And while I'm grateful, I can't help thinking why--of all the people who have been let go from jobs that they loved in the last two months, or six months, or nine months or twelve months--did I get to be the one to get mine back?
If someone was going to get their job back, it should have been Steve Whitmire. Because his is not just a job, it's a vocation.
Why me and not him?
I mean, I know the real answer. It's because I was let go when the clinic I work(ed) for implemented a new records system, and they didn't think that they'd need transcription services anymore. But some of the doctors apparently aren't adapting to the new system very well and are still dictating, so it turns out they need someone to type that dictation. In my case, the people in charge didn't have a personal vendetta against me, so when they saw there was still a need, they brought me back.
Knowing that doesn't help, however. Yesterday I was worried about how I was going to pay my mortgage and bills this month. Now I'm thinking that, worst case scenario, I could just go home and live with my parents.
If I could get Steve his job back by giving up mine, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I can't. And I know that starving myself or wrecking my credit with a foreclosure isn't going to help anyone, least of all Steve.
At what point does "for the good of the country, let's put aside our differences and support President Bush," become "if you criticize the president, the terrorists win"?
And finally, at what point does "sure, Donald Trump is a loose cannon, but I'm sure he'll calm down eventually" become "although I find Trump's words and actions disgusting, I continue to support him because this election is about issues." That last example courtesy of Representative Kristi Noem, whose sanctimony is outstripped only by her hypocrisy, circa October 2016, in response to the Access Hollywood bus tape. I should mention that I haven't been able to find the exact quote, so the above is a paraphrase, but the phrase "this election is about issues" is 100% pure, uncut Noem.
Seismic shift in the Muppet world (now with annotations from the future) A couple years ago, I stopped my compulsive reading of Muppet fansites and Muppet news and such because it was getting to be a strain on, and a distraction from, my real life. I decided to temper my Muppet-related consumption and bring things back into balance. However, there has been a recent development in the Muppet universe that I must address because it is as significant as it is shocking.
The facts, as they were initially reported, are as follows: Steve Whitmire is no longer working with the Muppets, and Matt Vogel will be taking over performing Kermit the Frog. The lack of details regarding the reasons behind the upheaval (who cut ties with whom, and why) is as ominous as it is perplexing.
What is most upsetting to me is that, with all the other bizarrely ominous things going on in the country and the world, particularly with regard to a certain reality TV star and his sham presidency, I had to learn out about it through this disturbing and ill-conceived bit on the Stephen Colbert show. Moreover, initial reports implied that Whitmire[*](Annotation from the future: It's so quaint to me now that I was so intent upon not assuming familiarity by calling him "Whitmire." It's interesting to see, upon becoming at least slightly acquainted with him through his blog, the speed and ease with which I began unself-consciously referring to him as "Steve," both when addressing him directly on his blog and when writing about him on my blogs.) was leaving of his own volition, which was ominous in itself, because I know that he would never choose to leave the Muppets unless he had some sort of personal problem or issue that would prevent him from performing.
Methinks that something is rotten in the state of Muppetdom.
Fortunately, Steve Whitmire himself started a blog in order to set the record straight. Probably. Here's the thing: we don't really have anything but the word of the blog author to confirm that he is in fact Steve Whitmire, and the sad truth is that we live in a world in which any random Internet weirdo can start a blog in which he claims to be Steve Whitmire, so we do have to take it with at least a small grain of salt. However, as of now there is no reason to believe that he is not the author either; the author is well-versed in Muppet lore, and the voice, tone, style, etc. is consistent with Whitmire's. Therefore, I will take the blog at face value unless I have a very good reason not to.
Whitmire goes into a bit more detail about his premature departure from the Muppets. He asserts that Disney cut ties with him rather than the other way around, informing him via phone as early as October 2016 that his services would no longer be required. He is still rather vague on the reasons for the dismissal, however; he makes reference to "their two stated issues which had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call," but he doesn't get any more specific than that.
