A Lonely Man – Kafka Kouncils grill Mueller

July 24th 2019

Today’s hearings had plenty of surreal moments. The one that stuck in my head was that of Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, who demanded to know as a former Prosecutor why Mueller spoke of exonerating Trump.

He was badgering Mueller, demanding to know where, in the remit of the Special Prosecutor, the Justice Department, the FBI or anywhere, existed the power to exonerate.

It could be argued that by saying he didn’t do something, Mueller was implying that he could do it. If Mueller had looked at the panel, and with a condescending smirk and an arched eyebrow, said, “I do not exonerate Donald Trump” then Turner might have a point. Then it would sound like Mueller could exonerate but just didn’t feel like it at that particular moment. But that’s not what happened.

Mueller merely stated in the report that it does not exonerate Trump. Mueller wasn’t claiming a nonexistent power to exonerate.

The report concluded, “The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

If Mueller had instead written, “The evidence doesn’t make the President a good guy,” would Ratcliffe (and several other Republican reps chanting the same song) be screaming that Mueller cannot claim that he can make the President a good guy when in fact Mueller is saying the report doesn’t make him look like a good guy?

This all sounds silly as hell, and it is, but it also grazes a salient point that is, in point of both fact and law, the heart of the reason the report, while it contains many smoking guns, wasn’t THE smoking gun.

The Department of Justice has a lunatic rule that a sitting President cannot be indicted for crimes committed while sitting as President. A sitting President can be sued for civil matters (Jones vs Clinton) but when it comes to criminal matters, he enjoys a weird, extra-constitutional diplomatic immunity from his own country.

If I had to guess, it was Republicans who pushed for this rule, because while they love to investigate Democrats for (usually imaginary) crimes it is Republican Presidents who tend to be the actual criminals and end up in for-reals legal trouble. So Republicans scrapped legal harassment of Democratic presidents in order to keep their own out of prison, and settled for endless congressional investigations—none of which needed any actual evidence of criminal behavior in order to proceed, an added bonus. Remember Benghazi? Eight congressional investigations, blowing well over $75 million, and even with corrupt Republicans running the show, couldn’t find evidence of any wrong doing, or even that a crime had occurred.

So from the get-go, Mueller know he could not indict Trump. Lacking the main element for his report, he had to feather the edges. With no power to indict, or even accuse, because Presidents are god-kings well above your stupid puny American laws, he instead listed the crimes (eleven dealing with obstruction of justice alone) and waited for a corrupt and cowardly Congress to do its job.

He must have felt quite lonely doing that.

Did he manage to drop the hint? Over a thousand federal prosecutors signed a letter stating that if they were presented with the evidence Mueller had in his report, and if it were anyone other than the godlike and invulnerable Lord of all the Americas, they would have handed down multiple felony indictments.

Of course, prosecutors have a job to do and understand how to do it. Congress merely needs to look like it’s anything other than the world’s richest landfill.

Impeachment is similar to indictment, in that it is a formal accusation of wrong-doing brought against someone. Where the job of prosecutors is a bit more difficult is that they have to show evidence a crime has been committed and link said crime to the accused. Congress merely needs to impeach for high crimes and misdemeanors. One Congress impeached a President for firing a member of his own cabinet; another, for being misleading about getting a blow job.

Impeachment is enough of a joke that even Congress can handle it. But these days, with a few exceptions, Congress is an even bigger joke, and we have to listen to screeds about the Loch Ness monster and howls that by claiming not to take a given action, a prosecutor is saying that he could do the action if he wanted, a farcical conclusion on the face of it.

Resolve to impeach Trump is growing, but not among the Faux News/GOP part of the country, who all share the Sean Hannity delirium dream.

Mueller faced a grueling pair of sessions, nearly eight hours of badgering and misrepresentation of himself and his former office. He turns 75 soon, and there were quite a few times when his age was evident, when he stammered and looked a bit lost. Of course the Republicans exploited this, zeroing in on queries that they knew he was enjoined from answering because they weren’t in the report or might cause damage to the country. Knowing Mueller to be hard of hearing, they played nasty little schoolboy games, either speaking so quickly, or far enough from the microphone, that Mueller was forced to ask them to “please repeat the question” over 150 times. Republicans remind us that all very young children are sociopaths. Same furtive sense of nastiness that makes them toss ladyfingers at the cat.

