A Genius for Stupid – Don and the giant impeach

November 16th 2019

OK, I’ll grant you that when you are being impeached by the House, good days are kind of few and far between. After all, the hearings are the most public performance review of all time, and it wouldn’t be happening if enough people weren’t seriously questioning your fitness for the job.

Andrew Johnson was pretty much screwed from the get-go. A Southern Democrat who opposed succession, he was Lincoln’s idea of an olive branch to the South, and Lincoln’s assassination made sure the new President, at odds with both parties at a time when partisan fury was at its highest, didn’t have a chance in hell. It’s kind of amazing—and a credit to Johnson’s political skills—that it took nearly three years for the Republicans in Congress to fabricate a case against him He was accused of firing a member of his cabinet, an action recently outlawed by the blatantly unconstitutional Tenure of Office act. Oh, the act itself wasn’t a bad idea, but Congress tried to say it meant a president could not fire members of his own cabinet. Hello, separation of powers?

Nixon was pretty much self-screwing, but until the release of the smoking gun tapes, enjoyed fairly broad popular support. Nonetheless, the laborious and painstaking process inflicted a death by a thousand paper cuts against Nixon, who slowly unraveled as the almost two-year process finally reached a point where Congress was going to vote to impeach, at which point he resigned.

Clinton probably had the worst of it, since the Republicans were intent on humiliating him and his wife for an act that many of the Republicans—including the leaders of the impeachment movement in the House—had committed themselves. One was banging his secretary and future wife #4 at the time. Another was a kiddy diddler. Another quit one day after…something…came out of his closet. Republicans were vicious and cruel, and hypocrites.

But Trump seems intent on having the worst impeachment process of all. His worst enemies aren’t the Democrats in the House, who learned from watching Republicans disgrace themselves in their damp lust to smear Clinton, but his own allies and his own mouth—or at least, his fumbling fingers when combined with a smartphone.

Take yesterday, for example. Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to the Ukraine and victim of a vicious smear campaign to drive her out by the Trumplings, testified in open session. The smear campaign hadn’t worked, and in fact made her a more sympathetic witness. Even the Republicans in Congress realized that they would need to treat her with deference and at least the sort of respect a junkyard dog shows when someone has just kicked its ass.

Part of the testimony focused on the smear campaign (even Republicans couldn’t try to pretend it was anything other than that), and the topics of witness intimidation and witness tampering came up.

Her testimony was damaging to Trump, and half-way through, Trump, who swore he wasn’t watching the proceedings, blew up and launched a twitter attack against her. Even tried to imply that she was somehow responsible for Somalia being the mess that it is. Tactically, it was pretty much the worst move he could have possibly made. Aside from the sheer stupid boorishness of the move, there is the awkward fact that publically denigrating a witness AS SHE IS TESTIFYING, particularly when done by the defendant, is a prima facie case of witness tampering. He may as well have typed, “OK, you’re being a stoolie. A rat. You gotta dog? Your dog dies tonight.”

Speaking of which, Roger Stone was found guilty of six counts of lying to Congress and one count of witness tampering. He told the guy that if he testified, he, Roger Stone, would kill his dog.

If you want to know where Republicans get their class and dignity from, Roger Stone is a good place to start looking. He won’t be hard to find after his sentencing: federal prison, for up to twenty years.

Unless Donald Trump pardons him. That would be a catastrophically bad move politically for Trump, so I’m offering 4-1 odds that he’ll do exactly that.

Finally, Nancy Pelosi weighed in. Trump desperately needed someone in Congress who could slow the process down, and Pelosi, who was less than anxious to impeach, would have fitted the bill. All Trump had to do was treat her with a modicum of respect, and convince McConnell to take up at least some of the smaller 250 bills the House passed that the Senate will never hear, and she might have been willing to stop the impeachment process from really getting off the ground. For a while, it seems that no matter how stupid and egregious Trump got, the House wasn’t going to slap him down on it. He could have even turned Pelosi’s civility and willingness to try to find less draconian solutions against the Democrats, especially as impatience amongst non-Republicans mounted.

Pelosi used the b-word. “Bribery.” It’s what ‘quid pro quo” is the polite Latin for, and more to the point, it’s a crime explicitly mentioned in the Constitution as grounds for impeachment. Expect it to be in the articles of impeachment, and more than once. Trump lived by bribery and extortion, and he will die by bribery and extortion.

Pelosi, who has basically owned Trump for the past eighteen months or so, added this: “He [Trump] should not frivolously throw out insults, but that’s what he does. I think part of it is his own insecurity as an imposter. I think he knows full well that he’s in that office way over his head. And so he has to diminish everyone else.”

He diminishes himself pretty good. Today’s testimony came from someone named Mark Sandy who happened to be sitting at the same table as Gordon Sondland got his marching orders on how to use the Ukraine to fuck over Joe Biden. Despite knowing that Sondland was at a table surrounded by people, Trump elected to scream his demands, so loudly Sondland pulled the phone back from his ear, making Trump that much more audible to everyone else at the table. He was the first of something Republicans had been demanding: a first-hand witness, someone who could say he saw or heard this first-hand.

It’s a tribute to the impenetrable stupidity of Trump supporters that none of them asked why Trump had blocked first-hand witnesses from testifying. If they were capable of thinking…well, if they were. Trump would never have been president in the first place.

In the meantime, hope the days just keep getting worse for Trump, and not for the rest of us.

Pre-Denouement — Death by a thousand cuts for the GOP

Pre-Denouement

Death by a thousand cuts for the GOP

November 10th 2019

This coming week will see live continuous broadcast of the impeachment hearings from Congress. The testimony is expected to be devastating for Trump, particularly in light of the fact that at this point, there is no doubt that he engaged in extortion and bribery in order to try to force the Ukraine government to fabricate a case against the son of Joe Biden, at the time his most likely rival in the 2020 election.

The GOP have already got the bad news that, by the very rules they set up themselves, they can’t bring in witnesses that don’t have any particular bearing on the issues at hand, so we won’t be seeing Hunter Biden, or Monica Lewinsky, or Alex Jones, or Yosemite Sam. We’ll be seeing the people who testified in closed sessions, and they will be spending the first half of their time being examined and crossed by professional lawyers, and the Congressmen will just have to wait to do their usual five minutes declaiming about how the Deep State caused Global Warming Which Doesn’t Actually Exist, or whatever. In other words, they aren’t going to be able to try by tantrum.

