January 2021

Well it’s been a helluva month. In COVID-19 news, the world continues to rage with the disease. It seems like some places will be a bit better for a while and then will get bad again. My town was for some time at the top of the list of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, which isn’t a list I feel especially good about being at the top of. Our family has thankfully stayed safe and COVID-free. We’re continuing to live as hermits for the most part, though we are letting my son play more out in the neighborhood than we had been, which I hope is a calculated risk we don’t come to regret. The world out there seems largely normal, but with most people wearing masks. That said, I do see people crowding restaurants and bars and such, which blows my mind.

We got a dog named Baxter, a Great Pyrenees whom I’ll write about at greater length before too long. I’ve resisted getting a second dog for a long time but decided five years to the date (coincidentally) after we got our other dog that I was willing (and even eager) to get a companion for her. After visiting a couple of shelters with so-so luck, I found a lesser-known animal rescue group nearby that happened to have this lovely big pooch. We gave him a trial run for a couple of weeks starting at the end of 2020 and made the adoption official in the last week. He’s a sweetheart, if a loud one.

And then there’s U.S. politics. Trump was thankfully voted out of office, but I wasn’t going to believe he would actually leave office until I witnessed it on January 20. I figured he and his minions would find some way to cheat or intimidate their way into keeping him in office. And they sure tried. On January 6 while I was working, I started hearing news reports that a “Stop the Steal” rally in D.C. had erupted into an assault on the Capitol. January 6 is the day that the legislature vote to certify the election results. Trump conveniently held a rally on this day during which he incited the crowd to march down the mall to the Capitol and basically see their will done. A mob of people in MAGA hats and various flags (including the Confederate flag) stormed the Capitol and overwhelmed the curiously small police force there, breaching various offices and one of the chambers of legislature. It was brazen, as if they knew they’d get away with it minus any consequences. Some have begun to suffer some consequences, but it was terrifying that things came to this point. They erected a gallows and called for the assassination of Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence (whom Trump was upset at for not colluding with him to steal the election). Eventually, reinforcements arrived (it appears that Trump’s goons at the Pentagon were complicit in withholding troops) and the situation was gotten under control, but even then, the rioters were politely escorted away and allowed (most of them) to leave. By contrast, BLM protesters all summer were shot with rubber bullets, pepper sprayed, beaten, and locked up. This is what white supremacy looks like.

The legislature resumed their work and in spite of the resistance of 100+ Republican legislators certified the election. Biden would be president, it seemed. (But who knew what else Trump and his mob might try?) A week later, the House of Representatives voted (with 10 Republicans crossing the aisle) to impeach Trump, the first time a president has ever been twice impeached. And the week after that, Biden and Harris were sworn in. This was a profound relief.

Trump had had his social media accounts suspended as he continued to lie and foment his supporters. That alone was a relief, but then seeing Biden sworn in and the Trump apparatus disassembled, with Trump and his crooked children making tracks at last, enabled me to exhale. Normalcy and dignity and something resembling the truth are returning to at least the executive branch of the U.S. government. Now we just need to shame and indict and punish Trump and his many enablers.

Here’s to a less eventful February, and here’s to a vast reduction in how much we have to hear from Trump and his sort. What a stain.

Better Off?

I find it puzzling that so many conservatives are in such a lather about Obama’s reelection. One of the questions that arose throughout the election cycle was whether or not people were better off now than four years ago. It’s entirely possible that I’m either dazzlingly lucky or blindingly competent, but these last have been the best four years of my life economically. I did the following:

  • Made my highest salary ever
  • Lost that job but had the good fortune to turn down several other opportunities and pick one I love
  • Invested more than ever in the stock market, my 401k, and my kids’ education
  • Got money back from my insurance company thanks to the Affordable Care Act
  • Had my highest tax refund ever (while fearing that I had screwed things up and would take a bath)
  • Spent loads of money making improvements to my home

In short, it’s been a great few years for me. I’m not necessarily interested in giving credit for that to Obama (other than the Affordable Care Act, maybe). But my point is that even if he hasn’t been directly responsible for what’s been a period of prosperity for me, his policies haven’t wrecked my life or finances either, and it’s hard for me to imagine that he’s going to wreck them going forward.

I’m nowhere near wealthy, but I’m fortunate enough to be nowhere near the poverty line either, and maybe I’m just in a rare sweet spot that has made me, in fact, better off now than I was four years ago.

It’s easy to run around muppet-arming when somebody the pundits tell you to be afraid of gets into office. Lord knows I thought hard about striking out for Canada when Bush got into office (and then did it again), and things never got quite so bad as requiring that. But it was sure easy to think that they might. So in a way, I can understand the impulse conservatives have right now to think that things are going to be awful (in spite of things like the Affordable Care Act and falling unemployment that seem like they’d make life better for us plebes).

I do wonder, in real life, pragmatic terms — as in how people’s particular finances and prospects are likely to be affected and not some abstraction about how millionaires will have smaller piles of gold and gems to sit on while eating haunches of meat — how much impact Obama’s continued term in office will have on folks in my tax bracket and lower. I’m not baiting or trying to speculate (while distancing myself from the speculation by pretending I’m just idly wondering). I’m really sincerely curious what particular policies Joe and Peggy down the street think will drive them to ruin, and exactly how.

Maybe I’m doing just enough better than many people that policies that’ll affect them negatively won’t affect me. But if, in my still pretty modest tax bracket, I can be so out of touch that I can’t really quite imagine what all the fuss is about, then how vastly more out of touch must Romney be? And Obama, for that matter? And anybody who’s managed to make it to the national stage in politics?

Stay Away from the Moon

I just stepped out of the office for a glass of water and stopped, as I often do when poking my head out, to say hi to my wife and son. My wife told me that Finn had asked what she wanted to do today, and she answered that she’d like to fly to the moon. She shouldn’t do that, he cautioned her. When she asked why, he replied, “Newt Gingrich.” Pressing for more details, she discovered that his reasoning was that Gingrich would make you work in a factory if you went to the moon. He apparently wants to build factories in space, which proposal Finn learned about this morning while overhearing my wife’s listening to Rachel Maddow.

Yet another reason to avoid voting for Newt.

You know, I hear that while he was building factories on the barren moon, he was shopping the idea around to build on other celestial bodies as well, the promiscuous rascal.

Given his religious background, it stands to reason that Romney might have an interest in space too.