The Beginning Of The End

Last week, I wrote the following:

Among the emerging Democratic Party stars in Congress is Rep. Adam Schiff, of California. He’s the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee and has been a leading anti-Tr-mp voice, speaking calmly and intelligently and authoritatively, particularly when it comes to Tr-mp’s unhinged tweets about Obama’s nonexistent wiretapping of Tr-mp Tower. The congressman has put a lot of pressure on his Republican colleagues to take the danger of Tr-mp seriously.

On Monday, the head of the FBI, James Comey, and the head of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, came before Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee and essentially confirmed what we already knew—that Tr-mp is either deluded or a liar or both—and Comey confirmed what we highly suspected—that the FBI is investing links between Russia and Tr-mp’s campaign, and has been since late July.

I listened to almost all of the testimony yesterday, beginning with congressman Schiff’s opening comments, which are posted below. If you watch the 17 minutes of his statement, you will see why what I wrote about him last week is absolutely true, why we are lucky to have him. He is the right man for the job, the job of exposing Tr-mp for what he is, but in a way that no one can call hysterical. His hair wasn’t on fire. He presented what we know in a way that anyone could understand, anyone could follow.

Despite attempts by Republicans on the committee to deflect, obfuscate, and dilute what was happening as Comey and Rogers testified, what I witnessed as I watched yesterday was quite likely the beginning of the end of the Tr-mp regime. Oh, he may hang on for a while; he may even hang on through his entire term. But his credibility, to the extent anyone thought he had any credibility, is gone. His moral authority, to the extent anyone thought he had any moral authority, is gone. His ability to govern, to the extent anyone thought he had the ability to govern, is gone.

As some have pointed out, the leader of the free world no longer leads from the United States. She leads from Germany. Angela Merkel is the moral leader of the free world. Tr-mp, with his Putin-loving posture, his mental instability, and his disregard for diplomatic norms, is not to be trusted, is not fit for the job. Many of us knew this before he was elected, some are finding it out now, and others will never admit it. But it is true. I never thought I would live long enough to see it happen, to see the United States of America become what it has become. But here we are.

Watch Adam Schiff and you will get some idea of how we got here:

Meet The Mercers

Vicky Ward is mostly an author and investigative journalist who happens to be editor-at-large at Town and Country magazine. Her last book, The Liar’s Ball: The Extraordinary Saga of How One Building Broke the World’s Toughest Tycoons, was about midtown Manhattan’s “real estate royalty” and how “their empires came crumbling down in the 2008 financial crisis.” The inside flap of the book reads:

The Liar’s Ball is a story of naked, unregulated capitalism, of the sometimes bloody free-for-all of the free market. It’s a tale of brilliant and enormously ambitious billionaires fighting bare-knuckled to get what they want. And they all wanted the GM Building.

Through over 200 interviews with real estate’s best and brightest—Donald Tr-mp, Harry Macklowe, Samuel Zell, Mort Zuckerman, and many more—New York Times bestselling author Vicky Ward exposes the lies and schemes and insecurities behind the deals made by some of the world’s biggest egos. The Liar’s Ball is the riveting real-life tale of just how far these people would go to get the money, power, and attention they so desperately crave.

Ward has been keeping her eye on Tr-mp and those surrounding him. She has appeared several times on television news discussing, among other things, the roles Ivanka Tr-mp and her husband Jared Kushner play in the Tr-mp regime. Her latest writing effort is an expose in the Huffington Post’s magazine, Highline. The expose, “The Blow-It-All-Up Billionaries,” is about the eccentric Mercer family, big-time donors to Tr-mp and other right-wingers.

To give you an idea of the Mercer family’s eccentricity—okay, political nuttiness—they once supported a congressional candidate from Oregon, a chemist named Art Robinson (Rachel Maddow famously battled with him in 2010), who thinks global warming is a hoax, believes we should sprinkle radioactive waste over the ocean (and possibly America) because it might be good for us, once believed HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and who, as Vicky Ward pointed out in her article, “was best known in his district for co-founding an organization that is collecting thousands of vials of urine as part of an effort it says will ‘revolutionize the evaluation of personal chemistry.’” The Mercers also supported a candidate in Arizona (running against John McCain) “who once held a town hall meeting to discuss chemtrails—chemicals, according to a long-standing conspiracy theory, that the federal government is spraying on the public without its knowledge.”

You get the idea. Ward sums it up:

In short, unlike other donors, the Mercers are not merely angling to influence the Republican establishment—they want to obliterate it.

Ward’s eye-opening story mainly focuses on 42-year-old Rebekah Mercer, the most politically active of the family, who demanded a position on the executive committee of Tr-mp’s transition team—and got it. Ward wrote of her:

it quickly became clear to her new colleagues that she wasn’t content just to chip in with ideas. She wanted decision-making power. To her peers on the executive committee, she supported Alabama senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and General Michael Flynn for national security adviser, but argued against naming Mitt Romney secretary of state. Her views on these matters were heard, according to several people on and close to the transition leadership. Rebekah was less successful when she lobbied hard for John Bolton, the famously hawkish former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to be deputy secretary of state. And when Bolton was not named to any position, she made her displeasure known. “I know it sounds sexist, but she was whiny as hell,” says one person who watched her operate. Almost everyone interviewed for this article, supporters and detractors alike, described her style as far more forceful than that of other powerful donors.

It was Rebekah who talked Tr-mp into dumping Paul Manafort and bringing in Bannon, whom she believed, with good reason, shared her political vision. And although some people around the regime say Rebekah Mercer’s and Steve Bannon’s “relations are strained,” others told Ward “not to count Rebekah out.” Why? The Mercer family, it turns out, “made one of their most consequential investments” in 2011. They put “a reported $10 million in a new right-wing media operation called Breitbart.” This of course led them to initially hook up with Steve Bannon and to get inside the regime, especially get inside Tr-mp’s head. Ward wrote of Rebekah’s future:

She still has a stake in Breitbart, which holds tremendous sway over Trump’s base and has recently gone on a no-holds-barred offensive against the GOP health care plan. And on March 13, Politicoreported that some Trump officials were already disillusioned with America First, which they felt had been slow to provide much-needed cover for his policy initiatives. There was talk of turning instead to a new group being launched by Rebekah Mercer. And so she may yet get another chance to realize her grand ambitions. “She’s used to getting everything she wants, 100 percent of the time,” says another person who knows her well. “Does she like getting 90 percent? No.”

