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      Few things make more more tired or contemptuous of someone than, when a masking mandate is removed, someone saying “well, you still have the choice to wear a mask, we’re not effecting you” or some variation. Masking is not primarily about protecting yourself. Only a respirator and a well-fitted N95 offer good protection from Covid if other people aren’t mask […]
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Hollywood Farmers’ Market Today

There is a Farmers’ Market that I like to go to in Hollywood, on Sundays. It is quite large, it runs almost three small blocks.

Today, I got there about 10:30 AM. I parked on a side street, and then walked to Hollywood Boulevard, where “you can see the stars,” “some that you recognize, some that you’ve never even heard of.” (“Celluloid Heroes,” The Kinks 1972).

Except that there was no market. Hollywood Boulevard was blocked by police tape for a few blocks. I saw three police vehicles parked inside the area of the market, and no activity in the market, no stalls or people. There were about six police officers standing a block north of Hollywood Boulevard. They didn’t seem like they intended to answer questions, so I just turned around and drove away. I was worried about running out of gas, because I had only a little left; I had planned to get gas about five minutes away from the market when I had finished shopping, but the roads were blocked or stalled, making it difficult to drive. But I was able to get to a gas station once I cleared the traffic jam.

I turned on the radio at 11am, and there was no report of anything going on there, except a story about a woman who was a victim of a motiveless attack in a parking lot in Hollywood, probably last night. I wondered if that was what closed the market.

I drove to another Farmers’ Market, in Beverly Hills. I asked a vendor who also had a stand in Hollywood, and he said, “There are different stories.” Another vendor said that there was an active shooter at the market.

I finally heard something about it on the car radio around noon. They said that a man had fired shots from a building overlooking the market, at about 7:30 AM, and was finally taken into custody. A woman who apparently was at the market, either as someone helping a vendor, or an early customer, said that she heard noises, and a man there said that this is gunfire, so she raced away.

Tonight, when I got home, I read an updated news article which said that there had been several reports of gunfire at the market in the morning. Multiple callers told Police Dispatch that a gunman had opened fire around 8AM from a building very near the market. When officers arrived at the scene, they saw a man throwing rocks from a balcony. The man barricaded himself in an apartment and would not cooperate with police. Several household objects were thrown down into the street during the standoff. No injuries were reported.

Officers quickly announced the closure for the day of the Farmers’ Market. The man was taken into custody about noon. Police said that they saw no evidence of gunfire.

No lessons here, just a sadness that we have devolved to this. Of course the police needed to do the safe thing, and close the market and get everyone out of there. Apparently this time there was no gun, no gunman. But of course there could have been, and tragically enough, there will be more of them. They can be anywhere, any area with many people, or maybe a few.

Everyone has a gun, it seems; some have many guns Some intend to use them, some get angry and use them, some are completely divorced from reality and social norms, and no one knows what they might do. Some are on drugs. Some are psychotic. Governor Reagan shut down many mental health facilities during his terms as Governor of California, and many thousands of people who were a danger to society, were let out into the streets without their medications. That was decades ago, but the problem persists.

Of course, there are shooters in upper class areas as well. One never knows if one is hearing a backfire, or someone throwing rocks or objects, like today, or shooting one of his many guns.

Is everyone who goes to a farmers’ market, or a concert, or a parade, in serious danger of having some psychotic or simply evil person shooting at them? One would hope not, but there are an increasing number of them.

The NRA, in its greed, and lust for power, let loose this scourge, and now they can’t and won’t control it. Republicans have no answers, they don’t even want to try to think of any rational ones, they just hope that each shooting vanishes from the headlines. Democrats try to do something, they passed an Assault Weapons Ban on Friday. It passed by a vote of 217-213. Two Republicans voted for the bill, along with 215 Democrats.

Of course the bill will go nowhere in the Senate, it will not even see the floor. And of course a number of very strange people will blame both parties for this, and blame Biden for “not getting it done.” Some will say that the parties are the same, and that they should vote for egomaniac crackpot Andrew Yang and his supposed new third party.

My thought is that if enough people voted in the midterms to keep the Democrats in control of the House, and give them enough Senate votes to make an exception to the filibuster, or get rid of filibusters entirely, an assault weapons bill would be passed, and President Biden would sign it. But too many people want to vote for Republicans because of inflation, not being cogent enough to realize that putting Republicans in a majority in either chamber of Congress, not only will not do one thing to improve the economy, it will guarantee that nothing will be done about any of the other issues which people strongly care about, and which a sizeable majority of Americans want significant action on.

Gun control is one of these issues. Republicans will make sure that not one significant gun bill will be passed, and nothing will be done about mass shootings, nor about the fear that so many people now have of going into open or crowded spaces. Democrats will try to actually do something.

Just another day. Very fortunately, no one was shot, or even shot at, at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market. Not today, at least. Many farmers were unable to sell their crops, which some had driven 250 miles to sell. Many patrons were inconvenienced. One of the vendors in Beverly Hills, who did not know exactly what was happening, said, “Go home, relax there, it’s not safe out here.” One doesn’t want to do that, but it is a legitimate recommendation. Voting for Democrats in every single race in November, would help to improve the situation. But will enough voters be perceptive enough, and energized enough, to do that?

Republicans For Recession

I looked up a compilation of recessions in American history. We can debate the definition of recession, it is generally understood as a contraction in the economy, involving higher unemployment, lost jobs, layoffs. Obviously, some recessions are worse than others. I used wikipedia for these statistics, which is not ideal ,but probably accurate enough for a gloss on the issue.

