The Man Who Started It

I almost wish I believed there is a Hell so there could be a place for Newt Gingrich. Newton Leroy Gingrich is the worst public figure in the history of the United States.

Newt is worse than Benedict Arnold. Trump would put Benedict Arnold in his cabinet. In fact he has.

Newt Gingrich is Joseph Goebbels. Lots of people get called that, but I submit that Newt is the best candidate in the United States. I will support that position.

Newt Gingrich singlehandedly destroyed the public conversation in the United States of America. I don’t see any way to get it back. You know all the insults, all the nasty terms Republicans use for everybody else? Newt Gingrich literally wrote the book on that.

In a concise memo titled Language: A Key Mechanism of Control which Newt wrote for GOPAC in 1996, Newt Gingrich did not just suggest using nasty language against Democrats, he prescribed the specfic words. He told them,

  This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.

Look at a calendar. Look at public records. Democrats started losing states almost immediately, and it has never stopped. And losing states means losing Congress. Not just because of gerrymandering, either. The voters who elect state governments elect the US Congress.

I said Newt Gingrich was America’s Goebbels. Here is my justification for that statement: Newt Gingrich wrote, in public where everybody can see and read it, the playbook of the right-wing takeover’s propaganda.

Propaganda works. Eight or ten million people died in ovens and gas chambers because of propaganda, as we are reminded over and over, often forgetting the over 60 million more who died on  battlefields fighting over it. Over propaganda. Propaganda works. We have got to get our act together. Newt Gingrich’s propaganda prescription redefined America and we’re dying of it.

We – the Democratic party – have to combat it fiercely, now, in the hopes that it’s not already too late.

This is not a battle of ideas. This is a battle of language. We’ve got to think, and think hard, how to sell a vision of inclusion, decency, and opportunity for all to live in reasonable comfort with good health care, but we’ve got to do it in short, repeatable ideas. Hold the position papers. Fight with words: short, punchy, smart, repeatable words. And not too many. Newt’s list of words fit on one page, because he knew, just like Goebbels before him, that repetition is a critical part of propaganda.

I have a couple of essays on the topic, and will be writing more. I believe it is essential, if we are to compete, that we use language as powerful as Gingrich’s.

I would give us a thousand point bonus if we could do it with language less brutal.

But I’m going to turn for the moment in a different direction. I seriously hope that history views Newt Gingrich in the way that the really nasty politicians of history are viewed. Machiavelli.

Occasionally one will still hear some old geezer say, “Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil were friends.” Yep. Ask Joe Biden what it used to be like. Ask John Dingell. America was not like this.

Newt’s words did more than win elections at every level. He taught his followers the words of hate. He said, in essence, Memorize these words. Use them as much as you can. And then he listed words like “sick” and “twisted.”

Humans think in words. Words have meanings way down inside of us. He taught his followers to think of me – of us – in the words of hatred. And soon, sure as water falls when it rains, they hated us.

Democrats and Republicans never hated each other before, not since the parties were born. They squabbled bitterly, and did dirty tricks, but not even Nixon hated Democrats like your run-of-the-mill Republican today hates the Democrat down the street.

Newt Gingrich did this to us. On purpose. He appears to be proud of it.

Newt Gingrich is the worst man in the history of the United States of America.

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Ungoverned State

The United States has never, since our founding, been in a mess this deep.

What we do about it I don’t know, but the government is, currently, not functioning. By choice.

The United States of America is in a lawless interregnum at this moment. There is no functioning government above low-level bureaucrats. The President, although still physically present, has been overthrown by Congressional Coup. Our old enemy whose defeat we so recently celebrated has staged an invasion of our homeland and installed their chosen person in the Presidency. Although he has not yet been inaugurated, Russia’s chosen President is in clear control of our foreign policy and is demonstrating increasing power over the economy, by turns building up and tearing down American corporations. He is rapidly reducing, not least by sheer threat of violence, the power and willingness of others to speak out against him.

The members of the Congressional Coup know that Russia is involved, know that Russia has invaded us and installed their chosen candidate as President. They are not taking any action. In fact, they are denying that the invasion ever took place and denying the clear spoken words of the intelligence agencies. It seems likely although not certain that they were involved in the decision to permit the invasion.

Every intelligence agency in the US knows that we have been invaded. Russians entered American computers and manipulated data there in such a way as to elect a President of their choice. Spokespersons for the entire American intelligence apparatus have said so in public, although not in such blunt terms.

Law enforcement is an Executive branch function. Federal Law enforcement is not currently involved in preventing or correcting the Russian invasion. The sitting President has been stripped of his power. I don’t know for certain but it appears that the Coup is running Executive agencies like the FBI, but even so the FBI has stated publicly that Russia interfered with our election. They postponed the statement until well after the other intelligence agencies, but ultimately they were the odd man out and just looked incompetent, so they agreed. Yep. Russians. Yawn.

It is my opinion that the FBI Director is himself a member of the Coup. He clearly took steps which benefited the Coup’s work. It is possible that without his November letter all their work would have gone for nothing, or at least it would have been much harder for them to keep Sec. Clinton out of office. However their current chain of command is arranged, the FBI has chosen to remain not involved in the Russian invasion.

According the Constitution, defending the nation against invasion is a Congressional duty.

Article I Section 8 says, in part

The Congress shall have the power…
[some paragraphs omitted]

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Seeing the laws are faithfully executed is an Executive duty, and it is not being done. Repelling invasions (yes, I understand it was a cyber invasion. This is 2016. We were invaded.) is a Congressional duty. It is not being done. Every working professional in the field knows we were invaded.

What we do about it I don’t know, but the government is, currently, not functioning. By choice.

Oh, the President is Commander-in-Chief and all that, but there is no Constitutional provision for the President to activate troops or begin military action. Does anybody think that, one month before the end of his second term, Barack Obama could call out the troops to get rid of Donald Trump and the Russians?

Congress activates the military, the President tells them what to do next. (More or less.) So… What we have is a lawless interregnum. Everything you see in the news is my proof.

There is some possibility that during a Constitutional crisis like this the Judiciary could step in. Their power is implied rather than explicit, but they might be able to save the republic. Unfortunately, the deadlock by death of the Supreme Court appears to have been the trigger for launching the Coup. Is it possible the court could decide, 5 to 3 or 6 to 2, to repel the invasion and jail the coup? I suppose they could. It would remain to see what might happen next. Which branch controls the military? Whose authority would the military recognize in a pinch? Which branch controls the police? If the courts gave an order who would enforce it?

The United States has never, since our founding, been in a mess this deep.

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Media Recommendations for #TheResistance

As you may know, my starting position as a Democrat today is the following:

The Democrats lost the propaganda war. The Republicans defined us to America.

As evidence I give you America’s state and federal governments.

There are many reasons, as of course there must be. Here is one of them: It costs a fortune to own a media outlet in America today. Therefore, conversely, only people with fortunes can own media outlets today.

Media, plural of medium. Medium of communication. Tool for dissemination of information. Only people with fortunes are telling you anything. Any. Thing.

If we wish to compete, Democrats must establish on online presence of video, audio, and text, of news, education, and entertainment, in heads-on competition with all existing national media, starting now.

The various media empires are said to belong to corporations. Says so right on the website. But follow the corporate chain up, and somewhere up in the stratosphere is one billionaire or billionaire family. At the top of each media corporate chain is a billionaire. These are not faceless masses; corporations are not fungi. Every major media outlet chain in America today is primarily controlled, owned or funded by one, or a family of, very rich individual human beings.

It is not a “conspiracy theory” to say that rich people have interests, objectives, and value systems in common with one another. Rich people assign a high value to money and material wealth. The richer one gets the richer all get. They don’t have to hold secret meetings.

Every word that America has heard since the Reagan Administration has been funded by the same group of rich people. The Reagan Administration turned off the Fairness Doctrine. We can’t fix that. We can’t take the TV stations away from them, or the radio, not even NPR. They own it all fair and square. We can’t take the newspapers away from them; most newspapers are wholly owned subsidiaries of the same media empires. Billionaires are not going to give people ideas that will cost billionaires money. They simply are not.

Everything that the Democratic Party needs to do for the American people will cost billionaires money.

Quit waiting for current top-level media (TV, radio, newspapers) to give you a fair shake. It ain’t happening. As evidence I offer you the state and federal governments of the United States.

