Independence Day, a baseball game, and fireworks in the age of Donald Trump

I wanted to enjoy the Colorado Rockies game and fireworks on Independence Day, but in the age of Donald, I got cognitive dissonance instead.

Independence Day was uncomfortable this year. I was sitting at a Colorado Rockies game with my family and brother-in-law during the seventh inning stretch when a US Army soloist sang God Bless America. While I ultimately decided to stand in order to honor the soldier singing it, as I stood there I had a very uncomfortable realization. I realized that I’d heard Coors Field honor the US armed forces at least four other times over the course of the game. Something felt wrong about that somehow.

And then, during the post-game fireworks, I found myself feeling like the fireworks set to song were less a patriotic celebration of our Independence Day and more a nationalistic or even jingoistic catharsis.

Independence Day is the day the colonies declared our independence from Britain. In many ways it signifies the birth of the United States of America (the crafting of the Constitution in 1789 would be the other defining moment). Clearly, our independence was won by force of arms during the Revolutionary War, so honoring our military and singing patriotic songs is hardly out of place for the holiday. But there was something different this time. I’ve been thinking about this ever since, and I think I’ve figured out what was different this year: me. Continue reading

Sequestration days

Welcome to March, the first day of which is the moment the government set to make itself look incompetent if it couldn’t manage to “fix” its finances. This is also called a shakedown, given that a good percentage of our elected representatives get elected by talking about how the government doesn’t work. Most of the rest of them get elected by talking about how it might be able to work if we can fix it without upsetting anyone. This second group has a strategy of working with the first group. The stupid and/or evil question probably should be explained as the first group is evil and a little bit stupid, while the second group is stupid and a little bit evil. These are the wise leaders who devised a program that depended on them doing things they’ve proven themselves incapable and unwilling of doing to avoid uncontrolled financial chaos at the national level … or something like that.

The big worry seems to be what will happen to our National Security Socialism economic system. It’s been hard to avoid news that some guy with a lot of stars who’s made a career on the taxpayers’ dime warning us gravely that he needs more taxpayer money, or, you know, we might all get killed by terrorists or the Chinese or something. Oh, and the jobs. National Security Socialism always falls back on the jobs that will be lost if cut defense spending. As it turns out, Sequestration Day #1 started by hearing that sporting event flyovers will be cancelled.

Of course those flyovers are just part of regular pilot training, so it’s not as if anyone’s paying extra to have NASCAR rednecks buzzed by a B2. The Air Force and Navy say that training is being cut under sequestration, and that’s why flyovers will be cut. The same organizations also say that a flyover might be 90 seconds of a several hour training sorte. What they’re trying to say, but won’t say directly, is that they’ve cut public event flyovers to make their sequestration cuts as visible as possible to a public that’s grown accustomed to incredible displays of, um, patriotism unrelated to the sporting event they’re paying to attend.

“Even for just 90 seconds, it is awareness,” [Wendy] Varhegyi said. “It’s just a great way that we can have connection with the American people and have that awareness to large groups of people, not to mention how patriotic everybody is.” (from The USA Today) Oh how patriotic everyone is. No, Ms. Varhegyi, it’s called jingoism. It’s like how we can’t have any major event with out football field sized American flags and endless blather about our veterans. I can think of a few other nations that behaved the same way, but none makes a favorable comparison for the land of freedom and democracy. Even the Islamic-Socialist-Usurper-in-Chief is worried about these sequestration cuts affecting our mighty military that hasn’t won a war against an enemy that shoots back since 1945.

We’re all Socialists now, i guess. Vacuum up the surplus labor value of the people and redistribute it via the government to direct employees of the government and a collection of fancy toys purchased by the government. And when all that’s set and done, make sure that we all thank the brave Workers that form our shock brigades of National Security Socialism. I’ve come to the conclusion that unless a veteran was drafted and sent to war, it should be the veterans doing the thanking for the training, the education, the pay, and the retirement and health benefits. After all, it’s really not much different than taking any other job except that the decision can be declared pure by intent of patriotism to mask the underlying Socialist characteristics.

I say we cut at least 50% and more like 75% of the military budget. If the Chinese invade we’ll all take up our enormous stock of arms, form militias, and go all Red Dawn on their assess.  Get the 3,000 or whatever the number of general staff we now carry off the government payroll and let them experience the glory of the free market and Capitalism instead of a career of government teet suckling. I’m sure that the CEOs of our defense contractors are no fans of Socialism, so they’ll certainly be happy to go out into the free market and prove their Randian mettle rather than rely on hundreds of billions of dollars of big government money.

Come on, Republicans, stand with me against Big Government.

…oh, that’s not what you meant? You’re really talking about stealing the money the rest of us are required to put into retirement and geriatric health savings plans? Got it, where do i sign up for the mandatory Subbotnik?

Are you proud to be an American? I’m not.

by JS O’Brien

Doubtless, the title of this piece made you think I was about to launch into a blame-America-first jeremiad on this July 4. Not the case. This is about pride; what it is and why it makes sense, or doesn’t make sense, to have it.

I grew up around adults who had a regional greeting when they shook hands: “Proud to meet ya!” I thought that was strange at the time, and I still do. Why would anyone be “proud” to meet someone? I suppose, theoretically, if you’d accomplished something really spectacular that got you into a meeting with someone powerful and famous, you could transfer your pride in accomplishment to that meeting, but that’s a bit roundabout, eh? More likely, it’s one of the manifestations — along with the phrase, “Proud to be an American” — of sloppy thinking and misplaced values that are an un-American as terrier pie. Continue reading

The best class I have ever taken: HIST143, the History of Fascism and Nazism

In the spring of 1994, I was a junior studying electrical engineering at Penn State. I had two general education credits left if I was going to graduate in four years, but I figured that it was time to try and sign up for HIST143, The History of Fascism and Nazism, taught by Jackson J. Spielvogel. It was one of the most popular classes on campus, taught by a professor whom I’d heard literally brought Fascism and Nazisim to life in the classroom. But because it was so popular, it was hard to get into, and upperclassmen always had the advantage.

I got lucky, and as a result my life was changed in ways that I am still discovering 16 years later. Continue reading