Organic prayers: a review of The God Committee

The God Committee

The God Committee

Directed by Austin Stark

Written by Austin Stark

Produced by Molly Conners, Amanda Bowers, Jonathan Rubenstein, Ari Pinchot, Jane Oster, Bingo Gubelmann, & Benji Kohn

Starring

• Kelsey Grammer

• Julia Stiles

• Janeane Garofalo

• Dan Hedaya

• Colman Domingo

Cinematography Matt Sakatani Roe

Edited by Alan Canant

Music by The Newton Brothers

Production companies

• Crystal City Entertainment

• Paper Street Films

• Phiphen Pictures

• Plain Jane Pictures

• KGB Films

The main story line is this: a young man is killed in an auto accident, and he is an organ donor. A major hospital in New York City finds that his heart is a match for three patients on their list. None of the three are ideal: one is a 55 year old man who weighs 335 pounds; another is an elderly woman who is entirely unsure if she wants a transplant, and the third a younger man with a history of drug use and a prediliction toward irresponsible and even violent behavior. The committee has 45 minutes to decide who will get the heart. The third prospect’s father is a very rich and powerful man who puts a person on the committee to inform them that no matter what they decide, he will consider a $25 million grant.

There are several subplots that flesh out and explain the motives and behavior of the various characters.

The film gets a bit too dramatic in places, but the issues and dilemmas are all quite real, and the ways in which the various characters respond are both compelling and entirely credible.

Kelsey Grammer, who I tend to associate with comedy and light entertainment, is formidable in this as a remote and austere senior physician. Julia Stiles, his ex wife, is equally compelling. The acting is solid, the dialog is solid, and the medical issues are informed and plausible.

People put off by gore will find the operation sequences upsetting, but the movie is well worth the 93 minutes invested in it.

Now on Netflix.

Jan 6 No Trump — Bridging the year

Jan 6 No Trump

Bridging the year

January 7th 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

I feel a lot better this January 7th compared to the same date last year. Back then, I was wondering if the United States had any sort of future, or was destined to fall into neo-Nazi fascism headed by one of the most vicious and corrupt swine ever to hold public office.

We’re a long way from out of the woods, of course, but at least it stopped snowing and the wolves seem to have buggered off. Yes, the Republican party is now a fully-formed death cult, and yes, Trump is still in the news a lot, but they aren’t quite as scary as they were the day they tried to destroy America. And America seems to be gaining a bit of a lease on life, at least until the mid-terms.

Biden and the Democrats seem to be finally taking the gloves off. Biden gave a barn burner of a speech on the anniversary, pounding Trump into the ground without ever mentioning him by name. How effective was the speech? Well, two days later, and Trump is still yowling like a cat shitting a porcupine. Fox “News” couldn’t even bear to discuss the speech, instead trying to pretend the assault on the Capitol was no big deal really, BLM and Antifa were worse, and why hasn’t Biden controlled inflation and COVID? The Lord Haw-Haws of that propaganda pit have their loyal viewers, of course, but it’s eroding as Trump’s Big Lie continues to shrink under the assault of facts and evidence.

Merrick Garland also gave a speech, detailing why the Justice Department investigations were flying under the radar, and reassuring people that the trials and convictions of the small fry at the riots was only the opening act. In the state of New York, at least two Trump whelps, Donny the Lesser and Ivanka the Skanka, have been subpoenaed, and there are reports that Melania the Melanoma has been selling off some of her wardrobe and other personal possessions to make ends meet.

Things aren’t going well for Trump loyalists, either. The Brownshirts have lost a really big civil case in the wake of the Unite the Right rally and are being sued out of existence. Devin Nunes, Trump’s biggest cow in Congress, suddenly quit in order to run Trump’s social media empire. If you’re asking, “what social media empire?”, my answer is “exactly.” The January 6th Commission has shown it isn’t screwing around, and is handing out subpoenas left and right, including Bannon, Meadows, Alexander (“Victory or Death!”), Ali with subpoenas expected for various members of Congress who might have to be forced to testify under oath, such as Gym Jordan (OH! Jimmy!), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (Texas.). It occurs to me that just by tossing those eight out of the House and into prison would raise the average IQ of Congress by at least 10 points.

While Republicans are still working feverishly to try to turn the next American elections into a Soviet-style joke, they aren’t making the headway they were hoping for. Cyber Ninjas, the redoubtable firm in charge of the of-course-it’s-legitimate! Arizona recount, are facing $50,000 a day in fines for refusing to turn over records that are in the public domain regarding how the count was conducted. Given that the count not only confirmed the results, but actually gave Biden a couple of hundred votes he didn’t have before, you have to wonder how much gaming and cheating went in to achieving a result that was only slightly unfavorable to their cause. And how much of that was flat-out illegal. None of the dozens of other state audits seem to have gained much traction. Even notoriously corrupt Wisconsin seems to have given up on party-run recounts as a bad idea. In the meantime, Republican efforts at gerrymandering seem to have stalled out. In places like Texas, it’s because it was already so gerrymandered they could no longer maintain plausible deniability. And I suspect some Republicans, aware of the growing fragility of the Trump cult, are hedging their bets.

For all we hear about Trump “running out the clock” in hopes Republicans can take the House and make the January 6th commission go away, other legal proceedings that the House cannot interfere with are continuing apace. Garland already made that clear in his speech, and there are a swirl of well-informed reports that the State of New York is going to be dropping the hammer on Trump in the immediate future. Tax fraud, tax evasion, corrupt business practices, it’s a very long list. And remember, Trump’s most efficient henchmen are gone; Former CFO Weisselberg is fighting to keep his own ass out of jail, and former torpedo Michael Cohen is an active enemy gleefully providing evidence (many, MANY skeletons in THAT closet!) against Trump. Trump, in Cohen’s mind, tried to kill Cohen by sending him back to his cell in the height of the pandemic last year. He didn’t appreciate that.

