Consent Given

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

“…he who displays himself does
not shine; he who asserts his own views is not distinguished; he who vaunts himself does not find his merit acknowledged; he who is self-conceited has no superiority allowed to him.”
from Chapter 24, Tao Te Ching, Legge translation

As far as I know, Lao Tzu was not aware of Donald Trump. Still, you gotta admit, he knew him. So does George Will, “Donald Trump, an ongoing eruption of self-refuting statements (“I’m a very stable genius” with “a very good brain”), is adding self-impeachment to his repertoire.” If you have time, I recommend Will’s opinion piece in today’s Washington Post: The spiraling president adds self-impeachment to his repertoire. It’s at once hilarious and damning. A masterpiece of the genre.

In the same issue of the Post seventeen special prosecutors during Watergate say Trump has committed impeachable offenses. Also in the same issue is a recounting of Trump’s amazing, stupefying sermon to his congregation of red-hatted worshipers.

He called Ilhan Omar an America-hating socialist, then went on to denounce the entire Somali-American community. He heralded his recent executive order which gives cities and states the authority to refuse without their express written consent any refugee or immigrant resettlements. He recommended the crowd “speak to their mayor.”

Frey replied immediately on Twitter: “Consent given. Immigrants and refugees are welcome in Minneapolis.” The Minnesota I know well and love.

From the Warring States Period of China to today a person only committed to themselves is unfit to be a leader. We’re in an unusual crisis. This is the Presidency of our country made venal. Such a strong argument for the warning inscribed over the entrance to the Delphic Oracle in the Temple of Apollo: Know thyself.

BTW: if you’re wondering where the illustrations have gone, I’m experiencing a Word Press glitch on uploading images.

Unmatched? Yes. Great? No. Wisdom? No.

Fall and the Yom Kippur Moon

Great and unmatched wisdom. A supporter named diGenova has termed the House impeachment queries regicide. Refusing to comply with the House call for witnesses and documents. This is a dictator fantasy league with only one player. And, unfortunately, he’s our President.

My guess? His advisers, whoever they are today, have told him that he can win a faceoff with the House because the dispute will head to the Supreme Court where conservative justices are in the majority. If I’m right, and if the impeachment process goes to the Supreme Court, I think he’ll lose. Valorizers of the Constitution, that sacred writ handed down from the mountain top like certain tablets, cannot allow a breach of the separation of powers like the one Trump wants. At least I don’t they can.

Not sure we’ve ever had a crisis like this one.

This Week

Fall and the waning crescent Harvest Moon

Long mountain in the background is Shadow Mountain, taken from Black Mountain
Closer look at the peak of Shadow Mountain. We live to the right in this photo, about a mile up Black Mountain Drive
Fox Squirrel getting ready for winter. A bit faraway for my phone camera.
Chainsaw Bob’s. I first saw these signs when his wife, Patty, was the only one in the shop. I needed new, sharpened chains and to have that one little glitch fixed. He’s the closest. And, as you can tell he has strong opinions. (Not just about women.)
CJ’s is a Chicago food hero in Evergeen. I stood at their door when I took the photograph above. Kate and I get Italian beef sandwiches there every Thursday after Mussar.
Black Mountain hike, Tuesday
Same hike

Impeach and Remove

Fall and the waning sickle of the Harvest Moon

Waning Crescent
Illumination: 8% MoonGiant

Today is the equilux. Equal day and night. If you look at the equinox post a few days back, you’ll find an explanation. The equinox occurs when the sun passes over the earth’s equator. But the equal part of equinox doesn’t occur until 2 to 3 days later. September 26th this year. So enjoy the day because this is the last time there are 12 or more hours in a day for 172 days.

Beach people might be sad; but, we mountain folk are glad. You know, snow and cold. We actually look forward to it.

Soooo. Impeachment. Probable result. House votes for impeachment. Senate says, what? Nope. We don’t do that anymore. Does Trump deserve to be impeached? Oh, yes. Many times over. The Ukraine phone call. Geez. It shows both the naivete and the hubris. I’m doing it. It must be ok. Because I am, after all, President!

Divisive? Oh, yeah. Big time. This will serve as a lock down for Trump followers. No questions allowed. No deviation from MAGA faith. Let’s show’em in 2020. Trump forever. No mingling with the general population. In Trumpworld impeachment is only the most recent in the multiple so unfair attacks on this plain speaking, selfless billionaire who gave up his cushy life style for the hardball court of Washington level politics. It might make the line between Trump loyalists and the rest of us a yawning chasm, one not easily breached. Ever.

That is my fear. Even if impeachment is successful, that is the House votes for impeachment, the resulting ill will engendered in red and blue state Trumpists will calcify them into a quasi-permanent block destructive to our democracy.

