Some basic psychology, and some words from U.S. Grant (posted 1/18/21)

You may remember that a while ago, I wrote a column about trying to maintain an internal locus of control, rather than an external one. 

For those of you who are new to this site – and if so, Welcome to a civil port in what looks to be a brutal, oncoming political storm! – those are old psychology terms that refer to whether you see most of what will ultimately shape your life as more within your control (hence an “internal locus”) or beyond your control (i.e. “external locus”). 

Obviously, all of us face some factors that are beyond our control, from genes and levels of family function or dysfunction to national and international events.  But all of us have a huge amount of control over our lives, through the choices that we make. 

Choose a life partner poorly and you will likely end up thrice-divorced, bitter and broke.  Or even worse, locked in a loveless marriage with some joyless harpie like a certain former first lady I could mention (CAW CAW!), or with a faithless, intern-chasing horndog who deserves her. 

Manage your money wisely – live beneath your means, delay gratification, save money for retirement consistently, etc. – and you are much less likely to need to rely on the promises of feckless politicians to support you.

As I argued in my earlier column, we’d all be better off if we focused on what we can control in our lives, rather than on what we can’t.   In addition to this attitude being more psychologically healthy, I’d argue that it’s also inextricably intertwined with a conservative world view.

Dozens of conservative sayings and attitudes tout the value of self-reliance (even as we all know that complete self-reliance is an unreachable ideal) and controlling the control-ables: “You’re never too poor to clean up your yard.” “Tend your own garden.” “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”  “Pray like everything relies on God, but work like everything relies on you.” 

Leftists, on the other hand, are grand wizards (and if the hood fits, wear it!) at conjuring up external loci of control.  The system is corrupt.  The patriarchy won’t let women rise.  America is inherently racist, sexist and homophobic.  I’m poor because some rich guy stole the money that I never had from me… somehow.  The little man can’t get ahead.  

Though I hate to slander the Three Stooges with this comparison, the motto of the Democrat leadership of the country for my entire lifetime comes straight from Curly (without the comedic value): “I’m a victim of soy-cumstance!”

I think I can probably speak for most of CO nation when I say that we’ve been mostly happy warriors, opposing leftist encroachments and policies, cheering conservative policies no matter where they come from, and tending our own gardens.  We don’t lose sleep thinking of schemes to impose our wills on leftist Americans who disagree with us.  We’d rather not know what they’re up to in the bedroom, or anywhere else.  We don’t want to listen to their “music,” and after the last several years, we don’t want to watch their movies or tv shows either.  And if they want to lecture us during sporting events or award shows, we’ve learned to do without those, too.

We just want to be left alone.   

That resolve will surely be tested in the coming months, as an arrogant, hateful, power-hungry left takes control in DC, and does everything it can to extend that control over as much of the lives of the American people as it possibly can. 

The most disheartening thing about this perfect storm of an election season is that losing by such heartbreakingly close margins in a few states (especially the senate races in Georgia) has drastically increased the difficulty of escaping from the toxic leftism that these boneheads are going to be excreting in all directions.

Before November, it was devastating to be an Illinoisan or Californian or New Yorker, and to watch as bad leftist governance slowly destroyed your home state.  But when you had finally had enough, you could re-assert your internal locus of control, and vote with your feet and escape from the Pritzgers and Newsoms and Cuomos, as many millions of Americans have done.

But now, the threat is that if the Dems have their way, they will do to the rest of us what they’ve done to their hollowed-out home states.  They’ll bail out the greedy kleptocrats in Chicago, NYC and LA with the taxes of red states who’ve balanced their budgets.  They’ll forgive the loans of entitled unemployables who majored in grievance studies, while penalizing those who worked their way through school, or who skipped the beer pong tournaments and went straight to work.  They’ll reward those who came to the country illegally, and buy their votes with the confiscated earnings of those who have played by the rules.

Before you lose hope, though, remember what a bunch of incompetent dopes these people are.  They are not good at their jobs, their belief system is delusional, and the world is NOT going to conform itself to their plans.  Half of the country opposes them now, and after a year (or less) of their ham-fisted and ugly bullying, more people will.

They are sowing stupidity and dysfunction, and when the crop starts to come in, they will not enjoy the harvest.

