Stay Outraged At The Lies

“President [sic] Tr-mp boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up information in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S. ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether that was true.”

—Washington Post, 3/15/2018

You could say, as the Washington Post did in a headline, that “Tr-mp says he made up trade claim in meeting with Justin Trudeau.” Or you could put it like USA Today did in a headline, “Trump, on tape, admits making up trade facts in talks with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.” Or you could simply and honestly put it like Vox did in its headline this morning:

Caught lying about trade with Canada, Tr-mp tweets some new lies about trade with Canada

One would think that at this point all news outlets worth their weight in megabytes would prefer the honest approach and call Tr-mp’s lies lies. You know, like when he says, and keeps saying, that the U.S. has “a Trade Deficit with Canada” when we in fact have a $12 billion surplus.

But on we go. Some journalists, or their editors, still refuse to call lies lies. Others have, apparently, just come to accept the fact that “Tr-mp lying” is rather normal behavior and just not that shocking, not a big deal anymore. In a discussion on CNN this morning about the trade deficit lie, host John Berman asked Mark Preston, CNN’s Senior Political Analyst, this question: “When you brag about not knowing, brag about lying, what message does that send?” Here was Preston’s answer:

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: …I don’t find it egregious that he lied to the Prime Minister, in the sense that we know this now. The idea that we think that he’s not going to lie would be more of a story at this point.

Preston goes on to say that what he finds egregious is that Tr-mp would admit that he lied in front of a bunch of people at a non-public fundraiser.

That’s where we are. Some journalists (Preston did get some pushback from The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein during the segment) are correct in saying that the “news” these days would be if Tr-mp didn’t utter a lie every time he opens his mouth. But these jImage result for liarsournalists are wrong to say that we should essentially normalize such predictable lying. We absolutely can’t get used to the idea, no matter how often it happens, that being lied to by the man pretending to be the president is baked in the cake, that such lying is not an “egregious” act. We simply can’t let that happen.

CNN’s Mark Preston was right, of course, that Tr-mp’s willingness to admit, behind closed doors and to the ears of fat-cat donors and other cultists, that he lied to the leader of one of our closest allies is outrageous in and of itself. But we must never lose sight of or get accustomed to the fact that the original sin is and always has been this: the Electoral College installed a buffoonish pathological liar in the Whites’ House.

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A Bad Hair Day

It was, of course, quite predictable.

After yesterday’s surprise announcement—that the world’s two most powerfully ridiculous haircuts would meet with each other somewhere, sometime, and for some reason—it was inevitable that talking heads on cable news and elsewhere would give Tr-mp credit for his “Call Him Rocket Man” bluster that, the argument goes, brought Kim Jong-un to the bargaining table.

Here’s a typical example of what I mean. This morning on CNN, host John Berman did a segment on the Tr-mp-Kim meeting, mentioning that “the administration wants to take credit for the North Korea summit.” Berman then quoted from Mike Pence’s fresh statement, which gave the broad-shouldered Tr-mp credit for his “strategy to isolate the Kim regime” and asserted that this amazing feat was accomplished “despite the United States making zero concessions.” Berman, who is normally a pretty good journalist, should have injected the obvious: the U.S. did give a concession, a big one. The idea that, say, Obama would have met with Kim in the way it appears Tr-mp will meet with him would have caused Republican heads to pop like cheap balloons. But Berman didn’t mention that it was a very big concession to normalize Kim with the highest-level-meeting possible. It apparently wasn’t on his mind.

Instead, the CNN host, who had already said something ridiculous, namely that “you may not think the North Korea meeting is good, but it’s an accomplishment, nonetheless,” continued by engaging one of his conservative-pundit guests, Matt Lewis, this way:

BERMAN: What the White House wants to do, though, is to suggest that [Tr-mp’s] rhetoric, the “fire and fury” rhetoric, you know, calling Kim Jong-un “fat,” that that’s part of it. Is it because of that, or in spite of that, though, Matt, that this is happening?

Okay. Here we go with the careful conservative spin, as opposed to the more outrageous conservative spin.

LEWIS: First I think, look, this thing, we don’t know how it’s gonna play out. And the fact is Donald Tr-mp is even meeting with Kim could—there’s an argument that it’s a bad idea, that it’s being done without preconditions, that it’s gonna be a propaganda coup, so, uh, but I don’t think that plays in Peoria. I think the average American is optimistic, hopeful. Maybe it’s the triumph of hope over experience but the average American I think does like this.

The idea that Matt Lewis, who used to write for one of the slimiest conservative rags around, The Daily Caller, knows what the “average American” thinks is one thing. But what made his take on all this so ridiculous is what he said after he spoke for average Americans:

So, I think it is good politics for Donald Tr-mp. The question is does he deserve credit for it? I think he actually might. Look, I don’t know what North Korea is up to here. Maybe they’re just buying time. Maybe they’re just trolling us. But there is a possibility that we have spooked them. Maybe they’re afraid of Donald Tr-mp.

That is pretty much what I have heard, in some form or another since last night.

Now, far from wanting to meet with Tr-mp because he’s afraid of him, it is infinitely more plausible that the reason Kim wants to meet with Tr-mp is because he has never kim and tr mp.jpgseen a Western “leader” so stupid and manipulable. One could argue that Kim senses that his best option right now is, before Mueller tries to take him away, to take advantage of Tr-mp’s pathological need to satiate his insatiable desire for attention and approval, which would come from such an unprecedented meeting. Kim in the meantime would not have to agree to anything verifiable, would buy more time for developing his nuclear capabilities, and would get what the North Korean himself seems to have a pathological need for: recognition as a genuine, world-class player.

Another more frightening possibility is that Tr-mp will get pushed into a corner by Kim’s refusal to de-nuke, and Tr-mp, then out of diplomatic options, would be made to look and, more important, feel weak, leaving his disturbed mind no option but to order a preemptive military strike that will start that part of the world on fire.

This is our existence these days, one in which two disturbed and disturbing people with strange heads get to meet together to determine the fate of millions, while host and pundits on TV talk of “accomplishments.”

 

 

You Can’t Fix “Partially Stupid,” But You Can Exploit It

I have heard several people say that the Russians, when they weren’t trying to make Tr-mp president, were “sowing” dissension and division and discord in the American electorate just to muck up the election process. Well, in most cases they were just fertilizing and watering the disunity that was already growing on fertile ground. One of their feeding methods, widely recognized now, was to push a lot of conspiracies through social media platforms (whose greed for advertising dollars is part of an ongoing problem)—and they’re still at it.

