Don’t Abolish the Electoral College. Fix It.

The first time it happened was 1824, when John Quincy Adams beat Andrew Jackson. The next time was 1876, when Rutherford B. Hayes beat Samuel Tilden. The third time was 1888, when Benjamin Harrison beat Grover Cleveland. The fourth time was 2000, when George W. Bush beat Al Gore. And the last time was 2016, when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. So out of fifty-eight presidential elections, it has happened five times, almost ten percent. Of the five elections in this century, it has happened twice, or forty percent. In all five, it has happened quite legally, in accordance with the Constitution.

What is that “it”? In each of these elections, the person with fewer votes won. Yet the sine qua non of majority rule is that the individual with the most votes wins. The individual voter is the baseline of meaningful democracy, the most elemental characteristic of democratic government. The idea of one person, one vote was central to the civil rights movement; it is the fulcrum of our very sense of fairness. So why do we knowingly and willingly allow a system that potentially violates this most fundamental article of democracy to persist, especially when we have seen that violation actually occur five times in our history? At least in a country calling itself, above all, a democracy, are five times of the wrong person becoming president of the United States not enough?

We do not need a constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college, a system of presidential election regarded—tellingly—by some founders including Madison and Hamilton as a means of holding in check the presumed dangers of the popular vote. Madison feared “factions,” and Hamilton, in The Federalist, number 68, feared that the popular vote might allow “foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” What an ironic concern given that the electoral college, not the popular vote, allowed Russia to focus its trolling in the 2016 election on a few “battleground” states. Many on both sides of the aisle were, and are, outraged by that Russian interference. But who in congress expressed even the mildest protest in 2000 or 2016 at the even greater outrage of giving the presidency to the person whom we know got fewer votes? We can combat Russian interference, but persisting in a system that has allowed the vote loser to win five times we do to ourselves.

No burdensome constitutional amendment is necessary, and lovers of the electoral college, with its element of representative rather than pure democracy, can rest content. Moreover, the issue is non-partisan: the electoral college does not inherently favor one party or the other. All that is necessary is a federal law making universal what Maine and Nebraska have already done, namely, dividing each state’s electoral votes in approximate proportion to its popular vote. No more winner-take-all victories. No more of all New York’s twenty-nine electoral votes quadrennially going to the Democratic candidate while all thirty-six of Texas’s votes inevitably go to the Republican. No more Mississippi Democrats knowing their presidential vote is a total waste, while California Republicans feel precisely the same. No more 78 thousand votes in three states trumping 2.86 million votes nationwide as in the 2016 election—making a mockery of one person, one vote in the process. No more “battleground” states and boring foregone conclusion states; they are all battleground states. No more of candidates ignoring voters in the foregone conclusion states and nearly taking up residence in the “battleground” states. No more of folks piously proclaiming that “the people” elected Candidate A when in fact “the people” actually voted for Candidate B, but Candidate A “wins” and is catapulted into the Oval Office by an enormous flaw in American democracy. And finally, and most importantly, no more of the simple debacle of the wrong person of either party living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How many elections do we need to figure out that giving the highest office in the land to the person who got fewer votes is openly and ostentatiously anti-democratic? We don’t need to have rigged elections like so many other countries in order to defy the will of the majority; we openly and unashamedly defy the will of the majority.

Let’s fix that.


2018: The Year in Review with REAL Fake News



President Trump recently signed a book deal for an undisclosed sum with Knopf Publishers. The book, My Struggle, chronicles the president’s life from his days as a struggling young artist on the streets of New York through his election to the White House. In a Rose Garden ceremony, he noted that the book would have a much larger reading audience than President Obama’s, and would be a much greater book than all the other presidents’ books, with the possible exception of Lincoln’s. When a reporter observed that Lincoln did not write any books, Mr. Trump responded that in that case his would be the best ever in addition to being the most widely read. Asked by a REAL Fake News reporter if the book is an autobiography, the president angrily replied, “No, I wrote it myself.”

REAL Fake News



In Monday’s daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders announced that the president had hired Dr. Thomas Huffmeister as Presidential Vocabulary Coach and Adviser. Huckabee-Sanders said that the president had heard from top advisers that previous presidents had used words like “sanguinary,” “palliate,” and “sophistries,” and that the president felt that he should “up his game.” Speaking with REAL Fake News, Huffmeister, who is President of the American Academy of Vocabulary Coaches, noted that the president is a quick learner and had already mastered this week’s Level One word, “toxic,” and had used it in several tweets. When asked by RFN if the rate of one word per week was a little slow, Huffmeister stated that most of his clients, citing busy schedules, chose the one-word-per-week module and that the daily word module was usually reserved for advanced students. Huffmeister said that his job would be working with the president on pronunciation, spelling, and contextual usage.

