everything would have been knocked down

Task force. Originally, it was a naval term. Specialized ships from different fleets and squadrons would be temporarily assembled to work as a group to perform a single defined task or activity. After the mission was accomplished, the various ships would return to their normal duties. The ‘task force’ concept has been widely adapted.

Comrade Trump signs an executive order creating a task force to protect…wait…statues?

It’s a great concept, an effective administrative tool, and if used wisely, a task force can be incredibly efficient. If used wisely is the operative phrase in that sentence. Here’s an example of the wise use of a task force. In 2013, the Obama administration created the Pandemic Prediction and Forecasting Science and Technology Working Group. It was comprised of members from eighteen different federal departments and agencies, including the National Security Council, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense.

Mass burial of Covid-19 victims.

Their job was to “mitigate large‐scale outbreaks by predicting more accurately when and where outbreaks are likely to occur, and how they will progress.” They did this by monitoring and analyzing a myriad of minor social disruptions which, on their own, might not be alarming, but when considered in context could indicate a potential disease outbreak. If, say, the price of pork in Country A suddenly increases, it could mean the hog farmers in Province X have been forced to slaughter a lot of their stock because of a localized swine disease. Taken in conjunction with an increase in Province X’s hospitalizations for flu-like syndrome, it could suggest the first seeds of an epidemic. Task force experts could then be sent to Province X to work with Country A to find out just what the fuck is going on. Then deal with it locally, and prevent the spread to Province Y — or worse, Country B.

Brilliant. By the way, if you’re curious, you can read a report on the PPFSTWG (which, I agree, is among the worst acronyms ever) here. And yes, this is the pandemic response team which the Trump administration disbanded because…well, who the hell knows why.

Let me repeat myself for a minute. A task for is an effective administrative tool, and if used wisely, a task force can be incredibly efficient. Here’s an example of a task force NOT used wisely. Comrade Trump has issued an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to create a task force to “protect historic landmarks against vandalism and destruction” from “violent anarchists and rioters”. Homeland Security, you’ll remember, is the agency created in 2002 in response to the 9/11 attacks; its stated mission is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. Now, apparently, they have to redirect resources to preventing members of the public from painting ‘Black Lives Matter’ on statues of Confederate generals.

This statue of Andrew Jackson is now safe.

You may be asking yourself if it’s really necessary to create a federal task force to protect statues. Good question. Here’s what Trump had to say about it (and I am NOT making this up):

“I took out an old act, the statues and monuments. And we’re going to have thousands of people in Washington last week. And nobody showed up because they get a 10-year jail term now. They pushed down a statue. They — they even touch anything. It’s a very tough act. You couldn’t get a thing like that approved today. I took it out and we used it and you see the difference. You haven’t seen any rights. You haven’t seen people doing things lately. And the reason is 10 years in prison. If they knocked down a statue, now it started with Confederate soldiers, and then they started hitting George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. And they started hitting Thomas Jefferson. And you know, I’m going to a very special place this weekend, as you know, very beautiful monuments called Mount Rushmore, and somebody said they want to see that come down, that’s never coming down. And we’re going to, uh, run it the way I’ve been running it. Very tough. Now, we had to see what was going on for a period of a week, week and a half. Once we saw what was going on, I did this act last week, a week ago, a little more than a week ago. And it’s been very powerful because people don’t want to go to prison for 10 years for knocking down a statue. And most of these people they’re anarchist or they’re agitators, most of them don’t even know what they’re knocking down. You know, whether it’s Andrew Jackson, they were doing Andrew Jackson the week ago. Almost got it down but I had people go in that were very strong and they went and did a good job. The ropes were up, everything was ready, we got just in time. Andrew Jackson was a great general and a good president, very good president and probably two term and we did a good job. If I weren’t here, this all of Washington would have been knocked down. That’s what would have happened. You would have had Washington knocked down with somebody like a Biden where there’s no law, there’s no order. Everything would have been knocked down, but I’m here.”

