Blog Archives

Wandering

I’m putting the throttle on, and working up to being calmer. It’s hard when you are so sick.

My wandering has led me somehow into the guts of the Georgia Democratic Party, and I can hardly believe I’m doing some social media for 19 counties.

It’s strange, getting noticed. I’ve always considered myself nobody special. Heaven knows I’ve been told by assholes that I am not. Yet, some people I know and have known like me better than I thought.

This is odd. I can’t process it, because I am in it now. From here, I have no idea where I am going to take my id and subsume it into some superegoistic organism like a political party. I have a lady boss, and we’re going to talk over my spartan quesadilla, hold the creamy shit and sub exttra salsa, and do a bit of day drinking today when I meet her in person for the first time. Every thing I have written here in this small space has been really, really honest and I also had no idea that all I was doing was reacting to…everything. Even at my sickest, I told the truth here.

So, that’s what my boss wants. Reaction. OK, I can do that. The trick will be to convince people that there is action to be taken.

I shall not capitalize my words here anymore….oll-korrect being the exception since nobody fucking speaks their own language very well. Nobody punctuates anymore, nobody can tell the difference between a metaphor and a true statement. I omit entire articles when I type sometimes. Thanks to social media, texting on tiny devices and the mind-twisting Twitter, you are now challenged to get your thoughts in quickly and some of us forget what an apostrophe is. I guess it’s OK, grade school was a long time ago and we were all too hyperactive to learn and no one knew how to calm us down because they stopped hitting us.

I am pleased by this evolution, but some of you need a nun with a pointer. Christian discipline seems to be the only thing that has worked for the West, and we know how I feel about discipline and Christianity and I will accept neither without cause. It doesn’t matter though; all our masters have done is discipline us with the pursuit of survival and we have great alacrity now in telling our fellow man to go fuck himself.

Pure fucking comedy, if it wasn’t such a deadly game to play.

Now you go play, kids. I have some of my own playing to do.

I Just Don’t Care About This Holiday

To be perfectly honest, most of them have lost their lustre as I enter my 50s. Everyone acknowledges that they made it through another year of challenges and talk about what they want to do that’s “new”.

Why are we doing this stupid ritual? It’s a mark on a lunar calendar. The solstice is already in the bag and we are going to get closer to the sun. What kind of pagan shit is this? It’s twenty fucking twenty-three. We’re not going to crash into it yet or be cut adrift from it. No mature human save for the religious should be making a huge deal about the planet moving, and no one at all should be connecting it with some kind of personal renewal, much in the same way we only have Christmas as the impetus to be giving. I thought by now we would have been done with this kind of New Age crap, but I guess it’s still the New Age and I will just have to get used to the idea that many of us are still participating in some small way in this flaky shit without the drugs and cults and fucking. Some fun this is. I guess it’s just been that way and there is no point in resisting.

Yes. We are all getting older and a year closer to dying. The planet didn’t get hit by an asteroid. Maybe we didn’t catch a possibly fatal disease that has killed millions. For some reason, celebration of these things seems strange. But, I suppose when times are troubled, this is just normal human behavior. Being missed by Death is something we fixate on as the only animal on earth that knows very well it is going to not be alive someday and that really gets into our high functioning, neurotic monkey brains and causes us to hope for more life, more and more of goddamned life, which can be much, much worse than death for the brave and the afflicted. How greedy of us, those who are intact and pain-free.

I guess it comes down to another old-timey belief, that of being lucky. I suppose our dipshit European ancestors brought that idiocy with them to land that was not New at all. To the people we killed and subjugated to live here, New wasn’t even a thing, I think. Time wasn’t worth much to Native Americans, although that may be too much a blanket statement given how many tribes were here and I suppose their beliefs were manifold. But I guess when your life is fraught with danger, on a ship whose destination the sailor isn’t quite sure of, these are things you believe in. When you make land before lack of food and potable water and disease wipe you out, it’s not surprising that each succession of European immigrants fell to their knees when we got off the boat and thanked whatever the fuck they thought helped them make it.

Lucky is horseshit-chance, however, is not. No one is watching over us. Sorry to burst your bubble.

When you get right down to it, anything can happen, which sounds like I’m scraping up against a version of Murphy’s Law without the fatalism. And perhaps that’s why we gird ourselves for the next 365 day long block of time in our lives by overlaying hopes and goals over the fact that we are alone, unless we have people who love us. We want order, because the chaos makes us want to throw up. If there is any god or goddess, it is Eris-our lady of perpetual confusion. She’s the closest I will ever come to acknowledging the supernatural-her fingerprints are all over this place, whatever it is, after all. Only on Earth does the universe look like there’s a purpose to it. You don’t have to look far to know that is simply not true. Look at your own life. That shit is fucked the fuck up.

In closing, roll with the punches, don’t think too much about oblivion, go crazy if you need to, I guess. I do not generally recommend it, because it’s a bitch to get it under control once you have lost said control. I won’t advise you, it’s a bad idea to listen to a sick person about sanity. The apple is yours. Don’t get a big head about it. It’s above your station to think of how favored you are too much.

Is Our Children Learning?

I am what you might call a guppie in the Twitterverse. My position and standing in Internet conversation has been fairly constant over the years that I have used it to communicate. I’ve run a couple of blogs over the years, and occasionally I would hit pay dirt and draw people to my site because a bigger blogger took notice of something I said. Soon after, I would slip back into obscurity. I like writing, but I don’t have the education nor the discipline to be “someone”.

