I Can’t Look (2016Aug25)


Thursday, August 25, 2016                                               12:08 PM

Slowly we turn, step by step…. Please, God, let this fuckin election be over. The Congress decided to sleep for eight years and the media have decided the people should sleep through these last two years (in solidarity?), mesmerized by the incessant drumbeat, ‘Clinton or Trump? Clinton or Trump?’

Completely outside the issue of that question being similar to ‘Gourmet Meal or Shit Sandwich?’, surely there are other things, other issues, other people in this world that we could spare a few seconds of attention on. I am constantly frustrated by so-called journalists reporting on the squeaky wheels of the world—has Research become completely forbidden? Is it impossible for newspeople to report anything other than the voices of spin-doctors, to find a story that doesn’t already have armed camps facing each other with oppositional memes? You know—actual news (as in new information).

The TV News has a tradition of arriving at the scene of an event, finding the stupidest person on the sidewalk nearby and asking their ‘opinion’ about what just happened. Nobody likes it, nobody gets any smarter because of it, but no one can seem to stop them from this exercise in inanity.

But today, they have a new thing—they don’t have to go looking for the stupidest person anymore—they just quote Trump’s blather-of-the-day, and call it news reporting. That’s beyond lazy—especially as they inject no hint of judgment or fact-checking—they simply parrot his words—as if they had meaning. News Fail. Get it together, cable news.

The thing that really gets me is when the media harps on Hillary Clinton’s ‘untruthfulness’—they can’t say her name without repeating this popular theme. And don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying she’s a paragon of honesty. But if they must add that ‘popular opinion’ to every mention of her, can’t they also always add that studies find her exceptionally honest compared to other politicians? Can’t they add mention of the fact that while it’s popular to call Clinton a liar—it is also incorrect? Why is that so hard? Are they afraid that confronting their listeners with the facts might turn them away?

This bothers me because I empathize. If the world thought me a liar, and I wasn’t, and all I heard from the news was repetition of the opinion that I lie, without any mention of the fact that I didn’t lie—well, I’d be pretty unhappy about that. Wouldn’t you? And what ever happened to being wrong? If Hillary Clinton says anything that turns out to be incorrect, she’s never wrong—she’s always ‘a liar’. If we follow that logic, we must elect Hillary Clinton—we could use a president who is never wrong.

I wouldn’t even be writing this rant right now—I was trying to relax and watch the news on TV. But rumor, fallacy, and claptrap are not my idea of news reporting. I can’t watch it. But I keep going back, vainly hoping for some common sense. What a fool I am. Journalism as a popularity contest just doesn’t work—telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear may be profitable, but it hurts us, where it used to help us. It distracts us where it used to inform us. Like reality TV, it shows a semblance of reality that has been curated for entertainment value.

The death of print journalism has gutted the research departments of all the great journalism sources—the news today practically feeds on itself, working as hard, now, to share from other sources as they used to work on out-researching other sources. Reporters are flying blind, with virtually no back-up troops to dig into records, archives, interviews, analysis, or do good old shoe-leather research.

Yet the media has more news-channels and more hours of the day needing to fill those channels. It’s not a good situation. The public is no longer being informed—we are being curated by different media-moguls, fighting each other to indoctrinate their audience in their private agendas—journalism as a public service is nothing more than a legend from our glorious past. I miss Huntley & Brinkley. I miss Cronkite. I miss the news.

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Pay For What Now? (2016Aug24)


Wednesday, August 24, 2016                                           4:46 PM

Trump calls the Clinton Foundation a ‘pay for play’ scam. While overlooking the nature of the presidency, Trump has apparently also failed to grasp the concept of a charity. This is where his business background trips him up—he’s never been involved in charity, except for the access his donations brought him—which is no doubt why he contributed $100,000 of his own money to the Clinton Foundation, not too long ago. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking on Donald’s part—he’s hoping the Clinton Foundation is a charity in the same way that Trump University was a school.

The AP reported a very specious bit of data: ‘Half the non-governmental meetings Secretary of State Clinton held were with Foundation donors’. That may sound like half of her meetings, but as you may expect, the vast majority of the Secretary of State’s meetings were with government officials—I believe the Clinton camp has estimated 1,700 of those meetings—leaving the non-governmental meetings a rather smaller part of it—and half of those meetings an even smaller part.