The Free Press, isn’t. Not the one that everybody is looking at. We can either take our minds and our destinies away from them, or we can accept the minds and destinies they give us.

The simple reality is that humans can only think with the information that is in their minds. Most of the people in North Korea really believe that they’ve got the best deal in the world. Their access to information is carefully controlled.

So is ours. Our access to information. Billionaires control it. But there are still sneak paths around them. We have to communicate to a mass audience without the help of so-call MSM, Mainstream Media. In fact, not only without their help, we’ve got to communicate to a mass audience in spite of everything the money media can do to drown us out. This is going to be very hard. We literally need to take it to the streets, but that won’t be enough.

We cannot let television control the conversation, because Trump is right about them: They only tell the story they came to tell. Even the wild cards, serious journalists like Joy Ann Reid, are carefully balanced in the overall programming so that they can’t adversely affect the desired outcome. And the same propaganda is repeated on their programs as anywhere else. Fact checking and debunking don’t work. More on this in a moment.

I would say that all network broadcast TV, and all cable TV, should be counted out. They are not our friends no matter what they might tell us. All broadcast radio. I don’t have an opinion about satellite radio because I have not explored it. Print can be consumed carefully, but Jeff Bezos is no kin to Robin Hood. We are still getting our every word from one set of voices.

We’ve got Twitter, in a way, for now. Twitter is a mixed blessing, but I think it has some power. That is good. We also need to pour  energy and money into online video, streaming video, and streaming radio. TV – Video – isn’t going away, but there is no real reason it should be controlled by broadcast / cable owner. The box on the wall could just as well watch YouTube. The seeds have been planted & begun to grow. I won’t watch conventional TV at all, but I watched the Young Turks on and off for a while before the urge to shout at them got too great, somewhere during the Great Progressive Circular Firing Squad of 2016. I doubt that it took billions or even millions of dollars to launch The Young Turks. We can do this.

If we had an online TV network where Joy Ann Reid was the standard and not the exception, the power of her presentation would grow exponentially.

We have got break free of private line TV as soon as possible. It cannot be fixed. Quit Tweeting at them. They know.

What humans hear goes into their minds. All of it. If people pretend to be giving you “balance” then you hear all the bullshit exactly as often as you hear all the facts, simultaneously, overlapping. It all goes in. Calling the bullshit doesn’t help. The people still heard it. Kelly Anne Conway told you, face to face: when somebody asked her why she’d tell her lie knowing she would immediately be fact-check corrected, she said, “I don’t care. The voters heard it.”

Her guy is on his way to the White House. I propose we pay attention when she tells it how she does it.

A quick paraphrase of an American news program (any American news program) goes like this: “Here’s some reported fact, but here’s a guy who says it’s fake.”

“Now here’s some reported fact, and here’s a guy who says it’s fake.”

“Now here’s a supposed fact. This guy says it’s fake.”

After that you get two people yelling over each other saying opposite things, and then a car commercial.

One of the people yelling has a remarkable bosom.

Stop. I submit that a sensible plan to deal with real problems cannot be sold in that marketplace. If we participate in that market we are fools. No wonder they treat us that way.

The (designated) entertainment programming drives home the same message. There are no people like me in TV America. None. You’ve got Duck Dynasty and snoots in suits. All my friends are people like me, working class, well read, well spoken. We live modest comfortable lives. We are Democrats. We are all over the heartland of this country. Did anybody tell you that? Did you ever see one of us on TV?

All those young guys at Trump rallies: they don’t know I exist. They don’t know that pride in self and job isn’t shown by looking down your nose at somebody else. They found out what men do by watching TV. When I meet one of these young guys they usually respect me. But I confuse them. They didn’t know men like me existed. If they don’t know you exist you are, by definition, not their role model. They want to grow up to be Duck Dynasty. They think they have an actual chance to become Donald Trump.

I’ve got a better life than these poor people do. I’ve got what a young working guy wants to have when he’s old. Because of Democrats. TV won’t tell them that.

Online. We have to take to the wires.

The big problem with online is that we’re too scattered. Fragmented. I’ve got somewhere between one and five hundred regular readers. I’ve got about 1500 (right this minute) “followers” @homemadeguitars. There are tens of thousands of others just like me out here, doing their best, offering good ideas, got forty-seven readers. Meanwhile Rush Limbaugh has some astronomical number of listeners, numbers like the grains of sand on the beach. We need to work on that. People whose minds do organizing and publicizing need to work on that. But – we can’t do it on the same airwaves as Limbaugh. His owners prefer  him, and not just because he sells ads.

Perhaps we need somebody with a database mind to put together a social search engine for Democrats or people who aren’t sure what Democrats are and would like to find out. Put my site and your site and his site – I know a bunch of us have them – everybody else’s who wants to contribute to the conversation. Google For Democrats. I’m not smart enough, but somebody out there is. I’d chip in a few bucks.

The old roads are blocked. We have to move cross-country.

We’ve got our own stars. Jon Stewart might be an online radio talking head if we asked him nice, who knows. We need to get a reach like Rush Limbaugh. Do we want to hear Joy Ann Reid nationwide, two hours every morning with nobody all day to contradict her? OK, we’re going to have to steal her away from MSNBC and put her on YouTube. Or somewhere else online. Maybe a new venue. Everybody think! We can do this!

Because nobody else is going to.

Anybody got any better ideas? I’d love to hear them. We’re all in this together.

— When we get our media going here’s the message I propose

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To end my Coup 2016 series, I offer some recommendations based on the following proposition:

The Democrats lost the propaganda war. The Republicans defined us to America.

Disclaimer: I cannot see the future. I cannot see all of the present nor learn all of the past. I write this as a citizen of the United States of America with no other claim of expertise. For more about me see this essay.

I think we as a nation are in trouble. I see what could possibly be a path out. If my plan works nobody gets shot or put in jail. Or at least not that many. This is all opinion. Thank you.

In simple terms: We have to define ourselves. In every city and town. We have to organize, speak out, and vote.

I hope you’re not disappointed. There is no other fix. And yes, from where we are right now, it can be done that way.

It took the Republican coup ever since 1980 to get where they are today. We’re not getting rid of them by Thursday. We need to be in it for the long haul but never too patient.

The Republican coup took root in one simple slogan: “The government is the problem.” They had a genuine Good Guy TV Star to pound that message home every day for 9 (counting the campaign) years. I have other essays expanding on this. For this essay I am going to pretend we all agree that’s how they did it.

They took that slogan and they sold it in every venue in America, every day, for (so far) 37 years. I’m not going into the history tonight. Ten thousand words wouldn’t scratch the surface. It worked.

Democrats are the party of government. It’s true. We can’t hide from it and stay Democrats. We believe that government can solve problems. That is our central point. All else is details. We cannot do anything in a society, or with an electorate, who believes that the government is the problem. We are beat before we come out of the gate.

They are mistaken. They have been fooled by a superb marketing campaign. There is probably no salesman on earth better than an American Billionaire. That is our competition. We have a better plan. We’ve got to get serious and sell it. Every place, every day. We’ve got to quit going down side avenues about our various races, classes, genders, generations, and sexual preferences. If the Democrats win we can work on the injustices; that’s what Democrats do. There is plenty of work to be done. But first we’ve got to sell the fundamental point:

Real government works.

Only the Federal Government speaks for all Americans. The government is the guy who throws flags on the field when the other team cheats, the government is the groundskeeper who keeps the field playable. The government is Good People doing Good Work to make Your Life Better.

The Government brings the drinking water to Phoenix.

The Government waters the produce growing in the Central Valley.

The Government is the Interstate Highway System and the Air Traffic Controller who kept you alive yesterday.

Real government works. The adjective “Big” is pejorative. We’re talking Government. The only adjective we need is United States. Maybe Federal.

We must take the Big Government attack on face to face: yeah, the government is big. There are 300+ million Americans. There are fifty states, some of which are closer to Russia or China than they are to Washington D.C. We have people under arms and people under fire dotted all around the world. The government is Big. Gotta be. Details here. Next question.

Real government Works. Until we sell that, we’re losing. Because Democrats believe, as did the men who wrote the Constitution, that this nation needs a functioning Federal Government. The Republicans disagree.

Here is how you take back the Federal Government: You take back the states. All power resides in the states. Notice the name of the country. The United. States. of America. They almost could have named it the (united) States of America. In fact, right now today that’s what it is, if that.

