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!


It’s taken a long time for me to come to grips with America’s gun madness, one of the world’s premier paranoid stupidities. Along with many other opponents of gun fetishists, I agree that the sickness is so virulent that it’s likely that nothing much can be done about it in the short-to-middle term. For me, that horrible realization actually dates back to December 14, 2012—the date of the Sandy Hook school massacre, a shooting that claimed the lives of twenty first-grade children and six adult staff members. You just knew the possibility of taking meaningful political action to curb gun violence in America was zero when something like that could happen and America’s response was the rough equivalent of “Gee, that’s just terrible. Those poor kids. Shall we go get some lunch?” It was “game over.” There might be equivalent or worse gun violence horrors in the future--and indeed there have been---but the message was delivered. No chance of getting a system of comprehensive background checks, no chance of banning...   Read more

For several reasons, it was sad to read Linda Bolin’s response (“The Focus should be Biden, not Trump,” Nov. 16) to my earlier letter (“Trump University lives”). Okay, it was sad for more than several reasons, but I’m working with a word limit here. It was sad first because Ms. Bolin apparently found it impossible to admit that our former “president” is indeed still “teaching” millions of Americans, and that through his example our national dialogue has become a kind of puerile orgy of self-indulgence, threats, and bullying. Near fist-fights in the Senate, shoving matches in the House of Representatives. Our former “president” has brought us all into the gutter, and has done it so gleefully that his followers are equally gleeful when they hear him describe his political opponents not as “wrong” or “misguided” but as “vermin” who want to “destroy this country.” Ms. Bolin must understand that the outcry against this behavior is not Trump Derangement Syndrome so much as an appropriate response to Deranged Trump Syndrome. Instead...   Read more

You probably thought Trump University died definitively in late 2016, when various lawsuits successfully challenged it as a fraudulent real estate training program and forced our former “president” to pay a $25 million settlement. So sad to see such an imaginative, vital organization disappear—and on the flimsy grounds of having bilked a few thousand people out of hard-earned money, too. But the most observant Americans are aware that the former “president” has since then been promoting another Trump University, a much larger, more wildly successful program than the old, narrowly-targeted, illegal one. Yes, he is still teaching! And though it’s still malevolent and predatory teaching, on the upside every American is automatically approved to be a student, tuition free. It would be a shame to miss out! I am of course talking about the largest single educational institution in the nation, Trump-Juvenile University. The goal of the university is to teach Americans unabashedly juvenile behaviors and their practical application in society. If you doubt the success of Trump-Juvenile as an...   Read more

If you’re a fan of irony, you found a lot to like in the August 19 Napa Register column by Peter Nissen, President of the Napa County Farm Bureau, entitled “Denial of vineyard sets dangerous precedent.” The article tells us that the Napa County Board of Supervisors made a terrible mistake in rejecting a proposed vineyard project, Le Colline, in the Howell Mountain community of Angwin. In fleshing out that idea, Mr. Nissen offers us some reasoning that contains some seemingly unintentional ironies. The great irony lies in the use of the phrase “dangerous precedent.” While he asks us to accept that scuttling the Le Colline project places Napa County agriculture under threat, endangering future vineyard projects, the real “dangerous precedent” in Napa County’s public policy lies far more in continuing our agricultural planning and growth according to the 2008 General Plan, oblivious to all the radical environmental changes that we have witnessed, locally and globally, in the last six or seven years. In the face of extreme drought, wildfire,...   Read more

Here we go again. The question of whether we are alone in the universe comes roaring back each time there is a spate of new “sightings” of alien spacecraft, or when we receive a new government report on such sightings by military pilots, or, as is the case now, when conspiracy theories are all the rage in America and no one want to miss a chance to include a few about visitors from outer space. Are the little green people here now? Are they going to do terrible things to us? Enslave us? Enlighten us? Make us all learn to play contract bridge? Such questions are raised alongside other more serious ones, such as: Is there a national security risk involved? By the way, they’re not UFOs anymore. In official government circles, that acronym has been retired, replaced by “UAP,” Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, a reference that government leaders hope will distance them from those who insist they were abducted by space aliens and forced either to undergo implants of various...   Read more

