Solstice 2020 — Hope always rises the next morning

December 21st, 2020

This Solstice piece, like all the others I’ve written over the past twenty years, will deal with hope, always a central theme of the Solstice. But it’s going to be a darn sight easier to write than it might have been six weeks ago, when the outlook was still unremittingly bleak. However, now we see a map to the end of the pandemic, and the end of Trump.

I think it must have felt a lot like this in the autumn of 1944, when it became clear the allies were on their way to victory both in Europe and in the Pacific. There was still a hard slog ahead, and a heavy price to be paid before the final victory, but at least victory was in sight, and the future a lot brighter.

Hope isn’t hard to come by in this dark winter. We have a vaccine. We’ve had an election. Both represent turning points, arresting a dangerous plunge to mass death and horror.

We’re not out of the woods yet, of course. It may be several months before many of us get shots, and at least six weeks before we start seeing the terrifying wave of COVID cases finally begin to break. Even with the shots, a half million people in the US alone will be dead, and millions more—perhaps tens of millions—facing a life of permanent and sometimes crippling medical problems.

I won’t relax about Donald Trump until he is out of the White House and facing trial for his many crimes. The votes have been counted and recounted, the courts have ruled dozens of times, and the few remaining sane Republicans have agreed—Biden won by a huge margin, and Trump needs to leave.

And yet Trump apparently believes he did win, as do his followers—the more ignorant ones, to be sure. He’s ordered the Pentagon not to give Biden any briefings even as the country grapples with the worst security leak in its history.

It’s quite possible that Russia controls our nuclear weapons right now, and there is a suspicion that Trump is complicit, either proactively (setting it up to happen) or reactively (knowing it happened, and doing nothing about it.) Perhaps both. In addition to his deep corruption, cruelty and incompetence, it seems likely that Trump is a gleeful traitor, destroying the country that made him possible, for tawdry profit. He’s even trying to suggest it was China on behalf of his Russian master.

There are fears generated by this despicable man, fears that living Americans have never experienced before. There’s a small but finite possibility that by this time next year, we could be in camps, or fighting for our lives and freedoms in a contrecoup. It’s been 150 years since such thoughts have been anything other than paranoid drivel, and I would love it if I read this a year from now and think of my words, “Jesus. Cut back on the coffee, man!”

What I expect to see, a month from now, is Joe Biden taking office and working hard to be a wise and just president, facing down the daunting problems left by his predecessor. I hope to see the daily count of new cases dropping day by day, and hospitals regaining the ability to handle the influx of sick and dying.

2021 will be a year of recovery. The deliberate cruelties and viciousness of the Trump regime will be reversed, and wanton executions, desecration of national parks and selling of our children and our sick to for-profit entities will abate. We will regain control of our compromised cybernet infrastructure. Eventually we might enter stores, attend parties, hug friends and family without fear of it being a death sentence. The strutting Nazis who make up outfits such as the Proud Boys will be cowering under their rocks, licking their wounds and planning for the next time society is sick enough for their opportunistic moral sickness. The vile acronyms of the Republican Party, MAGA, 6MWE, perhaps even GOP itself, will be consigned to the dustbin of history, along with other such loathsome utterances as “Got Mitt Uns” and “The People and Party are One!”

We’ll always have conspiracy theorists, of course, but by this time next year they may be back in their accustomed position of providing amusement and some puzzlement.

People are free to believe whatever damnfool notions they want, as the saying goes. But they aren’t free to make it public policy.

Chemtrails? Moon Landing Hoax? Poison Vaccines? No such thing as COVID? Your opinions, your right. You can even hold public office with nutball beliefs like those, like the idiot I’m stuck with for my Congressman. But don’t try to make them beliefs WE must live by. We have the right to tell you to go to hell—and we will!

And yes, this includes religious beliefs. Most churches are just conspiracy theories with money.

Perhaps by next year I’ll be marveling that we are in a world where food, shelter, water, clothing, medical care and education are rights, and not something to be begged for from scowling billionaires. Perhaps we’ll be on our way to a world were both billionaires and hunger no longer exist.

Yes, these are scary times. Nobody’s going to dispute that. But these aren’t end times, and history shows that the brightest sunrises happen after the longest night. It’s times like these that lead to human renaissances. Our greatest eras followed the Inquisition, the Black Plague, Civil Wars and Hitler.

I hope by next year I can write pieces, including the Solstice letter, that don’t include politics. I miss writing about Iceland and Elves, Shackleton and Exploration, and other Solstice themes. Let’s resolve to get the miserable creatures of the right off our necks so we can live free and free from fear!

