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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

When Good Men Do Nothing


 

The lack of faith is not doubt. It is certainty.
Abigail van Buren


Have faith. 

That's what you tell me. 

Have faith. Just believe. 

Have a little faith, Jim. The DOJ is moving quietly. Building a case. Have faith in Merrick Garland.  These things take time. 

Like a dying Shepherd Book saying to Malcolm Reynolds, "I don't care what you believe in, just believe."

Just believe. 

Have faith. 

Why? 




Faith? 

That's long wait for a train that don't come, so long as I'm already quoting Firefly

Why the hell should I have any faith that Donald Trump will finally get what's coming to him?

Why should I have any faith in the Department of Justice? 

Why?

Go on, tell me. It's been a grim couple of weeks, I could use the laugh.

Have faith.

You've got to be kidding me. 

Trump was impeached twice

Nothing. Not a mark on him. Hell the MAGA crowd loves him even more for being impeached, for owning the libs. Ha ha! Still here, Chumps!

The Mueller investigation was going to bring him down. 

Have faith, you said, as it dragged on and on. You'll see. Mueller will get him. And ... again, nothing. In fact it was Mueller and the FBI who ended up laughingstocks. Oh, Mueller might have been right, but without an indictment? Trump and Republicans could spin it however they wanted, and oh boy did they. Russia! Russia Russia! Doesn't matter what the Mueller Report actually said, the only thing that matters is Trump didn't go to jail. Once again, he owned the libs ha ha, Losers! 

Okay. But what about New York? Any day now, they're gonna bring charges. 

Indictments. Any day now. 

You'll see. Real soon. Yeah.

Except that day just never seems to come. Trump delays and appeals and denies and it just goes on and on and on until one day it just quietly goes away. He paid somebody off or they dropped the charges like they always do. What's that? Oh, yeah, that New York thing. Yeah, whatever happened to that? Nothing, that's what. 

Georgia, though, right? 

Oh, we got him now! Yeah. Georgia. Election fraud. He's going down! Republicans, the Republican state government, yeah, they're gonna indict Trump any minute now! Just watch! 

Any minute now. Yeah.

Any minute. 

You'll see. 

Trump has been the center of a criminal enterprise for decades. Fraud. Confidence games. Bad real estate deals. Mob connections. Decades? Hell, his whole life. His father. His grandfather. His goddamn kids. Crime is the family business. 

And...

Nothing. 

They're all still walking around (or riding around in a golf cart as the case may be). 

Hell, Trump's talking about running for president AGAIN. 

Nothing ever sticks to this guy, not even hairspray. 


Why the hell should I have any faith that he's going down this time? 


What in Trump's history would give me any faith at all? 

What in America's history? 

Shit, we pardoned fucking Nixon, right? He got away with it. People look back on him now with fondness. Oh, Tricky Dick, he was a crook, but he loved America! 

Ronald Reagan sold weapons to our enemies -- literally sold weapons to our enemies -- and we did nothing. Less than nothing. We let him get away with treason right out in broad daylight. Oh, that's just Ronny. You know how he is. And the Lieutenant Colonel who led that caper? Yeah, he got a pardon and he's a fucking hero nowadays with his own radio show. 

If Trump was a business woman who happened to trade some stocks, he'd have spent a couple months in jail next to Martha Stewart. 

If Trump was a Jew who scammed a bunch of people out of their money, he'd be in prison next to Bernie Madoff. 

If Trump was a poor black man who tried to pass a fake $20, some overfed cop would have knelt on his neck until he was dead right next to George Floyd. 

But rich powerful white men like Trump?

Nothing.

They get away with it. 

And they get away with it every day in this country. 

Trump's been getting away with it for his whole damn life. 

And...

Oh, what's that? 

What? This time it's different, you say? 


LOL


Yeah. 

Sure it is. 

People like Trump have been stirring up violence since long before this country was founded. 

Shit, take a look at the Supreme Court lately, there's some violence for you. 

How about the rich sons of bitches who implode the economy every other decade? Last time you lost your jobs, your homes, your savings, your retirements, your kids' college funds, your businesses, the whole damn world economy flatlined because some unbelievably rich assholes tried to make themselves even richer. 

And not one of them, not a single one of them was ever once held to account. 

They got away with it. 

Hell, they didn't even lose any money. They got richer. They became even more powerful. 

Don't believe me? Look up John Thain. 

Right now, rich white men like the Kochs are pulling the strings, squeezing you at the pump, at the grocery store, getting fatter and richer and even more untouchable at your expense, while their gullible foot soldiers blame everybody but those actually responsible. 

The MAGAs who stormed the Capitol? They're going to jail. 

But their leaders? The rich powerful white men who egged them on with fistpumps on national TV? 

Nothing. Not one of the people actually responsible have been indicted, let alone send to jail. 

And that's important. 

Because in a very few short months, Americans are going to the polls to vote in the midterms. 

And who they blame for their (alleged) misery is going to determine what happens next. 

Now, your vote is already fighting an uphill battle. 

As any number of you have repeatedly pointed out to me over the years, the game is rigged. 

And you're right, it is. 

It's all sorts of rigged and always has been. 

But, now Republicans have turned disenfranchisement into a goddamn sport. From new laws making it impossible for poor minorities to vote, to armed voter intimidation at the polling stations, to impossible Voter ID laws, to gerrymandering, to rigged election maps, to gaming the Electoral College, to just out and out passing laws that give Republican state legislatures the power to simply ignore voters and declare whoever they want as the winner. 

And now they've got a Supreme Court that will gleefully let them get away with it. 

But that doesn't mean your vote doesn't count. 

It means your vote counts more than ever.

Every single vote against these fascist assholes is vitally important. 

Every single one. 

There's no margin at all. None. Zero. 

Every single vote counts. Some of these races are going to be decided by a hundred votes, by less than ten, by one vote. 

One vote.

Your vote.

But...

It's the midterms. 

Half the country barely shows up for the General Election, the midterms are a disaster. 

Especially when the (Left, liberals, progressives, undecideds, whatever term you want to use for whatever part of the population who allegedly still opposes this galloping fascism) barely shows up on a good day. 

Yeah, yeah, I hear you screaming in rage at me. WE SHOWED UP!

Sure, you show up. 

But the truth is that a hell of a lot of the "resistance" doesn't. 

They just don't. 

You can get mad at me for saying that all you like, but if even half the eligible voters show up for a midterm, we call that a good turnout. I know it. You know it too. So there's no point in pretending otherwise. 

And yes, maybe -- just maybe -- this time, given recent SCOTUS decisions enough people will be pissed off to turn out in record numbers. Maybe. Let's hope so.

But I wouldn't count on it if history is any guide. 

Look, you can trace the rise of Trump and the howling mindless mob of MAGAism right back to the midterm elections of 2010 when the country was mad at Obama for not fixing everything fast enough and not giving them a baby unicorn to boot, and so they handed Congress over to the fucking Tea Party out of spite. 

So, forgive me if I don't have much faith in the sustainability of your outrage. 

And again, you can get mad at me for saying it out loud, but there it is. Go look up the voter numbers for 2010, you'll see. I can go back and pull up the screen caps of the comments I read back then, but you don't need to take my word for it, we live in the Information Age, go look for yourselves. 

Trump is the direct (heh) intellectual descendent of the squawking mindless miserable ignorant racist misogynistic clanging violent fanatical hate that was the Tea Party. 

But more than that, where we are right now is the direct result of what happens when good people don't show up. What's that quote about triumph of evil and good men doing nothing? You know the one, even if you incorrectly attribute it to Edmund Burke or Ben Franklin. 

