Thirty after Solstice — Major change must occur

November 28th, 2020

Back on November 21st, a user on Doctor Daniel Swain’s WeatherWest posted that in just 30 days, the darkness would begin to recede. Another user posted that for him, the darkness wouldn’t begin to recede for another 60 days. The references were clear enough—30 days to the Solstice, when the days would begin to lengthen, and 60 days until the Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President. Swain is normally death on politically oriented posts, since he has put in thousands of valuable man-hours into creating one of the most important weather and climate resources on the web, and he knows that the political wars could ruin that. That post, however, was allowed to stand, and it’s a pleasant surprise that nobody tried to make something of it. The group simply continued its time-honored pastime of ‘riding the models,’ divining the weather 5 days or 10 days or a month down the road.

Come the Solstice, I’ll be writing my annual Solstice piece, and as always, the theme will be one of hope. Barring catastrophe over the next three weeks or so, the tone of optimism will be easier to attain than in recent years. Trump has been defeated and 30 days after the Solstice will be out of the White House. Vaccines will be in mass production by then, and a possible end to the pandemic will be in sight. (My last Solstice piece didn’t mention COVID-19 for the simple reason that only a handful of scientists were beginning to suspect a new coronavirus was appearing in widely scattered areas). Economic recovery is going to be more problematic. Biden will face bigger economic problems than any incoming president since FDR, plus organized sedition from Republicans who will cheerfully force millions of Americans to starve rather than let the Democrats in particular or government in general take credit for saving the economy and people. Republicans in the 1930s had the same sick delusions that capitalism could address social issues, but this bunch are better organized—and far more vicious. Dead Americans are a good thing, because it will make Democrats and socialism look bad.

The flag-wavers of the right absolutely hate the United States because it is a government, and they hate government. They hate government much the same way that fundamentalists hate science; they see it as a competing ideology, and worse, one that works better.

Control of the Senate won’t be resolved until sometime after January 5th, when Georgia has special elections for both Senate seats. If the Republicans win either of them, it’s game over. McConnell will be delighted to ruin the lives of millions in hopes it will translate to hatred of Biden and give him the control he so desperately wants in January 2023. Then things will get much much worse because fascists are interested in keeping people as units of production and units of consumption, and nothing beyond that. Americans will be reduced to wage and credit slaves, the Republican dream writ large.

How desperate are the Republicans to steal Georgia and therefore the Senate: Brad Raffensperger issued an “emergency decree” yesterday that all new registrants for voting must possess a driver’s license and/or a vehicle registration. Despite being lionized for standing up to Trump’s lies about the November election, he is, at heart, just another GOP fascist asshole.

If the Democrats take control of the Senate, then the future is both more hopeful and more uncertain.

Biden and Democratic congressionals are going to have to be bold, aggressive, and assertive.

The tepid centrist positions of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will have to be consigned to the dustbin of history. “Reaching across the aisle” may have stood for pragmatic inclusiveness in its time, but now that reaching will invite nothing but slaps from the furious ideological cripples who make up the GOP. Any interaction they make with Democrats will be with the premise that they must damage and stymie them in any way that they can. There is no point in reaching out to them.

Reaching out to their voters, however, is an entirely different story.

Democrats have ALWAYS meant stronger economies, more just societies, and more freedom. For nearly a century, the economy has always improved under Democrats. More jobs, better jobs, with better pay and better working conditions. Republicans can’t make that offer because they serve the bosses, not the workers.

Biden and the party have to make this point, over and over, and rather than rest on its laurels as the party has done since the Reagan era, it will have to make bold, assertive moves to strengthen labor unions, create millions of jobs, and promote millions of new jobs that will address the long deferred needs of society, and the new challenges that are rising.

Corporate centrism will fail. It was a flawed idea during good times, since it merely continued the process of stealing the national wealth from those who created the wealth to an increasingly parasitic and destructive monied class. It’s a horrible idea now, with the country in a depression. If Biden follows that path, his best hope is that he’ll be remembered as the second President Hoover. At worst, he will be a caretaker president, there to watch America’s demise. Progressives understand that the government must be the economic heartbeat of the country as it was in the 30s and 40s if the economy, and America are to avoid a Marxian implosion.

