Performative Crap: The Use and Abuse of the American Flag

Flags on the 14th St Bridge

I was at a Mission BBQ when it happened. As I sat down with with a brisket sandwich, the music suddenly stopped and there was an announcement.

“Please stand for the National Anthem…”

Around me, the servers stopped their frenetic activity and stood at attention. Patrons rose from their seats, hands on their hearts, and turned to face the American flag hanging from the mock warehouse ceiling.

I remained seated. Why is this restaurant asking me to stand for the National Anthem? This is not July 4th. I am not at a sacred memorial. I am in Roanoke.

“Performative crap,” a friend of mine called it, these rote and meaningless gestures in the direction of patriotism from organizations trying capitalize on our love of country.

Mission BBQ is chain of restaurants that are all decorated the same. A half-ton Army truck is parked outside while the indoors is covered with photos of American soldiers throughout history and other military memorabilia. Walking in, I passed a picture of a pre-9/11 World Trade Center.

In the mood for barbecue, I didn’t think much about all this carefully-scripted nostalgia as I walked to the counter. But sitting there, with people around me standing and singing the National Anthem (who were they pledging allegiance to? A company?) it all seemed a little gross.

Veterans should be applauded for their service. But this wasn’t about that; it was about a company wrapping itself in the flag to sell more stuff.

The Flag of Occupation

Also, your view of the military changes when it’s used against you.

This time four years ago, during the last chaotic summer of the Trump administration, I watched military helicopters thunder by the window of my seventh floor apartment. They were so close that I could see the pilots and their American flag patches.

Trump was mad at Black Lives Matter so he sent in the military to crush their protest. And then he walked across Lafayette Park (with General Mark Milley) to hold an upside-down Bible in an ill-conceived demonstration of strength.

armed yahoos

A curfew was in effect that night as the National Guards of various states ran amok in the city, buzzing protesters with helicopters and assisting the police as they kettled students.

For weeks afterward, troops in fatigues and AR-15s garrisoned the Lincoln Memorial and other monuments (where were they on January 6th?). Men and women with guns, but no identification, stood on street corners downtown.

Staying in some of the nicest hotels in the city, they left after Mayor Bowser refused to pay their hotel bills.

This was 2020, the fucked-up year that America is determined to send down the memory hole. But I remember what I saw.

Freedom Corner Flag Wave

Right-wing fanatics have seized the flag with white-hot devotion. Trump literally fondles it.

And you see it at the nest of traitors called Freedom Corner in Washington, DC. This nightly vigil outside the DC Jail wants to free the January 6th prisoners who tried to end democracy. They begin every evening with the Pledge of Allegiance, facing the flag, before moving on to their demands for the hanging of Nancy Pelosi.

Referring to each other as patriots (we call them chuds), you get nonsense from them like, “He has evidence that January 6th was a setup. A a real patriot.”Or, “All he did was push some cops. A patriot.”

Waving flags at their lonely vigil, they use Old Glory as cover for treason.

There’s an inverse relationship to the amount of American flags displayed to actual patriotism. Real patriots don’t storm the Capitol in the name of a wannabe dictator.

Trump supporters use the American flag as a weapon. During the failed coup attempt, they beat police officers with them.  On January 7th, a rioter shoved me with a flag pole after I called him a disgrace. Earlier this year, a Freedom Corner chud assaulted local counterprotester Anarchy Princess with a flag pole outside the US Court House. He goes on trial this summer.

Unlike 2020/21, the failed Trump movement can’t attract a crowd anymore. Freedom Corner is lucky to get six people at their vigil outside the DC Jail.

Instead, they encourage their elderly YouTube followers to do flag waves.

Something anyone can do, it’s a uniquely American (and pointless) activity – standing on a busy road or highway overpass waving an American flag. The occasional driver honks, perhaps getting a glimpse of the red, white and blue at 60 mph. A patriotic response that the chuds misinterpret as support for their anti-democratic project.

The flag is held upside-down, a recent gesture made fashionable among right-wing circles by the neo-fascist Supreme Court.

“I hate that they’ve taken the flag from us,” another friend told me.

When I’m outside the Beltway, I have to recalibrate my paradigm. A cluster of American flags does not mean chuds, like it would in DC. It could just be a Memorial Day celebration.