In the short clip below, which is Ward appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, you will hear a summary of the Mercer’s influence and how the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United made what they do possible. And you will hear a little bit about a British data science company the Mercer’s invested in, around 2012, called SCL Group. It’s American branch was rebranded as Cambridge Analytica, which Rebekah Mercer tried to use to control various campaigns, including Tr-mp’s. Watch this and then go read Ward’s interesting piece:

Senator Claire McCaskill’s One Minute Message To Rural Missourians About Tr-mpcare

Needing only about a minute, my senator, Claire McCaskill, tells her fellow Missourians, particularly rural Missourians who voted for Tr-mp overwhelmingly in this state, just what the GOP has in store for them in their new Tr-mpcare plan:

More Than A Budget

Normally, it isn’t nice to speak ill of the dead. But sometimes one has to make an exception. Tr-mp’s budget offering to Congress (which actually only addresses discretionary spending by the government, not mandatory spending involving SS, Medicare, and Medicaid) is one of those exceptions. Although the budget is dead—actually it was still-born—it deserves to be called out for what it is. And Vox’s Dylan Matthews did just that:

Budgets are moral documents, and Trump’s is a moral failure

Most people don’t see budgets as moral documents. But what else could they be, especially discretionary budgets? Such documents tell us what the regime’s priorities are, what Tr-mp and his cronies consider to be important. And as Matthews says of this budget proposal, “the moral consequences of its implementation would be profound, and negative.”

Matthews, with help from the Center for American Progress, offers some reasons why that is so:

♦ Tr-mp cuts programs that help low-income Americans, like nutrition help for women and their kids (a $200 million cut in WIC).

♦ Tr-mp completely eliminates the popular “Meals on Wheels” program for the elderly.

♦ If Tr-mp had his way, there would be no more legal assistance for the poor, even in a justice system that already discriminates against them.

♦ A program designed to help low-income families with their utility bills in extreme cold and hot weather is eliminated.

♦ Job training programs for the poor and elderly, designed to get them back in the labor force, are gone.

♦ The Community Services Block Grant gets killed. Thus, no more funds for local efforts to help impoverished folks, some of whom, undoubtedly, voted for Tr-mp.

♦ The EPA’s budget is slashed (thank you, Jill F*cking Stein), meaning:

There’s no money to enforce the Clean Power Plan. There’s no EPA funding for climate research. The Energy Department’s clean energy R&D programs would be eliminated or scaled back. The State Department would have its climate programs cut. NASA and NOAA would see climate-related research money cut.

Dylan Matthews says:

These cuts might be less significant to the future course of climate change than Trump’s efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan itself. But they nonetheless are a strong signal that the Trump administration just doesn’t care about the climate at all. And that’s terrifying.

It’s terrifying especially for the world’s poorest people, who are the “most vulnerable to climate change.” Matthews adds:

Vox’s Dave Roberts has argued that Trump’s election ended whatever hope there was of avoiding 2ºC of warming, after decades of climate negotiations centered around that threshold. The budget suggests that Roberts was right. The world’s poor — and the environment as a whole — will pay the price.

Make no mistake about it when Republicans are in power: the poor always pay the price. Always.

♦ The Tr-mp moral blueprint would also cut the State Department’s budget by a whopping 28%. No one knows exactly what that might mean in terms of our long-term ability to avoid wars, which, last time I checked, is part of the reason the State Department exists. But we know it likely means guns, not words, will help settle, or not settle, more conflicts in the future.

♦ One explicit cut in the State Department’s budget is to a fund that helps refugees, like those unfortunate fouls in Syria trying to escape ISIS and other terrorists we say we hate. But we don’t hate those terrorists as much as we hate to help the people they are killing and terrorizing.

Image result for evangelicals for trumpThis would be a good time to remind you that we are called a “Christian” nation by the evangelicals who flocked to Tr-mp last November. Ignoring fleeing refugees overseas, hurting the poor and elderly here at home, denying a changing climate that will hurt, first, the most vulnerable, and then everyone else, is what conservative Christianity—Tr-mpism behind a cross—looks like when it gets its hands on political power.

Yes, Tr-mp’s budget is definitely a moral document. But, because of how he came to power, with the critical help of right-wing zealots who had Jesus on their lips if not in their hearts, it is also a theological document. And the God this document represents is one cruel, heartless bastard.

Tr-mp Leaks When He Speaks

Among the emerging Democratic Party stars in Congress is Rep. Adam Schiff, of California. He’s the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee and has been a leading anti-Tr-mp voice, speaking calmly and intelligently and authoritatively, Adam Schiffparticularly when it comes to Tr-mp’s unhinged tweets about Obama’s nonexistent wiretapping of Tr-mp Tower. The congressman has put a lot of pressure on his Republican colleagues to take the danger of Tr-mp seriously.

Just this morning, Schiff pointed out something Tr-mp said on Fox last night that I confess I missed the first time:

I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked, and a lot of things taken — that was during the Obama years.

Schiff pointed out that Tr-mp has the power “to declassify whatever he wants,” which, I might add, includes anything and everything if he completely loses his mind—just one fact among many that makes Tr-mp too dangerous to contemplate sometimes. And because Schiff cannot declassify anything he wants, he was limited to accusing Tr-mp of only possibly blurting out classified stuff:

In his effort to once again blame Obama, the president [sic] appears to have discussed something that, if true and accurate, would otherwise be considered classified information.

