Partying in the Dark — GOP dives back under its rocks

August 1st 2020

Frank Lockwood, reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, had a lede that was eye-popping, even by the lunatic standards of America in 2020. He wrote, “WASHINGTON — When Republicans renominate Donald Trump for president in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 24, journalists won’t be on hand to witness it, a convention spokesperson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this week. Reporters also will be kept from the room when the Republican National Committee meets to conduct official party business. The spokesperson couldn’t say whether C-SPAN, the nonprofit public service network, would be allowed to air the proceedings.”

Granted, conventions have become snooze-fests over the past few decades, carefully planned political kabuki that, it’s hoped, are four day infomercials for each of the parties. From the days when the major networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage, coverage is pretty much limited to C-SPAN and intermittent coverage from the cable news, limited to the acceptance speeches and perhaps a few minutes of speeches from the rising stars of each party. The party bosses wanted good optics, but they forgot people watched conventions for the conflict, not the choreography. The plummeting coverage reflected the growing public apathy. The parties turned vigorous national debate and friction into a pro wrestling match, one in which no wrestler dissed any other wrestler. Even party loyalists stopped watching.

But as political ads, the conventions still had value. The party candidate could count on a 4 to 8 point “convention bounce.” It might only last a week, but it usually informed an undercurrent of political exposure where, if pressed, an average voter might come up with a specific-sounding reason to support one candidate over the other.

The coronavirus caused major dislocation and changes to the conventions just by itself. Trump turned the Republican convention into a complete clusterfuck by demanding that North Carolina have an open and maskless convention, and when NC refused, citing public health concerns, he moved the pageantry part of the convention to Jacksonville, Florida. The party was obligated to have the formal party business meeting in North Carolina, so Trump ordered the committees, including the one tasked to devise the party platform, to open, rubber-stamp whatever it was they did in 2016, and adjourn, so nobody might distract from the showy parts of the convention.

The result was unexpectedly hilarious. The official party platform condemns the sitting president as being a major disappointment, corrupt, and incapable, along with a long list of complaints about how he has failed his country, the world, and all the puppies and kittens. Parties don’t like to ever mention their opponents by name, so it’s just “the sitting president” they hate. That would be a fellow named Donald J. Trump, and not the fellow they were spitting at in 2016.

OK, it’s probably more accurate now, but even the folks over at the Lincoln Project will admit that party vitriol wasn’t meant to be aimed at Trump, no matter how deserving he may be.

Quite aside from the raging pandemic and the peculiar climate Florida enjoys in August, there was the truly horrific notion of leasing a large cruise ship to house all the delegates and others. We all know how great cruise ships are when infectious diseases show up.

The GOP are going to have a convention in NC as originally planned since the Florida idea fell through, but it’s going to be ‘way toned down. Only 336 delegates instead of the 2550 or so originally planned, no alternate delegates, and they’ll see a big reduction in vendors and other hangers-on. Despite the idiotic unofficial party disapproval of masks, I expect they will be worn, in the wake of the death of Herman Cain from coronavirus (most likely caught at Trump’s Tulsa rally), and the infection of party clown Louis Gohmert. Trump will hate that, since it’s an admission that he punted the response to the coronavirus, and remind people that at least some of that lethal non-response was calculated, partisan, and deliberate.

The Democratic convention will be mostly virtual, limited to about 300 people in total, and the DNC has been carefully eliminating any dissident voices to Biden. It’s going to be boring as hell, but it won’t be as embarrassing, given that the Democrats have always leveled with people about what the appropriate response to the pandemic is, and have led the way in trying to get the public to respond in a similar, common-sense way.

The GOP are embarrassed by their convention because it shows the idiocy of their failed policies toward the pandemic, and the idiocy of their failed followers. The Democrats can appear on Zoom and have a slightly self-satisfied air, knowing that they never put lives at risk, or let Americans die for partisan gain. They are the party of responsibility and regard for the common good.

The GOP reminds me so much of the communist party in Russia during the Stalin era. The secrecy, the ideology, the paranoia and the cruelty are all there. But even the Soviets didn’t try to ban house media along with actual journalists. I wonder if Trump will permit “reporters” from OANN and Sinclair to defend the party from attacks by the liberal/leftist Fox News.

In normal circumstances, I would be absolutely appalled at a party trying to hide its convention from public view. Now I find I don’t give a damn. Republicans quit pretending to hold any American values years ago, and if they did broadcast the show, all they would do would be to gaslight us, lie to us, and just generally blow smoke up our butts.

So screw them. Let them huddle under their rock and make their little fascist schemes. They’re no longer a part of the general American political process.

Tin Soljas — Mercenaries against America

July 26th 2020

For some time, rumors had been swirling around that the costumed clowns would-be Dictator Trump was sending into American cities, beginning with Portland were in fact, mercenaries, scummy for-hire bravos, cast-offs and retirees from the military, or just gun-nut yahoos looking to bag a few people they disapprove of. Medium has a major story this week detailing the presence of gunsels from Triple Canopy and Academi, two disguised dependent corporations of the infamous Blackwater. The article states, in part that the so-called Federal Protective Service “..In fact, FPS spends more than $1 billion a year on these contract security guards who are authorized to conduct crowd control at federal properties, such as those in Portland.”

That’s a lot of money to be spending on hired pork meant only to terrorize peaceful demonstrators. In fact, according to Medium, “There are some 13,000 security guards nationwide employed by FPS via contracts with private security firms, a figure that can be expanded through existing and future contracts.”

These are not federal troops. They are not part of any legitimate policing agency. They aren’t even special agents such as exist in the Secret Service or DHS. They are mercenaries. They are for-hire thugs, glorified security guards with weapons of war. They aren’t in American cities to keep the peace: they are there to shatter it. They want riots, confusion and chaos because that is what Donald Trump needs as an excuse to cling to power.

