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This morning in the San Diego Union-Tribune there is a front-page article titled Roots of Extremism Securely Planted in San Diego, which talks about some of the people involved in the Capitol Riots of January 6, 2021, including Ashli Babbitt, the Ocean Beach woman who was shot dead. Here is an excerpt from page 4:

Many of the same themes emerged in a civil defense movement that arose following the riot in La Mesa on May 30. Vigilante groups such as Defend East County (DEC) have characterized themselves as pro-police, pro-law and order and anti-Black Lives Matter. Some members have posted racist comments and advocated for violence on the group’s social media accounts.

While a small contingent from DEC – made up mostly of White men – has patrolled numerous peaceful racial justice protests from afar, its members have also intimidated and threatened protesters, including teenagers, and incited violence at events that were otherwise calm.

DEC’s founder, Justin Haskins, was among those who traveled to Washington for the vote certification.

According to Haskins’ statement, he did not enter the Capitol and was conflicted about what was going on. Then he said:

It’s our constitutional duty to overthrow a tyrannical government. At what point do you stop waving your dumbass flags and yelling your stupid chants and start taking this country back just like the patriots of 1776 did?

I have a lot of problems with some of the statements here.

First, I don’t know a single person in this country who is not “pro-police.” What’s the big deal about being pro-police?

Second, I don’t know a single person in this country who is not “pro-law and order.” Our current president has called himself the law and order president and I just happen to think that he has been governing opposite to that ideal, as opposite as you can get. How then can you be pro-law and order and at the same time support Trump?

Third, how can you be pro-law and order and anti-Black Lives Matter? BLM is about bringing change to a system to reduce the killings of unarmed, innocent Black men by police. I would lump that under law and order.

Fourth, Haskins compares himself to the patriots of 1776. No, Mr. Haskins, you are no Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. The situation in 1776 was entirely different from what is going on right now, and the comparison is as dumbass as the Trump flag-waving and as stupid as his chants.

Then, Haskins says it’s his duty to overthrow a tyrannical government? Huh, the government has been Trump for the last four years. This current situation of chaos and mayhem is the result of four years of governing by a man who proclaims to be the law and order president. We are currently living in Trump’s America that is great again.

Yes, many people wanted to overthrow it. I did too. And we did it by the means given to us by the Constitution, by voting. And we voted using voting systems and processes in 50 different states based on the local laws, as dictated in the Constitution. And we did it in an electoral environment where the Trump administration had four years to make sure that elections can be secure and legal. And we did it while being monitored and watched by our law enforcement agencies, under Trump, as stated by Trump’s CISA Director Christopher Krebs. Our 2020 elections were the most secure in modern history. And we did it so well that 70 different law suits by the Trump campaign after the election resulted in zero cases won.

In the United States of America, we “overthrow” our government by the will of the people – by voting. We voted.

I urge Haskins to go out and mobilize his constituents, convince us with cogent arguments, and we’ll vote for his candidates in 2022. If he needs guidance on how this is done, he can always call a woman in Georgia by the name of Stacey Abrams. She knows a thing or two about how to mobilize voters.


Now Trump is throwing his followers under the bus. Their help hasn’t worked, so what good are they? They are now being arrested in California, Florida, Arkansas, all over the place.

They are saying it was the radial left that incited the mob. Nonsense. This was carefully planned and executed. Heck, this man is wearing a pre-printed sweatshirt with the date and the mission on it. Spontaneous it was not. He is wearing the hat with the name of the Dear Leader on it. Trump may say it was  the left, but the agitators themselves seem to not realize that, do they?

While I don’t usually use obscenities in my blog – I am not modifying Greg’s words here. He is not buying it either. Read for yourself. It’s worth your while.

that lying fucker is fucking lying again ‹ gregfallis.com ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

Right picture credit: Getty Images photographer Win McNamee

Trump said on September 22, 2017 about Kaepernick: “Get that son of a bitch off the field” about Colin Kaepernick.

Trump said on January 6, 2021 to the rioters: “We love you, you’re very special.”

The looter in the right picture is carrying the lectern of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The man was identified as 36-year-old Adam Johnson of Florida, the father of five children. Teach your children well!

More identities of rioters are included in this article.

Is America great yet?

Trump Coup Attempt

I am reading ridiculous claims from Trump supporters that there was no difference between what happened in the BLM protests in many cities and particularly in Portland last fall, and this riot at the Capitol.

