Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Overheard ...


Mar-a-Lago, 8/23/23 (Some words may have been mis-transcribed): 

Serial Conspirator, Unindicted Malefactor #1: “If I may suggest, Your Heinous, can you tilt your chin down just a bit more? If you’ll note in the mirror, chins three and four are still showing.” 

#PO1135809: “I make the best tilt. No one knows tilting like me. People are saying.”

SCUM #1: “Yes, Sir. Of course. We’ll just raise your collar and tighten the tie. There. See? Gone like that Iraq invasion plan. Now try turning your eyes upward. Like Nicholson in The Shining. That’ll be a perfect pose.” 

#PO1135809: “Perfect as my phone calls.” [Reaches for cheeseburger.]

SCUM #1: “More glower, too, Your Disgrace. Not just anger. Your people want menace. That ‘I’m coming after you’ vibe. They’ll eat it up. Open their wallets.”

#PO1135809: “Easy. Watch this.” [Thinks Stormy Daniels, mushrooms.]

SCUM #1: “Excellent! That’s it, Your Loudship. If there wasn’t going to be a mugshot, we’d make that one. Gold mine.”

#PO1135809: “Shirts, trading cards. Posters. NFTs. So much easier than selling steaks and vodka, hiring professors, owning casinos. Shoulda run years ago. Best sc... cashflow ever. Can you make my eyebrows flare upward?”

SCUM #2: “Here’s some gel, Your Travesty. Now, about merchandizing. Templates are ready, soon as the mugshot is released. Xi’s charging a buck-fifty for the shirts, so I’m thinking we sell for twenty-five.”

#PO1135809: “No way. Thirty-five minimum. They’ll pay anything. They think I’m God-given. If I believed in Him, I would, too.”

SCUM #2: “Thirty-five it is, Your Holeyness. Now we need a slogan. That ‘coming after you’ thing works. Proud Boys love it. Plus, it’s a double entendre that women might like.”

#PO1135809: “Who’s Double Aunt Andre? Anyway, no. Never surrender. Means whatever you want. The best words. Got Vlad’s go-ahead.”

SCUM #2: “Right you are, Miser Precedent. As always.”

#PO1135809: “Can we fit in something about the Presidential Records Act? It’s one of my favorite lies. Lines. I meant lines.”

SCUM #1: “Too wordy for a tee shirt, Empire. Maybe a poster.”

#PO1135809: “Do it. I hear I can report my own height and weight. Gonna go with six-three, two-fifteen. [SCUM #2 coughs.] Plenty of believers. They make pictures of me as Superman, y’know. [Gloms another cheeseburger.] Now about the motorcade. Secret Service, all in. Where are we with Fulton County? I want fifty cars. Flashing lights. More than Kim, MBS.”

SCUM #3: “Working on it. Fifty might not float, though, Your Warship. They’re saying thirty. Thirty-five tops.”

#PO1135809: “Not good enough. Remind them I know things. They’ll cave like loser Lindsey did. Well, maybe if they let me push the siren button...”


Somewhere in Columbus, Ohio, couple years ago:

Vivek Ramaswamy: “I’m bored. Any ideas?”

Pal #1: “I dunno. Movie?”

VR: “Nah. Think I’ll run for President.”

Pal #1 “Wow, okay. Wow. You know you haven’t voted much, Viv. Could be a problem. But, hey, why not? You’re rich. Which party are you thinking?”

VR: “Good question. I’ve given money to both. Thing is, Democrats’ policies are complicated. I’d need to do a lot of reading, harder to fake it. Republicans, it’s simple, snappy. Buzzwords. Look at Trump. Barely political, registered Democrat. Was even pro-choice (obviously). Flipped Republican, realized fear and resentment would work. Genius. They loved the lies, ignored his past. Doesn’t even speak in actual sentences.

