More guns is the only solution, says half our Senate

Experts not working for the gun lobby know that there are policies that can reduce this escalating American epidemic of gun killing. Licensing, robust gun removal laws to seize an individual’s guns when there are red flags, banning large capacity magazines, no firearms to anyone under 21, investing heavily in violence interruption programs. To name the top five from the expert in this video.

Tech Support and BIRD WINS

About a week ago I went to post something on this blahg, which I rent from WordPress (they never fail to thank me each time they automatically bill my credit card), and got this message:

Currently, my laptop won’t allow me to so much as visit my blahg, out of an overwhelming concern for my privacy. There was no way to overcome this uncompromising protection of my privacy to post on this blahg, or even visit, except on my phone. I contacted WordPress (email only) and was told I probably need to update my macbook operating system. I noted:

I resist doing the updates on the macbook because Apple, in its infinite greed, is notorious for disabling useful features of their native programs with each update, clawing back once-included capabilities so they can sell them back to you.   

A few days later I was given three things to try, by Happiness Engineer Tish, (the second idea was overcoming my reluctance to have all programs reformatted and some randomly rendered useless) and wrote back:

Hi Tish,

Took a weekend away from technology.   Now I’m trying your suggested fixes.

1- clicking this link got to the same message as the screen shot I sent a few days ago, Your Connection is Not Private!

2– still reluctant to have all of my programs reconfigured/disabled by Apple as they have been every update since at least 10.6.7

3– installing Firefox now (unless I get a Connection Not Private! message preventing it),  Here you go:

There used to be a game in the Chinatown Arcade in NYC where a live chicken would play all comers at tic tac toe for 50 cents a game.   The bird went first.  If you played well you could tie, but I’d never seen anyone beat the bird.  After the bird beat the sucker, right after its victory dance (the disk it stood on would wobble and it would exert itself not to fall over) it would frantically claw for a couple of kernels of dry corn, literally two or three, that were its reward.  While this was going on a big lighted sign flashed BIRD WINS.

Perfect parallel for technology companies of all kinds.   You want the feature you’ve always used?  Tough.  We had a team of geniuses redesign it completely and it’s what you want now.  Choice is for the people who bring you this miraculous technology, they know better than mere “users” what is actually desirable in the product.  Capitalism runs on eternal “improvement” and built-in obsolescence.  Tech companies, even a nice outfit like WordPress, are the masters of this.  New design, new world order.   Read Shoshanah Zuboff’s “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” and shudder for the amazing world of crushing pressure to conform kids are growing up in now, ushered in by “social media” and unlimited, ever more thorough data collection from “users”, in the name of… well, profit, mostly.

Anyway, thanks for your help.  I’ll probably wind up updating this machine and using it just as a word processor, as nature intended.

Eliot

P.S. Before I sent this I tried one more thing.   DuckDuckGo just fixed it, I can get to the innovative (and, like, totally improved, even if the theme I use is now “unsupported”) WordPress block composer from there.

I did not bother to add, for Tish, a complete stranger, that I am clearly, as my father more than once noted, the kind of person who’d complain if he was hanged with a new rope.

Punchline, which I sent to “tech support”:

DuckDuckGo allowed me to get on the WordPress site, write and post an entry.  Once.  Now I get this again:

BIRD WINS!

NOTE: had to add this using my phone

when you try to defeat this unwanted “protection” you get this message:

gratuitousblahg.com normally uses encryption to protect your information. When Google Chrome tried to connect to gratuitousblahg.com this time, the website sent back unusual and incorrect credentials. This may happen when an attacker is trying to pretend to be gratuitousblahg.com, or a Wi-Fi sign-in screen has interrupted the connection. Your information is still secure because Google Chrome stopped the connection before any data was exchanged.

You cannot visit gratuitousblahg.com right now because the website uses HSTS. Network errors and attacks are usually temporary, so this page will probably work later.

Or, if you prefer, Go fuck yourself. Have a great day!

What don’t you understand about our boiling climate crisis?

Robert Reich nailed it very succinctly the other day:

Understandably, those who extract billions in profit from the earth in a way that is destroying it do not want any radical change to some commie regenerative, “sustainable” forms of energy production. Fortunately for them, they are served by very able lobbyists and lobbyist/legislators (and a 6-3 corporatist Supreme Court) who will make sure this dreaded Marxist plan for “sustainable energy” is thwarted at every turn.

“We have the fossil fuels you all love, the infrastructure all in place to search for more, suck it out of the earth, pipe, refine and distribute it — the occasional heat-wave or five hundred year storm be damned — and we’re going to extract every last drop from under the earth and the seas, and the remaining polar ice caps, and you’re going to love it. Fossil fuel is what makes this country the greatest on earth. USA! USA!!! Live free or die!”

And, truly, what argument do any of us have against that?

Why the adversarial system is not a reasonable solution for many painful problems

Minneapolis was poised for riots, 3,000 National Guard troops standing by, in the event that a jury did not hold former police officer Derek Chauvin legally responsible, in some form, for the slow killing of George Floyd that was videotaped in its entirety by a high school girl, Darnella Frazier. The agonizing to watch video inspired nationwide, even worldwide, demonstrations against the continual unaddressed killings of civilians, particularly Black and brown ones, by American police.

Dozens more civilians have been killed by police during the three weeks of the Chauvin trial (50% of them white!), so there’s no question that this horrific, ongoing problem of deadly, often racist, police violence persists. The trial, even the conviction, of a single guilty officer is a drop in the rapidly rising, acidified ocean that goes a very short way to addressing any part of the larger problem. The adversarial system is a supremely stupid way to try to address institutional police violence, though, in our system, convicting Chauvin for callously killing a handcuffed suspect is, of course, the right thing to do. Many people are very relieved at the verdict which proves, if you have indisputable evidence, a police hierarchy ready to testify against a killer cop and a perfectly presented prosecution case, a just outcome can be obtained.

