Sunday, January 31, 2021

Top Ten Executive Orders I'd Like to See Out of President Biden

Apparently, Joe Biden hit the ground running as our 46th President of the United States by signing a vast number of Executive Orders, to the point where Republicans - who loved it when trump abused Executive Order signings so they didn't have to get held accountable in Congress with actual work - are whining about it (via Darraugh Roche at Newsweek): 

Biden has signed a significant number of executive orders in a short period and has drawn criticism from Republicans, some of whom have accused the president of ruling by diktat...

Some prominent Republicans have claimed that Biden has issued a modern-record number of executive orders in his first days in office. Biden had issued 37 executive orders during his first week, the New York Post reported on Tuesday...

The Economist noted on January 22 that Biden had signed more executive orders in two days than Trump had in two months and was setting a record pace, while NBC News lists 40 executive actions up to January 26.

Of the 40, 32 are listed as executive orders. The others are classed as proclamations or memoranda. However, it's common to refer to these as executive orders and they have a similar effect. Executive orders are listed at the Federal Register, but the site has not been fully updated yet.

"It's too early to know whether we'll see a large number of executive orders by Biden. It's not unusual for a president to sign several orders on his first day in office, but Biden did more of those than his predecessors, in large part to undo many of Trump's more controversial ones," said Seth Masket, professor of political science at Duke University...

And while a lot of them are necessary actions to undo the damage trump has done with immigration, trade, the environment, legal obligations, and so forth, there are still a number of Executive Orders I'd like to see from Biden that I think will go a long way to rebuilding our world.

So here you go, from David Letterman's legal counsel, our Top Ten Executive Orders I'd Like to See Out of President Biden!

10) Make it mandatory that everybody BUT donald trump gets two scoops of ice cream, poor donnie gets stuck one scoop from now on!

9) Send Rise of Skywalker back to the drawing board to get directed by Gareth Edwards with a better script that makes freaking gorram sense at the end!

8) Rename every street in front of a trump-own building or resort after Barack Obama!

7) Recast the entirety of next season's American Horror Story with Muppets!

6) Tattoo the names of every person who died due to the 1/6/21 Insurrection on trump's forehead!

5) Declare Skid Row the American Hair Metal Laurates of 2021! 

4) Require trump to have his golf games tracked by officials from the Professional Golfers' Association that he can't bribe or bully to document his actual golfing scores!

3) Make it legal for all spelling bee contests get decided with a Yo Mama smackdown between finalists!

2) Order all relevant agencies in the Executive branch to unredact every document of every investigation held on trump's own administration, from the Mueller Report down to every IG corruption probe held!

1) LESS TALK, MORE ROCK!


Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Battle of GameStop

If you ever want it explained to you about Wall Street or unregulated capitalism, I find it helpful to refer to gangster movies.

Want to understand how insurance works? Watch Goodfellas.

Want to understand hostile takeovers? Watch The Godfather.

Want to understand corporate espionage and insider trading? Watch The Departed (or an actual movie about Wall Street crimes, Wolf of Wall Street).

Want to understand shorting stocks? Here's the opening bit to Miller's Crossing:


It's gettin' so a businessman can't expect no return from a fixed fight. Now if you can't trust a fix, what can you trust? - Johnny Caspar

What's happening in the real world is that the stock markets are reeling from a running gambit that hedge funds (Think billionaire vultures) had been using of "Shorting" the stock value of a retail company GameStop (Remember Blockbuster Video? GameStop is kind of like them but selling video games instead of movie rentals) for quick profits, only to get exposed by Reddit (social media) investors realizing those hedge funds overextended themselves (took on massive debts to pull off the Short) to where they were vulnerable to "Squeezing" (artificially raising the value of the Shorted stock so that the hedge funds can't turn a profit).

In short: The hedge funds are Johnny Caspar trying to make money off a fixed fight, only for Bernie (the horde of small investors) to flip the fix to make money while Caspar eats the losses.

For more details, let's go to Derek Thompson at The Atlantic for his take:

...To see how the whole thing went down, imagine a kind of misshapen nesting-doll set with four characters: GameStop, hedge funders, Reddit traders, and zillions of retail investors.

