Fighting Fascism — The GOP and the 14 signs of fascism

Fighting Fascism

The GOP and the 14 signs of fascism

 

May 15th 2021

Back in 2003, Laurence W. Britt wrote an op-ed piece for Secular Humanism magazine called “Fascism, Anyone?” The magazine wryly notes that it is “the most reprinted—and most pirated—article in the magazine’s history.” It’s better known around the web as “The fourteen signs of fascism” and it serves well as a warning against any kind of extreme authoritarianism. Of course, fascism is almost by definition extreme authoritarianism, but ever since World War 2, fascists never, ever refer to themselves as fascists. In the US, they like to call themselves “conservatives” or “patriots.” They are neither.

I’ve used Britt’s essay several times in essays since it came out as it it has become a sine qua non for defining—and fighting—fascism.

I’m going to take the titles of each of the 14 signs and give a brief description of how this is a very nearly exact match for policies and practices of today’s Republican party. Readers are invited to take any of the 14 referents and argue how they DON’T represent what are laughingly referred to as “Republican values” these days. Those who like to use the tu quoque logical fallacy (whataboutism) will be happy to know that I’ll freely admit that some points do apply to Democrats as well as Republicans, although most do not. With Republicans, the score is 14 out of 14.

Here they are in the order Britt laid them out, with my own thoughts on how they apply now with the 2021 version of the GOP.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.

No politician dares appear on a stage without a dozen or fifty American flags in the background. It long passed the point of being ridiculous, but nobody dares say so—in either party. People are obliged to refer to America as a family member or a lover, rather than just a place. The United States is a country. America is a shit pot of cows and trees and Starbucks. It’s not illegal to say so. Or unpatriotic.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.

Three words. “Kids in cages.” Republicans kept kids in cages for weeks and even months, and committed the unspeakably cruel crime of permanently separating them from their families, just because of the common fascist belief that cruelty equals strength.

3. Identification of enemies/scape-goats as a unifying cause.

This week it’s Asians. And transgenders. And Hispanics. And Blacks. And the Poor. And intellectuals. And about 70% of the entire country, really.

.4. The supremacy of the military/ avid militarism.

I read an article that some 120 retired line officers—generals and admirals, all retired—signed a “stop the steal” petition. Bad enough that so many of them would gleefully sign on to what amounts to an act of treason, but that there are so MANY line officers in the first place shows how bloated, inefficient, top-heavy and corrupt the military has become. The military budget is nearly as large as the rest of the world’s combined, and yet it is suicide to suggest cutting their budget. They are the most expensive under-performer in the world. Fascist fetishism of the military does not win wars. And degrades the very military it’s meant to glorify.

5. Rampant sexism.

Gawd. Where to begin? I’ll just note that Marjorie Taylor-Greene is just the latest in a shameful parade of mentally disturbed women the GOP put in the public eye to do their dirty work for them. Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Ann Coulter, Nazi Barbie…the list goes on and on. The permanent sneer that accompanies Republican attitudes toward women is their desire to ban abortion and birth control, but not provide mothers with paid time off, free child care, preschool and neonatal and pediatric care, available in all civilized nations.

6. A controlled mass media.

As with corporations and the government in a fascist country, the issue of whether the media control the party or the other way around is nearly impossible to discern. Which is the puppet and which is the master? In this case, Fox News and the GOP are two facets of the same paste jewelry.

7. Obsession with national security.

How many “crisis at the border” situations have we had since 1992? How many were real? Even after electing a president whose regard for national security was problematic at best, Republicans continue to supercharge the notion that any dissident voices, no matter how patriotic or benign, are threats to national security. Black Lives Matter is a threat. The Naziesque Proud Boys are not. Well, Brownshirts protected Germany from the Jews in the name of national security, so there really isn’t anything new under that dark sun.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.

Authoritarian religion and fascism always have gone hand in hand and now is no exception. People who wonder how professed Christians could possibly align with a moral and ethical wastrel like Donald Trump haven’t read history. These people don’t worship God; they worship Power. And fascism is all about the power, baby.

