The Great Hack — Is it time to burn the burners?

The Great Hack

Is it time to burn the burners?

July 20th, 2021

The news about Pegasus and NSO Group, its parent company, is horrifying. Pegasus can be used to hack into any mobile phone – Apple or Android – without the operator of the device taking any action. Without so much as a click, it can explore and copy all data on the phone—phones, contact lists, passwords, everything. It can surreptitiously turn on the camera and the microphone and record everything it sees and hears. And of course it knows the exact location of any cell phone it monitors, and can record phone calls—not just the metadata, but the conversations themselves.

The Israeli government commissioned the production of this nuclear spying software, and have been extraordinarily feckless in who they’ve leased it out to. In fact, they’ve been so reckless it’s hard to fathom if they aren’t simply trying a particularly involved form of national suicide. Among the people they’ve entrusted with this software are the United Arab Emirates (better than most middle-eastern governments, but gawds, that’s a low bar) Saudi Arabia, one of the most vicious theocracies on Earth, and Azerbaijan (I wouldn’t trust that government to feed my goldfish).

According to the Guardian, which broke the story, “A recent transparency report released by NSO Group acknowledged the company was ‘closely regulated’ by export control authorities in Israel. The Defense Export Controls Agency (DECA) within the Israeli defence ministry “strictly restricts” the licensing of some surveillance products based on its own analysis of potential customers from a human rights perspective, the company said, and had rejected NSO requests for export licences ‘in quite a few cases’.

I repeat: Azerbaijan? That renowned guardian of human rights? Saudi Arabia? The Emirates?

You have to wonder who the Israelis might consider unfit to have their nuclear spyware. Just the fact that a corrupt fascist pig like Benjamin Netanyahu had control over who got it was alarming enough. The Guardian is reporting that misuse of the spyware has roiled politics in Hungary, Mexico, Russia and other places.

NSO Group claims that it supplies the spyware to governments (51% of leases), police (38%) and intelligence agencies (11%). Given the list (both known and inferred) that the Israelis and NSO deemed fit to possess this spyware, that’s less than reassuring. Intelligence agencies? CIA, SIS or Mossad are bad enough. Russia’s FIS? China’s Ministry for State Security? Turkey’s NIO? We can assume the Ministry of National Security of Azerbaijan is in on the deal. How about North Korea? Kim likes to keep tabs on things, you know.

Police agencies are a concern. I wouldn’t trust Scotland Yard with a cyberweapon like that, and they have a faintly better rep than most national police forces. I definitely wouldn’t want it in the hands of the NYPD or the LAPD. And there’s a lot of police forces that have been surreptitiously infested with Nazis and fascists and other right wing nuts. Hell, I live right next door to Oregon!

Rahul Gandhi, one of the targets of abuse by this program, said: “If your information is correct, the scale and nature of surveillance you describe goes beyond an attack on the privacy of individuals. It is an attack on the democratic foundations of our country. It must be thoroughly investigated and those responsible be identified and punished.”

Edward Snowden felt that Pegasus should be treated like nuclear weaponry because of the mass damage it can do. “If they find a way to hack one iPhone, they’ve found a way to hack all of them,”

They can break in to pretty much any cell phone. You don’t have to click on a dodgy link or call the wrong number. Pegasus does it all for you. I’m told that just turning your phone off is no defense. They can turn it on. About the only way you can ensure your phone isn’t being used to spy on you is buy taking the battery out, at which point you may as well use it as a drink coaster because that’s about all it can do.

NSO Group and Israel say they are extremely careful and screen their clients to ensure that human rights to privacy are not abused. You know. Clients like Azerbaijan. Or the vicious religious cabal running Saudi Arabia? Or India under Modi? Or for that matter, Israel under its far-right government.

What’s worse is that now it’s only a matter of time before it ends up on the dark web (if it hasn’t already) and winds up in the hands of every terror group out there. Or anyone with a nasty sense of humor and a taste for chaos? Or the flat-out psychotic. Even if NSO can safeguard the source code of Pegasus (and Windows’ source code eventually got out), people will realize that the fact that the capabilities of Pegasus exist means that it can be reverse engineered or even reinvented.

It’s only a matter of time, and time may have already run out for 99% of us.

Cell phones are hopelessly compromised. ALL cell phones. Nobody is safe.

So now is the time to start thinking about life without cell phones. They weren’t our greatest cultural advance to begin with, being flooded with spammers and providing poor quality for the price, but now they are an active danger to the security and freedom of our lives.

It may be time to trash our cell phones.

Just be sure to take the battery out and smash the unit with a hammer. That’s the only way you can be sure the personal information it carries isn’t going to Azerbaijan, or the Proud Boys.

A Harder Trek – They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

A harder Trek

May 24th 2021

Co-written with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and illustrated by Harmony Becker.

Top Shelf Productions 2019, 204 pages

 

I first learned of the Canadian internment of Japanese-descended people in British Columbia—some 90% of the Japanese and Japanese-descended residents in that province—when I was 12 years old. My father told me of it. It wasn’t taught in schools. Later, I learned that it was suppressed by two sides of the quiet debate: those who felt a deep shame over the mistreatment of loyal Canadians based solely on race, cowardice and ignorance, and those who felt they should have just shipped all the “Japs” back “home” or simply exterminated them or made them slaves.

There weren’t many Japanese—either actual Japanese or Canadian descendants—in eastern Canada, but it did make one minor change in my outlook towards people. I had shied away from anyone with a Germanic name. In both the UK and Canada I had been taught that Germans were the most horrible people on Earth, who killed millions. Aside from the fact that kids in the playground who had “German-sounding” names (about half of them were probably Ukrainian) had nothing to do with Hitler and it was patently absurd to assume they killed Jews for the fun of it (and I would talk about a bad trade as having been ‘Jewed’ or ‘Gypped’ with absolutely no sense of irony), there was the realization that outrage over mistreatment of one group of people didn’t justify similar mistreatment of other groups of people. (I don’t think I actually ever mistreated any kids with eeevil surnames—I just avoided them). How could I hate Germans for what their leader did to innocent people when Canada was doing a milder version of the same thing and there were Canadians—some in military uniform—willing to say “we should have just exterminated them.”