As you know, David Hogg and other students-survivors who have spoken up forcefully since the high school massacre in Parkland have been the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories—some promoted by Tr-mp’s friend Alex Jones—that the young people were “crisis actors” hired to agitate and not real students who witnessed the mass killing. This is an old, old tactic designed to discredit social movements, and the Russians, to no one’s surprise, are helping to amplify these conspiracies through a large network of social media bots. Their contribution began just an hour after the Parkland shooting made the news, when Russian-controlled Twitter accounts began flooding the platform with disinformation related to gun-grabbing paranoia. They have also posted countless times on Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook), often using videos to promote the conspiracy. Obviously, the Russians also used YouTube, which has done some, but not enough, work to rid the platform of the poison.

The sad and undeniable truth is that there is a relatively large mental market out there for such mindless, hate-fueling absurdities. Five years ago there were (and still remain) the Sandy Hook hoaxes, as well as all the hoaxes surrounding the Las Vegas massacre. I also should remind you of something from 2016 that you may have forgotten in all the tweetstorms we have so far endured since January of 2017:

Two-thirds of voters with a favorable opinion of Donald Trump  believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and a quarter of them believe that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered…

Two-thirds. Two out of three. Sixty-six percent. Tr-mp voters. These folks get to vote.

An even sadder truth is that many—if not most, if not all—of the pitiful people who fall for, as opposed to seek out, scurvy disinformation campaigns and bias-confirming lies either won’t admit to being duped, or simply don’t give a damn whether they were. And I have evidence to support my claim.

The Palm Beach Post published an article on Friday (“Local Tr-mp supporters shrug off being paid and played by Russians”) that is a must-read for those of you who, like me, wonder what makes Tr-mpers tick, or, more accurate, tick very slowly.

 Anne Marie Thomas and Greg R. North. (Photo by Harry Miller) photoThe article features an interview with two Floridians who were actually part of Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of 13 election-meddling influencing Russians. The two Tr-mpers, a “Leisureville retiree from Boynton Beach” named Harry Miller and a “choir singer from Jupiter” named Anne Marie Thomas, were recruited and paid by the Russians (via their Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that exists to vandalize democratic elections) to do the whole “Hillary for prison” schtick at a flash rally in Palm Beach County in August of 2016. The act came complete with a Russian-supplied script, a pickup truck bed that the retiree had converted into a jail cell, and, of course, the choir singer from Jupiter wearing a Hillary mask and prison garb (her boyfriend played the part of Bill and weirdly admitted, “I was supposed to try to grope all the attractive young ladies I could find”).

Now, as the headline of the article makes clear, these Americans—“unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign,” as Mueller’s indictment delicately phrased it—weren’t too upset about being duped by the Rooskies, since the Rooskies were duping them in service to Tr-mp. In fact, Thomas the choir singer was proud of her involvement and her clever improvisational skills:

They say I was “very unwitting.” But I was very witting. I am a creative person. I did things that weren’t in the script. I wore a shirt that had prison number 09112012 on it. That’s the date of Benghazi. That was my idea.

I’m pretty sure many of the 40 or 50 people in attendance at that rally (the dupes claim, of course, that there were 300 folks there) got Thomas’ Benghazi reference, since Republicans invested a lot of time and money into a dupe operation of their own by endlessly “investigating” the murder of four Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya, by Islamic militants. And I’m pretty sure most Tr-mpers at that rally and beyond would agree with Thomas that there isn’t anything to like about Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference. And I am absolutely sure most Tr-mpers today feel the same way Thomas said she felt after her encounter with Russian meddlers was revealed:

I don’t feel like the Russians used me. A week after that event I did another one myself at Harbourside Place in Jupiter.

Those damned Russians were so effective that their mark not only denied she was conned, but they got two Hillary-for-prison acts for the price of one!

In any case, the retired guy with the jail cell on the back of his truck—it cost him $800 to make but he only received $500 from the Russians—defended himself this way:

How would I know the guy was Russian? He had an accent, but I thought he was one of those Muslims, and I figured, he was a new immigrant and I’d work with him because he wants to be involved.

In Miller’s cloudy consciousness, that excuse undoubtably makes sense, as does his predictable lack of enthusiasm for Mueller’s effort to find the truth about Tr-mpski. He said:

They’re trying to connect Trump to Russia. But I was the guy dealing with the Russians, not Trump.

It likely never crossed Miller’s gullible mind that he and Tr-mp both could have been dealing with the Russians, one unwittingly and the other quite intentionally. But I do want to give the retiree credit for his gritty honesty about his encounter with the FBI and his mental acuity:

The FBI were here for five or six hours. They said I’m not in trouble, and I said, “How could I be in trouble? The guy told me to build a cage and I did it.” We’re not totally stupid. We’re partially stupid.

Well, okay then.

Now we see why “crisis actor” conspiracies proliferate, why people still believe Obama is a Muslim foreigner, and why we have a Tr-mp problem, Russians or no Russians.

_______________________________________________

[photo by Harry Miller, who says he is only “partially stupid.”]

 

The Hangman

And the mourners are all singin’
As they drag you by your feet.
But the hangman isn’t hangin’
And they put you on the street.
You go back, Jack, do it again.

——Steely Dan, 1972

In the U.S. Constitution there is a blueprint for a political gallows just in case one of our presidents, vice presidents, or “civil officers of the United States” commits “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The impeachment process in Article 2, Section 4 has been used only twice for presidents and twice it resulted in the political equivalent of acquittal. That is, two of our presidents have been threatened with a political lynching but the hangman wasn’t hanging.

Last night, after news broke that Tr-mp had ordered the firing of Robert Mueller last June, I heard utterances like these on cable news: “He’s in legal danger.” “The evidence is obviously mounting.” Tr-mp “looks guiltier and guiltier.” But the truth—the awful truth—is this: Mueller could stack evidence of guilt against Tr-mp as high as Tr-mp Tower and it wouldn’t matter. The immediate constitutional hangman is the Republican Congress.

There is no apparent legal danger for Tr-mp. Mueller could prove without a doubt that Tr-mp is a crook, a grifter, an obstructor of justice a thousand times worse than Tricky Dicky. He could prove Tr-mp abuses puppies and pussies. He could prove it wasn’t Russian hookers who pissed on Tr-mp, but Putin himself. He could prove Tr-mp played doctor on gymnasts. And on and on.

A veritable mountain of probative evidence simply would not matter because the prevailing opinion among legal scholars is that not only is the indictment and prosecution of a sitting president a constitutionally dubious notion (thanks, Founders), but even it were clearly an option under the Constitution, it is highly unlikely that Robert Mueller would himself shoulder the burden of playing the hangman in this drama. He would likely just report the evidence, whatever it is, to the Republican-controlled Congress and say, “Here’s the rope.”