It’s time to take back the American flag from traitors. It belongs to all of us.

But I’m not standing for the National Anthem in a restaurant. As the Star Spangled Banner played, I remained seated while everyone else stood, facing the Stars and Stripes. I’ve seen how the flag has been used and abused to justify insurrection.

And then everyone resumed eating, the moment forgotten and meaningless, a bit of patriotic kitsch in Southwest Virginia.

Bike to Work Day 2024

Bike to Work Day donuts in Rosslyn

What is Bike to Work Day in this age of telework?

Most of white-collar Washington has been on a hybrid schedule since the covid epidemic. That means people go into the office for a few days a week and are remote the rest of the time.

I work from home full-time. So I never bike to work. Or am I always biking to work?

I wasn’t going to get caught up in semantics when there were free donuts available. Bike to Work Day 2024 saw me at 7 AM rolling across the Key Bridge to Virginia

Rosslyn  is trying to rebrand itself as more than just corporate office buildings. The concrete “skyway” system which old-timers might remember is being torn down. They want you at street level now, as jets roar overhead on approach to National Airport. Rosslyn got in early with a food hall, opening with spectacularly bad timing in 2020. It’s been redone, with a new slate of restaurants, and new name: Upside on Moore.

To me, Rosslyn will always be associated with covid. In 2020/21, when DC was saddled with maddening covid restrictions, freedom was available across the Potomac. I went there to do forbidden things like sit indoors and put milk in my own coffee. It’s where I wrote big chunks of LIKES and, later, HOW I BECAME RED BIKE GUY. It’s my happy productive writing place.

So, I’m probably the only Washingtonian with positive feelings about Rosslyn.

Bike to Work Day in Rosslyn

Gateway Park in Rosslyn hosted one of the many Bike to Work Day pit stops in the DC region. If you drive, Gateway Park is probably just a glimpsed concrete island as you rush to get to I-66 or the George Washington Parkway. Marooned by four-lane roads and speeding cars, it is not the most inviting prospect for a visit.

But they had free donuts. Lots of them! Plus, coffee from McDonalds and snacks for riders.

I registered here to pick up my trademark scratchy Bike to Work Day t-shirt and got a bike mirror, too. A mechanic from Trek did a safety check on my bike and I browsed tables from Arlington organizations such as the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, who volunteer tirelessly to maintain the trail.

Then I was back across the river, riding past the Kennedy Center, the White House and to Franklin Park.

Franklin Park

This is another redevelopment project, in which the city took over maintenance of the park from the federal government. They ripped out everything, regraded it and added a new fountain, benches, a Children’s Garden and bathrooms. Unlike forlorn Gateway Park, Franklin Park is easy to access and hosts events all year, including concerts and fairs.

Bike to Work Day in DC used to be huge. Pre-pandemic, hundreds of people would gather for speeches, music and raffles. These were veteran bike commuters and newbies, organized into rides from the suburbs.

2024 is more low-key. Commuters don’t come downtown on Fridays, even the bike ones. It’s everyone’s telework day.

At Franklin Park, there was less than a hundred people but the DC Public Library brought their book bike, there was a selection of Bromptons to look at and I got some DC Circulator freebies. Plus, I saw a lot of my bike friends, part of the rolling community in DC.

That’s the state of Bike to Work Day in 2024 in Washington, DC. Commuting patterns are different now. There’s not the 9-5, Monday to Friday influx of commuters anymore.

I went home to get online before 9 AM. I had biked to work, after all.

Last Night at the GW Gaza Encampment


Mayor Bowser didn’t want to be embarrassed as she testifies before Congress today, so she sent in the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to clear the Gaza Encampment at George Washington University.

I visited the camp, located in the University Yard, the night before, just hours before the police would move in.

A couple hundred people had gathered to protest Israel’s attack on Rafah. A professor gave a speech on the need to divest from American companies that supplied bombs and weapons to Israel.

The atmosphere was chill in the Yard filled with blue, orange and green tents. Toddlers played as “Free Palestine!” was chanted. Food was available nearby while medics were on hand in case of emergency. Campus police intermingled with the protesters; I saw one of them warn a protester about attaching a hammock to a lamp post because it was wobbly.

There wasn’t much to photograph so I just sat with Anarchy Princess, legendary tormenter of chuds, and watched the crowd.