Sekhnet, who cannot turn off an ongoing national news story, listened to the defense’s closing argument in the Derek Chauvin trial the day before yesterday. The defense, hired to raise reasonable doubt, had a very poor hand to play. They were reduced to claiming that it was reasonable for Chauvin to continue kneeling on a dead man’s neck, that the nine and a half minute slow suffocation of George Floyd was justified and that any reasonable officer would have done the same, because of what had happened twenty minutes earlier — the part the prosecution won’t let you see because nobody videotaped it. The defense’s argument echoed the original elliptical police report on the death of George Floyd [1].

The defense also argued that the officers kneeling on the face down, handcuffed George Floyd for almost ten minutes had nothing to do with his death. Nothing. The experts the prosecution produced, who testified about the prolonged denial of oxygen to Floyd’s brain caused by the weight of men on his neck and back, were merely speculating. Floyd’s death, the defense insisted, was caused by his ingestion of several illegal drugs — indisputably found during his autopsy — his heart condition, adrenaline pumping through his struggling system, carbon monoxide. The defense’s position is that George Floyd’s death was his own damned fault, actually, that his own poor choices killed him, not Derek Chauvin and his colleagues kneeling on the face down Floyd’s neck and back while the restrained man’s hands were securely cuffed behind his back and he struggled to breathe.

The Chauvin defense team was in a bad position, in light of the incriminating video that showed Chauvin’s depraved indifference to the pleading man he was kneeling on, hands nonchalantly in pockets, and the credible testimony of a strong roster of prosecution witnesses in a clearly presented case. On the bright side for Chauvin, his lawyers only had to convince one angry white man on the jury, or an angry white woman, that the giant Black ex-convict somehow deserved what happened to him when he carelessly lost his life. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

Leaving “justice” up to the subjectively reasonable doubt of one stubborn bigot on the jury is not the way to ensure fairness, solve a gigantic problem or promote healing. The adversarial system is not the way to create real systemic change. It’s certainly not the mechanism to enforce common decency. In fact, the adversarial system often requires indecent, sometimes maddeningly absurd, arguments from lawyers and prosecutors. Desperate arguments that can make your head explode and make you want to take a baseball bat to a store window. If someone in your own life made arguments like these, you’d be within your rights to slap them out of their mouth.

The thirteen year-old recently shot dead by a policeman in Chicago while surrendering with his hands up? Obviously, claimed police, the boy “surrendered” right after he threw away his gun and turned, menacingly, in that split second afterwards, during which the officer had less than the blink of an eye to decide whether to kill the kid or risk being killed himself. The story is hotly contested, and told completely differently, by adamant adversaries insisting on their version of events– he said, we said. Something happened, there are actual facts, an actual videotape. A jury trial with each side sticking to whatever theory they can concoct, no matter how unlikely, to convince twelve people on a jury, is not the way to the truth.

It is the American way, as encompassed in the American Rule for lawsuits of all kinds — each side pays its own way, fair is fair. If you face a year or more in jail, the constitution requires that some lawyer will be provided for you. In criminal trials you get the Dream Team you can afford to pay for, or an overworked public defender with fifty other open files in her briefcase. The American Rule: a giant corporation pays its lawyers to defend a case, why shouldn’t an individual suing the corporation be held to the same standard? It’s the American way, except in rare cases where an aggrieved party, vindicated in court, can be reimbursed for legal fees, as in most other countries when you are forced to go to court by a person or entity that knows it did wrong and uses the adversarial system to fight, even bankrupt, you.

What is the proper way to address a plague like police violence against mostly poor and “nonwhite” people? It will take a massive overhaul of how things are done. It will be a very heavy lift, but it needs to be done.

My best idea, once the filibuster is lynched (and don’t think McConnell won’t do it, the second he gets a majority back) and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 becomes law, is an independent commission, composed of experienced police officials who have demonstrated their ability to be objective (I’m thinking of someone like Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo who, whatever his faults, drew the line at what Chauvin did and testified against it) about the need for systemic changes to ensure better police-civilian relations, and civilians who have shown the same impulse to be fair and find sustainable solutions. The commission would also be free of police union influence.

This commission would review the evidence and make a finding about every instance of police use of violence against civilians. No jury would have to be convinced of anything, no intelligence-insulting counterfactual arguments would be heard, no jury to convince, no blue wall of silence to be breached. An investigation would yield actual facts and the committee would have the final say as to discipline, dismissal and/or prosecution of officers. Early on this commission would be very busy, but as time went on, and the certainty of consequences for bad apple cops became a reality, instances would dramatically decline. The findings of the commission would help legislators pass laws to to find the best way forward.

There are cases when the police are justified in fearing for their lives and resorting to deadly violence (many involve the War on Drugs, which is a whole other subject). There are cases where the police have no demonstrable fear for their own safety when people are nonetheless roughed up or even killed. You can watch the videotape, like those two bad apple cops who pulled over an active duty military man, in uniform, who’d broken no laws. They threatened him, shouted contradictory orders (show your hands! Reach down and take off your seat belt!) pepper sprayed him in the face, forced him to lie on the ground, handcuffed him. Peace officers who responded to this brown-skinned man’s entirely reasonable fear by telling him he ought to be afraid, one telling him he was going to “ride the lightning.” That particular case will go in front of a jury, or be quietly settled, but the deadly problem is institutional.

Aside, while we’re talking about the adversarial system that assholes are constantly exploiting to hide and distort the truth, Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky colleague Rand Paul singlehandedly blocked a vote on a federal anti-lynching bill, part of a new hate crimes law, approved 410-4 by the House, shortly after the killing of George Floyd [2]. Paul objected to, among other things, calling it the Emmett Till Act, after a Chicago boy lynched in the former Confederacy in 1955. Rand Paul also voted, more recently (and with fellow Big Lie supporting senators Cruz, Hawley and Lee), against enhancements of federal hate crime law to better protect American Asians during a rash of violence against Asians by angry Americans galvanized by Trump’s racist rhetoric about Covid-19.

