Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Four Years of trumpian Chaos, What History Will Note

"I'm a One-Termer! I'm a Jimmy Carter!"
-- tears shed by Dana Carvey on SNL while performing as Bush the Elder back in 1992, although he probably expressed the shame the real-life Bush felt.

David Frum, attempting to take the high road to speak of trump's doomed one-term Presidency, compared trump to the recent history of other one-termers who achieved more effective and long-lasting policy goals:

In his single term as president, George H. W. Bush negotiated the peaceful reunification of Germany. He liberated Kuwait while losing few American lives. He signed legislation to end acid rain. He did a budget deal that reduced federal deficits, enacted the Americans With Disabilities Act, and successfully resolved the collapse of the savings-and-loan industry.

Jimmy Carter, in his one term, deregulated passenger aviation. He updated the regulation of rail freight, shipping, and trucking, laying the foundation for America’s modern delivery system. He negotiated the Camp David Accords, ending belligerency between Egypt and Israel. He avoided a major crisis in Central America with his Panama Canal Treaty.

William Howard Taft also achieved much in his one term as president. It was his Department of Justice that busted the Standard Oil monopoly. Taft forcefully advocated a central bank for the United States, although that project was not completed until the year after he lost the presidency to Woodrow Wilson. Taft urged free trade with Canada and negotiated the treaty that ended a century of rancorous North American waterway disputes.

To say the least, Donald Trump is not a president in the league of Bush, Carter, or even Taft. Few presidents have left office with so little accomplished, impeached and disgraced. Trump took a lot of credit for the economic growth of his first three years, but the economy was already growing strongly when he took office. Pick a measure, almost any measure, and the trajectory of his first three years was identical to that of Barack Obama’s final three years: unemployment, manufacturing, wages, you name it. And whereas Obama passed a successful economy to Trump, Trump bequeaths a wreck to his successor...

Frum does list a number of policy "successes" but a number of them - the prohibition on vaping, for example - would have been minor moments in any other administration that would have garnered a mere page of mention in any historian's book. He also cites things like "normalization in the Middle East" as part of a peace process that still hasn't seen serious dividends for the region or the world, and in fact highlighted corrupt actions by trump and his family that in other respects should be viewed as scandals. None of it has pacified the nations still at war with each other, nor have they resolved the key dilemma of the fight between Israel and Palestine for a Palestinian homeland.

Frum also viewed trump's actions revising our immigration and asylum practices as effective reforms, without recognizing the chaos and cruelty those revisions actually created. That's not even going into the cruelty of the family separations he let happen on his watch, allowing ICE to become an out-of-control police force causing harm to our reputation and national soul.

The appeal of the Space Force that trump created - the forward-looking idea of creating a real-life Starfleet - is dimmed by the reality that trump expanded the military bureaucracy into a program that currently has little real-world applicability and will likely turn into a bloated money pit making the out-of-control spending of the Defense Department even worse. It doesn't help that the look and style of trump's Space Force have Trekkies mocking them for tone-deafness and/or tastelessness.

What Frum ignores during his "damned with faint praise" review of trump's administration are the overt acts of sabotage and damage to the federalism model of our nation's government, the weakening of our country's ability to respond to disasters - especially the ongoing nightmare of the COVID pandemic - and the absentee leadership that created a void for four years that can take a decade for this country to recover from.

If there is anything positive about donald trump's time in the Oval Office pretending to be our nation's President Loser of the Popular Vote, it is that trump exposed all the flaws and breaking points in our government's system of checks and balances.

trump broke every norm in the books. If not actual laws - such as the ones regarding Emoluments violations or the Hatch Act needed to separate the Presidential office from the politics of campaigning - then he broke the gestures of good will and unity that the Presidency is supposed to perform. trump exposed the reality that much of our government's ability to work relies a lot on Good Faith behavior between groups and factions, not necessarily bipartisanship but at least cooperation.

Without that Good Faith, a lot of what our government could do stopped happening. Even when trump had a receptive and willing Republican-controlled Congress, he would balk, he would whine, he would self-immolate, he would accuse and deny, he would refuse to set agendas, leaving the work to Congressional leaders who needed to coordinate with the Executive branch to stay on message and achieve their goals. Aside from the massive tax cut law trump signed, there wasn't any other major legislative act worth noting. The GOP attempt to nuke Obamacare for example kept running into either interference from trump or inertia without trump's input.

Nearly everything trump did - and did not do - in office highlighted areas where major reform is needed - there's a link to that CREW article released this month detailing where trump committed ethical breaches that need fixing - and would otherwise have gone unmentioned under any other President's administration. It takes a crook to show you where the security flaws exist in your bank. It takes a demolitions expert to point out where your bridge is most vulnerable.

It took a Shitgibbon to make us see how dangerous a terrible and corrupt con artist will be when given power.

This is what history will note. The judgment that trump deserves.

The worst crook who ever lived, serving as the worst President the United States ever saw.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Disaster Movie of the Year IS... The Year 2020

Just when you thought it was safe to dive into the Sharknadoes once more...

When you consider this was a year full of tragedy and trauma and MURDER HORNETS, it's the kind of year that would make any documentarian cream their shorts to make a dramatic 2-hour retrospective aboot. And yes, even before the year ends, someone's done that!

Annus Horribilis doesn't even begin to cover it. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

One Sentence Explanation Why Republicans Are Still Pandering to trump's Coup Attempts to Subvert the 2020 Elections (w/ Update)

It is not that Republicans really believe Democrats stole millions of ballots, and it is not that Republicans can PROVE Democrats stole millions of ballots: It is that Republicans have to demonstrate to each other their absolute fealty to the GRAND FAR RIGHT NARRATIVE that Democrats/Liberals are all evil Commies, and so the Republicans must top each other with a kind of escalating madness to prove their loyalty to the cause even at the expense of making fellow Republicans look bad, which has the added benefit of forcing those other Republicans into acquiescing to that madness to keep the rest of the Republican Party in that downward spiral of "No, *I* can be crazier than thou!"

And there is nothing - outside of the courts just collectively going "fuck it, Contempt of Court for every one of these bastards for wasting our time" - that can compel them to stop that downward spiral.

Okay, that's two sentences, but it all needs to be said even with this third sentence.

(Updated 12/31/20): This is adding to the blog entry, but I saw this on The Atlantic by Peter Wehner and thought of placing it on a separate blog article but then realized it fits here better: 

Hawley knows this effort will fail, just as every other effort to undo the results of the lawful presidential election will fail... Every single attempt to prove that the election was marked by fraud or that President-elect Biden’s win is illegitimate—an effort that now includes about 60 lawsuits—has flopped. In fact, what we’ve discovered since the November 3 election is that it was “the most secure in American history,” as election experts in Trump’s own administration have declared. But this immutable, eminently provable fact doesn’t deter Trump and many of his allies from trying to overturn the election; perversely, it seems to embolden them...

It is one thing for Hawley to position himself as a populist, something he had done even before he was elected in 2018; it is quite another for him to knowingly engage in civic vandalism and, in ostentatiously unpatriotic ways, undermine established norms and safeguards. This is precisely what Senator Hawley is now doing—and he is doing so in the aftermath of Trump’s loss, when some political observers might have hoped that the conspiracy mindset and general insanity of the Trump modus operandi would begin to lose their salience...

What is happening in the GOP is that figures such as Hawley, along with many of his Senate and House colleagues, and important Republican players, including the former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, are all trying to position themselves as the heirs of Trump. None of them possesses the same sociopathic qualities as Trump, and their efforts will be less impulsive and presumably less clownish, more calculated and probably less conspiracy-minded. It may be that not all of them support Hawley’s stunt; perhaps some are even embarrassed by it. But these figures are seismographers; they are determined to act in ways that win the approval of the Republican Party’s base. And this goes to the heart of the danger...

The problem with the Republican “establishment” and with elected officials such as Josh Hawley is not that they are crazy, or that they don’t know any better; it is that they are cowards, and that they are weak. They are far more ambitious than they are principled, and they are willing to damage American politics and society rather than be criticized by their own tribe...

The weakness is how they abandoned their duties as party leaders to actually lead: The people in charge are supposed to correct possible errors, guide others to enlightened paths, set examples, and make sure things are done right. That may sometimes require getting into the pit of madness, sorting out the troublemakers to prevent them from making things worse, and getting back up on that horse to charge into battle.