And we know, or should know, how that would go.

Think about it. Evidence of guilt wouldn’t matter because evangelicals, the most faithful Republicans God ever made, have officially and permanently mulliganized Tr-mp. Evidence wouldn’t matter because an entire cable channel is unashamedly attacking real facts and inventing facts of its own, all in service to its cult leader. Evidence wouldn’t matter because the hangman in this case is afraid of being hanged himself by Republican primary voters, were he to carry out his constitutional duties.

I suppose I should say hangmen. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are in charge of the gallows. And what evidence is there that they would place a political noose around that nectarine neck and trigger the trap door?

Consider: Ryan has a rogue member, who for some reason is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who clearly is compromised, if not clinically insane. And what has Ryan done? Nothing. Ryan has done nothing and will do nothing. He has mulliganized Tr-mp, too.

McConnell has a conspiratorial chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who is both compromised and nuts, and McConnell—whose wife works for and praises Tr-mp at every turn—won’t say a word. Another mulliganizer.

The truth is we should not expect the corrupt to bring the corrupt to justice. I know there has been a lot of excitement around this latest revelation of Tr-mp’s malfeasance. Folks are saying that finally it is obvious that he obstructed justice. Yeah, well, it has been obvious since the day he fired James Comey. It has been obvious since he told the Russians themselves that he fired Comey (“He was crazy, a real nut job,” Tr-mp said) to free himself from the “great pressure” from the Russia investigation. It has been obvious since he told NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired Comey because the “Russia thing” is “a made-up story.” This latest reporting simply adds to a pile of evidence that Republicans are increasingly ignoring, or worse, discrediting.

It has been obvious and it is obvious now. This present Republican Congress will do nothing, no matter what Mueller discovers or alleges. The only remedy for fighting the corruption that Tr-mp represents falls on we the people. And we the people need to come to terms with that.

Tr-mp’s removal will begin, hopefully, in November of this year. It will finish, hopefully, in November of 2020. If that doesn’t happen, Tr-mpism will triumph. And if it does, respect for American democracy and the institutions that support it will be gone, and deservedly so.

It is pretty simple. We have to stop this lawlessness ourselves. The American electorate is, ultimately, going to have to be the hangman.

the hangman.jpg

Khrushchev’s Granddaughter: “Trump’s America is in some ways even worse than Russia was during my Soviet childhood.”

Remember Nikita Khrushchev? Okay, maybe you, like me, only remember him from history books. He led the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and was removed from power in 1964 by his rivals. In any case, Khrushchev, who died in 1971, had a son named Leonid who was killed in World War II, leaving behind a two-year-old daughter named Julia. Khrushchev adopted his granddaughter Julia, who later had a daughter named Nina Khrushcheva. Thus, Nikita Khrushchev was both the great-grandfather and the adoptive grandfather of Nina Khrushcheva. Got it?

I said all that to introduce excerpts from an article written by Nina Khrushcheva (“Donald Trump’s not quite Joseph Stalin. But his ‘Fake News Awards’ should scare us”). She was born in the former Soviet Union in 1964 and today is a scholar and writer, working as an associate professor of international affairs at the New School, in New York, as well as a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. While Senator Jeff Flake is getting a lot of attention for comparing Tr-mp to Stalin, Khrushcheva has her own take:

As a former Soviet citizen, I am frequently overcome by a horror-movie feeling of fear and disbelief. It’s almost as if I don’t know where I am. In cosmopolitan New York? Or back in monotonous Moscow, listening to Soviet leaders boasting from the Kremlin about Communism’s drummed-up victories and denouncing their illusory enemies? … Frankly, Tr-mp’s America is in some ways even worse than it was during my Soviet childhood. When I was growing up in Moscow in the 1970s, not even Pravda used such menacing language for the Kremlin’s critics.

She wasn’t finished. She briefly discussed the history of a few autocracies who labeled journalists as enemies, journalists who “were subsequently censored, harassed, injured, or even killed just for doing their jobs.” She said that “America under Tr-mp,” although a place where journalists’ lives aren’t in real danger and they are free to provide “the real facts,” is nevertheless a place where Tr-mp’s attacks on journalists, his threats of lawsuits, his desire to change our libel laws, “can amount to the conditions of state censorship” because such actions are “designed to instill intimidation and fear.”

Khrushcheva—remember she grew up in the Soviet Union—ends her provocative piece this way:

Not only does Trump appear less democratic than the Soviet autocrat Khrushchev, but his anti-free speech rhetoric places him in unsavory company; the current pantheon of world rulers who share his disdain for the free press include Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, China’s Xi Jinping and the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte.

In democratic societies, a free press guaranties that the state’s menacing language can never turn into menacing actions against its people — as Stalin’s Gulags did. That’s how many dictatorships have thrived. Where would Nazi Germany be without Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who dubbed the Jews the “sworn enemy of the German people” because they doubted Adolf Hitler’s Aryan agenda?

Of course, the flashy real-estate tycoon-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-foulmouthed president is arguably more like Charlie Chaplin’s buffoon character in “The Great Dictator” (1940) than the real Hitler or Stalin. Or perhaps Trump is more like Hollywood’s mean clown “Pennywise” — “Trumpywise” — insulting some, punching others and scaring the rest.

But the danger of this nightmare is that it gets more real every day. And the longer it lasts, the harder it will be to wake up.

Our job is to keep the nightmare from becoming more real, and one way of doing that is by encouraging and supporting good journalism and calling out those among us—our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors—who can’t tell real journalism from propaganda.

 

Genius Democrats? Hardly.

♦ His mental state is being openly and widely questioned in polite society.

♦ He was just named the world’s numero uno oppressor of press freedom by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

♦ He pardoned a disgusting fellow racist from Arizona who announced today he is running for a seat in the United States Senate.

♦ He begged the Russians for election help, fired the FBI Director who was investigating his and his campaign’s role in an attack on our electoral system by those Russians, and has constantly run interference for the man, Vladimir Putin, who authorized that attack. Oh, and he has viciously slandered those who have continued investigating the attack on our country.

♦ He has made life miserable for countless immigrants, both through his personal rhetoric and his administration’s policies, while making life for neo-Nazis much more comfortable.

♦ He just signed a tax bill that robs from our kids’ futures, jeopardizes social programs, and enriches already rich Americans and corporations.

