Recently there was a ceremony for Paul Ryan, the ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, as his portrait was unveiled in Congress. Ryan touted his leadership in passing what he labeled his “white whale”—the 2017 Republican tax cut. Kevin McCarthy spoke and said, incredibly, that he had only wished more people had listened to Ryan’s concern about the national debt. Of course, that debt soared when Ryan was Speaker and Republicans controlled not only both Houses of Congress but also the Presidency. Part of the reason was that tax cut. Ahab’s white whale took his leg. Ryan’s white whale, tax “reform” that helped the really rich become even richer, ate up revenue and regurgitated a bigger debt. But, even so, some will praise him because he mouthed concerns about the debt. Of course, his plan was to abolish social security as we know it and to defund or slash programs for those who are not even a little bit rich.

Ryan concluded with stirring words: “Only in America would it be possible for a kid from Janesville to go from an intern to the Speaker of the House.” And I wondered how many countries have a Janesville. And how many have a Speaker of the House.

His Only-in-America speech, however, does not apply to everyone. Ryan did not mention that his path was aided by being born into a prominent, wealthy Wisconsin family.

Am I the only one who sees a strong resemblance between Hunter Biden and Aaron Rodgers?

After an extensive scientific survey on my walk to the greenmarket, I have concluded that a couple holding hands in my diverse neighborhood most likely consists of two white women.

Conservatives proclaim that there are only two sexes. Shouldn’t they say that a married male and female is a bisexual couple?

Heterosexuality is defined as attraction to the “opposite” sex. Are male and female really opposite to each other? Help me list all the ways men and women are alike and are different. Which list is longer?

On your “different” list did you say that men can walk by a shoe store without stopping to examine what is in the window?

New York City is planning to charge drivers for entering parts of Manhattan. A headline said, “Congestion Pricing May Give Break to Poor Drivers.” And I wondered why good drivers should have to pay more.

Walking the sidewalk cluttered with strollers and dogs in front of the greenmarket vendors, I heard a young couple behind me. She: “Maybe we could get a dog that you could take care of.” Long pause. He: “I was sort of thinking about that.” Another long pause. He: “But I thought we should be simplifying.” She: “When would a dog be simplifying?” I stopped to buy ramps, and the pair walked on.

The spouse, the NBP, and I were discussing the plight of our neighbors, a married couple. He has dementia, and she, after much anguish, placed him in a memory care facility. Things were fine for a while, but he became violent, had to be restrained, moved to a hospital, and sedated. This has been taking a heavy toll on his wife. I said that if such dementia ever happened to me, they should find a way to kill me. I said that I knew that this would be hard but that is what they should do. The NBP’s face was blank. The spouse looked thoughtful and then said, “That might not be so hard.”


People refer to a gay or homosexual lifestyle and say we must prevent schoolkids from being groomed for it. I wonder if they also think there is a straight or heterosexual lifestyle that schoolkids are groomed for. And I wonder, is there more gay sex or heterosexual sex between students and teachers?

Concessions were made so that Kevin McCarthy could become Speaker of the House of Representatives. I have not followed this closely, but I know that many of the Kevin cave-ins have been derided and are now fodder for comedians. However, I heard that one of the demands is that Representatives have at least three days to review legislation such as the omnibus budget bill. Isn’t that a good thing?

Some Republicans who claim they want less government spending have said that the defense budget should be examined. I was surprised because I associate Republicans with assertion that our military is weak and is underfunded. Perhaps, however, this is a time for the now seldom-seen bipartisanship. I would think the wing of the Democratic party labeled “progressive” might want lesser defense spending. Shouldn’t they approach Jim Jordan on this project?

The defense budget of the United States is the largest in the world. In fact, it is larger than the defense budgets of the next nine most prolific spenders. But still, according to most in Congress, we should increase our military budget.

Before Kevin McCarthy had groveled sufficiently to get the speakership, Representative Byron Donalds received enough votes to prevent McCarthy’s needed majority. I had never heard of Donalds. My three minutes of online research discovered that he was elected to Congress in 2020 and was reelected in 2022. I guess to some, that two years was enough congressional experience to qualify as Speaker. I assumed, however, that those voting for him did not believe he would win the speakership and were merely grandstanding. However, I thought it would have been amusing if all the Democrats had voted for Donalds and got him elected.

An online source said that Donalds was arrested for marijuana distribution when a teenager, but that those charges were dropped as part of a pre-trial diversion program. This did not seem out of the ordinary, but a source also said that a few years later he had pleaded no contest (which is a conviction) to a felony bribery charge “as part of a scheme to defraud a bank. His record was later sealed and expunged.” This struck me as more out of the ordinary, and I would have liked to learn more about that scheme, plea, and expungement.

However, I was most interested in his initial election to the House. His district is considered a safe one for Republicans so the most important election is the Republican primary. In 2020, in that primary, he was one of eight or nine candidates. He won the Republican nomination with 22.6% of the votes, which was 770 votes more, or O.7% more than his nearest competitor. The average House district has a population of over 700,000 people. Donalds got fewer than 24,000 votes in the election that essentially made him a congressman, the 2020 Republican primary. Ah, American representative democracy is great, or so I have heard.

“It’s as tall as the Empire State Building.” “It’s as big as a football field.” These are familiar phrases for describing something large, but in a Florida parking lot a man used a phrase to describe a capacity I had not heard before. He was pointing to the space in an SUV and told two other men, “There is enough space in there for three dead people.”

