Archive for the ‘stinking piece of shit’ Category

The Trial

February 12, 2021

In Kafka’s novel The Trial, Josef K is charged with a crime no one ever specifies. It ends with his execution.

Trump’s trial is the inverse. His crime obvious. It ends with his exoneration.

Hearing his lawyers’ arguments almost made my head explode. It was indeed Kafkaesque — set on a planet far, far away, where black is white and up is down.

With table-pounding indignation they denounced the trial as an assault upon democracy. When that’s the very thing their client is guilty of. They decried the trial as divisive. After four years of the most divisive president in history.

They portrayed Democrats as pursuing a vendetta against him. As if a baseless prejudice unconnected to Trump’s behavior. The lawyers even bizarrrely played a recorded medley of numerous Democrats calling for impeachment. As if somehow proving their unjustified malice. When in the real world those impeachment calls highlighted his crimes. But in Trumpworld white is black.

I previously thought Trump mentally incapable of a serious January 6 coup plan. But the trial evidence makes clear he actually did plot out siccing a mob of supporters on Congress, intending for them to overthrow the election and keep him in office. The insurrectionists believed they were following his marching orders. And it wasn’t just his January 6 speech. He’d been working toward this long in advance, stoking them with his lies, preparing the ground.

The lawyers also insisted his freedom of speech is being denied. Well, maybe a president does have a right to lie. But not a constitutional right to violate his oath to protect the constitution; a right to instigate its overthrow. And regardless of whether Trump did incite the insurrection, his refusal throughout those ghastly hours to do anything to stop it was surely the gravest conceivable violation of his presidential oath.

Could it have succeeded? How close did it come? Most of those rampaging fools didn’t really understand what they were doing. But some, we’re learning, did. And brought weapons. It seems almost miraculous now that no elected officials were killed. Pence, Pelosi, and others were targeted and had narrow escapes. (Officer Brian Sicknick less lucky.)

So after four years of Pence’s slavish loyalty, Trump launches a mob to literally hang him. And just when it’s hot after Pence, Trump — instead of sending help — releases a tweet denouncing him again. Trump loyalty goes in only one direction. He’s a black hole that sucks in and destroys anyone venturing too close. Yet still some haven’t learned this.

Like his hapless lawyers in this impeachment trial. Trump reportedly enraged at them for their performance. But enragement is his daily norm; “treated very unfairly” a constant mantra. His psychologist niece’s book defined his underlying pathology — knowing he’s a fraud, he’s terrified of exposure. Thus his constant state of infuriated aggrievement.

How has this guy not had a heart attack or stroke?

A friend on Facebook posted “stolen election” particulars. One jurisdiction where thousands more mail ballots were received than had been sent out. Another where thousands more people voted than were registered. And so forth. As if such things could really happen, let alone without making headlines. But my friend was furious that mainstream news media don’t report these stories. And why don’t they? Because they’re lies. Somebody somewhere on the internet simply made them up. But my friend believes such nameless nobodies rather than NPR or PBS or CNN.

Of course there’s also the (former) president of the United States. Whose veracity record is unmatched. Thirty thousand documented lies.

Even before the election (fearing he’d lose), Trump was preemptively calling it a giant fraud, but without ever actually explaining how so. And if there were any truth to those “facts” my Facebook friend invoked, surely Trump’s 62 lawsuits would have brought them forward. They did not. And all were thrown out — many by judges he appointed — including his three Supreme Court picks.

He’s out of office and out of his mind, but not out of our minds, and we’re not out of the woods. Many millions still worship Trump, marinated in his cesspool of lies, fancying themselves “patriots” battling for righteousness against a corrupt criminal communistic conspiracy. Endorsing violence, even fetishizing it. Seeing us already in a civil war.

This evil abroad in our land will be turbocharged by the Senate acquitting Trump, re-empowering his wickedness. Leaving unpunished the most despicable of assaults upon our democracy. Republican senators so voting are traitors to America and everything it ever stood for.

That’s not too strong a word. Traitors.

Impeachment: to vote or not to vote

January 30, 2021

Republicans call the impeachment unconstitutional because Trump’s already out of office. They’re wrong. He was impeached while still president; and the Constitution prescribes two penalties: removal from office, and future disqualification from office. The former is now moot but the latter is not. And there is precedent for impeaching an official (William Belknap) who’s left office.

Note also that the 14th Amendment disqualifies from office anyone guilty of insurrection. That was aimed at ex-Confederates but should apply to Trump.

Some Republican senators say he didn’t really incite insurrection. Seriously? Maybe you can parse his words to argue they nuzzled the line without crossing it. Yet his mob was certainly incited. And when it stormed the Capitol — looking to hang his vice president — Trump watched on TV with glee, refusing to lift a finger. It was finally Pence who called in the national guard.

If Trump’s conduct wasn’t an impeachable offense, violating his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” nothing ever could be.