And so it goes on social media for me. Especially when it comes to Twitter, the so-called “public square” where people meet to discuss ideas. But you have to be quick! It’s not like blogging at all. You don’t get to ramble longform, you need to limit your participation to about three sentences. Once in a blue moon, I say something that goes somewhat “viral”, where thousands of people look at a tweet I’ve composed.

Well, I went somewhat viral (for an account my size) a few days ago, from a simple reaction to another tweet. Here is what I reacted to:

My reply was simple and mostly glib, but I have started a minor firestorm about our failures to educate people. All I said was:

To me, it seems absurd that someone in that generation (likely a boomer) hasn’t got clue #1 about what a communist is. They spent half their lives feeling existentially threatened by them, so my question is, why do they know nothing about them?

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I can’t believe how often I have to explain this, but there is NO FUNCTIONING “FAR LEFT” IN AMERICA. IT IS A FIGMENT OF YOUR STUPID IMAGINATION IF YOU THINK OTHERWISE.

We’ve all watched how communism has not succeeded in bringing about a worker’s paradise. We know logically and empirically that communism is not the inevitable result of the decline of capitalism. To date, no one has done a very good job of bringing forth a humane revolutionary state that ends private control of property and production. Not even close.

Now let me stop you right here because I know what you are thinking: oh great, another idiot who thinks reflexively that “communism only works on paper”. I will not discard the ideals of Marx so blithely; in these modern times nothing is more plainly obvious than the fact that we have become economic animals, fighting between each other for position through possessions and money. The moneyed and the propertied among us would like to stay that way, and if it means that people die in the streets of the richest country in the world from hunger and lack of shelter because of it, oh well, so be it, they were useless workers anyway. Especially this nouveau riche class coming up- they have no taste and no sense of noblesse oblige at all. Young rich fucks like Elon Musk skirt their obligations to the society that hosts and nourishes them by being “cash poor” and living on gigantic loans that are untaxable. And when government comes up with a novel solution to obscene wealth hoarding like an unrealized gains tax, an entire political party is paid handsomely to make sure it never happens.

But anyway, people really wanted to talk at length about my little response. It’s been 48 hours and I am still watching some interesting conversations from a few dozen people. About a thousand people responded in some way or another to the tweet. This tells me that it may be a burning question that lots of people are asking to themselves, just as Shrub did, perhaps using better English.

So how long have we been stupid? Where did things go horribly wrong, and was it and is it by design?

I suppose the people who wind up picking up the tab for public education might think that they deserve a little say in what is being taught. But that’s not how a public service functions; once tax money is out of our hands, it goes, or should go to general welfare of some sort. However, our government today is sharply divided about this idea. Half of it thinks we can use government funded initiatives to enrich all through smart planning and smart thinking; the other half thinks that those people are “elites” who want to tell individuals what to think and do or some such nonsense. We don’t even know why they are in government because they detest it so much. Furthermore, their candidacies are funded by actual elites with billions of dollars in PAC and dark money to flood the political system with their influence. They are obsessed with an ROI, because that is how they think ALL of the time. Everything is transactional to rich people.

Cui bono? Not me? Fuck you, then, is what they are saying to us. And sometimes, that value system rubs off on the more brutish of our kind.

How are we supposed to run a society based upon this idea of extreme self-centeredness? There’s nothing like it in the primate world, as far as I know. Naturally, all orders have their peculiar hierarchies within a social system, but at least they have a system. The far-right (which does exist in America) would like to do away with this idea; some intellectuals believe it’s an evolutionary advance for us to be such individual creatures. The idea is a joke. Everyone is dependent on someone or something, I don’t care if you are the idea man or the laborer who brings the idea to life; we simply cannot get anything truly great done without each other. You can have freedom of conscience and still serve your fellow man, these ideas are not mutually exclusive. Look up “interdependence” if you don’t know what I am saying.

The end state of anarchy is oppression and likely, slavery or serfdom. Libertarians don’t seem to understand what a vacuum is. Or maybe they do, and are good with the basic savage laws of nature that we have spent oh, I don’t know, 40,000 years or more trying to protect ourselves from. It will go from liberty to authoritarian oligarchy in six seconds flat. Your little 2A pea shooters will not do much good against the army and police they purchase that will most surely grind you down.

Equally bad is fascism, which, funnily enough, is unwittingly promulgated by the very same people who preach radical individualism. Once again, the end state of the participants will terminate in them being crushed under the weight of the state and some raving lunatic with a silver tongue pining for good ‘ol days that never were. I don’t want to go Nazi here but it’s a readily available comparison. Hitler’s brownshirts were not unlike our new angry set of conservatives, and once the fix is in, our useful idiots will be discarded much like the brownshirts once they have outlived their utility to the so-called strongman that ascends.

And so we have tried an interesting middle ground to maximize freedom: to govern ourselves in a way with the aid of sage representatives. We decided a patchwork of differently behaving states would be far more preferable than an overarching government making nonlocal decisions for them. Our experience with the British crown soured any interest we had in an intrusion into affairs from up above. We tossed together a founding document after the revolution ended, and it worked poorly.