Oh, and they already ruled out making the whistleblower testify publicly. I guess they figure he already got enough death threats from the Trumpentrash, who had to settle for assassinating the Trump balloon.

Republicans are planning to swap out the comically inept Devin Nunes for a live cow…no wait, I misread that. They are planning to swap him out for the quicker witted and more vicious Jim Jordan, who is simultaneously trying to persuade prosecutors that he knew nothing—nuffink—about college athletes being raped on his watch. Nunes is the one suing the cow, I forgot. Creme of the crop, those two. So we won’t see the hoped-for distraction circus of demands for birth certificates, who killed Ben Ghazi, or Newt declaiming that people who bang their secretaries while holding public office are disgraces to the nation and ought to be shot.

But that’s all this coming week. Rachel Maddow isn’t going to get a wink of sleep, but she’ll be wearing a grin you would never want pointed right at you.

For right now, the GOP is doing a magnificent impersonation of the Hindenburg disaster, minus any vestiges of sympathy for the people on board. “Oh, the serpentity!”.

The party is disintegrating before our very eyes. Usually off-off year elections, involving three or four states, grab little attention outside of the states in question. But this year the elections revealed a shift in the electorate of 20-30 points toward the Democrats in all locales and at it’s biggest in the conservative suburbs. In Kentucky, Republicans were so dispirited they didn’t even try to steal the election after the fact.

Another Republican congressman announced his retirement, and I’m guessing that between now and February, another dozen will decide not to run for reelection. That may include a couple of Senators.

Meanwhile, Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, is suing Trump – yes you read that right. A president’s chief of staff is suing him. Even the late unlamented Allan Drury would have trouble coming up with a political situation more bizarre than that one. He wants courts to affirm that he can be subpoenaed, and if he is, he must testify, and non-disclosure agreements be damned. Imagine Leo McGarry suing Jed Bartlet. No, I can’t either. But that was a sane White House. In fact, until now, they’ve all been at least more-or-less sane. Goofy and inept, but not flat-out mad. Welcome to Trumptown. Mulvaney, who gleefully copped to several of the most serious charges Trump is facing and told the world to “just deal with it” is sane enough to know he needs a court to protect him from that madhouse.

The State Department professionals are in open revolt against Trump and Pompeo for their treatment of personnel who were guilty of nothing more than obeying the law and serving the public interest. In particular they are furious over the treatment of Ambassador Yovanovitch, who was seen as a impediment to Trump’s efforts at extorting the Ukraine in hopes of dirt on a political rival. Combined with similar reports from Justice, where Barr is seen as a pig and a disgrace, to the EPA and Department of Agriculture, who are being punished for being against pollution and admitting climate change is real, it looks like in-house coups are forming all over the place.

I wonder what the Joint Chiefs of Staff are thinking. Have they decided what they are going to do if Trump unilaterally launches military action against Iran, or California?

Then there’s John Bolton. He’s mad as the mist and snow himself, but it’s a integral kind of mad; he actually has some sort of moral pedestal he uses to support his views. So he’s genuinely unhappy that Trump is kowtowing to North Korea and letting the Russians use him.

The day before leaving office, and without telling Trump—or anyone—he unilaterally released $141 million of the $400 million in military aid to the Ukraine that Trump was holding up in hopes to getting dirt on the Bidens. Even Oliver North wasn’t that audacious when he defied Congressional dictates. It was a stunning development in some genuinely interesting times.

And this morning, he announced that he signed a book deal. I think even Trump is gonna figure that this isn’t going to be a book on Bolton family recipes for lutefisk. Although what Bolton will discuss will smell even more evil. As Garrison Keillor said, “that piece of cod which surpasseth human understanding.” Or John Randolph might describe at “like a rotting mackerel in the moonlight, it alternately shines and stinks.” Bolton may not be friends with Trump, but he’s definitely going to be chummy.

Bigger fish to fry this week. Enjoy.

The Beginning of the End – Fire and Fury as Trump Regime Collapses

The Beginning of the End

Fire and Fury as Trump Regime Collapses

Nov. 3rd 2019

In a spectacle never seen before in American politics, 30 Republican congressmen stormed the secure rooms where testimony into the impeachment inquiry was being conducted. Their claim was that the meetings were secret, which was wrong, and that Republicans had no say in the matter.

In fact, the meetings were secret because House rules, set up by Republicans during the Obama administration, said it was ok to do so. And not only did the 38 or so Republicans that were on the four committees involved in the hearings have full access to those meetings, but 13 of the Republicans who staged the Brooks Brothers Riot II had access. Even by Republican standards, this reached new levels of hypocrisy, dishonesty, and sheer stupidity. The thirty Republicans involved are liars and clowns, and the Dems need to make the footage of them making their phony and ridiculous grandstanding a huge part of the election campaigns in each of their districts this coming year.

This past week, the Democrats, as planned, staged a vote to make subsequent hearings open and public. Every Republican voted against that, including the thirty mendacious clowns who protested for open and public hearings. They aren’t Congressmen. They aren’t even loyal Americans. They’re cornered rats.

Steve King re-tweeted a clever graphic of the shapes of red and blue states rearranged to resemble two rock’em-sock-em figures. Somewhat less clever was the caption, which was that the red states had something like nine trillion bullets, and so who was going to win?

Red states may have bullets, but blue states have brains. My money is on the blue states, if it comes to that. Louie Gohmert spoke openly of civil war. Louie doesn’t know his ilk lost the Civil War. And World War II.

In the meantime, a rapidly-unraveling Trump has been tweeting demands to know the identity of the original whistleblower (and some of the trash right have come up with names, putting lives at risk—in one instance, fingered by the neonazis at RedState based on the fact that he knew John McCain) and threatening retribution against whistleblowers, leakers, those called to testify and those testifying under subpoena. Each and every one of those threatening tweets is, in and of itself, a felony, and impeachable. But Trump is far too out there to understand it. In fact, he’s probably never had a non-psychotic view of how these things work.

