Sunday, July 31, 2022

London Burning (And the Heat Wave Is Only One Reason Why)

When last we checked in on the United Kingdom, a lot has changed.

For starters, there's a new Doctor Who announced as Jodie Whittaker wraps up her tenure as the first official female Doctor. It'll be Ncuti Gatwa stepping up - Good Lord, he's younger (born 1992) than my flip-flops (bought 1991) - to take on the Fourteenth Doctor (which may not be the fourteenth regeneration, they're starting to really wibbly-wobbly with the Doctor's already messy origin story).

Let's see, um, there's been big news in women's soccer oh right football to the European continent. The Lionesses rule!

There's been a brutal heatwave across the UK, as well as much of Europe. It's bad enough that airport tarmacs and roads are melting back into tar.

Oh, and the Tories finally had enough of Boris Johnson's scandal-paloozas and forced him to resign as Prime Minister (although being the cheating git he is, he won't leave until September and even then may back out of it).

The last big scandal Boris was mishandling was the Partygate Affair at the beginning of the year, where his administration ignored the COVID-19 protocols they were enforcing on everyone else. While he skated in public, due to putting a clamp down on the official report before it got completely out, he faced turmoil among his fellow Conservative Tories ranks. A party Vote of No Confidence got called back in June.

Even with Boris surviving that No Confidence vote, the fact it even happened is usually a sign the PM isn't going to last another year. Margaret Thatcher faced a No Confidence, Theresa May faced a No Confidence, and while they both survived they resigned within a year because further intraparty conflicts made their positions untenable.

And Boris only got 59 percent support where Maggie had 84 percent and Theresa 68 percent. He may have been on a lifeboat, but it had 41 leaks already and was sinking like a miniature Titanic.

All it would take was one more scandal - one wafer thin mint of a headache - and it came with the aptly named MP Pincher getting caught a little "hands on" with other members of a social club. As stories of Pincher's behavior going back years got out, Boris Johnson publicly proclaimed he and his government hadn't heard of those stories... except it turned out Boris himself was warned even as he promoted Pincher to a high position.

Basically, Boris had been caught in yet another lie.

This was a problem with him even back in 2019, when I covered his rise to the Prime Minister's post. I relied on Sam Knight's reporting from the New Yorker so let's refer back to that again

This is the Johnsonian way. The lies, the performative phrases, the layers of persona—they accrete, one on top of another, flecked here and there with Latin, until everyone has forgotten what the big deal was... In 2001, at the age of thirty-six, Johnson was elected a Member of Parliament for Henley, a safe Conservative seat in Oxfordshire. When he came under pressure to resign from The Spectator, because of the conflict of interest, he demurred, and coined what has become his best-known political aphorism: “I want to have my cake and eat it.” Johnson hates choosing between things, even right and wrong... 

One of the undercurrents of Knight's story was how Boris pushed his persona and his political stances not with facts but with half-truths and empty promises (the title of Knight's article). The Brexit campaign in 2016, in alliance with other anti-EU fringe groups, was the culmination of Johnson's efforts:

At first, Johnson promised that he would not take a high-profile role in the Brexit campaign—or criticize Conservatives who were backing Remain—but that pledge lasted only a few days. The referendum debate was made for him. It pitched the government, which was boring, cautious, and cognizant of the flaws in Britain’s relationship with the E.U., against the Brexiteers, whose very name carried a whiff of japes and derring-do. While Cameron and his loyal ministers presented fact sheets warning of the economic and political risks of Brexit, Johnson and the gang toured the country in a bright-red bus, waving asparagus (to promote British farming) and promising to return three hundred and fifty million pounds a week to the National Health Service, which was a lie...

The jolly feel around Johnson enables him to air sinister ideas and dodge the consequences. When Barack Obama told reporters that Brexit would hurt the U.K.’s trading prospects, Johnson wrote a column referring to “the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire.” (Johnson has also written of “crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies” with their “watermelon smiles,” in Africa, and described Muslim women wearing niqabs as “letter boxes.”) At a climactic TV debate between Leave and Remain figures, on the last day of the campaign, Johnson adopted a line—previously used by Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party and now the Brexit Party leader—describing the day of the referendum as Britain’s independence day, a nationalist slogan that brought the house down...

And yet, all those lies Boris spilled had (still have) consequences: The Leave Vote forced then-PM Cameron to resign (Never the smartest or best Tory leader ever, even he knew exactly what the damage would be and fled before he could get held accountable himself). It created a leadership crisis among the Tories that Boris could have easily filled in that moment but even he faltered, overwhelmed by the immenseness of the damage he himself caused. For a politician who never really figured out an agenda other than to fulfill his own crass desires, he still stayed afloat because no one else - especially after Theresa May tried and failed multiple times - could complete the disaster that a full No-Deal Brexit would bring to the nation.

As much as Republicans in the colonies United States have to cope with the reality that their leader donald trump is a consistent (and terrible) liar, the Tories back in "this earth this realm this England" had to cope with the reality Boris is a consistent (and terrible) liar as well. Everyone saw this was coming and still the Conservatives had no one else to turn to. As Helen Lewis over at the Atlantic (paywalled) noted:

As I said, though, this was a long road to an inevitable end point. For years, Johnson has been making his aides and supporters look stupid by sending them out to peddle lines that turn out to be untrue. Back in July 2019—that last blessed pre-pandemic summer—Johnson was the favorite to win the Conservative Party leadership election, and thus to become Britain’s next prime minister, and I had just joined a magazine you might have heard of called The Atlantic. My second-ever Atlantic article explored an arresting modern phenomenon: the political outriders forced to humiliate themselves on behalf of charismatic, chaotic leaders. Think of all the Republicans who thought that, surely, Donald Trump wouldn’t lie to them...

These contortions could be attributed to “Johnson’s own vagueness and hatred of commitment,” as I wrote at the time. But there was a shorter word for the problem. Boris Johnson lies...

Or as noted by Jonathan Freedland over at The Guardian:

Lies and a brazen contempt for the rules powered his rise; lies and a brazen contempt for the rules brought his fall. Which means the political odyssey of Boris Johnson has a curious symmetry. Except that what began as defects in the personality of one man ended as defects in his party and his government, inflicting great damage on the entire country...

None of this was a surprise, because dishonesty has been the one constant through Johnson’s career. Famously, he was sacked from his first job, at the Times, for making up a quote, and later he was sacked from Michael Howard’s frontbench for lying to the then party leader about an affair...

Ordinarily, a reputation for serial deceit would close off the route to the top, or at least prove an impediment. Yet for Johnson it proved no obstacle at all. On the contrary, his route to No 10 was smoothed with lies. How come? What were the forces that propelled a man whose flaws were so clear and well documented into the most powerful job in the land...?

He turned the Tory party away from the values it once held dear, so that Johnson’s party cheerfully jeopardized the union, tramped on parliamentary sovereignty and even insulted the monarchy. He purged it of some of its best people and debased several of the great offices of state by filling them with obvious incompetents. Above all, he drained what remained of the public reservoir of trust.

In the spring of 2020, Britons were ready to follow their prime minister into a long period of collective self-discipline, even at the expense of hardship and emotional pain. They did it because they believed him when he said we would all be doing it, every last one of us. The Queen believed it, which is why she sat alone as she buried her husband of 73 years. But it was not true.

That will leave its own legacy, in distrust and cynicism that will endure long after Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street, his brief but toxic spell in the office he craved since childhood finally over...

Deceitful leadership from the Tories. From Conservatives in general, when you lump them in with trump's deceitful following here in the States. All to extend their political power at the expense of the realities that didn't fit their narratives: To the U.S. under trump, the falsehood of "Making America Great Again" with tariff wars, punishing minorities, and dragging the nation into a theocratic Stone Age; To the Brits under Johnson, the falsehood of freeing themselves from the EU with broken promises, a dysfunctional border system, and the likelihood of both Scotland AND Northern Ireland leaving the UK as Brexit ruins their local economies.

I should stop throwing in trump as a comparative model: This should be focusing more on the damage Boris Johnson is leaving behind when he departs (unless he tries to pull off another stunt and cancel his resignation). One last referral to the always-excellent Brexit & Beyond blog by Chris Grey: 

As the dust begins to settle on Boris Johnson’s downfall, it’s worth emphasizing that it was inextricably bound up with Brexit even though Brexit wasn’t its direct cause. Unusually and fittingly, it was his character and conduct rather than any particular policy which ended his premiership. Not, I think, because the Tory Party had some collective outbreak of moral rectitude – they all knew what Johnson was like from the outset – but more because the thumping loss of two by-elections demonstrated that the voters were finally starting to see through him, in large part because of ‘partygate’.

