Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Inauguration Day 2021: Sharing My Thoughts To the Blogging World

So today, we went through Biden's inauguration and nothing bad happened (as of yet, knock on wood), and as part of the change to a new administration the blogging site I always check every day - Balloon Juice - sent out a call for guest bloggers to submit essays to honor the change to a better world we were making this 2021.

So I wrote up a Looking Forward essay, and WaterGirl was nice enough to post it this afternoon, so let me share the link here:

Looking Forward

In taking a minute to look back, I have this feeling since November 2016 of just everything in my life getting put on hold because of what happened to put donald trump in the White House. It was like, here’s the universe chugging along, Hillary Clinton certain to get the popular vote, the political landscape mostly in lockdown because the Congressional Republicans were likely to freeze anything Hillary could do, and yet it felt rather normal: Because since 2011 those Republicans had put a hold on Obama’s ability to transform much of America, and yet we still had a more progressive nation with Gay Marriage rights legitimized along with a general sense that the long arc of history bending towards Justice was still bending that way.

And then trump won the Electoral College and that long arc turned into a pretzel.

I still remember two days after the results were pointing to trump’s victory over normalcy, where one of my library co-workers came up to me and said “get familiar with this word ‘kakistocracy’ because it’ll be everything that trump’s misrule will be.” Good thing I was in a library with a dictionary and found the definition: “government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state.” I knew with trump in charge – having witnessed up close some of his atrocities of broken land deals and his destruction of a decent spring football league (BRING BACK BANDITBALL) – we were facing a dark era in our nation’s history, but now I had a word to explain it and a way to define it...

I suggest you follow the link and read the rest of what I submitted. I'd like to think it's one of my best works, with some literary flourish...

We can look forward to a Biden administration that ought to respond better to crises and manage our nation’s needs. A Biden administration that ought to follow through on a lot of promises the Democrats made – forgiving personal debts like college loans for example, and helping families with housing and employment funds – that would benefit not just the younger generations but ALL Americans struggling to survive both a pandemic and the darkened remnants of trump’s broken dystopia...

I have more to say about this transition, about the hope we're getting with Biden's incoming tenure, about the scars left behind by trump. But my Internet is out at home, and I'm writing this off my mobile phone-into-hotspot so I'm using a lot of data at the moment. See you later.

We have hopeful days ahead.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Waiting On Sane Leadership to Respond To This

While we're all waiting for the next 24 hours to ensure we transition from a maddeningly inept trump administration to a more competent Biden admin, we need to make note of the major crisis still affecting our nation and the world: The COVID-19 Pandemic is ongoing, has swung upward across many nations on a third wave following the winter holidays. The United States reached 400,000 dead due to the virus (remember naysayers were whining "oh it's not as lethal as the regular flue" or "we have more people dying in car accidents than this," and have been proven very very wrong) and we're all waiting on vaccine programs to reach enough people to ensure a likely end to a virus that has been threatening the entire planet.

Problem is, we're still living under a cloud of extreme incompetence - trump's own Health and Human Services department revealed they lied about the amount of vaccines ready for second booster shots, ruining many states' plans for the near future - and we're facing the likelihood of the pandemic stretching well into Summer 2021 before we can feel even a modicum of relief.

It's feeling a lot worse down here in Florida, where the leadership out of Governor DeSantis borders between delusional and destructive. There's this to consider (via Lawrence Mower, Mary Ellen Klas, Ana Ceballos, Kirby Wilson and Allison Ross the Tampa Bay Times):

Ten months into the coronavirus pandemic, DeSantis’ hands-off governing style is still frustrating Floridians, health care industry groups and elected officials. Where they struggled to decipher the governor’s vague or conflicting orders at the start of the pandemic, they’re now scrambling to adapt to his ever-changing vaccination strategy.

In the last month, mayors in Miami-Dade have begged DeSantis for a phone call. Long-term care facilities resorted to contacting the media to get the governor’s attention. State hospital officials, including DeSantis’ former health secretary, continued to assert that his decision to have hospitals vaccinate the public saddled them with an unprecedented logistical task with COVID-19 hospitalizations surging.

The result has led to desperate seniors flooding health department websites and tying up phone lines, signing up for fake vaccine appointments and sleeping in their cars outside public health centers, embarrassing images of incompetence and confusion for the nation’s third-largest state...

Part of the problem is that DeSantis is an ambitious man: This is less about his running for re-election in 2022 as it is running for the Presidency in 2024. DeSantis is sucking up to his patron donald trump, by pandering to trump's broken narrative about the pandemic and downplaying the severity of the entire thing.

