how we got here

It’s Sunday, and this morning there are a LOT of quick, simplistic, really bad takes on the police murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. I’m actually pretty much okay with that. This is a situation that calls for immediate outrage, and that inevitably lead to quick, simplistic, bad takes. Right now, outrage first is a valid response.

The good thing about almost all of these quick, simplistic, bad takes is they do actually focus on the source of the problem: police culture. People are asking, “How did we get here?” Which is a good question. A complex question with a really complex answer. Because we’re talking about the intersection of multiple areas of concern.

I’m going to talk about four of them: 1) The wrong sorts of people are joining the police, and they’re joining for the wrong reasons. 2) Police officers are trained to assume guilt and danger. 3) Police officers aren’t bound by a duty of care. 3) The doctrine of qualified immunity protects bad police officers and undermines community trust in the police.

(photo by Erik McGregor)

The wrong sorts of people are joining the police, and they’re joining for the wrong reasons. Occupational studies suggest that until around the late 1960s and early 1970s, most of the people who joined the police did so for three pretty basic reasons. It was 1) an interesting job that offered a lot of diverse activities in a non-office/shop/factory setting, 2) it was a good union job that offered decent pay, excellent benefits, opportunities for advancement, and a reliable retirement plan, and 3) it was a way to help people and serve the community.

That last reason seems hard to believe now, but it was generally true. People joined the police because they liked the idea of helping people.

Why did that change? Lots of inter-related reasons, including the social upheaval of the late 1960s, which was the fallout from recreational drug use, the war in Vietnam, and growing alienation with consumer culture. One of the less obvious reasons was this: television.

Early cop shows (like Dragnet, Naked City, Highway Patrol, M Squad) showed police officers and detectives dutifully doing their job and–and this is key–doing it within the confines of the law. Television cops rarely lied (to suspects, to judges, to their superiors), rarely fabricated evidence, rarely threatened or intimidated people to get information, and they almost never shot anybody. They just followed the evidence and caught the bad guy.

In the 1970s, cop shows changed. The ‘rogue’ cop became fashionable. Shows like Baretta, Starsky and Hutch, Miami Vice, NYPD Blue, The Shield featured police officers–usually detectives–who bent the law to get ‘bad guys’ off the street. There were crazy-ass car chases, cops kicking in doors, cops making threats, cops harassing and intimidating bad guys (and sometimes ordinary citizens who got in the way), cops lying to get around the law, cops committing crimes to catch criminals, a LOTS of cops shooting and killing LOTS of bad guys.

The new shows were more exciting. An unintended consequence of those shows is that they attracted a different sort of police candidate. Fewer people joined because it was a good union job, more people joined because they wanted to kick in doors; fewer people joined because of the excellent benefits, more joined because they thought car chases were cool; fewer people joined because they wanted to help the community, more joined because they wanted excitement. These are NOT the qualities you want in a police force.

Police officers are trained to assume guilt and danger. The operative assumption of guilt is baked into police training. For their own protection, police officers are trained to assume the people they interact with are probably guilty of something. This keeps the officers alert, which is a good thing. It also keeps them suspicious and anxious, which isn’t. It leads officers to perceive danger where no danger actually exists. This also applies to situations as well as people. If you chase somebody into an alley or behind a house, you have to assume that every shadow could hide somebody who wants to hurt you. Being surrounded by presumably guilty people in presumably dangerous places shapes the way you see and interact with the world–and not just when you’re on duty.

Because of the proliferation of guns in the US, the operative assumption of guilt and danger is heightened. It’s more real. Police officers are more at risk now. They respond to that risk by being more aggressive and more suspicious, which leads to more resentment from the populace, which leads to more risk for the police officers, which leads to…well, you see where this is going.

