Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Is This R Future?

It’s a serious question, the answer to which is of consequential importance to our country: Is the Republican Party past the point of no return to normality? It feels impossible, by now, to think it ever could. What would need to happen?

Consider Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Suddenly powerful, the empress of election denial and vaccine refusal, she considered 9/11 an “inside job,” suggested no plane crashed into the Pentagon, blamed California’s forest fires on space lasers controlled by Jews. Who, the minute she slithered into D.C., filed articles of impeachment against President Biden, under whose leadership Trump’s failing economy has turned around (35% of America’s total debt was added during Trump’s single term), the pandemic was brought under control, unemployment is at record lows, who hasn’t yet fomented insurrection or tried to bully a foreign leader into getting dirt on an opponent. 

Plus, her posts on social media are among the most inflammatory, conspiratorial, and false of any right-winger. Which is a very high bar.

“I will never leave that woman,” said caponized Kevin McCarthy. “I will always take care of her...” What better example of decline is there than the elevation of such a person, not to mention McCarthy himself, to a position of controlling influence in that party? And whereas he has the title, having agreed to populate the Rules Committee with people of her ilk, he retains little of the power of the Speakership. “Rules” is the committee that, among other powers, decides which legislation makes it to the floor.

Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi, considered, even by many on the right, one of the most effective Speakers in history, she’d have never let it happen to her. Will that group of hostage-taking radical nihilists ever produce legislation that becomes law? More importantly and even less likely, legislation that will benefit any but themselves and their dark money benefactors? We’ll find out soon enough. Enough, one expects, to turn control of the House back to Democrats in two years.

Because they can’t help themselves. Lies and promises of retribution (and sub-rosa deals) got them where they are. In their safely gerrymandered districts that elected them because of, not in spite of, their mendacious cruelty, there’s no going back. Their act plays well locally, but even with their nationwide voter suppression, to believe it’s winning national strategy is to have given up entirely on what’s left of American conservatism. Their trademark hypocrisy is already showing.

When Trump was “president,” the debt ceiling was raised three times without controversy. Now, presumably to cause economic pain for which they'll blame on President Biden for not “negotiating” with their hostage demands, they’re using it like kidnappers. And, as more documents are turning up in strange places, they’ve turned their hypocrisy up to eleven. Silent about Trump’s behavior, MTG said Biden’s is treason, a capital crime.

Mike Pence, who harshly criticized President Biden for having them, answered “I did not,” when asked if he took any classified documents home. About which Ted Cruz said this: “Oh look, the Mike Pence story, it’s still early. You know, Mike Pence, as you noted he is a good friend, he’s a good man. ... That is very different from what Joe Biden has done.”

But no one can flip the script like Trump, who counts on and still receives unwavering support from his party, if less unanimously than previously. When it was revealed that the FBI agent in charge of investigating Russian influence and found “nothing” was on the take from Russian agents, Trump shouted, on his “truth” platform, “The FBI guy after me for the Russia, Russia, Russia HOAX, long before my Election as President, was just arrested for taking money from Russia, Russia, Russia. May he Rot In Hell!”

Think about that for a moment, longer than which it ought not take. Maybe Trump figures Hell is where they’ll meet so he can thank him. But he definitely figures MAGA Republicans will fall for his Orwellian double-speak.

Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis, number two in polling for 2024’s Republican presidential nomination, seems to believe even more than House Republicans, that authoritarian thought control is the road to power. In his Florida, teachers feel obligated to remove books from classrooms. Not “some” books. All. And AP courses on Black History are banned, “because lessons on race must be taught in “an objective manner,” and not “used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.” That slavery was bad, for example? 

What would need to happen to return that party to sanity? As red states continue efforts to suppress Democratic voters, actual conservatives would need to dissociate from the insanity and, if only for nowvote Democratic. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Oh. No. Joe. Also, George.

The Biden documents thing is maddening, disappointing, frustrating. The obverse is that, for people as-yet unacquainted with the hypocrisy of Republican electeds and their media mouths, it provides an enlightening introductory course. Hypocrisy 101.

The best that can be said about President Biden’s situation is that it was careless. Unlike Trump’s, there’s no evidence (so far) of criminal intent, the critical criterion for prosecution. In fact, we only know about it because upon discovery, Biden did everything the law demands. Trump, by contrast, denied, lied, refused, excused, ignored, and stored; forcing FBIntervention.

But those differences don’t matter to the McCarthyite hostage-takers of Congress, who are in strategic, stratospheric dudgeon. Even higher are their media. Both, in times unmentioned, did everything possible to transport Trump’s criminality to Nothingburg, calling it a fake, partisan affair, saying he had every right to do what he did. Does that define hypocrisy? Answer correctly, show your work, pass the course.

If there’s a process for keeping track of classified government documents, it doesn’t work. If President Biden, now or as VP, checked out the documents as (you’d think) required, why wasn’t their non-return noted years ago? The ineffectiveness of whatever system exists, or doesn’t, needs critical attention. Who knows, after all, what Jared Kushner gave China and Saudi Arabia in return for the billions he got from them? And, as General Kelly worried, what secrets Trump shared, with whom and for what purpose. Or allowed easy access to at Security-sieve-a-Lago, as has been suggested.  

Because the two are separate, the to-be-determined but unlikely criminality of President Biden’s situation ought to play no role in the decision to prosecute Trump for his. That it might is what makes it so maddening, disappointing, and frustrating.

Therefore, preserving mental health, let’s consider another lesson with which the Republican Party has schooled us: the same party that, in the receding shadows of times past, got Richard Nixon to resign. It’s not mysterious why they’re refusing to chastise or expel George Santos. Who volleyballed so hard at a school he never attended that, unlike anyone else who ever played the game, he had to have both knees replaced. Maybe it was while recuperating from those operations that he became a leading contributor to the technology of carbon capture

Penalizing or expelling a man whose election depended on outrageous lies would be akin to praising Liz Cheney, a definitional, true conservative, for telling the truth. They can’t. It would call into question everything about the perfidious path they’ve taken to get where they are. Even more impossible, it would require abrogating their acceptance of Trump’s endless stream of lies, beginning decades before winning the Electoral College, after which his mendacity led, demonstrably, to thousands of lost lives; especially, ironically, among his believers

Truthfulness about their agenda is Republican legislators’ enemy: more tax cuts for the wealthy, cutting benefits for regular people, ending actions to mitigate climate change (that they state honestly, but it’s based on the homicidal lie that climate change is fake and fossil fuels are harmless). Because most Americans disagree with everything Republicans propose, the party recognizes the primacy of falsehoods to win votes. Case in point, as mentioned in last week’s column: fulfilling a hard-pushed, nationwide campaign promise, their very first legislative action was based on their thoroughly debunked IRS lie.