So, naturally, some Democrats met with Tr-mp today on immigration and helped legitimize and normalize him, helped make him look like something other than the bumbling, lying fool most of us know he is, and that most Democratic politicians try to suggest he is, when they seek our support. Huh?

I don’t know anymore. I don’t know what is wrong with a Democratic Party leadership group that collectively tries to claim Tr-mp is unfit for office while simultaneously sanctioning open meetings with him—Dick Durbin and Steny Hoyer sat right next to him today—the visual effect of which was to make him look at least marginally fit. He didn’t drool or grab anyone’s crotch. He didn’t speak in unknown tongues or slur his words. He didn’t scream obscenities or order those gathered to “get up” and give him a standing ovation. With cameras rolling, he bantered back and forth just long enough, and with just enough understanding of the issues to fool an untutored public, that eager television pundits could score this a “win” for Tr-mp, coming as it does when the political sky is full of dark clouds about Tr-mp’s stability and temperament and, yes, his sanity.

Nancy Pelosi tweeted the following yesterday:

pelosi tweet

Why, if we are to believe Nancy Pelosi is sincere (I do), did she allow any Democrat in the House, not to mention Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Whip, to attend a televised meeting with Tr-mp in which the “symbol of hate” was a topic of discussion, a bargaining chip? Please. Somebody explain. I beg you. How can a Democratic leader call Tr-mp’s border wall an “immoral and hateful obsession” and then watch Democrats cordially meet with the obsessed man and talk about it?

Meanwhile, congratulations, Democrats. You just made it a little bit harder to rid the country of the menace that is Donald Tr-mp and the Republicans who empower him. You were props in an ongoing surreality show that, after today, has at least a better chance of a second season. And what did you get for your cameos? This:

Ample Confusion After White House Immigration Meeting

Maybe Tr-mp is right after all. Maybe he is “a very stable genius” and some Democrats in Congress are the idiots.

How Evangelicals Are Using Trump, How Trump Is Using Evangelicals, And How God Is Using Them Both To Kill Us All

[Note: This lengthy essay will likely be my last for a while, since I traditionally take a few weeks off this time of year. But I offer you something to chew on this Xmas season, something you desperately need to understand about a very strange contingent of this country, a contingent I was once a part of.]

“For many conservative evangelicals, Jerusalem is not about politics. It is not about peace plans or Palestinians or two-state solutions. It is about prophecy. About the Bible. And, most certainly, it is about the end-times.”

Dr. Diana Butler Bass, scholar specializing in American religion and culture

The presidential election of 2012 was held on November 6. Appearing once again that week on The New York Times Bestseller list for Paperback Trade Fiction—in the number one spot—was the book Fifty Shades of Grey. That book had been on the list for 32 weeks. The number two spot that election week was Fifty Shades Darker and number three was Fifty Shades Freed, completing the erotic trilogy about consensual BDSM written by E. L. James.

Obviously, some pious folks on the right considered the popular Fifty Shades trilogy, affectionately known as “Mommy Porn,” a sign of the decadent times, even if some of the decadent readers were ostensibly followers of the decadence-hating Lord:

Tragically, the fact that professing Christians are tearing these books off the shelves comes as no surprise to those watching the spiritual climate of the so-called “church” today. There has been a sad display of sexual atheism that has been plaguing the church for a long time.

nyt bestseller listChristians weren’t just “tearing” libidinous BDSM books off the shelves, however. That same New York Times bestseller list posted a few days before the 2012 presidential election featured a book in the number eight spot called The Harbinger. That book—which had been on the bestseller list at that point for 42 weeks—was written by a Jewish rabbi who, unlike most Jewish rabbis, was a Christian. His name is Jonathan Cahn.

And besides being a Jew who believes Jesus is his savior, Cahn is a strange cat.

The full title of Cahn’s book does not pull any punches: The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future. I won’t go into the spooky details, but suffice it to say that Cahn believes that just as God allegedly judged and destroyed ancient Israel for its collective sins, so too will he judge and destroy the United States, if we don’t get our shit together. Cahn believes the 9/11 attacks and the Great Recession were part of God’s warning to us to straighten up or else:

Before God judges a nation, He sends warning. But America, like Israel, has not responded with repentance, but with defiance.

Part of our national defiance was that election of 2012. The voters defiantly and devilishly elected Barack Obama president for a second term. And according to Cahn, they otta notta done that. God was not pleased because Obama supported a woman’s right to choose, a right that some see as a usurpation of God’s authority to wantonly terminate pregnancies himself. And God was not pleased either, according to Cahn, when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015 and Obama celebrated by lighting up the White’s House in a rainbow of colors. Cahn said:

Mr. President, by what authority did you take the sacred colors of God’s covenant, the colors of His throne, and the sign of His mercy in the face of judgment and turn them against the purposes of God and the Word of God on which you swore your oath?

Cahn wasn’t finished:

The city on the hill has grown darkened. It has forgotten the God of its foundation. The temples of its culture have been expunged of His presence and are now filled with idols in His place. It’s forgotten the warning that was embedded in the vision of the city on the hill. For it was also written and prophesied, “If our hearts shall turn away so we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship other gods, our pleasures and our profits, and serve them, we shall surely perish.” In other words, we will stand at the precipice of judgment.

Now, you might think that only fringy people like Pat Robertson, Ray Comfort, Glenn Beck, and the folks at World Nut Daily buy into this embarrassing nonsense. Nope. Cahn said back in 2013:

The Harbinger is reaching Capitol Hill and we have gotten word that about fifteen Senators and members of Congress are reading The Harbinger, they are reading the book.

Jesus. Allah. Buddha. Say it ain’t so.

In any case, fast forward to today. Cahn has written another book. This one is called The Paradigm: The Ancient Blueprint That Holds the Mystery of Our Times. Yep. This book piggybacks on the last one, but with more details about who is who. The Amazon summary of the book includes this:

Prepare to be stunned, shocked, illuminated, and amazed. The Paradigm will reveal secrets and mysteries taking place all around you and show you what you never could have imagined.

Yes, you never could have imagined, for instance, that Bill and Hillary Clinton are actually in the Bible. But there they are, albeit in disguise. And so is Barack Obama. And, you might have guessed, so is Donald Tr-mp.

I shit you not.

Bill Clinton is King Ahab, the seventh monarch of Israel, who was, you might suspect, a bad hombre. Ahab brought wicked idolatry to the Israelites through the agency of his nasty little wife, Jezebel. Of course! Hillary is, Kahn says, our very own Jezebel, who may not have plotted to give pagan gods like Baal official status in God’s holy land, but did turn America into a New Age paradise, complete with seances that, of course, didn’t really happen. Again, I shit you not.

isaiah and obama 2Next up is Barack Obama. His biblical role is Joram, the son of, uh, King Ahab and Jezebel (you figure that out). Joram also became King of Israel. According to Kahn, Joram had “a continuous hostility to God,” you know, just like Obama!