9. Power of corporations protected.

Have you ever wondered why the Republicans seem to be on the wrong side of nearly all major social and economic positions? A decent minimum wage? Sick leave for all? Child care? Universal health care not tied to employment? Decent drug prices? That represents corporate power, which wants a weak and dependent labor force.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.

See #9. This isn’t a battle between capitalism and socialism; this is a war between the bosses—corporations and the aristocracy—and the workers.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.

The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the anti-science stance of the GOP. Intellectuals tend to ask awkward questions about such sacred cows as the role of gods and businesses in society, and scientists figure stuff out rather than making shit up, which angers the churches.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment.

The GOP have actually gone a bit quiet on this in recent years since Trump forced them to abandon the pretense that they were anything other than an organized crime cartel. They don’t mind calling for the death penalty for political dissidents such as BLM or the largely imaginary ‘antifa’ (and what political movement would hate a group for being antifascist, you ask?) but they have to remain resolutely silent about the criminality of Trump and much of his administration, or well-known figures in his circles such as Matt Gaetz or Jeffery Epstein. Many turn to conspiracy theories and projection, which allows them to remain resolutely ‘tough on crime’ whilst still stealing with both hands.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.

Two words: Trump family.

14. Fraudulent elections.

If the GOP has any central principle at all, it is that of stealing elections whilst loudly shouting that it’s the other guys who are stealing elections. From draconian Jim Crow-type laws to to gerrymandering efforts to overthrowing election results through manipulation of the electoral college through outright insurrection and threats of violent overthrow of the government, the GOP, who hate 70% of all the people in America, have realized they cannot win free and fair elections so they are doing everything in their power to prevent free and fair elections from interfering with their self-assumed right to rule.

Fascism attracts vicious autocrats who bend normal human reason and values in their lust for power. Even without the monsters of the second world war, fascism, with its authoritarian nature, have the same evil reputation that theocracies and other dictatorships have, and for the same reason. Power isn’t from the people: it’s power OVER the people, and it is without exception ugly and vicious and corrupt on all levels.

The GOP are authoritarian and anti-American. They ARE fascists. Do all you can to fight them.

 An Ill Wind — Blows Trump Good

 An Ill Wind

Blows Trump Good

March 14th 2021

From the campaign of 1944 onward until April 12, 1945, rumors about the state of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s health mounted. Although still in his early 60s, FDR had been president for twelve years, seeing the United States through two of the greatest crises in its history, from a wheelchair, smoking two packs of Camels a day, and consuming enough liquor that by today’s standards, he would be considered a problem drinker.

He gave a speech on an aircraft carrier in Seattle in March, wearing leg braces so he could stand in a cold wet wind. He was stuck just as he began his speech with a fairly major siege of angina pectoris, sending waves of pain through his chest. Not only did he keep his balance on the heaving deck, but he somehow managed to finish his speech, although the horrified audience could clearly see something was terribly wrong.

But with typical personal resiliency, he looked and seemingly felt fine just fifteen minutes later.

A few days later a press photographer managed one of the rare candid shots that got past FDRs staff. The shot showed a man nearing his end–”eyes like poached eggs, jaw agape” as William Manchester described it. For a nation used to the ear-to-ear grin, the chin thrust out, the cigarette holder at a jaunty angle, the image was deeply disturbing. FDR himself was shaken by it, and snarled of the photographer, “They’re nothing but a bunch of goddammed ghouls.” Two weeks later he was dead. America was shocked, but not particularly surprised. Most people sensed he had worked himself to death, and he had done it for them.

Donald Trump, just seven weeks out of office, reminded me of that March 1945 photograph. He had a fund raiser at Mar-A-Lago yesterday, and some of his sycophantic attendees snapped some shots of him that they honestly thought to be conveying strength and certitude. The first shows a hesitant-looking Trump being escorted in by Lara Trump, looking almost humanly concerned for someone who has been ripping off a charity for puppies for two years. She is holding Trump’s hand, both to steady him and to guide him into the room. Nick Adams, who took the shot, wrote “President Trump is looking better than ever before!! He is getting in shape for 2024 and the liberals are freaking out!!” There’s a large discoloration on Trump’s right cheek, maybe a bruise, or perhaps he smeared his makeup. His jaw is agape, and what little there was of his neckline has vanished altogether.

