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Republican Cowards

The House Republicans removed Liz Cheney from her position by secret voice vote. No open vote, no secret ballot. This comes from a source close to Cheney, via Chris Jansing of MSNBC.

The reason they did that is of course to hide how they voted. They don’t even have the courage of their radical fascistic convictions. They are doing the right thing, they proclaim. But they don’t want anyone to know who voted for it. This way they will say, oh, it was a rousing voice vote; many, many people were for it, hardly any dissent at all. Their only concerns were, 1) Getting Cheney out of power in the House; 2) Making sure that no one could run against any of them based on their vote, since there is no recorded vote.

One has scarcely ever seen anything like this kind of totalitarianism in American history. Well, come to think of it, the HUAC hearings in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s were comparable. The Republicans canceled the careers of many brilliant and talented people in their crusade to “get Communism out of Hollywood.”

The Republicans have a mission, and it is fascism, though they of course never would call it that. McCarthy, spokesperson for fascism, said yesterday that his party was for openness and expression of opinions, not like those “Cancel Culture” Democrats. Oh, yes, they certainly allowed Cheney to express her views, until they purged her, in a Stalinistic way.

They canceled Cheney. They will cancel anyone or anything who stands in their way, while they follow Goebbels’ dictum to always accuse your enemies of what you are doing.

No one should ever use the acronym “GOP” to refer to Republicans. That stands for “Grand Old Party,” and it is completely inapposite to put the word “Grand” anywhere near them.

I wish more Democrats would openly call them fascists. They certainly use the “socialist” label when referring to Democrats. Why are Democrats so cautious about labeling them? All the Republicans want to do is to try to make the Democratic Party seem so dangerous, that people will vote for Republicans, to avoid the horrors of socialism and “cancel culture,” which of course was chosen to seem like some kind of “liquidating” from the spy or gangster movies. So do not be afraid to call Republicans what they are. It might wake a few people up.

“Instead of the cross, the Albatross/About my neck was hung.” That is from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s extraordinary poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Liz Cheney may turn out to be the albatross for Republicans, at least if there are still enough people who are capable of understanding and reacting to it. The poem also says, “He prayeth best who loveth best/All things both great and small.” Republicans love nothing but themselves, their power, and their money. It is too bad that none of them ever read the Romantic poets, but they wouldn’t understand any of it, anyway.

To Tell the Truth

The words “truth” and “lies” are ones we all know from an early age. Even so, cultures have struggled with the concepts. “What is truth?” “Is there a metaphysical truth, or is it phenomenological, dependent on how one sees the world?” “What about ‘white lies'”? And so on.

I read a book in graduate school about this topic, written by a female academic, but I can’t remember the name of her or the book. It was written in a non-academic style and easily readable, but ultimately I thought that it did not really delve deeply enough into the complexity of it. But maybe that is the problem at the outset. She seemed to rely on an argument that lying is bad in itself, a selfish putting of one’s own needs ahead of someone else’s, and didn’t want to brook any excuses.

I love topics like this, they get to the heart of the human condition. But indeed, one could write many books on it. Is it ever morally acceptable to lie? About what, and when? Of course, this kind of question presupposes a wish to be moral, a concern about what is morally right and wrong. Some people just do not have it.

Why they don’t, is another subject for books. Are they born that way? Do they get it from early childhood development? Do they learn it from interactions with fellow children or adults? Do they at some point consciously or unconsciously decide that they can get more of what they value in life by lying when it suits them? Are there some people who literally are so wrapped up in lies, that they cannot discern lies from truth?

So much has been written about Donald Trump, who lies about everything. It is about 95% likely that any sentence which comes out of his mouth is either a partial lie or a complete lie. How the media has allowed this, in not just announcing to its listeners that Trump is LYING (not misstating, or saying something controversial) is a disgrace, and a horrible danger to democracy. Newspapers like the NYT have contorted themselves to not use the words “lie” or “lying.” But that is what he does.

So he lied when he ran, he lied when he was President, he lies now. I have no idea whether he knows it or not. I think that his view of the world, such as it is, is so transactional, that he just says what he thinks will help him get the pleasures he wants. Truth vs. falsity is not in the equation for him. It is beyond weird and unsettling, but there he is.

And Trump’s amorality and conning has seeped down into the rest of the Republicans in office, and to his voters. But we should not give him all of the perverse credit for this. It has to have been at least inchoate in the natures of these people, because they do it so easily. Al Franken wrote his book about lying liars a few decades ago, before Trump was doing it on a national scale. These Republicans lie and lie, and revel in it. And their followers love to be lied to, and told this fantasy story in which they are the heroes, fighting against evil forces who want to tell them what reality is.