I haven’t voted much? BFD. I’ll say what Trump says, but smarter. Make a list, reel it off every chance I get. Maybe add a couple more. If I sound Trumpy enough, my name thing goes away.”

Pal #2 “Brilliant. How ‘bout these, just spitballin’ here: God is real. There are two genders. Human flourishing requires fossil fuels. Reverse racism is racism. An open border is no border. Parents determine the education of their children. The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to mankind. Capitalism lifts people up from poverty. There are three branches of the U.S. government, not four. The U.S. Constitution is the strongest guarantor of freedoms in history.”

VR: “Excellent. Little wordy, couple of them, clunky, but hits the notes. Profound-sounding. Thing is, the Constitution confuses me. Maybe leave that one out. Also, why not five branches? More punchy, get them talking. And let’s not mention fossil fuels. I don’t mind cheating or pandering, but look around...”

Pal #2: “Yeah, we get that. But if you want Republican votes and oil money, rednecks in pickups, Laura Ingraham, Alex Jones, you gotta deny climate change, no question. We can afford air conditioning. Not our problem.”

VR: “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s do it. Maybe I’ll flash my cool-guy rap skills, get the young vote. If I say Trump was the best president ever, will people ask why I’m running against him? No? Good. Okay. Now, Russian TV will be easy. How do we get on Fox?”  


Speaker’s office, today:

SINO: “Still no evidence.”

MTG: “Impeach.”

SINO: “Okay.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Killer Cults

No matter in what way one believes humankind came into existence, its current state shows the process was anything but perfect. Unable to grasp the rarity, the obligations of being alive, if ever so briefly, a subset of humans is ruining it, through selfishness, rancor, and intentional ignorance. Enough of them, anyway, to outweigh those who’ve managed to rise above outdated, primitive, and destructive instincts. Even in the minority (we’d like to think), they’re capable of destroying what we’ve been given. And they’re trying.

Perhaps there’s a reason – evolutionary or creationist – that there lingers among so many the need to give cultish, unquestioning devotion to authoritarian figureheads like Trump. “Drink the Kool-Aid,” after all, came from people so willing to submit to Jim Jones that they self-extinguished when asked. Small, isolated cults have always been around, often ending in mass suicide. “Heaven’s Gate” was another.

As difficult as it is to explain such people, they’ve tended to leave the rest of us mystified but unaffected. The cult of Trump, on the other hand, threatens us all. And not just one at a time, like people who fly rainbow flags or wear unwhite skin, but as a country, and, ultimately, as they deny climate change, as a species.

Surrendering to primordial instinct, genuflecting to Trump, a mendacious, solipsistic, embittered man, they’ve closed their minds to what it portends. In our lopsided democracy, they have all the power they need.

What explains the persistence of this deferential defect? Unless one believes a creator made us in his image and, therefore, must be imperfect (because we are), it argues for evolution. No evolutionist suggests it has achieved perfection; once-beneficial, now-destructive behaviors remain, to our detriment. Who knows why?

But it’s a philosophical dead end. For whatever reason, millions of Americans, and more around the world, haven’t the ability, or desire, to rise above prehistoric, reflexive fear and distrust of otherness. Having persisted for eons, that primal instinct may never disappear. In a graduation speech, Illinois Governor Pritzker put it this way: “The best way to spot an idiot: look for the person who is cruel... We survived as a species by being suspicious of things we aren’t familiar with... In order to be kind, we have to shut down that animal instinct... Empathy and compassion are evolved states of being... The kindest person in the room is often the smartest.” (The ellipsis-free version is here.)

The governor has it right, though he might have chosen otherly than “idiot;” applied to themselves, Trumpists don’t like that word. But theirs is a caveman’s worldview: fearful, paranoid, brutish. So-called Christians, in their devotion to Trump they’ve chosen cruelty over compassion. They want to erase kindness and empathy altogether, dismissing them, sneering, as “woke,” attributes to abhor. Texas, Florida, Arkansas, and, increasingly, all red states, are legislating and touting governmental cruelty. If there are conservatives who are disturbed by the trend, they’re shut out and silent. If they could be a force for returning their party to positivity, they choose or dare not.

