Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do?

“I don’t really see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world.”

Donald Trump remarks at the White House – Friday, March 15, 2019

So many issues in America today are based on the differences found in society, not what draws us together as a nation of equals. Power does that to men and women if only to stroke their damaged egos and give them a sense of otherness when it comes to the masses of Americans from all walks of life. Fear plays into the equation pitting white against black, Christianity against other religions, and politically, conservatives against liberals. No longer can we turn our backs on these ills. We either find a cure for our conflicts or a balanced position that keeps from tearing us apart as American citizens and the fragile democracy we have held dear in the past.

Standing in the way of that goal is the specter of nationalism in all of it iterations. The issue with nationalism is its multifaceted makeup. In America today, we face at least three distinct types of nationalism including pure and most basic (and not all together bad) Nationalism, White Nationalism, and White Christian Nationalism. Paul D. Miller writing for Christainity Today makes an important distinction about nationalism writing,

“Patriotism is the love of country. It is different from nationalism, which is an argument about how to define our country.”

This is the kind of patriotism that makes one’s heart swell when attending a sporting event, and the national anthem is sung. It’s what makes Texans proud of their state, and Nevadans feel pride when “Home is Nevada” is played at the beginning of each biennial meeting of the state legislature. It is what makes the Olympics a cause for national pride. When, as children, we are taught the Pledge of Allegiance, it is the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the idea of patriotism as a source of national pride and identity.

As Miller states, nationalism is the act of people who want to define the country’s zeitgeist for their own personal agenda. Often times, nationalism is based on language, culture, heredity, location, and yes, religious affiliation. It is often accompanied by a deep-seated need to spread a certain national vision beyond their territorial borders. Israel and Palestine are good examples. Religion, location, and language all come into play when the two clash over their belief in what “homeland” means. Israel, led by its ultra conservative government, works to undermine any claims the Palestinians make about land taken illegally from them in the 1967 war. The Palestinians turned to terrorist acts (not unlike the Israelis) to even the score between the two nations creating a nationalistic quagmire that continues unchecked since it began. Nations like Saudi Arabia with its extensive royal family structure works to ensure the constancy of the monarchy’s nationalistic goals. Without it, the government would spiral into chaos.

The cancerous American brand of nationalism is best seen in the form of White Nationalism. It is the foundation for other forms of nationalism that will be dealt with later. White Nationalism, however, is somewhat misleading. “Kathleen Belew is an American tenured associate professor of history at Northwestern University, and an international authority on the white-power movement. (She) argues “white power” is a more appropriate term, because “white nationalism” refers to only a section of people who are in the “white power movement,” or “the social movement that brought together members of the Klan, militias, radical tax resisters, white separatists, neo-Nazis, and proponents of white theologies such as Christian Identity, Odinism, and Dualism” (Robert Farley The Facts) When considering the long history of white power/nationalism, Belew makes an important point that America’s current impasse surrounding the issue is not an easy one to define. However. for this post I will use the term White Nationalism simply because it best describes the issue in today’s media references.

Experts agree with Farley that White Nationalism and White Supremacy are on the rise, not just in America but around the world. Farley cites the Southern Poverty Law Center which states the number of U.S. chapters of white hate groups rose from 100 in 2017 to 148 in 2018. The same holds true with attacks against Jews, Asians, and minority groups in general. It, however, would be disingenuous to blame all such attacks only on White Nationalism, but it seems obvious that the climate they have engendered has seeped over into other groups. These groups feel marginalization is not just the cause célèbre of angry white people but to others as well. Regardless, White Nationalism’s power of recruitment and appeal to young white Americans defines the white angst that has infiltrated many pockets of discontent in the United States and increased membership across the nation.

In an article titled “White Nationalism” that appeared in the Explainer online, the authors offer readers a thumb nail look at the core beliefs to the White Nationalism movement. First and foremost, “There is a “white race,” and it is genetically and culturally superior to other “races.” Of course, as might be imagined, this is the core tenet that fuels all other beliefs. Second, “White people should have their own nations, where they hold the power.” Like much of what White Nationalists believe, this belief has been around for some time now. The Civil War and slavery was the perfect storm of hate, opportunism, and cynicism that gave some whites (particularly in the Southern states) the false sense of superiority they still pedal today. The movement is adept at parsing out stances that would not hold up to scrutiny of a larger audience who see democracy as an equalizing factor when it comes to determining who is accepted as contributing members of society and who is not. The lack of understanding of America’s diversity and complex society makes many of their beliefs seem nonsensical and impossible to realize. Still, members continue to espouse these beliefs with no explanation how they will come to fruition.

The article continues with one of its most bizarre declarations stating, “Majority white countries are suffering (economically and culturally) because of non-white immigration and increased civil rights for women, religious minorities, LGBTQ people, and people of color.” Whether this is an example of the toxic prejudice members embrace or a true barometer of the fear they feel collectively is hard to determine. Much of what they believe is based on fear of losing what little “power” they hold in light of the changing demographics of the country. It is hard not to discern a healthy dose of paranoia that permeates the beliefs and ideology that are at the movement’s core.

Finally, two points that can be looked at in tandem. Both targets are believed to be villains by White Nationalism – Jews and women. Jews have had a long history of persecution at the hands of their enemies basically centering on the fear that Jews have infiltrated national and international institutions and are conspiring “to bring about the downfall of white people”. This is an age-old trope that both vilifies and degrades the Jeswish people with little support or actionable proof that it is so.

The White Nationalist’s beef with women is both sad and expected. On the one hand, the ego driven religiosity that underscores a fear of women can be seen in the Bible and in the beliefs of White Nationalism. Biblical teaching places women under the stewardship of men keeping them in the home, and to use a  hackneyed expression, “barefoot and pregnant”. Expansion of the gene pool is crucial to spreading White Nationalist propaganda by supplying an ever-present growing “family” of believers. Women are both the opposition and the salvation of the White Nationalists, a paradox among many others that flow through the movement.

Where things get really weird is the intersection between Christianity and the White Nationalist movement, and the church’s attempt to distance itself from the more odious actions of their secular peers. Their protestations that the January 6 rioters were not indicative of the acts of the Christian church ring hollow when the history of Christianity tells a different story all together. Author Carey Wallace writes in Time Magazine that the church (in this case the Catholic Church) justified actions that are contrary to their claims of a loving institution. She wrote,

“Hundreds of years ago, the Church laid the foundation for the theft of the Americas, enslavement of Africans and Native Americans, and centuries of brutal colonization worldwide, with the doctrine that it was O.K. to take land and liberty from people who were not Christian.”

The “doctrine” came in the form of a Papal Bull issued by Alexander VI titled “Inter Caetera”. The document gave legitimacy to the union of the Church and Spain, ceding them the right to claim all lands and bounty in the New World at the expense of the indigenous peoples they encountered. “The Bull stated that any land not inhabited by Christians was available to be “discovered,” claimed, and exploited by Christian rulers . . . ” Setting aside the arrogance and hypocrisy of the text, Spain went about establishing an empire that resulted in the death of millions of people whose only sin was not being Christian.

Once slave trade got underway, the doctrine allowed good Christians the “right” to claim people from Africa as mere possessions to be picked up and shipped to the New World. The white ruling class in America used them to build a vibrant economy based on cotton that became both wildly lucrative, but at the same time, morally and ethically abhorrent. The Catholic Church continues to struggle with the Bull as seen in the1990s and 2000s, but rescinding a Papal Bull is something the church wants little to do with in today’s world. Rome takes the stance that the Bull has no legal power and prefer to move on to newer horizons rather than out right rescission. Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, stated:

“In the Catholic Church, there is no formal mechanism for rescinding a past teaching,” he said. Instead, the Catholic Church will focus on “teaching something new that’s different from what was taught before.” CBC

While modern day Catholics have made great strides to ameliorate the damage the Bull created, the foundation for racism and distrust of non-whites remains in the Church’s past and present, and its refusal to issue a full-throated condemnation of the document.

To be fair, not every Christian, Catholic or Protestant, adopts the White Christian Nationalist banner. There are, however, enough who do to cause concern on the national level. Author Eric Martin published an article in Sojourners magazine titled “The Catholic Church has a Visible White-Power Faction” where he wrote,

The Catholic Church harbors a culture sufficiently friendly to White Nationalism that people can comfortably embrace both the faith and the most extreme forms of racial hatred.

