Barbie — Guise and Dolls

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

September 4th 2023

They’ve been making movies that are created for the sole purpose of flogging toys to kids for years, of course, and even if you don’t find the manipulation and exploitation of kids and their parents vulgar, most of them were pretty dire, since the budget went for special effects, and not for acting or writing.

And the last thing I wanted to see was a movie about fricken’ Barbie. As a retired male, I’m not exactly Mattel’s target demographic. Honest, I stopped playing with dolls when I was 55 as part of my probation. And I’m allergic to pink.

But the inevitable howls from the usual suspects on the right wing were, as usual, amusing. This crowd leads their mindless followers from one contrived social crisis to the next, whether it’s a black cartoon mermaid, litter boxes in school bathrooms, a President eating Grey Poupon mustard, or Bugs Bunny in drag. These ‘crises’ are usually stupid, pointless, and brainless, but then, they have a specific target audience.

But I noticed a more frantic tone this time. It wasn’t the usual crap about “plus size” Barbie, or gay Ken, or any of the other tired social tropes/bogeymen that the fascist right use to keep their herd frightened and docile. Ben Stein was so far over the top in his raving condemnation of the movie that I wondered if Barbie was the only girl who let him pull down her pants in high school and he still felt betrayed.

And it went on well beyond the usual puppet show shelf-life. The Barbie howls even drowned out the National Labor Relations Board ruling that any company caught interfering in any way with attempts to organize a union would automatically become a union shop immediately, no election needed. Yes, that was a landmark decision that will change the face of working conditions in America.

That should have sent them into paroxysms of red-baiting, but they were too busy pink-baiting (yes, that sounded pretty awful in my head as I wrote it, too) to notice.

Obviously, I was going to have to watch this movie to see what the fuss was about. Something was going on here.

My wife and I watched it. I never had a sister so I never experienced the joy of blowing up one of the dolls with firecrackers or feeding one to the dog. But my wife did, and I figured that as a long-time Barbie saboteur, she could lend moral support.

Barbieville is filled with hundreds of Barbies, who all live in a perfect matriarchy where everything is pink and life is perfect, and nobody ever cries or feels hurt or angry. There are hundreds of Kens, as well, and they are there to admire the Barbies. It’s a bit like the town in The Truman Show.

But one day, the lead character, Stereotypical Barbie, starts encountering problems. For one thing, her heels, which are always four inches higher than her toes, drop to the same level. Frightened, she consults with Weird Barbie, who tells her someone is playing too hard with her in Reality (our world) and she will have to go there and solve the problem.

Ken stows away in her convertible to reality, and in the course of trying to find the problem, Ken is contaminated with toxic masculinity. (The scene in which this first happens is when Barbie is at Santa Monica beach, and rebuffs a construction worker trying to hit on her by giving him a level stare and saying, “I don’t have a vagina.” That was a genuinely jaw-dropping moment.

They return to Barbieville unaware that they’ve been contaminated. Ken had stolen some books from the library in Santa Monica, and soon starts preaching a “Yo Bro” philosophy. He feels that he has a place at the table and should be respected. However, this leads to male bonding stuff ranging from bullying and abuse to giant trucks and for some reason, horses. Soon, the Kens plot to overthrow the Barbies.

The Barbies are confused and malleable at first, but a couple of Earthers, a tweener and her mum, start teaching the Barbies about empowerment and individual autonomy. Slowly, they learn to resist.

We watched this with growing amazement, and about an hour in, my wife said, “You know, this reminds me a lot of Pleasantville.”


Pleasantville was written, co-produced, and directed by Gary Ross. It stared Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, J. T. Walsh, and Reese Witherspoon, with Don Knotts, Paul Walker, Marley Shelton and Jane Kaczmarek in supporting roles.

In that movie, a couple of 1990s teens, brother and sister, are sent to a world based on a 1950s sitcom called Pleasantville. It’s the idyllic suburban life that TV liked to portray in such shows as Dobie Gillis, Father Knows Best, My Three Sons, or Leave it to Beaver. All the lawns were perfect and had white picket fences, the school teams never lost (indeed, the basketball team never missed a shot), and the wives were always immaculately coiffed and dressed and served breakfasts of sausage, pancakes, eggs, and ham that amounted to about 4,000 calories a plate, a cardiovascular feast of doom. Except nobody ever got sick in Pleasantville. The high school boys dreamed of going steady with “the right girl” and their highest ambition was to “pin” a girl and allow her to wear their letterman jackets. And the girls wanted to be pinned and wear the jackets.

Being a 1950s sitcom world, everything is in black and white, what we call greyscale now. There was no color.

Our 1990s sister noticed the boys right away, with avid interest. But she wasn’t interested in lapels or silly coats: she just wanted to get the boys into the back seat of their convertibles and bang the hell out of them. Despite the alarmed protest of her bother about the effect this might have on the inhabitants, she does so.

And something does happen to the boys: they start seeing in color, and become colored themselves. The girl tells her sitcom mother about masturbation, and the next day, Mom shows up with pink cheeks.

The colorization spreads, and the town authorities finally notice and Take Action, at which point the movie takes a very dark turn.

At that point, Pleasantville becomes a thing of beauty, a fantastic and marvelous film that packs a huge emotional wallop and is deeply inspiring. It truly is one of the finest movies ever made.

Barbie doesn’t have the multilayered nuance and complexity of Pleasantville, and nor does it build to as stunning a climax. But it will inspire millions of people who watch it, because it carries the same profound truths about personal awareness and autonomy, awareness of beauty, of others, of life, and the same drive toward individual freedom and liberty. It is a resounding shout in the blanket of a rise in fascism.

It is, in a word, “woke.”

Thus, the screams from the right. And thus the cheers, and hope, it gives millions who watch it.

Don’t dismiss it as a movie about little girls’ dolls. It’s much, much more than that.

Directed by Greta Gerwig

Written by Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach

Based on Barbie by Mattel

Produced by David Heyman, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Robbie Brenner

Starring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, Will Ferrell

Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto

Edited by Nick Houy

Music by Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt

Production companies Heyday Films, LuckyChap Entertainment, NB/GG Pictures, Mattel Films

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures

The Mugshot — Churchill, by Kubrick

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

August 24th 2023

The Trump mugshot was a shot seen ’round the world. Few who have seen it have been able to avoid interpreting the lowered-head scowl of Trump, seen variously as being in a fit of psychotic rage, scared to death, or defiant.

