Thursday, December 31, 2020

Infectious Insanity


It wasn’t Einstein who said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." It was mystery novelist Rita Mae Brown. You can look it up. I have, many times. Keeps coming up different. 

Here’s a more timely definition: “Insanity is observing Trump’s behavior and insisting he’s sane.” The politically and clinically insane may disagree, but claiming he won by a landslide, that he has indisputable proof while producing none -- what else is there to call it? He’s been twentyfifthamendable for months. Even for Trump, to whose daily dose of dishonesty we’ve become dulled, this is unraveling incoherence. One needn’t be an Einstein or a novelist.

If only the Supreme Court had agreed to hear his sixtieth losing argument, Trump says, he could have presented the evidence. Really? He couldn’t send his lawyer-like hybrid, Rudney Powliani, back to Four Seasons Landscaping to lay it out, ream by convincing ream, solid as a concrete birdbath? No court order prevents it. Like the “amazing” things his “investigators” found in “Hawaii,” where did it go? Insistence is insanity. His and his cultists’.

Joe Biden won by nearly eight million votes. Confirming Trump’s “landslide,” which he claims both in ballots and the Electoral College, then, would require proving twice as many votes were fraudulent (disallow Biden’s margin and they’d only be tied). Did Trump lose the data in a sand trap?

Like Covid-19, Trump’s madness is infectious, and he’s a superspreader of both. Witness Congress’ dumbest lawmaker, Louie Gohmert: along with several similarly blighted members of the deep-end state, he filed a lawsuit against ski-vacationing-during-Covid’s-deadliest-month, absent-coronavirus-task-force-leader, Mike Pence, in the court of a Trump-appointed federal judge. It demands a ruling that Pence has the authority to reject all non-Trump votes when Congress meets on January 6th to certify the election. It further demands that the judge orders Pence to do so.

Incredible. Do even the most Foxified Trumpists think, after enduring months of annoying campaign ads, predicting a lib-owning, God-produced landslide, wearing “F… Your Feelings” t-shirts, that that’s how it should work? That, in America, a semi-elected vice-president – overruling voters -- can bend the electoral outcome to whatever he/she wants? Louie does, and he keeps getting reelected. By exceptional American inmates of the asylum. 

To recognize insanity, sanity is required. Which explains why so many Trumpists, infected beyond their ability to recognize it, accept and parrot his lies. How many times, for example, have we heard them declaim Trump’s serially-debunked confabulation that there were two-hundred-thousand more votes cast in Pennsylvania than there are registered voters? (In fact, there were fraudulent votes in Pennsylvania. Three. For Trump. Two from the deceased, one from a guy who tried to vote twice. That’s it. That’s all.) 

If his election delusions were the only manifestations of Trump’s tangled wiring, perhaps we’d only be amused, not concerned. But there’s more. Threatening retribution like a cornered mob boss, raving as if from a padded cell, he’s seeing enemies everywhere. Not the usual Democratic and journalistic suspects, either: Republican Senators, Governors, and Secretaries of State. Fox “news.” Pompeo, Meadows, Thune. White House Counsel Cipollone. Even shameless groveler and looming defendant, Mike Pence. 

Psychopathically unable to accept his loss, Trump’s willing to prevent it by destroying faith in elections with his lies. Checked out of the fight against the virus, tweet-golfing, he’s offered no leadership to repair his mismanaged vaccine distribution. He called the economic relief package, negotiated by his own people, “a disgrace,” promising a veto for containing things he’d previously demanded. Uncaring about the impact on Americans, he changed his mind only when persuaded it could affect the outcome of Georgia’s senatorial runoff, about which he seems to care only marginally more. 

Self-proclaimed greatest-ever supporter of our troops, Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act; primarily, it can be presumed, because it clamps down on foreign and domestic shell corporations of which he and his family have made frequent tax-evading and other Stormy use.

Long before it happened, Trump’s cruel deterioration was predicted by those who know him best -- his ghost-writer, his bag-man, his niece, among others. Plus millions of non-Foxified Americans. With almost three weeks left for vengeance, he’s creating as much damage to as many people as possible, including calling for a “wild” uprising on January 6. Pitiful Ted Cruz and ambitious Josh Hawley just announced their intent to fuel the fire. Trump’s idolatrous cult is preparing to comply. Insanity begets insanity. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

I'm Hardly A Poet, And This Here Will Show It


Rather than writing my usual tome,
I’ll end twenty-twen with a post-Christmas poem.
There’s no point pretending it’s been a good year,
As several things became perfectly clear: 
No longer a nation that’s in it together, 
We won’t be till Trumpists can face up to whether,
They’ll re-value truth and can end their reliance,
On people who’ve told them that such things as science, 
Are kidnapping, cannibal, liberals’ lies.