The person who first reported to the DoJ about the Ukraine phone call has an attorney, and the attorney, with good reason, is afraid that these feckless, criminal assholes in the administration, Congress, and amongst the trash right media are going to get his client—and probably others—killed with their feverish attempts to protect their mad lump of a leader. So he contacted Devon Nunes, putative congressman and presumptive leader of the cowardly and criminal conspiracy to unmask the whistleblower, with a unique offer: the client would submit answers in writing but under oath to questions sent to him by the Republicans. Republicans only, for some unknowable reason. He would not answers pertaining to his identity. Nunes, being the kind of man he is, will probably turn down the offer, because he needs conspiracy theories and large fogbanks of disinformation in which to carry out his tawdry existence.

It’s a sign of how desperate and rat-cornered the right has become when Faux News Harpy Jeanine Pirro snapped that it was none of our business what the President does, legal or not. Someone told me she used to be an American once. Must not have been a very good one.

But this is nightmare week for Trump and the Republicans. White House attorney Eisenberg is defying a subpoena to testify under oath to the House committees. In time, he’ll probably be stripped of his license to practice law and perhaps get 30 days for contempt of Congress, but he’s of no real importance; just another corrupt and bent lawyer in a sea of pseudo-legal slime.

The main thing that has to be done is Congress must present a case so compelling that it will totally unravel any Republican political will to resist. Not only must they have sound legal evidence (which they have) but they must have such a compelling case that public and party support for Trump and his criminal administration collapses entirely.

The House moves to the open sessions, with attorneys doing examination and cross, instead of vainglorious and partisan congressional hacks shouting ‘Lookitme!” for five minutes at a time. Combined with what is already known, Trump’s guilt is beyond any possible reasonable dispute.

The release of new information from the Mueller investigation, deeply implicating Pence and Sessions and McConnell, should also provide many sweaty sticks of political dynamite.

Trump and the Republicans for now will defy any law, and most standards of civilized behavior, in order to prevent this onrushing train of judgment.

It’s up to us to make sure they don’t derail it.

If they do manage to derail it, America is lost. They don’t want to govern. They want to rule.

For a thousand years.

Taylor’s Depth Charge — Damning testimony unravels Ukraine scandal

Taylor’s Depth Charge

Damning testimony unravels Ukraine scandal

Oct 22nd 2019

Bill Taylor, acting ambassador to the Ukraine, testified before several committees involved with the impeachment process today, and while his testimony left some Democrats white-faced and shaking in shock, and some of them, plus all the Republicans, stony-faced and visibly angry, what we do know comes from his fifteen page opening statement, which leaked about an hour after the testimony (nearly ten hours!) began.

Taylor’s statement, buttressed by meticulous contemporaneous records and backed by phone logs and minutes of some meetings, removed any possible doubt that Trump wanted a quid pro quo; swapping military and other support for the Ukraine (all support of any kind, it turns out) but only on the condition that Ukraine open an investigation into Hunter Biden, and whether his father, Joe, benefited in any way, or acted improperly.

The most striking thing about Taylor’s opening statement was not only that Trump, through his wiseguys, Guiliani, Barr, Rick Perry, Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, and special envoy to the Ukraine Kurt Volker, wanted this investigation, but that he, Trump, wanted President Zelenskiy to announce to American media that Biden and his son were under investigation.

Normally, requests for investigations such as possible corruption are done secretly. You don’t want to tip the suspect(s) or their cohorts. You don’t want to (possibly) embarrass the host country. You want to protect your assets there who brought you the incriminating evidence in the first place.

You don’t demand an investigation be announced to the US audience (CNN was supposed to be the vehicle for this) unless you have one aim and one aim only: you want to embarrass and throw a cloud of suspicion over the targets of the investigation.

Given his ethics, the only interest Trump could possibly have in investigating corruption is to see if there are any new scams for him to try. The notion of Trump fighting corruption is right up there with Tony Soprano fighting organized crime.

So: Quid Pro Quo. Check. Political considerations. Check. Illegal withholding of funds. Check. Three strikes, you’re out, Donnie.

I heard a Republican today say that the party wouldn’t fabricate fake scandals against political opponents in order to embarrass them and make it difficult for them to function. I hope his relatives are looking into nursing homes.

Speaking of which, remember “her emails”? Huge scandal from 2011 through yesterday. Probably cost Clinton the election, especially after that idiot FBI director, the feckless James Comey, blew up a chunk of her support by announcing that they may have to widen their investigation of the emails based on never-presented evidence. Polls suggest Clinton lost four points of support as a result of that. That made the races in some states close enough that Trump and the Republicans could steal the White House. Hillary still won the popular vote, but in a system rigged by slave owners and fostered by neofascist authoritarians, she lost the Electoral vote.

Well, they finally closed the case on the emails today. No deliberate malfeasance by Clinton. Absolved. Not a word uttered about how of the three Secretaries of State ALSO used mail on private servers, and many members of Trump’s chaotic administration, since. At least one CNN reporter said he regretted the overemphasis he placed on that story in 2016. Thanks, asshole. Now go learn how to be a journalist. They have schools for that.

And again, speaking of which…

This week we’ve been hearing about how Hillary called Tulsi Gabbard a Russian agent. Gabbard started out as a darling of the left, but then she spouted a whole bunch of anti-gay nonsense, and it became clear that her politics were pretty incoherent outside of withdrawing all US troops world-wide, a position popular with unilaterialists and Russian trolls.

Except Hillary didn’t call her a Russian agent. She simply said that a female candidate amongst the Democrats was being groomed by the Russians to run as a spoiler third-party candidate in the general election to help Trump.

Gabbard, not the sharpest object in the sock drawer, immediately assumed Clinton was talking about her and blew up. “The guilty flee…”? I dunno. Personally, I just think she’s a dope who has no business in politics. But she sure acted as guilty as Trump to some indirect prodding from a retired politician.

Except it turns out Clinton didn’t say anyone was being groomed by the Russians. The New York Times, former journalistic endeavor, made an “oops, we screwed up” announcement today, eight days later: Clinton didn’t say anyone was being groomed by the Russians. She said someone was being groomed by the Republicans.

