Hiatus

One of the crosses we all have to bear is the cross of politics and family. Politics and friends are manageable. You can choose your friends. Friends can obviously choose to discuss politics or not. Friends can choose to be friends in spite of a difference in politics. Friends can choose not to be friends anymore because of politics. We’ve covered this ground before.

What we can’t do is change our family. We have the option of ghosting family and I know people who have. Personally, I find that to be the nuclear option, but sometimes that is necessary. It would seem counterintuitive to think that families would differ that much on politics, but I think many of you would have the same experience.

My wife is what you might call a classical conservative. She believes strongly in lower taxes, less spending, and the government staying out of our lives. Unlike many current conservatives, these feelings are absolute. They include matters that conservatives traditionally feel and they include matters that progressives traditionally feel.

What does all of this have to do with anything? Well, thankfully she never bought into the Trump hype. She knew what he was before he even entered politics. He has only been telling us for the pasty forty years. So, our house has been fine for the past five years. We are fundamentally agree on most major issues.

I can’t say the same thing for her parents. They have been Trump supporters the whole time. We are going to visit them this next week for Thanksgiving. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I and my daughter have been instructed not to mention politics on the trip. It’s the same standing order every time we go to visit them.

What’s funny is that I have never mentioned politics before when visiting them. Sometimes they bring it up. I’ve learned that Trump is a brilliant businessman and an economic genius. I’ve learned that Democrats are morally bankrupt. As you might imagine, all of this was news to me.

So, this will be my last post for awhile. It will be good to take a break from politics and hopefully by the time we get back we will have better news on the post-election front.

Bracing for a shutdown

Experts said this would happen. They said the number of infections and deaths would increase when it got colder. They said the winter season would be brutal. Over the summer, the numbers began to stablize and we began to think we were in the clear. Now, we have all kinds of important decisions before us personally, locally, and nationally.

Do we travel for Thanksgiving? The CDC has recommended that we don’t. Does it matter if we are traveling by plane or by car? Obviously, traveling by plane is a bad idea, but should we be okay traveling by car? If the gathering is small enough should we be okay? Parts of the problem of leaving decisions up to us is that there are no hard and fast rules.

These things seem to happen in waves. The first wave is the knowledge that large gatherings are null and void. The next waves come around the normal activities that become verbotem. That could be a turkey trot or Black Friday shopping. From there you get the normal Christmas activities that will go by the wayside.

When you go out and about you see the signs of the wreckage of the virus. I went Christmas shopping yesterday and went to the local mall to go to Sur La Table. I wanted to buy some high end cooking supplies for my wife. Imagine my surprise when there was no Sur La Table. They apparently closed in September. It shows you how often I go to the mall.

I bring all this up because it has been suggested that we will have to shut down for another four to six weeks. A number of businesses have already gone under. Maybe they would have anyway. Businesses like the Mens Warehouse and Joseph A. Bank probably weren’t going to make it that long anyway. Fewer and fewer people are dressing up for work. The same is happening for companies like Ann Taylor and Talbot’s.

The restaurants that have shut down around town may have been on shaky ground anyway. I was thinking of the Steak and Shake in town. I never saw a lot of people there even when times were normal. You probably have those restaurants in your area too. So, maybe this was a way of exfoliating the dead skin of the economy.

Yet, how many businesses barely made it? What will happen if we shut down again? How many businesses will shut down permeanently if we are forced to shut down again? Unfortunately, these are questions that don’t have easy answers. They certainly don’t have answers we want to hear.

This is the hard, cold reality of mismanaging the pandemic. We just passed the 250,000 death toll, but it might be the economic toll that ends up being even more long lasting. If we continue as we have we could reach the 2000 deaths per day plateau or even worse. Imagine if it approaches 3000. The pressure to shut down will be enormous.

We are focused on a political theater these days and the absurd seems to gain more traction than the everyday and mundane. Consider this. We can’t seem to get any firm direction on what to do in schools. We can’t get firm direction on whether to open or close restaurants and bars. We can’t get firm direction on whether to fully mandate masks. We get mixed messaging from all forms of government, media, and opinion leaders.

