31 December 2020

A Final Word from 12020

350,421   people in the United States have died of the pandemic so far. All the signs point to the worst being still in front of us. And believe me, I am not happy about it, having every chance of being one of the future victims of this thing.

And I can’t join in with the chorus of those bidding a fond farewell to 2020 in the hopes of better times ahead—as I’ve indicated, I strongly suspect that those of us who survive will soon be looking back on 2020 as a golden age. In view of what’s ahead, I feel more like clinging onto 2020 with both hands as a drowning survivor clings to whatever piece of refuse floats nearby in the hopes of staving off the inevitable termination.

Admittedly, my attitude may be colored by my situation—a shoulder, wrist, and knee all painfully not fully functional—and by deaths in my family and beyond, but nobody who has a right to an opinion, nobody who actually knows what he or she is talking about, is holding out any hope for a quick recovery, or a bright 2021. So, you know, seasoned greetings or whatever, and maybe I’ll see you on the other side. Hang in there regardless.

30 December 2020

A Shithole of a Day

Well, to hell with it. Today was another shithole of a day; our shiny new Black and Decker mini-refrigerator finally arrived, much to my relief as I am past the end of my raveled rope of sanity on this no-cold-food thing—and turned out to be a turkey. It doesn’t work. Dead on arrival. And I have no way of returning it, so I’ll just have to add it to the heap of things to be hauled off if and when I have money again. And no refrigeration in sight. Well, that’s capitalism for you.

29 December 2020

29 December 12020

343,407   pandemic deaths in America out of a world total of 1,774,390. I’m not noting that to put the number in any kind of perspective; I’m simply appalled. And I’ve got to say, based on past pandemics, I would expect that the worst is ahead of us. Regrets are vain, but I can’t help thinking—what if we’d had somebody even marginally competent in the cockpit? What if America had taken the lead in the pandemic response, instead of tagging along behind everyone else, like somebody’s slow-witted cousin who had to be included but nobody really wanted along? “America First” certainly proved bad policy in this case—we’ve ended up in first place in a category nobody wants to be in.

Whatever. 29 December 12020 is the fourth day of Kwanzaa (African Diaspora), The Fifth Day of Christmas (Christianity [west]), Constitution Day (Ireland), Independence Day (Mongolia), Udhauli Parva (Nepal), and Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day (Sri Lanka). (I don’t know how many of these are real or current, but they’re what I have.) And it’s Pepper Pot Day. The saint of the day is Thomas Becket, the subject of plays by T. S. Eliot and Jean Anouilh, who came to a bad end during the time of Henry II of England. Today is Yvonne Ellison’s birthday. And I’m done.

28 December 2020

28 December 12020

339,032   deaths in America from the current pandemic mean nothing, according to the magas, right-wingers, economy boosters, and austerity proponents. Surplus population, in the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, the Spirit of Capitalism Past. At least the Lame-Duck-in-Chief took time out from his busy golfing schedule to finally sign the Covid relief bill—which, let me remind you, is intended to help save the American economy, not American lives.

Anyway, 28 December 12020 is Proclamation Day (Australia), the Fourth Day of Christmas (Christianity [west]), Republic Day (South Sudan), and King Taksin Memorial Day (Thailand). It is also when Boxing Day is observed in many countries, as the day itself fell on a Saturday this year. Assuming no miscalculations on my part it is 28 December 2020 (N.S.) or 15 December 2020 (O.S.), 13 Teveth 5781, 13 Jumada I 1442, 19 Koiak 1737, 7 Pausa 1942, 8 Dey 1399, and JD 2459212. The saints of the day are the Holy Innocents—the imaginary children slaughtered by Herod the Great in a vain attempt to eliminate a future rival to his throne. And it’s Stan Lee’s birthday.

On this day in history (11973) President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law, one of the most important pieces of legislation in my lifetime. Inadequate though it is, and weakened by savage attacks on it (especially during the Bush II and Trump administrations), it still remains a dyke against the rising tide of eco-destruction being rained down upon us by present-day Capitalism and other related evils. Unfortunately dumbasses in this country have turned away from consulting people who know what they’re talking about in favor of people who have only ignorance to contribute (along with the liability of a financial stake in the outcome) with catastrophic results. (The Bush II administration again is heavily to blame for this approach—but the Clinton, Obama, and Trump administrations all contributed their bit.) And so the fire awaits us all—unless we repent.

In the news I see that a Green Beret killed three people and wounded three others in a shooting spree in Illinois—and yet there’s no outcry from the Proud Boys et al against the United States Army Special Forces. They’re being a bit inconsistent here, aren’t they? I mean, if every Black Lives Matter protester is guilty of actions committed by somebody else associated with the movement, shouldn’t the same apply to the Green Berets? Still, I imagine that Duke Webb (the alleged shooter) will come out all right. I mean, we now pardon mass murderers so long as they’re in the military. He can go the rounds of the right-wing rallies with Vile Kyle and the Blackwater killers and clean up. And to hell with Justice.

27 December 2020

27 December 12020

338,352   pandemic deaths here in the sweet land of liberty, and it’s nothing to sing about. Incompetence writ large, in flaming letters. Still, 27 December 12020 is No Interruptions Day. It’s also the Third Day of Christmas, Constitution Day (North Korea), and Emergency Rescuer’s Day (Russia). On various calendars of the world it is 12 Jumada I 1442, 12 Teveth 5781, 18 Koiak 1737, 6 Pausa 1942, 7 Dey 1399, JD 2459211, 27 December 2020 (N.S.) or 14 December 2020 (O.S.). On this day in history (11941) Dmitri Shostakovich completed his seventh symphony (“Leningrad”) in Samara; the piece would go on to be enormously popular during the World War. Its popularity declined precipitously in the post-war environment; derided as trite, bombastic, and pretentious, few could be bothered to spend the hour and a quarter needed to take it in. Possibly that’s why a copy of it fell into my hands somewhere in the early to mid ’60s, and it quickly became a favorite of mine. Judging from my memory of the cover, I suppose it must have been the version featuring the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein conducting—but I could easily be wrong. Personally I think the piece will continue to be performed and enjoyed—at least by audiences who appreciate it for what it is.

I somehow managed to fall yesterday and bashed my knee against the concrete sidewalk—and then later on at least gave moral support when my roommate’s dog came in from the front yard with part of his ear missing. We’re both all right—the dog and I anyway—but I’m having trouble moving around, and he has to take it easy for a bit while his ear heals. I just checked in on him upstairs, and he seems okay; it took me two or three times as long as usual to go up the stairs, and there was a fair amount of pain associated with it. Maybe things will be better tomorrow.

26 December 2020

26 December 12020

337,073   pandemic deaths in the United States and no relief in sight. 26 December 12020 is the Second Day of Christmas in Western Christianity. It’s also the first day of Kwanzaa (African diaspora), Father’s Day (Bulgaria), St. Stephen’s Day (Christianity [western]), Mauro Hamza Day (Houston), Wren Day (Ireland and the Isle of Man), Mummer’s Day (Padstow), Independence and Unity Day (Slovenia), Day of Goodwill (South Africa), and Day of the Banner (Spain). Frederick II was born on this date in 1194 CE, but the equivalent date on the calendar used on this site is 2 January 11195. On this date in history (11862) nearly forty Dakota men who had been convicted of wartime atrocities were executed by hanging. The number would have been much larger if Abraham Lincoln had not commuted the sentences of more than two hundred men who (it was argued) had only engaged in acts of war, not attacks on civilians. The war had been brought on, by the way, by bureaucratic incompetence (fueled by racism) and by capitalism (fueled by inhumanity). Traders who had brought out food in the expectation of receiving payment for it from the government to fulfil treaty obligations declined to distribute it until the money was placed in their hot greedy hands. Bureaucratic delay resulted in starvation for the Dakota people with food kept locked up by capitalistic traders. When asked how the people could feed their children, one of the traders is supposed to have replied that they could eat grass, or their own shit, as far as he was concerned. When things blew up (as of course they did) the traders ended up dead, along with a number of civilians, many of them recent immigrants from Scandinavia who had no more idea of what was going on than you probably would have. With the exception of Little Crow, the starving Dakota people, and the hapless immigrants who were in the way, I have little sympathy for anyone involved in this nightmarish incident. The iconic scene for me is the one in which a family, fleeing with all their remaining goods from the outbreak, run into a detachment of soldiers. Did they receive help? No—the soldiers made off with whatever goods they had saved, along with their team and wagon, leaving them destitute on the plain. Mismanagement and incompetence, yes—but something more in my book. A callous indifference to life at any rate, along with a mechanical devotion to a god of gold.

21 December 2020

21 December 12020

324,423   people dead from the pandemic in the United States. And it’s the solstice—the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, and the summer solstice south of the equator. It’s also a day when I was racing around trying to keep an appointment with the doctor, as well as link up with the landlord here to show a problem with the electricity in the kitchen. Busy busy busy.