Every four years Democrats wake up and try to elect a President. Stop that. Congress is the President’s boss, and they are elected every two years. States draw the Congressional districts. States run the elections. States make the laws about how to apportion electors. Did you know that if Democrats had control of a state government they could pass legislation requiring Electors to be apportioned as closely as possible to the popular vote? Sure. State legislative majorities with a supportive executive could fix 90% of what’s wrong with the Electoral College. We’re probably stuck with the other 10%. We can live with that.

Democrats in the states could legislate Ranked Choice elections. Like Jill better than Hillary but Hillary better than Trump? Easy to write election laws that will account for that. Jill gets the honorable mention but Hillary gets the election. Way better than what we have now. If, that is, Democrats controlled state governments.

Right now we have about enough state governments to cover a baloney sandwich if the baloney isn’t too wide. Work in your county. I’m scared to death to stick my head out from under my rock, but I may try something with the county Democrats.

President Obama, in his farewell press conference, told us to work in every county in every state. People bitched. “Why didn’t the President make any suggestions?”

He did. He suggested the only plan with any hope of success. Do what he said or get used to Trumplandia. We have to work in every county in America. We have to work in every election in America. We have to tell the American people that in this great country there are problems that only a Federal government can solve. You know it’s true.

If we turned off the Bureau of Land Management tomorrow, click like a light switch, there would be riots Phoenix and Tucson in five days. Thirst. Dammit, the government WORKS all around us, all the time. Why do two thirds of Americans not know that, in fact rabidly disbelieve it?

Because a few very rich people benefit from that belief. They can afford to buy every TV transmitter and printing press on the planet, and nearly have. They have taken total control of the public conversation.

So far we have Twitter and blogs. We need to follow each other’s essays and ideas. We need shared thinking. And we literally must go to work at the county level. Every county, in every state. Next guy says “Red State” loses ten thousand points. It’s “my state.” And that’s where we work. Carefully at first.

There is more, of course. Americans not only don’t know that their government mostly works, they don’t know what it is supposed to do. Or how it is structured to do it. We have to teach all that, too.

Religion is a major problem. I don’t know what it is about humans and religion, but many humans strongly believe that since they know the One True Way everybody in the country should have to live under it.

Guns are a problem. Religion and guns have become flash points and I have no suggestions about that here, but we’ll have to deal with them some way as the marketing strategy grows.

Lots to do. Probably take 25 years. I’ll be 95, more or less.

Step One: Real Government Works and,

Step Two: Get to Work.

Media Recommendations here.

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Global Warming Ice part 2

We don’t have certain days when global warming injects itself by some nefarious means into the natural, 1776 atmosphere we live in the rest of the time. That’s not how this works.

The comments I made during the arrival of this instance of global warming ice are now a couple of days old. I wrote Two Stick Ice on Friday evening, it is now Sunday evening. I still cannot go anywhere including the house next door, even walking, even with two canes, without significant risk to myself. And the house next door and I share a back yard and have connecting paths. I would not attempt to walk to my car, even with my sticks, because it is on smooth pavement in the middle of an ocean of global warming ice. Whatever “Slicker than…” simile you have ever heard, this is way slicker than that. I’d be risking my mobility for the rest of my life, at my age and with my replaced knees, to attempt to walk to my car. Don’t even think about trying to drive it anywhere.

It’s not because I am old and rickety, although there is that. I am still pretty agile for an old guy. I still work on ladders, still repair and climb on machinery, still park at the farther end of parking lots and walk in. This is different. They covered the whole world with ball bearings. You cannot walk on this stuff unless you have grass under it, and even then it’s tricky.

Chica has to go out. She is a lady; she’s not going to go potty in the house.  This stuff is miserable for her. Chica is far more agile than I am; she’s an athlete. We do Dog Agility together, not at a high level but with a bunch of 4H kids where we volunteer. Chica can jump higher than her size requires, and runs agility courses with joy and vigor, if not technical perfection. She is probably, next to the teacher’s dog, the top agility star in the group.

Chica cannot get back into the house tonight because of the ice. Chica can’t climb the back porch. Usually my problem with Chica and the porch is that she zips up it so fast that I can’t get the door open in time, and she comes to a screeching halt with her nose stuffed into the door jamb. If it’s ok with her it’s ok with me, but I try to get it open for her. It’s kind of a game we play. We both win, or we both lose. My favorite kind of game. It’s fun.

See that reflected fence post in the steps in that picture up there? Those steps are regular lumber yard concrete blocks. They are not reflective. Not even in a howling downpour. You can’t put enough water on that concrete to make it reflect. What you are seeing is a thin but solid layer of the slickest substance I have ever encountered anywhere, right here at home on my back steps. Chica the Athletic Chihuahua cannot climb that porch. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t get awkward, obese Donald Trump from my back yard to my kitchen tonight, and he’s only a few months older than I.

Digression —

People speaking in public ask, over and over on TV, radio, and in text media on paper or online, “Did global warming cause this storm?” “Did global warming cause that flood?” Today in particular they are no doubt rubbing their evil palms together like a character from Shakespeare and gloating: “Look at all that ice! I thought you said the globe was warming! It’s 8 degrees out there!”

I don’t like the phrase “global warming” very well. As I point out in my essays, what we have done is store a large amount of energy in the global system. Which system? There is only one. It is made up of everything from the outer reaches of our atmostphere, inward. The earth is one complex system made of all the air, dirt, rocks, cars, caterpillars, water, sand, whiskey, people great and small, computers, concrete blocks, ice crystals, steam, bacteria, mold, things living and dead, and all the remaining traces of them that are still here. The system to which we have added energy is absolutely everything there is in, on, and above earth to the outer reaches of our atmosphere. There are no dividing lines; it is one. This isn’t religion, it’s physics.

It is the nature of energy to move from greater to lesser concentrations. That is pretty much what makes the world go around. Thermal systems in contact with one another seek equilibrium. Your coffee gets cold, your beer gets warm, the energy stored in your fuel tank is released inside cylinders at high concentration and swooshes out the tailpipe into the cool air with its lower concentration of energy. Some of the energy traveling from your gas tank to the surrounding atmosphere expresses itself as motion, for a while. Your car moves, for a while. Finally, and perhaps several times over a journey, you take the motion energy moving your person through distance and convert it back into heat energy by pushing down on your brake pedal and dissipate that heat into the cooler, lower energy concentrations of the system you’re in. Perhaps you sit for a moment in traffic, centered in a growing puddle of energy moving directly from the fuel tank to the surroundings, creating no motion except the pistons and parts, but in the long run it’s all the same stuff. Energy moves. We pump stored energy up out of the ground, sell stored energy at the gas station and distribute it into the system we are part of by the quadrillions of measurable units, and then we say, “Where’d all this energy come from?” “What made this weather?”

Well, they call it global warming.

There is no “is caused by” global warming. There is only, “is” global warming. All weather, everywhere, every day, is the weather which forms in this warmer system. We don’t have certain days when global warming injects itself by some nefarious means into the natural, 1776 atmosphere we live in the rest of the time. That’s not how this works.

The energy we capture with our carbon atoms arrives here as heat. From the sun. Sort of. Perhaps one can always perceive it as heat, measure it with a thermometer. Frankly I’m not sure. Energy is slippery stuff. The more you read about it the slipperier it gets. Everything is energy. It appears that matter is energy, but that’s getting off into the place where my comprehending circuits say, “Huh?” and make electrical fritzing noises.

Energy does wonderful things. Energy arrives here as light, as sunlight, yet some of it winds up as blackness personified, blackness buried in the dark of the earth, blackness that might be fire and motion but is still energy. Pure light. Pure dark. It’s all heat – stand the coal with oxygen, add a little heat to remind it what it once was, and it becomes heat again. Heat escapes. The sunshine and the blackness make your living room feel better or your ship cross the ocean. Energy.

When we capture heat with our added atmospheric carbon (and related) atoms we add energy to the entire system.

When a raging flood storms through a valley tearing homes from their foundations, rolling cars like pebbles, sweeping away possessors, possessions and the possessed, all that motion is work. The way a system consumes energy is through work. Energy entered this building, did work moving the building, and when the energy was used up the building stopped moving. Here. For the moment don’t think about the storm that caused it, just look at what is happening right in front of your eyes. Motion. The energy in the world, including the part we stored in the atmosphere last week or last year or during the Civil War, is expressing itself as motion. Same principle as the energy in your tank moving your car, except we don’t know where the gas pedal or the brakes are on the world we live in, It’s All. One. Thing.

