Friday, August 30, 2019

Does America Merely Need A Return To Normalcy After 2020 Or Much More?

You gotta say this about Joe Biden: Beyond the never ending cavalcade of gaffes ("poor kids" being just as smart as "white kids" was a masterpiece of tone deafness, even by his standards) and proclivity for not knowing when to shut up (his scrambled, oft-told and mostly false story of traveling to Afghanistan to award a Silver Star to a Navy captain), his greatest strength is that he was Barack Obama's vice president and those eight long-ago years seem like a golden era of normalcy compared to the nightmare that Donald Trump has visited on the Republic.   
Can Biden beat Trump in 2020 by promising a return to normalcy?  Perhaps, but shouldn't we expect more from the next president? 
Yes, we should. 
Still, there is undeniable appeal to putting bold policy initiatives on the back burner in trying to assure that Trump is thrashed.   
Trump's approval ratings are tanking badly in his must-win states, he trails Biden and other Democratic frontrunners in head-to-head polls, his intransigence at home and on the world stage has turned America from a global leader into a laughing stock, and he now faces a primary challenge from fellow head case and onetime Tea Party darling Joe Walsh, who similarly appeals to the worst instincts and ugliest sentiments in America.
Alas, Walsh is an ankle biter who will be dispatched in the primaries or paid off first, and anything less than an overwhelming Democratic victory next November guarantees that the president will claim that the election was stolen from him (and he still might do that anyway).  So a vote for normalcy is a blow to Trump's solar plexus, or something. 
Writes Frank Bruni in The New York Times:
I wouldn't be surprised if voters consciously or subconsciously conclude that they just can't continue to live like this and that four more years would be ruinous, if not to the country as a whole, then to our individual psyches.  By the time Election Day rolls around, they may crave nothing more electric than stability and serenity.  That wouldn't be a bad Democratic bumper sticker. It's essentially the message of Biden's campaign.
Then there is Esquire's Charles Pierce:
People just want things to get back to normal again.  They want a president who isn't manifestly unqualified and clearly half-mad.  They want their Twitter accounts to go back to featuring dogs and cute pictures of the grandkids.  They want a Congress that can work smoothly enough so that they can go back to ignoring it again. In fact, they'd like a government that can work smoothly enough so that they can go back to ignoring it again. 
It is a testament to how distorted politics have become in the Age of Trump that Obama's tenure, which at the time was left-liberal by almost any standard and included transformative policy initiatives on health-care, the environment and strong medicine for pulling the U.S. out of the Bush recession, is now being hailed as a model of normalcy. That is inaccurate, of course, although those eight years were an oasis of calm in comparison to Trump's daily gyrations amidst his ongoing mental deterioration. 
Meanwhile, people still fighting the last war, many of them Democrats with a white male fetish, cite Elizabeth Warren as being Hillary 2.0 -- over prepared with mountains of policy plans and too much liberal baggage -- in arguing that Joe Normal is the candidate most able to beat Trump.    
Possibly true, but Warren at this stage is the best nominee and Biden is a throwback who neither represents the future of the Democratic Party nor is the kind of leader America needs to not just begin to repair Trump's excesses but to boldly move beyond Obamacare toward a single-payer system, think really big on infrastructure and deal with the migrant crisis, not dither over it as did Obama-Biden, as well as other formidable challenges.
The Democrats' path to taking back the White House and possibly the Senate, as well, runs straight through the suburbs.   
When the election is viewed in that context, change handily wins out over normalcy and Warren becomes even more attractive because of her appeal to women and nonwhite voters, while Biden seems even more like that guy you might enjoy having a beer with but not a whole lot else. 
Biden, in fact, will be a president you can forget about, which is exactly what America does not need if it is to not merely replace Trump but move beyond him. 
Dozens of attacks or threats involving Trump's supporters have been reported since he announced his candidacy in June 2015. 
The Guardian has compiled details of 52 of the incidents, which most recently include a Trump supporter putting a photojournalist in a chokehold and punching him in the face while shouting "Fake news!  Trump 2020!" and a Trump supporter threatening to kill Representative Rashida Tlaib and other Democratic members of the House.   