We will overcome the twin plagues of COVID and Trump. We won’t only prevail; we will prosper.

Don’t lose hope. Never lose hope.

The Jabs — Necessary rush on vaccines sparks concern

December 19th 2020

The vaccines for COVID-19 are rolling out. Pfizer has been out for 10 days, and the Moderna variation will be out next week. Between them, they stand to save millions of lives and protect tens of millions from debilitating aftereffects from this terrible disease.

A lot of people have concerns, and it’s not just limited to the anti-vax nuts. Normally a new vaccine gets five or so years of testing before it’s approved for use on humans, and vaccines specific to the coronavirus family of diseases—yes, there are many of those—are still an emerging medical technology.

So a lot of sensible people are watching carefully to see what sorts of side effects people are experiencing over the next few months. American testing of new drugs is a sad joke, since neo-liberalistic policies have created a situation where most of the testing is done by the companies that stand to profit from the new medicine. This has led to nightmares such as oxycontin, where the family-owned business testing the drug failed to notice it was as addictive as meth and twice as destructive.

If the Sackler family and Purdue were willing to ruin millions of lives for profit, then the motivations of the testers in a situation of genuine crisis have to be watched carefully. If millions of dollars can justify mass murder, then millions of lives can easily justify ignoring dangerous problems. Whenever politicians are under immense pressure to Do Something, they will, even though often as not it’s entirely the wrong thing.

So it’s reasonable to be suspicious. Sensible, in fact.

Vaccines have saved billions of lives over the past 75 years or so. They eradicated smallpox and all but eradicated polio and many other diseases that killed millions per year.

But like all medical treatments, they aren’t perfect, and don’t work for all people. People react differently, and there are many allergies out there. Should someone who is fatally allergic to eggs take the vaccine? Normally I would say probably not—most vaccines have ovalbumin in them since the killed viruses are grown in eggs. But as I understand it, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not contain ovalbumin or killed virus. Instead, they are based on “messenger ribonucleic acid.” (mRNA) which is a ribonucleic acid fragment that triggers the body’s autoimmune response to COVID-19. It’s a pretty new technology and early results are very promising.

But nobody knows if the immunity is permanent, or if it will work against the inevitable variations nature will provide, such as COVID-20, 21, 22, etc. (“19” refers to the year it was identified; my use of numbers was just to make the point that new coronaviruses show up all the time.)

While there haven’t been any legitimate reports of serious side effects, stay watchful. There are likely to be at least isolated instances, and we’ll all have to weigh the risks in the shots against the certain risks of the disease.

So watch the news carefully, especially foreign news as American news is mostly corporate masturbatory fantasies designed to sell ads. Sensible caution is in order.

Vaccines do have side effects that affect a lot of people. Most people have experienced one of the following from a shot: Injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. Nearly always, these are transitory, lasting less than a day, and harmless.

A certain number of people—hopefully in rare instances—will have more serious reactions. Widespread itching, rash, high fever, muscle spasms, or worse, go see a doctor immediately. But hopefully, we’re talking one in 10,000 people here. Hopefully less.

If your head falls off and rolls away into the gutter, don’t bother with a doctor. Call a friend who is already in Qanon instead.

But between the corrosive effects of social media and the large colony of howling hostile nuts on the far right, wild propaganda is already emerging.

This morning one breathless sort on Facebook claimed there had been “7 deaths reported during the Pfizer testing!” She kinda undercut herself by continuing, “and four of them were only taking the placebo!” Someone else pointed out that given the sample size, statistics made it even odds that six people would die during the course of the testing just because people are mortal.

Other wild claims making the rounds: the horrific pictures of gangrenous fingers and toes are real, and yes, they are well-known side effects of COVID. Blood clots form, causing necrosis. The chief of security for Donald Trump caught it, and wound up losing a leg and the other foot. I can’t vouch for every individual image you see, but yes, COVID can cause that, and a whole lot more problems. It is NOT “just the flu”. Over 320,000 people in the US have died from it, and about 30% of the 10 million or so “recovered” have long-term, sometime permanent health problems, ranging from the level of nuisances to completely incapacitating.

If anyone tells you they aren’t getting the shot because Bill Gates or George Soros wants to microchip you, turn about and walk away. Life’s too short to deal with delusional nuts.

This is going to sound heartless, but the people who say they won’t get a vaccine because vaccines are evil, or because COVID doesn’t exist, are doing us a favor. We’ll look back on it as “the great cull” and the average IQ of America will go up ten points.