Police officers aren’t bound by a duty of care. All those early cop shows? They emphasized what’s known as a duty of care. Basically, a duty of care simply means being responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of other people. There’s a legal definition of that phrase, and like all legal definitions, it’s deliberately narrow and primarily involves liability for injuries to others. You know, like if you leave a bunch of power tools lying around in a day care center where curious kids could hurt themselves or other kids. You have a legal duty of care not to do shit like that.

In many nations, policing agencies have a duty of care explicitly spelled out as part of the job. The police have a positive ethical obligation to avoid acts that could foreseeably harm others. That means putting the safety of the public before everything else, including the safety of the police officers. The public, by the way, includes people suspected or accused of crimes.

In the US, police have NO formal duty of care to protect members of the public (unless they’re in custody). Seriously, neither the Constitution, nor state law, impose a general duty upon police officers or other governmental officials to protect individuals from harm, even if they know the harm will occur. As a result, police officers often put their own safety above the safety of others. We saw that in Uvalde, Texas.

The absence of a duty of care also means police officers are more inclined to shoot early in situations, and to shoot a lot. That inclination is encouraged by the next issue.

The doctrine of qualified immunity protects bad police officers and undermines community trust in the police. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine granting police officers (well, all government officials) immunity from civil suits UNLESS the officer violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”

What in the popcorn fuck does that mean? It means police officers who do awful stuff are protected from civil and criminal prosecution IF 1) they can testify they believed in good faith that the awful stuff was lawful and objectively reasonable, and 2) they’re unaware of a “clearly established” law saying that specific awful stuff was illegal. Only one of those factors has to hold in order for qualified immunity to apply.

Here’s an example: back in 2014, in Coffee County, Georgia, a deputy sheriff named Michael Vickers was searching for a robbery suspect. He and other officers found the suspect, Christopher Barnett, talking to a woman in her yard. Half a dozen kids were also in the yard. The officers demanded they all get on the ground, including the kids. Everyone immediately complied. At that point, Bruce, the family dog, came into the yard to see what the fuss was. Although the dog wasn’t threatening anybody, Vickers fired at him…and missed. Bruce ran away. Moments later, Bruce returned, the way dogs do. Vickers fired at him again. And missed again. But this time the bullet struck a ten-year-old child in the leg. The kid’s family sued Vickers. The court ruled he was immune from the suit.

Why? Because 1) Vickers thought he was behaving within the limits of the law by shooting at the dog, and 2) even if shooting at an innocent dog WAS illegal, there was no “clearly established” law STATING shooting at a dog and missing, thereby accidentally shooting a kid was illegal. In fact, Vickers could theoretically shoot at another dog and miss and accidentally wound another kid and get by with it because there’s no law specifically stating that’s against the law. I’m not making this up; this is how this shit really works.

When the wrong people enter policing for the wrong reasons, and they’re taught to be suspicious and aggressive, and they’re not required to consider the safety of the people they’re sworn to protect, and they’re rarely held personally accountable for their bad behavior, you create a policing culture that encourages pre-emptive, sustained violence.

We need to change every deeply ingrained aspect of that culture. Sadly, even if the US has the commitment to do that (and I rather doubt we do), it will take time. But we can start by taking three small common sense steps. Radically modify qualified immunity (it would be better to eliminate it from policing, but you know…baby steps). Codify a duty of care into policing. Reduce police officers to a subordinate support role in mental health situations, and create more mental health response teams staffed by trained mental health professionals. It would also help to present sensible firearm legislation as being pro-police.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Obviously, race plays a huge role in police violence. Huge. Why didn’t I address that? Because lots of other folks are addressing it, and this is already a really really long blog post.

cool down papa, don’t you blow your top

The buzzard told the monkey you are choking me.
Release your hold and i will set you free.
The monkey looked the buzzard right dead in the eye,
And said your story’s so touching, but it sounds just like a lie.

