Visceral horror

For years, I was involved in these uncomfortable debates within the atheist community where one side would argue “Reason and Science!” and the other would say “Emotions matter!”, and I would uneasily argue that they both matter — uneasy because I’m happier talking about science and am not at all charismatic or able to draw on any kind of emotional sympathy. Old Nerd Talking, that’s me.

But right now, in the court of public opinion, we’re seeing the debate play out, and what’s clearly winning is emotion — and, I think, reason as well, but it’s the feelings that are driving the discourse. I think that’s important. It really settles the argument that both are necessary. What’s punching everyone in the gut so hard is that the Republicans have thrown away any attempt to mask their lack of humanity.

An example: when my kids were very young, I let them watch what I thought was a harmless, fun, children’s movie. I didn’t realize that it was a horror movie.

That movie was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Does anyone remember this character?

It was striking: my kids were fine with the movie, until this guy shows up — a villain called The Child Catcher who snatches up children and drags them away from their families. He affected them immediately in a way that no other monster movie ever did. They’d cover their eyes. They’d run out of the room. They probably had nightmares about him, because all I had to do was say the words “Child Catcher!” and they’d shudder. I think if they had the choice of being attacked by the wolfman or the Child Catcher, the wolfman would win every time.

I got to visit my little grandson a few weeks ago. He’s 7 months old. Babies are fine-tuned, sensitive people detectors, and you could see it in his behavior, the way his eyes would light up and he’d squirm with happiness when he saw his mommy and daddy. He’s barely a person, he’s new and squishy and helpless, and the first concept his newly developed brain is forming is a love for his parents. I realized that I’d die fighting anyone trying to separate them.

It’s totally irrational. But this stuff matters. Donald Trump and the entire Republican party have steered themselves right into Child Catcher territory.

I’d like to think this would lead to their downfall, but unfortunately, Trumpsters also love children, and the only way they can resolve the dissonance is to dehumanize brown children even more — they aren’t babies, they’re future MS-13 gang members! That’s precisely what we’re seeing right now, and it could make everything even worse.

What would Liam Neeson do?

Say he got word that some terrorist had kidnapped hundreds of babies and was holding them hostage until the government met his ransom demands — and he’s no piker, he’s asking for tens of billions of dollars.

Well, I’m a little disappointed that no action hero has stepped forward to deal with this situation.

Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned.

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.

Since the White House announced its zero tolerance policy in early May, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in a new influx of young children requiring government care.

Rachel Maddow has the response I would make, because I’m no action hero either.

A #NationalStrike? Think about it.

From Libbie Grant on Facebook, here’s something we can prepare for.

Folks. There is serious talk today all over Twitter about organizing a national strike to force the GOP-controlled Congress to either impeach Trump or force his resignation. This is a great idea, but it’s something we need to prepare for, and we may not have a whole lot of time to prepare.

What is a national strike? It’s when everybody in the country refuses to spend money. If you can also refuse to go to work and do your job, that’s good too, but the crucial part is the refusal to spend money. 70% of the USA’s GDP is personal consumption. That means our entire economy–and by extension, our government–depends on us spending money on the stuff we use or own. We have almost no exports anymore; our exports are, in effect, our individual citizens’ personal consumption.

Those of you who are my age or older remember what happened just after 9/11. Everybody was freaked out and shocked, so Americans hunkered down in their homes and did nothing, went nowhere, bought nothing unless they absolutely had to. Just a few days of decreased spending had a massive impact on our economy and our government. I remember George W. Bush going on TV and pleading with Americans to start spending money again. That wasn’t just another idiotic thing W said because he’s a dummy; it’s what Congress asked him to do because they found themselves unable to function at that critical time due to the sudden cessation of our economy.

That’s a national strike. That’s what we can do–what we NEED to do–in order to force the Republican-controlled Congress to act. They will NOT act without it.

We all need to be preparing now for the national strike. With luck, it will only need to last for a few days, and Congress will cave. But we should be prepared for a longer strike if necessary.

