Monday, January 25, 2021

Guilty Pleasure

I get a somewhat perverse pleasure out of seeing Republicans — especially those who were anti-Trump, then became his best (or worst) enablers — who now have to squirm and explain why he shouldn’t be held accountable for inciting the riotous mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6.  Case in point, Florida’s own Marco Rubio, who tried running against Trump in 2016 and sank like a turd in a well only to defend him like the kid in high school who sucks up to the bullies so he won’t get stuffed in a locker.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Sunday said that he will attempt to end former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial because it is “stupid.”

Rubio make the remarks during an interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace.

“First of all, I think the trial is stupid,” Rubio said dismissively. “We already have a flaming fire in this country and it’s like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire.”

Rubio suggested that a pardon of Trump would be “good for the country.”

Wallace pointed out that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has condemned Trump for his responsibility in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Is Sen. McConnell wrong, sir?” Wallace wondered.

“I think the president bears responsibility for some of what happened,” Rubio admitted. “It was most certainly a foreseeable consequence of everything that was going on and I think that’s widely understood and maybe even better understood with the perspective of time. I think that’s separate from the notion of let’s revisit this all and stir it up again.”

Which is Mr. Rubio’s way of saying “Don’t remind the country of the attempt to overthrow the government because it might get some people upset,” which is really his way of saying “When I’m up for re-election, please don’t remember that I helped the seditious goon that inspired the mob.”

Sen. Rubio is just one of the many dopes who are suddenly concerned about unity and making nice. He pales in comparison to the inkstain Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) who took to the front page of the New York Post to complain that he’s being muzzled by “cancel culture.” Let the irony soak in.

I fully believe we need to have some sort of Truth and Reconciliation Commission to rectify and bring justice to this country in light of the crimes and lies that were committed by Trump and the people who enabled them. While I think it is a serious matter and will speak to history about how we at this time dealt with it, it doesn’t mean we can’t mock and belittle the people who should be held accountable while we’re at it.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Happy Friday

If you’re feeling a bit stressed, just think about what’s happened in the last two weeks:  The state of Georgia elected both a black man and a Jewish man to the United States Senate; armed insurrectionists tried to take over the United States government with the emphatic support of the current president; that president has now been impeached for the second time, and Ford introduced an electric SUV version of the Mustang.

Good news and bad all in a rush of fourteen days.  If that’s not enough to shake up your spinal cord, then you’re probably comatose.

How about some Friday Catblogging to sooth your weary mind.  Sombra keeping a calm but watchful eye.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The New Kids In Town

Balloon Juice has a concise compendium of the gnashing of the teeth of the right-wing nutsery who are all upset about the reaction to the riot that they incited.

All of a sudden they’re being held accountable, and it’s just not fair!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Reason Enough To Impeach

While people were being killed on Capitol Hill, Trump was glued to the TV.

Hiding from the rioters in a secret location away from the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appealed to Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) phoned Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.

And Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Trump confidante and former White House senior adviser, called an aide who she knew was standing at the president’s side.

But as senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their pleas.

“He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”

Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him — that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost — was one to which he was not initially receptive.

“It took him awhile to appreciate the gravity of the situation,” Graham said in an interview. “The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen.”

Trump ultimately — and begrudgingly — urged his supporters to “go home in peace.” But the six hours between when the Capitol was breached shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and when it was finally declared secure around 8 p.m. that evening reveal a president paralyzed — more passive viewer than resolute leader, repeatedly failing to perform even the basic duties of his job.

One might come to the conclusion that he was encouraging the attack.

The other conclusion is that he was paralyzed by fear of what was happening and had no clue as to what to do.

Either of those are reason enough to get him out of office.

Study In Contrasts

Al Franken resigned from the Senate after it came to light that he made inappropriate jokes about a woman’s breasts.

Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz refuse to resign after enabling sedition.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Over To You, Mike

Speaker Pelosi gives Vice President Pence a deadline.

WASHINGTON — The House moved on two fronts on Sunday to try to force President Trump from office, escalating pressure on the vice president to strip him of power and committing to quickly begin impeachment proceedings against him for inciting a mob that violently attacked the seat of American government.

In a letter to colleagues, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said the House would move forward on Monday with a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, and wrest the powers of the presidency. She called on Mr. Pence to respond “within 24 hours” and indicated she expected a Tuesday vote on the resolution.

Next, she said, the House would bring an impeachment case to the floor. Though she did not specify how quickly it would move, leading Democrats have suggested they could press forward on a remarkably quick timetable, charging Mr. Trump by midweek with “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“In protecting our Constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both,” she wrote. “As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this president is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”

Ms. Pelosi’s actions effectively gave Mr. Pence, who is said to be opposed to the idea, an ultimatum: use his power under the Constitution to force Mr. Trump out by declaring him unable to discharge his duties, or make him the first president in American history to be impeached twice.

Far from capitulating, Mr. Trump made plans to proceed as if the last five earth-shattering days had simply not happened at all. But momentum in Washington was shifting decisively against him.

More than 210 of the 222 Democrats in the House — nearly a majority — had already signed on to an impeachment resolution by Sunday afternoon, registering support for a measure that asserted that Mr. Trump would “remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution” if he was not removed in the final 10 days of his term. A second Republican senator, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, said he should resign immediately, joining Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. And a Republican House member hinted more clearly than before that he could vote to impeach, even as he cautioned that it could backfire and further galvanize Mr. Trump’s supporters.

With few Democrats hopeful Mr. Pence would act, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the party’s No. 3, said the House could vote to impeach Mr. Trump by Wednesday, one week before Inauguration Day. Lawmakers were put on notice to return to Washington, and their leaders consulted with the Federal Air Marshal Service and police on how to safely move them back into a Capitol that was ransacked in a shocking security failure less than a week ago.

There is nothing in Mr. Pence’s background or past history that indicates he will act on his own to enact the 25th Amendment, so it will come down to impeachment. Even after January 20, the Senate can still put Trump on trial and convict him, which will bar him from ever seeking federal office again. And it will also make him face the consequences of egging on this mob. That’s a small price to pay, but it will serve.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sunday Reading

The Inciter-in-Chief — David Remnick in The New Yorker on the new legacy of Trump.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln arrived at the East Portico of the Capitol to deliver his first Inaugural Address. The nation was collapsing, the Southern slave states seceding. Word of an assassination conspiracy forced Lincoln to travel to the event under military guard. The Capitol building itself, sheathed in scaffolding, provided an easy metaphor for an unfinished republic. The immense bronze sculpture known as the Statue of Freedom had not yet been placed on the dome. It was still being cast on the outskirts of Washington.

Lincoln posed a direct question to the riven union. “Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric,” he said, “with all its benefits, its memories and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it?” The South, in its drive to preserve chattel slavery, replied the following month, when Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter. Even as the Civil War death toll mounted, Lincoln ordered work to continue on the dome. “If people see the Capitol going on,” he said, “it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.”

That was the first Republican President. The most recent one woke up last Wednesday in a rage, his powers receding, his psyche unravelling. Donald Trump had already lost the White House. Now, despite his best demagogic efforts in Georgia, he had failed to rescue the Senate for the Republican Party. Georgia would be represented by two Democrats: the Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the first African-American and the first Jew, respectively, to be elected to the chamber by that state’s citizens.

At midday, Trump went to the Ellipse and spoke at a rally of maga supporters whom he had called on to help overturn the outcome of a free and fair election. From the podium, he said that the vote against him was “a criminal enterprise.” He told the crowd, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He raged on like a wounded beast for about an hour, thanking his supporters for their “extraordinary love” and urging them to march to the Capitol: “I’ll be there with you.”

Trump, of course, would not be there with them. Cincinnatus went home and watched the ensuing riot on television. One vacant-eyed insurrectionist had on a hoodie with “Camp Auschwitz” written across the chest; another wore what the Times fashion critic described as “a sphagnum-covered ghillie suit.” Then came the results of Trump’s vile incitement: the broken windows and the assault on a pitifully small police force; the brandishing of the Confederate flag; the smug seizure of the Speaker’s office. A rioter scrawled “Murder the Media” on a door.

The insurrection lasted four hours. (As of Friday, there were five dead.) Once the Capitol was cleared, the solemn assurances that “this is not who we are” began. The attempt at self-soothing after such a traumatic event is understandable, but it is delusional. Was Charlottesville not who we are? Did more than seventy million people not vote for the Inciter-in-Chief? Surely, these events are part of who we are, part of the American picture. To ignore those parts, those features of our national landscape, is to fail to confront them.

Meanwhile, with less than two weeks left in Trump’s Presidency, some of his most ardent supporters are undergoing a moral awakening. An instinct for self-preservation has taken hold. A few Cabinet members and White House officials have resigned. Former associates, once obsequious in their service to the President, have issued rueful denunciations. The editors of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page determined that, while removal under the Twenty-fifth Amendment, as demanded by the Democratic congressional leadership, is “unwise,” the President should resign.

The millions of Americans who understood this Presidency from its first day as a national emergency, a threat to domestic and global security, can be excused for finding it curious that so many are now taking the exit ramp for the road to Damascus three years and fifty weeks later. How surprising can Trump’s recent provocation be when for years he has served as an inspiration to bigots everywhere, to damaged souls plotting to mail pipe bombs to journalists and to kidnap the governor of Michigan?

This dawning of conscience is as bewitching as it is belated. The grandees of the G.O.P. always knew who Trump was—they were among the earliest to confront his most salient qualities. During the 2016 campaign, Ted Cruz called Trump “a pathological liar” and “a snivelling coward.” Chris Christie described him as a “carnival barker.” Mitch McConnell remarked, with poetic understatement, that Trump “doesn’t know a lot about the issues.” And Lindsey Graham warned, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.” He added, “And we will deserve it.”

Trump’s influences, conscious or not, include Father Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, Roy Cohn, Newt Gingrich, the Tea Party, and more, but his reality-show wealth, his flair for social media, and an attunement to white identity politics made him a man for his time. And, when he won, nearly everyone in the Republican establishment capitulated and sought a place in the firmament of power: Cruz, Christie, McConnell, and Graham; Mike Pence, William Barr, Betsy DeVos, Elaine Chao, Rupert Murdoch, and so many others.

Part of the bargain was ideological: if Trump came through with tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations, and appointed conservative judges, then the humblings could be absorbed. Graham would overlook the way Trump attacked the war record of his close friend John McCain, as long as he got to play golf with the President and be seen as an insider. Cruz would ignore the way Trump had implied that his father was somehow involved in the assassination of J.F.K., as long as he could count on Trump’s support in his next campaign. And Pence, who hungered for the Presidency, apparently figured that he could survive the daily humiliations as the President’s courtier, assuming that his reward would be Trump’s blessing and his “base voters.” But, as Trump’s New York business partners knew, contracts with him are vapor; the price of the ticket is never fixed.

Donald Trump still has millions of supporters, but he is likely a spent force as a politician. The three-minute-long speech he gave on Thursday night, calling for an orderly transfer of power, was as sincere as a hostage’s gunpoint confession. He may yet be impeached again, two feet from the exit door. He could return as a TV blowhard for hire, but in the future his most prominent place in public life may well be in a courtroom.

In a disgraceful time, Joe Biden has acted with grace. He has been clear about the magnitude of what’s ahead. “The work of the moment and the work of the next four years must be the restoration of democracy, of decency, honor, respect, the rule of law,” he has said. But repairing the “national fabric,” as Lincoln put it, is only part of what awaits Biden. So many issues––the climate catastrophe, the pandemic, the racial crisis––will not tolerate delay or merely symbolic change. The moment will not tolerate distractions. Donald Trump is just days from his eclipse. It cannot come soon enough.

Oh, Natural — Mark Jason Williams in Huffington Post on his first nude vacation.

For our first vacation together, Michael proposed we go camping.

As a 40-year-old lifelong New Yorker whose idea of “woodsy” was Central Park, this wasn’t my thing. Yet I wanted to be agreeable and expand my horizons. Browsing campsites online, Michael chose one that was all-male and clothing-optional.

Now I was terrified.

“Come on, what better way to get in touch with nature than being au naturel?” he asked.

“Until you get poison ivy or a tick in places you wouldn’t want to,” I quipped.

Still, days later I sat in the passenger seat as we drove through cornfields and nothingness in search of the campsite.

“I feel like we’re about to inspire a Stephen King story,” I said.

I was relieved when we found the entrance to the camp, marked by hand-painted letters on a rock, but wasn’t sure I wanted to proceed. Michael pointed out two men who were in their early 50s and dressed in calico button-downs.

“They look normal,” he said. I peered behind their backs to make sure they weren’t carrying hatchets before getting out of the car.

Checking in at the main office, we were greeted by a shirtless innkeeper ― a 6’4” bear with grey chest hair and double nipple rings. When he stepped out from behind the counter, I realized he was completely nude. I knew this place was clothing-optional, but I didn’t expect to see a guy’s … uh … s’mores … so soon.

“Here’s a map. I’ve circled a few trails. This one leads to the play area,” he said.

“Play area?” I asked.

“Gloryholes, slings. The usuals,” he replied, matter-of-factly.

“Ah, right. The usuals,” I blushed. I turned to Michael, hoping for a similar reaction but he was unfazed. A 45-year-old public health professor and “sexpert” who led workshops on sex education and well-being across college campuses, nothing ever made him turn red.

I admired Michael’s maturity, something he attributed to being the son of U.S. diplomats and growing up overseas. On our first date, a casual hamburger dinner we’d agreed upon after chatting for a month on OkCupid, I was smitten with his tales of living in Lebanon, Cyprus, the Philippines, Germany and Australia ― all before he was 10. Yet I worried I wasn’t sophisticated enough for him.

Unlike Michael, I grew up as a sheltered, closeted gay kid in a conservative Catholic family from Yonkers. My parents’ idea of an exotic vacation was the Jersey Shore. When I left home, at the age of 18, it was to move just 25 miles south to Manhattan. In my mid-20s, I still hadn’t fully come out and lacked the confidence and curiosity to go to sex parties or pick up men at bars, like my friends. In my older years, I felt like the world’s most boring gay guy. I was someone who enjoyed sex in a bed with the lights off, and my wild side was watching “The Golden Girls” and eating peanut M&Ms.

Michael assured me that my hang-ups didn’t matter. “I just want you to be comfortable,” he’d say. I tried my best. At times, I allowed myself to get out of the way and let his pragmatism and my whimsy intertwine in a way that felt both natural and nice. But despite our best efforts, being with someone who was so confident in himself, in and out of the bedroom, only made me feel insecure.

The innkeeper continued his rundown of the camp and pointed out the areas where guests needed to keep covered-up.

“Just near the road mostly. Some of the neighbors can be a bit stuffy,” he told us.

Glad you have standards, I thought, feeling like a total prude.

Michael and I collected our belongings and walked to our cabin. I was surprised to find a charming little house that was remarkably clean, but grew uneasy when I couldn’t find the bathroom.

“There isn’t one in here, it’s shared,” Michael told me.

I freaked out. Apparently, I missed the concept of camping where beds and a roof were considered big-time luxuries. Sitting on our porch, I noticed we had a view of an outdoor shower, built on what looked like an altar. I wondered if we paid extra for that.

I hated this place but was determined to make the best of it. Michael and I did the usual camping things like boating and building a campfire, which I enjoyed. The other guests were all pretty friendly, if a bit cruise-y.

While Michael wasted little time shedding his clothes and his inhibitions, I remained a bit more reserved, eventually agreeing to go skinny-dipping. When a man yelled “yummy,” at me, I thought, Thanks? Wait, no, I’m taken.

But was I? Michael and I had been together for almost a year, but never used the word boyfriend. I assumed we were exclusive but we hadn’t actually discussed it. To be sure, I broached the subject later on a walk through the woods.

“I don’t like the term boyfriend. It makes me feel like I’m in the eighth grade,” Michael said.

“But I need a label,” I replied.

“Why?” he asked.

“So I know if I should be sleeping with other people or not,” I blurted out.

It was at this moment when we accidentally came upon the “play area.” It was a circle of some sex swings, a crucifix, and a port-a-potty with a hole on the side.

“Ewww, is that what I think it is?” I asked.

Michael confirmed, then took my hand. “Let’s keep walking,” he suggested.

“Do you want to try something?” I asked, sheepishly, and to my surprise. I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to give it a go, but I didn’t want to limit Michael’s experiences.

“This isn’t my thing,” he confessed. “This isn’t why I wanted to go away with you.”

I felt better but still couldn’t wait for camping to be over. Roughing it, clothing-optional or otherwise, wasn’t for me — especially having to leave the cabin to pee in the middle of the night. The next day, we drove a few hours and checked into a hotel. Our new room (with a private bathroom!) had a pink, heart-shaped Jacuzzi, mirrored walls, and a faux fireplace.

“You booked the honeymoon suite?” I asked. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

“I got the last room they had, I didn’t know it was like this,” he said. I was disappointed, yet relieved. Finally, something that made him uncomfortable.

“Well, we have to try the tub,” I said, attempting to put some romance back into our trip. Later, we poured some wine and got in. I became lightheaded, nearly passed out, and felt sick for the rest of the night. Michael applied a cold washcloth to my forehead and we watched “Judge Judy.”

As Michael comforted me, I suddenly felt worse. When he’d asked me to go away with him, I was thrilled. I saw this as a pivotal moment in our relationship ― if things went well, maybe we’d discuss moving in together. But if this was a test, I’d failed. And not because I’d fallen ill.

Thinking back to Michael’s earlier comment at the play area ― “This isn’t why I wanted to go away with you” ― I realized that I’d been so focused on sex, and on myself, that I overlooked Michael’s acts of tenderness and his emotional needs. Worse yet, I’d reduced our relationship to “are we sleeping with other people or not” when it was so much more than that.

I wished we could go back to the woods and have a redo. Or, at the very least, I wanted to lift my head from that fake down pillow and admit the truth: I only want to be with you … because I’m falling in love with you.

I tried to say the words, but I choked. It was the first time I’d ever felt this way about someone and the emotions unnerved me. This probably wasn’t the best time to think about other men, but my mind drifted to past relationships. There weren’t many, but I started to see a pattern. I’d date a guy for a month or two and we’d mostly have sex and watch TV. We were physical, but not intimate. Then they’d dump me.

I always blamed myself. I was too cold, too guarded, said the wrong things. Yet things were different with Michael. I was still self-conscious, but his calm, patient demeanor helped me relax. I opened up in ways I didn’t expect, telling him about everything from how I spent my childhood battling leukemia to my love for professional wrestling. Now, as Michael laid next to me when his leg gently brushing against mine, I felt more secure than ever. But did he love me? What if the answer was no? What if he was only tolerating being with me because it was after midnight and we’d had four glasses of wine? I’d already messed up so much that I feared saying the wrong thing and pushing him away for good, which would make for a really awkward drive home. I grabbed my phone and looked up bus schedules back to Manhattan just in case.

It took me 20 minutes to realize my insecurities were raging out of control. If Michael and I were going to move forward, I had to let myself be vulnerable. I finally found the courage when he fell asleep. I whispered I love you and it was barely audible and totally cheating, but at least the words were no longer just in my head.

Thankfully, Michael and I continued dating. A year later, he suggested another camping trip. I agreed, as long we picked a place where the cabins had bathrooms and the “play area” was reserved for badminton and archery.

Walking in the woods, Michael reminded me of the moment I’d asked him if he was my boyfriend. While that term still didn’t feel right, it wouldn’t be long before we discovered the best word to call one another — husband.

Doonesbury — Now what?

Friday, January 8, 2021

Happy Friday

Trump released a hostage video of himself.

Trump promised a smooth transition in a video message posted on Twitter Thursday night, saying that his supporters had pursued post-election challenges in good faith, but “now tempers must be cooled and calm restored.”

Trump’s comments are the closest he has come to acknowledging his loss, and they follow escalating calls for his removal, coming hours after the nation’s top congressional Democrats demanded he be removed from office for his role in the deadly sacking of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Too late; Congressional leaders are ramping up calls for either the 25th Amendment, impeachment, or resignation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on officials to immediately invoke the 25th Amendment, warning that they are prepared to begin impeachment proceedings if the Cabinet and vice president do not act.

Though that extraordinary step is unlikely to succeed, it is a sign that a growing number of Democrats and Republicans now believe Trump is too dangerous to remain president.

Trump “invited an armed insurrection against the United States of America,” Pelosi told reporters a day after a pro-Trump mob incited by the president stormed the Capitol, vandalizing the building and forcing lawmakers to evacuate. One woman was fatally shot and three people died of other causes.

Over the course of the day, a growing chorus of officials — including current Cabinet secretaries and Trump allies — strongly chastised the president, who stayed out of sight until his evening message, in which he denounced the mob attack, adding “to those who broke the law, you will pay.”

Reading off a script in a flat voice, Trump claimed he immediately deployed the National Guard to help secure the building and expel the intruders. Other officials have disputed that account. Trump also claimed his attempts to overturn the election results were simply his efforts to “ensure the integrity of the vote.”

“Now, Congress has certified the results,” he said. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

I still hold to my belief that nothing will happen to actually end Trump’s regime before January 20, but with the proverbial rats leaving the sinking ship — so far two members of the Cabinet — Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos have resigned — at the least the hue and cry will clamp down on anything he might attempt while leaving the building, like start a war or pardon himself.  Not that either Ms. Chao or Ms. DeVos deserve anything more than a golf clap for for finally finding the courage to stand up now when his behavior has been outrageous and an assault on the Constitution since they were sworn in.

A lot can happen in twelve days.

Vanda orchid in bloom.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Get Him Out Now

Charlie Pierce:

He has to go. Now. This moment. Donald J. Trump cannot be allowed to be President* of the United States for a single second longer. It’s not simply that he is unfit for the office he holds. I mean, that’s true of Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, too. Trump is something worse. He has proven himself to be a national security threat, the most serious one in Washington since the Royal Marines burned the place. He’s a traitor to his oath and to his country. He needs to be forced out, either through the provisions of the 25th Amendment or through an accelerated impeachment process. Any elected officials who do not agree with this simple and obvious fact dishonor the offices they hold with every second they decline to do it hereafter.

He is responsible for all of it. He is responsible for the assault on the Capitol and for the incredibly lax response from the Capitol Police. He created an atmosphere in which the worst impulses in the worst cops all over the country are inflamed and encouraged until the Capitol Police refused to defend…the Capitol. He has to go. Now. This moment.

He is responsible for all of it. He is responsible for everything that comes of it in the future, too. He is responsible for whoever the next authoritarian who comes along is, and that person is likely to be a smarter and more competent authoritarian than this dangerous charlatan. He has to go. Now. This moment.

He is responsible for all of it. This country has a serious fascism problem now. It has a fascism problem that is fed and encouraged by what is at best a fascist-adjacent media ecosystem and, at worst, a communications network that would embarrass Goebbels. There is a genuinely subversive rightwing movement in this country that found its focus in this president*, and that will be rested and ready when the next one comes along. There is no Republican politician with either the courage or the clout to cure the prion disease that has now eaten away all of the party’s higher functions and reduced it to a rough beast that is no longer anything but an accumulation of base and abandoned appetite. History has turned down a dark alley and he sent it there. He has to go. Now. This moment.

Everybody knows it. By seven o’clock Wednesday night, rumors ricocheted all over Washington that powerful people were meeting in whispers, making plans to pry the government out of the crazy man’s hands. Leaving him in place even for an hour would be the final dereliction of duty, and we have had far too many of those. Force him out. Do it now. Complicity is its own dark reward.

