Bureaucrats never received such public praise as they did during the weeks of the impeachment inquiry. But the hearings left a misleading impression. The Ukraine story, like the Russia story before it, did not represent a morality tale in which truth and honor stood up to calumny and corruption and prevailed. Yovanovitch is gone, and so is her replacement, William Taylor Jr., and so are McKinley and others—Lieutenant Colonel Vindman was marched out of the White House in early February—while Pompeo is still there and, above him, so is the president. Trump is winning.”

“In his fourth year in power, Trump has largely succeeded in making the executive branch work on his personal behalf. He hasn’t done it by figuring out how to operate the bureaucratic levers of power, or by installing leaders with a vision of policy that he shares, or by channeling a popular groundswell into government action. He’s done it by punishing perceived enemies, co‑opting craven allies, and driving out career officials of competence and integrity. The result is a thin layer of political loyalists on top of a cowed bureaucracy.”

“One of every 14 political appointees in the Trump administration is a lobbyist; they largely run domestic policy. Trump’s biggest donors now have easy access to agency heads and to the president himself, as they swell his reelection coffers. In the last quarter of 2019, while being impeached, Trump raised nearly $50 million. His corruption of power, unprecedented in recent American history, only compounds the money corruption that first created the swamp. … ”

“Within the federal government, career officials are weighing outside job opportunities against their pension plans and their commitment to their oaths. More than 1,000 scientists have left the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and other agencies, according to The Washington Post. Almost 80 percent of employees at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture have quit. The Labor Department has made deep cuts in the number of safety inspectors, and worker deaths nationwide have increased dramatically, while recalls of unsafe consumer products have dropped off. When passing laws and changing regulations prove onerous, the Trump administration simply guts the government of expertise so that basic functions wither away, the well-connected feed on the remains, and the survivors keep their heads down, until the day comes when they face the same choice as McCabe and Yovanovitch: do Trump’s dirty work or be destroyed.”

The Justice Department
Center for American Progress: Trump’s Politicization of the Justice Department

JustSecurity.org: The Politicization of our security institutions

Statnews.com: July 2020: The CDC is an apolitical organization. That’s left it defenseless against Trump.

Share Reality & Vote Trump Out

Share Reality & Vote Trump Out

[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

[Excerpted from Rep Dem is a Spiritual Good #2

“We should feel/think/act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, kind, joyfully sharing, joyful. / We are all in this together.”

The degree to which a human’s thought understands that and in what sense those values are True, their thought is meaningful (believable / followable / tolerable / actionable) to them. To the degree they don’t, it isn’t.

The universal values get their power and meaning from the fact that they relate to what is really True (ie: not some relative, opinion-based, or ‘given the form of human perception’ truth). But we our feeling/thinking/acting is limited. Therefore, we cannot gain literal/definitive/1:1 insight into the universal values, and pretending we can causes us to trade desperately-clutched ideas and feelings about the universal values for meaningful engagement with them. The goal is therefore not a literal account of the Truth of the universal values, but rather a whole-being insight (ideas, feelings, and a core spiritual insight without which knowledge of any possible Truth is impossible — all interacting meaningfully [though of course not perfectly/literally/definitively/1:1] with one another).

No one’s ideas and feelings about “Truth” are equal to the “Truth”, because it is by definition wider and deeper than ideas and feelings. That’s OK. We’re just humans. Even holy scriptures get interpreted in human brains. We none of us have all the answers, but we all of us share the same basic awareness of the answers and of the path — aware, honest … joyful — towards more insight into the answers.

More individual and shared spiritual wisdom is a good goal; but notions about spiritual insight and/or chosenness also make good smokescreens for madness and corruption to hide behind. The risk increases as power and group-size increase. Therefore, governments should be fundamentally secular so as to better protect the spiritual lives of their inhabitants. Forced belief is no belief at all; and demanding people swear allegiance to xyz Truth tempts people to lie to themselves and others about the most sacred things.

