Sunday, May 15, 2022

Ten Dead In Buffalo

Chickens, Roosting

Oh, Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really -- pressure, and time.
     -- Ellis Boyd Redding (Morgan Freeman); Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Racism is part of the fabric of American society. Our system was built to automatically, unconsciously, reserve and protect power for Caucasian males at almost any level of society. Cultural assumptions are like that. If you're White, you're soaking in it, breathing it, benefiting from it. 

Class is also part of the fabric of America. Even a poor, Cletus Red-Cap who knows he's poor also understands The System has been arranged and maintained to his benefit. Because he understands that -- like America's wealthy, the Owners -- he's White, and male, too.

But among a White majority, The System is built to reserve and protect power for a small percentage: the Owners. Every poor Cletus Red-Cap knows that, also: It's Chinatown, Jake.

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Story-telling and Imagination are part of the human experience. Some stories draw on tropes that are DNA-deep -- monsters in the dark (devils, vampires, aliens), magical powers; glimpses of the sacred and the profane; fear and hope. 

Stories are shared now, globally, instantly, through social media and mass entertainment. Fox, Google, Facebook, Twitter; all harvest information about their users to manipulate them, sell advertising -- and influence public consciousness on a societal level. Look at Cambridge Analytica, at the UK and Brexit. Look at the 2016 and 2020 U.S. elections.

And, when imagination is mixed with politics, and boundaries between Stories and experienced, verifiable reality are blurred -- you end up with millions of people believing that stories of monsters and conspiracies they see on social media are objectively real.

Obligatory Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant

They believe a national election was stolen by Ballot Mules. That Sandy Hook was a hoax. That JFK, Jr., will bring Trump back to rule us all. That America is being stolen from its rightful White population by Non-Whites, supported by demon-possessed creatures: Liberals; Soros and the Clintons; LGBTQ+, Antifa. That Whites are being "cancelled". 

They believe that "we are at war with our government" (as Limbaugh used to say). They believe in themselves as the real victims. 'Hillbilly Elegy' said so. The Murdochs' media implies it, daily.

They believe acts of brutality and gun violence have no cause beyond Operator Error -- "just some crazy guy" -- because guns don't kill people; only other people do.

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Points of pressure and division in America, created over 400 years, have been cracking for decades and the tempo of the fracturing is increasing. Some points of division are kdue to legitimate, long-standing demands for historic, social and economic justice. Others result from attempts to destabilize American society and government.

All of it is happening against a background of global climate change -- rising temperature, sea levels, food shortages, pandemic disease. Authoritarian and fascist political movements are also rising -- Russia's government among them. Russia has brutally invaded Ukraine, and the mystic vision of its dictator-leader boils down to Make Russia Great Again.

The 'stable' Post-WW2 world my generation grew up in is gone. But what could we expect, after almost 70 years of CIA-fueled regime changes in Africa, West Asia, South and Central America; actual war in Southeast Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan; and twenty years' massive surveillance of American citizens?

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With every new massacre by a white-supremacist, ideologically-motivated shooter, I put my face in my hands. In my view, the Murdochs and their paid talking heads; the white supremacist militias; the braying and screeching Rightist politicians want this to happen. They want a civil war.

And the more persons -- like the Buffalo shooter -- are incited by the Right's rhetoric, convinced that planned, brutal acts are self-defense against a world controlled by a conspiracy of liberals and non-white monsters ... then the closer we get to the war America's political Right dreams of.

My country has sown the wind, and here are our Chickens, time coming 'round at last: slouching home to roost, to be born. 

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Right-wing pastor Perry Stone declares that Democrats in D.C. who oppose Trump "...are not normal people... [they] have demons in them." (Newsweek, October 28, 2019)

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By imagining [actual] demons behind social welfare, economic and environmental regulations, or legal protections for marginalized groups, spiritual warriors frame the dismantling of these systems as ridding the US of demons. More than this, they frame the people and groups they see as benefiting from those systems as agents of evil incarnate. Only after such people are removed can there be a national rebirth. ("Demons of the Deep State"; The Conversation, September 19, 2020)

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"Think of what the enemies of America have done over the last 14 months [Ted Nugent told the audience at Trump’s May 14th rally in Austin, TX]. They didn't sneak into the White House -- they lied, they cheated, they scammed; and every day the Democrats violate their sacred oath to the Constitution. And if you can't impress your friends on that, they shouldn't be your friends.

“I love you, but I would love you more,  if you went out and just went berserk on the skulls of the Democrats and the Marxists and the communists," Nugent said. "Evil [must be] stamped out.” (via Daily Kos May 15, 2022)

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It's All Funny To Herr Carlson: But, Then, He's Getting Wealthier

Night after night, hour by hour, Mr. Carlson warns his viewers that they inhabit a civilization under siege -- by violent Black Lives Matter protesters in American cities, by diseased migrants from south of the border, by refugees importing alien cultures, and by tech companies and cultural elites who will silence them, or label them racist, if they complain.

(Nicholas Confessori, "How Tucker Carlson Stoked White Fear to Conquer Cable"; New York Times, April 30, 2022)

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[In mid-December, 2018] Mr. Carlson had set off an uproar, claiming on air that mass immigration made America “poor and dirtier.” Blue-chip advertisers were fleeing.

Within Fox... [m]any wondered what price he might pay. The answer became clear that night ... absolutely none. When “Tucker Carlson Tonight” aired, Mr. Carlson doubled down ... citing a report from an Arizona government agency that said each illegal border crossing left up to eight pounds of litter in the desert. 

Afterward ...Mr. Carlson spoke directly with [Rupert] Murdoch, who praised his counterattack, according to a former Fox employee...

(Nicholas Confessori, "How Tucker Carlson Reshaped Fox News And Became Trump's Heir"; New York Times, May, 2022)

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MEHR, MIT 'DER IST SCHULD':  The Best Friend reports that here in San Francisco on May 14th, the Women's March was not that well attended. The most disturbing aspect were the counter-protestors -- all of them evangelical 'christians', who almost outnumbered the marchers, standing on the sidewalks as the contingent made its way down a nearly deserted Market Street, "shaking their fists at us and shouting that we were going to hell. It was really creepy; we felt alone out there."

And that was in San Francisco.

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Saturday, May 7, 2022

This Is Your Steerage Saturday Update For 3rd Class Passengers

 Another Very Long Howl

When things happen, they come in a waterfall, a cascade, a torrent. If you haven't been paying attention, they will seem to appear as if by magic, out of nowhere.  But they never do.

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On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Weimar Germany. On February 27, the Reichstag was gutted in a fire, set by the nazis* themselves, who claimed it an act by German Communists.

On February 28, Hitler used emergency powers to suspend every part of Weimar's Constitution which ensured personal freedoms, and legalized the arrest of Communists and other political opponents. Many elected members of the Reichstag were arrested, or went on the run, or simply disappeared.

The nazi party was suddenly the majority in parliament. It could rubber-stamp any legislation Hitler and his crew might want.

On March 13, Hitler established the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Joseph Goebbels immediately began to exert control over every form of public expression, all of which would be used to push the nazis' message, demonize anyone the nazis considered enemies -- and to ceaselessly praise Hitler, The Leader, personally.

On March 21, the nazi-dominated Reichstag voted to approve the Enabling Act, giving Chancellor Hitler powers to enact laws, and imprison anyone he declared an enemy of the state.  He issued a decree making it illegal to speak out against the government or criticize its leaders. Also on March 21, the first concentration camp, at Dachau, was opened for Communist and other political prisoners.

