Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Full Of Schiff


Hinting time off last week was a case of premature evacuation. At the time, a national disgrace second only to Electoral Colleging Trump into a popular-vote-losing “presidency” had barely happened. Specifically, the action taken by the most dishonest, cowardly, hypocritical, craven, conspiracy-believing, election-lie promoting, violent insurrection excusing, enemy supporting, legislatively inert collection of Republican representatives in the history of America. None had the integrity presumed by the creators of our Constitution to condemn censuring Representative Adam Schiff. Too harsh? None. 

Led by an invertebrate “Speaker,” they lacked the constitution to resist threats from a twice-impeached, twice-indicted, proven liar; a court-ordered payer of restitution for online scams (still scamming), absconding bankrupter, daddied draft-dodger, disability-mocking, convicted sex offender; a document-stealing defiler of the Presidential Records Act, killer of thousands by pandemic dereliction, and calculated corrupter of democracy. Out of 215, not one. Standing for nothing, sheeped by his threat to primary anyone who’d vote no, they caved like Carlsbad. How long till we hear, “I was just following orders”?

Awaiting trial for thirteen counts of fraud, George Santos said his vote was “to preserve the integrity of the House.” (The Herald arrives late now; hopefully no readers were drinking coffee when they read that.) No censure for him. None for Marjorie Taylor Greene, who said of President Biden, “You’re not a president. You’re a piece of s##t.” (She spelled it out.) Instead, Kevin McCarthy made her Speaker Pro Tempore.

Her disrespectful filth was, no doubt, greeted joyously by her gerrymandees and MAGA Republicans everywhere. It’s who they are and what we’ve become, post Trump: half a nation so impervious to truth that school board members resign after threats over non-existent teaching of CRT; poll workers quit in fear after mortal intimidation by believers in Trump’s election lies; where even weathermen leave after death threats for reporting accurately on climate change. So of course they target a man despoiling their golden idol with the patina of truth.

The Republican Declaration of Dependence begins by lying that Representative Schiff lied about Trump’s collusion with Russia, goes on to accuse him of breaking up families (because, well, because ... something), ends with a requirement that, if charged by the “Ethics” Committee, he pay a sixteen-million-dollar fine. Such are the decaying entrails of a party that once, putting country first, told Nixon to resign or be impeached and removed. Must we re-state the broad-daylight collusion that took place? Must we, yet again, explain what the Muller report did and didn’t say about it?

Mr. Schiff’s impermissible transgression was meticulously unclothing the emperor, stripping him clean. The hallucinatory charges against him can be read here. Trumpists seeking Schiff’s eloquent response will find it here

Not satisfied with censuring the most effective exposer of Trump’s crimes, which they did BECAUSE of his effectiveness, House Rs, with the approval of their semi-gluteal speaker, are moving to expunge Trump’s two impeachments, undeterred by the legal impossibility. As they’ll soon vote to impeach President Biden for turning around the sinking economy, raging pandemic, and staggering deficits Trump left him with, they’ll line up for that, too.

The impeachments garnered bipartisan support, if anyone remembers; the second barely fell short of conviction in the Senate. Which is why they’d erase it, a burnt offering to their false prophet, groveling for his imprimatur, even as he treats them and their voters with a despot’s disregard for truth.

If the Republic survives Trumpism, historians may never unravel how the party of Lincoln came under the thrall of a life-long liar, an amoral, delusional, authoritarian-lite like Trump, who downplayed the pandemic, tarnished America’s standing in the world, and created fully a third of the total national debt; who coddled Earth’s worst dictators; who’s still lying about elections and stolen documents. How will historians explain Republicans cowering before a man like that?

Meanwhile, as those soulless sycophants scramble to save their sacred simulacrum from sentencing, an ex-FBI agent was ordered to prison for four years under the same Espionage Act as Trump’s charges, for the same crimes; except she didn’t lie about taking documents, flaunt them, force others to break the law, or ignore subpoenas.

Decades ago, our democracy functioned by having two responsible political parties, opposing, but equally principled. It can’t continue when one has devolved into nothing but meretricious vindictiveness. Name a piece of legislation they’ve produced, let alone became law, that benefits average Americans; anything but “stick-it-to-the-libs,” “get-me-on-Foxmax” vacuity. Yeah, me neither.

