Category Archives: current events

Economic inequality is increasing. What should be done? I don’t know.

According to a report from Oxfam, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations that focuses on poverty reduction, in the ten months since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, the net worth of the ten richest people in the world has increased by $540 billion. Meanwhile, they project that it could take more than a decade to reduce the number of people living poverty to pre-pandemic levels.

The report indicates that unless rising inequality is address, half a billion more people could be living on less than $5.50 a day or less in 2030, ten years after the start off the pandemic.

The report recommends a temporary wealth tax on profits made by the 32 most corporations and other super-rich entities and people. Oxfam says the half-trillion dollars the ten richest have made would, if taken from them, pay for Covid vaccination for everyone on the planet and reverse the rise in poverty cause by the pandemic.

You don’t have to be Karl Marx to shake your head at those statistics. The fact is, you’re in much better position to weather or thrive during a crisis like this than you are if you’re already financially stressed.

If you’re talking about people living on $5.50 per day, you’re not talking about welfare queens or that guy who used to use food stamps to buy food you couldn’t afford in spite of working a couple jobs. These are severely poor people who struggled to survive to begin with.

The Oxfam recommendations extend beyond any national boundaries and would require an international organization with the ability to override national taxation rules. It wouldn’t be a matter of a one-time levy. Power tends to perpetuate itself. And if we could make things a little better by unilaterally taking from billionaires, just think of how much we good we could do if we did the same to millionaires, or even to the 25% most wealthy in the world (which includes you).To set something like that up in an equitable manner that protects national sovereignty and includes checks and balances would take forever. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the other eight aren’t likely to voluntarily give up everything they’ve made in the past year and more. And no country with wealth is likely to unilaterally cede tax policy to a worldwide body that hasn’t been created and has no rules. (Yes, I know there’s the UN, but it doesn’t have the right to tax and has structural problems of its own.)

YOU are probably in the top 25% of wealthy people worldwide. Don’t argue with Cannon.

There’s more to this than just saying it has to be done and done now. How do you do it? Who has the authority, and how do you stop them from seizing vast tracts of private property or businesses?

I realize people are dying, but if you don’t answer those questions, even more people are likely to die.

In short, I don’t have the answers, beyond “this isn’t working and how do we change it?” It starts with stepping away from the normal accusations we heave at each other and a realization that to solve the problem we have to find a workable way to fund the necessary work, add controls to reduce corruption, and protect the interests of the people who’d otherwise be seen as an infinite checkbook.

If we don’t get past competing shouting about communism and murderous greed, nothing will be done. (But everyone will feel good about defending their version of mortal certainty.)

If Republicans want unity, it’s up to us to restore trust and provide justice

After September 11, people of the Islamic faith were nervous. Fringe elements of that faith had launched an attack that killed 3000 Americans and destroyed a worldwide symbol of this country. This attack came on top of other smaller attacks on American interests. Islamist leaders openly called for the end of this country and death for its leaders and anyone else who didn’t hold to their view of the world.

Just three weeks ago, the leader of the Republican Party goaded party members to keep him enthroned as the leader of the country. Those party members invaded and ransacked the Capitol building–a symbol of American freedom. They tried to find and publicly kill elected leaders who disagreed. While this happened, other elected members were supporting the position that our election should be overturned and Donald Trump installed as President.

One member seemed to provide intelligence on where the Speaker of the House was so the group whose members built a gallows could find her.

This happened just a few weeks after the FBI foiled a plot to kidnap the duly-elected Governor of Michigan, try her for treason in a non-sanctioned court, and presumably execute her.

The Islamist terrorists toppled two buildings. The insurrectionists, with the support of a large swath of the Republican party, tried to topple our entire system of government. Their public executions would be fair warning of what happened to any who opposed them going forward.

If Islamists had dared such a brazen overthrow, no one would be speaking of unity.

Like it or not, every member of the Republican party is subject to the same suspicions Muslims felt after September 11. Members of our party came perilously close to ending the United States as a republic.

