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.

Trump is Toast – He has created a prima facie case for impeachment

Trump is Toast

He has created a prima facie case for impeachment

September 24th, 2019

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just announced that a full-blown impeachment inquiry will proceed against Donald J. Trump. Clearly, she believes that the evidence supports it, and that the House will support it.

Republican resistance is beginning to crumble: The Senate voted unanimously to demand that the transcripts of the calls to the Ukraine be released. It’s a small concession in a way: the transcripts are of one phone call to one leader, and all reports are that the complaint itself involves at least a half-dozen calls to several world leaders, including Putin and Kim Jong Un. But given the utter solidity of GOP intransigence in the Senate, this relatively small accommodation to the law represents a massive surrender.

Trump himself reacted to this, characteristically, with a self pitying whine. “Such an important day at the United Nations, so much work and so much success, and the Democrats purposely had to ruin and demean it with more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage. So bad for our Country!”

Thank you, Mister President. You may sit down now.

We’re going to hear a lot about how the transcript may not show anything really bad and how Hunter Biden is the one who should be investigated, along with lots of other apologist gaslighting. Trump just said that the transcript will show “no quid pro quo unlike Hunter Biden.” Hunter Biden isn’t the president, and even if he was as corrupt in the Ukraine as Paul Manafort, he didn’t violate the Constitution. Trump, however, did.

By his own public statements, he withheld $400 million in military and foreign aid to the Ukraine while pressing the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden. The office of the president, Volodymyr Zelensky, indirectly confirmed this, issuing a statement that they would respond favorably to ally legal request through intelligence channels regarding any activities involving Biden, but not in response to extortion.

There is absolutely no question that extorting a foreign power in order to dig up dirt on relatives of a possible political challenger qualifies as a “high crime or misdemeanor” and there’s no reasonable doubt that Trump did exactly that.

The transcript, even if damning, is small potatoes. The whistleblower complaint addresses a pattern of corruption and subversion, you can be absolutely certain of that. I have my own suspicions as to who the whistleblower is, and when his identity is revealed, he will prove to be someone who did directly witness Trump acting in a feckless and even treasonous manner in his interactions with other world leaders. Voters will recognize treason when they see it.

The complaint is part of a far larger pattern of corruption. Not just Trump, but his adult children, his vice president, and dozens of members of Congress. The fact that McConnell and others may be caught up in this mesh of villainy may result in them throwing Trump, his family, and Pence under the bus in an effort to save their own hides.

Don’t think it will happen? I call your attention to today’s unanimous resolution in the Senate. McConnell has finally realized he cannot stonewall his way out of this, and the known evidence suggests that he, too, is involved in corruption involving favoritism toward Ukraine gangsters. He isn’t going to let himself go down with Trump.

The GOP is disintegrating before our very eyes. Dozens of Congressmen are quitting, and dozens more will quit between now and the start of primary season. They know that the party will be utterly destroyed if they do not rid themselves of this cancer on America.

The impeachment inquiries will produce a huge barrage of evidence showing duplicity and treason by a large segment of the leadership of the GOP, and it will be out there with the public watching, in in a form where Faux News can’t pretend it isn’t there, or that it can deflect the overwhelming evidence with whattaboutery.

It’s unlikely, in my opinion, that we’ll see impeachment come to a formal vote in the House. The GOP cannot afford to let that happen. Indeed, they need to stop this before the lurid public testimony begins, and the real and irreversible political damage sets in.

The GOP cannot survive a full public inquiry into the multiple facets of Trump’s criminality, and their own complicity. They know this. They can no longer stop it by stonewalling.

So right now, behind the scenes, party leaders are debating how much of the Administration they have to destroy in hopes of cutting out the gangrenous parts of their party. They may already be considering forcing Trump to resign, or failing that, a 25th amendment move. They may have to sacrifice Pence (and thus the White House) if that’s what it takes to convince the public they aren’t really anti-American gangsters.

Except a lot of GOP bluster over the next few days. But it’s empty bluster meant to distract from the fact that Trump is finished, and threatens to take the entire party down with him.

Trump is toast. The GOP need to concentrate on trying to save themselves.

Whistlestop – Trump’s crimes may have caught up

September 19th 2019

That big mushroom cloud over Washington, DC? Oh, that’s just the Whistleblower scandal. A still unidentified person with close access to the President overheard him making promises that were described as “disturbing and alarming” to parties on the phone unnamed but include a short list that includes Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and the President of the Ukraine. The informant went to the Inspector-General, who found the allegations “credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of urgent concern.” That finding mandated that within seven days, the Director of National Intelligence must turn the matter over to the intelligence committees of Congress. There is no latitude in the matter; the law is very specific about this. Further, under whistle blower laws, no other agency of government other than the DNI and Congress have any say on the matter, parties who may be the subjects of the whistleblower’s report may not discuss or take any action in the proceedings, and any attempt at retaliation against the whistleblower is a felony.