I think this is very wrong and very disturbing.

Look at the picture below. There are masked guys in camouflage, one carrying zip cuffs. These are the devices used to temporarily handcuff people. Who do you think they were planning on cuffing? They are on the Senate floor in this picture, but there are more pictures with them in other areas.

[click for picture credit – Reddit

Here are the ballot boxes that were on the Senate floor just before the break-in.

[click for picture credit – Fox 11]

If a Senate aide hadn’t had the presence of mind to take away these boxes and secure them, they would have remained on the Senate floor. What do you think the mob would have done with these boxes?

They would have been vandalized, destroyed or stolen. In any event, they would be gone.

The zip cuffs could have been used to tie up the Senators.

The electoral votes would be gone, and thus, all evidence of the election would be lost. It would have been chaos. Trump would have declared martial law. He would have decided that he would have to stay in office until “this was all resolved orderly” and it would have taken month or years to work it out.

The coup would have been successful.

Mission accomplished. The 2020 election would have been the last election in the history of the United States, and its results would have been wiped out.

Somebody give this Senate aide a medal!

 

Rioters in the U.S. Capitol tore off the sign of the Speaker of the House and posed with it.

This does not seem like a brilliant move for their careers. Do these four people get charged with felonies and do prison time? I sure hope so.

I wonder what foreign enemies of our country are thinking? If these bozos were able to walk into the U.S. Capitol and ransack the office of the Speaker, without any security stopping them, do you think that this might give the spies in China, Russia, Iran and North Korea some interesting ideas?

Did computer networks get compromised? Did USB drives get inserted into laptops? Did bugging devices get installed behind receptacles or heating registers?

The bozos were in the hallways posing with loot.

The real terrorists had the run of the Capitol for hours as long as they wore red hats and face paint.

In the late 1960s, when I was a school boy in Germany, I remember that the evening news, along with what was going on in Vietnam, often covered violence in Northern Ireland. Catholics and Protestants were always murdering each other in violent clashes, shootings and bombings. As a child, I could never understand why Christians would hate each other so much that they’d kill each other, year after year after year.

As a school boy in Bavaria I witnessed almost all my friends and school mates being Catholic. Everyone was Catholic in Bavaria, except a very few. Those who were not Catholic were called “die Evangelischen” which translates to our overall term “Protestant.” In a classroom of 30 to 40 students, there might be one or two Protestants, often none. We knew that, because there was mandatory religion class, where a religion teacher, usually a priest, would teach about religion. We had no choice but participate, except those kids that were Protestant. They were pulled out and went to some other study room, or had their own consolidated Protestant class, except there were so few of them in school that they would not be able to put  enough together to fill a classroom.

Bavarians were generally Catholic, and Protestants were the children of refugees. Refugees in Germany in the sixties always came from the east and were people who were displaced when the Russians closed in on Hitler in World War II. They spoke a very different dialect, so we could tell who they were, and they were usually Protestant.

As a kid, I never gave it much thought.

The book A Column of Fire deals with the subject of Catholicism and Protestantism in the sixteenth century in Europe and particularly in England. Queen Mary Stuart was a staunch Catholic, and Protestantism was against the law. Protestants were called heretics, and the inquisition, staffed by sadistic priests, had the power to accuse anyone of heresy, try them in “court” and burn them at the stake, if convicted. Accused heretics were tortured, like stretched until all four limbs were completely dislocated. Under such torture, most every accused person confessed to heresy, which ended the torture, but started the brutal execution, like being burned naked and alive while the public watched and the clergy looked on. Queen Mary, sometimes called “Bloody Mary” ordered hundreds of such executions of Protestants.

Reading about tortures, I also remembered that as a school boy, I once took a tour of the Regensburg Rathaus (the old town hall). One of the most memorable sights there was the Folterkammer (torture chamber).

I was in that torture chamber and was able to inspect the various implements. As a kid it didn’t affect me much, and I never thought about it. As it turned out, between the years 1533 and 1770, suspected sinners were asked to confess, and if they didn’t confess, they were shown the torture instruments, which I suspect made many of them change their minds. But the key point is, “freedom of religion” as we know it today, is a very recent invention, and just a few hundred years ago, in Germany, in England, and all over the world, if you lived in a predominantly Catholic country, the laws were such that if you were not Catholic, or if you worked against the church, you were a blasphemer or a heretic, and the punishment could easily be death, depending on the severity of the crime as determined by the inquisitor.