For now, we’ve got to hunker down and ride this out, because it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  They have achieved some temporary success at censorship, and at slandering everyone who disagrees with them, but that cannot last.  We need to take care of ourselves and each other, and hang tough, and resist their plans without lowering ourselves to their level.

A lot of conservatives are pointing to the bitter political divisions that have revealed themselves in the last several years as evidence that we may be heading for another civil war.   While I can’t go that far, I have to admit that it’s not easy to see how an increasingly totalitarian and hostile left can ultimately co-exist with a “free speech, free minds, free markets” conservatism. 

However, I’m holding onto my optimism. (I admit that this is made easier for me because of my Christian faith, a belief that not all people of good will share, obviously.  But for me, knowing that there is an ultimate External Logos of Control [boom!] helps.)  Because when I find myself getting melodramatic about the threat caused by Joey Gaffes and his army of arschaffen, I like to remember the words of one of my favorite Republican presidents, U. S. Grant, at a darker moment than we now face.

The first day of the battle of Shiloh (in April of 1862) had been a miserable bloodbath, and among other horrors, Grant had witnessed a cannonball take off the head of an aide standing beside him, and both legs off of another soldier nearby.  That night, he and his troops sat in a drenching rain, listening to the screams of their fellow soldiers having limbs amputated in a nearby cabin.     

Sherman stopped to talk with the future president, saying, “Well Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”

And like a bad-arse American cautious optimist, Grant replied, “Yes.  Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.”

Remember that, CO Nation!  While there’s a hard rain falling, and it feels like a cannonball has taken our legs out from under us – if not clean off! – we’ve been through worse. 

We defeated the Democrats and freed their slaves 160 years ago.  We’ve beaten national socialists in Germany and international socialists all over the world, and we’re going to outlast this motley collection of octogenarian socialists and racial arsonists and make-believe Indians (#wemustneverstopmockingher) and incompetent ex-bartenders.    

There’s no denying it: we’ve had the devil’s own election. 

Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.

I Stumble out of the Wreckage, Blinking in the Sunlight, and Check Myself for Broken Bones (posted 1/12/21)

Well, this was certainly some week, wasn’t it? 

I’ve honestly been thinking about you all, and wondering what I was going to write the next time I ventured back into the comforting embrace of CO nation.  As befitting the name of this beloved site, and my own basic nature, I’ve been in “let’s look on the bright side” mode for several months now – something that’s usually not hard for me at all, especially during the Christmas season.

But holy crap, what a devastating sequence of events!  I’ve been casting about for how to even start. 

Maybe with a hat tip to Dickens?  “It was the worst of times, and then even slightly worse times.  And then things somehow went steeply downhill from there.”

I can usually seek solace in Shakespeare.  “Now is the winter of our discontent … made immeasurably worse by this scrofulous pack of congenital liars, racial arsonists, and insufferable, America-hating d-bags…”     

Of course I would usually seek out the Palmist right now… but somehow I just know that as soon as I pick up my Bible, it’s going to open to either Job or Lamentations. 

Or maybe to one of the super-creepy passages in Revelation that foretell the coming of Imhotep Pelosi.  (“And then from within a cloud of stinging insects appeared a hideous harpie, not dead and yet not alive, with tiny red eyes staring from a lifeless, frozen face.  And she rode upon the back of an equally terrible creature, with legs like cedars and ankles like mighty oaks, the hooves of which shook the earth, and the sounds of a thousand crows emanating from her terrifying maw cried out, ‘At this point, what difference does it make? CAW CAW!”)

So, yeah.  2021 is off to a great start, and now I’m like the school kid who lost his thesaurus:  I can’t even begin to find the words to describe how devastated I am.

I know: lame joke.  But cut me some slack, people – I’m just trying to hold it together here.     

Actually, I did see a story that summed up the way I feel, twelve days into the new year.  It happened several weeks after the election, in Kansas.   I think the headline will give you the gist of it:  “A man in possession of methamphetamine was critically injured after falling while racing on his motorcycle, during which he accidentally shot himself.”

But it got even better.  Because the moment after he finished NOT sticking his landing, he was run over by a car.

