What Roe V. Wade Is All About

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?
DONALD TR-MP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: For the woman?
DONALD TR-MP: Yeah, there has to be some form.

                                                                                              —From an MSNBC townhall, 3/30/2016

Language is crucial.

Mike Pence, our lying theocrat-in-waiting, told CNN that he still wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned even if he didn’t bother asking Brett Kavanaugh about whether he would in fact overturn the 45-year-old ruling or just chip away at it, like Republicans have done for years now, until it is gone for most women. But listen to the language Pence, who once said Roe should be “consigned to the ash heap of history,” used in the CNN interview (my emphasis):

I’m pro-life. I don’t apologize for it, and I’m proud to be part of a pro-life administration that’s advanced pro-life policy.

A pro-life trifecta. All in one sentence. He later said:

As I said, I stand for the sanctity of life. This administration, this president [sic], are pro-life….What I can assure people that voted for us is that this will continue to be a pro-life administration. From early in this administraion…Tr-mp has taken decisive steps to advance pro-life values at home and, frankly, in foreign aid around the world.

The fact that liars like Pence are, despite their language, pursuing decidedly anti-life policies, like cruelty toward migrants for instance, isn’t the point here. The point is the language that Pence purposely employs is so familiar to us that we hardly notice what is being hidden by its use.

Oddly and depressingly, I often hear pro-choice people use “pro-life” as a term for people like Pence. Journalists almost always use the term, presumably out of fear of being criticized by the right. In fact, I can’t recall hearing any straight news reporter on television, or reading one in print, who refers to people like Pence as what they are: anti-choice. But the awful truth is they are more Image result for women punished for abortionthan that, more than just people opposed to reproductive freedom for women. That’s just one side of the coin. They are advocates of government coercion every bit as cruel as what we have seen these past weeks as Tr-mp and his de facto deportation force thoughtlessly separated children from their parents and incarcerated them in separate locations without adequate means to reunite them.

Thanks to Vox, we know that Pence is about as extreme as they come when it comes to supporting the cruelty of government coercion of women. Not content with the radical Hyde Amendment’s prohibitions against using federal funds for most abortions, Pence sought through legislation to change the definition of rape, so that more women who were victims of male violence would also become victims of government violence through forced pregnancies. Pence also sponsored a bill that would have, through theocratic magic, turned a zygote into a constitutionally protected “person,” which would not only have made any and all abortions illegal, but criminalized some forms of contraception that the zealots deem abortifacients. And on and on.

A few months ago, Pence said the following at the Susan B. Anthony List & Life Issues Institute Luncheon in Nashville:

And so I urge you on, but I do so with confidence — with confidence that good news is around the corner in America.  I have boundless faith in the goodness and decency of the American people.  I have boundless confidence in that President [sic] that you elected and the pro-life majorities in the Congress of the United States and in states all across this country.  And I have boundless confidence in Him who said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”  (Applause.)

And with faith in all those leaders, faith in all of you, and faith in God, I know that, together, with you, we will once again live in an America that chooses life from our hearts.

This is theocracy advocacy. This is cruelty advocacy. This is pregnancy-by-government-force advocacy. Because what Pence, and others aligned with him, are actually saying—far from wanting “an America that chooses life from our hearts”—is that an unsupportable claim in an Iron Age book should be the guiding star on the use of government violence against pregnant women.

If you reject the term “violence” in this context, then consider this: what Pence et al. are saying is that the government should have the power to force women into months and months of service to a religious dogma, whether they believe the dogma or not. It’s not just a one-time deal but months and months of subjugation. Months and months of subjugation at the point of a government-owned gun. That’s what the debate over Roe v. Wade is all about. It’s not about whether deceptively named “pro-life” people will get their way if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed. It’s not about a “win” for Tr-mp or for Pence’s prayer warriors.

It’s about the power of the state and whether the government will sooner or later claim absolute sovereignty over every uterus in America.

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My First Prayer For Tr-mp, Long Overdue

As the outrages pile up, as the lies multiply like maggots, as the cruelty and corruption runneth over, I thought I should get back, at least for a moment, to my biblical roots and, well, do as the Bible says (I Timothy) and pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

But what to pray? Where can I find the words in these trying times? What abyss of wisdom can I plumb to get this right?