Patrick Steadman, 35, of New Jersey, was recently convicted of one felony and four misdemeanors for his activities at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Among his memorable quotes are these gems: “[January 6] will eventually be a national holiday akin to the 4th of July.” “You will want to tell your grandchildren you were there.” Good afternoon, gentlemen. I’m Bea Franklin, your instructor for this special summer school civics class. Now, you’ve got to be wondering why you’re here, considering your status as federal prison inmates. Fair question. The answer is that federal officials are painfully aware that your performance at the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 was not just criminal, but also horrifically alarming for the republic, because you exhibited such beef-headed behavior while feeling completely justified in doing so. The officials responsible for this class have concluded that you are not necessarily insane, but more likely dismally ignorant. Ignorant of the principles of your government. Ignorant of its history. So let’s take a bird’s eye...   Read more

The column written by Register Executive Editor Dan Evans, “Napa County’s Recall-o-Rama” (April 2nd), was fascinating, revealing as it did the strange details of the aftermath of the unsuccessful campaign to recall Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza. It recounted at length the detailed steps taken to account for the signed recall petitions that had apparently been destroyed by those heading up the effort. It chronicled the efforts of Registrar of Voters, John Tuteur, to recover the petitions, which included contacting 36 proponents of the recall, each of which was asked to answer questions about what they knew of the destruction of the petitions. Though I was in favor of the recall, I felt the column was a valuable effort to inform Register readers of events involving local government that they would not otherwise have access to. I was disappointed, however, to read some of the statements made, mostly toward the conclusion of the column, statements either not borne out by facts, or misleading. Among them are: Several times Mr. Evans mentions that...   Read more

Such a relief to finally see some colleges and universities come to their senses and begin thinking about dropping the English major from their academic programs. A few small institutions have already gotten ahead of the curve—Marymount University in Virginia and St. Mary’s University in Minnesota, among others—but many others are currently taking a hard look at doing so. In their defense, they probably don’t hate the study of English—at least they’re not saying so out loud. No, the real reason for this bold move is a shift in market trends. The demand just isn’t there: fewer and fewer students are declaring as English Majors. In the last twenty years, the number of students graduating from Columbia University as English majors went from 10% of the total to 5%. Harvard English majors have fallen by more than half since 2005. A whole raft of schools, like Notre Dame, Boston University, Tufts, and Vassar have seen humanities majors in general decline by about half in the last decade. So why are...   Read more

Unless you’ve been living under a mortgage-free rock, you’ve seen and heard plenty of rants about the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and the current shakiness that seems to be showing up everywhere in the banking system. How did this happen? Is it interest rate hikes, low capital requirements for mid-size banks? The Pandemic? Risk mismanagement? Joe Biden’s character flaws? The fascinating thing about the crisis is that though “experts” might quibble over the importance of its imminent causes, the foundation of this mess isn’t different from the one that caused many of the financial crises in recent U.S. history, including the Moby Dick of them all, the Financial Meltdown of 2008. That foundational truth is this: The financial sector is not a responsible partner in our society. It is, in fact, an outlaw. The financial sector sees its job as trying to make money—as much and as quickly as possible, regardless of consequences. We’ve seen this thread through our recent history, from junk bonds and “credit default swaps” to...   Read more

After the electrifying news that Craig and Kathryn Hall have struck a tentative deal with the Napa Land Trust, allowing the trust the opportunity to buy the entire acreage of the infamous Walt Ranch, it is only right to take a moment to celebrate all the benefits that Napa County and its residents will derive from this deal. Not least among them is the preservation of Milliken Reservoir, a major source of water for the city of Napa, one that has been struggling to survive algae bloom caused in substantial part by nutrient-rich runoff from vineyard fertilizers. But this extraordinary deal suggests something else: a possible way forward for Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza to win back the confidence of Napa County residents and establish himself as a true public servant. He now has a model for dispelling his image as a politician who has put the financial enrichment of his family before the good of the county he represents, which would be to strike his own agreement with the Land Trust,...   Read more