And his insurrection and attempt to overthrow the election, indeed the government itself, even while failing, did lasting damage. His big “stolen election” lie undermines public confidence in our election integrity and our government’s very legitimacy, exacerbating the partisan divisions tearing America apart. Very great crimes.

Yet Republicans denounce the impeachment itself as “partisan” and “divisive.” These dishonest hypocrites throw around such words to shirk responsibility for their own actions. As if it’s “partisan” to prosecute incitement to insurrection. As if their efforts to overturn a legitimate election weren’t the most divisive thing any party’s ever done.

With the first impeachment, I said that if Republican senators were smart, they’d band together and take the opportunity to be rid of Trump. They didn’t. That was, of course, cynicism and cowardice. But worse, most seemed to have actually drunk the Kool-Aid, becoming Trump cult true believers. Now they have a second chance. Will they take it? No.

Some expected, with Trump out of office (and off Twitter), a soul-searching among Republicans, a reckoning, a return to sanity. Especially after the January 6 insurrection, which you’d think finally made Trump insupportable. And that was a tipping point for a few Republicans. Most, however, are actually doubling down, tunneling deeper into their black hole.

If there’s a reckoning, it’s to purge those few (notably Liz Cheney) who aren’t totally gaga Trumpists. And the party is doing nothing to dissociate from its violent element, which the FBI now unsurprisingly warns is our biggest terrorism threat. Most Republicans may give lip service to condemning the January 6 insurrection — while continuing to pump the “stolen election” lie that provoked it. They won’t even dissociate from QAnon lunacy (now spouted by at least two GOP Congress members).

At the heart of it all is race. The party long exploited white racial anxiety, but under Trump that became its core raison d’etre. That’s what Trump represents, and it explains the fanatical devotion to him. The Capitol rioters weren’t actuated by abstract “conservative” principles. Those, if they even exist any more, are a transparent veneer upon today’s Republican white nationalist heart and soul. That’s also what their flaunted Confederate flag represents. January 6 was an attempted white putsch. And they’re not done; seeing it as the “Lexington and Concord” of their revolution.

THIS  is what’s really tearing the country apart.

In a rational universe a Senate impeachment trial could help lance this boil. But that’s not the world we live in. There won’t be the needed 17 Republican votes to convict. Meantime, the House’s impeachment already gave Trump’s conduct the needed stamp of ignominy. That would only be negated by Senate acquittal. Enabling Trump to again crow vindication, as though wiping the slate clean. Re-empowering him. Bad for the country.

Instead, the Senate should simply not hold a trial and vote. Remember how McConnell specialized in not holding votes? Now Democrats control the Senate and should do likewise on impeachment. Never bring it to conclusion. Let it hang around Trump’s neck, unresolved, forever.

(Senator Kaine has proposed a deal with Republicans to censure Trump rather than vote on impeachment. A censure would need just a simple majority. It would do little or nothing to puncture Trump worship, but if that avoids an impeachment acquittal, then fine.)

American democracy and the Big Lie

January 28, 2021

In November 1918, Germany’s military situation had become hopeless. Support for the Kaiser collapsed, he fled, and a new democratic government came in and signed the armistice ending the war. There was no alternative. But those democrats — including liberals, socialists, and especially Jews — were demonized for it. Blamed for supposedly somehow stabbing Germany’s army in the back.

That was a lie, cynically and knowingly cooked up to serve a political agenda. But it was widely believed by Germans unwilling to accept the humiliation of military defeat. The “stab in the back” myth loomed over the democratic Weimar Republic and corroded its perceived legitimacy; was exploited by Hitler in his rise to power.

This history was discussed recently on NPR. Why? Today America has the “stolen election” myth. The parallels are obvious and scary.

The January 6 insurrectionists cast themselves as battling for democracy, against an election steal. In fact they were accessories to an attempted one.

Trump had long made clear he’d falsely claim fraud to avoid accepting election defeat. But I didn’t realize what legs that lie would acquire. With most Republicans, a third of Americans, believing it as gospel. Like post-WWI Germans, rather than face up to defeat, they prefer to believe a lie that they were cheated of victory.*

The nativist right — for all its patriotism sanctimony — harbors a deep disaffection from the America they actually inhabit. As distinguished from their fantasy country, that they wanted to “make great again.” Actually, make white again, a key focus of their disaffection. And that disaffection is broadened and intensified by the “stolen election” lie. Convincing them that our government is illegitimate, the whole system rotten.

Trump’s trying to overthrow an election and inciting insurrection were crimes enough. But his greater crime was introducing into our body politic this toxic poison of the “stolen election” myth. It will plague us for years to come. Making it all the harder to restore some semblance of — well, not even unity, but just some comity, so we can at least manage to live together.

*        *        *

The age-old fear was democracy degenerating into mob rule. We got a taste on January 6. The other pitfall, seen in many countries, is one voting mistake giving you dictatorship, hard to undo. We’ve now had our own close shave with that as well.

