Friday, May 27, 2016


It is really a funny thing to be a human being. We embody what is called the “human condition” but we’re at a loss, usually, to explain what that is. What does it mean to have thoughts, to have emotions, to have senses, to have ‘intimations of immortality’ as Wordsworth titled one of his poems, and how do these things fit together? What is the logic or power that creates us, moves us, drives us, sustains us? We don’t really know. We have lots of sciences and social sciences that give us schemes for how the universe works, how life works, how our own life works, how our psyches work, how our brains work, but most of it seems to be temporary guesswork—pretty impressive guesswork at times, to be sure—but in the end doesn’t really tell us what we want to know. That’s because what we actually want to know comes down to the really simple questions that science doesn’t answer very well. Why are we here? How did we get here, really? What happens to here when we are no longer here? Does it matter? Does it even matter what we do while we are here? And is this the only ‘here’ in the vastness of space and time? Are we the only beings contemplating these questions? And are these questions worth a damn in the first place? Garrison Keillor refers humorously to his detective character Guy Noir as a man who is still “pondering life’s persistent questions” and we, the audience, are clearly meant to smile at a grown man bothering with questions suitable to a teenager. But though most of us put aside such “childish things” in favor of making a living and reproducing ourselves and making our mark on the world, the persistence of these questions, if we are honest, never truly goes away. Or perhaps it does, but only at the last moment when, as Gertrude Stein was reported to have said on her deathbed in response to someone who asked, “Gertrude, what is the answer?” 
            “What was the question?” was the great one’s response.
            Whether or not we like poetry, or literature, or Gertrude Stein, we recognize, I think, the wisdom here. It is the kind of wisdom most of us would call ‘spiritual.’ Many wise and/or spiritual leaders have come up with an answer that is similar: there is really no answer to the question of life. Life simply is. Katagiri Roshi, a Zen teacher in Minnesota, once had a similar answer: 
            “What is just is,” he said. And again, we recognize the wisdom.
            Still, we also recognize, if we are honest, that the questions persist. Especially at difficult or conflictual or depressing times, we find ourselves up against the same question: What is the use? What is the point? What is all this struggle for? All vanishes in the end in any case. And if we can’t answer the why question—why bother?— and we usually can’t, how about the what question? What is this “is” that is? And how do we fit into it? What are we in the first place? All our busyness, all our effort and worry and struggle and despair and joy—how do we consider it, make sense of it, comprehend it? It. What is it? Is all this living, struggling activity really just the product of chemical soups and photons and DNA and gravity and some process we have named evolution? Exploding galaxies? Black holes and worm holes? And to what end? That is, what we really want to know is simply this: What am I engaged in? involved in? Me. Aside from science fiction speculation about our being a product of some computer-generated projection, what about me, here and now, in this life. What am I really? Where do I begin and end? And is there some way to find out?
            This, I take it, is why religions have arisen ever since homo sapiens began to leave residues of his existence on earth. For some thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, humans have painted and carved and drawn and built monuments to this quest, to these questions. Or rather, monuments to their hoped-for answers. And evidently, none of these answers has satisfied in the long run, for the questing and the questioning continues to the present day. It is going on here, now. And what has prompted it, for me, has been something that has been nagging at me for several months, years, perhaps, of my pursuit to see. To understand. And that something is the uncanny feeling (the problem with such attempts to express this “it” is that language has developed out of our brain’s sensory equipment, and therefore must be cast in sensory language: “feeling”, the “sense that”, even when these don’t quite get to “it” or “isness”)—the uncanny feel or cognition