The Flare: Lights Out, Folks

The Flare

Lights Out, Folks

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

April 28th, 2018

In my fictional future universe that provides the background for my novels, I have an early 22nd century event that is referred to simply as “The Flare”. The sun emits a mighty burp, and emits a coronal mass ejection classified as X44, roughly one half the strength of which the sun is capable. This hits planet Earth squarely.

The northern lights are not only visible at the equator, but visible in daylight above 80 degrees north. This direct hit destroys vast amounts of the electronics, and immediately kills or incapacitate roughly ten million people, those unlucky to be using cybernetic implants at the time. The ensuing chaos and damage result in the Vast Depression, which lasts nearly a century. Combined with global warming and other misfortunes, by the 24th century only a billion people are alive, and they tell one another lurid tales of kitchen appliances going mad and killing their masters during the flare. On a more rational level, cybernetic technology is non-existent, and while computers still exist, society isn’t as reliant on them as before the Flare.

Not only is this something that can happen; it’s something that will happen. We had such a solar storm hit Earth in 1859, called the Carrington Event after Richard Christopher Carrington, one of two astronomers at the time to observe it. The entire telegraph system went down, and wires and batteries shorted, causing numerous fires. That storm was estimated at X42, about one quarter the size of the X44 monster from my story.

An X20 would be enough to wipe out half the world’s electrical system and most of the computers. The sun has had X20 bursts in 1972, 1989, 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2011. Fortunately, none of them hit Earth squarely.

It’s only a matter of time.

For now, we’re about as safe as we can hope for: we’re approaching a minimum on the 11 year solar cycle, during which big CMEs are less likely—not impossible, just less likely. And there is speculation that the sun is going into a “Maunder Minimum”, an extended period of solar peace that might last for the better part of a century. The last such was from 1645 to 1715. Some of the Climate denialists have been celebrating this, pretending that the half-a-degree centigrade drop in global irradiation will somehow obviate the greenhouse gas-propelled rise of 3-5 degrees presently forecast. Well, that’s why they are called denialists. But even with the twin minimums, the possibility remains. You’re ‘safer’ in much the same way that you are less likely to die in an auto accident at 60 miles an hour than you are in one at 90 miles an hour.

I know a fellow who is a watchdog for public safety, primarily fire (always a major concern here in the west), but also other natural and man-made disasters that might befall us, and he’s recently been trying to get some sort of government response plan set up for a possible electromagnetic pulse (EMP). He’s worried about the sun, of course, since CMEs can produce EMPs world-wide and do several trillion dollars in just a few seconds. It put the lights out over wide areas for hours in 1978 and 1989, and those were near misses by (relatively) moderate CMEs.

There’s a second thing that can put the lights out, and that’s human agency. Nuclear weapons can create EMPs, but only a millionth of what the sun can produce. The effects would be somewhat limited, and if you were the target of such a device, you probably wouldn’t have much time to enjoy the EMP before the hydrogen bomb exploding over your head resulted in an RUD, or Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly, of your body.

However, there is malign human agency that can put the lights out, for months or even years. I even mentioned it in a piece I wrote a few weeks ago during a period of higher-than-usual political tension: “If in the next few days, we have an electronic meltdown in which the Internet, power grid, and banking system all shut down, then it’s safe to assume that Vladimir Putin just declared—and probably won—World War III against the United States.

It’s rumored that several nuclear powers have nuclear weapons that can be set off in low Earth orbit, and while there would be no blast damage, the EMP could affect electronics over several hundred square kilometers. To that end, the Pentagon has “hardened” most of their communications, protecting them against such, and, it’s claimed, the Russians have war planes that actually use vacuum tubes, which are resistant to the damage an EMP can cause electronics.

Of far greater consequence is the possiblity that malign entities can hack and shut down computer systems, driving the electrical grid, banking records, nearly all communications and systems controlling dams, sewer system, traffic and hundreds of other vital infrastructure systems into an electronic brick wall, possibly destroying them.

It’s possible that World War Three won’t announce itself with bright blue nuclear flashes, or sudden outbreaks of smallpox in major cities, or horrific gases causing thousands to drop, convulsing, in the streets. No, it may be something as simple as a power black out. We often experience those, of course, and don’t think much of them unless they last more than an hour or so.

If you run into a buddy who lives “off the grid”–solar panels, Tesla batteries, satellite for his TV and computer, and he’s complaining his Internet is gone along with TV, then you might assume war has broken out.

In my story, the real damage comes in the months following the flare, when humanity is suddenly trying to feed and water itself with 19th century technology, only there’s five times as many people as that technology could support. And the money’s no good, because it was vaporized along with the computer systems. Only a few million die during the Flare; and virturally none who weren’t wearing electronic implants. But billions die in the six months following, in the chaos and shortages caused by the sudden collapse of our electronic systems.