Tom Nichols in USA Today:

… First, Trump is an imminent danger to the safety of the country. The Capitol was overrun by a mob at his behest. By late afternoon, Trump had called on the protesters to go home — while telling them that they were indeed right that the election had been stolen, thus pouring more fuel on the flames even while pretending to calm the waters. There is no responsible argument for leaving such a man in command of the armed forces, for leaving the security of the American nation in his hands for one more minute.

Second, even after this attempt at a violent overthrow of the political order is defeated, Trump is not going to stop. He created the situation in the Capitol, and he will gladly create another diversion — perhaps with a last-ditch attempt to use the U.S. military at home or as part of a desperate attempt to embroil America in a foreign conflict — if he thinks it is the only way to protect himself from the legal and financial peril he will face on Jan. 21.

Finally, impeachment for multiple crimes against the Constitution and the American people is the only course left for lawmakers, especially Republicans of the president’s own party, who want to demonstrate their fidelity to the Constitution and protect the supremacy of the rule of law in the United States. The Constitution has to mean something. If the president of the United States goes unpunished after unleashing a mob against elected legislators merely because he wishes to invalidate an election, then this is a far larger problem than a day of protest that got out of hand.

We should never have come to this point. Of course, now that all is lost, born-again constitutionalists like Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (soon to become minority leader) have rediscovered the notion of duty and strict obedience to the Constitution. They are too late, and it is to their shame that they did not act sooner. Trump has made it clear for months, even years, that he would never accept a defeat and that he would never voluntarily leave office. They knew the danger and they chose to take their chances in order to keep their grip on power…

Democrats, whatever the limits of their usual disorganization, have tried for four years to stop Trump from running roughshod over our system of government. Biden ran a campaign that took the high road and called for national unity. They have done their part. Now it is time for the Republicans to do theirs…

To all my friends and “friends” in social media: there is no equivocating. This was a violent assault on our government and the building and the people we entrust to run it. There is no comparison to the marches in Portland or Seattle or Minneapolis. There is no justification for the violence that happened then, but their goal was not to stop the constitutional process in its tracks, either. People are entitled to their opinions and I won’t stop them from expressing them. But I won’t let them into my house or space to do it. That’s not intolerance; that’s me standing up for what I believe.

If nothing happens, if there are no consequences, then it will be no different than if nothing happened to the perpetrators of the attacks of September 11, 2001, because the goal then and yesterday was to strike at the heart of our nation and our form of government.

This stops now, and we have to stop the man who caused it by all legal means and to the full extent of the law. END OF PLAY.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Long Division

Regardless of the outcome of the elections today in Georgia, the Republicans are setting their dumpsters on fire that will last long after Trump.

Trump has created a divide in his party as fundamental and impassioned as any during his four years as president, with lawmakers forced to choose between certifying the results of an election decided by their constituents or appeasing the president in an all-but-certain-to-fail crusade to keep him in power by subverting the vote.

As Republican lawmakers took sides ahead of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress to certify the electoral college results, some on Monday voiced rare criticism of Trump for his attempt to pressure Georgia elections officials to change vote totals there during a Saturday phone call, a recording of which was published by The Washington Post.

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican, said the call was “deeply troubling” and urged all Americans to listen to the hour-long conversation, while Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) condemned it as “a new low in this whole futile and sorry episode.” Even one of Trump’s most loyal defenders, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), said it was “not a helpful call.”

Trump signaled he had little patience for defections by members of what he dubbed the “Surrender Caucus.” After Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) announced that he was not joining the band of GOP lawmakers objecting to the electoral college results, Trump attacked Cotton on Twitter and warned that voters would “NEVER FORGET!”

The sycophancy of the Trumpkins (hat tip to George Will) will be the line in the sandbox for the next two election cycles.

On a conference call last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his caucus that, in his 36 Senate years, he has twice cast votes to take the nation to war and once to remove a president, but that the vote he will cast this Wednesday to certify Joe Biden’s electoral college victory will be the most important of his career. McConnell (R-Ky.) understands the recklessness of congressional Republicans who are fueling the doubts of a large majority of Republicans about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

The day before McConnell’s somber statement, Missouri’s freshman Republican senator, Josh Hawley, announced that on Wednesday, 14 days before Biden will be inaugurated, he will challenge the validity of Biden’s election. Hawley’s conscience regarding electoral proprieties compels him to stroke this erogenous zone of the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominating electorate.

Hawley’s stance quickly elicited panicky emulation from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, another 2024 aspirant. Cruz led 10 other senators and senators-elect in a statement that presents their pandering to what terrifies them (their Trumpkin voters) as a judicious determination to assess the “unprecedented allegations” of voting improprieties, “allegations” exceeding “any in our lifetimes.”

So, allegations in sufficient quantity, although of uniformly risible quality, validate senatorial grandstanding that is designed to deepen today’s widespread delusions and resentments. While Hawley et al. were presenting their last-ditch devotion to President Trump as devotion to electoral integrity, Trump was heard on tape browbeating noncompliant Georgia election officials to “find” thousands of votes for him. Awkward.

[…]

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) obliquely but scaldingly said of Hawley: “Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.” America’s three-party system — Democrats, Hawley-Cruz Republicans, and McConnell-Sasse Republicans — will continue to take shape on Wednesday. Watch how many of these Republican senators who might be seeking reelection in 2022 have the spine to side with the adults against Hawley-Cruz et al. and the Grassy Knollers among their constituents: John Boozman, Richard Burr, Mike Crapo, Charles E. Grassley, John Hoeven, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Richard C. Shelby, John Thune, Todd C. Young. By aligning with Cruz, four — Ron Johnson, John Neely Kennedy, James Lankford and Kelly Loeffler — have reserved their seats at the children’s table.

Hawley, Cruz and company have perhaps rescued Biden from becoming the first president in 32 years to begin his presidency without his party controlling both houses of Congress. On Tuesday, Georgians will decide control of the Senate. While they have been watching Republican attempts to delegitimize Biden’s election (two recounts have confirmed that Georgians favor Biden), Republicans were telling them: a) elections in the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, and especially in Georgia, are rigged, but b) the nation’s fate depends on their turning out for Tuesday’s (presumptively) sham run-off Senate elections, lest c) Democrats take control of the Senate and behave badly.

This would all be hilarious and lavished with schadenfreude were it not for the fact that 2,800 people a day are being hospitalized with Covid-19, the distribution of the vaccine by the people “in charge” is on the national scale of Trump throwing paper towels in Puerto Rico, the economy is still struggling to deal with the collapse brought on by the pandemic, and Iran is firing up its centrifuges to enrich more uranium because they can.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Confederacy Of Klutzes

You’ve probably heard some of the tape of Trump’s call to the Georgia Secretary of State to basically rig the outcome of the presidential race in that state to make it come out on his side.

Now the question is what is going to be done about it.

Nothing.

Yes, it’s impeachable and yes, it’s most likely illegal, but in the current climate of cowardice in the GOP and the fact that barring some kind of unimaginable operation the Trumps will be escorted out of the White House in less than three weeks, the most you can expect is outrage — well-earned but ultimately unheeded — and denial and bullshit from the base of the party that still thinks Hillary Clinton’s e-mails are grounds for public execution.  But that’s all.  Hey, look, the NFL playoffs are posted.

The blessing in all of this is that Trump and his band are so fucking incompetent that they can’t even pull off what amounts to a coup without tripping over their own shoelaces or telling the world and Fox News exactly what they’re doing while blaming the Democrats.  We’ve seen better planning and more secrecy in a summer camp panty-raid.

There are some who are taking Trump’s threats and bluster seriously to the point that the ten surviving former secretaries of Defense wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post telling the world that no, the military will not participate in any attempt to alter the peaceful transition of power.

But the lesson to be learned from this is that we have gone too long with letting people of power get away with their treachery, knowing that nothing would happen or that they would be rewarded with pardons, clemency, or at least a contributing spot on Fox News.  This kind of shit has got to stop, and it must be punished in real time with real consequences, not a tweet-storm.  Until that happens, it will go on.  And on.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Sunday Reading

Peter Wehner in The Atlantic: A field guide to the Yellow-Bellied Republican.