Governance Meltdown Brought by You Know Who

On that first day when there were three separate votes for Speaker of the House (who knew that C-SPAN could offer such riveting watching?), a Representative usually identified as one of the ultra-MAGA people but who had voted for Kevin McCarthy said, “Every hour we spend on electing the Speaker is an hour we are not working on policy.” She said that without a smile or even a hint of irony.

I heard her and others talk about “open borders,” which sometimes morphed into “Biden’s open borders.” When referring to his borders, I don’t think they mean the president’s personal space, or his skin, or his boundaries on blasphemy, all of which might refer to his borders. I think they mean this country’s borders, but I don’t think they mean the Northland or the mid-Atlantic seacoast. Neither did I hear a mention of why Jair Bolsonaro could freely fly to Miami when other Latin Americans were futilely knocking on doors at the Mexican border. (Whenever I hear the name of the former president of Brazil, I hear Richard Kiley singing that earworm song from Man of La Mancha.)

Sometimes the rhetoric says that we must “secure our border” as if that were a statement of policy. But a “policy” would need to identify what steps should be taken to reach that goal. And, of course, a meaningful policy discussion would include how much it would cost and where the money would come from, since those who want a “secure border” also insist we must have a balanced budget. This is also said without a trace of irony or a mention of the budget deficits that occurred when conservatives controlled all government branches. Policies for a “secure” border, however, need to go beyond walls and agents. The discussion must include who should be able to visit this country and under what circumstances; who should be able to study here; who should be allowed to work here; who should be allowed to take up residence in the United States; and who should be allowed citizenship. As far as I can tell, that ultra-MAGA Representative who now bemoans taking time away from policy discussions has not meaningfully discussed any of these policy imperatives.

Of course, there as so many other policies that should be discussed. We need, for example, a better healthcare system so that American life expectancies might someday exceed those in Cuba. (You can look it up.) We need to examine our policies on business competition. We need to consider bringing good broadband service to many parts of this country. And so much more. Somehow I don’t believe that ultra-MAGA Representative will be working sensibly on any of these policies. 

I certainly don’t imagine that Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be leading such policy discussions. As far as I can tell, the “policy” he is most associated with is, “Let’s hold another Benghazi hearing.”

I thought that I might be being unfair, so I went to Fox News that evening looking to hear from the conservative policy gurus. I could only last a few minutes with Tucker who was giving time to a person who has been repeatedly called a disinformation master. (Whenever I watch Carlson, I hear Shirley Ellis singing that earworm song, The Name Game.) The Disinformation Master was saying that we couldn’t rule out the possibility that the NFL player’s cardiac arrest had something to do with the vaccine we don’t know that he took. (And, I thought, we can’t rule out that the cardiac arrest resulted from his visiting the polar bear exhibition at his local zoo when he was eight.)

A little later I checked in with Hannity. His earth-shattering policy discussion was to tell us that, according to him, there was irrefutable proof that President Biden knew that China had given gifts to his relatives. I did not say tuned to find out why it would be democracy-shaking news that gift-givers were known. Nor did I wait (it would have been quite a long wait) to hear that Trump also knew who was heaping “emoluments” on Trump’s hotels before and during his term in office.

Apparently, this passes for working on policy. Alas.

“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.” Benjamin Disraeli.


That blue and red produce purple makes sense. That orange comes from yellow and red also seems right. But that green results from mixing blue and yellow always strikes me as an unintuitive miracle.

Why is it that sushi tastes better when eaten with chopsticks than when consumed with fork or fingers?

I never learned a musical instrument. Sometimes I regret that. If I were going to learn one now, I would choose the bagpipes. Listeners can’t tell if it is played well, if notes are missed, or even if it is close to the supposed tune.

A friend told me that he had just talked to his son who had settled in Australia. The son was pleased with his new Sydney apartment, but he told his father that his neighbors were weird. At nine every evening, the attractive, young woman in the next flat started moaning, “Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no.” The distinguished, elderly gentleman on the other side of the son’s apartment sounded at that time as if he were pounding his head against the wall. The father asked, “What do you do?” The son responded, “I just ignore it and go back to practicing the bagpipes.”

Conservatives in many states have been passing a wide range of election “security” measures including requirements that voters show an identification to cast an in-person ballot. They do this even though instances of voter identity fraud have been shown to be rarer than rare. However, even though fraud problems have been few, showing an identification to vote has intuitive appeal, and polls have shown that voter ID laws are popular among the populace. Those concerned that the real goal of the legislators passing such laws is voter suppression should not spend capital opposing the laws. Instead, they should agree that the legislation could be a good thing as long as acceptable identification documents can be obtained easily and efficiently by all voters. Many forms of government identifications should qualify, such as public housing IDs as well as Medicare and Medicaid cards. (Why would I give you my Medicare card so that you could vote in my name? The card is precious, and normally I would use it myself to vote. What is the likelihood that such cards would be widely forged with fake names, and then people would register under those fake names, and then would vote under those fake names?) In addition, advocate for making it easier to get government IDs. Couldn’t we have mobile DMV offices traversing all parts of the state for the purpose of obtaining identification cards. In addition, college identification, employer identification, health insurance cards should all allow access to the voting booth. Those fervent for voter ID laws often express distrust of the government, and they should agree not to restrict the necessary identification documents to government ones. If you are concerned that voter identification laws will lower the number of voters but you know that the bills are going to pass anyway, support the proposals but advocate for a broad range of appropriate identification methods and find ways to make them easier to get.

“In that moment, silently, we agreed that we were indeed in the presence of an exceptionally delusional white man—which is of course one of the most dangerous things in the world.” Mat Jonson, Pym.

You can’t make some stuff up. Representative Kevin McCarthy who opposes a January 6 commission was a prime mover behind the 432 (or so it seemed) Benghazi hearings.