Enter the vaunted Constitution. Modern conservatives’ relation to the Constitution is pure irony; it was literally created to exert more control over the states. At the same time, a separation of powers was introduced to confound the activity of the government. Enshrined within was something relatively novel; guaranteed rights that are natural. However, let’s step back from the document and look at it as a whole and it is a severely dated compact that has not been updated properly and in the absence of fixing it to change the times, we use the judiciary instead to add meaning to the amendments which were not intended. Don’t get me wrong; if we’re not going to fix the Constitution, this is the only way to keep it current, by new legal reasoning. All the more reason to be careful who makes it into office, as it is the politicians who select these opiners, because even the judges can suffer from myopia or be inappropriately political.

In any event, promoting the general welfare, an oft-forgotten clause in the Constitution, is the point of it all- the idea of the more perfect union, not 300 million people in a rat race to get their piece of cheese.

I happen to feel that public school is a way to show the direction to that better place of union. But perhaps it has been ill administered from the beginning.

Note: this is a HIGHLY abridged glance at a few inflection points in our education system.

Protestantism has been hugely helpful in the pursuit of public education; after all it was they who insisted that the laity should have access to the Bible without interpretation by the clergy. It would take another post for me to discuss how Protestantism helped so many lose their way and become splintered over dogma. I’m probably not qualified to discuss it at length anyway. But for the sake of argument, they helped make us literate. In the 19th century, public schooling exploded, funded by tax dollars. Things went well-school became compulsory, and a bureaucracy was formed to standardize learning. Parochial schools existed, but were denied the use of public funding, as they should be. No one should have to support a religion centered education.

The Second World War interrupted progress in education, sending many teachers and students to fight and die. LBJ is the poppa of reordering 20th century education, though. In his War On Poverty, he sent extra federal dollars to struggling locales. He spent money to train an army of professional educators. We spent money on art, foreign language, and even mental health care at school. One of the things buried in his education act though, was that there be no attempt at a national curriculum.

This, to me, was a serious mistake. We are the United States. Furthermore, as I have said elsewhere, a “state” is a highly artificial concept, whose borders are drawn at caprice. There is nothing special about an American state as a unit of a federation. Doing things 50 different ways or more seems to me to produce lopsided outcomes for people stuck between arbitrary borders. I’m sure there’s lots of dumbshits out there who think this is a good way to create a fucking “laboratory” for democracy, as if experimenting with a thousand ways to run things is a great idea at this late stage in the game of federalism. We should be pointing towards perfection (in the abstract), but we seem to be dissipating and atomizing instead. Sometimes our labs are full of toxic fumes and you can’t afford to get the fuck out of the building to breathe. Our fixation on the marketplace as the only context where anything can be considered has caused us to be obsessed with the idea of “choice”, inserting it where it is unneeded.

Then, asshole Reagan came along, and institutionalized the very problem I outlined above, declaring blatantly that”government is the problem”, ushering in the era of the politician who wants nothing more than to stand in the way of other politicians trying to do their job. States were free to do what they wished without federal input. Obviously inequality in outcome was the result, as states and locales were now free to mismanage their educational system and damn near anything else in the manner they chose. We’ve made some attempts since his misrule to bring back accountability, often through wrongheaded ideas like using standardized testing and charter schools as a way to supplant so-called “failing” schools, which has only served to put teachers and administrators on edge and make them meet a milestone in a timely manner rather than teach, but on the whole we have just strengthened the idea that local control is best, and that a state knows better than a federal bureaucracy comprised of experts, thinkers, and protectors of institutions.

Since the deregulation of the school system, it has seen its funding slashed, its teachers discouraged, and its curriculum narrowed. Homeschooling by ignorant parents is on the rise. Other parents are demanding to pore over teacher plans and accuse them of brainwashing their students. We’re banning books from the school libraries. Socialization and empathy skill teaching is verboten. The secular nature of our system is under attack. Teacher pay is abysmal and a lot of prospective educators don’t know if it is worth all of the student loans they would have to take on to go into a system that makes them miserable instead of inspired. This is what local control has wrought.

Most people that responded to what I had said believe that there has been a purposeful long-term attempt to make students dumber, to make more docile, manageable workers. The wave making, drop-outing and near street level chaos of the intellectual student movement in the 60s must have shaken a few deep-pocketed families, and it’s highly likely that they are trying to prevent it again by not teaching our young about fairness, justice, empathy, civics, history, economics, philosophy-all of that good stuff is now hiding behind wildly expensive paywalls. Many veteran teachers took umbrage-which was certainly not intended. Teachers are not the problem AT ALL.

The idea that twelve years of school really only prepares you to be an average worker has been with me for a while, and right now, that is more unacceptable than ever. Had we done a better job educating in those 12 years, we wouldn’t have grown people begging for fascism and ersatz independence while screaming batshit about communism that isn’t being proposed. No one would have listened to the trash coming from the radio and the TV if they had been properly educated to realize what it was- and I’ll call it what it is-mindless hate speech. Now we have even more trouble emanating from the Internet, where all your prejudices can be validated with a coax connection and a mouse click.

Am I asking for some collectivism? Yes. I probably am. But that’s a far cry from communism. It’s just organization. No need to get spooked about it. It’s common sense. A complete, perspectivized education will not stop you from being “free”, in point of fact, you will have a better jumping off point than before if you know some very important fundamentals. No good teacher, and no sane parent wants to tell children what to think. Rather, they want students to get used to learning how to think. Let’s teach kids the best of what we know, tell the whole truth as best as we can, trust our professionals, fund public education fully, and then watch them soar. It would be supremely gratifying to once again see a generation do better than the last.

