Spring Trolls – Empty calories on the web

Spring Trolls

Empty calories on the web

April 28th 2020

On a day when Trump was suggesting people try treating themselves with bleach and disinfectants to avoid coronavirus, one self-purported Democratic activist showed up on my web page with a long article about how Tara Reade, the woman who has accused Joe Biden of digital rape, just had her allegations supported by a claim that her mother called in to some talk show in 1997 to discuss it. Now, you can have an honest difference of opinion on the veracity of Reade’s story. And if you believe her, then you can reasonably be expected to not want to support Biden.

But this post took a strange turn. “Voting Biden would just be replacing one rapist with another.” Well, neither Biden nor Trump have actually been convicted of rape. And that’s about all they have in common at this point. In Trump’s case, there are at least a dozen women accusing him of sexual misconduct, his lawyer went to jail for paying off women he sexually predated, and there’s that issue with his association with Jeffrey Epstein, child rapist and pimp. Equating the two just doesn’t work.

I clicked the link on the Reade story, and found myself at World News Daily. Given that WND is one of the trashiest right wing sites on the web, just about at the same level of Breitbart, it seemed a strange place for a Democratic Activist to be getting her information.

OK, so this one was a troll. The only question was whether this was a Republican Troll or a Russian Troll. It’s not a very important question, but it’s one where figuring out the answer can be amusing.

A Republican troll won’t respond to any post that points out that Trump is far worse than Biden. They’ll obsessively post that Biden is mentally impaired (“demented” is the meme this week), overly handsy toward women, and “a rapist” (not just “accused of rape”). But if you point out that the same pertains to Trump, 20 times that of Biden, you won’t get a response.

A Russian troll knows that Trump as a patsy for Putin has outlived his shelf life. But exacerbating the divisions Trump has created in the United States works out fine for Moscow, which wants the US to remain weak and divided. So he’ll cheerfully agree that Trump is just as bad, and suggest voting for some hopeless third party candidate.

But both sets of trolls are going to be resolutely focused on Biden, and specifically on smearing him any way they can. Team Trump, the PAC arm of the Trump election campaign, ran a series of “I’m With Joe” ads, purporting to be from a group supporting Biden. The “supporters” in those ads were luridly tatooed street gang members, scary-looking Black Panther types, and other racist and sexist memes.

It’s dishonest and racist and deeply vile, and it captures the spirit of Trump and his underlings perfectly.

They don’t care how stupid their memes actually are. One I came across this week was feigned outrage over the cancellation of the New York State primary. Fake Sanders supporters howled that “it was his only chance at winning!” One hilarious poster ignored my point, made three times, that in fact Sanders wasn’t running in that primary, having already suspended his campaign. I then asked if they supported Wisconsin making voters risk their health to defeat a fascist running for the state supreme court. The reply was “the guy was running for the federal court” which left me wondering what part of Russia he lived in.

The primary campaign is over, and Biden is the presumptive nominee. Between a “circle the wagons” approach by timid centrist Dems, and the bad luck of having a pandemic strike at just the wrong time which influenced voters to vote safe, Bernie lost, but he lost fairly. He has endorsed Biden, and Biden has graciously accepted. Hopefully Dems will keep the pressure on Biden to adopt more leftist policies and nominate a progressive for VP.

At this time, anyone claiming to be a Dem launching a vicious personal attack on either is almost certainly a troll, there only to disrupt and disorganize. We’re not talking about Biden’s poor stance on health care, or that he favored the death penalty until very recently. Those are very legitimate criticisms, and need to be aired. If Biden can’t attract leftist and progressive voters, he risks losing the most important election since 1860, and with capitalism on the ropes, he can’t afford to be seen as just another centrist corporate stooge. People will abandon him for more revolutionary forms of reform.

But watch the trolls. They are going to do and say anything: the best of them are willing to lie for the cause, the worst are just vicious prostitutes.

And from now until election day, they are going to be carpet bombing social media with their filth.

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Goldman and Gervais — or, how to deal with Morons.

Goldman and Gervais

or, how to deal with Morons.

