Anarchist Jurisdiction Propaganda

Can you believe what we are subjected to in New York City, walking down the street, minding our own business?

What next from these antifa/BLM liar sons of bitches? Hydroxychloroquine doesn’t cure Covid-19? The plague was not deliberately made in a Chinese lab by Satanic Democrat pedophile cannibals in league with Hunter Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky to rig the US election?

Seriously, what next? Sleepy Joe Biden honestly won the election in Georgia, along with that slick Black preacher and the smart-ass Jew journalist who “won” the run-off that had zero electoral integrity (before Georgia fixed its corrupt election laws)? Give me a break, 11,780 votes, come on fellas! You expect me to believe Biden won the Electoral College without massive illegal help from Ukraine?

Polls show that over 60% of Republicans know the real deal (Biden is as illegitimate as Obama was), which is why 43% of Republicans polled are dead set on freedom from tyranny, rather than obsequious obedience to the evil, coercive nanny State that is using “science” to take all freedom away by forcing “vaccinations” on them as it forcibly takes their guns away, craps on Christmas and God — and the Bible– no more Bibles! — and plots to kill their unborn babies.

Actual billboard in West Virginia:

Students for Life of West Virginia Appeals to Sen. Manchin to Continue  Defending the Filibuster on Billboards Up Now — SFLA Action

By the way, ever wonder what might have happened differently if that peaceful crowd that swarmed into the Capitol on January 6th actually did hang Mike Pence?

Letter to the editor, NY Times

To the Editor:

I have to question why an article that concludes “(t)urnout for the vote was low, at only about half of all eligible workers, suggesting that neither Amazon nor the union had overwhelming support” was headlined  Why Amazon Workers Sided With the Company Over a Union.  If the article was PR written by Jeff Bezos himself, it could not have been more faithful to his point of view or desired outcome.  Fittingly, it ends with Mr. Bezos promising shareholders he’ll do even better to make his lowest paid employees even happier.

The authors observe that if the estimated 25% of the workforce that “turned over” during the three month organizing/voting period had stayed, unionization likely would have prevailed.

Among crucial issues unaddressed by the article, if Amazon workers side with Amazon, why does Amazon have such massive worker turnover, even during a pandemic and economic hard times in one of the poorest states in the US?

The reader is left to piece together, from the “wish” expressed by Amazon supporters that they could have more than a 30 minute break during their ten hour shifts, that working conditions might be less than ideal at the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon fulfillment center.

The reader is left completely uninformed about the “aggressive” (and multi-million dollar) measures Amazon took to defeat the union and dissuade half of its workforce from voting at all.

We get only the gentlest hint of the famously oppressive conditions at the Amazon warehouses that cause so many to quit their jobs, even during an international health emergency. As though the right to urinate when it’s urgent is irrelevant compared to a generous minimum wage and company provided health insurance.

Draft of a letter to the Grey Lady

I find myself so churned up these days, as truth and outrageous fiction have become interchangeable in politics, and even reasonable medical advice is weaponized for “political” ends in our 40% John Birch Society America. 

The news is an ongoing nightmare to me, as things that should not be in controversy at all are continually fought to the death — you say reality, I say Q!

Since the Chauvin trial for killing the handcuffed George Floyd began on March 29th, only 64 civilians, a mere three a day, have lost their lives during encounters with police, (50% of them have been white) [1]. The question everyone on the right is asking — why are Blacks and liberals claiming there’s a problem with police violence, or the disproportionately racist application of police violence?

Now we have new headlines informing us that Republicans are starting to unite in their opposition to a commission to study if prominent Republicans organized, funded and fomented the January 6 riot at the Capitol (and let it rage for hours, unchecked).  Of course they are united in opposing it. You would be too!

So, in the absence of something more concrete to do about anything today, I’m taking Sekhnet’s advice and drafting a letter to the NY Times about their recent “puff piece” for Jeff Bezos.

 

To the Editor:

I have to question why an article that concludes “Turnout for the vote was low, at only about half of all eligible workers, suggesting that neither Amazon nor the union had overwhelming support” was headlined Why Amazon Workers​ ​Sided With the Company Over a Union​. If the article had been PR written by Jeff Bezos himself, it could not have been more faithful to his point of view or desired outcome.Fittingly, it ends with Mr. Bezos promising shareholders he’ll do even better to make his lowest paid employees even happier.  

The authors observe that if the estimated 25% of the workforce that “turned over” during the three month organizing/voting period had stayed, the union likely would have prevailed.

Among crucial issues unaddressed by the article, if Amazon workers in fact sided with their employer over the union, and love their well-paying $15/hr. jobs and health insurance from day one, why does Amazon have such massive worker turnover, even during a pandemic and economic hard times in one of the poorest states in the US?

The reader is left to piece together, from the “wish” expressed by Amazon supporters that they could have more than a 30 minute break during their ten hour shifts, that working conditions might be less than ideal at the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon fulfillment center.

The reader is left completely uninformed about the “aggressive” (and multi-million dollar) measures Amazon took to defeat the union and dissuade half of its workforce from voting at all.

We get only the gentlest hint of the famously oppressive conditions at the Amazon warehouses that cause so many to quit their jobs, even in one of the poorest states in America, during an international health emergency. As though the right to urinate when it’s urgent is irrelevant compared to a generous minimum wage and company provided health insurance.

Eliot Widaen, New York, NY

Mr. Widaen is a wild-eyed hothead who is often angered by the status quo-defending distortions regularly published by the Journal of Record.

[1]

Grrr… grrrrr!!!

The NY Times has got me by the throat lately, I just read this beautifully crafted, non-judgmental paragraph, in the article cited above, about the 64 civilians who died in encounters with police since the Chauvin trial began three weeks ago, that is making me foam at the mouth slightly:

And their [police killings] fallout has been wrenchingly familiar, from the graphic videos that so often emerge to the protests that so often descend into scuffles between law enforcement and demonstrators on streets filled with tear gas. Just as one community confronts one killing, another happens.

