The callousness of the moment

There is an occasional consolation in being sick. Yes, extremely unusually for me, I am sick, apparently due to having breathed too much of the ammonia in Patches’ urine when she soaked my clothing.[1]

More precisely, the consolation comes from being on the mend. My sinuses are finally clearing and my cough is productive. And I was awake at around 2 a.m. Continue reading “The callousness of the moment”

  1. [1]David Benfell, “About Patches,” Not Housebroken, June 10, 2018,

About Patches

Update, June 26, 2018: After I first wrote this post, I talked with the rescue folks at Animal Assist, the successor organization to Lake Pet Rescue, who agreed to take Patches for two or three weeks to get her back on track with the litter. On June 22, she came back to me and all seemed well for a while. Then, this morning she started peeing on my bed again. Animal Assist had no space available, so I took her to Marin Humane Society in Novato. The end of this post still very much applies.

Recent weeks have taken a toll. The ammonia in Patches’ urine led to some kind of respiratory ailment that I spent two days at home recovering from. When finally I ventured out, I was involved in a traffic collision—entirely my fault—which I attribute in part to my illness and in part to the fact I drive so much that I’m failing to maintain focus. My Prius was totaled. I suffered a crack in my sternum, which was compounded by what developed into, if it was not already, bronchitis: Coughing was supremely painful and, when you have bronchitis, you do a lot of that. That’s not the whole of it, but it’s enough. I can safely say that these last few weeks have been absolute hell.

After Admiral Janeway, a cat who had been with me since 2003 died on February 9, 2018, I rapidly came to the conclusion that the best way I could thank her for being in my life and being such an awesome cat was to welcome another cat to a forever home.

So on Monday, the 12th, my mother and I went down to the PetSmart in Rohnert Park—all the other adoption agencies were closed—and adopted Patches, a tortoise shell calico.

Patches was in the first cage I opened. She immediately grabbed onto me with all she had, showering me with an affection that never dimmed and bringing a smile to a face that has smiled too rarely. This is a cat who has adorable down pat. I think somebody must have told her when she was a kitten to never forget how to do that.

She manifested ringworm a few days later, we put her up at the veterinarian for a long, long month while we deep cleaned the house and let people who are actually good at giving pills to cats give her her medicine. I went down every day that they were open to visit, sometimes just for a few minutes, sometimes for over an hour.

It was in triumph that we brought her home, but of course on the Saturday of a three-day weekend (Memorial Day), she started peeing on my bed. She had a urinary tract infection which we had her treated for but I guess the prominent—at least to a cat—effect of such an infection is painful urination. She associated that pain with the litter box and would no longer pee in the box.

It’s been a very long couple of weeks of astronomical laundry bills as she peed on my bedding and peed on my clothing but, after following all the advice I could, and after an especially catastrophic morning yesterday (June 9), I have been forced to conclude that I can no longer trust her in the house. I am giving her back to the agency we adopted her from.

To say this is an unhappy moment does not even begin to cover it.

To Patches: Thank you for all the love you offered me. I wish with all my heart I could have done more for you. Never forget that knack you have for being adorable.

I, Donald

Update, June 9, 2018: Neil Lloyd points to 1) essentially the scenario I describe in the first paragraph of this post, and 2) a “150-year-old [U.S. Supreme Court] case frequently quoted as the definitive authority for the president’s unfettered prerogative to pardon, Ex Parte Garland” which also established “that, at least in some circumstances, the limit of the pardon power can be a legal question,” by which he means that it is subject to court review. Such a use of presidential power, he notes, would “facilitate[] one or more crimes.” Accordingly, he calls for the Supreme Court to review the matter.[1] I’m unclear on who would have standing to bring this case but I guess somebody had standing to bring Garland.

It’s becoming much too easy to imagine waking up one morning to learn that Donald Trump has simultaneously fired Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians in the 2016 election and obstruction of justice,[2] and has issued a blanket pardon for himself[3] and all who he perceives remained loyal to him[4] and were convicted or even face trial under Mueller’s prosecution or any of a number of legal challenges Trump faces.[5]
Continue reading “I, Donald”

