Fanboy Says Yes (!!) to Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians 2 was really, really good. It takes a while for the main conflict to show up, but the wait is worth it. This movie has a LOT of humor in it — I laughed a dozen times or more — and it’s perfectly placed within the story so that it draws nothing away from the seriousness of the main plot.

There’s some unexpectedly touching stuff involving Rocket Raccoon (and Yondu, among other characters), both midway through and at the end. Yeah, you’re gonna cry. The main theme of this movie is family, loved ones, and every character participates in developing that theme.

I could gush for a long, long time here, offering spoiler after spoiler, but … I’ll let you see the thing on your own. It’s good, believe me.

Stan Lee has TWO cameos, one an after-credits scene, and I laughed to recognize the people he was talking to — a trio of Watchers, those enigmatic high-collared baldies who exist to watch and record the events of the galaxy.

Oddly, there are a couple of Howard the Duck cameos. I can’t imagine Marvel plans to do anything more than shove him in as an occasional Easter Egg. Surely there’s not a Howard remake, right? I actually liked the silly original Howard the Duck movie, and was sorry it got such a bad rep. But it’s not worth another movie.

There are FIVE afterscenes, if I remember correctly, so you’ll want to stay through the credits.

One of the trailers before the movie is for Wonder Woman, and I’m really looking forward to that movie too.

Other Stuff:

I’ll be slightly surprised if any of my readers made the trip with me, and respond to this post. Obviously I haven’t been doing justice to the blog, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for tuning me out. Mainly, I’ve been working on that next book, BrainDrops. I’m doing a final proofing run now, but I plan to send review copies to a number of people, hoping for some good comments for the back cover or whatever. So don’t expect it before … oh, early June.

I tried something new in the atheist book genre; I hope it’s something readers will find both fun and thought-provoking.

Hello world!

Just setting up the new site. I moved all the posts from my Patheos address, but apparently the comments didn’t make the trip. I’m looking into it.

—Ah. Seems it just took a while for them to show up.

Goodbye Patheos—Hank Fox Bows Out

I’m leaving Patheos in the near future. I’m working on a book and a separate large project (Senior Adventure Quest)—not to mention my full-time JOB—and though I have no shortage of ideas for posts, I’m having real trouble finding time to devote to blogging.

Many other bloggers have made the jump to blogging as a business, and can afford to do it. If you have enough posts—several a day—and you get enough reader hits, you can actually get paid for blogging. I don’t fault them for taking that path, but I have seen the clear effect of a commercial motivation, and it’s not for me.

There is a philosophy behind atheism, something … quite different and larger than anything we’re doing now, and we really need to winkle that out and explore it rather than writing the same >>OMG Police Dept. Bumper Stickers!!<< story.

Not saying that stuff isn’t important. It’s just that there’s this OTHER stuff that needs to be thought about and covered too. That has been one of my main goals in blogging. And, for me at least, figuring that stuff out is time consuming.

Thinking about those things, mulling over ideas and teasing out new conclusions, new viewpoints, new realizations, takes hours and days and month and years, but pays literally nothing. If I’ve made twenty dollars from atheist-blogging over the 15 or so years I’ve been doing it, I’d be surprised. It’s a labor of love, sure enough, and I DO get to explore and tease at these ideas. In addition, I have really loved the reactions of readers, telling me I got them to think, that I gave them new ideas and new arguments.

But sometimes, the money really matters. So I need to pull back a bit and refocus on some of this other stuff.

(Here’s yet another of my time-consuming activities that pays literally nothing. But I love doing it, so there’s that.)

I will be transferring the entirety of my blog over to a new site — A Citizen of Earth — in the near future, and posting when the mood and the time coincide, but probably not very often.

Also, for near-future reference, the book I’m working on is called (tentatively):

BrainDrops: The One & Only Ungodly Bathroom Reader—An Astounding Compendium of Wit, Wisdom and Complete Goddam Nonsense from a Complete Goddam Atheist (for Hellbound Mockers of Every Heinous Persuasion).

In case you didn’t know about it, my first book, Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist: Simple Thoughts About Reason, Gods & Faith, is still up on Amazon.

—And yes, you want to buy BOTH 😉

Somewhen—end of March, early April—you’ll see BrainDrops on Amazon, and wherever else I can manage to get it distributed.

There are a couple of other books in the works, Saying Goodbye to Dad: An Atheist Deals With Death, and a so-far unnamed book on Beta Culture.

Anyway, it’s been cool, being here. Thank you to the nice folks at Patheos for giving me this chance, as Ed Brayton at Freethought Blogs gave me a podium and a microphone before them. When I get the Beta Culture book written, expect to see me out there at atheist conferences, promoting the book and the ideas in a big way.

Until then …

Keeping Up In Trumpistan

I found these Medium listicles today, and they are well worth reading, if you have the time. The point of the weekly lists is to … well, to cut through the overflow of information and to keep you from normalizing all this stuff in your head.

The hazard in the early stages of every authoritarian process is that we humans are 1) generally too busy to pay attention to all that’s happening, and 2) damned adaptable. Adaptability is normally one of our better traits, but it’s something to resist in yourself when what you’re adapting to is a steady wave of outrages you fear may grow into a defining act of horror.

Refreshingly, they don’t pretend to the staid formality of regular news. When Trump or his toadies lie, the articles use the word “lie.”

They all carry the same title:

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

… and cover events either happening or uncovered during that week.

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12

I haven’t found any past Week 12, dated Feb. 4, but I’m hoping there’s at least one more out there, and that they’ll keep coming.

I’ve started talking to people, strangers out in public. I live in a fairly wealthy, fairly pro-Trump area, and I just decided I’d start saying some of the things I’m thinking in casual conversations. I generally think people will see this as tedious and inappropriate, but I’ve been surprised at how receptive people seem. They listen, at least. One has already told me he regrets his vote for Trump; several have expressed the “at least he’s not Hillary” sentiment. I argue with that last, and though I’m more interested in convincing people rather than shutting them up, the arguments have at least shut some of them up.

Here’s another article worth reading, to give you a little context about lies in media, the manufacturing of political “stories” — BY THE MEDIA — during the Iraq War.

If You Were a Leftist Teenager During the Iraq War, You Were Gaslit 24/7 by Everyone

This sort of crap is what instantly pops into my mind when I hear someone say we have a “liberal media.” I paid attention during the Iraq War, and the media had its collective lips so stuck to George W. Bush’s ass it was surreal. This was the moment when all that “Support the Troops” crap got thrown out into the public spotlight, and anyone who didn’t support the troops was a traitor.

 

20 Ways to Take Action: Postscripts

[ Continued from Part 2 ]

Postscript I: The Bargain

You probably never consciously think about The Bargain. And it’s written into no law I know of. But it’s there, and you sort of know it. It’s that bargain we all make with the Powers That Be.

Society around us is actually a complex web of agreements and compromises – and repercussions. For instance, part of my deal with the neighbors is that I will not start up my Harley at 2 a.m. and rev the engine. In return, they will not come out at 4 a.m. and pour a gallon of molasses on my Harley. (If I had a Harley, that is.)

This web of agreements is a big part of what keeps us from a Lord of the Flies / Mad Max situation, where every one of us is an individual survivalist with only his own interests at heart, and every neighbor is an enemy we must guard against.

But The Bargain is this other thing. It’s the deal we make not with our neighbors, but with the Powers, the Big People in our lives.

Here’s our part: We will study hard, we will work hard, we will play fair. We will obey laws, pay taxes, vote and participate with honesty and compassion. We will go peacefully about our daily lives, treating each other with kindness and respect. We will not take anything we don’t deserve. We will do our small part to make the world work.

Here’s their part: They will treat us fairly, tell us the truth, deal with us in good faith. They will help us in certain ways when we really need it. They will hold back the darkness, keeping us safe from the two-legged animals who don’t observe social bargains. They will sell us products that work, and that last, and that give good value for what we pay for them. They will allow us to prosper, to raise families and make for ourselves a place in the world.

Okay, how well are some of them keeping their side of it? Let’s see:

The Catholic Church broke the bargain when it allowed generations of children to be molested.

Cops and courts and legislators broke the bargain when they endeavored to make harmless things illegal, deadly things perfectly acceptable, and the court system itself a playground for the rich, a gauntlet of fear and difficulty for the poor.

The government broke the bargain when it began to treat us all like potential terrorists, and paid off banks after they almost destroyed the economy. It broke it when it worked to convince us our best chance of getting ahead was a lottery, rather than saving and investing.

The military broke the bargain when it sent young men and women off to die protecting corporate interests rather than our freedom and safety.

