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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 4, 2022 by Tony Wikrent   Professional Management Class war on workers Railroading workers [Popular Information, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-29-2022] “The dispute boils down to one issue: paid sick leave. … Railroad companies have adamantly refused to include any short-term paid leave. That means rail wor […]
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Eight Days in June

Bennie Thompson, the Chairman of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol last year, has announced that that the Committee will hold eight televised hearings in June. He said that it has not yet been determined which and how many of them will be held on prime time television, and which will be in the daytime. How they will be ordered, and which witnesses will be called, is of course still to be decided.

I am sure that many of us remember the drama of the Watergate Hearings in the Senate, from May to November of 1973. I was in college, out for the summer, and I watched them virtually every day. They were in the nature of a mystery whose clues and revelations slowly unfolded. So many unforgettable figures in the Senate,, and as witnesses. The end result, which did not occur immediately, was the resignation of President Nixon. Even though Gerald Ford replaced him, pardoned him, and then was almost elected President, this still seemed like a major victory for the forces of democracy, and the rule of law.

And now we are facing perhaps an even greater threat, as incomprehensible as that might seem to anyone who is just waking up to it. We are watching Republicans who plotted that attempted coup, now feverishly working to finish it, and engineer the complete takeover of the American government by their forces, culminating in 2024, with a major step toward it in 2022. These hearings will be immensely important in trying to alert and inform enough Americans so that they might be compelled to try to stop it.

The House in 2022 is not the same as the Senate in 1973. That body certainly had staunch Republicans and Nixon supporters, but most senators were open to learning the truth. This House is filled with Republicans who mostly think or pretend to think that Trump won the last election, and that Biden is illegally the President. They did not impeach Trump, they would not have impeached him for any cause. They will do everything they can to interrupt, mock, disparage, and deflect from these upcoming hearings.

And of course the nature and knowledge of the American people seems to have significantly declined, as well. We can see that in the news every day. The question will be, is there something that could be shown to them, to cause them to understand what was, and, is at stake?

That is what these hearings will be about. Of course there will be witnesses, and this will be in the nature of fact-finding. But unlike Watergate’s six months of hearings, these will not be open-ended. They will be circumscribed, and in the nature of a story being known, and then conveyed to the viewers.

Again, the sides are drawn, and most people are likely to simply see what they want to see, perception bias. But the hope of the Committee is that there are enough open-minded people remaining to make a difference. If not, it will be much like the two impeachment hearings, a lot of sound and fury, after which most potential voters will not have changed their mind at all.

This will be even more difficult, because it is about the past, last year and the months preceding that. Republicans always respond to any such revelations by saying, “Well, it was not good, but it was in the past, let’s move forward, elect more Republicans.”

I suppose that the hearings could lead to indictments from the Department of Justice, or even the House itself. But we will be four months from the midterms. Would the hearings somehow compel enough voters to decide not to vote for Republicans, so that the Democrats hold on to control of Congress? If not, if the Republicans take over the House, this Committee will be immediately shut down, and the Republicans will then create committees to investigate all sorts of Democrats, out of spite, revenge, and attempted political gain.

This is another reason why the upcoming hearings will be so crucial. There are so many very bright and articulate Democrats on this committee, who must have a chance to tell the American people what is at stake for all of us. One of them, Jamie Raskin, not at all given to overstatement, said that the hearings will blow the cover off the House. He has access to information, through depositions and documents, which are largely hidden even now, and which the media has been unable to try to leak and minimize.

So this will be in the nature of a story told, but in rather sped-up fashion. The hearings have to be compelling viewing, because it is not just about, “telling the truth and leaving a message for history,” it is about breaking down the silence and the lies and the complicity of the Republicans who were very aware of what was plotted, and joined in the conspiracy, and are still trying to hide it.

I saw some brief discussion among journalists who are on the side of the Committee, with regard to how this should be done. And as expected, the comments were about how dire things were; some saying that it is the Democrats’ last chance to prevent the Republican takeover of Congress. And then, about how this should be presented. One said that they should employ filmmakers who support Democratic causes, and let them make a dramatic presentation, perhaps like they sometimes do at the Democratic Conventions.

I thought that the presentations at the impeachment hearings were well done, but they did not get Trump removed from office the first time, or punished the second time. They may have helped contribute to the Democratic wins in the 2020 election. But in midterms, there are so many races, and so Republican candidates will have their gameplan, which is to disparage these hearings, call them a witch hunt, blame “The Woke Left” for everything, and then go along with their plan to take over the country.

How should the Committee play this? Well, they need to have it somewhat choreographed, the story told in a compelling way, so that people who have not paid attention, might have a much better understanding, intellectual and visceral, as to how it all happened. As far as witnesses, I don’t think they can dare to bring ones forward whose testimony is not already assured.

A big mistake which Kevin McCarthy made, when the Committee was first created, is that he tried to put some Far Right people on it, who would of course have stymied the entire process. Speaker Pelosi did absolutely the right thing, by not accepting them; at which time McCarthy seemed to feel that he had made his point, would now play victim, and would not suggest any more people to put on it. So Pelosi picked Cheney and Kinzinger, and that was the Committee, one which could be stated to be bipartisan. No one on it is going to do anything but advance the narrative.

I will watch it, it will remind me of the days of 1973. I know that the media, both-sidesing as it now always does, will try to undercut the whole thing. “Interesting presentations, but no Republican in Congress has had their mind changed; and when we spoke to diners at a coffee shop in Cedar Falls, most of them said that they missed their soap operas, and wanted this to be over.” “Elon Musk tweets that this is all a waste of time; that the Left, which hates everyone, including themselves, is responsible for it, and let’s get back to having fun.”

