Tag Archives: politics

The Corruption in the United States

October 7, 2019

It’s beyond rich that President Donald Trump claims his appeals to Ukraine and China are actually about his concern over corruption — and not about politics at all.

Really? Come on. How stupid do you think we are? Pretty stupid, I suppose, since you continue to lie, day in and day out, about your motives, oh thou of your great and unmatched wisdom and stable genius.

What I find sad, though, is not just that the electorate, in a fit of pique over Hillary Clinton, allowed this wannabe dictator into the White House. It’s that the Republican Party, a party I used to identify with and vote for, aids and abets him. I’m so disgusted with Mitch McConnell, who raises money on the promise of protecting the president.

There’s a cancer on the presidency, as John Dean said to Nixon five days before I was born. But it’s worse than that now. There’s a cancer on the legislative branch, and its name is the Republican Senate. There’s a cancer on the judicial branch, and its face is Brett Kavanaugh.

Meanwhile, this country that’s my home continues to run up a trillion dollars of additional debt every year. And a young and brave and eloquent climate activist is unfairly excoriated by someone I once admired.

My children will inherit a morally and financially bankrupt nation in a world unfit for human habitation. All so that people like Donald Trump can hold onto their power and money.

So, here’s my call to action. Here’s my prayer:

Remove the corruption from our government. Pass sensible legislation to safeguard our future.

Let’s live up to our reputation.

Let Girls Wrestle Against Boys

March 2, 2019

Brendan Johnston forfeiting to Angel Rios

What’s wrong with refusing to grapple with a girl in high school wrestling when you’re a boy? Everything.

The Washington Post and The Denver Post yesterday reported on 18-year-old Brendan Johnston’s quandry when faced with the prospect of facing Jaslynn Gallegos for a high school wrestling bout. The competition would have brought him one step closer to a Colorado state wrestling championship, but instead, he decided to forfeit. Johnston cited unspecified religious beliefs for his decision and also a reluctance to show physical aggression toward a female. He’s done this with other female wrestlers, too, and been praised for it. As the news outlets detail, this is emblematic of a larger debate about the 17,000 girls nationwide in scholastic wrestling.

Speaking as a former two-year high school wrestler and now a six-year Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, I have problems with his decision on many levels.

On the personal level, it dishonors both wrestlers. It makes us wonder if Johnston’s real reason was that he was a coward, afraid of losing to — and therefore feeling emasculated by — a girl. And by robbing the girl of her chance to compete, it leaves her — and us — to doubt the legitimacy of any subsequent victory; i.e., the only reason she can now step closer to the championship is because someone gave her a “bye.”

On the gender-relations level, it dishonors men through guilt by association. In this context, men are once again choosing for a women what she may or may not do with her body. If a female chooses to use her body in a grappling sport — or any sport — then who are you to take that away? Johnston said he doesn’t want to show physical aggression toward a female off the mat; fair enough. But on the mat? That’s the nature of the sport, and girls who wrestle have made that choice.

And on the commonsense level, the decision is illogical. The online comments to the above news articles give at least two main points to unpack.

  1. People worry about the inherent unfairness of pitting a male against a female because of their different body types. So let’s examine that: yes, males have physical attributes that give them an advantage on the mat. But in my experience, this doesn’t hold a woman back. In fact, it makes them have to sharpen their techniques even more than men. In jiu-jitsu, this goes to the central philosophy of the art, that a smaller, weaker person can, through superior technique, control a larger and stronger opponent — an approach that’s been repeatedly proven in street fights and sport competition. My goal in training is to one day be the old man who never breaks a sweat as he defeats his opponents, and women by their nature are already a step further down that road. Are there many expert female grapplers in our country? Hell, yes.

    Scholastic grappling, in fact, further reduces the possibility of unfair physical advantage because wrestlers have to compete within narrow weight classes. Johnston and Gallegos are theoretically evenly matched because they weigh the same.

