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Trashy Novels, Trashier Opinions

I’m on the second of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, “Die Trying.” Normally I review every book I read, then publish those reviews here on Paul’s Thing and on my Daily Kos diary. Since the 21 (to date) Jack Reacher novels are all of a piece, though, I’ve decided wait to write and publish one review for the entire series.

I must say, Child’s trashy novels are great reads. They evoke pleasant memories of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels, which I devoured almost 40 years ago (and may take a look at again, to see how they’ve held up).

Couple of months back the New Yorker published a glowing review of Tana French, the Irish writer of mysteries and thrillers. I bought a Kindle copy of her first Dublin Murder Squad mystery, “In the Woods,” which I’m partway through. The contrast between Tana French’s troubled but methodical Detective Andy Ryan and Lee Child’s taciturn righter-of-wrongs Jack Reacher could not be more stark. Ryan is a sensitive fellow who constantly examines and second-guesses himself. Jack Reacher kicks ass.

Perhaps it’s the times, but I find myself in need of a Jack Reacher. We all need a Jack Reacher.

There’s some bullshit meme making the Facebook rounds where you’re supposed to express unpopular non-political opinions. It’s a transparent attempt to get people to roll over and quit complaining about the tainted election of the second-place finisher, but okay, I’ll go along. Not on Facebook, that sad cesspool of advertising, propaganda, and cut & paste feel-good bromides, but here on my own blog:

  • “Intersectionality” is a bullshit word. I don’t know what it means and I’m not going to look it up. FOH.
  • Also, too, “cis,” as in “cisgender.” People are tripping over themselves to avoid using the word “normal.” These are the same people who use words like “intersectionality.” Jack Reacher would kick their asses.
  • Pitbulls are dangerous and I am on edge around them.

There are many more where those opinions came from, grist for future friend-alienating blog posts.


Donna’s sister Robin, our brother in law John, and our niece Morgan were here for two days and nights. We wined ’em and dined ’em and now they’re in California, spending Christmas with another daughter, Megan. Between now and the 25th Donna and I will enjoy the quiet, just us and the dogs. Our shopping is done, so too is most of the wrapping. More of the same (peace & quiet, lord willing) should carry us into what promises to be an interesting new year. Interesting, that is, in the Chinese curse sense.

Even though it brings the first year of a Trump presidency closer, I, for one, am happy the shortest day of 2016 is finally here, I don’t like it when it’s still dark at 7:00 AM. We have sliding glass doors in our bedroom. All this month, the first thing we’ve seen upon awakening has been a big rectangle of blackness, darker even than the darkness of our bedrooom. It might be 4:00, or 5:30, even 6:45 … who knows? Pretty soon we’ll be getting up at dawn again, the way it’s meant to be.

In case I don’t post again this week, Happy holidays!


Watching TV with My Back to It

fox news sheepPetty annoyance: the gym patron who sits on the equipment with his yap hanging open while watching Fox News. Do your damn reps and move on, please, others are waiting. I was all set to loudly remind him to wipe down the bench of the leg press when he finally got off, but he whipped a rag out of his pocket and did it before I could embarrass him. Small blessings.

Since the election, the wall monitors at my local Anytime Fitness are set to Fox News. It’s like North Korea, where there’s just the one channel. Usually there are other patrons watching Fox as they work out, so I know better than to track down the remote and turn the monitors off, which is what I do on the rare occasions I have the place to myself.

I try to ignore the TVs at the gym, but today the volume was up and I couldn’t help overhearing the hosts and their guests. In the hour and twenty minutes I was there, all they did was hammer away at Democrats and Hillary voters for being whiny crybabies. Trump won, get over it. And so on. I wonder why leg press guy’s mouth was hanging open. Surely this isn’t the first time he’s heard that message.

He was probably the owner of the pickup truck crookedly backed into the parking slot out front. Which is my way of changing the subject to the eternal debate over backing in versus pulling in.

crooked truckWe used to have a pickup, a long-bed ’94 Ford F150, but it had a remarkably tight turning radius for a truck and I always pulled into parking slots nose first. When I saw other pickup drivers backing in, I’d judge them.