That does not mean only the Catholics were the barbarians.

When Queen Mary Stuart died, Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne of England. Elizabeth was a Protestant, and professed herself to be a moderate. She said she didn’t believe that people should be killed for their religion. Yes, the country was Protestant, and Catholicism was outlawed, but at least you weren’t summarily killed for it. However, since the Catholics were obsessed with their right, they felt Elizabeth was illegitimate as queen, and they tried various plots to kill her and give the throne to Mary, Queen of Scots – you guessed it – a Catholic.

The church and politics were completely intertwined, and the pope, his cardinals and bishops had as much power as the nobility and wielded it with a brutal hand.

A Column of Fire plays in the fictional town on Kingsbridge about 200 years after World Without End. It starts in 1558 in Kingsbridge and ends in 1620. It follows the lives of various prominent Kingsbridge residents as they do the bidding of famous historical figures, like Queen Mary Stuart, Mary Queen of Scots, King Filipe in Spain, King Henri in France, Sir Francis Drake, and many other historical figures of the time. A Column of Fire is the third book in the Kingsbridge trilogy, or the “Pillars Trilogy” as I have called it. You can read my other reviews here:

The Evening and the Morning – the prequel

Pillars of the Earth – book one

World Without End – book two

A Column of Fire – book three – this review

This is a historical novel about the Christian religion in its dark days. Reading it I am glad I live today, and I live in a country that prides itself of religious freedom – and I say that somewhat facetiously. Catholics and Protestants in the United States don’t kill each other (anymore), but I am not so sure whether all Jewish people and definitely Muslims in the United States today would agree that we have religious freedom. But if you want to learn first-hand what lack of religious freedom means, you should definitely read A Column of Fire.

I like Follett’s books because they make history come alive. It’s one thing to read in a history book that Martin Luther didn’t like what the Catholics were doing and wanted to reform the church, but the Catholics didn’t approve of that. That’s dry, that’s history lectures in school with no context. It’s another thing to be inside the head of a young woman in Paris who sells copies of the Bible in French or English, which were printed clandestinely, and the penalty for being discovered selling illegal books was death. Yes, the Catholic church banned bibles in languages other than Latin and the penalty for violating that rule was death. The Catholic church has, in all its history, actively worked on keeping the people uneducated, so it could wields its power over them and essentially extract money from them for its own enrichment. I may seem on a rant, and off topic now, against the Catholic church, but not really. A Column of Fire brings the power or the church in the 16th century to life in front of your eyes.

This is a very long book with 919 pages and it takes time to read. But it was time well-spent. I am now going to have to read a biography of Martin Luther, as I am embarrassed to say, I know only very rudimentary facts about him and his life and work. I need to fill in that blank. I have also concluded that I need to find a historical novel that plays during the crusades, another time in history that warrants better understanding, and I suspect I will learn more about atrocities committed by the church.

The third American colony was started in New England by the passengers of the Mayflower in 1620. It was in the context of the political structure in England described in A Column of Fire that these first pilgrims stepped onto the Mayflower in search of religious freedom, and now I understand how and why that happened.

Only the Best

Here are the best and brightest who still support Trump. These are some of the people who entered into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. I expect the Justice Department to prosecute them. We have them on film right here.

Let’s remember what Trump said in July when BLM protesters were conducting peaceful protests in Portland, Oregon. They did not enter any buildings, smash any windows, or desecrate public property. They did not fly Confederate flags in U.S. buildings.

Trump called for a minimum of 10 years in prison for this kind of behavior.

That same Trump fomented riots in the U.S. Capital yesterday.

I hate to say it – lock them up!

If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed….and we will deserve it.

When Trump was elected in November 2016, the Republican Party controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress.

Professor James Murray (Mel Gibson) is a language scholar at Oxford. Despite the pessimism and outright hostility of some of the stuck-up faculty members, who would like to see him fail, he is assigned the project to compile the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in the mid-19th century. To do that, he has to catalogue and document the history of every word. He is not even through the letter “A” and struggling with the word “art” when he hits major hurdles, both from within his own team and their work, as well as from the faculty at large.

