Wednesday, February 27, 2019

All We Need to Know From the Immolation of the Republican Party During The Cohen Hearings

After all the sound and fury from today's testimony from trump's personal bagman lawyer, this is the only true thing you can garner from the noise.

Today's hearing turned out to be less about Michael Cohen working as a corrupt underling for a corrupt mob-boss-styled bankrupt con artist, and more about the Republican Party's willingness to defend that corrupt mob-boss-styled bankrupt con artist because GOD FORBID any accountability for trump ever be applied.

If you watch and rewatch the performances of Republican congresscritters, you will see time and again their willingness to attack Cohen as a liar without acknowledging that Cohen lied on trump's orders. You will see Republicans trying to discredit Cohen without questioning the evidence he brought to the committee.

You will see Republicans making fools of themselves.

This is how far the GOP has sunk. They have tied their fate to that of trump's, a known liar and failed businessman who is now openly accused - through Cohen's testimony detailing fraud and election law violations - of being a crook. They are defending the indefensible... all because they are afraid of what they might lose when (no longer a question of IF) he falls.

Even Cohen tried to warn them, during today's appearance (quote via The Daily Beast):

Just as Cohen lied to Congress and the public on Trump’s behalf, out of what he called “intoxication” out of being around the “icon” Trump, now they were doing the same sort of “always stay on message, always defend” Trump that Cohen performed for over a decade. Trump gave Cohen financial power; Trump gives the Republican Party political power.
“I’m responsible for your silliness,” Cohen said of what he called GOP questioning that was “really unbecoming of Congress.” He was responsible, he said, “because I did the same thing that you are doing now, for ten years.”

But it's too late. Always has been. The second they let that racist con artist get a foothold in their party, they were dead. Dead to reason. Dead to faith. Dead to history.

Not a single Republican on that committee did anything responsible today. They never will. If they did, they would have to admit how they were wrong in the first place. And that can never happen in their own eyes. Not until they're facing criminal charges and their plea deals require truthful testimony the same way Cohen's does.

It's called Pride. trump played to that as much as their Fear. And the thing about Pride, it goes before a fall. And the Republicans won't care until it's ten years later facing the same hell Cohen is in now.

And by then it'll be too late for the rest of us.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

There's a Better Way to Celebrate 2019's 4TH of July: Stay Home

What the hell is the Shitgibbon planning now? (hat-tip to Bonnie Kristian at The Week)

President Trump on Twitter early Sunday announced his plans for a big Independence Day party in Washington this year, pledging a personal appearance and preemptively declaring the event one of the city's largest gatherings ever...

This is the point where I break out a bad John Cleese impersonation and shout all: Ah, you see, we've already got one! Oh, yes, it's verra nicea...

I've been there, done that! It's a little thing that our nation's capital's been hosting for some time, usually once every year. I've got pictures to prove it!

Wait this is me at Ft. McHenry the day before back in 2015. (frantically searches backup files)
Well. Crap. I *had* taken pictures, I know I did...

And trump is already declaring the event will be one of DC's largest gatherings ever, just like he promised his Inauguration would break attendance records...

This is posted via New York magazine, I would like the photographer info
to provide proper citation.
Jesus.

Twitter has mostly been humiliating trump all day since this dropped - hey, boss, WE ALREADY HAVE SOMETHING PLANNED et al. - but this is trump flailing about to find some grandiose public celebration he can hijack for his own twisted ego.

Don't forget, trump tried to force the military to throw him a Veterans Day parade, similar to all of the grand reviews they like to throw in Europe (and various dictatorships). Aside from the horror of having honest volunteers forced to march in front of a notorious draft dodger, the DoD was able to talk trump out of it due to the high costs - and damage to the roads - such a parade would have created.

This is one of trump's darkest habits: Inserting himself into public events so he can hog the spotlight. He infamously showed up at a charity event for HIV kids, something he never gave money, posed for photos, acted like it was all about him, and drove off. And there's other horror stories similar to that. trump is all about showing up and pretending the event in question is all about him. That's his ego-boost. 

So now trump wants to claim the 4th of July. Granted as President Loser of the Popular Vote, trump could attach himself to the events that are hosted along the National Mall, but it's something few Presidents actually do this day and age to avoid complaints of turning a national holiday into a partisan affair. I can't recall Obama partaking of the events other than doing stuff at the White House and watching fireworks from the rooftop.

But here's trump, wanting to claim the stage, less likely to speak about America the Beautiful and more likely to speak about America's Building My Wall To Keep Furriners Out. On possibly the one day he shouldn't give that kind of speech. /headdesk

And considering how so many musicians and performers are horrified to even be within trump's range of photobombing - his Inauguration was notoriously short on celebrities and acts, even a Springsteen cover band had to drop out due to backlash - if trump actually does take over this year's 4th planning I guarantee a sudden drop in musicians who suddenly find out they're busy that day getting their hair done.

trump is not exactly popular in town, so I doubt the locals will show up if he does. The number of people traveling to Washington DC to partake of the holiday week may well drop: When you consider the pro-trump turnouts tend to the thousands where the anti-trump turnouts tend to the hundreds of thousands, I doubt the MAGA Hat Brigade will save tourism in Washington this July.

