Zealots — The battle is joined

Zealots

The battle is joined

June 25th, 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

Nothing exposes the utter ethical and logical bankruptcy of zealotry than the two decisions the once-and-not-bright-future Supreme Court handed down this week.

First, they celebrated the ever-growing piles of dead children by ruling that states could not put any limitations on concealed-carry except, of course, for “sensitive areas” such as…the Supreme Court. They don’t want to have to take the same risks they want to impose on the rest of us.

Then two days later the Court struck down Roe vs. Wade, ruling that states had the right to put limitations on abortion, including making it illegal under any and all circumstances.

So in the space of just 48 hours, the Court ruled that the Court could not impose limitations on the second amendment, and then ruled that states could impose limitations on the ninth and fourteenth amendments.

The first ruling ensures greater numbers of dead people, including children. The second was done in the nebulous name of “saving children.” It’s the kind of inconsistency that lies at the heart of the zealot’s mindset.

Zealotry is hard to tell apart from insanity. Zealotry is an externalized morality and intellect, one aptly described by Voltaire who said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Most (but far from all) zealots aren’t lacking sanity—they merely reject it.

Donald Trump isn’t a zealot. It’s perhaps an interesting paradox that nihilism is a good emotional defense against zealotry. If you believe in nothing, you are much less likely to believe absurdities, right? Of course, the drawback is that nihilists also commit atrocities, and unlike many zealots, do so with the full recognition of what their actions entail—they just don’t care. In fact they may even enjoy the suffering they cause.

Trump is a nihilist posing as a zealot. So today, he praised the court ruling on abortion as “God made the decision.” Of course, he then went on to take the credit from God, saying that the decision wouldn’t have been possible without his three disgraceful Supreme Court picks. Anyone who thinks God and Trump are interchangeable on any level has one shit God. They already had a shit President.

The zealots control the Court. They have a stranglehold on Congress. They threaten to take over the entire country in the next six months. It’s not something new in history: Zealots have taken over many countries in history, and the result, without exception, is misery, deprivation, and slaughter. All the worst “revolutionary governments” in history were controlled and largely were composed of zealots; revolutionary France, Nazi Germany, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, Lenin’s Russia, Pinochet’s Chile, Iran’s Islamic Republic, Cromwell’s England…the list is endless.

Usually countries so afflicted need decades to recover. Some, such as the Congo or Cambodia, never do fully recover.

When zealots take over, personal and legal freedoms cease to exist. The same people who like to claim rights are God-given don’t hesitate to ensure they are God-taken, and as always, God is an obliging doormat who shares all of a zealot’s most cherished beliefs.

The Court decisions this week show how close to the maw of authoritarian zealotry America has already come. Clarence Thomas, disgraced justice on that same court, publicly stated in his decision that the court now needs to “revisit” rulings upholding the right to contraception and same-sex marriages. No word on how the esteemed judge feels about mixed-race marriages or laws against slavery.

States run by zealots are rushing to put laws into effect that make it criminal to give or receive abortions, to travel to other states for abortions, or to even advocate for the right to an abortion. Some are trying to outlaw “morning after” pills, along with contraception. A couple of states are trying to fig leaf their assault on the rights and freedoms of women by promising to expand state assistance to mothers and their young children, but in the few cases where any details are available, the measures are ridiculously inadequate, showing their mitigation measures to be nothing more than a half-hearted swipe at the pretense that they are “caring about the children.”

The hearings by the January 6th Select Committee, and the reception they are getting, show that there are still many people in America who value justice and freedom and rationality.

I think we’re going to need every single one of those types of people. This isn’t just an assault on rights and freedoms; it’s the opening shot in a war that can only be prevented by enough people facing the zealots down and saying, “Enough.”

Zealots won’t back off. They won’t settle for a half loaf. They’ll take it all, and laugh at your suffering.

Resist as hard as you can now, or you will be fighting for “life, liberty and freedom” later—and it won’t be cheap.

But don’t despair. We’re not dead yet. Voltaire also said, “‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”

Sing as you resist.