I Don’t Know Who The Fed Is Working For, But It Ain’t You And Me

I’m no economist. But economics seems to be one of those fields that you can be trained in for years and years and still not know what the fuck is going on. Not even a savvy investment giant like Warren Buffett can tell which way the wind is blowing all the time. Economics is a guessing game, judging by the amount of divergent opinions one can help themselves to in the news on a daily basis.

So the field is open for a layperson like myself to learn the fundamentals. But even the “laws” of supply and demand elude people interested in the subject. Some people think that is the end of the discussion, that all economic activity comes down to that raw tension between those two concepts. Their relationship is definitely very much a thing and weighs hard on all economic discussions, but it is not the end of them. What I have learned so far is that there are several forms of market warp that transcends the simplicity of laissez- faire notions of how money moves.

Peoples’ memories and attention spans being shit as they are, they often don’t remember events that changed the face of history. Just for an easy example, Trumpers like to point out the price of gas when he was president as compared to what it was this summer while Biden presided. Now of course this is dumb on its face because of the easily understood fact that the president does not really control gas prices. There are things that can be done, like releasing oil from our strategic reserve, employing gas tax holidays, and diplomacy with oil-producing nations. But most of that will not bring significant results that people are clamoring for. Stupid people think that presidents are like CEOs, where everything that goes wrong on their shift is attributable to them. But there’s this little thing called current events, and a president would have to have a crystal ball to head them off. History has to run through the course of a presidency, and to truly understand the efficacy or failure of a presidency we must know what happened during it, looking at phenomena that haven’t got a thing to do with who sits in the Oval Office.

So anyway, why was gas so cheap during Trump? Well, let me get right to it. It’s the prime mover of every calamity we have had and are continuing to have.

COVID-19.

If you don’t understand what the epidemic did to the economy, you have shit for brains and should shut up on the subject of economics for the last three years or so.

We literally didn’t leave the house for a year and a half. Businesses were destroyed. Supply chains mangled. Workers laid off. Oil actually traded in the negative, which technically meant we were running out of places to put the oil that no one needed and were on the verge of giving it away. We were worried about how we were going to wipe our ass. It took Trump begging the Saudis to shut their taps off to keep American producers afloat.

An event like this only comes perhaps once a century. It changes everything, and sometimes it just doesn’t matter who is the unfortunate chump in office is when they do occur. Mind you, Trump’s response to COVID was as bad a response as could be imagined, first denying the danger for months and then hawking quack treatments for people who were encouraged to have vaccine hysteria.

By the time Biden entered office, America was back at play, footloose and fancy free. Mask restrictions were done away with, vaccine proof was no longer needed to do certain things and we were off to the races. Demand skyrocketed.

But supply did not. A good chunk of manufacturing is coming from China, who has a zero COVID policy and if they catch a whiff of a breakout they literally go on lockdown. This would and still is causing a crimp in our supply capabilities. Oil company investors, who had their profits pared down seriously by COVID, went on a wild greed spree this summer, refusing to up production to meet the demand, citing a labor shortage, drill parts shortage and the events in Russia and Ukraine. Some of that may have been true-but much of the rise in price in oil was partly attributable to stock buybacks and and insistence on not growing to maximize the barrel price.

So what happens when too much money is chasing too few goods because supply cannot meet demand?

Inflation. It’s as natural as a newborn. Now during COVID under Trump, we printed seven trillion dollars to keep the economy alive. Another two trillion was printed in the first months of the Biden administration. Now those seven trillion under Trump had no effect on inflation. The Fed kept rates at near zero, allowing cheap money to flow wherever it needed to. Once again, it is stupid people who don’t understand that debt is not tied to inflation in a sophisticated economy like ours. Had this been true, we’d be like Argentina since we’re already 23 trillion in the hole and debt to GDP is almost 100%. We absolutely had to borrow that money to just keep basic services going. Some of it went to bad places but on the whole it was necessary debt, which some nitwits cannot tell from bad debt. But anyway, America is taking risks and are back in society, buying what they want. But they’ve noticed big time that what they want is going up in price quite a bit.

What’s the real problem? Did we overdo quantitative easing? Or is this inflation just a function of low supply and high demand? Or do we have yet more greed coming from monopolistic elements within the economy? Either way, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell thinks he has the answer. He’s gearing up for several aggressive interest rate hikes to combat inflation. People I have been reading say he’s going to crash the economy if he keeps it up, and that may be his plan-which sounds insane for a society that just got let loose into the marketplace to buy, buy and buy. Yes, some tightening is probably necessary. Some. But not recession-causing tightening. Apparently Powell doesn’t think the market has the know how to heal itself, and is going to instead contract us into a manageable size, where wages are lower as well as prices. This is madness. COVID-19 warp has shit to do with monetary policy. Those trillions were on the books and they could have stayed there a bit more while we got on with business. Once again, incremental adjustments to the interest rates make sense, but not these ham fisted moves Powell is making. He’s not going to squeeze inflation out of the economy if he is not taking into account what is causing it.

It’s not the balance sheet, folks. It’s the bug. And if Jerome Powell thinks he’s doing us a favor by making the cost of of money expensive and halt this economy’s gains, he doesn’t understand the American consumer nor the pandemic. Give America a minute to actually be a free market. Or to be free, period.