Irving Mills / Nat king cole

Two scenarios:

Scenario One: President Uncle Joe Biden’s lawyers, while going through files in an office in a private policy institute Uncle Joe used in the period between being Vice President and President, come across two files that appear to be classified. They notify the Department of Justice and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and return the documents without being asked. The Attorney General immediately appoints a prosecutor to investigate. (Edit: apparently there were ten documents, not two.)

Scenario Two: President Comrade Trump has multiple highly classified documents transferred to his home, which is shared with a public venue. Four months later, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asks for the return of those documents. Trump returns two dozen boxes of material, including some of the classified documents. NARA informs Trump that they’re still missing some documents, and ask him to return the rest of the material he took from the White House. Seven months later, Trump returns another dozen boxes of material. A year after Trump left office, NARA informs Trump he STILL hasn’t returned all the documents. The Department of Justice is notified. Sixteen months after Trump left office, the DOJ issues a subpoena for the return of those documents. Trump claims he’s returned everything. Eighteen months after leaving office, a federal judge issues a warrant for the FBI to search and seize the still-missing documents. They find nearly 200 classified documents, including some labeled TS/SCI (which are so secret they’re only to be read in a secure room in which no cameras or recording devices are allowed). In total, around 13,000 documents Trump wasn’t allowed to take are recovered from Mar-a-Lago. The Attorney General appoints a prosecutor to investigate the matter 23 months after Trump removed the documents.

The News Media: Both Trump and Biden in possession of classified documents! Prosecutor to investigate!

Attorney General Merrick Garland hears Trump’s attorneys.

This is absolute bullshit, of course. Biden and his lawyers acted properly. They discovered the two documents, notified the appropriate agencies, and acknowledged the mistake. Trump did the exact opposite. He deliberately removed thousands of documents, he and his lawyers resisted returning them, lied about them, and the FBI was forced to go to Mar-a-Lago in order to retrieve them.

Attorney General Merrick Garland delayed ordering a prosecutor to investigate Trump’s handling of classified documents for nearly two years, but immediately ordered one to investigate Biden’s handling of them. Why? To appear non-partisan. To avoid giving MAGA Republicans a reason to claim the DOJ is unfair. As if MAGA Republicans have any interest in Fact or Truth. MAGA Republicans will, of course, claim the two scenarios are exactly the same.

The only question is whether the news media will have the integrity to report this matter accurately. And sadly, I think we know the answer to that. Is there anything we can do about it?

Nope, not really. And let’s face it, there are more equally stupid but far more critical issues we’ll be dealing with in the very near future. In this on particular case, maybe we should consider the advice of Nat King Cole: “Cool down papa don’t you blow your top.”

fractally awful

In a few short days, Republicans will assume control of the House of Representatives. That guarantees the next two years are going to be a colossal shit-show.

It’s going to be fucking awful. Worse, it’s going to be fractally awful. I mean it’s going to be awful in the same way on every scale. Individual GOP members of Congress will be awful, Congressional committees will be awful, the GOP majority in the House itself will be awful, and they’ll all be awful in a self-similar way.

Individual Republican members of Congress will lie. They’ll lie in committee meetings. The GOP led committees will build investigations around those lies. They’ll amplify the lies on GOP-friendly ‘news’ channels. They’ll use the existence of those investigations based on lies as evidence that the lies must be legit (if Congress is investigating it, there MUST be a reason for that investigation). They’ll use those lies and investigations as a mask to distract the public from their policies, many of which actively harm the US and our allies. Traditional news media will report those lies and lie-based investigations as if they’re legitimate Congressional inquiries. When it comes time for the next election, they’ll use those investigations as evidence that they were doing the will of the people.

We know they’ll do this because they’ve said they’ll do it. We know they’ll do it because they’ve done it before. When Republicans controlled the House during the Obama administration, they spent two years investigating the terrorist attack on the State Department’s unfinished diplomatic compound in Benghazi. There were eleven Congressional investigations which held as least thirty-three Congressional hearings, most of which were public.