Why so pessimistic? According to a recent poll, seventy-one percent of Trump supporters trust him for the truth more than family, friends, conservative media figures, or religious leaders. Given his tens of thousands of documented lies (not counting his business scams and failures), it fits with their disregard for his indictments and with the definition of a cult: Gullibility. Unquestioning belief. Self-abnegating obedience. Rather than sequestering in the forests of Guyana, though, or a boarded-up house in San Diego, this cult is embedded in plain sight within the Republican Party, calling the shots, setting the agenda, picking the targets of their Stone-Age thinking.

Much has been written about differences in brain functions between self-described conservatives and liberals. Gut-reactors vs. evaluators, in shorthand. No doubt, the differences would be most dramatic if the comparison specified Trump’s cultists rather than generic conservatives. Although there are stories of people successfully rescued from cults, for most it seems that, once in, there’s no escaping. Cults attract people who need to retreat from reality, who’d rather be told what to believe than make the effort required to think for themselves.

Some polls suggest cracks in the heretofore impenetrable, Foxotrumpian information-repelling wall. Among all Americans, Trump’s approval is dropping; as opposed to rising among his acolytes. Republican plutocrats appear to be taking note. Assessing the near-impossibility of a majority vote for Trump in a head-to-head election – not even in the antiquated Electoral College – and finding no one else worth purchasing, they’re surreptitiously backing third-party candidates; in particular, “No Labels,” designed specifically to pull votes from President Biden, deja-vuing Trump in through the back door.

The only way to get Republicans to rejoin our democracy, though, is a thorough trouncing of Trump at the polls. Then, maybe, they’d also stop supporting idiots (sorry) like those comprising the Freedom Caucus. The cult can easily find a new prevaricator. George Santos, perhaps?

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Showing Us Who They Are


“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Applied to today’s Republican Party, this insight from Maya Angelou is especially pertinent. At the beginning of its abandonment of good governance, the party’s fall from rationality was cloaked in the “Aw, shucks,” play-acting congeniality of Ronald Reagan. Now, having latched, like suckling pigs, onto a known associate of mobsters and a lying, scamming defendant in hundreds of lawsuits before being “elected,” they’re broadcasting who they are, megaphonically, unabashed; as if given permission by Trump. 

Take Wisconsin, where, in the election of 2018, Democrats received 53% of the vote but got only 36 seats in the state legislature. Compare to Republicans, who got 44% of the votes but won 63 seats. That’s the power of gerrymandering on the grandest of scales; upheld, of course, by Wisconsin’s right-wing majority Supreme Court. But now, in a special election, a liberal lady whose name is hard to spell was elected to the court by a resounding margin, switching the majority to liberals. Has the Republican legislature, modeling Democrats Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton, accepted the will of the people? Of course not.

Aping their counterparts in Congress, they’re threatening to impeach Justice Protasiewicz, whose high crime is defeating their candidate. She had campaigned, among other things, on reconsidering gerrymandering. “Foul,” cry Republicans. “She can’t pre-judge an issue!!” Well, isn’t stating a position a corollary of electing judges? She advocated for majority rule, and the majority elected her. Like the majority rejecting Trump, only opposite.

Who else shows us who they are? Matt Gaetz. Last week, alongside Trump, MAGAlly rejecting democracy, he proclaimed, “... [O]nly through force can we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington DC." Confirming the hypocrisy that’s become central to Republican leadership, he also hinted that “when” Trump is elected, he’ll become his Attorney General. As they “investigate” President Biden’s imaginary “weaponization of government,” they’re all in on protecting and excusing Trump, who is campaigning explicitly on weaponizing all aspects of the Executive Branch against his perceived enemies. To cheers from crowds and complicity from Congress.

