The Kavanaugh Kave – Black robes don’t make a fascist a Justice

Like millions of other people, I watched the hearings today with a mixture of anger, pity, disbelief and with a strong sense that I was watching an unfunny outtake from Idiocracy.

The Republicans, hirelings to plutocrats and deeply flawed parodies of Americans, strutted and stormed and proclaimed their deep moral dungeon over the terrible mistreatment this sweet, innocent man had received at the claws of vengeful leftists.

Twenty-five years ago, that might have flown. Republicans had moral, ethical and intellectual credibility at one time. But then came Newt, and Slappy, and the Blue Dress, and Cheney and Iraq and the treatment of Obama and…well, these days Republican protestations of morality ring as hollow as a tired old hooker’s cries of passion. Republicans, moral high ground? Oh, bubbles, that ship has sailed, and once over the horizon, it sank without a trace.

Brett Kavanaugh acted like a drunk in a bar who has been called out on his bullshit and realizes that all he’s got left is bluster. So Kavanaugh shouted, veins in his forehead pulsed as his cheeks flamed, and he vacillated wildly between bellicose attacks and cries of victimhood. At one point, trying to refute the simple and obvious answer that the FBI should put in a week investigating the claims brought against him and report to the Committee, howled that he had already been through eleven days—an eternity in spoiled prep boy who isn’t getting what he wants time—and he had been destroyed and his family had been destroyed and now they wanted to add to it by having the temerity to ask if the accusers might have a case! Republicans with tattered wisps of remaining humanity stared at the floor and bit their lips and wondered how it all came to this.

The subtext of Kavanaugh’s tirade was evident enough: “Just shut up and appoint me, you assholes! Don’t you know I’m Somebody? I’m Important! I’m Entitled! So stop dicking around pretending you’re anything other than pathetic little lickspittles of the Kochs and put me on the court so we can be done with this ‘democracy’ bullshit!”

Entitled. He could have any job he wanted. Any favor he wanted. Any preference.

Any woman.

There are reports that Trump, watching this unfold from the West Wing, was in a towering rage. He supposedly was furious that the female prosecutor brought in to figleaf GOP misogyny, Rachel Mitchell of Arizona, wasn’t treating Dr. Ford with the same sneering contempt that he would have. In a move that may or may not be related, Trump abruptly postponed the meeting with Rob Rosenstein, meaning we don’t get to find out if he is fired or not for another week. Oh, gosh, we won’t learn his fate until next week’s episode of “Dancing with the Tsars.”

I felt sorry for Rachel Mitchell. She was under orders to treat Dr. Christine Blasey Ford with compassion and respect. That made prosecution exceedingly difficult, a bit like asking a mass murderer to take on the hero of the story without his guns, knives and garrottes. Even worse, she was given no opportunity to investigate the case at all, meaning she had to ask questions she didn’t know the answers to, and had no way to catch Ford out in any contradictions.

How did that go? Foxnews, not exactly a dispassionate and unbiased observer, was reduced to this breathless headline to describe how Mitchell was dismantling Ford: “Ford dramatically recounts assault claims against Kavanaugh; can’t say who paid for August polygraph”

She tried to make an issue of who was paying Ford, and asked who was paying for her lawyers. One of them spoke up: “We’re working pro bono.” And they paid for the lie detector. Oops.

Kavanaugh, humping the vast left wing conspiracy angle, demanded to know why the eleven angry democrats “who were seeking revenge for the Clintons.” Well, maybe if the Democrats on the committee hadn’t trouped in wearing Bill Clinton masks and chanting “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”…At least, to hear Kavanaugh’s take on it.

Kavanaugh is purely a creature of Trump, having essentially promised him that when the indictments began to fly he would shield the president from any and all charges and subpoenas by ruling the president was above the law. And Trump had been openly unimpressed with the calm, deliberative manner Kavanaugh feigned in the first round of meetings. Trump, of course, has no way of understanding that’s how a candidate for the Supreme Court is supposed to behave during the appointment hearings. So Kavanaugh, playing to the mad president rather than the country, tried channeling Trump’s bellicosity, dishonesty and bluster.

It was the worst move he could have possibly made, and it may have destroyed whatever slim chance he had of getting appointed.

Frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t already withdrawn. I didn’t expect today to go well for him, and he managed to turn it into an utter catastrophe.

