why i’m done with bernie

A friend recently asked me why I dislike Bernie Sanders now. I said I didn’t dislike him; I just wish he hadn’t decided to run for POTUS again. I supported Bernie for most of his 2016 campaign, so of course I like Bernie. I mean, the guy has devoted his entire life to social justice. Plus he’s managed to demystify democratic socialism to a LOT of Americans. Also plus, he doesn’t smile of laugh a lot — but when he does, it’s a very genuine smile or laugh. How can you NOT like him?

But then I thought about it…and I realized that yeah, I kinda do dislike him now. Which is sad and disappointing because I really like Bernie Sanders a lot.

The problem isn’t Bernie himself. The problem is there’s a small but very loud segment of his base — folks I think of as OBAs. Only Bernie Assholes. As in ‘Only Bernie can save us!’ As in ‘Only Bernie has the right ideas!’ As in ‘Only Bernie, and if Not Bernie then America deserves Trump!’ As in ‘Only Bernie or let the whole world burn!’

I respect their passion (no, I really do), but I have no tolerance for that sort of political purity. Political purity is just a nice way of saying ‘extremism’. OBAs are extremists who won’t accept a nuanced opinion about Bernie. They think you must either be totally and completely FOR him and everything he says or else you’re absolutely AGAINST him. If your support isn’t pure, undiluted, and unqualified, then you’re compromised in some fundamental way. They see the notion of ‘Vote Blue No Matter Who’ as a betrayal of All Things Bernie.

That’s annoying, but everybody has the right to vote the way thay want. The thing that really cements the ‘asshole’ in OBA is that so many OBAs are as conspiracy-minded as the Q-Anon folks. They seem to be truly convinced that if Bernie isn’t winning, it can only be because shadowy corporate forces (usually in the form of the DNC) are actively conspiring and working against him. Other Democratic candidates are frauds who are stealing Bernie’s ideas only in order to get elected, at which point they’ll revert back to corporate whores. They are totally convinced Bernie was cheated out of the nomination in 2016 by the Democratic National Committee, and are equally convinced the DNC is doing it again in 2020.

(Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

At the beginning of this campaign season I joined a pro-Bernie Facebook group (I also joined a pro-Cory Booker and a pro-Mayor Pete group because I wanted a better sense of who they were). The pro-Bernie group initially seemed pretty reasonable and I felt better about Bernie joining the race. Then it slowly became dominated by OBAs, who either drove less pure Bernie supporters out of the group or effectively silenced them. Here are some of the posts and comments that appeared in that group over the last day or so:

— Anyone who was in the trenches from the beginning knows this. It didn’t take Russians to talk us out of voting for Hillary. It took looking into her record. Her scandal. The theft of the 2016 primaries. her online army of trolls. Shutting down Bernie Sanders Web pages with child porn.

— If the dnc rigs the election against sanders and gave us Harris or Biden, then I’m going full Bernie or bust. If we don’t have standards, then the corporate dems are just going to shaft us.

— When the establishment prop up Warren, it’s only to try to hurt Bernie. They are focused on trying to take him out in any way they can because he is an existential threat to their excessive amounts of wealth and corporate bribes.

— If the democratic party really wanted to beat trump they would pick Sanders if that truly was their main concern. It is not. They would rather lose to trump then have a Bernie presidency and that is a fact not some outlandish conspiracy.

—  I used to like [Meryl Streep], and watched most of her movies. But she is a hypocrite, a big supporter of HRC among other Hollywood elites and out of touch. She has blindly supported HRC who is also as corrupt as Trump. Because of this reason, I do not watch the  Oscars any more.

— Biden sucks. Everyone knows it. Even the DNC. That’s why they are now artificially inflating Warren. Not cause they like/want her. But they’d rather have her, than Bernie. And it’s becoming clear to everyone.

— I voted for Bernie in the primary I voted for trump in the general reason I never trusted Clinton I am back behind Bernie now like him he is the original deal a true socialist the one that will enact everything he is saying BERNIE 2020

— I wonder why Obama is mute about Bernie but openly support HRC in 2016??

— Bernie or GTFO!

— [T]he 1% run the D.N.C. They want to run another “Hillary” candidate that no one likes to make it look like a real win for Trump again.