I quote from the police report:  “While racing, the suspect lost control of his bike and wrecked. During the accident, a weapon in his waistband discharged, striking him in the hip, and he was also struck by another vehicle that fled the scene. He was transported to an area hospital in critical but non-life-threatening condition. A records check revealed him to be a felon, and a large bag of suspected methamphetamine was located in the motorcycle.”

The only way that man could know how I feel right now is if his firearm had discharged into his groin instead of his hip. 

So what can we learn from this, and what can we do now?  

I’ve got a few scattered thoughts, but nothing that feels super useful. 

The worst parts:

1.It’s going to be hard to escape from these leftist idiots.  Because they are totalitarians, they politicize every aspect of life, from sports to media to family life, and like some character out of Grimm’s fairy tales, they poison everything they touch.

When they just controlled blue states, fed-up normal people could a least flee them – and they’ve been doing so.  When the current census is done, NY and CA are likely to each lose at least one house seat and electoral college vote each, due to people voting with their feet.

That could be a healthy process: when a parasite kills its host, the parasite dies, the host fertilizes the land, and the cycle of life can begin again.  But in this case – to extend an unsavory metaphor – too many of the boneheads that infected their original blue states metastasized out into the surrounding states, and now once-healthy states are looking gangrenous. 

2. In the demolition derby of leftist moral offenses, a close second to their omnipresent, bone-deep dishonesty is their unconscionable fanning of the flames of racial hatred.  Nothing infuriates me more than seeing the unending slander against the least racist multi-ethnic nation in the history of the world that continually spews from their whiny pie-holes.

Of course they were at it again in the wake of the capitol riot.  It was bad enough that after 6 months of implicitly cheering on rioting, looting, vandalism, arson and violence from one end of our country to the other, those slimy hypocrites suddenly feigned outrage on 1/6.  (And though it doesn’t need to be said, of course we condemn the people who acted like JV Democrats on that day.  Would that the creeps on the other side could have found a way to express 1/1000th of that outrage when their thuggish co-religionists were destroying cities all over the place for months!)

But the racist leftists had to haul out their tired, inflammatory accusations, claiming that if the protestors had been black, they’d have been treated much worse.   As if we haven’t just watched millions of ethnically diverse rioters rampaging through a months’-long crimewave, with very few arrests.  In fact, politicians told police to stand down and let them riot, abandon their stations to be burned to the ground, let the rioters set up their own anarchist CHOP/CHAZ, and on and on.   

3. As much as I agree that Trump was his own worst enemy over the last month or so – as are we all, I guess – it’s particularly galling to see the MSM and Dems pull out the idea that because he “raised the temperature” through his reckless rhetoric, he is responsible for 1/6, as are the half of the country who supported Trump.  Because “everyone knew that this would happen.”

I agree that he did raise the temperature, and he shouldn’t have.  But remember when Obama slandered America and especially cops as terrible racists for months and years, and so was naturally blamed by the MSM when a black Obama supporter shot 5 cops in Dallas?  Because he raised the temperature too, and he had to expect that some of his supporters would take action against the cops whom he’d been demonizing, right?

The same way Bernie Sanders was morally responsible for the Bernie bro who went to the congressional softball game and shot Steve Scalise, almost killing him.  After all, Bernie had been demonizing conservatives for years, painting them as greedy exploiters waging class warfare on all the little people just like that loser shooter. 

That’s why Bernie is rotting in jail right now, and Obama was impeached and jailed too.

Oh no, wait.  That never happened.  Because leftists are never responsible for the passions they inflamed.  Only conservatives.  


There, are you happy now?  You’ve got me choking on my own bile, you leftist hypocrites!

The “best” parts (and never have sarcastic/scare quotes been more justified):

1.The Dems are such horrific politicians that they are going to over-reach and alienate all but their hard-core base, and to the extent that we can have even fair-ish congressional elections in the future, they should be sailing into a serious repudiation in the mid-terms, a la Obama’s 56-seat House bloodbath in 2010.

Biden has one orthopedic shoe in the grave, and Comma La is a human toothache, and all of the faces of the national Democrat party look like the Elephant Man’s family reunion, morally speaking.   They are not going to wear well.