Trump has gleefully damaged the United States’ image globally, he has off-handedly thrown doubt on our election process domestically, and has, of course, even less scruple to trash the Clinton family’s possibly greatest achievement—their li’l ol’global charity to fight AIDs, provide health services to the underserved around the world, and promote the struggle of women and girls worldwide. People who donate to such a charity (for the most part) are deeply involved in these causes—giving them ample reason to seek the advice of our Secretary of our State Department—to consult on best practices, to coordinate efforts with other governments, etc. The thing Donald conveniently overlooks is that neither the Clintons nor their donors are getting fat off the struggle against the AIDS epidemic or other global health crises.

The Donald gleefully shreds our traditions and values, disrespects our most sacred cows, and shows a frightening lack of empathy—what’s the destruction of one little force-for-good amongst all that? All he knows is that the place has her name on the letterhead—ergo: target. He likes to win—remember? He never said he wanted to do good—he wants to win. Perfect presidential material—we’ve always fallen for reasonable people before—time for something new—as he says, “What the hell do we have to lose?” Uh, America!? God, can’t someone please make him stop?

The millions of people whose lives are better because of the Clinton Foundation’s efforts will find their lives that much bleaker for the pressure that seems will inevitably force the Clintons to close up shop. Does Donald care? No. And the shame of it is, he still won’t win the election—he’ll just cause as much damage as possible while losing. This jerk, who never lifted a finger to help another human being in his seventy-year long life, is actually destroying people’s lives during the campaign—just imagine what he would do in office. Jeez—the horror, the horror….

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Your Brother   (2016Aug23)


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Tuesday, August 23, 2016                                       12:24 PM

Your brother and I are very stubborn-minded, and we have very different ideas that may keep us from agreeing on any political issue. But that doesn’t stop us from recognizing each other’s respectability—in an emergency or a disaster, we would work shoulder to shoulder, politics be damned—in a social setting, we would both behave and be polite—and do our damnedest to avoid discussing politics. In that way, politics is like religion—people can differ and still get along, as long as we don’t go out of our way to look for an argument.

For there are plenty of arguments to be had. People argue, sometimes for no other reason than to pass the time—if it’s a civil argument, I actually enjoy it—but nobody argues when something important comes up. If I am hungry or thirsty, I’m not going to argue with anyone, I’m just going to ask them the way to the nearest diner. If someone gets hurt, no one argues—they call 911, and argue later.

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Take Hillary Clinton’s emails, for instance—why should we be surprised or upset if a lady older than we are (and we’re no spring chickens) didn’t fully understand about her email account? Only kids understand email fully—I was forty before I heard the word ‘email’. If Hillary’s IT techs were under investigation for being lax about security, that might make some sense—but to act like Hillary Clinton installed her own hardware, set-up her own network, and had full knowledge of everything there is to know about email—to shout, “lock her up” because she sent 30,000 emails and one of them was clearly marked ‘classified’—that’s hyperbole. That’s something you argue about when you have nothing else to do but kill time and gossip.

Yet because of this, we have 64% of Americans judging her to be untrustworthy—some reward for busting her ass in public service for fifty years. Plus, who tells the truth every single time? People lie like rugs—for politicians, it’s part of the job description—and for this grease-spot of a GOP candidate to crow about her ‘untruthfulness’—well, pot calls much smaller kettle on that score, in case no one noticed. P. T. Barnum’s got nothing on this clown.

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Donald Trump’s inner circle consists of a white supremacist, a sex offender, and a pollster—they recently jettisoned their Putin mole. He’s a billionaire with a history of defaults and frauds who won’t release his tax returns. He owes money to China and gets financing from Russia. He’s an ignoramus who doesn’t even keep up with world events—and he’s never done any public service before—yeah, he should definitely be leader of the free world—what the hell do we have to lose? Well, except for civility, honesty, world opinion, economic security, national security, and our self-respect.