Biden needs to reach out the Republican voters who are suffering as much in this depression as the rest of the American working class. Empty promises won’t do. He has to offer actual jobs, an actual safety net, and other life improvements the Democrats have been ignoring, including true universal health care.

But there is another reason to avoid “reaching across the aisle.” Trump, and most of his administration, are criminals. Ever since Ford pardoned Nixon, Republicans have seen themselves as being above the law, and are ever more criminal as their contempt for the law and for the citizenry of America grows. If Biden and his administration can’t punish the enemies of America, how can they stand for America?

Republican contempt preceded Trump, as in 2016 when they kept repeating the nutball conspiracy theory that Obama wasn’t legally president because he was supposedly born outside of America whilst simultaneous promoting the presidential campaign of Ted Cruz, who actually was born outside of America. Republicans are contemptuous of America and Democrats, and they have given Republicans ample reasons to be contemptuous. This has to end now. The Nixon pardon gutted American self-respect, and the subsequent depredation on the national character by Republicans demanding privilege has only gotten worse.

Trump and his accomplices must stand trial. Republicans need to learn that their bad faith and cynicism ends here.

Barrett’s nomination to the court must be annulled. The Republicans deliberately and knowingly broke the law by voting her out of committee without a quorum. Kavanaugh must be impeached for deliberate and known perjury during his nomination.

If Democrats don’t have the guts to do that, they don’t have the guts to govern. They have to learn to fight.

The Collapse of Trumpistan — The diminutizing of little people

November 11th 2020

Like most folk, I spent the past few weeks wondering a) If Trump was going to stage a coup, and b) if his followers were going to rise up and wage war against the United States in the name of Amurka. Yes, a lot of those clowns love America and hate the United States. It takes a special kind of stupid to be a Trumpkin.

We’re a full week after the polls closed (yeah, seems longer, I know) and four days since the election was called for Biden. Trump has responded about the way everyone expected (memorably likened by one commentator to a toddler who has just been informed it’s time to leave Chuck E. Cheese) with tantrums on twitter and otherwise holing up in the schlupfloch formerly known as the White House.

His lawyers filed a veritable snowstorm of suits, most of which amounted to little more than despairing wails. At last count, he was 0-14 in court, with the closest thing to a victory being one judge who agreed GOP observers could stand six feet from the tabulators instead of the agreed-upon 10 feet. Didn’t change the results any.

The closest thing to a viable suit was one in which a postal worker alleged widespread vote tampering in making postmarks match before the election date. It collapsed when the same worker, in a sworn affidavit, admitted he made the whole thing up. Since his initial allegation was ALSO a sworn affidavit, he is prima facie in jeopardy of a charge of perjury, and he can probably kiss his PO job goodbye. And if someone in the Trump organization offered him money for the false testimony, he can probably kiss that goodbye, as well. Maybe they’ll let him keep the MAGA hat.

A large majority of people have decided that Trump’s protests are without merit and he should concede and gracefully allow President-Elect Biden to proceed with the transition. That’s eighty percent of voters, including 55% of Republicans. As the courts reject suit after suit, and state after state formally certifies their results, that number will change in Joe Biden’s favor. By December 9th, the day after “safe harbor” reporting of final results, that same poll is likely to show 95% support for Biden, with 85% of Republicans agreeing. There’s only three states where Trump qualifies for an automatic recount, and he doesn’t have any realistic hope of winning any of them. An error rate of 0.1% would be considered extraordinarily high, and the narrowest difference he’s contesting is 0.5%.

