Living Large In Carson City: The Devil Is In The Details Edition

The Tree of Life

This weekend tragedy struck – again – when a neo-Nazi named Robert D. Bowers entered the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh and opened fire killing 11 worshipers. Bowers has been charged with 29 criminal counts ranging from murder to ethnic intimidation and hate crimes to name a few. Located in a predominantly Jewish enclave that for all intents and purposes was an idyllic neighborhood where no one expected carnage on this scale to ever happen. Throughout the years, the synagogue has been the cultural and religious center for the Pittsburgh community since 1864 when the congregation was founded in the city’s downtown. To better understand the importance and cultural influence the synagogue has had on the lives of the people of Pittsburgh read Howard Fineman’s moving and provocative New York Times op-ed found here.

While I am no fan of religion, indeed, I side with Deepak Chopra’s description of the institution when he said,

“God gave humans the truth, and the devil came and he said, ‘Let’s give it a name and call it religion.'”

Despite the fact that there can be no devil without a God, my heart breaks when I see the list of the dead, mostly elderly Jewish people, and think of the pain and sorrow that their families, the city and friends must feel who have lost the love and companionship these unfortunate people offered. As an atheist, my lack of belief does not trump the faith that people who choose to believe have and cherish in their lives. It would be hypocritical for me to not want to be persecuted for my lack of belief and vice versa. Faith in God, or lack thereof, is a personal choice, and I celebrate their right to believe as I hope they do mine.

However, heart-wrenching events like this one have become all too common in the environment of today’s intolerance, hate, and bigotry that is consuming the nation day by day. While we mourn the passing of the people of the Tree of Life Congregation, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that our culture is in the throes of a toxic battle for control of the government that is sweeping the nation and has only accelerated over the past two years. We have lost our empathy. Our love of our fellow human beings. Our personal allegiance to the Constitution and what it stands for all Americans.

And for what? Political expediency? When a man can gain the highest office in the land and turn his back on the conventions and mores that have made this country great and strong, the fault is not his alone but shared by us all. Certainly, Trump and his followers are to blame for the intolerance and hatred that has come out of his fold, but the rest of us are culpable as well. Or to put it more politely, the nation is on the brink of breaking into pieces if we donot find a way to get past our differences and move forward with humility and inclusion.

The issue that I struggle with is my anger toward the people who would gladly restrict the rights of some while retaining their own rights at the expense of the Union. Trump and his ornery band of deplorables seem hell bent on reshaping America in a whiter, less diverse and more totalitarian image that makes my blood boil. Trump is quick to brand the truth as fake news when it suits his purpose or simply to obscure what is actually happening. Shamefully, the Republican Party has capitulated is now wandering through a wilderness created by Trump and have sold their souls to gain a modicum of power and control that is illusory at best and destructive both in the long and short hauls.

There is no better example of Trump’s control over the conservative narrative than to look at the American evangelicals. Despite his philandering, lying, cheating and hypocrisy, the evangelicals of America have embraced him wholeheartedly as one of their own. Of course, religion has a variety of gradations, but in this case, they seem to span a wide variety of levels of sanity. For instance, on one extreme you have people like Rick Wiles whose beliefs fall somewhere between the Stone Age and the Taliban of the Middle East. Recently he stated,

Do not be fooled by what’s happening in America. The anarchists in America, their enemy is not the Republican Party. Their enemy isn’t corporations. Their enemy is the church. They’re coming against the church and I’ve been warning people for years and years and years—you better get ready, you better be prepared, if these people ever get power, they’re going to slaughter tens of thousands of pastors, tens of thousands of Christians.”

“They will spill blood in America,” Wiles added. “That is their purpose. That is their objective.” Wiles

People like Wiles in an earlier time would be found wandering the streets of major cities clad in a sandwich board that proclaimed “The end is near. Repent”. Now, they have the ear of the president of the United States. Wiles is only one of a cadre of religious zealots who air programs daily spreading their message to a host of believers around the country. The message is fear. Think about what that means. This message is based on a religious belief system that few adherents have the will or mental capacity to deny much less resist.

