It’s always been my opinion that people choose to live in Altamont because they want to be part of an actual community. That being the case, folks here tend to get out of their houses, walk, bike, mingle and so on. They attend concerts, visit village businesses, and create groups of friends and acquaintances that don’t exist in the ’burbs or the cities.

But in the last year, the pandemic threw a wrench into village life and many folks tried to fix that by creating virtual meet-ups, groups, and communities online. Some worked, some not so much.

The best examples I’ve seen are the Altamont Virtual Garage Sale group on Facebook and the Buy Nothing group, also on Facebook. Both have helped folks in rough times and from what I’ve seen, they’ve been friendly, pleasant, and last year, helped a lot when we canceled the village-wide garage sale. They continue to do good work even as things are getting back to pre-COVID days.

On the opposite side of things is the Altamont Community Facebook group, which currently has about 2,300 members (which oddly exceeds the total population of the village). Things there can go from nice to ugly in a matter of posts and do so far more frequently than they really should. The administrator of the group does a truly superb job of keeping things reasonably sane but considering she’s a volunteer, it’s very sad she must do that.

What seems to set folks off are certain hot-button issues like crime, policing, personal freedoms, personal disputes and NIMBY type issues (Not In My Back Yard). People asking for help finding a plumber are usually met with multiple helpful suggestions. People complaining about a perceived crime, or a personal attack generally seem to start World War III and I’m not sure why.

I suppose it has to do with differing age groups, multiple opinions, and folks who engage their fingers or thumbs before their brains. I’ve watched perfectly innocent remarks be attacked as if someone said a nasty thing about your parent or spouse.

I recall a recent tirade had to do with somebody outside the village who allegedly set off a cannon for giggles. Once things got rolling, the discussion devolved into name-calling and silliness.

I’ve seen similar things happen when crime comes up. The recent spate of nails on the roads has spawned everything from calls for vigilante justice to warnings about white slavers. Really, folks?

This seems to start when someone reports a suspicious person seen, a car broken into, a package stolen, or something nonviolent — just unfortunate or inconvenient. The next thing you know attacks on law enforcement are countered by attacks on accused criminals, millennials, folks of other races, and then the MAGA hats pop in and well, you get the picture.

The truth is, everyone has an opinion, and they are all entitled to them. But just because someone disagrees doesn’t make them a bad person.

The whole internet act of trolling, wherein a troll attacks someone just to create discord, get clicks or eyeballs, or hurt others is not something you would expect to see in a small-town discussion group. And yet, there seem to be folks here who are more than ready to attack on a moment’s notice.

Ironically, many of those same folks would never say such things in person, so the much-vaunted internet anonymity, once again, has bitten us in the collective butt.

I can’t say I have an easy solution for this sort of discord. But, there actually is a solution. It works by religiously following a couple of steps:

— Step 1: Read a post several times and then sit quietly away from your device and consider what was said and why;

— Step 2: Before you type in a response, ask yourself honestly if your response will help or hinder the situation;

— Step 3: Remember the age-old advice that states, “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything”; and

— Step 4: If you still feel the need to respond and you’ve passed the previous tests, then, add your two cents worth.

If, after all that, the discussion still descends into chaos, throw your device away or, at the very least, get off social media. Some things are better left unsaid and wise people have always known that. Let’s all try to act a little wiser and maybe things online can stay pleasant.
 

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been involved with multiple social media platforms on a professional (actually paid) basis since the early 2000s and says he’s still not clear why.

When I decide to buy something, I tend to ask a number of questions of the seller or maker of the product. Does the product function properly? Is it a good value? Is it safe? Do other people like it? And so on. As is true in life, you have to cut through the advertising and make sure what you’re getting is what you’re paying for.

The same can be said in politics. If a party or candidate is asking for my vote or support (financial or otherwise) I want to know, in no uncertain terms, what that party or candidate stands for and supports. I want to make sure my views on issues are their views on issues, or at least, reasonably close.

After all, if I’m an avowed feminist person, I want to make sure the candidate or party takes women’s rights seriously and defends them.

So, in that spirit, I have invited Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell to be with us this month and answer some questions, so we better understand what he and the GOP stand for and support.

And, in the interests of truth, I have contracted with a reputable white witch to place a spell on the Senator that compels him to tell only the unvarnished truth in answer to all of my questions. Let the interview commence.

Mike: Senator, I’d like to welcome you to this magically enhanced interview. It’s very kind of you to take time out to tell us about your party and politics.

Mitch: I feel very strange. For some reason I have no urge to lie. This is very new to me. Well then, what would you like to know?

Mike: Well, Senator, first off, what are your plans to help us get past the pandemic and get our country back to normal, if normal is even possible anymore.

Mitch: Well, in truth, we want folks to stop dying and start spending and working for sub-minimum wages as soon as possible. The billionaires that back us have benefited greatly during the past year, but we need to get the slaves back to rowing if we want that trend to continue. But plans? We never had any and still don’t. We leave that nonsense up to the Democrats. If they succeed, we just step in and take credit and if they fail, we get to blame them.

Mike: By slaves, you mean normal American workers, who get terrible wages, no benefits, and have to work two and three jobs just to survive?

