Monday Reads: Yes, Virginia there are Monsters that live among Us

Artist Walter Anderson is often credited with giving his animal subjects personalities and moods, as in this study of an owl. (Image courtesy of Bell Museum of Natural History)

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I am sorry that I’m so late with this. I had some intense dental work on Friday that was basically repeated this morning. I’m really sore, tired, and groggy. I get more on the 27th. I had no cavities but my gums needed some perking up. I hadn’t been to the dentist since before Katrina so I guess I’m a bit blessed it wasn’t a lot worse. The art today comes from Mississippi Gulf Coast Artist Walter Inglis Anderson and the Museum that features it. Anderson was born in New Orleans,

I was teaching last night when BB told me about the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy. This morning’s details are so sad. Many of the wounded and dead were small children and a marching group called “The Dancing Grannies.” They have one suspect in custody. It’s likely the SUV occupant was fleeing a knife fight. He’s got a criminal record. Monstrous behavior is on the lose in Wisconsin. This is from WaPo. As of now, there are five people dead. Ten of the 12 children hospitalized are in the pediatric ICU.

Officials said that 22 patients were transported by fire crews to six area hospitals. Additional people were transported to medical facilities by the police and bystanders. One hospital said Monday that 18 children had been brought to its emergency department alone.

“Our community needs to heal from physical injury and emotional trauma and what was taken from us by this senseless act,” Waukesha mayor Shawn Reilly said during the Monday briefing. “What we do today and in the days ahead is what will define us as a city, and I know we will come together and help Waukesha heal.”

By the morning after the parade, only some of the prior night’s chaos had been cleared. The trail of stray gloves, overturned chairs and abandoned drinkware grew denser the closer to Barstow Street, while Lollipops and wrapped candy were still scattered on the grassy parkway where families had gathered hours earlier for the parade themed “Comfort and Joy.” An image from the aftermath showed a jogging stroller, decorated with red and silver tinsel, now abandoned and missing a wheel.

Two Pelicans in Flight. Anderson, Walter Ingils (Artist)

The city of Kenosha, Wisconsin is still in the center of controversial verdict freeing Kyle Rittenhouse to kill again. The worst thing is that he has paired up with the FOX Monster known as Tucker Carlson for an interview airing a day ago. Two Fox News Contributers have quit the company over Carlson’s “documentary” that tries to whitewash Jan 6. This is from Greg Sargent at WaPo: “As two Fox contributors quit over Tucker Carlson, an alarming truth is revealed .”

It is fitting that two Fox News contributors have severed their ties with the network over Tucker Carlson’s glorification of Jan. 6 at exactly the moment when more than 150 scholars are sounding a loud, clanging alarm about the future of our democracy.

Because these two stories are unsettlingly related. Both should rivet our attention on the increasing flirtation among large swaths of the right with political violence, and on the role that the right’s campaign to delegitimize our political system is playing in it.

The two contributors — conservative writers Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg — quit Fox to protest Carlson’s online special “Patriot Purge.” As Ben Smith of the New York Times reports, they objected to its depiction of an alternate history of Jan. 6 as a “false flag” designed to create a pretext to persecute conservatives.

Here’s a UK The Guardian link to coverage of the interview of Vile Kyle by Tucker the Fucker: “Outcry as Kyle Rittenhouse sits down for Tucker Carlson Fox News interview.”

“This case has nothing to do with race,” Rittenhouse told Tucker Carlson in excerpts released by Fox News. “It never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self-defense.”

Rittenhouse has attracted support from conservative groups and lawmakers, some of whom, on the far right of the Republican party, have celebrated his acquittal and offered him internships. On Sunday Christina Pushaw, press officer for Republican governor Ron DeSantis, welcomed Rittenhouse to the “free state” of Florida in a tweet.

Before his trial, Rittenhouse was photographed in a bar with apparent members of the far-right Proud Boys, where he is alleged to have flashed white power hand signs. While his attorneys have insisted Rittenhouse is not a white supremacist, others have said otherwise.

On Saturday, the MSNBC host Tiffany Cross said: “The fact that white supremacists roam the halls of Congress freely and celebrate this little murderous white supremacist, and the fact that he gets to walk the streets freely, it lets you know these people have access to instituting laws, they represent the legislative branch of this country.”

The civil rights attorney Ben Crump was equally scathing following Friday’s verdict.

“If we were talking about a Black man,” he said, “the conversation and outcome would be starkly different. But we’re not. We’re talking about Kyle Rittenhouse, a racist, homicidal vigilante who, like so many white men before him, not only escaped accountability but laughed in its face.”