The only interesting moment for us came when we spotted the right-wing live-streamer known as Corringe, who peddles conspiracy theories and MLM products on YouTube. She had claimed that she needed a bodyguard to visit the encampment but there she was, wandering through the demonstration, interviewing folks and filming signs. No one cared.

After we left, things heated up, with students marching to University President Ellen Granberg’s home on F Street, chanting “Granberg, Granberg you will see, Palestine is almost free.”

At 4 AM, the police moved in. Using batons and pepper-spray, they forced the protesters out of the University Yard with more than a dozen arrested.

Why now?

Because Mayor Bowser testifies before the House Oversight Committee this afternoon and didn’t want to be embarrassed by questions from House GOP members.

Think this is too cynical? You don’t know Muriel. She’s been Mayor since 2015 and rules the city with irritate pique, annoyed at residents with their complaints about murders and pedestrian deaths, and unfettered by a powerless City Council.

Slapping her name on everything that DC residents pay for, “Mayor Muriel Bowser Presents” has become a kind of rueful joke, as we taxpayers see her name on street improvement projects, music festivals and flyers that she mails using our money to flaunt her accomplishments.

Will she put her name on this? Mayor Muriel Bowser Presents Crackdown at GW?


I visited the camp this morning. The police have blocked off H St. Scores of them. Squad cars fill the campus. Bike cops are lined up on 20th St. You can’t even see the University Yard, the police keeping the press away.

Yet, ordinary life continues, like it has this entire time. Western Market is open – police officers were getting bagels there. Neighbors walked by to gawk. Commuters arrived at their offices.

Last night, I talked to a photographer. He had just returned from a vigil for a three-year old who was shot and killed.

The police were not there for her, this child in Southeast. Instead, they were across town, in Northwest, crushing a peaceful student protest so that Mayor Muriel Bowser wouldn’t face embarrassing questions as she testifies before Congress today.

Someone should ask her about that. Why were hundreds of officers sent to arrest demonstrators? How come they’re not in Southeast and other neighborhoods where they are needed?

The crackdown at GW was a colossal waste of resources and proof that city services operate at the whim of one person and one person only: Mayor Muriel Bowser.


First they came for the students…

Gaza Encampment at George Washington University

First they came for the students and I said nothing…

January 6th taught me how mobs form and organize. It showed me how the power of a group empowers ordinary people to commit unthinkable acts of violence. I saw it in my neighborhood in Washington, DC, as the red-clad horde marched to Capitol Hill to fight for Trump.

And now, another lesson on the road to tyranny, in which a powerless and reviled minority becomes the focus of state power, cheered on by a wide spectrum of society.

The Gaza Encampment at George Washington University is a peaceful enclave of free speech in the middle of the nation’s capital, one of the very few places in the nation where students can speak out against Netanyahu without getting their heads bashed in.

I’ve visited multiple times. The encampment is more like an old-fashioned teach-in than anything else. There’s a library for books, lectures from academics and even poetry readings.

teach-in at the Gaza Encampment

It is not violent. This generation is very good at not engaging. They are masters of the side-eye, humoring the Fox News correspondents and others wandering through the camp, looking for violent perpetrators and antifa types. The media-savvy students ignore them and go on with making signs, cleaning up the camp and looking after each other.

Buffeted by history, from covid to the political chaos of today, this generation is very different from the world-weary, cynical individualists of my own.

They stick together.

The media distorts and exaggerates. Walk twenty feet from the encampment and you wouldn’t know it was there. Life goes on at George Washington University. Students rush to class. Graduates pose for photos in front of the GW Hippo, the school’s unofficial mascot. Everything is open, even the bougie Western Market across the street from the protest, where you can get sushi, arepas and hot chicken. You can find cops, press and demonstrators there, getting something to eat before returning to work.

Not to say that there are not moments of weirdness and conflict. The students recently held a mock trial of their university president. There have been fights over flags. Students removed a GW flag and raised a Palestinian one, after a scuffle with security guards. Administrators hung a massive American flag from a building. At night, students used a projector to light it up with a photo of “Genocide Joe.” Lauren Boebert visited and tried to remove the Palestine flag on the George Washington statue as students chanted, “Beeetlejuice.”

(Note: check out the GW Hatchet, the student newspaper, to get in-depth encampment coverage.)

