Not that my voice will add to any movement, such as it is, but Joe Biden’s abject failure on the debate stage ten days ago to show he is in command of his faculties, well… that’s that.

If I had the kind of “bad day” that Biden did at the debate, I would hope that my spouse and children would be on the phone figuring out how to get me the best help.

More than anything, I find it sad that it is taking Democrats well-past-forever to mount the “groundswell of good wishes” that would convince Joe to forego his campaign and let his party see where the dice may fall without him.

Joe should have known better not to run for a second term in the first place, and he had originally promised not to do so.  I hope the forces now stirring will ultimately prevail and give America its best chance to keep Trump from re-claiming his gold-plated throne.

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Originally posted July 2021

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Three snores and eleven years ago, my mother brought forth upon this Continent, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and The United States of America, a new human being who at that instant, and in spite of his inability to name even one branch of government, became a citizen of said United States and has a typewritten document to prove it.

My being born on US territory seems a rather flimsy condition for a rules-and-regulations kind of nation like ours to bestow its citizenship on me, I might argue, being that I had no say over the event.  It smacks of legacy college admissions, a practice which some states (hello!) are just now getting around to banning — after abortions of course.

[Re: my own legacy citizenship, I’m six generations removed from the “old country” on my father’s side, only two generations on my mother’s.  My mother told us that she spoke only German until she was five years old — five years after she had become a US citizen!]

Tintype of Abraham H. Collins, circa 1864 (totally unretouched)

Would it not be better, so hold some schools-of-thought, if everyone, not just immigrants, had to earn US citizenship by passing a test or performing some patriotic act — a sort of civics bar mitzvah? 

The problem with that idea is that two-thirds of present-day Americans are (willfully?) ignorant of the essentials, let alone details, of how their nation was founded and how its written ideals clashed with its ugly realities.  When tonight’s evening news story mentions Article III of the Constitution or any section of its Fourteenth Amendment, how many Americans do you think are attentively following along?

Let’s face it — for many if not most Americans, having to know anything about the nation they live in beyond its red-tape demands is not only nonessential but unwelcome.  Making  a living counts as most folks’ Studies in American Citizenship 101.  Whatever gets in the way of that endeavor, regardless of the damn laws, is considered an affront to liberty and therefore un-American.

I’ve been a US citizen for 71 years — or 72, if you believe citizenship begins at the moment of conception, a point-of-law soon to be decided by Justice Amy Coney Island Barrett and her crafty cast of colleagues.  Now in the fourth quarter of my life and hoping for overtime, I thought that a recounting of my droll citizenship experience might be worthwhile, if only so that you and I can re-live the days when things weren’t so mean.

I first wrote, “the days when we weren’t so polarized,” but that’s not accurate.  Our politics have always been partisan.  It’s the depth and breadth of the antagonism that seems new.  We are constantly being baited to take sides, with the battle-leaders of each party drawing the front lines ever farther apart.  A widening social/cultural minefield lies between.

How did this come to be?  Who decided that the phrase “promote the general Welfare” in the Preamble to our Constitution should be crossed out and the word “Liberty” should be circled and triple-underlined ? [1]

Starting with a Shirley Temple (1953 – 1971)

Dialing back a few decades, we 1950-60s kids went through our model-citizen motions as best we could.  We reluctantly lined up for our vaccinations (forever memorialized by our shoulder scars) and we dutifully stood by our school desks to recite the 1954 Under God version of The Pledge of Allegiance, every single booger-eating day for years on end — until someone ultimately decided that (a) our patriotism vaccine had finally taken and/or (b) our teachers hated this ritual even more than we did.  (Why do I suspect the latter?)

Throughout my Western Pennsylvania grade-school years, I was taught to treat the colors of The Flag with respect but the darker colors of people with suspicion and fear.  That was the social vaccination I got — that scar is not on my shoulder but buried in my brain.

• • • 

Looking back, I find it odd that I had no idea for whom my parents voted or why, whether it was “straight party” or “best candidate” or some other rationale.  I do recall my mother talking about “crooked” Frank M. Clark (D), our ten-term US representative who  lost his seat in 1974 but nonetheless continued to send “massive amounts” of mail to his former Western Pennsylvanian constituents, courtesy of our US Congress.  Mom told me that Clark made millions on real estate deals related to interstate highway projects in his district.  (In fairness to the deceased, I have found no evidence to support or refute this.  But I lean toward my Mom’s suspicions.)  Clark ultimately pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion in 1979 and unsuccessfully sought re-election twice following his conviction.

