The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Devil Walls

Well, here I am safely ensconced in the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread and it is snowing outside. The snow started slowly at first, as snow is wont to do, and now the stuff is falling at a good clip and I am wondering when the powers that be in this place will make the decision to send us all home. Some of my co-workers have already slipped out the back, Jack, as the Paul Simon song says, but I fear that there will be no slipping for me, see. I am stuck. I am stuck because not only is it snowing outside, inside there is no access to the information superhighway, so that the public we serve with all our hearts can no longer use our computers to search for job sites, computer games, and free porn, and to ensure their access to all of the above, I must stay here in order to let in a computer / online services technician who is coming today to solve all of our digital access problems, providing, of course, he can get through the snow. So all is not well in my world, given that I would really like to get out of here before I have to cross-country ski my way home, but duty calls and I must remain. Frankly, that bites the big one.

Therefore, I must find ways to keep my mind occupied as the snow falls and the technician wanders blindly around the countryside following the instructions of an inferior GPS application and wondering why he didn’t listen to his mother and become a dope smuggler. Granted there are problems with the government-sponsored retirement system—not everyone can look stylish in orange, after all—but the work is incredibly remunerative and you can get rid of irate customers simply by blowing holes in them with automatic weapons and then leaving their bullet-ridden carcasses in the middle of the street, thereby informing any other disgruntled customers that they had better readjust their collective attitude and undisengruntle themselves quickly or else.  Gruntlement is a wonderful thing, you understand, especially if you know what’s good for you. He will, no doubt, still be thinking these charitable thoughts about his company’s customers when his inferior GPS application tells him he has arrived at his destination and the road signs tell him that he has arrived in New Canaan, Connecticut, which is not even vaguely close to where he is supposed to be.

In any case, everyone in this our Great Republic is talking about walls these days. I am not kidding; walls are all the rage now, the way Pet Rocks and gluten-free peanut butter waffles used to be. You can hardly turn on the television anymore without hearing some hoary old pol screeching that walls are ineffective, unpopular, and worst of all, immoral. This last is somewhat odd, or at least I think so; I went to parochial school for eight years and no one, not one priest, not one Christian Brother, not one nun ever said anything about walls being immoral. How could they? Monsignor O’Malley could hardly denounce a wall as being the equivalent of Communism or masturbation as threats to a good Catholic boy’s soul when the nuns charged with teaching us how to be good Catholics lived in a convent with a fifteen-foot wall topped with broken glass around it.[i]  The only walls that were even vaguely immoral, so far as I can remember, were the Berlin Wall (built by godless Red Communists, as if there were any other kind) and the walls around the city of Jericho, which fell because the people inside were ungodly (but not godless) heathens who did disgusting things with their neighbors and their neighbors’ cocker spaniels, things the nuns could not discuss in religion class, but that were definitely evil in the sight of the Lord, things so evil that the Canaanites deserved to have Robert Moses knock down their walls and push a six-lane freeway right through the heart of Jericho’s business district in order to connect Jericho to the Staten Island Expressway. In short, they had it coming. And all of God’s children said, Amen.

Since it appears that no amount of biblical exegesis will support the contention that walls are by definition malum in se, the amateur theologian must needs look to the motives of the people saying such a thing. Here we come across an interesting point: the most visible person making this contention is the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. The Speaker is, by her own admission, a devout Roman Catholic. However, the Speaker is also a well-known advocate of abortion rights, which puts her in conflict with the teaching of the very church whose doctrine she professes to believe. Since there seems to be no way to reconcile these two belief systems logically, the amateur theologian must therefore come to the conclusion that logic is not involved, that the only way the Speaker can reconcile the inherent contradiction between one set of beliefs and the other is to conclude that she is one of those politicians who would gut her own mother with a dull fish knife to get re-elected and whose political position and power is more important to her than any church dogma or political belief. In that context, then, we can understand her statement that walls are immoral. That which diminishes or threatens to diminish her political position is immoral, that which enhances her political power is moral; it’s not exactly Kant’s categorical imperative, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it works for her and what more can you ask of a philosophical system?