House Republicans have acted disgracefully since they squeaked into majority. It’s not just the disgracefulness that’s disgraceful: it’s how proud they and their voters are of it. The more Trump lies, the more crimes he commits, the further they lower themselves to defend him, placing party stratospherically above country. In censuring Adam Schiff, they dishonor themselves and America. Count on much worse to come.

Prose too purple? We need more purple, not less.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Pre-packaged Lies

It’s becoming impossible to know where to start, as Trump and Congressional Republicans, having nothing legitimate with which to attract voters, are increasingly turning to lying to defend the indefensible. Unequal justice when it comes to Trump and Trumpists vs President Joe Biden and Democrats, for example. Last week, RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel stated, unblinking, on national tv, that Hillary Clinton had never been investigated. (cf: “How stupid do you think we are,” below.)

Not to be left in dissembling’s dust, Mike Pence attested, on Meet The Press, that no BLM rioters were arrested during the George Floyd protests. They were, of course. Around three hundred, as a matter of what’s commonly known as fact. Amusingly, had they not been, it’d have been on Trump’s DOJ, not “deep-state commies.”

Then there’s the whole “weaponization of government” thing, pushed by every hat-ringed Republican and those in Congress. The same people screeching about President Joe Biden’s imaginary weaponization cheered when Trump promised he’d appoint a special counsel to go after the Bidens. Former Chief of Staff General James Mattis says he repeatedly had to discourage Trump from ordering the DOJ, FBI, and IRS to target his enemies. But he still did. Often successfully.

And Jim Jordan is promising to investigate universities whose professors are researching the hows, whys, and whats of the spread of disinformation, without which Trumpism is empty-handed. If that’s not weaponizing, what is?

Those lies compare to Trump’s about the election and everything else as a runny nose to Niagara Falls. Predicated on the same understanding, though, they’re identical: they’ve sucked in the suckers so effectively that they’ll get no pushback. Even as their legislative work is limited to pre-failed articles of impeachment against truth-telling Democrats. And censuring them.

Predictably, there’s outrage over Hunter Biden's plea deal. How unfair, right? Well, first of all, the US Attorney conducting the investigation was appointed by Trump, was kept on by Merrick Garland, rather than fired, as Trump did to several USAs investigating him. Second, plea deals are far more common than trials, whatever the crime. They’re admissions of guilt, carrying penalties. It also implies, contra countless cunning Congressional contentions, that that’s all the “there” there is. Like, so far, the iffy insinuations of President Joe Biden taking bribes.

Would a Trump-picked attorney have given Hunter, as Kevin McCarthy called it, “a sweetheart deal”? If so, whose “deep state” is it? By comparison, Trump’s pal Roger Stone defrauded the government of two million dollars in taxes; the DOJ treated it as a civil claim. Merrick Garland was, in fact, unusually hard on Hunter Biden. 

But it’s a model for Trump and those saying President Joe Biden should pardon him to save America the anguish of a trial: Cop a plea. Accept responsibility, get off lightly. If, as Trumpists believe, he loves America (he doesn’t), there’s something he could do for it: take a bit of gentlemanly jail time, accept home detention for five years or so, and agree never again to run for any office. No trial, no need to embarrass himself with under-oath testimony, like he did under no oath with Bret Baier. No on-demand riots, no supporters going to prison. A mitzvah for America. He won’t, of course.

There’s too much MAGA lying, rigging elections, keeping people ignorant through book-banning and abrogation of speech, plus bankrolling phony third-party candidates to compress into a weekly column. To the attempt, there’s a yin and a yang. On the one hand, preaching to the choir; on the other, exhorting people as impervious to factual information as a brick wall to the wind.

Last week a man canvassing for a political candidate rang my doorbell. After we exchanged names, he said, OMG, I love your column! Then, in a once and never event, he asked for a selfie. Well, I thought, maybe it’s worth it, after all. Till the next day, when I received a typically Trumpic email, responding to last week’s column: eschewing the opportunity to address, much less refute the content; dismissing my references without reading them, with a question that answered itself: “CNN, HuffPost, NY dumb do you think we are?”

Per usual for such critics, he went on to repeat whole-swallowed Foxisms, such as “sexual deviance being promoted by schools.” Inferring that, like Trumpists everywhere, he hadn’t read the indictment or the Presidential Records Act, which were central to the column, I offered to respond further (by then, there’d been two exchanges) only if he read them and explained why the indictment was insignificant and how the PRA confirmed Trump’s claims about his right to the documents he stole. Still waiting.  