Because so many people who are enabling the outrages and lies and cruelty and corruption are themselves hard-core Bible believers (especially you, Jefferson Beauregard), it makes sense to turn to the Bible, right?

Right.

And I don’t know about you, but when I need a comforting nudge from the scripture, a dose of godliness and holiness, a foundation on which to build a powerful prayer, I don’t turn to the nansy-pansy 23rd Psalm, what with its “green pastures” and “still waters” and “goodness and mercy” encouragement. I go right to the heart of the matter, Psalm 137, which ends with a virile, broad-shouldered passage clearly approved by Mike Pence and clearly appropriate for the kind of virile, broad-shouldered group of “leaders” we have today.

Psalm 137 first expresses the sadness that the Israelites felt after being conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and deported to the Babylonian state about 2600 years ago:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.

After weeping by the Tigris and Euphrates, the Israelites got down to business. The Psalm ended with what I will, in the name of virtuous Bible-quoters like Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence, adopt as my sardonically heartfelt prayer—blessed by the Good Book—for Tr-mp and his enablers in the Republican Congress (some of them who have been visiting their friends in Russia) on this challenging day:

Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.

Amen.

Word just came out that Scott Pruitt has resigned. You’re welcome.

Two Kinds Of Resistance

“This barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understandings.”

—Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

At different times today I saw protesters on television, clearly outraged over our inhumane treatment of desperate and frightened migrants, marching with signs that had the F word scrawled on them. “Fuck Tr-mp” said one sign. “Of course I fucking care,” said another, an obvious reference to Melania Tr-mp’s creepy jacket message that she fuck trump 2deliberately sent to us as she recently visited Texas, allegedly to learn what was going on at the border. Famously, three weeks ago Robert De Niro also said, not once but twice, to a large national television audience, “Fuck Tr-mp!” He was praised by some for expressing what many of us feel, and condemned by others who were either feigning outrage or genuinely concerned about the deterioration of our national discourse.

The protests and the profanity do raise questions, obviously. Are they counterproductive? Is cursing Tr-mp, even in the context of his expressed cruelty, itself a form of incivility, of indecency? Do the protests, profane or not, do more harm than good? More important: do they feed the beast of Tr-mpism and make it stronger?

We shall soon see, I suppose.

The corruption and indecency we have witnessed since the onset of Tr-mpism—which actually began before Tr-mp rode down that infamous escalator in June of 2015—has been largely fueled, as I have tirelessly and tiresomely argued, by anxious white people, people who feel a loss, or coming loss, of cultural power. And with that loss of power a kind of violence fills the vacuum, and in the case of Tr-mpism, part of the violence is directed against many of our democratic institutions and the norms that support them. But a bigger part of that violence is directed against what once was a national virtue of welcomeness to people outside our borders, people fleeing oppression and misery, or simply trying to feed their families.

Thus, I’d rather overreact to the dangers and inhumanity of Tr-mpism than look back and say I wasn’t sufficiently vigilant and responsive. If I say I love this country, love the idea of humane self-government on which it is based, love important national symbols like the flag and the Statue of Liberty, love national institutions like a free press, then when there is a genuine threat against these things I say I love, the proper reaction is not to sleepily express concern or mildly criticize the offenders. It is fierce resistance and outrage. Protest—and civil disobedience if it becomes necessary.

But being part of a collective resistance to the beast of Tr-mpism is not enough. In fact it may not be the most important part of the battle against a purposeful—and burgeoning—indecency. There are the everyday interactions we have with our neighbors and friends and coworkers and, of course, our family. It is through those relationships, as people naturally come into and out of our life, that perhaps the most effective form of resistance is waged.

How much good does it do for me to show up at a march or protest against some ugly form of Tr-mpism and then go to a family event and ignore outrageous remarks made by a pro-Tr-mp uncle or aunt or brother or sister or mom or dad? What good does collective action do if a colleague feels free to rhetorically embrace Tr-mpian indecency in my presence and I am unwilling to speak up? It seems to me that our first responsibility to defend decency is, as Tolkien put it, “by uprooting the evil in the fields that we know.” What fields do we know better than the ones in which we till and toil, live and work and play?