Okay. We’re just now getting to the good part. Enter the “warrior.” Or, the WARRIOR! That would obviously be none other than Mr. Two Corinthians himself, Donald J. Tr-mp, playing the part of Jehu, yet another king of Israel. Kahn describes the man God raised up:

He’s a warrior. He’s not even a politician…He’s a warrior. He’s a fighter. He fights with everybody…He’s zealous. He is not gentle at all. He is coarse. He’s a fighter. He’s fighting everybody and he begins this race to the throne…and the Bible describes the race to the throne as, the word is “crazy.” They said he was crazy. He drives crazy. The man drives furiously. It’s crazy. But he gets to the throne. Even though it’s a crazy race, he gets to the throne…The zeal is a crazy zeal, but he’s used by God, and he’s the most unlikely person.

Now, at this point Kahn gets to the denouement. He says Jehu the Tr-mper has “a showdown against the former queen,” Jezebel:

So, you have the former queen, and you have Hillary Clinton. You have the warrior, you have Donald Tr-mp.

Well, what did Tr-mp do to Hillary Clinton? Naturally, Kahn says, against the odds and the pollsters, he beat her in the last election:

So, he wins. He now heads to the capitol city. Jehu heads to the capitol city. Now, why does he head to the capitol city? To drain the swamp.

Once more, I shit you not. Kahn doesn’t tell us whether Jehu hired a bunch of Goldman Sachs swampers to drain the biblical swamp, but that’s an aside to this theological farce.

Perhaps now would be a good time to explain what the Bible says actually (allegedly actually) happened at the hands of Jehu. First, Jehu killed Obama, I mean Joram. Then he turned to Jezebel, I mean Hillary. Wikipedia has a nice summary of her gruesome fate at the hands of the Old Testament Tr-mp:

Knowing that he was coming, Jezebel put on make-up and a formal wig with adornments and looked out a window…Jehu ordered Jezebel’s servants to throw her from the window. Her blood splashed on the wall and horses, and Jehu’s horse trampled her corpse. He entered the palace where, after he ate and drank, he ordered Jezebel’s body to be taken for burial. His servants discovered only her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands—her flesh had been eaten by stray dogs, just as the prophet Elijah had prophesied.

Compared to that fate, Hillary’s defeat last year doesn’t seem so bad now does it? The threats to “lock her up” seem preferable to being defenestrated, trampled in the street, and turned into Purina Dog Chow at the urging of a prophet of a very pissed off God. I wonder why I didn’t learn that story in Sunday School? Political correctness?

Weirdly, all of that drama takes us to Jerusalem and Tr-mp’s decision to, eventually, put our embassy there and, possibly, bring on the Last Days, the End Times, or maybe, the final installment of The Hunger Games.

TImage result for jerusalemhe ancient history of Jerusalem is as murky as it could be. No need to go deep into the complex of competing claims and the bloody history of the place. True-believing Jews believe King David conquered the city 3000 years ago and made it theirs. Bible-thumping Christians believe Jesus was buried there, until he wasn’t. Virgin-loving Muslims believe Muhammad was beamed up to, well, the Land of Virgins. The bottom line is this: the decision to move the embassy was designed to appease people like Jonathan Cahn and other wild-eyed evangelicals (and some equally wild-eyed Orthodox Jews) who believe Tr-mp is anointed by God to be his divine instrument, apparently a fitful fiddler fiddling with the fate of all of us. Speaking with once disgraced and still disgraceful televangelist Jim Bakker, Cahn said:

Jerusalem is the center of biblical prophecy, everything is centering on it, that’s the end game, that’s the final goal—Jerusalem.

Why? Because unless the “Jews return to Israel…and rebuild the third Temple of Solomon on the hilltop the Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary,” Jesus ain’t coming back anytime soon and there won’t be any End Times in which countless numbers of folks will be slaughtered. Thus, in order to hasten his return and start the carnage, shit has to start happening. And what better way to make shit happen than bringing in a shit storm named Tr-mp?

Jesus is supposed to “return to Jerusalem to rule the world from his throne on the Temple Mount,” says Pastor Mike Bickle, once associated with former Texas governor Rick Oops Perry, who is now Secretary of the Department of an Agency to be Remembered Later. I personally could think of better digs than the Temple Mount from which to rule the world, like a white sand beach in the tropics, but then I didn’t write the Bible.

In any case, the indispensable Right Wing Watch informs us:

Over the past decade in particular, Religious Right political gatherings frequently included Israeli flags, the blowing of shofars, and harsh denunciations of the Obama administration for supposedly having betrayed Israel. Religious Right leaders and allied politicians who have warned that God would send natural disasters and otherwise punish the U.S. for insufficiently supporting Israel or pressuring it to give up land in a peace deal include Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, “historian” and political operative David Barton and Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert.

During the presidential campaign, some of Trump’s boosters declared that he was anointed by God, like the biblical Persian King Cyrus, who had freed Jews in his kingdom to return to Jerusalem. Likud Knesset member Yehuda Glick, who came to D.C. for Trump’s inauguration, which he called a “miracle,” said that if Trump moved the embassy, he would be “the latter-day Cyrus!” At a POTUS Shield gathering in March, a speaker suggested that if Trump fully embraced Israel, he could be famous for thousands of years just like Cyrus. And this week, after the policy change, Christian Zionist leader John Hagee returned to that theme, saying that Trump “will be remembered for thousands of years.”

Ah, Pastor John Hagee. When you see or hear his name, you know more crezzy shit is coming, like telling Tr-mp that people will remember him thousands of years from now. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a distant time and place where the folks had nothing better to do than remember a man whose pubescent intellect pokes through the cable glory hole every morning and is masturbated by the IQ assassins on Fox & Friends. But that’s just me.

Just yesterday Hagee, a big-time televangelist with a big-ass church in San Antonio, was on CBN News bragging a little bit:

What President Trump is doing is one of the most courageous political things that’s been done in Washington in a long time…President Trump, when I spoke to him in the White House about this several weeks ago, he said this very emphatically. He said, ‘Other presidents have failed you, but I will not disappoint the Christian community in this issue. I will stand with Israel, and we will at some point in time, move the embassy.”

