Archive for the ‘stinking piece of shit’ Category

Would I kill him if I could?

January 27, 2022

A radio interview with scientist Robert Sapolsky shocked me. My humanist book group was currently discussing his tome on human behavior. Sapolsky spoke of his fantasy of killing someone. Not just killing — but with torture, described in graphic detail.

The “someone” was Hitler.

Sapolsky’s fantasy might seem innocuous because of course Hitler is already dead. But if this were 1944?

Capital punishment opponents deem killing always morally unacceptable, no matter how bad the person. Yet I believe some people deserve the ultimate punishment, as a matter of justice.

So with Sapolsky: fantasizing himself an avatar of justice. However, torture adds a problematic dimension; it must entail mindful cruelty by the torturer, a corruption of their soul, and of the moral legitimacy of whatever authority sanctions it.

There used to be a widespread fetish in academia denouncing “judgmentalism,” with categorical judgments considered always suspect. Of course that’s turned completely around, now academia embraces judgmentalism with a vengeance, punishing viewpoints not in lockstep with the catechism of the day. But without going to such extremes, the former anti-judgmentalism was surely wrong. Humans are built to be judgment machines; life is all about making judgments. We are also programmed to be justice seekers. Thus Sapolsky vis-a-vis Hitler.

My own judgment app is set on “high.” A lifetime of hard thinking about issues confronting us makes me feel, at this point, pretty strong in what I judge good or bad, right or wrong.

Certain personages are on the wrong side of that judgment, earning the sort of hatred Sapolsky evinced toward Hitler. This is not hate as a baseless prejudice (as with, for example, white racial hatred). To the contrary, its salient characteristic is being justified by sound rational considerations. Thus I hate Putin; Assad; Maduro; Lukashenko; Ortega; Erdogan; Kim Jong Un; Xi Jinping; Min Aung Hlaing; alas the list goes on, it’s far too long. I hate them for the evil each has perpetrated.

There’s one person I hate more than anyone, ever. (You knew where this was going.) A hatred burning with a pure incandescent flame. Yet this too is no irrational prejudice, but its exact opposite. A deeply considered moral judgment grounded in facts. The crimes are not in the Hitler-Stalin-Mao class; however, unlike the other mentioned cases, this one for me is personal. Because it concerns my own country, which I have profoundly loved for what it represented and stood for. Which this evil monster has damaged beyond calculating. Maybe wrecked forever.

So do I fantasize like Sapolsky? Or would I actually do the deed if I had some opportunity? In fact, no. It would be self-immolation. He’s already caused me so much suffering — heartache, anxiety, literal lost sleep. He can destroy my country, but I would not let him destroy my life itself. And assassination would make him a martyr in many eyes, throwing gasoline on America’s political dumpster fire.

However, I do harbor a fantasy, every morning, when I retrieve our newspaper and open it. A fantasy of a big black headline. It might not be justice; after all, everybody dies. And even if it’s from natural causes, conspiracy theories would run wild, and millions of his cultists would expect him, Christlike, to return. But he could do no more harm. And maybe, just maybe, most of America could recover its sanity.

Trumpism and religion: God help us

January 11, 2022

Nobody is a better advertisement for atheism than Trump.

A man many evangelicals view, despite all his demerits, as God’s instrument for achieving their triumph. That’s how they justify backing such a person. But it’s actually ruinous for the religion they profess to serve.

So argues Jennifer Rubin in a recent Washington Post commentary. Writing about people “in the throes of white grievance and an apocalyptic vision,” seeing America under attack from socialists, immigrants, and secularists. Leading to “an ends-justify-the-means style of politics in which lies, brutal discourse and violence” are embraced. And their rejection of objective reality.

Also their rejection of democracy itself. A democratic culture means not just elections, but acceptance of a pluralism in which diverse voices all have legitimate roles. That in particular they hate, seeing it as a threat. Thus, for all their invocations of “patriotism,” they reject the very meaning of America — the ideas of the Declaration of Independence — in favor of exclusionary blood-and-soil white nationalism.

