Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sunday Reading

Robert Mueller Speaks — The former special counsel breaks his silence on the commutation of Roger Stone.

The work of the special counsel’s office — its report, indictments, guilty pleas and convictions — should speak for itself. But I feel compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office. The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.

Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy. It was critical that they be investigated and understood. By late 2016, the FBI had evidence that the Russians had signaled to a Trump campaign adviser that they could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to the Democratic candidate. And the FBI knew that the Russians had done just that: Beginning in July 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen by Russian military intelligence officers from the Clinton campaign. Other online personas using false names — fronts for Russian military intelligence — also released Clinton campaign emails.

Following FBI Director James B. Comey’s termination in May 2017, the acting attorney general named me as special counsel and directed the special counsel’s office to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The order specified lines of investigation for us to pursue, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. One of our cases involved Stone, an official on the campaign until mid-2015 and a supporter of the campaign throughout 2016. Stone became a central figure in our investigation for two key reasons: He communicated in 2016 with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers, and he claimed advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ release of emails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers.

We now have a detailed picture of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The special counsel’s office identified two principal operations directed at our election: hacking and dumping Clinton campaign emails, and an online social media campaign to disparage the Democratic candidate. We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel — Stone among them. We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its activities. The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. It also established that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.

Uncovering and tracing Russian outreach and interference activities was a complex task. The investigation to understand these activities took two years and substantial effort. Based on our work, eight individuals pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial, and more than two dozen Russian individuals and entities, including senior Russian intelligence officers, were charged with federal crimes.

Congress also investigated and sought information from Stone. A jury later determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress.

The jury ultimately convicted Stone of obstruction of a congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness. Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison. But his conviction stands.

Russian efforts to interfere in our political system, and the essential question of whether those efforts involved the Trump campaign, required investigation. In that investigation, it was critical for us (and, before us, the FBI) to obtain full and accurate information. Likewise, it was critical for Congress to obtain accurate information from its witnesses. When a subject lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable. It may ultimately impede those efforts.

We made every decision in Stone’s case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law. The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false.

Suckers — Peter Wehner in The Atlantic on how evangelicals were betrayed by Trump.

The closest thing social conservatives and evangelical supporters of President Donald Trump had to a conversation stopper, when pressed about their support for a president who is so manifestly corrupt, cruel, mendacious, and psychologically unwell, was a simple phrase: “But Gorsuch.”

Those two words were shorthand for their belief that their reverential devotion to Trump would result in great advances for their priorities and their policy agenda, and no priority was more important than the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump may be a flawed character, they argued, but at least he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

And then came Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia.

That is the case decided in mid-June in which the majority opinion, written by Justice Gorsuch, protected gay and transgender individuals from workplace discrimination, handing the LGBTQ movement a historic victory.

“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Gorsuch wrote for the majority in the 6–3 ruling.

It was a crushing blow for the religious right, and it must have dawned on more than a few of Trump’s evangelical supporters that if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, the outcome of the case would have been the same; the only difference is that the margin probably would have been 7–2.

The Bostock case was not the only major legal setback for social conservatives and evangelical Christians. By a 5–4 margin, the Court—in June Medical Services v. Russo—delivered a significant defeat to the pro-life movement, striking down as unconstitutional a Louisiana law that could have left the state with only a single abortion clinic. This dashed the hopes of those who were counting on Trump’s appointees to lead the Court in overturning Roe v. Wade. (Both of Trump’s Supreme Court choices were in the minority.)

Social conservatives can point to some important religious-liberty victories. But overall, this term was a judicial gut punch for the president’s evangelical supporters. The “but Gorsuch” argument has not been destroyed, but it has been substantially weakened.

“The GOP gives social conservatives little or nothing legislatively, and hasn’t for a very long time,” the conservative blogger Rod Dreher told Vox’s Jane Coaston. “True, they have blocked some bad things over the years. That’s not nothing. But I think we’ve always known that judges are the real deal here.”

“Every institution—the media, academia, corporations, and others—are against us on gay and transgender rights, and GOP lawmakers are gutless. The only hope we had was that federal judges would protect the status quo. Now that’s gone.”

Legislatively, Trump, compared with other presidents, has not achieved all that much for the pro-life cause and religious-liberties protection. For example, George W. Bush’s pro-life record is stronger and Bill Clinton achieved more in the area of religious liberties, signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. (Trump has done a fair amount administratively for the pro-life cause.) Trump has also achieved next to nothing in terms of enacting education reforms.

Elsewhere, Trump has engaged in a bromance with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the worst persecutor of Christians in the world, and established more intimate and admiring relationships with many of the world’s despots than with leaders of America’s traditional allies. And on issues that have traditionally concerned conservative evangelicals, such as fiscal responsibility and limited government, Trump has been awful: The deficit and the debt exploded under his watch, even pre-pandemic.

Based strictly on the standard of advancing causes that conservative evangelicals most care about, a fair-minded assessment of the Trump record is that some important things were achieved, especially in appointing federal judges. That clearly would not have happened in a Hillary Clinton presidency. But in virtually every other area, including the outcome of several key Supreme Court decisions, Trump has fallen short of the promises and expectations.

Now think about what the cost has been of the uncritical support given to Trump by evangelical Christians. For now, focus just on this: Christians who are supporters of the president have braided themselves to a man who in just the past few days and weeks tweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power” (he later deleted it but has yet to denounce it); attacked NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, while also criticizing the decision by NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from its races; threatened to veto this year’s annual defense bill if an amendment is included that would require the Pentagon to change the names of bases honoring Confederate military leaders; referred to COVID-19 as “kung flu” during a speech at a church in Phoenix; and blasted two sports teams, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, for considering name changes because of concerns by supporters of those franchises that those team names give undue offense.

These provocations by the president aren’t anomalous; he’s a man who vaulted to political prominence by peddling a racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States—he later implied that Obama was a secret Muslim and dubbed him the “founder of ISIS”—and whose remarks about an Indiana-born judge with Mexican heritage were described by former House Speaker Paul Ryan as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

The white supremacist Richard Spencer, describing the neo-Nazi and white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, told The Atlantic, “There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn’t have occurred without Trump. It really was because of his campaign and this new potential for a nationalist candidate who was resonating with the public in a very intense way. The alt-right found something in Trump. He changed the paradigm and made this kind of public presence of the alt-right possible.” And David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, called the march a “turning point” for his own movement, which seeks to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

For his whole life, before and since becoming president, Trump has exploited racial divisions and appealed to racial resentments. The president is now doing so more, not less, than in the past, despite the fact—and probably because of the fact—that America is in the grips of a pandemic that he and his administration have badly bungled and that has claimed more than 130,000 American lives.