As a kid, I figured Frank Clark was OK — I liked Clark Bars and imagined there had to be some connection between the congressman and the confection.  What the hell did I know.

• • • 

The Sprinzens were our New York liberal (so I was told) next-door neighbors for most of my childhood.  Their kids were a couple of years younger than me, but we were convenient playmates for one another for a while.  At some point I must have noticed a bumper sticker on one of the Sprinzen cars (the Plymouth Valiant, I think) which inspired me to make a KENNEDY sign for them in big block letters with crayon on notebook paper.  I proudly presented it to them (heavy with crayon wax!) but I have no idea what I expected them to do with the sign — put it in the car’s rear window?  Tape it to their front door?  Hey, I was just seven, I just did my first graphic arts project and had no idea who Kennedy was.

So, my own first politically-related statement was about trying to please someone else and elicit approval for myself.  I didn’t understand politics… or did I?

• • • 

I recall my mom making one other political comment, about a talk show on the radio while we were doing dishes — it was the Joe Pyne Show.  I was maybe 11 or 12, immersed in my teenage fog, but Pyne’s unapologetic meanness sliced through everything.  I had to ask my mom, how did this guy get on the radio?  She dismissed him as a crackpot, which is how I learned who crackpots were.

Nonetheless, she didn’t really answer my question.  Crackpot or no, Joe Pyne wasn’t awful enough to make my mom change the channel or turn off the radio.  We like to think we can handle crackpots, they are kind of entertaining in a way, yes?  (This kind of entertainment has become all too familiar in the Trump-Wants-Every-Minute-Of-Your-Attention era.)

What a temptation it is to just stamp the crackpot label on the many spawn of Joe Pyne: Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Springer, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Anne Coulter, Alex Jones, Donald Trump.  But I tend to see crackpots as people who have a screw (or two) loose and don’t think straight, and as such are compelled to grind that one particular axe lodged in their brains — in contrast to today’s right-wing celebs who make well-orchestrated moves about which targets to screw and how it will play with their audiences.  True crackpots deserve a bit more sympathy, I think.

• • • 

My dad didn’t make explicitly political statements either.  But he did make it clear that he didn’t like unions, he didn’t like Walter Cronkite (times ten for Dan Rather), he didn’t like the “race riots” and “war protests” of the 1960s, and he didn’t like the Sprinzens, or fish.  He did like Fats Waller, Steve Allen, Spike Jones, Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton and he “got a kick out of” Archie Bunker and, surprisingly to me, George Jefferson.

I wasn’t in the booth, but it wouldn’t surprise me if my dad voted for Gov. George Wallace in 1968, an election in which all three contenders — Humphrey, Nixon, Wallace — claimed to be “law-and-order” candidates.  (I remember finding a Wallace campaign button among my parents’ effects.)  Wallace won 46 electoral votes in 1968, all from Deep South states, and he was the last third-party candidate to do so.

I didn’t learn much else about or from my dad’s politics except to avoid the topic. [2]

House Salad with Ranch Dressing (1971 – 1996)

I emerged from my sheltered Cape Cod cocoon a political vanilla pudding.  I drew comics of figures like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon for laughs and to impress friends, not to make any kind of statement — since I was really too politically-ignorant to do so.

When ex-Beatle John Lennon went into his 1971 “Power to the People” phase, I listened but didn’t join in.  Mostly I wanted to not-get-drafted to serve in Vietnam, a war waged by Democrats and Republicans alike for no reason other than America Never Loses Wars.  The draft issue got decided for me on February 2, 1972, when Uncle Sam’s Big Bingo Cage of Fate spat out Ball #244 for my birthdate, which meant no army for me.

I celebrated for sure, but I didn’t thank Nixon or the anti-war left.  I thanked the balls. [3]

• • • 

I was apolitical in college — the silver-haired men running the show all seemed the same, all saying the same things, all expecting us to fall in line.  I didn’t need a second dad.  But the local campus activists, it seemed to me, expected almost as much conformity to their cause as “the establishment” demanded [4].  I wasn’t sure where that left me, except in the muddled middle.

