Thursday, July 30, 2020

Only In America

Once, it seemed the answer was humanity itself; the question being, how did things get this bad. The imperfection of the human brain was to blame, having created problems beyond its capabilities to solve. Pretending it away, making up conspiracies, it’s gone into “tilt” mode as self-preservation.


But that can’t be the explanation. Every country but ours has been addressing climate change, and, now, attacking the pandemic successfully, as virtually all their citizens accepted responsibility. The problem, in other words, isn’t humankind. It’s us.


Only “we” pulled out of the climate accords. “Our” response to the virus has been catastrophic. Encouraged by an ignorant sociopath, millions of citizens have chosen to reject simple and logical rules. Republican governors and congressfolk, too. While other hard-hit countries are now safely reopening, in ours it’s worsening daily, especially in states that opened too soon, whose governors aped an irrational “president.”


How did we become an outlier nation, whose citizens are unwelcome across the globe, looked upon with pity and bewilderment by those who once saw us as the light of the world? A nation that produced Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Reagan, Obama, now “led” by a simulacrum who brags about passing a test designed to tell if you could find your way home without help.


In no other country have so many refused to wear masks, even physically attacking innocent employees who enforce it. If lunatics abide everywhere, America alone provides the spectacle of citizens claiming masks are satanic, are poisoning us, are communism; that the virus is fake, or created by Dr. Fauci; that a vaccine will contain microchips. Only here was a video, touted by Trump, viewed by millions, featuring backline “Frontline Doctors” downplaying the virus; one of whom warns of alien DNA, sex with demons, and vaccines that create atheism.


We’re the only developed country whose “leader” ignored and silenced Covid scientists. Wants to hide their data. Called for “liberation” of states whose governors took action. Insists, as American cases and deaths explode while other countries’ fall, that he’s doing a “beautiful” job. Rejecting their lying eyes, masses of indoctrinated citizens believe him, indifferent to endangering others, eschewing inconvenience. Such people would have deserted Valley Forge at the first snowflake.


What is it about America? How have we, singular among advanced nations, become unwilling and unable to confront challenges as we once did, to the benefit of the world? Formerly a “rugged individualist,” the iconic American is now selfish, paranoid, and dangerously uninformed.


It’s not accidental. It’s the direct result of a plan hatched in the 1990s by Gingrichian Republicans: create a self-replicating cult of credulity, unable to tell truth from fiction. Overwhelm them with disinformation, amplified by an unending stream of broadcast propaganda. Ignorance begets ignorance, and that begets votes. How perfectly it has worked.


Its grandest achievement: Trump. Previously, it elected legislators determined, as they’ve admitted, to prevent President Barack Obama from doing anything good for America; who, to that end, abandoned legislating, eventually forgetting how. Helpful bills from the Democratic-led House sit in the Senate, undebated, while Congressional Republicans can’t agree on how to mitigate the economic collapse caused by their own absent leadership: whether to help people in need or mostly their donors and Trump, who cashed in bigly, last time around. So far, they’ve included more for the Pentagon, cuts in unemployment stipends, and zero local aid. But they, the Gingrichian party of Trump, would outlaw lawsuits against corporations that fail to protect employees.


In a country with enough science-denying, disinformed, embittered people to put Trump in office, there are plenty enough to prevent controlling a pandemic. Had our country been led rationally, we’d have already reopened safely, and our children would be heading back to school. Now, after Trump’s inexcusable mismanagement, the only option might be to start over. Maybe, because his coterie finally convinced him the virus is affecting white people in red states and, therefore, his electoral chances, he’d get it right.


Unlikely. He’s still pushing hydroxychloroquine and pre-discrediting election integrity.


We’re not the first country in which a sociopathic despot wrested control with false promises, warnings of domestic enemies, declarations that he alone could fix it, and brutal shows of force. Eventually, though, the oppressed have risen in protest, establishing democracy. As if it’s been the plan all along, begun even before the 90s, ours could be the first to start with democracy and go the other way.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Pinochet In Portland

Maybe it was a dream. When Barack Obama was president, and now it sure seems like a dream (intelligence, integrity, competence, humor, nice family, no indictments), weren’t a bunch of self-described “patriots” hoarding guns and ammo like toilet paper in a pandemic? Predicting government troops would be rounding up civilians and hauling them away? Building bunkers, promising to defend our “freedoms” with their lives?