Each of those investigations published a report. Each report concluded that nobody in the Obama administration officials had acted improperly. Each report concluded that the State Department’s security at the unfinished Benghazi compound was ‘inadequate’. None of the reports acknowledged that the security was inadequate because for two years prior to the attack, House Republicans had reduced the Obama administration’s budget request for improved diplomatic security.

The two-year-long Benghazi investigation was a political stunt. We know it was a political stunt because they basically admitted it. Kevin McCarthy, who was running to be named the Speaker of the House (just as he is now–stupid history repeats itself stupidly) basically admitted it on a Fox News interview. He said:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

By the way, three months after the attack on Benghazi left four members of the State Department dead, an attack on the Sandy Hook Elementary School killed six adults and twenty children (six and seven-year-old children). How many special committees did the GOP create? None. How many Congressional hearings did they hold? None. How many investigations did they launch? None.

Congress, the next two years.

That was almost exactly a decade ago, when radical Republicans in Congress were just a fringe element of the GOP. A decade later, that element is no longer the fringe; now they control the entire Republican Party. Ten years ago they ignored the murder of school kids and focused on a political stunt grounded in a legitimate tragedy. Now they’re planning to do the same, but instead of an actual tragedy, they have–and this is so fucking stupid and shameful I’m almost too embarrassed to say it–they have Hunter Biden’s laptop.

I said it was going to be a colossal shit-show. I probably understated the reality. It will almost certainly be a shit-show of Biblical proportions.

it’s a wonderful communist life

Here are some True Things about people who are frightened. 1) They see threats everywhere. 2) They see threats even if they don’t exist. 3) They prefer imaginary threats over actual threats, 4) They will ignore actual threats in order to focus on imaginary ones. 5) They will take dramatic steps to defend themselves against imaginary threats, while avoiding taking sensible steps to defend against actual threats. 6) Their fears make them vulnerable to authoritarian leaders.

In the mid-to-late 1940s, Americans were frightened by communism. They weren’t scared of actual communism, which is a socio-economic philosophy grounded in the idea that the people who actually produce stuff should have reasonable access to the tools they use to produce that stuff and a fair share in the stuff they’ve produced. They were scared of the Soviet Union (and to a lesser extent, communist China), which presented an interpretation of communism as a single-party authoritarian government ruled by ideologues instead of elected leaders.

This was the political equivalent of assuming the Spanish Inquisition represented all of Christianity. There’s good reason to be afraid of the Spanish Inquisition; Christianity as it was originally created is pretty harmless.

“Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings a communist gets to steal a banker’s wings.”
“That’s right, Zuzu, that’s right. Attaboy, Karl Marx!”

But back in the 1940s and 50s, a LOT of people were scared of what they believed was communism. They saw communists everywhere; they saw the supposed influence of communism everywhere; they were told that a cadre of dedicated communists were actively infiltrating every aspect of American life in a wily attempt to destroy everything decent. Including movies.

In 1947, the FBI produced a massive 13,000-page report (no, that’s not a typo, it was seriously more than thirteen thousand pages long) called Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry. It included this:

The purpose of the Communists in Hollywood is not the production of political movies openly advocating Communism. Their purpose is to corrupt non-political movies — by introducing small, casual bits of propaganda into innocent stories and to make people absorb the basic principles of Collectivism by indirection and implication. Few people would take Communism straight, but a constant stream of hints, lines, touches and suggestions battering the public from the screen will act like drops of water that split a rock if continued long enough. The rock that they are trying to split is Americanism.

One example of communist infiltration provided by the FBI provided was the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. The screenwriters (Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett), according to the FBI

“were very close to known Communists and on occasion in the recent past while these two writers were doing a picture for MGM, Goodrich and Hackett practically lived with known Communists and were observed eating luncheon daily with such Communists as Lester Cole and Earl Robinson.
With regard to the picture, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [name redacted] stated in substance that the film represented a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.
In addition, [name redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. [name redacted] related that if he had made this picture portraying the banker, he would have shown this individual to have been following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiners in connection making loans. Further, [name redacted] stated that the scene wouldn’t have “suffered at all” in portraying the banker as a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown.
In summary, [name redacted] stated it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character and “I would never have done it that way.”