REAL Fake News



Recently hired Vocabulary Coach Dr. Thomas Huffmeister was abruptly fired by President Trump after Huffmeister insisted to the president that “covfefe” was not an actual word, according to unnamed White House sources. As earlier reported by REAL Fake News, Huffmeister had praised the president’s progress with his mastery of the Level One word “toxic,” and yesterday he noted that the president had already progressed to the next week’s Level One word, “somber.” “Our plan was to work on adjectives for the first three months,” Huffmeister stated. However, tension was building between the president and his coach after Huffmeister attempted to explain to the president the differences between the words “heel” and “heal” and “their” and “there.” According to the unnamed source, the president exploded after Huffmeister showed him that “covfefe” was not in the Oxford English Dictionary. Nevertheless, the president told REAL Fake News that “Dr. Huffmeister is a really great guy with a really huge future. It was just a big covfefe.”

REAL Fake News



President Trump, facing growing criticism of his comments blaming the Charlottesville tragedy on “both sides,” issued a written statement listing various academic and professional organizations supporting his recent extemporaneous statements at Trump Tower. Noting that “there is no moral equivalence since the two sides are just the same,” the president praised the leaders of the Global Cooling National Front, the John Muir Clear-Cut Logging Federation, the American Phrenological Association, the Men’s Temperance and Anti-Evolution Coalition, the Society of Biblical Inerrantists, the North American Organization of Alien Abductees, the International League of Clairvoyants and Mind Readers, the Southern Scientology Society, the Four Humours Medical Association, the Midwestern Academy of Fantasists, and the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the American Slavery Denial League. The president commented that “No other president has had the support of these organizations,” and he invited their leaders to a White House dinner and offered them 10% discounts at Trump International Hotel five blocks from the White House for a minimum three-night stay.

REAL Fake News



After President Trump said “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia” and “we’re not going to give up billions of dollars” after the CIA concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of U. S. resident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Vatican sources claimed that the Crown Prince felt emboldened to go after the Pope, who has also been critical of Saudi Arabia, with an assassination team that flew into Rome on a Saudi jet last Tuesday. Four of the estimated seven unsuccessful assassins were caught with long-range sniper rifles, and all were known to the CIA as associates of the Crown Prince according to a CIA spokesperson. When asked about the incident, President Trump interrupted his golf game and stated that “it could have been some fat guy who had a beef with the Pope, OK?” Following the President’s 18 hole round, in which he noted that he shot a 63, he met with journalists and said “the Pope doesn’t get everything right, believe me, and the prince has let women drive and everything, OK?”

REAL Fake News



Former President Barack Obama acknowledged to a REAL Fake News reporter in a wide-ranging interview on Wednesday that President Trump had been correct when he charged Obama with being the actual founder of ISIS. The former president noted that he had thought that the group which ultimately became ISIS was a Muslim self-help organization, and, when originally contacted by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he agreed to serve as founder if al-Baghdadi would handle the day-to-day work as Mullah-in-Chief. Obama said that he was “stunned” when he attended the inaugural session of the organization in Kandahar and saw “all these guys standing around with machine guns.”

REAL Fake News



President Trump told reporters that after reading the entire Young Reader’s Illustrated New Testament over two nights that he spent alone in the White House over Christmas, he experienced a total religious conversion. Noting that staying in the White House by himself was “kind of creepy,” Mr. Trump stated that he “had no idea about this religion stuff” and spoke of a “big deal experience” that has changed his life forever. “That Jesus dude was pretty tough, believe me,” the president elaborated. “I feel like a whole new man,” he noted, and promised that his “lying days are over.” Asked by an RFN reporter if he was familiar with the biblical admonition that a camel has a better chance of getting through the eye of a needle than a rich man has of getting into heaven, he replied that that was a new one for him but “it sounds good to me” and that he would sell all his properties and “give the money to the poor.”


REAL Fake News


Is the Kavanaugh Nomination Really Just He Said, She Said?

In deciding who is the truth-teller after hearing the senate testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the latter seeks to become a Justice on the United States Supreme Court, it is worthwhile to note a number of pertinent facts, including: that Dr. Ford has taken and passed a polygraph test, while Judge Kavanaugh has not; that Dr. Ford made no known misleading comments to the Judiciary Committee, while Judge Kavanaugh did (stating, for example, that other attendees at the social gathering in question said the assault “did not happen” when in fact they said only that they had no knowledge of it, two very different things that any judge, of all people, should be able to distinguish between; or calling being a girl’s “alumnius” just being her friend); that Judge Kavanaugh alleged a bizarre conspiracy and “political hit” against him somehow involving the “revenge” of the Clintons; that the Republican committee chairman refused to subpoena the third person in the room during the alleged assault; that Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly evaded multiple questions asking him if he wanted an FBI investigation that might clear his name, while Dr. Ford asked for such an investigation; that Republicans on the committee accused Senator Feinstein of attempting to spring a last minute assault on Judge Kavanaugh by withholding Dr. Ford’s letter to her for weeks when in fact Senator Feinstein was abiding by her consent to keep the matter confidential; that Judge Kavanaugh’s high school friend, Mark Judge, wrote a book called Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk in which he describes a character “Bart O’Kavanaugh” as belligerent and sometimes passing out when drunk; that a Republican female friend of the Judge from their days at Yale declared in a letter to Cory Booker that she had seen him so drunk that it would be totally understandable for him not to remember events during those periods of drunkenness.