So it’s perfectly fine to go out for supplies,
With a face that’s defiantly, proudly unmasked.
For Americans’ “freedom” means not being asked,
To consider your neighbors and act within reason,
Not now and not ever, not even this season,
In which we’re reminded that sacrifice still,
Is a virtue worth holding. But few of them will.

To those who are willing to follow the rules,
We’re glad you consider masks worthwhile tools.
But unlike that reindeer’s whose schnozz they say glows, 
Your mask won’t do harm if it covers your nose.
And maybe those saying they’ll not take the vax,
Will go to a care place and help fill the sacks,
That hold victims’ bodies. So sure they’d be fine,
They could sub in for someone out on the front line.

But not just a virus has cleaved the divide;
It’s the concept of letting the people decide,
Who their leaders will be by a time-honored vote,
Then accepting results, not some schemes so remote,
That believing them marks one impossibly dim,
Too easily hoodwinked by flam and by flim.

To claim your vote somehow the Democrats stole,
Just doesn’t hold water, because of a hole,
The size of a Trump-approved garish gold roof:
Despite all their claims they’ve presented no proof.
The reason, of course – and for some it’s too quaint:
Any documentation there simply just ain’t.

Attacking elections for several weeks past,
It’s obvious Trump saved his worst for the last.
He’s gone on TV, he’s petitioned the court,
To ridiculous Rudy he has had to resort.
When judges rejected his lying deceit,
His diehards made clear they would never retreat;
Which bodes very poorly for us who consider,
Our laws more compelling than Trump’s latest Twitter.

To believe in our system you must be all in,
And accept that your candidates won’t always win. 
Patriotism can’t be only partial.
Presidents who lose and consider law martial,
Discredit their party and everyone who,
Thinks it’s what any poor loser should do.

This calls to mind something we’ve known for too long:
We no more agree on what’s right and what’s wrong. 
Trump’s lies just don’t matter, nor how much he steals
Turns donors to suckers whose silence reveals,
Preferring a despot is now what prevails,
In Trumpists, and that’s how democracy fails.
For proof, look to Congress, where plans are in place,
To attempt overturning results of the race.

There’s astoundingly more but we hardly have time,
To list all corruption in one meager rhyme.
Did anyone think we’d be witnessing such a,
“President” clearly beholden to Russia?
Who, with his enablers, have all turned their backs,
On Putin’s malicious and dangerous hacks,
Which accessed our secrets including our nukes.
But Trump has just said it’s a meaningless fluke.

So now it is more than a little suspicious,
That Trump will abscond with his ill-gotten riches,
And head back to Putin whom he can rely on,
To sell him a dacha and promised asylum.
If it means he escapes from the justice he’s due,
We’d accept it because it would also be true,
That enablers might finally be forced to agreeing,
Trump’s crookedness always was there for the seeing.

Like the power of pardon, right there on the books, 
By which he just freed more despicable crooks, 
Than any exec who had gone on before: 
Committers of murder and pols by the score.

To the occasion Trump’s cultists will never arise.
Let’s hope that some others will open their eyes,
To the damage his four years have already done,
And be glad it was Biden who finally won.

Since, like Billy Barr, he’s incurred Donald’s wrath,
By walking in brief on a truth-telling path,
Perhaps after Trump, Mitch will turn back the clock,
To when he and his senate did more than just block.

So now it is time, with no need for Zoom meetings,
To wish Merry Christmas and warm brumal greetings.
The year ends with hope that if rightists pitch in,
We can remake America great once again. 
Notwithstanding how badly Trump’s tenure has sucked,
It looks like we might not be totally … out of options. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

This Is Who They Are


Featured guest at last week’s pro-Trump, “Stop the Steal,” Proud Boils rally in D.C., Reich-wing radio hero Alex Jones had this to say: “We will never back down to the satanic pedophile globalist new world order and their walking-dead reanimated corpse Joe Biden. And we will never recognize him. So I don’t know who’s going to the White House in 38 days, but I sure know this: Joe Biden is a globalist, and Joe Biden will be removed one way or another.”

“One way or another.” Subtle as an NDA for a prostitute. And the armed and strutting delusionists cheered. After hearing much the same from Mike “I beg your pardon” Flynn, Trump’s first-born National Security Adviser and current Qanon acolyte (only the best people), the engorged deplorables roved through D.C., burning BLM flags and other displays from Black churches. “Very fine people,” Trump once called them. “Stand back and stand by,” he’d signaled. For this moment, evidently.