The second image is even more disturbing. He is looking around blankly, isolated in a crowd of admirers, in a pose usually seen in people with Parkinson’s or dementia, leaning forward, arms dangling out in front. My own reaction to the image was, “He looks like he should be wandering around a rest home demanding to know who stole the chain out of his toilet.”

Bridgette Gabriel took that one, and wrote, “President Trump looks fantastic! Stronger than ever!”

Gaslighting is a staple with Trump and his crowd, but even those two had to be looking at the man and seeing that he isn’t “in shape” or “fantastic.” He’s aged 10 years in seven weeks, and he doesn’t even look like he knows where he is.

In short, he looks like a man who is at death’s door.

I would forget about him running in 2024. Ain’t gonna happen. He’s going to be fighting to keep out of jail, and to keep even 1% of his wealth after the civil suits have run. He’s forcing a revolt within the GOP by demanding funds go to him rather than the party, and eventually, sooner rather than later, he’ll have to fight that war just to maintain any political viability. And of course, he runs a significant risk of being tried as a traitor within the next year.

Don’t expect pity from me. He’s earned all the grief he will face, including an early death.

But I saw those images, and immediately eliminated him as any sort of viable force in American politics going forward. He’s dying, and the inchoate rage of a movement he formed is dying with him.

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.

Biden Our Time — Good Trumps Evil

Biden Our Time

Good Trumps Evil

January 21st 2021

At 9:01am PST yesterday I posted a one-word post on Facebook.

The post said, “WHEW!”

It might be the only all-caps post I’ll ever make, since I regard people who post in all-caps to be total idiots. I am quite capable of attaining truly sublime levels of idiocy without artificial aids from my caps-lock key, thank you very much.

We all expected things to turn weird and disgusting between the election and inauguration day, and of course things did. And yes, there were a lot of grim things. COVID continued to explode, with the death toll now well over 400,000, and the Trump regime bungled the vaccine rollout. Trump gleefully sabotaged Open Skies and other treaties, giving a gleeful Vladimir Putin an entire basket of tactical Easter eggs. They had an insurrectionist attack on the Capitol and comprised, for the most part, of meth heads trying to play soldier and absolutely lunatic conspiracy theory freaks. Even more troubling, we discovered that much of the Republican party would rather destroy the United States than share power with those of the wrong race, or the wrong religion, or who were simply guilty of not being rich.

If one good thing came of the Trump regime, it was that he forced America to look in the mirror, and learn that it’s really no better than any other country, and can no longer pretend to be a shining beacon of reason and ethics. Not that it ever really could, but the facade had been torn away.

I don’t envy Joe Biden. He took office yesterday facing a national crisis every bit as great as the one Franklin Roosevelt faced in March of 1933. FDR only had to face the First Great Depression. Biden is facing the Second Great Depression, along with the pandemic, the worst since 1919, and an opposition that is anything but loyal; a large chunk of the GOP leadership are seditionists at best, traitors at worst.

I’m sure I’ll oppose Biden on some items, sometimes vehemently. But unlike his predecessor, I won’t be questioning his loyalty, his courage, or his good intentions. That’s a huge improvement right there. Trump is filth. Biden is not.

I’m having grim fun watching the GOP writhe and twist. The militias have come face to face with the fact that no coup can succeed without popular support. Power comes, not from the barrel of a gun, but the will of the people. It’s something the fairy-tale stories about overthrowing evil kings and the like often miss; no regime happens in a vacuum. You need, at the very least, the support of one third of the population, and at least another third willing to not take up arms against you. When 3/4s of the population are openly disgusted with you and want to throw you in jail (or under a guillotine) then your cause is lost. Most people hate the so-called militias, with their open embrace of Nazism and white superiority. Theirs is the philosophy of war, of death camps, of genocides. A large majority of Americans are better than that, and won’t fall to that level except under the circumstances that led to the French Revolution, the Soviet revolution, the Putsch and rise of Hitler, or the final disintegration of the USSR. We aren’t there yet, and with any luck, we won’t be.