At the center is GameStop, which is not a great company. In 2019, the strip-mall fixture lost almost $500 million. In 2020, a pandemic forcibly shut down many of its stores and gutted its revenue...

I don't blame GameStop: they didn't ask to get Shorted by the big hedge funds like Melvin Capital (wait, seriously, they named themselves Melvin??? What the hell, was "Eagle Fang" already taken or something?).

One layer up, you have institutional investors, such as hedge funds, which “shorted” GameStop, or bet that the value of the stock would decline. Depending on how you look at it, short sellers are heroes of capitalism identifying rotten companies and industries on the verge of collapse, or they’re corrupt worrywarts picking on lovable, vulnerable firms. Either way, GameStop was one of the more popular targets of these hero-villains. By one metric, the company was the second-most-shorted firm out of more than 6,000 companies listed in the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. If GameStop’s stock continued to fall, as it had consistently since 2013, hedge funds that had bet against the company would have gotten even richer than they already are...

Thompson doesn't seem to recognize the pattern of rich-brat bullying underlying the way the hedge funds were picking on GameStop. I highlighted the part he's ignoring as a sign that Melvin and the other investment groups weren't using Shorting tactics to weed out bad companies: The hedge funds enjoyed having an easy target like GameStop around to Short in order to generate billions in profits with little risk (because Shorting is a fixed fight). But risk did show up:

But they didn’t. That’s because, as short sellers were targeting GameStop, online investors were cooking up ways to target the short sellers. A band of Reddit users, led by a trader who goes by the YouTube name “Roaring Kitty,” had for months been eyeing GameStop as a tasty investment. Over the course of several months, they spelled out a detailed plan to buy up GameStop’s stock and push up the price, punishing the hedge funds and forcing them to cover their position by rushing to buy back shares, which would push up the stock’s value even more. This is called a “short squeeze,” and it seems to have served at least two purposes for the Reddit investors: sticking it to hedge funds and getting a little rich. Both happened. One hedge fund, Melvin Capital Management, has lost at least $2 billion, while Roaring Kitty is now estimated to have made more than $13 million on his GameStop investment...

What happened at the social media level was akin to a revolution, a sort of Occupy Wall Street where instead of protesting in the streets the lower rungs of society entered the trading floor to beat the rich kids at their own game. It not only brought about financial ruin for Melvin (with rumors of filing for bankruptcy because its debts on those Shorting deals are due soon) but sent much of Wall Street into a collective panic. If the day traders and middle-class self-taught investors can spot a Short taking place, any quick-rich plan to Short a company for billions is now at risk of getting Squeezed. Back to Thompson:

Maybe the only long-term outcome of the GameStop fiasco is that hedge funds will be more cautious about establishing enormous short positions in cheap brand-name companies, and investors will learn that stock manias, like memes, disappear as quickly as they go viral. Perhaps all we’ll remember from the past week is that a few hedge funds’ greedy doltishness accidentally helped mint some Robinhood millionaires, while a bunch of latecomers set their money on fire for lolz.

But something tells me that we’re at the dawn of something stranger. For a week, takes have flown wildly around the internet that tried to capture this saga in a tweet. The investor and former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci compared what we’re seeing now to the “French Revolution of finance,” with an army of scrappy traders engaged in a moral uprising. Others worried that the GameStop bubble was turning into a collectivized Ponzi scheme, in which innocents were being lured into a ruse that would take all their money after the market corrected. Given that online trading has been restricted and the company’s stock is now in a free fall, both the Mooch and the Debbie Downers might be right...

What Thompson refers to is how Robinhood, the brokerage site that started this Squeeze play, stopped all trading on GameStop and other Shorted stocks like AMC Theaters, preventing the investors from doing what they wanted (to either sell themselves before the artificial high prices dropped, or to buy even more to squeeze the hedge funds into full bankruptcy). That freeze turned a revolution into a meltdown, leading to one class action lawsuit already. There's a likelihood the Squeeze was as rigged as the Short.