Mitch: Wage slaves, yup, you got it, boy. That’s why we strongly oppose unions, government-supported health care, and raising the minimum wage. It’s every man for himself and only the strong survive.

Mike: Speaking of health care, what’s the GOP plan for helping more Americans get health insurance they can afford, like Medicare for all?

Mitch: Our main plan is to make sure health care in this country stays in private hands, where profits can be maximized. I sure don’t want my big pharma stocks to tank. Do you have any idea how much my GOP Senate friends and I have made in kickbacks and stock from Moderna and Pfizer? Daddy is very happy. Besides, if everyone in this country got cheap or free health care from the government, the health care lobbyists would stop paying us. People would feel free to change jobs and no longer be trapped into accepting terrible benefits and low wages. That would hurt business across the board.

Mike: So healthy workers who are empowered and motivated to make a better life for themselves and their families is not what the GOP wants?

Mitch: Slaves, boy, we want slaves. Dumb, docile, and poor.

Mike: Speaking of dumb, what is the GOP plan to help improve public education in this country? While many states like New York and Massachusetts have very good public-school systems, states like yours have very poor ones due to years of neglect and lack of funding. That means your people are at a distinct disadvantage in the workplace and in life. They’re trapped by ignorance and lack of skills and opportunity.

Mitch: We’ve been working to destroy public education for years, and we sure won’t stop now. In our perfect world, only wealthy white Christian children will have the money to go to exclusive private schools and private colleges where they’ll be trained and groomed to take over the world. All this cursed public schooling just puts fool ideas into lesser folks’ heads and gives them false hope that they can be our equals. How cruel. It’s like suggesting minority people should be treated the same as white people, How absurd, sir!

Mike: So you don’t support equal rights for LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and immigrants?

Mitch: Why would we want to give rights to lesser people and sexual perverts? No sir! This is a white Christian country and we aim to keep it that way. As for women, well, a good Christian woman knows her place.

Mike: Well, let’s move off of those hot-button social issues and look for some more neutral ground. Wouldn’t you agree that, since we are one of the world’s foremost democracies, we need to strengthen and protect voting rights?

Mitch: Son, what have you been drinking? Everyone knows that our party represents a minority of Americans and is shrinking. The only way we hold onto power is through voter suppression, the great practice of gerrymandering; disinformation campaigns from our friends in Russia; the wonderful media at Fox, OAN, and the other right-wing echo chambers; and constantly changing the voting laws at the state level. The truth is, if we could hack the voting machines themselves and get away with it, we would.

Mike: So the new bill from the Democrats that would guarantee voting rights across the country and do away with all your current practices, that’s a problem for you?

Mitch: Son, I will personally burn the Senate to the ground before I allow people of color and women to join with liberals to determine the direction of this country. The founding fathers would never have allowed that, so why should we? After all, we loaded the courts with crazy, right-wing, substandard judges to make sure and quash this sort of thing. I have to tell you, I laughed myself silly every time we placed some gooney-bird judge on a bench for life that the American Bar Association disapproved of. What fun we had!

Mike: So, to sum it all up: In your perfect world, we would go back in time to about 1950 and just keep the current technology?

Mitch: Nope, we’d prefer to go back to 1750.

Mike: Well, thanks for your time, Senator. It’s been very illuminating.

Mitch: It’s been my pleasure son. By the way, is this magic spell of yours permanent? This has been fun, but I have an idea it might come back to bite me if it stays like this.

Mike: No worries, Senator. You’ll be back to normal in about t10 minutes.

Mitch: Thank goodness, I have another interview with Fox and Friends in about an hour. If I told them the truth, their tiny little heads would explode.

This interview was supervised by the Magical Guild of America and the ASPCA. No turtles or any other animals were harmed, and no magical rules were broken.
Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he wishes that spells like this could be cast for real; in lieu of that, satire and hyperbole will have to suffice.

As I write this, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been in office for 12 days. In that short time, they have arguably done more to improve things than the previous Oval Office occupant did in four years.

They are protecting the environment; helping working people; protecting LGBTQ rights; addressing the issue of climate change; uncaging and reuniting children; and, of course, dealing with COVID in a professional, intelligent, and non-partisan way.

They are staffing the government with people who are actually qualified for their jobs and improving relations with other countries as quickly as possible. They are also imperfect and will make mistakes; they are simple well-meaning humans, after all. Not something that can be said of their predecessors.

At the same time, the folks in the GOP are continuing to spread lies, hatred, divisiveness, conspiracy theories and to play politics with people’s lives. Wingnut du jour Marjorie Taylor Greene of Colorado has just blown all our minds by suggesting that the California wildfires were started by Jewish-controlled space lasers.

Darn, now all the goyim know our big secret. She has also been outed for harassing Parkland survivor and gun-control advocate David Hogg when he was just 17. The woman is a true GOP hero. Her buddy Lauren Boebert suggested murdering other folks in Congress who she doesn’t agree with. But that’s nothing much considering she and some of her buddies want to carry guns on the House floor.

The big dogs in the Senate GOP Sedition Caucus, led by none other than MoscowMitch McConnell and his good buddy Lyin’ Ted Cruz have signaled the upcoming impeachment trial will be another sham. A full 45 of these sycophants voted to declare the trial unconstitutional before it’s even started, showing clearly, they have no intention of convicting he-who-shall-not-be-named of inciting a riot that led to the desecration of the capital and five deaths, and counting.