The 26th Amendment, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote (belatedly acknowledging their “right” to be drafted), was ratified July 1, 1971.  This meant the 1972 election would be my first opportunity to step behind the curtain (voting booths once had curtains!) and flip the lever for the Next President of The United States.  I voted for George McGovern because, first, he was anti-war, and second, no other reason mattered.

Election Night, I watched the returns in my dorm room on the 19-inch black-and-white Admiral TV that my parents bequeathed to me and learned how the US Electoral College turns big losers (McGovern won 37% of the popular vote) into whopping losers (only 3% of the electoral vote).  I went to bed dejected and disconnected and feeling stuck with Nixon, Kissinger, bombs and body counts for the foreseeable future.

• • • 

As we now know, Nixon resigned in what-was-once-considered-disgrace in August 1974 for having conspired to undermine an election and then covering-up his attempts to do so.  (Sound familiar?)  Vice-President Gerald Ford became president.  I voted for Ford in 1976, as he seemed like a reasonable guy — I was 23 and non-criminal, reasonable adults had a certain appeal — while Ford’s opponent Jimmy Carter was an unknown quantity who came from… Georgia?  Ford lost, but not by much.  (Texas went for Carter, California for Ford!) Nonetheless, my record was now 0-2.

The 1980 election was between President Jimmy Carter, California Gov. Ronald Reagan and Illinois Congressman John Anderson.  Anderson was a Republican-Independent who proposed a 50-cent hike in gasoline taxes, opposed the military draft and supported the Equal Rights Amendment.  (Can you believe!)  Carter was held responsible for tolerating stagflation, blowing the military rescue of 52 Iranian-held hostages and failing to arrange their timely diplomatic release.  I voted for Anderson; my losing record extended to 0-3.

• • • 

I won’t draw this out any more than I have.  Based on a “lesser-of-evils” principle, I voted for Walter Mondale (D) in 1984 (0-4), Michael Dukakis (D) in 1988 (0-5), and Ross Perot (I) in 1992 (0-6), the last of which confounds my spouse to this day.  I nurse a naïve wish for politics conducted not to score points but to solve problems, and I’ll leave it at that.

Then came the right-wing’s one-two punch we’ve never recovered from: the rise of radio demagogue Rush Limbaugh and Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract with America. Together they ushered in the Era of Demonization in US politics, in which dogma trumps problem-solving and compromise equates to betrayal.  It finally dawned on me that, if I wanted to make a difference, I had to take sides.  Voting for the “best candidate” was now as quaint as renting your phones from Ma Bell.  That, and the notion that a politician on Meet the Press or Face the Nation might actually listen to a question and offer an honest, unrehearsed response, vanished.  Poof.  These days, even laughable.

As fate would have it, the next (1996) presidential election was the first time I voted for the winner.  It probably helped that Bob Dole, Bill Clinton’s opponent, was old (73!) and mean (who knows why) and that Ross Perot again siphoned off Republican votes.  Footnote: this election marked the last time in which the states Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia awarded their respective electoral votes to the Democrat.

Dear Tennessee:  Y’all will return to the Democrat tent when country-music star Beyoncé runs for President in 2028.  She will be 46 and will be celebrating her 20th anniversary with Jay-Z, I mean First Gentleman Jay-Z.  Beyoncé will make Tennessee a swing-state, you can put a ring on it.

But back to my lunchtime…

A Bad Bowl of Mussels (1997 – 2008)

Unbeknownst to most voters on Election Day 1996 (save Pentagon staffer Linda Tripp), President Bill Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky had been having relations for a year.  Tripp’s trip-wire sense of injustice led her to tip off Independent Clinton-Getter (I mean, Counsel) Ken Starr about the affair in early 1998.  The sordid details and haughty denials were followed by hedges, counter-accusations, perjury, a congressional feeding frenzy and finally The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s spiritual/political intervention on behalf of Bill’s soul.

I was certainly no fan of Ken Starr but I conceded that Clinton was a sleaze at best and workplace-abuser (slash adulterer) at worst and should have resigned, along with Starr.

But neither man did.  More on this later.

• • • 

Resuming the tally:  My 2000 vote for Al “Lockbox” Gore (D) dropped my record to 1-7.  Thanks, Florida!  Thanks, Ralph Nader!  Thanks, women’s-rights icon and Supreme Court deciding-vote Sandra Day O’Connor!  I had finally taken sides only to see Democrats get blindsided by their own complacency.  It wouldn’t be the last time.

