Democracy oligarch style

Below are the numbers reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Supreme Court margin that ended enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Effectively restarting the clock on the long fight to end racist, partisan voting practices across our great democracy, for the advantage of entitled, seething anti-majoritarian oligarchs.

Shelby County v Holder was a strategically engineered case that sneakily challenged reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act by eliminating enforcement in historically racist jurisdictions, like Shelby County.

The carefully tailored lawsuit was brought by a secretive cabal of billionaire reactionaries, who secretly paid a lot of money to at least two of the justices in the 5-4 majority, to overturn the will of the people. And they won 5-4.

Check out these numbers again.

At least two of the justices in the five-four majority had glaring appearances of impropriety. The chief Justice’s wife had been paid millions as a headhunter finding talented reactionary lawyers to work for law forms, including the one representing the plaintiff in this case. The wife of Clarence Thomas, Ginni, a far-right activist lawyer with much more than a housewife’s power (on board of directors, Council for National Policy) and influence, was secretly paid a tidy sum by Leonard Leo of Federalist Society fame, by way of a non-profit that was also supporting the plaintiff in this democracy destroying case.

Can you say 5-4 suck it cucks? Sure you can.


Pain meds and personality changes

I had my left knee replaced fifteen days ago in a procedure so traumatic, apparently, that the anesthesiologist administers a drug that induces amnesia to erase the entire process as though it never happened (except for waking up with a new knee and a lot of pain). They gave me oxycodone and tylenol for the pain.

Oxycodone (and the entire mass murdering, philanthropic Sackler family should all go to actual hell — editor’s note) works to significantly dampen much of the pain about 70% of the time. The other 30% of the time it just addles your brain, dredges up your lowest impulses while making you irritable and subject to tantrums; it literally turns you into Rush Limbaugh (who was famously, and criminally, addicted to it).

Two nights after my surgery, as the pain continued to burn full blast in my knee, after a full, maximum dose, I found myself angrily rattling some papers in front of an imaginary microphone improvising a fast-paced racist, misogynistic, homophobic tirade in a kind of growly pirate voice. Through my haze I could see that it was terrifying poor Sekhnet, my loving caretaker. Why anyone would become addicted to this drug is a mystery to me, unless you are a Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded genius with talent on loan from God Himself, I suppose.

I called the surgeon’s PA the next day and told her this. She laughed at the Limbaugh bit (I wasn’t laughing, I had a paper in my hand, about to start rattling) and prescribed an alternative opioid, dilaudid, generic name hydromorphone. I didn’t find it quite as effective against the pain, at least not at first, but eventually switched over to it. I was thankful to no longer feel like Rush Limbaugh, and found, to my surprise, that it was a relief feeling like the MyPillow Guy…

Easy Enough, no?

After being told to do 180 repetitions of each of two painful knee flexing exercises two days after surgery, and being given an uncomfortable position, involving a pyramid of pillows, to sleep in (impossible to even maintain after about 120 reps that day) I was close to turning into Rush Limbaugh from oxycodone. The narcotic did not dampen the extreme pain but made me so angry I was on the verge of becoming an irrational racist, misogynist, homophobe.

I eventually found the sense to drag myself into the other room where, sitting at the computer, I eventually found this, from the National Health Service in England. This information is contained nowhere in the pages the hospital and PT folks left me with before or after my knee replacement. Item number two allowed me to go to bed and get some sleep, which is the best and only medicine when you are overwhelmed, exhausted and in pain the drugs don’t fix.

How fucking hard would it have been for someone who treated me to impart this valuable info to me, folks?


Disorientation is a terrible feeling.  When you lose the ability to get your bearings, to keep things in perspective, the world becomes maddeningly, dizzyingly unnavigable.  Landmarks you have always used to get around transform into weird objects without meaning.  The torture of sleep deprivation is disorientation, you can’t figure out which way is up and all you want is sleep, but enemies are forcefully preventing it.  The stuff of nightmares, that.  It is often said, and I believe it:  the toughest person in the world will be broken by the torture of sleep deprivation in the end.

I had surgery to replace a worn out left knee joint three days ago.  Before the surgery I saw on my pre-surgical medical report that I was a high AWOL risk.  There was no explanation of what that meant, of course, or even a spelling out of the acronym AWOL.  The internet provided the usual one: Absent Without Official Leave.  In anesthesiologist parlance AWOL apparently means delirium after anesthesia.   As it turned out, they were right to assess me a high AWOL risk, apparently I was kicking with the leg they had just reconstructed as they wheeled me out of the operating room.  I have no memory of this because they injected me with something that caused complete amnesia during the surgery.  I recall being wheeled down a long, cold, metal corridor, I remember arriving in the operating room.  The next thing I remember is waking up hours later, saying hello to Sekhnet, then I was in my hospital room in a deep sleep for two hours or so.