The QAnon conspiracy nuts have to come to grips with the fact that Trump isn’t going to be a God-Emperor here to save us from the utterly imaginary depredations of the Clintons, Obama, or the lizard people. Quite a few of them hit a wall of reality beginning on the sixth of January and crashed and burned with the sight of Biden taking the oath of office. Q himself apparently stopped posting shortly after the election. Many will just find a new form of insanity to embrace, but quite a few are wailing that they were misled and lied to, and that their new religion failed them. I imagine Christianity must have faced a similar setback when Jesus’ prediction that many of those living would see his return failed to come to pass. In other words, don’t expect QAnon to just go away. The ability to rationalize is deep amongst the deluded and the insane.

The the ‘sane’ part of the GOP, the ‘good Germans’ are popping up all over the place. “Oh, I never supported Trump.” “I just went along because I was afraid.” “I was just following orders.” Suddenly, they want to talk about unity, negotiation, and compromise. There may even be some who are acting in good faith, but it’s a sure bet that most are just trying to salvage what they can for the ruins of their party, and are probing Biden and the Democratic Party for any signs of weakness. A favorite seems to be “Well, 74 million people voted for Trump and you can’t ignore them.” The reality is 81 million people voted for Biden, and unlike Trump won’t be out to viciously take revenge on the Trump voters. Biden isn’t going to refuse aid to red states, and he isn’t going to address the pandemic only in states that voted for him. He isn’t Trump. He isn’t a monster.

To the Trump voters I say, “Biden is here to govern, not rule. He isn’t going to make you second-class citizens because of how you voted. He isn’t going to turn America into a Soviet wasteland, no matter what the high-paid liars on the right wing media say. He is going to make changes, and you may not like all of them, but if you have any honesty, any decency, you’ll reserve judgment and see what the changes mean in your lives, your work, your schools, your health care and your country. You don’t own America, but America exists to serve you, and Biden seems to be totally aware of that.

“We tried your way, and it was a catastrophe. Trump was the worst president in our history. Expect better with Biden.”

Six Days — Countdown to the end of the Trump era

Six Days

Countdown to the end of the Trump era

January 14th 2021

Even without the attempted coup at the Capitol last week, everyone would be on tenterhooks right now. While the threat of any significant violence strikes me as overblown—Gravy Seals and Meal Team Sucks against 20,000 police, National Guard and the Army—there’s little doubt in anyone’s mind that Donald Trump is engaged in what psychiatrists refer to as decompensation. That’s the utter breakdown of a world created by a neurotic and/or psychotic person in the face of implacable reality. Trump is learning, at the end, that he is not widely loved and admired, and his efforts to dominate and bully people is at an end. Not only that, but next week the last of his power vanishes, and he must account for his crimes. He has suffered humiliation after humiliation, from losing the election by a huge margin (and finally having to admit it, if only to himself) to his second impeachment, and the horror of most of the nation at his effort to violently overthrow the election.

Decompensation is a psychological crisis. It results in severe depression, psychotic rage, and a blind lashing out at enemies, real and imagined. It often results in suicide, violence, and/or unbridled acting out, often on the same level as the tantrum of a two-year old.

Case in point: Mike Pence was the most servile lickspittle of all of Trump’s administration. When Pence had to admit that he couldn’t carry out an impossible demand of somehow overturning the Electoral College vote, Trump sent the baying mob to hang Mike Pence. His own vice-president.

The danger signs are so clear and immediate that Congress and the armed forces have (hopefully) taken steps to neutralize some of the destruction a US President is normally capable of. At this hour, it’s not clear that the military will accept orders from their commander-in-chief. In an extraordinary communiqué, the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced they would not participate in any efforts by Trump to reverse the results of the election or prevent President-Elect Joe Biden from taking office.