There are Jewish people on both sides of the protest. Being Jewish doesn’t mean you support Netanyahu, the Israeli version of Donald Trump, both of them chaos agents who want to see the world burn. At the encampment, there are typically Israel supporters across the street with their flag, ignored by protesters.

Israel supporters

Choose your side in history now

Many of the students wear masks because they don’t want to be doxxed. This makes sense to me – I was doxxed by Trump supporters last year who tried to get me fired and sent me death threats by the dozen.

The House GOP, who sponsored the January 6th insurrection that left scores of DC police injured, has demanded that the DC police arrest the protesters and clear the camp. So far, they have refused. The protesters are non-violent and DC will let you protest, unlike other places.

The Gaza encampment isn’t the only one in the city, either. Across town are the insurrectionists of Freedom Corner, now almost two years into their nightly demonstrations to free January 6th prisoners. They have an encampment too, with flags, tables, chairs and food, just like the Gaza encampment.

At their protest, they call for the hanging of Nancy Pelosi and have attacked counterprotestors on multiple occasions.

Grifter Corner

Has the House GOP demanded their arrest? Do they want this protest shutdown?

No. Republicans support this. They have visited Freedom Corner and held press conferences in support of the “hostages.”

Let that sink in: you can commit violence on a street corner for two years in the name of Trump, unbothered and protected by the police, but if you protest Israel you’re in danger of being taken off to jail.

Free speech only exists if it’s for everyone, and for speech that you find personally objectionable.

Students have a right to protest, especially on their own campus. It’s shocking to me how many so-called “liberals” want students arrested just for speaking out.

You unleash this police power at your peril. They’re coming after the students today; they’ll be coming after you next.

Jeff Sharlet, a professor at Dartmouth who watched his students and colleagues be brutalized by officers armed with assault weapons, puts it aptly:

Now that it’s been established that the authorities can easily change the rules of what’s allowed, and use force to snuff out minority viewpoints, we face a very dark future. Liberals should not expect to have a Women’s March, a Black Lives Matter protest or a Climate Change rally in the future, if this precedent stands.

And don’t plan of protesting Trump if he becomes President in January 2025. Because there will be tanks in the streets. And it will all be legal.

Imperial Blowback at the White House Correspondents Dinner

Gaza protester confronts woman going into the White House Correspondents Dinner
Gaza protester confronts woman going into the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Outside the White House Correspondents Dinner, powerless students screamed in rage while tuxedo-clad grandees arrived for a dinner to celebrate their own bravery, dedication and rightness.

It was hard not to think of Nero fiddling as Rome burned or other apocalyptic visions watching this discordant display of wealth and privilege in the nation’s capital.

In America, we slide toward dictatorship, Trump II, with new imperial powers soon to be bestowed upon him by a fascist-friendly Supreme Court.

Overseas, it is even worse, as Israel uses American-made bombs to pulverize Gaza. Pretending to be neutral in this fight, we promise to help the Palestinians, too, our wealth being used to feed a defenseless population and then kill them.

This type of absurdity is only possible in fin-de-siecle empire, a global power slouching toward armageddon, liberally spreading dollars and death around the world, as if this we can do this forever without any consequence reaching our shores.

Reading the articles and TV reports produced by those celebrating themselves at the Hilton, you’d believe that the students were the enemy. Not the defense contractors profiting at this explosion of war, the media types racking up page views or the politicians riding division to the top.

It was the students, kids with nothing but home-made signs and a propensity for street theater, that were the biggest danger to the United States. Across the country, college students demonstrating against genocide  have been crushed by militarized police in scenes reminiscent of Russia, China or Iran.

Imperial blowback they call it, as the vast security state that we created to protect ourselves is now turned against us. Drones, snipers and tanks are not just for brown people anymore.

You could see it at the Washington Hilton. A drone hovered overhead. Snipers on the roof. Helicopters circling. And hundreds of officers surrounded the hotel, from a dizzying variety of agencies, their black SUVs and tactical trucks double-parked on all the side streets. A massive display of force to protect President Biden and his audience of blow-dried TV anchors and millionaire celebrities.

MPD officers stretched in a double-line for more than a block down Connecticut Avenue. DC police to protect men in tuxedos and women in ball gowns from a screaming, chanting, powerless rabble.