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Reasonable, constitutionally protected protests that are typically met by police clad in anti-riot gear, deploying crowd dispersal methods designed for use against violent insurgents “so often descend into scuffles” on streets “filled with tear gas” (probably terrorist tear gas, no?, beautiful thing, that passive voice — who released the tear gas that filled the streets “filled with tear gas”?) 


Makes me wanna holler.

Public Relations and lying that’s perfectly cool

The biggest, most dangerous lies we have to contend with, the most far-reaching in their effects, are promulgated by experts in spreading information that favors one party to the detriment of all others. This is called Public Relations, PR. PR is the art of telling the public selected things that will make them accept “externalities” like poverty wages, dead babies, toxic drinking water, thousands of bankrupted farmers dead by suicide. Best of all, from a PR perspective, is to make this ugly shit disappear entirely, so we can have harmony, prosperity and a good business climate. Yer proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats (except for the many already submerged and out of sight, which goes without saying).

There is a term in the law that excuses a certain kind of blustering lying, it is called “puffery”. Presumably you puff yourself up to make your threat look bigger and more terrible than it is, to make the other party back down. There’s no crime in puffery, nor has any lawyer been punished in any way for what can be justified as mere puffery. Puffery is your proverbial slippery slope down to a trough of shit, and many an outright public lie has been defended as mere puffery.

Public Relations is closely related to commercial advertising, indistinguishable from it, actually. The techniques of Public Relations, creating a desirable one-sided story to influence the public to accept whatever it is you’re trying to do, are identical to the ones used by propagandists. Propaganda, most people believe, is a bad thing, since it hides the truth and makes a false case for things like war, discrimination, genocide.

But Public Relations, you understand, is a completely different field, and basically morally neutral, clean, even its dirty little sibling political advertising. One key thing about successful public relations messages — they should be as ubiquitous as possible. I offer a couple of examples that spring to mind.

I just heard a great episode of Krista Tippett’s insightful On Being. Every week she engages in discussion with someone putting spiritual insight into practice to make the world a better place. She spoke to the co-founder and director of Theatre of War, a group that stages ancient Greek tragedies to foster audience discussion of our own traumas [1]. It is a moving discussion, very pertinent in our traumatic moment in history, and I recommend it.

In thanking her sponsors at the end, Krista reads this perfectly articulated 8 second PR message from a billionaire philanthropist named Charles Koch:

Well-born, iron-willed billionaire engineer Charles Koch has done more than perhaps anyone in US history to bring about a violently divided society where the 0.01% percent have as much wealth as the bottom 80%, enshrining his inherited advantages in perpetuity through canny political action, funding dozens of “think tanks” and other politically influential institutions, aided by an army of lawyers and ruthlessly effective PR. Now, as his death approaches, he wants to be remembered as a generous and courageous collaborator dedicated to discovering and elevating tools to cure intolerance and bridge differences.

Sure, after a lifetime dedicated to hobbling democracy, suppressing wages, fighting integration, destroying the environment and all ecological regulation, creating influential far-right organizations, funding the Tea Party “revolution,” sowing the ground for Trump, packing the federal courts with judges of his extreme political stripe — why not take a bow as a man dedicated to curing intolerance?

Depending on your political orientation you may be sad or happy about the recent defeat of the unionizing efforts in an Alabama sweatshop run by the world’s wealthiest man. It was a one-sided loss for the union advocates. Most Amazon workers in the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse voted not to unionize, after Amazon spent millions in what many see as a coordinated effort to intimidate its workers. The anti-union effort worked beautifully. Now is the time for continued PR.

The turnover rate for Jeff Bezos’s wonderful, well-paid warehouse jobs (who doesn’t enjoy pissing in a bottle?) is around 100% a year, we learn. These great, very demanding jobs burn people out pretty quickly, apparently. But pay no attention to that, PR to the rescue. You can watch smiling actors of all colors and genders talk about how great it is to work for the world’s richest man, how it has enriched their lives and given them a brighter future. These ads are ubiquitous, as are Amazon’s messages of support for a $15 minimum wage from a wealthy man who already voluntarily pays that large hourly sum to his well-paid, happy workers.

I love the way the Amazon swoosh, as carelessly artless a swoosh as there is in the world of branding, idiotically, and likely unintentionally, slashes and defaces the word “wages”. It also seems to put a crudely drawn question mark at the end. Talk about Freudian slips. But the point is made. A company that clawed back its generous $2/hr hazard pay increase two months into the pandemic, fired and vilified workers who protested against unhealthy working conditions during the pandemic, and paid dozens of expert consultants $3,200 a day to help crush an attempt to unionize an Amazon warehouse (success!), is very generous and changing lives for the better for more than a million low-skilled, low-paid workers.

To round out this PR piece, let’s go to former Attorney General Bill Barr and his boss, the former president who, very much like George Washington before him, could not tell a lie.

You will recall that in their attempt to hold on to power leading up to the rigged 2020 election they were working on an American Carnage scenario. Their story was that irrationally enraged Blacks and their radical allies were overrunning Anarchist Jurisdictions, where hopelessly liberal mayors and governors were allowing these massive demonstrations, these riots, and showing terrible disloyalty to the President. The spin was that these out of control mobs, rampaging for absolutely no reason and seemingly enraged at overwhelming police force arrayed against them, were threatening life as we know it and it was likely that martial law would have to be invoked to protect democracy, or some cherished right wing version of it.