Now, you could argue that these days that’s a distinction without a difference, and I wouldn’t strain myself to argue the point. The GOP is top-heavy with Russian stooges, that’s for sure. But it isn’t an accurate description of what Hillary said.

Maybe the Times decided to dress it up a bit, make it more lurid, sound like something the eeevviill conniving emailing Hillary SHOULD have said. I don’t know. Maybe the New York Times is just impossibly incompetent, and need eight days to figure out they used one proper noun when they should have used another proper noun. Tomorrow’s headline might read, “Former Ukraine envoy testifies President Carter pressured with Quid Pro Quo.” What’s in a name, right?

I’m not a fan of Clinton, I don’t like her policies. But I don’t turn into a Republican at the mere mention of her name, and neither should any one else. She isn’t evil incarnate, and she’s no more a warmonger than any average American. I would remonstrate that the Times should do better, but I’m not sure they could be arsed.

Meanwhile, that head of the festering nihilism of the American right, Donald Trump, is about to fall, thanks to Bill Taylor. Savor the moment.

Barr versus God versus America – Nobody wins

Barr versus God versus America

Nobody wins

October 20th 2019

Thirty years ago, in the days of BBSes, I had a user who argued strongly for the elimination of a separation of church and state. He trotted out the usual arguments: there is no phrase in the Constitution mentioning any “wall of separation” (true) and that the founders were devout Christians who wanted Jesus to be supreme over the government (false). I countered, mentioning the ‘no religious Test’ language (which he had never heard of) and pointing out quotes by the founders that countered and even derided orthodox Christian belief. I pointed to American history, where, while a long way from serene, it remained free in large part of Christian versus Christian strife, a problem that plagued Europe from the 14th century on as Protestantism arose. Outside of the Nativist riots in Philadelphia in the 1840s, and the “Lord’s Prayer” riots in New York in the 1920’s, open fighting amongst religious factions was rare in America.

As the number of instances I cited which he knew nothing of mounted, he began to develop doubts. This was unusual; most proselytizers by then had left in a huff, declaring me an unclean liberal. I pointed out that for people supposedly spreading godly truths, religious authorities sure left a lot out of their narratives.

Then I told him this: that church and the state were two very different things. The Church saw to spiritual needs, and answered to an authority that brooked no dispute. The State saw to secular needs, and in western democracies, at least, was an endlessly malleable tool of the people and conflicting interests. One represented eternal truths. The other represented an infinite range of open answers. One claimed certainty; the other advanced through uncertainty.

Being so diametrically opposed, it was impossible to blend the two without corrupting both. The fluidity of politics undermines the absolutism of the Church: the rigidity of the church undermines the adaptability of politics. And both are susceptible to the temptations of power; politicians would love to have true believer followers; Churches want to extend their power so they have control over people’s lives outside of church.

No, the fellow I was debating with didn’t stop being a Christian or advocating his theology. He did, however, stop being a Dominionist. He understood why there was a wall, and that both Church and State benefited from that wall, and the rest of us from the depredations of a combined Church and State.

There were two things in the news this week that reminded me of that long ago conversation.

First was an extraordinary speech that William Barr gave at Notre Dame. Barr, purported Attorney-General, Opus Dei and Trump Thug blamed “modern secularists” for inflicting a “moral pathology” on America which lead to drug abuse, rising suicide rates and illegitimacy. (All of which are at their worst levels in the so-called ‘Bible Belt’). He went on to claim ‘secularists’ (presumably anyone who is not conservative Catholic) were engaged in “organized destruction” of everything that is good and holy in America, Donald Trump in particular. Yes, he claims Donald Trump is godly.

As if we needed further evidence that mixing church and state degrades both. The nation’s top cop feels that the 96% of Americans who aren’t conservative Catholic are moral scum; he also considers that prime example of moral scum, Donald Trump, to be godly.

The other story to catch my attention was the Pew Poll on religion in America. This isn’t the big decennial poll—that’s five years off. But they do smaller polls of the state of religiosity in America every year, and this years highlighted a growing trend: Christianity is in decline, while ‘no religion’ is on the rise. Twenty two percent of Americans have no religion (roughly a third of whom are either atheist or agnostic) and self-described Christians make up about 70% of the population, down from 78% in 2007. The non-believers crowd was about 16% in 2007. About half of that change occurred since Trump took office.

Largest decline was amongst Evangelical Protestants. While many may be repulsed by their corner’s blind adoration of the vile and amoral Trump, wouldn’t it be more in line for them simply to go to a different branch of Christianity, one that didn’t sell out its principles for an allegiance with Trump? The poll suggests that isn’t what’s happening, because while numbers punish the evangelicals more the the rest, it’s because they are a bigger part of Christianity in America. The percentage of each type of Christianity abandoning their faith is remarkably consistent. Dominionists and Unitarians are both losing members, even though they are very nearly opposites in belief and relation to secular power.

So even as the Catholic Church and the GOP are having fun degrading one another and America, something ELSE is going on.

I suspect that that three decade-old conversation I had is something that has become more and more common around the web, and more and more, true believers are encountering harsh realities that prove their faith is based on belief but not supported by facts; not just the relatively mild element of separation of church and state, but over bible literalism versus the actual world. More and more Christians find themselves uncomfortable with denying that evolution is real, or that climate change is occurring, or that they have a hammerlock on emotional and moral stability. Every day on the web, they encounter items that prove that their beliefs, based supposedly on immutable truths, are false.

My conversation was unusual, as noted, because the guy was willing to listen, and wonder. Others took longer. But now, with such knowledge universally available, and more and more undeniable, people are realizing that theocracy has let them down. And worse, the government of the United States has embraced a toxic form of Christianity to its own ends, making the argument for separation of church and state irrefutable.

Expect this trend to continue. But also expect increasing tides of reactionaryism against this trend. Trouble looms.

Impeachment Barriers

Some Dragons are Imaginary

October 13th, 2019

There’s a lot of concern among the talking heads who aren’t just poseurs from the far right about why impeachment simply cannot get rid of the pestilence in the White House because it’s never succeeded before. Similarly, there is endless speculation about what might happen if Trump is impeached, convicted by the Senate, and refuses to leave.