As President Biden declared, our democracy did prevail. Our constitutional system a bulwark against both mobocracy and tyranny. But I keep saying — that’s not ordained by God. Democracy is not just a system but a culture. It cannot be sustained absent a citizenry with baked in democratic values. Which requires understanding those values, and too few Americans today really do.

Those who stormed the Capitol, invoking “the people’s will,” actually had their own understanding of that concept. What they really meant was their will. It wasn’t about who truly got the most votes. Only theirs were legitimate, others not. Especially Black ones. As Isabel Wilkerson suggested in Caste, many Americans want not a democratic country now so much as a white one.

* One more time: while Trumpers cite a raft of supposed “irregularities,” there’s zero evidence for anything that could have changed the outcome. None of Trump’s 60 lawsuits provided any. Even his toady Attorney General Barr agreed. Many election officials involved were Republicans. It all came from a man whose record of lies, if each were a mile, would circle the Earth. And why refuse to believe so lousy a candidate actually lost?

Trump’s great new idea: the Patriot Party

January 24, 2021

QAnoners called it “The Storm.” The long-awaited gotterdammerung when heroic Trump would at last spring his trap and destroy the insidious Satanic deep-state cabal of baby-eaters. Biden, Pelosi, Schumer, Obama, and all their ilk would be arrested, shipped off to Gitmo, and the rightful god-emperor would reign in glory.

Right up till noon on the 20th they sat before their TVs, in their millions, readying celebratory popcorn, all psyched up, certain their dream must surely now, at this final hour, play out. And then President Biden calmly took the oath. What? How could that possibly be allowed to happen? The whole inauguration day indeed going off without a hitch, without a murmur of tribulation, in fact awesome, puissant, and beautiful. Quickly restoring the America of grace and dignity we used to take for granted. Instead of Biden’s arrest, it’s hundreds of January 6’s QAnon and allied white supremacist insurrectionists being rounded up.

There’s flummoxed consternation in Trumpian La-La Land that “The Storm” didn’t happen. Some true believers, like those crackpot preachers who schedule the world’s end, will now simply change their storyline. Set a new date. Fret not, the plan’s all still good. Be assured Trump is playing four-dimensional chess. Others, however, are shaken in their faith. Feeling played for fools. Some now actually denouncing Trump as . . . wait for it . . . weak. And some even dare whisper that maybe, just maybe, he was all along only a con man in it for himself.

Gee, ya think?

It’s easy to laugh, but it’s really no joke that millions of Americans have such a tortured relationship with reality. It doesn’t take many of them to pose a huge ongoing terrorism threat. And even with Trump and Parler banned from the internet, the inflammatory messages continue. There’s still Fox — indeed, intensifying its demented bilge-spewing in an effort to outflank new rivals even more extreme. Fox’s creep squad has been cursing out those Congressional Republicans who retained a sufficient vestige of responsibility to refuse to support the overthrow of American democracy based on an insane traitor’s lies.

But Trump reportedly may have a new plan: start his own political party. To which I say: Great idea! Go for it — please!

He’ll call it the Patriot Party. His cultists do fancy themselves the ultimate in patriotism. Even while flaunting the flag of a country that made war against America (the Confederacy). The party’s symbol would be a lion. A perfect, perhaps Freudian choice: The Lyin’ Party.

Actually, the logic is baffling. As if the Republican party isn’t Trumpy enough for him. What can he gain? But rationality has never been his hallmark.

Anyhow, Donald will of course be the Patriot Party’s 2024 candidate. Or, if the Senate can muster the sanity to disqualify him, then Donald Junior. The old Republican party will stagger on. With their nationwide vote thusly split, Trump (whichever one) will carry West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama. GOP nominee Rubio might carry Florida. Harris all the rest.

Let the “Patriots” also run candidates in every Senate race, every House district — heck, for all state offices too. Dividing the Republican vote everywhere, annihilating themselves. Then Democrats, reigning totally, can undo all the voter suppression, and persecution of immigrants, and much else that Trump “achieved.” Maybe reform the filibuster and the Supreme Court. And amend the Constitution to finally get rid of the blood-soaked Second Amendment. And of course the undemocratic electoral college. So Republicans (or their spin-offs) can never get power again.

Now that would be a storm. Trump may be deranged enough to bring it on. Let’s hope.

The cult of the leader: Khomeini, Hitler, Big Brother, Trump

January 19, 2021

The news photo was unnerving. Trump’s January 6 rally — with three big screens looming over the crowd, imaging the center of his face, colored deep red, eyes glowering. Recalling throngs with giant pictures of a scowling Khomeini in 1979 Iran. Presaging it would not end well.

Such leader worship never does. Another example, Hitler, led his nation to destruction. And those Khomeini faces, and Trump’s, also both recalled 1984’s Big Brother. None of them smiling.