Fucker Carlson has also made a “documentary” on the case.

One party is impowering monsters. They are monsters. From CBS: “European thinktank adds U.S. to list of “backsliding” democracies for 1st time.”

The United States has joined an annual list of “backsliding” democracies for the first time, the International IDEA think-tank said on Monday, pointing to a “visible deterioration” that it said began in 2019. Globally, more than one in four people live in a backsliding democracy, a proportion that rises to more than two in three with the addition of authoritarian or “hybrid” regimes, according to the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

“This year we coded the United States as backsliding for the first time, but our data suggest that the backsliding episode began at least in 2019,” it said in its report titled “Global State of Democracy 2021.”

“The United States is a high-performing democracy, and even improved its performance in indicators of impartial administration (corruption and predictable enforcement) in 2020. However, the declines in civil liberties and checks on government indicate that there are serious problems with the fundamentals of democracy,” Alexander Hudson, a co-author of the report, told AFP.

Racist language has been resplendent in the three defendents tried for the murder of Ahmad Aubery. This prosecution has the right argument.

It is truely difficult these days to watch the violence in this country and then go outside your door. Many women and children do not even have to go outside their doors. This if from The Philidelphia Inquirer: “Pa. Senate candidate Sean Parnell has lost his custody battle after abuse claims by his estranged wife .”

Senate candidate Sean Parnell suspended his campaign Monday, hours after a judge ruled against him in a custody battle that included allegations he had physically and verbally abused his wife and children.

While Parnell denied those claims, the judge found his wife, Laurie Snell, to be more credible.

“There is nothing more important to me than my children, and while I plan to ask the court to reconsider, I can’t continue with a Senate campaign,” Parnell said in a statement. “My focus right now is 100% on my children, and I want them to know I do not have any other priorities and will never stop fighting for them.”

His decision capped a rapid collapse for a candidate once viewed as the GOP front-runner in Pennsylvania’s nationally watched race to replace Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Parnell, a decorated Army veteran who received a Purple Heart after serving in Afghanistan, won an August endorsement from former President Donald Trump, but his campaign quickly unraveled after a rival questioned his personal conduct and his wife, Laurie Snell, testified under oath that Parnell choked her, pinned her down and called her “a whore.”

More from the little room

Rolling Stone has yet more on the Jan.6 insurrection and Trump involvement. You may go read that here: “Leaked Texts: Jan. 6 Organizers Say They Were ‘Following POTUS’ Lead’

Max Boot from WaPO writes this; “Republicans are fomenting a violent insurgency in America. It may have already started.

There really are monsters in this country. Read those and know who they are.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Red Hats

Another Sunday…and more cartoons from Calle.com:

Cartoons from AAEC

The Purging of the Republican Party - by Angelo Lopez
Who’s Your Lifestyle Guru?
05292021 Memorial Day

Now some tweeters:

I wanted to stay away from disturbing news, but that can’t be done.

This is an open thread.


Monday Reads: America’s Gun Fetish

American Farm Hand, Sandor Klein, 1937

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’m watching the crazy Republicans in the Lousyana Lege start pushing a no permit necessary carry law for guns while I am still reeling from reading about all the gun violence over the weekend and this month. There were three mass shoot outs here this weekend including one in Shreveport.

It also included a shoot out at a 12 year old’s birthday party in the garage of the family home in an extremely comfortable, quiet, suburban La Place in St. John the Baptist Parish between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It’s your typical bedroom commuter exurb so wipipo cannot talk about urban violence without owning the weekend’s shoot outs!

No one was killed but 6 children were shot. Let that sink in. And, of course, no one saw a damned thing because it’s possible that one shooter was a kid.

An exasperated St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre said his detectives were working hard to make arrests after a Saturday night shooting at a 12-year-old child’s birthday party in LaPlace left six people injured, but so far they’ve struggled to secure cooperation.

“We have not one witness, not one person that saw anything yet. So we’re trying to solve it on our own right now,” Tregre said in a telephone interview Sunday afternoon. “I’m going to be polite — it’s more than frustrating.”

The shooting happened about 8:30 p.m. Saturday as a large crowd gathered for the child’s birthday party at a house in the 600 block of Golfview Drive, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Detectives believe that two groups of young men with an ongoing feud met up at the house, began arguing and gunfire broke out, according to Tregre. He said crime scene evidence shows that more than one firearm was fired.

The Sheriff’s Office hasn’t released a full list of victims and their injuries, but Tregre said one victim was 12 years old. Several of the victims had what Tregre described as “superficial” injuries, but three required surgery for more serious wounds.

