zika brains & the voice of the little guy

I took a few minutes today to catch up on the Patriots of FreeRepublic. It was, as always, enlightening. I learned that Freepers are:

In favor of troops disobeying the Commander-in-Chief when the C-i-C is Obama:

— I personally think that every officer who did not offer to resign rather than implement Obama’s faggot and women policies in the military, should be fired. The time to have a backbone was when Obama told the military to do irrational and stupid politically correct things. The military should have said with one voice, “F*** YOU B*TCH!!!” There are times when a President should be deliberately disobeyed by the Military, and that was one of those times.

— The Military should not be subject to the whims of an ignorant lazy symbol of Tokenism who’s only in office because of his color. He’s a fool and an idiot, and he needs to be in prison. We hanged the German generals for “following orders”, the least we can do is fire our generals who did the same thing, though with less bad consequences. Obama’s homosexual and women policies are going to get people killed. We need purges.

Eager for President Obama to leave office:

— It is 327 days, 0 hours, 37 minutes, 38 seconds until the arrogant Christophobic imperious petty henious vengeful destructive Islamic malevolent anti-American sissified thin-skinned racist traitorous evil supercilious angry incompetent Supreme-Court-destroying middle-finger-waving socialist petulant deviant Constitution-ignoring malignant narcissist noxious Saboteur-In-Chief illegal hideous communist gay crack-smoking pernicious Kenyan crypto-muslim dictator usurping President “Stompy-Foot” Obama leaves office.

Pleased that Melissa Harris-Perry has left MSNBC

— I’m so fed up with mulatos and their racist need to exploit their blackness.

— It seems to me that a lot of these products of biracial unions have many mental problems including a self loathing and hatred for 1/2 of themselves.

— Today it is simply more profitable to identify as “black”: social promotion throughout your education, free college and job offers for which you aren’t qualified.

The Patriots of FreeRepublic.

The Patriots of FreeRepublic.

Are not fond of Hillary Clinton:

— The Negroes in South Carolina were all in for Hillary.

— I keep praying that that evil bitch, Madam Benghazi will “stroke out” and fall flat on her ugly face.

And are convinced the National Enquirer will out her as a lesbian:

— If Hillary/Huma is outed as a lesbian relationship, it will be a resume enhancement in many spheres

— I wouldn’t mind seeing a pic with Huma in the nude but with Hillary in it?

— hildebeast is a lesbian. it’s been an open secret in DC for decades now. rumor is the real reason she didn’t want to disclose the e-mails from her private server is because they detail exactly who she’s been sharing her bed with.

But they really like Trump:

— The elites still don’t get it. They are as far removed from knowing what the public wants as the nobility was at Versailles in 1789. The election of Trump is the French Revolution sans guillotine. Long live the people! All the rest can be sorted out later.

— Mr. Trump is proposing to solve basic issues in American society, like illegal “immigration” and chronic unemployment. Will he do these things himself? No, he will delegate. That’s how business works.

— I, along with many Trump supporters concede he is not a conservative. I will concede he may in fact have his own agenda. I will concede in a nation of over 350 million he may not be the best person to be President. In fact I will concede all your point. So what! If Trump was not in the race, many things that a vast number of Americans are concerned about would not even be on the table for discussion. Can Trump solve these problems, who knows. I do know that the other candidates would prefer they were not on the table and that they did not have to address them. Trump is the voice of the little guy

— Trump is the right person at this time. The fact that so many see this reality is unconvincing to you that he is. On top of that that it is beyond your capability to discern why Trump receives so much support because you have allowed yourself to become so biased in the belief that you are so smart and others are so stupid, that your viewpoint is valid and the viewpoints of others are illegitimate. Time for you Trump haters to do a little self examination. You people border on irrational behavior that by and large have proven to be unfounded lies perpetuated amongst yourselves like a quickly spreading virus that is immune to any vaccine.

— He will balance the budget by eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse. This will be easy because he is smart. Mexico will pay for The Wall, so that will be free.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

They especially like his immigration policy:

— It’s all about building a wall, controlling immigration once again That’s it. That’s everything. Because Trump supporters know that if we don’t have real borders, we don’t have a country… everything else pales in comparison. We also don’t trust politicians… any of them. So rant and rave and throw every piece of crap that Donald probably is at us and it won’t matter because of THE WALL !

