I recently had a rather eye-opening conversation with a cicada. His name was Terrence. He had more than a bit to say about the world and how we humans are not necessarily doing a great job. So, here’s how this happened.

I was walking up our driveway and looked down to see a very large distinctive bug sitting quietly in the sun. I bent down to look closer, and I recognized it as a cicada.

“Well, hi there,” I said.

You must understand that I do tend to greet most living things I come across. It just seems like the polite thing to do.

Anyway, much to my surprise, I heard a small, but rather British sounding voice say, “Hello.”

Not what I was expecting.

“Um, I had no idea you guys could talk,” I said. “I thought it was all high-pitched buzzing and stuff.”

“Well, we tend to try and respond when spoken too; it seems the polite thing to do. I’m Terrence, by the way, and my family has been here in Altamont for the past 20 generations,” he said, crossing his rear legs and relaxing in my shadow.

I did a little quick math based on the cicada’s 17-year life cycle and discovered he and his kin had been here for 340 years. When I said that he just yawned and nodded.

“So, you’re brood X? You guys were supposed to inundate the East Coast this year and you’re the first one I’ve seen. What’s up with that?” I asked.

“Our PR department kind of jumped to gun with the publicity before they got our advanced report,” he said, sounding a touch defensive. “Once we reported back, the brood decided to come out just enough to breed and then head back down.

“That’s our job; we check in periodically to see how you people are doing and then report back to the natural world. Frankly, we’re not too impressed, especially for the past four generations,” he sniffed.

“Um, where were you before Altamont?” I asked, knowing that cicadas dated back thousands of years, if not millions.

“Oh, New Jersey. Even back then, the place was kind of squidgy, so Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandma moved our brood up here and we’ve been here ever since. At first, it was just the Native Americans, and they took very good care of the place and then white folks sailed in and early on they were pretty decent, too, but boy, once the Industrial Revolution hit, you really screwed the pooch,” he said.

“Uh, yeah, I did read about that in history class,” I mumbled.

“Well, that was just the beginning. Mechanized farming, mass hunting, mass transit, widespread pollution, and good lord, what you people did to MTV was just a crime. And social media, what on earth were you thinking? All this technology and you idiots can’t even handle a simple worldwide pandemic. Do you know the dinosaurs handled that meteor more gracefully?”

“Well, there certainly have been some missteps,” I agreed.

“Missteps? Last month we read in The Enterprise about that school board meeting where crazy parents were threatening board members over masks in school.”

“Wait, you read the local newspaper?” I asked, rather surprised.

“We monitor various media outlets. The Enterprise does a rather nice job on local news and, since we’re based in Altamont ,that’s a bit of a no-brainer. But that story rather upset me and the rest of the brood.

“How can a supposedly intelligent species take a public-health threat and turn it into a political fiasco? We expect that sort of behavior in Texas or Alabama or Berne, but in Guilderland? You people are in a blue state, in a blue county, have quite a good educational system and yet you threaten elected officials for trying their best to protect your children?”

Terrence looked distinctly peeved.

“Hey, listen I agree with you. This whole COVID thing has been largely weaponized by the right since day one,” I tried to say before he cut me off.

“Right, left, Russian trolls, it really doesn’t matter. You people need to step back and use the common sense the Goddess gave you.

“If your race is challenged by a simple virus, and you have the means to eradicate it through vaccinations, social distancing, masking, and common sense, why, for the sake of all that’s holy, don’t you just shut up, step up and get the thing done? You beat polio, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, and even beat back Carrot Top before he could get any real media traction and yet here you have totally blown it.”

“Well, in New York we’re doing pretty well,” I countered.

“You were doing pretty well. Then the anti-vaxxers rallied and you stopped at about 60 or 70 percent vax rates. You morons should be at or near 100 percent and now states are having to offer bribes to get people to get a simple shot.

“They whine that they don’t know what’s in the shot, but the same idiots will march into McDonald’s and swallow anything they’re handed, or chow down on a hot dog? Do you have any idea what’s in those things?”

“So, we’re not the sharpest tools in the shed,” I admitted. “But what do you propose we do with your centuries of observation?”

“Be smart, be kind, and do the right thing. It’s really quite simple. If you can’t figure that out, you won’t be here for a whole lot longer. If COVID doesn’t slowly wipe you out then climate change will. Either that or you’ll all just march off a cliff while staring at your stupid cell phones.”

“Do you think we’ll be able to save ourselves?”

“Look, I’m not a fortune teller. But if you have the technology to send a jerk like Jeff Bezos into space riding in a giant penis-shaped missile, you may have some hope. Like I said, be kind to one another. Your neighbors aren’t the enemy, the wealthy and the mass media are the real evil on the planet. That and basic human selfishness.”

