If It Quacks Like Evil, Maybe It Really Is Evil

The Conspiracy to End America: Five Ways My Old Party Is Driving Our Democracy to AutocracyThe Conspiracy to End America: Five Ways My Old Party Is Driving Our Democracy to Autocracy by Stuart Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit that at the start I was not dazzled by this new Stuart Stevens book. It had a lot of references and names and stories from the many other scary books about trump. I had read or heard mentions of these sources in print or on many podcasts and opinion stories. And it is true much of this is a rehash of what we already know.

So what is new here?

The background info he brings is fine but like I said if you were looking in this direction already you probably knew much of it. HOWEVER once Stuart comes out swinging for real, he really keeps coming. With a directness and force you didn’t realize you were missing. And really the facts are clear for any that have eyes and ears and with much force Stuart Stevens is shouting to get your attention.

Trump and Trumpism are as pure evil as has existed in mainstream politics, and when I look around, I, too, often see the institutions of America failing the moment. It doesn’t come in the active embrace of Trumpism but in a failure aggressively and unequivocally to reject an authoritarian movement of hate. My fear is that America is learning to accommodate Trumpism, and history is clear that is a gateway drug to democratic collapse. - Location 2284-2287

“Pure Evil” ? Is that too much?
I used to complain in my imaginary political dialogs with people who demonized previous Republican administrations or politicians. I mean sure I thought they were wrong and probably jerks, but that was as far as I would take it, BUT I think with the current situation his comment is not hyperbole. Again for those who have the eyes and ears to look a the facts.

To rise in the Republican Party, it is essential to show solidarity with those who wish to end democracy. - Location 2181-2182

He does have an outline of why he has his vies and they make sense of the obvious (to me) craziness of modern Republicanism

Whenever a democracy slides into autocracy, there are five critical elements at work. All of these are active today in American politics.

The five autocratic building blocks are:
•Support of a major party
•Legal theories to legitimize actions
•Shock troops

- Location 94-98

And he uses known facts and stories to show this is the case.

I wish I could sit and talk with him for a while and ask what he would have said about some of his current opinions that were anathema to Republicans just a short while ago before he was on this track. Like was he also so reasonable about guns?

Walking into a Starbucks with a semiautomatic weapon isn’t proving you have the right to bear arms; it is an assertion that you do not trust society to protect you, that there is no civil bond between you and the next person in line ordering a latte. - Location 2206-2207

And what did he previously think of the Federalist society in the “before times”? Because his take down of them is throughout and SO spot on it is scary. In fact I would say it is one of the core takeaway of the book. I suspect he was previously fine with the Federalist Society before and probably all the never Trump Republicans were totally cool with them. Or maybe not, I never get and chance talk with them

Here it is even if it is a bit long for a Goodreads review.

Taken individually, none of these judicial actions is a death blow to democracy, but collectively, each builds on the previous one. It is a long game played with patience. A timeline tells the story:

1982: The Federalist Society is formed.
1986: Federalist Society superstar Antonin Scalia is nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Reagan.
1991: Clarence Thomas, a Federalist Society member, is nominated by George H. W. Bush. 2000: George W. Bush loses the popular vote to Al Gore but is elected by the electoral college. The Supreme Court rules 5–4 in favor of Bush in the infamous Bush v. Gore case. 2004: George W. Bush is reelected.
2005: Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society creates the Judicial Confirmation Network (later to become Judicial Crisis Network). He raises $15 million from undisclosed donors to run confirmation campaigns supporting Bush Supreme Court nominees.
2005: John Roberts, a Federalist Society member, is nominated to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush.
2005: Samuel Alito, a Federalist Society member, is nominated to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush.
2006: The Federalist Society expands its public relations campaign. Leo comments that “I spend probably close to $800,000 annually on a PR team at the Federalist Society, and we generate press that has a publicity value of approximately $146 million each year.”
2010: The Supreme Court rules 5–4 in the Citizens United decision that corporations have the right to spend unlimited money in U.S. elections. Four of the five deciding votes are cast by Federalist Society members.
2010: redmap is formed by Republicans to focus on redistricting state legislatures to maximize Republican benefit.
2012: With the help of undisclosed “dark” money made possible by Citizens United, conservative Paul Newby is elected to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
2012: North Carolina ends public financing of judicial nominations.
2013: The Supreme Court nullifies key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which John Roberts first opposed in 1981.
2016: Justice Scalia dies seven months before the presidential election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to allow hearings or a vote on President Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland as Scalia’s replacement. McConnell says, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
2016: Leonard Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network spends $7 million to support the Republican senators running for reelection who refuse to hold hearings on Merrick Garland.
2016–2017: Groups controlled by Leonard Leo raise over $250 million from undisclosed donors.
2016: Donald Trump loses the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.8 million voters but wins the electoral college.
2017: Leonard Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network spends $10 million in support of Trump.
2017: Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch, a Federalist Society member, to replace Justice Scalia. 2017: Leonard Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network spends $10 million supporting the Gorsuch nomination.
2018: Justice Kennedy resigns. Trump appoints Brett Kavanaugh to replace him. Kavanaugh, a Federalist Society member, worked for the two George W. Bush campaigns and in the White House, married Bush’s long-time personal assistant, and was nominated by Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Trump, a president who lost the popular vote, appoints the protégé of a president—Bush—who also lost the popular vote.
2018: The Leonard Leo organization “Freedom and Opportunity Group” donates $4 million to “Independent Women’s Voice,” which runs ads supporting Kavanaugh. Heather Higgins, the group’s president and chief executive, attacks the women who accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault, saying, “If you have a weak standard of evidence, then what you are doing is guaranteeing that future nominations will all be last-minute character assassinations and circuses.” She is paid $311,000 annually as the leader of Independent Women’s Voice.
2019: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states are free to gerrymander without review by the state’s Supreme Court. “We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.” Of the justices voting in support of the 5–4 ruling, three have been confirmed by a collection of senators who represented a minority of the country’s population. All are Federalist Society members.
2020: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg dies thirty-eight days before the presidential election. Trump appoints Amy Comey Barrett to replace her. Majority Leader McConnell holds hearings and the Senate vote to confirm her after the presidential election voting has begun in many states. He denies this contradicts his previous refusal to hold hearings on the Merrick Garland nomination during an election year.
2020: Barrett is confirmed and becomes a justice of the Supreme Court. There have been five Supreme Court justices in U.S. history who were appointed by a president elected with a minority of the vote and confirmed by senators representing a minority of the country’s population. With Barrett’s confirmation, all five are currently on the Supreme Court.
2022: $1.6 billion is gifted to the Marble Freedom Trust, a Leonard Leo group.
2023: The North Carolina Supreme Court overturns a previous ruling and allows the Republican-controlled legislature to draw districts by any guidelines they choose.

The 2019 Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering provides no pathway for appeal. Justice Paul Newby, who was elected post–Citizens United, is now chief justice. What began decades earlier continues to play out, changing the legal basis of American elections. It is the Long Game played patiently and relentlessly with no like effort in opposition. The Republican attack on the electoral system with combined efforts to challenge election results, restrict voting, and control the counting of votes is following the successful blueprint used by the Federalist Society to change the judicial system.

Location 1794-1848

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me get a head start of this important book

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Fredric Brown and The Meaning of Life

The Fabulous Clipjoint (Ed & Am Hunter #1)The Fabulous Clipjoint by Fredric Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WOW. I LOVED this book.

It has much of the usual tough guy detective or noir story feel but it is a different kind of mystery. In some ways it is a slow burn even though things do happen and you want to find out what it coming. BUT the resolution at the end is a bit of an “anti-resolution”, at least in a mystery story sense. It is hard to explain, just read the book and get to the end.

The kicker is toward the end where finally there is a reference to what the title is all about. After all their adventures, our young protagonist and his wise but tough uncle have a drink from high above Chicago and Brown lays out the whole point if it all. And it goes in a direction I wasn’t expecting.