If trump tries to make himself the star of our Capital's 4th, we're likely to see the smallest turnout for our nation's birthday since 1814 (you know, the year the Brits showed up and burned the place down as part of the whole War of 1812 thing). It'll be trump, ruining one more thing for peeps.

If you're still patriotic enough to love the United States and stand against trump's destructive ways, do yourself a favor: Celebrate the 4th at home. Celebrate with family and friends. Celebrate with neighbors. Play safe with the fireworks you bought at that tent set-up outside of the nearby Wal-Mart. Don't do anything to watch the 4th from DC. There's a perfectly good broadcast out of Boston or New York, after all.

Just remember: trump is not celebrating America with this stunt. trump wants us to worship him on that stage. The most UNAMERICAN thing you can do...

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Wingnuts Ready to Pull The Trigger

They found another trumpster wingnut ready to go off (via Spencer Ackerman at The Daily Beast):

A white supremacist Coast Guard lieutenant is accused of stockpiling weapons, compiling a hit list of Democratic senators and left-leaning journalists, and preparing for a massacre.
Prosecutors in Maryland called Christopher Paul Hasson a “domestic terrorist” in a Tuesday court filing, first reported by George Washington University’s Seamus Hughes, that argued for Hasson’s detention ahead of trial on firearms and controlled substance charges.
What law enforcement discovered during a Feb. 15 arrest and search led prosecutors to tell a federal court that Hasson “intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country...”

Quick jump in here: "On a scale rarely seen"??? We see mass shootings on a DAILY BASIS NOW. /grrrrrrrr Okay back to the report:

Specific journalists and others appear in Hasson’s search history, the filing claims, including: MSNBC hosts Chris Hayes, Joe Scarborough, and Ari Melber; Sens. Richard Blumenthal—or “blumen jew,” in Hasson’s writing—Tim Kaine, Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker; Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Maxine Waters, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Ilhan Omar; CNN’s Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, and Van Jones; as well as prominent Democrats Beto O’Rourke and John Podesta, and the Democratic Socialists of America.
Hasson’s searches also included “what if trump illegally impeached,” “civil war if trump impeached” and “best place in dc to see congress people.”

He was basically compiling a Hit List and figuring out the easiest places to go trigger-happy. All in defense of trump and the Glorious Cause Of Making America Gross Again. The photos of Hasson's gun stash should have included every red hat I guarantee the asshole owns.

The scary part of this: Hasson is a US Coast Guard officer, working in acquisitions at the branch's headquarters, with sufficient military background to be a legitimate lethal threat to hundreds of people:

Hasson’s arrest is likely to spark additional questions to the military about the rigor with which it screens out people with white supremacist affiliations. While statistically infinitesimal, Hasson is the latest high-profile case to involve a Marine Corps veteran with white supremacist connections, such as Patriot Front’s Erik Sailors; American Vanguard’s Dillon Ulysses Hopper; neo-confederates Michael Chesny and Joseph Manning; and Atomwaffen’s Vasillios Pistolis. ProPublica and Frontline, which reported on Atomwaffen last year, identified three “members or associates” of the violent white supremacist group “who are currently employed by the Army or Navy,” as well as another three affiliated military veterans.

The White supremacist, neo-nazi, Klan-happy crowds are itching for their war. They're inspired by previous Far Right attacks against Leftists and hated minorities both here and abroad, successful or otherwise. They're terrified by the reality of how few they really are - there may be over 1,000 groups but the overall membership is in the tens of thousands compared to the MILLIONS of Americans who oppose them - and desperate to terrify everyone else of their violent capabilities.

They're motivated by the Bully-in-Chief, the rabblerouser con artist who used racist bile - and foreign aid from a Russia that traffics in racist populist movements - to trick his way into the White House. When trump faces the likely criminal charges stemming from his Russian ties that violate federal laws from Emoluments to elections, that will be a troubling moment for this entire nation.

These guys, these MAGA-hat wearing unholy descendants of the Bundists and the Klan, they're just waiting to be triggered.