Just for good measure, the Sedition Caucus is also signaling that it will be fighting against President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill as the pandemic continues to claim 3,000 American lives each day. Keep in mind that this is the same party that spent millions of dollars and several years investigating Hillary’s emails and Benghazi, which together resulted in five deaths.

Meanwhile, the Tangerine one is having trouble getting lawyers to join his impeachment defense team for some strange reason. Reports from The New York Times indicate that he insists his lawyers stick with his defense that mass election fraud took place. I guess seeing some of his past lawyers heading for disbarment and subject to multi-billion-dollar lawsuits has soured them on that strategy.

Another tidbit from The New York Times has indicated that, during the last administration, most of our domestic terrorism resources were redirected against folks associated with Antifa and Black Lives Matter.

For those few unfamiliar with that loose confederation of folks united under the Anti-Fascist banner (like the Allied soldiers who fought the Nazis in World War II), no evidence has yet been produced that they posed any major threat to our country.

This, in spite of the fact that some investigators said they were pressured to find evidence by their superiors, none of which was ever found. Kind of like finding invisible weapons of mass destruction in the Gulf War.

This led to little or no oversight of right-wing domestic terrorists and guess what? They stormed the Capitol and five people died. Funny how that happened. But, as was said in a video announcement, they are special people and loved by the last administration.

Remember when President Obama was elected back in 2008 and MoscowMitch publicly stated that his one and only goal was to make him a one-term president? Yup. That happened, and for some strange reason, he failed.

Now, in 2021 he is clearly signaling that, no matter what the country needs, his only goal is to get in the way of any progress by Democrats. But before you suggest that good old Mitch has the country’s best interests at heart, remember that he’s currently worth upwards of $35 million and that he and his wife, the recently resigned Secretary of Transportation, worked together to illegally funnel certain government contracts to his home state of Kentucky.

With Merrick Garland in charge of the Department of Justice, I’m wondering how long it would be before indictments come on down.

And speaking of financial chicanery, let’s not forget that several members of the House and Senate were found to have traded stocks last February-March after a COVID briefing that gave them a true indication of the real nature of the looming catastrophe. This was at the same time the administration was lying to the public about the crisis on a daily basis.

I suspect these folks will also see very different treatment now that the Federal Bureau of Investigation,  theSecurity and Exchange Commission, and the Department of Justice are under the control of competent individuals, not criminals.

But I want to end this reality check on an up note. The last administration set a number of records that will likely stand for many years to come and they should be proud of these accomplishments. 

More lies were told (more than 30,000), than any previous administration in the history of our country. More Americans died due to their incompetence and venal practices (nearing 500,000 with 25 million infected and growing daily). That’s more than all the Americans who died in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf wars combined.

And 9/11? Yup, 3,000 died then. The previous administration has been killing off that many people in a day.

They now hold the record for most members indicted and convicted of crimes. They hold the record for increasing the budget deficit, thanks in large part to a trillion-dollar giveaway to the rich and the corporations. Everyone else got $1,800 over an entire year.

Yup, that was one impressive record of thievery, incompetence, corruption, and murderous narcissism. I would share one final thought. In order to put the list of accolades we should be heaping on the GOP into proper perspective, we should really rename the party. Instead of Republican Party or Grand Old Party, they should be relabeled in a more accurate manner to the Greed Over People party.
 

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg describes himself as a long-time registered Democrat and political observer; he sees the last four years as a surreal nightmare and the next four as a battle for what’s left of this country.

 

I’m sitting here at my computer and out the window the world is covered in a fresh six-inch coating of snow. The COVID numbers are up but we do have a vaccine that will likely help in the long run.

The Georgia Senate run-off races are tomorrow, and it at least appears that the Democrats have a shot at winning, though I’m certainly not holding my breath considering how utterly corrupt their governor is.

We have a new administration gearing up to enter the White House in just 16 days while the current crop is burning the place down as fast as they can light matches, file lawsuits, threaten election officials, and just generally wreck our democracy.

So, will 2021 be an improvement over 2020, a year most folks (except billionaires) would suggest was the worst year in history?

I think that 2021 probably will be better. Once the spring and summer hit, and the vaccine gets widely administered, we’ll probably start to see some actual improvement in the pandemic. We also have a competent administration to look forward to, which will bring in actual professionals, listen to experts, and let folks like Dr. Fauci do their jobs without meddling for political purposes.

I foresee a government made up of people who actually want to do a good job and help people, not just wreck things, steal money, and play golf while thousands die and millions suffer.

If, Goddess willing, the Dems win in Georgia and Mitch McConnell loses his iron grip on power, then I feel real progress can be made in our country. Moscow Mitch has been holding progress back since 2008 and he shows no signs of changing his stripes (or shell).

However, I’m also realistic. He and his party will do everything in their power to cheat in Georgia and the only defense we have is the fact that there is so much scrutiny, they’ll be hard-pressed to pull anything really nasty off.

Even if he does keep his claws sunk into the throat of progress, he won’t be quite as effective with a Democrat in the White House. Also, people are getting sick and tired of Mitch, so being that he’s not stupid and already quite rich, he may start to see things differently. Who knows?

