Ukraine. A Russian Civil War?

if the Russian leadership does not want to sit at the table with us for the sake of peace, perhaps it will sit at the table with you. Do Russians want war? I would very much like to answer this question, but the answer depends on you, the citizens of the Russian Federation.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – Feb. 23, 2022

I’ve never been a fan of a foreign leader before. I have a fanboy crush on Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Who doesn’t these days?) I think I have to reveal my crush right up front in this article because I’m not thinking clearly right now. Or maybe I’m finaally thinking clearly for the first time in years. Who knows? What I know is that I love Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Despite all the odds, he stood up to Vladimir Putin’s aggression and has defined courage for the world in the current European crisis:

I need ammunition, not a ride

cnn.com

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…and inspired the citizens of the world to come together in support of his country. I love the guy. If I was 20 right now I’d get on a plane and fly to Ukraine to fight beside him in defense of him and his people and their homes. His is a profile in courage.

Stonekettle asked the collective consciousness of Twitter back on February 19th:

twitter/Stonekettle

That is the essential question here; should we support Ukraine or not? We being the United States in this question means that there is no easy answer. Each individual can make that choice for themselves, certainly. However, this isn’t a question that can be answered with a single word, positive or negative when it comes to the participation of outside groups in what amounts to a regional power struggle.

Modern warfare is evil incarnate and this makes it hard to justify any action that isn’t self defensive in nature. Is it in our own defense to save Ukraine from Russian aggression? That is a difficult question to answer with anything other than a regretful no or a twenty page essay explaining why it should be yes but can’t be.

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What follows will probably a twenty page essay. We’ll start with a grammar lesson. It is Ukraine not the Ukraine. It is a country, not just a place, no matter what Vladimir Putin says. You don’t go around saying “we’re going to the Texas” unless you’re going visit the battleship museum. It’s Texas or Ukraine. It is the name of a country or a state.

The United States of America is a union of states or nations. That’s why it was historically referred to as a union or The Union. The United States was never supposed to be the name of the country. They argued about the name for a long time, just like they argued about what to call the office of the president until just giving up and referring to him as the President (a practice that has spread widely) they gave up on giving the collection of states or nations another name, and just used the kludge of a name that was on the Constitution itself.

It’s quite possible that this was a signal of the imperial aspirations of the founders. They knew that there was a lot more land out there to conquer to their west, not to mention to the North and the South, before they ever needed to worry about the phrase of America in the name on the founding document.

Both the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the European Union (EU) were styled after the founding ideals of the United States; principally, the enrichment of the powerful inside those unions, clothed in the garb of caring for the general welfare of the masses of its residents. Neither of those Unions bothered with popular direct elections for representatives for those bodies. The powerful within the United States have come to regret including those provisions in their documents.

Providence, Rhode Island is a city, county, state and nation all at the same time. Let that understanding sink in for a minute. All fifty states are nations tied together within a federal structure, yet retaining independent laws and governing structures. The only interests of the various states that were ceded to the federal government were the issues of interstate trade and the relationships with foreign governments. Everything else was and in a general sense still is an internal issue to be settled within the state itself. This arrangement has the advantage of hiding from view most of the politics that matter for governing inside the United States.

You don’t get a view of local politics unless you dig for it; ask any resident of any decent sized town whether they care more about their local infrastructure or their federal government’s policies. Anyone with an understanding of just how precarious our system is will know that the politics that really matters is local politics. It determines the priorities of all the levels above it that can interfere with its operation.

When that power structure is reversed the result is almost certainly catastrophic. Case in point; the recurring lack of preparation or understanding on the part of the whole state of Texas has led to individual suffering on an unprecedented level all across the state. Power outages, healthcare unavailability, etcetera. The city has to be able to act to protect itself or it becomes the victim of charlatans and demagogues. Governor Greg Abbott submitted as exhibition A for the court’s perusal.

All governmental requirements radiate out from the needs of individuals that go unmet; whether those requirements are more doctors or more police officers. More housing or more jails. Federal mandates almost always miss their targets because federal mandates almost never take the needs of the suffering into consideration. That level of granularity is almost beyond grasping from the distance of the White House whether the White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or 1010 Colorado Street.

The problem of Ukraine being frequently referred to as the Ukraine is easily understood. I’ve done this too, refer to it as a place by putting “the” in front of it. This was a forgivable act when Ukraine and Ukrainians were inside the USSR or just a key part of the Russian empire. The Soviet Union was largely a face-saving measure designed to mask the hands of Vladimir Lenin and then Joseph Stalin controlling the daily lives of millions of Russian people directly. That was their desire. The leader of the Soviet Union couldn’t call himself a Czar and get away with it. After all, the whole revolution had been fought to get rid of the Czar, hadn’t it?

So Joseph Stalin took a different title after he arranged his ascension to power, but he held pretty much the same power as the Czar; and life went on in the USSR under different management, the lot of the common people possibly worse than it had been under the Czar but nobody being willing to say anything about it. Ukrainians no different than Poles, no different than Czechs no different than Kazakhs, Tajiks or Tatars. All suffering equally under the yoke of the new leadership.

Ukraine was a country though. The primordial Marxist state that Lenin and his Bolshevik’s created out of the ruins of the former Russian Empire engineered a compromise to maintain control of those lands. Granted them all a measure of cultural autonomy within the bounds of the Soviet Union’s authoritarian political control. Stalin gave the Crimea to Ukraine. That’s how Crimea came to be part of Ukraine (Crimean war, anybody? 1856 too far back in history?) Then Stalin died and not too long after he died his empire crumbled as empires tend to do without the leaders that created them.

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Throughline – Ukraine’s Dangerous Independence – March 10, 2022

What the Bolsheviks and Lenin did really for the first time, they created a separate state, a separate institutions and a separate territory for Russia, which became known as the Russian Federation. Separating, at least symbolically, for the first time Russia proper from what used to be the Russian empire. Before that, there was no such separation.

Serhii Plokhii

Russia was a creation of the Bolsheviks, not Ukraine. What is the true Russian state? That’s a good question. A better question is, can there be a true Russian state and why does it have to be just one state?

