DeSantis is not owning the libs here in Massachusetts

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is busy “owning the libs” by sending about fifty of them by plane recently to Martha’s Vineyard, here in Massachusetts.

It turned out though that he didn’t have any ready “illegal immigrants” in his state, given it’s kind of hard for them to take a boat to Florida, so he imported some from San Antonio, Texas. Using two chartered planes, he eventually deposited them on the tarmac of the airport on Martha’s Vineyard. All those fancy pants liberals would turn up their noses at the “illegals” and (ha! ha!) it would be a riot to watch! In the process he got to further cement his credentials as the cruelest Republican governor. This enhances his prospects for winning the Republican presidential nomination because, as we all know, the more merciless you are, the higher you rank in the eyes of Republican voters.

There’s no doubt that the residents of Martha’s Vineyard were surprised because no one told them they were coming. As for the fancy pants rich liberals on the island, well, it’s after Labor Day. They were mostly gone, leaving the island off Cape Cod to the locals, most of whom have a hard time finding even a room to rent on the island.

It sure would help if people like DeSantis actually visited places where they deposit “illegals”. I’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard in the summer and made a day of it, but chose to sleep off the island in Falmouth to save some money. We took a bus around the island and gave it a good once over. There are certainly some nice estates, but it’s mostly a pretty pedestrian place, just kind of pricey. Everything comes in by air or sea. Fortunately, it’s a fairly short ferry ride from Woods Hole. DeSantis probably should have sent his planes to Nantucket. I was there last November and I can confirm it’s the wealthier and more exclusive island, and much harder to get to.

It turned out though that no one owned the libs, who were surprised but quickly found accommodations and food for their surprised guests. This is more than you can say for DeSantis, as some of these migrants had not eaten in more than a day. He couldn’t be bothered to feed them, but he did have his representatives lie to them that there were jobs awaiting them. After about a day, the migrants were moved to a military base on the actual Cape that would better accommodate them and has been used for this purpose before. Our Republican governor Charlie Baker was happy to put state resources to work to help them out.

It’s clear that DeSantis and likely the vast majority of the Republican Party thinks that migrants are somewhat less than human. Anyhow, they aren’t white and they’re not American citizens, so if they can be mean to anyone, it should be them. DeSantis is supposedly Catholic, but if he is a Christian Nationalist, well, you can cross off the Christian part.

Who would Jesus hate? I’ve likely read more of the Bible than DeSantis, but I can find only two quotes from Jesus on who he hated and it wasn’t poor people. Jesus hated Satan and the money changers at the temple. When it came to love though, Jesus was pretty clear:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:44

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:12

In truth, if Jesus were to come back today, DeSantis would try to bar the door because Jesus was a Jew and a Semite, and thus a man of color.

The people of Massachusetts treated these migrants with care, love and respect, as Jesus would have done. DeSantis just used them because he believes there are more cruel Americans than kind ones.

Maybe in Florida. But happily, that’s not the case here in Massachusetts.

Republicans may be surprised by the 2022 midterms

There’s a problem when you are ruled by a minority. Unless they are careful in the exercise of their power, you can expect a boomerang effect.

We saw it, or at least a “boom”, in Tuesday’s primary election in Kansas. It included a ballot question on whether to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit abortions. Kansas is unusual in that it’s written into their constitution. Nearly sixty percent of voters in Kansas said no.

In 2020 and 2016, Trump won the state with 56% of the vote. Registered Republicans have a 46%-26% lead in voter registrations over Democrats in the state. Turnout in what was supposed to be a sleepy election in August was huge. It’s quite clear that a significant minority of Republicans voted to keep their abortion rights.

Generally, Republicans have no problem passing laws that stick it to minorities. But Kansas is 86% white, which means that the principal victims of tighter abortion laws in the state would be white women. The vote was supposed to be close, but it was a blowout.

Kansas’s situation is unusual, which is why since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, heavily gerrymandered Republican states have had few qualms about creating draconian antiabortion laws. I can understand why they would feel entitled. In its Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court has said that unlimited money can be spent on campaigns, and most rich people tend to be conservative. This allowed them to gerrymander their legislatures so they never lose power, making it hard or impossible for incumbents to lose elections. The Supreme Court seems likely to take up a case in its next term to harden the cement, so to speak. A number of members of the court have already spoken up supporting the idea being tested in North Carolina that its supreme court can’t overrule state election laws that don’t conform to the state’s constitution.

Republicans are hoping the 2022 midterms not only let them regain control of Congress, but also control state secretaries of state, who oversee and certify elections. They will find it convenient to overturn the will of the electorate when federal elections don’t go their way. Fortunately, we’re not quite there yet. And if this national disgust at the Supreme Court’s Dobbs abortion decision can be held for another three months, their goal of controlling Congress again might slip too.

Increasingly, it looks like they’ve already lost the Senate. This is in part because they are nominating candidates endorsed by Donald Trump. Consequently you get a series of really awful candidates that will be loved by Trumpers, but not by the general electorate. Democrats have a slim four seat majority in the House. Most experts who have studied redistricting have determined that overall recent gerrymandering is unlikely to render more Republican seats. Democrats may have a small advantage. We won’t know until the results come in, of course, but motivated voters tend to vote disproportionately. Hence the Kansas blowout.

History tells us that the 2022 midterms should be very bad for Democrats. Recent inflation statistics and gas prices should make it an easy year for Republicans to wrest legislative control again. But gas prices are down about $1/gallon from their peak. Inflation should ease with lower energy prices. And with just three months to go until the midterms, what’s happening now will set the frame for most voters.