Okay, you might say these are the fringe groups that have always been with us since religion began. However, one of the leading organizations at the forefront of the surge of evangelical ideals is the renowned Billy Graham Evangelical Foundation. In an op-ed published in the organizations newsletter last week, the editors stated,

The past 22 months have brought significant progress in restoring religious liberty in the United States. But if Christians do not remain engaged, those gains could be brought to a screeching halt or even lost after next month’s midterm elections. If progressives reclaim a majority in Congress, not to mention in state and local governments, believers will once again be open targets for punishment by left-wing activists bent on silencing those who wish to live out their faith in society. BGEA (My emphasis)

This is yet again Trump supporters willing to test the bounds of credulity. Maybe it is me, but goll durn it, I don’t remember American evangelicals being “targets of punishment by left-wing activists bent on silencing those who wish to live out their faith in society”. Which brings us full circle from The Tree of Life causalities and the monster that Trump created. Those killed in this past weekend’s terrorist attack on their synagogue where people of faith who were doing what their faith and heritage called upon them to do. Worship their God. Trump and his minions, including evangelicals, have become provocateurs whose mission is only to grasp power and control for their own insidious ends.

I won’t ask you to pray for our country. What I will ask is to be cognizant of reality and pay attention to what is going on in the country. In a recent article by Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, he titled the piece, Why This is the Most Important Election of Our Lifetime. Let’s not pretend he is hoping for equality of rights for everyone. Take it as a warning and vote to ensure your voice is heard over the Trump rabble.

Living Large In Carson City: Delbert “Standing On Shaky Ground” McClinton Was Right Edition


Fascist Symbol

I learned a long time ago that reality was much weirder than anyone’s imagination. Hunter S. Thompson

What are we to do as Americans when we see everything this great country stands for being upended and torn asunder by a madman whose sole goal is to stroke his out sized ego, enrich himself and his family to the detriment of the rest of us, and generally breakdown the foundations of what makes America great? As pretentious as that sounds, it has become the reality for more than half of the population of this country. As bad as our fears might have been after the 2016 election, I honestly do not think any of us could have envisioned the level of tumult and dissension that is running through the very fabric of this great nation today.

Remember back in those early days of 2016 when we were all appalled by Donald Trump’s loose and easy association with the truth? He lied at times when lying did him no good. He lied because it is his nature to lie. Truth to Trump we learned was whatever Trump said it was. Do you remember being appalled when a cottage industry emerged whose sole purpose was to track the number of lies the president told. Were you concerned when his total lies topped a thousand? Two thousand? Three thousand? It is a frightening prospect, but I suspect the nation has become so punch drunk from the onslaught of falsehoods and misdirection that comes from the White House on a daily basis we simply look the other way and go about our business.

What is particularly disturbing is once his lies find the light of day his minions have no qualms about parroting the same lies as the party line and shouldn’t be questioned. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a prime example of just how far of plumb the Republican Party has drifted. Sanders has taken Trump’s lying to heart and has started her own litany of untruths to support her boss. Across the board from the Senate, the House, his cabinet, and a bevy of political operatives, all have cashed in their moral integrity to worship at the throne of the Orange One with the hope of remaking America in their image.

It has become so problematic and relentless that Maggie Haberman of the New York Times told “CNN that that staffers are so ‘numb’ to Trump’s lies they don’t even bother correcting him”. This begs the question, “Why?” Haberman thinks it more practical than insidious although it is that as well. Haberman said,

. . . President Donald Trump is relentlessly lying ahead of the 2018 midterm elections because he’s found that it works for him. CNN

It works for him? Think about that a minute. The most powerful man in the world with the ability to change the course of history at his fingertips lies incessantly because it works for him. Considering the state of bankruptcy of the Republican Party when it comes to veracity, empathy, and dedication to a fair and free democracy, Haberman makes a good point. What Trump has been doing all of his adult life is trying to create an reality of America that embraces white males like himself who really believe they are masters of the universe and everything in it.