As the FBI rounds up the insurrectionists, they’re finding people you might expect–that guy who proudly waved a Trump flag the size of Montana in his yard. But they’re also finding that guy at church who seemed pleasant enough. The guy you talked to at the bar as he served you drinks way back in 2019. That mom you thought was nice at the PTA meeting.

Those who sat traumatized on January 6 don’t know which ones of us supported people who would potentially kill them for political opposition.

If Republicans want unity, it’s up to us to restore some level of trust. Our neighbors probably aren’t sure about us right now–and they have cause.

It’s up to us to let them know most of us still believe in free elections. It’s up to us to vocally oppose anyone who would round up political opposition to give them a “fair trial” followed by a first-class hanging. It’s up to use to disown every single member of our party who encouraged this attempted coup.

If you’re a Republican, it’s up to you to let people know whether you supported this.

It’s up to us to let them know we aren’t in league with people who want them dead.

If you’re a Republican and you don’t do those things, they’re entitled to distrust and visceral dislike–the kind of dislike that turns to hatred.

It’s our side that put this country on the cliff, teetering over oblivion. Our side has an obligation to work hard at restoring the unity we crave.

We still get to have principles. We still get to disagree. But we have an absolute obligation for civility and, more important, for justice.

Henry Aaron, who opened my eyes to racism, dies at 86

Henry Aaron, who passed away yesterday at the age of 86, has always been an American civil rights icon to me.

Henry Aaron connects off Dodgers pitcher Al Downing for number 715.

When I was a kid, Aaron and Willie Mays were chasing Babe Ruth’s career record of 714 home runs. As much as I rooted for Mays, Aaron was the one who’d catch, then pass Ruth.

He finished the 1973 season with 713 home runs. In 1974, the Braves opened in Cincinnati, which resulted in a brawl when the Braves threatened to sit him for that series so he could set the record at home. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn required him to play at least two games and he hit home run 714 there. Kuhn attended the opening day game, where Aaron hit number 714 to tie the recoord.

In the months leading up to all this, Aaron spoke of the pressure of it all, something I didn’t understand. He had the perfect job and he was good at it.

A book I read later that year talked about the racism, and about the threats to his life–all for hitting home runs. Except it wasn’t the home runs, it was his skin color. To ten-year-old Chris, it seemed ridiculous. Skin color didn’t matter. Home runs are home runs. If he hit more than Ruth, he hit more than Ruth.

Though I’ve been far from perfect with regard to race, Aaron’s experiences stayed with me as I grew. Skin color always seemed a stupid thing to be material in judging a person’s worth. It seemed as irrelevant as eye color or hair color.

And yet it was relevant in the eyes of far too many people.

In a 1973 interview with the New York Daily News, Aaron said, “If I were a white man, all America would be proud of me. But I’m black. You have to be black in America to know how sick some people are.”

The book showed a picture of bags filled with hate mail, as well as some of the letters he got.

Hate mail received by Hank Aaron

Aaron was no stranger to racial hatred. He grew up in Mobile, Alabama. He talked of his mother telling him to hide under the bed when the KKK marched down the street. After, he could come out and go play again. Imagine that being part of your daily life.

He briefly played for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues in 1952 before the then Boston Braves signed him and sent him to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He was 19 the year he was sent to Jacksonville of the class A Sally League. Then, after playing 12 seasons with the team in Milwaukee, the Braves moved to Atlanta. At the time, baseball free agency didn’t exist. Aaron couldn’t leave the Braves on his own and didn’t have a lot of leverage to force a trade. And the south wasn’t a friendly place at the time.

The night he broke the record, April 8, 1974, his bodyguard, an Atlanta police officer named Calvin Wardlaw, was in the stands and armed. Snipers stood ready on the roof of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Aaron received so much hate mail, so many threats, that his children had bodyguards.

Bowie Kuhn, who’d attended one of the games in Cincinnati, didn’t attend the game in Atlanta, citing a previous engagement. He was the commissioner of baseball. It was his job to be there. His action was rightfully seen as a snub.

Al Downing, the pitcher whos started for the opposing Los Angeles Dodgers that night, walked Aaron his first time up, resulting in an avalanche of boos. His second time up, he hit a ball deep to left field. Dodgers left fielder Bill Buckner (yes, that Bill Buckner) climbed the wall trying to rob him of the home run, but to no avail. Relief pitcher Tom House retrieved the ball so Aaron could have it.

