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Friday, July 5, 2024

Raggedy Man

 


Out of the ruins
Out from the wreckage
Can't make the same mistake this time
We are the children
The last generation (the last generation, generation)
We are the ones they left behind
And, I wonder when we are ever gonna change, change


Mad Max.

The third one, I think. 

Two men enter, one man leaves, that one. The one with post apocalyptic Tina Turner -- which is mostly just regular Tina Turner, but in chainmail. Back when you could watch Mel Gibson movies without cringing. 

So, long time ago now, since that movie came out. 

But you remember. 

Anyway, despite the aforementioned Mel Gibson thing, it's still a damn good movie, if you're into Australian post nuclear war wasteland car flicks without the graphic brutality of the more recent installments. 

There's a reason I mention it. 

See, there's this one scene:

Max beat Blaster in the Thunderdome and was betrayed by his erstwhile allies. Now the whole town is after him and he's running for his life, again. Max and the Onlies, along with their former enemy Master, have busted out of Bartertown's pig shit methane factory, blowing up half the town in the process, and they're roaring down the rails through a nuclear wasteland on this slapped-together ramshackle circus train that's half truck and half locomotive with a dash of construction shack thrown in. They've got Aunty and an army of turbocharged barbarians chasing after them, hellbent on revenge. Max throws the last of the enemy warriors off the caboose and fights his way upstream to the engine where he's clinging to the outside of the door and over the roar of the motors and the wind he shouts to a guy artfully named "Pigkiller" in the driver's seat, 

"So, what's the plan?"

"PLAN?!" Pigkiller laughs incredulously. "There ain't no plan!" 

There ain't no plan. It's just ass backwards straight towards the radioactive horizon, a whoopin and a hollerin' and hopefully Bruce Spence will show up and fly us all to safety. 

That scene has stuck with me over the years and I find it's a useful metaphor far more often than you would think.

You know where I'm going with this, don't you? 

Sure you do. 

So, what's the plan? 

Here we are, hanging on for dear life, barbarians in hot pursuit, rolling ass backward through the apocalypse in a circus train full of howling mutants, and you're like, hey, let's shoot the engineer! 

Yeah, let's just shoot the guy driving the train. Good idea, right? 

So, tell me, what's the plan?

What's the plan after we shoot the engineer and toss him over the side? 

You want Biden to step down, resign, drop out of the race, go away. 

Let's face it, Ol' Creaky Joe had a good run. Sure. No one's arguing that. But after that one debate, woo, yeah, he's just dragging us down. Dead weight, man. We gotta dump him. Throw him off the train before the barbarian mutants catch us. 

Turns out Republicans were right. 

We can admit that, can't we? New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and Bernie Bros and Trump and the MAGAs were all right. It's Dementia Joe. He's just too damn old. And so here you are in my mentions, standing with Republicans and the Russians, calling for Biden to drop out. For the good of the nation. Of course. I mean, you're not an asshole. But, look at the guy. He needs a nap and a cup of hot cocoa. 

We gotta get out while we can and find us a new hero. 

Looking for something, we can rely on
There's gotta be something better out there
Ooh, love and compassion
Their day is coming (coming)
All else are castles built in the air

Right?

Right.

So, tell me, Pigkiller, what's your goddamn plan? 

We're barely four months and some change away from the most important election of your lifetime. And you want to dump the one guy who has managed to win every single election he's ever been in, and who beat Trump last time around? 

Yeah, yeah, I hear you. This Biden is a lot older than that Biden. Yep. I got it. I'm not arguing that. Biden is old. And tired. And he's slowing down. And maybe he's not as sharp as he used to be. Biden's in the back bedroom taking a nap while Trump is out golfing 18 holes and fucking 17-year-olds. That's all true, probably. 

But we're one Steve Bannon prison sentence out from the election and you're talking about handing Biden over to the mutants. 

I don't think I'm out of line here asking to see what you plan to do after that. 


We don't need another hero
We don't need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond Thunderdome


You all love military metaphors. Military terminology. 

This is war! you shout. We're in this fight to the end! We're ready for battle!

I've been to war. Couple times now. War was my profession, most of my life. I don't recommend it, but it worked for me. I know something about it. 

You know who wins wars? Who wins the battle? Who ends up victorious in the end?

The army with the plan, that's who. 

You can lose the general. You can lose the colonels and the captains and the lieutenants. Hopefully not all at once, but if you've got a good plan and you've got good people who can execute that plan, who can flex and improvise when needed, sergeants and foot soldiers who will stay the course, well, you can win. You will win, if you've got the courage to stay the course and hold the line. 

But you got to have a plan. 

Which is why we in the US military spend so much time and energy on planning. I know, I used to be a military war planner, amongst other things. 

We're all in this fight together you tell me. Great. What's your plan?

We dump Biden. Then what? 

Tell me how you spin up a full blown, fifty state, national campaign for an as-yet undetermined candidate in four months. Fully funded, fully staffed, organized, on the ground, on the air, on message, on target, in the ballots, in the debates, websites, pamphlets, buttons, slogans, yard signs, hats, bumper stickers, grassroots, in Trump's face and toe-to-toe. 

Show me your plan for that.

Come on, let's see it. 

Who's the candidate? Because liberals, lefties, progressives, democrats, can't even agree on what they already agree on -- see my aforementioned social media mentions for examples. 

Where is that candidate? Where is that plan? The one we all agree on and are ready to fully support? 

Because if you don't have that, and if you don't have that right fucking now, then you don't have a plan and you don't have a chance in hell.

All the children say
We don't need another hero
We don't need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond Thunderdome

Who's your candidate? Tell me. 

Kamala Harris?

Is it? And we're all agreed on that, right? There's not going to be any fighting. We're all going to fall in line behind Kamala Harris, are we? 

Heh, heh. Sure. 

I like Harris. I'd vote for her. In fact, I liked her a lot better than Biden. Biden wasn't even in my top three, back in the day. I'd to love to see a woman of color as president, though that's not the reason I'd vote for her. That said, is Harris who we all agree on? Is she?

No, of course not. 

No, we don't agree. 

No, instead we're going to argue. We're going to argue bitterly even though we don't have the time for it. And we're going to argue and argue and argue some more while Trump is out there campaigning and mocking Democrats in disarray -- and he won't be wrong. 

Some of us are not going to accept the results no matter who ends up the candidate. 

And don't tell me you will, because you won't. 

And you won't because you don't get to choose Biden's replacement. 

The primaries are over

The delegates are already pledged. 

You had your vote.  

Didn't think of that, did you? 

There's no time. There's no mechanism for a do-over primary. If we're going to replace Biden, we have to do it now and democracy just isn't fast enough, even if liberals could actually agree on anything. 

So, any replacement will perforce be selected by the party and you are not going to get any say in it.

You good with that? 

Are you really? 

Those of you still seething about the "anointment" of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders? You're going to be good with the Democratic National Committee picking your candidate for you? Really? And the rest of you? Are you really going to be good with the party apparatus telling you who you're going to vote for in the general election? 

Don't blow smoke up my ass and call it beef jerky.

We'll lose right there. 

Some of you will be madder about that than you are about Trump taking away your rights. And you'll stay home, just like you did last time and we'll lose right there. 

Might as well just hand the keys over to King Trump and hidey ho yourself down to the nearest concentration camp. 

So, what do we do with our lives
We leave only a mark
Will our story shine like a light or end in the dark?
Give it all or nothing

And then there's the rest of it. 

The practical aspects of changing horses midstream without drowning. 

And the legal aspects. And the political ones. 