A meme all over social media mentions “the Kubrick glare,” or “the Kubrick stare.” It’s a favorite way the famed director Stanley Kubrick had of portraying one of his lead actors in a state of decompensation and sheer malice, described as “a heavy-browed look of insanity”. Think of Jack in The Shining. Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. For the first two actors mentioned (Jack Nicholson and Malcolm McDowell) they became career-defining images, and doubtlessly those demented glares contributed to the success of their films.

It probably wasn’t the look Trump was aiming for. His followers insist the look is one of defiance, and I suspect that was what he had in mind. And he based that on another iconic and world-famous photograph of a politician, the “Thundering Lion” image of Sir Winston S. Churchill.

The picture shows a seated Churchill glowering at the camera, and many people have inferred, from the time the photograph was taken (December 30th, 1941) that Churchill was trying to project courage and defiance.

Indeed, Churchill wanted to project that. While Britain had successfully fended off the planned German invasion (The Battle of Britain, aka “The Blitz”) some six months earlier, Churchill knew that he had to get the Americans to join in because otherwise the respite was only temporary. So he went to his ally, Canada, (at that point already actively fighting alongside Britain for two years) to harden resolve in the Canadian parliament, and by extension, persuade a reluctant US Congress.

Churchill did give a characteristically marvelous speech to the House of Commons, a speech famed in itself for his disparaging comments about the Petain regime in semi-occupied France. (“When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, ‘In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken! Some neck!”) But it is that image that is instantly recognized over 80 years later. (The signed original hung in Ottawa’s famed Château Laurier until December of 2020, when someone stole it.)

But defiance wasn’t what Churchill was trying to project when Yousuf Karsch snapped his shutter. It was more along the line of baffled, incredulous outrage over a sudden act of temerity against the Prime Minister.

Churchill had one of his stogies going, and Karsch didn’t want the smoke obscuring the image. He asked Churchill if he would set the cigar aside. Churchill refused. So just before the camera went off, Karsch darted in and snatched the cigar right out from Churchill’s mouth! What the camera caught was a look of amazed shock on Churchill’s face.

Yes, cameras lie. The image became synonymous with British resolve and cemented Churchill’s image as a heroic figure facing down the Nazi foe. You can recreate the photo just by walking up to any random baby and snatching the num-num from its mouth. Although if mum is nearby, you risk, in the words of some unfortunate French general, getting your “neck wrung like a chicken.”

Churchill himself admiringly remarked Karsch could “even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed,” which led, somewhat inexplicably, to the title of the photo.

I think Trump was trying to recreate the image of defiance that Thundering Lion evokes. But like most things Trump, he got it ass backwards. Churchill wasn’t feeling resolute at that instant; he was about to have a tantrum.

Trump wanted to project resolve and defiance. Instead, he looks like he’s about to have a tantrum. Someone stole his num-num.

I suspect that Trump practices a lot of his facial expressions in the mirror. A lot of sociopaths do, in an effort to appear more human and less unco. Trump, however, didn’t practice this one very much. That, or he was so rattled at having his mug shot taken (the emotional equivalent of some commoner ripping a cigar out of his mouth) that he wound up looking like a man who had just plotzed and was hoping his Depends would contain the odor.

It wasn’t his Churchillian moment. It was, if anything, his anti-Churchillian moment. Whatever that grimace was, it wasn’t calm determination. It was the opposite of calm determination. It was a man about to lose his shit.

It was the Kubrick stare, only he wasn’t acting.

Ke-ua-a-ke-pō — Pele upstaged by the spirit of rain and fire


Pele upstaged by the spirit of rain and fire

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

August 14th, 2023

There are very few people in California who don’t feel deep sympathy and compassion for the victims of the Maui fire, which is now the greatest natural disaster the State of Hawai’i has suffered. Most of us have faced (and some suffered) the same fate. At the bottom of this article you will find CBS-provided links to some of the most reputable and effective aid agencies working to help the survivors put their lives back together. If you can see your way clear, please donate.

One element of this disaster that caught my eye was that abandoned cane plantations outside of Lahaina had become overgrown with non-native grasses, many of which were eight-to-ten feet high. According to Ben Adler at Yahoo News, “Before it was drained by plantation owners irrigating their farms, the Lahaina area was a wetland, according to the local environmental advocacy organization Save the Wetlands.”

A fire bomb waiting to happen, in other words. All it took was a few weeks of drought followed by hot winds from a passing hurricane.

It’s something we know all too well here in California. While the public forestlands get criticized (rightly) for being overgrown, the fact is roughly 15% of wildfires start on government lands ( ) but because of the relative remoteness of such regions, only 3% of wildfires that affect settled areas come from the public lands. The rest start on private lands, many of which are just as neglected.

It’s a big issue for small towns in the forested areas, where the state has been thinning and building firebreaks and issuing grants to local fire safe councils to do the work. However the efforts are negated by negligent property owners who bought land for a two-times-a-year vacation, or to lease out, or simply for investment, and are loath to put out the money needed to make the property fire-safe. It’s one thing to remove trees and keep brush and grass cropped to protect your property, but if the neighboring lot has grass three feet tall with a couple of dead pines, you’ve mitigated nothing.

California used to have what was called “proving” laws pertaining to individual mining claims and grazing areas. If you staked a claim, in order to maintain that claim, you had to do $100 every year in improvements. (Call it about $2,500 in today’s money). Perhaps the state needs to consider similar laws for unimproved or unoccupied lots, where fire amelioration standards must be met or the property is forfeit. That would have the dual benefits of helping to protect the mountain areas and discourage rentiers from buying up all the forested properties.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, a member (DekeDeke) of Guardian’s Comment is Free blog wrote, “With biodiversity already on a precipitous decline globally, with severe under funding of critical research and data collection. We have a very narrow understanding of what is currently happening to ecosystem after ecosystem. Let alone how these environments will suffer the additional stresses from climate change.

Absolutely. There is no denying that we are in trouble. But with scientists being surprised regularly at unknown feedback loops, exponential and synergetic effects, and chain reactions, we have a long way to go to really understand this.

Given we are now in a constant state of flux. It will never be settled.

He is raising valid points that everyone needs to be aware of. No, science can’t predict all the permutations of climate change. The system is incredibly complex, and on the single level of climate patterns alone, chaotic. So yes, we have to expect many surprises that nobody saw coming, and it’s safe to assume that most of them won’t be pleasant.

By way of example, here’s my own semi-informed guess as to how we’ll fare here in the northern California mountains over the next twenty years. I expect that amounts of precipitation will remain about the same and possibly a little bit higher, but that drought and fire problems will sharply increase and the state will evolve from water shortages to full-on water crises.