In some ways that’s a good thing. It arguably shows that, eventually and creakingly, the British polity still has some kind of moral compass. But it also means that, even though it ought to be, this is not a moment of reckoning for the Brexit he did so much to promote and shape...

Yet in truth, Johnson’s deficiencies of character are inseparable from Brexit. He was far from the only liar in 2016, but the casual and brazen dishonesty with which he fronted Vote Leave certainly embodied and perhaps swung its campaign. He even embodied many of the particular hues of that dishonesty, in his insistence not just that facts don’t matter but that belief matters more, in his endless sense of his own victimhood, still on display in his resignation announcement and mirroring that of the Brexiters generally, in his refusal to take responsibility for his choices even to the extent of denying choices have to be made, and in his constant bogus and half-baked invocations of the Second World War...

It's now widely accepted, including, if only superficially, by most of the candidates to succeed him, that Johnson’s legacy is a constitution and political culture horribly damaged by dishonesty and immorality, with accompanying public distrust and cynicism. But simply laying this at the door of his own character, without recognizing its roots in Brexit, means it will not be addressed.

There’s actually an even wider point to be made. The referendum didn’t just result in leaving the EU. It also created a massive and ongoing destabilization of British politics. It is not coincidence that we have had two general elections and are about to have the fourth Prime Minister in the space of just six years. That is astonishing in itself, but what is far more astonishing is that at each of the pivotal moments – the general elections and the leadership elections – Brexit itself was only discussed in the most cursory of ways.

This may seem a strange thing to say given how dominant an issue Brexit has been since 2016, but my point is that it has rarely, if ever, been talked about in depth, spelling out its actual practical implications and the choices and trade-offs involved...

So neither at these decisive points nor in the periods between them has there ever been any sustained, honest, realistic political conversation about the practical realities of Brexit. Instead, throughout the May years there were suggestions of securing ‘frictionless trade’ and the ‘exact same benefits’ of membership and in the Johnson years the claim of cakeism and denial of the coming costs, with Labour all the while just talking vaguely of the ‘better deal’ they would achieve. Equally, throughout these years there was virtually no honesty about the actual choices and problems posed by and for Northern Ireland. Instead there was endless nonsense about non-existent ‘alternative arrangements’ and, ultimately, the creation of an Irish Sea border whilst denying that that was what had been agreed. Thereafter, since the end of the transition the political silence about the damaging effects of Brexit has been deafening, whilst all the denial and dishonesty about Northern Ireland has been re-activated...

Boris may be getting kicked out of the Prime Minister's chair, but the damage his efforts to push and achieve Brexit remain ongoing. Not so much because Boris is still lying about Brexit - he is - it's because the rest of the political leadership in the United Kingdom are still lying to themselves about the far-reaching implications that they're stuck with.

Whoever is going to be the next Prime Minister is going to inherit the lies and delusions of Boris' false narratives, and it's not going to end pretty for them either. 

All of London - all of the UK - is going to keep burning hotter than hell for anyone inheriting No. 10 Downing Street.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Floriduh Republicans Earning the Dunce Cap

In the "Yes, Florida Is This Crazy and Stupid Category," let us take a look at the latest mad idea from our state's Republican leaders: Allowing uncertified unqualified military veterans and their spouses fill in as teachers to cover the expanding void of classrooms lacking actual teachers.

I am not the only one who sees how ridiculous this is: Frank Cerabino at the Palm Beach Post is skewering the whole thing (paywalled):

It’s part of a new state law that directs the Florida Department of Education to provide teaching jobs in schools to former military members who have served a minimum of four years of service, do not have bachelor’s degrees, but have a 2.5 or higher grade point average in at least 60 college credits.

So, if you were a C+ student with the equivalent of a community college education and you’ve managed to get through a single enlistment in the military without getting a dishonorable discharge, you can bypass the certification requirements to be a new breed of Florida classroom teachers.


It’s hard to tell with Florida whether the aim of Gov. DeSantis and the state lawmakers is to come up with yet another way to degrade public education, or to pander shamelessly to the 1.5 million military veterans in the state...

Considering how Republicans across the board sneer at public education - and are constantly searching for ways to either privatize schools into bankruptcy, or take away actual learning in order to turn future generations into cabbages - I'm betting on the first reason. Cerabino seems to think so as well:

Don’t get me wrong. Encouraging former military members to consider a career as a teacher after they leave the service is laudable. But not if the way you do it is by degrading the teaching profession...

So forgive me, if I figure Florida’s slap-dash effort to offer teaching jobs to veterans with as little as 48 months of military service is little more than something designed to provide an applause line in an upcoming DeSantis campaign speech, and little else...

The new state law seems to acknowledge its shortcomings by requiring schools to provide chaperones to the unqualified veterans for the first two years they are teaching. The law says these assigned “teacher mentors”, must be an existing teacher at the school who is certified, has three years teaching experience, and has earned an effective or highly effective rating on the prior year’s performance evaluation.

Oh, so certification is important after all.

This cockamamie new law is another unfunded mandate on public schools that is more of a new burden on them, not a help...

One can see a long-term effect here is DeSantis and other Republicans using this as an argument years down the line that teaching shouldn't require higher education credentials at all, and basically open the schools to get filled by the most unqualified hacks in the state. Hacks who are more interested in converting young minds to their quack science, bunk history, and religious bullshit.

What's missing in all of this Republican push to fill hiring gaps among teacher ranks is the reason WHY good education requires qualified teachers. If you're teaching, (and you want to do it well) you not only have to be an expert in the subjects you're teaching you also have to be an expert in HOW to teach those subjects. Mental skill is one thing, but psychological preparation and effective temperament matters as well. You have to have the patience to teach. These are things they teach the teachers, through those Education colleges earning those Masters and Bachelors on your way to the classrooms.

Lemme ask you this: Do you think a veteran - not exactly one with battlefield experience in the first place - is going to be able to handle 30 to 35 preteens in a classroom? Do you remember what it was like when YOU were a Sixth grader, and how much of a punk you were (even if you were a straight-A student) to certain teachers you couldn't respect?

How do you think these vets are going to handle a classroom - no matter if they're kindergarteners or high school seniors - the second the kids realize those vets have no idea what they're teaching and no idea HOW they're going to teach it? If we're lucky, half of them will quit before they cross the wrong line. And given how unlucky this whole situation reeks, we're bound to get horror stories of vets - some of them coping with Post-Traumatic Stress to begin with - getting triggered and getting physical against a kid who needles them the wrong way.

Part of me dreads how this will affect our public schools across the whole state, but I particularly dread the likelihood how DeSantis and some of the school boards are going to manipulate staffing at the schools by packing certified teachers into the privileged suburban (White) districts and shipping the unprepared veteran teachers into the poorer (Black/Latino) districts. Not only creating an economic and racial divide between the haves/have-nots but now an educational divide. The poor kids that need better teachers will instead get the ones who aren't really teachers at all, just glorified babysitters. The failure to educate all our children equally will bring us back to the bad days of segregation and dashing any merit-driven chances for kids from poor communities to rise up and flourish.

DeSantis' plan isn't going to save our schools: It's going to abandon our children.

Goddamn him and his fellow Republican elites. Sacrificing the best and brightest kids before they can even learn.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

What Did The Secret Service Know...?

As the House Select Committee investigation the January 6 Insurrection offers a - for now - final presentation about donald trump's refusal to stop the riot he started, one major development in their ongoing pursuit of the facts is how the Presidential security detail - aka The Secret Service - deleted text messages from their phones when they shouldn't have (via Paul Rosenzweig at the Atlantic (paywall)):

The United States Secret Service is reported to have permanently deleted or lost a host of data, including text messages, that relate to the January 6 insurrection. The Secret Service says that the deletions came about as part of a routine, long-planned update to its phone system and that, as part of this update, it factory-reset its agents’ mobile devices, deleting all data. Skeptical observers suspect a cover-up of the agency’s errors, and more apocalyptic critics see the data deletion as part of a possible conspiracy to support President Donald Trump’s attempted coup. The entire episode is now under criminal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general...

Those texts, like emails, are considered government records, and there's supposed to be procedures in place to secure them for review by the proper authorities (National Archives) before anything else happens to them:

Secret Service officials told The Washington Post that the deletions were not malicious—that they were simply part of a phone-system update. But best practice today for any system update is for the new system to be backward-compatible with older systems. Nobody who isn’t trying to conceal something wants to lose message history—not for messages about January 6 and not for more mundane ones about, say, procurement or leave approval. Migrating without the capacity to roll back is simply unheard-of these days.

