Category Archives: 2024 Election

Is The US On The Verge Of A Civil War: Yes, apparently

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How Civil Wars Start* and how to stop them” is a new book by Barbara Walter. Not Barbara Walters, Barbara Walter.

I quote from recent WaPo article:

“[There is a] scale that goes from negative 10 to positive 10. Negative 10 is the most authoritarian, so think about North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. Positive 10 are the most democratic. This, of course, is where you want to be. This would be Denmark, Switzerland, Canada. The U.S. was a positive 10 for many, many years. It’s no longer a positive 10. And then it has this middle zone between positive 5 and negative 5, which was you had features of both. … scholars found was that this …variable was really predictive of a risk for civil war. That full democracies almost never have civil wars. Full autocracies rarely have civil wars. All of the instability and violence is happening in this middle zone. “

The US is in or near the middle zone.

This idea makes a lot of sense. This appears to be a must read book.


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Justice will be slow for the Republican crooks.

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On February 14th, 2018, Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people and wounded another 17, at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. According to reports. Alleged, not proven. Yet.

The fourth anniversary of this horrific event, which had absolutely zero impact on gun related policy or legislation because we live in a country where the slaughter of innocents is a day to day event that we expect and do not care about, at the level of government (stop pretending that we might, folks, just admit who we are) will occur a few weeks before Cruz’s trial starts.

Filmed, countless witnesses. It happened. He did it (sue me, Cruz). But the judicial process goes so slowly that the dead children would have been in their early 20s (or almost so) had he not killed them, by the time sentence is passed on this murderer.

When we ask why the Department of Justice has not thrown the Trump Gang into prison yet, we might remind ourselves that justice is as slow as molasses. We might also note that this is in large part by design. We are supposed to have expedient justice, but the system allows the accused to put on the brakes at many points. Trump and his gang have the clout to pump the brakes so many times that a simple procedure can take six months. A mass murder suspect apparently has similar abilities. Other trials are started sooner. Duante Wright was murdered by a Brooklyn Center police officer on April 11 2021, and Officer Potter was convicted just a few days ago, all within one year. George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25th, 2020, and convicted almost exactly one year later, though other defendants in that case still await trial.

So big bad things can take a year to reach a settlement, or they can take 4 years. We are coming up on 2 years for the start of full on investigation of the Trump Gang, which we assume was hampered during the entire period of the Trump Dictatorship. So maybe we should start seeing results (or more results, there have been a few results) soon.

I’m not complaining, I’m just calibrating. Specifically, I’m making this point: When you vote randomly, or vote for the nutbag (like Trump, but there are others) just to “shake things up” or show the people in Washington a thing or two, you help condemn the rest of us to a potentially very long slog of ruination and distress, which does not actually end when the rest of us finally throw the bum out. It keeps going much longer, because the wheels of justice turn slowly.

The Watergate Plumbers, who had been involved in numerous nefarious and illegal activities for years, got caught breaking into the Democratic Party national headquarters on June 17th, 1972. Convictions of key players happened between 1974 and 1975, with court procedings continuing into 1976 (but not convictions). About 20 Republcian bad guys went to jail or were fined. Nixon, the mastermind behind all of it, resigned in August 1974, two years after the break-in but probably six years or so after the first nefarious acts by his gang, but other than a forced retirement he was never punished, but was rather pardoned by one of his Republican buddies. So the time scale of justice for Watergate runs from 2 to 6 years, depending on which illegal act and which act of justice one uses to calibrate.

Iran-Contra happened during the reign of Republican strongman Reagan. The illegal acts started in or around 1981, peaked around 1985, revealed in November 1986. There were subsequent indictments, but in the end everybody was pardoned by other members of the Republican gang. So the time scale on Iran-Contra is: No justice ever, but there coulda been on about a two to five year time scale had the whole thing not been pushed under the Republican Rug.

There have actually been hundreds of federal level scandals, many involving illegal activities, and the time scale tends to be about a few years from discovery to rug-lift-and-sweep, or in some cases, just resolution. Longer if the scandal is made up.

Again: When you vote for a bone-headed right winger, you are guaranteed to be contributing to the start of some nefarious activity or another, followed by much gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth by all of us, all because you are a voting moron. If you vote for the Green Party in a tight race, any third party, or for the bad guy just to show ’em, you are being a voting moron. If you don’t know that the trouble you help cause will go on for years, and may in some cases never be resolved, you are voting moron. And if you defend the voting morons because you can’t do electoral arithmetic, you are worse than that.