The biggest political outrage of my lifetime [5] was the pack of lies Bush, Cheney, Rice et al told America to drum up support for the 2003-2011 Iraq War.  And how Bush’s team used post-9/11 vengefulness plus an oddly-effective smear job on Vietnam war hero (now Medal of Freedom awardee) John Kerry to win re-election in 2004, which made my record 1-8.  Karl Rove‘s machinations to undermine Kerry were made possible by the previous decade of onslaughts by Limbaugh and Gingrich along with funding by the Koch Brothers.

Kerry would have been President if he had won either Ohio or Florida — but he lost Ohio by 100,000 votes, Florida by 300,000.  Kerry also lost Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, whose combined electoral votes could have given him the win regardless of the Ohio and Florida results.  Kerry can look back and lament that 2004’s election was the last time that Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada awarded their respective electors to a Republican. [6]

• • • 

Editorial sidebar.  Like all Americans, I’ve learned to tolerate a whiff or three of political bullshit, but W’s Iraq agenda stunk to high heaven.  Bernie Sanders and very few others voiced opposition at the time, but it didn’t matter.  The political winds blowing through the halls of Congress in 2003 led solidly Democratic Senators John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Tom Daschle, Dianne Feinstein and Joe Biden (and the list goes on) to give Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Halliburton and Blackwater (and that list goes on too) carte blanche to wage their pig-headed Iraq war and reap/suffer the dubious gains therefrom.  Do you remember how the Bush administration insisted, as if it were fact, that Iraq’s oil revenue would pay for our invasion and then some?

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am.  The Al Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001 were the most hand-wringing, humanity-questioning events of our lifetimes (who were not also Holocaust survivors).  But Bush and his cronies not only denied all responsibility for our nation’s unpreparedness for the attacks, but actively worked to redirect public outrage toward the very target against whom the administration held a grudge and whom the US and its “coalition” allies could most easily counter-attack.  While I didn’t buy it, over half of America thought that Bush’s case had been made.

Soon enough, “coalition” bombs lit up the skies of Baghdad and “coalition” tanks started rolling through the desert like Super Bowl running backs.  But “coalition” incompetence and hubris were eventually exposed and the warmongers eventually headed for the exits, satisfied to dump the mess they created in the next guys’ laps.

Today in his celebrity-retirement, George W. Bush imagines he can paint his way out of his leadership failures, craven decisions and moral compromises and so become rehabilitated, sonny.  That mission will never be accomplished, not in the eyes of those who can’t repress their memories of seeing towers falling and people jumping.

Maybe Bush paints his paintings for those Iraqis who, in his imagination, admire him for helping to topple Saddam Hussein, followed by their statues of Saddam Hussein, and then capturing Saddam in his foxhole and handing him over to our hand-picked leaders to be summarily hanged — never mind that the architects of September 11, Osama bin Laden and his second-in-cruelty Ayman al-Zawahiri, continued to operate in obscurity but certainly not in caves. [7]

Coffee and the Check Please (2008 – 2016)

Returning from that lengthy sidebar.  My electoral fortunes (and America’s) took a turn for the better with my vote for Barack Obama in 2008 (2-8, thanks Obama!) and once again in 2012 (3-8).  Barack Obama was the first, and so far only, president born later than me.

I became complacent during Obama’s tenure and often dared to criticize him for not being  liberal enough.  America voted for a change agent, but the changes we demanded were far too diverse.  Nonetheless, it was maddening how Obama’s recovery plan got throttled by We-Would-Rather-See-You-Fail Republicans when the US needed to regain its footing after The Bush Financial Crash.  This put us behind the economic eight-ball for the rest of Obama’s term — per Republican design.

I was heartened by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, the creation of the US Consumer Protection Agency, the establishment (fingers-still-crossed) of marriage equality, and the watery grave the US Navy provided Osama bin Laden.  I would include Obamacare among those accomplishments (thanks, Democratic Senator #60 Al Franken!) if the final result had not been a letdown — yes, the ACA improved access to health care and redefined what it means to be healthy, but Obamacare had questionable impact on costs.

Sadly, whatever Obama accomplished would never be acknowledged by some Americans, because his skin was brown and his middle name was Hussein.