That public safety fellow is right to be worried about EMPs and their close cousins, cyberattacks. Both can do untold damage, and may announce themselves with nothing more dramatic than your stereo suddenly stopping and your car engine dying.

There’s not a lot you can do to prevent either, but if you want to have something after the events, learn how to build a Faraday cage. They’re pretty simple, really. And consider getting off the grid as best as you can. If you are in a major city, get out. Take survivalist train, cache supplies somewhere you can get to without cars or other transportation. And best of luck.

Stormy Weather — Trumping the Elements

April 16th 2018

We got through a weekend that I had been awaiting with a fair old bit of dread. Yes, we attacked Syria, but apparently managed to do so in a way that didn’t spark a general regional war, let alone a thermonuclear war with Russia. Tactically, at least, the missile strikes apparently hit the intended targets, resulted in no casualties, and of America propaganda is to be believed, set the Syrian chemical production of such weapons back by months.

That the US exercised such restraint is down to a fellow named Mad Dog Mattis. If that alone doesn’t illuminate what lunatic times we live in, I don’t know what would. The Hunter S. Thompson Memorial Temperance Society, perhaps?

Trump, like far too many Americans, believes the way to earn respect and cooperation from people is by bombing the shit out of them. History has endless examples of how well this worked: Britain’s surrender to Germany in 1941, North Vietnam’s surrender to the US in 1967, and Iraq’s decision to abhor and abjure any fanatical Islamic groups in 2005.

We managed to get through the week without the world’s two main nuclear powers deciding to show us their love and concern by incinerating us. We aren’t out of the woods, of course, but we managed to step past a land mine in an awfully big mine field.

But as Kathleen Parker over at the Washington Post noted, “The Dogs of War are Howling.” Trump is still frantically searching for a way out of his scandals and know Americans go all glassy-eyed and subservient if there is a good-sized war to distract them. Israel and Saudi Arabia still want the US to come in and destroy countries they don’t like so they don’t look like the bad guys. And Putin is still playing his long game, backing Assad and Iran and very much aware that his puppet president in Washington is imploding.

There’s a lot of people who are skeptical that Assad conducted the gas attacks earlier this month, and they make a good case. Assad simply has nothing to gain from such attacks, and a fair bit to lose. There’s no sensible set of events that could result in a positive outcome for him.

Nonetheless, we know the attacks did occur. The most obvious evidence is the victims themselves; 43 dead and several hundred hospitalized. Because it is easy to detect and can be done so with ammonia, we know for sure that chlorine gas was used. We suspect Sarin as well, but UN and other western agencies have been blocked from testing by Assad and the Russians.

Why the Russians? They have nothing to gain other than weakening an ally who was already a political liability (Assad) and strengthening the hand of their other ally in the area, Iran. And we know Putin doesn’t hesitate to use chemical weapons to further his aims. While making pro forma denials, Putin is usually pretty cavalier about such use, because while he doesn’t want to take responsibility for such ploys, he doesn’t mind reminding Putin’s enemies that Russia will be coming for them one day. Wipe your door knob before turning, beware people in London with umbrellas, and don’t drink the tea.

I think Putin was behind the attacks. He stands to gain, and it matches his MO. He needs to be careful, though: despite what American and Israeli propaganda claim, Iran is steadfastly opposed to the use of such weapons and he needs Iran.

On the home front, things were equally chaotic, although with the redeeming feature of being a whole lot loonier.

It’s a helluva note when you have one scandal in which a presidential candidate’s fixer paid off a porn star to keep her mouth shut and that’s just kind of a sideshow. Another scandal has the president in a public pissing match with the FBI director that he fired for refusing to obstruct justice on his behalf, and each are calling the other morally unfit and stopping just short of calling one another traitors to their country. In today’s America, that’s a side show, too. The two, combined, sound like a bad 1950s torch song by some night club knock-off: “Stormy Daniels” by James Comey. Thank you, folks, I’ll be here all week.

In the background, the Mueller investigation is ticking away quietly. Think of the scene in “A Quiet Place” where the egg timer begins ticking. That’s what it feels like, and you just know something interesting is going to happen when the ticking stops.

The main event this week is the Michael Cohen saga. Cohen is described as Trump’s ‘personal lawyer’ although he matches the description in much the same way as Godzilla is a Formula One racer. He’s often described as Trump’s ‘fixer’, and he fixes things in much the same way that the Vet fixed your cat.

Trump’s other lawyers, many of whom are actual lawyers, are fighting like hell to keep Cohen’s records (including, supposedly, tape recordings) out of the hands of investigators.

The court overseeing this had some reservations about whether Cohen was acting in the capacity of a real, actual lawyer, or that of a Mafia torpedo, so they asked him if, since he was a lawyer and presumably had a client list, he might produce it.

Consternation ensued.

