Thursday, October 15, 2020

Going, Going.... Gone


Here’s the least hyperbolic statement ever made: today’s Republican leaders don’t believe in democracy. They reject its most fundamental premise: giving the governed a voice in how they’re governed. Which is to be expected when their policies run counter, in every category, to the preferences of most Americans. 

At the beginning of the end, Gingrich, Rove, DeLay, et. al., chose the path of lying and deception only; so, one could argue, they still accepted living in a democratic republic. Convincing voters to vote against their interests, through lies and coordinated propaganda networks, they figured, would suffice to win despite having a losing agenda.

Early in the Gingrichian destruction of conservatism, openly preventing voting was in its comparative infancy. Demographics were changing, though, and policies that favored only the wealthy and the corporate, Republican politicians realized, couldn’t win elections by lying alone. (We’ve just learned Trump aides told donors how dangerous the virus was, even as Trump lied, allowing them to sell stocks before the crash.)

So they upped their game. If voters increasingly disfavored their agenda, the only way to push it through was to prevent those voters from having a say. Brilliant. And it brings us to the present day: the anti-democracy endgame. If the remaining shards of power residing in voters’ bleeding hands are to survive, it’s now or a really, really long time from now. If ever. 

Gerrymandering hasn’t been exclusive to Republicans, but they’ve taken it to Herculean levels, and they and their judges have regularly shut down efforts to make districting more party-neutral. They’ve always had a built-in advantage in the Senate, where, despite being in the majority, Republicans represent millions fewer voters than Democratic senators. It’s in the House and in state legislatures across the land that the discrepancy is greatest, though: in state after state, Republicans dominate the government despite having received fewer votes than Democrats.

But gerrymandering doesn’t tilt elections for presidents and senators. Which is why, as the country is becoming less white and more liberal in its views on such matters as race, gender, religion, climate, taxation, and healthcare, wall-reading Republicans have turned to widespread suppression of likely Democratic voters. No longer are they pretending otherwise, nor are the Republican-appointed judges who’ve been blessing their efforts.

In Georgia, in-person voting has begun. In some precincts (guess which), thanks to targeted limitations on hours, locations, and personnel, people wait in line for as long as ten hours. We’ll see more of it. Trump’s armed terrorists have been intimidating voters in Colorado at ballot drop-offs. Texas's governor ordered that each county could have only one such location; meaning that urban centers, where many millions reside, and which include the greatest number of Democratic voters, would have the same number (one) as rural counties containing only thousands of mostly Republican voters.

To their credit, the Texas Supreme Court overturned that obvious ploy. Then, surprise, a ruling rendered by three Trump appointees to the Texas-based Federal bench overruled the state court. Because, for now, these actions favor them, Republican voters are silent as democracy is relentlessly stolen. Ignoring history, they must assume the resulting plutocracy will turn “for now” into “forever” for them, and they’ll be the ones to remain free.

Recognizing that mail-in ballots thwart their efforts to stop Democratic constituents from voting, Republicans are Goebbeling Trump’s big lie: mailed ballots are rife with fraud. And they’re doing the very thing that Trump made up about Democrats: ballot-harvesting. In California, the GOP, urged on by Trump, refusing orders to desist, is distributing fake “official” ballot drop-boxes, including in predominantly liberal districts. Does anyone wonder why?

Speaking to conservative policy-plotters, Ralph Reed exulted, “Our organization is going to be harvesting ballots … not only to White evangelical churches, but into Hispanic and Asian churches, and collecting those ballots.” At the same meeting, Fox “news” frequenter Brent Bozell said the left plans to “steal this election… Democracy is finished because they usher in totalitarianism.” Said yet another: “We need to stop those ballots from going out, and I want the lawyers here to tell us what to do.” 

Who’s stealing what? Which ushers totalitarianism: quashing voting or facilitating it? And what better nail in democracy’s coffin than packing the courts with anti-democracy judges? And let's not forget politicizing the USPS.

Delivered during this week’s well-coached Amy Coney Barrett confirmation kabuki, Senator Whitehouse’s lesson on where power resides in our moribund democracy should be required viewing for every Republican who thinks their lives matter to their party.



Friday, October 9, 2020

Trump, Pence, And The Right To Choose



Said the person hanging from a fly's belly during this week's VP debate, "President Trump and I trust the American people to make choices in the best interests of their health."

Well, then, why not the same regarding a woman's right to choose what's in the best interests of her reproductive health? Because there's another human life involved? But aren't other human lives involved in a person's choice not to wear a mask? Lives of fully-formed people, the timing of whose "personhood" isn't subject to question, scientific, religious, or otherwise? 

In other words, what Pence said (and to which, inexplicably, God didn't respond with a lightning bolt to his wizened heart) was a load of hypocritical bullshit. Which, admittedly, is entirely on-brand.

[Revised censorship: I've activated comments again.]

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Behold The Covid-Conquering Hero



“Give me liberty or give me death,” said Patrick Henry. Nathan Hale expressed willingness to die for a greater cause this way: “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” In Trump’s White House, it’s “Hail Trumpus, we who are about to die salute you.” Risking death for a far lesser cause, a self-serving, vindictive narcissist, they could die for an image-above-all charade. It’s home, roosting. Reality having penetrated the newly-reinforced White House wall, Trump and his morituri are attempting to do what sages know is impossible: polish a [rhymes with “bird”]. 

“I had to confront [the virus] so the American people stopped being afraid of it so we could deal with it responsibly,” said Trump. Right. Like calling to “liberate” states that were dealing with it responsibly. Like attacking their governors, mocking people, including his own staff and his election opponent, for wearing masks and distancing. If it’s helpful to project calm in during a crisis, it’s deadly to display behaviors that make it worse. And threaten national security.