If that sounds contradictory, it isn’t. Rain or no, California will continue to warm, and it’s reasonable to expect that warming to progress with a greater effect in the mountain regions. (Here at one kilometer altitude, we’ve had six days this summer over 100, with a seventh forecast for today. I lived here twenty years before seeing 100 on the property. Now it’s becoming commonplace.) Warmer means faster rates of evaporation, meaning the soils and plants dry faster. Further, the area of snow coverage is decreasing dramatically as snow levels rise. (It helps to think of mountains as being like cones, and the surface area decreases dramatically with height. For those with maths, it’s something like this: A = L + B = πrs + πr2 = πr(s + r) = πr(r + √(r2 + h2)). Don’t let your young kids see that if you want to keep them in school.)

So less water in snowpack, higher rate of drying, and hotter. Add to that increased mortality of stressed trees, and the recipe for disaster is clear.

Add the bugger factor that DekeDeke mentioned, and brace yourself: expect the unexpected.

More Lahainas will happen. We don’t know when, we don’t know how, but we can take steps to try and avoid the worst.



The American Red Cross

Disaster workers from the American Red Cross are in Maui, “working around the clock to help those affected,” the group says. To donate, visit, call 1-800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767), or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

You can also go to to make a donation.

The Hawai’i Community Foundation

The Hawai’i Community Foundation is accepting donations through its Maui Strong Fund. The foundation has already raised $1 million to help fire victims, Hawaii News Now reports. To donate, visit the fund’s website. For questions or additional information, please contact Donor Services at or (808) 566-5560.

Maui United Way

Maui United Way, founded in 1945, works to address Maui’s vital needs by focusing on education, income and health. The organization has set up a Maui Fire and Disaster Relief Donations Page. All donations are processed online.

Maui Food Bank

Maui Food Bank provides “safe and nutritious food” to anyone in Maui County who is at risk of going hungry, the organization says. Maui Food Bank also donates food to disaster relief efforts on the island. “With every $1 donated, the Maui Food Bank can provide 4 meals to the hungry living in our island community,” the food bank pledges. To donate, visit the food bank’s website,

Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Blessing

Faith-based NPOs specializing in disaster relief.




Terms and Conditions — Some apply, some don’t

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

August 6th 2023

I’ve been thinking over the past few days about various terms I’ve been using, sometimes interchangeably, and in this dark era, often improperly. The terms I have in mind are conservative, libertarian, fascist, Christian, religious, fundamentalist, and finally, cult. Not the normal definition of cult, but how the term is used in relation to Trump’s following. All require a more specific usage to reflect the times we are in.

Let’s start with “conservative.” I stopped using it to describe the ideologues and flat-out nuts that have infested the GOP beginning with Goldwater and which flowered under Newt Gingrich. Conservatives traditionally supported small government, careful husbanding of resources, and staunchly supported separation of church and state. The Republican party has been taken over by people who support overwhelming government interference in personal lives, utter contempt for efforts to control pollution or address the damage done by pollution, and are in many cases determined to inflict the more savage elements of religious doctrine on all the rest of us. The very opposite of “conservative.”

“Fascist.” The most simple and direct definition of a fascist is that it’s someone who is authoritarian, and wants a merger of state and corporate power. They don’t mind associating with patriotism and devoutness as long as it furthers their aims, which basically are establishment of a plutocratic autocracy. People associate fascism with Hitler, but Hitler was beyond the pale. Fascist regimes are ugly, oppressive and corrupt, but nothing equal to the insane nightmare of Nazism.

“Libertarian.” Most libertarians (but not all) are closeted right wingers who have learned to adopt the parlance associated with American liberties and civil rights. They purport to be for the rights of the individual, and want government to be small enough to “drown in the bathtub.” It’s worth noting that the Libertarian Party was founded by the same people who underwrote the John Birch Society. Yes, the same people who rode a wave of McCarthyism in the ‘50s. Ask a libertarian “if a corporation is beneficial to society because it is a group of people banded together to protect their mutual interests and benefit while providing a needed service to society, then shouldn’t labor unions be viewed the same way?” The answer will tell you much about that particular Libertarian. You find that when most libertarians talk about rights and freedoms, they mean rights and freedoms for the bosses, not the workers or consumers. Many libertarians are, in fact, fascist.

Fascists are not conservative, and few conservatives are fascist. Stop calling people like Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump “conservative.” They are anything but. Those two have gone beyond fascism to the greater nightmare.

“Christian,” “religious” and “fundamentalist” are often applied to people of faith with varying degrees of accuracy. Fundamentalist usually is associated with a need for order and control, and a high personal demand for rigid and authoritarian structure. It’s a psychological disorder, associated with religion only because many religions offer the same hard and fast answers and absolute truths that fundamentalists crave in their lives. “Christian” and “religious” are umbrella terms that defy any sort of specific definition. There’s tens of thousands of different religious sects under the umbrella of “Christianity” alone, and the differences go far beyond one word in The Lord’s Prayer or the number of cross bars on the cross. Some are totally unrecognizable to other Christians. As a rule of thumb, the closer in ideology two sects are, the more likely they are to reject each other as heretics.

The majority of Christians, and for that matter, many fundamentalists, are not part of the toxic pseudo-religiosity that has permeated the American right and is behind the move to impose their doctrines on the American people, in the form of women’s issues, racial oppression, and oppressive control for non-believers. Those people are called ‘zealots,’ and most religious writings, including the Bible (at times) condemn zealotry as a toxic and destructive force in any culture. Zealots may claim the mantle of God, but in reality, they are vicious, controlling bigots willing to kill and lie and destroy in the name of their beliefs. Zealotry isn’t limited to Christianity—all religions attract them, as do all political movements.

The main weapon against zealotry is to have a religion or political belief that practices tolerance, inclusion, and, well, wokeness.

Finally, let’s talk about cults. Or rather, let’s talk about the people who are part of MAGA who follow Trump, because they aren’t really a cult. Oh, I’ve called them cultists myself, but I did some thinking on it, and realize that what we are dealing with here is something outside a standard framework of a cult.

Cults, no matter how weird or nasty, have to stand FOR something. They have a god, a leader, someone who followers can worship and admire. They offer hope, and community, and trust. Trump offers the trappings of that, but even his own followers find that Trump’s compassionate embrace is very thin gruel indeed.