Americans are better than Donald Trump and his rent-a-pigs, and they have been proving it in Portland, with a March of Moms, a line of real American veterans (as opposed to the “Let’s pretend we’re still soljas” in Blackwater) and in a truly magnificent stand, a naked woman performing yoga poses in front of the mercenaries. (They retreated in considerable confusion!). One guy showed up with a hockey stick to (successfully) bat tear gas grenades back at the portapigs. One heroic vet, Christopher David, 53, joined the protest because he was disturbed by reports of federal officers in unmarked cars arresting people without explanation. They beat the hell out of him with batons, breaking his right arm, and tear gassed him at point-blank range. Showing balls of steel, he strode away from the puzzled and defeated assailants.

While I’m deeply contemptuous of these thugs and the morally diseased people who deploy them, I don’t underestimate the danger they pose. Take Iraq, for example.

There were many different reasons why the American invasion and occupation of Iraq failed, but it was Blackwater that made such a complete calamity for America inevitable, even if the Americans had done everything else right.

First there was the 2004 Fallujah ambush. Four Blackwater mercenaries were ambushed, killed, set afire, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and hanged from the struts of a bridge spanning the Euphrates River. The four individuals weren’t believed to be doing anything more sinister than making a food delivery, but they were seen by the locals as symbols of greater problems. America got off to the wrong foot in that city, riding tanks and humvees into town with huge American flags flying, in direct defiance of orders not to fly flags lest they be seen, not as liberators, but invaders. It was a grotesquely stupid display of ooh-rah patriotism.

Americans, both soldiers and mercenaries, did door-to-door searches, and it’s believed that the mercenaries hit on the bright idea of bringing bomb-and-drug sniffing dogs into the households of the residents. Iraq, like many Islamic nations, has a deep taboo against allowing dogs in the home. Scattered reports of viciousness, molestation and even rape of women, and contempt for Allah circulated. The ambush of the mercenaries resulted in great joy in Iraq and a tepid response in America, where people were unenthusiastic about the use of mercenaries. It’s true that America couldn’t have won independence from England without the presence of mercenaries, but those were German mercenaries, hired by the Crown, and hated by the colonists. Mercenaries don’t have a good odor in America, and nor should they.

In the wake of the hanging of the four mercenaries, a popular uprising drove the Americans out, temporarily. But Blackwater influence in Iraq wasn’t done.

In September 2007, Blackwater gunsels, apparently without provocation, opened fire on a crowd of civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 and injuring 20. Even though America promptly pulled the mercenaries out of the region, it solidified the opposition in Iraq that eventually lead to the Americans being driven out in disgrace.

Why use mercenaries in the first place? American politicians knew the public wouldn’t count them as part of the deployment, and wouldn’t care as much about casualties amongst private contractors. And the Republicans suffered, then as now, from the mad delusion that things such as military operations should be privatized, even if they cost more (some mercenaries in janitorial positions made more than the officers they cleaned for) and were less easy to control. Eric Prince, owner of Blackwater/Academi/Triple Canopy is, along with his vile sister Betsy DeVos, well-positioned in Republican circles. And both are tight with Trump and his mafioso clan.

Mercenaries aren’t soldiers, or even police. Many have little or no training, and discipline is notoriously shoddy. They have little or no training in keeping the peace, but are very adept at disrupting it. They are pure poison to the discipline and morale of both real soldiers and police. And they are a reckless, direct and immediate danger to the people they are putatively there to contain.

There aren’t there to protect the cities of America. They are there to drive them into chaos, so Trump can end the United States once and for all.

Whine and Poses: The unbearable lightness of being a right winger

July 23, 2020

Every so often, a right wing list of grievances makes the rounds on the web, and every several years or so I grab one that addresses enough different issues to make it worth my while. This one showed up, and I thought it was time to do one of those.

1. Joe Biden isn’t winning just like Hillary wasn’t winning.

Hillary did win by 3% of the vote. Biden has between and 8 and 15 point lead in the polls, big enough that the Electoral College can’t overturn it.

2. Bubba Wallace wasn’t a victim.

Nope, and he never claimed to be. Indeed, he was deeply appreciative of the support he received from NASCAR and was happy and relieved to learn that the noose in question was not directed at him or any other African-American.

3. Black lives do matter, along with everyone else.

Until black people have all the rights and privileges of white people, then yes, we have to remember black lives matter.

4. What happened to Floyd should never happen again. But he was still a criminal not an innocent individual.

Floyd was suspected of passing a fake twenty. And that’s all. (The fake twenty never turned up, it seems). By the way, the pig who killed him had a far worse criminal past, protected by his badge and the color of his skin. Multiple incidents of what in regular people would be felonious assault, nine felony charges of tax evasion, and now murder.

5. All cops definitely aren’t bad, nor are they all racist.

No, but we must drive out the ones that are. They ruin the reputation of all cops. And endanger everyone.

6. Trump is the President and doing a great job! Just should keep his mouth shut at times.

I would love to see just one example where Trump is doing a great job. That someone felt he needed to be administered the Montréal Cognitive Assessment Test is not a sign he’s exhibiting top executive reasoning.

7. Rioters and looters have nothing to do with George Floyd. (And should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law).

Rioters and looters are less than 1% of the people who turned up at the protests of Floyd’s death, and mostly had nothing at all to do with the demonstrations. They just saw an opportunity, just as Trump saw an opportunity to send in his Nazi thugs.

8. Police lives matter.

Not at the expense of every one else’s lives.

9. Unborn lives matter.

So do the lives of women and families. So do the lives of the children you force into the world and then brutally ignore.

10. Colin Kaepernick isn’t a hero, and never will be.

Yes, he is, and I’ll demonstrate how he is at point 24. In the meantime, he risked everything for his principles. If right wingers ever get principles, then they might consider taking risks rather than just bullying people.

11. CNN isn’t news (nor is MSNBC)

Please don’t try to tell us that Fox, Sinclair or OAN are news. America desperately needs a not-for-profit news corporation like the BBC or CBC. CBC is one of the main reasons Canada isn’t the mess that the US is in today.

12. Elizabeth Warren isn’t Indian just a fake person.

Did you know that for years, Trump claimed to be Swedish because he felt having a German background might hurt him financially? How do you feel about that?