A lot has been made of the poll showing that only 21% of Republican voters think Biden won legitimately. Granted, there are a lot of brainwashed fools and just plain fools in the GOP, but I suspect a lot of them are joining that chorus not from any personal belief, but because they know the cost of disloyalty to the party. “Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding.” The GOP have been a lot like Russia’s Communist Party for many years, and should the party destroy democracy and become, like the USSR, a one-party state, there would be a dear price for showing disloyalty. Nobody doubts the viciousness and cruelty of the GOP, but if they can’t seize power, support for them will erode like cotton candy under Niagara Falls. Conviction persists; fear cannot.

A lot of that will erode as the legal investigations dissect GOP efforts to stage a coup. Fox News might ignore the stories and whine about Hunter Biden, but the rest of America’s media will not ignore it—and even Fox will turn when they can no longer sustain their fear of Trump and start to fear the American people instead.

So on this anniversary, we’ve gained a lot of ground in defeating Trump and his swinish followers. Much remains to be done, and of course, any number of things could go wrong. Remember, we are saddled with a major party that WANTS things to go wrong.

We’re not home free, and won’t be for some time to come. But we’re at least moving in the right direction.

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Riggin’ in the Friggin’ Solstice 2021 – Wisdom and Betrayal

Riggin’ in the Friggin’

Solstice 2021 – Wisdom and Betrayal

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

December 21st 2021

When it came to observing the Winter Solstice, the Nordic gods were first and foremost. Makes sense, given that they lived in the land of ice and snow, and the midnight sun and noon darkness. Observing the Solstice didn’t make them better behaved, mind you; even compared to the pantheons of Rome and Greece that came later, this was an exceptionally unruly bunch, with amazing sexual antics. Loki alone could add four more letters to the somewhat overworked acronym, LGBTQ.

Perhaps the best-known of all the legends of the Aesir is that of Baldur, son of Odin and Frigg. Baldur was what could be considered “the nice one,” for a given value of ‘nice.’ Like most Nordic gods, his hobbies included murder and mayhem. But he was politer about it. Certainly all the other gods loved him, save one, and all living creatures, again, save one. You can’t have a story like this without a little bit of the Joker and Kryptonite, right?

Baldur was associated with wisdom, knowledge, and light. As with most such deities, he was born on the Winter Solstice. He was the local version of Prometheus, and like most other light-bringers, he met a bad end. Getting born around Winter Solstice is something of a warning sign amongst gods.

For all his wisdom, and for all that he was loved and admired by pretty much everything, Baldur began dreaming of his death. He mentioned this to Frigga, who like most mums, decided to ensure safety for her son. Death is something of an option with gods, and so Frigga decided to ensure his immortality by making him invulnerable to everything. So she went to nearly very plant and creature on Earth and asked them to vow never to hurt her son.

Since Baldur was, as noted, loved and respected, everyone agreed to this. Obviously there were no Republican Senators in those days, showing how far we’ve fallen. It wasn’t until later that Frigg got around to realizing that she forgot to ask the mistletoe not to hurt Baldur. She shrugged it off, concluding that mistletoe was a harmless enough plant, good only for unwanted sexual advances at office parties. Mistletoe routinely kills mighty oaks, and could probably kill Yggdrasil, the Nordic tree of life, if given a crack at it. Perhaps Frigg lived above the treeline. She was certainly no arborist.

But she was something of a blabbermouth. She mentioned this omission to Loki, the one god who didn’t like Baldur. Sibling rivalry or something. Frigg’s sake, woman, what were you thinking?

Loki made a spear from mistletoe and convinced a blind old god, Hodr, to throw it at Baldur. Hodr didn’t have any reason to think this was an odd request; the gods had made a pastime of throwing spears, maces, cats and low-yield nukes at Baldur because his invulnerability tickled them pink. A twig’s as good as a Nord to a blind Hodr, right? So Hodr tossed the spear, it hit Baldur, and Baldur dropped down dead.

The pantheon petitioned the goddess of Hades, Hel-Half-Rotted, to release Baldur. Hel said she was fine with that so long as the gods got a unanimous vote on it. Which they did—almost. One Frost Giant refused. Given that the Frost Giants and Gods were mortal enemies it’s not real clear why they had a say in the matter, but in this instance the Giant was Loki in disguise, adding yet another letter to his personal LGBTQ designation.

So poor old Baldur went to Hel, and Loki ended up strapped by his own entrails to a table while a poisonous snake dripped venom into his eyes. But he got over it.

Light bringers come, and light bringers go, usually in horrible fashions. We have a streak in us that likes to tear down the thinkers and the optimists, and make some sort of ersatz “moral lesson” from them. Baldur seems the exception to that rule; there’s no homily that he deserved to die for any number of (usually) demented reasons. If there’s a lesson here at all, it’s that popularity and civility can’t protect you from the random vagaries of the universe or even a malignant plot with unlikely odds of working.

But here’s the thing; Baldur dies, as do light bringers, and are gone from this world. But the world keeps on turning. The next day following solstice, a ship stationed exactly at the Arctic circle might see a brief glint of sunlight to the south before seconds later, the sun sets again. The nights get shorter, and eventually, the days get warmer. The equinox—twelve hours of daylight—will inevitably come three months later. No matter how many light bringers die, the light returns, on its own, and in its own immutable pattern. It’s one of the few things in this world we can absolutely count on.