And they got a lot of AR-15s with them.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What to Expect When Mueller Reports (w/ Update)

There's been noise today from reputable sources that Mueller is about ready to end his grand jury investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and trump's possible involvement. There's been a lot of speculation - is trump in jail yet? - but let's get Emptywheel to provide some rational input to this:

When Mueller is done, he has to submit a confidential report to the Attorney General (who is now Mueller’s friend William Barr) telling him what he did and didn’t do. Given everything Barr said as part of his confirmation process, we’re unlikely to see this report.
To assess whether this report is what Pete Williams thinks is coming, we should assess whether public evidence is consistent with Mueller being done.
The answer to that is clearly no. He’s still chasing testimony from Roger Stone flunkie Andrew Miller and from some foreign owned corporation (and has been chasing that, in the case of Miller, since last May).
Given that Miller already interviewed with the FBI for two hours and the foreign company is, by dint of being foreign, a no-brainer target for NSA, it’s quite likely Mueller knows what he’s getting from both of these entities. He just needs Miller on the record, so he can’t change his story to protect Stone, and needs to parallel construct the information from the foreign company. So it’s possible that as soon as Mueller gets both of these things, he’ll finish up quickly (meaning The Report could be soon). But there is no way that’ll happen by next week, in part because whatever the DC Appeals Court says in the Andrew Miller case, the loser will appeal that decision...
As I noted back in November when Mueller’s prosecutors declared Manafort to have breached his plea agreement, this sentencing memo presents an opportunity for Mueller to “report” what they’ve found — at least with respect to all the criminal actions they know Manafort committed, including those he lied about while he was supposed to be cooperating — without anyone at DOJ or the White House suppressing the most damning bits. DOJ won’t be able to weigh in because a sentencing memo is not a major action requiring an urgent memo to the Attorney General. And the White House will get no advance warning because Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker is no longer in the reporting chain...

Emptywheel provides a solid list of all of Manafort's sins, in several instances linking Manafort to Russian contacts which Mueller can prove are tied to the Russian efforts to hack our 2016 elections (and which Mueller already proved in indictment filings earlier on). Back to Emptywheel's arguments:

It’s possible Mueller is close to charging an overarching conspiracy indictment, laying out how Trump and his spawn entered into a quid quo pro with various representatives of the Russian government, getting dirt on Hillary and either a Trump Tower or maybe a bailout for the very same building in which Manafort met with Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016. In exchange for all that, Trump agreed to — and took steps to deliver on, with some success in the case of election plot participant Deripaska — reversing the sanctions that were such a headache to Russia’s oligarchs.
Such an indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, will look like what Trump opponents would like The Report to look like. In addition to naming Don Jr and Jared Kushner and Trump Organization and a bunch of other sleazeballs, it would also describe the actions of Individual-1 in adequate detail to launch an impeachment proceeding...

Just a reminder, Individual-1 has already been described as trump: They just can't name him directly yet because that would involve presenting charges in full, something that kinda has to wait for last. Anyway, back to the car chase:

There’s one other possibility that would make Williams’ prediction true: if Mueller deliberately triggered the one other way to deliver a report, by asking to take an action William Barr is unlikely to approve, and if Mueller was willing to close up shop as a result, then a report would go to Congress and — if Barr thought it in the public interest — to the public...
The only thing that Mueller might try to do that Barr would not approve (though who knows? maybe what Mueller has is so egregious Barr will surprise us?) is to indict the President...
(give me a few minutes while I whisper OH PLEASE GOD YES to myself, thanks.)

The standing rule with the Justice Department - more of a guideline really - is that you can't indict/charge sitting Presidents. There's no actual LAW, mind, it's just going that route causes all kinds of legal headaches and violent backlash (and I am not joking about this last bit, they just nabbed a SECOND MAGA GUY ready to go on a pro-trump rampage).

Still, it’s hypothetically possible that Mueller believes Trump is such an egregious criminal and national security risk he needs to try to accelerate the process of holding him accountable by stopping his investigation early (perhaps having the DC AUSAs named on the Miller and Mystery Appellant challenges take over those pursuits) and asking to indict the President.
But if that’s what Williams is reporting, he sure as hell better get more clarity about that fact, because, boy would it be news...

Yes, it would.

We've had a bunch of pundits spending the last two years arguing Mueller was never going to find anything, and yet Mueller did (and got a number of guilty pleas and serious indictments as a result). We've had pundits claiming Mueller is never going to find collusion even though he's uncovered constant interaction between Russians and trump's power circles. They've been able to get away with saying all that because Mueller - handling an investigation that has a ton of high-security intel behind it - has run a tight ship that rarely leaks hints about what he's got (and by all reports, Muller knows everything.) There's supposed to be more sealed indictments including at least one for donnie junior himself.

When Mueller does report, it's going to be a bombshell. I can't guarantee it but given everything we've seen there is at least violations of election laws by trump's campaign and a lot of lying to federal investigators involving that. There has to be more indictments involving every major player at that June 2016 trump tower meeting. This can't be wishful thinking on my part.

What will make it terrifying is how trump's fanbase is going to respond. The Far Right punditry is already calling this a coup attempt, stirring up the wingnuts who'll believe them instead of our intelligence agencies sworn to defend our nation.

Stay alert, America. This has been messy and it's going to get worse.

Update 2/24: Again, it seemed like a premature report because here's the weekend and the only big news is tonight's Oscars ceremony (oh and we're about to invade Venezuela re-invoking a lot of the bad blood the U.S. has generated within our hemisphere...).

Sunday, February 17, 2019

America's Chances in 2020

Okay, so. Seriously.

What ARE trump's chances at winning a second term?