The modern Republican Party does not want to correct their lies because that would kill the Narrative they've built this failing structure upon. The GOP leadership would rather pander and succumb to the followers who've gotten addicted to the Fox Not-News lies that feed their rage and foolishness.

Like I keep saying about the Republicans, it's now trumps all the way down. And they're dragging the rest of the nation down with them.

Friday, December 25, 2020

What If: The Thing That Would Not Leave 2020 Edition

So trump has been making some noises that in spite of all the legal evidence he lost, he is refusing to leave the Oval Office... not just figuratively but literally.

Prompting many a joke about how "Sweet Jesus, make this Pay-Per-View so millions can watch him get dragged out of the building like a whiny bitch."

But it does beg the question: How would you actually DO it? We've never had a One-Term President Loser of the Popular Vote throw a conniption and barricade himself inside the White House before. (True story: I once did a college comic strip for the University of South Florida during the 1992 Election cycle, "Young Moderate Republicans" a very poor Doonesbury ripoff, and I drew half-jokingly that one-termer Bush the Elder grabbing a pillar of the White House portico crying "But I worked so HARD for this!" while Secret Service agents were dragging him out. It was meant in jest, and Bush the Elder did not act that way in Real Life, he attended Clinton's Inauguration as tradition warranted with the graceful exit the nation expected of him.) 

Digby did some digging to find out a few things (which she pulled up from The Daily Beast, but it's behind a paywall so bleh):

If there are any checklists or plans, procedures, or guidelines for the Secret Service to follow in the event of an autogolpe—a crisis in which a sitting president refuses to transfer power—a half-dozen former officials privy to the government’s most sensitive contingency plans aren’t aware of them.

None would speak for the record, owing to both the secrecy of the plans and to the sensitivity of the moment: They don’t want to encourage President Donald Trump to cross a line that authorities haven’t conceived of...

One is: Will there be a question about who the president really is? The other: What happens if, in a fit of pique, the former president simply will not vacate the seat of American government?...

The first question is easy to answer. After the certification of the Electoral College on Jan. 6, the White House Military Office will prepare a briefing for President-elect Joe Biden on the contents of the president’s emergency satchel, often known as “the football,” with a secure satellite phone and laminated nuclear-war option guide inside. They will accept, from the National Security Agency, a set of presidential authentication cards, known as biscuits, that will be active the moment Biden is sworn in...

This is pretty much the game there. Control of the nuclear arsenal is the power of the modern Presidency, and the military has in place procedures to ensure a smooth transition from one administration to the next. There may be a chance trump will try to order the DoD/Pentagon officials to delay that January 6th briefing and transfer of power, so it's a moment to stay alert, but it's unlikely the military will bend to trump's will here (The Joint Chiefs will know when an order from a sitting President is illegal enough to ignore, and trump's interference would be illegal as hell).

trump hasn't been able to prove a single argument by himself or his lackeys about the election being "stolen" from him. Every vote count has been certified by officials with the authority to do so, every certification accepted by the state legislatures, every Electoral College vote done by the letter of the law. Biden won: Only an outright refusal by a Republican-held Senate would disrupt the January 6 acceptance of the EC, but they don't have enough Senators willing to disrupt it (unless trump succeeds in bullying enough of them to do his bidding).

No matter what trump has done to break the federal system of government, much of that system remains intact and able to perform the tasks needed doing. The agencies - even the ones corrupted by trump's fellow crooks - will update their chains of command to reflect Biden being in charge and his advisors/Cabinet nominees as the people to report to. trump can barricade himself in the Oval Office on Inauguration Day January 20 2021 and pretend he has control, but the bureaucracy will no longer answer to him. That won't be the problem.

The problem will be Question Two from the Daily Beast: How do you fucking get the Toddler-In-Chief out of the building itself? Back to Digby's referral:

Former senior government agency heads and Secret Service detail leaders pushed to think through this scenario offered several plausible solutions. “I think I’d have a conversation with the chief of staff, and then the family, Ivanka and the other kids and say, ‘It’s going to be your job to make sure he’s gone,’” a former senior Secret Service official said.

Another possibility: “When the staff leaves on January 19, don’t let them back into the complex the next day. He can’t do anything without his staff.”

An isolated president, in other words, would be more susceptible to just throwing in the towel...

This is kind of correct. trump cannot survive without an audience around himself. The minute he can't bark at an underling to run an errand, he will flee from the scene and make his way to somewhere he can bark at underlings.

There are some possibilities that by January 6, when Congress accepts the Electoral College results, that trump will simply flee DC altogether, and make his way to Mar-A-Lago in Florida where he could rule in absentia doling out more corrupt pardons and issue more norms-breaking Executive Orders to complicate Biden's opening 100 days as President.

But trump is all about presentation and image. The White House and Oval Office are stages of power on the global stage. he may not want to leave it, flee from it as though he was admitting he lost. Letting Biden move in would be an incredible humiliation after all of trump's accusations and denials of reality. In the end, trump may think in terms of pro wrestling: the Heels must put on acts of public indecency to keep their fanbase appeased.

So one thing I'd worry about is this: Does trump still have a private bodyguard service protecting him alongside the official Secret Service?

I recall reading before that he did not want to give up his private retinue of bodyguards - after all, a lot of them know too much of the crap he's pulled over the years - so if there's still a handful of them working within the White House itself, this may be a means for how trump tries to seize the building...

  • For starters, January 18 is Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday two days before Inauguration Day (January 20, by law). trump could schedule a series of events that day to bring in religious leaders to mark the occasion.
  • At the last minute, the guests get switched out for 40-50 armed Proud Boys while trump's private bodyguard seize control of the Secret Service command center. During the confusion, the white supremacists bus in another 100 more armed agitators to help secure the outside barricades that trump had been adding all 2020 against the Black Lives Matter protests.
  • trump declares a national emergency from the Oval Office, with "proof" that China corrupted the "Deep State" into faking millions of ballots to steal the election for Biden. trump declares martial law, the suspension of Habeas Corpus (what Lincoln did at the start of the Civil War, but which got overturned by the Supreme Court as Congress has that power) and the Constitution itself, and orders the military to seize control of the five state capitals that "stole the election" (PA, MI, GA, AZ, WI). he calls on "All true Americans who love me and love what I've done for America" to overthrow any Democratically-held state office so that "new honest elections" can be held for Republicans to win.
  • The White House turns into seized territory by trump's personal army. Anyone caught inside who's not in on the plot are made into human shields.
  • Meanwhile at the Pentagon, trump's appointed lackeys - some of them put into offices after the November elections - begin disrupting the chain of command in the Defense Department, ordering lower-ranking officers to ignore or even arrest the Joint Chiefs that would openly oppose trump's orders (which would violate laws regulating the use of military force inside the states). They will attempt to get the US Armed Forces to side with trump even though it would violate their Oaths to the Constitution (loyalty is to America, not the Man). A certain number of officers who are politically biased may attempt to do so, but will likely get arrested as most of the military will stand down against trump's "extraconstitutional" violations.
  • Outside of the barricades, the rest of the government's response would most likely extend the safety barricades around the White House to ensure no further incursions, also to keep any anti-trump protesters out of range of the extremists' weapons. Everything in a five-block radius is going to turn into an armed battleground.
  • The media will play along with the drama, as usual, with the Beltway Media underplaying the dangers of trump's coup and the Far Right media egging it on to the point of encouraging armed protests by other Far Right groups in the contested battleground states. Gunfights and attempted building seizures may happen, but most of them will end badly for the outgunned or underplanned wingnuts. The worst that will happen is a lot of innocent civilians will die the crossfire.
  • However, none of that is going to change the handover of the Presidency to Biden, who goes through with his Inauguration ceremony - most likely inside the Capitol dome for security reasons - and who cancels any celebrations afterward because of security needs in the DC metro.
  • The whole thing turns into a waiting game, with trump typing out more insane Tweets every hour while Biden gets his administration in order. Any disruptions from Republican Congresscritters will try to paint Biden as illegitimate or an usurper, but little of that will change things in the real world. All that would matter would be the safety of the hostages, and the mental state of some of the Proud Boys gun-toters in trump's employ who are going to turn angry at the realization the game isn't playing the way they thought it would. In-fighting may kick in, probably within five days or more, especially if any of the gun-nuts or even some of the hostages show signs of COVID symptoms.
  • trump's display of bravado will end up doing nothing for him. Control of the military will resume to the Joint Chiefs, who will answer to President Biden - most likely working from Camp David during this standoff - and who will clean out the trumpian coup plotters in short order. trump will barter with the FBI and local officials to allow him and his immediate family to leave the White House under their own security for the nearest business airport where they would fly unmolested to Mar-a-Lago and await further lawsuits (or likely flee the country altogether). Some of the Proud Boys may dig in and try to burn down or blow up the White House, and kill some of the hostages doing so, but odds are most of them will surrender to the cops and take their chances with all-white juries acquitting them for being violent jerks.