Since backer-inners were usually young men, I assumed they were showing off, as young men do. Backing in is positioning yourself for a quick getaway later, right? Maybe these guys pictured themselves as rugged types, like gunslingers who always sit facing the door in case Rattlesnake Pete comes into the saloon. Maybe they wanted to be seen as rogue tactical operators, Jason Bournes who might have to sprint for their trucks at a moment’s notice, CIA goons on their tail.

Last year I bought another long pickup, a 2014 GMC with an extended cab. The new beast doesn’t turn as tightly as the old beast, and now I know why other men back their trucks into parking slots. It’s not because they’re poseurs, it’s because it works better.

When you nose in you need a couple of feet either side of the front fenders, because as you crank the steering wheel the nose arcs to the left and right. The pivot point is way behind you, back at the rear wheels. If other cars are in the slots to either side, you can’t help coming within inches as you try to maneuver into the slot. Usually there’s not enough room get straight the first try; you have to reverse and swing the nose around before you’re aligned well enough to pull in. If there isn’t enough room to back way up (as there often isn’t) you may never get straightened out. You wind up parked crooked, making it hard on the folks parked next to you.

When you back in, the rear of the truck doesn’t need side room. The rear wheels are the pivot; it’s the front end arcing from side to side out in the aisle of the parking lot where there’s room to do it, and it’s easier to align yourself with the parking slot. It just works better.

All of which is to explain why I have become a backer-inner. If other drivers judge me, fine, I understand. To others it’ll always look like a poseur move.

Boy, that “others” packs a punch, doesn’t it? Others as in drivers of smaller, inferior cars, the piddly-ass kind that nose into parking spaces like little fraidy cats. Others as in girly-men. Others as in “not me.” Notice I said I no longer pass judgment on backer-inners. I didn’t say I no longer judge!


Air-Minded: Cancel Order!

1481036023_Trump_tweetWhen I read the president-elect’s now-famous tweet a few days ago, my thoughts turned to two presidential fleet aircraft I show visitors at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

The first is a former Air Force One used by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, a propeller-driven VC-118. The second is one of the first jet aircraft assigned to the presidential fleet, a VC-137. This aircraft, one of three purchased together near the end of the Eisenhower administration, is an off-the-shelf Boeing 707 outfitted as an executive transport. The USAF designated these three aircraft VC-137As. Shortly after entering service they were upgraded to VC-137Bs by the addition of more powerful engines. These three aircraft were known as SAM (Special Air Mission) 970, 971, and 972.

SAM 970 was the first jet Air Force One. It’s sister ship, SAM 971, is the one on display at our museum. It was a backup, never carrying a sitting president and thus never an Air Force One. It did, however, become famous as Freedom One, the airplane that brought the American hostages home from Iran in 1981.


The museum’s Air Force One, a VC-118A Liftmaster (photo: Paul Woodford)


Freedom One: the museum’s VC-137B, SAM 971 (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier presidential aircraft were, of course, propeller-driven: FDR’s Sacred Cow, Truman’s Independence, Eisenhower’s two Columbines. Roosevelt’s plane was a VC-54, the military version of the Douglas DC-4 airliner; Truman’s was a VC-118 like ours (the one used by Kennedy), the military version of the Douglas DC-6; Eisenhower’s Columbines were VC-121s, Lockheed Super Constellations.

As a side note, presidential aircraft call signs used “Air Force” as a prefix until 1953, when confusion over the call signs being used by Eisenhower’s Columbine II (Air Force 8610) and a commercial flight (Eastern Airlines 8610), both airborne at the same time over New York City, led to the adoption of the Air Force One call sign for aircraft carrying sitting presidents of the United States.

Most people, when they remember JFK going places on Air Force One, picture him and Jackie emerging from a blue and white Boeing 707. True, his primary Air Force Ones were 707s. The first was SAM 970, the VC-137B; the second, added to the fleet in 1962, was SAM 26000, a VC-137C (an improved version of the 707 with longer range). Our old prop VC-118A Liftmaster shared the presidential hangar with the jets, however, and it was JFK’s Air Force One on many occasions, notably for trips home to Hyannisport. LBJ frequently used it for flights to his ranch in Texas. Both destinations had short runways, unsuitable for the jets.