Furthermore, why did the planned migration continue after the Secret Service received a data-retention notice from Congress on January 16? Was that notice not transmitted to the IT department? Were the Secret Service’s lawyers unaware of the retention notice—to say nothing of the agency’s obligations under federal law to preserve records for the National Archives...?

The entire situation reeks of coverup and obstruction. The timing of this move is questionable at best. And the people involved in the decision-making at the White House and Secret Service agency happen to have every reason to make those text messages disappear (via Amanda Carpenter at The Bulwark):

One person Hutchinson testified communicating with at length is shaping up to become a central figure in the investigation—and his involvement raises further troubling questions about the Secret Service.

Tony Ornato is a Secret Service agent who, in a highly unusual move, left his position leading Trump’s security detail to serve as Trump’s deputy White House chief of staff for operations. In that post, he oversaw the Secret Service—the agency that had employed him and to which he has since returned. He is now the assistant director of the Secret Service Office of Training.

The fact that a Secret Service agent who left the agency to work for one president as a high-ranking official in the service of his administration—effectively leaving the civil service to become a political appointee—was then allowed to just slide back into the Secret Service under the next president of another party raises obvious questions about potential political bias in the agency...

Ornato was a person in close personal contact with trump through much of trump's tenure as President Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice). This was someone likely prone to accede to trump's demands regardless of the legality. At another point in the narrative coming from Carol Leonnig (author of the must-read Zero Fail book detailing the modern corruption within the Secret Service itself), she documents a confrontation between Ornato and another senior official about what was happening with Vice President Pence's security situation on January 6th as the rioters swarmed the Capitol building:

Around this time, (National Security Advisor Keith) Kellogg ran into Tony Ornato in the West Wing. Ornato, who oversaw Secret Service movements, told him that Pence’s detail was planning to move the vice president to Joint Base Andrews.

“You can’t do that, Tony,” Kellogg said. “Leave him where he’s at. He’s got a job to do. I know you guys too well. You’ll fly him to Alaska if you have a chance. Don’t do it...”

While Ornato claims that conversation didn't happen, and Kellogg testified favorably about Ornato to the Committee, that little moment plays into the skeptics' accusations that the Secret Service was about to spirit Pence away from Congress in an attempt to sabotage the Electoral Count certification.

This part of the Insurrection plot would have been where - as trump failed to convince Pence to overturn the Electoral Count - the riot would force Pence to flee before certification could be done. Senator Chuck Grassley, as Senate Pro Tempore (backup leader of the Senate based on age/seniority), had promised the day before he would step in for Pence and accept the fake Electors trump and his handlers were trying to submit for certain states to flip the Electoral Count his way.

If trump couldn't get Pence to do him the big favor, Grassley sure as hell would.

Stories abound about how - at the point where VP Pence's Secret Service agents were encouraging him to jump into a limo and drive to safety - Pence refused to let his guards escort him away from a genuine threat rioting just on the other side of the Capitol building wall from himself, implying he knew full well if he did that he was pretty much kidnapped. "I trust you, but I know you're not the one behind the wheel."

The missing Secret Service texts would likely have revealed communications between the agents back at the White House following trump's orders and the agents at the Hill trying to protect Pence. At the best, those messages would have exposed trump's demands to get Pence to either play ball or make way for someone who would. At worst, those messages might have exposed more violent threats from trump to Pence. We may not know, if those texts are indeed long gone.

Either way, whatever was on those text messages were more damaging to trump's situation than whatever punishments - destroying evidence and committing obstruction - that the Secret Service agents involved could live with.

The sad thing about the Secret Service: They're supposed to do the right thing. They're hired to protect people, they're trained to go against the instinct of self-preservation, they're drilled into the noble idea of taking a bullet for the President (and the President's Family, and anyone else assigned to their care).

But this is how corrupt the agency has become. It's not that they're taking a bullet for donald trump: It's that they're committing crimes like obstruction, and covering up the possibility they were going to commit other crimes against Pence (someone else who deserved their protection).

This is how corrupting an influence donald trump has been. However bent the Secret Service was - again, go read Zero Fail - before trump entered the White House in 2017, when he left in 2021 the Secret Service was completely broken.

Gods help our Executive Branch. Not President Biden, not Vice President Harris, not their families and not anybody else that the Secret Service is supposed to protect. 

The guards can no longer be trusted.


Saturday, July 16, 2022

Uvalde Followup: The Sound of Shameless Cowards (w/ Update)

The ongoing terror and ongoing shame in our nation regarding the plague of mass shootings and widespread sorrow of gun violence just keeps getting worse.

Back in late May, the community of Uvalde Texas suffered the unimaginable loss of 19 children and 2 teachers killed by a gun-wielding angry guy. Ever since then, there had been questions about how the school security and later how the local police mishandled the situation. For months, stories kept dribbling out about how the police waited for minutes during the most critical moments; how the police detained mothers who heard the screams and wanted to rush in to save their babies; how the local police chief failed to understand the severity of the situation to the point of criminal negligence; and even how one of the cops at the scene had to be restrained because he was getting text messages from his dying wife who was one of the teachers killed.

Well, this past week, a video recording from security cameras inside the school leaked out. And while the mayor began screaming about going after the leaker(s), everyone else was horrified by the visual evidence that police did nothing (via Justin Peters at Slate (paywall)):

Though the video does not include any gory footage, and though we do not see inside the classrooms in which Ramos shot and killed 21 people, it is nevertheless hard to watch. (You can hear a lot of gunshots in the video; an “editor’s note” appears periodically informing viewers that “The sound of children screaming has been removed.”) Almost exactly three minutes after Ramos enters the school, three police officers enter and head down the hallway toward him. A minute later, after receiving fire, they retreat. More and more police officers show up. For over 40 minutes, as the video makes irrefutably clear, they more or less just stand there...

The one thing every viewer and pundit focused on when the video got out: The inhuman line "The sound of children screaming has been removed." Stephen King could never write a line more horrifying than that.

On Wednesday in Slate, my colleague Rebecca Onion nicely captured the excruciating experience of watching over an hour’s worth of footage of officers sanitizing their hands, checking their phones, standing around, and doing pretty much everything but intervening to stop the shooter...

It’s one thing to read about the police inaction at Robb Elementary; it’s another, much more viscerally maddening thing to see it with your own eyes. The written accounts that I’ve read of the police response have contained excuses and rationales and official statements; they’ve left room for doubt over what happened and why, and for the prospect that the police on the scene actually acted heroically after all. But the video has no bandwidth for  such shades of gray. It is an indelible partial record of what happened that afternoon. It sticks in a way that the stories I’ve read did not...

And when the video leaked, what was the official response from Uvalde officials like the city mayor?

On Tuesday, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin announced that the news outlets were “chicken” for publishing the video before the victims’ families had had a chance to see it...

The mayor’s response, in which he appealed to emotion in order to criticize the media for doing their jobs, is worth analyzing. On its face it sounds reasonable, even humane. The victims’ families have indeed been through enough, and it’s natural to want to spare them additional gratuitous trauma. But this plea to consider the families’ emotional welfare reads as smarmy and self-serving when uttered by the mayor of a town whose first responders failed the students and teachers of Robb Elementary on the day of the shooting, and whose authorities have been trying to duck responsibility for their own behavior ever since then...

More than an hour elapsed between when the first police officers arrived on the scene at Robb Elementary and when the police finally confronted and killed Ramos. This gap was not initially public knowledge, and in the aftermath of the shooting, Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw announced that “the bottom line is that law enforcement was there, they did engage immediately, they did contain him in the classroom.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, meanwhile, praised the police on the scene for showing “amazing courage by running toward gunfire..

The video proves that Abbott's praise is absolute bullshit. Even when the cops had body armor, helmets, even those bulletproof shields clearly visible on camera, they waited like chickens for the gunman to finish his bloody agenda.

Every goddamned Uvalde and Texas law officer who failed to act on that day, and every goddamned Uvalde and Texas elected official all the way up to the goddamned Governor who tried to cover up this shame, should have the phrase "The sound of children screaming" tattooed to their foreheads for the rest of their gutless miserable lives.

This is, by the by, absolute proof that the Far Right wingnut fantasy of "Good guys with guns" is a goddamned lie. We had a platoon, nay an entire police force of "good guys with guns" and even they were too terrified to go after a lone gun nut who just happened to carry assault weapons with enough firepower to scare them.