Hopefully, that addresses another very real fear—that Trump might ignite a major war with Iran or perhaps China as an excuse to declare Martial Law and use that to try to maintain his role as President. Or provoke a domestic crisis (such as the attack on the Capitol) to the same end.

I’ve said for many years that Trump’s best features are his cowardice and his incompetence. He’s great at bullying people, but hopeless at managing them. He demands loyalty but offers none in return.

An amazing example of that trait is happening with the hapless Rudy Giuliani. After offering the barely-qualified Giuliani $20,000 an hour to represent him in court cases, he left it out that being dissatisfied with Rudy’s ability to win any court cases where there was no supporting evidence or even rationale, he wasn’t going to pay Rudy. This the same day he asked Giuliani to lead his legal team in his second impeachment trial in the Senate. (Honestly, I can’t believe I’m writing this stuff. My keyboard wants to crawl under my desk in shame. But it’s all real.)

Trump seems incapable of formulating a business plan, let alone a coherent policy for running a huge nation, and it’s no surprise to anyone familiar with his actual record as a businessman that he would be an utter and inept failure as a president. He doesn’t have the mental wherewithal or the emotional flexibility to deal with crises, even those that are self-generated. His utter inability to address the marches during the spring and summer, or the pandemic, are absolutely true to type. He never had to deal with the huge messes he created throughout his tawdry life from lack of discipline or intelligence, leaving those to an army of Michael Cohens, but as president he created messes too big and too immediate for anyone to brush away.

Having finally realized that he went too far in sending that mob to the Capitol, he gave a scathing denunciation of the violence and damage the mob caused. Trump has made a living out of pissing on people and telling them it’s holy water, but I doubt this particular mob is going to be too pleased, especially since hundreds of them are going to go to jail, branded as traitors, and the thousands more who did nothing worse than protest will be tarred with the same brush. I semi-joked the other day that Q was going to have to explain to his circus of freaks and psychotics that Donald Trump had sold out and joined the deep state conspiracy to destroy Donald Trump.

I’m cautiously optimistic that when President Joe Biden enters the Oval Office (possibly to find a large mound of Donald’s shit on the Resolute desk), it will be without major incident, and only a few inchoate demonstrations on the fringes of the military perimeter and around a few state Capitols.

As for Trump, he may be arrested the same day or at least detained on what we in California call a 5150; restrained because he presents a danger to himself and others. The Southern District of New York supposedly has a fire hose of criminal charges awaiting Trump. And that’s just the beginning.

That’s why Trump has been so desperate and so frightened that he’s willing to destroy the country to remain in office: he faces ruin and prison the minute he stops being President. I have no sympathy: it’s all self-inflicted, and he did immense damage to many people on the way.

If it weren’t for the knee-jerk servility Americans have toward any self-proclaimed successful capitalist, Trump would have never been anything other than a bad joke, in and out of prison on various scams and petty thefts. I doubt people in general will learn from his example, although the lesson is immediate: wealth does not equate to wisdom, honesty, or decency. It never has, and it never will.

In the end, Trump, by becoming President, showed the world what he really was.

And we’ll be paying for that for many years.

Keeping it Lit — Fighting the darkness

Keeping it Lit

Fighting the darkness

January 9th 2021

It was January 6th, and just about the time strange things began happening on Capitol Hill, I turned to my wife and said it was about time to take down the Solstice Tree. The tree itself isn’t anything fancy: a 4’ artificial pine with white LEDs, supplemented by a strip of USB string lights that can flicker, flash, cycle through seven colors and all that neat stuff. We usually take it down about the 5th or so, when we are coming out of what I think of as our Solstice trough. The sunsets already started getting later back around December 15th, and the sunrises started becoming earlier about the 4th of January. It’s all up hill from here. There were also two family birthdays on the 5th and 6th, and that felt like the closure of the holiday season.