As a result, DeSantis is doing what trump did: dodging the responsibilities of leading on the issue, avoiding contact with the organizations and providers on the ground who need leadership to ensure things are getting done, and going after the image of success instead of the hard work to actually succeed.

You'll notice DeSantis is spending more time denouncing Biden's planned agenda to speed up the vaccine distribution and access than he is handling the crisis itself.

You'll notice that DeSantis is spending more time persecuting his biggest in-state critic Rebekah Jones with arrests on a questionable charge than he is meeting with health care providers to work towards improving our state's growing health care disaster.

You'll notice the current numbers for Florida infection and death rates on COVID-19 are going UP not down (screenshot made on January 18 2021):

This is where we're at: State-level leadership failing to lead on a serious health care crisis, and likely poised to sabotage the incoming federal leadership on the pandemic just to make President Biden look bad.

We're getting competent leadership in Washington DC tomorrow. I wish we were getting competent leadership Tallahassee to work alongside that.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Last Con of donald trump

This ending may yet include bangs - especially if trump's mobs decide to try their rioting on state capitols this weekend - but by most measures donald trump's empire is about to end with a whimper. Let us refer to Jonathan Chait's overview of trump's troubles over at the New York Intelligencer

...But now, finally, the end is at hand. Trump is suffering a series of wounds that, in combination, are likely to be fatal after Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20. Trump is obviously going to surrender his office. Beyond that looming defeat, he is undergoing a cascading sequence of political, financial, and legal setbacks that cumulatively spell utter ruin. Trump is not only losing his job but quite possibly everything else.

One crisis, though the most opaque, concerns Trump’s business. Many of his sources of income are drying up, either owing to the coronavirus pandemic or, more often, his toxic public image. The Washington Post has toted up the setbacks facing the Trump Organization, which include cancellations of partnerships with New York City government, three banks, the PGA Championship, and a real-estate firm that handled many of his leasing agreements. Meanwhile, he faces the closure of many of his hotels. And he is staring down two defamation lawsuits. Oh, and Trump has to repay, over the next four years, more than $300 million in outstanding loans he personally guaranteed...

If this were still 2015, Trump could fall back on his tried-and-true income generators: money laundering and tax fraud. The problem is that his business model relied on chronically lax enforcement of those financial crimes. And now he is under investigation by two different prosecutors in New York State for what appear to be black-letter violations of tax law. At minimum, these probes will make it impossible for him to stay afloat by stealing more money. At maximum, he faces the serious risk of millions of dollars in fines or a criminal prosecution that could send him to prison.

Trump reportedly plans to pardon himself along with a very broad swath of his hangers-on. But a pardon hardly solves his problems. For one thing, a federal pardon is useless against state-level crimes. For another, the self-pardon is a theoretical maneuver that’s never been tested, and it’s not clear whether the courts will agree it is even possible to do so.

And what’s more, a pardon might constitute an admission of guilt, which could open up Trump to more private lawsuits. Remember how O. J. Simpson was ordered to pay $34 million to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, even after he beat the murder rap? The families of victims of the January 6 riot might well sue Trump for his role in inciting the violence. Trump might try pardoning himself to make sure he can’t be charged with criminal incitement, but admitting the crime makes it even easier to bring a civil suit against him.

The easiest way out of the self-pardon dilemma would be for Trump to make a deal with Mike Pence, under which he would resign before leaving office and Pence would grant him a pardon. Unfortunately for Trump, Pence is still sore about the whole “whipping up a paramilitary mob to lynch him” episode. ABC reported recently that Trump does not want to resign, in part because he doesn’t trust his vice-president to pardon him.

The assumption until now has always been that Trump wouldn’t really be convicted of crimes or sentenced to prison, despite the fairly clear evidence of his criminality. American ex-presidents don’t go to jail; they go on book tours.

That supposition wasn’t wrong, exactly. It rested on the understanding of a broad norm of legal deference to powerful public officials and an understanding of the dangers of criminalizing political disagreement. But what has happened to Trump in the weeks since the election, and especially since the insurrection, is that he has been stripped of his elite impunity. The displays of renunciation by corporate donors and Republican officials, even if they lack concrete authority, have sent a clear message about Donald Trump’s place in American society...

I have written before on this blog during his campaign and then in the aftermath of 2016 that this - his run for high office, his tenure as President Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice) - was it for him, the last con job in a string of con jobs he'd been running since his days as a racist landlord.

Everything about trump - the pandering and yelling toward the media to PAY ATTENTION TO ME, branding his name atop every property he could get his hands on, the grifting, the cheap products, the fake online university, the broken casinos, the busted sports league, the overall drive to promote himself as a success with every failure trailing in his wake - was about feeding his ego and satiating his greed. Neither of which could be served with each endeavor he undertook, even the only successful thing he truly had, a barely entertaining reality TV show that was as fake as he still is.

Getting into the White House was the next big con in his game. Oh sure, the talk is that he hoped to lose to Hillary in 2016 and then use the outrage from that to market his own cable "news" network to rival Fox's. But he had to know there was a risk he'd win, which the Electoral College did for him, and which led to his gleeful abuse of high office to line his own pockets some more.

And like every other con game trump played out, he had no idea what he was getting himself into and how poorly he was going to mismanage the whole thing. Four years of it, surrounding himself with a rotating parade of Yes men (and women) alongside other con artists using his administration to pull their own fleecing. Anyone halfway competent at their job didn't last more than a year. Anyone who conflicted with trump's graft and schemes found themselves isolated, banished, and fired.

There are so many points of corruption in trump's tenure it reaches further past what I can comprehend from where I sit watching it all: The violations of Emoluments Clauses using his hotel properties to entice foreign lobbyists to stay at his places and pay him the honor of doing so; Forcing Secret Service and other government agents to stay at his resorts at overbilled rates; Handing out no-bid contracts to business allies with hints of kickbacks; basically trump and his family ripping off taxpayers at every opportunity to indulge in God-knows-what... 

And then failing to realize that sooner rather than later trump will be out of the Oval Office and unable to hide all of the con jobs he pulled during his tenure. Even if trump HAD stolen his second term away from trump, there was no sign that trump would actually start managing his lifestyle habits any better in terms of what he needed to do.

Every trump con, where he jumped from one deal to another, seemed like he was trying to keep two or three steps ahead of creditors that he kept borrowing money from in order to keep his failing empire of half-abandoned resorts and buildings open. Even before the pandemic hit the tourist (and resort) industry, trump properties were deep in the red. trump had been living on credit even as President Loser of the Popular Vote, yet it never seemed like trump was using his corrupt practices to pay off those bills. You'd think that someone with 300 million dollars in guaranteed loans - as Chait pointed out earlier - would make an effort to pay those loans back.

It's as though trump thought - still thinks - he can keep using this big con job of being President Loser of the Popular Vote to extend his deadline, spin out his dues to another day, another year.

trump rarely had to pay for the bills that piled up on him. Sure, he filed for bankruptcy often enough - at least four or six you can find on Google searches - but those were his businesses, never his own ass. trump could walk away from them and still imagine himself - lie to himself - as a success story. "Aha, I tricked the courts into buying my sob story," trump probably mused, "now I can use that as a means to start a new business and find more suckers to finance me."

But he's now at a point where bankruptcy court can't save him. While his properties and business holdings are likely facing financial ruin as before, this time trump is now a direct target to fail. trump's flaunted too many rules, crossed too many lines, failed to pay his dues in ways that demand legal retribution... and he's running out of lawyers and legal loopholes to save him.

trump is facing legal matters that can hit his own person. The sexual assault and defamation lawsuits. Criminal investigations into his Emoluments violations launched by either a fully-led Democratic Congress or by Biden's Justice Department (maybe a special prosecutor backed by both branches), still needed after years of courts arguing over who had standing to sue on the Emoluments (with majority control of Congress, Dems now have a chance). State criminal investigations as mentioned by Chait and so many others, not just the tax evasion in New York but now elections interference in Georgia and elsewhere.

These are things that are going to stop trump from moving on, finding another con job or tricking potential business partners into another half-baked venture to promote his name in big gold letters.

I kept saying this was it for trump, because this was too big a con job to pull off. trump in the Executive Branch was too high-profile and too disastrous with his inept bankrupt leadership to lead to anything else.

It was too big for trump to resign early on when he had a chance to escape. It was too big for trump to risk self-pardons on (because the exposure of accepting his own pardon would be an admission of crimes, and likely doomed to fail even in Republican-led courts). It was too big for trump to moderate himself and avoid any stupid efforts at overreach, to avoid committing any further crimes that would trap him once he left the legal protections of the Oval Office.

And now it's too late for him. trump is stuck in a trap of his own making, and he can't charm or bully or bluff his way out now. trump's made too many enemies in too many places, and he's running out of resources - money obviously, but allies and cronies especially - he can rely on to survive.