Kennedys with VC-137B (SAM 970) in 1962 (photo: Wikimedia Commons)


Kennedys with VC-118A in 1961 (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

These photos show some of the earlier paint schemes used by presidential aircraft. FDR’s Sacred Cow was silver (later silver and white); Truman’s Independence was silver, white, and blue (with Eagle heads on both sides of the forward fuselage); Ike’s Columbines were plain polished aluminum. When JFK first flew on our museum’s VC-118A, it was silver below and white on top, as in the photo. When Eisenhower’s three Boeing 707s were added to the fleet, they were silver below and white on top, with bright orange on the nose and tail, and that’s how they were still painted when Kennedy first flew on them.

According to Pima Air & Space Museum lore (confirmed by Wikipedia), Kennedy thought Eisenhower’s orange-nosed 707s looked too imperial. He put Jackie in charge of coming up with something both presidential and subtle; she in turn hired Raymond Lowey (the famous industrial designer), who worked with her to come up with the paint scheme still used today: polished aluminum on the wings and lower fuselage with slate blue under the nose and on the engine nacelles; a gold stripe below the cabin windows; a darker shade of blue (cyan) above the cockpit, down the middle of the fuselage, and on the tail; white on top of the fuselage; presidential seals on both sides of the nose. This paint scheme was first used on SAM 26000, the VC-137C aircraft purchased in 1962. The older prop-driven VC-118A, the one on display at our museum, was later repainted in the new scheme.

Other aircraft assigned to the presidential fleet but not primarily used as Air Force Ones (aircraft used to transport the vice president and other high-ranking American officials) wear a slightly different paint scheme, the same one used on Pima Air & Space Museum’s Freedom One VC-137B: silver on the bottom with cyan toward the nose, a gold stripe below the cabin windows, white on top, no presidential seals. Presidents, I should note, sometimes use these aircraft as Air Force Ones when the primary aircraft are not available, or if another type of aircraft is more suitable for destination airports.

Here’s a photo of SAM 26000, the long-range VC-137C purchased in 1962, with the paint scheme designed by Jacqueline Kennedy and Raymond Lowey. Alongside, for comparison, a photo of SAM 28000, one of the two VC-25 used by presidents today, and which the Air Force and Boeing hope to replace with improved and more fuel-efficient versions of the Boeing 747 (see President-Elect Trump’s tweet above).

SAM 26000

VC-137C SAM 26000 (photo: Wikimedia Commons)


VC-25 SAM 28000 (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Where are the historical Air Force Ones today?

FDR’s VC-54, the Sacred Cow, remained part of the presidential fleet into the 1950s, then was used as a staff transport by the USAF until it was retired in 1961. Today it is at the National Museum of the USAF in Dayton, Ohio. Truman’s Independence, a VC-118 like the one on display at my museum, served on with the USAF until 1965. Today it too is at the USAF Museum, along with one of Eisenhower’s VC-121s, Columbine III. I’m not sure when our museum’s VC-118 last flew; after the Johnson years I’m guessing its fate was similar to Truman’s Independence, serving out its days as a transport for senior USAF officers before being retired.

Of the first three presidential jets, the VC-137As (later upgraded to VC-137Bs) purchased during the Eisenhower administration, only two survive. SAM 970 flew as Air Force One for Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy; today it is on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. SAM 971, which served as a presidential backup and later as Freedom One (remember the American hostages coming home from Iran?), is on display at Pima Air & Space. SAM 972, also a presidential backup, sometimes flew as Air Force Two, carrying the vice president; it, like SAM 971, stayed in the fleet as a non-presidential executive transport for many years, but was eventually retired and scrapped.


Bonus photo: Eisenhower with the first jet Air Force One, SAM 970, being greeted by King Zahir of Afghanistan during a goodwill tour in 1959. Note the Military Airlift Command markings on the aircraft. (photo: Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection)

The two long-range Boeing 707s that joined the presidential fleet in 1962 and 1972, VC-137Cs SAM 26000 and 27000, served presidents from Kennedy to Clinton. These are, undoubtedly, the best-known Air Force Ones. SAM 26000 flew Kennedy to Berlin and later Dallas; it is the same plane in which Johnson took the oath of office after JFK was assassinated. It remained in the presidential fleet until 1998 and today is on display at the USAF Museum in Ohio.

SAM 27000, the second VC-137C, was first used by President Nixon in 1972. It is the plane that flew him back to California after he resigned, switching from the Air Force One call sign to Special Air Mission 27000 in mid-flight. SAM 27000 flew more often as Air Force One for President Reagan than any other president, and after its retirement in 2001 was placed on display at the Reagan Presidential Library in California.