Less outlandish but no less effective than George Santos', such lies got them elected. He lies about himself; they lie about everything else. Especially Trump’s Big One, leading to aggressive and effective voter suppression, about which they’ve taken to bragging

Sometimes it feels like piling on poor George, though, as his lies bespeak a pathologically unwell mind. They flow through him like water from a burst dam. He should receive therapy, not security clearance, and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near legislation. Not even Trump’s confabulations are as bizarre. 

Republican legislative item number two was based on an even more contemptible lie: imaginary infanticide. Killing babies born alive after a failed abortion or with unsurvivable birth defects. Already illegal. Doesn’t happen. But, because they know their voters will believe any lie that stokes preprogrammed outrage, they touted their bill against the nonexistent as if they’d solved cold fusion.

Following suit, Arkansas’ new Governor Sanders’ first act was banning nonexistent CRT in schools. Shameless. And they’ve just put election deniers, 9/11 hoaxers, white supremacist coddlers, space laser believers, and insurrectionists on the House Homeland Security Committee. How reassuring.

These are dangerous people, trading in lies, protecting liars, inflaming believers to violence. Next, we’ll learn whether they’re willing to cause worldwide economic collapse by using the debt ceiling to push their self-enriching, regular-American-harming goals. Predictions?

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Rs In Charge

So obvious is the corruption of Kevin McCarthy and the process that dangled him above the Speaker’s podium fifteen times in four days, that everything about it has already been said. I disagree, though, with those saying he sold his soul. If any remained, that happened two years previously. For the briefest of moments back then, he blamed the insurrection on its source: Trump.

Only hours later, he backtracked and made tracks to Mar-a-Lago. And now, nearly his first words after glomming the gavel were in groveltude to Trump, whose pathological election lies are responsible for everything that happened before and since. Including Ashli Babbitt, who died for his sins.

Voters against certification of the fraud-free election, which includes McCarthy, now control the “people’s chamber,” representatives whose disrespect for democracy was and remains writ largesse. “It was democracy in action,” they professed, referring to the fifteen votes and physical confrontations preceding Kevin’s Peter-principled installation. Like the gerrymandering, voter suppression, and lies that elected them to Congress, it was, in fact, the opposite: a ten-percent minority demanding and receiving concessions they tried to keep secret

Tonguing Trumpofoxian lies one by one, McCarthy Speakered the scheme: We’ll defund those 87,000 IRS agents, he said, resurrecting the debunked. We’ll end “woke” grooming in schools. (Who groomed the six-year-old that shot his teacher? In Trumpist family photos featuring children holding ARs, who’s gr-zooming who?) We’ll close “wide-open” borders, he promised, repeating the lie that, every time it’s delivered, encourages more asylum-seekers, whose arrival Rs gratefully demagogue.

We’ll return to respect for law enforcement and the law, he mouthed, after he and the entire “Freedom” caucus boycotted President Biden’s ceremony honoring capitol police and other brave souls who didn’t capitulate to Trump’s illegality. And they’ll investigate “weaponization of the government,” which is what they call it when government enforces our laws; but not Trump’s DOJ firing US Attorneys investigating him and having his IRS punitively audit James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and others.

Newly-empowered Dentifricial-American Paul Gosar, whose siblings begged the electorate to reject him, announced, “We will conduct a real investigation into J6. The effort to attempt a coup between traitor General Mark Milley and Pelosi will be reviewed and exposed.” Sounds Q-legit. Like insurrection-planner Andy Biggs before him, just-elected Cory Mills made a crude joke about the attack on Paul Pelosi. Asked if being an election rejector was important to her base, MTG answered, “Oh, very important.” Deservedly under investigation, Scott Perry opined that Nancy Pelosi ran Congress “like a prison camp.” Preternatural liar George Santos, who’d have been expelled immediately by any party with a thimbleful of integrity, appeared to flaunt a white-power sign as he oathed another lie. These are but some of the quality people onto whose hands McCarthy grafted the levers of governance.

Then he kicked effective Democrats off important committees, putting subjects of investigations, who won’t recuse, in charge of investigating investigations. Want to see “weaponization”? Just watch. It’s all about protecting Trump and elected Trumpists. 

Fomenting lawlessness at the highest levels of government has other consequences, too. To the expressed disgust of leaders of every Western democracy, and after forceful condemnation from President Biden and Leaders Schumer and Jeffries, R leaders were silent on the Trump-inspired coup attempt in Brazil. Having gone all in with rejecting democracy, how could they criticize its direct result elsewhere? Admittedly, it’d have been interesting to see.

Who could miss the contrast between Trump’s people letting the insurrectionists disappear into the wind, leaving it for President Biden’s DOJ to bring them to justice, and how every Brazilian counterpart was arrested and cuffed on the spot? Which government showed more respect for the will of its people? It’s no mystery why Jair Bolsonaro fled to Florida, the swamp containing two of America’s greatest threats to democracy.

So, what shall we expect from House Republicans when they’re not busy “investigating”? Well, the first bill they passed, based on that “87,000 IRS agents” lie, cuts funding for the agency by $71 billion, which will decrease revenue by $186 billion. Wealthy tax cheats wouldn’t face audits after all. (It was never going to be regular income people.) Given their way, McCarthy’s controllers would make up the difference by cutting Social Security and Medicare. They’ve said so

Republican legislative priorities: benefitting themselves and their donors, not the majority of Americans from whom they’ve attempted to withhold the truth. They’re nothing new. They’ll go nowhere as long as Democrats have the Senate and White House, but there it is. Welcome to 2023.

Also: yes, it’s weird that ten government documents were found in Vice-President Biden’s old office, immediately reported and returned. And, no, it’s nothing like the hundreds Trump stole, hid, lied about, and refused to return. In case anyone’s wondering. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

42 And In With The New

Readers of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” know that the answer to the “ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything” is 42. It’s also the number that removed residual doubt that the radical right members of our Supreme Court have taken that body far beyond claims of “legislating from the bench” that conservatives liked to toss at more liberal courts, and about which they’ve gone mute.

Title 42 is the policy imposed during Trump’s “presidency” which suspended the legal asylum system at the height of the pandemic. It allowed expelling seekers without a hearing, to mitigate, purportedly, the spread of the virus. We won’t argue the effectiveness of Title 42; certainly won’t disagree that our asylum and immigration policies need fixing. But, because the CDC had ended various other protective requirements as the pandemic wound down, and because the legislative language justifying 42 was specific about the pandemic, the Biden administration, via the CDC, ordered its end.

Border states objected, and took it to court; not arguing pandemic protection: immigration issues. Correctly noting it was no longer being used as written, a US District Court agreed it should expire. On appeal, the Supreme Court, 5-4, ordered the policy continued; not bothering to pretend their decision had anything to do with the pandemic. Saying, in effect, if Congress won’t fix immigration, we will. Which isn’t the Court’s job, even if Congress won’t do its. That’s where the Court is headed: enrobed, autocratic law-making. But it provided an undeniably clever lead-in to this column. We agree on that.

