GOP Gun Bravado — Justifying piles of dead kids

GOP Gun Bravado

Justifying piles of dead kids

May 25th 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

Stephen King tweeted today, “The cable news washing machine is asking what motivated Salvador Ramos to kill all those children. The answer is simple: He did it because he could.”

King is in the unfortunate position of feeling some responsibility for school shootings. Back in 1977—yes, 45 years ago—he wrote a novel, “Rage” under the pseudonym of Richard Bachmann. School shootings were nearly unheard of back then, and King wrote it both as a horror story and as a cautionary tale. He’s not to blame for the horror that envelops our lives now, no more so than “All Quiet on the Western Front” was responsible for World War II.

But King is an expert on the dark side of human nature, and when he wrote “Rage,” he knew the potential was there. Unlike stories about vampires and other-dimensional westerns, this depended on just three elements: the rage that lies within many teens, the vulnerability of school children, and the American love affair with guns. King felt responsibility because at heart he’s a decent human being: but the school shootings we’ve seen would have happened whether he wrote “Rage” or not.

But there’s the thing: even if some child assassin stood up and declared, “Yes, I shot those kids because I was inspired by ‘Rage,’” King’s moral and ethical positions would still be better than that of nearly every elected Republican in the country.

Yes, King described a possible horror with considerable psychological and mental accuracy; there’s a reason he’s one of the best-selling authors of all time. He accurately portrays the human condition. But as school shootings became common, he acknowledged his role, and took “Rage” out of active sales. And he has been one of the strongest voices in the country for gun control.

Compare to the heartless, gutless, cowardly Republicans who lean on increasingly empty talking points to justify their inaction in the face of the ongoing slaughter of children. (Read that line again and ask if it’s even possible for a human to find a lower stance to take.) None of them will say, “It’s time to address the problem.” Most will try to pretend it isn’t a problem they can address, and prattle on about mental illness, or video games, or protecting us from government—yes, the same government they are a part off. Kids are getting shot to protect them from government officials who let them get shot because second amendment, which is there to protect the kids from feckless politicians like…um, them.

The reason it has taken so long to identify the dead is that AR-15 bullets, which turn humans into hamburger, left many of the bodies unrecognizable. They had to depend on DNA for a lot of the piles of guts on the classroom floor. Lots of closed-casket funerals coming up, thanks to the Republican Party.

As many have pointed out, other countries have people who are mentally ill, video games, and have oppressive governments. If you want to annoy one of those paranoid nuts who believe the constitution was written by people who wanted the government they created overthrown violently, just point out that the USSR, one of the most repressive regimes on Earth, fell to an unarmed populace with only a few dozen shots being fired. Meanwhile, we have idiots running around pretending they can protect us from the military, robbers, and apparently, ten-year-old children.

There’s no lower position a human can take. They would need to climb a very tall ladder just to reach the level of cowardly filth.

But they are cowards. The best way to change their minds is to make them open to the same risks they inflict on us.

Therefore, I call on the NRA to allow anyone who wants to to carry a loaded weapon into their convention Friday. Just like they can just about anywhere else in Texas. I don’t want to see more death, so I’ll be happy to keep my fingers crossed for them. I’m sure the NRA will welcome all thoughts and prayers, both in advance and in the event of any bloody aftermath.

Republican politicians, tell your guards and police escort to take a few weeks off. Go out like a normal person, and take the same risks that you want the rest of us to take. Is that too much to ask?

They let our children die because they are moral and ethical cowards. There is no inner humanity to reach within them. Abbott, Cruz and Trump made that clear already this week. Let Trump bloviate to the NRA with a room full of loaded guns and no Secret Service. Oh, they can have a security guard—he’s entitled to the same amount of protection school children can get. He can have fun explaining how he was the greatest president of all time because one of his first acts was to make it easier for the mentally ill to get guns, all the time sweating profusely whilst scanning the room, ready to duck behind his little wood rostrum In The Event Of. The amount of grotesque gun bravado espoused by this lot will vanish quickly.

I don’t want an assassination—that would only make things worse. But I do want him to feel the same fear every schoolkid is feeling tonight.

They are cowards, these gun heroes. Trump alone is a novel of cowardice in action.

Make them take the same risks the rest of us face, and watch them cave like Halloween pumpkins in January. Unlike King, who is courageous, they will crumble if they have to accept responsibility for their actions.

The Alito Case — No Constitutional or Biblical Basis

The Alito Case

No Constitutional or Biblical Basis

May 4th 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

Numbers 5:27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse.”

That’s right, folks—the only time the Bible actually mentions forced miscarries —abortions, in other words—is in Numbers, where abortion can be forced upon a woman who is suspected of infidelity.

Most fundamentalist Christians would be astonished by that verse, which the Christian fascist movement deals with by claiming it doesn’t say what it clearly says. The belief that there is a religious basis for opposing abortion is a false one.

