Sam Goodfellow Art
Thank you, Sam, for your visual contribution. I can think of no more concise and powerful summary of everything Mary Trump had to say about her deeply disturbed Uncle Donnie.
A Tennessee Whiskey to Soothe Your Soul
A while ago I pledged to not drink Kentucky bourbon in a post intended to express my disdain for that state’s two Senators. At the time, I suggested drinking Tennessee whiskey instead, even though that state’s two Senators are nearly as vile as the two from the neighboring state of Kentucky. I have struggled with that moral compromise. Thanks to Jim Bell, my conscience has been eased somewhat by the story of a fantastic Tennessee whiskey known as Uncle Nearest. The brief story is that Uncle Nearest taught Jasper “Jack” Daniel how to make whiskey. Jack respected Uncle Nearest as a mentor and appreciated him as a friend. There is no question, though, that the specific method for filtering Jack Daniel’s whiskey came from Uncle Nearest (Nathan Green). The fuller story of this great whiskey is here. Black History Matters. Sometimes it also tastes really good! If you love whiskey and have a little extra to spend on it, this is a way of supporting a worthy minority-owned enterprise.
An Official Statement from “The Flies of the Lord”
My name is Flyleece. I am the official spokesperson for an organization allied under the broader umbrella of Antifa that represents the interests of insects. Antifa is a highly organized, centralized, and interspecies institution that has operated from the inception of civilization. To be specific, I am the official spokesperson of one of the subsections of flies known for its commitment to a radical Christian vision. We call ourselves “The Flies of the Lord.” As flies, we are naturally endowed with the ability to recognize bullshit, and as a subsection of radical Christian flies, we are adept at recognizing the fecal characteristics of such political/religious figures as Mike Pence and Amy Coney Barrett (ACB).
“The Flies of the Lord” take full credit for the 129 seconds of the vice-presidential debate during which one of our members, who shall remain anonymous, sat atop the head of Mike Pence. This was a rigorously planned operation which achieved success comparable to the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach. In preparing this event, we had members both on the wall and the ceiling during Pence’s strategy sessions. We determined that the best time to attack would occur when Pence expressed his well-rehearsed denial of systematic racism in the United States. There was no richer strain of political bullshit in which to plant our metaphorical larvae than the denial of systematic racism in the United States.
We flies have been on walls for as long as there have been walls and we continue to document events important to understanding the history of ecosystems. If you think fly specks are random, you are wrong. They are our way of conveying information through time and space since our visual apparatus allows us to communicate imagery electronically. In this spirit of documentation, “The Flies of the Lord” coordinating committee assigned me to be the fly on the wall when Jerry Falwell, Jr. twiddled himself as his wife Becki bonked the pool boy. As you probably know, we flies have extraordinarily complex eyes, and the images that I carry from that assignment continue to disturb me. Fortunately, we flies have a single-payer health care system based on the Canadian model that includes counseling. I am confident that I can overcome the psychological scars from this assignment. Unfortunately, the fly assigned to cover Donald and Stormy has still not recovered. (On a related note, Sacha Baron Cohen was a fly in a previous incarnation. So suck it, Rudy, like the mosquito that you are!)
Since some of the members of our species are scavengers, we often use metaphors from dead plant and animal images to convey our points. These metaphors may seem a little disturbing – you might call this our psychological “carrion” baggage. One of our scavenger sisters shared this metaphor for American racism with us recently. If a fly sees a dead fish in the lake, they feel bad for the fish. If a fly sees a bunch of dead fish in the lake, there fly knows there is something wrong with the water. The number of unarmed Black people killed by police tells us that there is something wrong with the water.
We flies are everywhere and we cannot help but notice that the number of Covid deaths are disproportionately Black. The number of people in food lines is disproportionately Black. The number of people in unemployment lines is disproportionately Black. The number of people in prison for non-violent crime is disproportionately Black. The number of people affected by climate change is disproportionately Black. The number of people affected by air and water pollution resulting from deregulation of EPA standards is disproportionately Black. Finally, the number of people who have to wait multiple hours in line to vote is disproportionately Black. If you do not see the systematic racism in all of this, a human might say that you are as blind as a bat. We flies, however, are far too respectful of bats to disparage them in comparison to the willful and bigoted ignorance of Americans who deny systematic racism. Bats may not see well, but they are not stupid!
We were on the wall also when Amy Coney Barrett (ACB), along with the President and 18 other faculty and staff from Notre Dame University decided to attend the nominating ceremony without taking any precautions for social distancing and wearing masks. This ceremony resulted in what is known as a “super-spreader” event. It was the height of arrogance for these members of Notre Dame to fail to heed the well-documented science that demands mask-wearing and social distancing. It was the height of hypocrisy for these members of Notre Dame to violate the university’s prohibition on large gatherings and unnecessary travel. This was really bad judgment on the part of a candidate aspiring to be a judge on the highest court in the land. While the Notre Dame president and Chris Christie have publicly apologized for their lapse of judgment at this event, there is no record of such regrets on the part of ACB.