And why?

Why don't they show up? Why do good men stand by doing nothing and allow evil to triumph? 

You don't have to look very far. 

You don't have to guess. You don't have to take my word for it. You don't have to run a poll and hope for honest answers. Why don't they show up? They'll tell you. They are telling you. They've been telling you. 

Look, folks, I interact with something like half a million people every day and I'm neck deep in Americans telling me why they're not going to show up. 

They're not inspired. 

They're sick and tired of nothing ever changing, that things not only don't get better, they're getting worse. 

They're mad Joe Biden hasn't delivered them the pony they were promised, just like they were mad at Barrack Obama and Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy -- and probably George Washington too. 

They're sick of shitty choices. 

They're sick of the people they had to vote for not making bold moves to save the Republic. 

And yes, I have mocked that attitude, those very words, right here, over and over and admonished Americans to grow up and do their pragmatic duty anyway.

But still, there it is. 

Most of all they're pissed that rich white men are never held to account. 

And you know what? I am too. 

You bet I am. 

Look, I hate to be this way, I do, but there are Mafia Dons in prison right now looking at Trump like, goddamn, when are they gonna indict this guy? 

I mean, Tricky Dick Nixon was a piker compared to Trump. 

At this point I don't really care if they arrest Trump for outstanding parking tickets. Something. Anything. 

Because if we hit the election without an indictment, then it's over. 

It's OVER.

This isn't about justice. 

This isn't about "The Law."

This is about politics

And politics are about appearance. About what the public believes. 

Politics are about being inspired. 


You're right. It's about faith


If we go into this election with America believing Trump and his cronies will again get away with it, if we don't have faith -- real faith -- that this time these goddamn crooks are going to prison, then the people who need to show up won't, and those who want to own the libs will

And you don't have to look any further than 2010 to see it coming. 

Yeah, Merrick Garland is the guy who put away Timothy McVeigh, I got it. So what? 

I hear the lawyers cautioning me to patience. Slow, steady, build a case, ironclad, so Trump can't wiggle out. I got it. I hear you. 

I hear you. 

But you're not hearing me. 

Slow and steady won't win this race. 

And we've heard these promises before. 

There is literally no history you can point to in Trump's past to prove your case that this time, at long last, he'll finally get what's coming to him. None. 

The public has to believe that this time something will actually be done.

A firewalled, tightlipped DOJ might be good for Justice, but right now it's bad for Democracy

You can win the battle and lose the war.

That's what happened to Hillary Clinton. She won all the battles, but she lost the war. 

Clinton was educated, experienced, prepared. Trump was ... Sarah Palin with better hair and a spray tan. Proudly sexist. Loudly racist. A blustering, bombastic, bloviating ignoramus. 

Remember the debates? 

Clinton answered all the questions. Succinctly. Competently. With knowledge and experience. She had a real plan for everything. Trump never answered a single question. His responses showed his utter ignorance, his complete inability to address reality, to answer a single question in a straightforward manner. The guy was a fumbling idiot, utterly ill-prepared to be president of the Country Club let alone America. 

And yet, they called the debates for Trump. Because the crowd hated Clinton, she was too prepared Republicans said, too smug and confident like she thinks we owe her a vote said Democrats. And they loved how Trump put on a show.

You saw it. 

Republicans saw it. 

And they elected him anyway. Because they knew they'd get what they wanted -- and they did. 

Because politics isn't about what's right. 

It's about who wins the mob. 

That's what Mueller didn't understand. He was a lawyer. A G-Man. An FBI Agent. A professional. He thought he could just put the evidence on the table and America, Congress, the Justice Department, would do the right thing. 

Do I need remind you how that turned out?

Of course, they weren't going to do the right thing. Not when Republicans, Christian Conservatives, the hardcore Right, they finally got what they wanted. 

Then 2020, and yeah, we threw Trump out of office, but he owned us all anyway, didn't he? 

Republicans got what they wanted. Yes they did. They got rid of Roe v. Wade. Sure, we won the battle, won the election.

And lost the goddamn war. 

And now they're coming for more and they're probably going to get it. 

Roe was just the first fort to fall. Now they're coming for the rest of it, like Nazi tanks plowing through the forest around the Maginot Line. They're coming for everything you said you care about. Everything from same sex marriage to contraception to voting rights to gun control to the climate to education, all of it. They said so. 

And you can hear the roaring of their army approaching. 

If you don't show up this time, there's going to be no way to stop them. 

Every single vote matters. 

Every one. 

And if those who need to be inspired, who are disgusted by politics as usual, who already hate their choices, who are convinced that nothing ever changes and the only solution is to burn it all down, if those voters aren't given at least a reasonable hope that this time the old rich white man who did this to us will be held to account, then they aren't going to show up. 

They will not. 

They will hand the Republic over the horrible remnants of the Tea Party just to watch it burn. 

They said so. They've been saying so. And they have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to carry though with not showing up. 

Quod Erat Demonstrandum. 

This isn't about indicting Trump. 

This is about what kind of country we want to live in. 

This is about the supreme court. It's about rights. It's about gun violence. It's about who can marry who. It's about who can vote. It's about autonomy over your own body. It's about keeping the goddamn church out of government. It's about the environment. It's about the economy. It's about decent jobs. It's about healthcare. It's about feeding the hungry. It's about what we can teach in schools. It's about history and who gets to write it. It's about who is a full citizen of this country and who is not. It's about all of that and so much more. 

Most of all, this is about the future we leave to our kids and our grandchildren. 

Have faith?

No. 

Faith is for invisible gods who live in the sky. Not government. 

Americans needs to know that the Department of Justice is going to bring these seditious sons of bitches to justice. All of them. Especially Donald J. Trump. 

We need to know it. 

We need proof, not faith. 

Folks, we won every battle in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. 

And still lost the wars. 

Well, maybe we didn't exactly lose those wars, but we sure as shit didn't win them either. 

And that, right there, is the metaphor. 

It's not enough to just not lose. 

It's not enough to just hold the line. 

You have to win. You have to win hard, decisively, overwhelmingly, in enough numbers to not only fix what these fascist bastards have already broken but to send them back into the sewer where they belong, to push the faces of these goddamn Nazis down into the muck and hold them there until they stop kicking. 

Is it fair? That people are like this? That voters are fickle? That politics isn't about truth or fact but rather putting on a show? 

Hell no it's not fair. 

But that's how it is. 

And if you want to win, then Merrick Garland has got to move. Now. 

You tell me to have faith. 

Well, then you have to give me something to have faith in. 

More than that, the American people shouldn't have to have faith.

America should know with certainty, or at least a high degree of confidence, that the government they elected will do the right thing. 

You've heard me say many times: If you want a better nation, you have to be a better citizen.

And that is true.

BUT, in America, citizens and government are inextricably tied together, one and the same, and therefore the converse is also true.

Thus: If you want better citizens, you have to be a better government. 

For Merrick Garland, that time is now. 


I do respect people's faith, but I don't respect their manipulation of that faith in order to create fear and control.
-- Javier Bardem


Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Recap: June 8, 2022

 


There's a man who leads a life of danger
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
With every move he makes
Another chance he takes
Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow


Secret Agent, man. 

It's maybe not as cool as it first sounds. 

News this morning is that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's spokeswoman this week was finally forced to register as a foreign agent. 

That's right, a foreign agent. 

As in an agent of a foreign power. 

