Friday, November 29, 2019

Impeachment Debrief

My upcoming column in The Everett Herald.
On a reality-based planet, even the most resolutely Foxified, the definition of which this columnist has previously provided, would have watched the impeachment hearings and recognized Trump did what he did. Withholding aid to Ukraine, desperately at war with Trump’s Svengali, Vladimir Putin, to force President Zelensky to launch, or, at least, announce an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. In these days of instant media, the announcement alone would suffice for Trump’s purposes. 
There’s been no credible, contradictory testimony. We saw disagreement among witnesses as to how outrageous Trump’s actions were; though those saying it was extremely serious – for Ukraine and for the future of American foreign policy – far outnumbered those saying it was bad but not super-duper. Other than Republicans on the committee, none suggested it was normal.  
Lacking facts on their side, Republicans took to smearing the witnesses, especially Lt. Colonel Vindman. In the case of Fiona Hill, though, after she pointed how they were gifting Putin, they clammed. Bolted from the room, some did. Though the Foxified need no convincing, they tried to persuade the rest of us that if a criminal plan fails it’s not a crime. 
Ignoring the “favor” he asked, they’d have us believe Trump, who made a career of corruption, only wanted to confirm Zelensky’s honesty, despite responsible agencies already reporting favorably. In fact, we heard how much he truly cared: he didn’t “give a s**t.” Then they brushed the whole thing off as impeaching a “president” because “he didn’t take a meeting.” Are their voters that dumb? Well, when Ambassador Sondland quoted Trump as saying he “wanted nothing,” they ignored how Sondland went on to confirm there were quids and quos aplenty. But Trump mouthed innocence. To a certified Trumpist, that’s good enough. 
Republicans demanded the Bidens be called, despite knowing what they did or didn’t is immaterial to what Trump did. Cynically, they kept demanding the whistleblower’s appearance. They were unbothered, however, by Trump’s defiance of our Constitution, obstructing appearances by White House personnel who were important material witnesses. Unconstitutional authoritarianism by their “president”? Who cares? After all, Trump said the law allows him to “do anything I want.” Imagine President Barack Obama saying that, and their reaction. Did your hair just catch fire?  
As arguments lead-ballooned, they coughed up the “Steele Dossier.” Echoing Trump, calling Russian interference a hoax, they handed Putin yet another win. But it raised and answered important questions: Was what Trump did okay, or not? And, because it matters, would those who argue it was okay make the same assertion, had it been President Barack Hussein Obama? The answer is obvious.  
In orchestrated outrage, Republicans wailed about candidate Hillary Clinton, private citizen, spending privately-raised money, hiring a group previously assembled by Republicans to get dirt on Trump, to get dirt on Trump. Since they find that horrifying, we needn’t wonder how they’d react to the theoretical Obama scenario. (Surprise: Devin Nunes, Trump’s most housetrained lapdog, helped by Giuliani’s bagmen, may also have been trying get dirt on Biden, while sitting on the very committee. If it’s a hoax as he says, perhaps he’ll stop peddling hoaxes of his own.) 
Trump, Republican Congress-creatures, and their permanently propagandized voters have chosen to dismiss the obvious. Knowing their denial of Russian interference and repeating multiply-debunked Ukrainian conspiracies further Putin’s goals, they do it anyway. If your central argument comes from a Russian disinformation campaign, you might need a better one. Or check your allegiance at the committee-room door. For a clarifying explanation of a favorite conspiracy and its implications, still promoted by Trump and his committed Russophiles, watch this.
From the impeachment hearings, it’s undeniable: elected Republicans and their voters are lost to reality. Like their “president,” they’re all in on lying; on demagoguery over democracy. Devin “Naked Pictures” Nunes, most clearly. Jim “It Was Just A Shower” Jordan, too. Intentional or not, the results are the same: Russia gains, America loses.  
Hope for our country resides with voters who sat out 2016, or voted third party. Democrats need to demonstrate to them what’s at stake: the environment, climate, the health of their children; truth itself, science, democracy, America’s place in the world. Surely some of them care about these things. Trying to awaken Trumpists is a waste of time. 
Final, marginally-related thought: if, as Rick Perry just said, God chose Trump, it explains why He also chose famine, earthquakes, cancer, and hemorrhoids.
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Friday, November 22, 2019