Organizing this battle line was Sgt. Riley, an officer I recognized from Freedom Corner, the pro-J6 vigil outside the DC Jail. He’s one of the most highly-paid people in the DC government. In 2022, he earned an extra $165,000 just in overtime.

Washington is suffering through a wave of stabbings, murders and carjackings. Just the night before, on the other side of Dupont Circle, six people were shot outside a club.

Riley and his squad weren’t there, nor any of the other neighborhoods where they were needed. They were at the Washington Hilton.

My tax dollars at work. And yours, too, as our vast security state mobilized not to quash an insurgency in some distant land but one here in America. All the wars we’ve fought and lost over the past three decades and we still haven’t learned the lesson: invading and brutalizing a population, whether it’s a country or a campus, generates fanatical resistance.

argument between Israel supporter and Gaza demonstrators
Israel supporter argues with the crowd.

There were a couple of uncomfortable moments.

A middle-aged supporter of Israel waded into the demonstrators and began screaming at them. He was unhinged; they were calm. MPD carried him away for his own protection as he fought the officers.

A woman in fancy dress ended up on the wrong side of the police line. One of the demonstrators, young enough to be her daughter, came up close and yelled at her about going to a party while genocide was occurring in Gaza. They were face to face, with fear in the older woman’s eyes.

Young versus old. Rich versus poor. The powerful against the powerless.

This is a very different generation. I’m not going to pretend that I understand them, because I don’t.

But seeing them outside the Washington Hilton, as the black-tie crowd took selfies in an orgy of self-congratulation, you could feel something old and rotten dying. And something new being born.

The suffering in the Mideast has galvanized them. They are finding their voice. And soon they will discover their power.

Election Violence Preview at the Supreme Court

Anarchy Princess at the Supreme Court

There was a tawdry preview of election violence on April 16 as the Supreme Court heard Fischer v. United States.

On April 16, the Court heard the case of Fischer v. United States. This was largely a technical matter dealing with the sentencing of some January 6th defendants. While it’s not a Get Out of Jail Free card, despite what J6 supporters may believe, it could reduce the sentences of the most violent J6ers.

More than fifty members of the public were in line for Fischer, including some of the Chuds of Freedom Corner, the listless, dead-end vigil for J6ers outside the DC Jail. They believe that the people convicted of attacking the Capitol Police on January 6th are “good men” who should be immediately released from prison.

Countering them was Anarchy Princess, bearing signs that spelled out the truth about these “good men” including:

Donald Trump, Elise Stefanik and the Republican Party call these men “hostages.”

Brian Jackson: literal Nazi

Anarchy Princess was there with the truth, walking down the line of people waiting to enter the court, her sign spelling out the facts: these men are violent criminals.

Out of the thousands of cases that get submitted every year, the Supreme Court reached down and selected Fischer v. United States for review.

A Supreme Court appointed by the leader of an insurrection will decide whether insurrectionists were sentenced appropriately.

It’s a helluva country.

As if to highlight the absurd, comical, illegitimate nature of the performance before the Supreme Court, one of the insurrectionists was in the audience.

Bryan Betancur, a convicted January 6th rioter and aspiring school shooter was in line to get into the court.

AP and I warned the Supreme Court police about him. She has an anti-stalking order against him which he has repeatedly violated.

Their response: “We’ll keep an eye on him.” Betancur walked into the court wearing an ankle monitor.

We can all see where this is going. Clarence Thomas, whose wife helped organize January 6th, tried to minimize the events of that day as he and other the justices searched for a way to reduce the sentences of these violent men. It’s the least that they can do for the Insurrectionist in Chief.

Trump supporters use violence to overthrow elections that they don’t like. And they use violence to suppress the free speech rights of others.

Being in front of the Supreme Court didn’t stop them.

As Anarchy Princess walked with her signs, she was surrounded by a black-clad mob of January 6th supporters. These are the women of Freedom Corner, the wives and girlfriends of January 6th prisoners, including the wife of Brian Jackson.

Ripping a sign out of her hands, one of them elbowed her hard in the side. All caught on camera directly in front of the marble columns of the Supreme Court as they heard a January 6th case.

J6ers feel emboldened enough to commit violence once again in Washington, DC. An assault in the name of “good men” like Brian Jackson, Jake Lang and Andrew Taake, who they would see free and walking among us.

