The ignorance is staggering…….

So……..the President of the United States announces a major speech days in advance to address the currently longest running government shutdown in history.  This is high drama:  Dems vs Trump.  Wall vs no wall.  Government employees held financially hostage.  Air traffic safety compromised.  Coast Guard working for nothing.  Food stamps dwindling.  Farmers pressured.  This is a gunfight on the White House lawn.

Sal and I are on tenterhooks.  ‘What’s he gonna say?’  “I think he’ll stick to his stupid wall demand and concede some crap and blame everyone but himself.  Same as usual.”

“I think he’ll read a speech and not talk in Donald-speak.  He’ll say God Bless America, This great nation, our great workers and all that usual BS and then try to scare everyone by threatening getting raped and mugged and drugged.”

We were both right.

But the blog today is NOT about Trump.  Not directly, anyway.  It’s about the media and it’s about Arizona and it is bloody weird!

The speech was set for 2:00 pm.  Which came and went ’cause Trump kept everyone waiting for ten minutes or more.  It was carried by the White House You-Tube channel.  I could not find a thing on TV.

Turns out that it was NOT CARRIED BY ANY TV STATIONS IN PHOENIX!

Our place gets only about 15 or so TV channels.  Fox, ABC, PBS and a bunch of local stations.  They were all up and broadcasting their regularly scheduled cooking shows, basketball games and, of course, the send-us-money religious shows.  There was a re-run of the Six Million Dollar Man series and Lawrence Welk and the like.  REAL CRAP.  Nothing on the news.  NO BREAKING NEWS.  Nothing on Trump.  Not even a commentary panel with pundits.  Nada.

After the nausea inducing speech (heard on my computer YOU-TUBE channel) which, indeed, was one BIG LIE (easy to determine: it was all read from a teleprompter and the sentences uttered were generally grammatically coherent.  NOT the usual Donald gibberish of broken thoughts and repeated phrases – but still Trumpian in content; lies and fear mongering, insincerity and blatant extortion) we flipped through all the channels afterwards again and again to see commentary.  Nothing.

Basketball and cooking shows.

“Well, they HAVE to address it on the evening news.  We’ll tune in then.”

We did.  They did not.  The media did report that Trump spoke and they gave the Special President’s newscast maybe 30 seconds of airtime.  Felt like less. There was no followup panel.  There was no commentary.  There was no analysis.  There was just more re-runs, CSI and Basketball highlights.

Trump refers to the media as FAKE NEWS.  I kind of agree with that.  I can read enough from a variety of sources to know that much of the ‘mainstream’ news that we all get is ‘canned’ and edited so much that it is almost FAKE but I mean it in the sense that it is commodified and dumb-downed so much as to be meaningless.

He means they lie.  So, I disagree with him on that – especially coming from the liar-in-chief.  But yesterday, I agreed with Trump….on that score, anyway.  That was lying-by-omission.  It was literally a crime NOT to carry that speech in my opinion.  It was also a crime NOT to have commentary and analysis.

On four of the channels there was a several minute piece on a guy wearing a huge ‘Merican flag made into a jacket and walking through an airport instead.  Plus we had a couple of cute kids hanging out for more than a few minutes on TV to illustrate to the viewing audience the concept of friendship………..

How is it possible that 15 channels of media, some of which are national networks and one of which is Trump’s very OWN sycophantic FOX NEWS not carry that speech?  How is it possible that there were no ‘expert panels’ talking about it?  How come Arizonians are shown old re-run sitcoms instead of that?

ARIZONA IS A CENTRAL PIECE IN THE BORDER WALL ISSUE!!!!

We (biased and tainted Sally and Dave) tend to think the average ‘Merican is not very well educated in ‘what is going on’……on anything, actually, ‘cept the Kardashians and the NFL.  How can they be?  This may have been one of the most significant speeches given in Trumps chaotic presidency so far and no one listened because there was nothing to hear……..

A conspiracy of ignorance…………..?

 

A major crack in the basic political and economic foundation of our lives

Warning to the reader: NO FUN!  No whales.  No ravens.  No jokes about Arizona.  This blog is an attempt at thinking about our ‘times’.  Just an attempt, mind you.  No claims of achievement.  But NO apologies, this time.  Read at your own risk if you have some time to waste. 

So, is there a problem with populism in politics for you?  Really?  Isn’t populism really popular politics or, to be more precise, just another name for Democracy?  Put another way: isn’t democracy just a popularity contest?  People get elected depending on how much money they spend on marketing, branding and celebrity?  