I think what truly gives me hope, politics aside, is that life goes on despite all the craziness. Most people want to have decent lives. They want a job, a place to live, and to take care of their families. Most people don’t want to go around in a constant state of fear or rage, it’s just not healthy.

Most people are decent and more than willing to try and help one another out. We see that here in Altamont all the time. And most people, despite health issues, financial issues, worries, fears and just life, keep on going; it’s how we’re built. And of course, we are, as the phrase goes, NY Tough, even if we don’t live down in The City.

In my not terribly long life, I’ve lived through at least four wars I can think of, endless financial uncertainty, technological upheaval, climate change, health issues, and a ton of lousy TV. And yet, I’m still here and not ready to throw in the towel. I still find joy each day in all sorts of ways that make it quite plain that life, for all its trials, beats the alternative.

We now have a total of seven grandchildren (two new ones came in November and December). When I’m holding Winston, age six weeks, and he looks up at me with his tiny face and just sort of blinks and yawns and smiles, well, I do think we’ll be OK. We have to be, for his sake.

When I walk through the winter landscape and take in the sounds, smells and feel of winter, seeing birds still doing their thing while squirrels look for food and play chicken with trucks, I feel like it’s going to be OK eventually. Riding my bike when the weather permits still feels pretty good as long as I manage not to crash too often and sometimes yields some really cool sights and experiences.

Hanging out with my wife of almost 30 years is an endless positive and a fun adventure. Staying in touch with family, even at a distance, is still a good thing too. And of course, friends are still friends and it’s always a pleasure to just say hi and catch up, even from six feet away.

Nothing, even COVID, lasts forever. Neither do evil politicians, greedy billionaires, and corrupt people. We all are born, live, and eventually move on to the next plane of existence, whatever that might be.

Sometimes I think we forget that simple fact when we’re being endlessly reminded of all the dire news, health threats, bad weather reports, the next Beiber album, and so on. But spring is coming, the days are getting longer already (we’re picking up about seven to 10 minutes of fresh daylight each week) and the vaccine is rolling out, albeit much too slowly due to federal incompetence. So, there is light at the end of what feels like a really long tunnel.

We need to hang on just a little longer and we need to do it for ourselves and for Winston and the rest of the tiny humans among us. Someday we’ll tell them scary stories about 2020 and marvel at how far we’ve come.

For now, we just need to know that they need us to keep going and working to make it all better for them. That’s our job now. Not to worry about what party is in power or what stupid lawn sign is out front. No, it’s time to think about real things and the futures of our kids and grandbabies are as real as it gets.

Do it for your Winston.
 

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg describes himself as a veteran grandfather, cyclist, writer, husband, troublemaker, parent, and survivor. He says he has every intention of continuing that endeavor.

 

As I write this, most world leaders, the media, state election officials across the country, and the majority of American voters now agree that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election by a clear margin. Joe is now acting more presidential almost two months from his inauguration than the orange menace has in four years

 But beyond the obvious, who else has come out of this strange election in a better or worse place? In other words, who really won? In a word, the oligarchs, 1-percenters, or billionaires, choose your label. Just look at how much money they’ve raked in during our mismanaged pandemic ($10.2 trillion worldwide).

Many people saw this election and the Trump presidency as the main problem and the only solution to what ailed America. Wrong. Trump is just a very orange, very visible symbol but by no means the cause.

Systemic racism has always been here; he just made the racists comfortable enough to come out in the open. Income inequality is now at world-beating levels. But that’s just an acceleration of what Reagan started.

The true winners right now are the super wealthy. The eight individuals (and others we never hear about) who now hold more wealth than the next billion folks on the planet. That group. The shadowy folks who fund the right-wing think tanks, Fox News, Breitbart, the Federalist Society, One America News, and so on.

This crew, folks like the Kochs, the Walton family, Betsy Devos and her brother Eric Prince of Darkness have been funneling money and buying influence for decades all in hopes of ultimately taking over everything. In their world, our only purpose is as replaceable wage slaves whose lives are devoted to making them ever wealthier.

The level of division in our country now and in many other countries, is a direct result of their influence played out over mainstream media, social media, and general propaganda channels. The more divided the populace is and the more divided government is, the less likely it is that the oligarchs will be encumbered by irritants like higher taxes, environmental regulations, strong unions, and strong governments. Make no mistake, we are at war with the 1-percent and they are winning in many places.

One of the big things to come out of the disaster that is/was the Trump presidency is the widespread recognition of the incredible racism that rules our country. And why did it finally come to such a head? Was it just Trump and his dog whistles and overtures to the Ku Klux Klan? Was it police violence against people of color?

Trump and his father before him were avowed racists. To have a racist in the Oval Office was a David Duke wet dream.

Now we see much more clearly just what our Black and brown neighbors have been dealing with for a couple of centuries and just how far we are from true equality. Folks, there’s a ton of work still left to do.

But keep in mind that the oligarchs are behind a lot of the racism in terms of funding and messaging. Again, it keeps us divided.

And let’s not forget the constant attacks on women and their rights by the Rapist in Chief and the right wing of our society led by rabid evangelicals and demagogues of all sorts. But the right-to-life folks (forced-birth people) have always been in it to control women, not save lives.