And of course, Mueller had to grapple with the biggest limitation of all: The simple declaration that evidence existed that Donald Trump committed multiple felonies and should be indicted. He isn’t allowed to say that. All he can do—all he could do—was present the facts to Congress, and let them decide.

And that had to be a very lonely feeling for Bob Mueller.

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Atrocities – A sure-fire way to bring atrocities about

July 13th, 2019

François-Marie Arouet, aka ‘Voltaire’ once famously said, ‘Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.’

The other day, Mike Pence, trumpenfuhrer toadie, visited a couple of the concentration camps America is running along the border. One was a model camp, where the inmates were reasonably clean and fed, although forced to sleep on child-size nap mats with only foil covering. Pence said the detainees appeared “well cared for,” something that reminded me unpleasantly of the Third Reich propaganda films that showed happy Jewish children playing in the sun and singing songs while German matrons watched, beaming approvingly. The Germans got the kids to go along by telling them if they did, they would see their parents again. None of them did, of course. Most of them were dead within weeks. Those who weren’t made sex slaves for the country’s elite, that is.

The second visit was to a much more typical American concentration camp, one where hundreds of men were jammed into hideously overcrowded pens without room for them all to lie down at once, and not given access to showers or any other elements of basic hygiene, and the toilets were little more than open pits. Many had been there for 40 days or more. Guards wore masks to keep the stench out. The only things missing were the German slogans and the Strauss waltzes being piped in over loudspeakers.

Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post wrote: “VP [Pence} saw 384 men sleeping inside fences, on concrete w[ith] no pillows or mats. They said they hadn’t showered in weeks, wanted toothbrushes, food. Stench was overwhelming. [Customs and Border Protection] said they were fed regularly, could brush [their teeth] daily [and] recently got access to shower (many hadn’t for 10-20 days).

Even Pence was taken aback, saying “This is tough stuff.” But of course Pence is and always has been a loathsome coward, so instead of calling for the immediate release of the inmates—most of whom have committed no crime—he blamed Democrats in Congress, condemning them for not passing a $4.6 billion “humanitarian relief bill” to build many more concentration camps (and eventually death camps). In fact, the House passed the bill several days earlier.

A word about Pence: he exemplifies the pseudo-Christian fundamentalist filth, the Dominionists, who are working to take over the country entirely. Once they accomplish that, the death toll from their efforts to purify us all will soar, and only violent revolution or complete social collapse will get their boots off our necks.

Let me tell you a disturbing truth about Hitler. From the time he became Chancellor right up to the point where the utter defeat and ruin of Germany could no longer be denied, he was immensely popular. Children begged to be allowed to climb in his lap, women swooned, men waved at his parades and rallies, unfeigned tears of joy and pride running down their cheeks. Hitler was loved, and it was easy, in the face of such adoration, to pretend that the work camps really did house people who meant Germany harm. Hitler was wise. He wouldn’t allow harm to come to innocents.

Trump is every bit as vicious and vile as Hitler. Our only real hope is that he is not as smart as Hitler was, not as charismatic, and no orator.

Even Hitler knew to conceal the death camps outside of Germany in the captive lands, knowing there was a limit to what the German people would stand for, but as long as people only entertained horrid suspicions rather than grim certainties, he could get away with what he was doing.

The reason he lies so blatantly and so frequently is to help prevent horrid suspicions from become grim certainties. You can’t commit atrocities without absurdities.

To that end, he used endless streams of propaganda. I suspect if Facebook was around in 1939, most of us would be speaking German now and the rest of us would be dead.

The American right, aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin, who knows how pernicious and enervating the far right can be to a society, have also been unleashing endless propaganda.

For example, a message, almost certainly a concern troll, showed up in a liberal group on Facebook—indeed, it probably showed up in dozens for such groups. It was a query for information about liberal views and values, asked by “Kathy Aston, Iowa farm wife.” It’s very unlikely “Kathy” actually exists, being a reassuring figleaf pumped out by the actual authors of the hit piece, whether 4Chan, Breitbart, or the Russians. While an obvious troll, her sentiments are all ones I’ve seen kool-aide drinkers from the far right earnestly state as truths.