Barr sent federal troops to protect a federal building in Portland, Oregon, pursuant to an Executive Order about protecting federal property from violence. Violence escalated immediately, once the anti-riot forces arrived on the scene. You recall the unmarked shock troops jumping out of unmarked rented vans to grab protesters, who they drove around, handcuffed and hooded, and released without charges. It was a radical experiment, to see if federal forces could be widely deployed to put down this threatening Black revolution. Black Lives Matter was portrayed as a violent terrorist group, as was antifa. People who claimed that police killings of unarmed Blacks is a serious ongoing problem in America were themselves the serious ongoing problem in America. These lawless rioters would not be tolerated.

Recall how things escalated in Portland. Trump supporters began staging counter protests in Portland. An armed Trump supporter was shot to death one night by a violent “antifa terrorist”. Four days later, the suspected anitfa killer was found 120 miles from Portland and quickly died in a hail of police bullets when federal marshals staged a raid. The story of the original murder of the Trump supporter, was reported, by the Washington Post, at the very end of the article about the police killing of his suspected murderer, this way:.

The incident came after a caravan of Trump supporters, including members of the Patriot Prayer group, made their way through Portland, sparking skirmishes with those who objected to their presence. Portland has seen more than three months of often violent protests after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, and the shooting seemed to intensify the persistent tension.

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As for the police killing of the suspected killer of the Trump supporter? From that same article in the Washington Post:

A vocal proponent of the far-left antifa movement who was suspected of fatally shooting a supporter of a far-right group in Portland, Ore., this weekend was shot and killed in a confrontation with law enforcement Thursday, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Investigators were seeking to take Michael Forest Reinoehl into custody in connection with the fatal shooting of 39-year-old Aaron J. Danielson on Saturday after confrontations between supporters of President Trump and Black Lives Matter counterprotesters.

The agency said Reinoehl was shot by police near Olympia, Wash., after drawing a weapon as officers tried to arrest him.

“The fugitive task force located Reinoehl in Olympia and attempted to peacefully arrest him,” said Jurgen R. Soekhoe, a U.S. Marshals spokesman, in a statement. “Initial reports indicate the suspect produced a firearm, threatening the lives of law enforcement officers. Task force members responded to the threat and struck the suspect who was pronounced dead at the scene.”

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The attempt to peacefully arrest him was accomplished when officers jumped out of two SUVs that had sped to the scene, cut off Reinhoel’s parked car and opened fire on the left-wing suspect, killing him in a barrage of 37 bullets. Here’s Barr, about the “confrontation” between Reinoehl and the officers who attempted to peacefully apprehend him and, in his estimation, justifiably opened fire on the dangerous fugitive:

In a statement Friday, Attorney General William P. Barr called Reinoehl a “a dangerous fugitive, admitted Antifa member, and suspected murderer,” who was shot by law enforcement after he “attempted to escape arrest and produced a firearm.”

“The streets of our cities are safer with this violent agitator removed, and the actions that led to his location are an unmistakable demonstration that the United States will be governed by law, not violent mobs,” Barr said.

A few days later, a more accurate picture of how admitted Antifa member Reinoehl was killed came out. But not before Trump weighed in. The NY Times reported:

The U.S. Marshals Service declined to comment for this article, citing the pending investigation. The agency previously said that it had attempted to “peacefully arrest” Mr. Reinoehl and that he had threatened the lives of law enforcement officers.

President Trump, who has described the racial justice protests that have roiled the nation as the work of lawless criminals, praised the operation.

“This guy was a violent criminal, and the U.S. Marshals killed him,” the president told Fox News. “And I will tell you something, that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution when you have crime like this.”

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Kill one of ours, the government will kill one of yours. Hammurabi.

The Times article cited above details what actually happened in the “confrontation” that led to Reinoehl’s killing. Witnesses thought it was a mob hit, or a drug cartel execution. Reinoehl was walking toward his car, holding a cell phone and a bag of candy when the “confrontation” began. Two SUVs sped to the scene, cutting off Reinoehl’s car, four armed men leapt out and immediately opened fire. Nobody heard anyone identify themselves as police or yell anything else at the suspect. An unfired handgun was found in a pocket of Reinhoehl’s bullet riddled corpse, (proof that his killing by government agents was totally justified, as police investigators later found.)

Of course, who are you going to believe, the Lying New York Times, and twenty-two so-called “witnesses” who were interviewed by the paper, or men of unimpeachable integrity like Bill Barr and a president who, try as he might, simply cannot tell a lie?

George Grosz “Shot While Escaping”

[1]

Krista’s opening:

“Remember,” Bryan Doerries likes to say in both physical and virtual gatherings, “you are not alone in this room — and you are not alone across time.” With his public health project, Theater of War, he is activating an old alchemy for our young century. Ancient stories, and texts that have stood the test of time, can be portals to honest and dignified grappling with present wounds and longings and callings that we aren’t able to muster in our official places now. It’s an embodiment of the good Greek word catharsis — releasing both insight and emotions that have had no place to go, and creating an energizing relief. And it is now unfolding in the “amphitheater” of Zoom that Sophocles could not have imagined.

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Can’t shake being all shook up

A friend I hadn’t talked to in a while asked how I was doing. I went down the list of the reasons I’m basically doing fine, my health is OK, the people I know all seem to be healthy, I had the second dose of the vaccine last week, I have enough money to get by, Sekhnet is doing fine, my arthritic knees hurt, but I’m still walking every day, I’m grateful for all this.

Then there’s this feeling I can’t shake, that I am living in Europe in 1932. A student of history, my friend immediately agreed with the comparison.

Weak and badly shaken democracies worldwide are buffeted by constant well-funded lies that agitate millions of angry citizens to rage about their grievances, real and imagined. These weakened democracies try to solve pressing problems for their citizens while an implacable, unprincipled enemy undermines them at every turn, snarling that democracy itself is the problem and arming and organizing itself for violent insurrection, if needed. In the US, these enemies would be willing to sacrifice another 500,000 American lives to the pandemic and kill a bunch more cops, a small price to make the current government look feckless and despicable and ensure their party’s return to absolute political power very soon.