  2. People worry about the physical intimacy of grappling. They say it’s potentially sexual, and therefore men and women shouldn’t do it together. Hell, some people can’t even handle the prospect of men and women wrestling against their own genders as it dredges up their homophobia. I think the equivalence between grappling and sex is what a lot of this controversy boils down to. And having grappled against many women and men, I can testify this worry is utter nonsense. There are no sexual aspects to the act. Both of us are far too focused on the calculus of our movements — techniques and counter techniques — as well as the possibility of defeat. Further, to cite sex as a justification for Johnston’s dumb decision only dishonors him again, because it’s saying he won’t be able to control himself once he and a girl tie up.

But don’t take my word for it. Go observe a martial arts class or a wrestling practice. Talk to the women you see there. And for bonus points, put your own butt out there on the mat and experience it for yourself.

Political Hatred of the Press is Nothing New

January 27, 2019

“To give it freedom from criticism would be an invitation to mismanagement.”

I keep finding echoes of the present within past movies and commentary. Today, it’s in an editorial by the great journalist I.F. Stone about President Richard Nixon’s attacks on the press. In “Bitter Battles Lie Ahead,” (I.F. Stone’s Weekly, Dec. 1, 1969), I found these gems:


Nixon’s real complaint is that the news media don’t agree with him. Since the First Amendment doesn’t require the press to agree with the President, he doesn’t dare say this openly and instead charges unfairness.


[A Marine general] criticized the news media for failing to present a “positive” picture of the conflict and said how long the war lasts would “depend in lots of respects on how good treatment it gets from our news media.” So the main obstacle to victory is the First Amendment, and Jeffersonianism will soon be un-American again.


Plain Political Incompetence
In Saigon the regime is cracking down on the press as dissatisfaction rises. Here the Administration is trying to make independent reporting seem unpatriotic. In the events of the tumultuous last two weeks, the Administration has been demonstrating its incompetence on many levels; to give it freedom from criticism would be an invitation to mismanagement.


Nothing is more dangerous than weak men who think they are tough guys.


This Administration is capable of suicidal folly. … But there are bitter battles ahead. We had better get ready for them.

Apropos Quotes from ‘Gladiator’

January 12, 2019

Last night, I rewatched Gladiator (2000), starring Russell Crowe, and heard a number of lines I thought apropos to current events. I’m copying them over from Screenplays for You without further comment:


COMMODUS: But these senators, they scheme and squabble and flatter and deceive.


LUCILLA: They care about the greatness of Rome.

COMMODUS: Greatness of Rome? But what is that?

LUCILLA: It’s an idea, greatness. Greatness is a vision.


GRACCHUS: Fear and wonder. A powerful combination.

GAIUS: Will the people really be seduced by that?

GRACCHUS: I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. He will conjure magic for them and they will be distracted. He will take away their freedom, and still they will roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble floor of the Senate; it is the sand of the Colosseum. He will give them death, and they will love him for it.


PROXIMO: He knows too well how to manipulate a mob.


MAXIMUS: Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome, Proximo. This is not it. This is not it!


MAXIMUS: The time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end, Highness.


MAXIMUS: Time for half measures and talk is over.


COMMODUS: Now the people want to know how the story ends.


MAXIMUS: There was once a dream that was Rome; it shall be realized.

Life Imitates Art?

November 29, 2018

Empire of the Goddess includes a chapter in which Thomas, my main character, encounters the government’s dubious eminent domain efforts to clear the way for a gas pipeline. I was doing a one-off concerning the real-world Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Energy’s prospective construction of which farmers and local governments have resisted for years. It’s easy to spot all the “No Pipeline!” yard signs in my town.

On the parallel world of Terra, its prospective pipeline won’t channel natural gas but oil created from pig manure. The “pig shit oil” pipeline, the farmers call it. The government’s solution to eminent domain is to send fire engines to farms in the pipeline’s way. Instead of spraying barns with water, however, they spray structures with napalm. This leads to a really exciting chapter where Thomas rescues a . . . hey, have I mentioned you should read Empire of the Goddess?

Anyway, imagine my shock this week when I saw headlines about real-world pig shit electricity, like this one in today’s paper: “Dominion and Smithfield Foods plan to convert pig poop to power”

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The world’s largest pork company is teaming up with a major energy company to turn pig manure into renewable natural gas.

Smithfield Foods and Dominion Energy announced a joint venture partnership Tuesday to trap methane from hog waste and convert it into power for heating homes and generating electricity.