The foundation for humans living together in society is what’s called social capital. Preventing a war of all against all. A key element is trust — trust that societal norms and precepts will prevail. We ordinarily take it for granted. Trust that a stranger on the street won’t bash you and grab your stuff. That when you buy a jar of aspirins, those pills will actually be aspirins. That votes in an election will be properly counted.

Trump’s attack on the latter — based on nothing but lies — is only the latest in his long assault upon our social capital, dissolving the very glue that holds society together. Because he’snot served by it, this predator who thrives by shredding it. As with his tearing down the press, to undermine its holding him accountable.

America’s social capital was, pre-Trump, already stressed, polls showing us viewing each other with declining trust. Trump’s been an accelerant for that. So now, when it comes to the public sphere, a big segment of the U.S. population no longer believes or trusts anybody or anything — except Trump. The least trustworthy of men. The biggest liar.

That bizarrely perverse loyalty has all the earmarks of religious fanaticism. We had supposed evangelical Christians had strong faith, but it turns out their Christianity is trumped by Trumpism. On whose altar, David Brooks writes, they sacrifice every other value: “truth, moral character, the Sermon on the Mount, conservative principles, the Constitution.”

Brooks quotes a conservative preacher, Jeremiah Johnson who, after the storming of the Capitol, declared that God had unseated Trump because of his pride and arrogance and to humble those who, like Johnson himself, had fervently supported him. Provoking a firestorm of messages from Christians, cursing him out with vile epithets and multiple death threats. Johnson deemed these coreligionists “far SICKER (sic) than I could have ever dreamed.”

Not only can’t they see they’re worshiping a monster, correspondingly deranged is their demonization of his successor, as a corrupt doddering fool who’ll destroy America with socialism, taking away guns and law and order and freedom of religion and speech.

All totally ridiculous. And it’s this delusional foolishness that really does threaten to destroy America.

As seen on January 6. With almost an entire once-respectable political party careening down that rabbit hole. Longtime Republican operative Stuart Stevens had it right titling his book It Was All a LieWell, since Trump’s advent; now all bad faith and disingenuousness. Like when Elise Stefanik and 146 others in Congress claim, with straight faces, that their votes to overturn the election were responsive to Americans doubting its legitimacy — when those Republicans themselves fanned those baseless doubts by pushing Trump’s lies. And like Kevin McCarthy and 196 others opposing impeachment as “divisive” — after their mob attacked the Capitol screaming “Freedom!” in their bid to make Trump dictator — which most of those Congress members thereupon effectively voted to do. Divisive?

For some at least, like that Jeremiah Johnson, January 6 shook them to their senses. Trump’s approval rating fell from around 40% to around 30%. But that’s still a terrifying figure. And many saw January 6 not as a debacle but a clarion call.

How can we cure this madness? I don’t have a good answer. It’s impervious to reason. Brooks calls it “narcissistic self-idolatry to think you can create your own truth based on what you ‘feel.'” It’s not like Trump cultists are just selective about what facts they choose to believe — their basic conception of reality is a total inversion of what actually obtains. The core of their existence is a lie. And nothing will disabuse them.

Hitler, Khomeini, and Big Brother held power — but fortunately an American voting majority (not God!) has rid us of Trump. For now. A bare 51% majority. Too close for comfort.

Free speech and America’s escalating crisis of Trumpist insanity

January 16, 2021

Trump’s 2016 election put America, and what it represents, into a crisis that has only escalated. Every time we think we’ve seen the bottom, we’re proven wrong. Now he’s been impeached for incitement to insurrection, a violent attack on the Capitol demanding overthrow of our presidential election. Which 147 Congressional Republicans then obeyed.

Yet even after this shocking perfidy, Trump’s approval ratings are still between 29% and 39%. For a job he isn’t even doing. While covid rages and the economy craters, he’s been focused on trying to subvert the election and handing out pardons to criminals and medals to sycophants. And a third of Americans approve? Are they insane? 

Many wonder what he was thinking, urging his mob to attack the Capitol. That this might somehow keep him in office? But Trump’s never had a clue how our government and politics actually work. While pundits still talk as if there must be some calculated plan, the truth is simpler: he’s insane.

Many supporters don’t merely “approve” but worship him, as god-emperor — battling a deep state conspiracy of Satanic baby-eating pedophiles, according to Q-Anon, which millions believe. So they storm our sacred Capitol, smearing it with feces, carrying racist flags and weapons and bombs, assaulting policemen, screaming for heads on pikes and for hanging the Vice President, erecting the gallows. It was a close-run thing that no elected officials died. The attackers called themselves “patriots.” And Trump afterward sent them “love.”

We’re told the Republican party is splitting between Trumpism and sanity. But it’s still a very lopsided division; the great majority of GOP voters remain gaga. Just ten in the House backed impeachment. One serious observer suggests some of the rest feared being killed by fanatics in their own voting base. Meantime, now even members of Congress must go through metal detectors after at least one Republican brought a gun into the chamber.