Disregard for science, equity, and accountability, however, characterizes what journalism wrongly refers to as the “conservatives” on the SCOTUS. We flies attended the Senate confirmation hearings. With such Republican members as Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, John Kennedy (the Louisiana one, not the one killed by Ted Cruz’s dad), Joni Ernst, Mike Lee, and the enticingly-named Mike Crapo, there was no limit to the quantity of fecal matter for us to enjoy. While many of the Democratic members fought valiantly and effectively to show the threat that the nominee posed to women’s rights, basic health care, the environment, and civil rights, Sheldon Whitehouse most essentially addressed the problem with those who falsely pose under the banner of judicial conservatism and originalism. The link to Whitehouse’s 30 minute statement shows clearly that the soon-to-be-six-so-called-conservative-judges on the SCOTUS are bought and paid for by powerful interests seeking to pollute our air and water, to undermine protections for workers, to ensure that pharmaceutical and insurance companies continue to provide poor health care at maximum cost, to make it more difficult for the poor and minorities to vote, to imprison refugees, and to enable the Executive Branch to circumvent the Legislative Branch on behalf of the rich and powerful under a Federalist Society principle known as the Unitary Executive. Whitehouse has shown that whenever the highly-paid lawyers of these corporations bring such cases before the court, they have a record of 80-0. The Washington Generals actually had a better record against the Harlem Globetrotters than that. (We were obviously on the wall for all three of those victories.)
The point is that we flies have seen it all, for a long, long time. When Keith Richards and Mick Jagger wrote “Sympathy for the Devil”, they did so in a drug-induced state of conversation with members of our task force. But we Flies of the Lord can no longer remain silent while the Taliban/Wahabbist sect of Roman Catholicism poses itself as the only true variant of Christianity. The predecessors for the Court Catholics of Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, Roberts and Barrett can be found in the jurisprudence of Mussolini’s Italy and, to a lesser extent, Hitler’s Germany. The inherent authoritarianism, corruption, heresy, and racism are traceable specifically to the Citizen’s United and Shelby decisions. This is not a conservative court; it is an activist court operating on behalf of commercial greed and its corollary, voter suppression. These heretics believe that God created the limited liability corporation on the sixth day of creation, along with Adam and Eve. These apostates promote the idea that money is speech. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word could be bought.
We flies knew Jesus. We have our own documentation for his life and the subsequent ministry of the early church. It is known as The Bible of the Flies, which we also call the Flyble. We were there when Jesus committed his only act of violence. He had gotten so angry when he saw the foreign currency speculators and hedge fund managers in the Temple that he turned over some tables and drove out the sheep and cattle with a whip. The Bible and Flyble make clear that he only used the whip on the animals. Our sacred text, moreover, confirms that not a single fly was hurt in the event. The Flyble shows even more compellingly than the Bible that Gandhi, Tolstoy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. correctly understood the essentially pacifist character of Jesus and his vision for salvation. At the time of the Temple cleansing, Jesus and his followers immediately fled Jerusalem so as to avoid needless violence as well as arrest at the hands of local officials backed by the authority of that day’s court “conservatives”.
We were there when the Holy Spirit executed its only case of capital punishment in the early Christian community. Your human Bible includes the story of Ananias and Sapphira, a couple killed instantly when they underreported the income they had obtained in a land sale to the governing authorities of the early Church. God smote them on the spot for their dishonesty and greed. We further know from our Flyble that Ananias and Sapphira commonly overstated the value of their properties when seeking loans. The Lord rebukes tax cheats and, in this case, the punishment was the death penalty. At its inception and during its most dynamic growth phase, Christianity expected its members to relinquish their material possessions and “hold all things in common” (Acts 2:44 and 4:32). Remember that the next time a Republican politician disparages someone or some policy by calling it “socialist”.
ACB fits into the general pattern of recent Republican appointments to the Supreme Court. These are people raised in cocoons of White privilege. They attended religiously exclusionary parochial schools exempt from the desegregation requirements of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. They then completed law school and took a junior partnership at Beelzebub and Mammon before their appointment to the federal bench and SCOTUS. It is no wonder then that ACB considers the Brown decision to be a super precedent because the combination of parochial exemptions and the Milliken v. Bradley decision has ensured that our public school system remains largely segregated, both separate and unequal.