Politics is now a completely adversarial system. A small handful of diehard pieces of shit suffice to block laws that virtually all Americans are in favor of.

There are things too important to leave in the hands of a few lifelong partisans, or juries.

Like the political party that controls presidency and the Senate, even by a single vote, choosing members of an unappealable court that has the final say on the constitutionality of many life and death human rights issues every day. The adversarial process is no way to choose these powerful justices. An independent commission is needed, a bipartisan committee, a non-partisan group preferably (career partisans like Boof Kavanaugh, lifelong right-wing activist, would be disqualified, based on their history of partisanship), to ensure that fairness in the selection process prevails and that only the most qualified, least ideologically pure, judicial candidates are appointed to their limitless posts.

I’m writing, of course, as though we live in a world where Reason prevails over ignorance, superstition and conspiracism. If you live in a world where powerful Jews and our Satanist pedophile cannibal coconspirators are plotting your replacement by Colored people, stupid pliable robots who will vote for whatever these Jews tell them to, you might have a good shot at representing constituents in a gerrymandered 70% Red district in Georgia, but you are unlikely to be able to prove this replacement theory based on evidence or even common sense. To replace you, I have to put someone there in your place and get rid of you. Nothing short constitutes actual “replacement”, but that’s not really crucial to the “theory” of the case now, is it, darling?

Save babies. Protect the filibuster!

[1]

When they released information about Floyd’s death on May 26, the Minneapolis police department described it like this: “Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. [He was, in fact, dead.] Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”

source

[2]

Amid the visceral national outcry for racial justice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, a lone US senator is standing in the way of a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime.

Rand Paul, a Republican with a reputation as a one-man awkward squad in the US Senate, has put the historic legislation into limbo, frustrating black colleagues and civil rights leaders, including the Rev Jesse Jackson.

source

Impeach Trump, even if he’s belatedly removed under the 25th Amendment

There have been numerous calls (here’s another I read after posting this) by many smart people in recent days to immediately impeach, convict and remove the dangerous Mr. Trump. These came before he organized and orchestrated yesterday’s White Pride attack on the Capitol to prevent the final certification of his loss in the recent election.

There are countless compelling reasons to impeach him, I could write five or six articles of impeachment off the top of my head. Removing him from power via the 25th Amendment (unlikely as it would require moral courage from Mr. Pence’s wife) will minimize the additional harm he can do in his remaining days, prevent him from nuking Iran or committing some other desperate, supremely destructive insane last minute act, but impeachment should commence tomorrow, be wrapped up Monday or Tuesday, even if he is sidelined as incompetent to serve under the 25th. Impeachment and removal is the proper cure for someone like Mr. Trump, as it was from early in his reign, Nancy Pelosi’s brilliant, iron-willed political calculus notwithstanding.

Impeachment and removal will disqualify him from future political runs, mark him as an infamous American, our most notorious former president. He will become the first and only president impeached twice, the only one to be impeached and removed from office. This is only fair, since he is the only American president to persistently and energetically try to topple democracy, spending delusional months denying the results of a duly certified election and instilling an unshakable belief in his millions of fans that American elections are as fake as the fake, lying news — as “reality” TV — and that laws they hate need not be obeyed.

His forcible removal from office, after being decisively voted out, would be the repudiation of Trumpism that our nation desperately needs if any kind of reconciliation and healing is to begin. Trumpism, as we have learned, is open unapologetic racism and sexism, proud, unaccountable denial –of uncontrolled mass death from a pandemic, of science and demonstrable fact, selective enforcement of Law and Order, protection of corruption, the normalization of constant lying, unquestioning loyalty, a right to ugly presidential revenge for every perceived act of disloyalty and an absolute entitlement to uncompromising, righteous rage.

I’d like to see each of those 120 obstructionist traitors in the House who tried to obstruct yesterday’s legally required pro forma process (and signed on to the Texas AG’s idiotic Supreme Court filing that was his audition for a presidential pardon) stand up and vote not to impeach the president for leading a conspiracy to insurrection against his own government. The NY Times could run their photos the next day, like they did for the ones who stood up to contest the results of an election they knew to have been free and fair but that did not choose their unhinged leader.

The single article of impeachment for his attempted coup will pass the House in an hour, send it over to the Senate for the trial — make it just like the previous Trump impeachment “trial” only quicker, since this case is open and shut. No witnesses necessary, no documents, no evidence, outside of the specifically spelled out article of impeachment (I’d add a second article, mentioning the long course of Trump’s constant lifelong obstruction of justice, referencing the examples Mueller found and a dozen random more recent instances including the recording of his illegal solicitation of the Georgia Secretary of State to do him a favor.

I’d do this to correct the historical record on Trump, fatally distorted by the infamous Bill Barr, and make it clear to future generations that even the Unitary Executive and his cronies cannot be eternally unaccountable for high crimes he can pardon them all for.

Trial in the Senate, an up or down vote (unblockable by Mitch) after an hour of presenting the case. Let’s see Ted Cruz solemnly raise his hand and pose for his eternal moment of fame photo voting “nay” to impeachment. Josh Hawley, staunchly raising his fist to insurrections and voting “nay” — “say ‘cheese’, Josh! — you slimy motherfucker.” Tommy Fucking Tuberville, a defiant “nay” immortalized for the ages. (These three, at minimum, need to be expelled from the Senate by their colleagues for aiding and abetting electoral fraud and sedition, conspiracy to overthrow the elected government).

You might get a couple more fellow travelers who still believe in the Trump revolution, voting to acquit America’s most often exonerated, unfairly attacked president, hardcore unprincipled fanatics, but likely less than a dozen. At this point you have to believe Miss Lindsey and the Grim Reaper would be forced to vote in the affirmative to convict their former boss and best friend. “Abuse of power” is one thing, can be spun as a “political” judgment call, organizing a riot and invading Congress in a mad attempt to overturn an election… well… guilty 94-6. Bye-bye, Donnie — and best of luck to ya!