One might have thought the advent in 2021 of a more conventional, lower-key national administration, of serious purpose, would calm the waters. And that the horror of January 6, a violent attempt to overthrow American democracy, would be electoral poison for Republicans whose deity and his Big Lie instigated it. Yet the opposite has happened. The crisis of our democratic soul has intensified.

Rubin’s main focus is again on the religious dimension. She quotes Peter Wehner (an evangelical Christian and G.W. Bush advisor), discussing a recent speech by Donald Trump Junior. Its message, says Wehner: “The scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers.” Jesus’s teachings have “gotten us nothing.” Indeed, have handicapped prosecuting the culture wars against the left. “Decency is for suckers.”

This, Rubin says, helps explain “the MAGA crowd’s very unreligious cruelty toward immigrants, its selfish refusal to vaccinate to protect the most vulnerable and its veneration of a vulgar misogynistic cult leader.” While “their ‘faith’ has become hostile to traditional religious values such as kindness, empathy, self-restraint, grace, honesty and humility.”

Vaccine refusal not only does trash basic religious ethics, but also reflects a perverted notion of freedom, disregarding that freedom doesn’t mean a right to harm others. That harm is a reality vaccine resisters refuse to believe (killing them in droves). While it’s their dogma that the 2020 election was stolen — also thoroughly proven false. Together showing the astonishing depth of this insanity.

I heard one January 6er on the radio declare he’d taken “an oath to God” that Trump would remain president. “An oath to God!” he repeated, almost shrieking.

Religion is a fundamental divorcement from reality that paves the way for further ones. If you believe in heaven and hell, you can believe nonsensical anti-vax and election fraud lies. If you believe in the man in the sky, it’s but a small step to believing Trump is his instrument. The history of religion is full of suckers falling for what are obvious con men, blind to being manipulated for bad ends. That’s the Trump story.

Rubin’s key point is that while all this “has done immeasurable damage to our democracy,” it also “has had catastrophic results for the religious values evangelicals” supposedly hold. Their God-talk and Jesus-talk has become hollow, their belief systems hijacked by the rotten-hearted Trumpism that cheers making orphans of migrant children.

And this travesty does not go unnoticed by Americans with sanity still intact. It drenches religion in shame. Makes all its pious moralistic prattling a cruel joke. It’s a big reason why younger Americans especially are turning away from religion. Polls show numbers soaring for those saying their religion is “none.”

Republicans, with deranged ferocity, accuse Democrats of somehow, literally, wanting to destroy America. But Rubin concludes that evangelical Republicans are turning it into “a country rooted in neither democratic principles nor religious values. That would be a mean, violent and intolerant future few of us would want to experience.”

Idiocracy

December 11, 2021

As someone vaunting human reason, the 2006 comedy film Idiocracy haunts me. It starts with an upscale couple — intelligent, educated, thoughtful — agonizing about whether to have a child. Then we see a gaggle of lowlife dumbasses reproducing like rabbits. Repeat for a few generations and you get a dumbass nation. An idiocracy.

The president in this dystopian future is of course a crass buffoon (Black — go figure). Back then we could laugh. But politics is incidental in the film, more concerned with a dumbed-down cultural landscape. Epitomized by its most popular TV show — “Ow! My Balls!” Yucks galore. (As if people would still be watching network TV generations hence.)

The film’s premise of an intelligence collapse was silly. Studies show average human intelligence is actually increasing (the “Flynn Effect”). Yet what’s descending upon us is something darker and scarier than mere innocent dumbness. Imagine another movie:

Though 74 million vote to re-elect a crass buffoon president, he’s unsurprisingly defeated. But his deranged ego can’t accept it. So he makes up a lie that the election was a fraud. Laughed out of court; but instead of hooting him off the stage his cult followers storm the Capitol in support of his attempted coup. After which his hold on his party actually grows, their indignation over the imaginary “election steal” intensifying. And its unprincipled politicians use that as a pretext for every possible underhanded trick to steal the next election themselves and return to power.