I’ve referred throughout this post to the presidential fleet, shorthand for the aircraft operated by the US Air Force’s 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews near Washington DC. The wing is tasked with providing airlift and logistics for the president, vice president, military combat commanders, and other senior leaders. In addition to the two current Air Force Ones, SAM 28000 and 29000, the wing operates a fleet of other VIP aircraft ranging from C-20 Gulfstream executive jets to widebodies like the C-32, a modified Boeing 757.

I suppose I should return to the item at the top of this post, President-Elect Trump’s tweet about canceling the order for two new Air Force Ones. Whether he was blowing off steam or making an official announcement is yet to be determined; certainly at some point the existing VC-25s, which have been in service for 26 years, will have to be replaced. Unlike the first jet Air Force Ones introduced during the Eisenhower administration, modern presidential aircraft are highly specialized and modified, about as far from off-the-shelf as one can get. Their replacements will be even more so, and consequently expensive. I’ll quote a recent Wikipedia update on future replacement issues:

The VC-25As are expected to be replaced, as they have become less cost-effective to operate. The USAF Air Mobility Command has been charged with looking into possible replacements, including the new Boeing 747-8 and the Airbus A380. On 7 January 2009, the Air Force Materiel Command, as part of its Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization Program (PAR), posted a notice to survey and identify potential suppliers of the next generation of Presidential airplane to begin service in 2017. By 28 January 2009, the deadline for responding to the survey notice, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) announced that it would not participate in the program leaving Boeing the sole possible provider with either its Boeing 747-8 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner being proposed. On 28 January 2015, the Air Force announced that the Boeing 747-8 will serve as the next presidential aircraft. On 6 December 2016, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted his opposition to the Air Force One replacement due to its high cost of “more than $4 billion”. [sic] The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated the total cost at $3.2 billion, and U.S. Air Force’s projected budget is nearly $4 billion. To date Boeing is on contract for preliminary development worth $170 million.

Additional reading:


Tuesday Bag o’ BS

no_bullshit_tote_bagAm I a bad man if I don’t buy the story of the terminally-ill boy who died in Santa’s arms? That heart-rending bit of clickbait was all over Facebook and Twitter yesterday. I knew it was bullshit but clicked on it anyway. Turns out there’s only one source for the story, that source being the man who plays Santa. A gullible reporter from the Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee wrote down Santa’s self-aggrandizing tale and the paper printed it. The BBC picked it up and now it’s everywhere.

In September, I wrote about another bogus story flooding the internet: a strange burka-clad woman emerged from the woods next to a Trump supporter’s home in Lawrenceville, Georgia, ripped down the family’s American flag, then attacked them with it in their driveway. The only source for that story was the homeowner himself, but the local Fox affiliate reported it as news, and the next day NPR’s Morning Edition repeated it word-for-word.

The story of Sherri Papini’s mysterious kidnapping in Redding, California, is still unfolding. And boy is it unfolding!

I can’t imagine life without a functioning bullshit detector. If we didn’t have the ability to think critically, it would be almost impossible to distinguish legitimate from bogus news, what with the media indiscriminately passing on everything they hear. Last month a quote from Ivanka Trump—“If he wasn’t my father, I would spray him with Mace.”—made the rounds on CBS News, Esquire, the Daily Mail, the New York Daily News, and The Hill, among many others. Turns out Ivanka never said that. I ask you, without critical thinking skills, without built-in bullshit detectors, how can we ever spot fake news? The media certainly isn’t going to do it for us!

All this week I’ve been seeing outraged Tweets and Facebook posts chiding the Los Angeles Times for racist statements in an article they published. Here’s one example, from Twitter:

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 10.06.54 AM

Here’s what set off the warriors of social justice:

Virtually everyone in the U.S. was assigned jobs to help the war effort. The Japanese were assigned the job of staying out of the way and not causing complications. Millions of Americans were assigned far worse jobs. Hundreds of thousands were wounded or died.

When I started seeing the outrage directed at the newspaper, my bullshit detector went off again. No way the LA Times would ever say anything like that, but I was so worn out by the deluge of bogus “news” I didn’t try to chase down the truth. Well, the truth emerged this morning, courtesy of the excellent political blog Wonkette: the quote is from a letter to the editor, written by a racist reader who was protesting an earlier LA Times article condemning the WWII internment of Japanese-Americans.