So, It’s a Wonderful Life was seen by some people as communist propaganda because it was mean to bankers. It’s an incredibly twisted way to view that movie.

“What does that get us? A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty, working class. And all because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Peter Bailey stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas.”

But we can apply that same anxious, apprehensive worldview to almost anything modern conservatives fear. Firearm safety, drag queens, Ukraine independence, people of color, COVID regulations, trans kids in high school sports, Hunter Biden, immigrants, independent women. They’re not really afraid of the reality of these things; they’re afraid of some weird, twisted interpretation of these things. They see any depiction of these things in popular media as an attempt to destroy the American Way of Life.

In reality, these things actually represent the American Way of Life. They’re a big part of what makes life wonderful.

Let me return to my original point. People who are afraid see threats everywhere, even if they don’t exist; they prefer these imaginary threats over actual threats, which they’ll ignore in order to focus on the imaginary ones; they’ll take dramatic steps to defend themselves against imaginary threats but avoid taking sensible steps to defend against actual threats. This makes them vulnerable to authoritarian leaders. This is the MAGA-verse in a nutshell.

Let’s listen to that glorious commie, George Bailey, refute that perspective.

“Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about…they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”

You want a wonderful life? Stand up to Mr. Potter. Every time a bell rings, a drag queen sings a show tune. A person of color is elected. A firearm safety law is enacted. A trans kid in high school competes in a swim meet. Ukraine gets heat. A person with a compromised immune system can go shopping. An immigrant gets a green card. An editor ignores a Hunter Biden conspiracy theory. A woman can walk home at night in safety (with her hands in the pockets of her pants).

no, donald

We all know former president Comrade Trump has no respect for the US Constitution. I mean, he’s never been shy about that, has he. The guy has been committing crimes without any serious repercussions for decades. But he’s rarely so openly dismissive of the Constitution as he was yesterday. You’ve probably already seen the comment he made on his social media site, but it’s awful enough that it deserves repeating.

We can safely ignore that ‘revelation’ he’s talking about because it’s seriously stupid. It’s grounded in the belief that Twitter’s decision in 2020 NOT to allow posts with dick pics stolen from a private laptop allegedly owned by Hunter Biden is somehow a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. You can’t make this shit up.

Let’s also ignore the fact that Trump put “Founders” in quotation marks, as if the title is an exaggeration. And let’s further ignore his bullshit about “massive & widespread fraud & deception” because that’s either delusional thinking or deliberate lying (or possibly both). And while we’re ignoring stuff, let’s ignore Trump’s ridiculous assertion that his baseless claims of fraud magically ‘allows’ us to put aside “all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” because Jesus suffering fuck, that’s idiotic.

Instead, let’s look at how Comrade Trump’s base has reacted to his statement. And for that, we have to hold our nose and go wading through the fetid waters of FreeRepublic.

Not surprisingly, a lot of Freepers initially refused to believe Trump actually made that statement. They felt the post must be a lie or, more likely, another demonic Democratic-commie false flag propaganda effort.

Are these confirmed posts by Trump?
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:01:51 PM by EEGator

There is no suggestion of terminating the Constitution; however, it appears to suggest that this is exactly what Biden is doing right now.
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:26:06 PM by Olog-hai

But, of course, he did actually post that. Once it was confirmed, the majority of Freepers found it necessary to ‘interpret’ what Trump really meant, because clearly he wouldn’t suggest violating the Constitution. So what did Trump really mean when he said fraud “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution”?