— I don’t think N. Korea has an illegal immigration problem, does it? Thanks for proving my point that walls are effective.

— Millions of illegals taking up millions of jobs and clogging up hospitals and schools with Zika-brains. Make them vanish and overnight- economic recovery.

Although there are some Freepers who aren’t fond of Trump:

— Something I hadn’t noticed before — Trump uses the same (incomplete) sentence structure my mother-in-law did when she talked about picking berries as a child. She was 95 at the time and could go on for an hour or two about it without ever completing a sentence.

— There is no issue on which you can find Donald Trump speaking eloquently, passionately, and with any detail that doesn’t involve his poll numbers or his wealth. …. That people are willing to believe him, unchallenged, and take offense when others do challenge him, is the mentality that has led to dark places in world history.

And finally, Freepers know who’s at fault for the violence at a KKK rally:

— At some point the Klan will arm itself again. It can’t appear in public without being physically attacked.

— And yet, Black klans go unchallenged. And if you don’t know any black klans try the Black Panthers, BLM, NAACP, and Black Caucuses for starters.

— Yes, and La Raza has a member on the Supreme Court. And, I believe there is a congressional Black Caucus.

— Heck…add the Bloods and the Crypts in there as well. These are some of the nastier negros. Shoot’cha and never blink an eye.

— The race war is starting and we can thank odumbo for that “hope and change” too.

Oh, and a public service announcement: If you’re not registered to vote, get registered. And be there on election day, even if your candidate didn’t win the nomination. Because these guys from FreeRepublic will be there, and they’ll be voting..

pull the car in the garage

— Did you hear, then? Trump won in Nevada.
— Fuck me with a chainsaw.
— Yeah, I hear that’s his new interrogation plan. Waterboarding? That’s for sissies.
— That’s really it, isn’t it.
— What’s really it?
— That’s why people are voting for him. They’re frustrated and angry, so they’re voting for a bully. They want somebody who thinks waterboarding doesn’t go far enough.
— I don’t know. I don’t know if people really that angry.
— Have you seen a Trump rally? On television.
— Well…
— Guy heckled Trump at a rally, Trump said “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
— Yeah, well, I’m not saying…
— The crowd cheered. This fucking guy, he’s running for president, says he wants to punch a protester. In the face. And the crowd cheered.
— Yeah. But what I’m saying is…
— The crowd cheered, dude. Trump wants to punch a guy in the face and the…
— You keep interrupting me, I’ma punch you in the face.
— See? That’s it, right there. That’s why they’re voting for Trump. So what were you gonna say?
— Okay, first, we’re talking about Republicans here. Not everybody.
— True.
— Second, yeah, they’re frustrated to the point of rage. It’s frustrage.
— Frustrage.
— But it’s not about anything in specific. It’s free-floating frustrage. For twenty-five years or so the Republican party has been selling their people the idea that government can’t be trusted. That science can’t be trusted. That educators can’t be trusted. That politicians can’t be trusted. That the only things they can trust are Jeebus, guns, and business leaders.
— That whole ‘United States ought to be run like a business’ bullshit.
— Exactly. So Republicans kept electing people who didn’t believe in government or science or education. And guess what?
— I don’t want to guess.
— Go head, guess.
— I’m not guessing.
— Things got worse.
— That’s what I would have guessed.
— Things got worse and ordinary Republicans became resigned to things being worse, until they eventually said ‘fuck it.’
— Fuck it?
— That’s what they said. There’s a Willie Nelson story…I don’t know if it’s true or not.
— All Willie Nelson stories are true.

Republicans think America is a garage fire.

Republicans think America is a garage fire.