It’d be wrong to suggest that everyone who buys into or remains silent about Trump’s flagrant election-fraud mendacity approves of those dishonorable, democracy-hating discards. But their acquiescence empowers and allows what’s left of the Republican Party to become synonymous with them. And if acquiescence is empowering, what of the majority of House Republicans, including Kevin “no relation but you’d never know it” McCarthy, who signed onto Texas A.G. Paxton’s seditious attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election? They may as well have been wearing “Make America Colonial Again” hats.

Under investigation for various crimes, Paxton justified his pardon-pandering performance, thus: “[there] are legitimately good constitutional arguments that don't depend on actually proving every little instance of fraud." Right. “Every little instance.” No need to prove it. Say it enough, and they’ll believe. In fact, sixty-some lawsuits later, not a single instance has been proved. Irrelevant. (Okay, there was one: a Republican submitted a ballot from his dead mother.)

Undead lies notwithstanding, Biden’s win is now official. Not because of the Electoral College, mind you, but because Moscow Mitch McConnell, who congratulated Trump one day after the 2016 election but waited six weeks this time around, finally did so for President-Elect Biden, incurring Trump’s wrath. Mitch waited for Vladimir Putin, whose man in Washington lost, but who’s happy, at least, that Trump “burned the US” on his way out. 

Swindled Trumpists continue plying him with millions upon millions for his personal use. And because it’s who he is and what he does, he’s keeping the money he’s “raising” for the Georgia runoff, too. Grifters gotta grift. Suckers gotta suck. 

History reminds us that when Trump lost the popular vote by three million in 2016, he empaneled a commission, headed by world-class vote-suppressor Chris Kobach, to prove there were that many fraudulent votes. Many months and much money later, they found nothing. And we recall how, during the impeachment, Republicans’ mantra was “Let the voters decide in November.” Had too much faith in their ability to suppress opposition voters, evidently, or to carry out their own fraud. In any case, it should be obvious by now that voter fraud, massive enough to turn an election, no longer exists in the US, if it ever did. Even Bill “I’ll sign it, don’t fire me” Barr said so. 

Seeing how uninformed the average American is about how our government works, or about science, or how to separate fact from fiction, one may wonder what is the level of such ignorance at which an open society fails. Put another way, what’s the minimum number of smart people required to keep it afloat? And since it’s immigrant kids who seem to be winning the prizes lately, how much less likely does Trumpic xenophobia make it?

The flipside is this: how many of the aforementioned, hate-infused, reality-denying marauders does it take to destroy a democracy? They get the headlines, but how many are there, really? Not enough, surely, to threaten a literal coup. But between them and the millions who still believe the election was stolen, the system is on the brink. Absent trust in the process, there is no process. Evidently, Trump and his enablers and excusers believe eliminating that trust is in their personal interest. Robbing us of a viable future, though, it’s in the interest of no one else.

Soon we’ll learn if it’s possible to reestablish trust and, more critically, whether the Republican Party will divest itself of anti-democratic, reality-rejecting Trumpism and return to the table where they once belonged. So far, it’s not looking good.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

They've Gone Coup-Coup

Science confirms consistent neurophysiological and psychological differences between conservatives and liberals. How they react to threats. Their reliance on the observable and their response to presented facts. Evolutionary biologists have theories, but it’s intuitive that, in addition to rationalists, primitive societies benefitted from people who don’t need no damn proof to react to perceived threats. Noises. Shadows. Gut feelings. It could avoid becoming a meal.

Who knows why such brains remain in circulation? Individuals are safer now. More often than not, there’s time to think, evaluate. Threats from saber-tooth tigers (or, if you believe certain preachers, dinosaurs) are uncommon. Yet, having out-survived their benefit to society, such paranoid, no-need-for-facts people persist. Mysteriously, these evolutionary throwbacks appear to reside mostly in today’s retro-exceptional United States, and only in one political party.

A few days ago, reporters asked every Republican member of Congress who won the election. Eighty-eight-percent of them refused to say. Two declared it was Trump. (One of them, Rep. Gosar of AZ, is so awful his own family urged voters to reject him.) Of 251, only 27 were willing to say it was Joe Biden; Putin-adjacent Trump demanded their names. For what purpose, one wonders. Met with what level of Republican silence? A clue: Moscow Mitch just quashed a motion authorizing the inaugural committee to acknowledge it’ll be Biden and Harris.

Except for being indescribably dangerous, it’d be hilarious. Gaseous Rudy. Long-time Trump buddy and undeserving commutee, Roger Stone, claiming North Korea brought boatloads of fake ballots into the US via harbors in Maine. Around the Horn? Through the Canal? Seems logical. Same with believing votes for Biden were switched or faked, but not for down-ballot Democrats. McConnell, Graham, and Collins won. End of conspiracy.

