Do You Smell What I Smell?

In another effort to quash the will of the majority of its citizens, the state of Texas passed a draconian anti-abortion law that effectively outsources law enforcement to vigilantes. The Supreme Court refused to issue an injunction to stop the law from taking effect before a full review of its breathtakingly unconstitutional provisions could be examined.* Effectively, abortion has been criminalized in Texas and enforcement of the law has been handed to bounty hunters, who have been offered cash prizes for spying on neighbors.

Historian and Professor Heather Cox Richardson puts it this way:

“The Republican Party is empowering vigilantes to enforce their beliefs against their neighbors.”

Ordinary citizens with nothing more than greed, strong opinions and with no training are now allowed to file lawsuits against anyone even remotely associated with an abortion, even those just having a conversation with a woman who may be thinking about it. They don’t even have to show harm to themselves to have standing to sue others for $10,000 or more, others who are doing Constitutionally protected things, even just having a conversation. That effectively makes these vigilantes the Thought Police** and trashes the First Amendment.

Regardless of how you feel about abortion, the worst part of this law is not that, even as harmful to women as this Texas hypocrisy is. It is about empowering vigilantes to perform the duties of the state in order for the state to avoid judicial review. Now, think about what that could mean.

Texas could enact another law that outsources collecting tax penalties to vigilantes, that encourages armed, ignorant citizens to pursue those they imagine have broken the law, that can allow extremists to sue journalists and news organizations to penalize their adverse reporting of politicians. The state can just turn everything over to crazed vigilantes and effectively do an end run around the courts.

You know, like in Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Like in the communist Soviet Union. Like in all repressive states. Neighbors turning on neighbors.

We already know what mobs of impassioned, self-important people can and will do. We saw that on January 6 at our Capitol Building. Now imagine such people up close and personal. They’re delusional about their patriotism and notions of godliness. They’re untrained and uninformed greedy bounty hunters rampaging through your neighborhood pretending they’re trained police officers and looking for you to sue you into bankruptcy.

Perhaps the worst part of this is that the extremist Republican Supreme Court justices could have stopped this plainly unconstitutional lunacy with an injunction, but they refused to do so. They allowed this law to go into effect without even having heard the case against it, which is coming before the court soon. They have abandoned the rule of law. Clearly, something needs to be done about this extremist court, because they aren’t done “legislating their ideology from the bench.”

Another Texas law makes it legal for gun toting vigilantes to roam around polling places – inside – and intimidate voters. The Texas hits just keep on coming.

These laws are sure to be copied by other minority rule, extremist Republican controlled states and we’ll have Wild West, blatantly unconstitutional actions all across our nation.

Let’s see: The Republicans have given us legally sanctioned vigilantism; minority rule; measures to encourage the infection of citizens with a deadly disease; horrific voter suppression; abandonment of the rule of law; refusal to hold cops accountable; refusal to extend healthcare to poor people; encouragement of insurrection; concealed carry and stand your ground laws that make murder legal; lies and cruel fictions replacing facts and truth; a rejection of science and a celebration of ignorance; bloated enrichment of the already wealthy and the impoverishing of our poor and middle class citizens; the destruction of trust in our electoral system; the teaching of religion in our public schools; the promotion of White supremacy and the glorification of racism; the denial of global warming in favor of enriching their wealthy donors. What else?

In the 2020 general election campaign the Republican Party had no platform. They offered a single page of rah-rah. That’s it. They offered no declaration of what they were about or of their vision for America. Sadly, now we know what they’re about. Now we know their dystopian vision for the destruction of our democracy.

I smell tyranny. I smell authoritarianism and dictatorship. I smell fascism and it stinks.

Do you smell what I smell?

Wanna Fight This Insanity? Here’s How

Sheila Markin is a friend, the publisher of The Markin Report and she smells what’s burning, just as you do. If you haven’t yet subscribed to her posts, you truly need to. She just emailed me with news about a couple of Zooms I’m certain you’ll want to attend.

As you can see from the destructive laws being enacted in Texas and elsewhere to assault our rights and our democracy, there’s much we have to learn and much we have to do. To that end, Sheila has put together two educational 1-hour Zooms for us. These are being offered at no cost and there will be no requirement to donate. This is about making a critical difference. Here is the schedule.

September 17 at 2:00PM CDT – Media Matters will help us understand how they fight disinformation. Did you ever imagine that there would be a need to fight a constant tsunami of disinformation? Well, there is and you’ve known it for a while. We need to get smart about dealing with that.

September 24 at 2:00PM CDT – The 314 Project will explain how they are working to get doctors and scientists elected to Congress, as well as to state and local positions of leadership. Take just a moment to consider what it would be like if doctors had legislative input on medical issues and if scientists had input on issues of science, instead of such things being handled by self-serving, ignorance-loving, know-nothing  politicians. Breathtaking!

Note that in order to attend you need to email Sheila at [email protected] and let her know you’ll be there. That way you’ll be on the approved good-guy list for the presenters and the Zooms.

Please invite your friends, your network of contacts who are concerned about our country, who insist that our democracy survives these assaults from the radical right wing.

I’ll be there and will be looking for you.


* You must read Justice Sotomayor’s blistering dissent. Download a copy of all the justices’ opinions. Sotomayor’s comments begin on page 7.

In reading her comments I was reminded of a college football cheer, paraphrased thusly:

“Rip ’em up, tear ’em up, give ’em hell, Sotomayor!”