Schiff can’t confirm Tr-mp revealed classified information because Tr-mp could have Jeff Sessions and the FBI throw him in the hoosegow, thus the appears to have discussed…classified information.” Schiff is no dummy.

In any case, the Democratic congressman added a little jab that he could get away with:

For anyone else to do what the president [sic] may have done, would constitute what he deplores as “leaks.”

I think it is accurate to say that much of what comes out of Tr-mp’s disordered mind could be fairly characterized as “leaks.” Like when the oil pan gasket on  your car is damaged and oil gets all over your driveway. In that case, you can either get the damned thing replaced and stop the leaks or you can put a piece of cardboard under your car to stop the leaks from mucking up your driveway.

As we all can see, the gasket on the mind of this 70-year-old man is beyond repair. We need a giant piece of cardboard, if we are to keep the dangerous orange goo off the country’s pavement. The leaking can’t be stopped, whether we are talking about nutty conspiracy theories involving Obama or about obviously true events like the hacking of the CIA (or a leak by a contractor), the revelation of which, you will notice, Tr-mp used to attack Obama rather than his friends at Wikileaks, who posted the stolen material online.

A patriotic American would think Tr-mp, if he were going to openly confirm to the world the legitimacy of the security breach at the CIA, would attack the Russian-loving Julian Assange, who is acting as an agent of the Russians. But nope. Assange and Wikileaks—and the Russians—have all done too much for Agent Orange. He is in their debt every day he sits in America’s driveway and leaks.

“Your Microwave Can See You Naked,” And Other Tales From “How To Create And Exploit Fear And Grow Rich And Powerful”

“There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. So we know that that is just a fact of modern life.”

—Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Tr-mp

Every day we see and hear almost nothing but propaganda, some of it strange and dark, from Tr-mp and his regime and his enablers in Congress. Trashing the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates of killing Obamacare is just one example (the CBO, by the way, is headed by a conservative Republican economist and critic of Obamacare). Another example is the attempt by Sean Spicer to reinterpret what Tr-mp meant when he accused President Obama of a crime. There are countless cases of such surreal attempts to ignore or, more often, invent an alternative reality.

Some people call this stuff gaslighting. Some call it deflection. Others call it simple obfuscation, designed to draw attention away from the Russian scandal or the Tr-mp family grifting and Emoluments Clause violations or the administrative incompetence—or Tr-mp’s personality disorders. But because I spent more than 20 years listening to talk radio—as a conservative—I know exactly what it is we see and hear. It’s an attempt to radicalize Americans, at least enough of them to make a good living, or in terms of Image result for microwave and conwaypolitics, to retain political power and achieve reactionary policy goals. These people sell conspiracies, they peddle half- and quarter-truths as gospel. They tell lies. They radicalize Americans so they can use them, either to get their money or their votes.

And I have bad news. It works.

We can trace nearly all of what we see today back to Rush Limbaugh. He went national with his divisive, propagandistic, profitable radio show in 1988. I was there with him from the beginning. Every day. First it was two hours, then it went to three. I was a believer. I was a dittohead. I had been educated in conservatism by intellectuals like William F. Buckley and George Will and Joseph Sobran. But I was, to tell the truth, radicalized in my formerly rabid conservatism by Limbaugh.

It was the Limbaugh model—distort and skew the news to promote far-right politics and demonize Democrats—upon which Roger Ailes, who once tried to make Rush a television star in the 1990s, based the idea of Fox “News.” Debuting in 1996, Ailes’ Fox enterprise became the number one cable “news” channel in 2002 and has remained there ever since. It turns out, as Ailes learned from Limbaugh’s financial success, that disseminating disinformation and propaganda, turning the Democratic Party into an America-hating institution, and radicalizing conservatives, is a lucrative business. According to the Pew Research Center, Fox “News” enjoyed a profit in 2015 of some $1.5 billion, well ahead of CNN’s $381 million and MSNBC’s $227 million.

About the same time Fox “News” was beginning its televised assault on the truth, hijacking journalism for the radicalization of the right, a former 7-Eleven night clerk and telemarketer named Matt Drudge began to make his mark on the Internet. The Drudge Report began as a small email newsletter dabbling mostly in showbiz, “part gossip and part opinion,” as Wikipedia describes it, that Drudge ran out of his tiny two-room apartment in a run-down part of Hollywood. It morphed into a news aggregation site, began focusing on politics, and gained prominence by first revealing, early in 1998, that Newsweek was sitting on a story about someone named Monica Lewinsky. We all know what happened to Bill Clinton after that. What happened to Drudge is that outing Newsweek, assisting in the right-wing assault on the Clinton’s, made him a superhero on the right. His intentional and ongoing disdain for journalistic standards, of standards of any kind, is demonstrated by a story published by Media Matters in 2013 involving Drudge and a crazy conspiracist now linked to Donald Tr-mp:

Matt Drudge has long been conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ biggest ally. According to a Media Matters review, the heavily-trafficked Drudge Report has promoted at least 50 separate articles at Jones’ Infowars website in 2013, and has linked to at least 244 different articles on the site in the past two years.

Drudge announced this week that he had privately told friends that 2013 would be the “year of Alex Jones.” Considering Drudge’s penchant for promoting Jones and his Infowars website, those comments are more of a promise than a prediction.

Drudge missed the exact year that the kooky Jones—on whose program Tr-mp has appeared, whom Tr-mp has called “amazing,” and to whom Tr-mp said “I will not let you down”—would rise to prominence. But that wasn’t the point. The point was and is to make money off misinformation and propaganda and lies, which is a reason to promote people like Jones. Mediaite reported that in July of last year, DrudgeReport.com “netted a combined page view count of 1,189,670,000 for the month and held its position as the #3 media publisher in the country.” This stuff works, people.

Now we come to Breitbart.com, “the platform for the alt-right,” as Tr-mp’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, who recently resigned as the chairman of the extremist site, once called it. The founder of Breitbart.com was no stranger to Matt Drudge, as Reason magazine pointed out:

Andrew Breitbart describes his job function as “Matt Drudge’s bitch,” but he’s being modest: He’s the man behind the curtain at The Drudge Report, stirring up the site’s signature mix of scandal, box office returns, wire stories, and political tidbits.

