Barbie — Guise and Dolls

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

September 4th 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is, in a word, “woke.”

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

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

Directed by Greta Gerwig

Written by Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach

Based on Barbie by Mattel

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

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

Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto

Edited by Nick Houy

Music by Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt

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

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures

Glass Onion — “You know a place where nothing is real”

Glass Onion

You know a place where nothing is real”

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

December 28th 2022

Ben Shapiro didn’t like Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. He wrote on Twatter, “We only find out about the actual murder we’re supposed to investigate full one hour and 10 minutes into the film, as well as an entirely new backstory,” he complained.

Well, Benny, if you’re going to set yourself up as a film critic, you really ought to know something about the genre of film you are reviewing. This is what’s called a “murder mystery” or a “whodunnit.” Misdirection is one of the main elements in such films. The viewer is led in one direction, and if the filmmaker is honest (and in this instance they are extremely honest) then all the clues that would lead the viewer to the right deductions are there in plain sight.

But the main thing that upset Benny, protector of the privileged and sneerer at the non-privileged, was that the movie very clearly parodized, nay, MOCKED a titan of finance/industry/tech. One of the main characters is a billionaire who has an entire corporate empire, with dozens of inventions and new concepts to his credit, widely regarded as a great genius and, in his own estimation, a “disruptor,” someone who challenges and eventually supplants societal norms and the status quo.

While there are several dozen such creatures roaming the American landscape, there was little doubt in Shapiro’s mind that the movie targeted one particular tech scion: Elon Musk. I won’t argue that bit. Main showrunner Rian Johnson has said that he saw his billionaire, Miles Bron (Edward Norton), as an amalgamation of three different real-life characters. A partner of Bron’s was cheated of the fame and fortune of the Alpha network of companies, something we learn she played a greater role in creating than did Bron. One of the characters even says she got “social networked.” So: elements of Zuckerberg there. Bron also makes reckless and idiotic decisions, needlessly shafting the people he might need most as allies, and committing very public and conspicuous crimes secure in the belief that he is above social consequences. Donald Trump, anyone?

But most people spotted Elon Musk as the real-life exemplar of Miles Bron.

I thought about it. Rian Johnson and his crew probably began writing the script for this movie when Musk was still a public hero and inventor, supposedly, of the Tesla electric vehicle, genius behind Space X, and mastermind of such future wonders as the Boring tunnels and the Hyperloop. The first disturbing elements that caused people to question his personality and judgment, such as the flamethrower giveaway or the smearing of the rescuer of those children trapped in a Thai cave, had just come out.

But it took a lot more time for Musk to self-immolate, to the point where the larger segment of society realized he wasn’t a genius, wasn’t a leader, isn’t even particularly stable.

Indeed, I’m reading a book now, a well-done hi-tech spy thriller called “Portals” by Douglas E. Richards. Tech-aware and sophisticated, it holds Musk as an ongoing brilliant tech leader who has brought the world such marvels as humanoid AI Tesla robots and mind implants (and Musk is actually supposedly working on the latter, but has nothing to show for it but some 1,500 dead lab animals to date). For all Richards’ obvious savvy and political and tech awareness, his 2022 book still presents Musk as a tech wizard and leader. And, of course, that’s how Ben Shapiro sees Musk. He’s offended that anyone could even question it.

But in the movie’s denouement, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) says of Bron: “His dock doesn’t float. His wonder fuel is a disaster. His grasp of disruption theory is remedial at best. He didn’t design the puzzle boxes. He didn’t write the mystery. Et voilà! It all adds up. The key to this entire case! And it was staring me right in the face. Like everyone in the world, I assumed Miles Bron was a complicated genius. But why? Look into the clear center of this Glass Onion… Miles Bron is an idiot!”

In the face of the Twitter débacle, the face of Musk is revealed. He wasn’t self-made, but is the heir to an emerald mine. He didn’t invent Tesla—he bought it out. For Space X, he just hired the right people and threw money at them. He’s an entrepreneur, which in the minds of America’s Shapiros is akin to being a genius leader, but he is neither a genius nor a leader. His Boring company which supposedly could drill tunnels four times faster than anyone else also only drilled a tunnel one half the diameter, thus displacing the same amount of dirt in the same time. His underground freeway system for LA was ridiculous on the face of it. His Hyperloop, based on proof-of-concept projects from the 1840s, has gone nowhere. He has an evil reputation as a union buster and workforce abuser. He insisted, for no good reason, that people work in close quarters during the most deadly stage of the coronavirus pandemic. The freedom of speech he promised for Twitter turned out to be the usual libertarian/fascist bullshit, in which free speech is for the rich and powerful only. Fascists for Free Speech, I call it.

So yes, Bron could be any of dozens of such monsters of American capitalism, but he’s most clearly Elon Musk.