If we could get a focused message we might not have to shut down. If we could get a focused message we could know whether we can travel and what those restrictions might be. We can know what activities are safe and which ones aren’t. Maybe we could get by without any further permeanent damage. That was the ultimate failure here and without coordination with the new administration it will be the lasting legacy of these past four years.

The nightmare scenario

When I was a kid, I remember going over to a family friend’s house to watch the UH Cougars play North Carolina State in the NCAA Championship game. The Cougars had two future Hall of Famers on their team and were full of All-American types. The N.C. State squad had a bunch of guys no one remembers nearly 40 years later.

As a ten year old, I had no idea of the strategy that Jim Valvano was using. He slowed everything down and constantly fouled. UH frequently missed their free throws and so the game remained close. All they needed was one broken play at the right time and they became national champions.

The Trump legal team is one for 32 in their legal challenges. They’ve made motions, withdrawn motions, and resubmitted motions in an attempt to run out the clock. This strategy came into more focus after it was revealed that Donald Trump himself called two members of the county board in Michigan personally after they had voted to certify the election in their county. Of course, no one knows exactly what was said, but the two wanted to take their votes back after that conversation.

Lindsay Graham called the secretary of state in Georgia to ask him the same thing. Similar calls have been made to Arizona and Nevada as well. The Giuliani legal super team has been fighting the good fight in Pennsylvania with a record so inept that Rich Kotite would be offended. Apparently, all of these aforementioned public officials have been getting death threats. I’m sure the Trump team has nothing to do with that.

When democracy is not on your side and the law is not on your side you stall. That’s what this is all about. If the votes don’t go their way then they cry fraud. If they can’t produce evidence of fraud then they stall through any means necessary. If the states can’t certify the elections then the legislatures (most of whom are GOP dominated) release their own electors. If that doesn’t work they hope it gets thrown to the House of Representatives to vote by state. Even though the Democrats control the House, more state delegations are dominated by the GOP. If that doesn’t work, he has a 6-3 Supreme Court on his side.

It’s staggering when you add it all up. He is trying to subvert the will of the people and the laws on the books to overturn an election. This is a coup. There might not be a single shot or a single drop of blood shed, but it is still a coup and it staggering the imagination how many fail safes he would manage to surpass to get this done.

Joe Biden: 51.1%– 79.7 million

Donald Trump: 47.2%– 73.7 million

That’s four percentage points and six million votes (give or take). Elections are not basketball games. They aren’t football games. Yet, even if they were you have never heard of a team winning a game as clearly as Biden has won and somehow being declared the loser. We all have seen what we have seen. We know the score here.

Like N.C. State, the Trump team is hoping you will be lured into a false sense of security. Sure, Rudy looks stupid with his hair dye running down his face. Sure, he sounds stupid uttering lines from My Cousin Vinny out of court and sounding like a deranged lunatic in court. Sure, the Fox talking heads aren’t fooling anyone when they talk about how brilliant Rudy is. He is the rodeo clown. The rodeo clown distracts the bull long enough for the cowboy to escape to safety. He can do that with hair dye, conspiracy theories, or misreading lines from a Hollywood hit from the old days. Nothing about it is brilliant unless we take our eye off the ball.

Somewhere along the way the Republicans stopped believing in democracy. If you are a Republican and you aren’t speaking out against this then you belong in the same jail cell as Trump. I once thought we could get by and not prosecute members of this administration, but I’m done. Throw them all in jail and throw away the key. They have committed treason and that is the nicest possible thing I can say about them.

The Final Frontier

I thought we’d go into a different direction today. As what usually happens, I figured we would end up in the same place, but that’s what usually happens these days. First, a little history lesson. It seems we have already determined that no one can own space. Shocking. The days of conquistadors planting their flag in foreign lands ended before it even began. The nations formed a Space Treaty in 1967 to establish this point.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in outer space, prohibits military activities on celestial bodies, and details legally binding rules governing the peaceful exploration and use of space.

Now, what does this have to do with the price of whiskey in Ireland? Well, it dovetails into a few fine points. However, we start with our mission in space in the first place. Since NASA retired the shuttle, the space program has been more or less directionless. There were some generalized goals, but literally no vehicle to get there.