13. Facebook only censors conservatives.

If by “conservative” you mean bigots, hatemongers, conspiracy crackpots and liars, then yeah, I guess they only censor conservatives.

14. All lives do matter (red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight).

Until all lives are equal, that’s just vacuous nonsense.

15. COVID 19 is being used to gauge just how much of our freedom they can take away.

…and it’s howling nut time…

16. All fear is fueled by the media, this is a fact.

…says the guy who just said that the pandemic was just a government conspiracy…

17. God is still in control and always will be.

And a bang-up job it’s done of running the universe, let me tell you!

18. Epstein did not kill himself. Nascar did kill themselves.

Nascar will probably broaden its appeal outside the realm of treasonous racists.

19. Most people are not racist.

…says the guy who just said Nascar will fail because it rejected the Confederacy…

20. There is NO White Privilege

But didn’t Jesus have to turn white before guys like you would take him seriously?

21. LIFE is What YOU Make of it.

Provided you’re white, wealthy, powerful, and not an utter fuck-up like Trump. And if you’re rich enough, then even an utter fuck-up like Trump can make the most of it at our expense.

22. No one OWES You ANYTHING !

No one owes you your rights. Those are yours by birth. Nobody can tell you what they are, or take them away.

23. I stand for the Flag and National Anthem.

You’re free to do so. Just respect the right of others not to.

24. I kneel only for Jesus.

Again, fine. Just respect the rights of others to kneel—or not kneel—as they please. Your Jesus would have “taken a knee” for the rights of the oppressed. He would have knelt alongside Colin Kaepernick. Follow that example.

And there ya’ have it!

Toxic conservatism in a nutshell!

Down the Rabbit Hole — Alas in Blunderland

July 20th 2020

Not much doubt we’ve stumbled into a meth-driven Hunter S. Thompson fugue state these days. I’ve sometimes wondered what old Hunter would have made of Trumpenstate 2020. He would have been either rolling on the floor, convulsed with laughter and scribbling furiously, or he would have blown his brains out. Can’t really imagine him scratching a cheek and languidly asking, “Wow. How ‘BOUT that?”

But then, it’s not a languid era. You can cry, you can laugh, or you can get your rifle. None of them are particularly good signs of mental health, but our psyches aren’t really equipped to deal with the madness that pervades our lives today.

You have clowns in camo snatching up peaceful protesters and hauling them away in unmarked vans. The Supreme Court has just ruled that those rounded up by the gestapo can be held indefinitely, a system that the Soviet Russians used to refer to as “the Gulag Archipelago.” We have a demented president and a mafioso-corrupt attorney-general praising the gestapo’s actions in Portland, Seattle and now Chicago, and promising to attack other peaceful protesters, presumably in hopes of sparking full-spread rebellion, a Reichstag fire of protest than can justify a Nazi coup against America.

And once they’ve rounded up protesters and thrown them into camps, what next? Well, the administration has been consulting with vicious dirtbag and justifier of torture, John Yoo, on how best to torture their prisoners, and while they’re at it, flout executive law through executive order. Trump wants to issue decrees on healthcare, immigration and “various other plans” over the coming month. He finally had to back way from his preposterously cruel plan to deport all foreign students from the nation’s colleges. A pity. That worked so well for Hitler, ending the war years earlier than if he had maintained a brain trust.

Trump is pushing to open the schools. He’s pretending it’s for the children, but really, he wants to make it possible for parents to return to jobs that may or may not exist. To that end he’s stonewalling on extending unemployment benefits, further cruel coercion meant to prop up an economy that more and more is a vicious joke meant only to serve the very rich. He’ll consider an extension of a month or so if Congress agrees to utterly gut Social Security and Medicare. How fucking kind of him.

Betty DeVos wants to return the kiddies to class, even if it means ten thousand or more of them will die. DeVos, who has never sat in a public classroom and has no educational training of any sort, wants churches and corporations to take over training the brats, and get them past the awkward stage where they’re too little to be of any use in the work camps.

Speaking of demented presidents, we have one that just boasted of “acing” a cognition test. The only time people are administered such tests is when medical personnel are concerned that a person is so far gone mentally that he is a hazard to himself and others. It’s scary enough that they would feel a need to administer such a test to a man in charge of the American military and nuclear weapons, but it’s even scarier that he boasts of “acing” it, even though the final five questions were “very hard.” The sections he found challenging included memory (given five simple words, asked to repeat them back, then and five minutes later) attention (Trump was always notoriously bad at this, and it’s hard to imagine him being able to count down from 100 in increments of 7, ie, 93, 86, 79, 72…), language (accurately repeat simple declarative sentences), abstraction (what pairs of words such as apple and banana have in common) and orientation (present date, month and year, and the name of the place they are in as well as the city). Test providers then praise the subject, no matter how they did on the test as positive reinforcement for future sessions using such tests. The test is 30 points, 26 is considered borderline cognitive decline, and 20 a sign of significant cognitive decline, so Donald could have scored 15, and been praised for how he did on the test. That Trump was even given the test is disturbing; that he boasted about how well he did is horrifying.

He wants to cut billions of dollars for COVID-19 testing and tracking even as the number of cases in the US alone approaches 4 million, because having a raging pandemic is hurting his reelection chances. Back in 1945, the Nazis shot German citizens who made the mistake of wondering aloud how well the war is going. This is the same mindset.

He still refuses to mandate masks, encouraging a destructive, dangerous and foolhardy anti-mask cult who have been attacking people for wearing masks, or for requiring them before allowing people into their homes or places of business. The anti-maskers are becoming more and more belligerent, and they’re playing with fire: public rage against them is mounting. I expect to hear about some anti-masker getting shot, either by a security guard or an armed customer. Only a matter of time.

Speaking of shooting, has anyone noticed how fast the clowns in the NRA all vanished when government thugs started rounding up civilians and carting them off to camps. This is exactly the situation the NRA said it existed to avoid. Well, I always thought they were nothing but thugs, bullies and cowards. Guess I was right. Fuck the NRA, and fuck anyone who’s a member.

