Trumpism’s Flying Monkeys

Times are dark, but they will get much darker before the dawn. Even the assumption that there will be a dawn is not a sure bet.

The Republican party was split. A resolution was put forth at their convention to condemn extremism. This was met with boos, scuffles broke out across the floor, and the motion failed. The year was 1964 and the extremists at the time were the KKK, the Communist Party and the John Birch Society. Still, it was a testament to the times that the resolution was even debated; the Republican party of today won’t even acknowledge that they have a problem. There will be no debate about condemning Qanon or Proud Boys or even the Boogaloo Bois. In fact, the titular head of the GOP actively seeks their support.

It began with gerrymandering. A minority party seeking to maintain power after the voters have abandoned them. It worked for a while but as the party base was further eroded it lost its effectiveness. The solution was not to expand its base with a more popular platform, but to double down on extremism and attempt to disenfranchise a sizable number of voters.

Public backlash has not slowed the push to remove the opposition from the voter roles, while Georgia and Texas are getting all of the attention, the movement is occurring in red states across the nation. Even corporate America, longtime stalwart allies of the GOP have registered displeasure with this move.

To maintain minority power, the traditional rails protecting the process must be removed. This is accomplished through reducing trust in the media, education, the election apparatus, and every institution that stands in the way of totalitarian rule by the minority.

To this end, the so-called patriotic party now seeks to end public dissent. This is being done by criminalizing first amendment activities. Florida is currently where this is most apparent where a recently passed law makes protest illegal. Clever with wordology, this is referred to as pro-law enforcement legislation. Yes, the movement that beat a law enforcement officer to death with a flag pole, now seeks to paint itself as protectors of order.

If one were looking for a recipe for converting a functional democracy to a totalitarian state, would it look any different than this?

*Spread conspiracy theories
*Reduce trust in the educated elite
*Vilify the media
*End trust in elections
*Disenfranchise the opposition
*Outlaw dissent

The phrase “useful idiot” is often attributed to Lenin, but was popularized by those on the right to demonize those they disagree with. However, it can be most aptly used to describe those individuals who have adopted the cult of personality surrounding Trumpism. Corporate give-aways, increased pollution, tax cuts for the wealthy few, decreased safety regulations, pardons for war criminals, bragging about rape, inciting violence, a failed virus response, it goes on. But still the useful idiots line up to to support him and his ilk, against their own interests. All he need do is throw them a bone supporting their racist beliefs and promote a fake culture war. These useful idiots are enraged because some state they more than likely have never been to removed the confederate flag, they are enraged that brown people exist, they are enraged that women and blacks seek equality, they are mostly enraged because the man in the suit told them to be.

When it comes to insurrection, sacking the Capital, rioting, etc…, the orange man and his brethren will never get their hands dirty, they will simply send their flying monkeys to do the deed and pay the price. After all, no need to risk anything when you have useful idiots willing to risk everything, for nothing in return. Risk their country, their freedom, their very lives; and get absolutely nothing in return…except contempt.


Student Debt Forgiveness

I plan on voting in the Democratic primary, providing we still have a choice on March 10–a week after super Tuesday.

I will not vote for a candidate who offers across the board student debt forgiveness. This is simple bribery and shows a lack of presidential character. It is also fundamentally unfair. More on that in a minute. First, why are college costs increasing so quickly? Mostly due to cheap and easy student loans, backed by the government. The government handing out “free” money to students made colleges hike fees, increase administrative costs, and generally grow their budgets to absorb all of the money the government is artificially pumping into the system. This has served to push many, otherwise deserving, folks out of the educational system. Government policy created the problem. Want to decrease the costs associated with higher education? Remove the artificial bloat that poor planning has created.

Back to that fairness issue. So, what if your parents worked 2 jobs so that you could go to school debt free? Many do. All the while the neighbor lived profligately, taking vacations, working a single job and saddling their children with debt. Now we are going to bail them out? That is ridiculous.

How about the students that put themselves through college? Working the whole time, their grades suffering because of it. Perhaps taking extra time to get their degree? All to avoid burdensome debt. Compare this to someone who lived off their loans, spent their weekends drinking and lived profligately (there is that word again). Now we are going to reward the second? This is ridiculous (and there is that word again.)