Numbers wise, Catholics and Protestants enjoy similar numbers hovering around one billion adherents each with Catholics with a slight edge. The slight edge in numbers disguises the zeal that evangelical Protestants bring to the table. The development of the American nation gave Protestants a sense of ruggedness and pride in the New World. Native Americans, and later African slaves, yielded a sense of superiority to whites, and they dealt decisively with both groups subjugating them in an attempt to define white and non-whites in terms advantageous to the whites and detrimental to the non-white targets of their religious teachings.

An article by Philip Gorsk appeared on the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace & Foreign Affairs website titled, “White Christian Nationalism: The Deep Story Behind the Capitol Insurrection”. Gorsk gives a clear-eyed assessment of White Christian Nationalism, and a picture of the danger they hold for American democracy.

“White Christian nationalism (WCN) is, first of all, a story about America. It says: America was founded as a Christian nation, by (white) Christians; and its laws and institutions are based on “Biblical” (that is, Protestant) Christianity. This much is certain, though: America is divinely favored. Whence its enormous wealth and power. In exchange for these blessings, America has been given a mission: to spread religion, freedom, and civilization—by force, if necessary. But that mission is endangered by the growing presence of non-whites, non-Christians, and non-Americans on American soil. White Christians must therefore “take back the country,” their country” (Gorsk)

Flash back to 2016 and the emergence of Donald Trump on the political landscape. As a grifter, serial liar, and “user” of everyone he encounters, Trump conned the unsuspecting religious community of White Christian Nationalism to bow at his feet. They saw in Trump a useful vessel into which they poured their twisted version of Christianity to permeate many layers of the then president’s agenda. Aided by big name evangelical pastors like Robert Jeffress, pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church, Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, disgraced Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church’s John Hagee, and of course, televangelist and spiritual advisor to the former president, Paula White. It seems obvious that with these dynamic and powerful leaders at the helm of their particular ministries possess an out-sized influence and command over millions of American worshipers.

The influence of White Christian Nationalists can best be seen on the grounds of the United States’ Capitol grounds on January 6, 2021. While White Nationalists were everywhere that day including inside the building and outside the Capitol, they were joined by a large contigent of White Christian Nationalists throughout the siege. In most cases it was hard to distinguish between the two. A full-size cross was on display along with signs and posters proclaiming “Jesus Saves”, “Make America Godly Again”, and impromptu prayer sessions were held across the lawn and in the Capitol itself. The unholy union of insurrectionists that day has not gone unnoticed.

Robert Jones, CEO of the independent nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute wrote, “The fact that we saw QAnon, white supremacy and white Christianity all carried together in a violent attack on the Capitol means that particularly white Christians have got some real soul-searching to do.” Huffpost

The arrogant actions of White Christian Nationalists runs deeply through the dogma of fundamentalism across religious affiliations and the nation if not the world. Religious fundamentalists believe that to show appreciation of God’s grace in the world they are bound to spread the gospel across the nation from the church pew to the government to the front lines of society’s social, moral, and ethical struggle to make the world over in their image. This image is intolerant, dismissive, and hell bent on claiming America for God and his/her agenda. The fact their actions can be harmful, and sometimes deadly, is overlooked in the quest for turning the country into a religious state regardless of the wants and needs of those who oppose them. And it shows no sign of diminishing.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do?

“No matter how responsible he seems, never give your gun to a monkey.”  Unknown

Let’s talk numbers, or in this case, a number. Take the number 617. It really isn’t an unusual number, but an important one as of today. You don’t need to remember it; it will change sometime today or tomorrow or soon. Why is it important? It is the number of mass shootings that have occured in 2022. Wow, you might say, or not, it seems Americans are inured to the simple truth that Americans are dying from gun violence in mass shootings almost daily; sometimes more on any given day.

The number 40,272 isn’t interesting itself. It is only when you attach lost lives to it that it becomes macabe. The number represents the lives lost to this point in our country to all gun related violence. Still, it is a hard perusal on the reality of America and a topic not highly publized. This information and more can be found at Gun Violence Archive (GVA). The site states, “Gun Violence Archive (GVA) is a not for profit corporation formed in 2013 to provide free online public access to accurate information about gun-related violence in the United States.” Since 2014, mass shootings jumped from 269 a year to 617 (and counting) in just eight years. Rational thinking people would understand there is something tragic going on in America, and nothing has been done to address the issue. The question is, “Why aren’t more people scandalized by these numbers?”

Of course, it would be naive to believe it is only about the deaths. While tragic and heartbreaking, they take a back seat to the poitical drama that surrounds mass shootings. America has been hijacked by gun rights enthusiasts and groups like the National Rifle Association. They are quick to pull out the Second Amendment card and amp up the fear that somehow some politician would be dumb enough to actually go after their guns. Indeed, I think most Americans support the Second Amendment and would actively work to keep it unsullied and in place. It isn’t about the right to bear arms; it is about the types of guns that are the issue. Assault rifles that were meant to be used in combat environments flood the American gun sales market year after year giving killers more sophisticated “tools” to ply their trade and kill victims who are almost universally unarmed and unsuspecting of what is happening. It is equally hard to become a statistic whether you are four years old or eighty years old, but that is the reality in America in 2022.

Much of the blame has to land on the Republican Party, and their immovable stance on gun control. In an article titled “Democrats vs. Republicans on the Second Amendment” on the website PoliticianCompare, Aditya Utturkar writes:

“Republicans’ stance on gun control stems from a deep-held belief in personal liberty and individual responsibility, and gun ownership being an extension of the right to self-defense. Republicans claim it is their right to protect themselves, family and private property from criminals, corrupt government, and war-time invasions . . . In addition, the National Rifle Association supports and funds several Republican lawmakers while also having a political lobby of their own. This adds a distinct dimension to Republican lawmaking that does not exist with the Democrats.” Source

The key words “to protect themselves, family and private property from criminals, corrupt government, and war-time invasions . . .” are at the heart of the matter. No one should be held legally liable for taking up arms to protect themselves, their family, or private property if such force is warranted. These are the basic rights of all Americans. However, “defending against corrupt governments” is a little questionable. When was the last time a foreign country threatened a modern day American household? Some would argue that the truth denying zealots who attacked the United States Capitol on January 6th did just that in defense of their actions. The salient point, though, is that the issue was not one of the government being corrupt, but the actions of one man who duped his adoring followers into committing an insurrection on false grounds. Donald Trump has to take the credit for that, and if all things are equal, he will face indictment in the days to come.

While some on the right would call the modern day clash between progressive liberals and conservative extremists a “war-time invasion”, the reality is much different. The rise of right wing militia is partially responsible, but blame again has to be placed on Trump and his deranged followers who will believe anything he says as the truth. No sane person thinks that the 2022 election was rigged or riddled with voting irregularities. The proof is there to be reviewed by anyone willing to read the federal and state reports certifying the election.

It would be presumptous to claim the rise in mass shootings is an outgrowth of the Republican’s “hands off” policy on gun control. However, the availability of military styled, rapid firing rifles like the AR-15 and the AK-47 are certainly a part of the problem. Semi-automatic pistols capable of firing multiple rounds per second from extended capacity clips are often the weapon of choice by mass shooters. While there are exceptions like the Euvalde school shooting where police and state officials refused to confront the shooter for well over an hour, most of the killings occur in a matter of minutes. The use of high quantity clips is not a choice of fate, but one premeditated to allow the gunman to kill the highest number of men, women, and children in the least amount of time.

While gun legislation is only a dim light at the end of a politically fraught tug of war, many on both sides of the arguement cite diminished mental capacity as the source of the issue. Politicians argue that rather than controlling the sale of the above mentioned weapons, they focus on the mental state of the killers. They argue that the most effective way to control this situation is to keep guns out of the hands of people unable to understand the difference between right and wrong. Wrong being entering a school, church, or workplace and opening fire on anyone that crosses their path. On the face of the mentally incapacitated argument, this seems like a logical explanation, however, the facts don’t back up the reality of mass shootings.

Dr. Ragy Grigis is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry in the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He is one of the most renowned voices on mental illness in the field. In a paper he and his colleagues published in January of 2021 for the publication Psychological Medicine (cambridge.org/psm), they found some interesting data that throws doubt on the validity of the mental illness argument as an impetus for mass shootings. Grigis notes that an estimated 5 % of mass shooting are related to severe mental illness. His team also found,

“. . . the contribution of mental illness to mass shootings has decreased over time. The data suggest that while it is critical that we continue to identify those individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders at high risk for violence and prevent the perpetration of violence, other risk factors, such as a history of legal problems, challenges coping with severe and acute life stressors, and the epidemic of the combination of nihilism, emptiness, anger, and a desire for notoriety among young men, seem a more useful focus for prevention and policy than an emphasis on serious mental illness, which leads to public fear and stigmatization.”

