Sunday, October 31, 2021

What If: Gaming Out The Far Right's War (w/ Updates)

This is where the mindset of your average Far Right trump-worshipping Fox Not-News consuming wingnut is today (via Raw Story (paywall)):

An audience member asked a disturbing and stunning question at a speech given by close Trump family ally and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk in Idaho on Monday, but instead of denouncing and disavowing the question itself as being anti-democratic, morally repugnant, illegal, based on falsehoods, and against his repeatedly avowed Christian values, Kirk offered an equally disturbing response.

"At this point, we're living under corporate and medical fascism. This is tyranny," claimed the unidentified man, as Media Matters reports. "When do we get to use the guns? No, and I'm not — that's not a joke. I'm not saying it like that. I mean, literally, where's the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?..."

Charlie Kirk tried to downplay it, trying to deflect the blame onto the liberals the wingnuts are desperate to kill:

"They are trying to provoke you and everyone here. They are trying to make you do something that will be violent that will justify a takeover of your freedoms and liberties, the likes of which we have never seen," Kirk fear-mongered...

But Kirk can't hide this reality. Just look at the Far Right today. Driven by trump's Big Lie about a "stolen election" that wasn't. Inundated with misinformation across Facebook and Twitter and Dark Web rabbit holes. Every night Fox Not-News has wingnut talking head after wingnut talking head attacking Dr. Fauci and any vaccination efforts to end the COVID pandemic, clinging to unproven conspiracy theories and desperate to undo any efforts by Biden to bring America back to normal. There's Tucker Carlson violating every journalistic ethical norm shilling a ludicrous "false flag" story about the January 6th Insurrection, trying to both vindicate trump's coup attempt and hide the facts of what really happened at the same time.

The entire Far Right political environment is full of rage and hate right now, has been at this level ever since trump entered the White House and turned into the Hater-In-Chief. And none of this has calmed down after Biden won in 2020 and tossed trump to the curbside.

And this isn't a recent development. How far back to the wingnuts' "Librul Hunting Licenses" idea go, back to Obama's era or Bill Clinton's? Remember the John Birch Society putting up Wanted flyers for JFK accusing him of treason? The Far Right call to violence towards everyone they deem Liberal - and thus in their eyes Un-American - has been going on for decades, if not a full century of post-Civil War "Redeemer" and Klan-led violence.

This is the world we live in now: Daily threats of violence from enraged, ill-informed Far Right wingnuts raiding every school board meeting and driving every county elections official into hiding.

The question(s) remaining: Just how far is this all going to go? Where is the tipping point? When is that "other shoe" finally going to drop?

If you follow the likes of Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice, he's already noted that our nation has been enduring a low, simmering violent insurrection for some time. Not necessarily the violent backlash of the southern conservatives against the Sixties Civil Rights movement (there was kind of a cut-off point in the Seventies), but more along the anti-government flareups of militia groups inspired by the Turner Diaries and anti-immigrant haters feeding off of ancient anti-Semitic "Replacement Conspiracy" bullshit. What's caused all this to flare up now was the reactionary response to having someone like Barack Obama become President in 2008. The so-called Tea Party that rose up to challenge Obama's economic and health care policies quickly shifted into the old habits that kept the Far Right hating for decades.

To Silverman (and others in the Intelligence Community tracking national threats), it's stochastic terrorism: A situation where a person or group (usually ethnic/racial/gender) is targeted with demonization, to the point where an individual or small group is enraged enough to act against that target. In short: Fear-mongers/Rage-mongers accuse others of being EVIL and those mongers' audiences react with violence towards those others.

We've seen it with George Tiller, we've seen it with abortion clinic bombings, we've seen it with Black churches getting burned down, we've seen it in Charleston where an enraged racist killed Black parishioners at a prayer service, we've seen it with attacks on Jewish temples, we've seen it in Charlottesville, we've seen it on the Capitol steps this past January 6th.