We're witnessing in real-time the public exposure of one of Wall Street's greediest tricks (market manipulations) at the expense of the common ground-floor investor getting screwed either way.

In some respects, it's a damn good thing there are reform-minded Democrats now in charge of Congress to investigate this whole shell game. Have at 'em, Liz Warren and Maxine Waters. I hope you root out the whole rotten gang of greedheads.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Impeachment As a Toothless Law, As Partisanship Holds Sway

As we get set to watch donald trump get impeached for his involvement with the Insurrection riot of January 6, we need to consider how it's already a foregone conclusion that the Republicans in the Senate will not put country before corruption. It's not so much that they forgave his sins during the impeachment trial over his attempted extortion of foreign aid to scam the 2020 elections, it's that they're about to forgive the more violent act he attempted that threatened their very safety. Today's preliminary fight gives us an idea how the final vote is going to be (via Barbara Sprunt at NPR): 

After senators were sworn in Tuesday afternoon as jurors in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Sen. Rand Paul quickly pressed for a vote to force lawmakers on the record over the issue of the trial's constitutionality.

The Senate voted 55-45 to reject the Kentucky Republican's argument that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.

Just five Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — joined Democrats in voting to table the motion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., notably voted with most of the GOP conference in support of Paul's motion.

A two-thirds majority is required for a Senate conviction. Paul's point of order likely foreshadows the intentions of most Republican senators during the trial and demonstrates how unlikely it is Democrats will garner the 17 Republican votes needed to convict Trump.

What is the use of a legal system when it has no means of enforcement? When the people entrusted to uphold the law and the Constitution itself refuse to do so? We saw the same thing last year when - in spite of all the evidence that trump abused our foreign relations with Ukraine in order to stage fake scandals to affect our own elections - a Republican-controlled Senate did the bare minimum to answer the House's impeachment charges and mocked the failed results.

Looking back at the history of impeaching those who served as President, we can recognize the moments where the need for impeaching a corrupt President did not occur because that President's party also controlled enough of Congress to make the point moot. We can see the moments when impeachment was used as a partisan weapon instead of upholding the Constitution. We can remember how only once in our nation's history did impeachment seem likely - Nixon was facing that fate before he resigned - only because our political landscape was genuinely bipartisan enough to see the reality of how Nixon's acts threatened the public trust.

Impeachment is broken. Either it is too partisan a tool that threatens the independence of the Executive Branch, or the Legislative Branch is too partisan and corrupt to properly employ the impeachment process in any legal and just manner.

trump's own regime is proof of that failure. When Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress, they refused to bring up the matter of impeachment when trump misbehaved and failed to adhere to policy, protocol, or the letter of the law. It took the Democrats - an opposition party - to win the House of Representatives to bring that threat of accountability to the table... and even then, the supermajority need from a nearly-split Senate made it impossible to follow through for removing trump for the crimes he'd committed.

The Founding Fathers may have created the Impeachment process but did so in an era when partisanship had yet to form during our nation's infancy. They did it under assumptions that civic duty and personal honor would drive the individuals in Congress to value integrity over impulsive selfishness. They never considered the reality that Congresspersons - especially when one of their parties turned corrupt the way the modern Republicans have - would avoid their own accountability, that the entire elective process - bent and battered by decades of gerrymandering and false narratives - would fail to hold them accountable when they failed the people and themselves.

The inability to use impeachment now creates ruptures in the entire legal system. One of the reasons Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russian interference with our 2016 elections cycle didn't go far enough was due to Mueller avoiding the implications of crossing a long-standing Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo that sitting Presidents cannot be charged with crimes. Mueller was able to prove at one end that Russia DID meddle in the elections process and duly filed charges on culprits he uncovered. But any link that could have been proven from trump's end of things couldn't be proven because that memo prevented Mueller from digging deep enough to find proof that could stand in court.

That OLC memo has got to go. It shouldn't be upheld as legal precedent. Congress should pass legislation overriding that damn thing, and put in place the ability for a federal investigation/grand jury to file criminal charges on a President found to be breaking the law. It doesn't have to be everything under the sun, obviously: the argument against charging Presidents is to avoid them getting charged with petty-ante stuff every day by conspiracy nuts and partisan hacks. I understand that.