As The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman pointed out on July 6, “Almost every day in the last two weeks, Mr. Trump has sought to stoke white fear and resentment.”

White evangelicals are the core of Trump’s political support, and while the overwhelming number of the president’s evangelical supporters may not be racist, they are willing to back a man who openly attempts to divide people by race. That would be enough of an indictment, but the situation is actually a good deal worse than that, since Trump’s eagerness to inflame ugly passions is only one thread in his depraved moral tapestry.

My hunch is that at the beginning of this Faustian bargain, most evangelicals didn’t imagine it would come to this, with them defending the indefensible, tarnishing their reputations, and doing incalculable damage to their causes.

This is the worst year for America in more than a half century; a stunning 87 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going and only 17 percent feel proud when thinking about the state of the nation, while 71 percent feel angry and 66 percent are fearful. Donald Trump’s presidency is so polarizing and such a catastrophe that a plurality or outright majority of Americans now oppose much of whatever he supports. The mood of the public is the most progressive it’s been in nearly 70 years. During the Trump era, the nation has moved to the left on a whole series of issues, including those that matter most to evangelical Trump supporters.

The Trump presidency, which has produced few significant legislative or governing achievements, has inflicted gaping wounds on the Republican Party, conservative causes, and the evangelical movement.

IN HIS MARVELOUS book The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, Alan Jacobs tells about the theater critic and essayist Kenneth Tynan, who, after reading Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, said, “How thrilling he makes goodness seem—how tangible and radiant!” (At Oxford, Lewis was a tutor to Tynan, who was not himself a believer.)

Tynan perceived something essential about Lewis. One of his most impressive qualities was his ability to present the good life—and his Christian faith, which shaped his understanding of the good—as tangible and radiant, a thrilling and captivating journey, a way to find joy and fulfillment.

That was hardly the whole story. Lewis faced a crisis in faith late in his life, when he was overwhelmed by grief after his wife, Joy Davidman, died of cancer—a crisis he recovered from, but that left its mark. Still, because of his faith, Lewis’s life was more alluring, more captivating, more vivifying. It was said of Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien that they never lost their enchantment with the world.

The greatest cost of the Trump years to evangelical Christianity isn’t in the political sphere, but rather in what Christians refer to as bearing witness—showing how their lives have been transformed by their faith.

Much of the evangelical movement, in aligning itself with Donald Trump, has shown itself to be graceless and joyless, seized by fear, hypocritical, censorious, and filled with grievances. That is not true of all evangelicals, of course, and it’s not true of all evangelicals who are Trump supporters. But it’s true of enough of them, and certainly of the political leadership of the white evangelical movement, to have done deep injury to their public witness.

I know this firsthand, from pastors around the country who have talked about the catastrophic effects of the unholy alliance between evangelicals and Donald Trump. One pastor of a large church on the Pacific Coast told me: “There are many reasons why young people are turning away from the Church, but my observation is, Trump has vastly accelerated that trend. He’s put it into hyperdrive.”

This pastor, a lifelong Republican who declined to be quoted by name because of the position he occupies, wrote that “for decades Hollywood has portrayed conservative Christians as cruel, ignorant, greedy, and hypocritical. For 20 years I have worked, led, and sacrificed to put the lie to that stereotype, and have done so successfully here … Because of how we have served the least of the least, city officials, school officials, and many atheists have formed a respect for Jesus and his church. And I’m watching all that get washed away.”

He added, “Yes, Hollywood and the media created a decidedly unattractive stereotype of Christians. And Donald Trump fits it perfectly. Made it all seem true. And sadly, I now realize that stereotype is more true than I ever knew. It breaks my heart. In volleyball terms, Hollywood did the set, but Trump was the spike that drove the ball home. He’s everything I’ve been trying to say isn’t what the church is all about. But sadly, maybe it is.”

In the midst of the wreckage, Trump’s evangelical supporters will undoubtedly comfort themselves with this thought: They got Gorsuch.

Doonesbury — Tolls for polls.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Enablers

From the Washington Post:

Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination, crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mount Rushmore, has unnerved Republicans who have long enabled him but now fear losing power and forever associating their party with his racial animus.

Although amplifying racism and stoking culture wars have been mainstays of Trump’s public identity for decades, they have been particularly pronounced this summer as the president has reacted to the national reckoning over systemic discrimination by seeking to weaponize the anger and resentment of some white Americans for his own political gain.

Trump has left little doubt through his utterances the past few weeks that he sees himself not only as the Republican standard-bearer but as leader of a modern grievance movement animated by civic strife and marked by calls for “white power,” the phrase chanted by one of his supporters in a video the president shared last weekend on Twitter. He later deleted the video but did not disavow its message.

So what do the Republicans do? They shake their heads in private and keep their mouth shut, at least in public.

On Capitol Hill, some Republicans fret — mostly privately, to avoid his wrath — that Trump’s fixation on racial and other cultural issues leaves their party running against the currents of change. Coupled with the coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis, these Republicans fear he is not only seriously impairing his reelection chances but also jeopardizing the GOP Senate majority and its strength in the House.

“The Senate incumbent candidates are not taking the bait and are staying as far away from this as they can,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican operative and chief strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has invested heavily in keeping GOP control of the Senate. “The problem is this is no longer just Trump’s Twitter feed. It’s expanded to the podium, and that makes it more and more difficult for these campaigns.”

Trump has all but ignored the outcry and remains convinced that following his own instincts on race and channeling the grievances of his core base of white voters will carry him to victory against former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to a White House official and an outside Trump adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment candidly.

To quote Digby: These are cowardly, opportunistic, Vichy collaborators. And they must never be allowed to forget what they have done.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

If You’re Gonna Go…

All the signs, tea leaves and all, point to a hammering defeat of both Trump and the GOP in November.  Of course the election is still four months away — a geological age in campaigns — but it looks more like a wave or a landslide against the Republicans to the point that even Mitch McConnell is going against Trump and wearing a mask.  It’s to prevent the spread of Covid-19, of course, but it also may be so that he can slip by unnoticed.

Then again, the RNC and the House Republicans seem to think that if they’re going to go down, they’re going to do it in blaze of flaming wreckage like the Hindenburg landing on fireworks factory.  So they’re embracing all the nutty candidates that the right wing can throw at the wall and see what oozes out.

Republican leaders stood by the upset winner of the GOP primary in a competitive House seat despite the gun rights activist’s openness to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, overseen by top GOP leaders, embraced Lauren Boebert as their nominee Wednesday following her defeat of five-term Rep. Scott R. Tipton (R-Colo.), whom she characterized during the campaign as insufficiently supportive of President Trump.

“Lauren won her primary fair and square and has our support. This is a Republican seat and will remain a Republican seat as Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats continue to peddle their radical conspiracy theories and pushing their radical cancel culture,” Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.