20 December 2020

20 December 12020

322,484   total deaths in the United States from the pandemic. And that’s all I have this 20 December 12020 of the Holocene Era.

19 December 2020

19 December 12020

319,985   pandemic deaths here in the United States and the number keeps growing by leaps and bounds. 19 December 12020 doesn’t seem to be any sort of holiday, and the only saint Sabine Baring-Gould gives an account of is a “certain Nemesion,” according to Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, who wrote to Fabius of Antioch about “an Egyptian [who] was accused at first of being a companion of thieves; but when he had repelled this charge before the centurion as a calumny, devoid of truth, he was charged with being a Christian, and was brought as a prisoner before the governor. He, a most unrighteous judge, inflicted a punishment more than double that awarded to robbers, both scourges and tortures, and then committed him to the flames between thieves, thus honoring the blessed martyr after the example of Christ.” Notable people born today include Edith Piaf (“La Vie En Rose”), Phil Ochs (“I Ain’t Marching Any More”), Tim Reid (Mastergate), and Zal Yanovsky (“Nirvana Banana”).

And, in case you thought members of the ruling elite in this country had reached maximum cluelessness, here’s representative Jim Jordan letting us peons in on his high-toned thoughts: “The best stimulus? A job.” How long did it take you to come up with that idea, numbbrain? Any idea where that job is going to come from? Or had you forgotten the pandemic? Or do you just think that jobs grow on trees? And this is the kind of intelligence that is supposed to lead us out of the catastrophe? God help America!

18 December 2020

I Feel Shitty #444

I   am not feeling well this day after getting several hours of sleep; I had hoped that when I woke up I would be back to normal, but no such luck. I walked up the street to buy ice before the local store closed, only to realize that I had forgotten my mask. (The cold air against my face reminded me.) I turned around and went back to get it, went up to the store—and found that they had no ice, as their freezer was defective. Okay, no problem, I’ll just go up the 7-Eleven for it instead. It’s more expensive there, and it’s in the opposite direction, but at least I’ll have it over with—right? Well, I got up to 7-Eleven just fine, and they did have ice there—but they aren’t taking EBT for the moment.

And that about sums things up for me right now. I suppose now my roommate will announce that he’s been fired when he gets home from work, or maybe that the store he works for has gone out of business. It feels like that sort of day anyway.

18 December 12020

317,246   pandemic deaths in the United States so far, and no end in sight. Quite the contrary, actually. And no relief to the American people, and the government about to shut down, thanks to the absolute incompetence of Gutless Mitch, the self-proclaimed Grim Reaper. And let’s not forget his little stooge, the Dopey Don. If there’s any justice the whole lot of them will face military tribunals before being shuffled off to Gitmo to spend the rest of their miserable lives. AINO POS Dan Crenshaw can join them there too.

And there’s nothing worth writing about this 18 December 12020 of the Holocene Era; everything has turned to shit in the land of the rich and the home of the slave. I mean, in another time and place I might enjoy writing about the capers of unhinged as they attempt to distract us from the criminal antics of the ruling class, but right now it’s a goddamn dance of death.

17 December 2020

17 December 12020

315,256   total deaths in the United States due to the pandemic—and yet life goes on here in the basement. It’s 17 December 12020 and I wasted time today answering the question of some guy who turned out to be playing “I Win” and not actually interested in anything anybody else had to say, so here’s where we end up, with an incomplete entry and nothing to show for it. It’s Wright Brothers Day; also National Day in Bhutan and the 7th day of Hanukkah. And I’ll try to be back tomorrow with something more substantial.

16 December 2020

16 December 12020

309,330   people in the United States are now dead thanks to the current pandemic. My medical providers assure me that it will be many months before any vaccine is available for the likes of me, and the mathematics of the situation tell me that there is an appreciable chance I will be dead before that day gets here. In the meantime the authorities assure me that the best thing for me to do is to continue cowering in my basement and wait for a new stimulus check to arrive which is scheduled to be … well, never.

16 December 12020 is Pythagorean Theorem Day. Local holidays include Victory Day (Bangladesh), National Day (Bahrain), Victory Day (India), the sixth day of Hanukkah (Judaism), Independence Day (Kazakhstan), Day of Reconciliation (South Africa), and National Sports Day (Thailand). Notable people born today include Ludwig van Beethoven (nine symphonies among innumerable other compositions), Jane Austen (Love and Friendship, Pride and Prejudice, Emma etc), Margaret Mead (Coming of Age in Samoa), Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood's End), Randall Garrett (“No Connections”), and Philip K. Dick (The Man in the High Castle).

15 December 2020

15 December 12020

306,146   have died in America in the supposedly imaginary pandemic that is (or is not) sweeping the country. The deaths are real, at any rate. A vaccine is now being given to the people working the hardest (and putting themselves in the most danger) to combat this thing, which preachers, pundits, and politicians living in isolation from reality can afford to pretend doesn’t exist. Pretense of course is the name of the fashionable game today. Let’s pretend that there’s nothing fishy about those ten million votes for Trump that appeared out of nowhere (but weren’t enough to sway the election). Let’s pretend that it’s perfectly normal for over a hundred members of Congress to try to suppress millions of votes on the thinnest of technicalities. Let’s pretend that neo-fascist racists aren’t running wild in our streets murdering and vandalizing at will. Let’s pretend that police aren’t killing Black people on any and all pretexts, and have no intention of mending their ways ever. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Close your eyes, look the other way, and everything will be all right.

15 December 12020 is Homecoming Day (Alderney), Zamenhof Day (Esperanto community), the fifth day of Hanukkah (Judaism), Kingdom Day (Netherlands), and Bill of Rights Day (United States). It’s Stan Kenton’s birthday. The saint of the day is a young woman known to history (or at least legend) as Christiana, as her actual name has not come down to us. Enslaved by Iberians living in a region that is now part of Georgia she was renowned for her faith and piety. When the Queen’s child was ill she effected a cure simply by calling on the name of Christ, and when the King was lost in a fog he—remembering this—called on Christ too, and for him the fog cleared. The King then learned more about the faith from Christiana, and so he and many of his subjects were converted. If this all sounds like a fairy-tale, well, you can believe it or not, as Ripley might say. Ask Sabine Baring Gould—it’s in the book. Or maybe ask Johnny Standley.

14 December 2020

14 December 12020

304,902   people are now confirmed dead from the pandemic in the United States. A vaccine is now available, which should help healthcare workers and others on the frontlines, always assuming that it works and doesn’t have nasty side-effects. (While haste may be unavoidable in an emergency, it’s never the ideal way to do things. Anybody else remember thalidomide?)

14 December 12020 is Monkey Day. It’s also Alabama Day (Alabama), Martyred Intellectuals Day (Bangladesh), Bashkir Language Day (Bashkortostan), National Energy Conservation Day (India), Forty-seven Ronin Remembrance Day (Japan), the fourth day of Hanukkah (Judaism), National Tree Planting Day (Malawi), and Petroleum Industry and Geology Workers’ Day (Turkmenistan).

The day’s saint is Spyridon, bishop of Trimithus (Cyprus); a shepherd by trade. He attended the Council of Nicaea, accompanied by his deacon. On their way there, other bishops, worried that the uncouth shepherd might do injury to their cause, cut the heads off the mules they were riding during the night. On learning of this setback before sunrise from his deacon, Spyridon had him replace the heads on the bodies of their mules, and they soon found that their steeds were now as good as ever. Not long after they caught up with the other bishops, and all were startled when the sun rose to find that mules' heads had been attached to the wrong bodies. Spyridon carried a brick with him into the council, where he used it to demonstrate that three could be one, by pointing out that the brick was made of earth and fire and water (three elements) and yet was simply one thing—a brick. Whether the Arians were impressed is not recorded.

People of note born on this day include bandleader and percussionist Spike Jones and genre-defying writer Shirley Jackson. In the news I see that some idiot at the Wall Street Journal (the journal of record for the clueless) had objected to calling Dr. Jill Biden by her title because, it seems, she only has an earned doctorate. Apparently this ninny—his name is Joseph Epstein—feels that the title should be reserved for medical practitioners who, in point of fact, haven’t earned it. (It is a courtesy title when given to anybody who has not actually been awarded a Ph.D.) He himself claims to have a B.A. and no advanced degree (so do I, by the way) but adds that he has an honorary doctorate (I don’t). So what? say I. Ninny Epstein (I use the title because it is earned) feels that lowered standards for doctorates have eroded their prestige (“outside the sciences”), as if that was any kind of an argument against using an earned title. Now were he writing about unearned doctorates—those printed out by diploma mills or handed out to potential donors by real universities—then I would agree that their use is silly, but an actual degree actually awarded by an actual institution deserves its actual title, not that there is any requirement for it. My mother has a Ph.D. but I don’t habitually call her “Dr.”, for instance. And I can remember when I started college after a long period of self-directed study and found myself surrounded by people whom I had previously known only as names on erudite volumes, and was calling everybody Dr. Smith, and Dr. Jones, and Dr. Robinson, and being informed in return that “Jim,” or “Fred,” or “Doug” was fine. Preferable, even. There was one occasion when a perennial graduate student there who had done groundbreaking work finally got his doctorate, and everybody was calling him “Dr.” and being called “Dr.” in return, but it was in good spirits, celebrating a milestone, not some bizarre game of one-upmanship. And I don’t know about this “outside the sciences” thing—I’ve seen a lot of people with doctorates, both inside and outside “the sciences”, putting their prestige behind dumb concepts. (Mythicism, for instance.) The fact that somebody can perform brain surgery doesn’t make him any sort of authority in anything else, whether he’s got a doctorate or is a mere medical practitioner.

