A Scifi Explanation For ‘Havana Syndrome’


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Here’s a free scifi concept for you, Hollywood. The reason why diplomats around the world are having their minds fried by some unknown device is there’s some industrial strength “digital telepathy” going on.

The point of being targeted is a digital mindreading device is draining their minds so intensively that they suffer intense side-effects.

Money please!

America’s Politics: A Status Check


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Some rando on Twitter told me to “calm down” today after I said my usual thing about how America faces the choice of autocracy or civil war in the near, near term.

Let’s do a back of the envelope status check on American politics. I’m not getting paid to do this and the people of VOX think I’m a crank, so lulz, you get what you pay for.

What makes doing this so difficult is, while in general terms I know we’re fucked, those fears a pretty much abstract. Going forward, it’s difficult to figure out what is important and what isn’t. But let’s have a go.

The first thing that comes to the forefront of my mind is the Republican Party is now fascist. It has been completely consumed by the rancid populism of MAGA. The Republican Party is dead and now is the Trump Party in everything but name. It has no ideology other than what whatever Trump wants at any particular moment.

As such, the question is, will it be Trump or one of his would-be successors who push us to the breaking point where we face the existential choice of autocracy or civil war. For the time being, Trump is in complete control of the Republican Party and any success or failure the party has in its objectives will be the direct result of Trump’s personal ability to achieve those goals. So, it’s easy to imagine a situation where Trump being lazy and stupid is handed power AGAIN through some sort of nullification crisis in January 2025 and he’s just too stupid to shepherd the country peacefully through what would otherwise be an inevitable transition to autocracy.

So, we have a civil war and bomb each other into oblivion because MAGA can’t bear to even think of the word “liberal.” Who wins in that situation, I have no idea.

If it’s not Trump, but someone like Tom Cotton, Mike Pompeo or Josh Hawley, then I doubt we’ll have a civil war because they’re politically adept enough to avoid one. The media will be purged, ICE’s camp infrastructure weaponized and I get pushed out a window because I refuse to fucking shut up about how much I fucking hate MAGA.

There are other things floating around our undead political system that are unnerving. The glorification of political violence by MAGA along with the rise of paramilitary groups is not exactly the sign of a healthy political system. The interesting thing about this is Trump — to date — hasn’t had the guts to go transactional. So, in that regard, Trump is definitely no Hitler. What Trump loves to do is dog whistle violent acts that he would like, but he simply has never been direct about it.

But if, say, Cyber Ninjas gets his hopes up by “proving” he “won” Arizona, that might change. He might go transactional and tell MAGA’s paramilitary arm to start doing specific things to facilitate his “reinstatement.” Or not. It’s possible he’ll continue to be a big old wussy (on a political basis.)

Yet, the issue is, what does this mean going forward? Do I need to “calm down” or am I right that we face an existential choice of autocracy or civil war at some point between now and January 2025.

Nothing is set in stone, however. It’s possible that we’ll drift into some sort of “lite touch” autocracy where it’s just Conventional Wisdom that the only way a Democrat can become POTUS is if Democrats also control Congress. Liberals will vent in the media while MAGA welds hard power and that will be that for a few cycles until someone like President Mike Pompeo finally has had enough and goes full autocrat because there’s no one to stop him anymore.

2012: The Year Everything Changed


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

It used to be that there were all these predictions about how the Mayan calendar predicted the End Of The World in 2012 for some reason. Well, that obviously didn’t happen, but something did happen – 2012 was the year that white people in America began to reach a tipping point with their abstract fears about the changing nature of the country.

So, let’s think about what, exactly, happened in 2012 that caused the political hellscape that we currently enjoy. The most obvious thing is, duh, Obama won a second term. And I think the reason why there was a cascading effect from that event was a lot of Republicans thought Obama was some sort of political fluke caused by the perfect timing of the Great Recession right before the 2008 election.

When it became clear that Obama was actually the first wave of what everyone knew was coming — the advent of America being a minority majority nation, a lot of white people freaked the fuck out. It was the 2012 election that was the last election where Republicans were willing to work within the democratic norms that we all have come to enjoy for the last 240 odd years.

Something about what happened in Obama’s second term facilitated the rise of Trump, MAGA and the Republican Party becoming fascist. It was the high speed social transformation of Obama’s second term that really caused the Republican Party to pretty much be accurately represented by Trump.

