This Unholy Mess

If the Ten Commandments don’t really do it for you but you can’t quite stomach Dr. Phil either, then why not dip your mental big toe into This Unholy Mess? I can sound as authoritative as Oprah, as enthusiastic as Joel Osteen, and as esoteric as Ron Hubbard—and I can do it all without the terrible burden of wealth and notoriety that might risk infusing my writing with a bit of legitimacy. Much of what you will find on the blog is political, if only because I am a fan of tragi-comedy; but there are plenty of offensive religious and social topics to disturb just about anyone with a reasonably closed mind, a slight chip on his shoulder, and a desire to confront people belligerently from the safety of a computer keyboard. Enjoy!


Remember the Three Musketeers? “All for one, and one for all”? Well, updating it to fit the current right-wing view in America, it should be more like “All for one--and all for one!” I’m talking not just to you, Anti-vaxxers, (gun freaks fit in here, too, absolutely) but you’re a great place to start. You’re the current vanguard in the battle to assert individual rights over any considerations of community and society at large. You appear to want everyone to know that our society, organized and maintained to allow you the benefits of paved streets, reliable waste collection, and pizza delivery, can take a hike when it asks you to participate in coping with a public health emergency. For some reason, even the geniuses among you cannot seem to see that, as it relates to COVID-19, your idea of being able to “do what you want, as a personal choice,” actually impacts everyone around you. The craziest, the true paranoiacs, refuse heath officials’ assurances that vaccinations do not include bloodstream...   Read more

Everybody loves kids, of course, but in our Republican America we recognize the truth: young kids are too frequently used by unscrupulous Democrats as a Trojan horse, trying to sneak the poison of socialism into the life of the nation. First it was just free school lunches, but eventually it’ll be free Pizza Hut, 24/7. Just you watch. The specious Democrat argument is that it’s up to the government to provide economically-disadvantaged kids with all kinds of benefits, based on the flimsy excuse that their parents are in lower income brackets. Just because income inequality is at its most extreme point since the late 1920s, suddenly parents need government to help level the playing field for them? Total piffle. This insult to all of America’s affluent rugged individualists is a big part of the Democrats’ scheme to sell the nation on their “Build Back Better” boondoggle that offers all kinds of free stuff to toddlers and people too disadvantaged to matter much to any self-respecting political action committee. Universal pre-k...   Read more

Blame is a dish best served piping hot, and everybody seems to have something to bring to the Afghanistan Withdrawal Pot Luck and Political Lynching. Generally acknowledged to be as extraordinarily messy as our 20-year sojourn there, America’s final exit from Afghanistan desperately needs a fall guy, a culprit, a perp guilty of the crime. We don’t want to blame a group, large or small, because that doesn’t make as satisfying a meal. So let’s make it about Joe Biden. Let’s title the indictment, “We absolutely needed to leave, but not in this chaotic way.” After all, the departure was so disorganized, so rushed and panicky—it just wasn’t right. What we should have done is: (you are invited to fill in the blank). Whatever suggestions you chose, I would submit that you probably missed the inescapable ingredient in this road-apple hoagie. The truth is: our messy exit was just the logical extension of a massive, 20-year-long institutional failure, on every level of government. The truth is: the heart of the...   Read more

Is our recently displaced, totally disgraced former “president” going to be reinstated, returned to the White House sometime in the month of August? You’d think such an idea would smother under the weight of its own absurdity, but this notion is still out there, circulating mostly in the most deranged reaches of the internet, with all the viability of a petition to make Marjorie Taylor Greene the Queen of Denmark. How will such a fantastically unconstitutional scenario play out? It must be a tantalizing prospect for the crowd that tends to wear TV dinner trays on their heads. Will the military take charge, giving America that special, extra-legal, far-eastern flavor of Myanmar, while escorting the Bleached Peach to the White House? Will there be martial law? Or will it be the voice of a unanimous Supreme Court that delivers the Executive Branch to him, sweeping aside our founding documents in a move unprecedented yet so magically legitimate? Of course, many other questions will need answers. Will a sound system on...   Read more