It's Over (Obviously)

The electoral college has spoken and Joe Biden remains President-Elect with (at this moment) 302 votes to Trump’s 232 (with possibly only Hawaii still missing). Current president Trump refuses to concede, but that means nothing. The election is over. That doesn’t mean the steal (as Trump’s proponents have aptly termed their hijack attempt) is over; frivolous lawsuits and impotent street demonstrations continue. It may even be that this time Trump & co. manage to pull off the first successful presidential coup in this country—unless you count the election of 1876. (And I see that Trump’s minions are trying to emulate Hayes’ supporters in sending in rival electoral votes, but the situation is not parallel.) But regardless of unforeseeable results, the election is now a done deal, and all that is left is smoke.

13 December 2020

13 December 12020

303,947   people are now dead from the pandemic in the United States. The world death toll now stands at 1,604,978. By the time I post this the numbers will be larger. And I am out of things to say once again. Here we speak fluent cliché, as the woman said in some old movie parody. I’ve got nothing.

13 December 12020 is Acadian Remembrance Day (the Acadians), Sailor’s Day (Brazil), Nanking Massacre Memorial Day (China), the third Sunday in Advent (Christianity), Nusantara Day (Indonesia), the third day of Hanukkah (Judaism), Republic Day (Malta), Martial Law Victims Remembrance Day (Poland), National Day (Saint Lucia), Charity Day (Ukraine), and possibly Cocoa Day (the cocoa industry?). The saint of the day is Lucia of Syracuse, known for giving away her inherited wealth to all and sundry and gouging her own eyes out to send to an admirer who was taken with them. It’s better than torturing a fish, I suppose. And it’s Dick Van Dyke’s birthday.

12 December 2020

12 December 12020

301,260   people have died in America from the current pandemic, the equivalent of one hundred nine-elevens. A moment of silence, please. A long moment, preferably.

12 December 12020 is the International Day of Neutrality and International Universal Health Coverage Day. It is also Our Lady of Guadalupe Day (Christian), Air Force Day (Croatia), Extra Work Day (Hungary), Kanji Day (Japan), the second day of Hanukkah (Jewish), Customs Day (Kazakhstan), Jamhuri Day (Kenya), National Literature Day (Kyrgyzstan), Constitution Day (Russia), Helicopter Industry Day (Russia), Neutrality Day (Turkmenistan), Ground Forces Day (Ukraine), and Ambrosia Day (salad enthusiasts). Today’s saint is Corentin of Quimper (died 10453), known for living off the same fish for decades. (Every day he would cut another piece off the fish, and every day the fish would be miraculously restored. What the fish thought of this daily torture is not recorded.) And it is poet Erasmus Darwin’s (The Loves of the Plants) birthday. On this day in history (11941) Adolf Hitler decided to make good on his promise to “exterminate the Jewish race in Europe.” Goebbels, who attended the meeting where he made the announcement, described the proposed genocide as the necessary consequence of world war: “Bezüglich der Judenfrage ist der Führer entschlossen, reinen Tisch zu machen. Er hat den Juden prophezeit, daß, wenn sie noch einmal einen Weltkrieg herbeiführen würden, sie dabei ihre Vernichtung erleben würden. Das ist keine Phrase gewesen. Der Weltkrieg ist da, die Vernichtung des Judentums muß die notwendige Folge sein.” (“With regard to the Jewish question, the Führer is determined to wipe the slate clean. He has prophesied to the Jews that if they were to bring about another world war, they would see their annihilation in the process. This was not just a platitude. The world war is here, the destruction of Jewry must be the necessary consequence.”)

As anyone would suppose the Supreme Court declined to take up the case of Texas v. the American People because Texas lacks standing. Or in Crip Dyke’s memorable summary: “Go home, Texas. You’re drunk.” Crip Dyke also saved me the trouble of looking up Thomas’s odd citation of his own dissent (“It is, frankly, worse than citing yourself from one of your previous scientific papers and pretending that you therefore have independent support for the conclusions in your current paper”) by tracing it back to an obscure 11821 decision, the only point being that Alito and Thomas feel that the court is required to grant a hearing to any case between states brought before it no matter how baseless rather than dismissing it forthwith as is the practice (and has been since the beginning). Fuck your feelings is my response to Thomas and Alito. Anyway, read Crip Dyke’s take. It’s worth it.

11 December 2020

The Pundit (12014 repost)

[This is the piece aboutt Daniel the Stylite that I mentioned in an earlier post. It was originally posted at Rational Rant on 11 December 12014.]

Odd things qualify an otherwise unremarkable person to become a pundit—a failed vice-presidential run based on having held a largely ceremonial job as village mayor, for example. A few speeches written for an actual vice-president. Claimed predictions of dire events. A thirty-year sojourn on top of a pillar.

That last one was what qualified Daniel the Stylite, an otherwise-unremarkable small-town monk, to advise an emperor in the warped world that was the Fifth Century of the Common Era, that liminal moment between Antiquity and the Dark Ages when the western Roman Empire tottered on the brink and finally gave up the ghost. That ghost—we know it as the Great Church—animated its twitching corpse and held the living Eastern Empire in its grip.

And that’s the clue to Daniel’s career. He probably never stood a chance of anything resembling a normal life. It’s not only that the times were out of joint—when were they not?—but that his mother promised him to God before he was born. By the time he was twelve he was hanging out at the local monastery full-time.

Present-day Christianity is strange enough to the uninitiated, but ancient Christianity was something else again. Today we think of snake-handlers and tongue-speakers as bizarre fringe-figures in Christianity. Even faith-healers are out there. These were mainstream in Christianity back then. To be noticed you had to do something really dramatic. Vows of silence, self-flagelation, never washing—these were the sorts of things you had to do to get noticed. A guy named Simeon came up with a new gimmick; he climbed up to the top of a pillar and stayed there, supplied with food by acolytes and curiosity-seekers.

On a trip to Antioch with his superior Daniel heard of this guy and wanted to see him. Hoisted up to the top of the pillar, Daniel conversed with him and received his blessing. Apparently it made an impression on him.

His first attempt at notoriety wasn’t pillar-sitting, however. After the superior died Daniel briefly took over his position, but soon abandoned it to live among the jackals and owls—and reputedly evil spirits—in an abandoned temple. Despite the annoyance this caused the neighbors, Daniel acquired a reputation as a saint and miracle-worker.

He’d been at this for some time when he ran into Sergius, Simeon’s acolyte. The pillar-sitter had died, it seemed, leaving Sergius his religious garb. Sergius had tried to pass the relics on to the Emperor Leo, but had been unsuccessful. Daniel seized on the opportunity. Why not take over Simeon’s gig? Sitting on a pillar was no doubt an improvement on living with jackals, and possession of the saint’s castoffs was authority enough, it seems, especially with Sergius willing to sign on as Daniel’s acolyte, assuming that Daniel wanted the position. Daniel immediately started looking for a likely pillar.

The pillars of the old temple were in too bad a shape to serve, but one of his fans set him up with a new pillar, and early one morning Daniel climbed on top of it, “where he soon became an object of curiosity and devotion to the sight-seers and pious of Byzanium,” according to Sabine Baring-Gould. “Crowds came to see him, and brought lunatics and sick people to be healed by him. Those who were afflicted were hoisted up to the top of the pillar, and then Daniel applies his hands to them, and was so successful as to cure many.”

As a pillar-dweller he was a hit. The Emperor Leo not only built him a more sumptuous pillar with a roof and a small room to protect him from the elements, but also came to consult him on matters of state. The Emperor Zeno, in his turn, consulted Daniel on matters both great and small. At one point Daniel predicted that Constantinople would suffer from a great fire, which it did—a connection that apparently raised no eyebrows in those simpler times.

In the end the celebrated pillar-sitter passed on at the age of eighty. His hagiographer tells it as follows:

Just about the time of his holy departure from this life a man vexed with an unclean spirit suddenly cried aloud in the midst of the people, announcing the presence of the saints with the holy man, naming each one of them; and he said, “There is great joy in heaven at this hour, for the holy angels have come to take the holy man with them, besides there are come, too, the honourable and glorious companies of prophets and apostles and martyrs and saints; they are tormenting me now, and to-morrow at the third hour they will drive me out of this tabernacle; when the holy man is going to his home in the heavens and his saintly corpse is being brought down, I shall come out.” And this did indeed happen. Our glorious father Daniel died at the third hour on the following day, a Saturday, December 11th in the second indiction (A.D. 493), and at the time of his death he worked a miracle in that the man with an unclean spirit was healed.