Now that we know Hagee has Tr-mp’s itching ear, it’s time to get really technical and talk about the Jubilee, found in the OT. Hagee said he told Tr-mp,

that God measures everything in modules of 50 years. And I said this is a principle that’s carried out in Leviticus, the 25th chapter. I said, “If you look at 1917, it was a Jubilee Year, and the Balfour Amendment came, and then in 50 years, it was 1967, and Jerusalem was reconnected to Israel, And you add 50 to 1967, and you’re in 2017.” I said, “This is the year to move the embassy and make that declaration because it is a biblical timing of absolute precision.” Thank God, he’s going to do exactly that.

So, at the word of a grifting televangelist who is using a Bronze Age book as his guide, Tr-mp decides to make God’s train to Annihilation Station run on time. Ok. But all this complicated and self-serving ciphering has made me dizzy. But I’m not as dizzy as Pat Robertson’s son, Gordon, who said:

I believe at this point in time, Israel is God’s stopwatch for everything that happens to every nation, including America, from now until the Rapture of the Church and beyond.

Rapture? Did someone say rapture? Yippee! It’s about time we got to some madness made in America! The rapture is distinctively a home turf invention, an interpretation of scripture arising in the early third of the 19th century, with a man named John Nelson Darby doing the heavy lifting. According to End Time Ministries, the rapture is a magical escape plan:

Image result for raptureAt the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, all born again Christians will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). At the sound of the “last trumpet,” the dead who were born again during their lifetime will be resurrected from the dead. At the same time, those who are born again and still alive on earth will be transformed instantly, from mortal beings to immortal beings. Romans 8:11 tells us that our mortal bodies will be made alive if we have God’s spirit living in us.

These flying Christians will, no doubt, cause quite a traffic jam, both up there and down here. But the rapture theory, the version of it that sees Christians rescued before all the bloody fun starts, is an important part of the whole nightmare. It allows many evangelicals to talk tough about the future, believing they will be hanging out at the Cloud Nine Sports Bar when the Last Game, the Super Bowl of Wrath, comes on.

One popular evangelical site says of that awful day:

The Final Holocaust is so terrifying, so deadly, so inescapable that God personally steps in to stop it lest not one human be left alive!

Ah! What a merciful monster! Praise be to him for that compassionate gesture!

The author goes on with his rapturous description:

In the Great Tribulation 2 ½ million die every day for 42 months. In Auschwitz less than a thousand died each day. That means 2500x as many people die every day. Or to put it in Auschwitz terms—the number of people that died every day at Auschwitz will die every 30 seconds in the Great Tribulation! Or in other terms living on earth will be like living in an Auschwitz death camp—and in death toll there will be the equivalent of an Auschwitz Holocaust twice a day for 42 months!

Oh, but that’s only halftime! There’s more:

One out of every two people will die during the Tribulation (see Rev. 6:8 and onward), some through the ravages of war, others by starvation, and amazingly many others by the ‘beasts of the earth’. So, whether by death that comes instantly and thus less dreaded or a slow and painful death that is lingering and agonizing-50 percent of all people will die. The world’s population was 6,415,574,176 yesterday, so that means at least 3,207,500,000 will die.

PictureAll of our trees, “everything green will be destroyed,” these strange Christians say. The sun and moon will grow dark, “as  nature goes into revolt.” Hell will let loose “hordes of locusts, the size of horses,” which “will be allowed to sting men like scorpions.” These “men will beg God to let them die but they will not die,” says the defender of the all-merciful Almighty.

One must keep in mind that these weird true-believers are actually looking for ways to speed up this scenario. Sometimes they get a little giddy contemplating the possibilities. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s Sr. International Correspondent, Gary Lane, called Tr-mp’s decision a “bold step” and “very historic.” Then he told us of its biblical implications:

Related imageFor prophecy, many Christians believe that those steps will lead to a highway from Egypt through Syria, from Cairo to Demascus and through Jordan and Israel. It would be almost like a triangle there. The other significant thing is it may be setting the stage for the biblical battle of Gog and Magog—not the End Times as far as Armageddon is concerned, but the first steps before Armageddon….Very historic times and I think we’re going to see the best is yet to come.

Yikes. Tone it down, big fella. Your inner Tr-mp is showing.

All of this you can escape, presumably, if you’ll just send a seed-faith gift (start with $100; don’t try to cheap your way into heaven!) to the first telepreacher you see (or if you can’t find one, send the dough to me; I’ll make sure the Lord gets it). Oh, and don’t forget to vote for Roy Moore on Tuesday! The WARRIOR Donald Jehu Tr-mp needs him for his swamp-cleaning agenda in D.C.!

Needless to say, this is all nuts. But the gullible don’t think so. And the gullible vote. That is why we had the election of Tr-mp and why we are on the eve of possibly sending a theocrat in Alabama, with a penchant for pedophilia, to Washington D.C. The same people who believe in Bible prophecy, who believe when the time is right that an angry and vengeful God will send horse-size locusts to sting us, kill millions upon millions of us, make rivers overflow with our blood—just after he teleports born-again Christians into bliss—these same folks, at least many of them, believe that all of Tr-mp’s and Moore’s female accusers are lying, as part of a plot to thwart God’s redemptive plan. Whew.

Image result for evangelical vote 2016While it is true that an overwhelming number of evangelicals—we’re talking about mostly white folks here—voted for Tr-mp, most of them didn’t do so because they expected Tr-mp to move our embassy to Jerusalem and hasten The End. There were many different reasons for their vote. But cultural grievances and fear—fear of dying, fear of God’s wrath, fear of facing hell—is always mixed in the electoral soup. The preachers who bank (literally) on these grievances and fear are out in full force these days. Their black-and-white sermons and public pronouncements; their insistence that Christian America is under an unholy threat, both from within and without; their framing politics as a good-versus-evil zero-sum game, has a profound effect, especially when the message is reinforced on Fox “News” and on talk radio and online. After all, if it weren’t for white evangelicals, Tr-mp would likely be in Moscow right now interviewing pee-shooting hookers for jobs at his yet-to-be-completed hotel there.

As for the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race ending tomorrow, a Pew study indicates that about one-half—one-half!—of Alabamians are white evangelicals. These folks are frequently bombarded with religious propaganda emanating from some very strange teachers. It is no wonder that Tr-mp seems like a persecuted hero to them, or that a gun-toting, teen-loving theocrat gets the benefit of their divinely derived doubt. As I said, that propaganda is rooted in grievance and fear, powerful motivators to believe the unbelievable—and powerful motivators to vote.

