Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do

Sean Hannity: “can’t say for sure where rumors of a Red Wave started.” 

Red Wave

What just happened?

Up until voting day, November 8, 2022, the doom and gloom that hung over the nation was a palatable force few in the Democratic Party denied. Conversely, the tenor of the Republican’s response hung somewhere between a schoolyard bully’s crass, mean-spirited smugness to near-giddy orgasmic exaltation by Trump’s MAGA and QAnon’s fellow travelers. Democrats were in deep doo-doo, and Joe Biden was proverbial toast. Republicans of all stripes and intelligence (or lack thereof) were in a veritable tizzy over the expectation Democrats were going to take one in the shorts. It was that way up until the closing of the polls when the “wave” took a left turn upending Republican’s wet dream of trashing Democracy as the nation knows it. It was a colossal misinterpretation of the country’s mood and understanding of what it means to be a patriot, or an insurrectionist for that matter.

The campaigns ended a week ago. This past weekend both Mark Kelly (D) Arizona and Katherine Cortez Mastos (D) Nevada were declared winners in their respective races, narrowly defeating their Republican rivals in an historic upset. The Democrats walked away with a clear majority in the Senate with one more race to be decided in December between Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R). Were Warnock able to beat Walker in the runoff, Senate dominance would be a forgone conclusion. At this time, control for the House is still not decided with more votes coming in from California and other races around the country. More on Walker later.

Of course, there are always winners and losers in an election as close as this one. Women were the foundation of the outcome on subjects ranging from abortion to facing down the uber mysognistic MAGA cretins as they pushed repression, white supremacy, and a host of unpalatable stances guaranteed to shock the most decerning voters. Joining women as a group were young voters. Together they proved pivotal in turning back any sembalance of Republican dominance.

“Some 27% of all people ages 18 to 29 cast ballots, more than in any recent midterm election except 2018, according to estimates from Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.”

They along with the rest of sane America delivered a messy, if somewhat delayed, message to the Republican Party. America is tired of the shit that passes for Trump and the air heads who choose to digest his message without engaging their brains. It was a thing of beauty.

Back to Herschel Walker and the good people of Georgia. Walker was the poster boy for Trump’s uncanny ability to look at a field of possible political prospects and decide to back the most despicable, lying, cheating candidate of the bunch. Walker was uniquely unprepared, or able, to pull off his charade of being a credible choice. Georgia Republicans looked at his performance and saw what Walker is in the light of day – a useful idiot. It was amazing seeing the rank and file of Georgia’s conservatives walking around holding their noses while proclaiming Walker’s unsavory resume didn’t matter. Only control of the Senate mattered, even if it meant electing someone who would never be up to the job that he was running for in the end. We will meet Warnock in early December to decide who gets the Senate nod, and hopefully, it will be the last anyone hears of Herschel Walker.

But here is the thing. During the actual run up to the election, Republicans had a good reason (in their minds) to back Walker. As stated above, control of the Senate lay in the balance. Now that Mark Kelly and Katherine Cortez Mastos have won their elections giving Dems a 50 vote balance, Walker’s election won’t matter in the scheme of things. Vice President Kamala Harris will still hold the deciding vote on any issue that comes out as a tie. Georgia conservatives have the unique chance to cleanse their tainted political palates by throwing their vote behind Warnock. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but the opportunity seems too tantalizing not to consider.

Last night, Donald Trump declared his decision to run a third time for a second term as president of the United States. Inretrospect, holding the announcement at a Mar A Lago ballroom might have made sense on some level. The former president is sequestered there by his daughter’s wedding, and it is a good place to lick his considerable wounds from the loss of the red wave on election day. Yet, there was something oddly unsettling seeing a half empty hall with diehard millionaires wandering around drinking libations out of styrofoam cups. The scene as a set up to the coming announcement lacked a certain je ne sais quoi to say nothing of the expected jubilation that usually accompanies these events. No one wants a somber atmosphere when expecting “bigly news” from the Orange Fuhrer. Just sayin’ . . .

And then there was the big guy strolling onto the podium like Nero smiling down at a burning Rome. If the mood of the room was low key, Trump’s speech was several steps down the ladder. Snorting like an aging bull, he rambled on about the glory that is Trump, and all of the wonderful things ahead for America if the populace will only vote him back in office. It seems that he didn’t believe his points anymore than the crowd who were notably quiet during most of the hour long ramblings. CNN pulled the plug after 25 minutes. Fox News lasted 40 minutes before switching to commentators’ assessments, but eventually returned for the tail end of the speech.

The big takeaway for the evening was, as to be expected, the lies and half truths that rolled from those pudgy orange lips without remorse or self awareness on his part. CNN fact checked the former president and came up with 20 different false claims (to their credit they note that the 20 citations were not a comprehensive list). Highlighting the parade of untruths were sea level rise which he claimed would rise “1/8 of an inch over the next 200 to 300 years”. CNN explained that the accepted reality is “sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10 – 12 inches (0.25 – 0.30 meters) in the next 30 years (2020 – 2050)”.