My friend said the Georgia voter suppression law, like the ones passed more quietly in a few other states of the former Confederacy, could not stand a constitutional challenge. I walked him through John Roberts’s blandly dishonest decision in Shelby County v. Holder [1], the infamous 2013 case that threw away the most crucial protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in spite of Congress reauthorizing it almost unanimously (98-0 in the Senate), President George W. Bush signing it immediately, with a statement about its centrality to democracy and justice, and the challenged law being upheld by the two federal courts below the Supreme Court.

Roberts also failed to consider (or mention) the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that allows a clean record of ten years with no voter suppression attempts to exempt a state from the preclearance requirement that Roberts threw out. In the Shelby County case itself, plaintiff Shelby County, Alabama (carefully chosen by a consortium of powerful right wing lawyers) had no such clean record. In fact, it had a blemished record. Never mind, John Roberts solved a problem that didn’t exist by taking a gut hook to a law that had been working pretty well to prevent the worst of the voter suppression it was designed to prevent.

The immediate result of throwing away the umbrella that was keeping us dry during a pelting shit-storm (to paraphrase RBG’s famous “throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.“) was the instant mushrooming of restrictive voting laws in many states that would have previously needed pre-clearance before passing laws that discriminated against certain voters.

These newly liberated states had the laws all ready to go, signed them into law as soon as John Roberts fixed the Voting Rights Act for them.

In the first three months of 2021, 361 more such laws have been introduced in 47 states, emergency laws needed to deal with an “emergency” that only exists in right-wing media and the fevered hive-mind of Trumpism. These laws, it must always be pointed out, are based on a lie about widespread voter fraud. Their passage preemptively allows Republican state legislatures to intervene to certify the final vote tally, by throwing out thousands of legal votes, if necessary, as Trump illegally sought to have them do in 2020. In Georgia, no more worries about a law-abiding Secretary of State having the last word, the votes in every county will be counted by the GOP as well as all recounts.

This time, Roberts, on a 6-3 Federalist Society court, wouldn’t even have to get involved in upholding the Georgia law as reasonable and narrowly tailored to deal with a hypothetical problem, even one that has never been shown to exist in reality. No longer the “swing vote” on a 6-3 conservative court he can once again demonstrate that he is a principled institutionalist by voting with the three libtard losers that the Georgia law is arguably unconstitutional.

My friend said the court has to be increased to 11. I did the math for him. Georgia law upheld as constitutional 6-5, Roberts for the win, like in Hollywood Squares.

“Fuck,” he said.

The larger problem of institutional injustice is baked into the legalism of the law. A case often turns on an obscure bit of creatively-applied precedent, expressed in jargon the uninitiated have no hope of understanding. An obscure doctrine like the Non-deferential Exception Exemption Standard (a hypothetical doctrine pulled out of my ass) can be deployed by an unappealable Supreme Court to narrowly rule that, for example, a corporation has no obligation to do anything but make money for its shareholders and cannot lawfully be regulated in its pursuit of profit by any government agency or even sued by any consumer in a court of law.

“How can this be?” the average citizen asks. Well, that’s just your ignorance asking, you clearly don’t understand the fine points of the inviolable Non-deferential Exception Exemption Standard as set forth by our most brilliant jurists.

There was a great analysis of this right-wing judicial activism in the New York Times last week. The predominance of Federalist Society ideologues on the federal bench, appointed for life, is the result of a well-organized, well-funded forty year campaign to pack the court with friends of corporate and religious liberty. I clipped out the op-ed at the time, and Heather Cox Richardson mentioned it in her Letter from an American last night:

“By legislating from the bench, Republicans dodge accountability for unpopular policies,” writes Ian Millhiser in a terrific piece in the New York Times on March 30. “Meanwhile, the real power is held by Republican judges who serve for life — and therefore do not need to worry about whether their decisions enjoy public support.”

Ian Millhiser ends his piece:

Yet to understand decisions like Little Sisters and West Virginia, a reader needs to master arcane concepts like the “nondelegation doctrine” or “Chevron deference” that baffle even many lawyers. The result is that the Republican Party’s traditional constituency — business conservatives — walk away with big wins, while voters have less access to health care and breathe dirtier air.

By legislating from the bench, Republicans dodge accountability for unpopular policies. Meanwhile, the real power is held by Republican judges who serve for life — and therefore do not need to worry about whether their decisions enjoy public support.

It’s a terrible recipe for democracy. Voters shouldn’t need to hire a lawyer to understand what their government is doing.

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Earlier in the op-ed he lays out a few of the prize decisions the Federalist Society Supreme Court has delivered for its ideologically-driven deep-pocketed patrons in recent years:

In the same period, the Supreme Court dismantled much of America’s campaign finance law; severely weakened the Voting Rights Act; permitted states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion; expanded new “religious liberty” rights permitting some businesses that object to a law on religious grounds to diminish the rights of third parties; weakened laws shielding workers from sexual and racial harassment; expanded the right of employers to shunt workers with legal grievances into a privatized arbitration system; undercut public sector unions’ ability to raise funds; and halted Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Now, a 6-to-3 conservative-majority Supreme Court is likely to reshape the country in the coming decade, exempting favored groups from their legal obligations, stripping the Biden administration of much of its lawful authority, and even placing a thumb on the scales of democracy itself.

I told my friend there would need to be at least 15 justices on the Supreme Court to remove the power of a single “swing vote” like religious fundamentalist Amy Coney Barrett (her first decision was that traditional religious worship is more essential to freedom than state medical precautions during a pandemic), and a bipartisan committee to agree on and transparently vet candidates (no more hiding thousands of pages of prejudicial Brett Kavanaugh legal opinions or spending millions in dark money on a public relations campaign during confirmation, as was spent by Team Boof), and term limits on the justices to ensure that every administration had a pick or two.

