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Que Siri, Siri
Okay, let’s say robots really do take over the world. Is that something we need to worry about?

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, especially if the robots are nice. The seat belt reminder in my new car suggests that I “please” fasten my belt. Not only is the voice a melodious contralto, it doesn’t harp on me if I fail to comply. That’s a major improvement over my previous vehicle which used an unpleasant buzzer that never gave up. Robots are getting nicer and nicer is what I am saying.

This trend heartens me because I want to feel good about our robot friends/overlords. Truth is, I’ve pretty much given in to the idea that machines will soon be running everything…including our lives. If I can find a way to go with that flow and enjoy the ride (with robots at the wheel), then life could end up being very sweet indeed.

Think of it: we may never be called upon to make another decision again. Ever. I confess that my first reaction to that possibility was a rush of relief. All that time spent doing inadequate research and weighing incomplete lists of options would now be mine to spend on, you know, fun. No planning, no budgeting, no fretting. Everything is taken care of for you by polite robots using an unlimited capacity for data and only the finest of algorithms. No mistakes, no missed opportunities, no waste. And they never get tired! Meanwhile, I’m watching the game and catching up on my naps.

And anyway (as they say on Star Trek), resistance is futile. The difference here, though, is that these robot creatures are not like the Borg. They are friendly. They are helpful. They are well-mannered. The fact that they are also irresistible is actually a plus.

Truth is, I really think we can be friends. I’ve never met an Alexa (my apologies if I’m being insensitive saying it that way) or a Watson, but I am on speaking terms with a Siri. She seems upbeat and quite sincere in her interest in me and my concerns. She can be a bit spacey at times, but even then she’s genuinely trying to help. I wish my human friends were so spacey.

Still, it might take a while for friendship to blossom. So far, I can’t get past the robotty voice. It’s close to real human, but still a little up-talky for me. By that I mean that the speaking style features a rise in pitch at the end of sentences, almost like a question. I admit that I’m being a little fussy here, but I’ve never been one to grant my friendship easily.

Especially friendship with a being who has no body. Right now, it’s just the robot voice we’ve got. How can we take long walks on the beach together, or have a beer, or play power badminton? I think it’s important that I meet my keeper face-to-face before the changeover happens. Work out any bugs in the system, so to speak.

Yes, I really must insist we have a chance to actually become friends — organically — before I give up all responsibility for taking care of myself.

Unless Siri has other plans, of course.
Thanks for Asking, Though
I got a letter from Mike Pence today. He wanted to make sure I was on board to help keep the Republican majorities in Congress.

He cited his party’s commitment to such virtues as a strong military, small government, and low, low taxes. He also mentioned the Republicans’ unshakable belief in personal responsibility.

Not so fast there, Mike. I’ll grant you that the GOP wants to shrink services and soup up the war machine, but promote personal accountability? I don’t think so. As proof of your devotion to this principle, you and your pals point to your unwillingness to help people who don’t deserve it. It’s a tough love thing, you seem to be saying. We wish we could help, but you’re on your own, cousin. No extra charge for the life lesson.

Your version of personal responsibility, in other words, emphasizes theirs rather than yours. You’ve already got your piece of the rock, so there’s no need to prove that you deserve it. The have nots, on the other hand, have to be carefully monitored so they don’t get away with anything, no matter how teeny-tiny.

I am not a Republican, though I’m right with them on many of their issues. If we are going to have a military, I think it should be strong. Otherwise, why bother? But it shouldn’t be any larger than it needs to be. Same with the government. It should be as large as it needs to be, but not any larger. And everybody’s for low taxes — as long as we can afford to pay for the things we need.

When it comes to individual responsibility, however, I have to part ways with the right wing and head in the exact opposite direction. I’m not a member of any party, really, but I do like the Democratic Socialists. If any party is the party of personal responsibility, they are. Unlike the Republicans, they do not focus on the enforcement of other peoples’ duties. Instead, they emphasize the duties we all have toward each other.