John Stuart Curry, Self Portrait, 1939

Today’s artwork is from The Smithsonian and mostly from this piece written in its magazine. “How Portraiture Gave Rise to the Glamour of Guns. American portraiture with its visual allure and pictorial storytelling made gun ownership desirable” I know we have a gun fetish in this country, I know some how the whole Wild West thing played into it but I hestitate to think of any of this as glamourous.

A suspect has been arrested in the deadly Austin shooting that left 3 people dead. There was an intense manhunt for him and it turned out he’s a former Sheriff’s Deputy.

Officers found Broderick, 41, along a rural road around shortly after sunrise in Manor, an Austin suburb, after receiving reports of a suspicious person matching the description of the suspect in Sunday’s shooting, Manor Police Chief Ryan Phipps said. He said Broderick had a loaded pistol in his waistband.

“I’m truly heartbroken that a former Travis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy is the suspect in such a horrific incident,” Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez said in a statement.

The shooting in Austin was not the the sole mass shooting of Sunday.

This is an epidemic. This is a public safety issue. The politicians captured by the fetish and the NRA need to be held to account. This level of violence and murder is only seen in countries with active wars or intense drug cartel activity. This is not the way a civilized country should look.

It’s America’s heritage and it’s time to change it. From the Smithsonian article:

Early portraits of African-Americans have been rendered similarly pacifist. An 1868 wood engraving of Harriet Tubman by John Darby shows Tubman dressed as a scout for the Union Army holding a large rifle with her hands curiously placed over the barrel of the gun. A similar hand-over-the-gun-barrel stance resurfaces in a portrait of cowboy Nat Love around a decade later; as if to indicate that if the weapon was to fire, it would harm him first. Similarly, in an 1872 advertisement for Red Cloud chewing tobacco, the figure’s hand is also placed over the gun barrel.

At the same time, guns are used to illustrate the idea of defense of land, hunting literature begins to describe a more intimate relationship with being “armed.” Loving descriptions of guns as “well-oiled,” “sleek” and “gleaming;” and being “cradled,” “caressed” and “hugged” by their owners proliferates. In The American Farm Hand of 1937 by Sandor Klein, a farmer seated in a cane chair looks directly at the viewer and clutches a shotgun halfway down the barrel. The rifle is closest to the viewer and the polished wood handle and steel barrel sensuously echo the sinewy arms and bare torso of its owner.

AL.com sums it up well: “America’s gun violence epidemic rages on”. The cartoon is from J.D. Crowe.

This is an opinion cartoon.

Another day, another mass shooting superspreader event.

Police: Indianapolis FedEx shooter legally bought guns despite red flags

US has been wracked with several mass shootings in 2021

Atlanta massage business shootings

Man charged with 4 counts of murder in California shooting

10 people killed in Colorado supermarket shooting

Kenosha, Wisconsin tavern shooting: 3 dead, suspect apprehended

NPR discusses the recent weekend violence and the tremendous level of gun deaths we’re experiencing.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a total of at least 19,394 people lost their lives due to gun violence in 2020. Including suicides, that number jumps to 43,550 people.

As of Sunday, the group tallied at least 5,517 non-suicide deaths in 2021, on track for a similar total to 2020.

The country as a whole saw about a 25% increase in non-suicide gun deaths in 2020 over 2019, though some places such as New York saw a much more pronounced increase.

Dr. Sonali Rajan of the Columbia Scientific Union for the Reduction of Gun Violence told NPR in January that one of the things that could have played a role in the increase was a diversion of public health resources due to the pandemic. She said that led to “violence interrupters, social programs and support services not being as readily available.”

Another possible cause: the uptick in gun sales. 2020 marked the best year for gun sales ever.

The rush for firearms began with the first coronavirus lockdowns and continued through the summer’s racial justice protests. At least 20 million guns were sold legally, up from about 12.4 million in 2019.

Experts, though, say that it can be a challenge to isolate any single cause, particularly during the pandemic with mass unemployment and closed schools.

Washington’s capacity for a legislative response to gun violence remains limited. Though Democrats control both chambers of Congress and are broadly in favor of more stringent gun control legislation, their ability to get legislation through the Senate would require cooperation of at least 10 Republican senators to overcome an inevitable filibuster — something that has essentially no chance of happening on a gun bill.

Ronald Reagan, Personality Posters, Inc., 1967

President Biden has taken some executive action as well as appointing a Gun Safety Advocate to lead ATF. This is also from NPR.

President Biden on Thursday will announce initial steps his administration plans to take on firearm safety, along with the nomination of a prominent gun safety advocate to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The moves, which were previewed Wednesday evening by a senior administration official, come after recent high-profile mass shootings put added pressure on Biden to act on gun violence.