Among other things, Donald Tr-mp is an enemy of decency, which necessarily makes him an enemy of America. That is so because despite its pockmarked face, America has been an fuck trump signunquestionable force for good in the modern world. It is a shame that one has to say that Tr-mp, or anyone else who has held the office he holds, is an enemy of America. But that’s just it. No one in our history, at least in the history of this and the last century, who has held the office he now holds, has been such a clear enemy of decency, of the larger humanitarian good, in the way he has. Nobody. He is sui generis in that respect. And thus our reaction has to be sui generis, too. It’s that simple for me.

In these perilous times, we can and should take part in collective action, like protests and marches and contributing money to democracy- and decency-defending politicians and organizations. But we also owe it to the country we say we love to speak to those most directly connected to us, who are woven into our personal lives for better or worse, those who have lost their way by defending the indefensible acts of constant cruelty and corruption and incompetence that are visible to those with eyes to see. If their vision is cloudy, we must try to help them see. If they refuse to see, we have to call out their callousness. If they spread lies and misinformation, we have to first gently correct them. If they persist, then their ignorance and complicity must be named for what it is. In some cases, each a personal call, we may have to shun some of those around us who, for whatever sad reason, simply want to be part of a culture of indecency and fear and hate.

The fight against Tr-mpism will not end well if we only fight on a Saturday in June, or even a Tuesday in November. Every daily encounter we have with our fellow Americans—those who either ignore or embrace corruption and openly mock evolved American values—must be part of that larger fight, part of the resistance, too. Such encounters may be awkward or make us feel uncomfortable at times. But if we are to recover the integrity of our institutions and raise the flag of American decency again—and keep it waving over a free and moral people—we have to win the big fights and do the best we can to win the small ones.

Is This “Who We Are”? It Depends On Who “We” Is.

“These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

—Laura Bush

The pictures and sounds of weeping migrant children that are dominating our televisions at the moment fill most of us with a combination of sadness and shame, as well as a mix of compassion and outrage. We are shocked by the unnecessary cruelty involved. We are horrified that our government is not only engaged in such systematic cruelty, but is actively denying it or lying about it or defending it—or doing all at the same time. In short, we are appalled.

But who deserves our wrath for such inhumane policies? The answer can be found in history, or more conveniently, in a short review of three history books, one book published recently (Broken Lives: How Ordinary Germans Experienced the Twentieth Century by Konrad H. Jarausch), and one more than 50 years ago and recently republished (They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933–45 by Milton Mayer), and one written in 1939 (Defying Hitler: A Memoir by Sebastian Haffner). The review (“It Can Happen Here”) was written by Cass Sunstein for The New York Review of Books.

Sunstein, you may remember, is a renowned legal scholar who once worked for President Obama and was the bête noire of people like Glenn Beck and Wayne LaPierre and Alex Jones. Sunstein co-authored a book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, that essentially argued that people, even smart people, frequently make bad choices and can be deliberately “nudged” into making better ones (think: government warnings about smoking). This idea, of course, drove people like Glenn Beck, and even Glenn Greenwald, nuts, especially because people like Obama found it interesting.

The truth is, though, we are all nudged by something or someone, good information or bad, good people or bad, reliable heuristics or faulty ones, irrational thoughts disguised as rational deductions, or confirmation bias in its many forms. The point is, as Tr-mp’s election proved, people can make horribly bad decisions and it is important to try to figure out why they do and, if possible, discover ways to help them make better ones. As Sunstein argued in Nudge, decisions are not made in neutral contexts. Framing is essential. Speaking of which:

In his three-book review Sunstein begins with a brief description of our changing world: “a resurgent Russia” under Vladimir Putin, who “has entrenched authoritarian rule”; a China that “may have surpassed the United States” in global influence, even as it is led by another authoritarian-for-life, Xi Jinping; serious talk of a “democratic recession,” what with the chilling “turns toward authoritarianism in Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and the Philippines”; and, of course, there is Tr-mp. Thus, the purpose of the review:

In such a time, we might be tempted to try to learn something from earlier turns toward authoritarianism, particularly the triumphant rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. The problem is that Nazism was so horrifying and so barbaric that for many people in nations where authoritarianism is now achieving a foothold, it is hard to see parallels between Hitler’s regime and their own governments. Many accounts of the Nazi period depict a barely imaginable series of events, a nation gone mad. That makes it easy to take comfort in the thought that it can’t happen again.

