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John and the Jogger.

Update: if you want to make Joe Manchin irrelevant, you can donate to John Fetterman’s fundraising page here.

I have a recurring monthly donation of $25 but kick in whatever you can.

Californians, Fetterman will make you count again.

If you want to make sure PA certifies the electors that voters actually voted for, help us elect Josh Shapiro as the next Governor of Pennsylvania and keep Doug Mastriano out of the governor’s office.

Donate to Josh Shapiro’s page here.

**************

I stayed up way too late last night putting out fires on Twitter from people in Fargo, ND and Raleigh, NC and Arizona who were mad as hell that John Fetterman, the OBVIOUS racist, won the senate primary and not that nice young man, Connor Lamb. It all comes back to their distorted opinion about the jogger incident and the reflexive, knee jerk opinion that John must be a George Zimmerman style vigilante white supremicist.

So let me give my own take on this story, noting in advance that I wasn’t there. The basic outline of the story is that John heard what he thought were gunshots close to his house and saw a hooded figure who took off running. He grabbed his shotgun, jumped in his truck and gave chase until he cornered the the guy and then held him at gunpoint until police arrived. It turns out that the guy was just a black guy who was running and hadn’t done anything wrong.

Ok. That sounds bad. I’m not excusing John here. Chasing anyone down with a gun is not good, especially if you don’t know what’s going on.

It sure sounds like John is a racist.

Here’s the context.

John was the mayor of Braddock, PA. He was re-elected a bunch of times. Braddock is the home of one of the biggest steel mills ever. It’s in the Monongahela valley about 5 miles from my house. When the mills closed all over this area in the late 70s, early 80s, cities like Braddock, Duquesne, McKeesport and Homestead became ghost towns of sorts. The mills no longer clanged at night, the skies no longer filled with an orange glow from sandblasting. The barges of coal stopped floating down the river. There was massive unemployment. People moved away. The tax base shrank dramatically. It was so bad that the water system in McKeesport became compromised. One day, downtown Mckeesport caught fire and burned to the ground. I know because I watched it happen from my aunt’s panoramic view from across the Mon river in west Mifflin. My grandmother and I watched the city burn. Her house was in McKeesport and we hoped the fire wouldn’t spread to her house. It didn’t, fortunately. But we were in shock to see it happen.

In other words, the effect of closing the mills on the area was catastrophic. And when all the people who could move away were gone, what was left were the people who had few options. There were poor white and African American working class people who had nowhere else to go as their cities disintegrated.

I saw this first hand. My mom’s family had a lot of US Steel and Fisher Body union guys in it.

This is what happened to Braddock. As I said before, I used to pass through Braddock on the way to my grandmother’s house and thought that it would have been improved by demolition. The deterioration happened so quickly. The roads could destroy your car’s shocks in minutes, the buildings crumbled, the infrastructure went unmaintained, the prostitutes and drug dealers moved in. When opportunity moved out, all of the typical social problems moved in. Crime, drug abuse, poverty, jail sentences.

This is the Braddock that John Fetterman came to when he joined AmeriCorps. Then he became mayor and was re-elected more than once. Digging Braddock out of the pit it fell into has been no easy task. Fetterman helped re-establish a community there, his wife Gisele started the FreeStore. John has lobbied businesses to come to Braddock. He’s had to fight the local hospital group to not close up shop and move away. It has been a long hard grind.

John has Braddock’s zip tattooed on his arm. He also has the dates of all the people murdered in Braddock since he lived there tattooed in his arm so he never forgets.

I don’t know what happened the night that Fetterman encountered the “jogger”. Knowing what I do about Braddock, it’s unlikely that anyone would be jogging for fitness in Braddock at night. Let’s say he was a running man. Braddock is or was a high crime area. This whole section of the Mon valley is. There are some areas of Duquesne that I used to drive through on the way to my aunt’s house but I take a different route now. It could be dangerous to stop on some streets.

So, I believe John when he says he thought he heard gunshots. I believe him when he says he didn’t know who he was chasing. But given the demographics of the area, it had to be either a poor white working class guy or a poor black working class guy. Most likely the latter.

I don’t know how many encounters his community had had with gun crimes at the time but probably pretty high. Given the area and it’s history, I could see why the incident happened. Is it ever a good idea to go chasing someone with a shotgun? I think we all know that it’s not. But does this make John Fetterman some kind of George Zimmerman? Absolutely not. And given that his own town still voted for him, it may mean that they have a different view of him than some of us do.