Another hooter was his take on his actions on tariffs on China. He stated, “No president had ever sought or received $1 for our country from China until I came along.” Again, CNN wrote that it is ridiculous to assume that no president before him raised money from tariffs on China. The story revealed, “In reality, the US has had tariffs on China for more than two centuries, and FactCheck.org reported in 2019 that the US generated an “average of $12.3 billion in custom duties a year from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission DataWeb.” In an aside CNN noted, it is not China that pays the tariffs, but importers and the American people who pay the dues for trading with China. Why Trump thinks this is something to brag about is confounding.

The other 18 topics CNN fact checked are more of the same half truths, outright lies, misdirection, and egotistical fairy tales Trump is known for in his speeches.

Getting back to the election, the real winner of the contest was American democracy, and the people who turned out and voted for the grown ups at the table. America has shifted to the left no matter however slight or unexpected. People like our country and the freedoms ensured them by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Trump has always been wrong on one central issue. He isn’t going to “make America great again”. America has always been great. Sure, we have problems, but the America we know and love will be great as it is long after a disgruntled egomanic has slipped into the dust bin of American history.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do?

“Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

Of all the ploys and dirty tricks that mean spirited Republicans and ultra conservatives have set in motion over recent years, banning books is the most egregious and foolish because it overwhelmingly targets one particular segment of society – children. Driven by fear, religious dogma, homophobia, and white identity politics, conservatives have launched a full scale assault on schools and public libraries across the nation. Their goal to foist their peculiar brand of morality on the minds and social development of children when they should be soaking up knowledge is reprehensible. The battlegrounds vary from community to community, but the up tick of challenges at city council and school board meetings is staggering and rife with hypocrisy and often unwarranted concern. Yet, their effect is unrelenting and coordinated involving state legislatures, politicians quick to feed an angry base red meat, and often, uninformed parents who seek to protect their children where no protection is necessary.

Of course, book banning is not a new phenomenon. In America, one of the first groups to ban a book was the holier-than-thou Puritans of Boston.  Jake Rossen writing for Mental Floss recounts the story of one Thomas Morton. Rosen writes that Morton ran afoul of the ruling Puritanical hierarchy when he moved to Massachusetts in 1624. Morton was somewhat of a party animal and chaffed at the oppressive lifestyle he was expected to follow as dictated by the church elders. Rosen notes he was also friendly with the Native Americans of the area; something the church vehemently discouraged as well. He was eventually forced to relocate out of the area. In retaliation he wrote New English Canaan in 1637. It was seen as “a searing indictment of conservative Puritan life.”

Rosen continued stating,

“In their eyes, Morton wasn’t just a prototype frat boy, {and} he was a direct threat to their way of life. His book was perceived as an all-out attack on Puritan morality, and they didn’t take kindly to it. So they banned it—and effectively banned Morton, too. He was refused entry back into Massachusetts and remained persona non grata until his death in 1643.”

Morton’s dilemma highlights a secondary effect that banning books carries with it. In a culture where conservatives are quick to pull out the cancel culture card, Republicans and conservatives are doing just that to the authors whose work they target. While some books are more controversial in their eyes, they show their true intent when they target books by well known American authors like Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison’s Beloved, numerous award winner Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Pulitzer Prize winner Harper Lee for To Kill a Mockingbird to name a few. Regardless of the fame and acclamation, writers through the years faced having their literary works denounced and cancelled due to the narrow minded bigots, religious extremists, and politicians who follow the hue and cry of constituents without regard to the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and press.

In today’s vicious climate of white identity politics and unyielding, evangelical holier than thou primness, the stakes are higher than ever. Critical race theory, LGBQT issues, and gender identity have become front and center in the conservative right’s campaign to stamp out all voices that do not adhere to a strict interpretation of both the Bible and white supremist goals. Granted, conservatives have every right to oppose topics which they find objectionable. The problem is they are willing to trample over the rights of others who disagree or find themselves living alternative lifestyles contrary to a hate filled minority willing to suppress anything that goes counter to their worldview. Banning books from libraries and course curricula across the nation is the go to tool conservatives employ in a widespread campaign of stifling those they don’t agree with in principle and others who they simply despise but not understand.

Critical race theory opponents are either willfully obtuse or simply disingenuous in their belief that race has not been a part of the makeup of American society. Why else would the nation need to implement Affirmation Action and civil rights laws to ensure that all people, regardless of their heritage or ethnic background, get the same chance of succeeding as their white counterparts? In an article posted to Market Realist titled “Critical Race Theory Controversy: Bans on Some Books by Black Authors”, Robin Hill-Gray writes,

“The age-old battle on banned books is reflected in the late Toni Morrison’s saying that parents should have the right to control what their children learn. But when books are banned publicly, it sets a precedent for what other children may want to learn, too. The future of books by marginalized communities is uncertain as political leaders, parents, and school districts struggle with uncomfortable subjects.”

It is important to note that the banning of books, regardless of the topic, stems from disgruntled groups grappling with “uncomfortable subjects”, not questions of illegality or even ethical reasons. These “uncomfortable subjects” are especially poignant when books are banned on LBGQT or gender issues. Not surprisingly, Christians are at the forefront of banning books dealing with anti-LBGQT and anti-gender topics. Christians for all of their proclamations of “love thy neighbor” and “we are all equal in the eyes of (their) God” are quick in their condemnation and repression of these sensitive subjects. It would be different if they were targeting adults who have become comfortable with their sexuality, but the targets of banned books in schools are the most vulnerable. Many are children grappling with self identity at a time when they are often confused and seeking real answers to the issues they are facing.

