Friday, May 29, 2020


Even diehard Trumpists in our state know he’s lying about vote-by-mail. We’ve done it, scandal-free, for years. His claim that it’s rife with fraud is absurd, so much so that you’d think the aforementioned delusionaries would wonder: if he lies so blatantly about this, maybe the people calling him a constant, pathological liar are right.  
Unless it wasn’t covered on Fox “news,” Trumpists also know the only fraud related to mailed ballots was in the 2016 election, in North Carolina, where Republican operatives collected ballots from trusting people in Democratic districts, promising to turn them in, saving them the trouble. The ballots were squirreled. 
Why are Trump and Trumpists afraid of vote-by-mail? Most studies have shown it favors neither party; in fact, by making it easier for older folks to vote, and since older folks tend to vote conservative, some studies have suggested an advantage for Republicans. Wherefore, then, the obvious lies?  
Simple: voting by mail foils Republicans’ time-tested tools of voter suppression and deceit. Closing or understaffing polling places in Democratic districts, limiting hours -- favorite forms of chicanery in red states -- become irrelevant. Hacking voting machines, in which Moscow Mitch knows Russians have dabbled but refuses to act, and the ease of which has been demonstrated by children, goes away. 
Software-based vote-switching disappears, too. And mailed ballots can be reviewed, which, lacking paper records, most voting machines don’t allow; especially those preferred by red states, manufactured by Republican-donor companies like Diebold. 
By neutralizing GOP voter suppression, voting by mail provides more opportunity for everyone, even Democrats. Mystery solved. 
Parenthetically, the Fox-hyped report of thirty-eight-million “missing” mail-in ballots nationwide included every ballot mailed out and not returned. Ballots sent to the wrong address, ballots sent to people who didn’t vote. A loose definition of “missing.”  
This week, Trump threw another tantrum: his favorite prevarication platform pushed back on his voting lies. Twitter, on which Trump spends hours daily, an activity to which he refers as “working,” attached links to some of his tweets, allowing readers to find the truth. In a signature would-be-dictator’s meltdown, he threatened to eliminate Twitter, showing, yet again, his – let’s call it – “misapprehension” of presidential power. And censorship. Big-tech social media squelches “conservative voices,” he whined. 
If only. He’s been getting away with contumelious lies forever. Plus, if he’s conservative, Jeffery Dahmer was vegan.  
Particularly ironic about this latest Donnie-brook is that his followers don’t care a snowflake’s worth if he’s lying; the last thing any of them would do is follow a link to bubble-bursting knowledge.  
Twitter ought to have kicked him off, permanently. His definitionally insane, law-suit worthy implication that Joe Scarborough murdered an aide violates its rules in ways that are supposed to result in being expunged. But Twitter and Facebook have always allowed outrageous falsehoods to spread like swamp scum. Multi-billionaire Zuckerberg just told Fox “news” he won’t be fact-checking Trump. Twitter, though, says it will continue. Good.  
Given such mendacity from a “president” so disconnected from reality, who models ignorance the way strippers model pasties, perhaps we should excuse our fellow citizens who consider it tyranny to be told to wear masks while hoarding toilet paper. Let’s hope their refusal is only Trump-augmented ignorance. Maybe they’re unaware that, because people can be carriers without being sick, wearing masks protects others from the wearer, not the other way around. If it’s not ignorance, then it’s “Trump doesn’t wear a mask, so I won’t, either. I don’t care if I make you sick.” Such people could properly be called deplorable.  
It’s bad enough that ignorance has become fundamental to Trumpism. To think it’s hate-based, too, is worse. For many Trumpists, though, it is: in great-again America, they hang a Democratic governor in effigy, taunt and spit on people who care enough to wear masks. Asians are their latest target. 
This week Trump sneered that a masked reporter was only being “politically correct.” And said he didn’t want to give reporters the “satisfaction” of seeing him (showing concern for Americans by) wearing one. That’s a deeply disturbed individual.  
States run by denialist governors are now experiencing dramatically increased infections. By contrast, Governor Beshear, that effigized governor, is admirable. Here’s his response to the contemptable act. Improbably, Kentucky contains both him and Mitch McConnell.   
True conservatives should be urging everyone to vote Trump out. Here in Washington, it’s easy. You can mail your ballot in, and you don’t even need postage.    
[Image source]