It makes for chilling reading. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Unrelenting March Of 'Coincidences' In Jeffrey Epstein's Mysterious Death

Add unusable blurry images from at least one of the video surveillance cameras in the hallway outside of politically-connected sex trafficker and financier Jeffrey Epstein's prison cell to the march of "coincidences" surrounding his mysterious suicide. 
That footage is too flawed for investigators from the Justice Department and FBI to use although other, clearer footage was captured by other cameras in the area, according to The Washington Post. 
The revelation is yet another "coincidence" that magnifies the many troubling questions swirling around Epstein and his coterie of rich, famous and powerful friends, and suggest that really important people wanted him dead because of the tales he might tell about them.    
Among the other "coincidences" flowing from Epstein's August 10 death -- or more likely an assisted suicide of a sort -- at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan are that:
He had been taken off a suicide watch despite a July 23 hanging attempt and returned to the prison's segregated housing unit. 
At least eight Bureau of Prisons officials knew there was an order that he was not be left alone in his cell and ignored it.  
He was indeed left alone after his cellmate was moved elsewhere on August 9. 
His guards slept while he apparently hanged himself with a bedsheet tied to a bunk bed early the following morning. 
His guards reportedly failed to make the required 30-minute check-ins on him. 
Prison logs were doctored to cover up the required checks. 
The big question, of course, is who conspired to pull the strings necessary to facilitate the 66-year-old Epstein taking his life. 
At this relatively early stage two and a half weeks after Epstein's death, we know of only some of the strings in the form of those "coincidences," but are likely to learn more because the conspiracy surrounding his death involves not a small handful of people who might keep the deepest of secrets, but a relatively large number of people inside and out of the prison.  
Epstein had been held without bail since his rearrest on July 6 and was awaiting what was going to be the latest trial of the century on sex trafficking charges that could have led to a prison sentence of as much as 45 years, as well as possibly implicate others in his serial schemes to lure women as young as 14 into sexual servitude. 
Meanwhile, some of Epstein's victims appeared before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan on Tuesday to describe how they were coerced and abused -- and in the end were denied justice because of his death. 
Chauntae Davies was among the 16 women who testified, six of them anonymously as "Jane Does." 
Davies, who says she was recruited to be a masseuse for Epstein, graphically described being raped by him over a period of several years, and how, in his death, she felt a sense of loss. 
"It took me a long time to come forward," Davies said.  "Every public humiliation that I endured, I have suffered and he has won." 
But Davies later said she refused to let that sentiment linger. 
"I have found my voice now," she said.  "I will not stop fighting." 
The sex-trafficking charges are expected to be dropped by Berman at the request of prosecutors.  But instead of issuing a simple written order to that effect, in a somewhat unusual move the judge had asked prosecutors and defense lawyers to appear in court, saying that they and those who say Epstein abused them can "be heard, if they wish to be." 
Beyond the victims' moment of catharsis, charges still could be filed against Epstein's helpmates, notably British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who is widely considered to have been his procuress and was called out by several victims at the hearing.  Complicating matters is that the will Epstein signed just two days before his death puts more than $577 million in assets into a trust fund that could make it more difficult for his victims to collect damages.
In another development, The New York Times reported that in 1996, Marie Farmer, then 25, had contacted the New York Police Department and FBI to report that Epstein had had offered to help her painting career after she moved to New York, but that came to an abrupt end when she said Epstein and Maxwell began violently groping her. 
Marie Farmer described for Times' reporter Mike Baker Epstein's odd lifestyle, which she said included girls and young women coming through his Manhattan mansion for modeling auditions for Victoria’s Secret.   
Epstein is said to have long exerted a Svengali-like influence over Les Wexner, CEO of Victoria's Secret.  Wexner has belatedly accused him of misappropriating "vast sums of money" from he and his family.  
"The house at times bustled in anticipation of potential visits from Bill Clinton, although she never actually saw him there," wrote Baker.  "She said she met Donald J. Trump one day in Mr. Epstein's office, recalling Mr. Trump eyeing her before Mr. Epstein informed him that 'she’s not for you.' " 
Marie Farmer said she learned later that her 16-year-old sister, Annie Farmer, had been subjected to a troubling topless massage at Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, where he is said to have wanted to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women in an unrealized scheme. 