This is it for trump. No more con jobs. No more social media assaults. he's done.

And good riddance.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Down In the History Books

Nixon: Dare I ask, will I be remembered?

Eleventh Doctor: Oh, Dicky. Trick Dicky. They're never going to forget you.

-- "Day of the Moon"

Never happened to John Tyler, although Congress tried. Never happened to James Buchanan, although it almost came up in committee. Never happened to U.S. Grant. Never happened to Warren Harding, but shoulda.

It happened once to Andrew Johnson, who barely survived by one vote. It happened once to Bill Clinton, but the charges were so farcical he was never at any risk.

It almost happened to Richard Nixon, who was the most likely candidate to have actually lost the matter and would have been the first President removed via Impeachment, except that he resigned before a full vote in the House could send the matter to the Senate.

Most of those names are for men who went down in U.S. History - save for Clinton, who's generally packed in the middle of passable Presidents - as the Worst Presidents our nation have ever seen.

They are joined by one more, a man more divisive than inspiring, a man more con artist than competent, a man who was already making the Worst Of list during his own tenure by historians who didn't want to wait the customary 20 years before passing judgment.

Except that donald trump has now set a standard no other Worst President ever reached:

Getting impeached twice in a single term of office

To David A. Graham at The Atlantic (paywalled):

This afternoon, Donald Trump, the third president in American history to be impeached, became the first to be impeached twice. The House of Representatives voted 232–197 to impeach Trump for inciting the attempted coup on January 6 and for trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president. The matter now goes to the Senate, where a trial is unlikely before Biden’s January 20 inauguration. No president has ever been convicted and removed.

It takes effort to get impeached, and it must be doubly so to be double-impeached. And to think, trump's been the laziest least-working President Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice! Oh hey, it's a trend) since Coolidge (and at least Coolidge had an excuse). Back to Graham:

No matter what happens now, Trump will leave the presidency by January 20. But the circumstances of his departure and his future in politics are up in the air, because we don’t yet know what will happen in the Senate. It is not clear where Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stands, nor how he might manage his caucus. It is not clear if GOP senators will break with Trump. It is not clear when a Senate trial will begin. It’s not clear who will defend Trump in a Senate trial or how the trial will run...

Yesterday evening, The New York Times reported that McConnell “has concluded that President Trump committed impeachable offenses and believes that Democrats’ move to impeach him will make it easier to purge Mr. Trump from the party.” Other outlets matched that reporting; Axios says McConnell is in fact leaning toward conviction. (His wife, former Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, resigned from the administration after the attempted coup.) In a letter to colleagues today, however, McConnell said he had not made a decision about how to vote.

Parsing these reports is difficult. Such stories don’t get out without McConnell and people around him wanting them out, for whatever reason. The powerful Republican leader is sending a message, but it isn’t clear what he’s signaling, or to whom. McConnell’s support for conviction would be essential to any effort to convict. While the past month has already shown the cracks in his normally rock-solid control, the 17 Republicans needed to convict will not break ranks without his go-ahead, but his support might encourage senators who have long disliked or even loathed Trump privately to turn on him publicly...

It is unlikely the Republican-led Senate - which will flip soon when the Democratic winners from Georgia take their seats - will risk party division by getting the two-thirds needed to convict and remove trump. Even if the Democrats hold a legitimate Senate trial if the process is delayed long enough for them to hold it, they'll need 17 Republican Senators to risk the wrath of trump's voting base.

However, the Republicans themselves are at a crisis point: The two major factions - divided between the Old School pro-business tax-cut deregulation types who don't want to break the nation, and the New Blood Anti-Government Rapture-seeking nihilists who want to watch the world burn - know that whatever happens to trump decides the near- AND long-term future of their own party.

The Senators are going to have to gamble on the possibility that if they impeach trump, they break his hold on the political reins of the Far Right fanbase, who might move on to the next demagogue who can promise them cruelty and pain upon their enemies that trump can no longer offer. But they risk the possibility that the rabid Far Righters are already too far gone, that they will still follow up on their attack of the Capitol and on Congress to continue their Anti-Government Crusade and unleash more violence across their homes as well as the liberals'.

The thing is: The Democrats tonight are more organized and outraged by trump's acts of sedition and lawlessness than the Republicans are trying to defend themselves or defend trump. The Republicans are finding a little too late they cannot defend both.

One week to go, before Biden gets sworn in.