Biden will announce that the Justice Department will pursue two new regulations: one to curb the proliferation of so-called ghost guns, weapons that lack serial numbers and, in some cases, can be constructed at home; and a second that would regulate stabilizing braces, accessories that can be used to make pistols more like rifles.

Additionally, Biden plans to nominate David Chipman as ATF director. Chipman, who was a special agent at ATF for 25 years, is a senior policy adviser at Giffords, a gun safety group led by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who became an advocate after she was seriously injured in a 2011 mass shooting.

The White House has issued a fact sheet on their policy priorities in the Gun Safety area. This was on April 7, 2021: “FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Initial Actions to Address the Gun Violence Public Health Epidemic.”

You may remember Parkland Parents continuing to fight for Gun Safety. Fred Guttenberg notes this about the FedEx Gunman who easily got his Rifles after Police had already seized a gun from him.

Guns in America, Roy Lichtenstein, 1968

Dr.Fauci, unleashed from the censorship and bullying of the previous guy, has spoken out Sunday. This is from The Hill: “Fauci calls surge in gun violence a public health crisis. “When you see people getting killed, I mean, in this last month, it’s just been horrifying what’s happened. How can you say that’s not a public health issue?” President Biden had this to say.

President Biden released a statement in the wake of the shooting at an Indiana FedEx facility last week, saying he is urging Congress to “hear the call of the American people” and to “enact commonsense gun violence prevention legislation.”

“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence,” Biden said. “It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation. We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives.”

Megan Ranney, an emergency physician, and Associate Dean of Strategy and Innovation at the School of Public Health at Brown University, wrote in a piece for Time in March that deaths resulting from gun-violence are preventable and should be treated as a matter of public health rather than a political issue.

“It’s time to flip the narrative. These mass shootings, and the 1000s of daily tragedies behind them, are not inevitable,” Ranney wrote. “We can reduce gun deaths, just like we did for cars, by acknowledging that firearm injury is, at its root, a health problem—and that solutions are within reach.”

We see Republicans balk at any sensible gun safety regulation every time we see what we think is the absolute worst mass shooting in the country and expect some legal action. School shootings are not enough. Workplace shooting are not enough. Clinic, spas, beauty salons and all violence aimed at women are not enough.

And sooner or later, we’ll hear from Joe Manchin and it will not be at all helpful.

Enough is enough!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: What exactly defines a Death Cult?

Zappa.com • View topic - Philo's Fucked Up World {Sarcasm Included}

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’m old enough to have a clear memory of Jonestown and the suicide massacre that happened in Guyana in November, 1978. The shocking cult massacre has been documented in movies, books, and periodicals. So what exactly is a Death Cult and can an argument be made that MAGA is exactly that?

This brief history and bit of insight of Jonestown is from The Rolling Stone and was written by David Chiu in 2018. Drinking the Koolaid was then introduced into the American Lexicon as the willingness of people enrapt of a charismatic cult leader to do anything in his name. It is terrifically affiliated with the ideal of the white savior.

People have wondered how Jim Jones, a man who preached racial and social equality, turned evil. But as Tim Reiterman explained in Raven, Jones’ dark qualities – his need to control people, his deceit, and his anger toward people who betray or abandon him – could be traced to his childhood in Indiana. A loner during his youth, Jim would entertain his playmates in the loft of his family’s barn and made them his captive audience (one time, he even locked up his young friends in the barn). He performed experiments on animals and conducted funerals for them.

“I thought Jimmy was a really weird kid,” Jones’ childhood friend Chuck Wilmore recalled in the 2006 documentary Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. “He was obsessed with religion; he was obsessed with death. A friend of mine told me that he saw Jimmy kill a cat with a knife.” According to Jeff Guinn’s book, The Road to Jonestown, Jones also had an early fascination with Adolf Hitler. “When Hitler committed suicide in April 1945, thwarting enemies who sought to capture and humiliate him, Jimmy was impressed,” he wrote.

TIME Magazine Cover: Jonestown Deaths - Dec. 4, 1978 - Religion ...

Sound like any one we know today?

Remember The Branch Davidians and David Koresh? That was certainly more complex than any one understood at the time. How about Heaven’s Gate? That one was a combination of alien conspiracy theories wrapped up in the doomsday prepper culture. It’s difficult to understand how people get wrapped up in these things but they do and they mostly just taking the lemming path over the cliff eventually. And that’s what worries me today.

