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October 31, 2017


I have questions.

Where were you? What did you do? Did you get off your butt, take to the streets? Were you part of the Resistance? Did the fascists push back, hurt you, steal your rights, for your insistence on justice, the rule of law, respect for the people one is elected to serve? Or did you just watch tv? Play video games, follow sports, go through the motions at work, focus on your family to avoid your responsibility to the human family and the planet? Were you confused by the news, the lies? Did you get tired, lose interest in all the scandals? Were you overwhelmed? The natural disasters, the human disasters? Did you care? Care enough to act or wait for somebody else? Did you say #MeToo, did you take a knee? You couldn't do it all, I know, but did you support those who made it their mission to set things right? Support them in concrete terms, not in your own mind?

All these are questions I ask of myself first. There are no perfect answers, but history judges severely. Be on the right side.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt:  To write with a broken pencil is pointless.
Jeff:  Good morning to you too, Mr. Mutt. What's the definition of a will? (Come on, it's a dead giveaway!)
Mutt:  When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
Jeff:  So true. At the supermarket I saw a man and a woman wrapped in a barcode. I asked, "Are you two an item?"
Mutt:  Where did the king put his armies? In his sleevies.
Jeff:  A tattoo artist has designs on his clients.
Mutt:  I used to be a doctor, but then I lost patients.
Jeff:  Did you hear about the man who was tap dancing? He broke his ankle when he fell into the sink.
Mutt:  I dropped out of the communism class because of lousy Marx.
Jeff:  A lawyer for a church did some cross-examining.
Mutt:  Gardeners always know the ground rules.
Jeff:  Did you hear about the butcher who backed into his meat grinder and got a little behind in his work?
Mutt:  Haunted French pancakes give me the crêpes.
Jeff:  What jumps from cake to cake and smells of almonds? Tarzipan.
Mutt:  Why did the little fella sleep on the chandelier? Because he was a light sleeper.
Jeff:  In some places fog will never be mist.
Mutt:  A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm, and says: "A beer please, and one for the road."
Jeff:  I used to sell computer parts, but then I lost my drive.
Mutt:  An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either. 
Jeff:  I used to be a railroad conductor, but my boss found out I wasn't trained.
Mutt:  A pediatrician is a doctor of little patients.
Jeff:  Is it bad pun day?
Mutt:  All day, every day.

June 18, 2017

A Confederacy of Butt-kissers

Let's go around the circle and everyone say the nicest thing they can think of about ME.

I think my daughter's wedding planner would be a great pick to run public housing for New York and New Jersey.

Rod, write me a reason to fire Comey, to get this Russia thing to go away, remember I appointed you.

I think those Congressional hearings are going quite nicely. I'm vindicated. 1000%

Dear Sean, Kellyanne, Sarah, Jeff, your job is to lie to defend me and anything I do, even when I contradict you. You swore loyalty, you weasels. Now earn it!

Ivanka baby, I hope you'll go on those daytime shows and explain that I'm not so bad? PS. you look really hot.

Scott, we've got to deal the death blow to the natural world. What did it ever do for us? Kill everything. #MMRA Make me rich again.

And somebody get that Mueller bastard off my back. I'll ruin that liar, I'll sue him, I'll fire him. Hell, I'll nuke him.

Did you see my latest tweet? Pretty cool, huh? I'm on a roll.

Okay people, you're not cabinet ministers. You're saboteurs. Your task is to make your departments fail. I won't fund, won't appoint, we'll dismantle all the Obama stuff, and you'll be rewarded with a shower of dollars. Screw the poor. I hate those losers. You rich people are my knights of the round table and I am your King Donald. Let's go around the circle ...

June 2, 2017

This is so wrong.

From Europe, home of the historic Paris Climate Agreement: Europeans are aghast, shocked and disgusted. The U.S. sides with Syria and Nicaragua against the rest of the world, against us, against itself. The denial of truth is unjustifiable, incomprehensible. Trump is a villain who sides with Russian imperialism against the EU. As we walk together down a cobblestone street in a hillside village, let him drive his golf cart straight off a cliff.