(waits for 65 million Hillary voters and 98 percent of the global population to calm down)

Well, okay, settle down, let's go over what 538 Nate Silver's got on his plate:

In a predictive sense, what it means is less clear. Sometimes — as was the case in 2006, 1974 and 1930 — midterm waves are followed by turnover in the presidency two years later. But most presidents win re-election, including those who endured rough midterms (such as Obama in 2010, Bill Clinton in 1994 and Ronald Reagan in 1982). Nor is there any obvious relationship between how high turnout was at the midterm and how the incumbent president performed two years later. Democrats’ high turnout in 1970 presaged a landslide loss in 1972, when they nominated George McGovern.

(waits for a fresh bout of panic to calm down) Okay, back to Silver:

This year’s results do serve as a warning to Trump in one important sense, however: His base alone will not be enough to win a second term. Throughout the stretch run of the 2018 midterm campaign, Trump and Republicans highlighted highly charged partisan issues, from the Central American migrant caravan to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. And Republican voters did indeed turn out in very high numbers: GOP candidates for the House received more than 50 million votes, more than the roughly 45 million they got in 2010.
But it wasn’t enough, or even close to enough. Problem No. 1 is that Republicans lost among swing voters: Independent voters went for Democrats by a 12-point margin, and voters who voted for a third-party candidate in 2016 went to Democrats by 13 points.

This is a key thing I am pinning a lot of hope on. In 2016, trump eked out non-Party voters 46-42 over Hillary. The way trump has been performing - alienating vast swaths of non-MAGA people on his suicidal course of high tariffs, wall-building, and diminishing tax refunds for Middle America - should guarantee trump and the Republicans have lost enough Indy voters to outperform Democrats in 2020. There looks to be a 12-point shift right now in Indy voters from 46-42 to what should be 40-48 favoring Democrats, which should add onto what Silver offers as second point:

Trump and Republicans also have Problem No. 2, however: Their base is smaller than the Democratic one. This isn’t quite as much of a disadvantage as it might seem; the Democratic base is less cohesive and therefore harder to govern. Democratic voters are sometimes less likely to turn out, although that wasn’t a problem this year...
I don’t want to go too far out on a limb in terms of any sort of prediction for 2020. In fact, lest you think that the midterms were the first step toward an inevitable one-term Trump presidency, several facts bear repeating: Most incumbent presidents win re-election...

(waits for third round of massive panic to subside) Sigh:

...and although Democrats had a strong midterm this year, midterm election results aren’t strongly correlated with what happens in the presidential election two years later. Moreover, presidential approval numbers can shift significantly over two years, so while Trump would probably lose an election today on the basis of his approval ratings, his ratings today aren’t strongly predictive of what they’ll be in November 2020.
But presidents such as Reagan, Clinton and Obama, who recovered to win re-election after difficult midterms, didn’t do it without making some adjustments. Both Reagan and Clinton took a more explicitly bipartisan approach after their midterm losses. Obama at least acknowledged the scope of his defeat, owning up to his “shellacking” after 2010, although an initially bipartisan tone in 2011 had given way to a more combative approach by 2012...

Okay, here's what I have.

As Silver points out, there's still a lot of days on the calendar for trump to shift his positions and work towards a more bipartisan agenda, which would go a long way towards mollifying Indy voters (and maybe creating rifts among Democrats that would otherwise be more united against a partisan trump).

But that will honestly be a day when pigs fly. trump can no more change his nature - insulting, divisive, greedy, destructive - than a tiger can change his stripes. There is NOTHING trump can do right now to change his approval ratings: People who love him will keep his polling numbers from sinking below 32 percent, but the People who HATE him will keep his polling numbers from rising above 42 percent...

One thing I noted in 2012 - discussing Obama's chances at re-election - is that incumbents tend to win as long as they are popular. I said this:

when you look back on the history of one-term Presidents, the consistent pattern between most of them is that they were unpopular, at least unpopular enough within their own party to be snubbed by the power-brokers in the backrooms when the next election rolled around...

Part of this doesn't directly apply to trump: the power-brokers in the backrooms arguably hate trump and the damage he's done to their internal organization, but they're unable to position a challenger due to trump's insanely high intra-party popularity with the rabid base.

So the other part is the unpopularity with the overall voting base, and the thing that makes me hopeful there is the established polling of the past two years where trump never got higher than 45 percent overall approval. trump is consistently unpopular, and has done little to counter it because he's too eager to pander to a Far Right extreme rather than to a moderate stance that could bring ambivalent voters back to his fold.

This is where it all matters who the Democratic Party finally picks to challenge in 2020. As long as the Dems select someone with better than 50 percent approval, trump is toast.

I have to admit my earlier assumptions about 2016 being wrong. Back then, I thought Hillary had a chance to win enough votes to secure a clean victory.