Here’s what you need to start doing right now in order to make this strike effective and ensure you can continue to participate without putting yourself or your loved ones at risk of too much discomfort.

-Stock up on non-perishable food, enough to last up to a month. Canned stuff. Can your own goods now if you know how to do it and have the equipment. Go for foods that are calorie-dense and/or filling. Dried beans are cheap and will keep you going indefinitely. Buy a ton of them and store them in solid, critter-proof containers.

-Make sure you have a good can opener and a spare.

-Stock up on medications and other care supplies for a month or more.

-Stock up on all the pet supplies you will need for a month or more.

-Assume that this evil, fascist government will attempt to fight back by shutting down utilities in some cities. That may include your city. So that means you must: 1) Get those big 5-gallon water jugs, lots of them, and fill them up now, and put secure coverings over the openings so bugs can’t get in. Store them in a safe place. 2) Have camping supplies? Great! Stock up on white gas or other fuel sources to run camping cook stoves. If you don’t have a camping stove already, get one now. They aren’t terribly expensive and you can find used ones on Craigslist. You should have one anyway in an emergency kit (as those of us who live in earthquake country know!) 3) Be sure you have working flashlights and plenty of batteries. 4) Get a solar charger for your personal electronic devices. 5) Pull out some cash and keep it in a safe place in case you need to buy anything in a real emergency situation. Or put aside valuable items you think you can trade to your neighbors. 6) Consider what your town is like during the summer and think ahead to your comfort needs. Plan how to meet those needs without electricity or money. Maybe that means identifying the coolest location in your neighborhood and making a plan to spend the hottest hours of the day there. Start thinking about this stuff now. 7) Check in with your elderly and disabled neighbors to be sure they are similarly prepared for utility shutdowns and have supplies laid away and a way to contact help if they need it. 8) Make a plan for waste disposal if those utilities are shut down, too.

Be prepared. A national strike is almost certainly coming at this point. With luck, it won’t be a long-term situation and it’ll be over in a matter of a handful of days. But be sure you’re ready in case it’s not over so quickly.

I would support this. The only question is what fraction of the population would actually join in…because face it, there are a heck of a lot of people who think fascism is just fine.

Another thing that could be done: Marches are planned all across the country for 30 June. I’ll be there!

Yep, they’re Nazis. No more waffling about it.

I’ve been told I’m a member of gang of nihilists whose life’s mission is to undermine all of western civilization, so I’m totally unsurprised by the latest rhetoric from the neo-Nazis at Fox News.

You think any of these people care about family separation? If they did, they’d be upset about the collapse of the American family, which is measurable and real. They’re not. They welcome that collapse, because strong families are an impediment to their political power.

Name a few lefties who hate families, OK? All that stupid labeling that we heard when the war in Iraq was being justified because they “hate freedom” is now spilling over into their characterization of their political opponents here in the US. They’re tearing children from their parents’ arms, and telling us that we just hate families.

Kinder, Küche, Kirche! Volksaufklärung und Propaganda!

The police do not have citizens’ best interests at heart

How can I say that? Once again, we have evidence of cops acting criminally.

Police in Minneapolis asked medical responders to inject people with ketamine, a powerful sedative, even if they were already restrained in handcuffs or strapped to a gurney, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The newspaper, which obtained a copy of the city’s civil rights review on the practice, wrote on Friday that police pressured EMS to inject victims as they begged them not to. In some cases, the drug caused the victim’s hearts or breathing to stop, requiring intubation or other medical treatment to revive them.

The department’s own conduct manual categorizes ketamine as a powerful “date rape drug” — not just because it immobilizes victims, but can tamper with memory, even erasing victims’ recollections of their time on the drug. Ketamine is a sedative used medically in humans and animals, and has a long history of recreational use.