“They’d never go for fifteen,” my friend said glumly, probably regretting he’d asked me how I was doing.

[1]

The essential dishonesty of the Roberts decision was its insistence that the debate over the Voting Rights Act relied on forty year old data, data that was largely erased by enforcement of the law he was now gutting. Since it had solved the problem he argued, as demonstrated by contemporary voter demographic data, and, as no pattern of racist voter suppression was currently in evidence, there was no further need to burden formerly racist states with an extra step, pre-clearance, before allowing them to institute restrictive voting laws that could, in any case, always be challenged in court.

His decision omitted many crucial facts that refuted his key assertions in the 5-4 decision (these are from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s crystal clear, prescient dissent):

The reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act was passed, after 21 hearings and 15,000 pages of evidence of ongoing discrimination in the states under preclearance, by a vote of 390-33 in the House and, after further debate, 98 to 0 in the Senate. Reading the John Roberts decision you’d have no reason to suspect that President George W. Bush approvingly signed the reauthorization into law a week later, as RBG describes:

recognizing the need for “further work . . . in the fight against injustice,” and calling the reauthorization “an example of our continued commitment to a united America where every person is valued and treated with dignity and respect.” 

further reading

Weaponizing common sense against itself to hold on to power at any cost

Trump’s party, as measured, principled and intelligent as Trump himself, has consistently attacked the safety precautions of wearing masks and keeping social distance during the pandemic. They phrase it as an issue of freedom from tyranny, like the unlimited constitutional freedom from any regulation of guns. Republican state governments have pushed back hard against these common sense safety measures, calling them everything from tyranny, to unconstitutional, to communist, to Nazi, to Satanist. The Trump plan (such as there was any plan) was to develop a vaccine at warp speed, everybody would be inoculated, “herd mentality” would be achieved and the pandemic would be over. Until Biden succeeded in stealing the election from Trump, with the connivance of many, many traitorous Republicans. Now the vaccine Trump took full credit for is part of the enemy narrative.

If you have been fully vaccinated there is a much lower risk of spreading the infection, particularly to others who’ve been vaccinated. There is a proposal to have some kind of Vaccine Passport you can show to prove you present limited danger in a restaurant, a movie theatre, a tattoo parlor. People can return to these places confident that they will not get deathly ill or make anyone else deathly ill (it seems). Other countries, including our staunch ally Israel, have done this and it seems to make sense, it moves the economy back toward normalcy while protecting the most vulnerable.

But not so fast, though.

Republican talking heads are addressing their audience with a consistent message that the Vaccine Passport is unconstitutional, an “unprecedented power grab”, “literally the end of human liberty in the west”, and an “unprecedented threat to our freedom”. One of the most extreme of the anti-blood drinking caucus have even stronger words for this Satanist, Nazi-like intrusion on American freedom. Marjorie Taylor Green, always good for an incendiary quote, had two: “Biden’s mark of the beast” and “corporate communism.”

Corporate communism, yo. That’s pretty deep.

The far-right Trumpist governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, tweeted this “@joebiden #CovidPassport proposal is one of the most un [sic] American ideas in our nation’s history”. At the same time Noem supports the immunization of South Dakota school kids, and requiring proof of vaccination before they can attend a South Dakota school.

You will look in vain for consistency or coherence in the angry catering to inflamed grievance (even fake grievance like widespread “voter fraud” and a Stolen Election, and the outrage of wealthy pedophiles, like Tom Hanks, drinking children’s blood.) The whole Roger Stone/Trump/Roy Cohn/Bill Barr/Charles Koch game is keeping your base in a constant rage. The GOP are doing an excellent job, even if it appears at times quite desperate.

I’m wondering how stupid and/or cynical Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and a few other, more quiet, Democratic “moderates” actually are. They believe bipartisan legislation is possible with a group who continues to reject science, fact, videotape, testimony and every other form of proof that cut against their wild statements. I realize the politics are complicated for Manchin, whose state voted for Trumpie by 70 points in 2020 — but, seriously, what the fucking fuck? Nazis who scream that other people are Nazis are about the last people you can negotiate with, are they not?

PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not a recognized psychological disorder when the special forces veteran escaped from prison, carjacked a couple’s car, beat the man unconscious and repeatedly raped the woman. I was working for a criminal court judge at the time, the summer of my first year of law school, when several armed guards brought the shackled, manacled prisoner in to argue his case — PTSD made him do it and he should be released from prison on those grounds.

The prisoner was an imposing man, large, muscular and with a savage looking beard. I recall that one of his three or four armed guards walked ten paces behind him with a shotgun. There were also a few NYC policemen in the courtroom, and the armed court guard had his hand near his gun as the prisoner took his place at the defense table. I was glad the guy was in chains, he was right out of central casting for a scary looking, trained to kill dangerous maniac. He had a passing resemblance to a scowling Liam Neeson, playing against type.

The judge had a court-appointed lawyer ready for the hearing, but the prisoner angrily declined the help. He made his argument, pretty forcefully, laying out the traumatic SEAL training he’d undergone, including waterboarding, beatings and sensory deprivation he’d been forced to undergo in his counter-interrogation training, and claimed that since PTSD had not been a recognized condition at the time he was tried and sentenced, that he be allowed to present it now in his defense.

The judge considered this for a moment then said “so your claim is that when you were under stress, after escaping from the prison, it triggered your stressful training and you fell back into your learned behavior, you automatically did what you were trained to do?”

“The stress triggered my PTSD and I acted as I was trained to act,” said the prisoner.