Nah, that movie would be too implausible. This is America, not some banana republic (or “shit-hole” country.) Weren’t we made great again?

Meantime, polls show voter support for Biden and Democrats plunging. A lot of the reasons are bogus (“socialism,” “defund the police,” “critical race theory,” “open borders”). Biden is not blameworthy for inflation. And voters are also venting frustrations over the pandemic — perversely, since of course it’s Republicans hugely blameworthy, insanely battling against needed public health measures. Forgotten too is the rest of Trump’s litany of atrocities, even including the January 6 attack upon our democracy itself, and how Republicans have abetted it.

There’s been tons of analysis trying to explain voters. Many just act like bloody-minded nihilists. Maybe it’s idiocracy after all. So as of now, reprobate Republicans (helped too by their gerrymandering) look poised to retake the House of Representatives in 2022.

But if you suppose this would be just another routine swing of the political pendulum, you’re not paying attention. We saw what lengths Trump went to, last time, to overturn the election and keep power. He might have succeeded, if Democrats hadn’t (barely) controlled both House and Senate. Next time, a Republican-led House of Representatives can block certifying electoral votes. Throwing the election to the House itself, where they’ll crown Trump. They’ll have the votes; think they won’t have the balls?

We see country after country where such manipulations prevail. Often just simply fabricating vote counts. Even presidents with real public support skirting zero, like Maduro, Ortega, Assad, and Lukashenko, get “re-elected.”

This is the movie we’re in now. A tragedy, not a comedy. Much darker than Idiocracy, with its mere innocent dumbness.

We won the Cold War, defeating Communism, with democracy ascendant. But now it’s under vicious assault again, as Anne Applebaum writes in The Atlantic, from what has grown into a new alliance of anti-democratic regimes, supporting each other and perfecting the tools of repression. Trump actually aligned with them. If he returns to power, sinking democracy even in America, it’s game over.

I could live in an idiocracy. Not in a trumpocracy.

The Deep State

November 26, 2021

“The Deep State” refers to a locus of true power, hidden, pulling strings behind the scenes. Journalist David Rohde discussed his 2020 book about this, at the New York State Writers Institute’s 9/25 Albany Book Festival.

No, Rohde’s book did not expose the Deep State. Instead exposing the fevered fantasies about it.

The term actually originated in 1990s Turkey, and then Egypt, where something like a deep state was a reality. The idea being that elected governments were just a veneer, their doings without real consequence, the shots being called elsewhere. Mainly by the military, in concert with powerful economic players. In Turkey, that’s been superseded by Erdogan’s autocracy. Egypt’s deep state was overthrown in 2011 but returned even more powerfully in 2013. Pakistan’s another case, its deep state centered on the military and its associated intelligence outfit, never really out of power.

In America, the basic idea long had resonance on the left. The old term “military-industrial complex” entailed something like that. Rohde also pointed to the 1970s Church Committee, investigating the CIA, with a whiff that it was more malignly powerful than we realized. And there were echoes in the “Occupy” movement.

The far right version of the “deep state” trope, in Rohde’s telling, originated with Peter Dale Scott’s 2007 book, The Road to 9/11. When Scott appeared on Alex Jones’s conspiracy-crazed show, it was off to the races. Not just 9/11, but the Oklahoma City bombing, and Sandy Hook were all staged by the government, for some nefarious reason — like a pretext for confiscating all guns. Which, you know, actually happened.

Then came 2016. Jones and his ilk insanely cast Trump as the hero who’d smash the deep state. But of course it would resist. Steve Bannon’s right-wing Breitbart News, in December, before Trump took office, rang a warning bell that the deep state was bent on thwarting him at every turn and bringing him down.