But for those assured of Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness for a Supreme Court seat, set aside for a moment those facts and ask three questions in determining the truthfulness of the two witnesses before the committee:

(1) Which one has something to gain by lying, and which one does not?

(2) Which one was often evasive in answering questions, and which one was not?

(3) Even if we rule out intentional lying by either witness, which one of the witnesses is more likely to remember the event: the one who knew her attacker by face, name, and social acquaintance; who remembered specific and telling details about both the setting and the attack itself; who told her therapist six years ago about an attack when she was fifteen and named her attacker to her husband sixteen years ago; who was traumatized by that event; and who did not want to become part of a political battle and did so only when her name was leaked presumably by friends to the press? Or, on the other hand, the one who, at that time, had a reputation for heavy drinking and drunkenness, has acknowledged his fondness for “skis” (i.e., “brewskis”), and has enormous incentive—a Supreme Court seat—to suppress a memory of something he may have done when so inebriated that he could have been physiologically incapable of remembering the event at all?

When Amorality Meets Character

Let’s don’t talk politics for now. Let’s talk character.

A great American died this past weekend. And an American president, of the same political party—a petty, weak man incapable of a scintilla of grace—slinks to his corner, jealous of the honors and especially the respect and even affectionate regard being accorded John McCain, an affectionate regard that will never be accorded Donald Trump. Trump knows this, and it is central to the Iago-like hatred he has borne for McCain. In some reptilian way, Trump knows that McCain—whatever his flaws—had character, character largely built by transcending his flaws and seeking not his self interest but the national interest, even the global interest. This is alien to Trump; he seethes, knowing that he suffers grievously by any comparison to McCain. Like Iago’s hatred of Othello, Trump’s hatred is rooted in jealousy, though it is deepened by McCain’s criticism and Trump’s own sense of entitlement. After all, he achieved what McCain tried and failed to do twice.

McCain was not a war hero because he was a POW. He was a war hero because the North Vietnamese sought a propaganda victory when they discovered that he was the son and grandson of important navy admirals, and they tried to persuade him to accept an early trip home. He refused since his fellow POWs would be left behind. No doubt McCain’s decision was made just a tiny bit easier because he would have regarded a choice to accept his captors’ offer as dishonorable, and he would have hated the ignominy of knowing that he had taken a comparatively easy out while leaving his brothers behind. So possibly fear of dishonor helped him choose honor. But he did choose it, whereas Trump would have been wholly incapable of McCain’s choice, oblivious to the moral implications and pitfalls. Instead, he behaved then as he always has, his moral compass perpetually fixed on ME, in this instance by getting some physician to give him a medical exemption from the draft by claiming that his patient had bone spurs in his feet. So, no Vietnam for Trump, yet all the while he covets martial glory by looking quite fine in his military school uniform. Decades later, Trump, jealous of the honor accorded McCain for his service and endurance of five and a half years as a POW, could not help himself and petulantly denigrated that endurance by claiming that he “liked people who weren’t captured.”

It is impossible to imagine Trump doing what McCain did at a McCain town hall meeting in 2008. In front of a large crowd, a woman said she didn’t trust Obama as a Muslim and an Arab. Though McCain missed an opportunity to say that Muslims and Arabs can also be good Americans, he did not miss the opportunity to correct her, saying “No ma’am, no ma’am,” calling Obama a decent family man with whom he had serious policy disagreements. The response even elicited some booing. Two years later, in 2010, he did backslide a bit, turning rightward to appease conservative voters in his senate re-election bid. But Trump could have sprouted wings and flown into the air before he could have corrected a supporter inaccurately disparaging his opponent. He is so controlled by friendly audiences, and he so needs their adulation, that he could never have risked their criticism or disdain by saying anything that might have undermined their adoration. This is Lesson One in the art of the demagogue.

At some core level, even the ever-self-deceiving Donald Trump must surely have recognized his monumental inferiority to a man who, whatever his human shortcomings, had actual principles, demonstrated physical and moral courage, acted in what he thought was the best interest of the country, did not lie, did not approach his every single act in terms of how it might affect him personally, who was not a sycophant (especially to despots), who did not wallow in a sewer of corruption. These two men were the antipodes of the Republican party, and it is no wonder that only under intense national pressure could Trump grudgingly offer a half-hearted statement of respect after McCain’s passing, negated by days of dithering and reluctance to lower the flag to half-mast. Trump looks in the mirror and initially sees himself as the greatest and most feared president who, like Shelley’s Ozymandias, declaims “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” But then, little doubts creep in, and he sees in the mirror the man he wishes he could be—but only fleetingly, and he soon dispels that glimpse of John McCain and returns to his greatest deception of all: seeing himself as a great man.