But in the meantime, be cautious, and a little wary. Talk to people who know what the hell they are talking about, pay attention to the news, talk to medical people you know. You will have to play the odds a little bit—possible drawbacks to the shots versus possibly horrific drawbacks to getting sick.

But think first, react second.

The Dawn of Hope — No Hope for Don

December 14th 2020

The Electoral College held its vote today under some of the strangest conditions in American history. In some states threatening mobs gathered outside, hoping to intimidate the electors. In Georgia, some goofs presented themselves to the public as “alternative electors” and voted for Trump. In various spots, there were vigils held by people demanding that Trump be given justice by the courts, something he has already had over 50 times over the past six weeks. He lost every one of them, including to a large number of Trump-appointed judges, plus all three of Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court.

Of course, Trump WILL be given justice by the courts after he leaves office. But that’s different. If it’s bad for Trump, then it can’t possibly be justice.

The thing, dealing with the dead enders who still believe Trump has been given a second term, is that behind all the bluster and anger and moral rectitude is a level of servility that can’t be described. How DARE the voters defy the Lord? No, they didn’t defy the LORD! Evil forces twisted their will! Trump actually won by 600 million votes, because he is the Lord our God. But Satan is everywhere, in the voting machines, in the Republican states, yeah and verily in the hearts of all the judges and all the state governments that solemnly proclaimed Joe Biden to be a winner.

Surely there is a mistake. God can’t lose an election!

It’s one thing to see Republicans who believe they have a right to rule. They are rich, or at least well-connected, and throughout human history the rich have always assumed they had a right to rule. It’s why human history, by and large, is pretty fucked up. Wealth doesn’t buy wisdom or forbearance or a sense of justice. It just buys hangers-on willing to maintain the illusion of such things as they gouge the people.

Trump supporters, by and large, are in the bottom 90% of American income. They are, by definition, a small percentage of that 90%, but they are noisy and arrogant and sometimes violent in defense of a man whose openly stated talent is the ability to cheat and steal. Yes, Trump supporters, that includes you. Trump’s personal history is littered with the corpses of his supporters. That won’t change.

Trump supporters either prop their belief in that wastrel on either absurdities (“Trump will take care of us!”) or flat out ridiculosities (“Trump has earned the respect of the world!”)

They’ve been drawing in the wagons over the past few weeks as more and more of their illusions are shown to be delusions. Liberals didn’t control the vote. If they did, Mitch McConnell would be long gone, and they would have had huge majorities in the House and Senate. They didn’t even control Georgia, where both Senate races went to runoffs next month which will determine who controls the Senate. There was no fraud, and even Trump’s own lawyers admitted there was no evidence of fraud. China didn’t rig the election. Nor did Hugo Chavez or the Canadian government.

A lot of Republicans had already spun off from the party over the past 12 years as madness enveloped the party. Charles Koch is said to have regretted forming the Tea Party, the font from which much of the madness in today’s GOP flows. The joke making the rounds is that “A moderate Democrat is a Republican who realized just how bat-shit crazy his party had become.”

This brings us to a fabulous creature known as the Oozlum Bird. The Oozlum bird, when startled, will take off and fly around in ever-decreasing circles until it manages to fly up its own backside, disappearing completely. The behavior of the Oozlum bird has been famously used to describe the ever diminishing realities of paranoids and cultists as their views of the world are put under pressure by the steady application of facts.

The Oozlum Bird, from “Carry On Up the Jungle”

Trump has basically already flown up his own ass and vanished at this point. And a lot of the party, including the state A-Gs and pitiful congressionals who voted to support Paxton’s ludicrous effort to have Texas nullify the votes of four other states are finally conceding that yes, Biden did win the election, although quite a few are snarling that as soon as some evidence that
Biden stole it does materialize, they’ll be right back in court.

Meanwhile, they’ve declared war on the GOP and Fox News, which tactically makes as much sense as trying to force the oxygen out of the room you are in.

The right wing trash including the outlaw bikers and the Nazis who have been threatening public officials and roaming the streets of Washington DC and Portland looking for Jews, um, Antifa to beat up are starting to notice they don’t have the support of the people, and without that, they are nothing.

It’s all over but the shouting, and that will go on for quite some time, but for all intents and purposes, the Oozlum bird known as the Trump movement has vanished with an effervescent, if somewhat smelly, pop.