“I’ve probably worked harder in the last three weeks than I ever have in my life,” whined Trump at a recent anti-democracy rally. He was referring to trying to nullify his resounding defeat, not to fighting the resurgent virus. “Working harder than ever.” Some jokes write themselves.

But it’s not funny, is it? A mob of armed Trumpists surrounded the home of Michigan’s Secretary of State, shouting threats and obscenities while she was inside, decorating for Christmas with her four-year-old son. “Stop the steal,” they chanted, convinced by … what? Zero evidence. Multiple recounts, investigations, fifty rejected lawsuits including, thankfully, without dissent, by the Supreme Court. Having confirmed their elections were secure, officials are fearing for their lives. But Trump says it, they believe it, that settles it. His second coming was an article of faith. The analogy is obvious.

It’s like the approaching, not-for-eight-hundred-years convergence of Saturn and Neptune, but perverse: years in the making, “conservative” denialism now converges both upon democracy and the lives of many thousands more from the virus. Is this what Gingrich and similars had in mind when they chose endumbification as their path to permanence?

Our founders feared it: millions of rabid, mis-educated Americans, convinced of fraud despite mountains of bipartisan refutation. Certain enough to destroy the Republic over it. Exhorting others to die for a lie (in our history, there’s precedent). Literally

For everyone’s sake, even delusional Trumpists, whose future is equally threatened whether they recognize it or not, this must stop. After decades in the euphoric fog of fiction mainlined from rightwing media pushers, to which millions have now, as intended, become addicted, can it? From armed, bulging-vein threats, to states suing each other, to legislators willing to disenfranchise their own citizens, this spectacle of sedition was a long time coming. It feels too late to put the genie back in the toothpaste. 

Plus, Trump-inspired, demented animus is a money-maker. Their malicious mendacity has made Hannity, Carlson, Limbaugh, et. al., very rich. From his compliant cultists, Trump is raking in millions. Republican leaders who remain cravenly silent are complicit in what amounts to a coup against constitutional governance. They’re already doing everything they can to delegitimize Biden’s presidency and his efforts to restore comity. Since the election, Trumpist Republicans’ disdain for democracy is undisguised. And incompatible with functioning government. Ahead of their January runoff, Georgian leaders are further reducing polling places in minority precincts.

With their terror campaign against honest state officials and continued efforts to reverse the election, Trumpublicans threaten the rule of law far more than a few misguided equality demonstrators breaking windows. Anti-democracy, anti-masks, and a poisonous, autocratic “president.” That’s “conservatism” today.

Maybe sanity will return if enough actual conservatives, seeing their party’s descent into insurrectionist lunacy, say “enough.” And there’s the problem: they’ve already had plenty of time.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Fraud. It's Everywhere, I Tell You!

So much has befallen us during a brief columnar break, it’s hard to choose where to resume. But let’s go with Trump, about whose disregard for and danger to our country there’s no longer doubt.

Maybe he believes his own lie that, but for a massive, super-coordinated plot, involving both parties in several states, undetectably faked ballots, highly selective voting machines, and secrets kept by thousands of people, he won the election. Fraud so carefully constructed that its very invisibility, repeated denial by Republican election officials and now, even Attorney Generally-compliant Barr, PROVES its existence.

Once and always the conman, Trump has raised over $170 million by flooding gullible supporters with pleas to help “save” the election, set up so he can use most of it however he wants. Delusion or deception, out more he rants, in more he rakes.

Millions of planted, nurtured, and harvested Republicans believe. Maybe even Rudy, whose embarrassing act has been serially thrown out of court, even by Trump-appointed federal judges. How laughable must his arguments be for that to happen? 

So, other than furthering the grift with a worrisomely demented forty-six-minute video tirade (“it’s statistically impossible I lost”), what’s Trump doing, amidst the pandemic’s brutal resurgence? Taking charge, honoring his duty of office, putting aside wounded ego for the sake of America? Golfing. Tweeting. Golfing. Lying. And golfing. His “presidency” was always pretense, holding rallies, tweeting, and watching TV, dumping responsibility on others. Taking credit, never blame. Now he’s not even pretending to care.

Above all, history will remember Trump for his deeply destructive, unwell behavior since becoming a loser. Wounded, possibly hallucinating fraud in the absence of evidence, in language so inflammatory it endangers lives, he appears ever more detached from reality, as predicted by his niece, his ghost-writer, and his former bagman.

Yet Congressional Republicans say nothing, as increasingly vicious death threats to truth-tellers, including from Trump’s own lawyer, force recipients to hire bodyguards. This disgrace to America is entirely on Trump.   