— Yeah, well, Willie…you know how he spent years being either rich or flat broke, right?
— Yeah.
— So he was rich. Had him a nice house, new car, all that. And he’s at this party, right?
— Willie Nelson is always at a party, even when he’s by himself.
— So he’s at this party and he gets a phone call from his nephew. He says…maybe it was a cousin. Or was it his agent?
— Does it matter? Willie’s at a party and he gets a phone call.
— He gets a phone call and his nephew or whoever says “Uncle Willie, your house is on fire.” Willie says, “Is everybody okay?” The cousin says everybody’s fine. Willie says, “What about my new car?” The cousin or his agent says, “Your car’s fine.” And Willie says…Willie, he knows he’s going to be broke again…Willie, he says, “Well, fuck it. Pull the car in the garage.”
— I don’t get it.
— He says, “Pull the car in the garage.”
— Yeah, I don’t get it.
— He knows he’s going to be broke again, so he says ‘fuck it’. He might as well be well and truly broke.
— So you think the people voting for Trump are saying ‘fuck it, pull the car into the garage’?
— Yeah. Kinda. You know. Burn it all down, start over.
— You really think that?
— I don’t know. Sorta kinda.
— Pull the car in the garage
— Yeah. I don’t know. What do you think?
— It’s not the stupidest thing you’ve ever said.
— That’s a low bar to meet.
— You think he’ll get the nomination, Trump?
— Don’t know. Maybe. Probably.
— You think he can get elected?
— No fucking way.
— But what if he does?
— Never happen.
— But what if it does?
— Then I guess it’s our turn to pull the car into the garage.

Editorial Note: How do you get to Trump? Like this.

all the best conspiracies involve goatskin thongs

It’s almost corny, really. A Justice of the Supreme Court apparently dies in his sleep while visiting an exclusive and remote private hunting reserve situated in the Chinati Mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert in west Texas. He’s declared dead over the telephone by a judge improbably named Cinderela Guevara. Judge Guevara, who was shopping at the time she received the phone call reporting Justice Scalia’s death, starts to drive to the ranch but she turns back after another phone call from a U.S. Marshal saying her presence isn’t needed. And then there’s no autopsy.

It sounds like the half-baked plot of a cheap-ass thriller movie. So of course there are conspiracy theories. Most of them are stupid and predictable. Like Obama had him murdered so he could add another ‘liberal’ to the Supreme Court. That’s a lazy conspiracy theory. A child could concoct that conspiracy theory.

A slightly better one is that the Bush family had Justice Scalia murdered. Why? Because he was about to reveal the role played by the Bushes in the 9/11 attacks. It’s not clear to me why the Bush family engineered the attacks, or how Scalia of all people learned about their involvement, or why Scalia would dawdle in reporting it — but hey, the man died in Texas, and George W. pretends to be from Texas, so there’s that. But as conspiracy theories go, it’s not a particularly sexy one.

The best of all the current conspiracy theories is this one: President Obama had Justice Scalia killed as a human sacrifice to mark the beginning of the pagan holiday of Lupercalia. You have to admit, this is a creative conspiracy theory. The evidence? Pagan Romans celebrated Lupercalia from February 13th to the 15th, and Scalia’s body was found on the 13th! You think that was a coincidence? You need more proof? The 13th was the 44th day of the year — and you guys, Barack Obama is the 44th President of These United States! Boom, there it is. What more do you need?

Exercising their religious freedom.

Roman pagans exercising their religious freedom during Lupercalia.

Aside from sacrificing a Supreme Court Justice, though, it was apparently a rather subdued Lupercalia. None of the usual stuff with men running through the streets, naked except for a goatskin loincloth and maybe a wolf’s mask (in honor of Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus and, well, it’s a long story — you had to be there). None of the customary whipping of women with goatskin thongs in order to insure their future fertility (which, let’s face it, sounds like a Republican health care plan). And the anointing of participants with a bloody bit of wool dipped in milk? Totally absent.

Just goes to show you, Obama has no respect for tradition. Or maybe that’s just how they do Lupercalia in west Texas. When in Rome, and all that.

i blame einstein

It all makes sense now. Day dawns in the rock garden. I see the light. I thought a lot of Republicans — like, say, Marco Rubio — were just stupid. I thought they were tossing out bullshit political statements, trying to justify why nothing was their fault. Why nothing was ever their fault.

A peek into Marco Rubio's brain.

A peek into Marco Rubio’s brain.

I mean, c’mon. How else can you explain this, by Rubio:

“I do not believe the president should appoint someone. It’s been over 80 years since a lame duck president has appointed a Supreme Court Justice.”

