March ’22 Internet: The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times

We’re only in the third month of the year, but so much is happening in the world that’s there’s bound to be some monumentally smart takes, and some monumentally dumb ones.

Today, as always for posterity, let’s look at an example of each.

One the smart side: Seth Abramson’s Substack produced a really long but super comprehensive assessment about the nature of our world as Russia continues its push through Ukraine. You will gain much if you can finish and digest that.

On the dumb side: a post that could make the Hall Of Fame Of Stupidest Fucking Tweets if there ever is one. I haven’t seen something this dumb on Twitter since Glenn Reynolds tweeted that protestors blocking streets should be run over. Here’s Peter Schiff, whoever the fuck he is, commenting on President Zelenskyy’s sartorial choices while addressing Congress as his country is being reduced to rubble:

There is no sign yet of him deleting that thought. I hope it stays so I can continue to be entertained by the fallout.

More Coordinated Violence

With the conviction of an Oath Keeper for seditious conspiracy, we are sure going forward that the Capitol break-in on January 6 was planned by at least one organization for the purpose of stopping the electoral vote count.

Now it’s members of the Proud Boys who may be charged with the same. And their leader, Enrique Tarrio is one of them.

Proud Boys are cosplayers. They actually have something called a “Ministry Of Self-Defense”. Jesus. Who do they think they are, Public Enemy? Anyway, Tarrio got himself thrown in jail before January 6 and was ordered to leave DC by January 4. However, the MOSD was still in town, readying for the rally. And Tarrio got caught sending a message to them that day to “storm the Capitol” on the 6th.

It gets better. He and Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Oath Keepers, allegedly met in a parking garage on January 5, so Tarrio left and came back. Talk of wiping and encrypting communication devices occurred.

So we’re probably going to roll up another seditious organization. That’s great news. Merrick Garland, often accused of not doing his job well or at all, is squeezing the tube of toothpaste of this conspiracy from the bottom, building these cases on each other, and hopefully he will arrive at the top in time to nail some of the worst political criminals since Watergate, to include the former president. Because I think we all know that Trump was in on this whole thing. It’s just not provable beyond a shadow of a doubt yet.

But there’s some forward movement on that front. Hard working Allison Gill, a member of the podcast Mueller, She Wrote, has discovered something veeery interesting in the Tarrio filing.

Remember that tweet? Sure you do.

That was December 19, 2020. Tarrio began his secret MOSD messaging group December 20.

What can we infer from this? That Donald Trump masterminded January 6? It still must be proven. Masterminds are tricky creatures; they keep many layers of conspirators between them and the crime. So keep the faith. And remember the maxim: the wheels of justice turn slowly. But when they grind, anyone caught between them is truly fucked.

The Energy Boat Is Sinking, And We’re Going Down With It

Now that President Biden has shut America’s door to Russian energy, the public has responded with great zeal. Anyone with a soul knows the Russkies are awful and we shouldn’t give them money. We have scored a small moral victory over a giant tyrant. Prices will be going up with the loss of their contribution, but many are prepared to put up with some more squeeze of their wallets.

A lot of Americans will now be turning to a new enemy: the domestic oil sector. They want oil execs in the stocks now for price gouging because filling their tank and going grocery shopping has suddenly gotten rather pricey while they and their shareholders rake in billions. Who can blame them? There are so many struggling Americans out there and it seems obscene that it should happen, that so few should get so rich while hundreds of millions get poor. It is obscene. Let’s call it what it is.

So how do we stop the profiteering? Or how do we mitigate the damage from it?

The most radical idea would be to nationalize the energy industry. No profit making industry should have so much power over a nation. Chances of this happening: 0%. So let’s move on.

We could cap prices or make them graduate increases. Make it so they can wet their beak, but take a chill in kicking the customer’s ass. It may not work, because of the speed of these price increases. Companies would chafe under the caps as they watch a lot of money left on the table. Still, it’s the least worst idea I can think of for all parties.

Another idea I’ve seen floating around is penalizing companies found to by hyperprofiting while demand is so high and supply is so short. This sounds good, but if you remove too much of their profit, their incentive to expand their business shrinks. To retain profitability, they will take more wells offline. That equals even higher prices, and dependence on imports.

Another option would be to somehow force companies to produce to lower prices. The feasibility of this approach is questionable. Again, the need to profit is in the way here. If unable to, these business will do anything from shrinking to closing, throwing people out of work. Sounds like a recipe for catastrophe to me.