Let’s Talk A Little About Steve Bannon, Putin and The Future of Global Fascism

Sometimes I feel pretty fucking clever when I’ve sussed out that America is about to enter into its second dalliance with fascism and its characteristics. It will be Christian, white, and male-centric. Like Jello Biafra said once, it’s bedtime for democracy and there is no telling when it will wake up.

Now it’s awfully hard to believe that Steve Bannon, who looks like some weird mixture of Baron Harkonnen from Lynch’s Dune and a wino, is of any particular threat to American democracy. It’s almost hilarious that he has Mike Lindell on his “War Room” on the regular. He’s probably facing jail time soon, depending on how much he pisses a judge off by turning his contempt trial into a media circus.

However, as far as the right wing goes, he’s the daddy-o of American neo-fascism, or populism, or nationalism, whatever you want to call it. And when he fell out with Trump, he moved on to bigger and better things. After the White House, he went abroad to spread the populist word, powwowing with right wing parties, dictators and autocrats around the globe. He’s a Putinist, and I guess now is a great time to introduce a notorious living Russian fascist, often referred to as “Putin’s Brain”, Aleksandr Dugin. (More on the Dugin-Putin relationship here). The guy appears to be completely insane, a mad monk advocating for a Russian empire that stretches all the way to Ireland. I am sure that Putin, while a little touched in the head himself, listens to Alex’s counsel, smiles in his mind, takes the good parts and leaves out the absurd. He did come up with the idea of annexing Crimea, and thinks Russia should treat Ukraine as theirs, which they have done de facto by invading and robbing Ukraine of its ability to trade freely. I’m not going to get into an argument with any of you chuckleheads out there who seem to have no clue about military tactics and realpolitik, the end game of this invasion is that Russia gets good cream and lots of political leverage over the rest of the world from Ukraine’s food and energy markets. And there isn’t shit the West can or will do about it. (UPDATE 4/2: Zelenskyy isn’t giving up territory for peace, and NATO is now sending deadlier assets. He’s either going down with the ship, or this is going to be Afghanistan II: The Return Of The Bear Trap.)

Anyway, back to this character Dugin for a minute. He is quoted as saying, “We, conservatives, want a strong, solid State, want order and healthy family, positive values, the reinforcing of the importance of religion and the Church in society”. Sound familiar? That’s word for word what the Republican Party in America has come to stand for. Coming from the mouth of a Russian fascist. A “traditionalist”. Democracy, liberalism, and individualism are all anathema to his thinking, a refutation of the principles of America’s revolutionary ideas. He said of Putin as early as 2007: “There are no more opponents of Putin’s course and, if there are, they are mentally ill and need to be sent off for clinical examination. Putin is everywhere, Putin is everything, Putin is absolute, and Putin is indispensable.” It’s not dissimilar to the cult of personality that surrounds Trump, or any other “strongman” who can control people. The main difference between Putin and Dugin, is that one is pragmatic and one is a romantic. He wanted Putin to take Georgia as well as Ukraine. Putin took the chunks he could hold, probably knowing from Hitler at Stalingrad that when you spread yourself too thin, you will get your ass kicked. He believes that COVID is a “kind of divine reprimand, a divine decree against humanity.” and “It is a kind of punishment for globalization.” Dugin attacks the arts and the schools for their decadent thoughts (again, sound familiar?), even finding physics and chemistry to be “demonic”. The man is a mystic, looking for signs of the apocalypse.

So let’s circle back to Bannon: what’s the connection between him and Dugin? Well, they met once, in 2018, in Rome. While they agreed philosophically, the meeting did not go well, as Dugin was focused on the United States as the great evil, and Bannon felt it was China. I guess we should be glad they did not agree or join forces, but the idea that America is engorged with “evil” is becoming chapter and verse for more and more Republicans, no doubt to Putin and Dugin’s glee. We will be rid of Steve Bannon soon enough. But if we continue to share a traditionalist fascist destiny with Russia, then I am afraid the world over will become a dark place to practice freedom.

Annexation: Old Imperial Tactics In The New World Order

It may be time to take a fresh perspective on why Russia has recklessly invaded its neighbor Ukraine. In our hearts, we see what the war has wrought and we know it is wrong. Because war disgusts all good people. What gives Vladimir Putin the right to continually attack his neighbors without consequence? Why doesn’t somebody do something to contain them?

In his mind, history accords him that right. But I don’t think Putin is operating from a pre-WW2 mindset, as he is often accused of doing. I don’t even think he’s operating in a 2014 mindset either, Because he’s been taking little chunks from other countries for years before the Ukranian revolution. Where is Putin coming up with the justification for annexation and invasion?

In today’s carefully managed defense of territorial integrity, annexation by force is a highly unpopular move. In modernity, anyone who tries to pull it is severely disciplined by the world community. Saddam Hussein learned that when he tried to begin his ideas of a Greater Arabia by annexing Kuwait; he ended his quest dangling from a hangman’s noose. Slobodan Milosevic also had dreams of a Greater Serbia and committed genocide to achieve it; he too was executed for his crimes. The only country in the world who has not been punished for annexation per se is Israel. That’s a complicated one because the Palestinians never declared statehood, so the view seems to be that they are taking no sovereign territory. However, their occupation of the Golan Heights is definitely straining the definition of occupation and pushes closer to annexation as they continue to hold it, year after year. (UPDATE 4/6: Papa Chomsky reminded me that Trump allowed the official annexation of the Golan Heights. Oops!)