Thirty or so years ago, it was touted by Francis Fukuyama that the democracy model had triumphed — clearly it was the winner over all other forms of governing.  Furthermore, a better form of government was inconceivable (to FF, anyway).  And yet we are witnessing the ascendancy of autocracy and the miserable failure of Democracy in all it’s comb-over majesty south of the border.  But it is not just how the US is failing Democracy or, perhaps, how Democracy is failing the US.  Tyrannical governments in China, Brazil, North Korea, Iran, Hungary, Turkey and our old favourite, Russia, are all doing rather well, it seems.

And democratic norms and institutions are also under assault. Nobody trusts ’em anymore.  The hoi poloi are being subjected to extreme views from criminals, politicians, dictators and demagogues everywhere on all manner of alt-theories and through bad (but weirdly celebrated) behaviour.  The common citizenry find themselves drowning in a toxic avalanche of symbols, icons, models, misinformation, lies and untruths.

Two questions: Is Democracy as dead as truth?  Was Democracy ever truth?

To answer:  SADLY, NO!  Democracy was never based on truth.  Modern democracy has, at best, a peculiar and tenuous relationship with truth.  It seems that Democracy and truth are not in the least synonymous.  Democracies are based on the faith of the collective belief (propaganda) rather than empirical truth (facts).  It is the dominance of (often manipulated) consensus over facts.  Democracy, at best, is people speaking ‘something popular’ to whatever the establishment power is saying.

More commonly, democracy is just the well-coiffed celebrity leading the muggle-sheep.

Tyrants and elites and aristocracies and monarchies and religious cults don’t operate like that.  They don’t listen to the people NOR do they talk to them.  They think they know better.  They exclude the people and their opinions and their so-called collective common wisdom from the governing process.  Maybe they rule based on empirical input or maybe they rule based on personal ego…who knows?  Military and police support is also very much required. 

But it ain’t by way of consensus building or charm.   

Democracies share information (by way of the media and institutions) with the people and the people, in turn, vote with their social cooperation and taxes as well as – eventually – getting universal suffrage.  Advocates of democracy believe that free speech, common wisdom, education and laws will result in a common wisdom and will make for better government, economies and societies.  Failing all that, good looks, promises of free stuff and charisma is a good bet.

But based on facts?  Not necessarily.

And, to some extent, that ‘ideal’ may have actually happened – at some point.  Maybe we are all a bit better off…….?  But with growing inequality and the erosion/corruption of our institutions, Democracy has been greatly undermined.  We are definitely not COMPARABLY better off!  The institutions, it seems, also let us down. See banking debacle of 07/08.  See policing.  See politicians going to jail.  See poor education.  See fake news.  See the rich getting richer.  Lately, it has all failed us to the tipping point.  Now, in a collective knee-jerk reaction, we elect alternative-to-the-establishment, void-filling, con-man clowns to power.

But it ain’t the conman’s fault.  He is doing what con men have always done: looked for and found the greater gullible to exploit for personal gain.  The fault is the system that creates so many fools.  And that disappointing, overall, systemic rot started long ago with the elitist party system in politics, the privilege of the institutional and educated class and, of course, the amoral nature of Capitalism.

Make no mistake: Capitalism and Democracy are siblings, maybe conjoined twins, one of them sociopathic, the other weak in the head.

From the outset of our complex modern system – democratic/Capitalistic societies – and despite the cliched mantras and bromides repeated with brainwashing regularity, those systems created ONLY vast inequalities of power, wealth, status and knowledge.  They were not checked or balanced.  The truth sayers (the media, law, education, etc) lie.  They have always been corrupted by privilege, commercial and partisan motives.  And entry/tuition fees.  They have NOT been there FOR the greater good.

Real life is not one of equality, free speech, good education, free markets, rights and freedoms in dynamic balance for the common person.  Real life is profit seeking and getting ahead of the others.  Capitalism and Democracy have always played favourites.

Realpolitik is, and always has been, a battleground over the truth and the power of who is determining and wielding it.

And anyway, is the right answer the common man?  Who really knows the truth about all these things?  The average Joe?  Is Joe smart enough and does he have enough facts to make complicated, world-impacting decisions?  Does the Donald?  Hillary?  Justin?

Or should we rely on the myopic and increasingly technical, scientific nerd/academic/specialists who can’t remember to wear matching socks?  Or maybe their algorithms?