It was a few years later that I learned that a similar mistreatment of people based on nothing more than the shape of their eyes also occurred in America. While not quite as vicious as the Canadian internment, it was on a much greater scale—some 220,000 people, many of whom had been born in America, were American citizens. I actually felt a bit of relief when I learned that; I had treated the internment as a nasty family secret, and didn’t want my new American friends to learn what a loathsome country I was from. Obviously I still had some thinking and processing to do.

History eventually caught up to the self-comforting lies we told ourselves about how pure and noble we were in the war, fighting ultimate evil and so on, and in both Canada and America, the realization that we had done something horrible led to regret, and to some extent, redress.

One of the youngest victims of the anti-Japan hysteria in the wake of Pearl Harbor was George Takei, now the noted actor and social advocate. Not yet five years old, he and his family were rounded up and sent off to live in the horse stables of Santa Anita racetrack, their home, business and assets seized and sold. Only his father, Takekuma Norman Takei, had actually ever lived in Japan, from his birth in 1902 until he came to the United States in 1914. George Takei’s mother and siblings were all born in America and never set foot in Japan. They had done nothing wrong. In fact, nobody of Japanese descent had done anything wrong. The Attorney-General of California, future Chief Justice Earl Warren, said, “We have no reports of spying, or sabotage, or fifth column activities by Japanese Americans, and that is ominous, because the Japanese are inscrutable.” If any element of this hysteria summed up the unreasoning fear and moral cowardice of the leaders of America (and Warren went on to become a champion of civil rights despite this), that statement encapsulated it.

It was the only time blind hatred and abject fear put the victims of the internment in a Catch-22 position. Long after Takei’s family was moved from the piles of horse manure in Earl Warren’s California to the swamplands of Camp Rohwer, Arkansas, the government demanded that those they had capriciously robbed and imprisoned sign an oath swearing to fight for America if so asked, and to abjure allegiance to the Emperor of Japan, an insulting demand and an even more insulting assumption. Americans whose families had lived in America for three generations or more felt no more allegiance to Hirohito than I do to Bonnie Prince Charles. Most refused to sign on moral principles, and the Supreme Court upheld a government directive deeming such principled Americans to be “enemy aliens.” Later, when the war ended, the government announced they would tear down the camps, and the internees were free to go where they pleased—in a land where looking Japanese could and in all likelihood would get you lynched. Or, the government added slyly, admit to being enemy aliens, renounce citizenship, and eventually get deported to Japan (where over 100,000 children starved to death in 1946, so you can imagine the welcome Americans who couldn’t even speak Japanese would get). Or they could remain in the camps, safe from the lynch mobs. The Supreme Court struck down that agreement as unconstitutional two days before Takei’s mother, who was born in LA and had never been to Japan, was due to be shipped out.

Takei’s graphic novel is full of pathos and pride, dignity and assault, big and small. It’s a fantastic effort, and I would love to see it as a book to be studied in middle-grade level schools in the US and Canada. He shows the monumental injustice that happened, but more importantly, shows what needs to be done.

In a heated argument with his father, Takei, then adolescent and judgmental, responded to a remark the elder Taakei made that “…of all the forms of government that we have, American democracy is still the best.” with “Daddy, how can you say that? After all you went through, losing everything you and mama worked for?” His father replied, “Roosevelt pulled us out of the Depression and he did great things. But he was also a fallible human being, and he made a disastrous mistake that affected us calamitously. But despite all that, our democracy is still the best in the world because it is a people’s democracy.”

Fascism has corruption and cruelty built in as a feature. Theocracies are even worse. The only reason monarchies work these days is because they keep the monarchs sedated and in fancy cages. Takei Senior was right.

But horrors like the internments, mild as they may seem next to the routine horrors of fascist regimes as existed in Germany and Japan at that time, are not to be tolerated in a people’s democracy, and while it took time, it didn’t take the utter destruction of the nation and years of occupation by democratic forces to get America and Canada to admit to their crimes. Time is a poor excuse: Takei’s father didn’t live to see the eventual efforts to right a terrible wrong. Takei, I’m happy to say, has.

Takei is a social advocate, not just about hate crimes against people who look different, but against gays and the dispossessed. And while his book would be important and necessary at any time, we now face a new wave of anti-Asiatic bigotry, based on the incredibly flimsy notion that COVID-19 may have originated in Wuhan, China. Weak and cowardly people think that’s a good excuse to beat up people who look Chinese. But America has a resurgent, paranoid and angry fascist movement, one whose gullible fools believe the Chinese engineered the virus in some way and use that to justify pogroms against Japanese, Chinese, and everyone else they hate, which is most of the country.

Takei’s book, compassionate and unyielding at the same time, is a badly needed antidote to the ongoing madness.

Day Five — Disgrace and Acquittal

Day Five

Disgrace and Acquittal

February 13th 2021

In many ways, today turned out to be the wildest day of Trump’s impeachment trial. Yes, he was acquitted, with only 57 Senators voting that he was guilty of sedition. Seven Republicans declared his guilt. So he was simultaneously acquitted and humiliated, escaping conviction on a technicality.

The day started with the stunning news that the Senate had voted to permit witnesses. It would have been a disaster for Republicans many of whom want to see Trump gone but who can’t work up the courage to do that themselves. Many of them wanted impeachment to go away, but a lot of them want Trump to go away.