If there’s no likely-to-happen recourse to the Court’s anti-Constitutional authoritarianism, there is to the coming legislative dysfunction, inevitable under Republican control in the House of Representatives. Namely, after witnessing their predictably kangaroid, non-stop “investigations” and non-start useful legislation, voting them out. If their uselessness isn’t obvious after two years of nothing but performative inaction, well... let’s not think about that.

Head of the RNC, Ronna “What-middle-name?” McDaniel says their first priority ought to be Hunter Biden’s laptop. Because what else is that important? Maybe they’d start with whether it even exists and, if so, how Rudy got it. But, to Ms. McDaniel’s disappointment, that won’t be number one. Per the caucus of their craziest, to whom the term “far right” is wrongly applied, because they’re anything but conservative, “accountability” means pursuing every Q-anon hallucination they hold dear.

But there’ll be no accountability for themselves: their published legislative intentions include gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics, to which the J6 Committee had referred Jim Jordan and others for ignoring subpoenas, and which would, if truth mattered, expel mega-liar George Santos, who was welcomed, instead, with partially open arms.

Serious accountability would start with the derelict manner in which Trump and the man he went to, Jared, handled the pandemic. “Absolutely not” was Kushner’s response when asked by Dr. Deborah Birx if Biden’s transition team should be read into Trump’s pandemic responses. This we’ve learned from a recent tranche of documentation released by the J6 Committee. It tells us everything about the MAGA mindset: no concern for the well-being of the American people as long as they achieve power and vengeance, and score political points for themselves. Willingness, if acting would give the other side a win, to accept deaths. And not only from Covid: poverty, back-alley abortion, forced birth, lack of healthcare, pollution, climate change.

There’s an excellent argument to be made – it has been – that their deliberate downplaying of and lying about Covid-19 fulfills a legal definition of criminality. Homicide, even. So says Glenn Kirshner, former federal prosecutor.

There are, however, several less controversial crimes, easier to convict, committed by the former “president.” The definition of “clear cut,” those secret government documents he stole and lied about top the list. And Trump’s finally-released tax forms show how brazenly he’d lied about them: that he was under audit (like the rest of his corrupt top-level appointees, his IRS head ignored the law – in this case, requiring annual tax audits of presidents); that he’d given millions to charity and paid millions in taxes; and (no tax expert, I) the many questionable deductions he’d claimed, including, brazenly, the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.

It’ll be a challenging couple of years, as the DOJ and state prosecutors in New York and Georgia decide about charging Trump for his cornucopia of crime, while House Republicans do everything they can to distract from it. Including, if the crazy caucus has its way, defunding the FBI and DOJ. They’ve already accomplished something, though: getting rid of metal detectors at the Capitol. When Joe shows up for the SOTU, they’ll be packing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Truth, By George


“Say hello to George Soros.” That’s how a less-than-love note was signed by a reader. The salutatory suggestion got me thinking. As with most things political, he and I view reality across an unbridgeable fissure. Other than what he hears from Fox and foxoid sources, I wondered, does he even know who George Soros is and what he does when not masterminding all international evil (Jew!!), as portrayed by the screamers of rightwing media? Does the man know where Soros’ money goes?

He might not like his politics. He might wish he gave millions to Republicans instead. Were he not so thoroughly Foxified, he might also challenge the many lies about him. Starting with being a Nazi collaborator.

There’s a fake picture still circulating, showing a person claimed to be Soros, in a Nazi uniform. But he was born in 1930, making him nine years old when WWII began. Like many Jews at the time, his father, having previously changed the family name from Schwartz to Soros, wanting to save his family from the Holocaust (which existed), obtained papers identifying George as Christian. Managed to get him a job, a teenager, accompanying a Nazi bribed to claim to be his godfather, but not, evidently, assisting him in confiscating belongings of fellow Jews. This he did to survive. Would you have refused, facing extermination if your true identity were known? At that age? Here’s an exhaustive exploration of that lie and related others, spread with enthusiasm on rightwing media and still believed.

As a hedge fund manager and currency trader, George Soros made a ton of money, most of which he’s given away, placing him far below the latest rightwing hero, Elon Musk, among the world’s richest (#345, says Forbes). And whereas it’s true he’s among the biggest donors to Democrats while other billionaires donate even more to Republicans, the bulk of his charity has gone to groups around the world striving for democracy.

Looking at the people and organizations who receive his money, his purpose becomes evident, the origins surely in his first-hand witnessing of Naziism and the Holocaust. The name of his main vehicle for giving says it: “The Open Society Foundations.” It’s not hard to understand, based on the title, how lizard-people-seeing Foxotrumpians translate that into “New world order” and “International cabal.”

What it means, though, is democracy; which, as we’ve seen well before President Biden’s win, is anathema to Trump and Trumpism. Likewise Soros’ support for truth in media and for debunking the disinformation which is the daily bread and business model of Fox, Newsmax, OANN, Alex Jones, Steve Bannon, etc., ad deplorablum. Opposite the likes of Toxic Tucker, it’s clear why he’s Foxic enemy number one. Via and other platforms, here and abroad, he forces truth past lies.

It’d be nice if the following words from the foundation’s webpage would change minds, but, of course, they won’t: “Societies can only flourish when they allow for democratic governance, freedom of expression, and respect for individual rights—an approach at the core of the Open Society Foundations’ work...” Scurrilous, right? Given the expansive Trumpublican preference for authoritarian liars, the threat is evident.

Fact-checking lies is easy, as is discovering the causes in which Soros’ foundations have invested around the world, advancing democracy, supporting groups that resist tyranny. That he’s given, among others, to groups in America seeking accountability in law enforcement translates to “anti-police” in Foxotrumpified minds, when, it should be obvious, working to root out the few bad cops supports the many good ones. But, as with all conspiracy theories, the need to hold them close, unwavering, trumps long-since eliminated desire for truth.

So, why bring up George Soros at all, knowing no minds will change? Because of Trumpublicans’ increasingly anti-democracy, pro-authoritarian drift, including their inexplicable support of Vladimir Putin and his war crimes in Ukraine. Russian media are praising such lowlights as Carlson, Boebert, Gaetz, Gosar, and Greene, for their attacks on President Zelensky; the recipients seem proud of it. No wonder Foxotrumputinists hate Soros. 

Including the kind who loved Texas Governor Greg Abbot’s latest dump of 130 asylum-seeking adults and children, refugees from oppression and poverty, some wearing only T-shirts, on the coldest day on record, in D.C., on Christmas eve. Compare that reprehensible behavior to Soros, whose foundations aid similarly vulnerable people as they seek relief from abuse for themselves and their compatriots.