YES: we must agree on the fundamental spiritual values if we are to speak meaningfully with one another.
BUT: when you justify actions with blanket metaphysics like “we are collectively choosing this because it is wise, good, and/or holy”, you force people into blind-follower-mode and away from meaningful engagement, communication, and collaboration. That’s why Shared Something Deeperism in a large nation state focuses both on public commitment to the universal values and on outward, publicly-verifiable safeguards against abuses of political power.

The fundamental spiritual values are already True for everyone. And they lend themselves to many tends that can, to the degree the citizenry pushes back on group-thinks and pays real attention, be publicly verified (loosely organized from more- to less-publicly verifiable):
Is this person following the rules? Are they acting in open and transparent ways? Does this person speak clearly, honestly, and accurately? Are they competently justifying their decisions? Is this person protecting the integrity of the institutions they serve? Are they adhering to established rules and standards for power-sharing? Are they eschewing private gain for the public good? Are they respectful, kind, and gentle in conversation? Do they seek and discover win-wins with others? Are they playing fair and in the spirit of shared success for all?

We will not agree on the best way to live the shared values, but we can agree that they are a shared starting point.
Furthermore, it is self-evident that all our political ideas become meaningless to the degree that we cannot view our government’s decisions and actions, and/or cannot meaningfully discuss our government’s decisions and actions, and/or cannot meaningfully influence our government’s decisions and action.
Therefore, we can agree that first and foremost we must keep our government open, honest, accurate, competent, fair/rule&law-abiding, and transparent (else we lose our insight into and power over our government’s decisions and actions); and that we must work together as best we can from within that framework of meaningful communication (which we create and sustain via a shared public commitment to the universal values and a healthy representative democracy).

The USA is losing its way in large part because its citizens do not possess a shared reality. The truth about the so-called “liberal media” is that, while there is bias and spin to some extent in all discussion of political facts, the mainstream US media is very careful to vet the actual facts that they state. Trump has declared a war on half the country and all facts. This is a bad but not completely unpredictable development in a nation that has split into two sides, with the Republican side attacking the media (“roughing the umpire”) for a generation or two.

In the USA of today, it feels like people don’t really believe the other political side has meaningful access to the universal values. The other side’s members are seen as either too idiotic and/or too morally flawed to grasp those fundamental values without which no human thoughts are meaningful to any human. Or at least they are such hopeless putzes that they cannot relate the fundamental values meaningfully to political decisions.

And so both sides believe the other side is wandering in the dark of meaningless, but somehow self-satisfied and prideful nihilism. How could you meaningfully converse with people like that? How could you meaningfully collaborate with them to safeguard your republic?

Part of the universal values is the sense that “we are all in this together”. It is, therefore, not possible to live meaningfully to the degree you imagine others are so evil and/or clueless that they do not have meaningful access to the universal values. Extreme partisan distrust is, therefore, harmful to the internal meaning of both individuals and groups.

Cooler, wiser, gentler impulses must prevail. Otherwise we’ll all wreck everything for everyone.

We can admit that we may differ in some places and to some degree on our interpretations of the facts while still making the effort to discover and examine the facts together.

We can vote out politicians who are clearly undermining the foundations of our shared representative democracy, while avoiding the extremes of conspiracy theories that dig twist contort until basically honest, uncorrupted, competent and well-intentioned politicians are suspect.

We can agree that some of the concerns motivating Trump’s policies — like what do we do with the rise and not-always-fair and/or -friendly-to-democracy China?, or what do we do when so many people want to leave their countries and start living in this one? — need to be taken seriously; while also agreeing that his blatant attacks on our shared democracy, his race-baiting, his denigration of all who do not bow mindlessly to his will, his dangerous re-escalation of the nuclear arms race and neglect of meaningful communication between nuclear powers, and his denial of climate change and reversal of environmental protections in general: all this represents an immediate existential threat to us as a nation and a world; and that we must therefore vote against Trump and for Biden, who has shown a willingness to help reverse these dangerous trends.