— Polls are same as gerrymandering, or even worse totally biased!

— Bernie in did win CA in 2016, his hundreds boxes of ballots were not counted. On the day of HRC declared her so-called landslide won in CA. The Staffs posted hundreds of unopened box of his ballots.

Okay, that doesn’t quite approach the lunacy of the Q-anon theory that 1) JFK Jr. is alive and 2) is actually Q, and 3) is working secretly with Trump and Mueller to build a case against Obama and Hillary. But still.

Let me just say that the OBA’s dislike of the Democratic National Committee has some basis in reality. Some members of the DNC openly disliked Bernie — although, to be fair, Bernie had spent years denouncing the DNC. But the DNC didn’t ‘steal’ the nomination from Bernie. He lost it. He lost it in part because his followers didn’t bother to learn how the primary and caucus systems worked. A lot of Bernie supporters who hadn’t registered as Democrats turned up at closed Democratic primary sites expecting to vote and were turned away. Instead of acknowledging their error, they claimed they’d been disenfranchised — that they were refused because they were Bernie supporters. Which is nonsense.

Bernie wasn’t cheated out of the nomination; he just lost. I say that as a person who caucused for him. He just flat out lost. There’s no shame in that. There’s no need to concoct conspiracy theories to explain his loss.

I really like Bernie Sanders. I won’t support him in the primaries, but I’d happily vote for him if he’s the eventual candidate. Because I believe ‘Vote Blue No Matter Who’ is a valid strategy to rid ourselves of the Trump administration. In my opinion, Bernie has always been more of an inspirational leader than a policy wonk, but that’s okay. One of the most important jobs of POTUS is to inspire the populace to be better citizens. Bernie would be good at that.

I like Bernie. I really do. But I don’t think he can win the nomination. And I cannot abide OBAs. And that’s why I’m done with him.

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in which i buy a hat

I needed a new cap. Wait…first let me say this: I’m not a hat guy. Some folks can wear a hat; some folks just can’t. Some folks look like dorks whenever they wind up beneath a hat. I am one of those folks. Except baseball caps. Anybody can wear a ball cap. Even me.

Right. So I needed a new cap. And I decided…wait. Maybe need is an exaggeration. I actually had two ball caps. A nice one bought at the ball park, with the logo of the local minor league team (Iowa Cubs). It’s a good cap, moderately expensive, but when I bought it I had long hair. I’ve cut my hair since then; now the cap doesn’t fit. A stiff wind will swipe it right off my head.

The other cap is what I call my ‘Commie Coke hat’. It’s moderately cheap grey cap, adjustable, has a Co-cola logo with a red star on the front. I mostly wear it when I’m in the woods. Or doing some sort of manual labor. Which means it’s pretty beat-up and stained. Not something you’d want to wear in public.

Co-cola Commie cap.

As I was saying, I needed a new cap. The problem was finding one with a logo I could tolerate. I tend to logo-resistant. I wouldn’t wear that Co-cola cap if it didn’t have the red Commie star (which I assume wasn’t intentional, but still). I mentioned my logo problem to a friend, who gave me the following advice:

Go look on Etsy, you putz.

So I looked on Etsy (which, if you don’t already know, is an online marketplace). There are easily a gazillion ball caps on Etsy. A mind-numbing selection. An overwhelming number of choices and options which left me…well, overwhelmed. I was about to exit the site when I noticed a seller who’d let you put your own lettering on a cap. That had potential. Plus the cap looked fairly nice. Plus it only cost like US$15.

Then I saw it was a seller in South Korea. How could somebody in Korea customize a cap and mail it to the US for about twenty bucks (including shipping)? The answer, of course, is because the Korean seller doesn’t have to fuss about with inconvenient stuff like a livable minimum wage for their employees, a safe working environment, worker health care costs, reasonable working hours, or child labor laws.

So fuck that, right? There was absolutely no way I could ethically buy a cap made under those conditions. Here’s a confession: my ethics can get a tad elastic when my curiosity is engaged. And I was curious. If I ordered that cap, how long it would take for the order to be delivered? Would the product be what I actually ordered? Could a $15 cap made by oppressed workers in Korea be anything but shoddy?