The widespread availability of military-grade assault rifles - thanks to the blind and inhuman misreading of the goddamned Second Amendment by conservative wingnut justices and politicians - is a serious problem for law enforcement across the United States. You wanna know the excuse for why every police department is stocked with riot gear and firepower that even our own military thinks is excessive? The excuse is that the cops want to be "prepared" to face off against any large-scale riot where the rioters may have these AR-15s and similar semi-auto (and illegally converted full auto) firearms.

But even that excuse is a lie. Watch how the cops behaved at Uvalde - when there was just one gunman - and how they cowered behind their shields for a full hour. Then watch how these cops behaved at Black Lives Matters protests: Where most of the protestors were waving signs and carrying water bottles, and where the cops responded with rubber (and real) bullets, smashing in heads with batons and the butt of their own rifles because the cops fucking knew they held all the firepower on those streets.

If our nation's law enforcement were truly honestly serious about protecting themselves in dangerous situations, if they truly wanted to live with the belief that they should "go home to their families at the end of every shift," you'd think every sheriff's department and police union out there would be fighting tooth-and-nail to pass assault weapon bans to make their lives easier. 

But they don't. You barely hear a peep from police unions when it comes to debate for assault weapon bans or any other gun safety option.

Part of cop rationale is that they want that excuse of mad gunmen running around so they can play soldier with overpowered gear of their own. Part of it is that the cops are on the same page with the National Rifle Body Count Association when it comes to ensuring the goddamned White Nationalist Christianist "Rapture Is Coming" Gun-Worshipping wingnuts are locked and loaded for the Second Civil War vs. bleeding heart liberals.

The anxiety cops have with every traffic stop could easily go away when the open-carry prevalence of guns go away. But no: they would rather live with the fear, all because it lets them impose their fear and firepower on the ethnic minorities they deem to punish and harass.

In the meantime, the shameless cowards in Texas will keep bleating the same excuses and the same lies until they are held accountable. Until each and every cop who failed in their duty, each and every official who failed to be honest and upfront, each and every demagoguing politician who blustered and lied are either in jail or out of office.

The sound of children screaming should haunt them forever.

Update 7/18: Am waking up this morning to reports that there were 376 officers that eventually showed up at Uvalde. All those cops, and they STILL could not work up the nerve to apprehend a single gunman. All because the gunman had AR-15 murdersticks with him. /rage 




Get rid of the assault rifles and maybe just maybe the cops will stop being cowards and bullies.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Ties That Bind trump To the Insurrection

There's another hearing this Tuesday from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th Insurrection.

This one is a big fcking deal because this hearing will focus on  the extremist groups - Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and the QAnon conspiracists - and those groups connection to Trump associates, especially Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.

The House committee has already established strong cases that donald trump knew - was at least informed by multiple people in his own circle - that he lost the 2020 Presidential election; that trump likely committed wire fraud by falsely fund-raising for legal issues that went to other people's pockets (his own especially) to the tune of $250 million; that trump was working to nullify or interfere with election results; and that trump knew that the rally he held that January 6th before the riot overwhelmed Capitol Hill was armed and ready to riot on his behalf.

Any one of these would be reason enough for the Department of Justice to file charges of some kind against trump. What would really tie everything together would be proof that the two halves of this insurrection - the one half (trump) that planned it and encouraged it, and the second half (the rioters) who acted on the plan - were in direct communication and supporting each other (the Conspiracy, which I think falls under this US Code). 

Without legal proof of a conspiracy, trump's lawyers could well argue that trump himself had nothing to do with the violence that took lives and destroyed property (and nearly wrecked the federal government itself). But if you can prove the plotters hiding back in their hotel rooms at the Willard were coordinating with the leaders of the actual rioters, they're all - trump to Stone to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers - linked together. trump may not have known the specifics of what was happening - the way Don Vito never really knows how Luca Brasi took care of that movie producer at the beginning of The Godfather (that poor horse) - but trump asked for something to happen to overturn a legal election and he benefitted from that crime in some way.

Or as they discussed in the Congressional hearings in Godfather Part II, there were a lot of buffers! Hence the need to find a direct link like Frankie Pentangeli between the street soldiers of the Mafia to mob boss Michael Corleone.

Find that link from donald trump to the Proud Boy street soldiers - be it Roger Stone or Steve Bannon or Michael Flynn - and you've got a criminal case against trump to condemn him to federal prison.

Here's hoping today the House committee proves trump's dirty fingerprints were all over this insurrection.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

"Is You Filming Yourselves Plotting a Criminal EFFING Conspiracy?"

Back in 2019, maybe a little earlier, Adam Serwer at the Atlantic made an observation about the general incompetence and lack of awareness of both donald trump and the lackeys he was relying on to corrupt the political system of the United States

If Donald Trump’s advisers had only watched The Wire, many of the president’s aides and associates might have saved themselves a great deal of legal trouble.

A scene from the HBO crime drama shows a character named Stringer Bell trying to broker peace between rival drug dealers, and trying to get them to abide by Robert’s Rules of Order. When the meeting adjourns, Bell walks up to a subordinate, who is busy scribbling on a legal pad.

“Motherfucker, what is that?” Bell asks.

“The Robert Rules say we gotta have minutes for a meeting. These the minutes,” he replies.

Astonished, Bell snatches the paper out of his hand. “(N-word), is you takin’ notes on a criminal fuckin’ conspiracy? What the fuck is you thinking, man?”

And thus the Stringer Bell Rule was born: You shouldn't be documenting the criminal activities you're committing.

And yet, trump and his own people - some of whom were at the game of political dirty tricks for 50 years like Roger Stone - kept ignoring that rule.

Because one of the more hilarious revelations from the ongoing House Select Committee investigation into the January 6th Insurrection is that the people setting up and executing the riots hired filmmakers - multiple! - to document themselves in the weeks before the riot took place. Via Hugo Lowell at the Guardian:

Weeks before the Capitol attack, top Republican political activists Roger Stone and Ali Alexander identified the January 6 congressional certification as the final chance for Donald Trump to attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The focus on the congressional certification, according to sources familiar with the matter, was one of several areas they marked as potential flashpoints to exploit as leaders of the “Stop the Steal” movement to help Trump reverse his defeat to Joe Biden.

As Stone and Alexander mounted their political operation, their activities were recorded by two conservative film-makers in the post-2020 election period and in the weeks before January 6.

The access meant the film-makers, Jason Rink and Paul Escandon, captured footage of the leaders of the Stop the Steal movement and their interactions with top Trump allies, according to a teaser for the documentary titled The Steal.

In following Stop the Steal, the film-makers’ project documented key moments in the timeline leading up to the Capitol attack, including an “occupation” of the Georgia state capitol in November, and rallies in Washington that almost seemed like dry runs for January 6.

They also caught on camera public and private moments at Stop the Steal events. Among others who appear in the documentary are the House Republican Paul Gosar, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn...

Stone also allowed himself to be filmed by a Danish documentary film crew that recorded his activities in his room at the Willard hotel as the Capitol attack unfolded, the Washington Post reported earlier this year.

The House January 6 select committee emailed a letter earlier in January asking to review the footage, but a lawyer for Rink declined the request, citing the need to maintain journalistic independence and fears the content would leak from the inquiry.

House investigators did not ultimately pursue the matter after the lawyer indicated he would litigate a subpoena; unless film-makers have said they would only turn over footage in response to a subpoena, the panel has generally avoided that route...

At this point Idris Elba pops up in front of Roger Stone and drops the Stringer Bell Rule, complete with N-word.

I mean, common sense should have told these guys that "Hey wait a second, bringing in gun-toting protestors to break into a federal building like the Capitol is slightly frowned upon by a shitload of anti-terrorist laws. So why should we film ourselves planning out such an attack?"

This is where my former (now retired) co-worker Barbara back in 2016 informed me of the word Kakistocracy: Rule by the dumbest morons available. These riot planners - Stone especially - should have learned from the Mueller investigation that they shouldn't leave emails and paperwork and video recordings of themselves breaking federal laws. Instead, the trumpian elites doubled down and hired outside parties to film them breaking the law for future documentaries.

They haven't explained why they did, at least not publicly, and they probably won't admit it to themselves. But I guarantee you a big reason why they filmed these documentaries is because these insurrectionists saw themselves as heroes against what they believe is a corrupt and evil liberal government.

Look at how the rioters and the political figures like Lauren Boebert leading the charge excused their actions as replaying 1776 as though they were modern-day Washingtons. These Proud Boy / Oath Keeper types really do view themselves as fighting against tyranny instead of being the violent psychopaths they really are. They're living out their Turner Diaries fantasies, and they don't care who else knows about it... until they're in jail and the reality of their lawbreaking makes them change their tune.