The message read:

Hi. Ok. I’m not a liberal. Please help me understand a few things that has us scratching our heads. I will be polite as possible, but these things are what is told to us, that makes us think you are a special kind of stupid. I’m not good at PC speech. Just cant say what I mean in your language. I really want to know!

#1. Killing newborn babies and calling it abortion. Why not adopt them out? Infanticide is really unnecessary. 

#2 welcoming invaders that overwhelm the country’s resources. One of the oldest war tactics on record. Calif is starting to yell for help, and we just shake our heads in wonder at the lack of smarts in your people.

#3. Welcoming in the enemy of our country that openly states they will overthrow us, rape our women, children, and kill all who will not believe their way. Also openly hostile to gay people, as in throwing them off rooftops.(last we knew, you guys really love your alphabet people.- LGBTP). Also stoning, beheading, and other barbaric behavior… Huh??? You really want this Sharia stuff??? Don’t you realize they will kill or gang rape you too??

#4. Freedom of religion, or none, if you wish. You already have it! Why the fuss?

#5. Women’s rights. Totally incompatable with #3 Islam gives no rights to women. They are puppet slaves to the males. A piece of property, worth less than an animal. Again, you really WANT this?

#6. What the heck is a “theybe”???? Medically, there are 3 sexes. Born with a penis, born without, and those who are born with both, a Hermaphrodite. We understand what it is to be gay.

Finally….black people. My favorite boyfriend was a huge black guy with such a gentle disposition. He did not worry about slavery. Or being recompensed for it. No one alive has been a slave, or has owned a slave. You are smart and have all opportunities to be anything you wish! Why keep the shame of the South alive?

Let’s run down this classic propaganda piece briefly:

#1. Blood libel. Liberals do not commit infanticide. The hideous belief that Jews drink the blood of Christian babies goes back to the middle ages, but Hitler and Trump flogged it endlessly to stir up hatred. I’ve been saying for years that some of the far-right trash in this country use the word “liberal” but they really mean “Jew.”

#2 “Invaders that overwhelm the country” –- Most of Germany’s Jews had lived there for generations, just as many of America’s Hispanics date back to the 17th century. But when you can lump them in with non-existent invaders, it makes it so much easier to stir people into a murderous rage against them.

#3 “Enemy of our country”. In Germany, that meant Gypsies, Slavs, and of course “Semites.” They are THEM. Please feel free to hate them.

#4 Freedom of religion, in the eyes of the Kathies of the world, is the freedom to place their religious boots on my neck. We wouldn’t be free to believe, but we would be free to believe what Kathy believes. It’s a stance that has informed the bloodiest pages in history.

#5 Womens’ rights. Frankly, I don’t give a shit what the governments of Iran or Saudi Arabia think as far as womens rights go here, not as an excuse to ignore them here. I just note that there is no difference in the attitude towards womens’ rights between fundamentalist Moslems, Jews, or Christians. They all hate and fear women. Trump’s role model from 1942 forced abortions for women deemed ‘impure’ while putting to death women who were pure, but got abortions, since ‘pure’ is a very slippery word.

#6 Sex isn’t just the plumbing. The main sex organ is the brain. Kathy would understand that if she actually had a brain. But death camps welcome “deviants,” too.

Finally…black people.” That says it all right there, even if Kathy had a big, black, strapping young buck as a boyfriend. Batteries not included. We should forget all about slavery, just as Kathy no doubt hopes we’ll forget all those lessons we learned from Hitler.

About 30% of the country avidly swallows the nonsense promulgated by the Kathies of the far right, and tell themselves Trump and Pence are godly and good men, just as Germans told themselves the same about Hitler, and crying Russians in the camps in Russia did about “Uncle Joe” Stalin.

‘Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.’

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Milling Time – First Doubt, Then Resolve

July 4th 2019

I was watching a video on YouTube, made by the Truckee Police Department, called Wildfire 2.0 . If you live in an area susceptible to wildfires (which is some 150 million people in North America) then it’s important viewing.

But it gave a name to a phenomenon that I had not only seen many times before, but have experienced personally. There comes a time during a major, rapidly evolving emergency such as a wildfire or a tornado or a volcanic eruption where authorities or neighbors or someone approaches you and tells you you have to get the hell out, now. The danger is immediate, it is real. You can’t save your home and your belongings, just what you have in the car. Any pets you can’t find are on their own. (And boy, is that a soul-ripping decision to make!). You may perhaps be in your car already, and a cop or firefighter comes up to you and tells you the roads are blocked, just get out and run for it.