The game was on NBC that night and when two fans approached Aaron as he rounded the bases, I was too naïve to think they were a threat. But Aaron’s wife Billye wasn’t. She was worried. Wardlaw and the snipers decided not to shoot. And they congratulated him and moved away (alcohol may have been involved).

Two fans congratulate Aaron after he rounds second base.

And because the Dodgers were the Braves’ opponent that night, Vin Scully, as he does, had maybe the perfect call.

“A black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep south for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.”

When Jackie Robinson played in Cincinnati, which as close as it gets to the South, Pee Wee Reese who was from Louisville, Kentucky, made a point of standing next to Robinson during infield practice, putting his arm around him, showing acceptance.

Later, after teammate Pete Reiser said that democracy should means everyone is equal, Reese said, “Well, that’s true, but Jackie is catching special hell because he’s the only black player. Maybe we ought to to something to make it more equal.”

Robinson, Aaron, Willie Mays, and countless others bore a weight I can only imagine. And for the most part, they did it with a sense of grace and class that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t approach. From the time he was a kid in Mobile and his mother made him hide under the bed when the Klan came by, thought the death threats, and beyond, he–along with others in similar shoes–had every right to be angry and bitter.

But they weren’t, and that was their gift to us. All while they were trying to be more equal, so they could be truly equal.

After his playing career, Aaron continued his fight to continue to integrate baseball and life. He was the first black to hold a senior management position with a major league team (the Braves) and he founded the Chasing the Dream foundation to support underprivileged kids.

It wasn’t until 1974 that baseball had a black manager (Frank Robinson of the Indians). The following year, Bill Lucas became the first black general manager in baseball, taking over the Braves. It wasn’t until 1989 that the NFL, a majority black league, had its first black head coach in Art Shell.

And it last May, 46 years after Aaron’s home run, that a white police officer knelt on a black man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he died. It wasn’t remotely the first time something like that happened, but it was the first time we finally took notice.

Because blacks tend to be reluctant to get medical care and there are concerns they won’t get the coronavirus vaccine, Aaron and his wife Billye joined Andrew Young and Louis Sullivan to get the vaccine just two weeks ago. He hoped his action would spur others to follow suit.

Hank Aaron gets a Covid shot on January 6.

In short, Henry Aaron, though he was never my favorite ballplayer, casts a long shadow for me. Sometimes he made me uncomfortable with the mirror his statements and positions held up. And that’s a good thing.

The Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers, who Aaron played for the last two years of his career, both retired his number. The Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta United soccer team will both retire his number 44 this year in honor of him.

Hopefully some of the people who shouted or wrote hateful things in 1974 have had the opportunity to reconsider those things. Hopefully his example of grace under pressure and abuse opened their eyes.

Henry Aaron died in his sleep Friday. He was 86. The world was a better place for Henry Aaron’s presence in it. It’s poorer for his passing.

They can have my gendered playing cards when they pry them from my cold, dead hands

“If we have this hierarchy that the king is worth more than the queen, then this subtle inequality influence people in their daily life because it’s just another way of saying, ‘hey, you’re less important.'” That’s a quote from Indy Mellink, a 23-year-old forensic psychology graduate who has created a genderless deck of playing cards so Kings can’t be worth more than Queens.

Her cards replace Kings, Queens, and Jacks with Gold, Silver, and Bronze.

Indy Mellink and her playing cards. (Photo: REUTERS/Eva Plevier)

Because feelings. And maybe an endorsement deal with the Olympics.

So far, Mellink has sold about 1,500 decks of her new, woke playing cards to assure that people can feed their gambling addiction and fight the patriarchy at the same time.

My first reaction on seeing this story was to role my eyes so hard that they almost stuck that way. It’s stupid.

Then I thought again.

To be clear, I’ll never think there’s a moral or ethical imperative to modify playing cards. And I don’t intend to throw out mine and get with the 21st century. I’m a purist when it comes to playing cards.