Next week, the Court will decide whether Trump is immune from prosecution. We settled this principle in 1776 when we ousted a king; the Court is determined to give us one again.

If Trump is immune, then his mob is too. January 6th prisoners are already planning for the day that Trump pardons them.

Those are the stakes in the next election. Do we reward violence or punish it? If Donald Trump gets elected, expect a wave of January 6th-style attacks across the country as his supporters pursue retribution against anyone who believes in democracy.

If Trump wins, there will be no limits. You won’t be safe; none of us will be.

We must win.

Takeover: It Can Happen Here


A fascist leader disputes the election results. He uses violence to intimidate opponents. His party never gets more than 50% of the vote. Despite this, he schemes his way into office and ends democracy.

America 2024 or Germany 1932?

The parallels are eerie in Takeover: Hitler’s final rise to power by Timothy Ryback.

In the summer of 1932, the New York Times declared Hitler to be finished. After he refused to join a coalition government in the slumping Weimar Republic, the Nazis lost at the polls. Having spent everything on the election, they now faced bankruptcy. The bankers deserted him and unpaid party members revolted.

Even worse, the Nazi Party faced the prospect of an internal schism. Gregor Strasser, from the socialist wing of the party, left the Nazis – and threatened to take a large chunk of his followers with him.

Behind all these machinations was Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, who sought to peel off Hitler’s followers and build a right-wing, majority movement.

The situation was so dire that Hitler threatened to put a bullet in his head.

In a few short weeks, Hitler turned it around. Flying around the country, he rallied his followers and dismissed the threat of Strasser. He refilled the party coffers with money from wealthy industrialists.

And he lied, cheated and bluffed his way into power, telling every faction what they wanted to hear, until President Hindenburg appointed this “Bohemian corporal” as Chancellor.

Once in office, he quickly and violently disposed of his rivals until there was only one party in Germany: the Nazi Party.

Think it can’t happen here? Germany was a democracy with constitutional protections, much like our own. It had courts, laws and police.

But when confronted with an actor who didn’t abide by democratic norms, and was willing to use street mobs and assassinations to achieve results, it broke.

And Hitler had many willing accomplices, people who joined the Nazi Party to murder their enemies and restore order. To make Germany great again.

That’s what we often don’t get about Hitler – or Trump. They’re weak people who gain strength from a mob. And being part of that mob gives you license to indulge in your worst impulses.

I saw it on January 6th when white, middle-class rioters poured into my city. People who looked a lot like me seized by a cult-like devotion to a single man and freed from their inhibitions against violence.

I watched them march to the Capitol, and saw them return. They were happy. They fought for Trump and nearly succeeded in disenfranchising millions of voter to install a dictator.

It can happen here.

Freedom Corner Gets J6er Longer Sentence

Antony Vo violated his pretrial conditions by being at #freedomcorner
The chalk never lies

“Is that what’s it’s called? Freedom Corner?” Judge Chutkan asked, sounding incredulous.

The fantasy world of Freedom Corner, the insurrectionist vigil outside the DC Jail, met cold, harsh reality in the courtroom of Judge Chutkan, during the sentencing of Antony Vo, who stormed the Capitol with his mother on January 6th.

Judge Chutkan, who would’ve handled Donald Trump’s election interference case if the Supreme Court hadn’t bailed him out, rejected the premise of Freedom Corner and the idea that the violent J6ers held in the DC Jail were hostages.

Antony Vo had dragged out his trial and his sentencing for two years by constantly switching attorneys and, at one point, going on a cruise to Cancun.

In his Twitter bio, Vo said that he was a “J6 wrongful convict” who had been convicted by a “kangaroo court.”

Antony Vo on Twitter
Antony Vo on Twitter. Still online as of 4/11/2023.

He also visited Freedom Corner, despite his pre-trial agreement to stay away from it and avoid contact with other J6ers.

Freedom Corner is a livestreamed grift, broadcast on YouTube from outside the DC Jail, where fans of the insurrection take calls from prisoners.

Unsurprisingly, he was caught on one of their livestreams by Anarchy Princess, who loves to snitch on insurrectionists.