We must confess that Sunstein is right. Anyone familiar with what Hitler and the Nazis did will find it difficult to make realistic connections between “a nation gone mad” and our own. Those of us who have pointed out some of the parallels are often met with “it can’t happen here” and other such hopeful notions. And to be sure, Sunstein, despite recognizing all of the ominous signs that accompany Tr-mp and Tr-mpism (“the United States has not seen anything like it before”), is quite cautious about predicting a fascistic future for Americans:

With our system of checks and balances, full-blown authoritarianism is unlikely to happen here, but it would be foolish to ignore the risks that Trump and his administration pose to established norms and institutions, which help preserve both order and liberty. Those risks will grow if opposition to violations of long-standing norms is limited to Democrats, and if Republicans laugh, applaud, agree with, or make excuses for Trump—if they howl with the wolf.

This is where I want to get back to my question of who deserves our wrath for the cruel and inhumane policies we are witnessing, policies that Tr-mp defended with disturbing enthusiasm today in front of disturbed enthusiasts (in this case, the National Federation of Independent Businesses). Sunstein’s review was of history books that chronicled the rise of Hitler not by focusing on “well-known leaders, significant events, state propaganda, murders, and war,” but by offering accounts of “ordinary life under Nazism.” You can and should read such accounts and make what you will out of them. But it is incontrovertible that there would have been no Hitler and no Holocaust without the assent, too much of it enthusiastic, of ordinary Germans. Likewise, there would be no Tr-mp and no migrant children in chain-link cages without the assent, too much of it enthusiastic, of ordinary Americans, tens of millions of them.

If you look around you, it isn’t Tr-mp or Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or Stephen Miller or Sean Hannity or Kirstjen Nielsen or Rudy Giuliani or Jeff Sessions—abominable actors without a doubt—who are primarily to blame for what we see. It is Matt next door. It is Phyllis down the street. It is Joe at work. It is Tim, your cousin. It is Tom, your dad. It is Pastor Mack. It is your old high school friends who have inexplicably become unrecognizably Tr-mpish. And it is all those you know who, in our peculiar democracy, don’t bother to vote one way or another. We have Tr-mp and McConnell and imprisoned migrant children because of people you know, people you work with and go to church with and wave at as they drive through your neighborhood. When well-intentioned folks say that the way we are treating frightened kids and their asylum-seeking parents is “not who we are,” that excludes millions upon millions of people who insist, “That’s exactly who we are.” 

But there is hope, of course. Sunstein writes about his three authors:

In their different ways, Mayer, Haffner, and Jarausch show how habituation, confusion, distraction, self-interest, fear, rationalization, and a sense of personal powerlessness make terrible things possible. They call attention to the importance of individual actions of conscience both small and large, by people who never make it into the history books. Nearly two centuries ago, James Madison warned: “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure.” Haffner offered something like a corollary, which is that the ultimate safeguard against aspiring authoritarians, and wolves of all kinds, lies in individual conscience: in “decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.”

We have arrived at a moment in our own history when individual consciences will make decisions, consciously or unconsciously, that may or may not have collective consequences comparable to Hitler’s rise to power. But from now until the November elections, through acts small and large by people who aren’t destined for either praise or condemnation in any to-be-written history book, we can nudge ourselves—and others—in one direction or another. And I think it is fair to say, after what we have seen and are seeing now, that when we wake up on November 7th of this year, we will know who we are, whoever that is.

A Swift And Biblical Solution To The Migrant Parents And Children Problem

“[Kim Jong-un] speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

—Tr-mp

Inspired by Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, accompanied by a Swiftian nudge from the Almighty, I have figured out what to do about the plight of migrants suffering under Tr-mp’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration and the separation of families.

And it is breathtakingly biblical.

Clearly these migrants from Latin America, women and children especially, pose a threat to the spiritual well-being of our God-blessed land. Something must be done in the name of the Lord. And the answer, as these kinds of answers always are, is right there in the Good Book.

