When I was a kid, I got in trouble (a couple of times, but there was this one time…) In truth, I had done nothing wrong, but I got caught up in a drug deal I had nothing to do with. The damaging evidence was planted by the police (I witnessed that and reported it to my public defense lawyer, who told me that’s how it works). In public, the judge was judgmental and stern, but reasonably well behaved. But there was a moment where I was sentenced, unofficially, to get a stern talking to by him in his chambers, instead of a severe actual sentence. In his chambers, he was a pompous ass. He stood to pace in his opulent office while lecturing me, and decided to re-tie his perfectly tied shoe. When he lifted his foot up to the seat of a chair, his robe fell open, and exposed … the handgun strapped to his leg. What an ass.
A couple of other times, such as in an unemployment dispute for example, the judge was an ass. In my life I learned that low level judges tend to be assholes. Perhaps that is my bad luck and not truly representative, but my experience shapes my opinion. I’ve never had the pleasure of standing in court, or in chambers, before a higher level judge. Maybe the higher level judges are not assholes, who knows.
When the right wing Trump/McConnell stacked supreme court ruined the Constitution and started America on its retraction of human rights long held and hard fought for, a lot of people were surprised. I think everyone expected the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, but I’m not sure most people expected them to lay out a road map for the retraction of most personal rights, which would be a necessary condition for the deployment of a full-on fascist government led in two years from now by Donald Trump, the real estate robber baron. (With the Proud Boys as his palace guard and Q-Anon as his brown shirts.) But I wasn’t that surprised, because I already knew that the judicial branch at the lowest levels had more assholes than the Russian Army.
Why do we revere our judicial branch? Our criminal justice system is unjust and has been for the entire history of this country. The judicial branch has been run by judges this entire time. Seems to me like this makes judges, by and large, even those with nice personalities, essentially assholes.
The most widely disseminated and widely listened to opinions about how judges are worthy of praise, trustworthy, important centers of civilization, etc, come from lawyers. Lawyers are self selected, then further culled by law school, many if not most spend almost no time in the presence of judges, so there is a great deal of further selection among them that do. Those litigators are a subset of people further subsetted, further subsetted, further subsetted, to work with, appreciate, and live by virtue of the existence of … judges. So of course lawyers say of judges what fish mongers may say of fish. Meanwhile there are fish that are complete assholes, and there are judges that are complete assholes. More, percentage-wise, judges than fish, I would judge.
The Republican Revolution is the takeover of our legislative branches by assholes. Started with Gingrich, continuing today, and with Trump, likely joined soon enough by the Executive branch. If and when Trump wins the presidency in a couple of years, and the Senate and House go Extremist Asshat, like is about to happen according to some polling, the executive branch and the legislative branch will join the judicial branch to become a trifecta of imperfection, a triumvirate of terror, a trinity of self-centered fascist demagogues.
One could argue that the judicial branch has been most of the way there all along, and this has been one of America’s best kept secrets. The transition of judges to moderators of a Gestapo-state will require the removal of those remaining judges who still believe in democracy, but judges take care of their own, and they will figure out a way to do that.
Keep this in mind: The courtroom is the opposite of a democracy. A courtroom is ruled with an iron fist. In their own courtroom, each judge has the final word, and can choose whom to give voice, and can choose what they may say and not say. Find a definition of fascism and apply it to a courtroom. It will fit nicely. The lawyers, observers, others, who work in that context and extoll the virtues of judges as fair, thoughtful, whatever, are to this fascism what the fish is to the water: they don’t realize that part of their world exists, so they don’t point it out, they don’t criticize it.
The judicial branch will be the first of three, not the third of three, branches of our government to turn full on Mussolini.
I use the word “burning” metaphorically. But it might as well be literal. If you ban a list of books in a system of libraries, the libraries have a bunch of recycling to do, and eventually … to the county incinerator go the books.
In fact, I give you no truck, no room, no wiggle-space, if you even look at a book funny, because that is how it starts. I am champion of the books, all the books, and I am not alone, not by a long shot.
These thugs intimidated the administrator of the libaries, Kimber Glidden, into resignation, in which she noted:
“My experience and skill set made me a good fit to help the district move toward a more current and relevant business model and to implement updated policy and best practices. However nothing in my background could have prepared me for the political atmosphere of extremism, militant Christian fundamentalism, intimidation tactics, and threatening behavior currently being employed in the community.”
Gidden told reporters at Route Fifty that “If [this] was really about banning books, we’d have to have the books.” Food for thought. They don’t care about the books, they only care about being bullies, and intimidating people who love books, and the kids the books are there for.
The library board rejected a grant to fund a program about voting rights, saying it was too left wing.
A display about Pride Month was cancelled, and today library displays are forbidden about any distinctive group — even French Cajun culture, of which Lafayette is the unofficial capital.
And this summer, when a popular librarian, Cara Chance, ignored that order and put up a display that included queer teen romance books, the board tried to fire her.