Every Muppet fan is going to have their thoughts and feelings, opinions and theories about what happened; what follows are mine.
I know that what happens in the real world is more important than what happens in the Muppet world, but what is happening in the Muppet world is, I believe, sort of a microcosmic parallel to what is happening in the nation and the world at large. I mean, the date that Disney allegedly gave Whitmire his walking-papers phone call: October 2016. Just before the election. October 2016. How odd that the Second Muppet Era was coming to an end at almost the same moment that our nation began facing the greatest threat to our democracy since the Alien and Sedition Acts.[*](I feel like I should cite something more recent than the Alien and Sedition Acts, but when I think of the greatest threats to our democracy, that's one that immediately comes to mind. Moreover, the Alien and Sedition Acts have a lot of parallels to the current situation, because they made it illegal to criticize the government and also made it legal to deport immigrants for essentially no reason...sound familiar? Also, that happened fairly soon after America's founding--during John Adams' administration--so I kind of like to remind people that that almost ended our democracy before it even really got started, and yet we survived it, so we ought to be able to survive what we're going through now.) Is that how they're going to frame it in history books? "In October 2016, Kermit the Frog secretly died,[*](or, arguably, suffered a fate worse than death by having his soul ripped away from him, poor little green guy) and a month later, in November, vulgarian TV star Donald Trump, who stood in direct opposition to everything that Kermit represents, became president. Coincidence? Break into small groups and discuss."
To be clear, I am NOT saying that the Disney-Whitmire schism is directly related to the vagaries being committed by the Trump administration, nor am I suggesting that it is a crisis on par with the constitutional crisis that this so-called administration has forced us into. However, I do believe that the ruthless, greedy, unwarranted, shortsighted, self-serving stupidity that caused Disney to cut ties with Whitmire is related to the ruthless, greedy, shortsighted, and clumsily self-serving stupidity that prompted Trump père to fire James Comey and that prompted Trump fils to meet with the lawyer from the Kremlin. Perhaps that kind of ruthless, greedy, shortsighted, self-serving stupidity has always been endemic in our culture, but it seems like it is becoming increasingly virulent with every passing year, and it's heartbreaking to see it tainting Jim Henson's creations, and it's frightening to see these two worlds bleed into one another when they should be entirely separate.
You know...let me just play devil's advocate for a minute--literally.[*](Just kidding. I don't actually think Donald Trump is the devil. I think the devil is probably a whole lot smarter than he is. But I do think that Trump is the devil's pawn.)
Given the fact that James Comey provided the final straw that tipped the election in Trump's favor and essentially handed him the presidency, I can understand why Trump would deduce from that that Comey was on his side. I can understand why he would think that Comey would be receptive to a demand for loyalty from him. It makes sense when you look at it from Trump's point of view, because that's the way things work in Trump's world.
I didn't watch all of the testimony today, just a bit at the end, but I sure as hell hope that at least one of those senators asked Comey where the hell his loyalties actually lie. I can see that it's in Comey's interest, as a former spy, to play his loyalties and motivations close to the vest, but the way he kept moving the goalposts around with regard to when to discuss or not discuss an ongoing investigation was positively infuriating.
It's interesting to see how Comey gets colored in the press as this whole drama unfolds. Immediately after the election, he was the fascist stooge and traitor to democracy. Then, once he got fired, suddenly he's the patriotic martyr and savior of democracy. As for me, I will never forget Comey's past sins, but if his testimony serves to bring Trump down, I might be able to forgive them. It would be an ironic yet fitting turn of events if the man who elevated Trump to the presidency is ultimately the same man to depose him.
You know what? I think that I just figured out to whom or what Comey is actually loyal: the FBI. I just realized that every time he's been asked to account for why he did or didn't comment on an investigation, his answer always has something to do with how it would reflect on the Bureau.
So that's something, I guess. He is loyal to something. I just wish I had confidence that he is also loyal to our country.