On April 1st, citizens in Germany woke up to find their local SA, the nazi Brownshirts, had been up before dawn, out on the streets with brushes and buckets of white paint. They painted Mogen Davids and insults on the windows of businesses owned by Jews, and stood outside on the sidewalks demanding people only shop at "Aryan" stores -- move along, nothing to see here.

Also in April, Jewish and Socialist judges, lawyers, and other court officers were removed. The Academy of German Law called for nazification of statutory law, "cleansing it of Jewish influence". Judges were directed to use a "healthy community [Volk] sentiment" to guide their legal decisions.

On May 1, 1933, all labor unions were outlawed.  On May 6, Goebbels organized the first public burning of books in Berlin, to begin a nationwide action "against the Un-German Spirit.” Libraries across Germany were purged of 'un-German' literature and textbooks in public burnings organized by nazi student organizations.

In June, the SPD was abolished -- in Weimar Germany, the Social Democrats were the nazis only real political threat. By July, all remaining political parties had also been abolished: the nazi party was the only legal political organization in Germany.

And that, friends, is How It Happens.

(* NOTE:  I don't capitalize the term or Noun, 'nazi'. The concept of providing any justification or convention to and for individual nazis or their organized state is personally abhorrent even if a violation of grammatic rules.) 

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The Past Is Present Tense

An aspect of quantum theory has it that reality may be created, moment to moment, in determining one set of conditions of the great cosmic Waveform -- all possible variations in the state of all matter. The world exists in all its multitudinous forms simultaneously: snow falls (hopefully) in the Himalayas, at the same instant billions and billions of other things are happening.

This is where all of us, and novels, live -- and the debate whether Flaubert, or Hemingway, or Gaddis, Tartt or Sebald, or Attwood, or Chelsea Handler, has described Reality more closely in their works to how it's actually experienced. Terrible, beautiful; it's all going down -- whether you see it, acknowledge it, or not.
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Some of this long howl and bark I've said before. Many times before. A portion of what follows was already published, last year -- before everyone seemed to think Covid was over; before Putin's gamble, before the trail of breadcrumbs left by the January 6th Committee was followed, in a disinterested ho-hum way, by the mainstream corporate media -- when it wasn't publishing story after story about the Failed Biden Presidency; and when it wasn't being denounced by the Murdochs.
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After the election in November of 2000, and over the fourteen years I've been sporadically writing this blog, decline and dissolution in America have been both easier to see, but more difficult to convince people to believe that it is happening. And that bothers me more than anything -- the laconic, not-my-problem attitude. 

(Via The Soul Of America) Here is Adolph Reed ("The Whole Country Is The Reichstag"; Nonsite.org, August 23, 2021):

"The right-wing ... [has] a single concrete objective—taking absolute power in the U.S. as soon and as definitively as possible. And [they] even seemingly want, to destroy the social fabric of the country [in taking power] ...

"Discrediting government ... has been a component of the GOP game plan ..  and Democrats have reinforced [that] in their own way. ...Four decades of retrenchment and privatization ... steadily increasing economic inequality and government’s failure to address it in any meaningful way [fuels a] lack of confidence, distrust, and hostility toward government ... and eventually even the idea of the public itself.  And [Right-wing billionaires who] bankroll the ultraright have taken advantage of that, [stoking] frustration and rage into a dangerously authoritarian political force."

Through my life, I've kept track of events, but nothing I've read or watched surprised me much. I am very cynical when it comes to the behavior of individuals, and in groups our behavior is too often amazingly stupid.  However, being cynical can also be a dangerous, and stupid, position -- a lazy person's way of abandoning critical judgement.

I'd grown up in the Fifties and Sixties; saw Southeast Asia personally and, as they said about The Fugitive, "toiled at many jobs". In the Seventies I studied history, focusing on interwar Europe --  Germany in particular; Weimar, and after. 

I knew things, but coasted along believing the High School Civics Class view of America -- the long national Narrative of an America, not perfect, but on a constant upward (and of course, liberal) arc into an inevitable, enviable future. Even Vietnam could be seen as a a tragedy, but a regrettable episode, a blip, in that long view. This of course ignored the experience of lives lived by Others -- the great Internationale of White Blindness.

And during Watergate, Liberals rejoiced: America's Great Silent Majority was wrong. Their hero, Nixon, was a Crook -- but he could be explained as an aberration in the American Narrative; an exception. And the political Right was, too: they were the Fringe, on the wrong side of history. Easily dismissed. The future would be a moderate Liberal culture. Always upwards.

Sure. Of course it would be.

Do Not Skip This Part Of The Exam

Please listen to me when I say this -- and I want to be wrong, but:  50 years later, the children and grandchildren of the Silent Majority are back. 

They're bully-mean in their MAGA caps and January 6, 2021 - Civil War T-Shirts, they see the world through small, piggish eyes, and they hate you.

They hate Colored people and Foreigners, and Eggy-heads, and Libs and Gay and Trans People and Ee-lites. The weak and the soft. They love god; yes they do (somebody's god, anyway), and America. They have guns and carry them -- and you have nothing to fear, so long as you do what they and their leaders say. 

Their ultimate leaders, America's Owners, are delusional, and rich. Very, very rich (Read Wharton's Age Of Innocence, or watch "The Daughtsman's Contract" for a notion of their society). You won't see their names in the media; they don't like publicity, and have generations of experience at being nearly invisible. 

They don't like Trump, or the MAGA-caps, or anyone who isn't part of their class. The world belongs to them, naturally -- whether by birth into their old-money, blue-blood family line, by the Will of Somebody's God, and their net worth.

The Owners have useful persons, like Eugene B. Meyer and his Federalist Society, to provide some philosophic framework for the nasty and regrettable decisions they will have to make. Persons like Meyer -- or even the Murdochs, brutes in bespoke suits, arrivistes who think they're in charge-- are useful but are not, and will never be, part of the Owners' class. But they are useful.

And, each in their own way, the MAGA Base and the Owners believe it is the Purity of their Strength, it is Blood and Soil, which calls them on.  The Base don't know they're being manipulated, but they'll do what the Owners want -- which is to Keep The World In Balance. 

The Base will do the bad things, and afterwards sing 'Amazing Grace' in celebration of 'god's great victory', after they dump your battered corpse in some nameless field. 

If you think this is simplistic, or hyperbole, you have that right. But I'm not the only person connecting the dots between the heat of rhetoric, and where that leads
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Top Of The List, Ma

Disease and climate deterioration are at the top of those conditions which frighten me; I suppose we have to put nuclear war back on the list, now. But what is happening in America makes me believe we are close to something horrific: Our own version of the world after Weimar, and What Comes Next. 

We've already had a taste of what that could be -- and an attempted coup. That we can have another seems to be ignored by the DOJ, and Biden's government, and far too many individual Americans who shrug and won't vote to save themselves. Whole fukin' system's corrupt, man.

 When I submit to my own fears, I see my country being dominated -- by the malignant, the vicious, the bestial -- with no cure except The Fire, Next Time; and no guarantee that where it leads will be a happy ending. 

Could America disintegrate into an even more obvious Oligarchy, like the old Soviet Union? Into Lebanon, or Syria? Could it become Atwood's Republic of Gilead? No one knows. The Waveform is always in motion. The Cat In The Box is alive and dead, until you open the lid.

But: I feel certain we can't continue down the same road we've been travelling without paying penalties we can't imagine. Chickens home to roost; and yes, the revolution will be televised.

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Ten-Dimensional Chess

Last year, George Packer (author of "The Unwinding") noted in The Atlantic that America's national narrative, Our Story, is a string of crises -- and about 'how we got out of it'. How we overcame and went on to even greater triumph: Upwards, always upwards.