We don’t have to agree on everything; but we should agree on stopping this disaster together and working together to gain mutual trust and understanding.

We humans do not have the luxury of only getting along with and working with people who agree with us. We all rise or fall together.

Even if it is inevitable that this world fail — and we don’t know that it is and should work together as best we can to together succeed –, the spiritual energy created now by admitting that we are all in this together and must accept one another as fellow participants of the One Light will, it seems reasonable to assume, aid us in the next shared adventure.

We are, it seems reasonable to assume, never going to get rid of one another.

So our only hope is to learn to be glad to know one another.

BW/AW

copyright AM Watson

This is a Something Deeperism essay.
The Something Deeperism Institute tab has some introductory essays. Those essays are also included in First Essays & A Readable Reader.
Which brings us to:
If you like our essaying, First Essays has a lot of essays.
And of that lot, A Readable Reader has a selection of the most readable ones.
And Superhero Novella has more philosophical asides than some believe it should.

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[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

[Something Deeperism Institute]

[NYC Journal]

Rep Dem is a Spiritual Good #2

Rep Dem is a Spiritual Good #2

“We should feel/think/act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, kind, joyfully sharing, joyful. / We are all in this together.”

The degree to which a human’s thought understands that and in what sense those values are True, their thought is meaningful (believable / followable / tolerable / actionable) to them. To the degree they don’t, it isn’t.

The universal values get their power and meaning from the fact that they relate to what is really True (ie: not some relative, opinion-based, or ‘given the form of human perception’ truth). But we our feeling/thinking/acting is limited. Therefore, we cannot gain literal/definitive/1:1 insight into the universal values, and pretending we can causes us to trade desperately-clutched ideas and feelings about the universal values for meaningful engagement with them. The goal is therefore not a literal account of the Truth of the universal values, but rather a whole-being insight (ideas, feelings, and a core spiritual insight without which knowledge of any possible Truth is impossible — all interacting meaningfully [though of course not perfectly/literally/definitively/1:1] with one another).

No one’s ideas and feelings about “Truth” are equal to the “Truth”, because it is by definition wider and deeper than ideas and feelings. That’s OK. We’re just humans. Even holy scriptures get interpreted in human brains. We none of us have all the answers, but we all of us share the same basic awareness of the answers and of the path — aware, honest … joyful — towards more insight into the answers.

More wisdom in an individual involves more and more active, living insight into the fundamental values. This requires better and better internal communication: ideas and feelings organized better and better around a non-relative and self-aware insight into the spiritual values — allowing one’s thoughts to more and better believe in, follow, tolerate, and act upon their own conclusions. More individual wisdom is equivalent to more meaning within one’s conscious moment.

More group wisdom involves an atmosphere where wiser sentiments gain prestige and power, and less wise sentiments lose prestige and power. This correlates with more meaningful communication within the members of the group. Collectively agreeing upon the paramount importance of and non-literal/non-exclusive nature of the fundamental values allows individuals to awaredly share the starting point necessary for any human to gain meaningful insight into their own feeling/thinking/acting. Knowingly sharing a respect for the only possible meaningful starting point for human thought and action allows people to meaningfully engage with one another.

Internal meaning in individuals or groups is difficult to achieve and maintain. Whether posing in nihilism or this or that faith, we people are inclined to believe that our merely-human ideas and feelings about wisdom and goodness (including that such things are poppycock) are themselves Wise and Good.

It is inherently tricky to meaningfully relate limited ideas and feelings to an inner wisdom that must be unlimited if it is to provide the firm foundation for thought and action that our ideas and feelings require to care about, believe in, understand, and follow themselves. In response to this fundamental spiritual conundrum (the translation of the infinite by and into the finite), we people often either try to rule out any talk of “True Goodness” (ie: non-relative standards founded upon a shared basic human insight into an Absolute Reality), or we convince themselves that we, our group, ideology/system, and/or hero(s) have a lockdown on “True Goodness”. In both cases we (usually mostly hidden even from ourselves — and often flipping from the one miss to the other) trick ourselves into letting our ideas and feelings escape into fantasies of being True! Good! Right!