It seems that after an investigation by the Department of Justice, Christina Pushaw, disclosed that she had in fact worked as a foreign agent between 2018 and 2020 for a Georgian politician. 

Georgia. 

Not the US state north of Florida. 

No, Georgia the country, the former Soviet Republic, now in a de facto state of war with Russia. 

War with Russia, yeah, but that's good, right? 

That makes us allies, doesn't it? 


Well...


Now, none of this was really a secret. 

Pushaw was pretty open about it. In fact, that might be what landed her a job with Ron DeSantis. It was surely on her resume. I worked for a foreign president, man. 

A president. I mean, that's got to look good on a resume, doesn't it? 

Doesn't it? 

Except the foreign former president Pushaw worked for was none other than Mikheil Saakashvili, but Ron DeSantis probably heard "President of Georgia" and thought Brian Kemp and signed her up. 

Saakashvili, for those of you not keeping up with foreign despots, was the 3rd President of Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

At first Saakashvili seemed like a decent guy, pro-NATO, pro-West, anti-Russia. 

That's good, right? 

Well...

By his second term in office, he'd become so corrupt and authoritarian, Georgia was essentially a police state not that much different from when it was under Soviet rule. A lot of innocent people were disappeared or ended up in prison -- which, now that I think of it, probably looked pretty good to Ron DeSantis. 

(An interesting footnote of Saakashvili's time in office was a deal he personally inked with Donald Trump to build a Trump Hotel in Georgia. Make of that what you will)

Georgians were fed up and Saakashvili -- facing violent revolution and a pretty high probability of being executed in the public square -- resigned, fled the country, and was stripped of his citizenship. 

He eventually ended up in Ukraine...

(This is where you shout: Ukraine? Ah HAH!)

...and through a series of convoluted shenanigans, became the governor of the Odessa Oblast (oblast means something like "administrative district"), a region along the Black Sea right smack next to the recently Russian annexed Crimea. 

A lot of people in Odessa Oblast (according to Russia) reportedly lean towards Russia, which is a pretty weird place for a guy who is supposedly anti-Russia to fetch up. 

He also ended up with Ukrainian citizenship -- since the Georgians had kicked him out of their country and it was a requirement for being Governor of a Ukrainian administrative region. 

Predictably, things in Odessa didn't go well. 

Or rather, just like Georgia, things went well at first. Saakashvili was for a while perhaps the most popular politician in Ukraine. But, just like Georgia, eventually things went to hell and he resigned due to, you guessed it, corruption. 

Corruption, which he blamed on the president of Ukraine. 


You see where this is going already, don't you? 


Ah hah, indeed. 

Saakashvili formed a new political party called the Movement of New Forces -- which is probably totally not ominous sounding at all. 

For about a decade if there was a revolution, an uprising, or some sort of war between Russia, Georgia, and Ukraine, Saakashvili was right in the middle of it and if you're getting shades of Roger Stone crossed with Stephen Miller with bit of a Steve Bannon and Lee Atwater for leavening, you're not the only one. 

He was eventually stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship. 

Then had it reinstated. 

And then returned to Georgia (sneaking into the country via a containership as an illegal immigrant) where he tried to lead a revolution to overthrow the government and got himself arrested. 

He famously went on a hunger strike in prison.

Georgia (along with pretty much everybody else) seemed perfectly fine with him starving himself to death as a solution to everyone's problem. 

But eventually, due in part to agents working on his behalf in places like, oh, you know, the United States (ah hah) he was moved to a hospital and then to a military medical prison where he presently resides. 

Now, I'm leaving a lot out.

A lot. 

You can go read up on Saakashvili for yourself. There are plenty of sources, so you don't have to take my word for it. 

A lot of people, American and otherwise, see Saakashvili as a villain. 

A lot of people, American and otherwise, see him as some sort of revolutionary hero. 

It really depends on where you stand. He's a complicated guy who is inextricably linked to the politics, corruption, crime, revolution, and war in Russia, Georgia, and Ukraine. 

But, however you see it, the bottom line is that from 2018 to 2020, Christina Pushaw was working as his (unregistered) agent here in the US, for which she was reportedly paid $25,000 according to the Washington Post.

She was recently notified by the DOJ that her work as a foreign agent violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and she has now filed for retroactive registration. 

There might be criminal charges, but given the DOJ's recent record, I wouldn't count on it. 

It happens. 

Oh yes, it does. As violation of the law goes, this unregistered foreign agent business happens a lot more than you'd think and no one really seems to give much of a shit about it. Hell, getting caught for casual violation of FARA is almost a mark a pride in certain political circles and $25,000 is chump change compared to some of the dark money American politicians are raking from foreign sources bent to the manipulation of America and hostile to our interests. 

The ironic part is that Pushaw herself claims to have reported others to the Justice Department as alleged foreign agents (some actually were, and in at least one case were convicted of violating FARA, which later became part of the Mueller Investigation).


That's not the point. 


Well, okay, it is. 

But it's not the whole point. 

The point here is that the people who scream the loudest about "Hunter Biden" and some vague shadowy undefined Biden family criminal involvement in Ukraine are themselves neck-deep in foreign entanglements, literally taking money from Russian and/or Ukrainian interests.

It's almost like they're trying to distract you from their own actions. 

And yeah, this is where you again shout ah HAH!

Given DeSantis' repeated attacks on the Biden Administration and his not-so-secret political ambitions, that fact that his spokesperson worked as a foreign agent for a guy smack in the middle of the Russian, Georgian, and Ukrainian wars, is at best a major conflict of interest. 

For a political party that claims to hold the moral high ground, these people sure do seem to spend a lot of time down in the swamp. 

And it's damn funny how Russia seems to be in the middle of it all. 

Damn funny, indeed. 

Beware of pretty faces that you find
A pretty face can hide an evil mind
Oh, be careful what you say
Or you'll give yourself away...
-- Secret Agent Man,
    Written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri
    Performed by Johnny Rivers


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Gun Posts


Since a bunch of you are asking in the wake of the latest outbreak of gun violence, here are the essays:


The Seven Stages of Gun Violence
The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10. Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11. Two in the Bush
Part 12, Excuses
Part 13, Arm the Teachers
Part 14, The cowardice of Responsibility.


What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity

I don't have the will anymore to write anything new about this madness. 

Nothing will change until we as a nation find the goddamn strength to stand up to this murderous insanity and actually do something about it. 



Sunday, April 3, 2022

When Fascism Comes to America

 

“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.”
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism


Ukraine.

As we in America wake to pictures and reports of horrifying war crimes committed by Vladimir Putin's forces, innocents -- hands tied behind their backs -- lined up and executed, the bodies of children, women, men, thrown into ditches or left in the streets, I would remind you of this:

"Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia? I'm serious. Why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which by the way I am."
-- Tucker Carlson, Fox News

"This is genius. Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine -- of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that's wonderful."
-- Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States

"I'd say that's pretty smart. He's [Putin] taking over a country -- really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in."
-- Donald. J. Trump

"I don't need a ride, give me ammunition. The fight is right here. But we also have neighbors to the north who need freedom and need to be liberated, and we need that right here at home as well."
-- Lauren Boebert, Congresswoman, 

I could go on all day, quoting various Americans who support the idea of genocide. 

But, I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader. 


Russia learned from the Nazi invasion of their own country. 


Oh, most certainly, they had already committed horrifying slaughters of their own, too many to name in the 1920s and 30s. As someone on my Twitter timeline noted: Hitler had nothing to teach Stalin. Russia already knew all there was to know about brutality. 