Wow. I don’t know about you, but I was so reassured, in mid-June, to see the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops convene and come out with guns blazing on a whole range of important issues. These bureaucratic holy men never shy away from a righteous, fiery press release, and in these days of multiple major crises in the world, they are more than ever willing to take names and kick some secular butt. Climate change? Since it’s about the imminent destruction of life on earth, all those deniers, those big oil execs are going to feel hellfire, absolutely. Along with them, giants of the financial sector, so responsible for expanding income inequality, will also face public shame and spiritual perdition. Anti-vax leaders are headed for hell as well, because of the many lives lost through their willfully ignorant statements against COVID vaccines. The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre will have his comb-over singed by the heat of eternal damnation, too, for his role in assuring that there are more firearms...   Read more

Greetings and welcome to this week’s edition of “Numb It Down,” the show that asks the question, “Can American craziness be supersized and shipped overnight by Amazon Prime?” We are coming to you, as usual, live from our secure studios, safe from attack by rollicking armed militias now threatening the country with their Confederate battle flags, their buffalo headdresses, their oversized ammo magazines, and their undersized genitalia. Today’s show is brought to you by Decency and Common Sense, a product with all the baked-in goodness of sanity itself. Combined with your favorite representative government, it provides 100% of the necessary nutrition for a healthy citizenry. On top of that, it’s mmmmm-good, too, with a flavor that says, “I live in the real world,” and “Science is verifiable.” It’s endorsed by everyone who hasn’t allowed their brains to dribble out in a puddle on the floor in front of a television permanently tuned to Fox News. Today on “Numb It Down,” we take a closer look at the blatant, public self-contradictions...   Read more

Just to re-cap: we’ve been following around a bunch of guys in powdered wigs for two hundred and thirty-odd years, across the desert of history, swept along by our mutual respect for the system of government they created, i.e., the Constitution. We know all about this. Or at least we think we do. But there are two aspects of the Founders we definitely don’t pay enough attention to: one is the fact that these guys were pragmatists. They loved the elegance of ideological theory, sure, but were very aware also that half-a-loaf was quantumly more nourishing than, say, nothing at all. Secondly, they were not absolutists, believing that they had all the answers, for everyone, for all time. They didn’t pretend to be prophets and seers. This second point is especially important these days, when the more obnoxious and brazen strain of American politician runs around waving a copy of the Constitution, speaking in reverent, hushed tones about “The Founders”—the way a health-food nut talks about kale. The truth is,...   Read more

OUR STORY Bill Bentwhistle, founder and chairman of Bentwhistle Family Estates, is committed to making each Bentwhistle Estate varietal wine the best of its kind in the world. As unencumbered by financial limitations as he is by actual knowledge of wine or its history, he has invested a fortune in his quest to both satisfy the most demanding wine lover and at the same time give himself the appearance of a cultured, refined—and even human--being. In this great work, he has not only learned to eat with a knife and fork and close his mouth when chewing, but has identified the key factor in producing wines of true distinction: respect for terroir. With his strong background of having occasionally had something under his fingernails that resembled dirt, Bill was determined to honor the terroir tradition by acquiring parcels of land perfectly suited to the cultivation of fine wine grapes: a special combination of the cheapest possible per-acre costs and soils rich enough to produce vast tonnages of grapes, year in...   Read more

Don’t think for a moment that it’s over. Don’t give in to the sunny notion that the January 6th sacking of the Capitol building was a one-off that shocked Americans into a rejection of our former “president’s” story line about a rigged election and his own victimization. It did not. If you are truly aware of the extreme danger, you cannot turn a blind eye to America’s continuing flirtation with demagoguery and authoritarian government. You can already see his minions providing the air-brushing, the photo-shopping of his words and actions in the weeks following the Capitol assault on January 6. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin wants you to know that the violent attack was “completely unforeseeable,” and that it was not an armed riot at all. He didn’t specify exactly what it was, but given enough time he’s got the chops to transform it into a vigorous policy discussion featuring Earl Grey tea and cucumber sandwiches. And then there’s Lindsay Graham, the senator who owes a huge debt to the...   Read more