My wife looked at the images of the bizarre people trying to overthrow the government and said slowly, “I think I would like to keep the tree up until the 21st this year.”

I didn’t need to ask what she meant. I had already told some people that I wouldn’t consider 2020 to be really over until Inauguration Day, and screw what the calendar thought.

So the tree is still next to my desk, and still lit, and it will stay that way until Joe Biden says, “So help me God” and the nightmare of Trump is officially over. It’s the symbol of hope during a very dark and scary time.

The nation is scrambling, somewhat belatedly, to contain the damage Trump has done. Pelosi and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have sat down and discussed what to do if Trump orders a military action, whether against Iran, China, or Los Angeles, or in the event he wants to launch some nukes. That means the US military is effectively paralyzed for the next 11 days, but that seems a small price to pay if it prevents the most egregious land war yet, or worse, a nuclear conflagration. While that represents a possible exploit for bad actors like Putin or Xi, that it is only eleven days should give them pause. There’s also the fact that Mike Pence is already acting president in all but name (it was he, and not Trump, who finally authorized the National Guard to go into Washington DC and quell the insurrection) and I suspect the Pentagon has quietly agreed to take orders from him, and not the madman in the White House.

Trump’s flathead followers are horrified to learn that they are not the spearhead of a vast national upwelling intent on elevating Trump to dictator for life. The events sparked national outrage on a level not seen since the Civil War. It’s one thing to protest; to invade Congress, kill people, smash property and loot desks, and desecrate national icons crossed a bloody red line. The sight of Confederate flags—the rags of traitors and slavers—being waved in the Rotunda sickened and disgusted most Americans. One group tried, without success, to replace the US flag atop the building with a “Trump 2020” flag.

Trump, who egged them on, promising to march with them to the Capitol, immediately fled, and the next day gave a speech condemning the rioters and looters and calling for them to be punished severely. In other words, he did what he always does to people whose loyalty he demands; he whipped around and fucked them sideways with a chainsaw.

The flatheads lost their little minds, and did what reactionary extremists always do when they realize they’ve lost; they started eating their own entrails to stay alive. I watched people argue simultaneously that Donald Trump was a cowardly cuck (true) and that the video was deep faked (false). One managed to argue that Trump had joined the deep state conspiracy to destroy…Donald Trump. The most cowardly ones tried to claim that Trump supporters were actually Antifa, staging a false flag operation. When I encounter one of those (which I have quite a few times in the past few days) I just tell them to show a little courage and Own. Their. Shit.

Republicans in Congress tried saying nobody could possibly have seen this coming, even though some of the assailants had T-shirts and flags that read, “Civil War II: January 6th, 2021”. No, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Only the craven behavior of the Capitol Police was unexpected.

Trump rightly gets blamed for the slow response by federal forces—he deliberately refused to let them go in and rescue the Congressional hostages for the simple reason that they were being held as HIS hostages, and he had a demand to make of them. But the images of Capitol police opening doors for the rioters and taking selfies with them mean that it will be many years before the Capitol Police are trusted and respected by anyone. They suffer from the same problem many police forces and the Air Force have: they have been infiltrated by right wing extremists, neo-Nazis, religious freaks and brownshirt bullies, and if America is to survive, this trash must be purged. There’s a reason for the BLM movement, and the same reason is why the neo-Nazis hate BLM so much.

Nobody knows what will happen over the next 11 days, but remember, sanity is on the horizon, and people now recognize Trump and his vicious followers for the danger they are.

Keep the tree lit.

Don’t lose hope. Never lose hope.

January 6th 2021 — The Coup-Coo Brigade Strike

January 6th 2021

The Coup-Coo Brigade Strike

Various people today have declared that today’s assault on the Capitol of the United States was a date that would “live in infamy”.

My mum wouldn’t have been too thrilled to hear that. If she were alive, this would be her 102nd birthday. She wouldn’t have been chuffed at having her special day listed along with December 7th or September 11th.