My upcoming column in The Everett Herald:
“Foxification.” Noun. [fahks-ih-fuh-KAY-shun] The influence of rightwing media, especially Fox “news,” in creating indifference to facts; becoming blind to the obvious.  
“Foxified.” Adjective. [FAHKS-ih-fiyd] Made unable and unwilling to see what’s happening before one’s eyes. 
After Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony during the impeachment hearings, a tweet went viral: “I hired Trump to fire people like Yovanovitch.” And there it is. Foxification. Be afraid.  
The tweeters were being truthful, though: getting rid of incorruptible, impartial, gifted public servants is, indeed, why they “hired” Trump. Like Trumpists emailing me after the publication of every column, they’d insist Trump is “draining the swamp.” Asked to define the swamp or point to drainage, emailers provide none. 
To the extent that Trump has gotten rid of swamp-dwellers, it’s by hiring them, then seeing them forced out or sent to prison for crimes undertaken on his behalf. Well-known for dirty tricks and dishonesty, Roger Stone, the latest, was hired to keep at it. (In case you missed it, testimony in his trial suggests Trump lied to Robert Mueller. It’s of a piece.)  
Such is the power of Foxification that its sufferers watched Ambassador Yovanovitch and couldn’t see the exemplary avatar of America; were incapable of recognizing her dedication to implementing official policy in the interest of the US. Not hers. Not one person’s or one party’s. The same is true of those whose testimony preceded and followed hers. Most have served presidents of both parties, with honor. 
Not only are they protecting US interests (as opposed to those of a corrupt “president” and swampizens who anticipate bounty from enabling him), they are, given the ubiquity of death threats and unsubtle “presidential” incitement thereof, brave. In Trump’s America, truth-telling is a courageous act.  
Ambassador Yovanovitch’s sin was tackling Ukraine’s corruption; in particular, that of Prosecutors General Shokin and Lutsenko, sequential paragons of venality. Threatened, Lutsenko, Rudy Giuliani, and Rudy’s button-men launched smears against her, likely because she stood in the way of their kleptocratic plans for Ukraine’s natural gas. 
Trump, laughably called a corruption-fighter by worried Republicans, sold the smears like a bankrupt casino. Praising those racketeers, he ousted Yovanovitch to clear a path to extorting Ukraine for political gain. That’s corruption. Congressional Republicans pretend it’s normal. 
Now America has its own corrupt Prosecutor General. In concert with Trump, William Barr is dragging us toward the kind of governance against which Yovanovitch, Taylor, Kent, Vindman, and others have worked so diligently. Barr was a promoter of unchecked presidential power and lawbreaking (torture) long before Trump up-swamped him. In a hyper-partisan speech grossly inappropriate for an Attorney General, he just described impeachment as undoing the will of the people. We know, of course, the people chose Hillary Clinton. Trump was willed by the Electoral College, created explicitly to make the will of the people thrice-removed from choosing a president. 
Impeachment, Barr continued, undermines the rule of law; yet it’s specifically to maintain the rule of law that it was enshrined in the Constitution. Such deceptive dissembling from Trump’s Attorney General is chilling, harkening to not-so-distant history: as is his bemoaning Congress “drown[ing] the executive branch with oversight demands.” Right. Oversight. How quaintly constitutional.  
Descended from the zero-sum politics of Gingrich, Rove, and Atwater, Barr, protecting a self-admitted amoral “president,” added, without apparent irony, “… conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means.” Which is like insisting Trump only grabs women by the hand.  
Foxification purposefully blinds victims to obvious signs of nascent dictatorship: a power-hungry, hate-mongering, scapegoating “president;” a derelict Attorney General; Congressional Republicans standing mute; attacking journalists; stacking the judiciary with partisan lackeys; and the latest: against the wishes of “his” generals, pardoning soldiers convicted, in courts-martial, of war crimes. The message is clear: when the time comes, break the law for me, and I’ll pardon you, too. This isn’t “supporting our troops.” It’s insulting them to their core. It’s Trump’s final solution.  
If unrestrained by Constitutional requirements, Trump would become a dictator like those to whom he genuflects. With riches to be plundered and jobs to keep, elected Republicans look away. But what of regular-citizen Trumpists? By now they know what’s happening. So, what is it? Do they like what they see, ready to raise stiffened right arms, convinced they and their children will be protected? If so, their Foxification is so powerful it’s wiped human history from their minds.
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Friday, November 15, 2019