Corporate CEOs broke the bargain when they began to accept hundreds of millions in annual salary, but paid their workers minimum wage. When they decided fair competition was less lucrative than lobbying Congress for sweetheart deals.

Corporations themselves broke the bargain when they began to meddle in government, lobbying for favorable treatment at the expense of voters and citizens and the environment. Corporations and rich people further broke the bargain when they stopped paying taxes.

Product designers and marketers broke the bargain when they designed products to fail, or sold us shiny garbage, or persuaded us to eat food that makes us fat and sick.

The news media broke the bargain when it began to lie and manipulate and propagandize us, leaving us defenseless against all those others. When they lazily defaulted on digging into the hard stories, instead tossing out the easy, titillating stories, the ones that provoke outrage and fear and weepy sympathy.

If YOU break The Bargain, there are consequences. They can send you to jail, or prison. They can humiliate you in public in a way that never heals. They can kill you.

But here’s the thing: If The Bargain is broken by THEM …

Why should you continue to act as if it’s still in force?

Postscript II: Freedom of Truth

When it comes to Freedom of Speech – MY FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS!!! – we’re all over that like a chicken on a June bug. Yes, yes, yes, you have the RIGHT to speak up. To write. To protest. To tattoo the shit out of yourself, and to walk around with the ugly crack of your ass showing.

But there’s another freedom – sort of the counterpoint to freedom of speech – that never made it into the Constitution. It never occurred to the founders to include it because they were educated men, dealing with educated men. They were self-reliant, and assumed others would look out for themselves in the same way.

But the freedom is this: The freedom not to be lied to. The Freedom of Truth.

If I tell you a lie, that’s one thing. It’s wrong, and we know it, but it affects you and I and very few other people. That lie, assuming it doesn’t violate other legal rights and responsibilities, falls within the freedom of speech.

But if the GOP tells you a lie, or FOX News tells you a lie, or Exxon-Mobil tells you a lie, that’s something else. It affects millions, possibly billions, of people. It parasitizes and manipulates them – disrupting their very understanding of reality – in favor of that small group of people who stand to profit.

And it does it, usually, via the publicly-owned broadcast spectrum. So the government essentially stands by and allows it.

You think they should have the exact same Freedom of Speech you and I have, except amplified a billion times by publicly-owned media?

If your freedom of speech includes the right to lie to one or a dozen people, but THEIR freedom of speech includes the right to lie to and manipulate 300 million of us, does that make any sort of sense?

No.

If you ever have any doubts about this, ask yourself: “Do I have a RIGHT to know what’s true and what’s not? Do I have a RIGHT to know what’s going on?”

Answer yourself, “You’re goddam right I do.”

“Do they have a right to lie to me? To keep me in the dark, believing lies and propaganda?”

“You’re goddam right they don’t. And I’m tired of this shit.”

Postscript III: Hillary Rodham Clinton

She should have been our next president.

She was brought down by the media, by that asshole in the FBI, by the lies of the right, by decades of the most vicious attacks. Allegedly, believably, she was brought down by Russian interference in our American election. She was also brought down by us.

She tried hard. She worked her ass off. She cared. And half of America shit on her. Most of us have no idea of the emotional toll something like this has on a person. But here:

Imagine you work for a company that has a big plum position coming open, and you have your heart set on winning that position. Imagine you spend two years working with that one goal in mind. Not just for the money, or the power, but because you know you can do the job better than anybody. You learn the things you need to learn, and you learn them better than anyone before you, ever. You do the things you need to do, and you do them fantastically well. All your performance evaluations are aces, your employer is incredibly impressed with you, all the people in your department respect and admire you, all the people in the industry are looking forward to working with you. But also, your company benefits like never before, climbing to the top of the entire industry.

You spend TWO YEARS caring and hoping and sweating to get that position, and everybody around you agrees you’re a shoo-in.

Okay, now imagine that three weeks before the final decision, your company is bought out by a billionaire. On the big day, the new owner announces his nephew, just out of business school, never held a job in his life, is taking over that position.

Take a second and think about how you felt when your dad died, your grandmother died, your dog died. The emotional impact of losing that position, or this election, is damned near the same. When you think about it, it might even be worse – because this was not some accidental death, it was something of a murder, and the killers are walking around out there smirking and laughing, high-fiving each other and smoking Cuban cigars.

When someone loses something they love, you don’t get in their face and tell them this is all their fault. You don’t get all grabby and selfish and demand they do something to make YOU feel better. You reach out to give THEM comfort.

Hillary is strong as hell. But she’s also human. You can’t care about something like this, really care, and just walk away when it gets snatched out of your hands at the last second, and in such an ugly way. She deserves something better in this moment than being shoved to the side and forgotten.

Send her a card. Write her a letter. Tell her how much you value her effort. Thank her for all her work, and for trying. She’s one of us, and she deserves at least this much.

Hillary Clinton
Post Office Box 5256
New York, NY 10185-5256

Office of Hillary Rodham Clinton
120 West 45th Street, Suite 2700
New York, NY 10036

Postscript IV: Useful Links

Trump Resistance Reference Guide

And yes, this stuff is being used on you, against you, every damned day:

Logical Fallacies

Logical Fallacies Handlist

Propaganda Techniques

Propaganda Techniques

Advertising Techniques

Persuasive Techniques

 

20 Ways to Take Action in Trump-America — Part 2

[ Continued from Part 1 ]

11. Be the Better You: Recognize your strengths

Recognize your own huge strengths.

Look, you’re one of the most intelligent, most creative, most powerful and dangerous animals on this planet. Act like it!

You and the people you choose to work with can come up with ideas and goals, you can work to make them happen. You can come up with crazy guerilla actions that spark the minds and hearts of every person in America. You can RESIST.

Trump wants to build a wall? What if you built a wall around Trump’s hotels – a wall of garbage, a graffiti wall, a wall of soiled diapers, a wall of noisy protestors? What if you made it so nobody wanted to stay there?

What if you organized a demonstration out front of his hotel, with everybody carrying signs that say

>>> Поздравляю, товарищ Трампа! <<<
(Congratulations, Comrade Trump!)

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re better educated than the average conservative. (Not because my writing is so wonderfully highbrow, but because you’re, you know, READING.)

But you also probably suffer from the sort of thoughtfulness that makes you less practical, more apt to be distracted, while they’re busy taking action.

You have to be the better you, the stronger you, that you can be. Part of that is that you have to stop believing you’re a victim. You have lived in a time where you’ve had the luxury of being weak and fragile, but that time is over. If you still think you need trigger warnings and safe spaces, run home to your pillow fort, little dumpling, because you’re a dead weight, a liability, on everybody around you.

12. Be the Better You: Facts Over Feelings

Engage with the facts before you engage with your emotions.

People on the extreme right are easily subject to manipulation through levers of fear, patriotism, or religion. If you tell them a lie but couch it in patriotic terms (Support The Troops!!!), or tell them there is some plot against them, or that this is a test of faith, some significant number of them will not only leap to believe it, they will see any refuting evidence as part of a secret plot.

But you have to get the facts right before your feelings come into it. If your facts are wrong, your conclusions cannot be right, and your feelings about the thing, whatever they are, are misplaced. Worse, once you have any sort of strong feeling about something, every fact or non-fact that comes after will be assessed through the filter of that emotion.

I’ve been in many arguments online where someone misstated one or more facts, but refused to hear any countervailing evidence, even when I cited multiple sources. “No, I’m not wrong, all those sources are lies, and you only cite them because you want to destroy America. Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim, Michelle is a tranny dyke, and their kids are adopted ghetto b*tches who smoke crack in the White House.”

Paranoid-afraid and angry, nothing I said could get through to them. They didn’t want to hear it.

The thing is, the bit about “getting your facts right before your feelings come into it” applies just as much to people on the left.

Oh, but you’re not subject to emotional manipulation, right? You don’t feel that sort of fear or anger, you don’t experience that knee-jerk patriotic fervor.

Yeah, hold off on the smug certainty, Reason Boy. You are every bit as easy to manipulate, every bit as resistant to counter-arguments. It’s just that your levers are different.

For lefties, one of the biggest levers is compassion. Tell them something is an attack on minorities, the homeless, transgenders, women, or hell, pit bulls, and they will buy into it with their weight in diamonds.

I’ve gotten into discussions with liberals that just left me gasping. Say ANYTHING they don’t already believe, disagree with a single point of a leftist compassion argument, and they will attack you in a howling mob, name-calling like it was the world Ad Hominem finals and they were going for the gold. “Why do you HAAAATE the poor homeless?? Why do you HAAAATE the poor pitbulls?? OMG, you’re HITLER!!”