Team Trump immediately started issuing threats, promising that things would get real ugly real fast. Who knows? Maybe their client would whip up a violent armed mob to attack the Capitol to prevent witnesses from testifying. Joni Ernst shouted that the Senate would not consider anything Biden wanted—not COVID relief, not minimum wage, not the remaining cabinet nominations—until the trial ended, and promised witnesses would tie everything up for months.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said McCarthy told her of a conversation: “He said to the President, ‘You’ve got to hold them. You need to get on TV right now, you need to get on Twitter, you need to call these people off.’ And he said, the President said, ‘Kevin, they’re not my people.’”

McCarthy told Trump: “Yes they are, they just came through my windows and my staff is running for cover. Yeah, they’re your people. Call them off,” Herrera Beutler said. On Friday she tweeted, “That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” Truly an incendiary account. Trump supporters didn’t want anything like that in the public record, right?

But then something odd happened; the Senate ruled that the accounts of the conversation between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump could be stipulated; in other words, admitted as evidence without objection. The phone call is utterly damning, with McCarthy shouting to Trump to call off his mob (Remember, Trump’s brownshirts were busting the windows to McCarthy’s office at the time). Further, it revealed a depraved indifference on Trump’s part toward his own vice president, Mike Pence. A few minutes later, Tommy Tuberville told Trump that Pence had been hustled away, but was still in danger. Trump followed the conversation with instructions to the mob via tweet to attack Pence for his lack of courage. It’s widely reported that the Pence Secret Service were in constant contact with Trump’s Secret Service, and so Trump had to know Pence was in danger, along with his staff, family, and even the backup nuclear football Pence’s Secret Service carried.

Trump did not call off his mob. He did not send in the National Guard. It was Pence who called the guard, and it was five hours later that Trump finally told his followers to go home. And five days before he bothered calling Pence to see if he was ok.

After that, the Dems suddenly reversed their field on calling witnesses, and today saw the end of the trial, and the 57-43 vote that disgraced but did not convict Trump.

Why did this happen? Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said he voted to acquit Donald Trump because he thought it was unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a president who had already left office. That’s nonsensical on the face of it, but it reveals McConnell’s thinking—he wants Trump gone. He just doesn’t want the Senate to do it and thus widen the existing civil war within the GOP. At least 300,000 voters have fled the party since election day, and there is a serious movement afoot to create a new party that isn’t overwhelmed by Nazis and conspiracy freaks.

To that end, he was willing to disgrace Trump and make criminal charges against him much easier?

Anyone remember Ollie North? Betrayed America through his role in Iran/Contra, got off on a technicality, and spent the rest of his wastrel life gloating at us? He got off because a court ruled that testimony against him in Congressional hearings could not be entered as evidence in criminal proceedings as being prejudicial and a violation of double indemnity. He walked because of the witnesses in Congress.

There may well be hundreds of witnesses who are willing or can be subpoenaed in a criminal trial of Trump for dereliction of duty and possibly sedition. And criminal trials are coming. Count on it.

So Senate Republicans punted, but civilian courts are made of sterner stuff.

In the meantime, this was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the United States.

Trump may be acquitted. But he has also been disgraced like no other President in history.

Day Four — Weak Tea for the Defense

Day Four

Weak Tea for the Defense

February 12th, 2021

After the devastating presentations the House Management Team gave, there wasn’t much Team Trump had to bring to the table. They questioned the constitutionality of the trial—something the Senate already settled four days earlier on a 56-44 vote. They claimed that attacking Trump for his speech on January 6th 2021 would have a chilling effect on free speech because all Trump did was urge his followers to fight for a noble cause peacefully. They then ran a 10 minute supercut of Democrats and random celebrities using the word “fight.” Hundreds of half-second examples, none of which, oddly enough, resulting in an angry armed mob sacking the Capitol. Even some Republicans were laughing at how ridiculous, and how strained, the efforts to equate Trump’s rhetoric to that of Democratic speakers was.

Just to show how desperate Team Trump were to fill the three hours out of the 16 allotted to them, they showed variants on the same video three more times. They repeated themselves a lot. In fact, they used three hours to present about 15 minutes of material. Perhaps the aim was to have the Senate nod off and forget what they were doing. Watching presiding officer Patrick Leahy, who is 80, struggle to stay vertical in his chair, it probably was about the only real plan they had.

They started out with the claim that a “leader of Antifa” had been arrested prior to the rally, but was released. Quite aside from the fact that Antifa doesn’t have a leader, the effort to imply that Antifa was involved in the march in any way falls apart when you realize that the purpose of the march was to overturn the results of the election and give Trump a second term. Oh, and hang Mike Pence and put a bullet in “Nancy’s friggin’ brain.” You know—peaceful like.

Team Trump went on to describe how Democrats did nothing while BLM and Antifa “burned vast swatches of American cities.” This would have been a good time to show the insurance claims surrounding such destruction, but at least they didn’t use the campaign videos the Trump campaign released about how THIS would be what America would look like under Sleepy Joe. I guess we weren’t supposed to notice the images were all taken under Trump’s America, except for the ones they [ahem] borrowed from scenes in the 80s, or from other countries.

A new addition to Team Trump was Michael T. van der Veen, “…who less than one year ago was suing then-President Trump, alleging in federal court that his role in undermining the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and baseless claims of mail-in voter fraud would disenfranchise Pennsylvania citizens,” according to the Law&Crime website. Well, in fairness it’s probably getting pretty hard to find a lawyer who hasn’t sued Trump at one point or another. Just part of that lawn order matrix that underlies Trump’s philosophy.

The team hilariously used Trump uttering “Law and Order” many times during the trial to demonstrate Trump’s love of, well, law and order. The term really has a different meaning when Republicans use it, and has since the days of Spiro Agnew. With Trump, it’s even more different: he says it to mean letting cops, national guard and troops go in and beat the shit out of actual peaceful demonstrators, like the ones that were standing around when Trump wanted to stroll over to Saint Patricks and hold a bible upside down to show how religious or patriotic or something he was.