One week to go, to see the Worst President Loser of the Popular Vote trump go down not only in the history books, but going down to the local precinct to get booked for his crimes against the United States.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Some Lovely Parting Gifts For trump's Train Wreck

If trump wanted to make the history books, he's definitely earned this distinction of being the ONLY President Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice) to get impeached TWICE in his one term of office. Let's take it to Andrew Prokop at Vox:

House Democrats claim to have already locked down nearly unanimous support for impeachment within their caucus, and if that’s true, that will make Trump the first president to be impeached on two separate occasions. House leaders are planning for a vote on Wednesday, January 13.

Trump has, of course, been here before. The House of Representatives impeached him for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in December 2019, because of his efforts to pressure Ukraine’s government into investigating then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. But the Senate acquitted Trump on both counts in February 2020, falling well short of the two-thirds majority necessary to convict him and remove him from office. The verdict votes split almost entirely along party lines, with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) being the sole Republican to vote to convict Trump on one count.

A major difference this time around, though, is that impeachment proceedings are happening mere days before Trump’s term in office expires. Though some Democrats have argued that Trump’s immediate removal is a necessity, it’s obviously less of one if he’s going to be gone in a week anyway. It’s also unclear if the Senate would hold a trial before Biden’s inauguration...

Yes, this all seems a bit "too little too late." trump is out the door anyway in a week, and it does not look like trump is able (or willing) to cause more damage - other than motivate his followers into another round of seditious rioting - before his time is up.

However, the principle of the thing matters. The reason for Impeachment - again - is to make this stick out to future generations that trump's actions must be held accountable no matter what. Back to Prokop:

If it goes forward, the main question would shift from whether Trump should be removed from office to whether he should be banned from holding future federal office, effectively blocking him from running for president again in 2024. But whenever a Senate trial might happen, getting two-thirds support in the Senate for conviction — which would require at least 17 Republican senators — remains a tall order...

The impeachment is a response to the attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters that took place last Wednesday.

Specifically, a resolution authored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and other key members of Congress would impeach Trump on one count: incitement of insurrection.

The article of impeachment alleges that Trump incited violence against the government of the United States. It recounts how, as members of Congress gathered to count the electoral votes that would make Biden’s victory official, Trump spoke to a large crowd, made false claims that he was the true winner, and urged them to “fight like hell.”

“Thus incited by President Trump,” the article continues, “members of the crowd he had addressed... unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts...”

We all saw what happened that day. Violence within the halls of Congress itself, something that both Democrat and Republican had to have seen with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, feared with their own lives at risk.

A number of Republicans are still out there, trying to shill to the public the same outrageous claims of mass voter fraud (that they can't prove) and the same excuses that the rioting was done by "Antifa" (even as too many of the rioters were proudly MAGA up to the moment the FBI and local police across the nation showed up at their doors to arrest them for the riots).

But a number of Congressional Republicans are refusing to play by trump's Narrative anymore. Liz Cheney of all people - her father Dick was a notoriously pro-authoritarian figure of his own - has gone public against trump and pledging her vote for the impeachment charge. Others are signaling they will follow suit. It arguably won't include the 140-odd Republicans who already doubled down on trump's plotting to overthrow a clean election, but this is a big sign that trump is not leaving on good terms with party leaders he'll need to deal with if he even thinks about returning in 2024.

trump's fate is now tied not to the past or the present, of what he can deliver to the Republican Party anymore. trump's fate is now tied to a future - of impending fraud lawsuits in New York, of criminal investigations involving his electoral interference and insurrection in Washington - that displays no mercy for him.

It'd be nice to say "Good Riddance" to the dumpster fire that has been the donald trump Era.

It's just there's still only one week left to go.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Good News

(Update: Thanks again to Infidel753 for including this article in Crooks&Liars' Mike's Blog Round Up. I should mention this article is the twin article to a Bad News article that you might want to read to get a sense of balance on what's happening right now, thank you. Here's hoping things improve after January 20!)

After what needed saying earlier, here are the Good News

Despite all of trump's bluster, bullying, and open intent to disrupt the Electoral College count... and despite the Congressional Republicans' attempt to object to the results... The 2020 elections are finally done and Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States on January 20, 2021.

No matter what donald trump will attempt next to avoid what's coming for him - another coup attempt, another riot in Washington DC or elsewhere so he could declare martial law and suspend the whole government, declare war on Iran and impose emergency powers through that (even if that could work) - on January 20 he is officially out of office and can get dragged out of the White House by his diapers if need be. Anything trump could try to do to retain power - or embezzle, or straight-up steal from the federal coffers - will end the second Biden puts hand to Bible and swears the Oath of Office.

Granted, this means that between here and now trump can and will do anything like that to make sure he squeezes out the last penny he can get, but the odds already are that most of the Executive agencies are putting holds on any actions until the incoming Biden administration can sort things out.

In other news, the confirmation means Kamala Harris is the next Vice President. She will be the first woman elected on the Presidential ticket, albeit as the Veep. Harris will be the first woman President of the Senate, which has great significance which I'll get into later. She is the first bi-racial Veep, making her both the first Black American Veep (and second Black American winning the ticket since Obama) and the first Indian (Asian, not Native) American at that high an office.

The incoming Biden administration means we will be getting in 10 days a President who will take the COVID-19 Pandemic serious, and with luck control our nation's response in a more effective, swift manner than the incompetent trump.

In other political news, the seditious riot in Washington overwhelmed the news that Democrats in Georgia won both Senate race runoffs. Not only are two potentially corrupt Republican Senators out of office, but this means the Democrats hold a 50-50 split with Republicans for Senate control... which Kamala Harris makes a 51-vote "majority" as Senate President (the official title/duties of the VP).

This means that a more liberal agenda can get considered and even passed through Congress that otherwise would have been shut down by obstructionist Mitch McConnell had he retained a one-seat majority. It does depend on how the most conservative Dem left in the Senate - Manchin from West Virginia - will set the rules for the rest of his party to accept, but a lot of reforms to the existing health care system, voting rights, wages and employment help, student debt relief, energy and environmental policies, police reforms and social justice, and financial systems can get passed through the House and squeaked through that Senate.

It does depend on what happens to the filibuster and cloture rules - something that Manchin views as tools he still needs to hold influence above his fellow Senators - but the urgency in getting those bills passed during this pandemic crisis would make it likely a lot of it will get done.

Before I get any further, what happened in Georgia was historic and epic in their own ways. Raphael Warnock will be the first Black man elected to the Senate from that Deep South state (the first Black Democrat as well, although not the first Black Senator from the former Confederacy because Mississippi sent two during Reconstruction, and South Carolina has elected Republican Tim Scott in 2014 in a special election). Fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff is the first Jewish Senator elected from the Deep South since 1879.

Their victories matter a lot because they represent a significant shift in the voting demographics in Georgia. Ever since the party shifts of the Republicans going full Conservative since the 1990s, when they became dominant in the state and federal elections, this is the first crack in the Republican political control of the Southeastern U.S. region (AKA the Southern Strategy). Granted, Florida has fluctuated as a battleground state to where Dems have a chance to win, and the Republicans have lost Virginia since 2006. But Florida hasn't been considered a Deep South state since the population boom of the 1980s brought too many Northern liberals and Midwest moderates into the state. Virginia is now so much a part of the DC metro area - heavily liberal suburbs dependent on Federal largesse expanding into the northern counties - that the Conservative power base in that state can't compete. Getting a seriously Deep South state (from Louisiana through Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and South Carolina) to flip Blue in major elections after 25-30 years of Red Conservative dominance is a sign the Far Right control of a heavily-populated region is about to collapse. That it's Georgia - the next-largest Electoral state behind Texas (which is divergent enough to be its own political ecosystem) and Florida - means the Republicans can plan on losing future Presidential bids for the 2020s decade and beyond.

The Georgia results is also major vindication for Stacey Abrams. Denied a win of the Governor's seat in 2018 due to ethically-questionable behavior from the Republican winner Kemp, Abrams took her national profile from that campaign and turned it into a voter-registration drive to break the GOP's voter suppression efforts and return more favorable results for her fellow Democrats. In the process, she demonstrated to the national Democratic leadership - which at times refuses to organize and recruit in states they felt were lost to them already - that YES it does matter to fight for every vote in every state, and has likely established to other state party leaders how to organize their own efforts to win in other hard Red states.

There are thousands of others in Georgia who worked hard to get the voters registered and motivated, and to her credit Abrams congratulates them as much as everyone else is congratulating her. Her celebrity stock among Democrats is sky high right now, she's proven herself a major player, and with luck she's converting her credibility among the leadership to expand the voter effort and seat challenges everywhere she can. If anyone can work to get more states to turn Blue, it's her.