The people wanted a last look at the revered pundit. To accommodate them the local authorities had the body fastened to a board and raised upright so all could see and admire. When the body was taken down there was such a stampede that the men carrying it were knocked down along with the body. “By the grace of the Lord the carriers did not suffer any injury” according to his hagiographer.

It was a grotesque coda to a grotesque life. Daniel’s reward (I suppose) was to have influence in the halls of the incompetents holding the actual reins of power. It was probably worth living with jackals or standing for three decades atop a pillar, if that’s the price you have to pay for the cloak of authority.

11 December 12020

299,502   deaths in America from the current pandemic, and there are still dumbasses in the country insisting that it is all a hoax—inspired by the fake media and George Soros I suppose. It’s like another World Trade Center attack every goddamn day. The right-wingers (AINOs) are all fucking hypocrites in my book—throwing a fit about nine eleven and shrugging off pandemic deaths. Why should I believe anything they have to say in the future about their feelings? Fuck them, I say.

11 December 12020 is International Mountain Day. Celebrated, or at least observed, since 12003, the day reminds us of the importance—geological, biological, cultural, and economic—of mountains. The UN website observes about this year’s commemoration, “Mountain biodiversity is the theme of this year’s International Mountain Day, so let’s celebrate their rich biodiversity, as well as address the threats they face.” There are also a number of national, religious, and cultural observances today. In Argentina it is National Tango Day, the date being the birthday of two men (Carlos Gardel and Julio de Caro) associated with the development of the tango in Argentina. For Burkina Faso it is Republic Day—the anniversary of the day (in 11958) when Upper Volta became an autonomous republic in the French Community. In Canada it is the Anniversary of the Statute of Westminster, the 11931 act giving Canada autonomy (but not full independence from the United Kingdom). Today Crimea remembers the victims of the Holocaust in that region with Krymchaks and Crimean Jews Remembrance Day. In Indiana (US) it is Indiana Day, commemorating the date Indiana was admitted to the Union in 11816. It is the first day of Hanukkah on the old Babylonian calendar still used by the Jews, recalling the rededication of the temple (9837) after an interruption caused by a cultural war between traditionalists and Hellenizers. In Kiribati it is Human Rights and Peace Day (and I don’t have anything further on it). For Kurdistan (at least the Iraq portion of it) it is Establishment of Kurdish Women’s Union, commemorating the establishment in 11952 of a women’s rights organization there. It is Republic Day in Madagascar, reflecting the promulgation of the 2010 constitution of the present republic there. It’s the Sultan of Selangor’s Birthday in Malaysia for some reason or other. And it’s Pampanga Day in Pampanga province (Philippines), St. Andrew’s Flag Day for the Russian navy, Father’s Day in Thailand, and Noodle Ring Day for those who like that sort of thing.

The saint of the day is Daniel the Stylite, the guy who lived on top of a pillar for three decades and was revered for it. (I’m pretty sure I’ve written about him before—no, I know I’ve written about him; I’m pretty sure I posted what I wrote some time or other.) Things were messed up in the 10400s. It’s Hector Berlioz’s (Symphonie fantistique) birthday; he was born in 11803. On this day in history Germany and Italy declared war on the United States in what I think (hindsight is golden) was one of the worst blunders of the war. Had Hitler and Mussolini held off—something they could easily have done given their indifference to treaties and the fact that the treaty they were invoking had an obvious escape hatch—they could have bought time to solidify their European victories while the US focused on Japan. As it was they enabled Roosevelt to easily concentrate on the European front and reserve forces to attack Japan later. I’m not saying it would have changed the outcome; but it might have made US involvement in Europe much less tenable.

10 December 2020

10 December 12020

296,909   American pandemic deaths so far, and our information-gatherers are agog over one of the lamest lawsuits yet. The state of Texas is suing four other states over the way they conducted their elections, arguing that massive vote fraud is the cure for a problem that (a) doesn’t concern it and (b) only exists in its imagination. Texas is asking the Supreme Court to be the arbiter of the case. Speaking here as a relatively disinterested outsider I would note that (1) Texas has a lot of damn gall to presume to tell four other sovereign states how they should manage their elections, which is none of Texas’ business in the first place, and in the second involves gall piled upon gall in that Texas has done the same sorts of things in managing its own election; (2) Texas has no standing to bring suit, in that the state was not materially injured (indeed, not injured at all in point of fact) by the actions of the other states; (3) the proposed remedy (throwing tens of millions of votes into the metaphorical river—classic vote fraud) is infinitely worse than the alleged malady (a novel untested reinterpretation of Article 2 Section 1 of the US Constitution may have meant that certain procedural changes were wrongly adopted); (4) the time to have brought this up was before the election, not after; and (5) this whole steaming pile of crap is a perfect example of a frivolous lawsuit. I personally suspect that the Supreme Court won’t touch the stinking mess with a ten-foot pole carried by a remote-controlled robot in a hazmat suit.

10 December 12020 is Human Rights Day. It is also Victory Day (Iraq), Nobeldagen (Sweden), and Constitution Day (Thailand). The saint of the day is Eulalia of Mérida, a child who was tortured to death in the early 10300s to try to encourage her to pay homage to the gods of the empire (a ritual comparable to pledging allegiance to the flag in the United States today). Her martyrdom is comparatively well-attested, in that there are records showing her to have been celebrated within a half-century or so the time of her alleged death. On the other hand certain details of the account—the bird that flew out of her mouth as she died, for example, or the miraculous fall of snow that covered her body—may give rise to legitimate skepticism. People of note who were born on this day include George MacDonald (The Princess and the Goblins), Emily Dickinson (“Because I could not stop for Death”), and Olivier Messiaen (Quatuor pour la fin du temps). On this day in history (11864) Mark Twain’s masterpiece Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published—but not in the United States. In the American edition an engraver had made an addition to one of the plates that made it look as if one of the characters was exposing himself, necessitating the recall and correction of the entire printing. It wasn’t until February of the next year that the novel became legally available in America, though copies of the Canadian printing seem to have been widely available in the States before then.

My shoulder is still giving me a good deal of pain, but a cautious visit to a medical facility has slightly reassured me; I likely have a couple of unpleasant weeks ahead of me, but my shoulder should heal all other things being equal. In the meantime I need to be careful not to demand too much of my right arm—which is annoying, since I am right-handed.

09 December 2020

9 December 12020

294,400   American pandemic deaths so far, with new records being set practically daily. Is this what Making America Great Again is all about? At any rate 9 December 12020 is International Anti-Corruption Day. (“Corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust. It is even more damaging in times of crisis – as the world is experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic. The response to the virus is creating new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need.” — UN Secretary-General, António Guterres) It is also National Heroes Day (Antigua and Barbuda), Armed Forces Day (Peru), Fatherland's Heroes Day (Russia), Day of Saint Leocadia (Spain), Navy Day (Sri Lanka), Anna’s Day (Sweden), and Independence Day (Tanzania). The saint of the day is the Spanish Leocadia, a woman who is supposed to have died around 10304, but about whom all we really know is that her cult shows up in the historic record 10600s. During her incarceration she outlined the cross on the stone wall of her cell so often that the impress of her action was still visible centuries later—or so it is said. People of note who were born today include Dalton Trumbo and Buck Henry. On this day in history (11979) smallpox was officially declared eradicated, one of the few diseases for which that can be said. If the likes of Trump and his gang had been running the show it never would have happened, and smallpox would still be with us.

08 December 2020

8 December 12020

290,868   deaths from the pandemic in the United States and so far Congress has still failed to get any further assistance to the American people. Actions speak louder than words; the House has had a realistic bill ready for months, but the Senate still refuses to do jack about it. The Senate instead proposes a bill aimed at helping the rich get richer at the expense of people who are actually suffering. Unbelievable.

8 December 12020 is National Youth Day (Albania), the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Christian), Battle Day (Falkland Islands), the Day of Finnish Music (Finland), Santa Marian Kamalen Day (Guam), Bodhi Day (Japan), Hari-Kuyō (Kansai region, Japan), Saint Kliment Ohridski’s Day (North Macedonia), Constitution Day (Northern Mariana Islands), Mother’s Day (Panama), Virgin of Caacupé Day (Paraguay), Constitution Day (Romania), the Day of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception (East Timor), and Constitution Day (Uzbekistan). The saint of the day is Eucharius, first bishop of Treves, who was commissioned by Peter, who died about 10065, but he himself did not die until 10250 or so, suggesting that either he had a very long life or the records are confused. Famous people born on this date include Roman satirist Horace (9936) and American satirist James Thurber (11894). On this day in history composer, satirist, and artist John Lennon (11940–11980) was murdered by a born-again Christian missionary with a grudge of some sort in front of the building in which he lived. And there you have it. Today I’m just going through the motions; my shoulder hurts like hell for unknown reasons and I’m not enjoying things enough to linger.