I don’t think he’s actually suggesting that we take extra-Constitutional measures, just that we will wish that we had before we had to.
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:35:40 PM by Jonty30

When Trump says “even those found in the Constitution,” he’s speaking of the 12th amendment counting of Electoral College votes. He suggesting that if the election was based on fraud, then the 12th amendment legally counted fraudulent Electoral College votes and should be set aside.
I’m not endorsing his argument, but he’s clearly not suggesting that the Constitution be terminated.
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:59:09 PM by Political Junkie Too

He is merely calling for the restoration of the constitution, by rectifying the deep state monkey wrench that was jabbed into it in 2020 (and 2016, 2018, 2022, etc).
posted on 12/3/2022, 8:12:06 PM by C210N

Some Freepers, of course, were perfectly happy with the idea of Trump ditching the Constitution and seizing control of the country. That pesky Constitution just got in the way, keeping him from doing what needed to be done to protect…well, the Constitution. And also make America great.

He has a point doesn’t he?
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:08:30 PM by isthisnickcool

Anyone who doesn’t think the Democrats aren’t trying to terminate the constitution and replace it with progressive socialism is a fool. I’ll take Trump’s alternative any day.
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:16:27 PM by bigbob

Fine by me.
posted on 12/3/2022, 8:12:34 PM by going hot

Maybe that’s why our great founders had no thought of popular voting as a means of appointing a President.
posted on 12/3/2022, 8:21:12 PM by Jim Noble

That’s the stuff I was expecting to find on FreeRepublic. A lot of ‘damn the Constitution, full speed ahead’ alpha-male bravado. But surprisingly (to me, anyway) at least a third of Freepers called Trump out. Many were decidedly and decisively against terminating the Constitution; others thought it was merely a bad idea.

So as someone who’s sworn multiple times to support and defend the Constitution with my life, that’s slightly problematic.
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:02:09 PM by quikstrike98

No, Donald.
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:03:40 PM by Mr.Unique

Greatest president ever. Now shut up and go away. You will not get the nomination. And only a fool would vote for you as a third party candidate.
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:10:05 PM by rrrod

Termination of the Constitution’s rules? That actually does sound fascist. I am adamantly opposed to this suggestion.
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:23:16 PM by Golden Eagle

In my opinion this would disqualify Trump from ever being considered for POTUS.
posted on 12/3/2022, 7:32:23 PM by xkaydet65

Face it, your lord and savior Trump would burn the Constitution itself if it meant he could regain power. You’ve been conned.
posted on 12/3/2022, 8:05:25 PM by thefactor

Trump seems to be saying that we must go past the Constitution to set things right. Well, that’s exactly how banana republics work.
posted on 12/3/2022, 8:12:37 PM by Leaning Right

That sort of angry opposition from Freepers is unexpected and downright shocking. It’s a good shock, to be sure, but lawdy it’s a massive tectonic shift in the hard-core conservative firmament (and yes, I know there’s no plate tectonics in the heavens, but you know what I mean).

Comrade Trump molesting an innocent flag.

However, there was also a minority of Freepers who wished Trump would rescind the Constitution and were openly angry with him because he hadn’t done it already and wouldn’t do it in the future.

Trump doesn’t have the balls to do anything of the sort, just look at how he allowed BLM and Antifa to burn the nation’s cities in 2020 with barely a whimper. A President with balls would have declared a national emergency, suspended habeous corpus, and sent the Marine Corps out to arrest the enemies of the USA. But he did nothing. So when the rubber meets the road, I doubt President Trump will have the courage to act.
posted on 12/3/2022, 8:36:36 PM by rod5591

This is just a small sample of the more than 450 posts in a single discussion thread, but I think it accurately illustrates the scope of the Freeper discussion. Here’s the thing: this is Comrade Trump’s base. These are the people who followed him with almost religious fervor. These are the people he counted on to stop the peaceful transfer of power on January 6th, and who came close to succeeding. These are the people he’s counting on to support him in the 2024 election.