Head Hardening — Idiot “solutions” to school shootings

Head Hardening

Idiot “solutions” to school shootings

May 29th 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

A friend of mine wrote me and said, “Twenty bucks says if that classroom had been full of little white girls those Rangers would’ve charged in guns a-blazin’.” Given that murdering a white person in America is seen as a far more serious crime than murdering someone who isn’t white, that may well be true. I’m sure that among the sociopaths who are trying to downplay the shootings at Robb Elementary, there are some who would be taking a different approach if the victims had been “little white girls.” Not that it would be easy to tell their race or gender after an AR-15 was done with them.

But what I said to my friend was “That was kinda my first thought, too—until I discovered the town clowns were 90% Hispanic themselves. That was almost a relief; cowardly and incompetent was bad enough without throwing racism into the mix.” There’s damn few things you can say about the shooting that don’t sicken the soul, but for once it wasn’t the racist impulse that is rapidly destroying America.

The morally and ethically dead imbeciles have come out on full parade, of course. I won’t bother with the Trumps or the Congressional trolls; they just want attention and the only attention they deserve is a loud “Fuck YOU!” But the gun apologists in general have been trying their usual efforts to defray the situation in any way they can.

I’ve had several people tell me that the teachers need to be armed. You hear that pretty much every time this happens, which means you hear it a lot.

Let’s suppose the two teachers in the classroom had been armed. They could not safely carry guns on their persons, not surrounded by 30 inquisitive and clever kids who would be daring one another to figure out how to get the gun off the teacher. OK, the girls, not so much, but if you think knowing the teacher had a gun wouldn’t be taken by the boys as a challenge, then you don’t know kids very well.

Putting the gun somewhere out of sight wouldn’t work, either. Even if the kids didn’t know about the gun, they get into everything. The same day as the shooting, a second grader, age 7, showed up at a Sacramento school with a loaded handgun. The parents probably thought the gun was safely hidden. But kids get into everything.

So put the gun in a safe. That way, the teacher can fumble for a key or try to remember a combination while trying to shield kids from explosive rounds where even a shot to a limb would be fatal. Piece of cake, right? There’s a reason we pay teachers as lavishly as we do, and it isn’t to educate the kids. Yes, that was sarcasm.

Sort of. Remember Texas is one of those states that refuses to teach about civics, sex, or history. Even math books get banned for failing political purity tests. About all teachers can tell the kids is that Santa Claus founded the Confederacy to prepare the land for the second coming of Jesus.

One guy—and I hope to fuck he was kidding, but somehow I doubt it—suggested arming the kids. Well, maybe not the fourth-graders. I think he had in mind high school kids. Because 15-year-olds are known for their good judgment and emotional stability. So you have thirty kids with guns, and a shooter shows up, and thirty kids greet him by pulling thirty weapons. That’ll show him, right?

Except in the panic and confusion, kids will fire in wrong, if not totally random directions, making it impossible to guess who the original shooter was. (And NONE of the kids kindly furnished guns by Governor Abbott will turn out to be shooters themselves?). If the shooter is from outside, all he has to do is duck back out into the hallway and wait for the shooting and massive crossfire to end, and then nip around and pick off the survivors, if any.

Another bit of idiocy being flung around is “harden the schools.” Part of it is having armed guards around. Well, Robb Elementary did have an armed guard. He was out fucking off somewhere, and there are unconfirmed reports he might have been the one who left the door open that the gunman used for entry. Nearly every school that has been shot up since before Columbine—dozens of them—had armed guards. There isn’t an instance where they’ve avoided a single death, and far too many where they bullied and arrested and threatened young kids for minor disciplinary transgressions. People want a cross between Officer Friendly and the Batman, but what they get is some retired buffoon whose only accomplishment as a cop was not getting fired over thirty years.

One suggestion that left me slapping my forehead in complete abandonment of hope for humanity was that they only have ONE entrance and exit to a school, and it be locked. Likewise all the classrooms. One door. Locked.

Because schools never catch fire, no place ever gets earthquakes, and there’s never any other kind of emergency that might require a fast and orderly evacuation of the school.

And a would-be school shooter would grin at the notion that the school had very thoughtfully created a killing field for him, a blind cul-de-sac full of kids who had absolutely no place to go, save where the shooter was standing.