Cousin Diane fact checked this. Said it didn’t happen. OK. But, it sure could’ve.

A delicate question, one pondered many times by Democratic strategists, I’m sure. Even so, I believe this is the right thing to do. Why? Oddly, I’d say a primary reason is to reestablish decorum in the Presidency. Though I’m far from a traditionalist in almost any part of my life, there are arenas where expectations shaped over decades and even centuries serve a valid purpose. Diplomacy is one of those. Without challenging the sort of naked abuse of power that Trump’s just us guys mode of discourse easily devolves into, future Presidents will find it difficult to have confidential conversations with world leaders.

Also, Trump’s amoral politicization of disdain, mockery, and outright disregard for women, the disabled, people of color, other nations gives cover to racists, misogynists, ableists, and xenophobes. On this last point he said, at the U.N., that, “Globalism is over. The world belongs to patriots, to strong nations.” These may not be impeachable offenses, but each one disqualifies him as leader of a free and just people. They require a literal slap across the face. Impeachment is just such a slap.

Nathan Bedford Forrest

What the future of our country might look like if Trump goes without firm, serious resistance concerns me. A lot. He’s Babbitt made President. Babbitt and Nathan Bedford Forrest plus a healthy dose of David Duke and Father James Coughlin. Of course he is also in the direct lineage of Joe McCarthy’s junkyard dog, Roy Cohn. These are fringe members of our commonwealth, driven by fear, by greed, by a much too narrow view of what it means to be human.

Strap in. Hang on. And pray for…well, nothing. Let’s rely on truth, justice and the America Way instead of thoughts and prayers this time.


Lives of Quiet Desperation

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Caveat: Got carried away here. Stuff that’s important to me, but long.

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper

Alienation is killing Americans and Japanese. The age of American despair. American life expectancy has dropped again. This is what life without retirement savings looks like.

Nope, not me. Headlines from articles I noticed over the last couple of weeks. Part of the story is told in the three factors most related to American decline in life expectancy: obesity, suicide, and drug overdoses. Summed up: living lives of quiet desperation.

In Japan the kids have disappeared and left the country to the old folks. People die alone. Unnoticed. Unseen. Unknown.

Ross Douthat, NYT conservative columnist and a voice I listen to, has this paragraph in his article, The Age of American Despair:

…the simultaneity of the different self-destroying trends is a brute fact of American life. And that simultaneity does not feel like just a coincidence, just correlation without entanglement — especially when you include other indicators, collapsing birthrates and declining marriage rates and decaying social trust, that all suggest a society suffering a meaning deficit, a loss of purpose and optimism and direction, a gently dehumanizing drift.” Douthat, NYT, Sept. 7, 2019

Douthat also says, and I agree with him, that: “Despair as a sociological phenomenon is rarely permanent: Some force, or forces, will supply new forms of meaning eventually.” op cit

He’s a Roman Catholic and a conservative so his hope will be that religion and traditional institutions like the family can reassert their culture shaping roles, provide forms of meaning relevant to this crisis.

Another conservative writer, David Byler, wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece that conservatives have already won the culture war. His argument rests on the positive opinion Americans have of the police, the military, and the continued strength of marriage, the family, and religion. These core institutions, beloved of conservatives, are ok, he says, and prove that conservatives have “the winning hand” in the next election.

Can this despair can be handled by leaning into the familiar, the tried, the true? Seems unlikely to me since marriage and the family, religious institutions exist now, are readily available, and yet the despair rises. And, neither the military nor the police can answer because their roles are defensive, reactive to social forces. They’re not shapers or builders. They’re enforcers after the fact.

I see this despair as a disturbing inflection point created by a world in dramatic transformation. Interlocked global economies. Populations shifting locations, putting immigrant pressure on receiving societies and draining resources from the sending ones. A planet shifting from one climate regime to a less forgiving one for humans. Nativist and xenophobic politics which express the despair through anger, rage at the other upsetting democratic institutions worldwide.

I appreciated Douthat’s reminder that despair is rarely permanent. New forms of meaning will arise, as he projects. But from where? Not sure I know.

Scott Nearing, economist and author of a favorite book of mine, Living the Good Life, proposes a mixed economy. The issue is not one, Nearing argues, of a single economic model to rule them all. Rather, we should be making decisions about what aspects of culture belong to which economic model. Roads and infrastructure, schooling, law enforcement, the military, the legal system operate within a socialist model where we all chip in to assure ourselves of educated children, decent roads and bridges, protection against criminals and foreign enemies. Selling cars, fast food, jewelry, books, bicycles and the like operate within a capitalist model. But what about affordable housing and medical care? What about support for the unemployed or the victims of Schumpeter’s creative destruction?

