Partying in the Dark — GOP dives back under its rocks

August 1st 2020

Frank Lockwood, reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, had a lede that was eye-popping, even by the lunatic standards of America in 2020. He wrote, “WASHINGTON — When Republicans renominate Donald Trump for president in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 24, journalists won’t be on hand to witness it, a convention spokesperson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this week. Reporters also will be kept from the room when the Republican National Committee meets to conduct official party business. The spokesperson couldn’t say whether C-SPAN, the nonprofit public service network, would be allowed to air the proceedings.”

Granted, conventions have become snooze-fests over the past few decades, carefully planned political kabuki that, it’s hoped, are four day infomercials for each of the parties. From the days when the major networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage, coverage is pretty much limited to C-SPAN and intermittent coverage from the cable news, limited to the acceptance speeches and perhaps a few minutes of speeches from the rising stars of each party. The party bosses wanted good optics, but they forgot people watched conventions for the conflict, not the choreography. The plummeting coverage reflected the growing public apathy. The parties turned vigorous national debate and friction into a pro wrestling match, one in which no wrestler dissed any other wrestler. Even party loyalists stopped watching.

But as political ads, the conventions still had value. The party candidate could count on a 4 to 8 point “convention bounce.” It might only last a week, but it usually informed an undercurrent of political exposure where, if pressed, an average voter might come up with a specific-sounding reason to support one candidate over the other.

The coronavirus caused major dislocation and changes to the conventions just by itself. Trump turned the Republican convention into a complete clusterfuck by demanding that North Carolina have an open and maskless convention, and when NC refused, citing public health concerns, he moved the pageantry part of the convention to Jacksonville, Florida. The party was obligated to have the formal party business meeting in North Carolina, so Trump ordered the committees, including the one tasked to devise the party platform, to open, rubber-stamp whatever it was they did in 2016, and adjourn, so nobody might distract from the showy parts of the convention.

The result was unexpectedly hilarious. The official party platform condemns the sitting president as being a major disappointment, corrupt, and incapable, along with a long list of complaints about how he has failed his country, the world, and all the puppies and kittens. Parties don’t like to ever mention their opponents by name, so it’s just “the sitting president” they hate. That would be a fellow named Donald J. Trump, and not the fellow they were spitting at in 2016.

OK, it’s probably more accurate now, but even the folks over at the Lincoln Project will admit that party vitriol wasn’t meant to be aimed at Trump, no matter how deserving he may be.

Quite aside from the raging pandemic and the peculiar climate Florida enjoys in August, there was the truly horrific notion of leasing a large cruise ship to house all the delegates and others. We all know how great cruise ships are when infectious diseases show up.

The GOP are going to have a convention in NC as originally planned since the Florida idea fell through, but it’s going to be ‘way toned down. Only 336 delegates instead of the 2550 or so originally planned, no alternate delegates, and they’ll see a big reduction in vendors and other hangers-on. Despite the idiotic unofficial party disapproval of masks, I expect they will be worn, in the wake of the death of Herman Cain from coronavirus (most likely caught at Trump’s Tulsa rally), and the infection of party clown Louis Gohmert. Trump will hate that, since it’s an admission that he punted the response to the coronavirus, and remind people that at least some of that lethal non-response was calculated, partisan, and deliberate.

The Democratic convention will be mostly virtual, limited to about 300 people in total, and the DNC has been carefully eliminating any dissident voices to Biden. It’s going to be boring as hell, but it won’t be as embarrassing, given that the Democrats have always leveled with people about what the appropriate response to the pandemic is, and have led the way in trying to get the public to respond in a similar, common-sense way.

The GOP are embarrassed by their convention because it shows the idiocy of their failed policies toward the pandemic, and the idiocy of their failed followers. The Democrats can appear on Zoom and have a slightly self-satisfied air, knowing that they never put lives at risk, or let Americans die for partisan gain. They are the party of responsibility and regard for the common good.

The GOP reminds me so much of the communist party in Russia during the Stalin era. The secrecy, the ideology, the paranoia and the cruelty are all there. But even the Soviets didn’t try to ban house media along with actual journalists. I wonder if Trump will permit “reporters” from OANN and Sinclair to defend the party from attacks by the liberal/leftist Fox News.

In normal circumstances, I would be absolutely appalled at a party trying to hide its convention from public view. Now I find I don’t give a damn. Republicans quit pretending to hold any American values years ago, and if they did broadcast the show, all they would do would be to gaslight us, lie to us, and just generally blow smoke up our butts.

So screw them. Let them huddle under their rock and make their little fascist schemes. They’re no longer a part of the general American political process.

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Tin Soljas — Mercenaries against America

July 26th 2020

For some time, rumors had been swirling around that the costumed clowns would-be Dictator Trump was sending into American cities, beginning with Portland were in fact, mercenaries, scummy for-hire bravos, cast-offs and retirees from the military, or just gun-nut yahoos looking to bag a few people they disapprove of. Medium has a major story this week detailing the presence of gunsels from Triple Canopy and Academi, two disguised dependent corporations of the infamous Blackwater. The article states, in part that the so-called Federal Protective Service “..In fact, FPS spends more than $1 billion a year on these contract security guards who are authorized to conduct crowd control at federal properties, such as those in Portland.”

That’s a lot of money to be spending on hired pork meant only to terrorize peaceful demonstrators. In fact, according to Medium, “There are some 13,000 security guards nationwide employed by FPS via contracts with private security firms, a figure that can be expanded through existing and future contracts.”

These are not federal troops. They are not part of any legitimate policing agency. They aren’t even special agents such as exist in the Secret Service or DHS. They are mercenaries. They are for-hire thugs, glorified security guards with weapons of war. They aren’t in American cities to keep the peace: they are there to shatter it. They want riots, confusion and chaos because that is what Donald Trump needs as an excuse to cling to power.