Here are the listed recessions in America from 1950 until today, with the reminder that by far the worst economic period in the last 100 years, was the Great Depression of 1929, essentially the result of the laissez-faire policies of the three Republican Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. I will also list the President in office at the time the recessions began.

1953, Eisenhower. 1958, Eisenhower. 1960, Eisenhower. 1969, Nixon. 1973, Nixon. 1980, Carter. 1981, Reagan. 1990, GHW Bush. 2007, “The Great Recession,” GW Bush.

That is the list. We are not in a recession now, that is ordinarily something determined by The National Bureau of Economic Research, using specific criteria. Actually, of the six key indicators, NBER lists four of the six indicate growth. Those are Real Personal Income, Jobs, Real Wholesale Retail Sales, and Industrial Production. People can argue about this, but we are not currently in a recession, though we might be in one next year. There are some short recessions, some longer ones, and then the awful one in 2007 which lasted for years.

Back to the list, we will note that every single one of them but one, started under a Republican president. That is not coincidence. Republicans do not believe in stimulating the economy by increasing the buying power of the middle class. That is not the only factor causing a recession, but the historical data is overwhelming.

Now the Republicans are excitedly claiming that the estimated GDP decline of .9%, following a decline of 1.6% three months ago, means RECESSION! Admittedly, the word is powerful, and connotes all sorts of bad things, particularly to unsophisticated voters. With all the bad things the Republicans are doing, and the positive news on Democratic bills, they are going to hammer away at the R word.

Today, Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi said that he was absolutely sure that the U.S. economy was not in recession, though the outlook was “cloudy.’ It was also suggested by some economists a few weeks ago that we are “talking ourselves into a recession,” meaning that if enough people shout “recession!,” some consumers will cut back on spending so that there is a slowdown, which would lead to more cutting back, and a greater slowdown. Of course, the Republicans want the recession, or talk of it, because they don’t care about anything but winning elections right now.

I remember most of those recessions, some were worse than others, most of them were not reasons for panic. They are to be avoided, but there are natural economic cycles: inflation, then the Fed raises interest rates, and if they shoot too far, they could cause a recession. Nine recessions from 1953-2007, eight of them under Republican Presidents.

None under Clinton, whose policies Republicans swore would destroy the economy. None under Obama. None under JFK or LBJ. If there is one coming up, it certainly would not be Biden’s fault, it would be due to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. Now, someone could blame Biden for the inflation, even though the pandemic, the pent-up demand, the supply chain problems, the Ukraine war, were the major causes. and so the inflation is worldwide.

But we know that none of this matters, because with the 24-hour news stations, there will be about 23 hours and forty minutes of “Recession!” and twenty minutes of explanation. Very few people understand economics; and I don’t understand all the nuances, either, but it’s all overpowered by the headlines. We could have really used a slightly better GDP number, so as not to trigger the “two negative GDPs mean a recession,” which is not the case, but fits the easy narrative that the media likes.

This is where the media really fails us. The President does not control the actions of the Federal Reserve Board, although Trump kept trying to force Powell to drop interest rates, to juice the economy to enhance his election chances. Remember that Trump said he wanted negative interest rates, and wanted a stimulus package of $3 trillion. All stupid, short-term measures designed for the only things that Trump cares about, money and winning. But the media never mentions any of that. Biden is blamed for the stimulus of 2021, and Republicans, who do not want government to spend anything on average citizens, say that this is what caused inflation, and then they blame Biden for the inflation and the recession.

All they want is to win, and advance their dreadful agendas. They just look for an entry point. Inflation. Recession. Fears of Recession. Migrant caravans. Social unrest. Wokeness. Anything. Trying to argue about economic realities and causes is frowned upon by the media, it does not get them ratings, not the way that running chyrons about “Democrats fear destruction in midterms,” or “Prices soar,” do. So they go for what sells for them. It is very frustrating, because there is a good deal in the way of good news coming from Democrats, while we hear more stories of treasonous purging of phone and computer logs by those who were planning and carrying out the coup against democracy. but it gets pushed out of the headlines and news cycle.

I would bet that half of every cable news show hour, and 90% on Fox, will be about inflation, or recession, or both. I would hope that the Democrats somehow try to focus on abortion, climate, guns, and the Republicans voting against aid to veterans out of spite. No matter what the news hosts say, just keep switching the subject.

Republicans are the Party of Recessions. They specialize in causing them. It is very rare that they can use the term as a weapon against Democrats, but they are eager to do so, to push the cultural issues off the election coverage, only to return when they have tricked enough people into putting them in power.

How Voting in Record Numbers Can Save the Country

I saw a little discussion with former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. Steele is pro-Republican, but very anti-Trump. Belcher is a pleasant person, who laughs a lot, I guess that is just his nature.

Belcher was asked about some chances the Democrats have right now to pass some not great, but decent, bills, and whether Biden would get credit for them. He laughed, and said “probably not” and then got serious and said that much of the criticism Biden gets is coming from “Progressive Democrats.” That if you took thirty Democrats, you would hear thirty different takes on issues, whereas with Republicans, you might get two or three. He said that it was the Millennials in the party who were expressing the most disappointment with Biden. He seemed to be saying, “But that’s Democrats, what can you do?”