Besides having a loose relationship with the truth, Warren’s debt forgiveness plan rewards the profligate and does not pass the ridiculous test.

Sure, college is expensive and it saddles folks with debt. But the sad fact is that we are a service economy and there are not enough college level jobs for all. So free college is just more government debt, with no real benefit except for rewarding the profligate.

A better plan would be to increase the Pell Grant to make community college free for all. Meanwhile, help fund trade school. And simultaneously start making it more difficult to obtain student loans (these are essentially unsecured debt, no better than credit card debt).

But what about the 1.5+ trillion dollars debt already out there? There can be some forgiveness, but with a cost to the borrower. Enter a field that we struggle with finding enough employees for, get some limited debt forgiveness. Volunteer to work with under-served populations, get some debt forgiveness. Re-locate to an area that needs your skills, get some debt forgiveness.

Got a degree in art history? Get a job at McDonalds and pay your fucking loan back.

We also need to start cracking down on the scofflaws who choose not to pay their debt back. Start taking bank accounts and cars from those who are in arrears.

I cannot consider voting for a candidate that offers bribes for votes. That would be both profligate and ridiculous.

Profligate: recklessly extravagant or wasteful in the use of resources.

Ridiculous: absurd, inviting or deserving of mockery.


Climate Nihilism: Late to the Party

So last night, in a fevered state, I posted a despondent piece about the recent UN climate report. To sum up that rant: we are at the point of no return and we are not acting like a crisis is taking place, the only logical response is to live it up before they burn it up. I dubbed this response climate nihilism.

I woke up this morning to two comments on that post, one on the post itself from a stranger and another in an email from a friend and former housemate. It appears that I am late to the nihilist party and others have seen the writing on the wall for some time.

In last night’s fevered post, wanting to be fair to the climate optimists, I stated that we had made some gains in energy related greenhouse gas emissions. A commenter pointed out that:

[I]t is a fiction that “in the US energy related releases have been on decline.” Manufacturing got outsourced to third world countries, just as Lawrence Summers called for, so that others could suffer and die so that our Happy Meal toys could arrive across the plasticized oceans.

This is surely a good point, any releases in emissions is more than correlated with outsourcing of manufacturing. Consumption has not declined, auto travel has increased, and the easy fixes and outsourcing have been made. This is why US emissions are expected to be flat through 2050. This is why 4 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures are inevitable by century’s end.

In an email, someone commented that others are surely suffering from climate nihilism, he used Arnold Schwarzenegger as an example. Driving his humvee to a private airport to board his private jet to fly half way around the world to rail at us about climate change. If this isn’t nihilism, then what is it?

I want to add one more example of climate nihilism to this emerging puzzle. I use my local city as an example, not to single it out, but simply as an example of how business as usual is hastening our path to that 4 degree increase in temperature. There are nearly 300 cities in the US with population exceeding 100,000, and over 4,000 of them globally. So take this example and multiply it 4,000 fold. I use my local city as an example only because it is the one that I am most familiar with.

Back in June our city adopted a Climate Action and Adaptation plan. The plan calls for a 17 fold increase in public transit usage by 2035 and a 40 fold increase by 2050. Sounds good right? But here is the kicker, the very same week that they voted to adopt the plan, they also moved to further gut our already gutted public transit system. So, simultaneously stating that we are going to increase public transit by a fantastical amount while slashing public transit and all of this while a massive expansion of our airport is ongoing. Once again we can ask, if this isn’t nihilism, then what is it? I am pretty sure that at least 6 of the 7 city representatives would agree that climate change is an existential threat.

Now multiply this by all the places, all over the world, where similar things are taking place.

Lets project forward, we have already raised temperatures nearly 1 degree and we are seeing floods and droughts and storms and decreased farm output and all manner of effects. Two degrees isn’t just going to be twice as bad, it may very well be 10 times as bad or worse. And it has become clear that we will not move to stop it at 2 degrees. Then we have potential runaway effects, permafrost melting and releasing all the trapped methane, ice caps disappearing and reflecting less heat, increased water vapor trapping more heat, etc. If we stopped emissions today, it still may not be enough. And we are not going to stop emissions, while we are making some progress toward slowing the increase, every year sets a new record in the amount of emissions.

