Wednesday, June 30, 2021

History Is Already Judging trump (w/ Update)

(Update: Many thanks to Jon Perr at Crooks&Liars for offering up this article to Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please check out the other articles here, and keep an eye out for Sunday because I like to do a FOUR FOR THE 4TH blogging run on Independence Day!)

This took up a bit of Twitter conversation today (up until the bombshell news of Cosby walking out of jail for his sex crimes). C-SPAN, the all-politics cable network, hosted a 2021 polling of Presidential Historians (damn, I did not get a phone call from them after my 2013 character reviews, I need to file for credentials to get on the next poll) that covered everyone from Washington to trump to see who ranked best and worst. Biden doesn't get graded yet because his term hasn't finished: It is also nice to see two of the ones who served the shortest terms - William Henry Harrison and James Garfield - get considered.

If you looked at the polling parameters, C-SPAN did a pretty good job of breaking down the factors ranging from economic policy to foreign policy to intangibles of leadership (persuasion, morality to name two). Working all of that together, and you get a list that puts donald trump down in the Bottom Five of Utter Failure.

I do think JFK's a little too high on this list...

No sign of the Shitgibbon yet...

THERE he IS! Tied with Pierce...

I know I am a bit biased when it comes to seeing trump dead last in any polling, but alas Historians take their business of judging history serious, so they had to give The Loser Of the Popular Vote (Twice) a fair shake. trump STILL ended up nowhere near the pinnacle of greatness he kept shilling himself to be.

If there are any surprises for me, it's that James Monroe isn't ranked higher, Coolidge and JFK both seem ranked a little too high IMHO, and my boy Chester A. Arthur needs a better agent. But I am not at all surprised at how low trump is held in esteem by those who study history and politics and who have a pretty good idea by now who merits acclaim and who gets the scorn.

If you've read just this blog alone, you'll have tracked a number of moments where trump failed this nation in terms of handling crises, in terms of persuasion, in terms of competency, in terms of coherent foreign policy, all of that. And this is all coming from a guy who's technically an amateur, I'm writing all of this as a hobby of sorts, personal venting, that sort of thing. You should notice this polling is with the professionals weighing in, with a better understanding of the Presidency and its effects on our present character and future direction. And man, they know trump sucked. 

When the only ones graded Worst than you (trump at 41st) are Andrew Johnson (43) and James Buchanan (44) and you tied with Franklin Pierce (42), you really need to re-evaluate your place in the universe. Dude, the guy who died in thirty days ranked higher (40) than you! (Addendum: The three worst all happen to be the Presidents who did the most damage either leading into the Civil War or during Reconstruction: Pierce aggressively pushing the hated Fugitive Slave Act; Buchanan enforcing the hate Dred Scott and contributing to Bloody Kansas instead of calming it, as well as dereliction of duty during the winter of 1860 when the secessionists seized federal forts and armaments; and then Johnson who threw away the early gains of Civil War victory, sabotaging Reconstruction and sowing the future for Jim Crow segregation for another 100 years.)

I work in a library. Ever since 2016, there have been a number of books about trump, about his campaign and his character and his administration and the utter chaos and madness he brought to both our nation and the world. Right now, we're getting a slew of preorders of titles written by Beltway journalists and esteemed historians critiquing the trumpian era (it takes about six to eight months from January for the postmortems to get edited and sent to galleys). For every one Far Right book I see on the distributors' lists, there's about five to seven books detailing the sins and follies of trump's White House.

History is already judging trump.

Yet the damn Republican Party thinks he's still a winner, that they can campaign again for him in 2024.

Gods help us if that ever happens (again).

One Sentence Thought About the Legal System Letting Cosby Walk On His Sex Crimes

There are sixty women, AT LEAST SIXTY WOMEN, who came forward to report how Bill Cosby drugged them, sexually assaulted them, publicly humiliated them, and they had enough evidence for a Pennsylvania jury to find him guilty of sexual assault on three of those women, and even with all that the state's Supreme Court lets Cosby walk free overturning those convictions because an idiot district attorney from an earlier administration gave Cosby a verbal agreement of immunity when he testified beforehand in a separate legal matter, and now there are thousands if not millions of women who endure sexual harassment and rape in this country who realize they may NEVER see any modicum of justice from a legal system and nation that seems to punish women for their sex

Sunday, June 27, 2021

This Week: Threatening Us With a Good Time (w/ Updates)

Last Friday, this news dropped (via Tom Winter, Adam Reiss and Dareh Gregorian at NBC News):

The Trump Organization is expected to be hit with criminal charges as soon as next week by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office in a case that Trump attorneys say is tied to tax-related conduct, multiple people familiar with the matter tell NBC News...

Now it's not like they will arrest a corporate entity (although having it shamble aboot like Frankenstein's Monster would be an apt metaphor), but targeting specific individuals in that organization who had a say in the activities leading up to alleged criminal misdeeds.

This also means that despite our nation's fondest hopes, they're not arresting trump himself (although it would be a nice birthday present on the 4th of July). At this stage of Vance's investigations and grand jury deliberations, we're likely talking about the lower rungs of trump's empire. That the DA's office is tipping their hand that it's all tax-related, we're likely looking at the biggest target being the Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg being prepped for the perp walk.

NBC News first reported this year in an interview with Jennifer Weisselberg, Allen Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, that the Manhattan DA was probing schemes where Trump employees including the Weisselbergs were able to avoid paying taxes in exchange for benefits such as an apartment...

NBC News confirmed this week that investigators had also been probing Matthew Calamari, the former Trump bodyguard who's now the company's chief operating officer. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the focus on Calamari, cited people close to the matter who said Calamari was being investigated over whether he received tax-free fringe benefits from the company.

Vance has been investigating a variety of allegations of financial improprieties against Trump's company. Court documents show that Vance is probing "possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization," which could include falsifying business records, insurance fraud and tax fraud.

The investigation appears to have picked up steam in recent months, after Vance's office won a lengthy battle to get ahold of Trump's personal and corporate tax returns and underlying financial documents in February...

This is more serious and damaging to trump than the Mueller Investigation. Vance and the New York Attorney General's office are digging directly into trump's own financials, and going at one of the few people who's had direct dealings with trump on tax-related matters. Allen Weisselberg is someone Michael Cohen - who was also deep into trump's financial mischief - repeatedly name-dropped during the early unraveling of everything when it got out trump paid off women who had affairs with him to avoid scandal during the 2016 campaigns.

What is happening here is the prosecutors are trying to get Weisselberg to flip on trump: They likely have all the paper trail they need from trump's tax returns to show he was cooking the books on his property values, but they need direct testimony from someone who was there to confirm who made the final calls on the lawbreaking. So far, Weisselberg hasn't flipped: Without any incentive at the moment, he has no reason to.

Putting him in handcuffs and a jail cell tends to be a big incentive to testify. And even then, Weisselberg has to know he's not the real target of all this. All he's waiting for is a sweetheart deal when it gets to be clear he has to play that particular trump (pun intended) card.

This is all fun and games until someone real high in this organization gets fingered. Maybe not trump himself but definitely one or more of his own kids he's been using as underlings in most of his shadier con jobs. Then it REALLY becomes fun and games.

We'll see this week if this merits a popcorn GIF or a goddamned street party GIF. 

Update Wed. 6/30: CNN is breaking that arrests are expected this Thursday July 1, Weisselberg in particular, involving "tax crimes." Mostly to do with perks and bonuses that apparently were not reported as income. Considering that higher-ups in the trump Organization would have had to sign off on at least some of those actions, we should expect at least one family member if not trump himself getting charged later on.

The Tragedy In Surfside

For all the craziness this weekend, nothing has been more tragic than the collapse of a condominium in South Florida. Via Laurel Wamsley at NPR

There are now 159 people unaccounted for in the partial building collapse in Surfside, Fla., Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday — a rise from 99 people a day earlier.

Three more bodies were found in the rubble, bringing the number of fatalities so far to four. More than 100 people have already been accounted for...

"We will continue search and rescue because we still have hope that we will find people alive," Levine Cava said. "That is why we are using our dogs and our sonar and our cameras — everything possible to seek places where there may still be people to be found..."