The moral of the many stories: 1) Be patient with the system of justice but also 2) don’t be an idiot when you go to vote.


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One Person No Vote: Listen to Carol Anderson et al

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My new favorite podcast is Now & Then, with Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman (formerly one of the “American History Guys”).

Several issues back, Richardson and Freeman invited Carol Anderson, author of One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy* to talk about voting suppression.

On this episode of Now & Then, “Voting Rights: The Big Picture,” Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman talk about the history of voter suppression with Carol Anderson, professor of African American Studies at Emory University and author of One Person No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy and The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America. The trio discuss the concept of the “consent of the governed” during the founding period, the emergence of Jim Crow laws after the Civil War, and the evolution of voting suppression efforts in the modern era. How have politicians justified restrictive voting policies? How do these policies damage American democracy? And what strategies might protect the franchise today?

The podcast is here.

One of the great features of Now & Then is that the hosts spend a lot of time running up to the body of the work laying down foundations and drawing in context. Very Maddowesque. But for this reason the podcast can have a slow start. In this episode, it takes a while for Carol Anderson to get the mic and start her thing, but once she does you will be blow away, even if you thought you knew stuff about voter suppression (and voting rights, not the same thing).


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Yes, CRT is being taught in our schools, if this is CRT:

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Everyone knows that CRT, aka, Critical Race Theory, is a law school or graduate level subject that is not taught in American K-12 classrooms. More precisely, and I quote Wikipedia, “Critical race theory (CRT) is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the intersection of race and law in the United States and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice.”

Everyone also knows that when Right Wing Goons, Contaminants, and Bloody Insurrectionists talk about CRT they are not actually talking about the law school class. They are using CRT to refer to things that are actually being taught in KL-12 schools, that they don’t want taught there. Continue reading Yes, CRT is being taught in our schools, if this is CRT:


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The Third Worlding

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One day I returned home and realized I had forgotten the shampoo. It was a devastating revelation.

You are probably thinking, “First World problem,” right? Well, it wasn’t because at the time I was living in the actual co-called “Third World.*”

Home, for me at the time, was one of the most remote non-polar research sites ever. “Going to the store” meant driving across nearly impassible roads for a day, a ride that would cause enough damage to the old Land Rover to require some $500 of repair on average. Then a few days in a sort of city (Isiro, Zaire) where I would spend considerable effort assembling the food and other supplies for a stint as long as I could manage, hopefully 4 to 6 weeks. Basically, as much as the old Land Rover could hold. Then, the trip back. So, going to the store was a week out of my research time, costly, and dangerous (because of the roads).

I had taken a shower the morning of my return to the field, at my friend Bwana Ndgege’s house, and left the shampoo in the bathroom. Yes, devastating.

What I did not know at the time was this. Later that very morning, Bwana Nndege saw the bottle of shampoo in the bathroom. He picked it up and walked out in front of his house, which was located in a part of the city where one might see people waking around on their daily business, but not too many people. Shortly, he saw a man walking down the street, and hailed him over. Bwana Ndege did not know this man.

“Say, do you happen to know the researchers that live in Ngodingodi, a research village down the road past Wamba, on the Mambasa road?”

“There is still a road there?” the man asked.

“Truth be told, not really a road any more, but they go town there with their land rover. The blue one with the different color doors. Know it?”

“No, not really, never heard of any of this,” the man answered.

So, Bwana Ndege handed him the shampoo, and said, “Well, anyway, could you pass this on to someone who might? They left it here this morning.”

“OK, no problem,” the man said, taking the shampoo.

Now, I should mention, that the good people of the Eastern Congo are averse to crime, and are honest. There are, of course, criminals there just like anywhere else, but such is not your average Zairois. At the same time, a bottle of shampoo is a commodity people save up for, feel lucky to have, and desire. Handing this man the bottle of shampoo with only the vaguest instructions or prospects like this would be similar to finding a random person on the street of an American city and handing them a short stack of loose ten dollar bills and asking them to pass it on to someone who might pass it on to someone etc. with the hope that it gets to a city 500 miles away, and to a particular vague address. It just would not work.

So what happened next?

About three weeks after I returned, sans shampoo, I was up in the hilltop research camp working on some notes, when I smelled something different. I asked one of the local people who worked there what that might be. She sniffed the air, and said, “Maybe the nomads?”