Speaking of which, if someone states a fact, even if it is/was Hitler, the important thing for a REASONING BEING is the fact, not the identity of the speaker. No amount of name-calling changes the facts. It only blinds you to things you just might need to hear.

Never doubt that there are people out there who profit from working you. Here’s something I figured out some years back:

Under the lash of strong emotions,
human beings become less intelligent.

Angry? Stupid. Afraid? Stupid. Infatuated? REALLY stupid. Yeah, you.

And the less intelligent you are, the more you miss of what “they” are doing. Keeping you dumbed down, unable to think clearly or make plans to resist, is a blue chip investment for anyone who wants to run things.

Oh, you think they wouldn’t do that? That’s just a conspiracy theory? That nobody is that dishonest, that wicked, that organized? You keep believing that, kid — your simple faith and trust is just cute as hell.

But here in the real world, we have fellow citizens who have overthrown COUNTRIES with just such tools. Selling you a deadly long-term poison or getting you to vote for their guy over your guy is small change in comparison.

13. Be the Better You: Get and Stay Fit

How will you feel someday if your granddaughter is drowning in a pool and you’re the only person there who might save her, but you don’t know how to swim? Riiiight.

This is not just about swimming. It’s about physical strength, about cardiovascular fitness, about the sort of vibrant health that makes you not just stronger but smarter as well.

This is always overlooked in political activism, but it’s damned important.

The thing is, it’s not just yourself you have to be strong for – it’s for all those people you love. Think about that the next time someone tries to tell you you’re fragile and weak and helpless.

Remember those pictures you used to see of the guy holding out his pants in front, showing how much weight he lost? Facebook no longer allows such pictures to be posted. The image of fitness, rather than an inspiration and a goal, is now some sort of horrific attack. Because OMG FAT SHAMING!!! To which I say: Bloodyhelljeezusgoddamshit!

By contrast, I had a 60-year-old friend stagger through a quarter-mile of snow carrying a bloody 80-pound dog. The thing is, it was MY dog. They’d gone for a hike in a snowy park, and the dog ripped open his chest and belly on a hidden metal stake. Because my friend was in good shape, I got another 6 good years with my beloved four-legger.

I suggest we all remember the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.”

This is not just about physical strength, either. It’s about mental toughness as well. And again, not just for you. For your granddaughter. For your neighbors. For everybody around you threatened by this ugly new situation.

Make a conscious decision to be tougher. You don’t have to be a victim. You can be a warrior, a knight in defense of all things good.

14. Strategy One: Strategy Itself

From Wikipedia: “STRATEGY is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.”

“Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited. Strategy generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources).”

Here’s why I mention it: A lot of people on the right are ex-military. Who do you think trains in effectively mobilizing limited resources to achieve goals under conditions of uncertainty? Riiiight.

The left, meanwhile, untrained, even unaware, of the concept of strategy, attacks every issue as if nothing was connected to anything else.

Most of us on the left remain convinced simple honesty and good will will win out in every situation. But here’s the thing: It won’t. You have black neighbors who have lived in simple honesty and good will every goddam day of their lives, and they still have to be afraid – in their own country, their own hometown, their own neighborhood – that they or their kids will be shot down.

To bring home to you the importance of strategy, here’s another ‘magic’ metaphor:

Picture yourself on stage in a contest with 20 professional stage magicians. People skilled in misdirection, sleight of hand, expert manipulation of cards, polished handling of the audience. First off, do you even know any magic tricks? Say you know one lame-ass trick, something that wows the 6-year-old nieces and nephews … how do you think you’ll do against the pros? They won’t even laugh at you. They will IGNORE you. If they notice you at all, they’ll be embarrassed for you.

As for the people we’re facing, they are equally advanced professionals. They have experts in advertising, in business, in emotional manipulation, in military and political tactics. They have multi-billion-dollar corporations on their team. They get together in groups and plan out years-long strategies to control the military, the media, international trade, state and local offices, hell, even your local cops. They also have money, vaults full of it.

If you persist as a hopeful amateur, ganged up with other hopeful amateurs to pursue the Issue of the Day, they will eat you a-fucking-live. You have to stop thinking each issue is a separate issue, that each election is a separate election, that each battle is the main battle and nothing of the future matters.

You have to stop REacting and start PROacting, thinking in decades rather than days or  weeks. Get together with others, decide what sort of future you want – 10 years from now, 25 years from now, 100 years from now – and start working on THAT.

Because you can bet your ass THEY have such plans.

15. Strategy Two: Decide Who You Are

Are you a Bible-believing Christian first, a Constitution-cherishing American second? In other words, are you a Christian-American rather than an American Christian? It’s an important question, and one which Christians in America frequently – in my view – get wrong.

Likewise, are you a first and foremost a feminist-American, a black-American, an LBGT-American, a transgender-American?

Fine, fight your little fight. But prepare to lose.

There is a sociocultural and governmental substrate on top of which Black Lives Matter and feminism and all this other stuff takes place.

Picture us playing tennis in a huge indoor enclosure with dozens of separate courts. You’re over there fighting your battle, I’m over here fighting mine, a dozen other games are going on elsewhere. But meanwhile, the building itself is under threat by a developer who wants to raze it and build condos.

How much does it profit you, how much does it profit any of us, to concentrate exclusively on our individual games? Without the building, there is no game.

In this moment, we’re not feminists. We’re not Black Lives Matter activists. We’re not defending the rights of the poor Muslims, or spilling out our hearts over homeless kitties.

What we’re defending today, right here and now, is the very ground on which all these campaigns are conducted. The ground on which they CAN BE conducted with any chance of success.

And news flash, kids, we just lost one hella big battle. Maybe even the war.

This bit here and now, THIS part, is going to be the heyday of big banks, of international corporations, of oil companies, of mercenaries, of secret overseas bank accounts, of tax avoidance, of surveillance, of openly flouting American law and custom and decency. If you thought it was bad before, with the GOP now in control of America, the barn door is open and the horses are loose.

We people of compassion and kindness – and hell, believers in democracy – have to be just as real. Don’t go imagining that airy-fairy happy shit is just going to automatically happen while you sit back and mellow out. You have to take the world in your hands and MAKE good things happen.

16. Strategy Three: Plan For Dogs in the Manger and False Flags

Do you know that first phrase? —A dog doesn’t eat hay, but he can lie in the feed trough and keep all the other animals away from it, snapping and snarling, protecting his turf, so that the animals who do eat hay can’t get to it. Ha-ha, funny, right? But not to THEM.

So you’re out on the lines with Occupy Wall Street, holding up your sign and feeling good about what you’re doing. If only that damned drum circle would stop, you could actually make your points with the news camera. But the drum circle doesn’t stop, hour after hour, day after day, until you can’t hear yourself think.

But what are you going to say? It’s a public space, right? And everybody has a right to protest in their own way.

Dog in the manger: A thousand dollars says one or more of the people on the drum circle were FBI plants. One or more of the other sorts of activists there to scream and wave signs –Indians! Marijuana activists! – were FBI plants. By the second day, sincere others would show up and the FBI guys could step back and watch the confused, milling free-for-all.

Eventually even the news media – the few who showed up – would be unable to see any point to the whole thing. Dog in the manger: The FBI people weren’t there with any message, but they could keep the Occupy movement from getting their message out.

False flag: Say you’re out in front of City Hall, peacefully demonstrating for more funding for the local library, and someone carrying a ‘Fund Our Library Now!’ poster throws a Molotov cocktail through the window into the mayor’s office and then runs off and vanishes. Who do you think will get blamed? You and your whole group. Hello media shitstorm, bye-bye library funding.

Think stuff like that doesn’t happen? Ha-bloody-ha.

And if you don’t believe someone would do something like that, ask yourself this: Why would they NOT? Because they’re good and honest? Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Expect this stuff. In every major protest movement, especially those that look like they have some chance of success, some of the people around you are going to be government agents. If you don’t believe that, bless your simple little heart, and I hope you have a grownup taking care of you.

But whether it’s FBI agents infiltrating the movement or just plain idiots squealing “No, no, this is all about ME and MY issue!”, there are going to be counter-forces WITHIN your movement. Accidentally or deliberately, they will obstruct, distract, confuse and misinform you and others.

Find a way to deal with it. Press on.

17. Strategy Four: Venn Your Enemies

There really are enemies out there.

But not everybody who fails to agree with you on every single point is simply an enemy.

You know Venn diagrams? – those overlapping circles that show shared and unshared areas?

