Jeff Spevak, Writer

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Liberate Michigan! Open Fuddruckers!

No one likes us anymore.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from the Facebook Federales, notifying me that my Jan. 3 post had been deleted because it violated Facebook’s standards of decency. The anonymous 1984-era clerk in charge of the process added that I could go through some kind of electronic court proceeding if I wanted to dispute the social media Godzilla’s ruling.

I had no recollection of what viral pornography I had committed. And as the post was about three months old, getting into a wrestling match with Mark Zuckerberg’s henchmen didn’t seem worth the effort. Moments later, I’d forgotten about it.

Forgotten about it, until this weekend, while reading news reports about thugs armed with automatic rifles and waving Confederate flags swarming the steps of some of our state capitol buildings, protesting how government guidelines for social distancing violates their right to spread the deadly coronavirus among the general population.

This Facebook post by the comedian and social analyst Patton Oswalt summed it up nicely:

Get it? There are people risking viral death by storming state capitol buildings & screaming, “Open Fuddruckers!”

Facebook’s accusations brought back to mind my history of of lawless, irresponsible actions. Dark thoughts are always racked up in the recesses of my head, like bats in the rafters. Which one had gotten out? I checked my posts, scrolling all the way back to Jan. 3.

Whatever I had posted that day was indeed gone.

But I also send my Facebook posts to Twitter. I checked it. Back to Jan. 3. And there it was. The offending post:

How about that? To hell with diplomacy. Now we just assassinate leaders we don’t like. 

This post had followed Trump’s announcement that day from Mar-a-Lago:

Hello, everybody.  Well, thank you very much.  And good afternoon…

Last night, at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike that killed the number-one terrorist anywhere in the world, Qassem Soleimani.

Hello. Thank you. Good afternoon. We killed an Iranian general.

Soleimani was supposed to be Trump’s bin Laden moment. Remember it? Maybe not. So much has happened since then.

Further investigation revealed  that as of January 11 Facebook (and Instagram, which Facebook owns) began censoring posts “that voice support for slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani to comply with US sanctions.”

Memes love hypocrisy.

It was a blow to my sense of self importance. I had merely been swept up in a dragnet along with the rest of the libtards. Millions of us, perhaps. Social media has standards for progressives, but not the president.

What was it about that post that Facebook found to be supportive of the murderous Soleimani? I wasn’t calling for any harm to come to Trump. The post, by an American citizen expressing an opinion, was merely suggesting exactly what it says:

To hell with diplomacy. Now we just assassinate leaders we don’t like. 

Diplomacy taking a back seat to a gun is how we do it here. Last year Brown University released the results of a study called the “Costs of War Project.” It was an estimate of the death toll from the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, from October of 2001 to October of 2018. The project placed the number of people killed during these U.S. military incursions to be at least – at least – 480,000. More than 244,000 of them were civilians. On top of that, in those three countries indirect deaths — from disease, displacement and the loss of infrastructure — was estimated to be in the millions.

The authors of the report added that its study only “scratches the surface of the human consequences of 17 years of war.” Add the death tolls from Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, and the casualty figures from the U.S. war on terror are higher still.

United States foreign policy is an indiscriminate murder machine. The news these days confirms the correct answer here is not, “We live in a safer world thanks to our ability to kill our enemies.”

Living in oblivion is as dangerous as living a lie. Sometimes the lies are as dangerous as falsely shouting “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. Sometimes the lies are as dangerous as telling people there is no danger at all. The coronavirus is a hoax, Trump said, comparing it to the common flu. “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.”

OK, so let’s accept the idea that you don’t care about the global responsibility of the U.S., and how it swaggers through the latitudes and longitudes. Let’s look at the numbskulls who are demanding, as Oswalt puts it so elegantly, “Open Fuddruckers!” Those folks – ignoring the advice of experts in medicine and epidemiology, and the body count – were emboldened by Trump tweeting “LIBERATE VIRGINIA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”

Trump is using the same strategy that has worked for him in the past. Creating confusion and division.  The Human Filibuster, Vice President Mike Pence, was on Meet the Press last Sunday morning, and insisted Trump is not calling for treason and insurrection.

OK, then. So what is he calling for?

We have our lives to live, we don’t always have time to monitor Machiavellian games. But life is wasted, if you’re not a seeker of truth.

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The truth, and where to find it


I keep looking for, thinking about, what good might come out of this world-wide disaster. It will be difficult to find our way through this. Through the fog. Reality obscured by the daily White House coronavirus press briefings.

This one, from last week, is easier to understand if you imagine it as a Monty Python skit. With John Cleese, who excels at portraying buffoonish authority figures displaying a comical lack of self-awareness, as President Trump. And Eric Idle, master of the befuddled expression, as the Reporter.