[i] The walls, in case you were wondering, were that high because an order of contemplative nuns originally owned the convent. The nuns—I think were French but I could be wrong about that—wished to live apart from the world and dedicate their lives to prayer and work, which was easier to do when the Bronx was part of Westchester County than it is nowadays. A century later, the Bronx having voted for inclusion in Greater New York in 1898, and the city having grown considerably since the founding of the convent, the nuns moved to a new convent somewhere near the Finger Lakes, it being easier to contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s suffering and dying for the sins of humanity when you don’t have to listen to the police sirens blaring at all hours of the morning, noon, and night.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018


I don't have an excuse, folks. It's just lethargy. Pure sloth. I have two things on the griddle and I may get back to them eventually. Or not, as the case may be.

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Friday, October 12, 2018


Yesterday in New York City, Antifa vandals vandalized, which I think goes without saying, the one following the other like bread and butter, time and tide, and my brother asking me for money and my saying no--yes, the object of this sentence is coming, I promise--the headquarters of the Manhattan Republican Party, a building that also houses the regional headquarters of the New York State Republican Party. The vandals announced that this was the beginning of a series of actions against the GOP for their crimes against humanity and for disagreeing with the Antifa movement, which is unconstitutional and doubleplus ungood and more than vaguely un-American, it seems.  I find this event interesting in that I didn’t think that there were any Republicans in Manhattan to speak of, much less their being a group of them large enough to conduct actions against; my mind actually boggled at the concept when I read the vandals’ declaration in the paper. 

What caused my bogglement, assuming that bogglement is the word I am looking for here, was that I was certain that the last native-born New York Republican was a man named Hezekiah Smith, who died when I was a boy of six or seven[i], despite the best efforts of doctors and naturalists to save such a rara avisMr. Smith was a hardy old soul of about 107, I think, and he could remember Abraham Lincoln’s funeral cortege moving up Broadway in 1865 and how a very portly stockbroker from Cincinnati, Ohio almost killed him when he (the stockbroker) landed on the sidewalk in front of him (our rara avis) after leaping from a fifteenth story window on the day the market crashed in 1929.  Mr. Smith escaped death by stopping for a moment at a street cart to buy a pretzel with too much salt on it, a flaw that bedevils street cart pretzels in New York to this very day. Mr. Smith took a bite out of the pretzel and stopped walking down Wall Street long enough to spit a large chunk of salt from between his teeth onto the sidewalk.  A moment later the stockbroker arrived at Mr. Smith's feet, causing him (Mr. Smith--I don't believe that the stockbroker was contemplating the saltiness of New York street pretzels at that instant, no matter how portly he was) to lose his appetite almost immediately. In any case, being the last of his species, the American Museum of Natural History insisted on having Mr. Smith stuffed and mounted so future generations of New Yorkers could see what a native-born Republican actually looked like. And so it came to pass. Mr. Smith is still on display at the museum, in that long gallery where the curators have the wildlife of North America dioramas, and so children on school trips from all over the city can come and gaze with astonished eyes upon his kindly countenance and wonder how such an extraordinary creature ever found a home in New York City.

As for the New York State Republican Party, I was unaware that such an organized entity actually existed; I was always under the impression that New York State Republicans were more or less like a herd of caribou wandering aimlessly over the length and breadth of the Vampire State, especially in the vast areas of political tundra  above Interstate 84, and doing nothing of any great importance, albeit doing that nothing with a much better wardrobe than your average caribou has—those horns really have to go; they are just so last year, you know—and that every so often one of them got lucky and found themselves elected to high state office or under indictment, conditions that often go together in these parts.  So this declaration of antifascist jihad against the local GOP seems a little far-fetched to me, unless the point of vandalizing innocuous buildings in New York is to drive the tenants out so the vandals can rip the copper piping out of the walls to sell for drug money or to avoid the complications that are apt to follow should the violent left attempt to wage its drum-beating, slogan-shrieking, baton-wielding war in places like Texas, Alabama, or Mississippi, where the Republicans are a fairly well-organized bunch and whose membership includes large numbers of people who possess their own firearms. I am only guessing here, but I suppose that a good many of these antifascists are not keen on doing anything in any state where they have to worry about sucking chest wounds or a ventilated liver as a side effect of their freeing the world of fascism. So this might be why New York is stuck with an inordinate number of these little punks, although I must say that the bagels are better in New York than in Houston or Montgomery, Alabama, and that could be a reason a wary protestor might want to stay in the neighborhood and annoy the unarmed passersby here as they try to get to work through the moron-induced traffic jams. Lucky us.