Had enough of being pepper-sprayed with cell phone videos of the January 6 attack on the Capitol? Tired of seeing, again and again, the scrums of slobs, fantasists, and ex-military forcing their way into the building, showcasing the male of the species in a particularly unflattering way? Embarrassed to see the few women present doing their best, too, with their limited supplies of testosterone? Most of the time, they all looked and sounded like Hunter Thompson’s “horrible experiment involving whiskey and gorillas.” Even if you feel you’ve maxed out on the images, pathetic and dangerous in equal parts, it is extremely important to keep them fresh in your mind. This is because those in whose interest it is to play down the event, to spray generous clouds of air-freshener over the event’s stinking, seditious corpse in order to sanitize and airbrush it in the public mind, do not want anyone to remain awake to either its raw, destructive, ignorant, mob-rule energy or its direct cause: the incendiary words of our...   Read more

So now that the Electoral College has voted to elect Joe Biden, and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused even to hear the latest absurd/hilarious/dangerous challenge to those presidential election results, the “president” has reached the end of his rope, and, thankfully, his “administration.” You know it’s the end when the internet begins to suggest that he might try one last appeal, to the International House of Pancakes—people who presumably know how to flip just about anything, including elections. I think everyone understands that though Joe Biden’s inauguration will occasion the removal of those terrible, tacky gold drapes from the Oval Office, it will do nothing to address his flagrant abuses of the presidency and their apparent normalization by a duped crowd of followers and a craven Republican Party. This is because, in one sense, Biden wasn’t truly running against the “president,” the narcissistic publicity addict, sexual predator, and reality TV star. He was running against deception and lies, along with forces of dark contempt for our institutions, all of...   Read more

Hello. I’m Paul Moser, Professor Emeritus of Confabulation Studies here at the American Academy of Junk Science, in Porcine, Indiana. I am writing today for a very serious and specific purpose, which is to assure you of something. Anything. God knows, the world just seems completely upside down at this point, after an election that doesn’t seem to want to yield the proper results, and a pandemic that once again appears to be out of control. In the midst of it all, at least we can say: Thank God for our “president.” Sporting his new hair color, a distinguished-looking Lady Gaga silver-blond, he is displaying his usual take-charge approach--to his own problems, if not America’s. As the number of COVID infections rose steeply over the last two weeks, he leapt into action, tweeting repeatedly that the presidential election had been “rigged” and “stolen.” He had no actual proof that he had been cheated, but his insistent tweets were in all-caps, which, along with a spittle-flecked, zany tirade from Rudy Giuliani,...   Read more

When madness is declared sane, when vice is virtue, when bullying is courage, when white-collar crime is legal, when cruelty is patriotism, when division is unity—when you’ve gotten comfortable with all those, as apparently about 40% of Americans have, then you begin to see why the presidential election is already lost, regardless of the “winner.” When a huge minority have heartily embraced falsehoods and prejudices that erode the foundation of their own nation, that is not called a wrong turn or a blip on the screen. It is called rot. The decay of the body politic. Not to be a complete Captain Bringdown on this point, but…well, yes, I do have to be Captain Bringdown, if truth is to be served at all. The events of recent weeks give no cover for the “president” and his followers, not that they have made much of an attempt to hide any of their divisive, paranoid program. Part of their madness is the great rush of glee they seem to derive from public...   Read more

