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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 20,210

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A Thought Experiment For GOPpies and Gunloons

You are a legislator. Two contentious bills were passed out of committee at meetings you missed: One bill will guarantee full civil rights for LGBTQ people and remove penalties for drag performances that were enacted last session; the other bill will absolve gun manufacturers from any civil or criminal liability for the use of their products and remove all restrictions on purchasing and legally carrying any type of firearm anywhere.

Before the upcoming floor vote, you, personally, will have to open one of two doors:

Behind one door is a drag queen who will sing "We Are Family" with a full drag band at your son's high school graduation. Behind the other door is a resentful, angry Proud Boy, high on meth, carrying an automatic weapon, who has been told that the door about to open leads to a room full of brown people trying to enter the United States without legal process.

You don't know which door is which.

Now you are given a time machine, and the option to go back to ONE of the committee meetings you missed and keep a bill from reaching the floor. If you pull the LGBTQ rights bill, the door with the drag queen behind it will vanish. If you pull the gun rights bill, the door with the Proud Boy will vanish. Either way, you'll have to open the remaining door.

Do you use the time machine? Which bill do you get pulled?

How long did you have to think about it?


At today's Manhattan Grand Jury meeting: What happened

I have served on multiple grand juries. For some reason I get those summons rather than regular petit jury summons. Grand juries work a certain way, which is not all that complicated, actually.

When you're a grand jury member you're told your job clearly and in no uncertain terms: You will review evidence presented by the District Attorney's staff, and, based on that evidence, you will make a determination whether to issue an indictment, and if so, which charges will be included in that indictment.

You are told that it is YOUR decision, but since the law is complex, you will have assistance as needed from the DA staff. There's a big law book in front of you, containing the various statutes under which you might indict the target. The lead attorney from the DA's office may suggest which charges the evidence relates to, but you, the jury, will decide which, if any of those charges are supported by the evidence, and even whether the evidence presented suggests other charges, not necessarily suggested by the lead attorney.

Then they tell you what pieces of evidence they will be presenting, on what schedule. There is a list, with times, names, etc., each day. Sometimes it changes, they will bring you a replacement showing that Witness D who was scheduled to appear at 2 pm will now appear at 4 pm and other pieces of evidence will be presented at 2 pm. Each piece of evidence is introduced by someone from the DA's staff. They will introduce, for example, an expert who is there to tell the jury why an alarm system malfunctioned, explaining the expert's credentials.

The jury then reviews that particular item of evidence. They may ask questions about it - many questions. If they feel the DA's staff have not proved a chain of custody, for instance, they may request that additional evidence. They will do this over and over again, with every piece of evidence related to the target of the investigation. They will discuss the meaning of each piece, and open those big law books, and sometimes ask for someone from the DA's staff to tell them whether section 103.2, paragraph 9, subparagraph k, means what they think it means, and whether this piece of evidence meets a particular definition in the statute referenced.

All this time, the jury are making notes, which may be collected from them when they leave for the day and returned when they resume the next day. When all the pieces of evidence have been thoroughly reviewed and discussed, the grand jury return (usually with a "summary" from the DA staff) to the list of charges suggested. Then they discuss each one and how the evidence presented supports it - or not. Sometimes one or more jurors will say something like "You (the DA staff) want to charge the target under section 213.4, paragraph 16, subparagraph s, but the evidence relates more closely to the specifics of section 213.4, paragraph 19, subparagraph b. Can we replace that charge?"

The DA staff may explain, clarify, and recommend, but they may NOT tell the grand jury "no" or "yes". At that point, it's in the grand jury's hands, and if the grand jury wants to indict on a charge the DA believes is not as well-supported by the evidence as the charge they initially recommended, they'll have to live with it. Sometimes they'll talk the grand jury into recommending both charges, and dicker the less-supported charge out later in a deal. Sometimes they'll go find more evidence to support it - after all, if the grand jury was convinced, there may be a way to make that case.