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Fascism Rising – Trump and Kavanaugh aren’t bugs; they’re features

September 23rd, 2018

One of the many sub-plots in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s brilliant Maniac involves the character Jed Milgrim (played by Billy Magnussen) a “colorful douche” who is a scion of a vicious, powerful, wealthy family, and who stands accused of a heinous sexual assault involving urination. It’s nearly impossible not to think of the Trump family while watching this, not only because of the nature of the crime, or the resemblance Magnussen bears to one of the Trump scions, but because of the calm assurance of the family that in order to protect their power, prestige and wealth, it is perfectly reasonable to commit perjury, blackmail and bribe people (including family members), and stand well above the law in pursuit of their own interests. They are used to dismissing people who they have wronged and who want to fight back as greedy little scuttlers, and resent a legal system that doesn’t just let them destroy such rabble.

The haughty, self-assured mien Magnussen wears is one we have seen far too often, not just in this White House (including many of its nominees from the world of wealth and privilege) but in the faces of the broadcasters on the right-wing media, and the people who trot out endless columns of right wing think tanks to assure us that “identity politics” and “takers” are only showing resentment of their betters, and Americans should not believe people who profess to stand for the people when America’s ultra-wealthy stand ready to defend the people from the people.

Congruent with this, I’m presently reading a book by Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains – The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. I’ll have a full review of the book upon completion of reading it,

America has always had a class of aggrieved plutocrats who believe their property rights trump the civil rights of all other Americans. This dates back to John C. Calhoun and his vigorous defense of America’s biggest economic phenomenon prior to the civil war: slavery. MacLean notes that slavery made North Carolina the richest and most powerful state in the union prior to 1860, and created more one percenters in Mississippi than in New York.

The power of this elite was held in check by the Civil War and various economic crashes, culminating in the Crash of ‘29 and the Depression, resulting in the New Deal.

MacLean explains how a libertarian economist of the 1950s, James McGill Buchanan, created a reality in which vast sums of money could be spent organizing the plutocrat class and using propaganda and control of the media to convince Americans that they were incapable of self-governance and should let the natural leaders of society (the “businessmen”) run things.

It was fascism, pure and simple, although that is a word they never, ever acknowledge and attack all who use it. Governance through corporation.

The biggest problem with fascism is the same that one sees with other unaccountable forms of governments, such as theocracies and monarchies: corruption sets in quickly, and the rot spreads until it finally kills its host.

But as long as there is power and money to be accumulated, corruption isn’t seen as a bug—it’s seen as a feature.

The fascists have taken over the GOP, with the nightmarish and Kafkaesque results that we see in the paper every day, of people grimly determined to fight unions, civil libertarian groups, workers in general, women, and any group that can organize, collectivize and perhaps challenge their power.

MacLean writes, “Is what we are dealing with merely a social movement of the right whose radical ideas must eventually face public scrutiny and rise or fall on their merits? Or is this the story of something quite different, something never before seen in American history? Could it be—and I use these words quite hesitantly and carefully—a fifth-column assault on American democratic governance?…Pushed by relatively small numbers of radical-right billionaires and millionaires who have become profoundly hostile to America’s modern system of government, an apparatus decades in the making, funded by those same billionaires and millionaires, has been working to undermine the normal governance of our democracy. Indeed, one such manifesto calls for a “hostile takeover” of Washington, D.C.”

As you watch this week as the Republicans cling like grim death to the Kavanaugh nomination, hoping to push this vile corporatist down our throats to consolidate their power they way they have with Thomas, and Gorsuch, and you wonder how they can possibly continue to support Trump, reflect on the fact that they are no longer just an American political party: they are a fifth column, enemies to the Constitution and determined to finish a slow coup they have been conducting against America for 40 years.

They know Trump is a bad president. Even without the corruption, the sheer scale of his incompetence and inability to lead would, in a normal party, be enough to impeach him. They see the weirdness and chaos as inconveniences; the fact that Trump is utterly corrupt is what makes him so valuable to them. They know he’s a thief, a crook, a swindler, and possibly a traitor. But so are they, even if they dress it up in self-serving rhetoric, and as for being traitors, they are much closer in spirit to the most corrupt plutocrat of all, Vladimir Putin, then they are to anything readers might recognize as American values. Treason is betrayal against those you owe fealty. By their lights, betraying America is not treason.

Perhaps the saddest element of this is the people they have roped in to support them. The racists. The Evangelicals. The Xenophobes. The growling, disaffected population that feel they deserve a place at the table and the fascists are more than happy to promise them that place.

They’ve always been useful idiots for demagogues. Nothing new there. What is new is what will follow.