Who harms America more? How did truly evil Greg Abbott, who, simultaneous with his cruel stunt, issued a praise-Jesus Christmas message, beat Beto O’Rourke? And what’s the over/under on House Republicans seating Trump-level liar George Santos?

The world needs more people doing what George Soros does, not fewer.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Rhymes For The Crimes And The Times


It’s common at this time of year
To spread around holiday cheer.
Recount every reason
That during the season
A reader should shed ne’er a tear.

Ordinarily you know that I’d lust
To report on the ravings of Musk.
But it mustn’t be now
To be pointing out how
He’s becoming the elephant’s tusk.

Nor will I opine, though she’s scary
On the loser whose name starts with Kari.
I’ll not be lent ears
From my like-minded peers.
I come just to praise her not bury.

If I can’t always say something good
My mommy said clearly I should
Speak nothing at all
So I’m making the call
To say all the nice things I could.

On the day before night before gifts
I’ll not be promoting more rifts.
I’ll be nice as pie,
My thoughts aiming high
So readers won’t leave feeling miffed.

I won’t take us in the direction
Of Trump’s clear-as-day insurrection.
The holiday spirit
Demands that I gear it
Toward ignoring his claim of election.

A landslide he’s calling it still.
His cultists were itching to kill
The people with guts
To point out he’s nuts
And that facts to support him are nil.

But far be it from me now it’s Yule
To remind us of law and its rule.
Or the party of law
Dislocating its jaw
Lest words pass it that prove he’s a fool.

Our stockings I’ll hang by the fire.
And won’t be bogged down in the mire
Of politics mean
Nor sully the scene
Of hope and the dreams we aspire.

So as we approach Christmas eve,
Let us hold in our hearts and believe...

Okay, who am I kidding? Watching the final January Six Committee meeting, as they recounted the catalog of Trump’s crimes and those of his henchflock, I recalled how it all began with the contemptuous lie he pumped well before the election. Because, in his destitute mind, Donald, who knows more about everything than anyone, could only lose by massive fraud. It’s conceivable he actually believed it; it’s inconceivable that anyone still does.

The hearings presented compelling evidence; not from libtard, Trump-hating commies or members of an imaginary deep state, but from his own team, some of whom, unlike their boss, improbably believed in Constitutional democracy.

One after another, they confirmed that he knew he lost, had been told repeatedly that there was no fraud, that he didn’t care, that he reveled in watching besotted supporters incriminate themselves, on video, as they trashed our nation’s capital, bewitched into thinking they were “stopping the steal.” Ruining their lives for his lies.

The committee’s report is encyclopedic, and includes much more. Yet House Republicans are planning their own “investigation,” aimed at discrediting the current committee’s findings. Findings, we’ve seen, based on irrefutable facts and sworn testimony. Taking millions of Americans along for the ride, they’ll engage in unprecedented, party-wide abetting of criminality and corruption.

Trump lost a fraud-free election. He refused to accept it. He chose lawbreaking on multiple levels in multiple venues to overturn the will of the people, subvert the Constitution, and end what remained of democracy after four years of ignoring it. No American should tolerate it; none who accept the requirements of citizenship in a democratic republic. Which excludes every remaining Trumpist, every rightwing media star, and almost every Republican member of Congress. Confirming everything we’ve known about what’s become of that party, Liz Cheney, as reliably hardcore, far-right conservative as it gets, lost her job by a huge margin to an election denier. It’s Jonestown, but slower.

But, golly, we hear, it’s unprecedented to indict a former president. It’ll tear the country apart. It’ll be divisive. Really? How can we be more divided, how much aparter torn by defenders of Trump’s crimes? Of course it’s unprecedented, and we’re lucky it is. Until Trump, no president had conspired to overturn an election, to upend democracy with outrageous lies and deceit. Long term, the consequences for democracy of accepting this egregious “presidential” criminality are far greater than freeze-dried, just-add-water Trumpfoxian outrage over punishing it.

How sad at this holiday time
To dwell upon obvious crime
While those in Trump’s thrall
Are excusing it all.
Their justice is not worth a dime.

A palinode I’ll not out-dole
Nor mention the secrets Trump stole.
I know it’s the time
To stop making rhyme
And to help make our country be whole.

So no, I will not have us sup
Or drink from reality’s cup.
I’ll say what the hell,
Everything is just swell.
Trump’s down but we must let him up.

It’s Christmas, after all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Those Texts

The website Talking Points Memo, got hold of thousands of texts between Mark Meadows, Trump’s one-time chief of staff, and a basketful of members of Congress (34 of them) along with a bunch of other Republican role-players around the country. Tons of texts, 450 of which went to the 34, regarding the fair election Trump lost, and ways to overturn it; plus the runup to the failed January 6 insurrection, and beyond. It’s illuminating.

Reading the TPM series, there’s no denying the seditious depth of their intentions; their undisguised disregard for democratic processes; their willingness to turn to violence and totalitarianism. Perhaps surprising to people less intent on observation is the amount of paranoid, conspiratorial, uninformed insanity of those people. Elected people. Reelected; not, presumably, in spite of their derision of democracy, but because of it.

Key players included Jim Jordan (R-OH), Jody Hice (R-GA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA, Louie Gohmert, Ted Cruz (Rs-TX), and more. Maybe some of them actually believed the ridiculous “news” and theories they were pushing. If so, they’re too lacking in judgment to play any role in the future of our country. If not, they belong in prison. Well, prison either way, probably. Some examples:

From Texas Congressman/dental-American, Brian Babin: “Mark, When we lose Trump we lose our Republic... [We] refuse to live under a corrupt Marxist dictatorship. Liberty!” Seriously? Among the Foxotrumpified, he’s not alone in his delusion, nor in a lack of irony: corrupt Marxist dictatorship! From a guy plotting to overthrow a democratic election. Like a Marxist dictator. And, contra rightwing media screamers, absent anything to suggest impending Marxist dictatorship, if he even could define it. Same with those who believe that’s exactly what the Biden presidency is.

Paul Gosar, R-AZ, another dental-American who can’t separate tooth from fiction, forwarded a claim from a website named, not kidding, “Some Bitch Told Me,” that China had purchased Dominion Voting Machines for $400 million (false), proving dark deeds afoot.

Jim Jordon, R-OH, likely upcoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, quoted Alexander Hamilton, who wrote that if a law passed by Congress is unconstitutional, it can’t be valid. Therefore, he concluded, duly elected Electoral College electors must be invalid. The gaps in that brilliant extrapolation from A to somewhere weren’t filled in. He’ll make the Judiciary Committee great again, for sure.

Then there’s Rick Allen, R-GA. You’ll have to read it yourself, because I can’t even.