We just don’t know.  We are in a vast void of not knowing.  We know we are ignorant and we do not understand most of the too-complicated things. We told to have trust or have faith in the scientists or the promise givers.  But, we don’t.  Given the state of our unequal and divided world, we don’t have that trust anymore.  We are directionless and we are leaderless and we are lost in the darkness of our own ignorance.

……and surrounded by information…..

Most of us relied all of our lives on the mythical principle that truth was simple, self-evident and would unite us in evolution and harmony.  Eventually.  It needed only to be revealed (by the media or the school or the law or the great leader).  If some people couldn’t yet see the truth, that was only because they were stupid, deluded, or acting in bad faith. To early advocates of this faith in truth, the point of freedom of speech was not to encourage debate or confusion, but simply to allow the truth to somehow, mysteriously, break free from the bondage of ignorance and superstition.

And we also believed the truth would ultimately out.

The dilemma/conflict of this democratic belief in truth, as described above, is the tension between elite knowledge (science, facts, etc) and man-in-the-street, ordinary common sense and knowledge.  How far should our political decisions be based on the real-life, everyday understanding of life-with-Joe and how much with the more specialized, less easily-understood, sometimes unintelligible wisdom of legal, scientific or economic experts? How can we strike a workable balance between the two?  ESPECIALLY if there is such a thing as a single, basic, bottom-line, irrefutable truth?

Remember, too, that all systems are derived from their parents.  Democracies evolved in a bit of a leap from autocracies, of course, but they still reflected the esteemed hierarchy, the value of capital and social status that marked their heritage. The result: the first democracies limited the franchise, included senates and upper houses/chambers and included such aberrations as electoral colleges in their constitutions.

In other words: “Let us not trust the people TOO much!”

The crafters of democracies believed that nations should be led only by enlightened, propertied, elite-educated white men.  Or very rich people at the very least.  Over the ensuing centuries management and administration grew ever more complex, so that, ironically, their governing depended even more, not less, on specialization and professional elite expertise.  We increasingly relied on Joe’s nerdy lawyer/doctor cousin but we had less and less in common with her.

That dissonance has only got worse recently with the information explosion. With every new scientific and technological advance our societies need more and more experts of every kind who, in turn, generate more and more specialized and exclusive knowledge, and that inspires only more and more separation from the madding crowd. It fractures and separates us into the deplorables and a gazillion other subgroups.

That specialization has brought great benefits in public health, social welfare and economic vitality.  But it has also divided us.  It requires us to place ever greater faith in distant, opaque groups, systems and mechanisms. The problem is that Joe believes that too much technocracy and convoluted administration runs the risk of policy making that is bad, corrupt, or divorced from the concerns of ordinary people, which in turn destroys common-sense trust and creates an angry backlash.  And he is NOT alone in that fear – witness the growth of the alt-right. Forty percent of Americans think like Joe.

One of our great, rich, celebrated bankers bailed out by the people back in 2008 blamed much of the problem on Credit Default Swaps and Options.  When asked by government reviews what CDS and CDO’s (derivatives) were, he answered, “No one really understands them except our in-house math wonks.  Too confusing.” 

None of this is new.   Faith in popular wisdom and distrust and suspicion of experts goes back to the Industrial Revolution, maybe earlier.   See: Luddites.  The common man disdained science, specialized expertise, and lauded the wisdom of ordinary people and popular sages.  And with that growing distrust of our leaders came promises of simple, quick solutions to new complex issues from charlatans.   That has been the alt-logic of populist truth across the western world for at least the past three hundred years.  Our latest sage-of-the-simple is Donald Trump.   Reducing issues to black and white and then choosing one is much simpler than seeing five hundred shades of grey and picking the best dozen.

In case I have lost you in this meandering essay, I am saying that Democracy leans to simple, common sense consensus.  NOT truth.  It does NOT read or analyze facts or seek truth.  That is too much work for Joe and friends.  Too complicated for folks like me, the great unwashed.  Donald Trump is the perfect manifestation of that simple-mindedness.  He does not read either.  Nor listen.

To me, even understanding and maybe doing something won’t be enough. Why?  Because we still rely on Capitalism and it, too, is inherently flawed.  It grows til it is out of control.  It kills everything in it’s path in the name of profit.  It has created the current moral failure of our economic system:  It threatens the planet.  

Remember: the story of modern democracy is also the conjoined twins story with modern capitalism. The more we are divided by gross and growing inequality, the harder it becomes to find the common moral ground on which our politics and economy depends.

Democratic politics is still, of course, the politics of nation states.  And yet, all the biggest challenges of our time are transnational: war, mass migration, growing inequality, the onset of ecological obliteration. The politics of the nation state are almost irrelevant to tackling such global challenges.  Can you imagine the significance of Canadian or BC politics in such a looming and dire situation?  Or even OUR national economy?