Funny thing: what they predicted with the certainty of Covid-hoaxers and climate-change deniers has come to pass, just down I-5. Anonymous, heavily-armed federal agents, uninvited, snatching citizens off the streets, hauling them away in unmarked vans. Citizens who, for the most part, had been protesting non-violently. No identification on those armed government kidnappers, no warrants. Swinging truncheons, gassing, shooting rubber bullets. Maybe I shouldn’t have said “funny.”

Unlike those fevered “patriots,” people having more than two Betz cells to rub together knew this would never happen under President Obama. Same with those imaginary “antifa” demonstrations, to which the tumescent, mega-armed, MAGA-hatted have been showing up, ready to lay down their lives for Old Glory, Confederate flags, and the occasional swastika. That those events were obvious troll-jobs didn’t occur to them, even after the third or fourth time.

Maybe those heroic one-minute men knew President Obama was never going to lead UN tanks and ISIS soldiers up their driveways; knew they’d not need to make good on their rodomontade. But where are they now, as Portland is Pinocheted? Citizens are being disappeared, though less permanently, as if America were 1970s Chile. As if our “president” were the third-world strongman to which he aspires, against which those faux militias promised defiance. Having claimed resistance as its primary purpose, the NRA is missing, too. Moms are there, though, arm in arm, braving the gas. Who are the real patriots?

Our heavily-armed, Obama-hating heroes weren’t really concerned, then, about out-of-control government coming for people exercising their rights. Turns out it’s fine when a tyrannical leader kidnaps and batters citizens, as long as they’re libtard commies. Some might call that short-sighted collaboration.

A brave guy is Donald “Found-a-dementia-test-difficult” Trump. Afraid to serve in Vietnam, as this columnist did, he’s courageously ordering troops into Democrat-run cities, unleashing beatings, gassing people who seek only fairness, to galvanize his base. Anxious to have them forget his disastrous pandemic response and the Russian bounty disgrace, this he’ll do. And, more blind than those he gassed, Trumpists are delighted. Beating up liberals absolves 140,000 American deaths, Constitution be damned.

Because of the “Patriot Act,” some say Trump has authority to send troops to protect federal property. Okay, fine. Deploy them to steps of federal buildings and pedestals of statues, to hold off the chalk, donuts, and spray cans. But assailing peaceful crowds; breaking bones of a Navy veteran whose offense was challenging them to uphold their oath; beating on-scene medics; firing tear gas at resolute, non-aggressive moms? That’s what history’s Pinochets do. And when enough citizens excuse it, because it’s not them, that’s how they consolidate power.

America was built on protest. Dumping tea into Boston Harbor; women marching, year after year, for suffrage, assaulted, jailed; MLK, Jr, John Lewis, and other brave souls, risking lives for equal rights, paying with life and blood; Stonewall. Absent the right to assemble to petition for redress of grievances, who would we be, and who will we become? First among the ten, that right is inseparable from America’s greatness. Or was, before Trump began striking at the heart of it.

Though he and his “news” liars pretend otherwise, Portland wasn’t being overrun, nor were people hiding in their homes, local police overwhelmed as terrorists roamed a city in flames. Like Seattle, it’s a couple blocks of inconvenience, as city life otherwise goes on as usual. If there are situations that might justify Federales overtaking local law enforcement, this isn’t. And what has Trump’s banana-republic despotism accomplished? More resistance. Which he’ll turn into context-free doomsday ads.

If Trumpist-Republicans are unconcerned when their “president,” sinking in the polls, turns federal troops upon pro-equality demonstrations; if they ignore the ominous implications because it’s a “liberal” city and the demonstrators aren’t red-hatted, they’re deaf to America’s death-rattle.

Every American, including Trumpists, should be horrified by what’s happening. Those who aren’t, because it’s only “lefties” being brutalized, are anything but patriots. They’d have ratted on the Boston tea-dumpers, thrown rocks at suffragettes, and taunted innocent Black children as they bravely integrated schools.