Abortion was well known in biblical times. Midwives kept a stock of herbs and other medicines that would induce a miscarry and/or kill the foetus. This passage from Numbers acknowledges that fact.

Non-biblical historical information from that part of the world in those days shows that not only did abortion exist, but infanticide was accepted amongst certain groups. It was common for female babies to be killed at birth, since females were considered an expensive and weak child. Israelites had an ‘out’ from the Rabbinate to avoid the grave crime of infanticide; Talmudic law stipulated that life in a human being began upon the child drawing its third breath. Prior to that, it wasn’t a human being.

You can go through the bible and find thousands of transgressions that can result in death, and/or that Jehovah finds abhorrent. Some of them are bloody silly. Eating lobster, for instance. If you’ve ever eaten shellfish you’re going to hell. Building a fire to heat your house on the Sabbath? Hell-bound. Wearing a cotton blend? You’re gonna burn, baby!

What the bible doesn’t mention as a crime? Abortion. We know it happened, along with acts that we would today consider infanticide. Nobody thought that was worth mentioning. Nope, not even Jesus.

There are times Jehovah even condoned it, urging troops of his tribe to invade neighboring villages and rip babies from the wombs of the women there and dash their heads against the rocks. (“The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.” Hosea 13:16) That’s not the worst. There’s a site that details similar atrocities. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2009/08/the-bible-is-pro-child-killing/ It doesn’t have the bit about a bunch of kids making fun of a prophet of the lord for being bald, and the prophet asked an obliging god to deal with the kids, which he does by sending bears to tear them apart. (2 Kings 2:24)

So if anyone tells you god is against abortion, they don’t know what they are talking about.

That brings us to the leaked Alito decision that is causing the biggest shit storm this country has seen since the civil war. Alito and his fellow right wing Catholics knew they couldn’t use the Bible to justify banning abortion. Some of them might be erudite enough to know that the bible is utterly useless as a basis for that argument. But they knew they couldn’t use the Bible for another reason: the Constitution explicitly forbids basing government policy on biblical writ. If you ever read the 10 Commandments with a critical (legalistic) eye, you’ll notice that six of them are utterly unenforceable and blatantly unconstitutional.

And secular justification for banning abortion is pretty thin on the ground. While anti-abortion fanatics like to talk about tearing apart babies moments before birth (“partial-birth abortion”) it’s non-existent. Yes, the questions about ending a pregnancy get tougher and tougher the further into term you get, but the questions belong to the women and their physicians—not a pack of church clowns.

I will say right now that I’m not attacking Catholics—the majority of Catholics in America are as appalled by the abortion ban as you and me, and even the Vatican doesn’t support the efforts of Opus Dei to overthrow secular regimes. It’s nearly impossible to tell where the truth about Opus Dei begins and where it simply becomes just another conspiracy theory, but I’ll note that four of the five justices that support this decision have been linked to this movement, and whatever else it might be, it is openly dominionist, believing that god has primacy over American law.

But then, Alito and his Opus Dei fellows on the Court have little or no interest in the Law—either biblical or constitutional. This is meant as nothing more than a power grab by a small but extremist group of church members who want to wrest rights from the people.

So Alito has based his ruling on a fantastically dangerous basis: that people have no constitutional right to privacy because that right is not “enumerated” in the Bill of Rights. The man has apparently decided to just blow off the ninth amendment, which states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Privacy is a pretty vital one, since without it, there is no possibility of a life without government surveillance, or to make any important personal decisions without government involvement. A lot of people have noted a long list of penumbral rights that will die along with abortion, such as contraception, choice of marriage partners, or even who you can live with.

This decision isn’t based on morality or the law. It is simply a power grab by a small group of Christian fascists, a coup against America.

Fight it forcefully but peacefully now, because that option won’t remain if these people consolidate their power grab.

Incidentally I based some of this on a page (link below) I found the other day when the story of the Alito case broke. It is a simple text file detailing similar data about the bible and abortion as this piece does. I posted a link to it on Twitter, and the post was rejected out of hand because the link, they claimed, “led to harmful content.” The content isn’t harmful—just controversial. But it makes for an interesting preview of how such information might be suppressed if these religious nuts take over. Oh, and I defied Twitter by posting the address with the word “dot” substituted for the period. As of yesterday it was still up. Here is the real link: https://reverbpress.com/religion/bible-supports-abortion/

We have a final battle for our rights and freedoms, and the existence of America as something much more than just another grubby, corrupt theocracy.

 

 

Other Truckers — Expect tactic deployed in Ottawa to spread

Other Truckers

Expect tactic deployed in Ottawa to spread

February 8th 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

By now, people who thought Ottawa was an indigenous tribe in Kansas know of the Canadian capital. Ottawa in February is a bleak, gray place, buried in snow and still beset by temperatures well below freezing. It’s the second coldest national capital on Earth next only to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Yes, it’s even colder than Moscow.