** From Wikipedia:

“In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), by George Orwell, the Thought Police (Thinkpol) are the secret police of the superstate Oceania, who discover and punish thoughtcrime, personal and political thoughts unapproved by Ingsoc‘s regime. The Thinkpol use criminal psychology and omnipresent surveillance via informers, telescreens, cameras, and microphones, to monitor the citizens of Oceania and arrest all those who have committed thoughtcrime in challenge to the status quo authority of the Party and the regime of Big Brother.”


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The Fine Print:

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Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Are You Seeing a Pattern? Ug!

We humans are predisposed to look for causes for what we see, relationships to explain the way things work and patterns of events to help us predict the future. For example, if caveman Ug leaves his cave, turns left and runs into no danger, and if this happens the next day and the next, Ug is wired to see the pattern and he will expect to be able to leave his cave safely, as long as he turns left. Such is the power of repetition.

This observed pattern is reinforced when one day his cave mate Gug leaves the cave, turns right and is attacked and devoured by a very hungry, grouchy carnivore. In that moment Ug will have thoroughly internalized his important lesson on cave exiting.

It’s the same for us today. You find a restaurant you like so you go again with the expectation that you’ll like it again. If you do, you’ll likely eat there a third time. By then the pattern is clear and expectations are reinforced by the evidence and by repetition. We’re quick to pick up on such things, just like Ug.

That pattern recognition can carry over to our politics, although it can be badly warped. For example, Trump continues to make the demonstrably false claims that the election was rigged, that there were millions of fraudulent votes cast against him and that hundreds of thousands of votes cast for him weren’t counted (only in swing states). He whines as though making the claims is enough to make them true. Both his true believers and his cowardly sycophants repeat those lies over and over until they seem to many otherwise sensible people to be true. The repetition, not evidence, drives their belief. That is the essence of The Big Lie throughout history.

Last week the House voted to establish a January 6 commission to learn the full story behind the insurrectionist domestic terrorists that killed 5 people, brutalized police, vandalized the Capitol Building and threatened to kill the Vice President and members of Congress. 175 Republicans voted against that bill, even though they themselves had been targets for violence on that awful day.

From the Washington Post:

Republican leaders denounced the commission as a partisan Democratic plot. [House minority leader Kevin] McCarthy [R-CA] accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of not negotiating “in good faith” and wasting “time playing political games.” [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell [R-KY]  chimed in to accuse House Democrats of having “handled this proposal in partisan bad faith going back to the beginning.”

I count 4 baseless claims and zero evidence in those 2 sentences and the rest of the article puts no evidentiary meat onto those bones. And the bad faith thing – in negotiations over the creation of the commission Republicans were given everything they asked for and – did I mention? – 175 of them, including all of Republican House leadership, still voted against the bill. These are the same people who declared unequivocally following the domestic terrorist insurrection that a full investigation was required. Perhaps they disliked having a bulls eye on their backs that day.

Apparently, giving Republicans all that they asked for was Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “partisan bad faith.” Absurdly, their claims about the evil Democrats, having been repeated in the extremist echo chamber, and are now believed. That rejection of the legislation after getting everything they asked for makes me wonder what Republicans don’t want uncovered by a commission.

Georgia Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA) is a guy with a most pliable memory. He delivered the fantastical claim that the violent, murderous, defiling insurgents were only making “a normal tourist visit.” To give credit where it’s due, Clyde did offer cherry picked, misleading “evidence.” Of course, that’s actually worse than offering no evidence. On the other hand, on the day of the insurrection he was screaming and helping to erect barricades inside the House chamber, hoping to stop the terrorists.

Sen. Rob Johnson (R-WI) is always reliable for a fantasy-based quote, now claiming that the insurrection was largely a “peaceful protest.” It’s entirely possible that murdered Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick’s next of kin might see things a bit differently. Nevertheless, it’s likely that huge numbers of believers of evidence-free claims think Clyde and Johnson have it right. Once again, outrageously false and evidence-free claims got repeated and people believed them because of the repetition.

For a clear statement of the insanity of baseless, hollow claims and the harm they do to America, watch this 52-second clip of Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) excoriating Republicans for their detachment from reality and perfidy to the Constitution.

QAnon claimed that Democrats were running a child sex trafficking operation out of the basement of a pizza shop in DC. That  conspiracy claim was extra crispy crazy, if only because that pizza shop has no basement. But those claims were made and repeated in the vaporous, conspiracy-echoing universe and then believed by millions.

Are you seeing the pattern? People with large megaphones are making wild, ought-to-be unbelievable claims, offering no evidence (because there isn’t any). They repeat their fictitious claims over and over and people start to believe. And it’s worse than that.

Otherwise normal Americans are now trained to repeat these evidence-free claims themselves, as though making the accusations alone causes them to be true. These millions of Americans require no factual evidence.

Indeed, for true believers, continuous repetition of fraudulent claims at last becomes its own evidence that proves the claims.

That’s the kind of thing that could cause Ug to foolishly leave his cave and turn right, only to come to a very brutal and ugly end, just like Gug.

Speaking of Patterns

I’m an enthusiastic fan of John Oliver and I commonly appreciate his sense of outrage over very real outrageous issues. Here comes the “but.”

But last week he weighed into the Israeli-Palestinian carnage, making simple judgments about complexities he apparently doesn’t understand. He’s in good company, as most public commentary has done the same thing. I encourage you to view these videos (here and here) for a response to Oliver, because at the very least, they shed some light on the complexities and skewer the simple, easy and misleading judgments that so many are making.

I’m still a fan, but this time, as he sounded like he was making sense, John Oliver was actually making very little sense.


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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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