But there ARE certain crimes directly related to the powers of the office that CAN be investigated and charged. I'm talking acts of Obstruction - the one thing Mueller could prove trump had done, but had to leave to Congress to charge which they never did - and acts of Bribery and Extortion that are spelled out as impeachable offenses but are better resolved as criminal charges. I'm talking about serious felonies like Murder (personal cases of murdering individuals, not shipping soldiers off to war or anything), Sexual Assault/Rape, and/or Conspiracy to commit such crimes. We can't rely on a political method of accountability to play out on such crimes, because we're seeing that not enough politicians today will treat it seriously in a bipartisan manner.

trump's violations of the Emoluments Clause ended up going unpunished, because the Courts - now all happily aligned to the Far Right, protecting trump as best they can - kept redefining the line of who could file such complaints and delayed the result until it was too late. This is inexcusable. Congress needs to pass legislation spelling out exactly who can challenge such violations of our Constitution's ethics, and make sure it's something that any President who violates it gets charged and held right away. The Emoluments Clause is one of the few laws that relates directly to the President's misconduct, and it ought to be enforceable the second the corrupt Executive breaks that law. Impeaching him on Emoluments violations would never have passed the Republicans playing defense in the Senate.

Impeachment works great as a symbolic gesture, but it's become worthless when it can't be properly used. We need to move beyond this, we need to make the legal system understand the dangers of a corrupt monster sitting in the White House requires a more direct response. If you're worried about how criminal charges would disrupt the orderly workings of government, don't be. We have a 25th Amendment in place that can reasonably replace an arrested/detained President caught up in acts of provable corruption and allow for a smooth transition of power.

We have fallen too far within a partisan political landscape to allow criminal acts to go unpunished. Impeachment can't punish wrong-doers like trump: Federal felony charges are the only sane response left to us.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Inauguration Day 2021: Sharing My Thoughts To the Blogging World

(Update 1/26/21: Thanks again to Batocchio for adding this blog to Crooks&Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up!)

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have hopeful days ahead.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Waiting On Sane Leadership to Respond To This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Last Con of donald trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And good riddance.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Down In the History Books

Nixon: Dare I ask, will I be remembered?

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

-- "Day of the Moon"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting impeached twice in a single term of office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One week to go, before Biden gets sworn in.

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Some Lovely Parting Gifts For trump's Train Wreck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Good News

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

After what needed saying earlier, here are the Good News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope still matters.


The Bad News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there's the Bad News...

Friday, January 08, 2021

trump Twitter in Twilight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Blood Today in the U.S. Capitol

I dreaded this day, and trump finally pushed the viciousness of his mobs too far.

Here's NPR's banner tonight (via Alana Wise, Elena Moore, and Benjamin Swasey):

Pro-Trump Extremists Breach U.S. Capitol Amid His Baseless Election Claims

The U.S. Capitol was the scene of chaos on Wednesday, as supporters of President Trump responded to his call to head to the complex and then breached it, leading to unprecedented violence in the seat of America's federal government.

The insurrectionists interrupted proceedings in the House and Senate, as members of Congress were tallying President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory. The counting of the votes is normally a relatively pro forma session.

But for two months, Trump has falsely and continuously claimed the election was stolen from him, and dozens of fellow Republicans had planned to object to slates of electors from various states they considered contested.

Lawmakers were debating an objection to Arizona's results — a state Trump lost narrowly — when the sessions were recessed as the U.S. Capitol Police attempted to put the complex on lockdown...

trump had sent out word to his devoted voter base, the ones with the rifles and MAGA hats and Confederate flags, to show up to protest a ceremonial performance that Congress has done for over 100-plus years. trump did this knowing many of his base are Far Right conspiracy wingnuts eager to roleplay as militias in their culture war against the rest of America.

It does not help that there's a number of video clips and pictures out there showing the Capitol Police - or some other law enforcement groups working the barricades to keep the building secure - actively opening up those barricades and gleefully joining in with the rioters/terrorists with goddamned selfies.