Beyond that, the defense was empty flailing. The trial was “rushed”. Democrats always hated on Donald Trump and wanted to impeach him from day one. True, some did, but bills to impeach don’t go anywhere without strong supporting evidence. [At least one Republican House member filed a bill to impeach Joe Biden before he was even inaugurated, which may be a new record in partisanship.] Democrats had a bug up their asses about Russia. It was unconstitutional. It was denying the will of 73 million Americans. It attacked free speech. Everyone should have the right to use ambiguous phrasing to send a murderous mob to burn the Capitol. It’s kind of the Law and Order version of Free Speech. The Democrats “doctored evidence.” Oh, and they violated the discovery process by withholding video evidence and springing it on Team Trump on Day One. Unfortunately for them, they signed the receipt for those videos two days before the trial began.

They had a question and answer period, which is still ongoing, but Bernie Sanders, characteristically, had the mike-drop moment.

He asked the lawyers on the Trump Team if in their judgment, Trump (who Team Trump were forced to refer to conspicuously as the 45th President) won the 2020 election. Van der Veer snapped, “My judgment. Who asked that? My judgment is irrelevant in this proceeding,” It was as close as any of them could come to an answer.

That, of course, is what underlay Trump’s whipping up an angry mob, culminating in the attack on the Capitol. Even now, his allies and mouthpieces can’t admit that he lost the election.

It’s pretty much over except for the voting at this point. And most elected Republicans are a combination of liars, fools, cowards and traitors. Trump in all likelihood will be acquitted by the Senate.

But in the eyes of the public, both Trump and the Republican Party were found guilty of sedition against America. The vote to acquit is, at best, a Pyrrhic victory.

Day Three — Yes, Trump planned the attack

Day Three

Yes, Trump planned the attack

February 11th, 2021

The third and final day of the House Manager presentation occurred today, and it was actually somewhat anticlimactic, not because of any lack on the part of the presenters, but because the first two days were amongst the most riveting and jarring days of presentation in the history of the Senate.

They set out to show that for the better part of a year, Trump knew he was going to lose, and set up the false narrative that if he lost, it meant the election was stolen. He hammered that idea to cheering crowds and millions of credulous twitter followers hundreds of time, perhaps thousands. “They [the insurrectionists] came because he [Trump] told them to,” congresswoman Diana DeGette said.

It was the Big Lie technique; repeat something simple often enough, and people will come to believe it. An inveterate reader of Adolf Hitler’s My World Order (it was his bedside reading for years, perhaps his only reading), he was familiar with the concept. Keep it simple. Say it all the time. Pretend it is an absolute truth, not to be questioned.

As the election neared, it was already an article of faith amongst his followers. Democrats were going to steal the election. Trump had inculcated the idea so thoroughly into his brainwashed followers that no amount of evidence could dissuade them. Not that Republicans overall did better in the election than expected. (Does anyone seriously think if Dems were stealing elections, McConnell and Greene would have won?).

At the same time, he was following another portion of the approach Hitler used to take power. He formed a legion of brownshirts—Proud Boys, 3 Percenters, Oath Keepers and other cryptofascistic groups, fed them the same toxic mix of hypernationalism, racism, and Got Mitt Uns, and carefully groomed them to be ready to take up arms on his behalf.

Independent of the Senate trial, we learned yesterday that between the election and January 6th, Trump’s campaign pumped $2.3 million to them, more than enough to secure paramilitary gear and transport hundreds of them to Washington. Today, in another court case deposition, CNN reported that Oath Keepers leader Jessica Watkins, “who planned and led others in the Capitol siege to attempt to stop the Biden presidency — believed she was responding to the call from then-President Donald Trump himself.” According to the filing, prosecutors said Watkins texted “I am concerned this is an elaborate trap. Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it’s not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will. Otherwise, I can’t trust it.”

It’s safe to say that ‘POTUS’ activated them.

The Managers demolished what was left of the First Amendment argument Trump’s lawyers half-heartedly presented on the first day of the proceedings, noting that if anything, Trump’s deliberate lies about the election were intended to deprive the 80 million plus Americans who voted for Biden of their First Amendment rights.

Inciteful speech has never been protected by the First Amendment. If I go out on a street corner and start shouting “Hang Mike Pence!” the cops are going to arrest me. Yes, even now, when Mike Pence is no longer Vice President and I pose no credible threat. Had I shouted such things while standing near the Vice President with a rope in my hand and calling for his death, I would be looking at twenty years in federal prison. Trump clearly sent people to kill Mike Pence.

Unsaid at the trial but hanging in the air like a bison’s fart was the fact that Trump sent his mob to the Capitol knowing that people were likely to die. He didn’t care. He didn’t even care which people died. He has never expressed remorse for the five people who died, not once. I have a feeling, knowing his sociopathic narcissism, that he would have been flattered that people died in his name. The more, the better.

And the first two days of testimony made it clear that it came very close to being a bloodbath, and could have been far worse than it was. It could easily have been a Joe Abercrombie battle scene.

The Managers closed by noting what the Managers said in the first impeachment trial: if he gets away with it now, he’s going to do it again.

The Republicans probably won’t convict, and it will come back to haunt them. It will come back to haunt all of us.

At this point, there are four only types of Republicans that still support Trump:

1) Cowards 2) Traitors 3) Liars 4) Fools

Call your Republican representative and ask which of those four categories apply. In all likelihood, all four will for the Senators.

And keep working to crush the Trump movement and its brownshirts.

Day Two — Trump’s Riot, Detailed

Day Two

Trump’s Riot, Detailed

February 10th, 2021

It was another horrific day for Trump and the Republicans, particularly those in the Senate. Everyone knew it was going to be rough, since today was reserved for the prosecuting House Managers. They proceeded to detail, over six staggering hours, just how horrible the assault on the Capitol was, the deliberation and planning Trump put into planning and inciting the rioters, just how close it came to becoming a mass murder event, and the utter lack of concern by Trump, not just for the people in the Capitol building, but his own allies and the police trying to defend the Capitol.