The Venn diagram comparing religious convictions of me and Johnny Christboy would show very little overlap. His ardent Christianity and my ardent atheism would be mutually exclusive. But the diagram of our political convictions would probably overlap quite a bit.

Well, if he was a conservative Christian of the nutty vicious sort, the overlap would be small. But if he was one of those generous, loving religious people, the shared area of his circle and mine would take up most of them.

After crossing paths with some online feminists of the craziest, meanest goddam sort, I realized I could never call myself a feminist. But our Venn diagrams regarding the rights of women, their safety and choice and equality, would overlap almost completely. The non-overlapping parts would be those bits where they insisted we live in Rape Culture, that every problem in the world is because of men, that women have NO advantages over men, and that if you disagree with any of those points, it’s because you hate women.

(Fair warning: If you think you need to start a war here over this last paragraph, you might as well fuck off now and save yourself the effort.)

I disliked former President Nixon with a deep passion over the Vietnam War, but I give him props for his environmental achievements. And I would have worked with him, gladly, on environmental issues.

I think John McCain is a complete fool for giving us the stinking dumpster fire which is  Sarah Palin, but I’m behind him 100 percent in the investigation of Russian hacking of our election. (If he’s not just doing it to shut down any real investigation, that is.)

The point here is that you can work with people on one subject while disagreeing with them on another. That you shouldn’t tune out anybody completely and forever. You may find you someday need them.

The point is also: Stop attacking allies. Focus on your samenesses and common goals – the large area of overlap – rather than your differences.

18. Strategy Five: Get Personal

The real stuff happens offline. The real stuff happens in person.

I used to go to City Council meetings. At every meeting, on every issue, someone would get up and say something they wanted councilmembers to hear. Their heartfelt conclusions about the issue. How it would affect them. Why they thought it was good, or bad. And in not one of those meetings did I get the feeling that input affected the councilmembers’ decisions.

They’d made up their minds BEFORE the meeting, in discussions with friends and cronies, people they met on the golf course, or in the course of their daily business. A lot of that stuff wasn’t even issue-specific – it was a mass of people around them CREATING A REALITY. “This town has to grow!” “We need law and order!” “If we don’t get that new golf course approved, that new casino approved, that new ski resort approved, tourism will dry up and we’ll all be out of jobs!”

You have to help create that reality. Turn off the computer, get out of your chair, and go to the city or county legislative meetings. Shake hands. Smile. Compliment.

Meet your elected officials personally. Meet the local cops. Meet the people at City Hall, and the County Offices. Make friends with them. Invite them for a hike, or for lunch. Ask them to MC your Boy Scout barbecue. Express an interest in their families, and their health. Care about them. But also, show them your life, help them know you as a person. And talk to them about the issues you care about.

(One question *I* would like to ask every state and local cop, and every member of the military, is “If you were given an order to fire on unarmed American civilians, would you do it?” Not only is it something I would like to know, I think it’s something THEY need to know, well in advance of such an order.)

Bear in mind they’re all human. If you’re in their faces carping at them every day, they’re not going to take that well. The goal is friendly influence. If you can get them sounding YOU out about issues, you’ll know they respect your input.

Two more things.

First: Infiltrate. Don’t assume every person working in City Hall, or the Governor’s office, is in full agreement with everything that gets done there. Hell, Donald Trump’s White House is going to be riddled with people he would consider traitors, but who are actually patriots. If you know any of these people, if you can meet them, let them know you’d like to help them in any way you can – such as getting word out without attribution.

Second: Make a point of meeting your local investigative news reporters. Find the guy or gal who’s been there 30 years and make friends. Invite them to the park for a barbecue, treat them to sushi or a shot of single malt. Give them whatever information you have on local subjects, but also feel them out about what they know. Gain their trust and never, never betray it.

19. Prepare For The Worst

“It’s not what happens, it’s how you react to it.” ~ Jim Rohn

This is an especially bad time to have Trump at the helm. Even aside from the crap he and the GOP are going to pull – and it’s going to be bad – there are forces in the world that don’t augur well for civilization itself, even more than for the United States of America.

Climate change. Peak oil. Overpopulation. Water shortages. Superbugs. Extinctions.

Just when we need good leaders, we have the worst. And we have a media already extremely comfortable with manipulating rather than informing viewers.

We’re going to have to take care of each other. That old lady next door. The nephew who needs money for college. That black neighbor who just moved in. The woman down the hall whose boyfriend beats her. The neighborhood itself, against the drug dealers and thugs.

We’re also going to have to go to the mattresses with the takers and liars.

Imagine if, rather than coming after your Social Security and health insurance, they tried to pass a law that would take guns away from 50 million Americans. Here’s the mindset they’d meet up with: “Yeah, you fuckers are about to learn some whole new lessons in respect.”

The fact is, most members of Congress would never even consider such a law. Because they know that violence would follow, and not a little bit of it. Somewhere out there is someone who would just kill them.

The demographic of retired people, those of us on SS or Medicare, all the vulnerables and the people who care about them, are going to have to figure out where and how to draw our own line.

Speaking of which …

20. Carry a Goddam Flag / Buy a Fucking Gun

Carry a goddam flag. Stop ceding the image of patriotism to the right wing freaks.

Get EVERYONE on your team, at every protest action, to carry American flags. If you’re a military veteran, wear something conspicuous to show that.

Look, we’re not pot-smoking hippies selling peace and love. We’re Americans, and we’re faced with, at the very least, a chute full of crap flowing our way. At worst, we’re facing the end of the American experiment of democracy.

Carry a flag, carry two flags, and wave them like your life depended on it. Because it just might.

Buy a fucking gun. Buy a lot of fucking guns.

Okay, sure, you “don’t like” guns. Fine. But visualize the difference between the Black Rock protestors and the gunny types that took over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

The unarmed protestors at Black Rock got police dogs, paramilitary cops, armored vehicles, water cannons and other “non-lethal” weapons fired at them.

The Malheur occupiers were openly breaking federal law, but authorities treated them like it was prom night and they were a bunch of Disney princesses. Hell, the bastards drew down on federal officials with assault rifles, and most of them just walked away.

And did you notice when things changed at Black Rock? When the cops stood down and a truce was declared? THE DAY AFTER veterans showed up and joined in. Why? Because you can shoot water cannons at a bunch of lame-ass Indians in winter, but you don’t dare do that to military veterans. Because 1) it would be really bad publicity, but 2) you don’t screw around with men you already know are willing to go to war.

If you think violence never solved anything, remind yourself of who occupies North America today. Hint: It’s not hundreds of tribes of Native Americans. It’s the descendants of people who were capable of advanced forms of violence.

If every Jew in pre-WWII Germany had a rifle or handgun and the will to use it, you think things would have gotten to the point they did? No way. But take note of how that particular part of history actually was ended – through the assistance of people who were equipped, trained and willing to meet violence and guns with even greater violence, even bigger guns.

There are more of us than there are of them. Really consider that fact.

If guns are legal in your jurisdiction, buy one, get your open carry permit or whatever, and carry the goddam thing to every public event. Learn to use it. Take a firearms safety course. Become a regular at the local firing range. Organize with friends for target practice. Do it.

The alternative is to practice bending over until you can grab your ankles quickly and efficiently when so ordered.

(And yes, if you have kids in the house, don’t be an idiot with the guns. Take every necessary precaution.)

.

Continue for a short list of Postcripts.

 

20 Ways To Take Action in Trump-America — Part 1

I’ve been seeing the lists other people are making of things to do after this election. Taking nothing away from them, here’s MY list of things to do. This is the first 10.

(Fair warning: I’m going to use the F-word, and more than once, in this post. I think this is a moment for it.)

1. Accept what’s happened

Hillary Clinton isn’t the President. It’s unfair, it’s criminal, it’s ugly, but it’s also this:

>> OVER <<<

It’s done. Finito. Deal with it.

Even if Donald Trump is impeached, even if someone dropped a massive spy satellite on Trump and Pence and the entire Republican Congress, Hillary isn’t going to end up in the White House. Neither is Bernie, or Jill. There is no hope of it, no way it can happen. The election is done and the results are before us. Feel the shock and horror, go ahead with your grieving, but eventually we’re all going to have to give it up as a subject worth talking about.

Hillary lost, Trump won, the electoral college isn’t changing, Warts and all, Trump is the next occupant of the Oval Office, and much as I hate to say it, he’s going to be PRESIDENT Trump. Admit it, put it out of your mind, and let’s get on to the next thing.

2. Take A Good Hard Look at Donald Trump

The guy was born into a millionaire family and is now, supposedly, a thousand times richer. His social class is BILLIONAIRE; he has almost nothing in common with you.