A ‘lame duck’ is, of course, a politician who is near the end of his term of office. Now, you may think that President Obama, with eleven months of service still ahead of him, isn’t really a lame duck. But wait a moment. Here’s more Rubio:

“The responsibility of 9/11 falls on the fact that Al Qaeda was allowed to grow and prosper and the decision was not made to take out the leader when the chance existed to do so. [President Clinton] made a decision not to take out its leader, which I think ended up being there, the situation that happened with 9/11. And my argument is, if you’re going to ascribe blame, don’t blame George W. Bush, blame a decision that was made years earlier, not to take out bin Laden when the opportunity presented itself.”

Now, it may appear that Rubio is talking out of his ass. You may be asking yourself ‘How is it possible that Bill Clinton’s responsibility as President of These United States extends eight months into George W. Bush’s term, but President Obama’s responsibility as president ends eleven months before his term expires?’

I’ll tell you how it’s possible. Albert fuckin’ Einstein.

Blame this crazy motherfucker.

Blame this crazy motherfucker.

A hundred years ago, this Einstein fellow predicted gravitational waves would result in a distortion of the space-time continuum. As the waves move through the universe, space and time would contract and expand. Clearly, the collision of two massive black holes in space a billion years ago caused Clinton’s term in office to expand, which resulted in the contraction of Obama’s term.

It’s science, you guys.

guy in a green bay packers stocking cap

Last Friday I experienced the ugliest thing I’ve encountered in a long, long time. Most days I take a walk; once or twice a week I’ll extend that walk and stop in at a corner Stop&Rob convenience store. You know — a place where you can get gasoline, buy a snack, get a drink, and hit the road again. I stop there because they have fresh cookies every day.

I was standing in line to buy my cookie behind a guy wearing a Green Bay Packers stocking cap. He was maybe my age, maybe a bit younger, a little paunchier, buying a large bottled Starbucks frappuccino. I’m a friendly guy, usually, and I like to chat with strangers, so I made a comment about the Packers and the tough year they’d had. The guy seemed friendly enough, and since there was only one person working the counter at the Stop&Rob, the line was moving slowly and we had a moment to visit. He asked me who I liked in the Super Bowl.

I started to say “I’m not a big fan of Cam Newton, but I’ll be rooting for Carolina because they’re the more exciting team.”

cam newton 1

Okay, a tangent. Cam Newton is, in my opinion, the most interesting, the most creative, the most watchable, and the most annoying quarterback in the National Football League. I enjoy watching him play football. But I don’t much like him. Why? Because he always seems to know where the cameras are. He likes the attention.

Nothing wrong with that, in itself. But quarterbacks, because of the nature of the game and that particular position, are always the center of attention. Always. And they should be. But because they’re always the center of attention, it’s my very personal opinion that they should deflect some of that attention to their teammates. And to be fair, Cam Newton does that — but usually after he’s soaked up his own share of attention.

I think it’s sort of childish. But that’s the thing about the guy. He plays football with all the reckless joy of a kid. He runs with the ball a lot. A LOT. When I first saw him playing, I assumed he did that because he thought he was the best runner on the team, or because he wanted the glory. Now I think he does that because he just likes to run with the ball. I think he does it at least in part because he’s having fun. It’s a tad selfish, I think, but kids are a tad selfish. And the fact is, he really IS a good runner. Hell, he’s good at everything. And he’s really good at having fun playing football. How can you NOT love that?

cam newton4

Look at this photo. There’s Cam Newton being chased by guys who are paid millions of dollars to knock the shit of their opponents. And given the chance, they’d cheerfully knock the shit out of Cam Newton. And he’s laughing. He knows that one solid tackle could end his career, but look at him. He’s actually having fun.

I sound like a fan, don’t I. But I’m not. Well, maybe I am. But I don’t think so. Doesn’t matter. What matters is I was going to tell this guy in the Packers stocking cap that I wasn’t a fan of Cam Newton, but that I’d be rooting for the Carolina Panthers because they’re so much fun to watch.

But I only got as far as “I’m not a fan of Cam Newton…” because that’s when the guy in the Packers stocking cap interrupted me and started in on a racist rant. “I hate that guy,” he said. “No white quarterback would blah blah blah and just because he’s black he thinks he can something something showboat thug and hip hop jive dancing blah blah respect for the game yadda yadda.”