As I noted up above, there is no national campaign for any other candidate. You'll have to create one from scratch, overnight, in fifty states. It's not just a matter of changing the names, there are legal aspects to it. Campaign finance law for one. Campaign filings with the state, ballot issues, and so on. And not every campaign staffer who supports Biden is going to support the new candidate -- for whatever reason. So you're going to need to hire at least some new people. 

Where are you going to get the money? 

No. No. Don't look away. Don't roll your eyes. Where you gonna get the money? 

See, while it's possible that Biden's campaign war chest, those millions and millions of dollars, could be legally transferred to Harris, because she's already on the ticket with him, it's never been done before. There will most certainly be legal challenges -- by the Trump campaign if not various Democrats -- tying up that money for some period of time, maybe a long period of time. 

And if the candidate is not Harris, well, then that money very likely can't be transferred and a new non-Harris candidate would have raise all new money themselves. Which takes us right back to the previous paragraph: How are you going to spin up a nationwide campaign across fifty states fast enough and powerful enough to challenge Trump without any money at first and when you can't just change the names on the Biden Campaign offices? 

PACs? 

Well, about that, Political Action Committees that accept money for one candidate can't just use it for another without certain legal issues. Now, a PAC can become a multicandidate PAC, but the rules for doing so are complex and have to meet pretty specific federal and state election requirements. You think you can do that in a couple of days? Fast enough to spin up a campaign in time? Across fifty states? Well enough to avoid legal challenges? Do you really? 

Show me that plan. 

No money. No campaign.

Yes, I see you. Rolling your eyes. In the back there. 

You can wave your hands all you like, but you still have to answer the question. You still have to adhere to campaign finance law. You still have to have money to get elected. And you have to do it in such a manner that the other side, the one infamous for suing people and trying to overthrow elections, can't legally challenge you on it and de facto kill your campaign before you even start. 

You have to have a plan to address all the legal requirements. Where is it? 

States are already printing ballots and programming election equipment. It's a process. It's a long legal process and it has to be in order to prevent election fraud -- and to be able to withstand scrutiny when someone like Trump accuses the process of fraud in court. 

There may not be time to swap out candidates. 

Particularly in red states run by Trump supporters who don't want there to be time and who would love nothing better than Trump running unopposed in their state. 

There are thousands of details like this, some legal, some practical, some political.  

Some are solvable in time. 

Many are not -- even if you did have a plan, and you don't. 

Folks, we're on a runaway train, barreling through the wasteland, chased by mutants, ass backwards into the unknown. This isn't the time to throw the Engineer over the side. Yes, in this metaphor, Max was without doubt the far better driver and Pigkiller was crippled by a hole blown through his thigh. But you don't change the hand on the wheel in the middle of an escape and you need to remember that when it was all going to hell and they were neck deep in manure, it was Pigkiller who fired up the engine and got them all the hell out of bondage. No, this isn't the time to replace the Engineer. This is the time when you grit your teeth, put the hammer down all the way to the goddamn floor, cock your pistol, and ride full throttle for the horizon. 

Biden may or may not win. That's up to you. 

But you pull Biden off the ballot now, and Trump most certainly will. 

See you around, Soldier. 


And, I wonder when we are ever gonna change, change
Living under the fear, 'til nothing else remains
All the children say
We don't need another hero
We don't need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond Thunderdome

-- Tina Turner, We Don't Need Another Hero



Tuesday, July 2, 2024

The Republic Is Dead, Long Live The Republic

 

 

Poor man wanna be rich
Rich man wanna be king
And a king ain't satisfied
'till he rules everything
-- Bruce SpringsteenBadlands


Thus ends The Republic.

Hail! Mr. President.


It should never have come to this, 

But, hey, at least democracy was fun while it lasted.

I made a pithy comment. 

A couple of them actually, as is my wont. 

Well, maybe not so much pithy as bitterly sardonic observations on yesterday's Supreme Court Ruling. 

Here's one:

I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not sure how this works, but basically Biden is President For Life now, right? So, does Biden just "officially" cancel the election or do we have to break some windows and beat up cops first?

Sarcasm, right? 

Obviously a reference to January 6th, 2021 and the violent actions of the then president and his howling rabble. A reference to that president's impeachment and the legal troubles he finds himself in (for now). 

Right? Obviously. 

Meta, the platform behind Facebook, Instagram, and Threads, removed it. 


"It looks like you shared or sent something that could encourage violence and lead to risk of physical harm, or a direct threat to public safety."

I beg your pardon? I did what now? 

"This goes against our Community Guidelines on violence and incitement."

Community guidelines on violence and incitement, you say? 

I literally laughed out loud. 

Literally laughed loud enough to scare the dog out of a sound sleep. 

Hilarious. 

Absolutely fucking hilarious.

Meta removed a number of similar posts from my various timelines. And it just kept getting funnier to me. 

Funny ha ha, but also funny ironic. 

You see, Mark Zuckerberg has higher standards against incitement of violence and threats to the public safety than the Supreme Court

Mark Zuckerberg. That Mark Zuckerberg. That Facebook. That Meta. 

Hilarious.

And what's even funnier is that I've now faced more consequences for allegedly inciting violence against the Republic than Donald Trump has or ever will -- because he's now officially immune from the consequences of his own actions and I as a mere plebe of the Imperium am most assuredly not

Quod Erat Demonstrandum and Hail! Caesar. 

Somewhere right now, up there in Republican heaven, Richard Milhous Nixon is swearing bitterly and staring down in utter disbelief at those who called John Roberts a "moderate conservative."

And, yeah, while that's probably hyperbole, the truth of the matter is the Roberts Court would have let Tricky Dick get away with it. 

And the really ironic part here is that this Republican Supreme Court hasn't just sounded the death knell of The Republic by making the president Caesar, immune from the law and from the consequences of his own actions, but the Court has effectively killed itself

I mean, what's the point of a Legislative or Judicial Branch when the Executive has unlimited power and absolute immunity?

The checks and balances of the American government are now effectively null and void, because with absolute executive immunity comes absolute immunity from both the Court and from Congress. 

And that's exactly what this ruling does. 


But then again, what would you expect from a Court that has no enforceable ethical code of conduct and refuses to even consider one? 


The majority opinion, penned by Roberts himself alleges the founders of this country, the Framers of the Constitution, those men who'd just fought a bloody war of rebellion to free themselves from a monarch utterly immune from accountability and the law, actually envisioned an Executive who would likewise be immune from the law and accountability but is also somehow not a king. 

Ur?

Never mind, he's rollin'

The opinion uses words like “vigorous,” “energetic," "decisive," and "speedy execution” of the president's duty to "faithfully execute" the law -- something the president has been able to do for 248 years, through multiple wars and myriad national emergencies, somehow without having absolute immunity. 

But today in this new age, apparently the law cannot be executed vigorously, energetically, decisively, or in a speedy fashion if the president actually has to obey the law he's "faithfully" executing. 

Explain to me how the guy charged with enforcing the law should be immune from it. 

Explain it to me like I'm not a lawyer. Go ahead. 

Why does this only apply to Presidents? Why shouldn't attorney generals be likewise immune from the law, or the police, or Supreme Court Justices ... okay, those are bad examples but I think I've made my point here. 

The President must have “absolute immunity” for any “official act within his exclusive sphere of constitutional authority," reasons the Chief Justice.

Now, again, I'm not a lawyer, but I noticed that the Chief Justice and his conservative Trump-appointed coconspirators on the Court didn't bother to define "official acts." That seems a strange omission, doesn't it? If they didn't define official acts, who does? The president? And Republicans don't see this as problematic?