I don’t know anything about this photo above (it could be complete propaganda, taken on any day, perhaps outside a museum, with a solemnly worded plaque on the platform describing the barbarity of execution by hanging), but the image evokes an illegal second Trump term quite well. About that, there can be no doubt after yesterday.

Reasons to remain optimistic

Because a friend called me Mr. Sunshine the other day, with some irony (for one thing, I avoid the sun, I hate that life source which has caused me multiple operations to remove cancers from my nose) I feel an obligation to set out a few reasons to feel hopeful and to act with optimism and determination.   Particularly about taking those two senate seats in Georgia, the ones that will allow the democratic process to move forward without the deliberate, cynical obstruction that McConnell and his 51-49 will insist upon.

Terror is scary as hell — obviously, it’s terror. The threat of terror can be terrifying, as it is intended to be.   When an angry, powerful person promises an army of 50,000 armed loyalists making sure there’s no (wink wink) “voter fraud” at certain polling places — it’s very scary.   It didn’t happen, anywhere really.  There were no crowds of Proud Boys standing by, or Bugaloo Boys, or Game Boys, few of the best members of the Klan, very few of the finest of American Nazis.   The goon squads, the death squads, the terrifying, bellowing armies of the night did not appear.   A beautiful thing, speaking well of our nation, and something to be happy about.   

ONE:  We withstood the threat of goon squads intimidating voters to support a would-be tyrant (and tens of millions lined up to vote in spite of the threats)

The goon squads were as absent as the predicted rioting, invocation of the Insurrection Act, martial law, counter-insurgency forces deployed in “anarchist jurisdictions” and the rest of a would-be dictator’s terrifying fever dreams.  Of course Trump is going to do everything possible to set a thousand shit fires before he leaves office, and will certainly set hundreds, but the very worst did not come to pass, which speaks well of our experiment in democracy here.

TWO:  In spite of the relentless pressure on millions of our fellow citizens, there has been no wave of crime during this awful pandemic

The pandemic is terrifying.  Under the best government control, it would be a hard road protecting millions from a worldwide disease that is airborne, highly contagious, incurable and potentially deadly.  Under our federal government’s laissez-faire approach (that’s French for “let the powerless fuck themselves, ehn?“) a quarter of a million of our fellow citizens who didn’t need to die horrible deaths died unspeakably awful deaths.   Our neighbors and loved ones continue to get sick, thousands die.  The stress of it is sometimes hard to bear. 

We have an administration coming in that will make every effort to have us all follow the best medical advice to control the spread until everyone can be vaccinated, but the beginning of their work could be another 100,000 deaths from now, as the disease continues surging uncontrolled in many parts of the country.   

There is only this reason to be hopeful at this moment in regard to the pandemic (yes, the vaccines will be great, too, but in a few months, at the earliest — if you and your loved ones live that long):  under incredible pressure, terror and increasing desperation, Americans, particularly ones forced into official poverty and threatened with imminent homeless, have not been committing violent crimes of desperation. 

 Think of that for a minute, this lack of wild lawlessness says something very good about the basic humanity of our people here.   A corollary — people tend to help each other during public emergencies, after catastrophes, when trouble is worst, Americans always have too.  

THREE:   The incumbent Republican president lost the race in faithfully Republican Georgia.   We can get two senators to make it 50-50.

Trump’s open (and clandestine) attempts at nationwide voter suppression, although many and mighty, did not manage to swing the election to the unhinged would-be strong man.  In spite of an open criminal conspiracy to suppress mail-in voting, and widely stoked fear about intimidating in-person voters, record numbers lined up, sometimes for 8 hours, to personally cast enough votes to indisputably vote the “You’re Fired” guy out by the largest margin since incumbent Herbert Hoover lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.   

In Georgia, where the current governor was elected by a 55,000 vote margin (after purging 107,000 eligible voters who were likely to vote against him — among the more than 500,000 voters he’d purged prior to the gubernatorial election he supervised), where voter suppression is practiced fairly openly, the anti-Trump candidate managed to eke out a victory. 

 Reason to be optimistic: Americans, including a large contingent of Georgians understand exactly how crucial a 50-50 senate is to the continuation of democracy.  Every reactionary, evangelical and racist in the great state of Georgia will be driving people to the polls to vote Republican– millions will go to cast their votes for Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock.   Warnock led Loeffler by 7 points on Nov. 3, though he didn’t approach the 50% needed to win in Georgia [1]. Ossoff and Perdue were close, Perdue had a 2% lead (and thankfully 2/10ths of a percent less than the required 50%). 

Democracy can win this close runoff in Georgia.  There are activists, led by Stacey Abrams (who registered tens of thousands of voters in Georgia) who is mobilizing many of them, bringing out the vote, particularly those voters who never registered.  It’s going to be close in Georgia, two votes crucial for democracy or continued corrupt government dysfunction and obstruction.   

More on what you and I can do to bring out the vote in Georgia tomorrow. 

Love beats hate in the end.  Believe it, because subscribing to the opposing view leads inexorably to the end of all hope for anything better, ever.   Things that look hopeless often get better, if enough work is done.  The work starts now.

[1] 

On Nov. 3, Warnock topped a field of 20 candidates running in a “jungle primary” special election that included Loeffler, who Gov. Brian Kemp appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Johnny Isakson in late 2019. Warnock received 32.9 percent of the vote, while Loeffler got 25.9 percent. Her main Republican challenger, Rep. Doug Collins, received 19.9 percent.

source

To Worry or Not To Worry

When I used to work as a judicial pissboy in New York City Housing Court, standing in the broken shoes of tenants too shaky to defend themselves from eviction and homelessness, I often found myself trying to reassure the more nervous of them. I did this with the great confidence born of experience and knowledge.