So what the hell, I ordered one. I ordered a specific color, with ITMFA (Impeach the Motherfucker Already)  on the front in a specific font.

You guys, it arrived in ten days. It’s a better quality cap than my Co-cola commie cap. It’s the color I ordered. And while the lettering isn’t perfectly centered, it’s still pretty good and it’s in the font I ordered. In fact, the entire experience was so good that it’s discouraging.

I’m mostly a writer, which means I’m relatively poor. I come from a working class family, which means I feel solidarity with working folks. I can understand why poor folks would opt to buy a quality product from the Asian market for a bargain price instead of a quality product from a US source for a higher price. I think it’s still ethically wrong, but understandable. In the long run, this hurts the poor and working class — but let’s face it; the poor and working class can’t always afford to think about the long run. They’ve got bills to pay now.

So here I am, a relatively poor American wearing a cap made by significantly poorer and much more oppressed Korean workers. Here I am, wearing a hat calling for the impeachment of a man who not only endorses but enthusiastically utilizes the oppression of foreign workers for his own personal profit.

I like the hat. I like the message. I sort of regret buying it. I hate that I don’t regret it more. I deeply regret that global conditions exist that allow one group of workers to be exploited like this, and that allow other workers to justify exploiting less fortunate workers. We can say it’s a dog-eat-dog world, but it’s mainly that way because the rich are starving the dogs. I regret that I contributed to starving the dogs.

If YOU want an ITMFA cap, don’t do what I did. Instead, if you can afford it, kick out the extra coin and buy one made here in the US. In fact, I encourage you to kick out the extra coin and buy a ball cap from a source who’ll use the profits to support worthy causes. A source like, say, the ITMFA Store.

pointless, sort of stupid, dorky = fun

My brother and I started geocaching last April and let me just start by saying flat out that geocaching is pointless and sort of stupid. But like a lot of pointless and sort of stupid things, it’s also fun.

Okay, so some a lot most of you are probably saying, “Greg, old sock, just what the hell is geocaching?” First, stop calling me ‘old sock’. Second, geocaching is…well, it’s described as an ‘outdoor recreational activity’. Which makes it sound incredibly dorky. (Also, when I said geocaching is pointless and sort of stupid, I should have included dorky, because let’s face it — it’s also fairly dorky.) Basically geocaching involves using a GPS-enabled device to locate a container hidden somewhere in the world.

Yeah, there’s a geocache hidden here.

That’s basically it. You may be wondering why you’d want to use GPS to locate a hidden container, especially if it’s pointless, sort of stupid, and dorky. That’s a perfectly valid question. It has a lot of answers, most of which can be boiled down to what I said earlier: it’s fun to find hidden things. Think of it like a treasure hunt. Only without the treasure. Oh, some cache containers include trinkets or toys or other swag, but most don’t — and really, nobody goes geocaching with the idea of finding anything more valuable than the fun of finding it.

There’s one under this bridge.

So how does it work? You download an app, of course. That’s how everything is done these days. The app shows you the general location of caches and gives you some idea of what to look for — the approximate size of the container (most range in size from an ammo box to a teensy tube no larger than the tip of your finger), the difficulty of the terrain (on a scale of 1-5), the difficulty of finding it (again, 1-5), and maybe a hint. Maybe. The app will usually get you to within 10-15 feet of the cache. Then all you have to do is find it.

Yeah, one hidden here too.

It sounds easy. Sometimes it is. Like the one we found yesterday. The map showed us where it was at. All we had to do was park in the lot of some electrical company, hike a third of a mile over a field to a pair of boulders, nose around a bit, and there it was: a dark metal tube on the ground. Easy peasy lemon breezy.

1) Find it on a map.

2) hike to the location.

3) Find the damned thing. It’s right there in the middle of the photo. Honest.

But sometimes it’s not so easy. Sometimes the cache is disguised. Sometimes it’s a false electrical plate on an air conditioning unit. Sometimes it’s a hollow chunk of dead wood in the crook of an old tree. Sometimes it’s in an old bird’s nest or in a magnetic box painted the exact same color as the metal girder to which it’s attached. Sometimes it’s a tiny container inside a hole drilled into a bolt screwed into an old section of railroad track.

Seriously.