All this might be less insane if centered upon some arguably noble heroic figure, a Pericles, a Napoleon. But this guy?? Vicious, depraved, degraded, a lying con man. Trumpsuckers can’t see the obvious. The word insane hardly suffices.

He rode to power exploiting widespread grievances with at least some tether to reality. Efforts for Black equality are not a figment of Trumpist imagination. Now though, it’s foaming-mouth fury at this “stolen election” idea, totally divorced from Planet Earth. But for them, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

And so they stormed the Capitol. Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

The internet and social media loom large here, spreading the poison. On Thursday I was asked by ex-Gov. Deval Patrick to attend a zoom, with Media Matters for America, discussing Facebook, Twitter, etc., banning Trump, part of a broader crackdown on right-wing extremist content. A video showed some hair-raising examples, including major Fox creeps talking up violence as a somehow legitimate recourse.

I pointed out that “conservatives” have long alleged silencing by opinion gatekeepers, making free speech an issue. And they certainly have a point regarding academia, punitively enforcing ideological conformity. Yet MMA’s presentation was all about suppressing right-wing content. What about trying to bring these people back to sanity? MMA’s president Angelo Carusone answered that major platforms have actually failed to enforce their own rules, enabling extremist advocates to “cheat,” and that’s what’s being targeted.

I am almost absolutist about freedom of speech. With Jefferson, holding that the answer for bad ideas is not censorship but better ones. Banning anyone — especially the President! — from a public platform is troubling. Ones like Facebook and Twitter do have too much power over the landscape of public debate. However, what the First Amendment bars is government restricting speech, which is not at issue here. And while everyone has a right to speak, nobody is entitled to a megaphone provided by someone else. In this case, banning Trump and other incendiary extremists is the right thing to do.

I began by saying America’s been in crisis. Disinformation is a key aspect, shredding our civic culture. We can’t have rational discourse without some shared reality. Bad enough being polarized over genuine issues; now it’s over what’s simply a lie. Many millions deranged by this pernicious “stolen election” nonsense, stoked to insurrectionary violence. Yes, we must try to coax them to sanity. But first at least turn off the fire-hose fueling the madness.

It won’t end soon. Trumpsters see January 6 not as a climactic disaster, but a galvanizing call to arms. They will be raging again tomorrow, and vow inauguration day trouble in all fifty state capitals. Some say President-elect Biden should avoid danger and forgo an outdoor public ceremony. I strongly disagree. Traditions matter. Normalcy — sanity — must be restored — and seen to be restored.

There will be ample security. Better include anti-aircraft guns. Not a joke.

January 6, 2021 — A date which will live in infamy

January 6, 2021

Today, January 6, 2021 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States was attacked — by an insurrectionary mob storming the capitol — and by over 100 Republican senators and representatives preparing to vote to overthrow a free and fair democratic election. In favor of a criminal, incompetent, mendacious monster, literally insane. Who they thusly helped to incite the defilement of our country in the eyes of a shocked world. 

Perhaps those Congressional Republicans, knowing they’d lose, imagined their votes were consequence-free. This afternoon proved otherwise. It all shows how far to the dark side they’ve gone. Nothing is more fundamental to a democratic culture than election losers accepting winners’ legitimacy.

While Trump had long thrown the word “coup” at opponents, THIS was truly part of an attempted coup. Many foreign autocrats have tried similar, too often succeeding. We may have been saved only by Trump’s deranged incompetence.

Congressional Republicans seeking to overthrow the election invoked alleged voting irregularities. Those originated as a pack of lies by Trump, made up out of nothing, because his diseased mind could not take losing. Then right-wing media whipped it up into a frenzy of conspiracy theories. But all Trump’s lawsuits were thrown out, many by Republican judges, some his own appointees. Many election officials attacked are Republicans, as are Georgia’s, who Trump openly browbeat to falsify vote counts. In the end, not a single Biden ballot was proven fraudulent. As if Democrats needed fraud to defeat a monster who horrified a majority of voters. 

Ironically, while Trump insists Democrats cheated, especially in Georgia, it’s actually Republicans who did — especially in Georgia — by blocking many Democrat-leaning voters (particularly Blacks) from casting ballots. And who was pushing state officials to falsify vote counts? This depravity likely contributed to Georgia electing two Democrats — a Black and a Jew! — to the United States Senate. 

Yet Tuesday Trump was idiotically doubling down, tweeting fraud about the Georgia Senate elections too. Demanding Mike Pence throw out electoral votes while presiding over their counting. Publicly calling him a coward for refusing to thusly act unconstitutionally. Then today’s speech by this “law and order” president inciting his mob to attack the capitol. Later calling for peace even while (mostly) hammering the stolen election lie. “A landslide” he dementedly claimed. Actually justifying the insurrection. 

Leaderless, the law enforcement response to it was largely absent. What if it were BLM protesters storming the capitol? 