It is also the first day of winter, and even as the light slowly returns, the storms and the cold hold sway. The return of the light isn’t a solution. It is, instead, a promise.

It’s dark now. But Earth has made a promise to her children, one that even Loki can’t thwart.

Don’t lose hope. Never lose hope.

Pearl Harbor — And other attacks on government facilities

Pearl Harbor

And other attacks on government facilities

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

December 11th, 2021

I wrote a piece the other day about the burning of the Christmas tree in front on the Fox News New York headquarters that was mildly sympathetic to Fox.  I pointed out that they could turn the arson into a positive by reaching out and helping the homeless man accused of setting the fire in the spirit of the holiday. OK, we both know that was never going to happen.  I like teasing fascists.

Instead, Fox went into breast-beating and garment-rending mode.  They gave it more air time than they did the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol.  They praised themselves for having the courage to stand up to this assault on everything is good and decent and pure.

Then they tried comparing it to the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Inspired, perhaps, by the fact that the man accused of setting the blaze is Hawaiian.

If you have a sufficiently depraved mind, one capable of pulling up phrases that would make Satan blush and Trump avert his eyes awkwardly, then you can guess at what my attitude toward Fox News is now.

Pearl Harbor.  Christ…

OK, the arson did occur on December 7th. Going by that logic, if I sneak into one of their loos and drop a cherry bomb in the crapper, blowing it up, that would be comparable to the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima if I did it on 6th August? My mum was born on January 6th. If word gets out, will QAnon make her a saint?

If we want to mess with these people, we could dump a bunch of ladyfingers under Mar-A-Lago along with a picture of Amy Comey Barrett on November 5th. Just have some rando Englishman explain it to you. Make sure it’s a real Englishman and not just some Brit. You want the full piquancy of the arched-eyebrow condescension.

OK, moving on…

What? You wanted a dissertation on the morals and ethics of Fox News? Well, they don’t got none. Finito! Moving on. Delivered in the tone of an archaeology professor explaining for the fifth time why the story of Noah’s Ark isn’t in the syllabus.

We done with “My dog is plotting against me” type nuttiness. Now we’re going to Kesey’s ever-loving bull goose loony assortment. But which I mean, a version, perhaps THE version, of the 32 page Power Point memo the GOP were passing around on how to overthrow the government and destroy the United States. The official title of this document, dated January 5th 2021, wasElection Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN” If you want to read it for yourself (and it’s actually about three typewritten pages long) then you can find it at Archive.org 

The talking points show the direction this is headed. “The Chinese systematically gained control over our election system constituting a national security emergency – The electronic voting machines were compromised and cannot be trusted to provide an accurate vote count – To restore confidence the “failsafe” of counting the paper ballots must be used to determine who won the election for President, Senators, Congressional Representatives – Hand counts reported by the media are not really hand counts and easily subverted.”

Got all that? The Chinese Communists (who are actually capitalists), headed by that noted Chinese Leader Hugo Chavez (who was at least a socialist, but still not a communist) subverted the election by using Chinese voting machines made in the well-known Chinese province of Canada.

It goes downhill from there.

Back in 1954, there was a book, How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. The title is pretty self-explanatory. Someone needs to write a similar book, “How to bullshit with charts.” The FF, FI & O tries strenuously to do just that. On slide 5, for example, there are charts purporting to show huge Trump leads in states he subsequently lost, alluding to a “pause” in the counting. There’s nothing to show where the charts came from, when they were tabulated, or what the “pause” was. But boy-howdy, they shore looks like real honest-to-gaw charts. A series of charts purporting to show “fixing the vote” follows, all with official looking and undescribed synoptic lines beneath to make it look like someone was using actual arithmetic. This is followed by “The Algorhythm” which is a more complicated chart designed to awe and impress Republican Congressmen smart enough to know what a chart is but not what it’s supposed to do. This is followed by “Where and How It’s Done” which would look right at home on a corkboard in a basement, with random paper clipping and scribbled notes connected by red yarn with a big box saying “Illuminati” in the middle. This is followed by a page, ironically advising, “One Tactic that is part of a larger Strategic Plan. Other tactics include riots, threats, censorship, looting, etc.” Eek! Scary! “Riots, Threats, Censorship, Looting, etc.,” you say? Oh, what’s a poor Republican to do! Summon the Proud Boys! They’ll protect us!

It then dips back into the tin-foil helmet zone. “China has leveraged financial, non-governmental and foreign allies including Venezuela to acquire INFLUENCE and CONTROL US Voting Infrastructure in at least 28 States. KEY Issue in 2020: Critical Infrastructure control utilized as part of ongoing globalist/socialist operation to subvert the will of United States Voters and install a China ally.”

Well, here you were, all fat, dumb and happy, and you had no idea your will had been subverted by Hugo Chavez. Pretty smart for a dead guy! You have to give him credit.

It rants about perfidious Venezuelans, Chinese and Canadians for a bit, noting that like all commies, they have for-profit corporations (eek!). Then it gets around to “Perpetrators” Those are: “•Local Zealots –illegal ballot harvesting, illegal voter roles, counterfeit mail-in and absentee ballots, and illegal adjudication changes •Electronic Voting machines that shift votes from one candidate to another either through an algorithm or adjudications •Foreign Actors that shift votes and/or add votes all across the country either through adjudications or outright database overwrites •In this election, all 3 demonstrably occurred, but not necessarily in a coordinated fashion.”

Good thing they weren’t in a coordinated fashion. If only those zealots knew how to speak Cantonese, or even Mandarin!