We're already in this stage of violence, with no end in sight. As long as the Far Right media spews out their misinformation, as long as they point out others for demonizing, as long as they skirt the ethics of the First Amendment to sell their fear and hate without accountability, we won't see an end of the bloodshed.

What's for debate is the escalation

Fear and hate are like drugs. At some point, the same hit isn't going to give you the same high. You start upping the dosage, looking for that high, never mind the damage the drug's toxicity does to your body, mind, and soul.

Just railing against Libruls and Black Lives Matter protestors and Immigrants and Muslims and Jews and Women won't cut it. Someone's going to want to push further into acts of insurrection. Not just the Republican voting base that does all the screaming, but a Republican leadership finding themselves egged on by pressure - from trump, from that rabid base - to openly rebel against a Biden regime they deem tyrannical.

The ongoing anti-vaccination movement, for example, has done a good job of getting Republican governors to reject the science and argue for FREEDOM against mandates to get vaccinated for workplaces and schools. Thing is, legal history has supported federal mandates before and even this hard-conservative Supreme Court will be loathe to overrule precedence. So any Republican Red State governor is going to run into a political conflict they might not win.

The pressure from the Far Right base to reject federal authority is going to increase, no matter how the GOP leadership will try to manage the message and keep the anger and violence limited to controllable outbursts. You can see it now from the anger of the mobs at the wingnut rallies. Any threat to the Far Right Narrative - any official investigation into the January 6 riots leading to arrests of the major ringleaders, any official shutdown of trump's Big Lie of a "stolen" election, any successful enforcement of the vaccine mandates - is going to require a disproportionate reaction from the Republicans that could trigger honest-to-God open warfare.

It most likely won't be straight-up secession. The political dynamics of such a move - even for a big state like Texas - would create utter chaos and likely fail (much faster than it did in the 1860s). I could go into greater detail of the problems building a new nation-state in the 21st Century can be, and I might do so later on... 

With secession an unlikely event (for now), what will happen will be an ongoing legal battle between the Red State governments filing lawsuits against the U.S. government: To delay and obstruct any final enforcement of anything long enough for the 2022 or 2024 elections coming into effect and changing the political landscape to favor the Republicans (this is where all the damn gerrymandering of Texas, Florida, and Georgia is gonna suck). Insubordination and obstruction from the state agencies instead of open secession.

But if the Republicans delaying tactics fail, if their attempts to suppress voters and gerrymander things to hell and back fail, if the Democrats hold onto Congress in 2022 and then Biden wins re-election 2024 in spite of Republican howls of stolen votes, we can expect things to escalate even more. Because those losses will only enrage the Far Right base to believe trump's Big Lie even more.

At that point, the arguments against secession would go out the window. Convinced that they are losing power - similar to how they feared things would go in 1860 - and falling to minority status, the Far Right conservative elements will fall back into the desire to just quit what they'll see as a game rigged against them. In spite of the reality they have never proved in the past they were cheated, and likely won't prove it in the future.

So if it comes that far, will we see actual secession?

Any Red State looking to split from the United States in protest will find few overseas allies to help them, for starters: The most likely suspects - Russia, China, and Iran - just happen to be anathema to a majority of Americans, create an open act of hypocrisy (seeing how many Far Right ideologues hate those nations in principle), and create further schisms among their own secessionist ranks.

Those Red States will also find few financial allies. National and global banks will be reluctant to do business with a rebel state, and may pull back doing business with any corporations that tries to operate there. Considering many Red States already have low Gross Domestic Products, and rely too much on federal subsidies, those states will find themselves with economic crises right off the bat.

Even the need to start your own currency - the U.S. government is not about to let a seceding state rely on the federal dollar - would be a major headache. You'd have to consider exchange rates to other currencies, run the risk of inflation, and establish a fiscal policy to manage the money you have (or need to print). With few banks or foreign nations likely dealing with you - lest they anger the United States, which is still an economic powerhouse - any loans to provide a fiscal foundation won't be there for you. Considering the mindset of the Far Right, they'll likely try to set it to a Gold Standard (which could lead to inflation and immediate Panics) or worse go with a bitcoin (which would be vulnerable to speculation).