April 25th, 2020

William Rivers Pitt on his Facebook page drew my attention to an extraordinary closing line in a column printed today in the New York Times. Ms. Michelle Goldberg wrote, “Chernobyl is now widely seen as a signal event on the road to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Coronavirus may someday be seen as a similar inflection point in the story of American decline. A country that could be brought to its knees this quickly was sick well before the virus arrived.”

As jarring as that paragraph is, Goldberg may have understated the comparison a bit. While noting that the government of the USSR did take responsibility for handling the crisis in the Ukraine, there was a greater element feeding the incompetence.

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, chairman, party leader and political center of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was largely kept in the dark about the severity of the accident at the Pripyat reactor for the first five days or so, as terrified underlings did what terrified underlings in all authoritarian regimes do when the shit hits the fan, and told their bosses what they thought the bosses wanted to hear, rather than what they needed to hear.

Gorbachev was neither a fool nor a narcissist, and once he was made aware of the gravity of the situation, acted swiftly and decisively to try to prevent the damage from further spreading.

We’ll never know within three orders of magnitude how many deaths resulted from the meltdown. Officially, 31 died. Unofficially, the toll may have been in the tens of thousands. There’s little doubt that between unheeded warnings (a nearby nuclear plant of the same design very nearly suffered the exact same catastrophe months earlier) and bureaucratic foot-dragging, the disaster could have been largely averted.

At the time (1986) the accident revealed that the USSR was a deeply dysfunctional state, putting self-preservation ahead of the body public. At the time, I opined that the USSR would be gone by the end of the century. It was considered a radical opinion at that time. The USSR collapsed just four years later, ten years ahead of my own estimate.

The USSR had a couple of advantages over Trump America. It was easier to conceal their mistakes. Gorbachev was not a fool, nor a sociopath. And the area directly affected by the meltdown was far smaller than the parts of America affected by the pandemic.

Gorbachev would have been gone within a week if he had ever appeared on state television to inform the Soviet public that he had heard that scientists were looking at treating radiation poisoning with aspirin, washed down with a litre of motor oil. Even in 1986, Soviet children got a better education than their American counterparts, and would have instantly deduced that the Premier was a) a fool and b) a liar and c) both. Even Izvestia and Pravda would have had trouble defending such a show, or even trying to excuse it.

In the US, subservience to the leader is a bit more pronounced in some quarters. It’s not surprising that GOP organs such as Fox and OANN didn’t try to challenge the remarks, and Brietbart, named for a dead right wing lunatic, tried to deny that Trump had said the insane things he said Thursday about treating the virus with disinfectant, bleach, and UV light. But the NY Times – yes, the same paper Goldberg writes for – wrote in a tweet, “At a White House briefing, President Trump theorized — dangerously, in the view of some experts — about the powers of sunlight, ultraviolet light and household disinfectants to kill the coronavirus.”

SOME experts? I defy the NYT to find a single expert that thinks injecting yourself with Lysol, drinking bleach, and/or sticking a UV light up your ass would be anything other than dangerous. This is the “balanced journalism” that the fascist right have used for years to convince Americans that economic absurdities are exactly equal to economic realities. Nearly half of Americans believe trickle-down economics is a good idea even to this day. It made a ridiculous moron like Trump possible, pretending his voice was the equal of any expert in any field.

Douglas Adams once wrote of a character who was so intellectually disgusted by the low-grade intelligence of the Western World that his character sealed himself off from it. Wonko the Sane resigned from humanity when he bought a box of toothpicks and found instructions for their use printed on the box.

Ricky Gervais, another English comic, came to a similar, if more immediate conclusion in March 2016, when he said, “Think about it: We live a world where there are warnings on bottles of bleach — we have to tell people not to drink bleach. In that world, Trump can be president,”

A quick glance at the John Hopkins university tracking page for the Covid-19 pandemic show that the US, with 3.2% of the world’s population, has 32.9% of the world’s known cases, and 26.7% of the world’s deaths. This is a country where, until very recently, 40% of the population believes that it was the best educated in the world, and had the best medical system.

The fact of the matter is far too many Americans wouldn’t know how to pour piss out of their boots if you printed instructions on the heel. Ignorance is actually considered a virtue, accompanied by loud sneers at experts and intellectual elites.