“So, Dave, what are you saying?”

Glibly put:  We founded our modern society on fundamentally wrong principles.  Fukuyama was wrong!  So, if you are not prepared to get vastly more popular and celebrated than Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump and step up and out in front and lead the world to a better place with something radically different, then you might want to get out.  I might even suggest that you GET OUT NOW!

I kinda feel pushed….

….to comment on Gillettes new ad on ‘morals for men’.  It seems to have generated a lot of hype.  Some men are angry at being lectured.  Some of the really nice ones are pleased that they are being shown how to be nicer.  Be better men.  They really, really want to be the best they can be — as defined by someone else, of course.  In this instance, the advisers are the women ad directors of Gillette.

And, really, who would know better?

But, despite the au courant feeling of being pushed to opine, I am ambivalent in the extreme.  Who cares what some ad execs come up with?   Mind you, one has to admit that they are good at what they do.  Ya gotta admire good work when you see it.  Those ad execs made the typically, really boring ad about shaving a sensational news item complete with movie stars and politicians commenting.  And now, I am, too!  THAT’S GOOD ADVERTISING.

But that is all it is.  Yes, they are depicting some men (mostly boys, actually) as bullies or lecherous. . .duh. . .some are. . .but, so, like……didn’t they also show in the same ad that most men were not?

Doesn’t that mean that the basic ad is really indicating that all men are different?

Didn’t they also show men making cartoonishly sexist gestures back in the 60’s as being really, really bad and, well. . .cartoonish?  So BAD is just bad humour?  I kinda agree with that to some extent, actually. 

But didn’t they also portray a potentially ordinary human interaction as very, very wrong? (A guy notices a very beautiful woman walk by and sets out to. . .what?  In broad daylight. . .on a busy street. . .maybe commit the unpardonable sin of introducing himself?).  Thank GOD she was saved by the intervention of his friend who advised him ‘not cool, man’.  He dutifully obeyed and turned away.  Good boy! 

Boy does NOT meet girl – the new universal story.

Mind you, I sat down beside Sally on the steps of a public building and began talking to her almost fifty years ago.  My bad?  Maybe I should apologize?

The point is that advertising attempts to paint a scenario in such as way as to get your attention and, at the same time, etch their brand into your brain.  Gillette did that.  End of story.  

Are they right about men?  Of course not!  They had thirty seconds to tell a self-serving story.  They took shortcuts.  Are they right about our collective morality?  Of course not, they are selling product!  Are they wrong about men?  Of course not.  Some men are bad and some are really, really nice.  Some are tall, some are short and all the men in the ad were of similar height.  They did NOT get it right.  No one expected they would.  They did what they could. 

So what?

My only beef with the ad is that it shows all the ‘good men’ lined up at barbecues looking sincere with spatulas in their hands.  That is a tactical strike against all of us men.  Barbecuing is a long-running feminist conspiracy as yet unrecognized except by a few of us.  Barbecuing was a plot by feminists enacted way back in the 60’s to make men cook.  Seriously!  Gloria Steinhem owns Weber.  Everyone knows that.  Once they get all the men wearing aprons and cooking and looking sincere, the next step is world domination.

But the ad?  It’s just an ad.  Go back to being you.  We know the truth about men and it does not have to include barbecuing.  In fact, it should not!  You know why?  Because, really. . .?  All men are pigs! 

A lotta noise in a long hallway

Guns are a big deal in Arizona.  Everybody, it seems has one or forty three of them.  This is NRA country.  So, Sal and I went to the local gun range yesterday to ‘go local’.

The store and range are set in a shopping mall.  It’s a big box store, maybe the size of a Safeway or Winners.  The retail and reception area is a pretty standard store layout with a perimeter counter and a few aisles of products in the middle.  Tons o’ guns on the walls and under glass counters.  It is bright and clean and all the male staff wore matching red t-shirts.  They looked good.  They were pleasant.  It was all very ‘normal’.

We, of course, confessed our innocence and ignorance of the sport and were given a two minute introduction to loading and safe practices. There are big signs everywhere repeating the rules and procedures so the message of safety and conformity was strongly made.

Then our guy, Dave, gave us a 9 mm pistol, two targets and 100 rounds of ammo.  We picked up ear protection and crap plastic eye protection that diffused our vision sufficiently well that no target could be accurately focused on.  But, our skills were so poor, that was not really a problem.