If they truly cared about lives, they’d do away with the death penalty, fund social programs, and come out strongly for gun control. Never happen. These are gun-toting, bloodthirsty misogynist bigots hiding behind the Bible and the flag.

And again, these folks are funded in large part by dark money funneled through fronts and fake charities directly from the coffers of the oligarchs. It’s just another way to keep the culture wars going and keep us divided.

Look at every divisive issue in our society and you will find wealthy people funding the divide to keep us from paying attention as they rape and pillage the planet. Bernie Sanders has been saying all this for the past 30-plus years and only recently have people picked up on it.

But for now, there is some light. Joe and Kamala are two real people with our interests first and foremost, and that gives me hope. But don’t kid yourselves, they are imperfect and their efforts will be compromised by our broken government. Moscow Mitch McConnell has already gone public saying he would not allow Joe to appoint just anyone to his cabinet and approve them if they’re too radically left for his tastes. Of course, Mitch may be on shaky ground if he loses the two contested Senate seats in Georgia.

It’s nice to look forward to four years during which it is unlikely our leaders will be a daily embarrassment on the world stage and a living menace to our rights and our democracy. I think Joe and Kamala will govern much like Obama did, with class, humility, professionalism, and a commitment to doing the right thing whenever possible.

Their opposition is secretive, well-funded, dug-in, and willing to break any laws or norms to stay on top. That is our fight now.

Never forget that the wealthy are typically apolitical, amoral, areligious, and sociopathic. They worship the twin gods of money and power and that’s it. But it also makes them vulnerable and obvious after a fashion and we’ve seen the naked depravity, greed, and violence they wielded in the past four years.

Let’s keep that in mind, folks. Your enemy isn’t the guy in the MAGA hat or the person with the Biden sign on the lawn. Your enemy is the guy who pays Moscow Mitch to load the courts with unqualified political hacks who will reliably rule against unions, women’s rights, the environment, clean air, clean water, equality and public education. The people who would clear-cut the Amazon rainforest for profit while we all choke on dirty air and the seas rise.

That’s public enemy number one and with Joe and Kamala on top, maybe, just maybe, we can get these folks where they live: tax them hard and regulate their criminal behavior. If they win, we all lose because our country and our planet are doomed.

Michael Seinberg is a columnist, social critic, and professional cynic. But he says he’s sharpening his word processor and making new protest signs as the fight is just getting interesting.

I saw a very interesting political cartoon recently. It showed two lines of people marching in opposite directions and each person was holding up a sign with a single word on it. The people in the line labeled GOP were holding signs that said “Me.” The people in the Democratic line were holding signs that said “Us.”

I’ve been rolling that over in my mind and then something else popped up. Back in the far distant past of 2016, someone I know who works in a very public-facing business described something he’d noticed. He said the people who came into his shop who supported Trump were all very selfish people, based on his observation of their behavior.

Fast forward to our current situation with 26 million people out of work, over 200,000 dead and growing due to the “fake” pandemic (anti-masking, hydroxychloroquine, injecting disinfectant), the West on fire, and the economy in a tizzy.

The Me crowd staged a Trump boat parade because, well, when the world is going to hell, why not? But, the folks in the big boats began revving things up, creating huge wakes and sinking their fellows in smaller boats. When they saw what they’d done, did they stop to help? Nope, they just went faster and left the mess to first responders who probably had better things to do that day than rescue idiots. This was according to eyewitness reports.

And now we have a bunch of Me senators who are hellbent on replacing a respected Supreme Court judge with a party hack and religious nutjob, before the judge’s body is even cold. Ironic in the extreme since Moscow Mitch said four years ago that it was the people’s choice and thus, they would not confirm Obama’s nomination to the court. Merrick Garland was a moderate and highly qualified judge, but since Obama’s term was nearing its end (the nomination was made in March), it was a no go.

Their zeal is driven by a desire to pack the court with conservatives who will rule in their favor on a variety of issues, including outlawing abortion, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act and keeping Trump in office no matter what the election results are. Basically, they are going to change the face of our country because of their own Me values. This, despite the fact that most Americans want women to have control of their own bodies, we all want free and fair elections, and the ACA has been mostly successful, albeit imperfect.

Since the start of the current administration, every move has been guided by jealousy, anger, self-interest, sadism (according to some psychologists), and greed. The GOP has gone along with all of it, every step of the way and basically sold any sort of moral standing along with their souls and of course a huge tax cut for the rich resulting in a record $4 trillion deficit.

This is the behavior of a group of angry, old white men who see their future, and they’ll do anything to maintain their control, even if it means destroying the country in the process. Look up the term Pyrrhic victory, for those of you who want to improve your vocabulary.

The basic truth of our current situation is that most Americans want competent government that represents their interests. They don’t mind reasonable taxes if they feel they’re getting something for them, like clean air, clean water, decent schools, a competent system of courts and cops, and overall fairness in the system.

We all want decent jobs, safe homes, and to be able to retire while we’re still young enough to enjoy it. I can’t think of too many people who want to work two to four badly paid jobs just to make ends meet while they get no benefits and the folks at the top just keep getting richer. News reports indicate that most billionaires have enjoyed record profits since the pandemic began.