He takes a place in history alongside Guy Fawkes and Marinus Van der Lubbe, who also led assaults against the seats of government in history. On far thinner evidence than that presented against Trump today, the two were, respectively, burned at the stake and beheaded. We live in more humane times, and while it’s unlikely the pathetic filth of the GOP will permit him to be convicted by the Senate, he will face criminal charges, and he will die in prison.

He will die in prison. That is his fate, bought and paid for. He may face dozens of other charges from his long, sordid criminal life, but the testimony today will ensure that he will never be a free man after a true jury has heard what was presented by the House managers today.

For those of you who couldn’t watch today, I strongly urge getting a transcript, or at the very least watching the cable news recaps. The detail of the explanation of events, and the corroborating evidence, are incredible.

Perhaps the most jarring element of all was the recordings that showed the true nature of the beast that Trump unleashed. Many of the insurrectionists who were the first to arrive came in full paramilitary gear, and a terrifying array of weaponry. Some had hand-ties. Some had clubs and spears. One thoughtfully brought along a hangman’s noose. These are not hallmarks of a peaceful protest. Some of them came determined to kill Democrats and Republicans that Trump had turned on.

As I watched, the hoary term “baying of the mob” kept coming to mind. Most of us have only heard it in movies and TV shows, and perhaps thought of it something invented by Hollywood just to add a sense of dread to the scene. It isn’t. Not in real life, not in the US Capitol. It was a mob, and the inchoate shouts of rage and glee were the epitome of the phrase, “the baying of the mob.” This was a group of people determined to harm, determined to murder. Some passed along encouraging tweets from Trump encouraging and egging them on. They wanted to hang Mike Pence. They wanted to “shoot Nancy in the friggin’ brain.” There were happy shouts as police scrambled back, shouts for police and Capitol staff to tell them where the Congressionals were hiding. The video removed any doubt that they were wise to hide—even the scum that supported the rioters. Their treason did not make them safe because mobs don’t care about niceties such as “for us or against us.”

The House Managers did an amazing job of showing how Trump primed his violent and extremist fans and ensured that they came to Washington the day of the vote certification with the specific intent of trying to intimidate Congress into overturning the results of the election. It was all out in the open, in social media, and in the IMs traded amongst the rioters. It’s indicated by the widespread warnings of possible violence and Trump’s refusal to provide National Guard coverage. Today Open Secrets had an explosive article detailing payments from the Trump campaign to leaders of the riots in the weeks prior to the attack.

While most Republican Senators at least pretended to be attentive, there were obvious exceptions. Josh Hawley, freshman and professional dirtbag, according to writer Chip Franklin. “…is ignoring the trial reading stuff that has nothing to do with the impeachment… even sitting with his legs up on the seat in front of him. If this gets you kicked out of Biology class, why doesn’t it get him kicked out of the Senate?” Hawley tried claiming he actually was paying attention and reading notes on the trial, but it’s pretty unlikely. Chuck Grassley had an Ipad in his desk in contravention of Senate rules. It’s problematical as to whether Grassley was being contemptuous or simply didn’t understand what was going on, but I’m sure he levelled up several times in his favorite game. Rick Scott, demonstrating the moral and intellectual vacuity that is his trademark, sneered that the proceedings were “a waste of time.”

The only sign of moral outrage amongst Republicans came from Utah’s Mike Lee, who huffed indignantly that stories that he received calls from Trump intended for the intellectual giant Tommy Tuberville and proceeded to pass his phone to Tommy so he could get his marching orders from Trump were totally untrue. Unfortunately, his own chief aide told CNN the story, back on January 8th. CNN reported back then, “Lee picked up the phone and Trump identified himself, and it became clear he was looking for Tuberville and had been given the wrong number. Lee, keeping the President on hold, went to find his colleague and handed Tuberville his phone, telling him the President was on the line and had been trying to reach him.”

Oops. Well maybe you’ll do better the next time one of the rat herd you’re in need frantic lies to stay afloat.

Today’s proceeding won’t change many minds amongst Trump supporters, if only because they will have refused to watch, but for the rest of us, it removes any residual doubt in anyone’s mind about the precalculation and viciousness of Trump’s complicity.

Day One — The Trial of Trump

Day One

The Trial of Trump

“You will not hear any member of the team representing former Pres. Trump say anything but in the strongest possible way denounce the violence of the rioters,” — Bruce Castor, Junior. Defending Trump at the Senate trial.

“So go home. We love you. You’re very special.” — Trump, to those same rioters.

If the GOP had just 17 Senators with integrity, courage, and patriotism, Trump’s long criminal career would have died this morning. It remains to be seen if 1 in 3 Republicans has any personal decency left, but in the eyes of the public, the already deeply-unpopular ex-President took a fatal blow today.

The House managers prosecuting Trump began with a ten minute video of the riots, juxtaposed with Trump’s speech urging them to go to the Capitol and “fight to save our country.” If you’ve been in a cave and not seen it, you can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtnBvOqEgbw&feature=youtu.be It’s extraordinary. It’s irrefutable proof of Trump’s complicity and guilt.

Jamie Raskin, leader of the House management team, followed it with what turned into a breaktakingly brilliant exposition of whether the trial was constitutional, and why it was so utterly necessary (diplomatically omitting the large possibility that a large majority of Republican Senators will rise to the absolute minimum of civic duty expected of every loyal citizen in this country) He began by saying, “You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution? That’s a high crime and misdemeanor. If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing.”

“President Trump may not know much about the Framers, but they knew a lot about him,” Raskin explained how the founders, Hamilton in particular, realized that democracy would inevitable produce corrupt fools and thieves. Hamilton wrote, “”When a man unprincipled in private life[,] desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper . . . despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’” Trump’s impeachment team were dryly aware of it, with one quipping that he was going to warn the Senate that they stood to reap the whirlwind, a biblical allusion, but discovered the phrase had “already been taken.” It stood out as the only witty or clever thing the Trump representatives had to say today.