Of course, thanks to the NRA and the gun industry, shooters don’t even have to enter the classrooms. The can just stroll down the hallway, firing into the walls. Random semi-automatic bursts through drywall will kill kids by the dozens. If he wants to see the carnage, well, there’s aren’t many door locks that can stand up to an AR-15. The gun, after all, is designed to kill large numbers of people very quickly. You don’t even have to have a good aim.

The only solution—and it won’t happen overnight—is to ban weapons beyond those for home defense, or hunting. Weapons of mass destruction like AR-15s must be banned. And gun owners should be licensed, and their weapons registered. That won’t stop the carnage, but it will start to slow it down some.

If these changes aren’t made, than reflect on the fact that in a couple of more years, we’ll be looking at Robb Elementary as “the good old days.” and wonder how we’re supposed to educate our surviving kids.

Because it’s going to get worse. Much worse.

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.

Facing Fascism — By their crazy ye shall know them

 

Facing Fascism

By their crazy ye shall know them

 

May 21st, 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

 

More and more, we’re seeing a dangerous rise of the racist, neo-Nazi right, as witness the horrible shooting in Buffalo last week where one of the spawn of Fox News and the GOP massacred 10 people who were doing nothing more criminal than a bit of grocery shopping.

We’re also seeing a rise in the sheer lunacy of the people the far-right is putting up as their voices and leaders. It isn’t just Trump and the idiotic trolls that infest Congress; it’s people who say utterly insane things to disguise what they really are.

On the Christian fascist front, as god-floggers in dozens of states race to convert the United States into a 12th century theocracy, one of the great movers and shakers of this poisonous movement appeared before Congress, to explain, under oath, why abortion needs to be illegal. Since there’s no sane secular or religious reason to support this point of view, she had to wax inventive—under oath, no less.

She said, “Bodies [are] thrown in medical waste bins, and in places like Washington, D.C., burned to power the lights of the cities’ homes and streets.”

Americans United for Life President Catherine Glenn Foster proclaimed.“Let that image sink in with you for a moment,” she continued. “The next time you turn on the light, think of the incinerators, think of what we’re doing to ourselves so callously and so numbly.”

OK, I thought about that. If the street lights have a bluish glow, they are running on little boy fetuses. If it’s little girl fetuses being burned, the lights are pinkish.

And if it’s the brains of right-wing god-floggers, the lights are dark.

She proclaimed this amazing idiocy under oath. To the House Judiciary Committee. She gets paid $190,000 a year to justify the actions of the Christian fascists’ most hateful and paranoid anti-choice group. The group claims “We are the voice for millions, a nonpartisan force working to create lifelong connections between persons of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs.” People of all white race, male, stupid and anti-women beliefs, of course. The rest of us can go hang. We’re burning fetuses to power streetlights, you see.

The Democrats should charge this nut with perjury and contempt of Congress. Granted, she’ll probably get off on a sanity clause plea.

Chip Roy of Texas, because of course Texas, wanted to know if it was OK to abort a baby as it was being born. This is a favorite lurid fantasy of the far right religious nuts; that a woman will go all the way to term and then decide on a whim to abort. That they believe that this can even happen, let alone is a common occurrence, just shows the utter moral and mental bankruptcy of this movement. After the second trimester, abortions only happen if there is something gone catastrophically wrong—the fetus is dead, or both are unlikely to survive birth. But these pseudo-religious whacks like to believe the very worst in others so they can tell themselves they are superior.

Republicans proved what utter hypocrites they are. Even as they pushed to make all abortions and even contraception illegal, they unanimously voted against a bill to increase the supply of baby formula in the face of a critical shortage created by criminal corporate malfeasance. The GOP motto is “every fetus is sacred—until birth. At that point, fuck it.”

Democrats in the House reintroduced a bill to increase government response to domestic terrorism. Last year, the same bill got a majority of GOP votes, and in fact was sponsored by three GOP members.