07 December 2020

7 December 12020

288,072   deaths here in the United States from the pandemic, and the American president is obsessing over an election he lost a month back. Pitiful.

7 December 12020 is International Civil Aviation Day. In addition it is a Bridge Public Holiday (Argentina), Spitak Remembrance Day (Armenia), Eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Colombia), Armed Forces Flag Day (India), The Feast of St. Ambrose (Milan), Flag Base Day (Scientology), Western Province Day (Solomon Islands), Constitution Day holiday (Spain), National Heroes Day (East Timor), a day off for the Anniversary of the Coronation of King Tupou I (Tonga), and National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (United States). (In case you’re wondering—I was—a bridge public holiday is an extra day off between two others—say a holiday and a weekend—used to create four day holidays and the like. Argentina plans to phase them out soon.)

The day’s saint is Ambrose of Milan, famous in the western church for his opposition to Arianism, his advocacy of synagogue-burning, and his never reading aloud. Notable people born on this date include novelist Willa Cather, astronomer Gerard Kuiper, sf writer Leigh Brackett and musician Tom Waits. On this day in history (in 11995) the space probe Galileo reached the planet Jupiter (or rather its vicinity) and began its mission of investigating its atmosphere, magnetosphere, rings, and other bodies orbiting it. I thought I had more to say, but I’m running out of time if I want to get anything posted before the day ends.

06 December 2020

6 December 12020

286,074   pandemic deaths here in the United States, and our fragile for-profit medical industry can’t handle it. Nothing can be done in this emergency, apparently, because our political class has tied its own hands and forced itself to sit idly by. Every one of them who has enabled Mitch McConnell’s DC follies is complicit in the carnage; the party label is irrelevant. It’s like that old song says: “Nothing is as it should be; | If this keeps on I’m sure I won’t get by. | But then I close my eyes and try to smile; | I know things are bad and getting worse…”

6 December 12020 is Saint Nicholas Day, the day when the ancient bishop drops by in his flying sled to fill children’s shoes with small bribes for good behavior. It is also Day of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies (Azerbaijan), National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (Canada), the Foundation of Quito anniversary (Ecuador), Independence Day (Finland), Constitution Day (Spain), and Armed Forces Day (Ukraine). It’s also the second Sunday of Advent, celebrated as a holiday in Germany and elsewhere.

The saint of the day is (obviously) Nicholas of Myra, the legendary bishop known for secret gift-giving and keeping flying reindeer as pets. In point of fact, as far as I can tell, we know nothing of the historical Nicholas of Myra, unless his name on some lists of participants in the council of Nicaea counts for something. (I am not impressed.) That doesn’t mean he never existed—something inspired the cult celebrating his life, and the simplest explanation is that that something was the life of a real bishop whose fame survived not only his death, but all historical knowledge about him. That’s not the only explanation however. Nicholas could originally have been a supernatural being, a fictional character, a hoax, that somehow became flesh and (at least retroactively) dwelt among us. But absent evidence for one of these possibilities, I’ll stick with a historical figure—like Billy the Kid, or William the Bard—who got buried under an avalanche of legend.

Famous people born today include Agnes Moorhead, Dave Brubeck, and David Ossman. Agnes Moorhead was a versatile actress apparently best remembered today for playing the pedestrian rôle of Endora—the mother-in-law from hell who is literally a witch—in Bewitched. I mean, she appeared in movies ranging from Citizen Kane (11941) to How the West Was Won (11962), was equally capable of playing voice-only and voiceless parts, and was at home in comedy, melodrama, and even tragedy. When I was a teenager she was my choice to play the Red Queen in a hypothetical movie version of Through the Looking-Glass (with music by Halim El-Dabh and sets by M. C. Escher), but NBC really dropped the ball on this one when they wasted her (as well as Jimmy Durante as Humpty Dumpty and the Smothers Brothers as Tweedledum and Tweedledee) in a witless charm-free made-for-tv movie (11966). Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, on the other hand, is justly remembered for such albums as Time Out, which employed time signatures other than the customary 3/4, 4/4, or 6/8. And David Ossman of course is remembered for playing George Leroy Tirebiter in Don’t Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, though I think my favorite performance is as the hapless astronaut Mark Time (in How Time Flys) who returns to Earth after a decades-long mission to Planet X to find that the space program has been shut down and nobody cares (“It’s all entertainment”).

On this day in history Meredith Hunter, a black teenager out to enjoy himself at a free concert hosted by the Rolling Stones and featuring legendary performers like Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Santana, was killed by one of the men employed to provide security at the venue. The ill-conceived venture was at least partly the brainchild of Eugene Leo “Emmett” Grogan, one of the founders of the Diggers, who seems to have envisioned a freeform event where multiple stages would be erected in Golden Gate Park and various musicians could drop in whenever the felt like and perform. Members of Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead were likewise floating ideas for some sort of Woodstock West. But Golden Gate Park turned out not to be available, and Sears Point Raceway was selected instead. That too fell through, so at the very last moment the affair was moved to Altamont Speedway, and a stage (rising only four feet from the ground) was erected as a growing audience watched. Somebody had the bright idea of employing Hells’ Angels as security, paying them in beer. The inevitable catastrophe followed, as rowdy members of the audience ran afoul of drunken motorcycle club members, and fights broke out. Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane) by a roadkill-wearing Hells’ Angel who took offense at something the musician said. (I believe those words were “Fuck you.”) When a black teenager—Meredith Hunter—took out a gun to defend himself from one of the rampaging security officials the latter responded by killing him. (Believe it or not, the killer was later found not guilty by reason of self defense.) Eugene Leo Grogan, Jr., later penned a lame mea culpa in which he ironically apologized for his part in the mess by blaming everybody else. He was especially severe on the young black fan: “And Meredith Hunter dying like a sniveling maniac instead of like a determined man—that was his fault.” It looks to me like Grogan was reaching a bit there. A little too close to home, was it?

05 December 2020

5 December 12020

284,571   pandemic deaths here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. So far I’m not one of them, but I credit that to dumb luck and my habitual disinclination to interact with anybody unless I absolutely have to. I suppose it could be divine providence; I’ve noticed whenever there is a significant disaster anywhere on the planet I am somewhere else. What other explanation could there be, except that Allah favors me and keeps me from harm? Okay, maybe not, but I sleep better at night knowing that whatever happens, it is the will of an all-knowing all-seeing all-powerful divine being that favors me above all others.

5 December 12020 is Saint Nicholas’ Eve. It’s also World Soil Day. After that it’s probably unnecessary to mention that it’s Discovery Day (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Day of Military Honor (Russia), Children’s Day (Suriname), and King Bhumibol’s Birthday (Thailand). The day’s saint is Crispina, who declined to sacrifice to beings she considered demons; when informed that it was a requirement of the law, she observed “True worship does not require compulsion.” (Many twenty-first century American Christians seem to think the opposite—that they cannot honor their god without using compulsion.) Notable people born today include poet Christina Rossetti, pilot Clyde Vernon Cessna, director Fritz Lang, historian Gershom Scholem, animator Walt Disney, physicist Werner Heisenberg, and pianist Little Richard. On this day in history Flight 19 disappeared off the coast of Florida, presumably due to the disorientation of the commander, in 11945. This event arguably gave rise to the story of the “Bermuda Triangle,” a supposed area of the world prone to mysterious disappearances.

In the news we see no sign of Iran’s return to negotiations for a new deal (as President Trump predicted it would), nor any of the regime’s collapse (as his administrations seems to have hoped for). It appears that the American policy under Trump has been a total failure. Nor is it all likely that Iran will be willing to return to the accord Trump trashed without considerable concessions on America’s part—I mean, the hardliners opposed the accord from the beginning, and the moderates who supported it got severely burned by Trump’s shenanigans. I don’t see what future president Biden can offer the Iranians to bring them back into compliance with the accord—which means, I suppose, that we can look forward to an Iran with nuclear weapons as the best-case scenario, or maybe another major Mideast war. And this is entirely on the Trump administration. Unlike the North Korean mess, where we can absolve Trump in some measure for his failures by observing that his predecessors didn’t do all that much better, this disaster is of Trump’s own making. He inherited a situation that was under control. His hubris led America to the current debacle.