I understand there are others who believe the world order is played out at a higher level of Weltpolitik -- constant competition between America, Russia, and China, and the dependent allies of each. It involves manipulating economies, technology, currencies, corporate and national intelligence. 

For the Players, this is ten-dimensional chess, an 'enlightened' upper class against Nihilistic Oligarchs -- a NeoLiberal World Order against Nationalist Autocracy -- one side saying The Greatest Good For The Greatest Number, and the other saying Fuck That, What's In It For Me?

The old High School Civics Class View of America -- that Hurrah! For The Flag National Narrative -- is a bedtime story, a tool to manipulate naïve and powerless fodder for the Leaders' dreams. In other words, We The People. 

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I'll Take 'Restrictive Nationalist Political Narratives' For A Thousand, Alex

There's much about the Neoliberal vs. Autocrat world Narrative that seems true. I also think that vision fails to make a galactically-complex system comprehensible. That may not even be possible. For the sake of this little screed, let's just focus on the National Narrative of America, told within our borders -- common assumptions about Us we've assimilated through time.

Packer said, we don't have one unified Story of America -- we have four, and the one chosen by the political Right is that of a beautiful America, stolen from its people by immigrants, noisy and uppity People of Color, women, Liberals, Socialists; girl-boys and boy-girls, and (the MAGA Base won't say so out loud) Catholics and Jews and all Them Other Religions.

The beautiful America can only return when these Demon-possessed culture-despoilers are destroyed. Then all will be good again. 

Belief in that Narrative shows why "Owning The Libs" is so visceral, so central and necessary, to the political Right. It's the logical culmination of forty years of resentment and hatred. That Narrative only leads out a one-lane gravel road to the open pit in that nameless field. 

The issues Trump had campaigned on waxed and waned ...What remained was the dark energy he unleashed... Trump’s people still talked about freedom, but they meant blood and soil. Their nationalism was like the ethno-nationalisms on the rise in Europe ... Trump abused every American institution ... and his people cheered. Nothing excited them like owning the libs.

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Owning The Libs Is A Team Sport

People can write opinion pieces calling out lying and bullying by the political Right, but it makes no difference. The Left focuses on the historical record. It's important to make certain choices, and make speeches which will be quoted by historians seventy years on. But it will not matter. 

We're in 2022; American democracy is a store that's being mismanaged and looted right in front of us. It's clear we must act.  It shouldn't even be a question.

The Rightist crazies can't be criticized into better behavior by waving "the historical record" at them. McConnell's corruption; Gaetz' degeneracy; Cawthorn's delusions about orgies and flirting with threats of civil war, Boebert's intimations of physical violence; Greene's barely coherent lying; Alito's shrieking hatred in his scribblings. The end of Roe is just the beginning of Owning The Libs.

The lies and pure hatred broadcast by Limbaugh, by the Murdochs through their hand-picked talking heads, for forty years, will be in "the historical record". But for each of them, what they've done are badges of honor. They're Owning The Libs.

Anything is permitted in Owning The Libs -- including reducing human rights to a joke, sedition and treason. It is all about the naked use of power. Consider: There was no penalty for their support of a coup on January 6th. There will be no punishment for them now, or ever. 

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When I first heard the phrase, 'Owning The Libs', it immediately conjured up an image of Slavery -- of another human being treated as chattel. "Owning" something implies possession, domination, the right as an Owner to use your property in whatever way you wish. What it's job is; what it is permitted, and how it will be punished. And that brought an immediate, up-from-the-gut response: Fuck this shit

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"You Made Me Do This"

Last Fall, I saw a video of an anti-masker, anti-vaxxer, holding a list of names and addresses of the local Board of Supervisors in his area, shouting at a small rally. 

The Board of Supes was preparing to vote on a mask mandate. The anti-vaxxer held up a list of names, and was literally screeching (I'll paraphrase), "We know where you [Supervisors] live! We're going to be at your front door -- we're coming for you!" Asked what would happen if the Board voted for a mandate, he shouted back, "Civil war!! Civil war!! Get your guns!!"

This isn't some extremist, Fringe element, like John Birchers of the 1960's, spouting rhetoric that will never go further than a street corner. America's Right wing is pushing for confrontation.  They want a final confrontation -- bloody, retributive; like a battle on the plains of Armageddon. 

America's political Right is a madman with a gun, who keeps taking one step towards you, then another and another -- all while screaming Don't get any closer!! I'm warnin' ya!! I told ya to stop comin' at me!! 

And, when he finally shoots you, he'll say See what you did?? You Libs made me do it!! Told ya!! Told ya!!

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Peter Wehner, Republican New York Times contributor who wrote on November 5, 2016 about his predictions of Trump's presidency, appeared on PBS' News Hour on the eve of Biden's 2021 inauguration, to observe:

We're in an epistemic crisis... there has been an assault on truth and on reality, that [The Leader] has led, and his party was a part of, and his Base was a part of. We now live in a world where we don't just have policy differences -- we're living in different moral universes, different epistemological universes; we don't have a common set of facts, even a common reality. And when you lose that, it's very difficult to put it back together again... 

But if you don't... a free country can't continue. Ultimately, your politics breaks down and your society breaks down... there's no ability to have dialogue. [The Leader] did this... it wasn't just the lies; it was this intentional assault on reality, which ...spreads a kind of disorientation in the public that has tremendously damaging and long-term effects.

Wehner's opinions ignore the development of the American Right since 1974 toward authoritarianism, 'christian' Dominionism and proto-fascism. It also ignores the devolution of both Republican and Democratic parties.  Because the counterpart to this long howl about the Right is the state of America's Left.

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That something will happen seems inevitable. It's what the Right is being told -- by the Murdochs' talking heads, by Trump, by Rightist politicians -- that something must happen, after The Steal. 

It reminds me of a monument, erected by the nazis in the 1930's at Germany's border with Danzig, with an inscription -- "Remember, Germans, What Blind Hatred Has Stolen from Thee" -- which seems to sum up the basic attitude of America's political and cultural Right.

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Ian Welsh  sees the end result of all this as a collapse. He noted last year, when Texas instituted the 'Heartbeat Act' restricting abortion, and asking citizens to inform on each other for potential financial gain: 

"[enactment of the Texas anti-abortion law] is the thin edge: what’s coming to Texas now will be coming to you very soon. Roe vs. Wade is doomed; Republican Trumpists are taking over the party apparatus to ensure the next coup attempt succeeds, and Democrats are doing nothing to stop any of this... 

"The best case scenario is probably the US splitting peacefully. That will be unfortunate for those left-behind, but it beats the entire country falling, or a civil war."
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Kleiner Mann, Was Nun?

America has never been as divided a country since the last time we took up arms against each other. The Right depends on stoking their outrage. There is an actual war, in Ukraine; and after four-plus years of Rightist rule, two-plus years of Pandemic, we are in a wartime of the spirit in America, and on that ground inside ourselves is where it will be fought.

If the future holds a Supreme Court removing Constitutional guarantees to personal liberty and privacy -- if there are elections skewed by obvious fraud, orchestrated by Rightist state governments -- if the demonization of others continues from the Right... then we will have a more violent future, an almost ceaseless negativity.

The future holds events which will come for us, whether we want them or not. How we pay attention to them, how we behave towards each other and the choices we make, may be more important than before. 

I'm deeply grieved for the state of my country. I'm not a nationalist; can surely be accused of naivety -- but Immerhin -- in spite of everything, believe in the possibility of a better world, based on compassion and justice.