Who else? Proctocranial Ted Cruz, who described the indictments of Trump as “... an abuse of power by angry Democrats who've decided the rule of law doesn't matter anymore." Which begs a paraphrase of Ms. Angelou’s’ warning: “When Republicans accuse Democrats of something, believe it’s projection.” Because, dismissing the indictments, with their detailed explanations of how Don Trumpleone and his fellow racketeers broke the law, it’s Cruz and his companion facilitators of Trump’s lawlessness -- like trying to subvert a lawful election – who manifestly reject the rule of law.

And here’s proofless profiler Jim Jordan: "Today’s indictment is just the latest political attack in the Democrats’ WITCH HUNT against President Trump. He did nothing wrong!" Ninety-some counts of criminality suggest otherwise. Trials and juries of citizens agreed to by both sides will decide. It’s the rule of law, which Democrats, alone, are pursuing. Truth. Justice. The American way. 

There’s plenty more “believe-who-they-are” actors. Like thirty-six other Republican Congressional denizens, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson previously signed a letter to Attorney General Garland demanding special counsel status for David Weiss, the Trump-appointed US Attorney who’s been investigating Hunter Biden, interference-free, for five years. That status gives Weiss more latitude and a wider investigatory playing field. But when Garland did so, Johnson blasted right through the hypocrisy roof, saying, “Weiss is probably the least independent person that Merrick Garland could have appointed.” So said they all

Johnson reveals who they are in other ways, too. To a right-wing TV host, he once said, about the pandemic, “This is all pre-planned by an elite group of people... [who want] to take control of our lives.” Fits right in. As does Lauren Boebert, about whom a wag once said, “Lauren Boebert calling for the abolishment of the Dept of Education is like chlamydia speaking out against amoxicillin.” Not really relevant to the current discussion, but a welcome mood-lightener. Who they are, plainly, is lunacy personified. And they’re reelected for it.

Kangaroo Courtesan James Comer had more to say: Just when they were readying their proof of President Biden’s impeachable crimes, he whined, Garland made the special counsel announcement, derailing their plans. In ways dastardly but unspecified. Golly. Does that mean we’ll never hear their evidence?

Nor should we ignore servile Lindsey Graham, once a clear-eyed, factual critic of Trump, who just said of the Georgia indictments that Trump's fate "should be decided at the ballot box." Isn’t that what happened in 2020, Lindsey? Cruzing for another insurrection? Should all criminality be subject to public vote? Rob a bank, run for office. Lunacy.

Fani Willis’ indictment is devastating. It’s also moot. On Monday, when Trump promises to produce “conclusive” proof of his innocence, it all goes away. Hidden under Mike Lindell’s pillow all this time.

Update: Dang. He canceled his press conference. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Illegitimi Non Condescendum

As much as public education and non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-heterosexual, or immigrant Americans, so we’re told, Trumpists hate being condescended to. So this column assumes that all such readers have fully familiarized themselves with and assimilated the contents of Jack Smith’s January Six indictment. Because they value enlightenment, they will have read it word for word. Or had it read to them. Or, in their pickups bearing Trump 2024 and F**k Biden flags, listened to the eight-track version narrated by Jason Aldean.

Having done so, they’ll have understood the lies behind Trump’s and his communals’ claims of criminalizing speech and thought. They’ve recognized that, like all of Trump’s and his media mouthpieces’ efforts at gaslighting, it’s the opposite. It begins, in fact, with clear statements that Trump has the right to continue his unbroken streak of lifelong lying, to his amygdala’s content. And they’ll have internalized this tidbit among many in the indictment: “Jan 3. When the Chairman and another advisor recommended that the Defendant take no action because Inauguration Day was only seventeen days away and any course of action could trigger something unhelpful, the Defendant calmly agreed, stating Yeah, you're right, it's too late for us...”

