Here is a short voluntary assignment for readers projecting their imaginations (and perhaps more) into the future of our United States.

First, however, we have to deal with the uncertainty and doubt about sources.   The administration has done a spectacular job of helping voters in the US come to disbelieve the press, or at the very least to doubt at least 50 percent of what is reported.  Levels of suspicion and anger at reading or hearing what the press alleges from day to day have never been higher.

Even more skepticism exists when sources have been earlier caught in acts of what can only be called political sabotage.

This is why we put our caveats up front.

Earlier this week, booting Secretary of State Tillerson from the Trump bandwagon and THEN announcing a replacement in the person of Mike Pompeo caused bells to ring in our memory.  On a hunch and a fragment of remembered data from the past, we hit Wikipedia (we know, we know!) just to check basic information.

THAT, folks, is your assignment.  For God’s sakes, do the same.  Discount maybe fifty percent of the information under the heading of Mike Pompeo but read each paragraph.

Our futures lie there, open and unveiled, bald, bare, and brazen.

Continue reading “PLAYMATES”



The annual television audience for the Academy Awards Ceremony this week fell by nearly twenty percent.  The NYTimes opined that was because there was so much else on television to watch that the audience had fragmented and would probably never again be gigantic, tense, engaged.  In effect, cable drama had overtaken real-life drama.

Week by week the American voting audience shies away from emotional, economic, defense-department worry.  The sorts of events and scandals that once might have made a difference to men and women on both sides of the aisle now seem light-weight, other-worldly, unimportant.  The announcement of a putative meeting between the leader of North Korea and our own Big Daddy did not electrify the nation.

The reason: we’ve seen this movie before, as people like to say. Twice, in fact, North Korea has made overtures and hints and promises, only to in the end walk away and resume its bellicose posture and antipathy.  What they’ve done is buy time and manage to use it superlatively, growing from a famine-ridden hard-edged dictatorship to a famine-ravaged, unforgiving, and eventual nuclear threat not only to its own region but to a large part of the world.

Like the burgeoning cable news networks that ensnare millions of viewers around the world day-by-day, modern life is offering more than can be consumed thoughtfully and acted upon.  And with the introduction in the past ten or fifteen years to the customs and mores of foreign countries, we viewers have become more blase about the strange habits and intellectual menus at which we stare mindlessly.

We are today absolutely used to, and, alas, unphased by terrible events on our tiny screens: endless wars and strafing, deaths of four year olds from barrel bombing, kidnapping by terrorists and the consequent training for war or the sex trade.  We do manage – barely – to repeat the endless refrains that have come to mean so much and so little to us all:  ”Our Thoughts and Prayers go out to…”  In effect every day we slap on yellow decals to automobile fenders and trees, displaying our run-of-the-mill patriotism.  We never forget to thank the men and women who do battle for us around the world.

And we know that violence in every part of the nation is no longer seen as rare or unusual.”Today’s school shooting is brought to you by the wonderful folks at…”

But what we really care about is our one-third of an acre, alternately blooming or under water, the quality of our drinking water and air, the possibility of actually earning enough money to feed, clothe, dress our children.

We HAVE seen this movie before, since perhaps the 1980s.   When we became (under Clinton) “exceptional” we also became selfish, immoral, untutored.  Dumb.  Self-obsessed.  The questions that for 240 years had earlier occupied our republic no longer mattered.   We became inured to corruption and a game that was rigged.  We hunkered down to protect ourselves and our families.  Right and wrong became relative.

To be led now by an immoral, dishonest, egoistic relative of other autocrats around the world in a short year and a half has become the norm.

Continue reading “NEARLY 20% OFF”


We last glimpsed Dear One atop the reviewing stands, his pals, cronies, and family surrounding him, his arm raised in a greeting salute to the thousands of troops and pieces of equipment passing below him on Pennsylvania Avenue, aircraft overhead, a scene of power, continental fascism, and folly.

Then we received word from some of our readers that they were dismayed that we seem to have reached bottom and given up.  Outlining what we called our Cinemascope future that leads to American totalitarianism – could it at least be nicer than the sorts that preceded it? – is not entertainment for us.   Nor have we thrown over the traces and joined the opposition.

All we are trying to do is alert our friends and neighbors that the future of the USA looks dim indeed, and that unless something unimagined can be made to occur, we’re going down those well-greased tubes into 2nd and 3rd world status while our Dear Leader and his pals stand on a podium, beaming.

We have said all along that Dear One is not dumb.  He has played the media for all they are worth which, it turns out, is quite a bit.  He has been clown and therefore photogenic.   He has railed and threatened  at targets of all sorts, therefore becoming note-worthy and intrusive.  He has succeeded where none thought possible, receiving coverage combined of horror and humor.   His face and voice are heard throughout the land for hours on end each day, saying whatever comes into his mind with no thought that any of it could possibly be taken seriously or have genuine consequences for millions of other people.