It might provide a few weeks of international drama, which is what trump would want... but it's not going to change anything.

trump is getting dragged out of the White House. And no matter how many corrupt pardons he's flinging out there, he's still facing state charges of fraud and other criminal misdeeds.

You're better off running, donald. Depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Settling All trump's Business

As mentioned before, we're at the point where if trump is going to pay back his lackeys for their criminal misdeeds done in his name, the last 30 days before he gets dragged - literally by the sounds of it - out of the White House is when he's going to do so. Using the one tool in the Presidential arsenal he can deploy with no limit (he thinks, the law might disagree on some of them) or punishment: Pardoning his crooked buddies.

It makes a twisted kind of sense for trump to do all these near Christmas time, as though he was offering out gifts of mercy and justice. Except that he's not: He's handing out gifts to his grifters and even to war criminals. As Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo points out: 

What Trump has found time for is granting pardons and commutations to, among others, four Blackwater mercenaries who massacred civilians, three corrupt former Republican congressmen, and two former Border Patrol agents who shot fleeing suspects. Among the 26 partridges and pear trees in Wednesday’s tally are longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Charles Kushner, father to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared.

Foreign agent and former sometime national security adviser Mike Flynn got a pardon. So did “coffee boy” George Papadopoulos, and more...

The ones in trump's orbit were the obvious ones, not just the lackeys who helped him cheat in 2016 with Russia's help but also the inner circle members who had family members, personal allies, or employees that needed a favor done.

The pardon to Charlie Kushner was a long-delayed payoff to trump's most loyal - and most incompetent - underling Jared. When you see what Kushner had been convicted of - massive acts of fraud, tax evasion, witness intimidation, and campaign fraud - you'll notice Charlie and donnie are pretty much brothers-in-crime cut from the same cloth. It's not surprising trump pardoned Kushner Senior: Not just because he's family by marriage, but because trump would think Kushner did nothing wrong since he does those things himself.

The Blackwater mercs seem to be a payoff to Erik Prince, one of trump's closest political and financial allies, but it also fits into trump's world-view that violence and cruelty towards others is perfectly acceptable. Those four war criminals had opened fire on an Iraqi public square at unarmed civilians back in 2007 and killed 17 people, it had taken years by 2014 for justice to be served, and now with a stroke of his pen trump undid all that. Without caring how this would look not only to Iraqis now betrayed by trump's callousness, but to a world that can no longer look to the United States as a beacon of justice.

It's not just the killers whom trump pardoned that underscores that cruelty:

Among the lower-profile pardons: one for Stephanie Mohr, a former Maryland police officer. Mohr was convicted for setting her K-9 partner on an unarmed homeless man who had surrendered to police during a burglary stakeout. Ricardo G. Mendez, a Mexican national, was not a suspect. He and another man had been sleeping on the roof of a printing shop in Takoma Park. She served ten years for a felony civil rights felony. The dog “bit a chunk out of the man’s leg.”

There wasn't a huge outcry for leniency towards Mohr, it's not like there was a constant drum-beat on even the Far Right media outlets defending her case. Yet trump found out about her and her act of cruelty somehow fit trump's ideal of how law enforcement should be encouraged to behave. Horrifying doesn't begin to describe the result this pardon deserves. Back to Sullivan:

The New York Times Editorial Board believes Trump “has made a mockery of mercy, doling out clemency to some of the most deplorable people in the country, an alarming number of whom happen to be his friends, while ignoring tens of thousands of more deserving applicants.” Trump has pardoned “a rogues’ gallery of wrongdoers who shouldn’t have been on anyone’s mercy list.”

But of course he would. Immediate family members are next, we suspect...

trump may be publicly claiming he's "won a second term" but he's governing this month like he's running out of time. That he'll offer pardons to his own kids and in-laws - who are currently under investigation and likely facing future criminal charges once they're out of power - even without specifying what they're needing pardons for will underscore the truth that everything trump and his people have done the past four years was run a criminal regime. Of course, trump and his children are too shameless to admit that.

The scary/funny thing is the likelihood trump will pardon himself. The one line that's NEVER been crossed even when the temptations were there for previous amoral/immoral Presidents facing their own fates (Nixon seriously considered it, but even he stepped back... and got Ford to do it instead). It's a line no ethical person ever conceived would be crossed: Taft, the only man to ever be President as well as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, never imagined the pardon power would be abused this way, and so granted that power a lot of leeway in its use.

But this is where power corrupts: When power is used for personal gain and avoidance of accountability.

And trump is going to do it. Everything points to him pardoning himself before he gets dragged out of the Oval Office. There is no norm of political protocol he won't break, there is no line he won't cross if it meant saving his own ass.

It will be the ultimate legal test of our Constitution, the limits of power itself when it is bent so far it becomes broken. It would be unlikely trump can pull it off: Most legal experts argue the concept of pardoning prevents it from being self-serving.

But trump has defied political and legal logic before. It is terrifying to think if trump gets away with this final act of firebombing our political reality.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

As 2020 Draws to A Close, We Contemplate Our Year of Madness

Just needed to wrap up this year as drunkenly as possible:

By the way, Julie from 2020, there's still 10 days left before the year officially ends. ANYTHING could happen in those days, this year should have taught us that for God's sake. (I should blog about that monolith thingee as a year's end wrap-up)

As for getting drunk, you might recall I tried doing that with hard cider a few years ago. I did not enjoy the taste of it, and had stayed sober since. This year brought back that urge to get drunk because DAMMIT WE ALL NEEDED TO AFTER THIS 2020 so I considered the possibility the cider I had gotten was too spicy with cinnamon. So I went and got a standard cider, no extra flavoring, just straight from the bottle...

And I still hated the taste of it. Ugh. I couldn't finish it, poured it down the kitchen sink. I got five bottles of it now sitting in my fridge looking for a new home. I'm sure someone can quarantine the bottles for 5-14 days before finishing them off, if anyone's interested... 

This trumpian Winter of Discontent

(Update: Thanks again to Batocchio for sharing this blog on Crooks&Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up! Io Saturnalia to you all, and stay safe for 2021!)

In this past week or so - after the Electoral College performed its duty and officially confirmed Joe Biden as our next President and Kamala Harris our next Vice President this January 2021 - I felt the need to apologize in some way. I was looking back at all the things I'd been blogging since before Election Day, taking note of all the times I was raising alarm at some of the more unsettling and violent things donald trump and his fervent Far Right voting base were plotting to do. 

I looked at some of the stuff I was posting and I'd come to a shameful understanding that I seemed to be fearmongering much in the way the wingnuts had been fearmongering about Dems and Progressives. I'd kept posting stuff like "Oh SHIT they're arming and marching stay alert America" at every trumpian outburst, and it didn't look good. I mean, fear is a rational response to an irrational situation, but I might have been overdoing it.

According to a court document describing probable cause for the charge, Aguirre told police shortly after the Oct. 19 incident, that he was part of a group of private citizens called, “Liberty Center,” who were conducting a civilian investigation into the alleged ballot scheme.

According to Aguirre, he had been conducting surveillance on the victim for four days under a theory the victim was the mastermind of a giant fraud, and there were 750,000 fraudulent ballots in a truck he was driving. Instead, the victim turned out to be an innocent and ordinary air conditioner repairman.

Aguirre ran his SUV into the back of the truck to get the technician to stop and get out, according to the document. When the technician got out of the truck, Aguirre, pointed a handgun at the technician, forced him to the ground and put his knee on the man’s back – an image captured on the body-worn camera of a police officer.