The lies told by Republican officials seem to grow exponentially in number and scope. Elise Stefanik, soon to be #3 in the House Republican leadership, says that 140,000 ballots in Fulton County, Georgia, were illegal. She might have said that they were flown in by bats who dropped them onto the desks, after having forged the signatures of humans. There is as much chance of one or the other, they are both beyond ludicrous. But she says it as easily as someone might tell you what they had for breakfast

This is a woman who went to Harvard, whatever that means now, and she says this. Does she believe it? If so, she is insane. Did she just repeat what some other insane person told her? That would make her utterly irresponsible. Or, and probably most likely, did she just say whatever she felt best suited her political needs, and that of her Republican Party?

Charles Grassley says that it is good to have the Cyber Ninjas conduct their own recount in Maricopa Country, Arizona. It is interesting that neither he or anyone else has called for a recount in any state which Trump won. Apparently we are never going to have any election where Democrats win. Either Republicans win, or it is a fraudulent election. The ultimate extension of sociopathy. The world view of dictators and psychotic tyrants from the onset of human history.

This is what seems to be going on. Republicans like Stefanik and McCarthy and Graham and Cruz and many others, just say whatever they think helps them. The actual truth or untruth of it is something that is not within their internal framework. “Might Makes Right” is a very unsettling rationale for power. This is “Winning Makes Right.” If you win, all the lying is worth it. And this is the rationale and process of every single Republican, with the very few and desperately needed exceptions of Liz Cheney, Barbara Comstock, and a couple of others.

Is this kind of mentality coming from the Russians? Totalitarian states, not just Russia, have long thrived on lying about everything. Russian propaganda is essentially to deny the existence of any truths; hence the Kellyanne Conway statement about “alternative facts.” Anything you say might or might not be true; who can know or care? This of course not only countenances lying, it also elevates the most ignorant person to the same level as the scientist or historian. It’s all just made-up stuff, anyway, right? The perfect refuge for stupid and willfully ignorant people.

Democracies need a moral foundation of some sort. Right vs Wrong, Good vs Evil, Facts vs Lies. Have the Republicans decided to completely abandon all of this and just lie and lie, more each day? They obviously think that this will help them in their only goal, which is winning elections and maintaining permanent power. Do they just rationalize to themselves, that once they win the Congress and then the Presidency, it will have been worth it, no harm done?

But there is immense and lasting harm in what they are doing. The chaos which they are creating will consume them and everyone else. If there is no right and wrong, no truth, no lies, just opportunism, then no one can believe any of it, or listen to anyone. As bad as I have seen Republicans be for decades, this is an entirely new level of depravity that they are wallowing in. And they can’t just climb out of it when they think they want to. They are the depravity now, there is no separation between it and them.

Fruit Season

It was nice to see that the weekend fruit markets were quite busy. Everyone is required to wear masks there. But, without being too upbeat about it, it does feel as if there are more good spirits there now, than there were in the bleak times last year.

I love summer fruits. Plums are my favorite, although it does depend on the variety. There are no plums out yet. The first peaches I got last week were not good, but the ones I got yesterday are not bad at all. And there were even apricots, quite good. You have to choose carefully as regard to farms; some are just better than others in how they grow and tend the fruits.

One concern is that the number of family owned farms is decreasing. Some of the legendary farmers of twenty years ago, have retired. Sometimes the adult children take over, but some of them do not want to farm, and the farms are sold. What we do not want are those large farms where the fruit is bland. But they sell a lot, and I don’t really know why.

One of the better farmers who had many varieties of peaches, finally decided to sell his farm a few years ago. The person who bought it, kept t going for a couple of years, but didn’t really want to do it, and was looking for a way to make more money off the property. The woman who was running the fruit market part of it, who is very smart and nice, tried to save it, though she did not have the money. It was far too much for me or any few people to buy the farm. Finally, the “farmer” cut down all the trees, which is an awful thought in itself, all those lovely trees. First I heard that he was going to sell pistachios worldwide, then that he is just going to sell the land for development. This is the kind of thing that should not happen. It takes at least five years for a peach tree to grow, and then one has to have the land, the love of farming, and the ability to make a living at it.

There are going to be less choices this year, but there are still a few good farms, family owned. I am told that it will be a good crop of red beaut plums, which are just about my favorite, with a fresh and clean taste. Most varieties of summer fruits are only on trees for a few weeks, and then there is another variety which comes to the fore.There was a legendary farmer, Art Lang, who had a PHD in biology, and developed better systems for growing fruits. He retired some years ago, though, and his son had no interest in farming, wanted to surf. His farm, Honeycrisp Farm, had so many wonderful varieties of plums, and no one else has nearly as many now.

I am one of the few people who go to fruit markets, who does not look for soft peaches. I like fruit that is firm and rather crunchy, though with flavor. The sellers are always saying to their customers,”Just leave them on the counter for a few days,” but I want to immediately put them in the refrigerator to stay firm as long as possible. It requires some fast eating, but it is the best snack I can imagine, to have a few peaches and plums.