This Covid-19 Pandemic has brought the tendency to police other people as well as subscribe to some kind of wild proposition that an unseen magical being will save you and no one else. These people also imbue Trump with some kind of papal infallibility which is again, worrying. The combination of evangelical magical thinking and the white rage accompanying Trumpism during a global pandemic should worry us all.

Take this church and pastor in East Baton Roughe, Louisiana, please! “Member of defiant Central church dies from coronavirus illness, but pastor says it’s a lie”. This is from the Baton Rouge Advocate as reported by staff writer David J. MItchell.

A 78-year-old man who attended a Central church that has bucked state stay-at-home restrictions has died from the illness tied to the novel coronavirus.

The East Baton Rouge Parish coroner said Harold Orillion, a parish resident, died from the COVID-19 respiratory illness on Wednesday. Three sources told The Advocate that Orillion had ties to the Life Tabernacle Church. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss a link between the man and the church.

The Rev. Tony Spell, the church’s pastor, did not return messages left Thursday about Orillion after the coroner released his death information following a public records request from The Advocate. Spell later in the day confirmed to television stations WAFB and WVLA that Orillion was a parishioner in good standing.

Spell also disputed that Orillion’s death was due to the virus, despite the coroner’s determination. “That is a lie,” Spell told WAFB.

The Columbus Dispatch photo of an anti-social-distancing protest went viral this week. (Joshua A. Bickel/AP)

And here’s the kicker:

Spell’s fight against the order, along with a handful of other religious leaders nationally against similar restrictions, has attracted worldwide attention. He has been charged with six misdemeanor counts of violating Edwards’ orders.

Spell, who has faced criticism over his stand, has made several provocative comments about the virus and the resulting controversy, including telling TMZ that true Christians do not mind dying from the virus but from “fear living in fear, cowardice of their convictions.”

While many houses of worship have converted to online services, Spell maintains that in-person services are essential to his congregation’s faith and financial well-being.

C'mon - Drink the Kool aid - Trust me! - Imgflip

And then of course this: “Louisiana pastor holding services during pandemic asks people to donate stimulus checks to evangelists”. (Via The Hill)

A Louisiana pastor who has drawn criticism for holding in-person church services despite coronavirus guidelines is asking people to donate their stimulus checks to evangelists who “haven’t had an offering in a month.”

In a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, the Rev. Tony Spell called on the public to get behind a new online challenge he is dubbing the #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge.

There are three rules to the challenge, Spell said in the video. The first rule is that it starts on Sunday. The second, he said, is for people to “donate your stimulus money.”

“Rule number three,” he continued, is to “donate it to evangelists, North American evangelists who haven’t had an offering in a month; missionaries, who haven’t had an offering in a month; music ministers, who haven’t had an offering in a month.”

“I’m donating my entire stimulus, $1,200,” Spell added. “My wife is donating her stimulus, $1,200. My son is donating his stimulus, $600.”

Individuals with income under $75,000 and married couples with income less than $150,000 can receive the full amounts of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under legislation signed into law last month by President Trump.

Spell’s comments come as churches across the country have either closed their doors or moved their services online in efforts to comply with stay-at-home orders issued by states and federal guidelines urging people to avoid unnecessary travel and gatherings exceeding 10 people amid the pandemic.

Baton Rouge area pastor defies governor, welcomes large gathering ...

Yes, he continues to violate the law. (via CNN) This was as of April 1st.

When asked why he will not follow the governor’s mandate, he said, “We have a mandate from the word of the Lord to assemble together. The first amendment says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the exercise of religion.”

Spell said officers came to him Tuesday and read him his rights, but didn’t arrest him. He said he he was asked to stop having services and he told them that he would not stop.

“We aren’t breaking any laws,” Spell insisted.

Earlier in the day, in a Facebook Live video, after being served the summons at his church by two police officers, he maintained his defiant stance.

“We will continue to have church,” he said. “This is a government overreach. They are asking us as a government to stop practicing our freedom of religion. And we have a mandate from God to assemble and to gather together and to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Fool Aid - Donald Trump - Sticker | TeePublic

But, he let’s not stop with my local example but head straight to the DeVos Death Cult and its relentless support of the Mad King in the Oval office. The wacky white neoconfederate followers of the Orange Koolaid are out there trying to kill us over what they consider government overreach. And of course, they’ve focused on a Woman Governor, Christine Whitmer. (Via NBC News)

Asked about the protests at his press conference Thursday, one in which he unveiled his administration’s guidelines for reopening, President Donald Trump said he believed the demonstrators would listen to him and added there is no daylight between his views and the governors when it comes to reopening.