The stakes are very high, and we only have a certain amount of chips to push into the pot. I have every confidence that the members of the Committee will do an excellent job, though I would wish for a Sam Ervin to be there. As always ,there will be what is said and what is shown; and then how the public reacts to it. I think that we will learn some new and chilling things, just how deep the conspiracy went, how many public officials including Congresspeople and law enforcement people were in on it.

We will have the floor, and hopefully a large nationwide audience, and we must pull no punches, but tell the public how bad it was, and how much worse it was intended to be. If we are doing so much to help democracy in Ukraine, how can we possibly allow tyranny to supplant democracy in the United States? That is the existential question which these hearings must focus on.

Democratic Senate Primaries, From a Distance

It is so important for Democrats to hold onto a Senate majority, at least 50-50, with Vice-President Harris being the deciding vote. At the least, that would keep Charles Schumer as Majority Leader, and allow crucial bills to come to the floor, and judges nominated by Biden to be voted on..

Every Democrat should realize this. But the nature of local politics often obscures the overarching needs. And how could anyone forget the efforts of certain people on the so-called Democratic Left to make things as difficult as possible for Hillary Clinton, and in some cases refusing to vote for her in the general election, which led to so many awful things, including Oklahoma just passing a six-week abortion ban which would never, ever have been upheld or left to stand in a Supreme Court where Hillary would have appointed at least two Justices. But too many people never learn.

This Senate election cycle is our best chance to hold the Senate, as the 2024 races are less promising. One would think that Democrats would win in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but the nature of things now is that even in what had been Blue states, it has become very difficult for Democrats to unseat any Republican incumbent. I was rather stunned to see how easily Susan Collins won in Maine, even when Biden had such a popular vote margin nationally and in that state. We keep losing in North Carolina, though we come close. We cannot win in Iowa any longer. And Florida gets more and more extreme.

We have Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where we must win. But Republicans have the money, and their two “big issues” are going to be “inflation” and “culture.” Their goal is to trick enough people into voting for the Republican, even though their candidates have no ideas or power to effect any changes on any of it, and then people are surprised when a Republican majority blocks every Biden appointment and bill.

I find it hard to believe that Ron Johnson, who is now so far to the Right that his very patriotism is open to serious question, still has a good chance to be re-elected in Wisconsin. But of course it always comes down to a two-person race. So it is incumbent on the Democratic voters to pick the candidate most likely to win the general election–assuming, of course that he or she is not so far outside the mainstream of Democratic politics, so far to the Right, that there is question as to whether that person should be the candidate. Maybe that is the case in Pennsylvania with Conor Lamb, but the Republican candidates still seem far worse. If it were an era where we had a few seats as margin, we might occasionally want to risk one or two as a matter of ideology, but I do not think we can do such now.

But I want to focus on Wisconsin. I am not close to that state, but from a distance, it looks like there is all sorts of room for Democrats to botch this up. The primary is in August. The favored Democratic candidate was Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, a Black man who seemed to be the favorite of the the more Left-leaning Democrats in that state, but perhaps less so now. A poll taken a day or two ago shows that his lead in polling has shrunk some, he is at 19%. Some on the Left think that he is moving away from the positions that they favor. So a Sanders group, “Our Wisconsin Revolution,” just endorsed Tom Nelson, an Outagamie County Executive.

Second in the polling is Alex Lasry, an executive with the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team. He has the money, and is running many ads. I don’t know much about his politics, but it seems that he is more of the moderate type, like former executive Jon Corzine, who became a big disappointment.

Then there is the candidate I would want to see nominated, just based on what I have read about her and who supports her. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. A poll a month or so ago showed her as the only Democratic potential candidate who leads Johnson in a poll, 48-46%. She is supported by Julie Zebrak, who has been an admirable force in supporting Hillary Clinton, and other female candidates. From what I have read about Godwlewski, she is “just right,” liberal but not too far to the Left, and capable, as well as obviously having a knowledge of economic issues.

Of course I could be wrong, but my sense is that she has the best chance to win the Senate seat–if she could get nominated, which does not seem too likely right now, though certainly not impossible. She is at 7%, with Barnes at 19%, and Lasry at 16%. 48% of those polled remain undecided!

Now, I did think that Amy McGrath had a better chance to beat McConnell than Charles Booker in Kentucky, and she was routed, though I think that Booker would have had the same result. Sometimes you can nominate someone who will run slightly better in a general election because they would create more enthusiasm among one group, but almost never enough to win. In Wisconsin, the key is to find the candidate who can actually win, while being a part of the general Democratic Party views on issues.

Most of us have no control over who wins these primary races in states we do not live in. I would wish that people who identify themselves as being part of the Sanders faction, would have more interest in winning national elections, than in getting all excited about someone who can’t and won’t win, and then angrily sitting out the general elections. I wish more people had an overview of things; and while not abandoning their principles, would think about being more in accord with the national party. If you were part of a faction which got 10% of the vote in every election, much less 5%, you would never win anything, but make it a lot easier for Republican fascists to win.

Right now, I am rooting for Fetterman in PA, though I like the gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro better. I will root for, and perhaps send some money to, Sarah Godwlewski in WI, and I am inclined to think that both she and Lasry have a better chance to beat Johnson than Barnes, and we desperately need the seat. We will see how it plays out, from a frustrating distance.

Elon Musk Is Imposing His World on Everybody

As if I haven’t said this ten times before, I am not very well versed in the complexities of the Computer Age, and its various plusses and minuses. I do think that the world might be much better off without the social media, but we are not individually able to implement the kind of world we want, at least not to any degree. And science does what it does, and then we have to deal with it; whereas ideally it might be the other way around. A cure for diseases and fixing the ecology of the planet is far more important than building space machines, and developing algorithms which essentially get used by the super-rich to control everyone else.