Encouraging state legislators to overrule the will of their voters; threatening governors who certified elections; the unwillingness of his party to speak out: it’s a knife to the heart of the Republic without precedent. Long after Trump returns to kicking golf balls back onto fairways, the damage will remain, as his country-forsaking party continues twisting the blade.

Likewise, court-packing Mitch McConnell’s Supreme Court majority. In striking down New York’s restrictions on gatherings, they pushed the dagger to the hilt, spinning the First Amendment upside down. Covering all large groups, those restrictions in no way singled-out religion. SCOTUS, though, conferred special status. Like Trump, Church/state separation is on its way out.

In their silence, Republicans show they need Joe Biden’s election to be considered illegitimate, lest he awaken their voters to the damage they and Trump have caused when he addresses it with much-needed seriousness. When competent leadership and a well-intentioned Congress are more vital than any time since the Great Depression, Republicans are AWOL. Even here, where a trounced candidate is similarly Culpable in dismissing results of a fair election. 

Previewing a future stump-speech, shape-shifting Marco Rubio called President-elect Biden “elitist” for bringing educated, qualified, experienced people into government. It’s a time-tested call to the chronically mystified. Future of the Republican Party, other presidential timberlings Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley have chimed in, too, and worse. 

If Trump’s “presidency” is a stain on America that could conceivably fade, the devolution of his party, absent total tearing-down and rebuilding, is permanent. This post-election period has confirmed their disdain for democracy. Party to a minority of our population, it’s in their interest to discredit voting, as they resume what began with the swearing-in of President Barack Obama: obstructing, complaining, offering nothing, no matter the harm. 

Of which Trump’s creating as much as he can on his way out, especially to the environment. And his pardon of conspiracy-mad Michael Flynn, who subsequently called for a military junta, is an act Mr. Barr previously agreed would constitute obstruction of justice. 

Then, for those who dismiss Trump’s Putin-cahootin’, there’s precipitously ending the “Open Skies” treaty to explain. No longer can the US overfly Russia to observe, among other things, troop movements against neighbors. Making sure, he’s having the specially-equipped planes destroyed. And he’s threatening to veto the defense budget, which includes actions against international money-laundering, of which Putin, Russian oligarchs and, allegedly, he have partaken for years.

Post-election Trump is like the burglar who defecates on the bed after stealing a family’s treasures. Which is tricky while wearing a straitjacket. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Trump's Final Attack On America


Some consider my “tinyurls” annoying, and hardly anyone checks them. Just this once, though, before discussing Trump’s and Republicans’ claims about a fraudulent election, it’d be helpful if readers were to see this.  

Also helpful is Lindsey Graham on the subject: “If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again.” 

Okay, thanks. Now we understand. Because it always has been, this is about minority Republicans maintaining power. And because it never has been, it’s not about what’s best for the country. Not even in this extraordinary time, when there’s so much more at stake; namely, our physical, economic, and social health; and the livability of this overheating planet. Foxians accuse Democrats of hypocrisy in urging Republicans to give Biden a chance when they didn’t for Trump. Well, there’s a difference.

From the moment he entered politics, Trump trafficked in division and untruth. He encouraged violence at his rallies, called his opponents – Democrat and Republican alike – stupid and mean-spirited names. After election, his first act was to lie about crowd size and to claim he’d lost the popular vote because of three million illegal ones. Later, he refused Constitutionally-required congressional oversight and fired inspectors general and US attorneys who were pursuing his political and personal malfeasance. His reelection campaign sank even lower, as his rallies, lacking anything positive, manifested only anger, grievance, and mendacity.

Denying climate change and mocking science, weakening alliances and strengthening enemies, making America a source of ridicule, lying about, mishandling, and finally ignoring the greatest health threat of our lifetimes, Trump blew his chance to be given a chance, even before he chanced upon the presidency. 
From the outset, by contrast, President-elect Joe Biden urged an end to acrimony and a return to cooperation and valuing expertise. He pledged to care as much for those who voted against him as those who voted for him. Given the problems he’ll be facing, it’d be nice if Congressional Rs would help. And it’d be welcome if America took him at his word, unless the time comes when he’s unworthy of it.

There’s nothing new about demanding recounts or, as we’ve seen, accusations of election fraud. What’s new is the catastrophically dangerous level of disinformation being spread, without a shred of evidence. In all fifty states, every single one, Democratic and Republican election officials are unequivocally stating there’s no fraud. None. Not, at least, to any significant degree. Yet nearly every elected Republican continues to push the destructive lie. Even here.