Reverentially, Trumpists praise his dereliction as courageous sacrifice: taking on the virus to save us from ourselves. (cf. John 3:16.) “Covid stood no chance against @realDonaldTrump,” worshipped Georgia’s Senator Loeffler, up for reelection. But wait, there’s more! For a bargain C-note, you can buy a limited-edition, commemorative golden coin: “HISTORIC MOMENTS IN HISTORY: PRESIDENT DONALD J TRUMP DEFEATS COVID,” shouts the website. Flushed from the White House balcony like a bird-rhyme, a fascist-echoing video appeared, with triumphal music, featuring the heavy-breathing hero, glowering and posing like Mussolini.   

And they produced photographs of Trump, taken ten minutes apart in separate rooms at Walter Reed, differently attired but with the same props, signing a blank piece of paper. “Governing!” Metaphor, if ever there was.

“Does anyone else find it odd that no prominent Democrats have had the virus …,” queried a Republican congressional hopeful. Uh, no? Further flaunting her conservative chops, she twitted, “Trump was fine until the debate, where they set up microphones & podiums for him… I put nothing past the left.” Her party’s swamp overflows with insanity.

Discharged, Trump bragged about his treatment as if he developed it himself, bustling beakers and Bunsen burners in a barricaded basement, next to the cheeseburger dispenser and single-channel TV. It’ll be the same for a vaccine.

Deserving of mockery as this is, it’s deadly serious. We, Trump, and his Rosy Gardeners are where we are because of a “president” who accepts no responsibility in the fight; who’s psychologically unable to address it effectively, fearing “looking weak” by wearing a mask. Thousands of unnecessary deaths? A small price for maintaining appearances.

Some hoped Trump’s illness would lead to acknowledging how serious the virus is, that minimizing it was wrong. Telling people to follow those guidelines he aggressively ignored. Nope. It made him worse.

Ignoring two-hundred-twelve-thousand dead Americans and their grieving families, having received an experimental treatment unavailable to the rest of us, availing himself of science he contravenes and healthcare he’s suing to take away from millions, he brays, still unmasked, “Don’t fear the virus.” Which was after putting his Secret Service team at risk, demanding an egotistical drive-by to bask in the deification of the adoring throng, bearing witness, amassed as if at Lourdes. No amount of polishing…

Dexamethasone can get you high and/or create psychosis. Likely, that’s why Trump enthused that he feels better than twenty years ago. Hey, let’s all get the virus! Bless you, Donald, for leading the way. Meanwhile, go forth and govern in your chemical haze, more erratic than ever, while your White House refuses contact-tracing of your partygoers. That’s intentional, reckless endangerment. All to preserve the fiction of “presidential” competence.

Lessons pass unlearned. Mused the Wisconsin Republican Party treasurer: “If the leader of the free world can get this, I think it’s kind of silly for the rest of us to pretend a $3 handkerchief from Walmart is going to protect us.” Republican senators flew home, maskless, from a Covid-positive meeting. Another went to a fund-raiser while awaiting a test that turned out positive. Mrs. Mike loudly wore no mask at the VP debate. 

Then Covid-struck Trump capriciously ended relief negotiations. A mob-style threat? “Vote me out, sleep in an alley”? Covid encephalitis? After markets dived, he sobered slightly, but his foggy finger is still on the button. Steroid high or not – who can tell? -- Trump is a multi-level public health hazard. Try polishing that. Can’t be done.



Thursday, October 1, 2020

Save Democracy? Do We Even HAVE One?




Appalling. Disgraceful. Embarrassment. 

That’s my review of Trump’s performance at Tuesday’s debate. Anti-maskers, white supremacists, those untouched or unmoved by two-hundred-ten-thousand deaths, extremely rude people, and Tommy will disagree. 

Moving on... 

Both sides say democracy is at stake in November. Republican warnings, though, are fake news, whereas Democrats are describing what’s actually happening. To wit: Trump prophesizes, while Trumpists say “amen,” that if Joe Biden is elected, voting will have been fraudulent, America will become socialist, borders will dissolve, police and military will be defunded, and dark-skinned people will move into your neighborhood and rape (possibly eat) your children.

Democrats point to actual events: widespread, multi-faceted voter suppression, discrediting voting by mail, Republicans looking away as Trump dismantles every Constitutional protection against autocracy, including firing departmental inspectors general that speak out. And tipping the economic scales even more toward the already-wealthy, furthering top-heavy wealth redistribution that threatens the survival of capitalism; and, as economic and political power is funneled upward, democracy. There’s nothing imaginary about any of that. 

But do we even live in a democracy? If it’s a system of government in which the preferences of the governed have the ultimate say on the behavior of that government, the answer is, increasingly, no. And therein is the most fundamental difference between the parties: Republicans want even less power allocated to average citizens, Democrats want more. The rest is just noise. 

If Greeks invented democracy, they, like our founders, also distrusted it. The wealth-holding ruling class has always worried about vesting too much power in the “have-nots.” In his writings about the city-state, Aristotle, not exactly an egalitarian, suggested that providing the non-ruling class with value, like education and an obtainable route to happiness, made revolution unlikely. 

Choosing another option, our founders went with limiting the influence of “regular” citizens. Thus, the Electoral College. Thus, senators chosen by state legislatures, not voters. Granting only to white men the right to vote. Many, in fact, argued that only white, male, landowners should be granted the franchise. 

Unable to resolve the balance between rights of “property owners” and “the majority without property,” Madison’s words, the founders punted, leaving the solution to the states. For many years, in many states, only landed males could vote. Today’s Republican party is, effectively if not literally, trying to return us to those days, and they’re close to accomplishing it. Of the two ways to retain control, namely reducing the influence of voters, versus reducing economic disparity, Republicans, choosing party power and personal money, are working to close door number two. That’s what this election is about. 