And so you get these Roger Stones, these Rudys, these drum-banging sycophants happy to take selfies in the middle of the riots, eager to pose for interviews with Fox Not-News after the blood has spilled, thrilled to hire film crews to stage their very own Triumph of the Will documentaries for future generations of fascists.

Another thing to consider: These ringleaders agreed to have cameras record themselves for posterity because they never believed these recordings could be used against them at formal hearings and in courts of law.

Guys like Roger Stone and Steve Bannon have enough smarts to know what it is they're doing could be criminally wrong... but after decades of never getting held to count for what they've done - Stone got pardoned by trump after a jury agreed with Mueller's charges that Stone was guilty - they've tossed all precaution into the nearest burning dumpster. 

To say it another way: The corruption in trump's inner circle of power runs so deep that they openly flaunted their actions believing they would never get held accountable.

Bet any odds on how Roger Stone and the others still believe that hiring these film crews was a good idea, that they believe that in spite of what the House committee finds they will still get away with it?

Gods help us if they do.

The Undignified Surrender of Hollow Republicans

Oft times, I share a big read from another's online article because of how good and impactful that article is.

This time, I'm pointing y'all if you haven't read it already to Mark Leibovich's article in The Atlantic titled "The Most Pathetic Men In America." The introductory artwork to the article ought to clue you right away to whom he's accusing (it is paywalled): 

I will admit I never loved the Trump story. This sometimes surprises people. I have been covering Washington for many years; I’ve been accused of being a “keen observer” of the capital. Surely, I must have been thrilled to have such a ridiculous piece of work at the center of it all, right?

Well, no. I never found Donald Trump to be remotely captivating as a stand-alone figure. He’d been around forever and his political act was largely derivative. His promise to “drain the swamp” was treated as some genius coinage, though in fact the platitude had been worn out for decades by both parties. Nancy Pelosi promised to “drain the swamp” in 2006, just as the Reagan-Bush campaign had vowed to “Make America Great Again” in 1980.

Trump said and did obviously awful and dangerous things—racist and cruel and achingly dumb and downright evil things. But on top of that, he is a uniquely tiresome individual, easily the sorest loser, the most prodigious liar, and the most interminable victim ever to occupy the White House. He is, quite possibly, the biggest crybaby ever to toddle across history’s stage, from his inaugural-crowd hemorrhage on day one right down to his bitter, ketchup-flinging end. Seriously, what public figure in the history of the world comes close? I’m genuinely asking...

Better objects of our scrutiny—and far more compelling to me—are the slavishly devoted Republicans whom Trump drew to his side. It’s been said before, but can never be emphasized enough: Without the complicity of the Republican Party, Donald Trump would be just a glorified geriatric Fox-watching golfer. I’ve interviewed scores of these collaborators, trying to understand why they did what they did and how they could live with it. These were the McCarthys and the Grahams and all the other busy parasitic suck-ups who made the Trump era work for them, who humored and indulged him all the way down to the last, exhausted strains of American democracy...

It's been noted elsewhere and here at this blog that trump simply wouldn't have gotten as far as he had if only the Republican Party leadership had enough spine and enough self-respect to kick him to the curb before the first round of 2016 primaries took place. They could have arguably denied him a spot on the ballot on ethical concerns alone (not just his failed businesses - he was facing fraud charges over his "Trump University" when the primaries began! - but also ongoing complaints of sexual misconduct), his refusal to accept certain guidelines and requirements demanded of other candidates, anything.

But the GOP failed to stop him. They feared trump's threat to run an independent campaign much like Ross Perot in 1992 would split the Far Right vote and guarantee a Hillary Clinton win. trump had them in a terrible Catch-22. The Republicans dreaded trump's corruption but outright hated the possibility Hillary could become President: Not out of any fear Hillary would wreck the nation, but that Hillary out of basic competence would prove that all the hathos and fearmongering about her was a big lie. 

So the Republicans let trump play. Worse, the party leadership indulged trump in 2016, allowing him to bully his way across the debate stages and drag the Republican brand into a toxic mud pit of open racism and ignorance.

But back to Leibovich:

What would you do to stay relevant? That’s always been a definitional question for D.C.’s prime movers, especially the super-thirsty likes of McCarthy and Graham. If they’d never stooped this low before, maybe it’s just because no one ever asked them to...

Early on, when wary Republicans were still publicly dreading where the Trump experiment might lead, you’d hear flashes of concern over how it—or they—might be adjudicated by those ever-hovering future historians. As his own presidential campaign was ending in 2016, Marco Rubio predicted that there would one day be a “reckoning” inside the GOP. “You mark my words, there will be prominent people in American politics who will spend years explaining to people how they fell into this,” Rubio told The New York Times (Update: Rubio cleaned up his act, became a stalwart Trump patron, and we’re still waiting on that reckoning.)...

Two decades on and many rungs up the org chart, McCarthy can be sensitive to perceptions that he is a lightweight whose career trajectory is owed purely to his Olympian brownnosing and backslapping capabilities. “I like that reputation,” McCarthy claimed to me, not persuasively, “because it helps people underestimate me.” McCarthy had come close to becoming speaker before, in 2015, but a Benghazi-related gaffe knocked him out of the running. Now the ultimate job is again within reach. Blinders on. Legacies are for losers. McCarthy learned from the master.

“My legacy doesn’t matter,” Trump told his longtime aide Hope Hicks a few days after the 2020 election, according to an account in Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. “If I lose, that will be my legacy.” This became the essential ethos of Republican nihilism. By lashing themselves so tightly to Trump, Republicans could act as if the president’s impunity and shamelessness extended to them. His strut of cavalier disregard became their own...

trump not only bought the souls of most leading Republicans who all proved to be hollow ambitious vessels, he bought them cheap.

trump defeated the Republican Party when he became so openly racist and sexist that the Far Right voter base rallied to him like no other, compelling these ambitious hollow Republican officials to bend the knee to their own mobs. It's been said before: trump gave the Far Right base license to be rude, violent, and racist, and they will worship him forever for it.

And that Far Right base will go to war for trump because there's nothing left to Republican ideology but cruelty, greed, and power.

Read all of Leibovich's article (again, paywalled), to see in full just how far gone the Republicans have fallen.

And then for the LOVE OF GOD never vote Republican again.

Saturday, July 09, 2022

DeSantis vs. The Right To Think

It's been awhile since I've discussed how bad things are here in Florida so let's check in on what damage Ron DeSantis is dropping on our citizenry lately. 

Let's look at DeSantis' push of an "intellectual freedom survey" that doesn't really do a thing for freedom (via USA Today/Tallahassee Democrat (paywall)):

The questionnaire to survey students and faculty was required by a bill (HB 233) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last June. 

The bill was promoted as a way to safeguard open inquiry and intellectual diversity on state campuses. Opponents of the survey filed a federal suit in Tallahassee over it...

The email that went out reads as follows:

Dear Employee: 

You are invited to participate in a survey on Intellectual Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity. This survey is designed to assess the extent to which you feel free to express your beliefs and viewpoints on campus. This survey is being conducted by the Florida Board of Governors as part of implementation of House Bill 233, which passed during the 2021 legislative session.  

Please follow this link (or copy and paste the link into your web browser) to complete the brief survey, which should take 5-10 minutes: [The link to the survey was here]

Your participation in this survey is completely voluntary. You are free to not answer any question or withdraw from the survey at any time. No personally identifiable information will be associated with your responses. This survey is anonymous, and responses will only be reported at the group level, not at the individual level.  

Should you have any questions, please contact the Florida Board of Governors.    

Thank you for your time and consideration...

So why are people opposed to this seemingly harmless survey (from another USA Today/Tallahassee Democrat article by James Call in October 2021)?

The United Faculty of Florida, the labor union representing faculty and graduate assistants at the state's public and private colleges and universities, argues in federal court that the measure will gather those facts and data in an unconstitutional manner.

In papers filed Aug. 4 (2021) in Tallahassee, UFF lists numerous violations of free speech protections and rights of assembly in just the law’s anti-shielding provision. A student who finds they have been shielded from what they perceived is speech that is offensive to others may file suit to “vindicate” their rights.

“We cannot imagine a scenario where the survey will go well,” said J. Andrew Gothard, the UFF president. The state has submitted a motion to dismiss the suit, and UFF has filed a rebuttal...