What America is now experiencing is worse than a house divided against itself. In a divided house, at least the two sides are clear in their opposition and in the factual reasons for that opposition. Right now, thanks in large part to our “president,” the house is not just divided, but without a ceiling or floor. There is nowhere to stand, because facts and the truth have been devalued or completely discarded. Even to mention the ugly, incessant barrage of disinformation we have absorbed for years now is to invite in most people a response of helpless ennui, a not-this-again kind of exhaustion. We have all drowned in the tsunami of verbal sewage. I don’t think anyone seriously believes that Napa is immune from this illness, this sickness nearly as bad in its way as COVID, but I was personally fascinated to encounter its effects, one-on-one, in a recent, rare foray to a commercial space here in town. The person in question was a man who looked to be about...   Read more

Exhausted and confused, the Republican Party staggers toward the finish line: the 2020 elections. It's a shame that so few among them have been able to admit that the party no longer exists. Invaded by the Orange Virus, it has been cannibalized from the inside to the point that little remains beyond faux-evangelical white supremacist conspiracy theories; meanwhile its leaders have been busy with the million and one details involved in selling their souls. You wouldn’t think it would be such a hassle to get rid of a few hundred souls, even if they weren’t of the highest quality; but—long story short--they did finally get Home Depot to buy them up as an active ingredient in their house brand of weed killer. Thus liberated to be the kind of principle-free, gutless toadies that the “president” made it clear he prefers, the Retrumplican leaders have spent the last few years casting votes and engaging in debate that would have embarrassed and shamed just about anyone. Anyone with a soul, that is....   Read more

If you live in Napa Valley, California, and are not abreast of the latest in fashionable, local alt-right performance art, you should get to know the young man who was the life of the party at Doris Gentry’s campaign kickoff for her mayoral bid on June 9, 2019, and who was also a “luminary” at the thinly-veiled Trump rally styled “Back the Blue,” on June 17, 2020, a gathering intended to provide legitimacy for a whole range of right-wing extremists by implying that their solidarity with good, ethical law enforcement is not shared by everyone, including liberals. His name is Ben, and he’s from Fresno. An evangelical “Christian,” he is an avowed homophobe. He believes that Black Lives Matter should be declared a terrorist organization. I won’t identify him any further, since that might kick the mighty engines of social media into high gear, generating various clicks, emojis, and chunks of electronic red meat that just serve to feed the beast. After seeing some of his videos, and considering that it’s possible he will make a habit of visiting our Napa Valley community, I feel compelled to offer him some comments and questions. I’m offering them in relatively unadorned fashion, because they are too serious to risk obscuring with healthy servings of my favorite flavors of snark. Even if we try to dismiss Ben’s comments as overheated rhetoric from a young man looking for internet notoriety, they are still very troubling—and in some cases even frightening. First, Ben says repeatedly that “the left” is intent on “destroying the country.” That’s a pretty serious charge, one that puts progressives on the same footing as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung Un—except that our “president” has nicer things to say about those two dictators. Ben must be imagining shadowy liberal leaders huddled with George Soros in a secret location, mapping out ways to destroy all of the nation’s Chick-Fil-A franchises. He clearly feels that liberals and progressives could never be people who love America every bit as much as he supposedly does, but who simply disagree with him on interpretation of the Constitution and national priorities. This is not just a mistaken stance, but an irresponsible and ultimately dangerous one. The same is true of Ben’s statement that the left is “evil—straight-up evil.”...   Read more