Although the bureau has never acknowledged Marie Farmer's complaint, she said the FBI must have had a record of it because agents came back to her -- years later -- with questions.  She said also went to leaders in the New York art world that Epstein and Maxwell frequented, and the sisters tried to tell their story to a national magazine.   
In each case, their reports went nowhere. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Whose Nervous Breakdown Will Come First, Donald Trump's Or America's?

The feeling grows -- and grew by leaps and bounds last week -- that Donald "The Chosen One" Trump's longtime flirtation with the banana peel will soon result in a spectacular fall.  Yes, there's a great deal of wishful thinking wrapped into that hopeful thought and it is informed by the nightmare that he has visited on those of us who care deeply about our once great country, which for your Faithful Correspondent translates into a daily flirtation with losing his shit over a monster who long ago lost his. 
This past week was, of course, one for the books:
Trump threw a fit over not being able to buy Greenland from Denmark. 
He canceled a state visit to Denmark while calling its prime minister "nasty," his go-to insult for women who stand up to him. 
Declared in an anti-Semitic outburst that Jews who vote Democratic are "disloyal to Israel." 
Ordered American companies out of China as he stage managed a needless trade war. 
Pretty much assured that the long-predicted recession at home will commence sooner if not later. 
Called his handpicked Federal Reserve chair an "enemy" of the state. 
Again falsely claimed that Barack Obama had initiated a policy of separating children from their migrant parents. 
Suggested overturning the right of birthright citizenship. 
Continued to use the El Paso and other mass murders for self promotion and said he should be given a military Medal of Honor for his valor. 
Threatened to release ISIS fighters in Europe to punish loyal allies. 
Hinted that his term of office might last another 14 years, saying that he is considering an executive order to change the Constitution to make that happen. 
Tried to blow up the G7 meeting in France with his go-it-alone acrobatics. 
Boasted that he will invite Vladimir Putin to the next G-7 meeting, a move opposed by allies since Russia has been ousted from the group.  
My dear friend, the eminent psychoanalyst and mythologist Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, diagnosed Trump as being a classic malignant narcissist -- that is, mentally disordered and profoundly evil with an insatiable need for attention and proclivity to lash out recklessly no matter the damage done  -- well ahead of the pack.  As in late 2015.  
And as anyone familiar with this pathology knows, Trump's repeated humiliations on the world stage, his long-moldering realization that many people understand he stole the 2016 election, his probable impeachment, and that the odds of him being reelected in a fair election are slipping away and will be zero to none if there is a recession, are manifesting themselves in his almost daily rages. 
Then there is the malignant narcissist's lust for cruelty and inflicting pain on the powerless that is so evident in Trump's treatment of migrant children detained in his concentration camps, where it took a court order for them to get hygienic necessities like soap and toothpaste.  No matter, because they won't be getting flu shots although three children in Customs and Border Protection custody infected with influenza have died since December. 
It is because of this cruelty that Trump's vaunted "base" loves him and Republican officeholders who might speak out against him have second thoughts lest he sic a primary opponent on them.    
The president's malignant narcissism is metastasizing into a messiah complex with a growing number of king-like pronouncements.  This should not be surprising for someone who thinks the president has the power to order companies around -- in the current case to stop doing business with China -- despite a free-market economy.  From the outset of Trump's disastrous tenure, he has declared himself above the law in word and deed, and rails against House Democrats carrying out their constitutional mandate, Robert Mueller, the ACLU and any other organization or individual who would hold him accountable.   
If there is an irony in this rolling disaster, it is that Trump was a reality TV show star long before he descended that golden escalator and announced his candidacy, and has played the part with a madness of King George insouciance since. 
Our king-president is one truly sick dude, and his deterioration has been accelerating. 
What is especially disturbing about this is that he keeps finding new ways to weaponize his psychoses, with the victims extending well beyond those concentration camps to include, among others, farmers whose crops are rotting because of his trade war with China and workers whose plants are closing despite his fantasy-driven promises to keep them open. 