Dr. William Minor (Sean Penn) is an American veteran of the Civil War, who served as a surgeon. Haunted by demons inside his own head, he ends up murdering an innocent young family man, leaving his wife and children destitute. During his trial, his defender convinces the jury that he is insane, so he ends up as a patient at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, rather than at the gallows.

When Professor Murray writes an advertisement asking the public for contributions to the dictionary, Minor ends up contributing over 10,000 words and gets the attention of not only the literary community, but receives special treatment by the leaders in the asylum.

Both brilliant men forge an unlikely friendship, but neither seems to be able to overcome his own demons.

The Professor and the Madman is a difficult movie to watch and follow. It is anything but light. The plot is complex and presumes some understanding of the Victorian culture in England at the time. The English and Scottish accents of some of the characters are strong. Along with the occasional mumbling and dialog in soft voices, it’s a challenging movie to follow for the modern American ear.

However, I enjoyed watching, I learned how the Oxford English Dictionary got started, and I caught some glimpses of severe mental illness.

The performance of both veteran actors, to me, was astonishing. They are both masters at their craft and the mastery carries the movie from the first second to the last.

I see that there is a claim of 66,248 underage teenagers having voted in Georgia.

There are 10.6 million people living in Georgia. 211,522 are between the ages of 15 and 17 (not yet 18). This would mean that one third of all teenagers between 15 and 17 somehow managed to vote illegally.

I remember when I was a teenager. Voting was all the rage. Forget about fake IDs to get into bars or to buy booze (when the drinking age in New York was 18), forget about parties, dances and girls. All we wanted was to cast our votes in presidential elections, and all of us only wanted to vote for the Democratic candidates!

Seriously.

As the national uproar confirms, Trump’s attempt to subvert and overturn the election now has a handful of members of the Senate and Congress bought into the scheme. They are actively trying just that: Invalidate a proper election, according to Trump’s own officials, the most secure election in history. Here are the facts:

Trump won 2016 with 306 electoral votes and he lost the popular vote.

Biden won 2020 with 306 electoral votes and he won the popular vote by over seven million votes.

Trump called his own election in 2016 a landslide. Biden won by the same “landslide” and largest popular vote difference ever.

I don’t think the rogue GOP members will this off, and our democracy will prevail. However, we just happen to have the House of Representatives under control of the Democratic Party. I shudder to think what would be taking place right now if the House were under Republican control. They might just have succeeded.

There are now elected senators and congressmen who are actively trying to stage a coup. I don’t have a better word for what’s going on right now. If it were to succeed this time, there would never again be normal elections in the United States. There’d be sham elections, like they have them in Russia, or they used to in Iraq, when we laughed about them. We would have a one-party system, with strongmen at the top, running things like mob bosses, running the country like Trump has in the last four years.

Look at 2020, and you see Trump’s America. It is not “great” to say the least. It’s a dumpster fire out there.

I believe the activities of the president and key members of Congress cannot be swept under the rug of history. These activities need to be exposed for all to see, and we need new laws in place so they can never happen again. Elections in America have always been sacred. Every transition of power has occurred peacefully after the people have spoken – until now. I believe this has been extremely dangerous to our democracy or country. This is NOT patriotic. This is seditious.

Mask Use Prohibited

This is presumably taken at a Nebraska parking lot. The business is not identified.

Click for picture credit – Reddit

 

Must be brilliant leadership at that business.

It bothers me is that we can’t identify them when they show up in the emergency room. They ought to have a face tattoo identifying them as “No Scaredicat” so the emergency room can turn them away and deal with the problem themselves. Must be scared pussies, right?

As I try to do in the first few days of every year, we hiked the Palm Canyon today.

I always visit the same spot every year and take the annual picture of the “New Palm Grove” I discovered in 2010. You can see some of the history here. The last time I went with Devin on January 1, 2019. Here is the post from that day. I was not there at the beginning of 2020, but I found out in a newspaper article that the grove had burned. Here is the summary from that. Since it was burned, I didn’t try to go last year, fully expecting that the trail would be closed.

But we went today, and I am so glad we did. As always in my pages, you can click to enlarge the pictures.

On the way there, from a lookout, I can never resist taking a picture here of the Anza Borrego desert, as far as the eye can see. In the background on the right, you can make out the Salton Sea as a blue stripe. The dark spot on the left center is the town of Borrego Springs. The picture is taken from over 2,000 feet above the desert floor.