According to Raw Story: “Senate Republican Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota immediately poured cold water on a just-passed House bill to help fight rising domestic terrorism, in the wake of his past weekend’s massacre of ten Black people in Buffalo by a self-avowed white nationalist and antisemite and a California church shooting deemed a ‘politically motivated hate incident’ by local law enforcement. The House bill passed with all Democrats and just one Republican voting for it. 203 Republicans voted against the legislation that would establish new offices across three federal agencies to help identify and combat domestic terrorism. Three of the Republicans who voted against the legislation are original co-sponsors of the bill, and many who voted for a very similar bill two years ago voted against this bill Wednesday. The final tally was 222-203. Conservative Tom Nichols, interviewed on the Joy Reid Show, said, ‘there is a nihilistic, fear-driven alliance here with a group of opportunists, and I want to get back to this issue of about Hungary, the really dangerous thing here is that some of these people believe very deeply in — in some of this stuff and yet others, and I would say people like [Tucker] Carlson and Matt Schlapp and some of the other people capering about in Budapest, don’t believe in any of this and don’t believe in anything of this other than the extension of their own personal power and wealth. And when you have this coalition of shallow, empty opportunists along with with a group of paranoids, basically, then you have a really dangerous movement because each side has to keep upping the ante to kind of justify why they are doing the things they are doing,’”

So the stance of the GOP is this: They don’t want to work against bad domestic terrorists because it may inconvenience some of the good domestic terrorists. If people are slaughtering Americans in the name of the Koran, or Karl Marx, or Xi, then it’s OK to prosecute them. But if they are home-grown cowards and murders, waving the cross and the flag and avidly watching Tucker Carlson for tips on how to annoy liberals by behaving like Nazis, well, that’s just political persecution, isn’t it? Republican mass murderers good, other mass murderers bad.

Tucker Carlson and CPAC are meeting in Hungary this week. Featured guest of honor was Viktor Mihály Orbán, the dictator of Hungary. Tucker and his crowd worship this five-and-dime tyrant, you see.

Orbán this week made it illegal to call him a dictator. No, really—he did. There’s a technical term for leaders who make it illegal to call them dictators. That term is “dictator.” Orbán pretty much personifies it.

Trump addressed this dumpster-fire remotely, joining a line-up that included Zsolt Bayer, who likes to refer to Jews as “stinking execrement.” Now, I realize Trump is the most trash president America has ever had, but “stinking execrement?” Well, this is the level of crazy Carlson and Fox News have brought us to. Remember, Donnie: if you march with Nazis, you are a Nazi.

OK, these people are crazy, and stupid, and about half of them are play acting for malevolent ends. But they are dangerous.

Nations routinely fall to fascism, both religious and secular. There really isn’t much difference, except religious dictatorships usually move quicker to open concentration camps to “protect us all” from non-believers, which is usually a majority of any given population.

But getting rid of these pests is nearly impossible. It usually requires great amounts of sacrifice, blood, death and misery, because they will never relinquish power voluntarily.

If this lot take over, expect to see your children sacrificing their lives to overthrow them. The only thing worse would be to see your children shooting people in the name of God in a vile new regime.

 

 

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.

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.

The Bottom Forty — Vonnegut’s bastard children arise

The Bottom Forty

Vonnegut’s bastard children arise

July 14th 2021

Over 40% of new COVID cases this past week erupted in just two states: Florida and Texas. There were 903,471 new cases nationally, including 155,000 just yesterday. That means those two states alone made up some 360,000 new cases. Fifteen percent of the population, forty percent of cases.

Normally a disparity like that would have statisticians scrambling for answers. Sometimes the answer is evident: Maine and Wisconsin have far more cases of frostbite per capita than all of the South. Sometimes they are obscure (‘cancer towns’ which sometimes result from industries that closed a century earlier). But the most mysterious thing about the high rate of infections in Florida and Texas is that it isn’t mysterious at all.

It’s part of actions by state leaders in both state that range, at best, from feckless to at worst deliberate reckless endangerment resulting in multiple deaths. The governors of both states not only are anti-vaccination and anti-mask, but are pushing policies to prevent schools, towns, and even hospitals from requiring masks and vaccinations.

Sociologists and mob psychologists are going to be studying this for years. There’s many cases of a few individuals leading a society going mad and engaging in policies that harm or even destroy the societies they lead. Three major examples from the twentieth century would be Hitler in Germany, Stalin in Russia, and Mao in China. And there are far too many examples of leaders exhorting the mob to rise up and commit genocide against minorities in their own lands or adjacent. Cambodia, Rwanda, and Turkey all come to mind.