So one doesn’t look at a storm and say, I wonder if global warming caused that storm. No. Global warming is that storm. That storm came today; all the energy on earth causes all the motion on earth; therefore all the energy in and on earth today contributed to that storm. There is more energy here than there was yesterday. It really, really is that simple.

Somewhere some hardworking atmospheric scientist is tearing his hear out and screaming, “No, you lunatic, it’s not simple at all!” And she’s right. It’s not. We can’t figure out for the life of us exactly how this new energy is changing our planet, or where or how it is going to manifest itself. That question is complex beyond description. But the broader question: Did global warming cause [X] weather event?

Yes. It did. Every time. It’s the only weather we have.

But I digress.

When Chica needs to go outside, we go outside. Most days year round we just zip out the door, take care of our business, and zip back in. We have various assigned places, we go there, we do what we need to get done. If the temperature is much above 25 or 30 degrees and the wind is mild or still, and there is no water falling from the sky, we just go in our inside clothes. We’re not going to be out long. When it gets much chillier we start putting on coats. When it’s six or eight degrees with a whistling wind and little balls of ice with liquid centers are falling at broad angles from the sky we dress warmly indeed.

The yard is regularly mown grass. We keep it fairly short for the chihuahuas’ comfort. The ice, as it fell and formed, bridged the grass part-way up the blades. At the end, as the surface cold absorbed the energy from the warm air above, the water began to crystallize as it did in the old days. Snow fell, a thin layer atop the covering ice.

The shrews and the tiniest of the mice are, today, traveling in near darkness beneath a translucent ceiling of snow covered ice, walking amongst the tall trunks of grass on dry ground. Chica and I are above the surface in ice world. The photo above shows where my big feet have broken through.

As Chica attempts to walk her feet sink through the inch or so of snow, come to a firm surface at the ice layer, then break through as she puts her full 11 pounds down. I have had a similar experience walking on / through heavily crusted snow: plant foot, push, break through, struggle, repeat. She is not pleased. I don’t blame her. I clump out with my two sticks, walking slowly, ever so slowly. If someone took a video of me walking Chica toward the Big Yard Gate, and played it, viewers would likely think they were watching a slow motion clip. Chica and I, side by side, taking step… step… step… in my case punctuated by stick… stick… stick.

Eventually we got there. Eventually we got back. I stood in the garden with the back doorknob above my head, reached up and opened the door. I picked up my little friend who could not run up her porch and placed her carefully indoors, let the door shut, and began the process of getting myself back into the house.

It will be, according to the forecast, a few days before there is any chance of melt. On the other hand, two winters ago Chica and I were trapped in this house for two months while I got two knee replacements, and we got through it. This too shall pass.

Part 1 of this story, Two Stick Ice

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My Credentials

A trusted friend and may I even say advisor recently suggested that I tell my readers a bit about myself so that they can better evaluate the reliability of what I say. I think that is a reasonable suggestion. But it’s tricky, because I don’t have credentials. What I have is a story.

After I graduated from high school I started college as my parents wanted, but it just didn’t work out. I wasn’t happy there. I left.

It’s not that I didn’t want to learn. I just didn’t particularly want to know anything they wanted to teach me. Plus I didn’t like the format, the presentation, the structure, or the sitting in a chair. I had two problems with college: spring, and fall.

Fall is the most wonderful time of year in northwest Missouri. The smells, the colors, the energy, the slant of the sun… I was not able to sit inside and listen to someone with the storytelling skill of a rusted hinge blather while autumn was going on. So before winter I had given up on the college idea. This upset and disappointed my parents. The last complete sentence my father was ever able to speak to me was, “How do you stand with the draft?”

Well, where I stood with the draft was right in the line of fire, so pretty soon I was in the jungle in Vietnam, drafted, a light weapons infantryman fighting, in the ancient mountains called the Central Highlands, local guys who resented my presence in their country. They wore uniforms and carried (among other things) AK-47s, mortars, and shoulder fired rockets. We knew them as the North Vietnamese Army. They were scary. I was a member of the 4th Division of the United States Army. Steadfast and Loyal. It was 1967. I had, on the day of my arrival, been 20 years old for 3 days.

362 days later, on my second 21st birthday, I was stepping off an airplane onto airport pavement in the city of my birth. They hadn’t invented jetways yet.

I had unhealed wounds in my back, arm, and head. I was carrying enough shrapnel in my torso to set off metal detectors in civilian airports, but I wouldn’t find that out for a few years, until they installed metal detectors in airports. It was a memorable birthday, and yet is forever enshrouded in fog in my memory. In the previous year I had been through different experiences than my friends and relatives who didn’t go. Among other things, I had sustained a traumatic brain injury which left me with a hole about the size of half a golf ball in the left side of my brain. The brain part that was where the hole now is died and withered away as a result of blast impact. The parts around the hole are a little fizzlesprung too. Strange things happen from time to time.

Nobody knows exactly what I would be like without the hole. In this particular experiment we forgot to keep a control. We have no basis for comparison. I am pretty sure I can recognize some effects from that cause, but I can’t prove them. As I said, there is no basis for comparison.

I’m sorry this is so strung out, but this is all I have. I didn’t go to college. Nobody ever certified me as able to write, or think, or understand politics or science. I don’t have any credentials, at least none to point to. Sometimes people object to what I say and tell me, “I’ve got a [X] degree in [Y] and…” I don’t. I don’t mind. I’m not impressed. Sorry. It’s all life. It’s all learning. You chose your way and I chose mine.

Probably my closest and oldest friend alive walked through the war beside me, or me beside him, from the day we got there together to the day we left. Together. We did miss a few weeks in between when one or the other of us were in the hospital recovering from one thing or another. Explosions. Bullets. Infections. Wars are hard on the health.

The night of the blast when my brain changed he was the one who cared for me. That night and two more, three days. When we came home he got a PhD. in Economics. I went into a trade. After he had the PhD he went into a trade too. There are many twists and turns.

My educated friend respects my work, and that matters to me. Not because of his degree, but because of his wisdom. So there is one credential I am proud to claim: Patrick likes my work.

After our part of the war Patrick and I, along with many of our brothers and sisters,  worked together as members of the Vietnam Veterans Against The War in a long attempt to end our war, to keep others from having to share our experiences or be the ones to die. Eventually the war ended; to what extent our efforts contributed will never be known.

I earned a CIB. That’s a Combat Infantryman’s Badge. You can have the job title of infantryman, but until somebody shoots at you and you shoot back you can’t have a CIB. They literally brought little black metal pins out to the jungle and handed them to us, to Patrick and to me, to Jimmy O’Brien and to the rest of us replacements who had just gone through our first firefight. Kinda weird. Not like a cap and gown, exactly.

I was awarded a couple of Purple Hearts. One doesn’t speak of earning, or winning, Purple Hearts, not if one has one. They are awarded after you have been injured by enemy action.

My first Purple Heart came from a minor injury in a firefight. It was the sort of Purple Heart that fat Republicans who can’t imagine the smell of dead friends in the sun make fun of at Republican National Conventions. My first Purple Heart was like the one that got John Kerry Swiftboated and this hideous woman on national television. Whattya bet she says, “Thank you for your service,” to guys like me. She doesn’t really have to on my account.

My second Purple Heart came when I got the hole in my brain. Mortar. My head was at ground level because I was standing in a hole. The explosion nearly tore it off. I spent much of the next month in and out of a semi-coma. The folks at the RNC didn’t wear any of those bandaids.

So: one part of my writing is founded in those experiences. No, I haven’t let it go. Yes, the war is here every single day. Yes, I remember my lost brothers. They are forever missing. Both the war and the hole in my brain color some part of my every breath. They can’t go away. They are part of the foundation of my self. They are in what I write. Usually you can’t see them.

Next, I am a repairman. I am fascinated by how things work. I have been through hundreds of hours of training on how various things work, from the United States Army’s Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Warfare school (where I graduated first in my class) to how a Southwestern Bell Number One Crossbar Telephone Switching Central Office works. (14 weeks of school 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, after 4 or 5 weeks of prerequisite schools). Twenty or thirty manufacturer’s schools on various kinds of commercial telephone systems, installation, maintenance, programming. Various schools on how computer networks work, starting at about the same time the networks were being invented by people with different training than I. The technology of the Internet. Auto Mechanic school. Visual Basic Programming, 2 semesters, 4.0 average, just for the heck of it on my own dime.