My solution begins with recasting the people who, for one reason or another, want to invade the sacrosanct borders of our big, beautiful Christian country. Let us henceforth call these invaders “Midianites.” At this point, if you know your Bible, the solution is clear. If you don’t know your Bible, I will briefly educate you.

In Numbers 31, God tells Moses (who “was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth”) to attack the Midianites, an ancient people who pissed off God because of their lack of respect for his unique qualities and the unique qualities of his Chosen People. Moses, who just happened to be married to a Midianite woman (God is funny that way), gathered up some of his most faithful and ruthless soldiers and sent them out to do God’s genocidal work on the Midianites. These ICE-y soldiers mostly did as they were told. They raided and then slaughtered the Midianites. They burned their towns to the ground and stole their stuff, all of their possessions. But the ICE MEN weren’t quite ruthless enough. They didn’t slaughter all of the pesky Midianites. They kept alive and took into custody the surviving women and children and brought them back to the Homeland. This, of course, pissed off Moses, who wanted them all dead, as God had apparently commanded. Moses, in Tr-mpian fashion, said to the ICE MEN from Israel:

Have you allowed all the women to live? …Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

And there you have the answer to our immigration problem today: a genuine, honest-to-goodness zero tolerance policy. Let’s stop playing around with family separation and tent camps. Let’s get really biblical about this thing. Let’s go full-on Old Testament.

Think of the good things that would come of such a Book of Numbers solution. White American evangelicals wouldn’t have to pay for food and shelter for the “the little ones” who happen to be boys. After the initial expense of giving them a Nazi shower (the expense could be partially offset by selling the meager possessions of the migrants, of course), the boys would be off the books, and there would be no fear they would grow up to be terrorists—or Democrats.

Nor would those pious white folks have to worry about upkeep on the girls who weren’t virgins (determining their status is where Tr-mp’s beauty pageant snooping skills would come in handy, by the way). A simple gassing at an old Walmart, a very humane, if unbiblical, way of carrying out the Lord’s will in this matter, would rid our Christian country of the financial burden and moral headache of those wanton little women.

That leaves us with the virgin girls. As the Bible makes clear, they were to be saved and distributed among the tribes (in Numbers, we find out that God himself got 32 of the 32,000 virgins who survived execution; God’s portion, expectedly, fell into the tiny hands of the High Priest). The Handmaid's Tale CostumeObviously, distributing the virgin wealth may be the most appealing feature of this Bible-endorsed socialist solution, at least among the most faithful Tr-mpers, those zealous men who have a hankering for a Handmaid’s Tale lifestyle.

The girls could become wives. They could become mistresses or staffers for congressional Republicans, often the same job. They could pick fruit and vegetables for wealthy Republican growers. They could clean rooms in Tr-mp’s resorts, or, perhaps the most honest job, they could become Golden Shower specialists at Tr-mp International Hotel in Washington, providing entertainment for all the foreign dignitaries who stay there to curry favor with the High Priest of Tr-mpism. After all, emoluments shouldn’t be a one-way street.

The point is, as Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders reminded us yesterday, the Bible has all the answers to all our problems, especially problems involving those who live outside our Sacred Borders. You just have to find the text you need and apply it in creative ways.

God bless America.

Franklin Graham On North Korea: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Commenting on my last post about the North Korea summit, Bbob wrote in part:

Trump’s base is euphoric. Sad commentary on the religious right.

I want so say something about right-wing Christians out there. As everyone should know, North Korea fiercely persecutes Christians. Fiercely. They are enemies of the state because they don’t worship Kim Jong-un. Some conservative estimates are that 50,000+ Christians are held captive in labor camps. For almost two decades North Korea has been ranked the worst place on Earth to be a Christian, the ranking made by an organization called “Open Doors.”

Now, just today Franklin Graham, evangelical “leader,” was asked about the Tr-mp-Kim summit. He was “very optimistic” about it, according to CBN:

“I think the North Koreans have been wanting to talk to the Americans for a long time and this is the first administration that they’ve been able to talk to directly like this,” the evangelist said.

Graham believes the North Koreans are a prideful people and that the Trump administration has engaged them well.

“The North Koreans just want to be shown respect and other administrations brushed them off like they were nothing,” he said.