Shapiro no doubt was dismayed that the hangers-on, Bron’s friends “The Disruptors” each represented a segment of American capitalist society. Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr) represented the commercial science segment, and was being pressured by Bron to sign off on an unproven and potentially hazardous new hydrogen-based energy substance called ‘Klear’. Clair Debella (Kathryn Hahn) was the political segment, a governor Bron gave a huge donation to in order to rush through a project for the first Klear power plant, Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) was a past-her-prime supermodel using the fashion industry to promote Bron’s ‘coolness,’ and Duke Cody, (Dave Bautista) was a blogger who is an incel/right winger who promotes men’s rights. Jay and Cody help Bron fight ‘wokeness’ by being politically incorrect (Jay was in hot water for describing a cheap person as ‘Jewy’ (not to be confused with another right wing moron who recently described his Catholic self as ‘Jew-ish’) and Cody always carries a large, ornate pistol that he likes to fire off randomly. Both appeal to the MAGAt crowd, of course.

Cody is also a cuckold and gets slapped around by a domineering if diminuitive mother and, it’s hinted, lives with mummy. I’m wondering if his character was the main reason Shapiro got so offended.

Glass Onion, like another movie earlier this year called Don’t Look Up, offends all the right people. It offends the far right, and it offends the people who still cling to the belief that fantastically rich billionaires are somehow beneficial to society and that because they are rich, they must be of superior intelligence, wisdom and morals. Even as Musk, Trump, Bezos and all the rest of the ultra-rich crowd prove that if anything, the opposite is true.

Glass Onion is a wildly entertaining movie, a first-class Agatha Christie-style whodunnit, and above all, a searingly sharp-edged social satire that comes along at just the right time. You can see it for yourself on Netflix.

Big Liars tell Big Lies — Refuting a string of whoppers

Big Liars tell Big Lies

Refuting a string of whoppers

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

October 25th 2022

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”


The OSS psychological profile of Hitler described his use of the big lie:

His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

Even though he hasn’t officially declared for President, Trump released an unabashed campaign ad the other day. It’s worth noting that I was shown the ad by an indignant Trump supporter who showed that Facebook declared that the ad had “sensitive content” and “may show violent or graphic content.” and had to be clicked in order to view. Facebook has absurd censorship policies, and they were just as stupid here: the ad is not violent or graphic.

While like all things Trump, it was long-winded (almost four minutes) and self-serving, compared to his multi-hour harangues of the sort that dictators seem to delight in, it did put his top twenty (actually, only nineteen here) lies and mistruths in one easy-to-discuss spot. So lets discuss it.

We are a nation in decline. We are a failing nation.”

People have been saying that about the United States dating back to the 18th century. Trump is hoping that his followers will think this is a new development that only started in 2021. Yes, the country is in trouble, but he and his cult following are the biggest single threat now.

We are a nation that has the highest inflation in over 40 years.”

Yup, and it’s a world-wide phenomenon. Indeed, the US has the lowest inflation rate of nearly all developed nations. Some, like Germany, are nearly double the rate afflicting the US. No Republican has offered a solution to this, while Biden has worked to release oil reserves and undercut corporate gouging on oil prices.

The stock market just finished the worst first-half of the year in more than five decades.”

Carefully phased, since the second half of 2019 saw a far bigger decline. Incidentally, despite being generally bearish this year, the Dow is STILL above the peak it reached under Trump.

We are a nation that has the highest energy costs in its history.”

True, but that’s the fault of Putin, the Saudis, and oil companies. The big three had net profits of over $110 billion in the second quarter, nearly double what they made in the same quarter the year before.

We are no longer energy independent or energy dominant, which we were just two short years ago.”

On fossil fuels, the US is energy-even so far as imports and exports go. On alternate energy sources, we enjoy a clear surplus. The only thing we are dependent on is the charity and good faith of multinational oil companies, which means we are trying to live on a soap bubble.

We are a nation that is begging Venezuela and Saudi Arabia for oil.”

Saudi Arabia cut production in a bald-faced attempt to manipulate the American election. They want corporate fascists running America, because they know that they will work hard to keep Americans dependent on oil, the world’s biggest suicide pact. Biden did sound out an agreement with Venezuela, but you can’t have your cake and eat it: either Biden should be looking to lower oil prices, or shut the fuck up.

We are a nation that surrendered in Afghanistan leaving behind dead soldiers, American citizens, and $85 billion of the finest military equipment in the world.”

Trump unilaterally issued a treaty that would have pulled all US troops out within a month. The Pentagon, utterly appalled, managed to get it reworked to the bug-out date was moved to March 2021. That was still far too soon, with predicable results. Trump certainly could predict them; he created them by ordering the release of 10,000 Taliban members the US had in prison in Afghanistan the week before he announced the unilateral pull-out.

We are a nation that allowed Russia to devastate a country, Ukraine, killing hundreds of thousands of people and it will only get worse.”

I invite anyone to explain how Trump would have stood up to Putin on anything. I wonder how much confidential military information on Ukraine were in those stolen documents that Trump left office with, and how many of them got passed along to his buddy Putin.

We are a nation that has weaponized its law enforcement against the opposing political party like never before”

Well, law enforcement is supposed to catch law breakers. Deal with it Donald. But you can scare your supporters by pointing out that if Republican criminals aren’t safe, than no criminal is safe.

We are a nation that no longer has a free and fair press. Fake news is about all you get.”

See Goebbels quote above.

We are a nation where free speech is not allowed…”

Well, I suppose he did have to pay in advance for that ad. It’s pretty bloody silly to tell an audience of millions that your voice is being repressed.