We went to the first door and the noise was already pretty bad so we donned our ear muffs.  Then we opened that first door into a small antechamber and reached for the second door.  The noise got noticeably louder.  But we were now just in a second small room.  It took three steel doors and two separated small spaces to get into one of the two shooting ranges.

And the noise was crazy!

Some guy was in there shooting what sounded like a small cannon.  The place reverberated with BOOM!  BOOM!  Sal claims she actually felt shock waves.

It did give the old adrenals an uptick, I’ll admit to that.

So we went to the cubicle at lane one and pressed the button to pull in the target holder.  Sal clipped on our first target, a grouping of five bulls’eyes on a sheet about 18″ by 36″ and sent it down the lane about 25 feet.  I loaded the magazine with ten or so shots and slipped it into the gun.  There was no safety.  The instruction was to ‘jack’ the mechanism (kachick!) and doing that put the first bullet in the chamber.  After that it was just aim and pull the trigger.

The kick and attendant ‘bang!’ was pretty much what I expected.  You can’t watch Bruce Willis and other naughty boys kill really bad boys in the movies for thirty odd years or more and not learn a thing or two about guns. So I was not surprised at the speed at which the bullet traveled but the ‘ka-pow’ was quite attention-getting. So was the fact that I had missed the target completely.  So I focused the second time and hit it square and hitting my first target at such close range became easy.  Nine shots in a palm sized grouping.  Number ten?  No idea.

Then Sal got up to bat.  I loaded the magazine for her ’cause getting all the bullets in is not an easy, natural procedure.  Maybe it becomes that way after starring in a few movies but, at first, it’s an awkward exercise.  She made a few bad shots as she, too, figured out what was happening and then put the remainder in a relatively tight grouping although, a bit high.  Sal tended to shoot a bit high.

Half way through her first shots she wanted to say something to me and half-spun in my direction with her hand holding the gun and her finger in the trigger space.  That is a major violation of range protocol and I was tempted to hit the floor and cover.  Screaming ‘don’t shoot!’  But a quick ‘no-no’ gesture sufficed and she turned and placed the gun down.  It was not worthy of America’s funniest home videos but neither of us looked very cool during that brief moment.

As I worked my way through my 50 rounds, I sent the target further and further down the lane until my last barrage was focused on a smaller target about 60 feet away.  It was about 12″ x 16″.  I hit it nine times.  I shot rapidly, a la Arnie or Bruce.  It was not from the hip but it was not aimed either – just pointed.  I was encouraged by the results.

I chose the point-and-shoot style because I was wondering what I would hit if I was in an actual encounter and less than disciplined and NOT using the sights or slowly pulling the trigger as instructed–instead just freaking out. 

And, of course, when using a narrow range with cubicle walls, it is hard to do a flying, horizontal, slow-mo, two-gun budda budda fly-by shooting of bad guys like Bruce does.  So, the casual point and shoot ’em up style was employed.  It works.  The bullets were not as centered as well as if I had used the sights but nine of them hit the small target.  I felt ready to lock and load, swagger and wise-crack and blow away the enemy on a whim.

Sal is generally a better shot.  But she was content to aim at the 25 and 40 foot distances.  She wanted bull’s eyes.  She doesn’t crack wise or swagger.  She’s more focused on dishing out hot lead.  We were done in half an hour.  ‘Outa ammo’. 

The Kiddie Area Just Outside the Range

So, we took the gun back and paid the bill.  “Did you enjoy it?”

“Um, yeah.  Kinda.  The initial ‘kapow’ was a fun surprise and the subsequent shots a bit of a kick excitement-wise.  MY adrenaline is definitely up.  And, when I actually hit what I aimed at, it was pretty cool.  But, a half hour is enough.  No more.  Probably not ever again, actually.  Once was good.  Not my sport, really, but glad I did it.” 

Sal didn’t answer.

We got in the truck.  “Happy Birthday, honey. Waddya really think, Dave?”

“Weird. Not fun, really.  I like targets and shooting but not gun ranges and all that noise.  I think I’d prefer to shoot in the forest or when flying in slo-mo but, even then, probably only once.  Maybe not even that.  That was enough.”

“Lots of people here do this every week or even more often.  They seem to think it’s pretty great.”

“Honestly?  I just do not get that.  NOT one bit.  This is just NOT a hobby to me.  So you hit a target!  Then, after a gazillion dollars you hit smaller targets.  If we don’t get the much anticipated zombie apocalypse, what’s the point? I don’t like depending on zombies to give my skills-building meaning, ya know?”