Right now it is cherry season, and there are many varieties. The prices have gone up, which is rather understandable, after last year’s season when most of the fruit markets were closed or limited for a few months. My favorite varieties of cherries are Sequoias, Brooks (but only if they are from the best cherry growing farm there), and Bing. Cherry season here only runs from early May until early June, so one has to take advantage of it while one can. The entire summer fruit season essentially ends in late August and early September, so one has to gather one’s fruits while one may, to paraphrase the Cavalier poet Robert Herrick.

And then there is berry season, which is even shorter, but rewarding. Boysenberries are my all-time favorite, though few grow them. There was one great farm where that is almost all they grew; and it went through generations, but the son got married, and decided he wanted to do something else with his life. Supposedly a younger daughter was going to try to make a go of it, but I have heard nothing as to whether they are going to go to fruit markets, they didn’t last year. So it gets more difficult, but there still are a couple of farms which grow berries.

I hope that you live in a place where they have fresh summer fruits and fruit markets. They are happy places, almost everyone is cheerful. People get there early, including those who represent famous restaurants, who buy large quantities of the fruit, which is not ideal, because they then use it to make $40 desserts for Hollywood types. I have run into Wolfgang Puck at fruit markets, but never had a reason to talk to him. I am told that he only goes there to shop for his family, not his restaurants, which is how it should be.

A Few More “Ghost” Quizzes For You

People seemed to enjoy the last game. So I’ll put a few more up, to mull over. I don’t know how many more of these I can think of, because I am trying to come up with situations where it looks like the opponent has put you in a difficult position, but there is a way to turn it to your advantage. And there probably are not that many such examples of letter sequences, bur it’s fun to try to think of them.

Just a response to the issue of “foreign words.” There is no rulebook for “Ghost.” There are no formal competitions, like for Scrabble or Bridge, where there are rules, and even officials to settle disputes. Ghost is a game which I played with my parents, and then with friends; and I think I also read about it in a book or magazine as a boy. So one can play it as one wishes, but for the game to be the most fun, I think it should be limited to commonly used words in America, even if they are sometimes esoteric, or originated from a foreign country, as almost all of them did.

Use only American spellings, or you will have people adding a “u” to HONO, to turn honor into honour. No suffixes or plurals. No slang. This is not snobbery or parochialism, it is just that you want as few disputes as possible, or the game can be spoiled. Interestingly, my parents and I rarely argued about whether a word was valid or not, we just seemed to agree on the basic rules. It’s actually a fun game, not unwieldy, moves right along.

Here are some challenges to try. Again, I thought of these, I did not research sequences or use a dictionary, that would not be right. So ideally you should not, either!

  1. He starts with S. You say Y, for SY. He says L, for SYL. You respond with?
  2. You start with S. He says T, for ST. You say Y for STY. He says L, for STYL. You…?
  3. You start with G. He says R, for GR. You say A, for GRA. He comes back with V, for GRAV. Do you have a winning play? Yes, I would not have asked if you did not!
  4. He starts with M. You say O, for MO. He says R, for MOR. You say…? There may be more than one answer to this, but I have picked the only one I can think of which looks like a sure winner.
  5. You start with C. He says R, for CR. You say A, for CRA. He says V, for CRAV. What do you do?

Answers below

  1. You say P, thinking of Sylph
  2. You say U, thinking of Stylus
  3. You say A, thinking of Gravamen, a word often used in legal arguments or decisions
  4. You say D, thinking of Mordant
  5. You say A, thinking of Cravat

The Devolution of the Republican Party

When Joe Biden was running for President, he was described as saying that he thought that the Trump era was an aberration, and that “the fever would break” after he was defeated.

Other people, writers, pundits, had felt that as well. It was probably at least partly due to the mind’s protection from the concept that the Republican Party and its leaders could be so awful; so that it had to be because of Trump; and that once he went away, some of the awfulness would go away. But it has not, it is even getting worse.

When I first started following politics with my parents, who would likely have described themselves as FDR and Adlai Stevenson liberals, the Republicans were essentially the party of the wealthy. Not all people who voted Republican were rich, of course, but that is the group which ran it. That was the theme which ran through the various periods and threads. Republicans were a party which, at least from 1870 on, tried to enact policies which would help the rich keep their money, and get richer. There were exceptions such as “trust-busting” Theodore Roosevelt, but the people who ran the party did not intend for him to become President.

Republicans mostly fought for laissez-faire capitalism. “The business of America is business,” as Calvin Coolidge said. Their foreign policy was basically isolationism. They hated Bolsheviks, because they were at least theoretically against a monied elite. They hated Socialists, too, because they offered a more democratic and less violent alternative, but were also against the amassing of immense wealth. Republicans, particularly as embodied in the Hearst media empire, took to calling any Democrat they didn’t like, a “socialist.”