We are a nation where crime is rampant like never before…”

The crime rate did go up between 2019 and 2020, the latest year we have statistics for. It’s still 40% below the crime rate in 1990, which in turn was far below that of 1975. By the way, who was President in 2020?

We are a nation where the economy is collapsing…”

No, Trump. Your criminal business empire is collapsing. Capitalism may implode, but Republicans will be one of the main reasons for that, allowing an unprecedented concentration of wealth that exceeds the Gilded Age of the 1920s, or the decade leading up to the French revolution.

We are a nation where more people died of COVID in 2021 than in 2020…”

New virus variants—Delta and Omicron—were responsible for that. The death rate has been sharply declining (about 250/day now compared to up to 4,000/day early in 2021) but here’s an interesting stat: the majority of those dying from COVID are registered Republicans, who only make up 29% of the population.

.”We are a nation where that is allowing Iran to build a massive nuclear weapon and China to use the trillions and trillions of dollars it has taken from the United States to build a military to rival our own…”

There’s no evidence that Iran is building a nuclear weapon, although thanks to Trump unilaterally ending the nuclear agreement between Iran and the West, there’s no mechanism to prevent them now beyond their own distaste for such weapons, which are considered fatwa—an affront to Allah. And while China has a formidable military, the “Trillions and Trillions of dollars” weren’t taken from the US: the corporations gave that money to China for cheap labor and lax health and safety standards. Trump himself has added billions to the Chinese treasury, including much of the rubbish he sells to his gullible followers at his endless rallies.

We are a nation that over the past two years is no longer respected or listened to all around the world…”

Does that one even need a response? I’ll just note that Trump was not invited to the Queen’s funeral. Biden was. Trump was hurt. He wanted to sit on the Queen’s coffin so everyone would be looking at him.

We are a nation that is hostile to liberty and freedom and faith…”

Americans are hostile to the notion that only a small portion of the population is entitled to liberty, freedom and religious choice. Those rights are for EVERYONE, not just white Republicans.

We are a nation whose economy is floundering and stores are not stocked and whose deliveries are not coming and whose educational system is ranked at the bottom of everyone else…”

The US educational system is in trouble, under unceasing attacks from fascists and zealots on the far right. The LAST thing Trump and his people want is an educated populace.

We are a nation that in many ways has become a joke.”

No, Trump. You are the joke. A very bad joke.

We are Americans and Americans kneel to god and god alone.”

My only response to that is “Fuck you and whatever trash religion you pretend to observe.” Free Americans kneel to nobody against their will. The Constitution’s main promise is that no church can avail itself of state power to further its ends.

Power Around the Dragon — Hollywood brings them out, doesn’t it?

Power Around the Dragon

Hollywood brings them out, doesn’t it?

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

September 18th, 2022

I could be writing about Trump’s possible (likely) treason, and the increasingly vicious tactics of his brownshirt followers. I could discuss Ukraine’s resurgence against the Russians. That would cheer most folk up. I could talk about the looming catastrophe in the UK, where they named as prime minister someone who physically and ideologically looks like the discards from Margaret Thatcher’s embalming. Hell, I could even talk about how the Dodgers might win 113 games this year, but how they had an unfair advantage because they play in the same division as the San Francisco Giants.

Instead, I’m going to talk about two sort-of competing television extravaganzas, and the flat-out weird response some of the viewers have had.

They’re both prequels, one to Game of Thrones (GoT) and the other to the Lord of the Rings (LotR). Both have massive budgets and a plethora of special effects. HBO’s House of the Dragon (HotD) features everyone’s favorite family of firebugs, the Targaryens. It stars Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, and Rhys Ifans. Amazon has Rings of Power (RoP), with a mostly British cast, and the story takes place over thousands of years long before LotR. For the TV series, thousands of years is compressed to several dozen years, meaning a few corners got cut.

Four episodes in, I think RoP is the better of the two, but that’s not saying much. Remember how GoT sagged and stumbled in the final two seasons? HotD seems to be following that sad legacy, only without the memorable characters still alive in the final years of GoT. So far, none of the characters (except Matt Smith, who should have stayed a Doctor) are particularly memorable, and even Smith sees the wheels come off his role in a painfully awkward and utterly unnecessary sex scene with the princess, his teenage cousin (Ew…) For some reason, this grim encounter makes the now-retired-virgin princess decide to rape the captain of the guard. I don’t see things looking up from there. The dialogue is strained and wooden, to the point where it reminded me less of GoT and more of Star Wars’ second trilogy. Honestly, they could add Jar-Jar Binks and it would be an improvement. RoP has better acting and dialogue, but feels horribly crowded, as if they were trying to compress the entire Harry Potter series into one 24 page comic book.

So as you might imagine, I’m not writing in the role of a fan-boy outraged by attacks on my precious.

While I enjoy the spectacle of the series, which is where most of the budget went instead of good writers, the spectacle of the fen is even wilder, but lower budget and much less enjoyable.

Fans are howling in outrage because of the shows’ casting choices. Some of the actors aren’t white, or of pure European culture, or woke. This includes Elves, Trolls, Dwarves, Harfoots (Harfeet?) who were the pre-production run of Hobbits before they found New Zealand and settled down, along with Lannisters, Targaryens, Crab people, and the Snakes.