That’s interesting. I used to use ketamine routinely as an anesthetic on cats and rabbits, before we whipped out the dental drills and bored holes in their skulls and lowered electrodes into their brains. It’s potent stuff. Sometimes too potent — we had to monitor the anesthetic closely, because the line between respiratory/cardiac failure and waking up in the middle of surgery was so narrow. Routinely injecting it into citizens to calm them down? Sounds like a bad, dangerous idea, and kind of pointless when they’re strapped down.

I’ve also been given a low dose of ketamine, once when I blew out my knee and was lying there with a limb bent in strange orientations and out of my head with agony. It was odd — it left me disoriented and confused and so out of it that the doctor was able to wrench all the bones back into place. That was nice, but still not something I want a cop to be directing an EMS tech to be shooting me with, for their convenience.

The only good thing about this reckless policy is that using a dissociative sedative is preferable to shooting someone, the other strategy of civilian management the Minneapolis police department favors.

Speaking of the humanities…

The University of Minnesota, Morris has received approval from the legislature for a $4.5 million investment in…the humanities.

We’ve also been awarded a $137,000 Mellon grant to strengthen the place and the understanding of … the humanities.

Speaking as a STEM sort of guy, and one who was recently informed in a comment that The hard or natural sciences are mostly safe. Most of the corruption is in the humanities. That’s where most of the danger lies for student radicalization, I’m going to say “EXCELLENT!” We need more education in the humanities to correct these ninnies who think both that “hard sciences are safe” and “humanities are corrupt”. We need students to learn dangerous ideas, and that’s where the most dangerous ideas are found.

There was something we’re supposed to remember, or we’re doomed to repeat it. What was that thing again?

I’m suddenly seeing a lot of contempt for the humanities, goaded on by people like Jordan Peterson, who has said the humanities are not only dead but foully rotten. I disagree, of course, and would like to point out that history is one of the humanities (not to disparage the other branches, though — I’d be happy to write a defense of all of them). That we’ve forgotten, or choose to forget, much of our history is a problem. Case in point: Jeff Sessions’ denial that the policies he supports resembles those of Nazi Germany.

“Well, it’s a real exaggeration, of course. In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country,” Sessions said. “We need to think it through, be rational and thoughtful about it. We want to allow asylum for people who qualify for it, but people who want economic migration for their personal financial benefit, and what they think is their families’ benefit, is not a basis for a claim of asylum.”

Whoa. Sessions is acknowledging implicitly the similarity between Nazi Germany and 21st century USA, and is straining to find some little difference between us, and that’s the one he wants to claim? Perhaps he needs to be reminded of Nazi policy.

Toward the end of the 1930s, and especially from the latter half of 1938, massive Jewish emigration from Germany and Austria became an explicit objective of Nazi policy.

He might also want to learn something about Nazi propaganda. Der Ewige Jude portrayed Jews as parasites, in Germany to prey upon and profit from good German human beings; further, it blamed them for organized crime, generally violent tendencies, and rape. How has Trump characterized immigrants? No differently.

The Nazis did not suddenly burst upon Europe with concentration camps and mass executions. They started with a little seed of anti-semitism and nurtured it until it flowered into the Holocaust. It’s the same here; this is how it’s done, with a gradual ramping up of the offenses against humanity until we get to full blown atrocities. Catch it early. Nip it in the bud. Of course, you can only do that if you’ve studied the humanities.

While the Republicans are hurtling headlong into evil, I can’t excuse the Democrats, either.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who spearheaded legislation to ban the separation of families at the border, also linked the detention policies to World War II Germany.

“This is the United States of America; it’s not Nazi Germany,” Feinstein told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Monday. “We don’t take children from their parents. Until now.”

Until now? I am reminded of how wrong that statement is every day: located right next to the science building where I work is an old brick building, the last vestige of the Morris Industrial School for Indians, founded in 1887 by the Catholic Church as a boarding school for Indians. We separated children from their parents, sometimes forcibly, sometimes with economic pressure, and we held them captive for years at a time. Approximately two thousand kids were held here over the lifetime of the school.