Republicans mostly did not want us to enter WWII, largely because they wanted to keep making deals with German businesses, so they argued that we should stay out of Europe’s affairs,; until Japan bombed us. After the war, Republicans developed an agenda which combined business power and wealth with hatred of Russia, and Cold War “brinkmanship.” They would contend that Democrats were “soft on communism.” Calling Democrats “soft” or “weak,” as compared to the manly and tough-minded Republicans, morphed into various aspects, over the years, and brought Republicans the electoral success that they never would have gotten through their economic policies. After the Great Depression, there were not all that many people who were going to put their faith in big business looking out for them, so they needed the distractions.

So Nixon became the master of “Red-baiting.” Joe McCarthy terrorized anyone who had ever gone to a Communist Party meeting in the ’30’s, or had written or directed a pro-labor, anti-corporate movie.

Then it moved to the era of the Vietnam War, where Republicans took for themselves the mantle of “fighting Communism everywhere,” warning about the “domino theory” where if we abandoned Vietnam, the Communists would take over Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia. They portrayed Democrats as being soft, particularly in view of the fact that there were growing protests against the undeclared war in Vietnam.

The protests gave Republicans a new route, “law and order.” Part of this went with the segregationists in the ’50’s and ’60’s, part of it was hatred of the youth culture, “hippies,” people burning replicas of flags. Nixon and Agnew talked about “the silent majority,” and most unfortunately, they were right; there were many people in the Midwest who hated the protests, who felt that people who protested the war were unpatriotic, even treasonous.

So Nixon won twice, and hen after a four-year aberration because of Watergate, Republicans used the two lines of attack of anti-Communism and law and order, to usher in their third great era (the first two were the Gilded Age, and the period of unfettered laissez-faire of 1920-1932), that of Reagan, who was a syrupy-voiced former actor and spokesman for General Electric, who, with his multimillionaire backers, mastered the art of reciting simple platitudes, buoyed by the lofty but essentially meaningless words of Peggy Noonan. The press adored Reagan’s “ability to focus on one or two simple statements of policy,” as opposed to Democrats discussing issues in complex fashion.

At that point, and with GHW Bush’s win in 1988, Republicans believed that they had a lock on the Presidency, that they had convinced the public that Democrats were a bunch of East Coast eggheads who were soft on crime, soft on Communism, soft on law and order, soft on attacking the ‘welfare state.” They also made abortion a major issue, to fire up their base.

But Bill Clinton turned that around. And they hated him for it; and his brilliant wife Hillary, too, and even their daughter Chelsea. But Republicans rallied back with another Bush, with the help of a corrupt Florida governor, his brother; and a corrupt Florida secretary of state who was told to delay the mandated vote recount, until the Supreme Court could step in. Bush’s version of naked capitalism did not work well, so even though Republicans had found a new “soft” theme, Democrats were “soft on terrorism,” they lost the 2008 election, because they had wrecked the economy again.

We got Obama, when we should have gotten Hillary; and this blog has discussed from the outset, how he was unprepared or even unwilling to fight the ever more radical, vicious and unscrupulous “New Republicans,” who simply bore no relation to the Republicans of the 1960’s, who were not good, but not thoroughly evil.

So then the Republicans, having devolved to a party which had no standards or ethics, actually got to the circle of hell where they enlisted the help of Russia, to defeat the Democrats. At that point, they had lost any flimsy pretense to scruples or ideology; they only had an a insatiable appetite to win, no matter by what means. They just look for culture issues to rile up their base. They simply want to get their people to vote against Democrats out of hatred, not because of any actual policy matters. And now, greatly fearing that it will not be enough to win, they have resorted to trying to take the vote away from people who would vote against them, to a sufficient extent so that they could rule forever.

And then of course they would, as they always do, revert to their economic social darwinism, robbing from the middle class and poor, to give more wealth to the rich. That has now been combined with the worst aspects of White Supremacy, anti-abortion fervor, hatred of science, professors, the media, anyone who threatens their perverted world view.

The Republican Party has steadily devolved from a party which was able to convince non-rich people to vote against their economic interests, by distracting or misdirecting them with “cultural issues,” into one which promises to protect them from any facts or knowledge which will upset them, or permeate the relentless brainwashing which they need to keep them in line.

Even in previous times of Republican political ascendancy, there had always been some Republicans in office who held moderate views, and who were decent people. They were never the majority of them, but they acted as a counterbalance, and could at times allow for compromise proposals to become law. But those days are gone, and whatever small remnants are left of them are being systematically purged. They have lost whatever semblance of respect one might have had for a few of them in past decades. They have just about gotten to the point where they are all the same. They are not men, they are Devo.

Modi Operandi and the misleading promise of patent relief

India has always had a Covid pandemic crisis. They’ve just been successful until now at covering it up. Here’s part of the reason why:

When I heard that millions of workers were returning to their villages from the cities last year, I thought it was only going to make the pandemic worse. When you have a disease as catchy as Covid running loose, the very LAST thing you want is people moving around. Ideally, you want them to not move at all like players in a game of Spud.

We’ve known that India has been fudging its numbers from the beginning. It’s also a country of 1.3 billion people and a very underfinanced public sector. Check the video above if you want to get a reason why.