The above was mentioned in the prosecution’s sentencing  memo. Vo’s defense called it creepy that people reported him violating court orders. I’d call it idiotic. Charged with four misdemeanors, the court graciously let him out on pre-trial release, rather than locking him up in the DC Jail. He returned the favor by defying the court to appear at an insurrectionist meetup.

Chutkan cited his attendance at Freedom Corner as she sentenced him to nine months in jail.

More than 1,300 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Only 15 of them, the most violent ones, are being held pre-trial.

Most J6 defendants listen to their lawyers, don’t tweet, and plead out.

Some people say that Freedom Corner hasn’t achieved anything.

I disagree.

There’s a reason that some in the J6 community call it “Fed Corner.” It’s a honeytrap that attracts the dumbest of the dumb, gets them to violate court orders or admit to crimes and captures it all on YouTube, which can be easily clipped and shared by viewers.

Antony Vo got a longer sentence due to his attendance at the “hostage” vigil outside the DC Jail.

Freedom Corner gets results.

Eclipse: 2017 vs 2024

watching the eclipse in McPherson Square

When I first saw an eclipse in 2017, I hoped that this continent-wide event would bring Americans together in a collective epiphany. Awed by the power of the universe, we would put our differences aside and work together to build a better country.

Watching totality sweep over me, as I was surrounded by hundreds of college students, I felt a surge of hope, which was still possible in 2017. This was in the wake of the Unite the Right Rally, which brought violent white supremacists to the streets of Charlottesville. On my way back to DC, I stopped to see the flower-covered memorial to Heather Heyer, who was murdered by fascists during the rally.

Donald Trump said that there were good people on both sides. Clinging to the idea of American exceptionalism, I believed that my country would reject the idea that there were good Nazis, like we had done in the past.

How wrong I was. Four years later, Trump sent an armed mob to my city in an attempt to steal the election and become a dictator.

In 2024, another eclipse rolled around, the sun and the planets continuing to spin as this nation tore itself apart.

My naïveté is gone, realizing that no great epiphany is at hand, despite the sun growing dark for a few, brief moments. No celestial event can break the spell of people who have surrendered their free will.

We can’t negotiate with cultists who believe that the eclipse was cover for the government dousing them with “chemtrails” and other associated conspiracy theories.

I was wrong about the essential goodness of the American people; we’re no different than any other country. Fascism can happen here. Our institutions are not carved out of marble but made up of men and women who can be corrupted, intimidated and murdered.

There can be no bargaining with Trump and his movement. They’ve made their plans clear, through Project 2025, which seeks to make this country a Christo-fascist autocracy, with women deprived of their rights and migrants sent to detention camps (and the rest of us sent later). Trump would be a dictator, from day one, and term limits would be abolished so that he could rule for life.

And with the recent court ruling in Arizona, we now know what year Republicans seek to return us to: 1864. That is when America was great, they believe, a time when slavery was legal, women had no rights and Native Americans were being hunted to extinction.

The elimination of reproductive rights for women is just the start. Imagine what they can do without Democrats or the courts to stop them.

Unlike the first term, there will be no one to moderate the tyranny. Project 2025 is a comprehensive plan to wreck our weakened institutions and bring right-wing terror to every corner of America.

And for those thinking of fleeing the country, what makes you think anywhere else will be safe? If a dictator succeeds in America, democracies around the world will fall.

There is only one thing left to do: win.

I am cheered by the fact that Trump cannot draw a crowd. No supporters showed up for his recent court case in DC. Freedom Corner, the long-running January 6th vigil outside the DC Jail, struggles to attract more than six people, despite being endorsed by the Orange One.

His allies, too, can’t get people to show up. The Rage Against the War Machine rally for this year was cancelled due to lack of interest. This demonstration brought together a galaxy of left-right crazy, from the Putin simps of Code Pink to Proud Boys cosplayers, united temporarily against aid for Ukraine.

What happened? Trump drew followers by the thousands to DC for rallies “stop the steal” rallies in November 2020, December 2020 and, of course, January 6th. But not anymore.

MAGA is weak. Trump is broke and facing a gauntlet of court cases. The Republican Party is fracturing. The House GOP is hanging on to their majority by a thread. MAGA is a movement that is old and exhausted (much like Trump).

I like our chances, to quote the ever-hopeful Simon Rosenburg. Democrats are behind in the polls but they keep winning all the elections. And that’s all that matters.

