Sorry — Can’t Help You. Court decides states can quash constitutional rights

June 28th 2019

We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts…Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.”

– John Roberts, Majority ruling, RUCHO ET AL. v. COMMON CAUSE ET AL.

With those words, Chief Justice Roberts twisted a gerrymandering case to address the remit of federal review, not of voters’ rights, but the rights of political parties. It’s a ludicrous argument. Nobody is talking about the rights of political parties; the case is about the efforts of political parties (OK, the Republicans, 99% of the time) to undercut the rights of residents to fair and equitable representation in the Congress. Roberts is pretending that by negating Republican cheating that means the Court would be showing bias in favor of the Democrats.

Usually I use an analogy or metaphor at this point to highlight how ridiculous this is, but words fail me. I feel like I’ve fallen into a novel: Jonathan Swift, maybe, or Lewis Carroll. Franz Kafka? Joseph Heller?

A Court that wasn’t overburdened with fascist toadies would have simply asked the question: are the rights of voters to equal representation being upheld? That’s the only constitutional issue in play: the parties (OK, THE Party) has no rights. And it’s utterly insane to pretend that it’s unconstitutional to interfere with one party’s ability to cheat the voters and deprive them of their rights.

So: suppose some restaurant chain in the South decides to stop serving African-Americans. Don’t laugh; all you need to know to realize how plausible that is would be the fact that several states have passed draconian laws limiting and even banning abortion in hopes that Roberts and his merry band of fascists will strike down Roe v. Wade. If the mere prospect of support from the right wing of the Court is enough to drive the bible pounding no-choice authoritarians into an orgy of attacks on the rights and freedoms of women, what chance will African-Americans have?

/We’re back to the days of Jim Crow. They get sued, and it gets to the Supreme Court. Now, rather than arguing that they have the right to infringe on the right of African-Americans, they instead argue that Jim Crow is simply a better business model, and that the court would risk interfering with their right to compete on a level playing field with their competition.

The Roberts Court would ignore the rights of African Americans in such a case, just as it deliberately ignored the rights of voters in this case. Instead, they would grab evidence, no matter how flimsy, to make it an issue of interfering with fair competition between corporate members of the same service industry.

But it goes beyond that. Ever since they lost control of the Federal Government, the Republican Party have dreamed of States’ Rights. Originally (and to this day) it was the realization that industries could better control the states they dominated than they could the entire country. Extraction companies, then as now, pounded the need to end federal interferences with their profit margins and turn those public lands, such as Yosemite or Yellowstone, over to people who would know how to best make money off of them.

States’ Rights became especially important to Republicans after they used the Nixon Southern Doctrine to become the party of the South. Segregationists dreamed of the day they could Nullify Federal anti-discrimination laws. Big Church industries saw a path to authoritarian pseudo rule through state capitols.

Turning the United States into fifty little fiefdoms benefits authoritarians. It essentially destroys the rights of the people previously known as Americans. Some parts of the country, such as California or New York, would start out OK, but eventually find themselves in a race to the bottom against states that have no problem with slave or indentured labor, are contemptuous of environmental and health safeguards, and rule, rather than govern, meaning the serf class would have little leverage to improve wages or freedoms. It would be like waking up and finding that Vietnam or Burma have moved next door to your state, and your industry is competing with neighbors who don’t have minimum wage, can dump raw sewage in the river upstream from you, and constantly broadcast pseudo-religious propaganda at you.

This is the dream of Roberts and his party stooges.

They have control of the court, and they did it through the duplicity and hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell, and the confused but malign cooperation of Donald Trump, lackey to all authoritarians. In the House, Pelosi showed her centrist colors (white and yellow) once again by caving to Trump’s blackmail on the border.

If they aren’t driven from office, things won’t get better; they will get worse. Much worse.

Republicans have no use for democracy or freedom. They simply want to rule.

Game Over – Terrifying new study suggests we’ve passed the tipping point.

June 20th 2019

The Tundra is vast. Just the extent in Canada alone is one million square miles, or about 30% of Canada’s land area. World wide, the tundra covers 8.9 million square miles, a region the size of North America.

Like most things relating to the Arctic, the nature of tundra is more diverse than people imagine. Merriam-Webster defines tundra as “a level or rolling treeless plain that is characteristic of arctic and subarctic regions, consists of black mucky soil with a permanently frozen subsoil, and has a dominant vegetation of mosses, lichens, herbs, and dwarf shrubs; also : a similar region confined to mountainous areas above timberline.”

Permanently frozen subsoil, or permafrost, is a wildly inaccurate name. Much of the far north has been frozen for thousands of years; where the tundra fades to taiga, steppe or boreal forest to the south, the low end of ‘permafrost’–ground that has been frozen for more than two years—is fairly common.

Scientists have been concerned about the state of the tundra for some time. Temperatures on the Canadian tundra have risen by 5.3C (9.5F) since 1990. The treeline has been steadily moving northward as a result, and areas of permafrost intermittency have expanded and increased. In some parts of central Québec and northern British Columbia, permafrost has already vanished altogether.