There you go. Trump’s here, with a task force. Otherwise everything would have been knocked down.

Yesterday, there were 51.097 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and a butcher’s bill of over 130,000 dead. But at least Trump has saved a statue of Andrew Jackson, the president who signed the Indian Removal Act (which resulted in at least 15,000 native American deaths — or about 11.5% of a pandemic).

we’re talking the fomite, y’all

Okay, there are facts and there are suppositions based on facts. It’s a fact that the Renaissance painter Titian (who actual name was Tiziano Vecelli, which takes a lot longer to say) made a portrait (seen below) of Girolamo Fracastoro. It’s also a fact that Fracastoro was a poet, an astronomer, a physician, a geographer, and a mathematician (because back during the Renaissance everybody seemed to do everything). But it’s just supposition that Titian painted this portrait in exchange for Fracastoro (in physician mode) treating him for syphilis.

Girolamo Fracastoro (also known as Hieronymus Fracastorius because everybody in the Renaissance had like half a dozen different names).

You guys, Fracastoro invented syphilis. Not the disease (which apparently came from the Americas, brought back by a crewman on one of Columbus’ ships — I know, irony, right?), but the name of the disease. In 1530 he wrote an epic poem (we’re talking a trilogy — seriously, a three-book poem written (and I am NOT making this up) in dactylic hexameter; when these guys decided to do something, they didn’t fuck around) about a shepherd boy who insulted the god Apollo, who responded the way gods always seem to respond: he gave the boy a horrible disease. That unlucky boy in the poem was named…wait for it, wait for it…Syphilus.

The foul Infection o’er his Body spread
Prophanes his Bosome, and deforms his Head;
His wretched Limbs with filth and stench o’er flow,
While Flesh divides, and shews the Bones below.
Dire Ulcers (can the Gods permit them) prey
On his fair Eye-balls, and devour their Day.

Yikes, right? Three books of this. So many different forms of torture. Anyway, our boy Fracastoro made his bones (so to speak) by treating communicable diseases. He came up with the concept of fomes, which is the plural of fomite.

Syphilus being warned against yielding to temptation (temptation in the form of that chick with the lute — I mean, just look at those ankles).

So you’re probably thinking “Hey, Greg, old sock, what the fuck is a fomite?” Well, I’m going to tell you. And stop calling me ‘old sock’. Actually, I’m going to let Fracastoro his ownself tell you.

“I call fomites such things as clothes, linen, etc., which although not themselves corrupt, can nevertheless foster the essential seeds of the contagion and thus cause infection.”

In other words, he’s talking about the way disease can be spread. Fracastoro was a proponent of the notion that epidemics were caused by “spores” — transferable tiny particles — that could infect people (or animals) by direct or indirect contact, and that was how diseases moved over long distances. This was 300 years or so before folks came up with the idea of germs.

Oh, and fomes? That’s the Latin term for kindling or tinder — the material you gather together in order to start a fire.

Makes sense now, doesn’t it. Now you’re thinking of Covid-19, right? Now you’re thinking of all those anti-bacterial wipes you can’t find on the store shelves. Now you’re thinking about all those doorknobs you touch every day, and about the handrails on stairways and escalators, and about the handle of the coffee pot at work. Now you’re thinking about the table at the diner where you put your cell phone while you eat your salad, and how maybe the person who sat there before you touched an infected doorknob before sitting at that table and left ‘spores’ on the table that are now transferred to the back of your cell phone case, which means it’s now on your hands. And you’re thinking “Lawdy, my cell phone is a goddamned fomite! And that table, a goddamned fomite. And I’m surrounded by goddamned fomes!”

Which is exactly what you should be thinking. All those things you touch during the day? That’s kindling. You spread that kindling, you create a forest fire.

That’s fact, no supposition. Keep Girolamo Fracastoro in mind everywhere you go. I’d suggest you get a tattoo of Fracastoro on your forearm, except the tattoo gun is a goddamned fomite.