As a typically educated person in the middle of the American West I was shocked and outraged while watching all the maps I had spent so much time trying to learn and understand change overnight. So many more countries to try to keep track of. Gone were the days when the Northern half of the Eurasian continent was engulfed in a sea of red with a yellow hammer and sickle on it. What was most puzzling to me, as an outsider, was the breakup of what I had thought of as traditionally Russian countries. How could there be three Russian governments?

That is what also seems to puzzle Vladimir Putin. He has done his best to preserve as much of the historical Russian empire under some semblance of Moscow control since he took control of Russia in the 1990’s. Crushing rebellions here, subverting elections there, the kinds of things that a leader with imperial aspirations engages in.

It seems like we’ve been on tenterhooks over the subject of Ukraine forever here in the United States. I know I’ve written several articles on the subject dating back to the release of Dan Carlin’s Common Sense podcast #270 Poking the Bear in 2014. When Putin-backed insurgents shot down a civilian airliner over Ukraine later that year, I was done listening to anyone who was sympathetic to Putin’s empire re-building effort. It was Obama’s reaction to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine in 2014 (too strong or too weak? it’s hard to say) that put us on the course to where we are now in history.

It was obvious to me then, just as it remains obvious to me now, that if the United States is a free country then its citizens can and should go where they like and agitate for change that some governments may or may not approve of. Even take up arms against governments against the sincerely expressed wishes of the United States government. If we are free, then we are free to do these things, too.

It is virtually impossible to discern the difference between a non-government organization (NGO) working for democracy and economic reform for its own unique purposes, and NGO’s that have been infiltrated by the CIA or any other nation’s intelligence service. If the intelligence services are doing their jobs properly, ALL OF THEM have been infiltrated by all of the intelligence services, and the various NGO’s should take this fact into account when they go about doing the business they are doing.

However, there remains a difference between acting in accordance with your government’s wishes, and acting on the orders of your government’s officers (where Buchanan’s predictions fail) Putin has had NGO’s working in the United States for every bit as long as any American NGO has been working in Ukraine, and it never started American’s thinking that Russia was trying to control its citizenry. We let Russia Today (RT) run unfettered promotions of Donald Trump for a year and never even thought to ask why RT loved Donald Trump so much.

The results of the NGO’s and the US government’s combined campaigns in Ukraine, stamping out corruption, un-rigging the electoral process, were that Viktor Yanukovych lost the Ukrainian Presidential elections that were called in 2014 after he acted against the expressed wishes of the Ukrainian people. In a huff, Vlad the Corrupter invaded and annexed Crimea, his preferred summer vacation spot. Queue the outrage from everyone who thought that Ukraine was Russian all along. Add to it the fearful outrage of people who will do anything to avoid a confrontation with Vladimir Putin on the international stage. Queue my exodus from Dan Carlin’s listening circle due to his clueless insistence that Pat Buchanan was some kind of a reputable psychic, as if that phrase isn’t an oxymoron in and of itself.

Vlad the Corrupter then sits and waits for the resulting storm to calm, rigging foreign elections and screwing up other governments all the while in hope of being allowed to do what he is doing right now. The invasion has taken longer to happen than I expected, that is the only surprising thing about it.

The Russian interference in the the 2016 election that put Donald Trump into the White House was one of the responses to the sanctions that President Obama imposed in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea. We know this because Trump promised to get the sanctions lifted and then had to backtrack on the promise when it became public (the idiot never could figure out how not to say the quiet parts out loud) Fast forward to 2018 and Donald Trump’s attempt to blackmail Ukraine into playing dirty tricks in the 2020 elections lead to his first impeachment.

thebulwark.com

Ukraine just can’t seem to leave the front page. I’m sure they’d like to. Fast forward again to 2022. Putin continues his aborted invasion from 2014. He was always going to do this just like the United States was always going to invade Iraq under a Republican president. It was always the plan. Invading Ukraine was what he planned when his puppet (Paul Manafort’s buddy, Viktor Yanukovych. You remember Paul Manafort, right? Trump’s campaign chairman?) lost his election.

It is a sad historical truth that Ukraine was stupid to have ever given up it’s nukes. The preservation of Ukraine’s independence that all concerned parties signed onto (including Vlad himself) in exchange for Ukraine giving up the nukes stored inside of its national borders was just the initial move in an undeclared war. If Ukraine still had nuclear weapons we would not be seeing this invasion live on screens today. Is it really any wonder why Iran wants nuclear weapons? It should be obvious by now. If you have the ability to destroy life as we know it at your fingertips, people take you seriously. Weird how that works, isn’t it?

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Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994, Zelensky said, in return for a security guarantee signed by the U.S., the U.K., and Russia. What happened to those guarantees? Ukraine had been told that the doors to NATO membership remained open, but Ukraine had never been invited inside. Because the Ukrainians are not members of NATO, they know they cannot count on allied forces to come to their support. And as for those “lessons of history” that Baerbock and other German politicians have referred to in recent days, Zelensky wondered aloud whether they had been learned: “I just want to make sure you and I read the same books.” And then, in defiance of everything that everybody else had said, he used the word appeasement, to describe not Munich in 1938, but Munich in 2022.

Anne Applebaum – theatlantic.com (gift subscription for the blog author still greatly desired)

At the end of the day, it’s going to be the Ukrainians and their bravery and their dedication to this very old idea, the idea of sovereignty, the idea of freedom. It will be their dedication to that that determines what happens.

Anne Applebaum – Rachel Maddow – Feb. 21, 2022

The fog of war has descended now. Nobody can have all the facts any longer and yet facts still remain facts and facts are generally indisputable.

Here’s a fact; Putin is behaving like a new Hitler. Hitler’s bullshit excuse for claiming the Sudetenland and starting World War Two is exactly the same language that Vladimir Putin used to claim his right to invade and occupy Ukraine. There is no other conclusion that can be made when looking at that speech made by Vlad the Corrupter. He is Hitler, and he is bent on a reconquest of historically Russian possessions with majority Russian speakers.