Cohen’s lawyers admitted he had three clients. Three. Just three. One was Donald Trump, a client he shelled out $130,000 for, mortgaging his house in the process, in order to shut Stormy Daniels up. I don’t think they taught that in law school. They sure don’t teach it in business school. Mike, the client is supposed to give you the money for your services, and not the other way around.

Another client was Elliott Broidy, a real jewel who had an affair with a Playboy Bunny, knocked her up, and gave her $1.6 million to take care of the matter as she saw fit. Oh, and to shut her up. Guess who the money funneled through.

The third client didn’t want to be identified, but the Judge in the case promised Cohen a lollipop if he showed the District Attorney where the third client touched him, and he fessed up. It was Sean Hannity, Moral Oligarch of Faux News.

If they ever make a movie about Cohen’s life (with an abridged, “R” rated version for commercial sales) they are going to have to call it “Dances with Douchebags”.

In the meantime, it’s believed that the State of NY, as a result of the Cohen raid, now has, among other things, Trump’s tax returns. And his nuts, assuming he has any.

Yes, we survived this week. But swirling chaos continues.

Operation Wag the Dog

Operation Wag the Dog

Is Syria being Bombed Because Trump has Bombed?

April 13th, 2018

Events transpired today that mean the Mueller investigation matters much less than yesterday; Trump’s fate is sealed even if he fires Mueller tomorrow. He will face criminal charges, and in all likelihood will go to prison.

The State of New York announced that a criminal investigation is ongoing against Trump’s fixer, the very criminal lawyer Michael Cohen. Evidence came out today among other things, that Cohen was lying when he said he never went to Prague to negotiate with the Russians about the so-called “Pee Pee Tape”-he snuck in over the open German border so it didn’t show up on his passport. Why would he lie about it if not to try to make the urinating hookers go away?

Apparently he recorded a lot of his conversations with Trump, an Alexander Butterfield moment like the one that effectively destroyed the Nixon presidency.

Oh, and we’re bombing Damascus. Trump went on TV, looking and sounding really presidential, a baboon in a tuxedo, and talked about how Assad was an awful, awful man who gassed his own people, men, women and children.

Assad is an awful, awful man who gassed his own people, men, women and children. That’s pretty hard to dispute. But then, our old ally Saddam Hussein Assad was an awful, awful man who gassed his own people, men, women and children, and look how the American response to that turned out. American reactions by both Bushes killed more Kurds (note: NOT “Saddam’s own people” and they get quite pissed when you pretend that they are) than Saddam could manage, even armed with the very best poison gases America could make. As Mark Russell noted, “We know Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. We kept the receipts.”

The atrocities were real. The American response was hypocritical, violent, and counter productive. They were even greater atrocities. Is was a crime against humanity under George HW Bush (“Highway of Death”? That ring a bell?) and even worse under George W. Bush, who staged a mass carpet bombing of a major civilian center so it would look impressive on CNN (“Shock and Awe”).

Did killing over half a million people bring back a single one of the Kurds that Saddam gassed? Remember, more of them died from American policies than Saddam could ever imagine.

It’s not going to be any different this time. In fact, it may be far worse.

You might give either of the Bushes credit for at least having some human reservations about what they were doing, and simply didn’t imagine how bad attacking a weak desert country 6,000 miles away could be, both for the country in question and America. Maybe they did think they could get rid of Saddam somewhat bloodlessly. They may have been vicious and corrupt, but they were at least human.

We don’t have any such assurances with this President, soi-disant, who is an utter sociopath.

I felt a chill watching him emote about the horror of chemical attacks—he doesn’t care. He wouldn’t hesitate to conduct such attacks himself, given the opportunity, I’m sure of that.

Trump just sees this as a last ditch way of avoiding the final collapse of his presidency and his long criminal career.

The most immediate concern is the Russian response. There’s 8,500 Russian troops in Syria, staunchly supporting the Assad regime. Iran has people in there, and they, too, are Russian allies.

Are Putin and his stooge Trump exchanging knowing winks as America spends a few billion dollars on what amounts to Kabuki warfare (now with real casualties!), or is Putin taking this in in a cold rage, wondering how his monkey on a stick got so out of control?

The UK and France got roped into this. Prime Minister Theresa May is an imbecile, and the Tories need a crisis to keep their minority rule in Parliament going, but their hatred of chemical warfare is real, and valid. Emmanuel Macron considers the use of chemical weapons in Syria a “red line”, a crime against humanity. He also may be a strong force to avoid escalation, since he is actively coordinating with the Russians.

Given their own history with such weapons, Britain and France are probably honest in their response. And may work with Mad Dog Maddis to try and keep Trump and the Porn ‘Stache from Hell from blowing things up into WW3 under the notion that American actions don’t have consequences. Both have the notion that bombing people will make them respect them, a notion of which any Londoner can disabuse them.