Meanwhile the Roberts Court, tossing a few bones to progressives, has quietly destroyed laws designed to protect people against predatory loan sharks, removed more of the limitations on Wall Street instrument manipulations like the ones that caused the 2007 crash, and removed transparency from hedge fund trading. Just another service provided for the greater fascistic control of American.

Remember: this election is our last best chance to avoid a Fourth Reich. If we don’t take the country back in November, our future is very violent and dark.

Red Masque of Death — Covering mouths that could stand a little covering

July 11th, 2020

Basque bus driver Philippe Monguillot, 59, died in hospital on Friday, six days after being attacked by three men and left for dead. His crime: he asked them to wear masks in order to board his bus, as required by French law. Two of the three men are facing murder charges as a result. Fortunately for them, French prisons aren’t the utter death traps that American prisons are, and French have more lenient laws, so they may see the light of day again, hopefully many years from now.

The most noteworthy element of this story is that it happened in France and not in America, because France has a lower proportion of violent lunatics per capita.

Here, of course, there’s an entire movement dedicated to an imaginary right not to wear masks. Most of them are just stupid people. Some, however, are violent lunatics buoyed by the notion that God or Trump or the Constitution are on their side. Trump is, but Trump is a fool. The Constitution isn’t on their side: courts long ago upheld the rights of businesses and property owners to make certain requirements of their customers—shirts, shoes, and now, masks. If it’s posted, some establishments can require ties, or no hats. God, as usual, had no comment.

I had an encounter with one of those this morning. He was trying to harangue and bully the store clerk, giving the bogus argument that the Americans with Disabilities Act not only exempted him from wearing a mask, but he wasn’t even required to disclose what his physical disability was. The clerk, with whom I’ve been acquainted for some thirty years, looked unimpressed, and if I read the angle of her head correctly, a bit disgusted. She didn’t need any help from me. But I was tiring rapidly of the spiel, and the fact that this large hairy unmasked goon was spraying his nonsense into the air, at the clerk and myself, with who-knows-what in the spittle.

The clerk said that the health inspector had been by the past two days, and they were going to start handing out fines. He said that was her problem, not his.

So I spoke up. “Look, just pay for your stuff and get out.”

He glared at me. I’m kinda big and hairy myself, and he promptly forgot his right not to disclose his condition. “I find it hard to breathe in a mask,” he whined.

“Hey, I don’t like masks either,” I replied. “But I’m wearing one. It’s common sense. We have eight times as many cases in the county as we had a month ago. Things are out of control.”

“So what? It’s just like the flu. And the flu kills 640,000 Americans a year.”

“What? It’s more like 30,000 a year, and right now hospitals are sounding panic alarms over the number of critically ill there are.”

George of the Bungle realized he had blown it with the specious number. Without another word, he grabbed his stuff and took off.

Like I said, the clerk didn’t need my help. But getting pushback like that might make the clown reconsider trying to impose a risk on others, at least a little bit.

Yeah, they can be willfully dangerous. But even the more mild-mannered ones are more dangerous from something they may not even believe they carry. Wear a mask, and stand up to the goons. Don’t threaten, but be firm. We can wear them down.

Years back, I was having a bull session with a cop buddy, and presented him with a novel defense to be used by a driver breaking a basic rule of the road. “I have impaired vision in this eye,” I said, pointing to my left eye. Obviously, when driving, you need to be watching oncoming traffic, and people attempting to pass you.” I pantomimed driving, peering around in various directions as my hands wobbled the imaginary wheel, in case my companion was unfamiliar with the concept of driving a motor vehicle.

“Therefore,” I concluded grandly, “It makes sense that I should be driving on the left-hand side of the road, where my field of vision covers more potential hazards.” I tapped my right eye, the good one, in case my point wasn’t obvious enough.

It took my buddy roughly 0.158 seconds to point out the basic problem. “Zepp, if your vision is that fucked up, you shouldn’t be driving at all.”

Well, nuts. Another beautiful hypothesis killed by ugly facts.

There are reasons people can’t wear masks. Disfiguring facial injuries. COPD, asthma, difficulty swallowing. Those are all legitimate and fairly common. Masks, to these people, are a real and evident health threat.

But the correct answer is roughly the same as my buddy’s. If your breathing is that messed up, you shouldn’t be out at all. Even a mild case of COVID-19 will kill you. Stay in. Get the store to deliver, or have someone get your groceries for you. COVID-19 doesn’t care about your Constitutional rights, and isn’t going to cut you any slack because you have existing health conditions. Quite the opposite.

It’s very simple: wear a mask, and if you can’t wear a mask, don’t go out in public. We don’t want you to die, and we don’t want to risk dying ourselves. Wear a mask! Or stay home!

The World Hates America — With Damned Good Reason

July 2nd 2020

When the news broke that the US government had snapped up the entire world stock of available remdesivir, the only drug shown to be effective in treating COVID-19, there was immediate outrage. While it’s not a cure of any sort, it shortened the course of hospitalizations for this disease by some 20%, and improved the survival rate by a similar amount. Make no mistake: this is no panacea. COVID-19 is still an extremely dangerous and deadly disease, and remdesivir or no, the long-term effects remain unknown.

The government snapped up some half a million doses, enough to treat about 50-100,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19. It represents some three months of the world’s supply.

It was a vicious and sociopathic move by the US, and unfortunately, is seen as being typical of how Americans operate. In fairness, most Americans were appalled, and that number will grow once it becomes clear Trump didn’t buy it to save their miserable lives, unless they were billionaires or Nazis.

Gilead, the company complicit in this deeply immoral deal, came under immediate scrutiny by the EU and other developed nations. Gilead signed an agreement with the EU to boost production so demand could be met in the next month or so, when warehoused supplies ran out. The unspoken threat was they had better, or the EU would simply suspend their copyright on the drug and make the recipe available for all other pharmaceuticals. The US would oppose that, of course, being the beacon of light to all corporations all over the world, but frankly, the opinion of the US doesn’t carry much weight these days.