Americans are better than Donald Trump and his rent-a-pigs, and they have been proving it in Portland, with a March of Moms, a line of real American veterans (as opposed to the “Let’s pretend we’re still soljas” in Blackwater) and in a truly magnificent stand, a naked woman performing yoga poses in front of the mercenaries. (They retreated in considerable confusion!). One guy showed up with a hockey stick to (successfully) bat tear gas grenades back at the portapigs. One heroic vet, Christopher David, 53, joined the protest because he was disturbed by reports of federal officers in unmarked cars arresting people without explanation. They beat the hell out of him with batons, breaking his right arm, and tear gassed him at point-blank range. Showing balls of steel, he strode away from the puzzled and defeated assailants.

While I’m deeply contemptuous of these thugs and the morally diseased people who deploy them, I don’t underestimate the danger they pose. Take Iraq, for example.

There were many different reasons why the American invasion and occupation of Iraq failed, but it was Blackwater that made such a complete calamity for America inevitable, even if the Americans had done everything else right.

First there was the 2004 Fallujah ambush. Four Blackwater mercenaries were ambushed, killed, set afire, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and hanged from the struts of a bridge spanning the Euphrates River. The four individuals weren’t believed to be doing anything more sinister than making a food delivery, but they were seen by the locals as symbols of greater problems. America got off to the wrong foot in that city, riding tanks and humvees into town with huge American flags flying, in direct defiance of orders not to fly flags lest they be seen, not as liberators, but invaders. It was a grotesquely stupid display of ooh-rah patriotism.

Americans, both soldiers and mercenaries, did door-to-door searches, and it’s believed that the mercenaries hit on the bright idea of bringing bomb-and-drug sniffing dogs into the households of the residents. Iraq, like many Islamic nations, has a deep taboo against allowing dogs in the home. Scattered reports of viciousness, molestation and even rape of women, and contempt for Allah circulated. The ambush of the mercenaries resulted in great joy in Iraq and a tepid response in America, where people were unenthusiastic about the use of mercenaries. It’s true that America couldn’t have won independence from England without the presence of mercenaries, but those were German mercenaries, hired by the Crown, and hated by the colonists. Mercenaries don’t have a good odor in America, and nor should they.

In the wake of the hanging of the four mercenaries, a popular uprising drove the Americans out, temporarily. But Blackwater influence in Iraq wasn’t done.

In September 2007, Blackwater gunsels, apparently without provocation, opened fire on a crowd of civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 and injuring 20. Even though America promptly pulled the mercenaries out of the region, it solidified the opposition in Iraq that eventually lead to the Americans being driven out in disgrace.

Why use mercenaries in the first place? American politicians knew the public wouldn’t count them as part of the deployment, and wouldn’t care as much about casualties amongst private contractors. And the Republicans suffered, then as now, from the mad delusion that things such as military operations should be privatized, even if they cost more (some mercenaries in janitorial positions made more than the officers they cleaned for) and were less easy to control. Eric Prince, owner of Blackwater/Academi/Triple Canopy is, along with his vile sister Betsy DeVos, well-positioned in Republican circles. And both are tight with Trump and his mafioso clan.

Mercenaries aren’t soldiers, or even police. Many have little or no training, and discipline is notoriously shoddy. They have little or no training in keeping the peace, but are very adept at disrupting it. They are pure poison to the discipline and morale of both real soldiers and police. And they are a reckless, direct and immediate danger to the people they are putatively there to contain.

There aren’t there to protect the cities of America. They are there to drive them into chaos, so Trump can end the United States once and for all.

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Down the Rabbit Hole — Alas in Blunderland

July 20th 2020

Not much doubt we’ve stumbled into a meth-driven Hunter S. Thompson fugue state these days. I’ve sometimes wondered what old Hunter would have made of Trumpenstate 2020. He would have been either rolling on the floor, convulsed with laughter and scribbling furiously, or he would have blown his brains out. Can’t really imagine him scratching a cheek and languidly asking, “Wow. How ‘BOUT that?”

But then, it’s not a languid era. You can cry, you can laugh, or you can get your rifle. None of them are particularly good signs of mental health, but our psyches aren’t really equipped to deal with the madness that pervades our lives today.

You have clowns in camo snatching up peaceful protesters and hauling them away in unmarked vans. The Supreme Court has just ruled that those rounded up by the gestapo can be held indefinitely, a system that the Soviet Russians used to refer to as “the Gulag Archipelago.” We have a demented president and a mafioso-corrupt attorney-general praising the gestapo’s actions in Portland, Seattle and now Chicago, and promising to attack other peaceful protesters, presumably in hopes of sparking full-spread rebellion, a Reichstag fire of protest than can justify a Nazi coup against America.

And once they’ve rounded up protesters and thrown them into camps, what next? Well, the administration has been consulting with vicious dirtbag and justifier of torture, John Yoo, on how best to torture their prisoners, and while they’re at it, flout executive law through executive order. Trump wants to issue decrees on healthcare, immigration and “various other plans” over the coming month. He finally had to back way from his preposterously cruel plan to deport all foreign students from the nation’s colleges. A pity. That worked so well for Hitler, ending the war years earlier than if he had maintained a brain trust.

Trump is pushing to open the schools. He’s pretending it’s for the children, but really, he wants to make it possible for parents to return to jobs that may or may not exist. To that end he’s stonewalling on extending unemployment benefits, further cruel coercion meant to prop up an economy that more and more is a vicious joke meant only to serve the very rich. He’ll consider an extension of a month or so if Congress agrees to utterly gut Social Security and Medicare. How fucking kind of him.

Betty DeVos wants to return the kiddies to class, even if it means ten thousand or more of them will die. DeVos, who has never sat in a public classroom and has no educational training of any sort, wants churches and corporations to take over training the brats, and get them past the awkward stage where they’re too little to be of any use in the work camps.