It wouldn’t be too far afield to equate the actions of book banning groups to the role played by Big Brother in George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel 1984. The slogan “Big Brother is watching you” that reoccurs throughout the book has become famous over the years symbolizing how reigning powers tend to suppress free thought by instilling in people the fear of being exposed. Brooke Baitinger writing for The Miami Herald cites a study done by PEN America that addresses the specter of repression that comes hand in hand with book banning. She quotes the study stating,

“It’s creating a chilling effect on teaching and learning, fostering “an increasingly punitive and surveillance-oriented environment” for educators and librarians . . . It harms the authors “whose works are being targeted” and “parents who want to raise students in schools that remain open to curiosity, discovery, and the freedom to read,” the report states.

Understandably, today, when Americans hear about banning books, they think of Florida and Ron De Santis’ campaign to remove books that he and his constituents find objectionable on topics from critical race theory to gender studies, and his disingenuous crusade to instill restrictions around “don’t say gay” topics among others. Yet, Florida is only one of 26 states that is actively attempting to keep books on topics they find uncomfortable out of the hands of students. Critics warn that the current climate of repression is only in its infant stage. As White Nationalist, evangelicals, and other hate groups get involved, more states will surely sign on to the crusade.

While book banning relies heavily on opinion and false assumptions of the harm books cause to children, the truth lies more on the positive side of the equation. In an article posted on the news site of Stetson University, the author details three important points about the effect (or non-effect) banning books has on students. Research shows that,

  • “Banned books did not predict GPA or violent/non-violent crime
  • GPA was predicted by increased reading for pleasure, but not required school reading
  • Banned books are associated with increased civic behavior (doing good for society) and low risk of antisocial behavior”

Ultimately, banning books is little more than suppression of thought and ideas. Two things that all students will suffer from in the end. Until the conservative right can be exposed as the authoritarian control freaks that they are, this debate will surely rage on for years to come.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to Do?

I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was anything but a tribal myth. Hunter S. Thompson

Two speeches in the first week of September perfectly outline the areas of contention between the forces of democracy, and those who would reshape the U. S. government and the Constitution in an image that looks more like fascism everyday. Of course, the two speeches by President Joe Biden and Donald Trump offer a much different worldview of the nation and how the political winds are pushing both sides to the brink of incivility. Biden’s speech came from Philadelphia’s historic Independence Hall on September 1 while Trump chose Wilkes-Barre, Pa on September 3 at a gathering in support of carpetbagger Mehmet Oz, and his bid to win one of the state’s coveted Senate seats. Biden came sounding the alarm that our democracy is in peril and called for a unified front in confronting Trump and his MAGA supporters. Trump came to speak only to his faithful, sowing seeds of distrust and lies that suited his purpose.

Since much of Trump’s psychopathic wailings were mostly in response to what Biden had to say, Biden goes first. Most Americans know that Biden came out swinging by attacking Trump and his MAGA supporters as an aberration never seen in American history. When he stated early on in the speech, “. . . too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal, Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” it was obvious this was going to be a speech to rock the nation. Had Biden stopped there, the speech would still be one for the record books. However, the president had much more to say and hadn’t begun to throw shade on Trump and his freaky band of loyal insurrectionist.

It is important to note, as well, Biden went to great links to distinguish Trump’s MAGA supporters from mainstream Republicans by stating, “Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.” No, Biden was speaking directly to Trump and the MAGA crowd saying aloud what others have not. The jig was up, and Biden for one would no longer condone the actions of known insurrectionists who think their views are more important and beneficial for the country than sane and honest understanding of the issues. They are wrong, and he was right to say so for the nation to clearly hear and understand.

As is their wont, Trump and his minions were quick to cry foul, calling the speech political, rather than bipartisan. They claim the choice of Independence Hall , and the fact Marine guards stood behind the podium, were indications that the president was using both as a ploy to underscore his message. It was neither. The Republicans are revisionists and seem to forget presidents of their own party that used the military and government buildings as backdrops for their own political messages. Can anyone forget W standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” less than two years after September 11, 2002. In truth, the war was only just beginning. Or how many times in his four years of office did Trump use the White House, the Rose Garden, the Lincoln Memorial, and other sites to promote clearly political messages.

None of those instances compare to what Joe Biden did in Philadelphia . He wasn’t pushing a Democratic stance. Indeed, he seemed incredulous that much of the nation is either ignorant or complicit as to the gravity of what is going on in the nation today.. The only logical path was for him to cut to the quick of the matter and point a finger at the extreme right who are engaged in support of a creeping fascism that threatens the foundation of American democracy. He clearly surprised both the right and the left with his blunt, no nonsense delivery that named Trump and the MAGA Republicans as the culprits who choose conspiracy theories, Trump’s word, and nonsensical claims over truth and common sense. A more succinct way of describing Trump and his followers is in the incredible concept album The Point by Harry Nilsson and the song “The Pointless Man”. The lyrics quote the Rock Man when he says, “The rock man said, ‘Say babe , isn’t nuthin’ pointless about this game. The thing is, you see what you wanna see – and you hear what you wanna hear. You dig?”‘ Many in Trump World are obviously “seeing” the wrong things in America right now.