Part of the outrage stems from the fact that the US needs more remdesivir than anyone else, simply from reasons that were self inflicted. Where most of the developed world have brought the plague down to manageable levels, the ones governed by insane fascist bastards—Brazil, Russia, India and America—have totally lost control of their infestations. In America, cases which had run over 30,000 new cases a day in late April, were brought down to under 20,000. But between intense pressure from corporate overlords to reopen and “save the economy,” cruel contempt for the safety of workers, prisoners, native populations and the aged, and a truly crack-brained notion that wearing a mask infringed on personal rights, the US completely blew it on efforts to control the disease. New daily cases are above 50,000 now (over 57,000 today) and are expected to reach 100,000 a day over the next few weeks.

The US was already seen with a mixture of horror and pity. The antics of the Trump regime were bad enough; this self-immolation made the US pariah and object lesson. Now the the pity and horror are admixed with rage. If the Americans are too fucking stupid to control their plague, the thinking goes, what right have they to deny responsible nations this drug which might save lives? The US has reached the same communal level as that of a drunk stealing communal wine from the local church.

So now America is seen with horror, pity, and rage.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Oh, not America’s reputation—it’s thoroughly trashed and will remain that way for decades to come. But Trump’s effort to screw the world isn’t as lethal as it might sound. EU countries, Canada and other places had already stocked up on enough remdesivir to get them through most of July, and they did it without fucking anyone else over. If Gilead follows through on the promise to boost production, little or no harm will be done. And as noted, America is an object lesson: unless you want to see tens or hundreds of your fellow citizens die, don’t follow their example. Tough out the economic lock down, take care of your people, and reopen wisely. Don’t be that guy.

The Republicans have made it clear they won’t extend unemployment benefits or do anything for the millions of people still out of work. To them, open stores are more important than dead Americans. Work, or die. Or both. Report to your work camps for the greater glory of the fuhrer!

The Trump administration is involved in Stalinesque efforts to hide the damage. Just as Hitler secreted his death camps in eastern Europe outside of German borders, Republicans are working hard to hide the extent and damage of the plague, flooding media and social media with false stories about Democrats inflating death numbers, and “wanting America to fail.” The mindset of the GOP, like those of the Nazi party eighty years earlier, is to blame “enemies from within and without” for their failings.

Even now, millions of Americans run around shouting they have a right to go maskless. Police officers in a coffee shop in Oregon today harassed and berated store clerks for asking them to observe the “Masks required” sign on the front door. By the standards of American cops, these were better behaved them some—they didn’t shoot the clerks, or even arrest them. I wonder if those cops think they have a right to go in a day-care center and shit on the playfloor. It’s pretty much the same thing.

Trump is cutting testing so there will be less cases reported. Is it possible to be more stupid?

The EU has banned Americans from visiting. A poll in Canada showed reactions to American visitors ranging from strong aversion (Quebec, where only 24% favored allowing Americans to visit) to projectile vomiting revulsion (BC, where only 6% wanted to allow Americans in). Granted, BC has had a problem with sick Americans sneaking in, and did long before COVID-19 turned up.

The US may or may not come to terms with this disease. But they’ve already lost all their friends, aside from the President’s manipulative buddy in the Kremlin.

Wear a mask. Stay safe. Don’t be one of THOSE Americans.

Trump Dump — Weekly Weird News

June 28th, 2020

It’s getting so surreal these days. I feel like the only way to make sense out of what is going on is to drop large doses of LSD and then hit myself repeatedly in the head with a baseball bat until I can look at a picture of Trump and not end up vomiting on my cat.

I’m about to write about stuff in the headlines today that even two weeks ago in these maddest of times would have provoked disbelieving laughter and derision from any sane person reading this.

Are you ready? We’re about to go on a magical mystery tour of the sort that you get when you mix bath salts with Drano.

First, let’s talk about Afghanistan. The Russians, from personal experience, know the place is a dusty, flea-bitten vortex that historically has ground many mighty empires into dust. They’re watching America make the same mistake that they, England (twice, because England is kinda stupid), Rome and,well, pretty much everyone did, and Putin can’t resist stirring that particular shit pot a bit. So Russia has been offering bounties on US soldiers to the very people America has frantically been trying to make peace with in order to extricate themselves.

You could even argue that Russia had a certain amount of justification, since a few decades back, when they were still the Soviets, they got ambered in the cold dust of that snake-tongue land, and the US gleefully hired Osama bin Laden and his followers to kill Soviet troops and provided the insurgents with weapons and training. They were quite good at it, even blowing up a tunnel and killing 2,000 Soviet soldiers. It may have been the main single thing that caused the USSR to collapse a couple of years later. The good news is it got the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The bad news is we armed and financed al Qaida, an extremist outfit that hated America even more than they hated the Russians. The rest, as they say, is history, and America wound up as the latest idiot conquerer of Afghanistan.

So if you want to tell me that Putin is a vicious shit for putting bounties on US troops, I’ll blandly agree with you but refuse to assume any position of moral superiority. It’s like picking a side to root for in a cage match between Charlie Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Now, Gorbachev knew about the US hiring al Qaida to kill Soviet troops just as Trump almost certainly knew of Russia hiring Taliban to potshot Americans. But Gorby was dealing from a position of weakness; he knew his country was on the verge of collapse, and was working frantically to secure mercy from the Americans. (He didn’t get it: America sent in the capitalists to create an Ayn Rand nightmare that killed tens of millions of Soviet citizens). Trump, despite his efforts to divide and weaken the US, isn’t in that position. The country is still strong, but he is weak; he needs to impress the one man in the world who is a bigger thief and swindler than he is. Trump isn’t negotiating from a position of national weakness; he’s negotiating from personal greed and a willingness to sell out his country for profit.

When the NY Times broke this story Friday night last, there was twenty-four hours of painful silence from the White House. That was damning enough, but when the denial came, it was ludicrous on the face of it. Trump didn’t know because nobody in his administration briefed him on it. Well, that makes sense: the Commander in Chief is worried about his putter and doesn’t have time to protect American troops. Besides, aren’t they supposed to die for Trump?