Speaking of demented presidents, we have one that just boasted of “acing” a cognition test. The only time people are administered such tests is when medical personnel are concerned that a person is so far gone mentally that he is a hazard to himself and others. It’s scary enough that they would feel a need to administer such a test to a man in charge of the American military and nuclear weapons, but it’s even scarier that he boasts of “acing” it, even though the final five questions were “very hard.” The sections he found challenging included memory (given five simple words, asked to repeat them back, then and five minutes later) attention (Trump was always notoriously bad at this, and it’s hard to imagine him being able to count down from 100 in increments of 7, ie, 93, 86, 79, 72…), language (accurately repeat simple declarative sentences), abstraction (what pairs of words such as apple and banana have in common) and orientation (present date, month and year, and the name of the place they are in as well as the city). Test providers then praise the subject, no matter how they did on the test as positive reinforcement for future sessions using such tests. The test is 30 points, 26 is considered borderline cognitive decline, and 20 a sign of significant cognitive decline, so Donald could have scored 15, and been praised for how he did on the test. That Trump was even given the test is disturbing; that he boasted about how well he did is horrifying.

He wants to cut billions of dollars for COVID-19 testing and tracking even as the number of cases in the US alone approaches 4 million, because having a raging pandemic is hurting his reelection chances. Back in 1945, the Nazis shot German citizens who made the mistake of wondering aloud how well the war is going. This is the same mindset.

He still refuses to mandate masks, encouraging a destructive, dangerous and foolhardy anti-mask cult who have been attacking people for wearing masks, or for requiring them before allowing people into their homes or places of business. The anti-maskers are becoming more and more belligerent, and they’re playing with fire: public rage against them is mounting. I expect to hear about some anti-masker getting shot, either by a security guard or an armed customer. Only a matter of time.

Speaking of shooting, has anyone noticed how fast the clowns in the NRA all vanished when government thugs started rounding up civilians and carting them off to camps. This is exactly the situation the NRA said it existed to avoid. Well, I always thought they were nothing but thugs, bullies and cowards. Guess I was right. Fuck the NRA, and fuck anyone who’s a member.

Meanwhile the Roberts Court, tossing a few bones to progressives, has quietly destroyed laws designed to protect people against predatory loan sharks, removed more of the limitations on Wall Street instrument manipulations like the ones that caused the 2007 crash, and removed transparency from hedge fund trading. Just another service provided for the greater fascistic control of American.

Remember: this election is our last best chance to avoid a Fourth Reich. If we don’t take the country back in November, our future is very violent and dark.

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The World Hates America — With Damned Good Reason

July 2nd 2020

When the news broke that the US government had snapped up the entire world stock of available remdesivir, the only drug shown to be effective in treating COVID-19, there was immediate outrage. While it’s not a cure of any sort, it shortened the course of hospitalizations for this disease by some 20%, and improved the survival rate by a similar amount. Make no mistake: this is no panacea. COVID-19 is still an extremely dangerous and deadly disease, and remdesivir or no, the long-term effects remain unknown.

The government snapped up some half a million doses, enough to treat about 50-100,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19. It represents some three months of the world’s supply.

It was a vicious and sociopathic move by the US, and unfortunately, is seen as being typical of how Americans operate. In fairness, most Americans were appalled, and that number will grow once it becomes clear Trump didn’t buy it to save their miserable lives, unless they were billionaires or Nazis.

Gilead, the company complicit in this deeply immoral deal, came under immediate scrutiny by the EU and other developed nations. Gilead signed an agreement with the EU to boost production so demand could be met in the next month or so, when warehoused supplies ran out. The unspoken threat was they had better, or the EU would simply suspend their copyright on the drug and make the recipe available for all other pharmaceuticals. The US would oppose that, of course, being the beacon of light to all corporations all over the world, but frankly, the opinion of the US doesn’t carry much weight these days.

Part of the outrage stems from the fact that the US needs more remdesivir than anyone else, simply from reasons that were self inflicted. Where most of the developed world have brought the plague down to manageable levels, the ones governed by insane fascist bastards—Brazil, Russia, India and America—have totally lost control of their infestations. In America, cases which had run over 30,000 new cases a day in late April, were brought down to under 20,000. But between intense pressure from corporate overlords to reopen and “save the economy,” cruel contempt for the safety of workers, prisoners, native populations and the aged, and a truly crack-brained notion that wearing a mask infringed on personal rights, the US completely blew it on efforts to control the disease. New daily cases are above 50,000 now (over 57,000 today) and are expected to reach 100,000 a day over the next few weeks.

The US was already seen with a mixture of horror and pity. The antics of the Trump regime were bad enough; this self-immolation made the US pariah and object lesson. Now the the pity and horror are admixed with rage. If the Americans are too fucking stupid to control their plague, the thinking goes, what right have they to deny responsible nations this drug which might save lives? The US has reached the same communal level as that of a drunk stealing communal wine from the local church.

So now America is seen with horror, pity, and rage.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Oh, not America’s reputation—it’s thoroughly trashed and will remain that way for decades to come. But Trump’s effort to screw the world isn’t as lethal as it might sound. EU countries, Canada and other places had already stocked up on enough remdesivir to get them through most of July, and they did it without fucking anyone else over. If Gilead follows through on the promise to boost production, little or no harm will be done. And as noted, America is an object lesson: unless you want to see tens or hundreds of your fellow citizens die, don’t follow their example. Tough out the economic lock down, take care of your people, and reopen wisely. Don’t be that guy.

The Republicans have made it clear they won’t extend unemployment benefits or do anything for the millions of people still out of work. To them, open stores are more important than dead Americans. Work, or die. Or both. Report to your work camps for the greater glory of the fuhrer!

The Trump administration is involved in Stalinesque efforts to hide the damage. Just as Hitler secreted his death camps in eastern Europe outside of German borders, Republicans are working hard to hide the extent and damage of the plague, flooding media and social media with false stories about Democrats inflating death numbers, and “wanting America to fail.” The mindset of the GOP, like those of the Nazi party eighty years earlier, is to blame “enemies from within and without” for their failings.

Even now, millions of Americans run around shouting they have a right to go maskless. Police officers in a coffee shop in Oregon today harassed and berated store clerks for asking them to observe the “Masks required” sign on the front door. By the standards of American cops, these were better behaved them some—they didn’t shoot the clerks, or even arrest them. I wonder if those cops think they have a right to go in a day-care center and shit on the playfloor. It’s pretty much the same thing.