[i] This would be 1964 or 1965. You can work out how old I am by yourself; there’s no law requiring me to help anyone with mathematics.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Donald Trump is literally Hitler

As anyone who knows me will be more than happy to tell you, I am easily confused. I didn’t start out to be easily confused—I was rather hoping to play centerfield for the Yankees someday, but that dream vanished when it became clear that the curveball was a permanent part of baseball and not some passing fad like Pet Rocks, Cabbage Patch dolls, and Clinton presidential campaigns, and that my inability to hit a curveball with any degree of regularity, or never, as it is sometimes called, would permanently keep me out of centerfield at Yankee Stadium, unless I was taking the tour the Yankee organization provides when the team is out of town—but I am easily confused today, which I ascribe to being old and out of it, and to my unfortunate habit of wearing unfashionable hats.

But be that as it may, I am confused because President Trump is literally Hitler.  Not a would be Hitler or a Hitler manqué, as if he were a literally French Hitler; one assumes that the food would improve in school cafeterias if he were; or a wannabe Hitler or an aspiring Hitler or a Hitler avatar, but literally Hitler, and being literally Hitler is not a good thing to be. Now, other people have been literally Hitler before Trump was literally Hitler; Ronald Reagan was literally Hitler and both President Bushes were literally Hitler as well, as was John McCain and Milt Romney. Barry Goldwater was almost literally Hitler, but apparently he either got over it or the people who were thinking about saying that Goldwater was literally Hitler decided that calling him literally Hitler just sounded silly and contented themselves with saying that Goldwater was literally loonier than Hitler at a hot dog eating contest. I do not recall if Richard Nixon was literally Hitler; I am old enough to remember Nixon very well and I just don’t remember if Nixon was literally Hitler or if he was just sort of vaguely Hitlerish, but not during the latter half of football season.  I find the idea of Mitt Romney being literally Hitler intriguing in a strange sort of way; being literally Hitler suggests the idea that Romney had literally Hitlerian powers as governor of Massachusetts, like the power to dispose of his enemies as he willed or the power to invade such nonthreatening neighbor states as New Hampshire or Connecticut or even to arrest all the New York Yankees fans in Massachusetts and send them to summer camps on Nantucket Island, as opposed to the not very literally Hitlerish power to raise everyone’s health insurance premiums, which is very not literally Hitler-type power at all. Any idiotic dolt of a politician can do that, you know, and do it without the really cool uniforms that being literally Hitler can get for you.

One thing is absolutely true, however: Donald Trump is literally Hitler. That is an undeniable historical fact like Christopher Columbus discovering the electric light bulb or Fiorello LaGuardia discovering that secondhand tobacco smoke can give you herpes. Here, however, is the part that confuses me: if Trump is literally Hitler and Romney was literally Hitler, how can Trump be literally Hitler if Romney was literally Hitler, and how can both men be literally Hitler when Hitler was literally Hitler, and Hitler, you might be interested to know, still has living relatives who might sue the people who keep saying that Trump is literally Hitler and Romney was literally Hitler for infringing on the family’s trademark of being literally Hitler, or, in their case, literally Hitlers.  This, to me, is a lot like People magazine declaring that some male movie star is the sexiest man alive last year and then declaring another male movie star the sexiest man alive this year. How can the latter be sexier than the former when the former is still living?  I could understand this if the sexiest man alive this year was competing, if that is what you do in this situation, with the sexiest man alive from 1937, but last year was only last year and it’s unlikely that last year’s winner has diminished in sexiness so much that anyone can notice an appreciable difference between this year and last, and how does anyone measure such a subjective quality anyway?  Is there a cellphone application that will do this for us nowadays?

Finally, there is the problem that no one seems to want to deal with here. In declaring that Trump is literally Hitler, how do we judge the case of Adolf Hitler, who was literally Hitler long before it became politically fashionable to be literally Hitler?[1] If Trump is literally Hitler, then it necessarily follows that Hitler can’t be literally Hitler, he has to be someone else, doesn’t he, but Alfred E. Newman and Bill Gates are already someone else, and no, I don't know what that means. This, in turn, leads to the problem of why would anyone care if Trump is literally Hitler when clearly Hitler could not be literally Hitler because Trump is literally Hitler?  If Hitler can’t be literally Hitler because Trump is literally Hitler, then accusing Trump of being literally Hitler is as meaningless a charge as accusing Trump of being a life insurance salesman, or worse, a Red Sox fan.  So, I am still confused and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around willing to untangle the mental knot this conundrum is causing me. I must give the whole matter much more thought, I think.

