willfully and deliberately stupid

I don’t know if you’ve read any of the SCOTUS decisions from the last few weeks. I mean actually read them, not just read news reports or blog posts about them. I suspect most folks haven’t. Can’t blame anybody for that; it takes time to churn through these decisions (the Bruen decision is 135 pages long, for fuck’s sake) and big chunks of them (while certainly/probably important) are mind-numbingly boring.

But if you do take the time to read the most important decisions, I think you’ll discover a theme running through them. And that theme is this: the conservative majority is being willfully and deliberately stupid.

I’m just going to focus on the Bruen decision (and the concurring opinions) because we just went through a long holiday weekend that delivered sixteen mass shootings. The issue in Bruen was a New York law stating an individual who wanted to carry a concealed firearm outside their home had to prove they had a “proper cause” for doing so. In other words, you had to have a good reason for going strapped in public.

In essence, SCOTUS said, pffft, you don’t need no stinking reason, this is America, bitches.

The Court’s majority decision begins by noting that “this Court has long cautioned that the English common law “is not to be taken in all respects to be that of America.” It then (and I am NOT making this up) it spends pages explaining how common law back in Merry Olde England allowed folks to carry guns.

[W]hatever place handguns had in English society during the Tudor and Stuart reigns, by the time we reach the 18th century—and near the founding—they had gained a fairly secure footing in English culture.

You may be asking, “Greg, old sock, when were these Tudor and Stuarts reigning in England? And why should we give a shit?” I’m glad you asked (and stop calling me ‘old sock’). The Tudors and Stuarts were big hats in England from 1485 to 1714. A long fucking time ago. That means we’re talking about flintlock pistols—big honking single shot handguns weighing a couple of pounds, with an effective combat range of about 20 feet, that took a trained soldier at least 30 seconds to reload. Why should we give a shit? No idea. I confess, if I see a guy walking into Starbucks with a flintlock pistol strapped to his belt, I’m not going to get too concerned.

Flintlock pistol

The SCOTUS decision sporadically repeats its finding from Heller decision: “[T]he Second Amendment protects only the carrying of weapons that are those ‘in common use at the time.’” To say flintlock pistols were in common use at the time is bullshit, mainly because most folks didn’t have any need to tote a pistol around (and besides, those things were expensive). But it’s true that IF folks carried a pistol back then, it was a flintlock. Does that constitute ‘common use’? I don’t think so. The Court then goes on to say:

Whatever the likelihood that handguns were considered “dangerous and unusual” during the colonial period, they are indisputably in “common use” for self-defense today.

Dude, they’re in common use today because y’all allowed them to be in common use. It’s like saying colonial era folks never kept their dogs on a leash, then arguing that leash laws aren’t justified in cities now because unleashed dogs were common back then. Willfully and deliberately stupid.

The Court notes that historically, there weren’t a lot of laws in the US restricting the carrying of guns. Not until we passed an amendment restricting firearms.

Only after the ratification of the Second Amendment in 1791 did public-carry restrictions proliferate.

Maybe that’s because the 2nd Amendment specifically mentions that well-regulated militia? Once you link keeping and bearing arms to the militia, state and local lawmakers are going to base laws on that. Right?

The Court, in its review of the history of firearm restrictions, also notes there was an “uptick in gun regulation during the late-19th century—principally in the Western Territories.” You know why there was an uptick in the Old West? Because that’s where cowboys carried guns and got in gunfights. Cowboys had a need for handguns when they were out rounding up cattle and stuff. There were snakes and predators that threatened the cattle and understandably pissed-off native Americans. But when those cowboys rode into Dodge, the sheriff made them take off their guns to stop drunken cowboys from fucking shooting each other. This is NOT hard to understand.

The notion that states and cities have limited power to regulate firearms because the US doesn’t have a history or tradition of regulating firearms is massively stupid. We didn’t have a history or tradition of cowboys riding riotously through a town, shooting at random until cowboys started riding riotously through towns, shooting at random. You don’t need laws preventing folks from doing shit UNTIL THEY START DOING SHIT.

What we DO have now is a history and tradition of mass shootings and mass murder. We are contributing to that history and tradition every goddamn day. As I noted earlier, we had sixteen mass shootings from July 1 through July 4. Four days. Sixteen mass shootings. Eighteen dead, 105 wounded. In four days.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Alito scolds the three Justices who dissented from the majority opinion. He wrote:

[T]he dissent seemingly thinks that the ubiquity of guns and our country’s high level of gun violence provide reasons for sustaining the New York law, the dissent appears not to understand that it is these very facts that cause law-abiding citizens to feel the need to carry a gun for self-defense.