04 December 2020

4 December 12020

282,392   deaths in America from the current pandemic. Thanks, Gutless Mitch, you who like to call yourself the grim reaper in honor of the part you’ve played in the catastrophe. It’s Friday, 4 December 12020, which means it’s Farmer’s Day (Ghana), Navy Day (India), Gospel Day (Marshall Islands), Thai Environment Day (Thailand), Tupou I Day (Tonga), and National Cookie Day (United States). Today’s saint is, as always, Clement of Alexandria, the philosophically-inclined church father who believed that matter was eternal and could neither be created nor destroyed, thus challenging the power of God according to the western branch of the church, who demoted him for it a thousand years after his death. (This is from memory, so don’t quote me on it.) It’s Fred Armisen’s birthday. On this day in history the Dei Gratia came across the soon-to-be-infamous ghost ship Mary Celeste off the Azores, adrift and deserted in 11872. It was apparent that the captain and crew must have abandoned the ship and taken to the lifeboat for some reason—but that reason was never determined. As the story was told and retold over the years various sensational details were added to heighten the mystery. In the end, however, it all comes down to one thing—somebody, presumably the captain, made the wrong decision in an emergency. In hindsight we can say that they all probably should have stayed aboard the ship, in that the ship survived and the lifeboat apparently perished. But we aren’t privy to whatever information they had at the time. The captain must have believed that the ship was in imminent danger or else he would not have ordered everyone to take to the lifeboat. We don’t know what the emergency was, but that fact doesn’t allow us to second-guess the captain, or whoever made the decision. Still, had they not abandoned ship, the odds are that I would be writing about something else this 4th of December.

03 December 2020

3 December 12020

280,723   American pandemic deaths so far, and the beat goes on. Today (3 December 12020) is the International Day of Persons With Disabilities. According to various sources it is also Doctors’ Day (Cuba), Day of Navarre (Spain), and National Day Holiday (UAE). The saint of the day is Cassian of Tangier, the patron saint of stenographers. (As a court recorder he declared his faith during a trial of another Christian, and so ended up losing his head in 10298.) It’s the birthday of atonal composer Anton Webern, whose opus 10 (Five pieces for orchestra) you may recall from the soundtrack of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s final film, La Prisonnière. On this day in history Agatha Christie disappeared (11926), leading to a nation-wide search for the missing mystery writer. Arthur Conan Doyle put a psychic to work on the case, but without success. She turned up eleven days later, safe and sound at a Harrogate hotel where she had been staying under an assumed name, but sans memory of the events that had brought her there. It sounds like the kind of case that would have been right up Miss Marple’s alley, but alas, her debut was yet to come.

02 December 2020

The Perils of Research (2012 repost)

[“The Perils of Research” was originally posted at Rational Rant on 2 December 2012]

So, it seems that Chris Rodda has got her copy of the new edition of David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies only to find that not only was it not published by a bigger outfit than Thomas Nelson, not only did it not contain the promised pages of new documentation for his outlandish claims, but it wasn’t even a new edition. Yes, the new edition of Barton’s work announced at Amazon was nothing but leftover copies of the Thomas Nelson edition. Chris Rodda went over it page by page and literally nothing had been changed.

God, what a disappointment. I feel quite confident that those couple dozen pages of documentation would have cleared everything up, made it all plain, and revealed to us that what he was writing was actually reasonable, rather than a dish of moldy cabbage that somehow got pushed to the back of the refrigerator. Research is like that sometimes; you expect a diamond and you get cubic zirconium; you expect enlightenment and you get Carlos Castaneda’s dissertation.

Think of the feelings of those Beatle enthusiasts when the long-lost first recording of “Please Please Me” turned up (in the back of somebody’s closet as I recall. No, that was the newspaper I kept of the first landing on the moon …) It should have been a slower, blusier, Roy Orbisonesque arrangement—but instead it was essentially identical to the version found on their second single. (The drummer was different—the moody magnificent Pete Best had been replaced by some interloper—but the same essential feel.) That must have been a real disappointment—it was for me, anyway. And so the slow version recedes into the mists of prehistory, an artefact like Jane Austen’s First Impressions, intriguing to think about, but perpetually out of reach.

Am I making sense this first Sunday of Advent in the year twelve thousand twelve of the Holocene era? I doubt it very much. We live in senseless times. Uganda fires a blow in the War on Xmas with a promise of new anti-gay laws in time for the holidays—as if the old ones weren’t severe enough. Republicans in the US Congress unveil more plans to increase the wealth of the idle bloodsucking class (or “job-creators” as they like to ironically call themselves) by robbing the nation pension fund that employees have paid into all their lives. We live in senseless times; why should I be immune to the zeitgeist?

And speaking of senseless, ever tried to follow a David Barton footnote? Footnotes are supposed to be helpful guides pointing to sources, not joke roadsigns that point you to nowhere, or useless decorations put in to give the appearance of research in the absence of evidence. Of course real research takes you off those convenient well-lit roads into the shadowy hinterland of unexamined sources. You read that such-and-such paper had a reporter at the front, you open the crumbling pages with excitement—and it turns out that the so-called reporter was only sending out political diatribes from a point some fifty miles away from the scene of action. Can’t be helped; research is like that.

Many years ago I spent considerable time and money running down a copy of the first (unrevised) edition Alfred Meacham’s Wigwam and War Path only to find that there really was no such thing. The so-called first edition is nothing but early copies of the supposedly revised edition with an errata sheet and no signature on the author’s picture in the front of the volume. There are numerous minor corrections throughout, some of which are identical to those on the errata sheet, and some of which are not, but it is manifestly the same edition, and the editorial confusion that is manifest in the volume is the same no matter which printing you use. That was a disappointment—but, as I say, research is all too often like that.

So, to recap on the David Barton saga: first, when Thomas Nelson pulled The Jefferson Lies for its inaccuracies, Barton announced that he had a bigger publisher for the book, and that it would be new and improved. Second, when a new edition was announced, the new publisher is (apparently) Barton himself, through his own Wallbuilders press. Third, when the book is actually delivered, it turns out to be published by Thomas Nelson, not by a new and bigger publisher, and it is the same old book, not new and improved. Pretty much a clean miss all the way around.

2 December 12020

276,634   Americans dead from the current pandemic. And there are dumbasses out there bragging about how they ignored the restrictions to get together with friends for dinner and patting themselves on the back for being so brave as to endanger others with their risky behavior. Herd mentality indeed. Criminal folly in my book.

Today is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. It is perhaps anticlimactic to note that it is also Armed Forces Day (Cuba), Lao National Day (Laos), and National Day (United Arab Emirates). The saint of the day is Bibiana, a Roman girl who was scourged to death during a crackdown on magicians in 10363—so legend has it, anyway. It’s the birthday of Maria Callas. On this day in history John Brown was executed (11859), after writing a brief note: “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think vainly, flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.” “It,” of course, was the abolition of slavery. We’re still working on it, John.

01 December 2020

1 December 2020

274,932   deaths from Covid-19 so far in the United States alone. And death is far from the only side-effect of the disease. Those lucky enough to survive can face pulmonary complications, delirium, seizures, aphasia, tremor, delirium, and cognition disturbances. Patients who have been cured of the disease may still not be able to function in daily life at the time of their discharge. And yet there are idiots on the loose who advocate spreading the disease in the hopes that ordinary people will get used to it, and accept the deaths and disabilities as a cost of doing business.

Today is World AIDS Day, dedicated to combatting the pandemic and remembering the dead. (The dead include a member of my extended family, a guy named David, a television engineer who was active in the Portland-area arts and theatre community, among other things.) It is also Republic Day (Central African Republic), Freedom and Democracy Day (Chad), Military Abolition Day (Costa Rica), Fullveldisdagurinn (Iceland), First President Day (Kazakhstan), National Day (Myanmar), Rosa Parks Day (Ohio and Oregon), Teachers’ Day (Panama), Restoration of Independence Day (Portugal), Great Union Day (Romania), Battle of the Sinop Day (Russia), and Damrong Rajanubhab Day (Thailand). Famous people born today include Rex Stout (creator of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin) and Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky (creator of a non-Euclidean geometry).

30 November 2020

International Murder

272,525   deaths in the United States from Covid-19 and the Federal Government still refuses to do its job in countering the disaster. How long will this travesty continue? The world wonders.

Today appears to be (and I am relying on Wikipedia for this information, so be warned) Independence Day (Barbados), National Day (Benin), Day to Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran (Israel), Regina Mundi Day (South Africa), Bonifacio Day (Philippines), Commemoration Day (United Arab Emirates), and Independence Day (South Yemen). The saint of the day is Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, a fisherman by trade, who was one of the first followers of Jesus, if you believe the late and discursive Gospel according to John. Saint Andrew’s Day appears to be a recognized state holiday in Scotland and Rumania. It is also Mark Twain’s birthday.

With the current occupant of the White House forgotten but not gone the news has been swamped with stories of the assassination of an Iranian physicist who may or may not have been the head of a program intended to supply the nation with energy from atomic reactors. The details of his murder are chilling, if rather confusing. Possibly twelve mysterious assassins popped up out of nowhere and blew him away before vanishing without a trace. Or maybe a robot machine-gunner took him out before self-destructing. The exact details are, shall we say, obscure. The purpose of this clandestine (and thoroughly illegal) action seems to be to make things difficult for the United States under Future President Biden to restore normal relations with Iran. Iranian officials are babbling wildly about murdering Israelis in response. Let’ s hope cooler heads prevail—though I don’t expect that. As always, I expect the worst.