The place comes to life in the Spring, which is usually on a Tuesday. The world-famous tulips erupt, the forests are eye-searingly green, and the tourists arrive. Winter returns in November and the place goes back to a monotonal study in gray: gray skies, gray buildings, gray streets, gray slush. Even the residents get a bit gray as the tans wear off. Only night relieves the grayness.

So Ottawa doesn’t make the news very much, and even in the rest of Canada people don’t know much about the place outside of Parliament Hill. It has two seasons, really: Life is Wonderful, and Oh, God, Please Kill Me Now.

How is it I know so much about the place? It’s the city of my birth, and I spent a fair bit of my childhood there. Wonderful people, but not exactly the wildest place to grow up in.

The truckers rally/protest changed all that. It is, at its heart, an astroturf movement. Fully 90% of all licensed eighteen-wheel operators in Canada are fully vaccinated and can cross the border freely. And it’s a pretty safe bet that even amongst the unvaccinated drivers, only a small minority are willing to sign on to a movement that enrages most Canadians, paralyzes cities, and features such non-Canadian flags as the American rebel flag, Trump flags, and even swastikas. Nearly all the known funding underwriting this movement is coming from American sources. Most of the cheerleading of politicians are among the scummier Americans, such as Donald Trump, and some of the scummier American politicians who renounced their Canadian citizenships in hopes that people wouldn’t notice they can’t be president, such as Ted Cruz. Compare with actual Canadian politicians, where rabid dissent come in the form of “Well, they might have a point. Let’s listen to what they have to say.”

Canada has right wing extremists, but nothing like the neo-Nazi madness that has beset America for the past six years or so. Fascists haven’t been able to flood the population with propaganda the way they have in America. Canada has no equivalent to Faux News, or fascist propaganda pits such as the Heritage Society or the Federalist Society.

But it does have social media, which has been a boon for the extremists. They figured that out right away—even back in the 80s, when “on line” meant local privately owned networks called “BBSes” or Bulletin Board Systems, right wing extremists flooded the nets with neo-Nazi, KKK and Christian fascist propaganda. They began with a presence far out-sized to their actual numbers, and they do to this day. Coupled with financial and communication support from America’s fascist billionaires, they were able to transform a small and powerless fringe group into a force that has paralyzed several cities and as of today, the busiest single border crossing spot in North America, the bridge that connects Windsor with Detroit.

It’s an effective tactic. Ordering a fleet of 18-wheelers to disperse isn’t going to work if the drivers of the trucks don’t want to disperse. All they have to do is set their air brakes, and moving said truck will be nearly impossible.

But what little popularity the movement had is evaporating fast. Residents felt besieged by the endless sounding of air horns and fireworks, and a court finally did uphold an injunction against that tactic in Ottawa yesterday. A significant incident late last week is getting a lot of attention: two males ignited fire starter blocks in the lobby of a 400 unit apartment building near the wood panelling of the lobby, and then used duct tape to make the lobby doors impossible to open from the inside. If the parties responsible were associated with the truckers in any way, the events just slopped over from raucous demonstration and major annoyance into the realm of outright terrorism. Fortunately, the arson attempt failed, and nobody was hurt.

Ottawa authorities have already blocked fuel from entering the truck zone, leaving the truckers to deal with Ottawa’s marvelous February climate once the tanks run dry. I would advocate that the RCMP and other authorities go through the ranks of the trucks, demanding passports and/or licenses from the drivers, with the promise that they will get them back at the city limits, and if they try the same thing a second time, the papers would be confiscated. It probably wouldn’t hurt to let the citizenry of Ottawa to parade peacefully amongst the trucks, chanting, blowing whistles, and beating drums. After all, if the truckers don’t want people to get any sleep, then there’s no reason they should be able to enjoy a nice nap while they freeze.

Because Canadians did get vaccinated in large numbers (83% as opposed to America’s 61%) several provinces are already planning to drop mask and access provisions over the next couple of months, and barring any more surprises from this disease, can do so safely. But border crossings will still be problematic, particular since the Canadians aren’t the only ones who demand proof of vaccination at the border.

This tactic will spread rapidly to America, where the outcomes are much more likely to turn bloody.

If Canadians find a solution that doesn’t get people hurt and opens up the roads again, not only will it be good for Canadians, but it may save many lives in America.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale — History bleeds us, too

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

History bleeds us, too

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

February 1st, 2022

There was a huge uproar over the past week over the removal of Maus: A Survivor’s Tale from the shelves of the McMinn County Schools in Tennessee. I doubt the action of the board, which voted 10-0 to ban the graphic novel, was antisemitic, let alone pro-Nazi, but rather reflected the urge toward authoritarian control disguised as concern for the children that is currently sweeping the right. But, coming as it did the day before Holocaust Memorial Day, it was incredibly tone-deaf and showed the basic moral and intellectual cowardice of so called “critical race theory,” or the Bowdlerizing of history to suit a narrative that erases the errors and crimes of authoritarian regimes.