She said that people evacuated from the building are being provided food, shelter, cash to assist with their basic needs and grief counseling at a family reunification center, where families and friends can await any news of their loved ones.

President Biden approved an emergency declaration on Friday morning authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

The cause of the building's sudden collapse early Thursday morning remains unclear...

One pattern emerging is that the 40-year-old building (from 1981) was showing signs of aging out and becoming a risk. Back to NPR, with reporting from Matthew S Schwartz and Brian Mann:

A structural engineering report provided to the Champlain Towers condominium association in 2018 found widespread problems that required extensive repairs "in the near future."

The consulting group that wrote the report noted Saturday that the document "detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public..."

The engineering report, dated Oct. 8, 2018, includes pictures of cracks in the concrete columns of Champlain Towers South. The report found "major structural damage" to the concrete structural slab below the pool deck, caused by waterproofing that was "beyond its useful life" and needed a complete replacement.

It warned that "failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially."

The nine-page report, authored by Morabito Consultants, listed several areas of concern with the now 40-year-old building. The main issue was that the concrete slab was flat, rather than sloped in order to drain off water. That means any water simply sits on the waterproofing until it evaporates...

Sticking in my mind is the statement from the husband of a woman who called the night of the disaster while he was in DC on business. His wife was panicking about the condo shaking, and that the swimming pool had disappeared into a sinkhole... before the line went dead. She's still among the missing.

Any further reading into the Champlain Towers will point out how it was built atop reclaimed wetlands, which is not the sturdiest ground to build on. That a local Florida International University professor who studies these things had found the building was sinking (although he'll establish that effect wouldn't have been the direct cause of the collapse).

And as someone who's lived in Florida almost all my life - having witnessed the rise of the state population from the 1980s onward and the massive development of condo towers, business complexes, luxury hotels, and other massive buildings up and down the entire peninsular coast between New Port Richey to Jacksonville - let me note that this is likely the beginning of all those big towers falling.

Any decent study of Florida history will tell you that the Sunshine State has been home to massive overdevelopment of coastal lands, as well as propping up suburb after suburb alongside shopping malls atop swampy ecosystems that were needed to handle flooding issues (especially from the annual hurricane seasons). It doesn't help that a lot of that construction over the years of growth - I would argue late 60s as the start date when air conditioning made it more comfortable to live in Florida, as well as the Space Race and tourism making Central Florida a business mecca - was shoddy, questionable, and prone to collapse. Hurricane Andrew's visit in 1992 exposed a lot of those sins... and yet for all the talk about improvements to the building codes, there's still a lot of short-cuts and cost-cutting going on that leaves a lot to be desired.

We're coming up to the 40-year mark of the early rounds of massive development across Florida, all these buildings just as old as Champlain Towers if not older: Many of them likely cracking from years of erosion, or aging out of questionable construction materials lacking in the rebar or other reinforcements to help keep things up.

That warning report was in 2018. There doesn't seem to be any sign that the building management or homeowners' association was acting on that report by the time of this disaster. They were apparently getting another cost evaluation done a few days before this happened. A serious sign of foot-dragging on something that turned out required a lot more urgency.

Ever drive along the Florida coast? Especially South Florida, the exotic jewel of the Caribbean waters? I lived down there for about 9 years, mid-90s, as more construction was going on. Nearly every inch of the Atlantic coast had towers, massive skyscrapers, high-value property overlooking the ocean, some of the most beautiful vistas in the world (if you could see any of it past the towers). A lot of them built right on the edge, crowding out any sandy shores of beachfront... and all of it sinking into that ocean as the sea levels keep rising.

This Sunshine State has been living high on the constant development of land into businesses and residences (and almost all of it high-value, nothing for the low-income families still struggling to find apartment space). All of that construction and yet no care or concern of the long-term impacts we're only now starting to see. The powers-that-be wanted all this development but don't want to spend any money to renovate, upgrade or repair.

What worries me is how this isn't all new: We've been getting warnings for decades that all this overdevelopment was going to bite us, and we've been getting warnings the last five-ten years that we need to start repairing all the places we have before it gets too late.

And now it's getting too late.

I am so sorry so many lives had to disappear like this for our state to get one more warning sign. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

DeSantis Bringing Back the Thought Police to Florida

Jesus, the news this day from my crazy-ass state of Florida. As Betty Cracker mentions at Balloon Juice, Gov. DeSantis is cracking down on librul Thoughtcrime at our public universities

After whining non-stop about tech company “censorship” when private businesses enforced their terms of service on Agent Orange (AKA trump), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis showed us what honest-to-dog censorship looks like when he signed a bill banning the 1619 Project and discussions of critical race theory in Florida’s public schools. Now he’s out to identify thought-crimes at state universities...

Betty refers to the Miami Herald article from Ana Ceballos covering this:

In his continued push against the “indoctrination” of students, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed legislation that will require public universities and colleges to survey students, faculty and staff about their beliefs and viewpoints to support “intellectual diversity.”

The survey will discern “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” in public universities and colleges, and seeks to find whether students, faculty and staff “feel free to express beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom,” according to the bill.

The measure, which goes into effect July 1, does not specify what will be done with the survey results. But DeSantis and Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the sponsor of the bill, suggested on Tuesday that budget cuts could be looming if universities and colleges are found to be “indoctrinating” students...

And as Betty notes, the goddamn governor can't even define what the hell it is he's looking for:

When asked, DeSantis didn’t name any instances of indoctrination — he says he hears “worries” from parents. But lack of evidence that legislation is needed to address a problem is no obstacle to DeSantis, who follows the Trump-GOP model of government by trolling. DeSantis couldn’t identify a single example of critical race theory being taught in K-12 public schools, or trans girls dominating girls’ sports teams, or widespread voter fraud. Yet he championed and signed legislation addressing all these fictional problems...

So under threat of slashed budgets to universities already under tightened restraints, this survey will be forced onto professors, faculty, and students all in the great name of purging "indoctrination" of unwanted thoughts. Arguably this is against the Republicans' hate for Critical Race Theory but in truth it's a potential purge of ANY liberal or progressive belief as punishment for refusing to toe the Far Right Wingnut line.

And if any of this sounds familiar to you, it's because we as a nation have been through this shit before: the Red Scare of the post-World War II era, commonly known as the McCarthyist Era named for the bullying Senator who oversaw a major purging of public and private citizens.

But that's not all. Florida went through its' own purge against "indoctrination" at the state level, officially called the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee but better remembered as the Johns Committee for the SOB who oversaw that shit-show. Openly formed as a response to the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling desegregating public schools (a clear act of racism by the by, Gov. DeSantis), state senator Charley Eugene Johns led that committee against any civil rights activism and then expanded it to hunt down suspected homosexuals especially at the major state university of the time, U of Florida in Gainesville. Basically, giving themselves the power to ruin any lives they wanted to hurt. Students got expelled, faculty and librarians were fired, and everyone else failed to defend their due process rights because they feared retaliation if they even did that.

From the Independent Alligator newspaper covering things at UF, article by Meghan McGlone, here are some of the sins that the Johns Committee inflicted on people

The year was 1958, and while other students were worrying about class and their lives off campus, UF sophomore Art Copleston was in the University Police’s basement.

A single lightbulb hung by a string over a wooden, four-legged table with a tape recorder placed in the middle. Blinds covered the windows, and two UPD officers sat with Copleston.

A UPD officer said he knew Copleston was gay. Then, he ordered the student to tell him the names of everyone that he knew on campus who was gay.

Copleston said he sat there for hours that day, and was brought back to that room four or five more times. If the officers could prove that he was gay, they told him, they could kick him off campus...

In many cases, UPD forcibly removed students and faculty from class and interrogated them without a legal representative present. Interrogators threatened to expose their sexual orientation during a time when “exposure would mean social death,” (UF Lecturer Steven) Noll said.

At the time the committee was at UF, (college President) Reitz did not stop the committee’s acts. He needed money from the state to develop the university, Noll said, and the Johns Committee was a state committee. He also believed that being gay was a major problem in American society.

In a 1988 interview, Reitz called anyone who was gay “a complete aberration.” He also communicated with Johns through letters, thanking the committee for its work...