“I’m still trying to figure out what in your training caused you to repeatedly rape the woman,” said the judge. The prisoner glared at him, his motion denied, and the armed guards carefully escorted him back to prison. If looks could kill, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a real thing, of course. It is a serious, sometimes deadly, condition that is probably the cause of most of the 22 veteran suicides in the US every day (thank you for your service). It makes sense, if you think about it, that being in a traumatic situation (your best friend having his head blown off next to you, for example) would cause nightmares, insomnia, depression, anxiety and all the rest. Imagine how much worse your PTSD would be if the trauma was prolonged, extended day after day after day.

We don’t think of it this way, being in the middle of it, all of us determined to believe we are handling everything just fine, but this pandemic, exacerbated by the weaponization of medical precautions (anti-masker meet anti-vaxxer), exacerbated by obvious lies being constantly promulgated as “grounds” to suppress the right to vote, while claiming there can be no limits on our inalienable American right to own any kind of gun we like, as American poverty and food insecurity reaches new depths our top 0.1% now owns as much as our bottom 90%, having gained an additional $1,300,000,000,000 during the pandemic… it’s been a dizzying, traumatic shit storm, with no sign of an ending. Even if we reach herd immunity (assuming 49% of Republican men who claim they won’t be vaccinated are actually lying) and the pandemic stops killing so many of us, eventually goes down to fifteen deaths, then none… this has been a deeply traumatic more than year-long ride.

Last month (on Valentine’s Day, actually) the NY Times published a piece called ‘What’s the Point?’ Young People’s Despair Deepens as Covid-19 Crisis Drags On. The sub-headline is Experts paint a grim picture of the struggle with lockdown isolation — a “mental health pandemic” that should be treated as seriously as containing the coronavirus. Nothing in the report is at all surprising, though it is also shocking.

Old folks like me may feel disoriented during these objectively odd, scary, isolated times, but we have a lifetime of experience, and long time social networks, to help us keep some kind of perspective as we stumble through the genuine bizarreness of this extended pandemic. Younger people are affected much more strongly, as we can see all over the world. I can’t imagine the damage this lockdown is doing to young children, teenagers, young adults. The understandable impulse to immediately return to “normal”, against the best medical advice, is endangering everybody right at the point that we are about to finally control this plague and get back to more normal social life.

What is the public response? There are still millions who insist the virus was caused by China, that it was deliberately inflicted and exploited to fraudulently end the glorious presidency of God’s chosen imperfect vessel, that the vaccine, developed at “Warp Speed” under that very president will somehow kill you, that an army of woke zombies is coming to take the assault rifles Jesus said we can all have. Beyond that, and more ominous still, a war of good (protecting children from pedophiles) against evil (sex traffickers of children who drink their blood) is raging, a wild fantasy promoted by some of our most extreme elected officials. This is all part of a response to trauma that creates additional trauma. We are living in a supremely dangerous time.

You can have the shit beat out of you, even be killed, simply for looking Chinese. The violence is not committed by geniuses, even very stable ones. The rioters in the Capitol trying to make sure Trump stayed in power (how, exactly?) were not deep thinkers, they were bold actors looking for the next in line for the presidency to hang by the neck until dead — since he was a coward and a traitor. They had a strong belief (never mind what it was based on) and they took action. Now, of course, powerful GOP officials like Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, and Lyin’ Ted from Texas, are spinning the story of the riot, not even bothering to explain why 600 peaceful sit-in protesters were arrested at the Capitol in 2018 [1] but hundreds more, involved in a violent insurrection (in which 140 police officers were injured), were allowed to leave the scene of the riot unmolested.

To me, and call me a weakling, this all constitutes trauma, the kind of shit that can wake you at night with a sharp pang of the old PTSD. The trauma is ongoing, serious as cancer, corrosive as acid. Some days are better than others, mood-wise, and it is worth keeping in mind, I think, how traumatic the days we are living in now are, for everybody, Nazi and anti-Nazi, klansman and anti-klansman, moderate centrist and fiery radical alike.

[1]

Nearly 600 protesters, mostly women, were arrested on Thursday after they staged a non-violent action in the heart of a US Senate office building in Washington against Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy towards immigrants and separation of families at the border.

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Common Sense vs. the Death Lobby

Why can Congress not regulate gun ownership in any meaningful way in this country, even in the face of the disproportionate gun deaths here, including regular mass shootings? Why can we not have laws supported by more than 90% of us, regarding limiting the availability of guns, and banning the most lethal kinds.

Guns (even military assault rifles designed for instantly spraying an area with deadly fire for maximum killing in war-zone firefights) are considered essential to “freedom” and the continual mass shootings (and thousands of one on one gun murders and even more gun suicides here every year) are simply the price we pay for “freedom”. An asshole argument, made by cynical, indifferent assholes, sure, but you can get shot here if you want to argue about it too loudly. Every angry 21 year-old white American male gunman has a right, conferred directly by Jesus Christ Himself, to own as many guns as will make him feel safe and powerful.

You recall how hard it was to get tobacco companies to stop pushing cigarettes on children? They were a very, very powerful lobby representing billions in profits with brilliant, aggressive lawyers fighting off pesky wrongful death cases for decades. One of their biggest legal guns, former tobacco attorney Lewis Powell, after writing an influential memo on how Commies want to destroy our freedom by attacking corporations in court — and stressing the importance of having judges who will hold the line on corporate rights — went on to become a long serving pro-corporate rights Supreme Court justice. We have several of them up there now, dedicated corporatists like John Roberts, the self-proclaimed balls and strikes umpire and, before that, the creator of the brilliant, now ubiquitous “arbitration clause” that is in virtually every contract consumers sign with corporations.