Aguirre directed police to a parking lot nearby where another suspect, who has not been identified, took the truck. There were no ballots in the truck. It was filled with air conditioning parts and tools.

Aguirre never told police that he had been paid a total of $266,400 by the Houston-based Liberty Center for God and Country, with $211,400 of that amount being deposited into his account the day after the incident...

It's that last paragraph where I think the media is burying the lede. Aguirre was on a payroll for this obscure but obviously well-funded organization focused on proving voter fraud that no one has been able to prove. This ex-cop was getting paid a handsome sum - few people are paid six-figure wages like that! - to prove a lie. Results were expected for that kind of money, you'd think. There's a saying from Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” There should be a related saying to that: "When a man is getting paid to prove a lie, expect that man to commit crimes to make that lie come true."

There are hundreds of political operatives and consultants - there is an army of trump lawyers charging back and forth across every courthouse - trying to force trump's lie of a "stolen election" to come true. There's millions of dollars floating out there paying every single one of them to subvert any morality and commit any sin, just to gain a foothold somewhere to keep trump happy.

But the courtrooms - despite all the partisan hackery that trump and Mitch have pushed through the Senate to fill those benches - are crucibles, in them we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product: The Truth, for all time. (Yes I am quoting Picard, actually the screenwriter is Melinda Snodgrass). trump's lies about voter fraud can find no safe haven in the legal system, and so any legitimate excuse for trump to seize and remain in power cannot exist.

It doesn't mean trump won't stop trying. Which is why this past Friday when word got out about trump plotting with some of his crazier allies about seizing the ballot machines and declaring martial law, it should have activated every DEFCON-1 warning among Americans that shit is getting real:

If we can go to Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine for more details:

At the White House on Friday, President Trump held what may have been his most deranged meeting yet. In it, the president raged at his loyalists for betraying him, and discussed taking extralegal measures to overturn the election.

The meeting, first reported by the New York Times, included lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, convicted felon Michael Flynn, and Rudy Giuliani. One plan floated at the meeting was for Trump to appoint Powell as a “special counsel” overseeing allegations of voter fraud. Powell’s voter fraud claims are so fantastical she has been mocked even by other far-right legal conspiracy theorists. Andrew McCarthy, a former birther and author of one book titled How Obama Embraces Islam’s Sharia Agenda and another calling for his impeachment on multiple counts, has described Powell’s vote-fraud claims as “loopy.”

Trump also reportedly brought up Flynn’s proposal, which he has expounded on cable news, to impose martial law and direct the military to hold a new election. “At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea,” reports the Times...

There is no reason to believe Trump commands the power to actually implement any of these wild ideas. Trump’s best chance to steal the election was to have the decisive voting margin in the Electoral College determined by the counting of mail-in ballots that were mailed before, but arrived after Election Day. This would have let him either persuade the Republican-controlled Supreme Court to invalidate those decisive ballots, or Republican-controlled state legislators to disregard their state’s voting results and appoint pro-Trump electors to represent their state...

They tried to force "competing Electors" last week in publicly-staged counter-votes during the Electoral College's actual count, as though these fake results could be presented in Congress to force a negation of the real thing. Problem is, there's no guarantee that Congress will overturn the voters and put trump back in office. At best it would still evict trump and Pence from office on January 20 and make Pelosi (as Speaker) promoted to the Presidency due to the succession rules of the 25th Amendment.

None of this is stopping trump or the Republicans from arguing that Biden is an "illegitimate" winner, although by all measures - legal voting results, no evidence of mass fraud, a verified Electoral College - Biden is indeed our President-Elect set to swear into office exactly one month from now.

None of this is going to stop trump and his cohorts - his rabid fanbase, the wingnuts paying themselves to perpetuate their own lies, the greedy and corrupt - from pursuing even more outlandish and likely violent reactions to the basic norms of political reality. The legal filings are going to get worse and the Freudian slips marginally funnier ("Plenty of perjury"? Don't they have these legal forms on a bloody template by now? Where's the damn Spell-Check on WordPerfect?!)
I am not apologizing one bit for fearmongering about trump's efforts to start up his coup and break the Constitution.

I am not going to relax until January 20th rolls around and the Secret Service drags him out of the White House by his feet.

Anything can happen in the next 30 days. Stay alert and stay safe. AND GODDAMMIT WEAR THE DAMN MASKS, COVID IS GETTING WORSE. /muttergrumble

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Io Saturnalia for 2020, And Not a Moment Too Soon

Tonight is December 17 and the official start to Saturnalia, as always an excuse to ask Mithras for presents and avoid the Krampus like the plague. Or have I gotten holiday traditions mixed up again?

Anywho, for a brief moment I would like to thank the planet Saturn for agreeing to meet with Jupiter to form a Great Conjunction in the night sky for December 21, here's hoping it doesn't cause any prophesied dooms on Earth, 'cause you know how the fake preachers around here like to grift their flocks whenever freaky sky stuff happens.

And if I can pass along to the Gift-Givers of the Solstice, I'm personally okay this year so I would instead ask the Powers That Be to make sure every trump-worshiping asshole refusing to wear masks in public all catch COVID-19 like they deserve and to keep every honest decent American wearing masks and trying to survive these last two months of trumpian bullshit safe from the pandemic. Gratias vobis ago.

And with that, a Saturnalia YouTube is in order!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

So I Own a Copy of the Repo Man Soundtrack, I Play the Coup D'Etat Song A Lot

The government gets overthrown/
A sudden force, a major blow/
Over out, the new comes in

Coup d'état/
Give me a bomb/
A molotov/
It's a coup d'état!

- "Coup D'Etat," The Circle Jerks

Okay, technically what trump is trying to do with all of these lawsuits, all these attempts to nullify millions of votes in only the battleground states he lost, it's what's called an "autogolpe" for a self-coup when the current leader in power tries to overthrow the rest of government from within. But everyone understands what a coup d'etat is, so it's easier to call it a coup attempt.

Okay, not to scare anybody but Monday December 14 is when the Electoral College officially gathers to cast their votes to officially choose the next President of the United States starting January 2021. Once that happens, trump can whine all he wants about "fake voters" and "stolen election" but Biden becomes President. The only thing stopping that from happening is if enough of the 306 Electoral pledged to Biden turns Faithless, and votes for trump to get him past the 270 votes needed. There's still a chance - Gods help us - there's Electors who would turn against their own candidate of their own free will (so watch out for bribes, and YES "Saturday Night Live" did a skit of that back in 2016 about stopping trump), however most states have rules in effect to discourage that sort of flipping.

Okay, I did say "The only thing stopping that from happening," what I meant to say was "The only LEGAL thing stopping that from happening." We're talking about trump here, we're talking about a Republican Party abetting his attempts to break the democratic process of elections. We are facing the possibility that trump will try something ILLEGAL to avoid the official counting of his greatest loss.

Okay, there's good news that the Supreme Court tossed out Texas' blatantly unconstitutional attempt to nullify votes cast in other states, something the court decision noted "Texas had no legal standing" to do, with every Justice saying a big NO including the three Far Right Justices trump put on that bench (even with Alito and Thomas kind of saying they would have allowed the hearing because they ALWAYS want to hear a case conflict between states for the sake of posterity, but even then those two sided with the others noting Texas had no standing anyway). That pretty much means trump has no legal recourse left to nullify 81 million votes and steal a second term for himself.

Okay, I still point out "no legal recourse" for trump, because there's still an illegal recourse left to him.

Okay, I'm talking straight-up coup d'etat.

Calling up the National Guard to seize control of major cities, getting his Proud Boy Neo-Nazi Klansmen militias to set fire to the streets, anything like that.

Something he could do Monday morning is go to the cameras, announce that he has "absolute proof of massive voter fraud," and even without showing one whit of that proof proclaim a national emergency to prevent the College from gathering at all. He could then arrest the Electors, and/or the Democratic leadership from Biden and Harris on down to Pelosi and Schumer and some of the Governors he doesn't like (especially Whitmer in Michigan), trump might even try to arrest the Republican Governors like Georgia's Kemp who refused to break their own state laws to steal the election for trump.

Okay, if trump tries ANY of that, it's going to be probably the most chaotic Monday since (checks notes) December 17 1860 when South Carolina's secession conference voted unanimously to quit the Union.