This election is all about that. The folks at the top want to stay rich and will sit back and let Trump and his cronies do whatever they want as long as they’re left free to continue raping the planet and pillaging the economy. If we elect Democrats up and down the ticket, take back the state legislatures, the Senate and consolidate our gains in the House, then our country may yet survive and return to a better place.

I’m in no way suggesting that the Democrats are perfect or without fault, but they are far better than Tiny Hands Donnie and Moscow Mitch. They recognize climate change as real and that science should be our guide in dealing with a pandemic, not political whims. They also respect women far more, and are in favor of public education, not enriching the billionaires (like Betsy DeVos) behind substandard charter schools.

The current administration is being driven by a man in fear for his life and livelihood. He has already allowed thousands of Americans to die needlessly.

If he loses the election and actually leaves office willingly (he won’t) he will, in all likelihood, be indicted, convicted and jailed for the rest of his life for any number of crimes including tax fraud, obstruction of justice, treason, and aiding a foreign government as well as sexual assault and rape.

He is scared to death of ending up in jail and we’re watching the result. So how do you think he and his supporters are voting?

His answer is a wholehearted ME in cheap gold-plated neon. I vote for US. How about you?

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he is a lifelong cynic and registered Democrat but he’s not naïve and, if the Dems win, he says, we’ll be holding their feet to the fire to get what WE all need.

 

The one thing you can say about 2020 is that it’s been an unusual year in almost all ways. From a global pandemic to an impeachment trial and the most unusual and unprecedented presidential campaign in the history of this country.

But on a more mundane level, things have been odd too. For instance, discarded masks and gloves now litter the landscape instead of candy wrappers and beer cans. The garage-sales season, of all things, was impacted to such a degree that people have resorted to giving things away on an almost daily basis. It’s become the year of the freebie.

Starting in late March and early April, folks began to leave stuff at the curb with “free” signs. It ranged from single items to whole tables and piles of things. Clothes, toys, houseware, electronics, books, movies, bikes, you name it; and somebody was giving it away.

As serious garage-sale folks, my wife and I took a keen interest in this phenomenon. We have discussed it quite a bit and have theorized that the reason for all this sudden largesse was due to several factors.

The biggest issue was the fact that people were stuck at home for almost two months and so had more than enough time to notice how cluttered their homes were. That led to a gathering phase that left them feeling better with neater spaces but then left them with things that needed to find new homes.

With garage sales a non-starter until late April or May, when the governor approved them, folks began to take to social media to announce the availability of their unwanted stuff. Some, of course, was up for sale, but many things were free.

We found ourselves wandering the village and sometimes further afield and finding things for the house, the grand babies, the kids, family, and friends. And we’ve also dabbled ourselves, getting rid of bikes, a couch, magazines, books, DVDs, and other stuff I’ve already forgotten.

But here’s where it gets interesting. Once garage sales started up again, the freebies didn’t stop. In fact, we were at one garage sale where everything, but one pile of clothes, was totally free.

I think that many people have found that amid the Dumpster fire that is 2020, there have been many opportunities to help others. And, surprise, that makes most people feel pretty good.

While you can’t do much about being laid off, having to teach your kids from home, or having to work from home, you can make your space feel better. There’s nothing like that lightness you get from clearing up a previously cluttered space.

Then add to that, the pleasure you get giving your formerly useless stuff to someone who really can use it. It’s the ultimate win-win scenario.

Plus, just to add a bit of environmentalism, you’ve kept a bunch of stuff out of the waste stream. It also adds to the message that things do not create happiness, no matter what the marketers keep telling you. Ironically, owning fewer things seems to have that effect.

I have no idea where we’ll be at this point next year. Neither does anyone else except maybe the space aliens who are orbiting in stealth mode and watching us flail around like it’s a weekly sitcom.

By this time next year, we may have a new president, a COVID vaccine, and an overall improvement in the basic situation we all find ourselves in. Or not.

But whatever happens, 2020 can be thought of as the year of the freebie. Not just the year of COVID, or the collapse of the world economy, or the end of democracy in the United States, or the death of the restaurant.

I hope 2021 is better than 2020 in all ways. And if the freebies continue, that would be really cool too. Less is more, folks.
 

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he and his wife have been avid garage-sale goers, beachcombers, and users of found objects for decades; it’ll take more than a pandemic to stop that.

Have you heard this refrain recently? People complaining that no matter what subject they bring up, it gets political? Is that an exaggeration? Or have things gotten very political while we were all busy trying to stay healthy amid an unmanaged global pandemic?

See there? I got political. I called the COVID-19 pandemic unmanaged.

Certain people out there of a certain political bent would suggest that I was taking a shot at the current administration’s murderous efforts to manage a virus by lying about it, hiding statistics, holding equipment and money hostage, profiting illegally, and just generally doing a Keystone Cops level job of managing a public health crisis. But I have no strong feelings on that.

Meanwhile, other first-world nations have gotten things quickly under control by actually following the advice of experts, infectious-disease specialists, and practicing common courtesy. They do this by masking up, keeping their distance, and not throwing public hissy fits when someone suggests they wear a mask to help their fellow Earth people.

In mostly sane countries, wearing a mask is not political. Only here, in ’Murica has it been made political by a person who is happy for thousands to die as long as he keeps his job. And that, folks, is why everything has gotten political. The people currently in power will do anything to keep that power and so they have taken common-sense issues and made them political.