Should the fascists win, they will discard these people like used condoms. Not only are their beliefs and impulses bad for business, but they can reorganize and pose a threat to their masters. And they cannot be trusted: they’ve already betrayed America. It would only be a matter of time before they revolt against Trump’s New Order.

And the worst of all is that they would become our allies in a common cause.

If you can vote in November, vote like your life depends on it. It does.

We can avoid having to fight a Fascist Fifth Column again.

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Calexit – Maybe Russia wants California Back

September 16th, 2018

Secession movements in California are nothing new. There have been some 220 different schemes to divvy up the state, 27 of which either made it to the state legislature floor, or were put up for referendum. Most of latest ones would have the effect of taking a big blue state and making one or two blue states, and three or four red states.

There have been at least four different secession movements since 1975, the most recent of which is the resurrected Calexit movement, run by a shady character named Louis Marinelli.

It’s a mistake to assume that everyone who wants to break the state up or secede from the Union is seeking partisan advantage, or working for a foreign power. One of the most famous secession movements of the 20th century, for the State of Jefferson, was sparked by a desire for decent highways through the region and a widespread perception that Sacramento had reneged on promises to provide such. Some secession schemes were idealistic in nature: Ecotopia and Cascadia were proposed with an eye to creating an environmental paradise. Most of these movements sought to improve things, one way or another. Even the ones that sought to gain were self-serving, rather than villainous.

Just this year a scheme to split California into three (Cal3, backed by venture capitalist Tim Draper), creating two red states and one blue died when the State Supreme Court ruled that the proposition constituted a “major revision” to the state constitution. Such changes can be placed in front of voters only by the state Legislature or a constitutional convention. The Court concluded, “because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity, and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.” That would suggest that unless future initiatives specified that the existing state constitution be grandfathered into the mini-me states, such initiatives would be considered invalid.

Mind you, it was unlikely that two thirds of the state voters would turn the state water supply over to the thinly populated northern California, where the rain and snow like to congregate.

Which brings us to the Calexit movement. A year ago, it was moribund. The leader of the movement, the aforementioned Louis Marinelli, had suddenly fled the country, writing a manifesto that said, among other things, “I have found in Russia a new happiness, a life without the albatross of frustration and resentment towards ones’ homeland, and a future detached from the partisan divisions and animosity that has thus far engulfed my entire adult life. Consequently, if the people of Russia would be so kind as to welcome me here on a permanent basis, I intend to make Russia my new home.”

OK, good riddance. Turned out that unbeknownst to most voters and even most of his supporters, he had moved to Yekaterinburg the previous September, and was surreptitiously running Calexit from there.

He set up a bullshit embassy in Moscow, supposedly representing the “Republic of California.” Putin, of course, isn’t daft enough to grant recognition to this endeavor, but in a land where he viciously suppresses demonstrations he finds embarrassing, Putin seems oddly tolerant of Marinelli.

Russia did once have a colony in California from 1821 to 1841, what is now Fort Ross. (The “Ross” was for “Russia”). Nearby Sebastopol was not part of the Russian Empire, but got its name from the winners in a bar fight in a mysterious and largely unknown process. Northern California has the best history…

I had heard that Calexit was still a Thing, even without the Tsar of Yekateringburg, and assumed it basically gave the Teabagger crowd something to play with to distract them while the GOP imploded. While a lot of liberal and progressive Californian also fantasize about escaping from Trumpistan, they give Calexit a wide berth, knowing that it’s where venture capitalists, sagebush rebellion zanies, religious whacks and baby authoritarians go to die.

The Santa Barbara News Press is one of three papers that endorsed Trump in 2016 (and has its own remarkable story of takeover by a self-absorbed plutocrat) and so it’s not unusual to find Op-Eds saying that Lincoln was widely condemned during his presidency, just like Trump, so therefore Trump is just like Lincoln, or (today) that Trump must be honest because he refused to accept the presidential salary.

Even so, yesterday’s headline was a bit startling: “Secessionists hope ‘hatred’ of Golden State will aid cause.” The article, from Foxnews’ website, elaborates that the Calexit people want ‘deep hatred’ from at least twenty-five state legislatures, Not just hatred; deep hatred. I guess that means the sort of hatred people have for pink Capri pants, or Justin Beiber, or Barney the Dinosaur. Rip-your-teeth-out-and-throw-them-at-it type hatred.

The rationale is that if twenty five state leges vote to ask California to leave, that they will have the constitutionally required consent, and Calexit will tell the California voters that they now have legal permission from the country to leave.