In the short term, the only thing that will keep abortion laws in check will be federal legislation codifying the right to an abortion. Since 53 percent of voters are women, and women bear the primary impact of tightening antiabortion laws, they are going to be plenty of motivated women voters. Moreover, it’s simply a myth that Americans are antiabortion. 71% of Americans support women having the right to terminate a pregnancy. Only briefly over the decades has polling on this question slipped below 50%. Generally, it’s been popular by double digits. By some polling, abortion rights is the number two issue motivating voters, with only a receding inflation concern ahead of it.

We can expect voter enthusiasm to be high this time, not just from Democrats, but especially from Democrats. Assuming our election system isn’t so corrupted by voter suppression and corrupt election officials, there is probably a 70% chance that Democrats can maintain the U.S. Senate and perhaps a 55% chance they can retain the House.

All this is being helped by a series of popular bills passed by Democrats that looked unlikely just six months ago. There are more on the way, including the Inflation Reduction Act which among other things allows the government to negotiate pricing for certain Medicare drugs, a hugely popular proposal supported by even a majority of Republicans.

Such an election outcome would be highly unusual. It’s generally a safe bet to assume the party in power will lose it, but this is not a normal election year. It may be that checking the Supreme Court and Republican overreach may be what voters care most about. It may turn out to be not only the most consequential election of our time, but with turnout rivaling that in a presidential election year and an utter surprise to many political prognosticators.

White replacement theory is so painfully dumb

In my last post, I noted that Trump famously said he likes the uneducated. I’m not surprised, since Trump is appallingly uneducated. But he can relate to them. But Republicans in general seem to prefer the uneducated because they will believe any sort of crap they throw out there.

White replacement theory is just the latest example. It was made tragically manifest Saturday with a shooting in Buffalo, New York by a white guy from Conklin, New York. Conklin is a stone’s throw from where I spent my formative years, in Endwell, near Binghamton. I remember our area as being painfully White, so much so that I don’t recall seeing my first Black person until I was in my teens.

It was less so last time I visited. But I have a feeling Conklin remains pretty lily White. Anyhow the alleged shooter was echoing the theory’s talking points by plenty of others in the G.O.P. including, most prominently, Fox News commentators Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. The theory, in case you are unfamiliar with it, is that there is a conspiracy among elites to replace White people with people of color.

You notice that it’s always a conspiracy? It can’t happen as a result of natural forces; it must be some vast left wing conspiracy at work. Like Trump’s idea that China had a weapon to create hurricanes, it’s an idea so painfully dumb it actually makes my head hurt. It’s just laughable that anyone would actually believe this crap. But the shooter apparently did. He was so animated by it he allegedly killed ten Black people including a store security guard, and wounded three others. He pleaded not guilty, but he has a 180-page screed you can read if you got the stomach for it and, of course, for a while it was streamed live on Twitch from his helmet cam.

We know that skin color amounts to less than one percent of our DNA. So we are all fundamentally the same. White replacement theory makes about as much sense as a conspiracy than that blondes or pug-nosed people control the world. If someone came to me with the latter idea and they sincerely believed it, I would do my best to get them to see a mental health professional. The same is true with anyone who believes (fill in the blank) are engaged in a massive, hidden conspiracy to (fill in the blank).

These theories seem to be attractive because it’s a way to make sense of the nonsensical. It’s like believing that God is love and God is hate at the same time. Something has to bridge the divide if you are to maintain any semblance of sanity, so something laughable must be invented. There are no grand conspiracies. There is no Trilateral Commission. Trump lost the 2020 election too and it was likely the most secure national election of all time.

If you were concerned about White replacement though, a lot of what the Right is doing is counterproductive. Take the expected Supreme Court decision expected to overturn Roe v. Wade. For the most part, white women aren’t going to have a problem getting an abortion. We know this because it was the case when it was last illegal. It will be a problem for people of color who are predominantly poorer. Anti-abortionists, many of whom are also racists, are making worse the very problem they decry.

Birth rates are higher among minorities because it’s harder to get abortions, it’s harder to afford birth control and when you are economically challenged you are often put at disproportionate risk for incidents like violence, rape, and marital abuse. Good Catholics won’t use contraception, but most Catholics look the other way on what the Church teaches them.

Catholicism might explain why Hispanic Americans have a higher birthrate compared to Whites. But it doesn’t explain the birthrates among Blacks, who are not disproportionately Catholic. My black friends tend to have more children mostly because they are more likely to have had dysfunctional relationships, which is likely largely a result of living at the margins most of their lives.

The reverse is true. The birthrate among Whites is down not because of a grand conspiracy, but because they have more control over whether to opt to have a family or not. The average age of a mother having a first child in the United States is now 30. Having babies is not a priority, and easy access to contraception and abortion makes it easier to avoid.

That’s because having kids today is darn expensive, at least if you don’t want them to grow up in poverty and have something resembling a first-world lifestyle. We stopped at one child because we figured this out thirty years ago. Indeed, the cost of raising just our daughter was at least $200,000, and likely a lot more than that, and that included a discounted public education. With two kids, it’s not clear we’d now both be retired and debt free.

If you want more White babies, I dunno, maybe make it cheaper to have kids? For example, childcare could be subsidized, like is true in much of Europe. But we can’t have that; it’s socialism. Maybe grant parental leave to new mothers and fathers? Except for a handful of states, that’s also seen as socialism by Republicans. Maybe subsidize baby formula and disposable diapers? More socialism, naturally. Oh, and maybe robustly fund the public schools so our kids don’t grow up believing racist crap like this? Republicans though seem to want to get rid of public schools altogether and keeping kids from being enlightened seems to be the animus behind “woke” laws.

