The Center Must Hold

You can’t always get what you want.*

As the midterm election cycle begins to heat up, the molecules of the Democratic Party are vibrating and gyrating with greater energy, and greater agitation. And the party’s principal source of agitation—its perennial question, really—is whether to hew to a set of progressive ideological principles or to tack to the center and capture those formerly reliable blue-collar voters who went for Trump in 2016. Continue reading “The Center Must Hold”


Take Us Down that Slippery Slope

It’s a satisfying clichè of the coming-of-age story: a playground bully takes a kid’s lunch money day after day, egged on by a circle of little henchmen with whom he shares his spoils. This continues until the victim’s dad (or big brother or uncle, or feisty single mom) teaches him to throw a punch. When he does, the bully recoils in shock and deflates like the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz. Brute power is hollow, virtue triumphs. It’s as old as David vs. Goliath, and as cute as Dorothy vs. the witch.

Less cute is the National Rifle Association, which has been taking its members’ lunch money for decades and using it to convince Americans that the slightest restriction on ownership of lethal weapons will bring increasingly stringent regulation; a “slippery slope.” This slope, they warn, brings us ultimately to the destruction of the republic, or to the end of our ability to rise up and destroy the republic. It’s all very confusing. Continue reading “Take Us Down that Slippery Slope”

Mayday! Parade!

Another tiresome Nazi parallel. Sorry, but I have no choice.

One thing the National Socialists did a lot of (besides all the war and pillage and genocide stuff) was parades. Even before taking power, the party’s private brownshirt army, the Sturmabteilung or SA, would assemble and march down the streets of Berlin or Munich or Nuremberg to make a show of party strength. Bystanders were expected to make the Nazi salute or risk a tongue-lashing, or a beating if they objected. After Hitler’s accession to power in 1933,

SA parade

the parades got better with the newly organized Schutzstaffel, or SS, joining the festivities, along with a good band and elements of the regular German army. If you didn’t give the Hitler high-five when these passed, you risked being tagged for observation or arrest. Continue reading “Mayday! Parade!”

Olympian Dreams, Part 2

The actual harm done.

I’ve whined about the pointlessness of Olympic victory, given the tissue-thin margin between Olympic gold and Palookaville, and about the vice of “bestism,” the drive to be not merely excellent, but the best of all contenders. This bestism is not just an annoyance, but also the underlying cause of genuine evil that is done in the name of Olympic ideals. For one thing, it motivates individuals and whole national teams to invent ever-more elaborate schemes to cheat by chemical enhancement.

And it drives the various organizations that make the Olympics happen—from the IOC itself to national Olympic committees, all the way down to regional and local clubs and coaching organizations—to neglect evil in their midst. It is these organizations, which exist in a chink between the public and private worlds, between amateur and commercial, that have failed to protect scores of teenage girls from a habitual sexual predator, as well as an unknown number of other abusers, emotional and physical. Continue reading “Olympian Dreams, Part 2”

Olympic Fever Dreams

Part 1. The  problem with “bestism.”

Back in the day, when the summer and winter Olympics were held in the same year, I only had to deal with my attraction-repulsion dilemma toward the games every four years. Since the International Olympic Committee began staggering the dates of the winter and summer games, I now have the opportunity to carp about them every two years. This is progress. Continue reading “Olympic Fever Dreams”

What Am I Missing Here?

“ . . . and that’s how a bill becomes a law.” Isn’t it?


Today’s crise du jour is the breakdown of the DACA deal. The story seems to be that Democrats and Republicans in Congress (personified by Sens. Dick Durbin and Lindsay Graham) had crafted a compromise deal by which “dreamers” who had been brought here as children would be granted legal status. President Trump, who during his sanity demonstration last week had proclaimed his willingness to sign whatever bill came to him, reversed himself in a meeting with Durbin, Graham, and several ringers, nixing any deal that didn’t involve The Wall. You know, the big, beautiful one that has to be transparent so nobody gets hit on the head by packages of drugs being tossed over it. That one. Continue reading “What Am I Missing Here?”

The Ratchet Effect

We’re living though an incremental revolution.

I hate to keep flogging the sad cliché that the Trump administration is dragging us toward fascism; that Trump is the “next Hitler.” It’s the same tired historical simile used by every ill-informed amateur of one political persuasion or the other, applied to every administration since Roosevelt’s—that is, since Hitler was actually around. Surely there are other examples of more-or-less democratic republics that lost their way and slid into autocracy: North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Cambodia, Myanmar; the list goes on.

But I can’t help using the rise of National Socialism in Germany as my model of what’s happening to us, for three reasons. Continue reading “The Ratchet Effect”