Trump is cutting testing so there will be less cases reported. Is it possible to be more stupid?

The EU has banned Americans from visiting. A poll in Canada showed reactions to American visitors ranging from strong aversion (Quebec, where only 24% favored allowing Americans to visit) to projectile vomiting revulsion (BC, where only 6% wanted to allow Americans in). Granted, BC has had a problem with sick Americans sneaking in, and did long before COVID-19 turned up.

The US may or may not come to terms with this disease. But they’ve already lost all their friends, aside from the President’s manipulative buddy in the Kremlin.

Wear a mask. Stay safe. Don’t be one of THOSE Americans.

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Trump Dump — Weekly Weird News

June 28th, 2020

It’s getting so surreal these days. I feel like the only way to make sense out of what is going on is to drop large doses of LSD and then hit myself repeatedly in the head with a baseball bat until I can look at a picture of Trump and not end up vomiting on my cat.

I’m about to write about stuff in the headlines today that even two weeks ago in these maddest of times would have provoked disbelieving laughter and derision from any sane person reading this.

Are you ready? We’re about to go on a magical mystery tour of the sort that you get when you mix bath salts with Drano.

First, let’s talk about Afghanistan. The Russians, from personal experience, know the place is a dusty, flea-bitten vortex that historically has ground many mighty empires into dust. They’re watching America make the same mistake that they, England (twice, because England is kinda stupid), Rome and,well, pretty much everyone did, and Putin can’t resist stirring that particular shit pot a bit. So Russia has been offering bounties on US soldiers to the very people America has frantically been trying to make peace with in order to extricate themselves.

You could even argue that Russia had a certain amount of justification, since a few decades back, when they were still the Soviets, they got ambered in the cold dust of that snake-tongue land, and the US gleefully hired Osama bin Laden and his followers to kill Soviet troops and provided the insurgents with weapons and training. They were quite good at it, even blowing up a tunnel and killing 2,000 Soviet soldiers. It may have been the main single thing that caused the USSR to collapse a couple of years later. The good news is it got the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The bad news is we armed and financed al Qaida, an extremist outfit that hated America even more than they hated the Russians. The rest, as they say, is history, and America wound up as the latest idiot conquerer of Afghanistan.

So if you want to tell me that Putin is a vicious shit for putting bounties on US troops, I’ll blandly agree with you but refuse to assume any position of moral superiority. It’s like picking a side to root for in a cage match between Charlie Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Now, Gorbachev knew about the US hiring al Qaida to kill Soviet troops just as Trump almost certainly knew of Russia hiring Taliban to potshot Americans. But Gorby was dealing from a position of weakness; he knew his country was on the verge of collapse, and was working frantically to secure mercy from the Americans. (He didn’t get it: America sent in the capitalists to create an Ayn Rand nightmare that killed tens of millions of Soviet citizens). Trump, despite his efforts to divide and weaken the US, isn’t in that position. The country is still strong, but he is weak; he needs to impress the one man in the world who is a bigger thief and swindler than he is. Trump isn’t negotiating from a position of national weakness; he’s negotiating from personal greed and a willingness to sell out his country for profit.

When the NY Times broke this story Friday night last, there was twenty-four hours of painful silence from the White House. That was damning enough, but when the denial came, it was ludicrous on the face of it. Trump didn’t know because nobody in his administration briefed him on it. Well, that makes sense: the Commander in Chief is worried about his putter and doesn’t have time to protect American troops. Besides, aren’t they supposed to die for Trump?

Note to US troops in Afghanistan: Trump and Putin are playing their own games. Stay out of the tunnels, guys.

Trump did finally respond in his own way, seeking to divert attention by retweeting an utterly insane confrontation between two groups of white elderly dirtbags in Florida, A bunch of Trumpkins rounded up golf carts and had a pro-Trump parade. They shouted “White Power!” and waved various flags, and counter demonstrators from the same gated community showed up to shout “White Trash!” back at them and call them names. Even by Florida standards, it was pretty disgraceful.

Trump, showing more and more signs of mental collapse, shared this with the world, tweeting, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe is shot. See you soon!!!”

If he was trying to show he was better than the abject coward who lets an inferior force put bounties on American scalps, I doubt it will work. Even in Cult45 there may be a growing suspicion that maybe he should be supporting troops rather than hanging them on a plywood panel like balloons at a carny show.

With 40 million out of work, 125,000 dead, and over two and a half million infected, Trump and his Cult45 morons completely squandered the belated and semi-effective efforts at containing the spread, with the result that coronavirus is wildfiring throughout much of rural America and the deep south. Trump is still busily pretending there isn’t a problem and people don’t need to wear masks or take any other measures to avoid contagion, because that might hurt the market and his chances for reelection, not necessarily in that order. Sadly, tens of millions of American fools have followed his lead. We’ll see the numbers of new cases a day break 50,000 this coming week. A quarter million people may be dead in America by September 1st.

Finally, the Fed quietly revoked the Volcker rule on Thursday, allowing banks to make the same mistakes that lead to the 2008 crash. The idea was to keep the markets artificially propped up, creating the illusion that the economy isn’t in shambles. It is, and this just guarantees the looming crash and Great Depression will be even worse. But what the hell? It helps Donald’s reelection chances, assuming there’s enough voters alive and able to vote in November for it to matter.

Anyway, next week Trump will be out on the White House lawn, setting fire to live puppies, and his followers will swoon in joy and point out that yes, he does enjoy a warm relationship with dogs, and anyone who doesn’t agree probably hates animals.

See you next week if we’re still here.

 

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Oklahoma Crude — Repulsa in Tulsa a Fiasco

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Oklahoma Crude

Repulsa in Tulsa a Fiasco

June 21st 2020

South of the equator, yesterday was the day of the Winter Solstice. So cheer up, fellas! You’re over the hump. Don’t lose hope. (Note to self: don’t mention that for the rest of us in the northern hemisphere, it’s all downhill from here.)