There is a local tribe called the Bahama (or Wahama, or just Hama) who rarely pass through with their small herds of cattle. Cattle don’t live in this forest, and can’t survive the parasites, but a couple/few times a year, a Hama man will pass through with a couple dozen head. Probably, some circumstance in his life and business makes passing through a zone where some of his cattle will get sick better than going some other route. One can imagine.

Anyway, she was right. The smell was the cattle coming down the road. We stood on the top of the hill and watched as a couple of dozen long horned Sanga cattle passed by, followed by a few straggling calves and a Hama man driving them. He glanced up the hill and saw me, which caused him to sprint up the path and issue a greeting.

Sanga Cattle. Not the Congo, but nearby Rwanda. From Wilson, RT, “Crossbreeding of Cattle in Africa” DOI: 10.15640/jaes.v7n1a3
“Hey, what’s new?” (Standard greeting in the area: “Habari gani?”)

“No news,” I replied. I asked our local employee to get the water bottle and cup, assuming he wanted a fresh drink. Which he did.

As he appreciatively downed the liquid, he asked me, “Is this Ngodigodi? The place where you white people work?”

“Yes, it is,” I replied, bemused that he would know that, since our presence was semi-secretive, in order to avoid drawing attention to our neighborhood, which would in turn potentially mess up the folks who lived around us.

That’s when he pulled out the bottle of shampoo and handed it to me. “Some guy up the road a ways told me to give this to you.”

In sum: First world problem and third world solution.

The thing is, this was not an unusual event. It was normal.

Well, it was a somewhat extreme and amusing, story-generating version of normal. Normal is more like I go to a guy’s store and say I want to exchange money, and he says he can’t but he knows someone who can, and it turns out that is also the guy I’m hoping to get a rebuilt fuel injector from, and he is the sibling of a person who is offering bags of ground cassava for pretty cheap, but they all live in different places but are visiting relatives, and somebody needs a ride across town. Three people, actually, with stops along the way. So, after three hours of driving around with people and stuff, three hours of meeting and greeting, counting out giant piles of near worthless local currency, goods and services being exchanged, a couple cups of tea and a chupa of beer or two, and at the end of the day, I end up completing an important bank transaction in the land without banks, my truck will get fixed, and we can eat for a month, all stuff I would have done in the US in less than 45 minutes, but here, it is a series of social events bound together with a ToDo list, and a full day’s activity.

Yesterday morning my wife stopped at her usual coffee shop to pick up the coffee she ordered in advance on line. The barista’s kid was sick so he was not there, and the shop was closed. But the person working at the adjoining business said, “yeah, he’s out, but I’ll tell him you get a free coffee tomorrow.” Then this morning, she stopped by and a third person who also did not work there said, “are you the person who gets the free crafted press? Here, saving it for you” and so on. A series of trust-based events to fix a supply chain problem, a supply chain problem that is an amateur version of the Big Giant Supply Chain Problem that every human being who lives anywhere that is not the First World experiences daily with all things, where it is simply the way it is, all the time.

A supply chain problem in the US could be called a First World problem, but really, it is something a little different. It is the thin but heretofore persistent veneer of the First World sloughing off in a spot or two, revealing the fundamental Third World nature of human society and economics, underneath it all. The great First World accomplishment is re-organizing the Third World reality so things run more smoothly and everything takes less time. The benefit is that a term like “supply chain problem” is a bemusing neologism rather than a daily descriptor for most Americans. The cost is the dehumanization of the system.

The Republicans broke one of our oldest, most stable, and most useful institutions.
Just hours after the coffee exchange, I happened to see in a newspaper report another neologism: Skimpflation. The New York Times muses: “The quality of many services has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic — a problem that the NPR show “Planet Money” has labeled “skimpflation.”” What the Gray Lady and its commentators do with this concept is to launch on a Biden-Leveling screed meant to keep the fight between the left and the right even-looking, which is a crime that paper commits every day. But what they hit on, accidentally, is the point I’m making here. Two points, really. 1) Third World life is just under the surface, and 2) If you get your expectations in order, this change we are having has some serious benefits; it isn’t all down side.