Then, no more sleep for Bonzo.  The hospital, it turns out, is not a place for those who want to sleep.  Every time I chanced to fall asleep someone was calling my name, asking if it was OK to wake me up, inquiring about what I wanted for dinner and breakfast the next day, if I was comfortable, if they could take a little blood, if I needed anything (besides sleep).   My roommate, it turned out, was unable to fall asleep without the sounds of commercial radio.  He did not use headphones. I heard him explaining to someone at some point that he didn’t like them. 

When I woke up from a brief sleep at 4 a.m. Billy Joel was playing, followed by a louder commercial.  Apparently the station was playing a Billy Joel marathon, I heard several of his greatest hits, interspersed with enthusiastic exhortations from loud voiced shills.  Finally, when I realized where the music was coming from, I got a nurse to go over and shut the fucker’s phone off, fell into a deep sleep and fifteen minutes later was visited by another concerned hospital staff member with an urgent question. I never saw the surgeon.

The amount of pain I had after the operation came as something of a shock to me.  One medical site I later visited said the pain after surgery is no worse than the worst pre-surgical knee pain.  This statement is not true.  The pills they gave me to kill the pain, Rush Limbaugh’s favorite narcotic, did not really control the pain, though they combined quite efficiently with the anesthesia to kill the functioning of my usually clockwork bowels, as predicted  By the second night at home I’d be as disoriented and snarling as Medal of Freedom winner Limbaugh himself.  The reality that I was sent home with pain pills that did not control the pain was a bit disorienting, as was the lack of a heads up about severe pain and any clue about how to find comfort, and after a second consecutive terrible night’s sleep (my Fitbit rated it 43 sleep quality, extremely poor, a new record low) I greeted the physical therapist, a very pleasant man who promised me he’d begin torturing me as soon as the paperwork was done.  He was as good as his word.

He had me do three sets of 20 of a painful knee flexing exercise.  He told me to rest 30 seconds and do 20 more.  Then 30 seconds rest and twenty more.  “Do these three times a day,” he instructed.  He showed me two other exercises with the same instructions.  The sheet he gave me advised the patient to do sets of ten, two sets, and to repeat this twice a day.   I did the math as my new knee was throbbing angrily.  He’d had me do 60 reps times three, 180 daily.   The instructions he gave me called for 20 total reps, times two, 40 a day.   What is wrong with this picture?

He then had me lie on my back and created a support with three pillows, one expertly folded under my ankle.  The underside of my knee was not touching the pillows.  The position was to reduce the swelling and allow the fluids to return to the rest of my body, aided by gravity.  “You must sleep in this position,” he instructed me, warning me that trying to sleep on my side, as I always have, would result in the leg being bent in the fetal position, which was the worst possible way I could sleep after knee reconstruction surgery.   Then he said goodbye for the weekend, arranging to see me again on Monday.

After the second set of 60 reps of the first exercise he showed me (120 for the day), my new knee was inconsolable.   I was in so much pain that my final oxycodone/Tylenol cocktail of the day could only make a shallow dent, I tried to relax in the position he told me to sleep in.  It was uncomfortable to hold the position, let alone try to sleep in it. 

I became disoriented, found that although the hillbilly heroin was not effective against the pain, it was disorienting the hell out of me.  I felt myself turning into fucking Rush Limbaugh, I was close to raging.  How was it that nobody at the hospital had impressed on me that the crucial thing was to get a good night’s sleep, no matter how I had to sleep, and that it would do no damage to my recovery to sleep with legs slightly bent.  

I angrily pawed through the surgery recovery guide the hospital had provided, searching for even a word about the pain that ALL patients experience after the surgery and the difficulty sleeping that makes an internet search for “sleeping positions” autofill “after knee reconstruction surgery”.  Nobody can sleep without some good advice and some luck, and nobody can begin to recover without sleep.  The hospital’s  guide book went directly from successful surgery to rehab, with a short stop to note that necessary pain medication will provide a smooth transition back to total health, assuming one follows the directions of the rehab folks and does the work.

As I vented, Sekhnet, my devoted caretaker, became more and more upset.   She played me a guided relaxation track which I listened to without comment, somehow restraining myself for her sake, at least as long as the track lasted.