And with that, Terrence flew off to who knows where.

I hope he’s right and we have a chance to fix things. I, for one, am tuning out of the news more than I ever have and am also trying very hard to be a kind person each day. I got my shots, and continue to wear my mask when necessary.

And now I’m off to try and help keep my grandchildren from killing themselves through sheer toddler exuberance. Those little people are the real future.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he spends most days fixing bikes, writing, chasing tiny people, reading, and mowing the lawn; it’s been that kind of season.

Do you ever play that mental game when you buy a lottery ticket? What would you do if you actually won?

It’s a fun game, and probably the leading reason why people buy lottery tickets despite the astronomical odds against winning. They even used to use a tagline that read, “All you need is a dollar and a dream.” But what about playing that game with stakes that are closer to home and easier to realize?

What if you were elected mayor of Altamont? Now there’s an interesting game.

The reason I mention it is because several people have suggested, over the almost 30 years I’ve lived here, that I should run for mayor. It’s very flattering, but the truth is, I know myself well enough to know that I would be terrible at the job.

I hate attending meetings of any sort, especially ones that last more than 10 minutes. I’m not the most diplomatic of folks, as I tend to speak my mind with few if any filters. I consider being dressed up wearing a clean T-shirt. I’m not into public speaking and mostly, I loathe politics and politicians.

Having said all that, if, in some strange universe, I did get the job, I do have some ideas on how to make our little village a better place to live for all of us.

At the top of my list would be to suspend all new housing development in and around the village. When I first moved here, they were just building Kushaqua Estates and people were mad. Then came Brandle Meadows, which then-Mayor Ken Runion assured me would never be that big and it ended up with 80 units.

Then along came the 10 McMansions along Bozenkill that were originally supposed to be on land that was forever wild, but ended up getting sold somehow or other. Now I hear rumors of another 13-acre parcel that is going to be developed and I see ground being broken on Schoharie Plank for yet another new house.

I don’t get it. We live in Altamont because it’s a village, not another endless Guilderland suburb.

We have a real community here, and one of the things that keeps us special is the green space that surrounds the village.

If certain developers just keep on being allowed to throw up houses on any open plot of land, even if it falls within zoning rules, then we’re not going to be a village for much longer.

I have a sneaky suspicion that even the fairgrounds is on some land-grab wish list with plans for a condo community called Fairgrounds Estates. And don’t tell me how we need a bigger tax base. Every new development costs us more to hook up and service than it ever pays in taxes.

Next, I would hold a public referendum on the Altamont Police Department. Over the years, I’ve noticed a trend wherein younger people don’t see a need for the APD and older, more conservative or frightened people want to keep it.

Ask many of the teenage and 20-something citizens here and you’ll find a pretty consistent antipathy. For a department that costs $185,800 per year but generates around $20,000 in fines, the math is less than ideal.

That’s not to take anything away from the hard work and dedication of the fine men and women of the APD. But the question remains: Why does a village of 1,700 people need its own police force when larger places like Voorheesville don’t?

Guilderland, with a population of 35,000, needs a police force, though it appears much of its energy goes into looking after Crossgates Mall. My feeling is to put that question to the public and let the chips fall where they may.

Next on my agenda would be to do far more for the teenage residents of our fair village. Altamont has always been a great place to raise a family. That is, until your children reach the age of 13.

Then, you’re expected to find something useful for them to do, and very little exists in the village itself.

The playgrounds are mostly aimed at small children. The Bozenkill park has one tennis court, one basketball court, a couple of empty fields, a pool that’s open roughly two months per year, and some hiking trails that need some love and attention due to having been washed out repeatedly. The fairgrounds are fun to walk on but most teens are now routinely accused of vandalism as soon as they show up, even though only a small number are actually responsible for the damage.

Altamont needs to offer a few more options for teens, including a police department that doesn’t routinely harass them (this has almost led to several lawsuits over the years). Perhaps improve and update the Bozenkill trails to encourage some MTB or BMX riding. Add a skateboard park to part of the park (liability is not an issue, despite what public officials say).

Follow the example of the Altamont Free Library, which has done a great job with teen-centric programming. And finally, just encourage teens to come out into the daylight and away from their screens.

Another issue that has been covered in the news pages of The Enterprise is the rather high (astronomical) amounts residents pay for sewer and water services compared to what residents in the town of Guilderland pay. Now, yes, having a base of 35,000 residents versus around 1,700 means that each home has to shoulder a much higher percentage of the costs.

But if the APD were dissolved via public referendum, then we’d have almost $200,000 per year to pour into the debt load on our aging water plant. We could also look into some sort of debt restructuring and explore the possibility of grants from the federal or state governments that could aid a small village like ours.