But in this case, Florida and Texas, you have mad leaders exhorting their followers to effectively commit genocide against themselves.

The followers don’t see it quite that way, of course. They have been convinced that COVID doesn’t exist or is no worse than a bad cold. Remember, this is a society where 10% of population believes the Earth is a flat disk, 40% believe in angels, and 75% think Windows is the best possible operating system to have on their computers. Ignorance is praised and expertise questioned, and it’s easy to persuade large groups of people that hidden knowledge, especially knowledge hidden for sinister purposes by malign cabals, is the best type of knowledge to have, and negates the open world of realization accrued through hard work and serious study.

Isaac Asimov, no stranger to the concept of societies gone mad, once observed that societal decay was inevitable when ignorance and knowledge were seen as being roughly equally worthy of respect. Certainly the United States has a long history of that. For example, we are supposed to treat biblical literalism with the same respect that we are the fields of biology, botany, geology and physics. Despite the fact that on the face of it, bible literalism is utterly preposterous.

Americans tend to be suckers for oblique concepts that don’t bear close examination. Christians endlessly witnessing for their faiths think they are earning Jesus brownie points even though the bible itself frowns on ostentatious displays of false piety. Americans aren’t alone in rallying to the cause of “freedom!” but it gets carried to weird extremes here, where one has the ‘freedom’ to refuse to take any measures at all to protect the health or others, or even permit others to take reasonable measures to protect their own health. This madness seems to have peaked with the governors of Florida and Texas passing rules forbidding schools from requiring masks, or even reporting cases of COVID outbreak amongst their students and staff. At least, let’s hope that’s the peak. It’s the same sort of madness we used to mock in the Soviet Union, where it was a crime (Anti-Soviet Agitation) to say that a state-run automobile was a rattletrap (they were) or admit that tractor production was below the goals of a five-year plan. You could be punished for that, just as in Florida or Texas you can be punished for admitting a potentially deadly disease is sweeping through a class full of children.

At some point this sort of madness implodes. That’s the good news. The bad news is that sometimes a great deal of damage is done before the implosion happens, and a normal part of the course of this mental infection is that the rule becomes more and more authoritarian in an effort to sustain the evident absurdities. In some cases, such as Hitler’s Germany or the Soviet Union, it required the collapse and near destruction of the society. In Turkey and China, it was just sheer exhaustion from the body count. There’s rarely a desirable outcome to this madness.

Kurt Vonnegut observed that the greatest danger humanity held for itself was bad ideas. While he was hopeful, convinced that in most cases the bulk of humanity could avoid the infection and carry on and even help those who were infected, he had no illusions about the destructive nature of those bad ideas.

America’s current mania, an amalgamation of Trumpism, allowing the neo-nazi sick right out from under its rocks, and the love of conspiracy theories, has yet to run its course. It is possible that with the disease wildfiring through MAGA-infested parts of the country (my own very red county set a record for most new cases this week), the requisite death toll will be high enough to rein in the crazies—or kill them, either way is fine.

But remember that you’re far more likely to die from an idiotic idea than you are from common sense, and conduct yourself accordingly.

Delta Blues — Variant that overwhelmed India threatens the West

Delta Blues

variant that overwhelmed India threatens the West

July 29th 2021

Three states totaling one fourth of the US population made up 40% of new cases of COVID-19 last week. All were in the South, all were heavily Republican, and all had very low rates of vaccination against COVID. Even more dismaying, over 80% of new cases were the Delta variant.

There is more news about the Delta variant, and most of it is pretty bad. First, there’s the matter of the transmission rate. It has an R0 between 5 and 8, which means that an infected individual can be expected to infect between 5 and 8 susceptible individuals. For comparison, the Alpha variant had an R0 between 4 and 5. A report by the Washington Post tonight suggest the R0 estimate may be revised upward, which is catastrophically bad news.

When the R0 is four, this is how it can spread: If you infect an expected four people, and each in turn infects 4 more, that’s 20 people. Those sixteen new cases go on to infect 64 more. Those 64 infect 256 more. It’s exponential growth, and the numbers grow very rapidly.