In the end I limped into the other room and spent a while on the internet trying to determine whether I could safely sleep without harming my recovery, something that after a decent night’s sleep seems quite obvious.  I felt much better after 7 and a half hours of sleep and I have no recollection of the positions I slept in to achieve that excellent result.  But sleep was exactly what I needed.  My attitude and pain level today were both much, much better.  I am trying to avoid the hillbilly heroin, having taken only one dose today.  Fucking Rush fucking Limbaugh and the fucking Sackler family of unaccountable criminal billionaire drug pushing shithogs.

And while I am cursing despicable forces at work let me not forget fucking rapacious capitalism, concerned only with profit for the wealthiest among us and not honesty, generosity, help, kindness or anything else that cannot be monetized and transferred to those most deserving of our citizens.

MAGA wins gun debate! send cash!

A day after any major massacre of children in the USA, rich, powerful parasites will run ads stressing that taking away people’s assault rifles is a tyranny akin to putting them in death camps.

YouTube ad from US Concealed Carry Association for SAVING LIVES (“good guys with guns”):

Because while some may claim that bullets are now the number one cause of death for American children, only more good guys with all kinds of unregulatable weapons can protect them from those who would drink their blood after they cut your throat in your bed or murder you moments after your innocent birth. Send $50 and join the Winner’s Circle in our fight to Make America Great Again or be on the wrong side of righteous retribution!

Thoughts and prayers

Happy Birthday to Jesus from the family of Andy Ogles, the newly elected George Santos of Tennessee’s brand new gerrymandered 5th district. The place where America’s gun, the AR-15 assault rifle, killed 6 more in a Christian school the other day. Andy says we have to wait, we don’t know all the “details” of the 130th mass shooting of 2023 yet, and arm ourselves in the meantime.

Low tactic

When you find yourself without a good argument, getting frustrated with the person you can’t convince without him bringing in disputed facts, don’t lower yourself to the ad hominem attack “you’re being a lawyer, this isn’t a trial, or a prosecution and don’t try to turn this into an inquisition, I won’t let you put me on trial, I’m not the one on trial here.”  Understandable though it may be to react this way when you feel cornered, it doesn’t help your case and it makes you look bad.

Especially when you deploy it against a reluctant and underpaid former lawyer who hated the idiotic adversarial system and was drawn to problem-solving and compromise every time over zero-sum trial by adversarial combat. 

Look at the parade of ever more marginal lying scumbags who continue to bring a flotilla of frivolous, legally incoherent, evidence-free claims on behalf of a vindictive, lying sociopath and his pernicious disinformation machine.  Those lawyers are behaving as we expect the accursed stereotype of the “anything for a dollar,” or an intoxicating whiff of power, lawyers to act. 

That the licenses of these lying mercenary dicks were not immediately yanked by the legal profession is another proof of the moral idiocy of an adversarial system in which a lawyer/client can use the courts strictly for delay, expense and vexation, with no consequence to themselves. They can justify anything he or his client can imagine might, in some world, not be, technically, an outright transactional lie fraudulently presented to the court in a way that would risk their law license. Satan is often depicted as a lawyer in a very expensive suit.

So when you are about to complain, when your side of argument loses sight of the agreed facts, take a breath instead of playing the lawyer card a lawyer to assert it’s unfair, and frustrating to argue with someone trained in the martial art of law. Stop and consider: isn’t this really a good time to take a breath and pause, let the hot emotion cool a bit? Isn’t that deep breath a much better alternative to possibly insulting a friend and making them antagonistic in return?  

Short answer:  yes.

Anger, anyone?

Anger is a common, dangerous emotion, a momentary draining of all goodwill and the ability to think.  It’s at the root of all violence, and it always makes the violent person feel completely justified while they are raging. 

At the same time anger is an important warning system that can tell us when to get out of a combustible situation. 

Complicating this complex emotion even more:  show anger and you are instantly seen as the aggressor, no matter how relentless the provocation may have been, no matter how reasonable and patient you may have been before getting angry. 

The most pernicious anger, in a certain way, is the anger that is always repressed, denied, justified as not being anger at all.

There are people, my mother was one, who fly into a rage if you mention their anger.  It’s not, in their mind, that they get mad, they are just outraged that you would unfairly accuse them of something that couldn’t be further from the truth.   My friend Mark Friedman was a great example of this angry denial of anger.  He would fold his arms across his chest and glare churlishly at any suggestion that his anger may have played any part in his most recent conflict.  In my experience, anger deniers often seethe quietly at the suggestion that they are experiencing anger and may not be seeing things clearly because they’re angry. They tend not to scream or punch you.