The history of tectonic change in America is one of massive, nationwide protest. When laws and lawmakers block the avenues of redress, demonstrations are a natural result. Sadly, when there are huge numbers of demonstrators, violence is ineluctable, either from the most frustrated and angry of the protestors, or, as is mostly the case now, from people trying to discredit the protests and prevent the changes they demand from happening. Because those changes threaten their minority rule. 

In America, economic and political power are inseparable. What we’ve been seeing in the past several months, the protests and the reactions to them, are echoes of those founding barriers, as were the uprisings that gave women the vote, led to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, ended the Vietnam War. In all of those cases, more “civil” ways to achieve them had failed. 

Thanks to Republicans and their artisanal judiciary, citizens’ influence on policy has steadily diminished, as we’re dragged, blindfolded, to plutocracy; which leads, eventually, to Trumpian autocracy. Mitt Romney famously reminded us, “Corporations are people, my friend.” And, we’ve been told, money is speech. In its Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court handed unlimited influence to the wealthiest people; both the corporate and metabolizing kind. Democracy, already sickened by Reaganomics, took to bed. 

The only “people” who benefit from deregulating poisons are dark-money-donating corporations. Only oil companies profit from ignoring climate change. Those dangers become legislation by muting the voices of voters most damaged by them, which, ironically, includes Trump’s propagandized enablers; and by having in-pocket judges and paid-for legislators. It couldn’t happen if the majority of voters had comparable power. 

Which explains the anti-democracy actions of today’s Republicans: limiting your health, wealth, and power, in order to maintain theirs. It also explains their shameless whitewashing of Trump’s detestable, America-debasing behavior Tuesday night. 

American democracy may be increasingly illusory, but November can keep it from disappearing entirely. 

Added: Trump/Covid. We wish him well and will refrain from speculating.



Thursday, September 24, 2020

Worth A Thousand Words


If a single picture captures Trump’s America, it’s one showing those duped Trumpists blocking and intimidating early voters in Virginia. It’s all there: ignorance, anger, carefully coordinated indoctrination swallowed whole. Mob mentality. Enthusiastic lawlessness. Fascism adjacent. 
 

They arrived as if called to prayer. To them, the picture attests, MAGA means renouncing the Constitution, about which they and Trump have never really cared. It confirms how close we are to civil war, as Trump repeatedly declines to agree to peaceful transition if he loses. He’d rather see our country burn. Every American should decry this undisguised intent to overthrow democracy. Why is it only Democrats? 

Recall Trump’s demands at his fakery-fests: “Be poll watchers when you go there. Watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do,” he ordered the gratefully misinformed mob. And they did. 

Accomplishing what? Preventing the fabricated “thieving and stealing and robbing” that people waiting in line would have been doing if they, the red-hatted submissives, weren’t surveilling them? Were they hoping to scare legitimate voters away, patriotically? Is that their en-greatened America? 

Had they been inside, what do they think they’d have witnessed? Between signing in, casting votes, and leaving, how would voters have enfleshed Trump’s hallucinations? Irrelevant: Trump is mobilizing tens of thousands more poll “watchers” to go forth and threaten.

It’s a nutcase nutshell. A psychopathic “president,” to convince himself and his supporters that if he loses, it’d be from Democrats’ skullduggery, has been spinning a deadly conspiratorial web for months. Echoed by the complicit Attorney General of Trump and colluding media multimillionaires, belief in non-existent treachery is digesting Trumpists’ brains like Naegleria fowleri

If it weren’t so pathetic, it’d be laughable. Instead, it’s an intentionally lit fuse, burning with Trump’s lies about climate change, Russia, Covid-19, even Justice Ginsburg; and his nauseating praise, this week, of violence against journalists. He’s brought us to the brink. 

Dealing with Trumpists, liberals are disadvantaged. Being liberal, they still look for occasionally normal behavior and decency from the other side. From adherents, if not leaders. Seeing a “president” lying so blatantly, his Attorney General abdicating responsibility to the law, people so impenetrably manipulated by an American Putin, is confounding. It’s not of their world. 

Take surgery as a metaphor: after a decade in practice, there was no operation I did exactly as taught. Knowledge progresses. I read research publications, attended meetings, and, with experience, developed my own innovations. It’s a non-political example of liberalism. Who’d want doctors who refused to learn beyond the end of formal education? It’s unthinkable. 

Yet it perfectly describes Trumpists: minds gaping wide to deception, hermetic to reevaluating inculcated beliefs. People outside that circle are unused to such intransigence. Countering mindless acceptance of Trump’s mendacity with facts, liberals have found, is a frustrating waste of effort. People accustomed to open-minded discourse lack the tools, if any there are, to awaken closed-minded Trumpists to the danger ahead. Nor are liberals capable of Trumpic amounts of lying. No undamaged humans are. 

Like that photograph, Republicans’ weapons-grade hypocrisy following Justice Ginsberg’s death reveals it, too. All pretense of integrity abandoned, they’re acting in their own and their donors’ interest, not yours. Public opinion, which opposes virtually all their policies, including the timing of RBG’s replacement, is of even less concern to them than greenhouse gases or properly-vetted vaccines.

To pre-conditioned Trumpists, the SCOTUS fight is about abortion. For flip-flopping Republicans, though, as Senator Whitehouse explained this week, it’s about the demands of corporate dark-money paymasters: tipping the law to them rather than their employees; deregulation, no matter the consequences; approving vote-suppression to retain minority control. Promising retribution to senators standing in his way, Trump just admitted, out loud, that for him it’s about creating a Court that will help him steal the election. 

Rehearsing a post-election coup granting unlimited power, he’s already acting the role. Having declared Seattle, Portland, and NYC “anarchist jurisdictions,” to justify punishing mayors he fears, Trump intends to withhold federal funding. Same with denying help to burning western states, which, ironically, contain more Trump voters than the total of several states he won. Not an issue: he considers them “disgusting.”