[Note that you don’t have to use the term “True Goodness” to be talking about “True Goodness” and that you don’t need to be talking about “True Goodness” to assume it in your thought, speech and action. With “True Goodness” we’re pointing towards a general direction, towards the direction of assuming the Truth of the universal values and thus prioritizing “aware … We’re all in this together!”]

Of course, what we should do is accept our need for real insight into the fundamental spiritual values (otherwise we slip and slide in ultimately-unfounded conjecture), while constantly returning to both the outwardly-and inwardly-verifiable safeguards that help individuals and groups avoid confusing ideas and feelings about “Truth” (ie: non-relative insight) with the Truth Itself.

Safeguards for individual wisdom include many internally-verifiable checks: Do I listen first? Am I kind to, respectful of, and gentle with everyone? Do I take time to seek for wisdom each day? Am I honest and forthright in my dealings with others? Am I in control of my thoughts and actions? IE: Can I relax and make decisions that I believe will benefit everyone, or at least harm no one? Or am I driven by lust, fear, greed, anger, and the like so that I cannot properly consider the well-being of myself and others? Am I thinking and acting “aware … joyful”? Do I really want what is best for everyone? How well do I know, accept, understand, and rejoice in “We are all in this together forever”?

Safeguards for group wisdom have to be shared by many individuals and must thus be more outwardly-verifiable: Are we operating open, honest, transparent, and in a spirit of fair play and mutual respect? Do aware, clear, honest, gentle, win-win, accurate, competent, kind, creative ideas win out? Or do selfish urges gain authority and power in our group?

Both those sets of safeguards apply to individuals and groups, but the former set is easier for individuals to gauge and the latter easier for groups (many people looking at the same operation) to apply.

Individuals often join together in spiritual groups or even just close relationships. If these organizations and/or relationships are healthy, then the two sets of safeguards will overlap. But in large organizations where relatively great power and wealth are in play, the distances between individuals and the stakes felt by individuals encourage people to deceive themselves and others. For this reason, governments must focus primarily on outwardly-verifiable safeguards against corruption, madness, and idiocy.

More individual and shared spiritual wisdom is a good goal; but notions about spiritual insight and/or chosenness also make good smokescreens for madness and corruption to hide behind. The risk increases as power and group-size increase. Therefore, governments should be fundamentally secular so as to better protect the spiritual lives of their inhabitants. Forced belief is no belief at all; and demanding people swear allegiance to xyz Truth tempts people to lie to themselves and others about the most sacred things.

YES: we must agree on the fundamental spiritual values if we are to speak meaningfully with one another.
BUT: when you justify actions with blanket metaphysics like “we are collectively choosing this because it is wise, good, and/or holy”, you force people into blind-follower-mode and away from meaningful engagement, communication, and collaboration. That’s why Shared Something Deeperism in a large nation state focuses both on public commitment to the universal values and on outward, publicly-verifiable safeguards against abuses of political power.

The fundamental spiritual values are already True for everyone. And they lend themselves to many tends that can, to the degree the citizenry pushes back on group-thinks and pays real attention, be publicly verified (loosely organized from more- to less-publicly verifiable):
Is this person following the rules? Are they acting in open and transparent ways? Does this person speak clearly, honestly, and accurately? Are they competently justifying their decisions? Is this person protecting the integrity of the institutions they serve? Are they adhering to established rules and standards for power-sharing? Are they eschewing private gain for the public good? Are they respectful, kind, and gentle in conversation? Do they seek and discover win-wins with others? Are they playing fair and in the spirit of shared success for all?