So as I awaken to climate nihilism, I also find that I am quite late to the party.

Climate Nihilism

This post was prompted by the release of the 2019 Emissions Gap Report put out by the UN recently.

It does not matter one whit what we do individually, we are fucked. Collectively there is a slim chance that we could save ourselves, but we are nowhere near meaningful collective action. And we are fast running out of time.

It has been common knowledge all of my adult life that climate change is real, and that if we want to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius that we must drastically cut emissions. Regardless of who has been in office, we have not made meaningful cuts. We are already half way to that 2 degree threshold.

According to the recently released UN report, we must achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to stay within the 2 degree temperature rise. To achieve this we would need to cut global emissions by 7.6% per year starting in 2020. No one believes this is going to happen. Sure it is doable, but it will not happen.

80% of all releases globally are by the 20 most industrialized countries (G20). The remaining 175 countries release only 20% of emissions. This is a first world problem, we created it, we perpetuate it.

Here in the US, energy related releases have been in decline. But this decline is now being offset by increases in transportation related releases. Between 2000 and 2017 we made incremental improvements, but that has now stopped. Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to remain constant through 2050.

I don’t know if any of the climate deniers actually disbelieve the science or if they just say they don’t to pay homage to the ever expanding market. What I do know is that many who profess belief in global climate change are either lying or are outright evil. If those with power believed in catastrophic climate change would they be continuing to promote consumption and growth at any cost? Would they be building even more roads and airports? Or would they be pushing for a vast increase in mass transportation?

80% of emissions come from electric power, transportation and industry. While the remaining 20% are from agriculture, residential, and commercial. So even if we all made drastic personal lifestyle changes and reduced our personal impact by as much as half, it would not be close to being enough. Our elected officials fiddle while the planet burns, and no amount of personal responsibility will make a difference.

The only rational response at this point is nihilism, our personal choices are meaningless. I find this sad and troubling. But just because it is sad and troubling does not negate the fact that it is indubitably true.

I Hope Tulsi Gabbard Runs 3rd Party

I would vote for her.

Last election I sat it out.  Of course I found Trump abhorrent. However, Clinton’s record was terrible. From years of scandal to advocating war in Libya, she left a lot to be desired. Probably the deciding factor in deciding not to vote for Clinton was her touting the support of Henry Kissinger, America’s most despicable destroyer of human rights.

Tolstoy taught me that choosing the lesser of 2 evils is still choosing evil. I voted for Bill Clinton his first term, he bombed Iraq within hours of taking office. I have not chosen evil since then.

I find the 3 leaders of the Democratic pack to be too old for the presidency. The two oldest presidents ever were Reagan and Trump, both of whom showed marked mental deterioration while in office. Warren, Biden, and Sanders all would be older than either of these two when taking office. I like Mayor Pete, if he is the nominee I would vote for him.

However, even with a large field of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, only one is anti-war, Tulsi Gabbard. Ending American Empire is my single biggest issue, no other candidate has come close to addressing it.

This is not to say that Gabbard is a perfect candidate. But she has not promoted the extra-Constitutional overreach of executive power, she supports all of the Bill of Rights, and she genuinely seems interested in drawing down American Empire.

For those reasons I would not hesitate to cast a 3rd party vote for her. I can think of no stronger message to send to the criminal duopoly parties that business as usual must end. I feel strongly enough about it that I would do so, even at the risk of giving Trump a second term.

Conspiracy, anyone?

Hey, can you handle one more vape post?

What I’ve found here, with the help of Wikipedia, is a news articles that tells us pretty clearly where the ongoing crackdown on vaping is coming from.

June 24, 2014 Yahoo financial posted:

The rapid growth of electronic cigarette sales poses a rising but under-appreciated risk to holders of as much as $96 billion of bonds tied to payments tobacco companies make to U.S. states from a sweeping legal settlement in 1998.

Cigarette consumption has dropped an annual average 3.4 percent since 2000 while many bonds were structured to withstand consumption declines of only 2 to 3 percent.

[A]s smokers swap traditional cigarettes for tobacco-free e-cigarettes and other vaping products, the smoking rate is declining even faster and analysts now predict some bonds could go into default before the end of this decade.