And because of trump, because of his riling up of his fan base, because of him knowingly telling his gun-wielding Proud Boys to "be ready" to rise up, because of the violence today, a woman is dead (via Rhea Mahbubani at Business Insider):

A woman was shot dead in the Capitol on Wednesday after violent and armed supporters of President Donald Trump stormed and occupied the building, law enforcement officials told NBC News and DC police told the Washington Post.

Lindsay Watts, a reporter with a Fox News affiliate in Washington, DC, first said on Twitter that she'd learned from a paramedic source that one person had been shot and resuscitation efforts were underway. CNN later reported that a woman had been shot in the chest and was in critical condition. PBS NewsHour confirmed this, adding that the person who was struck by a bullet was not a uniformed officer...

There is a family tonight missing a loved one. All because trump needed to have his goddamned temper tantrum to disrupt the Electoral count proceedings of both houses of Congress today. Back to Mahbubani:

Congress met on Wednesday to certify the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden. But the session was interrupted by the violence, and the House is now in recess with members of Congress, including Vice President Mike Pence, being led to safety.

Photos from around the nation's capital showed massive crowds of people milling around, some of whom were carrying American and Trump's "Make America Great Again" flags. Dozens of ambulances and law-enforcement vehicles were also spotted, as were nooses.

The melee inside the building, which was breached, evacuated, and rocked by flash bangs, involved an apparent armed standoff between police and rioters, both of whom were armed, as well as Trump supporters breaking into and leaving notes in lawmakers' offices. CNN also reported that a police officer had been injured in the scuffle...

trump got what he wanted. His gangs interrupted the count, delaying the result for another day, until trump can come up with another excuse to prevent the legal transition of office to President-Elect Biden.

In the meantime, a woman was shot dead in the violence and confusion today.

None of this had to happen. Those Far Right trump-worshiping bastards did not have to be so riled up to commit acts of sedition and insurrection today. The election would have been resolved months ago had trump done what every other electoral loser had done until now, concede and allow the smooth transition to let America remain at peace with itself and the world.

None of this had to happen to take away that woman's life like that.

Goddamn you, trump. Goddamn your narcissism, goddamn your cruelty, goddamn you.

You've earned your body count now, you Son Of A Bitch.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Now the Savage Days Are Here

Washington heads in the toilet bowl/
Don't see supremacist hate/
Right wing dicks in their boiler suits/
Picking out who to annihilate

Toxic jungle of Uzi trails/
Tribesmen just wouldn't live here/
Fascist flare is fashion cool/
Well, you're dead, you just ain't buried yet

Under the God
Under the God

As the walls came tumbling down/
So, the secrets that we shared
I believed you by the palace gates
Now the savage days are here

Under the God...
- "Under the God," David Bowie/Tin Machine

I would prefer my days of Epiphany to be focused on religious piety, blessings, and Greek food, but trump and his Proud Boys army is making that unlikely for tomorrow. They've already arrested the leader of the Proud Boys before the street protests in DC take place (via Elena Moore at NPR.org):

Enrique Tarrio, 36, was taken into police custody and charged with destruction of property, according to a statement from the Metropolitan Police Department.

The charge is related to his actions during last month's pro-Trump demonstration in D.C. that turned violent. Tarrio admitted to removing and burning a Black Lives Matter banner from a historically Black church, an action the Proud Boys are now being sued over.

According to the police statement, Tarrio is also being charged with possession of a high-capacity feeding device. Officers found two high-capacity firearm magazines with him when he was arrested.

The FBI says the Proud Boys have "ties to white nationalism," and the organization has previously been associated with acts of violence...

One thing to note is that Washington DC has very strict gun-carrying laws on the books, and there's every likelihood the Far Right wingnuts marching - in protest of the Certification count in Congress that would confirm Biden won the 2020 Presidential Election - on January 6 are going to be testing those laws early and often to where even the local cops are going to push back hard.

Meanwhile, city leaders are preparing for possible violence, especially as reports show members of the Proud Boys are planning to attend the march dressed incognito...