I was keeping a wary eye on the news yesterday, since the Trump campaign kick-off rally took place in Tulsa, OK. There was a confluence of so many factors that I was concerned that it could prove a flash point leading to a very large social explosion.

It may well have been on the minds of all those gathered: the Trump supporters, the protesters and counter protesters, and the police. Aside from a few minor incidents, the event concluded peacefully, which was a credit to all sides. Even the ones who might have been looking for trouble seemed to have second thoughts.

Trump was determined to stir the shit, and brought his full arsenal of race-baiting, xenophobia, and defamation of any who oppose him to the show. But he gazed around the half-empty stadium, doubtlessly thinking of his campaign’s boasts that a million people had expressed an interest in attending (only 6,275 did, according to the stadium gatekeepers), and gave his two-hour speech in a listless monotone, and just fifteen minutes in, his enthusiastic audience of true believers were beginning to look openly bored. Outside, the stage for the planned-for overflow rally was being dismantled (the campaign seriously expected between 100 and 300 thousand people to flood into Tulsa for this event) and millions of viewers were gifted with the eerie sight of a twenty-four foot screen in the parking lot showing Trump addressing the audience inside, with an audience of exactly nobody. You would think that there might be some old guy, taking his dog out for an evening stroll, who stopped to see what the asshole was saying while his dog relieved itself, but no. Just one lonely, bored tech whose job it was to make sure nobody stole the screen or the equipment running it. And he wasn’t even watching it.

Trump, apparently determined to keep the public attention focused on his mental and physical health, ranted for 15 minutes about the news noting his difficulties maneuvering down the ramp at the West Point ceremony (It didn’t help that someone found an old video of Obama ascending the same ramp with the carefree grace of a teenager). Trump then essayed to show his audience that yes, he could indeed drink a glass of water using one hand. The audience cheered—one of the few things they really had to cheer about on this sad night—but everyone watching on television could see it was a tiny 6 ounce glass, half-full, and even then his movements were slow and considered. If it was a sobriety test, he would have failed. He went on to rant about poor old lazy and demented Joe, apparently unaware that the Biden campaign had just put out an ad showing Biden jogging, where he pauses to tell the camera, “I would like to see Trump do this.”

Trump also made the extraordinarily stupid boast that he asked for testing for the coronavirus to be slowed down, leaving people to wonder if he really thought less tests meant less cases. That’s a bit like eating 4,000 calories a day, convinced that so long as you don’t step on the scales, you aren’t putting on weight. It’s magical thinking, and about the lowest and most self-destructive form of magical thinking there is. This should be in every Democratic ad between now and November, if they have any sense at all.

Speaking of which, one online correspondent told me that the sparse turnout may have saved thousands of lives. Given the exponential nature of contagion, I’ve little doubt that he’s right. Horowitz, of course, had the mot juste: “Coronavirus disappointed by small turnout.” Trump’s campaign slogan ought to be “Donald: Because he’s killed a lot less people than he might have.”

Finally, there were the images of the Donald alighting from the Marine helicopter on the grounds of the White House in the predawn hours. Exhausted, haggard, obviously depressed, he had his tie undone and hanging from around his neck like a suicidal rattlesnake, and his pose could only be described as ‘abject.’

Fingerpointing for this undeniable fiasco began at once. Brad Parscale, man most likely to be unemployed by Monday night, opined that the campaign based its inflated projections of attendance on thousands of K-Pop fans on TikTok who reserved most of the tickets and flooded the “interested in attending” page. Someone finally noticed the hideous optics of a professional campaign getting scammed like that by a bunch of teenagers in Korea (you don’t put a $25 deposit on reserving a ticket, for crissakes?) and decided that some 300,000 committed Republicans were going to show, but were scared off by AntiFa(scists) and BLM protesters. There were about 300 anti-Trump protesters there, consisting of the usual suspects—school teachers, college students, and (shiver violently as I say the words) people who hate fascists. If they really scared off 300,000 Republicans, then they made the Battle of Thermopylae look weak by comparison. The Trump campaign just blamed the poor attendance on widespread cowardice within the party. That should play well with his supporters.

Trump looked like a cornered rat, and you know what they say about cornered rats. He, and his party and followers, are going to be more dangerous and extreme going forward, now unable to entertain the belief they are an unstoppable popular front.

One indication of this came in the form of an unbelievable full page ad in the Nashville Tennessean. In fairness, the paper did immediately repudiate and pull the ad once the blow-back began, saying, “The ad is horrific and is utterly indefensible in all circumstances. It is wrong, period, and should have never been published. It has hurt members of our community and our own employees and that saddens me beyond belief. It is inconsistent with everything The Tennessean as an institution stands and has stood for and with the journalism we have produced.”

Fair enough. But the ad was beyond belief, written by some end-times crackpot who claimed that “Islam” was going to explode a nuclear weapon in Nashville sometime during the month of July. Quite aside from the hateful nature of the speech, there’s the fact that not everyone in Nashville is that tightly wound, and an ad like that could cause a panic.

There’s never a shortage of end-times crackpots around. I know several personally. Generally, they’re harmless. But some have both money and malice. And it’s not unusual for papers to have various nuts show up, money in hand, demanding that the local paper vouchsafe whatever demented and paranoid fantasies they have to the populace. Generally, papers have enough sense to tell them to bugger off.

Someone in a position of responsibility at the Tennessean thought publishing this was a good idea. Maybe it would get a few Moslems lynched. Maybe it would help Trump. Someone thought something this extreme and foolish would help the cause.

The right is crowded with people like that, and they are starting to panic.

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Transitioning — The World is Changing—Fast

June 14th 2020

In front of Parliament in London, they encased the statue of Winston Churchill in plywood and put barricades around it to protect it from defacement and possible destruction at the hands of demonstrators. Just a few weeks ago, such a situation would have been unthinkable, let alone that it could have arisen from the murder of a black man by police in Minneapolis, four thousand miles away and three weeks before.

But in a social convulsion analogous to the Arab Spring, the mass demonstrations sparked by the murder of George Floyd have spread beyond America and throughout the west.

