Thursday, January 20, 2022

Another Grand Jury Investigating trump: Georgia On My Mind Edition (w/ Update)

Kind of breaking news: Remember when Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice) donald trump called the Georgia Secretary of State to intimidate him into "finding" 11,780 votes that trump could use to overturn Biden's election results in that state?

Welp. In the latest stage of the criminal investigation, the county DA in charge of things is asking the judge for a special grand jury to compel testimony. Via Tamar Hallerman at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In a Thursday letter to Christopher S. Brasher, chief judge of Fulton County’s Superior Court, Willis said the move was needed because a “significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation absent a subpoena requiring their testimony.”

She cited comments Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger made during an October 2021 interview with NBC News, in which he said “if (Willis) wants to interview me, there’s a process for that.”

Raffensperger is a loyal Republican. He won't willingly spill the beans unless legally compelled to do so. It wouldn't be surprising if he or any other potential witnesses delay this stage of the investigation, but this IS a serious turn of events for trump. Back to Hallerman:

Willis’ probe, launched in February, is centered on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump placed to Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the 11,780 votes to reverse Joe Biden’s win in Georgia in November 2020. But it could also include other actions from Trump’s allies who sowed doubts about the election results, including testimony his attorney Rudy Giuliani gave at a state legislative hearing.

In her letter to Brasher, Willis said the DA’s office “has received information indicating a reasonable probability that the State of Georgia’s administration of elections in 2020, including the State’s election of the President of the United States, was subject to possible criminal disruptions.”

Special grand juries, which typically have 16 to 23 members, can’t issue indictments. But they can subpoena witnesses, compel the production of documents and information, and enter into certain offices for the purposes of an investigation...

Those criminal disruptions Willis alleges revolve around election fraud and election interference, which at the state level would mean a minimum of one year in jail on either count if found guilty.

This would be the third criminal probe currently ongoing into trump's various misdeeds, with the one investigating tax and financial fraud in New York and the federal investigations into the January 6th insurrection. 

There is a substantial amount of documented evidence of what trump attempted to do. What's needed here is the testimony of those involved: I'm not a legal expert but I think it has something to do with proving trump's intent to coerce others to commit these acts.

According to Hallerman's article, DA Willis is hoping to get this done in the first half of this year (meaning wrapping up the grand jury by July). With luck, it'll happen on the same day they bring out criminal charges in New York and criminal charges in D.C.

trump attempted to subvert a legal election. trump keeps lying about "stolen votes" he can't prove in any court of law.

Someone needs to arrest trump, drag him to the courtroom, put him under oath and see if he keeps lying then about something he didn't win. Make him confront the facts that there was no mass fraud, there were no stolen votes, that he IS the damn loser he keeps denying to himself. This case is the best possible way to do that.

Hold trump and the Republicans aiding him accountable for the Big Lie he keeps spewing.

The future of America depends on it.

(Update 1/22): David French at the Atlantic (possible paywall) spells out how this could be serious trouble for trump:

But the question remains: Were Trump’s attempts to reverse the outcome in Georgia (and nationally) criminal? There is compelling evidence that they were, under both Georgia state law and federal criminal statutes.

Perhaps the best guide to why is a Brookings Institution report, published in October, that assessed Trump’s actions in light of Georgia criminal law. Among the seven lawyers and scholars who wrote the report was Gwen Keyes Fleming, an experienced former Georgia prosecutor and the former DeKalb County district attorney. The report concluded that “Trump’s post-election conduct in Georgia leaves him at substantial risk of possible state charges predicated on multiple crimes.” The crimes include “criminal solicitation to commit election fraud” and “conspiracy to commit election fraud,” among others.

I highlight those two statutes because they most plainly apply on their face. Georgia’s conspiracy-to-commit-election-fraud statute makes it a crime when one “conspires or agrees with another” to violate Georgia’s election laws and, crucially, states that “the crime shall be complete when the conspiracy or agreement is effected and an overt act in furtherance thereof has been committed, regardless of whether the violation of this chapter is consummated.” In other words, the scheme does not have to succeed to be criminal...

The Georgia investigation is a consequential victory for the rule of law in this country. Its very existence signals that no man or woman is above the law, a concept foundational to the American experiment. When you walk through the evidence of Trump’s brazen effort to bully, threaten, and command subordinates and state officials to steal an election, his actions quite obviously demand a close criminal inquiry...