However, in the case of Putin, it’s very hard to discipline him. A bombing campaign will not stop a Russian advance, nor will a counter-invasion of Ukraine. Russia, you see, has nuclear weapons. A lot of them. And they have made it clear that any move that threatens the existence of the state will be met with annihilation. So we have to be very careful how to play this one. And the world has been. We have been pouring every low intensity asset available we can into Ukraine to make this invasion super painful for the #2 military in the world. There’s two ways this invasion can go: one is to turn Ukraine into Afghanistan II for them. This, like Afghanistan, could take years and kill millions. The other is for Ukraine to cede control of hostile areas around Ukraine that are Russian-friendly and end this terrible siege.

The second option disgusts many. Who would countenance the loss of territory like that? Would the United States cede states, as some are fond of saying?

In our case, the answer was no. But we paid a dear price to preserve our Union in the years of 1861-1865. People are still arguing about why it happened. To my mind, it was about consolidating and retaining power. Since 1776, America worked and warred its ass off to become and remain The United States. And I figure Lincoln wasn’t going to let a perfectly good union go to waste after cultivating it for almost a hundred years.

In contrast, how long has Ukraine been Ukraine? How far do you want to go back? Empires wax and wane, so let’s just start with modern Ukraine. They had a revolution in 2014 which would eventually skew Ukraine’s ties closer to Europe. As you might imagine, Russia didn’t like that at all, for reasons I’ll try to address later. They saw the revolution as a good a time as any to return Crimea to Russian control. No blood was shed, and the Ukrainians relented and allowed Crimea to become autonomous, protected and run by Russia-friendly leaders. But peace was not established yet. War broke out in the Donbas region, and two pro-Russian separatist states declared their independence from Ukraine. This time Ukraine was going to fight for its territory and subdue the rebels. And up until February 2022, they were still at war. But as we all know, Ukraine had bigger problems than Donbas. Russia began to surround Ukraine with its military, and here we are today, wondering whether World War 3 is going to start.

Ukraine had only been Ukraine for eight years, if we take the various separatist movements into account. It was a country in revolutionary flux, and Putin picked a good time to weaken it and make it something unpalatable and indefensible to Europe.

Or so he thought. We may not want to start a nuclear war, but most of the world, respectful of territorial sovereignty, has made sure that Russia will be punished by playing an old conventional game of violent imperialism. And we’re doing it without directly causing a single casualty at our hands.

There’s a lingering question though: what does Russia really want from Ukraine? You can find it in today’s papers. It is, as it has always been, “the special operation”, which Russia has invented some bullshit reasons for. Now it may look like Russia wants to eat Ukraine whole and return it to old Russia, but as you can see, they’re not getting very far if that is the plan. It’s purely a strategic move; to connect Crimea to the Donbas breakaways via land. Contiguity is what Putin wants, plus he wrests access to the Sea of Azov from Ukraine. I believe any military action not in Donbas is to distract and disperse the Ukrainian military so that it can no longer defend its eastern flank. What is the crown jewel in the special operation? Where does the connective tissue between these little secessionist republics begin?

Mariupol. As I write this, Russians have kidnapped tens of thousands of its civilians and is demanding that the city surrender. What Volodomyr Zelenskyy decides to do next will probably determine just how long Ukraine remains under siege. This is a flashpoint. Let’s say Russia wants to make a deal-ending the invasion for the surrender of Mariupol. Can they be trusted? To me, the answer is yes. They can see damn well that this war is not going to plan and they are probably eager to get back to some semblance of normalcy and deal with all of the economic, political and military fallout from the incursion. Putin will have paid heavily for his land bridge if this is the direction Ukraine wants to go. No one is going to “win” the battle for Mariupol. But as of now, Zelenskyy is holding firm, refusing to give up the city. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but it will not be pretty. And if anyone really thinks the West is going to do anything about it, they’re kidding themselves. Because the reality is, Ukraine was like a DMZ to the EU and NATO. This war is still on “cold” setting, and will likely stay that way so long as Russia blunders around in the DMZ. That is a tragedy for Ukraine, and I hate it. They’ve been caught between two power blocs and a newly adventurous Russia.

So, let’s circle back to the question of just where Putin’s head is at and what year he thinks it is. To do that, we must look at the recent history of the EU and NATO, and ask ourselves if we too have been “annexing” countries by pledging to defend them. Are we playing the imperial game as well? Did World War 3 start without a shot several decades ago? In Putin’s mind, this is undeniable. For the EU and NATO, their goal is simply to defend democracy. It’s probably a bit more complicated than that. It seems obvious that the goal is to hem Russia in, ending its influence upon the states that surround it. We did that during a time when Russia was at its weakest. Just like we finally came together to bring Germany to heel, ensuring it would never be a threat to Europe again. Nothing remains of its Nazi past for continental domination. This is what we wanted from the dissolution of the Soviet Union. To ensure it would be crippled so it could not threaten the world with its weapons of mass destruction.

But Germany had to be utterly destroyed for us to stop the Nazis; it was not the way we defeated the Soviets. The USSR fell to internal pressures; we just sat back and watched it happen. A deal was made between Russia and NATO in 1991 to dissolve the Warsaw Pact, and in return we would not accept former pact members into NATO. But that’s exactly what we did. The US and the Eurozone, to Putin, were “annexing” its old stomping grounds.