A small populated state without much of a tax base or commodities of value will find itself isolated real quick. A singular state in secession will get cut off from most interstate trade and shipping. Train shipping will also get cut off. Supply chains could fall apart. Considering the U.S. government will be in a hostile mood, you're likely to see your seaports and airports shut down. Any tie-ins to the nation's power grids will get cut off. If you think you can survive on your own electrical supply, just ask Texas how that worked this past winter.

Of the Red States that COULD pull of seceding on their own, Texas has enough resources and financial wealth to pull it off. However, they'd STILL run into the hostility of the remaining United States government cutting them off from any overseas allies. They'll even run into the hassles of suddenly having Mexico as a neighbor, which could come knocking with an army at the Rio Grande to discuss just where the border really is (remember kids, the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War was with the UNITED STATES, not Texas).

That's not even getting into the trouble any Red State will have with their own residents. Sure, in some Republican-led states the population is thoroughly conservative and eager to fight. But even in places like South Carolina or Kansas or Iowa or Indiana, there are pockets of Democratic Blue. 

A seceding Red State is going to run into the likelihood of their Blue Metropolises seceding themselves. There is historic precedence: During the Civil War, most Confederate state had pockets of resistance from various counties or cities dominated by people who still thought of themselves as Unionists (or hated the slaveowners' political control). The current political landscape is the same: Much of the Republican control in large-populated Red states (Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio) are only that way due to extreme gerrymandering. The dense metro areas (Houston and San Antonio/Austin, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa/St. Pete, Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland) in those states are reliably Democratic and would resist any secession efforts.

Even then, this isn't 1860. Back then, it took time and effort to flee a state if you were no longer politically accepted anymore. Any Whig/Republican in the South by 1861 either kept their heads down and mouths shut, fled to the safety of a friendly county, or spent time more than once in Confederate jails until Union armies liberated the place.

Any Blue Democrat in 2024 can hop into an SUV with their family, pack up for a month's vacation, get the hell out of the Red State, stay with relatives in a safe Blue State until the secessionists are rounded up by the National Guard, and drive back to file any insurance claims on any damage their Red State neighbors may have inflicted on their homes in their absence. The Red State secessionists may try to blockade the Interstate highways but those would be the first points retaken by federal agents to ensure refugees can get out okay.

If the Red State in question succeeds in seceding, expect a brain drain of the more educated, more wealthy Democratic residents fleeing, reducing the value and business strength of that Red State. Colleges would likely shut down (especially as more liberal young adults will flee for their lives). Any educational investment generated by universities gone.

And if any Red State governor is foolish enough to call for secession, they better not plan on sleeping in the same bed two nights in a row. In this day and age, the U.S. army doesn't even have to drop paratroopers on your location to arrest you for treason: They can just fly in drones to target your cell phone's GPS and make you say bye-bye. Considering how the rest of the world views the wingnut trumpian factions with contempt, the only ones who'll file a war crimes complaint to the UN would be Russia and Bulgaria (maybe Brazil).

That's just the basic stuff I can game out if any Red State Republican leadership - any trumpian cultist - think they can win a fight here against the federal government if things escalate the way they want.

The end result no matter what - until the madness can break, until the liars are held accountable and facts and truth can reclaim our sanity - is still going to be suffering of innocent lives, bloodshed, and heartbreak.

But they can't win. The Far Right just can't win. They think they have the numbers but they don't. They know they have the weapons but they can't shoot us all. They think they have the rich and powerful on their side but the elites will abandon them in a heartbeat if their own asses are on the line. They think they'll own the courts and they believe they'll reclaim the reins of power, but they're not as good at cheating as they used to be, and the Constitution that forged this nation is stronger than they think.