But if the R0 is eight, then one person infects 8, they in turn infect 64, they in turn infect 512, and they infect 4,096. Same number of stages of growth, but one number is eight times as high. The gaps widens exponentially. The gap is 16 times as high in the next stage.

By way of comparison, the flu has a R0 between 1.3 and 1.6, depending on the strain. In a typical flu season, millions get the flu, thousands die, although vaccines are causing a drop in those numbers. (Because of social distancing, a happy side effect was that “flu season” last winter was the smallest in at least 100 years). The common cold has an R0 between 2 and 3, and yet nearly everyone gets at least one cold in a given year. Of course, there’s hundreds of strains of virus out there that cause the cold, and it’s just a part of our lives. But those R0 rates should scare any one capable of doing simple arithmetic.

Rubella, which is notoriously contagious, has an R0 of 6 and 7, making it essentially as infectious as the Delta variant. The mumps, which used to routinely wildfire through entire school districts, has an R0 of 10-12. So does chickenpox. The regular measles has an R0 of 12-18.

It gets worse: people who have received both shots, either Moderna or Pfizer, may only have an 8-10% chance of being infected with the Alpha variant and are considered fairly low risk to carry it on. With the Delta variant, the chance of infection is higher, although it is yet to be determined how much higher. The one bit of good news is that 90% of those with vaccines will have mild or non-existent symptoms. However, they “virus load” (i.e. become as contaminated) as non-vaccinated people, and can pass the disease along to nearly all unvaccinated and an unknown but sizable number of vaccinated people.

When I was a kid, measles, mumps and chickenpox were very nearly inevitable, and sometimes killed kids. I’m glad they are part of our past, along with diseases like polio and smallpox.

The elephant in the room is “long COVID”–a galaxy of aftereffects that range from annoying to debilitating. Respiratory issues, vascular problems, “brain fog”, fatigue and susceptibility to other diseases. It is known to show up in people who remained asymptomatic in the initial stages of the disease. We have no clear idea how or even if it manifests in people who have gotten their shots and become infected. It may take years before we really do know. But the threat is there.

So if you have your shots and you’re swanning around maskless, stop doing that right now. What for you might be nothing worse than a mild cold could mean potentially significant health issues for you in the future.

You will also be a deadly threat to anyone you encounter who hasn’t been vaccinated. If you infect 8 people and they infect 64 and they infect 512, the odds are you just killed a half dozen people, and hospitalized about 24 others.

So mask up and observe social distancing. Yes, we’re all sick to death of it, and furious at the fools who won’t take steps to defend themselves and everyone else, but unless we want America to be the first country to stupid itself to death, we need to keep taking these steps and hope our social recklessness doesn’t open the door to even bigger medical problems.

Mask up. Keep your distance, and if you haven’t yet, get your shots. Over 163 million have, and it’s clear they are safe and effective. And yes, Delta variant is effective in its own way, but it sure ain’t safe.

Stay safe, exercise better sense than a squirrel on the freeway, and we’ll get through this.

Biden’s Speech — Not the SOTU—better

Biden’s Speech

Not the SOTU—better

April 28th, 2021

After listening to Joe Biden’s address to some of Congress (COVID, don’t you know, but it was amusing watch the expressions on Boehler’s and Cruz’ faces as Biden spoke) I caught Tim Scott’s genial but largely delusional paean to America and how those nasty Democrats were preventing Republicans from rushing to embrace the policies that Biden would present to Congress if he had policies, which he didn’t, and proved it by presenting the policies to Congress.

I followed that by scrolling through the comments section on our local Sinclair Broadcast station, and encountered gems like, “I can’t believe this is America. No one is safe under the democratic regime of evil! We are all in terrible danger, you should be afraid, be very very afraid. Save yourself! Save democracy!” *

Well, OK, then. Tim Scott may have not sounded overly coherent, but at least I didn’t feel any need to shoot him with the tranquilizer dart. Typically of comments sections, nobody there seemed to have actually watched or even read about the speech. I think I could have posted something about Biden congratulating Mitch McConnell on their groundbreaking agreement to sell white babies to China, and nobody would have contradicted me. Those comments groups are bad for your mental health.

