Hope Vs. Misery

Misery loves company and now misery is gone.

The most miserable U.S. President ever, if not human being, has been thrown out of office by the people of that country hungry for hope, replacing him with former Vice President and Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.

President Trump marked his tenure with vitriol and belittlement towards anyone who disagreed with him, and traded in fear and division to maintain power. He painted a landscape of despair with his two favorite hues, disparagement and doubt.

Trump’s success, if you could call it that, had been his ability to create a narrative that bent reality to his thinking. If pundits were critical of him for policy failures he simply determined them to be prevaricators and purveyors of fake news. Science became anathema to him and venerated scientists enemies to be discredited. Astoundingly, his followers went along with this alternative universe. It is not coincidence that his chief advisor, Kelly Ann Conway, early in his tenure coined the term, “alternative facts” when disputing the truth. These governing traits are hallmarks of dictators, tyrants, and cult leaders. Trump claimed all three titles.

If Trump were an inner-city indigent and displayed such aberrant psychology, he would be under heavy medication, But as president with enormous power, he collected sycophants and followers in increasing numbers creating a “Trumpist” movement who proselytized his lies till they became gospel. If enough people believe something, however outrageous, it becomes religion.

A fair presidential election supervised by state election officials representing both Democrats and Republicans certified Biden’s victory. But in line with Trump’s narcissist and paranoid profile, he labeled the election stolen to make it square with his inability to ever be wrong or rejected. And on cue, his followers and sycophants cry foul.

What else did we expect from the most miserable president in U.S. history. Because of an overwhelming majority, misery is gone and his company will have to carry on without him. In the meantime we now have a president who does not require medication and whose message is hope.

Ironic moment: Trump claimed he would fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, but Fauci and his followers fired him.

The United States of Schadenfreude

The greatest clue for me to understand the phenomenon of Donald Trump begins in the city of my birth, New Orleans, during the decades of the 50s and 60’s. At that time New Orleans, one of the nation’s most provincial cities, had been inhabited primarily by a comfortable white middle class. Making $10,000.00 annually put you in good stead, allowing you to have a home, car, and raise a family. The wealthy, ensconced in mansions along St. Charles Avenue and along the lake front were not regarded as elite, but simply scions of old money handed down from oil fortunes or shipping. An unspoken egality existed among the middle class and most were content. In 1956, The Supreme Court handed down Brown vs. Board of Education mandating school integration and, thus, the middle class felt the first blow to its homeostasis. White parents yanked their kids from public schools to put them in private schools that popped up throughout the city like strip clubs on Bourbon Street. As a third grader attending one of those private schools, the unspoken message among children came across clearly: whites deserved better than Negroes. In addition, resentment towards Blacks grew among whites for upending the city’s insulated public schools and, forcing families to the suburbs, where the resentment grew into “us vs. them.” Blacks became the target for blame for institutional failure as well as personal failure.

The cozy insulation of New Orleans’ culture and low cost of living provided little motivation for most high-school graduates to leave New Orleans. Many that stayed and received their college education at Loyola or University of New Orleans never escaped the barriers of New Orleans deep-seated racial attitudes. Those that left to go to other schools rarely came home, intrigued by new ways of thought, lifestyles, and cultures.

As a member of the latter, I lived in other cities, worked in foreign countries, gradually distancing myself from the parochial thinking of my New Orleans suburban neighborhoods. My education allowed me to earn a comfortable living, make culturally diverse friends and be open to alternative lifestyles.

To my many friends and relatives in New Orleans, I am a liberal elite. I eschew guns, am always on guard for the residue of racism ingrained within me at an early age, and fear for the climate and for our democracy. Most of all I represent change.

For many of my New Orleans peers, change is anathema; an encroaching threat to a way-of-life that came under siege with integration and the civil rights movement followed by laws and cultural changes that undermined the status quo in which they had a measure of control. Liberals and elites were the easiest to blame. The resentment grew along with the need to blame one’s effeteness on others. Until Trump, no one spoke up for the forgotten. Republicans and Democrats paid lip service to the dwindling middle class. And while Trump hasn’t exactly been the strategic and policy advocate they have been waiting for, he has given them permission to give the middle finger to many of the country’s liberally run institutions, media and “politically correct” establishment. And this has led to the unleashing of the “Right’s” worst impulses, leading to displays of civil disobedience by right-wing militia groups. This is different from the mostly peaceful protests against politics brutality towards black evinced by the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course, this unrest is what feeds the beast. And in turn, Trump provides more red meat.