Connor Lamb was John’s opponent. Lamb is currently my congressman and he’s straight out of central casting. He’s a straight, white, Catholic, ex-marine lawyer who shmoozes the old right wing guys. He barely acknowledges that he has heavily democratic and diverse suburbs in his district. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Obama. He appeals to the white moderate , centrist and Republican guys and just assumes that the Democratic base and working class and black voters will vote for him because where else are they going to go??

I think the reason Lamb was defeated so profoundly is because the working class voters of PA, the diverse and progressive tech workers of Pittsburgh, the black voters in John’s town, all of them decided that John represented our interests best. He’s a Democrat in the Elizabeth Warren or Katie Porter mold. He looks forward. He’s seen what our economy can do to working families. It means something to him. Conner Lamb was the standard package. He just wasn’t as compelling.

Anyway, that’s how I see it. Fetterman is as far from a racist as it is possible to get. The proof is in how he has chosen to lead his life, where he lives, who his neighbors are. It’s easy to label someone. But it only takes a little curiosity to see how different the reality is.

One last thing, putting aside that chasing someone with a shotgun is a really bad decision, I don’t think his Republican opponent is going to make this story into a liability for Fetterman. The flip side of the story is that he’s an Everyman, he owns a truck, he has a shotgun and he’s not afraid to use it to defend his family.

So, you know, there’s that…

The PA governor’s race this fall will be epic

That’s no exaggeration.

Democrat and PA AG Josh Shapiro is going to be running against Republican state legislator Doug Mastriano who has publicly declared that he will reserve the right to approve his party’s slate of electors in 2024 regardless of the actual winner’s electors.

What stood in his and his party’s legislators’ way in 2020 from doing that exact thing?

Josh Shapiro and Governor Tom Wolf.

Hard to believe that the Republicans are nominating someone who will potentially disenfranchise them if they don’t vote for the most totalitarian presidential candidate in US history but that’s what is happening. And if PA goes, it may be the determining factor in who runs the country.

And the only guy who stands in his way is…

Josh Shapiro.

John Fetterman Wins!!

It’s not even close. Not bad for a guy who just got out of surgery:

Looking forward to getting a Fetterman Terrible Towel.

It’s so exciting!!

Update: Biden approves.

I am not a cardiologist but…

… the news that John Fetterman needs a pacemaker comes as no surprise to me, mostly because it sounds like he has a similar condition to the one my dad had.

Up front, my dad didn’t have heart disease. But he did have a little extra cardiac tissue that used to trip the light fantastic on occasion. It’s one of the reasons he avoided caffeine. He wasn’t a smoker. He didn’t even drink that much. Wasn’t morbidly obese. It was just this thickening of one of the walls in his heart that was problematic and it was a problem he had for a long time, maybe since childhood. It had a long name that started with idiopathic something or other.

Anyway, every now and then, his heart would have an arrhythmia incident. A couple of times, he had to go to the hospital for a defibrillation. He was put on blood thinners to prevent clots and eventually had a pacemaker installed. Those were the days before they had the pacemaker defibrillator combo. He died before they came out but he didn’t die from a heart problem or a stroke.

I’m going to assume that everyone and their brother is going to freak out about Fetterman’s pacemaker on TV and in every media outlet. Did he tell us EVERYTHING? Is he really healthy?

Please.

Dick Cheney’s heart was on its last legs when he was elected VP. It had been trying to escape his body for years without success and rebelled in the only way it could. (no offense, Liz.) Cheney had several debilitating heart attacks before he ran with Bush. No one batted an eye and Fetterman’s problem is nothing like that.

Millions of people have pacemakers with the defibrillator gizmanoid.

I’m more concerned with Fetterman’s poll position on the ballot (he was 4th name down) than what’s going on with his heart.

Let’s stop making Jawn’s pacemaker the new Hillary e-mails news story of 2022. Some people are never going to let go of the conspiracy theory that “he didn’t tell us everything about his heart”.

It’s going to be either John Fetterman and his pacemaker or some creepy GOP nutcase that makes Trump look like a moderate in that senate seat. We already know what to expect from the MAGA candidates and the GOP front runner was caught on tape marching to the Capitol on January 6, 2021. THAT’S the story.

Focus people.

I voted! And a little sea shanty

Yep, just got done. Haven’t voted in person since 2019 so I was surprised to see that we vote on paper ballots now that are scanned. No more e-voting machines.

I voted for Josh, Jawn, and Austin. Good luck to all of the down ticket D’s as well.

Now, what would a primary be without a Sea Shanty? Soon May the Fetterman Come practically writes itself.

Enjoy:

Jawn

Today is the Pennsylvania primary. In case you’ve been living in a cave, we have an open senate seat.