And a sizable proportion of them apparently aren’t going to do it. If Comrade Trump has lost a significant number of Freepers, he’s effectively done as a viable presidential candidate in 2024. He’s still a threat to democracy, of course, and his true believers remain a danger to civil society, but IF (and yeah, that’s a big IF) these posts are representative, then Trump has managed to kneecap himself.

As another Republican said, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” I’m not sure Lincoln actually said that, but it’s a good line. I hope it’s true.

put the blame on the greedy owners

Just a quick post to point out the obvious thing that is somehow being completely overlooked. It’s not the railroad workers who are threatening to destroy the US economy, it’s the railroad OWNERS.

Have you ever been sick? Almost certainly yes. Did you know in advance you were going to be sick? Maybe, but usually not. Did you ever miss work because you were sick? Probably. Should you be forced to go to work when you’re sick? Hell no.

Most employers allow their workers a certain number of days in which they can call in sick. Most employers would rather you stay home when you’re sick rather than come to work and either infect other workers or spend the day shuffling between your work and the toilet.

Right now, railroad workers don’t get any sick days. None. Zero. They’re allowed to take vacation days if they’re sick BUT they have schedule their vacation days in advance. That’s fine if you’re scheduling surgery (SPOILER: No, it’s NOT fine to be forced to spend your holiday having surgery, I mean Jesus suffering fuck, people), but you can’t schedule the flu or tripping and breaking your arm. Sometimes random shit just happens.

The obvious question is: Why in hell won’t railroad companies give their workers sick leave?

The obvious answer is: Greed.

Look, the railroads can afford to give their workers sick leave. There are seven major North American railway companies. Last year they had a combined net income of US$27 billion. During the pandemic, the railroad industry used the funds provided by the government to buy back about $125 billion of its own stock. These fuckers are rolling in dough.

The 115,000 railroad workers without sick leave make a decent wage or a decent salary, but they’re NOT rolling in dough. And sometimes they get sick or hurt and need a day off to go see a goddamned doctor. They ought to be able to do that without fear of losing their job or having their wages cut. Railroad work is hard, tough, often dangerous work; they deserve better than this.

The same is true of every worker. Yet there are LOTS of employers who refuse to offer paid sick leave. Most of these involve low hourly wage workers, the people who most need paid sick leave, who can least afford to take an unpaid day off work. The railway owners may be the most egregious greedheads in the news today, but about 20% of the US labor force–say about 33 million workers–don’t have access to paid sick leave. The US is the ONLY developed country that refuses to offer guaranteed sick leave.

So when you read about a possible railroad strike crippling the US economy, remember that it’s the greedy motherfuckers who own the railroads who are at fault. Not the workers.

motive is a mystery

News Media: Bizarre hammer assault on Speaker Pelosi’s husband.
Suspect: I was after Nancy.
News Media: Law enforcement has offered no motive for the attack.
Suspect: I wanted to kill Nancy.
News Media: Police silent on Pelosi attacker’s intentions.
Suspect: Really, I just wanted to kill Nancy. I guess she wasn’t there.
News Media: Did divisive political rhetoric play a part in attack?
Suspect: Everybody on FOX says Nancy is a monster, so I wanted to kill her. You know…with a hammer.
News Media: Pelosi needed brain surgery after hammer attack.
GOP: CA should relax gun laws so Pelosi could have defended himself from hammer-wielding attacker. Dems not tough on crime.
Suspect: I would have used a gun, but this is California and I can’t buy one.
FOX News: Lots of people injured in hammer attacks in CA. Why lib media focused on this one minor assault? Pelosi didn’t even die.
News Media: Unconfirmed report: Pelosi attacker said to be dressed in his underwear.
Suspect: I’m a hammer killer, not a pervert. Fully dressed. In camo.
Elon Musk: An obscure news source that once claimed Hilary Clinton was dead and replaced by a body double says the attack MAY have some kinky gay thing going on.
GOP: After recent DUI arrest, Paul Pelosi engaged in extramarital gay hammer sex party.
News Media: Uh, well, okay, maybe?
Suspect: Look, all I wanted to do was kill Nancy then go monitor voting drop boxes like any other normal patriotic American. I’m a victim of cancel culture.