That proverbial banana peel is lurking around the next corner.  Or perhaps the corner after that.  And it can be argued that Trump has never stood on his own, suckling on his father's fortune as a young businessman, then relying on dirty tactics, laundered money from Russian oligarchs and mobsters and carpet bombs of lies to survive.  Indeed, he may already have gone down, but is being propped up by the likes of Mick Mulvaney, Mitch McConnell, the NRA and Fox News. 
When Trump's ultimate slip and fall does come, it will be a long overdue relief.  We can only hope and pray that it precedes our own collapse and that he doesn't blow up the planet as he goes down.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Richard Codor's Cartoon du Jour

The Plot Thickens: Even If Jeffrey Epstein Killed Himself, He Had Plenty Of Help

For the feckless masses in our midst who thought that the Russia scandal ended with Donald "The Chosen One" Trump's declaration of "no obstruction, no collusion" after a whitewashed summary of the Mueller report gurgled to the surface of the Washington swamp, here's another inconvenient wake-up call about the abject immorality of American government and society: Sex-trafficking financier Jeffrey Epstein's apparent suicide did not end anything other than a very wicked life.   
Indeed, Epstein's death has only served to magnify the many troubling questions swirling around him and his coterie of rich, famous and powerful friends, and suggest that really important people wanted him dead because of the tales he might tell about them. 
There is a simpler explanation: That Epstein was the victim of the bureaucratic incompetence rife in the federal prison system, but that doesn't fit the circumstances. 
But even if Epstein killed himself, he almost certainly had help.  And in the latest nibble at that elusive nugget of truth, The Washington Post reports that at least eight officials of the Bureau of Prisons, with attorney general and Trump lawn ornament William Barr at its head, knew that there was an order that Epstein not be left alone in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan and ignored it.   
Repeat: At least eight. 
Add this to what we already know about Epstein's final days -- that he had been taken off a suicide watch despite a July 23 hanging attempt and returned to Nine South, the prison's segregated housing unit, that his cellmate was moved elsewhere on August 9, and that his guards slept while he apparently hanged himself with a bedsheet tied to a bunk bed early the following morning, reportedly failing to make the required 30-minute check-ins on him, that prison logs were doctored to cover this up -- and you have the makings of both a conspiracy and another Department of Justice whitewash. 
The big question, of course, is who conspired to pull all the strings necessary to enable 66-year-old Epstein to take his life.
He had been held without bail since his rearrest on July 6 and was awaiting what was going to be the latest trial of the century on sex trafficking charges that could have led to a prison sentence of as much as 45 years, as well as possibly implicate others in his serial schemes to lure women as young as 15 into sexual servitude.  
The cast of characters in Epstein's sleazy orbit included celebrity lawyer and Trump toady Alan Dershowitz, independent counsel Ken Starr, Victoria's Secret CEO Les Wexner, modeling agency head Jean-Luc Brunel and socialite and procuress Ghislaine Maxwell, with Prince Andrew, Ehud Barak, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen and Bill Clinton peering in from the darkness of his sordid shadow world.   
And lest we forget, there is Trump's late unlamented Labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, who brokered the secret 2008 Florida wrist-slap plea deal with a law firm that Barr subsequently joined allowing Epstein to keep on chasing and enslaving young girls for his sexual gratification, which he did with great gusto with the knowledge and involvement of some, if not many, of those characters until he was rearrested. 
Then there is Trump, who palled around with Epstein for many years, sharing his fondness for young women, before they parted ways when Trump outbid him in a 2004 auction for a $41 million oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach.     
Epstein's many victims, who hoped to confront him in court, have expressed outrage that the justice they sought has now eluded them, although the federal judge overseeing his case has ordered a hearing next week before he dismisses the charges against the deceased financier.  That decision is somewhat unusual, but U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman said he would allow Epstein’s victims to speak at the hearing, as well as prosecutors and Epstein’s lawyers. 
Complicating matters is that the will Epstein signed just two days before his death puts more than $577 million in assets into a trust fund -- named the 1953 Trust for the year of his birth -- that could make it more difficult for his accusers to collect damages. The assets listed in the 20-page will include more than $56 million in cash; properties in New York, Florida, Paris, New Mexico and the Virgin Islands; $18.5 million in vehicles, aircraft and boats; and art and collectibles that will have to be appraised. 