Speaking of the DC Metro, one of the Democratic party agendas can well get passed within the first month of Biden's tenure: Statehood for DC and Puerto Rico. While these aren't popular issues with the nation at large - and heavily despised and dreaded by Republicans - these are key issues with Democrats looking at the big picture of Senate control. Right now, too many small population states - mostly in the Midwest - are heavily conservative and unlikely to consider Democratic choices for election. These small Red states have few residents, but will have outsized representation in a Senate that constitutionally grants every state Two Senators no matter what. This means roughly 30 percent of the nation's population gets 60-70 percent control of the Senate (another element of Minority Party Rule at the federal level). the demographic and geographic advantage of such skewed representation can hinder the American majority's needs to get things done (at all, given the GOP's obstructionist ways).

The recent trumpian assault on the nation's Capitol is another reason to expect Democrats to push for DC statehood right away: That lack of state-level control prevented the local authorities from aiding in either crowd control during the rally as well as stopping them from protecting the Capitol when the Capitol police got overwhelmed. DC's National Guard doesn't answer to the city, they answered to the DoD (which meant trump and his people benefited from them standing down: Congress had to get National Guard aid from Virginia and Maryland, and even then trump's Pentagon delayed Maryland's response). You can expect the Dems to proceed on granting DC statehood - that the local citizenry need to establish their own law enforcement and protect their own rights - on those grounds alone.

But what will happen with DC - and Puerto Rico - statehood is the expansion of the American charter to more diverse populations. DC is well-known as a Black-majority metropolis (although in truth the ethnicity is more even between Blacks and White in the last ten years of gentrification). Puerto Rico would become the first true Latino-majority state (98 percent!) in the U.S. (New Mexico would be closest at 42 percent). Entering both into the ranks of statehood would be major historical achievements for any Presidential administration (and we haven't done so since 1959).

Ironically, these moves for statehood might not resolve the Senate control in the Democrats' favor: Latinos in 2020 voted in surprisingly high numbers for Republicans, even in spite of the Republicans' harsh anti-immigration stances towards their very ethnic group. That's because the Latinos do not vote on any one singular issue, and are socially conservative on enough matters that Republicans still appeal to them. This would be interesting to witness down the line, but still this coming event should be considered good news for the betterment of the United States' soul.

We're also looking at the good news of Democrats pushing for voting rights laws to fill the void created by bad Supreme Court rulings and by decades' worth of Republican suppression. One thing I'm personally hoping for is a dedicated effort to kill off the Gerrymanders - used by battleground Red states to skew results and corruptly maintain Minority Party rule - and make more states competitive in elections. The Democrats need to, otherwise they run the risk of losing control of the House again like what happened in 2010.

Other good news to consider is that the United States can get back on good terms with our allied nations in Europe and Asia after four years of chaotic and harsh trumpian meddling. We can see the United States resume normal relations with Mexico - and see about undoing the ecological damage that trump's wall obsession had caused. We'll be rejoining the Paris Climate Agreements. We should see more efforts to spread high-speed Internet into rural areas (this would be a big deal where I live). 

We should see a lot of work done to investigate the horrors committed on immigrant and refugee families under trump's draconian rule. We can pray that many of the families pulled apart - and as many children wounded by trump's policies can be recovered - can be mended as best as possible under a more humane immigration system. Depending on if trump and his lackey Stephen Miller haven't blown it all up before Biden takes office.

A lot of this is still speculative. We have to see how things turn out on January 20 and from then on.

But we're facing a better future now than the chaotic uncertainty and violence of the trump regime.

Hope still matters.

The Bad News

This Sunday, looking back at all the madness of the past week, past month, past year... past decade... Hell, pretty much everything since 1992... sigh.

There are more people who died during Wednesday's seditious coup attempt by trumpian Brownshirts at the U.S. Capitol. The woman I mentioned getting shot and killed was a QAnon believer attacking one of the officers defending a barricade. About three other protesters died during the riot, some of them in darkly karmic ways we shouldn't laugh about. Another was a Capitol police officer caught defending one of the doorways, beaten upon by the mob, reportedly his head crushed in with a fire extinguisher. There's video from the security cameras, it is not healthy to watch.

People may not understand just how close we came Wednesday to trump's rioters staging a successful insurrection. There are pictures of rioters running around with police-grade zip ties used to bind people: The rioters were planning on capturing people, possibly Congresspersons they wanted to harm. There is credible witness testimony that some of trump's rioters were plotting to seize his own VP Pence (because Pence has "betrayed" trump's call to overturn the election results). The rioters had built gallows outside the Capitol, at best to intimidate people and at worst to actually hang anyone they caught. (If you ever research the Far Right militia culture and their mindset, you will come across their Bible The Turner Diaries and find out how this insurrection was the closest they've ever come to cosplaying their bloody fantasies)

The COVID-19 pandemic is spiraling out of control, still, as has been since Thanksgiving. The holiday travel and family gathering were NOT GOOD IDEAS, Americans.