Hey, we call it getting mad.  “Don’t get mad, get even”.  Anger is, actually, an evolutionarily important form of temporary madness. It plays an important survival role, but it can also disable certain functions. There is the famous experiment where researchers wired the insula, the part of the brain that lights up when you fall in love, have a creative idea, are in a flow state, and when you get angry.  They have you answer some moderately nuanced questions and tally a baseline score.  Then they make you angry and watch your insula light up.  They ask similar questions and find that you are basically unable to answer or answering them “fuck you!”

This is the engine fueling the vast profitability of social media — keep the person angry, they keep clicking and the ad revenues keep cah-chinging. 

It is the mechanism at work in MAGA-world, in someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene’s brain.  She shows up at a meeting the other day, sits next to a Republican election expert who confirms that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election.  She immediately, very pleasantly and confidently, tells him that thousands of dead people voted in Georgia in 2020, that there was widespread Democrat [sic] fraud, that Trump won Georgia by a huge margin, that this guy is no expert at all, basically that he can kiss her privileged white ass.  The clip of her owning this RINO probably goes viral (Marjorie leaves the meeting immediately after creating this contrarian content, according to the election expert) and Marjorie is back in the gym, having herself filmed heroically doing pullups and pushups, for another social media/fundraising post.

If you are mad as hell, and believe Biden is a commie puppet on the payroll of his son’s laptop, you’ll receive a jolt of energy watching Marjorie angrily tell this RINO cuck so-called expert to suck it and then watching her powerfully work out in her crossfit outfit.  That’s how anger fuels anger and keeps the loop of denial of anything but your anger going.

Anger removes cause and effect thinking, you simply can’t track back to follow an argument that does not conform to what your anger is telling you is right.  Anger is an insistent bastard, if it is fed, and one of its main tricks is making all nuance disappear.

Here’s an aggravating example Ill try to describe dispassionately.  There has long been a hellish standoff between the Israeli government and the Palestinians.  You can call it many things, but none describe a good situation.  The far-right government in charge of Israel now, like the far right everywhere, is fueled by anger and fear.  The Israeli right is angry that the anti-semitic world is unfairly villainizing Israel for protecting herself and they fear that the countless enemies of Israel will destroy her if she is not strong, vigilant and aggressive in fighting all enemies. 

Anti-semitism is on the rise worldwide and there are millions who hate both Jews and Zionists, so they are not crazy to feature these things.  It is only their “solution” that is… well, that fuels the very things they fear and hate.

Many supporters of Israel, even ones who dislike this far-right cabal that has been in charge for a while, chafe at the word apartheid being used to describe things like the series of security checkpoints Palestinians must spend hours a day lining up at to enter and leave Israel, the two sets of roads, the inequitable distribution of water in the occupied territories and so on.

Without taking sides or a position, and refraining from calling the unholy Israeli coalition of ordinary authoritarians and religious extremists a bunch of fucking Nazis, I will describe a tactic used by supporters of Palestinian rights (and it is beyond denying that millions of otherwise innocent human beings live in atrocious poverty in crowded camps and cities).  It is the same tactic that brought down the apartheid government of South Africa:  Boycott, Divest, Sanction.  Many liberals call for this pressure to be placed on Israel and there is heated debate about this tactic. 

On the plus side it is nonviolent and it already worked to end brutal segregation in South Africa.  On the minus side, it stigmatizes a fellow democracy and doesn’t guarantee a just resolution of an intractable crisisBernie Sanders, for example, has repeatedly stated that he does not support BDS against Israel.

Lobbyists for Israel have called for a law here in the US making it a felony for any company to support BDS.  Under this proposed law, if you are a corporation, business or wealthy individual and you endorse BDS — even if not practicing it yourself —  you are guilty of a felony punishable by a large fine and in some situations prison time.  Bernie Sanders, for one, is against this law and has stated his opposition publicly.  One obvious problem with the proposed anti-BDS law is that it criminalizes otherwise protected First Amendment expression.

But, Bernie Sanders, in the minds of many, because he opposes this extreme law, is an antisemite and self-hating Jew who supports BDS.

This math is so easy to do if you are angry.  Nuance is impossible to see when you’re mad.  There is no difference, when your insula is glowing from anger, between someone opposing a law that does violence to the First Amendment and someone who supports the worldwide strangulation of a great democracy and the end of protection of all Jews everywhere from annihilation.

Never Again.

Anger is a motherfucker and the most destructive emotional force we are up against.  It can be fanned into flames that will burn everything you love.  Any lie is good enough to support indignation and one lie builds on another.  The angry mind can’t make distinctions, which is why a constant “FUCK YOU!” is a perfectly valid response to anything you don’t want to hear.

The political is also gruellingly personal

It is not novel to observe that the personal and the political are closely related.  In my case, the present political situation is also a grim, constant magnification of my personal experience. For those of us who are personally susceptible, who find constant hideous echoes of our personal experience in the political landscape, following the news produces a form of PTSD.  