Alito is being willfully and deliberately stupid. The ubiquity of guns and the high level of gun violence ARE EXACTLY the reason for sustaining a law that requires people to demonstrate an actual need to carry a firearm.

Again, it’s like claiming I need to walk around with my dog unleashed to protect me from all those goddamned unleashed dogs out there.

well, here we are

I haven’t written here for a week or so — not because I don’t have anything to say, but because there’s SO MUCH to say. I start to write about this, which is necessarily tied into that and is deeply connected to this other thing. You can’t, for example, write about abortion without also writing about the political corruption of the Supreme Court, which means you also need to address the rising fascism of the Republican Party and the green grass grows all around, all around.

But here we are on July 4th. Independence Day, right? When we celebrate the decision by a group of colonists so fed up with a hostile government that subjected them to such “a long train of abuses and usurpations” that they felt it was necessary “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them.”

I think the operative term there is necessary. It’s from the Latin necesse (which meant ‘unavoidable’) and cedere (to withdraw, go away). Necessary, a thing from which there is no backing away. The colonists felt it was necessary to rebel against the government that oppressed them.

When we think about the Declaration of Independence, we tend to focus on the dramatic bits at the beginning. Mainly this line:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That’s powerful stuff, no mistake. Beautifully written. But we forget that the biggest chunk of the Declaration is a list of grievances — an inventory of all the shit the government of the King of England was imposing on the American colonies. That list includes stuff like:

— He has obstructed the Administration of Justice
— He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices
— He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us

There’s another small chunk of Declaration that gets overlooked. It’s just a paragraph that basically says, “Hey, look, we warned you guys about this. Repeatedly. We asked you nicely to knock this shit off. We have appealed to your native justice and magnanimity. But no, you fucking ignored all those warnings. You have been deaf to the voice of justice.

A lot of us today feel much as those colonists did almost 250 years ago. Instead of a tyrannical king or queen, we have to deal with a neo-fascist Republican Party. We have to deal with Republican at the state level who are actively manipulating laws to undermine the process of representative democracy. We have to deal with a Republican Supreme Court that ignores legal precedence when it conflicts with their personal religious beliefs or their political ideology. We have to deal with a former president who not only refused to accept the result of a free and fair election, but continues to foment sedition.

Those colonists had to choose — do we keep putting up with this shit, or do we act? We have to make a similar choice. We know basically what needs to be done. The Supreme Court MUST be made neutral. It MUST be returned to balance. Not a liberal Court (as much as I’d love that); just a Supreme Court that isn’t governed by any partisan ideology.

The Declaration of Independence was a revolutionary document. I mean revolutionary in every sense of the term. It sparked an actual revolution, it started a shooting war. We don’t want or need that here. We don’t need to turn the world upside down — at least not at this point; we just need to put it back into balance.

But one thing is clear. If we don’t act, if we keep putting up with this shit, if we don’t start electing Democrats who are willing to make some radical but legal decisions to balance SCOTUS, if we don’t do that in the very next election, then we may never see another free and fair election in my lifetime.

“the people’s elected representatives”

Yesterday morning, before I went to the gym, a woman who unexpectedly discovered she was in the early stages of pregnancy had options. If she didn’t want to be pregnant, she had the right to consult with a doctor and choose to terminate the pregnancy. By the time I left the gym, that right had been nullified in many states.

In those states, pregnant people lost the authority over their own bodies. Six Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States had given that authority to “the people’s elected representatives.” That’s right, a group of State legislators get to decide whether or not a pregnant person will be forced to carry an unwanted fetus and give birth to an unwanted baby. (NOTE: SCOTUS also decided the same group of State legislators do NOT have the authority to decide whether or not a person can carry a firearm; go figure.)

Was the pregnancy a result of rape? Sorry, it’s still up to “the people’s elected representatives” to decide whether or not a person has to remain pregnant. What if the development of the fetus threatens the mother’s health? Sorry, same answer — the decision belongs to “the people’s elected representatives.” What if the fetus develops improperly, if it suffers from physical defects that preclude it from survival after birth? If “the people’s elected representatives” want the person to deliver a baby that will die within hours of birth, then that’s what will happen.

As of today, in many states, a person who is pregnant has lost their status as a free and equal citizen. They are effectively under the control of “the people’s elected representatives.” That could mean a pregnant person who puts the health of an unwanted fetus at risk–by having wine with meals, by engaging in certain types of sports or exercise, by smoking tobacco, by not eating properly–could be punished by “the people’s elected representatives.”