But at what cost? A New York Times video aired on details the research by Yale philosopher, Jason Stanley, which takes a long, hard look at fascism and how it develops, grows, and ultimately, takes control. In a short five minute video titled, ‘If You’re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be’, should be required viewing by all Americans who already think America is great and fear the direction the country is taking today. His formula for how fascism takes root is fairly simple:

  •  The creation of a mythical “racially pure” and patriarchal past to instill feelings of nostalgia in the masses; the assertion that as long as “he,” the “strongman” remains in power, all will be well, and that without “him” the whole system will collapse;

Watch any Trump rally for five minutes and you will find this is a recurring theme that runs throughout his basic message. Make America Great Again was not chosen because it has a jaunty ring to it. The slogan hits home to older white Americans, alt right groups, and the working class who have suffered at the hand of what they see as the evil Democrats who want to give the country away to immigrants, sexual deviants, and a host of other people who are not like them. In my October 16, 2018 post, I explored what kind of people fall into lockstep with Trump and his vision for America. The point above dovetails a little too nicely into the mindset of the typical Trump supporter and reinforces Stanley’s argument.

  • Turning groups against each other: Germans and Jews, Hindus and Muslims; citizens and foreigners;  whites and blacks, etc.: “when you divide, it’s easier to control.”

In Trump’s world, there is no end to the possibilities that accompany this point. The group du jour to vilify in recent days are transgender folk who find themselves living in a body that does not fit into their sexual orientation. Republicans and the “transgender bathroom” debacle made  transgender Americans an anathema to all right thinking, sexually “normal” people (Trump’s base) who fear people who view their sexual orientation differently for their own.

A healthy nod needs to be given to right-wing, evangelical wackos who in the name of their god fomented the groundless charge that giving transgender people the right to use the bathroom of their sexual preference was merely a ruse for guys to dress up like girls to gain access to the women’s bathroom to do god only knows what to the poor unsuspecting young ladies. As a reality check, do a google search titled “sexual assault on campuses in bathrooms.” The result reveals transgender people aren’t the ones going into bathrooms and sexually assaulting females.

The list, however, has grown over the past two years of Trump’s presidency. Democrats are getting the brunt of his vilification currently. Canadians, Mexicans, NATO, reporters, and on and on have all been targets of Trump’s separation policy from his faithful base. Regrettably, it works.

  • Anti-intellectualism, and attacking the truth, because truth is essential to a free democracy, and therefore anathema to the fascist. This in turn creates a “petri dish” for conspiracy theories, with the ultimate goal of devaluing the truth altogether.

This point brings us full circle in the charade that is the Trump presidency. Facts to a fascist are the  kryptonite that undermines their message and the ultimate control that they have over their followers. Fake news is the perfect mantra for Trump and his followers whether they are Fox News watchers, alt right hoodlums, or even the run of the mill seniors, both male and female. These people want to believe everything Trump has promised them, so his word has become sacrosanct. They honestly believe that CNN, MSNBC, and others are literally making up news to tear down their leader, thereby, destroying the promises he made to them from day one.

While the truth suffers, and suffers badly, possibly even more damaging are the conspiracy theories that arise to support the ideas that the only truth is Trump’s truth. MS13 gangs rolling across the southern border of the United States by the thousands, Mexicans are rapists and hell bent on taking our women folk (or guys depending on their sexual orientation), or the lost Hillary emails and on and on.

Right now,  a caravan of immigrants is marching north from Central America approximately 400 miles south of the Texas border. Half of the group are women and children legitimately seeking political asylum due to the violence and mayhem they face in their home countries. In recent days, Trump, in an effort to get his base out to vote in the upcoming election, claimed the caravan includes terrorists and people of middle-eastern descent supposedly hell bent on destroying the American way of life. He offers no proof, but his echo chamber latched on to the idea and the drum beat of caustic rhetoric has grown to a fevered pitch. The thing about conspiracy theories is they do not feed off of the truth, but fear; something Trump uses as a cudgel to beat his base into a lather to do his bidding.

This morning Americans awoke to the news that bombs were mailed to George Soros, the Clintons, the Obamas, and the CNN headquarters in Manhattan. This afternoon, a total of eight bombs have been discovered mailed to prominent Democrats. However, Trump and his minions are never too ashamed to kick in the conspiracy theory to turn the table and the nation’s collective esprit de corps into something usable for the party.