But it is a free society, which means if Ms. Mellink wants to create gender-free playing cards, she gets to do that. As Voltaire once didn’t say, “I disagree with with your stupid playing cards, but I’ll defend to the death your right to play Blackjack…err, Blackbronze with them.”

And if she can make money selling them to other people who feel the same way, that what we capitalists call “living the dream.”

That freedom extends both ways. The people who prefer to play with the queen of hearts (knowing it ain’t really smart), also get to do that. Especially Juice Newton.

And Kevin James.

Put another way, you can have my suicide king when you pry him from my cold, dead hand.

In comparison to recent history, yesterday was almost boring. And that was perfect.

For everything that happened yesterday, the other shoe never dropped.

President Trump left the White House in the morning and gave what was, for him, a graceful speech. Then he went to Florida. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris went to church with Mike Pence and congressional leaders. They all assembled at the Capitol. Lady Gaga and JLo sang. Amanda Gorman spoke.

Youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman

Kamala Harris took her oath. Joe Biden took his.

The rest of the day went as scripted. We all went to bed.

And the other shoe never dropped. No one insulted everyone who dared to disagree. No one stormed any government buildings. Nothing blew up.

Instead of some fool running around in face paint and a viking hat, we had Bernie Sanders looking like a grumpy old man wearing his 50-year-old mittens.

Bernie Sanders in the most grumpy-looking Bernie Sanders moment ever.

It was almost boring in comparison. It was wonderful.

To be fair, a great deal happened yesterday. But none of it was incendiary. And none of it required you to pledge your absolute fealty to the people involved and every word that sprang from their lips.

President Biden’s speech was like a salve. Over and over, he said we needed to stop dividing ourselves. He implied that although we don’t always agree on policies, most of us aren’t taking positions just to screw the living hell out of people we don’t like. He said I might disagree with him on policy–and that’s okay.

Biden during his speech.

And it was better than okay. It was perfect.

For people who aren’t white dudes, it was a big deal. A woman in now vice president. A woman of color. The stage included JLo speaking in Spanish, a black poet, and a white guy wearing jeans, showing that while some may wish otherwise, inclusion of minorities doesn’t mean exclusion of white guys in jeans.

There’s an understandable fear from the right that this new administration will mark the end of the freedom to diverge from progressive viewpoints. If you don’t comply with the enlightened stance of the day, you suck and are not part of civilized society. I’m not alone in feeling that.

But President Biden’s conciliatory words weren’t just something he pulled out yesterday so he could sucker everyone into docile acceptance. They’ve been part of his approach since the beginning of the campaign. They’re the reason a number of people on the left still aren’t happy with his becoming president, because they are the enemy.

We’ve had four years of they are the enemy.

We need four years of we may disagree on approach and still be united in purpose.

It was almost quaint yesterday, seeing everyone at least pretend to be civil. In a cycle where reality has mirrored the big-budget action films that used to dominate theaters (when we went to them), there were no explosions, no heroics, no last-minute twist ending.

Yesterday was a lot of things to a lot of people. But at the root of it, it was the return of the ability to disagree and remain civil. It’s a concept that liberty demands. Liberty is built on disagreement and acceptance.

It means we’re gonna have the same partisan divides we’ve always had. And that’s okay, as long as we agree on principles. The guy in charge said so.

It went off as scripted, the old, boring way.

For a day, at least, it was perfect.

Mets GM shows how much work is still required in major mens sports

When the #MeToo movement was most powerful, it exposed a lot of things that needed exposing. But after the ritual bloodletting, it’s not clear whether anything’s really changed in Hollywood.

In sports, women are making inroads. In baseball, Kim Ng’s hiring as Marlin’s GM was appropriate and overdue. But her hiring, and others, isn’t stopping the other side of the story. This time, it’s Mets general manager Jared Porter, who’s acknowledged sending a foreign female journalist suggestive texts and pictures while he worked for the Chicago Cubs in 2016.

The Mets fired Porter yesterday, just a couple weeks after he pulled off one of the best trades in franchise history. And just a few hours after ESPN broke the harassment story. Within a few hours, owner Steve Cohen said the Mets had fired him.