Vlad’s New Puppy

Vlad’s New Puppy

The recent two hour meeting between Presidents Putin and Trump in Helsinki was attended only by their interpreters. No summaries were provided, no cameras allowed, and little has been officially revealed about what was discussed. However, Real Fake News has acquired a transcript of the meeting based on a secret recording of the conversation from a small recorder hidden in the brassiere of the American translator, an immigrant named Irina Tryaskova, whose family fled the Soviet Union in 1986. The transcript, fully translated into English by Ms. Tryaskova, is presented here for the first time.

Trump: Hey, Vlad, so incredibly great to see you again. I have been watching some more of your speeches and they are just so great. I’ve been learning a lot and. . . .

Putin: Whoa, whoa, whoa, Donnie Boy. I think you need to remember which way power flows in this relationship. You are never, repeat, never, to call me “Vlad.” I am President Putin to you and all your people. That better not happen again.

Trump: I’m sorry sir, it was a slip. I really didn’t mean to—I’m just so, so respectful and I like being around you and I just got a little carried away. So please, maybe you could just forget that that slipped out?

Putin: Yeah, whatever. One of the few things I like about you is that you are good at kicking down, but you must always remember the other half: you kiss UP.

Trump: Oh, that’s good sir. Kick down, kiss up. I’ve got it. I’ll have a plaque made and put it on my desk, and I’ll have my people memorize it. You are so smart. Maybe I should have plaques made for them too, do you think?

Putin: Yeah, you do that. Now here are some more things I want you to do.

Trump: Tryaskova, give me a pencil. OK, fire away, sir.

Putin: First, and you better get this right, you keep right on denying that I had anything to do with meddling in your elections. You say publicly and firmly that you accept my denial, that you believe me, and that your intelligence services must be mistaken. And in fact, Donnie, you need to rein them in a little more. A lot of Americans are wondering why you are taking my word over the CIA reports, and I don’t like that. So you gotta be more convincing, understand?

Trump: OK, sir, but I’m doing the best I can, but some damned liberals still want to believe the CIA and FBI. Sarah’s doing her best too. I mean I’ve still got Nunes and the Republicans on his committee backing me up, but that damned McCain, Corker, and Flake can’t keep their mouths shut. And if I get rid of them, the Democrats will blame you. And the fake news, and all the Democrats—it’s just so hard, sir. I don’t have all the resources you have, and I just, well, don’t really, (sniff) don’t know what else to do (sniff, sniff). . . .

Putin: Quit sniveling, Donnie. Just keep calling it fake news. And while you’re at it, I want you to fire that Mueller bastard.

Trump: Sir, I really want to, but I’m afraid it could blow up our whole relationship and I could get impeached.

Putin: Well, I’ll put that firing on the shelf for a little longer, but you keep calling it a witch hunt and doing everything else to stop it. Put the screws to your flunkies in congress. Command and control, Donnie, command and control. And a couple of other things. No talk of Ukraine or Crimea, they’re mine and your job is to say nothing on that. And that recording system we installed at your desk—turn it louder. My boys are saying they can’t hear the conversation well enough when you’re on the other side of the Oval Office. And keep attacking NATO; I want that gone, history, by the time you leave office. You’re doing a fair job of blasting Trudeau, Merkel, Macron, and May—I particularly liked your saying that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia.” You ought to get some kind of Oscar for that one.

Trump: Thank you, Mr. President. Coming from you that’s a compliment I’ll treasure. I didn’t even really plan to say it, and I certainly hope it didn’t offend you. It just sort of came out.

Putin: A couple of other things before we go out and meet “the enemy of the people”—that was a good one too, Donnie. Those bastards in the press really are the enemy, and that’s why I have to pop one or two of them off every now and then, and maybe you need to be thinking about that too. But anyway, my guys are working on your mid-term elections, and as long as you keep your nose clean, you won’t have to worry about 2020 either. Just keep saying it’s some fat guy in bed or whatever crap you threw at them last time. Oh, and I saw where you told the Ecuadorans that you’d impose tariffs and cut military aid if they pushed a resolution endorsing breast-feeding at the upcoming World Health Organization meeting. And they got the message. I don’t have a problem with you trying to protect your baby formula industry—up to a point. But I’m thinking my people are going to offer that same resolution for Russia—you know, showing how concerned we are for the little kiddies, and when we do, there won’t be a peep out of you and your people, right?

Trump: Oh, yes sir, I mean no sir, right. Absolutely right. I think breast-feeding is the best thing—Moms, dads, everybody should breast-feed, and. . . .

Putin: By the way, I’ve been thinking that we got snookered on that Alaska deal a hundred and fifty years ago. I’m not gonna ask for it back, but I want $100 million a year for your remaining years in office. Straight into my account. I don’t care where you get it.

Trump: Gosh, that could be hard. Sorry, I didn’t mean that, don’t worry a bit, I’m sure I can find it somewhere, sir. Maybe I’ll call it foreign aid or hide it somewhere in the defense budget. Or maybe repairs to Mar-a-Lago. But yeah, that Alaska deal really wasn’t fair to you, and we need to correct that. I’d be honored to do that.

Putin: I’ve also been thinking I’d like to come to the White House for a little visit, and experience some of what you call pomp and circumstance.