Vladimir E. Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks led a team to do a survey of the Canadian tundra on the southeastern shore of Prince Patrick Island by an abandoned military site on a cove with the touristy name of Mould Bay. At 76 north, there isn’t much between it and the north pole: Ellesmere Island, and that’s about it. Being in a somewhat sheltered spot, the weather isn’t as fierce as in much of the true north, but it still only enjoys three months a year of above-freezing temperatures, and average temps can reach -30F in the winter. So a foot below ground surface, permafrost is truly permanent.

Or so Romanovsky and his team thought. After all, that’s what they found on their previous visit, in the summer of 2016. Apparently Mould Bay wasn’t on the survey list this summer, but they spotted a break in the weather and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to land and take a look around.

What they found shocked them. Large areas of the permafrost around Mould Bay had melted, transforming the land from a flat icescape to a region of rolling hummocks, frost heaves, and countless little ponds and puddles. Submarine grasses had already secured a foothold in the watery microbiomes. Normally the latent cold in the ground prevented all but the most superficial thawing during the brief summers, but clearly that had changed. Indeed, the extent and depth of melting around Mould Bay was what was forecast for near the end of the century-2090. The team found it terrifying.

Tundra soil is largely organic plant matter, long dead but preserved by the permafrost. It is carbon rich, and not surprisingly, contains vast quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), all of which are potent greenhouse gases.

Mould Bay doesn’t represent all of the tundra any more than it does all of North America. But that wild amounts of melting are happening this far north and in a region that was still colder than most of the tundra is alarming. And we know frightening changes have been occurring over those millions of square miles; methane ‘volcanos’ in Siberia, bubbles of CO2 erupting in lakes in the north boreal, methane in tundra lakes (which burn fiercely when lit) and elevated levels of N2O throughout the taiga.

It may also explain the unexpected jump in world wide CO2 atmospheric concentrations, 414.2, a jump of 3.7ppm from 2018 and more than double the average increase in concentrations over the previous twenty years. That was an unpleasant surprise.

We need a lot more data from the tundra and taiga regions to know just how serious the situation is, and how immediate the disaster will be as a result.

We had already ensured that we have brought a climate emergency down upon our heads. No matter what we do, we’ve ensured a temperature increase of 2.5C worldwide, and 4.5C in the far north. This means major climate disruptions, crop failures, floods, droughts and megastorms. It means bioregional collapses, including in the oceans. Millions of people will be displaced, and large regional wars are likely. The death toll just from what we’ve already ensured will be in the millions, and perhaps worse than millions.

Widespread melting in the north could DOUBLE annual emissions, That would put us above 500ppm in less than 20 years, and temperatures would climb by at least 5C. At that point, it’s no longer a climate emergency; it’s a climate catastrophe. Widespread ecosystem collapse, a likely end to technological civilization, and a death toll in the billions.

Scientists are racing around the tundra regions trying to get some sort of overview of the millions of square miles. They already knew changes were happening far harder and faster there due to the phenomenon of polar amplification, but they weren’t prepared for something as dramatic as Mould Bay.

There’s a temptation to regard Mould Bay as an exception, even an extreme, even though it was in a part of the tundra believed least likely to melt in the near future. But we know changes is coming to the true north faster and more severe than previously imagined. We probably won’t find many places as bad as Mould Bay, at least not this summer.

But Mould Bay isn’t an extreme. It isn’t an exception.

It’s a harbinger.

Munch versus Mad Bum – You’ve got a really dirty mind, you know.

June 15th, 2019

Y’know, I don’t want to write about fucking Trump. I’m tired of typing with the taste of whatever I ate several hours earlier in the back of my throat. The man is a disgrace, and he makes me sick.

So let’s talk about baseball for a bit. Fun stuff, not scores and stats. The stuff that makes baseball goofy and endearing.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I want to put Trump on a batter’s tee in Oracle field in San Francisco, and have the biggest, meanest hitter in baseball—Cody Bellinger, say, or maybe Mike Trout—Barry Bonds Trump’s ass right into McCovey Cove.

Well, I’m not going to do that. For one thing, simple physics shows the sheer ridiculousness of this suggestion. Even Babe Ruth at his prime didn’t have the bat speed needed to propel a 239* pound mass 355 feet in order to land with a splash in McCovey Cove. Also, these are twitchy and paranoid times, and talk of hitting the president with a baseball bat could result in a less-than-friendly visit from the Secret Service.

So let me be clear: I do not advocate hitting Donald Trump with a baseball bat. Don’t do it. Not a good idea. No, not even with an aluminum bat! There’s a fad breaking out of pegging politicians with milkshakes, and while that would be a soul-satisfying event, as mentioned these are twitchy and paranoid times, and the Secret Service would probably pump 250 rounds into you before Trump could figure out what flavor shake you hit him with. If you want to keep Trump twitchy and paranoid, just shout “Impeach!” at him everywhere he goes.

So: cute baseball story.

Oddly enough, it actually does involve Oracle Park and McCovey Cove.