What he does offer to people is the excuse to go out and be assholes. Rather than build his followers up, he vilifies all non-followers through verbal abuse, lies, and calumnies. He takes his pages, not from spiritual leaders, but from hate-mongers who have realized that hatred is a powerful force. It’s always been an element of the American right—open hatred of liberals and progressives dates back to the days of the John Birch Society. Trump can’t offer hope, or love. But he can tell people it’s OK to hate others, and to assume anyone not part of the movement is the enemy. Liberals “groom” children, just like Jews drink the blood of Christian babies or all black people want is to rape white women. Zealotry is a very powerful and massively destructive force, capable of great harm (Germany, 1945) and extremely dangerous.

But because it offers hatred and not any kind of socially binding force beyond that, it’s far easier to dissipate the following by defeating it. Successful cults have true believers generations after they fade. Hate movements tend to evaporate in a self-realization of guilt and shame over what the followers have become, and social opprobrium. Remember how the Nazis in Germany all just vanished after Berlin fell and Hitler died? Cut off the head, and the movement dies. It’s not quite the same as a cult. More dangerous, but more vulnerable.

Anyway, this is all just my opinion. Read it, think it over, and decide for yourself if I’m right or not.

But I believe it’s time our political terminology embraces our present-day realities.


Like Nixon Flinging Poo — Trump’s demise is ultimately low comedy

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

July 25th 2023

Back nearly fifty years ago, my buddy Grunt and I were sitting around in my room/converted garage and just shooting the shit. It was late July, 1974, and it was becoming obvious that the Nixon presidency was drawing to a close. Like nearly everyone, we were wondering What Would Happen Next.

Grunt was of the opinion that Nixon would not go quietly, and gleefully painted a lurid picture of a naked or near naked Nixon, clinging frantically to the top of the highest flagpole over the White House, howling obscenities into the wind as he swayed back and forth, shrieking and flinging his poo at the army helicopters that circled around him.

Mind you, this was back when presidents were supposed to be dignified and present a good example to the nation. Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman were considered shockingly undignified at the time. We thought Nixon was the worst, most blatant criminal to ever occupy the oval office. But at least he tried to hide his wrong-doings. And he even had a moral basement. For instance, as the looming indictments and impeachment grew, he and staff forbade themselves to use the word “pardon” in any context (Gerald Ford didn’t get the memo, apparently) not just because it looked bad, but it crossed a line most of Nixon’s staff were not willing to step over.

It was a different era. Since then, we’ve had Reagan, Bush the lesser and Trump to show that the adage that “anyone can grow up to be president” includes fools, morons, scofflaws and people so poorly trained in social skills that they wouldn’t be able to hold a job pumping gas. People might want an Abraham Lincoln, but they’ll settle for a Zaphod Beeblebrox. Two heads are better than one, right?

But back in 1974, Grunt’s view of the demise of Nixon was outrageously funny. (There may have been some beer involved.) It was about as outside the realm of expected actions as the Pope hitting the local pub, getting pissed and doing a Knees Up Mother Brown whilst wearing an Andy Capp cap. Jerry Lewis playing Atticus Finch.

I should ring Grunt (we talk about once a month anyway) and get his take on the demise of Trump. I know he’s delighted. I never saw him more openly angry then he was when, in the summer of 2016, we discussed the chance of Trump becoming president. We both knew the possibility was real.

But it would be unfair to expect Grunt to match his soliloquy on Nixon. At least, as far as being outrageously and unexpectedly funny. Grunt still has matchless verbal skills.

It’s just that every night now, Trump climbs the Truth Social flag pole and starts screaming and flinging his poo. He screams delusional bluster about how indicting him “will destroy the Joe Biden presidency” and calls for Congress to destroy the FBI, the District Attorneys, and every other legal force that might inconvenience him. He makes open threats, and openly promises pardons to the violent filth that turned out on his behalf on January 6th. He’s showing all the dignity and gravitas of one of the meth clowns in wifebeaters waving 40s who got hauled in on Cops. Mack Sennet comedies usually ended with more gravitas and probity. Trump has reduced American politics and governance to a pie fight.

Grunt won’t be able to match his effort which I remember so vividly a half century later.

Sorry, Grunt. It’s not you. It’s the world that’s changed.

What is truly depressing is how much of America Trump pulled down around him. Oh, his supporters have always existed, and they were always deplorable. Trump just made it easier for them to crawl out from under their rocks. But the GOP has become a self-doomed disgrace. When Trump falls, they will implode. They worshiped Trump, and he gave them the moral equivalent of syphilis.

Will the media have a similar fall? Faux will never recover from the role they played propping up Trump and lying on his behalf. But what about CNN and MSNBC, who even now put in hours pretending the Trump presidential campaign is a real thing and he might be president again? It’s a lie, one that drives up ratings, and they know it’s a lie. They can bloviate all they want about how popular Trump is amongst Republicans, but that is only a quarter of the voting population. The rest want to see the end of him in overwhelming numbers. Sixty percent of voters reject Trump under all circumstances. No candidate can overcome that.

Will the media do their own version of Nixon’s demise as Trump collapses? After all, once he’s in prison and finished, how are they going to attract viewers? More indictments are coming, possibly this week, and some are the sort that will finish any political credibility Trump has remaining. Even his followers are beginning to wise up. Prince Charming just wants to sell Springfield an elevated monorail, and whatever Jesus is doing, even the Jesus that wants to gas transgenders, he isn’t hugging Trump.

It’s a sign of how frantic the right is becoming as they become ever more loud and violent and vicious, hoping to detract from the fall of Trump and hoping that something in their message will appeal to Americans. It explains the flat-out Naziesque cruelty of people like Ron DeSantis or Gregg Abbott, or the increasingly ludicrous Hunter Biden scandal or the Barbie foofooraw. (Yes, Barbie. The doll. Apparently she’s an agent for Pink China.)

Expect lots of monkeys on lots of flagpoles throwing lots of poo.

But watch carefully: Three quarters of the population will be still, and silent, and thoughtful, carefully watching the end of Trump and his diseased movement. They, not the poo-flingers, are what matter.

The Dwindle Swindle — Despite media impressions, the far right is collapsing

The Dwindle Swindle

Despite media impressions, the far right is collapsing

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

July 9th 2023

There’s a meme making the rounds on social media these days that addresses the true state of Trump’s popularity. There are variations, but it basically goes like this: “As an experiment, I had my daughter wear a ‘Trump 2020’ T shirt to see what sorts of reactions the shirt might provoke. So far she’s been cursed at, spit upon, and had garbage thrown at her. I’m wondering what the reactions will be like when she leaves the house.”