Which is why it’s getting harder to see value in these writings. The enlightened know, the blinded will never see. It’s micturating in the mistral. I feel a reassessive break coming on.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Indictment Enlightment (sic)

There oughta be a rule: No one expresses an opinion on Trump’s indictment before reading
the document. It’s relatively short, and very specific. Trump-world claims it’s no big deal, but the criminality and security risks are clear: what he took, what he did about it, what he tried to do about it. 

Same for the Presidential Records Act. Read it. It belies everything Trump and the whole lying lot are claiming about his right to have retained the plunderage. Were they to read them, Trumpists would experience reality, possibly for the first time. Then they could make an informed decision whether Trump and his protectors have a) read them, b) read but failed to understand, or c) are deliberately lying, confident of getting away with it because they know their audience. (Correct answer: c)

Nothing they’re spouting about the indictment, the Presidential Records Act, or, for that matter, the equivalence of “but her emails,” is remotely true. They don’t care, because they don’t have to. Among the many interviews of save-America Trump supporters, none has said they’ve read the indictment. Not one. And they’re aggressively proud of it. “Why would I read a bunch of liberal lies,” they leer. It’s refractory ignorance, groomed, impenetrable, working exactly as designed.

These facts are indisputable: Trump’s stash included highly sensitive military and other secrets, the revelation of which would be extremely damaging to national security: human intelligence, satellite intelligence, nuclear intelligence. War plans. Even if he’d declassified them, which, by his own admission, he hadn’t, they remained the property of the US government and, out of office, per the PRA, possessing them was illegal.

Again and again, he hid them. He lied. He got others to lie. Trying and failing to get his lawyers to lie, he lied to them, too. The turpitude is stark and undeniable. He’s also lying about President Biden’s “1,850” boxes. Donated to a Delaware college, they’re from his time in the Senate, not covered by the PRA. And, contra the emanations from Trump’s disordered mind, President Biden had the FBI search them for classified content. Twice. To defend Trump is to defend rank criminality. Why? 

Realizing Trump was lying about returning them, the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago out of concern that government secrets could fall into the wrong hands. In fact, they had already fallen under wrong eyes: the indictment confirms he showed some to people who had no business seeing them, no security clearance. Including, according to America’s greatest patriot, Kid Rock, Kid Rock. Plus he left them in public locations, access to which was unrestricted. One place gives new meaning to the term “document dump.”

Lindsegrahamic claims notwithstanding, the Espionage Act under which Trump is charged does not require evidence of spying, per se. Its scope includes exactly the unlawful possession and mishandling of classified material in which Trump engaged. Even formerly sycofantastic AG Barr agrees. Moreover, Trump’s dangerous disregard for national security was a constant throughout his “presidency.” Don't believe me, just watch.

What we’ve not heard from the reverential right are convincing explanations or defense of hoarding those secrets. Whatever they were, Trump had plans. Delivering them in return for foreign favors, maybe? Extortion? What might he already have done with them? A few months after Trump left office, the CIA sent a memo to station chiefs around the world, reminding them of increased arrest, exposure, and disappearance of undercover agents. Coincidental timing, probably. Right? 

Which is worse, Trump’s crimes or the hingeless, dangerous ways in which he’s being defended, including barely disguised calls for violence by members of Congress? Or the fact that, in the first place, a bereft political party chose as their candidate a man whose sociopathic amorality, dishonesty, law-flouting, tax evasion, fake bone spurs, scams, stiffing contractors, to list but a few transgressions, were well-known before votes were cast. Indicting a former “president” is unprecedented only because “electing” such an inevitable malefactor was unprecedented.

MAGA Republicans are framing the prosecution of Trump’s criminality as President Biden going after his leading political opponent. In fact, as the indictment makes clear, Trump’s own lawyers provided much of the damning evidence. And, unlike Trump during his time, President Biden has maintained the DOJ’s independence from him.

People connected to reality understand that a grand jury, not he, heard testimony and rendered the indictment; and that investigating crimes against the state is among the duties of the Department of Justice. It’s why they call it Justice. The only weaponization is the right’s barrage of untruths, penetrating the heart of America.