Estate lawyers and other experts say prying open the trust and dividing up the his riches could take years because by putting his fortune in a trust, Epstein shrouded from public view the identities of the beneficiaries, whether they be individuals, organizations or other entities.   For the women trying to collect from his estate, the first order of business will be persuading a judge to pierce that veil and release the details.
Last but not least, a little-known science fiction novel penned by Barr's late father is being sold online at astronomical prices by sellers eager to attract Epstein conspiracy theorists. 
Copies of  Space Relations: A Slightly Gothic Interplanetary Tale, which was written in 1973 by Donald Barr when he was headmaster of Dalton School, where Epstein later briefly taught until his lust for the exclusive school's young coeds caught up to him, are selling online for up to $5,000.  Donald Barr died in 2004 at age 82. 
The novel portrays an Earthling named John Craig, who is sold into slavery on a planet called Kossar.  Craig falls in love with Lady Morgan Sidney — a Kossar leader described as having "high breasts and long thighs." 
Craig goes along with Lady Morgan’s demands to sexually assault a teenage slave as part of a clinic used to "breed" people, which uncannily -- and disturbingly -- calls to mind Epstein’s unfulfilled scheme to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his vast New Mexico ranch. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A Bum Rap For The Founding Fathers & Other Tales From Trump's Road To Ruin

The Founding Fathers are catching heat these days and at first glance it seems well deserved.  How could these bewigged gentlemen, the Jeffersons and Washingtons who got so much right in kick-starting the American republic, have invested so much power in the chief executive and made it so difficult to remove a rogue president like Donald Trump?  
Alas, this assessment is unjustified because the Founders, from their kinder, gentler and rosier (some would say hopelessly optimistic) perspective 230 years ago, could not have imagined a beast like Trump nor a Congress and cult-like political party that has not just abjured its constitutional responsibilities but abetted the rogue's many monstrosities. 
Examples of Trump's toxicity, as well as how he cheapens everything he touches, abound in an era when bipartisan discourse -- even in the face of a national crisis like the epidemic of mass shootings by white nationalist gunmen who answered Trump's nativist siren call -- has been strangled, but one will suffice. 
In the wake of the El Paso massacre, Trump has predictably and furiously beat a retreat from his brief public flirtation with tightening background checks and backpedaled into the arms of the National Rifle Association while mouthing garbled bumper-sticker clichés like "It's people who pull the trigger, not the gun that pulls the trigger." 
Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress who are being asked whether they believe white nationalism, with Trump as an unapologetic cheerleader, has anything to do with the violence, have been provided helpful talking points by the House Republican Conference that instruct its members to say the carnage is politically "from the left." 
"White nationalism and racism are pure evil and cannot be tolerated in any form," the talking points state.  "We also can't excuse violence from the left such as the El Paso shooter, the recent Colorado shooters, the Congressional baseball shooter, Congresswoman [Gabby] Giffords' shooter and Antifa." 
End of discussion.  Next question?
Let's call the NRA for what it is -- the largest tax-exempt terrorist organization in America. 
But beyond its resistance to even the most modest gun controls, the NRA played an especially insidious role in Trump's 2016 election "victory" by folding millions of dollars in contributions from Russian nationals into the record $30 million it gave to Trump's campaign in violation of federal election laws.    
Those laws tripped up and ultimately brought down Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal lawyer and fixer, who acted as bagman for hush money payments the future president made with women with whom he had affairs.  Cohen is now serving a three-year prison sentences for his role in the illegal payments and lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project.    
The Federal Election Commission was tasked with looking into the Russian-NRA-Trump connection, and in March 2018 opened a preliminary investigation that became tangentially connected to Mariia Butina, who pleaded guilty in December to being a covertforeign agent  for Russia and is in prison, and her handler, Alexander Torshin, a Russian central bank official with innumerable NRA ties.  
The NRA has, of course, has been roiled by its own self-inflicted wounds and because of its profligacy is flirting with financial ruin, while FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub, a holdover Democrat, said this week that commission Republicans, who are in the majority, are blocking the investigation into what she calls "one of the most blockbuster campaign finance allegations in recent memory." 
Translation: The investigation is effectively as dead as the 22 El Paso massacre victims.   