The Churchill statue is under threat much the same way the Confederate statues are under threat in America. There are quite a few distinctions that can be made, of course: Churchill didn’t fight for the enemy, and the statue wasn’t put up to try to keep alive a racist legacy. Now, if a statue of Klaus Barbie

had been erected in Coventry as a not-too-subtle reminder to the Jewish population to know their places, then it might make a lot more sense that people might want to pull it down.

Churchill had a lot of baggage, to be sure. He was a bigot, contemptuous of the peoples the English subjugated, and had a track record of enormous incompetence. But he was also one of the main reasons the United Kingdom still exists today. When England needed a heroic leader, he rose to the occasion. So unlike the Confederate statues that dot the US, there are actually legitimate reasons to honor Churchill with such.

Unfortunately, movements like this tend to overreach, and hopefully common sense will prevail in London. Teach Churchill’s flaws, but honor the man for his greatness.

In the United States, the groundswell of discontent is still taking shape. A lot of what we’re seeing is hopeful. African-Americans deserve far better treatment than they’ve been getting, and have a right to walk the streets and drive their cars without fear, just like the rest of us. The role of police in society needs to be rethought from the ground up. In the 60s and 70s, when society was obsessed with crime and social unrest, the concept arose of cowboy cops who didn’t play by the rules and didn’t mind breaking a lot of eggs to make an omelet. It became fashionable to have out-of-control cops protected by a ‘thin blue line’ mentality that took care of their own, no matter how corrupt and self-defeating it might be. Few noticed or cared that there were no omelets, just plenty of broken eggs, and the police were seen, more and more, as vicious bullies and swaggering cowards. Community relations, in far too many places, was seen as being for weenies.

Additionally there was the racial component. Cops in far too many places were there to uphold white privilege. And subjugate black people. Police batons were called ‘night-sticks’ even though they were most often used in broad daylight, and had worse names. The war on drugs, itself a tactic of racial oppression, made things even worse. So did increasingly draconian laws, such as ‘three-strikes’ which overwhelmingly targeted African-American populations.

It wasn’t enough to attack minorities, though; police were useful for attacking other vulnerable parts of the population, those seen as unprofitable by capitalist leaders. So more and more, police were sent to deal with homelessness, mental illness, poverty, and any other social problem that presented itself. They weren’t just the bully boys of capitalism; they became its janitors, as well.

Black Lives Matter and the rest of the movement hope to address that, and that can only be an improvement.

But there are two other elements of American society that also scream for reform, and without them, the chances of success are much slimmer.

First, there is the problem of capitalist domination of society. No fascist society is free, and a fascist society is one in which the people serve the economy, rather than the other way around. Capitalism requires a large pool of economic outcasts in order to threaten the workers and consumers. Its morality is not the morality of human beings, and bullying and subjugation are essential to maintaining control. Putting jails and the justice system on a “make it pay” basis ensured a vicious abattoir of oppression and viciousness in lieu of justice.

The GOP, now a Nazi Cult, insists that Americans must be prepared to die in the hundreds of thousands in order to protect billionaires from becoming millionaires, as witness Trump’s determination to pretend the coronavirus has gone, and America can resume business as normal. His Nuremberg rally, the Repulsa in Tulsa, planned now for the day after Juneteenth, will require that attendees not wear masks or practice safe distancing, but also sign a waiver relieving the Trump campaign of liability if they become sick from this plague that [cough] doesn’t exist.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but America must reduce the role of the upholstered parasites who use racism and unfairness as means of control.

The other major item is guns. That the President is a cowardly racist who thinks it’s fine for disgusting white neo-Nazis to carry weapons of war, but hides in a bunker behind 12 foot high fences at the thought of black people chanting, clearly demonstrates the racist and vicious nature of “gun rights.” Far too many of the wrong people have weapons meant to terrify and harass the rest of society—including cops. Cops are constantly being afraid because so many howling nuts have so many weapons, and that in turn makes them more trigger happy. I’m not saying that to excuse the behavior of pigs who think that killing blacks as a warning to the rest is legitimate police work—this is a problem in addition to that, one that affects good cops as well as bad. We saw the white trash Nazi movement in action in Michigan; America needs to rethink a philosophy that allows such cretins to have .50 cal machine guns.

It’s scary, and nobody knows where it’s going to go, but one thing is certain: America needs this social tsunami. It wasn’t survivable in its present form.

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Can America Defeat Trump? — We’re at war. Pick a side.

Can America Defeat Trump?

We’re at war. Pick a side.

June 4th 2020

A lot of us have been saying for some time that when it comes to Trump, it’s going to boil down to either Trump prevailing or America. Trump does clumsy, weird huggings of the flag, and occasionally waves a bible around (in his latest photo-op stunt where he gassed peaceful protesters, he was holding it upside down and backwards) and that’s enough to convince the utter fucking morons that he’s a patriot and devout, but he has never shown any interest in the Constitution, the rights of the People, and openly expresses hatred for various target groups. As he accumulates power, that collection of groups will grow to include not only the ones his bigoted supporters already hate, but pretty much anyone who doesn’t support him.

He’s already had a falling out with Faux News for the crime of failing to jump to their collective feet and shout “Jawohl!” at all of his pronouncements. Now he’s getting harsh criticism for his recent actions from the military, former members of his cabinet, members of the GOP, and even the servile and amoral leaders of the evangelical right. Even some elements of the neo-Nazi right are getting restive; I saw an amazing political cartoon the other day in which Trump had a knee on the neck of Lady Liberty while a black-clad figure labeled “AntiFa” held her legs. I’ve always joked that when members of the far right started blaming the left for Trump, that would mean he’s finished. Well, here we are.

His actions over the past fortnight have been nothing short of grotesque. The PR stunt at St. John’s Episcopal (yes, backwards and upside down) may become a defining Moment of his political career, much the way holding up a toddler to protect himself from bullets became the Moment of Greg Stillson’s political career in Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone.”