He’s a spoiled brat of a bully hiding inside the body of a seventy-year-old man. He doesn’t know or care about the office of the presidency, he just wants to ‘win’. What an ass. And he has the balls to criticize the most capable, accomplished politician of our time—not to mention criticizing everybody and everything else—and she can’t criticize his career in politics—because he doesn’t effing have one. He has a history of a business career—and not a glowing history, by any means. If we want to improve our economy by cheating everyone we deal with, including each other—then Trump is the ‘business-savvy’ leader we want—but why would anyone want that? It’s obviously left him so bored and brain-dead that he decided to run for president, like it’s some contest. Give us a break.

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But I’ll tell you what inspires this venom in me—Trump is the whole Republican party, writ large. All their ingrown, paranoid policies point to one end—and Trump has unzipped their fly and is waving it around like the village idiot. They don’t like being exposed this way—especially by a narcissist who doesn’t appreciate how much damage he’s doing to their decades of careful rationalizing over the same stupidities. He destroyed the fifteen other candidates by ignoring the niceties, the pretensions that must go along with public support for wrongheadedness—he took their complicated stupid, and did them one better, with just plain stupid.

So my frustration is doubled by the fact that, once we’ve dealt with Trump, we still have to go back and deal with the GOP—hopefully without forgetting that their base is comprised of people who like the cut of Trump’s jib—and that the GOP curated them to be that way. The most malleable and knowledge-adverse Americans have a champion in the GOP—and Trump is the king of the knowledge-adverse. But your brother and I can vote differently and still remain friends—hell, I know one guy who thinks the earth is flat—that’s his business. Why should I judge him?

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Political Work-Out   (2016Aug22)


Monday, August 22, 2016                                       1:47 PM

Now that the ‘ill wind’ of the GOP has bloviated sufficient extremism to fill a Gag Reel of non-presidential character, or lacking character of any sort, really, we might be deluded into sitting back and breathing a sigh of relief—but that would be a mistake. Trump sprang from the mulch he grew out of—the GOP itself is the same cold-blooded, empty-spirited anti-Americanism that Trump is—he only ‘let it all hang out’, rather than the GOP’s normal tactic of ‘teaching the controversy’, or as I like to call it, hyper-bullshitting.

Vainly trying to find rationales for the worst side of people—exclusion, xenophobia, isolationism, and heedless greed—the GOP has played Devil’s Advocate long enough for us to drop the ‘Advocate’ and call them by their true name. Paying taxes for the good of the common welfare is no sin. Welcoming those who thirst for a better way of life is no crime. Insisting that the least of us get the same rights and respect as the rest of us is not faintness of heart—neither is being unable to succeed, through no fault of one’s own.

They reach into our darkest desires and fears—they tell us to blame and to suspect—they take advantage of our desperation, dangling false promises in our view. The GOP are the orcs to the Democrat’s elvish. How anyone can fall for their nonsensical prating eludes me—it is an abandonment of reason and judgment that I would not think most people capable of—yet it deludes a good half of all Americans.

I would have thought the ‘whoops’ war, and the cratered economy, would have woken up voters to the glaring truth. Failing that, one would hope people noticed the Congress they elected has devoted the last eight years to neglecting the people –with an iron resolve usually reserved for doing something productive. And if all that wasn’t enough, you have the specter of Trump—the high prince of unreason—leading them into a tomorrow full of open, blatant hate and fury.

If you vote for any GOP candidate this election, Trump or otherwise, I wash my hands of you as an American—I don’t know where the hell you came from, but you can go on back now. Just kidding. That’s what the ignorant tend to shout—‘Go back where you came from’—even though they shout it at their neighbors, hence their ignorance. I get it, though—if I blame someone else for my problems, then it feels good to shout at them to go away.

I’m sick and tired of this election—I’ve always seen Hillary as the obvious choice; I’ve always viewed Trump as a nothing with an ego; and the longer this circus drags on, the more ludicrous the coverage becomes. But I’m angry at the glacial time-frame of political change—our lives change overnight, and have done for a long time.

Our politics have got to become more pragmatic—we have to talk about grown-up stuff and shunt aside the childish whinings of those who want to turn back the clock (but only in their favor). We have to demand transparency from government, we have to start expecting results, and we have to start voting for people who hold themselves accountable—because we sure can’t do it, after we elect them. With all the work that needs to be done, I really don’t want to hear any more bon mots from the Donald. I don’t want to hear people give Hillary any more crap—you try running the effing State Department—or help run a global charitable foundation.