Most of his antics are delaying tactics and red meat for his base, a base that is steadily shrinking as it becomes clear just how hypocritical and self-serving Trump’s arguments have become. Even Fox News has given up on Trump and are now urging him to just concede already and let the nation move forward. That leaves only the lunatics who faithfully follow OANN, Breitbart, Newsmax, Qanon, and the right wing cesspool known as Parler. That social media site looks like a kindergarten on psilocybin. I might just create a fake account and go over there and commit acts of Polemical Judo. Nothing drives right wingers into a bigger frenzy than a calm, reasoned recitation of provable, salient facts, and a suggestion that perhaps a friendly wager on some of them might be in order. Just drives them nuts. You’ll learn things about your manners, morals, ancestry and post-life destination that you would never have guessed in a million years.

There isn’t going to be a widespread, or even significant uprising on Trump’s behalf. Even amongst the most resolute of Trumpkins, there is unease that stems from the fact that Trump flat-out said he would attack the integrity of the election process if he lost, praise it if he won. Coupled with court loss after loss after loss, and growing public anger, his support is eroding. There’s an old saying, “If you can’t decide if the whole world is right or you are, it’s likely the world is right.” When Trumpkins are reduced to considering the entire United States to be just a conspiracy to suppress Donald Trump, there won’t be many of them left, because crazy can only take a movement so far.

The Trump movement will die a well-deserved death. Well, OK, cults never die entirely, and there will always be a few True Believers, but there will never be enough of them to matter. For the vast majority of people, Trump will find his historical level: a bad joke that nearly destroyed a country.

The militant right, which piggybanked on Trump as a way to advance their aims, are another matter. They are, for the most part, neo-Nazis and other vile extremists who don’t mind using terror and violence to get their way. They are, and will remain, a danger. My best guess is some McVeigh amongst them will commit an atrocity that will finally persuade the American public that they are a bigger problem than Islamic extremism (and in fact they already are) and far far worse than the imaginary threats posed by Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Under Biden, I expect intelligence agencies will be allowed to resume infiltrating and monitoring these outfits, and preventing another OKC.

Trump’s going to do a fair bit of damage between now and January 2021. He’s trying to steal everything he can and move as many levers as possible to soften his landing, although I doubt any decent person is in any mood to let him just walk away from his crimes. He’s panicked and anxious, and well he should be.

But don’t worry about the crap he’s pulling with the military. His appointments are all civilian, not in the chain of command, and the military has already made it clear it isn’t going to go to war with America in the name of Donald Trump.

So hang tight. We’ll get through this.

 

Happy Days — Following a bathetic twilight

Happy Days

Following a bathetic twilight

November 8th 2020

David Brin, the futurist and SF author, gave me an earworm yesterday. Normally that’s an annoying thing, but not this time: the song was “Happy Days Are Here Again.” I’m sure you know it. “…the skies above are clear again, let us sing a song of cheer again, happy days are here again.”

The song, popularized in the 1932 FDR campaign, became the unofficial anthem of the Democratic party up until about 1980, when centrists took over the party and decided they could win more by appealing to corporations than they could appealing to people. The thinking was that if they behaved like Republicans – back then a sane if wrong-headed party – they would attract Republican voters, or at least get right wing Democratic voters back. It didn’t work, of course, and we didn’t see a Democratic president again for 12 years. Bill Clinton wasn’t interested in evoking FDR, but came up with a cheery anthem of his own: “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.”

In this election, Trump relied more on music than did the Biden campaign, but it was severely undercut that Trump used the music without permission and usually over the vociferous objections of the artists involved.

“Happy Days Are Here Again” is apt, not because Biden is a populist leftist, but because his inauguration will bring about one of the great gusts of hope that occasionally punctuates American life. That happened (obviously) in 1932 when the nation was in the verge of collapse. We saw it again in 1960, when the New Frontier pointed to a rosy future. In 1980 Reagan was there to restore America’s reputation as the Shining City on the Hill. Clinton offered tomorrow. Obama offered Yes We Can.