It’s utter nonsense, of course. But Marinelli clearly hopes that the resounding rejection would make California all butt-hurt and they would leave in a huff, taking 12% of America’s economy and 15% of their tax base with them. The new Republic of California anthem could be, “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.” It would be only fitting.

“Disentanglement” could cost California a cool trillion, and the rest of the country even more, and both would take massive hits in wealth and power.

Happy birthday, Vladimir. Stand by to pick up the pieces.

Maybe Louis Marinelli would be president-for-life. “Medals for Everyone!”

It’s not going anywhere. Yes, Trump is widely hated in California, but it’s a lot easier and far more productive to get Trump out of office than it is to break up the United States.

In the meantime, reflect on this: Calexit and Marinelli want to stoke hatred to their ends. That rarely involves benign intent, and the Russian influence is, as they say, clear and present.

To the Trumperdoos who hate California and want us gone: There is no such thing as a “California.” Never was. It’s just something ginned up by Hollywood and the Fake Liberal Media.

Just ask your President. Nothing here except illegal voters. Who you want to vote for Calexit.

Or something like that.

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Cooperation – The Manafortress has Fallen

September 14th, 2018

Paul Manafort has flipped. He’s going to give Bob Mueller everything he knows; about that Trump Tower meeting, about any and all other contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and the exact degree each played in subverting the Clinton campaign and forced propagandization of the public discourse.

It’s a devastating blow for Trump, le coup de grâce, and it’s now becoming very unlikely that he will still be president six months from now.

It’s bad enough for a president when his campaign manager pleads guilty to two counts of conspiracy against the United States. (Trumperdoos, “Conspiracy” is the legal term for “collusion”).

Trump, when Manafort’s going to spill the beans, rat you out, sing like a canary, give it up to the G-men, telling them every thing you did as a part of that, you have a pretty sizable problem.

Mueller has a death grip on Manafort’s throat. In addition to the two guilty pleas and promise of cooperation, Manafort has agreed to give over nearly all of his personal wealth, some $145 million including four mansions, to asset forfeiture. It leaves just enough so his wife and kids won’t starve while he rots in jail. Manafort is clearly a man with no options and no bargaining chips, other than to give over Trump and many others close to Trump. This way, his family isn’t destitute, and he might actually live long enough to get out of prison, something not in the cards last week.

Shortly after Cohen decided to plead out and turn evidence, Trump got asked about ‘flippers.’ His answer was characteristically weird, in that he said he knew a lot of flippers and they were just part of his regular environment.

You have to wonder what other crime lords would have made of that statement. James Cagney’s characters would have prefaced any remarks made to suspected flippers with “Youse doity rats” and ended up with escapades involving cement overboots and the East River. Real mobsters would have arranged for brake failures, or skiing accidents (“Both legs”). For a man who supposedly demands absolute personal loyalty from all the people he’ll eventually betray, it was an oddly tepid response.

If America had to elect a mafia don president, at least they picked one that was profoundly incompetent and abjectly stupid. Trump can’t even call his little friend and arrange for Manafort to have an adventure involving ricin, polonium or novichok. It’s too late.

Manafort has already given everything he has to convince Mueller to let him off with just a decade or two and $145 million. All he had to do was sign the paperwork, and all that evidence were there for Mueller to do with as he pleased.

It’s too late for Trump to pardon his way out of it, too. A lot of the evidence will go to the State of New York Southern District, who will use it for state charges. Trump can only pardon federal offenses.

A lot of that evidence stands to implicate Trump himself. Even with Trumpenstooge Kavanaugh on the court (not a foregone conclusion at this point) the Court is unlikely to rule that a president indicted for criminal conspiracy against his own country (which is now quite likely) can pardon himself. Even Dead Tony would have trouble arguing that this came under the aegis of original intent.

I suspect that it wasn’t for their damp lust to get Kavanaugh on the court, thus assuring a corrupt corporate majority, the Republicans would have dumped Trump by now. Unfortunately for them, they need to maintain the few remaining tatters of presidential legitimacy Trump possesses for them to get Kavanaugh confirmed.

But it’s costing them massively, since the American people, Republicans in particular, are beginning to realize that this isn’t a witch hunt or a librul conspiracy; this is real, and Trump’s position becomes less defensible by the day.

A lot of Republican Senators, even those in safe states, are wondering what the real costs may be of forcibly rubber-stamping a man to the highest court in the land by a president facing indictment for criminal conspiracy against the United States. For Republicans, the question is no longer, “How badly will we lose the mid-terms?”