President-elect Biden pledges efforts to work with Republicans, and heal our partisan divisions. Lord knows that’s desperately needed. But good luck. They’ve long been demonizing Biden as a corrupt fool fronting for socialist radicals and even Satan himself. Now furthermore declaring his election an illegitimate fraud. So far out on a limb they can’t climb down.

The Tea Party savaging Obama was a tempest in a teacup compared to what Biden faces. Thank goodness these criminal seditionists have lost control of the Senate, limiting their mischief-making power. But they’ll still try to sabotage Biden so Republicans can run in 2022 and ’24 calling Democrats do-nothing failures. Contrasting Trump’s “achievements!” (Forget a half million dead and a vandalized capitol itself.) Make America great again again !

And they will insist that sliming Biden, obstructing him, even denouncing his legitimacy, is merely fair turnabout because that’s what Democrats did to Trump. Well, they did resent his winning the presidency while losing the popular vote. But no one denied he was properly elected under our constitutional system. Hillary Clinton graciously conceded right away. Did not falsely cry fraud and launch a blizzard of phony lawsuits. Her supporters did not vilify and even threaten election officials doing their jobs. Democrats did not vote in Congress to overthrow the election. Or refuse transition cooperation, or talk about martial law, while Obama remained president. Nor stormed the capitol! 

They did criticize many Trump actions and policies. That’s normal politics in a democracy. They also did investigate wrongdoing. Such governmental accountability too is part of democracy. Do we want a country without those things? Like China or Russia?

The Russia investigation (launched, don’t forget, by Trump’s own Justice Department) was no “hoax.” Proved Russia did mess with our 2016 election — with the connivance of Trump operatives (like campaign manager Manafort, convicted of a slew of crimes). The impeachment was no hoax. Proved Trump did improperly withhold military aid, trying to extort a bribe from Ukraine’s president in the form of smearing Biden.

The Republican counter-narratives are simply counter-factual. No excuse for yet more denial of reality, regarding Biden’s legitimate election. Taking our political polarization to a new level of crazy; aggravating the pre-existing condition of Trump cultism. Today was its long-feared gotterdammerung. 

Shouldn’t this Republican assault upon democracy itself delegitimize them forever? But their diehard adherents, almost half the electorate, are unfazed. They don’t need to fool many others to win. In 2020 they came frighteningly close to re-electing Trump. While actually increasing their strength in statehouses, gaining yet more control over gerrymandering and ways to make voting harder.

Will today’s historic vandalization of democracy — both by the Trump-incited mob, and the Congressional Republican majority voting with them — prompt any GOP officeholder to cry “Enough!” and leave the party? Probably not. That’s how extreme our partisan division is. There’s no hope of Republican redemption.

Meantime, a future Kamala Harris candidacy — brown-skinned, and female, and more to the left — will unhinge them even more. Trump could conceivably return. Even more dangerous would be a Trump clone without all his ugly baggage and handicaps of incompetence and mental illness.

Most Trump voters are good decent people. Except when it comes to politics, not a big part of their lives. People can be 98% rational, but that other 2% is a killer. And when the political insanity bears its ultimate rancid fruit, it will be too late. We’ve seen that befall too many other countries. God does not make America somehow immune.

In two weeks we will have, at long last, a decent, honest, capable, experienced, sensible president, conscientiously public-spirited, who is sane, who will undo much of the damage, especially to our global standing, rescuing our democracy. Yet I am under no illusion that it’s a final victory. The war of reason against unreason continues.

UPDATE: Click here for a list of the 6 Republican Senators and 121 House members who finally did vote to overthrow American democracy.

Trump’s latest criminal pardons

December 24, 2020

In 2007, four Blackwater organization operatives, working on contract for the U.S. military in Iraq, committed what by all accounts was an unprovoked and indefensible massacre, a shooting spree killing 14 innocent Iraqi civilians including women and children, and wounding 17 others. It was called Baghdad’s “Bloody Sunday.” The U.S. government went to great effort and expense to investigate this atrocity, gather evidence, and bring those responsible to trial. In compliance with our obligations under international law, and demonstrating America’s commitment to humanity and justice. The four were found guilty and received prison sentences from 12 years to life.

Trump has now pardoned them. Mumbling something about trial irregularities — dismissed as simply nonsense by people knowledgeable about the case. It was thoroughly investigated by the FBI, and the verdicts were hailed as incontrovertibly proper.

Blackwater is headed by Eric Prince, who just happens to be a big Trump donor and the brother of his Education Secretary, Betsy DeVoss. This week Trump also pardoned several criminals who were prosecuted in connection with the proven 2016 Russian election subversion (which Trump falsely calls a “hoax”), including supreme slimeball Paul Manafort (convicted of illegal lobbying, tax evasion, and multimillion dollar financial fraud connected with his working for foreign dictators). And Trump pardoned two ex-Congressmen, Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, both convicted of serious financial crimes, who had been among Trump’s earliest Congressional supporters in 2016. And Jared Kushner’s father (prosecuted by Chris Christie), convicted of tax evasion, witness tampering, and campaign finance violations.