Organizations on campus have addressed the Johns Committee’s history at UF, including LGBTQ Affairs. Its history recognizes the committee leading to the dismissal or resignation of faculty and students. It also recognizes that Reitz cooperated with the committee.

Director of LGBTQ Affairs Tiffany Richards declined to comment on LGBTQ Affairs’ history, or the fact that its office is held in the Reitz Union, a building whose namesake supported the committee. Graduate assistant of LGBTQ Affairs Logan Neser did not respond to The Alligator’s emails or calls.

Florida State Senator Lauren Book wrote a resolution late last year asking state legislators to acknowledge the injustices the Johns Committee caused and apologize to the victims of the committee. The bill failed March 14 in the Senate’s Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability...

Instead, it seems the Florida Legislature along with DeSantis decided to go the other way and bring that intimidating bullshit back. And bringing back the same hammer - the threat of cutting funds - to ensure the colleges comply.

DeSantis and his lackeys are not railing against "Critical Race Theory," they're railing against any study of racism at all, and opposed to any effort to confront racism as the problem it is. In the process, they're setting up the weapons they and the Far Right can use to attack anyone they view as deviants, not just transgenders and gays/lesbians, but also feminists and women who stand for pro-choice, anyone they deem "socialist" or worse if you happen to speak against income inequality. Just how far you think this slippery slope is when this kind of "investigation" goes after anyone "anti-religious" or non-Christian (which you're bound to find at a large university with active Muslim AND Jewish groups).

We've seen this movie before, Florida. And goddammit, it wasn't that great the first time.

This remake of the Real Witch Hunts of the 1950s is going to be directed by an even worse artist in DeSantis who has no vision and is working from a lousy rehashed script, pandering to a viewing audience of raging angry White folk who view anyone educated as "elitist" and evil.

What the Florida Republicans are attempting here are direct violations of everyone's First Amendment rights to Peaceably Assemble and the Freedom of Speech. They're going after the academic ideals of open debate and honest discourse, seeking to intimidate enough people to go silent and avoid punishment at the hands of the State of Florida.

This shit shouldn't stand. Every student and every teacher need to fight back. Your rights, your very lives are at stake even if you roll over and let DeSantis and his bullies win.

They want to impose silence, and they will want your scalps. Don't let them do either to you.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

They Don't Want You There, Bibi. Get Out of the House w/Update

Remember when I blogged about the possibility of donald "Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice)" trump refusing to leave the White House after he lost to Biden? The possibility that trump would physically cling to the building itself crying out "I don't wanna leave!" Sadly, it never sank to that level of stupidity and we missed out on some great PPV opportunities there...

Well it turns out it's another authoritarian SOB who lost his job as leader who's throwing his own temper tantrum in that regard. Heading over to Israel where ousted ex-Prime Minister Benjamin "On Trial for Bribery" Netanyahu has camped out in the PM's official residence until next month (per AP newswire link through NPR): 

Netanyahu was unseated as prime minister earlier this month. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett succeeded in cobbling together a government in the aftermath of Israel's fourth consecutive election in two years.

Netanyahu, who served for 12 years as prime minister until Bennett's government was sworn in last week, has yet to move out of the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem.

The residence on Balfour Street was the scene of weekly protests calling on Netanyahu to resign while on trial for corruption charges in the past year. Netanyahu refused to step down from office and has denied any wrongdoing. The country's repeated elections were largely a referendum on his fitness to serve.

In a joint statement late Saturday, Bennett and Netanyahu's offices said they had agreed that the Netanyahu family would leave the residence no later than July 10. Thereafter, the statement said, "the residence will transfer to the use of Prime Minister Bennett..."

Anybody willing to bet on that? They're giving him and his family enough time to barricade every door and window for the next three weeks.

Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to topple the newly formed government, which he has called a "dangerous leftist government." It is comprised of eight parties, including several headed by former allies and proteges of Netanyahu, smaller liberal parties and an Islamist faction.

Guarantee you, Netanyahu is scheming up ways to sabotage the government to force another election before he's literally forced out of that home and likely forced out of his seat of office. It's a big tell that Bibi is calling the new government "leftist" even when it's being led by Naftali Bennett, who is more Far Right than Netanyahu himself.

Netanyahu is showing a lot of signs of refusing the reality that his political power is waning. Ever since the corruption charges came out against him, he's been unable to form a stable parliament with four elections in two years mostly revolving around his corruption as a major voting issue. His Likud Party may be a major power in Israel, but it's been weakened by his own presence, and yet he's got such a dominant cult-of-personality type hold on it that they dare not kick him out to save their own skins.

...Sounds a little familiar here at home, don't it...?

Anyway, the drama in Israel isn't over by any means. Netanyahu's trials ought to continue soon. Bennett's harsh pro-settlement and anti-Palestinian stances suggest the ongoing bloodshed and poisoning of Gaza and the West Bank won't end soon

You'd hope the new leadership won't fall into the same traps and corruption the way Bibi's did. Time will tell on that...

Update 7/11: Spiteful little bastards, aren't they?

The whole family held out until the last fucking minute. What the hell they waiting for, impending Amazon deliveries or something?! /headdesk

Time to Conduct Some Semiconductor Business At Home

If anybody's waiting on an order for a new Atari VCS microconsole, you might have to wait awhile. There seems to be a massive shortage of semiconductors required for... practically every electronic device we have. Per David Atkins at Washington Monthly:

But there’s increasingly an argument to be made that a just-in-time lowest-cost supply system may not just be bad for the climate or for domestic employment. It may also in many cases be bad for business. The semiconductor crisis tells an exemplary tale. As information technology becomes essential to daily life in developed countries, semiconductors are essential for making the world go round. Phones, computers, gaming consoles and automobiles all require increasingly sophisticated semiconductors. And most of them are made by a single company: Taiwan Semiconductor. Indeed, Taiwan Semiconductor is so dominant in the field that few competitors can match them, and they’re falling farther behind...

We've got a hundred different manufacturers putting together a 1001 different electronic devices, and NOBODY seemed to notice they ALL relied on ONE supplier for a required component to their devices???

The semiconductor shortage is harming vehicle production lines. It’s why the next generation gaming consoles that were supposed to be available last Christmas are still in vanishingly short supply. It is starting to impact smartphones and personal computers as well.

There are many correlated aspects to this problem. It’s partly a matter of national security: what does the global economy do when it relies so heavily on a single actor in a location of geopolitical instability? It’s partly a problem of monopoly: is the market truly free or stable if so many essential products depend on the fate of a single company? How can there be genuine competition if the cost of entry makes establishing new competition prohibitive? It’s partly a matter of the pandemic: Taiwan Semiconductor and other manufacturers have been struggling to meet production targets due to reduced capacity from COVID restrictions.

An over-reliance on global trade and shipping, combined by corporate eagerness to find the cheapest labor instead of reliability and location, have led us to this bloody mess. The Pandemic merely highlighted our vulnerabilities.

At no time in the past 20 years it seems - as the Internet revolution exploded the computer tech industry into the behemoth it is today - anyone planned far enough ahead to plan for possible shortages or cuts to supply lines. It never occurred to anybody relying on tech parts like semiconductors that it would help to establish their own manufacturing to compete for that key part in more than one country/continent so that they didn't rely on Taiwan Semiconductor Inc itself. That company could have branched itself out, using its expertise in its manufacturing techniques to build more factories in other places to maintain a stranglehold on its monopoly of semiconductors while improving its supply chain to ensure availability. Apparently nobody - even the company aware of its own situation - wanted to spend the money to do that.

I'm not a businessman, don't have a degree in economics, but even *I* know it's foolish to rely on one provider of one product from one location that just happens to be so needed for almost everything out there.

But monopolizing practices don't seem to breed expansion or competition, only complacency. Nobody wants to spend profits on improving service or supply. Until it's too late.

If the United States wants to respond properly to this crisis, our own government ought to push for business start-up funds to get semiconductor manufacturers up and running here (and to hell with the local CEO mindset against hiring workers in the U.S. because they might ask for living wages). We've got manufacturing towns dying out because they've been abandoned: This could be a good time to reinvest in those places that can handle the semiconductor industry.