Wash your damn hands, people.

this is what scares me

I’m not particularly concerned that Trump will skate on this impeachment trial. I think we all expect he will. Senate Republicans, after all, are all gutless Quislings completely devoid of honor or integrity. So yeah, Trump will almost certainly walk. I don’t like it, but I expect it — and there it is.

What scares me is this: what comes next? If Comrade Trump gets away with this — if he’s acquitted in the Senate despite all the evidence against him — what will stop him from doing it again? What’s will prevent him from allowing — or flat out encouraging — a hostile nation to attack his Democratic opponent? And what could we do about it?

He’s capable of doing that. You know he is.

What’s going to stop him from doing something even worse? What if, say, he declares a national emergency — what if he announces there’s been a threat to certain polling districts and ‘for the safety of the citizens’ orders those polling places closed? What if he says the voters should go to different polling sites, sorry for the inconvenience? What could we do about it? 

Do you think Trump isn’t capable of doing that?

What if the 2020 election goes against him? What if he loses and claims the election was rigged/hacked/manipulated/fraudulent? What if he refuses to honor the result? What if he just refuses to relinquish power? What if he tells his followers to resist his removal from office? What if he tries to declare martial law? What then?

Do you think that’s impossible? It sounds crazy, doesn’t it. It sounds ridiculous. Because it IS crazy and ridiculous — or it would be if anybody else were president. But do you really think Trump wouldn’t try to pull something like that if he thought he might get away with it? What would stop him? Patriotism? Decency? Respect for the Constitution?

That’s what scares me. Not one more year of Trump, as horrible as that would be. What scares me is this: IF Trump gets away with it this time — and right now that seems a foregone conclusion — what’s going to stop him from thinking he can get away with it again? The answer scares me.

Nothing.

cheese will be provided

— Do you really think Comrade Trump will be impeached?
— I do.
— Really?
— Really. He’s going down.
— No, I mean do you really actually believe they’ll impeach him?
— He’s totally going down. No question.
— Okay. It’s just that…
— He’s going down like the Titanic.
— Yeah, you say that, but…
— Down like Betamax.
— Like what?
— Exactly.
— So you actually believe Trump will be…
— Down like Google+
— Holy crap.
— Down like a nine pound round of Double Gloucester cheese on Cooper’s Hill.
— …
— You know…the annual cheese rolling festival and massacre?
— No idea what you’re talking about.
— C’mon, it’s the most famous cheese rolling event in the world.
— Cheese rolling. Cheese rolling? What the fuck? Cheese rolling?
— Yeah. It’s an…
Cheese? Cheese rolling?
— Every spring for the last, oh, few hundred years the good and semi-sober people of Brockworth in Gloucestershire have held a sort of contest in which they roll a cheese down Cooper’s Hill.
— That’s it?
— Well, no. People chase the cheese down the hill. The first survivor at the bottom wins.
— Wins what?
— The cheese, you idiot.
— When you say ‘survivor’…
— It’s a steep hill. People fall. And tumble and roll and break bones.
— …
— Also spectators might get whacked by the cheese as it rolls and bounces down the hill.
— Hit by a cheese?
— A nine-pound round of Double Gloucester can top out at about seventy miles per hour. Cheese like that could kill a person. These are murderous cheeses.
— You’re making this up, aren’t you.
— How dare you!
— Why would anybody chase a cheese down a hill?
— Probably some sort of ancient primitive pagan fertility thing.
— That’s ridiculous.
— Dude, they’re British.
— Oh, right. Yeah, then it makes some sense. And people really do this? And they really get hurt?
— Watch this.

— Jesus suffering fuck.
— I know, right?
— That’s insane.
— Well, there’s cheese involved. And possibly alcohol.
— …
— …
— I totally want to do this.
— Impeach Trump?
— Fuck Trump. I want to chase the cheese. When does this happen?
— May 27th, five days from today. Around noon. Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire. Cheese and medical care are provided.
— This is why England will always be a great nation.

a midvinterblot’s tale

The luck of the king is the luck of the land, according to the Ynglings, the most ancient of Viking dynasties. The sad truth of this can be seen in the story of King Visbur and his son Domald — which is appropriate given that today is the winter solstice.