She wouldn’t have been too surprised if she were around to hear how the story came about. From the 80s up until her death a few years ago she took the measure of Donald Trump and considered him an utterly vile man, amoral, rude, and vulgar. Since my own view of Trump was about the same, I used to watch the members of my family who liked Trump squirm uncomfortably should anyone mention his name within her earshot. Her profound deafness in her final years was no protective wall; like many people in her position, she had a knack for hearing key words in a conversation. Discussing Bridge, or British terms for flatulence, could provoke an outburst.

She was old. She wasn’t stupid. Trump was trash, and she knew it.

Today’s events, and Trump’s role in them, wouldn’t have surprised her. It didn’t surprise me. It’s a wonder it surprised anyone, really. Trump had been saying right along that he didn’t accept the results of the election, and would encourage his inane clown posse to fight on his behalf. Indeed, the reason Congress was vulnerable to such an attack stemmed from the notion that Congress could somehow overcome the will of the states (not to mention the people) by disrupting the normally ritualistic tabulation of the electoral college votes. Stooges and seditionists in Congress planned to object and drag out the proceedings in a forlorn hope that somehow they could get Congress to abandon the vote.

While this was going on, Trump stood in the speech and told his tin-foil hat brigade to march on Congress and that he would march with them. They began marching, and Trump promptly scurried off to the Führerbunker formerly known as the White House.

In a weird way, he may have actually done the nation a favor. On several levels, really.

First the events of today unleashed a tidal wave of anger and rage against Trump and the “Stop the Steal” movement. Suddenly it stopped being one of those loony things the crowd that believe the Queen is a lizard or that Hillary ran a pedophile operation in the basement of a pizza shop, and became a genuine insurrection against the country. Even people who like Trump were taken aback by today’s events. “Support the President.” Doesn’t matter how trashy or crazy the president is, and Trump is part of a rather long list of Presidents who didn’t belong in office. But supporting the president no matter what is a thing—until that president tries to overthrow the government of the US. You have to go back to antebellum days to find one of those. “Support the President”? Well, OK. “Destroy the Country?” Not so much.

Trump is finished. There are rumors that the Cabinet is considering 25th amendment removal of Trump before he does yet more damage. Congress may take up an unprecedented move to impeach, and if they do, it’s likely that Trump will be convicted. A wave of resignations in his administration has already begun. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all suspended his account.

His supporters that don’t feel they can abandon him are going to ridiculous lengths to rationalize the events of today. One Trumper I spoke to this morning denied any knowledge of the assault on the Capitol, and when I told him to switch on his TV, airily replied “Why? There’s nothing I can do about it.” Several Trumpers, including the idiot A-G of Texas, proffered the theory that all the thousands of protesters waving Trump, Confederate and even Nazi flags were actually all Antifa in disguise, a false flag operation.

I’m listening to the debate in resumed hearings tonight, and it’s clear that support for Trump has effectively collapsed. I suspect that holds true in much of the country. I’m watching the Senate vote on debate on objections to the electoral vote count, and this morning 11 senators were expected to sustain the objection, but I think there’s only five “ayes” now.

Even Qanon crazy Loeffler switched sides. (The final vote was 93-6).

Another thing that may benefit the country in the long run is that the insurrection today was a cold shot of reality. Americans believed it could not happen here. I was raised in England, two big civil wars, endless religious strife, and war after war after war, not only with the other nations in the British Isles, but with much of Europe. Insurrections, regicides, riots—all part of the glorious tapestry that is England. England regards itself as a great nation, fully cognizant of the fact that it has unrest and violence as part of its legacy. I was born in Canada, one of the most genuinely peaceful and stable nations on Earth—one with a long and not entirely vanished history of violence against First Nations people. The Riel rebellion, the FLQ crisis, and even major riots over hockey games. Canadians KNOW they aren’t “better than this.” It’s part of history.

America is better at regrowing its spiritual hymen better than any other nation on Earth, aside from the French who consider whoring an alternate virginity. For a generation, at least, Americans will be cognizant of the danger presented by extreme and even insane political movements.