Many in the right-wing media, including prominent voices like Rush Limbaugh, the popular talk-radio host, and Candace Owens, a frequent Fox News guest, have begun to promote a conspiracy theory that Democrats were behind several packages containing explosive devices sent by mail to top Democrats this week. Business Insider

If I am not mistaken, this quote hits all three points that make up a fascist agenda – a trifecta of sorts. Welcome to the brave new world of Trumpism.

Living Large In Carson City: When Lies and Deceit Supplant Common Sense Edition


“Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads?”

Hunter S. Thompson

I watched as the Trump clown show drove over yet another cliff when Trump invited Kayne West to the Oval Office for a sit-down chat with himself, Jim Brown and a gaggle of reporters. West confirmed what I had always believed; he is mentally ill. West confessed he suffers from bipolar disease, a heartbreaking condition that leaves many diagnosed with the condition forever plagued by the effects it has on one’s interaction with the world and the people they encounter on a day-to-day basis. Regardless of his admission, what transpired was a jaw dropping experiment in kissing up to the “man” and an orgy of senseless proclamations of love and loyalty to the Orange One.

What has many people upset is West’s use of the term motherfucker in the Oval Office. His exact statement was,

“You might not have expected a crazy motherfucker like Kanye running up to support.”

Still, it begs the question, “What did they expect?” The guy is a longtime, very successful rapper, a subset of American society that is not known for their eloquence in speech or gestures. There has been much ado about nothing surrounding West’s use of the term, but again, what did they expect? The thing I took away from the interview was the wild ranting monologue West subjected the room to really seemed like something that would offend the straight-laced Trump supporters who make up his base, obviously not.

Who are these people? How do they justify overlooking some fool making a mockery of the presidency and upending the decorum that goes along with the office. I decided to watch the now notorious Iowa rally Trump held earlier this week to see what goes on at these events. What makes these normally sane people find Trump so alluring? Trust me, there are no answers there, only more head scratching servility from the Trump minions that is shocking and not a little disturbing.

The YouTube video begins with a camera shot from behind a portion of the crowd looking into a darken doorway stage right. Inexplicably, the mournful dirge of Elton John’s Funeral for a friend/Love Lies Bleeding in My Hand begins and plays for the next eight minutes or so. At the end the music segues  into what has become a Trump rally theme song, Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA. Am I the only one in this country that thinks this is one of the most sappy and piss your pants hard to listen to quasi-country melodies ever written. Don’t get me wrong: I am as patriotic as the next guy, but Greenwood’s syrupy delivery makes me want to gag. It’s a wonder millions of people don’t contract diabetes from listening to it more than once. I digress.

At 8:20 into the video, a booming voice comes out over the speaker system reminiscent of a World Wrestling Federation announcer introducing Trump who wanders out onto the walkway where he stops and does that infuriating thing he does where he points at individuals in the crowd, waves and claps. He then holds his hands, palms up, and swiveling his hips right and left to bask in the warmth of the near rabid crowd’s response. What mystifies me is he does this at every opportunity and gets the same response to the sound of the crowd chanting USA, USA, USA.

All this is accompanied by the backdrop of Trump supporters waving signs that say “Finish the Wall” (fat chance) or “Women for Trump” ( a notably small group) or “Veterans for Trump” (a patriotic but misguided group). After the obligatory comments on the great success of confirming Brett Kavanaugh, praise of the octogenarian Senator Chuck Grassley, and trashing the protesters at the Supreme Court (some of who were whining because they didn’t get paid (???)), Trump lights into the Democrats with a vengeance, rather less than a healing moment,

And in their lust for power, the Democrats have become totally unhinged. They’ve gone — they’ve gone crazy.

No, they’ve gone crazy. Now the Democrats — or as some people would says, the Dims — the Dims — who says that? Lou Dobbs, the great Lou Dobbs. He says that, right? Sean Hannity says that. The Dims. Sean Hannity. Judge Jeanine says that, doesn’t she? Laura — Laura, how good has Laura been, right? We got a lot of good people. . .