Okay, tomorrow is going to be a pretty stressful day.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Damn You 2020 (The Hero Gotham Needed)

I found out this morning that Tom "Tiny" Lister passed away likely from COVID-19 complications.


If you watched movies since the 1980s, you can't miss him. He's the tall scary-looking black guy with unexpected gravitas (via William Hughes at AVClub):

Tom “Tiny” Lister Jr. has died. Although he gained some acclaim from a short-lived wrestling career in the WWF in the early 1990s, Lister was best known as an actor, contributing his unforgettable physical presence to literally hundreds of TV shows and movies across a 30-plus-year career. As the villainous Deebo in the Friday films, the no-nonsense president in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, and a nameless, noble prisoner in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Lister intimidated, elevated, and impressed in equal parts. Per Variety, he died today after reportedly displaying symptoms of COVID-19. Lister was 62...

And in the meantime, well: Lister worked. His 200-plus-role resumé is a laundry list of small roles made much harder to forget by the man performing them: A Klingon in Star Trek: Enterprise here, a brief turn on Nash Bridges there, a major role as one of the demonic brothers in Little Nicky over there. (His political role as “Galactic President” in The Fifth Element might not be entirely clear, but the gravitas he brought to the part certainly was.) And that’s the point: It’s not that Lister was big, or that he had an intriguing face. (He was born with a detached retina in his right eye, giving his gaze a distinctive mien.) It’s that he was able to project certainty in a way few other actors could, and practically never with so few words...

All of which brings us to The Dark Knight, and one of the most memorable (if small) roles in Christopher Nolan’s entire superhero trilogy. As the prisoner who rejects the Joker’s attempt to turn a ferry full of Gotham City inmates into one of his sick social experiments, Lister’s character—identified only as “Tattooed Prisoner”—stands right at the heart of Nolan’s film. Intentionally invoking the “scary black man” tropes that unfortunately defined what could and should have been a far more varied career, Lister projects calm—even a bit of seduction—into the request for the prison officials to hand over the deadly remote. And then the real performance comes through just as powerfully, as he calmly chucks the device through the window, weary contempt visible on his face. It’s a small performance, a blip in a movie that stretches to sometimes histrionic heights. But like the man giving it, it was also deceptively huge...

That last bit has to be put in context. Throughout the movie, the Joker had been playing a game of Sadistic Choice, forcing his victims to make decisions they normally would not commit - often with a gun or bomb threatening their lives - to prove the Joker's point that humans are bastards willing to turn on each other once the mask of civilization falls away.

I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know... You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go "according to plan." Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all "part of the plan". But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

It culminates in a point where the Joker has threatened the entire city of Gotham itself, forcing residents to flee on ferries on which the Joker's mooks had hidden bombs on two of them. Because the police under Gordon's (battlefield promotion) authority as Police Commissioner was worried Joker's plan would involve breaking out criminals to unleash chaos on the city, one of the ferries was commandeered to transit the worst of the worst. The second ferry was filled with scared civilians ranging in income, ethnicity, gender, and age (families are prominently shown).

The Joker stalls the ferries in the middle of Gotham Harbor, and issues his next "joke" (his ultimate step to prove himself right about the darkness in people): The detonator for each ferry's bombs are on the other boat. One ship has to turn the key on their detonator to blow up the other ship by midnight, otherwise the Joker detonates both ships. If the ferry filled with prisoners overwhelm the guards to seize their switch, they blow up innocent lives. If the ferry filled with families are terrified enough that the other ferry will jump first, they blow up criminals but must live with the guilt that they themselves became killers. Either way, the Joker wins.

The civilian ferry goes through the process of rationalizing their guilt by going through a quick vote on whether to do what the Joker wants. While the majority vote is clearly in favor of saving their own lives, nobody at first is willing to do it. Even the ferry captain holding the detonator is openly pondering "we're still here, the other boat hasn't done it yet" implying hope that he won't have to do the deed.

Meanwhile on the prisoner ferry, the prisoners are rioting but held at bay by the guards while the warden trembles holding the detonator. When it seems like the prisoners will risk getting shot to get at the switch, the scariest-looking of them (Lister) stands up and approaches the warden. Not even the guards aim at him, terrified at his approach.

You don't want to die, but you don't know how to take a life. Give it to me. These men would kill you, and take it anyway. Give it to me. You can tell 'em I took it by force. Give it to me, and I'll do what you shoulda did ten minutes ago.

When I heard him say that in the theater first time I saw the movie, I sat upright and nodded. I understood exactly what Lister's character was going to do...

Meanwhile back on the civilian ferry, a frustrated businessman stands up and declares he's willing to make the hard decision nobody else on the boat wants to make. This is a clear contrast to the black criminal who just made a moral decision to spare the civilian ferry. The businessman makes a lot of bluster about doing it, but with the detonator in his own hands he finds he can't cross that line himself, and quietly puts the switch back in its box.

The Joker, watching all of this from a nearby skyscraper, was eagerly waiting with a captive Batman to see the fireworks. He was genuinely convinced both ships would be blowing the other up by the midnight deadline. The laughing grin fading into confused disappointment is one of the great moments in an already great movie. The Joker was finally confronted by two things he could not comprehend: That innocent civilians had hope that the worst would not happen; and that hardened prisoners can have moral compasses seeking atonement.

In that moment, Lister's unnamed prisoner - moreso than the businessman character - was the moral hero Gotham needed.

It may be a small scene, just mere minutes in an epic film, but Mr. Lister's understated, important performance in a key scene in a movie that will be watched and praised forever will echo through the ages. 

RIP Mr. Lister sir.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Rush Limbaugh Wants His Bloody War

The man wants blood spilled in his honor before he shuffles off this mortal coil. Via Media Matters:

I thought you were asking me something else when you said, “Can we win?” I thought you meant, “Can we win the culture, can we dominate the culture.” I actually think -- and I’ve referenced this, I’ve alluded to this a couple of times because I’ve seen others allude to this -- I actually think that we’re trending toward secession. I see more and more people asking what in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York? What is there that makes us believe that there is enough of us there to even have a chance at winning New York? Especially if you’re talking about votes.

I see a lot of bloggers -- I can’t think of names right now -- a lot of bloggers have written extensively about how distant and separated and how much more separated our culture is becoming politically and that it can’t go on this way. There cannot be a peaceful coexistence of two completely different theories of life, theories of government, theories of how we manage our affairs. We can’t be in this dire a conflict without something giving somewhere along the way...

Limbaugh has actually been saying this for years. He's talked up the divisions between Republicans and Democrats as part of his Culture War Narrative, drumming into his listeners and from there into every elected Republican that there can be no peace between the opposing viewpoints directing the American way of life.

We've seen the effects of Limbaugh's shtick since the 1990s: a gradual and then grave polarization between the various populations that make up the United States. White vs. Ethnic. Men vs. Women. Old vs. Young. Urban cities vs. Rural towns. College educated vs. Non-college. With little room for compromise on the divisive issues and a refusal by Limbaugh's side to make honest effort to do so.

The United States has been in this moment of division before. Not just the obvious stuff that stick out in our high school textbooks - the fight over slavery and its spread from the 1830s up to the Civil War itself, and the bloody countering to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s-1960s - but other moments that get glossed over like the strife regarding the New Deal in the 1930s (there was a surprising amount of seditious behavior by conservatives back then).

The brokenness of the nation got repaired - not always cleanly, oft-times papered over until the cracks pulled further apart - during such tumultuous moments because of varying reasons. The fighting over the New Deal ended when the external pressure of World War II emerged. The struggles of the Civil Rights era ended in positive gains for minorities and women thanks to the Cold War forcing the U.S. to improve its global image as a beacon of freedom and democracy.

The one time the division couldn't get fixed - the Civil War - was the bloodiest moment in our nation's existence, and in many ways the damage from that era continued to rot away at our collective soul. What made that division easy to understand was the simple geographic way the fight was set up: A clear separation between Northern and Midwest Free States against Southern Slave States that refused to accept a fair election in 1860 and openly seceded. Granted, the split wasn't clean: There remained in the North a sizable pro-slavery opposition in Democrat Copperheads, and the South was riddled with pro-Union (not all anti-slavery though) regions/counties that hampered the Home Front efforts throughout the war (South Carolina was the only Confederate State that did not have any home-raised Union troops fight for the North).