If I was, like, smart and stuff, I would be able to give you a itemized deep dive of the specific events that caused conservative white people to freak out and fall into the arms of ding-dong Trump. But, I’m not that smart — and, as such, will never write for VOX, natch.

But it is curious. I think what may have happened is at some point between 2012 and 2016 Republicans realized they had lost the culture wars and, as such, they had to strike back with someone who was a “fighter.” After that happened, the rest took care of itself. Trump was a deranged lunatic, but the Establishment eventually realized he was not only hugely popular with the base, but he could win the 2016 election. So they lulzed everything for young hack MAGA judges and a plutocrat tax cut.

I love alternative history, so I often struggle to think up a way whereby we could have avoided the rise of MAGA and Trump. All I can think up is Al Gore winning the 2000 election. Even then, Obama is such a singular figure in our nation’s political history that it’s easy to imagine him winning anyway and causing MAGA to arise in response.

If you read the book The Fourth Turning, you would say that Someone Like Trump was going to pop up at some point between 2016 and, say, 2024. The demographic trends were going to cause someone like Obama to get elected and then, in turn, someone like Trump would get elected in reaction.

One last thing I think we don’t really appricate is how the introduction of the iPhone may have also sealed our fate. Once social media was no longer tied to our PCs, then things like “cancel culture” and the mainlining of things once seen as freaky was going to happen one way or another.

Anyway, the ultimate end game of this clusterfuck is a complete mystery to me. I have no idea what happens. I do know, however, that we’re going to face a choice of either MAGA autocracy or a civil war. Which one we will pick, I don’t know for the time being.

DeSantis: The Autocratic Next Time


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

All macro political trends indicate that the United States is drifting — maybe careening — towards a transition into an autocratic managed democracy like is found in Russia. The man who could very well be the once to tip the balance is current Florida governor, Ron DeSantis.

He’s the political creature that we’ve long feared: Trumpism without Trump.

So, it’s easy to imagine he becomes POTUS and makes autocratic rule palatable enough that it won’t be until Tom Cotton, or Josh Hawley or Mike Pompeo inevitable become POTUS that the ICE infrastructure is weaponized and loudmouths like me start to get pushed out of windows. But for the duration of the DeSantis Administration we’ll see a dynamic whereby hard power is weld by MAGA and cultural soft power continues to exerted by liberals in the media.

We’ll just drift into a Russian-style government so by the time the media is purged and ICE pushed me out of a window we won’t even think about it. About 50% of the population won’t even notice or care that the United States is no longer a liberal democracy because they will, at last, “just be left alone.”

That, at least, is one option.

But there are two other scenarios to think about when feeling bad about how dark America’s future is right now.

One is, Trump is so stupid and craven that he completely fucks up what is otherwise a done deal. He either kneecaps DeSantis out of envy or he somehow bungles our transition into autocratic managed democracy by embracing the “24 or before” slogan and everything goes wrong. In a sense, this would simply delay the rise of fascism in the United States, not stop it.

Meanwhile, the other option is, well, a fucking civil war.

I hate violence and I don’t want a civil war. But if you look at the United States on a macro historical level, we’re very similar to the America of the late 1850s — there may come a point where we have to chose between continued domination by Slave Power (MAGA) or we are forced to slice this particular boil once and for all.

But there are no assurances that the “good guys” would win in such a situation. So, I don’t know what to tell you. We’re fucked.

The Duality Of Maggie Haberman — And Speculation On Why She’s Enraging Trumplandia Right Now


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

The thing about “Trump Whisperer” Maggie Haberman is she is, at the same time, both way too close to Trumplandia AND a great journalist. So the Twitter liberals who defend her no matter what and the populist pitchfork crowd on Twittter who hate her both have vaild arguments.

Recently, however, Trumplandia “thought leaders” like Sean Hannity are freaking out about her, apparently out of the blue. It makes you think maybe she’s up to something that she’s asking questions about and they’re doing a pre-emptive freak out to prepare to base for whatever bombshell she’s about to drop.

What I HOPE she’s going to tell us is exactly why Trump was so absolutely desperate to remove 1/3 of America’s troops from Germany right before the 2020 election. I have yet to get any explanation for this directive on Trump’s part and, as best I can tell, the whole thing was off the books to begin with.