There is a third point. This is all Trump’s fault. And the Republicans. By ripping apart as many systems as they could, and by encouraging rather than fighting the Covid pandemic, they damaged or broke all the things that matter to most of the people, while leaving the rich intact. We are now more like Zaire/Congo than we ever were. (Like our postal system, on the verge of collapse. Many countries don’t even have a postal system. They just have this guy who happens to be walking down the street, or a muzungu with a working vehicle who happens to be going across town…) The Republican goal is to turn the US into a sea of Third World humanity with the supply chain ever broken, with a small wealthy and somewhat larger and less wealthy ex-patriot-esque community living behind walls in some serious priv. That is what Republicans always wanted, that is what they are finally getting.

The world where that story of shampoo happened unraveled, several times, in the intervening period between then and now. Hundreds of thousands have died violent deaths there, or worse, and there was even a systematic holocaust. A region about a third of the United States with a population of about a fifth of the United States has been living in economic strife and social upheaval because that top-heavy post colonial system eventually blows up. We will have that here as well, if the Third Worlding planned by Bannon, Trump, McConnell and the other Republicans is fully realized.

We could be rescued, of course, by a fascist superhero of some kind. Yes, this is Hitler’s playbook being applied. It is a very plausible scenario. Fear creates a movement, spiritual and physical terror, propaganda. Or, as they say in Mein Kampf, “Angst schafft Bewegung, spirituellen und physischen Terror, Propaganda.” Hitler’s program worked because Germany of the time was a broken society with a broken economy and a balkanized government. The White Supremacist program wouldn’t work well in an America that wasn’t beaten and damaged. Lucky for the Republicans, this handy dandy disease came along just in time to put us on the mat and hold us down long enough to create the beginnings of a Third World society, in which a movement could grow, spiritual and physical terror could be applied, and propaganda deployed. MAGA, insurrection, CRT/Replacement Theory.

Perhaps it is time to start stocking up on shampoo.


Note: The term “Third World” is considered inappropriate to refer to countries previously referred to as “Third World.” Untwist your shorts, I did not use that term to mean that in this essay. Thank you very much, re-read if necessary.


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Tick Tock GOP

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I mention these things in answer to a recent question, “what if Trump runs again.” The actual question is, “Can you run for President if you are in prioson?” I’m not really sure what the answer to the question is. Every few days, or at least, every week or so, another penny drops, or perhaps, another straw is added to the back, of the camel, as we march steadily if overly metaphorically towards the day Trump is indicted. There is plenty of time for cases to be built, trials to be held, sentencing to be handed out. He will be in a prison cell before the Republican National Convention. That will either be the end of Trump as a politician, or if the Republican Party actually nominates him as their Presidential Candidate while he is serving a number of years in the stir, it will be the end of said party. Or, if he is nominated, and wins, it will be the end of the subject of that famous quip by Ben Franklin.

Joel Greenberg has plead (or, perhaps, pleaded) guilty of sex trafficking of a minor. Joel is Congressperson Matt Gaetz (Republican, as if you needed to be told that) who is said to be implicated in such sex trafficking as well.

A plea like this sometimes comes a part of a deal to turn on a bigger fish. Such as a member of Congress. Congressperson Gaetz is said to be under investiation as to whether he violated lays by having sex with the aforementioned sex trafficked minor. According to the New York Times,

Mr. Greenberg did not implicate Mr. Gaetz by name in court papers filed by prosecutors in Federal District Court in Orlando. But Mr. Greenberg admitted that he “introduced the minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts” with her, according to the documents, and that he was sometimes present. The others were not named.

Jut in on Twitter (hat tip Kyle Griffin): “A banner plane has been flying over the courthouse in Florida with a sign that reads, ‘Tick Tock Matt Gaetz’.”

Mr. Greenberg, who has been meeting with prosecutors for at least five months, has told investigators that Mr. Gaetz had sex with the girl and knew that she was being paid, according to a person briefed on the inquiry.

Mr. Gaetz has repeatedly denied any … [bla bla bla]

Federal officials raided the home and office of Trump’s lawyer, Rudolf Giuliani, a few weeks ago. Today, there is some court action on this case. We hear that Giuliani is begging for money and other help from Trump. If Trump helps Giuliani, it would be the first known instance of Trump helping someone. If Giuliani is in big trouble, which may well be the case, and Trump refuses to help him which may well be the case, the Giuliani, a man very experienced at the art of the deal where the deal is with a Federal prosecutor, may well be the case that Giuliani “flips.” Not talking about pancakes.

Meanwhile, the United States House of Representatives is about to consider (and vote on?) starting an investigation of the Big Lie Insurrection of 1/6.


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