You get the drift. This may not be the exact copy of the one shown to Republican congressionals on the 5th of January, but I’ll bet that copy is essentially the same. And they were advised to hunker down and expect a serious effort to stop the electoral college vote.

Psst! Think we should teach them how to spell ‘algorithm’?

It’s easy to laugh, but remember this: Hitler’s Nazis were widely seen as ineffectual, too nasty to get elected, and really, really ridiculous.

This lot are the same. Laugh, but don’t dismiss the threat they pose. These are the same people.

Bah Humbug — Grinch burns Fox News Christmas Tree

Bah Humbug

Grinch burns Fox News Christmas Tree

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

December 8th 2021

Back around 1962, a buddy of mine and I decided it would be fun to go sneaking past homes after dark that were heavily decorated with Christmas lights and steal some of the bulbs just so we could pop them on the sidewalk. Basically it was the same impulse that people get with bubble wrap. There was nothing political or religious motivating us; it was just two kids amusing themselves and being minor assholes. Over the subsequent year, I became an atheist and became a rebellious teenager, but you know what? We didn’t go out popping Christmas bulbs the next year. I had enough sense by then to realize that was just being an asshole for assholery’s sake. Even as a new born atheist teenager, I realized that you didn’t lift yourself up by hurting others’ joy.

Now, someone set fire to the big Christmas tree in front of Fox News in Manhattan last night. Word is it was a homeless guy, Craig Tamanaha, aged 49. Authorities don’t believe there was any political or religious motive behind it, or even any premeditation.

It wasn’t actually a tree; it was a conical metal framework with an overlay of decorations and stuff designed to look like a tree. It was festooned with 10,000 glass ornaments, 100,000 lights and it took over 21 hours to put together. Crews were later seen taking down what was left of the structure. It was a sad sight.

Fox News was understandably unamused. “We will not let this deliberate and brazen act of cowardice deter us. We are in the process of rebuilding and reinstalling a new tree as a message there can be peace, light and joy even during a moment like this,” Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said in a statement.

Well, I’m glad they’re rebuilding it, although in this instance, it’s unlikely that it’s some form of brave and principled stand against an act of cultural terrorism. For all anyone knows, Tamanaha just found the light on his sleeping spot making it hard to sleep (not that sleeping outdoors in midtown Manhattan in December is easy under any circumstances). Or maybe he didn’t like the color pink. It was awfully…pink.

Of course, the right wingers are going to lose their minds over this. “War on Christmas,” blah blah blah. It was the libruls or the commies or the gays or some fool thing. Fox announcers already declared this could only hurt Joe Biden in the polls, because you know, anything they don’t like will hurt Joe Biden in the polls and it can’t hurt to try to associate Joe Biden with burning Christmas trees in the eyes of their dim-witted viewers. I’m sure the right wingers will come up with even sillier shit over this. They always do.

In a way it’s a shame that it was Fox News that was hit and not one of the hundreds of major corporations in the neighborhood who always put up giant Christmas decorations. Because in this sad act was an opportunity to show a little real Christmas spirit, the one that corporations all insist we should have so they could play on our sensibilities and rob us blind with our own cooperation.

Here’s what Fox could do. (And there are some corporations that might do this, but I’ll be amazed if Fox is one of them.)

Contact the legal representative for Tamanaha. Work a deal. Tamanaha pleads guilty in court, but prosecutors will work a time-served plea agreement. Tamanaha expresses remorse and promised to never do such a thing again. In return, Fox News pays for a years’ housing for Tamanaha (it doesn’t have to be midtown where rents are often five figures a month) and see to it that he has food and warmth for a year. Do what they can to help him—locate family, if any, and get him access to medical or psychiatric care—even pay for it, if the costs aren’t too hideous. If he is capable of holding a job, maybe hire him on as a custodian or something. If he isn’t, set up a GoFundMe for him.

And yes, tell the world what they are doing. They’re a corporation, and they aren’t going to do with without some sort of payback. This would be good publicity.

Make it clear that this is a one-time thing. Don’t want word getting out that you can score all this good stuff just by igniting a Christmas Tree. The next guy that tries it can just rot in jail, as far as Fox is concerned. Nobody would have trouble understanding that, no, not even Joe Biden.

I suspect that Tamanaha, and hundreds of thousands like him, need help like this. Remember, a lot of those homeless people are veterans, or mentally ill, and this is the time of year when they most need the help and most deserve it. If Fox could rise above themselves and show some charity and goodheartedness, it might make everyone’s holidays a little brighter.

And perhaps all those elaborate corporate decorations might, if ever so slightly, represent something better than corporate greed playing on the mawkish sensibilities of their targets.

Wading In — Compromised Court weighs Roe Vs. Wade

Wading In

Compromised Court weighs Roe Vs. Wade

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

December 1st, 2021

Listening to the arguments this morning at the Supreme Court in the matter of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case on whether the state of Mississippi can ban abortion at 15 weeks gestation:

Right wingers are frantically seeking justification for striking down Roe Vs. Wade, the seminal and oft-upheld abortion ruling that gives women access to abortion.

Roberts wants to know if anyone is hurt by pushing viability back from 24 weeks to 15 weeks. An embryo isn’t even remotely viable at 15 weeks, making Roberts’ proposed definition an utter joke. Kavanaugh wants to punt, saying in effect, the Supreme Court has nothing to do with rights and the states should decide that sort of garbage. (Yeah, this clown is on the Supreme Court.)

Amy Coney Barrett wanted to know if invalidating a woman’s right to an abortion would invalidate other “rights” like birth control. That’s a bit like asking if a law forbidding Moslems from voting would affect the rights of Jews or Catholics to vote.

