Fascism in America — A feature, not a bug

Fascism in America

A feature, not a bug

February 21st, 2021

The other day, Robin Chopineaux posted a video link on Facebook to an Oscar-nominated short from 1939 titled A Night at the Garden. For those of us over the age of about 50, chances are we’ve seen that seven minute video, or at the very least heard of the German-American Bund, the America First!ers Party, and the Ku Klux Klan.

The video is something of a masterpiece of understatement. It shows what to all appearances is a standard American patriotic rally. The opening shot shows police fire hosing a crowd outside of Madison Square Garden. The marquee proclaims this night to be a “Pro-American Rally.” A parade marches in with flags, there’s a huge backdrop of a full-length George Washington striking a ridiculously heroic pose. The crowd of 22,000 recites the pledge of Allegiance, and sings the national anthem, and then the speaker, wearing the sort of uniform that the world would quickly learn to know and hate, takes the podium. The crowd, as one, gives him a stiff-armed salute, palm down, fingers extended. Yes, THAT salute. Granted, most of the country was still using that very same gesture when saluting the flag, but The American salute, called “the Bellamy Salute” was essentially identical to the Seig Heil salute in Germany, although the similarity was coincidental. Congress finally abolished it in 1942.

But the pledge at this rally is recited with a distinctly German accent. And the opening speaker, one Fritz Kuhn, begins by evoking guffaws and snorts of disdain from the audience by explaining how he has been demonized by the press. The “Jewish-controlled press.” What a fascist of today would call “the liberal media.” He explains that he, and his audience, are the true Americans who simply want the country returned to those who founded it. He goes on to evoke a “white, Gentile-ruled United States.” Yes, he said “ruled.” Like the fascists of today, the Bund had little or no use for Democracy. He wished to “free” unions from Jewish Moscow-directed domination. At that point an individual jumps onto the stage, apparently with the aim of attacking Kuhn, and a couple of hundred of the 1,700 cops at the rally gleefully subdue him. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the assailant was “a 26-year-old plumber’s helper from Brooklyn named Isadore Greenbaum charges the stage and yells, ‘Down with Hitler.’

He is beaten up by Bund guards and his clothing is ripped off in the attack before New York police officers arrest him for disorderly conduct. (In court that night, the judge said,“Don’t you realize that innocent people might have been killed?” Greenbaum responded, ‘Don’t you realize that plenty of Jewish people might be killed with their persecution up there?’)”

Substitute “liberal” for “Jewish”, “Democrat” for “Moscow” and MAGA for “bring America back” and it’s indistinguishable from a Republican rally of today.

Halford E. Luccock famously said, “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.’”

The coda to the German-American Bund may be predictive of near-future events here. Germany attacked Poland some seven months later, triggering World War II, and a wave of anti-Germanism swept the country. Support for the Bund collapsed. Kuhn was found guilty of embezzling the Bund to the tune of $14,000, jailed, and eventually stripped of his citizenship and shipped back to Germany after the war to be tried under denazification rules in post-war West Germany.

America does have a history of murderous right wing populists.

In 1829 Andrew Jackson was elected president, and the inauguration quickly descended into mayhem. Per wikipedia: “Jackson left on the west front of the Capitol,for the crowd had broken the ship’s cable and surged forward. He proceeded to mount a white horse and rode up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. While this happened people were climbing in through the windows to get into the White House.

“The White House was opened to all for a post-inaugural reception and was filled by the public even before Jackson arrived on horseback. Soon afterward, Jackson left by a window or a side entrance, and proceeded to Gadsby’s, later called the National Hotel. The crowd continued to descend into a drunken mob, only dispersed when bowls of liquor and punch were placed on the front lawn of the White House. ‘I never saw such a mixture,’ said Joseph Story, then a justice of the Supreme Court: ‘The reign of King Mob seemed triumphant.’ The White House was left a mess, including several thousand dollars worth of broken china.”

It seems that vicious right-wing populists and treasured national structures don’t get on well, no matter how patriotic the mob thinks it’s being. Several thousand dollars back then was a lot—Gold was only $13 an ounce.