[Image source]

Thursday, July 16, 2020

We Have Met The Enemy

As Trump’s unfitness and venality become more apparent every day, there’s someone emerging who’s an even greater danger. It’s you.

Yes, if you still support him, it’s you. You’re the reliable enabler of his cyclonic destruction. He knows it. He counts on you to let him get away with his uncaring ruination, and unless you tear off the blinders, broaden your sources of information, you remain inextricably part it.

If you’re unbothered after what’s happened even in just the last few days, you can’t claim to care about America or the rule of law (the actual rule of law, not Trump’s counterfactual “law and order” campaign doublespeak). Not to mention the health of our planet and people. Ask yourself if you’d have been equally unbothered had President Barack Obama done what Trump is doing.

Consider Roger Stone, the smirking embodiment of Republican electoral trashing since the resignation of the malefactor whose face is tattooed on his back. For decades, he’s gloated about his lies and corruption. Convicted by a jury, unanimously, of seven felonies, ones that threaten the integrity of our justice system – obstructing Congress, perjury, witness intimidation – all to hide Trump’s crimes, Trump let him off, and he’s gloating even more. “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him,” he said. “... But I didn’t.”

Consider that as you accept Trump’s claim that Stone was “treated very unfairly.” Understand that when he says he could have turned, he’s acknowledging he knows the crimes. Like a Mafia don, Trump rewards silence, telling his other made men, too: lie for me, I’ll take care of you.

If you vote for him anyway, you’re complicit. When you cast your non-corrupt, not-counterfeited-by-a-foreign-country mail-in ballot, check the box that says presidential crime and cover-up is okay by you. Have a look at the photo of Stone flashing the white power sign, surrounded by neo-Nazis pals doing the same. If you have no objection, your unqualified devotion puts you in the picture, too.

If you were unconcerned when Trump’s (not our) Attorney General fired every US Attorney looking into Trump’s and his family’s and his consigliere’s crimes, and the one investigating Mitch McConnell’s wife, you’re hastening the unchecked power and unpunished criminality he seeks. For this is definitional autocracy; it’s Putin’s Russia, Kim’s North Korea, Saddam’s Iraq. By pretending otherwise, convincing yourself it doesn’t now and won’t ever affect you or your children or theirs, you join history’s collaborators, by whose acquiescence dictators have always taken power. People like you, the silence of the cowed, are the reason it happens.

How about Trump’s thersitical attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci? Like Trump, do you share Gameshow Chuck Woolery’s take: everyone is lying but Trump? If so, let’s talk about that, too, because here’s the thing: changing his message when facts change is to his credit: science isn’t static. It looks for errors, admits them, evolves with new information. Does Trump? Do you? (Update: Woolery deleted his Trump-retweeted tweet: his son just got the virus.) 

Dr. Fauci’s early statements can be questioned, when he still hoped Trump would become a leader. And Trump brags about “closing” entry to the US from China (late and only partially), after Fauci said it wouldn’t help. That’s Trump’s indictment. Two million cases and one-hundred-forty thousand deaths later, who was right? When he turns reality upside-down, asserting he saved “millions of lives,” Trump figures you’re willing to forget his delayed action, absent planning, and mockery of and refusal to follow the recommendations of Dr. Fauci and governors like ours. 
And now he’s cutting the CDC out of its longstanding business of data-collection and analysis. Confident of your gullibility, Trump’s only plan is to hide facts and overwhelm you with disinformation. (But if you praise him, he’ll turn the Oval Office into QVC for you.)

As with climate change, Trump’s incapacity is confirmed by his resorting to impugning coronavirus science and scientists. Having spawned the planet’s worst response to Covid-19, he’s trying to avoid blame by discrediting and silencing one of his only credible voices. Who, unlike soulless sycophant Mike Pence, thinks you need and can handle the truth. Trump’s attempted Maoist-like purge of Dr. Fauci is a humiliating admission of failure. As always, Trump defaults to his lifelong behaviors: attack, blame, deny, lie. And grift. Always the grift

To continue his transgressions against America for his own benefit, Trump counts on you to be not just part of the problem, but the problem itself. Are you, still?