Yes. A Christian preacher said that the Christian-killers in North Korea just need some respect. The same Christian preacher who, if Obama had behaved in Singapore the way Tr-mp did, would have asked for his head on a biblical platter. The same preacher who has mercilessly attacked Islam, advocated for a ban on Muslims entering the country long before Tr-mp did, and believes we are involved in a religious—Evangelical Christianity versus Islam—war.

The short of it is, and I can’t say this enough, we are front-seat observers of a nationwide cult, led by a disturbed and ignorant and self-absorbed authoritarian, zealously supported by right-wing Christians who believe God sent Tr-mp as a strange answer to an even stranger prayer—to trigger the End of the World.

 

Jackpot!

Shortly after the Tr-mp nightmare began, The Washington Post adopted the motto, “Democracy Dies In Darkness.

We should be so lucky.

After watching as much cable news coverage of the Singapore Follies as I could stand last night, and after watching the continuing coverage this morning, I am convinced that the West, and the democratic ideas and values associated with it, will not die in darkness, if indeed it does die. It will die, or at least be lost, in the glare of the bright lights of a highly-produced, highly-manipulative gala, a festive celebration of celebrity, a made-for-TV festival of propaganda.

That’s what the so-called North Korea summit was.

This morning, taking a few minutes away from what one on-air reporter called “the big event last night,” CNN was doing a segment on the enrichment of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner—a cool $80 million “earned” last year, part of it from the Tr-mp hotel in D.C. that foreigners patronize to win his favor. That potentially informative CNN segment was just getting off to a start when the reporter was interrupted by the host with “breaking news.” What was it? Oh, it was Kim Jong-un possibly getting ready to head to the airport. Anderson Cooper was summoned to narrate the amazing scene. Except there was nothing visual to show the folks at the moment and Cooper ushered viewers off to a commercial break. In disgust, I switched channels to MSNBC. Not long into a critical discussion of the reality-show summit, the on-air host interrupted the guest and narrated what was now a visual of Kim doing nothing but walking. Such absurdities, including the strange presence of a weeping Dennis Rodman last night, is among the reasons why I am sick this morning and as worried as I have ever been about our future.

Donald Tr-mp once ran casinos, before they went bankrupt. But in a way he is still running a casino, a big one from sea to shining sea. Everyone knows that the environment inside of casinos is carefully controlled. No windows. No clocks. No distractions from the matter at hand: separating you from your common sense so that the casino owner can pick your pocket with your permission. Consider this description:

A casino is a cacophony of wonderful and alluring stimulation: bells ringing, siren-like lights flashing, change clanging, slot wheels whirring, digital sounds beeping – it’s all captivating. Why is it captivating? Because it’s non-verbal communication saying, “Win! Win! Win!”. It gives the impression that everyone is indeed winning when, in reality, most are losing.

However, even as these people are losing, whatever machine they are on is still blaring out festive, euphoric sounds. It makes people want to get in on the action and become part of the winning as well. It’s such a happy place, how can I lose?! Everything is slick, burnished, and gleaming with a hypnotic draw to it. On some level, everyone, regardless if they are a big or small bettor, is attracted to these ostentatious displays of excess and flamboyance.

That’s how we will lose this thing, this fragile thing we call democracy. Bells will be ringing. Sirens will be sounding. Lights will be flashing. Wheels will be whirring. There will be digital beeping and, for some of us, the gnashing of teeth.

A thousand times last night and this morning, I bet I heard some variation of these phrases: “You have to give Donald Tr-mp credit” or “It’s a good thing these two leaders met” or “This was a big win for Tr-mp” or, as David Axelrod put it: “I applaud the president [sic] for pursuing diplomacy.” On top of all that, there was the constant use of the term “historic.” And I mean constant. Even if you had the sound down, you still saw the phrase on your screen: “HISTORIC MEETING.” As I said, it was sickening.

Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of criticism of what happened, or, really, what didn’t happen in Singapore. There were pundits who pointed out that North Korea is nothing but the world’s largest maximum security prison with a murderous warden who Tr-mp tried to elevate to an international star. There were pundits who pointed out the obvious fact that Kim was the real winner of this meeting between two cult figures, one a lying Stalinist and the other who is halfway there, having mastered the art of lying and apprenticing as a tyrant.