Reigny Night in Georgia — The Trump Dump Continues

Reigny Night in Georgia

The Trump Dump Continues

December 5th, 2020

Trump is in Valdosta, Georgia tonight, still insisting he won and the Democrats cheated. Yes, in Georgia, where the governor, Brian Kemp, is one of the most notorious election cheats in America. Between 2010 and 2018, he purged 1.8 million names from Georgia voter rolls (about 18% of the total population of the state, and in a state that has gone red since 1976, the majority were Democrats. What are the odds that a party that makes up about 30% of the population could result in 12% of the names being purged? That’s over a third of the Democrats in the state! Quite a few of the names were reinstated when it turned out the individuals involved were not dead, in jail or fled to the Maldive Islands. He also managed to prevent between 55 and 85 thousand votes from being cast in 2018, when he was both one of the candidates for governor and the guy overseeing the election. Most Democratic voters, of course.

I laugh at the bozos running around saying Kemp stole the election. Certainly he tried, but it was FOR Trump, not AGAINST him.

This, supposedly, is the evil genius who stole the election for Biden in Georgia.

So if you’re Donald Trump and you think this man stole the election from you, what do you do?

Why, you go to him and secretly ask him to steal the election back! Makes perfect sense, right?

According to the NY Times, “He began the day with a telephone call with Gov. Brian Kemp, ostensibly to offer his condolences to the governor about the death in a car accident of a young man who was close to Mr. Kemp’s family.”

Nothing like exploiting a personal tragedy for political gain. This is the sort of vileness that makes Trump such a fine humanitarian in the eyes of his deplorable followers.

Maybe Kemp was confused, and thought Trump was the Democrat and Biden the Republican, and he was just being loyal to his party. Just a silly typo on one memo, and once Donald convinces Kemp that he’s the Republican, Kemp will flip the Georgia vote and Trump will be King of the Confederacy?

Turns out that Brian Kemp wasn’t interested in committing an act of treason so egregious that he would be at serious risk of being seized by an angry mob and thrown into a dumpster and set on fire, so he politely demurred. He did, however, make a point of leaking the conversation to the press.

The White House declined comment, which was a curious stance for a White House to take when a governor from the same party says that the president in effect asked Kemp to commit several felonies in order to stage a coup against America. Granted, if they did deny it, only the ignorant morons who still support Trump would believe it, or at least pretend to believe it.

The Washington Post did a survey of Republicans in Congress and found that 27 of them admit that a) Biden won and b) should be President on January 20th. Trump’s response, in part, explains the cynical cowardice of the GOP; he demanded the names of the renegades who admit Trump lost the election. In a hilarious response, NewsMax celebrated the spineless dishonesty of Republicans with the headline, “222 Republican Congressmen Won’t Say Biden President-Elect.” OK, granted, Newsmax is a trash right wing website and nothing more, but they don’t realize that come 2022, Democrats will be using that headline to show how morally and ethically bankrupt their Republican opponents were in this time.

Kemp didn’t have authority to audit the vote, let alone override the slate of electors, and I’m sure that entered into Kemp’s calculations. If he did have such power, he would have groveled to Trump and screwed the country. He’s just that kind of dirtbag.

Trump did what he always does in this sort of situation: he lied. “Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing,” said Trump. “Stop it very easily.”

Well, you know, Republicans have rigged the vote against Republicans, so there’s no point in voting, and be sure to go out and vote in the Senate run-off races next month.

It’s fun watching Trump screw Republicans because he’s having a hissy-fit. Really, I could watch that all day. I don’t have any sympathy for the Republicans Trump is now attacking—most are corrupt, venal, amoral scumsuckers, no better than Trump himself, and they created this monster for their own gain.

The trouble is, if you hire certifiable lunatics to do your dirty work for you, eventually you lose control of them. And sure enough, we have a party civil war now, crazies against fascists. May they do one another great harm.

I fully expect the extremists supporting Trump to try something awful between now and Inauguration Day. Blow up a school, maybe, or try to arrest the Supreme Court, at least the ones who aren’t religious nuts. Trump seems to be putting stiffs in the Pentagon with an eye to paralyzing the incoming Biden administration, or perhaps to force the Pentagon into an ill advised military action, such as a wag-the-dog operation in Iran, or a fuck-the-libs operation in Portland Oregon.

It will (most hopefully) fail, and that will be the end of the Trump movement aside from some whirling nuts in the right wing sections of the web.

Some part of the GOP might survive, but it is tainted with Trump and won’t escape it.

Further, if Biden is humane, determined, competent and compassionate, the GOP will find their usual mix of ersatz moralizing and declamations of fiscal irresponsibility no longer work. Most of America is fed up with that bullshit after four years of craven Republican silence under Trump, and won’t have it.

Keep the countdown going. Forty-six days until Inauguration Day.