There’s a few other options. Two of them are actually savory.

Subsidies.

We could lend or outright offer oil companies public money to open the taps. That doesn’t sit well with most, as they are already doing quite well without jacking up our national debt.

The other way we could do a subsidy is give consumers a one time payment to offset the higher gas prices. A little stimulus, say $500 at least would satisfy a lot of angry Americans.

The final option, which would take some time to achieve, is fucking green the goddamn energy mix.

Now that we have discussed what we are doing and could do to stop the price pain, let’s dig into the other reasons why gas prices are so high. You’re gonna hate me for this, but there are exculpatory reasons for oil companies’ reluctance to produce and grow. By now, you have already heard that thousands of leases for drilling remain unused. The kneejerk reaction to that is to demand that they get to drilling. However, there remain systemic problems within the industry inhibiting growth. This article here is highly instructive. I’m gonna quote a lot of it because it’s important, but you should read the whole thing.

U.S. shale production is back in growth mode, but inflation and supply chain bottlenecks could hobble the growth trajectory this year despite the tempting economics of $100 oil.

Yet, cost inflation, labor and equipment shortages, and continued restraint in spending and drilling from the biggest public independents could slow output growth.

EOG Resources president and chief operating officer Billy Helms noted that there are a lot of headwinds for the U.S. shale patch to ramp up activity and grow production this year.

Equipment and labor constraints are some of those headwinds, Helms said on the call, giving as examples challenges in attracting workers for the drilling and frac stages and the fact that “most of the good equipment is already under employment today.”

“And hopefully, the industry can strengthen and get better on a go-forward basis. But this year is going to be a challenging year from that side,” said Helms.

Over the past weeks, other shale producers and oilfield services providers have flagged headwinds to this year’s growth. For example, frac sand in the biggest shale play, the Permian, is in short supply, threatening to slow drilling programs at some producers and sending sand prices skyrocketing. This adds further cost pressure to American oil producers, who are already grappling with cost inflation in equipment and labor shortages.  

$100 oil could unleash a lot more U.S. oil production, in theory, but supply chain constraints and record-high sand prices are likely to temper growth, analysts say.

It would seem that the industry is experiencing a bit of paralysis, and that’s factoring into low output.

This next part is chilling:

Supply chain and cost inflation aside, the largest public independents in the U.S. shale patch are not racing to pump too much crude, even at $100 oil.

EOG Resources, for example, guides for crude and condensate production in the range of 455,000 to 467,000 bopd for 2022, compared to 443,000 bopd for 2021, suggesting that one of the biggest listed independents follows the other public shale firms in pledging to cap growth and return more cash to shareholders.

Pioneer Natural Resources, the biggest oil producer in the Permian, will not open the taps and will stick to discipline even at $200 oil, says chief executive Scott Sheffield.  

“Whether it’s $150 oil, $200 oil, or $100 oil, we’re not going to change our growth plans,” Sheffield told Bloomberg Television in an interview last month.  

Now here is where I’m listening that we institute a cap on prices. Because they’re berserk if they think the economy can do $200 a barrel oil.

Basically, the energy industry is going to bring the globe to its knees, partly by design, partly by circumstance. There are no easy answers. What seems clear is that we have not really gotten far up to the summit of this rollercoaster ride. You may see shit people have never seen in the coming months and years.

How To Hurt The Russians Without Shooting

I’m going to attempt a triple lutz here and try and answer a much asked question these days: how the fuck do we stop buying Russian oil?

Well, I’m afraid the hard answer is to stop our insane hunger for oil itself. We’re talking about a massive restructuring of the energy mix in the United States. Solar. Wind. Maybe a little nuclear. Obviously there is no such thing as eliminating petroleum use, it simply makes too many products that are useful and necessary to modern life. But we could also learn how to travel more responsibly. More mass transit like buses and rail, and perhaps electric cars that are affordable.

Joe Biden and the Democrats tried to begin this restructuring with the Build Back Better Act. It was stomped by Senate Republicans and Joe Manchin. It would be my guess that all of these creeps are on the take from dirty industry, who by the way, are enjoying the Russian/Ukrainian war. You see, uncertainty makes markets do funny things, and war and all the economic sanctions we’ve thrown at Russia have caused volatility in the oil market, causing it to reach heights above $100 a barrel. There’s also renewed demand from a wind-down of the COVID scare, and not a lot of supply out there to meet it. And no one in the oil industry anywhere has any interest in increasing supply because they are enjoying record profits. This includes American oil producers, believe it or not. This shouldn’t be allowed to happen, but our dumbassed free market system allows it.