You may say the proper response to that is to elect representatives who will give pregnant people autonomy over their own bodies, but there are two problems with that (hell, there are dozens of problems with it, but I’m only going to focus on two.) First, “the people’s elected representatives” in many states are changing laws to make it more difficult for certain groups to vote. This is an effort to insure they remain “the people’s elected representatives.” Second, the issue isn’t whether or not “the people’s elected representatives” are willing to grant a person autonomy over their own body; it’s that “the people’s elected representatives” shouldn’t have the power or authority to grant or deny that in the first place. That’s just fucking wrong.

This is a fundamental issue. Do pregnant people have equal rights? As of today, in many states, the answer is no. That is horrifying. It’s made worse by the fact that the tyranny of “the people’s elected representatives” will be felt most by the poor. And yes, that also means racial minorities will suffer the most.

Women will die as a result of this. Women will die. But we can be certain none of the dead will be members of “the people’s elected representatives.”

EDITORIAL NOTE: We need to burn the patriarchy. Burn it to the ground, gather the ashes, then set fire to them again. Burn the patriarchy, then drive a stake directly through the ashes where its heart used to be, and then set fire to the stake. Burn the fucker one more time. And keep burning it, over and over. Burn it for generations. Then nuke it from orbit.

hate

I’ve resisted hate. At least I’ve tried to resist hate. I told myself that hate is a pointless, futile emotion, that it only gets in the way, that it warps the process of thought, that it clouds judgment and leads to bad decisions. I’ve told myself that hate harms the hater more than the hated.

I still think that’s true. But I don’t care anymore.

It was difficult at first, but I came to accept the fact that I hated Donald Trump. I don’t need to list all the reasons for hating him — you’re probably aware of them, they’ve been pretty clear for most of his life. But man I resisted admitting to myself that I hated him. Actually hated him. I still hate him, of course. Hate is fucking hard to turn off. But that doesn’t matter, because I have no desire to stop hating Trump.

One of the problems with hate is that once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. It gets harder to resist. Trump taught me to hate. Today I hate Republicans. Right now, as I sit here and type this, I hate Republicans. Not just the Republicans who’ve voted in ways I disagree with, not just Republicans who hold public office at any level, not just the Republican Party — right now, this moment, I hate every person who voted for any Republican in the last five years, Make it ten years. I don’t think this hate will be as persistent as my hatred for Trump; I suspect this generalized hatred will subside over time. But right now, at this particularly painful point in time, I hate them.

They’re all complicit, every Republican, every one of them. The epidemic of gun violence in the US, that’s on Republicans. The erosion of civil rights and liberties, that’s on Republicans. The rise in hate crime against Asians, Jews, Women, Black people, trans people, Muslims, gay folks — that’s on Republicans. The rise of asshole billionaires, that’s on Republicans. The health care desert that so many people live in, that’s on Republicans. The collapse of representative democracy, that’s on Republicans and I fucking hate them for it.

I’ve learned to hate. I’m ashamed of it, but there it is. I’ve become a hater. I hate that they’ve taught me to hate. I feel diminished by that hate; I feel tainted because of it. I hate, but I’m still resisting being hateful. It’s bad enough to hate, to act on that hate…at that point, you’re probably lost. I know it’s possible to come back from that, but it wouldn’t be easy.

Working to defeat Republicans, however, isn’t hateful. It’s just necessary. If your foot becomes infected and gangrene sets it, you don’t amputate your foot because you hate it. You do it because it’s necessary for survival. Republicans are political gangrene; they are necrotic tissue on the body of representative democracy.

That’s where I am now. Right now. Today. I hate Republicans. But that’s not the reason I want them removed from political power and authority; I want them removed because that’s the only way to salvage democracy in the United States.

so much depends

There’s a type of photograph that I generally think of as ‘red wheelbarrow’ images. You know, after the poem by William Carlos Williams. I’m talking about photographs in which the emotional appeal relies heavily on a color/object element. I saw one of those photos last week–a green hat hanging on a doorknob. The moment I saw the photo, I thought “So much depends upon a green hat….”

Coincidentally, over the last week or so, like a lot of people, I’ve become weirdly besotted with a text-to-image program called DALL-E 2. I don’t understand the tech or the coding behind it, but essentially it’s an artificial intelligence system that creates images and art from a description written in natural language. You type in a description, the system interprets it and creates a series of images based on that description.