I don’t suppose it occurred to any journalistic geniuses to research what, if anything, the Clinton Foundation has done—that story doesn’t grab clicks, I guess. But as a viewer, I wouldn’t mind hearing about it—even if it was just boring stuff about trying to make poor people’s lives better. But no, better we stick with vague suppositions about financial hanky-panky—that makes a better news chyron. But at all costs, please don’t inject anything other than the presidential race—that would imply that it isn’t the only thing that matters to everyone. Where would that leave your ratings?

The entire state of Louisiana got flooded and sixteen people died—that’s a tragedy—not to mention tens of thousands of homes destroyed, or at least their contents and first floors—nearly the same thing. But 1,245 victims died in Katrina, 233 deaths were attributed to Hurricane Sandy—much smaller disaster areas—that makes 16 a pretty small number, President Obama—go on with your golf game until your scheduled Tuesday visit. It isn’t the presidential presence that makes the difference—it’s the preparedness and the organization of the relief effort—and Louisiana gets a gold star. The Katrina disaster was an education as well as a tragedy.

I found it amusing these last two weeks that many news shows, especially the NBC network family, were able to suspend their laser-focus on the presidential race to watch the Rio Olympics in awesome detail. But then it was right back to all politics all the time. Would that all the news shows would have the integrity to continue to report on the rest of the country, and the world, and still find time for Trump and the stupid things he says. Perhaps Hillary will be caught on tape, hiccupping during a speech—think of the infinite attacks springing to mind among the Trump campaign staff. But you journalists have minds too—maybe you can find other things to report besides Trump’s latest hiccup-gate comment.

Avoiding the Void (2016Aug21)


 

Sunday, August 21, 2016                                         11:20 AM

Only 80 or so days until our national mental-health referendum. I expect we’ll pass it with flying colors (knock wood) and then we can turn to Europe and the rest of the world and say, “Sorry if we scared you. That’s free speech—waddaya gonna do?” There are several countries with dictators who strut about and make stupid decisions—and don’t even bother to make up believable propaganda to excuse their neglect, their excesses, and their violence. But I think the citizens of those countries, though used to such blatant bullshit, would have been crestfallen to witness proof that the United States of America was no different from any other tin-pot dictatorship.

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The USA has been a symbolic haven for many people of the world who never reach our shores—it is a dream they have. Those of us who live the American Dream may well envy them their perfect dream of a land of liberty. Would that the reality met their bar—but America is still an experiment in living—a work in progress. Our growth, our reaching for perfection, is less obvious—after 200+ years, we’ve gotten sedentary in some of our ways—and the lure of conservatism grows with every new blessing we stand to lose through the gamble of progressivism.

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But the struggle goes on. America is a work in progress. If you think about it, irresistible change over time makes that a truism for all nations—whether they countenance the fact or not, the world’s sovereignties should all have some mechanism by which they can deal with the permutations of time, nature, and civilization. Resignation to the impossibility of Perfection should never prevent us from the pursuit of perfection—it is the pursuit that refines our lives, not the perfection.

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A paradox arises from our core strengths—free speech, freedom of religion, democracy, justice, and tolerance. We aspire to those things, not just for ourselves but for everyone in the world. Hence UN, NATO, and our many other treaties and pacts with the nations of the world—we want to hold common cause with any governments that embrace, as we do, democracy, human rights, and equal justice. Thus, while nothing is ‘nailed down’ about America, there is an infrastructure to it. At times confidence men will contort freedom of speech to threaten our ethical infrastructure itself. Because it goes beyond the bounds of freedom, into the realm of nihilism, we call it ‘hate speech’. The con-men counter with a sneer at ‘political correctness’.

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They have an answer for everything—their debate skills are phenomenal. It is in the absence of understanding that they reveal themselves. Their statements chivvy us towards frustration, anger, even violence—but they will always say something that gives them away. They don’t understand or appreciate the grandeur of America’s dream. To them, it is a game to be won—and in their exertion to win the prize, they reveal their cold emptiness of spirit. They carry the seeds of their own downfall within them.