It prompted me to pull out my own copy of Maus and reread it. I first read it about 15 years ago, and thought that the first reading might diminish the impact of a second reading years later. It didn’t. It’s still magnificent, angry, grim, human and utterly brilliant. Using cartoon animals, it humanizes the Holocaust experience in a way that none of the thousands of works about the Holocaust can quite manage.

As a child in London, I heard of the Holocaust, but it was in general terms. “Hitler murdered Jews, Hitler was evil, they used gas.” I don’t think I grasped how uniquely awful it was, but equated it to the other horrible things Hitler did, such as the Blitz, or Dunkirk.

It wasn’t until I was 12 when I learned, in Social Studies in Ottawa, about Auschwitz and Treblinka and what happened there. I remember those particular classes because of the images and the graphic descriptions of victims trying to claw their way out of the gas showers and the hopeless hunch in the shoulders of the inmates in the camps as the Germans raused them hither and yon. We learned about propaganda, and the ability of a society to make an entire segment non-human and remove from them all the protections and benefits of society. (In the same class we learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and read horrific tales of children staggering around with half their skin hanging off their bodies. The kids didn’t die of guilt.)

This was in peaceful, sedate Ottawa, where the worst torment we could imagine was having our books knocked out of our arms by a school bully. Should we have had to imagine the hiss of the gas, the screams of the dying, the despair of the not-yet-dead? Did it make me ashamed?

Well, yes. It made me ashamed to be human. But it also made me aware that I didn’t have to be that way, and should strive never to be that way.

Was it a lesson I needed to learn when I was twelve?

Absolutely.

In subsequent years I learned that what Nazi Germany did, while horrifying in its deliberate approach, wasn’t unique or even special. England has had dozens of Holocausts in the past, including a 13th century attempt to flat-out exterminate the Jews. Canada is only now coming to grips with 300 years of genocide against the First Nations, and lurking in the shadows are the “reform schools” and orphanages that systematically turned children into hamburger. Japan had monstrous war crimes prior to the atomic bombings, and Germany suffered destruction of many cities, including Dresden and Berlin. Even Israel rising from the ashes of the camps, has amassed its own catalogue of war crimes. Nobody is pure, nobody was only a victim. We are all human, and a mixture of these things. That’s why its so important to fight against the warmongers and propagandists and bigots. We may not attain purity, but we should at least try.

Spiegelman’s characters reflect this. His father Vladek (the survivor of the camps) proves to be as bigoted and dismissive of the humanity of African-Americans (Schvartzes) as the Germans and Poles were of his humanity 40 years earlier. Art Spiegelman himself is mildly contemptuous of the history of the Holocaust, equating it to his own feelings of inadequacy and guilt. If it weren’t for those pesky Germans, his older brother, who died at age 6 in the camps some 10 years before his was born, wouldn’t be the unattainable ideal with which he had to compete.

I remember when I first read this, I felt a certain amount of depression. After all he had been through, and Vladek learned nothing of what becomes of dehumanizing others? And Art trivializes the Holocaust over a petty and actually non-existent sibling rivalry?

Well, perhaps I’ve grown since that first read. I understand now that Vladek was heavily damaged by what he went through, and not all of his humanity returned. Further, he was sick and clearly suffering from early-onset dementia. And Art wanted us to see the facile and trivial approach he initially had to his father over the Holocaust as part of showing how he slowly came to grips with it. It’s not exactly something you can process in one sitting like a homily from a calendar page.

In short, the reread helped me to humanize the Spiegelmans. Failing to humanize is, after all, a first step toward dehumanization.

One side note (sort of): A common refrain among right wingers is that the gay pride flag is just like the swastica flag. It’s about like saying having the Star of David on the front of a synagogue is exactly the same as having a swastica on the front of a building. Hitler murdered six million Jews, but that was only half the people he targeted, and homosexuals were probably the second largest group to get shot, gassed, and starved. To equate gays to Hitler is every bit a big a disgrace as equating Jews to Hitler. In their ignorance, the right skip along in the footsteps of Hitler, unaware of where their ideology will lead them. If you feel that way, read Maus and ask yourself where the similarities lie.

Maus, along with about 250 other books targeted by the authoritarian right should be on the shelves of all school libraries. They teach the kids in GERMANY about the Holocaust and it doesn’t destroy them. American kids should be able to handle it. Stephen King has the right idea: kids should flock to read any book the authoritarians want to hide “to protect the kids.”

And let’s get rid of the notion kids need to be protected from the horrors and errors of the past because they might somehow take it personally. Instead, that just leaves them ignorant, and fertile ground to repeat those horrors and errors. And that’s what the authoritarians actually want.

Creator Art Spiegelman

Date 1991

Page count 296 pages

Publisher Pantheon Books

Original publication

Published in Raw

Issues Vol. 1 No. 2 – Vol. 2 No. 3

Date of publication 1980–1991

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.

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.