The Pentagon says that they are being careful to let the Russian know what areas they might target, so there’s that, at least. Of course, the Russians might be passing that information along to Assad immediately, but then, we’re trying to avoid an armed confrontation between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers. This presents little risk to American bombers, as Syria has negligible air defenses. Trump wouldn’t be attacking them if he thought they could hit back; that’s just not his style. It’s what he does through sheer incompetence and a desire to move the focus off his myriad scandals that scares me.

I predicted major crisis by the weekend, which required absolutely no clairvoyance on my part. Any person with a three digit IQ saw it coming.

What none of us know is what comes next.

Paulie Five Fingers As President — Holy Crap

April 12th 2018

Back around the turn of the century, I did a series of humor essays revolving around a character named “Paulie Five Fingers.” Paulie, not to put it too indirectly, was a mob boss, a Tony Soprano. He was sleek, vicious, and engaging.

I actually did know someone who referred to himself as “Paulie Five Fingers”, but the reality is a bit disappointing; the real-life Paulie is a model of probity, a paragon of virtue. I wrote the pieces in the first person, and I was a lot more noble and courageous than I am in real life: the real Zepp would be whimpering and wetting his pants wondering why Tony Soprano had decided, not only to befriend him, but to bestow lavish gifts upon him.

I hit on the notion of Paulie suborning the legal system by becoming a part of it. In “Paulie, DA” I had the following occur:

Paulie: “There is business requiring my attention here. I am about to become the new DA of your illustrious county.”

Me: “DA? District Attorney? You’re about to become the District Attorney?”

“You should not take such a tone of voice. If you were not my friend, I would think that perhaps you were questioning my qualifications for the position.”

“Well, I know you know court procedure like a Dershowitz. But aren’t you usually, um, facing the district attorney in those cases?”

“That is often the case. But it came to pass that I observed trials of several petty larcenists and other minor players in the world of crime lately, and I observed a most interesting thing.

“In this low-level courtroom in New Jersey, I noticed that the state-appointed defense attorney was a drab, a pitiful, cringing little guy who clearly was some hippy liberal type who just barely beat the bar exam and clings to existence in a low-paying, dead-end job. Scuttling and brow-beaten, he all but apologized to the court for wasting their time on defending clients such as his.

“The Assistant District Attorney was sleek and well-fed, serene, confident, exchanging understanding amused glances with the judge as the defense attorney went about his menial tasks, barely bothering to learn the name of the accused, but merely reciting the crimes, secure in the knowledge that little of his time would have to be devoted to presenting actual evidence. It was like watching a polling station where a ten-term incumbent congressman is facing a challenge from some unknown third party weirdo.”

OK, the story was funny, and it was a lot of fun to write.

But for fuck’s sake. I was joking! It was meant to be satire! I didn’t mean for it to become a guide for Donald Trump!

James Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty,” leaked today, and amongst all the stunning claims in the book according to the Guardian, “The former FBI director James Comey denounces Donald Trump as ‘untethered to truth’ and likens the president to a mafia boss.”

“Holy crap,” Comey writes, “they are trying to make each of us an ‘amica nostra’ – a friend of ours. To draw us in. As crazy as it sounds, I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye, the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family.”

The White House as “Our Thing”. The mind reels.

Or at least, it would, if we already hadn’t been exposed to 16 months of criminal bullshit and a mafia mentality from this White House.

I can only hope, in the cold light of reality, that this son-of-a-bitch of a president ends up rotting in prison, and soon.

Comey writes, “I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and the truth.”

Of Trump’s now famous demand over dinner at the White House in January 2017, “I need loyalty”, Comey writes: “To my mind, the demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony – with Trump in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man’.”

Yeah. “Holy Crap.” That about covers it.

I concluded “Paulie DA” like this:

“Paulie, given your career…”

“Please do not be vocally explicit.”

“Given your career, don’t you see this as a travesty?”

“Travesty? Zepp, you treat me so poorly sometimes, what am I going to do with you? You heard my description of the present dynamics of our judicial system. It is what the people want. It is what the people need. It is, one way or another, what the people will get.

“Believe me, my friend, given the present state of American justice, there is nobody in the country better qualified to administer it than me.

“I’ll be the best district attorney you ever saw, and exactly what the people deserve.”

Fucking Hell. I was being a sarcastic asshole. I didn’t mean it!

Why Ryan Quit – Besides Going Home and Starving His Granny, That Is

Ryan’s long-rumored retirement was announced today, surprising a few people but shocking nobody. Rumors that he was going to quit had been swirling since the tax bill was passed.

Everyone is assuming that he quit because of the pending electoral catastrophe the Republican are facing, and he’s planning on getting a grotesquely overpaid position with one of the more rapacious corporations and watching from a sunny dacha somewhere as his former country collapses like a World Trade Tower. Given his general Randroid viciousness, that’s not a bad guess.

But it seems to me that he’s playing a longer game. I’m guessing he still wants to run America by his own Randian principles, and is angling toward doing that.