or recognition that an immensity exists, an immensity of which I am part, which I am, and that that immensity is beyond comprehension (i.e. it is not sensory or cognitive or logical), but at the same time and in some way comprehensible. The way this occurs to me is, most often, in meditation, a practice I have been engaged in for about forty years. And contrary to the common misconception, the access doesn’t occur as a blinding strike of lightning. It doesn’t occur as a blockbuster of an insight, of a “knowledge” that is finished and permanent and which I can deposit in my memory bank or any other bank. For me, at least, it occurs in glimpses, back-of-the-head sensations (again, the language is sensory), inklings or strange empty tastings of space that is beyond physical space and dimension. Nor does it occur as “thought,” as we generally refer to thought (though often our attempt to grasp and possess it does occur as thought). In fact, thoughts are contrary to its occurrence and chase it away. So are feelings. So are sensory inputs. So is the interior viewpoint from which we normally inspect things. And this is why this kind of experience (if this overused word is really accurate) does not appear to compute with normal brain activity. Normal brain activity occurs in terms of sensory inputs, or cognitive inputs, or emotional inputs. This is none of those. Which is why in Zen, this ‘thing’ is very often expressed negatively. Not this, not that. Or simply, ‘not’ (the famous Mu koan turns on this word ‘mu,’ meaning, roughly, ‘not.’)
            But here, it is important to make a crucial point. This ‘thing’ does not occur as some ‘experience’ that blots out other forms of experience. It does not suddenly mean that the everyday sensorium is either invalidated or transcended. It is not of the nature of logic, of “either-or,” of “A” or “not-A”.  It is of the nature of simultaneity. Both/and. Yin/Yang. That is part of the nature of its heuristic or salvational (if that word means anything in a context where there is nothing to be saved from) value. What we know—and the type of knowing here, again, departs from our traditional ideas of knowing, of epistemology—is that this background, this space, this being-ness-that-we-are exists at the same time, is at the root of, does not invalidate or supersede in any way the normal sensory world. A Zen koan says, Sun-faced Buddha/Moon-faced Buddha. Or Samsara is Nirvana is Samsara. Or, the relative and the absolute are one, fitting like a box and its lid. That, I take it, is why this ‘experience,’ if we succumb to calling it that, has always been so difficult to convey. It violates all our norms of discourse. All our norms of human behavior, thought, feeling, being. And so it has most often been expressed in poetic or noetic or symbolic or metaphoric terms: “It is like…” But of course, the problem is that it is not like anything we know. It is not of the nature of “like.” Not of the nature of comparison. It is of itself. Of ‘what is just is’.
            And so here, all I can do is employ the term that came to me recently and to which I alluded above: immensity. We are involved in some sort of overwhelming immensity. All of us. Those who have had a glimpse of it, and those who haven’t. Those who would seem to deserve it, and those who don’t. Those who live long and those who live for only an instant. We are all involved (a more current term might be “entangled” in the sense that quantum particles once in relationship remain, even when separated, superluminally connected) in this immensity (the great Zen master Huang Po once compared it to a jewel that we have in our foreheads, always, but which we can’t see and so search for desperately until we realize that the entire search was unnecessary for ‘it’ has been here all along). Even as we are also all involved in the petty, stupid, day-to-day trials and tribulations and, yes, glories of everyday life. Even as, even during, even before and after everyday everything, even when and if or not when and if, always we are all entangled in it and cannot be otherwise. No matter what we do, we cannot escape or disqualify or abandon it. It is what we are. Immensity: some impossibly grand immensity. And to me, at least, and I’m not sure why, there is something reassuring, comforting, glorious in it, even when we wish we could blow up this groaning, pitiful, hate-mongering, mother of an earthworld out of disgust, and start again. Even then. It is there, this immensity, and so are we. And that’s something. Or nothing. As you wish.