There’s no chance Porter is a victim in this story. He admitted to the texts and even said the pictures weren’t of his genitalia, but that they’re “joke stock images.”

Ha ha.

Jared Porter, who failed both as a comedian and the Mets General Manager.

There’s such at thing as redemption, but it requires contrition, hard work, and time. It’s too soon and Porter has no seeming desire to at least pretend to be contrite and put the time in.

The woman in question, who has since left journalism, is not from the United States. When ESPN first approached her in 2017 after getting word of Porter’s activity, she declined to cooperating, saying she feared for her job. She came forward now after Porter was named GM because Porter now has a lot more power over other people. But because of her home country’s culture, she still doesn’t want to be named.

Mets President Sandy Alderson (a man) indicated her nation of origin, which made her situation worse. How many women from a specific country outside the US covered the Cubs that year? This is a woman who did nothing wrong, except trying to do her job. And Alderson victimized her again.

Mets owner Steve Cohen (l) and President Sandy Alderson (r).

Although come criticized the time frame (less than 24 hours), Cohen clearly did the right thing here. But when Alderson was asked if there were problems with the Mets’ vetting, his answer was no. It would’ve been better if the team said they’d revisit their vetting process to see if improvements were possible.

Women are increasingly becoming a part of men’s sports. And to some degree, they need to acclimate to the people they’re covering. But 60 texts and 17 pictures, all of which appear to be of a sexual nature isn’t any more acceptable in a sports context than it would be at your place of work.

Perhaps instead of simply being fired, people who do what Porter admitted to should be given lengthy unpaid suspensions to prevent them from serving a short, meaningless penance, then resurfacing somewhere else. Perhaps employers should have to share in the penalties by forfeiting draft picks and being fined.

That last thing isn’t fair, but neither is being driven out of your career by a guy who views your femininity as a license to treat you like a disposable set of female sex organs.

There’s no world in which it should be acceptable to do what Porter did. There’s no yeah, but what about… in this story. He was asked about this and he admitted it, then joked about it. As women increasingly become more involved in men’s sports, Major League Baseball and the rest of big-money men’s sports need to do more to assure that they’re treated with basic respect and allowed to do their jobs.

We cannot give insurrectionists a virtual inauguration

Keith Olbermann thinks that because of the risk involved, the inauguration should be moved off the very same Capitol grounds that saw the attempted coup two weeks from tomorrow.

Olbermann, never one to be bogged down in understatement when politics is concerned, raises the point that the FBI is vetting all 25,000 of the National Guard members selected to provide security for the inauguration. He says that if just one of them turns, it will mar the ceremony.

I, never one to be bogged down by agreeing with Mr. Olbermann, disagree. Security for Wednesday’s event is more than 25,000 National Guard members. Large swaths of our Capitol, including the entire National Mall, are shut down. Rather than the movable crowd-control barriers in place last week, unscalable fencing has been erected around multiple targets in DC. Even media has been limited.

Our Capitol Building–cordoned off.

And regular folks, the people who might otherwise take the day off and witness an historic day in our country’s history–they won’t be found. For them, the ceremony is already virtual–not because of the Covid, but because of the insurrection.

When you drive north toward DC on I-395, you crest a hill where you can see the city–not all of it, but enough that if you take a few second to think about it, you can be awed by the history you can take in in just one glance.

You can’t see the White House from there, or the Lincoln Memorial, but you can see the Washington Monument. And you can see the Capitol.

Both are closed. Some wonder whether the Capitol, the place where–for all our bitching about them–the largest group of people making policy meet on a regular basis. If any of the three branches should have its offices at least accessible by you and me, it’s Congress.

The people who hate America enough to sell its soul to a tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood have taken that from us, perhaps permanently. The created an environment where ABC journalist Alex Stone, who will cover the inauguration, has been told not to wear his press credentials, lest wannabe insurrectionists take offense and do something to him.

When you lead the most powerful country on earth, appearance is part of the job. And risk comes with the territory. So yes, as Mr. Olbermann says, it’s a show. It’s more symbol than substance, but that’s precisely why it must go on. The symbols, always important, are now vital.