The questions also still remaining: How soon will trump be charged with violating those state laws, and how badly will Republicans respond to their false god getting handcuffed?

Tories Partied Like There Was No Tomorrow...

...and for Boris Badhair, there might not be a tomorrow the rate the current scandals are overtaking his UK government.

When last we left the United Kingdom/Brexit news (my last full comment on it was 2019): Boris Johnson had pulled off an electoral stunner over Labour in spite of his unpopularity, and was poised to make a hard No-Deal exit from the EU to fulfill his dream of an economically-independent UK happen. 

What happened since then got a little overwhelmed by this minor inconvenience of a COVID-19 PANDEMIC, but since then the news about the UK's economic hardships piled up fast and often. Some of it tied to the overall economic hardships of surviving a global pandemic, but a lot of tied to Johnson's and his fellow Conservatives' (Tories) delusions about how to pull off their Brexit policy changes without hassles. (P.S. If you want better details, please follow Chris Grey's excellent blog updates for more)

The biggest problem has been their nation's supply chain woes: As predicted by several pro-EU critics, Brexit created a staffing shortage with truck (or lorry, in their terminology) drivers that the existing UK population can't sustain. 

Overall economic growth has been sluggish, even against what the pandemic did to bring a lot of business to a temporary halt: It is all well below the promises Johnson and other Leave advocates made from 2016 onward.

And now piling onto that is an energy crisis during a hard winter where energy bills for many residents are skyrocketing, creating conflict over Brexit ideology that Johnson's intraparty factions can't resolve.

So speaking of parties... Guess what it is that's pulling Boris Johnson and his political allies downward to the brink of resignation/no-confidence votes/all-out government collapse?

If you hadn't heard - and I think there's two ensigns on Deck 39 who haven't heard yet - Johnson is facing harsh scrutiny for allowing office parties to take place at 10 Downing Street and elsewhere back in 2020/2021 during the COVID Pandemic when rules were issued to the whole United Kingdom to disallow such gatherings. In short, the Tories - and Boris himself, who got caught on camera indulging in the shenanigans, oh Boris no, not with a LIGHTSABER - partied like the rules didn't apply to them.

From this Guardian opinion essay from Andrew Rawnsley:

The defenestration of a prime minister between elections is usually triggered by a seismic event. Neville Chamberlain was forced out after Norway was gobbled up by Hitler. The national humiliation of the Suez debacle did for Anthony Eden. The epic unpopularity of the riot-provoking poll tax impelled Margaret Thatcher towards her unwilling exit. David Cameron felt compelled to quit when he lost his gamble on the Brexit referendum. If Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson soon joins the gallery of toppled PMs, it will be because he attended a “bring your own booze” party in the back garden of Number 10 and his aides had a lockdown-busting piss-up in Downing Street the night before the Queen buried her husband...

True, the optics of that - Queen Elizabeth II, the human symbol of Great Britain's storied history and global importance, the Crown, beloved mother figure to an entire kingdom, and Doctor Who Number One Fan, sitting alone at her husband's grave while Rome burned Tories partied - should have caused mass resignations out of sheer British decency, but I digress. Back to Rawnsley:

No other premiership has had such a pathetically shabby ending. No finale to his slummy reign would be more appropriate. It has always been highly likely that cavalier and blatant rule-breaking, and then lying about it, would be the undoing of a prime minister with a career history of casual contempt for truth and integrity.

In its relatively short life, his premiership has been splattered with scandal. There was the “crony express” that sped lucrative Covid contracts to Tory mates down a “VIP lane”, which the high court has just ruled unlawful. There was the decanting of infected elderly patients from hospitals into vulnerable care homes at the height of the pandemic. Nor should we forget the multiple-sourced accounts that Mr Johnson callously declared that he would let the bodies “pile high in their thousands” in the winter of last year rather than take timely action to contain a resurgence of Covid, an appalling choice that resulted in many avoidable fatalities and has left Britain with the highest death toll in Europe.