After the election we just endured (and the horrors of its aftermath we are only beginning to apprehend), is it any surprise there are racists in the land? And are people seriously proposing the media refrain from reporting what the racists are saying? That we address the problem of endemic racisism and hate by pretending such people do not exist? I submit that the LA Times was performing a public service by publishing that letter. We need to know these people are out there. We need to know how they think. If anything, it’ll help us understand Comrade Trump better.

Speaking of whom:

In British slang, however, “to trump” (intransitive verb) also means to expel gas through the anus — e.g. Trumped from eating too much baked beans — often in a highly audible way (as in with trailing sound).


Wednesday Bag o’ Tweets

bagotweetsThe unelected president-elect is not the only prominent politician with a Twitter account, but he’s the only one I can think of whose tweets consistently make the news.

Yesterday Trump tweeted about a military contract with Boeing to replace the existing presidential 747s with new aircraft. Cancel the order, he said, claiming the two new planes would cost taxpayers four billion dollars.

Boeing responded with some tweets of its own, pointing out that the aircraft weren’t going to cost anywhere near that. Others responded by pointing out that Congress is in charge of the pursestrings, and that military contracts are not subject to cancellation on a presidential whim. A few others pointed out that Trump is not the president, and won’t be until unauguration* day, January 20, 2017.

When I walked in the door of Anytime Fitness this morning, the wall monitors were set to Fox News, where a reporter was justifying Trump’s tweet by claiming “everyone knows” these airplanes will cost a lot more than Boeing says they will. Fortunately the volume was turned down and the stationary bicycle was far enough away from the TVs that once I got on it I could no longer hear the smack of media lips kissing Trump’s behind.

Much ado about nothing? I’ve always looked on Trump’s tweets as his way of blowing off steam, a window to a childish, vindictive soul. Maybe he’ll follow through on his threats once he’s president, maybe not. But a lot of prominent people, in and out of the media, take his tweets seriously. In their eyes, if Trump says cancel the contract, Boeing can kiss that order goodbye. Trump’s tweets are often reported on as if they’re executive orders, or at the very minimum predictions of presidential policies to come.

Sometimes, Trump’s tweets become turning points in an ongoing cultural war:

Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 11.08.55 AM

As of today, 2.6 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. Trump’s claim that anyone, let alone millions, voted illegally is entirely false. But members of Trump’s transition team swear in unison he won both the electoral and popular vote. Right-wing media repeat the claim verbatim. Mainstream media uselessly straddles the fence. Republican leaders in Congress, too chicken to come right out and endorse Trump’s lie, pretend they simply don’t know if millions voted illegally. Trump voters, I think it’s safe to say, believe their man no matter what he says.

So is it true, then, that Republicans make their own reality? And if that’s true, then maybe Trump’s tweets really ought to be taken seriously. We can debunk Trump’s lies and make fun of his childish vendettas all day long, but if half of America tunes us out, if the media goes on blithely repeating Trump’s lies and taking his Twitter meltdowns seriously, if Congressional leaders shrug their shoulders and say “we just don’t know,” exactly what difference are we making? Who are we preaching to?

We can bitch and complain on social media all day long, but our tweets are as air compared to Trump’s, and he’s gonna win that war. So what can we do? Robert Reich has some suggestions for average American citizens (remember us, the ones who voted for Hillary Clinton?), things we can do to oppose Trump during his first 100 days in office, the “honeymoon” period when new presidents historically make the most impactful changes of their terms. I’m not a big Robert Reich fan, but when he says there might be a way to fight back effectively, I’m willing to listen.

* When a president-elect wasn’t actually elected by the American people (who overwhelmingly voted for the other candidate), I think it’s fair to refer to him as the “unelected president-elect,” and to January 20, 2017 as “unauguration” day.


Fifty-one Years Later

12-02-1965_5I woke up in bed with a woman I’ve been married to for 51 years. And I remembered to say “Happy anniversary” to her. Which is more than she said to me, but one of us can’t articulate words until she’s had her first cup of coffee, so that’s okay.