I wonder if the New York Times thinks some experts agree that ignorance is dangerous? I’m sure that they can find someone at the Times to write that opinion, although I can pretty much assure everyone that it won’t be Goldberg writing that.

Trump’s utter stupidity and the furtive efforts of his lackeys to hide the extent of the disaster is only a part of the problem. Encouraging stupidity, ignorance and disdain for science is another part of the unfolding disaster that may indeed presage the rapid demise of the US as a functioning country.

You aren’t going to eliminate the influence of idiocy by treating it as being one of several possible ways of dealing with the world and its problems.

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Undercovid Agents — Trump fiddles, tempers burn

April 18th 2020

I was looking at the images of the “Re-Open America” demonstrations. For the most part, it was what you might expect to see at any Trump rally; Q Anon crackpots, white nationalists, gun nuts, neoconfederates, sagebrush rebellion freaks, and the occasional Nazi just for seasoning.

But in a lot of the images, I also saw people who were wearing masks, or sitting in their cars, not waving political flags. The expressions were weary determination, rather than anger. They’re not angry as much as they are afraid. They have no jobs, they have no money, and in many cases, they have no food. They are the flotsam of an economy that has been living on the edge despite immense wealth, just to feed the unending greed of the rich. There was barely enough to get by. Now that is gone.

But they don’t care about the rich right now. They just want food. They need to pay their rent and send their kids to school. They miss the million little things that we all took for granted just six weeks ago.

Over the next couple of weeks, they will come to dominate the demonstrations. They won’t be out there because they think the virus is a commie liberal plot or because they want to stick it to the Man. They just want to live, and the certainty of hunger will outweigh the possibility of getting sick.

They are scared now, and feeling the first deep twinges of fear. In a few weeks they will be desperate, deeply frightened, and capable of anything.

The President is a psychotic authoritarian of the sort that breed in fear and rage the way maggots breed in dog droppings. If he manages to stay a figurehead to these people, the resulting unrest will make Crystal Night look like a Welcome Wagon party.

The only way to prevent that is to get these people food and shelter security first, and hope second. We can’t solve the problems they have had inflicted upon them, but we can alleviate.

We need to get food pouring into the cities, and available at no cost to the hundreds of millions of dispossessed. We need a rent jubilee until the end of the stay-at-home regimes. Pay their rents, pay their mortgages. Do so until the crisis passes.

If we don’t, our cities will be in flames within a fortnight. By the end of May, we will be dealing with mass revolt and even civil war. We are at the precipice.

Don’t expect help from Washington. Trump is a dangerous psychotic authoritarian who sees several hundred thousand dead Americans as an opportunity to finish staging a coup and ripping off the country, like his hero Putin, for trillions.

We’re going to have troubles no matter what. But what we do right now can avoid the worst. Support your local food bank with food and money. Urge your Congressman, no matter how useless he might be, to drop partisan games and work at saving us from a societal meltdown.

As for the virus itself, there have been some news stories this week that, if verified, will have considerable import.

A French controlled study of 130 Covid-19 patients revealed that treating the patients with hydroxychloroquine produced no discernible results. No positive response, no negative response. You might as well eat library paste. And in the wider population, hydroxychloroquine has some serious side effects.

The good news is that there is some evidence world wide that the virus has spread far more than previously believed. We’re not talking the half again or double the official numbers that many of us assume is closer to reality. There are reports that it may have affected 50 to 85 times the number of people as what we know about. Take this report with a large grain of salt; here in the US, the number of tests administered is nearing four million, a large enough number that epidemiologists are starting to rework their models of the contagion’s communicability (still at 2.3 K) and lethality (about 5%). But if it turns out there is a strain that is far more widespread that doesn’t get picked up by the tests (and there are two strains, Type I and Type S, that we know of, so a third is quite possible) then it might be our “cowpox cure.” It was known in the 16th century that those who caught cowpox were far less likely to get smallpox, a discovery that led to the vaccine that eventually eradicated smallpox.

But if there is widespread dissemination of a mild version, then it might lead to either herd immunity, or a vaccine. That’s why it’s potentially good news.