Despite the efforts of the for-profit media to prop up the Trump campaign, the fact is that polls show that fully 60% of all voters don’t want Trump back in the White House under any circumstance. The Marist National Poll for National Public Radio and PBS NewsHour was conducted in March, before the 72 indictments were issued. According to Newsweek, “The Marist poll found 76 percent of Republicans do want Trump to run for a second term, with just 21 percent disagreeing, indicating he has a good chance of clinching the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination. By contrast, 89 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents don’t want Trump to run again, nor do 41 percent of those identified as ‘white Evangelical Christians,’ a group that has become increasingly lukewarm towards the Republican front-runner.” Even Fox News reported on the poll.

That 60% reject Trump out of hand would seem insurmountable. But not to the ratings-hungry media, to whom Trump is catnip.

Yes, the Trumpster has a big lead among Republicans. But Republicans only make up 36 million out of the 127 million voters who have to declare party affiliation, running well behind second-place independents. And that was in mid 2022. Their numbers have shrunk since then as the party has been taken over by fringe lunatics on the far right who push such wildly unpopular ideas as banning abortion and birth control, bringing back segregation and child labor, and getting rid of Social Security and minimum wage.

Yes, Trump could win the primaries, even though he’ll be on trial for at least some of that period, and will in all likelihood be facing hundreds of new indictments for anything up to and including insurrection and sedition. Depending on the nature of those documents he stole, and who he showed them to, he might even be facing charges of actions injurious to the national interests (the closest possible charge to treason in peacetime). The general election would be the biggest slaughter in presidential elections since 1936.

It is fun watching the right—the ones sane enough to spot the looming disaster—race in panicked circles. Maria Bartiromo, who has at least learned to lie about entities that won’t sue her such as the FBI and DoJ, told Ron DeSantis (NSDAP-Florida) that he couldn’t win because the DoJ and FBI were out to destroy him. That would be the Deep Statetm. The one that is trying to destroy Trump. (How do you destroy Trump? Let him speak.)

I’m not exactly clear on how the Deep State will finish Trump by destroying his main rival in the primaries, but I’m sure Maria has it all figured out. Jewish space lasers and electronic mind control devices hidden in COVID vaccines, no doubt.

Trump keeps self-sabotaging, and in increasingly stupid ways. His lawyers keep deserting him because he is the client from hell who can’t keep his mouth shut and keeps self-incriminating. He cheats and betrays his allies at the faintest sign of what he considers disloyalty, real or imagined. He breaks promises blatantly, publicly, and for no good reason. For example, he went into an eatery on his birthday and promised food for everyone there, and then promptly left, leaving angry patrons and a dismayed restaurant staff hanging. I can only surmise that he thought the media would only cover the generous promise and not follow up, even though, given his track record, reporters would be doing exactly that in search of a juicier news story.

The far right is similarly self-destructively confused. Moms For Liberty (AKA ‘Twatzies’, ‘Ku Klux Karens’ or ‘Housewives for Hitler’) spearhead the Moment of Hate campaigns against the LGBTQ community, trans-gendered kids in particular, and have become the face of book banning. The various Nazi militia groups that formed the backbone of Trump’s attempted coup on January 6th vacillate between calling for a nationwide uprising and pretending they had nothing to do with Jan 6 and what’s more, Trump deluded them into it. Republican politicians keep trying to out-Nazi one another, the most visible (but not necessarily the worst) being Ron DeSantis. His reign in Florida is so grotesquely fascistic that hundreds of thousands have already fled the state, and millions more are seriously contemplating it. Even the Floridians who don’t mind his authoritarianism, bigotry and cruelty are becoming aware that he is going to destroy Florida’s economy. (If German corporations had stood up to Hitler instead of trying to use him to their own ends, Hitler would have been just a small footnote in history. US Corporations take note.)

Like a gravely wounded predator, the far right is in a frenzy, chewing on its own entrails. They have the potential to be fantastically dangerous, but in the end, they are self-doomed.

Remember the 60% of voters reject Trump poll, and ignore the contrived horse race media self-promotion. The fact is, a large majority of people don’t want Trump, or his deplorable following.

How to Avoid Discrimination — A strange day in court

How to Avoid Discrimination

A strange day in court

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

July 1st 2023

The docket was distinctly odd. The next half-hour was given over to something listed as “an advisory trial,” a term that simply didn’t exist in Judge Meyersota’s experience. Only one attorney and a “client” were listed. He scanned the courtroom confusion softening his stern features. He glared at the bailiff. “Well?” his eyebrows inquired. The bailiff gave a slight shrug and glanced at the district attorney. Meyersota gave a light cough, getting an obedient attention from the DA. “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that is it customary to have an accused in these types of proceedings. Despite having looked at the accustomed location in this court room for a defendant, such a person stubbornly refuses to manifest. Perhaps you have an explanation for this?”

The DA gave another shrug, one carrying an admixture of dread and resignation to Meyersota’s practiced eye. “Your honor, there is no defendant.”

Meyersota gave a benign smile and glanced down at the desk before him. He looked up at the DA, wearing an expression normally used to reassure frightened kittens. “No…defendant, Mister, erm, Kavano? Am I hearing you properly?”

“You are correct, your honor.” Kavano fumbled at the book he held before himself. Meyersota noted that it was a bible. “The, um, defendant is hypothetical.”

“Hypothetical.” Meyersota paused, considering his next words. “To quote: ‘involving or being based on a suggested idea or theory: being or involving a hypothesis. Conjectural. Speculative.’ Am I to understand that your non-evident defendant is conjectural? Or would the word be speculative?”

Kavano was sweating. Meyersota did not see this as an endearing quality. “Suppositional might be a better word.”

“I see. I see. And what is it that you are asking me to suppose about this defendant?”

“The defendant is a group of people that the plaintiff believes may make unreasonable demands upon her.”

“May make?” Meyersota glanced at his screen. “I see we do actually have a plaintiff listed, and apparently she has a name. Erm, Karen Scalito.” He turned his attention to the woman sitting next to Kavano. “Would that be yourself?”

Scalito stood and bowed her head. “It would, you honor.”

Meyersota knew that declaring a recess and suspending the proceedings would be his only real course of action at this point. No defendant? Could you even HAVE a plaintiff if there was no defendant?

But his curiosity was piqued at this point. What were Kavano and this Scalito woman playing at?

Meyersota gavelled. “I declare court to be in recess. Would Mr. Kavano and Ms. Scalito attend to me in chambers? He glanced around. “Is there a defense attorney here? Or is he as real as his client?”