All we have to remember is that we - the real Americans, the diverse, the loving and living, the moderate and the liberal and the progressive - outnumber them, and all we have to do is stand united and fight back.

(Update 11/5/21): Thanks again to Batocchio for adding this blog to Crooks & Liars ongoing Mike's Blog Round-Up! I'm a bit busy this month with NaNo but I may post every so often if something crazy happens...

(Update 11/9/21): We got demagogues like Dan Bongino out here encouraging his audience to rise up "against vaccine mandates" and that "we outnumber them" when talking about confronting evil liberals. We got Senator Ted "Cancun" Cruz openly talking secession for Texas in front of college students just in case Republicans don't retake the federal government in 2022/24.

This isn't idle talk. This is the ongoing Far Right Narrative pushing the stochastic terrorism of demonizing The Dread Other Libruls to further extremes right up to the point where another insurrection/coup takeover takes place. These wingnuts are spoiling for a fight, and it's horrifying how the mainstream media still laughs it off as "Free Speech" pandering. Right up until the blood spills...

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Shame of Tigert Hall (w/ Update)

I am with fellow University of Florida alum Betty Cracker here, I am ashamed of being a Florida Gator this weekend. (Balloon Juice linked to Washington Post article (paywall)): 

The University of Florida barred three faculty members from testifying for plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a voting-restrictions law enthusiastically embraced by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which activists say makes it harder for racial minorities to vote. The university’s action raises sharp concerns about academic freedom and free speech in the state.

The public university said the three faculty members — political scientists Daniel A. Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon Wright Austin — could pose “a conflict of interest to the executive branch” and harm the school’s interests if they testified against the law signed by DeSantis in May.

“As UF is a state actor, litigation against the state is adverse to UF’s interests,” school officials said, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post...

The only conflict of interest here is with the university's administration, which is cowering at the thought of DeSantis retaliating against UF if they allowed these professors to testify. There is no conflict with regards to the freedom of information, there is no conflict with regards to research and academia, there is no conflict as those professors were going to be under oath and testifying to the facts as they knew them.

How many other cases have UF professors, or any other academic in the state of Florida, testified? How many times were they denied because of "conflict of interest"? Did this ever come up before? I've yet to hear of one during my lifetime ever since I was a student there in the late 1980s.

The leadership at the University of Florida did this out of fear. No press release or explanation will excuse this.

These professors were set to testify to the damage caused by the repressive voting law the state Republicans passed in the wake of the 2020 elections to make it harder to vote by mail, to vote early, to vote at all in certain cases. It's a law that doubles down on more IDs required to vote (as though that kind of voter fraud is rampant: IT'S NOT).

As much as these professors' rights to speech were blocked, the rights of the Florida citizenry - including the young UF students just turned 18 and able to vote - were denied from hearing any expert evaluation of this law, of any other laws that could deny them their constitutional right (under the 13th, 19th, and 26th Amendments) to vote in local, state, and federal elections.

As I said on Betty Cracker's article:

As a fellow Florida alum, I am horrified and sickened by my university’s cowardice. In the face of watching DeSantis and the state Republicans suppress our constitutional voting rights, they would rather roll over and play dead than fight for the civil rights of their own students and faculty.

What do they think they’re doing, saving their payroll, their budget, their jobs? The Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated their anti-education anti-intellectual bias, and would likely close down most of the colleges (or worse, turn them into for-profit boondoggles) for shits and giggles.

The independence and reputation of our state’s higher educational institutions are at risk from political censorship and suppression. The students at Gainesville and every other college campus in Florida should rise up and protest this enforced silence.

You better use your voice now, Florida students, before DeSantis and his craven lackeys silence them for you. You know where Tigert Hall is. You know where the corner of University Avenue and 13th Street is. You know where the spots are outside of Turlington and the Century Tower. Hey, nice big open spot in that Plaza of the Americas outside the main libraries. Why let the suspendered Bible-thumpers always out there railing against you claim that open field? It's your spot to protest.