The article goes on to say the gas will be recovered from waste-treatment pits and “channeled to processing centers.” So that’s the part I want to know more about: channeled how? And will there be another eminent domain fight? . . . And how much napalm can a fire truck actually hold? Can Dominion give me royalties for the pig shit power idea?

Letter to the Editor about the Press

July 8, 2018

The News Leader published my letter to the editor this morning. The text is below.

We need a free press; our president’s attacks are sickening

I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with you, News Leader. Sometimes, you’re biased and salacious. You occasionally abuse grammar and punctuation, and your photo captions can be so bad they should be a drinking game. I’ve been testy with your reporters for their coverage of me personally. I’ve even criticized your treatment of your employees. I call out B.S. when I see it.

I’ve always respected you, however. I’m still a subscriber. On the balance, you’re a good newspaper. Good people work there. Staunton needs you. I respect your role in society, because the News Leader calls out B.S. when it sees it.

So when there was a mass shooting in an Annapolis newsroom last week, I was greatly saddened, not only for the pointless loss of life, but for the assault it represented on our American freedoms. I hoped someone in government would feel the same way. Someone like the U.S. president.

He started well, offering the ever-worthless “thoughts and prayers” to the victims. But then, only two days later, he asked me and others on Facebook to take his Media Accountability Survey. Because you know, journalists write “fake” news. They’re the enemy of the people.

Where is the moral leadership? President Trump’s hypocrisy, callousness and tone-deaf timing sicken me. I hope it sickens others, because it’s past time we took a hard look at what we stand for as Americans. It’s not this, and it’s not him.

MATTHEW WARNER
Staunton

Letter to City Council

February 24, 2017

Today, I wrote a letter to my local city council requesting they pass a resolution calling for President Trump’s impeachment. You can read it below. Sorry for the bad scanning.

If you’re curious, Richmond CA’s resolution can be found here.

I hope you’ll consider sending a similar letter to your local government.

It’s OK to Lose

January 25, 2017

There’s a troubling myth being propagated in our national culture. It says winning — success — is everything. That if you lose a fight or other contest, you’re worthless. We saw this in the juvenile commentary after the Dec. 31 UFC women’s bantamweight bout between Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey, and we’ve continually heard this from our president and his sycophants.

I’m coming up on four years now as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on the mat applies to life in general. It’s that it’s okay to lose. It’s how we learn.

There’s a spirtual aspect to this if you’re a fan of Taoism. The yin-yang symbol is one of motion: the white and black halves tumble over each other, propelling each through the cycle of development. The Tao Te Ching says, “Yield and overcome; bend and be straight.” Because when I accept defeat, I release my ego. I acknowledge that someone else might be better than I am at a particular task, that someone might even be stronger or more intelligent. When I accept the Socratic paradox that wisdom begins with knowing that I know nothing, then I am ready to learn from others.

The opposite of this is someone ruled by ego. He whines and lies if he thinks he’s going to lose, and he swaggers and taunts when he wins. He gaslights when objective truths don’t serve his popularity. And he learns nothing. When this person is an average Joe, it’s a tragedy. When this person is a national leader, it’s a catastrophe.

There’s probably nothing I can do to solve the problems at the top of our government. All I can do is ride the storm out, spending that time teaching the next generation the equanimity it will need for actual success. In the meantime, I entertain the fantasy that Ronda Rousey and Hillary Clinton will set their sails in these winds of fate. So, you’re not a world-champion mixed martial artist, and you’re not a president. So what? It doesn’t matter anymore. Ride the sailboat to where you should be now.

The Masque of the Red Death

November 11, 2016

“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe. Just a short review.

Read it.

If you need help interpreting it, let me know.

A Meditation from the Dark of Night

November 9, 2016

I woke up at 3 a.m. to use the bathroom but resisted the impulse to check the election results. What if Trump won? sober thinking said. There’s nothing you can do about it, and you won’t be able to go back to sleep. That lasted for an hour until I finally checked my phone’s browser on the bedside table.

At that point, I got up to do dishes.

I have a feeling that keeping my small corner of the world clean is all I’m going to be able to do for the next four to eight years, as the United States of America lurches toward its ignominious end. I’ve done all I can for the world outside my house.

On the up side, I predict a resurgence of the horror genre.