But the Democrats have become too extreme. And they’ve become, frankly, too dangerous to govern. They’ve gone wacko. They’ve gone so far left that they consider Pocahontas to be a rational person. No, it’s crazy. Elizabeth Warren. Oh, I hope she runs. I hope she runs. Then we can finally get down to the fact as to whether or not she has Indian blood. YouTube

This was when I realized that there was no reason to watch anymore of this fright fest. It has literally been repeated over and over again since Trump came on the scene and began having his ego stroked by the deplorables he calls his base. The only change is the scenery or mid-western township where his followers gather to be, I am sure, thrilled to the very cockles of their beings. Who are these people?

In an peer-reviewed article that appeared the Journal of Social and Political Psychology titled Social Psychological Perspectives on Trump Supporters written by Thomas F. Pettigrew, he identifies five distinct personality traits of the average Trump supporter. On the one hand, what he discovered is what most of us suspected all along. Trump supporters are actually “mini-mes” of the Orange One’s outsize ego. Still, it is interesting and a bit frightening to see it spelled out and printed in black and white. Briefly, here are the categories:

  • Authoritarianism and Social Dominance Disorder (SDO) Authoritarianism is an intensely studied syndrome the effects of which are surprisingly consistent across the globe . Several traits characterize the syndrome: deference to authority, aggression toward out groups, a rigidly hierarchical view of the world, and resistance to new experience. Authoritarianism is typically triggered by threat and fear, and authoritarians tend to view the world as a very dangerous and threatening place.

These traits seem to be consistent with the mindset of older white people, especially people who were directly affected by the Great Depression or suffered under parents who’s lives were horribly altered by the poverty and depressive effects that that era produced. My own parents were stereotypical examples of this disorder. Racism and bigotry go hand in hand with these traits.

  • Prejudice Many outgroup prejudices characterize dedicated Trump’s followers, not just anti-immigrants, but anti-outgroups in general. Since Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” the Republican Party has employed strategies that appeal to bigotry with “dog whistles” – somewhat subtle codewords for race and other minorities designed to be heard by racists but not by non-racists.

Again, this trait is breathtakingly obvious in the vast majority of Trump supporters. Civility is one of the first positive ideals that fall by the wayside in the face of unbridled prejudice and bigotry. The hatred that Trump supporters have for Hillary Clinton, Christine Blasey Ford, Democrats and others who oppose them is symptomatically over the top mainly because Trump latched on to the prejudice factor and fanned the flames until we find ourselves in the quagmire we are now.

  • Intergroup Contact A major means of reducing intergroup prejudice is through optimal intergroup contact. So it is noteworthy that there is growing evidence that Trump’s White supporters have experienced far less contact with minorities than other  Americans. .   .                                                                                                                  Consistent with this finding, these researchers also found that Trump support increased as an area’s distance from the Mexican border increased. Throughout the world, intergroup contact has been shown typically to diminish prejudice by reducing intergroup fear and inducing empathy.

It should come as no surprise that this trait is exacerbated by the prior two categories. In Shakespeare’s Othello, the concept of “the other” plays an important role in Iago’s plan to discredit and smear Othello’s good name. Hatred of “the other” comes from an deep seated belief that outsiders are incapable of intermixing with the dominant social classes of a society and are held at bay through prejudice and authoritarianism and SDO. The old saying “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes” will help people understand better the forces at play in acceptance of outsiders in society. Something Trump supporters are loathe to do.

  • Relative Deprivation Trump adherents feel deprived relative to what they expected to possess at this point in their lives and relative to what they erroneously perceive other “less deserving” groups have acquired. Rapidly rising costs of housing and prescription drugs have aggravated their financial concerns. Their savings may not allow the type of ideal retirements they had long envisioned. And hopes for their children advancing beyond their status and going to college are being dashed by rising tuitions.

Relative Deprivation is a huge topic, and one that crosses a plethora of social strata. Combine this trait with the idea that older white men are being pushed out of the mainstream into a lesser social strata that devalues their long-held beliefs in white privilege and things deteriorate quickly into finger pointing, blame and anger, if not outright hatred. Immigrants are especially juicy targets for angry, white men facing what they see as irrelevancy in a time when they should be at the height of their plans for retirement.