I remember when Twitter first started; and as usual, I did not know much about it. I saw a chyron on CNN or somewhere, entitled, “Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter challenge,” and I knew that this was not good. Apparently there was this new computer site called Twitter, where people could come on and write things, and then count up the replies. Kutcher, best known as the young boyfriend of Demi Moore, challenged CNN to see who could get more replies in a certain period. What fun.

So as usual, it all took off, and some people made hundreds of millions of dollars on it. Now, also as usual, the idea of “Twitter,” an egalitarian place where everyone could jump in and express his or her opinion, sounded promising. But of course it started to degenerate into the same people who were on Facebook,, writing insulting things, swarming on people in a cult-like response; making up lies, slandering others based on gender, race, religion, political views, the usual gamut.

So inevitably, there were demands for some kind of moderation of Twitter posts. And this is something that I did not follow, though I guess Jack Dorsey, who ran it, tried to some extent. But inevitably, no one was satisfied, because it is a bottomless abyss, trying to moderate speech.

I never joined Twitter; I would not, just like I never joined Facebook, which obviously may have seemed like an exciting idea at the time, but ultimately was used by Fascists and otherwise hateful people to spread complete lies and perverted fantasies about Hillary Clinton killing and eating babies. They also wrote completely false “news stories,” all intended to help Trump, his Russian handlers, and Far Right extremists, to damage their enemies, which were normal, intelligent, literate people who voted Democratic.

And the sociopath who started, or rather stole, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was either so fixated on his wealth and power, or so much in the camp of the fascists, that he let it all happen, even to the extent of having algorithms developed which would help the seditionists, racists, anti-semites, find like people to join up with. They also found that the more upset Facebook made the members, the more they would be involved, and the more searches they would do, and ka-ching! more billions for Zuckerberg! A more soulless and evil enterprise could scarcely be imagined even by the most dystopic of science fiction writers.

Facebook developed an unsavory reputation, but still made billions. Finally, they tried to escape by changing their name to Meta, and promising some weird virtual reality world for their members to live in. Another frightening science fiction theme becoming true.

Twitter continued, and they made some efforts to moderate content. They even banned Trump from Twitter, following the violent insurrection of January 6, 2021, which, as we learn more about every day, was literally intended to overthrow the elected government, give Trump an excuse to declare martial law (which fascist Marjorie Taylor Greene unironically called “marshall law”), and stay in power for as long as he chose.

Well, the MAGA hordes did not like this at all. And somehow we have gotten to the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk. I do not believe that even the supreme egomaniac Musk thought of or did this on his own. I believe that there were forces urging and helping him? Who? Oh, we can think of Peter Thiel, and Murdochs, and Saudi Arabia, and Russia, and others. Anybody with an interest in creating a world where all the means of communication, and all the power to create their reality, is in the hands of a very few immensely rich people. It does not take too much imagination to see how that is happening.

I don’t know too much about Musk, but I never liked him, just from his bombastic and supremely arrogant pronouncements in the media over the last few years. Some say he is a racist, that his companies treat Black people terribly. Some say that he is the ultimate plutocrat, avoiding all taxes, and intending to control not only methods of transportation and communication, but also ideas, because he is sure that he knows better than anyone else.

I have rarely been surprised to the upside by anyone whom I immediately disliked for such reasons. There are always the cadre, and the literal bots, who jump in to adulate or support, and say, “He is a visionary, he means good.” But it is never true. And I would not want the fate of the human race to be put in the hands of narcissistic megalomaniacs, although that is certainly the trend.

So what harm can Musk do in running Twitter? Well, just his ability to control the dialogue is frightening. He has bought it, it is now a private company, he can institute any controls he wants, no one can stop him. He could ban all Jewish people or all Democrats from the site (he would not do so overtly, but there are all sorts of algorithms one can create), and very little could be done about it. Or he could simply create his own universe. “The World Musk Made,” to paraphrase a book title by the brilliant writer Philip K. Dick, where those people and ideas he did not like, were banned, or mocked, or shouted down.

Clearly, the Far Right is very excited about Musk buying Twitter. Carlson and the weird people on Fox were exuberant. Are they just all wrong, missing the story, as some very optimistic people would like to think? No. Not only does the Fascist Right have a very good sense as to what helps and hurts them, they communicate among themselves; and again, I think that there are forces out there who are allied with them, and with Musk. They know what the goal is, and how this helps them in their quest to subjugate the world.

So what do decent people do? Some have said that they must leave Twitter, and urged others to do so. Others said that this is not the right approach, that it would just leave the bad people dominating the site; good people must be there to respond and put forth their views. That is commendable, but I am not sure which of these approaches is the better one, and clearly neither should have to be the case.

We know that Trump is coming back. Musk said at the time that he should not be banned, just have a “time out.” Yes, plotting to deliver this country to Russia, to have elected officials murdered by a mob, and institute a totalitarian state, just calls for a small punishment, and then they can come back again, and try to do more of it. The absolute inanity and arrogance of Musk’s comments about that should disqualify him from ever having a voice in rational discussion, much less control the means of dissemination of ideas. But there he is.

Musk is described, or describes himself, as a “free speech absolutist.” Oh, that sounds impressive, just like “libertarian,” another word he uses to describe himself. These are cheap and immature descriptions, appealing to people who like that they appear to get rid of the shades of gray. “I am a libertarian, I believe that there should be no restrictions!” But of course they do not want that, they mean that they want no restrictions on them: no taxes, no laws about how they run their businesses. Meanwhile, they are happy to tell everyone else what to do.

How predictable that Musk always gets angry when he is criticized or investigated, as when some person was going through his flight logs. Libertarians are always like that. He is thin-skinned, certain of his own infalliblity; and with the economic power to crush his foes, to drive them into bankruptcy. Think Rockefeller, or Carnegie, Mellon, Chase, or Morgan, but with far more power to control the narrative, and the benefit of computer algorithms to enforce it.