They’ll have understood why the indictment spends the first several of its forty-five pages enumerating the manifold times Trump was told his election lies were lies. And that it sources truth-telling, even from some people within his collection of cacoethic collaborators and many more outside; and the data on the basis of which he was so informed. If he still believed, he’s dangerously deranged and should be barred (!) from future office. If not, he’s a malignant liar who oughtn’t be trusted with a driver’s license, much less nuclear codes.

Nevertheless, the need to prove he believed he won (“all fifty states”) is, like the First Amendment claims, irrelevant; the indictment isn’t about either. It’s about using those lies, or psychoses, as the basis for creating buy-in to conspiracies to defraud the US government and its citizens; plotting to deprive voters of their Constitutional right to have their votes counted. Fraud, of course, is something of which Trump is even more of a practitioner than marital infidelity.

Nor is it protected speech. And, contrary to the declaration from the most recent of his revolving-door lawyers, who admitted attempting to overthrow an election is “a technical violation of the Constitution” but not “a violation of criminal law,” it IS. The consigliere also posited that since the unconstitutional fake elector cabal failed, it was merely “aspirational,” of no legal import. Like a bank robbery thwarted by calling the cops.

Less implicit in the indictment, probably still working its way through neuro-Trumpic pathways to their cerebral cortices, is debunkery of the notion that indicting a former “president” makes America a “banana republic.” Comes Mister Tallyman to tally they banana: Were we such a nation, Trump would have been rounded up long since, imprisoned without trial, left in solitary confinement till the next revolution. Prior to which, he might have been paraded, chained, through the town square, to jeers and taunts by the six-foot, seven-foot, eight-foot bunch.

But this is America. Trump’s crimes have been investigated for months, the vetted evidence therefrom presented to a grand jury of ordinary citizens, who concluded there were grounds for indictment. And he’ll have a trial in which he can defend himself.

If these facts could theoretically be grasped by the undeserving-of-condescension, they’re unlikely to disabuse them of the belief that calling Trump to account for his crimes is senile, sleepy, but somehow evil genius Joe Biden taking down his prevailing political opponent. That there’s no evidence of presidential involvement is no more convincing to the MAGAnlightened than the lack of proof of electoral fraud. Or of President Biden’s over-hyped, under-happened criminality.

Likewise, Trump’s insistence that the indictment’s timing proves deliberate election interference because Special Prosecutor Smith could have presented it sooner, dismisses the many months of delays occasioned by Trump’s claims of executive privilege and ignoring of subpoenas. In fact, he could get past it at least a year before the 2024 election, simply by demanding the speedy trial to which he’s entitled, by law.

His newest media-flooding lawyer also wants a venue change to West Virginia, because it’s “more diverse” (wink, wink) than D.C. The reality? West Virginia: 92% White, 3% Black; DC: 40% White, 45% Black. It seems Trump is deliberately choosing idiot lawyers to strengthen his case for innocence by virtue of following bad legal advice.

If the preceding amounts only to desperation and baseless, losing arguments, there’s a powerful case Trump has yet to make: Given his childish, schoolyard insults hurled hourly on “Truthless Sociopathic,” including whining that Nancy Pelosi was being “mean” when she called him a “scared puppy,” he could legitimately argue it’s a miscarriage of justice to try him as an adult.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Indictment, Shmimdictment

Tuesday’s long-awaited, overdue, thoroughly justified indictment for Trump’s crimes against the Constitution and all Americans, including conservatives, won’t change minds. Unconvinced? Then you haven’t watched interviews at his rallies. Actual quotes:

“He could murder someone on the White House steps and it wouldn’t bother me.” “He loves America. (Except for its form of government.) No president has done as much for us.” (True, if, by “us” is meant people given permission to hate the LGBTQ community, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, Democrats, and wokeness (whatever that is). “The election was stolen.” Then why is there no proof? “Because the deep state (whatever that is) covered it up.” “I don’t like Biden’s economic policies.” Which ones? “I can’t think of any right now, but...” Spoken by a finance-major president of Young Republicans. “I love his Christian values.” No examples given. “He never lies.” Said a parentally-groomed pre-teen. Truth, as they say, is still putting on its pants.