Visbur married the daughter of Aude the Rich. Her name is unknown to history since the value of women was only measured by their ability to give birth to sons. She gave Visbur two sons: Ond and Gisle. At some point Visbur put his wife aside and married another, whose name is also forgotten. The new wife gave him another son, Domald (sometimes called Dómaldi or Dómaldr), who was declared Visbur’s heir.

Ond, Gisle, and their poor nameless mother objected. The two sons went to Visbur to protest, but were rejected. Their mother then cursed Domald with ósgæssa — ill-luck or bad fortune. Ond and Gisle took what today would be called a pro-active approach. This is how the skald Snorri Sturluson described it:

Eptir þat sömnuðu þeir liði, ok kómu at Vísbur um nótt á úvart ok brendu hann inni.
Thereafter they collected men, came unexpectedly in the night on Visbur, and burned him in his house.

The crown passed to Domald, whose curse of ill-luck was compounded by an exaggerated sense of self-worth coupled with a distinct lack of competence. Domald’s reign was disastrous. Crops withered and failed, livestock became sickly and died. So on the winter solstice, at the time of midvinterblot — the annual sacrifice — Domald had his priests sacrifice oxen instead of sheep. The greater the sacrifice, the more it is appreciated by the gods.

It didn’t work. The crops still failed, the livestock grew thinner, old folks and children starved. At the next midvinterblot Domald had his priests sacrifice a few peasants instead of oxen.

An early version of the Sacrifice of Domald.

It didn’t work. The fields of rye and barley gave paltry yields, the hay and timothy needed to feed the livestock died before it could be harvested, the swine and cattle wasted away. So as the winter solstice and midvinterblot approached:

…a great multitude of Swedes came to Upsalir; and now the chiefs held consultations with each other, and all agreed that the times of scarcity were on account of their king Domald, and they resolved to offer him for good seasons, and to assault and kill him, and sprinkle the stalle of the gods with his blood. And they did so.

And they did so. Snorri Sturluson assures us the crops and livestock then flourished, and all were happy.

Domald dies by bloody arms,
Raised not by foes in war’s alarms
Raised by his Swedish liegemen’s hand,
To bring good seasons to the land.

Carl Larsson’s ‘Midvinterblot’ depicting the sacrifice of Domald.

We shouldn’t read anything into the similarity between the names Domald and Donald. Nor should we consider the blood oblation of midvinterblot as anything other than a metaphor for a meaningful sacrifice. But given recent events, and the promise of more chaos, upheaval, and pandemonium to come, I think it’s past time for Congressional Republicans to begin the ritual necessary to remove our own ill-fated, star-crossed Donald from power.

The luck of king, the Ynglings told us, is the luck of the land. And Comrade Donald is bad luck all around. For the good of the nation and its people, Donald Trump needs to go.

henry ford, square dancing, and epistemic closure

Last night, while idly cruising through Facebook, I came across a video posted by a person I like and respect. The video claimed:

Square dancing has a secret, super-racist past.

Okay. You have my attention. I love secret histories. And it’s not hard to imagine square dancing as having a racist past, since so much of American history does have a racist past. And, again, it was posted by somebody whose opinion I respect. So what the hell, I watched the video.

Watch it for yourself, of course. But here is what I took away from it.

  • Henry Ford was a racist and an anti-semitic crank. Absolutely true. It’s pretty well-known that Henry Ford was a bigot of the ugliest kind.
  • Henry Ford believed jazz music was morally destructive AND a Jewish creation. Also absolutely true. Well, it’s true that he believed that. Again, Ford was a racist and an anti-semitic crank.
  • Henry Ford promoted square dancing. Again, absolutely true. Ford grew up with some form of call-and-response dancing. Probably not what we think of as square dancing now, but a form of it. Ford even belonged to a dancing club in the 1880s, when he was a teenager. He met his wife at a dance. And in the mid-1920s, he started a program to encourage ‘old style’ dancing among the public.
  • Therefore, since Henry Ford was a racist and anti-semitic crank, square dancing has a secret racist history in which it’s actually “a powerful weapon in a war against…a Jewish jazz dance conspiracy.”