We’re told we need to cut public spending on food stamps, unemployment, Medicare, and Social Security because we’ve run up a huge budget deficit. Of course the deficit was hugely inflated due to a world record trillion-dollar giveaway to corporations and billionaires. So now the social safety net has become ever more politicized.

Education should be a pretty simple issue. People would like their children to receive a decent education at their local public schools. Right?

Well no. You see, rich folks like education secretary Betsy DeVos (who never attended a public school in her life) have a vested financial interest in private schools, charter schools, and defunding public education.

Right-wing ideologues want diminished public education because an educated populace is hard to control and harder to lie to. And of course, the religious right hates public education due to wavering but still mildly intact separation of church and state that prohibits religious education in public schools.

OK, so how about health care? Should be a no-brainer, right? All Americans want access to decent health care, at a reasonable price, and yet we pay more per capita than any other western nation and get far less.

Why? Money and politics.

Highly paid lobbyists have bought most members of Congress who now routinely pass or block legislation that only works for big pharma, health maintenance organizations, doctors, hospitals, and so on. We pay too much for medication because big pharma would lose profits if prices were controlled by the federal government as they are in most other nations.

And, while we can easily afford a military budget that dwarfs the next six countries put together, the idea of universal health care is fought by the GOP and big money with the same level of hatred and vengeance they once unleashed on the Nazis in World War II (the United States was the original antifa).

Hmm, we’re running out of issues. How about Social Security?

You pay in during your working life and then you get a steady, albeit small payback after you retire and until you die. Seems simple. But no, the GOP wants to do away with it, and hand it over to their buddies on Wall Street to “manage.”

Then they can plunder the remainder of the fund and line their pockets. This is why they keep lumping Social Security in with Medicare; Medicaid; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the Home Energy Assistance Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children; and other social programs funded by the government through our taxes.

They keep calling Social Security an entitlement when that’s an utter lie. An entitlement is not something you pay into your entire working life.

So when you get down to it, everything has become political because the folks holding power have no interest in helping the people they were elected to represent. Thanks to the Citizens United decision by the U. S. Supreme Court, unending amounts of dark money now flow into political coffers from shadowy places, and the pols who are being paid do as they’re told.

Our government is truly for sale to the highest bidder and the wealthy and powerful one-percenters who pull all these strings like it this way. They want us squabbling amongst ourselves, blaming anyone and everyone for our troubles while they sit back on their yachts and in their mansions and laugh at us.

The last time they got really nervous was during the Occupy Wall Street period back around 2008. People were really starting to pick up the message that our real and true enemy was the one percent and support was growing fast.

So what did they do? They started a media campaign, got the FBI to infiltrate the movement, treated it like a terrorist organization, and broke it up. And the proud sheeple of the U.S. just baahed and accepted it as dished out by the mainstream media.

I could go on and on, but the real issue is very clear. Things are political because we are being used, manipulated, lied to and killed off so a small group of people can hold onto power. It’s not a new story and has taken place over and over again down through history.

The real question now is what we’re going to do about it. Argue on Facebook or take to the streets and take our country back. Your choice.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he has been to more protests in the past three-and-a-half years than in the previous 50. He and his wife are not planning on stopping anytime soon, he says, unless of course they’re grabbed off the street by federal stormtroopers in unmarked uniforms.

My wife and I had to go out the other day to pick up a couple of things. Nothing crazy, mind you, just groceries. We donned our masks, made sure we had a wallet, our phones, and car keys, and headed into the store. 

Right off, stores are less crowded on most days than they once were. Most of the folks I saw were doing the distancing thing to the best of their abilities and all were masked and some gloved. It was like a congregation of surgeons on the way to the O.R., but the spousal unit called in a shopping list.

We used to find shopping a very relaxing experience, but now we find it tense and disturbing. You now think about every surface and item you touch as a possible disease vector, though the experts are suggesting that’s less of a worry than they first thought. You would use a public bathroom these days, but only in an emergency. Shopping carts should have the handle wiped down before touching. Items on shelves are still a little suspect no matter how clean and shiny they look.

Dealing with people is now more fraught too. With everyone having their faces covered, it’s hard to know who and what you’re dealing with in terms of emotional states. In the old, pre-pandemic days, you could always tell if someone was having a rough day and either avoid them or try to help, depending on how crazed they looked.

Now everyone looks sad, scared, and furtive. We dodge around one another like kids playing Marco Polo in a dark room.

We try to be extra courteous since we’re all in this wonderful Dumpster fire together and yet you still see human nature’s darker side winning out at times. People can be short, angry, and touchy for no discernable reason.

Some folks look very scared, especially older folks. The young can be silly and arrogant as if none of this applies to them. And the kids all look a little shell-shocked and wary. The only ones who seem oblivious are babies, who just seem to float on through being babies.

I feel for the folks who are working in stores these days. My wife and I have always been very courteous to people in stores because we’re polite people. We try very hard to respect everyone no matter what job they hold.

Well, that’s not totally true. I have little or no respect for politicians, bureaucrats, wealthy people, trial lawyers (the type that sue for a living), stockbrokers, and bankers. But I digress.