Defeat is still possible. November is seven months away – a lifetime in politics. Trump won’t go peacefully. He’ll try to steal the election on the state level this time.

The eclipse that crossed this country in 2024 was a mere distraction in this momentous year.

We have much bigger worries, and opportunities. This is an election that we must win.

2020 Goes Down the Memory Hole

The Trump Era in a nutshell
Seen on the streets of DC in 2020

“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Donald Trump asks us as he and his deranged followers campaign for a repeat performance of his first term.

In March 2020, it seemed like the world had come to an end. Covid had arrived in America and with it, panic swept the nation.

The streets of Washington, DC, where I lived, were deserted. Seeing another person on the street was an occasion for fear, not happiness – could they be carrying the disease? Millions were out of work and a madman raged in the White House about injecting bleach while the dead stacked up in morgues.

That is the 2020 that Donald Trump would visit upon us.

It’s a tribute to the human capacity for forgetting that so few remember these bad times.

Why has 2020 been so willfully forgotten? Never did I imagine that my country would send an entire year down the memory hole but that is exactly what has happened.

No one wants to remember, which makes Trump’s calls so effective, as he compares the present to a past that never existed.

Were you better off four years ago?

Of course not.

Were you better off four years ago in your imagination?

Maybe, for the mind is capable of picking and choosing the sunniest of moments and bathing them in warm nostalgia. Four years ago, life was cheaper, you were younger and the nation was confident (in pretend land).

2020 is the year none of us want to remember, in its true horror.

2020 book
2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year Everything Changed by Eric Klinenberg

2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year Everything Changed is a book that I picked my way through, some of the stories being too raw, even now, four years later, to read. 

Eric Klinenberg gives us a kind of oral history, showing the impact of covid on New York City through the eyes of seven very different people. He shows us the early days of the epidemic as educators grappled with the impact of covid upon poor students. Demonstrates the disparate effects of the pandemic on the laptop and working classes. Shares the hopelessness of young people who lost the most precious resource of all – time. And even profiles a bar owner who turns into a MAGA cause celebre when he defies covid restrictions and reopens his bar.

In my naïveté, I believed that the experience of going through an epidemic would lead to a European-style social safety net, so that getting sick wouldn’t mean becoming homeless. Instead, big business got bailed out while the poor were given a pittance.

Covid did not bring us together in a spirit of shared sacrifice. Instead, after a few short weeks, we began to tear each other apart based upon party lines, this division driven by Donald Trump for political advantage. Democrats wore masks, got vaccinated and believed in science; Republicans eschewed masks and attacked the Capitol.

And now, four years later, 2020 is still with us as we battle over the memory of the year. Was it an imaginary golden time as Trump and his supporters would have us believe?

No. This is an extension of the Big Lie, a fabric of falsehoods that the Fox News Industrial Complex seeks to throw over our memories. The election was stolen, Trump is a billionaire, you were better off four years ago. All things some people wish were true but are not.

I remember 2020, the memories suddenly triggered by seeing a faded “stand six feet apart” sign or spotting someone in a mask. A time-warping, disconcerting emotion fills me followed by reassurance that those times are over (we hope).

So, so green
The National Mall in 2020, with all the museums closed.

I remember other moments, too, like when I met a friend at the Smithsonian Castle during the summer of 2020. With all the museums closed, the National Mall was so quiet that we could hear people talking a block away. I’ve never seen the grass look better, too. Untrodden by tourists, it was so green to be nearly luminescent.

That’s the problem with 2020. Too much happened. Covid. A military crackdown in DC. The joy of Victory Day as we dumped Trump. And countless other snippets of time as ordinary life was upended.

It’s a year that figures largely in my memoir, How I Became Red Bike Guy. Cursed to live in interesting times, I was determined to document 2020 and the haywire history of this era.

Now, in 2024, we battle over the past, like we battle over everything else.

“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

red bike guy cover

From Inauguration Day 2017 to a night in 2023 when I yelled at Trump,  How I Became Red Bike Guy is an account of what life in the nation’s capital during a tumultuous time period. Experiencing the rise of a wannabe tyrant, and seeing his followers sack the Capitol, radicalized me and turned me into the person who would mock fascists from a red Capital Bikeshare bike. Get your copy today!