I once had the opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama two questions. The second one was: If the essence of the Buddha's teaching could be summed up in one idea, what would it be? He thought for just a moment, then replied, "Just, 'Do your best.' "

I took the Lama's observation to suggest that Existence is too complicated for any person to say why they are, and what the end results of our thoughts and actions will be. Be kind; act with compassion; do the best you can, moment to moment. It seems simple, but is hard. That works for me.

As a comparative comment on purpose and values, I could have asked Albert Camus a similar question.

Camus did not believe in a god, an afterlife, or a higher purpose to existence. He believed the fact of humankind was all the justification necessary for what Buddhists would call Right Action, and for making a demand for Justice -- for a better world. And that works for me, too.
I continue to believe that this world has no ultimate meaning. [That] ... it has no justification but man -- hence he must be saved if we want to save the idea we have of life.

With your scornful smile you will ask me: What do you mean by 'saving man'? And with all my being I shout to you that I mean not mutilating him, and yet giving a chance to the justice that man alone can conceive.

(Resistance, Rebellion and Death)
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MEHR MIT Im Dämmerung Ich Hat Gesehen Die Hühner Fur Ein Landung Zu Kommen

Inequality and polarization have not been this high since the nineteenth century. Democrats are certain that if Donald Trump is reelected, American democracy will not survive. 

Republicans are equally certain that if Trump loses, radical socialists will seize the wealth of elites and distribute it to undeserving poor and minorities, forever destroying the economy of the United States. 

Both sides are also convinced that the other side intends to change the democratic ‘rules of the game’ in ways that will make it impossible for them to compete effectively in future elections.

-- Mathematician Peter Turchin (quoted in "Ginsburg's Passing May Worsen The Crisis Of Our Democracy"; Max Boot, WaPo September 19, 2020)
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Friday, December 17, 2021

Reprint Heaven: Nadir

 Bottom Of The Batting Order

(This, from December 20, 2011, almost a decade ago. These were the Things happening, five years before the rise of the waddling, lying grifter. 

(How far you feel we have moved on as a society from the issues reported in 2011 is subjective. But it is the anniversary of the assumption of the waddling liar's unrequited love, Kim Jong Jong-Jong.)

 

This Chart Answers The Musical Question, "What Percentage Of All U.S. Corporate Profits Is Generated By The Financial Sector?" Answer? "Their Satanic Majesties Request", Or 26%.

   

...And This One Tracks Financial 'Industry' Profit As Percentage Of Overall GDP. (Source: Arbor Research, via Big Picture) Tonight at sundown (aside from its being the second night of Hanukkah), the Winter Solstice will begin. This is physically the longest night of the solar year, the Nadir, the lowest point in a cycle of one orbit of the planet around the sun. As a result, you'd expect the kind of mutant freakshow we're seeing these days.
  • Republicans Continue Countdown To Self-Detonation: Bob Schaeffer, CBS News Washington correspondent since the Late Cretaceous Period, noted in last night's CBS Evening News that the current (i.e., most recent) impasse in Congress is a result of "both sides trying to undermine each other". On the BBC's American version of the evening news, Clinton-era Labor Secretary Robert Reich (and former BFF prior associate of Citicorp) commented in a segment on the effect to those living on unemployment of having benefits suddenly removed or slashed, "I try hard not to be partisan, but the Republican party seems to be the one" creating the current deadlock. Some Left Blogistan sites (e.g., TPM) report that, as a result of the refusal of the Rethug-dominated House to pass a Senate bill that would extend (by two months) both a Social Security payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, President Obama's job approval ratings have become more positive. TPM reported 46.6% Approval vs. 48% Disapproval -- "There’s now a lot of evidence that the President’s approval numbers are rising after bottoming out at the end of the summer after the debt deal debacle," Josh Marshall wrote. "But they’re rising toward an almost total polarization.
  • "50% for, 50% against. Very little middle ground." 
  • Your New Stratoliner: The One Per Cent, And Their Hats One interesting note: Little Rupert's Wall Street Journal, the "Tits 'n Tattle" scandal sheet of Rupert's empire for the financial class, ran an editorial criticizing Republicans for blocking the two-month extension in the House -- and mostly criticizing it as a poor tactic, rather than for the effect it would have on taxpayers and unemployed Americans. Heaven forbid that Little Rupert or Fat Roger would give a damn about the people they treat with such barely-disguised contempt. Rupert, that crafty ol' Aussie, is sending America's Rightist politicians a message: I Am Not Amused. Get Your Shit Together
  • But as much as he criticizes them, he has to support the Rethugs, and his NewsCorp will have to get behind whichever candidate, drooling, brain-dead and barking, it hoists for president in 2012. So, whatever scribbles are published on the editorial page of the WSJ tabloid don't really matter. Little Rupert is as much a hostage of a self-destructing political party as the Rethugs are hostage to their addictive love for Little Rupert's propaganda. 
  •   MEHR: Not that long ago, the House Minority Whip, Stenny Hoyer walked to the floor of the House Of Representatives, and asked the Speaker Pro Temp, Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania (standing in for President Boner), to grant "unanimous consent" for an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill the Rethugs deep-sixed yesterday. House Republicans on the Hill were with Speaker Boner at a photo-op. Meanwhile, as Hoyer made his request to the Speaker's chair on the House floor, Fitzpatrick simply ignored Hoyer and walked away... all broadcast on CSPAN. "As you walk off the floor, Mr. Speaker," Hoyer said to Fitzgerald's back, "You’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class tax payers, the unemployed, and very frankly as well from those who will be seeking medical assistance from their doctors — 48 million senior citizens.” In and of itself, business as usual in the United States Congress. But, providing the Democratic party with a telling image of Rethugs who don't give two hoots about The People, and which can be rebroadcast over and over and over? Priceless.
  • Global Banking Structure Aims Free Money Nozzle At European Banks: The European Central Bank has loaned a massive 489 billion Euros ($639 billion US) to over five hundred European banks, at one per cent interest, for what the War Criminal Post reported as "an exceptionally long period of three years" in the ongoing attempt to keep the EU from dissolving into a bad fusion between "Apocalypse Now" and "Mr. Hulot Opens A Hedge Fund". It was the biggest infusion of credit by the European Central Bank in the 13-year history of the Euro; in a response I think is best termed 'irrational exuberance', the DJIA rose over 330 points. The ECB's move allows its client banks to borrow money, essentially, for free: 1 Billion Euros borrowed can become loans, and any interest charged on those loans above one per cent is pure profit. The problem is, these loans will act as life support for some financial players whose books are sagging with toxic debts that these ECB credit lines can't repair; the amounts of debt are too huge. It's just another means of postponing the Day O' Reckoning, kicking the can down a road paved with good intentions. But, hey; Little Angela's happy. So, s'all good. Right?
  • Rethugs Say, VOTE FOR PLAYER TO BE NAMED LATER! Replicating the internal epic battles within the Rethug, Red-State World (something like Rodan vs. Monster Zero), it appears that Thugs will nominate Mitzy Perry Grand TurtleBear Ru Paul Mitzy Randyman Perry Ru Paul "Somebody Else" as their candidate for president in 2012. No kidding; a poll recently reported by CBS showed Republicans pretty evenly split between three potential candidates, so far: Romney and Gingrich, and "Somebody Else". It's a ringing, star-spangled endorsement of -- well, somebody. A write-in candidate who embodies true, conservative principles, like Lil' Bernie Madoff, or William Stafford, or the Zombified Ronald Wilson Rayguns-ah. The ever-tasteful Alicublog reports that the Special Bus Kidz at RedState are enthusiastically arguing in favor of... a Rick Perry candidacy.
Fellas, there's probably a robot somewhere that would govern in the most consistently conservative fashion -- it wouldn't be hard to program; just get it to yell "More tax breaks for the wealthy!" and "I hates me a faggot!" at intervals, and to fart loudly when France or higher education is mentioned -- but it doesn't mean anything unless you can get people to vote for it. 