Last year, cigarette shipments dropped by 4.9 percent, the biggest decline since the government passed a federal excise tax in 2009, a drop some blame on the rising popularity of the industry’s new tobacco-free alternatives, such as e-cigarettes.

Wells Fargo Securities predicts the pace at which consumers switch from traditional cigarettes to e-vapor alternatives will surge in the coming years. It estimates that sales volumes for traditional cigarettes in the U.S. will decline by 68 percent over the next 10 years, while vapor cigarette sales will soar by more than 13-fold in the same period.

I live in Missouri, we get $130 million annually, we don’t try to stop smoking and the funds go straight into the state’s general fund. I can’t find any info on if the state sold bonds based on future income from the settlement.

According to the American Lung Association, Missouri takes in $259 million per year in tobacco blood money. That is money from the tobacco settlement and taxes on tobacco. How much does the state spend out-of-pocket on tobacco control? $48,500.

The point being, that our state budget depends on people continuing to smoke cigarettes, and we are not doing much to slow it down. Vaping is a threat to our state budget, just as it is in every state.

So when the Feds or your state move to slow the uptake of vape alternatives to smoking, remember it has nothing to do with health and everything to do with maintaining a smoking pool to keep the revenue flowing. They will appeal to emotion and wail that it is for the children, but that is a red herring, it has everything to do with money.

Black market thc cartridges are the cause of the recent vaping deaths, but government can’t help but use it as an excuse to slow the spread of a nicotine replacement that is 80 to 98% less harmful that smoking.

I’m not usually inclined toward conspiracy theories, but following the money generally points you in the right direction

Vape Flavor Ban: Got Hypocrisy?

Half a dozen mostly young folks died from vaping black-market marijuana derivatives, another nearly 400 are sickened. The government responds by planning to ban fruit and desert flavored nicotine vape liquids, a product that has nothing to do with the illness at hand. The government, as it so often does, lies to achieve its agenda. Democrat or Republican or independent, they are all corrupted by government (power). From NIDA’s years of lying about the dangers of marijuana use, they have no credibility. Those are the people who used to claim that marijuana was as bad as heroin (This is your brain on drugs.)

The government claims to be actually motivated by the surge in youth vaping, but this too is a bullshit lie. Let’s take a look at some official numbers, I am going to use CDC numbers because we have already established that NIDA has zero credibility. According to the CDC 21% of high school students have vaped nicotine in the past 30 days. Also according to the CDC, 30% of high school students have drank alcohol in the past 30 days. Fifty percent more teens have drank in the past 30 days than have vaped.

So the government feels compelled to prevent adults from substituting tobacco with fruit flavored vaping to save the children. That is also why fruit flavored alcohol is being removed from the market.

Well, actually it’s not.

There is a new class of alcohol that is all the rage among young people, hard seltzer. I heard on NPR a marketer claiming that young people like it because it has low calories and no carbs. And it comes in those same fruity flavors that vape liquids do, you know those ones that we have to ban to save the children. Scroll through these images, and let me know if you think they are being targeted at adults. And that isn’t even delving into the world of hard sodas with such adult flavors as Root Beer and Orange Cream, or the candy flavored liquors, or the thousand other alcohol products targeting youth.

5000 youth die each year from drinking and driving, one third of them during prom season. Why is fruity liquor that appeals to these kids on the market? Six young adults die from vaping adulterated cannabis, the government jumps into action and bans fruit flavored nicotine vape juice.

Half a million people die from smoking related illness every year, but government is too addicted to the regressive taxation to do anything about it. 5000 youth die in alcohol related traffic accidents every year, once again the government could care fuck less about kids, they are addicted to the regressive taxation. Six young adults die from contaminated pot, “oh, the children we must do something about vaping.” Got hypocrisy?

I am off tobacco for going on 2 years, thanks to vaping. I had a 2 pack a day habit for 35 years. Smoking killed both my parents. I vape flavors like: Paradise Queen Pineapple, Cartoons, Lotus, Heretic, etc… Yeah, this is fucking personal.