Let’s pause for a second to appreciate how brilliant that arbitration clause is, from a corporate point of view. In signing the contract you agree to forego any judicial remedy outside of binding arbitration, for any injury, even death, sustained due to the actions of the corporation you signed the contract with. Instead of a costly class action where a million similarly injured customers can hold a negligent corporation accountable in a court of law, every individual customer agrees to a one on one arbitration, the costs usually shared evenly between the complaining customer and the corporation, and the arbitrator will decide whose rights have been violated and by how much. Plus, the beauty part, whatever the arbitrator decides is binding, no appeal. It’s right there in the fine print you signed, bitch.

Why does every Republican in Congress (and every “moderate” Democrat from a Red State, like right-leaning Joe Manchin) elected in the last 40 years need a triple A rating from the National Rifle Association? Second Amendment, yo! The Second Amendment is considered by millions to be the most important amendment in our Constitution. Its fans (including indisputable legal genius Antonin Scalia) argue that the ambiguously worded amendment that begins with the words “a well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state” is not about militias at all, but the inviolable right of every individual American to bear as many arms as possible to ensure freedom from all tyranny, including, significantly, the tyranny of a government that would come to take their guns — like they did on January 6th at the Capitol! Pry ’em from my cold dead hands, coercive nanny-state!

Heather Cox Richardson lays out the history of how the once reasonable National Rifle Association (one-time advocates of responsible gun ownership and sensible gun control) became, starting with Reagan, the most powerful right wing lobby in the country (and biggest single donor to our boy Trumpie in 2016, $30,000,000, baby). Heather, as usual, cogent and brilliant.

Why does the United States have such an off the charts number of gun homicides a year? The New York Times published a great article today, zeroing in on the number one cause of all that gun death here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We lead the world, by a gigantic margin, in the number of guns people have. Read this article, with its spoiler alert headline, Why Does the U.S. Have So Many Mass Shootings? Research Is Clear: Guns, I highly recommend it.

Around the world the opinion is that the US, which has 4.4% of the world’s population and owns 42% of its guns, is a violent, racist nation with a mental health epidemic raging out of control under an overpriced, inadequate health care system. I’d have thought that too, but it turns out, and the researchers make a great case: there is an amazingly strong correlation between the number of gun deaths in an area and the number of guns people own. We may be no more violent, racist or otherwise insane than citizens anywhere else, we just have ten or a hundred, or a thousand times more guns than any other country. Here’s a neatly chilling factoid from the article, an illustration of why so many more of us are killed here by guns, which are almost as ubiquitous as John Roberts’ fucking arbitration clause:

[It’s not that we have more violent crime here than elsewhere…] Rather, they found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.

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Fancy that.

Or, as this raging asshole would say, let the American people listen to the propaganda on both sides, go as deep as they want into any monetizable rabbit hole, and make their own informed decisions, which the lobbyists make sure get translated into the most lucrative possible policies, public and private.

$7,400,000 an hour — Bezos!

The world’s most successful greedy man, Jeff Bezos, made over $65,000,000,000 during the pandemic. That comes out to $7,400,000 an hour [1] for the man who heroically insists on paying his 1.3 million sweatshop workers $15 and hour for their hard work — and manfully advocates for that generous living minimum wage to be forced on all his competitors. We should note that from Jeff’s point of view, he is actually losing money since his wealth was calculated as increasing by almost $9,000,000 an hour just two years ago.

While Bezos is raking in this pandemic-driven windfall he’s fighting Amazon workers’ attempts to organize. He ruthlessly put down one such attempt in NY at the start of the pandemic when workers concerned with contracting a deadly virus spoke up about conditions in his crowded, un-sanitized warehouses, where they worked around the clock without PPE to fulfill the increasing orders of tens of millions of locked-down Americans and increase the vast fortune of world’s second richest man. Amazon warehouse workers apparently have a 100% attrition rate during their first year, because the working conditions are so atrocious. Bezos also clawed back their $2/hour hazard pay bonus in May, at the end of the third month of the pandemic.

Bezos has been spending millions in business costs to fight attempts at unionization of his vast Amazon work force. You can read all about his tactics of threatening and intimidating anyone in his work force who seeks a voice in working conditions, collective bargaining and so forth. A guy like this is generally considered a piece of shit, I certainly see him that way.

And, of course, eventually the political — a powerful greedy piece of shit’s unfettered right to do whatever he sees fit because he has an army of lawyers and will generally face no consequences for any of his actions — becomes personal. Here’s my petty personal anecdote about the genius Jeff Bezos.

I have a small collection of one-hand opening folding knives, assembled over decades. I find it handy to have a knife in my pocket, for picnic use or for opening otherwise impossible to open plastic packaging, for example. I rarely spend more than $40 for a knife, but each time I see a new design innovation that is cool (a new style of lock or improved deployment method), lightweight and not close to something I already have, I pick it up. With the excellence of Chinese engineering and manufacturing in recent years, it’s possible to buy a knife for $40 or less that not long ago would have cost well over a hundred dollars. We are living in a golden age of well-made, inexpensive, one-handed opening folding knives.

In New York State, for whatever convoluted reason, a knife that is opened with a flipper, a little tab on the back or front of the blade used to pop the knife open, is illegal. An axis lock knife (like the Benchmade mini Griptilian) that can be flipped open in a milli-second, with a flick of the wrist, is legal, as are assisted opening knives that have a spring that makes them fly open in a similar quick blink of an eye. A thumb stud is fine, and there are many knives that have bearings in them that allow them to be whipped open instantly with a flick of the thumb stud. For whatever twisted reason, NY and Massachusetts do not allow you to order a knife that opens with a flipper.

I saw a video of a cool looking flipper knife, made by the reputable CRKT, that was very inexpensive. The couple doing the video loved this knife, and lovingly demonstrated its smoothness opening and closing one handed. It indeed looked cool and I didn’t have one like it. Plus, the price was a steal, a knife that could easily sell for $50 was selling for about $12.