Not that there weren’t others. The empty threats that he bleated from the bunker under the White House where he cravenly crouched; turning off the White House lights (last done in 1940), building the eight foot fence around the White House (a joke making the rounds is that Mexico might just be willing to pay for THIS wall), and the comparison of Trump crouching afraid, underground and in the dark, to Winston Churchill. (Churchill famously would go out during Blitz attacks so that he might personally observe the atrocities committed against England by Hitler). His craven posturing even invited negative comparisons to Richard Nixon, who, some 50 years earlier, was also in a White House surrounded by protests. Nixon went out late in the evening to talk to some random protesters face-to-face to try and get a dialogue of some sort going.

The stunt of putting anonymous clowns in full soldier kit—dozens of them—in response to minor vandalism perpetrated the night before at the Lincoln Memorial was both ludicrous and sinister. Who were those clowns? Were they soldiers? Cops? Secret Service? Blackwater? Were they even American? Fortunately for all, they were content to just stand there and look stupid, since the protesters weren’t targeting the memorial and the spray paint was probably just done by one asshole looking to stir the pot.

The stunt of flying a helicopter between buildings to use the backwash from the blades to disperse the crowd was dangerous beyond belief. Any helicopter pilot pulling such a stunt other than under direct orders from the President would have had his license to fly permanently revoked. I’m guessing we’ll never learn the name of the war criminal who flew that chopper at the behest of Trump.

Oh, did I say war criminal? Yes. The chopper was marked with the red cross, making that a violation of the Geneva convention. Medical insignia means “non-combatant” both for their protection, and when a cowardly little Nazi sits in the White House, for the protection of unarmed American civilians.

The act of gassing a group of peaceful demonstrators in order to stage a painfully awkward PR stunt meant to drum up support from the religious right was also a war crime.

Tom Cotton, a sitting Senator from Arkansas, wrote an editorial for the New York Times, one which the Times utterly disgraced itself by running, in which he called for siccing the airborne infantry on the protesters. Yet another war crime, and Cotton should be expelled from the Senate and tried for advocating mass slaughter of Americans. As for the Times, just remember that in critical moments, this is a paper that will lie to you in service to the GOP. Now they are willing to suspend the Posse Comitatus Act, Habeas Corpus, and presumably the first, third and fourth amendments just because Cotton wanted the world to know that there might be people opposed to fascism in the crowd.

Some of Trump’s desperation and panic is warranted. Not only have his actions caused schisms in his previously unshakable base, but the Pentagon has made it as clear as the law allows that it is not prepared to fire on unarmed American civilians.

Keith Ellison, the District Attorney for the state of Minnesota where the Floyd murder took place, announced charges against the four police involved in Floyd’s death; Murder-2 against Chauvin, and accomplices and accessories to murder against the other three.

I thought that might defuse the situation a fair bit. Ellison is well-trusted, and this provided a serious promise of the justice the protesters wanted.

But the protests are no longer against the Floyd murder, or the police murders of hundreds of others of African Americans in recent years. Now the crowd has realized that their true enemy, black or white, Christian or non, Democrat or non, is the treasonous wannabee dictator in the White House.

Last night police arrested over 10,000 people nationwide. Since masks and social distancing aren’t available in jail, it’s safe to assume that as many as a thousand of those people may become sick, and three hundred or so may die. All for protesting oppression and treason by the government against the people.

I’m guessing the protests won’t die down, only now, it isn’t just injustice: it’s Americans fighting for their country against an opportunistic and amoral traitor in the White House.

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Biden Ain’t Black and Blacks aren’t Fascists and Fools

Biden Ain’t Black

and Blacks aren’t Fascists and Fools

May 22nd 2020

Joe Biden got himself in hot water yesterday with one of his characteristic gaffes. He told a radio host, “[I]f you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

OK, it was tone deaf and more than a bit goofy. And old white guy trying to define “black” for African Americans is never going to go over well, and the best thing Biden could do is apologize and retract promptly and whole-heartedly. Yeah, he was annoyed at the questioner, but that’s no excuse.

And he did apologize, because while he blurts things out, he isn’t stupid. According to the Guardian, he said, “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” on a call with the US Black Chambers, an African-American business group, which was added to his public schedule. “I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.” Biden also said he would never “take the African American community for granted”.

He isn’t likely to lose many African-American votes over this, because about 95% of all African Americans know they would have to be out of their goddamned minds to support Trump and his racist party. But the Republicans will howl in their usual ersatz moral outrage. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina (R-Lawn Jockeys) huffed that “That is the most condescending and arrogant comment I’ve heard in a very long time.”

Really, Scotty? Try this one on for size, from David Drucker of the Washington Examiner last month: “President Trump earned a 19% job approval rating from black voters in the latest Fox News poll as the Trump reelection campaign works to double the 8% support he received from this cohort four years ago.”

Cohort? Really? Yes the word was used correctly, if unfortunately. In modern American usage, it has a rather unsavory connotation, suggesting criminality. Or at least disrepute. The use of the term dripped with condensation and arrogance. Scotty, do you think you can get permission from Trump to criticize that remark? I’m curious.

Republicans don’t like African-Americans, don’t respect them, and don’t care about them. It’s not a secret, and I’m surprised that as many as 19% of African-Americans would support Trump in any way, shape or form. Indeed, most non-Faux polls show his support around 5-8%. At this point, only fascists or fools support Trump, and the worst of his supporters support him precisely because he wants to remove African-Americans from the national equation.

Biden has a chance to learn a valuable lesson here. He may well have meant nothing more than to state a belief that African-Americans as a whole aren’t fascists or fools but by saying it the way he said, he has taken the support of African-Americans for granted, with a tone of “You have to vote for me because you don’t have any real choice in the matter.” It’s the same mistake that allowed Hillary to lose, if technically, to the worst candidate any major party has ever offered in American history.