One reaction from the press deliciously describes what Biden accomplished in his speech. In an Opinion piece for Raw Story titled “No president in my lifetime ever talked about his Republican predecessor like Joe Biden did” , John Stoehr points out the oddity, and importance, of what Biden accomplished in his speech. He begins his commentary with the poignant statement, ” Here’s the important thing about the president’s prime-time address Thursday evening on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. That it happened.” Stoehr continues by beginning several of his paragraphs leading into the points he makes with the refrain, “No Democratic president has ever, in my lifetime . . .”

  • . . . talked about a former GOP president the way Joe Biden did,
  • . . . questioned publicly the elemental patriotism of a former Republican president and his followers.
  • . . . identified the people’s enemy in the course of being the people’s partisan.

He then lays out Biden’s reasoning in his own summation of the speech writing, “In my view, last night’s speech was the BFD of BFDs.”

There is a simple reason why Biden did what he did, and one that some Trump and his MAGA acolytes cannot seem to grasp or refuse to acknowledge. America has never had a president like Donald J. Trump. The other 45 presidents for the most part acted with dignity and honor that the office demands. Sure, there have been exceptions, Nixon and Clinton come to mind, however, no American president was a known serial liar, grifter, misogynist, insurrectionist, twice impeached, or who defaced America’s standing at home and abroad like he has and continues to do. Biden was right to call him and the MAGA horde out for what they are: People who do not love this country and want to tear it down for their own selfish reasons jeopardize the very foundations of our republic. It is Biden’s job to call out those who would do so in as harsh and forceful a manner as possible. It’s called tough love.

Then there was Trump’s speech in Wilkes-Barre, PA with a decidedly darker and more insular tone. The speech ran two hours with little new revealed by Trump as he sang a false tune of danger and foreboding. It was only in the last six minutes when maudlin music filled the arena and his voice turned into a sing song lilt that things got interesting. Much like a greatest hits revival tour, Trump bashed everyone who he feels has not kissed the ring and backed his falsehoods and conspiracies.

This was the first time Trump spoke since the FBI served a search warrant on his Mar-a-Lago compound, so of course, they were the first to be criticized. He claims Democrats weaponized law enforcement “like never before” before claiming the FBI does not pursue “election facts” that tend to reside only in his mind. The Department of Justice in his view either condones or allows “egregious acts of voting irregularities and fraud”. His next statement is actually ironic when he said America has a president who is “cognitively impaired, and everyone knows it.” This is a point in his dirge that one realizes that maybe continuing is a waste of time. He goes on to touch on all of the hot button items that MAGA Republicans eat up like candy: China, Iran, free speech, the press is the enemy of the people, blah, blah, blah . . .

The gist of the speech’s ending is that compared to Biden’s speech Trump has nothing new to offer. While Biden’s speech might be seen as a bit caustic, Trump’s speech confirmed what the current president was trying to get across: Trump and MAGA republicans want to tear down our government and Constitution to uphold their falsehoods, grift, and the deeply held vision that America is doomed unless people turn to him as their savior. Biden put a wedge in that argument by calling out Trump and the MAGA crowd, but at the same time, acknowledging that not all Republicans are Trump Republicans. No one can say what the future holds for Donald Trump, but it is a good bet he won’t be winning over the minds and hearts of true Americans and patriots any time soon.

Living Large in Carson City: What’s a Liberal to do?

The mind of America is seized by a fatal dry rot – and it’s only a question of time before all that the mind controls will run amuck in a frenzy of stupid, impotent fear. Hunter S. Thompson

Is there anyone in the United States who can say with a straight face that the old adage, “. . . going to hell in a handbasket” doesn’t apply to the nation’s current zeitgeist? In today’s climate of snark, vitriol, and pandering to the extreme segments of society, it would be well to remember where the term supposedly originated. “The origin of the phrase ‘hell in a handbasket’ can be found in the practice of capturing the heads of guillotine victims in a basket, with the presumption being that these criminals would be going straight to hell for their crimes.” Harsh words, but realistically in light of the state of American democracy, who can deny it?

In the last decade, along with the respect for fellow citizens, the reins of government slipped from the hands of legislators, judges, and the president into the hands of those who would steer the country to achieve their own personal agendas. In a recent commentary posted on the political blog Rawstory.com, noted political pundit, Thom Hartmann, opens his article stating, “Now it’s official. Twenty-seven men run this country.” Hartmann rightfully points the finger at the boneheaded move by the Supreme Court a decade ago that gave legal status to Citizen’s United. The decision literally allowed unrestricted dark money from corporations and individuals to funnel cash into the political arena.

The result is seen in the partisanship that grips the three bodies of government. Where there once was a chance of bipartisan cooperation across the aisles of Congress, those days are long gone. Rabid partisanship is the rule not the exception. Extreme conservatism and unbridled liberalism butt heads on a daily basis. Those caught in the middle, vote not their conscious, but line up like sheep to support the political party who put them in a position of power. Courts are packed with judges who feel legislating from the bench is their right, regardless of what the Constitution says or intended by the Founding Fathers. The presidency is little more than a glorified empty seat of power. Presidents are no longer respected, but ridiculed, reviled, and hated by the opposition party both at home and abroad.