 ...Perry makes George W. Bush look like Pericles. Nobody, but nobody, is praying, "Oh Lord, send us someone just like George W. Bush, only stupider." Just the other day... Perry misread Kim Jong Il as "Kim Jong the Second". That's like something out of a Cheech and Chong movie. Most observers... have moved on to wondering if Perry can tie a shoelace without coaching.

I enjoy flailing, particularly when it reinforces stereotypes I have of conservatives as retrograde, Troglodyte morons, beating each other bloody with Wal-Mart shopping bags filled with The Collected Works Of Ronald Rayguns: "They fought so fiercely because the stakes were so small". Keep it up!
  • Tubby Twentysomething Becomes New Leader Of Starving, Heavily Armed North Korea: A few days ago, this short, pudgy guy with weird hair and glasses died -- some say on a train: Kim Jong Il, ruler of the upper half of the Korean peninsula and a leader of a totalitarian, repressive state... and was reportedly someone who loved dogs and western porn, and really in his heart was kinda, sort of, a good guy. "The Kim Nobody Knew". His twenty-something son, Kim Jong Fat Boy, short, pudgy, with a very bad haircut who reportedly likes dogs, food and western porn, and in his heart is kind of a good guy, replaced him. 
  • The CIA apparently had no idea that Kim Jong 2 had passed away until it was announced by North Korea's official media (there is no other kind). There immediately commenced massive (and in the last Stalinst, cult-of-personality culture on the planet, we mean massive) shows of public grieving. Thousands gathered publicly to cry and cry and rend their hair and fall weeping on the pavement, each attempting to outdo everyone else to show how sad they are that a totalitarian freak, who wore shoes with three-inch lifts and created policies resulting in starvation of his people and nuclear weapons, was dead. Kim Jong Well went to see his father lying in state, bowed without much expression, then reportedly went for pizza and some XBox action.
There's one other thing about The Winter solstice to keep in mind. This is the last of the old solar year, the bottom of the wheel, the Appogeian, farthest point out in Earth's orbital motion. The planetary pole is tilted back; this is the longest period of darkness in a full turn around the sun. 

 And from midnight tonight, the Days will become incrementally longer, the nights shorter. From this long night we will all enter what I like to think of as The Season Of Rising Light -- from one point of view, the darkness being reduced a degree at a time, each day forward, until the top of the wheel, the Apex, next June. And while waiting for someone to start singing "Here Comes The Sun", in the meantime, we'll still have the unfolding, everlasting clown show to watch.
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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Reprint Heaven Forever: Remember, Remember

 Yeah; Forty-One Years


Something About Him Was Always A Kick-Out-The-Jambs Liverpudlian Rebel


Speak, Memory: One of the two arrests we made that day hadn't gone well. After putting the car in the basement garage at the Federal Building, I'd walked up the underground ramp to the street, intending to buy my second pack of Marlboros of the day from the liquor store up the next block. Stepping inside, I looked down at a stack of the evening edition of a paper which isn't even around any longer, lying on the counter below the cash register with a banner headline in 48-point type: JOHN LENNON SLAIN.  Fuck; I thought, and then said it out loud. 

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Thursday, November 11, 2021

Absent Friends

 You Know Who They Are

"We have done so much with so little for so long that we could do anything with nothing forever".

Mozart: Concerto For Clarinet and Orchestra; 2nd Movement, Adiago
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Saturday, October 9, 2021

Reprint Heaven Forever: Lennon

  John Lennon: October 9, 1940


Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass; they slip away, across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on, across the universe;
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way,
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open views; inviting and inciting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me
Like a million suns; it calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world...

Across The Universe (Lennon / McCartney, 1969)


We don't care what flag you're waving,
We don't even want to know your name,
We don't care where you're from or where you're going,
All we know is that you came;

You're making all our decisions,
We have just one request of you,
That while you're thinking things over,
Here's something you just better do:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well we were caught with our hands in the air,
Don't despair paranoia is everywhere,
We can shake it with love when we're scared,
So let's shout it aloud like a prayer:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now

We understand your paranoia,
But we don't want to play your game;
You think you're cool and know what you are doing,
666 is your name;
So while your jerking off each other,
You better bear this thought in mind:
Your time is up you better know it,
But maybe you don't read the signs

Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well you were caught with your hands in the kill,
And you still got to swallow your pill,
As you slip and you slide down the hill,
On the blood of the people you killed

Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now...



The Soul Of America reminds me.

I am reminded to remember, remember, the 8th of December.

Something About Him Was Always A Kick-Out-The-Jambs,
Saturday-Night's-All-Right-For-Fighting Liverpudlian Rebel


Speak, Memory: One of the two arrests we made that day hadn't gone well. After putting the car in the basement garage at the Federal Building, I'd walked up the underground ramp to the street, intending to buy my second pack of Marlboros of the day from the liquor store up the next block. Stepping inside, I looked down at a stack of the early edition of a paper which isn't even around any longer, lying on the counter below the cash register with a banner headline in 48-point type: JOHN LENNON SLAIN.  Fuck; I thought, and then said it out loud.  

Hard to remember the birthday without the other day.  So: Absent Friends. Happy Birthday, John.
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Sunday, September 12, 2021

Twenty Years

Nine-Eleven
(An earlier version was posted originally in September, 2010)


On November 22, 1963, I was on the playground for 10:00AM recess at my elementary school when teachers called classes back inside prematurely. We were told to sit quietly in our desks. When asked, our teacher told us nervously that President Kennedy had been shot.

After a few minutes, the school's public address system was broadcasting CBS' radio network, announcing the shooting of JFK in Dallas and, ultimately, the audio portion of Walter Cronkite on CBS television announcing the President's death.

Where were you when JFK was shot? was a standard question a large number of Americans (now referred to as 'Useless Boomers') asked each other, due to the magnitude of the event and because it was shared in real-time by the primary media of the early 1960's -- radio and television.
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So, September 11th, 2001: Where were you on 9-11? I had gotten up to go to work around 5:30AM here in California, and turned on KQED-FM's NPR news. After stepping out of the shower, I heard a report that a "plane" appeared to have crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. I lived briefly in Manhattan in the late 70's and had seen just how huge those buildings were -- and to me, "a plane" meant an aircraft like a Cessna or something similar.

Getting ready to shave, I remembered a 1945 newsreel about a B-25, flying through dense fog over Manhattan and plowing directly into the Empire State Building. A similar incident at the WTC would be tragic, I thought; but it was an accident, and on the other side of the continent, distant. I sighed, and I shaved.

Not long after, NPR updated its report; I heard the words "jet airliner", which moved the entire event from 'Cessna-off-course' to the category of Well-This-Was-No-Boating-Accident; Did-You-Call-The-Coast-Guard-About-This?

Turning on CNN, I sat on the edge of an armchair, watching an image of the WTC towers from the roof of CNN's Manhattan headquarters, roughly two miles away. One tower looked like a chimney, a boiling cloud of black smoke drifting away into an otherwise cloudless sky. 

Aaron Brown was reporting, taking phone calls directed from witnesses in the vicinity -- only one of whom, the doorman at the World Trade Centers Marriott, was close enough to report on anything immediate and consequential. 

A CNN-affiliate local news helicopter, hovering over the Hudson, provided a closer perspective of the damage. One extended telephoto shot was of the façade of the Tower on fire; I was looking at the pattern of the cladding of the building, a huge, black gash angled across it. I saw occasional clouds of small white shapes fluttering in the smoke, like flocks of birds, swirling -- and realized they were sheets of paper, reams of it, drifting out of the building's broken windows. 