If you’re not a baseball fan and are somehow still reading this, Oracle Park, sometimes known as Corporate-Sponsor-of-the-Month Park, sits right at the juncture of Mission Creek and the San Francisco Bay. It forms a little basin within the Bay that is officially called China Basin but which fans nicknamed McCovey Cove in honor of the famed Giants slugger. It became famous during the splendid but suspicious late-career power surge Barry Bonds enjoyed, when he deposited dozens of balls in the water, where an armada of fans in kayaks and canoes jostled in hopes of catching one of his record-setting homers.

Balls still plonk into the Cove on a regular basis to this day, but to the disgust of the local fans, a large majority of those balls are hit by the opposing team. The Giants are rebuilding, glory days in the past.

They should talk to the Dodgers. They’ve been rebuilding since 1988, and have gotten really good at it.

But the Dodgers and Giants have the most famous rivalry in baseball, so naturally, the Dodgers were the visiting team in this story. And that’s part of the mix. If the Giants had been playing the San Diego Who Deys or the Cincinnati They Still Have a Team?, things might have been different.

The Dodger batter was named Max (“Munch”) Muncy, who kind of exemplifies Dodger luck. Muncy spent his first two years with the Oakland A’s, and he hit .196 (that’s really not good) and hit a total of five home runs, a total most team mascots could match. With a sigh, Oakland released him, and the Dodgers signed him, dirt cheap. In 165 games since, he’s hit 51 homers, hitting a respectable .269. For the Dodgers, it was a bit like ordering a Ford Focus and getting a Ford GT due to a mixup at the dealership. Team management blinked in disbelief but didn’t complain.

As you may have surmised, it was this self-same Max Muncy who hit a ball into McCovey Cove.

Now, the Giant’s pitcher was a fellow named Madison Bumgarner (“Mad Bum”). Thus the title of this piece. For those who were expecting some sleazy anal porn, I’m sorry, and Xhamster is that way. Enjoy.

Now, I know nothing about Bumgarner as a person. For all I know, he’s genial and even jovial, fun at parties, the sort of guy you like to have a beer with. But when he’s on the mound, he pitches with an emotional state that psychiatrists call “Having a large stick up his ass.” (OK, maybe a LITTLE anal porn…). He’s uptight, and a bit too tetchy for his own good.

A few years back, he had a verbal exchange with then-Dodger Yasiel Puig when he thought Puig’s bat flip following a moon shot was a bit too enthusiastic, and called him up on it. The Cuban Puig didn’t speak much English then, but picked up on the tone and gargled a couple of quarts of florid Spanish back at him. And it was ON, baby!

Puig probably wasn’t the best choice with whom to start a feud; he has made a cottage industry of trolling uptight pitchers, and from then on, whenever he faced Bumgarner, he did so with an amazing display of twerking, tongue flicking, bat licking and suggestive waggling of the eyebrows. Bumgarner, who really should have known better, was visibly seething at times. Dodger fans were delighted, Giants fans found their liberal values tested.

So when Muncy hit a Bumgarner pitch into the cove, it was probably his first opportunity to achiev that particular feat. He took a couple of moments to admire the flight of the ball. Bumgarner was unamused.

Muncy related after the game, “I hit the ball and then he yelled at me. [Bumgarner] said, ‘Don’t watch the ball, you run.’ I just responded back, ‘If you don’t want me to watch the ball, you can go get it out of the ocean.’”

As far as trolling goes, this was Harvard Lampoon level pitcher-baiting. “Go Get It Out Of The Ocean” was an instant classic. T-shirts were made, in Pantone 294 and with the word “Ocean” in Dodger script. Several Dodgers, including Muncy, gleefully wore the shirts during practice.

There is an unconfirmed report that Puig, now with the Cincinnati They Still Have a Team?, got a T-shirt and sent it to Bumgarner, but not before signing it, “From your good friend Puig. I like you.”

So this week the Dodgers and the Giants play again, this time in Dodger Stadium. The good news is that there are no large bodies of water near the park, and in fact nobody has ever actually hit a baseball out of the park. Maybe if the hitters imagined Trump’s face on the baseball…nah. I’m already in it deep enough, thanks.

Several outfits are selling variations on the “Go Get it out of the Ocean” Tees, and they are flying off the shelves. It seems very likely selling the Tees will be a major, if brief industry in the huge Dodger Stadium parking lots before each of the games, especially the one Mad Bum is pitching.

Now there’s two ways Mad Bum could bring this all to a grinding halt. One way is to go out and pitch a perfect game. Given that perfect games happen about once every 10,000 games, and Bumgarner isn’t as overpowering as he used to be, we’ll call that ‘Plan B.’

The other is for him to show up on the field pre-game wearing one of those shirts. Ideally, he would be wearing the very shirt Puig sent him, assuming a) that such a shirt actually exists and b) Puig didn’t taunt him by sending a shirt that is three sizes too small. Made sure the media notice. Maybe do an interview with a Dodger announcer while wearing it.

It would be self-deprecating and endearing. It would be bad for the T-shirt vendors, but good for Bumgarner and the Giants. It would nullify the original troll, and put Mad Bum up one.

Or he could go whack, um, somebody with a baseball bat. That would be a crowd-pleaser, too.

Nah. I would hate to see Mad Bum get shot. It would be superfluous. Muncy already nailed him.