And then there’s Slappy.

Thomas asked Rikelman, attorney for Jackson, to identify the constitutional right that protects abortion. “Is it privacy? Autonomy? What would it be?”
“It’s liberty,”Rikelman replied. “It’s the textual protection in the 14th Amendment that the state can’t deny someone liberty without the due process of law.” Ouch. Slappy the lawn ornament got slapped.

Attorneys for Dobbs are trying to handwave the concept of “undue burden” away, saying it’s impossible to define and difficult to enforce. Never mind that the concept enters into nearly all court decisions regarding access to and exercise of personal rights. Remove that concept, and there’s no reason why a county can’t charge people $100,000 to file a property damage suit. See how simple it is?

It seems likely that the Court will strike down Roe Vs. Wade. They’ll bend over backward trying to pretend it isn’t a religious issue (it is) and not even remotely secular.

Sonia Sotomayor asked of the attorney for Dobbs, “How is your interest anything but a religious view? It’s debated in religions, so when you say this is the only right that takes away from the start the ability to protect the life, that’s a religious view isn’t it? Where does the life of a woman and putting her life at risk enter the calculus?”

The court will have to trash dozens of decisions and overrule the wishes of the American people (Attorney for Dobbs is arguing that abortion is “injurious to democracy”!) in order to make this potential ruling stand.

Sonia Sotomayor said, “Fifteen justices over 30 years have reaffirmed that basic viability line,” she said, alluding to how Roe v Wade has been upheld since the 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey decision.

Four have said no, two of them members of this court. But fifteen justices have said yes, of varying political background.

“Now, the sponsors of this bill, this house bill in Mississippi, are saying, ‘We’re doing this because we have new justices on the supreme court’. Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the constitution and its reading are just political acts?”

Sotomayor continued with the question: “If people believe it’s all political, how will we survive? How will the court survive?”

Answer: it won’t. People will know the court has been hopelessly corrupted by a fascist president and his theocratic supporters. An institution designed to uphold the Constitution will now willfully disregard the same document because they are Dominionists and put their vicious and cruel religious opinions ahead of the rights the Constitution is meant to protect.

You may be in a place like California or New York and think to yourself, “Well, the state government isn’t going to strike down abortion,” and you might be right. But the god-struck minions of the anti-choice movement aren’t going to stand for abortion being allowed anywhere in what they see as their country that they run on behalf of Jesus. Kavanaugh maybe be nattering about states’ rights now, but he’s as intellectually and ethically vacuous as any Republican representative. He won’t hesitate to argue that the federal law overrules all state laws as soon as there’s a federal law to uphold. And 34% of the most conservative of all states control the Senate, 42% the vote would make the House Republican.

In the meantime, I expect a vast underground railroad to form, similar to the one that helped emancipate hundreds of thousands of slaves from the cruel authoritarianism of slave owners, and for much the same reason. It will uphold the human right of women to have control over their bodies and not be forced into having a child they do not wish to have. You think the Blob Squad won’t see that as an intolerable state of affairs?

I will do anything I can to support such an underground railroad, and urge everyone to put human rights ahead of cruel and unjust laws. Fuck the Dominionists, and fuck their vicious and authoritarian moral posturing. They have no right.

And the Court, more and more, will find itself shouting from within the vacuum it is about to put itself in.

Nazi-so Proud Boys — In the wake of Kenosha

Nazi-so Proud Boys

In the wake of Kenosha

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

November 20th, 2021

Yesterday, in the wake of the Rittenhouse verdict, NPR reported, “In another channel, a member [of the Proud Boys] stated that political violence must continue. “The left wont stop until their bodied [sic] get stacked up like cord wood,” he wrote.

The good news is he won’t be posting that particular threat for another month now. The Proud Boys have a hard and fast (so to speak) rule: “[N]o heterosexual brother of the Fraternity shall masturbate more than one time in any calendar month.” He’s shot his wad and can go have a nice lie-down now.

A lot of people are worried that the fool judge in Kenosha whose biased antics led to this miscarriage of justice has in effect legitimized vigilante murder. Rittenhouse himself is a poster boy for why vigilantism is an incredibly stupid idea, Batman notwithstanding. He’s young, stupid, impetuous, and vicious. He deliberately took a weapon designed to murder into a protest that was none of his concern, looking for trouble, and he found it. Two people dead, one seriously injured—the only significant casualties in the “trouble” he supposedly was there to stop.

The judge disgraced himself, as did the police who let the heavily armed punk walk away after slaughtering two people. Back in the 60s and 70s, we called cops like that “pigs” and we had less egregious grounds to do so. Cops may have been vicious and overbearing in those days, but at least they didn’t get pet wannabee Nazis to go out and do their shooting for them. They were bastards, some of them, but they weren’t cowards. The Kenosha pork chops lived up to their billing the evening after the verdict: “A woman was taken into custody by police and fined $767.50 on Friday night after writing an anti-racist message in chalk on the steps of the courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin.” Ah, Kenosha in winter! Everything is so white! One of the cops took it personally, radioing in that the woman had called the cops cowards. Well, perhaps she had. Still not illegal.

And yes, “the left” (defined in this case as people who aren’t Nazis or members of the KKK) will be looking over their shoulders while at demonstrations, wondering when the next juvenile hero of the Reich will be aiming from under a sewer lid or from behind police vehicles,

Here’s how I fear it’s going to play out. The Proud Boys and other similar outfits will show up heavily armed at any and all protests, even ones petitioning for something like requesting a re-vote by the town council on closing the public library. You know—leftist shit like that. The bumblebees of the extreme right will brandish their weapons and shout threats, hoping to scare the protesters into running away. Most won’t, because they have self respect and respect for their Constitutional Rights. Some have the insight required to realize that armed kooks like these are more likely to fire on you if you’re running away. To them, it isn’t crowd control, it’s a hunt, and fleeing targets raise the predator instinct.