In 1933, the United States saw a kind of a half-assed coup against Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then in office less than four months. Smedley Butler, then America’s most decorated Marine, was supposed to lead this fascist coup, supported and underwritten by many business leaders of the time, including the Bush family, J.D. Morgan, the Scaifes, and other movers and shakers who were terrified of FDR’s proposed New Deal. However, Butler was witness to the attack upon and massacre of the Bonus Marchers by Douglas MacArthur at the behest of then-president Herbert Hoover, and grew alienated from fascistic authoritarianism. He revealed the plot (which the ever-servile New York Times dismissed as “a gigantic hoax” but Congressional committee findings later reveal that, inept as it might have been, the attempt to overthrow the United States government was a real thing.)

A lot of the offspring of those would-be insurrectionists are prominent in today’s GOP. And most of them hate liberals, Democrats and socialists with the same passion as a Jackson supporter, a member of the Bund, a business leader in the Depression, or a member of MAGA today.

Fascism isn’t an invasive force in America, and neither is it anything new. It’s a feature of America, an an opportunistic disease that become dangerous when the host organism is weak. The fascist regimes of the 30s and 40s so disgraced the concept that fascists refuse to self-identify as such. Call them “conservatives.” Call them “libertarians.” Call them “patriots.” Or Proud Boys. Or Qanon. Anything but what they actually are.

Don’t think that just because they wave American flags and chant American patriotic oaths and songs that they aren’t deadly enemies to everything America stands for.

“They walk among us.”

https://www.niot.org/blog/oscar-nominated-short-night-garden

Cold Comfort — Texas Shivers; Ayn Rand Quivers

Cold Comfort

Texas Shivers; Ayn Rand Quivers

February 20th, 2021

It’s been a truism in American politics ever since the anti-government absurdities of the John Birch Society in the 1950’s: if you elect people who want government to fail to office, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a heavily underwritten idiocy that spread from the Kochs to the JBS, and then to the Libertarian party and from there to the right wing noise machine, where millions of man hours and billions of dollars were spent creating amiable puppet monsters like Reagan, and persuading Americans that if they only threw government off their backs, the aristocrats and churches would take good care of them.

It took over the Republican party entire in the 1990s, and Republican approach to governance ever since has been a blend of disdain for societal needs and general incompetence. Republican governors routinely blew up the budget. Vast sums of money were transferred from the public weal to big multinationals and the super rich. Infrastructure languished. Workers lost power and options, and wages stagnated, and then dropped. Consumers started hearing it was none of their damn business what was in their food and water. As part of a devil’s pact with fundamentalist churches, religion was permitted to intrude more and more deeply into our personal lives. Health care and education were weakened, and turned into lucrative scams.

Jefferson, Madison, et al set government up to serve the people and forestall the depredations of corporations, aristocrats, and the churches. They used to teach that in school before the current fable that individuals could stare down trillion-dollar companies and the Church.

GOP governance saw a steady procession of massive screwups from the war on drugs to 9/11 to the war on terror. Katrina. The 2008 financial melt down. And most recently, COVID.

It’s no wonder the GOP finally coughed up the morally bankrupt and criminally corrupt Donald Trump as their avatar.

Texas, of course, has its own particular ethos that lends itself readily to libertarian propaganda. Individualist, go-it-alone, free brave and independent. A cross between John Wayne and the Marlboro Man. Government help, sissy stuff like medical care, roads, schools and infrastructures were for weinies and darkies. Bubba don’t need no government telling him he’s gotta buckle up and wear a mask. Fuck the Feds! Anything government is socialist.

Which brings me to another truism. Socialism sees to the needs of society, and capitalism sees to the needs of capitalists. Having a lawnmowing business makes you a business owner, but you’re no more a capitalist than owning a computer makes you Bill Gates. (And in something symbolic of how the game is rigged for capitalists, read your various EULAs for your software—despite paying for it, you don’t own any of that shit). The only reason Americans put up with the crap and don’t stage the French Revolution redux is they all believe they can become capitalists. They’re all just temporarily embarrassed millionaires, as the joke goes.