Sort of what Atkins says at the end of his article:

The world has a mutually invested interest in distributing production of goods like semiconductors–and it’s not clear that the private sector should be wholly responsible for taking on the burden. (To say nothing of the leftist critique that the benefits of successfully adding semiconductor production should not redound merely to the shareholders.)

The governments of the world have both a competitive and cooperative interest in ensuring that resources like semiconductors are not at the mercy of geopolitical conflict, and that production can be ramped up as needed even if problems should arise in one company, country or corner of the globe.

What say ye, President Biden? Care to invest America in much-needed semiconductors to generate much-needed jobs?

Friday, June 18, 2021

Schisms Ahead

This was the big bombshell today, as the Catholic Bishops decided to go to war over who gets the daily wafer and wine (I think. I'm Unitarian, dammit, I'm not fully hep to the rituals of the Trinitarian types!) Via Sarah McCammon at NPR:

After a contentious debate, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has voted to move forward with a process that could call into question the eligibility of politicians like President Joe Biden to receive Communion.

The bishops voted 168-55 in favor of drafting "a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church," officials announced on Friday afternoon, the final day of their three-day virtual meeting. Six bishops abstained.

Biden's election as only the nation's second Roman Catholic president has prompted renewed debate over denying communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, a position at odds with church teachings.

During their online meeting, bishops held a spirited discussion Thursday before voting on the proposal to direct the bishops' Committee on Doctrine to draft the statement. Such a document, once completed, could include guidelines for denying communion to public officials...

If you have any awareness of the Constitutional arguments over the Separation of Church and State, you might notice that this is drawing a very big line in the sand with a major church interfering with the order of the federal government.

Churches and religious leaders are not supposed to tell politicians what to do: Withholding something as sacred as Communion is a way of bullying an elected official to toe the church's faith instead of upholding the secular laws. In spite of the overtly religious psychotics running around out there claiming we're a Christian Nation, the United States is NOT supposed to be a theocracy. Congress (and the rest of the government) cannot put one church above any others (per the First Amendment), nor should they impose Religious Tests (per Article VI of the Constitution).

What the Bishops are doing here is imposing a Religious Test, in an attempt to put themselves - and their fellow Far Right anti-abortion Christian allies - above all other churches and Christian faithful who are Pro-Choice.

It should be telling that the Bishops are doing this in spite of the fact that a majority of American Catholics are Pro-Choice: The church leadership stateside is about to alienate a large portion of their own parishes doing this. It should also be telling that the Bishops are doing this in spite of their own Pope Francis - The Head of the Whole Damn Church, the one who is supposed to be Infallible and carrying the keys to Jesus' Kingdom - not to use the Communion as a weapon against their own churchgoers

It should be telling that this is a political move, not a religious one. If the Bishops were serious about punishing politicians who ignore Catholic church stances on Life, you'd be seeing the Bishops denying the Communion service as well to Far Right politicians (mostly Republicans) who cheer on the death penalty that the Church also condemns. The hypocrisy of this reeks.

At first glance, this looks like a partisan political power grab by the national Catholic leadership. A means of imposing their will in open violation to the Separation of Church and State they'd been observing for centuries. It would also seem to be organizational suicide, above all: The Bishops are about to drive off more than half of their own church-goers just to score cheap political points that would likely lessen their political influence on Catholic Democrats (their target in this matter) who can simply walk away, and are doing this at a time when church attendance across the board in the United States is spiraling downward

But here's the thing: Try to think the way the Far Right religious types - the Evangelicals and other anti-abortion churches cheering on the sidelines - think. Try to recognize who would truly profit from this move of the Catholic Bishops alienating both their parishes and their own Pope.

There are a handful of ways this will all play out, all of them benefitting the Far Right ultra-religious who currently hold sway over the Republican Party, keeping allegiance to the corrupt like trump and the racist, sexist world-views that underscore their hypocrisy.

Let's say the Bishops finish making this proposal a reality, and they go ahead with denying the Eucharist to liberals and Democrats who support a woman's right to choose. They risk the political reaction of having the Catholic Church's tax-exempt status taken away. What the Church might do here would be considered "issue advocacy" and violate their exempt status.

The simplest response by the federal government if the Catholic leadership goes this way would be to remove that exemption. It would certainly break the financial power the Church would have as a lot of their properties suddenly get taxed, and it would collapse a number of non-profits no longer able to stay well-funded when federal subsidies dry up

However, that response would be a public relations nightmare: The United States hasn't de-exempted a church organization of this size ever. In fact, the government has penalized just one church for breaking the Church-State separation when they revoked the exemptions for Pierce Creek Church in NY back in 1992 when it openly campaigned against Bill Clinton. Going after the ENTIRE Catholic Church in the U.S. would shock every Christian organization, even the ones that are liberal and pro-choice, and create a backlash that would create a political divide within Democratic ranks among those who are still church-goers and those who went secular (and have no qualms about taxing the shit out of rich churches. Sorry Bono, but your Catholic Church has its own fucking bank). It would certainly give the Religious Right political ammo to attack the Democrats as "anti-Christian," which they do now anyway but would finally have "proof" to back those attacks.

Another option for Democrats and liberals would be to walk away, abandon the Catholic Church in droves and accelerate the downward spiral of church-going turnout. It would cut into the Church's tithing and donations received: It would force remote parishes emptying out to close and relocate elsewhere, diminishing the Church's reach. This is something that could seriously hurt the Catholic Church both now and forever.

However, this is still something the Religious Right wants. They WANT the liberal left-leaning influence of the parishes gone, leaving behind only the "true" faithful of the conservative pro-fetus church-goers who will become devout foot soldiers in the Far Right's war on everybody else. You see it in other Christian churches that have also lost enough liberal followers to where the more conservative forces have taken internal control of the church organization. The Far Right wants the Catholic Church to be as fully Far Right as they are, even if it means reducing their numbers from millions to hundreds.

The Religious Right would also crow to their media allies how this shows liberals abandoning Christ, becoming as Godless and Un-Christian as they've claimed all along. In a nation where religion still holds cultural/social influence, this would be a big hit against the Democrats even in the Blue states.

A third option wouldn't involve American politics, but the Church's internal organization. By ignoring Pope Francis here, the U.S. Bishops are risking serious rebuke by their Boss. It wouldn't even be fearing any financial devastation that might hurt the Church if the U.S. revokes their tax exemption, this would be a serious act of insubordination that could force the Vatican to denounce their Bishops for going too far, with disciplinary actions ranging from forced retirements, banishments to other parishes overseas where they lose their political authority, up to something severe as straight-up defrocking similar to what they did to priests and bishops tied into the sex abuse and coverups.

However, any of those moves to regain organizational control over the rogue Bishops - even if Francis narrows it down to just a handful of ringleaders - could well create a schism within the Church on a global scale. There are a large number of conservative, extremely pro-fetus Bishops and priests who would quit the Catholic Church if they feel the Pope is violating the Church's own tenets against abortion (that he is, by allowing pro-choice Catholics to continue on, betraying the cause). Not just in the United States, but across Europe and Africa and Asia and Central/South America. Any mass resignation could cripple the Church's organization for decades and likely accelerate the turnout spiral just as much as having the liberal Catholics resign the Church.

This again profits the Far Right, because any attempt to weaken the power of the Catholic Church - which opposes the Evangelical and Protestant churches on various other issues especially regarding poverty and racism - will strengthen their own (not just in the U.S. but across a lot of other nations coping with the violent Nationalist movements that go against the Catholic Church's more pacifist leanings).

None of this looks like either Biden or Francis are getting out of this matter unscathed.

To refer to Adam L Silverman at Balloon Juice:

Pope Francis’s papacy, however, has been an attempt to reestablish some sense of institutional equilibrium and balance back into Catholicism after the very, very conservative papacy of John Paul II and the reactionary papacy of Benedict XVI. Especially in regard to Catholicism in the US. He has been challenged, however, by a group of traditionalist Catholic leaders whose political, social, and religious views mirror, and are in some cases more extreme than, those of the popes who selected them. Some of these clerics have been weaponized by Steve Bannon in his attempts to either overthrow Pope Francis in pursuit of his neo-fascist national populism or to create a new schism and split the Church...