Oddly enough, Grigis states when mental illness is the cause of mass killings, those individals are “much less likely to use firearms than other methods, such as arson or knives.”

So, who are mass shooters and what motivates them to act out on dark impulses that end in a high body count? Part of the answer goes back to “the epidemic of the combination of nihilism, emptiness, anger, and a desire for notoriety among young men” noted above. In our overheated social/political malise that engulfs the country today, mass shooters turn to acting out on thier alienation taking lives to assuage their own internal dialogue/turmoil that casts them as angry outsiders, possibly helpless in their own eyes to achieve anything remarkable.

Many have suggested in lieu of labeling mass killers mentally ill they more accurately should be called domestic terrorists. In an opinion piece titled “It’s time to call mass shooters — and those that inspire them — terrorists” by Thom Hartman, he writes about mass killers,

“. . . . nobody’s calling them terrorists, and that’s a problem for America.

We didn’t call the jihadis who blew up the Twin Towers “mentally ill,” “disgruntled,” or discuss their “troubled past.” We correctly called them terrorists because they used mass murder to try to “right a wrong” or achieve a political goal, which is the literal definition of terrorism.”

Calling them domestic terrorist may not stop any future mass killing events, but it would certainly put a more realistic spin on the tragic phenomena that seems to be with us for the conceivable future.

Looking back at the beginning of this post started a week ago, I stated that the number 617 was not an unusal number. It represented the current number of mass shootings in America. Today, the number is 622. The total causalties for all gun violence was 40,272 last week. Today, the number is 41,358 and growing. Let that sink in.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do

Sean Hannity: “can’t say for sure where rumors of a Red Wave started.” 

Red Wave

What just happened?

Up until voting day, November 8, 2022, the doom and gloom that hung over the nation was a palatable force few in the Democratic Party denied. Conversely, the tenor of the Republican’s response hung somewhere between a schoolyard bully’s crass, mean-spirited smugness to near-giddy orgasmic exaltation by Trump’s MAGA and QAnon’s fellow travelers. Democrats were in deep doo-doo, and Joe Biden was proverbial toast. Republicans of all stripes and intelligence (or lack thereof) were in a veritable tizzy over the expectation Democrats were going to take one in the shorts. It was that way up until the closing of the polls when the “wave” took a left turn upending Republican’s wet dream of trashing Democracy as the nation knows it. It was a colossal misinterpretation of the country’s mood and understanding of what it means to be a patriot, or an insurrectionist for that matter.

The campaigns ended a week ago. This past weekend both Mark Kelly (D) Arizona and Katherine Cortez Mastos (D) Nevada were declared winners in their respective races, narrowly defeating their Republican rivals in an historic upset. The Democrats walked away with a clear majority in the Senate with one more race to be decided in December between Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R). Were Warnock able to beat Walker in the runoff, Senate dominance would be a forgone conclusion. At this time, control for the House is still not decided with more votes coming in from California and other races around the country. More on Walker later.

Of course, there are always winners and losers in an election as close as this one. Women were the foundation of the outcome on subjects ranging from abortion to facing down the uber mysognistic MAGA cretins as they pushed repression, white supremacy, and a host of unpalatable stances guaranteed to shock the most decerning voters. Joining women as a group were young voters. Together they proved pivotal in turning back any sembalance of Republican dominance.

“Some 27% of all people ages 18 to 29 cast ballots, more than in any recent midterm election except 2018, according to estimates from Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.”

They along with the rest of sane America delivered a messy, if somewhat delayed, message to the Republican Party. America is tired of the shit that passes for Trump and the air heads who choose to digest his message without engaging their brains. It was a thing of beauty.

Back to Herschel Walker and the good people of Georgia. Walker was the poster boy for Trump’s uncanny ability to look at a field of possible political prospects and decide to back the most despicable, lying, cheating candidate of the bunch. Walker was uniquely unprepared, or able, to pull off his charade of being a credible choice. Georgia Republicans looked at his performance and saw what Walker is in the light of day – a useful idiot. It was amazing seeing the rank and file of Georgia’s conservatives walking around holding their noses while proclaiming Walker’s unsavory resume didn’t matter. Only control of the Senate mattered, even if it meant electing someone who would never be up to the job that he was running for in the end. We will meet Warnock in early December to decide who gets the Senate nod, and hopefully, it will be the last anyone hears of Herschel Walker.

But here is the thing. During the actual run up to the election, Republicans had a good reason (in their minds) to back Walker. As stated above, control of the Senate lay in the balance. Now that Mark Kelly and Katherine Cortez Mastos have won their elections giving Dems a 50 vote balance, Walker’s election won’t matter in the scheme of things. Vice President Kamala Harris will still hold the deciding vote on any issue that comes out as a tie. Georgia conservatives have the unique chance to cleanse their tainted political palates by throwing their vote behind Warnock. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but the opportunity seems too tantalizing not to consider.

Last night, Donald Trump declared his decision to run a third time for a second term as president of the United States. Inretrospect, holding the announcement at a Mar A Lago ballroom might have made sense on some level. The former president is sequestered there by his daughter’s wedding, and it is a good place to lick his considerable wounds from the loss of the red wave on election day. Yet, there was something oddly unsettling seeing a half empty hall with diehard millionaires wandering around drinking libations out of styrofoam cups. The scene as a set up to the coming announcement lacked a certain je ne sais quoi to say nothing of the expected jubilation that usually accompanies these events. No one wants a somber atmosphere when expecting “bigly news” from the Orange Fuhrer. Just sayin’ . . .

And then there was the big guy strolling onto the podium like Nero smiling down at a burning Rome. If the mood of the room was low key, Trump’s speech was several steps down the ladder. Snorting like an aging bull, he rambled on about the glory that is Trump, and all of the wonderful things ahead for America if the populace will only vote him back in office. It seems that he didn’t believe his points anymore than the crowd who were notably quiet during most of the hour long ramblings. CNN pulled the plug after 25 minutes. Fox News lasted 40 minutes before switching to commentators’ assessments, but eventually returned for the tail end of the speech.

The big takeaway for the evening was, as to be expected, the lies and half truths that rolled from those pudgy orange lips without remorse or self awareness on his part. CNN fact checked the former president and came up with 20 different false claims (to their credit they note that the 20 citations were not a comprehensive list). Highlighting the parade of untruths were sea level rise which he claimed would rise “1/8 of an inch over the next 200 to 300 years”. CNN explained that the accepted reality is “sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10 – 12 inches (0.25 – 0.30 meters) in the next 30 years (2020 – 2050)”.

Another hooter was his take on his actions on tariffs on China. He stated, “No president had ever sought or received $1 for our country from China until I came along.” Again, CNN wrote that it is ridiculous to assume that no president before him raised money from tariffs on China. The story revealed, “In reality, the US has had tariffs on China for more than two centuries, and FactCheck.org reported in 2019 that the US generated an “average of $12.3 billion in custom duties a year from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission DataWeb.” In an aside CNN noted, it is not China that pays the tariffs, but importers and the American people who pay the dues for trading with China. Why Trump thinks this is something to brag about is confounding.

The other 18 topics CNN fact checked are more of the same half truths, outright lies, misdirection, and egotistical fairy tales Trump is known for in his speeches.

Getting back to the election, the real winner of the contest was American democracy, and the people who turned out and voted for the grown ups at the table. America has shifted to the left no matter however slight or unexpected. People like our country and the freedoms ensured them by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Trump has always been wrong on one central issue. He isn’t going to “make America great again”. America has always been great. Sure, we have problems, but the America we know and love will be great as it is long after a disgruntled egomanic has slipped into the dust bin of American history.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do?

“Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

Of all the ploys and dirty tricks that mean spirited Republicans and ultra conservatives have set in motion over recent years, banning books is the most egregious and foolish because it overwhelmingly targets one particular segment of society – children. Driven by fear, religious dogma, homophobia, and white identity politics, conservatives have launched a full scale assault on schools and public libraries across the nation. Their goal to foist their peculiar brand of morality on the minds and social development of children when they should be soaking up knowledge is reprehensible. The battlegrounds vary from community to community, but the up tick of challenges at city council and school board meetings is staggering and rife with hypocrisy and often unwarranted concern. Yet, their effect is unrelenting and coordinated involving state legislatures, politicians quick to feed an angry base red meat, and often, uninformed parents who seek to protect their children where no protection is necessary.