Treason – Trump crosses the line—twice


Trump crosses the line—twice

June 13th 2019

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump said, “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

An incredulous Stephanopoulos then asked what Trump would do is the country in question was China or Russia. Would he take the information, or call the FBI? Trump blandly replied, “I think maybe you do both. It’s not an interference, they have information – I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI… but when somebody comes up with ‘oppo research’, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’”

The President of the United States just announced that he would be happy to let a hostile foreign power directly interfere with an American election. This despite the fact that he is very strongly suspected of having done exactly that during the 2016 campaign and is in an ever-deepening morass of investigation and scandal as a result.

He’s already been driven to claim executive privilege over documents already made public, ordered people to ignore subpoenas, and even tried to get the Supreme Court to rule that Congress could not investigate him.

It’s already far deeper and darker than Watergate ever was, and he’s learned nothing from it. He just announced to the world that he would do it again, and suborn his own country in order to get dirt on a possible opposition candidate.

We already know that Rudy Guiliani was planning to go to the Ukraine in order to get dirt, not on Joe Biden, but his son Hunter, to use as kompromat against Biden.

It’s obvious this sort of filthy and unpatriotic behavior is his game plan for the upcoming election.

Remarkably, some alleged Americans are already trying to excuse this. One guy on one of the cable yammerfests last night was arguing that proving intent was key to a successful prosecution of Trump, and that all his actions since 2015 didn’t include strong evidence that he maliciously intended to violate the law.

I hope the guy was talking about the conspiracy charges, where intent is key, since conspiracy by its nature usually involves criminal activity that hasn’t happened yet, or cover up actions that might be embarrassing. If he was talking about the crimes that Trump has openly and blatantly committed, then it shows how corrupt and morally dissolute some in the legal profession have become. It would show the chasm between justice for the rich (“Prove he intended to do any harm when he broke the law”) and justice for the poor (“Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”).

It came on the heels of something that was, if anything, even viler. His love affair with Kim Jong Un, the vicious despot running North Korea, is well known. I guess it’s part of some addle-pated effort to show that he has tamed Kim, and now that Kim is belled and leashed, they’re best of buddies. It’s not a very convincing performance, a middle-school performance by an alleged grown-up.

Back in 2017, Kim had his half-brother murdered in a Thai airport by two women who sprayed VX compound in his face. It was both grotesque and ludicrous. Two years later, it emerged that Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother, was on his way to meet with a CIA operative, and in fact was secretly reporting to the CIA.

For a President who welcomes interference by a hostile foreign power in US government, Trump was appalled that the US might interfere with North Korea’s government. When a reporter asked him about the reports that Kim Jong Nam was working for the CIA, Trump appeared to be caught flat-footed. “I don’t know, I have not heard about that.”

Then he said, “I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices.”

Apparently shaken by this horrid example of American perfidy, Trump continued, “I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un. I can’t show you the letter, obviously, but it was very personal, very warm, very nice letter. North Korea, under his leadership, has great potential,”

It’s difficult to gauge if Trump really wants to prevent US espionage against North Korea. He lies about everything, so there’s no particular reason to suppose he’s telling the truth now. But we can’t really know. He’s too random.

But for North Korea, his words provided considerable aid and comfort.

Now, here’s the thing. Back in 1950, when North Korea attacked South Korea, the two halves of the country promptly declared war on each other. The US came in on S. Korea’s side, as the Soviet Union and later China came in on N. Korea’s side. The US involvement was fig-leafed as being a part of a United Nations action. Since the UN Charter forbade the organization from waging war, they called it a “Police Action” instead. The death toll from this “Police Action” both civilian and military, all sides, came to well over two million people. So let’s not be stupid: it was a war. Period.

It ended with a cease-fire armistice in 1953, but there never was a peace treaty. South and North Korea are still at war, and the US, by terms of their own treaty with S. Korea, are at war with N. Korea as well. North Korea is considered an enemy regime.

The Constitution defines treason thusly: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

I’m pretty sure more than two people saw Trump prattle on about his good buddy Kim Jong Un and promise to never let the US conduct intelligence operations against him. Given his feckless disregard for American security and willingness to shaft his own people, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if Trump revealed the identity of the CIA people Kim Jong Nam was reporting to. You know he’s capable of doing such a thing. After all, he sent his thugish lawyer to the Ukraine to dig up dirt on a family member of a opposition candidate, called his own appointee to head the FBI a liar, and grandly announced he would commit the same felonies again in the next election. It’s no outside the realm of possibility.

But Congress can stop this traitor. They can do it right now, by opening formal impeachment hearings and putting the evidence of Trump’s disloyalty and criminality out where Faux News can’t sweep it under their carpet.

But they must act quickly. There was already a serious incident in the Gulf yesterday, two tankers attacked and set ablaze. Iran will certainly be blamed, and it was most likely the US was actually behind the attacks. Oil prices are plunging, and Trump desperately needs a big war in order to distract and exploit the American tendancy to rally round the flag when war breaks out.

Trump is not interested in America, and won’t mind seeing millions of Americans risk their lives so he can avoid prison.