There were pundits who patiently explained that there was no substance to the meeting, nothing that hadn’t been promised by the North Koreans before as a way to buy time to continue developing their nuclear arsenal. There were pundits who lamented the lack of emphasis on human rights. There were pundits who noted that even if the impossible happened—denuclearization—that would not solve the problem of the massive amounts of conventional weapons that threaten our allies. And there were pundits who pointed out that, yes, this was a historic event precisely because no American leader had ever been stupid enough, or narcissistic enough, to give North Korea equal footing on a stage with the United States just to distract the gullible from his troubles with the law and other character deficiencies.

Image result for jackpotI said I am as worried as I have ever been about our future. And it’s not because of Tr-mp praising a ruthless killer like Kim, calling him honorable and trustworthy and smart and all that. I expected as much from Tr-mp, who orchestrated this madness just like the controlled madness on the floor of a casino.

I’m worried because we are now more than 500 days into this administration—into the larger madness. And journalists still don’t get it. They still don’t get how it all works. They haven’t yet figured out how to cover this freak of nature. Journalists can offer all the criticism of Tr-mp they want. They can debunk every false statement he makes. They can even call him a liar again and again. But as long as they do it from inside his casino, from inside the environment he has created, with all the bells and sirens and lights and wheels, not enough people will hear. They will only see and hear the “festive, euphoric sounds.” They will only see the “happy place” where losing is an afterthought. People really are attracted to “ostentatious displays of excess and flamboyance,” even if they are losing their rent money. No amount of good reporting, so long as it comes prefaced with phrases like “This was a win for Tr-mp” or “We have to give Tr-mp credit” or “This was a historic moment,” will dehypnotize those who crave the sights and sounds of the casino.

So, no, democracy will not die in darkness in the Tr-mp era, as long as journalists continue to broadcast and report from inside a superstructure deliberately designed to manipulate and distract and, more important, to optimize gullibility. Democracy, like that still, small voice of common sense that urges gamblers to go home before all is lost, will simply be ignored, drowned out by the intoxicating allure of JACKPOT!

 

He Is Above The Law. For Now.

The Founders, despite examples of individual and collective brilliance, gave us Tr-mp. And the Founders won’t let us get rid of him until January 20, 2021. It’s that simple. I’m sorry to keep saying it. But it is true.

I know people who closely follow every development in the Mueller investigation. I follow news about it fairly closely myself. But I also know people who think Mueller will, or at least could, bring Tr-mp down. I’m not one of those people. It’s not gonna happen no matter what Mueller finds. I hope to Allah I’m wrong, but I don’t see how I am.

Like most people who have read his history and followed his rise to Republican royalty, I have a strong suspicion that Tr-mp has committed some number of serious crimes, both before he ran for office and after he conned just barely enough people to get him an Electoral College victory. But I don’t just suspect Tr-mp has, and continues to, obstruct justice. I’ve seen it and heard it with my own eyes and ears. There simply isn’t any doubt about it. We’ve all seen it unfold in real time, starting with firing the FBI director, then confessing to NBC News that he fired him because of the Russia investigation, then onto a more democracy-threatening strategy of discrediting the Justice Department, the FBI, any news organization that dares print or broadcast facts about what is happening, and, of course, Bob Mueller and his investigation. That Tr-mp obstructed justice is a no-brainer.

But so what? So what if Tr-mp obstructed justice? And so what if he committed any other crimes? He has just said, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” He went there. He said it. Think about that. Think about how emboldened he must feel to even express such a thought. That he believes he can publicly express such an anti-democratic, un-American idea really, though, tells us more about the state of the Republican Party than it does about the state of Tr-mp’s mind.

But does he have such a right? Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure, thanks to another oversight by the Founders. But even if he doesn’t have the constitutional right, even if the Supreme Court says he doesn’t have the right to pardon PARDON himself, who will stop him if he does? You tell me, please. Who—WHO—will stop him? And even if—I have heard this theory advanced more than once today—Tr-mp stepped down temporarily under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment and had Mike Pence pardon him before Tr-mp then reclaimed power, who would stop that or make the duo pay a price for such unprecedented and unpresidential behavior? Please tell me.