1991 is where Putin’s head is at. That was the year he quit the KGB and began running for office. Like it or not, he turned the country around in a lot of ways. I imagine he had grand plans to “Make Russia Great Again” and that’s what he thinks he’s doing right now. His own personal Monroe Doctrine. He’s been fucking with its neighbors ever since, trying to amass more territory and more power where he can. Whenever he sees chaos, he exploits the conflict. He saw the conflict in Ukraine. Trying to pull Ukraine into Europe’s orbit was a last straw, and he’s going to make the fledgling government pay for its eagerness to do so with land loss. And it’s doing it through old conventional imperial techniques like force. Whether he pulls off this special operation is unknown. Ukrainians have shown themselves to be tough as nails, but now we have to worry about hostages.

In no way am I excusing Putin’s actions any more than I am blaming NATO for its actions. But it’s important to dispassionately look at the possible “why?” for the invasion of Ukraine and armed with that knowledge, figure out how the hell to make it stop without blowing the world to kingdom come.

Reverse Reverse Discrimination

Nothing is stupider or more pathetic than white males bitching about unfairness in America. We’ve been giving ourselves special treatment since we hit that rock.

But thanks to America’s steady decline as a place of limitless opportunity, there’s a whole lot of us incensed that minorities and women are helped by programs that promote parity with the people who have traditionally enjoyed the rewards of this soon to be not-so-fecund land now that there’s increasingly less to go around.

Some of the more troglodytic among our kind called it “reverse discrimination” or “reverse racism” whenever a traditionally oppressed minority was given “special” privileges, like being given a protected spot at a prestigious college or enjoying first serve on a government contract as a minority owned business.

Worry no more, my white male compadres.

The Trump administration is here to fix this interminable, institutionalized discrimination against us.

Always implicit in the “take our country back” rhetoric was that we were clawing it from the uppity females and minorities who had taken our places in line as the real backbone of this country. Those are our shitty jobs with vanishing pensions, damn it. Those are our graduate degrees that aren’t good for much any more.

If PoliticusUSA’s angle on Donald Trump’s signing statement astride the stopgap budget is correct, the special treatment gravy train is over.

I know what you’re thinking. Donald Trump cannot spell the word “tap” on his phone, much less craft a response full of legalese to a budget that he neither read nor had a hand in writing. I’m as incredulous as you are. In toto, if you read the whole nauseating thing, it is the equivalent of I’m The President And nyah nyah nyah. Its thrust is nothing new; it’s just another hopscotch square towards the unitary executive gaining primacy over anything or anyone that seeks to limit its power. Elbridge Gerry called it: we are becoming a monarchy, with a corrupt aristocrat wearing the funny hat, or in Donald Trump’s case, the scotch-taped power tie.

But anyway, included is a sop to bitchy, insecure, aggrieved white males who don’t want to share their station with anyone. In it, somehow, the intent of the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendment has been turned against itself. For example, used to be a time when the Fourteenth tried to help the enslaved and marginalized become equal. Now we all know that the promise of the Fourteenth took almost a century to realize itself in jurisprudence with Brown. And even that was like a trip to the dentist for regional white men. But anyway, it had legal dynamite in it whose explosion is still being heard today, and thankfully so 99.9999% of the time. It ended with the clause “equal protection of the laws” and no one was to be denied.

But now white men are apparently on unequal footing with groups like women, blacks, and Indians:

“My Administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender (e.g., Division B, under the heading “Minority Business Development”; Division C, sections 8016, 8021, 8038, and 8042; Division H, under the headings “Departmental Management Salaries and Expenses,” “School Improvement Programs,” and “Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program Account”; Division K, under the heading “Native American Housing Block Grants”; and Division K, section 213) in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.”

Taken at face value, in Trump’s America the long march to a balance of opportunity has become lopsided again, and this time around white males are the ones that need protection from the oppressive minorities.

Further through the looking glass we go.

Over, under, sideways down.

When will it end?

When will it end?

 

 

Too Extreme For Alabama

There is such a thing.

In the age of Trump, sometimes it feels like everything is hopelessly fucked and there is no way to change it. Right-wing radicals are trying to lay waste to everything good.

But we’re also dropping a lot of albatrosses lately.

Bill O’ Reilly finally got too expensive for Fox. Alex Jones’ lawyer outed him as an actor. Jason Chaffetz couldn’t stand the heat in the kitchen. Those are big right-wing fish that just got netted; a propagandist, a conspiracy theorist, and a gatekeeper.

After months of smoke, we’ve found the traces of a conflagration. It’s only a matter of time before Trump and his minions get caught with empty cans of gasoline and matches.

But I bring good news from my neighbor in the Deep South.

Historically, Alabama has been a terrible place. It’s nicknamed the “Heart Of Dixie”, which translated from the Southern tongue means “Home To A Lot Of Racists”. I have been to Alabama once. It is as hot as the planet Mercury in the summertime, and I would rather be dropped there than visit Alabama again because Mercury doesn’t have mosquitoes.

George Corley Wallace Jr. was the face of Alabama and segregation in the sixties. Morris Jackson “Mo” Brooks Jr. is a representative from Alabama. Mo’s worried that there’s a war on white people. Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III also hails from there. Jeff is our attorney general, and is currently not sure that Hawaii is a state.