That picture is everything. Born of the damaged mind of a pernicious “president,” those unthinking Virginians are ready for revolution, the potential first wave of a country-wide uprising. Despicable as violent demonstrations are – and they are -- they’re nothing compared to millions of Trumpofoxified Americans, ready to take it all down, for the lies of a malignant, self-absorbed charlatan.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Dictatorship: It's Coming Unless We Stop It


As we look into the gray emptiness of a disappeared world, Puget Sound displaced by choking smog, the future of our planet looks back. Being blinded by smoke is a worthy metaphor for those who still deny climate change. “It’ll get cooler, you just watch,” said Trump this week. Just as the virus went away, “like a miracle.”

Thus was this column first intended: discussing the most demanding and dangerous challenges we face: climate change and an administration refusing to address it. Then the week happened. Climate change must wait. Until January, this country will continue to ignore it, anyway, no matter what we say or how obvious the need. So, not now.

 

Because, just in the last few days, Trump and his horribles have made it even clearer that the most urgent first step to saving our planet is to save our democracy; that he and his will do and say anything to prevent it from happening. This isn’t new; it’s just that the potential has been taken up several quanta.

 

Trump and his collaborators are actively encouraging armed uprising if he loses. And, he’s telling us, the only way he can lose is if Democrats cheat. That popular-vote-losing-by-millions “president” is telling citizens to ignore the polls: if he loses, it was stolen, and they must rise up. “You will see a backlash the likes of which you haven’t seen in many, many years,” he told Jeanine Pirro, who’s in a four-way tie for Fox “news’” most evil entity.

 

“Be poll watchers when you go there. Watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do,” he says at his Covid-spreading rallies. (Speaking of which, he announced he’s not afraid of getting the virus because his podium is away from the crowd. You understand what that says about his concern for the attendees, right?)

 

It’s not just Trump. The former CIA guy in charge of finding bin Laden, and now, like so many Trumpists, a QAnon believer, has written, “Loyal Americans know their domestic enemies … and will be able to act swiftly to eliminate them ... The only thing I would be upset about if it came to war is that not enough Democrats would get killed.” Reflecting Trump’s racist demagoguery, he calls BLM “a semi-human mob.” This is the hate-filled, propagandized division Trump incites, because it works for him. And because it’s who he is.

 

Roger Stone, Trump’s favorite felonious fluffer, said that if Trump loses he should declare martial law. Calling on the FBI to block certain people from voting, and for federal authorities to seize Nevada ballots, he also said Zuckerberg, the Clintons, James Mattis, and others should be rounded up. Has anyone heard Trump disavowing it? No one who loves America can be okay with this. Those who are, don’t.

 

Michael Caputo, Trump’s unqualified choice for number two at HHS – but a big donor – who demanded scientists at CDC alter their facts to conform to Trump’s lies, later calling them “seditious” for refusing, said, “… when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at [Biden’s] inauguration, the shooting will begin… If you carry guns, buy ammunition...” Called out, he’s taking a “leave of absence,” from which he ought never return, because, like most Trump appointees, he had no business being there in the first place. Money and mendacity are the only credentials required for inclusion in Trump’s swamp.

 

What more would it take for current Trump supporters to remove their blinders? Their “president” and his acolytes are openly calling for insurrection should he lose; spreading falsehoods about the electoral process in order to discredit the cornerstone of democracy: the right to vote and have it count. It’s a truism: if Trump accuses someone of doing something, it’s he who’s doing it. If he’s the embodiment of narcissism, and ticks every box on the dictator checklist, he’s also the spitting definition of projection.

 

Barr, too. He’s urging prosecutors to charge some demonstrators with sedition; which, unlike exercising the right to protest, is exactly what Trump is doing, by dictionary definition. Choosing to encourage blood in the streets rather than accept defeat, ready to overthrow America if Biden wins, Trump has undertaken a coordinated campaign of faked videos and lies (“Looters and anarchists will be your neighbors.” “Biden is against God”) to incite his supporters to violence, in order to install himself as dictator. Millions of Trumpists seem to like the idea. The only person happier about that than Trump is His Excellency, Vladimir Putin. 


[Image source]

 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Sinking Feeling



God finally let His feelings on Trump be known when He sank those rally-boats. Knowing Trumpists, by nature, would ignore sensible rules and be unconcerned for fellow boaters, creating undrained swamping was easy. “Make Liberals Cry,” said a sign on one of them. Ironic. Rather than feeling concerned for the lost boats, though, let’s agree all boats matter and move on. 

Speaking of BLM, responding to last week’s column, a reader renamed them “Behave Like Monkeys.” On lake and land, one’s impression of Trumpists is confirmed.

Are blind racism and curated hate for liberals enough to justify voting for a flag-hugging faker who considers our troops “losers,” especially those who were captured or killed? Do loyalists believe his denials despite his being on record calling John McCain one? When even Fox “news” confirms the reporting, citing “impeccable sources”? Better known for the peccable kind, Fox’s corroboration is compelling. 

His decline accelerating, on Monday Trump accused military leaders of waging wars to boost defense industry profits. He, who brags about “rebuilding” the military and selling our fabulous weapons around the world. Funny: it’s presidents and Congress, not generals, who start the wars the military wages. Not funny: the “Commander-in-Chief” is decomposing before our eyes. 

None of this bothers Trumpists, as long as he continues to validate their aforementioned bigotry. This week he moved to end racial sensitivity training, calling it “un-American.” In his America, where supporters care only about themselves, he’s right. It’s also admitting he can’t run on managing the economy or the pandemic.

Maybe that doesn’t matter, either. As November approaches, Republican states are in full vote-suppression mode. Even after a detailed study found a sixty-eight-percent error rate when Georgia’s then-Secretary of State purged legitimate, mostly Democratic voters while running for governor, winning narrowly, the state is celebrating another purge-fest. In Florida, the local USPS, taking orders from Washington, refused inspection of two major centers by a Democratic US Congresswoman. 