It’s common, too, that ballots are counted for days after elections. What’s unprecedented is those doing so being harassed, even receiving death threats from conspiracy-addled Trumpists. Likewise, Texas’ Lieutenant Governor offering a million dollars for proof of fraud; unclaimed, so far. [Update: the prize has been claimed.]

Retracted falsehoods are new, too. 

Caring nothing about the perilous implications for democracy, Republican leaders are attempting not just to discredit this election; it’s the very idea of voting. Lindsey G. made it clear. Pushing lies, they assume ignorance and gullibility of their supporters, while rightwing media overflow with accusations and distortions aimed at the credulous. And Rudy peddles pernicious propagandistic pronouncements from a place of perplexing praenomen, plunked between porno and cremation. Predictably, Trumpists buy it unquestioningly. 

As Republicans reject the results of a remarkably smooth, pandemic-challenged election, sowing the seeds of dictatorship as they have for years, we see how thoroughly Trump has corrupted our government. Barr, Pompeo, Ratcliffe, McConnell, O’Brien, the GSA: all in. At a time when efficient transition couldn’t be more critical, no cooperation. When the number and magnitude of problems we face demand everyone’s help, when bipartisanship is needed as never before, the party of Lincoln stands by as Trump attempts the destruction of democracy, beginning with the Pentagon. In Trump’s thrall, so-called patriots look away. How happy Trump’s dictator pals must be. 

Five million more Americans voted for honesty, lowered rhetoric, and competent, urgent attention to our needs than did those choosing more lies and vilification. Perhaps the latter can mute their media screamers long enough to see how President-elect Biden does; maybe even join efforts toward the common good.

To that end, with irenic dreams and comity in mind, I’ll be taking an indeterminate break (I’ll keep blogging). This is the predicted crisis after a Trump loss. It’s really happening. Let’s hope Trump is thwarted in his unspeakably dangerous attempts to burn it all down on his way out. If so, it surely won’t come from his democracy-averse Republican enablers.

[Image source]

Friday, November 6, 2020

"Cry More, Lib"

Because of what is, I sent this in before final election results. Perhaps they’ll be known, sometime. 

No matter what, and as nice as the prospect of returning to honest, competent governance is, Trumpism is far from vanquished. Sixty-some-million voters considered Trump’s ceaseless torrent of lies, inciting hatred for fellow citizens, taking credit for things he didn’t do, refusing to admit failures, his and his family’s cashing in on his office, his racism and encouragement of white supremacists, kidnapping and putting children in cages, no plans for the next four years other than more lying and grift, and said, “More, please.” 

The question of how that’s possible was answered, succinctly, by Madison Cawthorn, twenty-five-year-old, newly-elected US Representative from North Carolina. Having previously boasted that he’d crossed off a bucket-list item by visiting Hitler’s home in Berchtesgarden, and claimed that Cory Booker “wants to ruin white males,” his first action after his election was to tweet, “Cry more, lib.” And there you have, as they say, it.

When a “president” has no agenda, when his party didn’t even bother with a platform before the election, there’s nothing to vote for. Clearly, then, it’s about voting against. “Libs.” Who believe every citizen has a right to vote without standing in line for ten hours; who think people of all colors, religions, sexual orientation, place of birth, political preference, and economic status deserve to be treated fairly and to have an opportunity to thrive. On a livable planet. With access to quality, affordable healthcare. Worse: they believe in science and prefer facts over Fox. Yep: if anyone should be made to cry or have “it” stuck to them, it’s those who choose community over Trumpic hate.

Having failed to build a Mexico-paid wall (and only a few miles, by taxpayers); failing to produce a healthcare plan; making a pandemic worse by mocking and ignoring everything that would have helped; maintaining – until he didn’t – the Obama recovery only by producing massive budget deficits, and creating fewer jobs in his first three years than President Barack Obama did in his final three, before the pandemic; having been duped by “lover” Kim and BFF Putin; with coronavirus cases at all-time highs; lacking anything substantive to offer, Trump could only conduct campaign rallies that were nothing but super-spreader hate-fests. Over chants of “Lock them up,” and “Fire Fauci,” no positive ideas were heard. Not one. Which was still damn near good enough to get him reelected.

Prematurely ejaculating self-canceling cries of victory and fraud, Trump stumbled upon a new word: “Disenfranchise.” In his troubled mind, counting all legitimate votes disenfranchises those already counted, if thorough counting takes time. Inigo Montoya has something to say about word-choice.

Trump’s lawsuits and accusations of fraud have been accompanied by no actual examples. He doesn’t care. Nor does he consider preserving faith in democratic institutions part of his job. If polls were wrong, predictions of his post-election perfidy weren’t. Thursday, his crudely dishonest speech characterized counting votes as “finding” them, “whittling” his down after he’d “won.” While complicit liars amplify the mendacity, armed believers mass threateningly outside vote-counting locations, brainwashed into sedition. 

