Roy Clark 1933-2018

Hi, everybody! Jewish Steel here. How’ve you been?

By a strange coincidence I was just watching this the other day. I was expecting some virtuoso hillbilly guitar. What I was not expecting was Steve Martinesque anti-comedy. Where there aren’t jokes necessarily, but the humor is in the stupidity, surprising turns, and flashes of insight contained in the material itself. I was kind of shocked at the sophistication of it all.


A Few Thoughts About What Comes Next Despite the Election Results

Despite the results of the mid-term election, we need to think about a few important things. Specifically what happens next. The Democrats had a very good night, regardless of the hot takes. They had the largest mid-term electoral swing since 2008, bigger than the Tea Party wave in 2010. The Democrats have retaken the House of Representatives. As of right now given that Georgia is still out, the Democrats have retaken 7 governors’ mansions, flipped 7 state legislative chambers, and flipped 333 state legislative seats. The Democrats have also wiped out all the local Republican control in both Dallas and Houston. There are also a lot of other local successes, such as the redistricting referendum in Michigan, referendums on automatic voter registration in a number of states, and the reenfranchisement amendment in Florida. While the Democrats weren’t able to thread the needle and retake the Senate, last night, overall was a good night and the few outstanding high profile races that we’re watching are close enough that there may still be further positive gains.

Unfortunately, we need to be prepared for backlash. The reason for this is simple: the President and his supporters – the base of the Republican Party – are both sore losers and sore winners. I’m not even sure it is possible to work out whether they’re sorer losers or sorer winners. The good news is that because the Republicans lost the House, at least 7 governors’ mansions, 7 state legislatures, and 333 state legislative states overall, we’ve got some breathing room. It is now much, much, much harder for the President and the Republican Party he has fully remade in his image to accelerate what they have been doing over the past two years. Additional tax cuts, another attempt to repeal the ACA, and an effort to get rid of Social Security and Medicare are now all off the table. The chances that Special Counsel Mueller’s investigations will be interfered with, let alone shut down, have significantly decreased. And while the anti-immigrant, anti-ethnic minority, anti-religious minority, and anti-LGBTQ actions taken by the executive branch will continue, there is both a legislative branch check on them through House oversight, as well as a check in the states where Democrats have taken the governors’ mansions. And those Democratic governors, state legislatures, and the overall increase in Democratic state legislatures will be an important check on attempts to further gerrymander state and Federal legislative districts. Finally, the attempt to fully transform Congress into a subordinate arm of the executive branch has failed, though the GOP majority controlled Senate will still slavishly go along with what ever the President wants.

Because the President and his supporters are both sore losers and sore winners, they were guaranteed to act out whatever happened with the 2018 mid-term election. And, unfortunately, I expect that some of that acting out will be violent. And this is really what we need to be thinking about despite these very good electoral outcomes. Specifically those of us who are white and straight need to be thinking about what we’re going to do to protect those who are not. Especially those who are visible ethnic minorities (people of color), visible religious minorities (because of religiously required apparel), and visibly identifiable LGBTQ people. Some of this protection will now come at the state level because of the 7 new Democratic governors, 7 new majority Democratic state legislatures, and the Democratic increases in other state legislatures that allow them to block harmful legislation. However, a lot of what will need to be done to protect visible ethnic minorities, visible religious minorities, visibly identifiable LGBTQ people are not going to need to be done in relation to Federal or state legislation or regulation. Rather, it is going to be directed by our fellow citizens, individually and in groups, at visible ethnic minorities, visible religious minorities, visibly identifiable LGBTQ people. As a result, those of us who are white and straight need to begin thinking about what we’re able to do, what we’re willing to do, and under what circumstances we’re willing to do it in regard to protecting our ethnic minority, religious minority, and LGBTQ neighbors.

I hate to have to think this, let alone write it, but we have reached a point in the US where regardless of who wins or loses any given election, we need to be aware that significant numbers of our fellow Americans – citizens, legal residents, and even undocumented – are at significant risk. And the threat is coming from inside the house, from other Americans! It is far better to think about how much risk we are willing to assume in the protection of our fellow Americans who are at risk now, rather than having to just react without reflection in the moment. Are you comfortable and willing to use your smart phone to videotape an unfortunate interaction to make sure there is a clear record? Are you comfortable and willing to say something to an aggressive and abusive person? Are you comfortable and willing to put yourself bettwen an aggressive and abusive person and their victim?

The President’s off the cuff, free wheeling, and frankly bizarre press conference today demonstrates the danger that America in general, and the most vulnerable Americans in specific, still faces.

As Norm Ornstein and Jim Manley remarked shortly after the press conference:

Stay alert! Stay focused! Stay alive!

Open thread.

* I had originally starting drafting this post last night. I stopped and decided to hold off finishing it and publishing it till today, if I finished and published it at all. Given the President’s press conference, as well as the termination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, I decided it needed to be finished and published.

No Labels, mo’ probems

Some people hate Donald Trump. I don’t. He’s just a wanker. Donald Trump is president because of what I call toxic centrism, a nihilistic and cynical reflex in establishment media and elsewhere to blame everything on “both sides” while not giving a fuck about the effects that policies have on people’s lives. When you’re voting today, remember that after we’re done running up the score against Dolt 45, we’re still going to have to deal with these clowns:

Founded in 2013 as an offshoot of the nonpartisan group No Labels, the Problem Solvers Caucus has touted itself as the cure to a polarized Washington.

The Problem Solvers group kicked off on the Hill with a series of meetings between members of Congress and outside experts, including David Brooks…


The caucus’s Republican members have on average voted in line with the White House’s position 93 percent of the time, according to calculations based on FiveThirtyEight’s vote tracker, with at least nine Republicans in the group doing so more than 95 percent of the time.


(Chamberlain’s Charge by Mort Kunstler)

This paragraph, from the foreword of a historical novel, has always resonated:

Late in June the Army of the Potomac, ever slow to move, turns north at last to begin the great pursuit which will end at Gettysburg. It is a strange new kind of army, a polyglot mass of vastly dissimilar men, fighting for union. There are strange accents and strange religions and many who do not speak English at all. Nothing like this army has been seen upon this planet. It is a collection of men from many different places who have seen much defeat and many commanders. They are volunteers: last of the great volunteer armies, for the draft is beginning that summer in the North. They have lost faith in their leaders but not themselves. They think this will be the last battle, and they are glad that it is to be fought on their own home ground.

Michael Shaara; The Killer Angels

(20th Maine Monument, photo by me)

We are once again forced to fight for Union. Let’s do it the easier way today at the ballot box!

You all know what you have to do!

Open thread!

Recipe Post: KitchenAid and Fresh Bread

Hey, look, the recipe chick posts an actual recipe….

I received my Christmas present early this year. I have wanted a KitchenAid forever, but space has always been an issue. It still is, but not as restrictive as it used to be, though not a chef’s kitchen by any means.  A great deal came my way and I took advantage (truth be told, grief may have played a role as I was in need of retail therapy – give me something big and shiny my brain said).  Bread was my first use. Read more

A Little Happy For Your Friday and I Need Your Input

This little guy joined our family today.

About a month ago, Jake left us. He decided he was tired of taking his medicine and began refusing it. He still ate, drank and did all his daily routines until about two days before he passed. Then one afternoon he stopped eating, drank very little and a day later he passed quietly in his sleep. I am grateful he knew how he wanted to leave. It was so obvious that I was able to just support him in his journey.

Of course, I wasn’t surprised because it also how he came into my life. He just decided I was his person and he was going to live with me. My objections be damned.

But I haven’t been around here much because it’s just been sad. And today is the anniversary of Bailey’s sudden and shocking death, so I’ve just hunkered down and tried to get through the days.  Between this, the political climate and some family issues, it’s the best I could do.

But today, a bright spot. This little guy came into my life. I have a ton of work to get done tonight, but I promise I’ll tell his story later this weekend. For now, I will tell you he was the ONLY cat in the shelter who had been there longer than two months (he was owner surrendered in July). And no one wanted to adopt this charmer. He’s a little over two. And he has the sleepiest eyes I’ve ever seen.

My idea was, I have an open space in my home and heart and I wanted a cat who was either the oldest in the shelter or had been there the longest, or both.

Now I need some help – he needs a new name (it’s Shadow now and I prefer people names for my animals). He’s the prettiest lavender gray and my photos don’t do him justice.

I have another question, too. Anyone using CBD oil or tincture for themselves or their animals? I want to find something for Bixby – he seems to have some unresolved inflammation and anxiety that nothing to date that the vet and I have tried has been able to address.

Otherwise, open thread.

Taking Stock After This Week’s Domestic Terrorism Incidents: Where We Are and What Comes Next

In the wake of the mail bombing campaign of the past week and the synagogue attack today, I think we all need to be prepared for a seriously increased threat level. Not necessarily from any specific person or group, but in what we generally refer to as stochastic terrorism. We know attacks will happen, we may even have a general idea of who and/or what the targets may be, but we can’t identity/specify specific targets, nor can we identity/specify when the attacks will happen, how they will be carried out, or who will undertake them. This increase is the result of several things. The first is that the President has decided to double down on not trying to lead the entire country, but rather rule on behalf of the 26% or so of the country that is his hard base/the Republican base, as well as another 13% or so consisting of Republicans who are willing to go along with this. The second is that the President’s most fervent supporters, the hard base of the Republican Party, have become so radicalized because of Fox News, talk radio, conservative social media and other conservative news and information sources, and frankly the Russian psychological and information warfare that seeks to leverage this for Putin’s own objectives of ripping American civil society apart, that they are now all in for an American version of herrenvolkism. Specifically, a herrenvolk system of white supremacy where white, (evangelical and some traditionalist Catholic*) Christians rule and everyone else is either tolerated in a less than first class citizenship status or is removed from American society. The third is the result that because of the President and his fervent base of supporters who are the base of the Republican Party, the official Republican Party institutions and structures, as well as the conservative movement institutions and structures that support and comprise it, have gone all in with the President’s and the President’s base’s vision of America.** Just today one of the official Republican Party campaign arms released another anti-George Soros/anti-globalist campaign ad negatively targeting a Democratic candidate.

This is all the result of a closed feedback loop of ideas have been created that encompasses the President, the Republican Party and the conservative movement, and their structures and institutions, Republican elected and appointed officials, conservative movement leaders, conservative news and social media, and the base of the Republican Party. That feedback loop inculcates and reinforces a belief that white, (evangelical and some traditionalist Catholic) Christians are the only actual victims in the US. That they’re oppressed. That ethnic and religious minorities, as well as other white Christians who are race traitors, seek to take away their rights and privileges as part of a nefarious, organized plan to destroy America. An America which they define as a white, Christian nation. Moreover, this closed informational loop is pulling the extremist right – the hard core white nationalist and supremacists, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, homophobes, xenophobes, and nativists – from the extreme fringes fully within the mainstream of conservative and Republican thought, action, and politics.

Because of the social learning dynamic of imitation, Sayoc’s bombing campaign and Bowers’ shooting spree, as well as the President’s blaming the victim this morning will provide permission for others to act. The President’s comments regarding both Sayoc’s and Bower’s acts of terrorism are classic examples of what criminologists call neutralization and drift. Specifically: 1) denial of responsibility; 2) denial of injury; 3) denial of victim; 4) condemnation of the condemners; and the 5) appeal to higher loyalties. The first three justifications all deal with denial. They allow the offender to rationalize his behavior as outside of his control. He or she is not really hurting anyone. And even if someone is hurt they may have deserved it. The fourth justification allows the offender to invert the knowledge of her wrongdoing back upon those criticizing it by asserting that the condemners are hypocrites, do equally bad things, or are out to get him. Finally, the fifth rationalization allows for the justification of behavior on the basis of loyalty to one’s group rather than one’s society. 

The elections in two weeks will only make things worse. If the Democrats take at least the House and a number of state governorships and state legislatures as is currently forecast, let alone if they thread the needle and take the Senate, the terrorism will increase. It will be taken as actual evidence of the victimization of white, Christian (evangelical and some traditional Catholic) Christians. Conversely, and unfortunately, the President and his supporters who are the base of the Republican Party are the sorest winners since the southern slave power in the 1850s and 1860s kept refusing to take yes for an answer. So if the Republicans are able to maintain or expand their majorities in the House and the Senate, as well as in state governments, I fully expect that the terrorism and low intensity political violence will increase. Winning will be taken as a sign that the American people want more of what has been building for the past two years. As a result, the President, an even more extremist, radical, and revanchist set of Republican congressional majorities, the Republican Party and conservative movement, conservative news and social media, and the actual base of the Republican party will simply accelerate what we’ve been observing and responding to since January 2017. 

Stay alert! Stay focused! And vote! Vote like your life and America’s life depends on it! Make sure everyone you know votes like their lives and America’s life depends on it. And prepare yourself for what’s coming regardless of the outcome of the mid-term elections.

Open thread!

* I fully expect that this marriage of convenience over a few theologically aligned political issues, such as abortion and homosexuality, will completely unravel where the Republican base get what it wants. At that point I expect that the evangelical community will turn first on the Catholics as papist apostates and then on each other as none of the three major divisions among white evangelicals in the US – evangelicals, charismatics, and fundamentalists – actually agree on how to apply their sectarian and denominational views to everyday life.

** I want to make it very clear that I take no pleasure in writing this. It is both a shame and a tragedy that we have reached a point where the President of the United States and one of the only two political parties we allow ourselves, as well as the political, social, and religious movements and communities that support both the President and the Republican Party, not only can be described this way, but need to be described this way. We are, unfortunately, no longer in a place where we are, as Americans, dealing with partisan disagreements over marginal tax rates or which level of government is best to oversee education policy. If we are very, very fortunate, we may once again get through this, establish a new normal, and find ourselves back in such a reality.