Only there is no Director of National Intelligence. Dan Coats quit about two months ago, and Trump promptly tried to circumvent the seniority of the organization by appointing a hack Congressman with no intelligence experience and whose only qualification seemed to be that he was an avid and staunch supporter of Trump. He was so unqualified even the Republicans in Congress couldn’t take it, and he had to withdraw from his nomination. Sue Gordon, a careerist in the organization and the second-in-command, became acting DNI. But several days after that, Dan Coats did something very peculiar; he approached his former number two and close professional associate at a meeting and told her she had to resign immediately. Chances are he didn’t even have to explain why he would make such a request so unimaginable under any other circumstance: their duties stood to cross paths with the vicious and corrupt Donald Trump, and his equally vicious and corrupt slug of an Attorney-General, Bob Barr. Trump then named some navy officer, a Joseph Maguire, to be acting DNI. Maguire has no qualifications, but due to either cowardice or corruption—or both—is steadfastly loyal to the criminal Trump.

And surprise surprise: Maguire is refusing to hand over the report to Congress, making the Kafkaesque argument that the whistleblower rules don’t pertain because the whistleblower isn’t actually a whistleblower. Bob Barr has inserted his flabby and spotted carcass into the struggle, quite illegally, making the same argument.

But the scandal itself continues to mushroom. It wasn’t a single incident, although the only one we know anything at all about is a claim that Trump promised the president of Ukraine unspecified favors if he would dig up dirt on the doings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

That rings true. Last May it came out that Guiliani was planning to go to the Ukraine to make the same offer. I wrote about it at the time: “Giuliani planned to go to the Ukraine in hopes the present Ukraine government could dig up some dirt on Joe Biden. It’s illegal to solicit campaign interference from a foreign government, but Giuliani probably looked at Trump and figured that if the President does it, it must be legal, and blabbed his intentions to the press.”

Guiliani went on to describe Barr as “independent, brilliant and honest,” a description so outlandishly false that I figured he had to be lying about a lot else besides.

At the time, I wrote of Guiliani, “after about five minutes of speaking, Giuliani’s 32 kilobits of RAM is depleted, his buffer is empty, and the inadvertent truths start tumbling out. His eyes go blank, he starts sweating profusely, and Fauxnews suddenly has to go to commercial.” The only thing I got wrong there is that Guiliani’s meltdown occurred on CNN, rather than Faux. Chris Cuomo grilled the hapless halfwit of 9/11 thusly:

After CNN host Chris Cuomo questioned whether Giuliani had asked Ukraine to investigate Biden, Giuliani said, “No, actually I didn’t. I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton.”

“You never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden?” Cuomo followed up.

“The only thing I asked about Joe Biden is to get to the bottom of how it was that Lutsenko … dismissed the case against AntAC,” Giuliani said, referring to former Ukrainian prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko and the Ukrainian-based Anti-Corruption Action Centre (AntAC).

“So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden,” Cuomo said.

“Of course I did,” Giuliani replied.

“You just said you didn’t,” Cuomo responded.

If it was anyone other than Guiliani, I would have cringed in sympathetic embarrassment. But Rudy is about as likable as a Plantar wart, so to hell with him.

Trump tried to defend himself by Tweet, and didn’t do much better. “…anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself. No problem! …Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially “heavily populated” call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!”

So let’s see: Donald is arguing that he would only be appropriate and loyal because people were listening, and if he wasn’t appropriate or loyal, they might file a report. He’s saying this in response to a report that he said something inappropriate and disloyal on the phone to foreign leaders on multiple occasions. I see, Mister President. Do go on.

The Ukraine is the only one we know anything about, mostly because of Rabid Rudy. But phone calls in that time frame did include Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, two of Donald’s favorite dictators.

The plot thickens, nay, sets.

Trump must be in a full-blown panic right now. This is the smoking gun, the scandal that will take him down, and we’re just learning about it; it’s been brewing since at least last spring, when Rudy thought enlisting foreign aid to smear a opposing candidate in the election was a good idea.

This is going to be massive. It may end Trump and his criminal regime. Pay attention, now.

 

The Rise of the Codgers — or, Casey Kasem saves the universe

September 13th 2019

I didn’t bother watching the debate last night because I’m thoroughly fed up with the ‘loaves and fishes’ approach in which each candidate gets fifteen minutes to discuss eight or nine separate items in answer to questions the moderators pose, not to shed light, but to to show ‘impartiality’ by being the sort of assholes who put bugs in jars to ‘make them fight.’