Kavano winced. “I’m presenting arguments for the defense.”

“You’re…” Meyersota actually gasped. “Am I to understand you are prosecuting and defending attorney…erm, attorneys in this travesty?” Kavano nodded, clearly wishing to put his Bible between him and his view of Meyersota’s face. Meyersota was wearing a well-practiced expression designed to melt certain grades of titanium.

“Chambers. NOW!”

* * *

“All right. Siddown.” Meyersota normally offered a choice of sweets and non-alcoholic libations in chambers discussions, hoping to promote a sense of collegiality amongst warring factions. But this was unknown territory, and Meyersota was wondering if Kavano was pranking him in some way. Misdirected humor in court was sometimes a career-ender. No sweets for you, Mr. Kavano. Not until I know what the hell this is.

“Now, explain to me how this is even remotely a proper court proceeding with no defendant.”

“303 Creative v. Elenis, your honor. Just came out this week. The ruling says that an artist may not be compelled to write or portray actions or images that he or she finds objectionable.”

“303 Creative…wait a minute. It that the case where some woman sued over the right to not have to violate her religious principles and write a message on a wedding cake for a gay couple?” Meyersota paused to recollect. “It turned out that the party she named as opponent in the suit in fact wasn’t gay, was married for many years to a woman, still was, and had no intention of marrying anyone else? In fact, it turned out that he had never approached that woman and asked her to perform any service at all for him? She just picked his name out of a phone book or something?”

Kavano nodded. Meyersota looked aghast. “And the Supreme Court ACCEPTED that mess?”

“And ruled on it, your honor.” Kavano opened his bible and pulled out a sheath of papers. “It says here, ‘Ms. Smith and the State stipulated to a number of facts: Ms. Smith is “willing to work with all people regardless of classifications such as race, creed, sexual orientation, and gender” and “will gladly create custom graphics and websites” for clients of any sexual orientation; she will not produce content that “contradicts biblical truth” regardless of who orders it; Ms. Smith’s belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman is a sincerely held conviction; Ms. Smith provides design services that are “expressive” and her “original, customized” creations “contribut[e] to the overall message” her business conveys “through the websites” it creates; the wedding websites she plans to create “will be expressive in nature,” will be “customized and tailored” through close collaboration with individual couples, and will “express Ms. Smith’s and 303 Creative’s message celebrating and promoting” her view of marriage; viewers of Ms. Smith’s websites “will know that the websites are her original artwork.

“Hmph. Well, it is stare decisis that the First Amendment forbids the government from compelling people to say something that they would rather not say. But that’s an action taken by the government. Was your suppositional defendant a government?”

“The situation we’re stipulating is that the plaintiff, Ms. Scalito caters party functions. She is moving to prevent having to cater events which she finds objectionable.”

“’Objectionable.’ You mean like stag parties, or…I don’t know, frat parties where there’s underage drinking going on?”

Scalito spoke up. “I mean heathen events. Bar Mitzvahs, Arab weddings, that sort of thing.”

Meyersota had tried some extremely distasteful people in his day, and was well-versed in maintaining an impartial mien. He had also learned to hear a person out, no matter how unpromising the start. But Scalito was already trying his patience.

“Mr. Kavano, you might advise your client that the law forbids discriminatory practices against those in protected classes. This includes religious beliefs.” Meyersota glanced at the Bible Kavano was still holding. “ALL religious beliefs. I’m a practicing Christian myself, but generally do not permit holy texts and artifacts in my courtroom other than in an evidentiary role. Is that Bible you’re waving around evidence of some sort?”

Kavano glanced at the bible as if it had come to life and was wriggling in his hands. He stuffed it into his briefcase, giving Scalito a dark glance. She made him carry it, Meyersota realized. This was getting weirder by the moment.

Scalito gave Kavano a disgusted look and spoke up. “I have nothing against Arabs, your honor, and some of my best friends are Jews. But I am an artiste, and I feel that if I am forced to engage in thematic imagery or wording as part of my catering services, people might think that I personally am Jewish or Muslim, and as a devout Christian, I wish to be spared that.”

Meyersota gave Scalito a level stare. “That seems a bit far-fetched, Ms. Scalito. Take me, for example. I wrote lesson plans and essays as part of my role as an adjunct professor at the local college. I wrote a piece that laid out the groundwork for the findings for legal action against the police whose African American prisoner died in custody last summer. I argued that the prisoner in question was entitled to the full rights of any white prisoner and might still be alive had he been treated the same as a white prisoner.

“Does that mean people will think I am African American? And for that matter, should I care if some people get that impression? There is no shame intrinsically in being African American, just as there is nothing shameful about being Jewish or Islamic.”

“But I have a right as a Christian to not be lumped in with those other religions. They are false!”

Kavano spoke up. “Your honor, my client isn’t asking for the right to discriminate. She is asking, under the provisions set out in Creative 303, to be permitted to avoid serving customers so that she can avoid having to be discriminatory.”

Avoid being discriminatory.  Yeesh.  Meyersota had heard enough. “I don’t see grounds for a trial, or any sort of legal proceeding here. You don’t have a plaintiff because nobody has been wronged. You don’t have a defendant. The argument that a client may discriminate in order to avoid having to discriminate is absurd on its face. Come back when you have something that fits in the framework of law, or even common sense, and we can proceed.

“Now get out of my courtroom.”

What Just Happened in Russia? — It feels like 1934, and the start of the Great Purge

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

June 26th 2023

Despite having had seven years to consolidate his power, Joseph Stalin (Joseph Vissarionovich) was feeling uneasy. Despite the propagandistic success of his “cult of personality” leadership (since emulated by Hitler, Mao, and Trump) and ongoing purges of party leadership in show trials for the previous five years, it was already becoming clear that his plans to collectivize the entire agricultural sector was becoming a major social and economic disaster. Millions had already died as a result of the Holodomor, or Great Famine, which struck principally in the bread basket of the USSR, the Ukraine. Millions more starved to death in Russia proper and in the Kazakh regions. Abroad, Hitler had taken power in Germany, openly proclaiming his intent to invade and subjugate “the Slavic regions” which included the USSR. At home, talk of revolution became more open, and in his personal life, Stalin’s wife committed suicide and his eldest son attempted the same. His oldest daughter had massive mental problems.

Stalin’s response was “the Great Purge” which by 1938 was called “the Great Terror.” Some 750,000 people were executed, and tens of millions thrown into the Gulags.