But of course they wouldn't, would they? 

But wait, there's more. 

The opinion also offers up something called “presumptive immunity.” 

Now, you'd think "absolute immunity" would cover it. If you have absolute immunity, how much more immunity do you need? That's pretty much what "absolute" means, isn't it?

Ha ha. No. 

According to John Roberts, the President also gets "presumptive immunity" for any action that falls outside his "official" duties, but within “the outer perimeter of his official responsibility.” 

So there's official official and then there's also some other sort of official that's less official but also still official. 

See? That's why I'm not a lawyer. 

Anyway, this presidenting gig sounds like good work if you can get it. 

As in the above decision regarding absolute immunity for official acts, the court doesn't provide any definition of "outer perimeter of official responsibility" or what non-official official duties might fall into it. 

Confused? 

It gets better, because Roberts goes on to say that this presumptive immunity for acts taken in the outer perimeter of officialdom might actually be absolute immunity after all, but “we need not decide that question today.” 

So, we've determined there are official acts that get absolute immunity and there are less official acts that get presumptive immunity, but those less official acts might actually be official acts and entitled to absolute immunity instead of presumptive immunity but we don't have to actually spell out what any of those acts actually are today because something something gazpacho and the lower courts will just figure it out. Probably.


I'll pause for a minute so you can wipe at the blood which is no doubt running from you ear about now. 


Unofficial acts, says Roberts, are not entitled to immunity, presumptive or absolute. 

Oh, well, that's good. 

We can hold the President accountable for unofficial acts. 

Unofficial acts.

Unofficial. 

The president can be held accountable for unofficial acts.

Heh heh. Riiiight

When the president does it, that means it is not illegal!
-- Richard Nixon, 1977

Guess what? Turns out, Nixon was right. 

If absolute immunity is only for official acts, then immunity is always going to be absolute because you can bet that when the president does it, whatever it is, it's always -- always -- going to be "official."

Bet on it. 

You know why? Because the same court who made this decision, will make that one too. 

And thus, the president can't be indicted and he can't be impeached. 

There is no longer any Constitutional or governmental method of restraining a president. 

And there is now no accountability to the American people whatsoever, not even voting if a president choses to "officially" ignore an unfavorable election and order his VP to change the results. That is exactly what the Supreme Court just said. This is quite literally the crux of this entire argument. That's what started all of this, a president who refused to accept the results of the election and who attempted to nullify those results through violence in order to seize power. Those are now official acts and immune from the law. 

Up above I said I'd made a number of comments on social media that were later removed. 

Here's another one:

When they line us up in front of that ditch they made us dig in the field outside the concentration camp gates, just before one of Supreme General Mike Flynn's Hauptsturmf├╝hrers gives the order to fire, I'll be the guy who smacks you in the back of the head and snarls "I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO."

The post got several hundred responses.

-- You won't get the chance, I won't be there. I'm going for their throats with my bare teeth when they show up to "detain me for reeducation". They're going to have to shoot in the street in front of my own house in front of everybody.

-- I won't get there. I will take a few with me first.

-- Before that happens, I'm going to take out as many of those single helix mutant pieces of shit neckbeards as possible. You're welcome to join me. I will not go quietly.

-- Im not going down without taking a few of them with me.. jfs

-- I’ll be the girl who turns around and storms the bad guys. They may kill me, but I’ll go down fighting.

There were many, many more in the same spirit, I was in the process of recording them when Threads took the post down and I lost access to the feed. 

We'll go down fighting! 

Yeah. Great. Cool. I admire your spirit. War is fun. You're gonna love it. But the thing is, we wouldn't have to die fighting -- if you all showed the same grit at the ballot box. 

Now, I'm not saying that those who shouted defiance up above didn't themselves vote. They follow me, they likely did. 

But a lot of Americans didn't. 

And they won't this time either -- despite their promise to go down fighting. 

It should never have come to this and where does that leave us? 

If the president does it, it's official. And if it's official then the president can't be impeached and he can't be indicted and he can't be convicted and he can't be held accountable to the people. He is, de facto, Caesar. 

Or Vladimir Putin. Pick you poison. 

That is literally Trump's entire argument. 

Everything he did in office is official. He can't be impeached for it, he can't be prosecuted for it, and he fully intends to do it again, until he really is Caesar, or Putin. 

And the Court said, Okay. 

I'm not a lawyer, don't take my word for it. Instead listen to what Justice Sotomayor said:

The Court effectively creates a law-free zone around the President, upsetting the status quo that has existed since the Founding. … When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution. Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be.

That is the majority’s message today. 

Even if these nightmare scenarios never play out, and I pray they never do, the damage has been done. The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.

We probably could have avoided a lot of trouble and been much further ahead if we'd just paid our taxes, drank our tea, and knuckled under to King George III. 

If nothing else, at least we'd have universal healthcare today. 

So, where does that leave us? 

Beyond guillotines and the Second Amendment, I mean.  

November. 

That's where it leaves us. 

We have one chance to fix this without bloody war and revolution, and even that is a dicey proposition. 

I lied up above. War isn't fun. Killing people is terrible. It's dirty and it's ugly and it's fucking horrifying and if you survive you'll never ever get the smell of death out of your brain. Ever. We're out of options. You don't get the luxury of sitting this one out or throwing away your vote because you don't like the choices. And bluntly, if you don't have what it takes to show up and vote, you probably don't have what it takes to pick up a gun and fight tyranny on the battlefield either. 

It should never have come to this. 

You want want a better nation, you're going to have to be better citizens. 


With fear for our democracy, I dissent.
-- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor








Friday, June 28, 2024

Galloping Bullshit

 


The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than that needed to produce it.
-- Brandolini's Law, also: The Bullshit Asymmetry Principle


I can't say I'm surprised. 

The debate was ugly right from the introductions. 

Bash and Tapper looked like they were presiding over an execution. 

Biden started out with a persistent cough and sounded like he had a cold. To be brutally honest, his age was very much on display. 

And there was Trump with what has become his trademark scowl and angry victim demeaner. 

No one was in good humor, none of them looked like they wanted to be there. 

And it didn't take long to realize The Press was going to fail democracy once again. 

I was live posting on Threads and I think my first comment thirty seconds in set the tone for the rest of the night.



The moderators went after Biden first thing. 

President Biden, inflation has slowed, but prices remain high. Since you took office, the price of essentials has increased. For example, a basket of groceries that cost $100, then, now costs more than $120. And typical home prices have jumped more than 30 percent. What do you say to voters who feel they are worse off under your presidency than they were under President Trump?

Biden's answer was predictable. He immediately put the onus on Trump, 

We’ve got to take a look at what I was left when I became president, what Mr. Trump left me...

Biden talked about the economy in freefall, the Pandemic and how Trump mishandled it, dying people, injecting bleach, etc. The economy collapsed, no jobs, unemployment at 15 percent. Terrible. 

Then Biden talked about how "we" had to put things back together again, 15,000 new jobs. 800,000 manufacturing jobs. More to be done. Working class people still in trouble. Biden mentioned he was from a working class family in Scranton, PA. Price of eggs. Price of gas. Price of housing. All those things are personal to him. And he's working hard to bring prices down, cap rents, rein in corporate greed, bring down the price of prescription drugs, cap the prince of insulin for seniors, etc. 

In addition to that, we’re in a situation where if you had to take a look at all that was done at his administration, he didn’t do much at all. By the time he left, there’s – things were in chaos, literally chaos.

That's a good answer. 

Here. On the screen. 