But when the Nazis invaded Russia, it gave Stalin justification for that Soviet brutality. 

Or perhaps validation is a better word. 

Whatever word you use, Russia carries that idea to this day, i.e. they were brutalized by their enemies and so any savagery on their part today is justified by that terrible history. 

That's why any appeal to humanity and the rules of war go unheeded by Vladimir Putin. 

Russia took the ruthless lesson of their brutal history to heart and it informs how they wage war: target the innocents, burn the hospitals, slaughter civilians, destroy the infrastructure, and thus reduce a nation's ability to fight back. You have only to look at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to see the broad outlines of this doctrine. 

Trump, Carlson, et al look upon that brutality, that savagery, that ruthlessness, and they see exactly what Russia sees. 

Strength.

Power. 

And willingness to do whatever violence is necessary to achieve your goals. 


And the brutal means are justified by the idea that you yourself are the real victim of this violence. 


Trump, and far too many Americans, admire Vladimir Putin because they see themselves as victims just as Russia does. 

They see themselves as oppressed, put down, because the world is changing. 

They feel themselves diminished because others who have been traditionally marginalized in our history are now gaining rights and privileges and an unashamed place in our society. 

You have only to look to Fox News and OAN right now to see those who speak for this brutal Republican ideology, you can daily see them threatening similar violent revenge on Americans for a thousand imagined slights. 

See the comments of Ron DeSantis, Florida Republicans, Laura Ingraham, et al. and how they fully intend to use the power of their office to punish Disney over trans rights. 

Listen to the words of Donald Trump and who he admires. 

Listen to the MAGAs who support him: he says what we think!

Listen to Republican Congresswoman Lisa McClain speaking at a Trump Rally in Michigan yesterday when she declares that migrants crossing the border are all “terrorists, convicts, murderers and rapists.

Listen to Texas Republican Robert Foster: 

Some of y’all still want to try and find political compromise with those that want to groom our school aged children and pretend men are women, etc, I think they need to be lined up against a wall before a firing squad to be sent to an early judgment.”

That's how it starts.

You see yourself as a victim. 

You see The Other as terrorists, murderers, convicts, and rapists. 

You paint The Other as the worst possible thing you can think of, Satan worshipers, pedophiles, criminals, subhuman, the Enemy. 

You use that rhetoric, revenge, get even, and you tell those most privileged by your society that they are the real victims. 

And when you gain power, you use the mailed fist of government and the military to crush your opponents -- and to keep that power, you'll need to carry through on your promise. 

You'll have no choice but to actually line up those you hate against the wall and put a bullet in their heads. The mob who raised you up to power will accept nothing less than blood. 

That's where it starts. 


And it ends with the bodies of innocents shot in the head and dumped in a ditch.


You remember when Trump as President threatened to send the Army into Chicago? 

And Republicans cheered that idea? 

You remember when that same president sent goons dressed in unmarked military garb to Seattle to secretly arrest "ANTIFA" and "BLM?"

And Republicans cheered.

When he paraded tanks through our capital? 

And Republican cheered? 

Do you? 

It's all part of the same mindset, one that ends in war and genocide. 

We must not only stop what's happening in Ukraine, we must stop it before it happens here. 


For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power!
-- Joe Biden, 46th President of the United States







Saturday, April 2, 2022

Paid Content

 


As previously noted, every once in a while I have to ask for money.

I don’t have to do it very often these days. But, this has been an expensive year and I’ve got bills to pay and people to take care of.

Having given up military consulting work and having shut down my woodworking business and art studio when I left Alaska, I subsist for the moment primarily on income derived from my social media sites and this blog – including the various merchandise I sell under my brand.

A few years back, I wouldn’t have believed this possible.

A few years back it wouldn’t have been possible.

But despite the sneering complaints of certain vocal critics, it is possible for a writer to make a reasonably decent living this way.

Yes, writer.

It used to be “writer” was defined as somebody who assembled words and ideas into books, short stories, articles, and perhaps screenplays, fact or fiction, and submitted those efforts via various means to editors at publishing houses or various presses or various media outlets, and then lived on cheese sandwiches hoping a check of some meager amount would come back. Traditionally the profession of “writer” meant you repeated this cycle without healthcare or adequate hygiene or presentable clothes until you died, or gave it up for a real job.

That model, that definition of writer, still very much exists.

And a lot of writers make varying degrees of living from it.

If you’re a Stephen King or a John Scalzi, you might make millions and live in a golden mansion high on a landscaped hill in the middle of a private island waited on hand and foot by an army of nubile olive-pitters (this is totally true and I heard it directly from one of George R.R. Martin’s gardeners). But more likely you’re a stringer for the local paper, and you might make enough to buy a cheese sandwich or two providing you’re not particular about the definition of “cheese” or those weird green spots on the bread.

Various degrees of success exist between those poles.

Me? I wanted to be a writer since I was kid. It’s a sickness, writing. A weird mental disorder that makes you sit in front of a keyboard for hours, daydreaming and playing with ideas and wondering why anybody would read the blather on the screen. But my grandmother gave me a Hardy Boys book (#8; The Mystery of Cabin Island) for Christmas one year when I was about 8 or 9. I’d been an indifferent reader up to that point, but that book captivated me and my lifelong obsession with words began right there. Somewhere shortly thereafter, in a staggering moment of epiphany, I realized there were actually people out there who got paid to sit in front of a keyboard and daydream and those people didn’t have to put on pants every day. Hell they might not even own actual pants – unless you consider pajamas legitimate work apparel.

I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.

I’d always intended to go the traditional route, cheese sandwiches and all.

I’d never intended to write about politics. But evidence would suggest that’s where my talent lies – if you’re charitable and agree that it is indeed an actual talent and not just something you could train a chimpanzee to do (they taught ‘em to fly spaceships, so I imagine political pundit wouldn’t be that difficult).

But by the time I was free to write what I wanted (upon my retirement from the military) and I started writing in earnest with the idea that someday somebody would give me actual money for it, the world had changed. How we connect to it had changed and continues to evolve at a rapid pace and a new type of “writer” became possible – well maybe not new new, but perhaps a more modern version of the political broadsides and pamphlets penned by the likes of Thomas Paine.

It’s amazing to me how fast this has gone.

Ten years ago, hell five years ago, I would never have guessed that Facebook would become my primary platform for day to day short form.  Facebook is a horrible platform for the kinds of things I write. It’s a bastard cross between a blog and public forum and doesn’t do either very well. It’s subject to arbitrary and random censorship. There’s no protection for intellectual property at all. It lacks the most basic of editing tools and formatting functions, its search capability is ridiculous and all but useless. Facebook’s interface, timeline management, and display are one of the single most infuriatingly horrible experiences in an age of limitless customization – limitless to everybody but Facebook users that is. It’s impossible to get any kind of help from the operators and it’s subject to every kind of cyber-abuse from bullying to trolling to sexual assault.

And Twitter, where I spend many hours every day, is, if anything, worse.

If Facebook is a dysfunctional community, then Twitter is Monkey Island in that community’s horrible zoo, a screeching riot of flying shit and bared fangs. Twitter is a chemical plant for distilling out the absolute worst elements of human existence, like some sort of highway where every driver is armed and in the throes of howling road rage and they don’t care if they die if they can take everybody else with them.

And yet – and yet – these platforms do one thing very, very well.

They do the one thing that traditional publishing venues cannot do.

Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, et al) connect creators to people in an organic, viral, geometrically expanding manner that is completely impossible anywhere else.