That last bit? I don’t know…it seemed a bit of a leap to me. Is it possible? Sure. Henry Ford was a racist and an anti-semitic crank, after all. But I figured it was also possible the whole ‘secret racist history’ was just clickbait bullshit.

I would have ignored the whole thing except that this morning I came across two other people on Facebook — again, people I like and whose opinions I respect — posting that same ‘secret racist history’ video. So I thought I’d actually look into it.

Noted racist and anti-semitic crank Henry Ford square dancing in evening wear.

Eventually I found a 2010 article in The Journal of the Society for American Music entitled Henry Ford’s Dance Revival and Fiddle Contests: Myth and Reality, by Paul M. Gifford (who apparently also wrote a well-received book on the hammered dulcimer). The link will take you to the article, which is painfully long and detailed, so read it at your own risk. Gifford basically says that even though Henry Ford (who, this always bears repeating, was a racist and an anti-semitic crank) was an enthusiastic folk dancer as a teen and young man, he put all that aside for about 40 years while he was designing cars and inventing assembly lines and getting stupid rich. After he gave up control of his car company in 1918, Ford spent a few years being a racist and an anti-semitic crank in politics, which didn’t work out for him. Then in the mid-1920s, he returned to his interest in dancing, only to discover he couldn’t remember much about the dance moves and steps. He didn’t even remember much about the music.

So, since he was obscenely rich, he hired folks to go out, learn what they could about the music and the dancing, and teach it to him and his friends. One of these folks was a local dancing instructor named Benjamin B. Lovett. They sought out fiddlers and other folk musicians, picked their brains, made notes about the music and the dance steps. And they sort of re-invented call-and-response square dancing (which, as the video correctly points out, has its roots in slave communities). Lovett eventually published a book: Good Morning: After a Sleep of Twenty-five Years, Old-fashioned Dancing is Being Revived by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford. (A quick aside: the video claims Ford and his wife wrote the book; they didn’t. The title just reflects Lovett’s krypton-grade sucking up. It does, though, include an intro by Ford, which includes a racist and anti-semitic crank comment about “a revival of that type of dancing which has survived longest amongst the northern peoples.”)

Ford promoted the hell out of square dancing. He got local Michigan schools to teach it, he held dances for his employees, he gave interviews to newspapers and magazines about square dancing. He included a record of square dancing music with copies of Lovett’s book on square dancing.

Ford employees square dancing

The question, though, remains. Was Henry Ford’s promotion of ‘Old-fashioned Dancing’ a “powerful weapon in a war against…a Jewish jazz dance conspiracy”? Gifford, after his laborious research, thinks not. Why? Because Henry Ford was a very vocal racist and anti-semitic crank. He wasn’t at all shy about declaring his racist and anti-semitic crank views with the public. He even started a newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, as a venue for feeding his hateful shit to the public. And yet, when he was interviewed about square dancing, Henry Ford (a racist and anti-semitic crank) never associated it with his ugly nativism. According to Gifford, Ford saw square dancing “as part of a regimen that balanced work with leisure.” Ford, of course, could have been lying. But it doesn’t seem likely, given he was so open about being a racist and anti-semitic crank.

But here’s something that gets ignored. Henry Ford (have I mentioned that he was an avowed racist and anti-semitic crank?) basically stopped promoting square dancing in the late 1920s. But in the mid-1930s, a Colorado school principal named Lloyd Shaw introduced square dancing into his school as part of the physical education program. He later created a troupe of square dancers and toured the US promoting square dancing as healthy exercise. In 1949, the American Academy of Physical Education said square dancing was “a noteworthy contribution to physical education.”

Modern, western-style square dancing of the sort promoted by Shaw.