Friends, let me ask you: what do you look for in a good hand sanitizer these days? Of course you want one that kills all harmful microbes and saves you from a COVID-19 infection, sure, but what if you could get so much more than that? Well, you can. I’m going to give you the inside story on the very finest sanitizer available, the one our Chief Infecutive himself uses. It’s Pontius Pilate Brand ™ hand sanitizer, of course! It’s the sanitizer of choice, not just for our own “president,” but for two-fisted, authoritarian leaders around the world. So why is it causing such a stir? First, it’s got the scent that says “unapologetic power grab,” the kind wannabe despots crave. The kind that allowed our Chief Infecutive to say with a straight face, “I have absolute authority” (April 10, 2020), whether it be to lock down the country, to fire Inspectors General, to contradict or ignore his own health experts, or to force governors to bid against the federal government and other nations for hospital equipment, like sweaty auction addicts on Ebay. An absolute authoritarian is going to require a sanitizer with that kind of commanding scent, and Pilate Brand ™ more than fills the bill, in traditional Gladiatorial Sweat, and now in new extra-potent Post-Orgy scent! But Pilate Brand ™ sanitizer’s real value comes through in its astounding ability not just to wash clean the user’s hands but to absolve him of any responsibility—for anything! It’s a product fit for a Chief Infecutive who insists, “I don’t take any responsibility at all” (March 13, 2020). He’s not responsible for disbanding the Obama-era pandemic readiness group, or for ignoring the need for swift action in the pandemic’s early days, which, as both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx have agreed, would have dramatically limited the damage to the country. Will he accept responsibility for the thousands of needless deaths resulting from the waste of more than six precious weeks before publicly admitting the gravity of the coronavirus? Of course not, because even with the impressive list of lethal gaffes he has inflicted on America, Pilate Brand™ sanitizer has got him covered. Somebody else is to blame. It was Obama. It was China, and the World Health Organization! The Center for...   Read more

The COVID-19 crisis has served to lay bare an important reality: our hyped-up, amazing economy is as thin as Mike Pence’s smile. But how could that be? Over the past few years we have been relentlessly carpet-bombed with the great economic news. Sky-high stock market! Record low unemployment! Amazing corporate earnings! Well. As Warren Buffet famously said: Only when the tide goes out do you discover who has been swimming naked. He was referring to individuals whose poorly-selected stock portfolios go into the tank when the economy gets rough, but it’s appropriate to apply to all Americans and our net worth in 2020. Nobody here but us nudists. We are forced now to fully confront the terrible implications of America’s staggering wealth inequality and the Incredible Shrinking Middle Class. You have likely read mind-numbing statistics on the subject already, so I won’t further anesthetize anybody with a ton of numbers; I generally prefer leaving the necessary anesthesia to professionals like vodka, gin, and their friends, anyway. Instead I’ll offer some...   Read more

So much to unpack from the last few weeks. Whew. Why not get comfortable and kick back with your favorite virus-cure cocktail? I’m actually enjoying a Tilex Mold and Mildew Mojito right now—very refreshing, not to mention the most sanitary thing I have ever consumed. It’s like the “president” said: it’s really doing a number on my lungs. And my stomach is chiming in, too, promising it’ll be the last drink I’ll ever need. Who knew our “president” was not just a terrific epidemiologist, but an outstanding mixologist, too? Can’t wait for October, and the arrival of the new Lysol Pumpkin Spice Latte. So, aside from wondering how the “president” could so consistently mislead and confuse viewers of his coronavirus/election campaign infomercials, one of the burning questions of the day is: How has Dr. Anthony Fauci managed to keep his job on the White House Coronavirus Taskforce? The little bugger’s been asking to get fired for months now—contradicting our “president” in network television interviews or sometimes even standing next to...   Read more

Twelve score and four years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, a really beautiful, incredible new nation, conceived in Liberty (when you’re famous, she’ll let you grab her anywhere, I can tell you) and dedicated to the proposition that when somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be. Now we are engaged in a great big fantastic propaganda war, testing whether this administration or any administration so ill-conceived and poorly dedicated, can endure by concealing its collective mental illness. On the battlefield known as the James Brady Press Room, we are met in an attempt to look somewhat more than totally incompetent in a major public health crisis. We have come to watch various officials dedicate themselves to my powerful obsession with my public image, which eclipses in importance even the health and welfare of the citizenry. They come to dedicate a portion of that battlefield as a final resting place for truth...   Read more