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day

Reposting something I wrote a couple of years ago:
(Think about the last two lines, above. If that isn't irony, I don't know what is.)
Monday, Memorial Day, a friend shared a Facebook meme: “Only two defining forces have offered to die for you. Jesus Christ, and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom...”  
And I thought, those who served in Vietnam as I did, before and after, killed there, didn’t die for our freedom. They died because they were poor, mostly, couldn’t get student deferments, or have daddies who bought them a pair of invisible bone spurs. They died not knowing or caring why they were there. Quoting another veteran, they died for a mistake. Taking and returning fire, they fought to protect themselves and their squadron, not anyone else. All they wanted was to ride those “freedom birds” back to the world with as many of their limbs as possible. The ones I evacuated mostly didn’t. Their Purple Hearts came at a much higher price than mine. And those who died were still dead three days later.  
I served in Danang, not far below the DMZ. “Rocket City,” we called it. When the rockets rained in and we dove for cover, it wasn’t for anyone’s freedom but our own. The beach there, China Beach, was beautiful, though; white sand, mild surf, and warm waters comparing favorably with the occasional nurse from the 95th Evac stripping her combat fatigues down to a bikini, as choppers patrolled the shore, gunners sitting halfway out the doors, feet resting on the struts, protecting our freedom to swim.  
Just down the beach was the civilian MACV compound, fenced, guarded, green, quartering contractors making big money servicing the war. Someday, I figured, China Beach would be a destination spot, adorned with expensive hotels, win or lose. And so it is.  
Protecting America’s freedom had nothing to do with it. Especially not to the orchestrators. The Domino Theory was a useful selling point. Now our trading partner, Vietnam did fall. And it has hotels and McDonalds.   If the term makes sense, World War II was a good war. There was a definable cause, and undeniable need. It liberated people held in cages, terminating that practice and Nazism forever for a while. And it ended the Depression. 
Afghanistan was justifiable, might even have made us safer, had Rumsfeld not let Osama off the hook, had Bush not bailed to pursue unrevealed intentions. Iraq’s “Domino Theory” was “Bringing Democracy to the Middle East,” as bogus as the former, and as the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It was never about protecting our freedom, even though more who fought there, and more people back home, believed it was; more than was the case with Vietnam. By then, propaganda had found a louder voice. Dick Cheney’s stock in Halliburton made out. Oil companies and defense contractors, too. Most everyone else paid dearly for the adventurism, and the bill still isn’t settled. 
It’s easier to believe our wars have been to defend freedom than to consider other reasons. No matter what, those who died deserve our veneration. And contrition, for the lives we’ve enjoyed since they lost theirs. And for our complicity in sending them, unquestioning, to fight wars instigated by old men whose kids rarely did, for reasons obscured beneath star-spangled bromides.  
It’s wrong, and lazy, to define patriotism only in terms of war; equate it only with those convinced to fight, for reasons they’re made to believe. It’s not their belief that needs questioning: it’s that of those who slap “Support Our Troops” stickers on their cars and trucks, fly flags that say “Behold my patriotism,” coal-roll, vote for tax cuts that deprive veterans of their rightful benefits, and call themselves patriots. 
After serving in Vietnam, Memorial Day makes me more angry than sad. Once a year the tears are real; the absence of those who died is eternal. Yet we remain at war, even as phony platitudes and intimations of future wars from a “president” who dodged the draft by fakery expose the day of remembrance as the manipulation it has always been. My friend, an honorable man who didn’t serve, believes with all his heart. I respect him for that. My anger may be overly self-righteous, but military members aren’t the only Americans protecting our freedom. So are teachers, nurses, housekeepers, factory workers, researchers, parents, climate protestors, plumbers, Social Democrats, the remaining actual conservatives, community organizers… 
But not those keeping us in a state of perpetual war, selling the myth that freedom is the reason.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Conspiracies. They're Everywhere.

More than a few times, Trump has declared himself “the most transparent president” in history. Last week, in only nineteen words, Joe Biden summarized the truth: “It seems the way to get fired by President Trump is not to commit wrongdoing, but to investigate it.” 