We had plenty of warning before last week’s cold snap paralyzed the entire state of Texas and caused minor inconvenience everywhere else.

Texas broke from the federal power grid specifically to avoid federal regulation. Ken Lay and ERCOT would see to all their needs. Billionaires are selfless heroes, here only to serve the people, you know.

Republicans aren’t just incompetent in times of crisis; they philosophically cannot make a response to a crisis because that would make government look effective.

They started dealing with the crisis by lying. It was the fault of windmills freezing (some did, but the agency overseeing this fiasco admitted that generation from wind power was actually UP during the blackout crisis). Tucker Carlson, the poor man’s William F. Buckley, said “So it was all working great until the day it got cold outside. The windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died,” Some other lies were ludicrous on the face of it. Blaming Biden for canceling Keystone XL or rejoining the Paris accord were flat-out ridiculous accusations. Rick Perry, who outside of the GOP would be the dumbest man in the room, declared proudly that Texans would rather endure blackouts rather than suffer under federal regulation. (I’ll bet Perry’s lights were on). Donald Trump Jr., who somehow manages to be even more stupid than his father, blamed the crisis on Texas’ “Democrat governor.” That would be Greg Abbott, who is…wait for it…a Republican. Texas has been Republican since the days of Ann Richards, and somehow, inexplicably, in decline over those 30 years.

Ted Cruz fled to Cancun, leaving his little doggie alone in his freezing house and when caught out, blamed his young daughters for the trip, lying about when the trip was planned and his expectations of an early return. (Newsmax sprung to Cruz’s defense, noting that Joe Biden’s German Shepherd was looking kinda raggedy-ass, which isn’t too unusual for that breed in February in a cold climate.)

While Cruz was indelibly disgracing himself and his office, Beto O’Rourke organized volunteers to make more than 784,000 wellness calls to senior citizens around Texas. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC to the dimwitted dittoheads) used her office pulpit to raise more than two million dollars for Texas. Biden and FEMA sent 60 massive power generators and over 200,000 meals, along with a million gallons of fresh water and 30,000 blankets. Unfortunately, most are still sitting at airports around the state because state and local authorities can’t figure out how to move them to people that need them. Fortunately for Texas, Biden is sending in federal guard to take over distribution. Someone’s gotta go it, and it sure isn’t the government haters that infest Texas government.

The cold snap should have been nothing more than an inconvenience. It stretched from northern Mexico to Newfoundland, and except for Texas, that’s all it was—an inconvenience. But not Texas. Because freedumb.

This should be a massive wakeup call to Texas and the country, and hopefully, people will remember in 2022 that billionaires won’t save them from their own stupidity.

Day Five — Disgrace and Acquittal

Day Five

Disgrace and Acquittal

February 13th 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Four — Weak Tea for the Defense

Day Four

Weak Tea for the Defense

February 12th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Three — Yes, Trump planned the attack

Day Three

Yes, Trump planned the attack

February 11th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Two — Trump’s Riot, Detailed

Day Two

Trump’s Riot, Detailed

February 10th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day One — The Trial of Trump

Day One

The Trial of Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today did them no favors.

First Week of February — Second half of winter

First Week of February

Second half of winter

February 7th, 2021

There’s going to be a traffic jam at Mars this week, which is a bit disconcerting. Three craft are expected to arrive in the next ten days. The first one, tomorrow, is the United Arab Emirates’ first attempt at Mars exploration. It’s going to drop into orbit around Mars tomorrow, and spend the next few years analyzing the Martian atmosphere, looking for signs of any biological activity (methane, for instance) and perhaps determining what became of 99% of the atmosphere which Mars lost.