We will not agree on the best way to live the shared values, but we can agree that they are a shared starting point.
Furthermore, it is self-evident that all our political ideas become meaningless to the degree that we cannot view our government’s decisions and actions, and/or cannot meaningfully discuss our government’s decisions and actions, and/or cannot meaningfully influence our government’s decisions and action.
Therefore, we can agree that first and foremost we must keep our government open, honest, accurate, competent, fair/rule&law-abiding, and transparent (else we lose our insight into and power over our government’s decisions and actions); and that we must work together as best we can from within that framework of meaningful communication (which we create and sustain via a shared public commitment to the universal values and a healthy representative democracy).

The USA is losing its way in large part because its citizens do not possess a shared reality. The truth about the so-called “liberal media” is that, while there is bias and spin to some extent in all discussion of political facts, the mainstream US media is very careful to vet the actual facts that they state. Trump has declared a war on half the country and all facts. This is a bad but not completely unpredictable development in a nation that has split into two sides, with the Republican side attacking the media (“roughing the umpire”) for a generation or two.

In the USA of today, it feels like people don’t really believe the other political side has meaningful access to the universal values. The other side’s members are seen as either too idiotic and/or too morally flawed to grasp those fundamental values without which no human thoughts are meaningful to any human. Or at least they are such hopeless putzes that they cannot relate the fundamental values meaningfully to political decisions.

And so both sides believe the other side is wandering in the dark of meaningless, but somehow self-satisfied and prideful nihilism. How could you meaningfully converse with people like that? How could you meaningfully collaborate with them to safeguard your republic?

Part of the universal values is the sense that “we are all in this together”. It is, therefore, not possible to live meaningfully to the degree you imagine others are so evil and/or clueless that they do not have meaningful access to the universal values. Extreme partisan distrust is, therefore, harmful to the internal meaning of both individuals and groups.

Cooler, wiser, gentler impulses must prevail. Otherwise we’ll all wreck everything for everyone.

We can admit that we may differ in some places and to some degree on our interpretations of the facts while still making the effort to discover and examine the facts together.

We can vote out politicians who are clearly undermining the foundations of our shared representative democracy, while avoiding the extremes of conspiracy theories that dig twist contort until basically honest, uncorrupted, competent and well-intentioned politicians are suspect.

We can agree that some of the concerns motivating Trump’s policies — like what do we do with the rise and not-always-fair and/or -friendly-to-democracy China?, or what do we do when so many people want to leave their countries and start living in this one? — need to be taken seriously; while also agreeing that his blatant attacks on our shared democracy, his race-baiting, his denigration of all who do not bow mindlessly to his will, his dangerous re-escalation of the nuclear arms race and neglect of meaningful communication between nuclear powers, and his denial of climate change and reversal of environmental protections in general: all this represents an immediate existential threat to us as a nation and a world; and that we must therefore vote against Trump and for Biden, who has shown a willingness to help reverse these dangerous trends.

We don’t have to agree on everything; but we should agree on stopping this disaster together and working together to gain mutual trust and understanding.

We humans do not have the luxury of only getting along with and working with people who agree with us. We all rise or fall together.

Even if it is inevitable that this world fail — and we don’t know that it is and should work together as best we can to together succeed –, the spiritual energy created now by admitting that we are all in this together and must accept one another as fellow participants of the One Light will, it seems reasonable to assume, aid us in the next shared adventure.

We are, it seems reasonable to assume, never going to get rid of one another.

So our only hope is to learn to be glad to know one another.

BW/AW

copyright AM Watson

a win-win prayer

a win-win prayer

that the system doesn’t fall apart
that things get better for everyone
that I find my way and make it shine
that everyone find their way
and we all together make it shine
that representative democracy thrives
that the world doesn’t melt
and the nukes don’t fly
that the bugs don’t spread
and we don’t all die.

when is it allowed?
only in a healthy time and place
can one be both happy and good.
God help us keep our republic.