But I have good news. Another big fish from Alabammy has been speared.

We got Judge Roy Moore. After a long suspension, he’s been kicked off the fucking bench for good. Happy day!

For those of you who don’t follow these things like I do because you enjoy your sanity, Roy is best known for being an insufferable Christian bigot who could not get the concept of separation of church and state through his thick skull, nor could he comprehend the hierarchical structure of the United States court system as laid down by the Constitution.

Good news is often hard to find here at the seminary, because we are in a world of shit where the president seeks the counsel of Kid Rock. But if Alabama can work up the will to rid itself of unethical fleabag judges, there’s hope for all fifty.

 

Neil, You’re Missing Something

Far be it from me to delve into the technicalities of a particular piece of jurisprudence.

But as a lay person, I feel I can demur against the judicial reasoning that one part of the first amendment runs roughshod over another.

Antonin Scalia Neil Gorsuch seems to believe that the free exercise clause is of far more import than the establishment clause.

It should be common knowledge by now that the impetus behind the establishment clause was that the State stayed out of the religion business, favoring and endorsing none. Fifteen years after the constitution was authored, President Thomas Jefferson made it clear to the Danbury Baptists that while he respected religious liberty, no special consideration was to be granted to a particular faith as far as the United States government was concerned. That brief 1802 missive heralded the idea of church and state separation. And for the most part, the secularization of our government has prevailed, notwithstanding things like the changes to the pledge of allegiance, annoying non-inclusive invocations before legislative sessions and the god bullshit on our money because of our allergies to any form of economic distribution besides capitalism.

Well, the SCOTUS is about to make a turn for the worse, with Neil Gorsuch leading the way. A case is currently being debated that could expand the definition of “religious liberty” in the law’s eyes . It may now mean that government funding for religious institutions is acceptable because the first amendment guarantees free exercise of religion. Therefore, the withholding of government funds (tax revenue that the church does not contribute to, mind you) because of adherence to the concept of refusal to establish amounts to discrimination against them. The plaintiffs further cite the fourteenth amendment, which as you all know mandates equal treatment under the law. If a public school wants to improve one of their playgrounds with government grant money, they reason, then it’s only fair that a religious institution should be able to have access to those funds as well.

This is very tricky legal jiu-jitsu, blowing off the establishment clause entirely to  accommodate believers. It pits the constitution against itself. If this decision slides rightward, you’re going to start paying for improvements to churches.

It starts with something innocuous like surfacing playgrounds. God only knows how far this can go, because the ineluctable tendency in Christian circles is to push, push and push the envelope.

Thinning The Absurd

 

Regular lurkers here know that I came out against calling things “fake news”.

Oh, it’s not that it doesn’t exist. Our president is a regular consumer and producer of it.

But he and others have used a bit of rhetorical jiu-jitsu and now “fake news” is news you don’t want to hear or simply do not believe- even if it is true. It’s become one of Twitler’s favorite smears against news organizations who are up his ass. So I’ve decided I’m not going to play this game of what’s “fake” and what’s not and just discontinue use of the phrase anymore.

Now, I also said I wasn’t going to take a swing at a specific left-leaning news site because I am ideologically aligned with them, but I’m about to renege on that. I said that because I think some of the emerging farm team writers generate good content. The best political bloggers of the golden age of the ‘sphere got paying gigs long ago, leaving the medium dormant. Only pikers like me use personal desktop publishing to talk politics anymore. In its place today, we are seeing this second generation of political journalism that is being made possible by social media. These new farm team sites can pop up and piggyback upon each other and proliferate news and opinion on Facebook, where there are opportunities to grab the grail of websites-the click. Money and notoriety can follow.

This has caused, to put it lightly, problems.

When a click is all you are looking for, it’s very tempting to sensationalize your headline in order to get the most eyeballs. People are hungry for breaking news and exclusivity, and if there isn’t any of that around, some sites will simply create it. This is not “fake news” per se. It is merely misleading flotsam. And I think it’s just as pernicious as making things up out of whole cloth.

You’re blacking the eye of left-wing journalism, nay, journalism in general when you write a screaming headline that has the slimmest tangential relationship to the article you are writing.

I had to unfollow, unlike and de-link one of these sites today. Here’s the tease that caught my eye, from yesterday:

All 8 Supreme Court Justices Come Out Against Trump’s SCOTUS Pick

SAY WHAT?

Oboy, the Court is appalled by the machinations of Mitch McConnell to get Neil Gorsuch on the bench at any cost and they are speaking out! Yay!

*click*

What’s this? The fucking source material is THREE WEEKS OLD! It’s nothing but a retelling of the fucking story of the Court unanimously overruling an opinion written by Gorsuch. I fucking know about that! Fuck! Fuck this fucking site!

Can you relate?

You’re lying if you say you can’t. We have all been taken in by a site that preys on our emotions, imaginations and desires to desperately see something be true. The only truth is they got your click- and these manipulative motherscratchers didn’t worry about how they did it.

So, I have a job to do today. I’ve got to have a reckoning here and on Facebook and separate out the hyped-up chaff that is doing no one any good. As I said, there are some that do decent second tier work, but some are profiting off credulity in an irresponsible, unethical manner. We are living in an age when the outrageous is a possibility, and it’s getting harder to tell truth and nonsense apart because they look the same. So check and re-check before you give these fly-by-night operations more ad revenue.

 

 

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