Allow me to let you in on a secret, whenever an elected official states that “it is for the children”, it translates to they have no good reason so they resort to the fallacy of appeal to emotion. They have lost the argument the moment they utter those words. Unfortunately, government is not enforced by logic, but by power.

So if and when the flavor ban happens, I am going to keep vaping fruity and desert flavors; the government has no authority to tell me otherwise as long as tobacco and alcohol are on the market. I have choices, I can make my own vape juice, I can order juice from China, or I can buy it on the black market. Two out of those three choices have a  high likelihood of being adulterated; the very thing that the government is claiming to protect me from. But, think of the children!

Got hypocrisy?

Wither Public Transit

Last night I spoke at a budget hearing at my local city’s council. I spoke in favor of a budget amendment to re-apportion a regressive tax to provide more of the revenue to the most needy in our city. It would have taken money from the airport and given the revenue to our public transit system, the airport shortfall would have been made up with a nominal $3/day parking fee at the airport (currently free).

In preparation I thought I would have 5 minutes to speak, so I prepared a 4.5 minute statement. When I arrived I discovered I only had 3 minutes, so I had to butcher my statement. So I thought I would go ahead and post it here.

However, before I do, I should state that the amendment failed dismally. Our “progressive” council is only as progressive as the moneyed interests that fund them. Half a dozen people spoke in favor of the amendment, most of them much more elegantly than myself, I don’t think anyone spoke against it.

During the vote some council members spoke in favor of a transportation task force, this is what is known as kicking the can down the road. A task force is what a government body does when it doesn’t want to do anything but wants the appearance of being concerned. It should be noted that the council did not set up a task force, they only spoke in favor of one; this is an even more vacuous move.

With that said, here is the statement that I prepared:

Mayor, council, thank you for this opportunity to speak tonight.

I am here tonight to speak in favor of Councilman Thomas’ plan to re-apportion the transportation tax in order to increase funding for public transportation. The money taken from the airport in this plan would be made up with a nominal airport parking fee.

This plan would not solve the problem with the chronic underfunding of public transportation, but it would be a first step in providing a public transportation system that works. It would also be a good faith move by this council to show that transportation is important for all of us.

There is a causality dilemma that we are all aware of, it is usually referenced as what came first, the chicken or the egg? For struggling people in Columbia, without a workable public transit system, we need to ask what comes first, the job or the car? If you are carless in Columbia, for all intents and purposes you are also jobless. You can’t get a car because you have no money and you can’t get a job because you have no car. Fortunately, unlike the chicken or the egg dilemma, this dilemma is solvable, all it takes is resolve and leadership by this body.

The Mayor’s commission on climate change issued its report a few months ago, right as the city was cutting bus service, while no one mentioned the irony at the time, it was apparent for anyone willing to see.

Columbia should receive accolades for having a Climate Action Plan and for having a Social Equity Plan, but planning and setting up commissions is cheap, and in the end, without action, they are meaningless. A working transit system is a small step toward fighting climate change. A working transit system is a small step toward bringing about social equity. Tonight, you are blessed with the opportunity to take that small step.

Columbia has some of the worst social upward mobility in the nation. If you are born into poverty in Columbia, you can expect nothing better than to die in poverty; this is unacceptable to me and it should be unacceptable to you. A working transit system is a small step toward righting this wrong. And, as I said, you are blessed with the opportunity to take that step tonight.

Our current transit system does not serve probation and parole, the very people who need it most. It does not serve Welcome Home, the homeless veteran’s shelter. The list of who is not served by our transit system is long, and I will not waste any more of your time listing it now, suffice it to say that it includes the neediest of us.

I am told that there is not money to fix the bus system, I say, no! It is not money that we lack but will. When the state needs 2 million dollars for a bridge 20 miles away from Columbia, the money is there. When the airport needs half a million dollars in emergency repairs, the money is there. But we are told we can’t afford a working transit system? Once again, it is not money that we lack, but will. It is time that a transit system that works for the least of us is made a priority, all it takes is leadership from this group. And I ask you, if you did not run for office planning to bring leadership to the city, why did you even bother?

For all of these reasons, I urge you to pass the budget amendment, and let that be just the first small step in righting the wrong that is Columbia’s public transit system.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight, and Mr. Thomas, I thank you for taking the lead in righting a wrong that has gone on for far too long.