“I agree!  No zombies and it’s just not our thing.”

‘Zona burbs

Driving up a suburban main street that is better paved and wider than most of the TransCanada highway, we saw a coyote scamper across the not-too-busy four lanes of traffic.  Very cool.  A real desert coyote.  Desert coyotes are bigger than BC’s urban golf-course coyotes.  About 1.5 times larger.  Almost wolf-ish.

Standing on the driveway of our friend’s home, marveling at all the beige-all-over homes and their all-shiny vehicles, I saw a real Roadrunner (the actual bird) run down the street and disappear into someone’s back yard.  That was also very cool.  He/she seemed to be about the size of a chicken but way-stretched out.  Long neck and tail feathers.

I mention those two sightings because they are, of course, symbolic to the area but also because there seems to be very little wildlife, even though this suburb is far out on the Phoenix metropolitan edges.  Part of the reason, I suppose, is that deserts support less wildlife per square mile than do, say, areas like the Okanagan.  Or even our home area.  Another reason, I suspect, is that there are so many guns and so much shooting.  This may NOT be a society of wanton killers or insatiable hunters but there are definitely a larger bunch of shooters and plonkers here than in most places.  There are a lot of gun stores and ranges.

Arizona is still ‘open carry’, too.  Some residents openly carry their handguns in public.  To be fair, I have not seen any and that is largely because ‘concealed carry’ is also legal and I am sure that many people I pass have guns in their purses or in holsters unseen.  I concluded this because at the giant local swap-meet (more like a giant western dollar store under tents) every fifth booth has some gun-related merchandise for sale with holsters and ‘conceal carry’ purses being amongst the more popular.

There is a third reason for less wildlife.  Roundup and chemicals.  The desert has bugs.  It is home to ants in great, vast numbers.  And people who build here in beige subdivisions do not want ants in their home.  So, they use pesticide.  But they do not sprinkle a little box around the place every spring or even use aerosol spray bombs.  They hire roaming squads of Mexicans who carry double Scuba-sized clear plastic tanks on their backs and spray with battery powered wands a concentrated poison in every crook and cranny you can see.  On any given day, I might see three or four guys wandering our neighbourhood spraying lethal crap.  They don’t wear masks.  Some wear gloves.  Some don’t.  This is truly an exercise in death for both the killer and the vanquished.

But they do NOT vanquish.  When Sal and I go for walks, I often look down and see hundreds of little ant-exit holes.  Walk a block on any street and you will find a dozen ant-exits in front of each house.  Look ahead and you might see the local sprayer applying poison to the dozen or so ant-exits he has found in front of the house he is at.  But the neighbours have dozens, too.  And more spring up as you stand and watch.  This is a battle in which we are likely losing more Mexicans than ants.  It’s ridiculous and, worse, thousands and thousands of gallons of this poison is being released in to the community every month.

But walk through the lovely parks and the grass is green.  Trees look good.  Not a bug to be seen.  This is sterile pretty.  False.

I would say we don’t see many birds, either.  You wouldn’t expect to see any if all their food is poisoned.  But there is one species in relative abundance.  A sort of dove…pigeon-esque but slimmer.  Probably a dove.  It coos.

But, that’s basically it.  The odd Chickadee.  Someone’s cat.  There must be more somewhere but we don’t see it.  There may be plenty of wildlife once you get well and truly away from the manicured suburbs but my overall impression is that wildlife in the area is rare.  And there are hardly any bugs but ants.

Our suburb includes hundreds of homes each on decent sized lots (12,000 sft) and costing on average around US$250,000.  Highest price closer to $400K and lowest around $210.  They are all new and have all the mod-cons.  If there is a ‘character’ to the neighbourhood, I don’t see it but the majority of owners are Mormon and there is a number of large Mormon churches sprinkled amongst the homes.  One could say, this is a very ‘white’ neighbourhood but it would not be accurate.  We have said hello to all hues of skin colour, all races and even some of the Mormon’s themselves.  Everyone has been pleasant and friendly.  Having said that, it is not a pedestrian kind of place.  People in Arizona do not walk much.  They need their car to go anywhere and, since their car is right next to their house, they are only briefly glimpsed.  Now and then.  Not often.

Sal and I were followed by two ‘elders’ on bikes during one of our forced marches the other day (Sal has a routine).  Chatting the whole way.  Very nice young men who came by their titles by having enrolled in the ministry of the Mormon church.  They were young but classed as ‘elders’ as a rank of sorts in the somewhat rigid hierarchy of their system.  We engaged them as any polite person might but declined their invitation to come to services as their guests.  But, I liked them.  They were fun.  They laughed at my jokes and that’s how I judge people, mostly.  They wished us a good holiday, reiterated our open invitation and blessed us.  What’s not to like?

