It's been a while since I've posted. The holidays, travel, a nasty cold, exhaustion, among other things, have kept me quiet. But here we are, as I'm about to fall asleep one last time under President Barack Obama. I just read this inspiring article on Slate, and felt compelled to post on it before lying down to sleep. 

I've wrestled ethically with this question, as to whether or not the Congressional democrats who are boycotting the inauguration are behaving like infants. God knows the legion of Trump supporters on Facebook and in the media (isn't it funny how Trump demonizes 'the media', when you look at all the pro-Trump articles on Realclearpolitics?) are suggesting as much. 'Suck it up, buttercup' seems to be the mantra. 'I didn't like everything Obama did either, but I respected him as my president' - that's another good one. 

The Slate piece brought it all flooding out of me, what a massive dose of insanely idiotic and amnesiac nonsense that is. The man about to take the oath is the same man who for five long years and beyond questioned the legitimacy of the outgoing president. Who ran the absolute ugliest campaign of my lifetime, and who, to this day, has not taken even a single step toward undoing the hateful rhetoric that he spouted on a daily basis on the campaign trail. The Congressional Republicans were the ones who shouted 'You lie' as Obama addressed Congress and the nation. And who implemented obstruction as an explicit strategy to try to regain power. Dick Cheney was the former VP who continued to trash Obama from the moment he left office (violating a presidential norm that Rick Santorum just yesterday tried to say that Obama should adhere to). John Boehner was the man who shouted 'Hell No!' to President Obama in a public address. Rush Limbaugh was the man who mocked Obama's tenacity when he gave the order to go after Bin Laden. Congressional Republicans were the ones who shut down the government for weeks when the democrats refused to defund the ACA. And, oh yes, Senate Republicans were the ones who stole, yes, STOLE, a Supreme Court nominee from Obama. The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that the Republican party demands decency and respect for the institutions when they are in power, but when they're not, the gloves are off. 
 
 
Yesterday I went with my daughter on the David Foster Wallace tour through Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. We stopped at his home, St. Matthew's Episcopalian Church, the Illinois State University campus where he taught, Babbit's books, and Monical's Pizza. Thank you to my daughter Hayley for indulging your old man's fan-worship, and thank you to the kind folks in the departments of English and Philosophy at Illinois State University, for their generosity and hospitality! 
 
 
"So decide now that you are worthy of living as a full-grown man who is making progress, and make everything that seems best be a law that you cannot go against. And if you meet with any hardship or anything pleasant or reputable or disreputable, then remember that the contest is now and the Olympic games are now and you cannot put things off any more and that your progress is made or destroyed by a single day or a single action." 
--Epictetus, 1st - 2nd Century CE Stoic Philosopher, from the Encheiridion
 
 
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Katha Pollitt at The Nation has written a moving piece about the imminent departure of Obama. I was one of the people on the front lines during Obama's first presidential run in 2008 - knocking on doors, getting out the vote, etc. In 2009, I again beat the street, in an effort to drum up support for health care reform, working the corners outside Lafayette, Indiana's annual Jazz/Blues festival (I wasn't allowed inside the gates of the festival) in an effort to get petitions signed. And like many of the people initially inspired by Obama, I was quickly disillusioned within the first years of his presidency, as I watched Obama repeatedly extend his hand across the aisle to a bunch of petulant assholes who decided long before he arrived in D.C. that they were going to greet him with a giant middle finger. 


 
 
Four years, seven committees, and millions of dollars later, the Republican Benghazi witch hunt of Hillary 'inexplicably' shuts down overnight. 