Another House management member, Joe Neguse, observed that not only was there precedent for impeaching officials after they had left office, but coined an arresting phrase that is sure to stick in the public mind: “The January Exception.” The premise is that if you can’t try officials for high crimes and misdemeanors committed in the waning days of their terms, then any official will feel free to commit such misdeeds and then just run out the clock, knowing that once out of office, they couldn’t be punished.

David Cicilline then noted that Trump was continuing to insist the election was stolen after the riots, showing an utter lack of remorse for the violence and damage done in his name. One of the most memorable moments in his presentation came when he said, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” Every time I read that tweet, it chills me to the core. The president of the United States sided with the insurrectionists.

Raskin then took over, recounting that the day before the assault on the Capitol, he had just buried his son. “the saddest day of my life.” Raskin had brought his young daughter with him to the Capitol to share her grief and loss, and after the frightening hours they were separated, told her, “it would not be like this again” when she returned.

Raskin, now crying, said his daughter told him, “Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.” It was one of the most profoundly moving moments I’ve ever seen in Congress. I was crying.

The Trump team seemed at a loss after that presentation. Bruce Castor argued that the trial was an attack on free speech, even though the trial is on incitement to riot, which has never been protected by the First Amendment. He made the truly bizarre statement that if the Senate really felt Trump had done that, they should arrest him. Something the Senate isn’t empowered to do. All they can do is try him—which Castor seemed to think was overstepping. His presentation was a bit of a mess, really. He reminded me of nothing so much as a schoolboy giving a book report on a book he had not read. Only where a kid might have to figure out how Captain Ahab met with a fishing accident for five minutes, Castor had to drone on for a full hour with nothing to say, which he said, over and over. Even Alan Dershowitz, a master of barristeric obfuscation, couldn’t make head nor tails of what Castor was saying. There’s an unconfirmed report that Trump, watching from Mir-A-Lago, was screaming in impotent rage at his performance. Rage and fear look good on the face of Donald J. Trump.

David Schoen then took the floor, arguing that convicting Trump would not unify the country, but could even lead to civil war. Apparently someone forgot to tell him that many of the clowns attacking the Capitol wore T-Shirts that said “Civil War II: January 6th, 2021”. He then proceeded to flat-out lie, saying that Nancy Pelosi had demanded the trial take place after Trump left office. I would have loved to see the expression on Mitch McConnell’s face when he said that.

Schoen, an observant Jew, had brought his religion to the forefront already, first demanding that the trial be recessed on Friday for his Sabbath, and when the Senate acceded, bizarrely backtracked and said it was ok to have the Friday session. During the session today, he put his hand on his head when sipping from a glass of water, observing his belief that the head must be covered when drinking. Normally it wouldn’t be worthy of mention, but combined with the weird backtracking and his performance today, it probably left a lot of Jews in the country wishing he hadn’t made his Judaism such a prominent feature in a trial that is bound to put him in a bad light.

He tried claiming the assault was a hoax, made by Hollywood to put Trump in a negative light. No, really.

Castor returned, continuing a policy of trying to defuse the interest in the case by being as soporifically incoherent as possible.

It was the most one-sided set of opening arguments since Godzilla vs. Bambi.

Donald Trump may be the defendant, but it’s the GOP who are really on trial.

Today did them no favors.

Six Days — Countdown to the end of the Trump era

Six Days

Countdown to the end of the Trump era

January 14th 2021

Even without the attempted coup at the Capitol last week, everyone would be on tenterhooks right now. While the threat of any significant violence strikes me as overblown—Gravy Seals and Meal Team Sucks against 20,000 police, National Guard and the Army—there’s little doubt in anyone’s mind that Donald Trump is engaged in what psychiatrists refer to as decompensation. That’s the utter breakdown of a world created by a neurotic and/or psychotic person in the face of implacable reality. Trump is learning, at the end, that he is not widely loved and admired, and his efforts to dominate and bully people is at an end. Not only that, but next week the last of his power vanishes, and he must account for his crimes. He has suffered humiliation after humiliation, from losing the election by a huge margin (and finally having to admit it, if only to himself) to his second impeachment, and the horror of most of the nation at his effort to violently overthrow the election.

Decompensation is a psychological crisis. It results in severe depression, psychotic rage, and a blind lashing out at enemies, real and imagined. It often results in suicide, violence, and/or unbridled acting out, often on the same level as the tantrum of a two-year old.

Case in point: Mike Pence was the most servile lickspittle of all of Trump’s administration. When Pence had to admit that he couldn’t carry out an impossible demand of somehow overturning the Electoral College vote, Trump sent the baying mob to hang Mike Pence. His own vice-president.

The danger signs are so clear and immediate that Congress and the armed forces have (hopefully) taken steps to neutralize some of the destruction a US President is normally capable of. At this hour, it’s not clear that the military will accept orders from their commander-in-chief. In an extraordinary communiqué, the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced they would not participate in any efforts by Trump to reverse the results of the election or prevent President-Elect Joe Biden from taking office.

Hopefully, that addresses another very real fear—that Trump might ignite a major war with Iran or perhaps China as an excuse to declare Martial Law and use that to try to maintain his role as President. Or provoke a domestic crisis (such as the attack on the Capitol) to the same end.

I’ve said for many years that Trump’s best features are his cowardice and his incompetence. He’s great at bullying people, but hopeless at managing them. He demands loyalty but offers none in return.

An amazing example of that trait is happening with the hapless Rudy Giuliani. After offering the barely-qualified Giuliani $20,000 an hour to represent him in court cases, he left it out that being dissatisfied with Rudy’s ability to win any court cases where there was no supporting evidence or even rationale, he wasn’t going to pay Rudy. This the same day he asked Giuliani to lead his legal team in his second impeachment trial in the Senate. (Honestly, I can’t believe I’m writing this stuff. My keyboard wants to crawl under my desk in shame. But it’s all real.)