Court Cowards Create Constitutional Crisis — A preview of American life under fascism

Court Cowards Create Constitutional Crisis

A preview of American life under fascism

September 2nd, 2021

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

They did the deed in the dead of night, of course. The Court refused to issue a stay on a state bill that was blatantly unconstitutional; so egregiously so that it wasn’t until 24 hours later that they issued a paper—NOT a ruling, saying that five of the nine justices decided not to issue the stay. It was cowardly, it was despicable, and it was exactly what we expected from the GOP’s decades-long struggle to pack the Court with anti-Constitutional fascists. The ones that McConnell herded onto the court were especially bad—a drunk, a child of a deeply corrupt family, and a god-struck loon.

The bill, a product of Texas’ demented and nearly criminal legislature, made it a felony to get an abortion after 6 weeks. Never mind that hundreds of similar bills, put up by obsessive religious nuts, have been struck down by court after court after court as being unconstitutional: this 5-4 joke of a Supreme Court decided to not do its job and let the bill stand. This is a court that has no interest at all in the law, precedent, or the Constitution. It is an outlaw, criminal court, interested only in securing power for the churches.

An even more insane element of the bill—and this could only happen in Texas, a state that is fucking nuts by design—is that it effectively deputizes every citizen to turn in any woman or doctor who tries to skirt this law in any way, with a $10,000 bounty!

Maybe those crazy Texans will arrest God: over two thirds of all abortions are spontaneous. He kills tens of millions of blobs every year. Be sure to call the state snitch line to report God and collect your $10,000.

The law that the Court pretended to ignore is insane and unfair and violates the rights of women, but that’s not the worst of it.

The worst is that the Court has reintroduced the policy of Nullification. Anyone who has taken American history knows the term (and it will probably vanish from American history books if the CRT crowd have their way and remove anything from history books that they don’t like). It was the belief, prior to the Civil War, that states had the right to nullify any federal law that they felt violated their state constitution, or they just found inconvenient, like the notion that Americans of African descent needn’t be slaves. The Civil War pretty much settled that dispute, but decades later it emerged from the fever swamps of the Koch right wing as “State’s Rights.” Ask a right winger if states’ rights isn’t just a painted over version of nullification, and if he even has the faintest clue what you’re talking about, he’ll turn himself inside-out trying to explain they have nothing in common. One is a relic of the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, where the states could tell the feds to butt out, and the second is a relic of the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, where the states could tell the feds to butt out. See? Nothing at all alike!

The Articles of Confederation basically created a shell of a nation consisting of thirteen sovereign states. States were free to impose tariffs, have wildly differing laws, and there was no basic system of rights for the people nor powers for the government. Instead of one nation, it was thirteen little pisspot nations, just sitting there waiting to be gobbled up by the French, the English, or even the Spanish like popcorn.

The Constitution of 1787 repudiated that, declaring itself to be the Supreme Law over the states, and giving the federal judiciary the power to negate state laws that violated the Constitution. More stuff you won’t be hearing about if they get rid of the CRT stuff.

In effect, Nullification repeated the errors of the Articles. It took a Civil War to bury that particular vampire idea. And in more recent times, the power of the federal judiciary enjoyed the support of both parties and most of the citizenry. So they buried the idea under a bunch of pseudonyms, such as states’ rights, or community standards, and now, with an outlaw Supreme Court, the notion that the Court can just ignore any state law it doesn’t want to consider, no matter how egregiously unconstitutional that law may be on the very face of it.

This court is the result of fascists, led by Mitch McConnell and former president AAX, to stuff the court with fascists, in addition to the two clowns already there; Clarence Thomas, for years the least qualified judge to sit on the court, and John Roberts, a weak conservative who thinks the far right is just as respectful of the law as the rest of the country, despite all evidence to the contrary. Add the three disgraces forced on us by Mitch McConnell, the GOP, and the malevolent AAX, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Congress must act on this. Impeach the unqualified most recent appointees, all of who deliberately and maliciously lied to get their seat. Failing that, pack the court, 15 if need be, to negate the damage the fascists of the GOP have done.

And an aroused citizenry can do wonders to make the GOP back off. Fascists may be determined, but at heart they are sneaky little cowards. They might back down. For now.

In the meantime, point to Texas, and point to Afghanistan, and warn people that this is what we all can expect under religious authoritarian rule.

Spook Says Early Fall — Cat’s in the cradle and silver moon

Spook Says Early Fall

Cat’s in the cradle and silver moon

August 25th 2021

We have a cat named Spook. She’s ten years old and looks to be a medium-sized black cat until you pick her up. That’s when you realize she’s mostly fluff. There’s maybe four pounds of cat inside that black cloud. When she feels like it, she’s a very sweet-natured, affectionate little kitty.

That’s when she feels like it. Much of the time, she’s just plain nuts.

I got my first inkling of this when she was a year old, in late spring. I walked in the bedroom where she was curled up at the foot of the bed. She jumped to her feet, an expression of clear horror on her face, and scrambled under the bed.