Adventure?  Excitement?  Even novelty or interest?  Probably not.  This ain’t the place for that except in one’s imagination.  And we’ve been THERE in Accidental Fugitives.  There are freeways and shopping centres, fast food chains and faux western imagery.  Flat, straight, sunny. Cheap gas and Costco.  And a bit of cactus here and there.  Maybe a coyote, if you get lucky.  But, seriously…?  This is best for those over 80, maybe over 85.

So, we’ll be back…..

“I did not have sex with that woman…ooops….I meant to say, I never said Mexico will pay for the wall!”

Lying.  Blatant, bald-faced lies.  From Clinton, Trump, Trudeau and, it seems, just about EVERY politician.  What the hell is wrong with them?  With us?

That may not be entirely fair.  We seem to have lies spilling out of every political mouth, all the time, but there must be a few politicians out there who not only tell the truth, they do not obfuscate, they hide nothing, admit openly their mistakes and work hard to do the common good.  There must be.  Mustn’t there……?

Our local guy is one, so I know there is one.  ONE.  At least he has been that way to everyone out here in the boondocks for as long as we have been here and, further, he champions us without even being asked.  If there is ‘something’ he can do for the outer islanders, Jim does it. And he tells us the truth.  He tells it like it is.  And he has political smarts.

But, of course, he is an independent and I am guessing he is not affiliated for the obvious reason: you cannot represent the people if you have already sworn to represent the party.  So, he represents no party, just the people.  Simple.  Rare.  Valued.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT.

But here’s the odd part…..we EXPECT them to lie to a large extent.  To quite a LARGE extent, really.  We expect it.  We count on it.  We THINK that obfuscation, fake smiles, jabber-for-the-sake-of-filling-air and spin is simply part of the job.  We think lying is IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION!

Admit it!  You are listening to a politician fill the media time by employing cliches, jargon, non-speak, spin, lies, answer-avoidance and, of course, blaming others.  They are on air for ten seconds.  You get all of the above and yet are left without an answer to the reporters question.   Virtually every time.  Do you yell at the radio/TV?  Do you write a letter?  Do you even tell your friends about the latest politician-crap you just suffered through?

No.  No, you don’t.  That BS is SO NORMAL it just washes over you.  You barely even hear it most of the time.

We all experience a bit of shock each time a blatantly outrageous and obvious lie is told and then revealed to be a lie.  But then the subsequent days of cover-up, dodging, re-phrasing and baffle gab lulls us back in to the feeling of ‘same ol’, same ol’ but the initial expose’ usually shocks us a bit.  Some of us.  Well, me.  It still shocks me when a politician brazenly, without a bit of shame is caught in a lie.  Most are totally shameless.  Some are so deep in their own lies they wouldn’t know the truth if it hit ’em in the face.  Trudeau lies to us all the time.  Still does.  And yet he also still poses for selfies.  I honestly do not think he knows the meaning of shame or the percentage of lies he speaks.

If I was ever caught out in that kind of blatant lying, I would resign, move to another country, change my name and hide.  They don’t.  They just ‘carry on’.  Being caught in minor evasive spin and obfuscation is not enough for me to move, tho – just sayin’.

Don’t get me wrong.  I lie.  Alla time, actually.  Half my humour is spewing crap.  Love making stuff up – especially for kids.  “Why not stay for dinner, Jimmy?  We’re having dog poop and noodles.”  But some of my lies have also been self-serving.  I admit that.  Especially when I was younger.  All is fair in love and war.   One of the joys of getting really old is that you no longer CARE what people think and so you just speak your mind.  I have no guarantees on it being completely and factually true but it will be MY truth, delivered plain and simple.  Often loudly, too.  And repeated a few times to make the point.

I can be obnoxious, it turns out.

I rarely fell to blatant, outright, save-my-butt lies but obfuscation, answer avoidance, topic-changing and spin are an art and I dabbled.  Most men have.  It is a condition related to testosterone, I think.  Some of my best work…. 

Anyway, tiny apology for the rant but Trump’s denial of ever saying that Mexico will pay for his wall is just over-the-top.  Proof of madness.   He said, “…they will write us a big one-time cheque”.