SpaceX has made rapid progress and just completed it’s first successful manned flight to the International Space Station. This is a huge deal for a couple of reasons. Obviously, it’s the first step in whatever comes next, but it also means that we don’t have to rely on the Russians anymore. They had been charging us 70 million round trip per astronaut. I’m not sure what their policy was on baggage.

NASA has been doing exciting things independent of manned space flight. They have working rovers on Mars that have taken really cool pictures and made a lot of interesting discoveries. Similar missions have commenced for Venus and some of the moons for Jupiter and Saturn. Unfortunately, the head of the Russian space agency has claimed Venus for themselves. It belongs to Russia. They were the first to explore its surface and I guess they planted their flag. Good for them.

Except they can’t do that. I referenced the treaty above. Space doesn’t belong to anyone exclusively. You can’t lick the surface and call dibs. Of course, the president has responded with Space Force. It is the sixth major branch of the military. Except, according to that treaty we can’t do that either. At least, we can’t legally weaponize space.

This matters for two very important and different reasons. First, what we do next in space is not exactly clear. One of the great things about discovery is that there are no practical objectives immediately in mind. There is no way to colonize Venus as it stands now. The initial probes that went could not even last one hour on the surface. Subsequent probes fared a little better, but the gases and temperatures make human exploration next to impossible.

Mars presents fewer grave challenges, but a long-term direct objective is not yet known. Some experts anticipate a manned Mars mission taking three years with two of them being for travel to and fro. Obviously, if the planet is uninhabitable as it currently sits then there is no current practical reason to do it.

That’s the beauty of discovery. We have pioneered so many technologies, medicines, and other inventions from our exploration of space the past 60 years. These are things we couldn’t have conceived when NASA first began. So, there is no telling what may come out of exploration of other planets or colonizing the moon. You can’t always boil something down to the immediately practical.

The second point is a more earthy geopolitical point. The statements by the head of the Russian space agency and the adoption of Space Force are proof of the assault on the rule of law. The Russians obviously don’t respect it in this instance and we could rattle off numerous other instances where that has been the case as well.

When you are deciding who to cast your lot with as a nation there are some basic questions to answer. The main question concerns the rule of law. Does that particular country or particular leader adhere to past treaties, laws, and agreements? In the case of Russia and North Korea the answer would clearly be no and that is the reason why most U.S. presidents have considered them adversaries instead of allies.

The rule of law grounds us. Most people want those boundaries in their life. We want to know what we can do and what we can’t do. We want to know that no one can turn the moon into a Death Star. We want to know that no one can legally weaponize satellites. We want to know that the first people to land on Mars can’t legally plant their flag and call it theirs’s.

So, while the issue of space and space exploration might be low on the totem pole for most Americans, the issues surrounding it begin to ring a familiar theme we’ve seen woven into the fabric of our daily lives. Do we respect the rule of law or not? Are we governed by rules and agreements or not? Is there anything we as humans can all agree on or not? I guess we will find out either here or in another world.

Where should we go from here?

As the days move forward we get closer and closer to everyone finally acknowledging the obvious. States certify the results of the election one by one and eventually the electors will cast their ballots in December. Once that happens it becomes a matter of time. Joe Biden will go from filling out his staff and cabinet to making decisions on policy goals and legacy type decisions.

Perhaps the number one legacy decision to make is what to do about the previous administration. We’ve faced this problem a couple of times before. The Obama administration had to decide whether to prosecute members of the Bush administration all the way to the top and the Ford administration had to do the same with the Nixon administration. They largely neglected to do so. Will Biden follow suit?

He seems to be treading lightly for now. Of course, a part of that could be because he hasn’t officially been named the president elect yet. It’s also because the race was relatively close and hotly contested. He also might not want to tip his hand. This decision has three major considerations. I’ll order them by which one is most important long-term.

Long-term historical ramifications

This cuts both ways. If we consider both the Nixon and Bush cases we notice how different each situation is. The Nixon White House broke the law to maintain power and control and the cover up was considerably worse than the actual crime. In the case of Bush, they may have broken the law to follow policy goals. Those are two entirely different scenarios.

The problem with history is that it is never as simple as it seems. On the one hand, going through with prosecution tells everyone that no one is above the law. On the other hand, it sends a definite signal that politics can be fought everywhere including the court room. Of course, we will get to that one in a second.