Just as that thought registered, at the right-hand edge of the screen, I saw a darker object drop quickly, straight down and out of frame, for just a moment. I didn't know it then, but I had just seen one of roughly two hundred people that morning who fell or jumped from the Towers' upper floors.

The Falling Man: Photograph By Richard Drew / AP


Images Like This Were Broadcast And Published
In Europe, But Not In America (Photo: UK Telegraph, 2001)

A few minutes later, I watched as the second airliner slammed into the other WTC tower. Aside from profane shock, the only thing I recall thinking was, This is what standing at the curb in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, watching the Archduke Franz Ferdinand being shot, was like. This is what living through history is like. 

I've seen large-scale explosions and been in crazy environments, for real, but the scale of what I was watching made it all seem unreal; special effects. I sat in the armchair, watching, as first the South, then the North towers collapsed (Wikipedia's timeline of the events puts that at 6:59 and 7:28 AM PDST, respectively). News of a third plane crashing into the Pentagon was broadcast; I began flipping back and forth between networks for coverage. 

Finally, I left to make my way to work on mass transit. On a BART train, I was amazed at the languid attitudes of the crowd of commuters -- reading books and newspapers, a few tapping on laptops and Blackberries -- as if it were just another Tuesday morning. People were subdued, but not because anyone appeared stunned; there was no conversation about what had just occurred.

Finally, I turned to a woman sitting opposite me, reading a folded copy of the (pre-Little Rupert) Wall Street Journal, and asked if she was aware of what had happened that morning. "Yes," she replied, adding in a deadpan, matter-of-fact voice, "There are supposed to be more of them [i.e., airliners] in the air to hit other targets." Had anyone estimated how many? "No," the woman shrugged, and went back to her WSJ. 

At work, everyone was released to return home after Noon. I went to a friend's house, where we sat watching CNN. Clips of the second Tower being struck, and of each one falling, replayed endlessly, interspersed with hourly updates and commentary by subject matter experts.

I made a few phone calls, primarily to The Last Of The Old Unit ("Fuckin' glad we're not eighteen right now," one observed). My friends and I sat, watching, barely taking a break. We were expecting more information, something to allow everything we had seen to make sense.

We also knew we weren't going to get it -- the dice had been rolled, and we wouldn't find any clarification until they had bounced off the back of the craps table and come to rest. They're still bouncing; they haven't stopped yet. They never really will. That's how history works. 
_____________________________

That was September 11th -- a red line on the American calendar, the culmination of so many threads in our history going back to 1898 and 1917, the choices successive administrations have made since America decided to follow an Imperial course.

The attack on the Trade Center towers could have been another kind of defining moment for America. Our government and institutions could have taken it as an opportunity to press for a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy; we could have opened a dialog with others, rather than dictate to them.

Lil' Boots, 2004 Republican Convention: Feared And Bigger Than His Daddy, At Last

I'm not suggesting a Kumbyah moment; it was a crossroads moment, and our choices mattered. But, the government was run by men who had no interest in anything except power (personal, partisan, and financial) and policies that meant the use of force in furthering that power. 

The people "Lil' Boots" surrounded himself with were Project For A New American Century neo-imperialists. After Bush's inauguration on January 20, 2001, they were discussing how to invade Sadaam Hussein's Iraq. What else could we have expected from the likes of Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld? From Fat Karl Rove, Little Tommy DeLay, and Lard Boy?

September 11th: Simply An Excuse

And, they believed it would be simple, 'Roses All The Way', 'Greeted As Liberators' ... so no one planned for occupation, or fighting an insurgency for seven years; or for the effect on the U.S. military of multiple redeployments and 'stop-loss' denials of separation. They never conceived of failure; therefore, it wouldn't happen.

What followed from 9/11 shouldn't have been a surprise: An utterly unnecessary, even illegal invasion of Iraq, supported by intelligence about WMD's invented by right-wing operatives to create a causis beli, and pushed by sociopathic egos 'journalists' like Little Judy Miller, and pundits like David Brooks and William Kristol, and Little Tommy Friedman, to name only a few.

Palettes Of $100 Bills, Baghdad, 2003 (Photo: UK Guardian)

And let's not forget the $12 Billion in cash (at least; no one really knows), piles of U.S. currency shrink-wrapped and paletted and airlifted to Iraq. Some $9 Billion in cash cannot be accounted for. And all the cool new powers used by that dry-drunk, Frat-Boy younger son of an American ruling-class family; or all the power available to President Cheney. 

There was plenty of money to put in C530's and airlift it: 363 Tons of it. There was plenty of money being made from the war, and tax breaks to the wealthy, which reduced tax income to the government. It was a good time to be part of the Carlyle Group.

But, Lil' Boots wanted to cut health care, privatize Social Security; cut any social programs continuing the pact between government and citizens that was at the heart of FDR's New Deal... because, he claimed, there was just no money to pay for that. Because of the war, you see.

And there was Guantanamo, CIA 'black airlines' flying suspected terrorists to secret prisons, and the extra-legal, secret program of 'renditions'. Let's not forget Abu Ghirab. Let's not forget people like John Woo, whose written opinions created what he still claims is a "legal" basis for torture as national policy.

Civilian Casualty Of Baghdad Suicide Car Bomb, 2007

And what followed wasn't just prisons and a lack of due process for terrorist suspects, but developing a matrix of information [see Edward Snowden's revelations about the extent of surveillance performed by America's intelligence agencies], based on the unprecedented data-mining of domestic email and cellular telephone traffic, of banking records and public record databases; a government/corporate State surveillance and intelligence apparatus that outstrips the wildest dreams of the Gestapo and the KGB.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Being Interrogated At
Undisclosed Location By CIA In Middle Of Blog Rant

And, very little seemed to be about defeating Al-Qaeda, capturing or killing Bin Laden and Al-Zwahiri -- otherwise, we would have finished the job in the mountains of Tora Bora in October of 2002. Iraq would never have mattered. We would have kept promises to the Afghans about rebuilding their country, instead of ignoring it -- at least half the reason the Taliban were eventually able to come roaring back.

The 'Go-Go', Lil' Boots Bush years were about a larger Rightist agenda; it was about deregulation, defense contractors, profits; and it was about Fat Karl's dream of rigging elections for permanent Republican rule of the United States. Victory, to these assclowns, had a very different meaning. The portion of it that was military was just a backdrop for Bush and his cronies: Mission Accomplished.
_______________________________

We've had an economic collapse in 2008; eight years of neoliberal nothing, followed by four years of proto-Fascism; we're still wading through the swamp of a two-year pandemic; an attempted coup; and roughly 37% of America's adult population claiming to believe that bulletin-board posts by an anonymous fraudster are more real than mathematics, science, or common sense. 

This blessed 37%  refuse to accept the vaccines for SARS-CoV2. They refuse to wear masks. They do this to "Own The Libs". They are injecting themselves with special magic pony blessed horse juice, or screeching that the Blood Of The Jezus is all they need.

These are the same unvaccinated persons crowding into ED's, taking ward beds in hospitals; filling the ICUs. As I write this, America is losing roughly the same number of people to Covid-19 as were killed on September 11th. Every - Single - Day.

Frequently, since September 11th, 2001 a quote by Bush (whom we are supposed to think well of now; let the healing begin) comes back to me:
We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: In history's unmarked grave of discarded lies. (Applause)

-- George W. Bush, Address To Joint Session Of Congress
Is that appropriate as an epitaph for those who wish to do America harm? Or, does it speak to how we have allowed ourselves to be lied to, and led; will it end up being our epitaph, a closing quote for the United States Of America?
There is no ‘populist’ version of a world where some few are born booted and spurred, and the many are born saddled, and ready to ride, and that's precisely the world which conservatism is trying to preserve.