If they were even room-temperature smart, they could do much more damage by posing as unifiers and throwing a few, pitiful bones to the spineless GOP members who always seem happy for even the most meager of scraps.  Instead, they are so driven by their own malice that they can’t help themselves: they’re going to double-down on their frothing hatreds, and pursue their “enemies” (i.e. half of the country).  Anyone who is not a completely lost cause is going to be repelled by that.

2.  This too must pass.  (Unfortunately, it’s probably going to pass the way a kidney stone does.)  A wise man once said – and no, this time it wasn’t me – that if anything cannot continue, it won’t.  And this kind of leftist insanity cannot continue.  We’ll have a lot of suffering to do in the meantime, and it’s all so heartbreakingly unnecessary, but these dimwits are sowing the seeds of their own destruction.  I just wish they weren’t going to create suffering for so many innocent people along with them.

3. In the long run, if we discipline ourselves, we can let all of this pain motivate us.  We can use Trump’s virtues as a template, and his flaws as a warning.  At his worst, his undisciplined and self-defeating firing in all directions gave ammunition to his enemies, and alienated enough of the otherwise persuadable (if mushy and politically semi-informed) voters whom (in this fallen world) we need to keep elections from being close enough to steal. 

But when he was at his best, he was a cheerful warrior, taking the fight to the left, and he had the thickest of skin, and his many successes should be a lesson for the next generation of conservative pols.  There’s a reason why Trump got so much done, compared to a generation of mostly pale, timid RINOs since Reagan.  And there’s no reason why we can’t match or exceed those successes.

I hope that you all are slogging your way through what feels like the dark night of our political soul, and that we’ll be able to support each other, and keep fighting the good fight, even as we know that the next several rounds are going to be brutal.   

My next column, I promise, will be more upbeat. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to try to wrestle this wrecked motorcycle back up while not aggravating my gunshot wound.  Maybe I’ll take just a dusting of my meth stash, for pain management…

As a new year begins, I’m musing about history (posted 12/31/20)

I usually like to do a bunch of reading in the downtime around the holidays, and whenever current events seem especially troubling, I like to read history.  Partly because most tempestuous times in the past were a lot worse than our present, and partly because covering several centuries can give you a healthier perspective on the current crop of knaves and imbeciles threatening our peace of mind.      

So last week, as soon as I finished Frank Muller’s great reading of “A Christmas Carol,” I took up a book on the history of Rome in the last 150 years or so before the Republic fell, and the Empire started.  The book is Mike Duncan’s “The Storm Before the Storm,” and if you like history, I’d recommend it.

Roman history has always intrigued me, but I’ve mostly gotten into only the period starting shortly before Christ, when the Empire supplanted the republic, precipitating the long decline and apocalyptic fall.  From the aqueducts to the roads to the countless innovations in architecture and governance and war, the Romans are endlessly fascinating. 

They combined great cultural achievements with a depraved and cynical brutality that is hard to comprehend.  I always think of a moment from the Sopranos, when Tony and a couple of his henchmen are intimidating a Jewish business owner.  When the guy proves tougher than they’d expected, he gives them a little speech about how Jews have always had to be tough, and citing the example of when a bunch of them resisted to the death against a huge Roman force at Masada. 

He closes with defiance, saying, “The Romans?  Where are they now?”

Gandolfini delivers the line perfectly: “You’re looking at ‘em, a-hole.”  As much as “the Romans” bring to mind Cicero and Aurelius and the Colosseum, they also had more than a little of the mafia in them, and that scene always rings true to me.   

And when it comes to languages, Latin has to be on the medal stand.  English is God’s favorite language, obviously (I cite Shakespeare, the King James Bible, and the largest vocabulary of any known language by a factor of 5 or more), and German is my recent favorite.  But Latin made the Romans even cooler than they would have otherwise been. 

You can’t beat the personal names: Trajan.  Hadrian.  Tiberias.  (If I’d had five sons, right after Walter Payton Simpson and Antonin Scalia Simpson would have come Trajan, Hadrian and Tiberius Simpson.)  I also love the Roman practice of giving people honorific names based on battles they won or peoples they conquered.  So when your average Scipio kicks some arse in Africa, he comes back as Scipio Africanus.    