This morning, the headlines read: Blame the Republican Party, The threat rising tribalism poses to the planet, A major blow to the American-led global order, Some men just want to watch the world burn, Macron responds: Make our planet great again, There is no 'better deal', Corporate America finally got on board--then came Trump, Trump rejects the future (Obama), Pull out is a 'turn to the medieval', Climate change will make people sicker, Quitting the Paris agreement is a moral disgrace ... and this is in only one paper on one day (Vox).

When I was studying to be a teacher, I was introduced to Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development. The highest of the six is the abstract reasoning, when faced with a dilemma, in terms of the universal good, justice, truth. That sounds like the ideal behind the Paris Accords. What's best for the earth is best for all humanity, present and future. It's the right thing to do based on ethical principles and requires a strong conscience. Something sociopaths lack. The next level down is the social contract. Laws, for example, or international agreements. Majority rule (minority loses) and compromise in representative government are used to make decisions. This also sounds like Paris. Maybe humanity is growing up (you'd think).

The more base levels of moral development are obeying authority, political or religious, social conformity, being a good/bad person as defined by peers, self-interest, like making deals to profit from a position of power, and, the lowest, most childish, reward and punishment, obeying to avoid a spanking. A child is meant to rise through these stages to their maximum level of self-realization in adult life. But some never grow up morally.

You can update this theory, but my point is that the entire world agreeing to face an environmental crisis together is a high point of modern politics, and Trump's rejection of it shows his (and his gang's) infantile self-servance and hostility towards cooperation. Stupidity and bad faith.

Or as the sages said: like trying to dig yourself out of a hole, deeper and deeper. Because nothing is something. And then pulling the hole in on top of you.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt:  Anything funny?
Jeff:  Not today.
Mutt:  Well, you can have too much of a good thing, but since most people think puns are not good things, they can't have too many of them.
Jeff:  Whatever.
Mutt:  I read about a vulture that boarded a plane carrying two dead raccoons. The flight attendant looked at him and said, "I'm sorry sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."
Jeff:  I heard a thief broke into a police station and stole all the lavatory equipment. A spokesperson for the department said, "We have absolutely nothing to go on."
Mutt:  Why does fungus come in small groups?
Jeff:  Because there isn't mushroom.
Mutt:  I'm sorry, that was in spore taste.
Jeff:  Hey, I can't help it if I'm such a fungi.
Mutt:  Last night I had a fight with my wife. She threw a bowl of Jello at me.
Jeff:  Oh, that's terrible.
Mutt:  I had her arrested for carrying a congealed weapon.
Jeff:  Yeah, I had a fight with my wife too. She decked me with a heavy glass pitcher.
Mutt:  She's a woman who conks to stupor.
Jeff:  Yesterday, a swami stopped in at the butcher shop and asked for a pound of liver, but the dishonest butcher weighed down upon the swami's liver.
Mutt:  I asked my buddy Max if he wanted to go for a hike in the hills. He answered that he was an anti-climb Max.
Jeff:  The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there. Robert Pirsig said that.
Mutt:  Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time. I think I've forgotten this before. Steven Wright said that.
Jeff:  Go beg your wife to take you back. I said that.
Mutt:  Oh, I just made that fight up to be funny.
Jeff:  Yeah, me too.

May 17, 2017

Sorry, Not Shocked

Dear Rachel Maddow,
I love you honey, but ... -- Every day you discover shocking truths about national politics, and I am grateful. You're doing a heroic job of finding the dirt hidden under the Trump rug (along with hundreds of colleagues). -- But ... I can't say I'm shocked. I'm not shocked. Sorry. Of course I want Trump out of office like all thinking people, but, you know, BREAKING NEWS: the Russians got their boy Trump elected ... duh. He's committing serious crimes as president ... duh. Trump's using his power to get richer ... duh. He's a pathalogical liar who's reneged on every campaign promise ... duh. Trump's laundering money for the mob ... duh. He's a disgusting human being ... duh-uh-uh. Really? Who didn't know this stuff? I'm an idiot, and I could have called it a year ago (well, I couldn't have called Trump winning, but that was dirty tricks). In the saddest, most tragic way.