Regardless, the final indictment and its list of charges is the work of the grand jury, who have listened to an awful lot of evidence and discussed it in great detail and with reference to the actual, applicable law.

So I can feel pretty confident in betting $100 that what happened today at the Manhattan grand jury hearing is this:

The grand jury was told that Mr. Costello would be presenting evidence.

Mr. Costello was led in and introduced.

Mr. Costello talked, supplied whatever visual aids he may or may not have brought.

The grand jury were asked whether they had any questions for Mr. Costello.

Here's where I speculate: I'm betting the grand jury had either NO questions, or one or two completely inconsequential questions on the order of "how did you know what he intended when he said that?" to which Mr. Costello responded with complete BS.

The grand jury then thanked Mr. Costello politely and told him he could leave.

The grand jury returned to their work, reviewing the next piece of evidence.

Prove it was otherwise and I donate $100 to your favorite candidate's campaign in 2024.

Point being here, that grand jury has seen a metric FUCKTON of pieces of evidence by now, each one carefully explicated by the DA staff, and discussed every one until they needed headache pills. Listening to Costello spew bullshit for a couple of hours was likely the closest thing any of them had to a nap, and I bet those notepads in front of them had plenty little doodles and diddles on them. They want to get on with their work and go home.

And by now, it's pretty clear their work is going to be to return a clean bill of indictment with one or more well-supported felony charges against [Redacted].

And if those jurors are anything like me and the people I've served on grand juries with, they'll want to get home and do anything else, plus a long night's sleep, and any stickybeak trying to get 'inside information' from them will get a metaphorical or perhaps even a literal smack across the chops.

That's my theory and I'm stickin' to it.


The con game that is patriarchy.

I always like to start with the definitions, to establish some baseline of shared understanding of meaning:

"Patriarchal" means relating to or characteristic of a patriarch.

"Patriarchy" means a society in which patriarchs exercise power and control.

A "Patriarch" is the male head of a family or tribe.

Those are dictionary definitions. Real-world definitions are looser - a patriarchy is a male-dominated society, or a hierarchy in which power is based on how closely a (male) individual hews to principles of "them as has, gets more."

In America, though, the patriarchy is way more specific. And it's really surprising how many men are excluded from being patriarchs.

You're not a patriarch if your skin isn't white. But you get the "patriarchy consolation prize" of being allowed/encouraged to assume ownership of women who aren't white.

You're not a patriarch if you identify yourself as a man oriented toward loving other men.

You're not a patriarch if your body morphology is based on two XX chromosomes instead of an X and a Y.

And then it gets even weirder.

You're not a patriarch if you're anything other than a Christian (and the definition of "Christian" is getting narrower and weirder by the week, in America....)

You're not a patriarch if you like wearing drag or cross-dressing. (Really...? Wow...)

You're not a patriarch if you have certain conditions like Down's syndrome or cerebral palsy.

Everything so far is a disqualifying condition. Screw you, you'll NEVER be a patriarch, sit down and shut up and eat the scraps you're allowed.

But then we get to the con game.

This is the "potential patriarch" status.

Suppose you're male, with none of the disqualifying conditions above.

Does that automatically make you a patriarch?


It DOES make you a "potential patriarch". Theoretically. (The reality is way different. That's the con.)

If you're poor, and you have no disqualifications (see above), you're technically still classed as a potential patriarch. There aren't a lot of benefits other than some basic privileges you'll never even admit to having, and being able to look down on everyone who isn't a patriarch or potential patriarch, but that seems to be enough for a lot of men.

If you're middle class, with no disqualifications, you're classed as a potential patriarch with benefits, woo-woo, mostly, the illusion of some control, and a fuckton of privilege you're probably mostly unaware of until someone suggests you might share it with non-patriarchs, god forbid.

If you're newly-wealthy, with no disqualifications, but you didn't go to the right prep schools or hang with the right patriarch larvae, you're classed as an almost-patriarch, which includes all the benefits of the potential patriarch with benefits, PLUS the right to look down all the potential patriarchs. You can also hang in the patriarchy clubhouse bar, though you'll never get to the penthouse, bro. Still, you've got an awful lot of people to look down on, so that's cool.

Those three groups are the marks for the Big Con. The power and control of the real patriarchs, that tiny minority of hereditarily-wealthy, well-connected white males, depends entirely on those three groups buying wholeheartedly into the patriarchy model and resisting change with all their resources.

Which the men in those three groups are thrilled to do, not necessarily because they ever think they'll get to the clubhouse penthouse, but because it puts them so far above all the people disqualified from the clubhouse altogether: the majority of humankind.

Oh, yeah. There's ONE MORE disqualifying condition that'll knock you out of all the patriarchy privileges:

If you're a white male actively working to bring down the patriarchy itself.

If you're one of those, thanks. And stay out of small planes.


Jimmy Carter is leaving you a legacy.

Yes, you. You, reading this.

From Jimmy, to you. On purpose.

For real.

All you have to do is open your hands, and your heart, to accept.

Here is the legacy:

The power to make the love of the life you share with this earth and other creatures your vocation, and find love smiling back at you everywhere you look.

The opportunity to embrace a life of service to others and place your skills and your experience, your passion and your joy into that service. You will never have a private jet, but you will have rewards that cannot be purchased with any currency.

The ability to accept victory and success with humility, and defeat and failure with grace, and what you learn will become your superpower.

The understanding to be inspired and strengthened by your spiritual beliefs, to own them and their gift to you honestly, without demanding others have the same beliefs or any beliefs at all.

The strength to be kind. Over, and over again, all the time.

A smile.

Accepting this legacy may cost you much that you currently value. But it will bring you more joy than you can imagine, for all the days you remain here.

Thank you, Mister President. Rosalyn's heart's companion. Beloved Dad. A world's inspiration. Peanut farmer. Home builder. Jimmy.

I will do my best to accept, and cherish this gift.


You gave me your hearts. I hope you know you have mine!

This is a wonderful community.

It is an honor to be part of it. There are so many caring, talented, fun people here!

Thank you so much for the hearts, and the posts, and the likes, and the memes, and the comments, and the alerts, and the fundraisers, and the tunes, and the clips, and the love.


A Great American Endeavor

The narrative of "America" (the concept, not the geopolitical entity) is one of Great Endeavors. In its earliest days, America symbolized a Promised Land of opportunity where those rejecting (or forcibly rejected by) European monarchies and established class hierarchies and social orders could take charge of their own destinies, build communities and lives to their own definitions.

Then wrest the control of those communities from the British Crown, and define their new nation based on ideals absent from the old world social systems, in the Great Endeavor of the Revolution.

Unfettered by family oligarchies and class-bound wealth structures, the new idea of America could focus on using available space and resources to expand and build new wealth. America could innovate commerce, transportation, education, science, agriculture and industry, to create a broader economic base than any enjoyed in the old world - a Great Endeavor hampered only by America's "hangover" of family oligarchies and class-bound wealth structures in the Southern agrarian economy built on enslaved labor.

And so another costly and heartbreaking Great Endeavor, fueled by both moral and economic necessity - the eradication of enslaved labor from the economy.

Yet another Great Endeavor, the Westward Expansion in the post-Civil War era, fueled dreams and myths about the idea of America and cemented them into our national identity. It attracted waves of immigration bringing hard work, ingenuity, and creativity from many nations to flourish here.

With the Twentieth Century America's Great Endeavors turned to the definition of America's role and place in the larger world again, as we engaged with the "War to End Wars" and built new ties with the old world, infusing them with some of the ideas of America.