The Monkey House

My next column in The Everett Herald:
As impeachment heats up, memes are hopping around cyberspace like bedbugs at Mar-a-Lago. A few, paraphrased:  
“Trump and Republicans would have us believe people willing to testify under oath are liars, and those who refuse are truth-tellers.” Or: “If someone has information that would exonerate you, why would you prevent them from testifying?” Also: “The perpetrator of a coup takes power. If it’s really a coup, it’s Pence.” Best: “The house is on fire, Trump is lighting matches, and Republicans are demanding to know who called the fire department.” 
On what basis can a “president” prevent people from appearing before Congress as it carries out its Constitutional oversight duties? Would he have them arrested? Under the aegis of what laws? Can a “president” order a citizen not to speak? Isn’t there something about that in the Bill of Rights? (Okay, under the Bill of Barr, we know it could happen.)  
When Susan McDougal ignored a subpoena by Republicans chasing Bill Clinton’s penis around D.C., she went to jail. Why not now? Maybe because the party that no longer believes in enforcing the Constitution currently controls the DOJ. If Democrats ordered arrests, Barr would simply ignore them. What’s past is prologue.  
Perhaps more than any event, impeachment exposes political hypocrisy. It also reveals the limited understanding voters have of why the process exists or how it works. That hypocrisy, mated with reinforced ignorance, is a powerful brew which too many people, particularly the Foxified, find pleasingly potable. Our pal Lindsey Graham has become the primary chef de cuisine. As the former prosecutor of the Senate trial of Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and much holier than we, he should know better. Which means whatever Trump has on him is more powerful than fairy dust. 
To wit: When Gordon Sondland testified he knew of no attempted extortion, Republicans lauded him as the ender of the Democrats’ game. Subsequently, as others revealed how Sondland lied, and going to jail wasn’t what he thought he’d bought with his million-dollar investment in Trump, leading to “clarification,” Graham wondered “was there a connection” with Democrats. Figuring, one assumes, anyone telling the truth is either a Democrat or cahooting with them.  
As if that piece of cogito-gymnasty wasn’t enough, Lindsey then stated, “I consider any impeachment in the House that doesn’t allow us to know who the whistleblower is to be invalid.” After such a bull-shot aimed at the selectively stupid, a reality-check is needed. 
For reasons so obvious that enumeration is unnecessary, whistleblowers’ identities are protected by law. Moreover, by now it doesn’t matter who the whistleblower is: everything he or she reported has been corroborated, severally. So what do Republicans get from outing him/her? Intimidation of the next potential truth-teller, is what. It’s the horse-head in the bed. It’s how mobsters behave; people who’ll do whatever it takes to keep insiders from turning state’s evidence and upping their jig. 
Same with crocodile tears about the pre-impeachment investigations. Like a grand jury, what’s done is assessing, securely, evidence of possible crimes. If convincing, the process becomes public. Which, for fairness to all parties, is exactly how it should work. Not investigating possible malfeasance by any president would be dereliction of Congress’s Constitutional duty.  
If the House impeaches, the Senate becomes a jury, with House members as prosecutors. Evidence is presented, witnesses are called. The Senate convicts or doesn’t. Neither Lick-boot Lindsey nor any individual, including the “president,” gets to decide what invalidates the process. Only by Constitutional amendment could the system be changed. 
To be clear: attempted extortion of a vulnerable country trying to defend itself against Trump’s pal and America’s enemy, Putin, successful or not, is a signal example of why impeachment is a Constitutionally-defined remedy. It’s also worth noting that what any Biden did or did not do is immaterial to whether the “president” did what he did. Nor does wising up at the last minute nullify the attempt. Failed bank robbers serve time, too.  
Anyone who thinks Republicans are serious about truth must watch Devin Nunes’ opening statement at Wednesday’s public hearing. Calling it “unhinged” insults doorways everywhere. Short of massive public outrage – if that -- nothing will force integrity on Congressional Republicans. Virtually all have pre-excused Trump; Lindsey Graham says he doesn’t even need to see the evidence. 
In codifying impeachment, our founders presumed Congressional commitment to a purpose higher than themselves. Sadly, they didn’t foresee today’s elected Republicans.  
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Friday, November 8, 2019