To stand in a gleaming stage two weeks to the day after anti-American assholes tried to ruin our country, and take over for the man they sold their souls to, is an important symbolic gesture. To pass up that opportunity is to justify their actions and invite more.

Mr. Olbermann wonders if it’s worth an inauguration where Proud Boys get shot. To answer his question, yes. I would absolutely prefer an inauguration where anyone who tries to attack the rightfully elected President gets shot. Make him into a colander.

We’re already scaling back what you can do in our nation’s Capitol, a place where generations have gone to soak up our national experience. When my daughter lived there, she would regale us with stories about who she saw at Whole Foods that week. Those days are gone, maybe forever.

Those are sacrifices we may have to make.

But if you want to try to pull all that down–if you want to remove the American experiment that’s gone on for almost 250 years–you need to understand the risk you’re taking.

If anyone attempts to breach security Wednesday, the Secret Service, National Guard, and other responsible parties will be fully justified in making what happened to Ashli Babbitt look like a picnic. And if anyone is found guilty of supporting such an attempt, the federal government will be fully justified in dropping them into a hole so deep they’ll never see national light again.

The people who tried to pull down this country must know that they’ve awaken a formidable opponent–that they’ve started a fight they should’ve avoided.

That’s already started with the investigation and arrest of those who violated our nation last week and raped our freedoms. God may have mercy on their souls (and I hope he does), but here, there are costs for such actions. The more forcefully those costs are levied, the sooner we can re-open our city and the rest of our country and move freely about in it.

January 6 is more likely to be birth pains than death rattle

A Yahoo! News article published over the weekend said the failed attempt to thwart Donald Trump’s ascendency to another term in the White House should be seen as the beginning of the problems with right-wing domestic terrorism, rather than the end.

If some counterterrorism experts are right, we’ll see more of this, even after Trump leaves office.

The article heavily quotes two sources–General Stanley McChrystal (ret.), a top military leader under presidents Bush (43) and Obama and Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent, who’s been involved in a number of anti-terrorism cases in the US and internationally.

Both see similarities between the development of Al-Qaida in the middle east and the development of a network of home-grown groups in the United States. They point to the conglomeration of small, local cells with other like-minded groups, with the addition of military and law enforcement assets and outreach to similar groups in other countries, all of which have happened.

According to their assessment, Trump’s rhetoric provided these groups the encouragement they needed to merge around a common cause. And his “green lights” along the way, either knowingly or unknowingly lit the fuse that caused the explosion at the Capitol.

Yahoo quoted Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior advisor at the RAND corporation and counterterrorism expert as saying, “[T]he Battle of Capitol Hill has become symbolically important and central to right-wing mythology, and it will lead to more organizing and escalating threats from this movement, which we’re already seeing.”

A RAND colleague, Todd Helmus, is an expert on disinformation, and has said, “The videos will get played out in the same way that videos of jihadi attacks were consumed by their audience.”

Trump’s removal might not improve things. McChrystal said, “As this extremist movement comes under increasing pressure from law enforcement in the coming days and weeks, its members will likely retreat into tighter and tighter cells for security, and that will make them more professional, and those cells will become echo chambers…even if Trump exits the scene, the radical movement he helped create has its own momentum and cohesion now, and they may find they don’t need Trump anymore.”

This threat has taken over a good deal of the Republican party. in a recent poll majorities of Republicans believe President Trump bears no responsibility for the insurrection (56 percent), that there’s solid evidence of election fraud (66 percent), and that Trump has acted responsibly since the election (65 percent). They have the mythology and a core of believers both in and outside the mainstream.

In short, even with a change of administrations, the Capitol insurrection is more likely to be birth pains than death rattle. And the fact that some of the insurrectionists were openly referring to Emperor Trump and calling for the execution of those who opposed his efforts to overturn valid election results shows their regard for life and liberty.

Talk about uniting is premature. We aren’t through *this* yet.

You can’t determine what comes next until you get through what’s happening now.

It’s been a week and a half and we’re talking about what comes next–unity or justice. Do we forgive those who see this differently? If Chuck Norris were at the rally, but not the riot, what should’ve happened? (He wasn’t. If he was, all of the invaders may have scared into submission.)