Some of the concerns are well-founded, and some are grave enough that they need to be considered seriously. The coming impeachment is going to be a very tense and dangerous time for the country and anyone who says they know what’s going to happen is lying to you.

However, there is no acceptable solution that allows Trump to remain in office. He himself is the gravest and most immediate danger the country faces, and his behavior and words show that he has absolutely no compunction about sacrificing the country and the people therein to his own desires.

Yes, kicking him out is dangerous. So dangerous that the only thing more dangerous is allowing him to stay.

We’ve already passed a few of the ‘insurmountables’ that people said made impeachment a pipe dream. As recently as a month ago, only a dozen or so Democrats were willing to say publicly that they favored an impeachment inquiry, and it was ‘conventional wisdom’ that with the Republicans united and the Democrats divided, the impeachment process in the House could not begin. Obviously, that has changed, with only a few Democrats silent on the impeachment process, and disarray growing rapidly in the Republican ranks.

Another argument was that the public would never go for it. It wasn’t baseless: as recently as two weeks before he resigned, Nixon enjoyed 50+ favorable ratings, higher than any Trump has seen since he took office. The day he was impeached, Bill Clinton’s approval rating rose to 73%. It’s safe to assume Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was deeply unpopular, even though Johnson himself was unpopular. Johnson and Clinton were both impeached for political purposes, and the public knew that, and detested Congress’ abuse of its power to impeach. In the case of Nixon, when the “smoking gun” tape was released, his support, both in Congress and the public, collapsed, and only his resignation prevented a full-on impeachment and trial which he would have surely lost.

The scandal with the Ukraine, as manifestly, obviously criminal as it was, is just one of many smoking guns. Trump, after all, admitted he did it, and offered the defense that it’s not illegal when the president does it. That defense didn’t work for Nixon, and it won’t work here.

However, there are at least two dozen other criminal acts where any competent district attorney would have little or no reason to avoid taking to trial, based just on the available evidence. At least some of the crimes involve bribery, one of two specific crimes deemed impeachable in the Constitution. The other is ‘treason,’ and while he technically can’t be guilty of that as the United States is not formally at war with anyone, he is still committing actions to the detriment of the country, and in some instances, it can be shown that he did so for personal gain, or to cozy up to other authoritarians at the expense of Americans. This week’s nightmare decision by Trump to allow the Turks to invade Syria and massacre the Kurds has a lot more people questioning Trump’s patriotism than there were last week.

Another objection is that McConnell would prevent a Senate vote on the impeachment evidence. That’s not likely since the Senate MUST hold a trial for findings of impeachable crimes by the House. No wriggle room there, and McConnell may be bent, but he isn’t stupid. The public is watching, the evidence is overwhelming, and the blowback would destroy him and his party. Nor does he have the option of holding a farce process; Chief Justice John Roberts will be presiding, and unlike most of the Republican appointees of late, he seems determined to be a justice first and a member of the Heritage Society second. He’s certainly no liberal, and will vote for corporate interests every time, but he’s not a hack. He isn’t going to let McConnell make him look like an ineffectual clown. And with cracks already showing amongst once-solid Republican ranks, the flood of testimony and evidence should make it impossible for the Senators to stand and vote on a kangaroo trial. Many of them have already figured out that the only thing worse than having Trump as an enemy is having Trump as an ally.

People think the courts will protect Trump. But thus far, he has lost every single court battle relating to investigations into his possible criminality. Every single one. And at the final level, the Supreme Court, while Alito, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Thomas are GOP hacks, the rest aren’t—including, critically, John Roberts. And even Alito and Gorsuch might concede that Trump does not have a valid defense in his appeal. At the very worst, they understand that a blatantly political decision would permanently damage the Court. It’s still trying to recover from Bush vs. Gore.

Most dictators are astute enough to keep their corruption as hidden as possible. Trump couldn’t be bothered with such sublime considerations, and it puts his supporters more and more in the position of appearing corrupt themselves just by blindly supporting him. Republicans know they can’t get away with much trying to protect Trump now, and with each passing day, Trump gives them fewer and fewer reasons why they should protect him.

Trump has already suggested that the Democrats might spark a civil war by persecuting him. Most people took that as a dog-whistle to both the military and his loonier cult followers. While there are a lot of Dominionists and other ultra-righties in the military, it’s not a given that they would take Trump’s side to spark a civil war. While he may be their Commander in Chief, an order to round up his political foes and falsely detain them would be an unlawful order (the technical term is ‘lynching’). In a more practical stance, those members of the military (hopefully a small minority) who dream of staging a military coup to rid the nation of goddless librul commies might reconsider the wisdom of such if it meant Trump would be dictator-for-life.

Among patriotic members of the military, this week’s misadventures with Syria and the Turks and the subsequent slaughter of Kurds destroyed any illusions of Trump’s concern for the national welfare. The deliberate targeting of American troops by the Turks, led to an ignominious retreat by the US military and the abandonment of their allies, the Kurds. It didn’t help that Trump snorted disparagingly that the Kurds weren’t our allies in World War 2. They were, in fact, and played a key role in keeping Hitler from invading the oil fields in the middle east. The Turks, however, were not.

It was a disgraceful moment for America and America’s military, and the most likely motive was that Trump wanted to do Turkish despot Erdogan a solid in order to protect business interests he had in Turkey.

So no, the military isn’t likely to go to war against America on Trump’s behalf.

That leaves Trump’s more lunatic followers. Yes, they are a danger. But to be an effective danger, they would need to form a Resistance to back their terror cells, and a Resistance requires widespread popular support, and that just isn’t there. A lot of his support remains loyal Americans who want to support the GOP, and he’s making it harder and harder for that to remain a tenable position. Few of them are willing to kill or be killed by their countrymen in the name of Trump.

As I said at the start, these are very dangerous times. There’s always a bugger factor. America is weak and divided right now, and that could pose an invite to unfriendly interests abroad. Trump, knowingly or not, could stumble us into a major war. A natural catastrophe could persuade the nation to put politics aside, wisely or not. There’s a million things. I just gave opinions on a half dozen of the most likely scenarios.

Meanwhile, keep a close eye on the news, and be ready to jump.