Laugh Riot

My upcoming column in The Everett Herald:
As defending his Ukraine extortion gets increasingly desperate for Donald and his excusers, who’d be calling for imprisonment were it anyone else, it’s time for some levity. Everyone needs a good laugh, especially those trying to defend the indefensible. It’s gotta be dispiriting.  
Remember that big, beautiful, Mexico-funded wall, the money for which Trump diverted from veterans’ benefits, military-base schools, and over a hundred other Pentagon projects? Remember how he ballyhooed the design, declaring it’d be impenetrable? Well, how ‘bout that professional climber who free-climbed it in twenty-seven seconds; or the eight-year-old girl who did it in a minute? Even a Trump supporter topped it, using suction cups. One hopes Trumpists got a cleansing laugh out of that.  
Heard the one about smugglers using battery-powered, readily-available saws to butter through those beautiful slats, and, because the slats are so tall, bending them easily after a single cut, allowing passage? (It’s physics!) Did Trump think they’d need miles-long extension cords? What a kidder! 
For more grins, observe the flailing contortions of Trump’s defenders as they pirouette around damning testimony. First it was a “perfect” phone call. Then there was a friendly request but no quid pro quo, because if there had been, well, that’d be bad. Then, okay, there might have been something quid-like and quo-ish, but not very much. And now it’s, yeah, well, obviously, there was a quid pro quo, but let’s not, you know, call it anything like a shakedown. For one thing, he didn’t have evil in his heart.  
Yep, one of Trump’s most comedic senatorial excusers, John Kennedy (ironic, huh?), actually said, “... Did the president have a culpable state of mind? … Based on the evidence that I see, … the president does not have a culpable state of mind.” Get it? He said “… does not have…”, not “didn’t.” To have any state of mind, a functioning one is required. Slipped that little joke right on by. Who says Trumpists are humorless? 
“Culpable state of mind.” The creativity is impressive, if gelastic. While extorting a foreign leader into smearing political opponents, no one would have that, right, whatever it is. If a Republican Senator says someone’s state of mind isn’t “culpable,” game over. Because those guys are curators of the mind. Heck, Lick-boot Lindsey says he doesn’t even need to read the evidence, because he knows “it’s b.s.” That’s powerful mind-grok.  
So, sure, the “president” attempted extortion, perverting foreign policy and using taxpayer money, but lacked the requisite thoughts when doing so. Besides, according to a just-passing-through Attorney General, abuse of power isn’t a crime. True enough: everyone kept their wallets. Classic comedy, that. Then Gordon Sondland recanted his lies, choosing truth over Trump. First in a sitcom series?  
If tears of laughter aren’t yet streaming, check out Trump’s spawn appearing on Fox “news,” criticizing Hunter Biden for making money off his family name, declaring their disgust at political nepotism, deadpan as Buster Keaton, self-aware as stone. Ivanka, Jared, Lara, Ben Carson, Jr., Candy Carson, John Pence, Kyle Yunaska … Good one, guys.  
Another: Trump finalized reneging on the Paris Climate Accords just as scientists warned of impending “untold human suffering.” And handing the world’s economy to China? Priceless. Talk about comic timing! In China, they’re still laughing. 
For another knee-slapper, get a load of Trump’s mobsters ignoring Congressional requests to testify. Ponder that preposterous piece of parchment providing protection from presidential perfidy. Who claims, with a straight face, it applies to Republicans? And who doesn’t get the joke as they demand legally-protected whistleblowers appear in person, while going all Marceau over those Trumpic refuseniks? Plans to sabotage the public hearings they’ve been demanding? A million laughs. 
Magnificent mummery, Republicans saying they’re the law-and-order party. Comedy pyrite. Like Trump bribing impeachment-jury Senators with campaign money and pressuring Barr to prostitute himself again. Hilarious. Did coffee just come out your nose?  
Stop me if you’ve heard this: Trump is considering reading an incomplete “transcript” that isn’t one. Selling “Read the Transcript” T-shirts to his gullibles. We’ll have even more gut-busting giggles when his accountants, under court order, release his tax returns.  
Finally, if your sides aren’t already splitting, there’s that photo of a gag of millionaire evangelical preachers blessing Trump. Now THAT is high-level humor. Not a godly person in the room. Stop! Yer killing us!  
They say laughter is the best medicine. With Trump in office, it’s amazing anyone gets sick.