That is what it looks like from the UK, it’s what it looks like from France and Germany and from the Balkan states that are right now very, very thankful that they joined NATO. Putin being a twenty-first century Hitler is what it looks like when you see any Ukrainian being interviewed; whether they are in the UK worried about relatives or in Kyiv worried about what’s going to happen next. If they are being interviewed on the BBC, maybe the BBC has an agenda, maybe they don’t, but they are interviewing ordinary, regular people; people who probably would be sitting at home watching TV at that precise moment and would prefer to not be interviewed by anybody except that a lot of shit is happening right now. Shit that has forced two million Ukrainians to leave their homes in fear.

(h/t to Stuart Surridge)

Ukraine was recognized as an independent state by Russia more than 30 years ago. The Charter of Paris, signed in November 1990 by the United States, Russia and 30 European countries, established essential principles for a post-Cold War era based on international law and global norms. Subsequently, Russia, the United States and Great Britain guaranteed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in 1995 in the Budapest Memorandum.

Moscow has no more legal basis to insist on any portion of the territory of Ukraine than Germany has the right to demand the return of Alsace and Lorraine from France. If the West accepts such Russian claims, it will not only undermine the sovereignty of all countries but also invite other nations to seek territory through military force.

nbcnews.com

I would prefer that there was never another war but that has no bearing on whether Putin is an aggressor or that Volodymyr Zelenskyy was heroic when he chose to stay with his people and fight to the bitter end. If the US had supported a real leader during our fiasco in Afghanistan the Taliban would not be in power there now. Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a real leader.

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Ukraine has been an independent state for thirty years. It’s President will likely give his life for his country as will many thousands of it’s men, women and children. It is time and long past time to start treating it the way we do every other country; and with Ukraine, Belarus and Russia now being separate governments today, separate governments and distinctly unique peoples, it is long past time to admit that there is no longer a Russian empire. There are just the three countries who were once the core of the empire, two of which are lead by the same cruel little spider, Vlad the Corrupter in Moscow.

All of this is aside from the fact that we, the United States government, cannot be allowed to be seen as starting a war in Europe, which is what it will look like if we were to interfere in Ukraine directly now or in the near future. What is going on in Europe is a Russian or Eastern Slavic Civil War, no different than all the other uprisings that Vlad the Corrupter has put down in the former Soviet Republics. He saw all of them as the unwanted intervention of the United States and its allies and accomplices in strictly Russian affairs. Up to this point, he has been allowed to do what he wants with these places.

spotifyCommon Sense 323 – Gas Up the Cold War – March 1, 2022

I don’t like any of this in terms of how it worked out because I don’t want a more militarized Europe, I don’t want another cold war, I don’t want the massive defense spending, I don’t want everything that this is going to entail; but I’m not the one that invaded Ukraine. Sometimes it’s not up to us what we want.

Dan Carlin

If you grew up during the Cold War you can understand why most people don’t want to return to those years, and resuming hostilities with Russia because of Vlad the Corrupter’s actions feels a lot like the cold war is starting back up again. However, this isn’t a return to the cold war if we can keep Ukraine independent and opposed to Russian control.

…And we want to avoid a return to the cold war almost as much as we want to avoid a nuclear Armageddon. That outcome would be a setback for world peace and our need for mutual cooperation on limiting climate change. The world-wide antagonism that comes with a return to a cold war footing that might as well be read as the end of life as we know it on this planet, much the same as an all-out nuclear war will spell the end of life.

It isn’t a nuclear exchange that I fear. We are already in WW3 as far as I can tell and it may well end in a nuclear exchange for all that any of us can tell. What I fear is capitulation to Russia on the one hand and the resulting rise of authoritarianism around the world that would follow; as opposed to the standard American military response that will end in a nuclear exchange at some point.

On the other end of the spectrum from Dan Carlin’s handwringing about potentially starting a nuclear war we have this:

We must not only stop what’s happening in Ukraine, we must stop it before it happens here. 

Stonekettle

We cannot go into Ukraine and fight Russians directly. That is the conflict that every nationalist everywhere has been primed to fight to the death over. Being in the war should not equate to “running the war.” We must avoid that impression at all costs if we want any chance of victory for democracy and Ukraine. This has to be, first and foremost, Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. Against Putin’s aggression, his denial of their own separate personhood as a nation. As individuals who don’t want to bow down to his criminal organization.

The United States needs to figure out how to assist Ukraine and the wider European theater of operation without making the conflict all about us. It ain’t about us. It’s about Ukrainians not wanting to belong to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. IF WE RUN THIS WAR we will lose this war. There is nothing that Russians want more than to make the United States suffer after all the suffering they’ve been through, suffering they’ve been told is at our hands for more than seventy years now.

We can not be the center. Ukraine has to be the center. More to come.


I get most of my news from NPR:

spotifyNPR – State of Ukraine

Even though I don’t link any of their podcasts in this article. Most of what they broadcast is transitory. The feeds mount up and the information becomes stale and the attempt to narrativize the information becomes unwieldy very quickly.

Abbott’s Child Abuse

Abbott and his Trumpist cronies know no depths to which they will not descend:

As District Attorney of the most populous county in Texas, I oppose attempts by Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton to designate life-saving care for transgender children as ‘child abuse.’ As a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I am particularly sensitive to the invidious nature of this order—it turns family members against each other at the expense of their children. It is a remnant of a hateful past that I had hoped our society had matured beyond. I will not prosecute any parent, any facility, or anyone else for providing medically appropriate care to transgender children. I will continue to enforce the Constitution and the state’s criminal laws to assure the greatest degree of freedom and order that we can achieve.

click2houston.com

I’ve gotten a couple of notifications now from people who make some sort of “Oh yeah? Well take this!” comment, and then they block me so I can’t see it. It’s cool, I do that too sometimes. Usually I make the abandoned reply a warning sign for like-minded people who think they know what the argument is about. There is little point in saying anything to the person that you will block because they won’t see it anyway.

Most people have no clue what the argument is about, just like this public debacle that is Abbott’s targeting of transgendered children. These children exist and the evangelical base that supports Abbott and Trump (Trumpists) would like to pretend there is a wave of medical and parental malpractice that must be countered by governmental action.