Now, let’s look at the idea of no moderation of the social media. Sure, we will let anyone say what they want, and let the better ideas win! Musk has referred to Twitter as being “the public square,” as in medieval days. It was almost certainly never like that; and people were arrested and executed quite often, for “saying the wrong things,” “heresy,” “treason,” all of which were in the ears of those who didn’t like what someone said.

Getting past the appealing but illusory image of social media being a place where everyone can say their piece, people are not like this convenient fantasy ideal. There are some very deranged and evil and violent people who want to kill others, or have their minions do it. They post truly sickening things demonizing various minorities. They call for violence, arrest, and murder. They hide behind stupid screen names.

Is someone really that foolish, naive, or arrogant, to think that moderation is not required? That somehow decent folks will drown out the violent haters, so that they will go away? Does anyone see any sign of this? Does removing moderation somehow lead to it? Quite the opposite, as the haters well know, which is why they are so excited about Musk buying Twitter.

A fascinating question would revolve around the nature of moderation, the limits of free speech. The courts and the philosophers have struggled with that for centuries. Should anyone be allowed to say anything they want? I don’t think that any knowledgeable or aware person would think that; it would include the Nazis, the sadists, the pedophiles. So where is the line drawn, even tentatively?

It is essentially impossible to draw an effective line, though one could write some vague things, “We will not allow…” which do not mean much at all. That is why “free speech absolutism” appeals to rich, powerful, and shallow thinkers like Musk, it saves them from having to think about boundaries and implications.

And this simplicity appeals to similar people. “I have the answer! Let’s not moderate anybody!” If you do that, even if you somehow believe in it, you have chaos, you have hate and violence; and reasonable and moderate people get tired of being subjected to it, which is one of the goals of the evil people. That may well be what will happen on Musk Twitter: the bad people will get to say what they want; the decent people will be marginalized, and ultimately driven away in anger, frustration, or despair.

I think that it will be by degrees. We will see how someone we respect writes that he or she was blocked or banned from Twitter, whereas some hateful person was not. Slowly we can by induction figure out what the algorithms are, because there will be some. Twitter will eventually resemble the vision of Musk, a self-created Musk-centric world where he is the focus. Why do you think he wanted to spend $44 billion to buy Twitter, not something else? Because he craves attention, and he knows that control of the airwaves gives him immense power over society.

I don’t know what the best course of action is. Some say, wait and see, but I don’t think we need to do that, just as with Trump or Barr or the Supreme Court nominees of the Heritage Foundation. I don’t see how Musk could possibly “improve” Twitter, what would a “better Twitter” be like? He could make it worse. He certainly will be out there every day with his juvenile ideas.

It seems that people, particularly in this country, are absolutely fascinated by the concept of an immensely rich person telling them what to do, while making untold amounts of money. There are science fiction novels and movies with “genius” crackpots who want to rule the world; and people root for them to be stopped by the ordinary citizens or the superhero. But in a world where as far as we can discern it, there are no superheroes whose goal is to protect humanity, we would be much better off if we stopped admiring the super-rich egomaniacs, and thinking that because they found ways to make money, crush their competition, avoid taxes, get quoted daily, they are good people, or caring, or will help humanity.

Just think, if Musk had spent, oh, $10 billion on trying to fix the environment, replenish the water and forest supply, ameliorate global warming. He would still have $34 billion left, plus the other $500 billion or so in his coffers. But he needs to save that so that he and his small coterie can fly in his rocket ship to Mars, where he has said that he wants to live. They will leave the rest of the planet behind, like the refuse of a wild party they reveled in.

Maybe Musk will create a giant hologram of himself for Earth inhabitants to see in the night sky, along with the Tesla Roadster he had launched into space in 2010, and is currently orbiting around the sun, a testament to the great god Musk, and the space junk and verbal and written garbage he is endlessly creating, and relentlessly forcing on the world. He’s not going for a carving on Mt. Rushmore, as Fox kept pushing for Trump to get, he wants the entire solar system to be named after him.

More like him will follow. Maybe they will fight wars, with the armies of vassals they force into service. Maybe the vassals who kill the most will get red checks and extra Likes, and be told that they “won Twitter for the day.” Or maybe the masters of the world will be satisfied with battling to become the first quintillionaire, and having interplanetary parties. For a while, but then the insatiable need to be the most important and the most powerful, will impel them to battle–on live streaming Galaxy TV, of course.

Rand Paul, Finland would like to have a word with you.

According to Rand Paul, Russia invading Ukraine wasn’t so bad when you consider that it was once part of the Soviet Union:

Rand Paul is missing a part of his brain. Let’s put aside the fact that Ukraine has been a sovereign state for 30 years and at one point in history, actually was part of Lithuania. Or that Kyiv was the motherland for the Russians, not the other way around. Ok, forget the centuries when Ukraine did NOT belong to the Soviet Union, which only lasted for 70 years, how about all the other countries that the Soviet Union once “owned”?

Like Finland. Finland fought its right to sovereignty from the Soviet Union in 1940. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia just happened to end up on the wrong side of the iron curtain through no fault of their own. They’ve been sovereign states in the current era as long as Ukraine has.

Does Rand Paul think the Baltic states should just meekly let Russia take over because they were once part of the Soviet Union?

What about the other iron curtain countries that were nominally independent but were actually forced to be in the Soviet sphere of influence like Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland or the actual site of the Berlin Wall, East Germany? Oh yeah, you didn’t know Berlin was inconveniently located in east Germany?

Yep. How does Rand Paul think Germany would react if the Russia decided to set up shop in Dresden again?

The biggest reason why Rand Paul should stop saying foolish things is because THE SOVIET UNION NO LONGER EXISTS.

That’s right. It’s just RUSSIA now and some central Asian Republics that couldn’t or wouldn’t get away.