...Today’s actions are not the end of this dispute and controversy, but just one important step towards advancing it. The next step is for the USCCB to vote on the measure in November, just as the 2022 midterm election cycle is beginning. And even if they do vote to put this into action, it cannot prevent any specific bishop from providing President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, or any other Catholic politician or public figure who tries to separate their faith from public policy from receiving communion. Frankly, denying them communion isn’t really the goal. The goal is to create controversy, because to quote the old professional wrestling adage, controversy creates cash. It also creates attention and political opportunity. The real fight here is not over whether President Biden or Speaker can or cannot take communion. The real fight is whether Pope Francis is legitimate if his papacy is not focused on the exceedingly conservative and revanchist pet issues of the Church’s reactionary episcopate...

None of this is really about faith. It's all about wealth, power, and patriarchy. It's all about achieving those things through the divide-and-conquer strategy of the Far Right that's been going on for decades.

Thing is now, it's moved from the back rooms and into the public forum. It's moved up to the stage where the Far Right divides us all, faith against faith, community against community.

I can't see a sane move here that could save either our nation's religious diversity or the Catholic Church's ability to stay intact. Either way, the goddamn wingnuts are going to win, and they are going to weaponize faith against everyone else who will get in their way.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Just Another Rambling Florida Man, Full of Violence and Full Of Bull

Welp. Florida Man got a reputation for stupidity and violence to uphold.

From Marc Caputo at Politico, a Republican primary candidate for the Tampa Bay area congressional district (13th) - being vacated by Charlie Crist as he plans another run for Governor in 2022 - threatened another Republican primary opponent with a Russian-Ukrainian hit squad. Yes, he went there:

During a 30-minute call with a conservative activist that was recorded before he became a candidate, William Braddock repeatedly warned the activist to not support GOP candidate Anna Paulina Luna in the Republican primary for a Tampa Bay-area congressional seat because he had access to assassins. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who is running for governor.

“I really don't want to have to end anybody's life for the good of the people of the United States of America,” Braddock said at one point in the conversation last week, according to the recording exclusively obtained by POLITICO. “That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Luna is a f---ing speed bump in the road. She's a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood...”

Olszewski denied editing or altering the recording. She said she made it because she was concerned about Braddock’s “unhinged” dislike of Luna that he had previously expressed. After she made the recording just after midnight last Wednesday, she promptly turned it over to St. Petersburg, Fla., police and gave a heads-up to her friend Luna, who filed a petition for an injunction against Braddock. Luna and Olszewski each received a temporary restraining order against him last week. Braddock filed to run Monday...

“...I have access to a hit squad, too, Ukrainians and Russians,” he said about three minutes into the call, adding “don't get caught out in public supporting Luna. … Luna’s gonna go down and I hope it's by herself...”

It's unclear exactly why Braddock has such dislike toward Luna. The two do not appear to have any previous connection to one another, and Braddock is a lower-tier candidate in an increasingly crowded race for Crist’s seat. Already, two state lawmakers and a former Obama administration official have entered the race, with others expected to jump in...

I have a pretty good idea why Braddock has that much dislike towards Luna. One, she's openly as wingnut a candidate you can find among Republican ranks, railing against Socialism and praising Sarah Palin. Braddock doesn't want the competition for the MAGA vote. Two, she's a woman, and the goddamn misogyny underlining male conservative ideology tends to trigger this kind of violent response.

But there's a lot more to unpack in all of this insanity.

Braddock is bragging that he's got the money and the connections to hire foreign hit squads. This isn't the kind of thing you post on your resume, nor something you bring up in a PowerPoint presentation to the local Rotary clubs. Either he's just announced he's that dangerous to others he views as rivals (in either politics or business) or he's lying and bragging about shit he can't back up, which still makes him dangerously insane.

And it's telling that when he brags about this, Braddock is calling on "Russian-Ukrainians" as a specific foreign ethnicity at his beck and call. This brings forward the ongoing scandalous behavior of Republicans and Far Right business figures constantly getting caught committing dirty work within the sphere of Putin's influence. He's not talking about ex-SEAL mercs, or sniper teams from a Central American nation that got U.S. backing during the 1980s. Braddock is going to the one overseas nationalist white-power country in Russia (with Ukrainian expatriates in the mix) that has gotten its hooks into every level of Republican leadership the last ten years.

To anybody who takes national security and political integrity seriously, this is a major ongoing scandal threatening the whole United States.

Braddock, one way or another, is exposing a lot of the problems consuming the Republican Party: Obsession with wingnut purity, the easy talk of violent actions towards rivals, the willingness to threaten and harm women, reckless bravado bordering on stupidity, and open association with a foreign power that is in opposition to the United States and our European allies on the global stage.

This may be yet another Florida Man moment, but it's not funny.

Gods help us. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Texas Is Broken Part II: Electric Boo-Boo

It wasn't too long ago (February this month) I wrote about the GREAT STATE OF TEXAS - home to the second-most number of Americans - killing itself in a deep freeze due to serious mismanagement by their current Republican-dominate state officials.

Well, here's the other side of the coin with regards to the Climate Change Extremes everybody has been screaming about the last 30 years: As of now, Texas is killing itself with a severe heat wave that's draining their broken electrical grid (via Erin Douglas at Texas Tribune):

Texas’ main power grid struggled to keep up with the demand for electricity Monday, prompting the operator to ask Texans to conserve power until Friday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a statement Monday that a significant number of unexpected power plant outages, combined with expected record use of electricity due to hot weather, has resulted in tight grid conditions. Approximately 12,000 megawatts of generation were offline Monday, or enough to power 2.4 million homes on a hot summer day.

ERCOT officials said the power plant outages were unexpected — and could not provide details as to what could be causing them...

Here's a possibility: the likelihood that inaction by the political and corporate leadership for the past 20 years to expand or update the power grid to handle the growing population and energy demands that go with all that (it doesn't help that in the past 20 years, our reliance on electronics has increased) has created too much demand and not enough reserves. Anyway, back to Douglas:

The conservation request comes at a time of heightened anxiety around electricity after the state’s catastrophic February power outages left millions without power for days. Those outages, which were prompted by a severe winter storm, may have killed as many as 700 people, according to an analysis of mortality data by BuzzFeed News...

Of the plants offline, about 9,600 megawatts of power, or nearly 80% of the outages, are from thermal power sources, which in Texas are largely natural-gas-fired power plants. That’s several times what ERCOT usually sees offline for thermal generation maintenance during a summer day. Typically, only about 3,600 megawatts of thermal generation are offline this time of year...

The article comments how in April they shut down plants to handle repairs from the February freeze-out, but questions should remain that the power stations in Texas have not fully recovered from all that damage done.

Just to include here for comment, follow this link to see Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice doing us a solid by collating all of the Twitter comments noting how the inept GOP leadership for Texas is pretty much letting the state boil away. 

For all the schadenfreude the political attacks provide - aimed at a group of self-satisfied Republican leaders who keep proving their unwillingness to ACTUALLY LEAD their state - this is again a very serious problem for Texas.

Heat waves are nasty and lethal: Thousands can die in a prolonged heat wave, and Southwest United States - Texas included - is facing one of the most severe ones in years

As a Floridian, let me tell you: the difference between living in an air-conditioned room at 76 F over a room heated up to 82 F - which will happen at the least when the power goes - means being able to breathe normally (for starters). Opening the windows won't help if the outdoors is hotter than being in the shade, and if humidity is there to make it worse. Without power, without even ceiling fans to help circulate the air to cut down on humidity, people won't just feel uncomfortable... people will collapse and suffer heat strokes.

That ERCOT council - encouraging people to raise their thermometers just a tad - is overlooking how many of their residents won't, because they'll only worry about their own comfort and risk any blackouts that might roll along at any time of the day. It does not help that the way things are going, the amount of power left to share is so minimal that blackouts are unavoidable... And what happens then???

All because the powers that be that have run the GREAT STATE OF TEXAS - not just the modern Republicans but the conservative Democrats of yore - have been libertarian-driven anti-federalism nightmares who refused to properly regulate their state's energy needs and who obsess over culture war politics over actual governance.