Those hoping for a quick snapback to sanity for the Republican Party once Donald Trump is no longer president should temper those hopes.

The latest piece of evidence to suggest the enduring power of Trumpian unreality is yesterday’s announcement by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri that he will object next week when Congress convenes to certify the Electoral College vote.

Hawley knows this effort will fail, just as every other effort to undo the results of the lawful presidential election will fail. (A brief reminder for those with faulty short-term memories: Joe Biden defeated Trump by more than 7 million popular votes and 74 Electoral College votes.) Every single attempt to prove that the election was marked by fraud or that President-elect Biden’s win is illegitimate—an effort that now includes about 60 lawsuits—has flopped. In fact, what we’ve discovered since the November 3 election is that it was “the most secure in American history,” as election experts in Trump’s own administration have declared. But this immutable, eminently provable fact doesn’t deter Trump and many of his allies from trying to overturn the election; perversely, it seems to embolden them.

One such Trump ally is Tommy Tuberville, the newly elected senator from Alabama, who has suggested that he might challenge the Electoral College count. And there are others. But what makes Hawley’s declaration ominously noteworthy is that unlike Tuberville—a former college football coach who owes his political career in a deep-red state to Trump’s endorsement in the GOP primary against Jeff Sessions—Hawley is a man who clearly knows better. According to his Senate biography, he is “recognized as one of the nation’s leading constitutional lawyers.” A former state attorney general, Hawley has litigated before the Supreme Court. He graduated from Stanford University in 2002 and Yale Law School in 2006. He has clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts; he taught at one of London’s elite private schools, St. Paul’s; and he served as an appellate litigator at one of the world’s biggest law firms.

It is one thing for Hawley to position himself as a populist, something he had done even before he was elected in 2018; it is quite another for him to knowingly engage in civic vandalism and, in ostentatiously unpatriotic ways, undermine established norms and safeguards. This is precisely what Senator Hawley is now doing—and he is doing so in the aftermath of Trump’s loss, when some political observers might have hoped that the conspiracy mindset and general insanity of the Trump modus operandi would begin to lose their salience.

A longtime acquaintance of the Missouri senator explained to me Hawley’s actions this way: “Hawley never wants to talk down to his voters. He wants to speak for them, and at the moment, they are saying the election was stolen.”

“He surely knows this isn’t true,” this acquaintance continued, “and that the legal arguments don’t hold water. And yet clearly the incentives he confronts—as someone who wants to speak for those voters, and as someone with ambitions beyond the Senate—lead him to conclude he should pretend the lie is true. This is obviously a very bad sign about the direction of the GOP in the coming years.”

Think about this statement for a moment: The incentives Josh Hawley and many of his fellow Republicans officeholders confront lead them to conclude that they should pretend the lie is true.

Those who have hoped that Republicans like Senator Hawley would begin to break free from Trump once he lost the election have not understood the nature of the change that has come over the party’s base.

Trump was the product of deep, disturbing currents on the American right; he was not the creator of them. Those currents have existed for many decades; we saw them manifested in the popularity of figures such as Sarah Palin, Patrick J. Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Oliver North, and many others. But their power grew in force and speed over the past decade. In 2016, Trump tapped into these currents and, as president and leader of the Republican Party, he channeled those populist passions destructively, rather than in the constructive ways that other Republicans before him, such as Ronald Reagan, had done. (Even if you’re a progressive who loathed Reagan, the notion that he was a pernicious and malicious force in American politics in the style of Trump is simply not credible.)

What is happening in the GOP is that figures such as Hawley, along with many of his Senate and House colleagues, and important Republican players, including the former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, are all trying to position themselves as the heirs of Trump. None of them possesses the same sociopathic qualities as Trump, and their efforts will be less impulsive and presumably less clownish, more calculated and probably less conspiracy-minded. It may be that not all of them support Hawley’s stunt; perhaps some are even embarrassed by it. But these figures are seismographers; they are determined to act in ways that win the approval of the Republican Party’s base. And this goes to the heart of the danger.

The problem with the Republican “establishment” and with elected officials such as Josh Hawley is not that they are crazy, or that they don’t know any better; it is that they are cowards, and that they are weak. They are far more ambitious than they are principled, and they are willing to damage American politics and society rather than be criticized by their own tribe. I’m guessing that many of them haven’t read Nietzsche, but they have embraced his philosophy of perspectivism, which in its crudest form posits that there is no objective truth, no authoritative or independent criteria for determining what is true or false. In this view, we all get to make up our own facts and create our own narratives. Everything is conditioned on what your perspective is. This is exactly the sort of slippery epistemic nihilism for which conservatives have, for more than a generation, reproached the academic left—except the left comes by it more honestly.

The single most worrisome political fact in America right now is that a significant portion of the Republican Party lives in a fantasy world, a place where facts and truth don’t hold sway, where “owning the libs” is an end in itself, and where seceding from reality is a symbol of tribal loyalty, rather than a sign of mental illness. This is leading the party, and America itself, to places we’ve never been before, including the spectacle of a defeated president and his supporters engaging in a sustained effort to steal an election.

The tactics of Hawley and his many partisan confreres, if they aren’t checked and challenged, will put at risk what the scholar Stephen L. Carter calls “the entire project of Enlightenment democracy.” This doesn’t seem to bother Hawley and many in his party. But what he should know—and, one hopes, does know, somewhere in the recesses of his heart—is that he has moved very far away from conservatism.

Whether the Republican Party can be salvaged is very much an open question. I don’t know the answer. But here is what I do know: Patriotic Republicans and conservatives need to fight for the soul of the Republican Party, for its sake and for the sake of the nation. America needs two healthy and sane political parties. Trump’s departure on January 20 should open up space for at least a few brave and responsible figures to arise, to help ground the GOP in truth rather than falsehoods, reality instead of fantasy, and to use the instruments of power for the pursuit of justice.

Their task won’t be easy; right now the political winds are in their face rather than at their back. Trump’s hold on the GOP remains firm, and separating from Trump and Trumpism will trigger hostility in an often angry and radicalized base. The right-wing ecosystem is in a mood to find and (figuratively) hang traitors, whom it defines as anyone in the Republican Party who doesn’t acquiesce to Trump’s indecency and paranoia. Which in turn means that those hoping to lead a Republican reclamation project need to find ways to be shrewd and persuasive, to be crafty while maintaining their integrity. They need to connect with the base but find ways to elevate it instead of pandering to it. In better times, many Republican leaders have done so, starting of course with Abraham Lincoln, “the great hero of America’s struggle for the noblest cause,” in the words of his early 20th-century biographer Lord Charnwood. But others have done so as well.

Our collective hope should be that principled Republicans will find their voice and prevail—one courageous step at a time, one act of decency at a time, one year at a time.

The DeVos Disaster — The New York Times weighs in on the destruction Betsy DeVos wreaked at the Department of Education.

The departing education secretary, Betsy DeVos, will be remembered as perhaps the most disastrous leader in the Education Department’s history. Her lack of vision has been apparent in a variety of contexts, but never more so than this fall when she told districts that were seeking guidance on how to operate during the coronavirus pandemic that it was not her responsibility to track school district infection rates or keep track of school reopening plans. This telling remark implies a vision of the Education Department as a mere bystander in a crisis that disrupted the lives of more than 50 million schoolchildren.

If the Senate confirms President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee, Miguel Cardona, as Ms. DeVos’s successor, he will face the herculean task of clearing away the wreckage left by his predecessor — while helping the states find a safe and equitable path to reopening schools.

Beyond that, the new secretary needs to quickly reverse a range of corrosive DeVos-era policies, including initiatives that rolled back civil rights protections for minority children as well as actions that turned the department into a subsidiary of predatory for-profit colleges that saddle students with crushing debt while granting them useless degrees.