Trump seems incapable of formulating a business plan, let alone a coherent policy for running a huge nation, and it’s no surprise to anyone familiar with his actual record as a businessman that he would be an utter and inept failure as a president. He doesn’t have the mental wherewithal or the emotional flexibility to deal with crises, even those that are self-generated. His utter inability to address the marches during the spring and summer, or the pandemic, are absolutely true to type. He never had to deal with the huge messes he created throughout his tawdry life from lack of discipline or intelligence, leaving those to an army of Michael Cohens, but as president he created messes too big and too immediate for anyone to brush away.

Having finally realized that he went too far in sending that mob to the Capitol, he gave a scathing denunciation of the violence and damage the mob caused. Trump has made a living out of pissing on people and telling them it’s holy water, but I doubt this particular mob is going to be too pleased, especially since hundreds of them are going to go to jail, branded as traitors, and the thousands more who did nothing worse than protest will be tarred with the same brush. I semi-joked the other day that Q was going to have to explain to his circus of freaks and psychotics that Donald Trump had sold out and joined the deep state conspiracy to destroy Donald Trump.

I’m cautiously optimistic that when President Joe Biden enters the Oval Office (possibly to find a large mound of Donald’s shit on the Resolute desk), it will be without major incident, and only a few inchoate demonstrations on the fringes of the military perimeter and around a few state Capitols.

As for Trump, he may be arrested the same day or at least detained on what we in California call a 5150; restrained because he presents a danger to himself and others. The Southern District of New York supposedly has a fire hose of criminal charges awaiting Trump. And that’s just the beginning.

That’s why Trump has been so desperate and so frightened that he’s willing to destroy the country to remain in office: he faces ruin and prison the minute he stops being President. I have no sympathy: it’s all self-inflicted, and he did immense damage to many people on the way.

If it weren’t for the knee-jerk servility Americans have toward any self-proclaimed successful capitalist, Trump would have never been anything other than a bad joke, in and out of prison on various scams and petty thefts. I doubt people in general will learn from his example, although the lesson is immediate: wealth does not equate to wisdom, honesty, or decency. It never has, and it never will.

In the end, Trump, by becoming President, showed the world what he really was.

And we’ll be paying for that for many years.

January 6th 2021 — The Coup-Coo Brigade Strike

January 6th 2021

The Coup-Coo Brigade Strike

Various people today have declared that today’s assault on the Capitol of the United States was a date that would “live in infamy”.

My mum wouldn’t have been too thrilled to hear that. If she were alive, this would be her 102nd birthday. She wouldn’t have been chuffed at having her special day listed along with December 7th or September 11th.

She wouldn’t have been too surprised if she were around to hear how the story came about. From the 80s up until her death a few years ago she took the measure of Donald Trump and considered him an utterly vile man, amoral, rude, and vulgar. Since my own view of Trump was about the same, I used to watch the members of my family who liked Trump squirm uncomfortably should anyone mention his name within her earshot. Her profound deafness in her final years was no protective wall; like many people in her position, she had a knack for hearing key words in a conversation. Discussing Bridge, or British terms for flatulence, could provoke an outburst.

She was old. She wasn’t stupid. Trump was trash, and she knew it.

Today’s events, and Trump’s role in them, wouldn’t have surprised her. It didn’t surprise me. It’s a wonder it surprised anyone, really. Trump had been saying right along that he didn’t accept the results of the election, and would encourage his inane clown posse to fight on his behalf. Indeed, the reason Congress was vulnerable to such an attack stemmed from the notion that Congress could somehow overcome the will of the states (not to mention the people) by disrupting the normally ritualistic tabulation of the electoral college votes. Stooges and seditionists in Congress planned to object and drag out the proceedings in a forlorn hope that somehow they could get Congress to abandon the vote.

While this was going on, Trump stood in the speech and told his tin-foil hat brigade to march on Congress and that he would march with them. They began marching, and Trump promptly scurried off to the Führerbunker formerly known as the White House.

In a weird way, he may have actually done the nation a favor. On several levels, really.

First the events of today unleashed a tidal wave of anger and rage against Trump and the “Stop the Steal” movement. Suddenly it stopped being one of those loony things the crowd that believe the Queen is a lizard or that Hillary ran a pedophile operation in the basement of a pizza shop, and became a genuine insurrection against the country. Even people who like Trump were taken aback by today’s events. “Support the President.” Doesn’t matter how trashy or crazy the president is, and Trump is part of a rather long list of Presidents who didn’t belong in office. But supporting the president no matter what is a thing—until that president tries to overthrow the government of the US. You have to go back to antebellum days to find one of those. “Support the President”? Well, OK. “Destroy the Country?” Not so much.

Trump is finished. There are rumors that the Cabinet is considering 25th amendment removal of Trump before he does yet more damage. Congress may take up an unprecedented move to impeach, and if they do, it’s likely that Trump will be convicted. A wave of resignations in his administration has already begun. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all suspended his account.

His supporters that don’t feel they can abandon him are going to ridiculous lengths to rationalize the events of today. One Trumper I spoke to this morning denied any knowledge of the assault on the Capitol, and when I told him to switch on his TV, airily replied “Why? There’s nothing I can do about it.” Several Trumpers, including the idiot A-G of Texas, proffered the theory that all the thousands of protesters waving Trump, Confederate and even Nazi flags were actually all Antifa in disguise, a false flag operation.

I’m listening to the debate in resumed hearings tonight, and it’s clear that support for Trump has effectively collapsed. I suspect that holds true in much of the country. I’m watching the Senate vote on debate on objections to the electoral vote count, and this morning 11 senators were expected to sustain the objection, but I think there’s only five “ayes” now.