They have to ask if they can survive at all as a party, or even a movement. They’ve bet all their political, ethical and moral legitimacy on this one last toss of the dice.

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Nothing to Fear but…: A review of Fear

Fear: Trump in the White House

Bob Woodward

Simon & Schuster September 2018

Yes, I know the title of the book is Fear, and I should have regarded that as fair warning.

But FFS, I thought I would at least get through the Prologue without being reduced to mindless, numbing, existential terror!

In a well-reported vignette from the book, “On the desk was a one-page draft letter from the president addressed to the president of South Korea, terminating the United States–Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as KORUS.” Woodward goes on to relate the immense strategic, tactical, economic and diplomatic damage the United States would suffer as an almost immediate result of a sudden, unilateral withdrawal from KORUS.  

Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs and the president’s top economic adviser, spotted the draft and stole it from the President’s desk, counting on Trump’s sparkler-like mind to forget about it. And in fact, he did.

Woodward writes, “It was no less than an administrative coup d’état, an undermining of the will of the president of the United States and his constitutional authority.”

That’s pretty scary right there.

Woodward goes on to relate a power struggle, with Trump and Kushner on one side, and Mattis, Cohn, and Porter on the other. Trump was determined to destroy KORUS, but only intermittently, and Kushner’s agenda was focused on real estate and Israel, so he didn’t seem to be behind the memos to destroy the pact.

So who was behind it? Woodward doesn’t know. Possibly even Trump doesn’t know.

That’s very scary. An unstable, mercurial president who is easily manipulated is bad enough, but when nobody even knows who is pulling his strings, that is truly terrifying.

Fear is a surprisingly easy read, broken up into 42 easily-digested chapters. A lot of them won’t taste very good, but that’s not Woodward’s fault—he just reports what he saw. And he saw a lot.

Just how crass, craven, amoral and reckless with the truth is Trump? This vignette, from the Chapter detailing Trump’s contentious relationship with NATO, sums it up nicely:

A staffer who sat in on several calls that Trump made to Gold Star families was struck with how much time and emotional energy Trump devoted to them. He had a copy of material from the deceased service member’s personnel file.

I’m looking at his picture—such a beautiful boy,” Trump said in one call to family members. Where did he grow up? Where did he go to school? Why did he join the service?

I’ve got the record here,” Trump said. “There are reports here that say how much he was loved. He was a great leader.”

Some in the Oval Office had copies of the service records. None of what Trump cited was there. He was just making it up. He knew what the families wanted to hear.

It’s been a week since the pre-release reviews of this book rocked the Trump White House. Since then, the op-ed by Anonymous came out, Trump called Woodward a liar and Woodward promptly produced a tape showing he talked to Trump, Trump made fist-bumps to celebrate 9/11, and his son Eric, poster child for post-partum abortion, made a stunningly anti-semitic remark about Woodward. Trump declared the catastrophe of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico an “unsung sucess” and promised to bring that same high level of preparation and competence to the Carolinas when Florence makes landfall late tomorrow.

I feel sorry for the Carolinas and wish them well.

It seems like in any given week, Trump manages to recapitulate the worst of Nixon, Reagan and Bush the Lesser.

As I finish Woodward’s latest and perhaps greatest, I’m reminded of another President: “…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

In those dark days, reality was what we feared, and Franklin Roosevelt was what stood up to it.

In these dark days, Trump is what we fear, and we have to stand up to him. Woodward is one of the strongest voices yet to do so.

We have nothing to fear but Trump himself.Nothin

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Our “Oh Shit” Moment – We’re at Meltdown Point for Trump

The Bob Woodword book,  Fear: Trump in the White House was probably the body blow. Certainly, it sparked the events of today.

The most lenient things in the book we already knew; that Trump was erratic, prone to rash and ill-considered moves, amoral, and the world’s nightmare boss. The worst were things we suspected, such as the military effectively removing him from chain of command (in normal times, mutiny punishable by death), aides scrambling to hide proclamations written by his vilest advisors (Stephen Miller and the absent-only-in-person Steve Bannon) that would be likely to spark a civil war or revolution.

Recent books, most notably Everything Trump Touches Dies by GOP operative Rick Wilson have broadly hinted at this.

But this is Bob Woodward, chronicler of Administrations going back to Nixon (who he helped pull down). When it comes to credibility, he is at the top. And the wild, galvanic reaction of Trump to the pre-release reviews of the book only add to the sense that horrific as it is, Woodward has nailed this administration. The book doesn’t even go on sale for a week, and I find myself wondering if Trump will even still be President at that point.