Boebert is the ninth individual to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the House or Senate who is either a full supporter of the QAnon movement or has voiced support for some of its tenets, none of which have a foundation in truth. Conspiracy theory experts consider it a webbed network filled with activists who wrongly believe a secret group of elites inside of and outside of government is working against Trump, as well as other false allegations of pedophilia among top Democratic officials.

“Everything I’ve heard of Q — I hope this is real,” Boebert told the QAnon-aligned Web interview show “Steel Truth” last month. “Because it only means America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values.”

Q is how the conspiracy theorists refer to the leader of their movement, although they do not know who it is or even if Q is one person or many people.

For weeks, as these fringe candidates won nominations, Republicans tried to dodge the issue, believing most of these candidates would not raise much money and lose in heavily liberal districts.

But Boebert’s victory comes in a district Tipton won with just 52 percent of the vote in 2018. Democrats, who renominated former state representative Diane Mitsch Bush, held the seat as recently as 2010 and have signaled new interest in competing against the inexperienced GOP nominee.

“Not even multiple endorsements from President Trump could save Congressman Scott R. Tipton from his extreme, QAnon caucus challenger. Washington Republicans should immediately disavow Lauren Boebert and her extremist, dangerous conspiracy theories,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the House Democrats campaign arm, said in a statement Tuesday night.

Most prominent Republicans stayed silent on the trend of conspiracy theory-supporting nominees running under the GOP’s banner, but the 2012 Republican presidential nominee expressed concern that the party’s voters were swimming in these political waters.

There are a few Republicans who are unsettled by this movement — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) is “worried” — but he’s sure the party will “remain steady” despite the occasional “departure.” Yeah, like Trump. How’d that work out for you, Senator?

I’m not quite convinced that the people of western Colorado will flip the seat to the Democrats, so Ms. Boebert will replace the likes of Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann and squeeze into the clown car with Louis Goemert and Matt Gaetz: noisy, obnoxious, full-on whack-job.  But it’s a sign of desperation on the part of the Republicans. They’re grasping at any straw they can find to hang a claw on power, and if they were willing to back the likes of Trump on a national level, they might as well do in on the local level. If anything has been proven over the last four years, they know how to commit arson even if they’re lighting themselves on fire.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Fox Lied, People Died

This comes as no surprise at all.

It’s another one of those Trump Era realities best described as unsurprising but nevertheless shocking.

Three serious research efforts have put numerical weight — yes, data-driven evidence — behind what many suspected all along: Americans who relied on Fox News, or similar right-wing sources, were duped as the coronavirus began its deadly spread.

Dangerously duped.

The studies “paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others,” wrote my colleague Christopher Ingraham in an analysis last week.

Here’s the reality, now backed by numbers:

Those who relied on mainstream sources — the network evening newscasts or national newspapers that President Trump constantly blasts as “fake news” — got an accurate assessment of the pandemic’s risks. Those were the news consumers who were more likely to respond accordingly, protecting themselves and others against the disease that has now killed more than 123,000 in the United States with no end in sight.

Those who relied on Fox or, say, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, came to believe that vitamin C was a possible remedy, that the Chinese government created the virus in a lab, and that government health agencies were exaggerating the dangers in the hopes of damaging Trump politically, a survey showed.

“That’s the real evil of this type of programming,” Arthur West of the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics, which sued Fox News in April over its coronavirus coverage, told the Times of San Diego, a news website. “We believe it delayed and interfered with a prompt and adequate response to this coronavirus pandemic.” (A Fox News lawyer called the suit “wrong on the facts, frivolous on the law,” and said it would be defended vigorously; a judge dismissed the suit in May.)

Beyond the risks the general public faces from consuming this nonsense and misinformation, there’s the fact that the president himself has been picking up these same ideas and using them to steer policy. Instead of tapping experts in the medical and scientific community — many of whom are on the government payroll — he has chosen to educate himself by watching right-wing news outlets.

Not only that, those who believed the lies or disregarded the truth have been attacking — literally — people wearing masks and businesses that are enforcing the CDC guidelines for social distancing. So they’re not only endangering themselves, they’re threatening the lives of other people.

It’s one thing to have a media outlet spew lies and disinformation; there’s not a lot that we can do to stop that, and the Constitution is pretty clear about that.  But to have the people who have sworn an oath to be responsible for the health and welfare of the people of this country not only go along with them but actually feed the lies is willfully negligent and criminal.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

On The Rise

Covid-19 cases are on the increase, most notably in places where the governors relaxed the restrictions.

Now those governors are basically saying “Oh, crap.”

While Vice President Pence urged senators to focus on “encouraging signs,” these governors and CEOs were instead responding to mounting indications of a deadly surge across the South and West. Nevada and North Carolina both ordered residents to wear masks in public, and Virginia moved to implement new workplace safety rules that would force companies to protect workers from infection. Disneyland delayed plans to reopen, and the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from certain hard-hit states.

The 38,115 new infections reported by state health departments Wednesday underscored the changing geography of the U.S. outbreak. The bulk of the cases were posted in Texas, Florida and California, while Oklahoma also set a new statewide record in infections. Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has recorded more than 2.3 million coronavirus cases and at least 119,000 deaths, while the global number of cases has soared past 9 million.

But what is Trump doing? He’s going full-tilt racist.

Trump’s first use of the phrase “kung flu” — during a campaign rally in Tulsa last weekend — drew broad political backlash as a racist slur against Asian Americans.

Within three days, however, it was also something else: a rallying cry for his supporters.

Trump’s appearance before a crowd of several thousand enthusiastic young people at the Dream City Church in Phoenix on Tuesday showed how his casual use of a demeaning phrase — one that even some White House aides rejected three months ago — has swiftly morphed into a staple of his reelection message amid tumbling poll numbers.

The president hadn’t even used the words in Phoenix before audience members, presumably primed from having heard his riff on the “many names” of the coronavirus at the Tulsa rally, beat him to the punchline and began shouting out “kung flu” — prompting Trump, with a grin, to repeat it.

“Kung flu — yeah,” Trump said, eliciting cheers. “Kung flu.”

Don’t tell Trump, but if he had grabbed hold of the pandemic at the very start, taken it seriously, enforced the social distancing and mask-wearing, and gotten behind printing tons of money to support the economy, not only would be be seeing the pandemic on the level of New Zealand or Vietnam, he would be coasting to re-election. But his lizard-brain instincts led him to appeal to his racist, xenophobic, glorying-in-ignorance base.  I honestly don’t know how anyone can claim that making people wear a mask is a political statement.  That’s like saying “I can drive drunk and you liberals can’t stop me.”