It is little wonder that the mood of the country reflects this contentious climate in towns and cities across the nation. America is more polarized now than at any time since the Civil War. Local city council and school board meetings are ground zero battlegrounds pitting citizens against one another on topics ranging from religion, gender issues, civil rights, and how and what students read or are taught in the classroom. Issues that once lounged in the shadow of the Constitution’s protection are now flashpoints that pit neighbors, friends, and families against one another with victory at any cost the only acceptable outcome.

Both on the national and local levels, vitriol that takes the form of personal attacks is all too common. Shaming one’s opponents is the tool often used in today’s climate of discord. No one should be surprised by this turn of events. Shaming has a long and unhealthy place in America’s history books. Like many forms of control, shaming others is often the bailiwick of those in power whether it be politically, economically, or socially. From debtor’s prisons to the stocks on public squares to dunce caps in schools, America used shame as a corrective tool against those opposed to the goals of the powerful. Today is no different. While a crude and unflattering example of humankind’s insensitivity, shaming is an effective and efficient manner of alienating blocks of people who do not fit into the expectations of what the powerful want curtailed or controlled.

Shaming is tied to fear and guilt. White Nationalists fear losing their place in America’s rapidly changing demographics which places their position of authority in numbers at risk. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this when he stated, “The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.” King’s words play out time after time when Donald Trump holds a rally. His Make America Great Again (MAGA) campaign is at its roots nothing less than a call to arms of those who identify with his belief that those who oppose him are worthy of nothing less than shame and condemnation. The MAGA phenomenon as crude and unseemly as it is, at its core, is understandable on some levels. These are frightened people unsure of their place in an ever-evolving society. They point fingers and condemn those who would work for change and social justice.

While they could be seen as pitiable on some level, in Trump, they found a sounding board that plays into their false beliefs and supports the fear of victimhood that permeates the movement. They are literally held up as the true America by Trump’s rhetoric and feed on a steady diet of claims like the Democrats are a combination of socialist, Antifa radicals, pedophile devils, and malcontents who are attacking the very foundation the America they believe they are protecting. The sheer hyperbole of these beliefs is reason enough to question the motives and connection to realty that the MAGA supporters harbor. Regardless, they feel justified in finger pointing to assuage their sense of persecution and estrangement from an increasingly fragmented American society. They think they are being shut out of the national dialogue conveniently overlooking their pro-violence, white supremist, and fascist/authoritarian mindsets which goes contrary to the Constitution and American civility.

When trying to understand the roots of the current climate of shame afoot in American society, MAGA supporters are the go-to low hanging fruit of those who would use shame as a tool to ridicule opponents. Their acts to preserve their place in American society are often deadly comical and certainly contrary to democratic thinking. Yet, they are widely seen as the torch bearers from everything from Stop the Steal to the January 6 insurrection played out on the grounds of the national capital. In a opinion piece published by Salon, Michael Gueldry writes of the roots of the MAGA movement stating:

“What we might call the Great Demolition plot includes establishing a corporate oligarchy, a neo-feudalist regime based on long-term minoritarian rule and a malevolent pseudo-Christian theocracy undergirded by state thuggery and social authoritarianism, all of it infused with an incoherent ideological blend of anarchic libertarianism (on guns and most forms of regulation) and fascistic nightmare (white supremacy, antisemitism and numerous grades of conspiracy theory). Salon

As stated above, MAGA followers are the low hanging fruit, simply because the amount of press they receive from conservative media outlets and from politicians trying to appease the former guy in hope of winning his backing. The truth is there is more than enough to blame in the dumbing down and caustic atmosphere that grips the nation. Liberal and conservative Democrats deserve just as much blame in fanning the fires of dissension as their conservative and radical Republican counterparts. To heal this rift in American politics and society, the tenor of our national debates must evolve to a more civil and constructive discourse in which Americans discuss the big issues that affect daily life. In today’s contentious climate of accusations and counter accusations from all sides, the outlook can only be seen as bleak and depressing at best.

Living Large In Carson City: Tis The Season To Be Jolly . . . Not Edition

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
John Adams

This week the House of Representatives voted to go forward with the impeachment inquiry laying down the groundwork of how the public hearing will be conducted. Conventional wisdom would have one to believe the Republicans would be somewhat mollified with the vote. Think again. Weeks of complaining about lack of transparency in the behind closed doors disposition hearings, lack of ability to cross exam witnesses by the Republican lawmakers, no official full House vote for an impeachment inquiry, and the old standby, the proceeding were unconstitutional, all fell by the wayside. In one contested vote of 232/196 , the Democrats answered and addressed those spurious claims by granting nearly all of the Republicans’ previous demands.

Tom Boggioni of Raw Story reported,

Prior to the vote, Republicans were already calling the impeachment hearing and vote a “sham.” They argued against it vociferously.

As for what happens next, the New York Times reports that the proposed resolution, “would authorize the House Intelligence Committee — the panel that has been leading the investigation and conducting private depositions — to convene public hearings and produce a report that will guide the Judiciary Committee as it considers whether to draft articles of impeachment against President Trump.”