If the United States was to be a nation for Whites, then maybe we shouldn’t have invited over so many minorities? Of course most Black Americans are ancestors of slaves so they had no choice in the matter. But Southern plantation owners had no such qualms and needed someone to pick their cotton for cheap. We brought over so many minorities and people of color mostly so Whites could live their lifestyles on the cheap. Our country didn’t build itself. It was largely built on the backs of slaves and the oppressed.

Now people who believe in the White replacement theory want them gone, or at least oppressed and disempowered. Because that’s like totally fair because having people near them with a different skin hue makes them very nervous.

To me, fully enfranchising all Americans is long overdue and would demonstrate America at its best. What’s really going on is that Whites are reaping what they have sown. Many just don’t want to pay the price.

Republicans are dancing to the Pied Piper

Attention Republicans, or should I say lemmings: you are being misled. Right off the cliff, I mean.

I hate to break this to you, but you guys (and gals) are painfully easy to manipulate. All your opinion leaders have to do is play to your prejudices and you fall in line like enthusiastic sheep welcoming the glory of the slaughterhouse.

I am sure there are “woke” Republicans, in the sense that some of these sheep know what awaits them. I don’t think there are many of them. Most came out as Never Trumpers years ago and have been scorned by their own party. Others are lying low, like Jeb Bush, hoping for a day when all this madness is gone and they will be in vogue again.

Just as P.T. Barnum observed there’s a sucker born every minute, the rest of us “woke” people realize there’s at least one new Republican sheep anxious to bound toward the slaughterhouse born every minute too. Indeed, plenty of these sheep have bounded so hard they didn’t make it and fell over dead along the way. They were unmasked and unvaccinated, for the most part.

After all, their ultimate opinion leader, Donald Trump, told them the pandemic was largely fake news and flouted common sense rules to mitigate the spread of the disease. You guys ate it up because if there’s anything guaranteed to get you riled up, it’s “owning the libs” and appealing to your sense of aggrievement and self-righteousness.

The libs, by the way were, for the most part, busy limiting social contact, masking and getting vaccinations and boosters as soon as they could. Of course you wanted the opposite of that. By definition in your mind anything a liberal does must be wrong, so you had to head in the opposite direction. In the past though you might have ambled in that direction. Now you sprint in that direction.

Your opinion leaders don’t think and behave at all like you. Take Tucker Carlson. When was the last time you wore a bowtie? What about Sean Hannity? When was the last time you wore a suit and parted your hair in the middle? What about Donald Trump? How many of you got at least $100M seeder money from your father? How many of you self-reliant types had a big daddy to bail you out when you kept tripping over your own shoelaces? How many of you go years between going to church, as is typical of Donald Trump, who shows up maybe at an odd funeral? How many of you choose golf and country club dining over a NASCAR race, a shooting range and dinner at an Applebees? How many of you got vaccinated and boosted while Fox News tracks employees vaccination statuses and requires masks in many meetings? In short, aren’t your leaders full of hypocrisy? Why can’t you see their bullshit? The rest of us can.

It’s because they know how to pull your strings and as I said, it’s not hard. If I wanted to use you like grist in the mill I could do so as well; I’d just have to lose a sense of conscience, which for them is long gone. Arguably, Donald Trump never developed one. Worse, these conscienceless people’s habits have turned you into arguably horrible people.

Just five years ago, I knew of conservatives ago really didn’t care if people were gay and had no problem with gay marriage. It was live and let live for a lot of these people back then as many were libertarian in spirit. Much of their overt racism was gone too. Today, it’s all back, baby, because your opinion leaders like Donald Trump know these fears are easily rekindled.

And that’s what it’s all about: keeping you afraid. They know that our most powerful motivator is fear. It’s in their interest to keep you feeling afraid because when you feel afraid you vote for them. Your ability to believe ludicrous crap is apparently bottomless, such as the 2020 election was somehow “stolen” when there was virtually no evidence this was true, as attested by many judges who were appointed by Donald Trump.

And when they are in power, they are glad to pick your pocket. They do it indirectly with obscene tax cuts for the rich. But they also do it directly, like by channeling your donations to Trump’s PACs into his own pocket.

You are not just being used; you are being abused. You are being treated badly. You are like an abused wife certain it must be something she did that’s responsible for making her husband beat her. At root, they’ve recognized that you don’t have much self-esteem and they can use your faults against you and to profit them. And you are dying needlessly by the hundreds of thousands, mostly from covid-19, because you are under their spell. It must be the liberal’s fault that you got the disease. It all must be part of some massive conspiracy when in truth massive conspiracies are virtually impossible to pull off.

I don’t expect you to wake up and smell the coffee, as Ann Landers used to say. Most of you won’t make it to the end of this. The rest of us pity you and, yes, fear you too. Your opinion leaders have created tens of millions of loose cannons. All the rest of us can do is hope that when they go off we can avoid most of the shrapnel and that your exalted leaders take direct hits. Believe me they deserve your retribution.

Dodging covid-19

I’m now among a minority of Americans because I haven’t contracted covid-19. A recent Monmouth poll found that 52 percent of Americans polled say they have come down with covid-19.

I’ve never tested positive for covid-19 either. I suppose it’s possible I’ve been exposed but before getting on a cruise December 1st I passed a PCR test. That was the only PCR test I’ve taken. We have three Antigen test kits in the house. I suppose I could use one of these, but they are only good for helping figure out if you were recently exposed to the virus. I’m feeling fine so using the test kit is kind of pointless.

It’s becoming easier for me to unmask in indoor public spaces. Yesterday about a dozen of us age 55+ guys in our neighborhood went out for dinner. We were unmasked in the restaurant and all the staff was unmasked too. I felt safe in part because my wife volunteers one day a week at the local emergency room and there were zero covid patients while she was there, the first time this happened since the pandemic.