But Trump and his minions — the stupid ones especially — went around the country saying that it was more important to get the economy going again.  But that’s kind of hard to do when the people on both ends of the economy — the suppliers and the consumers — are getting sick and dying.The tragic irony is that all the people he’s appealing to with this tactic are the ones who are going to be the most vulnerable.  Kinda hard to vote for Trump from an ICU.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Jesus-Freaking All The Way To The Bank

The Jesus-shouters have their thongs in a bunch over the Supreme Court at long last affirming that civil rights are applicable to everyone.

E.W. Jackson, a “christian” radio host, is miffed.

Neil Gorsuch has betrayed the Constitution, the American people and President Trump. He has joined the back stabbing Roberts and the degenerate leftists on the Court who are engineering sweeping social depravity and confusion through judicial tyranny.

Now every employer must accommodate some mentally ill person who thinks he’s a woman today, a man tomorrow and a combo the next? Or be sued for using common sense and protecting your business?

This is beyond disgusting. It is a declaration of war on the American people, our businesses, culture, Constitution and our Judeo-Christian values. The only hope we have is to amend the Constitution to do what we should have done early in this fight – define marriage as a union between one man and one woman in the federal Constitution.

Tony Perkins, another “christian” con artist, is in a tizzy.

Six justices, against the laws of science, history, and morality, decided to create their own Autonomous Zone — where humanity’s laws about male and female no longer apply. In the last 24 hours, people across the spectrum have scrambled to make sense of the cultural IED.

If the court decided to dramatically rewrite the 1964 Civil Rights Act, most experts assumed it would have been because loose cannon Chief Justice John Roberts defected — not because one of the president’s new originalists did.

To most Americans, the sellout of Neil Gorsuch, who not only voted with the liberal members on the Harris case but authored the majority opinion, will be the lingering horror. If even he can’t bring himself to agree that the word “sex” means male and female — not the Left’s wild reinterpretations of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” who will?

And, more importantly, what will it mean for privacy, pronouns, Christian schools and businesses, public housing, adoption, girls’ sports, and a basket of major issues confronting America?

Not to worry; this is the Jesus-freaks’ ticket to raise millions of dollars off their marks who think that every time Trump farts they’re hearing Lawrence Welk.  The faux outrage will last as long as the Venmo and PayPal accounts are chiming.

HT to JoeMyGod.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Testing Logic

Via the New York Times, Pence and Trump come up with infallible logic as to why Covid-19 is spiking:

Pence encouraged governors on Monday to adopt the administration’s explanation that a rise in testing was a reason behind new coronavirus outbreaks, even though testing data has shown that such a claim is misleading.

[…]

“If we stop testing right now,” Mr. Trump said, “we’d have very few cases, if any.”

If there had been no testing, I would have passed Algebra in 1968.  So there.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sunday Reading

NOTE: In the process of doing some tree-trimming, my landlord accidentally cut off my internet at home. So I am relying on the kindness of friends to post this morning. AT&T has promised to come by on Monday to repair the damage.

Whistling Dixie — Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker on Trump’s embrace of losers.

From ordering in the military to bludgeoning the media, Trump has certainly been doing a pretty good impersonation of a hack dictator. In the two weeks since Floyd’s killing ignited a profound national conversation about America’s terrible legacy of racism, the President’s contribution to this dialogue has been to consistently misrepresent what is happening as an outbreak of lawless anarchy that he is heroically cleaning up, as part of his newly rebranded “LAW & ORDER” campaign.

Mostly, though, Trump, being Trump, has tried to tweet his way through the interlocking crises. It has not worked. On Tuesday, he began the day with a post suggesting that a septuagenarian protester who had been pushed to the ground by Buffalo police and suffered a serious head injury was somehow an Antifa conspiracist who did it to make the police look bad—an absurd conspiracy theory, which had just aired on Trump’s new favorite TV channel, the One America News Network.

On Capitol Hill, a by-now-familiar dance quickly began as Republican senators desperately sought to avoid comment on another incendiary Trump tweet. This time, they contorted themselves so foolishly that they would have been better off simply saying something, anything, instead of ridiculously pretending not to have anything to say about something so reprehensible and stupid. Burgess Everett, a Politico reporter, took to showing a printed-out copy of the tweet to senators when they claimed not to be familiar with it. So did Manu Raju, of CNN, who elicited a gem from Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, when he tried to read him the tweet. “I would rather not hear it,” Johnson said, as he ducked into an elevator, which might as well be the official new motto of the Senate G.O.P. when it comes to Donald Trump.

They would rather not hear it because, of course, as a senior White House official told one reporter, the tweet speaks for itself. Res ipsa loquitur. It sure does. Trump, in all things, speaks for himself. It’s just that what he says is often so bizarre, alarming, false, and politically problematic that it is hard to process. It has been especially so in recent days, as the country has found itself in need of a leader but stuck with a loudmouth wannabe strongman.

On Wednesday, with Washington still in a furious buzz over the President’s attack on the brutalized senior citizen, Trump distracted from that distraction by deciding to tweet in favor of keeping certain U.S. military bases named for Confederate generals, in what appeared to be a spectacularly ill-timed intervention on behalf of traitorous slaveholders who lost the Civil War. Trump could not have seemed more out of step with the moment. A few hours after that tweet, with the country experiencing a rare outbreak of bipartisanship on the subject of racism, protesters toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia, while Nascar announced that it was banning all displays of the Confederate flag. On Capitol Hill, on Thursday morning, even the normally quiescent Senate Republicans on the Armed Services Committee suggested that Trump had gone too far and approved, by voice vote, a proposal by the liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren that would require the U.S. military to rename all bases which currently honor Confederate officers within three years. That vote, striking as it was, was quickly overshadowed by an even more consequential rebuke of the President: Milley’s extraordinary statement repudiating his participation in Trump’s militarized photo op. Trump, for once, was silent. At least, for a few hours.

I know it is hard to remember all the crazy things that happen in the course of a week in Trump’s America, but I will try hard to remember this one: a week when I saw troops in the streets and worried about a years-long economic crisis; a week when an untamed pandemic killed up to a thousand Americans a day; a week when massive nationwide protests suggested that our dysfunctional, gridlocked political system might finally actually do something about the plague of police brutality and systemic racism. And then there was the President, who chose to spend the week refighting the Civil War—on the losing side. This, too, I will remember, and so, dear reader, should you.

Doonesbury — Mourner in Chief

Thursday, June 11, 2020

It’s Not Over

The pandemic of Covid-19 isn’t over.  It’s surging.

As restrictions are lifted around the world, the sense of urgency surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic has weakened. Hundreds of millions of students have returned to school; restaurants, bars and other businesses are slowly reopening in many countries. In parts of Europe, vaccine researchers worry that they will not have enough sick people for testing.