Additionally, “The measure would also give the president rights in the Judiciary Committee, allowing his lawyers to participate in hearings and giving Republicans the chance to request subpoenas for witnesses and documents.” Raw Story

Rep. Loopy Louie Gohmert went so far as to accuse the Democrats of staging a coup, confirming in the minds of many that Loopy Louie doesn’t understand the difference between a coup and upholding the constitution. He continued with his derogatory comments by claiming his fear that the country will be thrown into a civil war if the Democrats get their way, and armed conflict won’t be out of the question. Besides verging on sedition, his comments on the floor of the House tell a distressing tale of just how far some in the Republican Party will go to drive the country into an outright oligarchy more than it has become under the reign of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.

It defies common sense how the Republicans seem to have forfeited their patriotism and love of the country to acquiesce to the demands of the president. The question of a quid quo pro between Trump flunkies and the Ukraine is proven day in day out as officials go before committee after committee and affirm that many in the mix of career professionals diplomats all found the president’s actions with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky little more than a strong arm tacit to illicit dirt on Joe Biden. Trump continues to cry “perfect telephone call” in the face of mounting evidence that perfect is not an appropriate adjective for what went down.

Yet another symptom of the rot that Trump brought to the table can be seen in the number of officials who have been served subpoenas, yet ignored them and refused to give depositions to relevant committees on the Ukrainian debacle. Imagine if a normal middle or lower class individual decided to ignore a subpoena from a grand jury. The ink wouldn’t have time to dry on the arrest warrant before the person would be picked up and placed in custody. Criminal defense attorneys, Broden and Mickelsen from Dallas, lay out the consequences for ignoring either a state or federal grand jury subpoena in their company’s blog stating,

Whether you’ve received a subpoena to appear as a witness or a subpoena duces tecum, it’s never a good idea to simply ignore the subpoena. If you ignore a subpoena, a judge could hold you in criminal contempt and punish you accordingly.

Under Texas law, the judge has the authority to impose a fine on individuals who refuse to cooperate with a subpoena. For misdemeanor cases, the fine is $100. In felony cases, the fine can be as high as $500. Judges in Texas also have the authority to issue an arrest warrant for individuals who fail to comply with a subpoena.

Likewise, under federal law, judges have the power to hold a person who refuses to comply with a subpoena in criminal contempt. The judge can impose fines or order the person jailed for up to six months. If the person is convicted for criminal contempt, the person could serve even more time in jail. Broden and Mickelsen

The fact that Trump’s minions under his direction decided to ignore the subpoenas is not a surprise. The lawlessness of this administration is a given at this point considering his lies and flaunting of the Constitution and the rule of law. A biting dog is going to bite. It’s in their nature, and they are unable to act any differently. No, the blame in this case lies squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats in the House. Police personnel are taught when they draw their weapon they must be committed to using it if the situation warrants violent response. The Democrats don’t seem to get that when it comes to subpoenas. If Trump and his underlyings choose to act criminally, they should be treated as criminals.

The Democrats are not without enforcement powers. One of the more effective powers is the process of “inherent contempt” of Congress. Roll Call , a Washington based political publication on all things to do with Congress, describes the “inherent contempt” process like this,

Inherent contempt is Congress’ power — as implied but not directly stated in the Constitution — to enforce congressional subpoenas or respond to actions seen as obstructing their oversight and legislative processes.

Each chamber has the authority to unilaterally exercise that power by adopting a resolution authorizing its sergeant-at-arms to execute an arrest warrant against an official who refuses to comply with Congress. Roll Call

Why the Democrats are reluctant to exercise their right to penalize subpoena scofflaws is puzzling to say the least. Conventional wisdom would expect Trump to immediately pardon anyone scooped up and processed for breaking the law, but that might trigger even graver consequences for the president. Obstruction of Justice charges could be filed against him for further eroding the legislative process and the check and balance powers belonging to Congress. Possibly, the Democrat leadership wants to make as few waves as possible on the political front in fear of being blamed for staging a real “witch hunt” and alienating Independents and moderate Republicans who are in agreement that the subpoenas should not be ignored.

The one thing for certain is that America is deeply divided and getting more so every day. With the Trump media constantly repeating his lies to a rabid base and people like Gohmert making outlandish predictions, it is little wonder that the country is being torn apart due to Trump’s criminal activities. One wonders if there are any Republicans in Congress that see what is happening and will turn back to protecting the Constitution and the three branches of our Democratic republic. Or is it already too late with too many lies backed, too many scandals brewing, and a defiant tyrant seated in the Oval Office.

In the quote at the top of the page, Adams posits, “There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” This is the position that Americans find themselves in today. Is Democratic suicide inevitable? Can Congress pull the country back from the brink? Will cooler heads prevail and redirect the country’s debilitating demise away from ending this country’s glorious run on the world stage? The next few weeks should tell. 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Large In Carson City: Chaos As A Governing Policy Edition

A good chaos theory means you have a disciplined strategy behind the scenes of how you’re going to roll out policy. And then you do it in a way that inflicts chaos on the press and your opponents.

