Thursday, March 25, 2021

Guns, Lies, Excuses, And Sidney

Two weeks, two mass murders using America’s massacre weapon of choice; at least one of which was purchased only six days before putting it to the only use for which it was designed. And ten days after a judge, adjudicating a lawsuit filed by the NRA, struck down a ban on its sales in Boulder, where the most recent murders occurred.

Last year was one of our deadliest ever for gun violence. Nothing will change, of course, as long as senators like Ted Cruz resort to the usual “Democrats want to take all guns from everyone” falsehoods, as he did this week. Nor as long as the NRA contributes millions in campaign donations, 98.1% of which, in 2020, went to Republicans. When Cruz began his deluge of deceit with “Every time there’s a mass shooting…” a lot more was revealed than he intended about America’s exceptional production and tolerance of slaughter by combat-style weaponry.

Also making a strong bid for the hearing’s b.s. prize was Louisiana’s Senator Kennedy, who equated restrictions on gun purchases with banning all law-abiding citizens from driving in order to stop drunk ones. It shouldn’t need explaining how dishonest and, if he believes it, stupid that is.

Rather than repeating calls for a minimal amount of sanity, which will inevitably fall upon filibustered ears, let’s talk about the lying that’s come to characterize the right side of our political spectrum, and not just about gun-control.

As a starting point, consider Trump-hired election-cancelation attorney Sidney (embarrassing, right?) Powell. Splattered like blood over the crime scene of right-wing media, her high-volume claims that Dominion Voting Systems conspired to steal the election from Trump, led to being named in a billion-dollar lawsuit by the defamed company. Her novel defense could become the template for all the liars up with whom we’ve had to put since the election of Trump. Especially Trump. 

And it should definitely supplant the ever-changing definition of “chutzpah,” the most recent iteration of which was Trump referring to House Democrats as “do-nothing” after Moscow Mitch spiked every bill they produced.

Strap yourselves in, dear readers. Here it comes, in a filing to the court by her lawyers: "No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact…” In other words, they argue, she can’t be held to account because her lies were so ridiculous that “reasonable” people would know she was blowing smoke up their assumptions. 

Well, it’s bold. But here’s the thing: I knew, and I’d guess most people reading this did, too. Trumpists didn’t, though, and they still number in the millions. Sid-the-other’s prevarication was aimed straight at them, and, accustomed to devouring mendacity un-masticated, manna from the heaven-sent, they gorged on it. Stormed the capitol over it. Refuse over it, even now, to admit President Biden was legitimately elected. Which is why it’s necessary, contra a recent letter, to keep calling out Trumpism: like the carcinogens he deregulated, the poison remains, and will for decades.

Were Ms. Powell’s lies any more grievous than Trump’s about the election, the pandemic, climate change, immigrants, Democrats and socialism, China, Russia, and every other word that caused his lips to move? By no measure. One assumes her lawyers would argue he’s off the hook, too. Not his fault his followers aren’t “reasonable” people.

Among Republicans there’s rarely a political cost for lies as effluvious as Powell’s, Cruz’s, Kennedy’s, and Trump’s. In fact, they’re what keep getting them elected. And now we’re to believe there should be no legal consequences, either, because no one but idiots – their idiots, they’re confirming -- would believe. We may well see the theory tested in the coming months and years. When the full measure of Trump’s corruption is revealed, along with that of those he extracted from the swamp and sluiced into his “administration,” will his followers come to recognize how badly and cynically they’d been deceived? We should live so long.

Like those about Covid-19, Trumpist’s voting fabrications are existentially dangerous, and yet another definition of chutzpah: lying for months about the ubiquity of fraud, specifically and intentionally to destroy confidence in the process, they justify their newly-hatched, nationwide voter-suppression laws by saying confidence needs to be restored.

HR-1 is the bill written by House Democrats to ensure election fairness. Knowing they can’t win when it’s as easy for Democratic constituencies to vote as it is for theirs, Republicans will make it another victim of the fairnessbuster, while Ted Cruz, true to form, lies about it

Equitable election laws and reasonable gun-control: prevented by Republicans since ink dried on the quills. The devolution continues.