Bottom line: Trump illegally removed and retained critical government secrets, lied about it, and lied some more. Why? People defending him must have answered that question and found it satisfying. That’s the most pertinent “why” of all.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

No Alternatives

There must be a universe in which America hasn’t descended into anti-science denialism; in which all members of America’s majority religion actually followed its teachings, rather than promoting hate and fear of otherness, and elevating its amoral political “leader” to a status higher than their religious one.

Somewhere in the multiverse, America never elected a lifelong liar and flouter of the law, a narcissistic destroyer of the once-touted “guardrails” of democracy; a wrong-doer never held to account, unable to accept recant or renounce transgressions of decency and the law. Surely there’s a universe in which the party that elected him took responsibility and corrected its mistake. By producing superior candidates capable of correcting the error, refusing to reinstall the one, fealty to and fear of whom facilitated the downfall of party and country.

These Friday columns are sent in by Wednesday evening, allowing Editor Jon Bauer to lay out the opinion section on Thursday morning, for publication the next day. So, at this writing, we don’t know if the inevitable indictment of Donald Trump by Jack Smith has yet dropped. But we know the reaction.

From Republican leaders and their admitted-liar media, the meas won’t be culpa. We’ll hear of witch hunts, crazed Trump-haters, liberals seeking vengeance for something or other, rather than supporting punishment for obvious crimes, as should be the case, in a nation of laws, for all people, even former “presidents.”

We’ll hear praise of the January 6 desecrators, pretense that stealing classified documents, lying about it, and getting others to lie, too, is no big deal; and claims that, in a supernatural act, the documents became declassified the minute they were stolen.

There’ll be calls for impeachment, imprisonment, or worse, of investigators, prosecutors, and Democratic leaders, top to bottom. Trump’s poll numbers will rise. “Truthless Social” will run out of capital letters. Despite his undeniable criminality, he may still become his party’s nominee. Too late to admit their mistake. For those with time and inclination, here’s documentation of Trump’s crimes, created by former prosecutors, which they propose would be similar to Jack Smith’s “prosecution memo.” 

But what alternative candidates are there? Ron DeSantis, whose campaign is based entirely on constantly repeating his too-clever-by-three-quarters phrase, “woke mind virus,” the definition of which boils down to acceptance of differences among fellow humans and resistance to banning books and words. (Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, not yet and hopefully never a candidate, just signed a law requiring imprisonment of librarians who allow children to see books she’s banned. Other red state governors are in line.)

Nikki Haley, the “reasonable one,” just blamed the fact that a third of girls have contemplated suicide on fear of sharing a bathroom with a trans girl; something that happens rarely and so what? Girls’ bathrooms have stalls, not urinals. And she doesn’t like red flag laws because she doesn’t “trust the government to enforce them.” As opposed to whom? The NRA?

Chris Christie, whose weight is being mocked by classy, 237-pound (according to lying Ronny Jackson, MD, R-TX) fourth-grader Trump, once in trouble for hugging President Obama for his help with Hurricane Sandy, began his rehabilitation campaign by asserting that Obama deliberately divided the country.

Mike Pence, whose chances lag Hell’s snowball, kicked off his campaign with a professionally produced video, in which he says “President Biden and the radical left have weakened America at home and abroad;” a statement believed, no doubt, by the Foxified but refuted on every level by simple observation. The part of the video that insists “timeless American values are under assault” shows images of rainbow flags and trans kids. No dog whistle for Mike. A soulless bullhorn.

Most of these pretenders push the lie that children can be “groomed” to become gay or to change their sex. They push it because it works; because it’s a proven path to power when they have nothing to offer for average Americans. Granted, children can be groomed to accept sexual molestation; we hear of it, roughly weekly, being done by various youth pastors and anti-LGBT, pro-life politicians, as well as “patriotic” militia members. And, for sure, taught to be racist. But not to become gay. Or to switch gender. It doesn’t happen.

The lie that sexual identity is chosen, or “groomed,” as opposed to inborn, is second only – or maybe, in terms of harm to vulnerable people, first – to Trump’s election lies. The science – yes, science! – is compelling, and deepening steadily. Pushing the lies, attacking our most vulnerable for political gain is cynical, un-Christian cruelty at its worst.

Having run out of space, we finish by quoting noted social scientist, Wanda Sykes: “Until a drag queen walks into a school and beats eight kids to death with a copy of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, I think you’re focusing on the wrong s[tuff].”

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