Trump is a traitor. He needs to be tried for treason now.

Chernobyl – Stunning HBO Docudrama about nuclear disaster

[Note: Portions of this also appear in my review of HBO’s Chernobyl, available at Electric Review ]

The glowbugs aren’t going to be happy. Any time there is an online discussion of nuclear power, they show up, insisting that everything we think we know is a result of anti-technology hysteria and ignorance. The tone often is extremely condescending; I’ve been asked if I knew the sun was radioactive, or if I knew the difference between an atom and a molecule. Some are just trolls, others are there to try to massage the conversation about nuclear power, make it more industry-friendly.

I find them annoying, so I’m not entirely upset that they are consternated when something comes along, such as The China Syndrome, or more pertinent to reality, the Fukushima disaster, to mess with their cultish servility to the god of fission.

One of the more legitimate beefs the glowbugs have with the Jane Fonda/Jack Lemmon movie is that the accident happened because a water pressure gauge got stuck, resulting in a reassuring but incorrect reading. Lemmon gets suspicious and taps the gauge, which corrects, revealing the true reading, and at that point it is ON, baby.

Pretty silly, I agree, but that’s Hollywood.

The terrifying thing is that what happened at Chernobyl was nearly as silly. The control rods at the type of reactor at Chernobyl had graphite tips, and in a sequence of events very carefully described in the fifth and final episode, this led to a massive power spike when the system was put in emergency shutdown, resulting in instant vaporization of the coolant and precipitating an ‘impossible’ explosion.

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union was a nation in deep decay: not just the economic, industrial and military sectors, but in the leadership, which consisted of fearful, strutting groups of apparatchiks whose deepest instincts are to lie and downplay news that would upset the party leaders.

Comforting lies, when they become a way of life become a way of death. When the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant happened on April 25th, 1986, valuable time was lost from misinformation; that this type of reactor core could not physically explode, and that the emissions from the ruined plant were a hazardous but survivable 3.6 roentgens per hour.

High-end dosimeters were destroyed or missing in the rubble, so only the low-end ones could measure the radioactivity levels; and those maxed out at 3.6 roentgens per hour. The actual emissions were closer to 20,000 roentgens per hour. Between incorrect engineering theory and the mistaken readings, plant managers initially concluded that the core was intact, and that it was probably a hydrogen explosion. They dismissed highly radioactive chunks of graphite lying in the parking lot, used as cladding for the control rods, as being just charred concrete.

Lies that stem from ignorance, confusion and panic are understandable. As the catastrophe unfolded, the lies became systematic, deliberate, designed to protect a political system deemed incapable of error.

Another, similar plant in Lithuania, the Ignalina plant, very narrowly escaped a similar catastrophe in 1983, and had the people at Chernobyl been informed of this, they might have avoided the steps that led to the meltdown. Had the political system not intervened, the discovery of the graphic-tip design flaw would have been known to the engineers at Chernobyl. But it was classified as a state secret.

Even after people on the ground realized the enormity of the Chernobyl disaster, Moscow kept getting comforting lies from below for another couple of days. In another time and in another place, the national leader might have been hearing happy chirps about how Chernobyl was emitting isotopes of freedom. It’s a matter of blind luck that the meltdown didn’t reach ground water, producing a reaction that would have killed all chordate life forms for 600 miles around and permanently poisoning most of Europe and a large chunk of Asia, making them uninhabitable.

It wasn’t the first nuclear disaster in the USSR. In 1957, a reactor near a small town called Kyshtym had its cooling system fail and blew. Bad as the Soviet government was in 1986, it was even worse back then. The plant was dumping contaminated water and waste directly into a nearby lake. The government refused to acknowledge the accident, even as they slowly began evacuating towns in the area, some as long as two years (!) after the event. They eventually declared the exclusion zone a Natural Preserve (!) that was closed to the public, as it is to this day.

It came to light later that a secret city of some quarter million people, Chelyabinsk, was nearby, and heavily contaminated. In 1977 Soviet dissident and exile Zhores Medvedev wrote Hazards of Nuclear Power which mentioned the disaster and was subsequently derided, not only by the Soviet government but by western nuclear industry ‘experts’ (the glowbugs of that era). Medvedev then wrote Soviet Science, which provided irrefutable proof of the event. The Soviet government lied. So did the American nuclear industry and its government councils.

A statistical analysis made in 1997 revealed that the region irradiated by the Kyshtym disaster resulted in some 8,000 deaths from cancer above what might be expected. Medvedev’s first writing of the accident has anecdotal accountings of hundreds of people suffering severe radiation burns in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Some estimates put the death toll as high as 20,000.

So the response of the Soviet government in the Gorbachev era was actually an improvement of sorts. They held a show trial to try and blame the event on ‘operator error’ and Valery Legasov, in charge of dealing with the immediate aftermath of the disaster, told the stunned court of the design flaw. The Soviet government responded by ghosting him, leaving him his title and his office but entirely isolating him from all other professionals in his field.

He recited everything he knew on to audio tape and smuggled it out to the scientific community, and that’s the only reason we know exactly what went wrong at Chernobyl. The Soviet government quietly re-engineered the design flaw over the next several years in order to maintain their perfection and restore their virginity.