The Republicans in Congress and at the state levels, however, are another story. Denying tens of millions health care. New laws to limit women's reproductive rights. Gerrymandering and voter suppression. Not merely soft on environmental issues but denying scientific fact. Busting undocumented immigrants by splitting families, deporting non-criminals, etc., ad nauseum. Where does this shit come from? The Grand Old Party got infiltrated by the Tea Party that got taken over by the Freedom Caucus, the Koch brothers, the KKK and whatever's worse. What happened to Conservatism, Capitalism, Patriotism? They've been replaced by the dark fringe of the anti-Semitic America-Firsters, rape-apologists, Confederate slavery nostalgia-ists, let refugees diers, abortion=murder-ers and flat-earthers.

The GOP was always the party of money, but now the price tags are showing on the politicians themselves. "Hey, Congressman, what's your opinion?" "Wait a sec, let me ask my master." The phrase "putting party before country" (or vice versa) loses meaning when the androids answer only to banks, insurance companies, drug companies, arms merchants, and on and on. Ryan and McConnell are names, however, that will live in infamy.

As does Nixon: I'm still pissed off at Nixon. Watch out everyone, the emotional legacy of presidential betrayal lasts for decades. To us back then Nixon was Viet Nam, he was Kent State, the phony oil shortage, Tricky Dick, I am not a crook, the Agnew scandal, Pentagon Papers, kissing up to China, he was the liar, the disgrace, the evil manipulator. (Even when he wasn't.) 

And Watergate. Enemies List, Saturday Night Massacre, 18 minute silence. I remember it all and the feeling of insecurity it gave me that the whole system was failing, terrible things were happening. And the feeling of relief when it was over (and disgust at the pardon). I spent the summer of 1974 glued to the TV showing the watergate hearings every morning (in California). One by one the dozens of victims of Nixon's arrogance paraded onto the floor, took the oath and sat to testify. These guys (Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Colson, Dean, etc.) thought they ran the universe and now they were going down hard. Most, in fact, did time (for perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice). Republican Howard Baker and Democrat Sam Ervin asked the questions and got the answers. Watergate is fascinating history, but living it was constant tension. Like in a war or natural disaster, a death in the family. Then it was over. We got Chevy Chase playing Gerald Ford. Flowers bloomed again.

I guess what I'm saying is, yeah, we'll get rid of Trump and re-claim our country. We'll survive the Pence years and elect a more humane president to compensate. But the damage that this band of marauders has done will not be easily undone. Fifty years from now the teens of today will still feel the hurt of the Trump-scepade.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt:  I used to be a fisherman, but I got caught playing hooky.
Jeff:  I used to be a taxi driver, but found I couldn't hack it.
Mutt:  I used to be a sanitation engineer, but the city dumped me.
Jeff:  I used to be a blackjack host, but was offered a better deal.
Mutt:  I used to be a Velcro salesman, but couldn't stick with it.
Jeff:  So we're unemployed, is that it?
Mutt:  Do you have to be employed first to be unemployed?
Jeff:  I don't have a solution but I admire the problem.
Mutt:  I recently read a new book on cloning: “Duet Yourself.”
Jeff:  I read a new magazine for beginning gardeners: “Trowel and Error.”
Mutt:  People who bought the first books on lawn care became good weeders.
Jeff:  It's like we're pretending we can actually read.
Mutt:  That'd be a waste. Except the racing forms.
Jeff:  Oowah! Result of the first silkworm race: they ended up in a tie.
Mutt:  An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.
Jeff:  I went to a seafood disco last week and pulled a mussel.
Mutt:  Last, but at least it's last: What do you call a fish with no eyes? 
Jeff:  A fsh.  And deja moo, what's that?
Mutt:  You got me.
Jeff:  The feeling that you've heard this bull before.

May 5, 2017

Make Healthcare Unaffordable Again

Here in Italy, we get a tax break if we spend more than €250 per year on health and medicine. Many people don't reach that minimum amount. Drugs are free or carry a small token fee. I pay less than €20 per month (€=$) for my four essential medicines. Some exams or hospital procedures have a small fee. In other words, healthcare is virtually free (totally free for the poor), hospital stays, longterm care, geriatric, emergency, mental health, doctor visits (office or home), drugs, all of it. We only pay for dentistry and optometry by choice, but the prices are reasonable. A couple weeks ago, my wife paid €120 for surgery on her foot at a private clinic. My dentist pulled my tooth; when I grabbed my wallet, he waved his hand, "Forget it."

America, there is another way, a better way! It's universal public coverage; it's not so hard--see Europe, copy us. We have insurance companies, but they don't get rich on the suffering of the sick, and they don't own politicians whose job it is to let them. The United States system is perverted by the lust for profit. Italians are aghast that poor people are not covered in the "richest country on earth." They have heard that if you can't pay the thousands of dollars charged for practically everything, that you're screwed, and they ask me: What do normal people do if they get sick? Well, I say, before the ACA, they'd sell everything they owned and/or declare bankruptcy  or would just not treat their conditions and eventually die. What kind of cruel government lets its citizens die? Indeed.

Social Security, the vote for women, emancipation, universal public education: historical improvements have been made in people's lives because that is the primary function of government. What selfish evil has gotten into these rich white men that they not only look out for their own pockets (and those of their sponsors), but that they get into government in order to deny the purpose of govenment. Our nation is being destroyed from the inside like pine beetles killing an entire forest. Gutting Medicaid to shift enormous sums to the wealthy is an obsenity. You wouldn't think so, but rich white men seem to have always been able to look at themselves in the mirror unashamed no matter how much blood's on their hands. And laugh and brag and toast.

As do their Russian colleagues. The weakened U.S. again slides backwards in the ratings of civilized countries. My heart is there, but my body may have to remain abroad forever, just to stay alive. Resist. Peace.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: So what grows up while growing down?
Jeff:  A goose.
Mutt:  You heard it already. Okay, two banks with different rates have a conflict of interest.
Jeff:  As do I with them. I fired my masseuse today. She rubbed me the wrong way.
Mutt:  Oh, that's good, that's rich!
Jeff:  Down boy. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too. 
Mutt:  What is a zebra? 
Jeff:  26 sizes larger than "A" bra.
Mutt:  Why does it seem you've heard all these before?
Jeff:  Duh. The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
Mutt:  I hate math even in jokes.
Jeff:  What do you get if you cross a bullet and a tree with no leaves? 
Mutt:  A cross?
Jeff:  No, you mug, a cartridge in a bare tree.
Mutt:  There were two ships. One had red paint, one had blue paint. They collided. At last report, the survivors were marooned.
Jeff:  Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar. One says, "I've lost my electron." The other says, "Are you sure?" The first replies, "Yes, I'm positive."
Mutt:  Oh, I know a bar joke. Shakespeare walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a beer. "I can't serve you." says the bartender. "You're Bard!" Get it?
Jeff:  A neutron walks into a bar. "I'd like a beer" he says. The bartender promptly serves up a beer. "How much will that be?" asks the neutron. "For you?" replies the bartender, "no charge."
Mutt:  You're shooting over my head. This mushroom walks into a bar and starts hitting on this woman. She, of course, turns him down. Not willing to give up, he pleads with her, "C'mon lady, I'm a fun guy."
Jeff:  That's does it. I'm going to the racetrack.
Mutt:  Hold on, I'm coming (Sam and Dave).