“I know this is very scary to you, terrifying even. Anyone would be shaken up at the prospect of being evicted from their home. It’s natural to be worried, but there is no reason to worry, and I tell you this with complete confidence. Please try not to worry unless I tell you there’s reason to be worried, and there won’t be. I know the outcome of your case because I’ve done this hundreds of times, I’ve had this identical situation many times and never was anyone evicted. Under the law, before you can be evicted, the judge has to (blah blah blah). This will not happen. My role is to get us enough time to get the small grant needed to end the case against you. The grant will come, 100% though it will take time. I will get the time for the grant check to be released, I’ve done it countless times, I’m an expert in getting more time. I can get more time even in the worst case scenario, when the marshall posts an eviction notice on your door– something that won’t happen in your case. I mention this because even if it does happen, I can stop it. There’s nothing legally unusual about your case, it’s very straightforward, a good outcome is a 100% certainty. So I understand it’s hard not to worry, but please try not to worry unless I tell you there’s something to worry about. In this case, you won’t hear that, since there is literally nothing to worry about.”

Sometimes they’d seem reassured, other times I’d get calls every other day from them, beside themselves with terror. My words were probably true, they acknowledged, but, to the nervous ones, there was always a first time, the unforeseen, the terrifying deathlike long-shot that would find them cringing in a doorway, dirty and unhoused, on the coldest day on record. In their worry they could even believe every word I’d said, but, the thought that would have them bolt upright in the middle of the night was “OK, but what if anything happens to this guy? What if he has a stroke and they replace him with someone who has not done this dozens of times?” There is no answer to that kind of worry. It’s not even, strictly speaking, unreasonable. It’s useless though, and constitutes a kind of self-torture. But I can see their point, suppose I’d died and an inexperienced guardian ad litem was appointed?

I once heard of a case where the tenant had not brought up an obvious defense and was evicted. The defense was so obvious that a reasonable judge may even had a duty to bring it up — but this judge didn’t and nobody knew to appeal her silence. The tenant was evicted, though he should not have been, under the law. I questioned the colleague who told me about this case, an Israeli-American lawyer with a substantial Israeli accent. I was surprised to learn that the tenant had been represented by a lawyer. A lawyer who did not raise the obvious, winning defense, the defense that would have prevented his client’s eviction.

“What was the lawyer, a schmuck?” I asked him.

Schmoke,” he said in a singsong cadence, with a beautiful little shrug, pressing the button for the elevator.

I’m not saying the world is not filled with schmokes, people too stupid to know how stupid they are. The stupider the person, we find, the more confident and unshakable they are in their opinions and beliefs. You can pile all the evidence you like on one side of the scale, you can prove your case, beyond a shadow of a doubt, with no reasonable argument on the other side, and a person impervious to a factual argument will dismiss it with “so you say…” Facing this kind of stupidity is generally not a major problem in life, we can learn to recognize it, remain neutral when stupid people begin to argue and get away from them as soon as possible. The stupidity of others only becomes a problem when they have any kind of power over us.

So if, the other day, when we have the highest number of COVID-19 infections in a single day, and over 1,000 COVID deaths, your candidate boasts confidently “we have defeated COVID, COVID, COVID!” — you might be able to excuse your candidate’s obscene and obvious lie (because he’s protecting the unborn, giving you a million dollar tax break, whatever) but you will have a hard time defending it as a truthful statement. Which doesn’t matter, of course, if everybody else you know is in the same kind of patriotic denial you are. You might all sneer, and laugh and agree “like the man says, just more pure Socialist Democrat Antifa bullshit propaganda– nobody died from COVID-19, ever! We had fifteen cases, it went down to zero, like the president said, done.”

There are millions of unreasonable people in our great land, millions of stupid people, sad to say. They will vote in great numbers for Donald J. Trump, no matter what. He speaks directly to their emotions, he wants vicious revenge on the same people they hate (did you know American citizens of limited income who had at least one immigrant in their household with no Social Security number got nada when those onetime $1,200 relief checks went out? [1]). He announces his vitriol openly, without dancing around the point like some double-talking pussy politician afraid not to be “politically correct”. He’s as true as the North Star the same as he was as a ten year-old millionaire with a fist full of grievances against an unfair world where entitled Negroes, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans get every break — where the white man doesn’t stand a goddamned chance!

As far as I can see, there are millions more Americans who can make a basic cause and effect connection. The president’s mishandling of the pandemic, alone, should cost him the vote of every American who is not either dumb as a pile of turds, too full of hatred to see past his rage, or is making a ton of extra money because of this rich man’s president. The number of American’s with at least some discernment, I have to believe, exceeds the number of people who absolutely don’t give a shit about anything but their grievances. I have to believe this.

The U.S. has 4% of the world’s population and 20% of the world’s COVID-19 cases — a 500% disparity. We lead the world by an impressive margin in the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths. This is directly attributable to the president’s abdication of responsibility for a coordinated national response to controlling the pandemic. He put the problem of controlling a wildly spreading, deadly worldwide disease squarely, and ridiculously, on each of the states and the several “territories”.

He appointed a religious fanatic and his own unqualified son-in-law to head the team in charge of the federal response. The unqualified son-in-law brayed like a challenged six year-old about who owned the federal stockpiles of equipment (PPE) desperately needed to control the spread of deadly disease, at a moment when states were competing for a very limited supply of PPE. It doesn’t belong to the states, the young man at the podium insisted indignantly, those are our stockpiles. Our’s.

Thousands upon thousands of American died (and continue to die) brutal, solitary deaths they didn’t need to die, from a disease they didn’t have to catch, in part because one spoiled billionaire, appointed by another, was pouting about who owned what instead of addressing what needed to be addressed to prevent massive exposure and deaths during what his father-in-law correctly called a plague We now know Trump was aware of the severity of this deadly airborne disease as early as February 7th when he told Bob Woodward about it, for the record.

America’s 614 billionaires have collectively increased their wealth, over the course of the pandemic, by almost a trillion dollars. They can vote for whoever the hell they want at this point, you would think. A bunch of vocal, prominent ones, and a cabal of more secretive ones, want their golden boy back for four more years. Why not? They’re making out like bandits. Current technology allows them to engineer razor thin Electoral College majorities to get their candidate into office by margins of 0.02% and 0.07%. The Electoral College is designed to foster minority rule, if it comes down to it.