This survey and the bill supporting it raises more conflict over "offensive" speech than it claims to prevent. For example a Proud Boy / Oath Keeper student on a college campus could claim his "speech" about Replacement Theory was wrongly suppressed, and file suit to have his racist Anti-Semitic hate speech shoved down the throats of everyone offended by it.

DeSantis' office may claim the survey is "voluntary" and unenforceable, and the Governor's office already has the ability to cut funding to any universities giving DeSantis the power to punish those schools he feels are not performing how he sees fit: 

The survey provisions neither explain nor put any limitations on how the governor, Florida Legislature or boards might use the results of the survey... Remarks by Gov. DeSantis in support of HB 233 indicate that results will be used to cut funding from public colleges and universities if survey results suggest that a given school has not done enough to foster "intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity..."

If anybody lived through the era of Loyalty Oaths and political witch hunts (called the Johns Committee) here in Florida, welcome to the sequel.

I know a number of academic librarians at the state universities, and I sent out a message this week inquiring if they'd received those surveys as they are faculty (I also asked if I could see one, but no one shared). Some replied back that they got the 2021 survey which they agreed was meager but filled with "leading questions" (questions phrased in such a way that a biased response in the positive was the only way to answer it and still feel clean). They haven't gotten this year's survey but they've heard it's going to be more detailed. My fellow librarians are being told by the teachers' unions not to answer the surveys at all, but you know political pressure will come down if no one does fill them.

And that's what DeSantis is doing to higher education. Wanna see what he's doing to our K-12 schools? (via Ana Ceballos and Sommer Brugal at the Tampa Bay Times (paywall)):

Several South Florida high school educators are alarmed that a new state civics initiative designed to prepare students to be “virtuous citizens” is infused with a Christian and conservative ideology after a three-day training session in Broward County last week.

Teachers who spoke to the Times/Herald said they don’t object to the state’s new standards for civics, but they do take issue with how the state wants them to be taught.

“It was very skewed,” said Barbara Segal, a 12th-grade government teacher at Fort Lauderdale High School. “There was a very strong Christian fundamentalist way toward analyzing different quotes and different documents. That was concerning.”

The civics training, which is part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative, underscores the tension that has been building around education, making classrooms into battlegrounds for politically contentious issues. In Florida, DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature have pushed policies that limit what schools can teach about race, gender identity and certain aspects of history...

Those dynamics came into full view last week, when trainers told Broward teachers the nation’s founders did not desire a strict separation of state and church, downplayed the role the colonies and later the United States had in the history of slavery in America and pushed a judicial theory, favored by legal conservatives like DeSantis, that requires people to interpret the Constitution as the framers intended it, not as a living, evolving document, according to three educators who attended the training...

Just to point out how wrong DeSantis' trainers are: They are ignoring the Founders' "No Religious Test" provision written into the Constitution itself; they are ignoring how slavery dominated our political debates in the 1800s to where we had a freaking CIVIL WAR about it; and they are pushing an "Originalist" interpretation of the Constitution that ignores the reality it can be amended and evolve under the guidance of current and future generations. Back to the article:

The civics training is the latest effort in a long line of education policies that aims to fight what DeSantis and conservative education reformers say are “woke ideologies” in public schools.

It also provides a snapshot of how national groups, including Hillsdale College, a politically influential private Christian college in southern Michigan, are working with the DeSantis administration to reshape education in the state. The goal is to put a greater emphasis on civics than on socially divisive issues such as race and gender identity, which DeSantis has said is an effort to reorient teaching away from “indoctrination and back towards education.” But to several educators who went through the state’s training, it felt like a broader effort to impose a conservative view on historical events...

This is essentially the next stage in DeSantis' and the Far Right Conservatives ongoing war on Facts. It doesn't help that their main source of "historical facts" happens to be a Hillsdale College accused of racism and religious extremism (via at Kathryn Joyce at

In an era of book bans, crusades against teaching about racism, and ever-widening proposals to punish teachers and librarians, Hillsdale is not just a central player, but a ready-made solution for conservatives who seek to reclaim an educational system they believe was ceded decades ago to liberal interests. The college has become a leading force in promoting a conservative and overtly Christian reading of American history and the U.S. Constitution. It opposes progressive education reforms in general and contemporary scholarship on inequality in particular. It has featured lectures describing the Jan. 6 insurrection as a hoax and Vladimir Putin as a "hero to populist conservatives around the world."

Quick interruption: THIS COLLEGE IS PROMOTING A WARMONGERING, SEXIST/RACIST SON OF A BITCH IN PUTIN. They are on the side of an Imperialist Russia monster responsible for war, famine, rape, and death.

And as Republicans move into a new phase of their long-game efforts to privatize public education, Hillsdale has become a key resource. Across the nation, conservative officials from state leaders to insurgent school board members are clamoring to implement Hillsdale's proudly anti-woke lesson plans, including the "patriotic education" premises of its recently released 1776 Curriculum, or add to its growing network of affiliated classical charter schools...

These linked trends amount to a vision of things to come if Republicans win their current war on public education. And war is how they see it. As one Republican leader promised at Hillsdale last spring, if conservatives can "get education right," they'll "win" the country "back." Or as Hillsdale's president himself likes to say, "Teaching is our trade; also, I confess, it's our weapon." 

This isn't about education, this isn't about the facts, this isn't about civics or accuracy in history. This is about war that the Far Right are waging against the rest of the world that doesn't believe the same bullshit they believe. It's about promoting a mythology of "racial harmony" where things would be so much better if Whites kept their privilege, (White) Men were allowed to be manly, the feminists stayed in the kitchen, everyone knew their place and it would all be 1850 again.

DeSantis has been screaming about "Critical Race Theory" and "Wokeism" but he's using that as an excuse to indoctrinate the next generation into religious/racist ignorant extremism.

Our schools are now battlegrounds, and the Republicans want scorched earth to be our national legacy.

Don't let them win.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Quick Notes 7/8/22

1) My air conditioner is running five degrees hotter than the thermostat is set for, so it's a bit too stuffy in my place to sit and write. Which is cutting into my short story projects at the moment as well.

2) I've changed the artwork for this blog's banner. I'm trying out a more professional-looking title image, so let me know if you like it or not.

3) I've called three different air conditioner repair services and two of them have not called me back. The third one did and scheduled an appointment last Thursday that they didn't show up for, didn't even have the courtesy to call and cancel or reschedule. It's the rudeness of not following up that bothers me more than the nagging humidity in my home.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Four For the Fourth: Closing Arguments

Reminder: here are links to my other Four For the Fourth blog articles, one about a plea for silent firecrackers, one about women's rights to independence, and one about the need for fixing our nation to save our freedoms!

When you don't go to the parties or to the firework shows for a 4th of July, you end up at home switching between the movie marathons on cable or watching the 4th of July specials on PBS or NBC.

Only I can't watch the 4th Specials for too long on the networks. I just can't. 

Because there's too much Country music playing.

I'm sorry. I never got into Country. I grew up in the suburbs of Virginia Beach and later Tampa Bay. I'm a Boy from the Harb. I grew up to Led Zep and Van Halen and every arena hard rock band between 1979 through 1991. I miss the Dunedin Record & Tape Outlet store, it's where I got into L.A. punk and British Sixties blues.

Country to me has too much twang, too much proud ignorance, not enough poetry or wit IMHO when it comes to the lyrics. There are few Country songs I can abide, there's practically only one song - this one from Dierks Bentley - because at least it's got self-deprecating humor to it:

I admit if my parents stayed in Albany GA or we moved to a part of Florida that was out in the boonies, I might have grown up different. But nope, I'm a suburban mallrat, I grew up to heavy drums and loud lyrics and screeching guitar licks and that's what I want to hear for my 4th of July goddammit.

Where's the "Stars And Stripes Forever" march played by Metallica, you fiends.


Four For the Fourth: Fixing the Flaws

Reminder: here are links to my other Four For the Fourth blog articles, one about a plea for silent firecrackers, one about women's rights to independence, and one about needing more metal music on the TV specials dammit!

This is, as mentioned earlier, one of the most dire 4th of Julys I've ever honored.

Because the state of our nation is at a crossroads between majority progressive reform and minority violent retrenchment. As David Atkins notes at the Washington Monthly:

The Roberts Court has imperiled America’s unity. The country’s center-left majority is disenfranchised and under assault from the likes of Samuel Alito. Something has to give.

The large, productive populations of blue states like California and New York—which famously give far more to the national treasury than they get back—chafe under a system that affords far more clout to the citizens of Idaho and Wyoming. The voting majority that won seven of the last eight presidential popular votes and that constitutes 70 percent of the GDP will throw off the yoke of a conservative minority. Most Americans below the age of 40 are progressive—well to the left of today’s median Democrat—and will not buckle under the imposition of a white Christian nationalist agenda by an aging conservative minority.

