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Jimmy Swaggart lives!

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You know how you sometimes channel surf, flipping the remote through T.V. channels until you find something worth pausing for? I did that the other day, enduring the shopping networks, commercials, cartoons, sports channels and Spanish language shows, until I came across a familiar face hosting a religious show: Jimmy Swaggart.

What? I thought to myself. Is that old bastard still alive? Indeed. At the age of 85, he has something called the Sonlife Broadcasting Network, and there he was in the flesh, withered and halting, his voice creaking, but still discernibly the same Jimmy Swaggart we remember from the 1970s and 1980s, when he was one of the most famous—perhaps the most famous—televangelist in America. And still peddling the same shtick.

Readers of my blog know I have zero patience with evangelicism, that I believe evangelical believers are under-educated bigots, and that as the main part of Trump’s base they pose a clear and present danger to America and to everything America stands for. So I paused to watch the Jimmy Swaggart T.V. show for a while, as a sort of anthropological descent into the jungle lives of these people, so as to try and understand them a little better. Nothing I saw surprised me: the attack on other religions, not just Islam (which is to be expected) but all other forms of Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Mormons, and so on); the extortion of money from Swaggart’s pitiful flock, who probably don’t have much money to begin with; the ruthless peddling of religious tchotkes—junk such as bibles and videotapes; Swaggart’s Madison Avenue-style hucksterism; and, most troubling of all, how this particular subculture has become the nexus of Trumpism and religious fanaticism.

Jimmy Swaggart (whose most famous claim may be that he was Jerry Lee Lewis’s cousin) is indeed a fraud, but a delightful one. It’s fun to watch him do his shtick. After 70 or 80 years practicing it, he’s damned good, and to tell the truth, when he sits down at the piano and accompanies himself to his slow, mournful ballads, he’s pretty entertaining. He’s got a rich basso voice, breaking up in the middle, but tailing off into a remarkably pure vibrato. Remembering the way his mid-career was derailed after he was caught paying a female prostitute made watching him even more enjoyable; like rubber-necking a hideous traffic accident on the freeway, you know you’re not supposed to be fascinated, but you just can’t help yourself.

But then I started paying attention to the audience. Swaggart didn’t have a megachurch like some of the other televangelists. His church seemed fairly small, maybe four hundred people. But just like in any other megachurch, they were transfixed by their pastor’s words. Hands swaying in the air, eyes closed, lips frequently flapping up and down as they spoke in tongues, they were enraptured—there’s no other word—and I had to think to myself, Steve, for all your putdowns of them, they are human beings like you: struggling, frustrated, trying to live decent lives, looking for meaning wherever they can find it. If you lived near them, you might even find yourself liking them.

That was a good thought. It’s healthy to be reminded that, while these people may be objects of scorn, they’re nonetheless my American brothers and sisters. I admit to being of two minds concerning them: I loathe them, on the one hand, for their intense, irrational and hateful homophobia, for their mistrust of scientific fact and mindless belief in ridiculous superstitions, and for the tyrannical way they’re trying to seize power (though Trump) to turn America into a Christian Taliban theocracy. On the other hand, they break my heart, because they’re so close to being good secular humanists (which is what America was founded upon). They could be decent, all-encompassing human beings, welcoming all other human beings into a world-family of acceptance and support, if only they didn’t subscribe to this dreadful cult, which robs them of their common sense and humanity.

Well, I think Democrats are going to win in November, and win big. I think we’ll win not only the presidency but the Senate as well, while holding onto the House. And I think we’ll do well on the State and local levels, winning back statehouses and Mayoralties. When that happens, religious programs like Jimmy Swaggart’s are going to have nervous breakdowns. It’s hard to predict exactly what they’ll urge their followers to do, because that will depend on how their messiah, Trump, reacts; and we don’t know if he’ll resist the outcome of the election, or accept it and go away. But either way, there are tens of millions of these religious extremists in our country, and we’re going to have to try to reach a modus operandi and get along with them.

I blogged the other day that I want vengeance when we take power. But I meant vengeance against the leaders of this religious conspiracy against our democratic government: Trump and his regime, certain religious leaders who dabble more in politics than in philosophy (Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr.), those political leaders (McConnell, Ted Cruz) who enable Trump to get away with treason. There’s no reason to let any of them off the hook. They know full well what they do, and it must have crossed their minds, at some point, that they might someday have to pay for their crimes and misdemeanors.

But I don’t want to extract vengeance on the “little people,” the ones who sway deliriously in Jimmy Swaggart’s church. They’re going to be crushed when Republicans go down in flames, and it will be our duty to reassure them and let them know that, even though their side lost, we still welcome them as our fellow Americans, as long as they’re willing to put aside their hatreds and join the Big Tent of democracy. Of course, we’re going to have to un-do a lot of what Trump, at their prompting, did: his dismantling of LGBT laws, his science denial, his weakening of environmental protections, his undermining of women’s rights, his clampdown on immigration. That will piss off and annoy the evangelicals, especially since they’ll still be glued to their Jimmy Swaggart T.V. shows and to propaganda outlets like Fox “News,” which I’m sure will whip up every conspiracy theory in the book and keep evangelicals angry. But I’m hopeful we, the majority, can behave decently enough to the evangelicals to cause at least some of them to think, “Hey, President Biden’s not that bad. He’s a man of faith.”

There will always be millions of evangelicals with whom we can’t work, because their minds are gone. That’s okay, too. As long as they’re not in a position to cause harm to America, then leave them alone, I say. Eventually, they’ll die off, and we have reason to hope their children will decide to live in the 21st century, with its enlightened values, not the eleventh, with its cult of death.


On those Confederate monuments

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I am of a generation that revered Robert E. Lee. The way we were taught—and this was in liberal, Democratic New York City–he was a patriot, a gentleman, a superb general, and a proud Virginian, who just happened to be on the losing side of history. We were taught that he was personally against the Civil War when it broke out, that he turned down an offer to lead the Union armies in favor of leading the rebel forces, due to his love of his state. We knew that slavery was evil; we knew our country had fought a bloody war over it; we were glad that the North won and that slavery was eliminated. At the same time, we didn’t see anything wrong with honoring Robert E. Lee for his many qualities.

Well, that’s how we thought in the 1950s, at any rate. Now, here we are in 2020, and Confederate monuments, including the Stars and Bars flag, are under attack all over the country. And those of us of a certain age are having to have internal dialogues over what we formerly believed.

My take is simple: if Confederate statues, plaques and place names are so offensive to so many people, at such a fragile time in our nation’s history, then by all means, remove them. I don’t have any problem with that, and I don’t understand why so many people are so upset with it. The fact is, the Civil War was fought over slavery. Slavery may be the most fundamentally evil human crime, next to genocide (and there’s a case to be made that slavery was genocide). Our country was founded on slavery; the South (and a good part of the North) was built on slave labor. Black people are as human as white people. What this country did was atrocious. And just about every Civil War leader who has a monument to him was a slaveowner. So why the defensiveness? Taking down monuments to Southern Civil War “heroes” is simply a physical manifestation of repudiating slavery. Who wouldn’t want to repudiate slavery?

A lot of people, apparently. I have never understood the reluctance of Republicans to denounce slavery. After all, their party was founded on ending slavery. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president. How did the modern Republican Party stray so far from its roots?

The answer is, because a lot of people never accepted that the South lost the Civil War. They thought they’d been tricked, or that the North had somehow connived to win, or that the war had been a mere tactical loss. Most of these people became Democrats, to the eternal shame of my party. They refused to acknowledge they’d been wrong, and that slavery was evil even by definition of their professed Christian religion. These revanchist Americans swelled in numbers following World War II, and after the events of the 1960s, which so threatened their white patriarchy, their numbers reached epidemic proportions. Which is when the Republican Party re-discovered them, after LBJ’s civil rights laws caused millions of them to desert the Democratic Party.

I’ve followed American history for a long time, and I’ve never heard a coherent explanation how the party of Lincoln could embrace everything he was against. Today’s Republicans in fact are embarrassed by Lincoln: you hear them praise Reagan all the time, but they don’t have a word to say about the Great Emancipator. How weird that the Republican Party would make Abraham Lincoln a non-person. Weirder still that they would make Donald J. Trump their hero. No wonder he’s so against removing the statues, or renaming the bases named after Southern slaveowners. Now, he’s about to travel to Tulsa to give a speech in which he’ll pretend to care about Black lives. It’s a farce, of course; Donald Trump, like his father, Fred, before him, is a racist through and through (Fred belonged to the Ku Klux Klan). But that won’t stop Trump’s enablers from hailing him as unifying the country. Can you believe it? Trump as unifier? Take it from me, the only thing he’s going to unify is the anti-Trump vote, which will sweep America on Election Day in a landslide so broad, you’ll hardly believe it.

Have a wonderful weekend! Keep it peaceful. And wear your mask!


Those House hearings on cops

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It wasn’t clear what House Republicans were going to say at yesterday’s hearing on police reform and racial profiling. They were in a tough place. The Republican Party has obviously built its modern power on racism—the resentment of people of color by whites. That has been a central platform of the GOP at least since Nixon’s “Southern strategy” in 1968, which brought him to the White House. Ronald Reagan soon followed suit, launching his 1980 presidential campaign near the site where Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered in 1964. Every Republican presidential aspirant since has depended on appeals to bigots—sometimes subtle appeals, sometimes blatant—but none of them has ever dared to be as overtly racist as the current occupant of the White House.

So I expected some kind of appeal to racism by the Republicans on the committee (none of whom worse face masks, by the way, whereas all the Democrats did). At the same time, Republicans know well that the issues connected with George Floyd’s murder have profoundly shaken the American people. As individuals, Republican congressmen may not give a damn about George Floyd, or any other Black victims of violence; many of them may secretly like it when cops bash Black men. But that’s buried in their hearts. Externally, the Republicans know that Trump, by his callousness, has painted them into a corner: they can’t actually appear to be as racist as they are, so they have to make sounds that at least sound sympathetic to Black causes. And that was the juggling act they had to accomplish: balancing their inherent racism and need to appeal to their racist base, and yet not turn off huge numbers of Americans—Republicans, Democrats and Independents—who are worried about police injustice and systemic racism.

So how did they do? Their main line of attack, predictably, was to criticize the violence and looting that has sadly accompanied so many of the protests. That’s a good line: no one, except for a very few far Leftists, can possibly defend those destructive acts, which actually hurt people of color more than they hurt anyone else. Angela Underwood-Jacobs, whose security-guard brother was slaughtered by a cop hater right here in Oakland, gave an articulate, intelligent statement. So that was to be expected. But Republicans needed to do much more—not just criticize, but constructively propose, and coherently recognize the very real problems of policing. And that’s where they utterly failed.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Jim Jordan, signaled his attack line prior to the hearings through his twitter feed. His message, repeated in each of his tweets, was DEFUNDING THE POLICE IS INSANITY. This is, as I’ve written many times, an effective line of attack, if by “defunding” its supporters mean the total end of police departments. I don’t think it’s what most of them mean, of course—what they really mean is re-allocating funding to ancillary services, like EMT and drug counseling–but so far (and it’s only been a few weeks), they’ve failed to articulate what they really mean. In the absence of such clarity, “defund the police” sounds, to most Americans, like “End police departments totally.” This is a problem for Democrats and for Joe Biden; if they can’t figure out how to finesse this interpretation, and so far they haven’t been able to, it will hurt Biden. Rev. Darrell Scott, a conservative Black minister, pronounced the Republican position very clearly, warning plausibly of a horrible rise in crime if police departments are disbanded.

Then there’s the arch-reactionary, the racist Matt Gaetz. He spouted his usual hatred. It was hilarious to hear diehard rightwing white supremacists like Sensenbrenner pretend to be against bad cops; Republicans never were before, but suddenly, in the spotlight, they discover that police brutality has to be denounced. And Gohmert, possibly the worst of the Republican lot, similarly pretended to be sad at George Floyd’s death, although we all know that the reason he’s sad is because the entire incident reflects badly on Republicans. It was sickening, absolutely disgusting to hear Gohmert drone on and on, lying about what a great hero he is for civil rights. Another Republican, Chabot, waxed eloquently about the right of Black people to be safe from criminal cops—eloquently, but unconvincingly. Lesko, a far right Republican from Arizona, played the fear card by selectively quoting from tweets her staff dug up against cops, but not a word about the posts every day in toilets like Breitbart that call for the disenfranchisement, and occasionally the murder, of gays, people of color, immigrants.

Then, finally, Jordan had his turn to pretend to care about anything besides gay bashing, cutting taxes for billionaires, protecting his Fuehrer, Trump, and showing off his sixpack abs. He started by citing the Declaration of Independence—always a portentous sign from a Republican. He pandered to the neo-nazi talk show host, Bongino, who makes Breitbart look like the Girl Scouts. And then he railed on and on about “life is precious,” a specious reference to abortion but, in his case, fear-mongering of the highest order: re-allocating police resources, he said, would result in mass murder.

Horrid people, these Republicans. Does anyone believe there’s a single one who care about civil rights, unless it’s the rights of so-called “Christian” businessmen to refuse services to gay people? Can anyone cite a single prior instance where Republicans even gave lip service to the legitimate justice demands of Black people? Just one? Today, of course, Trump—his polls tanking—goes to Dallas to talk in a megachurch (where else?) about how much “civil rights” means to him. This is Trump as standup comic, spewing shtick that will only drive his disapproval ratings higher.


Defunding the police

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They’ve become, after “Black Lives Matter,” the three most repeated words in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder: DEFUND THE POLICE. You see them everywhere, as graffiti defacing public spaces, on home-made signs carried by protesters, in newspaper articles and T.V. discussions.

When I first noticed “defund the police” gaining traction as a meme, I worried. It was so obvious and easy to see what Trump’s reaction would be. WHEN YOU DEFUND THE POLICE, THE CRIMINALS WIN. Barr speaks of “vigilantism,” as in the old west, when law enforcement was left to unorganized crowds of peacekeepers. Trump would play to every fear of every suburban voter: “they” will now invade our leafy neighborhoods, pillaging and looting if not worse, and there won’t be any police to call to protect us, because they’ve all been “defunded.”

I shared that concern. As the resident of an inner city known for crime, I’ve come to depend on the cops to protect my life and limb. True, in the 33 years I’ve lived here, I’ve never actually had to call the police, but just knowing they were a 9-1-1- phone call away was reassuring. It’s why, for many years, when I pass a cop on the street, I say “thank you.”

So that was my worry: Leave it to Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! I was sure that Trump would be defeated in November, sure Democrats would retake the Senate. Nothing could stop the march of history from trampling Trump underfoot and, just possibly, ending the tyranny of the Republican Party. Until, that is, “defund the police” began to resound across the country. The blowback, I feared, would return Trump to the presidency.

Then, yesterday, I saw a guy on T.V. who is supposedly an expert in criminal law, and he explained what, in his opinion, “defund the police” means. Here’s what I heard. It doesn’t mean “no police at all.” It means limiting the number of cops to a cadre of highly-trained, sensitive men and women who will only be called upon when criminals are violent and dangerous. Most current police activity, this man explained, is for incidents such as domestic violence, or attending to a sick person (chest pains, auto accidents, falls), or drug overdoses, or to investigate suspicious activity; according to one study, half of all 9-1-1- calls are “bogus” or “inappropriate.”

The man further explained that, in most instances, an agency other than the police would be the more appropriate responder: child protective services, EMTs, drug counselors or other professionals who understand the nature of the emergency. Sending armed men and women to a domestic dispute, for example, is not only a waste of time and money, it does very little to resolve the situation, since cops are not trained in that way. Defunding the police, the man said, actually means transferring some current police funding to other agencies that will be more effective and responsible for solving problems.

Looked at that way, the argument makes sense, even to a guy like me, who was raised to respect “the thin blue line.” But this raises another, serious question. In our 24-hour news cycle, words have impact; to describe re-allocating police funding by the phrase “defund the police” is seriously misleading. To the average person who doesn’t have the time or inclination to investigate these things in depth, “defund the police” sounds like “End police departments.” Trump and Barr know this, which is why they instantly seized upon that mischaracterization to stoke fear. This is why the advocates of re-allocating police funding are going to have to come up with a different, less scary phrase to describe their plan than “defund the police.”

I don’t know what that alternative phrase is. But I do think that if “defund the police” becomes a real “thing” in America (and so far, it’s more of a three-day brouhaha), it could be the one issue that kills Democratic chances of defeating the monster. “Law and order” works all the time: Goering knew it in Nazi Germany; Richard Nixon understood it in 1968; and Trump and Barr know it now. There is an argument to be made for a serious re-allocation of police funding, but it has to be coherent and make sense, it has to be based on reality, and it has to take into account—not dismiss—the ordinary citizen’s fear of being victimized and having no one to come to the rescue.


Vengeance or Forgiveness?

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Democrats are going to sweep the November elections. We will elect Joe Biden President; we’ll hold the House; and, with the defeat of at least four Republicans, including Collins in Maine, Ernst in Iowa, Tillis in North Carolina, McSally in Arizona and, just possibly, the odious Auntie Lindsay in South Carolina, we’ll regain control of the Senate.

And then what? Do we extract every ounce of vengeance of which we’re desirous? Or do we ask, as Rodney King famously did a generation ago, Can we all just get along?”

Like all moral and religious questions, the answer isn’t entirely clear and requires thoughtful contemplation. We’ll have the power to be vengeful; under the Constitution, Democrats will be able to do pretty much anything we want: Congressional investigations and trials, impeachments (including of Supreme Court Justices), motions of censure, and criminal and civil prosecutions by the Department of Justice.

But just because you have the power to do something doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes, holding your fist back, when you really want to smash that guy in the face, is the right thing to do. As T.F. Hodge, a blogger and writer (and former Marine) wrote, “It takes incredible strength not to open a can of ‘whoop-ass’, justifiably, when one’s button is pushed.”

Why would we not want to open a can of whoop-ass on Republicans? After all, “vengeance” is the basis of human law: when criminals transgress society’s standards of decency, society has the right and the obligation to punish that person, in a manner that fits the crime. It’s been that way throughout history, and rightfully so. “If anyone injures his neighbor,” says Leviticus, “whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”

Of course, that was the Old Testament, whose God was a God of Vengeance. Then along came a smart young Jewish man, Jesus, who sort of switched things around in the Sermon on the Mount, “with turn the other cheek” and “if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” He seems to have implied that vengeance is a very bad thing and should be avoided. On the other hand, that same Jesus didn’t exactly turn the other cheek and forgive the money lenders in the temple when he scourged them with a whip of cords.

It’s common in Biblical exegesis to explain this apparent contradiction by saying that Jesus was not being “vengeful” but was merely expressing “righteous indignation.” But to tell you the truth, I’m hard put to tell the difference. When the victorious Allies hung all those Nazis at Nuremberg after World War II, were they being “vengeful” or expressing “righteous indignation”? From the point of view of lawyers, this is a legal nicety. But I doubt that it mattered to the men who were hung.

Following the election there’s going to be a lot of retrospection. It will become apparent that, when they were in charge, Republicans did some of the worst things in American political history. McConnell’s blockage of Merrick Garland was the most despicable act regarding a Supreme Court nominee in my lifetime. Homophobes like Pence, Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Sonny Perdue and Rick Perry violate every human right we know. The white supremacy and xenophobia of Republican racists like Steve King, Rand Paul and Stephen Miller is repugnant to all decent people. I’m incapable of listing the endless, exhaustive list of Trump crimes, including his stupid, pointless lies; he has been the most divisive president in U.S. history, at a time when we need to be together more than ever.

People refer to the “politics of grievance.” Usually it’s Republicans, complaining about those darned Negroes who are always bitching and moaning, or those wacky queers who want to force Christian bakers to make their wedding cakes, or those Commie environmentalists who want to close a coal mine in order to protect a snail, or those crippled people who whine they can’t get around the streets. It’s not like the Republicans don’t have their own set of grievances; we all know what they are. And that’s fine: Grievance is human. Our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, is filled with the grievances outlined by Jefferson: his famous list of 27 “Facts” is nothing but a series of grievances.

But there are petty grievances and then there are grievous grievances. Buses running late is a petty grievance. What the Nazis did was a grievous grievance, and so was American slavery. Republicans commit grievous grievances, and Democrats want to punish them for it. Does that make us “vengeful”? I’m extraordinarily angry at the looters during the recent George Floyd demonstrations but I can, with some effort, forgive them. To paraphrase something George McGovern once said, I can hold onto a grudge for about three months; after that, it requires too much effort to remember what I was mad at. Now, it requires no effort to remember my anger at Republicans. I cannot forgive them. Not in three months. Not in three years. Not for as long as I live. If I have to pick which Jesus to emulate, it’s the angry guy in the temple.

So can we all just get along? At one time, I might have believed we could. But after what this Republican cult has done to America, after the insults, the attacks, the desecration of our norms, the violations of the human spirit, I cannot find it in myself forgive them. Put me down on the side of vengeance.


Breaking News!!!

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Even as states open up following the shelter-in-place due to COVID-19, experts are warning that the virus could mutate into something far more lethal.

“Viruses, and coronaviruses in particular, mutate all the time. There is a possibility that this novel coronavirus could mutate into the Andromeda Strain and kill tens of millions of Americans,” said Dr. Ralph Binghampton, professor of neurological biology at the University of Wisconsin, and a leading virus researcher.

“There’s no proof that coronavirus won’t mutate,” he said, adding, “Americans should take precautions now.”

The Andromeda Strain is a virus that turns human blood into sand, causing instant death. It last struck America in the Fall of 1976, when the small town of Piedmont, New Mexico was hit. Nearly the entire population of 1,700 was wiped out.

There’s already evidence that coronavirus is in the process of shedding its old skin and mutating. Dr. Francine Weinschlub, a sociology instructor at the University of Utah, points to cases in India that look suspiciously like the Andromeda Strain. “We don’t know exactly what it is until we’ve studied the virus’s structure. But we have to assume the worst!”

The New Dehli Times reported the unusual deaths earlier this week. Two women in the village of Rahjnapurdeesh allegedly dropped dead in the marketplace. When doctors autopsied them, pink-colored sand poured out. The local Mayor, Purdah Jimsomare, ordered an immediate curfew “to contain the spread of the Andromeda Strain.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the Center for Infectious Diseases, Allergies and Phobias, said it is possible that the women died from Andromeda Strain. “The structure of the two viruses, coronavirus and Andromeda Strain, is very similar. All it would take is a tiny little molecular switch for it to turn from one into the other.”

At the White House, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said President Trump is aware of the situation. “He’s monitoring the situation closely. But he feels there’s no need for alarm. Democrats overplayed the danger of the COVID-19, which can be cured by injecting Lysol into the veins, and now they’re going to overplay this fake Andromeda Strain. It’s in order to hurt the greatest President in American history.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S., particularly in Red states. Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, Montana, Kentucky and Montana have been hard hit, with infection rates and deaths increasing exponentially in the last week. In Kentucky, the death toll topped 50,000 on Thursday, leading Sen. Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, to declare, “President Trump’s war against coronavirus has been a tremendous success. Without it, we’d have millions of dead Kentuckians.”

Churches especially are witnessing death rates not seen in modern history. The Southern Baptist Convention announced that at least 1 million of its members have perished due to COVID-19. Asked if this had anything to do with permitting mega-churches to hold massive services despite warnings from public health officials, Luther Busbee, a SBC spokesman, said, “No. Those two phenomenons are unrelated.” He added, “If anything, God has protected our wonderful members from getting sick. God hates coronavirus and Democrats.”

BREAKING NEWS!!!

Reports from the nation’s capital state that the White House is being evacuated due to a strange illness. Karen diFillippi, an Associated Press reporter covering President Trump, reports seeing bodies “lined up in the Rose Garden, being put into body bags by men in Hazmat suits.” Among the victims is said to be Trump advisor Stephen Miller. President Trump’s whereabouts are unknown. Melania Trump was seen rushing into a helicopter. Ivanka Trump, who was in New York City on a shopping trip, was heard telling a friend, “I just hope Melania remembered her Fendi peekaboo bag.”

BULLETIN!!!

President Trump is dead, according to witnesses in the White House who say they saw doctors packing the president’s body in ice. “He was eating a cheeseburger in the Oval [Office] one minute, and the next minute, he clutched his chest, said ‘I have a terrific heartache,’ and then he keeled over,” said one aide who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Another aide said, “I heard that pink sand was dribbling out from his anus when he died.” This report could not be verified.

Vice President Mike Pence is said to be hunkering down in an undisclosed location. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had no comment. Maine Senator Susan Collins said she is injecting Lysol, and added that she is praying for the late President’s family. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is said to be among the dead, who also include the entire Trump Cabinet and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Asked by reporters if He is targeting Republicans, and specifically Trump allies, with the new Andromeda Strain, God answered, “The facts speak for themselves.”


Who is Brian Jordan Bartels?

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I’ve been saying for years that the looters, arsonists and rioters who hide themselves inside legitimate protests are not leftist “antifa” people, but white supremacist, neo-fascist revolutionaries who just want to create chaos and, if they can, provoke a civil war.

Anybody who reads my blog knows that’s been my position ever since Occupy days. To label these people “left wing agitators,” as Republicans are doing, is wrong. Of course, individual looters have individual motives. Some are just looking for free shit. Some may well have convinced themselves they’re superheroes battling the forces of fascism and repression. But—and this is the kernel of my argument and has been since 2011, when I first encountered these losers—many, maybe even a majority, are exactly what I described: white supremacist, neo-fascist punks.

That’s who Brian Jordan Bartels is. He’s the 20-year old white Pittsburgh guy who was arrested the other day for “institutional vandalism, criminal mischief, rioting and five counts of reckless endangerment” when video of him surfaced destroying a police car, in the middle of a peaceful Black Lives Matter/George Floyd demonstration. It’s awful watching him—you want to jump on him and scream STOP! Which is exactly what one of the marchers, a young Black guy, did. Watch and listen to the video: It’s inspiring. “No!” The Black guy screams at Bartels. Then, at the crowd-at-large: “What did I tell you? What did I tell you? It is not Black people [committing the violence]. What are you doing?” Here, Bartels—clad from head to foot in black, including a hoodie—gives the fuck finger to the Black guy, even as another voice, clearly that of a Black woman, yells at Bartels, “You’re not helping us!”

Well, fortunately, Bartels’ parents turned him in to police. According to a Pittsburgh news station, a search of Bartels’ home turned up “2 firearms, books, gloves, cans of spray paint, indica (marijuana), and a sweatshirt with white writing on the front.” As I write these words, it’s not clear where the case is right now in the Pennsylvania courts, but we can only hope they throw the book at him.

I’m so glad Bartels was busted because it’s important to know who these violent idiots are. As the director of the FBI—yes, Trump’s FBI–has said, “homegrown violent extremists [are] the greatest threat to the United States.” And these violent extremists are, as was reported yesterday by NBC, often “white nationalist groups” like “Identity Evropa,” which ran fake Twitter posts such as this incendiary one: “Tonight’s the night, Comrades,” it says, with a brown raised fist, “tonight we say ‘Fuck The City’ and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours …”. This is not Black people talking. It is not “Communists” despite the stupid “comrades” use; it is white nationalists trying to sound Black, trying to rouse a peaceful protest into mass violence so that Americans will denounce the demonstrators, fear Black people, and thus help Trump.

It’s really important to lend the lie to the Trump allegation that “Antifa” is responsible for the violence. Antifa doesn’t exist: there’s no such thing. It’s a made-up term, a neologism that’s the short form of “anti-fascist” whose usage goes back to the 1930s, when German Communists used it to describe themselves and their struggle against Hitler and Nazism. Nowadays, it means absolutely nothing. I have never once seen the word “antifa” spray painted on a wall, and I live in Oakland, where tagging your affiliation and your cause is a way of life. Ever since the Occupy days of 2011, every time there’s a protest you see all kinds of tags: Black Lives Matter, ACAB, and so on, but “Antifa”? Never. I doubt if there’s a single protester anywhere who calls himself “Antifa.” The only reason this word is bandied about is because it’s useful for Trump to rile up his white supremacist base and to lump all protest under a single umbrella term his followers can hate.

So who is Brian Jordan Bartels? Nobody. A human nothingness, a piece of flotsam on the eddies on history, a felon who deserves to rot in jail. The more important question is, who is he not? And the answer is: he is not a leftist, not a liberal, not some crusading freedom fighter battling fascists. He has no political ideals, no moral compass; he is simply a spoiled suburban white brat who, unhappy with his own life, tried to make himself important. Keep that in mind the next time you hear a Republican blame the violence on leftists.

I wrote the other day that the violence was diluting the impact of the peaceful protests, and that the peaceful marchers needed to confront the thugs in their midst. I came under fire here in Oakland for saying that. People said it was unrealistic and/or counter-productive. But I was right. The peaceful marchers are now doing just that, which is why the protests are growing in importance; as the violence declines, there’s a corresponding rise in middle-of-the-road white support. This is a significant and welcome development.

I wish I could shake the hand of the Black guy in that video, the one who confronted Bartels. I hope you remember, for the rest of your life, the anguish in his voice, a voice that should define history. “No! What did I tell you? What did I tell you? It is not Black people! What are you doing?”


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