Including discussions of using the military to stay in power, little in the indictment was unknown. People able to discern facts and separate them from 24/7/666 lies recognized long ago that Trump was and remains a danger to democracy. He’s announced it, after all, promising to rid the country of “Marxists, radical leftists, and communists,” the definitions of which and distinctions between remain undefined. “Democrats,” is what he means. People who resist him. Rectifying his January 6 failure, consolidating power, he’ll eliminate fraud-free mail-in voting and all dedicated public employees, too.

Like the quoted royalists and millions of MAGAs not interviewed, those that haven’t seen through Trump’s lies never will. The results of the 2024 elections are already carved in stone. Not yet revealed, they’re nevertheless as solid as Mount Rushmore, to which Trump will add his likeness if he wins, after subtracting the liberties of half of our fellow Americans.

Which is why the happier half loves him: Their awareness of the implications is as tenuous as ten-pound line reeling a whale. Example: a recent NYT/Sienna poll indicates that ninety-one percent of Republicans who get their news from Fox "news" believe Trump has committed no crimes. His validation of their victimhood and hoped-for vengeance eclipses all else, no matter how impactful on their own lives: climate change, wealth and opportunity inequities, educated children, a healthy future for their descendants. Doesn’t matter.

Given the indicated immutability of the inevitable, let’s address other issues. Worried that Trump’s delusionals are outnumbered by Biden’s rationals, House Republicans, despite recurrent rake-stepping, lacking anything else to offer, continue to focus on clearly troubled, never White-Housed (cf: Javanka) Hunter Biden. Their latest witness, an indicted felon and, unrelated, former partner of H. B., offered testimony that deflated every claim of collusion with and bribery of President Biden. No problem: Republicans simply claimed the opposite. And why not? Amplified by their disinformative media, it works.

Grabbing opportunity like Trump does genitalia, they claimed testimony of several phone calls between father and son after the death of son and brother proves perfidy. In the party of family values, family supporting family through tragedy is, evidently, unimaginable

Remember when, pre-insurrection, Trump wanted to order the US military to attack protesting US citizens, but was thwarted by generals who believed in the Constitution? Senator Tuberville (R-Football) is currently blocking military promotions at the general officer level. Could it be collusion with Trump to allow him to appoint ones who’d agree to command what would amount to a dictator’s private army? Michael Flynn, maybe?

Not unrelated is Trump’s increasing disparagement of Ukraine, attended by his followers’ increasing support for Russia. A quid for another round of Putin’s pro-Trump election quo?

Undaunted by serial investigatory fiascos, House Republicans are still talking impeachment of President Biden. Clueless, impervious to embarrassment as House Democrats meticulously stripped credibility from each of their previous witnesses, they might still realize what will happen if they go through with it. Let’s hope not. Their speculative accusations, still free of credible proof, will be shredded by Democrats and the witnesses they call. Like Rudy Giuliani’s former go-fer, Lev Parnas, who has intimate knowledge of the falsehood of Republican mythology of Burisma/Biden/Biden bribery, and has said so. Oh, please don’t fling Joe into the briar patch! 

Re-speaking of climate change, about the daily record-breaking planetary heat of which leading Republicans have said, “It’s called summer,” here’s what to expect if they take charge: “Project 2025,” likely backed by their flagitious fossil fuel financiers, would “block expansion of the electrical grid...; slash funding for the EPA...; shutter the Energy Department’s renewable energy offices; prevent states from adopting California’s car pollution standards; and delegate more regulation of polluting industries to Republican state officials.” 

It covers undoing limits on presidential power, too. You have to really hate democracy and not care about your children and grandchildren to be okay with that. Which, as we’ve seen, perfectly fits the “MAGA” mentality. 

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