Of course, book banning is not a new phenomenon. In America, one of the first groups to ban a book was the holier-than-thou Puritans of Boston.  Jake Rossen writing for Mental Floss recounts the story of one Thomas Morton. Rosen writes that Morton ran afoul of the ruling Puritanical hierarchy when he moved to Massachusetts in 1624. Morton was somewhat of a party animal and chaffed at the oppressive lifestyle he was expected to follow as dictated by the church elders. Rosen notes he was also friendly with the Native Americans of the area; something the church vehemently discouraged as well. He was eventually forced to relocate out of the area. In retaliation he wrote New English Canaan in 1637. It was seen as “a searing indictment of conservative Puritan life.”

Rosen continued stating,

“In their eyes, Morton wasn’t just a prototype frat boy, {and} he was a direct threat to their way of life. His book was perceived as an all-out attack on Puritan morality, and they didn’t take kindly to it. So they banned it—and effectively banned Morton, too. He was refused entry back into Massachusetts and remained persona non grata until his death in 1643.”

Morton’s dilemma highlights a secondary effect that banning books carries with it. In a culture where conservatives are quick to pull out the cancel culture card, Republicans and conservatives are doing just that to the authors whose work they target. While some books are more controversial in their eyes, they show their true intent when they target books by well known American authors like Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison’s Beloved, numerous award winner Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Pulitzer Prize winner Harper Lee for To Kill a Mockingbird to name a few. Regardless of the fame and acclamation, writers through the years faced having their literary works denounced and cancelled due to the narrow minded bigots, religious extremists, and politicians who follow the hue and cry of constituents without regard to the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and press.

In today’s vicious climate of white identity politics and unyielding, evangelical holier than thou primness, the stakes are higher than ever. Critical race theory, LGBQT issues, and gender identity have become front and center in the conservative right’s campaign to stamp out all voices that do not adhere to a strict interpretation of both the Bible and white supremist goals. Granted, conservatives have every right to oppose topics which they find objectionable. The problem is they are willing to trample over the rights of others who disagree or find themselves living alternative lifestyles contrary to a hate filled minority willing to suppress anything that goes counter to their worldview. Banning books from libraries and course curricula across the nation is the go to tool conservatives employ in a widespread campaign of stifling those they don’t agree with in principle and others who they simply despise but not understand.

Critical race theory opponents are either willfully obtuse or simply disingenuous in their belief that race has not been a part of the makeup of American society. Why else would the nation need to implement Affirmation Action and civil rights laws to ensure that all people, regardless of their heritage or ethnic background, get the same chance of succeeding as their white counterparts? In an article posted to Market Realist titled “Critical Race Theory Controversy: Bans on Some Books by Black Authors”, Robin Hill-Gray writes,

“The age-old battle on banned books is reflected in the late Toni Morrison’s saying that parents should have the right to control what their children learn. But when books are banned publicly, it sets a precedent for what other children may want to learn, too. The future of books by marginalized communities is uncertain as political leaders, parents, and school districts struggle with uncomfortable subjects.”

It is important to note that the banning of books, regardless of the topic, stems from disgruntled groups grappling with “uncomfortable subjects”, not questions of illegality or even ethical reasons. These “uncomfortable subjects” are especially poignant when books are banned on LBGQT or gender issues. Not surprisingly, Christians are at the forefront of banning books dealing with anti-LBGQT and anti-gender topics. Christians for all of their proclamations of “love thy neighbor” and “we are all equal in the eyes of (their) God” are quick in their condemnation and repression of these sensitive subjects. It would be different if they were targeting adults who have become comfortable with their sexuality, but the targets of banned books in schools are the most vulnerable. Many are children grappling with self identity at a time when they are often confused and seeking real answers to the issues they are facing.

It wouldn’t be too far afield to equate the actions of book banning groups to the role played by Big Brother in George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel 1984. The slogan “Big Brother is watching you” that reoccurs throughout the book has become famous over the years symbolizing how reigning powers tend to suppress free thought by instilling in people the fear of being exposed. Brooke Baitinger writing for The Miami Herald cites a study done by PEN America that addresses the specter of repression that comes hand in hand with book banning. She quotes the study stating,

“It’s creating a chilling effect on teaching and learning, fostering “an increasingly punitive and surveillance-oriented environment” for educators and librarians . . . It harms the authors “whose works are being targeted” and “parents who want to raise students in schools that remain open to curiosity, discovery, and the freedom to read,” the report states.

Understandably, today, when Americans hear about banning books, they think of Florida and Ron De Santis’ campaign to remove books that he and his constituents find objectionable on topics from critical race theory to gender studies, and his disingenuous crusade to instill restrictions around “don’t say gay” topics among others. Yet, Florida is only one of 26 states that is actively attempting to keep books on topics they find uncomfortable out of the hands of students. Critics warn that the current climate of repression is only in its infant stage. As White Nationalist, evangelicals, and other hate groups get involved, more states will surely sign on to the crusade.

While book banning relies heavily on opinion and false assumptions of the harm books cause to children, the truth lies more on the positive side of the equation. In an article posted on the news site of Stetson University, the author details three important points about the effect (or non-effect) banning books has on students. Research shows that,

  • “Banned books did not predict GPA or violent/non-violent crime
  • GPA was predicted by increased reading for pleasure, but not required school reading
  • Banned books are associated with increased civic behavior (doing good for society) and low risk of antisocial behavior”

Ultimately, banning books is little more than suppression of thought and ideas. Two things that all students will suffer from in the end. Until the conservative right can be exposed as the authoritarian control freaks that they are, this debate will surely rage on for years to come.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to do?

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
― John Adams

What is Christian Nationalism and why should all American believers, non-believers, and even those of other faiths pay attention? Today, as the nation slides further and further into decisive debates over everything from education to the rise of MAGA to immigration to the rights of women to control their bodies, Christian Nationalism can be seen as a major contributor driving these destructive trends. Simply put, whereas once Christianity was a positive force in people’s lives, the rise of Christian Nationalists has cast a dark shadow over the role religion plays in American society, and more importantly, in how government works.

The origins of Christian Nationalism, oddly enough, lies in the roots of our democratic republic in the form of the First Amendment to the Constitution which states,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The problem from the beginning was two fold. First, the Founding Fathers were well aware of the problems created when a government placed religious restrictions on its populace. For years, Britain forced the Church of England’s doctrine on the new colonials. “Religious freedom attracted settlers to America. English Protestants sought to structure their society so that every part of life experienced the renewal of the Reformation. Quakers, Roman Catholics and others came to America to escape persecution.”

Consequently, the Founding Fathers had little patience with the way the British government insinuated religion into its policies of governance. They wanted to ensure the burgeoning American government kept religion out of governmental affairs and vice versa. Complicating the issue, the population of the new republic was heavily steeped in Christian belief and Christian ideals. The founders believed strongly that for a citizen to function at their best they should cleave to their religious ideals and live in accordance with those beliefs. This is where confusion came into play and has continued so through the years. Were the Founding Fathers opening the door for the intrusion of religion into governing of the nation? If not, why put it there in the first place.

The answer lies in the the phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” What was meant to be seen as creating a “wall of separation” between church and state always held the potential of being misinterpreted by zealous Christians wanting power that extended into the governance of the country. Both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson supported a “wall of separation” that kept religion and the state separate.

Today, Christian Nationalism is all the rage in conservative circles. It is important to recognize that the movement is staunchly embedded in both the conservative movement and the Republican Party. It would be easy to dismiss the culture of Christian Nationalism as just another phase that will pass in time. It will not, and it can only be assumed that as conservatism gains a firmer grasp on the nation, so too, will the Christian Nationalism. Understandably, the movement is one of white identity politics which reflects a portion of white America who believe they are being pushed out of their positions of power they held since the nation’s inception.

The Founding Fathers were not sanctioning Christianity as the one and only “American Religion”, but rather, were speaking in general terms about all religions. In the late 1600s through the middle of the 1700s, Anglicanism and Congregationalism were the driving forces in colonial America. Both were derivates of the English Puritan movement and emphasized the Protestant aspect of religion. There were, of course, people of the Jewish faith, some non believers, Native Americans, and others who did not fit the mold that the larger denominations espoused. Still, in the Founding Fathers’ eyes, all were afforded the same protection given them by the First Amendment. As Christianity prospered, other less popular belief systems remained in the shadows as the juggernaut of Christian faith grew wealthy, powerful, and ambitious.