Transparent. Perhaps Trump was referring to how easily one can see through his attempts to hide truth, how obvious his lies are to people who aren’t doing the three-monkeys thing. After all, Trump entered the political arena by flogging the lie that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Remember when he sent his “investigators” to Hawaii and said they were finding “amazing things”?

It fit perfectly into the demographic at which he was aiming: conspiracists; resentful people, hungry for lies, long as they fit their worldview. People who harbored unarticulated anger; who needed someone to blame for whatever it was in their world that needed blaming. He spoke, and up their ears they pricked.  

Transparent. Hiding promised tax returns, blocking people from testifying to Congress. Soviet-style purges, ousting revealers of the swampy corruption he brought to the White House; firing Inspectors General, five so far, who looked into it, like Trump’s phony “state of emergency” declaration, allowing arms to Saudi Arabia without Congressional approval. Or the one investigating Moscow Mitch’s wife.

Accountability? Not for Trump. Because these expulsions validate their paranoia, Trumpists are unbothered. People who oppose him are part of a worldwide conspiracy whose aim, among other things, is to rape and sell children in the basement of a pizza joint with no basement.  

If Trump is ignorant of everything a leader of the United States and, until recently, of the world must understand, he’s a stable genius when it comes to knowing his audience. He began with and is now staking his reelection on people who hear noises at night and think flying saucers. Facilitated enthusiastically by the co-conspirators of rightwing media, it works.

As his incompetent coronavirus failures became undeniable, he turned to blaming everyone except himself. And to distraction. Circling back to his original objet d’artifice, he’s feeding them “Obamagate!!!” Echoed by every rightwing disinformationist and Congressperson, this transparent fakery is being lapped up like fetid water by thirsty desert-wanderers. Trump’s confabulations fit his idolaters like a bandoleer. 

And oh, the unmasking! Horrifying!! Jim Croce tried so hard to warn us. How many Trumpists even know what it means? How many find it disturbing that Trump’s unqualified but loyal Director of National Intelligence released names of some who requested unmasking Michael Flynn, as if to suggest a nefarious plot; as if it wasn’t an all-but routine, justifiable request? How many know the unmasking requests fulfilled in Trump’s time number over thirty-five-thousand? Wild guess: none. 

Nor do they see anything wrong with a “president” turning the DOJ and intelligence agencies into instruments of personal power, vengeance, and, in the case of Bill Barr, erasing history. Russian interference? Never happened. Whole thing was a made-up coup attempt. 

Why would Trumpists see anything wrong? He’s not only their ticket to Heaven, but their protector from all the world’s evil, the people coming after them: One World Government, the W.H.O. and CDC, commies (not Putin, though, or his internet trolls), the Trilateral Commission, Agenda 21, lizard people, the Illuminati. The Deep State. Jews, Muslims, the non-white. Climate scientists, doctors, educators, journalists. Vote-by-mail. Liberals. Bill Gates. 

Evolutionary biologists theorize susceptibility to conspiracy theories, currently most associated with Trumpism and certain fundamentalist religious sects, derives from an evolutionary advantage to seeing patterns, even where they don’t exist, as a way of assessing possible threats to survival. Makes sense. But, like creationism, evolution is imperfect. (Hemorrhoids.) 

In America, that proto-beneficial wiring has short-circuited. Trumpists see sinister patterns everywhere, causing them to overlook, excuse, even celebrate his uncaring lies and petty nastiness. Attacking the press; promoting and taking dangerous medicine and, with revelatory ignorance, rejecting evidence of its ineffectiveness; creating distrust in elections; firing those who speak out; scapegoating; claiming he’s treated horribly: these are positives in a God-sent savior who strikes at dangers only they can see. Belief in conspiracies provides community, too, and feelings of control in a world spinning out of it. 

As if custom-made for and by Trump and Trumpists, the ultimate manifestation of this psychic agoraphobia is QAnon. If not all supporters are that far gone, anyone still with him must be close. Have clean underwear handy and read all about it.