But it’s still out there. This was driven home to me today when I learned that my next door neighbor Jeff, an elderly widower probably around age 90, caught covid. We were wondering why there was an ambulance at his house and finally learned of his condition. After a long bought in the hospital he’s home but reportedly still not doing great. So far there has been no known fatalities from covid-19 in our 55+ community of eighty people or so.

It’s tempting to brag that we’ve escaped covid, but it’s too early for that. There’s some evidence we are moving from a pandemic to an endemic disease. Covid-19 becoming an endemic disease hardly means that we’re out of the woods, just that it’s becoming manageable. What’s going on today also happened after the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. At some point people stopped caring; it became yesterday’s news. They just got on with life although and preferred to ignore the disease.

I’ll never know for sure, but I think the main reason my wife and me have been lucky so far is that we’re retired. It’s just the two of us and most days are spent at home. Still, I’ve been half expecting us to get it too. My wife also volunteers at the local survival center. Both it and the emergency room gig have pretty aggressive covid-19 masking and distancing protocols, but I half expected it would sneak into our household this way. It somehow got our neighbor Jeff too, probably via his son who’s a frequent visitor.

We’re both probably destined to get the disease at some point. I like to think though that somehow we will be the exception. It may take another year or two, but I’ll probably get it. I do expect that if I get it, the symptoms will be relatively mild. But I slipped to Medicare age this year. Seniors like me are more likely to get more severe cases, particularly if you have underlying conditions. My wife has more than a handful. I can count being overweight as a stroke against me. There’s no way to know in advance if we’ll remain the exceptions.

That’s because dodging covid-19 is all about playing the odds. Arguably, I’ve been playing the odds. We took two cruises, one at the start of the pandemic, and didn’t get anything. My wife’s volunteering has been playing the odds. My apparent reluctance to get to a normal body weight is playing the odds. But not having to run to a job every day and not having school aged children in the house definitely has been helping a whole lot.

The Washington Post article notes that 57 percent of Republicans report getting covid, while only 38 percent of Democrats got it. In this case, just me being a Democrat has improved the odds. It’s not too hard to figure this out. The Republican Party is rife with antivaxxers. If you are going to ignore science, you are much more likely to get the disease. While not religious, we were religious in believing in science. We got shots and boosters just as soon as we could, although getting the first shot was a huge hassle. We may be getting a bit complacent. We can now get a second booster but so far haven’t. Hopefully we’ll take care of that in the next week or so.

In general, our success to date probably comes from having a survivor’s mentality. My mother was a nurse. My father was an engineer. So both sides told us what we needed to do in these situations, which was listen to scientists and public health experts. We expected guidance to be off at times and improve as the disease was better understood.

In the beginning of the pandemic we were wiping down surfaces all the time. That was likely a waste of time and money. Learning it was a respiratory disease helped a lot, which meant that masking was useful. Still, the masking we got was really not up to the task. We needed N95 and KN95 masks that were largely unavailable. We needed the government to step up and make billions of these masks and give them out for free. It wasn’t until February 2022 that I could get a free N95 mask at our local CVS.

Since then, I generally use an N95 mask in public, like I did today in the grocery store. Most of the people there were masked, but most were not using N95 or KN95 masks. I suspect Massachusetts (where I live) is the exception with so much masking. I expect there is a lot less mask wearing in other states.

We’re cautiously reengaging in life again. We sat unmasked while we watched the movie Dog recently, our first move in a theater since the pandemic. (The theater was mostly empty, which helped.) We were unmasked at a local Chinese restaurant too, even before our meal was served. Mostly I’ll wear my N95 mask in public. I’m used to it now and it’s no big deal. If you do anything regularly, it ceases to feel like much of a nuisance.

I’m hoping this approach will let us to keep defying the odds. It’s much easier to give in to your emotions, but if you are primarily left-brained like us, it’s not hard to take logical precautions and perhaps possible to never get covid-19.

Republicans: be careful what you wish for

Republicans seem hellbent on creating an autocracy. You’d have to be living in a cave somewhere not to be aware of just how brazenly they’ve been working on this project.

The usual tactics had been extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression. But now they’ve dialed it up to 11. Texas is making it hard to successfully register to vote and harder to cast absentee ballots. In Georgia, it will be illegal for someone to give voters a bottle of water to stay hydrated while they wait in line to cast their vote in one of the few polling stations in predominantly minority communities. Voter rolls are being aggressively purged and the procedures for getting your right to vote back are increasingly burdensome and often hard to discern. And, of course, they’re working to put partisan hacks in charge of their boards of elections so that if necessary Trump can find his 11,780 votes in Georgia. Those who control the voting machines ultimately call the vote.

But they are also hellbent on making life as miserable as possible for those who are not White Republicans. Certainly women are fair game, and our Supreme Court seems to be willing to look the other way while women are stripped of their rights because they are pregnant. Missouri is trying to make it illegal for anyone to help a women to go out of state to get an abortion and one legislator there has suggested the death penalty for doing so – now there’s a way to prove you are prolife. Utah won’t let transgender women play in school sports. Most red states don’t want students to be exposed to the reality that White people did a lot of bad things, like enslaved millions of people, because they might feel guilt and somehow that’s worse than their ignorance.

This will all culminate when they can tilt the Electoral College even more in their favor so that it becomes pretty much impossible not to have a Republican president. And so they hope it will go up and down our state and local governments so that they get to be in charge pretty much forever. It’s like The Outer Limits: “We are controlling transmission. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical.”