But this historic pandemic is not ending. It is surging. There were 136,000 new infections reported on Sunday, the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic. There are more than 7 million confirmed cases so far. The number of deaths is nearing half a million, with little sign of tapering off, and global health experts are continuing to sound the alarm.

“By no means is this over,” Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s executive director, said Wednesday. “If we look at the numbers over the last number of weeks, this pandemic is still evolving. It is still growing in many parts of the world.”

[…]

U.S. states are seeing an increasing number of patients since Memorial Day weekend, when many people socialized in groups in parts of the country, while there are new concerns that the anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis could add to a nationwide surge.

In the United States and elsewhere, the protests about injustice are partly fueled by the racial disparities seen in the outbreak. Protesters have attempted to maintain social distance and use masks and hand sanitizer — but that has not always proved possible.

Public health experts have expressed understanding about the protests. “It doesn’t help to say police violence doesn’t matter,” Gregg Gonsalves, a professor of epidemiology at Yale, told New York Magazine. “The health disparities that have killed tens of thousands of people over a half a century don’t matter. We are saying we understand it matters; they’re public-health issues too.”

But almost all experts acknowledge that mass protests are a risk — just as the reopening of the economy seen in many nations around the world, including the United States, carries risks. “The facts suggest that the U.S. is not going to beat the coronavirus,” the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer write. “Collectively, we slowly seem to be giving up.”

That demoralized attitude is reflected at the top of American politics: It has been more than a month since the Trump administration held a daily coronavirus task force briefing.

There are several reasons for this.  The first is that Trump, who never really paid attention to it in the first place or saw it as some kind of plot against his regime, has now just given up even the facade of doing anything about it.  The second reason is that most Americans saw it as something akin to a fad like the hula hoop or the Macarena and are now bored with it and want to get back to whatever it was that occupied them before all this happened last winter.  As Matthew Dalby noted on Twitter, “The one thing that wasn’t in pandemic disaster movies was people getting bored with the whole thing and ignoring it.”

Perhaps the most insidious reason this plague is still spreading and surging is the baseline of willful ignorance — “It’s no worse than the flu” — and rampant stupidity along with the other American pandemic, blatant racism.  As seen in this benighted elected official from the great state of Ohio:

A Republican Ohio state senator is under fire this week after asking if “African Americans or the colored population” have been disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic because they “do not wash their hands as well as other groups.”

State Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) raised the question Tuesday during a hearing on whether to declare racism a public health crisis. Huffman, an emergency room doctor, wanted to know why African American communities are being hit so much harder by the virus, posing the query to Angela Dawson, executive director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health.

“I understand African Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and that makes them more susceptible to death from covid. But why does it not make them more susceptible to just get covid?” he asked. “Could it just be that African Americans or the colored population do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear a mask? Or do not socially distance themselves? Could that be the explanation for why the higher incidence?”

He later explained that he thought “people of color” and “colored people” were interchangeable terms.  Really.

The harsh reality is that this pandemic will end with effective vaccination.  But until then, following the guidelines that medical professionals have been telling us since the middle of March is the only way.  Unfortunately it’s all too abstract for people who really need to get their hair done and have an uncontrollable urge to share a swimming pool in the Ozarks, and it won’t hit home until it actually hits home.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

A Sense of Decency

I try to avoid commenting on the daily diarrhea that comes from Trump because it’s like trying to stop a sewer main leak with a cork.  But yesterday’s spewage is worth noting, not because of what he barked up but because of the response.

Trump sparked another uproar Tuesday with a tweet endorsing the baseless conspiracy theory that a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo, seen on video being pushed to the ground by police last week, could have been part of a “set up” coordinated by anti-fascist demonstrators.

Trump’s speculation — which originated on a conspiracy-theory website and was not supported by any evidence — came as the president is already struggling to manage both a deadly pandemic and racial unrest across the nation. The missive demoralized some aides and allies, who were frustrated if not particularly surprised by Trump’s latest incendiary suggestion.

In public, the GOP senators on Capitol Hill did a panic-stricken mass imitation of Sgt. Schultz (“I know nothing!  I see nothing!”) as they scurried by the media microphones.  In private, however, the realization that the shit had hit the fan on the day of George Floyd’s funeral, is sinking in.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment. But one White House official defended Trump, saying his tweet said only that Gugino “could be” an antifa protester and that some of Gugino’s social media posts seem sympathetic to that cause.

Among many of Trump’s allies, however, the reaction was one of overwhelming exasperation, with one outside adviser describing his tweet as “dumb” and “beyond stupid.” Aides and advisers believed that before the coronavirus pandemic and before Floyd’s death prompted national outrage, Trump had been making inroads with black voters and they viewed his latest controversy as another act of self-sabotage.

I am very sure that his die-hard defenders will stick with him, and I have no doubt that this moment, added on to the epic pile of outrageous crap he’s been fomenting since time out of mind, will soon be topped by more as the election draws inexorably closer.  But just as the murder of George Floyd became the one to finally break through our short-term memory lapse after so many other murders — Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin — this will be the one that we remember and remind others that sixty-six years to the day after Joseph N. Welch asked if we have no sense of decency, at long last we do.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Good Riddance

Via Daily Kos:

White supremacist Rep. Steve King’s 18-year career in the House came to an inglorious end on Tuesday after he lost the Republican primary to state Sen. Randy Feenstra in western Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. With 95% of precincts reporting (78,000 votes), Feenstra led by a wide 46-36.

King’s downfall came over a year after House GOP leaders voted to strip him of his committee assignments after he defended white supremacy in an instantly notorious interview with the New York Times. King, who had been a weak fundraiser for years, immediately rendered himself toxic to influential donors, allowing Feenstra to outspend him decisively. Third-party groups, including the deep-pocketed U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also spent heavily on ads portraying King as ineffective and unable to help Donald Trump without his committee posts.

Feenstra will take on 2018 Democratic nominee J. D. Scholten, who faced no primary opposition. Scholten held King to a surprisingly close 50-47 win last cycle and has once again raised large sums for his campaign, but he’ll have a very difficult time winning in a district that Donald Trump carried 61-35 against a Republican who lacks King’s considerable baggage. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican, though we’ll be re-evaluating that now that King is out of the picture.

King’s defeat marks the end of the line for a man who was, until very recently, an extremely influential power player in Iowa. King was first elected in 2002 to Iowa’s most conservative House seat, which was numbered the 5th District at the time, and he soon emerged as one of the most sought-after endorsements in the state’s quadrennial presidential caucuses.