Trump just started demanding it happen, without going through any proper channels at all.

This was and is very suspicious.

At the time, I kept ranting about how I thought it was YET ANOTHER quid pro quo between Trumplandia and Russia — Trump removes a big chunk of our troops from Germany, the Russians hack into our election systems.

But…the Russians this go round strangely sat on their hands, even though Trump did everything in his power to give them a major geopolitical windfall in Europe.

But, I’m just a hayseed rube in the rural part of a flyover state. Though, if I guess that this is what Maggie Haberman is about to drop, well, I take back all my snarky comments about her being an “access journalist” and will want to buy her a beer.

Ms. Haberman, however, has to produce the goods. It could be whatever she’s looking into isn’t nearly as momentous as the scenario I’ve proposed. But I will note that my 2020 ranting about this topic is beginning to get just a tick of traffic out of the blue, as if other people, out there in the aether are thinking about what I was thinking.

We Need To Talk About Maggie Haberman


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

The more I think about it, the less I care about Maggie Haberman and her closeness to Trump. Some of this comes from how pointless it all is — she’s member of the media elite. As such, any time some hayseed rube like me points out much of her reputation comes from TrumpWorld scoops netted through…uhh…access journalism, it’s just scoffed at by her fellow nattering nabobs of negativism as not understanding what journalism is.

One of the key issues in this meaningless media kerfuffle is how nebulous and vague it all is. Yes, Ms. Haberman is a good journalist who is well respected — and defended — by her peers. And, yet, it’s also self-evident that she’s close enough to TrumpWorld that the average person is within their rights to be a bit squeamish about it all. It’s like how if your best friend breaks up with their significant other, there may not be any hard and fast taboo about dating their ex, but you try to at least wait a little bit before jumping in the sack with them.

As such, Twitter people get angry about Ms. Haberman bringing down the latest morsel of TrumpWorld news and her Twitter liberal peers get VERY UPSET that anyone might not see such morsel as just another example of how great a reporter she is. So, it’s something of a stalemate.

So, I think I’m going to go back to cursing the bread and pondering if it’s going to be civil war or autocracy that we face between now and January 2025.

The Secession Crisis of 2021


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Let me get one thing out of the way: I hate violence and am in no way advocating civil war. (Never thought I’d write that.) But I’m aware that I’m beginning to drift towards pretty much saying, “Welp, it’s going to be autocracy or civil war, so…” But that’s very much an abstract, rhetorical stance. I would much rather we just punt this problem down the road an have neither autocracy nor civil war.

I’m just worried we won’t have that choice anymore.

To put things in historical perspective, this was 1861 not 2021 and you were a Northerner given the stark choice of political subservience to Slave Power for the foreseeable future or throwing your lot with breaking an egg to end the division in the country once and for all, you would at least have pause for thought about which option.

One last thing before I continue — even if Cyber Ninjas manage to pull a Trump victory out of their butts in Arizona, there’s every reason to believe that it will only result in a collective shrug. Trump will run around, screaming at the top of his lungs that he’s really POTUS…but it will remain nothing more than a talking point of MAGA cocksuckers who will add it to yet another way to “own the libs” when fighting with Twitter liberals. So, for what I’m about to sketch out to happen, Trump would have to lean into his cult of personality. And, to date, Trump has proven himself to be so fucking lazy that he didn’t even use basic autocratic techniques in 2020 to steal an easily stealable election.

Having said all that, let’s begin.

As I understand it, the clusterfuck shame recount of Arizona votes by Cyber Ninjas is going to wrap up in mind-May sometime. So, for the sake of argument, let’s say the “prove” that Trump “won” the state. What happens? Well, it’s difficult to know for sure. There are plenty of concrete things Trump COULD DO, but he’s soooooo fucking lazy and stupid that his natural inclination will be just to run around the country screaming at the top of his lungs that he’s really POTUS.

It could go either way.

It’s very easy to imagine that there will be rumblings of “nullifying” the Biden Administration on a state level in states like Oklahoma, Montana, Iowa, Arizona, Utah, North and South Dakota and Kansas. But it could be just rumbling. The idea of secession may just remain mental masturbation for far Right Wing talk radio and that’s it. In real terms, talk of “nullification” or “secession” will be just that — talk.