Now, interacting with readers on a real time basis for hours upon hours every single goddamned day isn’t for every writer. It takes a certain degree of masochism to do it, see my previous comments about road rage and flying monkey shit.

In point of fact, a lot of writers become writers because they are anti-social bastards who enjoy living on moldy fake-cheese sandwiches and sitting around all day in dirty pajamas and who tend to break out in a cold sweat when they actually have to put on pants and go outside where all the other people are.

So real time interaction with their audience isn’t something they consider a feature.

And that’s okay. “Writer” is a loose enough definition that it accommodates the gregarious right alongside the hermit.

But, if you write well, if you write the things people are interested in, and if you’re willing to interact with your audience directly and in real time, then social media makes it possible for your work to spread far beyond the size of audiences normally available to traditional writers. For example: A few years ago, when I started doing this full time, Stonekettle Station averaged maybe 20,000 visitors per month – and that was after eight or ten years of writing every single day.  Maybe 3,000 people followed me on Facebook, maybe another 1000 or so on Twitter, and like one weird guy on Instagram.

A few years later, with some considerable effort, my daily Facebook audience is coming up on 250,000 subscribers, 200,000 on Twitter, and a single long form essay on Stonekettle Station can exceed 200,000 unique pageviews in a few hours.

That’s not connectivity traditional publishing, even things like newspaper columnist, can do.

Social media, for all its ills, has created new opportunity, an alternative to traditional writing models. Not a replacement, a supplement.

And that’s where I ended up.

I admit that in my case there is some degree of luck. I happened to be in the right place just as opportunity opened with the right experience and skillset and enough free time to take advantage of it.  It suits me. It’s not easy. Really it’s not. It sometimes (often) takes 14 to 18 hour days, research, writing, swearing at the screen, it can be incredibly frustrating at times for reasons you never imagine or anticipate. It requires constant attention, a constant presence, and everything becomes grist for the mill, making much of your life public – something that is often less than thrilling to your spouse.

It’s work.

And it is … writing.

I’ve had a number of critics sneer at me, you’re not a real writer! Well, okay. Fair enough. I'd point out that I am published in the traditional fashion, and I even got paid a considerable amount for it. But, I’m not particularly put out by my critics and I’m willing to go with whatever description you want to call it.  Sincerely.

But what do you call it?

I sometimes crank out a quarter million words in a month for a dedicated audience larger than that of many highly successful novelists. Hell, news sites steal my work on nearly a daily basis, and publish my stuff as their own for profit – that’s got to mean something, right? Now, I’m willing to accept any label you want to slap on that, but before you do, I’d like to suggest you try it. Start a blog, social media sites, assemble words every day, build an audience without gimmicks or tricks solely on the basis of what you write, and then tell me what you call that effort.

As a cautionary note: no matter what you call yourself, no matter how much adoring admiration you manage to inspire in your audience, no matter how many people send you fan mail and messages of respect, no matter how successful you eventually manage to be and how full of yourself you become as a result, your family and friends still think you’re a putz and remind you of it as often as possible.  Ideally this keeps you grounded and from turning into a complete ass. Ideally.

And every day, every single day, no matter how well you’ve done, everyday, you’re sure that’ll be the day it all falls apart and you’ll have to go get a real job again.

I’ve been invited to a number of writer’s conventions to talk about this with other writers – or those who want to become writers under this new paradigm. That’s something I’m happy to do. I’ve been pretty lucky and I’m glad to pay that forward. The world is a big place, there’s plenty of room for many, many more writers – or whatever you call ‘em – in this new arena. Catch me at WorldCon in Chicago later this year and we'll talk about it. 

But, here’s the downside – or at least the part I like least.

Every once in a while I need to ask for money.

I don’t like this. I really don’t like this. I don’t like asking for money.

I’m getting more used it, especially since it doesn’t seem to bother readers at all – well except for that one guy who shows up periodically to call me names and generally make an pest of himself. But ideally, I write something and if you like it enough, you’ll kick in.  And thankfully, you do so often enough that I can mostly survive on that part. Mostly, but not quite.

So when I began this I found a way to assuage my conscience.

Any subscriber who donates any amount via the donation button or as a Patreon during the period of April 1st, 2022 to April 30, 2022 will be put in the running for a giveaway. Every few days over the next month, I’ll give away loot. I’ve got at least a hundred of my handmade ink pens, engraved with Stonekettle Station. I’ve signed copies of books that my work appears in. I’ve got signed copies of my photography – and given that I generally don’t sign those prints, these will be unique. And randomly, I’ll give away a couple of Stonekettle Station T-shirts (If you win one of those, I’ll have it made to your requirements, size, color, sex, etc).

Winners will be announced every few days until I run out things to give away.

To donate, click on the “Donation” button on the upper right side of this screen and follow the directions or click on the Patreon link for additional options.


Edit: Readers viewing Stonekettle Station on mobile devices sometimes can’t see the side-bar. As such, I’m attempting to embed the donate function code here in the text.

My Patreon is here


You may enter more than once. Each donation will be counted as a unique subscription. If you’ve already donated to Stonekettle Station this month, you’re already on the subscription list.

Those of you who already donate via an automatic monthly payment, you’ll be entered automatically in the giveaway.

I’ve discovered that winners sometimes, often it seems, do not want their names made public. I’d like to tell readers who got the various art pieces, but if you want your name kept private I will certainly do so. When I did this before, the first person I selected to receive a prize refused because they lived on a boat and had no room for addition items. The alternate also refused for personal reasons and requested that the artwork go instead to a charity for auction to raise money for a cause important to them. They wanted it kept anonymous. So, that I did. I will honor any reasonable request when it comes to such things.

Legal Disclaimer: To be clear, this is not a lottery or a raffle.  Donations are voluntary subscription fees specifically in support of this blog and the associated social media feeds and conducted in accordance with state and federal requirements.

That is:  you’re paying for content not a chance to win something.

I am not claiming any tax-exempt status or charity. Donations are considered business income and I pay all applicable state and federal taxes on that income and I have the records to prove it.

The items I give away are my artwork, created and paid for by me.  As such I chose to randomly give them away to supporters, just as I gave away my custom made pens to my fellow writers.  The giveaway list is generated from voluntary subscriptions, since I have no other way to determine who readers are.  You are not donating for a chance to win a prize, you’re paying for the content of this blog and my associated social media feeds and I’m using this opportunity to give something back other than just my usual blog essays, Facebook posts, Instagram, and Tweets.

As always, thank you for your support.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

No One Is Coming to Save Us



2016: "Russia if you're listening..."
2019: "I'd like you to do me a favor..."
2022: "...So now I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it."
-- Donald Trump, repeatedly imploring foreign despots to attack Americans


A few days ago, Fox Business News Stuart Varney asked Donald Trump what he would do differently from Biden when it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

What would you do differently, Mr. Trump?

What indeed? 

Trump, a man who declares himself a military genius and who allegedly knows more than actual military generals, replied: 

“Well, uh, what I would do, is I would, we would, uh, we have tremendous military capability and, uh, what we can do without planes, to be honest with you, uh, without 44-year-old jets, what we can do is enormous, and we should be doing it, and we should be helping them to survive and they’re doing an amazing job.”

There you go, the vision of a military genius. 

It's like listening to some football player who's been hit in the head one too many times: Uh, well, I just wanna, uh, you know, get out there and, uh, you know, do the thing that we do, uh, you know, stuff with that is enormous stuff that we're doing every day, um, you know, with the thing, you know, that we do because that's how you do it and they're doing an amazing job! 