And yet recent world events should inform them that what they want to do is a very bad idea. Vladimir Putin is now a prime example of why an autocracy is a really bad idea. First of all, most of the rest of the world’s countries aren’t run by autocrats and when countries transcend major boundaries like invading sovereign republics, they cut them off. Second, autocrats or autocrat wannabees like Donald Trump think they know best, but they don’t. That’s because they aren’t living in the real world.

Putin has twenty two years as Russia’s de facto ruler and, like Trump, assumed he could do no wrong. In fact, it’s been twenty two years of people kissing his ass telling him what he wanted to hear. It’s been that many years of bribes and corruption and bleeding away state monies into the accounts of oligarchs. Putin had every expectation that his invasion of Ukraine would be a cakewalk because no one wanted to risk life and limb by telling him the truth. If you did, at best you were thrown in prison for ten years or so.

Rather than build great states, autocrats create fragile states. It’s not like this should be news. We’ve seen it repeated endlessly. Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution probably created two lost generations and, as is true of most of these endeavors, killed millions too. Hitler destroyed Germany not to mention much of Europe. Stalin killed uncounted millions as did the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

The shelf life of autocrats doesn’t tend to be very long and they tend to collapse when their great leader proves mortal like the rest of us. Also, the order and peace they try to bring proves to be an illusion, with state-sponsored oppression and terror generally happening instead.

If their autocratic dreams become real, it’s probably the worst thing that can happen to the Republican Party. It’s all based on an illusion that autocracy will make us safe and comfortable and somehow put us back on the right path.

The reality is the more we learn from the mistakes of our past, the likelier we are to build the checks and resilience to keep them from occurring. In their rush toward White Christian nationalism, they are explicitly choosing to unlearn the lessons of the American Revolution. Our founding fathers witnessed what happened in Europe when there was a state religion and wanted no part of the civil wars that ensued. They specifically disallowed the government from establishing a state religion. Slowly, over many decades, we made progress addressing many of the fundamental inequities in our system including the disenfranchisement of women and people of color, through democratic processes.

But now Republicans want to turn back the clock. Not allowing transgender women to participate in school sports is just the tip of the iceberg. Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) is fine with states disallowing mixed race marriages. Plenty of Republicans want to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing gay marriage too. Seven years ago, Republicans tried to end birthright citizenship because, you know, those illegals don’t deserve it and besides they’re not White. Their leading politicians would be happy to end food stamps, child tax credits, Section 8 housing vouchers, public schools, voting rights, and even the direct election of senators. The one tax they seem to be for is making blue states pay more in taxes by capping deductible property taxes.

Republicans probably think in their autocracy that we would all turn into sheep. Those with the money and talent will leave in droves to places where their freedoms are respected. Police are pretty good at busting heads but it’s unclear whether they would support an autocracy, particularly since police are subject to local control. The military are unlikely to do so, as about 40% are Black or Hispanic. It would likely unleash an insurrection, if not a civil war. I can see estates of wealthy people being burned down, for example. It won’t be panacea; it will make life worse for everyone but likely particularly for Republicans.

Democracies are hardly immune from becoming autocracies, but when properly organized they provide societal stability because vested interests are forced to work with each other. Unfortunately, the more we become an oligarchy (and we’re pretty much there now), the less our legislatures are filled with people that truly represent their interests.

If you want to see what America might look like as an autocracy, look at Russia today. We just need a higher level of corruption to hollow out our military too.

Pondering the Ukraine war endgame

I guess it’s good news that so many Americans now hate Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a way, I’m surprised because about 30% of voters tend to vote Republican and whatever Dear Leader (Trump) says goes. Trump has never hid is fascist inclinations. Indeed, he sensed them in the party and brought them to life. Trump’s initial praise of Putin’s invasion though was quickly tempered when he discovered it wasn’t working with his base.

Granted, the Republican Party in mostly Southern states has certainly not given up its fascist tendencies. They’re taking a mile instead of an inch. In Missouri, it’s likely that it will soon be a crime for a woman to go out of state for an abortion, a law which I suspect violates the interstate commerce clause of our U.S. constitution and will probably get invalidated. In Florida, you can’t say gay or LGBTQ and keep your job, at least if you are a public school teacher. This also seems to violate basic civil liberties and probably won’t stand up in a federal court either. Meanwhile, in Texas, which is all about ensuring parental rights by making sure students can’t get banned books in its schools, is perfectly fine with taking away parental rights to make decisions about helping their transgender kids get the hormones and surgeries they need to thrive. It’s an anti-freedom agenda masquerading as a freedom agenda. These sorts of policies would feel very much at home in fascist Russia.

But there is something about waging an unprovoked war on a neighboring country has them siding with Democrats, for unknown reasons. Or maybe it is sort of known. Ukraine is overwhelmingly White. When they get to see it up close on the news, it’s not hard to picture that happening here. They don’t want that. It might interfere with their church services and affect the value of their stock portfolios.

So on this issue pretty much exclusively they are aligning with the civilized world and even (ick!) Democrats. You know they are serious when they are for banning oil from Russia, even though it would push up oil prices at home. Their campaign ads will say otherwise, but they can’t hide their votes in Congress.

In the ten days since I wrote about Ukraine, not a whole lot has changed. Certainly a lot more people are dead, the carnage is increasing and likely people are beginning to starve, on both sides. A massive Ukrainian nuclear power plant had a close call and hospitals and residences have been blown up, but Russia hasn’t really gained any ground since March 3. It occupies at best about ten percent of the country, it has few troops in reserve, and logistical difficulties make some sort of partial retreat, or at least troop consolidation, likely.