And, really, the only way I could see Trump even becoming all that much of an issue is there is a dynamic similar to January 6th that takes place, only on a national scale: Trump’s wink wink nudge nudge behavior about him really being POTUS is taken seriously and literally by the state legislatures of the states I mentioned and they first say they’re not going to recognize Biden as POTUS then before you know it, they’re calling state conventions to leave the Union unilaterally. If it happened, it would likely happen so fast that any secession crisis would be in full swing by July 4th.

Those are the easy states because they’re pretty much just white people and their populations are small enough that if they collective decided to YOLO it that they could get a lot farther than you might think.

The problem for all involved, of course, is once the Secession Crisis really gained momentum, Trump could then do what he always does and just be an avatar. He would get so fucking excited that he might be POTUS again that he would say and do things with total disregard for the consequences.

It would be when bigger states like Michigan, Indiana and Ohio started to want to leave the Union that big, big problems begin. And, of course, there would be the problem of Portland being potentially attacked by the rest of Oregon. Once we got this far, then you have the issue of the South.

There’s just no way to imagine a situation where African Americans in the South would just lulz any attempt at secession on the part of the old CSA. This whole thing would be a setup for a race war of historic proportions.

At this point, some cold hard facts would begin to sink in Trumplandia. One, the economies of their most secure states are very small as are their populations. Their big states would be extremely unstable because of African Americans probably being in open revolt. And, really, if there was a Second Civil War, there would be no assurances that things would ever be put back together again.

The United States could be balkanized into rump USA and Trumplandia and that would be that. A lot would depend on if California decided to stay and fight or if it took the broader secession crisis to leave as well. I have no idea what would happen.

Anyway, that’s what I got right now. I generally believe this dystopian nightmare, if is to happen, will happen in the 2024-2025 timeframe because of MAGA Congress nullifying Biden’s re-election. But, who knows, maybe Trump will get his wish to destroying the United States sooner than I expected.

Hopefully, it’s all going to be a big dud.

How American Democracy Dies


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Right now, it’s been established that the only way a Democrat President can successfully name someone to SCOTUS is if Democrats control the Senate. What Republicans want next is establish that the only way a Democrat ever becomes president in the first place is if Democrats control Congress.

In 2024-2025, there is a serious chance that Republicans will make an all out push to make end American democracy once and for all by nullifying a Biden re-election via their control of Congress. And that, my friend, is going to be the moment of truth.

That is when the stark choice I’ve constantly been talking about will occur: autocracy or civil war.

Center-left people in the United States, because of Bush V. Gore, have been conditioned to shut up and accept defeat via a quirk in the system that is upheld by the courts. It is very, very easy to imagine a situation where there will be something of a closed loop when it comes to POTUS.

Because of voter suppression and gerrymandering, Congress will always be controlled by Republicans. In turn, it will become conventional wisdom that we just have to accept that Republicans will nullify any Democrat win and, lulz, sucks to be you. Then we just drift into a very autocratic future where MAGA gets to enact its vision of an America that is identical to Putin’s Russia.

There will be a lot of demonstrations and lots of chatter about how “weak” this or that Republican Administration is, but in the end 30 years from now we will have had a succession of MAGA Republicans who are more and more successful at maintaining power. Throw in a MAGA push to get a Constitutional Convention and there will become a point where we have an identical situation to modern Russia — a huge swath of the population will grow up to know no one but a President Pompeo or President Hawley.

And then gradually it just becomes accepted that ICE is our FSB and if you oppose MAGA you get pushed out a window or thrown into a weaponized ICE Camp. Cruelty will be the point for generations to come.

But.

And this is where we learn how “exceptional” America really is. Is the macro lunge towards autocracy simply the normal progression of our democracy or are things going to be more like the 1860s when we have a massive crisis and then pretty shocking renewal of our American Covenant? Trumplandia will be at its weakest during its birthing process.

It’s at least possible that MAGA Republicans will bungle the transition from democracy to autocracy and there will be a civil war. And, as such, given the strength of Blue States when it comes to their populations, political unity and economies, that instead of Trumplandia, we will have a very blood, very turbulent few years and come out the other side with our democracy redefined and stronger than ever.

