Remember Biosphere 2?

I knew I’d seen Steve Bannon somewhere long ago.  I paid an intense but brief session of attention to the Biosphere 2 calamities more than 20 years back because it seemed like some muddled sci-fi story come to life. Biosphere 2 did not have clear, compelling explanations of its mission, and it seemed as much con job as science. Had no clue how common its tone and temperament would become in American culture and politics.

Moral Confusion About Isolation in the Wilderness

When I was growing up, my favorite of our sheepherders was also a true hermit at heart. His name was Vernon — Vern — and in the winters he ran a cattle ranch in Texas where he had to interact with all sorts of people all the time. I don’t know how he fell in love with the (I agree, irresistible) landscape of my father’s ranch near Livingston, but he arranged to be a solitary sheepherder in a mobile cabin with a couple-three dogs all summer long. What I most remember:

He was an exceptional cook who did dynamite lunches for my Dad and me that beat anything we could get in town. We brought him groceries a couple times a week.

He had extraordinary rapport with Shepard dogs. He had an unusual combination of barks and whistles where it seemed like he was speaking to them in a secret language.

He treasured being alone. My mother and I went out to her relatives in Oregon for a couple weeks each summer. My Dad, lonely, decided he would make it a regular thing to visit Vern for lunch each day. First day, fine. Second day, okay. Third day, tense. Fourth day — Vern was nowhere around his mobile cabin. Message received.

He was a master at rifle maintenance. His guns were in perfect condition — gleaming with oil. When he decided to retire, he offered to give one of the nicest items to my Dad as a gift. Dad, a bit socially inept, wanted to pay for it. “You’ll take it,” said Vern, “or I’ll keep it!”

The foundation of his solitude, his enjoyment of being a hermit, was his self-reliance. He shot all his own meat. He couldn’t keep a garden because he had to keep moving with the sheep, but he raised as much veggies as he could.

This is a person with a noble hermit soul.

This is not anything like a hermit.

This is a creepy psychopath parasite thief. Similar examples with murderous impulses (when somebody shows up at the home they’re robbing) are among the most disgusting killers. That this confusion even results in a book is a bleak sign of the times.

Post-Clinton Era

Got that done and got that done … have a minute here for a blog-post thought. Nothing more than a concerned but very casual political observer’s reflections on the Clintons in what he insists should be the end of their day.

I remember how happy we were the night President Bill Clinton became a reality. Celebrating in the main hall of WGBH as the news came in, I had what, in retrospect, was my personal moment of “post-racial” delusion: “This will be the end of the rightward lurch of American politics. Bill Clinton will be an unabashed progressive, the anti-Reagan with the skill to undermine the myth-making about Gipper’s popularity.” Hah.

The first huge jolt I remember was the showdown over gay equality in the military. By the mid-’90s it was a clear progressive step to take. Just as ending racial discrimination was in the late ’40s. But President Clinton had a poor understanding of widespread military attitudes and was more haunted by his lack of service in Viet Nam than anyone realized. Prez seemed to think it was just a matter of the some obsolete rules persisting and needed a simple fix. No, dude — there was raw bigotry thick on the ground troops and everywhere else. To be fair, secular Commander in Chief was a lot more vivid and in charge when Truman got the ball rolling and Ike slammed it out of the ballpark. Instead we got the compromise travesty of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which certainly did tell one thing: Clinton Will Cave. So Republican Lite was established and its crummy legacy persists unto this day of King Donald expecting his Mafia-like threats to send the Dems crawling to his feet.

Don’t get me wrong — this was the era when the GOP turned into All Attack All the Time and No Facts, No Problem. America owes everyone targeted by the Lewinsky investigations an eternal apology. But what President Clinton had to do is dig in his heels and say “The whole thing is none of your goddamned business.” The era when affairs could be used for blackmail was over. There was never any evidence the public was as prudish and enraged as the GOP kept insisting.

So Bill left office with a batch of dings and dents. And he’s done nothing since to convince me he does not have the occasional calamitous lapse in judgement. (And howcum he never figured out an effective way to help Hillary campaign? Does not seem like something that would be so beyond his capacities.)

HRC did a fine job as Sec. of State. She didn’t get enough credit for accomplishments, and her scandals, well, be honest — her worst lapses in judgement are trivial compared to her husband’s. And most of them don’t even exist. Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton was not a dynamic surprise, but I like her policies overall and the “warmonger” smear was too tied to the Iraq war vote and Republican Lite in general, which she would have every opportunity to cast aside.

I’m of the school that Hillary was a down-the-middle candidate who ran a down-the-middle campaign. What I didn’t understand was how hated she was by segments of the American people who bought into every dark accusation going back before Vince Foster. And how much flat-out sexism, exposed for the first time all over the landscape, could still cut and kill.

That said, the Clintons’ 20 years on stage expired last fall. Certainly a couple I will identify with the rest of my life. But any serious push toward Clinton 2020 would be by far her most serious lapse of judgement.

Food Bummer of the Week

My current feeding system has a mid-afternoon snack and I was very pleased to discover yogurt was recommended. I’ve loved yogurt since I discovered it in high school, if it’s the right kind (Greek-style is a big turn-off for me). Lowfat French Vanilla is the standard, with fruit — most often blueberries.

Then I ran across this weird warning: “yogurt is loaded with way more sugar than you would expect.” Oh, nertz. I checked it out, and yes, it was rather more than you might expect, but a fave brand, Stonyfield, seemed to have it reasonably under control, so I stuck with it and all seemed well.

Recently a new batch of Stonyfield arrived with an announcement on the front “Now with 25% less sugar.” Should be pure good news, right? Well, turns out that according to my palate, it now has about 25% less flavor and personality. I’m not going to change anything, but it shows that avoiding sugar has its swirls and snarls like anything else.