But your car can go zero-to-sixty in five seconds. You know you can outrun the fire. On foot…? Abandon the car and everything in it? You have to think about that.

Or you know the cat has to be hiding in the bushes out back. Yeah, it’s only a cat, but you’ve had that cat for ten years and the kids love it.

You hesitate. You dither. You’re not ready to commit.

All your neighbors are in the same circumstances, and they’re all doing the same thing.

Evacuation experts and emergency personnel have a name for that: Milling Time. People are in shock. They are numb, confused. Some become angry. Some panic. Some cry. Some just stare blankly. All are normal human reactions to a shocking and sudden emergency.

Fiction writers like to dwell on the deniers, the people who resolutely believe the fire will miss them, the tornado will disperse before it reaches them, the mountain will settle down, or they’ve seen dozens of hurricanes as bad as this one. These literary redshirts make for good drama, but the reality is the deniers don’t die in numbers anything like the loss of life caused by Milling Time. “He who hesitates is lost.”

Emergency evacuation personnel would love to come up with a way of eliminating or lessening Milling Time, but they haven’t had much luck. It’s just a part of human nature, and the best they can do is include it in their plans and train for it, so they don’t themselves experience Milling Time while trying to deal with it in an emergency. Yes, the guys with badges can experience doubt and confusion, too.

As we slog through what might be the most grotesque Fourth of July in the history of the United States, the country at large is experiencing Milling Time. People are facing a surreal situation in which everything they thought they knew about themselves and their country are under sudden threat. The Land of the Free has concentration camps housing thousands of innocent children. Some of those children are dying. Possibly even worse, family members and others who they once liked and respected are growling that those kids got what was coming to them. The president, and guys with badges, joke about the kids in concentration camps.

The government, once the champion of human rights and freedoms, suddenly is at war with both. Scientists are being expelled from the centers of power and sent to the hinterlands, the equivalent of Stalin sending intellectuals to Mongolia. Indeed, the president recently sent an aide who fell out of favor to Mongolia. Apparently he has read up on Stalin, along with Hitler.

There are tanks in the street in Washington, and while the turrets aren’t pointed at anyone, most people have realized that this president wouldn’t hesitate to give the order to aim if annoyed enough. Millions of Americans who used to watch the Washington Fourth of July celebrations are turning their backs this year, sickened by the lurid partisan spectacle promised by the president.

One vignette that tells it all, the corruption and disregard for American values. The president promised the biggest fireworks show ever, and he may get it. When he slapped his tariffs on China, he had a curious exemption: fireworks. China’s biggest fireworks manufacturer showed its gratitude for this display of favoritism by donating $755,000 worth of fireworks to the trumpaganza.

A furious judge discovered yesterday that this president wants to defy the Supreme Court and explicit language in the Constitution in order to further his low and thuggish bigotry against non-white Americans and residents and tried to unilaterally rescind a direct ruling by the SC on the census.

The VP, himself a bible-pounding monster, did a strange pirouette, supposedly leaving for a symposium in New Hampshire, then coming back for an emergency. Or maybe he didn’t go, there was no emergency, and the administration will tell us what happened in a few weeks. This opaque and corrupt government has turned us all into a nation of Kremlin Watchers, desperately scanning for clues as to the intent of these dangerous autocrats.

Concentration camps. Deep corruption. An outlaw president.

Milling Time does resolve, one of three ways. Either the danger engulfs us and we are lost, or we panic.

Or we realize, “Oh, fuck, that’s not going to miss me!” or see the numb fear on the faces of the people around us, and something clicks in our heads.

And the doubt and confusion vanishes, replaced by steely resolve.

We will live to fight another day. We will come back and vanquish the threat. We will prevail.

Americans have been in Milling Time, threatened by the shocking rise of fascism and neo-Nazism in the country they love and thought they knew.

But there’s no longer any doubt the danger is real. It won’t miss us. We talk to others, facing the same threats. Even the deniers are starting to admit it isn’t just a fabrication by fake news.

Now, Americans have three choices: they can succumb, they can panic.

Or they can fight for their country.

It’s time for resolve.

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