President Trump: “I think mail-in voting is horrible, it’s corrupt.”

Reporter: “You voted by mail in Florida’s election last month, didn’t you?”

Trump: “Sure. I can vote by mail.”

Reporter: “How do you reconcile with that?”

Trump: “Because I’m allowed to.”

A true story.

I’ve stopped watching Trump’s version of FDR’s Fireside Chats. Trump’s more of an arsonist. I leave farce to the professionals.

I’m also leaving advice on how to protect myself from coronavirus to medical professionals. I leave my understanding of climate change to scientists. I leave economic theories to reputable economists, not a guy whose career has been a string of failed businesses, bankruptcies and bailouts from daddy.

The pursuit of facts, not conspiracy theories. Until recently, as the body count grew too high to deny, Trump was suggesting that coronavirus was simply a Democratic Party attempt to bring down his presidency. As if people in Italy and Spain would willingly sacrifice their lives to influence the outcome of November’s U.S. presidential election.

Trump has lowered the bar on every aspect of life in the United States.

And the standard of truth has suffered the most. Why do so many millions of Americans buy into this? It’s like that old horror film, Children of the Damned. Are they a futuristic race… or a threat to our planet?

Trump calms his followers: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

What good can possibly come of this pandemic? There’s nothing to be found in the death of hundreds of thousands of people.

If anything can be rescued from this rubble, perhaps it is… time.

I’m working from home. I’m not going out to see shows, or movies, or new exhibits at the museums. I’m not hanging around with friends. I’m looking out the front window, watching my neighbors walk their dogs. What’s on TV? Tiger King, no thanks, I’m not into the spectacle of white-trash drama.

I venture onto social media, and see how you’re amusing yourselves. Posting your high-school portraits. Compiling your “Choose Your Quarantine House” list. That one’s on both Facebook and Twitter. Name five celebrities – writers, TV stars, musicians – who you’d like to be quarantined with. Here’s one of the early houses: Justin Bieber, Will Ferrell, Kylie Jenner, Dr. Phil and Mindy Kaling.

If I was in that house, I’d sleep in the garage. But it gets me to thinking. My Writers Quarantine House?

  • Certainly Haruki Murakami, so I wouldn’t have to read his books a second time just to begin to understand what the hell is going on in those pages.
  • James Joyce, so I can ask him, “Why does Finnegan’s Wake open in mid-sentence, and what do you mean by ‘wielderfight his penisolate war?’”
  • Mikhail Bulgakov, because I want to know where he got the idea to write a novel about a dog who has the pituitary gland and testicles of a criminal implanted in his body, and becomes a cat-strangling Bolshevik.
  • And Margaret Atwood, because I want to know what inspired the bioengineered plague and post-apocalyptic corporate evil and blue butts of her novel Oryx and Crake.

For my fifth, how about George Saunders, because I’ve interviewed him, and I want to know where such a nice, normal guy finds such strangeness. Or Colson Whitehead, because I want to know where an elevator to the future will take us. Or Marquis de Sade, just in case things get a little too comfortable.

Time, it’s an intellectual exercise.

I’m reading obituaries in The New York Times. Bruce Baillie. Cause of death… well, he was 88. A photographer. I’d heard the name, but wasn’t familiar with his work. Now, in death, I know him. And I’m fascinated by the guy. A pioneer in avant-garde film. A hippie, counter-culture favorite. His lens was set on Zen. Short films, sometimes with superimposed imagery. One of the most remarkable is a 2½-minute film from 1966, “All My Life.” The camera slowly pans a long fence, overgrown by weeds and wild roses, as Ella Fitzgerald elegantly sings the song of the same name. Many people might find it stupid. I’m amazed at its simplicity, and beauty. If that fence were in my back yard, I’d be staring at it all evening, as the sun set, glass of wine in hand.

The Times tells me that musicians, actors and artists are dying of coronavirus. John Prine, it got him at age 73. That one seemed to hit a lot of my friends hard. People are posting lines from Prine songs on Facebook. “Lake Marie” is my favorite Prine song, and I posted a couple of lines from it.

Because we love music. And because Prine told the truth

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Stylin’ with the Space Force

An acquaintance asked me last week if I’d stopped writing The Critical Mass. No, I said. Just been laying low, absorbed with the new job, visiting my 90-year-old mom in Cleveland, doing laundry.