Lawrence DiStasi

P.S.: as one way of metaphorically alluding to this ‘thing,’ I append here a link to a youtube video of the Mammoth Rubbing Stones still at large amongst us—huge stones which woolly mammoths used to rub against to scratch themselves, presumably, and which still bear the shiny evidence of that prehistoric scratching. An inkling of immensity, perhaps.
Here’s the link:


Monday, May 16, 2016

Dark Money's Poison

What has occurred to me this morning as I contemplate what to write about Dark Money is that “ignorance truly is bliss.” In some ways, that is, I would be more comfortable and relaxed if I didn’t know about the swinish billionaire class whose devilish machinations are the subject of Jane Mayer’s recent book, Dark Money (Doubleday, 2016). But I do, and now I’m compelled to try to write about it and them. You probably already know who they are: the Koch Brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, John Olin and his tribe, the DeVos family (Amway) and countless others most of us have never heard of. And what the book describes is the underhanded methods these oligarchs have used in the last forty or so years to change the political landscape to such an extent that they now control the debate over policy, over what can even be discussed, and consequently over the fate of billions of people on this planet. A quote from an unnamed environmental lawyer puts it well: 

“You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank,” which “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.” (Mayer, p. 153).

The question is, how can these rich bastards keep succeeding with their subterfuge? Aren’t there laws that control what a think tank can be, how profits in family trusts can be used? Well yes. But the rich have always had ways to shelter and/or hide their money, and “donating” it to foundations and think tanks is only one of the ploys they use to get tax exemptions while at the same time getting to control what passes for “research,” and hence the rules of the game.
            The story actually begins with John D. Rockefeller. The grand old man of American oligarchy started what was probably the first private or nonprofit foundation in 1909. And its purpose, like all the ones that followed, was simple: give the appearance of “donating” part of his wealth to a foundation ostensibly devoted to promoting the general welfare, while at the same time providing the donor with tax deductions and subsidies, i.e. lower income tax. Still, the first foundations—like Rockefeller’s and Ford’s—actually did take their charitable role semi-seriously, supporting the arts, museums, media, schools, and other ostensibly “public-interest” causes. But in the 1970s, and even before, the more recent oligarchs discovered the idea that not only could their foundations save them tax money, they could promote their favorite anti-regulatory and anti-government policies as well.
            The poster boys for this type of “philanthropy” are the Koch brothers, starting with the father, engineer Fred Koch, who built the original fortune. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Fred was a right-winger with a vengeance, a founding member of the John Birch Society who saw Communists under every carpet, especially those in the White House. In his 1960 pamphlet distributed to over 2 million sympathizers, Fred Koch referred to “the colored man who looms large in the Communist plan to take over America” and actually predicted a “vicious race war” in America, all while characterizing income taxes as nothing less than “socialism.” Taxes were his obsession, and in order to escape having to pay estate taxes on his fortune—earned, not incidentally, by helping sweet guys like Stalin and Hitler set up refineries in their home countries—he established a “charitable lead trust” whereby he could pass on his estate without taxes as long as his heirs (he had four sons, Charles and David plus Bill and Fred) for twenty years donated the interest on the principle to charity. As Jane Mayer puts it, “tax avoidance was thus the original impetus for the Koch brothers’ extraordinary philanthropy.” As to that philanthropy, it might be useful to point out that not everyone was happy with this new ability of the rich to protect their fortunes via pretend charity. As Teddy Roosevelt said at the time in response to the Rockefeller ploy: “No amount of charity in spending such fortunes can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them” (Mayer, p. 70). Amen to that. It might also be added that whereas paying taxes cedes control over the spending of it to the government (which can distribute funds to those who need it), stashing money in a private foundation means that the owner can distribute funds where he or she wants to—and get thanked for the ‘generosity.’ Perhaps that is why private foundations have multiplied like rabbits since the early days: in 1930, according to Mayer, there were only 200 private foundations; by 1950, there were 2,000; by 1985, 30,000; and in 2013 their number had swelled to 100,000, with combined assets of over $800 billion. As to the Kochs—and second son Charles is really the leader of this dog pack—they have established foundations at every opportunity. Charles was early attracted to the faux-anarchy of ‘libertarianism,’ by which he really meant freedom from government interference, especially regulations of any kind, in his business dealings. One of his early forays was the establishment of something called the Freedom School, devoted to his brand of libertarianism (he later funded and pretty much controlled the Cato Institute). As one writer said of him, “He was driven by some deeper urge to smash the one thing left in the world that could discipline him: the government” (p. 54). In the process, he often smashed people too: as in the case of Donald Carlson, a longtime tank-cleaner at the Kochs’ Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota, who was finally dismissed in 1994 with six months pay (his accumulated sick pay, but no workmen’s compensation) because he could no longer work due to benzene poisoning (his compulsory blood tests had shown the poisoning since at least 1990, but he was never notified). Koch Industries fought his claims to the bitter end—Carlson died of leukemia, a predictable outcome of his work with benzene, in 1997—and only under court threat agreed to give his widow some money conditioned on a confidentiality agreement. After it expired, Doreen Carlson spoke out: “And they want less regulations? Can you imagine? What they want is things that benefit them. They never cut into their profits.”
            Other oligarchs Mayer focuses on were following similar patterns. In 1973, taking their cue from the famous Powell memo of 1971 urging the wealthy to go to war with the anti-capitalist forces then thought to be opposed to business, Richard Mellon Scaife (heir to the vast Andrew Mellon banking fortune) and Joseph Coors (the beer magnate) financed the launching of the Heritage Foundation. Unlike previous think tanks like Brookings that were careful to maintain at least a veneer of scholarly objectivity, the Heritage Foundation was devoted to waging a battle of ideas, of selling “a predetermined ideology to politicians and the public [rather] than undertaking scholarly research” (p. 78). The problem, of course, is that most people and the media do not make such distinctions; thus, the “scholars” from Heritage and other right-wing foundations like the American Enterprise Institute are regularly invited to appear on talk and news shows as if they are objective investigators of fact. The overall project would come to be known as “movement philanthropy,” where great fortunes could be spent promoting a kind of free-market fundamentalism, especially including anti-regulatory, anti-tax and anti-government warfare.
            A variant to this movement was started by another of the ‘philanthropists’ Mayer profiles, the industrialist John M. Olin. An industrial giant that made most of its money peddling explosives and other armaments in both WWI and WWII (Winchester rifles, hydrazine rocket fuel, etc.), the Olin corporation, with its newly acquired subsidiaries (Mathieson Chemical, Squibb) turned out to be one of the first targets of the new EPA in 1973 (founded under Richard Nixon). Olin not only produced DDT in Alabama, it was also involved in multiple mercury-pollution capers, one in fouling the Niagara River in upstate New York, and another decimating an impoverished company town called Saltville in Virginia. An Appalachian hamlet in southwestern Virginia, Saltville was owned lock, stock and barrel by its Olin overlords: 2,199 residents rented their houses, shopped at the company store and got their water from the company. Everyone worked at the chlorine plant that used mercury in its production process—a process that leaked something like 100 pounds of toxic mercury into the public waterway (the north fork of the Holston River) every day for about 20 years, resulting in mercury in fish, not to mention the poor humans who lived there. In addition, the company also dumped 53,000 pounds of mercury into an open sediment pond. One local said: “We all played with the mercury as children. Daddy brought it home from the chemical plant.” And though the company issued gas masks to workers, their use was never enforced. After the publicity about mercury poisoning in Japan’s Minamata Bay, Virginia passed strict pollution standards, but Olin said it couldn’t meet them and so the company announced it would cease operations in Saltville in 1972 (leaving Saltville as one of the first  “superfund” sites). Life Magazine’s article about the “end of a company town” implied that it was environmental activists who had destroyed a way of life. But lives had already been destroyed. As one native said: 