I knew Hillary was hated, especially by the Republican Party who hated her more than her husband. But I was caught off balance by the Beltway media's hatred of her: Their willingness to kick her and her campaign was at ten times the focus they ever gave trump, while granting THAT Shitgibbon - even at trump's worst - almost a free pass. All that bad coverage - including the last-minute bomb of "her emails" that may have scared away wavering voters - resulted in Hillary losing just enough voters in the Midwest to let trump eke out an Electoral College win. I was right that Hillary was less hated (she got 45 percent over trump's 42 percent of the popular vote), but I was wrong that Hillary would do better than that 45 percent...

The good news for Democrats is that the fresh batch of challengers - from Kamala Harris to Elizabeth Warren to Cory Booker and to even the unannounced like Bernie and Biden and Beto - all beat trump in the popularity contests. As long as the Democratic voters and agitators all agree to back the winner - as long as there are no splits among the ranks like there was between Hillary and Bernie - the Democrats can beat an unpopular incumbent with a popular winner.

I won't be at all surprised that the Republicans will try - again - to dirty up every Democratic challenger because it's basically the ONLY attack they have left. But if the next Democratic candidate is closer to Obama's style and personality and charisma, those attacks aren't going to work.

Just remember to get the damn vote out, America. Turnout beats every dirty trick the GOP has.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Another trumpian Step Towards Dictatorship (w/ Update)

(Update: Thanks this time to Tengrain for linking this to Mike's Blog Round Up at Crooks & Liars. Do try to have a nice weekend during this Constitutional Crisis...)

So this is shamefully happening (via Richard Cowan and David Morgan at Reuters.com):

President Donald Trump was poised on Friday to declare a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, a move that Democrats vowed to challenge as an unconstitutional attempt to fund his proposed border wall without approval from Congress.

Previous Presidents had issued national emergencies before, but usually within the confines of existing laws and regulations set by Congress to prevent overreach. Obama for example issued 12 emergencies, almost all of them involving foreign interventions and not exactly cutting into Congressional "power of the purse".  President Loser of the Popular Vote trump is explicitly pulling this maneuver to sidestep Congressional power over the budget and destroying the Constitutional concept of Checks and Balances in the process.

All because he doesn't want to be seen as a loser:

Trump was also expected to sign a bipartisan government spending bill approved by Congress on Thursday that would prevent another federal shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday morning.
The bill, lacking any money for his wall, is a defeat for Trump in Congress, where his demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding yielded no result, other than a record-long 35-day December-January partial government shutdown that damaged the U.S. economy and his poll numbers.
trump's excuses this afternoon did little to convince anyone that there is a crisis at the border: the flow of drugs won't be stopped by a border wall, there's no evidence of "chain migration" abusing our immigration system, and the needed reforms to the Lottery system aren't going to get answered by this move.

The horrifying truth is that trump has ached to grant himself direct powers that the Constitution doesn't grant Presidents (his dream of being a dictator like those he admires), and is seizing on the nature of the Emergency Powers set up by Congress back in 1976 to achieve that desire. trump does not care of the precedents he's creating with this move, where most critics - even Republicans - are worried if this move succeeds trump is giving license to future DEMOCRATIC Presidents to enact socialist/progressive reforms in spite of conservative obstruction in Congress. trump is likely convinced there will never be a Democratic successor, that he will somehow become Dictator-For-Life in spite of the 22nd Amendment (he can always issue an Emergency Order cancelling all future elections, after all why not) or even his own mortality (Gods help us if trump thinks he can pass on executive powers to his children).

trump is also ignoring the reality of his actions going to the Courts - already California has filed a lawsuit against it - but not the lawsuit part because he already admits he knew those would happen, trump only cares to create the illusion that his actions are giving him a major win. In spite of the polling that should tell him the Wall is a bad sell to the public, that it will give a rallying point for Democratic candidates against him in 2020, and that even his Far Right allies are attacking him for betraying their agenda of a harsher immigration policy (trump signed that budget which actually gave Democrats small victories on that front). All that matters to trump right now are the optics of "victory" and his personal ambition to become America's Biggest Dictator Ever (eat your heart out, Andrew Jackson!).

And while our nation's leader fiddle over fake "emergencies," we're coping this afternoon with a real National Emergency with YET ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING with at least five dead in Aurora IL (which is different from the MASS SHOOTING in Aurora CO back in 2012, CAN WE KEEP TRACK OF THESE MASS SHOOTINGS ANYMORE, AMERICA).

We're in the Darkest Timeline, folks. Every day gets worse until trump and his Republican enablers are driven out of power forever.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

When Churches Betray Faith, Churches Become Conspiracies

God. (via the Houston Chronicle and reporters Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco):

In the decade since Vasquez's appeal for help, more than 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sex crimes, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reveals.
It's not just a recent problem: In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.
They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.
About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.
Nearly 100 are still held in prisons stretching from Sacramento County, Calif., to Hillsborough County, Fla., state and federal records show. Scores of others cut deals and served no time. More than 100 are registered sex offenders. Some still work in Southern Baptist churches today...
And these are just the ones we know about, from 20 years or so. This is rape and sexual assault that likely had been going on for decades earlier.