Jennifer Palmieri

I never really understood the Chaos Theory until Donald Trump became president. Even then, it’s taken three and a half years for its meaning to really sink in and the implications that it holds. The past month’s news cycle has, however, opened my eyes to just how effective it is when wielded by a master of bullshit like Trump.

For me, it all began with Mike Pence’s European junket that found him in Ireland staying Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Doonbeg over a hundred miles from Dublin where he had meeting scheduled. Sounded suspicious, but then, it was Mike Pence. Then there was Trump’s trial balloon about having the next G7 meeting at his Trump International Doral Golf Club in Miami. This was followed by the revelation that an unknown number of military flights were routinely routed to the Shannon Airport and personnel were forced to stay at the same golf course property in Doonbeg were Pence stayed. All of which lined Trump’s bank account.

Then there was Corey Lewandowski. His appearance before the House Judiciary Committee was nothing less than surreal. The fireworks started shortly after the top ranking Republican on the committee, Doug Collins of Georgia, gave an opening statement that ranged from firebrand accuser to snarling mad dog insanity which ultimately ended an unhinged chaotic screed and shameful defense of the president.

Lewandowski took it from there. The fact that he unselfconsciously admitted that he lied to the press when it suited his purpose, and that the president asked him to ask then Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take over the investigation away from Mueller were only two startling admissions that bled from Lewandowski mouth couched in bile and abject disdain for what used to pass as the rule of law. It was tiresome to watch and disheartening to endure.

Now, America is mired in yet another scandal based on a whistleblower’s claim that Trump acted inappropriately when he asked the president of Ukraine to uncover dirt on Joe Biden’s son. The issue stems from Biden pressing the president to fire a corrupt prosecutor who had come under criticism from American allies across Europe for is lack of moral rectitude. More on this later.

 America has to wake up to the fact that our democracy is under siege. It is hard to write that sentence, but the time for self-delusion and standing on the sidelines is over. Long over. Also, not to be a liberal bashing the conservative party, it is increasingly obvious that the Republican Party as it is today is not part of the solution. Americans witness daily the lack of concern and complicity that has become the norm between the Republican Party and the Trump administration. Support for meaningful gun control hovers around 55 % consistently for all Americans. Climate change is real whether the deniers would rather suck up to big oil than face the stark reality the planet is in trouble. Mitch McConnell’s iron grip on the Senate keeps any meaningful legislation from even coming to a vote. And the Republican Party demures and looks the other way. 

Of course, the real problem lies with Trump himself and his slash and burn approach to governance. The problem begins with the people he has chosen to run the heads of the departments (or left vacant) that are the lifeblood of the government. In January Shannon Vavra writing for Axios noted in a article,

Former oil industry lobbyist David Bernhardt became acting secretary of the Interior on Wednesday following the departure of Ryan Zinke.

Why it matters: President Trump campaigned on the promise of “draining the swamp.” But Bernhardt is just the latest in a revolving door of special interests to take over key positions in the president’s Cabinet. The New York Times’ Eric Lipton notes that as of Thursday, the Defense Department will be run by a former Boeing executive, the Department of Health and Human Services will be run by a former pharmaceutical lobbyist and the Environmental Protection Agency will be run by a former coal lobbyist. Axios

For a more in depth look at other swamp creatures heading influential department posts see The Economist’s article here.

Of course, there are the outright ideologues and political appointees that are rampant throughout the government. Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education, Rick Perry at the Department of Energy, Wilbur Ross at the Commerce Department, Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development, and on and on. Appointed more for their past support of Trump or as useful idiots who should never be placed in a position of power over people’s lives, the ragtag team of sycophants are dismantling hard fought gains by past presidents of both parties  that will take years to correct if they can be corrected. The result is our democracy is being attacked and taken over by plutocrats and hucksters whose only goal is blatant self aggrandisement nothing more. 

Even more disturbing is Trump’s choices for his inner circle – those who do the work of henchmen (and women) to keep his small hands for being sullied. Starting with the low-hanging fruit in no particular order, Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway. Conway has never heard a truth or fact that she didn’t try to twist into a compliment that praised the president and trashed the “liberal media” or others who stray into her gunsights. White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, comes off as little more than a yes man without a spine and a obsequious hit man for Trump. It is safe to say that no lie or distortion is too big, too egregious, or blatantly false that Mulvaney will not repeat in an effort to pander to the president.

Two of Trump’s appointments defy both logic and good sense to say nothing about the flaunting of our democracy by putting power into these two men’s hands. Attorney General Bill Barr is a case in point. Now known as Trump’s “fixer”, there is little doubt that Barr is the “wall” that Trump constructed to keep his transgressions from seeing the light of day. From Mueller’s report to declaring the aforementioned whistleblower’s report from prosecution, Barr is the proverbial fly in the ointment when it comes to justice and the rule of law concerning Trump’s shenanigans.

Then there is Stephen Miller; Trump’s immigration guru. Filled with hate, self-importance, vile beliefs, and a lack of empathy and humanity, he is the Trump poster boy who represents the most base of Trump’s despicable administration. Miller alone is proof enough that the president is a soulless person who should never have become president.