Even Varney couldn't believe the gibberish coming out of Trump's sagging ridiculous Big Mac hole. 

So he asked again, what would you do in Ukraine that Biden's not doing right now? 

I mean, you have to give Varney credit for hanging in there like a Russian general about to become yet another hilarious statistic in Western news media, but honestly I don't know how after all this time he couldn't see what was coming.

“I listen to him [Putin] constantly using the n-word [the what?] that’s the n-word, uh, and he’s constantly using it [wut? wut?] the nuclear word [OH] and we never talk of, uh, we say, ‘Oh, he’s a nuclear power,’ but we’re a greater nuclear power, we have the greatest submarines in the world, most powerful machines ever built, most powerful, and they got built under me [The only nuclear subs we're building are the Virginia Class which were ALL ordered and budgeted prior to 2014, Trump had literally nothing to do with it, but he's on a roll] most powerful machines ever built, and nobody knows where they are and you should say, ‘Look, if you mention that word one more time, we’re going to send them over, uh, and, uh, we’ll be coasting back and forth up and down your coast.’”

Get all that?

Trump's big plan is that since nobody knows where the submarines are (which is pretty much the whole point of submarines) we'll just go ahead and TELL THE ENEMY WHERE THEY ARE

We'll just tell the enemy where our secret weapons are. 

Genius.

While at the same time also, apparently, threatening nuclear war and basically daring Russia to do something about it. 

That's what Trump would do. 

I can't tell you how damn glad I am that he's not the guy doing it anymore.

Well, at least for the moment, but we'll come back to that. 

Because he's a fucking lunatic. 

He's nuts. Crazy. Barking mad.

This is Trump, literally saying in one breath that if he was in charge, he'd threaten nuclear war, global annihilation, and then minutes later openly begging political favors from the same guy he's threatening. 

He's insane. 

His gray spongy brain is a ragged tangle of cobwebs full of dead bugs and bad smells. 

If we are not as yet actually at war with Russia then it's the very next thing to it -- as Trump himself must believe, otherwise why would you threaten nuclear war?

And yet, here's Trump demanding Vladimir Putin produce some sort of compromising material on Joe Biden's son to somehow damage Biden himself solely in order to profit Trump. 

This isn't the first time Trump has done this. 

It's not even the second time. 


And at this point, if that isn't treason, it's the next thing to it. 


Yesterday, Congressman Matt Gaetz declared in apparent seriousness that if Republicans take back the House later this year, he intends to nominate Trump as Speaker of the House. There's nothing in the Constitution that would prevent this, and as ridiculous as it sounds I wouldn't put it past Republicans to do it solely in order to make liberals scream in rage -- because that's become the mean small ideology of the GOP in its entirety. 

Also, yesterday, we discovered there's a seven hour gap in White House phone logs, in Trump's records specifically, during the height of the January 6th Insurrection. 

Literally, at the exact moment Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol his official phone logs show no data. 

Yet, we know with absolute certainty Trump was on the phone during that period. 

We know this, because when you examine the phone logs of other Republicans during that same time, those records show calls from Trump

For example, Trump called Senator Mike Lee, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Vice President Mike Pence during that seven hour gap. This is not in dispute. He was on the phone, calling his own Vice President, calling members of Congress, and members of the media -- such as Sean Hannity. 

So, either Trump was using burner phones to avoid the Presidential Records Act in a premeditated violation of the law, or the official White House records have been deleted, altered, or forged again in violation of the law. 

There are no other options. 

Trump committed criminal acts. 

This not alleged. This is not speculation. This is fact. Trump committed criminal acts. 

Or, you know, more criminal acts. 

In fact, last Monday, Federal Judge David Carter in a case involving Trump crony and right wing lawyer John Eastman, formally stated: 

"Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021."

"The illegality of the plan was obvious. Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election ... Every American -- and certainly the President of the United States -- knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed."

Eastman was in court, suing to prevent having to turn over records of communication between himself and Trump which the January 6th Committee believes may show that he and the former President planned to criminally disrupt certification of the election, knowing they were committing crime. I.e. Trump's actions on January 6th were premeditated sedition. 

Unfortunately, neither the January 6th Committee or Judge Carter have the power to bring criminal charges against Trump. 

Only the Department of Justice can do that. 

And so far, the Attorney General has shown absolutely no interest in doing so. 

I know a lot of those on the Left would like to think there's some big secret plan afoot, that cases like this take time, etc, the DOJ is closing in and soon Trump will face justice. 

And maybe there is. 

Maybe Merrick Garland is a cunning and cagy general, scouting the enemy, gathering intelligence, moving his army into position, and perhaps one day he'll unleash a legal Blitzkrieg and those like me who are increasingly doubtful that Trump and his seditious cronies will ever be brought to justice,  yeah, well, maybe we'll have to hang our heads in shame and apologize. 

And if that day comes, if I watch them dragging Trump in chains to a traitor's just fate, well, then I'll certainly apologize for my lack of faith. 

But if it doesn't happen very, very soon, it never will. 

Because this isn't about justice. 

It's not about legalities. 

It's not even about what's right and wrong. 

It's about politics.

And politics are about perception

And there is no one -- no one -- who understands this better than Donald J. Trump. 

See those words up above. Trump's words. His big plan to defeat Russia. Gibberish. None of it makes any coherent sense. It's a brain full of spiders. Not one word of it makes any sense. It's disjointed mewling insanity.  

But Republicans don't care. 

Trump doesn't have to make sense. 

Trump knows this. Republicans know this. The mob doesn't give a shit what the words are or even if they make any sense. 

Look at the recent Trucker Convoy in Washington D.C. 

Big joke, right? You and I, we saw a joke, a ridiculous sad failure, a bunch of losers peeing on themselves and driving around in circles. They didn't even know what they were protesting. 

That's what we saw. 

But the other side? They saw defiance. Patriotism. Liberty. 

It doesn't matter if it made any sense, it's about what you see.

Because politics is about perception. 

And so, if the DOJ doesn't shit or get off the pot soon, they might as well not even bother. 

Because if Republican take back Congress this year, then just like those two impeachments, nothing the law does will matter. 

And Trump will not only have gotten away with it again, he'll likely regain the White House. 


Right now, right this very minute, Russia's official state media is calling for Russia's "Partner Trump" to be installed (their words) as President of the United States. 


That's where we're at.

Right on the cusp. Right on the edge of losing it all. 

So, in case I'm being too subtle here, in case you've read this far and you haven't figured out where I'm going, it's this: 

This is your 2022, 2024 CLARION CALL TO SHOW THE HELL UP. 

No more bullshit. 

No excuses. 

No more "both sides."

I don't want to hear about how disappointed you are with Biden or Pelosi or democrats. I don't want to hear any whining about how you don't like the choices. Any of this childish nonsense about how you want better choices. 

Too damn bad. 

This isn't about what you like, it's about your duty as a citizen.  

This is it. You can't depend on anyone else to save you, to save your country, to save your kid's future. 

You can't depend on Merrick Garland for justice, not in time anyway. You can't hang the future on some vague hope that somehow someone somewhere will keep these assholes from destroying what's left of this country. 

It's up to you. 

You have to show up. 

You have to keep them out of office. You. No one else. 

You show up. You browbeat your friends and family and strangers to show up. And you keep this lunatic and his lunatic party the hell out of office. Give the DOJ time to bring them to justice, if you believe that's what going to happen some day. Or at the minimum you just keep these assholes out of office and avert nuclear war and maybe that's the best you're going to get. 