Shaw, it seems, got permission from Henry ‘Racist, Anti-semitic Crank’ Ford to include some of the dance moves from the Lovett book in his own book on square dancing. That seems to have sparked the claim that Ford ‘funded’ Shaw’s square dance movement. There doesn’t seem to be any actual evidence of funding from Ford, but it’s worth mentioning. Where Ford promoted an old-fashioned folk tradition form of square dancing, Shaw promoted a newer Western-based style. You didn’t see cowboy boots and kerchiefs at Ford square dances.

Shaw died in 1958. And here’s the kicker: the movement to make square dancing the national dance — the movement that resulted in so many states making square dancing official state dances — didn’t begin until 1965, with the National Folk Dance Committee. So the notion that Ford, even though he was a racist and an anti-semitic crank, was attempting to insert his racism and anti-semitism into the American bloodstream through square dancing seems (to me, at any rate) even less likely.

It comes down to this: Henry Ford was a racist and anti-semitic crank who promoted square dancing. But that doesn’t mean Henry Ford promoted square dancing because he was a racist and anti-semitic crank.

Why am I nattering on about this? I mean, who really cares about square dancing? Not me. What I DO care about is epistemic closure.

What the hell is epistemic closure? Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. Epistemic closure basically refers to the condition in which we limit what we learn/know based on what we already believe. If, for example, you believe the accordion is the most melodic musical instrument ever invented, and you join internet groups that celebrate the accordion and follow the twitter feeds of accordion lovers, then all the information you receive about accordions will reinforce your belief.

You’ll find that almost everybody agrees with you, with the exception of those rare accordion haters out there (and they can safely be ignored). You’ll get involved in vitriolic arguments about which accordions are better than others, and wonder why some people are unable to understand why your accordion of choice is the best. You’ll shy away from interacting with those folks who hold false beliefs about the best accordion, further limiting what you can learn. And those ignorant fuckers who celebrate bagpipes are barely human and should be either locked up or exterminated. I mean, c’mon…bagpipes?

Epistemic closure is why FoxNEWS viewers remain ignorant. Whether you call it epistemic closure, or the bubble, or the echo chamber, it’s dangerous for folks to accept information simply because it seems to conform to what they already believe. Most of us accept that the US was built on the backs of slaves. Most of us accept that modern culture has racism baked into it. So when somebody says square dancing is part of a white supremacy conspiracy and has a secret racist history, we’re likely to just nod and say, “Yeah, that makes sense.” Because let’s face it, it’s totally possible.

But in this case…I don’t think so. Despite the fact that Henry Ford was a racist and an anti-semitic crank, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to support the notion that square dancing is a tool of white supremacy. You, of course, may arrive at an entirely different conclusion.

alchemy, hermetically-sealed trump, zosimos of panopolis, and other stuff

A lot of folks I know are baffled by Comrade Trump’s apparent popularity among Republicans. As of this week, 84% of Republicans approve of his job performance. That’s huge. How is it possible, they wonder, for them to support a president who blatantly tells lies, who has repeatedly cheated on his wife, who routinely bullies and vilifies his critics, who brags incessantly, who claims to be a Christian but is ignorant about Christianity, who deliberately undermines the nation’s law enforcement and intelligence services for his own political purposes? How the hell is that possible?

The simple answer is…wait. Hold on. Have you ever known me to give a simple answer? No fucking way. So allow me to digress. And I mean seriously digress. I’m going to explain Comrade Trump’s apparent popularity by turning to Zosimos of Panopolis.

Zosimos of Panopolis, with an alembic.

You’re almost certainly asking yourself (well, you’re actually asking me, but…wait, never mind), Who the hell is or was Zosimos of Panopolis? He was an Egyptian alchemist and mystic who lived at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century AD. Zosimos wrote one of the earliest books on alchemy. In it, he describes several devices invented by an earlier alchemist known as Mary the Jewess (who was also known as Mary the Prophetess…because apparently only men can be prophets, which is a whole nother thing I haven’t time to get into, along with that whole ‘Jewess’ business). One of those devices was a…okay, wait, I feel another tangent coming on. The early alchemical practices were known as the ‘hermetic arts’, for Hermes, the Greek god of science and art. One of the devices invented by our Mary — not the one I’m going to mention in a bit, but a different apparatus — was an airtight container. This is where the phrase ‘hermetically sealed’ comes from. Cool, huh? I now return you to the original digression.