I started at the hole in the air where she had been. “What the hell did I do to you, cat?” I grumbled. I didn’t think much of it. It was evening, and most of our cats sometimes get the “evening crazies” where they dash madly about the house and swat at no-see-ums. Kittens—which Spook still was at the time—are particularly susceptible to this. So I just shook my head and muttered “cats.” I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve done that.

Only evening crazies only last for 15 or 20 minutes and the cat calms down and curls up and goes to sleep. Spook stayed out of sight the rest of the evening. And the next day. And the day after that. When I did see her, she fled.

My wife reported the same behavior. And the first time we held the back door open for an indecisive other cat to come in or out, she would see an opportunity and dash past.

We didn’t worry about that too much. The yard is fenced, there are a dozen hidey-holes where a cat can escape any would-be predators, and she had survived basic training by the fierce and terrible Mac, our feisty old orange tom who didn’t take shit from any coyote or raccoon foolish enough to cross his path.

She would hide, and when we let one of the other animals in or out, she would make a mad dash. That would usually be the only time we would see her.

Even though she acted like were were hungry ogres who lived only to feast on cats, we knew she was around, even though she otherwise stayed invisible, and we usually didn’t know if she was in or out. I sometimes thought of her as Schrödinger’s Joke.

But there were times when none of the others were in transit, and we had no reason to open the back door. In which case, she would stand as far away as she could while maintaining line-of-sight eye contact, and wait for one of us to open the door for her. Except at first she wouldn’t work herself up to approaching while we were looking right at her, and we both would end up frustrated.

I finally figured it out, which was amazing when you consider that I am under the considerable handicap of being a human being, a balding monkey if you will. I had to Avert My Gaze. If she wanted out, I had to gaze longingly at the back fence while she worked up the courage to make a wild dash past me. If she wanted in, she would wait at the bottom of the steps while I memorized the features of our stove at the other end of the kitchen, until a puff of air near my shins told me she was in.

Then, one crisp October night, I was typing at my computer and heard a meep. I glanced down, and there was Spook! She reared up and put a paw up on my knee, gave me a direct look, and meeped again. I very slowly reached down, and she gently head-butted my hand. It was the first time I had been allowed to touch her since that night in April. I got up and she scrambled back, but I was only going to check her food. She had to be starving to dare approach me, I reasoned.

Nope. Food supply was fine. And I went to the door and averted my gaze, and she didn’t take me up on the offer. She just wanted to say hi.

After that, she was a normal cat, if a bit timid. She even let me pick her up to examine her. We had come to think of her as a peripheral cat, a semi-feral who came in only to eat. She was in remarkably good shape, considering. She even let me run a brush over her and put some flea stuff on her neck.

At least once a day she would come in just to say hi. She loved having her tail tugged and would strop back and forth, waving it invitingly.

Then, one spring morning, she stared at me in abject horror, and made an insane dash for it. She had just SEEN me eat breakfast, and I hardly ever eat cats right after a meal. Trying to lose weight, you know.

And just like that, we were back in frenzied paranoia mode.

Until six months later, when she reverted to affectionate little house kitty.

The pattern became clear. She would revert to Spooky Spook when the nighttime lows were reliably above freezing and the last of the snow had melted. She would become Warm and Fuzzy Spook when the frost was on the pumpkin. Her affection for us was measured in Fahrenheit.

Normally we’re deep in Schrödinger’s Joke mode this time of year. When it’s baseball season, you don’t see Spook, or if she has to be seen, she doesn’t like it. This past year we added an enclosed front porch with a cat-sized portal next to the screen door and a cat flap in the bedroom window facing onto the porch. It didn’t take her long to figure out the implications. Unbridled access, inside and out! We usually didn’t see much of her in the summer. Now we barely saw her at all. The one good look I got at her was last month, one morning when I went out on the porch to read the news. A neighbor came by on the streets with her corgis. Now, the corgis aren’t a particular threat. Or any threat. Neither could manage three miles an hour with a tailwind, they liked cats, and what’s more, they were on a leash. Just a pair of nice old dogs.

Nonetheless the simultaneous appearance of me and the dogs threw the two cats that happened to be in the front yard into wild panic. TK, our Korat, darted for the porch. She understands that humans mean safety. Spook, who knows better, dashed for the large lilac bush that is her summer home. Both were staring at the affably harmless dogs with deep loathing, fear and disgust as they ran.

They collided.

It was so quick it nearly didn’t happen at all. Showing uncharacteristic wisdom, I decided it didn’t happen. Cats know when you’re laughing at them, and they can be vindictive. The corgis and their owners were clearly enjoying the show. No head-strops for them. Not from those two particular cats.

So last night I was in bed, doing some reading before going to sleep. I felt a cat jump up on the bed behind me and absently reached back to scritch kitty ears. After decades of cat exposure, I can reach back without even looking and accurately scritch between the ears. The cats agree that it’s my most useful, indeed only useful talent.