Many people in government did try to stop things Trump was doing. Considering them wrong and destructive, which was true. But it’s cuckoo to imagine some organized secret conspiracy to illegitimately screw Trump. (Two failed impeachments might at least have proven the “deep state” actually impotent.)

Nevertheless, this notion of a dark plot against Trump was trotted out continually — all the “witch hunt” rhetoric — as a way to revv up his cult followers into even greater frenzy. And it got worse, transmogrifying into QAnon.

“Q” is/was a supposed government insider anonymously ripping off the covers. The “deep state” conspiracy comprises pedophile baby eaters. All the major Democrats are in on it. Trump is waging a secret war against them. On the day of reckoning, “The Storm,” they will all be arrested (executed?) with Trump returned to office in glory. Millions continue to seriously believe this lunacy, despite the march of events since last November (and their putative savior being a mad incompetent fool).

And what does this QAnon story resemble? Obviously the “end of days” and Christ’s second coming. The congruences between Trumpism and religion are indeed striking. For many American “Christians” today, “Christian” is really more a cultural signifier than a true religious faith. For that, they look instead now to Trump. Religion is always a flight from rationality. This Trumpian religion flings reason to the ground and stomps on it.

America’s Didius Julianus Moment

November 6, 2021

Didius Julianus was the Roman Emperor who bought his crown at auction.

Here’s the story. The madman Emperor Commodus (the one in Gladiator) was murdered on the last day of AD 192. Succeeded by Pertinax, an upstanding statesman. He tried to discipline the Praetorian Guard, an elite corps of soldiers tasked with protecting the emperor, and grown overly powerful. They killed Pertinax after three months. Now, it had become customary for a new ruler to gift the Praetorians with a cash bonus. So they held an auction to see which aspirant for power would offer the biggest bonus. In effect, auctioning off the rulership itself. The winner was Didius Julianus, bidding an extravagant sum.

Three months later, he too was murdered. It’s said he hadn’t fully paid up.

In the grand sweep of history, this episode is a small footnote. Yet it’s well remembered, not just for its titillation, but mainly because it signaled something important. The once noble empire being reduced to this sad farce showed it was hollowed out and off the rails. This is where “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” is reckoned to have really begun.

Now America is in Didius Julianus time. We just had a madman president. Losing re-election, he conspired mightily to remain in power, culminating in his supporters storming the Capitol. His deranged ego unable to face, like a man, his defeat, he concocted a preposterous lie that the election was a fraud. Thoroughly disproven at every turn. One warped soul creating such a lie is understandable. Less so the millions of his cultists for whom it’s become an article of faith, central to their whole political ethos.

The fools worshipping their false god are sacrificing, on the altar of his ego, their very brains, as devotees of his “stolen election” catechism. But this is not so much about the last election as the next one. Which his party of cynical opportunists assiduously works to steal themselves. Exploiting Trump’s big lie as a pretext for measures to supposedly forestall election theft which actually aim to perpetrate it.

We saw this pathology ascendant even in deep blue Trump-loathing New York State where, on November 2, two ballot propositions to enable election day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting were both defeated. Why would voters reject such options to make it easier for them to vote? Because Republicans campaigned against the proposals as inviting election fraud. Which in reality is virtually nonexistent. Yet voters swallowed this bilge. The real reason Republicans oppose making voting easier is because they think it disadvantages them. Trump himself openly said that if every citizen can vote, you’ll never see Republicans elected again.

Few Americans have ever heard of Didius Julianus. Indeed, few know much history at all. Which is a big part of the problem. It’s not just the race history Republicans are making such an issue of. It’s the larger picture of America’s place in history, its import, what it all means. Too many have no concept of what actually made America great. That’s why they can vote so irresponsibly. The craziness warping our whole body politic into a grotesque zombie of its former self. All because one sicko couldn’t accept losing. It makes the tale of Didius Julianus seem bland in comparison — and shows America is, like Rome in his day, hollowed out and off the rails.