There are estimates that between 9,000 and 22,000 died as a result of Chernobyl. The official death toll remains 31, and glowbugs here dispute even that low number, clinging to an ideology that nuclear power is incapable of error and that anyone who says otherwise is clearly an enemy to physics. They must maintain their pure virginity, you understand.

There are hundreds of nuclear power plants around the world (including 11 surviving sister plants to Chernobyl) and that while they might be safe, they are not fool-proof, and people with vested interests will disregard inconvenient truths for comforting lies. I expect to hear a chorus of derisive disapproval from western glowbugs, with the industry flaks being contemptible and the sincere believers dangerous.

The western world is rapidly falling into a dangerous mindset of authoritarianism and ideological rigidity, not dissimilar to the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and Gorbachev. That makes the horrible potential toll of accidents far higher than they need to be, and HBO’s Chernobyl serves as a warning that we should maintain a deep, healthy skepticism about any project where politicians have invested power and prestige; if the news isn’t great, then they will start lying.

At your expense.

The Big Lie – How the Right Wing Controls Millions

June 1st, 2019

Robert Mueller appeared on TV and told the nation “If we had had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Watching it live, I didn’t think there was anything unusual in that quote. After all, he says the same thing directly in his report. Anyone who read the report…oh, right. Most of the members of Congress haven’t read the report. And they’re the ones responsible for acting on the information it contains. It’s a sign of the times when the best thing you can say about your Congressional representative is that he is too lazy and illiterate to function. But Mueller really didn’t say anything that wasn’t in the redacted version of his report. I’m amazed how many people didn’t know that.

One Republican did read the report, a Republican from Michigan named Justin Amash. He immediately declared that Trump should be impeached, becoming the first Republican to favor impeachment. He held a town hall in his district to inform his constituents of why he reached the decision he did, and to defend it. Not your typical Republican, most of whom avoid their constituents these days. He wound up getting a standing ovation from an initially hostile crowd when he laid out his case.

According to Brad Reed over at Raw Story;

In an interview with NBC News, Michigan Trump voter Cathy Garnaat said that she went to Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-MI) town hall this week to challenge his view that Trump should be impeached — and she got caught off guard when he directly quoted from the Mueller report to justify his views.

I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump,” she admitted. “I hadn’t heard that before.”

Garnaat went on to explain that none of the news shows she watches or listens to have ever gone into depth about the contents of the Mueller report.

I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report and President Trump has been exonerated,” she explained.

In an earlier incident of truth meeting conservatives, Bernie Sanders went into the lion’s den, a town hall on Faux News, and laid out his case for universal health care, a high minimum wage, free college, and a system of not-for-profit banks through the Post Office. Serenely confident that Sanders had only made the case that he was an American-hating Commie, the host asked the audience to indicate their displeasure with Sanders. They gave him a standing ovation.

Don’t be surprised.

The vast right wing conspiracy has been working for decades to section off a segment of the American population and essentially turn them into a cult, suspicious and disdainful of any outside information. In fact, the morning Mueller made his announcement, so damning to Trump, I was curious and looked to see how Faux News was playing it. Their header was “ “Special counsel makes rare public statement to resign, says team was unable to charge Trump” No mention of the reason why he didn’t charge Trump. Faux News viewers are ignorant, and Faux News spends a lot of time and money to keep them that way.

While Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has always presented a grave danger to western democracies, and is inimical to freedom and the non-wealthy, Murdoch is hardly functioning in a vacuum. For years, a nest of think tanks, blogs, radio networks, trash political “Christian” televangelists, along with corporations snapping up local newspapers, radio and television, have devoted themselves to being one seamless propaganda machine.

One favored way is social media memes. Prior to that, they were mimeographs and copies in their twentieth generation, passed around at bars and water coolers and in chain letters.

The method of transmission has gotten more sophisticated, but the propaganda tactics remain about the same.

I got one passed along to me the other day, and in a time when the Republicans are working to lie their way to success, it seems a really good example of the messaging used by them.

This one (replicated in full below) is putatively written by a family mother who is distraught because her children are supposedly being driven out of California by draconian policies promoted by Gavin Newsom, the rookie governor of the state.

I’m not worried about copyright infringement. It’s anonymous, which is an odd thing for a public letter to a political figure, and its actual provenance is open to considerable speculation. It may have been written by one of the stable of writers they keep at Heritage Foundation, or Regnery Press, or perhaps somewhere in Russia. It’s so ham-fisted I think it could be a Russian troll outfit.

I doubt very much the actual authors are going to step forward and demand credit.

The opening lines are unalloyed pathos: “The boxes are filled. The bags are packed. The hearts are breaking. My family is about to be divided, separated, perhaps forever. I wish you cared.” Oh, the heartbreak! Did any family ever suffer so? Why, this is as bad as the Trail of Tears, or the railroads to Auschwitz!

But it gets worse: these innocents, driven from California by the cruel whips of Governor Gavin, are just one of millions, perhaps even billions, being driven from California!