The question is whether what Trump and his underlings have done is beyond the scope of normal politics. Was it done to forward a policy objective that you simply disagree with? I’d say in the case of Trump it was done to feather the cap of Trump and his kids. Of course, that’s just my opinion. Courts of law need evidence and justice should always be metered out based on what the actual evidence is and not what we think it might be.

Are we setting a precedent?

This is what I like to call the criminalization of politics. You have to expect that your party will find itself in this same situation someday. Are you comfortable with the opposing party applying the same standard to your party? What standard are we applying? These are all questions to ask before moving forward.

Both political parties have resisted doing this because the wheels of government could very well grind to a halt. Of course, I would be remiss to point out that GOP administrations have had many more indictments and actual jail sentences since the Nixon administration than Democratic ones. It’s not even close. There have been three of each not counting Ford. As you might imagine, the Trump administration is number one with a bullet.

Are we intelligent enough and intellectually honest enough to understand the standard and apply it consistently? If we decide that policy disagreements are off-limits but abuse of power and attacks on democracy are fair game then you could definitely make a go of it. My fear is that we don’t see a whole lot of intellectual honesty these days, so you’d be inviting all kinds of prosecutions in the future.

What does the public want?

This one also cuts both ways. There are some people that voted for Biden because they wanted a return to normalcy and for the fires of partisan bickering to die down. Beginning a series of prosecutions of Trump and his closest advisors will not do that. It could do quite the opposite. It likely will get the MAGA crowd stirred up and understandably so.

So, prosecutions might anger a segment of those that voted for you. On the flip side, not holding them accountable would anger a larger segment of voters. Some people voted Democratic in 2018 and 2020 for the expressed purpose of holding the GOP accountable for their actions. Failing to act might be worse than acting in terms of public opinion.

At the end of the day, you will never please everyone. You might not even please the majority. I put those other two considerations first because ultimately you are put in charge because people respect your judgment. You do what you think is right because the history books will always judge you regardless of what public opinion was at the time.

It’s not a simple cut and dried decision. There are points for and against going for the Trumps in court. The moment seeing them in orange jumpsuits would be a huge cathartic moment for many in the country. The pain to get there and the fallout from it might not be worth it. Then again, it just might be. I wish the president-elect and incoming attorney general the best as they make up their minds.

What’s the real cost?

A lot has been said about President Trump’s reluctance to concede the election. It’s certainly dominated my posts over the last couple of weeks and it has dominated the news cycle. However, it is fair to ask what it matters at this point. Even many Trump insiders admit there is no real path to 270 electoral votes for him even if all of his legal challenges were upheld. Currently, he is batting 1 for 25 in court There is no sport where a four percent success rate would get you anywhere.

So, why does it matter? Joe Biden is going to be the president on January 20th. There is nothing Trump can legally do to stop that and in order to stop it illegally he would need the support for the armed forces. Based on exit polls I don’t think he’s getting that either. So again, what is the real cost here?

Moderna and Pfizer are both reporting that they have vaccines ready that are more than 90 percent effective. However, as most people know, it is a far cry to go from one effective vaccine (or two) to over 300 million doses in the United States alone. The Pfizer vaccine is a partnership with Germany and that brings with it even more challenges.

In other words, even if we assume the vaccine is good enough as it stands, it will take months to ramp up the production enough to distribute it to the general public. What’s the plan? Ah, now therein lies the rub. In every single other instance in United States history, the outgoing administration would coordinate with the incoming administration or they would allow them direct access to the agencies that would be in charge of said distribution.

Heather Cox Richardson writes a nice little daily blog that’s more popular than mine, but is fairly similar in tone. She is reporting that Iran has a lot more enriched uranium than it would have had had we not dropped out of the Iran deal. Normally, an outgoing administration wouldn’t act without consulting the incoming administration. At least they wouldn’t make any major strategic shifts unless they absolutely had to. Yet. Trump is considering military conflict.

Normally, we would have an apparatus in place to combat that. You would have the defense secretary, people in the national security agency, and the Pentagon that would push back and resist any such action. Unfortunately, many of those folks have either resigned or were fired by Trump. He inserted loyalists in their place. Since there is only two months left he can call them “acting” and bypass the confirmation crisis.