What the plan seems to be - and they're being so obvious about it - is to have enough of their own cosplay as "Antifa" (the catch-all Far Right insult of anti-fascists) and have those cosplayers instigate the violence, and then claim afterward that the Far Left are terrorists causing enough violence to justify trump declaring emergency martial law.

It'll sell well on NewsMax and even Fox Not-News (which has been trying, honestly enough, to walk away from trump's narcissism... and failing), but nobody else will be convinced. All it's going to do is get innocent people harmed, likely hurt some cops and other law enforcement types, and drive the wedge of madness deeper into the nation's existing schisms.

What they're hoping to do is bully enough people in Congress - especially any wavering Republicans who haven't signed onto trump's suicide pact - into nullifying the 2020 election results: Specifically, getting VP Pence as the Senate President to toss out the certified Electoral Votes and declare trump the winner in spite of everything.

If we're lucky, the violence will be minimal to various acts of vandalism and car burnings. trump will try to bully Congress to his whims, but the procedural count - which is baked into the system and mostly for ceremony - will likely be as expected, a Biden victory.

But we can't rely on luck, not in a Darkest Timeline where trump can NEVER accept a loss and where he's pumped up his fanbase to "Stand By and Stand Up" at his call.

Everyone in DC that I know of, stay safe tomorrow.

To the rest of the nation, here's hoping sanity and legality prevail.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Posse Incompetence

Over at Balloon Juice, Adam L. Silverman - who does a lot of professional review of military/foreign intelligence and has been aware of trump as a national security threat for some time - sent up a red flare about the bigger red flare just sent up by 10 former Defense Department senior officials (including former Secs of Defense):  

There is no way this letter is put together and then pushed for publication unless someone senior, most likely either senior uniformed personnel (general officers/flag officers) and/or senior executive service personnel at the Department of Defense or one of the Services unless someone got a message out to one or more of their former bosses...

Silverman then quotes the letter (viewed directly through the WaPo link if you can afford to pay the firewall):

As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view of the solemn obligations of the U.S. armed forces and the Defense Department. Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party.

American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception.

Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.

As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic...

This is essentially a reminder to the military at large, from the top brass down to the grunts working KP duty - that any attempt by trump to call the armed forces to him and enforce martial law is a big damn HELL NO.

Thing is there is a matter of protocol - tradition, Good Faith as it were - that the military leadership made up of general and admirals cannot publicly criticize the civilian leadership (the Presidency) they answer to. The Joint Chiefs, the ones who work directly with the White House, could arguably go as one onto the major cable networks - even Fox - to make a shared statement aimed against trump's attempts to overturn a legal election. However, that would destroy any future controls a civilian government could hold over our military, which is necessary to keep the United States the democracy it's supposed to be. It would, in some respects even with good intent, come across as a coup against the current government (trump is still in office until January 20), and it would disrupt any authority any future administration - even Biden's - would need to regain the control and trust of our nation's first, second, third, fourth, AND fifth lines of defense (screw the sixth line, Space Force is just an empty office selling marketing merch).

In my lifetime, in the awareness I've had of previous transitions between Presidents and parties - Carter to Reagan, Bush the Elder to Clinton, Clinton to Bush the Lesser, Bush II to Obama, even Obama to trump - I have never seen or read anything from former officials of such key office like the Secretaries of Defense make such a direct plea to the military as a whole about "respecting the electoral process" and avoiding "election disputes (that) would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory."

But something has to be going on behind the scenes for such a letter to go public. The generals and Joint Chiefs may not be able to go public about their concerns, but they can talk in private to their retired colleagues and bosses, and those guys - like Dick "Go Fuck Yourself" Cheney, for God's sake, even HE co-signed this letter - could then go public with these concerns to let someone (cough trump cough) know that illegal use of military power will be resisted.

If trump's been desperately calling state governors to try and nullify the election results, he sure as hell been trying to call the generals and admirals to see about using martial law to suspend everything so trump can stay in power.

January 6 is going to be a chaotic day.