Protest now. Speak out now. Keep speaking until the UF President and his handlers realize they answer to YOU and not the corrupt powers in Tallahassee.

Update 11/5: As Doug mentioned in the comments below, NPR is reporting that the university has changed its tune (via Deepa Shivaram): 

...The university's earlier decision, which was revealed last week through documents filed in federal court, was widely criticized as an infringement of the professors' First Amendment rights.

The case was particularly under scrutiny because the lawsuit targeted legislation, supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that inhibited access to the ballot — and the school has strong ties to the governor.

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs said in a letter released Friday that he had asked the university's conflict of interest office to reverse the decision and "approve the requests regardless of personal compensation, assuming the activity is on their own time without using university resources..."

You can kind of see where Fuchs is trying to redirect the focus as though this whole thing was "using university resources," when at issue was the university's argument that their professors and faculty could not contest "the state" as an absolute authority.

The fact that UF had never withheld their faculty from testifying against Florida's government until Fuchs showed up should not be ignored. Back to Shivaram:

...After the school's original decision was reported, the university's accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, said it was investigating the school. The story was originally reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education and confirmed to NPR.

UF professors Daniel Smith, Sharon Austin and Michael McDonald were originally denied the opportunity to testify; they are all experts on voting rights and elections. Their lawyers say that since the university's original decision to bar them from testifying is still a violation of their First Amendment rights, the professors are still considering their legal options...

This whole embarrassment should lead to people in Florida's college administration to resign on whatever honor they have left, with new people hired with no ties to DeSantis and no obligation to suppress either their professors' or their students' First Amendment rights to academic freedom.

And shame on DeSantis for creating this environment of intellectual suppression in the first place.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Strange Days Inside the Job Lines (w/Update)

(Update: Many thanks to M. Bouffant at Crooks&Liars to include this blog article in Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please visit the site and check out the vacation pics from Virginia!)

What with the ongoing COVID pandemic happening, and the power struggles between Blue America and Red America over masking and vaccines and everything else, the American economy seems to be chugging along at a normal pace... except that it's doing things that are freaking out the economists and setting off red flags that make no sense to them. This article from Derek Thompson in The Atlantic is one of the latest OMFG essays from the punditry trying to make sense out of nonsense:

Americans are buying more stuff than ever before. That’s good. But because of supply constraints, it can feel like there’s a painful shortage of just about everything. That’s bad. Economic growth is booming, but the president’s approval rating on the economy is falling, which is a historically odd juxtaposition. Businesses everywhere are struggling to fill jobs, which sounds bad, but employer pain is workers’ gain, and wages are rising, which is wonderful. But because prices are rising too, inflation-adjusted hourly-wage growth actually declined in September, which is not wonderful...

The great mystery of this moment is the labor shortage. America’s GDP is larger than it was in February 2020. But the total economy is down about 7 million workers. That’s akin to the entire labor force of Pennsylvania sitting on the sidelines. In September, the number of people working or actively looking for work mysteriously declined, which is not what you would expect to see in a rapidly growing economy with simmering inflation. Wages are rising. Job openings are everywhere. But we’re running out of people who seem to want a job right now...

This seems to be the thing at the crux.

Thompson tries to go through the usual list of suspects: The reality we're still in a pandemic where a majority of Americans don't WANT to go into a workforce that would expose them to COVID, and the ghoulish realization that the 700,000 (and going) deaths in the United States put a dent in that workforce is another likelihood. That's not even counting the hundreds of thousands of Americans suffering from the long-term effects of COVID that could well keep them out of employment. 