The thing is, you never know. The cache might be out in the open or it might be cleverly disguised. You let the app get you close, then you just start looking. The only thing you expect to find in a cache is a logbook — which is often just a rolled up piece of paper. You sign the log, date it, put it back in the cache, put the cache back where you found it, and…well, that’s it. That’s the whole enchilada. Oh, except for this: don’t let anybody see you doing it.

Folks not involved in geocaching are referred to as ‘muggles’ — and yeah, the term was snitched from Harry Potter. As in the PotterVerse you’re not supposed to let muggles see you engaged in that thing you’re doing. Partly because muggles will, out of innocent curiosity or malevolent intent, fuck with a cache. They might take it, move it, destroy it, throw it away. Or worse — they might all the police.

And one hidden here behind a flood control barrier, though we never found it.

And who could blame them? If you see somebody sidle up to a light pole in your supermarket parking lot, lift the cover of the base, and remove or insert an object of some sort, you’d probably be suspicious. A couple of guys skulking around the flood control barriers looks dodgy as fuck. They could be hiding drugs or planting an IED or cheerfully murdering homeless folks. So you’d be forgiven for calling the police.

Seriously. It’s happened. In Wetherby, England a waitress saw a man behaving suspiciously outside the restaurant.

He appeared to have a small plastic box in his hand and after fiddling with the container he bent down and hid it under a flower box standing on the pavement. He then walked off, talking to somebody on his phone.

She called the police, the police called the Army, the Army sent in the bomb squad with a robot to conduct a controlled explosion. There have been at least five geocaching bomb scares in the last few years. So yeah, when geocaching in urban/suburban you need to be somewhat discreet.

Okay, this is part of the reason we go geocaching.

But here’s the thing. It’s pointless, sort of stupid, dorky, and sometimes suspicious, but geocaching is fun. The brother and I used to get together and sort of lackadaisically noodle around the countryside, stopping at some point for food and beer. Geocaching allows us to lackadaisically noodle around the countryside, stopping at some point for food and beer, only now with a pointless and sort of stupid dorky purpose. We’ve only found about 40 caches, but we discovered a great BBQ place in the small town of Slater that serves a kick-ass modified Cuban sandwich and serves local craft beers. And a place in the small town of Norwalk that serves kick-ass egg rolls and serves local craft beers. And a place in the small town of Carlisle that serves a kick-ass mac & cheese made with some sort of spicy sausage and serves local craft beers.

Okay, maybe geocaching isn’t entirely pointless.

 

we are approaching a crisis point

You guys, I don’t want to alarm anybody, but I’m starting to get a little worried about the Comrade Trump administration. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving her job as…as whatever it is she does for the Trump administration. I mean, yeah, okay, she’s officially the ‘Press Secretary’ or something, but c’mon, her job clearly doesn’t have anything to do with the news media (except FoxNews, of course). Her real actual title is probably something like ‘Iron Sneer Maiden’ or ‘Destroyer of Souls’, but at heart Sarah is a lying asshole.

Here’s the thing: she’s leaving and who is qualified to take her place? Who among Comrade Trump’s coterie of collaborators can do what Sarah Sanders has done with the same level of mendacity and disdain? (Spoiler: nobody.)

This is becoming a problem, you guys. We haven’t a Secretary of Homeland Security since April, which means we have an amateur in charge of caging children. We haven’t had a Secretary of Defense since Christmas, which means we’ve got us a rookie handling the rumors that Iran is blowing up oil tanker in the Gulf of Someplace. And we don’t have a Secretary of the Interior, which means…well, nobody really knows what that means on account of does anybody have a clue what the Secretary of the Interior actually does? (Spoiler: nope.)

The result of so many of Comrade Trump’s most (temporarily) trusted advisors and aides is that our national reserve of lying assholes is being depleted. We are beginning to face a lying asshole deficit (and okay, maybe ‘face’ isn’t the best term to use there).

Now you’re probably saying to yourself there’s an abundance of lying assholes in Our Nation’s Capital, which is most certainly true. I mean, there are scads of liars in DC, and the city is hip deep in assholes, and since the Family Trump has come to town, there are more lying assholes than usual. But are they the best lying assholes? Are they natural lying assholes? You can learn to lie, and you can learn to be an asshole, but the very best lying assholes are born.