I can almost see the objection when it comes to the Targaryens, who all sport Johnny and Edger Winters’ style platinum-blonde hair. Mind you, none of the actors have that hair color in real life; they all either dye or sport wigs. Yes, even Daenerys. That doesn’t bother the dumb mouth breathers; they don’t care about the hair color. It’s the color of the skin that has them biting rocks and screaming incoherently whilst flinging their shit through the bars.

Anyone who thinks members of a royal family are all the same color don’t know much about history, European history in particular. The only reason the royal families have full sets of DNA at all is because politics required outmarriages to foreign potentates, including North Africa, Egypt, Turkey, and other locales. At least one of Henry VIII’s wives had skin darker than that of Mohammad Ali. The powerful families in George RR Martin’s universe aren’t any better behaved than royals in real life, and you can bet there’s all sorts of dotted lines and the occasional virgin birth cluttering up the royal genealogy. And swans. Lots of swans. So it’s utterly unremarkable that there should be a certain amount of variety.

As for elves, hobbits, faeries, etc: Listen, you shambling idiots. They are IMAGINARY. They don’t really exist. They have physical characteristics, of course. Dwarves are short and built like brick shithouses. Elves have those ear thingees. Harfeet have big hairy feet. Faeries have wings. Cardassians have vulvae in the middle of their foreheads. But rarely, if ever, is skin color or accent mentioned. Which means the show runners have free latitude to pick the best actor, as opposed to the best white actor.

Racism is silly on the face of it, since there really is no such thing as human races. Tolkien lived in an era when it was believed races had certain defining characteristics (blacks were of inferior intelligence, Japanese industrious, whites dumb bastards who vote for people like Trump) and it may or may not have informed the characteristics of the races with which he populated Middle Earth. But those races weren’t human—they were all imaginary. Even more imaginary than the traits bigots of the time attributed to others. Japan has hundreds of fables about the lazy farmer, or an indolent son, or a layabout wife, to demolish the notion that all Japanese were hard-working and driven. Sometimes the lazy character was the hero in the story!

The other big objection is that Tolkien based Middle Earth on “European culture.” It’s even been suggested that Mordor was modeled on Nazi Germany.

OK, good point.

European culture is real, you know. Anyone who has traveled to Europe knows that the Norwegians and the Italians are identical. Same appearance, same language, same culture, same religion. You can’t tell one from the other. Likewise the Flemish and the Turks. Identical, right down to the shoelaces.

Obviously, European culture is as real as dwarves, orcs, dragons or intelligence in Trump world.

So my message to the crowd screaming about how “woke” the shows are is this: Grow up, you idiots. It’s fantasy, just as your views on race and culture are fantasy, only much less obnoxious and self-serving. Find something better to worry about, such as why nobody wants to sleep with you.


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 Master Race — A Nice and Precise Historie of Britain and its well-known suburb, Europe

The Master Race

A Nice and Precise Historie of Britain and its well-known suburb, Europe

April 17th, 2021

Marjorie Taylor Greene and a couple of the more ignorant racist oafs in Congress have decided that what America really needs is an “Anglo-Saxon” caucus in the government to represent the needs and wants of the poor, downtrodden Angles and Saxons. Yes, Greene is the new White.

I guess the first thing they need to do is tell the Normans to get out. They invaded Great Britain, quite illegally in the eyes of the Britons, back in 1066, and proceeded to subsume the regional culture over the ensuing 400 years until “Anglo-Saxon” was a quaint (and inaccurate) term used by historians to give a blanket description of the people who lived on the islands prior to and for a while after the invasion.

When William the Conqueror finished consolidating his takeover in the ensuing twenty years, the culture of the country had been utterly transformed. The dominant language was now the more-or-less Germanic Anglo-Norman, and the largely French-based Saxon tongue was relegated to peasants. Slavery was abolished, a new currency established, and the Angles and Saxons who had the resources to flee had left, most to the Byzantine, and a handful to Gaelic and Celtic regions, where they weren’t particularly welcome.

The Scots and Irish term for Saxons to this day is “Sassenach,” broadened to include all English people, and it is not a term of affection.

One of the weirder things the racists embrace is the notion that “Anglo-Saxon” is basically a Scots and Irish culture. It’s a bit like saying the dominant culture of the United States is Cherokee, and will offend respective groups in much the same way. English relations with the Scots and the Irish ranged from uncomfortable marriage to flat-out rape. Telling the people to the north and west of England that their culture is based on a group that got their asses kicked and obliterated a thousand years ago and replaced by non-Sassenach Sassenachs won’t win you any friends.

Assuming Scotland and Ireland are just suburbs of England is a dire mistake. Trump gave a good demonstration the day after Brexit won, warmly congratulating the Scots on voting for it. Scotland voted heavily against it, and is likely to leave the UK as a result, and Americans widely broadened their vocabularies in a unique and dark way by reading the Scottish responses to Trump’s blunder.