For all the goddamn Christian wingnuts yelling and screaming about Muslims, the greatest threat to our families in the United States are the goddamn Christian wingnuts.

Did you catch that last bit? Some still work in Southern Baptist churches today.

Did you catch that earlier bit, where some of the victims were forced to get abortions? The Southern Baptists are one of the biggest religious groups to rail against abortion, but by God if their own should rape a woman or young girl then hey let's just make sure that medical procedure we don't talk about that it gets done in another state where nobody will find out.

Goddamned hypocrites. No, worse, Pharisees.

How is this any better than what the Catholic Church has been doing for decades (if not centuries) covering up their own pedophiles and rapists? The Pope just had to come out recently and confess his church has been covering up the rape and sex slavery of nuns, on top of the recent revelations of what priests have been doing to children.

This isn't about God (other than perverting the Lord's work) this isn't about Faith (other than destroying it for thousands of victims) this is about Power, the power of institutional control that a church can grant to those in charge. This is about a blinded, lustful Patriarchy that views their flock not as followers but as the next meal.

There is no God in these churches the second their own politics demanded they protect the rapists and abusers instead of their children and victims.

To hell with these scandal-plagued institutions. For all that the laws of man have brought against them - charges and convictions and jail time - the churches themselves remain relatively unpunished, still standing, still seeking more converts and members (and victims for their abuses). Utterly convinced God has forgiven their sins as though THEY can judge their own corrupt selves.

To hell with them. We need our government to step up here. We need accountability.

These churches need to lose their tax-exempt status.

It is an argument cropping up across the world wherever these Church scandals have struck. A lot of nations grant tax-exempt status to churches out of respect to the idea that churches are charitable institutions, looking out for the well-being of their parishioners and their communities. They also do it as a sign of separation of Church and State, to avoid the political abuse of faith that history has shown doesn't end well for a lot of innocent people.

But these sex abuse revelations are exposing that concept as a lie. These churches are so horrified by exposure they've covered up, lied, betrayed victims, all because the threat of liability - of paying restitution to victims - drove them to cover up.

These churches love Money and Power more than they love God and People.

So if money is what they love(worship), that's where the punishment should be.

End their tax-exempt status.

Oh, they'll yell, they'll scream, they'll claim we're violating their First Amendment rights to free worship. Which won't be true. If they want to keep gathering and praying, they can do that. It's just they can't keep all the goddamned cash that rolls in when they do.

We have to recognize this truth: These churches that protected sexual predators and abused their own members are no longer churches. These organizations are now criminal conspiracies.

Goddamn them.


Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Brief Thought on How to Label Rich Jerks

Idiot Billionaire Hoping To Save His Tax Cuts From Impending Progressive Passage of High Marginal Rates Doesn't Like Being Called a Billionaire (via Arwa Mahdawi of the Guardian).

When asked by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin whether he thought billionaires had become too powerful in American life, the coffee magnate complained that “the moniker billionaire now has become the catchphrase”. Rather than using a word like billionaire to describe a person with billions of dollars, Schultz suggested it may be better to use expressions like “people of means” or “people of wealth”.
Poor Schultz. He was just trying to help us all out; generously digging into his rich vocabulary and spreading the semantic wealth. However, after footage of the interview went viral this week, the businessman has been mercilessly mocked. People of mean spirit have been suggesting their own alternatives to billionaire such as “robber barons”, “cash vampires”, and various other phrases that are probably too rude to repeat...

Yeah, I've probably repeated about twenty rude ones on Twitter just this weekend alone.

But let's play nice, shall we? Let's not go after the super-rich who are failing at noblesse oblige with the vindictive venom of French Revolutionaries.

If we're gonna label Billionaires for what they are, let's keep this professional yet accurate.

Let's call them:

Avarice Americans.

What, Schultz. You don't like that? You don't like getting called out for your greedy tax-dodging stealing-from-the-public ways?

Whadda ya gonna do, pay us to NOT insult you? You should. All of you Billionaires should tread lightly. There's 300 million of us and only 585 of you. I think we can take 'em in a fair fight.


Deeply A Problem

As a followup to my previous blogging, the situation in Virginia is getting crazier by the hour.

Northam has NOT resigned as expected and is trying to refuse accountability for the photo he originally apologized for (his argument afterward was that "Oops I got that confused with ANOTHER time I wore blackface" and that "Oops I was Halloweening as Michael Jackson")

Thing is, Northam is now politically isolated with his own party as most Democrats in-state and nationwide are denouncing him/asking him to resign. He may think he can endure the rest of his administration but it's likely his own state assembly will block him on any objectives he hopes to achieve.

Problem is, the next in line Lt. Governor Fairfax is now facing sexual assault charges dating back to 2004. It apparently had been cursory investigated and dismissed then - by both law enforcement and the media - but because of the current situation now has regained public notice.