  1. [1]Neil Lloyd, “Presidential Pardons Are Reviewable by the Courts,” Slate, June 8, 2018,
  2. [2]The suggestion that Donald Trump might fire Robert Mueller never goes away, even as Republicans try to convince themselves that he won’t: Alexander Bolton, “GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone,” Hill, March 20, 2018,; Jonathan Chait, “Trump Is Taking Out His Enemies And Turning Toward Robert Mueller,” New York, March 17, 2018,; Chris Cillizza, “The White House just let slip a big secret about firing Robert Mueller,” CNN, April 10, 2018,; Jonathan Easley, “Anger at Mueller burns hot on the right,” Hill, November 25, 2017,; Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic, and Benjamin Wittes, “Trump’s Effort to Fire Mueller: Reactions to the New York Times Report,” Lawfare, January 25, 2018,; James Hohmann, “Prospect of Trump firing Mueller keeps becoming more untenable,” Washington Post, June 16, 2017,; James Hohmann, “Five takeaways from Trump’s thwarted effort to fire Mueller,” Washington Post, January 26, 2018,; Peter Nicholas, Aruna Viswanatha, and Erica Orden, “Trump’s Allies Urge Harder Line as Mueller Probe Heats Up,” Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2017,; Politico, “Trump Tried to Fire Mueller. So What?” January 26, 2018,; Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Matt Apuzzo, “Trump’s Lawyers, in Confidential Memo, Argue to Head Off a Historic Subpoena,” New York Times, June 2, 2018,; Niall Stanage, “Republicans fear disaster if Trump fires Mueller,” Hill, March 20, 2018,; Jeff Stein, “There’s now a bipartisan bill to protect Mueller’s investigation from Trump,” Vox, August 3, 2017,; Melanie Zanona, “Ryan: I’ve ‘received assurances’ Mueller won’t be fired,” Hill, March 20, 2018,
  3. [3]Maegan Vazquez and Veronica Stracqualursi, “Preet Bharara says Trump pardoning himself would be ‘almost self-executing impeachment,'” CNN, June 3, 2018,; Morgan Winsor, “President Trump ‘probably does’ have the power to pardon himself: Giuliani,” ABC News, June 3, 2018,
  4. [4]Del Quentin Wilber, “Trump Sought Comey’s Loyalty, Ex-FBI Director to Say,” Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2017,
  5. [5]Warren Richey, “Mueller aside, Trump now faces legal peril from a host of sources,” Christian Science Monitor, May 11, 2018,

Control over profit: Why to doubt that companies will overcome ageism

My last “real” job, a job I define as fulfilling the criteria in Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),[1] meaning among other things that it actually pays rent, was at Axis Personal Trainers and Spa. Today, I think Axis has only one store (its first), in Menlo Park, but at the time, it was headquartered in another store in Mountain View, had another, struggling, store in Los Gatos, and had ambitions to expand to 100 stores by the end of the year (2001).
Continue reading “Control over profit: Why to doubt that companies will overcome ageism”

  1. [1]International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, December 16, 1966, United Nations, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI),

Admiral Janeway, rest in peace

Admiral Janeway, October 30, 2017. (Photo added to this post on February 12, 2018.)

I was noticing, this morning, as I turned to get up this morning, how much more spry Admiral Janeway, my cat, seemed than I. As I sat down at my desktop system, I think she brushed my calves with her tail, as she sometimes does, and I would have reached down to offer a pat.

She went outside, presumably, to find a spot in the sun and, having found it, went to sleep. She did not wake up. My mother found her this evening.

Authoritarian populism in the age of Donald Trump

Introduction: An almost willful ignorance on the Left about Donald Trump’s supporters

As I peruse social media, it is evident that there is a lack of understanding and, indeed, a lack of interest in understanding Donald Trump’s base. I can do little about the latter, though I’ve certainly tried.[1] The man is president, and for the time being, his party controls both houses of Congress. Sickening as it is, we have to deal with that reality and the products of that reality.

Which means that understanding the animus that Trump’s base holds for the rest of us is important. At the same time, as all this proceeds, I am gaining a richer understanding of authoritarian populism. Continue reading “Authoritarian populism in the age of Donald Trump”

  1. [1]Recent writings include David Benfell, “What’s the end game?” Not Housebroken, October 2, 2017,; David Benfell, “Failing the test, again,” Not Housebroken, October 4, 2017,

Tragedy for sale, at an eye-poppingly low price

I’m not quite sure why, but somehow I’ve recently started receiving real estate listings in my e-mail for the Sonoma County area. (I don’t view these messages as spam; I have registered with these sites in the past.)

You might have heard about the fires in this area, which were, if I’m recalling correctly, briefly the worst in (recorded) California history, until there were more fires in Southern California, all in 2017. It all seemed apocalyptic around here for a few days until, suddenly, and I’m still not quite sure how this happened, it all started seeming normal again. Continue reading “Tragedy for sale, at an eye-poppingly low price”

On the possibility of a President Pence

Update, January 18, 2018: There is, at this point, little reason to doubt that Donald Trump acts under some form of psychological impairment. But I added a footnote pointing to articles where this is discussed, including one published in the Times (of London) today.