Trump: Oh, would you sir? That would be the greatest thing! Our countries are so alike and it would be just such an honor for me and my people to have you as our greatest guest ever. If you’d just stay a day or two it would be wonderful. You can sleep in the Lincoln bedroom and everything! I am so excited—we’ll get started on it right away.

Putin: OK, you can announce that in a few days. But right now we’re going out there, and you’re gonna say how you accept my denial of interference in your elections, and how good a guy I am, and how your intelligence people got it wrong, and how maybe your press and congress have gotten me and Russia wrong. And you’re gonna say how NATO is outdated and you’re not going to come to the defense of Montenegro in case somebody got interested in taking over that little so-called country. I might even give you a soccer ball from our World Cup games. So smile for the camera, Donnie, and don’t forget to turn up the volume on that recorder at your desk.

Trump: Got it, sir. It’s been great listening to you. It’s been greater than great. It’s been greatness, you know, greater than great gets, I mean really, really great. Really, really great. Greatness to the max. The greatest greatness. Anyway, you can depend on me, sir.

Frolicking Among the Lotus Eaters

After 1, 770 miles, we have arrived at the Quartzite, Arizona, secret initiation ceremony for new Casita Brothers and Sisters into the Casita Union of Lifelong Transients, or CULT for short. We are in the middle of the desert with some hundred and fifty or so other Believers, most of whom have already endured the stringent initiation rites, though some of whom, such as myself, apprehensively await The Trials to come. As you will remember, at last year’s ceremony in Alabama, Val leaped into the abyss, endured The Trials, and joined CULT, while I feared to take the plunge and remained an observer from afar. But this year I am committed, though with considerable anxiety. The first night of the period known as The Trials begins with each of the hopeful novitiates coming before the Senior Elder who addresses the applicant with the prompts from the secret Casita Catechism. Each applicant must give each of the ancient responses, and the slightest memory lapse results in failure of the first Trial. Nevertheless, it can be revealed that the first night also involves branding of the Casita secret symbol on the bottom of the initiate’s left foot, a symbol whose occult meaning dates back centuries to the time when Casitas were pulled by horses and oxen.

The second night of The Trials, as I observed from a safe distance last year, involves prospective initiates dancing naked around an enormous bonfire. Hopeful initiates are judged primarily on their display of ecstasy and their ability to dance without limping after the branding of the night before. Those judged insufficiently rapturous or mobile are culled by a vigorous slap on the rump by one of the Elders, who, with stern countenance, points a disapproving finger into the darkness immediately beyond the fire’s outer ring, a ring that marks the outer boundary of the Circle of Joy. Dancing continues for half an hour, involving hundreds of circuits around the bonfire, with arms flowing, ecstatic cries, and tremulous wails of orgiastic and even orgasmic utterance issuing from the glowing, fire-lit faces of the hopeful initiates. Obviously, some degree of fitness is advantageous, and those unable to sustain these exertions fall or slump to the desert floor, their limp and spent bodies dragged by others beyond the Circle of Joy. One of the Elders, a concerned, older man, is especially attentive to the younger dancers, particularly the females, gallantly darting in at critical moments if any seem about to fall, lifting and supporting their glistening, bare bodies, whispering what are no doubt words of encouragement. He is so assiduous in this role that one can only infer that it has been assigned to him by the Senior Elder herself. At the end of the half hour, the senior Elder blows on a gigantic ram’s horn to signify the end of the evening’s festivities. The Hopefuls are wrapped in gorgeous Casita blankets—emblazoned with the secret symbol—and disperse to their respective campsites.

Of course the climax of all the festivities occurs on the third and final night of The Trials, in which one of the Hopeful initiates is selected for ritual sacrifice. Historically, this has tended to dissuade some owners from seeking membership, thus opting to forgo the many benefits, such as learning the secret handshake and participating as an Elder in future initiations. The process of selection of the Honoree (the term “victim” is forbidden) is, of course, secret, partially for legal reasons, as the legal team is still exploring the outer boundaries of Congress’s recent pronouncements on the concept of religious freedom. Some among the legal team have suggested that the organization’s acronym–CULT–might invite prejudice in this regard, but consensus remains elusive. In any event the grand announcement of the name of the Honoree is typically met with some relief and general applause. Naturally the choice is inconvenient for the person chosen, and usually results in some annoyance to the spouse, significant other, or next of kin of the Honoree. But that annoyance is substantially ameliorated by the awarding of a brand new Casita to said survivor, as well as the prospect of finding a new mate among the survivors of previous Honorees.

The final and most august stage of The Trials begins with the lighting of the final ceremonial bonfire, and each initiate, wearing a purple, ornate Casita robe, again comes before the Senior Elder and recites the Casita Oath and Law with appropriate and edifying gravity. Obviously I cannot reveal publicly any of the language of this venerated document upon pain of various unmentionable torturous punishments, which themselves cannot be specified to the general public upon pain of those very same punishments. Forgetting a single word leads to expulsion and possible confiscation of the initiate’s Casita, depending on the gravity of the memory lapse. Successful initiates, now first year novitiates, receive from the Elder the Casita necklace, which they are adjured never to remove.