When racists talk about “European culture” they don’t know what the hell they are talking about. Italy and Norway, to pick a random pairing, do not have much in the way of cultural homogeneity. You may as well say that the Serengeti and Keewatin are pretty much the same climate. Most individual countries in Europe have several different and often conflicting cultures. The Basque and the Normans (yes, the Normans, they’re still around) both live in France. And are none too happy about that. And despite having invaded Britain in the 11th century, present day French Normans feel little affinity for the resulting dog’s breakfast of a land they call Angleterre. Yes, that means “land of the Angles.”

About the only definition of white supremacy that is sillier than “Anglo-Saxon” is “Caucasian.” This refers to the Caucasian range, which separates European Russia from Asiatic Russia. The majority of the inhabitants of the region are called Caucasian, but they aren’t the Hitler wet dream of blond hair and blue eyes. Most look Turkish or Semitic, having interbred cheerfully with both groups with whom they share the region. Most of them have been invaded and massacred by the Russians (and others) over the past few centuries, particularly the Chechens, the Armenians, the Kurds, the Semites and the Georgians.

When racists say “Caucasian” they usually refer to people some 1,500 miles north and west, such as the Danes, the Swedes, the Germans…basically, the Vikings. Except DNA evidences show that even amongst the Vikings, brown (or black) hair, brown eyes, and copper skin were abundant. There is no common tongue amongst these groups. Nor a common culture, or a common religion, or even agreement on what “Nordic” means.

“Nordic” bears the same relationship to Europe that “Los Angeles” does to Californians: the further away you are from it, the wider its borders, and the less desirable a neighbor it becomes. I live in far Northern California, and LA is seen here as beginning around Bakersfield/San Luis Obispo and going straight to hell from there south. From Rome, “Nordic” is pretty much anything they didn’t invade back in the glory days of the Empire. What they did invade includes large chunks of what the racists like to call “Nordic” now. Including Angleterre, but not Scotland or Eire.

In other words, the whole “white heritage” thing is nothing but a bunch of bloody nonsense. They are celebrating a history that didn’t exist, or if it did, existed thousands of miles from where they like to pretend it was. The mythology raises the level of subjugated and subsumed cultures to the level of movers and shakers on the world stage. Nobody has even seen a Pict in 300 years, and nobody can pronounce a single word of their language. Nonetheless, they are seen as an apotheosis of white supremacy.

Well, Hitler pretty much invented the history and culture of “the master race,” and he was a whole lot smarter and better educated than the right wing clowns who are trying to puff themselves up into a position of superiority today.

And Hitler was a vicious and self-defeating fool. These clowns won’t do any better.

Atrocities – A sure-fire way to bring atrocities about

July 13th, 2019

François-Marie Arouet, aka ‘Voltaire’ once famously said, ‘Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.’

The other day, Mike Pence, trumpenfuhrer toadie, visited a couple of the concentration camps America is running along the border. One was a model camp, where the inmates were reasonably clean and fed, although forced to sleep on child-size nap mats with only foil covering. Pence said the detainees appeared “well cared for,” something that reminded me unpleasantly of the Third Reich propaganda films that showed happy Jewish children playing in the sun and singing songs while German matrons watched, beaming approvingly. The Germans got the kids to go along by telling them if they did, they would see their parents again. None of them did, of course. Most of them were dead within weeks. Those who weren’t made sex slaves for the country’s elite, that is.

The second visit was to a much more typical American concentration camp, one where hundreds of men were jammed into hideously overcrowded pens without room for them all to lie down at once, and not given access to showers or any other elements of basic hygiene, and the toilets were little more than open pits. Many had been there for 40 days or more. Guards wore masks to keep the stench out. The only things missing were the German slogans and the Strauss waltzes being piped in over loudspeakers.

Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post wrote: “VP [Pence} saw 384 men sleeping inside fences, on concrete w[ith] no pillows or mats. They said they hadn’t showered in weeks, wanted toothbrushes, food. Stench was overwhelming. [Customs and Border Protection] said they were fed regularly, could brush [their teeth] daily [and] recently got access to shower (many hadn’t for 10-20 days).

Even Pence was taken aback, saying “This is tough stuff.” But of course Pence is and always has been a loathsome coward, so instead of calling for the immediate release of the inmates—most of whom have committed no crime—he blamed Democrats in Congress, condemning them for not passing a $4.6 billion “humanitarian relief bill” to build many more concentration camps (and eventually death camps). In fact, the House passed the bill several days earlier.

A word about Pence: he exemplifies the pseudo-Christian fundamentalist filth, the Dominionists, who are working to take over the country entirely. Once they accomplish that, the death toll from their efforts to purify us all will soar, and only violent revolution or complete social collapse will get their boots off our necks.

Let me tell you a disturbing truth about Hitler. From the time he became Chancellor right up to the point where the utter defeat and ruin of Germany could no longer be denied, he was immensely popular. Children begged to be allowed to climb in his lap, women swooned, men waved at his parades and rallies, unfeigned tears of joy and pride running down their cheeks. Hitler was loved, and it was easy, in the face of such adoration, to pretend that the work camps really did house people who meant Germany harm. Hitler was wise. He wouldn’t allow harm to come to innocents.

Trump is every bit as vicious and vile as Hitler. Our only real hope is that he is not as smart as Hitler was, not as charismatic, and no orator.