…like other boarding schools, the Morris program alienated students not necessarily adverse to learning to read and write. Only English was to be spoken; the curriculum emphasized the value of the white man’s way and at least implicitly the evil of the child’s home.

We don’t have a lot of stories about what went on inside the school — control was fairly complete, the administrators had power over what was written by a student body brought in largely illiterate. But some accounts exist.

Methods of discipline at Minnesota boarding schools were harsh. Some schools had cells or dungeons where students were confined for days and given only bread and water. One forced a young boy to dress like a girl for a month as a punishment; another cut a rebellious girl’s hair as short as a boy’s. Minnesota boarding schools recorded epidemics of measles, influenza, blood poisoning, diphtheria, typhoid, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, pneumonia, trachoma, and mumps, which swept through overcrowded dormitories. Students also died from accidents such as drowning and falls.

Boarding school staff assigned students to “details”: working in the kitchen, barns, and gardens; washing dishes, tables, and floors; ironing; sewing; darning; and carpentry. The schools also extensively utilized an “outing” program that retained students for the summer and involuntarily leased them out to white homes as menial laborers.

One of Minnesota’s most famous boarding school survivors is American Indian activist Dennis Banks. When he was only four years old, Banks was sent three hundred miles from his home on the Leech Lake Reservation of Ojibwe, in Cass County, to the Pipestone Indian School. Lonesome, he kept running away but was caught and severely beaten each time. Another student, at St. Benedict’s, recalled being punished by being made to chew lye soap and blow bubbles that burned the inside of her mouth. This was a common punishment for students if they spoke their tribal language.

Another reminder: Adolf Hitler admired and emulated the American methods of genocide.

The idea of a prison camp – specifically Auschwitz, in Oświęcim, Poland – where Hitler’s soldiers could shoot, hang, poison, mutilate and starve men, women and children en mass was not an idea Hitler, the bigot, came up with on his own. In fact, the Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer John Toland wrote that Hitler was inspired in part by the Indian reservation system – a creation of the United States.

“Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history,” Toland wrote in his book, Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. “He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination—by starvation and uneven combat—of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.”

We say, “Never forget”. We’re damned good at forgetting, though, which is why we’ve got a great big sign out in front of that building to remind us.

I haven’t even mentioned the willingness of Americans to enslave people and break up families if it profited them. There has been no end of evil committed by the people of this country, and now Feinstein wants to claim “We don’t take children from their parents”? When have we not? This country was founded on slavery and the slaughter and re-education of its native people.

We can’t change the past. We have to bear the burden of our history forever. The one thing we can do is to move beyond the past, be better, grow and change to never again commit these crimes against humanity, to not be evil. Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, and the Republican party seem to be committed to the idea that our national character must be one of oppression and persecution forevermore, while the Democrats choose to live in a fantasy past that denies our history…which enables the crimes to continue.

Not even a wire monkey

This is tough to listen to. I’m a 60 year old geezer, for gosh sakes, and I was tearing up.

But apparently the kind of thug you hire to guard six year olds in cages is made of sterner stuff.

The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying. “Well, we have an orchestra here,” he jokes. “What’s missing is a conductor.”

Motherfucker.

I have no illusions that the joker feels any guilt at all. We can only hope the whole lot of them is brought on trial for crimes against humanity — everyone, from dumbass guards to the scumbag at the top.

Dr. Colleen Kraft, the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that she visited a small shelter in Texas recently, which she declined to identity. A toddler inside the 60-bed facility caught her eye — she was crying uncontrollably and pounding her little fists on mat.

Staff members tried to console the child, who looked to be about 2 years old, Kraft said. She had been taken from her mother the night before and brought to the shelter.

The staff gave her books and toys — but they weren’t allowed to pick her up, to hold her or hug her to try to calm her. As a rule, staff aren’t allowed to touch the children there, she said.

Look up Harlow’s monkeys. The inhumanity of what we’re doing to these children is unforgivable.

I know that every American administration, including the previous one, has exhibited this insensitivity — but this takes evil behavior to a level where it is an end in itself.