I’m trying to make the case here that even though I never went to college I know things worth writing about. Beyond that, I would submit that working my life with empirical, fact based, unforgiving technologies better equips me for what I write than a college degree would. You cannot bullshit a machine. If you correctly analyze the problem, after you apply your theory the machine works. If your analysis was incorrect the machine still does not work. Return to start.

I don’t do original research. I don’t write original research. I begin from available empirical fact and from there write opinions and observations. For foundation concepts and facts I accept scientific consensus and what I will call the preponderance of the evidence. In other words I usually start at some point you can look up for yourself. I’m a big fan of Wikipedia for the hard sciences. I try to learn human  and natural events from reports I find in historically reliable media, preferably print media. Here I don’t use outliers if I can help it, I look for some agreement among what I consider to be reliable sources that some event happened. Hurricane Sandy went up the Eastern Seaboard, for instance. Then what I do is, I look at those events, draw conclusions, and write them down.

I try to make it clear the points in a given essay where I move from empirical fact to my opinions, evaluations, and observations regarding those facts. I don’t ask my readers to believe anything happened or didn’t happen that a high school science, history, or civics teacher should disagree with. I am free with my interpretations and I hope that they will make sense to readers, but I do not base them on made-up stuff.

I do use numbers like “zillion” a lot, but I hope it’s clear what I’m doing.

At heart I am a repairman. I like to know how things work because if you don’t know how they work you can’t fix them. I do stretch the concept a little. For instance, I would (and think I could) fix Kansas, which is obviously broken, but the people there appear to be satisfied with what they have and I can’t force them to want it better.

Repair is a set of techniques of thought, not a set of learned facts and diagrams. A good repairman can fix almost anything if he can get the parts and get access to the failure point. One approaches any broken machine with a certain mindset and a certain set of principles in mind. Those principles are, essentially, basic physics on the levels above quantum. Everything works on the laws of physics. Matter and energy are reasonably well understood. Every phyisical thing works on the same principles. Electronic things do. Mechanical things do. Computers do. Hydraulic things do. Combination things do. Global Warming does.

So one thing I do as a writer is, I apply the simplest principles on which our universe is based to my observation of things that we both agree we can see. Tonight there is ice outside. I apply known principles of everyday reality to that ice and produce an essay. If you doubt my conclusions I invite you to research the principles – they are mostly pretty well explained on Wikipedia and elsewhere on the internet – and see if you think I have applied them incorrectly. If you think so I’d love to have that conversation, do make comments.

If you dispute the principles, please go away. I accept the preponderance of scientific opinion as fact. I won’t even discuss that. The principles are true; I might be wrong about my application of them.

I apply the same general worldview to human societal issues, except I acknowledge that there are fewer empirical facts. There are still some, but fewer and less clearly spelled out. So when writing of societal issues I begin, once again, with what I will call facts. For instance, if I want to discuss the principles of American government with somebody I will usually refer to the U.S. Constitution. I will refer to specific text, Article so-and-so, section this, paragraph that. I try to pull in some context. I have little respect for people who blather about “The Constitution says…” and when I say, “Where?” they say, well, it’s different now, and…

No. The Constitution either says it, or it doesn’t. Empirical fact. Language is wiggly but it’s all we have; as humans we have to make some fundamental agreements about meaning.

If someone said something and I can find unedited video of them saying it, then they said it. No discussion. Empirical fact.

If I get a fact wrong – and surely I must, from time to time – feel free to assist me. I prefer to be correct. The facts are empirical, the interpretations are mine at the time I write them. When I am writing out-and-out opinion (which I certainly do from time to time) I try to make that plain to the reader.

The other thing I am is a teacher. I love to teach. My life as a technician offered me an unending opportunity to teach, and I loved it. For about thirty-five years I installed business telephone systems as a primary source of income, both as an employee and as a business owner. If you work in an office you know the kind – a box with twenty or thirty buttons on it sitting on your desk. It’s supposed to do forty-six different things; you’re thrilled if you can transfer a call to somebody you can’t see from your desk without cutting the caller off. There’s a voice mail; you probably know how to get your messages. You might or might not know how to change your greeting. Beyond that it’s probably pretty fuzzy.

If you were my customer you would know. Maybe. I wanted you to know. I would install a telephone system and then hold training classes. I loved it. Teaching people to properly use their high-tech telephones is performance art. If you can get them laughing you’re halfway there: they are paying attention.

Being a hospital IT tech – my trade as my physical strength waned – is the same game. The computer works, the nurse just can’t work it. Want an enemy for life? Tell her that. Nurses do so much work it is almost incomprehensible to a mere mortal. She doesn’t need to hear, “You’re doing that wrong.”

So I’d do a dog-and-pony show, get her laughing, slip in how it really works, get her hands on the keyboard and mouse, get her doing all the stuff slick, computer all fixed. See ya later.

All that is in here. That’s why I write. I’m trying to teach people things that they never got around to learning. I’m trying to make it fun to learn it if I can. I’m not doing original research any more than I invented those phone systems I installed. I’m just doing a dog-and-pony show with the user’s manual.

Hope you’ll come along. Hope you find it enjoyable.

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Two Stick Ice

It iced today. Two stick ice. 

I haven’t had to walk with a stick much since my new knees healed up year before last. Tonight I had to use my foot-bottomed cane from the knee days, and my hiking staff from interim times, just to go shut the chickens up.

Even with the sticks I couldn’t walk out on my concrete back porch. I tentatively put one foot down and knew immediately that it was hopeless. I made a long step down from the inside floor to the garden beside the stoop, pretty confident that I could keep my footing on soil and plant matter.

But even to walk across the short grass yard to the chicken yard gate, I had to use both sticks. And walk very carefully: plant each stick, move one foot, one stick, other foot, other stick. Plant foot and stick carefully after each move. I’m pretty tough for an old geezer, but I’m also pretty sure it would annoy my skeleton for me to take a dive onto this frozen ground. The spring goes out of the machinery over the years.

My back porch is concrete blocks. I had to turn one of the blocks dry side up in order to get back into the house, and then carefully not put a foot down anywhere else.

Some folks might read to this point and say, “See? I told you. Global warming is a hoax!”

Nope. This is global warming ice.

I was born some fifty miles from where I’m sitting now, on a hot July night in 1947. Mostly I’ve pretty much stuck around. The first time I ever saw a killer ice was 1974. I had lived 27 years and never seen one. Most of Kansas City was in the dark for most of two weeks. We have had a killer ice at least once every couple of years ever since. Some entire winters have been defined by killer ice.

My parents were born 150 miles north of here in 1913 and 1915. They didn’t remember many, if any, killer ices like the ’74 icing, in their lifetimes in Iowa and Missouri. They lived to see dozens of them. We make funny videos now.

In 1974 our ongoing science experiment with our planet’s energy level appears to have crossed some threshold when measured against my particular area. We used to have winter rains or winter snows. Now we’re stuck in the middle. We have ices.

We have ices because at higher altitudes the air is warmer than it used to be. It is also warmer than the air at the surface. In the warmer air, water doesn’t crystallize into the individual crystals of ice which we call snow, it simply precipitates out as liquid water. Down here on the dirt, though, it’s below freezing. It is, after all, winter. (We do still have winter, yes we do. The earth’s axis is tilted, see, and… maybe next time.)

As the liquid water falls on 20 degree F surfaces it freezes. It is literally not possible to walk on it. Young agile people fall down. Walking depends on friction. Youth and health can’t compensate if the friction isn’t there. This is slicker than lake ice, slicker than ice skating rink ice. Eat your heart out, Zamboni. Tonight’s global warming ground ice still has liquid water falling on it, lubricating it.

Depending on droplet size the ice may be utterly invisible, or thick enough and heavy enough to tear down trees, power lines, even buildings. But it is deadly either way.

The people who are paid handsomely for informing America have left a sizable number, I think probably a majority, of Americans thinking the weather I am living with tonight calls global warming into question. These people, the supposed-to-be informers of the public, should be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.

