The Golden Gavel

The most talked about show this week was the one where a group of adult politicians squirmed in desperation, objected in glee and eventually screamed with pride as they finally, after 15 torturous televised parliamentary procedure-moderated votes, managed to elect a new Speaker of the 2023 U.S. House of Representatives.

Well whoop de doo

And yet no single image summed up the marathon. multi-day event better than this behind-the-scenes photo snapped of Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), she of handy-dandy, I will school you, portable white board fame, as she sat patiently waiting for the just barely-in-the-majority opposing party to get it together enough to agree on some one to take possession of that much hallowed Speaker’s gavel.

We stan

When Holly, our beloved NFAC executive editor, private messaged me the photo of our beloved Katie reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck amid all the chaos on the House Floor my first thought was:

 OMG, I bet that’s exactly what she’d say after a glass a wine and exactly what she’d do, née read publicly, if she WASN’T a politician.

I also thought. What a f’n great title for a book!  Someone should write that rather than just spend time merely reproducing it for some snide meme people like me would like.

Well, never let it be said that I don’t tell tales on myself out of school and don’t appreciate former college professor Katie (Note: And current one, Holly) for both their nerve AND for schooling me once more.

As it turns out, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, written by blogger Mark Manson, is indeed a REAL BOOK.  In fact, it’s a N.Y. Times bestseller that to date has sold 20 million copies and has been translated into 65 different languages. 

And it has a sequel!

Not only that, but he’s the subject of a 2023 documentary feature now playing in movie theatres, entitled….well, figure it out.

I’m so out of it. 

But, well, at least I know it.  And clearly I DON’T give a f*ck.   Nothing subtle about that.

Cheers to you Chairy!

But let’s get back to Katie and Mark and how together they’ve captured the national zeitgeist, as far as public reaction goes, to the Speaker of the House election.

“F” bombs flew, fingers wagged, and a fistfight nearly broke out among that very special group of political, ahem, elites, by the time a razor thin majority of Republicans dragged their new leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), across the finish line. 

The final vote had McCarthy with 50.5% of the chamber, excluding six members of his own party that could only bring themselves to vote present (Note: A House version of abstaining) rather than granting their candidate a full-on endorsement.

Press it again!

This, of course, was nowhere near the spectacle of the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol Building that ironically occurred exactly two years ago to the day in exactly the same place  and in front of many of the same people that this final vote was taking place.

Way back on Jan. 6, 2021  there was a storming of the entire Capitol Building to stop the count of a free and fair PRESIDENTIAL election.  And on that day many, many dozens of people were actually physically injured, including 140 members of law enforcement.   Windows and doors were broken, offices were defaced and feces were spread all over the walls.

Oh and also, five people died.

Never forget

A number of politicians who supported that insurrection, attempted coup or patriotic peaceful protest of the Republican base of disgruntled and suspicious voters – depending on how you want it referred to and whether you believe in fact or fiction – were, in fact, actually among those whose votes, or votes of PRESENT, granted Rep. McCarthy his….victory two years later.

People like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the subject of an extensive federal probe of sex-trafficking/having sex with a 17-year-old girl; and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), a twice arrested gun enthusiast and anti-gay marriage crusader who believes the church is supposed to direct the (U.S.) government.

This this this

Not to mention several more we won’t name who were in on the planning of Jan. 6 2021, along with POTUS #45.

Speaking of #45, another McCarthy voter, Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA), she of the Jewish space lasers, gleefully approached one of the McCarthy PRESENT holdouts with her cell phone at the 11th hour and urged him to take the call of D.T. (aka #45), which he promptly refused.  (Note: Okay, twist my arm, it was Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-CO)).

But, as the reporting goes, #45 did manage to reach Rep. Gaetz and urged him to wrap things up and get the vote done.

Which, miraculously, he did at the eleventh and a half hour.

But not before Rep. Greene was then caught by intrepid C-SPAN cameras yucking it up with about to be newly minted, lair, liar pants on fire Congressman George Santos (R-NY).

Where’s my cringe button?

In case you don’t remember, that’s the guy who lied about everything on his resume, including his college degree, work history in finance, and mysterious million dollar plus increase in annual income in 2021 and 2022 (Note: From $50,000 the year prior), that became one of the chief funding mechanisms that enabled his campaign win.

Like Gaetz,  #45 and a bunch of other Congressional McCarthy voters, he is also currently the subject of multiple investigations.

I guess this isn’t funny.  Or maybe it is.   We’ll know in a few months. 

But how many of us will give a you know what about it, or much of anything, by then?

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” Trailer

The Way It Is

Did you have a good Thanksgiving holiday weekend?  I did. 

We had a small group of family and friends over for the first time in three years for turkey day.  I cooked and, gotta say, it was one of those meals where everything went right.