So many people, reprobates and a few crooks, as well, have passed through the ever-spinning West Wing revolving door in Trump's White House. 
Anthony Scaramucci was a onetime Trump political adviser, Russia scandal cover-up helpmate and White House communications director for a mere 10 days because his outbursts (such as Reince Priebus is "a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac" and "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock") were too much even for the Outburster in Chief. 
But now the Mooch is back, strutting in his new stuff in Renaissance Man finery and telling anyone who will listen that he can no longer "in good conscience" can support the president's reelection and is putting together a coalition to stop Trump. 
That according to a Washington Post op-ed, one of the stops on Scaramucci's contrition tour.   
Scaramucci writes that:
I broke from Trump because not only has his behavior become more erratic and his rhetoric more inflammatory, but also because, like all demagogues, he is incapable of handling constructive criticism.  As we lie on the bed of nails Trump has made, it's often difficult to see how much the paradigm of acceptable conduct has shifted.  For the Republican Party, it's now a question of whether we want to start cleaning up the mess or continue papering over the cracks.
All good, you say. 
Well, Scaramucci didn't suddenly grow a pair.  He's positioning himself for a run at national office.  Or some office.  Or making a lot of money.  But welcome to the club, anyway.
It is unfortunate that no one has been counting Trump's "new lows" with the precision of The WaPo fact checkers who have determined that the president has lied or misstated a fact over 12,000 times since taking office. 
A new low is something so outrageous that it makes all the outrages that came before it pale by comparison.  Like the Trump administration discharging immigrant recruits from the military who hoped to earn their citizenship by fighting for their adopted country, then separating the children of migrant parents seeking political asylum and then denying those children, who are warehoused in cramped and filthy conditions, basic hygiene necessities like toothbrushes and soap until ordered by a court to do so. 
Although it lacks the sheer awfulness of Trump's immigrant ringolevio, his new claim that his own handpicked Federal Reserve chair, allied and other world leaders and the ever-culpable news media are sabotaging the American economy to make him look bad -- uttered with pitch-perfect timing as the U.S. slides inexorably into recession and Trump's re-election poll numbers continue to seriously tank -- deserves at least a new low honorable mention. 
Tweeted Trump:
The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election.  The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!
China probably has not gotten that memo, and Trump's weaponized paranoia is by now well known.  But the level of conspiratorial thinking and outright paranoia is off the charts. 
What's Trump going to do next?  Blame his likely defeated next year on a "rigged" election and massive voter fraud? 
Oh, wait.  He already has. 
Or cancel his state visit to Denmark, long a steadfast U.S. ally, because it won't sell Greenland? 
Oh, wait.  He already has. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

It's Another Summer & The 300-Million-Year Old Dance Of The Dragonfly

Dragonflies are among the world's most ancient creatures and have been performing the mid-summer mating dance that I have observed almost every year of my life for 300 million years.  That’s more than 100 million years before dinosaurs appeared.  
I can remember being fascinated by this dance as a youngster, although I didn't understand that it was all about making baby dragonflies. 
My brother and I would trap lightning bugs in Mason jars to sell to the man at the agricultural research station.  He paid us a dime a jar for his research into what made the bugs' tails glow, but I would never consider trapping dragonflies for any amount of money.  Even then they occupied a special place in my world.  
Perhaps it was because their dance reminded me of dog-fighting World War I flying machines, which captured my imagination at an early age, but I would like to think that the connection was more subtle.  
I lived in Japan and traveled the Far East for a few years.  The dragonfly is revered in that part of the world and is depicted on everything from pottery to textiles. I recall one particularly glorious afternoon when I observed their mating dance in the backwater of a stream in the foothills below Mount Fuji.  
After I returned to the States, I would take long walks up a dirt road next to a slow-flowing creek on hot mid-summer days, turn down a narrow footpath through high weeds and slip into the water.  It was refreshingly cool four or five feet beneath the surface and I loved to feel the chill percolate up into my chest and then my head.  
Dragonflies colonize around creeks and ponds, so it usually wasn't long before they were performing their dance around me.  Sometimes they would alight on my forehead – even in mating tandems -- if I sat perfectly still and thought yoga thoughts and breathed yoga breaths.   