22 November 2020

The BottleDrop Scam

261,683   people in the United States have now died from Covid-19. It’s not what I want to talk about, but everything else is trivial compared to the ongoing disaster. Well, not the other ongoing disasters, I suppose—global warming, the great extinction event, the coming nuclear apocalypse, and so on and so forth—but, you know, the inanities of the economy, business, politics, entertainment, sports—even the sciences and the arts when you get right down to it. If you can’t bop to it, don’t buy the record, as the man said.

But the triviality I want to rant about today is the great BottleDrop scam right here in Oregon, something that is irritating me right now because of something that happened to me today. When I went down to the Burlingame Fred Meyer I walked past the bottle return center (as it is part of my regular route from the bus) and glanced over at it to see large signs posted there to the effect that it was closed. Permanently. It looked like they would still do hand counts for small amounts of cans or bottles, but otherwise, unless you were a BottleDrop customer, you were shit out of luck on getting your money back.

The store employee I talked to—who is a really nice guy who has been very helpful in the past—candidly admitted that the object was to get people to use the “green bags.” I admitted (with equal candor) that I hate the “green bags” program and have no intention of using it. Ever.

Let me explain. Under the old system when I paid a deposit on a returnable bottle I could get my money back by returning it to the place I bought it. It was a simple, straightforward transaction. Take the bottles in and leave with the money. Typically I would begin a shopping trip by returning my bottles, collecting the money (or taking the equivalent off my purchase), and buying whatever it was I’d come for. It was relatively easy to manage.

But no more. Under the “green bags” system I have to set up a special account, put my bottles in special “green bags”, and deposit them at a “convenient” BottleDrop return center. My bottles will be processed in three to five business days and the money added to my account. I can have the money in my account given to the charity of my choice, or if I absolutely insist on getting my money back, can obtain it from certain special locations.

Okay—let’s see how this works in practice. A 13-gallon garbage bag will hold ten, maybe twelve two-liter bottles. I can carry maybe two of these without too much inconvenience on the bus, so say, twenty to twenty-four bottles. Under the old system I’d take them in to the store, run them through a machine, receive a voucher for say $2.00 to $2.40, and present it as I buy my groceries on the way out. But under the new system I have to put the bottles in special “green bags”—each holding thirteen gallons. So let’s say I manage to cram twelve bottles apiece into two “green bags”, tie them and label them with the correct stickers, take the bus to a “convenient” location to leave them off—well, isn’t that essentially the same thing, except that I have to wait for my money those three to five business days?

Well … no. Those “green bags” aren’t free, for one thing—they cost $2.00 for ten bags. That’s twenty cents apiece. So I’m already out forty cents before I ever receive any credit towards that $2.40 I might have coming. But still—a two-dollar return on a forty-cent investment? That’s not too bad, right? Except that the money in question is my money already, a deposit that I put down and should be able to get back. And to cap things off, I’m not going to get $2.00 back—because there’s a forty-cent additional fee attached to processing each bag. In fact I am going to get $1.20 back on my $2.40 investment—not enough to even pay the bus fare to run the bottles to that “convenient” location. It’s a losing proposition all round.

Now obviously if you have a car, or happen to live right by one of these “convenient” locations, or habitually drink 8 oz. returnable cans and can stuff a couple hundred of them in a “green bag,” you may find the whole concept a more attractive proposition. For people like me, however, it’s purely inane. I’m probably better off just tossing the bottles and losing my deposit. It’s better than lending support to this pointless scam, at the very least.

20 November 2020

The Return of Vile Kyle

259,231   people in the United States have now died from Covid-19, and the rate is rising. Is this what the whole city on the hill thing is about? Showing the rest of the world how we can rise above the disaster by just giving in to it? Live or die, we don’t care, as the old song has it.

And we can all breathe a little easier knowing that Vile Kyle has made his two million dollar bail, and is now free to (illegally) take up a weapon and go hunting for more victims. Oh, excuse me—people to kill in self-defense. That’s the story, right? Here’s hoping the next time we see this piece of human refuse in the news it will be a report of the discovery of his corpse dead of an overdose in a back alley somewhere. Save the state the expense of trying him, anyway.

We’ll see. The professional sob-brothers are now lined up behind this guy, telling us sad stories about how he was just out to protect property and all, never mind it being at the law’s expense, and the cost of the lives of a guy just out of the hospital and a would-be hero. Fuck that shit. Vile Kyle made his choices. He chose to kill others, and he should be prepared to pay in turn with his worthless life. He could even do some good that way—part him out for the benefit of others as an organ donor, for example.

19 November 2020

Allah Have Mercy On Us All

256,164   is the number of people in the United States who have died (so far) from the Trump Pandemic. And things look bleak for the Dopey Don. President-elect Biden appears to have pulled it off, and is now scheduled to assume the mantle of US leadership next January. Allah preserve us all.

I suppose denying reality is always an option. There’s a lot of that going around. Our Fake President is still refusing to meet with his successor, claiming that the election still isn’t over. (It isn’t, but Trump no longer has a legal path to victory.) The contrast with his predecessor could not be more glaring. When Trump legally won an election characterized by massive Republican vote fraud (in the form of vote suppression, mainly) Obama met with the incoming president and started working on the transition. The classless idiot in the White House is still alternating between throwing tantrums and sulking in a corner. A nurse writes about how patients dying from Covid-19 are still denying that it exists as they take their last breaths. And now people are insisting that Al Gore was acclaimed president-elect for a month before the Supreme Court decided not to finish counting the votes in Florida (hint: he wasn’t). That’s as nutty as claiming that Richard Nixon would have been elected president in 1960 if it weren’t for chicanery with the Illinois vote. (Chicanery there may well have been, but switch all twenty Illinois electoral votes from Kennedy to Nixon and Nixon’s still a loser.)

Something has leached away all my enthusiasm and will to live, and I hate to see that morning sun come up. The library has closed again—not that it was ever really open, but at least you could return books and order things through the library system. My laptop is still not working, one of my aunts has just died and an uncle has been diagnosed with Covid-19, so I suppose external reality may be having an effect on me. I thought writing something might make me feel better, but it doesn’t, so I guess I’m going to give up. For the moment. We’ll see about the future.

04 November 2020


In case anybody is confused by this—yes, I’ve called the election, and so as the Cowardly Liar in the White House—but nobody put either of us in charge of making that determination. Who will be declared the winner will depend on the results of an actual vote count. That’s how it works in this country. People keep counting the votes until all of them have been counted. To do otherwise is vote fraud, plain and simple.

It’s the commonest form of vote fraud, actually—not counting votes. It’s one way Black voters were disenfranchised for years, along with fake literacy tests, grandfather laws, and poll taxes. Boss Tweed and Mayor Daley knew how to lose votes, whether by throwing them in the river or by intimidating voters into not voting in the first place. When Trump says he wants to stop counting the votes now—with Biden ahead in both the popular vote and the electoral college, by the way—he is advocating vote fraud, plain and simple. I never thought I’d see an American President engage in such lowlife thuggery—but I never thought I’d see the American Supreme Court order a vote count stopped lest it result in the wrong man being elected to the job, as it did in the 2000 election.

In point of fact Biden still has multiple paths to victory. (A combination such as Nevada, Wisconsin, and Georgia—none of them out of reach—would do it, for just one example.) It doesn’t mean that any of them are going to pay off—as I think I’ve made clear, I don’t think they will—but they do exist, and will exist until the vote is counted—or Trump stages a successful fascist coup.

Personally, I wish there was some way they could both go down to a crashing defeat. Say, Trump manages to eke out an electoral college victory via massive vote fraud while the Democrats take both the House and Senate—and then bang! the first thing the Democrats do on taking power is impeach both Trump and Pence and kick them out of office. Or Biden wins but Trump shoots him when he attempts to take office, leading to Trump being taken out by the Secret Service. Or—well, you get the idea. Some improbable sequence of events that would eliminate both scumbags and maybe allow the country to finally get on the path to healing again.

03 November 2020

Good Job, America

237,245   people dead from covid 19 in the United States, and the nation has just reelected the man most responsible for the carnage. Good job, America! There’s nothing we like more than a fumbling stumblebum with a solid gold racist heart. I just saw somebody saying that nobody would know Trump was a racist if the media didn’t keep reporting on it—which I suppose is true if you never listened to the guy or read his tweets.

And good job, Democrats. That electability thing really paid off for you, didn’t it? Put up an uninspiring stuffed nabob because people will vote for anything to be rid of Trump. Brilliant! How much of the country do you think is going to be left after another damn year of this crazed criminal at the helm?

But if present trends hold, at least you’ve got another moral victory out of it. Biden may have lost the presidency, but at least he won the popular vote. Who are you going to throw under the bus this time? Old people? The ill? The homeless? Not the rich, obviously. You need them.