Even Hitler knew to conceal the death camps outside of Germany in the captive lands, knowing there was a limit to what the German people would stand for, but as long as people only entertained horrid suspicions rather than grim certainties, he could get away with what he was doing.

The reason he lies so blatantly and so frequently is to help prevent horrid suspicions from become grim certainties. You can’t commit atrocities without absurdities.

To that end, he used endless streams of propaganda. I suspect if Facebook was around in 1939, most of us would be speaking German now and the rest of us would be dead.

The American right, aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin, who knows how pernicious and enervating the far right can be to a society, have also been unleashing endless propaganda.

For example, a message, almost certainly a concern troll, showed up in a liberal group on Facebook—indeed, it probably showed up in dozens for such groups. It was a query for information about liberal views and values, asked by “Kathy Aston, Iowa farm wife.” It’s very unlikely “Kathy” actually exists, being a reassuring figleaf pumped out by the actual authors of the hit piece, whether 4Chan, Breitbart, or the Russians. While an obvious troll, her sentiments are all ones I’ve seen kool-aide drinkers from the far right earnestly state as truths.

The message read:

Hi. Ok. I’m not a liberal. Please help me understand a few things that has us scratching our heads. I will be polite as possible, but these things are what is told to us, that makes us think you are a special kind of stupid. I’m not good at PC speech. Just cant say what I mean in your language. I really want to know!

#1. Killing newborn babies and calling it abortion. Why not adopt them out? Infanticide is really unnecessary. 

#2 welcoming invaders that overwhelm the country’s resources. One of the oldest war tactics on record. Calif is starting to yell for help, and we just shake our heads in wonder at the lack of smarts in your people.

#3. Welcoming in the enemy of our country that openly states they will overthrow us, rape our women, children, and kill all who will not believe their way. Also openly hostile to gay people, as in throwing them off rooftops.(last we knew, you guys really love your alphabet people.- LGBTP). Also stoning, beheading, and other barbaric behavior… Huh??? You really want this Sharia stuff??? Don’t you realize they will kill or gang rape you too??

#4. Freedom of religion, or none, if you wish. You already have it! Why the fuss?

#5. Women’s rights. Totally incompatable with #3 Islam gives no rights to women. They are puppet slaves to the males. A piece of property, worth less than an animal. Again, you really WANT this?

#6. What the heck is a “theybe”???? Medically, there are 3 sexes. Born with a penis, born without, and those who are born with both, a Hermaphrodite. We understand what it is to be gay.

Finally….black people. My favorite boyfriend was a huge black guy with such a gentle disposition. He did not worry about slavery. Or being recompensed for it. No one alive has been a slave, or has owned a slave. You are smart and have all opportunities to be anything you wish! Why keep the shame of the South alive?

Let’s run down this classic propaganda piece briefly:

#1. Blood libel. Liberals do not commit infanticide. The hideous belief that Jews drink the blood of Christian babies goes back to the middle ages, but Hitler and Trump flogged it endlessly to stir up hatred. I’ve been saying for years that some of the far-right trash in this country use the word “liberal” but they really mean “Jew.”

#2 “Invaders that overwhelm the country” –- Most of Germany’s Jews had lived there for generations, just as many of America’s Hispanics date back to the 17th century. But when you can lump them in with non-existent invaders, it makes it so much easier to stir people into a murderous rage against them.

#3 “Enemy of our country”. In Germany, that meant Gypsies, Slavs, and of course “Semites.” They are THEM. Please feel free to hate them.

#4 Freedom of religion, in the eyes of the Kathies of the world, is the freedom to place their religious boots on my neck. We wouldn’t be free to believe, but we would be free to believe what Kathy believes. It’s a stance that has informed the bloodiest pages in history.

#5 Womens’ rights. Frankly, I don’t give a shit what the governments of Iran or Saudi Arabia think as far as womens rights go here, not as an excuse to ignore them here. I just note that there is no difference in the attitude towards womens’ rights between fundamentalist Moslems, Jews, or Christians. They all hate and fear women. Trump’s role model from 1942 forced abortions for women deemed ‘impure’ while putting to death women who were pure, but got abortions, since ‘pure’ is a very slippery word.

#6 Sex isn’t just the plumbing. The main sex organ is the brain. Kathy would understand that if she actually had a brain. But death camps welcome “deviants,” too.

Finally…black people.” That says it all right there, even if Kathy had a big, black, strapping young buck as a boyfriend. Batteries not included. We should forget all about slavery, just as Kathy no doubt hopes we’ll forget all those lessons we learned from Hitler.

About 30% of the country avidly swallows the nonsense promulgated by the Kathies of the far right, and tell themselves Trump and Pence are godly and good men, just as Germans told themselves the same about Hitler, and crying Russians in the camps in Russia did about “Uncle Joe” Stalin.

‘Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.’

The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy – Who knew the Trump White House was infested with libruls?

The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

Who knew the Trump White House was infested with libruls?

November 25th 2018

I’ve been hearing chatter lately about a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy. David Bossie, who was one of Paul Manafort’s wing men during the campaign, told an increasingly strained Chris Wallace, “There is a vast left-wing conspiracy that has been going on since the president won this election. All throughout the transition and through his first two years.”