Sunday, January 03, 2021

trump's Desperation to Make a Crooked Deal

I was going to blog about sedition, but then THIS shit dropped (via AP Newswire from Jeff Amy, Darlene Superville, and Kate Brumback):

President Donald Trump badgered and pleaded with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, suggesting in a telephone call that the official “find” enough votes to hand Trump the victory.

The conversation Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to pressure a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost. The renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud by the first president to lose reelection in almost 30 years come nearly two weeks before Trump leaves office and two days before twin runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.

If you do listen to the audio of the conversation - which will be hard if you can't handle listening to trump's whining nasal voice - you'll notice how this self-proclaimed "Master" of "the Deal" is incapable of selling his pitch or convincing his mark to buy into his bull.

 Audio snippets of the conversation were posted online by The Washington Post. A recording of the call was later obtained by The Associated Press from a person who was on the call.

The president, who has refused to accept his loss to the Democratic president-elect, is heard telling Raffensperger at one point: “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

Georgia’s certified election results show Biden won the state’s Nov. 3 election by 11,779 votes...

Biden senior adviser Bob Bauer said the recording was “irrefutable proof” of Trump pressuring and threatening an official in his own party to “rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place.”

“It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy,” Bauer said.

At another point in the conversation, Trump appeared to threaten Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s legal counsel, by suggesting both could be criminally liable if they failed to find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim...

This is where trump The Bully shows up, where the con artist tries to flip the pressure on everybody else in order to weasel his way out of trouble. It's telling that trump is accusing others of "crimes" that never happened in order to get them to commit crimes for himself.

There was no widespread fraud in the election, which a range of election officials across the country, as well as Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, have also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.

Perhaps what trump is committing right now is seditious. trump, his lawyers, his political allies in Congress, all of them may be committing sedition right now. It depends on if I'm reading the U.S. Code properly:

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

trump and his cronies are attempting by bullying and threats "to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution" of electoral laws of the United States. In some respects, trump is opposing the authority of the rest of the government that's trying to uphold a legitimately run election as part of our nation's ability to manage itself. And that's just at the federal level: What trump is trying to do in Georgia and other states is to violate their state laws establishing how their elections are held.

trump is so unable to accept a loss he will burn the whole nation down if he could. The terrifying thing is the number of fellow Republicans willing to hand him the torches to do so.

January 6 is coming up, it's the official day that both houses of Congress have to certify the Electoral College results. There's already been a lot of storm and fury about what Pence could do in the formal role of Senate President. It's a moment where the nation can very well hit a brick wall one way or another.

Where I grew up, January 6 is also a great religious holiday, a day of Epiphany and the blessing of the waters.

I can only pray that our national Epiphany is that trump lost and that our nation not need to tear itself apart in violence defending his crooked efforts to deny that loss.

Gods help us.

Friday, January 01, 2021

In The Year 2021, Will a Just and Shining Future Finally Be Won

The year 2020 is officially ended, although much of the madness and dread that permeated that long long soul-sucking period of history - such as a trumpian administration sinking faster into corruption before Biden's inauguration - still awaits a future purging.

I still need to make a reckoning of that year - part of me wants to write up a Winners/Losers checklist but it's difficult to finish while the chaos is slipping to and fro - but in the meanwhile we do need to look ahead as Infidel753 does at his blog

1. When 2022 and 2024 arrive, most of the Democratic voting base will judge Biden and the Democrats in Congress mainly by results.  Has the pandemic been vanquished?  Have jobs and wages (not "the economy", which takes in all kinds of things, but jobs and wages specifically) recovered?  Has federal legislation to protect voting rights from state-level gerrymandering and vote suppression been enacted?  Has Medicare access been expanded or some other kind of public option been provided?  Have DC and Puerto Rico become states?  If the Democrats achieve results, our voters will care only that it was done, not how it was done.  Conversely, if little or nothing is accomplished, nobody will much care about whatever reasons or excuses are offered...

You need to go to Infidel's blog and read the whole article: It's not so much a checklist of a Liberal To Do List as it is a manual (and warning) of what to expect in the coming political cycle.