“I think they’re listening. I think they listen to me,” Trump said of the protestors. “They seem to be protesters that like me and respect this opinion, and my opinion is the same as just about all of the governors. They all want to open. Nobody wants to stay shut but they want to open safely. So do I.”

The protests have had a tea party flavor to them, with demonstrators carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and wearing “Make America Great Again” gear. Some have even waved Confederate flags.

“I’m only surprised they can tear themselves away from Rush Limbaugh long enough to go protest,” Philippe Reines, a former top adviser to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, told NBC News.

Critics say they’re angry with the shutdowns, which have curtailed business and leisure activity in the name of a deadly virus they say hasn’t hit their neck of the woods. But health experts have warned it won’t take much for a relatively unaffected place to become a hot spot, as just one infected person is able to spread the virus to dozens of others.

Susan J. Demas writing for the Michigan Advance: “Don’t whitewash the GOP’s extremism on full display during Whitmer protest.”

We were promised it wasn’t a Republican protest. We were promised people were just upset they couldn’t golf or buy seeds (in stores) during a pandemic that’s already killed 2,000 of their neighbors.

But the folks trekking to Michigan’s Capitol Wednesday weren’t carrying rakes or watering cans or cute pun-filled signs about the right to garden (which still would have been ironic, since it was snowing). No, they brought Confederate and Donald Trump flags, AR-15s and a Gov. Gretchen Whitmer doll in a noose.

“She’s the reason we need the 2nd amendment!” multiple people shouted from their cars.

The Michigan Militia showed up to do a recruitment push. The Proud Boys were there. A few hundred people left their cars — even though we were repeatedly assured they’d follow social distancing rules — and strolled down the street with misspelled signs like “Heil Witmer” (replete with a backwards swastika) and clustered together on the Capitol steps for photos. Several pushed conspiracy theories that COVID-19 wasn’t real and insisted they couldn’t get it anyway by violating simple federal health guidelines (nobody volunteered any medical credentials to make such claims). Many brought their kids.

Ambulances couldn’t get through traffic. Who knows how many gas station clerks, restaurant workers, police and reporters protestors encountered and possibly spread the virus to.

It’s important to pull back for a moment. The policies Whitmer and 42 other governors have put in place to stop a pandemic have been carefully crafted by public health officials. It’s not that they want to be a buzzkill or kill the economy (seriously, no politician wants that, just out of sheer self-preservation). It’s because the disease has spread so rapidly and killed so many. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

With almost 30,000 COVID-19 cases, Michigan has the fourth-most in the nation. But the protestors didn’t even do a feint to acknowledging the 2,000 people who have lost their lives or the families they left behind. It was just primal screams against the Democratic governor and calls for Trump to make everything great again.

For a party that’s ostensibly dedicated to the sanctity of life, Republicans have repeatedly and flagrantly demonstrated how little they care about their neighbors dying of an excruciating disease that can feel like shards of glass have filled your lungs.

Where is the humanity?

Trump: He's Just Like Us! | The Nib

Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast has an explanation: “Trump’s Culture Warriors Are a Literal Death Cult Now”.

You know where this is headed, right? We all know. Donald Trump and the Republicans are going to turn the election into a red vs. blue culture war battle—not over abortion, not over climate change, not over guns, but this time, over death itself.

Because death is every authoritarian’s last play. An authoritarian leader makes demands of his people. They must cheer more lustily than non-authoritarian people cheer. They must salute in a particular way. They must exonerate him of all error, whether stupidly invading Russia or massively screwing up a pandemic response or shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. And finally, they must prove they are willing to at least flirt with death, if the leader’s hold on power requires it. It’s the final demand on loyalty, and every authoritarian gets there eventually, in one way or another, even those forced to operate within democratic contexts.

Thus, the question of the 2020 election, as Trump and his party attempt to frame it: Are you manly enough to sneer at death, like real men do in the movies (which are fake, of course, but never mind that), or are you one of those pusillanimous patsies who quivers under the bed sheets like some avocado toast-eating intellectual, whining that we have to listen to the experts?

kool-aid

Jason Williams of The Guardian has the details on what shadowy groups and characters are funding this craziness.

On Wednesday in Lansing, Michigan, a protest put together by two Republican-connected not-for-profits was explicitly devised to cause gridlock in the city, and for a time blocked the entrance to a local hospital.

It was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, which Michigan state corporate filings show has also operated under the name of Michigan Trump Republicans. It was also heavily promoted by the Michigan Freedom Fund, a group linked to the Trump cabinet member Betsy DeVos.