We’ll get back to that facet of the VLWC in a moment. Bossie went on to say, “A vast left-wing conspiracy, similar to what Hillary Clinton used [to say] about a right-wing conspiracy.” Chris Wallace interrupted him, auto-saying, “Which incidentally didn’t turn out to be true,” since they’ve been denying the existence of such since about 1991. Even before Hillary pointed out the deliberate machinations of the right to undermine and defame the Clintons.

Bossie wasn’t buying it. Saying the VRWC really existed, he said, “Chris, there was an effort by the conservative movement to undermine President Clinton.”

Well, duh.

So let’s get back to the VLWC. There’s absolutely no doubt that liberals and leftists have opposed Trump since he announced he was running in 2015. It goes by many names: The Democratic Party, The Resistance, and so on. After three years of being somewhat ineffectual in their opposition to Pissmop, they finally landed a damaging blow on November 6th with a gigantic “blue wave” vote.

Prior to that, about the only thing we managed to do was to annoy Trump, who was in high dungeon over the fact that members of the opposition party might oppose him, or traitors to America who don’t like fascists and racists. We had absolutely zero luck in shaming GOP officials into trying to stop him before he wrecked the country, and even less luck in budging the polls further away from Trump. (His approval is locked at 41%, +/- 3%).

Trump has taken considerable damage already: his business brand, such as it was, is ruined beyond repair. While still capable of doing considerable damage through his sheer genius at mismanagement, he’s lost the House, so he isn’t going to get legislation to the still-barely-Republican Senate, and support in the upper house is eroding rapidly now that the writing is on the wall.

There’s three primary sources to the most damage Trump has taken, and none of those sources qualify as ‘left wing’.

First, there’s the personnel in all the agencies he’s alienated. Right wingers love to talk about how agencies dealing with education, welfare, science, etc., are all “liberal” but the fact is that while they tend to favor Democratic policies by overwhelming margins, it isn’t because they are liberal. It because for decades Republicans have been dumping on them, calling them dupes, liars, anti-American and anti-God for simply stating easily-proven facts.

Hint to Republicans: when you spend half a century pissing on someone’s head because what they know doesn’t jibe with what you want to believe, don’t expect them to believe you when you tell them it’s holy water—and don’t expect them to vote for you. Trump took that on-going abuse and turned it up a notch.

That he managed to alienate the intelligence agencies took real talent. These are the children of J. Edger Hoover and Wild Bill Donovan, and they’re about as liberal as Genghis Khan.

Yes, there are a lot of people in government who hate Trump. But it’s not because they are Democrats; it’s because they hate Trump, and he’s given them a lot of reasons for doing so.

The Mueller Investigation: It wouldn’t even exist if he hadn’t vindictively fired the best friend he had in all of government, the man who single-handed sank Clinton’s campaign in the final two weeks, James Comey. Comey is no left winger. But it brought about the investigation, run by a Republican, Robert Mueller, and supervised until last week by another Republican, Rod Rosenstein.

All the People in the Know expect Mueller to pounce this coming week, and even if the appointment of the Toilet Heist Master to oversee Mueller pressured Mueller, the results should be damning. Given that Trump’s Congressional support amounts to “Can this crazy son of a bitch help me get what I want” the sliderule governing that support is going to shift heavily against Trump.

White House Staff: Ever had a boss like Trump? I have, once. Weak, authoritarian, vicious. Back stabbing. Plays people off against one another, pays no attention to rights and responsibilities of either his subordinates or himself, and demands absolute loyalty from the people he is abusing. Workplace is a nightmare where the ability to betray is the only currency of the place. Working for someone like Trump is a nightmare. I know, because I have. I got out, and saved my sanity.

It’s a pretty safe bet that the white house staff aren’t secret left-wingers, unless you count the cooking staff and the gardeners. Especially the guy who does the roses; the rose is the symbol of the Democratic Socialists of America, you know. It’s a thorny issue.

Most of Trump’s flunkies are absolutely hateful people, partly because those are the only types willing to work for him, and party because they have to front for a hateful person. The public despises them, but many people also pity them.

Some of the most egregious partisans are back-pedaling furiously, trying to save their (generally worthless) asses: Frank Luntz on on Faux News the other day, devoutly declaring he couldn’t call himself a Republican any longer. No blinding lights and fluttering angels to this particular self-apotheosis, though: Luntz went on to say it was both parties, really. He didn’t get enlightenment: he just wants to be standing outside the blast zone when it goes off. That Luntz, always with the liberal sensitivities!

Not to disparage the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: we have been first-most, and steadfast in our opposition to Trump and what he represents. But we weren’t the ones who damaged him. He damaged the people who supported him, including members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, and they whipped around and bit him on the ass. They are the ones that did the real damage.

In the end, as always, Donald Trump’s greatest enemy is Donald Trump.

I suppose we should be grateful for that.

The Squirrel Seller

Khalid rubbed the dusty and sunburned bridge of his nose and tried not to glare in disgust. The man before him was aged, and perhaps not quite right in the head. The Prophet taught the virtue of compassion for the aged and the infirm, even if they were assholes. This particular asshole may have stood tall just a few decades before, and a small ring of blubber around his midriff suggested he might have been portly at the every least. Khalid could imagine him waddling about an almost-forgotten green and verdant golf course, relics of cool and wet times. Now he was as dessicated and worn as the sun-and-wind blasted lands in which they lived.