In the wake of economic collapse America took on the Great Endeavor of re-shaping its economic base to broaden economic opportunity and prevent the pooling of wealth and privilege and the creation of a new oligarchy.

In the face of a tide of fascism, America took on the Great Endeavor of turning back that tide, shoulder-to-shoulder with other nations rejecting its most inhuman horrors.

After a victory won with painful moral compromises and the opening of a Pandora's Box of potential destruction, America embraced another Great Endeavor of containing totalitarian expansion and building a worldwide network of liberal democratic allies and partners.

These Great Endeavors all had noble elements to them. But they were all hampered by one dark reality: The ideal of America was always a chimera supported by denial of our own cruel, oppressive reality.

We defined our new nation's ideals of freedom to explicitly apply only to white people. Our Shining City on the Hill was built on the sweat and suffering of those excluded from its benefits. But as long as we never talk about our Shining White Supremacy on the Hill, we can pretend that all those ideas of America are our reality.

The creation of our vast economic base was made possible not only by enslaved labor and the exploitation of immigrants, non-whites and the poor, but by the genocide of nation after nation of indigenous people who had stewarded the continent for centuries before the arrival of European colonial powers. America began the process of destroying the health and sustainability of the very land and resources that made our nation possible.

The Civil War ended the structure of enslaved labor. But it not only did nothing to redress the wrongs of more than two centuries of horror, its aftermath deliberately codified, enabled and promoted a systemic class system based on a concept of 'race' that manifested only as skin color and ancestry. We got to have our cake and eat it - credit for the undeniable good of ending slavery, while we maintained and even turbocharged the evil of white supremacy.

The great Westward Expansion nearly completed the extermination of indigenous nations. It brought in new influxes of not-white labor that could be exploited and oppressed with impunity. And it institutionalized some of the most destructive interpretations of "individual freedoms" (at the expense of the well-being of the community, the sustainability of the land, and a respect-worthy rule of law) into our national identity.

We re-engaged with the old world nations only to enmesh ourselves in the repulsive values of colonialism and the unchecked predatory capitalism that brought about a worldwide economic collapse. In supporting our European colonialist allies we sowed the Dragon's Teeth.

Our attempts to build a more equitable economic base were laudable as far as they went, which was mostly to white people. Much of the New Deal and the economic recovery preceding WWII excluded non-white Americans. Judge Lynch still held court and Jim Crow continued to flourish.

We fought back a great evil and somewhat fumblingly brought a historic genocide to a halt at the cost of our own genocide in Japan and the creation of powers capable of ending this planet's ability to support life.

We outspent, out-developed, and out-colonialized Communism with our European democratic allies, at the expense of nascent self-determination movements in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Of course, they weren't white.

Are you seeing a theme develop here?

Every Great Endeavor of America has been flawed or broken on the rocks of white supremacy.

Now America MUST turn to the greatest of endeavors: Ending white supremacy itself.

Without that, we have no more Great Endeavors and perhaps even no future - as a nation or even as a human species.

I believe America CAN do this. I believe we can build a better, greater, more wonderful idea AND reality of America that will lead us into a future of sustainability, equity, and prosperity. If we succeed we will inspire a world to reject white supremacy and build a shared future for our planet and its life. And maybe take us to the stars, and greater and more amazing places than we can imagine now.

It starts with us, and this greatest of all American Endeavors.


The War on Democracy: Russia's Simple Strategy

There is something getting lost in the important, valuable coverage of the McGonigal arrest, the re-opening of investigations into Russian election meddling, and the elaborate follow-the-money cash trailing of rubles-to-dollars-to-PAC-money.

Even the sickening unease in American stomachs as McCarthy eviscerates Congress' capacity to investigate and oversee failures of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, important (and potentially helpful) as it is, doesn't reach to the root of the matter. Yes, Russia probably owns a good many Congresscritters, elected officials, and bureaucrats in key positions by now. Some may be aware of whose hand hold their leashes.