Governor Abbott just promised to spend millions on continuing trump's ill-advised and foolish border wall project, all the while failing to spend millions on upgrading the state's power grid or even connect themselves to neighboring states to help manage power demands. The latest "reforms" that Abbott passed did not do anything to ween the state away from natural gas, which proved unreliable during the February freeze and is proving unreliable now.

And given how Bitcoin mining seems to chew up electricity like tasty gummi bears, Abbott's recent call to promote cryptocurrency in Texas could be what's causing the power shortages of the past few weeks. 

The Republican leadership of Texas - beholden to oil and gas corporations above all others - does not want to make the hard choices that the residents of Texas need right now to save their own lives.

And it's going to be the elderly, and the young, and the poor, who are all going to be hurt by this.

Can't wait for Part III of Texas' next big disaster, which is an upcoming hurricane season that will not show mercy on anyone.

Gods help them. 

Because the Republicans really won't.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Imposing Silence Against Racism And Our Nation's White Boy Sins (w/ Update)

(Update: Thanks again to Batocchio for sharing this article on Crooks&Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please leave a comment - I know the security is a hassle but I need to filter out the Chinese spammers...)

Saying this up front: The Republicans are doing this out of fear.

It's been an issue simmering for some time but ever since the George Floyd verdict and the ongoing struggle of the Far Right to rail against anything that paints them in a bad light, the Republicans have declared WAR on Critical Race Theory and are banning its teachings in public schools. Especially here in goddamned Florida under the faint-hearted eye of Gov. DeSantis (via Julia Craven at Slate (paywall warning)):

On Thursday, Florida’s State Board of Education voted unanimously, at the behest of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, to ban lessons that employ critical race theory (CRT) or the New York Times’ 1619 Project from schools. The vote aligns with initiatives in several other states such as Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Iowa. 

Florida’s amendment takes an existing rule saying instruction “may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holcaust” and adds “slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and the contributions of women, African American and Hispanic people to our country...”

While that reads as though the Board is protecting teachers to teach on those matters, the ruling actually bans them from using any materials from the award-winning 1619 Project, which had studied the impact of racial slavery since the British colonial era.

Even as it bans specific themes and texts, though, Florida’s amendment doesn’t define exactly which historical or factual claims are off-limits.

CRT is a decades-old set of ideas from the legal academy, which began to be a low-grade source of right-wing panic about racism during the Obama administration. Since the anti-racism protests of 2020 and the end of the Trump administration, though, it has rapidly become an all-purpose term to attack any sort of discussion of the history or current conditions of racial inequity in America.

Nothing academically recognizable as critical race theory is currently being taught anywhere in Florida, according to officials who spoke with the Miami Herald. Yet DeSantis has continued his campaign against it anyway, telling reporters last month: “You teach the facts. You teach everything that has happened. But critical race theory is basically race essentialism. It teaches people to view that as the most important characteristic and obviously, if you are of certain races—Caucasian or whatnot—they view that in a negative light.”

It's not even being taught at the public school level - it's primarily discussed in law schools - but DeSantis and other Republicans are still acting terrified that something like it will trickle down into the regular history classes as more studies on racism's impact on our history become commonplace.

As the Florida law demonstrates, the goal of the anti-CRT effort is put the analysis of ongoing racism out of bounds—to treat any inquiry into the material inequities that define the color line in America as something equivalent to Holocaust denial, and to reframe discussion of ongoing injustice as an insult to “white persons.” Other campaigners go as far to equate CRT with Marxism, as if a true accounting of racism in America were somehow going to upend capitalism. Such intentional misreadings allow conservatives to create a dichotomy where considering how racism shaped the country is unpatriotic and anti-American...

What is REALLY happening here is that DeSantis - by forcing the state to impose these restrictions on our schools - is setting the foundation for ANY parent aggrieved and upset about Whites being labeled "racist" can sue to stop ANY class discussion about racism in our nation's (and Florida's) history. The matter may not directly be Critical Race Theory, but if the parent gets one whiff of "oh my God this makes my White ancestors look bad" they will go ballistic and use this ruling to shut it down.

What DeSantis is doing is literally whitewashing our history to make it look clean and happy and "oh, don't you mind about the decades of lynchings and centuries of abuse" and every other thing Proud White Boys don't want to worry about. The excuse that "making Whites look racist is a Marxist attack on THE GOOD OLE USA" just also happens to be the same damn excuse throughout the 20th Century for racists - from the Dixiecrats of yesteryear to the trumpian GOP of today - to ignore the damage they've done and are still doing. 

If you follow my blog, you got to have read Ta-Nehisi Coates at some point. His tenure at The Atlantic covered a lot of ground in researching the impact racism had to our history well into the modern era. His articles on redlining - the push by banks and realtors to undervalue Black housing and overvalue White neighborhoods - and his argument in favor of reparations to redress that damage are must-reads of the last twenty years. This is the kind of thing DeSantis and other Republicans would be terrified of seeing taught or discussed in our schools, because GOD FORBID Coates' work highlighted how racism was actual policy pushed by Whites in political and financial power.

If you grew up in Florida, you may have heard about Rosewood. Most likely you hadn't, because it's not often taught in our schools here. I didn't learn about it in the state history book I read back in third grade: I read about it in the 1982 St. Pete Times articles instead. It was through the newspapers I learned about the white riot that burned an entire Black town down, killed dozens and drove the survivors to flee halfway across the state... all because a White woman lied about getting assaulted by a Black man.

Do you think if a teacher started teaching Rosewood in a Clearwater high school classroom that DeSantis is going to allow that to even be discussed? It could all bring up stuff about RACISM that will offend the overly sensitive Whites...

Note: Yes, I am White myself. I'm just not a goddamn whiny bitch about it. I know racism exists and I've seen the damage being done right now and we ought to be FIXING THESE DAMN PROBLEMS instead of sweeping it all under the goddamn rug like we've done the last 150 years.

If you watch the history of how history is taught in the United States, you will notice a pattern: the Far Right - the ultra-religious, the ultra-patriotic, the ultra-assholes - will insist that history ALWAYS preach to the greatness of our nation and the proud heritage of what being an American should be. You'll notice those same people will quickly ignore, denounce, decry, or embellish any of the dirtier parts of our nation's start and growth - the chattel slavery of Blacks, the Trail of Tears and other forced relocations of Native tribes into harsh reservations, the anti-Chinese riots, the anti-Mexican animosity - because they don't want to be reminded that their cozy wonderful lives were all built on the pain and suffering of others who just happened to be Black/Latino/Asian/Other.

These are the same people who tried to shut down AP History exams in 2014 because they feared those classes would teach kids to be "Un-American" due to all the racism being discussed. 

The Far Right - the ignorant and ill-informed Republican Party from the lowest member to the fearful Governors right up to trump and Mitch and the Fox Not-News propagandists - don't want anyone to really see the warts and bruises of our American History: Because that might compel our nation to seek repairs, resolve old issues, heal old wounds... the same issues and wounds the Far Right twists into self-victimization of themselves in order to fearmonger to their audiences.

The goddamned Far Right would rather preach mythology than cope with the facts. They would impose silence where they cannot convince, and they will enforce their character by the sword of liars instead of the facts of history.

And that plays into that goddamned adage: Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. But the Republicans WANT that, they want us to repeat the same mistakes because it keeps them in power. They want us to stay racist and broken, because it profits them to leave our nation that way.

We need to learn from our mistakes, we need to learn how racism hurt our nation, we need to comprehend how that racism keeps us weak not proud. We need to rebuild and become the stronger just nation our history bends toward.

We need to tell DeSantis and his fearmongering kind to go away. They're not protecting America, they're defending the soft weak worries of racists. Go away, you hypocrites and ignorant. We got better work to do.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Good God. Surrounded By Idiots

Today was not a good day for smart people to read/watch the media.

Louie Gohmert - Texas' main competitor for the title of "World's Dumbest Congresscritter" - publicly questioned a Forest Service deputy chief if shifting the moon's or Earth's orbits could help solve climate change (via David Knowles at Yahoo News):

“I understand, from what’s been testified to the Forest Service and the BLM [Bureau of Land Management], you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,” Gohmert told Eberlien. “I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they’ve found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly, and so is the Earth’s orbit around the sun. We know there’s been significant solar flare activities, and so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun? Obviously that would have profound effects on our climate.”