Zosimos’ book credits Mary with inventing the alembic (although this is probably not so). What’s an alembic? It’s a sort of gourd-shaped container with a hollow half-ball thingum on top, from which a tube runs…well, hell, just look at the illustration below.

An alembic.

An alembic basically works like a moonshiner’s still. You put a liquid in the container, heat it until it creates steam or vapor, the steam rises into the upper ball where it cools by contact with the walls and condenses, the condensation then drips down the tube into another container. This is the process of distillation, and it works whether you’re trying to create alcohol or perfume or medicine.

That distilled liquid is the essence of the original liquid. If you take that essence, put it back into the alembic and distill it again — and do it a total of five times — you end up with a quintessence. A very pure form of the original liquid.

Right. Now apply that concept to political parties. In 1944, 38% of U.S. registered voters identified as Republican (41% were Democrats, 20% were Independents). As of July 11th of this year only 26% of voters identify as Republican. Although the numbers have fluctuated, there has been a steady decline in Republican numbers (as well as a more gradual decline in those identifying as Democrat (30%), with a corresponding increase in Independents (41%)).

We’re talking political distillation here. A slow process of separating out impurities. Both political parties have been distilled, though Democrats, who’ve historically been more tolerant of ideological impurity, remain considerably less pure. Both parties have boiled off Independents, though at radically different rates.

But here’s the thing: after the distillation process — after all the good stuff has been boiled away — there’s still stuff left in the bottom of the alembic. That, you guys, is the modern Republican party. After a few decades of boiling, Republicans are left with a residue of mostly older white Christian uber-nationalist racists. Among whom Comrade Trump is immensely popular.

Faust, with an alembic and your basic homunculus.

Oh, and back to our boy Zosimos of Panopolis for a moment. In his book, he includes a series of mystical dream/vision sequences (remember, we’re talking 3rd and 4th century Egypt here; they were hot for that dreamy-visiony stuff). In his dream, Zosimos meets “a priest of inner sanctuaries” who proceeds to chop Zosimos up. boils the bits, and from the steam he creates a creature that is “the opposite of himself.”

The idea of an alchemically-created homunculus is said to have influenced an alchemist named Johann Georg Faust, who was possibly the inspiration for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s drama of a man who made a pact with the devil. The notion also intrigued another alchemist named Johann Conrad Dippel, who was born in (and I swear I am NOT making this up) Castle Frankenstein in the village of Darmstein. Dippel was almost certainly the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s character Victor Frankenstein, who created the monster that…well, this could go on forever, couldn’t it.

The residue left at the bottom.

Anyway, it’s all down to alchemy, Zosimos, Mary the Jewess, Mary Shelley, and…and at this point I’ve totally lost track of my point. But that’s why Comrade Trump is so popular.

okay, we still have to do something about syria, again

“We HAVE to do something about Syria!”
“Okay. Why?”
“Because the Syrian government used chemical weapons against their own people!”
“Okay. But hasn’t the Syrian government been killing their own people for…wait. Wait a minute. Wait just one goddamn minute. Didn’t we already have this conversation? This exact conversation? Five years ago, didn’t we have this same conversation?”
“Yes. But this time I’m serious!”
“Okay. Has anything changed in the last five years?”
“Yes! We have a new president!”
“Okay. And is he better equipped to handle delicate, highly nuanced, incredibly volatile international situations?”
“Are you fucking crazy? It’s Donald Trump!”
“Okay. So we’re still fucked, then?”
“Yes, that’s correct! Massively fucked! Fucked all around!”
“Okay. And knowing all that, your position is…?”
“We HAVE to do something about Syria!”