I’m afraid that with the departure of Sarah Sanders the craft — no, the artistry — of being a lying asshole will suffer. Unless Comrade Trump is willing to think laterally. Unless he proves himself to be morally and ethically flexible enough to dip into a deep well of high grade lying assholes that’s been available for some time, but remains untapped.

That’s right. I’m talking about television ministers. They might just be the answer to our looming lying asshole crisis.

the best sporting event in the world

The FIFA Women’s World Cup begins today. I have to keep reminding myself of that. No matter what other ugly shit is happening elsewhere on the globe, the very best international sports event in the world begins today.

Yes, yes, FIFA as an organization is Trump-level corrupt. And yes, yes, they are also Trump-level misogynistic, and Trump-level cheap as possible. This year the prize money for the WWC is US$30 million. That’s spread out over all 24 teams (the winning team gets four million). It sounds like a healthy chunk of coin — and, in fact, it’s double what the women got for the last World Cup. But the men’s World Cup held last year in Russia? We’re talking $400 million. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s fucking infuriating. Fuck FIFA in the neck.

But hey, let that go for now. Because starting today we’ll get to see women playing brilliant futbol. I’m of the opinion that women’s soccer is more fun and more interesting to watch than men’s soccer. The women are less arrogant, have fewer divas, fake FAR fewer injuries, focus more on teamwork, and play with more fierce joy than the men. There’s a delicious aura of liberation in women’s soccer — strong women hurling their bodies about with speed and fluid grace, unencumbered by all the ‘nice’ bullshit they’ve been saddled with for centuries. They’re focused on the ball, of course, and the play, but you get a sense of how good it must feel for them to be able to call upon their body to run flat out and perform some complex athletic task. It’s wonderful to watch.

Okay, it’s just sports. In the grand scheme of the world, I’ll agree that a bunch of folks kicking a ball around doesn’t seem terribly important, even if they’re doing it in France in front of an international audience. But it still matters. The WWC matters. All women’s sports matter, and yes, they matter more than men’s sports. Because women’s sports are watched by young girls who’ll grow up with fewer limits and more hope and bigger dreams because of the women we’ll see on the pitch today. The girls who watch the 2019 WWC will be the ones who eventually kick FIFA in the balls and make futbol fair, and they’ll take that attitude and confidence into every aspect of society — and society will be the better for it.

One last thing. Nike. This is an advert. It’s deliberately manipulative and intended to convince you that Nike cares about…I don’t know, something. It’s a marketing thing. Watch it anyway.

All the ugly shit in the world will continue to take place while I sit in front of the television. I’ll give it due attention. But for a few hours every day for the next few weeks, I’ll be ridiculously happy and weirdly emotional because women will be playing soccer.

I may even go buy a pair of Nike sneakers.

 

it’s memorial day again

Somebody wished me a “Happy Memorial Day” yesterday. I was sort of shocked for a moment. Happy Memorial Day? Happy? I wanted to say, “You daft motherfucker, do you even know what the fuck Memorial Day is about? It’s about dead fucking Marines and soldiers and sailors and airmen.” I wanted to say that, but I didn’t. I just nodded. Because for him, Memorial Day isn’t about the dead; it’s about burgers and potato salad and a day off work.

I get that. I really do. But I’m maybe a tad touchier than usual this Memorial Day weekend. For years I’ve had a dysfunctional relationship with the holiday. I respect the concept of honoring those who’ve died in uniform, and those who’ve worn the uniform, but I spurn the reality of it, as represented by folks who say “Happy Memorial Day.” But this year is worse than usual.

This year we have a president who is a tacky, self-aggrandizing, narcissist who was elected with the aid of a hostile foreign nation, and who treats the men and women in uniform as little more than props. Yes, we had him last year as well, but this year it’s increasingly clear that Comrade Trump is a threat to the very democracy that the men and women in uniform swore an oath to defend.