Here is the trailhead. The trail starts here and goes up about a mile and a half.

Here I am at the start of the trail – with my trusty old desert hiking hat that has accompanied me on hikes for 40 years.

Santa brought Trisha a tripod and remote trigger – we’re testing that here. Banana for scale.

 

 

The terrain is very rough, and sometimes you get lucky and can spot bighorn sheep here in the mountains. Not today, though.

The only wildlife was us. Here is Trisha with a giant ocotillo plant. If there had been more rain this year, it would be green by now, but it’s been very dry and everything is still dormant.

The trail us rough and covered with boulders, which makes for exciting hiking.

Finally, here is the “new palm grove” that I take a picture of every time I come here. The tiny trees  that were no bigger than my hand in 2010 are now substantial palm trees.

Same picture, but this time with Trisha for scale. The creek, which had water at this time of year in most years, was completely dry today.

And here it is, the large oasis, in all its glory. All the trees are charred from the fire on 2020, but have come back. YES!

This was our endpoint. The trail ends here, and hiking further up the canyon is possible, but extremely rough. The grove itself is now blocked off so it can recover. But here you see the grove the way it looks today.

 

For comparison, here I am two years ago to the day, on January 1, 2019, when Devin was with me. You can see the same trees, but with age-old “skirts” of old palm fronds which serve as habitat for all kinds of wildlife. The skirts are now gone, the trunks are charred, but the trees have come back. Due to the additional light, the new undergrowth will come in thick in the next few years. And the circle of life has begun again after the blaze.

The story starts in the year 2049, a few weeks after “The Event,” some apocalyptic global disaster that kills pretty much all life on earth. Augustine (George Clooney) is a space scientist stationed in the Arctic. When all his colleagues are flown out, he stays behind. Maybe he realizes that everyone else dies anyway, and the Arctic is one of the last safe places in the world.

He is lonely, and he is ill. As he goes about his daily routine, he discovers that a little girl was left behind. This complicates matters for him. A cantankerous old man is not a good caretaker for a little girl who (for some reason) does not speak.

Parallel to the catastrophe on earth, mankind’s first interplanetary space mission just visited a formerly not discovered moon of Jupiter, called K23. It is, due to internal heating, suitable for human habitation. The crew is now on its way back, approaching earth. Augustine knows that and tries to contact them to warn them about the disaster and encourage them not to come back.

The crew of the ship suffers severe damage from flying through a debris field and barely makes it back to earth. The situation is hopeless for the few people left on earth, and it’s just as hopeless for the space travelers who are weary and homesick after years in space and want nothing more than to go home. But that does not seem possible anymore.

The Midnight Sky is based on the novel Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It apparently follows the book very closely (I have not read the book, but gathered this from reading some reviews). It’s an unlikely story, with an open end, or you might call it no end at all.

I enjoyed the depictions of the space ship, the way they generated artificial gravity, and how they moved about the vessel. There were some nice EVA (spacewalk) scenes, too. The damage to the ship by meteorites was done with pretty neat special effects, but the fact that the ship survived a hail of rocks and ice was very unlikely. Also, I understand that it’s not possible to show realistically what it would look like to get hit by pebbles in space traveling 20,000 to 30,000 miles per hour. Just putting that into perspective, a bullet shot from a rifle exits the barrel at 1,200 to 2,800 miles per hour, depending on the type of rifle. Can you see the bullet flying? You obviously could not see the rocks coming at you at more than 10 to 20 times the speed of a bullet. You would just be obliterated from one moment to the next. But that does not make for a good movie.

Overall, I found Midnight Sky to be a good story, but not one you absolutely have to go and see – unless you’re a space buff – then you have to.

Here is an amazing video of real robots by Boston Dynamics.

If you want to see some of the stunning capabilities of some of their models, look at the video below. The music us missing, but it’s just as impressive.

There are no tricks here, no fancy editing. These are real robots, doing these tasks independently. Obviously, the routines are not trivial, and the programming is complex.

For instance, I don’t know if the dancing in the first video is completely choreographed, or if there was machine learning involved, where the robots are mimicking humans dancing after observing them. Either would be impressive.

I am sure there is a lot of work left to do to make this technology mainstream, but it is coming.

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