But Russia still has nukes, and Vladimir Putin has ordered his nuclear force on high alert and has made vague statements like he might start a nuclear war unilaterally. If he is determined to win in Ukraine, nukes would probably do it. There likely wouldn’t be many Ukrainians left afterward. But he’s already reviled across the world, so it’s not implausible that he might use them.

Ukrainians are calling for a no fly zone over their country, enforced by NATO. If I lived there I’d want one too. But it’s a really bad idea if you consider nuclear war worse than horrendous bloodshed in Ukraine. I am grateful we have a president that knows this and won’t put our armed forced into play in or over Ukraine. Had Trump won reelection, he’d probably have encouraged Putin to do his worst to the country.

No one wants to see this continue but it’s hard to see an endgame. That’s not to say the future is hard to predict. This is becoming Putin’s quagmire. There is no face saving way to get out of it and declare a partial victory. It’s unclear if he even understands that he is losing. He’s surrounded by people who have survived by honing their skills as yes men. By controlling the Internet and the press, most Russians don’t understand what’s really going on and are cheering him on.

With time though it will be impossible for them not to figure out that their Dear Leader made a huge mistake. Their currency is becoming worthless and getting goods and services from outside the country is becoming impossible. With time, things will just stop working for lack of parts and people who can fix them. Putin can’t hide the closures of so many western businesses in the country, particularly the local McDonalds. Its military is already bogged down and supplying it will become increasingly problematic. As body bags keep returning regularly, it will become difficult to hide the scope of his misadventure. Moreover, most Russians are used to the Internet and richer Russians used to foreign vacations. They will resent what they have lost.

That’s not to say Putin won’t retain power. He has a powerful police state and saying anything not the party line can get you fifteen years in prison. But his focus will inevitably turn inward. His failures could tip him into the selective use of nuclear weapons. He doesn’t appear to be one of these people that can accept defeat or accept compromises.

So for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis there is a real possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. It may be the use of one tactical nuclear weapon, say a neutron bomb over Kyiv, or a bunch to quickly take control of major cities. Putin does not appear to be suicidal, which is what their use on the West would result in. But he’s a hard man to read other than he’s infinitely stubborn and unwilling to compromise, traits that unfortunately resemble the vast majority of Republicans in power too.

If we can keep Putin from using his nuclear weapons (a big if), it is likely that in a year or two this will resolve itself. Russia is likely to grind to a halt to be held together through intimidation and force of arms. While it may hold itself together, it will be a shell of its former self and increasingly unable to maintain even basic services. A new Russian revolution is certainly possible, but unlikely. Anarchy and large scale national dysfunction is the more likely result.

I don’t think socially-distanced Vladimir Putin will be alive in two years. I think it’s much more likely that someone close to him puts a bullet in his head first.

America’s Revolutionary War is still with us

I’ve finished reading two books on the Revolutionary War. To me the most revolutionary insight from reading them is that 250 years ago Americans were fighting the same stuff we are today. And no, I don’t mean the British. I mean us.

The first book, The War for American Independence by Samuel B. Griffith II, was something of a tome, but I really wanted a comprehensive history of the war, similar to Bruce Canton’s books on the Civil War. The second book, The Cause by Joseph J. Ellis covered much of the same material, but delved into the motivations for the war, particularly among Americans. While there were insights in both books, in general they overlapped pretty well. Neither is white-washed history and most of the major characters don’t come across well.

In The Cause though I learned that even before the Boston Tea Party, almost no one expected a United States would result from the war. It’s not that Americans expected to lose the war, but that the term United States (or sometimes United Colonies) was simply a marketing banner. Most of those who fought in it expected that after the war each state would be its own country. The colonies were united in getting rid of Great Britain, and that was about it. After the war, the states spent a lot of time trying to avoid becoming a real United States.

The Continental Army was barely a thing. A congress of the states in Philadelphia declared the United States in its Declaration of Independence, but the document was largely a product of Thomas Jefferson’s influence. The Continental Army, run of course by General George Washington, consisted largely of state militias. It had little cohesion because members of these militias were coming and going constantly, often at inconvenient times, like harvest season.

Washington had to practically threaten to resign to get the Continental Congress to provide a non-militia base to the army. It was needed just to give it some continuance and to ensure standards could be enforced. Even so, it would be generous to say that the Continental Congress was niggardly in appropriating money for the army.

Most states fundamentally disagreed with even the idea of a Continental Army. As a result it was constantly on the brink of breaking apart, chronically underfunded and most of its soldiers were literally shoeless and under-clothed, even in the winter. During the army’s wintering at Valley Forge, soldiers died of starvation and smallpox in droves because Congress was happy to see it starve. That it survived at all was not due to Congress’s largess, but due to the army’s foraging among the farms of Pennsylvania, which won them no favors.

One of the most amazing things about the Revolutionary War is that we managed to win it at all. This was in part because the British could never really win the war, as America was too vast and disjointed to hold by force of arms. Merely waiting the British out was the key to our eventual victory. Also, we got really lucky. Our victory in Yorktown was largely a French victory and a result of major mistakes by the British. The French provided most of the troops and its ships bollixed up the Brits inside the Chesapeake Bay. That our troops made it to Yorktown at all was not due to the Continental Congress appropriating money, but due to Robert Morris, the sort of Bill Gates of his time, and his fronting the costs to move the army down there.

Not many Americans come across as looking good in these books. One of the few was George Washington, a man of impeccable credentials. Today it’s kind of hard to appreciate Washington because we look at him using contemporary standards, and Washington owned a lot of slaves, as did many of our founding fathers. It’s clear though that Washington felt discomfort owning slaves. This came in part from a number of black soldiers that served in the Continental Army, including a major contingent from Rhode Island. Also, Washington had his personal servant and slave Billy Lee who faithfully attended to him throughout the war. Lee was freed on Washington’s death. All of Washington’s slaves were eventually freed through his will, but only after his wife Martha died. That’s more than you can say of Jefferson’s slaves.