Presidents were given pardon power for mercy and to rectify injustices. But one former federal prosecutor likened Trump’s latest pardons as those of a mob boss.

All this comes on top of a long string of other politically smelly and corrupt crony pardons, including racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio; propagandist Dinesh D’Souza; Roger Stone; and Michael Flynn. All convicted of serious crimes. None of these pardons went through the customary Department of Justice review process. They were just Trump’s whims.

And the Blackwater case reprises Trump’s previous pardons for a Navy SEAL court-martialed and convicted by a military jury for war crimes, and other soldiers punished for misconduct. Trump’s actions horrified military brass, who said they represented a crisis in military governance, undermining good order and discipline in the ranks. Which of course rests upon the concept of accountability for transgressions. Trump also fired the Navy Secretary who objected to those pardons. (So much for Trump posturing as a champion of the military.)

The further perversion of justice represented by the Blackwater pardons has been met with widespread shock and dismay by responsible observers. Human Rights Watch calls it contempt for the rule of law. It’s a gut-punch to the people of Iraq, who’d believed justice was being done. It’s a terrible black eye for America’s standing in the world. It will make things harder for U.S. troops everywhere, who will now be looked upon with heightened suspicion.

America’s greatest asset, in its global relationships, has been not its economic or military power, but admiration for this country as being indeed admirable, standing for what’s right, upholding universal values. Putin and China jeer that that’s just bullshit, that we’re hypocrites, as bad as they are. Trump is trying to prove them right after all. Telling the world we don’t give a damn if our soldiers commit atrocities.

Trump did this latest pardon blizzard while completely ignoring covid’s accelerating death toll; except to irresponsibly trash the covid relief bill negotiated without him; and vetoing the military budget for taking Confederate names off bases; while still obsessing about somehow overthrowing the election.

Trump cultists, who call themselves “patriots,” trying to shrug off or defend the pardons (with predictable whataboutism — Marc Rich pardon? — and other lame deflections) will prove their literally insane moral depravity.

Equally insane is their denial that Trump lost a fair election — in part due to his long record of reprehensible conduct like these despicable pardons.

Is this their idea of “draining the swamp?” Of “law and order?” That slogan may still play in Trumpmania. But I wonder how it plays today in Baghdad.

Still four weeks to go. God help us.

For Trump disease, there’s no vaccine

December 20, 2020

WAMC, the local NPR station, has a morning “roundtable” of journalists and others discussing the news. In 2015 it became the Trump roundtable; even while his candidacy was still seen as a joke, he was sucking up attention like no other personage ever had. Of course it intensified during his chaotic presidency.

That would cease, columnist David Brooks once predicted, with Trump’s 2020 defeat. Republicans would abjure him as that most despised of beings, a loser. But Trump seems to be pulling off his biggest con of all — convincing them (and probably himself) he actually won the election. Being cheated by a massive conspiracy of fraud.

This delusion piles one more upon a towering edifice of nurtured grievances, and fits right in with fantasizing Trump as some tribune battling a Satanic “deep state” cabal conniving to bring him (and America) down. They’ve long salivated for his final triumph. Seems they’ll have to wait longer. More reason to continue giving him money.

Which of course he’s cynically exploited, with floods of “stop the steal” email appeals. They’re the real 2020 election fraud — because instead of financing Trump’s disgraceful ballot litigation, most of the money goes elsewhere. After the electoral college vote, the “defend the election” theme vanished from emails, perhaps now looking too absurd even for Trump chumps. Yet they’re still being relentlessly squeezed for cash.

And the sore loser assault on democracy is unabated. The messages now label Biden an “illegitimate president,” while Trump refuses to meet with him or otherwise cooperate in the transition, continuing his shredding of civic norms. It’s not merely ugly. All this does great harm to the country.

Key to democratic culture is willingness to amicably accept election outcomes and the legitimacy of the other side’s role. We’ve already long had a real problem here, with such divisiveness that political legitimacy itself had become a sore point. A president explicitly declaring his successor illegitimate carries that to a whole new level. 

One more way in which Trump has been the most destructive single person in America’s history. Being well versed in that history, I say this literally and judiciously.

We did hope to turn the page by voting him out. But this monster will continue sucking up attention, grinding down democratic norms, dividing us, and sabotaging efforts to dig ourselves out of the hole. Making his cult followers even more angry, embittered, and disaffected. Their worship unfazed by his hunkering in the White House dementedly plotting to overthrow an election he lost by seven million votes while he ignores everything else — including three thousand daily U.S. deaths.

For this sickness there’s no vaccine.

Another facet of Trump’s destructiveness is his blowing up our information ecosystem. To discredit any news he doesn’t like and create an alternate reality. Many Americans don’t know what to believe any more when it comes to basic public facts. Many, indeed, so befogged they can’t see through the most blatant disinformation — as with Trump’s “election fraud” scam. 