But Thompson thinks that's not enough of a reason: The numbers of vacancies (7 million) don't match up to the COVID numbers (a tenth of that). So he goes pointing to a potential solution with the financial aid packages passed in 2020 and early 2021 that eased money woes for much of the working class:

The most complete explanation is that the massive fiscal-policy response to the pandemic reduced the urgency of looking for work. The United States has spent trillions of dollars to help families get through the economic deep freeze, via stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits, and the moratorium on student-loan interest payments. National eviction bans have taken pressure off renters. Then there’s the record-high surge in savings among families who haven’t gone on vacation or splurged on experiences in more than a year. Add to that the fact that job openings have hit record highs—which means people know that if they wait a month or three, there will still be jobs aplenty to apply to. Seeing this whole picture, more Americans clearly feel like they can take a more leisurely approach to going back to work...

Except that might not be it. The stimulus checks were nice but they barely took care of two-three months' worth of rent, and the most recent checks were back in March/April of this year. The moratorium of student-loan payments doesn't cover the entire population that's still avoiding the open job market. The eviction bans ended during this summer, and the rental aid meant for those families are backlogged by state bureaucracies. Those expanded unemployment benefits might still be helping out in Blue states, but many Red states had cut back on those benefits in a mad attempt to force people back into the workplaces (guess what, didn't work).

What might really be at work (for lack of workers) here is the shift in workplace realities. The ability to work from home for half our households seemed to have convinced two-income families they didn't have to sacrifice to the demands of businesses to commute, waste nine hours in a cubicle, and then struggle to race home to deal with latch-key children stressing over schoolwork (from Thompson's earlier article about the fall of office space):

If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that white-collar workers can do hard work from home just about as well as they can do it in the office—and maybe even better, precisely because their colleagues aren’t interrupting them...

For a decade or more, productivity experts have been telling us that cross-group collaboration and weak ties are the skeleton key to unlocking radical creativity... This sounds like a loud endorsement of the office. But the internet does all of this at a much larger scale than any office floor... What’s more, if today’s corporate conventional wisdom were true, the pandemic would have created a hellscape for productivity. Instead, corporate earnings are rising, wages are rising, and official measures of productivity are rising too, in practically every state...

This points to the possibility that a lot of workers - many of them part-timers who held two jobs at the same time - want to stick with the at-home jobs that may have well paid better with fewer expenses that would have necessitated those second jobs. I'd love to see if anyone's done surveys on how many part-time employees before 2020 - those who juggled multiple jobs - decided to just stick to one job during/after the pandemic and found they did well enough financially to not seek a second.

There is also the possibility that the pandemic forced a number of workers to find alternatives to the established job markets by going into self-employment. Monetization of performing arts, creative arts, crafts - all things you can do from home and upload to the Internet, hello TikTok! - seemed to increase during the pandemic, and a lot of that from the younger populations that would otherwise fill those job vacancies.

There is one other thing that would explain the jobs gap, and Thompson points it out a little later in his article: The United States is seeing a gap in the workforce numbers due to the decrease in immigration that would have filled those jobs under normal circumstances. As he notes:

Whether or not today’s worker revolt becomes tomorrow’s worker revolution, what’s abundantly clear is that America needs more workers. America’s prime-age population stopped growing more than a decade ago, and because of declining fertility rates, it’s unlikely to recover through natural growth alone. If the U.S. needs more workers, the arithmetic is straightforward: We need more immigrants.

Welcoming immigrants is more complicated than putting up a help wanted sign at the border. Democrats are looking for ways to expand legal immigration—a matter of moral and long-term economic urgency—while avoiding a xenophobic backlash from the right. One great way to do this would be to “recapture” surplus permanent-residency visas, or green cards, that went unclaimed in previous years. Since 1992, hundreds of thousands of green cards authorized by Congress have not been issued because of administrative hiccups; last year, unused green cards reached a record high...

I wouldn't call it a hiccup: The pile-up of unused green cards was due to an overall lack of travel due to COVID restrictions, but before that the unused green cards was a policy decision by trump's anti-immigrant agenda. That's been 4 years already of the Trumpian Far Right putting the screws to a jobs market seeing dwindling population numbers before the pandemic hit. We're just now seeing the results of that.