I took an opportunity to write to our congressman about good old-fashioned corruption taking root here in Napa County government. The closer I looked at the story, the uglier it got... Dear Representative Thompson— Along with so many other Napa County citizens, I have been very appreciative of the work you’ve done both in Washington--on issues like the environment, health care, and gun violence prevention--and locally, in your tireless support of businesses and social service organizations of every stripe. I have voted for you in every election since you began serving in the House in 1998. This makes it all the more awkward and distressing to consider your public posture regarding the campaign to recall Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza. That posture was described in a letter appearing in the Napa Register (September 7) above your name and those of Senator Dodd and Assembly Member Aguiar-Curry. It is disturbing on three counts. First, it gave weight to the canard that recall campaigns were being launched against both Supervisors Belia Ramos and Pedroza....   Read more

Just about everybody hates Congress. When your approval rating is hovering around 20%, you’re down in the popularity range of toenail fungus and Bill Cosby. I mean, average Americans are plainly disgusted with the snail’s pace of Congressional activity, the interminable bloviating of its members, its seeming inability to address issues Americans really care about. The whole thing is beyond uninspiring. So: how to make Congress produce results? How to juice up those numbers? How to get people interested and excited in the process of representative government again? The solution is so obvious and elegant that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t surfaced before. I’m going to admit right now that its inspiration comes from the current Senate race in the state of Georgia, a race in which a thoughtful, accomplished Democrat, Rafael Warnock, is pitted against Herschel Walker, the GOP candidate best known for his football career as a prize-winning running back, first with the University of Georgia, followed by a series of stints with various NFL teams. He...   Read more

Let’s talk hoaxes. If you’ve lived long enough, you’re aware of just how prevalent they’ve become in our world over the years. The famous U.S. government staging of a moon landing in 1969 is almost as good an example as the supposed death of Elvis in 1977 (reports of which are still giving him, at age 87, a good laugh as he lives out his days on his beautiful secluded estate on the Brazilian coast). More recently, we have equally outrageous if less well-known examples of hoaxes, such as the existence of Kevin McCarthy’s soul. As an aficionado of hoaxes, I was intrigued to hear a local rumor that the old Napa Soda Springs Resort was to be resurrected. The idea that this 857-acre property, founded in 1856 as a spa-getaway for the well-heeled classes, would be completely rebuilt and even expanded seemed pretty far-fetched. Yet after exhaustive research which involved reading two accounts of the project in regional media, as well as overhearing two older gentlemen discussing the project...   Read more

Not much doubt that we are all drowning in the various to-and-fro commentaries concerning the FBI search warrant served at Mar-a-Elba on 8 August. From the paranoid, delusional MAGA crowd, it’s all pretty much what you might expect: It’s a hoax! The classified documents were planted! The DOJ, the FBI, the court system--they’re all corrupt! Look! Over there! Look what Obama did! It’s a reasonable bet that, along with the Con-Artist Formerly Known as “President,” the people making comments like these have no notion whatsoever of the institutional guardrails that define the functioning of the Department of Justice and the FBI. It’s even more likely that none of them have a clue about the process involved in obtaining a search warrant. If this noise weren’t so dangerous to our nation’s institutions and the individuals who maintain them, it would be kind of cute to see MAGA’s corroded collective brain desperately rifling through possible excuses and explanations that might deflect from the potentially criminal activities of the former “president.” I have...   Read more

By many accounts, Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza is a nice guy. Some identify him as savvy. He is also apparently ambitious, but in America ambition is no crime, unless of course you happen to be a woman. Sexism lives! So Supervisor Pedroza has a sizable base of local support. Yet however you view him and his public persona, there are disturbing elements in his behavior regarding the 405 acres of land he acquired with his father-in-law in May of 2021, land adjacent to the controversial Walt Ranch vineyard project, located in the county’s eastern hills. Mr. Pedroza had consistently voted to approve various elements of the Walt Ranch project, even after acquiring the adjacent parcels of land, dubbed Vinedos AP LLC. The activities of a Napa County public official don’t often yield such a clear tutorial in the contrast between mere public relations and actual probity, so it is very useful to examine Supervisor Pedroza’s words and actions, which have garnered justifiably great attention since February of this year....   Read more