Taken a bit off guard, (Deputy Chief) Eberlien responded, “I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert.” 

As video clips of the exchange began circulating, Gohmert lashed out at critics who mocked the idea that altering our planet’s orbit was a viable or wise solution to climate change. Specifically, he took issue with those he said had conflated the Bureau of Land Management and Black Lives Matter, which share the same initials...

I think Gohmert must have watched that episode of The Next Generation where Q was forced to be human and tried to help the Enterprise crew fix a rogue moon by suggesting they change the gravitational constant of the universe. Considering that the United States hasn't even developed a functioning WARP DRIVE yet, this is kind of impossible. And ANYBODY who stayed awake in middle school astronomy or physics should be able to tell you that.


You can actually feel your own brain cells dying exposed to this level of stupid.

Hey, Gohmert! I got this awesome deal for a Weather Dominator made by this guy Destro!

That was all followed up today by clips of a pair of woman - one apparently a licensed physician and the other a licensed nurse - claiming that the vaccinations are injecting us all with 5G-powered microchips that make our bodies magnetized.

Yeah, let's go to Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice for the clips:

The woman above is a licensed physician, according to people on Twitter, who are never wrong. Anyhoo, she’s at a government hearing in Ohio, and it looks like she’s testifying in favor of stupid proposed legislation to exempt fellow idiots from vaccine “discrimination,” probably something modeled on the stupid law Florida recently enacted for that same idiotic purpose.

Dr. Tenpenny (confirmed!) does this by explaining that the coronavirus vaccines magnetize people because there’s metal in one of the proteins that are in the vaccine, and she wants to know what’s being transmitted from 5G towers.

At the same hearing, this nurse tries (and fails!) to demonstrate how her cleavage has been magnetized... So, here’s what I see: a woman pressing a key against her chest, where it briefly sticks without her hand holding it up due to the naturally occurring oil we all have on our skins, and then she whips it away and tries and fails to get the key and then a bobby pin to stick to her neck. I see her pretending that the demonstration went off without a hitch and triumphantly demanding an explanation for her magnetic qualities rather than slinking off in shame.

In short, I see a raving kook.

But I am 100% certain that millions of Americans could look at the same goddamned video clips and conclude that OMFG, the 5G towers are triangulating on us and yes, that poor nurse can’t walk through the hospital without scalpels and stethoscope heads and crash carts and other metal objects slamming into her, irresistibly drawn by her magnetic boobs...

Look, people, when I told you all that I developed a metallic taste on my tongue after the first vaccination shot, I also told you I DID NOT DEVELOP ANY SUPERPOWERS. That includes a shocking lack of electromagnetic capability akin to Magneto or Static.

Here's the thing: There is nothing metallic or robotic in the vaccines. The "nanoparticles" described in the contents relate to LIPID nanoparticles, and Lipids are fatty organic oils. Anyone with a medical dictionary - like a librarian, hi there! - could tell you that. You'd think medical experts who studied for this shit would remember that too.

You would think - in a world of general access to knowledge, basic education, and some element of goddamn common sense - that we wouldn't see such levels of ill-informed behavior out of our fellow citizens, some of whom HAD to have gone through such education to get where they are today.

I would argue what we are seeing here - the unthinking ignorance of elected officials, the disturbing lack of knowledge from our professionals - is a kind of American anti-intellectualism. Disdain and mistrust of verifiable knowledge because it offends a person's world-view (religious or political or racial or social). From where I sit, it's people being Contrarian in thought and deed just for the sake of being that way: To be in opposition to the generally accepted beliefs, for the sake of being self-serving and self-aggrandizing.

In short, we have people going out of their way not only to be idiots but also to be assholes.

And just our luck, there's goddamned too many of them among us in America. Like Betty says, we're doomed. May God have mercy on our souls.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

The Game Of Politics Where You Shoot Your Own Party In the Foot

There is nothing more dangerous to the American body politic than a self-absorbed self-destructive Senator. Forget Representatives, forget Governors, forget corrupt judges, forget most Presidents (Nixon, Harding, and trump are the exceptions, and remember Nixon and Harding earlier served as Senators).

Via Allan Smith at NBC news:

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Sunday that he will not vote for S.1, known as the For The People Act, the massive elections and ethics reform package Democrats have proposed.

The announcement immediately imperils the bill, which is universally opposed by Republicans and would require elimination of the Senate filibuster to be passed. The legislation was passed in the House this year.

"It's the wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together and unite our country, and I'm not supporting that, because I think it would divide us more," Manchin said on "Fox News Sunday." "I don't want to be in a country that's divided any further...

In an op-ed published Sunday in the Charleston, West Virginia, Gazette-Mail, Manchin argued that any federal voting legislation must have bipartisan backing, and he said he would not vote to kill the legislative filibuster, as some have said is needed to pass voting reforms.

"The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen," he wrote. And in speaking to West Virginians, "I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party's agenda."

So because the Republicans are the sons-of-bitches who refuse to be bipartisan and work with Democrats to pass meaningful legislation, Senator Manchin has decided... to side with Republicans and screw the Democratic Party.

And he's going to get away with it because the Democrats can't secure enough votes to hold a simple majority vote to get rid of the Cloture/Filibuster rules to make it harder for Republicans to obstruct, and because the nature of the Senate makes it difficult for party leadership to rein in the "mavericks" who enjoy making a mess without having to pay the consequences.

You might understand why a lot of Obama-hating Republicans despised John McCain when he killed their effort to nuke ObamaCare back in 2017. But in that situation, those same Republicans failed to give McCain - or the rest of the country - any sane alternative to replace what they were about to destroy.

What Manchin - alongside Arizona Senator Sinema who also doesn't seem to get the crisis - is allowing to happen here: He's preventing the Democratic Party from passing laws that would override and stop the Republicans at the state level from suppressing voter turnout that would otherwise favor Democrats. He says he'll support the John Lewis Act which is also up for consideration, but he doesn't seem to get that the Republicans will pull the same obstructionist stunt against THAT bill and talk Manchin into dismissing it as "too partisan" as well.

All it takes is one Senator holding up the whole thing. Where a President is a singular office and thus answerable to the national voters, where the House is so large a body with a basic majority vote policy that trouble-makers most times either quit after a few terms or have little impact on stopping things, just ONE fucking Senator can filibuster or hold or delay everything and never face any punishment because the state they're from won't hold them accountable for their sins.

And so we're back to where things won't get done. Again. Things like alleviating college loan debts or raising the federal minimum wage or job protection laws or anything that would actually HELP Americans here and now.

We're also back to the high risk of Republicans rigging the 2022 midterms, making sure that just like in 2010 they are able to seize at least partial control of Congress and ensure a Biden Presidency enjoys no further success. Denying "victory" at the expense of people's lives.

Only this time, it's the entire electoral process at risk, one thing that could directly affect the Democratic Party - Manchin's own fucking party - in the near future. It won't be to another era of inertia, it'll be to a darker round of Republican misrule with even harsher tax cuts for the rich, even harsher anti-abortion laws to hurt women, and more attempts to kill off any affordable health care.

And if the Republicans have their way - without Manchin and Sinema or any other self-serving Democrat stopping them - the Democrats the American people will never see an honest and fair election ever again.

Goddammit. This is why I can't go full Democrat. There's too many fucking cowards running the party that's also ruining the country.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Anniversary: In Remembrance of Protests We Honor In Spite of the Dictators

(Update: Many thanks to Infidel753 for including this article on Crooks&Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please take the time to look through this long-running blog which I admit is a far better effort than trump ever made bwhahahahaha... sorry, had to rub it in)

This is June 4 again, a reminder that in 1989 the calls for democracy in China were silenced by the gun and tank:

A combination of college-age, labor groups, and retired Chinese had gathered in key spots - eventually joining up in the major center of Beijing called Tiananmen Square - demanding political reforms to coincide with the economic reforms the post-Maoist government was trying to implement during the 1980s.

It went along with a growing protest movement in Eastern Europe, where Soviet Russian control was slipping away as Gorbachev's government could no longer afford the massive military and political buildup of the Soviet Bloc.