Modi’s government has exacerbated the conditions that have made the pandemic explode and is endangering the rest of the world with potentially more lethal escape variants. Modi is a Trump-esque politician who whips up nationalism and disunity between Hindus and Muslims. Take the Republican “if you’re poor and needy it must be because you didn’t do x,y, z and deserve your fate” meme and paste it on a country with a strong residual caste system and you have hundreds of millions of people whose plight is ignored while the upper classes walk around thinking they are immune.

It’s a recipe for disaster.

It’s been made worse by Modi’s Trump style rallies and the government’s encouragement of unregulated Hindu religious festivals where millions gather at the Ganges, completely ignoring social distancing rules as they go down to the river to pray.

Now, we in the US have pressured pharma to give up their patents. And given the nature of the global emergency, this is the right thing to do. It would be the equivalent of forking over the polio vaccine patent. It’s ethical and presumably, the companies have already gotten phenomenally wealthy by now from the government contracts of developing countries. If I were Biden, I’d make sure a healthy chunk of that went in to hiring more researchers but more likely, the CEOs will take the money and run. Who needs scientists, right?

And that’s part of the problem with India. India has a pharmaceutical sector of its own. It has its own brands plus it has benefitted mightily from the US offshoring a lot of research. Maybe it was not high level research but more like contractors supplying parts for drugs and other biologicals for US research companies but India *does* have the brainpower, facilities and probably the raw materials to do their own vaccine research. They shouldn’t feel obligated to just be the hired help for the wealthy.

The question is why didn’t it do it? Why didn’t Modi’s government mobilize its pharma sector? Vaccine research isn’t a new thing. There’s no reason why Indian scientists couldn’t have whipped up an adenovirus vaccine. In fact, I think they do have a home grown version.

But they didn’t plan on vaccinating hundreds of millions of people, especially poor people. So, the government didn’t throw its resources behind vaccine production. Instead, it relied on covering up Covid infections and propaganda and misdirection.

Giving Modi’s government the patents and raw materials that they didn’t seem to feel necessary to get by themselves is not going to solve their problem. In fact, there *is* no solution to the problem in India right now. It will take more time than they’ve got to vaccinate a country that size to herd immunity status because they have to overcome the logistics of ramping up production and distribution. India’s Covid crisis is going to have to burn itself out and hopefully stay within its borders.

What India has is a sociopathic government and an irresponsible electorate that has been encouraged to turn to religion in this crisis.

This could have happened to us if Donald Trump hadn’t been defeated by millions of voters in the US. We’re still not out of the woods. But India should be the focus of our news programs to show how disastrously bad it could have gone. Instead, the Fox News addict will be discouraged from getting vaccinated by misleading and sensational stories. Or they’ll be distracted and outraged over the stupid fantasy story of Biden forcing us to become vegetarians. In a way, a significant portion of the American public has been lulled into a state of false security abs complacency because once Trump was out of the way, our public sector was able to do what India didn’t.

More people should be aware of that. More pictures of rickshaw ambulances and crematoriums running out of fuel to burn bodies need to be shown. More secret footage of India’s collapsed healthcare system, overflowing hospitals, patients on makeshift beds on the floor gasping for air. More pictures of religious devotees bathing in the river. More video of political rallies. More time lapse graphics of the spread. More and more and more.

Everything else in the news is a distraction. There but for the grace of the US electoral system in 2020 go we.

Climbing the water tower to defend Liz Cheney’s honor?

How did it come to this? Normally, I find everything about Liz Cheney’s politics to be utterly repulsive. But she’s living in the same reality as me. So, is defending her limited to defending a shared reality? If so, I’ll go with it. It’s definitely not an endorsement of ANYTHING she stands for otherwise.

There will be a vote soon on whether she can keep her number 3 spot in the House Republican leadership. Republicans have a choice. They can stop acting like creepy fascist insurgents with a fanatical devotion to the principles of Joseph Goebbels or they can embrace reality and be the same execrable skinflints and Scrooge’s that they have become globally infamous for.

They get what they want in either case. It’s just that with the former, civil war and loss of democracy starts to be more of a possibility.

On the other hand, if throwing her out increases the likelihood that she and likeminded Republicans leave the party to become the party of Conservative Libertarian Independent Titans, I have no problem with that. It doesn’t give Democrats one tiny advantage in Congress except for the entertainment value of watching Republican factions fight amongst themselves.

As well as proposing no new policies or getting anything done until the rest of the party acknowledges simple sh*t like gravity, moon landings and that Trump LOST the election because as a candidate, he got fewer votes than his opponent.

So, you know, there’s that.

Here ya’ go, Liz. Stick to the truth and do the right thing. For once.

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

Unpacking why Liz Cheney must be sidelined, here is Joseph Goebbels’ definition of The Big Lie, how it works and what can terminate it:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Dissent can be repressed at the voting booth. Check.

Truth can be repressed by stuffing a sock in the mouth of anyone with enough power to oppose it, like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney. Check.