My estimation is that the seat will remain Republican, but at least it won’t be held by this virulent and ignorant racist.  Small steps.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

We’re On Our Own

Charles P. Pierce:

On Monday evening, the President* of the United States gave his first public remarks since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He used it further to divide the country, to traduce the Constitution, and to declare war on citizens of whom he does not approve. A mewling tub of unresolved psychological flotsam, with the moldy stench of the bunker still clinging to him, thumping his bloated chest and threatening martial law while, just up the street, police and soldiers were deployed as special effects against peaceful protestors so this plump and odious little man could inflate his withered mushroom at the expense of a once-great republic.

Yeah, it was a bad moment.

We are not going to be unified. We are not going to be healed. He doesn’t have it in him, and it is not the purpose of his presidency. (That he’s apparently been chatting up Vladimir Putin while the United States falls apart is too perfect a plot twist.) It is not the basis of his campaign for re-election. The violence is the campaign. That is going to be how he runs for re-election.

If we are going to be unified, or healed, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. A thousand acts of individual citizenship. Military men and women who refuse unlawful orders from a lawless president. Law-enforcement officials who remember that they are first—and last—public servants. Politicians who respect their profession enough to do it fearlessly and well. Disciplined protest, day after day, from people who know the difference between governed anger and ungoverned rage, the difference between fearless speech and vandalism, and who remember the old axiom of the Black Panthers, that spontaneity is the art of fools. And, ultimately, millions of voters who force a return to first democratic principles, to crush this president* and the forces that worked over 40 years to make him not merely possible, but inevitable. We are all we have left.

This is as close to general martial law as we ever have been and, I fear, not as close to it as we’re likely to get. Because he is fundamentally a coward, he only threatened to use active-duty military for domestic law-enforcement, which is to say he only threatened to violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which is a crime, and he only threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would be an escalation beyond anything in anyone’s experience, a signal for chaos beyond understanding, and something that, anyway, the law says he can’t do unless a governor asks him to do so. (Not that it matters, but these would be impeachable offenses.) He fumed and threatened and blustered and bellowed, a great pufferfish blown up with the gaseous resentments of two centuries. And then he walked across the street to St. John’s Church and held up a Bible. His hand did not burst into flame. There is no god.

He is a weak man trying to sound strong to the weak.

Monday, June 1, 2020

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!”

From the Washington Post:

The Trump administration on Sunday intensified its effort to pin blame on the far-left “antifa” movement for violent demonstrations over police killings of black people, as the president vowed on Twitter to designate antifa a terrorist organization and Attorney General William P. Barr asserted that it and other groups’ activities constituted “domestic terrorism.”

Trump cannot, for practical and legal reasons, formally designate Antifa a terrorist organization, and neither he nor his attorney general have made public specific evidence that the far-left movement is orchestrating the fiery protests that have erupted in dozens of U.S. cities.

He might as well wage war against the tornadoes that ravage the Midwest every spring, declare floods to be illegal immigrants, and the wind that turns the turbines a national health hazard because spinning blades cause cancer.

This is a very transparent effort to divert attention from the disgraceful way his administration has responded to the situation in Minneapolis and everywhere else that police brutality and the disproportionate way minorities are treated by law enforcement. It does provide a convenient distraction from Covid-19 pandemic and the horrific number of dead thanks to his negligence and willful ignorance and deflection.  So threatening to label “Antifa” as a terrorist organization while tacitly approving of all the right-wing nutsery militia gangs that showed up at the Michigan statehouse waving their phallic symbols and stinking of stale cigarettes and cheap beer is just his way of distracting attention from the total clusterfuck that is his alleged administration.

At least King Lear had the good sense to know when to exit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Do It, Mitch

Leonard Pitts, Jr. on Mitch McConnell.

Dear Mitch McConnell:

Why don’t you just go ahead and call Barack Obama the n-word?

You know you want to. It’d probably do wonders for your blood pressure. And it would free you from the tiresome charade of using coded language to say the same thing. It would also free the rest of us from having to listen.

Your latest vomitous spew came last week, after the former president criticized Donald Trump for the “chaotic disaster” of his response to the coronavirus pandemic in audio leaked from a private conference call with alumni of his administration. He didn’t mention Trump by name, but then, he didn’t have to. Chaos is Trump’s brand.

“I think President Obama should have kept his mouth shut,” you huffed in an online interview with a Trump campaign aide. “We know he doesn’t like much this administration is doing; that’s understandable. But I think it’s a little bit classless, frankly, to critique an administration that comes after you. … Generally, former presidents just don’t do that.”

But Obama is hardly the first ex-president to speak ill of his successor. Clinton did it, Bush the elder did it, Carter did it, Ford did it. Heck, Teddy Roosevelt called his successor and former friend, William Howard Taft, “a fathead with the brains of a guinea pig.”

And “classless?” You realize, don’t you, that Trump once said it was OK to call his daughter “a piece of ass?”

Point being, you are tying yourself in logical and rhetorical knots here, Mitch. Why not cut through the tangle? Why not say what you mean? Just call him the n-word.

It’s not like the rest of us don’t hear it already in your contemptuous tone. If one didn’t know better, one might think you were addressing a not-so-bright junior staffer who spoke out of turn in a meeting, not a president of the United States. Former GOP Chairman Michael Steele certainly caught your meaning, retorting on Twitter, “I’m sure Mitch is aware that a grown-ass black man who happens to be a former president has agency to speak his mind on how his successor is managing this crisis, especially since his successor has yet to ‘keep his mouth shut’ about him.”

Just say it, Mr. Majority Leader. Why not? After all, racial animus has been part of GOP DNA since the 1960s, when disaffected Democrats, horrified at the idea of African-American voting and civil rights, fled to your ranks. For decades, the party wooed them in coded language that hid its meaning behind a fig leaf of deniability. You said “law and order,” “welfare queens” and “Willie Horton.” You never said “n—-r.” Never had to.

Then Obama was elected. Panic surged through your party like an electric shock, and codes were burned like crosses, suddenly insufficient to express GOP apoplexy at this threat to white hegemony. Language that had been opaque suddenly became Windex clear as this Harvard-educated professor of constitutional law was dubbed a “street hustler,” a “subhuman mongrel,” an “uppity” “boy” with a fake birth certificate.

Trump has been a leader in this movement for rhetorical clarity. He’s dubbed Mexicans “rapists,” said Islam “hates us,” told four congresswomen to “go back” where they came from, called black and brown nations “shithole countries.”

So your disrespectful tone toward President Obama, earnest as it is, seems overly genteel and out of step with the moment. This is 2020, Mitch. In 2020, Republicans say what they mean and darn well mean what they say. So go ahead and call Obama the n-word. It would be offensive, yes.

But we both know it would be honest, too.