This is as much a figment of their overactive imaginations as any number of other things that I might mention here; but that is just another conversation I don’t want to have. It is sufficient for me to say that it is evil for Abbott to use these children as pawns in his reelection campaign. They are already suffering enough. They don’t need to be used this way by politically motivated religious zealots on a crusade.

Shame on all of you for doing this.

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Parents of a trans child who reached out to Attorney General Ken Paxton over dinner are now under investigation for child abuse. from texas

Jesus Freak

We bring these bastards to justice. We hold them to account for their words and their actions and their endless treason. We drop the hammer on fascism so goddamn hard that these miserable fucks and their craven shitty stormtroopers never dare show their faces again.

There is no compromise with those who would murder us for their own profit. 

stonekettle

This was what was going on over on Conservative Reddit on January 6th, 2022. One year after Trump’s failed attempt at a Coup d’état the coup participants are still engaged in whataboutism. As the poster of the image in r/MarchAgainstNazis pointed out, this is typical behavior for Trumpists who still think they are the real conservatives in the United States right now.

A number of people who want to preserve the label Conservative from it’s ultimate demise in today’s America objected to the representation that the image featured sentiments that Conservatives are sympathetic to. There were other labels offered up as options that were more appropriate. Fascist was one of them.

I rather like fascist as a label for Trumpists, but it is a little overly general. Try defining fascist, it’s a lot harder than you think it will be. Are they fascists? Probably. It’s a pretty safe bet to say they are fascists, but if you are going to take the time to critique the behavior it’s better to have more than just a label to slap on it so that you can shout it at them.

I prefer the label that I created for them. They are the MAGA or the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, thereby using their own language against them. Half the time I use the initialism I get likes from MAGA’s just because I used MAGA in a sentence. That is how blind most online resistance is.

The MAGA’s are the greatest threat that world civilization currently faces. They are the greatest threat because they are anti-science, anti-climate change and antivaxx and the list goes on and on. They are the greatest threat because they want to go back to fighting Muslims and the Chinese and whichever other ethnic group out there that they just can’t stomach instead of admitting that the problem with America is Americans. At least Americans that still support Caudito Trump.

I have taken to referring to the MAGA in generally more recognizable terms these days. I call them White Nationalists, like the Nazis were and still are or Christianists, the people who think that christian is a thing and that thing should be the thing everyone else values, namely capitalism and greed with a soupçon of nativism and isolationism. The prosperity gospel on steroids that is running rampant through what remains of the Religious Right.

The people who marched on the Capitol a year ago today chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” built a scaffold to hang him on, and then proceeded to force their way into the building beating cops all the way to their final destination were supporting Christianism and White Nationalism whether they knew this fact or not. I would further hazard the guess that most of the people who stormed the capitol also self-identify as Evangelical Christians. Most of the people who supported Trump and still support him are Evangelicals. They are Christianists of a more specific type.

There were several replies to the sub-thread I started that objected to the Christianist label. They wanted to split the hair infinitely. They wanted to be Christian instead of just whatever sect of Christianity that they participate in, but christian isn’t a thing that I’ve ever been able to define because there are people who want to be called Christian that disagree with each other about every single thing that Jesus said and every single thing mentioned in their holy book as defining what a christian is or would be.

So there aren’t Christians, there are just christians, a loose conglomeration of peoples that avow Christianity while not following it’s teachings. One can be a Jesus Freak and not be a christian; however you can’t be a Jesus Freak and be a Christianist. The two are incompatible. Christianism requires a militancy that Jesus would never have tolerated. Jesus was a lover not a fighter.

Thomas Jefferson was the original Jesus Freak. He took the time to excise everything from his personal bible that wasn’t a thing that Jesus could have said or done and not been miraculous. That is the definition of a freak, a fanboy, a geek for Jesus.

I was also a Jesus Freak in my youth. I loved everything Jesus. The whole god thing was an inscrutable mystery to me, but I loved me some Jesus. When I started drafting I spent a lot of time listening to the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar:

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I listened to it so many times that my mentor essentially forbade me from listening to it again. That is how I define Jesus Freak. However, decades of being immersed in the slowly evolving milieu that became modern Christianity drove me further and further away from my admiration for Jesus, just as discovering what Star Trek fandom was turning into ruined my appreciation of everything but the original series, stuck like a fly in the amber of the 1960’s.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a lot like Classic Trek in that you can’t change what it says in the original recording. You can only make a Next Generation Superstar and that won’t be the classic version no matter how loud you yell about how good it is. The militarism will prove that you don’t understand what the classic version was all about. I can still enjoy those original cast recordings. I’m listening to them as I write this.

As the decades continued to advance I lost my freakishness. I couldn’t stomach innocuous songs like Jesus is just Alright anymore. He wasn’t alright. Not if you just sing the song and don’t pay attention to the philosophy behind the name. I finally admitted to the break with the religion of my youth back in 2010. I never understood the need for gods anyway. Jesus’ teachings were worthy beliefs to follow, but not if I had to put myself next to people who happily spat on the poor and disabled and pretend that I wasn’t revolted by their callow natures.

Today, I look at these people who use their religion as an excuse to interfere in secular government and I can’t help but recall Jesus’ parable on paying taxes. If you want to resort to militancy in your goals for government, you can do it without your crutch of religion. If you instead use your religion as an excuse to beat your neighbor that you disagree with, then you aren’t a Christian. You might want to go back to studying your scripture.

And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

Matthew 22:20-21

Approval Ratings

The various media outlets who obsess with metrics have been tearing down President Biden for months now. His metrics are bad, they keep saying. His approval ratings are down. The horror of it all!

To my mind, this is a classic case of mistaking metrics for meaning, mistaking the forest for the trees. Joe Biden is still more popular than Donald Trump was at any point in his Presidency, as this graphic reveals:

projects.fivethirtyeight.com

He’s still more popular than Trump has ever been or ever will be. Yes, that is damning with faint praise. Biden isn’t Clinton or Obama, true. However we aren’t going to get Bill or Hillary Clinton or Barack or Michelle Obama to replace Joe Biden. We aren’t going to get any one of the dozen Democratic opponents that competed with Joe Biden during the primary other than his Vice President, Kamala Harris. That is who we voted for, and that is who we are stuck with, for better or worse.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be up for re-election in three years. The political opposition that has been kept alive since Donald Trump’s trouncing in November of 2020 is still solidly Trumpist in nature. They are denying the reality of the 2020 election and the reality of the continuing pandemic, as well as continuing to deny the existence of climate change.