Resigning by November divorces him from his own tax bill, and the fantastic damage it will do. Trump, in his narcissistic mania, was more than happy to take credit for it. Ryan has worked his heart out to make Ryan’s life-long plan to turn America into a thin scum of John Galts heaving atop a sea of impoverished and dispossessed peons. He knows people will be in a murderous rage once they see the results, and he’ll be more than happy to blame Trump and attack him for the vast deficits that he’ll claim are why Americans are impoverished.

If that strikes you as fantastically cynical and self-serving, then you just don’t know Republicans.

Ryan might spend the last six months before the election leading the impeachment of Donald Trump. There is an electoral tidal wave coming, and Ryan is smart enough to know that if he positions himself as “a mainstream Republican” who is trying to undo the damage Trump has done, he might improve his standing with the public, along with that of his party, by destroying the monster he helped to create, and pretending to fight the economic ruin he devoted his whole life to creating.

The reason this might not work? Trump, who is far too erratic and volatile, and has far too much power he can misuse. He might destroy everyone’s plans, even those of his fellow sociopaths.

Crunch Point

Crunch Point

Will Putin and Trump Save Us?’ He Asked Sardonically

By Bryan Zepp Jamieson

Well, folks, we’re at the Crunch Point, I think.

If in the next few days, we have an electronic meltdown in which the Internet, power grid, and banking system all shut down, then it’s safe to assume that Vladimir Putin just declared—and probably won—World War III against the United States.

Yes, I’m absolutely serious. The events of the past 48 hours have convinced me that we are right at the edge of a major war (e-W 1?), a domestic coup d’état, or just a general swirling chaos that might be the worst option of the three.

Obviously, I hope to hell I’m wrong. Maybe by next week I’ll be saying, “Well, saner heads prevailed”, or perhaps we’ll still be in a period of tense crisis and we’re all still waiting for the hammer to fall.

If you haven’t heard, several things occurred all at once, and that leaves me gravely concerned.

Israel has been slaughtering Palestinian protesters along their Green Wall, and as is usually the case, Israel is deploying first-world military weaponry against people armed with rocks and knives. Israel is also believed to have conducted a bombing raid in Syria. They claim they are stopping Iranian encroachment. In the meantime, the Russian-backed Assad regime conducted a gas attack that killed at least 40 and injured dozens more, mostly women and children. The attack was so vicious, and such an egregious violation of international law, that Trump actually criticized Vladimir Putin by name for his complicity in the gas attack. This is about like Pinnochio biting Giuseppe. Trump went on to promise a strong reaction within 48 hours, and Putin, in turn, promised ‘grave repercussions’ should Trump bomb Syria.

There’s only two reasons Putin would piss on Trump’s head like this. Either he has decided his puppet has so marginalized himself that he’s of no particular use any more, or he’s prepared for war with the US, and thinks he can win it. Since he can’t win a conventional military war, it means he has something else in mind.

And Netanyahu is behaving like a mad dog who has slipped his leash. He’s behaving like he thinks neither of the superpowers can rein him in.

The other crisis erupted today. The FBI raided the offices and domicile of Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, and seized his records relating to Trump and the Russians. This wasn’t done by Mueller’s office; according to the Guardian, “Stephen Ryan, a lawyer for Cohen, released a statement that said: ‘Today the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients.’ He did not name Trump.”

It’s very rare for police to seize client’s records from his lawyer. Usually attorney-client privilege invalidates the legal standing of any such records, making them inadmissible. The only exception is if there is prima facie evidence of conspiracy between the lawyer and client; in this case, that would be Cohen and the President of the United States. The materials seized include documents relating to Trump’s relationship with the Russians, and the Stormy Daniels thing, although the latter is just a side show.

Trump called it “an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.” In effect, he has declared a state of war between the US and the FBI, and presumably the Southern District of New York.”

That’s scary. Trump usually engages in hyperbole, and usually doesn’t mean most of the shit he says anyway, but in this case his back is obviously against the wall. The offices of the probes, both at the state and federal level, have strong evidence of conspiracy involving a nation America may be at war with next week. Trump maybe be facing more than conspiracy, RICO charges, fraud and emoluments clause violations; he may be facing charges of sedition, and even treason.

We have a dangerous cowardly sociopath who has his back against the wall, which makes him extremely dangerous.

We have a dangerous determined sociopath who clearly thinks he has us by the balls and is ready to make his move. That makes him extremely dangerous.

And we’re caught between the two.

We may get through this OK, but I doubt that after this week, the world will ever be the same again.

An Early Night: Why I Hate Daylight Savings Time

Creative Commons

Looking at the Trump administration this past week, I feel like I’m in a runaway locomotive that is heading at full tilt toward the side of a mountain in which someone has forgotten to carve a tunnel. If you aren’t frightened right now, you should be. This is even scarier than Nixon’s final week was.

So let’s talk about Daylight Savings Time. But don’t worry: there’s method in this madness.