Ukraine has a history of being its own entity for centuries. But Rand Paul is going to forget all that and the definition of sovereignty and the fact that the Baltics cut their ties and that we all celebrated and danced on the Berlin Wall until it came down because for *some* strange reason known only to Paul, he is latching onto the delusion that putin is a redeemer whose destiny is to reconstitute the Soviet Union through a brutal crusade of destructive imperial will.

Paul seems to be suffering from Folie a deux, emphasis on the Folie. The European nations that used to have to operate under the thumb of the Kremlin probably want to rip Paul’s head off.

Take a number and get in line.

French Freedom Fries

After the tepid response to Ukraine’s plight slowed down to a halt, letting the pathetic Russian army, or what’s left of it, to recklessly sow destruction in the Donbas, Mariupol and Luhansk, the West has finally decided that this shit can’t go on and they’re going to do something about it.

Sec. of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin met with Zelenskyy on Monday and the pic of them standing together with the two Americans grinning from ear to ear was an unmistakable “F}#% you, Vlad” if ever there was one.

Good things come in small packages

Today, the Germans finally decided to send anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine. Finland says they’re going to join NATO for sure and it has one of the best armies in Europe, after the Ukrainians.

So, what started the ball moving again? It looks like everyone was waiting for the French voters to reject Marine Le Pen and, although her defeat was more gentle than her last campaign for president, it was definitive enough that the French are signaling that they are not not a fan of putin. Merci.

I had heard that putin sent a sternly worded letter to the US whining that our shipments of military hardware to Ukraine was ruining Russia’s decisive victories and that we should butt out. Laugh if you want but putin has Satan 2 and he’s going to deploy it by the autumn! Sure that’s a long time off, well, almost two whole seasons. But Satan 2 is the biggest, baddest m******f*****g nuclear bomb delivery device in the history of the world and has enough TNT capacity to obliterate Texas. To which we reply, don’t give us any ideas. That would be wrong. Just thinking about it is sinful enough (but strangely satisfying).

Meanwhile, Russia is complaining to the UN that the proposed removal of its veto power in the security council just because they are decimating a country that didn’t attack it and had no plans to do so, is so unfair. Also, why can’t Brazil or India have a seat at the security council? Also, it only invaded because Ukraine wouldn’t stop fighting for the territory Russia stole from it 8 years ago. What’s Russia to do?? Just let Ukraine continue to battle for Crimea and the Donbas?? The UN is not being supportive and it’s letting those Americans use Ukraine as a pawn in its global imperialistic ambitions and THAT’S not democracy.

Seriously, this is what Lavrov said at a UN press conference. It was so lame even the most putinesca MAGA fan would have rolled his eyes. Russia looks like a weak LOSER, if you get my drift. You can watch it yourself here.

Anyway, it sounds like Ukraine may be getting the tools it needs to give it a fighting chance. The parties involved, meaning the rest of the world minus Russia, has an interest in winding this up, not drag out the hardship the war is imposing on poorer countries (or themselves), and striking while Russia has the biggest number of troops in Ukraine where the new assault will cause the most panic in the ranks.

Good.

🇫🇷Vive La France. 🇫🇷

This week’s Short Takes from Moi

These are my short summaries of thots based on current events. Enjoy! Or not.

1.) I’m still here for Ukraine. I haven’t forgotten or moved on. It’s like a steady hum in my head, like background noise. At any moment, an event can push it to the front and I’ll pay attention to nothing else. But sometimes, the news is just too much to bear. I can’t even imagine how terrible it is to live it. I feel like we are waiting for something, like our own Pearl Harbor. It’s hard to stand back and watch this level of destruction and human tragedy by a mad man. It’s frustrating and makes me feel useless. Slava Ukraini.

2.) France is voting for president today. I can’t understand how anyone can look at what’s happening in Ukraine and decide that what they really need is to cooperate with the man who is on a rampage to tear Europe apart. But voters around the world have made stupider decisions based on short term goals.

3.) Speaking of Donald Trump, I keep seeing tweets about proof of his supposed dementia. I guess Big Orange talked about his cognitive test again recently, probably not for the reasons we think. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Donald has dementia. I don’t think you can generate this much bile and propaganda as performance art if you weren’t able to read the room and talk people into a frenzy. Here’s how I think of Donald that might be helpful: Imagine a shark decided to get into Cosplay and dressed up like a human. He could probably act like a human to some extent but most of us would feel like something was “off”. That’s because sharks are predators and to be really successful predators, their brains have no use for certain functions. The areas of the brain that contribute to our conscience and longitudinal thinking and art appreciation or math, for example, do not contribute to predatory behavior. So they’re shut off. On the other hand, the predator part of the shark brain is overdeveloped. So, maybe a test for dementia is irrelevant. He knows exactly what he’s doing. His executive functions are finely tuned to satisfying his own urges and getting adulation. The dementia test should be administered to his loyal audience since their behavior does not lead to positive outcomes for themselves and they seem to lack the ability to discriminate between genuine humans and sharks in costume.

4.) Integrated Math. What is it and why is Ron DeSantis so pissed off about it? Everything old is new again. Integrated math was one of the reasons I ran for the School Board many years ago. Our school district was starting to introduce it and some other math techniques that, to ME, looked like party tricks. Integrated math, as I understood it, was an effort to take the fear out of math by making it social and familiar. There was a lot of emphasis on making math relatable. How can a student use math in the real world to understand issues that are important to him or her like how to read graphs and statistics in newspapers or calculate the value of common items like groceries. There was a lot of emphasis on working in groups to solve problems. The idea was to make math less likely to freak people out.