BW/AW/AMW

The Cloud Hopper and Her Lover

The Cloud Hopper and Her Lover

My appearance: short, small, gently rolling with rounded edges, pale, a dainty curving nose, red hair straight and thick exploding out like a pom pom, oak-brown eyes that spark like horse shoes thundering across the smooth stones of a dry river bed.
My father: tall, wide-shouldered, lanky, with a long oval face squared at the chin and cheekbones, nose prominent, brown hair turning to straw, parted down the middle, tumbling onto his shoulders, his mustache likewise dirty-blond, full, and arching over and down under its own weight.
Our purpose: to chase the clouds, to stop the evil.
My father wears dark dress shoes, dark slacks, a white dress shirt, a blue tweed vest, a long navy blue trench coat — collar up.
I wear fresh white tennis shoes, fresh blue jeans, and a light green wool sweater over a men’s dress shirt with a button-down collar.
Unlike most people, we can walk in the sky. We can bound from cloud to cloud. We can walk on the water, or down into the sea like there’s steps there, or along the ocean floor. I’ve even witnessed us jump up into outer space, and leap from sun to sun, as if such things were possible!

I have a boyfriend.
His name is Joe, which is short for Joseph.
Or maybe Jon — short for Jonathon.
Or it could be Andy — short for Andrew.
Or maybe his name is Ted — short for Theodore.
Or maybe his name is another name I’ve not thought of just now.

My boyfriend is healthy, good-looking, and intelligent.
He graduated top of his class from a prestigious university.
He has a successful career, and in his free time he likes to go backpacking, study foreign languages, read and write poetry — including many nice love poems to me; and he also has a nice family and some friends that he keeps up with; and of course he makes time to volunteer for local charities and important political causes.
He is taller than me, but not very tall.
Everyone thinks highly of him and he gets along great with old people.

I met my boyfriend when I was bounding through a great meadow that stretched on for miles and miles of tall waving grasses, buzzing bees, violinning crickets, soft-stumbling butterflies, and sideways-thwacking grasshoppers. He’d been hiking alone along a little stream with a sandy bank running through the center of the meadow and was resting his naked feet in the stream while sitting upon a shiny piece of granite — shiny due to flecks of sharp quartz running through the rough, reddish stone.

I stopped to say hello.

“How do you do that?”, he asked me.

“What? Oh, you mean bound jump from one wind-bent grasstop to another, clearing perhaps a thousand feet in each easy, gently-arcing leap?”

“Yes. That. I’ve never seen that before. How do you do that.”

“How do you walk?”

“Well, I swing one foot in front of the other over and over again. I could also explain something of the forces, physics, and biology involved — if you had time and inclination. But what you were doing is, as far as I can reason, impossible.”

“We’ve always done it. We do even more amazing things, without ever thinking about how to do them. They come to us as natural as walking.”

He gazed around over an extended nose. “Oh, so you’re not alone?”

“Right now I am. Except for you. Unless you don’t count yourself as someone.”

He shrugged with a close-mouthed smile and big eyes, tossing his open palm — previously resting upon a bare kneecap — up in the air, as if to say, “either way — count me or not!”

After a short pause, I decided that was the whole of his reply and continued: “I live with my father. We’re cloud shepherds for planet earth. It’s a very important job. Otherwise we’d move to Venus. My father loves cloudy, overcast, foggy weather, and that’s all they have on Venus.

The handsome young man with a beige rough-canvas rucksack next to dirt-speckled hiking boots and socks on a sandy stream bank a few feet from where he sat relaxing upon a sun-splattering stone laughed. “What?!”

“What’s so funny?”

“No one’s thought Venus is like that for like a hundred years! Now we know the surface temperature is kept at about 870 Fahrenheit — 465 Celsius. Surely you’ve been there, so you know first hand that it is not a foggy, rainy place at all — but is instead a place with rivers of molten lead.”

I smiled gently, because this was a young man with extremely limited powers, and so of course for him, Venus was both unreachable and uninhabitable, and it isn’t nice to rub peoples’ faces into their own weaknesses.