Gabor Maté made an interesting point about PTSD.  Apparently of 100 soldiers sent into a hellish war zone, like house to house fighting in cities in Iraq where it is impossible to even know who the enemy is, only a certain percentage will emerge with PTSD (I think it was something like 15%).  Every one of the soldiers who wind up with PTSD have childhood trauma that makes them susceptible to it.  Not to say that the other soldiers are happy about the hell they’ve been sent to, or don’t have the occasional nightmare about it, but the exact re-experiencing of the original pain and terror happens only to a select few.  So it is with the news.

The personal is political:  there is a progressive personality type and a repressive personality type, an authoritarian personality type (that can go either way politically) and a type that embraces differences.  There are inquisitive, talkative, collaborative types and close-minded, taciturn, competitive types. It’s easy enough to observe that some types are prone, by personality and life experience, to be liberal, others lean conservative.  Some believe in harsh punishment, support the death penalty and others abhor the thought of a possibly innocent, usually poor, person being executed (as happens frequently) and embrace policies like restorative justice initiatives.  

We have seen a deliberate, massively well-funded project (to be fair, engineered by the far right, guys like Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch, and their highly effective network of morbidly wealthy fellow traveler influencers) to divide these types into uncompromising partisan camps that must fight the other side’s evil to the death.  Who does this simplistic, eternal, total war benefit?  The people who already enjoy every benefit.  It comes at the expense of everyone else.

On a grand scale we see the triumph of selfishness, greed, heartlessness, corruption and flagrant lawlessness among the powerful and the hypocritical application of harsh law, even spontaneous death sentences for powerless citizens suspected of minor crimes.  It can all be explained in an anodyne, New York Times style way that makes the status quo look less grotesque.  

For example, economists of capitalism have a neutral term for the human cost to making vast profits — like babies born deformed and clusters of cancer near runoff from a chemical plant — externalities.  You have to pay these poor people a certain amount in legal settlements, so your profit is slightly offset by the expense, but in the name of raising stock value to shareholders, externalities are an acceptable and unavoidable part of doing business, if the profit is otherwise high enough.   Some would say that decision makers who factor such “externalities” into the cost of doing business belong out of business and in prison, but that’s a political view, incompatible with the “freedom” we all enjoy here in the free market.

When millions marched, during a pandemic, to protest the intolerable injustice of ongoing police killing of unarmed civilians for minor offenses — or none — they were met with teargas, tanks, helicopters, horseback charges by police, batons, handcuffs.  The protesters were treated like an insurgent army, a force the right-wing administration claimed were a deadly, terroristic threat to national security that had to be neutralized with superior force.   What’s up with that?

“If you are angry about something you claim gives you the right to be angry, then FUCK YOU! You want to protest so-called state violence?  We’ll give you some violence you can take back home with you, when you get out of jail, asshole.”

This is the predictable reaction of a narcissistic psychopath.  They will unleash the full force of whatever they’ve got to defeat anyone who has a problem with how they need to do things.

I learned, only very recently, at 66 years-old, that I’ve been shaped by and fighting narcissists my entire life.   A few months ago I described the gruesome parade of many of my closest longtime friends as highly intelligent, darkly funny, prone to anger/angrily denying anger, deeply damaged, unable to compromise, determined to win no matter what the cost, etc.  I did not yet know that this constellation of traits also describes the narcissist.  I guess what made me finally understand what I was actually up against was suddenly being confronted by a series of outright lies, desperately, brazenly spat into my face in an attempt to make me submit.

Narcissism can be very subtle, as I also learned.  The fact that my narcissistic father never needed to outright lie to “win” our arguments early on hid the cardinal trait of all narcissists from me: falseness.  Without that lying piece I could see my father as disturbed, a jerk, an asshole, a tragic man, etc. but his overarching personality type, narcissist, was until very recently hidden from me.   

Now it is all I can see, when I doom-scroll the news, hear George Santos angrily rebut the true charges that he’s a lying sack of shit, the passionate calls to impeach Biden, (details of charges to follow), a strutting donkey of less than average donkey intelligence calling for a national divorce, a spineless political worm’s defense of the “transparent” move of handing all January 6th security footage to a propagandist for autocracy and on down the list.

Narcissists rule, yo, as they were born to do.  They always have the same answer to every concern you might raise “FUCK YOU.”  They may say this harshly, or politely as can be, but the answer will always be a close variation on that staunch proposition.   “You want to know why I have nothing but contempt for you, asshole? How about FUCK YOU, that fix the boo-boo?”

“And have a very nice day.”