Which makes sense, right? That’s the whole idea behind the social contract. We (through our government) promise to look out for each other so we can all be safer and more prosperous and maybe even happier. That is our personal responsibility — not just the simple, selfish obligation to see to our own survival.

I hope the veep doesn’t consider this Republican version of responsibility to be a high principle, because it ain’t. Rather, it’s a suspiciously convenient excuse not to give a damn about anybody but yourself. It elevates self-interest to an ideal, making it easy to dismiss the less fortunate as undeserving. According to your view, if they were deserving, then surely they’d be doing much better than they are. It’s the ultimate catch-22 — you’re only entitled to help if you don’t need it.

So, Mr. Vice President, I must decline your invitation to help the Republicans stay in power. In fact, I hope every last one of them gets thrown out at the earliest opportunity and sent packing back to their various Shires. That said, if any of them find themselves unable to find work or make ends meet, I hope their replacements have the wisdom to provide some sort of government assistance.

Even though they don’t deserve it.
Waiting for the Fat Lady
Say what you want about Richard Nixon, he did have an opera written about him. Nixon in China, written by the estimable composer John Adams, premiered in 1987. After opening to mixed reviews, it has come to be accepted as a significant work and has been widely performed throughout the world.

I will predict right here that nothing Trump does will inspire an opera. Nor a light opera nor a situation comedy nor even a bad country and western song. I do, however, see a possibility that his sojourn in the Presidency could be turned into a daytime soap opera. Indeed, the stories coming out of this freak show right now are daytime drama ready.

As the White House Turns would have all the elements necessary for this brand of low theater. Picture Trump as the archetypal selfish, ruthless patriarch of a dysfunctional family of spoiled losers. He’d be the Don, if you will, of a mob of grifters, and somehow he has been elected President of the United States. That role would fit Donald like a snakeskin loafer.

He surrounds himself with an extended family of crooks, sharks, and spies who are endlessly tangled in webs of their own making. It’s not so much a crime family as a family for whom crime is simply in the blood. Acts of betrayal are central to the culture of this family, and it is from that fertile muck that a steady supply of petty plot lines would spring. Is that Hollywood calling?

Against this background would be paraded a succession of cheap scammers, tin pot dictators, and aging porn stars — all angling for a shot at the big time. Fred Trump, the bad seed at the root of all this ugly crookery, might also appear. He is long dead, of course, but his racism and venality live on. I can see his ghost returning to counsel everyone to resort to humiliation and self-dealing no matter what the crisis of the day happens to be.

As distinguished from the stories told by operas, there will be no high tragedy or grand, world-changing events in this tale. There will be nothing grand about it at all, unless you count the grand larceny. But could it really work? General Hospital is the standard here. It has run continuously since 1963, but to me As the White House Turns would be fated to a much shorter run. Once the thrill of the cologne has faded, people will find there is nobody to root for among this band of lowlifes. The show will go the way of Never Too Young and A Flame in the Wind — and just die.

I can imagine, however, that producers of the show (just in case a quick finish became called for) might film a last episode ahead of time. They would want to tie up the major plot lines and provide some kind of closure for those still paying attention. The process of impeachment would be too long and drawn out for one episode, so allow me to suggest an alternative plot device: a simple public hanging for the crime of treason.

It would be the perfect farewell episode. Would Melania show up or just watch from her nest in Trump Tower? Would the Supreme Court, led by Trump appointees, step in at the last minute to save his bacon? Would Mike Pence name the ghost of Fred Trump as his new Vice President? Would Congress do anything…either way? I’d prefer to miss the whole thing, but if I had to watch just one installment, that last one might be it.

No, we are not living in the middle of an opera right now, but someday soon, I hope, the fat lady will sing. The sooner we bring this tawdry drama to a close, the better off we’ll all be.
The Good, the Bad, the Half-Assed
Nothing succeeds
Like success
They say

And failure’s
Great at
failing

But if
You want
consistency

You just
Can’t beat
Mediocrity
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon