Unreality Check #17: Some want your money, others…?

I got an email today with the subject line ‘List of corporations that support the “Equality” Act’. It was from Ralph Reed, FFC. I wasn’t familiar with either his name or what FFC meant, but the quotes around “Equality” suggested that it was probably from someone who didn’t believe in the term. In any event, I was curious to see which companies would be listed, so I opened it.

Sure enough, the salutation was “Dear Fellow Conservative.” According to Mr. Reed the act is “an attack on religious liberty in all forms.” Passing it would mean “opening women’s bathrooms and changing areas to biological men.” It would also, Reed said, force “adoption agencies that operate under a biblical understanding of family…to violate their beliefs or shut down adoption services.”

There’s a lot to unpack even in these few selected excerpts but suffice to say the following: the idea of Reed, or evangelical Christians in general, giving a hoot about religious liberty “in all forms” is laughable; biological men have been doing the things described above for centuries, with or without legislation such as this; and the stuff about adoption agencies is just nonsense.

What I want to talk about is how the fine folks at Faith & Freedom Coalition (FFC!) apparently feel they have to trick even their supposed supporters into opening their fundraising emails. There was no list of companies, not even a mention of one. The only thing inside the email was a bunch of words designed to terrorize the feeble minded, surrounded by a bunch of links to send FFC your money.

The Satanic Temple, by contrast, has a straightforward approach to addressing actual issues. In light of the renewed assault on women’s freedoms, it is sending out simple instructions as to how to become a member, noting that as one “your rights to abortion will be protected by religious freedom.”

I don’t purport to know the accuracy of that statement one way or the other. But it makes me wonder. Which do you suppose is the better recruiting technique? Tricking your audience into opening your message and then shaking them down for money? Or providing a straightforward solution to rapidly escalating problem?

Not to worry…Mr. Reed is ready to defend religious liberty in all forms! Right, Mr. Reed?

Mr. Reed? Oh well. He was kind of a bummer anyway.

Unreality Check #16: Insurrection Commission

It’s nice to move on. And slowly but surely most people seem to be doing so, both from COVID-19 and a more-painful-than-usual election cycle. But it’s also important to figure out why bad things like pandemics and insurrections happen, the better to avoid them in the future.

In this spirit, the US House of Representatives voted yesterday to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The vote was 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats in deciding that it’s important to figure out what happened and why.

I’m particularly happy about five of the GOP congressmen. Two were from my natural habitat, two from my chosen home, and one is a wildcard.

From southwest Michigan, both Peter Meijer and Fred Upton voted to have a look at the day’s events. Meijer took office just this year, is 33 years old, and part of the Meijer grocery family. An 8-year Army Reservist, he was deployed for two years in Iraq and holds an MBA from NYU. Meijer has purchased body armor and adopted a varied schedule due to threats against his life following his vote to impeach Pres. Donald Trump in the insurrection’s wake.

His West Michigan counterpart (and counterpoint) is Fred Upton, who’s been in Congress since 1987 and is 68 years old. He voted both to impeach Pres. Bill Clinton in 1998 and Trump after the insurrection. Upton holds a BA in journalism from the University of Michigan.

Van Taylor and Tony Gonzalez are the two Republicans from Texas. Taylor is from Plano, north of Dallas. He took office in 2019, is a Marine combat veteran of Iraq, and holds an MBA from Harvard University. Gonzalez is a freshman congressman representing far-west Texas (excluding El Paso). He was elected in this long-purple part of the state when his six-year predecessor, fellow Republican Will Hurd, chose not to run again. The region’s new rep is a 10-year Navy veteran and has a Ph.D. in international development and security studies.

Gonzalez also shares the frustration felt by anyone who goes by Chris Smith of having someone else lock out the first page of Google results for the name. In his case it’s a Hall of Fame Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons tight end. In mine, it’s a 68-year old Republican New Jersey congressman (with help from a recent UCLA point guard).

But Smith did vote to establish the commission, doing the tens of thousands of us who share the name proud!

Unreality Check #15: Humans Are Funny

From Morning Consult. Nearly 3 in 5 unvaccinated adults say $1,000 would sway them to get a COVID-19 shot. What about their moral objections? Or the “fact” that it’s “unsafe” or will even “kill you?” Or “butt out government!” Maybe these people are the 40%. Either way, sheeesh. Maybe just go get vaccinated?


From the Inbox:

“My name is Adam Chodikoff, and I am an Associate Producer with “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” – this may shock you, but none of us in the late night comedy world are required to be pipeline experts, so I wanted to turn to experts to fact check this statement: considering how fast the pipeline operations were restored, the sole reason for the shortages over the past few days was panic buying. Some sources seem to be saying that – wanted to check with you guys to see if that’s true. Thanks!”

I told Adam that, yes, Trevor could safely say the shortages were consumer created. it was a planned shutdown initiated by the company to ensure the pipeline itself actually was secure. they could have started flows again at any point once that determination was made and as it was did so two days earlier than they had initially thought might be required.

Or, as the New Yorker put it…

Come on! We need to go wait hours in line to buy gas before the price goes back down!

Unreality Check #14: Universal Suffrage

Every US citizen should be able to vote in every election. This is a fact and it should orient our views regarding the issue.

Eligibility to vote should be the default condition. As a US citizen, once you turn 18 you should automatically be added to the voting rolls and issued a voter ID. Adult immigrants would be issued their ID as part of their citizenship.

If there is a statutorily prescribed reason to remove your right to vote, it should be removed and your voter ID deactivated. Such statutes would ideally be limited, but ultimately would be decided by the people of the times, as is fit and proper.

Voting is a right, and US citizens should not be disenfranchised without agreed upon reason. Which means you should vote in every election to make sure not just the President but the people climbing the political ladder agree with your views on the topic.

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Voting Rights Part 2: “Own the libs” edition

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The Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC) is a branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that charters, regulates, and supervises all national banks and federal savings associations as well as federal branches and agencies of foreign banks. It issued a rule in December 2020 allowing predatory lenders to evade state interest rate laws by putting a bank’s name on the paperwork. It seems unlikely that this rule was designed to benefit or protect the average citizen.

In a 52-47 vote tonight, the US Senate voted to overturn the OCC’s “fake lender” rule via S.J. Res. 15 introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Rep. “Chuy” García introduced a parallel resolution, H.J. Res. 35, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now that the Senate approved the resolution, the House has until the end of this legislative session to vote on it.

Advocates applauded the Senate vote and urged the House to act quickly to prevent a massive expansion of predatory lending through “rent-a-bank” schemes in all 50 states. Republican Senators Cynthia Lumis (R-WY), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined with Democrats in voting to overturn the rule.

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is sending out fundraiser texts that read: “We can’t allow Dr. Fauci to continue this political theater. Chip in now if you want to FIRE FAUCI: bit.ly/FauciTheater

Way to stay focused on the issues, Rand.

Unreality Check #13: Conspiracy Generator

The need to be victimized is apparently limitless. The 2020 Census resulted, as designed, in the reapportionment of some seats in the US House of Representatives. Most of the states that gained seats lean Red, most that lost, Blue. And yet somehow conspiracy theories have emerged (yet again) that the fix was in on the part of the Democrats.

The speed with which each new event generates its own wave of misinformation designed to reinforce the idea that something was stolen during the last election stretches the limits of credulity. It’s almost as if the stories are generated by design.

In the event they were, who could benefit from reminding the disaffected as frequently as possible that they’d been wronged?  Republicans? Russia? The Media Elites? Let’s look at the size of benefit for each. The people who run media companies could make more money, and then use that money to attempt to force their artist-waged employees to execute the bigwigs’ evil agenda. The GOP could retake control of the executive and legislative branches of the United States government, a bigger prize by far. But Russia…Russia could succeed in destabilizing the greatest defender of freedom the world has ever known. Now, THAT’s a prize!

Uh oh. I think I might have just done it myself.

The moral of this story? Rabbit holes, even when you build them yourself, are dangerous. Best to spend most of your time taking things at face value. That’s almost always what reflects reality anyway.

Here’s a fun graph looking at how motorsports fans break vs. the general population in terms of how likely they are to buy an electric vehicle. As both an avid motorsports fan and an F1 fan, it looks like I’d better starting planning for higher electric bills!

Unreality Check #12: The Second Playlist

As I continue querying (is anybody out there?) I spend time between letters putting together a ‘soundtrack’ for ‘Unreality.’ I’m happy at this point to unveil the second of four I plan to complete. This list was inspired by the second quarter of the book, in which the stage has already been set and the madness ahead begins to reveal itself.

Some of the selections are based on the narrative, so playing it in order makes sense. But ALL are based on the tone and themes and I’ve found that shuffle also creates an enjoyable ride.

This list starts with Humble Pie (also featured on the first…can you really have too much ’Pie!?) and ends with early-2000s Sacramento metalcore heroes Catherine. Artists tickling your ears in between range from DNCE to Slayer, with Anderson .Paak, Biggie (x2), DJ Shadow w/Run The Jewels, Ministry, and many more pouring out of your speakers before the ride is over.

At 50 songs (~3.5 hrs) long it’s perfect for your next house cleaning, poker game, pool party, barbecue, or smoke sesh. Listen today. Listen again tomorrow!

Unreality Check #11: Do stuff, you guys!

Come to find out this vaccination that’s going around is just one small part of a psyops campaign to enslave us all. Or it’s an RNA suppressant being unleashed as a population control mechanism. Let’s go with the first one for now. There’s less hard science involved.

It’s going to be wild to see what happens once Americans are back to grilling, and boating, and baseball, and stuff like that. You know, basically setting disposable income on fire for our own enjoyment. We’ve been trained for generations that it’s the path to happiness. The new campaign is going to have to be a BEAST if it’s going to overwhelm the one already in place, especially regarding keeping us all in line.

We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, don’t forget that COVID-19 is transmitted by 5G and that Bill Gates is funding the vaccine to microchip us all.

Such claims are not only being pushed now but echo the tone of many of those used against the smallpox vaccine 136 years ago. That illustration above is the top of an antivax pamphlet from 1885. The one below, its conclusion.

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Here’s something else to think about. If you DO stuff, you don’t have to walk around talking about doing stuff all the time. It’s DONE. People can look at it. Experience it. It’s there.

On the other hand, if you want to seem like you’re doing stuff, but actually lack the will or ability to get it done, you’d best be spending as much time as you can talking about it to make sure nobody finds out what the real score is.

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I’m pretty sure “you guys” is a gender-neutral expression.

Unreality Check #10: Beisbol, Lt. Dan, and record stores

In case you didn’t notice, Republicans are trying to cancel Major League Baseball because they object to its position on voting rights. And they’re carrying on as if they think they have a chance of doing so (#GetWokeGoBroke?…puhleaze).

That didn’t work so well with the kneeling and the NFL did it? Games are still selling out. TV contracts are still getting signed. When will they realize they’re outnumbered?

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Newly ‘blonde’ Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a ridiculous snowflake.

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If you’re starting to get out into the world for the first time in…a long time, plan a trip to your local independent record store. Not only will you come home with something you’re happy you bought, but the visit will do wonders for your reorientation (nostalgia being the powerful drug it is), and you’ll help a business that (if it’s lucky) is only just now starting to emerge from a 12-month winter.

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American oilfield services and equipment sector employment rose by more than 23,000 jobs in March, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Higher crude prices are good for the industry and adding to payrolls to this degree is one of the clearest indicators yet that the industry is starting to feel like they’re going to stick around.

And in a win for the environment (and therefore all we creatures who live in it) the DC Circuit granted the Biden administration’s request Monday to vacate a rule left over from the Trump cabal that would have prevented the EPA from setting standards to reduce greenhouse gas pollution produced by so-called stationary sources, such as refineries.

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One of the things those afraid of “socialized medicine” wave around most frequently is the plethora of choices and lack of waiting our current system provides us. What a crock. I called to make my daughter a virtual appointment after school with her OB/GYN. Even on a remote basis they weren’t going to be able to get her in for 2 months with that timing. So now it’s tomorrow at 1:30. In the middle of the school day. Guess WE have to figure that out. While paying several thousand dollars/year in premiums. To be part of a network I didn’t choose. And then pay the doctor anyway to meet the deductible.

Unreality Check #9: Codename Hillary

The Evergreen Marine Corp.-operated ultra-large container vessel Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal yesterday during a sandstorm, closing the vital shipping route. It remains stuck in the canal today. Eight tugboats are working to float it. The vessel, one of the largest container ships in the world, was en route to Rotterdam from China.

Oil prices rose due to the temporary disruption of tanker traffic, halting a two-week decline. As of this morning there were seven laden tankers carrying a total of 6.3 million bbl of oil waiting to enter the canal, two northbound and five southbound. Commodities intelligence firm Kpler estimates that if Ever Given remains grounded through the end of the week three more tankers will join this queue, adding 2.5 million bbl of oil.

These are small volumes. Daily global production currently totals roughly 75 million bbl. About 10% of the world’s crude shipments travel through the Suez, so a prolonged closure would be problematic. But this unlikely and a more salient contributing cause for the higher oil prices was US gasoline consumption reaching its highest level in four months.

Despite this, be ready for Ever Given’s grounding to be used as the reason for higher prices on any number of goods and for this in turn to be cast as evidence that the United States needs to buy as little as it possibly can from other parts of the world.  

Evergreen is based in Taiwan and was founded in 1968. Either Hillary Clinton took her US Secret Service name from the company or the fact that the two are the same is coincidence. There is so far no evidence that any of the containers on board are shipping babies.

For additional mirth regarding the grounding, check the Twitter thread below:

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The 3 most on-brand GOP reactions so far to the recent shootings (in the order encountered)

1. It was a false-flag operation

2. What about the border? (and whataboutism in general)

3. The Boulder shooter was Muslim (as shared by @DonaldJTrumpJr and parroted by his minions since)

Unreality Check #8: Go Coogs!

University of Houston men’s basketball has made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the second season in a row. These are great times for Cougars fans like me, who were one of 1,000 or so students who lived on campus and would walk to Hofheinz Pavilion as a study break when there was a game happening.

Guy V. Lewis was still coach for my first season as a Coog, but Hakeem had held his press conference the previous spring (on the very day I was visiting campus from Michigan no less) to declare for the NBA draft and Phi Slamma Jamma had left campus with him. Rickie Winslow was my favorite player that first season. He ran hard, dunked a lot, and led the team in rebounds (aka, he was fun to watch). Alvin Franklin, Greg Anderson, and Reid Gettys were other notables on that squad.

The last few years of Cougar basketball have been a joy to watch. The team plays hard, is a legit eight players deep before even the first small drop off, and when it’s on can either swamp or smother the opposition, often both. DeJon Jarreau has the heart legends are made of and Tramon Mark is a killer we’ve only seen the faintest glimmer from yet. In between is a roster that takes the court as one…Every. Single. Night.

You don’t have to be an old head like me to enjoy the ride though. There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon—and pro sports in town are wasteland—so get on board!

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From the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point —

Mary McCord serves as Executive Director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) and Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. McCord was the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2016 to 2017 and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division from 2014 to 2016.

Previously, McCord was an Assistant US Attorney for nearly 20 years at the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Among other positions, she served as a Deputy Chief in the Appellate Division, overseeing and arguing hundreds of cases in the US and District of Columbia Courts of Appeals, and Chief of the Criminal Division, where she oversaw all criminal prosecutions in federal district court.

CTC: In the wake of the storming of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, what is your assessment of the threat posed by the extreme far-right in the United States?

McCord: If anyone were ever inclined to discount the threat of far-right extremist violence in the United States, the insurrection at the US Capitol certainly should have changed their views. We witnessed our fellow Americans violently assaulting US Capitol Police, forcibly entering and overrunning the Capitol Building, and attempting to kidnap elected officials and prevent the certification of the electoral college vote. They succeeded in delaying the counting for several hours. Although it was shocking to witness because of the sheer number of people willing to use violence to overthrow the government, it was not surprising that extremists led the charge. This is something that has been building up for some time now.

The former president sowed the seeds for this even before the election as he claimed that mail-in ballots were particularly susceptible to fraud and that the only way he could lose were if the election were rigged. He doubled down after the election, refusing to concede and actively spreading disinformation about election fraud, for which there was no credible evidence produced in court after court in states around the country. He bought into the “Stop the Steal” rhetoric and propagated it, adding a veneer of credibility because of his position of power and influence. The false narrative gave the extremists a “cause” that he urged them to fight for, explicitly calling on them to “never concede” and “fight like hell.” We worried before January 6 that Trump’s most extreme supporters would take him literally, and they did.

The lies and rhetoric that spurred extremists to commit the assault on the Capitol—and our democracy—is the kind of rhetoric that often spurs individuals and groups to commit some sort of act of terrorism. We’ve seen disinformation used this way before.

For example, the El Paso shooter, he’s never been traced back to a particular group, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t radicalized by consuming toxic disinformation and violent rhetoric on social media, which came through in his manifesto. The Michigan plot [to kidnap the state’s governor] was a terrorist plot—a plot to influence a policy of government through intimidation or coercion, specifically because of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pandemic-related policies. That’s terrorism. And that wasn’t done by an individual; that was a group that plotted together over a course of months, acquired weapons, built weapons, created strategies, cased out various places for this crime to take place—all the type of plotting that I’ve seen by terrorists in my career, oftentimes connected to a foreign terrorist organization.

For US-based organizations, there is no lawful structure for designating a domestic terrorist organization. Congress would have to create a new authority to do that. That bumps up against First Amendment rights because people and organizations in the US have the right to express views, peacefully assemble with each other, and petition the government with their grievances. The Supreme Court has never had to rule on whether it would be lawful to designate a domestic organization as a terrorist organization since there has never been such an attempt, and we don’t have the legal authorities to do it. I think it’s not an impossible thing to do, but it would be subject to immediate challenge, First Amendment challenge, and I think it would be extremely controversial in Congress to consider authorities for designating domestic terrorist organizations.

(read the whole interview here)