Leading up to the election, Fox polled one-hundred-thousand voters. By margins of around seventy-percent in each category, they favored upholding Roe v. Wade, universal access to healthcare, DACA citizenship, more spending on renewable energy, and agree that racism is significant, in the country at large and in policing. 

Which, you’d think, means the anticipated “blue wave” would have happened. That it didn’t means Trumpists have no idea what liberalism actually stands for. Because Democrats are less good at lying than today’s Republicans, and because they have nothing as effective as rightwing media at inseminating misinformation, millions of people voted against their own priorities. Whatever it is they think liberals are, “own” them and “make them cry” trumps everything. That’s Trumpism. That, and the dangerous, lie-based, post-election anger Trump has fomented.

If Joe Biden assumes what was considered, until Trump, leadership of the free world, and if Republicans keep the Senate (we won’t know till Georgia’s January runoffs), Mitch McConnell will be the most powerful and least honorable man in America. Singly, he’ll keep Democratic legislation from consideration and progressive nominees from approval; disenfranchising (!) seventy-four-million winning voters.

That’s what happens when millions of Trumpists think like Madison Cawthorn. Electing an ignorant football coach, for example, rather than a man who beat the KKK in court. Spineless Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins. And, a metaphor for our times, a guy who died from Covid-19 a month ago.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Trump: Teacher Of Truths

Win or lose, Trump has been an effective educator. Some lessons we may have suspected previously, but, like all great teachers, he’s made them unforgettable.

He’s taught us the Constitution is only as good as the intentions of those charged with defending it. Because its creators assumed at least minimal commitment to its principles, it contains all-but unworkable remedies for presidential incompetence, mendacity, and avarice, especially when combined with greed and hypocrisy from his party.

We’ve learned that constitutionally required congressional oversight, and the Emoluments Clause, and such laws as the Hatch Act are meaningless. “Presidents,” Trump teaches us, can ignore them with impunity. By Trump’s schooling, impeachment works only if Congress considers obstruction of justice and abuse of power more felonious than fellatio. And Section Four of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment is vapor.

We’ve learned about turning government agencies – Justice, State, Intelligence, even USPS and the census – into instruments of “presidential” power; about making the presidency a personal profit center, millions not caring how dangerous and corrupt it is, and Republicans uninterested in stopping it.

Since day one, Trump educated us about Americans’ willingness to excuse, deny, or ignore opprobrious presidential lies. He’s shown the degree to which rightwing media have succeeded in extinguishing their audience’s ability to distinguish – much less care about – truth.

What explains continued support for a “president” who’s been lying forever about the pandemic, who just declared his administration has ended it, even as daily cases surpass previous highs and hospitals are again becoming overwhelmed? Trump’s lesson: Care only about yourself. Screw everyone else. Sacrifice is stupid. So are scientists.

Here’s more from Trump University: he and his administration consider their supporters gullible fools, who see themselves as law-and-order patriots even while chanting, without irony, “Lock them up.” Who love it when their “president” says, about the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, “This guy, he ought to be put away, or he ought to be, you know, something should happen with him.” Who cheer and tumesce as they imagine what it might be that “should happen,” thinking whatever it is, it’d make America great.

That’s the starkest lesson of “presidential” pedagogy: America, once the world’s most durable democracy, is no less susceptible to the embrace of totalitarianism than any other formerly free, now despotic countries. The veneer of civilization, he’s shown, is easily peeled away by a demagogue willing to ignite people’s fears and hatreds and insecurities; by lies and unending disinformation; by fascist-echoing rallies meant to inflame division; here, as much as anywhere in history.  

Flinging the word like a throwing-star, Trump demonstrates that because millions of Americans have no idea what “socialism” is, for one example of easy manipulability, the word can be used to turn us against each other in time-tested, big-lie ignorance.

The teachings of Trump are no better illustrated than by the rise of terrorist tribes, dba “militias,” showing up in force, armed, after he urged “liberation” of states whose governors issued orders to control the virus. White supremacists crawling out of the shadows. Bearers of insane conspiracies, funded by and welcomed into his party. Weapons considered indispensable at polling places. Citizens harassed, loudly, contemptuously, menacingly, while standing in line for hours, committed to resisting Trump’s attempts to snuff democracy. Daily, these proto-totalitarians are encouraged by their “president.” How na├»ve to have thought America was better than that.

Did our founders foresee legislators and judges representing, by a large margin, the views of only a minority of Americans, able to shape our laws, including ones aimed specifically at limiting the majority’s ability to cast their votes? Another lesson learned.