The scientific evidence we do have now doesn’t support the widely spread theory, but it doesn’t rule it out, either.

Now for the bad news. And I’ll start by saying NONE OF THIS HAS BEEN SCIENTIFICALLY SUBSTANTIATED!!! So don’t go running out the door screaming “We’re all doomed! We’re all gonna die!!”. Sure, we all are and will, eventually. But not today. And these reports are just that—reports. They might be anomalies. They might be overfevered imaginings of stressed out caregivers. And of course, there’s always the doomsayers, a crowd delighted by all the horrors of tomorrow. For those folks, I say, go ahead. Run out the door. Scream. Bewail to the heavens. Just remember to wear a mask and gloves, OK? Being annoying shouldn’t be fatal.

First, the reports are that in some cases, there is secondary and more permanent damage from the disease. Permanent granulations in the lower lungs, permanently reducing lung capacity. And weakening of heart muscles and arrhythmias may result, elevating the risk of an eventual heart attack.

Second, and this is even more disturbing. The disease stuff guys, the epidermals or whatever, are suggesting that the coronavirus may be the opening salvo of a long term auto-immune disease, such as lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis. This doesn’t even rise to the level of “reports”–it’s just conjecture, based on what relatively little is known about coronaviruses in general and Covid-19 in particular.

We still don’t really know shit about this disease, which is one of the reasons we can’t just “ride it out.”

People are going to take to the streets, either in service to a mad despot or just because they are scared and alone. If you are one of them take precautions, even if you think it’s a hoax. You may be risking more than the glamor of a 1 in 20 chance of dying a slow nasty death, or the 1 in 5 opportunity of spending 1 or 2 months struggling to breathe and feeling like absolute shit. You’re risking the lives of everyone near and dear to you, and may be risking a lifetime incapacitation if the rumors are to be believed.

It’s hard. For some, staying home risks starvation. But be brave.

Don’t lose hope. Never lose hope.

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America Burns — Trump makes it his own personal fire sale

America Burns

Trump makes it his own personal fire sale

April 16th 2020

We’re at the point where there are some faint glimmers of hope that the first round of the coronavirus pandemic might be cresting. New cases as a percentage of existing cases have dropped from 15% three weeks ago to just 5% now. New York crested, and Cuomo sent 150 ventilators to states that haven’t been overwhelmed yet. Social distancing has had an effect: back in early March, I estimated we would have 1.2 million cases by April 12 (it was just under 600,000) and between 10 and 20 thousand dead. Unfortunately, I was wrong in the bad way on that one: the death toll was actually 21,500.

However, America has been hit harder than any other country, due in part to the utter lack of a safety net, and partly because the Republican party expects every good American worker to risk his life so that no billionaire should ever have to chance the horror of becoming a mere millionaire. As a result, even as places like New York and California can see a light at the end of the epidemiological tunnel, colonies of infection are erupting across the red and mostly rural states. South Dakota, lightly affected until this past week, had 650 new cases erupt at just one meat processing plant which was under no orders to close down and felt little pressure to protect its workers.

Despite that, there’s a growing resistance from people who are tired of being locked down, which is reasonable, and believe that the disease is a hoax, or want to show the Chinese they can’t infect good Americans, or just want to stick it to the libs, none of which is reasonable.

Incoherence plays a major role in this. In Florida, pro wrestling was declared an “essential business” and allowed to continue business as usual. Pro wrestling. Yes, you read that right. But in Florida, and in most of the country, beaches are closed, even though usage of same is light this time of year. The resistance is also pretty incoherent, as you might imagine. Some of them just want to lock up any politicians they find annoying. Some just want to be able to go to the hairdresser again. I saw a video made by a well-coiffed sorority brat type who sobbed through a glittery blonde frenzy about how without decent nails and lots of good make up, she would have to compete with unkempt and possibly smelly farm girls for the attentions of the boyz. Now, good chance she was just taking the piss, but I took no chances; I suggested we help her out by sending her old “L’il Abner” comic strips as a fashion guide.