In the midterm elections next year these pitifully deluded people will stand in opposition to everything that Joe Biden has done, hoping against hope that they can convince the disenchanted to vote for them instead of confirming the course the nation was set on when we elected Joe Biden in 2020. They are doing everything they can to manufacture a political upset in that election. They are rigging the vote in every state that they control and planning on keep people who want to vote Democratic from voting. They are using the system against us, just as they have always done.

I’ve disowned two siblings over the fiasco that is playing out now. I’ve disowned them because we don’t have a choice anymore when it comes to avenues of escape from the pandemic prison we find ourselves in today. Distancing and masking are all we can look forward to until we can convince or restrict the movement of vaccine hold-outs. Those are our choices. Whistling past the graveyard hoping not to catch the virus was never an option, no matter how many morons think that this is an effective way to deal with a pandemic.

I would have preferred different candidates than the two we had to choose from in November. Given the alternative the choice was clear. Given the alternative the choice is still clear. Science first. Reality first. Democracy first. The rest of it follows on from those clear facts.

What Would Bunk Do?

He was known as Bunk to friends and family and he carried that nickname all his life. He earned that name fair and square at a very early age by retorting “that’s a load of bunk ” after being told something that he thought was bullshit. Bullshit was the kind of word he would reserve for private reflections on the bunk he encountered, but he knew bullshit when he smelled it all the same. You don’t have to be offensive in your rejection of other’s ideas. It was enough to simply dispute them, and he did that with emphasis.

He was a science man through and through. If you could prove a thing through trial and error, then that thing was a true thing and he stuck with it. His family grew to accept his judgements after awhile. What he said proved to be the thing that needed doing so often that most of them rarely bothered to disagree with him publicly. Sometimes when they encountered problems in their own lives and he wasn’t there to ask, they would even quietly ask themselves “What Would Bunk Do?”

He grew set in his ways, like most of us do as we get older, certain of many things that could not be proven. More and more of them as time went on. Not all experts are wise, and not all wise men are experts. The doctors that advised his last cancer treatment were of the first variety, and neither he nor they thought to look for men of the second variety to double-check their diagnosis. Blind faith in the practitioners of science can kill you just as surely as blind faith in anything else will.

The moral of this story is to always ask for a second opinion if not a third opinion and a forth one if necessary. Do not ask to find an opinion you agree with. Ask to find one that you disagree with, and then figure out why the disagreement exists. New technology can be a weapon when wielded by the wrong hands. Make sure you understand how it works, or at least that the experts you rely on understand it.

Bunk died in 1997 and so was spared from the insanity that has plagued this country he loved so much since that time. Still, I have little doubt that he would have declared today’s COVID vaccine hesitation a load of bunk given the situation we are in today. The science denial has gotten too obvious on its face. Its adherents too strident in their denial. The costs to the country and to the world are too high to not concede that vaccination is the way out of this mess.

I got my COVID booster shot today. I got my first dose as soon as the vaccine was available:

I had my doubts about mRNA vaccines at first. I had even more doubts that a vaccine created by Donald Trump’s (lack of an) administration could possibly create anything that worked.

Planet Money – Moonshot in the arm – November 5, 2021

It wasn’t until Dr. Fauci accepted the vaccine that I knew it was probably safe and that I could accept it for myself. I got second and third and forth opinions, too. Then I got my vaccination and tried to pretend that the world would go back to normal.

Unfortunately the Trumpists whose God-Emperor had decreed that the vaccines be made won’t allow themselves to be vaccinated because he also said the pandemic was a hoax and that the virus was no different than influenza or a cold. This is demonstrably untrue.

That all kinds of other treatments work against this hoax virus better than vaccines do. Why you need a treatment for a hoax is beyond me, but that hasn’t stopped dozens if not hundreds of people from poisoning themselves with the fake treatments that these con artists that work for and off of Trump are selling.

Six months have gone by since I got my first shot, which makes me eligible to get my booster shot.

Short Wave – How Long Does COVID Immunity Last Anyway? – September 21, 2021

This is the way immunology works. Some people get break-through infections after being vaccinated. This is what the percentage means when they say that a vaccine is XX% effective. the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 90% effective against the SARS2 virus that was circulating a year ago. They are both going to be less effective against the mutations that are currently circulating.

Why? Because the unvaccinated give the virus a chance to bypass the protection a vaccine offers by carrying their mutations near the vaccinated and thereby giving the virus a chance to test itself against the vaccine. Each new infection of a vaccinated person brings us one step closer to a new virus that can bypass the therapies completely, and then we will be back to square one again. Locked in our houses and hoping that something will happen that will release us from this hell that science denial has brought on us.

I’m beginning to doubt that we deserve to be saved from our own stupidity. But I got my booster anyway because there is still a chance that we might beat this thing. If we grow up. If we accept that science is real. If we ensure that the virus can’t spread by making everyone on the planet get their vaccinations.

Don’t tell me you are afraid of needles because you can’t be more afraid of them than I am (see the vaccination article) Don’t tell me that you don’t believe in vaccines or that this is all political bullshit. Science is real and people are really dying. Bunk would say “get your shots” in spite of the fact that some other sciences in today’s world would give him reason to question their veracity. Vaccinations are proven technology and they work if you get them. So get them so we can put this pandemic behind us. Please?

And someone wrote new words to an old hymn, and crowds sang it for the weeks it took to end the rotten regime. “Bring out your dead, there is no need for shame. Show every face and let us hear each name. Better to know, how many we have lost…than lie and say that no such deaths have cost…”

elizabethmoon.com
Addendum

The pandemic has cost more than 793,000 American lives to date and we can’t afford to allow the unvaccinated to continue to help this illness spread and mutate. The vaccine has been cleared for almost all ages, all health conditions and is by far safer than risking the effects of the disease.  The Winter holidays are happening as I write this. Prove that you love your family by ensuring their best possible chances of health and prosperity in the new year by being vaccinated and making sure your family is vaccinated.