The Roman Empire actually limped onward for centuries after Didius Julianus, but its greatness was now in the rearview mirror. “Make America Great Again?” What a sad ironic joke.

The State of the Union: A Republican comeback?

October 20, 2021

Conventional wisdom says a president’s party loses seats in midterm elections. Republicans, needing few gains to control Congress, will benefit from the census shifting seats to red states, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and other cheating. But modern American politics confounds conventional wisdom. No longer conforming to a rational paradigm. Many pundits even think Trump may regain the White House. Could voters be so crazy — after January 6 — and with Republicans still steeped in that Kool-Aid?

The “stolen election” story is a pathetic joke. As if the out-party could have pulled that off. Trump (the biggest liar ever) simply made it up because his deranged ego couldn’t accept losing. Any fool could see that. But not his cultists, so unhitched from reality the lie is now literally an article of faith. It was Trump himself who tried to steal the election, culminating on January 6, and the insanity continues to warp our whole body politic. Might voter revulsion at this negate the usual midterm dynamic? Or will Republican distraction efforts succeed? (Despite being undermined by Trump’s obsessive histrionics.)

We’re also being told that if President Biden can’t get his ambitious multi-program bill passed, Democrats will look hapless. While if it does pass, Republicans will have a field day crying “socialism!” So Democrats can’t win. But Republicans will shriek “socialism” no matter what. Now needing, as we’ve learned, no nexus with factual reality for any of their shtick. Screaming that Democrats will destroy America — which Republicans themselves nearly did on January 6.

Meantime, what’s actually in Biden’s legislation is mostly stuff most voters like and want: subsidized day care, family leave, college, etc. Another thing we’re told endlessly is how Democrats don’t connect with the working class economic anxieties Trumpism exploits (without actually doing anything about).

Well, Biden’s big “Build Back Better” bill does tackle those bread-and-butter concerns. But for many voters, it’s “my mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” And Republican politics today isn’t about genuine policy issues anyway. Mainly it’s demonizing and hating Democrats. “Owning the libs.”

As a longtime Republican, I have no illusions of Democrat and Biden wonderfulness. I’ve criticized him over Afghanistan, and China policy. His handling of migrants and refugees is disappointing — breaking, I feel, a personal promise. Yet Biden is still a decent, honest, responsible, sane antithesis to Trump who — on top of every other ghastly travesty — tried to overthrow our democracy. And would wreck it forever if, against all reason, returned to power.

I’d like to think it inconceivable. But that’s what I thought in 2016 — before it showed too many U.S. voters gone rogue — against all reason.

Americans are mostly admirable, pragmatic, down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth people. But even before 2016 I warned that our being, in the global/historical scheme of things, a peaceable oasis of democracy and freedom, was not somehow ordained by God. And would not endure without citizens understanding and internalizing the principles undergirding it. Heedless ignorance, flouting those principles, metastasizes. As on January 6. And millions actually believe Trump was “making America great again.” Another pathetic joke.

I fear the power of the strongman syndrome. Bin Laden said, “if people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will prefer the strong horse.” Even if, as with Trump, it’s strength of badness. Those still gaga for him are psychologically attracted by the illusion of strength. Imagining only a tough character can solve tough problems. And voters in many other countries have made that same mistake again and again, falling for the primitivist, misconceived macho allure of a “strongman.” Like moths to a flame.

I love America. Trump’s presidency felt like watching her raped. Re-electing him would be like infidelity.

The Stolen Election of 2024

September 24, 2021

The 2020 election was not stolen. The 2024 election may be.

We’re learning more about January 6 and what led up to it. One aspect was Trump’s mental illness. Narcissism so deranged he couldn’t psychologically accept defeat. Needing to somehow convince himself it didn’t happen. Thus the “stolen election” lie.