While that was happening, we learned Trump’s unqualified Postmaster General became a Republican star by unlawfully forcing his employees to make campaign contributions, then laundering reimbursement. Crooks and liars. The lot of them.

Meanwhile, Trump disgorged his own solution to overcoming votes for Joe Biden, urging his people to vote twice. Was he joking? He repeated it more than once. Either way, William Barr, his lying, nakedly partisan, malevolent Attorney General, refused to say if voting twice was illegal in all states. (It’s a felony, Bill.) Then he described an incident of mail-in ballot fraud that never happened. His latest is brazenly federalizing the New York-based defamation lawsuit against Trump by one of his many rape-accusers. Theoretically in office to defend our laws, not the “president,” he’s just another of Trump’s America-destroying lackeys. 

Moving from executive duplicity to pervasive Republican science-rejection, Idaho’s legislature just voted to end coronavirus-related restrictions. Pandemic? Legislate it away. Perfect. 

How many slaps can one forehead take? How much can Trumpists swallow before realizing they’re being poisoned? Whatever the number, we’re not there. Nor will the recent barrage of wildly dishonest ads, falsely edited videos, and deceptive tweets from Trump cause supporters to question where their gilded idol is taking them. 

The “where” is an Orwellian dystopia in which the worst response to the pandemic among all developed nations is, in fact, “the best.” In which his predecessor should be in prison for hallucinated “treason.” In which, deploying his “best words,” he calls his current opponent “stupid” and lies about imminent socialism because he can’t claim anything worthwhile for himself. It’s a world wherein admitted lies about the pandemic are justified to avoid creating “panic,” but claiming liberals will burn your city, open all borders, and outlaw your religion is necessary information. 

The “where” is a fearful country ruled by a delusional sociopath, whose intelligence agencies are afraid the truth will upset him, so they water it down; where they’re ordered to hide the fact that Russian hackers successfully placed vote-erasing malware in voting machines. Also, where climate change doesn’t exist.

Last month, in Seaside, an ISIS-mimicking caravan of trucked Trumpists, bearing long guns and sidearms, occupied its main street, proving, uh, something, looking tough in their mirrors even though no demonstrators were there to intimidate. At a pro-Trump rally in Salem, a speaker, to cheers, called for Democratic leaders to be “shot dead in the streets.” That’s where Trump has taken us. 

And, yes, because we care about America, the planet, our children and yours, it makes liberals cry. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Trump's America

Riots, anarchy, demonstrators and military-grade militias killing each other, cities on fire. This is what Trump wants you believe is “Biden’s America.” How many voters are that stupid? 
Because he’s describing his America. We’ve seen Joe Biden’s, when he was with President Barack Obama. You might not have liked their policies, but you didn’t see protests with armed citizens shooting at them; nor would they have been praised. Whoever fired the first shots in the recent horrors, it’s only from Trump and rightwing media that we’ve heard laudatory words for confrontational caravans and the Kenosha killer. 
All of it – Americans facing Americans with eyes full of hate, fingers full of triggers – is on Trump and his media deplorables. His campaign began it, and they’ve promoted it ever since.  
Who wouldn’t want to kill demonstrators if they were terrorists who hate America, planning to destroy everything you value, who rape your children before eating them? Other than the sex/cannibal thing, the believers of which Trump has refused to disavow, because “they like me,” that’s what he’s peddling. 
Encouraging mindless fear and hate works, but only for Trump. With his malicious, self-serving encouragement, carloads of the deluded are pouring into “Democrat” cities, ready to defend against … graffiti, mostly.  
This isn’t Biden’s America, nor is it Kamala Harris’ or AOC’s or Rachel Maddow’s. It’s Trump’s and Pence’s. McConnell’s, Hannity’s, Ingraham’s, Limbaugh’s. And Putin’s, who poisons opponents, to Trump’s silence. 
If we can’t say who all the instigators of violence among the peaceful protestors are, investigators found rightwing agitators, aiming to discredit BLM and validate Trumpists’ rage, behind much of it. If lawful demonstrators could control the infiltrators, they would. It’s not what they want. Trump loves it, though. Kellyanne confirmed it 
It’s helpful to remember these encounters are in a few blocks of a few cities. There’s been some destruction, but neither those cities nor America are in flames. That’s not what Trump tells us, though, and it’s not what his angry and armed disciples like to believe. Unfortunately for us all, including them, the country they’re defending isn’t America. It’s Trump’s amoral autocracy.  
In Trump’s America, like his rallies, his party’s convention was a festival of fear, loathing, and blatant lies. In his America, there’s no more briefing Congress on Russian election interference. His DOJ, we’ve just learned, quashed investigations into his financial ties to Russia. Crowdfunding sites are raising hundreds of thousands for a propagandized teenager who, illegally-armed, went looking for trouble and found it, in the lives of two citizens. 
This is the greatness Trump has made. Every arm of government designed to protect us has become an instrument of “presidential” power, not the people’s. Even as we approach two-hundred-thousand dead from a mismanaged pandemic, people defend a “leader” still pushing fake cures and hasty vaccines, while refusing to call for the minor personal sacrifices that would end it. 
Forced to become science-free, the CDC and FDA are mouthing falsehoods, and Trump just hired an unqualified, fringe doctor as his pandemic adviser. Trump’s America is ignorance.  
In Trump’s America, stoking of racial animus is coming from inside the White House. And the Kremlin. Lacking attractive policies, Republicans are silent, because they think it garners votes. Two per person, if Trump has his way. Falling for the lies, Trumpists willingly pave the ever-shortening road to authoritarianism, while Putin does this. 
Think it can’t get worse? How about an amoral, Constitution-ignoring, would-be despot gone fully unglued? If you saw someone raving as Trump did to Laura Ingraham, you’d back away. People in “dark shadows.” Planes filled with “thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that.” 
Never psychologically sound, Trump has descended into babbling lunacy, even as he questions Biden’s mental health and pushes faked videos to prove it.  
It’s straitjacket-time, except his V.P. just said he “can’t remember” if he was told to prepare to take over when Trump was hospitalized. Right. That’d slip anyone’s mind. Pence is just another corrupt liar with whom Trump has surrounded himself. Barr, Pompeo, Wolf. Ratcliffe, Navarro. The ones not yet indicted.  
Ignoring the obvious, many will vote for him anyway. No sane person can, though, without lying to themselves about an unfit promoter of division, now further unloosed from reality. 
In Trump’s America, it’s lose-lose: if he wins, the Constitution becomes repudiated parchment; if he loses, believing his “rigged” lies, Trumpists will take to the streets, murderously deceived, ready to bring it all down.