These and other outrages ought to have deeply troubled Tories, but many in his parliamentary party responded to scandal after scandal with a dismissive shrug... When previous charges of moral turpitude bounced off him, Tories told themselves that their leader was coated with a lacquer of Teflon so thick that nothing could stick. Some cynically opined that voters knew that Mr Johnson was a mendacious scoundrel when he won the election in 2019 and so appalling behaviour was expected and – ghastly phrase – “in the price”. It was often averred that a substantial chunk of the public enjoyed having a “lovable rogue” at Number 10. “Everyone loves a sinner.” So one senior Tory chortled to me last autumn when his party was still sitting on a poll lead even as Wallpapergate and several other scandals were on the boil. He went on: “If Boris was caught shagging a goat in Downing Street, people would immediately make a goat beer and drink to his health...

If this all sounds familiar, to a certain person's claim in the States that he could "shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and I wouldn't lose voters," you wouldn't be wrong. What you are reading/hearing/seeing is the arrogance of a political elite that holds themselves above all rules even their own, at the expense of any ethics or integrity we should expect from our elected leaders. Again, I digress:

It is hard to say which is the more jaw-dropping. The flagrancy of the rule-breaking. The arrogant stupidity of it. Or the stunning frequency with which the denizens of Number 10 behaved as if laws did not apply to them. The prime minister’s feeble plea in mitigation for the garden party that he admits to attending is that he thought it was a “work event”. This laughable excuse asks us to believe that he failed to notice that alcohol was flowing and that his wife and her chums were present. He had to fall back on such a risible defence because the alternative is to confess that he flouted his government’s regulations and afterwards sought to dupe the public and deceive parliament...

Even if he (Boris) was not physically present for all the parties, he was at every one in spirit. What possessed Number 10 staffers to think that it was sensible or decent to turn Downing Street into a drinking den while people were dying? As I like to remark from time to time, the culture of organizations is greatly shaped by the character of the person at the top. The most egregious rule-breaking became habitual at Number 10 and that is surely directly connected to the fact that the most senior person in the building is a compulsively shameless rule-trasher. “Fish stink from the head,” remarks one former Tory cabinet minister. “So does Number 10...”

It seems a bit off that with all of the chaos afflicting the United Kingdom right now it would be a set of ill-advised drunken bacchanals that would drive out a sitting Prime Minister, one of the most politically powerful figures across the world.

Under other circumstances, such rule-breaking would likely involve the civil workers caught partying to quit or get fired, a shake-up of the lesser Cabinet seats of expendable party members to bring in more "reform-minded" replacements, and then brush it all under the rug of "I apologize, lesson learned."

But it seems Boris and his ilk are receiving the full force of national outrage, with 63 percent of the general UK population calling for his resignation. While the intraparty support isn't wavering - it never will until the party faithful are told it's okay to support someone else - the Conservative Party itself is under serious threat. Two recent by-elections to fill seats vacated by this scandal both went Liberal-Democratic (a staunch pro-EU party) in what were heavily-Conservative gerrymandered districts (well, not rotten boroughs but along the same lines).

From where I'm sitting, the PartyGate situation has less to do with the rule-breaking and more to do with the general outrage most Brits were feeling after several years of Brexit follies and COVID mishandles. Unable to express full anger over the supply woes, unable to express outrage over rising costs both Brexit and COVID related, all because a strong plurality of the population are Conservative-leaning (what we'd call Center-Right) and couldn't complain about a Brexit process they supported, these party scandals seem like an outlet granting the citizenry their chance and their right to vent at bad leadership caught lying to them over and over again. And not just the leadership under the clownish Boris Johnson, but a decade or more of questionable leadership from the likes of Theresa May and David Cameron who held onto hard-line Conservative values that left the UK unprepared for the crises happening today.

Yes, leadership ought to be held accountable. Yes, leadership needs reminding that they themselves are not above the laws. But this outrage is a rupture of scope and anger somewhat disproportionate to the damage actually caused by these reckless parties the Tories sought to indulge in.

Not that I'm complaining. I'm breaking out the popcorn - well, okay, the Nestle Buncha Crunches because I got out of eating popcorn as a teenager, damn you braces! - watching all of this just like everybody else who's Center-Left enjoying the schadenfreude of the Right-leaning wingnuts crash and burn.

There's supposed to be an official government report investigating these parties due next week. Thing is, as Prime Minister Boris will get the first look at it, and God knows if he'll try to redact it or suppress it in some way. Of course, something this big will be bound to leak out, so any suppression effort will hurt him anyway.

(keeps munching on those Buncha Crunches) Would it be tacky of us to throw a Farewell/"GET THE FOOK OUT" party if/when Boris is forced to resign...?