I think that if we watch news shows or read articles, we are likely to come to a similar conclusion, that there are far too many people who call themselves Democrats or Progressives, who have been constantly carping at Biden for not getting this or that accomplished. Well, they certainly have that right to express themselves, but at some point, they have to realize that not only are virtually all of these “failures” due to Republicans almost unanimously voting against the bills, along with Manchin and Sinema, but that at some point, this almost reflexive complaining is hurting Biden, and with it, the chances to keep the Republicans from taking over.

I won’t go through all of the bills, but it seems to me that Biden is almost always trying to do the right thing on crucial issues like abortion, guns, climate, medical care. Could someone else do better? Possibly, or possibly not, at this political moment. And more importantly, he’s what we’ve got now–unless people are so foolish as to think that Democrats could lose the midterms, and then make some amazing comeback in 2024, win the presidency with someone else, and take back Congress.

My opinion is that if we lose the Senate, we will not get it back for many years; the map in 2024 contested seats favors Republicans. If we lose the House, we face so much consolidation of Republican power in state legislatures, that it would be very difficult to win it back. And so, since Republicans use their political power in relentless fashion, we would need to control the presidency, House, and Senate, to get anything meaningful accomplished. What is happening now on bills is not Biden’s fault; even if one doesn’t like his style or elocution, or whatever, these bills would fare no better with someone else at the helm.

Now that sounds bleak. But just consider that if Democrats could somehow keep the House, and add at least two seats in the Senate, great things could be accomplished. Right now, the House is trying to pass an assault weapons ban, which is brave and exciting, except that it would never pass the Senate, and would not even get on the floor, because of the filibuster.

But what if Democrats had 53 Senate seats? Impossible? Not at all. Polls are not reliable, and Republicans pour in money in the last part of a campaign. But our small donor money is greatly exceeding the amount Republicans are donating.

Right now–and keep our fingers crossed–we look strong in Pennsylvania with Fetterman, and that gains us a seat. Very surprisingly, Ryan is running ahead of Vance in Ohio, which would be a gain. Beasley is tied with Budd in North Carolina. Warnock is ahead in Georgia. Hassan leads in New Hampshire. I worry about Cortez Mastro in Nevada and Kelly in Arizona, but they are both ahead. And we have a chance in Wisconsin, though I still think that Godlewski would have a better chance against Johnson than Barnes, who is likely to win the primary.

So it is certainly possible for the Democrats to pick up two Senate seats, though three would be better, of course. That could conceivably override anything that Manchin or Sinema would do. It could well mean changing the filibuster rules, for specific bills like voting rights, abortion, climate, gun safety. Unfortunately, if we lose the House, we would not be able to pass any bills, they would never even be brought up. But it is certainly not impossible that we could hold the House. And if we held only the Senate, we could retake the House in the elections of 2024.

Now, that is not a great deal to hold onto, but it does emphasize that the position Democrats are in is not intractable. Not if people who call themselves Democrats, or liberals, or Progressives, actually come out to vote in record numbers, to save the country. But they have to do that. Indulging themselves by not voting because “we are disappointed in Biden! He did not keep his promises!” (gee, do you think that this might just be because Republican blocked or defeated the legislation?). “Where is the student loan forgiveness?” “He is too old, we need someone younger!,” accomplishes nothing at all, except the illusion of agency, and the reality of Republican rule of the country.

That may be something that the people who are complaining do not want to hear, they are insulted by it, they are going to show everyone that they won’t take it! (just like in 2016); they won’t be dictated to or patronized by Baby Boomers, or by Biden, or anyone who doesn’t do what they want! So I guess we have to be very nice, very ingratiating, with the appreciation of how absolutely important these people are, so as to somehow beg and coax them into going out to the polls every two years, and voting for every Democrat on the ticket.

Oh, yes, I know that they won’t be patronized, they “vote for the person, not the party,” they want what they want, and if they don’t get it, they’ll stay home and complain some more. Growing up, and that is far from just a matter of age, it is about maturity, and the ability to understand how our flawed political system works, is imperative.

We are contesting the most evil force in American history. They are poised to ban all abortions, ban contraception, force children to attend religious schools; do nothing at all about the terrifying rise in global temperatures, do nothing about increasing gun violence–and, oh, they won’t reduce one dollar of student loans, plus they will take away Social Security and Medicare.

If that isn’t enough to compel every single person to go out and vote, then we cannot save the country, as many decent people are trying very hard to do, by donating, organizing the vote, and trying to tell all the recalcitrant people that they need to stop the complaining, stop the “I’m a superior person, and I won’t listen to any of you” immaturity, and do the only right thing here, which is to help the Democrats save the country from the fascists.

It can be done, but it takes will, commitment, and some intellectual and emotional maturity. It’s not an ideal situation, it never is in politics. Keep waiting for the ideal situation, and you are exactly where the fascists want you to be: out of power, complaining, giving up on participating altogether; looking for somebody to blame for the fact that the Radical Right controls the Supreme Court; that the fascists either control all the levers of power, or enough of them to keep the good people from ever changing any laws.

“The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Take responsibility, do something positive, and then see if things might indeed improve for you and the country. Otherwise, the Far Right totalitarians have you exactly where they intended to put you and keep you. You’ve got a little over three months to realize this, and act upon it. Please do so.

Nobody Lives Forever

I watched the movie “Nobody Lives Forever” on a movie channel I have which unfortunately has commercials, but makes up for it by showing noir movies all Thursday, and in the evening on Sunday. I have a number of noir film compilations, but there were many I not seen, as I learned from watching this channel.