But these are all dumb, boring facts, and we live in an alternative-fact, faith-based universe now.

So why shouldn’t you be worried?

There has been record early voting for the next president, much of it in person. Young people are voting in record numbers. This appears to be a tidal wave of votes against the wildly incompetent, cruel incumbent, though we can’t really know one way or the other at this point. I know 2016 was a sickening shock to 60% of America, and a seeming proof that the “popular vote” makes no difference in the outcome in our system rigged for the super-wealthy, but the political landscape this time is much different.

For one thing, the president has spent four years actively telling tens of millions of people in “Democrat” states to go fuck themselves, over and over, including during this pandemic. He hasn’t done much for most people in Republic states either, outside of billions of taxpayer dollars to farmers he screwed during his lost trade war with China (I know, I know — we own China now, which is why they are helping Biden…) particularly when it comes to minimizing deaths from this awful disease.

39% love Trump no matter what, they always will. As he said, he could shoot somebody in front of his multimillion dollar tower on Fifth Avenue and he wouldn’t lose any votes. His lawyers made the same argument in federal court, managing to keep straight faces. They stated that he couldn’t be arrested for shooting somebody in the face on Fifth Avenue

39% love him. At least 50% do not. In this election it appears that much closer to the 60% who hate this guy, for his actual record, for what he has shamelessly done, for what he does and promises to do more of, how he provokes, lays out a feast of divisive hatred at every infectious rally he holds, violating health regulations in state after state, are turning out to vote against him. Millions of first time voters are coming out of their indifference to vote this clown out. Women, who unaccountably voted for this misogynist, white women gave him a majority of his votes (maybe he’s right about them…) against Hillary Clinton, as a group seem to have finally had enough of Trump. At this moment we can’t know how these millions of votes have been cast, but to me the signs look pretty positive.

Can he still win? Yes. The Electoral College, an eighteenth century constitutional compromise to protect the institution of slavery, may be again surgically tweaked to award this modern day would-be slaveholder the presidency again. It can only happen in a fairly close election — assuming the voting machines in multiple states are not hacked and massive numbers of votes flipped. We are told the states are zealous about guarding against this kind of hacking. The courts can rule that any ballot not arriving promptly by 8 pm on Election Day is invalid. They can invalidate millions of legal votes and fights will continue in court over this, but this will only be a factor if the margin of Trump’s defeat is not decisive and undeniable.

The reason Republicans are in court in over 300 cases in 44 states to limit voting is that they know they are going to suffer a major electoral ass whipping, based on their candidate’s record. It appears they are in the midst of this ass whupping, with record-shattering early voting poised to exceed the total votes cast in 2016. It is crucial for the anti-majoritarian tyranny party to win court cases to limit the votes of people rightfully outraged by too many outrages to count. They will be unable to overcome a tsunami of votes, even if the courts refuse the counting of millions of otherwise valid ballots that come after 8 pm on November 3, no matter when they’re post marked.

Trump has already actively sabotaged mail-in voting, used violence against peaceful protests, illegally withheld funds from “Democrat” “anarchist jurisdictions” during the economic hard times brought on by the pandemic, attacked the governor who was the intended victim of a kidnapping, “trial” and execution, exhorted armed followers to show up at polling places to intimidate enemy voters. He’s not a very nice person (I’ll take a higher road than Keith Olbermann, who finally, and repeatedly, referred to our president as a “piece of shit”).

Trump is also an increasingly desperate guy. He’s at least $400,000,000 in personal debt, and facing numerous state lawsuits, and even the possibility of prison time for tax evasion, once he’s no longer president. He constantly calls on violent supporters to not allow a “rigged election” to be called against him. He actively supports killers on the right and dramatically vilifies any hint of violence during lawful protests — gunshots by his supporters are always justified, broken windows are acts of sick and dangerous anarchists.

Are there reasons to be worried? Yes, certainly. If Trump is president on January 21, 2021, this democracy is over. He has openly violated too many laws and norms to count and will, as is his only way, double down on his brazen lawlessness. The laws he has violated, laws like the Hatch Act, that at one time forced people to resign for violating it, will never be replaced. All norms for civility, decency and basic fairness will be permanently cancelled. We will have open oligarchic autocracy and by rights someone like me, opinionated, reasonably well-spoken, a reader of history who thinks he’s so fucking smart, and has a big fucking mouth, will get what he fucking deserves.

But like I told the worried tenants in whose smelly, worn-out shoes I used to stand, now is not the time to worry.

[1] This bit brought to you by the vicious xenophobes who cannot find the parents of 545 children separated from their parents at the southern border, the same folks who wouldn’t renew the CARES Act:

And one of the biggest populations that was excluded was children and adults in immigrant families. And about 15 million, it’s estimated, individuals in immigrant families were left out. And, you know, most of these kids would have been U.S. citizen children. But the exclusions were particularly harsh here, because if just one adult in the family did not have a Social Security number, no one in the family, regardless of citizenship status or green card status, were able to receive the payment. And so, that has huge applications for families in every state.

source

Pschyopath vs. Sociopath

Now there’s a pay-per-view cage match we’d like to see!    

We wise apes now have an authoritative professional catalogue of psychological and emotional disorders, currently in its bigger than ever fifth edition, over nine-hundred pages.   This tome contains all the things our top psychologists and other mental health professionals have categorized as shades of crazy that can be diagnosed, treated and the treatment covered by private health insurance once the proper numbers from the thousands of diagnostic and treatment codes are inputted into medical invoices.  

An imperfect system for treating widespread mental health troubles that effect virtually all of us one way or another, you say?   Many of these identifiable maladies can also be thought of as challenging problems of the soul imposed and exacerbated by a particularly merciless social system?   Some of the categories reflect our limited social evolution and the prevailing arguments of the day — homosexuality, for example, was listed as a pathological disorder in the first two editions of the DSM (removed in 1973)– no?  We are also dealing, in most cases, with a fairly wide spectrum of symptoms and disabilities, are we not? 