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Friday, November 1, 2019

Impeachment Becomes Him

My next column in The Everett Herald: 
“You don’t even have to have committed a crime to lose your job [as president] in this constitutional republic, if this body determines that your conduct is clearly out of bounds…” More recently, the quotee said of Trump, “He’s not fit to be President of the United States.” Everyone knows whose words those are. What happened?  
The leaders of today’s Republican Party have become a crime syndicate and protection racket. The difference between their protection game and the Mafia’s is that the latter threaten to ruin their victims themselves, whereas Republican leaders have convinced their voters it’d be liberals. Either allows getting away with murder, real or virtual. Witness their recent storming of the secure room in which impeachment inquiries are taking place.
That shameful show was a stunt for the stupid. Claiming they were denied access while, along with a quarter of Republican Representatives, several already had it. But rarely showed up. Whining about closed-door hearings which included Republican members of the relevant committees. Pretending they themselves hadn’t ever done it (Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!), and that the rules allowing it hadn’t been written by them. By law, those storm troopers should lose their security clearances. 
The cherry atop the steaming pile is their claim that impeachment inquiries are unconstitutional. A coup. Deep state shenanigans. Only those who’ve not read the Constitution or who, like Trump, believe it doesn’t apply to Republicans, could swallow such nonsense. Trump’s latest press secretary described following Constitutional provisions as “waging war on the Constitution.” This is gnathonic absurdity hoisted to cosmic levels, demonstrating how ill-informed and manipulable they believe their voters to be. If truth is your foe, smear its bearers. And the process. The more deplorably, the better. Like trying to out the original whistleblower, putting party over country in a most sickening, lawless, dangerous way.  
Suppurating under that steaming cherry is the pretense that closed hearings are improper. In obvious ways, they protect both the witnesses and those about whom they’re testifying, until decisions are made. Those crying foul will rue the loss of secrecy during open hearings, when damning facts become public and unspinnable.  
This crime syndicate is fine with Trump rejecting Congress’s mandated oversight, as even former employees refuse subpoenas. They remain silent when Trump calls members of their party who’ve criticized him “Human scum,” and when Trump’s recent acting AG says abuse of power isn’t a crime. To no outcry, lifelong bullying “businessman” Trump has stiffed local governments for over a million dollars in campaign-rally-related costs. Nor has any of the made-men denounced Betsy DeVos, cited for contempt of court, and fined. Knowing the DOJ is headed by a man who shares Trump’s disregard for the Constitution, it’s a protection racket for their personal use. Supporters fiddle while the Republic burns.  
Surely their singular patriotism has led Trumpists to the Federalist Papers. They’ve learned that, despite being the strongest advocate for presidential power, Alexander Hamilton was also the force behind including impeachment as a remedy for its abuse. They’ll have noted and understood his concerns, as he wrote, When a man unprincipled in private life. . . despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’” Trump and Trumpism are Hamilton’s warnings enfleshed. 
Trumpic crimes against democracy are unending, but we must also note the killing of al-Baghdadi: unequivocally good news, notwithstanding Trump’s bizarre, rambling, self-congratulatory announcement of it. We’ve since learned, though, that his hasty withdrawal of troops, against “his” generals’ advice, abandoning the same Kurds who provided mission-critical intelligence, nearly ruined it. Necessarily hurried after his ill-considered impulsiveness, the operation’s success was in spite of, not because of Trump. Without the Kurds and our Trump-slandered intelligence services, al-Baghdadi would still be alive.  
Reinforcing the point, we end as we began, with relevant words from times past: “Why don’t we ask the Navy Seals who killed Bin Laden? They don’t seem happy with Obama claiming credit. All he did was say O.K.” 
Guess who.
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