We took a table by a window on the south side, looking out toward the Loop. It was beautiful in the bright sunshine. The tall, narrow buildings were like fingers reaching toward the sky. It was like something out of a science-fiction story. You couldn’t quite believe it, even looking at it. “Ain’t it something, kid?”

“Beautiful as hell,” I said. “But it’s a clipjoint.” He grinned. The little laughing wrinkles were back in corners of his eyes. He said, “It’s a fabulous clipjoint, kid. The craziest things can happen in it, and not all of them are bad.”
| Page 128

So basically, everything going on around us is a con, or a bait and switch, where we are lured into life but false advertising. I might be overreaching here but we are lured to buy, eat, do, some many things and most of them are really not good for us. The majority of stuff in a coffee shop you should not get (pastries, sugar packed coffee, and more). And just look down a cereal aisle in a grocery store, millions spent to lure us to buy sugar coated crap.

Well, you get the idea. But to make a big ol’ comments about the absurdity of modern life at the end of a mystery novel. THAT is something special.

I must confess I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much when I was younger. I guess I am an older more cynical reader now and ripe for Fredric Brown mysteries.

Now some quotes:

She came back looking like a million bucks in crisp new currency. | Page 111

I said, “You talk like a poet, not a carney.” He chuckled. “I read a book once,” he said. “Look, kid, don’t try to label things. Words fool you. You call a guy a printer or a lush or a pansy or a truck driver and you think you’ve pasted a label on him. People are complicated; you can’t label ’em with a word.” | Page 49

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One Life

I let the last birthday go by without comment. Less to say, or birthdays mean less each year.

On the drive home from work I listened to Lisa Ekdahl’s “One Life”. Where for all the different personalities and all the conflict, there is just one life we are all living. And that reminded me of some psychologists saying there is no “self”, no individual, and our individuality is a fiction brought about by all the different parts of our brain interacting.

And this interaction is not a collection of discrete parts pretending to be a whole, but what there is of a self is the relations between all the brain activity. So too society is not a collection of individuals, but the relationship between all the brain relationships going on. And it is all happening NOW, every moment, and we let it flow by without comment, like ignoring a birthday .

BUT this universe of connections is the very essence of existence and it binds us together even while we ignore it.

To quote from the movie “Brazil”..”We are all in this together”.


Boerne Bike Ride

Saturday June 24, 2023 : 7AM
START @ Don Strange Event Center
Boerne Texas
Coffee Hollow Rollers » 25 mile
Comfort » 39 mile


ChromeBook Ubuntu

Googling Your way to Success

A while back my old-ish Chromebook kept telling me it was out of date, so I found on the internet how to wipe the Chrome OS and install some linux version on it.

Long story short, I had that for a while and it mostly worked but thinking I was smart I decided to try a different version (going from Lubuntu to Xubuntu)

Whoops...I found the install went well and fewer problems than before, until I discovered if listing to any audio for more than a few minutes it would be interupped by a minutes long monoton horn sound. You could not mute or stop it.

Much Googling I finally found one person who said to try thing

sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf

And then add this one line...

options snd_sof sof_debug

Then the minutes long "horn" stopped, and all was well
I just didn't want to forget this


DVD Subtitles

I can't believe I never knew or learned and then forgot, but IF you have a DVD and you want English subtitles you can use Closed Captions. Assuming Handbrake has been adapted to rip DVDs (that you personally own)

Simply add the subtitles as a track from the Closed Caption option.


When Does Life Begin?

"When does life begin?"

Or more precisely, when does HUMAN life begin? THAT is crux of it all, and is a matter of tradition, convention, and opinion. To say that "Science" tells that human life begins at conception is rhetoric not science. That is not how science works, and to claim otherwise is to make it not just a an opinion but a theological opinion.

A zygote may contain DNA but that zygote is patently NOT a human and to declare when a human is “ensouled” is by definition theology since it deals with the soul (not science).

And current views about abortion are “relatively” recent and “conservative” religious thinkers once held other theological views.

St. Augustine declared that abortion is not homicide but was a sin if it was intended to conceal fornication or adultery.

Resolution On Abortion, adopted at the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention), June 1971: RESOLVED, That we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother

When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”