Whether or not this screwy jobs market gets straightened out, there ought to be honest benefits out of this long-term: desperate corporations and businesses realizing that their decades-long refusal to pay workers better is going to have to end, and they're going to have to start paying Americans - and any immigrants still wishing to move here - better if they want those jobs to get done.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

My Trip to Appomattox Court House

As part of my vacation last week, which was in a nearby state park, I took the opportunity to visit the historic American Civil War location of Appomattox Court House. The place where Grant forced Lee to surrender. The place where the Confederacy pretty much lost their fight to keep slavery.

As much as my visit to Gettysburg, this was something as a student of American History I wanted to do. So, with camera in hand, I took a quick break from my group's park activities to enjoy myself for a few hours.

First off, I visited the nearby American Civil War Museum. Not officially a part of the Appomattox Court House National Park (I think), they had a few galleries on display: One about the Civil War and the lead-up to what happened at Appomattox, and one about Black Emancipation.

After the visit, I drove down the road to the National Park

And into the Court House neighborhood that had been refurbished back to how it looked in 1865:

Appomattox Court House was a relatively small community on a major road between
Richmond and Lynchburg.

The McLean House from a distance

The Courthouse that gave the small community its name

This is it. Where the surrender terms were signed on April 9, 1865

Had to switch to my smartphone for the selfie...

The Room Where It Happened!

If you read up the history, most of the furniture in this room were either purchased or pilfered
by the Union officers who attended the signing, knowing full well how impactful
this moment was
. What we see here are replicas based on what ended up at
the Smithsonian or private collections.

When I entered the McLean house as part of the tour, the guide warned me to duck my head a lot. Damn, people must have been short back in the 19th Century.

There is little evidence remaining from the momentous actions of April 1865. No sign of the two armies that gathered on the town's dirt road to witness Lee's armies surrendering their rifles to the Union army receiving them. All that remains are the quiet forested hills and the brick buildings preserved to document where and how it happened.

All that's left has been the troubled efforts of this nation to build the arc of history towards a pure justice for ALL Americans...

Monday, October 11, 2021

I Survived (I Think) The Vacation Weekend

Lo, did I travel far into the hills of Virginia, where even the U.S. highways are single-lane, and from that calm and serene place along the James River did I engage in the taking of many photos.

Most of which are not fully uploaded yet, so hold yer horses, I ARE TIRED AND NEED A NAP FIRST. I will get to the Appomattox Courthouse photos in another entry.

Oy, my cats are so happy to see me. (angry hissing and mewls) Oh, wait, you're asking for dinner ALREADY?

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Quick Notes About the COVID-19 Pandemic In October 2021

Just to document how things stand right now:

The hospitals and ICUs handling the high number of serious COVID cases hasn't let up yet, and it's causing serious burnout for nurses and doctors who've been fighting this pandemic for almost two years now.

The trumpian Far Right are intentionally going out of their way now to ignore safe vaccination in exchange for utter denial thanks to political and religious ideology. 'Course, they've been doing that for months, but the evidence is so obvious now you'd think these deranged morans would get Baker Acted for it.

Schools are not any safer today than they were in August. Vaccines for kids older than 5 may be available by November.

And there's idiots out there going out of their way to travel for vacations while not enough of us are vaccinated and not enough places are enforcing CDC guidelines like masking and social distancing.

Idiots like me.

I admit it. I'm being a hypocrite here. I've gone quite mad like millions of others across the globe, unable to enjoy some of the things I did before the pandemic shut down the world. Instead of going to bars and movie theaters, I am making the risky move of going on a trip to Virginia to hang out with some of my online friends from the golden era of TNC'S Open Threads.

I will do my best to reduce the risks: I will be masking extensively, probably even while I'm driving in my car (I decided against airline travel because of the risks of both COVID and anti-maskers being assholes on airplanes. That's a thing now). I will be making at least one hotel stop, and I'm 90 percent sure the hotel website says they're following CDC cleaning protocols (I still will be washing my hands every ten minutes). The place my group is gathering is following those CDC protocols, and we're planning on keeping it a small group (no super-spreader bike rallies!). Everybody's vaccinated, except for the younger kids, but we'll all still be masking and social distancing where we can.