Thursday, March 18, 2021


Our founders included the filibuster in the Constitution for good reason: Democracy, they agreed, in which government responds to and reflects the will of the people, depends on the ability of a minority of senators, representing a minority of the population, to block legislation; especially bills supported by a majority of voters. Seventy-six-percent, in the case of the American Rescue Plan. Those wise men knew what they were doing. 

Omigosh. So sorry. Doggone spell-check. The founders did no such thing. In fact, they couldn’t imagine requiring a sixty-percent majority to pass legislation. This we know because the singular role they created for the Vice President was to cast the decisive vote in the case of a Senate tie. By simple majority, is what they considered the logical way to ratify legislation. Supermajorities were for impeachments and overriding vetoes.

Nor, when the filibuster appeared, like a carbuncle, could a forty-percent minority simply say, “Don’t do that or we’ll grind things to a halt,” and not actually have to do it. Back then, like Jimmy Stewart’s Mister Smith, they had to hold the floor continuously.

Because there were no rules limiting debate, when persuasion wouldn’t work, legislation could be suffocated by filibuster. Eventually, as pressing issues facing the country grew in number, so did demands for ways to force an end to debate. Cloture, it’s called.

That came about in 1917, when cloture was allowed if agreed to by two-thirds of the senators. Over the following forty years, it was invoked only five times. Inevitably, filibusters (from “filibusteros,” Spanish for pirates) became increasingly frequent, especially to block civil rights legislation, including laws against lynching.

It wasn’t until 1964 that a filibuster was overcome to get the Civil Rights Act approved. In 1975, the required amount of senators voting for cloture was reduced to three-fifths. Now, insidiously, that super-majority has become the default to pass all legislation except, once per fiscal year and subject to many qualifications, for “budget reconciliation.” For Mitch McConnell, filibuster is the weapon of choice. So much for the will of the people. 

“Gee whiz,” weep the Mitch-like. “Without the filibuster, the majority would have all the power. There’d be no effort at bipartisanship.” They’re right, of course. That’s why, if the Mariners are behind when the game ends, they threaten to stay on the field until the runs they need are added to the score. It’s only fair.

If anyone knows about bipartisanship, it’s Mitch. Ask the Republican leaders he gathered, literally on President Obama’s first inauguration day, agreeing to block whatever he proposed, sight unseen. Ask Mr. Justice Gorsuch. Ask President Obama, too, who included Republican demands in the Affordable Care Act and the Recovery Act, disappointing liberals, thinking (silly man) it’d garner Republican votes.

Having received much of what they wanted, they still voted no, every single one of them. Which they’re now doing to President Biden. Republicans dumped bipartisanship decades ago. Crocodile tears.

Just you wait, warns Mitch. If Democrats end the filibuster, it’ll become a “scorched earth” Senate when Republicans regain control. Really? He scorched the earth during every Democratic presidency. When that recently-defeated guy was “president,” he did it by spiking over 400 bills the majority House Democrats sent over. He did it with every Federal judge foisted by the Federalist Society, no matter how unqualified.

President Joe Biden said he prefers bipartisanship, but no Republicans voted for his plans. Therefore, he was lying. Funny thing, though, about that seventy-six-percent approval of his rescue legislation: it’s more than twenty-percent higher than his winning election margin. Which means it appeals to many Republicans; just, unsurprisingly, not the impactions in Congress. It’s only by Foxian definition that that’s not bipartisan. Joe Biden aims to be a president for all Americans, not just the far right-wing. That was the recently-soundly-defeated guy.

And how’s this for bipartisanship: after passage, several voting-no Republicans are touting the Rescue Act to their constituents as if they deserve credit. The hypocrisy is stupefying.

After their Georgia defeats, it was re-confirmed to Republicans that fair elections are their enemy. Therefore, across America, they’re busy creating legislation designed specifically to hinder voting by Democrats. If they’re able to filibuster the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which, because Democrats believe in democracy, would make voting equally accessible to all citizens and each vote given equal weight, America would become a minority-rule plutocracy. Undeniably, that’s their goal.