Whatever way it goes, everything you care about, everything, is on the line. This is it. 

So I don't want to hear any infantile whining about how you wish it was different. No shit, we all do. But it's not and here we are. 

Time to adult, folks. 

You show up and you do your duty. 

You want a better nation, be a better citizen. 


The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.
-- Samuel Adams

Friday, March 11, 2022

No Happy Ending


Colonoscopies are undignified. 

That's what I said. 

Yes, I said it. 

If you live long enough, eventually the only words any doctor will say to you are: have you had a colonoscopy? 

Literally that's it. Doctor, I'm here for my eye exam. Have you had a colonoscopy? 

Doc, I've got a sore throat. Right, have you had a colonoscopy? 

Doc, I'm pretty sure I broke my arm, see the sharp end of the bone sticking out of my skin? Uh huh, when's the last time you had a colonoscopy? 

Doc, I'm having these excruciating chest pains, my arm hurts, my vision is fading out, I'm sweating like Donald Trump Jr. on a coke bender making a TikTok video... I hear you, so anyway let's get you scheduled for that colonoscopy.

Sooner or later there you are, on a table, naked, unconscious, with your ass literally hanging out in the middle of room full of people suited up with masks and face shields, cameras, lights, computer monitors and robot probes like an SpaceX mission to Uranus. Then later, while you're still dopey from the anesthesia and pumped full of sewer gas that's slowly (or rapidly) leaking out and you're sitting in a puddle of your own goo, they show you high resolution full color pictures of parts of your anatomy that you'd rather not see, with the person who's supposed to drive you home right there as part of the audience and ain't that a hoot? 

And maybe, if you're really lucky, they'll tell you that you have cancer. 

Because that's always awesome. 

I don't know, maybe that's a fun day for you. 

Me? I'd prefer to do just about anything else -- well, except for maybe watching that aforementioned Don Jr. video. 

Now, I didn't say it wasn't necessary. 

And I also didn't say you shouldn't get it done when your doctor tells you to. 

And I don't honestly see how what I said was in any way whatsoever at all controversial.

I just said, the whole process is undignified. 

Undignified. That's it. That's what I said. Undignified. 

And Twitter called me ... homophobic? 

Wait, what? 

No, no, you read that right the first time. Homophobic. 

I...

(long pause)

... honestly don't know how you get there. 

It's three days later, and still I still really just don't see how you got there. 

Nevertheless here we are. Homophobic. Cue the outrage. And then, I got to spend the next six hours hearing about how I'm an asshole (yeah, I did that on purpose, tough shit) because here are all these other procedures that are even more undignified if you're a woman. Rage! Rage! You terrible person, you! 

So, in summary, not only homophobic (and really, what the actual fuck?), but misogynistic too. 

Oh, and the people who have colorectal cancer? They were likewise mad. A lot of them anyway. 

What? 

What's that? 

Oh, right. You're right. You're right. I shouldn't take it personally. After all, the whole purpose of social media to be perpetually outraged at every jerk of the knee no matter how ridiculous. You're absolutely right. 

And I really don't take it personally, much. 

Still, homophobic? 

Are you kidding me?


But, I'm getting ahead of myself. 


Remember those old home improvement TV shows? 

Like, actual home improvement shows. 

Remember those?

Back in the 1980s and 90s. Shows like This Old House, Home Again, and Hometime. Dean Johnson. Jojo Liebeler. Robin Hartl. Norm Abram. 

Remember that? 

No?

Well, I guess if you're not old enough for a colonoscopy, you're probably not old enough to remember Bob Vila

Anyway, if you were a homeowner back then, especially if you were fixing up an older house, they were pretty great. They showed you how to repair things. How to renovate on a budget. How to build a new kitchen, knock down a wall, overhaul a bathroom, landscape your yard, how to hire a contractor or how to do it yourself.  They'd give you great ideas, show you what tools you'd need and where to rent them, what kind of materials to use, and walk you through the various steps in detail. 

Moreover, they were fun people. Likable. Interesting. No drama. Every week you'd tune in and see a new thing, a new idea, something you could adapt to your own situation. 

America was a different place back then. 

I'm not saying it was great. But we still had this idea, somehow, that we could make things better. 

Things changed. 

One day, suddenly it seemed, all the shows were about buying some rundown place, renovating it the minimum possible amount, and selling it for a profit. 

Oh boy, profit. 

At first those programs might show you how they were doing the renovations, but unlike actual home improvement that really wasn't the point. And it wasn't long before they dropped even the pretense.

Now, these shows are about drama. 

Oh my God! We've got a problem! Termites! Bad Pipes! We're Going Over budget! Everybody is mad at everybody else! You're fired! What are we gonna do? What are we gonna doooooo?!

Over about 30 years, these shows stopped being about practical solutions and became manufactured outrage for entertainment. 

Reality TV. 


You're wondering where the hell I'm going with this, aren't you?


You're trying to figure out how I got from social media being mad at me over a colonoscopy to Love It or List It, aren't you? 

But, that's it, right there. 

That's the whole thing. 

Somehow over the last four decades, we went from looking for simple, practical solutions to literally manufacturing ridiculous drama so that we can be outraged for our entertainment all the damn time. We don't care about fixing stuff, we want to watch people shouting at each other. 

Home renovation not your thing?

Then take a look at the evolution of cooking shows over the same period. 

We went from how to make a decent meal to a red faced asshole screaming at some poor cook about what a goddamn failure they are. It's not about cooking. It's not even about food. 

It's about humiliation for entertainment. 

And goddamn, don't we just love that? 

Of course, the evolution (de-evolution?) of these shows is nothing compared to what's happened to the news.

So, what am I'm saying here? TV rots your brain? 

Maybe, but the point isn't that these shows, and by extension social media, are causing the downfall of humanity. 

That's not what I'm saying at all.


These shows are simply a reflection of who we've become as a people over the last 40 years. 


We've become a race of beings who are perpetually offended and outraged. 

We thrive on it. And if there's nothing to be outraged about, by god, we'll make something up and be mad anyway! You're not enthusiastic about getting a colonoscopy? YOU HAVE OFFENDED ME!

We can't just live our lives. 

It is not possible for Americans, or increasingly anyone else, to just be happy. 

Oh, but it's so much worse than that. 

See, we can't allow anyone else to live their lives either.

We absolutely cannot tolerate the idea of anyone else being happy. 

We have quite literally reached the point where we as a people, as an ideology, as a society, seemingly can only find self-worth in outrage.

This wretched worldview is bad enough when it results in the kind of bizarre manufactured indignation that I illustrated up above as a lede into this article, but all that happens then is that I take a break from social media until I stop thinking that maybe nuclear war might not be such a bad idea after all. 

As nasty and insane as social media is to me most of the time, I, as a straight white male, am not in any way oppressed or diminished by it. 

I can, and do, walk away when I have to. I have that luxury. 

I have privilege to ignore it if I want to. 

Others, far too many others, cannot escape and the actual real consequence of this contemptible worldview is that it results in real, actual, terrible oppression. 

The real horror is that this oppression exists for no reason, for literally no reason at all, other than that we as a society have come to glory in the humiliating domination of others.

And far too often, that oppression, that true horror, is lost in the seething noise floor of our perpetual outrage over idiotic nonsensical things. 

While my Twitter feed was working itself into a righteous over-caffeinated woke fury over some imagined homophobia on my part, Florida made it illegal -- literally illegal -- to even say the word "gay" in public schools. 

What's that? 

Oh, now you're mad at me about that? The new law doesn't really say any such thing? 