I think back on Donna’s courage in those early days. She was living pretty much on her own in Sacramento when we met, fellow students at American River Junior College. It was the first romance for both of us. A few months later my father, an Air Force officer, was posted to Wiesbaden, Germany, and along with the rest of our family I went. Donna and I were teenagers and our lives were just beginning. We assumed we’d never see one another again.

But Donna was soon to discover she was pregnant. She told me and I told my parents, still somewhat shell-shocked from marrying off my next-youngest sister in similar circumstances just a few months before. I asked Donna to come to Germany and marry me. She did it, all on her own, with no support from anyone. Imagine traveling that far from home to marry a young man you barely know, with no inkling of what might happen next or how you’re going to make ends meet. And how would my family receive her?

Would I have had the courage to do that? I don’t know.


My family loved Donna from the minute she stepped off the plane in Frankfurt. They gave us plenty of support as we started on our lives together. I worked at the Wiesbaden base exchange, and after Gregory was born Donna got a job there too. We rented a little apartment and commuted to work by bus, occasionally borrowing my mom and dad’s old VW for trips up and down the Rhein River. We saved our money and two years later had enough to fly back to the States, buy a car, and make our way to Sacramento to start a life that would wind up who knows where. It all worked out, but who knew that at the time?

Donna had courage enough for the both of us. I can’t imagine life without her, and for what it’s worth, I never think about what life might have been like if we hadn’t married. I love her.


Wednesday Bag o’ Hot Takes

balloon boyDoes anyone actually believe a 34-year-old northern California housewife was abducted for by two mysterious Hispanic women, held for 22 days with no ransom demand, then released by the side of a road 150 miles from where she was taken, bound, branded, and beaten?

This Sacramento Bee article drips with skepticism, citing disbelieving cops and even a racist blog post written by the abducted woman nine years ago. And I love the headline: “Sherri Papini’s husband says she went through ‘true hell’ and calls online gossip ‘sub human behavior.’”

If you Google “Sherri Papini” you’ll find dozens of news stories about her abduction and return, nearly every headline featuring a variation of “according to her husband.” Why am I thinking of Balloon Boy? Perhaps because I think it’s possible both husband and wife are working together to perpetrate a hoax, just as Balloon Boy’s father and other family members worked together on an earlier, even more sensational hoax. Why? To get on TV and be briefly famous? Hey, that’s what motivated Balloon Boy’s family, but at least they didn’t try to stir up ethnic hatred by blaming it on anonymous Hispanics.

You don’t even have to read between the lines to know the police are furious with the husband for going public with stories about his wife’s post-abduction injuries. Clearly, they were patiently waiting for her to break and tell them what really happened, and now the couple will dig in to defend their story. How long will they stick with it? Long enough to get on TV, I bet. Nancy Grace must be salivating in anticipation.

I can’t resist quoting from Sherri Papini’s blog post, “Being aware and having pride,” written in 2007 under her maiden name, Sherri Graeff:

I got excellent grades, 3.9 – 4.2, but grew more and more resentful of school and conditions around me. I used to come home in tears, because I was getting suspended from school all the time for defending myself against the Latinos. The chief problem was that I was drug-free, white and proud of my blood and heritage. This really irked a group of Latino girls, which would constantly rag and attack me.

Another thing I’m skeptical about is the ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline protest outside the Standing Rock Native American Reservation in North Dakota. My instinct is to believe protesters—who almost always have a legitimate beef with authority—but I’ve noticed that most of what I read is one-sided in the protesters’ favor, and one-sided coverage is rarely accurate.

The Daily Caller is a libertarian/conservative site, but this article on the pipeline protests is worth a read. I don’t doubt it’s slanted, but parts of it ring true. Between 1995 and 1997, during my last USAF tour of duty, I was involved in military training range and land use planning in Nevada and Utah. A big part of the job was working with the public. That experience tells me the Army Corps of Engineers, as the article states, did in fact make good faith attempts to meet with tribal leaders and accommodate tribal concerns.

Also, too, this:

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 8.24.50 AM

The #NoDAPL (the Twitter hashtag for the pipeline protests) stuff I see on social media has become creepily doctrinaire, as you’ll see in the screenshot above, where protesters—virtually marching in lockstep—now call themselves “water protectors.” This sort of glassy-eyed conformity always sets off the old master caution light.* It reminds me of when Marxists moved in on our student protest movements in the 1960s and 70s, trying to impose discipline and the party line.