But Biden had something going on with his voice. A cold. An incipient cough. A frog in his throat. And even though it was a good answer, it came out feeble and weak. 

No. 

Stop. 

If you watched, you know I'm right. Biden looked old. There's no way around that. Pretending otherwise isn't going to help. 

I warned you about this. 

Debates are not about fact. Debates are theater. No one watches debates for polite exchanges by reasonable people. You watch a debate for the same reason you watch NASCAR or reality TV or the WWF.

Debates are about appearance. 

Let me give you an example. Many years ago I was participating in a cookoff. Chili. Now, I'm pretty good at it. I've won awards for my recipe, I've won a number of contests here and there over the years and I've got the trophies to prove it. But the rules of this contest were different, they allowed for toppings to be added after the initial test tasting. So, after the initial sampling, one of the judges added sour cream and cheese to his bowl. That changed the color of my entry from rich dark red to a light orange. 

Which he then gleefully announced looked like "baby shit." 

Tasted great, he said. First place, taste wise. But it looked like baby shit. Baby shit. Baby shit. He kept saying it. 

Didn't matter that he's the one who changed the appearance. 

Didn't matter that he wasn't deliberately trying to prejudice the results. 

Didn't matter that he thought the taste was first place. 

What mattered was "baby shit."

(I learned later that he and his wife recently had become parents and that likely influenced his comments)

And from that point forward, I was doomed to lose because no matter how good my chili tasted, the only thing the other judges would remember was "baby shit." 

Biden was right. He gave a good answer. It was obvious he was prepared, knew the right things to say, where to put the blame, he used "we" instead of "I" in all the right places. 

But it was baby shit. 

He looked weak and feeble. He kept clearing his throat. He was too quiet -- yes, likely working around his disability, and the ableism that will no doubt be the subject of the New York Times editorials for the next month is certainly something we should talk about. Nevertheless there it was. And there it was immediately on every livestream that I was following, left and right and those pretending impartiality. 

It's about perception.

And once someone puts "baby shit" into the public consciousness, well, no matter how good the recipe tastes you're going to lose. 

And that's how it started. Right there. 

At first, Trump was restrained. 

Well, restrained for Trump. He was likely coached to rein it in. To adhere to the rules. To avoid wandering off into a discussion of sharks and batteries and his unhinged lunacy. 

His answers were the usual nonsense, every declaration ending in "the likes of which we've never seen." Which is the only time he uses "we" and not "I." He was mad, obviously so, glowering like an old 1970s red leather chair that's faded over the years to the color of blotchy orange baby shit. 

He has not done a good job. He has done a poor job. And inflation’s killing our country. It is absolutely killing us.

But in contrast to Biden, well, Trump seemed on his game. 


It was fucking ugly. 

And it did indeed get uglier. 

It was a shoving match between two old angry men who hate each other. 

Biden started to find his footing, but it didn't take long for Trump to lose any appearance of restraint and go full Trump. 

Thirty minutes in and on the subject of abortion and Trump was running roughshod over the debate rules, as expected. Tapper and Bash were trying to hold him down, but by then Trump was wielding a machinegun of rapid-fire bullshit, spraying obvious lies -- and accidental obvious truths that his handlers probably wished he hadn't, like this beauty: 

Like Ronald Reagan, I believe in the exceptions, I am a person that believes. And frankly, I think it’s important to believe in the exceptions. Some people, you have to follow your heart, some people don’t believe in that. But I believe in the exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. I think it’s very important. Some people don’t. Follow your heart. But you have to get elected also and – because that has to do with other things. You’ve got to get electedThe problem they have is they’re radical because they will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth – after birth.

I believe in exceptions, but you've got to get elected (and obviously with Republicans and fanatical evangelicals you can't do that by supporting abortion in any form), so now I'm going to immediately lie about Democrats wanting to kill babies after they're born.

Where do you start?

How do you respond? 

Because that was the dismount after two full minutes of absolute bullshit starting with Trump declaring 

Fifty-one years ago, you had Roe v. Wade, and everybody wanted to get it back to the states, everybody, without exception, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives. Everybody wanted it back. Religious leaders.

Everyone. Democrats. Liberals. Everyone wanted Roe v. Wade overturned. 

Now that is obvious bullshit. Utter nonsense. That never happened. And what followed was even more obvious bullshit, a whole barnyard of bullshit. 

But where do you start?

Trump got two full minutes to spray this firehose of bullshit, falsehood after falsehood, and Biden got one minute to respond, followed by Trump getting another full minute of rebuttal. 

It's called the Gish Gallop. 

It's a rhetorical technique used to defeat normal debate rules. It's where you overwhelm your opponent with bullshit, that is an excessive number of arguments with no regard for the accuracy or strength of those arguments. Quantity, not quality. A dozen subjects, related or not. There's no way to remember it all it, let along counter it in the time allotted. It was named for Duane Gish, a creationist who in any debate with actual evolutionary scientists would spew rapid fire nonsense, making a coherent response next to impossible in any sort of live debate format. Creationists in the audience didn't care about the words, they were there to see those snooty God hating scientists get owned. It's the same here. 

Trump isn't doing it on purpose, or rather I mean Trump isn't doing it as some sort of learned discipline. Trump does it because that's who he is -- an endless source of high pressure liquid bullshit. 

There was no way for Biden or CNN to address each of Trump's lies in the established format of the debate. It's not possible for anyone. That's why the gallop works. 

Biden should have been ready for it.

Yes, Biden should have been ready for it, because this is what Trump does. He does it every time. In every conversation. In every rally. In every speech. In every debate. Biden should have been ready for it. There are tactics for countering the Gish Gallop and Biden should have been prepared. His handlers should have prepped him. He should have practiced those techniques. 

Anyone who engages Trump should be ready for it.

Because Trump is a one trick pony. That's all he's got. Galloping bullshit. 

It's not all on Biden. CNN bears plenty of blame here too, as does the rest of The Press who are already this morning declaring Trump's victory in the lede and burying the cautionary caveats far, far down in the text that no one reads. 

CNN should have been fact checking in real time. 

Yes, there are those who would have protested fact checking as prejudicial to their candidate. 

So? 

That's what happens when your guy spews lie after lie. 

The point of presidential debates, allegedly, is to provide the voting public with the information they need to make an informed decision at the polls. That is the reason why The Press is the only private enterprise granted a specific enumerated right in the Constitution. The Press's responsibility is to democracy, to the Republic, not to any particular ideology or political party -- otherwise they don't deserve Constitutional protection. And if the fascism they're enabling gets into power, they'll be the first ones against the wall. 

CNN should have been fact checking in real time, both for Trump and for Biden. Failure to do so is a dereliction of duty. No one gives a shit about fact checking the debate a day later. If you're trying to influence voters, what matters is the moment. That's what people remember. 

Biden should have been prepared for Trump's galloping bullshit. 

Biden should have stuck to his strengths: intellect, the political zinger and above all, humor. 

Everyone involved looked grim. But Biden, well, he's got a great sense of humor. He can mock his opponent without being mean. He can make the other guy look ridiculous without effort, he's been doing it for 40 years in Congress and it was apparent from Republican panic before the debate, that's exactly what they expected him to do. 

But he didn't. 


It's water under the bridge now. 


It's not a disaster. 

Obama bombed his first debate. 

But he got himself elected twice in a landslide. 

I doubt this will have much impact on the election. 

Four years ago, you said "Vote blue no matter who" and "I'd vote for a ham sandwich with rancid mayonnaise over Trump."

We elected Biden to be not Trump and it turns out the ham sandwich has done a pretty decent job. 