He’s never served in the military, nor will any of his kids. He doesn’t pay taxes. Has he ever done his own laundry, or stopped at the supermarket on the way home to pick up something for dinner? Doubtful. He doesn’t feed his own dog (if he has one), or water his own plants. He doesn’t pay his own household bills. He will never ride a bus or train or taxi, he has a private security force around him at all times. He doesn’t even drive.

Not only does he have nothing in common with you, he probably can’t even imagine your life. He wouldn’t want to. Any intersection with average Americans probably ends with his maids, restaurant waitstaff, the caddy at the golf course. You and all your problems and interests are so far beneath his notice we might as well be living on different planets.

He’s not even an American, really, not in any sense you’d recognize. He’s this other thing – someone who considers the whole planet his playground and piggy bank. In the same way large corporations become extranational, moving production overseas, offshoring their money and holdings, viewing America as just another market and money-mine, Donald Trump is an extranational – probably the first to occupy the White House.

With projects and holdings all over the world, he has no allegiance to the country, to the Constitution, to anything you value as an American. As we’ve seen, he doesn’t even care about the truth, much less what people will think of him from one minute to the next for his lies.

How far will he go? Think of the stories of bank robbers who said “If I’d quit with that first one, they’d never have caught me. But I kept getting away with it. I knew I’d get caught, but I couldn’t stop myself.”

Trump did all this ridiculous shit, working overtime to offend Americans of every stripe, he pushed out to the edge, zoomed past it with the hyperdrive engaged, and HE GOT AWAY WITH IT. He’s still getting away with it. And he’s not going to stop.

Aside from his own continuing contribution to a disastrous presidency, Trump will be, as Robert Reich said, dogged by “questions, investigations, revelations and scandals.” It’s already started. And it’s not like that stuff shouldn’t happen. If the public backs away from those questions and investigations and scandals, democracy itself is over.

He weakens the office of President, he weakens America itself, simply by being where he is. He can’t do the job, and he won’t allow it to be done. He is ALREADY damaging our country.

One more thing: Trump is used to fawning adulation from everyone around him. If he got any negatives, he could barricade himself behind his lawyers and his wealth. But now the negatives are flowing like a river – hell, he’s getting LAUGHED AT! – and he can’t get away. There’s no place to escape to and nobody to shield him. He’s never in his adult life had to deal with anything like this, and it’s already obvious he CAN’T deal with it. He’s acting like a petulant child in full public view, and I suspect that’s going to rapidly get worse.

Sometime in the very near future, I’m expecting Trump to suffer a full psychological break, melting down in a very public way. Eventually, Mike Pence will become president, but in the interim, however many weeks or months it takes, the United States of America will be effectively leaderless. One entire house of U.S. government will be out of the game, at a time when we already know Russia – and perhaps others – are actively working to destabilize American government.

3. Take A Good Hard Look at the GOP

The GOP is an anti-democratic and therefore anti-American organization. Someone described them as “ambitiously criminal.” (In a recent piece, I argued that almost every recent Republican president has been an actual traitor. Trump will take one giant step forward along that path.)

The GOP is almost violently opposed to democracy. Why? First, because they’d lose, but second because it’s more profitable to be that way. And because nothing stops them.

They have to work within the FORM of democracy, but they have no interest in the SUBSTANCE. Listen, gerrymandering so that your voters have an advantage over other voters is not democracy. It has the form of democracy – people still vote – but has none of the substance.

Lying to voters, and then letting them vote, has the form of democracy, but little of the substance. Suppressing the vote of minorities that might not favor you, there’s nothing of democracy about that.

It’s not just not-democracy, it’s anti-democracy.

And what are they doing? Not serving the people. They’re making money. Feathering their own nests. Gaining power. Serving the interests of the corporations and special interests who pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so.

Like Trump, the GOP can’t stop itself. Why should they even try? They keep winning.

They control the American government. They could sell off the national parks, they could imprison people without trial or charges, they could take away your citizenship. They could set up armed checkpoints in every city in America – you know, for “homeland security.”

Hell, if they wanted to, they could put Charles goddam Manson on the Supreme Court.

4. Take A Good Hard Look at Yourself and Your Allies

Yes, this was because of Them, but it was also because of you and yours. Unless you voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton, you pissed away your best chance to stop all this. This election wasn’t stolen, it was gift-wrapped and given away.

Now you can say goodbye to affordable health insurance. Say goodbye to abortion rights. Maybe even say goodbye to workable Social Security and Medicare. But hey, at least you can sleep well knowing that bitch and her emails won’t be in the White House.

Yes, you wanted inspiration. You wanted a rebel. You wanted Bernie, you wanted Jill, you wanted an outsider. You demanded angelic perfection. And you either voted for one of them, or you sat on your fat, stupid ass, staying home in protest. Or hey, maybe you “held your nose and voted for Hillary,” all the while repeating the lies about her to everybody around you. Yeah, you’re a real fucking peach.

There was just “something” off about her. There was all that stuff about Benghazi, and the emails, and the Wall Street speeches, and that business about her charity. And she practically drove Bill to his sexual escapades. There wouldn’t be THAT MUCH being tossed around if some of it wasn’t true, right?

Plus, she’s a woman, and you refused to vote for her because you hated the idea that someone should get into the White House just because of her gender. Hell yes, you’d vote for a woman in a second – maybe if it had been Elizabeth Warren – but not THIS one!

You intelligent, well-informed American, you. Sorry, but yes, this is your fault. You and yours helped it happen. You saw this piece-of-shit Ford Pinto on the lot, you listened to the sales pitch, and even though your friends warned you, you drove away with it anyway, grinning and shooting selfies. Sure, there was that well-maintained Mercedes at the same price and a dozen times better in every metric, but it had – OMG!! – mud on the tires.

Now you can just shut up and drive the goddam Ford with the exploding gas tank. Asshole.

5. Stop Falling for the Magic

Here’s something you may not know: There is magic in the world.

It’s not the Dr. Strange kind. It’s this other thing, a sort of stage magic that nobody ever tells you is stage magic, and so you buy into it, over and over and over.

If a stage magician waves his right hand in the air, or his pretty assistant smiles and wriggles, you can bet there’s something a little tricky going on elsewhere, something that will pop out suddenly and amaze you.

So why do you think Trump is tweeting all the time, all that outrageous shit? It’s not JUST because he’s loony as a goose. It’s because he’s the magician’s right hand. “Hey, look at that! Trump’s holding a press conference and he sounds like an absolute idiot! Ha-ha!” We zoom in on that, gleefully focused, and then, Alakazam! “Oh, wow, Congress just repealed the pre-existing conditions part of the Affordable Care Act!”

That little creep up front doesn’t even have to be in on the trick. The magicians in Congress see him prancing out into the spotlight, they say “Now’s our chance!” and do what they want while nobody’s looking.

Seriously, EVERY TIME YOU SEE TRUMP IN THE NEWS, doing or saying something outrageous or shameful or horrifying, turn away from him and look at Congress.

Because that’s where the REAL story is – back there behind the curtain. Right at that moment there’s something happening they don’t want you to know about. React to THAT, rather than to the orange boob’s latest antics.

On a related note: You think “those other people” are subject to lies and manipulation, but that you’re a clear-headed reality-based thinker and none of this stuff would work on you. But YOU are subject to lies and manipulation, too. You’ve been trained for it, kiddo. It started with Santa and the Easter Bunny, continued in Sunday School, then in every cartoon you ever saw, and finally in every TV show. One of the lies you learned from all that is that all stories have happy endings. That freedom and justice will prevail, that heroes will always win, and that snickering, evil villains will always get what’s coming to them. You probably secretly believe in karma – that bad people will automatically get what’s coming to them, and all you have to do is sit back and watch. Yeah, no.

6. Never Forget, Never Forgive

You know some of the OTHER people who helped this happen. The media, stuck to Hillary’s emails like a Catholic priest to an altar boy, all the while giving Donald millions of dollars in fawning, generous, free exposure. The liars on the right. Trump himself. That freak in the FBI. The paranoid fools in the outlands who acted like Obama was Hitler and Hillary was the Angel of Death.

But let’s move on, right? We have all this other stuff to do and think about. So we should just forget all that and move forward.

No. If you put it out of your mind, you’re giving them A RETROACTIVE FREE TICKET to do this stuff to you and our country, and you’re swinging the gate wide for all future shenanigans.

Hold them accountable. Hold the media accountable. Hold Glenn Beck accountable. Hold Bill O’Reilly accountable. Hold that prick George Will accountable. Never, never, never credit or believe anything they say.