Even Qanon crazy Loeffler switched sides. (The final vote was 93-6).

Another thing that may benefit the country in the long run is that the insurrection today was a cold shot of reality. Americans believed it could not happen here. I was raised in England, two big civil wars, endless religious strife, and war after war after war, not only with the other nations in the British Isles, but with much of Europe. Insurrections, regicides, riots—all part of the glorious tapestry that is England. England regards itself as a great nation, fully cognizant of the fact that it has unrest and violence as part of its legacy. I was born in Canada, one of the most genuinely peaceful and stable nations on Earth—one with a long and not entirely vanished history of violence against First Nations people. The Riel rebellion, the FLQ crisis, and even major riots over hockey games. Canadians KNOW they aren’t “better than this.” It’s part of history.

America is better at regrowing its spiritual hymen better than any other nation on Earth, aside from the French who consider whoring an alternate virginity. For a generation, at least, Americans will be cognizant of the danger presented by extreme and even insane political movements.

If this beast rises its head again, perhaps they won’t have politicians coddling them, cowardly presidents leading from behind, or police taking selfies with the nuts because the nuts wave Confederate flags.

Perhaps American will learn to recognize, and adjust for their own humanity.

Intimidation – Voters getting nasty emails

Intimidation

Voters getting nasty emails

October 21st, 2020

Voters have been reporting that they have been getting threatening emails that if they vote for Biden, great harm will come to them and their families. It isn’t just campaign persiflage; these are direct, criminal threats of physical harm Apparently the threatening emails are fairly widespread, and today the DNI director and the head of the FBI had a press conference that was an exercise in strange behavior from a strange government.

According to them, foreign actors—Iran and possibly Russia—had gotten hold of voter registration rolls and run mail merge to mass send these emails. It’s isn’t technologically difficult—the polls can be requested at the offices of most country clerks, and any junior in a high school computer class to convert the listings to a database file and mail merge them. It’s a bit surprising it hasn’t happened before now, really. I remember in 2004 it crossed my mind to do that sort of thing—not to threaten and intimidate anyone, but just as a get-out-the-vote thing. But back then a lot of voters didn’t yet have emails, and those were the very ones the Dems wanted to contact to vote. Now, of course, both local Parties are presumably maintaining emailing lists for legitimate purposes.

At least some of the emails claimed to be from the Proud Boys, although at this point there’s no evidence that they were involved.

The DNI director, John Ratcliffe, made the somewhat odd assertion that the threats were meant to harm the Trump campaign. Adam Schiff flat out wondered it that was “Ratcliffe spin or the assessment of the analysts.” The New York Times was of the opinion that the emails were more general in nature, meant to scare voters and undermine the entire voting process. It might be illuminative to determine which voters were targeted, and in what numbers. If all the emails started with “If you vote for Biden…” then it’s safe to assume that the people behind the emails were working on Trump’s behalf. Trump supporters might argue that it was a false-flag effort designed to make Trump look bad, but since when did Trump mind looking bad in the name of deceit?

But for now, we don’t know, and we should just assume that it’s nonpartisan fuckery. The truth will come out in due course. As for who sent the emails, I’m guessing the true address would be something ending in “.ru”. That would explain why Trump himself hasn’t had anything to say about the mailings.

There’s supposed to be a second debate tomorrow, but it’s anyone’s guess if Trump will show up. Apparently he’s furious that they’ll be using a mute button so he can’t simply try to scream down Biden. Each candidate will be muted during his opponent’s two minute response to the moderator’s questions. Trump can’t imagine American peons making him behave.

Senator Chuck Schumer announced that the Dems will boycott the committee voting on the Barrett nomination, denying the Republicans a quorum. Chances are McConnell will just steamroll over the Senate rules in his mad drive to put any old nut on the court who will negate the power of the people. Barrett’s cult, People of Power, is so toxic that even the magazine that represents the National Catholic Churches said she was a poor choice for the Court and asked the Senate to hold off until after the new government is seated in January. That vote is supposed to take place tomorrow. In the meantime, new allegations of trauma and sexual abuse appeared against Barrett’s cult. Vicious stuff, Jim Jones-type stuff.

And the fuckery continues. In Florida, the most corrupt state in America, the Republican government announced a new sweep of the voting rolls, designed to eliminate anyone who had any debt to anyone related to a felony conviction. This despite a state law that forbid removal of anyone from voter eligibility within 40 days of an election. Republicans, former Americans, don’t give a shit about the law; they just want to maintain power.

In one of the weirdest twists of an already psychotic year, Rudy Giuliani apparently was conned into a compromising position with a woman he had been persuaded was an underage girl. The movie, released later this week, apparently shows him fondling himself in front of a supposed minor. Or at least he thought she was a minor. She’s an actress, Maria Bakalova, who is supposedly the daughter of Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Giuliani is seen reaching down his pants and playing with himself, and Borat bursts in on the pair, shouting, “She’s 15. She’s too old for you.” Sigh. America’s mayor has seen better days, it has to be said.

And Barack Obama hit the campaign trail on Biden’s behalf, blistering Trump, pointing out that he’s not going to protect America from COVID when he can’t even protect himself. He noted that if Biden and Harris were in the White House, Americans wouldn’t have to worry about what crazy bullshit our leaders pulled today. (Yes, I’m paraphrasing Obama on that one. He actually said “crazy things they said every day.” Not the most flattering thing anyone’s ever said about the leader of the free world, right?).

The national polls are holding steady with Biden showing a 10+ point lead. State polls are more muddied, partly because they have smaller pools of voters, and as a result the MoE can be from 3 to 5 points. And voter intent in those polls can be less certain as well, especially in swing state.

No matter what you get in your email, no matter how much your republican state governments try to mess with your right to vote, no matter how bad the polls look, vote. If Trump can’t steal your country, he can’t steal your life.