Paging Jaime Lannister – GOP realizes Trump is a liability

October 10th, 2019

CNN’s Don Lemon was trying to figure out why Republicans were so gleeful in their ignorance of just how deep and profound the huge scandal surrounding Trump really was, and their willingness to dismiss it as just a propaganda conspiracy. “Well, I wanted to ask, as I see the apologists for the president, especially on conservative media, they seem gleeful in their ignorance,” Lemon said. “What is so gleeful about being ignorant or about misleading the public?”

Mainstream media keep trying to pretend Republicans are a normal political party. They aren’t, haven’t been for years. They’re a cult, a cult that has finally found its god-figure. Since they are cultists, they consider anything said against their leader to be lies from non-believers, and they take pride in the faith and strength they show in ignoring the siren call of the atheistic nonbelievers. The ignorance is real, if wilful, and the “glee” is the calm belief that they are doing what it takes to get to the promised land. In Trump We Trust, assholes.

Trump obviously believes he can lie his way out of anything, anything at all. To give you a (relatively) minor example of his utter cynical depravity, he quietly instigated a policy of not renewing temporary visas for kids here for life-saving medicine. Most of the kids would not get the care they needed at home, and many of them would die in short order. The story went public on the Rachel Maddow show, and after a stunned silence of several days as an incredulous media had to convince itself this was really happening, the story exploded in the face of the administration.

After a few days of increasing public outrage, some Trump flack announced the policy was rescinded, and Trump wouldn’t be sending a bunch of sick kids to their deaths. Ah, but that was then.

Tonight, we have learned that the Trump administration hasn’t taken back the deportation orders and yes, some kids will be sent home to die in the next week. Rather than revoke a senselessly cruel policy that in no way benefited America, the administration decided to simply lie to America about it. It’s Hitlerian in its viciousness and bigotry.

Try telling this to a Trump supporter, and you’ll be doing well if you can convince him that Trump would ever do anything that might hurt children, and this was certainly some policy dreamed up by Obama or Clinton that they tried to blame on Trump when it blew up in their faces. And they’ll believe every word they are saying. Trump is next to Jesus, you know.

Some clown on Faux News today referred to the impeachment process as a “regicide”, a description ridiculous on the face of it. Still, it doubtlessly gave Jaime Lannister a bump in the polls. Along with Tyrion, Cercei, Anya, and Jaime (who killed a second king in the penultimate episode, albeit a rather small one). They should start a new TV show: S*M*A*S*H, with a theme song that begins, “Regicide is painless…” Well, I told you it was ridiculous, didn’t I?

The Republican Party, the most pathetic pack of cowards in the history of America, have done all they can to sustain Trump, no matter how stupid, hurtful, or dangerous to the country he becomes. They’ve abandoned what scant principles they had to become Trump’s enablers as they continue to frantically pack the courts and eliminate most changes made since 1932 in grim hopes of sustaining a white nationalist society. Trump never existed in a vacuum. He was supported by the leaders of the GOP, creatures as broken and twisted as he is.

But Trump’s genocidal betrayal of the Kurds may be the breaking point amongst those Republicans who, while consumed by greed and corruption, are still technically sane. The Kurds were our allies, and did a lot to contain ISIS. And Turkey, which has form on committing genocide, has one of the vilest and most contemptible dictators this side of Trumpistan, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Dozens of Republicans Congressionals have openly blasted Trump for inviting the Turks to go in and murder lots of people.

Trump patiently explained that he would do more than sanctions against Turkey if they didn’t conduct their genocide in a humane manner, which is usually enough to make the strutting bought-out whores of the GOP settle back down amidst their bags of money and mutter, “Well, that’s OK, then.” Doesn’t seem to be working this time.

No, the Republicans haven’t suddenly grown a set of principles and ethics. Such things are about as useful to Republicans as a set of tits on a bulldozer. But they have their favorite political weapon which they have brought to bear on Pissmop: Moral outrage. Endless, sanctimonious, hypocritical and totally phony moral outrage. The same that they used without letting up ever against Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and pretty much everyone who wasn’t a Republican.

It’s strange seeing them condemn a Republican president. After all, these are the same pearl-clutchers who whine endlessly about Monica Lewinsky while ignoring serial adulturers such as Eisenhower, Reagan and Gingrich. Democrats are the party of “tax and spend” even as 8 out of every 9 dollars in the national debt comes from Republican policies and misadventures, and for most of us, taxes have risen because they shifted the tax burden from the richest one percent to the middle class—and whine on and on about the lucky duckies who are broke and homeless and get to pay no taxes.

But they aren’t politically blind. They realize that Trump finally managed to crack the Kevlar Kurtain that protected him from fallout from his endless scandals and braggadocio with the Ukraine scandal, and that he has now become a serious political liability. The Blue Wave of 2016 was the writing on the wall; now the mob is approaching those broken barricades and the GOP has suddenly realized Trump could destroy them as a political force for generations. Clearly, he must go.

Expect to see shocked revelations from the GOP that they just uncovered evidence that Trump is incompetent, perhaps mad, and why haven’t the Democrats done more to stop him? Do the Democrats have no resolve, no moral backbone? They should have SAID something!

And the GOP will try to get rid of Trump while protecting their own asses, and chances are the Democrats will let them get away with it. And America can then continue its peaceful slide into becoming a vassal state to the rich and the religiously insane.

Pity about all those Kurds dying, though. At least it’s in a good cause.

No, actually, it isn’t. They will die to help provide cover to the most cowardly, heartless political shits in the history of America.

Potemkin Ethics – Republicans and their make-believe morals

October 1st 2019

Republican sanctimony and hypocrisy, normally just an irritating mosquito whine, has changed as they circle the wagons to deal with the Trump catastrophe, to a roar of White Water. And Benghazi. And Her Emails. And, and, and.

For example, even as Democrats consider the vast array of criminal charges they can prove against Trump and his corrupt administration, the Republicans have suddenly developed a deep concern over the business dealings of one Hunter Biden. Now, Hunter is just a dodgy American businessman who had dodgy business concerns in a dodgy country. Nothing unusual there; there have to be thousands of American businessmen overseas who like the Los Angeles Dodgers because they think they are related. Just more profiteering Americans gouging corrupt regimes for fun and…well, you get it. Nothing to attract the attention of the President of the United States, or Faux News, or Congress, any of whom, truth be told, spend most of their time working on their own corruption. Not battling it; profiting from it.