ACB’s father was a highly compensated attorney for Shell Oil, which spends tens of millions of dollars lobbying annually to downplay the threat of climate change, protect itself from liability for the environmental consequences of its drilling and processing activities, conceal its alignment with repressive forces that torture and murder environmental activists, and defend itself against numerous tax avoidance schemes by shuffling finances between 40 or so companies in numerous countries throughout the world. It is no wonder then that ACB considers the overwhelming scientific evidence proving human induced climate change to be an “unsettled” matter. In her mind, the science of climate change, like the science behind masks and social distancing, are no more valid than firm religious belief and QAnon conspiracies. In sum, ACB will ensure that the public has less of a chance against corporate power before the SCOTUS than do the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters.
The fact that the United States has responded miserably to the Covid pandemic is a concern to us, The Flies of the Lord. Unlike some other political groupings in the insect world, we actually appreciate and even admire the human place in the ecosystem. While we despise the fact that so many humans see themselves as somehow above the network of connectedness of all life on earth, we are rooting for those who have come to appreciate that all species matter. We support humans, but we are astounded how anyone can look at the current President of the US and conclude that he is a leader. It is difficult to understand how a political system can develop from the likes of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and end up with this.
Our complex eyes and ability to fly have evolved over about 250 million years. The phenomenon of Trump would indicate that the United States is leading humanity on a path to self-destruction. We flies can verify that human history is full of the graveyards of civilizations who thought that their God or gods would protect them from immanent environmental catastrophe. Nature is one of the principal ways in which the Lord communicates with us. Humans, keep your eyes and ears open to what is happening to your environment!
Other members of the insect world are enjoying the Trump spectacle and greatly anticipate that day when human stupidity inevitably results in extinction of the ironically named species, homo sapiens. These insects love the Trump rallies as much as the human attendees. These festivals of hate, ignorance, and personality cult worship draw zillions of insects and microbes. The Corona virus, of course, finds these rallies as magnificent occasions. Recent spikes in COVID hospitalizations and deaths are directly traceable to Trump rallies. COVID social media has gone “viral” with the hashtag: #herdimmunityouropportunity. While we in the Diptera Order of insect prefer the term larvae to maggot in the same way that a Navajo or Sioux does not want to perpetuate Columbus’s mistaken identity of them as Indians, some of our youth have foregone this concern in celebration of these rallies. The MAGHATS are a larval hip-hop dance troupe that commonly performs for insects at these rallies dressed in red MAGA hats. If you think BTS is adorable, you need to see the MAGHATS!
While we understand why the insect and microbial world enjoys these rallies, we struggle to understand why humans enjoy them. There just seems to be a sickness in the human soul that derives exhilaration from flirting with death. They appear to think that surviving a bout with COVID somehow confirms their immunity, even their invincibility. It is that same psychological sickness that motivates those who kill as a means of asserting their own vitality. It is this same twisted logic that stimulates white males to band together, carry assault weapons in public, and terrorize peaceful protestors with the full acquiescence of the Republican Party and its coterie of self-proclaimed conservative, Christian judges. Historically, the distinction between death cults and personality cults is a difficult one to define.
Trump’s rallies consist of people mainly on Medicare who listen to him terrify them about the government takeover of health care. Trump’s promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare with something “perfect” and “beautiful” is the product of a man who lies by nature. Even though he was unable even to repeal Obamacare, he and the Republican Party were effectively able to undermine it by disemboweling the individual mandate component of it. His new appointee to the Supreme Court will certainly deal the death blow to even the possibility of enacting the Affordable Care Act. She might even use the November 10 challenge to the ACA to provide the legal foundation for eliminating Social Security and Medicare. First, though, she may have to follow in the footsteps of her mentor Antonin Scalia and have SCOTUS once again elect a Republican President.
We can liken the Republican approach to destroying the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to that fly who decides to ruin your glass of wine by jumping into it. We flies do that for a number of reasons. Some of us just like swimming in a well-textured liquid and absorbing its contents. Younger flies may do so on the basis of challenges from their friends. Some, however, do so out of resentment toward the bougie attitudes of a big shot drinking an Opus cabernet just because they can afford it; not because they appreciate the artisanry involved in producing it. Regardless, a fly jumping in your wine glass will generally cause the human to discard it. When the Republicans decided to undermine the Individual Mandate of the ACA, that was the fly that landed in the wine.
The individual mandate was the key feature in making the ACA affordable. The insurance industry survives by calculating and managing risks. The Obama administration correctly premised the ACA on the requirement that everyone over the age of 26 purchase a health insurance policy. The lower risk pool of younger insurees would pay appropriately lower premiums while mitigating the costs for those who are older and thus in higher risk categories. The actuarial mathematics behind Obamacare was sensible and would have limited the ability of insurance companies to exploit the more vulnerable elderly population.