This is really a superb movie, I think. It is based on a novel by W.R. Burnett. It was directed by Jean Negulesco, who did a brilliant job. It stars John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald, who are first-rate; and the supporting cast, including Walter Brennan, George Coulouris, Faye Emerson, and George Tobias, are all very good, particularly the rather amazing Coulouris, who was in Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater, and played in many classic British stage dramas, which background one would never guess from his role as Doc Ganson in this movie.

Garfield plays Nick Blake, a successful, nonviolent con man who fleeces rich women, among other people. He was a soldier in WWII, and performed admirably, to his credit. He comes back; and joining up with his long-time friend played by Tobias, presumably to resume his prior career, he first takes a sumptuous vacation at a Southern Californian beach house, and says hello to an old friend, Pop Gruber, an amiable grifter who now does very small cons. But Doc Ganson, who has fallen in stature in this milieu, thinks he has a chance for a big score in a very wealthy young widow (Fitzgerald). He hates Blake, but needs his help

Blake finally agrees to take on the scheme, only if he can do it his own way. Ultimately, Fitzgerald’s character, who is both lovely and very nice, becomes very attracted to Garfield, and it seems as if he likes her very much, too, although he is a professional.

The tension between the growing mutual attraction and the con; and the pressure from the dangerous Ganson, helps to make this a movie which never falters, never is anything but involving. As I first watched it, the tension was increased by my thinking of the title, “Nobody Lives Forever.” As we know, many noirs have downbeat endings. Since you may either have already seen it, or might not watch films in the genre, I will presume to say that after some very tense moments, it has a mostly happy ending.

In my opinion, they just do not make films like this now, and that’s not just a matter of a different era, or black and white vs. color movies. This is very well written, not at all preachy; focused on character and milieu. The dialogue is never overwrought or pretentious. The film keeps one’s interest from the very first minutes; and it is never artificially amped up, nor does it have scenes which distract or are not coherent with the rest of it.

Everyone who made this film should have been very proud of it. Why it is not generally mentioned as a great noir film, is baffling, unless it is that it is more about character, nuance, and dialogue than action. If you like film noir, I highly recommend it!

John Garfield was a great talent, who died young, certainly to some extent due to his hounding by the Hoover and HUAC forces. He would have been one of the all-time greats; maybe he was, despite his relatively short career. Fitzgerald was a star, but never quite reached the heights of say, a Fontaine or de Havilland, but she was every bit as good.

Nobody lives forever. That takes on different meanings in different contexts. I don’t look for stories like this, but yesterday I saw this terrible story about a man who was killed by shots from a motorist who may have been enraged because the victim had inadvertently sprayed some wiper fluid onto his car.

This was in Oregon. The victim of this horrific killing seemed like a very nice man. He had met his long-time female partner online, then came out to see her, but she was unable to deal with it, and told him he should go; but then immediately thought better of it, and called him, and he came back and never left They were together 18 years. He had an adult son, and the couple had two younger children.

They were driving, and suddenly this young man, identified as around 25, started following them. The victim’s partner told him to drive off the highway, which he did, but then they soon saw him alongside, and he apparently seemed to be trying to force their car off the road, by stopping and starting, and driving very close to them. Then suddenly the other car went right alongside, and the driver shot and killed him, then drove away.

There were expressions of shock and horror. A friend started a Go Fund Me page, with a goal of $10,000; and $30,000 was received in one day. Of course, this cannot undo the tragedy, or the thoughts I have, undoubtedly shared by many people, that the two young boys would never again see their father, shown affectionately playing with one of them in a photo. And of course neither would his partner and his older son.

Some twisted person, one of an increasing number of them, went out driving, carrying his handgun, and maybe more guns, since the police have not apprehended him. He was angry at something, generally or specifically. He shot the other man several times and killed him. Just like that. Guns, proliferating everywhere. Everyone wants to buy several of them. Concealed carry. Assault rifles.

No one wants to do anything about this. The recent gun bill will not stop such things. For Republicans, this is what they think is the price of living in America. It is obscene.

A sick and evil person had to have his gun. He had to take out his anger and hate at someone in a car who was just driving along. The killer drove away. Maybe they will catch him, or maybe not. It does not seem to matter much.

Nobody lives forever. But everyone deserves the opportunity to live free of the killing impulses of people who should be locked away in mental institutions, much less allowed to drive around and shoot anyone who has triggered their mechanisms of hate and deadly violence.

We cannot spend each moment with such awful stories, but they cannot be passed over. The stylish and engaging world of noir movies is a welcome diversion, but one cannot avoid thinking that this country has become so much more violent, hate-filled, and dangerous than film noir’s enhanced version of reality.

The antidote for magical thinking.

I don’t understand the minds of the people who voted for Trump. I’m not wired that way. I can’t see what they see in him and, like William below, I find it puzzling that anyone would praise his “accomplishments”. Long time readers know that I wasn’t a fan of Obama either for the myriad of reasons I documented from 2008-2016. Obama may go down in history as the luckiest man to ever be president because he was sandwiched between two of our worst presidents.

But if we compare temperaments, Obama was passive and complacent while Trump was unfit. We knew this ahead of time. No doubt, Hillary Clinton’s campaign did extensive opposition research on Donald. It’s not like he suddenly became pathologically impulsive and irresponsible overnight. He’s been that way for his entire adult life.