Now what would happen if we shut Russia out of our market? They are the #2 producer of oil in the world and have plenty of gas for themselves. They are in the export business, and we get about 3 percent of our oil from them because of our thirst for the stuff. Chances are, if we drop Russia as a supplier, we’d see more pronounced pain at the pump, and increased prices due to higher transportation costs. That’s not good. Survivable, but not good. It’s also politically difficult because people have been propagandized to reflexively believe it’s all the president’s fault. But consider the plight of Europe, who is under direct threat from an expanding Russia. They import sixty percent of their oil from Russia. Talk about being fucked. The simple fact is, no one with an advanced economy can kick Russia out of the global market. I suspect they will find other takers for our 3% if they are rebuffed.

No matter how you slice it, the lesson we all must ultimately learn from the Russian/Ukraine war is that we need a global energy revolution. As it is, we’re heating up the planet, but the turn away from fossil fuels has geo-strategic importance. If we can just have some resolve to change the way we live, we don’t have to rely on tyrants for fuel. It could even stop American militaristic adventures for black gold, which means more happy mothers whose sons didn’t die for a lie.

I like the sound of that.

Lawyer Down

If the news about who plotted the January 6th sedition was merely walking, in horse terms it has begun to trot. Yesterday, an Oath Keeper plead guilty to conspiracy and is ready to roll to assist in other prosecutions.

Anyway, John Eastman is now fully in the Select Committee’s crosshairs. You remember John, right? He was Trump’s counsel, and an author of one of possibly several roadmaps drafted that would enable Trump to retain the presidency. They want the rest of his emails, and might well get them-they are not subject to attorney client privilege anymore. To whet the appetite of the district court, the committee released an email Eastman sent to Pence’s lawyer, telling him to have his client violate The Electoral Count Act on the 6th, which in Eastman’s diseased head was unconstitutional.

The committee may be shooting for the moon here-if there’s a whiff of conspiracy, Donald Trump himself may be ensnared for that. He also may be liable for fraud in his effort to portray the election as rigged. I suppose we should not get too far ahead of ourselves here, because even if there is a criminal referral to the DOJ, any prosecution forthcoming from one would need to be airtight as fuck, which seems to be the standard for anything that Garland is working on, unless you’re the sort that believes he’s not working on anything hard, which I very much doubt. I’m no lawyer, but I do understand that there is some complexity to making sure a victory is attained, one that can’t be turned over on appeal.

I look forward to my metaphorical horse speeding up to a canter.

We Got One

What with the twin blights of Omicron and the invasion of Ukraine, sometimes it’s easy to forget that a bunch of maniacs overran the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. It’s retreated to the background; there have been no referrals for criminal conduct besides contempt coming from the House January 6 Select Committee. The attempts to make sense of the attack have slowed or stopped. I’m no longer seeing too many people trying to piece together the chain of events.

Until today. We nailed one of the participants on seditious conspiracy and he’s talking to avoid further time.

Joshua James, a 34-year-old Arab man, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding. The maximum penalty for each crime is 20 years in federal prison.

As part of his plea agreement, other charges against him were dismissed and the government agreed to not charge him with any additional crimes in connection with Capitol breach. James agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and testify in future court proceedings regarding the Capitol riots.

Here’s where it gets juicy. We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that part of that crowd came for violence to delay the certification of the election. Was it part of THE plan? Et tu, Roger Stone? We may know more when this cretin starts singing.

The seditious conspiracy indictment alleged that, following the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, James other co-defendants and others conspired to oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power by Jan. 20, 2021.

In his guilty plea, James, a military veteran, admitted that, from November 2020 through January 2021, he conspired with other Oath Keeper members and affiliates to use force to prevent, hinder and delay the execution of the laws of the United States governing the transfer of presidential power. He used encrypted and private communications, equipped himself with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and was prepared to answer a call to take up arms.

Ten more of these huckleberries will be facing similar charges in the future. One of them is the leader of the Oathkeepers, Stewart Rhodes. Sedition charges are rare-but it underscores how serious the threat was to our government that day. We can only hope that they can tell us more about whether or not they were encouraged or instructed by other actors. Perhaps they operated as a cell, free to plan their own mayhem. Then again, if they blab about coordination, maybe we get some evidence on someone nearer to the Trump circle.