Even though Andrew Breitbart is dead, his site lives on and is still spreading Drudge’s sludge, as this story from October of 2016 demostrates:

Drudge Warns: Impending Hillary Sex Scandal

That story was ostensibly about a tweet Drudge sent out:

drudge and hillary and ellen

The real point of the Breitbart story and the Drudge tweet with a photo of Ellen DeGeneres, a well-known lesbian, was to get the following “scandal” and “political tidbit” into the minds of conservative readers who may not have known about it or had forgotten it:

A rumor circulated in the 1990s saying that Clinton was secretly okay with her husband’s extramarital affairs because she was secretly a lesbian, but there has been no truth to the rumor.

This isn’t the first time Clinton has been accused of cheating on her husband.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump accused Clinton of cheating on her husband, but he didn’t say with whom or provided any specifics.

“Hillary Clinton’s only loyalty is to her financial contributors, I don’t even think she’s loyal to Bill if you want to know the truth,” he said during a rally in Pennsylvania on Oct. 1. “Really folks, why should she be?” he asked, a reference to Bill Clinton’s womanizing and accusations of sexual abuse.

Propagating such tripe radicalizes conservatives, make them regular customers, and gets them to pass stories like these among their friends and family and coworkers, which generates income. So does labeling the mainstream press as “fake news,” something Tr-mp and his followers do now without even blinking.

Conservative media, of which Tr-mp is now a part, use these methods to divide the country and exploit and monetize the differences between us. For an increasing number of cynical politicians on the right, the methods are meant to divide the country and benefit from a fevered following of fanatics, those who will express their radicalization by voting against their own economic interests and, in more extreme cases, taking to violence or, as we have seen lately with the attacks on Jewish centers, expressing ancient hatreds.

Just stop and think of where we are right now:

♦ The special counsel to Tr-mp has essentially warned Americans that their government may be using microwave ovens to spy on them.

♦ A United States congressman from Iowa, praising a right-wing Dutch xenophobe who thinks European civilization is being transformed by Muslim immigrants, said, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” He then went on CNN and made matters worse by doubling down on his message. And we barely heard a negative peep from his fellow Republicans.

♦ According to the Anti-Defamation League, “Since January, 161 bomb threats have targeted Jewish institutions across the country.” Another ADL article notes: “White supremacists, emboldened by the 2016 elections and the current political climate, are currently engaged in an unprecedented outreach effort to attract and recruit students on American college campuses.”

♦ One of Tr-mp’s top strategists, Steve Bannon, a self-avowed Leninist who wants “to destroy the state,” thinks Western Civilization is in a Holy War not just against violent Islamist extremists, but with Islam itself, a religion that has 1.6 billion followers around the world, including 3.3 million here in America, some 4000 of whom are currently serving in the U.S. military.

♦ Sean Hannity, a radical radio guy spawned by the success of Rush Limbaugh and who crossed over to TV as a popular host on what masquerades as a conservative “news” network, on Thursday claimed there were “Obama holdovers” in the government “hell-bent on destroying” Tr-mp. He told the Tr-mp regime to “purge these saboteurs before it’s too late.” The next day the purging began with the firing of U.S. Attorneys. None other than Geraldo Rivera called Hannity “the second-most powerful, influential person in the country” because  he talks to Tr-mp every day and, more frightening, Tr-mp listens.

♦ Worse, Bloomberg news posted a video story today with this headline and description:

Alex Jones Preaches Conspiracy Theori♦es, Trump Listens

Alex Jones is one of the most famous conspiracy theorists in America, calling events like the Sandy Hook shooting, the Apollo moon landing, and 9/11 “false flags.” One of his biggest fans? Donald Trump. This Bloomberg Profile looks at how Alex Jones went from extremist fringe to a major source of information for the president of the United States.

♦ Our Secretary of State is sometimes unaware when foreign diplomats are visiting Washington, takes foreign trips without the press, and generally has no staff to help him understand the complexities and nuances of diplomacy.

♦ Wikileaks has released potentially devastating intelligence-gathering secrets, and Agent Orange is more worried about The Apprentice’s ratings. In fact, Kellyanne Conway’s allusion to spying microwaves was in the context of Wikileaks—think: Russia—trying to undermine our national security and our democracy.

♦ Tr-mp delusionally claimed Obama committed a serious felony, referred to the former president as either a “bad” man or a “sick” man, and close to half of the country is willing to believe him.

♦ Tr-mp claims, almost every time he talks about the economy, that it was a “mess” when he took over. Journalists, weary of correcting every lie, every day, don’t even bother to address this one anymore.

♦ Before Tr-mp was in power, the employment numbers were phony. After he’s in power, they are indisputable evidence of his governing genius.

♦ The Office of Management and Budget director, former congressman Mick Mulvaney, has not only told lies about Obamacare, but he accused the Obama administration of “manipulating the numbers” in order “to make the unemployment rate…look smaller than it actually was.” He offered no evidence for this claim, of course, but it is part of radicalizing a segment of the population to doubt the facts and believe the unbelievable.

♦ And speaking of radicalism, that same Mick Mulvaney championed the 2011 government shutdown, believed such shutdowns were “good policy,” and, as a congressman, would have cut government spending to the point that it could be drowned not in Grover Norquist’s infamous bathtub, but in Tr-mp’s gold-plated shitter. During hard economic times, he proposed dramatic cuts in government spending, including defense spending, so much so that John McCain voted against his confirmation as OMB director.

♦ The Speaker of the House has called the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare an “act of mercy.” Here are examples of Republican mercy: some 24 million folks, many of them elderly and living in nursing homes, will lose their health coverage; older Americans will pay a lot more for their insurance; CBO estimates monthly health insurance premium for a single 64-year-old who makes $26,500 would jump more than 700% (from $1,700 to $14,600)”; defunding Planned Parenthood “would leave many women without services to help them avoid pregnancy, resulting in thousands of additional births”; oh, and rich people will get $600 billion in tax cuts over ten years.