Tensions will rise. The Proud Boys need to show the world they mean business. Protesters will start to mock them. Some may even wear targets on their jackets.

Inevitably, someone will get shot. It may be deliberate, or it may be an accident. I would give even odds either way. Chaos will ensure. Depending on where it happens and the quality of the local police force, they will either move in and prevent more deaths, or make the situation even worse, like the Kenosha pigs did. Again, even odds.

Protests will be widespread after that. Anything up to and including a national strike, and violent attacks against headquarters of the various hate groups. Republicans, already deeply ensnared in Trump’s Nazi net, will support the hate groups with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It’s entirely possible that Paul Gosar will get his way and public officials will start being assassinated. And sorry, Paul, it won’t just be Democrats: by the time we’ve reached this stage, non-Nazis will have armed themselves.

The nature of the Proud Boys and their like will entice normally quite peaceful people to take up arms. There’s a lesson I was taught firmly as a schoolboy in London and which I believe to this day: The only good Nazi is a dead Nazi. If the Proud Boys want to instigate a war, they will be fighting the vast majority of the American people, and if the entire nest is wiped out, I’ll shed no tears.

But unfortunately, this war would be one with no borders, no lines, a nationwide street rumble with weapons of mass destruction. It would be a massive bloodletting, and there would be no real victory even if the far right were effectively wiped out, because the costs would exceed the benefit in every way imaginable. America still has emotional scars from the last civil war; this would be far worse.

So everyone, chill the fuck out. Proud Boys, back the fuck off. You can’t win this one, not by open violence against Americans exercising their rights.

Watch how this plays out. This is more along the lines of what I think, rather than what I fear. I’m sure that idiot judge is reading the papers now and hopefully gaining a realization of what he has wrought. As for Rittenhouse, it’s not going to go well for him, because being the mascot for insane right wing thugs doesn’t go well. Two moral and intellectual Titans of the House, Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar, are going to literally arm-wrestle over which one will invite Rittenhouse to be an intern for him. Gaetz must be tired of little girls, and Gosar likes them crazy. Would you want to intern for either of those two?

Rittenhouse will probably end up on a slow, desperate downward spiral in life like George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin, wound up on. When last heard from after a long string of incidents bordering on scandals and showing increasingly sleazy behavior, he’s now desperately suing the Martin family, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg for, I don’t know, being mean to him or something. $365 million in all. Care to bet on his chances of winning? He doesn’t even have the same lawyer who got him to skate on the Martin shooting—that guy’s being charged with interfering in a child rape case. Stay classy, y’all!

We are going to have more vigilantism, simply because America has far too many nuts with guns. But it will be part of the fantastic background hum of school shooting, mass murders at concerts and movies, and the general wide slaughter of people that is the gun manufacturer’s gift to America.

No civil war. No race war. No gun battles in every city and town.

Provided enough people keep their head. Because there is one thing that is better than a dead Nazi, and that’s a live society.

Doug LaMalfa — What it’s like to have an embarrassing GOP drone

Doug LaMalfa

What it’s like to have an embarrassing GOP drone

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

November 17th, 2021

Back in December 2020, Doug LaMalfa, Republican Congressman from California’s first district, was the sole Republican to talk to the press after a frivolous and essentially idiotic lawsuit by Texas to overturn the election was dismissed out of hand by the Supreme Court.

In his interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the interview quickly turned weird.

“You got any proof that anything was done that was fraudulent in any election?” Cuomo asked.

“You know, I don’t have proof that men landed on the moon in 1969 because I wasn’t there,” LaMalfa replied.

“Really?” an incredulous Cuomo asked.

“Yeah,” LaMalfa shrugged.

“Do you believe the world is round?” Cuomo pressed.

“I think we’ve proven that,” said LaMalfa.

OK, at least he knows the world is round. That’s a start, I suppose. He makes his living growing rice in one of the most drought-stricken places in America, so you kind of have to expect that he’s going to be a little out of touch about stuff like moon landings or budgets or things like that.

In the same interview, he said he would not “’recognize Biden’s victory until he is formally sworn in on January 20th.’ LaMalfa’s comments seem to suggest the House GOP is planning on disrupting the ratification of the electoral college results on January 6, which is their final chance to contest the election before the inauguration.” Lo and behold, they did. I guess that qualifies as insurrection-light. Dougie is kind of a boutique revolutionary.

While LaMalfa doesn’t enjoy the notoriety of a Marjorie Taylor-Greene or a Paul Gosar, that in part is because he is from California’s First District. (Look it up. It’s the area on the map that’s covered with the cartographer’s sigil and a sign saying “Hyere bee dragons.” Before LaMalfa, the area was California’s 2nd district, and from 1987 to 2013 it was represented by Wally Herger. The region has a history of electing rural non-entities who fail to make any marks on the House.

After five terms, his committee membership is, to put it mildly, a bit thin: House Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry subcommittee Ranking Member, Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit subcommittees, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Highways and Transit, Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Water Resources and Environment subcommittees

He’s the primary sponsor of three bills that were enacted, one of which was the renaming of a post office.

At that, he’s doing better than Herger, who didn’t even get his first committee chair until his seventh term. Herger voted with his party 94.4% of the time, which by GOP standards made him a screaming dissident. (Seriously—in party line votes he ranked 46th.)