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It is an easy mistake to make. Capitalism is America’s guilty pleasure. Within the bounds of commerce we permit ourselves to seek power and wealth, to be selfish, rude, even cruel. And money is power of a kind. But in embracing Capitalism we conveniently overlook the fact that, in terms of our ideals, America should be one big hippie commune—Capitalism opposes freedom and equality—it rewards the cold-blooded and preys on the careless.

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That is the true focus of the two-party system in America, as I suspect it is in most places, though with less rules to the dance. The Democrats represent the people and the Republicans represent the money and the power. In effect, the Republicans are the bad guys, unless you’re one of them. To hide their shame, their political rhetoric has evolved a series of memes that ‘invert the argument’.

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For instance, their ‘voter-ID’ legislative efforts are a transparent attempt to keep minorities from exercising their right to vote. Their ‘Pro-life’ anti-abortion agenda is likewise transparent pandering to the evangelical right-wing, AKA Christians With a Bad Attitude. Their denial of Climate Change is really just their stupefying genuflection to the big pockets of Big Oil. Their vaunted ‘patriotism’ is just craven sucking-up to the military-industrial complex—the Republicans don’t care if we have a good military, just so long as it’s an expensive and profitable one.

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The Democrats try to enact benefits for vets, and get shut down by the Republicans. The GOP doesn’t want to know that, after they make money off of war, some kids make the final payment in blood—and we owe them for that, at least. But they see that as an unnecessary expense. Some patriots.

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The Republicans fought against the Affordable Care Act—and still fight it, after it’s already been made law—and shown economic benefits. They want ‘smaller government’ because their friends in Big Pharma and the Insurance Industry own these ‘representatives’ of the people. Millions of sick and dying are not their priority—but what is? If Americans have to live in agony or die uncared for, I’m gonna need something more than word-salad as an excuse.

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So America tries to keep the struggle between rich and poor off the streets—we consign them to political teams and watch them play against each other, with democracy as the referee. When some guy waltzes in and says he’s gonna turn everything on its head—he’s not talking about ending political gridlock—he’s talking about trashing our most sacred beliefs and creating a void where the Constitution used to be. That’s already a problem for us—the last thing we need is someone rushing headlong into the void—and taking us with him.

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So Capitalism is as much America as our Constitution is—Democrats prioritize the people, and Republicans will say, ‘The business of America is business’. The debate between the two parties is serious business—but our media have learned to mine treasure from its drama, so it can be made to look like a circus, especially this latest show. And with Journalism also falling victim to Capitalism, we were in mortal danger of falling for a snake-oil salesman—thank goodness his own words revealed his true nature before the election.

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In My Prime (2016Aug19)


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Friday, August 19, 2016                                           6:21 PM

Once upon a time I supervised thirty employees and ran the computer systems all by myself—I made and spent money like a lord, because times were fat—People thought I was a computer genius, and in that context, I kinda was. Along the way, I had married, we’d had two kids, a dog, three cats, a house, and two cars. We live in a lovely, woodsy neighborhood with a beach on the lake, just north of New York City.

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I worked hard, long hours on the hardware, the software, the supplies, training the people (people didn’t know what to do with a computer back then—and, to be fair, all the computers were different, with different, custom-made programs). I talked to clients and suppliers on the phone. I talked in meetings. I talked to individuals if they had a question or problem. I kept everything going and, on the side, de-bugged programs or wrote new applications. I was often brought in on a big closing as the resident nerd—back then, if you had your own nerd, you could get ahead of the competition using those new ‘computer’ gadgets. I was big stuff—in a small way, for a short time.

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But I had my own corner office, with a beautiful view. I had a nice chair. I was happiest when I was just sitting at my terminal, writing code. That was the easiest part of the job. Dealing with customers and co-workers was never my strong suit. I was younger than a lot of employees, and that could be awkward for both of us.

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On my birthdays, a group of friends and family would join me at a fancy restaurant. We’d eat fancy food and drink pricey wine—it was very sumptuous, not hard to take at all. Eventually, we’d toast to my birthday and everybody would say, “You are the lucky one!” It was said half-joking, ironically, because there wasn’t anything too special about me, but I was undeniably enjoying a lucky life—and it was a night to celebrate.

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But I believe it. I said it to someone just recently. They looked surprised. They said, “You? You’re the lucky one?”, incredulously.