The only reason why I frame things this way is to make it clear: there will be no middle ground. Everyone will have to, on an existential level, make a decision and pick a side. No matter if we become an autocratic managed democracy like Russia or if we have a civil war. The time for punting problems down the road has come to an end. We are no longer in normal times.

America is tearing itself apart and MAGA demands are going more radical. And, in a very weird way, one could say that their greatest strength going into whatever clusterfuck we stumble into is also their greatest weakness: Donald Trump.

Trump is — and always has been — nothing more than an avatar. And, as such, it’s easy to imagine he being the specific reason why what could otherwise be a peaceful transition into an autocracy might be bungled pretty severely by MAGA and they blow their opportunity to be a permeant ruling minority.

I have no easy answers for you. I can’t give you a Vox corporate liberal explanation as to what to do to keep your family safe when all this happens. Good luck. You’ll need it.

Trump Is Politically Above The Law Now Because of Barr’s Lies


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Things are dark, guys. And going to get a lot darker.

There’s a lot of talk about how we’re learning more about how exactly Bill Barr saved Trump’s sorry ass when he “mislead” Congress over Trump’s obstruction of justice in regards to the TrumpRussia scandal.

But it’s too late on a political level. Not only do the two sides now have an established orthodoxy about what happened, even if you were able to pin down your typical MAGA person that Trump did, in fact, obstruct justice they would simply wave their hands and say it’s “moot now,” “it’s time to move on” or mumbled something about “orange man bad.”

The crux of the issue is the Mueller Report was the last gasp of the Watergate era narrative of how a major presidential scandal was supposed to play out. It was our one shot to destroy Trump politically and we totally blew it. Trump is now completely above the law on a political basis.

How Trump’s crimes are framed has changed. Now that’s been proven that Trump’s cult of personality is so absolute that he can incite an armed insurrection and STILL not have any accountability, then, well, lulz.

The thing is, we have to stop talking about how the Republican Party is in its “death throws.” The exact opposite is true — it’s growing stronger and more hateful by the moment. The United States is far more unstable than any of us could possibly imagine.

It’s easy to sketch out a scenario — or several — whereby there’s something akin to a civil war in the United States before the end of 2021. And the center of it will be Donald J. Fucking Trump. He’s such a dingdong that he could very well simply, without thinking about it, run around saying he is the “real” president should Cyber Ninjas “prove” that he “won” Arizona.

A number of MAGA dominated states could take him both literally and seriously and call conventions to leave the Union. Then he will squirm and try to — like he always does — to have it both ways. He will on one hand say he doesn’t support such efforts but on the other hand say that obviously they have a right to do such a thing since OBVIOUSLY he won the election.

The end result of this clusterfuck is we have a civil war now, and not in the 2024-2025 timeframe.

‘Triage’


by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

America is careening towards a very dark and tragic future. I can’t predict the future, but the there are some titanic forces at work in the United States that are tearing it apart on an existential level.

I struggle to imagine any situation where the United State avoids significant political violence up to and including an actual Second American Civil War. The key issue is what, exactly, pushes us past the breaking point.

There are a wide array of scenarios that one can think up at this point. Everything from the importune death of major political figure to the bogus Cyber Ninja recount in Arizona magically “proving” that Trump won the state might be enough to cause the most powerful country in the world to buckle in a rather spectacular fashion.

But none of them have happened yet. It could be that we’ll just do what we always do, which is punt the problem down the road again a few more years. Yet, even if we do manage to punt this crisis down the road, we will likely reach a dead end in the 2024-2025 timeframe.

My current fear is the same dynamic that we saw with the January 6 Capitol Insurrection will happen again on a much larger scale should, say, Cyber Ninjas pull a Trump “win” out of its butt in Arizona: Trump will be so busy crowing about how he “really won” that he won’t notice that his followers have lost their fucking minds and called conventions in a number of states to leave the Union.

By the time he gets around to saying, “sorry, not sorry” it will be too late. There will be a civil war and he’ll be at the center of it woefully unprepared for any sort of actual “war time” leadership. Then were will probably be a coup by any one of a dozen would-be MAGA Republican autocrats.

Good times!

So, the point is, we have to start thinking seriously about what we’re going to do should the collapse come. I wish I was smarter. Then I could layout some sort of practical approach the America’s impeding doom. I got nothing.

Maybe someone smarter than me can figure that out.