This one is a bit different. Biden didn’t offer a grand vision or a great sense of optimism. He was a return to normalcy ofter four years of the most loathed and incompetent president in American history. Oh, that’s happened before: two of the gusts stemmed from a public view of presidents who were seen as weak and/or unable to do the job, Hoover and Carter. (Both went on to become public heroes after their political lives ended, but that’s not going to happen here). Biden didn’t have the charisma of a Reagan or an Obama, and time will tell if he has the boldness and courage of the seemingly affable “go-along-to-get-along” Franklin Roosevelt, but he steps over an aching void left by his predecessor. He’ll have to seriously screw up to not have the support and well-wishes of a majority of the American people, including sane Republicans.

There is a way to screw it up, of course. There was jubilation similar to what we’re seeing today when Nixon left office, and it lasted for several days before Ford preemptively pardoned Nixon. Ford may have hoped it was a step toward reconciliation and forgiveness, but it had the opposite result. Most of the goodwill that Ford had gained from simply not being Nixon vanished, and it set Republicans on a poisonous path where they believed that the law and basic morality no longer applied to them, and they could do what they wanted and get away with it. It lead to the excesses of the Reagan era, and the undermining of justice by Bush’s midnight pardons on his last day in office. We saw increasing contempt for those values under Bush the Lesser, before Republican ethics and morality collapsed entirely in the age of Trump. Both Clinton and Obama undermined their own administrations by trying to reconcile with thieves and liars.

Biden must not be another Ford, or Clinton, or Obama. I don’t think he would do anything as fantastically stupid as pardoning Trump preemptively, and I suspect he won’t “negotiate” half his sought-after policies away before negotiations even began, as Obama did with the public health initiative, but it isn’t enough not to coddle the crooks of the Trump administration or to be weak in negotiations; he must show the Republicans that he isn’t fucking around and undo much of the damage that has been done.

Biden needs to annul every XO Trump signed on day one. If there are any that had any merit, he (or Congress) can revisit them. Biden’s tax reforms are laudable, but he has to work with Congress to revoke the Trump giveaway.

He and the Senate must work together to annul the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett. It was passed out of committee despite a lack of a quorum, and the woman is dangerously unfit for the job. Nor is just ignoring quorum rules trivial; it is a bedrock of democratic procedure.

Biden has got to be hard-nosed about this, and show Republicans that he means business. Republicans need to learn that the tactic of holding the country hostage for their mad fringe wants will no longer be tolerated. The age of Newt Gingrich ends now. No more blackmail. He may even attract Republican support on the Barrett issue, since most were coerced into voting for her by the McConnell/Trump sledgehammer and may feel emboldened now.

I hope Biden will have the vision and courage to do, not just the easy things, but the difficult things. He might, but he will need the support of people like us—strong, vocal, steadfast support. He might be a great man, but as a president, he can’t do it alone.

On a more humorous note, there were three events that sort of summed up the mindlessness, the incompetence, and the utter lack of class of the Trump era.

First, there was the very strange press conference Giuliani and a team of lawyers staged at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia. Not the fabled hotel; a landscaping business in one of the seedier parts of town, located (as many of us are) between a porn shop and a crematorium. That may have been the absolute end of Giuliani’s carrer. We may hope.

Kimberly Guilfoyle offered a lap dance to the big-ticket fundraiser who gave Trump the most money. No, really. In some states, that would be formal grounds for a charge of prostitution. Gavin, count your blessings.

And finally, they had a strange “Trump vigil” in Redding, California yesterday. As the reporter (who kept calling it a “visual”) spent 8 minutes telling us little or nothing, Trumpkins stood somberly, Trump flags draped over shoulders, bemoaning the fact that godless communists were coming to take their guns, their god, and no doubt their expensive private medical insurance. The cult of Trump is a doomed one, but like all cults, will survive until the last member dies or forgets who Trump was.

And finally, to quote a popular Facebook meme, “I’m so glad Rush Limbaugh lived to see this day.”

 

 

Three Days Later, It’s Still Tuesday Night — The election that won’t end

Three Days Later, It’s Still Tuesday Night

The election that won’t end

November 6th, 2020

I imagine millions of other people are doing the same thing I’ve been doing today. Oh, not working with a friend on the siding and enclosure on my porch, or getting my flu shot, or ordering the T-day turkey and special ordering a leg of lamb for the Solstice. Those were just the distractions.