Intrusions into the parochial thinking of my conservative New Orleans peers are met with one-lined responses and labels of “socialist” or “tree hugger. When offered examples of socialism in the U.S. such as farm subsidies, social security, public beaches, Amtrak and so on, their eyes glaze over due to the cognitive dissonance.

At the root of these responses is the fear of being humiliated and a loss of dignity by someone who has felt abandoned by the American dream; some one who covertly believes this country’s best days are behind them. They see Trump as their champion. As Thomas Friedman recently wrote in the New York Times, “It has been obvious ever since Trump first ran for president that many of his core supporters actually hate the people who hate Trump, more than they care about Trump or any particular action he takes, no matter how awful…because many Trump supporters are not attracted to his policies. They’re attracted to his attitude — his willingness and evident delight in skewering the people they hate and who they feel look down on them.”

Trump has created a nation of schadenfreudes and the best way to eliminate that lack of empathy is for one to feel better about him or her self. But for now we have a president who’d rather model misery.

The Ugly American

When two extremes pull against the other, the middle splits into two. So has America. It was inevitable given that president Trump provides the knife at every turn to sheer the fabric of America. His tactics are textbook tyranny — foment unrest and then call for “law and order,” thus becoming the strongman that fearful people seek for protection. This ugly tactic was on full display during last week’s RNC convention when Trump and his two angry mice of sons inveighed a siege mentality, seeing menace everywhere and foretelling of calamity. This apocalyptic theme was reinforced by the third member of Trump’s angry mice, Representative Matt Goetz, who assured listeners the Democrats want to “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.” (I’m a Democrat and do not know at MS-13 members and frankly, am more fearful of Trump and his strongmen.”

It used to be that all Americans had more or less the same vision for their country — liberty, prosperity and peace — ideals everyone held high. But something happened, a few people wanted more prosperity than others and rigged the politics and laws to shift the wealth of this country into the hands of the few, rendering liberty and peace unequal parts of the equation. When many people began to feel shorted the powers-to-be- began to tell us the economy was a zero sum game, and that the dwindling middle-class income was being siphoned off by society’s freeloaders and immigrant interlopers. Thus, began the culture wars which is now stirred by trump and his ilk who seek to turn all politics into a “us vs. them.”

As the captain of chaos, Trump wants to be the arsonist and the fire department; the burglar and the police; and the denominator to a country ripe for cleaving to advance his stranglehold on the country ands its institutions.

Trumpian chaos is designed to rip the country apart. As New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “(His) chaos justifies and magnifies the woke mobs on the left. Woke mobs magnify and justify Trumpian authoritarianism on the right. The upshot of this mean world war is the obliteration of normal politics, the hollowing out of the center and the degradation of public morality.”

Yes, it’s very ugly and orchestrated by a very ugly American.

This Is Not Good

In 2016, Trump looked around and saw an America fraying at the edges and splitting apart at the middle. He said, “This is good.” With the help of advisors who understood that America was ripe for a demagogue, he sold a glorified return to American 1950’s social and political hegemony. Those on the right who felt politically disenfranchised and abandoned by the American dream, drank the cool-aid, after all, entitlement is an equal-opportunity resentment. Empowered by the internet, everyone now had a voice in the cultural free-for-all in which America now tumbles downhill. Trump, the nation’s leading troll, looked around at his burgeoning troop of acolytes, and said, “This is good.”

As America fell into a collective swoon of victimization, it gave rise to charlatans ready to place the blame elsewhere and, to their delight, profit from it. Some have even received national accolades, traditionally reserved for cultural leaders and American heroes.