Incredibly, and American right wingers emulate this cult of personality leadership model, Stalin remained fantastically popular. Even the bloody and wasteful way in which he fought Hitler (somewhat akin to a pitcher wearing out the opposing baseball team by making them run around the bases all day) didn’t put a dent in that popularity, and one of the most striking passages in Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” is the fulsome and utterly unfeigned grief shown by people imprisoned by Stalin for decades for trival or non-existent offenses upon the news of Stalin’s death.

So why am I comparing 2023 Russia to 1934 USSR, Putin to Stalin? Both were feeling cornered by political, military, economic and personal pressures, most self-inflicted. Both had a triggering crisis that sent them off an operative and subjective precipice.

In 1934, Stalin obsessed over his exiled rival for Soviet power, Leon Trotsky. Exiled since 1922, Trotsky had shifted from nation to nation, and, by then in an unhappy relationship with France, was rumored to be considering a return to the Soviet Union. Stalin feared Trotsky’s influence and possible restoration to power, and that triggered the Great Purge. The biggest of the show trials, in 1936, resulted in executions of Soviet political powers for “Trotskyist–Zinovievist” activities. At that point, the Soviet bloodbath became a result of political calculation, rather than just incompetence and misplaced idealism.

Everyone knows that something very strange happened this past week. Following months of rumors of increasing strife between Vladimir Putin’s Red Army and Ministry of Defence, and Yevgeny Prigozhin’s powerful and vicious mercenaries, the Wagner Group. Prigozhin announced that the Red Army had killed “huge numbers” of mercenaries in what was portrayed as a deliberate attack. Wagner seized control of military facilities in the southern Russian cities of Rostov-on-Don and Voronezhand announced a march on Moscow, a threat the Kremlin took seriously enough to order the capital on lockdown. Then, less than 24 hours later, Prigozhin announced “We turning our columns around and going back in the other direction toward our field camps, in accordance with the plan.” Some kind of agreement permitted the mercenaries to abandon the march on Moscow, unmolested and unpunished for what Putin just hours earlier had called treason and “terrorist acts.” Prigozhin himself left in a cloud of adulation for Belarus, where the country’s brutal dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, has offered him sanctuary. Given that Putin is Lukashenko’s only ally, it’s not clear to anyone why he offered a negotiated out to Prigozhin, although if I were Prigozhin, I would avoid going up stairs in buildings that have windows, odd men with bowlers and umbrellas, and cuppa teas with dusty surfaces. I’m guessing that Lukashenko’s real offer of protection was made to Putin, not Prigozhin, and Putin wants Prigozhin dead or vanished. Prigozhin probably realized that by effectively declaring war on Russia, he bit off more than he could chew. He has since said he was just trying to protect his ‘troops’ and not overthrow Russia. Oh, dear me, no. Just a misunderstanding. Tut tut.

I don’t expect to see Prigozhin still alive by the end of this year. Similarly, Putin took a huge black eye politically, and he’ll either be out of office by then, or Russia will be embroiled in another Great Purge or possibly a revolution.

While nobody has much love for Putin, Prigozhin or Lukashenko, the situation is very worrisome, given that Russia still has more nukes than any other country, and nobody knows who will control those nukes or what they will do with them by year’s end.

For the Ukraine, all this is a golden opportunity to drive the Russians out of their eastern regions, and quite possibly Crimea itself. But remember that will only exacerbate the crisis in Russia and make things even more unstable.

And that’s why I think Putin in 2023 so resembles the position of Stalin in 1934.

This situation hasn’t ended. It may well just be beginning.

Trying Times — MAGAts are having the week from hell

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

June 20th 2023

Well, it’s not a very good day for MAGAts. First, Trump had an absolutely catastrophic interview with, of all people, Brett Baier at Fox News. The following morning, the date and location for his trial was announced: “This case is hereby set for a Criminal Jury Trial during the two-week period commencing August 14, 2023, or as soon thereafter as the case may be called. A Calendar Call will be held at 1:45 p.m. on August 8, 2023. All hearings will be held at Alto Lee Adams, Sr. United States Courthouse, 101 South U.S. Highway 1, Courtroom 4008, Fort Pierce, Florida 34950, with modifications to be made as necessary as this matter proceeds.”

Aileen (the Loose) Cannon will be presiding, and much as she may want to get Trump off the hook, it doesn’t seem likely that she could get away with anything other than a negotiated plea bargain (and even if Trump had enough sense to accept a deal, Jack Smith is unlikely to let him get away with a slap on the wrist.) Her other escape avenue would be to have Trump submit to a competency hearing. In the wake of the Baier interview, a case really could be made for that.

I can just picture MAGAts in their flags and star-spangled panties and such declaring, “He may be a drooling idiot, but by God, he’s OUR drooling idiot.” Voters with three digit IQs who don’t have six or more psychiatric markers might have second thoughts about him.

Then, just to rub a little salt in the wound, they announced a plea bargain in the case against Hunter Biden. According to the Guardian, “Biden, 53, was charged with illegally owning a firearm in 2018 after lying about his drug use when he purchased a gun. Biden was also charged with failing to file and pay taxes in 2017 and 2018, which are misdemeanor offenses. Documents from the Justice Department confirm that Biden will enter a pre-trial diversion agreement for the firearm offense.” Biden probably won’t serve any jail time, although the firearms agreement is likely to result in probation and he may lose the right to vote for a while. But the laptop and the missing 19 tapes and the “special whistleblower” nobody can find all just went away, leaving only the ineffectual nuts to howl their conspiracy theories into the void.

Since I started writing this about a half hour ago, Trump said: “Wow! The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN!” Well, if the system didn’t have serious flaws, Trump would have been in prison many years ago, so there’s that.

James Comer called Biden’s charges a “slap on the wrist when growing evidence uncovered by the House Oversight Committee reveals the Bidens engaged in a pattern of corruption, influence peddling, and possibly bribery”. OK, bubbles. Prove it. Oh, you’ve spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars already, and have nothing to show for it? Aw, poor Jimmy. Bit a wooden leg and now his teeth hurt.

Mary Millar, howling nut from Illinois, wrote, “Hunter Biden is receiving a sweetheart deal from the DOJ that shields ‘THE BIG GUY’ Joe Biden from the Biden foreign bribery operation. The cash & diamonds he didn’t pay taxes on came from CHINA, RUSSIA & UKRAINE. No FARA foreign agent charges? TWO SYSTEMS OF JUSTICE!” All the scattershot all caps accusations really make for a convincing case. Yup. Shore do.