One of the most remarkable things about Biden’s speech was the sheer oratorical capacity the man showed. Any idiot can rile up an audience with stentorian exhortations to do Noble Things, and most do, but I watched Biden hold the House Chamber, and much of the nation, spellbound with just a friendly whisper. He spoke with an earnestness and compassion, qualities lost in the hoarse brays of self-pity and truculence we had to deal with for the previous four years.

The tone could be summed up in one anecdote, told late in the speech. “I spoke with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s young daughter. As I knelt down to talk to her so we could talk eye—to—eye, she said to me, Daddy changed the world.’” Politicians, with rare exceptions, like to be shown relating to children. But the line that caught my eye (and heart) was “…I knelt down to talk to her so we could talk eye-to-eye” That speaks to a humanity that transcends the usual political rhetoric. Joe is a good guy who genuinely cares about people. That’s not something I believe because I am a liberal; it something I feel because I am a human being.

As for content, the basic message was actually summed up in Biden’s opening remarks. “The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. 

Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again.  Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength. Life can knock us down. But in America, we never stay down. In America, we always get up.

He then spoke of the progress America has made against the pandemic, and the early signs of an economic recovery that is likely to turn into a roaring boom. He talks about the vast, ambitious plans he has to ensure that we do come out of this stronger and better: child support, in the form of cash-back tax breaks, universal child care, universal health care. He spoke of the amazing results of the American Rescue Plan—well over 200 million vaccinations, and hunger greatly reduced just in the first few months. He spoke of the difference the child credits would make for working families by the millions. It has already created 1.3 million new jobs in the past 60 days, an amazing record.

He then spoke of his infrastructure plan, The American Jobs Plan, which he described as “a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself, the largest jobs plan since World War II.”

Sounding like FDR, he spoke of the millions of good paying jobs regular workers would see from this plan, and said, “Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions build the middle class. “

Defending the plan further, he said, “I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act – the PRO Act — and send it to my desk to support the right to unionize. 

By the way – let’s also pass the $15 minimum wage. No one should work 40 hours a week and still live below the poverty line. And we need to ensure greater equity and opportunity for women. Let’s get the Paycheck Fairness Act to my desk for equal pay. It’s long past time. 

Finally, the American Jobs Plan will be the biggest increase in non-defense research and development on record.  We will see more technological change in the next 10 years – than we saw in the last 50 years. “

He’s right, of course, and the Republicans are going to be twisting themselves in deep knots figuring out how to oppose Biden without opposing the plan.

My own takeaway, following the speech, is that Biden was his own best friend tonight in his goals of getting these policies enacted.

 

*Perhaps the comments “Save Democracy” reads better in Russian. “Я не могу поверить, что это Америка. Никто не находится в безопасности при демократическом режиме зла! Мы все в ужасной опасности, вы должны бояться, очень, очень бояться. Спаси себя! Спасите демократию!”

OK, maybe not.

More Chances to Reconcile — Dems get a golden opportunity to break fascist stonewalling

More Chances to Reconcile

Dems get a golden opportunity to break fascist stonewalling

April 6th, 2021

The 1974 Congressional Budget Act had a then-obscure provision in it that allowed the Senate, once a year, to consider a bill involving revenue and/or spending to be fast-tracked through the Senate. Debate would be limited to twenty hours, and required only a simple majority for passage. In an era of bipartisanship and when using the filibuster meant standing and talking against the bill for hours or even days, it didn’t seem at all important. The main item of interest was that of limiting debate to twenty hours, ten on each side. It was then known as “the fast track bill.”

It gained prominence for the majority vote provision when Obama’s Senate used it to pass the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s Senate used it to give a nearly two trillion dollar tax cut to the extremely rich and major corporations.

It was the crafty Chuck Schumer who noticed that not only could the reconciliation process apply this year, but retroactively to last year, since no budget was submitted by the inept and rapidly fading Trump administration.

Democrats seized the opportunity, getting the Covid Relief Package passed on a vote of 51-50. By itself, it was a monumental effort, the biggest piece of public-interest legislation since the days of the New Frontier. In addition to funding the fight to end the pandemic, it pulled a third of American children out of poverty, and improved the standard of living for tens of millions of families. It was immensely popular, with even a plurality of Republican voters supporting it. Of course, not a single Republican Congressional voted for it, although a few did try to take credit for it anyway.