Unfortunately, along with white identity politics, the movement harbors sinister and dehumanizing attributes. Racism, negative gender positions, violence, blind trust in leaders who shouldn’t be trusted, and an “us against them” mentality are part and parcel of the movement. Savvy political operatives like Ron DeSantis, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene (no matter how negative or untruthful) are just a few of those who have tapped into the angst that permeates the Christian Nationalist negative worldview.

Understandably, Donald Trump who has a huge political base associated with his MAGA movement has reaped the most from the Christian Nationalist movement. He has mined the depths of Christian Nationalism to further position himself as a Messiah for those hungry to see their beliefs brought to the national stage. Conspiracy theories, the attack on the Capitol on January 6, and a plethora of unfounded lies and fake news stories can be attributed to Trump’s wooing of the Christian Nationalist movement. As he becomes more and more threatened by the courts as they pursue him on a variety of fronts, Trump’s modus operandi is to further embrace those who would foist their religious views on the rest of the nation; something that will surely lead the nation into dire straits in coming months and years.

At this point it would be useless to point to nations around the world who are actually governed by religious nationalist. Everyone knows the horror that is the Taliban. Their repressive belief system leads to death and defilement of any one, especially women, who dare step out of line and confront their thuggish actions. Iran is another example where people live in fear for their lives as morality police are a constant threat of all who don’t share their brand of religious extremism.

Could Christian Nationalists succeed in gaining sufficient access to the American halls of power to institute a national religion (Christianity)? Would its faithful followers act to subvert the freedoms that are guaranteed by the constitution? In many ways it has begun already. It is important to note that Christian Nationalism is not strictly an evangelical movement although many evangelicals are a part of the crowd. In an article published in Christianity Today titled “Christian Nationalism is Worse than You Think“, the publication’s global media manager Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen sat down with Paul D. Miller, professor of the practice of international affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, to discuss Christian Nationalism to better define the movement. Miller notes that Christianity is a religion dedicated to worshiping the Christian god. He makes an important distinction, however, when he states,

“Christian Nationalism is a political ideology about American identity. It is a set of policy prescriptions for what the nationalists believe the American government should do. It’s not drawn from the Bible. It draws political theory from secular philosophy and their own version of history as well.” Source

In hindsight, Americans watched as Trump courted evangelicals and other religious leaders as part of his goal of spreading his conservative views to groups around the nation. Christian Nationalists took Trump’s acknowledgment of them as a carte blanche nod to spread the group’s devisive agenda. And it worked frighteningly well. The question is can they be stopped and will America have the wherewithal to say enough is enough? Only time will tell.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do?

I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was anything but a tribal myth. Hunter S. Thompson

Two speeches in the first week of September perfectly outline the areas of contention between the forces of democracy, and those who would reshape the U. S. government and the Constitution in an image that looks more like fascism everyday. Of course, the two speeches by President Joe Biden and Donald Trump offer a much different worldview of the nation and how the political winds are pushing both sides to the brink of incivility. Biden’s speech came from Philadelphia’s historic Independence Hall on September 1 while Trump chose Wilkes-Barre, Pa on September 3 at a gathering in support of carpetbagger Mehmet Oz, and his bid to win one of the state’s coveted Senate seats. Biden came sounding the alarm that our democracy is in peril and called for a unified front in confronting Trump and his MAGA supporters. Trump came to speak only to his faithful, sowing seeds of distrust and lies that suited his purpose.

Since much of Trump’s psychopathic wailings were mostly in response to what Biden had to say, Biden goes first. Most Americans know that Biden came out swinging by attacking Trump and his MAGA supporters as an aberration never seen in American history. When he stated early on in the speech, “. . . too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal, Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” it was obvious this was going to be a speech to rock the nation. Had Biden stopped there, the speech would still be one for the record books. However, the president had much more to say and hadn’t begun to throw shade on Trump and his freaky band of loyal insurrectionist.

It is important to note, as well, Biden went to great links to distinguish Trump’s MAGA supporters from mainstream Republicans by stating, “Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.” No, Biden was speaking directly to Trump and the MAGA crowd saying aloud what others have not. The jig was up, and Biden for one would no longer condone the actions of known insurrectionists who think their views are more important and beneficial for the country than sane and honest understanding of the issues. They are wrong, and he was right to say so for the nation to clearly hear and understand.

As is their wont, Trump and his minions were quick to cry foul, calling the speech political, rather than bipartisan. They claim the choice of Independence Hall , and the fact Marine guards stood behind the podium, were indications that the president was using both as a ploy to underscore his message. It was neither. The Republicans are revisionists and seem to forget presidents of their own party that used the military and government buildings as backdrops for their own political messages. Can anyone forget W standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” less than two years after September 11, 2002. In truth, the war was only just beginning. Or how many times in his four years of office did Trump use the White House, the Rose Garden, the Lincoln Memorial, and other sites to promote clearly political messages.

None of those instances compare to what Joe Biden did in Philadelphia . He wasn’t pushing a Democratic stance. Indeed, he seemed incredulous that much of the nation is either ignorant or complicit as to the gravity of what is going on in the nation today.. The only logical path was for him to cut to the quick of the matter and point a finger at the extreme right who are engaged in support of a creeping fascism that threatens the foundation of American democracy. He clearly surprised both the right and the left with his blunt, no nonsense delivery that named Trump and the MAGA Republicans as the culprits who choose conspiracy theories, Trump’s word, and nonsensical claims over truth and common sense. A more succinct way of describing Trump and his followers is in the incredible concept album The Point by Harry Nilsson and the song “The Pointless Man”. The lyrics quote the Rock Man when he says, “The rock man said, ‘Say babe , isn’t nuthin’ pointless about this game. The thing is, you see what you wanna see – and you hear what you wanna hear. You dig?”‘ Many in Trump World are obviously “seeing” the wrong things in America right now.

One reaction from the press deliciously describes what Biden accomplished in his speech. In an Opinion piece for Raw Story titled “No president in my lifetime ever talked about his Republican predecessor like Joe Biden did” , John Stoehr points out the oddity, and importance, of what Biden accomplished in his speech. He begins his commentary with the poignant statement, ” Here’s the important thing about the president’s prime-time address Thursday evening on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. That it happened.” Stoehr continues by beginning several of his paragraphs leading into the points he makes with the refrain, “No Democratic president has ever, in my lifetime . . .”

  • . . . talked about a former GOP president the way Joe Biden did,
  • . . . questioned publicly the elemental patriotism of a former Republican president and his followers.
  • . . . identified the people’s enemy in the course of being the people’s partisan.

He then lays out Biden’s reasoning in his own summation of the speech writing, “In my view, last night’s speech was the BFD of BFDs.”

There is a simple reason why Biden did what he did, and one that some Trump and his MAGA acolytes cannot seem to grasp or refuse to acknowledge. America has never had a president like Donald J. Trump. The other 45 presidents for the most part acted with dignity and honor that the office demands. Sure, there have been exceptions, Nixon and Clinton come to mind, however, no American president was a known serial liar, grifter, misogynist, insurrectionist, twice impeached, or who defaced America’s standing at home and abroad like he has and continues to do. Biden was right to call him and the MAGA horde out for what they are: People who do not love this country and want to tear it down for their own selfish reasons jeopardize the very foundations of our republic. It is Biden’s job to call out those who would do so in as harsh and forceful a manner as possible. It’s called tough love.

Then there was Trump’s speech in Wilkes-Barre, PA with a decidedly darker and more insular tone. The speech ran two hours with little new revealed by Trump as he sang a false tune of danger and foreboding. It was only in the last six minutes when maudlin music filled the arena and his voice turned into a sing song lilt that things got interesting. Much like a greatest hits revival tour, Trump bashed everyone who he feels has not kissed the ring and backed his falsehoods and conspiracies.

This was the first time Trump spoke since the FBI served a search warrant on his Mar-a-Lago compound, so of course, they were the first to be criticized. He claims Democrats weaponized law enforcement “like never before” before claiming the FBI does not pursue “election facts” that tend to reside only in his mind. The Department of Justice in his view either condones or allows “egregious acts of voting irregularities and fraud”. His next statement is actually ironic when he said America has a president who is “cognitively impaired, and everyone knows it.” This is a point in his dirge that one realizes that maybe continuing is a waste of time. He goes on to touch on all of the hot button items that MAGA Republicans eat up like candy: China, Iran, free speech, the press is the enemy of the people, blah, blah, blah . . .