Ted Budd, R-NC, claimed all-powerful, all-knowing, has-a-plan-for-us-all George Soros manipulated the voting machines. Probably from space.

Three days before inauguration day, Ralph Norman, R-SC, wrote to Meadows, “... we are at a point of no return in saving our Republic!! Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall Law!!...” MTG called for the same. It’s bizarre. It’s insane. It’s bad spelling.

There’s far too much to address in a single, space-limited newspaper column. Follow the link to TPM. Then consider the implications for the future of America. Ponder the delusional and dangerous depths to which the Republican party has descended. Mull the promise Kevin McCarthy has made to put the worst of the worst, including Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and others featured ravingly in the texts, on important committees. Chair them, even. The doodoo in which we find ourselves, thanks to them, is deep.

Embarrassing to the US as their behavior is on some level, and subject to ridicule, it’s also really, really scary. These are so-called Republican so-called leaders. About to take charge of half of a third of our government. Fully in the thrall of a sociopathic narcissist and his pre-packaged election lies, they were, like him, unable to accept that he’d lost fair and square.

When they’re in charge, we can hope they’ll reveal their unseriousness so undeniably that they’ll turn away enough voters to bring their party back to its former respectability. In preparation for that day, I’ll be selling umbrellas strong enough to protect from airborne Sus scrofa domesticus.

To a somewhat heartening degree, there’s evidence that, since the time of those texts, Trump’s star is waning among Republicans. But, lest we allow the cooling power of hope into our overheated minds, consider the person vying to be next: Ron DeSantis, currently following up on his derelict pandemic policies, which placed Florida among the states with the highest Covid death rates per population (red states all), by seeking a grand jury investigation of vaccines. And who believes attacking and lying about LGBTQ people, criminalizing teaching about gender issues, is winning political policy. This bodes well neither for his party nor for America.

But gas prices and inflation are dropping. Blamed by Trumpublicans for the rise of both, no doubt President Biden is about to receive accolades from the same people. So there’s that.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Constitution? What Constitution?

Last weekend featured the explosive, mind-blowing, scandalous, earth-shaking, unimaginably horrifying news that pre-Musk Twitter, following concomitantly-revealed discussions of its published content guidelines, agreed to a request from pre-president Biden’s campaign to remove pornographic photos and questionably-sourced Hunter Biden emails. They also took down a link (for one day!) to a newspaper story about Hunter. Not the story. A link. The article was and remains in the public domain.

Also in author Matt Taibbi’s pivotal tweetstorm was news that Twitter had similarly acceded to requests from Trump’s campaign. Not important. Same with Fox “news” and other right-wing media suppressing stories damaging to Trump while pushing lies favorable to him.  

The shocking revelations lit up right-wing media like the Boeing plant at night. With characteristic restraint, Tucker Carlson determined it to be “… a systemic violation of the First Amendment, the largest example of that in modern history.” Which begs the obvious: why is “Congress shall make no law…” so incomprehensible to Foxotrumpists? Like it or don’t, Twitter can publish or reject however it wants. It’s not Congress. It’s not our government; not yet, anyway. 

Unlike Russia’s undeleted fake posts, removing questionable content isn’t election interference, claims from the right notwithstanding. The First Amendment has nothing to do with Twitter’s or any private entity’s censorship choices. People who pine to peek at a presidential progeny’s penis must procure portals patiently, elsewhere. Helpfully, Ted Cruz immediately flashed his online fans with it.

It’s the scandal of Republican crackpipe dreams, a Trump-tax-fraud-ignoring excuse to continue fanning falsehoods while presenting no solutions to critically important issues: climate change, healthcare, energy solutions, child poverty, and more. Not even to the issues on which they ran: crime, inflation, “wide open” borders. To them, Hunter Biden’s genitals demand closer inspection than Jared Kushner’s gentle tales of receiving $2 billion from his pal, journalist-murdering, Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman. Or Ivanka traveling to China during Trump’s “presidency” to secure copyrights for her businesses.

Not one to share the spotlight, not even with his most fervid defenders, Trump had some randomly-capitalized thoughts: “So with the revelation of MASSIVE FRAUD AND DECEPTION ... do you throw the 2020 presidential election results OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER or do you have A NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution…” he truthed, socially. “Termination.” “All rules.” “Even those found in the Constitution.” Also: MASSIVE.

Plug your ears while giving Trump’s fulmination the consideration it deserves, lest your brain seeks an exit. A former “president,” psychopathologically unable to admit he lost a convincingly fraud-free election, would “terminate” -- not merely suspend! --the Constitution over what amounts to nothing. (He’s now truthing that he didn’t say what he said. In print.)

Predictably, Trumpists’ anger was white-hot. One, a former House candidate, wrote, "We can no longer get rid of tyranny by the ballots. It's only by bullets now." Tyranny! The danger of Trump’s present and lifelong disregard for the law couldn’t be more obvious. That he was ever his party’s choice is an indelible stain on America. That he could be again sullies us all.

How will the “party of law and order” react when Trump is indicted for multi-level law-breaking and repeatedly fomenting violence? A few lesser-known Republicans have spoken – mildly -- against Trump’s screed. Yet none, so far, have said they’d refuse to vote for him if he becomes their nominee. Other than principled Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, and Representative Liz Cheney, R-WY, who rightly called him “an enemy of the Constitution,” how have Republican icons, like McConnell, Cruz, Graham, MTG, etc., condemned Trump’s anti-Constitutional tirade? For convenience, their words are collected and summarized here.

Stemming directly from Trump’s insane election lie, this is serious stuff. It ought to end his claim on his party, forever. Any remaining supporters must admit that, like Trump, the Constitution means nothing to them. 

For a clear and comprehensive summary, beginning with the laptop (which, by now, may be corrupted), continuing to the present, Robert Hubbell’s newsletter is worth your time. And this, from history professor Heather Cox Richardson.

But let’s not end on funereal news. Remember when Ron DeSantis proudly declared, “Florida is where woke goes to die”? Well, in a trial in which he’s being sued for his publicity-seeking, vote-chasing bullying of the LGBTQ community, the judge asked his lawyer to define “woke.” The unexpectedly truthful answer: "The belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them." 

Florida: where justice goes to die, from Tallahassee to Mar-a-Lago.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Rocky Mountain Low

If, in a few hundred years, historians (assuming humans still exist) seek to understand the fall of the Republican party, followed closely by the fall of the United States, they’d find it perfectly encapsulated in the murders, a couple of weeks ago, in a Colorado LGBT nightclub. It’s all there.

Increasingly desperate for a hook on which to reel in voters for whom they’ve had nothing to offer, legislatively, ever since electing Ronald Reagan, leaders and media mouthpieces of that once-respectable party have turned to denigration. Aimed at the LGBT community, immigrants, people of color, and, just reaffirmed down Mar-a-Lago way, Jews. Except in a couple of states, Trump’s voter fraud lie is losing appeal, so attacking non-straight, non-white, non-Christian, non-native-born people it is.