These are the tests that lie before me. I have committed the Catechism, Oath, and Law to memory and steeled myself to the upcoming travails. Val assures me that, with a proper attitude, and presuming I am not the Honoree, I can actually enjoy them by submitting to their rigors with joy and exaltation. I’ll try to keep you informed if I get in.

Note: A few minor liberties were taken with the facts for this report.

Down in the Dumps-ter

It was the first evening of John and Val’s Marvelous Adventure, which we were spending at the Governor Jim Hogg City Park, a pleasant little place in Quitman, Texas after a drive of about 425 miles from Hattiesburg. We had eaten take-out from a close-by Mexican restaurant so as not to leave our two poor canines in our camper too long without the protective comfort of their parents, not to mention adult supervision. The evening was quite cool, and I had gotten my prized Texas map out of the car and was taking a small bag of trash out to a nearby dumpster. The dumpster was about five feet tall with a four inch ledge on each side and was empty except for some recently cut shrubbery. I apparently had one of those increasingly common senior moments and threw the map in with the trash. This map had sentimental value; after all, I had actually talked to the AAA lady; we had bonded; we were tight. It arrived, along with three others, in the proverbial nick of time, the day before our departure.

Reaching in, even standing on the ledge to do so, would not work. Still over a foot out of reach. Apparently senior moments—this was a new discovery for me—are sequential and closely timed, so I stood on the ledge, threw my right leg over the top, found the floor, and noticed that my left leg was vigorously protesting this foolishness by catching itself on the edge, threatening to drop the shoe on the outside. Finally the foot bowed to the apparent inevitable and came on inside with the rest of me. I put my recovered treasure in my back pocket, and finally started to consider the challenge of getting out. This, or at least so I deceive myself, would have been no problem to that 30 year old me, even without an accommodating ledge on the inside. I put my hands on the edge and pushed up. My feet came off the floor, but the prospect of trying to put one of them on the edge seemed to be an open invitation to tumbling over for a five foot fall with no assurance of what would hit first—all this on the first day of the trip, which seemed unnecessarily early for a hospital visit.

I stared forlornly at our little camper, all lit up and warm inside, a mere thirty yards away. I had been already gone for a good fifteen minutes, but did my lovely wife choose to inquire why a thirty yard trip to the dumpster was taking so long? As a matter of fact, no. Had I been sufficiently provident to take my phone with me? Again, no. Yelling seemed a bit unseemly, and I began to wonder what a night in a dumpster might be like. My arthritis-riddled shoulders were complaining about the push-ups, but there seemed no alternative. Still, going over the edge with one big heave seemed to promise unpleasant consequences. I tried hoisting myself on the plastic flap on the other half of the dumpster, but it was designed for thinner people finding themselves in this situation. I began to regret those days in tenth grade geometry that I had characteristically spent preoccupied with thoughts of the fair sex, motorcycles, track and field, and other distracting amusements. But at long last, a possible solution presented itself. I pushed some of the almost non-existent trash into a corner, thinking that a corner, with one hand on each side, would be more stable than a one-dimension side. I stood on the meager pile, gave a gentler push into a straight arm position with my feet above my improvised platform, managed to lift my right leg up, and—the details are a little sketchy here—ended up on the outside feet first.

Damned map. Google maps are better anyway. If I can find another dumpster, that baby is history.

Bicycle Adventures

Bicycle riding may be defined as long, Saharan passages of discomfort and boredom interrupted by occasional unexpected oases of entertainments and curiosities. About a month ago at three separate locations on our local rails-to-trails, Kelly O. and I saw three copperheads, agkistrodon contortix, one of which had the misfortune of coming under my wheels as I, being distracted by Kelly O.’s elucidation of the finer points of certain metaphysical problems in which he and I were engaged, neglected to give the surprised and annoyed serpent a sufficiently wide berth. We did not trouble to inquire after his injuries, but it is a certainty that he slinked back to his lair with a few broken ribs complaining to his wife about callous and inattentive humans.

Having nursed his ribs and bruised muscles back to health, I feel sure he would have taken comfort mixed with pleasure had he known of the adventure two weeks later of the author of his maladies. On that occasion, Kelly B., Glen, and I were at mile 46 of a long ride, again on the trail, rolling along at almost 20 miles per hour, with Kelly B. in the lead, me second, and Glen third. The trail was spangled with patches of sunlight and countless leaves, obscuring its contours, and at about the time Kelly B. said “bump,” I unaccountably found myself somersaulting through the air, with my feet, still clipped in, pointing skyward, bicycle momentarily above me. I landed on my back with a resounding and unpleasing thump, which happily threw the bike into the ditch, avoiding the inevitable scrapes or crimps otherwise its due had it, too, hit the trail. My helmet was cracked and the seat was twisted, but my companions were able to straighten the latter, and we were able to resume. Glen observed that the whole affair was most entertaining, and if I would offer to repeat it, he would happily wear his GoPro to record it for the entertainment of others.