Bring on that tomorrow, Tories. It's the bill for decades of mismanagement and self-entitled bullshit come due.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Do Call It Sedition, Do Hold Insurrectionists Accountable

At last, some good news in the year-long case into the trumpian rioters who stormed the nation's Capitol to disrupt our electoral system. The Department of Justice arrested the leader of the Oath Keepers - one of trump's militant backers - on the charge of seditious conspiracy, a more serious charge than the Obstruction charges most of the 725 previously detained rioters have been hit with (via Carrie Johnson and Ryan Lucas at NPR): 

Federal authorities arrested Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes in Texas on Thursday morning and also took Edward Vallejo into custody in Arizona. The other nine people had already been accused of some crimes related to the siege on the Capitol last year.

The grand jury indictment in the District of Columbia is the most serious and sweeping case to emerge from the federal investigation into the Capitol riot and the first to include the seditious conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Rarely seen in recent years, seditious conspiracy charges are made against those who plot to prevent the execution of U.S. law.

The Justice Department said the Oath Keepers were determined to stop the lawful transfer of power, with two groups marching in military-style formations toward the Capitol that day and other personnel labeled "quick reaction forces" waiting outside D.C. to transport firearms and other weapons. Vallejo allegedly helped coordinate one of those quick-reaction teams.

The court papers said the defendants organized teams to use force and bring firearms to the Capitol, recruited members to participate, organized trainings and brought paramilitary gear, knives, batons and radio equipment to Washington.

Rhodes communicated with other leaders on Jan. 6 using a chat group on the encrypted app Signal, according to court documents.

"Pence is doing nothing. As I predicted," Rhodes typed to the group that day. "All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the Patriots are taking it into their own hands. They've had enough..."

Just in case you're interested, the actual law being enforced here is 18 USC 2384:

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

It may have taken a year, but it likely involved the slow digging through the 700-plus foot soldiers of Rhodes' army to flip enough documented evidence to bring this charge to the judges. This is big league stuff now, and the organizers of this planned riot - hi, trump's inner circle working the war room at the Willard Hotel! - are the next link in this flowchart of shame.

Let's go to Emptywheel - who's been covering this with great detail - and see what she has to say about it:

The charges are, at once, no big deal, because they’re really just the same conspiracy charged in a different way with two conspiracies added. They’re a huge deal, because now Republicans will be hard pressed to continue to downplay January 6. And they’re a solution to some problems and a tool to move on...

Though Kenneth Harrelson released some of the key communications from the Willard Hotel from earlier in the day, those still don’t show up in this indictment. So the government is remaining coy about what it knows about coordination with people at the Willard Hotel. That’s probably because it still needs others to flip — Joshua James would be ideal, but Roberto Minuta might be useful as well — to confirm whatever Mark Grods and Mike Simmons (if he is cooperating) were able to offer about it.

But they are making it clear that they know more about some communications they’ve been talking about for some time...

This indictment will, presumably, impress all those who’ve been wailing the existing 20 year charges the Oath Keepers were facing were not adequate. But it may also clear a path to move up the chain...

The rioters doing the dirty work busting into Congressional chambers and offices have ties to the Oath Keepers. This seditious conspiracy charge shows the coordination between the Oath Keepers, and provides a link to trump's people. And trump's people are linked to trump himself: NONE of them could have done this without his blessing. 

Where Mueller had a problem proving a link between trump's 2016 campaign to Russian business and political allies - because of the Obstruction that the Congressional Democrats failed to investigate towards impeachment - there's already a lot of evidence between the rioters to the war rooms (there were two, one at Willard Hotel and one in the Eisenhower Executive Office (!)) and between the war rooms and trump.

Evidence but not enough proof yet to take to a court of law. THAT'S where the Justice Department needs to hurry up. There's not a lot of time between now and November 2022 when the midterms could lead to the Republicans reclaimed part or all of Congressional control to obstruct any further investigations and arrests.

I know they want to get it right, but dammit the clock is not on the nation's side. If any accountability, if any justice can be done to punish trump for his coup attempt, it's got to be soon.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

The Omicron Overwhelm and DeSantis Deceit

Welcome to Hell, Florida United States (via Ian Hodgson and Christopher O'Donnell for the Tampa Bay Times): 

The omicron variant is spreading like wildfire across Florida and infecting a record number of people.