But the protest also attracted far-right protest groups who have been present at pro-Trump and gun rights rallies in Michigan throughout the Trump presidency.

Placards identified the Michigan Proud Boys as participants in the vehicle convoy. Near the state house, local radio interviewed a man who identified himself as “Phil Odinson”.

In fact the man is Phil Robinson, the prime mover in a group called the Michigan Liberty Militia, whose Facebook page features pictures of firearms, warnings of civil war, celebrations of Norse paganism and memes ultimately sourced from white nationalist groups like Patriot Front.

The pattern of rightwing not-for-profits promoting public protests while still more radical groups use lockdown resistance as a platform for extreme rightwing causes looks set to continue in events advertised in other states over coming days.

In Idaho on Friday, protesters plan to gather at the capitol building in Boise to protest anti-virus restrictions put in place by the Republican governor, Brad Little.

The protest has been heavily promoted by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), which counts among its donors “dark money” funds linked to the Koch brothers such as Donors Capital Fund, and Castle Rock, a foundation seeded with part of the fortune of Adolph Coors, the rightwing beer magnat

It’s definitely worth the read. The usual list of icky suspects with money an icky suspects with guns and white nationalists tendencies are all there in the list.

So, this isn’t the most pleasant topic to end the week on but I’ll I can say is “the more you know”.

Don’t you know her when you see her?
She grew up in your back yard
Come back to us Barbara Lewis
Hare Krishna Beauregard

Selling bibles at the airports
Buying Quaalude’s on the phone
Hey, you talk about, a paper route
She’s a shut in without a home

Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard (1975) lyrics and music by John Prine.

Be safe! Be well! Stay home!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Why do so many Americans have a Gun Fetish?

Image result for artist woman paintings with gunsGood Morning Sky Dancers!

Sunday greeted New Orleans with 16 shootings including a Mass Shooting on Canal Street early Sunday Morning that injured 10 people with two in critical condition.  Another shooting killed two later that day in the 7th ward, Our City’s crime has seen a downward trend in crime over the last 4 years but this isn’t exactly new to us or anywhere in the country.

Why do we have so many trigger happy Americans?

It’s amazing to me that the NRA can still have so much power after so much controversy surrounding its leadership and actions.  It also amazes me that so many people seem to think they a “well regulated militia” doesn’t mean what they think it means.  They to be a personal militia with no regulation. Hence,the real American Carnage … death by gun.

In a timely coincidence, today’s case at the Supreme Court deals with a Second Amendment Case. Many Republican politicians these days appear to recognize the Constitution only when it deals with this particular amendment and they’ve been busy stacking the court to be pro life except when it comes slaughter by gun.

Woman holding a revolver pistol standing in front of a piano in a burning city's empty street

Watch it burn, Gray Zhao

What may happen today at the Court? This is from today’s NYT.  “After Long Gap, Supreme Court Poised to Break Silence on Gun Rights
Following a change in personnel, the court could expand the scope of Second Amendment rights and chastise lower courts that have upheld gun control laws.”

It has been almost 10 years since the Supreme Court last heard a Second Amendment case. On Monday, a transformed court will return to the subject and take stock of what has happened in the meantime.

The nation has had a spike in gun violence. And lower courts have issued more than 1,000 rulings seeking to apply the justices’ 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which established an individual right to own guns but said almost nothing about the scope of that right.

The new case concerns a New York City ordinance that limited the transport of guns outside an owner’s home. Fearing a loss in the Supreme Court, to say nothing of a broad ruling from the court’s conservative majority on what the Second Amendment protects, the city repealed the ordinance and now argues that the case is moot. But the court may be ready to end its decade of silence, elaborate on the meaning of the Second Amendment and, in the process, tell lower courts whether they have been faithful to the message of the Heller decision.

Proponents of gun rights and some conservative justices say lower courts have been engaged in lawless resistance to the protections afforded under the Second Amendment by sustaining unconstitutional gun-control laws.

Again, what don’t they get about “well regulated” and the 18th century idea of a “militia”?

On Monday the court hears arguments in a case from New York, a city and a state with some of the toughest gun regulations in the country. Several gun owners and the NRA’s New York affiliate challenged the rules for having a handgun at home. They contended the city gun license was so restrictive it was unconstitutional.

Specifically, they said the state law and city regulations violated the right to bear arms because they forbid handgun owners from carrying their pistols anywhere other than seven firing ranges within the city limits. That meant that pistol owners could not carry their guns to a second home, or to shooting ranges or competitions in other states nearby. The lower courts upheld the regulations as justified to protect safety in the most densely populated city in the country.