Oh, I have no doubt that Mitch has called President Obama the n-word, and out loud, too.  And he’s not the only one.  I can think of any number of Republicans who do as well.  The veneer of civility was obliterated during his term in office, and once they got out of earshot of microphones, there were no holds barred.  I heard several of my acquaintances do it, starting when Mr. Obama first ran for the presidency.  Any attempt to shame them was useless because they weren’t about to be denied their freedom of speech by a faggot.  Those people are the core of the Trump base, which is now indistinguishable from the Republican Party.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Armed And Dangerous

From the New York Times:

SHEPHERD, Texas — When Jamie Williams decided to reopen her East Texas tattoo studio last week in defiance of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, she asked Philip Archibald for help. He showed up with his dog Zeus, his friends and his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

Mr. Archibald established an armed perimeter in the parking lot outside Crash-N-Burn Tattoo, secured by five men with military-style rifles, tactical shotguns, camouflage vests and walkie-talkies. One of them already had a large tattoo of his own. “We the People,” it said.

“I think it should be a business’s right if they want to close or open,” said Mr. Archibald, a 29-year-old online fitness trainer from the Dallas area who lately has made it his personal mission to help Texas business owners challenge government orders to keep their doors shut during the coronavirus pandemic. “What is coming to arrest a person who is opening their business according to their constitutional rights? That’s confrontation.”

Call it the armed reopening.

It’s one thing when a bunch of ammosexuals rally in the middle of the desert to play summer soldier and defy the BLM over grazing fees.  But when the very breath you blast when you’re carrying on about “freedum” endangers the people around you, then you’re a danger to the community.  If you want to take the risk, go ahead.  The Constitution grants you the right to be a blowhard.  But it doesn’t give you or any of your Spell-Check-challenged projectors the right to endanger innocent people or the ones who are doing their job to keep the community and the country you say you love out of danger.

But go ahead and scream “Give me liberty, or give me death.”  The way you’re going, you’ll get both.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I’m Still Not Voting For You

From the Washington Post:

Trump pushed to have his name printed on the economic stimulus payments the IRS is sending to tens of millions of Americans. Now he’s written a gushing letter to almost 90 million people, with his jagged signature in thick black pen.

The one-page letter, with one side printed in English and the other in Spanish, was required by the coronavirus economic package approved by Congress as a record of a deposit from the Treasury Department. The law does not say who should mail the letter.

If the money went to the wrong person, came in the wrong amount or didn’t arrive at all — all scenarios that have befallen taxpayers in recent weeks — the government is giving them proof of its intent.

But in classic Trump style, the letters now arriving in mailboxes across the country carry no shortage of brio, underscoring the president’s penchant for personalizing his administration’s response to the pandemic.

“My Fellow American,” begins the letter, on a copy of White House letterhead, arriving in an envelope from the Treasury Department and the IRS from Austin. “Our great country is experiencing an unprecedented public health and economic challenge as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. Our top priority is your health and safety.”

“As we wage total war on this invisible enemy,” Trump continues, “we are also working around the clock to protect hardworking Americans like you from the consequences of the economic shutdown.”

Yeah, I got the money, But I’m still not gonna vote for him or listen to his sniveling minions, including the flaming sphincter Marc A. Thiessen, who claims, apparently with a straight face, that the lack of preparedness for the pandemic was the fault of Joe Biden and the Obama administration.  That’s because Joe Biden and the Obama administration has still been in office for the last three years.

I also got the letter with that crayon-scrawled signature from Trump.  I put it to good use: I used it to scoop up a dead cockroach and toss it in the trash.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Lessons Learned

Here’s a good article from CNN International about how four countries — Taiwan, South Korea, Iceland, and Germany — got their coronavirus response right.

Like a line of dominoes, country after country has been shut down by the novel coronavirus. Despite signs the threat was making its way across the globe, there was a clear pattern of response in many parts of the world — denial, fumbling and, eventually, lockdown.

In our globalized world, it’s puzzling that so few lessons were learned in the early weeks of each country’s outbreak, when the chances of containing and stopping the virus were highest. Now the focus is on flattening the curve, or slowing the virus’ spread, to keep death tolls from climbing further.

As much of the world mulls gradually lifting lockdowns, there are still lessons to be learned from these four places that got it right.

Another lesson we’re learning is that the folks who have been screeching about the sanctity of life and worrying endlessly about the unborn really don’t care about what happens to people once they’re born.  In fact, they’d rather let the old people die because it’s more important for the economy to reopen.  It’s a sick version of the old Jack Benny skit: when confronted by a mugger who demands “Your money or your life!”, Mr. Benny replies, “I’m thinking it over!”

Here’s one of those “pro-lifers”:

Reopening the economy is preferable to preventing a new wave of coronavirus deaths, a member of Congress from Indiana said Tuesday.

“It is policymakers’ decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say it is the lesser of these two evils,” Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth told radio station WIBC-FM of Indianapolis. “It is not zero evil, but it is the lesser of these two evils, and we intend to move forward that direction.”

There’s one simple fact of economics that he and his greedy bastards forget: it doesn’t do any good to reopen an economy if there’s nobody alive to buy things.

And then there are those rabid ight-wingers who are going out and protesting against strict social distancing orders.

Thousands of demonstrators descended on the state Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, on Wednesday to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s restrictive stay-at-home order, clogging the streets with their cars while scores ignored organizers’ pleas to stay inside their vehicles.

The protest — dubbed “Operation Gridlock” — was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund, a DeVos family-linked conservative group. Protesters were encouraged to show up and cause traffic jams, honk and bring signs to display from their cars. Organizers wrote on Facebook: “Do not park and walk — stay in your vehicles!”

Many ignored the demand. Demonstrators, on foot, were seen waving American, “Don’t Tread on Me” and Trump campaign flags. At least two Confederate flags were spotted.

I don’t want to wish ill on anyone, but the more these useful idiots hang around out in the open with their like-minded friends, the more they’re going to get sick and probably die, thereby proving that Darwin was right.  And when they get sick, they’re going to be crying, with their labored breath, for free healthcare.  As for the rest of us, keep your distance.  Shawn Windsor in the Detroit Free Press:

For those who drove to Lansing out of fear of losing home and pantry, and stayed in their vehicles, that’s understandable. Let it out. Say your piece.

But for those who caravanned to the state capital to play militia? To wave a Confederate flag? To argue that social distancing is the gateway to the end of the Second Amendment?

Stop. Please. For your sake. For everyone else’s.

No one is coming after our guns. Or our right to protest. Or our right to affix a sign to our car comparing watching Netflix to prison.

We just can’t go pontooning. Or barbecuing with our neighbors. Or visit the pro shop at the local golf course.

You want to protest that?

Fine.

Next time stay in your vehicle. And wear a mask if you step out of it.