All this and more that is happening around us is radical stuff. There is no doubt about it. And none of it could happen without intentionally radicalizing enough people in the country—not a majority but enough— to make it all possible.

Many of us outside the various fundamentalist tribes have wondered how a culture can exist in faraway places that promotes the idea that people should strap explosives to their torsos to kill and terrorize those who don’t share their theological beliefs. Now we can see how that can happen. It starts with radicalization. It starts with convincing ignorant or unsophisticated or vulnerable people that what they see and hear is false, unless it comes from the radicalizers. Microwave ovens can see what we are doing. Our televisions are spying on us. Only the regime’s numbers are real numbers. “Mercy” means taking away healthcare from millions and giving away millions to billionaires. And on and on.

We have not seen and will not see American radicals on the right strap on explosive vests and blow up people in the town square. Theirs is a different brand of radicalism. What we have seen are these radicals collectively strapping Tr-mpism to the chest of America and threatening to politically blow up the place if they don’t get what they want.

Our job, as resisters, is not to let them terrorize us into submission or to numb us into pessimism and paralysis. Tr-mpism is explosive. It is dangerous. But we can fight it and win. We can protect the truth, respect the facts, and insist that our friends and family and others around us do the same. Then when election time comes, we can vote and strip the radicalizers of their power, if not their ability to make money by radicalizing the gullible.

 

In Praise Of Experience In The Democratic Party’s Fight Against Tr-mpcare

There is a lot of talk among Democrats and left-leaners that the leadership in the Democratic Party is too old and what is needed is new blood. Well, not so fast.

Sure, any political party needs new and younger folks coming into it to supply both energy and fresh ideas. But a healthy party is one in which a combination of experience and youthful exuberance and idealism prevails. After the devastating Congressional Budget Office report on the Republicans’ replacement for Obamacare came out on Monday, what we needed was competence and experience to explain just how devastating it was and how much harm the plan would do to Americans, the poor, the sick, and the old. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer provided that experience.

The video below is the press conference they held. Pay attention to how they marshalled the arguments supplied by the CBO’s analysis of the proposed legislation, and pay attention to how they represented institutional memory—as congressional veterans of past fights with Republicans over health reform—that highlighted Republican hypocrisy and duplicity. Oh. If you don’t watch the entire 16 minutes, at least go to the discussion (starting around 13:40) in which the point is made that it will be rural red state folks who will get hurt and blue state wealthier people who will actually benefit from the heartless GOP plan. Yet, two prominent Democrats are standing there in defense of the red state Republicans. Nothing represents better the differences between the two parties. Watch:

Tr-mp. Russia. Scandal. Won’t Go Away.

A new Quinnipiac poll released yesterday found the following:

Voters disapprove 54 – 32 percent of the way President Donald Tr-mp is handling U.S. policy towards Russia…

American voters support 66 – 30 percent an “independent commission investigating potential links between some of Donald Tr-mp’s campaign advisors and the Russian government.” The only listed party, gender, age or racial group opposed is Republicans, opposed 64 – 30 percent.

A total of 61 percent are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about President Tr-mp’s relationship with Russia. A total of 62 percent of voters say alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election is a “very important” or “somewhat important” issue.

As the great Steve Benen pointed out this morning:

Health care and wiretap conspiracy theories have helped push the Russia scandal off front pages, but the controversy continues to move forward in a way the White House should find alarming.

The Russia scandal may be off the front pages, but it was front and center on the Rachel Maddow show last night. In case you missed it, watch and learn and then wait:

Obamacare Lite: Tastes Great If You’re Rich, Less Filling If You’re Not

Republican congressman Mo Brooks, of Alabama, was on CNN this morning railing against his party’s new health insurance plan, which some are calling “Obamacare-lite.” His appearance came just after Speaker Paul Ryan was on television lying about the “collapse” of the real Obamacare and how this new “conservative” plan was his “dream” and that it will certainly pass Congress because, well, just because. Ryan confirmed that Tr-mp was mo brooks on cnn.jpgfully on board and it looks like Agent Orange’s new assignment will be to fan out across the country’s rural districts and tell the folks who foolishly placed their faith in him that this is good medicine, even if it will surely kill some of them.

Congressman Brooks is one of those conservatives who wants Obamacare repealed—period. He doesn’t give a damn about replacing it with anything short of offering people who are poor, sick, and old an unsubsidized aspirin today and suggesting their next of kin call a local undertaker in the morning. Brooks said that the Ryan-Tr-mp plan was “the largest welfare program ever proposed by Republicans in the history of the Republican party.” He said, without irony since he is a Tr-mp supporter, that the new plan will ultimately lead to “the demise” of the country.

Like most Republicans, Brooks seems to have an obsession with how government programs affect the behavior of people he apparently considers too lazy to go to work and get their bleeping insurance from their bleeping employer. He specifically highlighted his objection to the new GOP plan by saying it “undermines the work ethic; it increases greater reliance on welfare from the federal government…” He was talking about the stingy tax credits that are part of the “subsidization” contained in the bill. This is what makes people like Brooks call it welfare. But just what is it that bothers Republicans so much about people who need help? Why do they assume everyone who needs some assistance is a low-life who just wants free stuff?

Infamously now, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who like Brooks can get his health insurance courtesy of taxpayers, defended the new GOP plan by saying it gives more “access” to health coverage for low-income Americans. When CNN’s Alisyn Camerota challenged him by saying that “access for lower-income Americans doesn’t equal coverage,” out came the real spirit that motivates these people:

CHAFFETZ: Well, we’re getting rid of the individual mandate. We’re getting rid of those things that people said that they don’t want. Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice. So rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.