This brief look does not do Pettigrew’s research justice, however, it is a thumbnail look at the motives behind, not only Trump supporters, but the manipulative genius that Trump brings to the table to demonize opponents and assuage the emotions his audiences bring to the rallies he and they thrive on. Pettigrew sums things up by saying,

All five of these tightly interconnected phenomena – authoritarianism, social dominance, prejudice, lack of intergroup contact and relative deprivation – make people vulnerable to an intense sense of threat. Authoritarian leaders have long understood that they can attract followers by enhancing the perception of dangerous threats to the society and offering simple solutions (Mols & Jetten, 2016). Sometimes the threats are real (Hitler with massive Weimar inflation), but often they are imagined (Trump with patently false claims of a declining economy, massive voter fraud, enormously increased crime, and unvetted immigration).

The sad and frightening reality is that Trump’s use of these traits is working and working very well. Democrats are now being characterized as acting under “mob rule.” This is yet another attempt to create the idea of “the other” in the mind’s of his supporters. The real question unanswered is how will those supporters react if even this bottom feeder approach is taken away from them and Trump goes down for whatever reason. The prospect isn’t pretty.






Living Large In Carson City: The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Just Went Out Edition


The past two weeks have been a strain on all of our collective brains. The Kavanaugh debacle has taken its psychic toll on everyone who still believes our democracy is worth saving. The Chuck (Mob Rule) Grassley (R-IA) orchestrated a “ram him” through campaign that ultimately blew up in his face when Christine Blasey Ford came forward with an accusation of sexual assault against “I like beer” Kavanaugh that caught the Republicans flat footed. The subsequent sham of a FBI “investigation” did little but waste tax payer time and money with the outcome preordained by the White House and the Republicans of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

When Susan Collins (R-ME) stumbled onto the Senate floor last Friday to reveal to the world whether or not she would support Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the excruciating 45-minute long speech was a combination of lies, twists, back flips and denial of Blasey Ford’s claims. It was simply a coward’s way out of a messy situation. Or possibly, Collins had meant to vote for Kavanaugh all along and held off committing to lessen the blow back from Maine voters that was inevitable. It didn’t work. Expect her to face an especially grueling campaign in 2020 which she will have a hard time winning.

Kavanaugh was sworn in shortly after the confirmation vote, but Trump (R-Hell) staged a “victory lap” of sorts by having Kavanaugh and his family assemble in the East Room of the White House for a “staged” swearing in ceremony. Trump’s introduction was part red baiting rhetoric, part kissing ass, and part political rallying cry over the golden boy’s wretched time before those damnable demonic Democrats who only joy is eating babies, destroying a “good” man’s name, and thwarting Trump’s every move.

While speaking with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House during the day on Monday, Trump said that accusations against Kavanaugh were a Democratic “hoax.”

He discussed buzz among some Democrats about potentially trying to impeach Kavanaugh if they take back power in Congress and characterized a just as “a man that did nothing wrong, a man that was caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats, using the Democrats’ lawyers.” . . .

“The American public has seen this charade, has seen this dishonesty by the Democrats,” Trump said, pointing out that a week-long FBI investigation, which Democrats have decried as a mediocre effort by the bureau, found “nothing wrong” about Kavanaugh. Vox

Trump’s rhetoric is disturbing on many levels. First, claiming the accusations against Kavanaugh were a hoax is an outright lie meant to disparage the women who came forward to point guilty fingers at the nominee. Second, calling the Democrats dishonest is  not the way of a healthy political system, which ours is not currently. The Republicans have lost their moral center (if they ever had one), and possibly, their good senses. People are not going to take these accusations lightly.

By this time in the press conference that followed the ceremonial swearing in, I had thrown everything within reach at the television and was spouting evil sounding gobbledygook like Linda Blair’s character, Regan, in The Exorcist. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any crazier, Trump ups the ante,

“On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure,” Trump said, adding that the confirmation process was based on “lies and deception.”

“You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent,” said Trump . . . NBC

Innocent? As in proven innocent? Put aside the fact that he said “the confirmation process was based on “‘lies and deception”‘, telling Kavanaugh he was “proven innocent” is the height of hypocrisy and may be further proof that the Orange One is not playing with a full deck of mental or moral cards. The FBI investigation was tainted and controlled from the beginning. Credible witnesses came forward but were not given the benefit of the doubt and shelved into silence. The agents didn’t even interview Kavanaugh or Blasey Ford. Color me done with Kavanaugh.