But I’ve been hearing plenty about one incident; Joe Biden was hit with a gotcha question and fumbled the response. Perhaps not a ‘hold the presses!’ moment, but once the uproar died down, it lay bare a problem Joe, along with all the other major candidates for president this year, share.

One of the moderators asked Joe about an intemperate remark he made in 1975. Now, I’m sure you all remember 1975: disco, Whip Inflation Now buttons, endless rumors that the Beatles were getting back together, and Jaws. Cassette players were the hot new thing, and people speculated that it may cut into the popularity of vinyl LPs and turntables.

Joe’s remark, made a mere 44 years ago, was pretty vile. He was asked then about reparations, and said he would “be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.” The moderator, who apparently had never read a news story since then, wanted to know what Biden had to say about that now. Biden decided to deflect, admitting that “…there is institutional segregation in this country.”

So far, so-so. He wasn’t going to address reparations, but he was at least willing to admit that race remained a central problem in the country.

I sure wouldn’t want to be held to account for some of the stupid stuff I said in 1975. Or even stuff that wasn’t particularly stupid at the time, but was just the sort of crap people said back then. So I understand how Joe handled it, am even a bit sympathetic.

But then, Joe got more tangential, arguing that black kids should have better educational opportunities, and saying that parents needed to play a bigger role in home instruction. To that end, he said, “Play the radio, make sure the television… make sure you have the record player on at night.”

OK, some people are saying that the deflection and trivialization of the issue was racist, but I don’t think that’s the case here: it was just Joe running his mouth and being a numbnuts. The answer was facile, and would have been condescending if Joe were able to understand he was talking down to people.

Well, Joe is the safe and uninspiring candidate. If you want to be safe and uninspired next year, he’s your man.

But his answer, aside from being tone-deaf and simplistic, revealed a bigger problem that Joe shares with Trump, Warren, and Sanders: they’re all codgers.

They’re all older than Reagan was when he first ran for president, and Reagan’s age was an issue—as was the fact that he had pretty severe dementia going on in his second term. More and more people are arguing that in addition to being a narcissist and a sociopath, Trump is also suffering from dementia, an argument that get more persuasive every time the man opens his mouth (or taps his phone) and utter nonsense spews out. Bernie obviously had a bad case of laryngitis going on last night, leaving me to wonder what kind of voice he would have by the end of the primaries. Warren was the only one of the four who appeared vigorous and up-to-date.

Joe’s codgerhood really came to the fore with the ‘record player’ remark.

First off, how many households with young children even HAVE a record player? Could a typical five year old know how to operate a record player, or would he be trying to jam the disk in a slot in the side, because he remembers seeing an old movie where people did that with their “CD players”?

For those of you born after 1968 who bother reading a codger like me, you played a record by dragging a needle along grooves in the disk. This created vibrations in the needle, which were converted to electrical impulses. It was all very 19th century. The sound quality was actually pretty good, and you could tell the gender of “Bing”, “Doris” and “Frank” if the record wasn’t warped.

Even “radio” is dated. It’s what my grandfather used to call “the wireless” (nothing to do with the internet or computers) and your grandpappy called “the ray-dee-oh”. It’s still around, and you can buy radios that pick up signals right out of the air broadcast mostly by religious nuts, scammers and neo-nazis.

Well, at least Joe knows they play music on the television, but then, MTV has been around since the early 80s. I’m not sure what Joe would make of a Roku player; I have a vision of that one ancient Star Trek movie, the one with the whales, where Scotty is trying to talk to a computer mouse.

The incident is trivial. I’ll talk about “winding a clock” or “looking at the road map”. I’m a codger myself. ‘Course, I’m not running for president, and compared to any of the three Democrats running, I would be a shit choice. (Compared to the incumbent, well let’s just say I’ve dropped turds that would make a better president than him).

My own speech is peppered with anachronisms. Hell, I still wear a wrist watch. (I took Douglas Adams’ hint and got a digital watch. It’s pretty cool.) This doesn’t mean I’m ready for ‘assisted living.’

Nor does it mean any of the Democratic frontrunners are ready for what we used to call “the old folks’ home”. Joe might be a numbnuts, but he was a numbnuts in 1975, too, and if he isn’t showing much in the way of progression, at least he isn’t showing signs of mental decline.

So don’t read too much into the ‘record player’ thing. It isn’t a red alert; it’s just a reminder that all these guys are within hailing distance of their 80th birthdays, and it’s gonna catch up to them, sooner rather than later.

It’s time for us baby boomers to let loose of the reins (a dated reference to a type of self-driving device before Tesla) and pass the torch (which was not carbon-friendly or LED) to the next generation, who by now have to be feeling a bit like Prince Charles, late middle-aged with nothing to do except wait for us to kick off.