American institutions are not immune to the assault. One of the nation’s most revered services, the USPS, formulated by the framers of the constitution as a vehicle to strengthen ties between the states, has been undermined by Trump as he seeks to tilt the election in his favor. A Trump shill ordered work hours cut and automation diminished so that mail delivery slowed in advance of the November election. In addition, the once-proud internationally revered C.D.C. sought to formulate a defense to the rapidly spreading Covid-19 pandemic only to have its message muddied by the White House, even as the death toll passed 150,000 lives. Trump looked around and said, “This is good.”

During the past four years of his administration, Trump has continually denied collusion with the Russians in the run up to the 2016 presidential election. Recently, a G.O.P.-led Senate panel detailed Russian involvement in that election and delivered a bipartisan Senate imprimatur for an extraordinary set of facts: The Russian government disrupted an American election to help Mr. Trump become president, Russian intelligence services viewed members of the Trump campaign as easily manipulated, and some of Mr. Trump’s advisers were eager for the help from an American adversary. Such sordid goings-on when presented to him four years ago pleased him to which he said, “This is good.”

This is in Bas-Relief to the conviction and execution of Americans Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for Russian spying in 1950s. The United States maintained such high ideals then.

What happened?

Trump happened.

It’s time to look around and see this is not good.

Profile in Courage

The death of a great man always puts in contrast those of lesser men still living. Congressman John Lewis, who died July 17, distinguished himself as a civil rights leader, risking life and limb in the early days of the movement at the hands of a militant militia masking as police officers. Later, as a Democratic Congressman representing his Atlanta district, he continued fighting against racism and minority oppression through oratory and legislation.

Courageous men often bear insults and injuries for their beliefs not just for themselves but for others. It is their brothers and sisters who benefit from their sacrifice. In contrast, self serving leaders are just that: their actions inevitably further their own personal causes and those of their cronies. Theirs is not oratory but demaguogery marked with fear and exclusion. They build walls; great men tear them down.

John Lewis and others like him are reeds through which the winds of hope sing for all to hear. They understand that the greatest common denominators of the human condition are dignity and compassion, and you cannot have one without the other. Mr. Lewis understood that these qualities were not passive, but required action. He said, “ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key.” He also acknowledged he was guided by principles higher than himself: “Let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

Men of transparency let the light pass through them; men of darkness block it. Unlike demagogues, Mr. Lewis understand the tighter you clutch something, the more it seeks to escape, like sand in a clenched fist. We are by nature, freedom seekers. Mr. Lewis was a man of color, a scion of slaves who knew bondage first hand. His rhetoric and actions emerged not from textbooks but were expressed through his genes. His repulsion to the systemic racism in the U.S. was visceral; there is nothing neat and polite about dressing a festering wound. Demagogues leave wounds unhealed, encouraging them to fester so they can continue to divide and fill the breach with lies and propaganda

As President Trump continues to implode -— through the inept handling of the Covid-19 pandemic or his dismissal of the Black Live Matter movement, he demonstrates daily he is not the man for the moment, but rather a momentary phenomenon destined to be overshadowed in history by the giant stature of John Lewis and those of his ilk.

The End Days of the Mad King

As we approach the end days of the mad king, the king grows more desperate in his claims, like a cornered man shooting at anything that moves.

Besieged at every turn of his TV dial, President Trump sees his poll numbers sink as well as books and interviews questioning his intellect, morals, and character. And bereft of anything to shore them up, the troller-in-chief resorts to the only strategy he knows — lie and and point the finger elsewhere.

Forget for a moment that this strategy actually gained him access to the White House. Yet, we all knew at some point the jig had to come up short if for no other reason what the adage from his political and moral antithesis, Abraham Lincoln, has proven time and again. “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

President Trump has shown to be a one-trick pony and his act has grown tired even if it took longer than we thought to wear out its welcome. It now seems brutally evident that his appeal seemed to attract those political indigents who believed they had nothing to lose. The only reason he has any political legs left is that they appear to be exempt from the above adage. There will always be those who for some reason enjoy being duped or identify with his thinly-veiled victim/martyr complex no matter the costs. As far as his feckless apologists who also serve as senators and representatives, its amazing they can still walk upright having lost their spines.