Note to US troops in Afghanistan: Trump and Putin are playing their own games. Stay out of the tunnels, guys.

Trump did finally respond in his own way, seeking to divert attention by retweeting an utterly insane confrontation between two groups of white elderly dirtbags in Florida, A bunch of Trumpkins rounded up golf carts and had a pro-Trump parade. They shouted “White Power!” and waved various flags, and counter demonstrators from the same gated community showed up to shout “White Trash!” back at them and call them names. Even by Florida standards, it was pretty disgraceful.

Trump, showing more and more signs of mental collapse, shared this with the world, tweeting, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe is shot. See you soon!!!”

If he was trying to show he was better than the abject coward who lets an inferior force put bounties on American scalps, I doubt it will work. Even in Cult45 there may be a growing suspicion that maybe he should be supporting troops rather than hanging them on a plywood panel like balloons at a carny show.

With 40 million out of work, 125,000 dead, and over two and a half million infected, Trump and his Cult45 morons completely squandered the belated and semi-effective efforts at containing the spread, with the result that coronavirus is wildfiring throughout much of rural America and the deep south. Trump is still busily pretending there isn’t a problem and people don’t need to wear masks or take any other measures to avoid contagion, because that might hurt the market and his chances for reelection, not necessarily in that order. Sadly, tens of millions of American fools have followed his lead. We’ll see the numbers of new cases a day break 50,000 this coming week. A quarter million people may be dead in America by September 1st.

Finally, the Fed quietly revoked the Volcker rule on Thursday, allowing banks to make the same mistakes that lead to the 2008 crash. The idea was to keep the markets artificially propped up, creating the illusion that the economy isn’t in shambles. It is, and this just guarantees the looming crash and Great Depression will be even worse. But what the hell? It helps Donald’s reelection chances, assuming there’s enough voters alive and able to vote in November for it to matter.

Anyway, next week Trump will be out on the White House lawn, setting fire to live puppies, and his followers will swoon in joy and point out that yes, he does enjoy a warm relationship with dogs, and anyone who doesn’t agree probably hates animals.

See you next week if we’re still here.

 

Oklahoma Crude — Repulsa in Tulsa a Fiasco

sadclownTrump

Oklahoma Crude

Repulsa in Tulsa a Fiasco

June 21st 2020

South of the equator, yesterday was the day of the Winter Solstice. So cheer up, fellas! You’re over the hump. Don’t lose hope. (Note to self: don’t mention that for the rest of us in the northern hemisphere, it’s all downhill from here.)

I was keeping a wary eye on the news yesterday, since the Trump campaign kick-off rally took place in Tulsa, OK. There was a confluence of so many factors that I was concerned that it could prove a flash point leading to a very large social explosion.

It may well have been on the minds of all those gathered: the Trump supporters, the protesters and counter protesters, and the police. Aside from a few minor incidents, the event concluded peacefully, which was a credit to all sides. Even the ones who might have been looking for trouble seemed to have second thoughts.

Trump was determined to stir the shit, and brought his full arsenal of race-baiting, xenophobia, and defamation of any who oppose him to the show. But he gazed around the half-empty stadium, doubtlessly thinking of his campaign’s boasts that a million people had expressed an interest in attending (only 6,275 did, according to the stadium gatekeepers), and gave his two-hour speech in a listless monotone, and just fifteen minutes in, his enthusiastic audience of true believers were beginning to look openly bored. Outside, the stage for the planned-for overflow rally was being dismantled (the campaign seriously expected between 100 and 300 thousand people to flood into Tulsa for this event) and millions of viewers were gifted with the eerie sight of a twenty-four foot screen in the parking lot showing Trump addressing the audience inside, with an audience of exactly nobody. You would think that there might be some old guy, taking his dog out for an evening stroll, who stopped to see what the asshole was saying while his dog relieved itself, but no. Just one lonely, bored tech whose job it was to make sure nobody stole the screen or the equipment running it. And he wasn’t even watching it.

Trump, apparently determined to keep the public attention focused on his mental and physical health, ranted for 15 minutes about the news noting his difficulties maneuvering down the ramp at the West Point ceremony (It didn’t help that someone found an old video of Obama ascending the same ramp with the carefree grace of a teenager). Trump then essayed to show his audience that yes, he could indeed drink a glass of water using one hand. The audience cheered—one of the few things they really had to cheer about on this sad night—but everyone watching on television could see it was a tiny 6 ounce glass, half-full, and even then his movements were slow and considered. If it was a sobriety test, he would have failed. He went on to rant about poor old lazy and demented Joe, apparently unaware that the Biden campaign had just put out an ad showing Biden jogging, where he pauses to tell the camera, “I would like to see Trump do this.”

Trump also made the extraordinarily stupid boast that he asked for testing for the coronavirus to be slowed down, leaving people to wonder if he really thought less tests meant less cases. That’s a bit like eating 4,000 calories a day, convinced that so long as you don’t step on the scales, you aren’t putting on weight. It’s magical thinking, and about the lowest and most self-destructive form of magical thinking there is. This should be in every Democratic ad between now and November, if they have any sense at all.

Speaking of which, one online correspondent told me that the sparse turnout may have saved thousands of lives. Given the exponential nature of contagion, I’ve little doubt that he’s right. Horowitz, of course, had the mot juste: “Coronavirus disappointed by small turnout.” Trump’s campaign slogan ought to be “Donald: Because he’s killed a lot less people than he might have.”

Finally, there were the images of the Donald alighting from the Marine helicopter on the grounds of the White House in the predawn hours. Exhausted, haggard, obviously depressed, he had his tie undone and hanging from around his neck like a suicidal rattlesnake, and his pose could only be described as ‘abject.’