Here was Hillary’s warning in 2016:

I don’t believe for a minute that Trump’s voters didn’t know that about him. I think it was a feature to them. For some reason, they want destruction. They think so little of the government they’ve had the privilege to grow up with that they want to see it burned to the ground. Even if that means chaos. Even if that means bloodshed. Even if that means loss of services, energy grid, weather forecasts. Even if that means they won’t be retiring with the Social Security and Medicare they’ve paid for all their working lives.

That’s why so many MAGA supporters to this day, after so many hearings and evidence of Trump’s unfitness are still unwilling to see things as they really are. He was getting away with things they could only dream about.

There are specialists in autocratic governments and how they are created who have been warning that it could happen here. The American population has cut its teeth on jingoism and slogans and imagery of baseball game anthems and fireworks that have lost all their original meaning. We are sitting ducks for the strong men who will slide in unawares and gobble up everything that once belonged to all of us and will now be handed out like fiefs by a feudal lord.

There will come a day soon when Florida will crack down on abortions in the state, probably following Victor Orban’s lead on what he did in Hungary: Reduce the number of weeks to 12 or close to it, prohibit the use of medication for abortions, force women seeking one to go to a crisis pregnancy center for a couple of time wasting meetings where they will be emotionally manipulated and if that doesn’t work, humiliated and lectured before they’re finally allowed to make a decision that is right for their lives. Ron DeSantis is definitely playing by the Orban playbook and the next steps are entirely predictable.

Magical thinking is believing that some strong man is going to avenge your wrath on your enemies on your behalf and remake America into the idyllic past that never existed. Accountability is necessary to impose limits on pursuing magic instead of governance. The people responsible for what happened on 1/6/21 and to this day (because they’ve been busily setting up their next coup) have to be held accountable. They must face the consequences of their actions. There must be punishment or prohibition from ever holding office again. The public needs to see that we won’t tolerate the theft of our government by extraconstitutional means.

I get it that they think they have enough guns to overwhelm us but what does that get them? Do they really want to be those people? The kind that slaughters innocent people like the pioneers just passing through Mormon territory at Mountain Meadows in 1857? Those Mormons who participated in the slaughter were indoctrinated and lead to believe that the pioneers were their enemy without any justification. That’s where we are heading, slaughter of fellow Americans. The shooters who did it were eventually caught, tried and hung but the strongman, Brigham Young, who sicced his domestic terrorists filled with the wrath of God on 140 men, women and children, seemingly got away with it, giving hope to the many renegades to come, some of them the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and their wannabes of 2021.

That’s what is going to happen here. He’s going to try to get away with it. And then he’ll do it again because he can’t help himself. Even this week, he tried to get Wisconsin to change its 2016 election results. He’s focussed like a shark on only one thing: whatever he wants. And the one who aspires to be next will take advantage of the cracks in our electoral system that Trump has helped to open up.

And when you’ve lost your vote, you’ve lost your control over your future and the stability of your country. Ask any voter in Russia or Hungary how they feel about the strongman they once invited in and can’t get rid of. Once you’ve lost it, you can almost never get it back without becoming the enemy of the state you put in power to begin with.

We don’t have to go through that. We can start imposing limits now. We can punish the guilty. We can keep insurrectionists from holding office, forcing voters to choose a different hard ass Republican for their district, one that doesn’t have treason on his hands and who won’t run from the vampire’s minions he invited into his House.

There is no antidote for magical thinking. It’s like a fire that may take a long time to burn out. The only thing that stops it in its tracks is decimating the believers and hoping that their leaders go down with them.

I take that back. Timothy Snyder, the author of On Tyranny, wrote this in a recent substack. The antidote is pulling ourselves back, giving ourselves a moment to reflect:

“Russian propaganda reaches us for much the same reasons it reachers Russians. The three “N”s give us no analytical purchase on what is actually going on; we cling to them for the reasons that Russians do, which is that they touch deeper emotions. If your default inclination is guilt about the world, and you are inclined to believe that America is responsible for all evil, then your “N” is NATO. If you are fearful and looking for a reason to do nothing, then you are best served by “nukes.” And if you like to look down on others as barbarians, or have the urge to be seen as the most radical person in your pack, you will be susceptible to Putin’s characterization of his chosen enemies as “Nazis.”

It is easy to demonstrate that none of this makes any sense, nor has any bearing on Russia’s war aims. But unless we are able to say about ourselves: “oh yes, I have that vulnerability” or “sure, I might fall for that sometimes” or “I can see how I could be led down that rabbit hole” such a demonstration will make no difference. And this, one hopes at least, is the fundamental difference between Russia and America at the moment. We still have the institutions and, one likes to hope, the inclination to reflect, to reconsider. Tyranny at some late stage is based on nothing more than the backwash of violent action: it must have been right because we did it at the tyrant’s behest. Democracy depends upon the ability to catch ourselves halfway, before we internalize the slogans and defend them just because we defend them.”

Coup de Grace for Trump?

Just a few of my immediate thoughts while watching today’s January 6 Committee hearing. Not in order of importance, but just things which stood out to me tonight

I understand the Committee wanting to use almost all Republican witnesses, people who were in the Administration. They wanted this to look as unpartisan as possible; and of course the members of the Administration were Republicans. But the problem is that Republicans being Republicans, they are always looking to cover and elevate themselves. So they can’t resist telling the audience that they were so proud of their work with Trump, and “the great things he did.”