But there is hope! They are leaving the foul pestilence of the Golden State and headed for a shining beacon of hope: “The Real America”. She doesn’t describe this real America, but I have the impression it’s something like Pleasantville before the colored folks showed up and ruined it. It is, however, in a “southern state” where people show their patriotism by flying the Confederate flag. Apparently it differs from all of California in that it doesn’t have dog feces and hypodermic needles on the sidewalks. That right there eliminates most southern states.

The author cites a rise in communicable diseases, which while unfortunately true, isn’t climbing as steeply in California as it is in the south (CDC). Children are at grave risk, it seems, but again, the South, which the Polly Klaas Institute identifies as having 38% of non-family/kidnapping child abductions) has a far higher rate than the West (28%). It would seem our refugees are leaping from the frying pan and into the fire.

The author concludes the first litany of grievances by telling the governor, who had nothing to do with the imaginary complains, that “[Y]ou’re concerned that I might ask for a plastic straw.” Overuse and misuse of plastics is a growing crisis, one that will eventually kill more people than kidnapping, drug users, and Fresno combined. As far as I can tell, it hasn’t hurt anything except plastic straw manufacturers, but for the noble Republican princess writing this, it’s the cliché that broke the camel’s back.

The woman (or study group, or St. Petersburg sweatshop) bitterly blames Newsom for not caring about the middle class. Which is being destroyed in America, it’s true, but one can thank thirty years of Reaganomics and supply-side nonsense for that. Granted, California did inflict Reagan on the land, and we’re trying to live that down. But Newsom is continuing Brown’s policy of shifting the tax burden upward to the wealthy, and increasing wages. That’s how you build a strong middle class. You don’t get one by giving your pension and half your income to your employer and hope they’ll build a museum in your town or something.

California, the whine continues, has car thefts and car chases. And that it does, most assuredly. But her answer, which seems to involve locking up millions more people, has been proven not to work. At one point, California’s “tenth largest city” was the prison population, and all that did was breed gangs, hardened criminals, and organized crime. The author complains about the high rate of recidivism (61% in California, compared to 60% nationwide), but offers no solution beyond, “lock them up.”

Next on the laundry list of whines is taxes. Yes, California has high taxes on gasoline, sales tax, etc. Part of the problem is that millions of wealthy Californians are protected from property taxes and wealth taxes. That has changed in recent years, and California is catching up from decades of Republican “feed the rich” misrule.

And yes, California has a problem with homeless people. But again, Newsom didn’t create that problem, and has been working to address it for years. One wonders what the fictional author of the letter has done to address the issue. Besides putting an apartment up for rent by moving out, that is.

It goes on in this vein, an unending and self-pitying whine about how horrible California is, and how wonderful the South is. Gas is only $2.00 a gallon! According to the writer. Except that the cheapest gas in the country is Mississippi, nobody’s idea of paradise. California’s gas is $1.50 a gallon more than Mississippi’s, but California state taxes on gasoline amount to 35 cents a gallon. Mississippi’s is 18 cents a gallon. Obviously something else is at play here, such as price manipulation by the oil industry.

Why isn’t she just joining her family and moving? After all, there’s no reason for her to stay in California, and every reason to move. Doesn’t having to pick hypodermic needles out of her flip-flops and paying $1.50 because state taxes are 17 cents higher get old?

But the nature of this letter isn’t to portray a real situation. The woman does not exist. Her situation does not exist. Many of the items she lays at the feet of Gavin Newsom either don’t exist, or are things he has nothing to do with. They are blatant manipulation, with a glorious disregard for accuracy or truth.

The intent of the letter is to inflame, and arouse feelings of resentment against California, a state that has, since 2008, consistently performed better economically and socially than the rest of the country. It is a success story of liberal governance, and the right wingers must pump out endless lies to vilify it and make it look like one of their own disasters, such as Kansas or Wisconsin.

The article is written with scant regard for any truth whatsoever, and uses almost ridiculous levels of emotional manipulation to try to inflame the reader and shut down critical thought.

The right wing has been spewing this nonsense by the thousands over the past 40 years or more. One thing they did learn from the Nazis and the Communists was that propaganda is a powerful tool, if applied unremittingly and relentlessly.

The Cathy Garnaats of America—and there are millions of them—aren’t vile deplorables who take glee in Trump’s viciousness and contempt for American values. They don’t hear about that. Instead, they hear about how Trump is a victim of anti-American forces who hate and despise everything they hold dear. Today’s minute of hate is Meghan Markle, princess and wife of Prince Harry. She doesn’t want to meet with Trump in London this week, and so Faux News is gleefully leading a chorus on their site of racist and sexist abuse. The deplorables, little better than Nazis, love it. The cultists, usually possessed of a more human core, turn from the viciousness, but wonder how Markle could be so disrespectful to such a wonderful president. They really do.

They may have been born ignorant, as all of us have, but the right wing has used emotional manipulation and lies to keep them ignorant. Many, like Garnaat, need only be confronted by reality. Others will refuse to accept it and have a highly negative reaction.

The propaganda won’t end, because when you have to lie to the people to get your own way, they have to be big, simple lies, repeated endlessly.