Indigestion, Plague and Locusts (2016 – 2024)

In the 2016 election, Tea Party activists finally got their wish: TV star Demagogue Don and His Innuendos ambushed (the best word for it) an overly-confident Hillary Clinton, which made my record 3-9 and more dejected than ever.  A dark cloud of disbelief hung over me for months after the election — even now I don’t want to dwell on it.

Together, Demagogue Don and Machiavelli Mitch engineered the second biggest political outrage of my life — if I had to rank them — by first refusing to consider Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination with almost a year left in Obama’s second term (this gave us frat-boy Brett Kavanaugh) and then by ramming Amy Coney Island Barrett’s nomination through the Senate 21 days after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and only seven days before Election Day 2020.  [The preceding run-on sentence is meant to subtly mirror the conservatives’ decades-long effort to overturn Roe vs Wade — for starters.]

In early 2020, as AI-composed Bibles will soon enough proclaim, there arose across the land a great pandemic.  And lo, President Trump responded to the pandemic just as you would expect a celebrity narcissist to react — how can this hurt me or my brand? — except twenty-fold worse.  (Twenty-fold, a subtle biblical touch.)  Thousands fell prey to the virus every day while Trump pray-insisted it would just go away.  Trump, an entity who would be viewed as a demon in any logical religion [8], deliberately undermined his own health officials and sowed distrust in government, in science, in any schema other than the cult of himself, as the deaths mounted.

I have no explanation for this other than Trump is sick.  Corrupt, too, but mainly sick.

Back to my testament.  Verily, as the pandemic struck young and old, Joseph of Delaware emerged from the liberal wilderness, holding forth to be The Son of Obama and the Last Vessel of Sanity.  The multitude rose up on Election Day 2020 and cast more votes for Biden than for Pharaoh — but Trump refused to relinquish his throne.  He called upon his cult to storm the Temple of Democracy on January 6, 2021, and they duly spread their flags and feces within, defiling the symbolic seat of the people’s power.

These events are now viewed as either tragedy or touchstone, depending on which bible one follows.  Trump publishes his own, replete with flags and eagles, which you can buy for $59.99 as of this writing.  Forget the price — Trump’s bible is a steal, from the first locust to the last.

• • • 

Looking back, I have to ask: was the seminal moment (so to speak) in US politics the day President Clinton (Slick Willie, he was called) was acquitted for the conduct in his office while in office?  I would argue that Clinton’s slipping the surly bonds of justice damaged the legitimacy of his party — and politics in America — for decades to come, by excusing deplorable acts for political reasons.

Who would have thought that giving Clinton a pass would normalize, and even pave the way for, more corrosive, nose-thumbing conduct by the likes of, say, Donald J. Trump?  Very few, my readings suggest.  Many predicted that the circus atmosphere of Clinton’s impeachment would serve as a democracy lesson, resulting in less political theater and greater public restraint on presidential behavior.  Our imaginations were so limited!

Was it not Nixon’s resignation but rather Clinton’s failure to resign that ultimately lowered the standard we expect from presidents?  Or is Trump’s craven abuse of democracy totally unrelated, an independent and unpredictable series of acts by a sociopath?

I asked this very question of the astute political expert ChatGPT on June 4, 2024, and here was its reply, in full and unedited:

The dynamics surrounding Nixon’s resignation, Clinton’s impeachment, and Trump’s actions are complex and intertwined, but it’s a stretch to attribute the lowering of standards for presidents solely to one event or individual.

Nixon’s resignation in 1974 was prompted by the Watergate scandal, which revealed widespread corruption and abuse of power within his administration.  His resignation demonstrated that even the President was not above the law and could be held accountable for wrongdoing.  However, the fallout from Watergate also led to a loss of trust in government institutions and politicians, which could be seen as a contributing factor to a decline in public perception of the presidency.

Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 was centered around his affair with Monica Lewinsky and subsequent attempts to cover it up.  While his actions were certainly unethical and led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives, he was acquitted by the Senate and remained in office.  Some argued that this failure to remove Clinton from office lowered the bar for presidential conduct, suggesting that presidents could engage in personal misconduct without facing serious consequences.