But Hunter’s daddy is one of the leading Democratic contenders for next year’s election, and thereby hangs the petard. It’s had some small mention in the news, so stop me if you’re heard about this.

Oh, you have heard. Well, good.

“But Biden…” is a buzzphrase sounding from all parts of the vast right wing echo chamber, all the way across and slightly down from the Heritage Foundation to the true snake pits of the American fascist right, Breitbart and Trump. They’ve developed elaborate and utterly fictitious conspiracy theories, each grander and less lucid then the last. In their narrative, Viktor Shokin is a brave and intrepid reformer who was trying to save Ukraine from corruption. In reality, Shokin was the resentful and corrupt leading holdover from the Soviet Union days, when prosecutors, rather than judges, were the deciding force in court cases. Deeply pro-Russian, it’s likely that his efforts to persecute Hunter Biden for holding a seat on a deeply corrupt oil company were brought about at the behest of Vladimir Putin in hopes of orchestrating damage to a possible Joe Biden candidacy. Vlad has form on doing that sort of thing, you know.

Trumpkins who try chanting “But Hunter” at me quickly get a course on the interesting role of Jared Kushner, a skyscraper in New York City, and the events that led to the State Department suddenly declaring a strategic ally, Qatar, an “exporter of terrorism.” The brighter ones shut up and go away, and the rest come up with the other orchestrated talking points.

The Whistleblower isn’t a traitor—quite the opposite. He reported a president who, by his own admission since, was engaging in activities subverting America in order to gain personally and politically, and undermining an ally’s ability to fend off a potential Russian attack. And while his reporting may have been the result of second-hand information, it has been corroborated by the President in question, making the point, utterly irrelevant in the first place, completely moot now.

Do any of the Republicans who underwrote Linda Tripp’s sordid foray into the spotlight of Monicagate believe she had first hand knowledge of what went on there? Did she take a puff on the infamous cigar? Ken Starr didn’t seem to mind using her testimony, did he? Ken Starr, who has made a career of intellectual self-fellatian, now considers it wrong to criminally investigate Presidents.

Presidents do have a right to conduct their business without it all being relayed to the media. However, advisors by any normal standards listen in on such calls in order to guide subsequent policy. You can be sure Putin, who also whined loudly that privacy and confidentiality were being violated, had his own flock of people listening in.

The same crowd whining about presidential privacy now sued successfully to have Secret Service agents on White House detail be forced to report anything they saw or heard.

Republicans also support ignoring subpoenas and other demands for information issued by the investigating committees of Congress. During the Clinton years, the administration turned over 25 MILLION pages of documentation to Congress, and Republicans managed to simultaneously complain that it wasn’t enough, and that it was too much.

Speaking of investigating committees, the President and all his party hatchlings are howling about ‘presidential harassment!”. Note that they have had, over the years, 25 different committees investigating the Clintons, and 8 more for Obama, and with the exception of Monica, found nothing at all. Hillary had to testify for 8.5 hours in front of Congress, all in one marathon day, over the non-story of Benghazi. Trump’s people have raised $25 million over the past few months to try to revive the email story.

Speaking of which, Trump, and various members of his administration, have been caught storing official emails on private servers. Trump himself has shown amazing disregard for national security, but is willing to abuse the top-secret apparatus in order to keep his personal dealings secret.

Republicans believe that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor basement. Without a shred of evidence, nothing supporting that belief except malice. Trump has thousands of kids locked in cages or dumped into the American foster home system, and you can bet at least several dozen of those kids have ended up as sex slaves by now.

But for too many Republicans, ethics and morals are a pretend, a vicious game to passive-aggressively dominate others. The only thing that can generate their endless howls of moral outrage is if a Democrat or liberal is the target. But when it comes to the sewage in their own house, they are utterly, and hypocritically, silent.

Consciousness of Guilt – He did it.

Consciousness of Guilt

He did it.

Spetember 26th 2019

Robert Harrington, in a piece titled the same as this one, was kind enough to pull the legal definition of “Consciousness of Guilt” from RationalWiki. It reads:

Consciousness of guilt is a legal concept and a type of circumstantial evidence of guilt. It is based on a criminal suspect who demonstrates a guilty conscience by their actions or speech. Some examples of consciousness of guilt are:

Fleeing from the crime scene or jurisdiction
False statements and lies
False alibi
Changing one’s name or personal appearance
Concealing or destroying evidence
Witness intimidation or bribery
Generally, any attempts to cover up a crime
Simply put, consciousness of guilt is an action or statement that a person accused of a crime makes that an innocent person would not make.

We’re in a very peculiar situation where no honest person can look at the evidence, mostly provided by Trump’s own words and actions, and have any reasonable doubt that he is guilty of obstruction of justice, a cover-up, misuse of office, and efforts to impede legal investigations into his actions through working corruption of office [cough, Barr and Kavanaugh, /cough].

During Watergate, even those of us willing to believe the worst of Nixon had, if not a frisson of doubt, at least the frustrated knowledge that the available evidence might not be enough to get an honest verdict of guilty. At least, not until the 8-0 Supreme Court ruling that forced Nixon to release the unredacted tapes. Then, finally, there was no longer any doubt. Nixon plunged in public opinion polls, Republicans stopped putting up any real resistance to the impeachment hearings, and a head count in the House made it clear Nixon would be impeached on at least four counts.

Two weeks later, he was gone.

In 48 hours, we covered the same amount of ground that the Watergate scandal covered between July 13, 1973 and July 24, 1974. Why those two dates, slightly over a year apart? The first was the day Alexander Butterfield revealed to Congress that Nixon taped all his Oval Office discussions, and the world suddenly realized that here was evidence that could impeach or exculpate Nixon. The second date was when the SC said, “Turn ‘em over.”

The tapes were released to the public on August 5th, and included the famous ‘smoking gun’ tape in which Nixon was advised of the break-in. He resigned on the 9th.