The state averaged nearly 57,000 COVID-19 infections a day from Dec. 31 to Thursday, according to the weekly report released Friday. That is the highest weekly infection rate thus far during the 22-month pandemic. It is also more than 150 percent higher than the peak of the Delta wave that swept through the state last summer.

Florida accounted for one out of every 10 infections in the U.S. last week and had the seventh-highest rates of infection per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention...

Florida hospitals are seeing the effects of omicron firsthand: There were 8,548 confirmed COVID-19 cases filling state hospital beds as of Friday, four times as many as two weeks ago, according to federal data.

There were 12,353 patients admitted in the past seven days, a nearly 75 percent jump from last week. It’s the highest number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations since the end of August. That number includes 570 children under 18 — the highest number of kids hospitalized in one week throughout the pandemic...

I said earlier, before the holidays, that a kind of pandemic fatigue has settled in, that too many Americans have given up on masking in public and enough of a minority of us have refused to get vaccinated out of misinformed belief or intentional partisan spite.

Making this situation with the Omicron variant wave worse than the earlier pandemic spikes has been the failure of leadership - including Biden and the CDC - caving to pressure to force our schools to stay open guaranteeing that our teachers and students - our families! - expose each other to COVID that even in its mildest forms can leave damage in its wake.

But that's nothing compared to the outright sabotage committed by Republican / Red State Governors refusing to take the pandemic serious and stubbornly refuse to admit there's still any problem at all. Especially Florida's governor Ron DeSantis, who has been flailing and FAILING to lead the state as the pandemic overwhelms our hospitals again.

It's particularly horrifying that DeSantis and his administration were caught WASTING test kits for months that could have helped people track their health. From Stephen Adams via the Tampa Bay 10 Action News:

Back on Dec. 30, (Agricultural Commissioner Nikki) Fried accused the Florida Department of Health of storing a large number of a particular type of COVID-19 tests that were about to expire.

“It’s come to my attention that Governor DeSantis’ Department of Health has a significant number of COVID-19 tests stockpiled that are set to expire imminently," Fried wrote at the time.

"Given the Governor’s lack of transparency throughout this pandemic, there’s no known public information about these tests or how soon they expire," Fried continued in her prior statement. "With omicron infections exploding throughout Florida, I beg of him to release these tests immediately to local counties and cities, and to stand up state-sponsored testing sites. To let these tests expire while Floridians anxiously wait for hours in testing lines is negligent at best, and heartless at worst...”

Some clarity on the matter came during a news conference DeSantis held on Thursday in West Palm Beach. Asked by a reporter about Fried's claim the state was stockpiling tests, DeSantis turned the podium over to Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.

“We had between 800,000 and a million test kits – Abbott rapid test kits in our warehouse – that did expire," Guthrie explained. "We tried to give them out prior to that, but there was not a demand for it...”

DeSantis and his spokespeople are, by the by, gaslighting like brazen children caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

NO DEMAND FOR THE TESTS?! Nearly every store in Florida had run out of them before Christmas. If you drove out to the drive-through rapid test locations, you ran into lines of cars that circled the testing area and sometimes blocked traffic on the nearby highways. We're still dealing with long lines this weekend:

DeSantis is LYING when he claims that demand for the test kits is low. Demand is so high it'd be easier to find toilet paper in March 2020 than it is to find a home test kit at Walgreens today.

And why is DeSantis lying?

Because he wants to project the illusion that Florida is safe, that COVID-19 isn't ravaging our population, that the numbers are down so he can lie later when he's campaigning - for the Governor's office this November, for the Presidency in 2024 - that he beat COVID... when the truth is he's letting the pandemic run wild to appease the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers who make up the rabid GOP voting base.

To quote my fellow Floridian survivor Betty Cracker:

I think the state almost certainly sat on those tests and is now issuing this guidance that contradicts the public health expert consensus because they want to limit political damage to DeSantis for his ongoing mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis. DeSantis claims he didn’t know about the stockpile of now-expired tests, and possibly that’s even true.

But DeSantis has loaded every state agency with Republican hacks, sycophants and donors whose primary job is to turn the organizations into political assets for DeSantis as he gears up to run for president...

I keep hoping the growing evidence that DeSantis is focused on self-promotion at the expense of everything else — our health, our university and K-12 education system, the state’s economy — will finally motivate Floridians to kick his ass out of office later this year...