In the right corner, we have a handful of silly twits racing to the bottom of normal human behavior, trying to one up each other in how much pain they intend to inflict on people with uteruses.

In the left corner, we have three politicians who might actually make a difference and cancel out the execrable Joe Manchin. Those guys would be Conor Lamb, Malcolm Kenyatta and John Fetterman.

My quick summary goes like this: Conor Lamb is my congressman. I campaigned for him twice. He’s ok. Nothing to write home about. He got a lot of notoriety a few years ago when he ran for a seat vacated by a staunchly pro-life Republican who was caught texting his pregnant mistress, encouraging her to get an abortion. Conor ran for his seat in a heavily gerrymandered district and squeaked by, winning a handful more votes than his opponent. And he did it by running pretty far to the right for a Democrat. He’s a Catholic, ex-marine, lawyer. Pretty much sums him up. Don’t get me wrong, I campaigned for him anyway because his commitment to the party platform was semi-firm and it was the best we could do.

When he ran again in 2020, he was running in a new district, MY new district, to be exact. I used to be in Mike Doyle’s district and I was pretty happy about that. Mike is a solid Democrat. Very dependable vote. But PA was ordered by the state Supreme Court to stop Fucking around with the gerrymandering and draw a new congressional map to make it respect geographic and demographic lines. Doyle’s district was reconfigured and several big, blue suburbs got allocated to Lamb’s new district. That made it MUCH easier to win his second term. He barely had to lift a finger. So what does he do to campaign for his senate seat? He completely forgot whut brung him to this dance and attributes all his success to the pandering he had to do to the old guys at the VFW who vote Republican. Yep, that’s what he considers his strength, forgetting all of the Democrats he was gifted that made his second victory as easy as Pie.

I’m sorry, he’s a nice guy and I’ll vote for him if I have to. But he’s one of those squishy dudes when it comes to abortion, he bucks the rest of the party to make the old right wing guys in diners feel comfy, and he’s been pretty unremarkable otherwise. Case in point: he is one of a handful of Democrats who didn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. Now, I have issues with Pelosi as well, especially her support of Obama in that outrageous primary of 2008. Omg, don’t get me started. But I’ve come around to the point where I have to give her credit for keeping the band together on the House side since then and Lamb had to have known that. Nevertheless, he acted like an adolescent and voted for Joe Kennedy for Speaker, like he just tossed his vote away and poked the Democrats in the eye just to make himself look good to the VFW, even though they wouldn’t be relevant after the new district was drawn. So, you know, there’s that. He’s been running like he’s some transformational candidate that appeals to right wingers when the truth is a lot more nuanced than that. The nuance doesn’t fit in a sound bite so in this primary race for Senate, he’s been going after his main opponent in a cynical and ugly way. Lamb is not reading the room. Let’s leave it at that.

Who convinced him he could win this thing?? Nevermind, it was probably himself. He just doesn’t get it.

Malcolm Kenyatta. I apologize for not getting to know this man better. He’s a black state representative from Philly and has a good following from there. I think that name recognition might be an issue for him in the rest of the state. Lamb is nationally known because of his sphincter clinching first campaign. The next guy is known statewide as the eccentric Lieutenant Governor. Kenyatta needs a little more exposure. Kenyatta is young, black and LBGTQ. Despite this, he’s more of a mainstream Democrat. His future looks bright. I wish him well in future races. But he’s been overshadowed by the next guy.

Typical John Fetterman photo

And that would be the 6’8”, winter shorts wearing, tattooed former mayor of Braddock and current PA Lieutenant Governor, John Fetterman. He’s lovingly known as Jawn, due to his daughter Gracie’s phonetic spelling of his name. He was once a Bernie guy in 2016. But when Hillary won the primary, he supported her enthusiastically. I might even credit him with the fact that we got a lot of Bernie supporters to campaign for her during the 2016 closing hours. I got a lot of them from other areas of Pittsburgh to canvass my suburb and I credit John for leading by example.

He definitely doesn’t come across as elitist. He lives in a converted used car leadership in Braddock in the shadow of the steel mill. His family is colorful and close. Three cute kids and a hot Brazilian wife. What makes John work is his appeal to the working class as well as his embrace of the dispossessed. I used to pass through Braddock on the bus many years ago and think as I looked out the window that it was a town that could probably be improved by demolition. But sometimes, you have to hit bottom before you can rise again. And that’s kind of what’s happening in Braddock. It’s gone through some really hard times. Now, it’s slowly transforming itself. John and his wife Gisele have worked for community.