Unfortunately on this zeitgeist-y anniversary of August 5th, 1974, I don’t expect to see Trump gone in three days. Oh, it could happen, but Trump is not Nixon. Nixon was corrupt and vicious, if by an order of magnitude less so than Trump, but he was also intelligent, self-aware, and mostly sane. Trump is clearly none of those things and in a nation that had a healthier attitude toward the rich and famous, he would have been gone a year ago. If his candidacy was ever taken seriously in the first place. Hopefully America has learned wealth and power isn’t the same thing as wit and wisdom.

It’s going to get really ugly, and nobody can really say in what ways it will happen. We do know that he’s trying to implicate and possibly destroy vice President Mike Pence. Aside from the usual Trumpian strategy of trying to shift blame to the nearest available target, there is the possibility that he’s hoping the prospect of Nancy Pelosi moving into the first-in-line slot might dissuade Congress from kicking him out of the White House.

The Republicans are probably concluding that Trump has reached the end of his shelf life, and they are doing their own calculations. If I know my Republicans, they are thinking that if Trump abruptly resigns, there’s a good chance there will be scattered violence among what David Brin memorably called “legions of McVeighs” and a possible recession. If general conditions did go south, wouldn’t it be ever so much better if they could play their usual game of gleefully and visciously blaming the nearest Democratic president for all the unrest and bad conditions that they themselves caused? Additionally, Mike Pence at best would be an underwhelming president, and carry with him the stench of Trump’s criminality and cruelty. Indeed, given his complicity in many of Trump’s scandals—yes the same complicity Trump is trying to bring to our attention now—it’s quite likely that the Democrats will be having impeachment hearings for Pence, and an aroused electorate would be preparing another blue tidal wave. A year of Pelosi, they think, could work to their advantage, especially since they still have the Senate and so can keep her hands tied whilst portraying her as a do-nothing ‘caretaker’ President.

But first things first. They have an avowed criminal and seditionist in the Oval Office, and they need to figure out a way to get him out before he takes into his head to drop a nuke on San Francisco or something.

The Dems are not going to rush to an impeachment vote. Yes, they have the evidence, the most solid evidence a Congress has had in an impeachment process since Nixon released the tapes. But they want to implicate the whole rotten gang—Pence, Barr, the family whelps, all of them. They are truly a cancer on America, and if some of the Democrats are using a political calculus of their own about the advantages of full, lengthy hearings, it’s a rare situation where such calculation and serving the national interest are actually congruent.

Yes, I would like to see Trump gone tomorrow. But I think it’s important that they identify, indict, and convict their entire rats’ nest of corruption that has poisoned the county.

Otherwise we will remain enveloped in the miasmic stench of Trumpism. And that cannot be good.

Times We Live In – We all lead interesting lives now

September 25th 2019

My, but we live in interesting times, don’t we?

Following US politics right now is a bit like Kremlin-watching from aboard an out-of-control train. A whole lot of mysterious goings-on, happening far too fast to make any real sense of it. Here’s a caveat that any forecast I make is likely to be invalid ten minutes later because Developing News. So I won’t embarrass myself by trying.

Let’s see: 48 hours ago, 135 Democrats favored a formal start to the impeachment process. As of this evening, 219 do—a House majority.

The DNI office formally turned the whistle-blower report over to the House this afternoon, amidst swirling reports that the Trump appointee threatened to resign if Trump interfered with either the turning over of the report, or the Director’s plans to testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week. Trump denied the reports, but then, he would, wouldn’t he?

There was an astonishing report that he told President Zelenskiy today at their meeting that Nancy Pelosi was no longer Speaker of the House. Nobody is quite sure what the hell he meant by that, but if he fired her, she apparently didn’t get the memo. The poor dear still thinks she’s Speaker of the House.

Trump went out of his way to implicate Mike Pence in the mushrooming scandal. He told the media not once but several times to get transcripts of Pence’s calls to the Ukraine. He may have decided to throw his veep to the wolves in hopes it will take the heat off of him, an action that for Democrats would be Christmas and Mardi Gras and New Years’ Eve all rolled into one. The would love to go straight from President Trump to President Pelosi and avoid having to deal with the psuedo-religious freak.

The edited transcript the White House released of the phone call, which included 11 minutes of conversation in a 30 minute call, reminded everyone that Trump and Bob Barr are both liars who don’t mind altering evidence in order to obstruct justice. Mueller report “summary,” anyone? Barr will be in the same prison wing as Trump, Pence and McConnell before this is all over.

However, it also highlighted their utter incompetence. Not only did the transcript make it clear that Trump did withhold funds and press for the Ukraine to try and find dirt on Hunter Biden, but by the use of a single word, “though,” Trump make it clear that the aid was to be conditional on them finding something Trump could use against the man Trump feels most likely will be running for President against him next year.

Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed a demand that the Whistle-blower report be released to the House Committee. Yes, it’s required by law, and there’s no wriggle room on the issue, but respect for the law never stopped McConnell’s pack before, did it?

This afternoon, a GOP flak named Mike Murphy, with close ties to the Senate, told MSNBC that a discreet poll of GOP senators found 30 of them that might support impeachment at this time. It was already fairly clear that the GOP at large, while perfectly happy to work Trump’s corruption and viciousness to their advantage, were heartily fed up with the thankless task of protecting his ass.

Trump has the remarkable ability to demand loyalty of ‘his’ people, and then piss on their heads. And most Republicans have wet heads right now. Republican solidity is about to vanish, I think. Should be fun to watch!

Once the Ukrainian president was safely away from Trump this afternoon, a spokesman in the Ukraine, Serhiy Leshchenko told ABC News, “It was clear that [President Donald] Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case. This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood.”

As a part of that story, ABC has a good recap of what happened with Hunter Biden and the Kyiv government, and shows how utterly futile Republican efforts to try to rebrand events as “The Biden Ukraine Scandal” are both futile and sad. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/ukrainians-understood-biden-probe-condition-trump-zelenskiy-phone/story?id=65863043

It was a part of GOP talking points the party released to the faithful (including, of course, Faux News) this morning. We know this because the charming incompetents of the GOP accidentally sent the same memo to all the Congressional Democrats, who gleefully showed it to the press. Ooops.

The pace, already torrid, may actually accelerate tomorrow. Keep an eye on the news. These are historic times.

And as the old Chinese curse has it, these are also interesting times.