But if Trump is indicted for his crimes in the House (which is what Impeachment is), the propaganda machine will break down in the face of a mountain of evidence, and won’t be able to prevent the Garnaats from seeing what is true.

In the meantime, read the piece attached. It’s a good lesson in finely honed propaganda, and a chance to hone your own reasoning skills.

Chico Republican Women


Chico Republican Women

May 20 at 10:11 PM ·


The following is an open letter from a friend of mine here in CA whose anger and frustration at the ongoing destruction of the state has boiled over. It reflects the feelings of so many people I know here, myself included. My friend would like this to remain anonymous but hopefully get widespread attention, so please feel free to share:

An Open Letter to Governor Gavin Newsom 5/20/19:

Governor Newsom,

The boxes are filled. The bags are packed. The hearts are breaking.

My family is about to be divided, separated, perhaps forever. I wish you cared.

Our wonderful daughter, along with her husband and their two young children has given up on life in California. The only place they’ve ever called home has become intolerable for them. They’ve found a new home in a southern state, far away from here, in the real America.

I’ve heard the story innumerable times- people leaving, or wanting to leave, what was once the paradise of the West Coast. Not so long ago, kids could walk down to the corner store, or to school, without their parents worrying about their safe return. No more.

You once could visit a neighborhood park, and not fear for your life. No more.

Walking across the street did not require careful examination of the pavement to avoid feces or used hypodermic needles. Now it does.

Illnesses are again being seen in this state that had been rare or non-existent until recently. Typhus, Tuberculosis, Mumps, Measles, Hepatitis A, B, and C are all here again. A worker on the upper floors at L.A. City Hall recently came down with typhus, spread by rats living in the disgusting conditions around the Civic Center.

But you’re concerned that I might ask for a plastic straw.

Your priorities for managing this state are crystal clear, and the middle class is nowhere near the top of the list. I learned in Civics class years ago that the primary job of government is to keep the people safe. What happened? When did our safety and well-being fall off the radar? Not too long ago, my daughter had her new vehicle stolen from her driveway, in the short time it took her to walk the kids to school. Someone was watching, waiting for them to leave. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

You release violent criminals back onto our streets to terrorize our communities, you proudly remove the death-penalty as an option, sending a friendly message to the worst of the worst, and you handcuff our law-enforcement officers, challenging their every move. Officers now must take an extra moment, perhaps just a second, questioning their training and best judgment, before using any amount of force to apprehend a violent criminal. When this results in another dead cop, and it will, the blood will be on your hands, sir.

A few weeks ago, we watched on television as a violent felon led police on a three-hour pursuit, destroying property and narrowly missing pedestrians and other vehicles. We saw him brutally beat his female passenger while driving close to 100 mph. Then last week, a murder suspect shot at police out the window of the car he was being pursued in. It’s a miracle nobody was killed. Turns out, both suspects were free on “early release” through AB-109, that you and other politicians (who all live behind walls, with armed security) forced upon us in the name of compassion. Where’s your compassion for law-abiding citizens, Mr. Governor?

And don’t get me started on taxes and regulations. The amount of money taken from us by this state is criminal. Just living here is expensive enough, but imagine trying to run a business and stay afloat. We have the highest gas prices/taxes in the country, and still our roads are a mess. I recently hit a pothole and the damage to my car was over $1000. We pay you enormous sums to manage the state’s affairs, yet people by the thousands sleep on our streets at night. Homeless encampments are everywhere, in neighborhoods we never imagined they’d be. And still, you want more. There’s a move now to weaken Prop. 13. No doubt it will pass. And I just read that you want to tax online sales now, too. Along with proposals to tax water, telephones, dairy products, fertilizers, health care, and more. But taxing those things will not affect the “super rich 1%”. They’re just more hits on the middle class. You Sacramento politicians have an insatiable addiction to other people’s money. But many citizens have had enough and are walking away.

Which brings me back to my family. They’re closing their business here. You’ll get no more of their hard-earned money. They’ve purchased a home in their new state, big enough for the four of them and a dog or two. Maybe even a horse. The kids will get a great education. They’ll be able to leave a window open at night, knowing that the criminals are the ones who are afraid- afraid of the police, afraid of the courts, and afraid of the citizens who exercise their right to defend themselves. Oh, and gas there is about $2 a gallon.

Somehow, they’ll have to survive without a Fantasy Train to nowhere, but I’m sure they’ll find a way to get by. Meanwhile, your tax base shrinks and Atlas shrugs. Soon the only people left here will be the very rich and the very poor. It’s almost as if you planned it that way.

And now, my family is broken. As are countless others. No more school plays, no more little league games. No more weekend breakfasts at IHOP or Thanksgiving dinners. I’ll happily burn a ton of fossil fuel to go visit them at their new home as often as I can. But, I won’t be there as an instant babysitter when needed on short notice, and I’ll actually notice their growth from visit to visit. I’ll pray every night for their safety and happiness in the years to come. And I’ll cry that I can’t hold them tight. I’m angry as hell, and I miss them desperately already.

But they’ll get no going away card from you and no apologies. You simply don’t care.

Name withheld.


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