Then he became Lt. Governor. He supports legal weed. He’s flown a rainbow flag from his office balcony and driven our nutty GOP legislature into a frenzy, trying repeatedly to make him take it down. You might have seen John after the 2020 election with his “come on, guys, let’s cut the bullshit” attitude about the recount.

He’s not without controversy. He skipped debates. When he did show up, he let his opponents hang themselves because they spent their time trying to take him down over a confrontation he had with a black jogger years ago. Again, failure to read the room from his opponents. Voters are dying for something different. But this time, they’re gravitating to his giant, quirky, straight talking, guy who really seems to care about working class voters without attacking anyone. That’s… different.

You may have heard that he had a stroke last Friday. Here’s more on his condition from a local news station. What happened was serious. No doubt about that. But his prognosis is good. It turns out that his height may have been a contributing factor. John has been watching his weight in the past couple of years and that probably helps him. It looks like he’s going to have to be on blood thinners. Pacemaker? IDK. I am not a doctor. But I do know from personal experience that the human body has a powerful way of healing itself and I don’t do nearly as much public campaigning as John does. If this had happened a few days from now, no one would have noticed. He would have been given the break he needed after winning the primary. In the video of him in the hospital after his stroke, he looks and sounds good. He caught it in the Knick of time. His wife, Gisele, our SLOP (second lady of Pennsylvania) will take us through the primary.

She’s his secret weapon. Here’s her update on Joao (she’s Brazilian):

I am so looking forward to this primary. Josh Shapiro our Attorney General who protected our votes after the 2020 election, is running for Governor. He’s got a lock on that. But I so admired his ferociousness in standing up to the myriad of rabidly anti-democratic GOP legislators and lawyers who tried to get our mail in ballots thrown out. His commitment, reassurance, and professionalism never wavered. He, the Secretary of State, Governor Tom Wolf and John Fetterman kept the state calm after the election while the count was still ongoing, encouraging patience, common sense and a firm commitment to the law.

Gotta love’em.

It’s primary day! Go vote PA!

In the History of the Universe, We Are Here

Ian Millhiser is a senior correspondent at Vox, he is described as “focusing on the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the decline of liberal democracy in the United States.”

Yesterday he posed a question on Twitter, to the effect that if the Republicans took over Congress in 2022, and the Presidency in 2024, what were the chances in his lifetime that we would ever get to see fair democratic elections again. The answers were of two varieties, many saying, “no chance, it’s over,” others saying that there are still more good people than bad people, and that we have to keep trying and not giving up.

I woke up this morning to see headlines of more shootings, this time in North Carolina. This to go with the shootout in Houston the other day. And the man who is a devoted follower of Tucker Carlson’s, “great White replacement theory,” where Carlson has kept repeating that Democrats, liberals, were going to bring in immigrants to take jobs away from White people, his viewers. And this man put on a bulletproof vest, brought his assault weapons to a store in Buffalo, New York, and shot at Black people, killing ten, and proudly streamed it on the internet, before being captured.

There were also fires in California, and the recent ones in New Mexico, due to global warming which has taken the moisture out of the air, kept rain away which would irrigate the layers of the soil, and so made fires more quick to start, almost without external combustion, and then far more difficult to contain.

There was Elise Stefanik,put into third in Republican House leadership, saying that Democrats are the party of immigration, lawlessness, Communism, and other bad things, while the Republicans were the party of patriotism and American values, and that is why there is going to be a red tsunami in November. I wonder if she counts all the gun bloodshed as a red tsunami, and cheers for it. Probably, if she thinks that it will help Republicans win.

Last night, there was a lunar eclipse. I didn’t manage to see it, though there will be another one in November. A prominent scientist said that it is a special thing, to be reminded of the eternal dance of the Earth, the sun, and the moon. Millions of people must have watched it, and maybe they felt a sense of awe and wonder in contemplating the universe, and our place as the only known one of the billions and billions of star-formed bodies, to harbor life.

There was perhaps first a nullity, then a singularity, then a big bang which exploded, sending matter outward at great speed in what was now the universe. Billions of stars were formed. One of them was what we call our sun. After billions of years, the bodies which circled around it in orbit, including what we call Earth, cooled to a point where life could form, in what has to be an almost incomprehensible congruence of favorable elements.

First were microscopic entities, then after more millions of years, one-celled creatures, then more complex beings which lived in the sea. Then after many more millions of years, a few of these creatures climbed out of the sea, and went onto land. Then were many Ages of creatures, we have later named the Ages. There were the dinosaurs which ruled for millions of years, then probably were ultimately destroyed because of an asteroid which hit Earth, blocking out the sun so that there was no food supply for the plant eaters, and then no plant eater food supply for the meat eaters.