“The Olin Company was dirty and treated the people bad, not like people. Most of the workers were poorly educated, and they led them around like sheep. A lot of people got sick, and there were more birth defects in Saltville than in other parts of the state” (p. 99).

            Of course Olin denied it was in any way at fault and also denied that its foundation money had any connection to its long history of pollution, but the record suggests otherwise. Here is what John Olin said about his foundation campaign:

“My greatest ambition now is to see free enterprise re-established in this country. Business and the public must be awakened to the creeping stranglehold that socialism has gained here since WWII” (100).

Clearly, re-establishing “free enterprise” meant giving business free rein to use any and all environmental poisons without some pesky government agency infringing on its 'freedom.' And this was before Olin got going with his enduring contribution: taking aim at the “liberal establishment” (liberalism and socialism were synonymous to Olin) dominating colleges and universities in order to establish a kind of “counter-intelligentsia” devoted to conservative thought. To effect this sea change, he hired William Simon (energy czar and Treasury Secretary under both Nixon and Ford) to be head of his Olin Foundation in 1977. Simon had always nursed a deep hatred for the liberal elite, claiming that a secret system of academics, media types, and bureaucrats ran the nation to such an extent that “Our freedom is in dire peril.” With Simon in the lead, the Olin Foundation began its campaign to establish “beachheads” (the military language is not accidental; this was seen as a war) not just in small colleges but at the most elite institutions like Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Amazingly, they were able to prevail, with institutional coups like the “James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions” at Princeton; the “Program on Constitutional Government” at Harvard (run by Harvey Mansfield); and the “John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies” also at Harvard (and run by hawk Samuel Huntington). Ostensibly neutral (note the language), these were all as ideological as the real coup de grace, their impact in law schools with something they called “Law and Economics Theory.” Nursed by Olin contributions of over $68 million to law schools at Harvard, Chicago, and elsewhere, Olin fellows from the likes of Harvard’s “John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Business” then branched out to teach at Cornell, Dartmouth, Georgetown, MIT and beyond. Among these legal ‘fellows’ was John Yoo (of the infamous “torture memo”), and another supposed intellectual, John R. Lott Jr., who went on to write a book called More Guns, Less Crime. In it, Lott argued that more guns actually reduce crime and promised that legalizing concealed weapons would make people safer. On inspection (by Adam Winkler of the book Gunfight), Lott’s study turned out to be based on no data whatever. When pressed to produce his data, that is, Lott claimed it had been lost in a computer crash. In addition to such fake scholarship, one of the major contributions of the Law and Economics caper were its infamous “seminars” for judges, initiated by the ideologue Henry Manne, by then dean of the George Mason University School of Law (a haven for right-wing ideologues). These “seminars” were two-week all-expenses-paid junkets for indoctrination in law and economics in places like the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida. Something like 660 judges were treated to these pleasure-cum-indoctrination vacations, including future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As one of Olin’s accolytes himself put it, “Economic analysis tends to have conservatizing effects…it seems neutral, but it isn’t in fact” (108). A case in 1997, where the EPA had moved to reduce surface ozone as air pollution caused by refinery emissions, demonstrates the point. An economist at the Koch-funded Mercatus Center, Susan Dudley, challenged the EPA ruling, arguing that the federal agency had not considered that, by blocking the sun, smog cut down on cases of skin cancer: If pollution were controlled, she said, it would cause up to 11,000 additional skin cancer cases each year. Incredibly, the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia (whose majority judges had all tasted the seminar cool-aid) embraced Dudley’s argument, finding that the EPA had “explicitly disregarded the possible health benefits of ozone” (154)! Fortunately, the Supreme Court eventually overruled the circuit court, saying that the Clean Air Act’s standards cannot be subject to cost-benefit analysis.
            Enough said. What Jane Mayer’s book demonstrates—and I have only been able to provide a tiny taste of its voluminous contents—is that big money from a determined oligarchy can profoundly affect, shape, and ultimately destroy democracy and much else besides. It can defy reason to the point that President Obama’s attempts to pass even the minimal cap-and-trade legislation to begin to reduce global warming were defeated even before they had a chance for a public hearing. The same has happened with the non-stop attempts to defeat his health-care-for-all bill, which continues to be attacked and distorted to the present day (a Circuit Court has recently ruled against its provision to provide government aid to those who can’t afford their premiums). And all is done under the guise of philanthropy, all disguised with market-tested language and emotional appeals that convince the masses (see the Tea Party) that it is in their interest to side with the richest, most immoral, and, at times, criminal class in the nation. And what it demonstrates is that democracy—if there is any democracy left at this stage in the republic—must be defended just as vigorously as the attacks by the dogs who would pervert, undermine and destroy it. And even then. Even then, I say, especially when contemplating the power that great gobs of money have to corrupt, or reflecting on the apparently bottomless lust of those with it to want always more even if they have to sacrifice the entire planet to get it—even then, it may be necessary to bring back the guillotine. 