The gist of the speech’s ending is that compared to Biden’s speech Trump has nothing new to offer. While Biden’s speech might be seen as a bit caustic, Trump’s speech confirmed what the current president was trying to get across: Trump and MAGA republicans want to tear down our government and Constitution to uphold their falsehoods, grift, and the deeply held vision that America is doomed unless people turn to him as their savior. Biden put a wedge in that argument by calling out Trump and the MAGA crowd, but at the same time, acknowledging that not all Republicans are Trump Republicans. No one can say what the future holds for Donald Trump, but it is a good bet he won’t be winning over the minds and hearts of true Americans and patriots any time soon.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to do?

“Better to be afraid and prepared, than happy and dead.”
― Lenore Stutznegger

Writing about politics, the economy, or the state of American democracy is becoming increasingly hard. Doom and gloom permeates just about every news cycle. In 2022 the crossover into how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis is getting just as difficult. Wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, extreme flooding, and a plethora of other climate related events are pressing topics that cannot be ignored. Americans find that their lives are increasingly susceptible to the ravages of the bugaboo de jour that Mother Nature serves up on an endless cycle year after year. People are dying, losing their homes, and generally holding their breath in hopes that the next round of cataclysmic events doesn’t fall heavily on their doorsteps.

The time worn adage that the governments of the world have everything under control is all but laughable on its face. Since December of 2015 when 200 nations across the globe met in Paris to discuss what could be done to address climate change, most of the world breathed a sigh of relief thinking that, finally, something was being done to meet this challenge head on and make a difference. Or so the world thought.

The Paris Agreement did the best and the least it could do to appease all of the participating nations to get them to sign on to the document. Think, herding angry, wild and feral cats. The scenario is akin to walking into a darkened room to find a time bomb set to explode in 3 minutes. Diplomats and politicians too often think first about their country’s needs weighed against stymieing economic growth even if the topic is saving the world. The two are often contrary to sane or prudent actions. The Agreement did acknowledge that the burning of fossil fuels by humankind “as the primary engine of economic growth” had to come to an end for both the largest and smallest of countries. An article appearing in Time Magazine just after the signing of the Agreement laid our the basic parameters of the deal which was as vague as it was insufficient. The article stated:

“The deal requires any country that ratifies it to act to stem its greenhouse gas emissions in the coming century, with the goal of peaking greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible” and continuing the reductions as the century progresses. Countries will aim to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100 with an ideal target of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C (2.7°F).” Time

At the time the Agreement was touted as a significant step in the long road to stemming the devastating tide of climate change across the world. The Agreement called for a two step verification process. First the signing of the document then the individual nation’s ratification of it. Not all the nations involved stayed the course and signed then ratified the Agreement. The United Nation’s website states, “. . . of those 197 signed, only 190 have ratified the Paris Agreement. (America was onboard under Barrack Obama until 2017 when Donald Trump began the process of withdrawing America’s support and left the Agreement in 2020. Once in office, Joe Biden signed an Executive Order to rejoin the Agreement.) The Agreement can be seen as a modest success after years of climate denial by nation’s across the world.” UN Paris Agreement

As would be expected, a majority of the delegate nations were somewhat pleased by the Agreement’s modest success. It addressed everything from greenhouse gases to transparency to as “John Coequyt, the Sierra Club’s director of federal and international climate campaigns, said the agreement included “all the core elements that the environmental community wanted.” Of course, there were also many naysayers. Some people thought the Agreement didn’t go far enough and more needed to be done. Then there are those like some of America’s conservatives who do not believe in the science behind climate change. Others like Friends of the Earth U.S. President Erich Pica said the agreement is “not a fair, just or science-based deal” because it fails to adequately address losses due to climate change in the most vulnerable countries. What to know . . .

Due to the unique structure of the Agreement, each country set their own goals in limiting the effects of climate change. Not every nation has met those goals. Still, most would agree that something being done is better than no progress at all. Right? The question is: are the goals being met enough to make a difference in the world by the end of the century? Everything said before comes down to this crucial question, and the answer lies within the realm of science and climatologists as it should be. This is where things get ugly.

The goal of eliminating worldwide greenhouse gases to ensure temperatures don’t rise above the 2°C (preferably 1.5°C) by 2021 was a compromise that nations of the world could sign off on in a show of solidarity. It’s an arbitrary goal hammered out during the Agreement that allowed attendees to agree to something acceptable without doing damage to the economies of both small and large governments. It was a noble gesture, and one that on the surface appeared to be a positive step in the fight to save the planet from devastating climate change. However, as in all things as important as fighting climate change, the devil is in the details.

On August 1, 2022, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published the findings of eleven scientific researchers from around the globe titled “Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios“. The paper states, “They propose a research agenda into the consequences of global warming, specifically the worst-case scenarios they claim have been understudied.” Worst case scenarios? Understudied? It appears that the Paris Agreement’s stated goals were less than comprehensive when it comes to the actual reality of what climate change could entail for the future of the world. Most people who take climate change seriously understand on some level that bad things will result from not stemming the effects of climate change. The findings of the eleven researchers move the ball down the field bypassing the head in the sand approach the world used to deny or playdown the effect of the changes that could occur.

The paper is chock full of data, suggested outcomes, and extensively sourced to back up the paper’s findings. Fundamentally, the researchers say that by studying the “worst case scenarios” it will better inform the world on the steps that have to be taken to really understand what has to be done, and done quickly to save the planet and humankind. The abstract to the paper states,

The proposed agenda covers four main questions: 1) What is the potential for climate change to drive mass extinction events? 2) What are the mechanisms that could result in human mass mortality and morbidity? 3) What are human societies’ vulnerabilities to climate-triggered risk cascades, such as from conflict, political instability, and systemic financial risk? 4) How can these multiple strands of evidence—together with other global dangers—be usefully synthesized into an “integrated catastrophe assessment”?

The authors cite the Toronto Conference declaration in 1988 the effects of climate change are ‘”potentially second only to a global nuclear war”‘. Additionally, they note, the catastrophic effects of climate change are poorly understood and need more studies by the world’s scientific community. They also give evidence attributed to the Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that “quantitative” estimates placing the warming increase at 3 °C or above.” This flies in the face of the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C to 2°C global increase by 2100. However, the Paris base is not altogether a superfluous figure. The paper notes by understanding the cascading effects that occur between now and the turn of the century at the 1.5°C to 2°C global increase in warming will better inform scientists on what measures are necessary to undertake to face the potential for worldwide catastrophe. The paper notes that the Paris Agreement settled on the figures they did because ‘”the culture of climate science (is) to ‘err on the side of least drama, to not to be alarmists”‘.

The key take away here is the “cascading effects” that will occur between now and the end of the century. While it is noble of the nations to sign on to the Agreement and work to achieve the modest goal of not going beyond the 1.5°C to 2°C global increase, it doesn’t ameliorate the damage already done, nor does it stop the damage that will continue as the years go by. This is where the cascading effect comes into play. Wildfires, famine, conflicts that will surely come as sea levels rise and people move across borders into neighboring countries are only a few of the scenarios. The fact that climate change is occurring at an unprecedented rate should be enough to alarm even the most die-hard naysayers.

Honestly, the report is so filled with data this post cannot adequately sum up the depth of information included in the paper. The upshot one might take away from the report is nations of the world cannot become complacent of the very real danger that faces the earth by 2100. When the researchers write about “global catastrophic and decimation risks” or “extinction threat”, they are not employing scare tactics. They are merely pointing out that many of the terms associated with global warming are not clearly understood and require further extensive research to help leaders and scientists to understand the dire consequences of not immediately confronting the future outcomes that the world’s societies will face down the road.

While this report is not “light reading”, the information is presented in a way that anyone can understand the findings they report in the paper. Please go to Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios and see for yourself.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to do?

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. Cicero

Okay, okay, okay . . . let me see if I have this straight. After six years of lies, grift, outright fraud, politically embarrassing moments at home and abroad, Donald Trump left the White House with a butt load of classified documents that have now been seized, and the man is still walking around freely? It is a telling sign that no one on either side of the political spectrum hasn’t come forth to say, “Hey, wait a minute. This guy should be in jail.” Alas, no one has the moral fortitude, it seems, to do that in today’s American clown car of a shit storm that passes for a normal day in the nation.  