Then later the Ice Age, which caused the end of other species, though some evolved into current species. Somewhere in there, the scientists have tracked it, what we call the human race began. It may well be that as we and apes had a common ancestor, the species which was the more violent ultimately ruled, and that is what humans evolved from. That is certainly the theme of “2001,” as written by the somewhat optimistic humanist Arthur C. Clarke, and put on film by the more misanthropic Stanley Kubrick.

We humans have minds, and have created various things: edifices, machines; and organized societies. Some humans have developed compassion, caring, and what we call “humanity.” Some others have used their minds to find ways to obtain those things which humans have seen as material wealth: the ores in the ground, the currencies they have invented, to gain power over others, and to have the ability to force them to do what they want them to do, so that they can even subsist.

H.G. Wells imagined a future history in which what was the human race split into two races; one the mild Eloi, and then the cleverer and maleficent Morlocks, who raise the Eloi, create food for them to eat, and then kill and eat them. Wells, somewhat of a social darwinist in his own behavior, though not his politics, saw this as a very real possibility of the way that humans would evolve, or devolve.

Are we seeing some of that now? Remember the flower children of the 1960’s, and that innocent song by Marcia Strassman of that title? The teenagers in San Francisco who would hand flowers to policemen during the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967? The “police riot” in Chicago at the Democratic Convention of 1968, so described by the Kerner Commission? “The whole world is watching,” the people being attacked by police clubs chanted. And so it was, and so it is; but the lessons are perverted in the minds of this new evolving group of angry, selfish, violent haters who are goaded by Fox News and the thousands of fascist websites.

And there are still many decent people. There is a site called “Otter Cam,” which shows the otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The otters are of course very cute, and the people who staff the Aquarium are kind and caring, and explain to the viewers how they provide enrichment programs for the rescue otters, to keep things interesting and enjoyable for them. That is what humans can do at their best, and there of course are other examples of that, humans trying to conserve and help other animal species, and people using their time and money to aid less fortunate humans.

But will the power of the angry, soulless, violent people, controlled by billionaires whose only goal is to accumulate more wealth and power, overwhelm them? We see a Republican Party which has no moral moorings whatsoever. They will lie and cheat and fix elections just so they can win. Somehow the Nazis managed to infiltrate America, or is it that the human condition inevitably leads to Nazism everywhere?

These are not enjoyable thoughts; and dwelling on the darker things is not healthy, though on the other hand, we cannot make them go away by ignoring them. There are indeed good people, but they need to understand, and be motivated enough to do what they can to prevent this trend from getting worse. Economic power is one important thing which somehow does not get written enough about. People undertaking massive boycotts of various companies, thwarting the desires of the billionaires who really only care about how much money they make. This is something to discuss further.

We are this little planet in this very large galaxy, in this immense universe. The Earth has so many wonderful resources, and yet we see a distorted and sociopathic minority destroying them out of rapacious and chortling greed. Animals do not do this, nor birds, nor fish. Some humans do. How to find ways to stop them in their violence and hate and corrupted and broken mental processes, is the task of the good part of of the human race.

The Saga of Getting My Driveway Paved.

I’m still working through this ordeal but oh my, do I have some interesting tidbits about what asphalt contractors really think about people who have jobs that are under $100K.

One was even stupid enough to put it in a chat when I asked him to read a previous quote and asked if he could meet it. Apparently, I’m not a friendly customer because I have a current quote with a list of requirements. This was the same contractor who quoted me a $1500 lady upcharge last year.

And *I’m* being unfriendly.

Note to contractors: this isn’t a friendship. It’s a business transaction. If you perform the work at a reasonable and customary price, on time and with quality, you will get a good recommendation and your money. That’s how it works. We’re not exchanging Christmas cards and making plans for a cookout and beers.

Anyway, I have had zero luck with any of the contractors who I’ve dealt with on Angi’s List. I’m not sure this is all their fault but I will be sending them this little chat thread to give them an indication of what I’ve had to put up with from their certified asphalt contractors. I’m going to have to try another option that I’ve recently gotten. Not Angi’s List but forwarded to me by family members. Let’s hope this interaction goes better.

This whole process is going on the second year now. Let me check the text thread… yes, since MARCH 21, 2021. I have a small driveway but I bought a foreclosed property and ran out of fixer upper money in the first year of owning this house. So I delayed replacing the driveway until I had saved up the cash to do the project. It should be a short, uncomplicated job for these dudes, which is precisely the reasons they are avoiding it until it is convenient to them. I’m just not a high value customer with a $100k job. And now I have proof that if I’m not worth that much, then I should be lucky that they are considering taking this job at all. I should be grateful. I should beg nicely.