Whenever hate crimes are committed against those groups, the flame-fanners deny responsibility. Tucker Carlson makes millions pushing lies about “grooming” children. Screaming Marjorie Taylor Greene and gun-slinging Coloradan Lauren Boebert get elected on it. Ron DeSantis hopes to become president on it. Rightwing media marinate in it. But when someone takes their hideous mendacity seriously and does some murdering about it, the well-rehearsed response from the purveyors is “Who, me?” Followed, when culpability is suggested, by cries of “politicizing a tragedy.”

How deeply embedded is their incendiary, malevolent anti-LGBT rhetoric? The father of the murderer, himself a former porn star, said this on hearing what his son had done: “… I go on to find out it’s a gay bar. I got scared, 'S#!t, is he gay?' And he’s not gay, so I said, phew… I’m a conservative Republican and we don’t do gay.” Phew, indeed. Just an assassin. To a Foxified “conservative Republican,” there’s worse, evidently. Data for historians.

A war veteran, and Hispanic, the man who took down the shooter was there with his wife, adult daughter, and daughter’s boyfriend (who was among those murdered). After what he’d seen and done in combat, he’d sworn off guns; took the guy down bare-handed.

This embarrassed the good-guy-with-a-gun (and white-supremacist) crowd, who, rather than praising him as they did delusional, self-righteous killer Kyle Rittenhouse, attacked him for bringing his family to a drag show. Because, you know, something-something drag shows. Had he stopped the massacre with a gun, he’d have been all over rightwing media; offered jobs, encouraged to run for office. Like Rittenhouse.

Colorado has “red flag” laws. The shooter had previously exhibited numerous red-flag behaviors. But, having declared his county a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” the local sheriff, along with several others in other Colorado counties (and now, sadly, some in neighboring Oregon) had pledged not to enforce those laws. And didn’t. Historians take note.

Adding to the historical record came the aftermath. Uber-monger Tucker had on his show a woman with this to say: “… the tragedy that happened in Colorado Springs the other night, it was expected and predictable.” Was she referring to Tucker’s previous tirades? Of course not. “I don’t think it’s going to stop until we end this evil agenda that is attacking children,” she added, referring to helping trans children, all but excusing the motives of the criminal.

Former Trump attorney, Jenna Ellis, chimed in with this about the victims: “… There is no evidence that they were Christians… They are now reaping the consequences of eternal damnation.” God sides with murderers, evidently. Historians may find that informative

Which returns us to Mar-a-Lago, where Trump dined last week with outspoken antisemite Kanye West, along with white supremacist, holocaust denier, attendee of the Charlottesville “Jews will not replace us” rally, Nick Fuentes. Trump claims he had no idea who Fuentes was. He did, however, know Kanye’s antisemitic views, and invited him. By now he knows all about Fuentes, too. Has he disavowed him? Nope. Praised him. "He gets me."

At this point, some readers are composing letters accusing me of characterizing all Republicans as racist, homophobic, antisemitic, xenophobes. Rather than addressing their unacknowledged projection, let’s celebrate this week’s passage of the imperfect but important Respect for Marriage Act. Whereas seventy percent of senate Republicans voted no, around thirty percent said yes. Non-hateful Republicans do exist, and when they’re willing to partner with Democrats, it doesn’t require a majority of them to make good things happen.

Fox “news” and the rest of rightwing media are all in on grooming haters. So is Trump. Nothing will get those democracy-rejecting sheriffs and other no-regulation absolutists to listen to reason. But if actual conservatives would spend less time being offended by critics and more time working to change their unconservative party from within, Republican leadership might rejoin our democracy. And, in time, rid us of their traffickers in performative hate, ready to waste the next two years doing nothing but “sticking it to the libs.” Historians could study that happier phenomenon.

Monday, November 21, 2022

A Dusty Trunk And A Cardboard Box

This column was sent in the day before Thanksgiving, appearing now the day after. I trust everyone remains in a pleasant tryptophan buzz. Because we’ll have spent it on the Oregon coast with our son’s family, including two much-loved grandkids, I’ll assume we had a wonderful time. So, rather than harshing the mallows on the sweet potatoes, by addressing the approaching hellscape coming into view as Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, I’ll revisit something I wrote on another Thanksgiving, from our former family home at Cannon Beach. The politics can wait. Here’s what I wrote: 

Ten days before I was born, my father died. Three years earlier, my mom had been a twenty-one-year-old bride, excited and optimistic, proud of marrying the brilliant young physician whose given name I bear, and whose family name is my middle. I know he was brilliant because over the years I've heard it from many of his former colleagues and patients, and because when he married he'd just finished his term as Chief Medical Resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital. At that time, the position was highly selective and much sought: the plumbest of prestigious plumbs.

We're at our family home on the Oregon coast, where my wife and I have been rummaging through the contents of a trunk hiding in plain sight for many years. In it we found my mom's first bridal book (she married my adoptive dad when I was young enough that I have no real recollection of being fatherless. Their marriage lasted sixty years, till death did they part.) 

Seeing these mementos for the first time is haunting, knowing the ending: all the happiness, the smiling people, the florid and joy-filled notes vouching their certainty of the couple's future. Lists of gifts, with checkmarks after each, denoting timely acknowledgment. Dozens of telegrams: congratulations and love. Stop. A dime-store booth photo of the happy couple; a picture from the "society section" of the paper, showing Mom in a flowing gown, wearing a bonnet made from her mother-in-law's wedding dress.

Perfectly preserved, there's an announcement of the opening of my father's office in the Medical Arts Building -- still standing in downtown Portland -- for the practice of "Internal Medicine and diagnosis," under which, in my mom's hand, is the breathless exclamation "the first of these went to me!!" It's easy to relate to the nervous excitement of opening a medical office after all those years of study. But I know how the story turns out.

When I applied to college I indicated "pre-law" as my probable direction, but when I got to Amherst I took all the pre-med courses I'd need, just in case.

During my first summer back home, my mom brought out a box of letters and cards she'd gotten when my father died. They were from friends, colleagues, and patients, all with the same sentiments: a tragic loss, a brilliant career cut short, a young widow with two babies (my brother, a year-and-a-half old at the time). And the continuity of life: his death, my birth. That box, I think, had much to do with my eventual decision in favor of a career in medicine. The outlier in a family of lawyers: dad, brother, aunt, uncle.