[1] I should also point out that being literally Hitler did not keep Hitler from literally shooting Hitler in the head. So, since Hitler literally killed Hitler for being literally Hitler, is this literally a good thing or a bad thing vis-à-vis Trump, who is literally Hitler but is unlikely to do the same thing?  I am still confused.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

A year closer to death

It is, as a good many people here in our happy little burg keep reminding me, my birthday, specifically my 60th birthday,  for those of you who like to keep track of such things. I generally do not keep track of such things, either for myself or for other people; birthdays after age forty are simply an annual reminder that you are now officially one year closer to death. And I especially do not like birthdays that come in years that end with eight, as this means that the number on my age year clicks over to zero. This is an enjoyable experience when you turn ten or twenty; in the first instance it means that you are no longer a little kid, no matter what your mom and dad think, and in the second instance you are a.) no longer a teenager, b.) two years past the point where you can indulge your baser instincts with an adult without penalty of law, and c.) just a year short of being able to drink legally everywhere in the United States; but beyond those two points the accumulating zeroes are just annoying as hell—to find out how annoying, simply ask any woman in her late twenties just how many times she intends to turn twenty-nine before reality forces her to turn thirty—and the fact that I can now take money out of my IRA without accruing sizeable penalties is not making me feel better about reaching this age. 

So I am stuck, it seems. I was going to mark the day by buying a bottle of tequila, going home, and then getting completely hammered, but my coworkers tell me that this is more than vaguely inappropriate for a man of my gathering years and that my head will hurt like a son of a bitch tomorrow morning, so I think I will skip the tequila and just make myself a baloney sandwich instead. I have enough age-appropriate aches and pains without adding new ones to the mix. I do wish, though, that people would stop wishing me a happy birthday; I keep asking that they not do this and they keep insisting on doing it anyway, which is starting to get on my nerves, very frankly. I am waiting for next week, wherein people will stop with the Happy Birthdaying and even the belated Happy Birthdays will go away, and I can be chronologically miserable without everyone's best wishes making me feel even worse.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Security clearances, or how the Highlanders came to America

In case you have better things to do with your time than peruse Wikipedia or the New York Times for this sort of information, John Brennan became the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in March of 2013 and he stopped being the DCI in January of 2017. It is now 24 July 2018 (just five shopping months to Christmas, folks, so get ready; the holidays will be here sooner than you think). So if you will pardon me for asking this, why does Mr. Brennan still have a security clearance a year and a half after he left his job at the CIA? This is an excellent question, I think, and one for which no one seems to have an equally excellent answer. It is entirely unlikely that anyone in the Trump Administration is going to ask for his advice about anything. Given the animus between the two men, I doubt that President Trump would call Mr. Brennan if his life depended on it. Now, what follows is just my opinion, you understand---your mileage may vary, but I think that when your  time in the spy business is up, your time in the spy business is up. You hand in your secret decoder ring and the double secret Rolodex with the head of the Mossad’s personal phone number in it and you just go away. You do not pass go, you do not collect $200, and you especially do not get to ask the people who used to work for you what’s new out there in the big bad world these days. If the Administration wants to chat with you informally about something important, they will bring you in—I assume that you will not have to pay for the parking, or, if you do have to pay, maybe the IRS will let you deduct the valet’s tip as a tax deduction—and the new guys at your old job will show you whatever it is they want to show you and then that's it; you give them your two cent’s worth and then you go home and you keep your mouth shut about what they told you and about what you told them. 

For all the media screaming about Trump acting childishly with these threats of pulling security clearances, it seems to me that what is happening here is that Trump is not so subtly warning the Obama holdovers still on the IC payroll that passing secrets to these guys is no longer a safe way to undermine the Trump presidency. Up to now, Clapper and crew could get deep background briefings from their former employees and it would not technically be a leak since they still have their security clearances. If Trump gets his way, an active (but very disloyal) member of the intelligence community telling Brennan, Clapper & Company anything more secret than the CIA’s monthly budget for office supplies will be a violation of the Espionage Act. And even if Trump doesn't have the insubordinate Obama types charged under the Act, my guess is that forced retirements and demotions will be the order of the day, as well as transfers to places where the air conditioning isn't always up to snuff and the inhabitants have never heard of toilets, toilet paper, or the salubrious effects of indoor plumbing. There is something about the smell of ordure in the morning that doesn’t smell like victory and makes you want to stay in Virginia or Maryland, even if it means taking early retirement.  In the United States, after all, it is good for a President to crucify a spy every now and again; it encourages the others.

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