Infuriating.

Can you reason with an anti-choice religious person on abortion or reproductive rights?

I’m listening to Emily Bazelon on Political Gabfest’s new episode about why evangelicals are so angry and I can hear both exasperation and panic in her voice about whether Missouri’s new legislation preventing women seeking abortions from leaving the state is constitutional. You may be surprised to find that legal scholars differ on that. This would set up a truly dystopian Handmaid’s Tale scenario where women who don’t want to be mothers are hunted down, apprehended and returned to their owners (parents, husband, state) to wait out their pregnancies and then relinquish the infant at birth. Or they could be coerced to take responsibility for their immorality even if that means giving up all expectations of a better life for themselves and future children. They must be punished.

Honestly, I’m so fed up with the extremist religious right trying to force women to be mothers that I don’t really care what they’re thinking. But I have observed the species in the wild so I can give you my observations on their behavior.

You are dealing with people who are very rigid, inflexible, controlling and legalistic in their thought patterns. If you were to ask them what their favorite book of the Bible is, it would probably be Leviticus. That book is very straightforward. It’s eye for an eye, eat this, don’t eat that, 10 easy to understand not nuanced commandments. They are in every way your typical authoritarian with a twist. Your typical authoritarian focusses their ire on poor people or gay people or black/Hispanic/non-white people. Religious authoritarians focus with laser like intensity on women.

Have you seen the Duggars? You know, the high control family from Arkansas with 19 kids? That family is the anti-choicer’s role model. Forget about the number of children they have for a moment. Those kids are monitored to an inch of their lives. The only difference between the way those Duggar girls are raised and the way I was raised by a strict Jehovah’s Witness is that I went to a public school and could wear jeans and shorts. In every other way, it was identical.

A Duggar girl is not allowed to express any emotions or wants or desires of her own. Their lives are scripted by their parents and the most valuable characteristic of a daughter to a religious authoritarian is O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E. Do what you’re told, don’t express an opinion, never get angry. Their clothes are selected for them, of a prescribed length, their belongings are selected for them, their sleeping arrangements in the house, the chores they do, their friends, the music they’re allowed to listen to, their activities or lack thereof. Everything. They have zero agency about anything. In my case, it was made clear to me that education beyond high school was strictly prohibited. Jehovah’s Witnesses strongly discourage college. (I got one anyway but it meant leaving home early)

The primary extracurricular activity that is allowed for the Duggar girl is tending to children, either their own siblings or some other family’s kids. Their whole lives are ordered by babysitting chores regardless of what is going on in their age group. This was my life as well. I got paid for all the babysitting I did for friends of my parents but I watched people my age get to do things on the weekends that I wasn’t allowed to do because I was spending it with toddlers. I feel for those Duggar girls because the toddlers never stopped coming.

For a religious authoritarian parent, it’s their way or the highway and resistance is useless. And it doesn’t stop when they’re adults. The Duggar girls are given to their husbands in a very literal sense. At no time in their lives do they have any decision making ability unless it is to turn down an arranged marriage to someone their father has selected. Some of those Duggar girls married more reasonable men. A few of the oldest have started wearing jeans, gotten their noses pierced and have an occasional glass of wine. To Jim Bob Duggar, this is unacceptable behavior of a jezebel. Jill Duggar, kid number 4/19, has gotten so upset at having to subject herself to this kind of control from her father even though she’s married and no longer has to report to him, that she’s had to go to therapy to be able to learn to establish boundaries that she was never allowed to erect when she was a child.

Here’s an indication of how important it is to reinforce the chastity and subjugation of women to the religious authoritarian: Jim Bob Duggar gives his son Josh, who is currently facing sentencing for conviction oh child pornography charges, moral support, money, excuses and presumption of innocence. He’s right by that scumbag’s side through the trial. Josh deserves second chances, third chances, a get out of jail free card. But if his daughters come home to visit wearing nose rings, they’re lectured and told not to return because they are a bad influence on their younger siblings.

You can’t make this stuff up.

And this brings us to the thing other than complete and total O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E that is a feature of the religious authoritarian households and that personal privacy is not allowed. They will go through your things looking for signs of defiance or anything you want to keep to yourself. You are constantly under surveillance. In my case, instructions were delivered to my teachers to make sure I didn’t do anything than what I was explicitly allowed. I have a report card from second grade where my teacher made a note that I was a nervous wreck. That sounds about right since it’s at about the age of 7 that you’re told that your salvation is completely on you. You know the difference between right and wrong and if you step out of line even a little, god will kill you. This was the message that was delivered to me personally right after my seventh birthday.