Did I miss something in the race for the office of Napa County Sheriff? I don’t want to say the process is looking sinister, so maybe it’s best to use a somewhat more neutral word: let’s go with “weird.” In American elections—which are free and fair, at least for the moment--I have always assumed all pertinent information about rival candidates and their activities would be made public, allowing voters to make an informed choice. In the Sheriff’s race, we not only have to deal with unsettling gaps in information, but with misrepresentations of the truth as well. Those who are even passingly familiar with this contest understand the problem. What do we know about the candidates, Jon Crawford and Oscar Ortiz? Well, we see the usual avalanche of endorsements of two experienced law-enforcement officials—wonderful person, fantastic to work with, great leadership--basically Time Magazine’s Nicest Guy in the World (my old job), garnished with law enforcement laurels. Brilliant. But the backgrounder for the contest sounds like an invitation to an open...   Read more

NOTE! THIS PIECE CARRIES THE EXTRA PRESTIGE OF HAVING BEEN REFUSED PUBLICATION IN MY LOCAL NEWSPAPER. I WISH IT WERE RACIER, AND COULD LIVE UP TO THE TITILLATION FACTOR BUILT INTO A "BANNED IN NAPA, CALIFORNIA" DESIGNATION. BUT ALAS! When you finally get around to launching your very own pop-up political consulting firm, and various pols and other public figures start nagging you for the most sure-fire way to juice up their images and give themselves that boost in popularity they so desperately need, here is the simple answer you need to give them: Jesus. You need to tell them that co-opting the name and image of Jesus is the surest way to deliver the legitimacy that their compromised, greedy, twisted personalities would never garner on their own. Extra bonus: use of his image and his quotes from the New Testament are all copyright free! Tell them that if it works for snake handlers, sports figures pointing to the sky, and loud, shameless evangelical preachers smacking congregants on the forehead...   Read more

When it comes to corruption, here’s the question that sums up the predicament of all public servants: What good is having power if you can’t use it for yourself? This is the temptation that has brought low so many leaders, people who might be more intelligent and charismatic than most of us, but not more principled and honest. These inevitably cave under the pressure of their privilege. How not to abandon your oaths and promises to the public when those around you keep telling you how special, how talented, how brilliant you are, until you finally begin to believe your own BS? You’re not like everyone else. You shouldn’t be subject to the same rules as “the little people.” That is the backdrop for the current drama now playing out in Napa County government. Unless you have been wearing a news-canceling headset for the past couple of weeks, you know at least some of the depressing story surrounding the reported activities of County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza regarding the Walt Ranch...   Read more

The awards season is upon us again, and though there have been lots of postponements due to the powerful performance of COVID in the role of serious pandemic, officials of the Confraternal Association of Cynical Americans (CACA) want you to know that the 2021 Cynnies will go ahead as scheduled. Through its awards program, CACA is committed to recognizing all those who, as the association’s charter states, “spread the greatest cynicism among the greatest number of Americans.” Nationally, there’s a crowded field of impressive performances in 2021, performances that push the boundaries of the cynical arts; we’re proud to announce the following nominations of individuals who have propelled ever-greater numbers of Americans into the ranks of the deeply cynical. In alphabetical order (cynics love things that appear orderly but aren’t), the nominees are: Ted Cruz, for his performance in “I Was Just Trying to Be a Good Dad.” This tone-deaf, emotionally-stunted tour de farce came after the press discovered him making a dash for Cancun as Texas froze in February,...   Read more

In the spirit of giving back to the community at year’s end, I’d like to offer you my powerful new, patent-bending invention, Fox-O-Matic. This unique system allows anyone to know with reasonable certainty what the Fox News website will be offering each day for the next six months. Now, if you’re like me, you might say, “Why in God’s name would I want to expose myself to Fox News in any form, considering the risks to my mental health, and the brutal dry cleaning bills I’m in for if any of it gets on my clothes?” I understand this objection, and I empathize. However, it is important to keep in mind the timeless words of the 5th century BC Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu: “Keep your friends close, and your mendacious, slimy, and seditious enemies closer.” This is to say, you need to know what Fox News is doing for the same reason you want to know exactly where in your garden the semi-feral neighborhood cats are doing their business....   Read more

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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