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Decency, And The Lack Thereof


My friend is a rare bird: a true conservative. We disagree on some political issues, though not as strenuously as one might think. After all, until Newt Gingrich emerged like a creature from the swamp, leading inevitably to our current deliberately divisive “president,” liberals and conservatives could get along. Share coffee and the occasional adult beverage.


A gun-owner, hunter, NRA member and, like me, a veteran, he believes military-style weapons belong only in military hands. Because he’s a real conservative, my friend didn’t vote for Trump and won’t this time, either. I haven’t convinced him not to throw away his vote on a third party or write-in, but I’m working on it.


In these times, I argue, traditional political disagreements take a back seat to preservation of those ideals which, until Trumpism, all Americans have valued, and which are under coordinated attack: The Constitution and its separation of powers, Congressional oversight of the executive, free and fair elections; inquisitive, skeptical, and free press; an informed, un-propagandized electorate. My friend shares those values, but he’s wary of Joe Biden.


Whatever else is true of ol’ Joe, I tell him, he’ll surround himself with qualified, smart, non-sycophantic people. Unlike Trump, he’ll listen to advice, welcome disagreement. He’ll read his intelligence briefings. He and his appointees won’t lie more than normal politicians do, which means not outrageously, repetitively, about facts that are obvious, and those that don’t fit on a bumper-sticker. Mid-crisis, he won’t try to lie it away, blame others, or golf. He’ll reregulate pollution, and address the dangers of climate change. He won’t consider the opposition un-American, nor wink at violence against them. He’d never ignore Russian bounties on American troops.


My friend recognizes the dangers of another four years of Trump. Like me, he worries about armed uprising that Trump is all but openly encouraging, should he lose. We both hate violence connected to protests; I’ve shown him the evidence that most is being fomented by far-right elements, intended to discredit those trying to effect overdue, positive change. 


These are unprecedented, dangerous times. Democracy is, quite literally, on the ballot. Trump’s America is becoming an autocracy. It’s no longer a world leader; not in science, not in dealing with crises, or sacrifice when it’s called for, or standing for human rights. Not, perhaps most importantly, in decency.


That’s what November comes down to. Not budgets, or taxes, or guns. Not the size of government. Decency. Simple decency. The choice is between Joe Biden, who, even if you disagree with him, is a decent man; and Trump, who never has been. Not ever. Not in marriage or his family, not in business, or as “president.” It’s between a man calling upon our shared humanity, and one who’s chosen to base reelection on cultivating the worst in us.


A definitional sociopath, Trump set dog-whistle aside and, in the shadow of Mt. Rushmore, made it obvious: to maintain power, his campaign will resort to pitting us against each other, playing to bigotry, demonizing the opposition, and lying. Lying about BLM and “antifa,” about Covid-19; about his negative leadership which, along with several like-mindless Republican governors, has made us the only country in which infections -- and hospitalizations! -- are exploding.


Without a return to decency, we’ll see more people pulling guns on each other; threatened lynchings; grandmas shouting at BLM protestors, promising to teach their grandchildren to hate them; cars aiming at peaceful demonstrators. Tucker Carlson, Fox “news” most despicable racist, will remain their most popular host. We’ll continue to dismiss people seeking a more just country as, in his words, “America-haters,” and in Trump’s, “…the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters…” In a decent America, we’ll resume listening to each other, rejecting such malevolence. We’ll see fewer mask-refusing Trumpists deliberately coughing on store employees, and we’ll see less of this. 

It’s plausible some Trump voters aren’t racist or indecent. Yet, by voting for him, they condone those attributes in him: separating and caging children; disgraceful lying; dismissing people demanding racial justice as terrorists. They surrender to his characterizing the many based on the few. Rather than reflecting on the meaning of Confederate symbols to African-Americans, for example, they accept Trump’s laughable pretense about “protecting history.” 


Unlike Trump, who isn’t, Joe Biden is decent. Increasingly divided by hate, we need that most of all right now. I’ll keep prodding my friend. He’s a listener.


 [Image source]

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Barr, The Door

"Trump is the most purely evil human being I've ever met..." — Tony Schwartz, actual author of “Art of the Deal.”

Maybe he never met Bill Barr.