So, my first thought on hearing James Comey was fired was, "Deserved and long overdue." He was a lousy FBI director with rotten judgment. He is nauseous, and he makes me feel nauseated.[*](It's a linguistic pet peeve of mine when people confuse the words "nauseous" and "nauseated", although even doctors get it wrong. "Nauseous" describes something so horrible and disgusting that observing it makes one feel sick to one's stomach. "Nauseated" refers to the condition of being sick to one's stomach, i.e. having nausea. To illustrate with a sample sentence, it would be correct to say, "The nauseous sight of his hand after it was mangled in the industrial accident made me feel nauseated.")
But my second thought was, "Why?" Then they tried to feed us the line that it was because of the Hillary e-mail investiscandal thingie, and I immediately became skeptical.
In the first place, why would Trump fire the person whose fatal step ultimately led to his "victory"? And in the second place, even if Trump did want to punish him for such a thing (which would be completely out of character) why would he wait nearly four months after taking office to do it? That literally makes no sense whatsoever.
Whereas Trump firing Comey for not playing the company way on Russia--i.e., for investigating the Russian connection to the election, campaign, etc.--would be completely in character and would make perfect sense according to Trumpian logic.
The only thing I'm not sure about is if this would represent the greatest treason. I suspect this may just be the tip of the treason iceberg.
First of all, I am 100% opposed to the South Dakota law in question that allows faith-based adoption agencies to deny adoptions on "religious freedoms" grounds. Part of freedom of religion is that one religious group doesn't get to use their beliefs as an excuse to bully or discriminate against people who have different beliefs, and organizations[*](including, sadly, my own church; an issue that I have taken up in writing with the Bishop, who did not respond) that seek to weaponize "religious freedoms" as a tool of discrimination are undermining the very fabric of the Constitution and sullying the reputation of all of us who truly believe in the rights and protections guaranteed by the First Amendment, to say nothing of those of us who truly believe in Christ's teachings of understanding and acceptance of the disenfranchised.
Furthermore, for any political party that claims to care so much about the inalienable rights of unborn children, and which constantly advances adoption as an alternative to abortion, to enact a measure that would prevent loving, qualified parents from adopting a child--thereby saving the child from abortion--on a mere technicality is rank hypocrisy. All of us who oppose abortion--and I count myself as one of them--should be fighting as hard as we can for the rights of same-sex couples to adopt, because if there aren't enough adoptive parents, what do you think the expectant mothers on the horns of the abortion dilemma are going to do? They are going to take the easy way out because the alternatives are intractable. I regret the word "easy"; that was inconsiderate and insensitive of me. Let me put it this way, as I have put it to my congresspeople when trying to persuade them not to repeal the ACA: When faced with the cost of prenatal care--which Republicans apparently do not believe should be covered by health insurance at baseline--plus the cost of raising a child for eighteen years--including, but not limited to, medical care, food, clothing, shelter, child care, school supplies, etc.--versus the one-time cost of an abortion procedure, there's a certain terrible logic in choosing to incur the one-time cost of an abortion, especially for women--whether married or not--already in straitened financial circumstances, and most especially for women--whether married or not--who already have children for whose health and well-being she is responsible, and for whose neglect she will be punished. It's a cruel choice, and one that no parent should ever have to make, but there is a certain terrible logic to it.
Let's be completely honest with ourselves: does anyone really believe that being raised by gay parents is a fate worse than death? Really? Because if the rationale for opposing abortion is that death in the womb is the worst fate that could possibly befall any human being, that nothing that happens after birth could possibly be as bad as not being born at all, then that logic does not compute.
With that said, I do think that the San Francisco blanket ban on doing business in South Dakota may be taking things a little too far. Don't get me wrong; I don't do business with companies that are known to have anti-gay policies, nor do I give money to organizations that promote anti-gay rhetoric.[*](again, including my own church) But to deny business to companies that may not have anti-gay policies--which may, as part of their corporate culture, actually accept and defend the rights of GLBT people, and which may even have actively opposed the anti-gay adoption law--on the basis of location, when they were located here long before the law went into effect, that doesn't seem entirely fair either. Refrain from doing business with the South Dakota state government, by all means, and don't do business with companies that have anti-gay policies regardless of location, but to make a generalization of all companies operating within a certain vicinity, without taking the individiual companies' practices and policies into consideration--isn't that something akin to discrimination in itself?