Also this year — a couple of days ago — I visited my brother’s grave at the veteran’s cemetery. Normally I don’t do that. I’ve never felt any need to visit his grave. And in fact, I didn’t feel any real need this year. But there I was, standing in front of his gravestone, and it affected me a lot more than I thought it would. He’s been dead for almost eight years now. I thought I was accustomed to it. I think of him fairly often. Every time I go morel hunting, he’s in my thoughts. Every time I go to Granny’s to get ice cream, I think of him. I have his coat hanging in my closet and his cap on my hat stand. I think of him, but I never get weepy about it. I miss him, but I never get choked up about it. I mean, he’s dead and gone, and that’s what happens to everybody. NBD and all that.

But it got to me. All those dead service members, all those graves, a president who has no concept of honor or duty, my brother. Huge fucking lump in my throat. It was hard to speak. I stood there, thinking about everybody in my family who’d put on a uniform, thinking about how everybody in that cemetery had offered up a part of themselves, and lawdy, it gutted me.

I left a little plastic frog on the brother’s grave — not so much for Jesse Eugene, but for my oldest brother, Roger Lee, who also served. I knew he’d get a grin out of it.

At any rate, this year I’m a tad more prickly about Memorial Day. But if the weather permits, I’ll grill out this weekend and spend time with family and have a burger and potato salad just like everybody else. And if folks wish me a happy Memorial Day, I’ll nod and be polite — but the truth is some part of me will be thinking, “You daft motherfucker…”

the cat

Somebody asked me why I’ve never written anything about the cat on this blog. By ‘the cat’ I mean, of course, the cat that shares this living space. My reply was something to this effect: “Dude, I have written about the cat. Probably.”

And hey, it turns out I wasn’t even lying. Not entirely. I actually did write a thing about my morning routine with the cat. But aside from that, the cat doesn’t feature heavily in this blog (though the wee creature appears with alarming regularity on Instagram and Facebook). I mean, she’s been mentioned–and mentioned prominently, I might add, not just a casual passing reference–a couple of times. Once in a thing about Buddhism and shoveling snow and once in reference to the Cassini-Huygens satellite. That’s not bad, really, considering the cat is just a cat.

But the fact is I haven’t really written about the cat as the other species with whom I share a living space. So. The cat. She has a name: Abby. I didn’t give her the name and I don’t use it, but it’s traditional for house cats to have names and veterinarians insist on having a name for their records, so there it is. Abby. I generally just call her “the cat”. Or “little cat”. Or, when she’s eating, “you wee swine”.

Why don’t I use her name? I really don’t know. When people ask (and why do people ask? it seems weird, but they do) I tell them it seems presumptuous to put a human name on any non-human, and especially on a cat. But I’ve shared space with other non-humans and other cats, all of whom had human names. So why not this cat? Again, I don’t know. It’s not any sort of distancing technique; the cat and are pretty much bonded. It doesn’t make any sense, but there it is.

I photograph her occasionally. Okay, that’s a lie. I photograph her a lot. I delete most of the photos immediately because it’s not like the world needs more photos of cats. But at the same time, cats are just so fucking photographable. What’re you gonna do? Not photograph them?

In the end, I guess I don’t write about the cat because she’s a cat. Just a cat. She eats, she sleeps, she shits in the litter box (almost always), she chews grass and vomits (on rare occasions), she sits on my lap (she’s insistent about that; she’ll come sit in front of me and just stare at me until I invite her up — or until she decides the invitation exists even if I don’t offer it, and even if there’s a plate in my lap), she makes an odd grunting sound instead of purring, she sometimes likes to attack my feet from hiding when I walk through the house, she mostly stays in the house (which is good on a number of levels, including the fact that she absolutely sucks at hunting and so would starve to death in a week if she were on her own), she sheds very little until she’s sitting on my lap, if she’s not on my lap or on her perch she’s somehow managed to disappear into another dimension (because she’s nowhere to be found), she knows I go back to work around 8:30-9:00 at night and will return from her inter-dimensional travels around that time and insist on being petted and fed. I have absolutely no idea how she tells time, but she does. Go figure cats.

She has NO interest in boxes. None. Or paper bags. What kind of cat dismisses boxes? It’s unnatural, right?

But that’s just it. The cat is your basic cat. Weird, distant, clinging, imperturbable, occasionally boneless, contradictory, curious, predictable, unpredictable. I can’t say I understand her. But she makes me happy. I’d like to think I make her happy, but I recognize that I may just be the one who feeds her.

Who the hell knows what a cat is thinking?