Those may all be valid questions, but, undeniably this system, for all its admitted imperfections, is also an inexhaustible gold mine for professional wielders of this invaluable book, the DSM.  So let us look to that book for our definitions.

Plus, none of that quibbling has anything to do with our Sociopaths and Psychopaths.   Some things never go out of fashion.  Let’s get on with the show!

Let’s meet our contestants for tonight’s heavily sponsored heavy-weight battle– the psychopath vs. the sociopath.   Both are listed members of the APD community of mentally ill persons.  Antisocial Personality Disorder — people who have serious difficulty relating to others; might be unusually aggressive, might make a habit of violating personal space, might just get a thrill from making other people uncomfortable.   People with APD lack major social skills that most humans acquire in childhood.  This type of alarming, aggressive behavior is common in junior high school and high school-aged kids, mainly boys, but most normal (if we may use the word) people will grow out of it.  If you don’t, a diagnosis of APD might be in the cards for you.

Look, honestly, it’s hard to tell a psychopath from a sociopath without a scorecard. On the actual scorecard, the popular DSM checklists, both will score high on the preliminary tests.

Distorted sense of self, a void in the identity that must be filled with external things like power (check);  Lack of empathy, a deficit in emotional intelligence, an unwavering self-focus (check);  Pathological personality traits– attention seeking behavior, manipulation, exhibiting a high degree of most or all of the famous Seven Deadly Sins — envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath (check).  

Now comes the question that separates the average toxic asshole from the APD — are these traits normal for your stage of life or the common, unique requirements of your particular social position?  If not, you could have APD.

A psychopath, we learn, is born with a certain genetic set-up, the sociopath is programmed to act out anti-socially by a very bad upbringing.   Get it?    Sociopaths are often reckless, haphazard and passionate;  psychopaths are generally cool, calm and calculating.   Sociopaths form emotional attachments, toxic ones, yes, but genuine relationships.   Psychopaths enter relationships only for the advantages they can provide.

This dream bout will be harder to stage than I originally thought.  Crap, I was so looking forward to it.

Probing this distinction makes me wonder about some of our more ubiquitous public speakers these days.   Where, for example, does the son-in-law of the most powerful man in the world fit into this scheme?    

 

Screenshot_20200430-170314_NYTimes.jpg

 

Merely a deluded, toxic asshole, ruthless super-wealthy slumlord, confident exemplar of supreme entitlement, or actually… oh never mind.   What difference does it make?  

You know, some days, I’m pretty much just typing here.

 

Nazis are always on point

It is a challenge to get a coherent and reasonable view of the whole sickening death spiral most of us, and all other living things on the planet, are up against.  If we can’t see it, how do we take action?   We are all soaking in this perilous status quo solution because a few people, determined to have everything at any cost, wake up on fire to get more every day, no matter what the price to the most vulnerable among us.  Nazis and klansmen are always on point, ready to serve their masters.   They know exactly who they want to kill at every moment, in a way that ordinary people don’t.

We are so well marinated in this corporate/fascist moment (where mass death of our most vulnerable “losers” is vastly preferable to even a momentary loss of profits for the most successful winners among us) that it’s impossible for most of our fellow frogs to even see what we are neck deep in or to even imagine that there are alternatives to it.  

So effective has Rugged Individualist advertising/propaganda been that even very intelligent and politically progressive friends have come to feel (notice “feel”, not reason or decide) that doddering compromiser Joe Biden is our best hope against Trump/Bolsinaro/Putin et al.    Frustrating.   The Democratic party has sold out to corporatism to the extent that a gif of a saucy Nancy Pelosi snarkily wagging her finger at an uncheckable Hitler-wannabe seems to be the best we can hope for.

We live by corporate rules, and many more millions will die worldwide because of it.   We cannot escape the merciless logic of these rules.  Random example:

I’ve been resisting doing the update on my phone for months, hating every update I’ve been forced to do over the years.  Yesterday and today the corporation that made my phone  began disabling my phone randomly, middle of a call– screen black, $800 device rendered useless.   They just did it four or five consecutive times as Sekhnet called to verify that my phone, set to ring at top volume, no longer rings when she calls me.  Sekhnet urges me to just do the update for my phone while I scream about Korean fucking fascists (Samsung) and the perfect unbeatable BIRD WINS mindfuck of surveillance capitalism.

How do we get out of this almost boiling pot when the vast majority of our fellow sodomized citizens can’t even see the problem?  How do we fucking organize to fight back?  Any ideas?  You, in the back…
 

This is Just the Way it is

Things are just the way they are.  Most people believe that since we’re largely helpless to change even the most oppressive things about our lives, particularly the gigantic ones well beyond our influence, it’s best to simply develop a stoic attitude.   It’s one thing to imagine a better world, it is a much harder thing to figure out how to bring about positive change to bring us closer to that imagined better world.  Best to accept that this is just the way it is, we are powerless to change anything, however ugly and unjust some of the details of it might be.  The best we can do is develop the serenity not to be tortured by injustice, we are taught.

Would the life of the average American be much more secure if nobody had to worry, on top of the fear over a life-threatening health challenge, about going bankrupt and becoming homeless if they get cancer or are grievously injured in a car crash?  Sure, but IT’S SO COMPLICATED!  Jobs lost, destroying lives, gigantic private companies out of business, almost two million jobs for health insurance middlemen and middlewomen lost forever… what if you like your doctor and a socialist death panel doesn’t allow you to see her?  How will socialized medicine work?  Who will decide?  Won’t millions still die while waiting to see a doctor?  Isn’t socialized medicine a disaster everywhere else in the world?  I don’t want to die.  I have good private health insurance, why should I jeopardize that, etc?