Fingerpointing for this undeniable fiasco began at once. Brad Parscale, man most likely to be unemployed by Monday night, opined that the campaign based its inflated projections of attendance on thousands of K-Pop fans on TikTok who reserved most of the tickets and flooded the “interested in attending” page. Someone finally noticed the hideous optics of a professional campaign getting scammed like that by a bunch of teenagers in Korea (you don’t put a $25 deposit on reserving a ticket, for crissakes?) and decided that some 300,000 committed Republicans were going to show, but were scared off by AntiFa(scists) and BLM protesters. There were about 300 anti-Trump protesters there, consisting of the usual suspects—school teachers, college students, and (shiver violently as I say the words) people who hate fascists. If they really scared off 300,000 Republicans, then they made the Battle of Thermopylae look weak by comparison. The Trump campaign just blamed the poor attendance on widespread cowardice within the party. That should play well with his supporters.

Trump looked like a cornered rat, and you know what they say about cornered rats. He, and his party and followers, are going to be more dangerous and extreme going forward, now unable to entertain the belief they are an unstoppable popular front.

One indication of this came in the form of an unbelievable full page ad in the Nashville Tennessean. In fairness, the paper did immediately repudiate and pull the ad once the blow-back began, saying, “The ad is horrific and is utterly indefensible in all circumstances. It is wrong, period, and should have never been published. It has hurt members of our community and our own employees and that saddens me beyond belief. It is inconsistent with everything The Tennessean as an institution stands and has stood for and with the journalism we have produced.”

Fair enough. But the ad was beyond belief, written by some end-times crackpot who claimed that “Islam” was going to explode a nuclear weapon in Nashville sometime during the month of July. Quite aside from the hateful nature of the speech, there’s the fact that not everyone in Nashville is that tightly wound, and an ad like that could cause a panic.

There’s never a shortage of end-times crackpots around. I know several personally. Generally, they’re harmless. But some have both money and malice. And it’s not unusual for papers to have various nuts show up, money in hand, demanding that the local paper vouchsafe whatever demented and paranoid fantasies they have to the populace. Generally, papers have enough sense to tell them to bugger off.

Someone in a position of responsibility at the Tennessean thought publishing this was a good idea. Maybe it would get a few Moslems lynched. Maybe it would help Trump. Someone thought something this extreme and foolish would help the cause.

The right is crowded with people like that, and they are starting to panic.

Transitioning — The World is Changing—Fast

June 14th 2020

In front of Parliament in London, they encased the statue of Winston Churchill in plywood and put barricades around it to protect it from defacement and possible destruction at the hands of demonstrators. Just a few weeks ago, such a situation would have been unthinkable, let alone that it could have arisen from the murder of a black man by police in Minneapolis, four thousand miles away and three weeks before.

But in a social convulsion analogous to the Arab Spring, the mass demonstrations sparked by the murder of George Floyd have spread beyond America and throughout the west.

The Churchill statue is under threat much the same way the Confederate statues are under threat in America. There are quite a few distinctions that can be made, of course: Churchill didn’t fight for the enemy, and the statue wasn’t put up to try to keep alive a racist legacy. Now, if a statue of Klaus Barbie

had been erected in Coventry as a not-too-subtle reminder to the Jewish population to know their places, then it might make a lot more sense that people might want to pull it down.

Churchill had a lot of baggage, to be sure. He was a bigot, contemptuous of the peoples the English subjugated, and had a track record of enormous incompetence. But he was also one of the main reasons the United Kingdom still exists today. When England needed a heroic leader, he rose to the occasion. So unlike the Confederate statues that dot the US, there are actually legitimate reasons to honor Churchill with such.

Unfortunately, movements like this tend to overreach, and hopefully common sense will prevail in London. Teach Churchill’s flaws, but honor the man for his greatness.

In the United States, the groundswell of discontent is still taking shape. A lot of what we’re seeing is hopeful. African-Americans deserve far better treatment than they’ve been getting, and have a right to walk the streets and drive their cars without fear, just like the rest of us. The role of police in society needs to be rethought from the ground up. In the 60s and 70s, when society was obsessed with crime and social unrest, the concept arose of cowboy cops who didn’t play by the rules and didn’t mind breaking a lot of eggs to make an omelet. It became fashionable to have out-of-control cops protected by a ‘thin blue line’ mentality that took care of their own, no matter how corrupt and self-defeating it might be. Few noticed or cared that there were no omelets, just plenty of broken eggs, and the police were seen, more and more, as vicious bullies and swaggering cowards. Community relations, in far too many places, was seen as being for weenies.

Additionally there was the racial component. Cops in far too many places were there to uphold white privilege. And subjugate black people. Police batons were called ‘night-sticks’ even though they were most often used in broad daylight, and had worse names. The war on drugs, itself a tactic of racial oppression, made things even worse. So did increasingly draconian laws, such as ‘three-strikes’ which overwhelmingly targeted African-American populations.

It wasn’t enough to attack minorities, though; police were useful for attacking other vulnerable parts of the population, those seen as unprofitable by capitalist leaders. So more and more, police were sent to deal with homelessness, mental illness, poverty, and any other social problem that presented itself. They weren’t just the bully boys of capitalism; they became its janitors, as well.

Black Lives Matter and the rest of the movement hope to address that, and that can only be an improvement.

But there are two other elements of American society that also scream for reform, and without them, the chances of success are much slimmer.

First, there is the problem of capitalist domination of society. No fascist society is free, and a fascist society is one in which the people serve the economy, rather than the other way around. Capitalism requires a large pool of economic outcasts in order to threaten the workers and consumers. Its morality is not the morality of human beings, and bullying and subjugation are essential to maintaining control. Putting jails and the justice system on a “make it pay” basis ensured a vicious abattoir of oppression and viciousness in lieu of justice.

The GOP, now a Nazi Cult, insists that Americans must be prepared to die in the hundreds of thousands in order to protect billionaires from becoming millionaires, as witness Trump’s determination to pretend the coronavirus has gone, and America can resume business as normal. His Nuremberg rally, the Repulsa in Tulsa, planned now for the day after Juneteenth, will require that attendees not wear masks or practice safe distancing, but also sign a waiver relieving the Trump campaign of liability if they become sick from this plague that [cough] doesn’t exist.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but America must reduce the role of the upholstered parasites who use racism and unfairness as means of control.