We spoke on and on like that for some time, and now he is my boyfriend. I hope we can get married soon and start a family, even if our children may not amount to much — as far as cloud-hopping, and Venus-taming go. You see, I had gotten very lonely, and was filled all the while with womanly longings, and then I met this nice young man and grew delighted, always dancing and laughing, swirling around, plunging into life, love, contact, frolic, and shared joy. So I don’t really care.

Sometimes I worry that I’ll one day bound across a man with powers like my own. What will I say to him, my father, and myself? How can I explain that my heart is no longer mine to spend on any man except the one I’ve already found? Or will I turn inside out, overturn everything I now think and feel, and betray my love for the promise of a family of cloud-runners?

My father and I spend most of our time chasing down lost, rebellious, and miscellaneously straying clouds. Without our work, the world would surely end in a great inferno! So we have to do it. There’s no one else who can. There’s no one else who even knows it needs to be done.

My boyfriend — let’s call him Boy — has different concerns.

“Baby,” he says to me, “I’ll tell you what I think about. I think: How can I live in a way that is both OK and wonderful? How can I pay for myself, write beautifully, stay healthy, live well, and also be an OK person, who does the right thing by those closest to him, but also by everyone else in the world? How can I put it all together? And if the systems within which I live — environments, societies, economies, governments and other organizations — if these systems collapse, then my success, happiness, and contribution also collapse. So then, how do I balance my longings for fulfillment through art, love, life, relationships, and so on; with my need to be able to stand myself and feel OK about my actions; AND with my need to do right by the systems within which I live, create, work, and relate to others.”

We were leaning into one another, seated upon a soft gray sofa in his living room. I snuggled under his arm and twisted my head to kiss his T-shirted chest. Then I hugged him with both arms and said, “I love you, I love you, I love you!”

As you can see, we are very happy together.

I’m afraid won’t let him grow old and brittle. I am cheating. I am ensconcing him in a force field. I am playing with the edges of energy. I may go so far as to cheat him into a cloud-jumper. That’s not fair. But I may do it because otherwise soon he’ll start to weaken, his body caving in upon itself, growing stiff and gnarled, brittle and jealous of the youth it had enjoyed. I am cheating, but maybe it isn’t such a big deal. I don’t know. I am not telling him. But the other day he was lying on one side in bed, turned towards me, he reached his hand out and pushed against the bed, as if to raise himself up — I guess so he could wrap himself around me from above. But he ended up flinging himself right up to his feet. He gave me a sharp look with pursed lips, but said nothing, and then dropped down on top of me, enveloping me in his body, red-hot desire emanating out of him on all sides (like normal).

Author: Bartleby Willard
Editor (when he gets around to it): Amble Whistletown
Copyright: Andy Watson

A Religious Soul’s Nightmare

A Religious Soul’s Nightmare

I’ve dreamt the most dreadful dream
exhausted, parched, my tongue become
a sluggy felten stone, my lungs
with sand’s fine sharp grit enseamed.

and lo and behold what doth appear?
and oh, oh dear who does draw near?
my savior, and yours!
the king of all worlds!

My head yet swimming, up stands
my heart as Jesu lifts a hand.

His lips and eyes alit with this
sweet, gentle, heaven-wide smile.
A simple clay cup is bliss
when desert’s thirst turns you wild.

But first! First kneel me down
‘fore God made flesh and God again.
No, no, bades he me, rise you clown!
and drink your fill of water, friend.

Both humbled and grateful, I take
the cup of cool clear well water
— a babe with doll her Mom got her —
and pull it in, my lips to slake.

When suddenly I notice the party at Cana is all around
the frolic, the merriment,
the water turning to wine
to wine!
so thirsty, and nothing but wine, deep, rich, unwatery wine
the kind you serve first, unless you’re Jesus,
whose wine keeps getting stronger and stronger all night long
good god! how could you!
so thirsty

BW/AW
copyright: AMW

[Bartleby’s Poetry Corner]