My thought is that integrated math was the result of projection of hundreds of thousands of math insecure k-8 teachers who thought math is hard. I can relate to a certain point. I attended 14 different schools before I graduated high school, the majority of those transfers happened during my elementary school years. It severely affected my ability to do arithmetic and algebra and without arithmetic and algebra, it’s very difficult to solve problems even if you can see the solution. For me, every problem involving math is like relearning and reliving my elementary school years. It’s a math Groundhog Day. And for someone with my background and the ensuing panic attacks during test scenarios, I must have been out of my mind to go into chemistry. One of my math teachers in college told me that in order for me to succeed in math related classes, I should do EVERY problem in the book, not just the assigned problems. For a student who was the first in their family to go to college and had to work a full time job to pay my expenses, this was an impossibility. So I understood math anxiety that a lot of teachers had. It’s just that integrated math was not the answer for everybody.

Math is a tool to solve problems and some of us will be required to use it in a way that goes beyond calculating unit pricing in stores or simple statistics. Adding friendly cultural scenarios is cute but could be a distraction to actually learning the rules and orders of operations. In other words, integrated math wouldn’t have helped me one tiny bit if I had wanted to study for a STEM related major. It’s not intended to. It’s supposed to help students not fear math.

Do you know how to help students not fear math? Make them good at it. Learning math is like a helix. The helix only holds it shape because it makes bonds with what has come before and what comes after. The student has to have a grounding in the basics in order to be able to progress to the next turn in the helix. The best math texts, as I found out from doing my research when I was on the curriculum committee, took the approach of steady progress up the helix with revisiting previous instruction periodically so that concepts, rules and algorithms are reinforced and become second nature. That’s how you eliminate math anxiety.

There’s nothing wrong with using diversity or culture or current events in math texts if the idea is to teach math in a way that is reinforcing. Integrated math is not that. The problem is not the cultural elements, which is what DeSantis is focussing on. The problem is the pedagogy. It treats those concepts, rules and algorithm in a disconnected way without the reinforcement and repetition to make the tools second nature. It’s not a good way to teach math.

So, there might be a good reason to chuck some of the text books. I just doubt that they’re the same reason or reasons as Florida’s, which seems to be freaking out for over critical race theory. You want to know how I would teach critical race theory? Ask any MAGA weirdo how much money they would have to be paid to live the rest of their lives as an African American. How many millions per year for the rest of their lives for how many years. There’s a math problem that sums up the entire history of racism in one simple scenario. Some intrepid reporter should ask DeSantis that question at a press conference.

I’ve read somewhere that there might be profit in throwing out integrated Math texts for some Republican politicians who have investments in other text books companies. Gov. Youngkin of Virginia was mentioned. It could be coincidence. Needs more research. Anyway, my point is that Republicans may be partially right about integrated math text books but for the wrong reasons. You don’t need to integrate history or social sciences to get kids to like math if the pedagogy is right and unfortunately, integrated math, at the time I was researching it, sacrificed sound methods in order to make math relatable. If it hasn’t improved test scores over other available teaching methods, it should probably be replaced.

“To Strive, To Seek, To Find, And Not To Yield”

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,

Souls that have toil’d ,and wrought, and thought with me–

That ever with a frolic welcome took

The thunder and the sunshine and opposed.

Free hearts, free foreheads–you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all; but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done.

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;

The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset. and the baths

Of all the Western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulf will wash us down;

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the brave Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

That was the last stanza of “Ulysses,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It is one of the greatest and most memorable poems ever written.

Tennyson imagines Ulysses, Odysseus in Greek, having returned home to Ithaca, after the travails of the Trojan War and then the many dangers described by Homer in “The Odyssey.” He has saved his land, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus. And there “The Odyssey” ends.

Tennyson wants to tell another story: that Ulysses cannot go back to a former life, he is by nature and experience impelled to seek adventures, achievements, and risks. So he summons what is left of his sailors, and urges them to come with him once again.

It is such a powerful and moving poem. Tennyson wrote this in 1833, at the age of 24, and it seems like a poem from someone much older. It also, at least to me, seems like a poem which expresses some of the themes of the great later Romantic poets, Keats, Byron and Shelley. However, Tennyson is not considered to be a Romantic poet. But if one reads the mid-Victorian poetry, this seems much more Romantic in feeling and passion than many of those works.

I copied it, because it seems to me to be very apposite, and maybe that has been the case ever since Tennyson wrote it. Right now, we are in one of the most dangerous and threatening situations this country has ever faced. I do not need to review all of it for anyone.

It does certainly more often feel like perhaps a hopeless task; how do we fix things; how do we redeem the promise of democracy from the totalitarians, the fascists, the religious zealots, the warped or psychotic or completely ignorant and brainwashed people that surround us, and are on their way to taking over, maybe for good?

One can look around the internet, and see all sorts of people say things like, “It’s over.” “We are going to be a dictatorship, with books being banned and burned, the right to abortion and contraception gone; the planet burning up; guns proliferating; and a large number of individuals simply refusing to follow any government rules or advisories which they do not feel inclined to follow, or which the fascists tell them not to.”

Some of the people who write those things are plants, tools of the fascists who try to discourage and demoralize, just like those who kept writing “Walk Away,” to people who wanted to vote for Democrats in 2016. Some are professional prophesiers of doom and despair. And some, too many, are sincere people who are just very depressed about it all, and have every right to be.

But what are the alternatives? Just give up, and let all the American history and the struggles, some of them won, go down the drain? Try to ignore it all, and watch TV comedies or superhero movies or sports? Stake out a position on one issue or another, and say that unless Democrats come to that position, they will simply abandon the party to the fascists? Look for another one of the dwindling amount of democracies to live in?

I would not tell people what to do, but I would hope that they will stand and contest, “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” It isn’t a matter of age, or the Age, it is what humans must do if they are to possibly triumph over all the adversity, hate, and evil out there.