As in Nearing’s approach to economics, I believe the answer to the despair engendered by a transforming global culture lies in a mixed political response. That is, we need to support some institutions conservatives love: marriage, the family, law enforcement, and the military because they are core to a sense of social security, a feeling of safety. Let’s set aside religion for now. We don’t have to support those institutions in the same way conservatives would. That is, we can favor marriage between persons who love each other while recognizing the non-binary nature of human sexuality. Similar thoughts can apply to the other three.

But, these institutions exist in political and economic contexts that have profound effects on their well-being. Is housing affordable? Is there work for you that pays a living wage? Can you get the medical care you need when you need it? What it will be like for you when you retire? Can you retool yourself for a new career? Are your children receiving the sort of education they need to thrive?

Let’s return now to religion. And, the arts. Bread and roses. “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.” Rose Schneiderman, an organizer for the Women’s Trade Union of New York. Bread and Roses wiki

Positive changes to the economic and social conditions of oppression are, said another way, critical and necessary; but, they are not sufficient. The spirit must be fed, too. Everyone has a right to realize and live out their ikigai.

What religion does, at its best, is help folks develop a coherent view of life’s meaning and create a support system to help them realize it. At its worst religion pretends to have found the only meaning and creates a phalanx of enforcers for that view.

The arts also feed the soul. But they are often kept behind an elite curtain wall of high ticket prices, imposing museum corridors, and a presumed sine qua non of education to appreciate.

If we’re looking for areas outside the rough and tumble of politics for dealing with despair, both religion and the arts can play significant roles. It is here, I believe, that new meaning will arise, will begin to integrate world economies, help us adapt to climate change even as we fight its worsening, enable us to see the other not as a threat, but as a potential new friend, fellow worker, marriage partner.

If you can’t stand the heat

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Yesterday the fire danger was very high. Good thing we got a deluge in the afternoon. Rain fell like a waterfall, gushing over the roof and the solar panels, covering the driveway in an inch or so of water. Since this is Colorado weather, we also had some hail. Not very big, but abundant.

Had an early breakfast with friend Rich Levine. Muddy Buck in Evergreen. We discussed introspection, family, the true meaning of Trump. Rich thinks, and I agree, Trump has exposed our true nature as a country. He mentioned the 1619 project, the first date slaves came to our shores. Oh, yeah, I said. And the 3/5ths compromise. Who could vote? White, male, property owners.

Rich teaches constitutional law and intellectual property rights law at the Colorado School of Mines in addition to his practice. It’s his feeling that we can solve the carbon emissions problem, especially with available or not too distant technology. But, he said, we may not be able to solve the warming problem.

He’s right. The question now is not whether the climate will change drastically, but by how much. A 2 degree temperature rise is baked in with current carbon levels in the atmosphere. We can still hold down the damage, but we need to act now.

Later in the day our dryer stopped working. We bought appliances after our move and chose Samsung. Bad idea. Great phones. Bad dishwashers, clothes dryers and washers. The fridge seems ok. Over to the Grimebusters Laundromat to finish drying clothes, then to Best Buy to order a new dryer.

Life doesn’t stop for illness or exhaustion. Clothes get dirty. Food needs to be cooked. Cars require gas and oil changes. Seems merciless, but it’s not.

Accounting

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

MiguelAlmagro, on Deviant Art

A hot August, the third hottest on record for Denver, boiled over the border to meteorological fall. Too warm yesterday even here on the mountain top. Neither Kate nor I like the heat, wait for the cold weather.

Labor day weekend special meal. Ribeye, asparagus, heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella, bay leaves and balsamic vinegar. Garlic bread. I love to cook, would like knowing more.

SeoAh and Murdoch

SeoAh is in Korea. Murdoch is in doggy university for 28 days learning how to be a canine good citizen. Joe’s home alone at Robbins AFB. Mark’s in Phnom Penh getting a visa for Vietnam. Mary’s in the classroom in Singapore. We’re up here on Shadow Mountain.

Yesterday was the 1st of Elul, the last month in the Jewish lunar calendar. Elul is a month for heshbon hanefesh, an accounting of and for the soul. When Elul ends, the High Holidays begin, starting with Rosh Hashanah, New Year, and ending with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

This corresponds well to my own inner work which begins to get grittier and intense as the night creeps up over daylight. Picking up this idea, going to use Elul for my own heshbon hanefesh.

An accounting of the American soul would surely include consideration of mass shootings. Our complicity in carbon emissions. The mess we’ve made of a once revered style of governance. How we’ve pushed ourselves into red tents and blue tents. But, too, the daily mitzvah’s of thousands, millions. The energy of our hope, our resilience. The vast diversity of our body politic. Those who still stream toward us from places of violence, of desperate poverty, of authoritarian regimes. Our wonderful, wild public lands.

When the book of life closes on Yom Kippur, will the USA be in it or not?