Those of us who work professionally in the financial markets are all too aware of the effects of the current crisis. Having to see so many full-screen images of Steven Mnuchen’s face in such a short time period is pushing the nation to the breaking point. At times like this it’s important to recall that the Chinese character for “opportunity” is the same as the one for “Pizza with Anchovies,” a reminder for everyone to order lots of take-out during the coming weeks. Rank amateur investors might be wringing their hands now, as they note that the fossil fuel markets have tanked, the Standard & Poor’s 500 is way off, and even bond yields have sunk to the bottom of that swamp that never got drained, but you’ve got to get beyond those fluffy indicators, down to what we in the financial sector call The Fundamentals. For instance, traditional havens such as Precious Metals have held their value and even risen; and a still better performer is Precious Papers. Consider:...   Read more

For a guy who lives to be the Godzilla of the news cycle, you’d think our “president” would have recognized a great opportunity when it was sitting right on top of his very great, stable genius brain. How did he miss an obvious mother lode of public attention, his for the taking, if only he had delivered the right State of the Union address? It’s a question that will be answered only in the fullness of time, by clinically-depressed historians, as they pick through the historical rubble of the current “administration.” But let me offer a rough version of the stunning speech that would have outshone even his most outrageous presidential piffle of the past. I know that’s a tall order, given the rich layers of putrid verbal lasagna already on record, but hear me out. (Solemnly, he stands at the rostrum, surveying the faces in the chamber.) “Madame Speaker; Mister Vice-President; members of Congress; my fellow Americans: I stand before you today to say without hesitation that the state...   Read more

Having a hard time understanding our new political world? Living with a government that isn’t recognizable anymore can be tough going. And things are even worse now that civics classes in American high schools have largely gone the way of bouffant hair-dos and critical thinking; the average citizen’s understanding of the government’s workings is as poor as his grasp of the perils of eating curly garlic fries with nacho cheese. But I’ve got your back. As a public service you will find below a short, fun, easy-to-understand Civicks guide. Remember our slogan: We Take the “ick” Out of Civicks! First thing to remember: civicks is not a car lot full of cheap Hondas. Rather, it is an explanation of the workings of our new form of government now that the original one was driven off a cliff. Second thing to remember is that there are six branches of the federal government: the Judicial, the Best Executive in the Nation’s History, the Twittersphere, the Easily-Duped, the Department of Dark Money, and...   Read more

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?” --Donald Trump Well, it’s been a remarkable few days since the political world was turned upside down by a shooting in New York City on February 20, 2020. Reports rocketed around the world just moments after an unidentified man was killed instantly by two rounds from a Glock 19 wielded by an assailant initially identified as President Donald J. Trump. That assertion was fiercely disputed by the White House in the hours following the killing. A spokesperson said the president was not in New York at the time of the murder, having organized a social event on that afternoon at the Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, where friends and associates had been invited to dance on the grave of John McCain. Yet more than a dozen witnesses identified the president at the scene, saying they saw him elude his Secret Service detail in an uncharacteristically agile move, and produce a hand gun from that famous, flatteringly voluminous overcoat. Bystanders recalled hearing two shots, and seeing the victim fall in the middle of the street. A day later, White House spokesperson Natalie Lockjaw revised the previous statement, announcing that the president had indeed been at the murder scene with a gun, but had actually been shooting at pigeons, far above the heads of pedestrians. It was part of his personal effort to clean up New York City, she said, and provide meals for the homeless at the same time. Republican National Committee spokespersons offered a somewhat different explanation, insisting that he was actually shooting at a mural which included a likeness of comedian Stephen Colbert. That evening, Fox News reported that the murder victim had been a member of the gang known as PG-13, related to the better-known and equally violent MS-13, but which is reportedly also a fierce advocate of limiting sex scenes in movies. Other sources reported that the victim was employed by Café Kovfefe, on 42nd Street, a business suspected by InfoWars of being at the center of a sex-trafficking ring run by George Soros, Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Clinton, and National Public Radio. Autopsy and ballistics reports confirm that the bullets retrieved from the victim’s body were fired...   Read more

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