There is still more to learn about Mr. Cardona. But at first glance, the contrast between him and his predecessor is striking. Ms. DeVos had almost no experience in public education and was clearly disinterested in the department’s mission. Mr. Cardona worked his way up from teacher to principal to education commissioner of Connecticut. Moreover, he seems to understand that a big part of his job involves using the bully pulpit to advance policies that benefit all schoolchildren and protect the most vulnerable.

Mr. Cardona would need to pay close attention to how districts plan to deal with learning loss that many children will suffer while the schools are closed. Fall testing data analyzed by the nonprofit research organization NWEA suggests that setbacks have been less severe than were feared, with students showing continued academic progress in reading and only modest setbacks in math.

However, given a shortage of testing data for Black, Hispanic and poor children, it could well be that these groups have fared worse in the pandemic than their white or more affluent peers. The country needs specific information on how these subgroups are doing so that it can allocate educational resources strategically.
Coronavirus Schools Briefing: It’s back to school — or is it?

Beyond that, parents need to know where their children stand after such a sustained period without much face-to-face instruction. Given these realities, the new education secretary — whoever he or she turns out to be — should resist calls to put off annual student testing.

Research has long since shown that a summer vacation can wipe out a month or two of student learning. Making up for an even more serious learning shortfall will require planning that should begin now. An obvious first step would be to use the summer of 2021 for summer school or catch-up tutoring. If the Biden Education Department decides on this approach, it will need to petition Congress to fund the project. The states are too cash poor at the moment and could not undertake such a venture on their own.

The Education Department should also recognize that this pandemic will not be the last one. That means developing a list of best practices and strategic schools plans that can be swiftly rolled out when another medical crisis occurs with a different infectious agent.

In addition to addressing worrisome matters like these, the new education commissioner needs to revoke a series of department communiqués that had the effect of letting school districts off the hook for discriminatory disciplinary practices and other potential violations of civil rights law. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights exposed the depth of this problem during the Obama years, when it released data showing that excessively punitive policies were being used at every level of the public school system — and that even minority 4-year-olds were being disproportionately suspended and expelled.

The new administration needs to underscore the message that these damaging practices are unacceptable. This means renewing civil rights guidance to school districts and opening investigations after credible reports of wrongdoing.

The DeVos administration sold out to predatory for-profit colleges and their various abettors within a nanosecond of taking office. To get a jump on reversing this particular set of policies, the new education secretary can begin rule-making processes where necessary and inform the courts that it will no longer defend against lawsuits filed by state attorneys general and others who have dogged the DeVos department in court for buddying up to the for-profit industry and attacking student borrowers who deserve to have their student loans forgiven because they were defrauded by career education programs.

The department should immediately begin rule-making to reverse Ms. DeVos’s gutting of the “gainful employment” rule, which was supposed to cut off access to federal student aid for career training programs that buried students in debt while failing to prepare them for the job market.

Pending in court is a lawsuit filed by 22 states and the District of Columbia charging that Ms. DeVos unlawfully rescinded an Obama-era rule that allowed students who had been defrauded by career colleges to have their federal loans forgiven. The department should stop defending against this lawsuit and revisit loan discharge claims by borrowers who remain saddled with debt even though the schools they attended were shown to be engaged in fraud. The DeVos version of the so-called borrower defense rule was so onerous for defrauded borrowers that Congress passed a bipartisan measure blocking it. That measure, however, was vetoed by the president.

In yet another sop to the for-profit industry, Ms. DeVos disregarded a scathing indictment by her department’s career staff, reinstating an accrediting body that had been stripped of its authority for exercising lax oversight. The organization was the accreditor for two for-profit institutions that collapsed, leaving tens of thousands of students with debt and useless degrees. The new education secretary would do well to closely scrutinize the department’s methodology for evaluating accreditors.

Yet another set of lawsuits has shown how the companies that are handsomely paid to collect student loans aggravate the debt crisis by giving advice that costs borrowers money while earning the companies cash.

The Department of Education lies in ruins at precisely the time when the country most needs it. The president-elect and his new education secretary, whoever that turns out to be, need to get the institution up and running as swiftly as possible. Given the dire context, there is no time to waste.

Doonesbury — Your mission…

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Looking Back/Looking Forward

I’ve been wondering how I would do this post for a long time.  I even debated doing it at all, sure that everything I predicted for this year would be out the window and over the fence because once I write it, I don’t look at it.  So, let’s open the time capsule and see what’s inside.

Trump will survive impeachment.  The fix is in.  Revelations about his corruption will keep on coming, and yet the Republicans will cower with him.  It will be his big campaign rallying point.

That was an easy one.

I have no idea who the Democratic Party will nominate for president, and neither do you, but whoever it is will beat Trump in November despite the best efforts of the Kremlin.  I hope it is by such a margin that even Fox News will call it a blowout.  Trump will scream and carry on about it being rigged, but by this time in 2020, he’ll be doing everything he can to trash the place on the way out the door with pardons and lame-duck appointments of Nazi sympathizers and pedophiles.  (If I’m wrong on this and Trump is reelected, I’m moving to Montserrat.  It’s safer to live on an island with an active volcano.)

Wow, I’m impressed how I nailed that one.

Obamacare will survive in the Supreme Court but by a 5-4 ruling.

They haven’t ruled on the latest attempt to kill it, but it sounds like it will survive based on the weakness of the case brought by Texas.

There will be more restrictions placed on reproductive rights, but Roe v. Wade will not be struck down.

Still with us. I give it even odds with the new court in the future.

The Democrats will take back the Senate by one seat and all that bottled-up legislation will finally get through in time for the House, still under Nancy Pelosi, to pass them all again and get them signed by the new president.

Close but no cigar. We’ll know the outcome of this one next week.

The economic bubble will burst, the trade deals with China and Europe will screw over the American consumer, and it’s going to look like one of those 19,000 piece domino videos.  Trump and Fox will blame the Democrats for the monster deficit and carry on about how we need to cut more taxes and destroy Social Security and Medicare to save them.

And it did, thanks to Covid-19. More on that later.

Even with the Democrats taking over in 2020, they won’t be in office until January 2021, so I’ll save predictions for what they’ll come up with in terms of health care, gun safety, and climate change until this time next year, assuming my house in the suburbs of Miami at 10 feet above sea level is still on dry land.

See below.

As for me, my playwriting and productions thereof will continue.  I’m planning on my 29th trip to the Inge Festival in May and hope to be invited back to Alaska in June.  As I’m writing this, the novel that I started twenty-five years ago tomorrow is on the glide path to land by the time I go back to work next week.  I can predict that it will never be published because I never meant it to be.

This was a productive year for me as a playwright: 23 new plays written since this time last year: 4 full length, 1 monologue, 2 one-acts, 1 one-minute, and 15 ten-minutes. I compiled 2 anthologies. Four of them were produced via pixels. Covid-19 postponed Inge and Valdez to 2021, and plans are in the works to return with the vaccine swimming in my bloodstream. I signed with Smith Scripts to publish and license seven plays and two anthologies. And I did finish “Bobby Cramer” on January 10, 2020.

As for hopes for the new year, I hope for continued good health and fortune for my friends and family.  I can’t ask for more than that.

I remain in good health, so far. Regular readers know that my father died on May 25 from Covid-19. My mom, aka Faithful Correspondent, is in assisted living and spending a lot of time doing a lot a reading. She passes on her best wishes to her faithful readers.

Now on to my fearless predictions for 2021.