I mean, the rationale for this ban is that being located within a particular state automatically implies that you agree with any and all laws passed in that state; however, seeing that San Francisco is located in California--which, nine years ago, infamously passed Proposition 8--the San Francisco lawmakers really ought to know better. In fact, Prop 8 was enacted not by the legislature, as was the South Dakota anti-gay adoption law, but by the electorate, the citizens; i.e., representative democracy versus direct democracy. Furthermore, it wasn't repealed via democratic process, by the will of the people, but overturned by the Supreme Court. If the constitutional and completely legitimate legal proceedings of the U.S. Supreme Court had not forced the state of California to take Prop 8 off the books, would it still be law there today? Would it have occurred to them to try to repeal it on their own and, if so, would it have been successful? My point in all this is merely to observe that if San Francisco doesn't like doing business in states that pass anti-gay laws, maybe they should start by refusing to do business with the rest of California.
Does South Dakota have reason for shame? Absolutely. But there's a strong case to be made that San Francisco does as well.
On a related note, I'm annoyed and frustrated by the superior attitude of the San Franciscans interviewed for the story, the attitude of, "Oh, who would want to do business in South Dakota in the first place?" The assumption that we don't have anything worthwhile to offer, so the ban doesn't even matter. And there is some truth to that; we don't have much in the way of manufacturing, technology, etc. But we do have commerce and banking, and I wonder how many of those people they talked to have credit cards or checking accounts. More to the point, we have agriculture; I wonder how many of those San Franciscans interviewed for the story eat corn or wheat or soy or sunflower seeds.
Okay...I do get the joke. It's not funny, but I get it. And not to be a humorless fuddy-duddy, but the given rampant ignorance regarding South Dakota recently on shocking display, I feel it is my duty as a South Dakotan to explain something:
The reason that the faces are grouped like that on Mount Rushmore is that that's the only way they could make them all fit. After they had to move Jefferson to Washington's left because of unsuitable rock on his right, they had to redesign the whole monument so that all four faces would fit and that they would be visible and so that they could avoid any naturally occurring cracks in the rock as much as possible, because the cracks could undermine the structural integrity of the sculpture. So if there appears to be a space, it's because that space could not be used in the sculpture. It's essentially dead space.
Also, there's a large crevice just behind the faces of Mount Rushmore. Most people don't know about it because it's not very visible from the road(s). But when they were carving Roosevelt, for example, there was a danger of blasting too much or drilling too deep and punching through the backside of the mountain. I forget exactly how close it came, but I believe it's within several hundred yards.
To reiterate, there is no more room for any more carving on Mount Rushmore!!! I know that the Trump administration is not fond of facts, but this is one that is LITERALLY set in stone.
As for the comedians, wait until they find out that when it rains at Mount Rushmore, it makes quasi-tear streaks on the presidents' faces.
Hey guys, don't give him any ideas! Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert have each made a joke about a relatively minor fear I've had since the election; the fear that Trump might get it into his head to try to add his own face to Mount Rushmore. Now, such a thing is impossible; he could sign executive orders until he's blue in the face, and Congress could pass as many bills as they want, but the fact of the matter is that there is not enough unflawed rock on the mountain to carve any more faces. True story: originally Thomas Jefferson was supposed to be on Washington's right--rather than on his left where he is now--and they had actually started carving Jefferson on that side, but because the rock was so unstable, they literally had to blast off the first attempt at Jefferson's head and start all over on the other side.
So my fear is not that Trump will succeed in putting his own face on Mount Rushmore; it's that he and Congress may be foolish enough to try, and irreparably ruin the monument in the process.[*](Along with South Dakota's economy, sense of identity, and raison d'etre, incidentally).