All of which is to say if you’ve wondered why I haven’t taken sides on the Dakota Access Pipeline, this is why. Healthy skepticism for now, even though my heart goes out to the protesters.

Fake news, another topic du jour, is nothing new. I sincerely doubt it’s any worse now than it was twelve years ago, when New York Times reporter Ron Suskind repeated a conversation with an unnamed George W. Bush aide (now said to have been Karl Rove):

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Egg-fucking-zactly. Some on the left, and most on the right, have fallen victim to epistemic closure. For decades, they’ve lived in informational bubbles, never reading, hearing, or seeing anything that conflicts with their beliefs and prejudices.

My inner skeptic says we can’t do anything about it. Have you ever tried to argue with right-wing nut jobs? If you have, you know they have answers for any point you bring up, answers learned at the feet of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Snopes? It’s a liberal site! The New York Times? Even worse! The polls? Who says?

Someone, back during the 2016 presidential primary debates, tried to warn Democrats about their losing strategy. “You’re bringing fact checkers to a culture war,” he said. If there’s one thing we’ve learned with this election—and should have learned two presidential administrations ago—it’s that facts no longer matter.

Trump now claims he won the popular vote. Never mind that Hillary Clinton got almost two and a half million more votes than he did, the media sources his supporters get their news from will repeat Trump’s lie, and you watch, Trump’s popular vote landslide will become an article of faith with them. We’re not going to get anywhere trying to explain to Trump voters that the American people actually voted for Hillary Clinton. We’re not going to get anywhere with our puny “facts.”

So screw them. They live in another reality and have for a long time, and we shouldn’t waste a minute trying to talk them around. It won’t even matter when their reality collapses—they’ll go right on believing the nonsense their leaders tell them, even as the coastlines flood and their Medicare is taken from them. We outnumber them, we reality-based citizens, and we can put our time to far more productive use by organizing to resist and oppose the Trump administration and the GOP-led legislative branch, pushing weak-kneed Democratic congressmen and senators to resist and oppose in turn.

* In the F-15 Eagle (as in most complex aircraft) a master caution light is located on top of the instrument panel at the pilot’s eye level. When it lights up you check the annunciator panel down by your right knee to see which of 40-odd system alert lights have been triggered by some malfunction or other, then deal with the problem. You always punch the master caught light off afterward so that it will light up again in the event of another malfunction.


Vigilance & Resistance

fullsizeoutput_29b1What now? Does anyone have a plan?

Trump’s electoral vote victory reeks of GOP and Russian trickery. Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead is now approaching two and a half million. Efforts to start recounts, at least in a few states where vote tampering was most apparent, are underway. But if you’re hoping for a surprise electoral college reversal, you’re going to be disappointed. Trump will be inaugurated on Friday, January 20th.

As a retired white male, I could easily go with the flow. After all, I’ve got mine and no one is coming after me. But I’m part of the majority who voted for Hillary Clinton and when it turned out our votes didn’t count, I got angry.

In addition to getting angry, it’s time to get real. We’re Americans too, and we love our country. Leaving is not an option. We have to not just stick it out but actively work toward making Trump a one-term president (gee, where have we heard that before?). As an active citizen, a participant in an active electorate, I for one am not quitting.

Not quitting means vigilance and resistance. Turn your anger over yet another stolen election into resolve. Pay close attention to the Trump administration’s plans and actions. Refuse to passively absorb what news the media deigns to share. Search out media sources willing to go deep and report what’s actually going on, and support them in their efforts. Support and encourage those in Congress who resist Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and the billionaires. Loudly protest voter suppression and the return to Jim Crow in Red states. When the administration or legislature tries to enact mass deportations and torture, or to privatize Social Security and Medicare, write your representatives. Live and act on the values you and a majority of your fellow Americans share. Stand up to the bullies and thugs who think Trump’s victory has given them permission to abuse others.

As for co-existing with and among those who voted for Trump, of course we must, but we owe them nothing. Fuck their calls for civility and unity. They voted for a racist. They knew what they were doing. They showed their true colors.

People of good will are looking for effective ways to resist and oppose the things Trump, McConnell, and Ryan have promised to do. I’m going to be part of that resistance, and I’m looking for ideas, things I as a citizen can do. If you have ideas, please share.