I claim no expertise in this area but, when you see the sort of pork barrel money that some pols seem quite good at getting, you’d think our elected officials might be able to step in and help us beyond just showing up for ribbon-cuttings and photo ops.

And my final thought would be a 20-percent raise for the hardworking folks at the Altamont Public Works Department. Larry and his crew work year-round to keep our little village looking clean, trimmed, plowed, updated, and beautiful, and I think they deserve to be compensated.

I am always amazed at the depth and breadth of what they manage to accomplish year after year: from dealing with backed-up sewer pipes, plowing the sidewalks, and picking up lawn waste and leaves. These are the sorts of public employees I am very proud to support, and I think we should reward their efforts.

Well, that’s it. Please don’t ever vote for me (no write-ins either). But maybe think about what I’ve said when the next election comes up. Maybe it’s time for a new vision that doesn’t begin and end with more building, more politics, and most of all, maintenance of a status quo that doesn’t work for many people.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he is a registered Democrat leaning towards anarchist Buddhism; he hopes to never hold public office but to be a problem for those who do.

I noticed a short but amusing discussion the other day on the Altamont Facebook page. It seems somebody was flying a drone around the village and some folks got a bit flustered about the possible invasion of privacy from above.

I guess our local nude backyard sunbathers, recently legal pot growers, or maybe just the normal folks burying the odd body in the backyard got a little paranoid. Understandable I suppose.

But step back a moment and think about your privacy in our little village of 1,700 people. What really poses a threat to you? A random drone that some kid was noodling around with, that may not even have had a camera? Or maybe you should look a little more carefully.

For instance, what about the fact that almost every person in this village is carrying a cell phone that is camera equipped, and can be tracked by law enforcement or commercial interests with access to cell location data?

What about the comically common home-security cameras that everyone is throwing up on their houses to protect against the hordes of porch pirates, roving gangs, wild bands of feral teenagers, and packs of dangerous free-range Chihuahuas? Those cameras are Wi-Fi based and feed into corporate data banks that can be hacked or tapped by law-enforcement or government agents if they so choose.

How about the built-in cameras on your laptops?

How about the video security systems that consist of six to 12 cameras linked to a central recording unit that you can pick up at BJs for a few hundred dollars? Folks can point those cameras anywhere they like, and you’ll never know it. That footage can be easily downloaded and shared, uploaded to the web, or turned into a TikTok if one is so inclined.

Beyond the home-based technical spying that’s going on every hour of every day, what about the professionals in our midst?

As we all know, our little village is probably the most policed area in the Capital Region. At any given moment, we have the fine officers of the Altamont Police Department cruising about, the folks from the Guilderland Police Department backing them up, the New York State Troopers making a regular foray through, and even officers of the Department of Environmental Conservation stopping by when the friendly deputies from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office aren’t having a look-see.

That’s a lot of police presence for 1,700 people. And they’re all trained observers, taking notes.

Keep in mind that those patrol units, in some cases, also sport license-plate scanners that, if they’re turned on, record every plate they pass by. So, you have law enforcement knowing the location of your car anytime it’s out in public.

Granted, it really doesn’t matter for most people who take care of their cars, keep up on inspections, have current registrations and licenses. But still, do you really want to be tracked that often? What if you just happen to have a body in the trunk or are smuggling arms on an international basis?

But you know the worst spies of all? They’re hidden in your phones, computers, and digital speakers.

The tech bros behind Amazon, Facebook, and other social-media companies literally spy on every post you make or read, every request you voice, every search, and every order you place. Facebook in particular, is a data-mining company, not a communications company.

Facebook exists to collect every shred of our lives and then sell that data to the highest bidder so we can be targeted by marketers and advertisers. Hackers keep a close eye on Facebook too, seeing it as a wonderful source of personal information that’s very useful for cracking passwords and in creating phishing scams.

Privacy in our modern world is pretty much under assault from all sides, and we’re not helping by buying ever more cameras and entering endless data into the great wild west that is the Internet. If you really want to remain anonymous, skip the cell phone, toss the security cameras, log off the Internet, and get ahold of one of those Harry Potter invisibility cloaks. Oh yes, don’t own or drive a car either; stick to public transport (paid in cash) or a bicycle.

Too extreme? For most folks, that probably is.

The basic truth is that, to be a functional part of modern society in this country currently, is to give up a certain amount of privacy. How much you give up is entirely up to you.

But I wouldn’t worry about the odd drone buzzing overhead. Unless of course, it’s a Predator carrying several Hellfire missiles, like the ones we have flying over various world hotspots as you sit and read this.
 

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg notes he is a very big fan of privacy and works to guard it where it makes sense; he owns no drones.

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.

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