Aside from that, Washington was a truly amazing man. These days Abraham Lincoln generally gets top billing as our best president. I haven’t read a history of Washington’s presidency yet but his time as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, persevering despite hellacious circumstances, and the integrity and respect he inspired was truly amazing, even if he often despaired in private. Unlike virtually all politicians, Washington was never drawn to power and was happy to relinquish it when the war was over. When King George III learned of Washington’s resignation he said if true “he will become the greatest man in the world.” It was simply unthinkable that someone with his gravitas would give up power when he could have kept it.

Washington wanted a robust and empowered national government. He wanted a real United States, not the loose confederation of states he actually got. He was in a distinct minority of Americans at the time, most who could not see much past their villages where most Americans lived their lives. He was a federalist. Those who wanted to minimize the scope of the federal government were anti-federalists. They wanted power to rest principally in the states, and stay there.

This fundamental conflict is still with us today. Two hundred fifty years later, the Democrats are the Federalists, and the Republicans are the Anti-Federalists. The Anti-Federalists distrusted national governments, fearing it would bring about the sort of repression and noble class the war was fought to avoid. The Federalists saw it as inevitable, especially since as a result of the War the United States acquired all land east of the Mississippi River. Letting the states literally fight it out for possession of these lands would have brought on a real civil war long before it arrived.

After the war, it was popular to lampoon the Continental Army. The prevailing opinion was that it was state militias that won the war, and the Continental Army was ancillary at best. Most agreed that Washington was a brilliant leader and tactician but most Americans did not know what the term “American” meant. They were Georgians, or New Yorkers, or Virginians. That was the scope of their worlds.

Of course slavery was as divisive an issue back then as it would be during the Civil War. But there simply wasn’t the will for our loose confederation of independent states to tackle the issue. No one could reconcile American’s intense desire for freedom and liberty when it wasn’t granted to slaves. It caused a lot of cognitive dissonance which was tacitly not talked about.

If you know about American history, you know that the original Articles of Confederation, which gave any state veto power over all the others when it came to national decisions, ultimately had to be abandoned. It turned out to be wholly unworkable and with the vast wealth in the west still to be acquired, there were pragmatic reasons to form a national government after all. It required a new constitution, which was quite brilliant in its time for setting up a system of checks and balances, which allayed a lot of the concerns of the Anti-federalists that a federal government would get out of control.

In 2022, it’s clear that our new Anti-Federalists, the Republican Party, no longer likes these checks and balances because demographics are turning against them. This time instead of accommodating the Federalists, they want to disempower them altogether, and permanently.

From reading these books on the Revolutionary War, it’s clear we are fighting the same arguments we fought back then. It’s not through a constitutional process this time, but through raw power. We need a new George Washington, but it’s hard to see any figure that can unite both sides.

Inadequate to the stormy present

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Abraham Lincoln

This quote has been rattling around in my brain for the last week or so. This quote was sent by Abraham Lincoln in his letter to Congress on the state of the nation during the midst of the Civil War, before state of the union speeches became a tradition. A week later, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which emancipated slaves in territories conquered by Union forces. It was a brilliant but unappreciated move by Lincoln, decried of course by the South, but was likely pivotal in winning the Civil War.

We could use an Abraham Lincoln right now. What happened to Lincoln is likely to happen to others that the radical right doesn’t like. The good news is that a year ago we got rid of Donald Trump but only barely was able to keep him from illegally retaining power. The bad news is that we elected Joe Biden, not a bad man by himself, but at least so far not the sort of leader we need for our stormy present. Joe is convinced that by providing pandemic relief and funding ambitious infrastructure bills America will somehow come back together and there will be a big kumbaya moment. It makes me slap my head with a big Homer Simpson “Doh!” I really hope he’s not this stupid.

What’s going on in our country now is revenge for the South losing the civil war. Republicans area pissed beyond belief that demographics are turning against them and that those people could exercise real political power. It’s going to get much, much worse but it will probably be a slow-moving horror. But if Biden and Congressional Democrats were to think anew and act anew, it’s possible much of it can be avoided.

The horrible gerrymandering and voter suppression underway has been unfolding for decades and has reached level 11. As bad as this is though, it’s not nearly as bad as the soft coup Republicans are unfolding for the 2024 elections. They plan to win the 2024 elections through gerrymandering and voter suppression if possible. But if not many states hope to enact laws that would allow their state to choose electors at variance to the popular will, or empower corrupt election officials who will claim that fairly run elections were not, and proclaim a different result. The Brennan Center for Justice summarizes the more brazen efforts currently underway. It’s depressing reading.

There are obvious things that urgently need to be done but little likelihood they will be done. For example, Congress could pass a law outlawing gerrymandering and protecting voting rights. We needed this months ago and some tentative rumblings in the Senate suggest something might happen, if two Democrats (Manchin and Sinema) can be coaxed to allow an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rule. Manchin is a maybe. Sinema looks like a no. Budget reconciliation rules allow avoiding the filibuster for budget bills, but don’t for something as fundamental as voting rights. But even if it can be done, there will be inevitable court challenges which makes it unlikely it could work in the 2022 election. That something this obvious can’t win the support of fifty Democrats indicates just how pointlessly dogmatic some of these dogmas of the quiet past are.

Make no mistake: Republicans are gunning for one-party control that can’t be changed because they will control the election levers that make it impossible, ending democracy, at least at the national level. It will be like voting in Russia when you know Putin will win because the ballot boxes will be stuffed and anyhow, they will control the ballot boxes. It won’t be true in all states and not all at once, but it will be enough to cement control.