The consequences of the Big Lie are pending.

The other tactic the Trump faction uses is High Conflict. That is, divide us and keep us at each others’ throats. Does this sound familiar?:

“His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

Want to take a guess as to who operated by these rules?

Republicans’ “Murderers’ Row”

I was briefly considering the fact that the obnoxious Elise Stefanik is likely to become the third most powerful Republican in The House of Representatives. She is all set to be voted into the position of House Conference Chairperson, to replace Liz Cheney, who is being thrown out because she said that Joe Biden actually won the election; and that the January 6 insurrection was a dreadful and disgraceful thing; and because she voted to impeach Trump for inciting it.

You cannot hold such views and remain in a position of power in this Republican Party. So Cheney, who has something like a 96% hard-line Conservative voting record, as compiled by groups who monitor such things, is going to lose her high-ranking role. While Matt Gaetz so far loses nothing. That is the hierarchy of values among Republicans now.

Why Cheney is doing this is a matter of great discussion among the pundits. Is it just because of principle? Is it also because she sees herself as a possible leader of a wing of the Republican Party, where she can be a powerful spokesperson, an online and fundraising presence, and maybe even become President some day, if her group takes ascendancy in the party? Is she “playing a long game, ” as some suggest? Or is it a combination of these?

I ultimately don’t care that much which it is, in that I am no fan of her politics, and certainly not of what her father did while essentially running the country from 2001-2009. I do admire her for what she has said in regard to Trump and the election. That took some courage. I would not root for her to become President. I would not root for anyone from that miserable party. Imagine her being President; imagine any of them. What we can say is that she is not an inveterate liar, she is not a traitor, she has regard for the laws, and for the validity of election results. I do not know what she would think about all the vote-suppressing measures instituted by Republicans in almost all of the states, though I would expect that she would not have a problem with them. I would like to be wrong about that.

Stefanik actually has a less conservative voting record than Cheney, but anyone who watched her during the first Trump impeachment knows how unpleasant she is, as she constantly interrupted and debated leading Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff, while making no salient points at all. Trump supports her to replace Cheney, which shows you how awful she must be.

The Republican hierarchy would be the inverse of the famous New York Yankees’ “Murderers’ Row” of 1927, with its absolutely fearsome lineup which included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. (For an interesting delve into the actual social and historical background of the appellation, you can read baseball historian John Thorn’s article from 2016. I grew up reading about Combs, Ruth, Gehrig, Meusel and Lazzeri, but did not know the origin, and in fact, there is still some dispute about it). The Republicans would send up a lineup of Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik, Mitch McConnell, and John Thune, with Donald Trump as manager.Well, that is indeed fearsome, but in a really frightening way.

Even as we watched Trump for the last four years, it is hard to imagine that he still wields so much power. It isn’t his ideas, whatever they are. It is the sway he holds over the radicalized Republican voting base. He is feared by Republicans in office as someone who can ruin their careers, as he is attempting to ruin Cheney’s, by saying that she will never win an election in Wyoming again, and by calling Mitt Romney, who is supporting Cheney in his abstract way, “a stone cold loser,” in his typical Mafia-speak.

Trump controls the rabid base, he raises the money; he can destroy their careers, they think, so they bow to him, and kiss his ring, as the saying goes. It is appalling and nauseating. But Republicans do not stand for anything more than keeping power by any means. And if groveling at the hem of Trump’s trousers, is how to do it, that is what they will do. Issues do not matter to them. They would surely support Gotti or Capone if he were there with the power to keep them in office, or throw them to the mob.

It is more than unsettling to consider what would happen if this band actually takes over the government. It would make us long for the days of Bush and Cheney, which is appalling in itself. The Republicans are hopped up with the drug of potential unlimited power, and they want all of it; full-blown fascism, where no dissent is allowed, and anyone who dares to question Trump and his flunkies, is purged, or might we say, canceled? Republicans always project, you know.

As against this tableau, questions about whether Biden’s infrastructure bill is too expensive, seem frivolous. The pressing question is whether there are now more “Bush Republicans” who will abandon the party. Or will they find excuses not to do so?

The Republican Murderers Row will throw every allegation and argument they have against Democrats., to try to keep their voters in line, or even give them an excuse to support fascism as the better of two evils, against “cancel culture,” or “the most liberal President since LBJ,” as the Wall Street Journal put it yesterday .Many millions of people have reflexively voted against Democrats for decades. Will more of them finally decide to join the Democratic Party, as the only sane alternative to go forward, protect democracy, and save the planet?

I tend to doubt it, but I do have some hope in that regard. As the Republican Party becomes more Radical Right, more supportive of Trump’s insanity; less willing to even accept that Biden won the election and that Trump’s instigated riot almost toppled the greatest democracy on Earth, one would think that at least some will not vote for any Republicans. But they are unlikely to become Democrats, or say that they will. If some of them would, people like Jennifer Rubin, Bill Kristol. Olivia Troye, it might make a difference. If they want to keep hoping for a return to the “glory years” of Reagan and Bush, they are substantially misreading the sweep of history; and in their manner, trying to save a Republican Brand which should be thrown in the ash heap, because it is ineradicably corrupted and toxic.