The issue that really has my attention currently is the new Republican talking point championed by just about every Republican from Trump to Grassley to Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is the term “mob rule” as applied to women, protesters, resisters, and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary committee. This is a dangerous ploy for the Republicans and all the rest of America. The term mob rule is meant only for one purpose which is to create an “Us versus Them” reality that demonizes the opposition and fires up the Republican base.

The characterization evokes fear of an unknown and out-of-control mass of people, and it taps into grievances about the nation’s fast-moving cultural and demographic shifts that Republicans say are working against them. With its emphasis on the impact on traditional values and white voters, particularly men, it strikes the same notes as earlier Trump-fanned attention to immigrants, MS-13 gang members and African American football players protesting police treatment of young black men. WAPO

The adoption of this term by mainstream Republicans is telling in that it reveals a deep-seated fear that runs through the minds of the deplorables, and supposedly, all Republicans at this point. It is problematic because it ultimately throws the ball into Trump’s court and leaves the mob for him to deal with going forward. The possibilities are endless and none have a happy ending. Suppose the mid-terms tilt toward the Democrats winning big, really big, as in gaining control of both the House and the Senate. Trump and the Republicans could easily declare the outcome invalid due to outside interference by a foreign power or some other equally damaging claim. This would result in a massive outcry by Democrats. Don’t put it past Trump to declare martial law until the election results could be altered more favorably for the Republicans.

In the future legal protests by law-abiding American citizens could be curtailed or stopped all together simply by citing the dangerous mob rule equation, effectively silencing free speech on topics not to the Republican’s liking. The mob rule gambit is a rabbit hole of unknown dimensions that sane people would avoid at all costs. Yet, there in lies the rub with Trump. There are few people of either party that think Trump is not capable of such a move. Indeed, it seems like something he would relish.

Mob rule is not a product of women protesting and demanding that victims of sexual assault be heard and believed. It is not a result of protests by women who want control of their bodies and the right to choose to have an abortion or not. It is not a group of Senators who want a fair and balanced hearing on a candidate for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. It is not people standing up and calling out racially based oppression by police forces across the land.

Mob rule is a Trump rally where his supporters chant “lock her up” or “CNN sucks”. It is a mob of alt right racists and bigots marching the streets of  Charlottesville, VA. Mob rule is a cabal of old white men who are afraid of losing their white privilege to people of color. Most of all, unfortunately, mob rule is whatever Trump and his minions say it is.




Living Large In Carson City: Candy Is Dandy But Liquor Is Quicker Edition

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Another week, another turn of events that no one expected or  could have foreseen. Thursday saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh telling their sides of the brouhaha that came about when allegations arose pointing to Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge having sexually assaulted Blasey Ford back when the three were in high school. Predictably, other women came forward with increasingly disturbing accusations about Kavanaugh’s less than honorable actions toward women that occurred throughout his high school and college careers.

Then there is the drinking thing. In his fiery rebuttal to Blasey Ford’s accusations, Kavanaugh went full metal jacket attacking, denying and sanctimoniously portraying himself as nothing less than a saint among sinners during his high school and college days. It worked for the optics, but reality has different parameters.  Old friends stepped up countering Kavanaugh’s claims that he never drank to excess during those formative years. One comment from his freshman roommate, James Roche, sums up the gist of what most thought of Kavanaugh’s denials,

“Although Brett was normally reserved,” Roche explained, “he was a notably heavy drinker” and was “frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk,” and that Kavanaugh “became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.”

Thursday was an amazing day for a look at how our government, the Senate specifically, has gone off the rails. Partisan bickering is the law of the land these days, and no one seemed to know how to get the engine back on the rails. At the end of the marathon Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, most people who endured the spectacle were drained emotionally and mentally. I know I was. Yet, nothing seemed to have been decided on any front. The tone deaf Republicans on the committee maintained their insistence on plowing ahead with a vote for confirmation despite the allegations and the veracity of Blasey Ford excruciating account of what transpired all those years ago. It felt as if the Republicans had unceremoniously punked us all.