It’s really pretty simple. Poor folks, and sick and disabled folks, and elderly folks who don’t yet qualify for Medicare just need to forgo the bling and fork out $10,000 or so a year for health insurance and then, as Vox points out, “the wealthiest 0.1 percent of Americans” can enjoy tax cuts that amount to “$200,000 each in a single year,” as a result of the provisions in this new GOP healthcare “reform.”

Of course, if poor, sick, disabled, and elderly folks had ten grand under their mattresses (at least those who have mattresses) that they could spend on health insurance, then we wouldn’t need Obamacare or Obamacare-lite. But they don’t. Perhaps they should invest the few dollars they do have in the lottery. Maybe they could win and then they could buy insurance. But even if they were so fortunate, even if they beat the odds, Republicans have that covered, too. So suspicious are right-wingers of needy people that these asshole legislators, unbelievably, devoted a substantial part of their new bill to addressing the pressing issue of “letting states disenroll high dollar lottery winners.” From Slate:

A full six pages of the 60-plus page bill were devoted to lottery winnings. Lottery winnings! Essentially, the GOP bill’s big idea on this—to which it devoted nearly 10 percent of its attention—is figuring out ways to make sure lottery-winners on Medicaid can’t cheat the system. Seriously. The bill goes on and on and on to stipulate under which circumstances the state can declare you no longer in need of—nor entitled to—Medicaid.

This absurdity merely illustrates what is in the minds of these people. There is something twisted about spending this much time on something so remote, so ridiculous. There is something perverted about worrying whether an infinitely small number of people will game the system for a few dollars, while real grifters run the White’s House. Yet, none of us who have paid attention to politics, at least since the rise of the Tea Party, should be surprised. This is who they are. This is what they do when given power.

You can go to many neutral and liberal sites to find an analysis of how cruel the new Republican plan is (including how cruel it is to defund Planned Parenthood). And, as cruel as it is, you can go to many right-wing sites and find out that it isn’t nearly cruel enough. They want more blood from the poor and the sick. They want to put more money into the pockets of those whose pockets are already stuffed with cash. Again, I can’t stress this enough: this is who they are.

Last night I watched Donald Berwick on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Berwick was once the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, appointed by President Obama. As I like to do before quoting such knowledgeable folks, here are some of his credentials, as listed on Wikipedia:

Berwick began his career as a pediatrician at Harvard Community Health Plan; in 1983 he became the plan’s first Vice President of Quality-of-Care Measurement.[14] In that position, Berwick investigated quality control measures in other industries such as aeronautics and manufacturing, in order to consider their application in health care settings.[10] From 1987 to 1991, Berwick was co-founder and Co-Principal Investigator for the National Demonstration Project on Quality Improvement in Health Care, designed to explore opportunities for quality improvement in health care. Based on this work, Berwick left Harvard Community Health Plan in 1989 and co-founded the IHI (Institute for Healthcare Improvement).

Berwick is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Health Care Policy in the Department of Pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health.[15] He is also a pediatrician, Adjunct Staff in the Department of Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, and a Consultant in Pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Berwick has published over 129 articles in professional journals on health care policy, decision analysis, technology assessment, and health care quality management.

As you can see, he knows more about the American healthcare system than ten thousand ideologues like Paul Ryan and Mo Brooks will ever know. Keeping Berwick’s credentials in mind, below is a quickly produced transcript of what he said to Chris Hayes about the Ryan-Tr-mp health insurance plan. I’m sure we will visit this issue again and again, but let this serve as the introduction to policy discussions in the bizarre political world we are living in:

BERWICK: The proposal destabilizes insurance markets…You’ll see that premiums will go up. Under the proposals here, people aren’t going to have enough money to buy insurance, and the only ones that will are going to be the sicker people because they have to, leaving the people who are “well” outside the system. That unravels insurance premiums. Premiums will soar.

And costs will soar because the safety net will get weakened over the trajectory of this proposal. Medicaid gets severely weakened. A lot of very vulnerable people are going to be back in emergency rooms and getting sicker instead of getting the care they need…And it’s not just the poor who are going to pay. The middle class is going to find they have a lot less support for buying their insurance.

HAYES: So…”support” meaning that the sort of subsidy structure has been altered in ways that folks are going to be out-of-pocket paying more, you think?

BERWICK: Yeah. The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid for the poorest people, but for those in the kind of lower middle class—forty, fifty thousand dollars—these people got help buying their policies with subsidies, tax rebates, and those were progressive so don berwick on msnbcthat the less money you had, the more help you got. Under this [new] proposal, the amount of subsidization is…the same across income categories up to $75,000 a year for an individual, $150,000 for couples. So that people at lower levels of income don’t get more help and the amount of help that everyone’s getting isn’t enough to buy insurance. People are going to find themselves really out in the cold. This is going to be really painful. And more painful for older people because this is really a transfer of assistance from older people back to the young healthy people.

HAYES: So, this is a key point. It was interesting to me, AARP comes out right away and says it’s got an “age tax” in it. I just asked congressman Buddy Carter [R-GA] about this and he really wouldn’t defend it. He basically said, “Well, this is just a starting point.” You’ve got a provision in there that allows insurance companies to charge a lot more based strictly on age. Do you think  you’re going to see an older cohort paying more out-of-pocket out of this?

BERWICK: Oh, definitely. It goes two ways. First of all, the amount of subsidy doesn’t rise enough with age. The figures I just got, in Mobile, Alabama, a 60-year-old who makes $40,000 a year, under the Affordable Care Act is getting about $10,000 in subsidies to buy their health insurance. Under the proposal it would be $4,000.

HAYES: So, just to be clear. You’re talking about a 60-year-old in Mobile, Alabama, who in this plan is losing $6,000 in purchasing power?

BERWICK: Right. Exactly. The government is going to hand them a check for $4,000 and say “Go buy your insurance” instead of the subsidy they’re now getting of $10,000. This is going to be a big takeaway for people in the upper age brackets before they’re eligible for Medicare.