My father died after an operation for hyperthyroidism. Feared and frequently fatal in those days, it was postoperative “thyroid storm,” virtually unknown now with the advent of greater understanding and better drugs. I've done that operation many times. Here's how I described my first, in a book I wrote about my training days: 

I’d given no thought to the factors that made me choose medicine, and then surgery, and then the kind that did thyroid operations, until I found myself doing the very operation that had killed my father, having made the simple preparations that would have saved him. As I entered the OR, I wondered: would it be a B-movie moment, a zoom-in on my sweaty brow as I froze up, the nurse asking, “Is something wrong, doctor?”

It didn’t happen. The operation flowed. Had it been a way of meeting the man I never knew, who never knew me? Of symbolically saving his life, while the quest saved my own? A meeting of souls in the ether, as it were? I’ve thought about it since then. I like the idea, but I’m pretty sure the answer is no.

It's possible, it turns out, to miss someone you’ve never known. I wish I had. I wish he’d seen me as a doctor; I miss talking with him about it. The last thing my mom remembers hearing from him, as he went off to surgery, is "You look really cute. I think I'll keep you pregnant all the time."

Still and all, and notwithstanding MTG’s ascent, I have much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Hopeful Signs

Last week’s election results, some of which are still pending, turned my unrelenting pessimism into chary optimism. Nearly all Trump-touted terribles were defeated, including, importantly, every one of his election-denying, would-be secretaries of state, who’d have been able to decertify future elections if the wrong people won. The truly awful, prevaricating but nice-looking election-denier, Kari Lake, also lost. Like Trump, she’ll claim fraud forever.

Nevertheless, many Trumpian losers’ races were disturbingly close. Belief in The Big Lie and in Trump’s innocence of obvious crimes is wounded, but, like heavy breathing on a midnight phone call, still panting. Exposing their nationwide, vote-suppression agenda, the R candidate for Wisconsin governor promised that if he won, no Republican would ever lose again. He lost, but not hugely. Vigilance remains essential. The work of democracy isn’t term-limited. 

Ohioan Tim Ryan’s graceful concession speech reminds us what it means to accept the requirements of democracy. “I have the privilege to concede this race to J.D. Vance,” he said; a touchstone for all Americans. By contrast, several Trumpists, including a notable downstate Washingtonian, some of whom lost by huge margins, have refused to concede. This time, though, decent, undeceived Republicans showed up. By enough Republicans to have made a difference in some places, democracy is still considered worth preserving. Maybe MAGAs will give it some thought. 

Also hopeful is that younger voters showed up, too, in unprecedented numbers. They’re the future, and it’s clear their values align more with today’s Democrats than Republicans: Equality, voting rights, climate change, women’s reproductive freedom, democracy itself. “Values voters,” let’s call them.

In Pennsylvania, for example, about seventy percent of young voters voted for John Fetterman. And whereas they turned out in record numbers, it was still only thirty-percent of those eligible. Which means there remains a large reservoir of educable people, within which, presumably, future votes would favor Democrats. Puzzlingly, older white women still largely favored Republicans. Hard to figure. For what are they voting? Pollution? Bad schools?

Conceding their lack of positive ideas for attracting those upcoming generations, many Republican electeds are proposing raising the voting age to anywhere between twenty-one and twenty-eight. It’s laughable, but definitely on brand. Their dearth of helpful plans couldn’t be made clearer. 

Nothing schadens my freude more than Trump’s increasingly desperate, detached, and widely-reported meltdown, as many of his formerly reliable excusers are blaming him for the fizzled “Red Tsunami.” In the nascent war between him and DeSantis, I’d welcome either as the Republican nominee for 2024. Notwithstanding the media fawning over Reactionary Ron, this election made it doubtful either could win. To enough voters, Trump is manifestly poison. After attendees were prevented from leaving his (indictment-escaping?), lie-filled,  disturbingly authoritarian announcement, previous megadonors are bailing. Even Ivanka.

Outside Florida, DeSantis’ radical and cruel policies are poisonous, too. As a believer in the two-party system, I’d hope Rs have someone better. But maybe not till Democrats finish re-greating America.   

Close races confirm that Trumpism still lurks. Plenty of money will be spent on future dishonest, inflammatory, Tiffanoid ads, intended to keep MAGA Republicans in line and misinformed. But the fact that Lauren Boebert might have lost in a heavily-gerrymandered district, created as a lock for any R candidate, suggests there are many Republican voters who’ve had it with performative nastiness. MTG, Matt Gaetz, et awful, won easily, though. America needs conservatives who voted against such people to spread the word.

I’ve pleaded, many times, for those actual conservatives to pitch in and speak out. Based on these election results, some Republican voters are waking up to the dangers of Trumpism. That’s encouraging.

The runoff election between Rafael Warnock and Herschel Walker will be instructive. If Warnock wins decisively, it’ll be confirmatory. If he loses, or wins in a squeaker, well, optimism will take a bit of a hit. Because the fact that R leaders looked to Walker in the first place, knowing how dishonest and clueless he is, how unable to form a coherent, not-weird sentence, how disturbing his past, confirms the depth of their disregard for competent government: it’s only about gaining power on behalf of their biggest donors, by whatever means necessary. Imagine Walker, having nothing but a Heisman Trophy to recommend him, as one of a hundred senators responsible for our future. It doesn’t get more cynical than that. 

Finally, barely-eked Republican control of the House will showcase their distaste for responsible governance, as they focus entirely on shrunken-base-appeasing, lib-sticking investigations into law-abiding and competent people, which, unlike Trump’s two impeachments and the January 6 Committee’s findings, will be demonstrably vaporous. If 2022’s enlightened Republican voters have any second thoughts, that should end them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

The Calling Of Surgery

Despite being mostly pleased, I find myself uninterested in commenting on Tuesday’s elections. Maybe next week. So here’s something corny I wrote, years ago, for an obscure medical publication: 

Being a surgeon, having the lives of fellow humans literally in your hands, is intimacy that only surgeons can fully grasp; it never stopped stopping my breath, never dulled me to its privilege. I never stopped saying to others in the operating room, “Look, at this. Isn’t it beautiful?”

How do you explain enveloping a living liver in your hand, its firm, slippery smoothness; or the pleasure of sewing bowel segments together in a way passed down by pioneering surgeons, laying it back in place, knowing no one else will see or appreciate the – dare I say -- artistry of it?

I was taught by great and generous surgeons. I learned well. But I never considered myself special: Electricians learn, too. Lawyers. Teachers. The difference, perhaps, is intensity. And immediacy: dozens of big and small decisions need making during an operation, instantly; there are no hiding places in the OR.

Receiving that trust is a daunting honor. As I wrote in my memoir of surgical residency, “A surgeon can kill you, and you’d sleep right through it.” I should have said “An inadequately trained surgeon.” Surgical residency gets bad press: too hard; cruel, even. But, at least in my long-ago time, it inculcated the most fundamental requirements of a surgeon: knowing your limits and accepting responsibility. Doctors who don't know when they’re in over their head are dangerous. Ones who avoid responsibility for outcomes aren’t to be trusted.