But when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the gun owners appeal, the state and the city changed the law to allow handgun owners to transport their locked and unloaded guns to second homes or shooting ranges outside the city.

With those changes, the first question Monday will be whether the case is moot and should be thrown out because New York has already given the gun owners everything they asked for in their lawsuit.

“This is an instance where it appears the petitioners won’t say ‘yes’ for an answer,” says James Johnson, counsel for the city of New York.

But former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who represents the gun owners, counters that the amended regulations still give the city too much power to regulate.

“The city of New York never expressed any doubt about the constitutionality of these regulations when they were winning in the district court and the court of appeals,” argues Clement. “And then lo and behold, all of a sudden the city decides you know maybe we don’t need these regulations after all.”

And, he observes, the city is still defending the original regulations.

The city is indeed doing that because the justices refused in October to throw the case out on mootness grounds, opting instead to hear the mootness arguments today, along with the direct challenge to the regulations themselves.

Testing a “moot” law seems odd to me.  New Orleans wasn’t the only city with gun violence yesterday.  Two kids  were wounded in a shoot out in the The Bronx.  Trace.org includes all these stories in it’s gun related news today.

Two kids were wounded in a mass shooting in the Bronx. Five people, including a 10-year-old and 14-year-old boy, were shot on a retail strip in the South Bronx on the afternoon before Thanksgiving. An after-school program was about to start classes when the unknown gunman began firing at a busy intersection. The director of the program was unconsoled by the fact that all the victims survived. “That’s just luck,” he told The New York Times“Every bullet has its own trajectory. We might not be so lucky next time.”

These shootings have also gone into the Gun Violence Archive where you can be horrifed by the list and dots on a map of the USA showing the 2019 shootings for the country.

This hopeful analysis argues the case could “fizzle” but it also explains the politics involved.  The Republicans are as entrenched as ever.

The mootness fight has taken on political dimensions. In August, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and four colleagues filed an unusually pointed brief that said the court would be undermining its own legitimacy if it ruled in the case.

The Democrats’ brief pointed to the millions of dollars spent by outside groups on recent Supreme Court battles. Trump’s two appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were confirmed in the Senate on nearly party-line votes.

“To stem the growing public belief that its decisions are motivated mainly by politics, the court should decline invitations like this to engage in ‘projects,’” the Democrats argued, highlighting a word the challengers used in one of their court filings.

Whitehouse’s brief provoked an equally sharp response from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his Republican colleagues. They told the justices to “stand firm” and “not be cowed by the threats of opportunistic politicians.”

Trump has had strong support from gun owners and the National Rifle Association since his 2016 campaign. He has occasionally stated support for expanded background checks — particularly when mass shootings lead to a public outcry — but later backed off, expressing doubt they would be effective in curbing gun violence.

The administration is urging the Supreme Court to decide the case, telling the justices the dispute is still meaningful because residents could seek damages.

The court has hinted it may want to rule. In October, the justices refused to dismiss the case as moot but said they would revisit the issue at the argument.

Time Magazine has interviewed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and has this bottom line. ‘I Don’t Trust Anyone at All.’

But he also pushed back on Trump’s recent claims about corruption in Ukraine, and questioned the fairness of Trump’s decision to freeze American aid. “If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us,” he said. “I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo.”

Zelensky’s focus during the interview, as it has been throughout his time in office, was on the effort to end Ukraine’s war against Russia and its proxies, who still control two separatist strongholds in the region of Ukraine known as the Donbass. More than 13,000 Ukrainians have died as a result of that conflict, and more are killed or wounded every week. Yet the European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting have been stalled for over three years.

So much violence, so many lives, and so many power grabs and that’s enough for me today.  I’m pretty sure the judiciary committee’s impeachment hearings will fill up the week shortly.  His lawyers declined to become involved as did the Kremlin Potted Plant who complained that he will be in NATO meetings this week. Obviously this trip will interrupt his Presidential Fox an Friends time so he will be peevish.

President Donald Trump on Monday blasted House Democrats for holding impeachment hearings while he is at a NATO summit in London and claimed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had cleared him of wrongdoing in an interview published earlier in the day.

Speaking to reporters as he departed the White House for the summit, Trump said Democrats had “decided” to hold the upcoming hearings at “the exact time” he’s in London. The president also said Zelenskiy “came out and said very strongly that President Trump did nothing wrong,” adding, “that should end everything, but that will never end it.”

Please go read that quote up there again and see if that’s your take away.  It certainly isn’t mine.

Anyway, let’s get through the month and the year as well we can.  Love to you all!  May peace surround you!

What’s on your reading, blogging, and watching lists today?