The question then becomes: do Americans put up with it? It’s likely to be moot as when they have the lever of power, the crazies are likely to be in charge, so it will be retribution time. They will go after their political enemies and they will leverage as best they can the full power of the state and the courts to persecute, imprison, maim and kill those they don’t like or feel weren’t nice to them. And if they can’t do it, they will look the other way and let their vigilantes do it for them.

They say you don’t negotiate with terrorists, but Republicans are political terrorists. Bipartisanship is now a myth. Passing voting legislation is a possible way out of this but rest assured even if passed it’s likely to be stricken down by the courts on various pretexts. Even so you can count on hoodlums and vigilantes implementing de-facto Jim Crow laws to ensure whites vote disproportionately.

So essentially it’s unlikely there is any peaceful way to reach a kumbaya moment. Republican voters, egged on by hard right conservative media, won’t allow it. For myself, I hope that Covid-19 and what’s left of a functioning government, along with general disgust by enough people paying attention, that we can turn things around in the 2022 election. The odds are very long, but even if Democrats retain power, Republican states are working relentlessly to stack the deck in 2024.

Hang onto your socks, folks.

Tomorrow’s unfortunate news today

I can see the future! Obviously I’ve made lots of predictions over the years and many of them turned out wrong. And while I can’t say exactly when and how things will happen in the future, I can see the future of the United States easily enough over the next decade or so. Most likely, so can you. And it’s pretty depressing.

You can see it too if you are paying attention. Republicans have given up on democracy. They actually gave up on it decades ago, but they knew the only way to get rid of it was to make it a long term project. And they have. For forty years or so they’ve been chipping away at it and they are likely to win at the project, at least in the short term. One things which is clear: if you think things are crazy now, just wait. It’s going to get much, much crazier.

And so much of this is preventable. It requires two erstwhile Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) to do something they don’t want to do: change Senate filibuster rules so national voting rules can change. Of course, Republicans won’t allow it. Why on earth would they ever vote against the self-interest of their own party?

The most modest proposal by Manchin would simply require all states to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department on their voting rules. This would presumably strip states of the ability to offer fewer polling sites in black and minority neighborhoods. House Democrats want to outlaw partisan gerrymandering, at least in federal elections. But in any event, it’s a dead idea. Even if Manchin agrees to amend filibuster rules in this case, Sinema has expressed no interest. So we’re going into the 2022 and 2024 elections with gerrymandering cranked up to an 11 in Republican states. This means Republicans are almost guaranteed to win back the House in 2022.

It’s abundantly clear that most Americans don’t really care about democracy. For decades Republicans have been stripping most civics classes from school curriculum, so it’s more than possible these now adult voters have only a hazy idea of what democracy is about anyhow. Gerrymandering and voter suppression have been going on for decades, distributing power disproportionately, and it’s left voters unmoved. What they do care about is gas prices and they will hold politicians in power accountable if they get too high. This largely explains Joe Biden’s tanking approval ratings.

Voters also have no patience. They expect everything to be done yesterday. Biden is doing a remarkable job moving legislation through a highly partisan Congress with tiny margins, but they don’t care. They are fixated on prices at the pump. Climate change? They don’t care. Climate change is an existential crisis but they are just trying to get through the day. There is plenty of evidence that voters are already ignoring plenty that Democrats have done for them, like temporary child care tax credits. They don’t see these things; they only see the price of gas at the pump.

Regardless, voting matters little if the results can be easily overturned. These red states are putting partisan hacks in charge of their election systems and are allowing state legislatures to overturn results if they don’t like the results. It’s the sort of election Vladimir Putin would approve of, and it’s coming to the USA. For sure though it will be in place in 2024 when narrowly red states like Georgia simply won’t let its voters have a say if their voters vote for a Democratic president. The state board of electors will assign them to the Republican candidate anyhow.

Once Republicans are in charge, adhering to the rule of law will seem quaint. Trump proved skilled at manipulating the Justice Department. In a future Trump or Republican presidency, the rule of law won’t mean much. In the unlikely event the Supreme Court rules against the administration, that won’t mean much either. President Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears was a direct result of openly defying the Supreme Court on the matter of relocating native Americans. Jackson realized the court’s authority could not be backed up by force. It depends entirely on the integrity of the president, who will have none.

So expect it: law enforcement will become partisan and selective. The president will ignore decisions he doesn’t like. The president will issue executive orders that violate the law and the constitution. With the Congress in Republican hands, and likely to stay there through a corrupt election process, rule of law and justice just become moot. The president does what he wants and we effectively have a Congress that merely salutes the president. It’s coming.

Of course there will be resistance. There will be inevitable court challenges, huge marches and demonstrations, etc. And because they can, law enforcement will get very heavy handed. Not just the National Guard but the entire U.S. military will be used to enforce martial law. And it won’t end there. Inevitably there will be pogroms and systemic retribution and persecution. Anyone who ever spoke up against Republicans will be targets, and you can bet they will include Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and plenty of others. At some point they will probably come for me too.

It’s coming, it’s coming. It’s all so clear and obvious. But it’s not clear to senators Sinema and Manchin, even though this behavior is entirely predictable. They just prefer to live life with blinders on. History will be extremely unkind to them, if it can be written at all. Like so-called Critical Race Theory, the victors won’t allow it and at some point will make truth illegal.

I wish this weren’t going to happen, but I don’t see how it will be stopped. God help us. If you are a praying person, it’s time to pray. And if you’re not, it’s a good reason to pray anyhow because there simply isn’t the political will to do what much be done to save the republic.