On the listing of liberal/conservative votes, LaMalfa is in a flat tie with Paul Gosar (and now has more committee assignments than Gosar, provided he doesn’t threaten to shoot the President or something.) As a goosestepping GOP fascist, he is extraordinarily good at his job. In recent years, he voted for Trump Care, which would have stripped over 100,000 of his own constituents of medical coverage under Obamacare, and has voted loudly against every bill designed to allow the government to negotiate the prices on drugs they buy for Medicare. He has voted against raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, even though a majority of his working constituents would be making less than that had the State of California not already gone ahead and raised the minimum wage on its own. It would not have cost him a dime to support a federal law doing the same thing—it was just gratuitous cruelty on his part.

He toes the party line on all votes, often contradicting the wishes of his own constituents and sometimes even his own supporters.

His votes often come with a large helping of hypocrisy. He voted for Trump’s financial stimulus package in 2020 ($1.7 trillion) but against the subsequent aid packages put forth under Biden, even though America’s situation had worsened (a lot of Trump’s bill was allocated for employers to continue paying employees idled by the pandemic, but of course most of them just pocketed the money and screwed their workers over.) But he voted against the Biden stimulus package, $1.9 trillion, which would have funneled an estimated $4 billion into his district, supporting workers, families, and small businesses—including his own. (He’s been whining loudly about how the pandemic and subsequent shipping problems means he can’t sell his rice to China.)

On the infrastructure bill, he voted no because everyone knows the ungrateful peons in his district don’t need roads, schools, water works, sewers or family support of any kind.

On that last vote, taken last week, he had a characteristically strange take on it. KRCR, a Sinclair broadcast station that is one of the biggest in this district, interviewed John Garamendi, the Democrat representing the 3rd district, adjoining LaMalfa’s. Garamendi gave the station a list of the benefits and projects the infrastructure bill represented and what it would mean for Northern California.

So it made sense to get LaMalfa’s take on the just-passed legislation. This is what KRCR reported: “LaMalfa, speaking with KRCR’s Dylan Brown, responded that President Trump has not spoken to him about the matter.”

OK then. Never mind that LaMalfa is on the Infrastructure committee and might possibly know something about it—anything about it. But what’s this “..President Trump has not spoken to him about the matter.” crap? Trump has no role in this; he’s an ex-president almost certain to be in prison by the time the next presidential election rolls around. Is LaMalfa one of the loony and ignorant morons who thinks Trump is somehow still president? Is he expecting a Trump/JFK, Jr ticket in 2024? What’s the story here?

Meanwhile, LaMalfa voted twice to acquit Trump of impeachment charges. He voted to not censure Marjorie Taylor-Green, and just today, to not censure the evidently insane Paul Gosar. He does support censuring the 13 Republicans that supported the infrastructure bill, which kind of destroys his claim that it is unwise to censure frivolously.

With his lockstep support of fascist GOP policies, he is not representing his constituents. With his support of Trumpism and people like Taylor-Greene and Gosar, he isn’t even representing humanity.

Contempt — The fascist right can dish it out. Can they take it?

Contempt

The fascist right can dish it out. Can they take it?

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

November 12th 2021

[Steve] Bannon, 67, is charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents.” With that a federal grand jury today indicted Bannon with two felony counts. The Select Committee investigating the January 6th riots promptly announced that it would seek similar indictments against Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on similar charges.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law. Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”

It couldn’t have come at a better time. The fascist right, including that organized crime cartel The Republican Party, have been further and further outside of the constraints of the law, and growing ever more egregious and assertive in their sneers at the law. People, including me, were wondering if the Democrats and the legal and judicial authorities of the land had the resolve and courage to stand up to these fascist scofflaws.

It came at a time when at least some of the more egregious rioters at the January 6th insurrection were getting some serious jail sentences, four years or more. Decent people in America were sickened and disgusted by a parade of stories of people who beat cops and threatened the lives of public officials who were being treated with kid gloves. It came as a time when a flag-wagging clown of a judge was openly rooting for the defendant, who was accused of murdering two unarmed protesters at a Black Lives Matter rally and injuring another. Another murder case, in which two white men waylaid and killed a black man for the crime of jogging on a public street (or at least, that’s the excuse they offered) had a defense attorney comfortable enough in his ignorant racism to complain in open court in front of the judge and jury about the “black pastors” allowed to sit with the family of the victims. That was too much even for that judge, who upbraided the attorney for his swinish remark.

Of course, death threats are proliferating. A Republican Congressman got death threats from some anonymous piece of shit for the ‘crime’ of voting for the infrastructure bill that passed Congress last week. Another guy, Kenneth Gasper, 64, was arrested Wednesday for a telephoned death threat against Rep. Andrew Garbarino, who also broke ranks with the party on that vote.

Both threatening calls came in the wake of Congressional Joke of the Month Marjorie Taylor-Greene, who slammed the 13 Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill as traitors, and America’s Jabba the Hut gone rancid, Donald Trump, who whined long and loudly about a bill that he himself used to say he was going to present to Congress, He would do this every six months or so, grandly announcing it was “Infrastructure Week.” Of course nothing would happen because of Donald’s greatest strength as President—his utter incompetence and inability to lead.

It isn’t enough that Republicans have abandoned the values and beliefs they once held as Americans: they’ve abandoned the values and beliefs they once held as Republicans. According to Michael Moline at the Florida Phoenix, “The state of Florida would pay workers to quit their jobs by giving them unemployment benefits rather than submit to vaccine mandates under legislation filed for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ special session of the Legislature, due to convene next week.” Imagine: Republicans, paying people for refusing to work. Savor it.