In our current troubles - this second Civil War our nation sees itself racing towards - there is a similar split between sides: Far Right Conservative Republicans vs. Far Left-to-Centrist Progressive-Liberal Democrats. Thanks to the likes of Limbaugh - and Fox Not-News, and Mitch McConnell, and the Tea Party extremists, and thousands of other Far Right influencers - the split is as deep as the divide we suffered back in 1860.

The horrifying thing is, there is no way a separation between the massive demographics of the United States will be an amicable, friendly parting of the ways. No matter how Rush and other proponents of a permanent separation sells it to America, we are looking at a fight brewing.

A lot of it has to do with the demographic divide: It is not cleanly geographic this time. While Blue States and Red States clearly exist - with battleground Purple-ish States scattered across the regions - there are pockets of resistance within each state. The cultural, economic, and political divides are clearly urban (with suburban areas shifting that way) versus rural (with exurb enclaves)

If a split does occur, if the United States divides between Red and Blue, the split will not be even. Blue states that are dominated by one or more super-metropolis will cope in their own way with their outlying conservative (and less-populated) rural counties and most likely continue on. The Red states however - blinded by their gerrymandering that negated the political might of their cities - will run into the reality that their major population centers will not be thrilled about the secession and openly oppose their conservative state leadership. States like Texas and Florida will find out that pissing off the liberal voters of Houston, San Antonio, Tampa, Orlando, and the tri-county South Florida is not a good idea. Economic turmoil in some form - most likely from a "brain drain" of middle and upper-income residents fleeing for Blue states - is unavoidable. That turmoil can lead to conflict.

One thing liberals love to point out is how the Left-leaning Blue states are paying in taxes towards keeping Red states budgets afloat. If the Red states believe they can afford to secede, they are going to find it hard to live without the revenues that would flow in from California and New York. The largest economic-powered Red states - Texas and Florida - are going to be taxed (pun intended) keeping the likes of Mississippi and Kentucky solvent. It costs money - not to mention avoiding pitfalls like hyperinflation - to start a new nation in ANY age. Under such conditions, the stress of nation-building can give way to calls for war (as the ultimate distraction from the woes at home).

The fight is inevitable also because one side - the Far Right extremists - are eager to make it that way. Much in the same way the pro-slavery forces in 1860 believed they could easily win in a fight against the "softer" abolitionist/Union side, the modern Far Right are mentally pumped up by imagining themselves as patriotic gun-toting Rambos in their fantasy-film daydreams.

Look to the Far Right wingnut behavior in Oregon back in 2016. Look to the militia gun-nuts in Michigan who plotted to kidnap/kill Michigan's governor. Keep up with years' worth of research into the extremist militia mindset. Read up the fantasies of these guys who think they can raid against and engage in battle with actual U.S. troops in a straight-up fight. These guys (it's mostly men, although a number of women are part of the craziness as well) picture themselves well-trained weapons of war who'll get their own Michael Bay bio-epic made about them five years from now.

They want a civil war because their cynical, violent world-view demands it. They believe they can whip out their murder-sticks and going hunting on libruls and no one will push back. And then on the bones of their enemies they can build their Utopia.

The scary thing isn't that they'll win. They can't. Their own numbers are in the thousands not millions, as many Republican voters won't cross that line into violence. If they think a conservative-leaning U.S. military will side with them, they'll be wrong (the military will uphold and abide by the Constitution, which means they'll side with the lawfully-elected Democrat Biden), and they will find themselves outgunned and outclassed in every way. Also, these gun-nuts turn on each other as much as they hate on liberals, any nation they'll build will fall apart faster than a libertarian community incapable of fighting off bears.

The scary thing is how they can cause enough damage and death within an hour with the weapons they currently have - hello, AR-15s modified to shoot entire schools - on any unarmed public anywhere. The militia wingnuts may talk about taking on an army, but like every terrorist group on the planet they'll likely hit the softest safest targets - shopping malls, parks, neighborhoods - within driving distance. All it will take is just one trumpshirt wingnut per city ruining everyone's day.

All it will take is just one bloodied street in America in the name of Far Right extremism against the Democrats, and Rush Limbaugh will have his blood before his cancer claims him.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Republican Madness Spiraling Into Open War On America

We all knew trump would never admit he lost. We knew trump would rail and rant about everybody else treating him unfairly, that he would claim he won despite all the numbers against him, that he would never concede.

What we didn't know was how deep into that denial and madness the rest of the Republican Party would follow. It turns out, they're willing to violate all the norms, all the laws, all the rights of all Americans just to score cheap political points and worst of all to tear the nation asunder. This latest lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General - and signed off with 17 other state Attorneys General, including the partisan hacks here in Florida - is the most blatant attack on America by the Republicans to date (per Mark Stern at Slate): 

This case, Texas v. Pennsylvania, is so ridiculous that it is not worth exploring its legal claims in any depth. Paxton’s suit asks the Supreme Court to throw out every vote in four states won by Joe Biden—Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—then direct each state’s legislature to declare Trump the winner. This act would constitute the single biggest incident of voter nullification in American history. Paxton alleges that all four states illegally expanded mail voting, permitted egregious fraud, then concealed evidence that Democrats stole the election. There is no basis in truth for his factual claims and no basis in law for his legal theories. Indeed, it seems likely that Paxton, who is reportedly under FBI investigation for corruption, is more interested in obtaining a preemptive pardon from Trump than presenting a coherent legal argument.

What’s not as clear is why 17 state attorneys general, all Republican, decided to join Paxton’s humiliating crusade. Their brief, spearheaded by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, parrots Paxton’s false assertions about widespread fraud, urging SCOTUS to take up the case. They accuse the four defendant states of repeatedly violating the Constitution by allowing more people to vote by mail during the pandemic. And they claim that, by allowing voters to cure faulty absentee ballots, the states violated the equal protection clause. To remedy this alleged problem, they suggest, the Supreme Court must wipe out every vote cast in all four states, clearing the way for each state legislature to assign their electors to Trump.

The argument to nullify every vote cast in ONLY these states is selective bias on the part of the Republicans: They could easily accuse every Blue State of these charges and nullify theirs as well. They just want enough of the states to flip - or equally not submit Electoral Votes at all to force the results into the House where the Republicans hold a states delegation edge - so they can get their win and never worry about actually proving any of their false claims about fake voters. They want to appease trump's Id at all costs.

We are officially at the point where the Republican AGs are no longer interested in just suppressing the votes in their own states, they are desperate enough to suppress the votes in states they can't control.

Back to Stern:

How did we get here? To start, at least 13 of the 17 attorneys general on the motion are affiliated with the Federalist Society, a powerful and lavishly funded network of conservative attorneys. The Federalist Society has achieved unprecedented success under Trump: He has nominated its members to serve as judges, political appointees, and, of course, his own personal lawyers. A huge portion of election-related litigation over the last few months has been driven by Federalist Society members eager to toss out as many Democratic ballots as possible. All the while, the conservative legal movement has insisted that it is dangerous and unacceptable for anyone to criticize any attorney who chooses to support Trump in court...

Wednesday’s motion is a logical extension of this theory. The attorneys general who signed it are in the mainstream of the conservative legal movement. They are not lunatics. They have simply been given permission by their colleagues to do anything to help Trump retain the presidency. Asking the nation’s highest court to steal an election for Trump is not off limits because nothing is off limits. These attorneys general seem to think their states’ citizenry demands intervention on Trump’s behalf—mass voter suppression included. We can safely assume that these lawyers will continue to fight for the law of Trumpism long after Jan. 20. Remarkably, most of the states siding with Trump are members of the former Confederacy. We may soon experience a kind of cold Civil War, in which the Republican leaders of former Confederate states attempt to sabotage democracy in order to install a new GOP president in 2024. (On Wednesday, “Civil War” trended on Twitter and Rush Limbaugh advocated for secession on his radio program.)

If you follow Adam Silverman at Balloon-Juice, you'll note he's claimed we've been in this Cold Civil War for decades now. What we're at now is the 2020 equivalent of 1860, where the sides are forming up and the partisan demagogues on the wingnut side - the racist slaveowners then, the racist immigrant bashers today - are fomenting enough rage to make the war go hot.

So why even wait for 2024? trump is unwilling to leave office now and he's making damn sure the Republican Party that has sworn fealty to him is ramping up the likelihood of a political split of state against state.