Nothing has changed in that regard. 

What has changed is this: the damage Trump did continues to echo years after he left office. The chaos he caused continues to swirl. We're going to have to not only stop and reverse those effects, we have to completely undo it, before we can get back to where we were -- let alone make any progress. Exactly as you were repeatedly warned. And yes, I am talking about the Supreme Court, along with many other things. And again, you were warned over and over and over again. And here we are. 

The debate didn't change that. 

You're faced with the same choices and it doesn't matter if you don't like them, they are the choices.

Now, we can either keep slogging forward, up hill, knee deep in stinking bullshit, or we can give up and lay down and drown in it. 

Same as it ever was. 

I wish Biden was better at debates, but he's not and that's just how it is. 

I wish Trump was a better human being, but he's very much not and he's never going to be, and the odds are he's going to get even worse if we let him back into power. 

Your choices haven't changed. 

The danger hasn't changed, it's only gotten worse.

The people whose lives we must protect, that hasn't changed. 

Our duty to the Republic, to democracy, to the future we leave our children, that hasn't changed. 

The man Biden is, and the man Trump most certainly isn't, well, that hasn't changed. 

Who wins or loses the debate doesn't matter. 

Who wins the election does. 

And you are the one who will decide. 


A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.
-- Nelson Mandela





Thursday, June 27, 2024

Chess With A Pigeon

 


A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.
-- Hillary Clinton


Has Donald Trump pulled out yet?

That's a Stormy Daniels reference. 

Ba dump bump!

Huh? Huh?

Okay. Sorry, to start out with a dick joke, but I'm jacked up on espresso this morning. 

But, seriously, has Trump pulled out of the debate yet? 

It's fascinating watching Republicans frantically opening an escape route for Trump to bail out of the confrontation that Trump himself demanded.

“Ready and Willing to Debate Crooked Joe”

“I would strongly recommend more than two debates and, for excitement purposes, a very large venue, although Biden is supposedly afraid of crowds. That’s only because he doesn’t get them!”

“Just tell me when, I’ll be there. ‘Let’s get ready to Rumble!!!'”

That was Trump, a month ago on his Truth Social platform, full of the usual piss and vinegar and greasy bravado. Anytime! Anywhere! 

Let's get ready to ruuuuummmble!

But a funny thing happened on the way to the debates.


Joe Biden accepted the challenge. 

Careful what you wish for, I guess. 

At first, Trump and his advisors were practically drooling at the idea of Trump and Biden facing off again in front of America. 

And why wouldn't they, right? 

Trump would be in his element. Loud. Off script and off the leash. Overbearing. Bullying. Full of bravado and mean little insults. 

The crowd loves that. 

I mean, no one watches racing to see cars go around in a circle. It's the crashes, the flaming death, the tires flying into the crowd, that's what we're waiting for. Otherwise you might just as well set up a lawn chair next to the highway. 

That's why Americans watch debates.

Spectacle. Death. Destruction. 

That's Trump. You can't shut him up. He won't follow the rules. He won't stay on his side of the stage. You're not watching him for the statesmanship!

Hell, Trump himself referenced professional wrestling in his challenge. Let’s get ready to Rumble!!! That's what the MAGAs want to see, Trump coming after Biden, verbally, physically, mentally. Bam! Bam! Socko! And give him the chair! Give him the chair! 

Right? 

Show! Spectacle! Bread and circuses. 

Except...

Except then Trump's inner circle started remembering how Biden has been doing this for 40 years. And maybe he's lost a step or two, but he's a professional. 

And Trump sure as hell isn't. 

Biden's got a pretty thick skin. 

And Trump? Well, like the lady said "A man you can bait with a tweet..." 

And then guys like Steve Bannon and Ronny Jackson started thinking about what's going to happen when Joe Biden, who's been doing this for 40 years, baits Trump into going off on some unhinged rant about, oh, say, pants?

"...a lot of people say to me today the toughest business people, people that you know about, could I ask you a question, how do you do it? I say do what? How do you get up in the morning and put your pants on? Why do you put those pants on, I'll explain it to you some day. How do you do it, how do you get up, how do you do it?"

Or this

"They say, oh, he's talking about, he's talking about Silence of the Lambs. And I say the late Great Hannibal Lecter. Oh, he likes Hannibal Lecter. No, they're crazy. I walk into a wall purposely. I look at that wall. Oh, that's, that's perfect. Sometimes they don't have a wall. You're free standing. It doesn't. But I imitate him and I, I, you know, walk into a wall and the next day they write, Donald Trump could not find his way off the stage. So I don't even do it anymore"

Or this

“How about George Washington high school? ‘Oh we want the name removed from that high school.’ They don’t know why. You know, they thought he had slaves. Actually I think he probably didn’t.’”

 Or this

"I said, 'Dana, I have an idea. Why don't you set up a migrant league of fighters! And have your regular league of fighters. And then you have the champion of your league, these are the greatest fighters in the world, fight the champion of the migrants?!'"

Or imagine what happens if Biden brings up this Trump idea?

"What I will do is this: you graduate from a college, I think you should get automatically, as part of your diploma, a green card to be able to stay in this country, and that includes junior colleges.”

And that was Trump just this week. 

Biden, he might be slowing down, but nobody needs to worry about him going off into crazyland, ranting about sharks and batteries and handing out free green cards. 

Now, sure, Trump's cultish supporters love him even harder the more insane he gets. They don't understand most of the world anyway. They don't understand science or geopolitics or even how to manage a 4-way stop without killing themselves. When experts talk, they don't understand anything, the words mean nothing, they don't have the education or the intelligence to comprehend and they don't have the intellectual curiosity to find out. So, when Trump doesn't make sense, it sounds the same and they assume he must be a genius too. 

They resent the experts for making them feel stupid. 

They love Trump because he hates the experts just like they do. 

He connects to them on an emotional level. He makes it okay for them to be stupid and hateful and proudly ignorant. They don't see some ridiculous story about sharks and batteries, instead they feel a mean little sense of belonging because Trump is up there mocking the things they don't understand,. They're toadies to the bully and it makes them feel good about themselves. 

But, that only works if Trump is allowed to ignore the rules, dominate the microphone, and bully his opponent by repeatedly interrupting and pandering to a live audience for mean little laughs and spiteful cheers. 

That's Trump's only strength. 

Trump can't win on policy, he doesn't have any. 

Trump can't win on his record, and certainly not on his party's record, and the less said about that the better.

Trump can't win on the issues, he has no idea what they are and doesn't care. 

Trump can only win if he's a bully. And that's what his supporters want. That show. It makes them feel good about themselves. 

Trump doesn't know any other way, because that's the only thing that's worked for him his entire life, from sexual partners to business partners. He's a bully, that's his only trick. 

Then the rules for the debate came out.

Rules that Trump's own people agreed to. Just like that trial in New York, the one that convicted Trump of 34 felonies, Trump's own lawyers agreed to the jury.

Just like Trump's campaign agreed to muted microphones. No live studio audience. No notes. No sitting. Just a pen, paper, and a water bottle on the stage. That's it. 

Trump only agreed to those rules because he has absolutely no intention of adhering to them. I doubt he even listened when CNN was laying it out, just like he slept through jury selection. 

Trump has never adhered to the rules. And why should he? His entire life, America has repeatedly made it pretty damn obvious that the rules don't apply to Donald J. Trump. Trump has never, ever, not once been held to account. Sexual assault? Fraud? Treason? Sedition? He gets out of it all. Why would he even consider following the rules this time? 