His bizarre recorded conversation with Woodward from last week, after the galley copy had gone to the publishers and it was far too late to influence the contents of the book in any way, showed that Trump, emotionally and intellectually, was at the end of his tether.

Affirming the point the book was making: Trump, bellicose, ignorant, vicious and thin-skinned, is utterly unfit to be President, his is a White House in paralysis, the government is in chaos, and America is facing political collapse.

The existence of the Woodward book led to today’s even more extraordinary events. Trump came out and screamed about the media being the enemy of the people and he was the best president America ever had. Senate Republicans all ducked and went silent, intent on getting their amoral and possibly criminal stooge onto the Supreme Court in a last-gasp effort to maintain perpetual power. All they ever wanted was power, so fuck Trump, fuck Woodward, and fuck the country.

They are broken and twisted creatures of a broken and twisted philosophy, and Trump is their hireling. You just can’t get good help when your cause is morally bankrupt.

But one of them, intent on saving his (or her) ass and perhaps being able to pretend he was thinking of America all along, wrote an anonymous editorial to the New York Times. Make no mistake: the author of this piece is self-serving scum, gleeful at the damage the GOP has done to the country. This is clear early on: “We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.”

OK, the writer is happy to shaft Trump, but is going to promote Trump’s more egregious lies about the efficacy of GOP policies that have been inflicted on us.

The author continues, “The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.” Translated: Trump’s greedy nihilism is more visible and exceeds what we think we can cover up.

The author is delighted that the administration has enabled stealing another trillion from the public treasury for the ultra-rich, destroyed efforts to combat the threat of climate change, stripped millions of health care access, and is working hard to destroy Medicare and Social Security.

“But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.” What fascists need as they rape the country is a leader who can good dignified and resolute as he destroys us. At at time when the GOP when needs a Calvin Coolidge to look dignified and resolute as they steal the country blind, they have Rufus T. Firefly. Only without Firefly’s ability to think quickly.

So the author is no hero: the author is just a rat deserting a sinking ship and probably hoping for a book deal out of the wreckage.

Trump of course, had a public meltdown over this, epic even by his standards. He had some ceremony honoring cops, and was backed by a rather clownish-looking choir of sherrifs as he howled about the “failing New York Times” for their “gutless editorial.” He vowed that the media “the media will be out of business” by the time he leaves office (that departure might be next week at this rate).

The cops dutifully applauded. Authority uber alles.

This is an Alex Butterfield (“Oh, didn’t you know? President Nixon taped everything in the Oval Office!”) and John Dean moment. It is truly the beginning of the end for Trump.

Now all we have to do is survive the Fall of Trump, and then drive the fascists who made him possible out of office.

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Kava-no-no – The wrong man for the wrong job

September 4th, 2018

The Senate confirmation hearings to place Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court began today. It turned into a circus immediately, with Chairthing Chuck Grassley blowing off Democratic complaints that a 42,000 page document dump, performed late the night before, needed to be examined. Grassley is demanding they use these documents now in their deliberations, while not giving them enough time to even check to make sure the boxes are not just full of New York City telephone books from last year.

Grassley justified the 100,000 other documents withheld on ground of executive privilege on the weird grounds that one or more of them were in video form, and the Senate had never had to deal with such evidence in an SC nomination hearing before. And he refused to entertain a motion to adjourn so members of the committee could look at the new evidence and continue to determine what legal advice he had for the Bush administration on such matters as civil rights, worker rights, abortion and freedom of speech.

William Rivers Pitt observed that Grassley is what happens if your toilet doesn’t flush. The toilet in question is the corrupt and authoritarian Republican Party, which believes it is entitled to impose questionable candidates such as Kavanaugh on us, and not have to put up with any dissent. As a result, we have “hearings” that are on about the same level as Soviet show trials in the 1930s.

The Republicans, tiresome and vicious hypocrites, sat on the nomination of Merrick Garland for over a year, and now say that this nomination has to be rushed through before September 15th, eleven days from now. But they are withholding much of the government records needed to assess Kavanaugh’s stances on vital matters that he may be ruling on for the next four decades. The claim of “executive privilege” is insane, given that Kavanaugh was working for the GW Bush administration, and not for Trump.

His stances on the Constitution and rights in general are enough to suggest opposing his place on the Supreme Court. He strongly favors the rights of corporations and churches over people, and the court is already over-represented by fascists.