From the start I believed that the Democrat Doug Jones had no better than a two in ten chance to win in Alabama. Perhaps his odds are better now. Perhaps he will win, but I still have my serious doubts. I hope I’m wrong and people in Alabama surprise me. But no matter what happens tomorrow, this is bigger than just this one race. We still have the spooky specter of an evangelical-fueled Tr-mpism running and ruining the country, possibly the world.

The truth is that Tr-mp is using evangelicals, and evangelicals, mostly white, are using Tr-mp. He needs their votes and they need his judicial appointments, who will stop reproductive rights and gay marriage, two issues that to these zealots demonstrate our decadence even more than the success of mommy porn a few years ago. But there are some freakish evangelical extremists who are also looking to accelerate what they believe is taking way too long to actualize (for God’s sake, Hal Lindsey has been preaching this the-end-is-near hokum for almost 50 years and still going): a series of events involving Israel and her geographical and spiritual enemies that will lead to unspeakable destruction and the death of countless people—particularly and oddly, countless numbers of Jews.

So, wsimulated image of rapturee have Tr-mp’s plan to move our embassy to Jerusalem, seen by evangelicals as a pleasure-enhancing, Israel-affirming act that will, they believe, lead to the outpouring of God’s wrath on, of all people, the people of Israel. If Fifty Shades of Grey represented cultural degeneracy related to the boundaries of pain and pleasure,” surely this strange evangelical eschatology represents something much, much worse. Because there is something disturbingly sadistic about people championing a foreign policy that they believe culminates in inexpressible suffering, while those raptured rapturous champions watch it all from the clouds.

_________________________________________________

For your education or for your pleasure, your choice, I am posting two videos. The first one is the source of many of the quotes I used from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. You really should watch the entire presentation, which has been viewed 1.2 million times. Marvel at the fast talk, the dreadful hermeneutics and theology, the slick sales pitch. And look at that audience, as the light goes off in their heads.

The second video is from this past weekend. It features two of my favorite peeps, Joy Reid and Frank Schaeffer, discussing the whole End Times nonsense. Enjoy!

Jeff Flake And My Apology

Published on December 5, 2017, at 12:27pm

On October 24 of this year, I made a terrible mistake. I posted the text, with my praise, of Republican Senator Jeff Flake’s speech on the Senate floor that outlined the “moral treason” of the Republican Party. Here’s part of what I wrote and the part I am most ashamed of:

If I could have, at the moment those old words came through my television, I would have put my liberal Democrat arms around conservative Republican Jeff Flake and given him a big American hug. As I said, he will disappoint, but today we shared something that we Americans cannot afford to lose, but are fast losing—and may be unable to save.

Jeff Flake.jpgThis is a blog of repentance. Thus, I repent. I am sorry for saying that. I am sorry for feeling it. I am sorry I am such a terrible judge of people. I truly thought there was some glimmer of principle behind what Jeff Flake said that day. There wasn’t.

Just a few minutes ago I turned on my television and saw Flake sitting right next to Tr-mp during a luncheon to discuss, among other things, the harmful GOP tax fraud bill making its way through Congress. Flake sat right next to Tr-mp. Right next to him. Right next to him when he endorsed the pedophile from Alabama. Flake couldn’t have been closer unless he sat on Tr-mp’s lap.

Which is where he now belongs.

All that Flake previously said, about not normalizing “the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” about not “meekly” accepting “the daily sundering of our country,” is as worthless as a degree from Tr-mp University, or a Sunday School lesson from Roy Moore. Flake said in October,

Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Dear Mr. Flake: When you sit next to Tr-mp, when you sit next to him while he is telling lie after lie, while he is endorsing a pedophile, while he speaks of “unity,” you are making him and his lies normal. I don’t care why you do it. You, Jeff Flake, are making it normal. You said in October:

It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

You, Mr. Flake, will have to answer to that next generation, to your kids and grandkids. What are you going to say? How are you going to explain why you sat next to such a degenerate man, such a man whose behavior you said is “reckless, outrageous, and undignified,” as well as “dangerous to a democracy”? What are you going to say? That you sat there normalizing such a man in order to give tax cuts to wealthy donors? Is that what you will say? That you allowed yourself to be used as a prop in the normalization of indecency, or eagerly volunteered for the job, in order to rid the country of the estate tax?

Huh?

Senator Flake, you may as well go ahead and endorse Roy Moore now and get it over with. There’s no sense in pretending any more. You have made a fool of yourself.

And made a fool out of a lowly liberal blogger here in Joplin. Thanks a lot.

Packing The Courts While We Aren’t Paying Attention

Don’t count me among those who are giving credit to Mitch McConnell for trying to ditch Roy Moore. Five minutes ago, McConnell was trying to get the lawless theocrat elected. Nor will I give credit to most of the other Republicans who have spoken against Moore. Almost to a man, and woman, they all were recently rooting for Moore (Sen. Flake, excepted) to win and, thus, help the GOP screw the working class by raining tax cuts on the wealthy. A few truly courageous victims of Moore’s white evangelical Christian virtues spoke up and changed the dynamics of the Alabama special election and, essentially, forced national Republicans to say what they should have said a long time ago.

Missouri’s Republican senator, Roy Blunt, finally chimed in:

Alabama voters should have a better choice, and Judge Moore should have better answers to these charges.

Blunt had no problem with the Orange Predator during last year’s presidential election. He didn’t demand that Tr-mp “have better answers” to the 20 or so women who accused him of either sexual assault or sexual harassment. Nope. When Tr-mp denied the charges, when he claimed “locker room talk,” Blunt was on board. The evidence against Tr-mp was at least as compelling as the evidence against Roy Moore. But Blunt, like his colleagues throughout Congress, was all-in on Tr-mp. All. In. And Tr-mp has done, and continues to do, more damage to the country than a Senator Moore could ever dream of doing. Yet, Blunt and McConnell and nearly all Republicans who matter are hard at work aiding and abetting Tr-mp’s disastrous reign—especially when it comes to federal judges and our courts.

Julia Ioffe, who just exposed Tr-mp Junior’s collusion with WikiLeaks-Russia, was on television this morning explaining the un-American behavior of the second creepiest Tr-mp in the family. At one point, Ioffe mentioned how all the craziness surrounding Tr-mp amounted to “flooding the zone,” while he and Republicans in the U.S. Senate are able to quietly “pack the courts.” Huh? You mean Tr-mp is getting something done besides trashing the Constitution and the environment? Is he packing the courts, too?

Hell yes, he is.