I suspect the resistance to shelter-in-place will grow, and as a result, so will the contagion. It’s hard to be sympathetic to these people because while they will find out that you can’t gaslight mother nature, the fact is they’ll also infect relatives, co-workers and friends through their foolishness.

But as all this is going on, we have Trump and his cabal of thieves who are exploiting this. They are encouraging people, and the dimmer state governors, to defy social distancing and get back to work. Avery Bundy and his gang of land-thief nuts declared that no phony government was going to stop him from his self-declared right to steal other people’s property. Various churches rebelled, declaring that Jesus would protect them from the virus. About once a week, I see an amusing article about how one of the pastors or leaders of these little cults up and died from—you guessed it—coronavirus. In Wisconsin, republican judges ruled that voters must cast votes and not delay the primary. Both the state Supreme Court and the federal Supreme Court disgraced themselves in this bald-faced ploy to protect a Republican incumbent judge, and in the hundreds of thousands, Wisconsins turned out to kick that fascist strutter off the court. It was perhaps THE bright spot in all of these. Americans are still willing to fight fascism, and to risk their lives to do so.

The worst part is the people who are defying the lockdowns out of simple desperation. The government response has been mostly pure shit, and many people are out of food, facing eviction, and utterly desperate.

It’s in the interest of the federal government to make this even worse. Trump is staging a coup against America. He reluctantly signed the stimulus bill, adding the signing statement that he felt free to disregard the language that forbade him or his pestilential family from profiting from the crisis, or other language that the government must account for where and how that money is spent. To that end, he fired the inspectors-general, administrative cops that oversee disbursements of funding for fraud or waste. He wants lots of fraud and waste, and he wants it kept secret.

He also is demanding that in the next stimulus bill, funding for the Post Office be cut and the Post Office closed. Never mind that the Post Office is vital; Republicans have wanted it shut down for years so profiteers can take over, and Trump wants it eliminated because without the Post Office, there is no mail-in voting, and Trump has openly admitted that if everyone could vote by mail, no Republican would ever win office again. It’s nice to know that even he acknowledges that most Americans hate fascism.

Now he’s threatening to close Congress if they don’t immediately approve all his appointees. He hasn’t read the Constitution; not only does he not have that power, but neither House can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other House. If Pelosi digs in her heels—and she will—Trump will have to force another Constitutional crisis to get his way.

If he does that, America is only weeks away from widespread revolt and possible civil war.

Between the pandemic and his own lust for power, Trump is hoping, if he can’t simply prevent voting in November, to at least make it so hard and so dangerous to vote that he can get reelected by the surviving members of his cult—the ones out protesting that Americans should bow to no sissy virus whut weighs less than one tenth what a good Amurrkin does.

So even though many other countries have peaked and are containing the virus, America has the wrong government, run by the wrong people, at the wrong time.

It won’t end well.

 

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Nacht der langen Messer — Trump has his Operation Hummingbird moment

Nacht der langen Messer

Trump has his Operation Hummingbird moment

The past couple of weeks, as America burned, Trump has been flogging a drug known as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) as a treatment for COVID-19. He has been obsessive about this in the face of thousands of scientists who have stated that there is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine has any affect at all on the SARS-type virus, but that it has a wide range of side effects, including, per wikipedia, “…altered eye pigmentation, acne, anemia, bleaching of hair, blisters in mouth and eyes, blood disorders, convulsions, vision difficulties, diminished reflexes, emotional changes, excessive coloring of the skin, hearing loss, hives, itching, liver problems or liver failure, loss of hair, muscle paralysis, weakness or atrophy, nightmares, psoriasis, reading difficulties, tinnitus, skin inflammation and scaling, skin rash, vertigo, weight loss, and occasionally urinary incontinence. Hydroxychloroquine can worsen existing cases of both psoriasis and porphyria.” Even by the rushed monotonic disclaimer at the end of all the drug ads on TV, that sounds pretty nasty.

Overdoses are even worse: “Overdose symptoms include convulsions, drowsiness, headache, heart problems or heart failure, difficulty breathing and vision problems.” There’s only a half dozen reported cases of overdoses in the US, since the drug, because of the side effects, is used mostly as a last-ditch treatment for RA, lupus and other auto-immune diseases. It’s main use is as an anti-malarial drug, something not widely needed in the West outside of London, where a mild version of the drug, quinine water, became a popular base for mixed drinks. London had a lot of lead in its air back then.