It all depends on if people see past DeSantis' deceit. It all depends on if every Floridian gets hit hard - either themselves or their families or their closest friends - with this Omicron wave and make them realize DeSantis allowed this all to happen because he sacrificed our health for his benefit.

Goddamn him. We ALL can't be blind to the idiocy coming out of the governor's office.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Deep Scars

(Update: Thanks again to Batocchio for including this article at Crooks & Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please do me a favor and review the articles I'm considering for the FWA Royal Palm Literary awards this year.)

Today was the one-year anniversary of donald trump's Insurrection, the massing and angering up of a mob of his supporters to go smash their way into the halls of Congress to disrupt the Electoral Vote count and prevent Joe Biden from winning the 2020 Presidential election.

And while today's press coverage and blogging memorials provided some catharsis - with President Biden using the moment to speak against trump's ongoing Big Lie campaign, openly calling trump a "defeated former President" without even calling trump by name - the facts remain that 1) we have not yet reached a full accounting of justice for those - from trump himself to all the handlers running "war rooms" in nearby hotels coordinating with the extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who enacted the violence - who planned and executed the riots, and 2) the insurrection itself shows just how broken and divided the United States truly is.

We still have a sizable number of Republican voters - not just the hard-core trumpians but the party in general - who still view the attack on Capitol Hill was "peaceful" or that the violence was overblown. Two-thirds of Republican voters believe trump's Big Lie that the Democrats stole the election with fake votes (either with massive voter fraud that trump's lawyers can't prove or by hiding ballots that favored trump that trump's lawyers can't find).

The problem here is the divide between those who look to the facts and those who look to the GOP Grand Narrative. It's gotten to the point where the MAGA supporters are actively behaving like a religious cult. To refer to that NPR article by Tovia Smith:

This kind of intractability, however, isn't stopping people around the nation from continuing to try to get through to their loved ones. Many are filling up support groups for people struggling to reach family members who've fallen deep down the rabbit hole.

"I get frustrated and angry at my dad," says one such woman, who goes by Rain. "I've always thought of him as so intelligent. But he's being misled, and there's no way to get him to see the light on that."

In a meeting that's run online by Antidote, a group that combats psychological manipulation, the stories are remarkably similar. Shannon, a 37-year-old from Colorado, explains how heartbroken she is that the "big lie" has come between her and her mother. The participants asked that their full names not be used to protect their family members from retribution and so as not to jeopardize their reconciliation.

Shannon tells the group that her mother, who she says was at the Capitol during the insurrection, will barely listen when her daughter tries to bring her evidence that the election was not stolen.

"It's a waste of my breath," she sighs. "I brought up all kinds of information, and she dismisses it immediately. It's blind allegiance. And I've seen it get worse..."

Facts don't matter when the emotional intensity of the Far Right echo chamber means more. This is akin to dealing with a fervent devotee to extremist faith - doesn't matter if it's Christian, Muslim, Hebrew, Hindu, or Unitarian - who won't consider the irregularities or hypocrisy of their own religious texts and insists on the infallibility of the Truth that tells them to strap on a bomb vest and blow up schools. Or if you want a secular analogy, this is akin to dealing with fans of a long-losing football team who won't admit how bad the Washington No-Names are and switch their support to a better-run organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

(Awkwardly looks at all the Tampa Bay Bucs gear and memorabilia from the 2021 Super Bowl LV win) Uh, yeah I don't talk much about the years between 1983 to 1996 much... or the 2008 to 2019 years either... But then again I'm self-aware enough to admit the Bucs have been bad... just... um... yeah I can't quit them baby. (I actually got national attention for fifteen minutes ranting FIRE SCHIANO! on a sports blog years ago) ANYWAYS I digress. 

This is how I see how the Far Right is behaving: They are wholly devoted to a Republican Party and Far Right agenda because that is their "team" and they are loyal to the bitter end no matter how racist, sexist, and violent that team becomes (in many cases, they are loyal because of that team being racist, sexist, and violent). 

Back to Smith's article:

These days, identifying as red or blue, or as a die-hard Trumper or anti-Trumper, has become a kind of "mega-identity," as it has been dubbed by Lilliana Mason, a Johns Hopkins University associate professor of political science. She says partisan identity has become so fully fused with cultural, religious, racial, gender and geographical identity that it's very high stakes for people to break with their party — or the party line.

"To feel that they are losing all [those aspects of themselves] wrapped together, that's a devastating psychological harm," says Mason. "And people tend to react to that with a lot of not only anger, but really defensive mechanisms."