My career straddled very different eras. In training, the easy rotations were those in which I spent all days and every other night in the hospital; on the rest, it was twelve days and nights out of fourteen. Entering San Francisco General Hospital as Chief Resident on the trauma service, I didn’t leave for sixty days. I won't argue it was sensible (actually, I might), but I came out well-trained, comprehensively experienced, tempered by fire. Now, with working hour restrictions (based on a mischaracterized incident in NYC), it’s less true. Feeling unready, graduates increasingly seek subspecialty fellowships. More and more, we general surgeons are relics of times past.

I finished residency committed to being there for my patients, always. In my practice I made hospital rounds at least twice daily, more for the sick ones; whether on or off call, I felt better seeing my post-ops every day. My mentors wouldn’t have accepted anything less. Looking back, was it an overblown sense of irreplaceability, that no one could care for my patients as well as I? Whatever it was, I felt bad if I didn’t. And yet, when I retired, people did fine.

So I burned out. This era of reduced hours isn't all bad. I imagine newly-trained surgeons aren't as likely to bail out early. The pleasures of surgery remain: the marvels of the human body, knowing its anatomical secrets, the nooks and crannies, the hidden spaces into which you're allowed entry, knowing what to do. It’s still a binary world, though: you succeed (mostly) or you fail (sometimes). But the exhaustion? Maybe not so much. These days, surgeons might have a life, as they did during training.

Many hospitals now have both medical and surgical hospitalists, 24/7. Calls from the emergency department, the bane of my existence, no longer interrupt schedules of office-based surgeons, or their sleep. The hospital-based have predictable work hours and freedom from much of the administrative hassles that drove me nuts.

After retiring, I spent several months as the first and only surgical hospitalist in town, working ten-hour days (sometimes more) five days a week. Other than the lack of long-term connection to my patients, I liked it. Later, I spent several relatively stress-free years assisting on complex cancer operations, able to continue to be useful, yet sleep through the night.

In many ways, a general surgeon is like a family doctor who can operate. I'd argue there's no specialty that demands the same breadth of knowledge and range of skills. Surgery encompasses the pleasure of accomplishment and, occasionally, a heart-rending feeling of failure; the ability to do much good while balancing on the scalpel-edge of the potential for harm. I felt it every time I entered the OR, or left it to talk to waiting families, with good news or bad. I felt it in every office consultation where I tried to instill hope and confidence, to allay fears, to map a path from where we were to where we wanted to be.

Connecting. Able to help. That was always the best part.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Last Chance To Choose

Far be it from me to blame the attack on Paul Pelosi by a guy who posts typical Qanon/ Trumpofoxian blather, on people like Marjorie Taylor Green, who called Speaker Pelosi a traitor who should be executed; or Tucker Carlson, et Fox, who demonize her in the most inflammatory language; or Junior Trump comparing her to Satan.

Near be it to me to point out the despicable responses to the attack from fellow Americans on the right: False flag. Staged. A gay liaison gone wrong. Nancy’s fault. What about Steve Scalise? (About whom the satanic Speaker said at the time: "It's an injury in the family. For the staff and for our colleague and for his leadership. We cannot let that be a victory for the assailant or anyone who would think that way.”) The right-wing Pelosi response also featured gleeful mockery and what they consider hilarity, including from Trump spawn.  

As it happens, the would-be kidnapper and torturer’s confessional isn’t hard to find. And the break-in was caught on camera; they debunk all the Trumpistry. But MAGARs prefer conspiratorial cruelty. Retractions? Apologies? Not who they are. Not who their leader is.

Our politics have become too toxic. It’s incumbent upon us all to tone down the rhetoric.

Is what people say. Extend a hand, readers advise. Seek common ground. I don’t dispute the premise, but where? Does Hawaiian ground seek commonality with Mauna Loa’s lava? In these, the times that gave us Trump, common ground has become scorched earth.

What more can be said to MAGA Republican election deniers, after all this time with zero evidence of fraud, that would change their minds? The outreaching of which hand might convince them that climate change is real, even as glaciers melt, fires rage, oceans warm and acidify, and storms and heat waves bring death worldwide? That there aren’t 87,000 new IRS agents coming for their middle-class money; that Democrats aren’t for “open borders”? That the transgressions of January Six weren’t patriotic?

If there’s been political violence on “both sides,” there’s no equivalence, no comparable approval or fomenting from the left. In the past twenty years, there have been 122 political murders by right-wing American terrorists; by the left, one. Two-hundred sixty-seven right-wing plots or attacks since 2015; 66 by lefty extremists. Nor is there equivalence in the lies coming from each side, including from the very top; or asking crowds to beat up protestors, promising to pay legal fees. Or in whose media conspiracy theories and other falsehoods spread like herpes. Only Trump has called America “Rigged, Crooked, and Evil.”  

The explanation isn’t difficult: in Trumpistan, democracy is the ultimate foe. Also, it’s too hard. Autocracy is easy.

For democracies to endure, citizens must accept two most basic requirements: first, that voters make the effort to educate themselves about their political world. Which, in today’s calamitous climate, means ceaseless effort to extricate singular truths from multitudinous lies.

Second, the lifeblood of functioning democracies – no longer of interest to MAGA Republicans and their propagandistic progenitors – is willingness to accept electoral, legislative, and judicial outcomes with which one disagrees. Including support for the peaceful, post-election transfer of power. Which is not to suggest remaining silent or forgoing working to effect change.

Because that’s the thing about democracies: not everyone agrees with you, and sometimes they win. MAGA is code for “return all power to white Christian males.” As that goal is threatened by our Constitutionally-mandated democratic processes, Trumpists are attempting to end them. Election denial is democracy rejection. It’s not mysterious.

The hard work of democracy affords little time off, whereas submitting to authoritarianism is a full-time vacation from responsibilities of citizenship. Go to rallies, thrill to the stoking. Trust your deified leader to tell you what to think, who’s your enemy, whom to blame for your failures; who’s your inferior, trying to take what you have. Or had, before that voting thing. Which must be repudiated, along with the undesirables it empowers. It’s history, in repetition mode.

And it’s Trump’s greatest con. And R leaders’. And every right-wing media star’s. Convincing millions who think they love this country to reject its indispensable Constitutional principles, while believing they’re upholding them. Accepting intentional destruction of democracy-preserving public education and fair elections. Persuaded to extinguish democracy, assured that, in doing so, they’re saving themselves. Ceding power (and riches) to Trumpic clones, who’ll protect them from not-them.

It's ironic. Once their preferred autocracy is established, they’ll have no more power than the ones from whom they think they regained it. Democracy, they’ll discover, is what kept them safe. It’s a lesson too late for the learning, made of lies, made of lies.

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