It does not help that there is a mutated strain of COVID - more infectious, more lethal - spreading just as fast as COVID-19 spread in January 2020.

At my state level, Governor DeSantis is still mismanaging things, failing to grasp the severity of the pandemic, desperate to avoid another lockdown because he's more concerned with revenues and happy businesses than with public safety and healthy families.

The overall vaccine rollout that's been happening for the past month has been haphazard at best nationwide. Stocks are not being deployed properly in certain states and metros. There has been almost no leadership at the national level on managing the deployment, which have left the states to struggle making their own guidelines (as in who gets priority treatment, essential workers obviously but then who?), which haven't been explained or enforced properly at the hospital/health provider level. This is what happens when you let trump dismantle the commission designed to coordinate all this stuff back in 2018.

Getting back to the political crises at hand, trump is still in the Oval Office winding down his days as President Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice). His online ranting and calls to riot have become so threatening that the social media outlets - not just Twitter and Facebook but also Pinerest and Shopify! - have finally suspended or banned his accounts because he was violating their User Agreements. You might think this is Good News, but cutting off trump's supply of outrage to his fanbase is going to create a negative feedback implosion in whatever persists as trump's damaged soul. trump will well lash out in other ways.

With all of the public backlash at trump for his open call to insurrection at his riot audience on Wednesday, you would think most other elected Republicans would distance themselves at least, openly denounce the violence at best. But far too many Congressional Republicans in the House and Senate have doubled down on supporting trump and his messages of rage and conspiracy. Far too many Far Right pundits are refusing to admit their rhetoric and rage are responsible for the divided state our nation is in today. The madness will not go away when trump is dragged out of the White House.

Also, I think the cost of the Wendy's Baconator went up a nickel.

So there's the Bad News...

Friday, January 08, 2021

trump Twitter in Twilight

Things have been hectic since Wednesday, when our government almost fell to a seditious riot by trumpian Brownshirts, but one major development since then has been Twitter - the social media app trump used the most to stir up rage and madness the last five years - finally banning trump for his ongoing hate-filled rhetoric. 

They first suspended his account for 12 hours because of a Tweet he posted post-riot that called for more "protests" (hint hint, more violence), with the promise he could get back online once he removed the offending Tweet. So he deleted it, and he got back on...

And pretty much posted a more rage-filled Tweet that proved he didn't learn his lesson to behave by Twitter User Agreement policy.

After all that drama, Twitter suspended his account permanently (they may recover it later, after January 20, because of national archival reasons) and then had to give a public statement to why they had to do this:

After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence. 

In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open. 

However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement...

I've gotten in a few debates about Free Speech before, regarding how Hate Speech was - and still is - a serious violation of what Free Speech stands for. We have to remember the First Amendment is NOT an absolute right. For example, shouting "FIRE" in a crowded theater to cause a panic will get you arrested. Threating to kill someone will get you arrested for harassment/verbal assault. Standing before a mob encouraging them to go storming into a government building to disrupt an election count should get you arrested for incitement to riot.

This is all trump's public speeches have been, ever since he rolled down that escalator in 2015 and launched his campaign on a diatribe against Mexicans and the Chinese. trump has been crossing the line of decency on social media for years, throughout every call to Twitter's ownership and internal security that trump was violating their code nearly every day.

It had to take an actual coup attempt with people wounded and killed in the Capitol building for Twitter (and Facebook) to realize they couldn't pander to trump's hate anymore.

What is happening now with shutting down trump's main pipeline to his rabid fanbase are arguments from trump's still-pandering Republican allies whining about how Twitter's shutdown is a threat to Free Speech. No, it is not.

This is about Hate Speech. This is about speech designed to enrage others and drive them to madness and violence. We've watched that Hate Speech roll out and infest our national psyche. We've just seen the results of all that Hate: Our nation's Capitol raided and vandalized, rioters and now a police officer dead from the violence, our global prestige degraded by trump's words (and the deeds he's driven others to commit in his "honor").

Words have power. It's one of the few things trump - the eternal lying bullshitter, the constantly grifting con artist - understands all too well. It's a power he's used to drive this nation apart.

And while trump's been cut off from his Twitter feed, he will find a way to keep lashing out at the fate that awaits him on January 20, 2021.

Gods help us, how far into madness and the void trump's Hate will drive us.