HAYES: Final question. One of the things that Donald Tr-mp said throughout the campaign always was, “We gotta take care of everybody. I don’t want anyone out on the street. We gotta take care of everybody.” It’s been this sort of reverse refrain, “I’m compassionate, unlike these other Republicans.” I mean, is this compassionate? Will this, quote, take care of everybody, particularly the most vulnerable folks?

BERWICK: No! This man came into office with a law in place that increased coverage in this country by over 20 million people. That’s expanding coverage. If you really want to make things better, build on that. No, this is a takeaway. It’s going to go backward. And I think we’re going to have a lot of people, as the president [sic] put it, on the street without the kind of care they need. It’s bad. It’s bad for America. It’s bad for the poor. It’s bad for the middle class.

Charles Manson, Helter Skelter, And Donald Tr-mp

One of the first serious books I ever read was Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who eventually put Charles Manson in prison for orchestrating the gruesome Tate-LaBianca murders just north of Beverly Hills in 1969. Manson, you may remember, was not physically a part of the murders. Bugliosi convicted Manson mainly on circumstantial evidence, mostly by convincing jurors that Manson manipulated the actual killers by selling them the conspiratorial idea (which a deluded Manson actually believed) that the acts were necessary to trigger a race war between blacks and whites. The resulting apocalypse would end with all the whites dead (the “Black Muslims would come out of hiding and wipe them all out”) and, because Manson thought blacks were incapable of running the world, the blacks would turn to Manson and his white followers—hidden away in Death Valley—to take charge.

Charles Manson is, and remains, nuts, of course. Through a weird interpretation of songs by the Beatles, especially from their White Album, combined with his reading of the Book of Revelation (a weird book in itself), Manson’s deranged mind invented the Helter Skelter scenario, which was essentially a giant conspiracy, of which the murders were only a small part, to make him ultimate ruler. In an effort to make it as clear as possible to the jury just what Helter Skelter was, prosecutor Bugliosi made the testimony of a Manson follower named Paul Watkins part of his closing argument at trial. According to Watkins, here is how Manson described Helter Skelter:

WATKINS: There would be some atrocious murders; that some of the spades from Watts would come up into the Bel-Air and Beverly Hills district and just really wipe some people out, just cut bodies up and smear blood and write things on the wall in blood, and cut little boys up and make parents watch.

So, in retaliation-this would scare; in other words, all the other white people would be afraid that this would happen to them, so out of their fear they would go into the ghetto and just start shooting black people like crazy. But all they would shoot would be the garbage man and Uncle Toms, and all the ones that were with Whitey in the first place. And underneath it all, the Black Muslims would-he would know that it was coming down.

BUGLIOSI: Helter Skelter was coming down?

WATKINS: Yes. So, after Whitey goes in the ghettos and shoots all the Uncle Toms, then the Black Muslims come out and appeal to the people by saying, ‘Look what you have done to my people.’ And this would split Whitey down the middle, between all the hippies and the liberals and all the up-tight piggies. This would split them in the middle and a big civil war would start and really split them up in all these different factions, and they would just kill each other off in the meantime through their war. And after they killed each other off, then there would be a few of them left who supposedly won.

BUGLIOSI: A few of who left?

WATKINS: A few white people left who supposedly won. Then the Black Muslims would come out of hiding and wipe them all out.

BUGLIOSI: Wipe the white people out?

WATKINS: Yes. By sneaking around and slitting their throats.

Now, at this point, you may wonder what any of this has to do with politics, which is what this blog is mostly about. After all, Tr-mp, as bad as he is, is no Charles Manson. He’s not a convicted killer. But he is a conspiracist. He is mentally ill. He does believe crazy things. And so do many people around him and many people who support him. And because of that fact I believe it is important to peer into the minds of conspiracy believers, deranged and otherwise, even if the conspiracies are not as dark and disturbing as Manson’s Helter Skelter, or the minds are not as deranged as Manson’s. So, here we go.

By now, you have seen countless times Tr-mp’s latest conspiratorial tweets from this weekend, but here they are for the record:

♦ Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism! (March 4, 2017, 5:35am)

♦ Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW! (March 4, 2017, 5:49am)

♦ I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election! (March 4, 2017, 5:52am)

♦ How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy! (March 4, 2017, 6:02am)

In a true Mansonian disconnect from the whirlwind of weirdness he had created in a mere 27 minutes, Tr-mp tweeted the following at 7:19am:

Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show

Obviously, if you had no other evidence to draw from, if there weren’t hundreds upon hundreds of other reasons to pronounce the mind of “President” Tr-mp disturbed and disturbing, these tweets would be enough. They are lies. They are conspiratorial nonsense. And perhaps the most pathetic part about it all is that Tr-mp had no idea how these tweets would appear to others. He wasn’t playing mult-dimensional chess to deflect from other issues. To him, it was quite natural to accuse, falsely, President Obama of an astoundingly high crime, of being a “bad” man or, alternatively, “sick,” and then to follow that up with commentary about a reality show on television. That’s how disturbed minds work. Or, well, how they don’t work.

Tr-mp’s conspiracy about Obama came, naturally, from other conspiracists. First, the idea was advanced on Thursday by a noxious radio host named Mark Levin, who suggested Obama and his pals are executing a “silent coup” against Agent Orange. To spend two minutes listening to Levin is to wish one was deaf at birth. Rush Limbaugh joined the coup chorus and then, straight from cuckooville, came Breitbart, with a story that eventually got circulated around the White’s Nut’s House, where, reportedly, the Head Nut was “infuriated.” There is, it turns out, a “deep state” hard at work fighting the deconstruction of the administrative state.” In other words, the administrative state will not go gently into the good night of deconstruction. Good for it. I like the administrative state. It always—always—deposits my government retirement check into my bank account on time, every time.

None of this nuttery would be possible, of course, without enablers. Paul Ryan. Mitch McConnell. Others. These “establishment” folks tolerate the insanity because they are using the political equivalent of Helter Skelter (get that right, all you haters out there) as cover for their dirty policy deeds (all of which we will get to as the weeks pass). While unforgivable, that part of this twisted soap opera is at least understandable. To put it in Rahm Emmanuelian terms, politicians don’t often let a crisis go to waste, even if it is a crisis involving a mentally ill president.