But even though that represents legitimate reason to oppose his nomination, it doesn’t disqualify him from the court. One of the greatest weaknesses of a free society is that it gives freedom to those who would work tirelessly to destroy that freedom, and creatures like Scalia and Roberts are part of the cost of freedom. Ideally, they are there to make us stronger. In practice, they make us stronger in much the same way that termites repair homes. But you can’t have freedom without tolerance for such types.

But there is another reason why Kavanaugh must be kept off the court: he is morally and intellectually unfit for the office.

In 2009, Kavanaugh authored a legal thesis entitled “Separation of Powers During the Forty-Fourth Presidency and Beyond.” In it, he wrote, “The decisions a President must make are hard and often life-or-death, the pressure is relentless, the problems arise from all directions, the criticism is unremitting and personal, and at the end of the day only one person is responsible.”

This led him to conclude, “I believe it vital that the President be able to focus on his never-ending tasks with as few distractions as possible. The country wants the President to be ‘one of us’ who bears the same responsibilities of citizenship that all share. But I believe that the President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office.”

Therefore, he now believes that no sitting president should ever have to respond to a summons or indictment on any civil or criminal matter.

It’s easy to see why he would be extremely attractive to Donald Trump, a man neck deep in a vast criminal and civil morass of his own making. He would love to have an automatic vote to dismiss on the Supreme Court.

But Kavanaugh didn’t always feel that way. He was a member of the Starr Chamber during the politically-charged impeachment process against Bill Clinton, and very avidly pursued the persecution, to the point where Kenneth Starr had to draw him back. Among other questions he wanted Clinton asked in order to add to his humiliation were these gems:

“If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”

“If Monica Lewinsky says that on several occasions in the Oval Office area, you used your fingers to stimulate her vagina and bring her to orgasm, would she be lying?”

“If Monica Lewinsky says that you masturbated into a trashcan in your secretary’s office, would she [be] lying?”

“If Monica Lewinsky says that you used a cigar as a sexual aid with her in the Oval Office area, would should be lying?” Kavanaugh liked the cigar a lot, it seems. He asked about it twice in ten questions.

He was one of the lead authors of the Starr report, and responsible for its gruesome and loving obsession with the salacious. Kiddies, if you need to know what ‘analingus’ is, just ask your Uncle Brett.

Kavanaugh’s high moral dungeon stemmed from a belief that he thought a president should be impeachable for “lying to his staff and misleading the public.” Neither are criminal acts, by the way. If they were, Trump would already be in jail.

He now claims that his actions above were a mistake, and his cohorts have even offered the explanation that he was sleep-deprived when he wrote the memo.

I can see it now: “Sorry about that SC ruling making Trump Dictator for Life. Brett needs his nappie.”

But Kavanaugh now believes, ““Looking back to the late 1990s, for example, the nation certainly would have been better off if President Clinton could have focused on Osama bin Laden without being distracted by the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and its criminal investigation offshoots.”

OK, it takes a mensch to admit that he’s wrong, but something about this suggests that it wasn’t so much a change of heart as it was a total abandonment of principle, if principle was ever a part of his stance on Presidential liability to begin with. He wanted Clinton to be shamed, attacked and driven from office because Clinton was “lying to his staff and misleading the public.”

OK, that just about describes the Trump presidency in a nutshell. The man is an absolute and inveterate liar. He lies to his staff. He lies to his lawyers. He lies to us. He lies to everyone. With Clinton, it was some personality flaws. With Trump, it is the entirety of his existence.

I can see Kavanaugh changing his stance on immunity, even though I believe the Founders never intended for a President to be above the law, and a nation that holds a president in such regard has no future as a country.

How can any man with integrity or decency migrate from wanting to destroy a man for fibbing about a consensual affair to utterly forgiving a man in advance whose sociopathic and demented antics threaten to destroy the country?

Answer: He cannot.

Kavanaugh is not fit to sit on the court.

 

 

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Labor Day – Time for Labor to Rise Up

September 2nd, 2018

It’s Labor Day.

It’s a good time to talk about democratic socialism.

Senator Bernie Sanders, of course, has been a democratic socialist since the 1960s. Back then, he was considered a progressive liberal, slightly to the left of LBJ. He hasn’t moved left: the country has moved drastically to the right.

Despite the best efforts of Democratic centrists and the corporate media, he did astonishingly well in the 2016 primaries, rising from a 3% no-chancer to a 40% existential challenger to the smug and somewhat tepid Hillary Clinton, forcing her to accept a compromise party platform that included fighting for a minimum wage of $15/hour and fighting for universal health care rather than the patchwork Obamacare.