President Trump has not been completely useless: he has drawn the shadow of racism from within the national consciousness like puss from an infection. Unfortunately, he knows not how to heal when confronted with injury nor offer succor to the hurt and oppressed. Compassion and empathy are flowers that do not bloom in the desert of his soul. His arsenal is acid and acrimony; bombast and bigotry. His anemic and apathetic response to the pandemic has not only bordered on callousness, but also demonstrated his abhorrence of science and common sense since the only savvy he possesses is that of a snake oil salesman.

He holds not one crumb of creativity nor any singular idea. His MO is to twist the innovative into the radical; portray peaceful protest as anarchy. He must paint everything as threatening and dark because only then the fearful can be manipulated to turn against its principles. Trump is the allegory in the classic “Twilight Zone” episode, Monsters on Maple Street.

Mercifully, as we reach the end of his four years serving as the imposter president he has burned every bridge leading over the Potomac into Washington and sits in a White House growing more alienated and alone. The absurdity of his words and actions during the Covid pandemic and the BLM movement have bent back upon him reducing him to contradiction and a cipher. Blame, name calling, and criticism add nothing to the human condition but only diminish it.

In a recent Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, President Trump berated the network for reporting polls that indicate him trailing the democratic nominee, Joe Biden, by double digits. “People should stop watching your channel!” he railed, once again demonstrating, like a snake, he is perfectly comfortable eating his own tail given that Fox is the only network that has reliably supported his administration. In that same interview he referred to World War I and II as both “beautiful” and “vicious.” I believe he’s confused world wars with women he has known.

The Telegraph recently published the Seven Ways Trump is like King Lear. We only need one -— that he is mad.


Contradictions abound in Trump’s political selling point, Make America Great Again. After all, if he were interested in eliciting the “greater angels of our nature,” he would not exhort his followers to flout the use of masks, which promote the greater health of the country by serving as a prophylactic in the spread of Covid-19. The action of these clueless rebels, taken to its logical conclusion, would express itself in the statement, “I would rather die than have my liberties infringed upon by wearing a mask.” One suspects that this defiance is found in the tortured interpretation of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death,” who I’m certain would be scratching his Colonialist wig at that one.

If these Americans want a lesson on the concept of liberty, they need to look no farther than at the French whose national political consciousness is built on the foundation of that concept. The French define liberty as “being able to do anything that does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every man or woman has no bounds other than those that guarantee other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights.”

Yet, the French felt no abridgment of freedoms when their government required them to remain in their homes all day with the exception of one hour during which they could walk no father then one kilometer. There were no riots or revolutions, nor even a peep of a protest was heard from Madam La Pen. Hell, they didn’t storm the Bastille threatening to crack their champagne and Bordeaux bottles over the heads of its leaders, much less  brandish AK-47s.

But that overall obedience to the greater good is not difficult to conceive in a culture that in addition to its joie de vivre attitude prizes science equally.

In contrast, the U.S. seems to  look upon science with the same disdain as a foreign language  — they see it as threat to their way of life as much as a Spanish-speaking toddler.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, esteemed director  of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been the target of so much character assassination, you would think he is a fraud despite his strategies for insuring the country’s best outcomes from Covid-19. Recently, Fox News host, Tucker Carlson railed against Dr. Fauci, calling him “the chief buffoon.” Carlson, who is known to be dyslexic, could be forgiven as he probably had Dr. Fauci crossed with the man seen so often standing to his right in the White House’s daily pandemic press conferences.

None the less, Tucker’s diatribe seems to underscore that President Trump’s political phrase Make American Great Again is mutating to Make America Gnarly Again,  so much so that his political consultants should consider adopting it for his 2020 campaign.  It would be more accurate and in line with the disposition of his base.

The Fake Enemy That Was

In H.G. Wells, 1897 novel, War of the Worlds, modern civilization is brought to its knees by alien invaders only to be reprieved by earth’s lethal pathogens. The novel served as a presumed allegory for British imperialism, specifically its invasion of indigenous tribes in Tasmania.

Covid-19’s pathogens are proving equally crippling to the monolithic, anti-science Trump administration, which has been caught off guard by the disease’s pandemic spread. As is his wont, President Trump often addresses complex social, political and scientific issues with adolescent hubris marked with scorn for experts in those fields.