What is harder to understand is why people want to blame players like Steve Bannon for Tr-mp’s mental challenges. It’s true Bannon has many bad ideas, including his recently highlighted affection for “a breathakingly racist French novel,” called The Camp of the Saints. Again, permit me to venture into (at some length) the scary world of Mansonesque fantasies. Here’s how HuffPo describes the book Bannon finds so fascinating and opinion-shaping:

The plot of The Camp of the Saints follows a poor Indian demagogue, named “the turd-eater” because he literally eats shit, and the deformed, apparently psychic child who sits on his shoulders. Together, they lead an “armada” of 800,000 impoverished Indians sailing to France. Dithering European politicians, bureaucrats and religious leaders, including a liberal pope from Latin America, debate whether to let the ships land and accept the Indians or to do the right thing — in the book’s vision — by recognizing the threat the migrants pose and killing them all.

The non-white people of Earth, meanwhile, wait silently for the Indians to reach shore. The landing will be the signal for them to rise up everywhere and overthrow white Western society.

The French government eventually gives the order to repel the armada by force, but by then the military has lost the will to fight. Troops battle among themselves as the Indians stream on shore, trampling to death the left-wing radicals who came to welcome them. Poor black and brown people literally overrun Western civilization. Chinese people pour into Russia; the queen of England is forced to marry her son to a Pakistani woman; the mayor of New York must house an African-American family at Image result for The Camp of the SaintsGracie Mansion. Raspail’s rogue heroes, the defenders of white Christian supremacy, attempt to defend their civilization with guns blazing but are killed in the process.

Calgues, the obvious Raspail stand-in, is one of those taking up arms against the migrants and their culturally “cuckolded” white supporters. Just before killing a radical hippie, Calgues compares his own actions to past heroic, sometimes mythical defenses of European Christendom. He harkens back to famous battles that fit the clash-of-civilizations narrative — the defense of Rhodes against the Ottoman Empire, the fall of Constantinople to the same — and glorifies colonial wars of conquest and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan.

Only white Europeans like Calgues are portrayed as truly human in The Camp of the Saints. The Indian armada brings “thousands of wretched creatures” whose very bodies arouse disgust: “Scraggy branches, brown and black … All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms.” Poor brown children are spoiled fruit “starting to rot, all wormy inside, or turned so you can’t see the mold.”

The ship’s inhabitants are also sexual deviants who turn the voyage into a grotesque orgy. “Everywhere, rivers of sperm,” Raspail writes. “Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers.”

The white Christian world is on the brink of destruction, the novel suggests, because these black and brown people are more fertile and more numerous, while the West has lost that necessary belief in its own cultural and racial superiority. As he talks to the hippie he will soon kill, Calgues explains how the youth went so wrong: “That scorn of a people for other races, the knowledge that one’s own is best, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity’s finest — none of that had ever filled these youngsters’ addled brains.”

The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Revelation 20:9″}}”>Revelation 20:9 — is nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict against the poor black and brown world without and the traitors within. The novel’s last line links past humiliations tightly to its own grim parable about modern migration. “The Fall of Constantinople,” Raspail’s unnamed narrator says, “is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.”

If you can differentiate, in significant and meaningful ways, from the apocalyptic nonsense in that French novel and the apocalyptic nonsense of Helter Skelter, you are a better man or woman than I. Because I can’t see much of a distinction. I find it all disturbing. And scary. The Tr-mp “presidency” isn’t, ultimately, about Steve Bannon and the fear, or hope, he has of his own version of a “race” war to end all wars. It is about Donald Tr-mp. It is about the things that pass through his untilled mind, through his conspiracy-poisoned field of mental fantasies. Let us never forget that. Let us ignore people like Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, who tweeted on Sunday the following regarding Tr-mp’s accusations against Obama:

Did Steve Bannon slip the offending article into Tr-mp’s hands to set the president swirling into a rage? That toxic mix undermines America.

It doesn’t matter, relatively speaking, whether Steve Bannon slipped that Breitbart article into Tr-mp’s tiny hands. What matters much, much more is that the mind connected to those Tr-mpian hands is a sick mind. Yes, it is noteworthy that people like Bannon have access to Tr-mp and can use his mental illness and susceptibility to conspiracy theories to at least attempt to actualize some kind of weird and dangerous fantasy, every bit as weird as Helter Skelter. But it is the sick mind that matters most of all, no matter how hard that bitter reality is to contemplate.

Thus, I want to leave you with the words of Vincent Bugliosi, Manson’s prosecutor and the determined man who uncovered the primary motivation behind some infamously grisly murders in Los Angeles in 1969. Bugliosi told the jurors in his rather unique closing argument in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial:

I, as a prosecutor, and you folks as members of the jury, cannot help it, we cannot help it if Manson had this wild, crazy idea about Helter Skelter. It is not our fault. Manson is the one that made the evidence, not we. We can only deal with the evidence that presents itself.

We, as members of a democracy, are the jurors listening to what is going on in the trial of our democratic experiment. We can only deal with the evidence that presents itself to us. CharlesManson2014.jpgAnd the evidence compels us to conclude that the man holding the highest office in our land has a deluded mind that is only different in degree from the mind of the man who, as I write, sits in Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, California.

No, Donald J. Tr-mp is not Charles Manson. He hasn’t killed anyone or urged anyone else to kill anyone to start a Helter-Skelter Armageddon. But given the position this disturbed man in the White’s House holds, he could, potentially, be more dangerous to the world that a thousand Charles Mansons. And that’s worth thinking about. It’s worth writing about. And it’s worth talking about to your family, your friends, and those with whom you interact.

In short, we shouldn’t be afraid to render the only obvious verdict.

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[Manson image: By California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36851622%5D
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