If this beast rises its head again, perhaps they won’t have politicians coddling them, cowardly presidents leading from behind, or police taking selfies with the nuts because the nuts wave Confederate flags.

Perhaps American will learn to recognize, and adjust for their own humanity.

The Smoking Gun — Trump spends an hour lying, wheedling and threatening—on tape.

The Smoking Gun

Trump spends an hour lying, wheedling and threatening—on tape.

January 3rd, 2021

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger must have felt as surreal as a Dali painting listening to Donald Trump telling him he needed to rustle up 11,780 votes so he could reverse the results of the vote in Georgia. I suspect that Trump has made quite a few similar calls to officials in at least six other states, in a grim effort to steal the 2020 election. But this time, the Secretary—or someone in his office—recorded the call, a high fidelity sound quality that left absolutely no doubt about who said what. A full hour of it.

The phone call wasn’t just unethical—it was illegal, a state and federal felony that by itself could get Trump twenty years in jail.

People old enough to remember old [Expletive Deleted] remember that the tapes were redacted and the sound quality was poor enough that there was honest debate over who said what, and the only “smoking gun” was that the tapes showed he lied about being involved in the cover up of the Watergate hotel. It was years before we learned that Nixon knew of the break-in before it happened, or the full extent of the cover up. Had the full story been known, perhaps Gerald Ford might have refused to pardon Nixon, or been impeached for doing so. As it was, it did immense damage to the spirit of the nation, which had prided itself that no politician was above the law.

Even worse, it taught Republicans that not only does crime pay, but that so long as they have a weak and corrupt guy in the White House, they are above and beyond the law. The latest spate of get-out-of-jail free pardons by Trump are just the latest round of abuses by strutting and grinning fascists in the GOP. This may be the worst; they include four individuals whose burned and charred corpses ought to hanging from a bridge across the Euphrates. They are blatant efforts to obstruct justice; the pardons try to keep the people who made up the most corrupt administration in American history out of prison—including Trump himself.

The weirdest part of the extremely strange call was Trump’s demand that Raffensperger “find” 11,780 votes, baldly explaining that the specific number of “found votes” would make him the winner of Georgia by one vote. That violates 52 U.S. Code § 20511. Just for the record, here is that provision in federal law:

A person, including an election official, who in any election for Federal office

(1) knowingly and willfully intimidates, threatens, or coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any person for—

(A) registering to vote, or voting, or attempting to register or vote;

(B) urging or aiding any person to register to vote, to vote, or to attempt to register or vote; or

(C) exercising any right under this chapter; or

(2) knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds, or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a State of a fair and impartially conducted election process, by—

(A) the procurement or submission of voter registration applications that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held; or

(B) the procurement, casting, or tabulation of ballots that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held,

shall be fined in accordance with title 18 (which fines shall be paid into the general fund of the Treasury, miscellaneous receipts (pursuant to section 3302 of title 31), notwithstanding any other law), or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

The tape reveals a prima facie violation of that law. It also violates state law. And we can be pretty certain that Trump made similar calls to the Secretaries of States in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, desperately leaning on people to keep him in office and out of prison.

With only seventeen days left in his term, there simply isn’t time to impeach and convict him, even if the weak, criminal, strutting treasonous cowards that make up much of the GOP were willing to do so. But after the election, his actions yesterday can be added to the pile of criminal prosecutions he will face, no matter how many criminals he pardons. (If you accept a pardon, you are acknowledging that you did, in fact, commit criminal acts.)

Biden has promised he will not pardon Trump. It’s possible that Trump may resign the morning of the 21st so Pence can be a half-day President with the sole purpose of pardoning Trump, but Pence’s problem is there is nobody to pardon him, and he will face charges of obstruction of justice at the very least. A first-year law student could win a case of corrupt intent—normally nearly impossible to prove—in this particular case.

Republicans have no courage or self-respect. Let’s hope, for the sake of the country, that the rest of America does, and ends this corrupt cabal once and for all.