Over the weekend, Charlie Savage wrote an eye-opening article for The New York Times (“Tr-mp Is Rapidly Reshaping the Judiciary. Here’s How.”). Savage began with Donald McGahn’s “secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges.” That plan was formulated during the transition, before McGahn became Tr-mp’s White’s House counsel. Savage wrote:

Mr. McGahn, instructed by Mr. Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary, mapped out potential nominees and a strategy, according to two people familiar with the effort: Start by filling vacancies on appeals courts with multiple openings and where Democratic senators up for re-election next year in states won by Mr. Trump — like Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania — could be pressured not to block his nominees. And to speed them through confirmation, avoid clogging the Senate with too many nominees for the district courts, where legal philosophy is less crucial.

Savage pointed out just how successful the plan has been. Tr-mp is on a record-setting pace in getting his judges through the process. But there is a very dark side to how Tr-mp is able to set records and shape the judiciary:

Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure.

Yes. For two years Republicans cheated Obama out of his right to appoint such judges. Actually, they cheated him and us. They essentially nullified our votes, when it came to shaping the judiciary. And they treated Obama like three-fifths of a president. Sure, we all saw Republicans openly and unashamedly steal a Supreme Court vacancy from the two-term uppity black man in the White’s House. We saw Neil Gorsuch wither on the Senate’s vine. But not many people knew about all those appellate judges Obama did not get to appoint. Not many people knew that Obama did not get to make as big a mark on the judiciary as he was entitled to make, as we were entitled to expect as his voters.

And we have Mitch McConnell, who some people are lauding over his throwing shade on Roy Moore, to thank for it.

I waited and waited for media outlets to pick up on an interview McConnell did two Sundays ago with right-wing nut Hugh Hewitt. But I couldn’t find a single television segment or a single news article about it. I suppose it was crowded out by the massacre of praying Christians in Texas and other outrages. But while our attention has been turned to mass shootings and collusion with Russia and Tr-mp embarrassing us abroad, our children’s future is being placed in the hands of reactionary judges, some qualified to do the dirty work and some not. Here’s what McConnell had to say to Hugh Hewitt:

MITCH MCCONNELL: There were 1,200 executive branch appointments subject to confirmation in the Senate. I not only didn’t allow the Supreme Court vacancy to be filled during the last year of Barack Obama, I also didn’t allow a lot of other federal judgeships to be filled. So when President Trump got elected, and we held our majority, we had the largest number of federal judicial vacancies to be filled since the early 1950s. And the President is sending up spectacular nominees. Barack Obama only had 60 Democrats in the Senate, got three circuit judges in his first year. We did four the week you and I are talking. We had already done four. That’s eight. And we’ll do more before the end of the year. In conjunction with the President and his spectacular White House counsel, Don McGahn, we are making permanent, long lasting changes to the federal judiciary.

If that doesn’t piss you off, if that doesn’t make your blood boil, then try this:

HUGH HEWITT: And so these 21 federal circuit vacancies that were inherited are almost as important as the Supreme Court. Are you satisfied that the White House is moving fast enough, because while there are 21 vacancies, there have only been 14 nominees, only 11 with their paperwork done. You confirmed eight. You’ll get the other three done. But we still got another ten nominees to come up to you.

MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, I am convinced they’re moving fast enough. It takes a while to do the vetting and to get them in the pipeline. And now the pipeline is beginning to fill up. And we’re not going to be a bottleneck up here in the Senate. As you’ve noticed, as soon as the circuit judge comes out of committee, I call them up. I’m in charge of the schedule. I’ve got to choose what to bring up. Confirmation of circuit court judges is my top priority. As they come out of the committee, they will be called up.

In case you don’t know why the various U.S. Courts of Appeals are, except in rare cases, more important than the Supreme Court, there were over 50,000 federal appeals filed in the 12-month period ending June 30 of this year. Think about that. Thousands of decisions are issued by those courts and how many do you suppose are reviewed by the nine justices on the Supreme Court? Here’s what the Court itself says:

The Court receives approximately 7,000-8,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each Term.  The Court grants and hears oral argument in about 80 cases.

Appeals Court statisticsThousands and thousands of decisions are made by federal appellate judges without review by the Supreme Court. That’s why Republicans are so giddy about what McConnell and Tr-mp are doing. As I said, conservative zealots are literally mucking up the future for our kids and grandkids. And it isn’t just at the appellate level. The zealots are advancing unqualified people to the federal district courts, too. The latest has made a splash on some news outlets:

A 36-year-old lawyer who has never tried a case and who was unanimously deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association has been approved for a lifetime federal district judgeship by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That Times article quotes Kristine Lucius of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She said it was “unprecedented” to have so many unqualified nominees for the district court. She added:

When you think of how much power a district court nominee has over life and death decisions every day, it’s really irresponsible to put someone on with that little experience.

Yes, it is irresponsible. And, given how we got to this point, given that many of these appointments were stolen from President Obama, it is unforgivable.

So, the next time you hear some pundit giving Mitch McConnell or some other Republican credit for doing the right thing on Roy Moore, remember that almost all Republicans supported and still support a pussy-grabbing, court-packing Tr-mp, whose damaging court picks—most of them white men—will be around long after he is gone.

federal appeals courts by president

Jeff Flake And The Moral Treason Of The Republican Party

Published on October 24, 2017 @3:30pm

Senator Jeff Flake will no doubt disappoint Democrats with his votes as time goes by. We should expect that. He is after all a conservative Republican. But for this one moment we should appreciate what he did today on the floor of the United States Senate. The speech he gave was stunningly well-written and will go down as one of the great speeches in Senate, no, American history. It reflected not only a Burkean temperament that the conservative movement in this country abandoned long ago, but was a condemnation of the behavior of most of his fellow Republicans, as well as a longing, a cry for a pre-Tr-mp America.

I have posted the entire transcript below, which you should read, as Flake’s delivery wasn’t exactly perfect. But there was a portion of it where he quoted from Teddy Roosevelt’s famous editorial that appeared in the Kansas City Star in 1918, during WWI. Here is part of what Flake quoted:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. 

If I could have, at the moment those old words came through my television, I would have put my liberal Democrat arms around conservative Republican Jeff Flake and given him a big American hug. As I said, he will disappoint, but today we shared something that we Americans cannot afford to lose, but are fast losing—and may be unable to save.

Below is the transcript of the speech as it was prepared for delivery (courtesy of azcentral.com):

Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely.  We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.

Now is such a time.

Image result for jeff flake speech on floor todayIt must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our — all of our — complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.

In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order — that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue — with the tone set at the top.

We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength — because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.

Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” — Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.

When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants.He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing — until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.

In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.

Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place.  We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party — the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal — but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a healthy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that days comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my senate term doing just that.

Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women — none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

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