  • Trump will not go quietly; he may even announce his run for 2024 as they give him the bum’s rush, literally or figuratively, as Joe Biden is being sworn in.  But by March, if not sooner, he’ll be old news and as much a distant memory as “Pink Lady and Jeff.” (Look it up.)
  • The Republicans will do as much as they can to throw squirrels in the wood-chipper for President Biden like they did with President Obama, but I have a feeling it won’t happen.  For one thing, Joe Biden isn’t Barack Obama, and second, this country is so fucking tired of noise and fury and discombobulation that the GOP will find little patience for the MAGA noise.
  • Every executive order signed by Trump will be rescinded by President Biden.
  • Relations with Cuba, put on ice by Trump, will resume its thaw under Biden, and los historicos in Miami can lump it.
  • The pandemic will be under control by June — just in time for my trip to Alaska — and the masks and restrictions will slowly and cautiously be going away by Labor Day.  The final casualty count, though, will be over 500,000 deaths.  I wish I could say there will be a reckoning for those who could have prevented it, but I doubt it.
  • Racial and social justice will continue to make strides forward, and it is to be hoped that with an administration that is not actively opposed to it and supporting racism, overt or otherwise, we will be further along than we are now.
  • The economy will slowly recover as the pandemic gets under control and people emerge from isolation.  The Republicans will suddenly remember that they hate deficits, something they never seem to worry about when they’re in the White House.
  • Obamacare will survive in the Supreme Court because the case brought by Texas is flawed.  Even the conservatives on the court seem skeptical during oral arguments in November.
  • Foreign relations will improve now that the bully has been sent packing.  Suddenly France, Germany, and the EU will be more willing to work with us, and although my expertise in foreign affairs is limited, I think we’ll be better off with China and Japan than we are now.  Russia will still try to mess with us, but at least they won’t have an ally in the White House.
  • We will still have soldiers in harm’s way overseas a year from today.
  • On a personal level, I will strive to keep up my writing.  I have made many connections during these uncertain times, and they will grow.
  • As for hopes for the new year, I hope for continued good health and fortune for my friends and family.  I can’t ask for more than that.

I am glad 2020 is over.  But in reality, the date on the calendar doesn’t matter; it’s up to all of us to make this year as good or as bad as we can.  Unpredictable things will continue to happen: a year ago, “coronavirus” was a crossword puzzle clue, “wear a mask” was a Halloween suggestion, social distancing was for introverts, and Zoom was a brand of hot cereal.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring.  I just hope we’re all here to find out.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Poison Pill

This is why people hate the way things work in Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blocked consideration of a House bill that would deliver $2,000 stimulus payments to most Americans — spurning a request by President Trump even as more Senate Republicans voiced support for the dramatically larger checks.

McConnell’s move was just the beginning of a saga that is likely to engulf the Senate for the rest of the week. Democrats are pushing for an up-or-down vote on the House bill, while more Republicans acknowledge a need for larger stimulus checks.

Tension within the Republican Party spilled into public view on Tuesday, with Trump leveling pointed attacks at GOP leaders for failing to act, accusing them of being “pathetic” and suggesting they had a “death wish.”

New proponents of the $2,000 checks include Georgia’s two embattled Republican senators — David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — who find themselves in tough reelection battles that will decide the fate of the chamber next week. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) also lent support Tuesday, declaring that “people are hurting and we need to get them more aid.” They joined Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who have also supported the idea of $2,000 stimulus checks.

Before adjourning the Senate on Tuesday, McConnell began to reveal his strategy for proceeding, one that Democrats immediately assailed as a political gambit that would prevent the checks from ever being approved.

McConnell started the process for moving to votes on two bills later in the week. One would be the House-passed bill for approving $2,000 stimulus checks. The second measure would combine the $2,000 checks with the establishment of a commission to study election fraud and a repeal of liability protections for technology companies and other firms.

Many Democrats oppose the inclusion of the election commission and the liability protection repeal, so they would almost certainly vote against that broader measure. But by packaging the election commission and the liability protection repeal with the $2,000 checks, McConnell could give Republicans the ability to say they voted for the larger checks even if the bill doesn’t ever become law.

This strategy could lead to a showdown on the Senate floor Friday.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said McConnell’s attempt to package all these items into one bill amounted to an attempt to poison the bipartisan effort to deliver larger checks and would be opposed by Democrats. In a statement, he called it “a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check.”

So, yeah, we’ll get you the two grand but we’re going to mess with the election process and liability protection for social media. Dems da berries.

So, Trump is going to be gone in three weeks but Mitch McConnell, who is screwing his own constituents in the process, will be around for another six years.

Meanwhile, Trump is playing golf in Florida and complaining about his accommodations.

CNN)His mood darkened as soon as he walked into his members-only club Mar-a-Lago, three days before Christmas, according to multiple sources. The changes to his private quarters, many of which were overseen by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, were not to President Donald Trump’s liking, and he was mad about it, according to a source familiar with the President’s response.

Several weeks in the works, the renovations, undertaken to make the approximately 3,000-square-foot space feel larger and updated in preparation for the Trumps post-White House life, didn’t appeal to Trump’s aesthetics, according to his reaction. Trump was also displeased with other renovations at the property, the source said, not just in the living space.

“He was not happy with it,” said the source, who noted several loud, one-sided conversations with club management almost immediately ensued.

The White House did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

Not to worry, thou cheese-faced shitgibbon. With any justice, you’ll be gazing out from behind chain-link fences and wearing a tasteful orange ensemble.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Will They Blink?

So, blow up the deficit to do what Trump wants, or defy a lame-duck and stiff the poor?  Oh, what a conundrum.

The House on Monday voted to beef up stimulus checks set to go out to American households in the coming weeks from $600 to $2,000. The chamber acted swiftly after President Trump demanded the larger payments last week, but passage of the measure is uncertain because Senate Republicans have not unified behind the idea.

On Sunday, Trump signed into law a $900 billion emergency relief package that included $600 checks. His advisers had advocated for those payments, but Trump later called the check size “measly” and demanded it be increased. After he signed the law, he pledged to continue pushing for the larger payments, something many Democrats also support.

Forty-four Republicans joined the vast majority of Democrats on Monday in approving the bill on a 275-to-134 vote — narrowly clearing the two-thirds threshold it needed to pass. The measure’s fate is much less certain in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

Approving stimulus checks of $2,000 would cost $464 billion, the Joint Committee on Taxation said Monday. That would be in addition to the $900 billion package Trump signed into law Sunday. Congressional Republicans had sought to keep the total price tag under $1 trillion, but that was before Trump began a fierce effort in the past week to make the stimulus payments larger.

[…]

Since Trump first demanded the larger checks on Dec. 22, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats have tried to push the idea into law. They have ignored his other complaints about the new spending package, however, particularly his calls for reductions in foreign aid and environmental programs.

“It’s not exactly what we would put on the floor if Republicans were in control,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), who supported the larger checks. “But I think it recognizes the fact that [Pelosi is] the speaker and as a Democratic speaker, they’re going to have an input as to what that package is going to look like in regards to the terms and conditions of the direct checks. I’m willing to take half a loaf, and I think the president recognizes that.”

Monday’s vote took place after House Republican leaders blocked an attempt last week to pass the larger checks by unanimous consent in the House. The measure now goes to the Senate, and it is uncertain whether Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will move to consider it in the closing days of the current Congress. Some Senate Republicans are supportive of larger checks, though. The idea has been championed by Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said he backed larger payments as well.

“I am concerned about the debt, but working families have been hurt badly by the pandemic,” Rubio wrote on Twitter on Monday. “This is why I supported $600 direct payments to working families & if given the chance will vote to increase the amount.”

Rubio is up for re-election in 2022, so anything he can do to balance between sucking up to Trump and attacking the Democrats for the deficit, which all of a sudden becomes The Most Important Thing on January 20.

In a way, you have to spare a little schadenfreude for the Republicans.  They’re dealing with King Lear-like madness and trying to keep an even keel in their own ranks that now include the likes of Qanon believers and the perpetual lunacy of Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Cray-cray) who is now suing Mike Pence for threatening to do his job on January 6.

I will be impressed if the Senate passes the $2,000 check bill and then see how they explain that the Democrats made them do it.

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Last Act Of A Desperate Man

Via the Washington Post:

Trump unexpectedly capitulated Sunday night and signed the stimulus bill into law, releasing $900 billion in emergency relief funds into the economy and averting a Tuesday government shutdown.