Recently, he barred esteemed director of the National Institution of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr.Anthony Fauci, from addressing the Covid-19 threat in favor of Vice President, Mike Pence. The two men could not differ more diametrically in their approach to public health. As governor of Indiana, the strongly religious Pence initially rejected a plea in 2015 from health officials to authorize a program to allow distribution of clean needles among drug addicts to stem the tide of AIDs that  had spread in southern Indiana. Pence said he wanted to “pray” on it. Only after a plea from a staunchly conservative sheriff in Scott County for his approval, did he relent. During his six terms in the House of Representatives, Pence voted against a needle exchange program that proved useful in preventing the spread of H.I.V.  Conversely, Dr. Fauci, an expert in immunology, has been at the forefront in tackling the Ebola, Zika, and AIDS epidemics.

Trump prefers to tell the American people what he wants them to hear, even at the risks of spreading misinformation. At a recent press conference, he said that “we are very close to a vaccine” and that “by the spring it will be over,” contrary to CDC estimates that a vaccine is 12-18 months away, and those immunologists who say the disease is not seasonal.

Trump, who is girding for a reelection campaign, often points to a robust stock market as evidence that his economic policies are working. Initially, his first concern when confronted with the growing Covid-19 epidemic was to point out that the  three percent drop in the stock market would only be temporary. Since that statement, Dow has suffered a 20 percent correction.

In a public health crisis, the president’s most important role is as a trusted source of information. People need to know how the coronavirus threatens them and how to respond. They want to know if the public health system is prepared and what should individuals do to get ready for an outbreak domestically.

Trump is either incapable of such a methodical and unified government approach, or worse, sees it as conflicting with his m.o. of magical thinking. If you need examples look at his failed bromance with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il, his belief that Obama had his wires tapped, and his belief that Ukraine possesses the server filled with damning election interference evidence.

As conservative columnist David Brooks wrote, “The dangerous thing about Trump’s fantasy world is not when it dissolves into nothing; it’s when he seduces the rest of us to move into it. It’s not when he ignores the facts; it’s when he replaces them by building an alternate virtual reality and suckering us into it.”

The next few months will determine the extent of damage from the collision of the White House’s alternative virtual reality of the disease and the scientific facts of its inexorable spread in this country.

Like the unseen microbes in Wells’ War of the Worlds, Covid-19 pathogens may just bring the Trump machine to its knees.




A Day at the Rally

I recently attended a Trump Rally in Michigan. Wearing my MAGA hat and sleeveless shirt in 50 degree weather, I had no trouble fitting in. Of course, being a legacy Christian, I refused to wear a Trump is God t-shirt.  As I mingled among the crowd of Trump supporters, I noticed a curious display of behavior: I witnessed attendees addressing each other unflatteringly — with unmistakeable insults. More astonishingly, those persons insulted didn’t seem to mind. They appeared to enjoy the invectives like people happy to have red wine spilled on their evening wear.

“Hey, what’s up, roly-poly,” said one man to another who wore an ample spare-tire of adipose tissue around his waist.  “Not much, you half-wit,” the other answered with a laugh.

“You make the Michelin Man look like Charles Atlas.”

“That’s a good one,” the portly man responded. “And if they put your brain in a matchbox, it would be like a BB rolling around in a boxcar.”

The two men laughed uproariously.

After hearing a series of similar banters, I asked a lady named Alma, who sported a MAGA hat and a t-shirt that read, “Only Donald Trump Can Save humanity,” about this new and curious behavior.

“We love how Donald insults people, and now we know why, it’s empowering.”

“It is?”

“Why it’s pure genius and the ultimate defense for those uppity liberals who come at you with facts or reasoning you can’t understand; now you just put them in their place with an insult. It’s so simple any moron can do it.”

I nodded in feigned agreement and smiled at the irony.

“So now his followers do the same,” she continued, “even to each other as a way to show they are cool with it and part of the same club.”

“Like a cult,” I said

“Oh, no! We ain’t into any of that crazy shit like worshipping false idols. No, we are just red-blooded ‘Mericans who idolize our president.”

“So, I guess being kind and respectful to others is no longer a valued human virtue?” I asked as though I sought more indoctrination.

“Boy, did you forget we are the deplorables?

“I am as deplorable as they come,” I said with faux pride. “But I guess I just didn’t see the genius in reinforcing it in each other.”