She promptly abandoned both positions after the conventions, and millions of working and poor people stayed home. A small, but very stupid segment of Bernie voters actually voted for Trump. Clinton unexpectedly lost the rust belt states where Bernie ran well and where Trump pushed his false populism the hardest.

The lesson was unmistakable; there was a groundswell of support for leftist, New Deal-type policies. Not a bad compromise $12 an hour like Hillary wanted, but an indexed $15 an hour. Not the weak compromise Obamacare, far better than what America suffered under the old system, but far short of Medicare for all.

Democratic centrists will forget about workers’ rights the day after Labor Day: democratic socialists make it a centerpiece of their platform. Most importantly, they will stand up to the Republican fascists, the thieves, the liars, the authoritarians and the traitors that the captive corporate media keep insisting are “conservatives.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat incumbent House Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District. An unalloyed leftist, she called for a “political revolution” including higher education for all, gun control measures, an end to private prisons and the abolition of ICE. She won, upsetting Crowley, an eight-term entrenched Democratic centrist who was being groomed for party leader, another Democratic Washington General to the GOP’s Harlem Globetrotters.

People have gotten tired of Democrats who talk a good game about rights and worker rights, but are nothing but ineffectual foils for the out-of-control Republicans. She will win in November, and the media will express surprise. After all, socialists can’t win.

Except they are, more and more, as a growing revolt against the fascistic policies of the GOP takes root.

More recently, a Democratic Socialist scored a major upset in the Florida primary for governor. The race was seen as a contest between two tepid centrists, and Politifact ( https://www.politifact.com/florida/article/2018/aug/27/fact-checking-florida-primary-candidates-governor/ ) lumped the eventual winner in with the “also runnings,” dismissing him with just once sentence: “Gillum, an African-American who has emphasized his working class roots, has drawn the backing of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and the progressive wing of the party in a state that Sanders overwhelmingly lost in the 2016 primary.” A week later, Politifact hasn’t even updated that.

Andrew Gillum, of course, won. The corporate media said,He can’t win, because he’s a socialist.” But he won. And not by a tiny margin.

He is African-American, and that rises the fear of the GOP to a blind racist panic. They look at what Fox News calls “Soros-backed Gillum” and see a potential Obama, only an Obama who isn’t a tepid centrist. Gillum looks as ready to fight for his beliefs as a cat with its back arched. He’s the worst nightmare the GOP could have.

His GOP opponent, Ron DeSantis, immediately unleashed some dog whistles marveling at how articulate Gillum is (He is definitely more articulate than the brain-damaged Trump) and coming up with the singularly oddly-phrased, “We can’t let him monkey this up.” Some neo-Nazis promptly jumped in with a truly vile robo-call that had a purported Gillum speaking in a minstrel voice while jungle noises sounded in the background. DeSantis promptly condemned the tactic, but the tone has been set. This is the party of Trump, a liar, a racist, a tin-horn dictator and a possible traitor, and the rot spreads from the top. And DeSantis describes himself as “A Trumpist, through and through.”

Gillum will win, and the media will be astonished. He’s a commie! He can’t possibly win!

Even the Guardian is playing that game, as they did in the 2016 primaries. Gillum, at most a New Dealer, is “Left wing”. DeSantis, a proud Trumperdoo, is described as “conservative.” Trump is about as conservative as a rabid dog.

The Democratic Socialists of America (dsa.org) describe themselves thusly: “We believe that working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few.”

I take a similar tack: People should not be existing to support the economy. The economy should exist to support the people.

They support strong unions, good wages, abolition of Citizens United, and Medicare for All. And they will fight for them.

If you share those beliefs, support DSA and other candidates willing to fight for those beliefs. The “Third Way Democrats” had their chance, and showed they aren’t willing to fight. It’s time to move on.

Be wary, however, of frauds, morons and charlatans. The DSA had one candidate this summer who claimed to be a Columbian immigrant. Turned out she was born in America, and while her father was from Columbia, he was naturalized before she was born, which made her memories of being raised in a remote Columbian village rather farcical. Every party gets those: the Dems had John Edwards, the Greens have Jill Stein, and the Republicans…well, the Republicans seem to prefer frauds, morons and charlatans. They are, after all, the party of Trump.

They are a danger, and gravitating to a weak center isn’t going to stop them. If you want to fight these fascists, you have to start right now.

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