I figured it was TK. She likes to be hand-fed kitty crunchy treats. Spoiled rotten. I petted along her back. Not TK. Korats have thick, short pelts, silver and grey. This felt more like cotton candy, only not sticky.

I rolled over and blinked in amazement. It was Spook, not only letting me touch her, but inviting me to pull her tail! I glanced at the thermometer. It might go below 50 that night, but only a little. Frost was not in the forecast.

She let me pet her, which served as a thinly-disguised opportunity to check her weight, her pelt, and check for any injuries or tender spots. She seemed fine. She jumped down and trotted off to the kitchen to see if we had done anything lately to justify our existence.

But it’s only August. Schrödinger’s Joke isn’t supposed to be Warm and Fuzzy for two more months!

It can only mean one thing: an early fall. Frost is rare in the California mountains in August, but not unheard of. Rain is also seldom seen. But something has persuaded Spook that I am preferable to the Lilac Bush.

So I am bracing for an early fall. I would prefer not to see frost for another six weeks because backyard garden, but early rains in this fiery and smoky year would be cause for deep ecstasy.

Spook probably knows. But that is cat knowledge, and us balding monkeys are not worthy.

Hope for rain.

Don’t Be Stupid – Don’t Be Donald

Don’t Be Stupid – Don’t Be Donald.

October 5th 2020

I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2020

If anyone doesn’t understand the difference between courage and foolhardiness, this tweet will stand as a terrific example. It leaves me hoping that his health will take a turn for the worse (and normally I would want him to live to lose the election and stand trial for his many crimes) because telling his idiot followers that COVID is nothing to fear will get hundreds of thousands killed, on top of the 170,000 or so who have died as a result of his attitude.

Donald Trump stands to kill more Americans than Hitler did, and for similar reasons. Contempt for Americans, and utter hatred of a free and open society.

The sad thing is that it won’t be just the fools who worship him. In Biblical times it was a golden calf. Now it’s an orange jackass. Oh, they’ll die by the thousands, but mostly the victims will be people around them—their family, their friends, their co-workers, people in stores and restaurants that they casually infect.

A leader will often exhort this countrymen in times of great peril. FDR, upon his inauguration in a time of economic collapse, and again in the wake of Pearl Harbor. Abraham Lincoln when a third of the country chose treason for the sake of slavery. Churchill facing down Hitler. There are times when it is a leader’s right and duty to call on his people to make sacrifices and risk their lives for the greater good.

But a leader doesn’t have any right to tell his nation’s children to go play on the freeway, or smoke cigarettes for national profit. Don’t step out in front of buses.

Trump just wants people to piss away their lives because he’s trying to protect Wall Street and because he believes, for some demented reason, that only a weak leader tackles a national crisis and it’s the role of a strong leader to pretend it isn’t happening.

Trump went back to the White House today, sweaty and gasping for breath, and it’s the nature of this disease that he isn’t out of crisis yet, and that he has a pretty good chance of taking long-term damage above and beyond what he’s already at risk for. Just for mindless showmanship. And he’s putting hundreds of lives at immediate risk just by wandering the White House unmasked.

How crazy is it going to get? Trump campaign aide Erin Perrine went on Fox News today to suggest that President Donald Trump is a better leader than Democratic candidate Joe Biden because he has the “firsthand experience” of being infected with COVID-19.

That’s a bit like saying you should be appointed city commissioner of public transportation because you got drunk and walked in front of a bus and got run down. Trump got stupid(er) and caught a disease he could have readily avoided. You might survive sticking your tongue in a wall socket, but boasting about it to others isn’t going to make them think you’re intelligent, or even sane.

Trump is neither intelligent nor sane. Foolhardiness isn’t a legitimate form of “first hand experience.”

Should you be afraid of COVID-19? Well, as of this evening, we have 7,679,644 cases. 215,032 of those cases resulted in death. 4,895,078 people have recovered. Now for the really alarming news: 2,569,534 have not recovered, and have spent weeks and even months fighting this disease and still are. Many of them will have compromised health going forward for the rest of their lives. Over 14,000 of them are presently in critical condition, their lives in the balance. They will never recover.

Donald Trump, in his psychotic need to pretend everything is OK and he is a great leader, is rolling the dice. He’s far sicker than he’s letting on, probably sicker than he’s admitting to himself. He may end up as the poster boy for the non-lethal damage this disease causes. And of course, he might drop dead at any point over the next few weeks.

Should we be afraid of COVID-19? No.

But we should treat it with respect, and not follow a fool who says for his own self-aggrandizement that there is nothing to be afraid of, masks are for weaklings, and he is the example of that. He’s lying to you right now, and he’ll keep right on lying no matter how bad it gets for him because he can’t stand to look weak or wrong.

But he is weak. He is wrong. He is the drunk who wandered out in front of a bus, and somehow survived, and wants that to be a gleaming example so you might step blindly off the curb, refusing to be cowed by buses.

That isn’t courage. That is stupidity.