But a good many more are almost certainly blissfully unaware as Russia's operation of the past several decades was carefully planned and implemented to make direct Russian involvement minimal, even unnecessary, across a wide swathe of their strategic objectives.

All they had to do was make enough people shitty.

Shitty people do shitty things because they are shitty people. They don't need some Russian controller passing secret messages along to them to promote hate, to feed xenophobia, to target the vulnerable and oppress the different. That's what shitty people just do. Shitty people naturally put the gratification of their ego ahead of the well-being of others. Shitty people think it's fine to demonize the poor and spit at the homeless. Ultimately, shitty people think it's morally justified to beat someone to death for a traffic violation. And shitty people think it's morally justifiable that other people beat someone to death for a traffic violation because Law and Order and the Thin Blue Line and Crime Against People Like ME provide justification.

The Russians aren't the only ones who know how to make people shitty (spoiler alert: It's not actually that difficult.) The Nazis certainly knew. Making people shitty on the wholesale level is just an escalation of the kind of smaller-scale shitty-making that has always been part of the military and law enforcement, where compassionate impulses must be situationally suppressed in aid of survival and a supposed greater good. Wholesale shitty-making flows as a natural corollary from the kind of manipulation the advertising industry has trained into us all in the service of capitalism and "individual liberties."

It's not difficult because we're all born a little shitty. It's an individual survival necessity baked into our evolutionary ancestors. And it was always balanced by the baked-in decency that ensured survival of future generations through care and compassion first for vulnerable offspring, and then for the members of the social group that formed a stronger potential protection than any individual could afford.

The war between being decent and being shitty is the central task of individual human development. We try to raise our offspring to be decent, not shitty. We try to form a community that promotes norms of decency rather than shittiness.

But this is easy to subvert, to make shitty people.

All you have to do is redefine "decent" to apply ONLY to you and people exactly like you. This makes it just fine to be shitty, because you can maintain your sense that you're a decent person because you don't do shitty things to yourself and people exactly like you. And anyone who does anything that causes you the least bit of doubt, fear, or anxiety- well, you're not just justified in being shitty to them, it's your MORAL DUTY to be shitty to them.

That's all it took. The Russian influence campaigns never needed to push any political agenda, never needed to convince people to love Pooty-poot or believe in the natural superiority of the Russki Way or anything crude like that. All they needed to do was a simple two-step: One: Pretend to be someone just like someone else, and point out that Those Other People are a threat; and Two: Normalize shitty actions in the name of that moral duty.

Everything else was bunce. Once they knew the Shittification of America was well underway, with all the classic justifications getting increasingly validated, they commenced to gnaw away at the foundations of making Americans decent, starting with public education, shared ideas and values, history, etcetera. Encourage and fund the shitty think-tanks that justified breaking apart all the moral and intellectual and social connective tissue of decency.

By the time social media came along, we were sitting ducks for the end phase Shittification operations. The Russians don't elect shitty people like (too many to choose from - pick your fave), shitty people elect them, because people like to vote for people they understand and agree with. And the shitty people get elected and say 'how can we keep getting elected and get more shitty people elected'? and they find all the cracks in the structure and all the ambiguities in the rules, and they gerrymander and litigate and run shitty influence campaigns all their little selvsies with hardly any help from Mother Russia at all.

Fortunately, while it's easy to make a good many people shitty, it's really, REALLY hard to make everybody shitty. The Russians know that. They know that what they needed was a critical mass - not a majority, just a critical mass willing to subvert the majority, aided not just by active Russian operations, but by the Uber-Shitty people enabled by the destruction of America's economic regulations.

This is a war on two fronts, Russia and the Uber-Shitty, the oligarchic capitalists who know that the days of their smash-and-grab raid would be numbered in a functional democracy, so they're more than willing to join in subverting and destroying that.

Until we recognize the potency of shitty people being shitty for the powerful juggernaut it has become, and fight back specifically ON THOSE TERMS, by re-normalizing decency and restoring shittiness to its despised and shameful status, we're stuck with this shit.