Tell that uncle or aunt, grandmother, grandfather or even young nieces nephews and cousins. Tell them to get vaccinated or they are not welcome at family gatherings. I’ve listened to dozens of podcasts and read dozens of news stories about how to thread the conflicts of this time we find ourselves in. I don’t understand why opening the conversation with the truth is a bad thing. “Get vaccinated or don’t come to my home. Get vaccinated or I won’t go to your home.” This strikes me as a completely reasonable position to take, especially if you know that there are going to be people who could die from airborne diseases at the family gathering. State the rule clearly and right up front. Claiming any excuse to not be vaccinated is just a load of bunk.

Biden vs. Reagan

For the past thirty years, every single time we’ve had a new President, that first year of the new president, the president’s party lost both the Virginia governor and the New Jersey governor. Every single time.

Except this time Democrats didn’t lose New Jersey. In a rational world this would not be a cause for Democratic panic. Quite the contrary.

Democrats have beat the odds. They’ve done better than everybody’s done going back to the great communicator, Ronald Reagan, who’s the last president who pulled this off.

The last time a president managed to only lose one of those governorships in the first year he was in office, it was the great communicator himself Ronald Reagan.

Biden has done something that no other President has been able to do since Reagan. You would think this would be cause for celebration in the Democratic party.

Rachel Maddow – November 3, 2021

In the meantime, this is what has happened to the party of Reagan:

youtubeRachel Maddow: November 3rd
dallasnews.com

Scores of QAnon believers gathered Tuesday afternoon in downtown Dallas in the hopes that John F. Kennedy Jr. would appear, heralding the reinstatement of Donald Trump as president.

dallasnews.com

Regression to the Mean

Republicans:

facebook.com/Stonekettle

They have made their way for so long on the mantra of resistance and regression that they can’t comprehend a change that is necessary for thier own survival. They would rather die than admit that a tradition was wrong.

The tradition in this case being that the individual is paramount. There can be no such thing as a legitimate public health concern if the public is subservient to the individual. This is the error in accepting individualism as your only ideology.

Vaccine mandates are how this civilization will survive this crisis. It is the only way we will survive and not be swallowed up by the other societies who are instinctively capable of subsuming the individual to the will of the group.

We either force the insanely individualistic to submit to majority will in this instance, or we will devolve into small islands of localized authority that will be gobbled up by the next society to gain dominance in the new reality. The new reality that Donald Trump and his Republican party have made necessary by failing to stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from spreading across the world.

This isn’t just about vaccine mandates, either:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill that aims to stop social media companies from banning users or nixing posts based solely on political opinions — the latest salvo by Republicans, who claim that these tech giants are censoring conservative users.

cbsnews.com

The Trumpists that run the Republican party are intent on seeing that their particular brand of insanity can’t be removed from the public arena. They have now given up on the idea of businesses being allowed to go their own way, the unbridled worship of the free market. Businesses must now strictly conform to Republican views or they will face dire consequences:

If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy said in Tuesday’s statement. “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.

Kevin McCarthy via politico.com

This is terrorism, no different than the terroristic threats issued by violent extremists and dictatorial governments elsewhere in the world. Republicans have proven themselves over and over again to be the kind of vicious bastards that would do the things that they threaten to do. Which is exactly the reason why the United States government should act to protect itself now, not wait for the next Congress or the next President to be elected from the Republican party to act in the manner they have already promised to act, and then have the gall to feign surprise at the promised retribution being delivered.

They are threatening us with violence, have been threatening us with violence for decades. These are the same people whose grandparents and great-grandparents joined the KKK and terrorized minority communities in order to get their way. The same people who filibustered against civil rights legislation and voting rights legislation before they switched parties and became Republicans.

They are the direct descendants of terrorists, and we cannot allow them to compete for power in this country any longer unless they are willing to renounce terror as a method of governing. Either they submit to the current government and its completely legitimate concerns for public health, for civil discourse; or the government should use its equally legitimate control of the use of force to ensure that they comply with the needs of society.

Enforced compliance, up to and including the disenfranchisement of the Republican party itself in favor of a party-less system that makes no allowances for party affiliation in the rules of government. The way that representative government in the United States should have been arranged for in the first place. The least amount of party interference in active government that can be achieved; through conscious, objectively designed rules that minimize factional disfunction in favor of just getting the necessary shit done.

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would both prevent a government shutdown and suspend the debt limit in a step toward preventing possible economic calamity.

The chamber approved the plan in a 220-211 vote. All Democrats voted for it and all Republicans opposed it.

As the bill heads to the Senate, Republicans are threatening to block it, which could leave Democrats scrambling to find another way to avoid a federal funding lapse — or even a first-ever default on U.S. debt. Worries about a looming default and the economic damage it would cause contributed to a U.S. stock market drubbing on Monday.

cnbc.com

Conservatism has now resumed it’s traditional place in the United States. It has regressed to its mean; blind support of tradition for tradition’s sake. Pursuit of power for power’s sake. The Republican party has ceased to function as a party that can govern and so consequently should be relegated to the back bench. We should allow some other party to take its place, or allow a combination of parties to vie for the prime opposition spot.

We cannot allow public health to be treated as just another thing that we should expect the government to argue with itself about. The average American just wants to be allowed to live their life, and enforcing minimal public health standards will let that happen. Can we all just be allowed to go outside again, please? Get your damn shots.

Graveyard of Empires

I remember those days like a nightmare that you can’t seem to escape. I was walking to work from my remote parking space. I had been loaned out as a draftsman to another firm while working for the architecture firm Graeber, Simmons & Cowan back in 2001. I don’t recall the name of the firm I had been loaned out to, but I can point you to the building it was in on Congress Avenue if I happen to be driving with you downtown.

A plane had struck the North tower of the World Trade Center at some point during my drive to work that morning. I was late to work as usual when I was under a deadline and working late nights. The second plane struck not too long after we had all settled down to work that day, and I believe we were dismissed early because there was no use in pretending we were going to get anything done on the project with the kinds of things that were happening in the world that day.