It’s not like we did such a wonderful job of running things.

There’s a lot of potentially great leaders in their 50s and even 40s out there. The Constitution thinks the right persons would be ready to be president by age 35.

A codger will probably win the presidency next year. But hopefully, he or she will be the last of the codgers, and we’ll then start considering candidates born after the rise of the cassette tape.

Daft Times – Brexit and Trump. What Could Go Wrong?

Sept 9th 2019

It is time that the United Kingdom and the United States remerged into a single political entity. None of this master/colony business. This new Untied States of Clusterfuckistan would be all tail and no dog. No leaders, no followers; just large, mutually loathing loud packs of howling nuts.

The main difference between the two nations right now is that in the UK, there is a single voice of sanity, Commons Speaker John Bercow. His cries for “Orrrrrddeeerrrrr!” comes as close to logic and reason as is to be found. There are, of course, sane people in both Parliament and Congress, but it’s about as hard to make them out of the general din as it is to identify individual snowflakes in a howling blizzard.

The British Conservative Party recently made Boris Johnson their Prime Minister. Blojo, as he is colorfully known, is a Brexit hardliner who has been pushing for a ‘no-deal’ exit from the European Union, a move that would be catastrophic for the English economy and would, in fairly short order, lead to Scotland and Wales leaving the UK in order to rejoin the EU. As a result, the Tories have been exploding at the seams. Fourteen members, including the grandson of Winston Churchill, were thrown out of the party for not supporting a no-deal exit, and dozens more are leaving, defecting, and just generally going. Blojo’s brother was one of them.

One of the big sticking points is Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland is in the EU, and as long as the UK was also in the EU, the hated border between Ireland and Northern Ireland became an empty formality. There’s a rumor that Blojo is going to go to Dublin and propose reunification, which is a bit like hearing that Korea wants to become a duchy of China. I can’t imagine Blojo coming up with anything that would attract support of 10% of the population on either side of the border.

The UK is petitioning for yet another delay in Brexit while they continue to try to get themselves off the meat hook they seem to have sat themselves upon, but the French are threatening to stick to the Halloween deadline because they are fed up with the games Parliament is playing.

Britain has a long history, but it’s never been longer than it is right now. Nor is it likely to be much longer after right now.

In the US, we have a mad president who is redrawing meteorological maps with a Sharpie to try to buttress a forecast that nobody other than he had made. Worse, he’s threatening the careers of any weatherman or other scientist who dares gainsay his patently incorrect weather pronouncements.

Sounds like something out of a Marx Brothers movie, doesn’t it?

The problem is that he has already effectively eviscerated the Department of Agriculture by ordering its scientific staff to move to Kansas within 30 days, no exceptions. It’s not clear that they have anything at all to move TO. He’s now threatening to do the same to the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. Mostly because they do things like study the weather and the environment and other anti-American stuff like that.

As I said, a Marx Brothers movie. Only they aren’t trying to be funny.

And Trump is still working as President to turn the entire country into a cash cow for his own personal enrichment. The story broke this week that he has ordered flights from the US to the middle east to refuel at a small, mostly unsecured airport that just happens to be near, and vital to, one of his Scottish resorts. While stuck in Scotland, US military flight crews apparently have nothing but their per diems ($30 a day or so) to live on. Yes, Trump wants to charge the military full price for the crews to stay at his resort.

Then there’s the Taliban fiasco. Trump announced yesterday that slated Camp David talks with the Taliban had been called off. This surprised many people, including those in his own administration, who had no idea that talks with the Taliban at Camp David had been scheduled in the first place. Some reporters, familiar with Trump’s management style, wondered if any such planned talks had existed anywhere other than in Trump’s head, but the Taliban sorta backed him up on that, angrily saying that the talks had been canceled by them because of attacks on their people by American soldiers, and that many Americans would die as a result of such perfidy.

This in turn led to outrage among Republican right wingers, who haven’t forgiven the Taliban for flying planes into the twin towers. Never mind that the Taliban did no such thing, and only peripherally had any involvement at all with the terrorist attacks. Nonetheless, it probably wasn’t a great idea to schedule the talks for September 11th. All the cardboard patriots who were mute over Senate efforts to defray coverage to first responders who survived the attacks have a real huff fest going over that one.

Of course Donald remembers 9/11. It was the day he got the tallest building in New York City, and he has the Sharpie-enhanced image to prove it.

I imagine in a few centuries, historians will attempt to depict these days as high drama that led to either the Glorious Reign of First Citizen Vladimir Putin, or the Final War Against Fascism, but don’t be fooled: it’s not high drama. It’s low farce.