The other major item is guns. That the President is a cowardly racist who thinks it’s fine for disgusting white neo-Nazis to carry weapons of war, but hides in a bunker behind 12 foot high fences at the thought of black people chanting, clearly demonstrates the racist and vicious nature of “gun rights.” Far too many of the wrong people have weapons meant to terrify and harass the rest of society—including cops. Cops are constantly being afraid because so many howling nuts have so many weapons, and that in turn makes them more trigger happy. I’m not saying that to excuse the behavior of pigs who think that killing blacks as a warning to the rest is legitimate police work—this is a problem in addition to that, one that affects good cops as well as bad. We saw the white trash Nazi movement in action in Michigan; America needs to rethink a philosophy that allows such cretins to have .50 cal machine guns.

It’s scary, and nobody knows where it’s going to go, but one thing is certain: America needs this social tsunami. It wasn’t survivable in its present form.

Can America Defeat Trump? — We’re at war. Pick a side.

Can America Defeat Trump?

We’re at war. Pick a side.

June 4th 2020

A lot of us have been saying for some time that when it comes to Trump, it’s going to boil down to either Trump prevailing or America. Trump does clumsy, weird huggings of the flag, and occasionally waves a bible around (in his latest photo-op stunt where he gassed peaceful protesters, he was holding it upside down and backwards) and that’s enough to convince the utter fucking morons that he’s a patriot and devout, but he has never shown any interest in the Constitution, the rights of the People, and openly expresses hatred for various target groups. As he accumulates power, that collection of groups will grow to include not only the ones his bigoted supporters already hate, but pretty much anyone who doesn’t support him.

He’s already had a falling out with Faux News for the crime of failing to jump to their collective feet and shout “Jawohl!” at all of his pronouncements. Now he’s getting harsh criticism for his recent actions from the military, former members of his cabinet, members of the GOP, and even the servile and amoral leaders of the evangelical right. Even some elements of the neo-Nazi right are getting restive; I saw an amazing political cartoon the other day in which Trump had a knee on the neck of Lady Liberty while a black-clad figure labeled “AntiFa” held her legs. I’ve always joked that when members of the far right started blaming the left for Trump, that would mean he’s finished. Well, here we are.

His actions over the past fortnight have been nothing short of grotesque. The PR stunt at St. John’s Episcopal (yes, backwards and upside down) may become a defining Moment of his political career, much the way holding up a toddler to protect himself from bullets became the Moment of Greg Stillson’s political career in Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone.”

Not that there weren’t others. The empty threats that he bleated from the bunker under the White House where he cravenly crouched; turning off the White House lights (last done in 1940), building the eight foot fence around the White House (a joke making the rounds is that Mexico might just be willing to pay for THIS wall), and the comparison of Trump crouching afraid, underground and in the dark, to Winston Churchill. (Churchill famously would go out during Blitz attacks so that he might personally observe the atrocities committed against England by Hitler). His craven posturing even invited negative comparisons to Richard Nixon, who, some 50 years earlier, was also in a White House surrounded by protests. Nixon went out late in the evening to talk to some random protesters face-to-face to try and get a dialogue of some sort going.

The stunt of putting anonymous clowns in full soldier kit—dozens of them—in response to minor vandalism perpetrated the night before at the Lincoln Memorial was both ludicrous and sinister. Who were those clowns? Were they soldiers? Cops? Secret Service? Blackwater? Were they even American? Fortunately for all, they were content to just stand there and look stupid, since the protesters weren’t targeting the memorial and the spray paint was probably just done by one asshole looking to stir the pot.

The stunt of flying a helicopter between buildings to use the backwash from the blades to disperse the crowd was dangerous beyond belief. Any helicopter pilot pulling such a stunt other than under direct orders from the President would have had his license to fly permanently revoked. I’m guessing we’ll never learn the name of the war criminal who flew that chopper at the behest of Trump.

Oh, did I say war criminal? Yes. The chopper was marked with the red cross, making that a violation of the Geneva convention. Medical insignia means “non-combatant” both for their protection, and when a cowardly little Nazi sits in the White House, for the protection of unarmed American civilians.

The act of gassing a group of peaceful demonstrators in order to stage a painfully awkward PR stunt meant to drum up support from the religious right was also a war crime.

Tom Cotton, a sitting Senator from Arkansas, wrote an editorial for the New York Times, one which the Times utterly disgraced itself by running, in which he called for siccing the airborne infantry on the protesters. Yet another war crime, and Cotton should be expelled from the Senate and tried for advocating mass slaughter of Americans. As for the Times, just remember that in critical moments, this is a paper that will lie to you in service to the GOP. Now they are willing to suspend the Posse Comitatus Act, Habeas Corpus, and presumably the first, third and fourth amendments just because Cotton wanted the world to know that there might be people opposed to fascism in the crowd.

Some of Trump’s desperation and panic is warranted. Not only have his actions caused schisms in his previously unshakable base, but the Pentagon has made it as clear as the law allows that it is not prepared to fire on unarmed American civilians.

Keith Ellison, the District Attorney for the state of Minnesota where the Floyd murder took place, announced charges against the four police involved in Floyd’s death; Murder-2 against Chauvin, and accomplices and accessories to murder against the other three.

I thought that might defuse the situation a fair bit. Ellison is well-trusted, and this provided a serious promise of the justice the protesters wanted.

But the protests are no longer against the Floyd murder, or the police murders of hundreds of others of African Americans in recent years. Now the crowd has realized that their true enemy, black or white, Christian or non, Democrat or non, is the treasonous wannabee dictator in the White House.

Last night police arrested over 10,000 people nationwide. Since masks and social distancing aren’t available in jail, it’s safe to assume that as many as a thousand of those people may become sick, and three hundred or so may die. All for protesting oppression and treason by the government against the people.

I’m guessing the protests won’t die down, only now, it isn’t just injustice: it’s Americans fighting for their country against an opportunistic and amoral traitor in the White House.