[Image source]

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Running On Empty ... Lies

Next newspaper column (updated, below):
Golly. Because some of its denizens have tested positive for Covid-19, White House people are finding it “scary to go to work.” It shouldn’t have taken a virus to tell them that. Maybe “scary” is the necessary first step on the way to “embarrassing.” 
With “president” and vice ignoring their own guidelines, even demanding people remove masks before photo-ops, it was inevitable there’d be contagion in the contagion. Even as Trump insists testing is “overrated” and “makes us look bad,” he’s now being tested daily, as are all people coming into the West Wing. Except for him, personnel are suddenly required to wear masks. He’ll make his workplace safe, but not yours. Yours doesn’t need to be. You can be a warrior.  
By now, Donald “We’ve prevailed” Trump’s reelection strategy is clear: lie. All day, all night, Kellyanne. Truth being disadvantageous, lie. And, with Bill Barr’s help, erase history. Because Trump knows he’ll get no pushback from supporters, and because the “fake news” “enemy of the people” have gotten so trounced by the terrifying torrent of transparent Trumpic truthlessness that they’ve tossed in the towel. He knows it takes more time to correct his lies than he spends telling them. Co-conspirator Moscow Mitch just said Obama “left no game plan.” Brazen. Like Trump and Barr, he thinks you’re too stupid to notice.  
For now, Trump’s biggest lie is that he’s handling the pandemic “beautifully.” Which explains, one assumes, his daily blame-placing and responsibility-shirking. Initially praising China’s Xi for his response to the virus, Trump is now not only blaming China and repeating the Putinesque lie that Covid-19 was created in a Chinese lab, about which science says the opposite, he’s implying it was a deliberate attack on the United States, a “worse attack than Pearl Harbor.”  
Commending people who reject the precautions he’s now taking, people braying about rights but not responsibilities, Trump is rallying anger, his ploy of first resort. At governors, Democrats, President Barack Obama, China. As with Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Latinos, and LGBT Americans since his “election,” attacks on Chinese-Americans are spreading, too, as the xenophobic deplorables wing of the faithful respond to his mendacity. Angry, ill-informed people, Trump believes, will keep him in office. Dr. Fauci is the latest target.  
By defunding American researchers in China, where we need to be if we’re to understand how the virus spread and how to prevent it from happening again, Trump endangers even more lives. He’d rather attach pseudo-credibility to his China lies than prevent another pandemic. 
Anyone who admires Trump’s crisis “leadership” should take nine minutes to watch this recounting of the US response and Trump’s part in it. Or admit a preference for remaining ignorant.  
To the extent that actions have been effective, it’s because governors like ours stepped in to fill the federal leadership void. After ceding responsibility to them, Trump began criticizing and undermining their efforts, calling for resistance while taking credit for what they’d done. Lying. About who got what to whom, when. About how much was available, where. About total US testing compared to other countries rather than per capita. About “numbers are coming down.” On these matters, the record is clear. Trump is trying to ensure you forget.  
Ignorance and anger are key to Trump’s reelection. Rather than a sense of unity during a time of unprecedented crisis, he’s staked victory on creating division. Unfamiliar with helping others for its own sake, he pits Americans against each other, for what he sees as personal advantage. Given Trump’s lifelong mendacity, it’s unsurprising.  
What’s surprising is the ease with which he’s conned so many. All countries have individuals like Trump. But tens of millions? American exceptionalism has become its free-world-leading preference for misinformation, its docility before undisguised attempts to confuse and distract. Trump’s “presidency” fits perfectly with, amplifies, and feeds on the streak of paranoid and credulous conspiracy-mongering that’s always run through American life. After Trump applauded Michigan’s AR-packing protestors, people began calling for lynching Governor Whitmer. If such threats aren’t historically extraordinary, a “president” all but encouraging them is. His latest: “Obamagate.” Because he can.  
Since 1789, we’ve survived isolated outbreaks of ignorance. Now, though, it’s a national movement, the bedrock of a major political party; one that countenances a lying “president” who claims absolute power; that remains silent when Trump calls 
President Barack Obama treasonous, but calls the former president “classless” when he breaks his long silence to speak the obvious.   
[Update, 5/15: since I published this, Moscow Mitch admitted he was wrong about Obama not leaving a plan. The version that will be in The Everett Herald will be a revised one, without the reference to his original claim, and a few extra words about "Obamagate:" that Fox "news" is running with it and Trumpists are swallowing it like a cheeseburger, without chewing.] 

