Barr versus God versus America – Nobody wins

Barr versus God versus America

Nobody wins

October 20th 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Impeachment Barriers

Some Dragons are Imaginary

October 13th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paging Jaime Lannister – GOP realizes Trump is a liability

October 10th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Potemkin Ethics – Republicans and their make-believe morals

October 1st 2019

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

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

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

Oh, you have heard. Well, good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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