This was not the end of our adventures. Yesterday, Kelly O. and I were resting at the Sumrall station, joyously occupied in heated debate, with Kelly this time challenging my views on some unresolved paradoxes of Aristotle. I was facing west, toward Main Street and the post office, and he was facing east toward Hattiesburg. Behind him, not seventy-five feet from us and a mere fifty feet from the post office and Main Street, there was a truck in the parking lot, with the passenger door strategically open and a woman of middle years standing on our side of it, minimally blocked to Main Street but totally visible to us. Just as Kelly was offering an unassailable riposte to a point I made concerning the Nicomachean Ethics, I interrupted with a dumbfounded “Holy cow!”, or similar expletive, as the lady completely dropped her drawers along with any pretension to modesty and partially squatted. Kelly turned around and briefly digressed from his enlightening disquisition to make an apt comment on the phases of the moon, which was then full. Before I could pull my jaw off the floor and regain the power of speech to inform her that there were facilities not five feet from where we were sitting, all of the physiological necessities had expired, drawers had been raised, and Sumrall returned to its genteel, bucolic self.

Surely these excitements were at an end. But no. Today five of us were homeward bound, having returned to the trail after a couple of hours absorbing the pastoral delights of the countryside. The wind was gusty and strong, and with no warning we found ourselves watching, not quite in slow motion, a dead oak tree, perhaps a foot in diameter near its base, wickedly fall directly onto the trail, one of its limbs catching and slightly wounding the lead rider and causing Teresa to hit her brakes so as to avoid running right into it. We all stopped of course, and fortunately the tree was small enough that we could move it off the trail. It is presumably unwise to anthropomorphize trees, but its intent did indeed seem a touch malevolent.

I would take up golf instead, but I happen to agree with Mr. Chesterton, who felt that it is unsporting to hit a sitting ball.

Me and the Klan

All the recent Charlottesville and KKK news reminded me of my own encounter with the Klan, fifty-one or fifty-two years ago when I was about seventeen. Martin Luther King was giving a speech c. late 1965 or early ’66 at Memorial Auditorium in downtown Raleigh, and the Klan decided to march in protest. I believe it was a Sunday afternoon. Several of my buddies decided, in our marvelously naive and cavalier way, to ride our motorcycles downtown and watch the parade. My memory is that the Klansmen were walking single file about ten feet from us, some in robes, some not, and some in a kind of militia-like uniform, the last of whom were carrying flashlights about fifteen or so inches long as weapons. I had never seen Klansmen or their robes before, and, ever the absurd provocateur, I called out “Where’s the party?” A short, thirty-ish, rather Snopes-like fellow took umbrage, and before you could say white supremacist, he darted out of line, landed a fine roundhouse punch to my left jaw, spit out “THAT’S where the party is!” and then quickly retreated back in line immediately behind one of the flashlight fellows. I had never actually been sucker-punched before (childhood fights being mostly wrestling matches), and more than anything I stood there simply shocked—“Damn! Some SOB just hit me!” A plain-clothes detective of some sort quickly came up to me, asked a question or two, including “Do you want to file charges?” Not having any particular desire to enmesh myself in the criminal justice system, I declined. Then, in the throes of Justice Outraged, I started heading off to find the culprit and, I guess, call him out, or at least call him something. I had gotten who knows how many yards at a brisk walk on the way to finding him when a close friend—then and now—proved his courage, friendship, and sanity by chasing after me and dissuading me from my dubious quest.

It’s amazing how foolish a young fellow can be when seen through his own old man’s eyes. Not just foolish for the initial taunt, but even more so for interacting with the Klan when I probably could have seen MLK.

Of Saints and Sinners

In the pantheon of presidential saints, we have . . . hmmm, well, actually it’s a pretty short list. Maybe Lincoln. But even with him, it’s probably safer to put him at the second stage of the four-stage process to sainthood, Venerable. After all, despite more books about him—15,000 and counting—than any other human being possibly excepting Jesus, we don’t know of any actual miracles, and who knows what youthful peccadilloes may yet be discovered to mar Honest Abe’s march to glory.

So the standards are pretty high. Our current president, Mr. Trump, once suggested that he would be our best president, with the possible exception, he generously allowed, of Mr. Lincoln. Based on this claim, it is not unreasonable to consider Mr. Trump’s application for sainthood. There was the miracle of his actually getting elected, at least if one acknowledges that not all miracles have to be good things but can include things that are simply impossible yet somehow happen anyway. But before putting The Blonde One on the road to sainthood, let’s see how he does with the seven cardinal sins.

Typically no one remembers the seven cardinal sins except priests and those fortunate to have learned some mnemonic device for recalling them. Happily, we have one: WASPLEG, which stands for wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. So how does the forty-fifth president measure up?