I remember the second plane strike most vividly because it was one of the first times that I was forced to use the internet to get essential news updates, there being no television in the office I was working at. We watched the video of the crash over and over that morning, before leaving to go home and contemplate what we had just witnessed.

When the Travis County Libertarians convened later that week to try to pass an antiwar resolution, declaring that Travis County Libertarians were opposed to the war in Afghanistan that the President was proposing, I motioned to table the declaration. With a second and a majority vote, we did table it. The majority of us at that meeting that day knew that blood called out for blood. It was inevitable and probably right for the United States to seek vengeance against the instigators of the plot that destroyed those towers in New York City. I don’t regret doing that; even today, twenty years later I don’t regret it. I regret that we violated parliamentary procedure to get the resolution tabled, but not that we refused to say that the United States had no right to seek vengeance. Blood called out for blood.

By October 7, 2001, when the war against the Taliban started:

The U.S. military, with British support, begins a bombing campaign against Taliban forces, officially launching Operation Enduring Freedom. Canada, Australia, Germany, and France pledge future support. The wars early phase [PDF] mainly involves U.S. air strikes on al-Qaeda and Taliban forces that are assisted by a partnership of about one thousand U.S. special forces, the Northern Alliance, and ethnic Pashtun anti-Taliban forces. The first wave of conventional ground forces arrives twelve days later. Most of the ground combat is between the Taliban and its Afghan opponents.

cfr.org

…I was actively planning to go overseas to help rebuild Afghanistan. They needed engineers and experienced construction personnel, and I wanted to put my money where my mouth was, my expertise to work at something that would hopefully inspire a lasting change in the country that had fostered so much hatred for the United States. This was a radical change from the teenager I had been a scant decade earlier. I was ready to go to jail rather than even register for the draft when I turned 18 in 1980. I was that opposed to war.

I knew that if we wanted to avoid a quagmire in Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires, it was going to take finesse and a deft hand on the tiller, and I hoped that the former Texas Governor was up to the job that he had signed himself up to perform as President of the United States. I wanted to be part of the success of that effort. I wanted the cycle we were caught in to end.

My hopes were soon dashed, though. By the middle of 2002, before I had made any headway in deciding if it would be smart to involve myself in Bush II’s ill-begotten war on terrorism, he was already taking his eye off the ball and had begun flirting with conducting a war against his daddy’s nemesis, Saddam Hussein:

There’s an old line: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And so it was with the Iraq war. Bush and Clinton and Powell and Blair knew quite a bit that wasn’t true. As Robert Draper shows in his book “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq,” they were certain Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Only he didn’t. They were also certain, based on decades of testimony from Iraqi expats, that Americans would be welcomed as liberators.

nytimes.com

We ultimately squandered the opportunity handed to us by our allies in Afghanistan. Instead of pursuing a limited campaign that would destroy Al Qaeda and kill Osama Bin Laden, George W. Bush betrayed the needs of the nation and instead pursued imperial goals, trying to bring more countries under the direct control of the United States military through a permanent troop presence and a widening field of battle that essentially encompassed the entire globe, much less all of Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden left Afghanistan while we were distracted and took up residence under the protection of one of our purported allies, Pakistan. He lived in hiding there for another decade while our President’s dreams of empire were pursued at our nation’s expense. At the cost of nearly a million lives. Iraq’s government was destroyed and the entire region was destabilized because of the War on Terror. President Bush played right into OBL’s hands and attempted to colonize not just Afghanistan but Iraq as well.

We betrayed our allies, the Northern Alliance, the people who should have been the tip of the spear in everything we did in Afghanistan so as to keep our footprint in the country to a minimum, and instead tried to occupy the country. Time and again it was shown to us that this effort was doomed, and yet we kept doubling down on the investment of blood and treasure, with no one in leadership willing to admit that we were never going to be able to leave the country that we stupidly thought we could control.

We know now what that error has cost us. Has cost the people of Afghanistan. Twenty years later, the United States lead war in Afghanistan has finally come to an end, and the war between conservative governing factions in Afghanistan is set to begin. No one knows how long that war will rage, or what the ultimate outcome will be, but there is little doubt that the next war in Afghanistan is about to begin. Begin without our presence for the first time in a generation.

Donald Trump, the only president in history worse that George W. Bush, was left in charge of the United States when it came time to cut a deal to get us out of Afghanistan. President Obama could have done it, should have done it, but he thought he could turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse (the same hope of every leader left in charge of a debacle in the making) and kept us fighting an unwinnable war for the entire eight years of his Presidency.

Barack Obama, to his credit, did finally see to the death of the architect of the attacks on our country, but he failed to realize that with the death of OBL we no longer had a reason to stay in Afghanistan. We should have gotten out then, at least. Instead we kept lying to ourselves about what the ultimate outcome of the boondoggle would be. Another ten years went by.

Donald Trump, in his infinite lack of wisdom, decided the smart thing to do was hand the country of Afghanistan back over to the people we had fought for twenty years. He released the prisoners of war that we had captured and had them sign his peace deal, tying the hands of Joe Biden to the August 31st deadline that we have just gone through.

The Ezra Klein ShowThe Foreign Policy Conversation Washington Doesn’t Want to Have

Make no mistake, Joe Biden understood what needed to be done when he was Barack Obama’s Vice President. He opposed the surge. He wanted us to get out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. As Ezra sums up in his article in the NY Times, it was always going to end this way. President Biden knew this just as well as Ezra’s guest in the podcast embedded above knows this.

There was never going to be a time when the coddled, corrupt Afghan puppet that we installed as leader of the country was going to be willing to risk his life for the country that we created. The same clearly went for all of the military personnel that we meticulously trained alongside us for twenty years in-country. Without leadership that would stand firm beside them they would melt away, leaving all the technology we had left in their hands in the hands of the enemies that Donald Trump put in charge with a stroke of his pen.

The Northern Alliance might have been up to the task if we had allowed them to lead, to put their blood and treasure on the line as the cost of not supporting the central government in Kabul. We’ll never know, because that eventuality never occurred. Instead we colonized and set up a puppet government just like we did in Vietnam; and the entire façade collapsed without our constant support, also just like Vietnam.