On a tangentially related note, there was a thing--what we in my family call a "blurpee"--on the local news tonight: one of their reporters was in San Franscisco and asked some idiot who lived there[*](to be absolutely clear: I do NOT mean to imply that she is an idiot BECAUSE she lives in San Francisco, merely that she is an idiot who happens to live in San Francisco, with no cause-and-effect relationship suggested whatsoever. I know that San Francisco--like South Dakota and every other habitable location on the planet--is populated by both smart people and idiots) what the biggest attraction in South Dakota is. Now, that should be easy: Mount Rushmore. It's a gimme; if you don't know anything else about South Dakota, you should at least know that Mount Rushmore is here. But the stupid woman said, "Sarah Palin?"
And at first I was offended, but then I realized that that woman was just revealing her own stupidity. If city folk[*](And I use that term with the knowledge that, because I live in Sioux Falls, I could conceivably be lumped in with "city folk" by other South Dakotans) are ignorant about South Dakota, that's their shame, not ours.
Of course, we do have plenty to be ashamed of ourselves, which is why they had a reporter in San Francisco in the first place. But that's a topic for another day.
First of all, let's look at the big picture for a second and ask ourselves: what happens if Gorsuch's nomination is defeated? The answer is, of course, that Trump will just nominate someone else, and given his abysmal track record for nominating qualified people for a given office, the next guy is likely to be even worse than Gorsuch. Say what you want about Gorsuch--and I'm no big fan of his myself--but by any objective measure he is knowledgable and competent, which is more than one can say about most, if not all, other Trump appointees.
Second of all, the sad fact of the matter is that if we're ever going to successfully impeach Trump and remove him from office, we need Congressional Republicans to get on board. And I could be wrong--this is just my largely uneducated, inexpert, layperson's opinion--but I don't think Congressional Republicans are going to take any such drastic step until this matter of the Supreme Court is settled. So the question we need to be asking ourselves is this: is it worthwhile to block Gorsuch and defeat his nomination if it means delaying impeachment proceedings against Trump indefinitely? Or are we setting ourselves up for a Pyrrhic victory, in which we win the Supreme Court/Gorsuch battle but lose the war on Trump?
As a political moderate, one thing that I can say with absolute certainty is that lowering the number of votes required to approve a Supreme Court justice seems like a really, REALLY bad idea. And Republicans really need to look at the big picture here and realize that they aren't going to be in power forever. If any of them really believe that, especially considering what a clusterf*ck their big electoral victory has turned out to be, then they're even more delusional and out-of-touch than I thought. So if they wouldn't want this rule to changed when Democrats are in power, they shouldn't change it now.
On the other hand, people always get so worked up because the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment. What people seem to forget is that Supreme Court justices are impeachable, just like presidents and vice presidents and all other "civil officers." Now, you can't just impeach Supreme Court justices because you don't like the decisions they make; they have to engage in conduct unbecoming, and there has to be a trial and due process and all that stuff. But it is possible; they are answerable to the law. So "lifetime appointment" comes with an asterisk and some fine print.
Notice I'm not offering answers, because I don't have any. These are just some thoughts that I've had.
If Trevor Noah is correct and Paul Ryan has nightmares about repealing and replacing Obamacare, then he and I have something in common, because I have nightmares about that too. Of course, the difference is that in Ryan's nightmares he fails to do so, and in my nightmares he succeeds.
Then I wake up with heart palpitations, and I have to think, "Okay, are these just normal post-nightmare palpitations, or has my family's cardiac history finally caught up with me?"
Then I think, "Thank goodness I have health insurance."
Throwback Thursday: Healthcare reform A while ago I was looking for something in the Daily Show archives--I don't remember what, specifically--when I came across this interview with conservative pundit Bill Kristol from 2009, before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, and healthcare reform was the main topic of conversation.