Apparently, a certain Lee Camp shared this on Facebook about four years ago:

This is, of course, a parody on social and traditionalist conservative opposition to sexuality education and contraception. Which is a timely thing to remember about as Donald Trump stumbles and stumbles and stumbles and because I think the Republicans will find a way to push Trump out by August for fear not so much of a Democratic wave in this year’s midterm elections but rather something more like a Democratic tsunami.[1]

Because if Mike Pence, now the vice president, ascends to the presidency, we might be in for a heavier dose of these attitudes than we’ve seen for awhile. I say that because I’ve tentatively and, it has to be said, more from a gut feeling than an actual compilation of evidence, associated Pence as traditionalist conservative. Traditionalists tend not to be prominent in politics, so this would be unusual, but they punch far above their weight in influence on conservative thought.[2] And of course they oppose abortion and sexuality education. They also oppose contraception and divorce. If Pence is indeed traditionalist, I would expect him to deploy the full power of the presidency toward a patriarchal (in even the minimum sense of that word), sexually-repressive, and misogynist agenda.

Would he be worse than Trump? I would prefer to say, pick your poison: I hardly need to describe Trump at this point beyond speculation that he might be removed by either impeachment or a 25th amendment process.

Pence, on the other hand, seemingly knows how to behave (as long as he isn’t alone with a woman who isn’t his wife), can (I’m being charitable here) be shamed. The shit-show of the Trump presidency would be at an immediate end. We might worry less that a raging delusional narcissist[3] has the nuclear command codes. But in some other ways, it will be an even scarier time to be alive, for down this path lies Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.[4]

  1. [1]Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Sean Sullivan, “New alarm among Republicans that Democrats could win big this year,” Washington Post, January 14, 2018,
  2. [2]I would suggest citation searches for each of two names: Richard Weaver and Russell Kirk. There are others, of course, but these two alone will begin to offer a sense of the scope of traditionalist conservative influence.
  3. [3]Update, January 18, 2018: George Simon does not name Trump but describes him in an explanation of “grandiose narcissism” in George Simon, “Understanding and Dealing with Narcissistic Rage,” Counseling Resource, July 24, 2017, while John Gartner labels Trump’s condition as “malignant narcissism” which apparently (a paraphrase) “combines a narcissistic personality disorder, paranoia, antisocial personality disorder and sadism” in Rhys Blakely, “Are Donald Trump’s test results fake news?” Times, January 18, 2018, See also Henry Alford, “Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In!” Vanity Fair, November 11, 2015,; Aaron Blake, “The American Psychiatric Association issues a warning: No psychoanalyzing Donald Trump,” Washington Post, August 7, 2016,; Matthew Goldenberg, “A professional opinion: You don’t need a psychiatrist to know there’s something wrong with Donald Trump,” Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2016,; Dan Hannan, “The real reason Donald Trump is unfit to be president,” Washington Examiner, May 16, 2016,; Bandy Lee, ed., The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (New York: St. Martin’s, 2017); James Mann, “Damage Bigly,” New York Review of Books, December 21, 2017,; John Noonan, “I was a Minuteman III nuclear launch officer. Take it from me: We can’t let Trump become president,” Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2016,; Will Pavia, “The psychiatrists’ verdict: Donald Trump is a man incapable of guilt, with inner rage,” Times, May 20, 2017,; James Poniewozik, “A National Descent Into Trump’s Pants,” New York Times, March 4, 2016,; David Remnick, “The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump,” New Yorker, January 15, 2018,; Brian Resnick, “Psychiatry’s “Goldwater Rule” has never met a test like Donald Trump,” Vox, May 25, 2017,; Jennifer Rubin, “The ‘stable genius’ isn’t even functioning as president,” Washington Post, January 6, 2018,; Gail Sheehy, “At Yale, Psychiatrists Cite Their ‘Duty to Warn’ About an Unfit President,” New York, April 23, 2017,
  4. [4]Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (New York: Anchor, 1998).

Road rage

Note, December 20, 2017: Due to time constraints, I was unable to edit this posting when I initially published it. That editing is now complete.

I need to begin this with the trivial; road rage isn’t the product of any single provocation, but rather of myriad ‘micro-aggressions,’ which accumulate beyond a breaking point.

Case in point: I was driving through Sebastopol today. Traffic has gotten worse in town lately, and yes, traffic can and often does drive me nuts. But today really and truly was nothing unusual. Continue reading “Road rage”

Ummm, we need to talk. It’s about academic freedom.

No, I thought to myself. Why on earth would I archive this story about some schmuck who intends to launch a rocket as one step in his quest to prove the earth is flat?[1] Continue reading “Ummm, we need to talk. It’s about academic freedom.”

  1. [1]Colin Dwyer, “‘I Don’t Believe In Science,’ Says Flat-Earther Set To Launch Himself In Own Rocket,” National Public Radio, November 22, 2017,