I note none of them want to mention that the DA who signed off on the plea deal, David Weiss, was a Trump appointee. Ironically, he wasn’t asked to step down when Joe Biden’s administration started because he was already handling the Hunter Biden case, and it was felt that asking him to resign under the circumstances would be seen as partisan.

So let the nuts scream. The Hunter Biden “case” is dead.

I suspect the saner Republican are all secretly feeling a sense of relief over all this. The Trump trial might loosen his grip on the party and they were facing the prospect of a candidate who 60% of all voters absolutely hated. Granted, the rest of their field is dominated by kooks and vicious Nazis, and they are probably just going to have to suffer a pasting come November, 2024, but they pretty much brought that upon themselves. Trump was already a liability before the Baier interview—now he’s flat-out radioactive.

Trump’s confused and crazy lies were bad enough—even worse than the CNN ‘town hall’ that nearly destroyed that channel. But I can’t imagine how he thought he could go on Faux and announce the 2020 election had been stolen. Baier had 787 million reasons to flatly contradict him, and he did.

And for the first time, Trump actually looked scared. I think he is finally realizing the wheels of justice are not going to let him walk away unscathed.

The trial is going to be complicated. I know a lot of people wanted the trial televised, but I don’t see how that’s possible. I want them to televise whatever they can of it, but there are legitimate complications.

The 37 counts all involve Trump’s mishandling and possible abuse of national security files—some listed as top secret, and even the ones listed as “confidential” have information that could put national interests and assets at risk. But it would be impossible to give Trump a fair trial (which he has an absolute right to) without letting the jury know the exact nature of those documents.

That means the jurors and court officials will all have to have at least temporary national security clearance to handle top secret information. They will probably have to sign an agreement that if they discuss ANY of that with anyone, they will end up in a cell next to Donald’s and probably be there after he dies.

They’ll also have to set up a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) in order to keep the contents of the evidence and testimony pertaining to such evidence secret. They have no choice: the jury MUST know the exact nature of the secrets.

But all the rest can and must be public. MAGAts will never read the transcripts because they have to stay safe in their psychotic little bubble, but fortunately, the large majority of Americans aren’t MAGAts, and they want and deserve to know exactly what is going on, and how a verdict was reached.

And don’t forget: there’s still the felony indictments for the New York tax scheme trial, and pending findings for January 6th and the efforts to overturn the Georgia election.

Trump really is going to be “too busy” for once, and his monkeys are going to wear themselves out screaming about it.

History Lessens — The fall of autocrats bring endless possibilities

History Lessens

The fall of autocrats bring endless possibilities

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

June 18th 2023

One of the problems with historical parallels is that they usually don’t hold up very well. For example, when Putin attacked and invaded the Ukraine, a lot of people, including myself, compared it to Hitler’s attack on Poland in 1939.

Well, as the old saying goes, “History doesn’t repeat; it just has recurring themes.” History DOES show that similar motives result in similar actions, but the results are rarely similar.

Suppose, that by 1941, Hitler found that he only held a fifth of Poland, and was at risk of losing that relatively small gain. Suppose, further, that the Wehrmacht had lost a quarter of their troops, most of their tanks, and had lost air superiority. Finally, it had obliterated Hitler’s plans to seize all of Europe as a first step toward global conquest.

Some people would be smugly comparing it to any number of failed invasions and occupations (and indeed, most such do fail) and assuring us that history repeats.

I look at how the Russians have been largely stymied in Ukraine and reflect that had western Europe and what later came to be known as the Allied Forces resisted Hitler in 1939 the way they have resisted Putin, World War II might have been averted, at least in Europe, and Hitler would be another failed demagogue who would be forced from office, his fate to be that of a more obscure historical question in British pub quizzes.

For Russians, there are echoes of the their own past, some 100 to 120 years ago. Russia then was reeling from a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Japanese, the economy was crap, autocrats were robbing the country blind, and widening splits were appearing in the social fabric and in the military. Even the Russian calendar, still using the old Julian tabulation, was out of step with the rest of the world by some ten days.

Then WW1 broke out, and while Russia acquitted herself well in helping to subdue the Germans, von Hindenberg was able to expel the Tsar’s Army from East Prussia, further disillusioning a Russian population that wasn’t too enthusiastic about fighting in a family squabble amongst the detested western European nations. Before that “family squabble” was even over, the Tsar was overthrown, and a few months later, a second revolution put the Bolsheviks in power.

Does a similar fate await Russia now? Remember: themes, not repetition. Even though many older Russians miss the “good old days” of the USSR, I don’t expect anything along the lines of a Bolshevik revolution. Conditions are ripe for a revolt of some sort, though, although the nature of the various factions would make such an event a grim prospect indeed for the Russian people, and possibly for the world at large.

The Wagner Group—the fascist private militia Putin imagined could give him plausible deniability for Russian excesses and atrocities outside his borders—seems to be turning on him and his military. The mercenaries are fed up with incompetence and ineffectualness of the Russian military, with cause, and Russian soldiers are disgusted with the mercenaries because they are mercenaries and behave the way mercenaries usually do. (George III used mercenaries in the American colonies, and I suspect that is one of the major reasons the colonies succeeded in breaking away).

Because Russian society is nearly as closed off as it was in the days of Stalin, it’s hard to get a good feel for the social and political currents swirling around the Kremlin, but Russia’s diminished standing in the world, the lackluster-to-poor economy, and the disappointment of Ukraine do not paint a rosy picture for Putin.

If the reports are to be believed, Putin himself is exhibiting the paranoia and self-imposed isolation of an autocrat under siege. That’s usually the most self-destructive trajectory someone like Putin can take, and is widely regarded as a death spiral. Think Hitler in his bunker.

Outside of Turkiye and Hungary, the rest of NATO have to be feeling pretty good. Having resisted the efforts of Trump/Putin to destroy the alliance, they now can point to the Ukraine and lay claim to having avoided a much bigger regional war in Europe. I mention those two countries in particular because they are both ruled by vicious autocrats not unlike Putin, and both are more sympathetic to the fascist leader of Russia than to their own people, let alone NATO.

This summer may prove decisive for Ukraine. If they can expel the Russian forces, they will be a solid member of NATO for many years to come, and it’s likely that Putin will fall. How far Russia falls is a more open question; when the USSR fell, everyone welcomed a new capitalist and democratic Russian Union. Only the capitalists expressed their love through what amounted to a gang-rape of Russia, leaving the country as it is today, a broken kleptocracy.

For the sake of the Russian people, I hope history doesn’t repeat. For the sake of us all, I hope for some of the better themes that might follow in the wake of all this.