There are two things about this video that particularly stuck out at me. One is that Kristol's main argument seems to be, "Why revamp the entire healthcare system? Why not just make a few changes?" Oh, what a difference seven and a half years makes! Now they're saying, "BURN IT! BURN IT TO THE GROUND! BURN IT DOWN and then rebuild it from the ground up...(eventually)." But I think that if it was a valid argument seven and a half years ago, it's an equally valid argument now. Why keep reinventing the wheel?
The other feature of interest is that Kristol keeps saying that soldiers/veterans deserve better healthcare than the rest of us because they are (or were) out there risking their lives, while the rest of us ungrateful, lazy slobs are just sitting at home on our asses, apparently contributing nothing to society.
Okay well, you know, there is some validity to his point. My favorite Bible verse is John 15:13: "No greater love is there than this, to lay down one's life for a friend," and I guess that's basically what soldiers do. I mean, most people probably don't get involved in the military because they are eager to go out and kill people to satisfy a blood lust; most of them, when asked why they joined up, express a desire to defend country, home, loved ones, etc. All right; for the sake of argument, let's say that people who risk their lives for the sake of others deserve the best healthcare. But are military personnel the only ones doing that?
What about volunteer firefighters? They risk their lives to save the lives of others all the time. Moreover, they are strictly about saving lives, never about taking them. They never resort to violence and never raise a hand against another human being. But because they're on a volunteer basis, they might not receive compensation or benefits the way a career firefighter would (although some do). So, according to Kristol's criteria, aren't they the most deserving of the absolute best healthcare available?
Then Kristol says that "the military need different kinds of healthcare than the rest of us." Well, there's something to that as well. For example, military personnel are probably more likely to need limb amputations than most of us. And yet, there are civilians who need limbs amputated for various reasons. Take, for example, a little kid who has bone cancer in her leg and needs to have her leg amputated on account of that. Is Kristol saying that the little kid with bone cancer doesn't deserve as high quality of healthcare as the wounded soldier?
Basically, yes. Jon Stewart asked him twice if he believed that the military deserved better healthcare than the rest of us ordinary, freeloading citizens, and he said "yes...absolutely" because soldiers risk their lives. And presumably the little kid with bone cancer isn't out risking her life for others, so therefore she doesn't deserve the same quality healthcare as soldiers. So said Bill Kristol, conservative Republican pundit, in 2009.
The inherent bias of the electoral college I have a whole case to make against the continued existence of the electoral college, but I don't have time right now. But first, I would like to point out this shocking but true fact that supports my larger case:
In the history of the United States, there have been four elections wherein the winner of the electoral college lost the popular vote. In each case, the candidate who lost the popular vote but won the electoral college and therefore the presidency, was from the Republican Party.[*](There was also the case of the election of 1824--30 years before the Republican Party was founded--wherein there was a plurality in both the electoral college and the popular vote in favor of Andrew Jackson. Because Jackson did not gain enough electoral votes to win the presidency, the vote was deferred to the House of Representatives, per the Constitution's provisions in case of a tie, which decided in favor of John Quincy Adams. So technically, John Quincy Adams won neither the popular vote nor the electoral college.)
Coincidence? NO! Evidence that the electoral college system is inherently biased.
More evidence, and a fully formed argument, to come later.
What's so interesting is that, on a textual level, Miranda is telling us--with both words and music--"Look, Aaron Burr is a complicated guy; he's not a two-dimensional villain, and he's not as bad as you think he is"; and yet, on a subtextual level, the voice of the historical Burr comes to us down through the centuries and says, "You know what? Even if I am complicated, I really am as bad as you think I am." Then, if you read anything nonfictional about Aaron Burr, you find out that not only is he as bad as you think he is, he's actually a lot worse. Certainly not someone who deserves the biggest power ballad in the musical.[*](Although Leslie Odom Jr's performance thereof is simply magnificent.)
The only question is, would he have been a better or worse president that Donald Trump? Thanks to Alexander Hamilton, we'll never know, and our country is the better for it. If only Hamilton was alive today to save us from ourselves once again. But he's not, so we'll just have to save ourselves, using Hamilton's writings--and history--as a guide.