Of course, it's worth noting that, despite this inquiry being the longest congressional inquiry of any single American event in history - and that's taking into account the Kennedy assassination, for Christ's sake - the committee was unable to find anything at all worth pursuing. But let's be honest, the inquiry helped accomplish exactly what it was supposed to accomplish. Republicans launched this inquiry during the 2012 election, in the hopes that the mere appearance of impropriety would weaken Obama's chances at reelection, (as when Romney was smacked down by Candy Crowley for falsely saying that Obama had refused to call the Benghazi attack an 'act of terror'). But when that didn't work, they escalated and prolonged the attacks to focus on Obama's likely successor, Hillary Clinton. And even after the committee officially wrapped up its work in July, it continued to seek out further information until now. I wonder if they'd be closing down if Hillary had won. I suppose those four dead Americans don't matter so much anymore, now that the real mission of the Benghazi committee has been accomplished. 

The disgusting irony, of course, is that these are the same people who are now saying Americans should just 'get over' the fact that Russia meddled in the American electoral process, in an effort to sway the election in favor of Donald Trump. No special subcommittees needed; nothing to see here. 
 
 
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Today marks the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death, and this day more saliently and painfully echoes many others before it. I could not enumerate the times that I have felt intensely her absence since she passed – awakening from a dream of her, wanting to share a humorous story about my children, wishing to hear her laugh. I emerge from an oneiric conversation, or make a mental note to tell her something the next time she calls, and suddenly, I am once more brought face to face with the reality of her absence. Her death once again washes over me.

Death, particularly of someone as fundamental to one’s identity as a mother, constitutes a tremendous paradox, and plays a continually paradoxical role in our lives. On the one hand, death is an absence – negation, privation, lack, a nothing. As the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus said, ‘Death… the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and when death is come, we are not. It is nothing then, either to the living or the dead…’ For Epicurus, since ‘bad’ and ‘good’ are decided according to our experiential frame of reference, and since ‘death’ entails the dissolution of our frame of reference, it can be neither good or bad; it is, in the truest sense, a nothing.

Strictly speaking, Epicurus might very well be right. But the tricky part lies in the on the other hand part. Death may be an absence, but it is experienced as the absence of a presence, an absence with a face – spectrally manifesting in our dreams, memories, and expectations. While it might be nothing to the dead, it is a nothing that is felt, experienced, endured, by the living. The living forever abide in the experience of that nothing, in the presence of that absence. We cohabitate with that solitude. In Augustine’s reflections on the loss of his mother in Confessions, he describes ‘a fresh wound wrought through the sudden wrench of that most sweet and dear custom of living together.’ Today, the wound is once more fresh. I miss you, Karen Sue. 


 
 
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Palin Calls Carrier Deal 'Crony Capitalism'

I never in a million years thought I'd hear myself say this, but I agree with Sarah Palin!

AAAAGGHHHH! What is happening to me!!!???

We are indeed entering strange times. 

It is certainly worth noting, and I'm not the first to do so, that with this deal, Trump is reversing course on a campaign promise and showing what his 'support' for the working class really means. All through his campaign, he said he would impose tax penalties on American corporations who move their jobs elsewhere. This move suggests something different, namely, that he is willing to give further tax breaks to corporations who first threaten to move their jobs, on the condition that they don't. That is pro-establishment, pro-corporation politics all day long. 

Couple that with the fact that he's already promising (and, to be honest, has been promising since the early stages of his campaign), that he plans to cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and increase taxes on the poorest, and it's easy to see what sort of middle class 'revolution' we're in for. 

 
 
 
 
Through the course of this presidential election, there was a great deal of discussion in the public sphere about the problem of 'radical Islam,' and in particular, about the left's persistent refusal to refer to violent jihadism as 'radical Islam'. The idea behind this criticism is that the failure to appropriately name a problem amounts to an inability to combat said problem. In one of the Republican primary debates, noted wordsmith and melting-butter-sculpture impersonator Ted Cruz doltishly quipped: "Political correctness is killing people." And one of Donald Trump's favorite go-to critiques of Hillary was that she wouldn't use the words, 'radical Islam,' (long after she, to her discredit, used the term). So let's consider briefly the problem with using the language of 'radical Islam' as a synonym for violent jihadism.