This all went into Florida-Man level madness today when the state's Attorney General - by state constitution the second-in-line to the Governor's seat - admitted he too donned blackface in his youth, and unlike Northam is openly apologizing for it. There's a likelihood calls for his resignation are bound to start as he's politically wounded as well. This gets into crazy mode because if all three resign at once, the next in line is the State Assembly Speaker... who is a Republican, and who is only the Speaker because a goddamn tiebreaker had to be settled by drawing lots out of a goddamn jar.

So let's recap: One of our major states - 11th overall in population, 10th in the economy, a key part of one of our largest metropolises (the North Virginia-DC-Baltimore area), home to many Presidents and key historical figures and places - is about to go sideways.

Granted, a lot of this could be easily resolved if 1) Northam resigns NOW for the good of his state and his party, 2) Fairfax uses his time as Governor to immediately find a Lt. Governor replacement, 3) Fairfax steps aside if the sexual assault allegations prove true, allowing the new Lt. Governor to replace him, 4) the new new Governor replaces the Attorney General with someone WITHOUT a racist or sexist background.

Also granted: A lot of this bullshit wouldn't be happening if enough of our political leaders avoided being (alleged) racist idiots or (alleged) sexual harassers. If only, God help them, they ever took the time to examine their life choices and noticed particular moments in their pasts that should have warned them "Oh SHIT this will come back to bite me on the ass at the worst possible moment."

But that's the world we live in, isn't it. If we just focus on the racist part of today's problem, we'd see that particular blindness of White Privilege as a major concern.

I am completely with John Cole on this:

Again, this shit was right there in the open. That doesn’t make it acceptable, but the over the top “wtf” from people is a little crazy- THIS HAPPENED IN YOUR LIFETIME. Kids are still doing their High Senior senior pictures in Confederate garb. The entire god damned tea party was a racist ass reaction to a black President.
This is a deeply racist nation- it’s part of who we are. So yes, there was black face going on, but let’s not lose sight of the other really racist shit that is happening. Let’s not all pretend that this shit is news to us, but remember to work on all the other stuff that is still ongoing and problematic. Like disfranchising millions of black people. Like the racial disparities in the criminal justice system that range from being more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, more likely to receive longer sentences, more likely to be sentenced to death. The racial disparities in the medical system that range from being less likely to receive preventative care, receiving lower quality and less effective care, to higher infant mortality rates to lower likelihood of being insured to worse pain management and quality of life. Or racial disparities in education which range from lower reading and achievement levels to lower graduation rates to less exposure and access to advanced classes to lower quality schools to on and on. Or racial disparities in the banking system, to christ do I need to go on?
Again, I’m 48, white, and from West Virginia and not particularly woke, but fer fuck’s sake, if you’re surprised that a bunch of college kids in Virginia were in blackface in the 70’s and 80’s there are a lot of things about this world that are going to shock the shit out of you. You should start by listening to some people of color. And voting for them.

The United States need to stop paying lip service to honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and start paying attention to the goddamn warnings the good Reverend was trying to tell us about the destructive nature of racism. King kept mentioning his biggest obstacle wasn't the Racists - he could see them coming and knew how to fight them - but the indifferent Whites who lived within their privileged world and had no idea the damage they were doing.

The first thing White America has GOT TO DO IS ADMIT THEY LIVE WITH A PRIVILEGE that many non-Whites do not have, and that this privilege is blinding them to the harm they commit.

This doesn't mean all of a sudden falling to our knees and begging forgiveness. It doesn't mean inviting every Black or Latino person you know over to pot luck where you'll be serving potato salad with raisins in it. Or suddenly turning around and offering billions in reparations (although if we are being honest for the love of God we SHOULD do that because a lot of minority poverty stems from our racist history of Ghetto-As-Policy).

But it does mean first and foremost we need to stop going out of our way to be assholes towards other ethnics. Christ. This should be the easiest thing to do. JUST STOP BEING ASSHOLES.

/headdesk


Saturday, February 02, 2019

The Stink of Racism It Gets Into Everything

So this kind of blew up last night (via the Virginian Pilot):

A photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook shows him and another person in racist costumes — one wearing blackface and one a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, though it was not clear which person was the future governor.
Hours after the 35-year-old photo came to light Friday, Northam apologized for his decision to appear in it. Elected officials and activist groups from across the political spectrum called for him to resign.

By this morning, major Democratic figures at the state and national level - including Julian Castro, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden - have made calls for Northam to step down.

Virginia's state constitution has it the Lt. Governor - currently Justin Fairfax, who is Black - will step into the Governor's office and appoint his own temporary replacement (a permanent Lt. Governor to serve out the rest of the 2 years of term will be voted on in November).

There are a few shocking things about this story. Mostly to do with the fact Northam's yearbook has been out there for ages and it's only now coming to light. In this day and age of aggressive Oppo Research in elections, you'd have thought some Republican snoop would have caught this and presented it to Northam's political rivals BEFORE Northam won the governorship. (I am hearing stories however that researchers DID find this, but thought it was a fake created by other GOP operatives...)