In short, these Republican Attorneys General want open civil war, and they want it now. They want to finally seize the power of defining who gets to be an American citizen (anyone White and Male and Conservative) or not (anyone Black, Female, Young and Liberal). They want to roll back every legal right to vote to how things were in 1850 (before Blacks and Latinos could vote, before Women could vote, before 18-year-olds could vote). They want to certify that the courts - shaped by trump and Mitch McConnell's court-packing the past four years - will make their efforts to retain Minority Rule (and to punish everyone else for voting against them) are as legal as possible.

And while the Supreme Court may well dismiss this effort - it's a last-minute attempt to get a legal argument before SCOTUS before the Electoral College votes this Monday December 14 - we can't ignore the possibility that the majority conservative bench will answer to their Federalist Society overlords and give trump the excuse he needs to steal the election himself.

We can't ignore the damage this fight has already done. A solid majority of Republican voters openly buy trump's conspiracy lie that the Democrats stole the election from him, even with the reality that every court case arguing that lie failed to work. We are at the point where almost half the nation believes Biden is illegitimate all because a goddamned con artist told them so.

We can't convince those people otherwise. The Far Right voting base exists in its own wonderful Narrative bubble forged over the decades into believing Democrats are Un-American Monsters. Nothing - not the facts, not the courts requiring actual evidence of fraud and not finding one whiff of it, not their own family members and former friends who know they voted Biden - will shake them of that belief.

It's the kind of madness that festered in this country with the Sovereign Citizen movement, a cult-like effort to ignore existing laws to uphold their own "common" laws (which usually meant the Sovereign people get to do whatever the hell they wanted, seizing property under false liens for example, while everyone paid their costs). Only now it's a trump-led cult of MAGA truthers numbering in the millions, convinced that they alone are the true patriots and that everyone else is "antifa" and deserving of attack.

Even if this lawsuit fails, even if the Electoral College plays its role and elects Biden and Harris into office as President and Veep, this isn't going to end. This will continue to spiral downward into deeper madness until things are literally on fire due to trump's cruel whims and his fanbase's eager rage.

And by the way, while all of this is happening, the COVID-19 pandemic is still spiking upwards into millions of infected and with over 3,000 people dying within a day now. The pandemic is more lethal in a day than 9/11 was, and our Republican leaders from trump down to his toadying GOP Governors are failing to curb this disaster.

This is not going well, this will not end at all well.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

I Read The News Today Oh Boy: 40 Years Later

I read the news today
oh, boy
About a lucky man
who made the grade...

- "A Day In the Life" The Beatles

I was a wee lad of ten years in 1980, one of those groundbreaking years where a lot of crazy things happened. We had Soviets in Afghanistan, hostages in Tehran, a Presidential election that was about to shift the political landscape ever after, we found out who Luke's father was, a college-level team of amateurs upset the best team in Olympics ice hockey.

My family had recently moved to Florida, so we paid attention to things like the Mariel boatlift turning Miami crazy, we had the Skyway Bridge disaster in the Tampa Bay area, and Disney World suing a lot of local day care centers for unlicensed use of their characters on the buildings (this is when I learned "don't fuck with Disney").

We had Mount Saint Helens erupting in the Northwest, we had a heat wave throughout the summer.

On a personal note, my family went on a long road trip that summer to visit our great-grandmother Kinzer in West Virginia, my first time seeing mountains (my last time seeing fireflies) and finding out about the Hatfields and McCoys. We made side trips to Asheville to see the Vanderbilt estate (my brothers made a game of spotting all the hidden servant doors), and to swing through Alabama to visit more family (finally watched Empire Strikes Back in an Auburn movie theater with my cousins). Poor mom had to do all the driving.

That autumn we had an election that November 4, Reagan winning over Carter. At Palm Harbor Middle, however, we were... one of the students had gone missing. It didn't end happy. Not for her family, not for her friends, not for a school full of traumatized kids. It made things feel colder than they normally would in central Florida that end of the year.

I'm talking about all this because it all builds up to one of the bigger moments at the end of 1980. At the end of an era in popular culture. It was something that cut across everything - Politics, religion, music, gun control, social ills, cults of celebrity - affecting us then and now.

The assassination of John Lennon

I saw a film today
oh boy
The English Army had
just won the war

The crowd of people
turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book
I'd love to turn you on...

We usually call the single death by gunshot a murder. But in Lennon's case, it felt like an assassination. If you understand what an assassination does, it's the death of a key figure of a moment in history, someone who could affect or had affected the flow of events to go in a direction that the forces of darkness would rather not go. 

Lennon was a cultural and political icon. One of the Fab Four - the Beatles! - whose appearance on the world stage defined a decade of the 1960s, during which the band's influence on fashion, youthful ideals, and even political agitation covered everything from UK's economic upheavals to the U.S.'s quagmire of a Vietnam War. Lennon himself had faded from the public view after the breakup of the Beatles in 1970, and had only returned to recording albums that year with Double Fantasy after a five-year retirement, but his messages about world peace along with the possibilities of a Beatles reunion kept him well poised on that stage. He had just done an interview with Playboy magazine (yes, people DID read it for the articles). He was planning a world tour, which by the 1980s for major rock artists was a huge fucking deal. 

And then a madman shot him. (NEVER SAY THE SHOOTER'S NAME)

Global media was still in its infancy in terms of word getting out by radio and television. The shooting happened Monday night, during which another cultural icon - NFL's Monday Night Football - made the announcement live that Beatle John was officially declared dead at the hospital. The impact went global. Peace rallies sprung up everywhere, noticeably in the Central Park area outside of the Dakotas apartment building (there is a memorial there now). For weeks afterward, the rock n roll stations would play nothing but Beatles songs (including John's solo works, as well as Paul McCartney's and George Harrison's and Ringo Starr's).

There was this horrifying sense that something had gone wrong. Even though it was just one man's death in a world full of violence and hate and madness. The kind of things John Lennon preached against. Maybe that was why. Just the senseless of that kind of violence in the world...

So that was me, waking up Tuesday morning to the news that day, about John Lennon's death. On top of what had happened to my school to the loss of Elisa Nelson... and then the following March with a shocking home invasion/murder that took the lives of a mother and daughter in the Spanish Oaks neighborhood near Dunedin... and then President Reagan getting shot later that month... Seriously, by the time the forces of darkness made an attempt on the Pope for God's sake, I had come to the conclusion that there was something fundamentally wrong with humanity. If there was a point where any interest or desire to hold or own a gun was in me, it was gone after John's murder. All my anti-gun sentiment started here.

I read the news today
oh, boy
4,000 holes
in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes
were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know
       how many holes
            it takes to fill
                the Albert Hall!!!

I'd love to turn you on...

Lennon would be 80 today pending good health. Maybe would have seen a Beatles reunion or two by now (the surviving bandmates were convinced that the Band Aid/Live Aid efforts in 1985 would definitely seen a reunion set). There's entire works of literature and film that posits what the world could have been like if the madman hadn't pulled the trigger.

Elisa Nelson would be 50 today. Like everyone else from our student class, she'd be working somewhere. If she married, had a family... her kid(s) would be getting into college by now.

The five students I never met in Gainesville, that was ten years after all this but still, it all tied into my mindset, my view of the world... I promised I wouldn't be like that...

what if there were no madmen, no rapists, no angry guys with guns? 

I think of them often.

What if Beatle John had survived after all? It wouldn't have ended all the violence and madness, all things considered.

But we would have had a brighter light shining us on to be better than all that.

I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition. - Beatle John, having a laugh at the end of the Rooftop Concert

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Some Notes in December 2020

Just to get a few thoughts in:

After weeks of him stumbling across the nation from legal carnie show to legal carnie show, Rudy Giuliani finally tested positive for COVID-19, and it's serious enough that he's had to check into a hospital.

Because he'd been in Arizona recently meeting in person with Republican legislators, he's essentially forced the state lege to close down for quarantine.

Oh, by the by, Rudy and his fellow fraudsters have yet to convince an actual courtroom to buy their fake "voter fraud" scams.

The numbers of COVID infections have skyrocketed since Halloween, and Thanksgiving did us no favors as a massive number of fellow Americans decided "fuck it, we're family gathering.