When I do speak to folks who work in stores, I always try very hard to be pleasant and polite. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to go to work every day for minimum or barely-above-minimum wage, little or no benefits, and no sick pay or leave. And yet they do it because they have to, in order to pay the rent and feed their families.

When this is all over, I truly hope these folks unionize and can force their greedy masters to treat them with respect, pay them fairly, and give them the benefits that all working people deserve. After all, if we’re giving a piece of human waste like Mitch McConnell a six-figure salary, a lifetime pension, top quality health benefits, and endless perks and sick days, then people who do real work deserve exactly the same.

But back to shopping. I find wearing masks very difficult as I find it hard to breathe in them. It makes me even more tense and, when I finally get back to the car, I can’t wait to pull it off and breathe again. The gloves, when I do wear them, don’t really bother me as I’ve used them for years in my work as a bicycle mechanic and jeweler.

Certain very dirty jobs are really done better with gloves and so we always keep a box around. When we load up the car, return our cart and get ready to drive away, there’s the ritual removal of the gloves in the prescribed fashion and then the quick spritz of hand cleaner before firing up the car and heading home.

When we get home, unload the groceries, put them all away, plug in the car to charge, and re-stash the shopping bags back in the car for the next trip, it’s time for a final hand wash. We don’t wash the groceries since the experts we tend to listen to have deemed it unnecessary unless you have special circumstances.

Then we can finally sit down and take a deep breath. We have ventured out into the infected world, taken precautions to protect ourselves and others, and made it back, hopefully still healthy.

I know this won’t last forever. Testing will ramp up to what we truly need, contact tracking will go into practice, and better treatments and ultimately a vaccine will emerge. We will make it through this, but the world really won’t ever be the same.

I hope someday shopping becomes relaxing again for us and I hope the folks in the stores can get what they need too. I want us to emerge from this mess better people living in a better world. That would be nice.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he and his wife used to consider shopping a date-night type thing; they hope to get back to that some day.

In the long-ago year of 2012, I wrote a column called The Altamont Wave. In it, I noted that, here in Altamont, we tend to wave to one another because we’re a real community and it’s good to acknowledge one another.

I further added that, if more people out in the world waved and recognized one another as people, it would make for a better world. Well, here we are in the year 2020 and things have changed quite a bit.

We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. The country is being led by a mentally ill criminal. Our allies are laughing at our government’s failing efforts and people are literally dying every day of the week.

So, what does this have to do with waving? More than you think.

When lockdowns and quarantines began in other parts of the world, people quickly realized how much they missed and needed their neighbors, friends, and families. In Italy, folks began to play instruments, sing, and talk every day from their balconies.

In New York City, folks gather every day at a certain hour to applaud and cheer for first responders and front-line folks still working to keep us safe and keep the country functioning. And here in Altamont, we still wave but now, it’s progressed to a check-in.

On certain streets, folks come out at 5 p.m. every day, beat drums, sound gongs, and connect with neighbors. They talk, laugh, share news, and just let each other know that life, despite the insanity of our situation, does go on, all from six feet away, of course.

One of the things I’ve noticed most is that we’re all getting to know one another better. We’re asking one another how it’s going and actually listening to the answer.

People are taking being neighbors to a new level and actually exchanging names, email, and phone numbers, just in case. People are helping each other through this and that’s what, ultimately, being part of a community is really about.

We’ve gone from waving and acknowledging one another to actually having conversations and checking to see how we’re all doing. I’ve seen folks giving things out, sharing recipes, making and giving away masks, and offering tips on where to find things.

We’re very lucky as we live in a quiet little corner of the state with a low population density and a relatively low incidence of cases. We’re not immune, by any means, but our chances are far better than those who live in cities.

We’re also, largely, a community of reasonably intelligent, educated people who take the news in and try and act in a responsible manner. One of the things our governor keeps trying to get across is that human life is the sacred thing, not profit and business.

We live in a blue state and, except for red patches, New York is a pretty forward-thinking place. We wear our masks and keep our distance to help one another, not due to a government conspiracy. We listen to Dr. Fauci and the CDC, not Trump and McConnell who are far more interested in killing people to stay in power.

Here in little old Altamont, there has always been a sense of community and a fair bit of involvement. The current situation has, for the most part, brought that out in a wonderful way.

I really like taking the grandbabies for a walk nowadays. People wave, smile at the little drool monsters, and ask how they’re doing. You know how seeing a cute puppy makes a lot of people kind of go gooey? Well, seeing the twins has the same effect on many folks and our other little ones, who are a bit older, are equally pleasant company.

This is what being part of a village is all about. You come here, have kids, raise them, and then they have kids and we all help raise them. It does, indeed, take a village.

Now, during a global pandemic, the life we create in our village means far more day-to-day, than what some nutjob in Washington says. I can rely on my neighbors to be there if something goes wrong. And they can count on me to help as best I can. You can’t say that about politicians, bureaucrats, and cronies who care only about holding onto power and lying to do it.

Altamont will survive as will, hopefully, most of us. I think it will always be a good place to live because people who live here want to be part of a community. And that spirit is what we are now seeing, perhaps more than we have in a long time. It’s what will keep us sane and healthy until things get better.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has lived in Altamont for about 28 years, his wife, for 60 years. They’re not moving.

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