If Trump is the lesser evil, it’s because he’s so damaged that he can’t help being amoral, any more than the proverbial scorpion could help killing the frog. Barr, on the other hand, made a conscious choice to be Trump’s handmaiden, purposefully subverting the Department of Justice. Not just evil: he could be the most dangerous man in D.C., though between Trump, Barr, and Mitch McConnell, it’s a tough choice. That treacherous triumvirate has so damaged democracy it’ll be tough for Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress to make it right. If, by now, it’s even possible.

Attorney General William Barr wasted no time in weaponizing our DOJ as projector and protector of presidential power, rather than a guardian of justice for all citizens. His opening act, mischaracterizing the Mueller report, was as cynical as it gets. He knew truth would out, but figured if his lies got there first, he could count on Fox “news” and other rightwing media to bury Mueller’s real findings. Calling the investigation “… a grave injustice… unprecedented in American history” (maybe he never met Hillary Clinton), he expected Trump’s supporters to accept his version, facts be damned. They did, and still do. The truth is, Robert Mueller was too soft.

It’s gotten worse. Here, in cronylogical order, are some of Barr’s lesser-known offenses, presaging his recent explosion of two-handed digital salutes to democracy: he undertook a spurious anti-trust action against a few small cannabis producers; he went after automakers for rejecting Trump’s deregulation by agreeing to California’s clean-air rules (like the Constitution, federalism is important to Republicans only when it suits them); asked how history would judge his actions, he said, “History is written by the winners.”

But it’s the recent, blatant attacks on separation of powers, on elections, and on peaceful protests that confirm his true nature and purely Trumpophilic agenda. If “evil” is too inflammatory, what else shall we call turning the DOJ into an attack-dog for an all-powerful “president,” accountable to no one, not even the electorate? This is America, after all; not Trump’s idolized Russia.

Barr’s effort to end the case against Michael Flynn, who’d pleaded guilty to two counts of perjury, is the least of it. Where shall we place his approval, around which he danced like Sean Spicer on DWTS, of the brutal removal of peaceful protestors so Trump could perform his Bible-walk desecration? As threatening as it was to the First Amendment, it’s still not his worst. The soviet-style purging the Southern District of New York of its US Attorney, mid-investigation of Trump’s shady businesses and henchmen, ranks higher, even as he fumbled so clumsily in his desperation to get it done.

The man he fired, Republican Geoffrey Berman, garners bipartisan respect as a man of integrity. For a replacement, Barr chose a golf-buddy of Trump who’s never prosecuted a case of any sort. He has, however, lawyered for Deutsche Bank, fined for laundering billions in Russian mob money, provider of millions in loans to Trump. Suspicious? Not to Senate Rs and incorrigible Trumpists. If it were Eric Holder similarly protecting President Barack Obama, would we hear such high-decibel silence?

As egregious as that full-frontal attack on constitutional democracy is, there’s something still worse: namely, his transparently craven lie about voting by mail. Ignoring his role as defender of free and fair elections, he simply made up warnings about the most powerful way to circumvent Republicans’ undemocratic vote-suppression tactics. It “opens the floodgates for widespread fraud,” he conjured. Foreign governments could create a deluge of fake ballots, he prophesied. Right. Tailored to each of thousands of precincts and parishes? Then what? Bring bulging bags to post offices around the country? “Pleez to be taking for mail. Eez okay no problem.”

We expect perpetual prevarication from our perfidious “president,” but Barr is the putative chief law-enforcer of our country, lying between his jowls, not caring how preposterous; protecting his boss, scorning the American people.

A word about Trump’s inaction over Russia paying Taliban fighters $100,000 per killed US and coalition soldier. While Congress is briefed on the mounting evidence and other countries share theirs, only three entities deny it: Russia, the Taliban, and Trump, the boy who cried hoax. Res, as they say on the streets, ipsa loquitur 
Finally, on this Independence Day, consider the obvious consequences of having a “president” who ignores intelligence, whether it’s about a pandemic or the actions of his “friend” and our enemy, Putin, and so much more; who, while our country is torn asunder by fear and hate of fellow citizens, chooses to make it worse. As campaign strategy. 

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