The woman running the cash register stopped what she was doing and stared at the guy in the Packers stocking cap. The guy who was paying for his gas and a pack of cigarettes turned around and stared at the guy. And after I stop being stunned, I said “Dude, back up.” I’m not at all sure what I meant by that, but that’s what I said. “Dude, back up.” And the guy in the Packers stocking cap stopped talking, realizing everybody in the Stop&Rob was either staring at him, or very studiously NOT looking at him. He says — and maybe this was the most astonishing and horrifying part of the incident — he says, “I’m not a racist, but c’mon, you have to admit…”

I don’t know what the guy in the Packers stocking cap thought we had to admit, because he never finished the sentence. It was his turn at the register. He paid for his stuff and left, and nobody said a word until the door closed behind him — at which point the woman at the register said “Holy crap.”

That scene has replayed in my mind off and on since it happened. The guy in the Packers stocking cap assumed I must be a racist too. Why? Is “I’m not a fan of Cam Newton” some sort of code phrase? A shared password racists use to identify each other in public? I think of all the times I’ve said “I’m not a fan of Cam Newton” and wonder if racists out there heard that and thought “Ah, he’s one of our people.” I think of all the times I’ve said “I’m not a fan of Cam Newton, but…” and I wonder if people were hearing “I’m not a racist, but…”

cam newton3

And it occurs to me that Cam Newton must hear this shit all the time. He must hear people using code words saying “I don’t like you because you’re black.” Every day, he must hear the most horrible, hateful, ugly shit. And you know what’s astonishing about that?

He still goes out there and plays football with the reckless joy of a kid.

He’ll be out on the field this evening; he’ll be center stage at the Super Bowl, and he’ll soak up the attention. He’ll be smiling and laughing. He’ll probably get knocked around a bit, but that’s part of the game. Doesn’t matter. Cam Newton will be having fun.

That guy in the Packers stocking cap? He did me a favor. He made me a fan of Cam Newton.

doing democracy

Well, we did it. Last night Iowa did democracy. Okay, yes, the Iowa caucus is an antiquated, massively inconvenient, perversely idiosyncratic political system. In action, it feels almost tribal — like we’re only a few steps away from folks in animal skins, squatting around a fire, raising their hands and grunting to signify approval or disapproval.

We’re talking basic, precinct-level democracy here, folks. Even the concept of a precinct is old-fashioned. The term comes from the Medieval Latin precinctum, which referred to an enclosure or boundary line. Precinctum itself is the joining of the prefix prae– (meaning ‘before’) and cinqulum — a girdle or swordbelt. How cool is that?

In modern electoral terms, a precinct is a predetermined boundary creating the smallest geographical unit used for tallying election results. In Iowa, we have 1681 voting precincts. Rural precincts can be pretty big, but in the cities they’re often composed of just one or two neighborhoods. They’re personal. You attend a caucus with your neighbors — the people you most often see out shoveling their sidewalks or buying beer at the market. The caucuses are personal and they’re public; there is no secret ballot in a Democratic party caucus. Everybody there sees who you support.

Getting in line.

Getting in line.

Here’s another thing: each of those 1681 precincts hold two caucuses; one for Democrats and one for Republicans. That’s 3,362 separate caucuses. And they’re run by volunteers. Each party in each precinct has an unpaid precinct captain and a handful of volunteer precinct workers.

I live in a fairly middle class, fairly white, fairly dull suburb of Des Moines. There’s about 2,500 people in my precinct. Last night around twelve percent of them showed up at the Democratic caucus. That may not sounds like much, but a caucus has a lot going against it. It’s a time-consuming gig, it’s held on a Monday night, they don’t serve alcohol, and this year it was held during a blizzard warning (happily, the blizzard slowed down and didn’t hit until this morning). So 12% is a good turnout for a caucus.

The Democratic caucus was held in the cafeteria of a local elementary school; the Republican caucus was held at a Baptist church — read what you want into that. People were already lined up when I arrived (got there around 6:30, half an hour before the caucus was scheduled to begin). Even before I got inside the school doors, the line snaked out down the sidewalk and around the corner.

The line grows longer.