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Friday, August 28, 2020

All They've Got


It’s doubtful Trumpists want their children and grandchildren to die of the carcinogens he has deregulated. Because it’s likely they share other human characteristics, too, we assume they, like the rest of us, prefer a livable planet for their progeny; unflooded cities, temperatures compatible with human life, oceans able to support sea life. 
If forced to make the choice, one can’t doubt most Trump voters would choose the health of their grandkids over the pleasure of seeing undocumented children in cages at our borders, shouting “Lock her up,” or calling Democrats stupid names.
It’s pretty certain that, faced with the known consequences, they’d rather see money spent on education, roads and bridges, sustainable energy – maybe even childcare and programs aimed at helping people overcome poverty – than on enriching the already rich and tax cuts that increase our national debt while doing little for everyone else. 
Those would be logical choices for any thoughtful person, if Fox “news” were turned down and Trump stopped tweeting long enough for people to hear themselves think.  
Though Trump’s capacity for empathy is congenitally absent, we presume it’s present in many of his previous voters. It’s possible they could come to understand how having large numbers of people struggling without hope is a threat to our economy, democracy, and, therefore, eventually to themselves. 
Willingness to think beyond the short-term and past their current cloistered comfort is all that’s required. The ability was once inseparable from American greatness. Their current unwillingness is what separates Trumpists from everyone else.  
The point is this: except for conspiracy theorists, the already-rich, and people who need someone to hate in order to validate themselves, there’s nothing at the core of today’s Republican Party to attract “regular” Americans. Party leaders know this. 
Which is why they’re focused on making voting as hard as possible for likely Democratic voters, and on pre-discrediting election results, should they lose. Not to mention turning attention away from their absence of ideas and toward the tiny part of our population throwing rocks at police.  
First, it was egregious gerrymandering. When some plans were struck down by courts, they turned to voter ID laws, aimed at disenfranchising minority voters “with surgical precision,” as an ethical judge wrote while disallowing North Carolina’s. 
Undaunted, encouraged by SCOTUS gutting the Voting Rights Act because there’s no racism, red states set about removing polling places in minority neighborhoods, forcing citizens to travel far and stand in line for hours.  
But they forgot about voting by mail, which circumvents their favorite suppression methods. Quickly, that time-tested, virtually fraud-proof way of voting, used for decades by US citizens overseas, especially military members, and by several states, was declared corrupt. Despite being used by Trump et uxor and White House staffers, including those repeating his lies about it.  
Ah, but Trump came up with an answer to that, too: unable to force states to abandon vote-by-mail (he’s suing some), he called upon another ultra-rich, inexperienced donor; this time to delay mail by gutting capacity. 
Now, seeing states distributing ballot drop-off boxes that don’t require the USPS, he’s lying about them, too. Classic Trump: claiming Democrats are trying to “steal the election,” when it’s he and his doing just that.  
Not satisfied with Republican plans to deploy intimidating “poll watchers,” (and affirming his disregard for the Constitution), Trump threatened to send troops to polling places, too; sowing distrust of voting and Squaring the circle of repression he’s been employing since day one. As in Red- and Tiananmen-Squaring.  
They’ve admitted they have nothing else. In remarkable capitulation, Republicans wrote no party platform for this election other than pledging unconditional, abject fealty to Dear Leader. They’ll run on the fact that he kept the Obama recovery going (till he didn’t), neglecting to mention that, unlike President Obama, Trump did so by way of exploding deficits and damaging deregulation. 
Otherwise, as their convention demonstrated, it’ll be Trumples all the way down: ignoring the current economic pain of millions and the consequential future problems we face, in favor of peddling fear of, hate for, and lies about Democrats. By the outhouse-full. Plus “up-is-down” fabrications about the pandemic and the economy.
The contrast with the DNC was stark, as Trumpists set aside reality, literally calling Trump their savior. It’s beyond a cult: it’s religion turned upside down. Under Trump, Republicans have become prostrate idolaters, eschewing positive ideas in favor of outright lies. Trump’s incendiary doomsday demagoguery ties directly to the violence we’re seeing from rightwing militias. 
Calling him “the savior of Western civilization,” Trumpists are, in fact, all but ensuring its downfall. Cheering Trump’s flagrant, confident mendacity and his televised law-breaking, their convention proved it.