The bird cooked perfectly and I barely basted it.  The roasted sweet potatoes with apple, honey and maple syrup, was fantastic.  Cornbread stuffing made separately worked really well.  Roasted brussels sprouts felt perfect.  Even the green salad with pomegranate seeds was a standout, not to mention the homemade corn bread I made in my spare time, as well as the excellent cranberry sauce my sister-in-law made.

Ina approved!

It wasn’t all good news, though.

There were 22 people killed and 44 injured in seven mass shootings over Thanksgiving week.  That’s an average of one a day, for those who are now too overwhelmed or saddened or stumped to think about it. 

Of course, I thought about it.  But there was food to buy, cooking to get done and timing and plating to figure out, culminating with me watching some of the new Broadway musicals on NBC’s Thanksgiving Day parade (Note: Ugh, don’t bother.  And yes we’re speaking to you, Some Like it Hot!) on that all too treacherous morning of the big meal.

Don’t even get me started on this

Well, treacherous is a relative term.  Obviously.

But it’s not like the five that died and dozens more who were injured four days prior at that beloved Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ party spot, Club Q, thought a few hours of their partying prior to Thanksgiving was particularly dangerous either. 

And even though I’ve never actually been inside a Wal-Mart (Note:  Yeah, that’s correct), it’s safe to imagine that the six human beings blown to bits by a disgruntled employee would never have imagined in their wildest dreams that being in that location would prove to be the most treacherous place on earth for them two days later.

Sigh.

The great intellectual and writer, the late Susan Sontag, published a devastating short story, The Way We Live Now, back in the mid-eighties.  It described in snippets of conversation that felt casual and gossipy but were anything but, the new normal that the AIDS epidemic in NYC had wrought.

Life would never return to the naive everyday-ness that we had previously dared to intermittently consider to be treacherous. In fact, most of what we considered pre mid-eighties treacherousness would be considered quaint, and then some, from then there on.

Nothing about Ms. Sontag’s prose was melodramatic, studied or even particularly special at the time.  But that’s what made it unique. She was merely reporting the conversational facts of deterioration, disease and death as if they were an itemized prep list of thoughts, tasks and snarky tidbits one could encounter before, during and after a typical Thanksgiving holiday dinner.

A must read (click the pic for the link)

In essence, she was telling us we would grow used to anything if we had to because even with the grotesquely awful there were plans to be executed, events to attend to and meals certainly to be made.  What was going on outside was awful but, well, we’d just have to modify.  Amid the medicines, hospital visits and funeral plans, the rest of us would still get hungry.  Right?  After all, there was nothing we could do about it, anyway. 

Having lived through the dreadful beginning and middle of AIDS as death sentence in the eighties and nineties, I can’t help but feel a familiarity of those times to the way we live now – in 2022.

It’s not that gun proliferation and violence is a new virus in our midst, the way AIDS was back then.  It’s that it has begun to metastasize in a scarily virulent way.

The new normal

There have so far been 606 mass shootings in the US in 2022, as opposed to 610 in total in 2020 and 690 last year (an all-time high).  We could still be #1 by the time this year is out but no matter where we fall, or fail, we will certainly be competitive with the worst of the worst before 2023 rings in.

There are now more guns that people in the US. (Note: 393 million guns to be exact), the majority of which are owned by white men, who are more than likely to identify as rural and Republican.

No, I’m not racial profiling.  Here is an exhaustive story from CNN in June. 

And a front-page story in the NY Times this weekend casually chronicled the latest trend in a new kind of non-verbal public discourse – the armed demonstrator.

This should not be normal

Sure, it’s our right to carry a weapon if we have a permit.  But in June in the US we had an average of one armed demonstration per day.  What this means is that packin’ right wing protestors, sometimes led by the Proud Boys or Oath Keeper members,  routinely show up at public events in places like Phoenix or Nashville carrying sidearms, long guns or other such paraphernalia because…they can.

If it scares you, well maybe you should be scared.  Or not.  Our freedom, your choice.  Or, well, perhaps it’s both.

It’s worth noting lots of these events also seem to happen around abortion clinics, or gatherings sponsored by the LGBTQ community.  Sometimes they’re even near places where people vote.  Or where certain other minority groups choose to congregate. 

This feels right to me

This is not surprising since 10 states have extremely lax laws regarding firearms, allowing pretty much any gun owner the legal right to carry a weapon in a crowd, a government building or even restaurant serving Thanksgiving dinner. 

So if you found yourself in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia or Washington over the holiday and made it out alive and unscathed, consider yourself one lucky dude, dudette or non-binary celebrant.

I myself felt relatively safe in Los Angeles this week, despite all you maybe have heard about our uptick in crime.   They might have guns, sure, but they’re not free to carry them anywhere.  At least not by law.

… and I’m never leaving

Besides, they’re mostly looking for Rolex watches and I was never big on expensive jewelry.

But that’s the way I, and we, live now.   At least here.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Because it was exactly six months prior to Thanksgiving that 19 small children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX and the only thing that changed were the lives of their relatives and friends.

Lana Del Rey – “Looking for America”