Friday, May 8, 2020


Next newspaper column:
Question: If those long-gun-toting, body-armor-wearing, priapic protesters storming the gallery of the Michigan legislature had been African-American, Latino, Muslim, or Native American, would their deaths be considered Covid-19 related? When Trump called them “very good people,” was he distinguishing them from the “very fine people” marching for white supremacy in Charlottesville? 
Or was it random, simply reinforcing his impeachable calls for insurrection and his insecurity around powerful women, like Michigan’s Governor Whitmer? 
What if they’d taken a knee? 
Actual good people are raising thoughtful questions about how to calibrate reopening. Among them, the CDC has produced detailed guidelines, which Trump immediately spiked. But those Michigander embarrassments to the male gender weren’t there to be thoughtful. They were there to intimidate, implicitly threatening violence, cheered on by their “president.” (Swastikas and Confederate flags, evidently indispensable to the movement, remained outside.)  
They were terrorists. That our “president” suggested making “a deal” with such people underscores the obvious: Donald “I’m-treated-worse-than-Lincoln” Trump has neither interest in nor understanding of democracy. Those gunmen have even less. In this democratic republic, they should be heroes to none, no matter one’s views on reopening. But here we are, and there they are. Our “president” celebrates them, and democracy is on a ventilator.  
By contrast, George Bush, with whom I rarely agreed but never considered an empathy-free, self-aggrandizing, full-time liar (only part-time), just produced this.  
President Barack Obama already had.  
How sad that former presidents are needed to fill our current moral leadership vacuum. How sadder that protesting poseurs can’t see what’s behind premature reopening: states can cancel unemployment from workers who refuse to return before it’s safe. Federal aid can be withheld from small businesses who, out of concern for employee and customer health, don’t yet open. 
And if Moscow Mitch’s suggested state bankruptcies were to happen, there goes their employees’ retirement benefits. Meanwhile, troll-bots are flooding social media, fanning the protests. From where, do you suppose, and for what purpose?  
Intended by Trump and his homegrown and trans-oceanic enablers to fracture us, it’s working. In Oklahoma City, McDonald’s workers enforcing rules were shot. A Michigan security guard was murdered over it. We know there’ll be more, and it’s on Trump, urging Americans to rise against each other, if that’s what it takes to crank up the economy. For him, reopening isn’t about you; it’s about reelection.  
Speaking of elections, it’s time to address the Joe Biden sexual harassment claims. That he injudiciously massaged Ms. Reade’s shoulders and/or neck is believable. He’s admitted to being inappropriately “touchy-feely,” and has reined it in. One finds her much-belated accusation of forced digital penetration harder to believe, though, for reasons enumerated by an experienced prosecutor of sexual assault cases, here 
In a he-said/she-said situation, judgments will be influenced by preexisting suppositions and, yes, by political leanings. For the above-linked reasons, this columnist finds Ms. Reade less credible than the accusers of Brett Kavanaugh and Trump. Unwanted digital penetration is wholly inconsistent with one’s perception of Vice-President Biden, whereas Trump has bragged about sexual assault that differs from Ms. Reade’s accusation only by depth.  
Let’s assume Ms. Reade is truthful. Perhaps she is. Our electoral choice then turns on policy, because we’d be choosing between a man whom we’ve heard gloating about sexual assault, accused of it by at least twenty-five women; and one who admits to overly-familiar touching (think George and Angela) but denies intentional assault. 
If those who voted for Trump, overlooking his lifelong amorality, are above criticism but those who’d vote for Vice-President Biden are hypocrites, who can be surprised? We’re living, after all, in Trumpworld, where inconvenient truth is “fake news” and under-reaction to Covid-19 for months, continuing even now, is considered “a great success.”  
It could be argued, if Vice-President Biden did it, that his and Trump’s behavior offset each other, even though, by multiples, they don’t; so the election becomes, as it should, about issues: What they’ll do about accelerating climate change; about pollution, healthcare, renewable energy, science and research, programs that help the needy become productive. Women’s rights, minority rights, voting rights, early childhood education, Social Security, Medicare. 
Who’ll preserve capitalism by reducing unsustainable wealth disparity; what they’d cut and whom they’d tax to abate skyrocketing national debt; who’ll respect separation of powers; who’ll seek expert advice and who’ll ignore it; who’ll convene truth-tellers and who’ll fire them. And pretty much everything else on which the future of all generations hangs.  


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