Wrath. If “wrath” means only screaming fits, rather than just anger, there is still some evidence. Leaks have suggested that The Don has exploded at underlings who fail their master, and his perpetual tweets have sometimes had all the characteristics of semi-literate writing done in red if not white heat. But if wrath is basically a mildly archaic word for anger, well, the President almost radiates anger, especially at anything that does not reflect well upon him. It is no great leap to assume that his obsession with denigrating the investigation of his Make Russia Great Again campaign shows him to be pretty darned angry that anyone might doubt him or even has the right to investigate him. Further, his excoriations of the press as fake news suggest a fellow who goes apoplectic in the privacy of the residential quarters of the White House when a reporter discovers some unflattering or possibly criminal fact and has the audacity to announce it on TV.

Avarice. This one’s easy. The billionaire bombast and braggadocio. The bankruptcies to avoid payments to his creditors. The unwillingness to make public his IRS returns, partly to hide his Russian connections but also to avoid revealing how little he has paid in taxes. His over four thousand lawsuits, many of which are aimed at stiffing contractors and tradesmen who have worked for him. The laughable preposterousness of Trump University, sucking thousands of dollars from credulous wannabe millionaires. The meretricious gaudiness of his physical surroundings, so much so that he can barely stand a weekend at the unacceptably drab White House. His endless pursuit of money-making schemes—golf courses, Trump steaks, Trump buildings around the world, even selling the Trump logo for buildings he does not even own. His two great goals—money and power—reciprocally reinforce each other: more money means more power, while more power, especially as president, means more money pouring into the coffers. It is not for nothing that he refused to put all of his holdings into a blind trust. And who ever heard of the “emoluments clause” in the Constitution until this president?

Sloth. The president is somewhere on the bi-polar continuum here. He is wonderfully industrious in the pursuit of his business enterprises, his eighth grade tweeting, and his (presumed former) pursuit of fair ladies. He has also shown industry in the writing of executive orders, or at least signing them. But in the area of governing, his industry flags. Of the 554 administration positions requiring senate approval, only eighty-two had even been announced, and only twenty-four actually filled as of April 24. Of course he is rather busy trying to put out fires and squash investigations, but he also is said to spend many hours attending to how he is being covered in the news. Thanks to Mitch McConnell, he did appoint a Supreme Court justice, but he has signed no significant legislation, he has had only one actual press conference where he was the only one at the podium, and he doesn’t bother to read much of anything longer than a page or otherwise improve on his vast horizons of ignorance. He can’t even write his own books.

Pride. Pride, if C. S. Lewis and presumably other theological thinkers are to be believed, is the most egregious of all the sins because the prideful person, like Milton’s Lucifer, is challenging God, even seeking to displace him. Mr. Trump has raised pride to an art form. First, of course, is that his name is on just about everything associated with him, written in glorious golden letters. Isn’t that just a little tawdry? Wouldn’t most folks be embarrassed to be thought so vain and self-obsessed? Then there is his constant bragging, particularly during the campaign, about what a great president he would be, how intractable problems would yield to his forceful deal-making and sheer personality, his assumption that his fame entitles him to grope women, and his demand of obeisance from underlings, even to the point of grotesque adulation, all of which bespeak a pride far in excess of mere arrogance. The quintessential example of grotesque adulation occurred at his recent cabinet meeting, in which each of the cabinet members except Secretary of Defense Mattis forfeited all semblance of dignity by offering their adoring praises of the president and professing their great honor and blessing at being his lackey—a spectacle of such sycophancy that an objective observer could only be left agape, stupefied. Rather than demur at this extraordinary display, the president smiled beatifically, acknowledging his due, like some middle-eastern potentate. One could further argue that many of his notorious lies, for example about crowd size at his inauguration, are self-deceptions as well as intentions to deceive others since the truth undermines his self-regard and diminishes his pride. And of course who can forget the textbook definition of narcissism in Trump’s monumentally egomaniacal statement at the GOP convention that “only I can fix it”? What galactic stores of pride are necessary to even think such a thing, much less to say it? The president might well ponder Proverbs 16:18 in his self-proclaimed favorite book, the Bible, which warns that “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Lust. No further comment necessary.

Envy. This one is tricky because hard evidence is difficult to come by. Still, there are intimations of envy in the president’s need to be bigger and better than others, to be the greatest president, and to belittle any challenger. Worse, his admiration of autocrats—Putin foremost, but also the leaders of Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines—suggests how much he envies their largely unchecked power and their freedom from an inquiring press and an untamed judiciary. Who, he must privately ask, will rid me of this meddlesome Constitution?

Gluttony. In its meaning of great intemperance in the matter of eating and drinking intoxicating beverages, we must give the president a pass given our absence of evidence. But if it can mean something slightly broader, as in “a glutton for punishment,” Trump’s need to acquire and own indicates a materialism so pervasive that it snuffs out curiosity, obliterates aesthetic values, and minimizes generosity of spirit. He is ruled by his passions—power, material gain, and adulation from others.

Somehow dishonesty, bullying, and hypocrisy didn’t make the Seven Cardinal Sins list. I offer them as amendments. Meanwhile Lincoln, the president Mr. Trump hopes to be compared to, is a Venerable. Trump has a pretty long way to go to move up the ladder. How could the Grand Old Party produce both a Lincoln and a Trump?

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