We’ve got midterm elections in six months. We have not lost them yet. Each race matters. Maybe each of us can try to convince just two other people of what we know to be true: that Democrats have their flaws and differences of opinion, but they care about free speech, and a woman’s right to choose, and saving the planet, and trying to help everyone; whereas the Republicans are ONLY about brute power, forcing everyone else to do what they want, and to give all their money to them, and be ruled by them, as in the thousands of years of humanity where there were emperors, dictators, tyrants, with power to control or eliminate anyone they saw as a threat to their rule.

The choice is so stark as to be almost mythological; decency against pure, depthless evil. Roger Stone, a perverted and degenerate man who is the embodiment of pure evil, just said that he and his forces are the ones who represent the good, and his enemies the evil. Well, evil always tries to put on the illusion of good, but any still functioning heart and brain can easily see through the camouflage.

So we get up and we put on our gear, and we fight, in the best way we can. The game is not completely fixed. The people that we desperately want to do more and say more, are not secretly in collusion with the enemy, at least most of them are not. The January 6 Committee will have televised hearings, and the very admirable and courageous Jamie Raskin says that they will blow the roof off Congress; and of course he means it figuratively, because it is the Republicans who are the party of insurrection and sedition and violence.

Now, I am not saying that I might not wake up tomorrow and be more depressed about all this; or when I see another poll where people simply do not understand the economy; or what the Republicans plan to do to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, and to burden the middle class and poor with more taxes, so they can build their tenth house, and take rides on Elon Musk’s space attraction.

But Tennyson wrote that poem; and it wasn’t just about ancient Greece, or 19th Century England, or about him, or anyone he knew. It was about the human race and the human spirit. And that is why the poem is so moving today. It doesn’t say that we will win, it says that we must not stop trying.

It has been said that “poetry says what prose cannot.” And sometimes one can see and feel that, perhaps when it is needed most.

The fate of Russian energy industry executives and their families.

There have been two murder-suicides of Russian energy industry executives and their families in a week:

More on the latest one:

A little more:

Protosenya was the former vice president and chief accountant of Novatek, a major gas company with close connections to Gazprombank.

Protosenya left no suicide note, and there were no bloodstains on his body, El Punta Vui reported, without citing sources.

He was very careful for a desperate man. He made sure he did it the day after the first murder suicide, he left no explanation, and he tidied up before he hung himself. Sure, sure, this was just a domestic incident. Move along, nothing to see here.

Putting aside that there seems to be one murder-suicide short of a correlation, this is a horrific thing to have happen to an entire family including children. It must be making Russian gas executives and bankers very nervous.

Any speculation as to what’s going on here? Have they been giving gas away to Europe? Taking a hefty cut off the top without paying tribute to Putin first? Being a bit too forward in their opposition to anything related to the war in Ukraine?

??

McCarthy caught on tape

A new book by a couple of NYTimes Journalists is about to be released that says that a couple of days after the insurrection, House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a conference call with Steve Scalise and Liz Cheney where he told both of them that Trump would be impeached a second time and that He should resign. Not only that but he was going to tell Trump personally that he should resign even though McCarthy doubted that Trump would do it.

In that same meeting, Cheney implied that there had been some plan fo invoke the 25th amendment.

In other words, the Republicans knew exactly who was responsible for storming the Capitol and that it was an impeachable offense and that Trump should resign over it. Just because he was acquitted in fhe Senate later doesn’t mean they thought he was innocent.

Even Mitch McConnell was hoping that the Democrats would impeach Trump again and get rid of him once and for all for the Republicans. Mitch speculated that there were seventeen senate Republicans who were pissed enough to vote to convict Trump. So why didn’t that happen?

It was because of the Trump base. They were so soaked in the big lie and so in thrall to Trump that they threatened the ability of the Republicans to win back the House and Senate in the future. So, neither of them had the cojones to stand up in front of the base and tell the honestly and with Grave seriousness that Trump needed to be held accountable. They were more afraid of the mob than they were afraid of losing their country.

And why were they so afraid of the Trumpers? Let’s think of this another way. In a recent man on the street interview on YouTube channel 1420, the question to ordinary Russians was “Is Ukraine full of Nazis?” There are a few Russians in that video who know exactly what’s going on but most of them have been sucked in by a relentless fire hose of state media that pumps out a steady dose of over the top rage about Ukrainian Nazis.

For those of us who have been paying attention, the answer is no, Ukraine is not full of Nazis. But there is a tiny political faction of Ukraine nationalists who are pretty close to fascist nazis. It’s a much smaller faction than our Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and “very fine people” who carry confederate flags and chant “Jews will not replace us”.

Ukraine’s government is liberal, democratic, progressive and not Nazi, and Ukrainians vastly are not nationalist fascists. Ukraine wants to join the EU, which is why Putin invaded. Russia, ironically, seems to be full of fascists and is run by a fascist dictator. Putin wants to stop Ukraine from integrating into Europe and escaping the Russian sphere of influence, because he insists that Ukrainians are Russian nationals and they just don’t know it yet. That is why he is tenderly shepherding them back into the fold by blowing the fuck out of their cities. So he made up this excuse that Ukraine has been taken over by Nazis, all Ukrainians are Nazis and Ukraine is about to invade Russia to justify his takeover of Ukraine.

The whole idea is absurd. Ukraine is 20 times smaller than Russia in size and has less than a third of the Russian population. Ukraine invading Russia is almost as improbable as Saddam Hussein launching a missile that would reach the US in 45 minutes. But you can always get a country to do what you want by telling them they are going to be attacked. I think Goebbels said that. “It works in any country”, he added. And Russian citizens are particularly vulnerable to that kind of messaging because they were attacked by Nazis in WWII. Nevermind that before 1940, they were actually taking Hitler’s side.