Matthew Pottinger, who was called as a witness because he abruptly resigned after January 6, wanted to make sure to say that he and Trump did great things, which he enumerated. Sarah Matthews, and earlier Cassidy Hutchinson, did somewhat the same., though they were very critical of Trump’s actions on January 6. These are hardcore Republicans, which of course they have the right to be. But I thought it particularly inappropriate for Pottinger to do this here. There are too many people out there who somehow think that, well, Trump did some bad things on January 6, but he was a good President. That is what Pottinger wants people to think. Republicans want to win both ways.

It was grimly amusing to see Josh Hawley, after giving some kind of White Power sign to the rioters, racing out of the Capitol to protect himself. The gallery laughed at this. Videos have now been made with Hawley’s running shown over the themes to “Chariots of Fire,” and “Rocky,” “Staying Alive,” “The Benny Hill Show.” Plaudits to the Committee for showing Hawley running away from what he helped to cause.

People kept testifying that they needed Trump to call off the mob. But why would he do that? He is the person who got them to the Capitol, who told them to march there, and that he would join them. Why would he then tell them to go home?

What are people missing? Trump wanted a riot, and he wanted carnage, and he probably wanted killing. He was not going to suddenly decide that this was not good. There is some kind of disjunct, where Republicans refuse to believe that Trump wanted people murdered, and anything which would stop the certification. He created all of this, but then they thought he would decide that the violence was not good, and it should stop? Absurd.

The fear of Pence’s security detail that they might all be killed, was chilling to hear on tape. And Pence still supports Trump? What kind of psychological gymnastics are required to be one of these Republicans?

Trump doing multiple versions of his “okay, go home” speech, will be played millions of times.

I continue to be extremely impressed by Elaine Luria. Intelligent, articulate, and humane.

The summations by Luria and Kinzinger were very strong.

Liz Cheney does a superb job in her final summations.

Will this hearing, culminating the earlier ones, guarantee that Trump will never successfully run for President again? I think so, though I know that many are not all sure, particularly when polls show him leading any Republican opponents, and running close to Biden in a general election. One can never be over-optimistic on such matters, but I just have this sense that there are enough people who will never vote for him to be President.

The January 6th Committee is united in wanting to focus on Trump. They have not seemed as interested in impugning any of his advisors or subordinates who conspired to cause the virtual overthrow of American democracy. Probably it is too difficult to achieve it, because none of them will tell on the other ones, and they are all essentially united in their causes. Well, we can be grateful for what they have done so far, with intelligence, commitment, and eloquence. And there will be more hearings in September!

The kind of thing we need right now

Before we dive in to what a horror show 1/6 was as Trump sat in the dining room watching the insurrection on TV and ketchup dripped down the silk moiré wallpaper (just speculating. I have no idea if there is silk moiré wallpaper), let’s take a few minutes to shift our hearts and minds to something a lot more wholesome.

I love youtube design videos and one of the best content creators in this category is Drew Scott from Lone Fox. I’ve been watching his on the job training for the last few years as he’s been trying out new things and defining his aesthetic. For the last couple of years, he’s been working on the LA apartment he shares with his roommate Marie. Recently, Drew bought a house so he will be saying goodbye to this apartment. The space already had good bones but Drew really did take it to the next level.

Before he left, he gave a tour to his landlord Roger, an elderly guy who let Drew do pretty much whatever he wanted to this space. Rarely has there been such a lucky convergence of ability, opportunity and inspiration in a design space. But what would Roger think? They recorded the tour, naturally. Here it is. Enjoy:

The Right to Travel

There is no sentence in the Constitution which says, “The right to travel freely among the states and territories shall be enjoyed by all citizens.” But many cases have stood for the free right of travel. No one has really attempted to argue that a United States citizen does not have the right to travel freely from state to state, or within a state. Until now.

The fanatic anti-abortionists would never be satisfied with just packing the Supreme Court with judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and leaving the right to abortion to be decided by each state. That was not nearly enough for them, because they could not impose their will on everyone else.

So they now seek ways to stop any resident of an anti-abortion state from going to another state to get an abortion which would be legal in that state. They are looking to pass laws which prohibit a state resident from doing that. That would seem akin to slavery, but they don’t look at it that way, or maybe they do, but don’t want to say it.

Democrats in the Senate are trying to pass a bill which would shield those women from prosecution who travel across state lines to have an abortion, as well as shielding the providers of the abortion services. The bill is called “The Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022.” It was authored by Senators Gillibrand, Cortez Mastro and Murray. But the Senate Republicans blocked the bill, as they always do with bills which attempt to assert individual rights supported by a majority of the population, but which they and their donors do not favor.

The arguments behind the bill can rest on the Interstate Commerce Clause, or Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection; that as the Amendment guarantees equal protection under the laws to all citizens, this should mean that any citizen has the right to the protection that another citizen might enjoy. If you happen to live in Texas, you should not have less personal rights than if you lived in Connecticut, even if you have to travel to Connecticut to avail yourself of them.

Senator Murray said, after the bill was blocked, “(They) have already set their sights on ripping away the freedom to travel. Let’s be really clear what that means. They want to hold women captive in their own states. They want to punish women and anyone who might help them for exercising their constitutional right to travel within our country to get the services that they need in another state. I hope everyone observes how extreme and how radical and how un-American that is.”