I tried to embed a video of The Daily Show ridiculing the pseudo-progressive nature of our local government, but I could not make it work. So here is a link.

Multiple Victims of Militarized Police

Yesterday the local police ran over and killed a 4 year old who was on the sidewalk of a local high school. It is a terrible thing for everyone involved.

The little girl’s parents are obviously devastated, losing a child will have life long impact. One can only imagine their grief, something no parent should go through.

The officer who inadvertently ran over the little girl is also a victim. She must now live the rest of her life with this on her conscience. Imagine that you had to live with the knowledge that you had snuffed the life out of an innocent child.

Here is news coverage of the accident incident.
Here is the Highway Patrol’s initial accident crash report.

The child, her parents, the officer–all victims.

So who is to blame?

I would argue that the blame should rests with the decline in police officer standards and the militarization of the police. Before we continue, watch the following short video.

This video features the officer involved. There are a few things that can be gleaned from the video.

First, she is very petite. When faced with an adversary, say a drunken college student, her only option is a weapon with the potential for serious injury or death. The officer then becomes judge, jury and executioner solely due to falling police standards. This isn’t to argue against female police, simply to state that there should be some minimal standards for police, male or female. At the 2 minute mark of the video notice her gait, not only is she small but she has a physical handicap.

Second, even though we live in a city, the police insist on driving SUVs, and very large ones at that. Every single police car on our streets is an interceptor with built in battering rams. It is not mountainous here, there are no forest service trails to patrol; hell, we don’t even have dirt roads. There isn’t a rational reason why the police all need to drive giant SUVs (except, of course, to project dominance over the populace.) At the 15 second mark of the above video it is clearly evident that the officer can’t see over the hood of the vehicle.

And that in short is why a little girl is dead today. The militarization of the police is to blame. They insist on driving tanks in the city, WTF? Add to that the fact that the police have become adversaries of the general public, basically enemies of the people. No one sane wants to be cop, police departments are left to hire anyone they can, whether qualified or not.

So it was this woman’s dream to be a cop. Ask her today, if given a choice, would she have rather been told that she did not qualify physically to join the police or have to live with this child’s death on her conscience for the rest of her life which she would choose. I can only imagine that she would rather have been politely declined for the position.

The time has come for the police to get back in the business of protecting and serving the community. Until that happens they will struggle for recruits and terrible things like this little girl’s death will continue. It would be great if Columbia could be the start of that change.

On Patriotism

The Washington Post has an opinion piece up today called “Don’t let the nationalists steal patriotism.”

It is garbage.

Patriotism is nationalism and nationalism is patriotism and they are both unmitigated evil.

Patriotism is what we have while nationalism is what “they” have, we view one as being somehow different than the other. Yet, despite our contortions, they are synonyms.

I am simply going to wrap this up early with a few quotes from Tolstoy on patriotism.

This is the opening paragraph from Tolstoy’s 1894 essay “On Patriotism:”

Patriotism today is the cruel tradition of an outlived period, which exists not merely by its inertia, but because the governments and ruling classes, aware that not their power only, but their very existence, depends upon it, persistently excite and maintain it among the people, both by cunning and violence.

Later in the essay he writes:

Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable signification is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason, and conscience, and a slavish enthrallment to those in power. And as such it is recommended wherever it is preached.

He follows that with a simple statement:

Patriotism is slavery.

In the same essay, he continues:

[P]eace between nations cannot be attained by reasonable means, by conversations, by arbitration, as long as the subordination of the people to the government continues, a condition always unreasonable and always pernicious. But the subordination of people to governments will exist as long as patriotism exists, because all governmental authority is founded upon patriotism, that is, upon the readiness of people to subordinate themselves to authority in order to defend their nation, country, or state from dangers which are supposed to threaten.

Elsewhere he wrote:

Tell people that war is an evil, and they will laugh; for who does not know it? Tell them that patriotism is an evil, and most of them will agree, but with a reservation. “Yes,” they will say, “wrong patriotism is an evil; but there is another kind, the kind we hold.” But just what this good patriotism is, no one explains.

Until patriotism is recognized as the evil that it is, we will always have war. And con-men and charlatans will continue to take advantage of us.