The internet’s proliferation of infogarbage paved the way. And now we’ve got lies spewed by shameless national propaganda broadcasters masquerading as news sources — Fox, and even more egregious, One America News Network and Newsmax.

The huge irony here is that for all Trump’s “fake news” assaults on mainstream media as his enemy, it’s actually that very media that played his game and gave him power by gifting him with an unprecedented spotlight. And while Trump whines that the media was out to get him, it was a largely uncritical spotlight. (Only lately have they found the guts to speak forthrightly of “baseless fraud claims” and the like in news coverage.) Many in the mainstream media by now seem to recognize how much they themselves foolishly helped create this monster.

Will they finally learn the lesson, and dampen Trump’s spotlight once he’s out of office? Or will they, like heedless moths to a flame,  continue giving over-the-top coverage to his every abominable rally and deranged tweet?

A test will come on January 20 when Trump tries to upstage the inauguration.

A Christian asks Christian Trumpers: “What in God’s Name are You Doing?”

December 15, 2020

Kathryn Shihadah wrote this piece (11/15/20) on patheos.com, a religion site. My humanist society’s newsletter reprinted it. I found it quite powerful too, and have edited it slightly: 

Trump-supporting Christians have abandoned the call to be Christlike, and turned Christianity into something barely recognizable. It’s time to ask ourselves honestly: what are we doing? I’ve been a lifelong Christian, and I intend to remain faithful to God till I die. But I’m no longer sure about wearing the “Christian” label. Why? Trumpism. 

Here’s a quote I saw recently, trying to belittle atheists: “When people choose not to believe in God, they then become capable of believing in anything.” No, the exact opposite is true: When people choose to believe in God, they become capable of believing in anything.

It’s true. We have been guilty of a massive lack of discernment, and the sooner we admit it, the better. First we paired ourselves with a man who . . . well, you know the long list of strikes already against him even before 2016. In spite of his many indiscretions and deep-seated vices, we Christians excused and embraced him. Every time some new trespass came to light, we found a way to brush it off. 

Everyone is a work in progress; everyone deserves forgiveness and a second chance, but we’re not talking about a friend or coworker here. This is the man we put in charge of our country. He showed us he was a fake Christian. Showed us he was self-centered and arrogant. Showed us he was a racist – even as he told us he was “the least racist person in the room.” The opposite of Christlike. We are guilty. We knew all this and we elected him. We looked at him and his Muslim ban, and his Mexico wall, and we said, “yes, this is the man for us.” We completely ignored Jesus’s straightforward words, “whatever you have done to the least of these, you’ve done to me.” 

That’s right, we turned away Jesus at every international airport and deported him at our southern border. We ripped babies from Jesus’s arms and put them in cages. Not Obama. Us. Nearly every day for four long years, the president we elected did something obscene, or lied to us or to the world, or bullied the weak, or cozied up with tyrants. For the last ten months, he has ignored hundreds of thousands of Americans as they died. Now, the majority of Americans are done with him. And we can’t handle it. He is probably the most hated man in the world right now, but we think the only way he could lose an election is through some kind of massive conspiracy. 

What have we become, Christians? Do we still believe we have the moral high ground here? Do we even care about integrity? It seems to me (and hundreds of millions of people around the world) that all Christians care about anymore is winning. 

Are our leaders being Christlike? Christian leaders weaponize Christianity, and use it to demonize and/or ridicule every American who didn’t vote for “our man.” Paula White** talks of a “demonic confederacy against the election, against America, against who you have declared to be in the White House.” Kenneth Copeland: “The media said Joe Biden is president. Hahahahahaha. Hahahahahaha.” Michelle Bachmann: “God, take your rod of iron and smash the delusion of Joe Biden as our president – he is not.” 

When the president tear gassed a peaceful protest so he could walk across the street and hold up a Bible for a photo op, that was distasteful. We can say, “Father, forgive him. He knows not what he does.” But Paula and Kenneth are pastors. They know better. Not only are these people’s words offensive and decidedly un-Christlike, they are using God’s name and the Bible as a weapon. In defense of a man who watches TV and plays golf all day while Americans are dying. 

So I ask again, what have we become? Does this in any way resemble Jesus? Are we being Christlike? We’re pretending like we just want a fair election, but won’t consider it fair unless our candidate wins. We’ve suggested that “liberals” must have tampered with vote counts, and implied that “conservatives” would never do such a thing. We cannot accept the fact that it’s over. We are demanding to keep that person in charge of our country. Oh, and many of us are still selfishly refusing to protect our communities by wearing a mask. 

Yeah, I’m still a Christ-follower. But “Christian?” I’ll have to think about it. When people choose to believe in God, they become capable of believing in anything.  What in God’s name is wrong with us? 

* Here’s a link: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/gracecoloredglasses/2020/11/dear-trump-christians-what-in-gods-name-are-you-doing-christlike/

** Trump’s so-called “spiritual adviser.”