The following day, the Chinese effort weighs in. Dubbed Tianwen-1, or “Quest for Heavenly Truth”, it’s perhaps the most lyrically named of all the Martian craft, especially after the flat invocations of Horatio Alger wet dreams that adorn most American craft, or the English effort named after a cute but annoying breed of dog. (And yes, I know it was Darwin’s ship—don’t write). For a first effort, it’s ambitious in ways only the Chinese can manage these days. It will orbit Mars for three months, remotely surveying the surface before launching a small rover to the surface.

The US effort is another Horatio Alger invocation, Perseverance. It’s a full one ton rover, by far the largest yet, and will have the most dramatic landing, especially since it will be a full seven minutes before anyone knows its fate. Among other things, it will collect rock samples to be picked up by a player to be named later.

The reason for the log jam is that the shortest and most effective transit between the two planets occurred last summer, something that happens every 22 months, and nobody wanted to wait that long for holiday rates.

So if you want to visualize what Mars looks like right now, just turn on an old computer running Windows 3. Wait for the screen saver to pop up. All those flying toasters?

Yup, that’s about what Mars looks like right now. Hopefully all three will settle into their various assigned niches and be making delicious toast by the twentieth or so.

On an even stranger and more alien planet, the trial of Donald John Trump in the US Senate begins. The single charge is insurrection. Trump won’t testify, which is a pity; America sort of misses the ongoing circus/zoo that was life under Trump now that he no longer has the power to get us all killed. We can all have fun watching the Republicans huff in moral outrage as they jettison any final shreds of actual morality.

I’m fairly sure that there’s no life on Mars other than what rode along on the various craft that have landed there. We may find viruses on Mars, and if one of the happens to be COVID-19, we’ll know that we infected the planet. Now, admittedly I would like to be wrong about native life on Mars—I am old enough to remember the old John Carter stories and the notion that Mars had canals. If there is life, and assuming all three craft arrive successfully, we might actually know in the next year or so. That would definitely make up for the Canadian Football league season being canceled last year.

I wonder if we could send Trump to Mars? Tell him the whole damn planet is unclaimed, there’s no zoning regulations, and he can build whatever he wants. If he encounters other difficulties, such as lack of oxygen, temperatures colder than Antarctica, bone-melting radiation, or a dusting of perchlorates all over the planet, well, he should have done the reading. It was in the intelligence reports. I mean, if we’re going to contaminate the planet anyway…

The future isn’t as grim as it appeared scant weeks ago. Biden promised 100 million doses in the first hundred days, and after 16 days, 34.5 million had been administered. Biden caught flak from both sides on that promise, with one side saying it was a ridiculously optimistic forecast, and the other noting that it would be almost two full years to get everyone both their innoculations. However, COVID is fighting back, as expected. The new South African strain is somewhat unaffected by the shots. The good news is that it is affected enough that the mortality rate will be very low. But you know, that’s evolution. Build a better mousetrap, and eventually you get better mice. COVID is going to become part of our lives, the way Influenza has. Since we, too, are creatures of evolution, we’ll adapt, too.

Climate change is a far more serious challenge, and we’re pretty much out of time. The damage that has been done has yet to arrive, and there’s no turning back. No matter what changes or advancements we make, costs will be in the trillions of dollars and millions of lives over the next decade, and may worsen after that. But we are making advances in non-carbon energy and energy storage, and in the wake of Biden’s pledge to have an all-electric federal fleet, GM voted to be all electric by 2035.

Our grandchildren won’t be grateful that we screwed around for so long, but maybe we wised up soon enough that some of us will have grandchildren to sneer at us. The alternative is worse.

Oh, and this is America’s highest and most solemn religious holiday today, and my fearless forecast is that one team will win and the other will lose. That sounds boring as hell, so I’m not paying attention.

The landing of Perseverance is going to be much more interesting.

M4A — Making a medical system for the United States

January 31st, 2021

Joe Biden is off to a promising start. Nobody outside of Qtrumpville disputes that. He’s signed dozens of executive orders undoing many of the most hateful and cruel executive orders Trump signed. He plans to use the Reconciliation process to get a solid COVID relief bill through the Senate, and it looks like he has the 50 votes needed. Due to a quirk in the annual budgeting process (caused, ironically, by Republican intransigence) he’ll get a second opportunity this spring to use the reconciliation process, and various high-priority and dire items need to be addressed. Climate crisis, infrastructure, education, voting reform, campaign financing reform, minimum wage, racial justice…it seems an endless list, indicative of a nation left reeling and on the ropes by the nihilistic fascists of the GOP.