Well, at least the election is over, Allah be praised.

17 October 2020

Signs of Life

222,988  American deaths from covid-19 as the slaughter continues. It’s also seventeen days till the Election, fourteen days till Halloween, and 1366 days since the Genius of the Stables took office. And it’s Wear Something Gaudy Day.

And I see that after six years of silence the Afarensis weblog has abruptly come back to life. I’m looking forward to new posts. And Ed Darrell has rescued an old comment of his from oblivion (well, the archives of P. Z. Myers’ blog)—this one about Charles Darwin’s alleged racism. And the Quote Investigator features an Arthur C. Clarke observation to the effect that “There is a hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags will not wave in a vacuum; our present tribal conflicts cannot be sustained in the hostile environment of space.” Also the History weblog is noting a project that is digitizing some 30,000 Hittite cuneiform texts. It’s encouraging to see signs of life in the rubble.

03 October 2020

I Really Don’t Care

212,768  American deaths from covid 19 and counting. I read online that President Trump is having trouble breathing and that White House officials are “concerned”. In the words of one of the Trumps, let me just say “I really don’t care. Do U?” Maybe they could ask Eric Garner or George Floyd about it; I’m sure they’d have something to say on the subject were it not for their untimely deaths.

Ah, but I should be concerned, say the pundits, since the election could be thrown into chaos should one of the candidates (God forbid) die or become incapacitated. And that would be different how? One party—mine—is already doing everything it can to throw the election into chaos by practicing massive vote (not voter) fraud, while the other is hoping that a grotesquely feeble candidate will inspire a turnout so massive that all the fraud in the world won’t be enough to stop the juggernaut. It’s a sad end for the American experiment, but not undeserved—from where I sit, anyway.

I can’t help but hope that posterity will take our intentions into account as well as our achievements; our reach always exceeded our grasp. It’s like that epitaph for Wernher von Braun—“He shot for the moon—and hit London.” Rest in peace, American hopes and aspirations for a better tomorrow. It’s over. Time to pack up our things and go home.

01 October 2020

Gullible's Travails

211,109   American deaths from covid 19 so far. And the federal government, whose job is to deal with threats of this sort, is doing nothing under the alleged leadership of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. Why Americans chose to put such low-level intellects in charge is a mystery, but the consequences have been bad for the nation.

Some joker apparently hoaxed our gullible and not-too-bright President into thinking that the “Portland Sheriff” gave him his support. There is no such person. Portland sprawls over three counties, and they have sheriffs, but Portland doesn’t. (Sheriff is normally a county function.) If he means the sheriff of Multnomah county—the county that is almost (but not quite) synonymous with Portland—he has specifically denied it. But with the Dopey Don all things are possible—and my guess is that somebody told the President he was the Portland sheriff in hopes that Trump would make an ass of himself by repeating it. As happened.

I’ve got to go; I hear the bell ringing for the daily corpse pickup. It’s time to bring out our dead.

29 September 2020

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

209,417. That’s the number of deaths from covid 19 in the United States so far. And we can all give heartfelt thanks to Donald Trump, Our Glorious Leader, that the number was not much lower. If OGL hadn’t sprung into prompt inaction, tens of thousands of people might still be alive, consuming resources desperately needed by the Gilded Scum at the top of the Pond of State to keep them in the comfort they feel entitled to.

Expendable people—the elderly, the diseased, the poor—ought to be glad to make way for the Gilded Scum. If they can’t be used to make the lives of the One Tenth of One Percent better, then they should at least have the grace to terminate their existences in some socially approved manner. It’s the American Way™ after all.

[Paid for by the Fake American Greatness Foundation, a subsidiary of Koke Bros UnLtd.]

28 September 2020

If You Think That's Boring [2017]

[Journal entry, 28 September 2017]

11:50  pm PDT—[My roommate] woke me up when he came home, which was probably a good thing because I needed to be up in time for my nine o’clock appointment with somebody at the Social Security Administration over my Medicare situation. I caught the 94 and got there just before nine, joining a line of people waiting to get in. The woman ahead of me slightly puzzled me in that she was wearing shorts and her legs seemed to have some sort of strange skin condition, but I concluded that she was wearing stockings in addition to her socks. When the door opened the line moved slowly, and the guy directly ahead of the woman ahead of me turned out to have rather a lot of things that needed to be opened and looked at, so things moved slowly. Abruptly I heard my name being called to go to window F, and I told them that was me, and they dropped everything and ran me through. The interview took very little time and the questions all seemed relatively simple and straightforward, so I was out of there in very little time.

I caught the 94 back and went as far as Fred Meyer, where I bought a few groceries with what’s left of the money, and at the end remembered I needed to refill some prescriptions. That went reasonably quickly, though it would have been better if I’d remembered it in the first place, and I came home on the 12.

I spent the rest of the day doing laundry and screwing around listing files on the computer, eventually seeing [my roommate] off to work as usual. And in the near future I expect to sack out. If there’s more, I can’t think of it.

26 September 2020

Stolen Bicycle

Honestly, this could have happened any time in the early sixties, but based on what I can recall I believe it must have been right in here in 1961—nearly sixty years ago—that it happened. It was beginning to get dark early (as I remember it), possibly not long after Daylight Saving Time had ended. My brother had been out riding, and he’d left his bicycle at the edge of our property, alongside a little access road by the gravel pit that served some residences behind us. My father told him to bring it back to the house before the sun set.

My brother headed out, a little annoyed—and then came back without the bicycle, looking worried. It wasn’t where he’d left it. My brother was forgetful at the best of times, so we took a quick look around the yard to see if it was anywhere to be found, and my father went out with a flashlight (the sun had set by then) to look along the bank by the access road and where the property fronted Fourth Plain. The bicycle was gone. Apparently.

We had nearly an acre of yard planted with a variety of shrubs and trees that might obscure a bicycle, especially in the dusk, so I, at least, was not convinced. But it didn’t turn up in the daylight either, so my mother called the police to report it stolen. We had followed the instructions given in a police handout on protecting bicycles, which included placing our name and address on the bicycle in a hidden place, and we informed the police of this, as instructed. The officer said that there was not much chance of our ever seeing the bicycle again, but we could check in from time to time to see if a matching bicycle had turned up in their collection of the lost and stolen. No, they had no matching bicycle at this time.

It was a considerable blow to my brother, who used the bicycle constantly to get around, and it shook me up too. I mean, despite our parents’ constant reminders of theft and accident, nothing of the sort had ever happened to us here. I suppose our parents had in mind the extensive vandalizing of the house before we had moved in, but I always took that as a consequence of its being vacant at the time, not as an augur of the future. The thought that somebody had simply come onto our property and walked off with (or maybe ridden away on) my brother’s bike was disquieting. Maybe even shocking. Powerlessness, outrage, violation—all that was stirred together in my emotional cauldron. But there didn’t seem to be anything to be done about it. My parents dutifully called in to the police over a period of weeks, but each time were informed that nothing matching the description had turned up. They did send us another copy of their brochure on protecting bicycles from theft, but that wasn’t much help. And my brother had a birthday coming up, and he had almost outgrown the bicycle anyway, so through some combination of present and labor he ended up with a new and improved replacement. And life went on.

I might not remember the event at all, traumatic as it was, were it not for the sequel. My parents though eccentric were always active in school events, and a year or two later my father was the parent designated to assist on a school field trip involving my youngest brother—not the one with the missing bicycle. His class was touring our emergency facilities in Vancouver. The fire department put on a demonstration for them, and my brother recalled watching them with considerable interest as they set a house on fire, but was disappointed that they had to leave before the firemen could put it out. As the class toured the police station they passed a rack of recovered bicycles, and one of them looked oddly familiar to my father. He didn’t do anything at that moment, being involved in keeping an eye on a couple dozen small children, but after the field trip was over he went back to the station.

The bicycle he had seen was in fact my brother’s. It still had his name clearly printed on it, as well as the address located in a concealed place. The police were quite happy to return it to us, and we were fairly happy to get it back, though by this time it was superfluous. How had the police recovered it? we wanted to know. It had been found, abandoned, presumably after somebody had stolen it. Since nobody had reported its loss or claimed it, they’d kept it for use in a program that loaned out bicycles to kids who might otherwise be tempted to steal one. Where had it been found? Just off Fourth Plain, on an access road by a gravel pit.

Yes, that’s right. The police had stolen my brother’s bicycle. They had taken it from our yard, they had repeatedly denied having it in their possession, and they put us through all the trauma of violation and loss.

My father, predictably, found the whole thing amusing. It fit with his notions of how people in authority were wont to behave. I drew a somewhat different conclusion from the affair.

Police steal for no reason, and then lie about it.

I don’t now remember what we did with the bicycle; we didn’t really have a use for it any longer. Possibly we passed it on to somebody else who could use it. Maybe we should have let the police keep it for use in their anti-theft program. At least it was probably doing somebody some good there.

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