Daylight Savings Time, or what we as kids called “Summer Time” has become deeply unpopular, and a majority of Americans would like to just get rid of it altogether. There’s even scientific evidence that the self-inflicted twice-a-year jet lag leads to a loss of productivity, and an increase in heart attacks and strokes, especially in the spring when the clocks are moved forward. It’s just one more irritation in a world filled with irritations big and small, and of course the government, having made it an annoying waste of time (literally), will do nothing to alleviate it.

When I was a kid, Daylight Savings Time was great. It came at a time of year, late April, when the last of the dust and gravel from the winter had vanished from the streets, the tulips were topped by fat buds with hints of the colors to come, the days were warm(ish), and suddenly, magically, you had time for three more innings of baseball after dinner. It marked the end of Unlocking and the beginning of true summer. It was a glorious event. It was Summer Time, and it was special.

The first week of October marked the beginning of Locking. The leaves were beginning to turn, the evenings were crisp, the mornings chill. It was time to put away the toys of summer. Thanksgiving and the Grey Cup were only weeks away (this was Canada, after all) and the NHL would be starting soon. Locking had begun, with the promise of the winter to come, and it was right that the evenings would darken, softened by the extra hour of sunlight on school mornings.

The time shift, which began was a need by plutocrats to squeeze more work out of us, meshed with the seasons and our moods. It was almost organic, and gladdened our souls. People set their clocks ahead and smiled at the warm days to come. In fall, it heralded another welcome transition. People moved their clocks back and settled in to get cozy.

In the 1970s there was the APEC crisis, and Congress decided to extend daylight savings time in the vain hope it would save energy. It didn’t, and eventually the crisis passed, making the point moot, but Congress wasn’t about to admit they were wrong and set it back to where it was.

Another, smaller energy crisis struck in the Oughts, and the Congress, now mostly twisted and broken minions of twisted and broken plutocrats, could think of nothing better to do to deal with it than extend DST again, this time from the second weekend in March to the first weekend in November.

I remember early March. It was just barely light when I awoke, and when washing my hands in the kitchen, I would look at our neighbor’s north-sloping roof, hoping to see gaps in the snow cover where the eaves would appear. At least the giant icicles of February had fallen. The trip to school was a slog, wet cold winds, rain or snow, or both. It was the rotten part of late winter, where the white ice had melted from the streets, old man Campbell had shut down his rink because the ice was too rotten for skating, and the berms were crunchy foul nightmares of black gravel and automotive soot and dead things caught by the plows. “Summer Time” began, not only before the snow had melted, but before it even stopped snowing. The pussy willows, the bravest harbingers, hadn’t even budded yet. Worst of all, one’s mornings were slammed back to the latest sunrises of the year, the hopeless dark of a mid-winter morning. School began at first light, a phenomenon of which everyone was already heartily sick, having gone through it in early January.

The end of DST is an even more meaningless. Evenings are already dark and cold, the leaves have all fallen, and as the cold and dark encroach, we are tormented by the false gaiety and emotional blackmail of the Mass of the Christ Commercial. Suddenly, it’s dark before dinner, and the faint gray light of November mornings are no consolation. Saying goodbye to summer is like grieving for your great-grandfather who died twenty years before you were born.

The time change has changed from an accentuation of the seasons to just another bloody pain-in-the-ass regulation foisted on us by a corrupt and uncaring government.

Is it any wonder people have learned to hate Day Light Savings Time?

There’s been a spate of articles lately about how people are depressed an alienated, crushed between the millstones of runaway capitalism and a corrupt and twisted government.

And now we see the end game of the fascistic notion that society should serve the economy, rather than the other way around. A man whose only qualification for office was that he was a good thief is disintegrating before our eyes and threatening to take us with him. The inevitable political implosion is here, and the economy is threatening to follow suit. The media each day reflect how, like the time change, the foundations of society have completely lost relevance to our human needs.

Of course we are depressed and frightened. Any sane person would be.

I think we’ll muddle though, and I’m sincere when I write that. But that’s my own optimism, and that’s all it is. The only thing backing it up is “Well, we’ ain’t dead yet.”

It’s a mean time in our lives, the bleakness of dead leaves in the gutters and a swirl of snowflakes mocking the dying lawns. And now, suddenly, it’s dark, far too early.

Set your clocks, and hope for the best.

Kneeling Against Authority

When I first came to America at age 14, I was told that it was a lot like Canada and England, and I wouldn’t even notice the difference. Just a few words spelled differently and football has four downs, is all.

After a month, I was still trying to navigate the strange currents of southern California society. The paper had no mention of my favorite football team, the Ottawa Roughriders, or even the CFL at all. Weather reports indicated that Canada apparently got no weather. The whole country was blank. England apparently didn’t exist. One kid tried to get me to give him twelve cents for a dime, apparently thinking of the British system. He punched me when I told him in Canada it was ten cents to a dime, just like here.