He made the changes in the defense department and Pentagon primarily so he could pull most of our troops out of Afghanistan. His plan is to leave a minimal force of 2500 in the country. The people he fired and other experts believe this will effectively give the country and region back to the Taliban. Of course, once you pull them out it is a lot harder to safely bring any troops back. You also saddle the next president with the label of someone that sent in more troops.

This is the big stuff. The small stuff is that the incoming administration usually has an operating budget and facilities to work out of. They get to participate in the daily briefs. These three key things have also been kept from Biden. Fortunately, he didn’t get caught off guard. He managed to rat hole enough money to work around it. Harris is still on the Foreign Relations committee in the Senate. So, they have money and some information to work with.

Still, when you add it all up it will add up to thousands of U.S. lives. The current administration has shown no interest in coordinating anything as it pertains to the virus. A failure in coordination could push back the rollout of the vaccine by a month or two. If we assume 1500 deaths per day that would be 45,000 if the delay is one month and 90,000 if it is two.

This doesn’t mention the safety of the 2500 troops that could be left behind in Afghanistan or the lives of would be servicemen and women involved in a potential action in Iran. All of this would ostensibly be done to put the Biden administration behind the eight ball to make them look bad. These are real American lives we are talking about here.

So, if someone tries to tell you that this is all political theatre and the musings of the president don’t matter at this point, please keep this in mind. Keep in mind what Congressional Republicans are doing and saying as well. Keep the various talking heads in mind. Anyone pushing ahead the idea that the election is in doubt and that the administration shouldn’t work with the incoming administration will have blood on their hands. Don’t let them forget it.

The Allegory of a Grifter

When I was in high school, I played in the district golf tournament against another player from our rival school. It was probably one of the more bizarre experiences of my life. I was a decent golfer in high school depending on who you ask. However, I never played well in tournaments and this experience is probably one reason why.

This player dribbled it about ten feet off the tie. Then he dribbled his second shot about another twenty feet. He followed that up with hooking it out of bounds (stroke penalty and you have to replay it from the spot) he proceeded to dribble it a few more times up the fairway. He chipped on and tw0 putted for what I counted as a ten.

I asked him what he got and he said a five. We proceeded to “negotiate” on his score until we settled on an eight. It went this way for the next seventeen holes. Every hole was a negotiation. I can’t remember his exact final score, but I think the card finally ended up saying 132. I could be off a few strokes here and there. Needless to say, my score was nowhere near that bad.

However, it wasn’t one of my better rounds. Those that play golf know that you usually play better with people that are close to your ability. It gives you something to shoot for, but it also doesn’t drain on you having to wait several minutes for them to figure out what in the hell they are doing. Waiting wreaks all kinds of havoc with your concentration and rhythm. When you add in the added benefit of “negotiation” you can see how it might make for an unpleasant afternoon.

The upshot is that I technically won. I beat him by at least 40 strokes that day according to what the cards said and probably closer to 50 or 60 if we went according to reality. The strategy was breathtaking. Instead of shaving a stroke here or there he went for several at a time. You finally end up giving him a stroke or two per hole because the whole experience is just too exhausting.

All reports are that the president plays golf the same way. He technically hovers in the mid 70s, but if you took away the mulligans, foot wedges, blatant misdirection, and arithmetic issues he probably would settle somewhere in the 80s. According to sources, on one occasion he hit it in the water and then told his playing partners that one of their balls on the green was actually his. He browbeat them until they admitted that they must have been mistaken when they clearly saw their own ball going on the green.

This whole affair has been an allegory for the past fifty years of his life and the last five years of our lives. He cheats and lies in such blatant ways and so often that you spend so much of your time combatting those lies. You spend so much time correcting them. You spend so much time trying to convince your friends and family of the obvious lies.

You are able to correct the record a majority of the time, but the tsunami of crap is so pervasive that you can’t get to all of it. Some of it sneaks through. Some of the lies sneak through. Some of the blatant crimes sneak through. The mendacity and overt avarice sneaks through. Meanwhile, you’ve now spent all of your time debunking and fact checking. You’re exhausted and you’ve gotten nothing done.