Instead of coping with the pandemic, trump is threatening to veto a defense spending bill unless Congress revokes a Section 230 of the that gives private social media companies - Twitter, Facebook, etc. - the power to self-monitor any offensive, deceptive, or outright fraudulent posts (like trump's own BS tweets). he wants to punish Twitter for adding corrective claims to his lies.

Oh, and he's still setting up the likelihood of staging a coup d'état before Saturnalia, that bastard.

Oh, and as a follow-up, here's Julie from October meeting Julie from June. The visit from December Julie is gonna be lit:


Thursday, December 03, 2020

The Calmness After The Dread

(Update: Many thanks to Infidel753 for adding me to Crooks&Liars' Mike's Blog Roundup! I need to note Infidel does a weekly roundup every Sunday - included there as well this past weekend, thanks again - so it should behoove you to check that blog every Sunday morning! IO SATURNALIA!)

It's been a month since the Election Night, after all that build-up, all that anxiety, all the stress that the results would be chaotic as hell.

There was, let's admit it, an open dread that the response to whoever won - Biden or trump - would lead to violence in the streets: That protests by one side or the other would lead to riots, police beatdowns, or worse.

Stores in major cities boarded up windows. Social media prepped for long fiery nights.

And... so far, it's been insanely quiet. Oh, trump and his lawyers are still stirring up bullshit over ballot counts and certifications, we've got a number of wingnut demagogues - especially just-pardoned Mike Flynn, who is falling further into seditious behavior - calling for shutting down everything and stealing the win for trump. We've had the pro-trump rallies screaming for arrests and acts of force in places like Georgia where the Senate runoff campaigns retained national attention.

But the oversized fears of nationwide rioting and blood in the streets hasn't happened, and it's looking like it might not happen even when the Electoral College officially calls it for Biden on December 14. (Of course, Gods help me if I've jinxed us all on this...)

It's a bit puzzling that all this brouhaha turned into a meh-haha. Bonnie Kristian at The Week is equally vexxed:

We've weathered four weeks of uncalled races, recounts, lawsuits, and allegations with relative calm. There was some rioting in Portland, where a Molotov cocktail was thrown at police, but tumultuous protests have been a fixture there for half a year now. In Michigan, some chanting Republicans attempted to force their way into a vote counting center but were restrained by police. Demonstrators assembled in other cities, too, and certainly some scuffles broke out. Yet the "dozens" of arrests reported nationwide are hardly the envisioned catastrophe...

I decided to revisit the forecasts. One of the most notable came from the International Crisis Group, a think tank that seeks to prevent war by "sound[ing] the alarm to prevent deadly conflict." Usually this work concerns places that are, well, not here, but for the 2020 election, the group issued its first report about the United States. "The 2020 U.S. presidential election presents risks not seen in recent history," the report said. "It is conceivable that violence could erupt during voting or protracted ballot counts."

The Crisis Group identified 11 risk factors, which it condensed to four larger themes in the executive summary: "political polarization bound up with issues of race and identity; the rise of armed groups with political agendas; the higher-than-usual chances of a contested outcome; and most importantly President Donald Trump, whose toxic rhetoric and willingness to court conflict to advance his personal interests have no precedent in modern U.S. history."

The first of these four is impossible to dispute. We are increasingly polarized and that polarization does involve identity as well as related issues of misinformation, information segregation, epistemic crisis, and institutional distrust spelled out in the longer risk list. With the benefit of hindsight, we also know the outcome has indeed been contested and Trump has missed no opportunity to spread division and undermine public trust and goodwill. The president still has supporters — as many as half of Republicans, per a mid-November poll, the most recent I could find — who believe he "rightfully won" the election and is being defrauded...

And yet, for some reason, the possibility of violence has not turned - not yet, I must caveat - into reality. Kristian considers why:

...One is that some of the proposed conditions went unmet: Trump didn't win; there wasn't a wildcard event; and the election contestation — the real procedure of it, as opposed to vivid nonsense the president and his surrogates have spouted on television and Twitter — has been fairly mundane. We've seen nothing so exciting as Bush v. Gore in 2000. Biden won the closest state races by margins of tens of thousands, not a mere 537 votes.

A second reason, as I wrote before Election Day, is that most Americans (including most Republicans) were prepared to wait for results. Everyone knew this year would be weird. How could we not? Trump's claim that any delay was a sign of cheating and a Democratic attempt to "creat[e] havoc" never made sense, so when the expected delay arrived, nobody panicked.

Or, at least, they didn't panic in real life. Maybe they panicked online, and maybe that, as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has theorized, served as a way to "playact extremism, ... to approach radical politics the way they approach a first-person shooter game — as a kind of sport, a kick to the body chemistry, that doesn't put anything in their relatively comfortable late-modern lives at risk."

That brings me to my third and most significant reason: Whether because we're getting our extremist impulses out online (or by donating to Trump's still-fundraising campaign) or because we're among the plurality of Americans who don't align with either partisan extreme, most of us are not actually interested in participating in civil strife...

For all the rhetoric, for all the chest-thumping, for all the loud screams by the extremists that "they" number in the millions... when it comes down it the extremists are an extreme minority of malcontents who overstate their numbers either out of arrogance, ignorance, or projection.

We have strong, albeit violated, norms against political violence in America, and there is little post-election rioting in our national history. Worries about civil war cycle with each election, but that's not the same as an appetite for street fighting, for making your hate tangible enough to shoot your neighbor for putting out the wrong yard sign. Even the alarming willingness to say violence may be "justified" to advance a political cause — which has risen in recent years, though much less than a Politico report initially suggested — is not the same as readiness to personally enact that violence.

Those "armed groups" who want to fight are a tiny minority of dunces. The rest of us may be very angry at each other, but we are mercifully not stupid enough to think violence will help...

This should not overlook the actual history we have with politically-motivated violence. We've had mad bombers and street shooters fighting over arguments - usually race-related - for decades. Redeemer governments of the late 19th Century - well into the 20th Century in some counties - made ready use of guns and rope to enforce their will. There's still a possibility that violence over who won the 2020 Presidential election - hint, Biden - can still erupt.

What's happening right now is that the fighting over this election is still relatively early, and it's focused mostly on courtroom battles where trump and his team of irrational lawyers keep losing their cases due to the simple fact they can't produce any actual evidence of voter fraud. There isn't necessarily any panic buttons getting pushed right now. Most of the trump supporters are still happily spinning conspiracy bullshit that once this all gets to the Supreme Court, trump's hand-picked Justices will SAVE 'MURIKKKA, nullify 80 million votes, and hand trump a gift-wrapped stolen election.

So what happens when all of trump's half-assed court appeals reach the Supreme Court... and a solid majority of Justices all say "This Court can only rule on the appropriate legality of the lower court rulings, and they were all relying on your evidence you never produced, there's nothing we can do, by the way where's the damned evidence?"

When we get to that moment, we may indeed see violence in the streets from the extremist trumpsters unable to cope with reality. But how bad could it get?

The scary news is that so far there's about 73 million Americans who voted trump. That's a lot of people to be worried about.

The good news is that - as Kristian pointed out - a vast majority of Republican voters are not extremists or violent towards their communities. I've noted before, most Republicans are hard-wired to vote Republican but are otherwise honest, decent people (who can't accept the fact their own party is led by crooked, vulgar people). If trump flashes out a Tweet for WAR to foment a coup takeover, many trump voters will shake their heads and mutter "okay, that's a little too far."

What we have to worry about are the trump extremists who have crossed that line of morality. The guy making pipe bombs in trump's name, for example, or the gunmen caught plotting to kidnap and kill governors.

We're not talking millions of Americans at this point: These numbers are mercifully few and far between - they have to bus in people from out of state to make their wingnut rallies number in the thousands, after all - but there's still enough of them to make the days between now and January nerve-wracking. All it will take is just one of them packing enough firepower to wipe out an entire city block to ruin everybody else's day.

Even with that dread, I am tired of talking like a Debbie Downer. There may be a nice little silver lining to celebrate in this: That in the end, a sizable number of Republicans - even ones who for godforsaken reasons VOTED FOR trump - are still able to respect the civil norms of a democratic-republic nation the same way a sizable number of Democrats do. 

Now if we can just get everyone to WEAR THE DAMN MASKS (and over the nose, everybody!) we can save our United States of America...