So for Trump to push this pill is fantastically irresponsible in the first place. Not just because of the threat it poses just by itself, but because people who have symptoms of COVID-19 may ignore standard treatments and seek out black-market versions of the drug. Those might range from sugar pills at $10,000 a pop to chemically active and highly lethal fakes. And for people who already have prescriptions to the drug, supplies of the real thing have already vanished because American medicine follows the profits, not the patients.

Even before yesterday, there was little doubt in my mind that Trump and / or members of his loathsome family had a stake in this, and stood to make big profits off a rush to acquire hydroxychloroquine one way or another. He had no interest in offering the American people hope (he already has a tower of self-serving lies that he broadcasts every day) and he certainly doesn’t have a clue as to whether the stuff would work or not. He’s seeking personal advantage, not national salvation.

Then yesterday he upped the ante in a way that buggered disbelief. Hydroxychloroquine, he proclaimed, could not only CURE COVID-19, but it could PREVENT it.

Prevent it. No need for those silly, ugly masks (and Donald would be caught dead in one, he has haughtily proclaimed). No need for social distancing. Open your business. Go to work. With these babies, you don’t have to worry about that pandemic hoax! Cures cancer and old age, too! Get yours today and eat a handful. In just a half hour, COVID-19 won’t be able to touch you!

Even by his inhumanly vicious, selfish, and stupid standards, this seemed utterly insane. There are millions out there who believe every word he utters, and are willing to fight and die on his behalf. They issue death threats against those who gainsay Donald in any way, and every so often one tries to commit mass murder on his behalf. Just last week a Trumpkin engineering a train in NYC tried to derail his train so it might plough into the Naval Hospital Ship that had just docked a short distance from the tracks. He felt using a freight train to sink a Naval ship with 5,000 on board was a good and appropriate way of showing his love for Donald, and Donald’s America.

These people are the ones who are going to believe Donald, and his vicious lie that hodroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19. By the millions, they’ll stop taking precautions, and by the thousands they will sicken, and cause others around them to become sick, as well, In the end, this could up the eventual death toll by tens and even hundreds of thousands. Mostly amongst the people who are his strongest supporters.

Trump is stupid and profoundly self-centered, but he does possess a low animal cunning. He knows that he is at a moment where he can permanently consolidate his power in the midst of crisis and confusion. He knows that it’s a make or break situation, and he can’t afford to have his more certifiable followers commit atrocities that might rouse the American people to arms.

2020 is, for him, what 1934 was for Adolf Hitler.

He’s a student of Hitler. For years, he kept a copy of “My New Order” by Hitler on his bedside table. It was, apparently, his notion of bedtime reading, and according to various bedmates of his, he was obsessive about reading it. For a man who normally doesn’t read at all, it was extraordinary, and should have been deeply disturbing. THIS, of all books, excited his literary passion?

Hitler had a problem in 1934. The brass ring was almost within his grip. But his followers, dogmatic, cultic, perfervid, and filled with inchoate rage, had become a potential liability. They had to be brought to heel.

So Hitler plotted Operation Hummingbird, Der Nacht der langen Messer, or, as we know it, The Night of the Long Knives.”

He only murdered a small percentage of his most loyal followers, claiming they were plotting against him. (And it’s the nature of cult politics that a few actually were.) The rest lived, he said, because they were loyal and true and would be richly rewarded, and most were incorporated into favored positions in the SS and other branches of the Hitler government tentacle.

It’s likely that Trump knows his advice will kill a large number of his followers. He probably has his excuses lined up: liberal scientists lied to him about the drug. Mexican cartels made fake and dangerous counterfeits. Obama told people it was good for them.

Amongst his followers, he can avoid culpability. That will be child’s play.

Besides, he’ll assure them that when the dust has settled, they will be found to be the loyal and true ones, and would receive rich rewards and become as On High in his vision of Heaven on Earth.

And they’ll believe him.

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