A month in, I walked into my first American classroom. Because of the British and Canadian educational systems, I was the youngest kid in the class by a full year.

The classroom wasn’t all that different. There was a picture of George Washington instead of the Queen, and the walls had images relating to the teacher’s topic: in this case, history. So instead of Wolfe versus Montcalm or Henry VIII, there were images of Abe Lincoln and John Glenn and so on.

The only thing different was the flag. Classroom flags were sedate little 18 inch affairs, pinned flat to the wall. Canada usually had two—the Red Ensign and the Union Jack. But they were just part of the background decoration.

THIS flag was on a pole with a gold eagle on the top and gold fringe, and was taller than I was. I figured maybe it was used in history lessons in some way.

The teacher strode in, and everyone took their seats. Then the teacher made a ‘stand up’ gesture that looked like a conductor asking his orchestra to sound like a scalded cat, and all the kids stood up, put their hands over their hearts, and started chanting at the flag.

I watched, utterly dumbfounded. Nobody had told me about this. I had stood up when everyone else did, and after a few seconds put my hand over my right lung. Left-handed, you see, and since I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason, I just used my dominant hand.

The teacher had noted my unstylish clothing and leather satchel and figured me for a furriner, German, maybe or Swiss. The next day he handed me a mimeographed sheet. “Memorize this,” he said.

I read it with growing perplexity. “I pledge allegiance…”

Um, to the flag? What?

I took it home, along with a light load of homework (no Latin!) and memorized it. And then realized it wasn’t for me. A newly-minted atheist, I didn’t want to say “under God”, and just omitting the phrase seemed inadequate. Especially since the whole thing felt ridiculous, anyway. All these people, chanting earnestly at a piece of cloth in the corner. It seemed like something out of wartime Germany, not to put too fine a point on it.

So I got the salute sorted, and stood respectfully when the others got up, but remained silent.

The teacher noticed.

“Didn’t you memorize the Pledge?” You could hear the capital “P”.

“Yes sir, but I’m not comfortable reciting it.”

He hauled me off to the Principal’s office, and my Dad was called. He came in about a half hour later, and fortunately, the Principal knew the law. We agreed I could remain silent, and it was enough that I stood respectfully. I didn’t even have to salute if I didn’t want.

The teacher didn’t like it, but had to acquiesce. He settled for picking on me for answers, and if I didn’t know, might say something like “You need to know this if you ever want to be an American.”

I was lucky in one way: my classmates never picked on me about it. A year or two later, when Vietnam was clearly falling apart and authority was being challenged, things might have been different.

I never have recited the Pledge, not in over 50 years. And I still think it’s ridiculous.

So when Colin Kaepernick dropped to one knee for the national anthem a year ago, I agreed with why he did it for a number of reasons, some personal, some not.

The first was his principal motivating reason: police brutality. That problem hasn’t gone away. Over a thousand Americans—the majority of them African American—have been killed by police this year. Just yesterday I read, in quick succession, stories of a deaf man who was shot to death by police as neighbors screamed at the officers that he was deaf and couldn’t hear them. Another man took seven bullets for turning and walking away from a cop. The cop hadn’t detained him, and the video suggests that the cop found it suspicious the guy wanted to avoid him. Another guy was kicked half to death for having an epileptic seizure. He lived, but he’ll know better than to have any involuntary neuromuscular spasms in front of his community’s protectors and defenders. There’s been a lot of unrest as cops, clearly guilty of murder, get acquitted all around the country. A rage is building.

So Kaepernick’s grounds for protest are real, and valid, and unfortunately, have not changed.

Trump, pandering to his racist base in Alabama, attacked pro footballers who refused to stand for the anthem. He said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

Trump managed to hit on the issues of the rights of employees and other workers, and freedom of expression and freedom to protest. And with every step, he managed to squelch a fresh turd.

Le Bron James called Trump “a bum”. LeSean McCoy called him an “asshole”. Stevie Wonder fell to both knees in protest. Dozens of players on other football squads knelt for today’s anthem. Coaches, managers and even owners linked arms in a show of solidarity with the kneelers. Pittsburgh’s squad elected to stay in the locker room until the anthem was played. It has finally begun to show up in baseball. The SF Warriors decided to forego the ‘honor’ of a White House visit. The protests have even reached that most reactionary group of players, pro baseball.

Kaepernick’s mother, in a great American moment, responded that she was proud to be the bitch Trump was referring to, and proud of her son.

What Trump doesn’t understand is that you simply cannot order people to do things in the name of freedom. Or symbols. Or because {patriotism, religiosity, or fear}.

If someone orders you to stand for freedom, you should consider it your right to kneel if you want. Or sit. Or lie down. Or walk away.

If someone orders you to salute freedom, feel free to keep your arms at your side.

George W. Bush once declared that “Freedom is on the march.”

He was wrong. Free people do not march. They may decide to march, but they don’t do so at the order of the President.