Here are the bliss-ninnies: “Oh, Glenn Beck was a real nutball a year or so back, but he’s sounding so much more reasonable now. I really think he’s changed.”

No, Glenn Beck is like the guy next door who molested your son a year or so back. Are you going to forget that? No, you’re going to say “Shut up, you crazy bastard. I haven’t forgotten what you did.”

You have to see these right wing rabble-rousers for the poison they are, and you have to see them that way permanently, so that you never trust them again.

They molested our country. They raped democracy. In defense of yourself, in defense of your countrymen, never forget, never forgive.

Also never let them act like this is all just everyday politics, that this is all normal. Don’t let them normalize him.

Yes, we should have respect for the Office of President, but when the office is already disrespected by the presence of that man, there’s no reason to hold back. Insist they call lies by their proper title: Lies. Donald Trump is LYING, all the time, and that has to be made clear by mainstream voices.

7. Never Instantly Trust What You Read or Hear

There’s a plague of fake news these days — “real” fake news, not what Trump says is fake news — and we all know it.

For everything you read or see, hold off on conclusions until you can independently verify what you’ve heard. Check Snopes. Check Wikipedia. Check major news sites. Dig down.

Keep a list of fake news sites by your computer.

List of Fake News Sites
Fake News Sites
Fake News Watch

It doesn’t matter if a story gleefully feeds into your anger or disdain for Trump and company. In fact, those are the ones you should instantly suspect of manipulation.

And listen, if the headline contains ONE capitalized word (“GOP Congress STANDS UP to Donald Trump!”), especially if it’s STUNNED, or SHOCKED, that is a bogus goddam story.  It either contains outright lies, or it’s reporting some facts but adding a phony slant to them. Real news sites don’t have all-caps in their headlines.

If you see a political “meme” on your Facebook feed, don’t trust it. ESPECIALLY if it contains no links or attempt at verification of whatever idea it’s attempting to convey. Get back to the person who posted it – tell them to never again post anything without some sort of corroboratory details.

The people who create those things can put in anything they want, and if they’re conveying something factual, you know they were looking at the news story that contained that fact two minutes ago. They could have put in the link to that story, so you could read it for yourself, but THEY CHOSE NOT TO.

Or, you know, they’re just lying. Either way, their goal is not to inform you, but to manipulate you. Because they know you or someone like you is a gullible chump, a wide-mouthed fish ready to swallow any shit they float down the river at you.

Look at the picture attached to those memes and ask yourself why they chose THAT picture. There are a thousand pictures of Hillary Clinton out there with Resting Bitch Face. But there are ten thousand other pics with her smiling, laughing, looking confident and presidential.

(The one exception to this rule: If it’s Mitch McConnell, and he looks like a constipated turtle, that’s just what Mitch McConnell looks like.)

8. Never Lie or Exaggerate, Don’t Share Fake Memes

Having said that, avoid being one of the people OTHER people have to fact-check.

Don’t spread lies. Don’t let others do it.

One of the reasons I deserted the liberal fold and started calling myself a Rational Centrist is because some very large fraction of the stuff projected at us on the left – and shared by us – is manipulative and false.

If I see a video that says “Happy cows shed tears of joy after being rescued from slaughterhouse,” but I happen to know that cows don’t shed tears, my reaction is not “Oh look, happy cows!” I’m more like “Why, you sonofabitch. If you’re lying to me about this, you’re probably lying about the rest of it.” If any part of something you see or read is a lie, there’s no reason to stay for the rest. Genesis taints the whole Bible.

These things are worst when they come from your own allies. If I’m already inclined to agree with you, but you lie to me in order to tweak my emotions, you’re no different from any other emotional manipulator. You have assaulted me, in the same way the right assaults me with its lies.

Besides, if we think we have to lie, we’re admitting our case can’t stand on its own. There’s enough true stuff about Trump that nobody ever needs to lie about him.

Never lie or exaggerate. Check your facts, check your sources. Back up everything you say with links and evidence. Don’t repeat innuendo, smears and falsehoods.

9. Stop Saying 1, 2, and 3

Stop saying “Bernie would have beaten Trump!

No, he wouldn’t. A wild-haired, elderly, Jewish SOCIALIST? They would have eaten him alive. They would have dug up stuff on him, they would have made up stuff about him, the lies would have come so thick and fast it would have made our heads spin. Hell, they made up a story about Hillary being involved in an international child-molesting ring in the basement of a pizza parlor and millions of people found it believable enough to repeat and share. You think there wouldn’t have been a dozen of those stories about Bernie? Plus: “Socialist.” That one word would have poisoned his chances with half of America.

Some large part of the attack on Hillary was that “worst possible interpretation” of everything she ever did. (She dropped her fork in a restaurant? That was so she could bend down and look up another woman’s dress, the lesbian bitch!) Bernie would have been just as susceptible. And the people who believed the worst about Hillary — you know, all those people who voted for Trump, and probably you too? — would have believed the worst about Bernie. As to that bit about the DNC conniving to favor Hillary? —They were working to fulfill their one mission: To choose a candidate with a chance of winning.

Stop saying “They’re stupid.

Yes, it feels good to believe Donald Trump and the leaders of the GOP are complete idiots. But it’s SAFER to believe they know exactly what they’re doing, that most of what they do is part of a plan. Maybe it only looks stupid to you because you have no idea of a deeper strategy – to lie to people DELIBERATELY in order to control and profit from them. You see the surface of the ocean, while all the important stuff happens down deep. And maybe you’re not used to thinking that some people can be consciously and deliberately and happily evil.

As to their followers, they’re pretty much like you and I. The difference is, they’ve been lied to, cheated of the truth, thousands of times, and for decades. They’re no dumber than you or I. Think of them as zoo animals – healthy and smart when in the wild, but now trapped in a cage of manipulative fantasy. But just as with zoo animals, you can feel empathy for them without forgetting they’re dangerous as hell.

Stop saying “Maybe it won’t be that bad.

It’s going to be – ALREADY IS – worse than you can imagine. Refer to items 2 and 3 above. They can’t stop themselves. With both houses of Congress and the White House in their hands, they’re like teenage boys who’ve just gotten the keys to Dad’s Ferrari. They’ve turned the key, they’ve slammed down the accelerator, and they’re about to drive this mother to pieces.

Stop saying “I’m moving to Canada!

First, no you’re not. Second, you might as well be saying “I’m a traitor, and weak besides.” The only people interested in what you’re saying are other weak traitors. No honest citizen, no military veteran, will respect you. People who care about their country don’t flee when the Nazis cross the border. They stay and RESIST.

Some of the brainless sheep might agree with you, but Americans who actually think about stuff are going to say “Leave, you hippie freak! Don’t let the border crossing hit you in the ass on the way out.”

Besides all that, unless you’re a Nobel Prize winner or something, what makes you think Canada wants your lame ass? Hell, you deserted YOUR OWN country.

Stop saying “We’re in a war for America.

No, we’re not in a war. The word “war” presupposes both sides are subject to casualties.

Where will the casualties be in this little adventure? All on one side. If they cut your grandmother’s Social Security and Medicare, she gets to die, cold and sick and broke. If they cancel the insurance of your daughter with the recurring cancer because it’s a pre-existing condition, she gets to die, young and sick and scared.

Meanwhile, all those nice Republican congressmen? They get to live on, safe and free and RICH, grinning like happy monkeys the whole time.

This is not a war. It’s more like Hitler gassing Jews.

It’s only a war if you make it one. It’s only a war if you stop sitting at home muttering “If only, if only, if only,” and instead say “I am so tired of this shit!” And then stand up and DO something. It’s only a war if you go to war.

10. Stop Doing Nothing

If you’re reading here, you’re probably an atheist. Which means you chuckle when you read about nice Christians responding to a catastrophe by praying. Because you know the prayer 1) does nothing, and 2) dissipates honest caring.

Prayer is not just doing nothing, all too often it’s a type of doing nothing that replaces doing something. If there’s a fire down the street, and you fall to your knees and close your eyes, you’re doing NOTHING to save the people in that house. But because you think you’re doing something, you’ll meet any insistence that you come out and help with “But I am! I’m praying for God to save those people!”

For a lot of us, political activism can be the same way. We do a lot of little nothings (look up displacement) that reduce the pressure – we bitch about this stuff to friends, go on at great length about everything that bothers us, possibly with beer on hand to sooth our overworked throats.

But the real thing is to go out and take some sort of action.

Participate in a rally, sign petitions, write letters, start a blog, go to public meetings and speak up, volunteer as a poll watcher or pollworker, get organized, join a campaign to support someone for mayor, or city councilman, or governor, or Congress. Hell, maybe YOU should run.