No? 

Yeah, actually, it does. 

Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

May not occur. 

May not

No exception. 

In Kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.

And who decides what is age is developmentally appropriate? 

The state. 

The governor. 

The political party who came up with this hateful bullshit in the first place. 

That's who. 

So don't you dare try to tell me that's not what the law says. 

And if it's illegal to say gay, then it won't be long before it's illegal to be gay. 

Which is what just happened in Texas, where any parents can now be sent to prison for life -- simply for affirming their own child's sexual identity. 

For being supportive of their own children. Imagine that. 

Well, you don't have to imagine it. That's the thing. 

This is America. This is what we have become. The ideology of self-determination and personal freedom, so long as you only identify yourself in accordance with the state's accepted definition. 

Meanwhile, back in Florida again, a second bill just passed the Senate making it illegal to discuss race in public school -- specifically racism. It will be quite literally illegal in the state of Florida to teach  actual American history. 

And this isn't just happening in former slave states. 

Or the Bible Belt. 

There are more than one hundred and fifty similar examples of pending legislation in nearly every other state in the Union. 

Florida and Texas are only the first, they won't be the last. 

But ... why?

No, that's not a rhetorical question. Why? 

Why would anyone care? 

Why do you care what sexual orientation anyone else is? What skin off your nose is it? How could you possibly be offended by what pronoun someone else uses? How does it affect you personally? How does teaching that our nation once held human beings in bondage and treated them as less than livestock diminish you personally now? 

Of course, it doesn't. 

But, it's not about that, is it?

No, it's about outrage

Outrage at the very idea that someone else should know their own identity -- because that's what history is, identity. 

Outrage that someone else should be free to chose their identity -- because that's what freedom actually is, the right to define yourself. 

While social media is yet again outraged at some imagined slight, very real people are being erased from our society. 

That is an outrage. 

This is about an ideology that claims to revere freedom, but is daily reduced to seething yellow-eyed violent rage over the idea of someone else choosing a pronoun. Over someone learning that their ancestors were property. About the idea of actually trying to make the world a better place. 

This is about a people who see themselves as victims, who literally liken themselves to Jews being pushed into Nazi gas chambers, even as their own endless privilege allows them the freedom to take a month away from work and drive their trucks across country to protest an oppression that exists only in their own fevered brains -- while some of them are literally flying the Nazi swastika and how the fuck does that even make any sense? 

It's about a people whose sense of self-worth is measured entirely relative to others, and so they can only feel superior if those others are made less -- it is the swaggering self-assurance of a bully. 

It is about a people who've been conditioned to believe that worth is measured in bombastic chest beating, in physical strength, in power, in size, in bulk, in muscle, and most of all in the willingness and ability to visit violence upon others. It's about the biggest truck, the most powerful gun, the greatest wealth, the loudest voice, and the largest flag. And the biggest hardon. 

It's about self-loathing. 

It's about fear. 

It's about an ideology that can never ever be happy with itself and thus can only find satisfaction in the humiliation and subjugation of others. 

It's about those who profit from hate and outrage and who think there will never be an accounting. 

Writ large, this is Russia's invasion of Ukraine and it just might end in nuclear fire after all. 

It's about a culture that is the end result of decades of manufactured artificial outrage -- so much so, that it's become self-sustaining and thus you must find offense in the most innocuous of things while real injustice goes unchecked all around. 

We have become a people who pretend to oppression, who scream in outrage at the slightest of imagined offenses, solely in order to drown out the anguished cries of those who are the true victims of tyranny, inequality, and injustice. 

Outrage isn't the opposite of calm, it's the savage antithesis of reason

And far too many of us have given up on making the world a better place. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

Break

 

Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.
– Dalai Lama


Take a break

I remind you this morning that as terrible as things appear to be, it's important to not let this feeling of pervasive doom overwhelm you.

Yes, yes, I know. It feels like the end of the world out there a lot lately. 

It does. 

And no, it's not that easy to remain optimistic or shake this sense of depression. I never said it was. 

But you need to do it anyway. 

Not just for yourself. 

Not just for those you care about. 

But for all of civilization. For the future. 

I interact with something on the order of half a million people every day, and I'm increasingly seeing a rising sense of dread. I feel like I'm drowning in it some days. 

And why not? Dread, doom, gloom, horror, terror, pessimism, these are the things that sell. That's what make you the money. 

Rage, that's what gets you clicks and likes and that -- that terrible popularity -- is the real currency of our modern world. 

Hate sells, that's where the profits are -- and the prophets

Trepidation, fear, anxiety, those are what put asses in seats. That's why religion and politics are so popular. Be afraid. That's the message of both, be afraid, be afraid, fear God, fear the the Commies, fear the Socialists, fear the fascists, fear immigrants and gay people and trans kids and vaccines and don't forget to put your money in the plate. 

Folks, the world is always going to hell. 

Always. 

Every damn day. 

It's always something, war, plague, disaster, angry gods, burning nuclear power plants, fire and poison toads falling from the sky, Nickelback. Something. 

Social media makes it worse because we tend to see the things we want to see, doom-scrolling it's called, and we select for it. We go looking for the things that make us afraid, that make us feel this sense of doom and dread and fear. 

This isn't new, of course. Religion has done it for millennia. Look at the Christian Bible. That second part, the whole second half of the book, it's about hope, right? About being a better person and making the world a better place. But you drive around my little Southern Town, and every alleged Christian church has a sign out front and it's all doom and dread and fear and Hell. The sign never says "Do upon to others as you would have them do unto you." It's never "feed the hungry, clothe the poor, heal the sick." It's never any of the kind, optimistic words their prophet allegedly said. No, it's always fear and wrath and the threats of a small and miserable god. Inside, it's the same, fire and brimstone and damnation and what kind of moral and loving god has to threaten his followers with eternal torture?

But without that fear, no one shows up. 

There's no profit in kindness and optimism. 

It's the same with politics. Any politician who pushes a message of hope and optimism, fuck that guy. We want anger and rage and ... well, yeah, just look around. I post a thread about Nazis, something that took me ten minutes to whip out, I get ten thousand likes and retweets and shares. But I post a picture of nature, a bee in flight for example, an image that is the culmination of literally years of effort and experience and skill, the pinnacle of the state of the art, I get five comments and one of them is something about how it reminds the commenter of Donald Trump. 

I'm not complaining, I'm simply pointing out that when we moan about how everything is terrible, it's often because we are deliberately ignoring the things that aren't

I see this every day. Americans drive $70,000 trucks, smoke $200 worth of cigarettes each month, consume more calories in day than half the world gets in a week, watch 900 channels of cable TV, and bitch endlessly about how terrible they have it -- how they're just like the Jews being herded into the gas chambers, how they're oppressed worse than the slaves, how their privileged lives are just the worse thing ever. And they feel this way because the man in the pulpit, the man on the TV, the man they voted for tells them how they are victims, how they're being oppressed, how terrible they have it every damn day. 

You know, it's easy to think everything is terrible and getting more terrible when you spend all day looking at terrible things. 

There are a lot of loud shitty people in the world, and the Information Age gives them all a platform to shout their rotten halitosis in your face all day. 

Look, I'm not saying you should dismiss what's happening in the world. Not at all. 

I'm not saying you should ignore all those terrible things, the hate, the injustice, the misery. 

But take the time to look for the good things too. For your own sake. 

Block the haters, fight only on your terms, and take a break when you need it.

Here's a picture of a bee. 


I'm taking the Mini and my wife and going to drive the beach road. 

See you tomorrow.