Trumpsters long salivated over the Arizona election “audit,” by “Cyber Ninja” clowns. Now it’s actually wound up finding more Biden votes! Will that stop the “stolen election” nonsense? Of course not. Defying reality twice over: first, no evidence, and second, blindness to all the reasons a majority did vote against Trump.

Meantime, there was an attempt to steal the election. By Trump. Details have emerged about how far this went. Vice President Pence was lauded for refusing Trump’s demand to somehow derail electoral vote counting. Actually Pence was fool enough to seriously consider it. He’s still in the lap of the man who sent a mob that nearly killed him on January 6. That was Trump’s last-ditch ploy to overthrow the election (and our democracy).

The Electoral Count Act was enacted to clarify procedures after the 1876 disputed election. But the ECA itself is clear as mud, open to the sort of January 6 shenanigans Trump promoted — with Republican support. Remember that a majority of GOP legislators, even after the mob attack, voted to overturn the election results.

Maybe it’s an excuse that they knew they’d be outvoted. Maybe. And what if they’re not in the minority next time? Will they desist from a repetition?

Republicans no longer believe in democracy (or reality). Rather than trying to convince opposing voters, Republicans make it harder for them to vote. Deeming somehow illegitimate any votes not going their way. We used to have “the divine right of kings” — anointed by God to rule. Many Republicans similarly believe they’re on a holy mission, so little obstacles, like citizens’ votes, can’t be countenanced to thwart them. So unhinged with terror of the other side, they’ll do anything — anything — to prevail. Ends justifying means.

Many Republicans (even Kevin McCarthy) initially denounced the January 6 insurrection, and even Trump’s culpability. But they quickly changed their tune in the cold sober light of morning, instead lashing themselves, like Captain Ahab, to their white whale.

Falsely crying fraud is now a key page of the Republican playbook — nihilistic bomb throwing into the heart of democracy. While they themselves gear up to steal the 2024 election. Not just by blocking Democrats from voting, but also shifting responsibility for vote counting from non-partisan to partisan hands. In 2020, Georgia’s secretary of state refused Trump’s demand to “find” 11,780 more votes. In 2024 that official won’t have that authority. Instead it will be political operatives, empowered to report whatever vote counts they see fit. Regardless of actual votes. Elsewhere, Republican-controlled state legislatures talk about certifying Trump electoral votes even if he loses. Simply falsifying election results is how many autocrat regimes hold power.

Reversing the 2020 outcome would have required flipping at least three states. Never conceivable. And still, look what tumult we went through — the nonsense lies still plaguing us — over that election result. Just an appetizer for 2024. Especially if it’s at all close. Can our democracy survive even worse election-related conflict than in 2020?

Investigating January 6: Republicans compound the crime

July 25, 2021

January 6 was a bloody attack upon the heart of American democracy. Initially the two parties negotiated what seemed to be a very fair deal for a bipartisan Congressional investigation, modeled on the 9/11 Commission. But 9/11 occurred in a different nation. No chance today’s Republican lawmakers would honestly cooperate to investigate even an attack on Congress that threatened their own lives.* And so they duly killed the bipartisan agreement.

House Speaker Pelosi nevertheless went ahead with a Congressional investigating committee — as bipartisan as possible under the circumstances. She actually made a Republican (Liz Cheney) one of her own appointees to the panel. And invited GOP leader McCarthy to name five further members.

Once upon a time we might have imagined his choosing upstanding, judicious people whose reputations would call forth widespread trust. But this is 2021.

So instead McCarthy’s picks included Jim Banks and Jim Jordan. Jordan is a rabid Trump bulldog, his considerable verbal talents perverted to making absurdities sound plausible. David Brooks called both men “stinkbombs,” lobbed by McCarthy to make a farce of the investigation.

Hence Pelosi rejected the pair. Commentator Jonathan Capehart saw this as reflecting true dedication to her constitutional responsibilities. This investigation is extremely serious public business, and she wanted to include Republicans, but was not going to let them make a circus of it.