Don’t stop with writing one letter to the newspaper. That can be just another way of bitching to friends. Consider a letter the bare minimum first step to action, not an action itself.

.

Continue to Part 2.

Ten more to come.

Trump’s America: How We Got Here

Trump 4At this point in American history, the Democratic Party is a lot like a henpecked husband. Kicked out of the house, he stands on the sidewalk with his meager possessions strewn around him, wondering what just happened, and why. Meanwhile, the GOP is the spiteful wife, eagerly, viciously, turning the kids against him, telling anyone who will listen what a miserable bastard he is, and planning how to take for herself the house, the car, everything they once owned together. The point isn’t just to get all the stuff, it’s to leave him with nothing, to destroy him in every possible way.

Obviously, this didn’t happen overnight. It built up over years.

Here’s how I think we got here.

Just FYI, my observational baseline stretches back to John F. Kennedy. At a fairly early age, I was kicked awake politically by three events. The first was the Cuban Missile Crisis, the standoff over nuclear weapons that had us practicing duck and cover drills under our elementary school desks. The second was the space race with the Soviets, and the grand vision, dear to my science-fiction-loving heart, of Americans going to the moon. The third was the assassination of JFK, announced in mid-afternoon shortly before Thanksgiving break by my sixth grade teacher.

If you’re younger than me, that probably all sounds like ancient history. Dry facts stuffed away in the past that have no bearing on today. But we doddering older people experience it as MEMORY – real events that have had an effect on our lives and the lives of others.

In my memory, at least, it pretty much started with Nixon. Whatever you might think about presidential politics, in the modern era it MOSTLY proceeded with honesty and honor, with some large amount of respect for the powers, limitations and image of the office. But whatever good Nixon did, and there was a lot of it – opening relations with China, establishing the EPA, traveling the world to meet with foreign leaders – was overshadowed publicly by his actions in Watergate, where he oversaw the coverup of GOP operatives breaking into Democratic Party headquarters. Never admitting any wrongdoing, Nixon resigned rather than be impeached. His Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had resigned earlier amid allegations of bribery, tax evasion and money laundering during his term as governor of Maryland. The two of them had a hostile relationship with the news media for most of Nixon’s term, resulting in an almost paranoid presidency that placed a high value on secrecy and loyalty to Nixon, rather than to the nation.

Note I used the word “publicly” in the previous paragraph. What none of us knew until later was that Nixon started his first presidential campaign – against departing president Lyndon Johnson, and his chosen successor Hubert Humphrey – with an act of pure treason.

In late 1968, Nixon knew there was a pending breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks. Johnson would announce a halt to bombing in North Vietnam and Vietnam and the U.S. would negotiate further agreements in the cooler atmosphere of a cease-fire. That action would bolster the positive image of the Democratic team, possibly cementing a win for Humphrey.

To prevent such a result, Nixon dispatched an aide to talk to the South Vietnamese ambassador, telling him to withdraw from the peace talks until after the election, as he would get a better deal from Nixon. Note that this is not mere conjecture – there were actual tapes detailing the acts of Nixon and others. Nixon not only committed treason in order to win the White House, he deliberately prolonged the war, resulting in further deaths of American troops on the ground in Vietnam.

Nixon actually campaigned with the argument that the Johnson war policy was in shambles because they couldn’t even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table. Once in office, he escalated the war with military intervention in Laos and Cambodia, with the loss of an additional 22,000 American lives – quite apart from the lives of the Laotians, Cambodians and Vietnamese caught up in the new offensives – before finally settling for a peace agreement in 1973 that was within our grasp in 1968.

Something especially enraging to me personally, Nixon also oversaw the 1970 murder of four unarmed war protestors, college students, at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard. The National Guard fired 67 rounds into a crowd of unarmed Americans, killing four, wounding nine, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. The dead were Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; Allison B. Krause; age 19; William Knox Schroeder; age 19; and Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20.

So:

Point One: Nixon the secretive, calculating traitor, blessed with callous disregard for human lives. A Republican.

Point Two: Another Republican President, Ronald Reagan, a man famous – and popular – for his homespun, non-intellectual approach to matters of state. Also a man who was, arguably, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

And again, Reagan did a lot of good. Pushing a massive military buildup in the U.S., he helped along the collapse of the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War. But he also helped destroy unions, famously firing more than 11,000 air traffic controllers striking for better wages, better equipment and fewer stress-filled hours. He backed a constitutional amendment favoring prayer in public schools. He kicked off the War on Drugs and ignored the AIDS epidemic.

He also oversaw the criminal covert sale of arms to Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, with the proceeds used to fund the human-rights-abusing Contra rebels fighting against the democratically elected Nicaraguan government. Funding the rebels had not only been specifically outlawed by Congress, it violated international law and breached treaties with Nicaragua. Though Reagan himself emerged squeaky clean from this arguably treasonous act, the scandal resulted in 14 indictments and 11 convictions of members of his staff.

Point Three: George W. Bush, Republican. I have described Bush privately many times as being just about bright enough to run a tire store, and watching him over his presidency, I was continuously amazed that Republicans saw him as an extremely intelligent man who never told a lie, never made a mistake, and whose worst problem as a president was that he was soundly hated by “libruls.”

This rich, privileged frat boy took more vacation time in his first year than any president in history, taking off the entire month of August, 2001, all the while U.S. intelligence agencies were trying to interest him in a report titled “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.”

Shortly after, he presided over the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history. I watched the video of him freezing into immobility in a classroom of second-graders after getting the whispered word, “America is under attack.” His empty face showed not decision and strength, but a profound inability to process what was happening.

He and his team lied America into a second war, with Iraq, on ginned-up evidence, resulting in the deaths of more than 4,000 American men and women, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dead and displaced Iraqis. Also not to mention the huge price tag – estimated at a trillion dollars or more – entirely unbudgeted, of the Iraq War.

Yes, the Iraq War was backed by Congress, but it was a Congress lacking vital information – in fact, operating solely on lies supplied to them by the White House – and forced into a pro-war stance through fears of appearing weak after America was attacked. Lying us into war, the Bush administration was guilty of treason in spirit if not in letter of the law.

Hell, he played golf while we lost an American city, New Orleans, and applauded the limp-dick response – “Heckuva job, Brownie!” – that left 1,833 dead, and 30,000 people trapped in the New Orleans Superdome for five hellish days without water, food or working toilets.

One of the things I especially disliked about Bush was the empty-headed posturing, best illustrated by the “Mission Accomplished” dog and pony show on the USS Abraham Lincoln in May, 2003. Returning from combat operations in the Persian Gulf, the ship was actually held offshore so Bush could make his overly theatrical and expensive stunt of landing in a jet fighter, while a gaudy banner prepared by White House staff was hung as a backdrop to his speech.

My conservative friends, even knowing the facts of the Iraq War, and having seen clearly his administration’s failed rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina, still see him as likeable, intelligent, honest and capable. At worst, they see him as having been taken advantage of by Dick Cheney, or failed by appointees. Any argument about the facts of Bush’s presidency always seem to include “Well, but Clinton, but Obama, but Hillary!”

There has been a progression of betrayal and incompetence in Republican presidencies, probably with the disinclusion of Bush Senior, but GOP White Houses have shown a callous disregard for law, for American ideals, and for American lives, with their right-wing constituency fed a steady diet of false arguments, obfuscations, justifications and outright lies – including insanely vicious attacks on liberal rivals – to keep them firmly on the side of the Right. If you can make your opponent look like a traitor in public, you can actually BE a traitor in private, and less-educated, progressively less rational voters will still love you.

In the mere 10-year reign of Fox News and associated right-wing bum boys such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly, the news media itself has come under attack, being indelibly and probably permanently branded as lying, slanted and untrustworthy. The media has responded by cozying up to the name-callers, moving inexorably rightward, swallowing and rebroadcasting party line attacks on Obama and Hillary Clinton. The result is that, in fact, the news media IS untrustworthy and slanted.

Meanwhile, in a perfect storm of diminished national attention span and a rapid-fire volley of quick-hit memes and catch-phrases on social media, transparently false accusations and half-truths gain ground over actual facts and research.

One huge mistake made on the left is the belief that the instigators of all this stuff are stupid. You’re stupid, they’re stupid, that’s stupid. When in fact, the people pushing it are brilliant at achieving their goal, which is not factuality or truthfulness, but the sparking of strong emotions – fear, hate and paranoia – among their contituents.