The actual police showed up at the Granbury High library in Granbury Texas to investigate a complaint made by book-burning-fundies last May. Five books were subsequently removed from the library shelves. The removal of these books was targeted harassmement of Trans students and other non-heteronormative-binary people by the school admins. This sort of thing has caused loss of life among school children. Even in relatively liberal Minnesota suburbs, a school board member went out of his way to indicate his discomfort with non-heteronormative school children, as noted in this LTE written by Yours Truly:
Locally, where the Jay Hesby problem recently emerged, we have an open seat on the Wayzata School District board. Hesby is one of a few candidates running. Sheila Prior, an active member of the school community especially interested in reading education, is also running, and she is by a gazillion miles my choice for the upcoming special election. (Feel free to visit her web site and donate ten bucks or more to this great cause. I just did!)
I gets scarier. Recently in the Reno Nevada area, suited up members of the “Proud Boys” (I call them Cucked Children) actually entered a library to disrupt a children story time because they did not like the book that was being read. They did the same thing near San Francisco, South Bend, Indiana, and Woodland California. There was violence. Over books. At events involving children. Derek Chauvin got extra time on his murder sentence because he carried out violence in the presence of children. For christakes.
Yesterday, South Bend, IN:
Seven Proud Boys disrupted Rainbow Story Hour event at Tutt library.
They harassed the presenter, event organizer, staff, and library patrons until police were called.
Alleged Proud Boys members attempt to get into The Mojo in Woodland, CA and are met with pepper spray. The bar had planned an all ages Drag Show tonight, which was postponed due to security concerns pic.twitter.com/7Boln64uJ6
-* Links to books on Amazon help support this blog, see note below
-** From the publisher:
2020 ALA Alex Award Winner
2020 Stonewall — Israel Fishman Non-fiction Award Honor Book
In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Then e created Gender Queer. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fan fiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: It is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.
This special deluxe hardcover edition of Gender Queer features a brand-new cover, exclusive art and sketches, a foreword from ND Stevenson, Lumberjanes writer and creator of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and an afterword from Maia Kobabe.
Democratic President Joe Biden and the Democratic Congress passed the biggest climate change fixing legislation ever passed in this country, or in any country, in history.
The same week, we discovered that the former MAGA Republican president and his cronies apparently stole highly classified documents, including some related to nuclear weapons, lied to the FBI about having those documents, and then pretended that the FBI planted the documents, which he had previously de-classified (in his own head).
And by “we” I mean “they” not “I” because of Covid related issues and childcare. But we all were there in spirit.
All around the country, people from a wide swath of the political spectrum, but mostly Centrists, Liberals, Progressives and such, gathered in various places but usually near the seats of government, and in various manners memorialized the attempted coup staged by failed twice impeached Republican President Trump and his white supremacist terrorist allies on the street and in the halls of Congress. This coup is still in progress. The roots of the coup go back father in time. We are still fighting it. But January 6th is the convenient date for the opening salvo, the Fort Sumter of the current culture war turned Civil Rift.
The people who went to these event did not break into their government buildings. They did not threaten to murder elected officials. They did not destroy property. They did not beat up police officers. They did not kill or injure anybody. To the right wing, that makes them chumps, but to us, who make up the core of our democracy, that makes them True Americans.
Meanwhile, the Right Wing mostly sat around simpering. The leaders and organizers called for celebration, but no one moved a muscle, no one showed up. Perhaps they are embarrassed. Perhaps the illegality of it all dawned on them, and they didn’t want to make their situations worse. Perhaps their more sensible spouses, friends, parents, kids, told them to take it down a notch and go back out to their porn-decorated garages and pretend to work on their motorcycles. Probably all of those reasons pertain.
We commemorated January 6th with a time honored democratic process. We stood on soap boxes, yelled and sang. (Again, by “we” I mean the great and brave “they” and I thank them.) Later we will work for campaigns and vote. It is undemocratic to physically attack and try to kill those with whom we disagree. That is literally the definition of terrorism. Democracy and terrorism do not mix.
Please consider writing a letter to your local paper that says something nice about democracy, some time over the next few weeks.
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.
“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.
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.
If you are anti-CRT being taught in K-12 schools, you are a moron, because it isn’t. If you are one of the emerging gaggle of goons who now insist that “liberals are denying CRT being taught in schools” then you are a moronic paranoid eejit.
Maybe you don’t really know much about CRT and realize that, but you have been groomed an organized by a right wing think tank to use CRT as a scare tactic to raise money and run a campaign. The Trump Criminals have a word for when you are being used by someone else, a word I don’t like to use but if fits; You are a cuck. At least you might be less of a moron in this case.
If, however, you understand that CRT is a buzzword for curriculum that honestly addresses history, talks about things like slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and the systemic racism that exists in so many area of our society, then maybe you are a person who does not want the finger pointed at you. Maybe you make the argument that you don’t want kids to feel bad about their past, but that is bullshit. What you really don’t want is for your kids to come home and look at you, listen to what you say, realize what you do, figure out how you think, and realize their daddy is a Nazi.
Kind of a sensitive subject, I know, but if you are working to get CRT out of our schools, you are not a good person. In the old days (ten years ago) you would know to sit down and shut up. Please consider doing that now.
Anti CRT? That makes you a racist, and more specifically, a white supremacist. Not a good look.