Okay, granted, Trump’s past transgressions were over the top, but he is not being held responsible for many of his crimes, if not thrown into a deep dark hole any time soon. The renown “I grab ’em by the pussies” charmer extraordinaire has literally turned our democracy on its head, fomented an insurrection, talked crap ninety miles an hour about friend and foe, and it’s taken him absconding with boxes of classified material to be brought to heel by Merrick Garland – to achieve – what? And why now? For Christ’s sake, the man has two impeachment trials under his belt, a slew of sexual harassment suits by women he abused and has tried to grasp power from every source he encountered. Hell, he even had Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak (read: spy operatives) into the Oval Office early on in his tenure as president where he revealed top secret information about a proposed U.S. Islamic State operation while bad mouthing then director of the FBI, James Comey, who he had just fired. The man is a walking criminal enterprise even the most cruel and despotic Mafia boss would swoon over just thinking about the grift dripping off Trump’s orange bouffant.

There has been much talk about who helped him get the boxes packed, loaded, and shipped to Mar-a-Lago to simmer out of sight in some squalid little rathole. Who cares? Find out all involved and charge them with whatever broken laws will put them into jail for the longest duration of time. Let’s see Trump handcuffed and shackled then perp walked out of his golden bathroom and led to a squad car with a banner flying from the antenna “I broke the law and now I have to face the consequences”. For all of Garland’s “No man is above the law” rhetoric, I fear it will be a long time coming when something of this nature actually transpires.

While law enforcement is at it, why not crack down on Trump’s enablers in Congress. Actually, it is hard to know which Republicans are not up to their eyeballs in planning the insurrection and the ongoing coup attempt facing the nation at this moment. It would do no good at this point to engage in name calling, but I’ll do it anyway. The Jordan, Cruz, Loopy Louie, Trump Jr, Ivanka, Eric, and that little simp, Jared Kushner, are all implicated in the most egregious onslaught on the American experiment in democracy that has ever occurred. Whose great idea was it to allow people in public life to ignore subpoenas passed out by Congress, simply to circumvent legal responsibility for their actions? I don’t give a damn if they don’t agree with the subpoenas levied against them. In the real world where you and I live, ignore a lawfully handed down call to appear before a legitimate court or government committee, and BAM! our asses would be in jail. These idiots believe they are above the law and delight in making a mockery of our judicial system. To paraphrase a saying from the Orange One, “Lock ‘em up!”  

Several news pundits have come to the forgone conclusion that Trump is not a “literate” man and that (to put it kindly), not really interested in anything that doesn’t shine a golden light on him personally. Forget the kids. Forget the enablers. Forget Melania (or whatever her name is). If it doesn’t feed his huge narcissistic ego, it doesn’t matter. And all the time this wicked little scenario called Trump’s presidency is still unfolding; he is raking in millions of dollars off of a situation he created by breaking the law, and there is no end in sight. The idea he might run again for the presidency is frightening when one considers he might win. Let’s face it; Republicans and extreme conservatives have shown clearly they don’t respect the will of the people, the rule of law, but support questionable precedents set down by the Supreme Court that fly in the face of the Constitution and common sense. These people are playing hardball, and as a country, Americans need to face the harrowing truth that unless they are stood up to in a real and meaningful way, we are screwed as a nation.

There is little doubt Trump is guilty of a lot. The 500-pound gorilla in the room is whether the select committee and/or the Georgia grand jury findings in election tampering will end up in an indictment of the former president. While seeing Trump hauled into a courtroom to face his crimes and punishment, all of the hopes and dreams of justice may not matter in the end. There is a term called Public Peace that will surely be bandied about in the future when dealing with a Trump indictment. In this case the term means simply that there are issues that override commonly accepted judicial practices when it comes to preserving the peace between two rival factions on the national stage. This is especially true when one faction claims special interest in the outcome of the debate. For example, think of how the MAGA faction would react to having Trump face indictment, conviction, and possible incarceration for his crimes. Many Trump supporters are already bringing up the Civil War card if such events transpire. What would Joe Biden do to ensure the peace and stability of the union?

Harlan Ullman is senior adviser at Washington’s Atlantic Council. He addressed this possibility in an column recently titled “If Donald Trump were convicted, Joe Biden would have to consider a pardon”. It should be noted this is not the first time a president pardoned someone to preserve the Public Peace. The first time came at the end of the Whiskey Rebellion when two farmers were convicted and sentenced to hang for their their rebellious acts. Washington justified his decision to pardon the men citing the public peace demanded that tempers be cooled, and peace allowed to return. Ford pardoned Nixon to ensure public peace reigned. Bill Clinton got a slap on the wrist for his sexual escapades and was allowed to complete his term in office. Both Nixon and Clinton presumably where to withdraw from politics and keep a low profile. Of course, their actions over the years proved differently, but the Public Peace was secured at the flash point created by both men’s actions.

In his column Ulman suggests that most Americans do not realize just how incendiary the findings of the January 6 committee might be, and the impact that it will have on both sides of the political spectrum. The Democrats will want blood while the conservative supporters of the president (MAGA and others) will topple off of the already precarious ledge where they reside built on lies, white nationalism, whataboutism, and white privilege. The result will be a country in tinderbox mode waiting for the first errant spark to explode into chaos.

Obviously, the Public Peace will take a direct hit in the shorts and lay whimpering in the gutter where many on the right want it to be already. The old adage “Might makes Right” lies at the kernel of their thinking. It isn’t clear that the firebrands leading this movement have the ability to instill the same fervor into their followers, especially when bullets start flying and casualties start adding up. Make no mistake, there will be casualties should the Department of Justice and state courts indict and convict Trump and his minions. Of course, our democracy will not be able to withstand the proven lawlessness of Donald Trump if it goes unpunished. The question is will Biden decide in the name of Public Peace that a pardon is in order and allow Trump to go free to continue his crazy antics at the expense of democracy. Or will we have the inevitable reckoning that is required to sustain and protect the Republic against all enemies, foreign and domestic?

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to do?

The mind of America is seized by a fatal dry rot – and it’s only a question of time before all that the mind controls will run amuck in a frenzy of stupid, impotent fear. Hunter S. Thompson

Is there anyone in the United States who can say with a straight face that the old adage, “. . . going to hell in a handbasket” doesn’t apply to the nation’s current zeitgeist? In today’s climate of snark, vitriol, and pandering to the extreme segments of society, it would be well to remember where the term supposedly originated. “The origin of the phrase ‘hell in a handbasket’ can be found in the practice of capturing the heads of guillotine victims in a basket, with the presumption being that these criminals would be going straight to hell for their crimes.” Harsh words, but realistically in light of the state of American democracy, who can deny it?

In the last decade, along with the respect for fellow citizens, the reins of government slipped from the hands of legislators, judges, and the president into the hands of those who would steer the country to achieve their own personal agendas. In a recent commentary posted on the political blog Rawstory.com, noted political pundit, Thom Hartmann, opens his article stating, “Now it’s official. Twenty-seven men run this country.” Hartmann rightfully points the finger at the boneheaded move by the Supreme Court a decade ago that gave legal status to Citizen’s United. The decision literally allowed unrestricted dark money from corporations and individuals to funnel cash into the political arena.

The result is seen in the partisanship that grips the three bodies of government. Where there once was a chance of bipartisan cooperation across the aisles of Congress, those days are long gone. Rabid partisanship is the rule not the exception. Extreme conservatism and unbridled liberalism butt heads on a daily basis. Those caught in the middle, vote not their conscious, but line up like sheep to support the political party who put them in a position of power. Courts are packed with judges who feel legislating from the bench is their right, regardless of what the Constitution says or intended by the Founding Fathers. The presidency is little more than a glorified empty seat of power. Presidents are no longer respected, but ridiculed, reviled, and hated by the opposition party both at home and abroad.

It is little wonder that the mood of the country reflects this contentious climate in towns and cities across the nation. America is more polarized now than at any time since the Civil War. Local city council and school board meetings are ground zero battlegrounds pitting citizens against one another on topics ranging from religion, gender issues, civil rights, and how and what students read or are taught in the classroom. Issues that once lounged in the shadow of the Constitution’s protection are now flashpoints that pit neighbors, friends, and families against one another with victory at any cost the only acceptable outcome.