That's why Mason says no recount or court case is going to be convincing to Trump supporters who are clinging to the myth that their side didn't actually lose.

"At this point, over one year out, I don't think there is any way to get through to them," Mason says. "They've had this entire fever dream, where Trump is really stoking these ideas of 'No matter what anybody else tells you, I'm telling you you're a winner.' And that feels great. That's just like the most primitive human instincts to follow the good feelings, not the bad feelings."

There is no rational way to reach people like the Far Right who have reached an irrational world-view. Like John Cole said in 2009, "I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties (The Republicans) is insane." Only it's not bipartisanship itself that's at risk twelve years later, it's the very nature of the federalist system itself that makes up the United States of America.

I've mentioned it before: The entire model of checks and balances baked into the Constitution and into the operational practices of government itself require acts of compromise and cooperation (forms of "Good Faith" behavior) between all parties. As we've seen during trump's tenure in the White House, almost all of that Good Faith needed for government to function gave way to pandering, policy hostage-taking, and outright grifting that made much of government grind to a halt. The rest of the Republican Party couldn't get much done - outside of a massive tax cut the majority of Americans didn't ask for - because trump kept violating norms even they needed to work with. 

With one major political party broken, the rest of the political structure of the nation itself falls apart. You have states openly dismissing federal guidelines during a global pandemic. You have planned efforts to dismantle electoral systems to guarantee voters have no say. You have federal courts ignoring centuries of Judicial Review to tack towards extreme interpretations of conservative thought just to achieve political agendas against the majority will.

With the political culture broken, the social norms of the United States are breaking as well. We have more angry people lashing out at public workers and nurses than ever before. A violent wave of arrogant privilege towards our neighbors and communities making it harder for people to remain civil at all.

It is in that mood, in this moment, that we need to realize all this public rage and violence are physical markings of emotional scars, deep rooted fears and hates rising up to the skin exposing this all to the world. 

These scars are from wounds that never healed up since the Constitutional enshrinement of slavery, never healed up since the Andrew Jackson years, never healed up from the Trail of Tears and centuries of Native reservation camps, never healed up since the fugitive slave laws of 1850s, never healed up from the Civil War, never healed up after Reconstruction and decades of Jim Crow, never healed up after the union fights, never healed up after women's suffrage, never healed up after the Red Scares and McCarthyist witch hunts, never healed up after Japanese internment camps, never healed up after decades of lynchings, never healed up after the Civil Rights reforms of the 1960s, never healed up after gays rights and trans rights and human rights, never healed up after Obama proved a Black Man could lead America, never healed up at all because too many people - mostly white, mostly male, mostly rich - in power and privilege are too terrified that they're losing both to the long arc of history.

These scars won't heal even if we pursue justice to its natural end in arresting trump and his Insurrectionist mobs for the public crimes - all caught on film they can't deny - they've committed. We cannot ignore the law on this: trump and his cronies must answer for the violence they called into existence that dark January day. But we need to realize their arrests and their accountability will not heal these scars, and will not bring an end to the division across America that they promoted, expanded, profited from.

This fight to rebuild America is not over.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Input For Another Round of Blog Award Submissions for 2022

Well, it's a new year started and already I gotta think about what to submit to the Florida Writers Association's Royal Palm Literary Awards for their Non-Fiction / Blogging category.

There's a limit to the submissions - Five per category - so I'd like to narrow down my favorite 2021 articles some time before February when the early bird submission prices aren't so bad.

So to the nine regular followers to this blog, lemme know which of these articles I ought to submit to the judges:

Okay, I know I've got a clunky Comments section here, but if you don't want to post a comment on which ones you'd like submitted, you can tweet me @PaulWartenberg or email p.warten AT gmail. I need to know before the first week of February.

Thank ye, and Happy New Year!


Saturday, January 01, 2022

So What To Expect for 2022?


We should expect the COVID pandemic to continue on. The massive upturn in cases due to the Omicron variant means this January we're going to see overwhelmed hospitals and ICUs again with no foreseeable relief for our health care professionals.

The United States is heading into the Congressional Midterms, meaning the damned Beltway obsessions over the horse races between Republicans and Democrats are going to obscure everything else going on. The maddening drum beats of political warfare, with unhinged mudslinging and "gotcha" moments of increasing absurdity, is going to deafen and blind us all (again).