It was during this period that I first began reading about odonata, as this insect family is called.  
I learned that the three species indigenous to my neck of the woods are members of the libellula genus.  These include my companions over many a summer -- the bar-winged skimmer (Libellula axilena) and the less common great blue skimmer (Libellula vibrans). There also is the apparently elusive Jane's meadowhawk (Sympetrum janeae), which is recognizable by its reddish body but has escaped my gaze.  
I also learned that these species of dragonflies are short lived (seven to 10 weeks, although some species can live up to four years).  They also are territorial.  
The mating dance is initiated by the male showing his genitals, of which he is endowed with two sets.  This display allows male and female to make sure that they are of the same species and therefore suitable mates.  The male then bends his abdomen so that one set of genitals touches the other, which is a sure-fire turn-on for the female, who curls her abdomen forward to make contact with the secondary genitalia and receives the sperm. 
As I have often observed, the ritual can vary. 
Sometimes the male grabs the female by the head or thorax for a "quickie" without going through the dance.  Other times the dance is long and elaborate, involving much diving and spinning, including mad charges in reverse, but in either event copulation takes less than a second.   
Sometimes male and female remain in tandem for several minutes, as if to say, "Was it as good for you as it was for me?"  The females are acutely sensitive to pollution and will lay their eggs only if the water is clean.  Other times they lay them on waterside plants.  
Sometimes the male acts as a lookout for the female as she lays the eggs he fertilized.  In fact, scientists say that males are so committed to their mating partners that they can display signs of jealousy if other males try to nose in. 
A few years later, I lived in an old house a short walk from the creek and two particularly lovely spots -- Ring Rock and the Burned Out Bridge.  
Ring Rock (also known as the Rock That David Sat On) is a massive limestone remnant of the furthest extent of the last Ice Age that protrudes from the water at a 25 degree angle. It is so named because an iron ring had been pounded into the rock perhaps 200 years ago so that the locals could tether their wagons to it and lower them into the creek to be cleaned -- an early version of the car wash.   I never learned who David was, but I would slide into the creek below the rock -- which was six or seven feet deep even in the mid-summer heat -- and watch the dragonflies dance. 
Alas, the rock attracted hikers and the occasional swimmer, so I moved on to the Burned Out Bridge.   
A pair of overgrown fieldstone foundations on either side of the creek are all that remain of this 19th century covered bridge, which is said to have been torched by a man in the early 1950s so that he and his son could fish undisturbed.  This is at a point just below where the west and middle branches of the creek converge, an area that is heavily silted and quite shallow.  It took all of one summer and part of the next, but I methodically moved sand and piled rocks until I had fashioned a pool about four feet deep where I could resume my dragonfly encounters.  My kids were too young to be of much help, but our big goofus of a black Labrador retriever became pretty good at picking up rocks and dropping them onto the sides of our pool.  
It was here that I began seriously expanding my horizons to other fauna as I would sit quietly at periscope depth.   
There were rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus kykiss), restocked each spring for sport fishermen by the state fish and wildlife agency, and the occasional sunny (Lepomis machrochirus), as well as some wee fishies that I was never able to identify.  There were water-walking spiders (Dolomedes triton), black snakes (Elaphe obsoleta), a water moccasin (Ancistrodon piscivorus), which was a very rare sighting that far north of its southern habitat, and all sorts of toads and frogs, including little frogs called spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer crucifer), so named because of the time of their arrival each year and their high-pitched trill.  The black lab would slog into the marshy areas between the creek and woods and ingest mouthsful of them.
It is mid-summer again.  It's been too hot to trek up to the creek, but I was sitting near a fountain in the quiet university town where I used to live.  
I put down the book I was reading, took off my sunglasses and let the sun beat on my face. My mind drifted back to my childhood and the illustrations in a favorite picture book. The young hero is sick and has been put to bed by his mother where he imagines that the quilt spread out below him is a make-believe world with villages, roads and farm fields.  Armies clash across this terrain and dog fighting aeroplanes bob, weave and loop overhead.  I grew drowsy and my mind drifted further when something drew me from my reverie and I opened my eyes.  
It was dragonflies doing their dance over the fountain.