And, to be quite honest, I had nothing to add to the blogosphere, and in particular the national debate surrounding Trump. Well, “debate” is not the right word for what we’re witnessing. Hundreds of doctors and psychologists have signed letters stating that the president has serious mental issues. Hundreds of lawyers have signed petitions declaring Trump has committed crimes. A national study of almost 200 political scientists concludes that Trump is the worst president ever and forever. Thousands of witnesses have corroborated accounts of Trump lying, assaulting women, cheating his business partners, calling neo-Nazis “very fine people,” referring to Mexican citizens fleeing poverty as rapists, steering government business to his own properties to financially benefit himself, violating campaign finance laws to buy the silence of Playboy models and porn stars with whom he’s had affairs, ordering children to be separated from their parents at our southern border, encouraging supporters at his rallies to physically attack protesters, abolishing environmental protections, evading taxes, asking the FBI to jail reporters, extorting foreign governments in his search of political favors, mocking the physical characteristics of people who question his integrity, spreading bizarre conspiracy theories, obstructing justice, creating fake national emergencies and launching military actions to distract from investigations into his corrupt administration, intimidating witnesses, consorting with murderous dictators in Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, and lying about his golf scores.

There is no “debate.” Trump’s unfitness as a leader is a foregone conclusion.

But I cannot remain silent any longer on this latest outrage. The Space Force uniforms are insane.

To update readers on this sartorial saga, Trump announced early in his presidency that he was creating a sixth branch of the U.S. military, the Space Force, to… well, to fight our space wars. And this week the Space Force moved closer to reality, because we have now seen the Space Force uniforms.

I’m not sure why this announcement took so long, because we’ve been studying various uniform prototypes for decades, with hand-to-hand space combat in mind:

Alas, the Space Force has chosen to fly off in another direction. Surprisingly, our first look at the new outfits this week did not come with Melania strutting down a fashion runway. All we got were a few promo shots of…

Waitaminute! Will our Space Force be duck hunting?

As our brave men and women wrestle evil for control of the stars, they’ll be rocking in what’s called the OCP pattern, or multi-cam. Camouflage intended to hide our troops in jungle terrain, or in the desert, or when they’re walking through airports on their way to what Trump calls “shithole countries.”

The internet, one of the most-cynical inventions in the history of mankind, has already exposed the problem here: Wouldn’t our Space Force be better protected if our fighting men and women wore tunics decorated with stars and planets? If we want to think bigger, perhaps a supernova? Or, going in the other direction, a plain, black outfit? Because, those of us who go out at night and look up have noticed that space is mostly black.

At least the USSF could have picked a camo pattern that’s more cosmic. This one is called “Rhodesian Brushstroke,” and is appropriately spacey:

No, no, no, says the Space Force. Not only is the Space Force to be taken seriously because it has uniforms, but it also has a Twitter account. And someone in the Space Force with access to that presumably top-secret password immediately rushed to the defense of the uniforms with a tweet:

USSF is utilizing current Army/Air Force uniforms, saving costs of designing/producing a new one.

Members will look like their joint counterparts they’ll be working with, on the ground.

Let’s take this official statement at face value. A risky proposition of course, considering the Trump administration is not exactly tethered to reality. Is it “saving costs?” The statement here suggests the Space Force is concerned with a responsible – frugal, even – use of your tax dollars. Great, but the proposed U.S. military budget for 2020 is $718 billion. I think we could safely set aside $1 million to avoid embarrassing our Space Force when it encounters outer-space high society. You know the French Space Force is gonna turn some heads.

More telling, the USSF says these uniforms are intended for “on the ground” members.

OK. The initial Space Force proposal calls for 16,000 personnel. Doing what? Sitting at computer keyboards, gathering intelligence on potential targets launched by North Korea’s space program, marching in parades. How many Space Force people will actually see service in space? Not many, considering the cost to put them up there, and keep them up there. Men and women riding around in space ships, checking inspection stickers on satellites, shooting lasers at threatening aliens, whether they are from Betelgeuse or Mexico, is pure Trumpian fantasy. While we’re waging this Cold War like Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb in the final scene from “Dr. Strangelove,” the Russians are infiltrating the internet, creating divisions that are ripping our country to pieces.

When weighing the price tag of launching a nuclear war versus the cost of hacking our elections, the Russians are getting a real bargain.

Wouldn’t those 16,000 new Space Force recruits be put to better use as special agents assigned to fight the internet blitzkrieg that has been launched by Russia? We could even let them keep the same Batman T-shirts they wear when humiliating their Fortnite opponents.

Reality: If the USSF is really concerned with saving costs on designing/producing new uniforms for the brave men and women patrolling the distant, lonely reaches of the exosphere, it could go with real tried-and-true designs. Of which there are probably thousands stored in television and film production warehouses all over Los Angeles. Like these:

BE THE FIRST in your neighborhood to know when a new Critical Mass has been turned loose. Go to the “Subscribe” button on the web site jeffspevak.com for an email alert. You can contact me at jeffspevakwriter@gmail.com.

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