I do not watch TV but I would place a sizable cash wager that in every major market under this ice storm there are respectable-looking persons on the airwaves tonight pushing this very fiction, asking the stupidest imaginable question: If there is global warming why do we have this ice? If this particular ice storm causes enough death and destruction they will be doing the same thing on national TV. They should be made fun of, insulted, and held up to ridicule, on every occasion by every reporter on every station. Or themselves tarred and feathered. Along with the on-air personalities who speak seriously to them, the editors who chose these stories for airtime, and the owners of the media outlets carrying the disgusting propaganda.

One does not have to be a scientist to understand how and why global warming causes ice storms. One has to be cheated by one’s supposedly advanced and educated society in order to not know.

Toby the dog fell down on the sidewalk tonight. Twice. He’s old, but… he’s a dog. He has four feet and claws. He fell down on the ice. Global warming ice.

Followup Essay: Global Warming Ice, part 2

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Coup 2016: The Players

Preface: It is my opinion that units of the United States Republican Party have staged a coup, stripping the President of his powers while leaving him physically in place. It appears that they have also engaged the assistance of Russia and American TV to defeat the election process and install their party over all branches of government. The coup has installed a one-party kleptocracy as seen in Mexico, Russia, and other large impoverished nations. For details see:

So if there was a coup, who is involved? We can’t be certain. Historians may debate this for centuries. Mitch McConnell is an obvious major player. He could easily be the leader.

At most of the turning points we see Mitch McConnell speaking. Many of his words were spoken to justify the actions he took. I doubt he would put himself out there like that for another person’s benefit.

I would think it would be impossible for McConnell to do what he has done without the knowing cooperation of Orrin Hatch, senior senator and Senate President Pro Tem.  Hatch has been another vocal supporter of stripping the power to appoint justices from President Obama. Since this is a central act in the coup, he must be involved.

Paul Ryan is obviously a central figure, but he has that crazy-eyed aura of zealot about him and there’s no telling what he might do. He is, in his own way, a Trotskyesque figure. True believers don’t all die of old age.

I am sure others who watch the day-to-day machinations more closely than I do could add names. Cruz is a spiritual brother to the coup, and is likely to benefit from it, but I wouldn’t bet they could stand to be around him. I doubt he’s in the inner circle.

As I have said before, if they didn’t leave Lindsey Graham out of the loop he is earning an Oscar right now. He appears to still think the Republicans are participating in the old American Government he got elected to. I don’t believe that they are. They aren’t even pretending to.

6/15/2017: I take back all the nice things I said about Lindsey Graham. Turned out he was earning an Oscar.

Jason Chaffetz has got to be in on it. Trey Gowdy. Probably at least some members of their relative committees. Turning the power of the House of Representatives into a full time televised extravaganza of electioneering and campaigning against a Presidential candidate has got to be worth something in the new world. It wasn’t a coincidence.

Is Pence in on it? How did the ruling Republicans manage to hang Pence onto Trump? Wild card.

There can be little doubt that James Comey is in on it. Having the cops on your side is handy in any criminal endeavor. Like Ryan, he reeks of zealot. It is educational to watch him squirm when forced to admit that, if Secretary Clinton were an expert on Classified documents, she would have known that none of the documents he criticized her publicly for having were classified. He didn’t respond, Right, she would have known they were not classified. He didn’t respond, Yes, or Correct. He hid behind “That would be a reasonable inference.” And he never told the public that it would have been a reasonable inference either. This event was never shown on television that I can find. You can watch it below, takes about a minute. This clip is lovingly lifted (unedited) from C-Span’s recorded Congressional hearings, the very same hearings that somehow led to Director Comey writing, 11 days before the election, his famed letter about more Hillary emails to investigate, He’s in it. I wonder if he’s also in over his 6’8″ altar-boy head.

6/15/2017 OK, I was wrong about Comey.

I’m assuming they see themselves as the New Founding Fathers, many of them at least, saving America from the flaws of lesser persons, the Weaker Sex,  and members of lesser races. They claim also to believe that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation and that the separation of church from state really isn’t written into the Constitution, that’s just activist judges reading it there. Saving the Nation Body and Soul.

The original Founding Fathers numbered between 55 and 90 men, typically, throughout the meetings leading up to the war of independence and over the decade from then until the writing of the Constitution. They were able to hold a committee of that size together for over a decade and run a long plan, yes, a conspiracy, to throw off the chains of an existing government. I believe that it is happening again. I disagree with the current group’s reasoning.

There also have to be funders. I feel confident that the Koch brothers are involved. They are at least the second generation in their family to publicly denigrate and despise the ideals of the Enlightenment on which this country was founded. Sheldon Adelson, too, and – oh, you know, that usual lot of billionaires who own the country. Most of them aren’t shy. Their names are in the papers frequently. They are the societal equivalent of great white sharks: they don’t need to be protected from themselves, so they don’t see why we should be protected from them either.

A bloodless coup is not possible without a good propaganda machine. A bloodless coup works on the same principle as a magician on stage: you’ve got to distract the watching eye. You’ve got to get at least a significant number of people on your side. Imagine what coup planners could do if they had a multi-billionaire media mogul move into the country because his home country had single payer health care and all those horrible things? Oh, gee, look! There’s Rupert Murdoch and Fox News! What a handy coincidence!

Murdoch knew how to get viewers to his TV station: Tits. Babes. Short skirts. Cleavage. Pretty young faces. Pretty soon every lonely guy in the country has Fox News on all day. He doesn’t even know he’s hearing the words, he’s just admiring the scenery, but.. he hears them. And he starts to believe them. If those tits think Obama is a crook, Obama must be a crook. If she’s got a really important point to sell she can lean forward on the couch, expand the cleavage and let her skirt slide up a couple inches, and… it’s the Voice of God.

And if there is one thing American capitalists know how to do it’s imitate a money making idea. Little Fox Newses tell Americans everything they know today.

And into the midst of all this, more or less at the last minute, straight from America’s television screen comes Donald John Oh My God You’ve Got To Be Kidding Trump. And his children and pet weasels. And his own pet Ur-Murdoch, America’s answer to Joseph Goebbels, Stephen Bannon.

Trump’s pet weasels are lifelong Republican operatives to the core. Manafort. Stone. All of them. They are the rats burrowed into the very core of Nixonian self-righteous Republicanism, some of them there since the days of Ronald or before. And they have been, to a man, in and out of the Moscow – Kiev – Eastern Europe – Middle East – Asia big money axis. These are not your civilized Democratic Western Europe London – Paris – Berlin – Davos elite billionaires. These are scrappers. They have spent their lives in tough neighborhoods. They are not strangers in some strange land. When these people negotiate with Vladimir Putin they are traveling in their natural habitat, just surely as I am when out walking in the clear frozen air of a North Missouri prairie winter or buying auto parts from the O’dell brothers in their store just off the square in Richmond. Trump didn’t invent them, he’s just their current employer: they are all lifetime Republican operatives. They are very dangerous people. They have chosen him.

Many of Trump’s particular pet weasels are also generals. Military men. People with names like Mad Dog and Flynn. The exact same class of professional soldier from whom sprang Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Abdul Fattah el-Sisi.

The Trump team didn’t get here until after the original coup. Could they smell blood in the water? Maybe.

It is an interesting mix, both those on the front lines and the ones in the shadows, those we know and those we have never heard of. I suspect that, if the American people don’t somehow manage to reverse this, before the dust settles there will be some brutal, although possibly invisible, power struggles. I hope we don’t reach the Polonium stage.

We could.

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Coup, Past Tense

There has been a coup. We didn’t notice.

The Constitutional Republic known as the United States of America, with its three co-equal branches of government, does not exist today, December 14th, 2016. It ceased to exist a few months ago. It was overthrown from within in a bloodless coup by members of the Republican Party. Whether it will be resurrected I cannot say. I can’t see the future. So far I can still see the past.

I am absolutely serious. I believe that I can prove my assertion with publicly known facts.

Although the signs were visible before the end, when future historians write of the coup that ended the United States First Republic I believe that they will date it to late February, 2016. The final coup was triggered by the death of Antonin Scalia, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

The President of the United States has few real powers. He is Commander in Chief of the military, but unless he is a madman that power is drastically limited. According to the original plan, only Congress can declare war, and even as that power has evolved (poorly in my opinion) there are few if any cases in American history of a president just launching troops into battle without at least tacit agreement of Congress. If a madman were President and attempted to turn the military against the people or other branches of government it would remain to be seen whether the generals and the rank and file would in fact follow his command. They might. They might not. In point of fact our military swears their oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, not to the President or any government body.