If you need evidence of the hypocrisy and profound stupidity of Trump’s followers, there it is in a nutshell. They want to murder people for supporting something Trump was for just a year ago.

And there have been myriad incidents of people assaulting hapless employees for requesting people to wear masks per the law, or even for obeying federal rules regarding vaccines. One guy assaulted an American Airlines flight attendant so badly she needed surgery for facial damage. AA, to their credit, banned the guy from their planes for life, but he needs to be up on felony assault charges.

Heroes of the Heil Trump Brigade have been threatening and abusing school boards, voter registrars and volunteers, and regular employees.

If you threaten the life of anyone, it is a felony. If you make lesser threats against a public official, that is also a felony, and no, it isn’t free speech under the Constitution.

It’s time we went after Trump’s scofflaws. They need to be tracked down, reported, and arraigned.

Today’s move against Steve Bannon was a good start.

 

Gods and Governments — Religious and Secular mixed rule is always toxic

Gods and Governments

Religious and Secular mixed rule is always toxic

October 10th 2021

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

One sentiment you hear from religious fundamentalists in the United States is something along the lines of “God should be the government” It’s nothing new; religions have always sought to gain political and economic power and influence, and there are hundreds of examples throughout history where they have succeeded in doing that. These political cultures are broadly referred to as theocracies.

Usually in such a regime there is a religious hierarchy that interprets divine will (which is always most obliging to their wants and needs) and then passes edicts on to a secular authority who do the dirty work—mostly in the form of executing, banning, or enslaving.

Ancient Egypt is an example that is well known, as is China. The Byzantine Empire was an uneasy and often bloody power-sharing arrangement between the government of Rome and the Catholic Church. Most European countries had similar arrangements, leading to civil wars, pogroms, and the occasional genocide.

Edward the Second threw the Jews out of England, and those slow to leave learned to their regret that England was on an island.

King Henry VIII had 983 senior clerics killed as part of his drive to replace the Catholic Church with his own brand.

Elizabeth 1 killed thousands of Catholics in England, and in Ireland a million and a half Catholics died from cruel English policies based in large measure on the idea that idolaters should not be countenanced.

Adolph Hitler had Catholic support during his rise to power, but the relationship went sour and Hitler, too, sought to replace Catholicism with his own peculiar blend of Nordic mysticism, Christianity, and “racial science.”

The Test Acts codified prejudice against all non-Protestants in England. It’s still against the law in England for a Catholic to be Prime Minister, although since Tony Blair that law only gets lip service.

Pure theocracies in Europe are fairly rare: Münster and Zurich are the only well-known examples, and both rapidly turned into cults and collapsed.

Modern theocracies are mostly limited to the middle east these days: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and to an extent, Israel.

America was founded on the notion that keeping religious and secular power separate was the key to avoiding religious strife (nearly all the Founders had ancestors who, within the past 300 years, had been imprisoned or executed for religious reasons) and to a certain degree, that has been successful.

The first Christian-based religious strife in North America came when Protestants came to America seeking freedom of religion. No, not the Puritans—the French Huguenot, who settled in Florida, then a Spanish colony. The Spanish were unamused by the infestation of heretics, and proceeded to wipe the colony out.

While the founders wanted to end religious persecution (the Constitution explicitly bans Test Acts), the Protestant majority brought with them the attitudes and prejudices of the mother lands. Despite the noble intentions of the Constitution, many states actually had Test Acts in their laws, forbidding Catholics, Jews, or other unbelievers from holding office, or even owning property. I’m told that in six states, atheists legally cannot hold office to this day. Some communities mandated church attendance for all well into the 19th century.

Much of the genocide of native peoples was met with anything ranging from indifference to beaming approval by church authorities. “Godless heathen” very nearly became one word.

However, the anti-Catholic practices of England and other lands ironically made it harder to discriminate against Catholics in America because of the huge influx of refugees seeking freedom in America. By the twentieth century Catholicism was the biggest single Christian sect in America.

But it would be a mistake to think religious oppression—both oppressor and oppressed—ended there.

Catholics in Boston had to violently riot for the right to have their own schools—and were met by rioting Protestants who didn’t want to allow such a thing. Their Lord’s Prayer was the one true Lord’s Prayer, and people who didn’t accept that should not be allowed to teach their children.

But compared to Europe, America got off lightly (except for the aforementioned Godless Heathens, of course). Even as Churches in Europe lost direct control of secular governments—a long bloody process in itself—most European conflicts remained thinly disguised religious disputations.

The only way a society can be free is by holding religion at at least arm’s length from the centers of power. The Founders understood this all too well. They knew something about governments “run by God”–such governments are cruel, repressive, and deeply antipathetic to the notions of independent thought and individual freedom. One only need read the Bible, or the Talmud, or the Q’uran to see how deep this antipathy goes. How long can dissent last in a form of government where the Law says dissent should be punished by death? Well, you can find an answer for that with Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.

All theocracies are viciously repressive. All require a steady stream of executions and terror to force compliance from the flock, formerly known as the electorate. Holy Books don’t discuss liberty, or freedom to disagree. They instead give lessons on disemboweling non-believers or forcing abortions on unfaithful women (Numbers 11, look it up). There has never been a theocracy that was multicultural, enlightened, or particularly literate. Ever. And it won’t start with the Christians Dominionists and Falangists of present day America.

The last thing anyone wants, or needs is ‘government under God.’ If someone could figure out a way to ask God, they would probably find he was pretty much against the idea himself. He has enough smiting to do as it is.