“Now you’re gettin’ it, sonny.  That’s part of Trump’s smarts, to get us to take pride in our deplorability.”

“Ah, I get it. So when the doctor says you need to lose weight cause you have a better chance of having a coronary than seeing your first grandchild, you just laugh and call him a “quack.”

“Yeah, something like that.”

Just about that time a man walked up to Alma and asked, “What’s up, you gin-soaked hussy”

“God-damn, Wayne, I thought you were still in jail, you alimony dodging son-of-bitch.”

“I just got out.”

“Say, who’s your friend, here?” She asked nodding to the young woman standing next to him.

“Well, Alma, I’d like you to meet my credit-card swindling friend, Beverly.”

“I guess you don’t have to worry about her, since you’re up to your eyeballs in debt.”

He laughed, but Beverly didn’t seem so pleased.

“Well, It’s been nice talking to all you folk,” Alma said, “but the president is about to talk and I don’t want to miss it. Word is he going to bash the fake media and go after that corrupt bitch Hillary.” She paused and smiled. “Just saying that makes me feel better already.”







The Art of the Dodge

In February 20, 1974, the American rock band Steely Dan, released on the album Pretzel Logic. While the writer, Donald Fagan, claim the song had nothing to do with politics, the term has symbolic relevance in today’s political turbulence.

Times were when you asked a question you a got an answer, reasonably related to the inquiry. The variance depended on the respondents understanding the nuances of the question. In any event, the question not only probed the respondents knowledge, but also his or her character. It provided a compass as to where he or she stood on an issue and to large extent, his or her accountability.

Those days are over. Politics have ushered in a new didactic one where intent of the question is sidestepped, dodged, circumvented, danced around, tapped danced on — all of which are designed to avoid answering the question. Accountability no longer factors into the equation. Understanding answers require a degree in deciphering illogical pretzel logic. There would be no hint of irony if a political interview would be sponsored by Snyder of Hanover Pretzels.

Take this answer from with Senator Roy Blunt who was recently asked the following by the interviewer. “If Barack Obama, on a phone call with another world leader, suggested an investigation into someone who also happened to be the frontrunner from the opposing party, would your party be fine with that?”

Well, I will tell you that for eight years we were constantly challenged on my side. The president should be impeached for this, the president should be impeached for withholding records with Fast and Furious, the president should have delivered–“

For those familiar with common logical fallacies, this answer represents about half of the 15 most common, including straw man, false dilemma, and slothful induction fallacy, among others. Perhaps the most glaring is the personal incredulity fallacy where Senator Blunt doesn’t see the evidence laid before him implicating the president so, there must be another explanation for the call which exonerates him from any wrongdoing.

Besides displaying the art of the dodge and eschewing accountability, its practitioners also demonstrate a remarkable lack of courage to stand up for what is right, regardless if it means impugning a member if their own party. This fecklessness does nothing more than put party before country and principles. There is a connection between power and corruption and for those having succumbed to the seduction, derailing any substantive argument has become one of the useful feints.

In World War I trench warfare it was said that never before have so many given so much for such precious little ground. The same can be said for the hopes of the American people who have witnessed common sense and truth as casualties of this political war. The art of compromise has been slain, too, by the conflict’s “take no prisoners” mentality. If King Solomon were alive today, his sword would be dull from dividing so many babies.

Yes, the loser is the American people who stand divided by two warring political parties that practice the art of deceit rather than transparency. All as they that stand determined to annihilate the other in their quest to dominate the body politic.

While events led by a power greater than simply recognizing the rampant illogical arguments employed by both parties is no doubt needed to reconcile this great divide, it is no less important that we not be duped by pretzel logic. We need to be smarter than that.

As Daniel Kahneman’s explains in his extraordinary book, Thinking Fast and Slow, we all can benefit in every aspect of our lives from understanding how errors in our thinking can lead to erroneous conclusions. The esteemed professor shows how we can learn to differentiate between fast, intuitive and emotional decisions, and slower, deliberate, logical ones. It’s time to start calling the politician’s bluff and maybe even send them a pretzel.










same conclusion. We were constantly asked for eight years–