Maybe I would have shot five strokes better had I not had to deal with the garbage I dealt with that day. Maybe it wouldn’t have been a lick better. What I do know is that I wouldn’t have been as miserable. I played in other tournaments with players from the same school that was a blast. Golf doesn’t have to be a sport where you scratch and claw to conceal every stroke. It’s usually a competition with yourself to see how good you can do.

Most sports are actually that way. You don’t see marathon runners tripping each other near the finish line or gymnasts tackle their opponents as the vault off the balance beam. Unless you’re a Harding you don’t whack the other figure skater in the knee. You do the best you can and feel good or bad based on your own performance and not as it compares to anyone else.

Politics used to be much the same way. Those in the game certainly always play it rougher than those watching from afar. Nobody lets the other side win without doing everything legally to stop it. Yet, there’s the rub. In every sport there are rules and the best players know how to win within those rules. Yet, the grifter in chief has figured out a way around that.

He’s done it nearly his whole life. He doesn’t follow any of the rules and waits for you to stop him. He knows full well that you will overlook something or be too exhausted to fight him on every flank. That gives him a tiny advantage. The sad thing is that he’s still lost most of them time. He’s just so wrapped up in the sport of the grift that he hasn’t realized it. Like my one time opponent, he managed to shave strokes off his score, but he still lost by a ton. Maybe in a couple of months we can settle into a new game where we won’t have to constantly be on the look out for cheating.

A Paradox

The president and his minions seem pretty invested in the idea that the election was stolen. They are filing lawsuits, making public comments, and ostensibly raising money to fuel their legal battles. Yet, the behavior of the president belies this belief and certainly flies in the face of this investment.

I’ve never been president, but there are two things I know. First, if I believed I were the rightful president after a fraudulent election I would be summoning all of my forces and all of my men to fight this. I wouldn’t rest until we found the evidence needed to get everything overturned. After all, we are on a time crunch here. The electors for the electoral college vote in mid December.

The second thing I know is that I would govern. If I felt I were the rightful leader of the country then I would act like I was the leader of the country. I’d propose bold new iniatives that normally would take weeks or months to complete because I would firmly believe that I have weeks and months to complete them. You project confidence whenever you can.

Except, the president is doing neither of those things. He has virtually cancelled his public schedule. He hasn’t called any emergency meetings or tapped any experts to help with this endeavor. On the Saturday the election was called (which was a foregone conclusion) he was playing golf. What did he do the next day when he knew what had happened? He played more golf.

Yesterday, thousands of MAGA folks descended on Washington D.C. to protest the election results. He was there. Did he speak to inspire the crowd? Of course not. He went to play more golf. I love golf. I was on the golf team in high school. I used to play in tournaments in the summer. Since I left high school, I don’t think there has been any period where I have played as much golf as the president. I admire his dedication to the sport, but I’d imagine there are more productive things he could do with his time.

Of course, this dovetails into the second plank of the paradox. He is doing nothing in terms of governing right now. He isn’t attending daily briefs. He hasn’t been to a virus taskforce meeting in months. He has ignored those briefs as well. The virus rages out of control and he doesn’t care. Congress is out of session, so his work is done.

Those that buy into this conspiracy can’t explain this. They can’t explain why the president has scored a goose egg on his legal challenges so far. They can’t explain why those legal challenges have been so hastily put forth that judges have literally laughed them out of court. They can’t explain how networks like Fox put on witnesses with key evidence that have no evidence at all.

They can’t explain why someone like Dan Patrick offers a million dollars to anyone that has evidence of fraud. Wouldn’t you already have evidence of it? Why would you need to offer a huge reward? The fact that he did this on the heels of a Pennsylvania postal worker that was paid to manufacture evidence is particularly telling. That postal worker was paid nearly 150,000. He didn’t get to keep it of course. He made the “mistake” of telling the truth and admitting that he made it up. What kind of lie would one get for a cool million?

If one is interested in the truth then one vetts those that come forward before throwing them in front of the public. We don’t put someone on the air that seems confused about how long a 24 hour shift is and then reports that people are carrying stuff out of the back of vans. She doesn’t know what it was, but why would they carry stuff out of the back of vans?