The line grows longer.

It was a nice, orderly line — until you get through the cafeteria doors. That’s where the madness begins. It’s pretty simple if you’re already registered to vote as a Democrat. You just sign in and go find the cookies and brownies. But those poor bastards who 1) have recently moved and aren’t registered in that precinct, 2) or haven’t registered to vote at all, 3) or were registered as a Republican but want to switch to Democrat, they all have to fill out paperwork while the rest of us went to work on the snacks.

Once that fuss was dealt with, we had to elect a permanent caucus chair. That thing I mentioned earlier? You know, about this thing being run by volunteers? This is a perfect example. The precinct captain who has gotten everybody in the cafeteria and made sure they’re all registered, he (in my precinct it was a guy), his first order of business is to ask if anybody else wants his job. He’s just the temporary chair, and the caucus needs to elect a permanent precinct chair to oversee the caucus.

The room slowly begins to fill, and folks fill out registration forms.

The room slowly begins to fill, and folks fill out registration forms.

Seriously. At that point anybody who’s in the room can stand up and try to convince the people there to cede all control to him. In my precinct (and in probably ever other precinct) everybody pretty much agreed they didn’t want to deal with that, so the temporary chair was approved to become the permanent chair.

Then we had to count ourselves. I know. You’d think maybe they’d just count the names of the folks who’d signed in on the voter rolls, but no — we had to do an old school hand count. Literally. It began in one corner of the room; everybody had to raise their hand, one at a time, and count off. “One.” “Two.” “Three.” And so on. It sounds stupid and inefficient, but it actually went smoothly.

There were three hundred and twelve of us. Old folks, a few young couples with infants in carriages, some middle-aged professionals, a smattering of working folks, a few college students, one old guy with a cane who was a proud Korean War veteran, some young adults for whom this was clearly their first presidential election. Probably 80% were white. I’m guessing the average age was probably somewhere in the mid-to-late 30s. It seemed pretty representative of the neighborhood.

The cookies and pastries are discovered -- and at this point I forgot to keep taking photographs.

The cookies and pastries are discovered — and at this point I forgot to keep taking photographs.

Then we got down to the actual physical caucusing. And I mean physical. Everybody had to actually stand up (which was sort of a relief after sitting so long at cafeteria tables designed for elementary school children) and move to a designated spot. Hillary folks to that corner, Bernie folks to another, O’Malley folks to a third corner. This was the first test of the evening. A candidate has to have the support of at least 15% of the caucus goers in order to be considered a viable candidate. O’Malley had maybe eight supporters. Not nearly enough.

The chair designated thirty minutes for folks to persuade the O’Malley people to stand with another candidate. It took about five. Most of his supporters went to the Hillary corner. I’m not saying the fact that the Hillary folks had provided the best snacks influenced that decision, but the muffins disappeared pretty quickly at that point. We were supposed to use the rest of the half hour to try to persuade folks who supported a different candidate to shift their alliance, but it was really clear that nobody was interested in switching.

At that point we counted ourselves again, this time according to candidate preference. It was the same process. You count off and raise your hand. The Hillary folks counted off first. Two hundred and thirty-four. Bernie could only muster seventy-eight. It didn’t matter that much though, since the Democratic is all about determining the number of delegates to the statewide convention. In the end, my precinct will send five delegates for Hillary and three for Bernie.

Overall, as you probably know, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ended the caucus in a statistical tie. The New York Times has published a map showing the results from each individual precinct. It shows broad support for both candidates in urban, suburban, and rural precincts. It’s really a pretty remarkable result — more encouraging for Bernie than for Hillary, I think, but demonstrating that Democrats have a pair of strong candidates. I also hope that map suggests that whichever candidate wins the nomination will have the support of the entire Democratic party.

For me personally, this was the coolest thing about last night’s caucus. After the final count, everybody applauded. Everybody. Hillary folks, Bernie folks, disenfranchised O’Malley folks — we all stood up and spontaneously applauded. Nobody was angry, nobody felt excluded, nobody pouted. And best of all, during the actual caucusing nobody had attacked or insulted or denigrated the other candidate. As we walked out of the little cafeteria, everybody seemed cheerful and hopeful.

We’d done democracy, and it felt good.