Trump does not represent freedom. He represents what people fought and died to protect their freedoms from.

If you agree with Trump, you have that right. But ask yourself just whose freedoms are being protected by ordering people to obey symbols of authority.

If you’re fine with your answer, feel free to obey in the name of freedom. That, too, is a freedom you enjoy.

But don’t demand that others share your servitude. You don’t have that right, and others are free to ignore you. And Trump, they can even defy you.

Weapons of War: Time To Uphold the Second Amendment

Feb. 24th, 2018

By now, you’ve probably heard that there where four Broward County deputy sheriffs in the immediate vicinity of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas last week. There was the on-duty security officer, and three more cops who got there while the shooting spree (all four minutes) was still going on. They didn’t go in, and it wasn’t because they were all suffering from bone spurs, that infamous affliction that has waylaid the most renowned of American war heroes.

They didn’t go in because facing an AR-15 was certain death, and would not save a single life. As long as the shooter had his weapon of mass destruction going, there was little or nothing they could do. Only an abject idiot would chant that the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. In this case, it’s like saying the only way to stop a bad guy with fragmentation grenades is good guys with whiffle bats.

A big part of the problem is that an AR-15 isn’t just a sidearm. It’s a weapon of war, designed to create maximum lethal casualties in the shortest possible amount of time. To get an idea of just how different these vicious weapons are, read this article:

I used to think that the NRA, the main proponent of unlimited gun fire, was just a mouthpiece organization for gun sellers.

But it’s just as easy to promote .22 rifles, or 9mm sidearms. The NRA is pushing weapons of mass murder. Even gun companies have to realize that this is a strategy that would eventually blow up in their faces. And thanks to the survivors of last week’s attacks, it has.

There’s several elements that put the motivations of at least some of the NRA leadership into clearer focus. First, nearly half the guns in the US (some 320 million nationwide) are owned by just 3% of the population, and by an even more disproportionate ratio, the weapons of mass murder are in the hands of that same 3%.

Second, it’s reported that Russia used the NRA to launder some $25 million as a conduit to influence the US elections in 2016.

So you have an absolutely mad policy designed to give a small private army weapons to conduct military sieges with, and it’s allegedly being financed, in part, by a hostile foreign power.

Some of the NRA—and their benefactors—are preparing for a civil war. They want a small but dedicated cadre who will be willing to kill thousands of their fellow Americans if push comes to shove, or the country just gets rid of a corrupt and criminal incompetent president. They are fascists, and they are preparing for war against America and the American people.

The kids leading the revolt against this are facing fierce headwinds. Take the people who accuse them of being ‘crisis actors’ or who are paid to feign outrage over what happened at their school. (Stop and think for a moment about the sort of mind that assumes that one can only be outraged at the murder of friends and children if one gets paid for it—that’s the sort of moral cripples speaking on behalf of the NRA). The ones who accuse the school of faking the attack are exactly on the same level as child pornographers—they exploit and harm children for their own personal agendas. They are on exactly the same level. When your cause is twisted and evil, your hireling will be twisted and evil.

There is a way to contain these murderous people, and while we can’t get rid of this neo-confederate army, we can drive it deep underground, and make it a lot more difficult for them to use our children for target practice, and our freedoms to destroy us.

The Second Amendment has a subjective clause, one that the NRA hates so much that they left it out of the inscribed quote of the Second Amendment that adorns the lobby of their main offices.

It reads, in full: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It’s time to take the Second Amendment literally. It doesn’t guarantee the right of arms to every individual; it guarantees the right to bear arms to every member of a well-regulated militia. The amendment doesn’t even specify state or federal militia, but I would strongly prefer seeing it as a uniform federal requirement for owning a firearm.

As a gun owner, a mandatory requirement would be enrollment in a federal militia. This would entail an agreement to put in six training days per year, a requirement to let the militia know the exact number and nature of the firearms owned, and a log kept of the use of each weapon.

Anyone using a gun in the commission of any crime would be subject to military justice. Anyone in possession of a gun who has not joined the federal militia should be required to hand in their weapon, or face military justice for illegal possession of a firearm.

Exceptions would pertain to law enforcement officers, and members of state militia, although both sets would face military justice in the event of malfeasance.

It would effectively end the ability to stockpile arsenals for the purpose of making target practice of schoolchildren. (It’s a chilling note that there were at least five instances since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas where students with similar arsenals were planning attacks. Nobody knew they had these arsenals, and the only reason they were caught was because the boasted of their plans on social media, or to friends. There may be hundreds more like them out there, waiting their turn.)

Finally: the militia will determine what guns are appropriate for use. Firing rate, muzzle velocity, and range are all factors the militia can use to determine if a weapon is appropriate. Since the role of the militia is to protect the public and preserve the peace, weapons of mass destruction such as AR-15s would not be appropriate.

The contempt the gun nuts have for our liberties and our lives ends here.