There’s a waiting list to use DALL-E 2, I suppose because it produces high quality images which undoubtedly requires some serious computing power. But for those of us who are waiting, there’s a mini DALL-E that produces lower quality images. They’re still weird and wonderful and often satisfying.

So what did I do? I typed in a brief description of WCW’s poem. A red wheelbarrow glazed with rain beside white chickens. And DALL-E mini gave me this:

Red wheelbarrow glazed with rain beside white chickens

It’s weird and a wee bit distressing, but I was immediately delighted. Enchanted, even. And eventually besotted (oh fuck, now I have to do a quick etymological dip: besotted comes from the Old English term ‘sott‘ which meant ‘a fool, a stupid person’ and by the late 16th century sott lost a letter and became sot, and was used almost exclusively to describe a person stupefied by strong drink) with the idea.

My point, if you can call it that, is that I became figuratively intoxicated by the notion of mixing red wheelbarrows with random thoughts, straining it through the DALL-E mini artificial intelligence system, and seeing what happened. Some of the descriptions were fairly simple.

Red wheelbarrow by the harbor

It quickly became clear that DALL-E had a rather fluid and elastic understanding of the wheelbarrow concept, but I was okay with that. In fact, that pleased me considerably. It made the result a lot less predictable. It added an element of surprise to text descriptions that were otherwise fairly mundane. Such as:

A red wheelbarrow in a mangrove swamp

After these simple experiments, I decided to try something that wasn’t so simple, something that might test the system. And I have to say, DALL-E mini surprised me. It came through with something wonderfully weird and lovely.

A detective in a dark alley with a red wheelbarrow

It was obvious to me at this point, that the red wheelbarrow concept had the potential to become a project. Since I’d lost interest in the most recent Knuckles Dobrovic project (Japanese are bure bokeh images of Ireland), this seems like a worthy replacement. I’ve no idea how long I’ll do this. Maybe a month, maybe longer, maybe I’ll become disappointed with DALL-E mini and wait to try the big hat version.

Anyway, there it is, Knuckles is back, working the red wheelbarrow corner of the intertubes.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Yeah, I forgot to include a link to the Knuckle Dobrovic Instagram account, so here it is.

in facebook jail

I’m in Facebook jail this morning. I sorta deserve it. Not for the reasons given by FB, but for another reason. I’m prevented from commenting or posting on FB for a few more hours today, and for the next 29 days my group posts will be moved lower in the Feed (whatever that is). Why? Because I apparently have “repeatedly violated our Community Standards” by advocating violence.

How did I do that? My first time was back in March, during a discussion about Wordle of all things. I don’t recall the exact context, but I made a comment that I’d have to put a dollar in the knife jar. Somebody asked what the ‘knife jar’ was, and I told them the concept was similar to a swearing jar — when somebody is trying to stop cursing, they put some money in a jar every time they say an obscenity. The knife jar is based on that idea, except it’s when I feel the urge to stab something. It was obviously a joke, and everybody understood that. Everybody except FB. I was restricted for ‘advocating violence.’

Yesterday, while commenting in real time on the January 6 hearing, I complained that both Greg Jacob (former vice-presidential counsel) and Judge Luttig were responding to questions in excruciating detail, often repeating things they’d said earlier in their testimony, even repeating things they’d said earlier in the same response. I was especially irked by the slow, deliberate, very judicial responses of Judge Luttig. I commented that what Lutting was saying was critically important, but he didn’t need to consider every word before he said it. I commented that Liz Cheney could “stop them from repeating the same things over and over and over” if she “choked them with her pearls.” Again, it was obviously a joke, but again I was restricted by FB for ‘advocating violence.’

Here’s the thing. I do deserve punishment. NOT for advocating violence, but for being a jerk about Judge Luttig’s way of speaking. I learned this morning that Lutting may have suffered a stroke recently, which could account at least partially for his slow, deliberative speech. I don’t know if that’s true, of course, but it really doesn’t matter. The judge was under no obligation to speak the way I wanted him to speak. I, on the other hand, had a positive obligation to be patient with his way of speaking. I wasn’t patient. I was annoyed by the constant repetition, but I was also annoyed at Lutting for making me be patient. I was…let’s face it, I was an asshole. Mocking somebody for their manner of speech is an asshole move.

So yeah, I deserve to be in FB jail. Not for advocating violence but for being an asshole. Judge Luttig deserved better from me.

quick note on bill barr

It’s important to remember that Bill Barr was Comrade Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General. He replaced Jeff Sessions who, if you’ll recall, was fired–well, asked to resign–by Trump because he properly recused himself from any investigations relating to Russian interference to aid Trump in the 2016 election. Barr was selected because he was more willing to accede to Trump’s questionable legal practices.

