Painted during the Cold War around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, these portraits of my parents are the earliest I could locate. I cannot imagine a prose description improving on this capture of their personalities.

"Renee," Oil on Canvas, 18" x 24", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1962, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust.

"Self-Portrait," Oil on Canvas, 48" x 24", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1962, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust.

My accident of birth was Mormonism. Renee and Richard took seriously all instruction from their inspired leaders about the Mormon apocalypse, and most everything else (except the gay thing: to their immense credit, they chose their third son over the church when he came out, which Renee could compartmentalize away from the other Mormon abominations; Richard was less able to reconcile, or ignore, the dissonance). In 1961 Mormon Apostle and John Birch Society aficionado Ezra Taft Benson foretold the "destructive force which was to be turned loose on the earth and which the prophets for centuries" called the "abomination of desolation" to be accomplished because "God, through science, ha[d] unlocked the secret to thermonuclear reaction." Not to be outdone, in 1979 Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie prophesied the "atomic holocausts that surely shall be." He was the same guy who had classified Roman Catholicism the Great and Abominable Church aka the Great Whore of All the Earth and prophesied the Descendants of Cain could receive God’s Priesthood but only after Christ's Second Coming. Spencer W. Kimball’s 1978 revelation removing race as a disqualifier was received over McConkie’s objection, I suspect, although the party-line was unanimity.

Fortunately neither Benson nor McConkie could assure their prophesy’s fulfillment by placing his finger on the button (although Benson sat in its general vicinity for eight years as President Eisenhower's Secretary of Agriculture). The same restraints can’t be assumed of Bannon, Chairman of Alt-Dangerous, who believes the apocalypse is nigh and appears dead set on making it happen.

Renee obediently created the "Celestial Room" in our basement, where she kept the church-mandated "two-years' supply" of food. It was no Fallout Shelter, but it served its purpose by salving our fears of total annihilation. My job was to rotate the canned goods and put the newest at the back of the shelf.

During this same time-period, twenty-eight six-year-olds sat in Miss Ellison's first-grade class at Horrace Mann Elementary School in Ogden, Utah. 1964. Kennedy was dead less than a year. The Cuban Missile Crisis was still vivid in the rear-view mirror. We took training in preparing for and responding to the nuclear blasts which were expected to be several thousand feet above-ground. Why Utah? Hill Air Force Base. The loud-speaker for the siren sat atop a tall metal post near the flagpole at the front of the school, along 9th Street between Polk and Harrison. When the siren blares, Miss Ellison instructed, “we must all put down our pencils, climb under our desks in an orderly fashion and remain there until” . . . well, I don't recall the next. Everyone familiar with that era knows the drill. We laughed about its absurdity as the Cold War came to an end.

Somehow we were to make it from the flattened classroom to the Fallout Shelter in order to avoid the secondary effects of the blasts, the half-lives of which were forever. When we got there, we could eat C-rations and block cheese and sleep on cots. The stairs to the basement Fallout Shelter were near the school's loading dock on the west side. The signs were everywhere, commonplace. No, this is not a Warhol:

The 2016 presidential election took on heightened existential import after Trump won the Republican nomination. People who thought his reality-TV-arrogant-bad-boy-son-of-a-bitch-sexist-condescending-asshole-blatant lying-shtick was just an act and would dissipate in favor of his becoming "more presidential" did not understand his unmitigated malignant narcissism. That severe disorder, combined with his utter lack of understanding and experience and interest in geopolitics, became the worst scenario imaginable.

The worst, until Trump appointed Steve Bannon his spiritual adviser and ideas guy and handed over the nuclear codes. Bannon, who is engaged in self-fulfilling prophesy, "is first and foremost, an apocalypticist":

"In Bannon’s view, we are in the midst of an existential war, and everything is a part of that conflict. Treaties must be torn up, enemies named, culture changed. Global conflagration, should it occur, would only prove the theory correct. For Bannon, the Fourth Turning has arrived. The Grey Champion, a messianic strongman figure, may have already emerged. The apocalypse is now."

I have a job, live in a house I own, and have relative job security. It is easy for me to criticize those who voted against Hillary Clinton or for a putative job-creator who talked tough about breaking through the logjam. I grew up during the height of the Cold War, however. The things that mattered most to me, say survival of the species, seemed more important in the long run. (I leave for a later post the other existential issue at stake in the last election: the Chinese Hoax of Climate Change.) The quality and depth of the former Secretary of State's experience and understanding of geopolitics and her relationships with world leaders is unmatched. More hawkish than Obama? Clearly. But Making America Great Again is repeatedly nuked by mocking and undermining alliances throughout the world, picking fights with friends, extinguishing America's credibility, and admiring, embracing and emulating tyrants and despots--assuring an apocalypse. Parenthetically, Trump's pretextual rationalization for his bromance with Putin fits on a bumper sticker: "Better dead red than red dead."

When the sirens blare, please put down your pencils and get under your desks in an orderly fashion until . . . .


I Don't Stand Corrected

I was reprimanded for claiming Chaffetz is Utah's most embarrassing Congressperson. My critic claims another of Utah's delegation earned that distinction, taking the lead from CE to the bottom, wherever that is. I might agree with him if Ms. Love had any power or influence. Regardless, given their manifest levels of incompetence and self-promotion, we seem incapable of setting our expectations low enough (borrowing a phrase from David Brooks).

The C[T]E Bromance


The headline we could read between the lines: "Trump meets with House Oversight Chair after extracting promise that Committee will give only window dressing to Emoluments Clause violations. 'Very cordial and productive' lunch meeting ends with Presidential Order, hand-written on White House napkin, to repeal Bears Ear Monument designation. HC emails to remain principal distraction."

Physical Fitness to Push the Nuclear Button

CE's recent comment about sponsoring legislation to mandate physical exams of presidential candidates and publishing their results is the lowest of the low-hanging-fruit. His non-sequitur explanation? "If you're going to empower someone with the nuclear codes, I think we should understand how healthy or unhealthy they [sic] might be." If such nonsense had even a remote chance of passing constitutional muster, let's make it meaningful by starting with thickness of skin, then moving to a complete DSM-V workup including a psycho-sexual evaluation before worrying about physical stamina--if nuclear codes and not misogyny is really the issue. For male candidates the psycho-sexual should include a penile plethysmograph utilizing photos of nuclear warheads and delivery systems as stimuli to assess arousal.


Natural US Citizen. Caucasian. Shamed into blogging by DSM-V Cluster B 9/9-led regime, Utah's most embarrassing congressperson, and Newton's Third Law of Motion. The views expressed are mine.

USA, Utah, Salt Lake City


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