As used by Mitch McConnell, the filibuster has become incompatible with democracy. It needs to go. Or return to what Jimmy Stewart did, all those years ago. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Seuss Time, Loose Rhyme

I do not like you, Cancun Cruz, 
You make me mad, oh yes you do.
I don’t like seeing you on the news.
The things you say are never true.

The “doctor’s” family changed their mind.
But you said Biden canceled Seuss.
They thought some pictures were unkind.
A lie like yours has no excuse.

Some books will stop, but just a few.
I think that is a thing you knew.
Before you talk about the book, 
Maybe you should have a look.

But you are not the very worst.
You didn’t even get there first.
Your party gave up long ago.
Their actions now are all for show.

Joe Biden’s plans they’d like to ditch
Unless they help the really rich.
Their sponsors’ wishes they’ll engage,
But never raise the mini wage.

What’s that? Did I just hear a Who
Complaining loud about the debt?
Or maybe it was only you.
But Cancun Ted did you forget 

The cost, gee whiz, for goodness sakes
Of budget-busting taxes breaks
For those who needed them the least?
While people starve, your owners feast.

And I don’t like you, Fox’s Tucker.
You always make my sphincters pucker.
(The reader may my praises sing:
I did not rhyme that other thing.)

The watchers of your icky show
Just want to hear you bashing Joe.
When you pretended books were banned,
Just as you hoped, the flames were fanned.

Oh Tucker, you’re a nasty guy.
You could be honest if you’d try.
But you prefer your misdirection
And lies about the insurrection.

Why you do this I don’t know,
But I admit it is your show.
Your viewers only want your fibs,
And love it when you “own the libs”.

It is too bad that’s all you’ve got,
Because it’s causing minds to rot.
Were you like this when you were small?
Did you never care at all?

(I know I mixed the rhyming scheme,
And now there’ll be a meter change.
Does it make you want to scream?
Seuss did it, too; don’t think it strange.)

It looks like we’re stuck with both Tucker and Ted,
Who hope we’ll be madder ‘bout books children read
Than the virus that Donald so carelessly spread.
That’s how they all try to get into your head.

And to think that I saw it on Capitol Hill.
The Rs were obstructing, they’re doing it still.
They all voted not to begin the debate
And forced their poor clerks into staying up late.

Then none of them voted for giving out checks
To people in need who are up to their necks.
They’re not very nice, and of that I am sure.
They act like they’re grinches; I guess always were.

They all voted no, every woman and man,
Weren’t even trying to come up with a plan.
And now that it passed they are trying to take credit, Believe it or not a “no” voter just said it.

“Young man,” someone told me, “you’re sort of a fool. You’ll never catch plans in Republicans’ pool.
They drown all ideas there, and more by the hour.
I guess they’ll keep doing it; it’s their superpower.

If I wait long enough, if I’m patient and cool,
Some say Mitch McConnell will restock the pool
Like Republicans did when they offered a hand
To presidents all, who were leading the land.

But that was back then, when it looked like they cared, And tried to improve how America fared.
Yet now, one and all, they are turning their backs
On people with problems that each of them lacks.

Though most of the voters are in Biden’s groove,
The right-wing decided that they’ll never move
Away from obstructing no matter the harm
To the country whose Trumpists they try hard to charm. 

But they’re charming with falsehood, they know that the truth
Brings voters they fear to the next voting booth.
In every red state they are up round the clock
To figure out ways how those votes they can block.

They want to because of the good we are seeing:
Joe’s getting things done and he’s not even mean.
And unlike his former, he keeps a low profe,
Yet no one must settle for just half a loaf.

Joe meant what he said and he said what he meant
And so far he’s faithful one-hundred-per-cent.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Spewing At CPAC


If last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference is representative, the formerly respectable Republican Party is done. CPAC was a festival of white grievance, denialism, big lies and bigger, conspiracies, and tortured attacks on liberalism. Pretending that sometimes-stupid but often-appropriate (like when Fox canceled O’Reilly) “cancel culture” is a greater threat to America than Covid-19, climate change, or Trump’s sedition.