Republicans do not agree. Republicans want to allow the states which they control to have the long arms which can reach into other states and capture and punish those who leave it, even temporarily, to obtain an abortion. Actually, they want the right to abortion to be gone completely, and will pass such a ban if they control the Congress, and then only need a Republican President to sign it, and then abortion is a crime, punishable by who knows what? In North Carolina, they are trying to pass a bill that would impose the death penalty for any woman who has an abortion.

But for now, they want to make sure that no woman can escape their edicts. Not only that, but a doctor who lives in another state, and provides the abortion to the out of state person, is also to be punished. That is what they are trying to do to Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who provided abortion services in Indiana for a ten-year old from Ohio, who was pregnant due to being raped by a 29-year old man there, and could not obtain a legal abortion there.

These fanatics want to make damn sure that no uppity girl of ten can somehow go to another state to get an abortion. And the Attorney General of Indiana wants to show his loyalty to the cult of zealotry by looking into ways to prosecute Dr. Bernard for doing something that is totally legal in that state, at least until the zealots ban it there, too.

This reminds me of the Wicked Witch of the West shouting “Seize Them!” as Dorothy and her companions try to escape. And this shows one, if nothing yet has, that what we are looking at, is a deranged, evil group of people who hide behind their version of religion to exert power over anyone who does not do what they want them to do. This is the modern equivalent of burning “heretics” at the stake, “for their own good,” and “the glory of (the zealots’ version of) god.”

They will tell you that that life begins at conception; and then once they force the woman to bear the child, even if it is at great risk to their health and life, they lose all interest in the child, or the mother. They are on their own. This never was about any of their sanctimonious pronouncements, it was always about punishing women for having intercourse, even if forced or incestuous. It is the need for some very warped people to have power over others.

Back to the main subject here: until and if they can ban all abortions, they want to make sure that the states which ban them keep the power over their residents so that it is illegal for any of them to obtain the abortion in another state. They will use all the police and extrajudicial powers of their states, including vigilantes who collect bounties on the citizens by turning them in.

They will look at medical records, they will track any health device which follows the period cycles, to see if a woman has missed one or two, and thus might be pregnant, and prevented from having an abortion. They will use search engines, peruse social media, to play the fiendishly exciting game of discovering who might be pregnant; and making sure that they do not take one step toward considering an abortion.

This is so maniacal and draconian that I think that even the wholly subsidized Supreme Court majority might shrink from this. Of course, there would have to be a test case. If brought by the pregnant woman, it would be too late for her to have the abortion if she wins. In fact, I recall reading about Judge Kavanaugh deliberately and cruelly delaying a decision on the right to an abortion in a particular case, so that it would be too late for her to get the abortion, Thus a current case involving a pregnant woman would have to be brought by the state trying to prevent the travel, but the state would likely rather just ban or impede or punish the travel, and let somebody sue them.

The famous, or infamous, Dred Scott case involved a man who was a slave in Missouri. then having his enslaver move to the Louisiana Territory for a time, which the Missouri Compromise had designated as “free,” which Scott argued made him a free man, and thus could not be again enslaved, after he was brought back to Missouri. Chief Justice Taney, writing the 7-2 decision, stated that slaves were not intended to be citizens, so that Scott had no rights to assert.

So that awful decision was not on the freedom to travel issue. Even so, there is something very unsettling about the comparison. If you are a woman living in a “slave” (you cannot have an abortion) state, and you travel to a “free” (you have some right to an abortion) state, are you still “owned by” the laws of the state you traveled from?

Since all court decisions (except the ludicrously evil “Bush v. Gore”) have precedential impact upon other ones, we can see what a decision in favor of a state’s right to essentially ban travel to another state, would imply. You can’t travel to have an abortion. Then you can’t travel, or even use interstate commerce, to buy birth control pills? If the state bans the selling of certain books (and they’re coming to that), they can make it a crime to buy them from another state? If they ban certain music groups from performing, it is a crime to go to see them in another state?

I don’t think that even this unspeakably bad Supreme Court would stand for the principle that a state could ban travel to another state. Now, the state would say, we are not banning the travel, we are not even banning the purpose of the travel, we are banning the end result of it. But that sounds like the classic distinction without a difference. If you are traveling for an abortion, your state is banning that travel. Your state cannot force the other state to follow its laws, so it can only try to prevent its own residents from traveling to obtain rights which their own state does not provide.

Is a person a citizen of the United States, or of a home state? I don’t know if this has even been questioned. States have the rights to make laws and restrictions, as long as they do not infringe on a constitutionally protected right. Now, admittedly, this Supreme Court is so radical that you cannot count on anything anymore. But we do know that if one state has a speed limit of 55mph, they cannot arrest someone who has driven into another state to go 65mph under its laws.

They do not have an arm which can reach into the doings in another state, and punish their own state’s residents for doing something legal there. This would be essential as to why we started the United States in the first place, to prevent the chaos which would occur if every state had its own tariffs and tolls, to some degree designed to constrain travel.

So I would guess that even this Supreme Court would not hold that a state could arrest someone for availing themselves of something that was legal in the visited state, but not in the home state. Of course, they could simply refuse to hear such cases, in their snickering adolescent way, letting the states and citizens battle it out, while they enjoy their own steak dinners and protected spaces.

I would hope that a woman who traveled to another state to have an abortion, and was fined or imprisoned after it, would file a lawsuit against the state, charging an infringement of their civil rights. The Supreme Court would have to hear one of those cases, or otherwise completely abrogate its duty to adjudicate disputes involving individual constitutional rights versus state police power.