Asked whether America remains capable of common purpose and sacrifices seen during WWII, who could say yes, as millions of Americans refuse to help their neighbors by the easy task of wearing a mask in public? As a “president” belittles it and governors pigheadedly discourage it, even as their states lead the nation in infections and deaths, and as their refusals to follow the science have prevented the reopening of the economy they demand.

How did we become so divided, armed and “standing by,” willing to forsake our history? It’s not a multiple-choice question. The answer is singular: Trumpism. Will the tutor be granted tenure? With half the enrollees locked in a windowless classroom, the rest waiting for hours to re-register, we’ll find out.

Extra credit takeaways: When a pandemic gets tough, the not-tough hold rallies. If you can’t win votes, block them. 

Also: we’ve been tucking in our shirts all wrong.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Where's My Laptop?

I shouldn’t waste my weekly column this close to the election, but I need help with a personal matter. From emails I receive, I know people who’d place helping me far below the lowest thing on their list; lower, even, than becoming informed about climate change. With respect, I request they stop reading. Because what follows is embarrassing.

Here’s the situation: not long ago, I found myself unable to access one of my laptop computers, of which, like most people, I have several. Hardly techno-fluent, I took it to a repair shop I stumbled upon on Evergreen Way. Maybe Casino Road. Honestly, I can’t remember. Anyhow, I left it on the counter without providing my name or asking for a receipt. Unconventional, some might say, but others have done it.

I’m hoping the owner or an employee will see this and get in touch. Or maybe someone who was in the shop when I was, or who might have seen a laptop with my personal sticker on it, sitting on a shelf there. Wherever “there” is.

As so often happens after depositing laptops containing potentially incriminating information, I didn’t go back to get it. In fact, until recent events, I’d forgotten I’d taken it in. Completely understandable. Probably because I wasn’t worried. It had that sticker; plus, I’m definitely pretty sure I didn’t give the repair person permission to share it with the FBI.

Since ill-wishers have disengaged by now, I can reveal why it’s so important to get the laptop back. Perhaps those still following along will give me a pass for taking an inculpatory computer to a random repair person, rather than someone I knew well enough to trust. I can’t argue it was prudent. Remember, though: being a liberal, I’m not as experienced with subterfuge as those who’ve stopped reading.

I’m also not a tax cheat. I need records of payments received from George Soros for the pro-communist, anti-capitalist columns I’ve written. (If you missed them, they’re archived here.) For G.S., it was couch-cushion change. For me, though, ten-thousand here, ten-thousand there starts to feel like real money. As they confirm my insider status, I’d also like to retrieve our exchanges about how to keep his involvement hidden. (It’s not plagiarism, by the way, when you quote without attribution but with permission.)

And there are recipes. They aren’t valuable, per se, but I’m creating a cookbook, so I don’t want them leaking prematurely. I recognize its controversial nature, but people are way overreacting to QAnon’s cannibalism revelations. You’d be surprised how well babies pair with a properly-aged California Cabernet.

I’m confident there’s a market for the book, because, as those who are still reading this know, there’s another nationwide cookout/fundraiser scheduled for our deep-state cabal coming up right after the election. If Trump is gone and no longer retweeting “conspiracies,” there’ll be no reason to remain secretive. Plus, it’s not as if we eat all the children we steal. Which reminds me: there are other receipts in there, too.

About the nude pictures, this is more of a warning to the repair person than a plea: I’m way past looking good in the altogether. And although it may appear to be Satanism, it totally wasn’t. Also, the drugs were one-hundred-percent legal. I wrote the prescriptions myself.

I won’t address the pedophilia. Trump just said he’s against it strongly, which explains why people admire him so much. Never mind the fact that the pedophile with whom he liked to party “hung himself” in jail: it was a bold and brave declaration. Mister Soros told me Trump is focus-group-testing taking a stand against coveting thy neighbor’s wife, too, which would further solidify his Christian base and which, ordinarily, I’d be writing about. Unlucky for me, though, the people who know my secrets aren’t the sort who commit “suicide.” It’s another reason I want the laptop back.

Probably I should have deleted Biden’s plans to murder Seal Team 6 right after he emailed them. That, and my correspondence with the president of antifa. Trump would tweet them for sure. And photos of Osama bin Laden living in my basement. Excellent tenant, BTW: pays the rent on time, doesn’t have girls over.

My other laptops are with a guy I met on Twelfth and Broadway who promised to keep them safe. I’ll recognize him if I find him. Has a Russian accent, which I noticed because I speak it some. He was with a friend he called “Rudy,” who seemed nice. 

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.

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