It tends to make a kid anxious.

The religious authoritarian is absolutely obsessed with the idea of pre-marital sex. It’s like the worst thing you can do. It’s worse than murder. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how independent you are or any of the accomplishments you experience in life, pre-marital sex never loses its shamefulness to them. Absolutely nothing else in your character or success or kindness or courage is as important as violating the proscription against pre-marital sex. Your whole being is reduced to the area between your legs. Nothing else matters. Pre-marital sex freaks them out.

It’s ok if you’re married. But then, the particular sect you’re in could spell out exactly what is and isn’t sinful sexual behavior. There are certain things that you can’t do with your spouse. It could cost you your salvation.

It sounds crazy but if you’re brought up this way, it seeps into your consciousness and can distort where you end and where your elders begin to the point where confession of even the smallest infraction is the only way to achieve some kind of peace of mind. I’ve known engaged couples who went too far, felt overwhelming shame, confessed to their elders, were disciplined, disfellowshipped and had to change their wedding plans because of it.

These are the people who want to ban abortion, keep you from traveling and will prosecute you for homicide. They’re not f}#^ing around. They don’t see women as independent beings and their minds have not evolved out of the Bronze Age.

I honestly don’t care why they’re angry. I’ve seen it up close and personal and it never did make a lick of sense once birth control became widely available and parents had reason to have pride in their daughters’ academic and professional achievements rather than if they were having sex. But that sex thing never gets old with them. In the vast universe with the billions and billions of stars and myriad of possibly inhabitable planets and wars, atrocities, man’s inhumanity to man, famine and disease, the thing they have chosen to guide their lives is preventing women from enjoying their bodies and especially outside of marriage.

Their world is small, their concerns are small, their god is small and their control is paramount.

I keep saying that the right is wired differently. The religious authoritarian is even farther along on the spectrum. It’s hard wiring that is very resistant. It’s because any control they get is like a rat hitting a bar for that extra hit of cocaine. It’s very pleasurable to them to make sure women are walking a very straight and narrows path. They are the equivalent of the Iranian committee for the enforcement of Vice and virtue who beat women walking around without their chadors on the streets of Tehran. It gives them purpose in life and that purpose seems to be that god wants women to be confined within an inch of their lives to being wives and mothers who will submit to having other people do their thinking for them.

Good luck trying to reason with that. I spent the majority of my life trying and it never worked. It was a waste of energy.

As far as I can see, we are asking the wrong question about reproductive rights in this country. The vagueries of when life begins depending on faith or cultural traditions are like counting the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin.

The question should be: do you really want to hand the country’s enforcement agency over to these people. Be prepared. It’s going to be the cultural equivalent of Ukraine breaking away from Russia. Women thought they were free already and now they find themselves fighting all over again to be taken seriously as free and equal human beings. I will not be surprised if the religious authoritarians commit atrocities. There is nothing they will let stand in their way of getting the women of America to shut up, go home and stop making demands.

We’re going to have to fight back with all our might because they’re never going to stop and living under their thumbs is a nightmare. I’ve been there.

“The Corporate-Totalitarian Complex”

Adam Schiff notes that since the weekend, oil prices have dropped by 10%, but gas prices have hit an all-time high.

In the Washington Monthly, Rob Shapiro writes an article outlining how Russia’s war in Ukraine has raised gas prices; and how Saudi Arabia, in what he calls “an authoritarian tax,” has kept a very tight hold on oil supply, much as was done in the 1970’s. It has been speculated that MBS is doing this as revenge for the Biden Administration not aiding in the cover-up of the Saudis’ murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which it is obvious that Trump callously ignored, paving the way for the two billion dollars the Saudis gifted to Jared Kushner.

These conspiracy theories are always depressing, because we are given further glimpses into a world where infinitely corrupt people control things to such an extent that they seem to always get their way. But it is better to try to unearth them than to ignore them; or even worse, let them get the results they want, which in this case is a big Republican victory in the midterms, which will get rid of any possibility of legislation moving us to clean energy.

I don’t remember every detail of how this went down in the 1970’s, but I do know that President Carter, who was far from my ideal president, was admirably foresighted with regard to the need to move America toward clean energy. And somehow OPEC restrained oil supply so much, that there was a major gas shortage. We all remember those few weeks of two-hour lines at the pump, siphoning of people’s gas tanks, gas prices shooting up.

And that caused high inflation, which combined with Iran deliberately refusing to release American hostages until Reagan could get elected, caused the defeat of Carter, the victory of Reagan, and the “greed is good” era where big oil and every other industry could do what it wanted, at incalculable cost to the health and safety of our planet.