Don’t be stupid. Don’t be Donald. Wear a mask. Maintain social distancing. And don’t walk out in front of buses.

Poor, Brave Trump! – The fearless folly of the Donald

October 3rd, 2020

Trump got squeezed into one of his poor-fitting suits and sat in front of a US and Presidential flag that utterly failed to conceal that he was in a hospital room and made a four minute video for the nation. This normally would be a very good thing, since a sick president leaves the entire country unnerved and in need of a calming voice. Such reassurances are usually…staged. Some never existed: the country may have felt reassured at the story that as he was being wheeled into the OR after being shot, Reagan gave the doctors a cheery thumbs-up, but much later we learned that was strictly PR bullshit.

Trump looked better than some of the more dire stories had it but the makeup and his seated position couldn’t quite hide the fact that he wasn’t 100%.

Characteristically, he took the opportunity to praise his heroism and courage:

But I had no choice because I just didn’t want to stay in the White House. I was given that alternative. Stay in the White House, lock yourself in, don’t ever leave, don’t even go to the Oval Office, just stay upstairs and enjoy it, don’t see people, don’t talk to people and just be done with it and I can’t do that. I had to be out front and – this is America, this is the United States, this is the greatest country in the world, this is the most powerful country in the world. I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs and totally safe and just say: ‘Hey, whatever happens happens.’ I can’t do that. We have to confront problems. As a leader you have to confront problems. There’s never been a great leader that would have done that.”

Mind you, Mister “Whatever happens happens, I can’t do that” said of the same disease just two weeks ago, “It is what it is.” Stoicism is an easy way to cover up moral and mental bankruptcy. Trump is trying to pretend he was out, ignoring the danger, doing the people’s business and fulfilling his duties as president.

In reality, he’s still the same indolent buffoon he’s always been, going out only to play his indeterminable games of golf and hold his super-spreader rallies, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk to fill his mindless need for adulation. Even then, at a recent rally in a display of what passes for humor with Trump, he told his audience that he wasn’t taking any risk—he was ‘way up on his dais, well away from the people he privately calls ‘disgusting.’ All those braying morons, going home to infect friends, family, associates, because Trump felt personally safe. He must have been really tickled pink over that.

He expressed gratitude for all non-American leaders who wished him well. Some, like Boris Johnson, were undoubtedly sincere. Kim Yong Un was probably fairly pro forma. His country isn’t allowed to admit that COVID-19 exists. Trump didn’t want to admit Joe Biden and the Democrats exist, either, and so ignored their well wishes.

Then there’s Putin, and Russia. They have a radio show called 60 Minutes that resembles the American television show of that name much the way OAN resembles Walter Cronkite. The Russian version had its own unique take on it, per the Daily Beast:

Discussing Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Evgeny Popov, the host of Russian state media news talk show 60 Minutes, said, ‘Our candidate got sick.’ His co-host Olga Skabeeva reminded the viewers that Trump is in a high-risk group, due to being elderly and overweight. Referring to former Vice President Joe Biden, Popov added, ‘The other one may get sick too.’”

Davis said commentary also included condolences to the president who was taken to Walter Reed Hospital late Friday, and that Popov and Skabeeva also commented that the Democrats were “celebrating” Trump’s health woes, only to have reporter Denis Davydov in the U.S. point out that “Trump’s Twitter mentions are filled with messages of support,” to which Popov shot back, “Those are just the Russian bots.”

Ha ha ha. Very droll, comrade. ‘Russian bots.’ Must mock foolish Americaner intelligence. After show, we get drunk, go in alley way and urinate on pussy cats, no? After all, there is full Moon!

Trump’s opaque and dishonest reign has made Kremlin watchers out of all of us, where we all feverishly scan minutiae in hopes of determining what few morsels of truth may exist in the White House sewage. Now that he’s ill and even possibly critically ill, the versions regarding what’s going on are a deep and wide river. It’s safe to assume 90% of it is utter nonsense, and 9/10ths of the rest exaggerations of reality.

Three Republican Senators have tested positive over the past few days, raising the interesting prospect that for the next month or so, the Senate may actually have Democrats in control. At least two of the Senators sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be having what the GOP jokingly refers to as “hearings” on Amy Barrett next week. Maybe. At least one reputable source opines that some or all of the Republican Senators may fake claims of having the disease in order to avoid voting on her, since it’s obvious to one and all that she is a poison pill that will destroy the GOP. At least five Republican Senators who had reasonable leads just two months ago in November’s races have seen their leads dwindle to ties and even losses. They have to be feeling desperate right now. Their leader’s bad habit of making them all swim in a Petri dish in order to pretend the pandemic isn’t a problem may actually take them off the hot seat and even possibly save their careers.

Republicans have suddenly rediscovered compassion and empathy in the past day, but I have my great big “fuck you” potato gun ready for any that try pulling that crap on me. It’s manipulative bullshit, and I’m not going to play that game.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on the news. We live in interesting times.

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