White House officials didn’t explain why the president decided to suddenly back down and sign into law a bill he had held up for nearly a week and had referred to as a “disgrace” just days earlier.

Trump signed the bill while vacationing in Florida and on a weekend when he had allowed unemployment benefits for 14 million Americans to expire.

He had demanded changes to the stimulus and spending package for a week, suggesting he would refuse to sign it until these demands were met. This continued defiance caused lawmakers from both parties to panic over the weekend, worried about the implications of a government shutdown during a pandemic. It was unclear what prompted him to change his mind late Sunday, but he was under tremendous pressure from Republicans to acquiesce.

In a statement he issued after signing the law, Trump released a long list of false claims and grievances. He said he would be sending a “redlined” version of the bill back to Congress “insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.”

Trump has less than a month remaining in his presidency, and lawmakers are likely to ignore any such request.

This is probably the last piece of major legislation that he will sign — the Defense bill that he vetoed will most likely be overridden this week — and then that will, at long last, be it.

This whole kinderspiel is a fitting end to his ignominious regime: ranting, whining, tantrums, and then finally he caves and does the right thing only because he’s forced into it.

Word has it that Trump was pissed off by news coverage that made him out to be sidelined in the talks about what to put in the bill. That’s because he was spending all of his time either on the golf course or trying to convince the world that he really won the election. So this last-minute throwing of a turd into the punch bowl is his attempt to be a part of the discussion. That is basically his style of leadership in a nutshell.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

“Rag-Tag” Is Too Good For Them

From the Washington Post:

With his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud rejected by dozens of judges and GOP leaders, President Trump has turned to a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists, media-hungry lawyers and other political misfits in a desperate attempt to hold on to power after his election loss.

The president’s orbit has grown more extreme as his more mainstream allies, including Attorney General William P. Barr, have declined to endorse his increasingly radical plans to overturn the will of the voters. Trump’s unofficial election advisory council now includes a pardoned felon, adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a White House trade adviser and a Russian agent’s former lover.

Members of the group assembled­ in the Oval Office on Friday for a marathon meeting that lasted more than four hours and included discussion of tactics ranging from imposing martial law in swing states to seizing voting machines through executive fiat. The meeting exploded into shouting matches as outside advisers and White House aides clashed over the lack of a cohesive strategy and disagreed about the constitutionality of some of the proposed solutions.

Trump’s desire to remain in power was dampened further Monday as Barr said that he saw no basis for the federal government to seize voting machines and that he did not intend to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations of voter fraud.

“If I thought a special counsel at this stage was the right tool and was appropriate, I would name one, but I haven’t, and I’m not going to,” Barr said during a news conference.

Barr, who is set to leave his post Wednesday amid multiple disagreements with Trump, is the latest administration official to head for the exits or fall out of the president’s favor after not backing his baseless allegations.

In their place, Trump has welcomed figures from the political fringes who have offered him optimism and ideas for how to stay in power. Their brazen proposals have rankled some of the president’s aides and allies, who have warned that attempting to invoke the military or challenge states’ election processes through executive power would violate the Constitution and backfire politically, according to officials who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.

Trump, however, has been undeterred — despite losing last month’s election to President-elect Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes and a 306-to-232 margin in the electoral college.

After meeting with his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani on Monday, Trump met in the Oval Office with a group of Republicans from the House Freedom Caucus, including Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a public supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory whose campaign was marked by racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic statements. That was followed by a second meeting in the Cabinet Room among Giuliani, the House lawmakers and Vice President Pence, an administration official said.

Aides said Trump has been searching frantically for pathways to reverse his loss — sidelining officials who try to level with him about it and embracing those claiming to have a solution.

“They dropped hundreds of thousands of ballots in each state. It’s all documented,” the president claimed falsely in a call Monday to a gathering of the pro-Trump youth organization Turning Point USA in West Palm Beach, Fla. “The problem is that we need a party that’s going to fight. And we have some great congressmen and women that are doing it. And we have others, some great fighters. But we won this in a landslide. They know it, and we need backing from — like the Justice Department and other people have to finally step up.”

Greene is among House members who have indicated they would try to challenge congressional certification of the election result on Jan. 6. Trump has been encouraging the move despite its long odds, trying to cajole GOP lawmakers to sign on.

“He is grasping at straws,” one senior administration official said. “If you come in and tell him he lost, and that it’s over, he doesn’t want to hear from you. He is looking for people to tell him what he wants to hear.”

The White House and Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Even Pat Robertson, no stranger to being a total nut job, is telling Trump to give up.

If they had any competency, this crowd would be a real threat to our democracy. Thankfully, they are too dumb to play dead in a cowboy movie.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Good Riddance

Bill Barr finds the exit and still manages to do it on his knees.

William P. Barr told friends, when he was tapped for attorney general two years ago, that he was returning to the position to help save the Justice Department. Barr failed spectacularly at that task and ruined his reputation in the process.

Nothing made that more clear than the bootlicking letter of resignation he submitted Monday to President Trump.

No aspect of Barr’s departure is normal. Cabinet officials do not leave administrations to spend more time with their loved ones — the president tweeted that Barr wanted to “spend the holidays with his family” — 37 days before the end of a presidency.

Now all we have to do is make it through the next month, bracing ourselves for whatever kind of shit the rest of the Lickspittle Brigade can dredge up.

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Old College Try

Today is the day the Electoral College meets, each elector in their own state and the District of Columbia, to actually cast votes for the president and vice president.

It’s over. At that point, the outcome can’t be changed. New electors can’t be appointed in any state, by legislatures or any other means. No time machine exists to undo the meetings of each state’s electors that already have occurred.

There is nothing for Congress to do except to accept that Biden has won based on a majority of the electoral college ballots cast on Monday.

Of course, Congress still must receive and count these electoral college votes and formally pronounce Biden the winner, in a special joint session on Jan. 6. But that will be a mere formality. No officially sanctioned slates of rival electors — from state legislatures, as previously feared (and urged by President Trump), for example — exist for Congress to decide between. Republican senators can go ahead now and publicly acknowledge the result.

Some people can’t deal with that.

Trump signaled that he will continue to challenge the results of the 2020 election even after the electoral college meets Monday in most state capitols to cast votes solidifying Joe Biden’s victory.

In a Fox News interview that aired Sunday morning, Trump repeated his false claims of election fraud and said his legal team will continue to pursue challenges, despite the Supreme Court’s recent dismissal of a long-shot bid to overturn the results in four states Biden won.

“No, it’s not over,” Trump told host Brian Kilmeade in the interview, which was taped Saturday at the Army-Navy game at the U.S. Military Academy. “We keep going, and we’re going to continue to go forward. We have numerous local cases. We’re, you know, in some of the states that got rigged and robbed from us. We won every one of them. We won Pennsylvania. We won Michigan. We won Georgia by a lot.”

And I got an e-mail from Publishers Clearing House that says I might be a winner.

What I think disturbs me is that a lot of people can’t deal with it and lash out, including the violence on the streets from those right-wingers who said would be the result of Trump winning another term and that the left couldn’t deal with it.

Nearly three dozen people were arrested during a night of unrest in downtown Washington that began Saturday with rallies supporting President Trump and descended into chaos and violence as a group with ties to white nationalism roamed the streets looking to fight.

One of those arrested was 29-year-old Phillip Johnson of the District, who was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with at least one of four stabbings that occurred.

For most of the day, police largely kept opposing factions separated, at times frustrating the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization that supports Trump’s attempts to reverse an election he lost.

It’s not exactly Berlin in 1935, but it’s coming from the same mind-set.

Ever the optimist — and counting on a goldfish-level of short-term memory — I think that by the time we get to January 6, which is when Congress will officially certify that Joe Biden won, Trump will be grumbling to himself in South Florida (and trying to figure out how to dodge a subpoena from the Southern District of New York on January 21), and Americans will be lining up to get their Covid-19 vaccinations and wondering what name the Cleveland Baseball Team will call themselves from now on.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to be easily distracted.