Even thousands of years later, the title “Caesar” is so cool that the Germans Germanized it into Kaiser, and the Russians Russified it into Czar.  Plus July and August are named after two Caesars, which had to heady stuff for them. 

If I had a month named after me, I’d be working that into conversations every chance I got.  I’d be saying things like, “I can’t wait for the month of Mart this year.”  And people would be like, “Do you mean ‘March’?”

And I’d say, “No. It used to be March.  But since I whipped Hannibal, or the Gauls, or whoever, it got changed to ‘Mart.”  I would be even more insufferable than I already am.   “I hope you guys enjoy Black History Month, because after that, it’s the month of Mart.  If the Trump vaccine is as powerful as we hope, we’ll be playing Mart Madness again before you know it.  And I guess I don’t have to tell you to beware the Ides of Mart.”

Anyway, in the two centuries since Gibbon wrote his influential The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, it’s been an intellectual parlor game for people to look for parallels between the course of that great empire, and every empire after it.   As I read “The Storm Before the Storm,” I couldn’t help doing the same.  After this painful year of sleazy, dishonest leftists and an unexpectedly inspiring yet tragically flawed leader (call him Trumpicus), one sequence of events jumped out at me. 

Around 90 BC, after decades of wars against various foreign enemies, Rome faced what was later called the Social War, named after a word in Latin meaning “allies.”   We usually think of the Romans as synonymous with Italians, but that was not the case.  As a powerful and prestigious capital, Rome was all-powerful, and Roman citizens looked down on the rubes and deplorables living in the rest of Italy as hicks and nobodies; if they’d had airplanes, they’d have called most of the peninsula “fly-over country.” 

Over many decades, pampered, entitled Roman elitists – think of the Swamp – had been dangling the prospect of Roman citizenship over the Italians. They used them as conscripts to fight wars, taxed them to support the capital’s appetites, and flattered and manipulated them when it was time for elections, before pulling the rug out from under them and tossing them aside after every election or crisis.

They even had Philly-style election fraud.  One faction would temporarily banish the other factions’ voting base from the city during an election, they would cancel elections at the last minute, and more than once, when an election was going against one group, they’d rush in and smash the giant urns that held the ballots.

After one betrayal too many, the deplorable Italian tribes finally rose up against the arrogant elites from inside the Roman “beltway,” and the result was the “social war.”  (Is it a coincidence that “social war” and “culture war” are essentially synonyms?  Nope.)  In the short run, the powerful elites won a ruinous, Pyrrhic victory, which resulted in a lot of dead on both sides, a season of famine, and social and financial instability that led to continual power struggles, until the Republic finally succumbed, and slid into a tyrannical quasi-dictatorship.  The Italians did gain long-promised Roman citizenship within a decade or so, but the loss of the republic spelled eventual doom.

You can read too much into historical parallels.  The Romans lasted nearly a millennium, and we’re still in our awkward adolescence.   They were also a lot more brutal than us; every round of palace intrigue and every political power play ended with the losers being murdered and their bodies dumped in the Tiber.  

If we can thwart AOC and Grandma Squanto, they’re not going to end up floating down the Potomac without their empty heads.  They won’t even have to go back to bartending or sleeping in a tepee in the backyard (#wemustneverstopmockingher) – they’ll just go on the View and give paid speeches to gullible leftists.  

Supposedly it was Mark Twain who said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.  Reading that book over the last week or so, I heard a lot of echoes of the late Republic in our current dilemma.   It feels like our elites — in DC and on both coasts – have been waging an escalating social war on us for years, and now they’ve monkeyed with the ballot urns.

But I don’t think that we’re doomed to Rome’s fate, and I’m not giving up.   It seems like the country has edged up toward the Rubicon this year, but we haven’t crossed it.   Our opponents in the social war are powerful because they have few scruples, but they are not smart, and they are not competent.  They’re a lot closer to Nero and Caligula than Marius or Sulla or the Caesars.      

That’s not a completely happy thought.   But they’re led by avaricious and arrogant dopes, and they have no idea how much they don’t know.  If we can hang on and thwart their worst policies, I think they’ll be fighting viciously amongst themselves within a few months. 

We’ve survived worse than Biden Cornpopicus, and we’ll do so again.

Here’s to 2021 being a better year, and to keeping our Republic!