Point Four: Republican traitors in Congress. It’s no secret that GOP now values party loyalty over service to their country, working for Obama’s eight years to oppose EVERY SINGLE ACT of the President, no matter what his intent, no matter whether it would benefit American citizens or not. (Hell, they and their voting base are PRAISING Vladimir Putin, after proven interference in this American election!)

Enter the showman, Trump. He’s not Point Five, he’s the QED, the end result of all this.

Like the clumsy magician he was, we could SEE what he was doing, but his main audience, half of America, childlike and unhappy, ready for any distraction from the faked-up horror show which was Obama, saw only the magic. Trump dropped a drape over their already blinded eyes and pulled their emotional levers – “Make America Great Again,” “Crooked Hillary,” “Deport Muslims,” “Build a Wall,” “Bring Back the Jobs,” “Dismantle Obamacare” – and they eagerly applauded and voted.

This was not ALL the doing of the Right. I blame the Left for

1) Swallowing the lies about Hillary – Benghazi, the emails, dishonesty, Wall Street insider, the image of the vicious bitch who would stop at nothing to grab the reins of power, and who has left a trail of dead bodies in her wake.

2) Being stupidly perfectionistic, expecting miracles and settling for nothing less. And yes, if you voted for Bernie or Jill Stein, if you sat out the election in smug protest, if you were one of those who said in your whiny little voice “Well, I’d rather vote for Donald Trump than Hillary!,” this is definitely your fault. You helped it happen, and Trump is YOUR president, you ignorant little self-involved twit.

(There is a third large factor, but it’s not only something quite a bit more difficult to explain, it’s something most of us on the left would flat-out deny. Because there’s no way WE could be wrong about our basic beliefs and goals, right? Whatever, it’s not something I’m going to get into, because I’m sure few would even listen, much less agree about it.)

In the end, I don’t see any way back from this mess. We have a White House soon to be occupied by someone who probably qualifies as a textbook narcissist — literally mentally ill — of no great intelligence, we have a permanently broken trust in media, and we have a tradition of greed and treason at the uppermost levels of government with which those on the Right are wholly comfortable.

Worse, we on the Left keep foolishly HOPING that this or that will save us. Oh, the Electoral College will save us! Oh, the recounts will save us! Oh, Hillary will fight this! Oh, we can do this or that to oppose Trump! We’ll start a petition! We’ll write letters! We’ll win in the end!

Nope. We lost. And I think the roots of that loss go even deeper than I’ve covered here.

The current great hope is that Congress will impeach Trump pretty much as soon as he enters office. But again, nope. I tend to doubt that will happen.

Even if they despise him, he’s a known quantity, a man willing to make deals, to give them pretty much anything and everything they want, as long as he feels he comes out on top. Whereas simple-minded little Bush was a Humvee that could only occasionally be driven here and there by the Right, Donald Trump is a Star Trek transporter that can beam them anywhere. Lacking anything ordinary Americans might recognize as a conscience, lacking any sense of honesty or fair play or American ideals, lacking any desire even to be publicly consistent, he will go anywhere without fear or concern for long-term effects. And the media will let him.

Once they get a handle on how to flatter and appease him, he will be a right-wing dream machine of bills, Supreme Court nominees, corporate favoritism and military buildup. He will dismantle everything Obama has done, he will finally destroy the middle class, even blithely breaking the law to achieve whatever goals his flighty little head sets on. Better yet, he will look away in boredom while they party in right wing ecstasy.

So yeah, we’re screwed. Things look bleak as hell. To me, it looks like civilization itself is on the line.

The ONE hopeful thing I see coming out of this is the situation’s utter hopelessness.

I HOPE Americans will finally understand that we live in a real world, with real-world consequences for our actions, and that the choice before us is utter ruin (and I’m talking Mad Max-level nastiness) or some sort of muscley response – minus the pissy little whiners – that will get us rising up and forcing real change.

I don’t expect it. But I do hope for it.

Petition the Veep: Stop Evil-lution in Schools!

COE 235Ooh, sign me up!

A petition addressed to VP-elect Mike Pence asks for (drum roll, clash of cymbals!) …

A NATIONWIDE MORATORIUM ON THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION IN SCHOOLS

(A “moratorium.” Just until we can figure out, you know, whether it’s really true or not.)

They’re looking for (drum roll again, even louder clash of cymbals)

>>> OMG!! ONE THOUSAND SIGNATURES!!! <<<

—You know, a stunning tidal wave of deep passionate concern from Americans.

Some absolutely verbatim excerpts from the petition:

It is obvious to us that Evolutionism-Darwinism is an anti-Christian atheistic dogma masquerading as science. According to renown (sic) philosopher of science, Professor Michael Ruse blah blah blah blah.

Evolutionists, indeed, themselves speak about their “theory” blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah “the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail.”

Blah blah blah denying the work of a divine creator in the natural order blah blah blah sweeping theological contention blah blah blah!!!

Blah blah blah blah the Neo-Darwinian paradigm is on the verge of collapse blah blah!!

Blah blah blah! Blah blah its flawed historical narrative of origins which includes telling students that humans are walking sarcopterygian fish! Blah blah blah!!

It ends with:

We therefore urge you to persuade President Trump to issue an executive order imposing a nationwide indefinite moratorium on the teaching of evolution in public schools. For it to be effective, this order should clearly state that it supersedes the decisions of state and district boards of education regarding the science curriculum. Those schools that don’t comply with it should be completely denied federal funding and aid by the Department of Education, just as it is proposed that cities that provide sanctuary to illegal aliens ought to be denied assistance. We hope that you will act upon this very urgent matter and uphold truth and the American way of life we hold so dear.

(Yeah, one peep out of you freedom-hating bastards and we’ll jerk your funding so fast your head will spin! But hey, no pressure. We’re all about that “equal exposure and then letting the kids decide for themselves.”)

I’m seeing an opportunity in the comments section.

 

Beta Culture: Honoring the Fallen … of Science

joy adamsonI’m not a big fan of that pro-military, jingoistic “Support the troops” and “Freedom isn’t free” crap, mainly because it compresses a very complex situation down to a simplistic slogan, with an added “with us or against us” flavor. When I visit Washington DC, I’m always impressed with how MANY memorials there are glorifying war, how few there are — zero — glorifying peace.

Also, in counterpoint to the two national holidays we have honoring soldiers, I’ve suggested a national holiday, SALT Day, to honor Scientists, Artists, Librarians and Teachers. You know, those OTHER people who make American freedom possible, and livable.

So I was happy to find this:

The Wall of the Dead: A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists

The site honors those who have died in the pursuit of KNOWLEDGE, and I can’t imagine anyone who more deserves hero status. It delights me in this way, too: It ignores the lines of nations, presenting honorees as citizens of this other country, Planet Earth.

I don’t know most of the names on this list, so it was nice to be able to read over it and gain exposure to them. (It’s weird how many died of poison darts, spears and such.)

Some of the ones I did recognize:

Adamson, Joy (1910–1980), a naturalist, artist, and author best known for the book and movie Born Free, found murdered, age 69, in her camp on Kenya’s Lake Naivasha, by a former employee.

Adamson, George (1906 –1989), British wildlife conservationist and author best known through the book and movie Born Free, shot dead, age 83, in Kenya’s Kora National Park by Somali bandits.

Cousteau, Philippe (1940–1979), French oceanographer, diver, and filmmaker, second son of Jacques-Yves and Simone Cousteau, author of  Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea, died, age 38, when his PBY Catalina flying boat crashed in the Tagus River near Lisbon.

Felzien,Gregory (1965-1992), predator biologist, killed, age 26, by an avalanche in Yellowstone National Park while tracking mountain lions.  He was experienced at back country work but is said to have remarked, “If I ever have to die, I want it to be here in Yellowstone tracking cats.”

Fossey, Dian (1932-1985), leading primatologist and conservationist studying mountain gorillas, found murdered in her cabin, age 53, in the Virunga Mountains, Rwanda (case unsolved).

Gambel, William (1823–1849), American naturalist, namesake of Gambel’s quail, age 26, of typhoid fever in the Sierra Nevada.

Leopold, Aldo (1887-1948), father of wildlife ecology who helped found The Wildlife Society and the Wilderness Society, died of a heart attack, age 61, while battling a wildfire on his neighbor’s property.

And one I knew personally:

Gaines, David (1947-1988) , birder in the Sierra Nevada,  author of  The Birds of the Yosemite and the East Slope, and the main impetus behind saving Mono Lake from SoCal’s unquenchable thirst. He died, age 41, in a car accident near Mono Lake. Here’s a good biography (but disregard the dates).

I’d like to see this same effort for all of science, every field, all the researchers, boundary-challengers and explorers of reality who died in the course of their work.