The President’s main direct Constitutional powers are to appoint judges of the Supreme Court; to appoint lesser judges and other officials; to negotiate treaties; and to be the sole face and voice of the United States in dealings with the leaders and ambassadors of other nations. In some of these powers (but not all) the Senate, created as the Federal voice of the States, is given power to advise and consent. Congress specifically has no role in international contact. The President speaks, Congress says yes or no after the speaking is done. having only the power to ratify or not the agreements the President makes. He speaks for us to other nations as our sole voice.

The President has an obligation to see that the laws enacted by Congress are faithfully executed, but this is not so much a power as a job. It looks like a power, though, and tends to mislead the American people as to who is running the show. He’s like the cop on the street: your city council or state legislature doesn’t come arrest you for driving over the speed limit even though they made speed limits. The city council doesn’t come write you up because your grass is too tall. The cop is the face you see. Or the President. Both. The cop is an employee of the executive branch of whatever authority is writing you a ticket. If it’s a federal law the President’s employee is in fact the one who busts you. But Congress wrote the law. The President’s job is to enforce it.

That’s it. Those things. Be in charge of the military – originally in a country without a standing Army. Appoint. Negotiate. Enforce. The President of the United States has no other powers.

In February of 2016, after the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Mitch McConnell announced that the President no longer had the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, period. For some years now the President has not had the power to appoint judges, but nobody much noticed because it wasn’t the Supreme Court. The Republicans just said, Nope. Not seating your judges. End of discussion.

When McConnell said, Nope, not seating your Supreme Court justice either, we’ve already told you we’re not seating your judges, most people noticed. President Obama nominated someone anyway. McConnell stood firm: Mr. President, we have stripped that power from you. You are not going to seat any judges. Nobody did anything. The coup stood.

During the election campaign, when it appeared that Hillary Clinton might win the election, John McCain and various other Republican Senators announced that the President still would not have the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, not throughout her entire term. The Republican coup had settled that matter. McConnell was quieter himself during this time period, but he certainly wasn’t correcting the position the coup plotters staked out: Elect Hillary, no Supreme Court justices. Only Republicans have the power to appoint judges. Nobody even asked about lower courts. That’s been a done deal for years. So: coup, step 1. Take the power to Appoint. Unlink Presidency from Judiciary. Balance between branches shifts.

On March 3, 2015, the House of Representatives overthrew the President’s power to be our sole voice among the nations. They invited and received Benjamin Netanyahu, Boss of Israel, to come speak to them and listen to them. The President was pointedly not welcome.

There was a small buzz in the news for a day or two. I can easily find it with a Google search today. But… Big deal? Nah. Congress takes specific Constitutional power from President, in other news, chance of rain tomorrow.

On March 9th of that same year 47 Republican members of the Senate wrote a letter denying in plain terms the President’s power to negotiate with a specific foreign power. They sent their letter to the government of Iran. Paraphrased they said, Don’t make any deals with our President, because we’ll weasel out of them as soon as he’s not looking. Iran took a chance and made the deal with the President. We will see how it comes out.

Coup, step 2: Overrule the President’s power to negotiate with foreign countries. Done. Done again in case anybody missed it. Done. Other countries, don’t bother to have any serious conversations with our President, he’s no longer in authority. You are only to negotiate with Republicans. Done, done, done.

Although enforcement is not a Presidential power but a Presidential obligation, that, too, has been under attack. Regulations are the tool of enforcement. Congress passes, say, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts and creates the EPA. Now, under the Constitution the President has sworn an obligation to “see that the laws are faithfully executed.” When he tries to enforce the laws, if he steps across an invisible line the Republicans have drawn, the courts overturn his actions. Why? Because Congress has taken from the President the power to appoint. He has no link to the Judiciary. The courts know who the boss is.

So, Coup, item 3: Power to enforce, partly taken. The entire history of the Republic is the President’s obligation. He is supposed to enforce every law every Congress since the First Congress ever made unless some other Congress has explicitly revoked it or it timed out. The current Republican coup has in effect said, all laws passed before our coup don’t count. If they make things uncomfortable for us here at the top they seriously don’t count. Do not enforce them.

The new Republican Coup says, we’ll tell you which laws to enforce and which ones not to. We are the boss. The President’s so-called power to enforce the accumulated wisdom of 240 years of Congresses has been reduced although not entirely eliminated. In particular the laws he is not to enforce contain the answers to questions that Congresses have dealt with since, say, the Great Depression. Old people without money. Poisons in our air and water. People needlessly dying or being maimed on the job. The right of black people or uppity poor white people to vote. The coup plotters said, nope. Those laws don’t count. Don’t enforce them, we’ll sue you.  We’re starting over today. The law is what we say the law is.

The President’s job to enforce was an obligation to the nation. He still clings to shreds of it, to the outrage of the coup plotters. Enforcement is, for the moment, a skirmish area, but they appear to have eliminated that problem beginning very soon. Governments are big and hard to overthrow all at once without losing money. Gotta be careful here. So say, Coup, item 3 of 4, mostly done, pending inauguration.

The President does also have obligation to tell Congress how the country is doing and what laws they ought to consider to make it do better. You may remember the day he was doing that and a Republican member of Congress shouted, “You lie!” at him and was not disciplined by the House. This isn’t so much part of the coup as an unexceptional event in its aftermath.

And returning to The (supposedly) Big One: He’s Commander in Chief!

Does anybody in America think that President Barack Obama could command the United States Army or any unit thereof to go get Mitch McConnell and put him in handcuffs and jail him for the coup? I didn’t think so.

OK, so, Commander in Chief doesn’t count. Whatever power the President might have overseas, in terms of the coup Commander in Chief simply doesn’t count. He isn’t.

I have been observing this chain of events. A few weeks ago this little voice in my head said, Pssst! Doesn’t that look a lot like a coup? Not exactly, I thought, well, kinda but not exactly, but then… Russia.

Although the Congressional coup was already a fait accompli by the time the 2016 Presidential election came close, there appears to have been some threat to the new one party state. It appeared that Hillary Clinton might get elected. Given her lifetime in and around government, she’d have figured out what was going on right away. The might already know. President Obama may have told her. She may have just noticed. Whatever the specifics, she appears to have presented some threat to the coup, so the Republican Organization turned to a long time adversary, Russia, for help.

It is worth noting that the US and Russia have a complicated history. They have been our adversary in little wars but our ally in big ones. WWI, WWII – we and Russia were allies. In between times we and Russia stand chin to chin and beat our chests. We bought Alaska from Russia. So turning to Russia was not as crazy as it might sound.

As early as at least July of 2016, Russia attacked the Democratic Party and began releasing stolen information through Wikileaks. The Republican Organization worked this information into their campaign. As the campaign season progressed Russia extended their attacks to John Podesta and possibly other Democratic campaign sources. Certain members of the Republican Organization acknowledged publicly that they were coordinating with the hackers and distributors of the stolen information. On occasion Republicans gloated publicly about some damaging morsel stolen by the Russians that would be released in another day or two. Donald Trump on at least one occasion used statements from Russia before they were released elsewhere by the propaganda campaign. Oops. Everybody look the other way, quick.

When President Obama went to the Senate for help in protecting the interests of the Republic (which by then no longer existed) he was told in no uncertain terms by Mitch McConnell to keep his mouth shut about it, and he did.

I do not know what prevented the President from speaking out, but for whatever reason, he no longer felt that he had even the power to address the American people about an existential threat to their republic without permission from McConnell. He talked to McConnell, then he did not talk to us. McConnell told him not to speak out; he didn’t. These two facts are matters of public record. Barack Obama, the nominal President of the United States, the so-called Most Powerful Man On Earth, did not share the known facts of Russian interference in our election until after the election was over because the king of the Republican Organization told him not to. We now know that he had those facts at least by October.

There has been a coup. We didn’t notice.

Above the line are, except as noted, known facts. Mostly matters of public record. Below the line is conjecture.

I have no way of knowing how the coup plotters will organize the government, but I expect it to continue to look a lot like it does, for as long as they can keep it that way. Mexico’s government, for instance, from a distance looks a lot like ours. I think that Mexico is a likely model for what the US will look like when the dust settles, assuming the coup is not reversed. Mexico is, in a nutshell, a few very rich people and a lot of very poor people, governed by one party for decades.