This seems to be repeating. We can be sure that the oil companies have no intent to lower gas prices before the election; they want American families to suffer, people to get angry, and to vote Republicans into power. That is how they operate; the only thing that matters to them is profits.

Now, the Republicans, and those in the media whom they own, or who are just abysmally ignorant so-called journalists, just keep repeating that “inflation is skyrocketing, bad for Biden, good for Republicans.” They rarely point out that the largest part of the inflation is gas prices. They also do not note that because of the Ukraine War, inflation is very high in Europe. And they deliberately or ignorantly completely buy into the Republicans narrative that Biden is responsible for inflation, because he has proposed and signed bills which spent money.

The Republicans have ridiculously argued for decades, that Democratic spending causes inflation. Government spending can cause inflationary pressures, but with great rewards. Look at a chart of employment numbers and GDP under Democratic and Republican administrations, and it is astounding. Republican administrations have paltry GDP, no job growth, and no wage growth, and it goes on for many years. People have to work as hard as they can, and often take two or three jobs, just to stay even.

Right now, GDP has risen about 5.5%, and wages are up around 5% under Biden. Inflation of 8% year over year, is outpacing that, which is not good, though inflation in some areas is starting to come down. But what are the causes? We all see reports of record profits for corporations; this is due to them hiding behind inflation to greatly raise prices. But they get a double benefit from this: the record profits, which keep being used for stock buybacks; and the damage it does to Democrats, anticipatedly leading to Republican control of Congress; leading to no rise whatsoever in corporate taxes, and no restraints on monopolies and corporate tax evasion.

It is a collusion between Republicans, corporations, and authoritarian leaders who very much want Republicans to be in power. If Trump had won, or destroyed democracy to stay in power, they would have cheered and profited. There is only one democracy in the Middle East, and it is not any of the Arab countries which have gamed the oil market for many decades.

And sad to say, the owners of American corporations are all vulture capitalists who will put profits ahead of everything else, including democracy. Or that is their concept of “the greatness of America”: a land where they can plunder the soil and pollute the air and water to their wallets’ content, with no impediments able to be put up by Democrats with regard to their profits, ways of doing business, price gouging, and control of the political system.

There are still books written by brave and enterprising people about this, but they are not read by too many people, not those who react the way that the corporations and the totalitarians want them to react. Here is where good broadcast journalism might inform the populace, but it almost never does. As far as the limited amount I watch MSNBC, which is the best cable news network, the broadcasters almost never delve into any of this, they just credulously keep saying, “Inflation! Bad for Biden! Polls bad for Democrats! Oh, and abortion rights will be gone.”

If Republicans gain total power, the oil companies will lower gas prices a bit, the way that “Big Brother” in “1984” raised the chocolate ration, to about 30% of what it was before they reduced it. The corporations were thrilled with Trump’s “victory” in 2016, which they had donated literally billions of dollars toward. Their reward was reduction of corporate taxes; removal of environmental safety laws; the allowing of more drilling in wildlife preserves; a tax code which actually raised taxes on middle class people, while allowing even more tax dodges for the very rich.

Remember that when the massive tax cut for millionaires bill was being brought to vote, lobbyists were running in and out of Congress, writing in new changes, new dodges, new ways to make the middle class pay for the greed and indulgences of the very rich?

That is what we will see more of. That is what they were so angry about having to pause–until they managed to find a way to raise prices to far more than costs, which is the only mathematical reality which accounts for record profits, while consumers are trying to find ways to save money, and the Republicans are yelling “inflation!,” while laughing all the way to the bank.

Eisenhower famously spoke of the danger of the “Military-Industrial Complex,” in his Farewell Address. That, coming from the Allied Commander in WWII, and the person whom Republicans begged to run as head of their party, so that they could try to stop the twenty years of Democratic control, and all the pro-labor, pro-working people laws that Democrats had passed; and which Republicans tried to counteract by claiming that Democrats were “soft on Communism,” and anti-military, did give people pause.

Now we can expand his warning to include a cabal of the corporations, the news media, and fascists both here and abroad. I am not saying that everything that Biden or Democrats in Congress do, is perfect, or not subject to being fodder for questioning. I am saying that the America that this cabal envisions, and spends every hour of every day trying to create, is one where the rich have everything, and everyone else has bare subsistence, with no hope of anything better; living in a land where the air, water, and land is destroyed by the oil barons who do not care, as long as they can escape to their aeries for a few decades. This is what the battle is about, and we desperately need many more people to understand this.