It isn’t enough to inspire people to vote against Trump and his filthy party. Trump and the Republicans are doing a fine job of that. Biden has to give people something to vote FOR. If he campaigns with a tone of “You’re stuck with me, cheap dates” then people aren’t going to vote for Trump, but they are going to stay home and sit on their hands. He can’t blow off labor, the poor, scientists, intellectuals, minorities, women and the left and hope to beat Trump. Trump will get 55 million votes because America has a lot of fools and and relatively few, but very powerful fascists. Biden has to stand strong for policies that will directly affect the groups whose votes he needs to overcome the vicious cult of the Republican party. It isn’t enough that he supported the Voting Right Act over the past 25 years; Republicans have gutted that, and he has to promise to restore it. Obamacare can’t address the needs of the people in this era of plague—he must support universal health care. It isn’t enough to support minimum wage increases and Social Security: he has to fight for a guaranteed universal income that will give everyone home and food security, especially in these times.

If he can’t do that, then the Dems need to consider another candidate and call for an open convention. If he can, he’ll win.

But the Dems and Biden don’t fully understand that it’s not enough to weakly oppose the vicious authoritarianism of the GOP. They must be prepared to fight it, with every tool at their disposal. If the Dems can’t do that, people will turn off and just wait for the inevitable collapse and massive strife that GOP rule will bring.

Biden can’t say stupid shit like, “[I]f you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” He has to make people realize that if we don’t defeat Trumpism and defeat it thoroughly, then we ain’t nothing. It won’t matter if we were black, liberal, female, whatever; we’ll all be getting crushed in the wheels of Trump’s endless cruelty and malice.

If we can’t see the difference between Biden and Trump, then we ain’t human. But it’s up to Biden to make the difference between the two meaningful.

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“God-Given” — The only right you’ll get there is the right to die

God-Given”

The only right you’ll get there is the right to die

May 11th, 2020

 

We had a mass gathering of morons about 75 miles down I-5 over the weekend, a rodeo in a town called Cottonwood. Over 2,000 attended an event whose only rationale was that it was semi-traditional.

This event’s been going on for 50 years, it’s a tradition for probably most of us, the rest of them that are here have been tired of being cooped up for months,” rodeo-goer Don Johnson told KRCR News.

We have constitutional rights, we have inalienable rights given to us by God,” he added.

Well, first there’s the matter of the fact that 2,000 yahoos got together to yell at cowboys mistreating animals. Yes, Northern California has been lightly hit by the pandemic (my county, which is adjacent to Shasta County where Cottonwood is located, has had five cases, none fatal, with the last one on April 10th). Yes, California has moved to Stage 2 of the lock down, and our county has petitioned to be moved to Stage 3. So it’s reasonable for people to drop their guard a bit. But you can be sure none of the yahoos were staying six feet apart, and wearing a mask to fight something a millionth your size just ain’t manly, yuh know?

There was a show on HBO called Avenue 5, about a luxury cruise liner in space which gets knocked off course, and instead of a projected eight weeks, it’s three and a half years from Earth. Written two years before anyone ever heard the phrase “Covid-19” the passengers chafe against the involuntary and seemingly endless isolation, and in the penultimate episode many passengers become convinced that the whole “marooned in space” thing is a hoax, and a number “die of stupidity” in the Captain’s (Hugh Laurie’s) words, by “exposing the hoax” of being in space by stepping out the airlock. You couldn’t watch that without thinking of the whole “ReOpen” movement.

With the exception of certain high-ranking members of the administration, I don’t wish this disease on anybody, and I sincerely hope that all the attendees at the rodeo are in good health two weeks from now. Given the generally light contagion in this region, there’s a chance that wish will pan out. If if just ONE attendee is feeling fine right now has the disease, the stage for an outbreak is set. But I’m sure you’ve been following the course of the pandemic as closely as I have, and know all this.

One line that Johnson uttered was particularly grating. “… [W]e have inalienable rights given to us by God.”

The first thing that crossed my mind was medieval Europe, when contagions swept through (including, most famously, the Black Plague), and people would gather in churches and cathedrals seeking shelter and salvation from the curse. It was a habit that killed additional tens of thousands of people, perhaps more. And while people did not know how the disease spread from one person to another, they couldn’t help but notice that more people who were at those gatherings died. It’s pretty hard to miss something like that, especially if you’re in a small town and it’s easy to see who is dying, and the rate at which they are dying.

But they couldn’t talk about it. It was sacrilege, you see, and at various times and in various places, suggesting that a gathering in the sight of God for salvation wasn’t working out, was in fact making things worse, could get you burned at the stake, or hung, drawn and quartered, or any number of other medieval amusements designed to protect the gods from doubters.

The other reason it irritated is that none of the rights American enjoy were “God-given.” The phrase does appear in the Declaration of Independence, America’s “Dear John” letter to King George III. It was inserted, over author Thomas Jefferson’s objections, as a rhetorical flourish intended to give the document some gravitas in the eyes of the King by citing the one thing in England deemed more powerful than the King himself. Didn’t work, but hey, nice try, guys! Kings are kinda notorious for having only cosmetic reverence for God, and George III was no exception.

The rights that god-struck types like to describe as being Ordained from Above were actually torn from the long history of feudal oppression in Europe by the people themselves. It’s for a reason that the opening words of the Constitution, “We the People…” set the tone for the entire document. Not only did gods and churches have no role in the government of the people being proposed, but the Constitution specified that neither church nor state should interfere in the working of the other, and that no religious qualification should be permitted for any office or position of public trust in America. Nor was that a mere flourish: by its language, “…but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” it’s the one thing in the entire document that cannot be amended.

So when people talk about ‘God-given rights’ not only are they talking about a different set of rights assigned to God by a half-hearted and ineffectual flourish, but the rights they are talking about (incorrectly, in the case of the rodeo) are very explicitly created by People for People. No gods need apply.

I’ve said at several occasions that I social distance, not because the government said so, but as a matter of common sense. Not only am I protecting myself, but I’m lowering the odds of my wandering around with no symptoms but crawling with disease, and thus am protecting you and yours.

I don’t have the government violating my rights because god likes rodeos, and I see no need to take advice from a god that, following the logic of magical thinking, caused the plague in the first place.

 

 

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