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Thursday, August 20, 2020

What's At Stake


How inured we’ve become to Trump’s atrocities. The Republican-majority Senate Intelligence Committee just released its final report on Trump/Russia, and it’s been practically ignored, especially by Republicans. 
It’s damning. They concluded Trump and Roger Stone lied to Robert Mueller, and that Trump’s first campaign manager “represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” and did business with “a Russian intelligence officer.”
The Republican-led investigation also concluded the White House “significantly hampered” their efforts, and coordinated the testimony of witnesses before they appeared. It found that WikiLeaks, with which Roger Stone was conspiring on behalf of Trump, was “knowingly collaborating with Russian government officials.” It stated that Trump’s campaign encouraged and received Russian help in electing him, and are doing it again. Collusion.  
Knowing all this, Republican members of the committee still voted to deny Democratic requests for witnesses during impeachment, continuing a traitorous perjurer’s squatters-rights to the Oval Office. “Ho,” say Trumpists, “hum.” The friend of our enemy is our friend, too.  
We know what’s at stake. The surprisingly watchable “virtual” Democratic Convention made it clear: decency vs. indecency; common cause vs. deliberate division; compassion vs. cruelty; DACA vs. border cages; addressing climate change vs. making it worse; celebrating vs. demonizing diversity; inspiration vs. invective; science vs. conspiracy theories. Empathy vs. sociopathy. In short: America’s best vs. Trumpism.  
“I thought it was divisive,” said Trump of Michelle Obama’s heartfelt speech. Said the man who claims liberals want to destroy you; calls journalists enemies of the people; urged “liberation” of covid-fighting Democrat-run states; leads chants to imprison opponents, urges violence at rallies, calls neo-Nazis “very fine people;” who retweets a call to “… Let [Democratic cities] rot.” (Rule of thumb, fingers, and palm: when Trump accuses someone of something, it’s he who’s doing it.)  
After four years of so-called conservatives condoning Trump’s lies and incompetence, coddling dictators and insulting friends, making Americans unwelcome and pitied worldwide, suckered by China and North Korea – and much more -- no one imagines Joe Biden can completely heal us. Those still supporting Trump’s demagoguery will never heed President Biden’s calls for clarity and compassion. 
But whereas Trump would continue to stoke acrimony and alienation, Joe Biden will try to rid us of them. Only those who need someone to hate would miss it; only those unwilling to pull together as Americans to face our increasingly challenging future would turn away.  
Just from last week, here’s more proof of November's importance:  
  • Having pig-headedly reneged on the Iran nuclear agreement because Obama, Trump implored nations to renew the arms embargo against it. You no longer matter, they said. In an unprecedented, humiliating defeat for the US, they rejected Trump’s plea; whatever good might come from the UAE/Israel accord is on even shakier ground. 
  • Trump finalized plans to drill in ANWR, one of America’s most pristine and environmentally fragile places. Simultaneously, he reversed President Obama’s regulation of methane, the worst of greenhouse gases. It’s as if he wants to burn us down on his way out.    
  • When reminded there’s no evidence of mail-in ballot fraud, Trump’s Chief of Staff said lack of evidence is “the definition of fraud.” Seeing no dinosaurs on your lawn proves they’re there. It’s science.     
  • Trump and pillow-guy are pushing untested, poisonous oleandrin: yet another fake Covid-19 “cure.” 
  • Trump’s second campaign manager was arrested for defrauding investors with a phony border-wall-funding scheme. On its website, Trump is seen up-thumbing the plan.  
  • Enough damage done, Postmaster PFC DeJoy says he’ll suspend further dismantling the USPS till after the election.   
  • To keep Trump from descending into a rage of denial, intelligence agencies hide evidence of Russian interference in his briefings. 
  • The former DHS Chief of Staff revealed Trump’s temerarious attempts to make the department his personal instrument of power.   
  • Trump called for boycotting Goodyear (cancel culture!) because they banned MAGA hats in the workplace. In fact, they banned ALL political paraphernalia, which is good business.  
  •  Trump thinks the stock market is the economy. He golfed while his brother died. He repeated the debunkum that President Obama spied on his campaign. He praised people who believe the world is controlled by Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles who spread Covid-19 via 5G.  
Barack Obama laid down the stakes like railroad ties, his words a cri de coeur for country and constitution.  Joe Biden made it clear he understands the challenges of the future and the failings of the present and is ready to take them on for ALL Americans.

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Death Of Democracy

Michael Cohen’s book, the forward of which he just released, won’t change anything; won’t shake loose a single Trump voter. For all of Trump’s “presidency,” we’ve been given every reason to believe it. Plain observation has made clear who Trump is and has always been. Lying about Russia deals? No surprise. Slimy sexual peccadillos? Of course. He’s bragged about it. 
Tax evasion, mob deals, threats, hush money. It’s his lifelong modus operandi. It’s why those of us who voted against him, voted against him. Clearly, it’s why those who voted for him did what they did. No one was unaware. In Cohen’s book, we can expect confirmations, not surprises.  
But let’s assume everything in the book is fake news. It’s Cohen, not Trump, who’s the pathological liar. We know of thousands of Trump’s lies and none from Mr. Cohen since he found a conscience, but we weren’t there. 
We ARE here, though, bearing witness to the most dangerous, un-American, dictatorial acts any president, or in this case, “president,” has committed. There’s never been a greater threat to our country; not wars, not al-Qaeda, not ISIS, not even Putin’s Russia. 
We’re on the precipice of allowing dictatorship. Happening in plain sight, it’s with the de facto approval, by their silence, of the Republican Party – the party of patriots. The party of tough-guys, armed, camoed, and Kevlared to protect our freedoms against a dictatorial government. The party of Moscow Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham; Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. 
We speak of Trump’s unbelievable – except it’s Trump -- attack on the US Postal Service, to prevent mail-in voting. Not just his repetitive lies: he’s defunding and physically destroying it, having mail-sorting machines dismantled, mailboxes pulled out of the ground and hauled away. Seeing video of trucks carrying those boxes is looking back at the USSR; it’s Tiananmen Square, Hungary in 1956.  
These are the acts of a dictator, strong-arming to retain power by whatever means necessary; a man who believes in nothing America stands for, nothing but himself and maintaining the position he knows he never deserved.  
Now is when democracy lives or dies. For voting is the ultimate and only check individual citizens have on an out-of-control autocrat like Trump. If he takes it away, which is what he’s literally doing by taking away the means, it’s over. The unthinkable will have happened.  
After months of lying that it’s Democrats who are “rigging” the election, setting the stage for his brainwashed supporters to reject the result if he loses, he’s rigging it for real. In plain sight. If he loses, Trumpists won’t accept the results, based on his lies. If he wins by forcing this kind of brazen cheating, Democrats will understand it was a coup, based on reality. There will be, however, nothing they can do.  
Because if it’s allowed to happen, Trump will have already burned the Constitution forever, with the complicity of everyone who voted for him. There will be no recourse, because there will be no law and no order.  
Republicans and Trumpists must, finally, ask themselves, do they care about real American greatness or not? Will they accept a dictator and the end of meaningful elections because they share the same hatreds, or will they find the courage, the integrity, to say this is too much, even for them? If witnessing this destruction of voting rights, though it’s intended to disenfranchise only people whose politics they don’t like, doesn’t shake them to the core, there was never a core.  
It’s not just voters: it’s McConnell and Graham, Susan Collins and Ted Cruz, Jim Jordon and every other Republican in Congress, all of whom but one let this dangerous, impeached “president” remain in office. If none of them demand an end to his attempt on the life of our democratic republic, even though they’ve spent years doing their own brand of somewhat milder voter-suppression, they’re traitors, every single one.  
Trump’s pandemic response, allowing unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands and tanking our economy, is incompetence and stupidity, but likely survivable. Disenfranchising tens of millions is purely evil, and, for a democracy, fatal. People who don’t see it are blind; those who excuse it may as well stiff-arm the sky.  
Michael Cohen says Trump will stop at nothing to retain power. Turns out he’s the one telling the truth, after all. The question is whether Republicans care. The answer, it appears, is, of course not. Can it happen here? It is.
[Image source