Every hour or so, I would pull up the electoral map on my computer or my phone, sometimes just to see if any of the pale states had switched from rose to powder blue, or [gawd forbid] the other way. About every third time, I would pull up the vote totals and compare the changed tallies to the distance between the candidates, and do a rough estimate on who might be ahead when all the ballots are tabulated.

There’s five states everyone is watching right now. Nevada, which is a crap shoot, fittingly enough. Arizona had been called for Biden, but that might be premature as votes come in from Maricopa county and the consistent 59% for Trump suggests a virtual tie when the counting stops. North Carolina is close enough to be interesting but will, I believe, remain in the Trump column.

People are thinking of the Ray Charles song. Georgia is very much on everyone’s mind. If it were THE deciding state this year, it would be in the role of Florida in 2000. At this hour, only 1,720 votes separate the candidates, with about 50,000 left to be counted. But people aren’t watching Georgia all that closely. Hanging chads and improper Supreme Court decisions may lay in Georgia’s future, but that’s something for another day, a battle that might be fought after other battles are decided.

But in the end, Pennsylvania is the state that will decide this. Biden now leads by 25,000 votes with about 300,000 to be counted. And those outstanding votes are all from precincts that normally are heavily Democratic. Pennsylvania by itself can put Joe Biden over 270 electoral votes, and make the vote counts in the other four states still being contested moot.

Nobody expected it to be this close. I warned people that when they went to bed Tuesday night, Donald Trump might be leading, but not to panic because the mail-in ballots had to be hand counted. I figured we would know who won by Wednesday afternoon, evening at the worst. And I expected it to be Biden, by a comfortable margin.

Where I blew it—where nearly everyone blew it—was in underestimating the number of people willing to throw away all ethics and common sense and vote for Trump. He got 62 million votes in 2016, which was pretty disgraceful. Surely, I assumed the past four years wouldn’t attract any new voters for Trump. I looked at the voting rate and turnout and assumed (correctly) that Biden would get nearly 75 million votes—by far the most any candidate has ever received. I further assumed Trump would get about 62 million votes. His presidency has been shameful and catastrophic. How could he even keep the people who voted for him the first time?

Trump will finish with nearly 70 million votes, an astonishing indictment of nearly 20% of the American population.

The good news is that even right wingers will have trouble claiming that liberals jiggered the vote in some way. Voter suppression obviously failed, no matter which side you think was engaging in it, and if liberals were controlling the vote somehow, McConnell sure as fuck wouldn’t have won.

Yes, I knew that about 42% of Americans proudly and loudly self-identified as deplorable. I always assumed that a lot of them were just enjoying taking a dig at the rest of us, and most realized the damage Trump and his cronies were doing.

I overestimated the intelligence and morality of American voters by some ten million votes. Most Trump supporters really are swine. They love the lies, the chaos, the cruelty. Kids in cages? No problem. Just point to a handful of brief incidents ten years before and say Obama did it too, because jaywalking and murder are pretty much the same thing. People dying from COVID. Just some blacks in the cities. Who the fuck cares? And when COVID inevitably spread to Trump country, it a) was a hoax and b) a liberal conspiracy to kill decent hard-working Trumpkins. Destroying freedom and democracy? Freedom just means ideas Trumpkins don’t like and Democracy means people with those ideas might get elected. Much better to cheat, lie, steal and rob in the name of Donald and Jesus.

Biden is going to win this. McConnell and his few toy Nazis in the Senate might paralyze the government and hope the utter destruction of America will result in people embracing fascism, but we’ll deal with that in January. But McConnell looks like a dying man. He may solve the problem he presents to America on his own.

For now, we just have to clean that moral disease out of the White House.

And to everyone who voted for Trump after all we’ve seen and heard over the past four years: Fuck you. You’re shit Americans and crap human beings. I just hope you live to see how vile you’ve become.