Trump’s presidency, characterized by numerous controversies, divisive rhetoric, and unprecedented actions, including his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election, poses its own set of challenges to democratic norms and institutions.  His behavior has further eroded trust in the presidency and highlighted the importance of ethical leadership and adherence to democratic principles.

So, while each of these events may have played a role in shaping public perceptions of the presidency and expectations for presidential conduct, it’s not accurate to attribute the decline in standards solely to one event or individual.  The evolving political and social landscape, along with the actions of multiple presidents and other political actors, have all contributed to the current state of affairs.

There you have it — my political lifetime as today’s chatbots see it, sanitized for your safety and neutralized so that no one has to take offense and no one has to take responsibility.

Happy Hour Already (If Only)…

I have been in the ballot business for 52 years now, and my presidential voting record is a dismal 4-9.  Over that time, I’ve lived 24 years under Democratic presidents and endured 28 years under Republicans.  I look back at my simplistic votes for the likes of Mr. Gas Tax John Anderson and I wince and shake my head.  How was it that the stakes felt so low that I could expend my one-and-only vote on idealistic whims?

Believe me, it won’t happen again.

It’s now my political dinnertime, and I cast my votes with my children and grandchildren foremost in mind, that they may live in a nation of democracy and decency without having to move to Canada.  That means we have to stop Trump and his cult from re-assuming power this election — for starters.

Donald Trump is a convicted felon who brands himself as the ally of everyday people, the victim of media persecution, beyond the reach of justice, and the one person who will end the threat of sub-human invaders coming to take what you have.  This is purely the stuff of science-fiction, yet he has a large, vocal, real-life following.

That Trump was elected once, never mind his credible chance of winning again, shakes my faith in the people of this nation ever again agreeing on its foundational tenets.  And this takes me back to the bar mitzvah civics lesson that I would require of all first-time voters, not just candidates for citizenship.  It’s 1960s throwback respect for constitutional rights and responsibilities, with modern ideas of human and civil rights superimposed.

I know, old-man daydreams.

If I could figure out how to cast 50,000 votes for Biden in each of the 50 states, and all my votes got counted and Trump lost, and Trump spent the rest of his life coming after me, the person who really stole an election from him, it would be worth it.  I’d take the stand, testify that I did it for my children and grandchildren, and dare any jury to convict me.  That’s the Trump way, after all — it doesn’t matter what you do if you get away with it.

Now, let’s enjoy an apéritif together and talk about tomorrow’s breakfast.


[1]  A not-so-long-ago example of how some Americans’ perverse notion of liberty causes other Americans to suffer was the February 2021 Texas power grid failure.  Some 2oo Texans died of hypothermia after winter storms hit the state and its purposely-isolated power grid failed.  In response, former Gov. Rick Perry said, “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.”
[2] The strange thing about my dad’s politics is that, in spite of it, we all watched The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour every Sunday night (Feb. 1967 – Apr. 1969) to my secret pleasure.  Maybe the Smothers were just conventional enough to slip past my dad’s radar.  But I bet it had more to do with the fact that the local CBS station gave us the best TV reception.
[3]  When the Feb. 1972 lottery rolled around, the process of deciding who would live and who would face death had become more sophisticated.  A date-of-birth ball was drawn from one cage and a corresponding draft-selection-order ball was drawn from a second cage.  The balls were then paired up, yes, inscrotably.
[4]  Sometime in 1972 or 1973, I wrote and recorded a song called “You Gotta Be a Freak” which tried to capture some of the peer-pressures and conformities of living in a liberal college campus in the early 70s. My favorite lines were: “You wear a shitty T-shirt that you washed once or twice / You changed your linens yesterday on a roach’s advice.”  I admit it wasn’t the most incisive observation, but no one else in my dorm was going there.
[5]  I feel like Donald Trump’s constant whining about his gold-plated victimhood inspires disgust more than outrage, but that could be because Trump himself moved the goalposts of shame.
[6]  Watch out for Nevada’s six breaking-red electoral votes this year, as Robert F Kennedy Jr. is currently polling at 10% in that state.
[7]  Osama bin-Laden was killed in Obama’s first term.  Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in Biden’s first term.
[8]  One might view logical religion as an oxymoron, but they all are to some extent, which is what makes belief-systems compelling.  My favorite and formative article on this topic was Douglas Hofstadter’s 1983 Scientific American column, “On Viral Sentences and Self-Replicating Systems,” which I recommend.

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