News Media: Sources say Pelosi lured hammer suspect with offers of twisted gay sex.
Suspect: Wait, what? No.
News Media: GOP claims prosecution of Pelosi hammer attacker is politically motivated.
Suspect: I’m announcing my candidacy for Gov. of Cali, which I’ll win unless the votes are tampered with.
GOP: Vote for us, we’ll hammer Biden and his gay socialist agenda!

EDITORIAL NOTE: Today, 10-31-22, the FBI released an eight page affidavit “for the limited purpose of securing a criminal complaint and arrest warrant” for the asshole who assaulted Paul Pelosi with a hammer. It includes statements made by David DePape outlining his motives for breaking into the Pelosi hom. You can read the affidavit here.

Will this end the wild speculation by Republicans and other conspiracy theory fuckwits?

Nope.

blood in the streets

“If there’s a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information…there’ll be riots in the street.”

That was Senator Lindsey Olin Graham of South Carolina. But I’ve been seeing and hearing that sort of idiotic bullshit a lot lately–on the news and in real life. There was a guy at the gym last week–a living caricature of a Trump supporter; overweight and angry, loud and obnoxious–saying much the same thing. He said he was so angry he was “about ready to take up arms.” About ready. Not actually ready to take up arms, but just about ready.

Putting aside the fact that this guy would have probably collapsed in a puddle of his own urine if he’d had to run across the street, there’s the question of whom he’d take up arms against. In his rant, he mentioned Uncle Joe Biden, Antifa, the DeepStateFBI (yes, it was all one word) and communists. Maybe he meant to take up arms against all of them? Or maybe he thinks they’re all the same group? I don’t know. It was an unhinged, unfocused, unorganized rant.

Is this blood-in-the-streets scenario something we really need to fret about? Well, yes and no. I mean, the 1/6 insurrection is evidence that there are a lot of angry Trumpistas who are willing to use violence to get their way. So yeah, that’s a real concern.

But that anger had focus. Misdirected focus built on lies, true–but there was a focal point. The Capitol Building. Comrade Trump pointed them at the Capitol. It’s entirely possible (assuming Trump gets indicted–and I think he will–and goes to trial–and I’m not so sure about that) that a Trumpista mob would assault the courthouse.

He could riot for maybe half a street.

But as for widespread rioting in the streets? Naw, probably not. Sure, there’ll be pro-Trump protests and some of those will likely turn violent. But the problem with the sort of conspiratorial free-floating rage we see from so many Trumpistas is that it’s undirected. Like the fuckwit at the gym, they’re intensely angry at some vague, nebulous Biden/Antifa/DeepState/commie Bogeyman that doesn’t exist. It’s easy to sustain that sort of anger, but hard to sustain any sort of direct action against vapor. You can’t punch smoke.

But you can punch fascists. If holding Trump accountable for his crimes leads to violence in the streets, then so be it. I’d much rather it didn’t happen, but if it does then it does. It’s a price we may have to pay to resist fascism.

EDITORIAL NOTES: 1) I don’t advocate punching anybody, even if they’re fascists. But if you find yourself on the street and there’s a fascist in front of you doing or saying fascist stuff, DO NOT punch him (it’ll almost certainly be a guy) in the head; heads are mostly bone and you could hurt your hand. Punch him someplace soft. 2) When I described the Trumpista at the gym as being “overweight and angry” and said he’d likely collapse “in a puddle of his own urine if he’d had to run across the street,” it wasn’t to denigrate fat people. There are fat people who are in really good shape. I’m just describing those armchair warriors who sit around drinking cheap-ass beer and eating bags of Doritos and fantasize about being tough. I probably am denigrating cheap-ass beer, though. Sue me.