The second reconciliation bill due up next is the Infrastructure bill, now dubbed The American Jobs Plan. It’s a slightly bigger bill, two trillion, and is mostly meant for repair, restructuring and modernization of the infrastructure—energy, water, sewage, transportation, education and communications. No Republican supports it, and Democrat Manchin of West Virginia is upset that it will be funded by rescinding the Trump tax cut because society is there to serve the economy, goddammit, and not the other way around. Biden and Schumer are doubtlessly taking a carrot-and-stick approach to Manchin now, to get him on board. Biden, aware of the fact that the GOP is rapidly collapsing, in the political equivalent of a failed psychotic decompensating, plans to invite Republicans to hear their concerns and persuade at least one to stop marching in lockstep with the demented felon who took over their party.

The nations infrastructure has been largely ignored for over 50 years, and it will take a lot more than two trillion dollars to bring America back to first-world status. But it’s a large step in the right direction.

Then, last night on the Rachel Maddow Show, she broke the news that the Senate Parliamentarian and Chuck Schumer had found an obscure provision in the Senate rules that apparently make it possible to have TWO MORE reconciliation bills this year.

To quote the story from MSN: “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s spokesman told CNN in a statement Monday that ‘the Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions. This confirms the Leader’s interpretation of the Budget Act and allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues.’”

Here’s the language the parliamentarian ruling is based upon, from the Congressional Budget Act: Sec.304. At any time after the concurrent resolution on the budget for a fiscal year has been agreed to pursuant to section 301, and before the end of such fiscal year, the two Houses may adopt a concurrent resolution on the budget which revises or reaffirms the concurrent resolution on the budget for such fiscal year most recently agreed to.

I’m glad we were able to clear that up. Seriously, I’m having a hard time making sense of it, but if I am reading it correctly, it means that when a Reconciliation bill is offered up, the Senate may add on a second such bill, so long at it pertains to or supplements the first bill in some way, and of course, like all reconciliation bills, be subject to the Byrd Act. Senator Harry Byrd was concerned about the amount of pork in reconciliation bills, and so they are limited to revenue and budget, and may not pertain to Social Security in any way.

So there is a huge opportunity for the Dems to continue bringing America into the 21st century and avoid some of the damage caused by the GOP self destructing. (Three examples of how far gone they are just from yesterday: Mitch McConnell, staunch defender of Citizens United, snarled at Coke and Delta and other companies that corporations should just shut up and stay out of politics. In the meanwhile, the GOP declared war on … baseball. You know, that thing with the bats and Dustin May’s hair. Marco Rubio seems to think MLB are stooges of China for some obscure reason. And because he’s annoyed at Amazon for whatever, he wants the union to win the Alabama election. The mind boggles.)

So: two more possible reconciliation bills.

The first one is easy enough: addendum to the American Recovery Act: Medicare for All. Everyone gets Medicare. No “window” no schedule D. We will save millions of lives and trillions of dollars. In any non-fascist state, it would be a no brainer. It should be a no brainer in America, too.

Unfortunately, the Help America Vote Act is outside of the limitations of the Reconciliation Act. But there is a way around that.

I propose a Public Campaign Funding and Voting Infrastructure Bill. Public funding would make up not less than 80% of funding for any political campaign, the amount being a function of the size of the population the office being sought represents. No person could donate more than $500 to any individual running for that office, and must be resident in that office’s zone. Companies and corporations would be limited to $1,000 dollars. Any office-seeker could have access to a pod cast.

Pursuant to that, the US would devise a voting infrastructure. ALL persons eligible to vote would be issued a national Voter ID free of cost, and would be able to use said ID to vote. E-transfer via the card to physical ballots would facilitate absentee and mail-in voting, and voters would have the ability to view their votes and check for accuracy before sending the ballots in. We could rid ourselves of Citizens United and Jim Crow laws in one fell swoop.

Biden has promised to “go big.” He’s done a good job of it so far, but much more needs to be done, and he has just been handed a golden opportunity.

Have at it, Joe.

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