And still voter turnout is a necessity - despite all the storm and fury trying to drive voters away out of fatigue and anxiety - because Gods help us the Republicans are gerrymandering the districts and suppressing the voters like never before... and good old turnout is still the best way to overcome all that.

Our schools are going to be overwhelmed by the Far Right groups pursuing another round of book banning and ideology purging, such as the schools in Oklahoma getting threatened with a law weaponizing the bounty system to gift offended parents $10,000 per book in school libraries that offend them. Just think, an outraged grifter parent can complain about five different titles - hell, one of them can be the DICTIONARY that happens to include curse words like "hell" - in one week and steal earn $50k of easy money from our financially-strapped schools - an amount that's roughly an annual income for most Americans - without breaking a sweat.

Did I mention the ongoing COVID pandemic? Because it feels like this should be big news every night instead of getting overlooked while our HOSPITALS CROWD UP AGAIN.

The House Investigation into trump's January 6 Insurrection is reportedly looking at issuing more subpoenas, starting to look into the financial backing of the war rooms and overall organization that planned the riots. But they need to hurry: The committee needs to get all their criminal charges filed to the Department of Justice before any possibility of the Republicans retaking the House after November...

Speaking of investigations into trump, there are rumors that he's facing tax evasion and even racketeering charges from the New York federal prosecutors digging into trump's business misdeeds. It would be pretty to think so, but I'll believe it when I see trump himself perp-walked with handcuffs into the courtroom for the official charges.

And it would be nice to hear about any results from the criminal investigation in Cobb County regarding trump's effort to interfere with the ballot counting there.

There is little sign of sanity or calm returning to our corner of the universe this coming year.

So strap in kiddos, it's going to be a fight all the way in all day every day.

(Did I forget anything...?)

Friday, December 31, 2021

Year 2021 As Tragedy And Farce

(Update: With many thanks to Driftglass for including this article at Crooks & Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please do me a favor and review my best articles of 2021 for submission to Florida Writers' Association's annual Royal Palm awards!)

As the year ends, today becomes a moment to look back and wonder at how we survived it at all.

(Christ. As I type this I just got word that Betty White passed away. FUCK YOU, 2021, DIE IN A FUCKING FIRE WILL YA)


The tragedy of the year stems from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, now rolling into its second year. Even with a vaccine program in place, even with all we know about how to fight COVID and how to reduce the risks... we're ending this year with a dangerously effective Omicron strain that's threatening to force shutdowns of workplaces and schools in spite of the Far Right forces obsessed to ignore the risks to stick to their own crazed Narrative.

The tragedy of 2021 got worse as donald trump - stinging from his Electoral losses in 2020 - refused to play by the rules of the Constitution and sent in mobs of insurrectionists into the halls of Congress to force that body from confirming the vote counts. For all the digging into the events of January 6th, we're barely seeing major arrests and serious punishments of the rioters and the culprits that we know so far who planned the whole attack.

If there'd been anything major going on all year long, it was the war of attrition between the madness of the Pandemic and the madness of trump's Big Lie. A lot of other crazy things happening in 2021 tended to tie into either ongoing crisis.

If there was any saving grace to this past year, it was how much of a farce the trumpian War On Reality could become.

The arguments trump forced his handlers to take - in arguing over stolen votes that were never stolen - led to those handlers and lawyers getting taken to the woodshed by judges who cut through every gaslighting lie they offered. These were lawyers who showed no sign of understanding the Constitution or election laws from beginning to end. The next sight we need to see of these inept lawyers should be them losing their license - like Giuliani - to practice law.

Everything coming out about how trump's inner circle coordinated and planned the January 6th Insurrection would be pure comedy if it didn't involve serious crimes. The very idea that they created a PowerPoint presentation to show trump how they planned it - and a sloppy PowerPoint at that - would be the crowning moment of funny whenever future Hollywood producers film the streaming miniseries about the riots.

As for the efforts in 2021 to fight the Pandemic, trump's early drum beats to push an anti-vax agenda to humiliate Biden and keep the nation in chaos led to the growing realization that trump's actions were literally killing off their own Far Right voting base... forcing trump's more recent calls to vaccinate falling on deaf - even hostile - ears.

Both nightmare and comedy at the same time in the same crises.

No wonder 2021 feels like a bad dream refusing to end.

Gods help us in 2022.