What there wasn’t, except for ways to keep Democrats from voting, was policy. Meanwhile, Democracy-protecting House Democrats passed a bill making voting more accessible to all eligible citizens.

Featuring no actual conservatives, CPAC welcomed heroes of the election-canceling insurrection. Cruz, Hawley, Brooks. Paul Gosar, fresh from speaking to a white supremacist rally. Young Madison Cawthorn, who entered politics Trumpically, with lies, phony accusations, and demonizing his opponents. It was a retinue of retrogression. 

Then, the big finish: Trump. Caring less for God’s First Commandment than the founders’ Second, the flock idolized him in a much-selfied, gilded, Bob’s Big Boy simulacrum, amusingly made in China. After ninety minutes of unearned boastfulness, repeating his debunked, judicially-rejected election lies, and decrying “cancel culture,” Trump listed political opponents he wants canceled. Standingly, the audience ovated. We love you, they testified. You won, you won. 

They love the lifelong conman who made the pandemic worse, the contrast to whose uncaring mismanagement of vaccine distribution is stark, compared to President Biden’s effective guidance. Who, with his current wife, received the vaccine in secret, presumably to avoid publically debunking his dishonesty about Covid-19. The man who told them the lies they wanted to hear and fueled their Foxified resentments since before he was “elected.”

Hyping donations to his personal PAC, his control of which is total, he dangled a run in 2024, which will end when he’s grifted enough easy money from the beguiled. In mere days, he’s already garnered millions.

If CPAC is today’s Republican Party, we’re all in big trouble. If it is, our best years, leading the world in nurturing democracy, innovation, overcoming daunting challenges, and fulfilling dreams are behind us. Then, there were two conscientious, opposing but intellectually honest parties. Then, American democratic republicanism depended on and did damn well with it. Now, always delighted to approve budget-busting tax breaks for the wealthy, not a single House Republican voted to provide pandemic relief to those in need. 

Accomplishing nothing but delaying the help, Senator Ron “small” Johnson required the seven-hundred-page bill to be read aloud. Perhaps he can’t read. In any case, helpful Republican participation is no more.

No one looking for good governance could have found it at CPAC. Absent ideas, “cancel culture” was endlessly looped, (“Freeeedummmb,” screeched Crazed Cruz) to keep the masses from noticing the competence emanating, after a four-year absence, from the White House. 

(Noted, with irony: the decision to stop publishing a few Dr. Seuss books, met with choreographed rightwing outrage, was a free-market, unregulated, capitalist business decision, made entirely by the publisher.) 

What are conservatives to do? If CPAC is the Republican Party, they have no place in it. Surely, they can’t countenance Republican leadership of Texas and Mississippi, the two states most severely affected by bad governance during the big freeze, and, despite remaining near the top in Coronavirus deaths, the first fully to reopen.

Could they rationalize aping Mitch McConnell, who unequivocally called out Trump’s culpability for the insurrection and the lies that led to it, then voted to acquit, suggesting America’s criminal justice system is the remedy; and now says he’d support Trump if he were the 2024 Republican nominee? In what way is it conservative to say, sure, the man is a dangerous, mendacious, anti-democracy criminal, but of course I’d support him?

Presumably, Trump’s promise not to start a third party was greeted with relief by McConnell. Or, more likely, resignation. Because while Mitch recognizes the debasement Trump has wrought upon Republicanism, he understands he has nowhere else to go.

So he’ll stay with the party, sixty-two-percent of whose members say they either won’t or have serious reservations about getting vaccinated. The majority of whom believe the outrageous lies he, McConnell, decried, who’ve proudly renounced reality. Nearly all of whom revere the man whose malfeasance he confirmed to the world. 

Unchanged, Republicans will have a steadily diminishing role in the future of our country, except to the extent they may rob us of one. It’s a swamp from which there seems no escape for real conservatives.

Let’s hope they find one anyway. Proposing serviceable solutions to the existential problems we face, rejecting McConnell’s obstructionism, shrinking Trump’s CPAC into a cultish anachronism: that’d be a hopeful start.

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