If you listen to those man on the street interviews, you can see how the general Russian public has swallowed that big lie and think that the invasion of Ukraine is justified. WE know it’s crazy and that they’re brainwashed by Russian media propaganda and that it’s horrific that Russian soldiers mutter that they’re going to teach Ukrainian Nazi whores a lesson as they rape the women and children. We know that their media fueled delusions are propping up Putin within the country and leading to dangerous destabilization around the world. We can see that Russians have completely dehumanized Ukrainians to the point where they deserve what’s coming to them and can be treated any way they want, defying international conventions of war and justifying crimes against humanity.

WE know that. But those Russians out there don’t and that’s what makes the whole country extremely dangerous.

I get the notion that Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell and a dozen Republican senators looked at the bloodthirsty mob that stormed the Capitol and heard their delusional rants about how Trump won the election when they knew he hadn’t and reflected with panic how they felt on January 6, 2021 and they crumpled. It is of no use to try to convince people to believe something different than what their media mouthpieces had been telling them for years. Even if McCarthy and McConnell had been honest with them, the Democrats and Liberals have been dehumanized. We’re evil, pedophilic communists who want to steal their hard earned money and they will do absolutely everything to prevent Democrats and Liberals from taking power.

McCarthy and McConnell looked at their choices and weighed whether it was better to say how they really felt about the insurrection in order to lead their constituents to getting rid of a dangerously unstable president or whether they should just keep their mouths shut so they could stay in power indefinitely. They chose the latter. They would ride Trumpism to the bitter end.

There has been some silly speculation with the news people tonight as to whether Mitch and Kevin would be held responsible, whether they would lose their leadership positions. I doubt that will happen. As far as the base is concerned, they are fighting the godless commie libs so lies are no big deal. Conscience is disposable as long as those animals can’t really run the country.

They’re safe, as far as I can see. Meanwhile, half of the country walks around with guns and hostility thinking the other half are as bad as Nazis.

Jung, Tucker Carlson and a Shortage of Self-Tanner

I was checking my YouTube recommends and ran across a video on quotations of Carl Jung. (Disclaimer: I have fun videos too. It’s not all philosophy and war strategy. Mostly, my subscriptions are for design, art, architecture. But they are FUN designers, artists and architects. Ok Nevermind 🙄)

Anyway, getting back to Jung. He was the founder of one of the two major schools of psychoanalysis that came out of Vienna. He was once a student and colleague of Freud but he and Sigmund disagreed on some key aspects of the psyche. I prefer Jung and see him as kind of a macro psychoanalyst where someone like BF Skinner was a micro psychoanalyst if that makes sense. And thus I conclude my review of Psychology 101 that I took (mumbles incoherently) years ago.

One of Jung’s focuses was on the duality of humans. Each sex has a feminine and masculine side. To be an integrated personality, you need to embrace the other side. There is also the concept of the shadow. The shadow is a part of your personality that you push away because it consists of characteristics that you have been conditioned to dislike.

So, I was reading these quotes from Jung and came across this one:

That made me think of Tucker Carlson and his new focus on masculinity. Apparently, testosterone levels are declining, which shouldn’t be THAT much of a problem. We have patches for that. What’s really confusing to me is why lower testosterone levels affect the MAGA guys especially. Why not the libs? I’ll let that question meander for a second.

Currently, the man with the biggest balls on earth is Volodymir Zelenskyy, a compact, Jewish dude in Ukraine with a pronounced liberal streak. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there are women all over the world who want to sleep with him. And why is that? It’s because he doesn’t have to flash a giant ICBM called Satan 2 at the world to prove how manly he is. He puts on his military green T like all of the other soldiers in his army, without the flashy epaulets and medals or even a bespoke suit. He’s dedicated, emits a quiet strength, he’s humble, his conviction and Values come from the heart and are communicated with feeling to the rest of the world. We are drooling, guys.

Ok. Enuf of the fan girl crush. I have to get back to work.

My point is that Zelenskyy appears to have integrated both sides of his nature. I’m not sure what his shadow is but I’ll bet he’s pretty impervious to propaganda and psy ops.

Tucker Carlson is a purveyor of propaganda and psy ops. He is poking at the MAGA male’s fear of weakness and femininity. So his shtick is to focus on low testosterone levels, as if the loss of the hormone that makes you want to act like an orc is the cause of what ails this country.

The flip side of this is an utter contempt for women. Have you seen the absurd lengths that some states will go to in order to keep women pregnant and unhappy?? And why is he talking about “order” and why does he think that orderliness is a male characteristic? I know men who’s houses are chaos and disorderliness. Who cares as long as they are enjoying their lives and work? (But maybe they should work on their thoughts about neatness and procrastination. What’s THAT all about?? And yes, it’s one of my issues as well.) Not only is this tyrannical orderliness not exclusively male, it just shows that Tucker has never had a nun as a teacher.

But no one I know is asking for a daddy figure to protect them, by exchanging their safety for keeping them in line and enforcing order. Or at least they’re not admitting to it because what could be less masculine than being a grown up man who needs a father figure who will ground anyone who doesn’t obey? How is that masculine? Are they planning to take on this role themselves? Please refer to the sentence about no one is asking for this service from them. Besides, it’s not going to work. You can’t put emancipated women back in the bottle. You can only make their lives harde, reduce their domestic incomes and increase their responsibilities with no meaningful improvement in their quality of life or their safety. They’ll hate you for that. Or do you want to be more feared than loved? Where does that lead?

So, verily I say unto all you guys who are secretly considering sunbathing in the nude: don’t waste your time. Any guy who buys what Tucker is selling might as well buy a big bottle of self-tanner and apply it generously. You’ll get more out of it, pun intended.

What you really need to do is sit and have a think about why you have such contempt for women. Be more like Zelenskyy and less like the asshole who is sending rapists into Bucha.