It’s a new day for the truth about the 6th.

White Supremacist Christian Fascists-Not Trying To Hide It Anymore

Well, CPAC is in the middle of its annual smarmy, self congratulating circle jerk rantfest. Occurring parallel to it is the the less known but growing in notoriety AFPAC, the America First Political Action Conference. Created by 23 year old proud incel Nick Fuentes in 2020, it’s becoming the place to go if you want white nationalist support.

Guess who showed up at this years white-a-thon?

Maybe Three Toes can break him off a piece and end his losing streak with women. Anyway, here’s a little Greene:

In her speech, Greene referred to the assembled AFPAC crowd — among them prominent right-wing extremists who have been photographed giving the Nazi salute and reciting the infamous “14 words,” a white supremacist slogan — as “canceled Americans.”

“You’ve been handed the responsibility to fight for our Constitution and stand for our freedoms, and stop the Democrats who are the communist party of the United States of America,” Greene said.

She also took time to attack transgender people, claiming Democrats have destroyed “gender” and “pronouns.”

Incendiary enough. But Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers beamed in and turned up the fascism to 11:

Another colorful character speaking at the convention had this to say:

…far-right podcaster Stew Peters called for the execution of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whom he falsely blamed for causing the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tony Fauci literally unleashed a bio weapon on the world. Why is this man running around free instead of hanging on the end of a noose somewhere?”

Pay attention: if given power and permission, these people will commit atrocities against anyone not like them. And their numbers are not shrinking.

A New Contract “On” America

Rick Scott made a power move a few days ago, releasing, apparently without consulting Mitch McConnell or any Senate leadership, a 60 page PDF titled An 11 Point Plan To Rescue America”. It’s wildly radical, and if even twenty percent of it is enacted, democracy and freedom are in grave danger.

Highlights include shuttering the Department of Education, forced patriotism at school, elimination of anything resembling affirmative action, elimination of diversity training, backing the blue to absurd extremes, naming any completed border wall after Donald Trump, elimination of government assistance across the board, a line item veto for the president, placing a 5 year lifespan on any federal legislation, discounting any ballot that arrives after election day, removal of ballot drop boxes, taxing the poor, funding low-income women to take their unwanted children to term and placing them in the adoption system, torquing up a ban on “obscenity”, refusal to recognize non-binary people, suing social media for banning TOS violators, a policy of isolationism except when defending national interests, and withdrawal from the UN if it runs counter to our interests.

Whew.

That’s just a taste of what’s in there. I think you should go see the rest, it’s some scary shit, friends. So what’s Rick Scott’s deal here? It’s an interesting jump of chain of command. I’m gonna assume he’s not just trying to be helpful. As we all know, Rick is a rich, ambitious motherfucker, catapulting from venture capitalist to Florida governor to Florida senator. So to me, two guesses emerge-he wants to replace McConnell, or he wants a serious shot at president in 2024 and is laying the groundwork for that campaign. Trump, who hates McConnell, would like Scott to take a serious stab at leadership, minority or majority.

Again, if any of Scott’s ideas make it to a Republican president’s desk, this country will become much darker than Rick Scott thinks it is now. So we see the danger ahead-make no mistake, if Republicans manage to flip Congress and steal the presidency, they will scrap the filibuster with a sliver of a majority and we will only be able to helplessly sit by as they bring white Christian supremacist-style fascism to the nation by passing bill after bill after bill towards that goal.

You people need to vote, and vote right. The right wing is not fucking around, and I don’t care what your opinion is of the Democratic Party, they are the only buttress between what we have left and what we will truly lose, perhaps forever if we aren’t organized.

Now that I have brought all of you down, I offer a little chicken soup.

Dick-Sucking Traitors

For posterity, let’s put down what Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo have said about Putin and the Russian incursion into Ukraine:

Trump, on some wingnut radio show:

“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.

“I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force. We could use that on our southern border.

That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right.

Pompeo:

Mike Pompeo has lauded the Russian strongman over the past month as a “talented,” “savvy,” “capable statesman,”

Putin is “very shrewd. Very capable,” Pompeo said in another recent interview with the Center for the National Interest. “I have enormous respect for him.

What to chalk this up to? This strange, slavish devotion to strength and masculinity is so weird. Is this what Republican voters want to hear? Well…

Sending Out An S.O.S.