Both on the national and local levels, vitriol that takes the form of personal attacks is all too common. Shaming one’s opponents is the tool often used in today’s climate of discord. No one should be surprised by this turn of events. Shaming has a long and unhealthy place in America’s history books. Like many forms of control, shaming others is often the bailiwick of those in power whether it be politically, economically, or socially. From debtor’s prisons to the stocks on public squares to dunce caps in schools, America used shame as a corrective tool against those opposed to the goals of the powerful. Today is no different. While a crude and unflattering example of humankind’s insensitivity, shaming is an effective and efficient manner of alienating blocks of people who do not fit into the expectations of what the powerful want curtailed or controlled.

Shaming is tied to fear and guilt. White Nationalists fear losing their place in America’s rapidly changing demographics which places their position of authority in numbers at risk. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this when he stated, “The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.” King’s words play out time after time when Donald Trump holds a rally. His Make America Great Again (MAGA) campaign is at its roots nothing less than a call to arms of those who identify with his belief that those who oppose him are worthy of nothing less than shame and condemnation. The MAGA phenomenon as crude and unseemly as it is, at its core, is understandable on some levels. These are frightened people unsure of their place in an ever-evolving society. They point fingers and condemn those who would work for change and social justice.

While they could be seen as pitiable on some level, in Trump, they found a sounding board that plays into their false beliefs and supports the fear of victimhood that permeates the movement. They are literally held up as the true America by Trump’s rhetoric and feed on a steady diet of claims like the Democrats are a combination of socialist, Antifa radicals, pedophile devils, and malcontents who are attacking the very foundation the America they believe they are protecting. The sheer hyperbole of these beliefs is reason enough to question the motives and connection to realty that the MAGA supporters harbor. Regardless, they feel justified in finger pointing to assuage their sense of persecution and estrangement from an increasingly fragmented American society. They think they are being shut out of the national dialogue conveniently overlooking their pro-violence, white supremist, and fascist/authoritarian mindsets which goes contrary to the Constitution and American civility.

When trying to understand the roots of the current climate of shame afoot in American society, MAGA supporters are the go-to low hanging fruit of those who would use shame as a tool to ridicule opponents. Their acts to preserve their place in American society are often deadly comical and certainly contrary to democratic thinking. Yet, they are widely seen as the torch bearers from everything from Stop the Steal to the January 6 insurrection played out on the grounds of the national capital. In a opinion piece published by Salon, Michael Gueldry writes of the roots of the MAGA movement stating:

“What we might call the Great Demolition plot includes establishing a corporate oligarchy, a neo-feudalist regime based on long-term minoritarian rule and a malevolent pseudo-Christian theocracy undergirded by state thuggery and social authoritarianism, all of it infused with an incoherent ideological blend of anarchic libertarianism (on guns and most forms of regulation) and fascistic nightmare (white supremacy, antisemitism and numerous grades of conspiracy theory). Salon

As stated above, MAGA followers are the low hanging fruit, simply because the amount of press they receive from conservative media outlets and from politicians trying to appease the former guy in hope of winning his backing. The truth is there is more than enough to blame in the dumbing down and caustic atmosphere that grips the nation. Liberal and conservative Democrats deserve just as much blame in fanning the fires of dissension as their conservative and radical Republican counterparts. To heal this rift in American politics and society, the tenor of our national debates must evolve to a more civil and constructive discourse in which Americans discuss the big issues that affect daily life. In today’s contentious climate of accusations and counter accusations from all sides, the outlook can only be seen as bleak and depressing at best.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do?

“Misinformation is a virus unto itself.”
― Brianna Keilar

In 2015 the arrival of Donald Trump on the political landscape seemed like a gift from the journalism gods. Here was a man with few filters and many delightfully bizarre and disturbing incidents in his past. The prospect of lampooning him grew like a festering boil on the pan head of every liberal/progressive who could string three sentences together in anything resembling a coherent thought. And did he deliver.

Trump’s win in 2016 gave America an unprepared, under educated, and amoral president with little or no interest in improving the lives of average Americans. Indeed, his modus operandi was antithetical to actions of most who served before him. From the beginning, Trump was a hot mess spread on a thin veneer of questionable success based mainly on his own statements highlighting his shady real estate career, success as a television reality show host, and by the support of those who willfully sold their souls to him for their own personal self-aggrandizement. From the time he took office to the time he left the White House shrouded in a grifter’s stew of lies, falsehoods, and shady dealings behind the scenes, he proved to be a flimflam artist on every level. He is and was a shameful man child with little recognition of anything that approximated the qualities of a competent leader or the truth.  

Those heady days are gone along with America’s collective shock of what Trump and his associates really had in store for the country. As much as he was a bumbling, inept clown, his actions will have reverberations that last far longer than the memory of his criminality, or the surprise of just how much damage he sought to cause in his persistent attempts to hang on to the nation’s highest office. Yet, the die is cast, and the country has to come to grips with how to deal with it all.

As Americans saw recently with the actions of the Supreme Court, Trump crafted an extreme right-wing majority of likeminded justices that are wasting no time implementing their white, evangelical nationalism on the rest of the populace. With the overruling of Roe vs Wade, the court demonstrated how the conservative Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Roberts, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett are willing to steer the nation against the will of the American people. In the days following the demise of Roe vs Wade, the Court issued rulings that struck down a gun control law in New York state, and weakened the wall between church and state by sanctioning prayer on school grounds. Restricting the EPA’s ability to monitor and fight climate change was simply icing on the cake. And this is just the beginning.

It is hard to believe that the emotionally and intellectually challenged former president even understood the effect his actions would produce. It is even harder to believe that he cared. Appointing three radical personalities to the high court is a politically expedient act meant to throw red meat to his crazed followers to shore up their support. Still, while expected, the sweeping rulings by the court and the breadth of their impact on American society caught many off guard.

As bad as these early rulings are, they portend even more egregious decisions in the offing. Gay rights, gay marriage, eliminating contraceptive rights, immigration restrictions, race in college admissions, voting rights, and of course, free speech are all in the crosshairs in next year’s Supreme Court docket. To use a crass overstatement, the court has become the ultra-right’s lurid wet dream. The possibilities are far reaching and frightening. The next year will be crucial to the continuance of our democracy.

Why the urgency? Americans have to awaken to the fact that the Republican Party no longer supports the will of the people. They are the party of big business, the one percent, and are rapidly becoming the party of white nationalists, rabid evangelicals, and power-hungry insurrectionists willing to sell the nation out to fulfill their unpatriotic agenda. It is necessary to point out that the few sane Republicans left in the party’s ranks have been duped into believing that America is not great, and Trump has the answer to the ills facing the nation. He doesn’t, and therein lies the rub.

A steady diet of Fox News, slanted conservative talking points, and a fear of becoming irrelevant in the face of growing numbers of brown skinned people has the MAGA crowd peeing their pants and closing their ears to the truth. The Republican Party has been playing the long game from at least the point when the Supreme Court gave George W. Bush the presidency despite Al Gore winning the popular vote. The decision highlighted the need to scrap the Electoral College in lieu of using the popular vote as a barometer of where the nation’s consensus lay. Despite Barack Obama’s eight years in office, Congress skewed right setting the stage for Mitch Mc Connell’s crusade to pack the court with conservative judges to set up the current state of affairs America finds itself in today.

This is why the next year will be so crucial. Given the Court’s actions over the past month, Americans can expect more of their rights trampled upon and severely restricted. Conservatives know the actions of the court will bring on an onslaught of dissention among liberals and moderates. Still, expect the court to act in flagrant disregard of the will of the people. They believe that if they can pass crippling voting rights restrictions, shore up the states’ abilities to question election results, and marginalize entire blocs of voters, they will have gained control of the government despite the Democrats being in charge of both chambers of Congress.

Yet, conservatives understand their playbook is little more than a governmental game of chicken; a game they have to win next year. Conservatives know they are walking a slippery slope. The justices have one shot at reconstructing America’s democratic process. A half-hearted attempt in 2023 to legislate by judicial decree would place them in an untenable position. Liberals and moderates would rise up and punish them at the ballot box in 2024. Republicans are playing for all the marbles in this game, and they are playing to win. Anything less than a tumultuous year of judicial decrees further cementing them into power would be unthinkable. Expect the fireworks to begin on October 3 of this year when the 2023 Supreme Court begins their deliberations in reshaping America in their image. It will be interesting if not pretty.