If the Court held in favor of the state, then we officially would cease to be a republic, but would become some kind of collection of city-states; unless we turned into a dictatorship, in which case the Supreme Court would have only ceremonial duties, and could proudly rename themselves, “A Body of Partisan Hacks Ruled by the One Leader.” And we won’t need the likes of Pete Williams and Jonathan Turley to expound on their “decisions” anymore.

Right now, we have to win the elections. But we also must find out if the Supreme Court is ever going to support embedded constitutional principles. or just let the zealots run the country.

So what’s your point?

I might be dreaming this but it seems like a lot of Republican MAGA tweeters are getting defensive. I know, right?? Who expected that? They’re usually just up in your grille or shaking their junk in your face or shrieking about the commie lib snowflakes wetting their pants over Covid.

It’s been 6, no, 7 years of this obnoxious flurry of “we DARE you to make us stop” non-productive assholishness.

But something has changed in the last few days. I’m not going to say that the over the top thugishness won’t return but there seems to be a slight pause.

One thing is for certain though. They intend to play this inflation thing for all it’s worth. Here’s how it usually goes:

Them: “so what if xyz, inflation is still catastrophically horrible and we are all suffering unimaginable awfulness because of it (implying that it’s all Biden’s fault)

Us: Inflation is up globally. Biden isn’t the president of Yurp. So what’s your point?

Them: We aren’t allowed to drill for more American oil and that’s why gas prices are astronomically high.

Us: Really? I thought that Biden is allowing for a lot more leasing for drilling. So what’s your point?

Them: Keystone! Keystone! Keystone!

Us: That was a pipeline for Canadian oil to pass through the US to the Gulf of Mexico. The oil in that pipeline isn’t ours. It’s for other countries. So what’s your point?

Them: Gas costs more than it ever has and that’s because we aren’t producing enough American oil.

Us: Enron debacle- refineries offline. 2013 high gas prices- refineries offline. 2022 high gas prices- refineries offline. It’s almost like there’s a correlation… Back in the first pandemic year in 2020, oil companies couldn’t give oil away. Prices were very low because no one but essential workers were driving to work. Now that more companies are requiring return to the office, oil companies are trying to recoup their losses by choking supply. To bring down the cost of gas, those who can work from home, should WORK FROM HOME. Demand will decrease dramatically and so will prices. You can’t overprice a commodity that no one needs. So, what’s your point?

Them: You’re being insufferably smug and uncivil to Trump voters. That’s why we don’t like what you say and we’re going to continue to hate your Fucking guts.

Us: Since 2020, I’ve been called a snowflake, a bed wetter, un-American, a traitor for not fellating Trump like the MAGA crowd. I’ve been told I’m a communist without any justification whatsoever. I’ve been yelled at to leave the country of my birth because I’m not patriotic. And all this from some of the people who I’m closest to. It has been insult on insult on insult. Now I’m smug because they have finally realized that their strongman chucks his lunch at the wall when he doesn’t get his way, and their policies on abortion have turned out to be a giant Fucking PR disaster and getting worse as MAGA politicians are doubling down, and there’s a new mass shooting everyday and expecting Americans to twist themselves in knots trying to not be decapitated by an AR-15 is tricky and extremely unpopular. But the MAGA crew is just getting started in statehouses and governor’s mansions and AG offices in red and purple states all over the country and every day, they seem to exceed themselves in how insane and out of touch they are.

The MAGA crowd has caught the bumper it has been chasing for 49 years, it has seized the tar baby, it has knocked itself out and keeps punching anyway. Our country is lagging behind in healthcare, infrastructure, economic equality and life expectancy due to Republican, Tea Party, MAGA obstruction in the senate for years and years. Nothing has gotten done because it is the stated policy of Mitch McConnell to never let Democrats claim one single victory even if it’s good for the vast majority of Americans. The goal is to make Democrats look bad by blocking every bill. They suck Republican voters back into their event horizon not by providing policies that would make our lives better but by being the stick that jams all the cogs in the machinery, makes their lives more miserable and refusing to do anything about it, except point fingers at anyone but themselves. Their compensation to their supporters was to allow them to sip the tender tears of their fellow Americans.

But the MAGA crew think we’re exceptional and that Europeans are unwashed and don’t have toilets because the only experiences they have of other countries are stories they heard from veterans of WWII because they never leave the US.

We’re not smug. We’re disgusted. And I’m used to having my fucking guts hated.

So what’s your point?

Fitness: Starting year 2

You might have noticed that the image looks different. Well, I got through my year long membership at the bougey gym and I am leaving it. The staff was never around, they didn’t seem interested in setting me up with a program unless I paid an extra couple hundred dollars a month, and it was too hot and stuffy when I was using the treadmill. So I switched. This gym is cheaper, the staff is very friendly, and the members aren’t snobs. Plus I actually feel cool when I’m running. Not in a swave and deboner sense but cooler in temperature. I ran a lot longer today w/o stopping than I have for a couple of weeks. Something was wearing me out so I eased up a bit for two weeks. I suspect the stuffy interior of the other gym had something to do with it.

Anyway, good workout. I’ll hit this gym more often probably because there is more equipment and variety and I have to work on my arms.

Today’s cool down is a song that seems like it could have been written last week but it’s actually 17 years old. The lyrics are uncanny. Enjoy!