We don’t hastily call press conferences next to a crematorium and sex shop to say nothing. We don’t send in lawyers to say that it wasn’t fair only to admit that it was fair. Obviously, when you raise money for a legal defense fund you’d expect that money to actually go to the legal defense fund.

Those peddling the fraud story on behalf of the president are the most pathetic of all. You see them on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Heck, some of them are even journalists or former journalists. It’s truly pathetic. There’s never been any evidence, but that hasn’t stopped anyone. What’s their proof? Trump was winning before he wasn’t. The absentee ballots went Biden’s way. Considering how long Trump spent dogging mail in balloting we can’t be surprised with either result. We can’t be surprised that more of those votes went to Biden and we can’t be surprised that his followers would call it fraud.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a famous fallacy that states that since event B follows event A then event A must have caused event B. So, since the president asserted there would be fraud because of all of the mail in ballots then the fact that he lost was caused by the obvious fraud he predicted. That’s all they got. That’s all they will ever have. The fact that the president is acting like he lost is more proof that this is all just a sham.

The price of fiction

“And it’s true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die.” — U2

Politicians and other wise men (and women) are fond of saying that you are entitled to your own opinions, but you aren’t entitled to your own facts. The phrase is so often used it has outlived its usefulness. This is particularly true when those uttering it (I’m looking at you Mike Pence) are living in a fact free environment.

We were told that COVID would go away after November 3rd. It would be like magic. I’m guessing it was because it was a Democratic hoax, but who in the hell can keep with their malarkey these days? Maybe the cold would knock it out. Maybe a vaccine is coming out in two weeks. Oh, that’s right, that’s the new health care plan. Maybe it’s his taxes. I just get so confused.

What isn’t confusing are the COVID-19 numbers themselves. Below are the daily changes since they have been tracking COVID-19 according to the New York Times. I have truncated the data to include only November data to save time and space.

74,236 on Nov 1

93,659 on Nov 2

92,612 on Nov 3

107,913 on Nov 4

121,529 on Nov 5

132,847 on Nov 6

125,932 on Nov 7

103,416 on Nov 8

130,340 on Nov 9

139,746 on Nov 10

142,860 on Nov 11

163,405 on Nov 12

These are just new cases nationwide. The death counts and hospitalization rates are also increasing as well. We know there are numerous hot spots where the virus is more prevalent than others. In Texas, the El Paso area has been particularly ravaged. So, they are sending hospital patients to other parts of the state. They can’t fit them all.

Of course, we have talked plenty about the toll on people’s lives that this virus and the handling of the virus has caused. Death tolls are back over 1000 a day. It is estimated by experts that it could reach the 2000 mark again like it did at it’s peak. Of course, those are just experts. Who in the hell wants to listen to those people?

Death, sickness, and economic strife is the tangible cost of fiction. However, there is also an intangible cost. First, we must keep in mind where this fiction comes from. Back in the good ole days, we used to have to go to the card catalog to do research. We’d pull out a few cards, look up the books, and then check them out at the library. It’s crazy when you think about it. We now have information at our fingertips, but there is a cost.

The information in the card catalogs was verified information. It came from reputable sources and had gone through peer reviews, counter studies, and rigorous additional scrutiny. Now, close to half of the country gets its “information” from dubious sources that don’t do any fact checking. Hell, they don’t want to. If it goes against what the mainstream media and traditional sources are saying that actually “proves” it is right. The lamestream media just lies anyway.

Some on Joe Biden’s new taskforce are recommending that the country shut down for four to six weeks to get the virus back under control. It would seem like they would do this in January or February when they take over. That would give us precious time to debate such a proposal with facts and logic from both sides.

We all see the trends. Those are facts. The problem is that we all don’t see the trends. We don’t get our information from the same sources. Some sources simply crap on anything that groups like the CDC produce. It becomes opposite day. When Dr. Fauci says something we just say the opposite. What does he know? He’s only been doing this for more than 40 years.

So, debate doesn’t take place on a level playing field where people are operating with the same facts. It is fair to question whether shutting down again will be worth whatever harm might come to the economy. Would we need another stimulus package to get us through? What kind of damage would that cause long-term? These are all excellent questions and great points of debate except you really can’t have that debate until you fully acknowledge what is actually going on. You can’t do that attending the University of YouTube. You can’t do that if you get your news from Facebook, Instragram, or TikTok.