Then, lo and behold, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) grew a pair. Disturbed by Kavanaugh’s wildly partisan and often disrespectful engagement with the Judiciary committee’s Democrats, and an encounter with two sexual assault victims in an elevator, Flake had his come to Jesus moment. Partnering with Chris Coons (D-DE), Flake decided to vote for passing Kavanaugh out of committee with the caveat that the FBI reopen the Kavanaugh investigation for no longer than one week to investigate the accusations that surfaced against nominee.

The FBI at this moment is two days into an investigation of sexual misconduct by  Kavanaugh dating back to his high school and college days. Trump stated early on that the FBI will conduct the investigation however they deem necessary. In and article on NBC’s website, the authors, Ken Dilanian, Geoff Bennett and Kristen Welker, quote Trump as saying,

Trump said the FBI had “free rein” in the investigation.

“They’re going to do whatever they have to do,” he said. “Whatever it is they do, they’ll be doing—things that we never even thought of. And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine.” NBC News

This is where I get off the bus. The accusations of sexual assault are serious, but the investigation seems doomed by partisan chicanery on the Republican’s part. Don McGahn, White House Counsel and Assistant to the President, is orchestrating the investigation and, at this point, seems hell bent on not allowing the FBI to do a thorough inquiry into what happened or to look at all accusations beyond Blasey Ford and one other woman’s claims of misconduct. Few people would be surprised by this fact having witnessed the Republican duplicity that has surrounded the confirmation hearings to date.

The point that most people are beginning to see as central to the confirmation proceedings is that Kavanaugh is a liar, pure and simple. People for the American Way published a blistering summation of how Kavanaugh has dissembled and mislead both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people. What is disturbing is how callous the Republicans and their supporters have been throughout the process. Facts are superfluous. The pain and suffering of the alleged victims means nothing to these people. They disguise their partisanship by openly and falsely accusing the Democrats of exactly what they are guilty of doing and by painting them as unpatriotic and driven to ruin Kavanaugh’s good name and future as a Supreme Court justice.

In the end the extension of the FBI investigation is more of the same in what goes on in Trump’s universe. It’s a distraction. Trump and his minions, including Mitch McConnell (R-KY), honestly believe that the sexual accusations are superfluous to whether or not Kavanaugh is confirmed. Regardless of the FBI conclusions, they believe that they have the votes to push him through.

Flake is an outlier, but does he have the backbone to stand up to his Republican counterparts? Sure, he’s on his way out of the Senate next January, but how deep does his allegiance to the party run? Can he live up to his claim that if Kavanaugh lied to the committee about sexual allegations it would be a deal breaker? What about Kavanaugh’s lies about drinking, misrepresenting his judicial accomplishments, and other lies that he told as a matter of course?

There is also this to consider. In an article for Quartz by Heather Timmons titled, Inexperienced and “sanctimonious:” Trump’s top Supreme Court pick was downgraded by peers, makes this point,

In 2003, “it was noted that he had never tried a case to verdict or judgment; that his litigation experience over the years was always in the company of senior counsel; and that he had very little experience with criminal cases,” the ABA’s 2006 report says. The additional interviews in 2006 “expanded upon those earlier concerns”:

One judge who witnessed the nominee’s oral presentation in court commented that the nominee was “less than adequate” before the court, had been “sanctimonious,” and demonstrated “experience on the level of an associate.” A lawyer who had observed him during a different court proceeding stated: “Mr. Kavanaugh did not handle the case well as an advocate and dissembled.” Other lawyers expressed similar concerns, repeating in substance that the nominee was young and inexperienced in the practice of law.

Yet, the Republicans have circled the wagons and intend to go through with a vote for confirmation as early as Friday of this week. On one hand, the Republicans see Kavanaugh as a win/win candidate. If he is confirmed, viola, they have an ideologue on the bench for possibly the next 20 or 30 years who they can depend on to deliver the deciding vote on wide range of topics that could remake the American experience as we know it. If he is voted down, they have an instant rallying cry that could spur their base next month to get out the vote and jeopardize the expected Blue Wave putting taking back the House by Democrats in peril. You can forget about the Senate entirely.

There is only one thing to take away from the Kavanaugh debacle. Just when you think our elected officials have mucked things up past repair, their capacity for self-destruction makes them want for more. How our Republic has lasted this long is a true mystery to me.