I said, “Yeah. I should have died ten different ways by now but I’m still breathing. I should be a grouchy misanthrope hiding in a solitary cave somewhere but (and here I looked at my wife) I live in this wonderful place with wonderful people. I have everything I want and nothing I don’t.” Now, that may be a slight exaggeration, but not much of one, not in any way that really matters.

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I do believe it. There are so many ways in which the twists and turns of fate could have put me up against it, but that has never happened. Fears arise, troubles come, but with time they all fade, and a better day dawns—every time. If that’s not lucky, I don’t know what is.

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And yet it isn’t much different from your life, is it, dear reader? We are all tremendously lucky to be waking up to this day, eating food, being with others, cruising around, reading books, whatever you like doing. It’s good, right? I mean, it could get worse. That would suck. That would be bad luck. But meanwhile we swim in a stream of good luck, barely noticing the miraculous moments go by. I am the lucky one. Say it with me.

No, You’re Still Not Getting It (2016Aug19)


Friday, August 19, 2016                                           8:48 AM

Trump has expressed regret for ‘being too honest’ while still happy ‘to make the powerful uncomfortable’. You’re still not getting it, Don. Belligerence is an ugly thing—most people who make a habit of it find themselves without many friends—only rich people get to be belligerent, towards the people they work with, because they pay. And even then, some bosses feel shame for being belligerent and try to curb themselves—only the entitled and self-absorbed glory in it the way you do.

Yeah, Don—we billionaires have to ‘fight the powerful’—you and me, Don. (Oh wait—I’m no billionaire.) And when we are ‘too honest’ about ourselves, we often have to walk it back—I’m sure you do regret that. It must be hard, trying to apologize, when you’ve never done it before, don’t know how to apologize, don’t truly understand what it is that offended everyone to begin with, and don’t actually feel any sincere contrition.

Yes, Don—this whole political discourse thing is new to you—as is public service, as is the presidency. But you’ve still got eighty-one days left to learn all about it and prove yourself more prepared than a life-long public servant. Let me help. Lesson one: America is not a business and the president is not the boss of America. Lesson two: Our military protects us all at the risk of their own lives and safety—we owe them gratitude and respect—even the ones who get caught—even the mothers of the ones who die with valor and glory.

Lesson three is rather important, so pay attention: Inclusion and tolerance are watchwords of the American culture. Even those of us who are not threatened by white supremacists should recognize that they are anti-American. Even Christians must recognize that Islam is a peaceful religion, even when terrorists claim allegiance to an extremist sect of Islam. You do not paint an entire religion with their brush—you recognize that their violence and destruction are aimed as much at moderate Muslims as at America. After all, of all the people the terrorists kill, Muslims are by far the greatest in number.

Lesson four is a sad one: No one can decide, after becoming a senior citizen, that it’s time to give ‘ruling the world’ a try. A business person never hires someone without experience—why would the American public vote for a President without the first clue about politics, governance, or public service? You say you’ve never had to campaign before—and that’s why you say such stupid things—well, imagine you became president—imagine what stupid things you might say or do. You’ll be having a great learning experience, while the rest of us are watching the country go to hell. I don’t think so.

Lesson five is a classic from Lincoln himself: “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time —but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” You’ve got your base—they cheer for you at your rallies—you’ve fooled some of the people. But, thank god, not nearly enough of us. This latest attempt to put on a humility you’re incapable of feeling—that will only work on the people who haven’t paid attention to you for the last year.

If it weren’t for the rest of the country, I’d gladly watch you get inaugurated, Don. You have never had a clear picture of what the presidency is, just as you have no understanding of the ethical infrastructure of the American spirit. At the end of four years you’d be huddled in a corner with a blank stare and a little drool coming out of your mouth. The presidency isn’t power, you asshole, it’s a responsibility—responsibility you can’t handle or even comprehend. Go back to bullying people with your bags of bucks—you can’t handle public service—you don’t even know what it is.

Go back to business, Don—and take the white-supremacist, the Putin mole, and the spokes-goblin with you. Foxnews is starting to back away from the real crazies—now’s your chance—start a rival media empire and get your base to pay instead of vote—that’s much more your style. Let’s face it, you never had a chance, anyway. Bush-43 already showed us what happens when we elect a moron. That was bad enough, without electing the moronic and the morally bankrupt.