When you think of what a Secretary of State does, your mind recalls the he or she is the nation’s top diplomat. Writ large in the United States, that’s their purview. But we are now learning that when brought to a state level, the Secretary’s functions change.

What am I talking about? The ability of said Secretary of State to maintain the electoral process. How did we learn this? We can thank Donald Trump for the instructive lesson when he tried to bully Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger into “finding” nearly 12,000 votes so he could win Georgia’s electoral votes in 2020. Raffensperger looked at recount after recount, followed the laws, and determined that Georgia had a secure and fair election. It’s pretty impressive if you look back at that phonecall; he resisted the demands of the President of The United States for over an hour. I give Raffensperger, a Republican, major props for standing by his decision that the Georgia election had been decided.

The Blue Wave rattled the shit out of the Republican Party; suddenly, they controlled nothing. And they looked at the future and realized it was going to become even more grim if they didn’t do something. They know, and everyone should know, that they are grossly outnumbered in terms of registered voters and the trend is going to continue that way. What they did in response is going to make the 2022 midterms an election equalling 2016 in terms of its importance to the survival of democracy in the United States.

Democrats rule the roost when it comes to control of the federal system right now, but Republican power still lies in their ability to dominate the state legislatures and outnumber the Democrats in governorships. And they have put the pedal to the metal drafting and passing bills that make it harder to vote. The most emblematic example of a current successful voter suppression effort is Georgia’s SB 202, which among other things made the absentee process nearly impossible to navigate, curtailed the availability of ballot drop boxes, reduced early voting (all of which will cause enormous lines resulting in voter discouragement) and most importantly, wrested control of the state election board from the Secretary of State and placed its chairmanship in the hands of the legislature.

Why is that important? Run 2020 again. A partisan official gets the call from Trump. Everything grinds to a halt as the vote is analyzed by the Republican controlled election board. You could be looking at decertifying in counties that lean Democratic over tiny irregularities. Disqualifying votes by mail. All the way up to sending their own slate of electors to the Capitol. Whatever dirty tricks you can imagine.

In fact, that is exactly what Jody Hice, leading Georgia Republican candidate for Secretary of State in 2022, would have considered doing. And even if Raffensperger is allowed to continue as SoS, his power to control the election apparatus in that state will be curtailed, if not rendered ineffectual. The Republican dominated legislature will fire anyone on the election board who bucks its will.

So now we see just how important the Secretary of State race is. Currently, the Justice Department is suing Georgia over the law, so if we’re lucky, we could get this ugly thing dealt with in court before we have the midterms.

We Democrats must have vigorous oversight of elections in 2024. Bold and just Secretaries of State are the difference between winning and losing the whole ballgame. Not to be grandiose, but democracy itself lies in the hands of this position.

However, our typical big money donors simply don’t see the danger.

During the last six months of 2021, just one person, Democratic financier George Soros, gave more than $25,000 to the main association involved in electing the party’s candidates for secretaries of state, according to a review of the group’s filings. Four other individuals gave $25,000 precisely.

The absence of more big checks is notable considering that the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, a 527 organization, has no limit on the size of the donations it can receive.

“I was operating under the assumption that people were recognizing this problem and we’re going to be flooding them with cash,” said Doug Edwards, one of those four individuals who gave $25,000. “That’s clearly not the case. … I’m going to start worrying about DASS again.”

So. To the money people, democracy just isn’t sexy enough for them to open their wallets. What’s the issue then? In a nutshell, Secretaries of State just don’t buy them the access they expect when donating generously to lawmakers and executives.

Grass roots are going to have to step up and fill the gap, educating themselves about the importance of the Secretary position, among others. Because the Republicans are wasting no time filling every position they can find at local levels that would affect an election. In Georgia, Hice is a well funded Trumper. If SB202 survives, we’re not going to have a fair shot at SoS. Honestly, Georgia Democrats don’t have a shot at anything in November. Abrams needs 60,000 new successfully cast votes, and Warnock cannot lose 10,000. Polling shows them both losing as of this post. Having Hice at the helm of the Secretary’s office means any future election is in jeopardy if he doesn’t like the results.

I happen to be a Georgia Democrat. So to my fellow Georgians, get to know your SoS candidates and donate and volunteer if you can. I’m a Georgian, and it’s Bee for me. She appears to be the best funded, and having met her and listened to her, I know she understands the stakes. Just get involved, somehow-because while we have the numbers, we are still the underdogs in a system designed to lock the majority out.

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