Now McCarthy indignantly says if Banks and Jordan are excluded, then no Republicans will join the committee at all (apart from Cheney, who he does not control).

What is really going on here? The Republican party has become a deranged bunch of nihilistic bomb throwers with, for all their “patriot” prattling, zero loyalty to America’s democratic fundamentals and institutions. Comprehensively irresponsible. Desperate to avoid all serious probing of January 6, knowing their god-king has its blood all over his hands. And that the continuing threat to our democracy comes from within their own ranks. While some are so divorced from reality they actually blame others, or even deny it happened at all.

Trump himself, interviewed for a recent book, described January 6 as a love fest, with police welcoming folks into the Capitol. He also believes he won the election. And in the tooth fairy.

But here’s something I actually don’t understand. Why this has to be a congressional investigation in the first place. True, the attack targeted Congress. But really our whole constitutional system. The 9/11 Commission included members from outside Congress, as did the Warren Commission, investigating JFK’s assassination. Why can’t an investigation, along similar lines, be organized under the auspices of, say, the Justice Department? Or, better yet, by presidential executive order, convening a bipartisan blue ribbon panel of widely respected personages. Like, for instance, John Roberts and Mitt Romney. Wouldn’t that end-run around Republican insanity** garner far more public credibility?

* Being himself a mass shooting victim didn’t change GOP Congressman Steve Scalise’s opposition to gun sanity.

** Herschel Walker plans to run as a Republican for a Georgia Senate seat despite a history of battling mental illness. His slogan could be, “Probably less nuts than your average Republican.”

Trump gets away with it again

July 5, 2021

Refusal to release his tax returns begged the question: what was he hiding? The Manhattan District Attorney finally got the documents after an arduous court battle. Indicted now is Trump’s top financial honcho, Allen Weisselberg — and the Trump organization — but not Trump himself — for tax fraud. This has nothing to do with Trump’s own returns. Rather, paying Weisselberg and others with benefits, like luxury apartments, in lieu of salaries, to avoid income tax.

In the big picture that seems like small beer. The mountain labored and brought forth a mouse. Trump must be laughing. Crowing vindication again.

Actually, the crimes alleged are quite brazen and serious. But why wasn’t Trump himself charged too? He’s the head of the organization. Signed some of the checks in question.

The New York Times, having previously gotten leaked access to Trump’s own returns, had run some exhaustive articles exposing what clearly looked like huge fraud therein. Trump never paid much tax at all. Claiming business losses year after year. Literally the losingest businessman in America, according to his tax returns. So much for “The Art of the Deal.” But it seemed evident all those “losses” were created by phoney accounting. Cooking the books. Yet no indictment (so far?).

It’s Weisselberg the fall guy headed for jail. Like Trump’s “fixer” Michael Cohen, jailed for his role in illegal payoffs to cover up Trump adulteries. Trump signed checks for that too. It came to light while he was president, and that dumb Justice Department memo said a sitting president can’t be indicted. No basis for that in the Constitution, but never mind now, he’s no longer in office and is certainly subject to indictment. Why is he not being charged for the crime Cohen committed at his direction?*

Why, indeed, does this creep manage to skate through his entire life with no comeuppance for all his countless misdeeds? He did pay $25 million to settle the Trump University fraud case. Chump change for him. But that was just a civil matter. I never understood why it didn’t constitute criminal fraud carrying a prison sentence.

* * *

Trump has also escaped the verdict of historians. Recently C-Span asked 142 of them to rank the presidents, and Trump was not rated worst. In fact, only the fourth worst! What were they smoking?

Their top three turkeys were Pierce, Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson, all Civil War related. In my youth I immersed myself in U.S. political history. Before Trump, I’d rated Johnson (1865-69) worst, a racist blunderer. But Pierce (1853-57) and Buchanan (1857-61) are faulted, basically, for failing to somehow prevent the war. A bum rap — it’s far from clear what if anything they could have done. At that time Congress was the main event, presidents being bystanders with little real authority.

