We need more people in politics who not only listen to experts but are more expert at being human beings.

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Photo collage by Nora Swearingen. (Airplane detail from “Earth Rabbit,” by Catharine Magel.)

After the deadly winter storm, in how many ways are Texans missing the “deep state” right about now?

Not the bogeyman Deep State that Donald Trump, as president, incessantly complained about and worked to dismantle, but a meaningful deep state of knowledge, expertise, and civil service in government — the deep state exemplified by the likes of Alexander Vindman, Marie Yovanovich, and countless others who have worked anonymously with great dedication in various branches of government. The best and brightest, as described by President John F. Kennedy, as opposed to the sycophants and loyalists demanded by Trump.

After the tragic…


Only the strong will survive and the weak

(a certain small-city Texas mayor wrote)

will parish.” Assistance you should not seek.

The Don’t-Mess-With state messed in a freeze

was no time for politicians to bully and gloat.

But with their homegrown energy grid on its knees,

this home-spun Emerson took to Facebook to speak

upon self-reliance: “your lazy,” he did note,

a poor raising gave you a socialist streak.

The governor, Abbott, pointing at AOC,

made a claim both electrifying and rote:

he blamed it on the Green New Deal-what cheek!

(I do love that parish — evangelical spellcheck?)


Have we had enough yet with those in government who make a mockery of their oath of office?

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The U.S. Senate convenes for the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

What can be done with members of Congress who do not take their oath of office seriously, who indeed brazenly mock it?

They should be expelled.

Whether this is politics due to ideology and personal gain, as we see in a Josh Hawley or a Ted Cruz, or politics of cowardice, in fear of your own constituents, it is a cancer that has to be excised. And as with all cancers, you have to get it all, to the margins.

During the…


It’s lazy thinking and, well, kind of fun! Why would we ever be surprised that the “alt-right” has fully embraced the likes of QAnon?

A blue handwritten note posted on a tree, saying “Let go your earthly tether, enter the void.”
A blue handwritten note posted on a tree, saying “Let go your earthly tether, enter the void.”
Illogical (and somewhat creepy) note encountered by author on a hike.

Much has been written of the game theory aspects of conspiracy theories like QAnon (that modest Democrats-and-Hollywood-Celebrities-Are-Satanic-Cannibalistic-Pedophiles-Who-Must-Be-Defeated-by-a-Savior-Who-Has-Himself-Been-Charged-With-Sexual-Predation-by-Dozens-of-Women-Some-Quite-Young-but-Nevermind-That-Part theory), how they are insidious largely because they have been created by people who understand key aspects of human nature and how the mind works.

In a fascinating article posted on Medium, game designer Reed Berkowitz writes that when he first looked at QAnon he knew exactly what it was. It was like an alternate reality game, but inverted


Newt Gingrich taught the right to talk trash — and he’s still at it. We need to revisit rules in government, and across all media, on responsible speech.

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As a writer, I do my best to find the right words. Words, as they say, matter.

The late grammarian Richard Mitchell, in his book Less than Words Can Say,noted how easily well-chosen words can incite people to fervor:

“…skill in language does provide a better hope of survival; it even wins wars, for struggle on the field of battle is a dramatic version of strife in the minds of men. Long before the first trigger was pulled, Hitler fired off a shattering salvo of words. He pounded his fist and shouted: ‘ Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer!’ Don’t…


Republicans in Congress fumed about impeachment, but the know-nothing legal firm Trump, Giuliani, Hawley, and Cruz incited a mob to violence, even murder, and some in Congress were involved.

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Many Republicans decried the fact the second impeachment of President Donald Trump was happening so quickly. Evidence wasn’t brought; no one had a chance to testify, they complained.

Why did it happen so quickly, and with 10 House Republicans joining all the Democrats in voting to impeach?

“It happened quickly because there’s footage, and then just to help the case a little bit more the president said you shouldn’t impeach me because there might be violence, which was as if he was trying to help them by adding more evidence of how he was inciting violence. It was an attack…


He’s endlessly proven himself a monster, but don’t ever call him a tragic figure. He even lacks the class of Mary Shelley’s horrific creation.

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Writers have attempted to liken Donald Trump to characters in literature, most often in tragic terms, as, say, a maybe Macbeth or a kinda King Lear. For the past 4 years this has been a bit of a parlor game among the reading public (i.e., those libs).

As it happens, the far right created its own Parler game (which has been interrupted after the right-wing attack on the U.S. Capitol), but that’s just in keeping with their desire to remain reality-free denizens of this country at all times.

And now poor Donald faces a second impeachment. …


The champagne punch we serve on New Year’s Eve

is not our own; we drink a borrowed tradition.

To 3 cups each of brandy and sauternes,

add bitters, sugar, lemon, pineapple juice;

mix, refrigerate 8 hours to meld flavors.

I made a practice of pouring this base

over an ice ring (formed in a Bundt pan

and fancified by fruit if I’d remembered)

set in a classic old-fashioned punch bowl.

Top it off with a bottle of champagne.

As I assemble the punch this year, I think

of Jean, who lived for years in a house across

the street. (Memory…


Photo of a black yard sign with colorful progressive believes stated.
Photo of a black yard sign with colorful progressive believes stated.

Out running with my wife before the election, we passed some of the “We Believe” signs posted in yards in our town.

The signs, with some variations, run so:

In This House, We Believe:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
  • No Human Is Illegal
  • Science Is Real
  • Love Is Love
  • Kindness Is Everything

Half-jokingly (and, yes, somewhat snarkily) I wondered aloud what the signs of Trump supporters might say, were they to address the same themes in their yards.

Now, being a social liberal/progressive, and having been raised a Christian with the original Jesus (the vastly better eye-of-the-needle…


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Although the tradition goes back to the Pilgrims celebrating their first harvest in 1621, and President Washington made a 1789 thanksgiving proclamation asking God “to pardon our national and other transgressions,” historian Heather Cox Richardson reminds us, our federal Thanksgiving holiday is all about the Civil War.

As she noted today in her “Letters from an American,” official days of thanksgiving were first proclaimed, in November and December 1861, by governors in 17 states in the early stages of the conflict, when things did not look good for the union forces. …

Kirk Swearingen

Kirk Swearingen is a poet and an independent journalist. His work has appeared in Salon and The American Journal of Poetry.

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