He’s surviving on threats – that his 1/3 of the Republican Party (the Base) is strong enough to protect him from harm of any kind.   He credits himself with whatever good news manages to surface above the sludge of his administration.   He warn that “he alone” knows ISIS, the stock market, taxes, treaties, and always, always “deals” which largely turn out to be duds.

And should someone – anyone – point out failure or confusion or down right dishonesty (the very sea in which his ship lists), that brave (stupid?) individual becomes the target of public humiliations that can last for months.   (All hail Jefferson Beauregard for driving his “master” up the walls as well as demonstrating to the rest of us his ineptitudes, his Jim Crow attitudes, his complete lack of understanding what an Attorney General must (or should) be doing.)

Congress, of course, has learned fairly quickly what it must do to survive.   Bow.  Cheer on.  Agree.  Lie docilely on its back as a penitent and pleading hound might.  To be fair, there are single alarmists whose warnings are ignored and never seconded by any colleague whose eyesight and hearing could be as sharp as anyone else’s – if it were worth their while.   It isn’t.   Too many of our representatives are achieving millionaire status; our senators seem to have started at that level.  Riches alone are not grounds for disrepute. But the lack of concomitant empathy is.

Which brings us to our Three P’s.   None of our elected representatives seem to have parents, partners, or progeny.  These entirely forgotten family members are in many cases simply us.   Our needs, our hopes, our dreams do not register in the minds and hearts of our Congressional leaders.  We seem unable to rely on their histories, their memories, their (perhaps once held) hopes.   They know not the needy, the ill, the elderly, the struggling, the uninsured.

Internationally, the Donald is tiptoeing along many of the same paths as did Barack Obama.   While Obama disappointed millions of his fans by drawing a red-line over Syria’s use of chemical war fare and then flaking out, Trump refuses to even imagine bearding the Russians who have broken and entered our democratic process.  It’s not enough to remind our readers that Trump and his team have yet to utter a sharp word to Mr. Putin. They have repeatedly minimized tensions and cyberspace sabotage.  They altered their Republican platform to excise words or actions that could in any way be termed “firm” or “strong” vis a vis Russia itself.   Mr. Mueller has his work cut out for him and we applaud each and every miserable hour he has to spend trying to understand why the USA has not only remained silent about the 2016 election, but also (coincidentally) how we have disappointed, alarmed and lost the faith of hundreds of our allies in terms of security and faith.

Continue reading “THE THREE P’S”


Remember, ‘way back in 2016, after Dear One actually “won” an election, the Republicans in Congress decided this might not be the disaster they had imagined.  After all, Trump knew nothing, was nothing, learned nothing, and was generally out of control.

This was a Republican ideal.  Someone too dumb to argue.  All Congress has to do was slip him a piece of paper and he would sign it.  God, they could forge the nation into whatever shape they wanted!  Their goals could actually be realized.  They could stay in power forever with a “leader” who was a pushover, who was likely to rubber stamp anything he didn’t understand for fear of exposing his ignorance.

Two problems soon swam into view. (1) The Republicans themselves couldn’t decide on what they wanted to do, and when they did, they couldn’t unify around whatever the idea was – not to mention the personalities behind the proposals.  (2) Trump wasn’t THAT dumb!

In fact, within weeks, the Republicans came to fear the new president.  He had an attitude, he had made promises he was going to keep – an idea so far removed from the history of the recent Republican party it was as though he was speaking in another language.    True, his cabinet was fashioned from computerland; he knew very few of his appointees personally, and he seemed to assume that whomever was recommended would do whatever he, Trump, wanted.   After all, he had put them where they were.  They owed him.  He was King.

If it took him a little while to understand that he really was president, it took Congress a little while to understand that if it didn’t do whatever was demanded, its members could be primaried (a), scolded on Twitter (b), or have their lives made so miserable they wanted out nearly as much as they wanted in (c).  In record time, many House members decided to “retire.”  Senators had already begun to jump ship.  Various departments of the country’s understucture were denuded of once dedicated men, women, ideas, and action.

Of course this didn’t trouble Mr. Trump for a moment.  He believed that he could do whatever needed doing, department by department.  He needed no assistance, just flunkies.  He got them.

Continue reading “STAMP ACT”


On Wednesday this past week, the New York Time (above the fold) began an article this way: “On Tuesday it was a high school in small-town Kentucky. On Monday, a school cafeteria outside Dallas and a charter school parking lot in New Orleans.  And before that, a school bus in Iowa, a college campus in Southern California , a high school in Seattle….The scene in Benton, Ky.,was the worst so far in 2018…”

For all of these past 7 seven years we’ve waited and waited to be able to use this headline:

“Today’s school shooting is brought to you by…”

The “sponsoring organization” would probably not be the NRA.   It might be a new state-of-the-art hospital, Johnson & Johnson, a clothing manufacturers shilling bullet-proof vests, Smith, Wesson, or Colt, a local ambulance service.

The point being that these incidents are now as meaningless to most us as who faces off in the Super Bowl. Oh sure, another one.  Well, our thought and prayers…

“Our” thoughts and prayers arise with those of our deeply involved president, members of Congress from particularly hard hit states, parents, teachers, church members, parents from earlier episodes in which they were robbed and raped of their children’s lives and welfare.  You’d think with this volume of pleading something good would happen.

We watch this kind of “Breaking News’ with the same attention we grant to forty-car pile-ups on an interstate.  And then we wait patiently for the next item of “Breaking News.”

Not for us the redundant blaming, or shaming, or the enumeration of obvious fixes to the problem of too many guns in too many unstable hands.

The shock and sorrow of these successive and near daily events has become, over time, just part of the background noise of living in the United States, just part of the daily cacophony that comprises the landscape of the Trump administration.  We are not saying the Donald is on a rampage to remove the least deserving from the earth.  We ARE saying that under his “guidance,” the incidents described above are increasing and increasingly meaningless, if not approved then condoned, and berated for taking funding from our Armed Forces and veterans.

Continue reading “NO CONFUSION”


Sooner or later a hectoring tone, the constant shots at Mr. Trump et al – become background noise.  One feels one doesn’t have to write (or read) SIDE EFFECTS any longer to know where its author stands on matters of the day.

It’s too cold in the Northeast to get much pleasure , or any warmth, reading of old crimes and misdemeanors.  Or, for that matter, new ones.  The tenor of the administration has been set.  Its fuel is money, its purpose is raising it for professional or personal purposes, and its international relationships seem more and more dependent on withholding it or wasting it.

The new tax bill has given Americans the idea that soon even their bosses will endow them with wage raises or one-time bonuses.  As long as the money (or its promise) holds out, Mr. Trump can hold out.

Today we are not going to harass the administration and its players.  Instead, we once more want to draw attention to the depth of American mule-headedness.  This has to do with the American propensity to believing that they suffer from whatever disease – and its cure – they learn about on nightly news television via increasingly nonsensical commercials.

I.B.S., irritable bowel syndrome, is THE non-fatal disease of our post-war era.  Chances are tension, ambition, disappointment, divorce, poverty as well as great wealth spawned this run of symptoms that seems annually to increase and to earn new code-names.  Drug companies are eager to give each and every common ailment acronyms to make them sound not only terrifying but also truly medical.  This, as advertisements for the non-existent Daily Diet Deficiencies, or DDD, suddenly seems to tv viewers something they not only have, but have suffered from for years. Of course, that’s what we have!  This is perfect.  We’ll order it.  Or at least drive our doctors buggy by pleading for it.

What brings on this snit?

Continue reading “MID-WINTER RELIEF”



It’s appropriate to use medical terminology (as little as we know) about the state of the country on the very day when its leader is (in theory) to have a physical examination.

There’s not too much we really want to know about Trump’s state of being.   He’s mobile, talkative, and overweight.   Mentally, anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else’s.

But the nation is running, and has been running, a low-grade fever.   We’re not sure of its cause, but we imagine it has to do with conditions in the White House and thereby conditions tangential to every other country with which we deal.   It seems to be contagious but not yet fatal.   Experts have not pin-pointed the source of this fever, but many are expecting it to rise incrementally as time progresses. To what, no one knows.

Whatever its cause, it’s far more serious than Mr. Carter’s malaise.   It is affecting our population in various ways.  Some are taking it to indicate that heat means life, and the market on Wall Street seems to know no bounds.   Some – or  “many people” – Mr. Trump’s favorite phrase for unknown approval or criticism –  are cagier, hedging bets as well as placing them on personnel survival statistics.   “Doctors” enter the sickroom endlessly, some dropping by for safety’s sake, others to actually try to find out what’s troubling us.  Ms. Nightingale has yet to appear but neither has the Grim Reaper.

Specialists are on tap if needed.  Many of us patients would be thrilled to hear some advice and solid science from them.   Others seem content to rely upon country cures, witch doctors, shamans.  The record of shamanistic success is dismal.

Accompanying this fever is a bad case of the shakes.   Without a recognized source for this incipient illness, Americans are just plain nervous.   Every statement from our Dear Leader seems to indicate he’s delirious.   As in days of old (polio), people are timorous about being discovered in crowds.   We’re boiling our drinking water.  Keeping kids out of school has not yet become everyday experience.

“Many people” are calling for a new vaccine.   Experimental treatments have not been successful.  Studies of earlier epidemics in Europe yield no insight.   The more hysterical are citing ebola.   Those whose doctors have advised a “wait and see” approach seem to agree, but are frantically searching for solutions both radical and untested.

“Many people” believe the fever is self-induced, that the disease could never be as dramatic and deadly as other people say.   These “others’ seem content to let nature follow its course on the theory that the disease could never be as fatal as its victims fear.

No evacuations have been called for, yet.   Washington is still chock full of sniffles and shivers.  People are hesitant to leave town lest town not be there on their return.   They put their valuables in hand-held satchels.

In case of what?

Continue reading “FEVER”