The odds should be in our favor as to whether we can defeat what the Republican Party has devolved to. But we can be sure that we are now clearly being shown the monster beneath, which had for so many decades been hidden by friendly faces and self-serving platitudes cloaked by soaring phrases.

When the Bush-Gore post-election battle was raging, Dick Cheney said that “we realize how very close this is”; something like that, indicating that if Bush were given the victory, they would have a politically diverse Cabinet, as the media kept demanding that Gore do, when it looked as if he would get the recount and win. After the Republicans were handed the victory, Cheney was said to have told Bush and their group, “We should govern like we won 65% of the vote.” And so they did, to the country’s great detriment. They left with Bush at 29% Favorables, but they took all of the money with them. They are never about compromise, that was Obama. Murderers’ Row, they are.

Early Morning Fun with “Ghost”

After I wrote the post the other day on the game “Ghost,” I started to play a bit of it in my head. I thought of a few sequences, and I wonder if you might figure out how you could turn possible defeat into victory in these.

The rules of the game are below in the post entitled “The Game of Ghost” I did not look up any of the sequences, so you might possibly find other options, too. It’s just for fun. Each situation involves you against just one other player Remember, you do not want to put the last letter in which spells a four or more-letter word, or you lose. And you must always have a word in mind when adding a letter, or you will be challenged and lose, if you do not have one. And don’t look any of the sequences up, that spoils the challenge of it!

1, He starts with B. You say A, for BA. He says I, for BAI. What do you do? You do not give up!

2. He starts with V. You say I, for VI. He says A, for VIA You…? I can think of two winning options.

3. He starts with S. You say T, for ST. He says A, for STA. You say N, for STAN. He counters with C, for STANC. What do you do?

4, You start with C. He says L, for CL. You say E. for CLE. He says A, for CLEA. You…?

5. You start with P. He says R, for PR. You say A for PRA. He says N, for PRAN. You say…(easy one!)

I could always be wrong on these, but I don’t think so. If I am, I am sure that somebody will point it out! Answers below.

  1. Z, thinking of Baize
  2. N, thinking of Viand, is best. D, thinking of Viaduct.
  3. H, thinking of Stanchion
  4. V, thinking of Cleave. If he says A, you say G, thinking of Cleavage.
  5. C, thinking of Prance

I Think That The Republican Party is Literally Insane

We use the word “insane” very casually at times. It has become one of those adjectives that people toss in to be emphatic. “That was an insane ending to the movie.” “What an insanely great idea.”There are too many words which lose meaning that way,, because they are used so reflexively, as a kind of pseudo-cool negation of their actual meaning.

But of course the word “insane’ actually means “not sane.” Devoid of reason. Very dangerous, not susceptible to rational discussion. Perhaps psychotic, incapable of seeing objects for what they are, hallucinating.

The law has struggled with definitions of insanity for the purpose of criminal defense. Various states have tried to define what is insanity, in terms of a defendant being able to escape conviction for a crime. There is the “M’Naghten Defense” which hinges on whether a defendant “could tell right from wrong.” There has been the “Irresistible Impulse Defense,” where a defense attorney would need to prove that his client was in the grip of an impulse he had no ability to control. There is the “Substantial Capacity Test,” which was successfully used by John Hinckley in his trial for the attempted murder of President Reagan, which caused some states to revert to the more rigid M’Naghten Rule.

Some might think that the insanity defense is too broad; some contend that there should not be one, that if you commit a capital crime, you should be found guilty, unless you can plead self-defense. Those are very interesting topics for criminal law classes, or among legal scholars who have tried to make the law reasonable and fair.

There was a groundbreaking psychiatrist and professor, Thomas Szasz, who argued that insanity was not something you could objectively prove, that it was only hypothesized from behavior. It is not like a torn meniscus or appendicitis, where there are tests that can show whether you have it or not. He contended that it is society which is making pronouncements about people’s sanity or lack of sanity,through how they act, or what they say. In other words, the outsider, the person who does not behave in ways we deem as normal, might be labeled as insane. People who talk to themselves aloud, do not comply with standards of being dressed, do not sit quietly at lectures, but start yelling; or talking to people who are not there. Szasz might ague that these are just violations of “norms,” the person might be following different norms, or just be unconventional, but we label them as clinically insane, which is wrong

Well, it is an argument which makes one think. But in our legal system, we try to define insanity. We do it in terms of whether we deem that someone is a danger to himself and others, and should be institutionalized. Of course, we have seen many shows where some greedy relative tries to get someone put away, on the grounds that he is insane. There are great injustices done at times.