“I have no interest in your squirrels,” Khalid explained patiently. “Half the people within a day’s journey of here have squirrel farms, including myself.” He pointed to a board behind him. The board read “Fresh water: One liter for one cat. One half liter per chicken. One liter for one kilo of edible nuts, fruits, tubers. One liter for small dog, two for medium (10-30 kg) three for a large.”

He tapped the board meaningfully. “No squirrels. No chipmunks. No rats. No rodents of any kind. Everyone has all they can eat, and then some. Bring me a live turkey, and I’ll give you three liters. I’ll give you twelve liters for a tom.”

“I don’t have any toms.” The supplicant, bald but for a few straggled wisps about the ears, sagged, the very picture of abject misery.

Khalid, burdened with the idealism of youth, might have been a bit more sympathetic, but the man had a long history of lying, cheating, and flat-out swindling. He often had contracted with someone, receiving a good or service, and then sneering and simply stiffing the person with whom he had made his agreement. If pressed, he would offer coins of silver or gold, arguing that their value easily exceeded that of the food or water or labor he had received. In theory, that was true, but people had discovered that they could not eat gold and silver, and everyone was desperately clinging to survival and couldn’t be bothered with jewelry and ornaments.

The Prophet’s Law taught that the visitor should be afforded amenities and courtesies, and that to turn away a beggar was shameful, and to do so to a man incapable of caring for himself was a deep disgrace. Outside of the conclave lay only dust and heat and the rapidly decaying ruins of what had, just twenty years before, been a prosperous suburb with cars and trees and running water. A young and vigorous man armed with knowledge and quick wits might survive in the deserts of Maryland, but this old wreck was not young, nor vigorous, and it was doubtful he ever possessed knowledge or quick wits.

Some of the residents argued that he should be expelled anyway. He was a thief. He was also a braggart, a conceited blowhard who demanded respect he had done nothing to earn, boasting of great wealth and power, and had even been known to use such sad flourishes to bully some of the village children. At least once he had been beaten, when his hand brushed against a woman’s breast once too often for it to be mere coincidence.

The beggar glared. “Someone told you not to take my squirrels. I will find him, and he’ll pay. Believe me. He’ll pay.”

“No one told me not to take your squirrels. I don’t take any squirrels. I can’t sell them, I can’t trade them, and I don’t need them for food. Come back with some cloth, or unbroken glass, and I will treat with you.”

“You are a poor businessman. You have goods to trade, I have goods to trade. What is the problem?”

“You need my goods. I don’t need yours.”

“I could make better use of them than you.”

Khalid ignored the jibe. “But I have no need of your goods. The art of the deal is based on the value perceived by each party, resulting in a trade.”

“Who taught you that shit? Look, these are fine squirrels. The best squirrels. I raised them like they were my own children. Believe me, you will never regret buying these squirrels.”

Khalid glanced into the cage, where a half dozen dusty and disheveled rodents resided. One blinked at him slowly with rheumy eyes, and another appeared to be in the throes of an epileptic seizure. The beggar gestured at them, beaming with pride. “These are quality squirrels.”

“If you raised your children like you raised these poor creatures, it would explain why your children are not helping you in your dotage.”

“Those swine.” The old man spoke without passion or conviction, but spat precious bodily fluid into the dust. “They abandoned me in my hour of greatest need. I was a great father, the best father, and they turned away from me. They were disloyal!” Now the beggar’s voice rose, and his eyes flashed. “Disloyal!”

Khalid sighed. This was a well-worn recording. Left uninterrupted, the screed would expand, until Earth’s once-teeming billions had all risen up in conspiracy and envy to destroy this man. And indeed, Khalid had heard reports that had civilisation not collapsed in 2019, this man might well have been in prison today, along with his wives and children. If any of his family remained alive, Khalid thought. It was little wonder they would eschew this vile man.

Khalid’s patience was at an end in the sweltering day. He rose from his seat, towering over the old man, who shrunk in on himself, revealing a personal cowardice.

“Look, enough is enough. I have told you what I am willing to trade fresh, clean water for. If you cannot find items of value, you can drink from the river everyone else drinks from. It won’t kill you.”

“But it’s scummy and tastes bad,” the beggar whimpered. “Do you have any idea who I am? I am the most important man in the world! You can’t make me drink bad water!” His eyes glittered, whether from self-pity or calculation Khalid couldn’t tell.

This, too, was a familiar tack in the squabble. The man would describe how he had smote nations, and punished the parasitic poor. It was a bloody canvas of greed and avarice and vainglory, and Khalid had no desire to sit through the demented diatribe.

He slapped his hands on the rough-hewn counter, and again the beggar shrank back, quailing.

“Look, Donald,” Khalid growled, using the beggar’s name for emphasis. “One last time.”

He pointed to the board. “This is what I want for my water. Produce that, or leave.

“And don’t waste my time telling me how powerful you once were.

“The fact is, I don’t care what you were President of.”


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