Lawrence DiStasi

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Uriah Heep of Our Politics

In this nauseating season of presidential primaries, one finds oneself straining to find comparisons to do justice to the pit of vipers aspiring to the ultimate prize. Though I started out thinking that any one of the dozen or so Republican idiots on stage would be better than Donald Trump, I have since changed my mind. With only Trump and the unctuous Ted Cruz left in contention for the nomination, I have been forced to conclude that even Trump would be better than Cruz—though it should be said that for the life of me, I cannot figure out how any reasonable person could choose either one. Nonetheless, if it’s between the Drumpf and ‘Lyin’ Ted,’ I would prefer that Trump be the Republican nominee—even considering that the other “hold-your-nose” candidate on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, also appears to be a shoe-in. Which makes one wonder: what has happened to so degrade American democracy that we are left with the choice between Trump or Cruz and Hillary?
            But I digress. What I really wanted to do was register my increasing astonishment that anyone could possibly choose Ted Cruz as a potential ‘leader of the free world’ (and I have a good friend who seems to be opting for precisely that). That’s because Cruz really is one of the most despicable candidates—using only the assessments of his Republican colleagues in the Congress—ever to get this close to the top. He reminds me of a sewer rat that has somehow slithered out of his dark den and, by sheer persistence and pretension (slicking back his foul hair and uncrossing his beady eyes), managed to persuade many Republican primary voters that he would be the best alternative to Trump. Even if we discount what former speaker of the house John Boehner called him (“Lucifer in the flesh”) as a bit hyperbolic, Ted Cruz still remains the Uriah Heep of modern politics.
            For those who may have forgotten, Uriah Heep is one of Charles Dickens’ most memorable and loathsome characters. He appears in David Copperfield, and though he ends up getting his just deserts (sentenced to prison for committing fraud on the Bank of England), for a time he manages to convince many people in the novel of his “‘umbleness,” his sincerity, and even his honesty. Dickens describes his face as “cadaverous,” something that would fit Ted Cruz perfectly (isn’t there something about his eyes that chills the soul?) And though Heep protests constantly about his humility, though he advances with Mr. Wickfield because of his determination and willingness to work zealously—even teaching himself law at night—he shows his true colors by resorting to blackmail to finally gain control of Wickfield’s business. He is, in short, motivated almost exclusively by greed, selfishness and self-aggrandizement.
            From everything we have read about Ted Cruz, he is quite similar. The man seems to have no working morals—except for those he pretends to revere as a fundamentalist Christian conservative. When he saw that there was a chance to elevate his stature in the Senate by threatening to shut down the government to defund Obamacare, he simply ignored the damage it would do to his own party and to his own colleagues in favor of his personal agenda. Everyone knew, and he allegedly knew as well, that his plan to threaten Democrats and Obama himself with a government shutdown if they refused to cancel the health care law was doomed to fail from the outset. And yet he persisted in holding the government hostage for sixteen days, until finally his colleagues, sensing that they were going to suffer an even bigger loss in public support than they did the last time they threw this sort of tantrum, caved in and overruled him. In response to which Cruz publicly berated them all as wimps (in contrast to himself, of course). This is one of the reasons Speaker Boehner called him “Lucifer in the flesh.” It is why New York Congressman Peter King vowed he would “take cyanide” if Cruz gets the nomination. King was eloquent about why he “hates” Cruz:
“If you come up with a strategy that’s going to shut down the government of the United States and you have no way of winning, you’re either a fraud or you’re totally incompetent, so he can have his choice as to what he is,” he frostily told Piers Morgan. At other times, he (King) has said, “He’s a false leader; he’s led people down a false path here,” and “Ted Cruz has decided to be the center of his own universe, to live in his own world.”
And finally, King told Wolf Blitzer when Cruz announced his campaign for president in 2015: “He’s shown no qualifications, no legislation passed, no leadership, and he has no real experience…So to me, he’s just a guy with a big mouth and no results.”
            In sum, Ted Cruz, apparently driven by a father’s (himself a fundamentalist preacher) indoctrination that he would be great, will coldly betray anyone and any group in order to advance what he considers to be his destiny. Calling him a reptile is to insult a whole species (even Satanists have repudiated the association with Cruz, arguing that calling him Satan is an insult to them as well.) Calling him anything is an insult to whatever one calls him. Uriah Heep, Flem Snopes (the scabrous arriviste from Faulkner’s novels), snake, rodent—none really does justice to the living, breathing pus bag that is Ted Cruz. I had a friend once who coined the most vivid epithet I’ve ever heard to describe people such as Cruz, when he described one of our fellow editors at Harcourt Brace as having “halitosis of the soul.” That would seem to be the type that Cruz epitomizes—even granting that it’s a type more common among hypocrite politicians than any other ‘profession.’ It is a type that seems impervious to rebuke or criticism or insult. It is a type of human being—if one can really call such types ‘human’—that is so besotted with its own slime that it hardly knows it is being spat upon.
            And yet: this is the naked opportunist who is willing to cashier his whole party to be president of the United States, and who is actually succeeding in getting former enemies like Sen. Lindsay Graham to support him, so desperate are they to stop Donald Trump. The entire nauseating spectacle is enough to make one forget politics and all concern with politics forever. Except for the fact that the outcome of this presidential contest will matter so deeply to so many people, to so much of the planet. How can it possibly be ignored?
            This is really the larger question that Ted Cruz raises. Politics is said to be the “art of the possible.” But when democratic politics throws up from its depths such loathsome creatures as Ted Cruz, and offers them for our consideration, it forces us to wonder whether another system—no matter how corrupt—could possibly be worse. History is full of examples of idiot kings, of vicious opportunists who have used their power to devastate countless nations. If his past is any indication, Ted Cruz bids fair—if he should ever get such power—to stand with the worst of them. So what does that say about democracy? What does that say about the voice of the people—millions of whom are even now lining up to support him? It is terrifying to contemplate.

Lawrence DiStasi