The one thing that isn't shocking - at least to me - was that there was something this racist in the personal history of a White boy who grew up in the traditional South.

Northam's own background has him growing up in the 1970s and 80s, post-Civil Rights Era of the 60s, where racism was still entrenched in a lot of social, educational, and professional institutions across the South. He attended Virginia Military Institute (which has a history of racism and sexism - not allowing girls to enroll until 1996) and had a school nickname of "Coonman" in 1981. He went to a Virginia medical college surrounded by drunken white frat boys (and yeah, I've noted THAT problem before) who, anecdotally speaking, tend to be arrogant with a good amount of stupidity aimed at pulling cruel pranks, bullying disguised as hazing, and mockery of others.

Northam may have grown out of it, when the time came and he went to work as a doctor and then got into politics and then worked his way to the Governor's seat. Much of his public record has been consistent with the stance of a centrist Democrat in the modern South, supporting pro-choice positions (he's currently under fire from the Far Right for statements made about late-trimester abortions), education reforms, and protecting voter rights. However, something like this in his past - something that seems a consistent pattern of his youth - makes it harder not only for Blacks to trust him but for the state (and national) Democratic leadership to argue in good faith on social and economic reforms fighting racism.

It's troubling, but it's out there now. That trust is gone.

Look, we just had a scandal here in Florida where the appointed Secretary of State Ertel turned out to have worn a racist costume in 2005 that mocked Hurricane Katrina victims. He did this stunt at the age of 35, well aware of the cruelty he was promoting and doing it anyway, As soon as the photos got out, he had to resign because nobody could trust him being fair overseeing elections in a contentious battleground state like ours (even though Ertel's work history as an Elections Supervisor - fighting against Rick Scott's voter purges - seemed scandal-free).

Ertel's background is about the same as Northam's. Born in Jacksonville, FL and having lived here for much of his life - except for his time studying at University of Maryland before joining the Army and serving during the 1990s - Ertel has been immersed in the same cultural mess that other Southern Whites grew up in. As much as Northam probably thought it was funny or cool to dress up racist, Ertel thought the same thing. A lot of Southern Whites (and gods help us, more and more Whites nationwide) probably have thought the same thing.

This is where having hundreds of years of the same social messaging, the same mental conditioning, just gets into everything like the rotting stench of death. Southern Culture is a thing, after all, it's NASCAR and College Football and Daisy Dukes and Grandma's Moonshine Whiskey and Redneck Jokes and Pecan/Peach Pie and Dirt Roads under Spanish Moss trees down by the creeks where kids in coveralls fish for dinner. It's also a rabid history of lynching and vagrancy laws and entire Black towns getting wiped off the maps and Jim Crow and ongoing voter suppression and Confederate Battle Flags shoved into everyone's faces.

It gets to where White folk don't ever see it as a problem, because after all being White in the South has its privileges. White kids grow up in a culture that allows for mocking of minorities - especially Blacks - and embracing the mindset of "rebellion" AND "status quo" that the Confederacy/Lost Cause has come to represent. And then they have kids and pass the privilege onward.

This is where every White person who grew up south of the Mason Dixon line needs to re-examine every childish, seemingly harmless prank or joke they ever pulled while as children and teens because I guarantee - myself included - there is at least one moment of racist stupidity and cruelty stuck on your soul's track record. I fear that I have one, and the troubling thing is I cannot remember because for me - and likely for a lot of other Whites - it's been so easy to forget the slight or damage done. The weapon of racism never got aimed at me, after all...

Meanwhile, I may have noted how Ertel's behavior fit a mostly Republican attitude towards race, Northam's standing as a Democrat doesn't change my argument. For every modern Democrat caught pulling racist shit - and yeah, I know Robert Byrd was KKK and a Democrat, but he's DEAD now and he recanted -  there's still a ratio of 5 or 6 modern Republicans pulling equally racist shit or in Rep. Steve King's case, racist shit that's worse.

There were a number of Far Right pundits crowing earlier about how the Democrats were hypocrites in having Northam exposed as a racist, but when the Democratic response properly called on his resignation those same pundits are trying to flip the narrative to hide their own hypocrisy on the matter. Like this is all still a game to them... It still doesn't excuse the Far Right of their hatreds, as much as it doesn't excuse Northam's cluelessness or Ertel's cruelty or anyone else's blithe ignorance regardless of party affiliation.

The hypocrisy of racism, the pain of racism, this is all on full display right now. It's been out there before Reverend King exposed it to the world shaming our nation onto a better moral arc, and it's still been there all this time of the rest of us trying to build a better loving world.

The damage of racism - even the tiniest bit that was meant to be funny, which turns out never really funny after all - is piling up. This is something a lot of White folk - myself included - need to acknowledge and step away from.

The first step in getting better is admitting you have a problem. And the addiction of White Privilege can be a hell of a drug.