Apparently it was made by CRKT for a cut-rate gun company called Ruger and that company was selling this model on its website for about $12. I immediately went to the website, found the knife (LCK) and, seeing it was not available for shipping in NYC (the site did specify New York City), called a friend who lives ten miles out of the city and arranged to send them there. I ordered three or four, and with the shipping, they were about $15 each. Two would be gifts, one would live on the kitchen table, the other I’d carry around in my pocket.

A short time after I placed the order I got an email from the company informing me that my order had been cancelled, since it could not be shipped to an address in New York State.

I began arranging to send the knives to a friend in Tennessee, who would keep one and send the others on to me in a postage paid box I’d send him. But I was too slow. Bezos never sleeps.

These knives are presently only available on Amazon, at $49.95, because a good businessman is a sucker to leave money on the table. The worlds’ greediest piece of shit apparently bought out the inventory on this LCK flipper knife and priced it according to what the market would bear. Why would he not? Even assuming he paid full retail for the knives (he surely did not), that’s still a rather nice 300% profit– so, again, why not?

Fair is fair, y’all– you snooze you fucking lose. The greed of the greediest among us never sleeps.

Hopefully Bezos will have to deal with his first unionized shop, after the final votes come in on March 29th from his predominantly Black work force in Bessemer, Alabama.

[1]

This comes as a new study, out today, from Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies has found Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his personal wealth increase by $65 billion since the pandemic began a year ago. That means Bezos’s wealth increased on average by over $7.4 million every hour for the past year.

Meanwhile, Amazon workers in Bessemer and other locations are being forced to work 10-hour shifts with just two 15-minute bathroom breaks.

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Elegant schematic

I’ve been wrestling to put the mechanism of abuse into the fewest possible words. Abuse comes in many forms, and every one of them involves (among other things) the violent suppression of someone else’s rightful feelings. There is a common element to all abuse: whatever you think happened to you, whatever you can show me actually did happen to you — fuck you!

It may be helpful to see it set out this way, as I did toward the end the final draft of my letter to my former lifelong friend Paul:

I have to say, though, the schematic of your method is quite elegant. One friend sets out to prove to the other that people are deeply flawed brutes who cannot change in any fundamental way, salutes his friend for his years of efforts to be less brutish, thanks him for his mildness in the face of an angry confrontation, keeps professing ignorance of what his friend’s actual issues are, no matter how clearly stated — eventually provokes an angry response from his ahimsa-deluded old pal. Game and match! Elegant, man, you win. It must feel great.

It doesn’t feel great, obviously, and I am just being a sarcastic dick to say so to this poor, eternally besieged, black and white seeing, zero-sum calculating fucker. However, raising the bar on what constitutes “fundamental change” from becoming much more difficult to rile up (a difficult but attainable goal) to becoming impossible to provoke (a virtually impossible one, given enough time and perverse persistence) is damned clever, it’s what enables the abuser to insist he is right — and to prevail — no matter what the facts of the case show otherwise.

It’s the same as the game run by racists, the segregationists, those afraid and angry at Black Lives Matter for their cruel insistence that our society is ravaged by racism just because cops are continually killing unarmed Blacks with no consequences. Segregationists blame the victims, it’s all they’ve got.

“We don’t have slavery anymore, haven’t for more than 150 years, and these savage thugs are so ungrateful! What did we do? What did our generation do? A few of them get killed when they disobey cops, it happens to everybody, it happens way more to whites than to them [1]. Yet THEY angrily demand a special right to be treated like their lives matter so much more than anybody else’s. That’s why we hate them!”

That evil kid who decided his uncontrollable sexual urges made it necessary to murder seven women and a man? Police spokesman told every potential juror in the country that the poor little mass-murderer had had a “bad day”, and he wasn’t going to go into whether the slimy mass-murderer had expressed remorse, though he pointed out solemnly that the killer was aware of the “gravity” of what he’d done.

In the mind of the abuse/murder justifiers: Asians who are upset about this recent mass killing of Asian women? Here we go again with the “identity politics” and the “politics of victimization.” We don’t even know if this kid was motivated by specific ethnic or racial hatred when he sprayed these Asian women with bullets. Sheesh.

It’s like McConnell, using political power with unprecedented cynicism and a maddening double standard, threatening to release the Kraken and leave only “scorched earth” if Democrats vote to make minority obstruction more difficult for the obstructionist minority. How dare radical Democrats threaten to break the thing I spent a decade smashing with a sledge hammer!!!

Jesus, it must feel good to be that kind of winner, mustn’t it?

Assholes will be assholes, I suppose. The best we can do is the work of trying to making ourselves better, gentler, more attuned.

[1]

This is what the treacherous Bill Barr kept insisting, as they tried to turn the nationwide, predominantly peaceful, protests against the continual murder of unarmed Blacks, by police, into a sinister, violent anarchist conspiracy to riot against Law and Order, one that justified deploying massive military force to put it down, counter-insurgency style. Barr insisted many more whites than Blacks were killed by cops every year (note: Blacks are 13.4% of the population, so just statistically, that better be true) and you don’t hear whites whining about it — only Blacks. He pulled a number out of his ass, a small handful of unarmed Blacks killed by police each year, and claimed irrationally enraged Blacks were using this tiny number of people like Breonna Taylor, tragically killed, as a pretext to start a violent revolution. Like that large crowd of protesters by the White House that had to be cleared with chemical irritants, horseback charge, batons, riot forces, when they balked at their First Amendment right to peacefully protest being threatened with chemical irritants, horseback charge, batons, riot forces.

“Pepper spray is NOT a chemical irritant, (you irritating bitch!)” snarled Trump’s always pompous, often unapologetically irrational, bagpiping, culture warrior Attorney General, William Pelham Barr, on national TV.