Except, well, maybe he's going to have to and that's when Republicans started to get scared.

That's when Trump's campaign started looking for the exit. 

That's when they started lining up their excuses.









It's obvious Trump supporters have absolutely no confidence in their flabby ill-prepared addlepated fly-haired messiah. 

Republicans are so convinced of Trump's weakness when he has to follow the rules, that they are literally terrified of an old man with a can of Mountain Dew. 

And they should be. 


So, I won't be entirely surprised if Trump bails out at the last minute. 


I'm sure that's what his inner circle is telling him to do. 

Get out. Cut and run while you can. Claim the whole thing is rigged, his dipshit supporters will buy that, of course. Accuse Biden of cheating. Declare victory. It'll work. 

I'm sure that's what they're telling him right now. 

But he won't. 

Trump will show up. Confident that he can ignore the rules and do what he always does. All bluster and bombast, insults and zingers, and the swaggering bully. Trump has never in his entire life been able to walk away from a TV camera or a microphone. He doesn't have the intellect or the self-control. 

He's not going to fake a heart attack. No, he'll be there. 

He can't help it. 

He's not going to listen to his advisors. They'd have to shoot him with a tranquilizing dart and throw a net over him to keep him from that stage. 

Let's get ready to rumble! 

Show. Spectacle. Entertainment for the masses. 

That's how Trump sees everything

That's how his supporters see it. 

That's how far too many Americans see it. 

Debates are not about the issues. It's not about facts and knowledge. It's not about competence or ability. 

It's not a job interview. 

It's spectacle. 

And that's what Donald Trump is good at. It's the only thing he's good at. That's why he's going to "win" the debate, or thinks he will anyway. 

(Note: win is in quote marks)

It doesn't matter how goddamn insane he is. How stupid. How bizarre. How incoherent. How obnoxious. How much he contradicts himself or how much he lies. He could pull down his diaper and shit on the stage. 

No matter what happens on that stage tonight, Trump will declare victory and The Press will go along with it. 

Because it's just spectacle. It won't change anyone's mind. You all know who you're voting for.

Oh, I see you. 

In the back, waving your hand, red in the face. 

What about the undecideds?! I hear you shout. What about them? Huh?

What about them?

Who told you there was some huge pool of undecided voters left in America? Was it the people selling debates for profit? Was it them? Was it the press who interviews a thousand people firm in their decision until they get to Cat Piss Guy and that's who they put on TV?

If you're undecided at this point, the odds are pretty damn good you're not going to show up anyway. If you don't care enough to have picked a side by now, you're not going to be watching the debate anyway. 

I asked my audience on social media: At this point in any election, has a debate ever changed your mind?

At this point in the process have you ever been undecided?

Have you really?

Across my social media platforms I got thousands of responses. 

Every single one of them: no. 

Five thousand people told me: At this point in the election, no debate has ever changed my mind. 

Now, I will admit that's hardly a scientific poll. Those people follow me, most of them. They're engaged. They've chosen a side long ago, that's likely why they follow me -- it sure ain't for my charming personality. 

Still, I have to wonder why we all think others are any less committed to their beliefs? 

Or lack of belief?

The armies are arrayed, the battlelines are drawn, and everyone who plans on fighting has chosen sides. 

Tonight the next president of the United States will take the stage and if you haven't already figured out what kind of future you're voting for, well, I doubt this spectacle will make much of a difference. 

Unless you're running a high school debating team, debates are a lousy way to choose a leader. 

But they're a great way to keep the population entertained.

The people who once upon a time bestowed military commands, high civil offices, legions, and everything else, now restrains itself, and instead, eagerly hopes for just two things: bread and circuses
-- Juvenal, Poet of Ancient Rome





Tuesday, June 25, 2024

What We Ought

 

A man who neglects his rights as a citizen
is not entitled to his rights as a citizen

-- Tiorio


Joe Biden doesn't inspire me.

Said I, ironically. 

I said it on social media yesterday (that's a screenshot of the offending post on one of the platforms where I said it)

I said the same a week ago in a similar post. 

I'll probably say it again at some future date and for the same reasons. 

Joe Biden doesn't inspire me. 

Now, given the context of that post, given my background, given the literally millions of words I've written on the subject of citizenship over the last two decades, it would seem to me that the irony would be obvious.

He said, ironically, yet again, knowing damn well that it wouldn't be. 

Here's Trump again bragging about some horrible thing he did and I'm just not inspired to vote against him, right? 

My comment was meant as biting sarcasm, because that's what I do best. 

The context seemed rather obvious, maybe too obvious I thought. My audience would be all, yeah, yeah, we get it, Jim. You're beating that poor horse into glue. 

But such are the times we live in that for many, it wasn't. Obvious, that is.

So, to be clear: my statement was sarcastic commentary on those who during the last two elections said, Joe Biden doesn't inspire me, Hillary Clinton doesn't inspire me. Democrats don't inspire me. And here we are. 

I'm just not inspired. 

That's what they said. 

The thought of losing my rights, the threat of others losing theirs, that's not enough to motivate me. The threat of literal fascism marching in the streets of America, that's not enough to get me to the polls. A Supreme Court of partisan hacks bought and paid for by billionaires, I'm just not worried about that, not enough to get excited anyway. The rise of religious fanaticism just doesn't do it for me. Nor does violent racism, or  jingoism, nationalism, war, or the loss of our allies and a new alignment with our enemies. Hillary wears pantsuits, Joe is old, meh, let's see what's on Netflix. 

It's not my problem. 

Or, well, okay, maybe it is. But, still, I need to like the candidate. They have to excite me. They have to earn my vote. They have to connect with me. I need to be inspired

I need a unicorn. 

Or I'm just not going to show up. 

Right? You remember. 

What's that? Oh, you don't remember? Yeah, funny how short our collective memory is, ain't it? 

You can find those very comments right here on this blog. Take a look at my social media feeds. Roll back to 2015-16, 2019-20. I wrote thousands of words about it and got tens of thousand of comments -- from uninspired Progressives and far left liberals who told me they weren't going to show if they didn't get a pony and pat on the head.

Hell, look at the elections. Sure, Biden won the last time around, but it was a close thing and it shouldn't have been. 

Look at the House and tell me why there's a Republican majority hung like a millstone around Biden's neck? 

I wrote about it in such volume and in such frequency during the last twenty years of elections that now I am uninspired to write about it any more -- which is one of the reasons you see so few long-form essays from me these days. 

It really started to feel like pissing into the wind. 

But I digress. 

Look, you don't have to get it from me, you can find those very comments right now, today, across social media. Some are foreign agents trying to keep you home and put Trump back in office, true, but sadly many are not. 

(In fairness, I got thousands of responses from those who understood their duty and who intended to do it even if they had to crawl through broken glass to the polling station. Vote blue, no matter who, remember? And they did, thankfully)

But it was the ones who weren't inspired then and who tell me they're just not inspired now that I was sarcastically mocking. The ones mad about a war in a foreign land or inflation or global warming or whatever single issue cause is worth burning down civilization for. 

Joe Biden just doesn't inspire me, they say. 


Joe Biden doesn't inspire me, I said, ironically quoting those Americans. 


A lot of my audience got it. 

But a some didn't and, boy, were they mad. 

Whadayya mean, you ain't inspired! How dare you not be inspired! Why, Joe Biden is the most inspirational president since Jesus! He's practically Washington, Lincoln, and FDR all rolled into one! How can you not be inspired? What are you, some sort of Trump voter? 

One guy suggested I be hauled away by "brownshirts" as a fitting punishment for not being sufficiently inspired. 