I don’t minimize any of these complications.  Those two million people will have to be retrained, and paid while they learn new job skills.   Some could probably be employed by the government administering the program that will be replacing their jobs.  How to make the transition to a better health care system is a real discussion, it will take some hard work to find workable solutions to real problems. Is it unimaginable to live in a country where nobody has to make the unthinkable choice between losing their home and seeking treatment for a deadly disease?  I don’t think so.  Particularly since every other wealthy nation has that kind of system already.

I tend to put much of America’s pessimism about positive change down to the billions spent in the corporate media to convince us that the way things are is simply the inevitable result of freedom in a democracy.   We are influenced by the often pernicious myths we are fed every day, in ads, in the way news stories are presented (what facts and voices are excluded from the conversation), by a skilled group of well-paid talking heads, speaking persuasively over corporate media, telling us how things actually are.  

Listening to this stream of persuasion we come to believe things,  Most of us succumb to this wall of inevitability that is presented to us.  Things like: it is inevitable, of course, that the boldest and the brightest, if they work hard enough, will succeed.    That the accident of your birth will be a huge factor in whether this is true or not will not be mentioned.   Though there is, by objective measure, less social mobility here in the USA than in most other wealthy nations (born poor die poor and born rich die rich are pretty much the rule, with notable famous exceptions that can be cited to “disprove” this rule) we all prefer to believe that the American Dream is attainable by anyone who works hard enough.    You can work very hard at McDonald’s, but the rewards will not be as great as if you are working very hard (or even hardly working) as the youngest executive at your dad’s billion dollar company.  [1]  That’s simply the way it is, the way it has always been, grow up and get over it, loser.

This quickly heating frog soup water we are all marinating in is, to a large extent, the result of irrefutable corporate logic.  Corporations have armies of lawyers and lobbyists, as well as public relations geniuses, making sure that the law favors their profit-driven activities, for reasons the public can understand as philanthropic.   If there is a regulation that will cost a corporation millions to comply with, a team of top shelf lawyers is sent to court to fight its enforcement.  I have a friend who spent his legal career dutifully, and skillfully, fighting this army of lawyers in case after case in federal court.  He went to court over and over to get a judge to order a US government agency to enforce its own laws, in each specific case he was forced to argue.

There was a regulation that stated that a corporation could not engage in this practice (that was destroying a habitat, dumping toxic waste, whatever) without first doing these other things that ensured certain protections for the rest of us.  The corporation had not done these things, the facts made clear.   The law was clear.  So, at the end of litigation, were the loopholes uncovered by the army of corporate lawyers who’d proceed to drive the bulldozers through those loopholes.

We learn, because corporations, unlike us, have no feelings, no conscience, are incapable of moral judgments about anything outside of the best way to increase profits for shareholders, that it is futile to fight these monsters.  Those of us who persist in these kind of draining, one-sided battles, insisting on our “rights” (the express limitations of which are, after all, excruciatingly spelled out in the corporately drawn contracts we are forced to accept) are considered by many to be masochists madly tilting at windmills.   The corporation will almost always win.  Getting the benefit of your bargain with them, if they are intent on shortchanging you, will require superhuman patience and resilience.  Best to avoid!  Take your screwing, go have a nice dinner, go watch a comedy.

The alternative?  The new computer you bought does not perform one essential function?  Call the company, speak to polite men in India, have them run the diagnostic tests on your computer.  Wait for them to tell you that your computer has passed all the required diagnostics.  The problem is not from the “hardware”, it is a “software configuration” problem that is expressly excluded from the warranty.   They will provide a paid service to fix it, if you’d like to be placed on hold to learn more about this service.  You can’t be told the price, because the corporation does not let the technicians at the “out of warranty” department communicate that information to the warranty department.  Why is this feature out of warranty?   We will send you the warranty, sir, you can read its 15,000 tiny words for yourself.  Believe us, sir, we’d like to help, if we could.  And as to the paid service, don’t worry, the paid service is “take it or leave it”, you needn’t pay anything if you don’t like the price.

If you are willing to endure however many hours will be required to solve the problem with your otherwise nifty new computer, you can learn, eventually, that the company was misstating their warranty policy for a brand new computer. As one would hope, everything about the computer, including the configuration of the original software, is under warranty for a certain period.   No need to pay the $239 for premium out of warranty service, $169 for premium limited out of warranty service or even the $129 for a one-time fix.  Not your financial responsibility to pay the company for fixing a bug that came loaded on to their brand new machine.  No need to endure a long, aggravating hold to learn the fixed prices for this service!

Of course, the psychic price you will generally be asked to pay to learn this may be unreasonably high for most people.  I wound up screaming in uncontrollable anguish near the end of an entire frustrating day, mostly on hold, listening either to an annoying loop of upbeat muzak or to endlessly repeated ads for the computer company.   My life was temporarily ruined by my exertions yesterday, in a real sense.  Sekhnet is not talking to so far me today.  Even though the last call of the day came with good news.  My complaint had been escalated, the computer will be fixed free of charge, nobody should have been put through what I was yesterday and the night before.  Apologies all around.

Of course, I had to remember and deploy the word “escalate” before reaching this resolution.  The last supervisor I spoke to, while empathetic and apologetic, was unable to really do anything for me.  She regretted this and apologized again for her inability to be more helpful.   Until I reached into my expanding corporate lexicon and pulled out the magic word “escalate”.  Yes, that was something she could do, she would escalate my complaint.  Shortly after my issue was “escalated” I got a call back from someone who could actually solve the problem.  Like magic, after only a handful of hours of frustration.  Just the way it is.

 

 

[1]   My grandparents arrived in America twenty years before the Nazis wiped out everyone else in their families.   Jared Kushner’s grandparents were in Europe during those nightmarish Nazi years and managed to survive and reach America.   My grandparents worked very hard, every day.  Jared’s grandparents also worked very hard every day.  It would be impossible to say which couple worked harder. Jared’s grandparents started with two dollars between them, the unlikely story goes.  A generation later: billionaire owners of a real estate empire.   My grandparents, who I assume came with more than two dollars between them, died owning a one-bedroom apartment in Miami Beach and not much else.  C’est la vie, baby.