For a month, the Chinese leadership tried their best to keep a lid on it all, but international media coverage made that impossible, and the Communist regime itself had fissures between reformists and statists vying for control of the whole government.

By June 4, someone along the official chain of command decided "Fuck it," and unleashed the Army into Tiananmen Square.

The official accounts minimized the casualties. The unofficial accounts put the death toll in the thousands...

There is a terrible conflict at play here. China's international role is growing - unavoidable due to being the largest populated nation on the planet, its military strength, its economic engines - but its accountability to the world hampered by its own paranoia and sadism...

And the sad truth is, the rest of the world powers let it go, because they dare not press China - a military and economic behemoth - about their darkest sins. The Western powers especially Great Britain - which had insisted on Hong Kong remaining independent from Mainland China's sway - have let the bosses shut down protests there (via James Griffiths at CNN):

For an event that happened almost 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away, the Tiananmen Square massacre has become deeply embedded in Hong Kong's psyche. That's because for the past three decades, Hong Kong was the only place where major commemorations were held, including marches, church services, and huge candlelit vigils in the city's Victoria Park.

After Hong Kong became part of China in 1997, the continuation of these events was always seen as a major litmus test for the city's ongoing autonomy and democratic freedoms, supposedly guaranteed until 2047 by its de facto constitution, the Basic Law, under the principle of "one country, two systems."

The 30th anniversary in 2019 saw one of the biggest turnouts at the Victoria Park vigil, with organizers claiming some 180,000 people joined the commemoration (though police said it was closer to 40,000). That anniversary came amid escalating tensions over a proposed extradition bill between Hong Kong and China: just five days later, over a million people marched against it, and in the months that followed, the city was consumed by increasingly violent protests and police crackdowns.

In the wake of those protests, Beijing introduced a national security law for Hong Kong, bypassing the city's semi-democratic legislature to criminalize secession, subversion and collusion with foreign powers. That law has been used to crack down on a host of political activity, and almost every prominent pro-democracy politician and activist is either in prison -- or headed there.

As talk of the law rumbled ahead of its abrupt passing on June 30 last year, many saw June 4, 2020, as potentially the final opportunity for a major commemoration. Despite authorities banning the Victoria Park vigil on pandemic grounds, tens of thousands still turned out to mark the event peacefully, and police took a hands-off approach -- though subsequently arrested and charged a number of activists deemed to have "organized" the protest.

This year, the gloves are off. The city's Security Bureau said Saturday that any rally on June 4 would be deemed an unauthorized assembly, and "no one should take part in it, or advertise or publicize it, or else he or she may violate the law."

Offenders could face up to five years in prison, while those promoting the event could be jailed for up to 12 months, the bureau added.

China isn't getting better about its responsibilities as a global power, the ruling elite are getting more violent. And it's not just in Hong Kong. What the Chinese government is doing to the Uyghurs is literally genocide... and nobody else is doing a damn thing to stop that.

I lament the possibility of Tank Man, a sole protestor who stood against the tanks back in 1989, ever survived China's bloody crackdown, I lament the possibility I will ever meet the man and greet him like a lost brother.

Freedom should matter, everybody. Tiananmen should remind us of that.

Thursday, June 03, 2021


The question with Lucy and the football was always whether, on some level, she believed the things she said.

-- xkcd caption to "Finish Line"

trump's electoral loss in 2020 did not end the madness.

In some ways - looking back at the last 40 years when the madness began under Reagan - the madness has been getting worse, with the Republicans reacting caustically to Bill Clinton's administration in the 1990s and then going full-on obstructionist during Barack Obama's tenure between 2009 to 2016. It's been a downward spiral from Southern Strategy to Newt's Contract On America to the Tea Party to "Stolen Ballots," and it's been getting worse as trump trolls the nation with his Big Lie that ongoing recount "audits" will lead to his "reinstatement" to the Presidency by August. As noted by Maggie Haberman, quoted in this Brendan Morrow article in The Week:

Haberman tweeted on Tuesday, in response to reporting about Flynn's comments about a coup in the United States, that Trump "has been telling a number of people he's in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August" — confirming in a subsequent tweet she means reinstated as president.  

"No that isn't how it works," Haberman added, "but simply sharing the information."

"That isn't how it works" refers to the reality that our Constitution spells out via various Articles and Amendments that the person who wins the Electoral College (in 2020 that's Biden) and gets certified by Congress (which happened on January 6 in spite of trump's insurrection) and takes the Oath of Office on January 20 (which Biden did) becomes President at that moment. Anyone previously President loses the office, the powers, the job title, a number of perks, and gets flown out of town while the new President parties on down with everyone he brought with him. If by some chance trump and his people were able to prove there was voter fraud or stolen ballots - which they haven't been able to prove for more than seven months now - there's no do-over vote or recount: The 25th Amendment kicks in and it goes to the next in line (since the voter fraud likely included the Veep count, Harris would be out) and it would go to the Speaker of the House currently Pelosi.

I guarantee you trump won't accept that either.

It seems like madness to those of us outside of trump's epistemic bubble, but that madness stems from one core trumpian belief: The world is made up of "Winners" and "Suckers" and HE, donald trump, must never be a "Sucker". So he always presents himself a "Winner," in spite of the business failings, in spite of the clear evidence he is unpopular to a majority of the world. In trump's mind, there is no way he could have lost, and so he lies to others - and apparently to himself - that the election was stolen and he deserves being the Winner despite the rules, despite the reality.

This wouldn't normally be a problem if it was just trump ranting about this back at one of his mansions (I think he's hiding out in New Jersey at the moment, Mar-A-Lago closed for the summer apparently). He'd be flailing at friends and family up until the point they tire of it and have him Baker Acted for delusions and onset dementia.

The horrifying thing is, trump's madness is infectious. It spread to a group of people already suffering their own delusions among Republicans who have been told for decades to hate and fear minorities, women, college students, and Democrats. trump became the mad king of a political party whose Grand Far Right Narrative was open to the lies trump spewed, and his lies became their madness as well.

And it's a madness with no cure. Once those acidic ideas got into the voter base of the GOP, once the corruption seeped upward into a leadership hungry to stay in power in spite of the real majority, there's no talking them down from that fantasy. How can we convince them otherwise, to accept a real world where they're not the heroes of their Far Right Narrative?

To quote the Rude Pundit:

As I've said before, you can't argue with someone who refuses to accept that reality is real. They are, for lack of a more articulate term, sick. Perhaps even actually mentally ill. I don't say that lightly. What else can you say about people who believe a fantasy to the point that they are willing to commit violence over it? The thing is that one day the most fervent are going to want their belief to be put into action. And I think that the full danger is that Democrats are not just underestimating how much Republicanism is about rigging democracy, but they are not getting just how many legitimately sick people there are.

In other words, we are dealing with a Trump-induced hysteria, one that plays into every fear that conservatives, both the craven opportunists and the true believers, have warned their followers about for years, one that takes all their fears of non-whites and socialists (whatever the fuck they think that means) and abortions and non-Christians (because that fucking sky wizard is always in the mix) and LGBTQ people and wraps it in a big package with QAnon bow that says, "Of course they had to destroy the one man who was going to save us all." And, of course, in the face of that, a coup is horribly logical to keep that fantasy of white Christian supremacy alive...

For all the hope in the media that trump is just spewing nonsense, we have to look at how eager trump's fanbase rose up to trump's commands to storm Congress and stop the Electoral count. We have to consider the eagerness of trump's handlers and advocates who openly call for further coup attempts the way Mike Flynn did when he praised the Myanmar takeover as "something that should happen here".

The United States is still facing a sizable faction of our fellow citizenry consumed with the fantasies of a militia uprising against "the communists and subversives" that they read about in the Turner Diaries and listen to on the Far Right rage shows. It doesn't help us that a number of Republican-controlled states are passing pro-gun laws that are going to make it impossible to hold the gun-nuts responsible for their actions.

We're looking at a hot summer, America, and I'm not talking about climate change (although that's another problem).

Stay safe, and for the Love of GOD turn off the Fox Not-News and every other Far Right ragefest. That hate is making everyone around us insane.

Update 12/26/21: Thanks as always to Batocchio at his Vagabond Scholar website for accepting this article for the annual Jon Swift Blog Roundup for 2021!