But of course there are people who should be kept away from others, but are not. I am specifically referring to the men who end up shooting many people, of whom we later find out that their family was concerned about them, tried to tell law enforcement, and nothing was done. How do we decide who needs intervention and treatment, to protect themselves and others, and those who are just acting unusually but are not real threats, or not enough to take away their freedom? The important thing is that one does not need some biologically proven finding of “insanity” to deem someone as very dangerous to health and safety.

With all that as backdrop, I will now contend that to a large extent, the Republican Party, and those who call themselves Republicans, are insane. Their statements and actions deny objective reality. They are sociopaths, which of course betokens mental illness. They have no restraints. They will not listen to reason, to scientific facts. They believe in literally insane theories of conspiracies involving cannibalistic pedophiles, Jewish space lasers, and other psychotic stories spun by some man who calls himself “Q,” and whom they follow and even worship. They think that Donald Trump was sent here by a deity, to save them and the country.

Those of course are not the whole of the Republican Party, but they are becoming an increasingly larger part But let us concentrate on Republican Party officials, the ones who have the power to make laws, and who want to control the electoral system and governance in America.

Let’s consider the organization which calls itself the Cyber Ninjas, which has managed to obtain the authority from the Republican controlled Arizona state senate, to recount the ballots in last year’s election in Arizona. They wanted to do it in total secrecy but the courts have not allowed that. They continue with what they say is recounting the ballots, they want to use ultraviolet light, which officials say can forever damage the ballots.

Obviously , their goal is to say that Trump won Arizona, not Biden, despite the earlier counting of votes, and then two recounts demanded by Republicans; and statements by Arizona election officials that the election was totally free and fair. Trump now says that “The Big Lie,” which of course referred to Republicans’ fantasies that Biden did not actually win, is actually the lie that Trump lost. He is waiting for more recounts, more statements by Ninjas or whomever, that he won various states. What would he do with these lies? Maybe call for another insurrection, overthrow of the government. Maybe try to spur the assassination of our elected officials. How does this not fall under any reasonable definition of insanity?

We read that 70% of Republicans believe that Biden did not win. Is this not insanity? What else would one call it.? That they are just making it up for effect, for political gain? Some may, but most have now been brainwashed into believing it. And that is just another way of describing insanity.

How do they think that Democrats stole the election? Through what magical devices did they somehow flip millions of votes from Trump to Biden? They put on their cloaks of invisibility, and crept into the vote-counting rooms, and changed the votes? They think that Dominion voting machines,which Democrats somehow controlled, changed the votes? After Dominion sued news outlets for these allegations, they had to withdraw them to try to avoid paying billions of dollars in damages, for making libelous statements. But of course the point of the statements was to plant them in people’s minds, to make them become insane, I suppose.

How many Republicans say that “the election was stolen,” and yet cannot come up with one conceivable description, or verifiable fact, as to how this was done? How is that not psychosis? Oh, one might say, that they really don’t believe it, they “just” want to take over the country forever through the use of these lies. What would we call that? Megalomaniac behavior? Extreme sociopathy, where nothing matters to them but their own gratification? And again, their targets believe it. To me, this is mass psychosis, the kind created by Hitler and Jim Jones.

What I am trying to emphasize, is that this is not normal, this is not within the “normal” range of politics, however much that has involved lies and distortions and warping of facts. This is literally insanity. This is believing in a cult, viewing Trump as having been sent from their version of heaven. This is subscribing to every deranged fantasy that drips from the computer of “Q.”

This is creating their own reality, and simply denying anything which shows it to be false. It is refusing to get vaccinated, refusing to wear masks, assaulting flight attendants who are just trying to enforce health protocols. Risking the lives of themselves, their families, and everyone else, because they don’t want to hear from scientists. It is refusing to accept that global warming is real, calling it, and everything else they don’t want to acknowledge, “a hoax,” and “fake news.”

True psychotics do not see the same world that normal people do. The most dangerous of them might kill someone because they think he is from outer space, or believe that he is about to attack them. If you run into a seemingly psychotic person on the street, and he is shouting angrily at no one in particular, you are supposed to look away, never acknowledge or engage with him. That can usually be done in the singular, but how do we cope with an army of millions of psychotics, who will gleefully try to kill elected officials, and overthrow the government, because of what their brainwashers have told them? And what do we do about those elected officials in suits, who stand up there and say that the election was stolen, that the person who really won it, is being denied his lawful right to power?

This is beyond dangerous. It is the stuff of Nazi Germany. It is not being viewed by most of the media with the sense of extreme danger which it deserves. This is not “both sides” stuff, it is an entire political party slipping further into literal insanity with each day.

And no one should think that, “if we just let them win, they will start acting rationally, even if we do not like what they do.” This has gotten far beyond just lying and dissembling in order to win, as bad as that is. This is about some kind of insane grip which has taken over people at the highest levels of that party. Look at the expressions on the face of Kevin McCarthy now, and tell me that he is just partisan but rational, or that he would not be like the insane megalomaniac fascists who almost took over the world in the last century.