When he found out I was being ironic, he got even madder and more insulting. 

He wasn't the only one. I've got an inbox here full of threats and hate and anger from self described lefties. 

I'm not sure what the goal is, the point of this hate.

I asked, but I never got an answer. 

Oh, you're not inspired? Weeell, I hope the Nazis come and haul you away! You ignorant dipshit!

What's the objective of wishing some (assumed) uninspired progressive into the cornfield? 

(for the record: I'm neither uninspired or a progressive. Nor am I actually a democrat. And I'm only a liberal in comparison to the hard right turn this country has made in recent years)

For my critic, it's not enough to vote for Joe Biden, you have to be inspired or you deserve to get murdered by fascists.  

Tell me, how is that better, more moral, more righteous than those MAGA Republicans threatening to murder and imprison the jurists who convicted Trump of crimes in New York? That's like wishing rape on someone sent to prison, as I pointed out to my critic. He didn't get it. That said I wouldn't wish that violation on anyone including Trump should he ever actually be held accountable for his crimes. And you shouldn't either -- if you're the people you say you are anyway. 

I get the anger. 

I feel it myself. 

But where's the moral high ground in wishing horror on your enemies -- or on those who, in point of fact, might even be your allies, except they're not enthusiastic about it enough to suit you? 

Which is it? The cheering or the results that matter?


Joe Biden doesn't inspire me.


Even if I hadn't meant that ironically, it's not a particularly controversial statement. 

Certainly not controversial enough to wish Nazis on someone. 

A politician doesn't inspire me and so what? I'm not in a cult. 

Do you have to be inspired to vote for the guy? 

Really? Do you have to be illuminated by a divine light from heaven accompanied by a chorus of angels in order to do your duty to the Republic? 

Do you really?

Me? I don't need to be inspired to vote for good and against bad. 

I don't need inspiration to stand against fascism and insanity and the violent implosion of civilization. 

I don't even need to be excited about it. 

I mean, if my choices are the runny shit sandwich that is Donald Trump or literally anything else, I'm going to march my uninspired ass down to the polling station, pushing aside armed goons in MAGA hats if I have to, and do my job as a citizen. 

I don't need to be excited about it. 

I don't need a pat on the head and an attaboy.

I don't need to be inspired. 

For more than twenty years in uniform, I did my duty to my country. There were damn few days I felt particularly inspired by it. Most of those days were goddamn grim indeed, that's the nature of war and of serving under leaders who lie to you and a citizenry who thinks you're some sort of monster or robot -- until they need you to be a hero. But again, I digress. 

It was my job and I did it, because if I didn't others would suffer for my dereliction. 

Likewise, I don't need inspiration to do my job as a citizen. 


Joe Biden doesn't inspire me and so what? 


You know who's inspired? 

Nazis. 

Shouting crowds of wannabe fascists. Oh, are they ever inspired. 

There was nothing more inspiring than a hundred thousand Germans shouting Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! as that charismatic madman ranted about Jews and communists and led them to ruin and death while heroic music thundered over the field and the Swastika banners cracked in the cold wind.

Goddamn, you talk about inspiring! 

A century later and there is no one more inspired than a crowd of dimwitted goons in MAGA hats and Fuck Your Feelings t-shirts shouting Make America Great Again! as another charismatic madman rants about sharks and batteries and building walls to keep the undesirables from getting a piece of America for themselves. 

The same feverish glow of inspiration shines in their eyes just as it did at Nuremberg all those years ago. 

The choices in this election couldn't be more stark. 

So a lot of people are fired up and, yeah, maybe they're finally inspired enough to vote for a politician, or at least against the other one. 

Maybe. 

Maybe it will be inspiration that decides the fate of our nation this time around. 

But what about those elections where it's not life and death? 

What about those elections where it's just the dogcatcher? Or the local mayor. Or a couple of judges. Or some ballot initiative that has no impact on you either way? 

What about those off-year elections where you're just voting on your Congressman? 

Nothing very inspiring about those elections, is there? 

So why show up at all? 

If you have to be inspired, well, you won't. 

And then others will suffer.

Because when you don't show up we end up here.


You see, it's not about inspiration. 


It's not about excitement. 

It's not about liking a politician. 

It's not about you

It's about civilization. 

It's about all those who depend on us. It's about giving voice to the voiceless. It's about lifting up others. It's about defending those who can't defend themselves and it's about standing as allies with those who can. 

It's about being on the right side of history. 

It's about leadership, it's about citizenship, it's about duty, it's about doing your goddamn job because it's your goddamn job and nobody else's. 

It's about being an adult. 

You don't need a pony or a pat on the head. 

And if you only show up because you're inspired, well, then you're a shitty excuse for a citizen and a human being.

Guess what? You're not a fucking hero.

You're something more, better, you're a American and it's your goddamn job to do the grunt work of democracy, not for yourself but for future generations. 

You don't need to be inspired. 

Instead, you must be the inspiration for others

If you want a better nation, be a better citizen. 


In doing what we ought we deserve no praise, because it is our duty.
-- Saint Augustine


Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Menace from Space

 


"The spear, the bow, the gun, and finally the guided missile had given him weapons of infinite range and all but infinite power. Without those weapons, often though he had used them against himself, Man would never have conquered his world. Into them he had put his heart and soul, and for ages they had served him well. But now, as long as they existed, he was living on borrowed time."
Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey


The Jewish Space Lasers Lady is back.


The Republican from Georgia (which sounds like the title of a 1950s science fiction pulp novel) Marjorie Taylor Greene, submitted an amendment to the Israel Aid funding bill that, if approved, would provide funds to "develop space laser technology for use on the Southern Border." 

Space laser technology.

For use on the Southern Border. 

Space lasers.

Again. I mean, you remember the space lasers, right? 


But what do I know? Greene asks. I just like to read a lot. 

She likes to read nutty antisemitic conspiracy theories about the Rothschild Investment Corporation and and she likes to imagine "The Jews" have some secret space program so advanced it can launch industrial grade orbital solar power stations without anyone actually noticing but some smelly beardo in a dirty bathrobe living in a run down trailer somewhere in West Virginia and posting his "findings" to Truth Social. And not just those launches, but somehow vast orbital acres of highly reflective solar panels necessary to such installations have likewise somehow gone unnoticed by not only military, government, and academic observatories but those amateur telescope wranglers who track everything from SpaceX launches to the International Space Station. 

But, yeah, what would she know, right? 


Greene says America deserves the "same type of defense for our border that Israel has and proudly uses." (emphasis mine).

Has and proudly uses. 

Space lasers. 

Apparently she thinks Israel has space lasers. Which they use to defend their borders (and if that's the case, it's hardly an advertisement given the current state of affairs). This system Which I guess was lofted by the vast Israeli space program is also used to start forest fires in California on the orders of some secret Jewish investment bank because something something gazpacho and sure it sounds crazy when you say it out loud on social media but that doesn't mean it's not actually bugfuck insane, does it?

Folks, we really have to stop electing lunatics to run our government. 

Yes, even you, Georgia. Seriously, just stop it. 


That said, imagine it. 


No, really, imagine weapons grade lasers in orbit.

Space-based laser weapons powerful enough to punch through 200km of increasingly thick atmosphere with enough energy to ... what exactly? fry people and vehicles on the ground? Start forest fires? defend Israeli borders? burn ants? I don't know and the amendment doesn't say, but, imagine that weapon. 

Imagine what you could do with it, not just on the border, but anywhere, anytime, against anyone

Now, imagine giving control of that weapon to ... who? Trump? Biden? Booger eating crazypants Ex-General Flynn? The Arizona Supreme Court? Who?