Barr, in videotaped testimony, can be heard referring to Trump’s refusal to accept the 2020 election results as “rubbish.” He also called it “nonsense” and “garbage.” He called it “crazy” and “annoying” and “idiotic” and “stupid.” He called it “bullshit.” He even suggested Trump may have been “detached from reality.” But he never called it “criminal.”

Criminal is exactly what it was. Not the lying, but the financial profiting from the lie. Barr has been around the block long enough to know that’s fraud. Fraud is “the deliberate misrepresentation of fact for the purpose of depriving someone of a valuable possession.”

The Attorney General of the United States was essentially witnessing a crime in progress. He didn’t report it, he didn’t act on it, he just tried to dodge any responsibility for the mess by resigning his job. Bill Barr doesn’t get any credit now for speaking out now. He failed to do his job, he failed to do his duty, the most senior law enforcement officer in the nation failed to perform the most basic function of law enforcement.

Fuck him in the neck.

liz cheney will get you

I confess to having high hopes and low expectations from the January 6th Insurrection Committee hearings. I fully expected to be underwhelmed by last week’s prime time hearing and was surprised that it was as well orchestrated and effective as it was. But I seriously doubted this morning’s hearing would be as organized and productive.

I was wrong.

This committee is different. They’re actually focused and disciplined. In most congressional hearings, the members use the time relegated for questions to make political statements, score political points, and create sound bites in the hope of getting a moment on the evening news. These committee members have somehow found the strength of purpose to sit back, shut the fuck up, and let one or two people run the show.

This means we’re getting a coherent narrative, one that everybody on the committee agrees with and supports. It’s also a compelling narrative, and they’re presenting it in a way that trial attorneys will appreciate. At the beginning of each hearing so far, they said, “This is what the evidence will show.” Then they’re using each hearing to show individual elements of the evidence. And at the end, they repeat, “Here’s what the evidence we just presented means.” Structurally, the hearings have been beautiful.

I did NOT expect to learn anything new from the hearings. But again, I was wrong. I learned that Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry had been in touch with the White House after the insurrection to seek a presidential pardon, and that “multiple other Republicans” had done the same. Multiple. Now I want to know which ones–and I think there’s a good chance the hearings will produce the names.

I learned Jared Kushner, the lizard-brained son-in-law of Comrade Trump, dismissed threats by White House lawyers and DOJ legal staff to resign if Trump followed through on various blatantly illegal/unconstitutional schemes. He said the most Jared Kushner thing ever:

“My interest at that time was on trying to get as many pardons done, and I know that he was always, him and the team, were always saying ‘Oh we are going to resign’. So, I kind of took it up to just be whining, to be honest with you.”

That’s right. He was too busy arranging pardons–around 120 pardons in the post-election period–many of them for Trump cronies who were involved in crimes aiding Trump. So busy he assumed resignation threats by multiple legal staff from multiple agencies claiming Trump was knowingly advocating criminal acts was just ‘whining’. Lawdy.

Trump should remember that Liz Cheney’s dad once shot a friend in the face with a shotgun, and the only person who scares Dick Cheney is Liz.

But the most astonishing thing I learned was this: Liz Cheney is Keyser Söze. If you’ll remember from the movie, Keyser Söze was threatened by a Hungarian drug gang, told to get out of the drug business. When he refused, they took Söze’s family and threatened to kill them unless he gave up his drug business. To prove their point, they killed one of his children. Instead of giving in, Söze then shoots and kills his own family and he kills all the Hungarians holding them–except one. Then…

“He lets the last Hungarian go. He waits until his wife and kids are in the ground and then he goes after the rest of the mob. He kills their kids, he kills their wives, he kills their parents and their parents’ friends. He burns down the houses they live in and the stores they work in, he kills people that owe them money.”

Liz Cheney was threatened by the GOP hierarchy, told not to cooperate with the 1/6 Committee. When she refused, she was stripped of her committee assignments and her leadership position. When she stood her ground, refusing to go along with Trump’s Big Lie, she was booed on the House floor by some of her colleagues.

Big mistake. She’s almost certainly burned her political career to the ground, and now she’s in the process of hunting down the insurrection wing of the Republican Party, the ones who forced her to make the choice. Donald Trump probably twitches when he hears her name. She’s on her way to becoming a myth, a spook story that Republicans tell their kids at night, “Rat on your pop, and Liz Cheney will get you.”