_________________________________ 

MEHR, MIT DIE WITZEN:  As usual, What Digby Said (or Dennis Hartley, in this case).

_________________________________


Monday, September 6, 2021

Random Barking Reprint: Taliban

 Someone Else Today. You Tomorrow.
(Originally From March, 2015)


This bill is not about discrimination... [the purpose of the legislation] is very simply to empower individuals when they believe that actions of government impinge on their constitutional First Amendment freedom of religion... 
-- Indiana Governor Mark Pence, to ABC's George Stephanopolis

SB 101: Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest... Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding ... Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability... Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer... (The RFRA, per the Indiana General Assembly)

I had intended to post a long rant on the perfidy and outright evil which characterize right-wing evangelism in America, but we'll just take those items as a given.

SB 101 isn't the first law passed in even recent memory allowing a minority in political control to enshrine their intolerance with the force of legislation -- in this case, evangelical christians (with a small "c") and their god-given (well, somebody's god, anyway) right to condemn -- in this case, LGBT Americans. And evangelicals love to condemn; being a True Believer seems to gives them the authority to do that, filled with Grace™ and love as they are.



And our right-wing evangelicals want to be the dominant authority -- over women, over children, over education and art and sexuality. Our evangelicals, like the Taliban, would like to enact their own version of religious law in America -- and religious law is not about uplifting and empowering the human spirit; it's based on Thou Shalt Not.

Religious law of whatever flavor (and there are few exceptions) is based on the fundamental precept that Humans are bad, stained from birth with evil, who must be carefully watched by the Elders and restricted from committing more acts which The Elders believe are affronts against (somebody's) god.

And (as is always true in less democratic forms of governing), the force of religious law always rests on ultimate punishment. Those who break these laws are whipped and disfigured, have parts of their bodies crudely amputated; are tortured until they confess their crimes; are stoned to death, beheaded, or burned at the stake. And the entire community will be made to watch, or may be required to participate in a ritualized killing... as a religious requirement. As an object lesson.

And nations ruled by True Believers and their edicts -- religious, or political -- always become bankrupt cultures; shabby, frightening, and ultimately murderous places.  Ask the Muslims of Serbia and Croatia. Ask the Tutsis of Rawanda. Ask the Rohingya of Myanmar. Ask the people of Cambodia. Ask the people of Afghanistan. Ask the Jews of Europe.

(A Dog has a long memory:  The last member of my family had been a born-again evangelical; for a time, they were associated with a tiny sect, organized around a self-proclaimed 'pastor'. After a long illness, my family member died; at the funeral, I watched the 'pastor' turn what was a moment of grief and remembrance into his opportunity to tell a captive audience, at length, that their time on earth was short and everyone in earshot and beyond was hellbound and they'd better get right with the lord. He shouted and strutted; he preened -- a True Believer in full, in love with the power that act of condemnation gave him -- power of passing judgement, and settling scores

(I've found some of him in every individual I've seen or experienced since who claims to be 'moved' by an allegedly higher power. And the so-called "laws" associated with whatever freakshow delusion they're pushing which allow them to do pretty much whatever they want. Yes, they'll make fine leaders of America, or whatever they'll call their New Kingdom.

(Ask the members of the People's Temple at Jonestown. Ask the Branch Davidians at Waco. You might even ask the members of 'christian' congregations across America, listening to speeches made by their 'pastors' condemning other people as less than human and feeling such putrescent drivel is not only just fine but righteous.) 

SB101 is not the last legislation of its kind that we'll see passed in America. And if an evangelical christian ever becomes President of the United States, we will see many more. The United States is, in the eyes of many, the country where political apathy is king; perhaps that's so.

If it is, then God help us all. In our torpor, ultimately we may find ourselves ruled by the same kind of strutting, egotistical monsters that a real pastor, Martin Niemöller, had in mind when he made the oft-quoted observation:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out. 
-- Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

_________________________________________________

MEHR, MIT "ES GENUG IST !":
(Reuters) - Indiana's Republican Governor Mike Pence, responding to national outrage over the state's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said on Tuesday he will "fix" it to make clear businesses cannot use it to deny services to same-sex couples.

Pence, in a news conference, said the law he signed last week had been widely mischaracterized and "smeared" but he called on the state's Republican-controlled General Assembly to send a new law to his desk this week to fix it...

But Pence found support from conservatives including Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz and possible presidential contenders Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio...
Critics say Indiana's law went too far in potentially allowing businesses to deny services to gay couples, because they could argue that doing so went against their deeply held beliefs.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Indiana under an appeals court ruling last year.

Religious Freedom Acts in Georgia and North Carolina appeared to stall this week after Indiana came under fire. But the Arkansas House of Representatives is expected to approve this week an RFRA that has already passed the state's Senate.

_________________________________ 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Bad Moon

The Present Is Prologue

Texas Volk Hail Their Victory

It doesn't matter whether the authors, supporters of the 'Heartbeat Act' in Texas expect it to stand against narrow legal challenges, or even as a Constitutional challenge to abortion law. It doesn't particularly matter how the Act fits into a long, "death of a thousand cuts" strategy of Right-wing attacks against Roe. Its provisions don't only decimate reproductive rights for women. 

The Act weaponizes vigilantism to allow Texas citizens, Americans, to exercise control over other American citizens -- as it relates to providing, receiving or 'aiding and abetting' abortion procedures for women in the state. 

It encourages any Texan to seek up to $10,000 in civil damages against abortion providers, clinic staff; Uber drivers; relatives, family members; supportive clergy – anyone they claim is a defendant, as defined by the Act. And, a lawsuit doesn't have to be filed where alleged acts took place. It can be filed in any county in the state -- for example, in a deep Red Texas district, with  judges sympathetic to The Cause.

There are already Tip Line websites set up -- to help zealous, god-fearing citizens to inform on whomever they claim to suspect of anti-state activity. 

Join The Team. Send An Anonymous Tip. 

Meritless lawsuits have always been with us; but this provides state support for any citizen to harass and threaten another, in furtherance of an ideologically-driven law. It goes far beyond a challenge to Roe. It codifies tactics of stalking and intimidation used by the Right for decades. In law, it's absolutely unprecedented -- but not in History.

History's examples of whole populations cowed and manipulated by the violence of a minority, supported and financed by a class of wealth, are too numerous to count.
_____________________

Yesterday, Texas also passed a separate law which allows "all Texans to own guns and to carry them in public, without a license and without training.”

Also yesterday, Jair Bolsonaro, fascist populist leader of Brazil, told his supporters to buy and stockpile guns against a future conflict with hated liberals and Leftists -- "Only the stupid person will store food," he said. "Smart ones get guns."
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The Past Is Present Tense

This is what happens: after the election in November of 2000, and over the thirteen years I've been sporadically writing this blog, decline and dissolution in America have been both easier to see but more difficult to convince people to believe -- we're Frogs, and the water has taken a long time to heat.

(Via The Soul Of America) here is Adolph Reed: "The right-wing ... [has] a single concrete objective—taking absolute power in the U.S. as soon and as definitively as possible. And [they] even seemingly want, to destroy the social fabric of the country [in taking power] ...

"Discrediting government ... has been a component of the GOP game plan ..  and Democrats have reinforced [that] in their own way. ...Four decades of retrenchment and privatization ... steadily increasing economic inequality and government’s failure to address it in any meaningful way [fuels a] lack of confidence, distrust, and hostility toward government ... and eventually even the idea of the public itself.  And [Right-wing billionaires who] bankroll the ultraright have taken advantage of that, [stoking] frustration and rage into a dangerously authoritarian political force."