Much of what's coming is a pattern of destruction and obstruction we've already seen: The Republicans have already made it abundantly clear they will NOT respect the legitimacy of Biden's Presidency and will do everything to break it (and break the nation in the process). The Far Right media will obviously beat the "Impeach Biden" war drums within a day of Biden's swearing-in: for example, pinning the fault of 350,000+ Americans dead of COVID on his shoulders rather than on trump whose actual malfeasance in the affair was - and still is - the primary culprit in that tragedy.

The Republicans are going to spend 2021 - all of the 2020s decade - doing everything they can to hold onto the corrupt Minority Rule powers they wield. They've gotten to the point of Rule Or Ruin in their world-view, they no longer believe in the ebb-and-flow of power cycling between the major parties like it's done for much of the 20th Century. They're at the point that Republicans are terrified of the future... because the path forward from here follows the Democratic/Liberal ideals, not their own.

Half of what Infidel discusses on his article can only occur if the Democrats hold slim control of both halves of Congress, so with the Senate still on the edge with two Georgia Senatorial runoffs we can't be certain how far the Democratic agenda can go. All of what Infidel suggests is where it SHOULD go, such as the needed inclusions of new states to grant those regions - a broken Puerto Rico in particular - the legitimacy of statehood to stabilize their communities and promote better public service. A lot of what Infidel lists are things that should have been happening for ages, denied or blocked only because a calcifying Republican Party refused to see the merits of such efforts (has it ever occurred to Republicans that a habitually conservative Puerto Rican population could go Red and NOT Blue in future federal elections?) to even compromise or provide bipartisan effort to achieve them.

But Republicans can't and won't compromise any more: Politics is officially a Zero Sum game to them, so it's left to the Democrats to get things actually done anymore.

Which is where this coming decade offers so much potential for getting things done. While the Game of Demographics - the shift from older white conservative voting blocs to younger ethnically open liberal blocs - is still not really there yet for liberals to feel safe about achieving results - in health care reforms, civil rights, wage and employment rights, better education, a more just and loving world - the signs are aligning towards it.

What Biden, Harris, the Democratic leaders in Congress, the GOTV leadership of Democrats in battleground states -not just Stacey Abrams but thousands like her - what they can achieve this first year in a Biden Presidency is the foundation of a Liberal (not yet Progressive, sorry BernieBros) era that ought to repair not only the damage done by a vandal-plagued trump Era but also build past the roadblocks that Republicans have been throwing in our nation's path since 1994.

A lot of this still depends on those Georgia Senate races - the early voting on that (with huge numbers) wrapped up and the official election day for that is coming up next - to where none of us can feel safe about what's ahead. If Republicans can keep a slim 51-seat lead in the Senate, that means Mitch McConnell remains in power and can wield every obstructionist tool at his disposal to delay the Democrats' agenda for another two years at least.

If it comes to that, if Congress becomes a pit of McConnell's hellish desires, Biden and the Democrats can still try to rebuild as much of the federal system they can - while still wary of the conservative Judiciary trump and McConnell have built to oppose the oncoming Blue Path - with a dedicated effort to undercut the corruption the Republicans have been operating with at the state level. 

The long-term objective of breaking the Republican Minority Rule needs to focus on the insane level of Gerrymandering the Republicans commit at the state level in battleground states - Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida especially - and that the Far Right will keep deploying to suppress future Democratic voter turnout. There have been successes in weakening the Gerrymander efforts, but our nation has yet to find a way to kill those damn things outright. With the chaos trump infused into the 2020 U.S. Census efforts, it's likely the Republican-controlled states will use skewed numbers to Gerrymander even more to prevent Democratic majorities - even slim ones - in those states to elect honest proportional representation.

That's just one thing I can think of that Biden and the Democratic Party needs to be doing. Infidel's list of To Do's - again, go to that link - lists a whole lot more. Every one of them a necessary act to recover from this pandemic, from this economic malaise, to repair this collapsing edifice we know as the United States of America.

We should see an end to the trump years like the fading nightmare it's all been.

We are going to wake up to a busy decade of hard work. That shining future is just the morning sunrise. Get some coffee if you need it.