We might develop more like Russia. The coup has engaged deeply with Russia already. Russia has a President and a Legislature and Courts… heck, on paper it’s just like us. In twenty years we may be just like Russia, I don’t know. Except we’ll still have more beaches. By then Russia may be vacationland warm, though, and Florida under water, so… who knows.

The difference between a one party kleptocracy and a republic can be subtle as viewed from outside. What I personally expect, at least for the near term, is a one party kleptocracy / bossocracy, owned and operated by the Republican Organization. Most third world bossocracies and kleptocracies hold elections. I expect us to continue to do so. But it is all in flux. The old order has been sent to the guillotine. Lucky it was just a piece of paper.

I don’t know who the members of the coup are. They are obviously Republican bigshots. Personally I see McConnell right in the middle. Trump is, I think, peripheral to the coup but important in the present moment. He’s a wild card. He’s not exactly smart but he’s cagey. He’s as dangerous as a cornered skunk. I’m pretty sure Paul Ryan is involved, but he is really weird, and getting weirder. He appears not to know that Trump is in the game. Or maybe he knows that he’s not. Another wild card.

I’m guessing they didn’t tell Lindsey Graham. I wouldn’t bet either way on John McCain. Reince Priebus may have thought it up.

I see it as a Central Committee type group, not containing all the Republicans in positions of power by any stretch of the imagination, but not just one or two either.

There are so many maybes and possibilities that I don’t want to stick them onto this essay. After I write a few of them down I’ll try to remember to come back and stick links on here. If it still matters. If anybody cares.

For details on Presidential powers see Article II of the United States Constitution. I have an annotated copy of it here:

First followup essay: The Players


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What Is The United States?

The United States of America is in a place, but it is not a place.

The United States of America contains over 300 million people, but it is not those people.

The United States of America has a government, but it is not that government.

As a nation the United States of America is an idea. I suppose the same could be said of any nation, but nations which evolved over millennia on a place they still occupy are much more a combination of place and people. There are national identities, but the identity and the idea, the rationale for the identity, grew up together. Even after the vast migrations of the 20th and 21st Centuries there are still many Germans whose genes have walked that very land for tens of thousands, perhaps in some cases a hundred thousand years or more. Humans started out in Africa, and some of them never left. Americans speak of tracing their lineage back to the Pilgrims. There are Africans who can trace their lineage back to the dawn of humankind. There could be, probably are, people dying in Syria today whose genes have lived within walking distance of where their current bearer just died for over a hundred thousand years.

It is not that way here. Even the ones whose genes have been here the longest are, relative to a Syrian whose ultimate ancestor walked right in that same spot a hundred millennia ago, absolute newcomers. We are all, even the first nations among us, the children of immigrants, to coin a phrase.

The vast majority of Americans carry genes that were brought here just the blink of an eye ago. Not even a measly thousand years. Many not even a hundred. Most of us, whatever our place of origin, are made up mostly of genes that just came here a few short generations ago. This nation is not the people.

This land was here before humans. Any humans. Humans didn’t start out here, but some of them did come here a long time before the current ruling bunch, and their genes still walk among us. Mostly those genes are carried by people who are, for now at least, powerless. The newer newcomers who also people the land brought their ideas and traditions from Europe, from Africa, and later from Asia. Europeans led the migration, bringing only their genes and an idea. (And a lot of deadly microbes.) The nation is not the land.

So all that is left with any claim to our allegiance is the idea, or set of ideas.  Our soldiers, our Presidents, our rulers do not pledge to the fatherland, to the government, or to the people. They take an “oath or affirmation” to uphold and defend an idea, carefully written out in the plain language of the day. The Constitution of the United States of America.

We have never lived up to our idea of ourselves, but we have kept the idea. We still have it written down, but we no longer read it like it was an idea. We read it like it was some holy writ, or a hymn book, for the majesty of the phrasing and the ways we can twist it to get our way. I think few of us consider that whole idea, think “OK, what exactly are we trying to do here?”

The United States of America was founded during, and by respected thinkers in, the Age of Enlightenment. After the Middle Ages, still sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, an intellectual light came on across Europe. There was a widening acceptance of certain new ideas. The idea of separating church from state led to other revelations and revolutions as science took root and knowledge of the world we lived in grew. People wrote about equality, about liberty, about Constitutional Government. People challenged the long-held belief in the Divine Right of Kings. Enlightenment thinkers said outright that kings were not, in spite of what they had told us, created and blessed specifically by God to rule over others. The idea that everyday people were qualified to govern themselves took root. With, naturally, some caveats. These were, after all, humans.

The American Revolution was quite literally the outgrowth of the Age of Enlightenment. We threw off the king; our founders had only fear and contempt for royalty. We threw off the yoke of the Church, which up until the Revolution still had a powerful grip over many states. Not until this named nation, this idea given form, this United States of America was founded on this soil was the Enlightenment idea of freedom of and from religion, a formal separation of church and government, accepted. The myth that the Pilgrims came here for religious freedom is far from the truth; the Pilgrims came here not to live in a place where people were free to choose their religion but rather so they could be the ones whose religion was boss. They didn’t want religious freedom for anyone who believed differently from them. The religious freedom the Pilgrims awarded themselves and themselves only led directly to the Salem Witch Trials, religious persecution at its finest, heir to a long tradition in the theocracies of Europe. But all that was before the founding of the United States, the Age of Enlightenment incarnate.

OK, so we didn’t quite get there. We’re humans. Humans aren’t as good as we wish we were. That’s better than being like we are and being satisfied. We had slavery, we did horrible things – I don’t have to tell you. Wikipedia knows it all if you’re curious. We did many terrible things.

But we had an advantage. Our founders had written the ideas down on paper. They wrote up a rule book. Then after they wrote the rule book they wrote scores of letters and essays explaining what they were thinking and why. No matter how lousy we did, we didn’t get to compare ourselves with ourselves yesterday. We could compare ourselves to the ideals we had followed, the ideals we had espoused, and the ideals we had written down. We didn’t get to say, Hey, nice work, you let all those totally innocent, anonymously incarcerated Japanese people out of those camps. We had to look at the ideals and say, Geeze, I can’t believe we did that. What a terrible thing.

Somebody has hidden the books. Somebody has said, No, NO, those weren’t the ideals! God really does bless certain people so that they should be, if not actually King, exactly, at least richer than Pharaoh and personally own more property, and control more lives, than King George before the colonists sent him that nasty Declaration of Independence. The Church really should get to tell people how they can live, who they can marry, and what they can do with their bodies.  People really aren’t created equal. Some are born lazy, some are born stupid, you can tell by the color of their skin or the shape of their nose or…

I used to think that I should teach the Constitution, but we need to go back farther than that. America needs to look closely at the ideas on which our nation was founded. We were founded on the Enlightenment. We were founded to repudiate the Kings and to put the Church in its place. We were founded to believe in mercy, justice, equality, science, and an honest attempt for people to tell the truth as they believed it to be.

The Age of Enlightenment gave birth to the United States of America. The guiding philosophies of government came from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and others. The Scientific Revolution was one of the nation’s foundations. They left us, not prescriptions, not do this – do that writings, but a broad idea based on concepts of a Social Contract, discussions of how humans would interact in a more civilized world than the Dark Ages in Europe, and an intense respect for science and empirical knowledge. They left us the idea of America. Technology has not rendered the idea obsolete; liberty, brotherhood, and equality could and should still work in the age of the internet.

The ideas being advocated by people who call themselves Conservatives in America today hark back, not to an earlier, golden age free America, but to Europe before the Age of Enlightenment, when the Church ruled the people and Kings divinely owned every single thing of value and said who could use it and how.  A casual glance at human history for as long as it has been written shows a long tug of war between the two world views. In her best year America bears conceptual resemblance to Rome in her first Republic, or perhaps ancient Greece. But those very same nations fell under the rule of Church and King, and remained there for a thousand years. Regular people like us, not some proto-human lesser beings. The pendulum swings back and forth. If there is free will, if we are not trapped by the pendulum of time, we in the United States and the Western World need to look back to, discuss, and think about the principles of Enlightenment, the principles on which this country and all the liberal democracies of Europe were founded. Because from here it looks like the night might be falling.


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