Republicans, however, working in collusion with the racketeers of the insurance corporations, came up with a plan to destroy the individual mandate. While their 2017 efforts to destroy the ACA failed, they were able to gut the individual mandate not by eliminating it but by making it illegal to enforce it. Yes, you are reading this correctly. There is a mandate, but there is no penalty for not observing it! We Flies of the Lord refer to this as the Mandate Mendacity, a mandate that is not mandatory! The result, of course, is that the health care costs for many older Americans have gone up. Republicans want you to blame Obamacare. The fly in your wine glass is a Republican phony. Pour yourself a new glass. We promise to stay out.
While the Flies of the Lord embrace the fundamentally socialistic character of Christianity and believe that health care is a right, we also appreciate the role of markets in promoting both discipline and incentives. We were on the walls when Adam Smith explained how the wealth of the world is measured not in the amount of precious metals it contained but in the creativity and ingenuity of individuals and communities motivated by earthly rewards. While we Christians are not fully comfortable with that system of values, we can accept that many valuable innovations have resulted from such incentives. We also can appreciate the disciplinary role that markets can play in punishing the lazy and the intentionally ignorant, aka the stupid. This brings us back to the Trump rallies and the massive increase in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths directly attributable to them.
In a properly functioning market economy, those who attend the Trump rallies should have to pay higher insurance premiums than those who wear masks and practice social distancing. In the same way that irresponsible drivers pay more for their insurance than responsible drivers, so should the participants in these irresponsible gatherings have to pay for the increased costs to society that have resulted from their behaviors. It is not, however, just a matter of ignorance and irresponsibility. Attendees at these rallies are being extraordinarily selfish. In order to explain this selfishness, it might be helpful to revisit an important but largely unnoticed moment in the Senate hearings for the new appointee to the SCOTUS.
In a moment of extraordinary candor and courage, Michigan Senator Gary Peters explained the experience he and his then wife, Heidi, had with a grueling abortion experience. During Heidi’s pregnancy in the late 1980s, her water broke early in her second trimester. Since the Catholic hospital associated with her medical plan did not perform abortions, her doctor advised the couple that she should simply wait until the fetus miscarried. When Heidi contracted a uterine infection, however, waiting for the miscarriage threatened her life. Despite this threat to her life, the Catholic hospital would still not perform the abortion. In other words, the rigid doctrine of this hospital would rather risk the death of both Heidi and the fetus than ensure the life of the one most likely so survive. It is hard to square this story with any sensible morality or set of principles consistent with the Hippocratic Oath. Further details of this story are here. We flies know how common variants of Gary Peters’ story are. We also understand how difficult it is for anyone to make such a story public.
Rather than engage the complex issue of abortion, however, let us flip this story on its head and reconsider the moral issues of Trump rallies, including the one in the Rose Garden ceremony for the new SCOTUS nominee. Why should any hospital have to admit a COVID patient who contracted the virus while attending a Trump rally maskless? Why should that hospital have to risk the lives of its patients, staff, and the networks of families around them to treat someone who is unwilling to accept the science behind viral pandemics? If a Catholic hospital can compel someone to embrace its dubious morality in not performing an abortion to save the life of the mother, why can a public hospital not refuse to treat someone who does not embrace or respect medical science? The point is that the natural law philosophy that underlies much of Catholic philosophy is entirely superficial and unable to embrace both the diversity, complexity, and wonder of the natural world. We all need a big dose of humility. Humility, though, is not in the vocabulary or conceptual framework of the Trump cult that is the modern Republican Party. Attending a Trump rally in the era of COVID is an act of criminal negligence that threatens the health and well-being of the communities in which they occur.
As the virus distinctly ravages those states that voted for Trump by the largest margins, it appears some degree of humility has risen. Let us not lose sight, however, of what has gotten us to this point. There are still far too many Republicans who believe that there is a structural bias in US politics that favors liberalism and urban centers. Such Republicans clearly do not understand the power of the Senate and the fact that the vote of one person in Wyoming in the Senate is 65 times greater than the vote of one person in California. There is a powerful rural bias in the Senate that explains why key issues like gun control, climate change legislation, health care, and reproductive rights are controlled by the 40% minority of voters. The undemocratic Senate also has extraordinary power in shaping the third branch of government, the federal judiciary.
The COVID pandemic has revealed the utter failure of Republican governance. Republicans have failed to address both the science of the pandemic as well as the economic devastation it has wrought. The only platform they have is an undying commitment to Trump and the fiction of an economic boom in the years prior to the pandemic. That fictional boom, however, was a product of an explosion in the budget deficit. Massive tax cuts coupled with increased spending by an entirely Republican Congress created the momentary illusion of wealth, much in the same way pernicious credit card companies give young adults loans that make them feel good but saddle them with debt will into their adult lives. Any Republican who voted for these tax cuts should not get to complain about deficits for the remainder of their lives without being mocked.
We, the Flies of the Lord, want to see the human evolutionary trajectory continue. Others in the Diptera Order, however, are rooting for Trump.