Major health care reform is very high on that long, long list of things that need to be done. The American system is the worst in the developed world, cruel, inefficient, and devoted not to treating the ill and injured, but to lining the pockets of insurance companies, the Catholic Church (which owns a majority of hospitals in America), lawyers, medical suppliers, and the pharmaceutical companies. It’s a disgrace, one in which people are dying because they can’t afford insulin and other common drugs necessary to treat the sorts of illnesses that are commonplace.

It’s cruel and viciously inefficient, but the medical profiteers don’t care: it’s a feature, not a flaw, because it enhances profits. And they use a small portion of those profits to buy up whores in Congress eager to sell out the United States because they love America. (America without the United States is just a wasted patch of land separating Canada from Mexico, but with the pretense of a nation in place, it is a cash cow for billionaires and international corporations.)

Medicare For All, the simple expansion to provide Medicare for all residents of America, is the easiest answer. The profiteers will fight it tooth and nail, of course, since they stand to lose trillions in profits, and will send their soulless minions out to spend billions of dollars assuring the American people that expansion of a largely successful and comparatively efficient system will turn the US into a Soviet wasteland in which people die because they can’t afford aspirin. Something like what we have now, only the party apparatchiks are corporate and church, rather than the state. A lot of businesses that don’t have a thing to do with health care will fight it because controlling their employees’ access to health care gives them more power over those employees, and a controlled workforce is a good thing.

In reality, Medicare for All will be a huge step forward. Various projections, even those provided by private insurance companies, indicate savings to the nation of anywhere from a half a trillion a year all the way up to 3.5 trillion.

Why such a huge range in estimated savings? Part of it is bias on the part of who is doing the estimating, of course. Aetna and Bernie Sanders could come up with the same proposals and data and be quite far apart on their hypothetical bottom lines. And private medical providers like to continue to keep their own presence in because profits. They know that a unified health coverage would save billions just in paperwork and redundancy alone.

But the biggest item of all is the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, hooted through by Republicans in Congress and gleefully signed by Bush the Lessor.

Bad enough that it provides a raft of subsidies and entitlements to Big Pharma. A lot of those go to underwrite research of new drugs, which quickly became a joke since it’s mostly public universities and overseas firms that do the actual research, whereas “research” by American pharmaceuticals often amounts to legal studies on how to extend a trademark on a profitable drug by making it mint flavored or something.

Another provision was Medicare Part D, which mandated private insurance or personal wealth for drugs for amounts over $2,400 a year, creating an often insurmountable burden on retirees and low-wage workers. Obamacare lessened the burden, but didn’t get rid of it. It must go.

Finally, the Act forbade the government from negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies. Can you imagine running a business where you cannot bargain shop? Maybe in the Soviet Union, or its private sector alternate, the United States. But the provision left the companies free to charge whatever the hell they wanted, with the grotesque results we see today.

Billy Tauzin, R-LA, pushed through that particular poison pill, and was lavishly rewarded after he retired from Congress the following year.

Getting rid of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act alone will save trillions. Combining it with Medicare for All, and you would see the United States going from the worst medical system in the developed world to the best, where it was before Nixon inflicted HMOs on us and the US began a precipitous slide into a capitalistic nightmare of gouging, greed, and inefficiency.

It’s problematic what Biden can do against the trillions that will be spent to defend those profits, and the fascist lapdogs in the Republican caucus, but he can at the very least be a bully pulpit, informing and educating people as to what a parasitic rip off the medical system is, and who makes all the money denying us basic medical care. Anyone who says medical care isn’t a right is a thief, or a lickspittle for thieves.

We may never have a better opportunity to get these thieves off our backs.