Thursday, August 13, 2020

Lying For The Win

When you’re Trump, with little positive to run on, your paths to reelection are few: preventing as many Democrats as possible from voting, and attacking your opponent. When the opponent is Joe Biden, you’re mostly limited to lying: your specialty. (Also, you have your son-in-law help a bipolar hip-hop artist to run, to suck Black voters from Joe. And welcoming, while denying, Russian help, as before.)
Biden, Trump tells us, will “take away your guns. Destroy your Second Amendment. No religion. No anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns…” He also babbled about buildings with no windows, destroying “our great, beautiful suburbs,” and confiscating all guns, “immediately and without notice.”  
Whatever the theology that God and the Bible can be hurt is, it’s not Christian. Maybe Jerry Falwell, Jr, who suddenly has time (and who knows what else?) on his hands, can clarify. In the meantime, let’s consider the desperation that engenders such bull…oney, and what it says about the disdain Trump has for his voters.  
When he speaks, it’s impossible to know whether he’s lying or delusional. Either way, it’s alarming, and ought to disturb everyone. Nothing Trump said is true. Whether or not he believes it, he expects his supporters will, and he’s not wrong about thirty-five-percent of our population: the mask-refusers; the hoax-believers; the Sturgis-goers and store-employee abusers. The choosers of Q-anon acolytes for Congress. 
The question is whether such preposterous prevarication will cause still-sane Republicans (?) finally to acknowledge Trump is dangerously unfit for the job. To cast a vote for country instead of party.  
It was Ronald Reagan who started us down this road of economic fantasy and scientific ignorance, but it took an amoral conman like Trump to hasten its predetermined dénouement: unable to face difficult challenges, begetting the death-throes of America’s former greatness. If he isn’t the sole cause of our national decline, he sure figured out how to profit from it. Doing so, he eliminated the opportunity to control the pandemic; an easy job for better led, less selfish countries. 
His nonstop dissemination of ignorance has also made it impossible for America to do the much harder work of mitigating climate change. Thirty-five-percent ignorant is enough to take us all down.  
He’s demonstrated his disqualifications daily, for months. Latest was his fund-raiser/news-conference/lunacy at his gaudy Bedminster club, so exclusive that ninety-nine-percent of his supporters would be hustled out faster than an ethical inspector general. There, he flaunted his and his rich pals’ refusal to mask or distance; waved it like the Confederate flag for which he professes love, announcing the pandemic is going away even as it rages on. 
The rarefied air was filled with his lies. About mail-in voting. About Democrats ending signature-verification. All while modeling pandemic non-compliance for his tractable throngs, so welcome at his rallies and so unwelcome at Bedminster.  
Later, Trump rolled back regulations on methane: the most potent of greenhouse gases. Why, in the name of whatever god he thinks Joe Biden will beat up? Who thinks that’s anything but deadly to us, and a gift to oil executives?  
Yet another example of his destructive desperation is hiring a hitman to snuff the Postal Service; a big-donor, inexperienced pal who’s disallowing overtime, removing mail-sorting machines, ordering slowdowns. Unable to stop states from adopting mail-in ballots, Trump chooses to prevent them from being delivered. Chief economic adviser Kudlow just called voting rights part of “a liberal wish-list.” 
The whole “losing money” argument is ridiculous. Like our military, the post office is a government service, not a profit center. This is purely about suppression of Democrats’ votes. Trump admitted it. It’s another impeachable moment.   
Finally, stonewalling economic rescue negotiations, Trump issued not-really executive orders, pretending inaction was Pelosi’s and Schumer’s fault. Mostly empty suggestions, they do, however, begin defunding Social Security. One assumes even Trumpists use the Postal Service; plan on Social Security, too. But, sure, vote for him, because … what? Because you agree BLM is a terrorist organization? It’s cutting off your face to spite your nose.  
But Trump’s not always wrong. Praising the Q-anointed woman Georgia Republicans just nominated for Congress, who warns of Satan-worshipping pedophiles controlling the world, he called her “a future Republican star.” If Republicans stick with him and people like her, he got that absolutely right.  
Postscript: If Mother Pence lets Mike be alone near a woman, the VP debate will be must-see TV. 
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