Stay safe, stay well, stay home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Virtual Civics Lesson

Trump’s assertion that he has “total authority” to do whatever he wants as president got laughed out of the room by anyone who paid attention in their social studies class in Grade 7.  The Washington Post’s Fact Checker rated the claim as Four Pinocchios, the highest rating for lying that they have on their scale.

After declaring independence from Britain and shaking off the yoke of King George III, the Founders of the United States adopted a system of government in which power would be split between the states and a centralized federal government.

The federal government has enumerated powers that it cannot expand, but the state legislatures are free to adopt powers not explicitly forbidden by their constitutions or the U.S. Constitution, according to Robert F. Williams, an expert on state constitutional law at Rutgers University Law School in Camden, N.J.

The 10th Amendment says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

James Madison wrote in the Federalist 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

[…]

“The President has no formal legal authority to categorically override local or state shelter-in-place orders or to reopen schools and small businesses,” Stephen I. Vladeck, a University of Texas School of Law professor, wrote on Twitter. “No statute delegates to him such power; no constitutional provision invests him with such authority.”

The Supreme Court has reinforced the separate roles of the states and the federal government multiple times. The court ruled in 1992 that the federal government cannot force states to run federal programs, what’s known as the “anti-commandeering doctrine.” In 1997, a court majority ruled that parts of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act violated the 10th Amendment because it was a federal law requiring state and local law enforcement officials to conduct background checks on people attempting to purchase handguns.

Trump said at the briefing that “numerous provisions” in the Constitution gave him power over the states. The White House did not respond when we asked for an explanation.

The two-word answer is “states’ rights,” which has been invoked for good and for evil (maintaining segregation, for example), but it’s a basic tenet of our government.  The federal government actually does not have a lot of power over the states, so Trump’s claim is nothing new: it’s unadulterated bullshit and even people who knee-jerk support him know it.

I support the idea that any candidate for president be required to pass a high school civics final exam.  That would have saved us a whole lot of this.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

On Their Hands

From the Washington Post:

As governors across the country fell into line in recent weeks, South Dakota’s top elected leader stood firm: There would be no statewide order to stay home.

Such edicts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Kristi L. Noem said disparagingly, reflected a “herd mentality.” It was up to individuals — not government — to decide whether “to exercise their right to work, to worship and to play. Or to even stay at home.”

And besides, the first-term Republican told reporters at a briefing this month, “South Dakota is not New York City.”

But now South Dakota is home to one of the largest single coronavirus clusters anywhere in the United States, with more than 300 workers at a giant ­pork-processing plant falling ill. With the case numbers continuing to spike, the company was forced to announce the indefinite closure of the facility Sunday, threatening the U.S. food supply.

Then let’s be clear: every death from Covid-19 in South Dakota is on her hands.  And while I’m no lawyer, I’d like one to explain to me why she can’t be held responsible or even charged as an accessory to negligent homicide.   And while other governors have exercised their authority to order people to stay home, she’s basically giving it up, all in the name of “freedom” or some right-wing whack-job idea of states’ rights.

And then there’s this:

Trump declared Monday that he has “total” authority and “calls the shots” when it comes to deciding how and when to lift the pandemic restrictions and reopen the economy, even as governors on both coasts proceeded with their own plans and asserted their own powers.

The contrary approaches hinted at what could become a fractured response from state and federal officials in the coming weeks and months, marked by disagreements over who has the authority to dictate when, whether and how to begin the nation’s slow return to normalcy.

“The authority of the president of the United States, having to do with the subject we’re talking about, is total,” Trump said, adding, “The president of the United States calls the shots.”

Which is in direct contradiction of what his minion and sycophantic governor of South Dakota is saying.  Clash of egos?  More like clash of idiocy that will lead to more deaths and economic disaster.

An observation from John Cole at Balloon Juice:

Trump is looking like an insane person on tv, and most of you are probably thinking “so no different from normal.” And actually, no. He is looking more insane and more unhinged. And it is going to keep getting worse and worse. And there is a simple reason for that.

This is the first time in his life he simply can not bullshit his way through things. The last 75 years, every single time he has been in a pickle, he has been able to buy his way, bullshit his way, or make a deal out of the mess. He and daddy bought his way into schools and bought his way out of Nam. Daddy’s money got him a start in business. He was able to make deals with the mob and pay lawyers to shed liability on his failed real estate bids, he made deals with the Russians to funnel money to him through Deutsche Bank, he’s was able to bullshit his way through the election and bullshit his way through releasing his tax returns and pay off the women.

And finally, he has made it this far through his Presidency because he made a deal with evangelicals and the Republican base, that in return for some judges, shredding the environment, and throwing money at the rich while hating on minorities, they’d just sit quietly by and wear their MAGA hats.

But Trump can’t make a deal with coronavirus, and he has no control over it. No amount of bullshit or Russian money or ginned up racism is gonna keep people from dying. And he is finally starting to realize it.

This realization isn’t that he’s basically responsible for the sickness and death of thousands of Americans.  It’s the realization that it might cost him the election.  Period.  That’s all he cares about.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Distance Learning

Spain is lifting some of their restrictions on travel and reopening parts of their economy even as the pandemic still spreads in that country.  Right-wing whackos in Idaho are meeting in groups, ignoring the stay-at-home warnings in that state, claiming its just a left-wing conspiracy.  Trump and his minions are already chafing to get the country back open so that he can get out there and campaign for re-election.

But it’s not over by a long shot, and places like China where they thought the worst had passed are seeing a second wave of infections.

Human nature is such that if it’s not happening to us or those around us, it’s not happening.  If you’re not sick, no one is.  And if the authorities or institutions are taking precautions that inconvenience you, it’s just not fair.  So while we sit at home and figure out new ways to occupy ourselves, teach our children and do our jobs, it only hits home when we find out that our job is not coming back or a loved one or a friend somewhere has contracted the disease or worse, has died.

It’s ironic that one of the aspects of human nature is that we are quick to adopt a point of view based on an abstract idea — for example, same-sex marriage — and allow it to be exploited for political gain.  Hard-core conservatives won many elections in rural America by pointing at what was happening in a place like Massachusetts and warning their constituents that it could happen in their small town to the point that they would vote against their own interests to go along with them (“What’s The Matter with Kansas”).  The liberals are coming, they warned, and it worked.  But now we’re faced with a real threat, not some abstraction, and those same conservatives and their followers are ignoring or condemning the safeguards, claiming it’s all made up just to make Trump look bad.

No one really knows how this will end.  A vaccine is a year away, and mark my words, there will be a groundswell of lunatics who will campaign against it as more a danger than the disease itself.  (Darwin, do your stuff.)  But the longer human nature refuses to learn from what’s happened and is still happening somewhere else, the pandemic will continue, people will die, and even if we do eventually learn and adapt, the sad fact is that the first social gatherings we may be allowed to attend will be memorial services.