And the new rationale is just as over-the-top.  He now says that the NAFTA 2 deal will pay for it and that great deal is how they will do it.  He does not seem to ‘get’ that the ‘great’ deal includes Canada so I guess he can also say, “And Canada will help pay for that wall!  We expect a big one-time cheque from them, too!”  Or, perhaps, he doesn’t get that general revenue is NOT derived from one single, order-specific bill sent to Mexico?  Who knows?  The guy’s a nut way too long tolerated.

“Geez, Dave…????  Why Trump?  Why now?  Why?”

I am glad you asked.  You see, I have anti-Trump (Trudeau) bile rising in me all the time but I KNOW that is not writing that needs publishing.  There are a gazillion Trump (Trudeau) haters and they are all getting pretty good at spewing insults and recriminations at these idiots.  I am not new.  Worse, Trump and drama queens believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  Name recognition is their goal.  Celebrity is the game.  They WANT to be a household name and they don’t care how they get there.  Think Paris Hilton.  THEY WANT me to write!

So, I keep it to a minimum because I am only adding to their search engine presence.

But a guy can only carry so much bile and poison around inside without having to spew it out at some point.

Apologies.

 

Sweethome Arizona

Sunny, cool (10-15C), clean and spacious.  Cactus.  Flat.  No Maga hats yet.  Cars, cars, cars.  Gasoline (from Canada) at $2.69 US a gallon.  First impression: it’s growing.  More buildings.  Newer ‘centres’ and malls.

We came in on the airport shuttle with a young Texan who seemed to be ‘real careful’ talkin’ to foreigners – at first – but loosened up.  He’s a catfish farmer!  Digs holes, fills ’em with water, throws in ‘itty-bitty ones’ and then raises them to adulthood whereupon they are shipped out to other catfish farmer’s regional ‘fattening ponds’ to be custom sized to the regional menu.  I guess Arkansanians like their catfish a different size to Georgians and Kentukians.  Who knew?

There is a lot more to a catfish than meets the eye it seems.

Guy lived for years on the Arizona-Mexico border.  Grew up there.  Wants a wall.  “No problem for good Mexicans.  They good people.  But they gotta apply and line up.  Wait their turn.  Fill out our papers.  It’s those rotten Mexicans who are the ones who run across the border and try to get our services and food stamps and welfare.  They real good at getting taxpayer’s money.  We need a wall to stop them!”

Unlike many who speak that way, he was just a ‘good ol’ boy with little to no REAL animosity except to rule-breakers.  This was more of a ‘law-and-order’ guy than a racist.  Still, he has never been anywhere except the red-light districts of border towns.  “They fun!”  His view of life, people, culture, government and the US of A is somewhat limited, albeit colourful.

But…..so is mine…..so we wished him and his cowboy-hat wearing girlfriend (he had pics of her) all the best and departed our shuttle at another airport east of Phoenix.  My buddy, S, had left his car there for us.  An Escalade.  Nice.

I walked around the rather small parking lot and found it. Then found the hidden key and opened it up.  I felt as if I should take off my shoes!  S is a great and healthy, normal guy who is smart and capable and competent and honest and good.  We have mutual love without having mutual characters.  I do not measure up to all those standards.  But I have always thought of myself as ‘at least’ clean.  I am a clean guy.  I wash and clean up stuff.  Mostly.  I am NOT great but I eventually clean up whatever mess I make (if Sal doesn’t get to it first AND hides all the tools she finds).

But I am a pig-dog in mud-slop compared to S.  The car was so clean I wondered how he even got it parked there.  Surely there must be a hint of road grime somewhere even if he came direct from the car-wash and the OCD surgical detailer!  Nope.  There was not a speck of dust, not a bit of dirt.  The tires were black and shiny with no dirt in the grooves.  The floor mats were freshly armor-alled.  The car was cleaner than the clinic I volunteer at.  I have – I swear – undergone major surgery in dirtier operating rooms.  My appendix was removed in a pig-sty compared to this car!

I pulled up to get Sal and the luggage.  She opened the passenger side while I put the luggage in the back.  I watched as she tapped her shoes on the door-rails to make sure she didn’t trek in any dirt.  Unprompted she said, “Oh my God!  This car is immaculate!”

“How the hell are we gonna give this car back as nice as we got it?  It’s not possible unless we start cleaning now!”

Talk about pressure!

I wrote and complained.

S. wrote back: “Sorry, man.  I like to detail.  It’s kind of a zen thing.  Therapeutic.  If you wanna freak, look in the engine bay.  It’s crazy clean!”

This is a 2005 vehicle!

Arizona will take some adjustment…..