We now know that Tr-mp’s grotesque TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, thinks Tr-mp could have literally shot the FBI director instead of merely metaphorically shooting him with a firing—and “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Giuliani claimed. The darkly comedic lawyer then offered that the only constitutional option was “impeachment.” Now, whether Giuliani is wrong about a subpoena or an indictment (apparently he is wrong, but who really knows how it will play out at this strange point in our history?), he is right regarding his overall point: impeachment is the only instrument, short of an election, that will rid us of the Founder’s biggest presidential blunder. And that’s the problem.

There will be no impeachment, so long as Republicans control the House. And even if Democrats wrestle control from Republicans in November and vote next year to impeach Tr-mp, there will be no conviction in the Senate. And our nasty nightmare will continue. If you have evidence to dispute this, please share it with me. If you have evidence that there are enough Republican votes in the Senate to convict Tr-mp of anything, please show me and the rest of the country just what that evidence is.

Because even if Tr-mp shot James Comey in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York or here in Joplin on Range Line Road, I promise you that immediately there would begin a TRMP AND COMEYmassive disinformation campaign that would blame the murder on the Deep State, or, perhaps, claim that Comey is still alive somewhere waiting to assume dictatorial power after Tr-mp is dethroned by the Deep State. And that disinformation campaign, whatever its conspiratorial theme, would convince enough Republican voters that Tr-mp is the victim. And those Republican voters would convince enough Republicans in Congress to save Tr-mp’s hide. And if you can even remotely imagine this happening after a public murder, imagine how likely it is to happen for something less. Again, if you have evidence to undermine my claims here, please share.

The sad and depressing truth is that Tr-mp is above the law, so long as voters keep Republicans in office.

 

To All Democrats Who Want To Be President:

This won’t take long.

If you are a Democrat who hopes to one day fumigate the Oval Office, Air Force One, and other places in the Executive Branch that the Tr-mponic plague has infected, hear this: stop the nice-nice, Spock-like criticisms of the ongoing disaster we are all witnessing and start raising Truman-like hell.

I have heard all kinds of talk the past few months about how Democratic hopefuls should run their respective campaigns in the context of the overt, in-your-face corruption we see, in the context of the utter malfeasance and fraud and grift we behold on an hourly basis, in the context of a dishonesty so bold it doesn’t bother to hide its face. Some people think Democrats should avoid Tr-mp and talk rationally about the issues. Some think Democrats should try to appeal to those “real Americans” who still have the Tr-mp stink on them and want to wash themselves clean (right now I’m thinking of those union workers at a Harley-Davidson factory in Kansas City who voted for Tr-mp and are now out of a job). Other people think Democrats should hang around “the center” and try to win the votes of “suburban white women.” And on and on.

Well, hooey. I’m tired of hearing talk of moderation, talk of reconciliation, talk of appeasement. I’m tired of seeing Democrats in Washington, with fire after fire raging like Image result for kilauea volcanothose around the Kilauea volcano, go on television and take a rational piss on the inferno. Reason is a wonderful and necessary tool. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in politics. People don’t tend to make decisions that way. Thus, merely pissing on the multiple fires with streams of reason won’t do a damn thing to put them out. Maybe nothing will. But, dammit, get out your firehoses and try. Start making a real effort to match this moment we’re all in. The most dangerous place in America should be between you and a television camera, as you can’t wait to rage against the outrage.

Keep in mind I am giving advice to you candidates who want to win nationally in 2020, not those individuals who are running in congressional campaigns or Senate races this year. Campaigns for House and Senate seats have their own dynamics that may or may not include a heavy emphasis on what is going on in the country at large. But you Democrats who aspire to win the Whites’ House in a couple of years should now, right now, start a pound-the-table campaign of “it’s the corruption, stupid” on one hand, and a speak-loudly-and-carry-a-skull-cracking-stick campaign of “it’s the economy, stupid” on the other. The two are linked, of course, which makes it easy to follow the program. “The system is corrupt and the corruption is why average people get screwed.” It’s that simple.

If we want to make progress, we have to have fearless national leaders who don’t just meekly ask, but righteously demand, an expansion of the pie of opportunity and who can attract new voters who want the same thing, even as these lionhearted leaders hold on to Democratic Party voters who have been faithful to that vision all along. It ain’t that hard to do.

Now, go do it, dammit.

 

 

 

 

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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