I kept track of events, but nothing I read or watched surprised me much -- a stupid and dangerous position, since it meant ignoring experience and abandoning better judgement.  I'd grown up in the Fifties and Sixties; saw Southeast Asia personally. In the Seventies I studied history, focusing on Europe --  Germany in particular -- between the wars: Weimar, and what came after. 

I was someone who knew things, but coasted along believing the High School Civics Class view of America -- the long national Narrative of an America, not perfect, but on a constant upward (and of course, liberal) arc into an inevitable, enviable future. Even Vietnam was a tragedy beyond measure but a regrettable episode, a blip, in that long view. 

And during Watergate, Liberals rejoiced: America's Great Silent Majority was wrong. Their hero, Nixon, was a Crook -- but he was an aberration in the American Narrative; an exception, and the political Right was, too: the Fringe, on the wrong side of history. Easily dismissed. The future would be a moderate Liberal culture. 

Sure. Of course it would be.

Now, nearly 50 years later, the grandchildren of the Silent Majority are back. They're bully-mean in their MAGA caps and January 6, 2021 - Civil War T-Shirts, and they see the world through small, piggish eyes, and they hate you.

They hate Colored people and Foreigners, and Eggy-heads, and Libs and Gay and Trans People and E-lites. The weak and the soft.  They love god; yes they do (somebody's god, anyway), and America. They have guns and carry them -- and you have nothing to fear, so long as you do what they and their leaders say. 

It is the Purity of their Strength; it is Blood and Soil; and they will sing 'Amazing Grace' in celebration after they dump your battered corpses in some nameless field.


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Disease and climate deterioration are at the top of the list of conditions which frighten me. But what is happening now in America makes me believe we are close to something horrific: Our own version of the world after Weimar, and What Comes Next. 

We've already had a four year taste of what that could be -- and we've had an attempted coup. That we can have another is ignored by the DOJ, and Biden's government.

 When I submit to fear, I see my country being dominated -- by the malignant, the vicious, the bestial -- with no cure except The Fire, Next Time; and no guarantee that where it leads will be a happy ending. That this is the same worldview of those people I revile on Twitter as Thugs and Cletuses.
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Could America disintegrate into an even more obvious Oligarchy, like the old Soviet Union? Into warlords, criminal gangs, armed militias like Lebanon, like Syria? Could it become Atwood's Republic of Gilead? No one knows. 

But I feel sure we can't continue down the same road we've been travelling without penalties we can't imagine, at the mercy of being blown apart by another natural disaster, another Covid variant; the whims of a Rebecca Mercer, or Steve Bannon, or The Murdochs.
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Our old National Narrative says America is too diverse, has too high a standard of living to fail. On the other hand, History is littered with empires, cultures, which believed they were too strong to collapse.

George Packer (author of The Unwinding) recently noted in The Atlantic that America's national Narrative is a string of crises -- Our Story being 'how we got out of it' -- and that we now have not one unified Story of America; we have four. The one now on display in Texas, in my view, only leads out a one-lane gravel road to the cemetery. 

"The issues Trump had campaigned on waxed and waned ...What remained was the dark energy he unleashed... Trump’s people still talked about freedom, but they meant blood and soil. Their nationalism was like the ethno-nationalisms on the rise in Europe ... Trump abused every American institution ... and his people cheered. Nothing excited them like owning the libs."

People can write opinion pieces calling out lying and bullying by the political Right but it makes no difference. We can wonder if Congressional Republicans violated ethics rules, or if McCarthy violated federal law (threatening U.S. companies over the Senate panel inquiry into 1/6), and it will not matter. 

Their behavior -- McConnell's corruption; Gaetz' degeneracy; Cawthorn's flirting with threats of civil war and Boebert's intimations of physical violence; Greene's barely coherent lying -- are their badges of honor. Anything is permitted in Owning The Libs -- including sedition and treason. 

If you need proof that we do not live in a country with rule of law, consider: There was no penalty for their support of a coup on January 6th. There will be no punishment for them now, or ever. 
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I recently saw a video of an anti-masker, anti-vaxxer, holding a list of names and addresses of the local Board of Supervisors in his area, shouting at a small rally. The Board was preparing to vote on a mask mandate; this person held up the list of names and was literally screeching (I'll paraphrase), "We know where you [Supervisors] live! We're going to be at your front door -- we're coming for you!" Asked what would happen if the Board voted for a mandate, he shouted back, "Civil war!! Civil war!! Get your guns!!"  

This isn't some extremist, Fringe element, like John Birchers of the 1960's, spouting rhetoric that will never go further than a street corner. America's Right wing is pushing for confrontation -- but not one ending in reconciliation and an end to division. They want to "take America back". They want a final confrontation -- bloody, retributive; like a battle on the plains of Armageddon. 

What's happening now can't lead to any other conclusion. America's political Right is a madman with a gun, who keeps taking one step towards you, then another and another -- all while screaming Don't get any closer!! I'm warnin' ya!! I told ya to stop comin' at me!! And, when he finally shoots you: See what you did?? You Libs made me do it!! Told ya!! Told ya!!
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Something will happen. That seems inevitable. It's what the Red-caps have been told by their leaders should happen, after The Steal (reminds me of a monument, erected by the nazis in the 1930's at the border with Danzig: Remember, Germans, What Blind Hatred Has Stolen from Thee). And the rich Bundists who've bankrolled the Right want it, too; they can be Oligarchs without apology in the Brave New World, after. The Murdochs will be able to sell so much advertising time.

And when it happens, it will have to be an act of high drama. Something for the cameras. Wannabe 'patriots', and wealthy Bundists, need a historic spectacle to justify what they're about to do; a glorious event that fits with their political Narrative: they're about to become Founding Fathers. 

Even if it develops from some mundane incident, when the Right seizes their opportunity (remember, they're looking for it), the Event will be more seriously executed than January 6th. The lines crossed on that day will have to lead to the immediate subjugation of America and its citizens, or its dissolution in a hot civil war. These are the choices.
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Ian Welsh (who sees Texas as a harbinger of collapse; Welsh is compassionate towards persons but doesn't care much for 'America' -- perhaps this is wishful thinking on his part): "[enactment of the Texas law] is the thin edge: what’s coming to Texas now will be coming to you very soon. Roe vs. Wade is doomed; Republican Trumpists are taking over the party apparatus to ensure the next coup attempt succeeds, and Democrats are doing nothing to stop any of this... 

"The best case scenario is probably the US splitting peacefully. That will be unfortunate for those left-behind, but it beats the entire country falling, or a civil war."
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UND MEHR, NOCH EINMAL VON ADOLPH REED:  "I know that many liberals, and not a few leftists, will dismiss this account as wildly hyperbolic. Liberals have an abiding faith in the solidity of American democratic institutions... arguments demonstrating why a putsch can’t happen because it wouldn’t be in capital’s interests... But that’s why political scientists nearly all were caught flat-footed by the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

"To be clear, I’m not predicting the possible outcome I’ve laid out. My objective is to indicate dangerous, opportunistic tendencies and dynamics at work ... which I think liberals and whatever counts as a left in the United States have been underestimating or, worse, dismissing entirely. 

"If forced to bet, based on the perspective on American political history since 1980, or even 1964... I’d speculate that the nightmare outline I’ve sketched is between possible and likely, I imagine and hope closer to the former than the latter."

UND AUCH EIN WIEDERHOLENIt's worth repeating this, by Umair Haque, from 2018.

Do your best; try to be kind; try to be courageous in service to others. Good luck.
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