Still, I admit this is reckless of me. I know I'm vaccinated, but COVID can still infect me (the Moderna vaccine should reduce the risks I will spread to others) and I have certain health factors that can become a danger to me.

But I also admit I need the break. Even with my introverted, social anxiety ways, I need to get out of the daily grind of work and crashing at home. I've gotten cabin fever y'all, and I've decided to take a risk that with all my precautions the trip should go 80 percent okay (I'm guessing here, I got a C in college-level Statistics).

Knock on Unitarian-crafted tabletops for luck.

If things go well, I shall return with pictures. And a couple of negative COVID tests when I get back.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

You Wanna Hear a Scary Story This October?

This ought to scare the crap out of you.

There is currently nothing standing in the way of donald trump regaining the Republican nomination in 2024.


Let's face it. Unlike previous One-Termers who tripped into the shadows of history to write memoirs and appear as commentators on History Channel specials, trump has not gone away and if anything the Republican fanbase still worships this failure. Let us read what Emma Brockes at the Guardian has on the matter:

There was a time – millennia ago in political years – when Trump’s wacky syntax and random capitalization might have been cause for, if not for amusement, exactly, then at least some degree of dismissal. Since the inauguration of President Biden in January, it has been relatively easy to convince oneself that his predecessor has gone away. Sealed up in Mar-a-Lago with various family members, Trump has remained largely absent from public life, surfacing on the 20th anniversary of September 11 this month to commentate on a novelty pay-per-view boxing match with Don Jr in Florida, but otherwise, for those not seeking him out, gone.

The discovery that he has not in fact gone, but is still lurking on the internet disseminating conspiracy theories about the election, brings on the sick feeling you get two-thirds of the way into a horror movie, when a sense of calm is introduced prior to the biggest jump scare. Unlike the first time around, there is no possibility of laughing Trump off or assuming his idiocies won’t find a sympathetic audience. At the rally last week, two Republican congressional candidates addressed the group. A recent CNN poll found that 78% of Republicans didn’t believe that Biden legitimately won the presidency. Rightwing America, and therefore America as a whole, has yet to shake this guy off...

Historically speaking, most One-Termers have the sense to know they lost due to their unpopularity with the majority of American voters and step aside for the next round of party figures to rise to leadership roles. The only one who made a successful run after leaving the White House was Grover Cleveland, because he actually won the popular vote but lost the Electoral (an inversion of trump's situation in 2016) in 1888 and so had an actual advantage in 1892 to win again.

trump may be factually unpopular right now - and likely well into 2024 - to where he'll never perform like Grover Cleveland, but trump's never let the facts get in the way of his constant grift.

trump is running again because he keeps his Big Lie going that "I actually won, if only those idiot state elections officials stooped to cheat for me." he's running because not doing so would undersell that Big Lie to an audience eager to buy that shit up, and this political grift is the only con game he's got left.

Also, trump is hoping that by 2024 the Republican-controlled states would have rigged their electoral counting methods to ensure he and they can steal like they tried to in 2020.

If this doesn't terrify you, that 2024 will generate yet another trump-based constitutional nightmare, then you're not fully understanding the horror.

If there are any hope spots in this horror movie, it's that trump remains under civil and criminal investigation for various misdeeds ranging from defamation, tax evasion and fraud, as well as charges like interfering with elections. Thing is, it's late 2021 and we've (the nation AND the whole planet) been waiting for that shoe to drop, and given how trump's lawyers work every trick in the book to Delay, Delay, Delay we're running into the risk of NONE of these legal matters getting resolved before the next Presidential primaries. 

Tick-tock, state attorneys and local DAs. There's a monster roaming the countryside and you're the ones supposed to stop it.