Yes, imagine that. 

But then, you don't have to imagine it. 

We already have this, you know. 

Well, not have have, but we've got fully developed engineering plans for a similar weapons system. One that would have actually worked. 

Project Thor. 

That's right: Rods from God. The finger of death, smiting the sinners from upon high. 

Orbital-based Kinetic Bombardment. 

And if the sound of that doesn't scare the shit out of you, you've never read enough military science fiction. 

Except it wasn't fiction. 

The whole thing was thought up back in the 1980s by a bunch of science fiction writers and NASA engineers led by Dr. Jerry Pournelle (who was both). Thor is a fully fleshed-out design for kinetic energy weapons. Telephone pole sized solid tungsten rods, dropped from low orbit. A satellite might hold a dozen or more of these missiles. You can drop one or all of them at once, then a solid fuel rocket engine deorbits the Thor impactor and simple basic missile electronics guide it precisely to target (you wonder why we ever developed something so expensive as the GPS system? You didn't think it was for the public good did you?). Tons of metal moving at hypersonic velocity, you don't need a warhead or explosives. Depending on a number of variables, the impact energy of these things could be measured in kilotons. They could hit nearly anywhere on earth's surface with the power of a nuclear bomb, a manmade meteor. No radiation, no fallout. You could drop one or a hundred, or thousands, globally, all at once. Scalable, flexible, the system could target a tank column or a missile silo, a single building or an entire city, a battle group at sea or even submerged submarines. 

Simple and elegant in design -- if elegant is a word you associate with mass death from the sky. 

You don't need any new technology. The materials and engineering have existed for decades. We could have built a basic system as far back as the 1970s. 

There could be no defense against it.

It was developed as part of Ronald Reagan's Star Wars program. It was expensive and it would get more expensive the more satellites you put into orbit (it got cheaper if you had a reusable launch system, hey, and now you know some of the impetus behind the Shuttle's development and why Reagan was willing to keep funding it) but not nearly as expensive as maintaining a massive nuclear arsenal and the associated delivery systems (except the Shuttle vastly exceeded its design and operating budgets and never even came close to lowering the cost of launching material into orbit, and it turned out the nuke ICBMs were cheaper after all). 

But it wasn't the expense that ultimately canceled the program, so much as the idea of the sheer power of such a weapon.

You see, Thor, once implemented, could be used to impose an ironclad dictatorship over friend and foe alike.

You could use it against targets in the Middle East and the Soviet Union (remember, it was still the Cold War), but you could also use it against uppity Americans. Or your allies, if they forgot who their friends were. 

Now, there were certainly those who salivated at the idea of such power, but eventually it was cancelled before any serious hardware was constructed. They never got a working platform into space (probably).

But...

If we had built it, can you imagine handing over control of such a thing to Donald Trump in 2016? The power of surgical strike tactical and/or strategic nuclear weapons without the associated downside of radiation, EMP, and long term contamination? Can you imagine handing control of that system over to the guy who wanted to know why we couldn't just nuke a hurricane? The guy who gleefully bragged on worldwide TV about dropping the "Mother of all Bombs" on Afghanistan?

That guy? 

Can you? 

Can you imagine that?

Who would he have used such weapons on? Think about that. Think about that power in any president's hands. 

I know Marjorie Taylor Greene is thinking about such power right now. 

I know she is. I don't have to guess. She told us. She keeps telling us.

That's all she and her ilk think about.

The power of God. And using it on us, those she considers undesirable and where have we heard this sort of thing before?

Yes, of course, Greene's amendment is idiotic. 

We're not going to build space lasers. Not yet. Not now. For the same reasons we didn't build Thor. We won't build Space Lasers for a lot of reasons. 


But this isn't really about that, is it?


It's about how these vile people think. 

It's about how they dream of having the absolute power of gods, being able to send down lightning from the heavens and fry the people they hate. Us.

The state of the art -- and the limitations of the budget -- won't let them do that. Yet.

But that doesn't make us safe from our leaders who dream about killing us. 

If you let them have power, they'll find a way to eliminate those they despise and they won't need science fiction weapons to do it. Whether it's cattle cars, camps, cyanide showers, and gas chambers or something more modern, they'll find a way just as those of their evil ilk always have. 

Because that's all they dream about. 

It's all they dream about. They tell you this in speeches, in their social media posts, in every amendment they write. They can not go a single minute without fantasizing about mass murder. 

Those like Marjorie Taylor Greene, like Trump, like the modern Republican Party, they don't build better futures. Not even for themselves. 

The only things they build are walls. 

The only things they create are new ways to to commit mass murder.

Their gods are hate and fear and profit. 

If you give them power, they'll use it to kill. To burn. To destroy. To tear down civilization and bury history in mass graves next to all those they despise. They told us so. 

It's all they dream about.

It's right there in their words, they don't even try to hide it. 

It's aways fascinating to me, the irony when someone whose entire identity is vested in some charismatic wannabe dictator calls me a communist.

A communist. 

Fuck. 

I'm not a communist. Never have been. And in fact I spent a not insignificant fraction of my adult life in the uniform of my country standing against communism. I despise communism. 

I'm not even a socialist -- not that these drooling halfwits can tell the difference between socialism and communism, or care to find out.

Hell, I barely qualify as a liberal most of the time. 

And you wouldn't have to read very far back in the archives of this blog to figure that out. But the truly ironic part is where most of these people proudly wear their Christianity on their sleeve. A religion whose own founding prophet allegedly told his adherents in no uncertain terms: feed the hungry, clothe the poor, heal the sick, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven, judge not least ye by judged... 

And we could have done that. 

Even if you don't believe in that god, even if you don't adhere to that religion, those are good ideas. Feed the hungry. Clothe the poor. Heal the sick. The Golden Rule. We could have done all of that. We could have fed everyone by now. We could have clothed and sheltered everyone on the planet. We could have healed almost everyone, or at least made sure everyone had effective quality medical care. We could all be wealthy. We could all be entitled to liberty and justice. We could have made this world a paradise for all, instead of embracing an ideology that promises salvation to only a select few and eternal misery to all the rest. 

We could have done that.

Mad?

You damn right, I'm mad. 

Scared?

Yes, that too. 

I'm fucking furious at all the things we could have dared, and did not. 

I'm terrified of what these dirty rotten selfish greedy miserable fanatical sons of bitches will do next, should we let them have power again. 

We better show up. 

We better do our duty. 

We'd better stand fast, shoulder to shoulder, against the fall of night, or one day real soon they'll find a way to burn us all down and civilization along with us. 

You want a better nation? 

Hell, you want a future where our leaders don't dream about murdering us? 

Then you have to be a better citizen. That's where it starts. 

 

"Pffaww, They're a pair! They don't like anything. They don't even like the dachshund. Who doesn't like dachshunds? They're little parcels of dog-shaped goodness. I've known Jalabite Hegemon ships that give up conquest and start little farmsteads just so they can have happy dachshunds. Everyone likes dachshunds, everywhere in the universe. Well, except on Bithomorency. People there got into a war with a refugee column of evolutionarily advanced dachshund super soldiers fleeing the destruction of their home world. The wire-haired marines took out an entire town. Two hundred thousand dead. And it was a tragic misunderstanding. The dachshunds only stopped to ask for some biscuits, automated defense systems fired on them. There's a lesson: never give control of your space weapons to an unsupervised machine. Schoolboy error.”
― Nick Harkaway, Doctor Who: Keeping Up with the Joneses