They know that the Supreme Court has lost its moral authority. Republicans have won the popular vote in a presidential election only once in 30 years, yet Republican presidents have nominated most of the Court’s justices. No Democratic president has chosen a chief justice since Harry Truman in 1946. The last Republican president entered office having lost by nearly 3 million votes even with the aid of a foreign dictatorship, whose help he begged for on the campaign trail. One of those justices was stolen outright by Mitch McConnell under pretenses of it being an election year, only to see the Senate confirm another justice while votes were being cast in the next cycle. The Senate that confirmed those justices is absurdly skewed in favor of small, white, rural conservative states, such that Senate Democrats represent 43 million more voters yet are locked in a 50-50 tie. And the Senate’s skew will only become more blatantly unjust and unsustainable...

The Framers created the Senate and the Electoral College to bring small states on board with the larger national project and to temper what they worried would be the passions of the electorate. They feared demagogues—yet ironically, their solution enabled the rise of one. Their concessions to slave states failed to prevent the Civil War. They got many things wrong and could not foresee or prevent the rise of political parties. Crucially, they also expected future generations to change the Constitution frequently, yet it has barely been amended in almost a century...

The reason I started this blog back in 2006 was to start arguing over the amendments our nation needed to repair a creaky and aging federal constitution: A model of governance that needed to update for a 21st Century that was more progressive than the Founders realized, and stuck to an electoral model that wasn't meant for so many states and a population more than 50 times the nation's original size.

I mean, I got into a tweet debate with Conor Friedersdorf this morning about the problems with the U.S. Senate representation:

This is just one of the many things that need to get fixed so that the tyranny of Minority Party Rule doesn't destroy this nation.

Just amending the representation in the Senate - to end the equal seating of two Senators per state regardless of population, which has unbalanced this Senate to where the political minority of small states can logjam the entire legislative process - would be a huge reform. Changing the rules so that the ten most populous states receive an extra third Senator while the ten smallest states shrink to just one Senator would be the most rational means of doing it (although the small states will begin screaming how their representation is being taken away. Too bad. You don't have enough people to justify having that much power!). Just by changing this, the responsibilities of the Senate - especially the consent and advise for judicial appointments - will reflect the interests of the majority of voters nationwide.

Most other reforms our Constitution should focus on would be fixing a Supreme Court that has become too partisan, and too much a source of political brinksmanship that has helped polarize our parties.

The simplest fix to correct the Court right now - the near-permanent Far Right stranglehold on six seats out of nine - would be to expand the court. And this wouldn't even need an Amendment because Congress already has the power to add or subtract from the bench. This has actually happened before in the 1860s when the nation was responding to the last time the political minority - Southern slaveholding conservatives - caused this level of damage. They shrank the number of Justices in 1866 to stop Andrew Johnson from replacing retiring jurists with pro-segregationist people, and then re-expanded the number to nine (where it's been since) to give U.S. Grant and the then-liberal Republicans the chance to ensure an anti-slavery pro-rights Court would work.

So adding four seats - while the Democrats control both the White House (Biden) and the Senate (tie-breaker vote) before the 2022 midterms shake things up - would be the simplest thing but also greatest political hazard for Democrats. They worry that a future Republican-held Congress and White House would escalate like an arms race: If Dems upped the seats to 13 for a 7-6 ideological advantage, the future GOP would respond by added 10 seats for a 16-to-7 sledgehammer. Even though there IS a legitimate reason to expand to 13 seats - there are 13 judicial districts (11 state regions and 2 special jurisdictions) that require oversight by a Supreme Court Justice - the Dems don't seem to want to go that route.

Even though the Republicans would jump at the chance to expand to 13 seats right now if they were in power, and bump it up to a 10-to-3 advantage they would never let go of.

There is another way to fix the Supreme Court but it might involve an amendment: Setting retirement age limits. Right now due to wording in Article III Section I, judicial appointments may be lifetime. Best way to make sure the SCOTUS seats change hands - by either a term limit (12 or 16 years) or mandatory retirement (65 years old) - and make it harder for either party to plan any long-term control of the judiciary.

Another Amendment this nation needs in this dark hour is something, anything, to stop the partisan gerrymandering that gives the state parties too much control over who can actually run for office and who can win. We've seen the evidence and reports about how gerrymandering districts to extremes reduces voter interest and turnout. We know how gerrymandering pulls away power from the urban populations and gives that power to sparse rural areas. We've watched the last 10 years how partisan gerrymandering gave us minority party rule at both the state and Congressional levels. 

Instead of fair districts, instead of ensuring each person's vote will count, gerrymandering diminishes that power and grants it to the special interests - mostly the greedy and the evangelical - who don't care about what happens to the citizenry. If we could get a Congress responsive enough to pass such reforms... but we can't, because there's enough figures in both parties who prefer the gerrymandered status quo. The irony: Gerrymandering makes sure we don't get enough reformers elected to end gerrymandering anyway.

Oh, and getting rid of the broken Electoral College - a system that violates the will of the majority of Americans, may well deny us rightfully-elected Presidents in the future - is a must.

The United States need so many other reforms to our electoral system and to the checks and balances that ought to exist between the federal branches and the states. To get there, we as voters are going to need a concerted effort - by enough Americans across enough states - to use whatever power we have left at the ballot box to pass these reforms and restore both our rights and our safety. 

That means voting FOR those who can reform our system - Democrats - and voting AGAINT those who will corrupt it further - Republicans - for their own greedy sadistic needs.

This won't be a good Independence Day until we're independent from the corrupt powers in high places.

Good luck. Keep fighting.

Blood On the Streets of Highland Park

Just as I was writing my second "Four For the Fourth" blog article today, news popped up that - in honor of our nation's independence from British tyranny - a goddamned gun nut showed up at a 4th of July parade in a Chicago suburb and opened fire (via Michael Tarm and Roger Schneider at AP News):

At least six people died and 24 were wounded in a shooting at a July Fourth parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, and officers are searching for a suspect who likely fired on the festivities from a rooftop, police said Monday.

Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill, the incident commander on scene, urged people to shelter in place as authorities search for the suspect, described as a white male wearing a white or blue T-shirt.

Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said at a news conference that the gunman apparently opened fire on parade-goers from a rooftop using a rifle that was recovered at the scene. He didn’t know which building.

Covelli said police believe there was only one shooter and warned that he should still be considered armed and dangerous. He and O’Neill described the shooting as random...

It doesn't matter if it was random. It matters that the mass shooter had easy access to an assault rifle and an angry desire to use it on innocent people.

These gun nuts, these mass buyers of AR-15s, these worshipers of murdersticks, you ask a lot of them "Why" they are so desperate to own weapons of mass death, and they usually answer the same: "It's to defend ourselves against the tyranny of the evil librul government that's gonna take our rights" - namely, the very guns they're stockpiling - "from us!"

These goddamn gun nuts don't care about the reality that "More guns = more gun deaths" all because it doesn't fit their fantasy worldview of being racially pure heroes of some twisted Turner Diaries fanfic. Some of them even celebrate these mass shootings, because then they'll scream "you see? gun laws don't make you safe!" even as they're prepping themselves for the Second Civil War in their bomb shelters.

Tyranny of the British Crown? Gone, old news.

Tyranny of the gun? Thank you, National Rifle Body Count Association, our nation's citizenry is still not free from your ongoing threat of mass shootings that your golden calf the assault rifle affirms every day.

Four for the Fourth 2022: Remember the Ladies

Reminder: here are links to my other Four For the Fourth blog articles, one about a plea for silent firecrackers, one about the need for fixing our nation to save our freedoms, and one about needing more metal music on the TV specials dammit!

It's hard to celebrate Independence Day this 2022 when half this nation's population are now - thanks to a sadistic Christianist Supreme Court - Second Class citizens.

As much as Frederick Douglass called out the hypocrisy of the 4th of July - the promise of liberty while Blacks were still in chains - we are now at the point in American history where the liberty and rights of women to choose their own health and well-being has vanished, turning women into slaves themselves to the states holding bondage over their uterus.

This is not a sound policy for the mostly White, mostly Male, mostly Rich conservative leadership that brought us to this tragic reality. These anti-abortion laws - seeking to confine women to their homes 'barefoot and pregnant', forced to bear babies against their will, and likely killing them when those pregnancies turn lethal - will only enrage the women and remind them of the horrors their grandmothers had to endure decades before.