No, Trump runs away with the title of worst president, by a country mile. Off the charts. To begin with, he’s indisputably the most disgusting character ever to hold the office. And his performance certainly reflected that badness. He plunged our whole civic culture into the toilet. A divisive, racist, compulsive liar. An administration stuffed with corrupt lowlife sycophants. Shredding relationships with allies, cozying up to blood-soaked dictators, and blackening America’s moral standing in the world, not least with intentionally cruel inhuman policies separating thousands of children from parents. I could go on. (And have: https://rationaloptimist.wordpress.com/2020/10/25/lest-we-forget-the-full-trump-record/)

But even if none of the above were true, he’d still nail the prize for one supreme dereliction: his thoroughly idiotic handling of the pandemic, bearing personal responsibility for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

And those historians thought Franklin Pierce was worse? I repeat, what were they smoking? Trump’s is a record of infamy unparalleled in our history.

* A familiar legal principle says any applicable statute of limitations would be tolled — that is, the clock would be stopped — while the culprit is unavailable for prosecution.

Republicans’ deranged war on Fauci

June 8, 2021

Just when you thought Republicans could not get more insane . . . .

Now they’re rabidly focused on demonizing, of all people, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of America’s disease control agency since 1984. They hate Fauci for being the pandemic’s antithesis to Trump.

How crazy is it to intentionally spotlight the difference between the two? Trump fumbled for two crucial months while the virus spread; admitted downplaying the danger; his briefings were orgies of self-praise, misinformation, and divisive insults; pushing conspiracy theories, quack cures, and injecting bleach; encouraging resistance against his own shut-down guidelines, masking, and social distancing. All this utter idiocy surely caused most of our 600,000 deaths. While Trump disparaged and tried to sideline scientists like Fauci — a contrasting voice of reason and responsibility.

So what’s their beef against Fauci now? A trove of emails from early in the pandemic they say show he misled the public about its origins, to protect the Chinese government. Of course that’s a ridiculous lie. Of course. Republicans no longer even remember how not to lie.

Scientists, in the pandemic’s early days, scrambled to get information, so naturally their messages evolved as knowledge increased. To concoct from that a case that Fauci lied is itself despicably dishonest.

Central here is the “lab leak” theory for Covid’s origin. Originally dismissed because the virus fit a familiar well-understood pattern of jumping from animals to humans. The “lab leak” theory is lately getting a second look, even while the scientific consensus still deems it highly improbable.

Republicans now accuse Fauci of deliberately downplaying it. Why would he? A Chinese shill? But anyhow the emails actually show the exact opposite of what Republicans claim. In fact, as scientists go, Fauci was unusually open-minded toward the “lab leak” idea, refusing to join others in dismissing it.

Yet undaunted by truth and reality, Republican “stars” like Rand Paul, Josh Hawley, Steve Scalise and Elise Stefanik are thundering for a full-blown investigation of Fauci and his emails. (While opposing a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 violence against the very institution they (supposedly) serve in.)

They seem desperate to find some way to undermine the Biden administration’s credibility and support. The broad American public is comparing Biden’s honesty, decency, competence and leadership against his predecessor’s total shit-storm. Guess which they prefer? No matter how often Republicans screech the word “Socialist!” Yet instead of trying to run away from their shit-storm, they somehow imagine winning the next election by mythologizing it.

Note: this piece practically wrote itself. So clear is the reality. Long accustomed to genuine political debates about genuine issues, I can’t help despairing that so many Americans fail to see what are so obviously lies and nonsense from what are so obviously bad people. Fauci versus Trump on Covid? Are you fucking kidding me?

The Republican party is insane. Supporting (almost) any Republican is insane. Returning them to power would be insane.