I think the debt ceiling is sound and fury and ultimately a busted flush for the GOP.

First off, failing to raise the debt ceiling is NOT THE SAME as shutting down the government - which happens when Congress fails to pass a continuing resolution in the absence of an approved budget. That does shut the government down in short order.

They are different things.

If a budget has not been passed, a continuing resolution is permission for government agencies to keep operating in the absence of an approved budget. But our Federal budget is currently funded through next September. So that's not going to be an issue for a while.

The debt ceiling is permission for the U.S. Government to sell bonds and securities in order to meet obligations already incurred. Since taxes, fees, and other forms of revenues will continue, not all government functions would be in danger of shutting down immediately. Eventually, yes, lots of things would have to slow or stop, but it wouldn't be a coup de theatre like (for instance) the 21-day shutdown during the Clinton Administration - which did not turn out well, incidentally, for the GOP.

What would it do?

First off, if the financial markets become seriously concerned about whether Congress would do anything that intensely stupid, we'd see the consequences begin to materialize even before the deadline passed. And those consequences would affect the congresscritters' owners - oligarchs and corporate donors. While some might be able to capitalize on the pending chaos, most wouldn't, and they'd be most unhappy with their employees' farting around with their wealth.

If the US Government did have to default on its bond and securities payments, the credit rating of the government would be downgraded, which would cause major long-term damage to the US economy - damage those who tanked the debt ceiling would have tied around their necks for good.

The majority of the US Government's debt is held by Americans, including large fund management companies. But the US also has the world's largest amount of foreign-held debt, in large part because most of that debt is rated AAA or better as a credit risk - it's "safe" investment. Default on that, and the damage would cascade worldwide, with major consequences - and again, the owners of US congresscritters would be most unhappy. MOST unhappy. The GOP would own that pain, and their reputation as fiscal conservatives would be beyond shredded. That kind of irresponsibility isn't easily forgotten or overcome.

This is not to say that the bomb-throwing wing of the GOP wouldn't try. But I doubt it's a credible threat, and given how well the Biden Administration has handled other attempts at extortion and intimidation, I don't see it working.


Elon's Choice

When you find yourself in a pit of misery based on your own poor decision-making skills, you have four (4) options. In ascending order of desirability (from the standpoint of ending your misery) the options are:

1) Keep digging;
2) Freeze - do nothing and wait for a deus ex machina to rescue you;
3) Quit, climb out, and run like hell; and
4) Learn, change, and do something creative with the pit.

It looks as though Elon has certainly rejected #2. What I can't really tell is whether this: Twitter needs a new CEO in wake of Musk's resignation represents a choice of #3, #4, or an attempt to have #1 and #3 simultaneously.

Elon's only comment recorded so far is "I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job! After that, I will just run the software & servers teams," he tweeted.

The problem with #4 is that it involves a certain measure of heightened misery in the short term as you recognize how you got where you are, and own up to those poor decision making skills, with the attendant humiliation involved. Those of us who've been in such a pit and have tried #4 can attest that "humiliation" can be a necessary step in the development of "humility" (two very different things). And that "humility" is the beginning of wisdom, and that wisdom is, indeed, the surest road, not just out of that particular pit of misery, but away from digging future pits for yourself.

But it's not fun. It's the hard choice.

So... I'm going with "Elon is attempting to have #1 and #3 simultaneously" and hoo, boy.... those of us who've also tried that will be popping the popcorn.


Why [Redacted]'s bubblegum cards all sold: They were bought with craptocurrency...

...as in not-real money. Not shitcoin, I think- something called EHC. So basically, this is just [Redacted] using that sector of the bilking industry to launder foreign money before the whole craptocurrency thing goes away forever.

No actual dollars were spent by actual people on actual bubblegum cards.

And the grift goes on...

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