When our Founding Fathers crafted first the Declaration of Independence and then the federal Constitution, they never even considered the rights of women at all. When Abigail Adams, wife to Founder John Adams and a fervent believer in equal rights, wrote a letter to John to "remember the ladies," her own husband scoffed at her. Via Lisa A Mazzie at the Marquette University Law Center Faculty blog back in 2013:

John Adams responded, “I cannot but laugh . . . .” To Mr. Adams, this was the first he’d heard of women’s possible discontent with the status quo.  “[Y]our letter was the first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all the rest were grown discontented.”  For whatever “power” that Mr. Adams suggested that women had, it clearly wasn’t enough, for the new Declaration of Independence and Constitution failed to give any express (or even implied) rights to women.

Mrs. Adams responded to her husband, “I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist on retaining an absolute power over wives...”

Mrs. Adams did not suffer hypocrites, even when it was her own husband.

Over the history of America, women's rights were undercut and ignored even as the rights of others were expanded. Full rights of citizenship like voting, for example, only belonged to property owners until the 1820s, when suffrage finally extended to all White men (and only Black freedmen in certain states). When the federal government needed to confirm voting rights for freed Blacks in the post-Civil War era, they passed the 15th Amendment but specifically excluded "sex/gender" from the equation. It took another 60 years of women constantly marching for suffrage before the 19th Amendment guaranteed at least that right.

And even then, full rights for women weren't a given. Every expectation in the workforce of less pay than men, getting denied opportunities in education or politics or business, forced into support roles in wartime, forced into gender roles as housewives and mothers, every dismissive treatment dumped on women throughout the 20th Century... If you were a girl, you had to work twice as hard and get told twice as often to "smile" through it all.

This was the mighty river of sexual discrimination women had to swim, every day of their lives, only barely reaching the calmer waters of the past 50 years when the civil rights movements of the 1960s opened up more opportunities. And they still had to... HAVE to cope against harassment and sexual assault to this very day.

I only learned this year a horrific fact, that until 1974 women couldn't sign up for their own credit cards: A man - either husband or father - had to co-sign with the bank on it. Women had no financial freedom at all until then. Some still don't.

And so with all this happening, as women face the darkness of 50 years ago returning to haunt them, do our American mothers and daughters and sisters and friends have any reason to celebrate Independence Day?

Because they're not independent today.

Goddamn us for taking that away from them.

We need to bring back the Equal Rights Amendment, get the states to go through approving it again, because it's not our women who need it, it's our nation that needs to break free of our fear and hypocrisy.

Four For the Fourth 2022: A Simple Plea

It's Independence Day, America, and on this day I'd like to put out four different articles as part of my "Four For the Fourth," eh?

I'd like to start off with a request to my fellow Americans.

We as Americans are inventive, crafty human beings. We create, we design, we patent like crazy every idea under the sun.

I'd like to ask our fellow Americans who are experts in the fields of chemistry/physics if you can, please FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, invent a fireworks cracker that is pretty and sparkly when it explodes but is also SILENT so that way we DO NOT 1) scare the doggies, 2) wake the neighbors at 2AM IN THE FUCKING MORNING, and 3) seriously that noise scares our puppies it's not fair to make our puppies suffer.

And no, I don't mean sparklers. We've been selling those for decades as a "safe" alternative to firecrackers, but alas too many of us have the urge to blow shit up for the holidays.

If there is such a firework out there, let me know, and we need to petition Congress to mandate those as the only fireworks to sell in the US.

Can we... can we just do that, America? We're smart, we invented a t-shirt gun that shoots only t-shirts, we ought to be able to invent the Silent Firecracker.

And that said, here are links to my other Fourth blog articles, one about women's rights to independence, one about the need for fixing our nation to save our freedoms, and one about needing more metal music on the TV specials dammit!

I'd wish for this to be a Happy 4th, but after the shooting in Highland Park this morning that would be hard for us all.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

The Fuse Likely To Set It Off

My last post was openly considering whether we're one step away from a Second American Civil War, with the realization we're more likely in the opening stages of it akin to a Cold War buildup before the powderkeg goes off and the shit gets real.

I mean, c'mon, there's already a Wiki page about Civil War 2: the Trumpening (and don't knock Wikipedia. It may be open-source where anybody can show up to edit, but it has standards and citation requirements to make it a reliable reference. It's just high school and college students who get lazy tend to copy and paste whole entries into their schoolwork and pass off that plagiarism as their own work as though teachers don't check for that with their Grammarly or TurnItIn databases. My mom was a teacher, and in the years before she retired she cursed Wikipedia because even her IB students were pulling that stunt. Anyway, I digress). While it's all talking about the hypotheticals, that article lists a serious number of incidents - most of them increasing in number ever since trump seized the national spotlight - that set up a solid argument that we're in the early stages of honest-to-Dog insurrection.

This is akin to the buildup to the First Civil War, throughout the 1850s when the political partisanship of the time - the fight over the Fugitive Slave Acts, Bleeding Kansas, the Sumner Caning, John Brown's raid -  led up to the final act of Abraham Lincoln's victory for the Presidency in 1860 that triggered half of the southern slave states to secede.

You can feel it: We are one final step from the "Cannons Firing on Fort Sumter" point of no return. The battle lines are drawn over the January 6th Insurrection and the recent extremist Supreme Court rulings. All it's going to take is one more nudge from the goddamn wingnuts and we will be quoting Fred Thompson's "We will be lucky to live through it" line until the shooting stops, and either the United States remains intact but with the conservatives shattered for 100 years or with the nation broken under an authoritarian bootheel. 

So what will it be then, what will be the match that starts the inferno?

I'd bet good money - okay, 50 bucks, I'm a librarian I'm not rich - it's going to involve donald trump freaking out in some way, and most likely over criminal charges that would interfere with his plans to retake the White House in 2024. Thing is, there's a number of separate criminal charges he's still facing.

The investigation trump has to fear most is the one in Georgia involving his attempts to pressure that state's Sec of State to "find me enough votes" to negate Biden's win there. There's a grand jury interviewing not only Raffensperger but several others, and the jury may yet get testimony out of several trumpian lackeys before it's done. The legal experts argue that this matter - where trump is caught on audio interfering with election results - is a clear violation of state and federal election laws, and given its straight-forward situation should be ruled on by the grand jury relatively soon.

The Select House Committee looking into the January 6th Insurrection has already produced a number of actionable grounds to charge trump on various federal felonies, not just incitement to insurrection but also wire fraud for milking $250 million out of his followers on a fundraising scam. Thing is, the committee can't charge trump directly... but they can refer the charges to the Justice Department. Then it becomes a question if Biden's Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to take it.

Either matter could take months if at all, but of the two the Georgia case threatens trump the most. It's a reason why rumors are coming out that trump wants to announce his 2024 campaign before August of this year, under the belief that prosecutors are reluctant to go after Presidential candidates out of fear of politicizing matters (trump would definitely scream that the criminal charges will interfere with the "people's right to vote for me").

Thing is, I doubt the Georgia DA will be intimidated by that. Given how much of trump's biggest criminal trespasses have been in the political arena, going after him on a political felony would be necessary. So I do expect the election interference/intimidation charges in Cobb County to go forward.

And that will be what triggers open war.

Even if trump doesn't stir up the shitstorm, the Far Right demagogues in the mainstream media and social media will. This will be, in their eyes, a blatant attempt by "them" - the evil libruls - to silence their Great Leader / Savior. 

I don't think it will drive Red state governors into secession mode, but it will send the gun-nut Proud Boys/Oathkeepers/Patriot Front/Brownshirt militias out into the streets to hit every easy target they can to express their rage. But then any attempt by Homeland Security or any law enforcement to shut the Far Right militias down will trigger Red state secession. 

This situation may seem avoidable if the prosecutors decide not to charge trump on any criminal matters. Problem with that is that everyone knows letting trump off the hook again - after all the other times he's been let go after every other bankrupting fraudulent act he's committed the past 50 years - will just embolden trump to pursue even darker criminal misdeeds. And the violence that follows in his wake will get worse anyway.

It's an unavoidable no-win either way. Better to hold trump accountable - at long last - and prepare for the storm that will hit us all.

Just be ready for it to be bad. Real bad. There has been 50-plus years of pent-up rage in the Far Right epistemic bubble: We've seen only bits of it here and there, at its worst with the Oklahoma City bombing and with all the gun violence just adding to the body count the last 20 years.

We will all be lucky to get through this. It's a slim hope, but it's all I have now.