But we aren’t through this yet.

In short, our government seats of power across the country are locked away from the very people they’re supposed to serve because of threats of violence.

And, on top of all that, on Friday, Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow was seen leaving the White House with documents discussing martial law.

We’re not through this crisis. And until the inauguration is complete, it’s too early to determine what needs to be done in response (beyond arrests and increasing security).

Personally, I think we’re well-positioned to handle any threats posed by middle-aged pillow executives whos body mirrors his product. Until next week is over, that’s as far as my confidence goes.

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Dude can’t even tuck in his shirt, let alone orchestrate a coup. (Photo: Washington Post)

So yes, we need to arrest and vigorously prosecute anyone involved in that insurrection and any others that may occur. We need to make it clear that if you look like a threat, you’ll be treated as a threat, even if you’re a female Air Force veteran wearing a backpack and a smile.

Only after we’re through whatever next week brings can we determine what reforms are required, whether and when our government facilities and the areas around them are accessible, and whether we need to re-assess the Constitutional line between free speech and sedition. And yes, we may need to tweak that.

As a free-speech absolutist, I don’t type that last line lightly. But neither do I underestimate how close we came to a much bigger calamity and how much difficult work must be done to appropriately provide protection against a repeat while also protecting our right to air our grievances.

If the forces that invaded the Capitol get their way, the First Amendment will only apply to the free speech they sanction.

The death of gratitude

Yesterday, January 73rd, 2021, was like every other day over the past sixty-seven years (10 months to be more accurate). I managed by 20-foot commute without major issues, then got a special treat because I went to Publix for some club soda and bananas after work. I actually left the house!

The sameness was mind-numbing.

To frame things differently, I worked and got paid like every other day since the start of the pandemic. I have a room set aside for my work, and I’m not trying to referee fighting children while also trying to get through a challenging work call. I’m healthy and only mildly inconvenienced by all this.

In still other words, I have a gratitude deficiency.

But I’m not alone.

This country is awash in people who find things wholly unacceptable.

The Gavinator’s favorite restaurant. Too expensive for even the Covid.

Regardless of profile, the need for some to flout the rules around Covid are driven from the same place. Whether it’s Gavin Newsom dining The French Laundry after lecturing those who wanted to eat at In-N-Out (a fast-food burger place I’d prefer), or Bruce Willis throwing a fit about his mask, we refuse to roll with the punches on Covid.

There’s a cottage industry of hard workers who amass power and money by parsing everything almost everyone says to see if somehow they can find something completely unacceptable someone said to show their power and righteousness. Sorry, Olivia Benson, you’re cancelled, too. Because the things they spent hours searching for make an immediate, material difference in modern life.

Even in day-to-day things we have it better than ever. We get groceries and meals delivered to our homes. And if we have to cook, just throw all that stuff in the Instant Pot and turn it on. It’ll cook in 20 minutes while we catch up on last night’s NCIS, streamed on demand.

It’s called an instant pot. Why do I have to wait five minutes?

The most egregious example comes from the people who freely flew or drove to the Washington, DC area, stayed at a hotel or Air BnB (mostly taking paid vacation to do so), freely ate at a place of their choice, then freely took the Metro to downtown DC to vent their rage at their absolute lack of freedom.

They made me take VACATION DAYS to do this! Tyranny! Tyranny!

In contrast are the people who’ve lost jobs, financial security, loved ones, or even their own health. People whose work requires them to wade waist deep into a Covid swamp that can’t be drained, at least not for a while. People whose nightmares from 2020 and the beginning of 2021 will never leave them.

The rest of us have it pretty damn good.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing for us, starting with me, to recognize that right now. In the history of humanity, our burden is almost miraculously light.

If we took stock of that, we’d be less threatened by many of the things that eat us up. We’d be a lot less fearful and self-directed. We’d understand that struggling with things is part of the burden that comes with breathing. We’d be more resilient and less likely to look for scapegoats for every inconvenience.

And a lot of those things burdening us might seem a lot smaller and less threatening.