Without facts there is no debate. You can’t debate someone that lives in their own reality. That reality can change when arguments pierce it. If that reality is malleable then you’re just pissing in the wind. So, if no one can mount a fact-based retort to Biden’s new team then we might have to get used to the idea of experts making decisions for us. We might be shutting down again. More idiots will rage about masks and government oppression. This is where sticking your head in the sand gets you. This is where magical thinking and fact free environments get you. The start of 2021 might be as bad as 2020 was. We only have ourselves to blame.

It’s Just Not Funny Anymore

For those of us of a certain age, we could have never conceived of reality television when we were kids. Sure, you had professional wrestlers and the occasional professional athlete that embraced the role of the bad guy, but buy in large, most people off screen played it straight. They were normal people and we understood there was a definite line between the roles they played and their real selves.

It’s hard to say who actually pioneered reality television. Maybe we can give that “honor” to the Kardashians. Maybe we can give it to Vince McMahon. It might have been the series of prime time game shows like Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Biggest Loser, and the Bachelor/Bachelorette.

There is something remarkable when you move away from scripted television and into unscripted television. There is something compelling about the freedom of the individual to embrace that full on persona. Every reality series. Every damn one of them has the villain. No one loves them, but everyone wants to see what they will do next. In competition shows they stay around a lot longer than they should because they ramp up the drama. When they eventually leave they huff and puff about how unfair it is.

I think you see where this is going. On some abstract level we have to give credit to Donald Trump for taking this common character to an uncommon place. He makes Vince McMahon look like an amateur. He makes every competition show villain look like the nicest person you would ever want to meet. He almost makes you root for the devil himself.

Entertainers have become politicians before. Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States. Yet, he did have a transition between his acting career and being president. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was the governor of California.

In a similar way, Sonny Bono and Al Franken also went from performer to member of Congress. Like Reagan, they had spots in between where they made their transition. I suppose it was natural to think Trump would transition. He wouldn’t be the guy that appeared on WWE would he? He wouldn’t be the guy from the Apprentice that just fired people would he? He would realize that he needed to put the persona behind and act like an adult wouldn’t he?

Sadly no, that never happened. He continued to play the part. Some continued to enjoy watching the villain at work. He angered liberals and progressives. He angered women. He angered people of color. He angered immigrants. He angered Muslims and other non-Christians. He angered anyone that supports veterans, people with disabilities, and anyone else in this country that has ever felt disenfranchised. If you are a white, male Christian you are likely none of those things. So, you could just sit back and enjoy the show.

Eventually, most people settled in and realized he would never pivot or become the adult people expect out of the president. Naturally, some people chose to overlook that, but a majority did not. So, when it came time for him to be the adult and admit that a majority voted for the other guy he refused to do that as well. He will play the villain all the way down to the bitter end. I suppose we should give him some credit for being dedicated to the part. Most actors and actresses don’t have that level of dedication.

The thing is that this isn’t a cooking show. This isn’t a dating show. This isn’t a competition show where you can be the apprentice to some overimportant jackass. This is America. This is our home. It isn’t a set on a production studio somewhere. We can’t just leave it and go to our real home whenever we want. I can’t quit this show and move on to the next one. Reality television is never quite real is it? It can be life like, but all of us recognize that it isn’t real life. Maybe, just maybe, those that play a part get lost in it and become that person. When you’ve played the same role since the 1970s, it can become who you are.

So, I understand Trump on some level. He’s committed to this. Those around him don’t have to be. Those in positions of authority in other parts of government don’t have to play along. They can let him rant and rave on camera and off while continuing to do what needs to be done. America needs a president. We need someone the rest of the world can look to and know is in charge. We need someone our own citizens can look to and know is in charge.

Polling data shows that 70 percent of Republicans polled believe the election results are false. They think it’s a fraud. That’s 70 percent folks. That’s an overwhelming majority. So, when Joe Biden becomes president all of those people will be screaming about how he stole it. Mind you, they won’t have a lick of proof because there is none. This isn’t a contested match between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. This is real life. When you placate the villain you reinforce that belief. Those numbers have flown to that point. It might be 80 or 85 percent this time next week. It’s time for this show to end.