Now. Now we need to be working with Afghanistan’s neighbors to insure that it doesn’t devolve into the hellhole the Taliban made of it before. If we don’t do this work then we will find ourselves once again drawn into conflict there sometime in the future. Drawn into conflict or attacked by terrorists that found safe harbor there just as they did before. This outcome can’t be allowed to occur; and the only way to stop it is to help make Afghanistan the place it should have been all those years ago when we decided to continue being an empire instead of being a republic of fellow humans that needed to see past wrongs righted and the guilty brought to justice.

How can we, the country that still can’t come to peace with its own slave history, its own genocide of the original population of the land our country was founded on, how can we hope to ever show others how they can move past the point were blood calls out for blood? Who else is there that will do this work if we don’t?

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Featured image from: warfarehistorynetwork.com

Postscript

I’m appending a series of podcasts I listened to following the collapse of the government in Kabul. Collapse? More like abdication and retreat to tropical villas paid for with money that the government officials stole from the Afghani people and from us. Compare and contrast the historical treatment provided by Dan Carlin:

SpotifyCommon Sense 322 Betting on Long Shots

With the historical treatment provided by Throughline:

Afghanistan: The Center of the World – Throughline – September 9, 2021

Throughline – Afghanistan: The Rise of the Taliban – September 16, 2021

You should be able to see the reasons why I value the episodes of Throughline as highly as I do when you make that comparison. Dan Carlin is a credible source of historical information and storytelling. Throughline brings you to the information from a completely different perspective.

It is understandable that the Afghani’s don’t want their country to be thought of as a graveyard. I don’t think they understand what the phrase means, though. It is a salute to their intransigence, their unwillingness to just go along to get along and endure the yoke of the imperial master. How many countries can boast that contentious history? The crime is that these people have been forced to endure so many attempts to colonize them, not that they destroyed the imperial dreams of so many different colonizers. I don’t know If I’d go so far as to say Afghanistan is the center of the world. When it was most of the trade route between China and Europe, that was certainly true in an economic sense. Every place can become a backwater, though. This is doubly true of Afghanistan. It has happened before. It was why the Taliban were allowed to do what they did for so long.

Fresh Air – Life In Afghanistan Now – October 7, 2021

Award-winning Afghan British journalist Najibullah Quraishi is on the ground in Kabul where he has been interviewing Taliban leaders and fighters, women who have lost their rights, and citizens trying to escape. He believes that the country is on the brink of civil war. Quraishi is the correspondent for the forthcoming Frontline PBS documentary, ‘Taliban Takeover.’

npr.org

The Frontline episode is gut-wrenching. It can be viewed online.

Planet Money – Afghanistan’s Money Problem – September 15, 2021

Afghanistan’s economy changed — almost overnight — when the Taliban retook control of the county. What does that mean for Afghanistan’s access to foreign aid, trade and the bricks of Afghan gold sitting in the basement of a New York building?

npr.org
spotifyAMICUSThe Legal Repercussions of the War on Terror – FEB 01, 2022

Baher Azmy is the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He’s been challenging the American government repeatedly over the last two decades. Right now, he’s on leave from his faculty position at Seton Hall University School of Law, where he taught constitutional law, directed their civil rights and Constitutional Litigation Clinic. The article I was drawing from today is in a book entitled Crisis Lawyering, published this last year by NYU Press, and his chapter is Guantanamo 20 years of lawyering in a lawless space. 

slate.com

I hope that the United States dreams of imperial conquest are truly dead and buried with the war in Afghanistan. I hope this is true, but I also doubt that it is true. Every time I think we’ve gotten smarter, I discover to my horror that people still believe the bullshit that has gotten us into bad war after bad war for more than 200 years now. I was never a pacifist, but I’m beginning to think that I should be one.

Putin’s Trump Card

Eventually, the Russians will leak what they had to control Mr. Trump with his anti-American activities.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey

I’ll believe it when I see it. If Trump’s base can be relied upon to double down on their support of Trump yet again (and why not?) then this kind of revelation will only harden opposition to Trump and his supporters. I don’t know how this all ends other than in blood and Civil War, but I do know that anyone who values the country that they knew as the United States in prior times can not be willing to allow a return to power for anyone who supports a traitor like Trump is, and that most of his closest advisors are. They should all be up on charges already and I remain mystified as to why those charges have not been issued.

Why would Russia release this information? Because it will further destabilize the United States. Because Trump failed to do the job he was put into office to do. What job was that? Maria Butina asked the key question in 2015, and Trump promised to fulfill that obligation. Promised to remove sanctions and improve relations with Russia, a job he failed spectacularly at achieving. Scuttling the infidel that failed them, but that is still being encouraged to fight for a return to power, further divides the nation.

We can’t even get a measure designed to ensure access to the vote for all Americans passed through the Senate as it stands now. We are on the verge of becoming a failed state already. A few more nudges may well send us over the edge into oblivion. Perhaps that is Putin’s hope. I know it isn’t McCaffrey’s. He hopes that exposing the truth will take the wind out of Trump’s supporters and the Republican party. I don’t think that any of them believe in truth anymore or would know it when they saw it.

reddit

Trumpism Abides

Republicans who sought to undercut or overturn President Joe Biden’s election win are launching campaigns to become their states’ top election officials next year, alarming local officeholders and opponents who are warning about pro-Trump, “ends justify the means” candidates taking big roles in running the vote.

politico

This really isn’t news. Not really. Trumpists been beating this dead horse since the election last November, not just since the attempted coup on January 6th:

This is why I muse about the question of allowing Republicans or their intellectual inheritors to ever regain power in the United States in this article:

…and then agitate for instituting jungle (blanket) primaries in every single state in the Union before 2022. We don’t have a choice. Either we open up the system and destroy the possibility of minority rule in the US forever, or we embrace the idea that we like overlords telling us what to do. Embrace it, because that is what we will get if we ever let the Trumpists that Republicans have turned into back into power. If we allow the possibility of minority rule by any one group of Americans, then someone will seek to wield that power for their group. This is a no-joke emergency we are caught up in right now.

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If you elect those who hate and fear government to run government, then you’re going to get a government of hate and fear.

Stonekettle