Yesterday, the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi decided to begin a formal impeachment inquiry. The whistleblower scandal proved to be one bridge too far for some of the most staid Democrats in the House. The real issue is will the Republicans step up and abandon Trump and call him out as the amoral, reckless wretch that he is or let him skate once more? Will the Senate under Mitch McConnell moved forward on Articles of Impeachment if the House follows through and deliver the coup de gras to the floundering excuse for a public official?

This has always been the real issue. Trump on his own is a blumping clown who deserves nothing less than abject ridicule. From the “pussy grabber” tape to sucking up to Putin to kowtowing to Saudi Arabia, the Republicans have turned both a blind eye and a deaf ear to all of Trump’s lies and what would be comical faux pas’ were they not so serious in their implications. Chances are they will not. They will adopt the line that the impeachment will harm the Democrats at the polls as the “faithful” come out in numbers to reelect the Great Orange One. Shame on them.

Living Large In Carson City: A Republican With Convictions Edition

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In a democracy, you believe it or not.

In a dictatorship, you believe it or else. Evan Esar

This weekend saw something occur that for the past two years has been out of this nation’s reality. No, women did not gain control over the right to choose. The nation’s farmers did not gain a voice in the tariff wars. Steve Mnuchin didn’t have a change of heart and released the president’s tax returns for the past six years. And no, Mitch McConnell didn’t resign his position as leader of the Senate in shame and ignominy. Besides being liberals fondest wet dream, none of those happened.

What did happen was Republican Representative Justin Amash, (R, MI 3rd district) dragged himself out of the swamp that Trump built and defied the Holy Orange One by stating unceremoniously that Trump lied, Attorney General Barr misrepresented the facts of the Mueller investigation, and that the president is guilty of obstruction of justice as laid out in the Mueller investigation. Amash pointedly states few Republicans bothered to read Mueller’s findings. First elected to Congress in 2011, up until this weekend, this darling of the Tea Party has more or less toed the party line voting 62% of the time with Trump supported issues. Yet, through his careful reading and interpretation of the redacted Mueller report, he came to this conclusion,

People who say there were no underlying crimes and therefore the president could not have intended to illegally obstruct the investigation—and therefore cannot be impeached—are resting their argument on several falsehoods: — Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 20, 2019

That is a pretty way of saying Barr, Trump, and the feckless GOP are lying or are just too lazy to read the full report, think for themselves, and come up with the obvious conclusion Amash came to almost immediately. Let that sink in. A staunch conservative read the Mueller report and came to the same conclusion as the Democratic Party regarding Mueller’s findings. There was no exoneration. There was no witch hunt. There were only facts and the condemning assumptions that came along with the report.

As America has come to expect, the unholy backlash against Amash has been overwhelming, constant, and not just a little crazy inspiring in the president. Of course, Trump’s reaction was expected. His response has been brutal, cowardly, and without merit. Americans have come to expect bellicosity and outrage as the go-to emotional Trump response. Amash stood up to the leader of his party and seriously put in question his own reelection in the 2013 primary. Indeed, a primary challenger stepped up immediately after Amash’s Tweet and has been given the thumbs up Trump and his minions.

No, Trump’s response has been nothing out of the ordinary. His modus operandi in any situation where someone stands up to his bullying has been to hit back . . . hard and to continue with a kamikaze like attack strategy not unlike America saw against Stormy Daniels, James Comey, Mueller, Michael Kohn, and a laundry list of cabinet members who had the temerity to speak truth to Trump’s false power. Amash obviously expected the president’s reaction and has doubled down in a series of Tweets clarifying his assertions made a few days ago.  From The Hill,

Amash argued it would be inaccurate to say “there were no underlying crimes” revealed by Mueller’s investigation, that obstruction of justice requires an underlying crime, that the president should be allowed to use any means to end a so-called frivolous investigation, and that the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors” requires actual criminal charges.

While the unlikely hero of the day, Amash, and Trump participate in the hissy fit du jour, the Republican Party has sat back and thoughtfully contemplated the situation, weighing the veracity of both sides of the argument . . . not! In what has become an incomprehensible pattern, Republican Senators and Representatives alike have turned over on their backs, kicking their heels in the air and crying crocodile tears while they loudly call foul. These are supposedly intelligent, educated men and women, many of whom are lawyers themselves, but choose to turn their back on the rule of law and continue to support a man who has essentially tossed the Constitution out the window to suit his whims and fancies.

Here is just a sample,

In the 48 hours that followed Amash’s intervention, the five-term libertarian was rebuked by the president, dismissed by Republican colleagues and challenged from the right in his district.

Trump said he was “never a fan” of the congressman he called “a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy”.

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, accused him of “parroting the Democrats’ talking points on Russia”. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, questioned if he was truly a Republican. The Guardian

Quick to circle the wagons and condemn anyone who criticizes the president, Republicans have effectively abrogated their power and sullied their oath of office to placate a man who’s questionable morality and grasp on reality is questioned by  many Americans. A majority of Americans do not approve of the president’s tenure in office, yet this fact seems to escape the vast majority of Republicans. One former Republican and Trump critic, Jennifer Rubin, has harsh words for her former party and its members. She wrote shortly after the avalanche of criticism of Amash began. She wrote in a column for The Washington Post,

So we return to the question that vexes NeverTrumpers and Democrats: Why are Republicans such quivering sycophants, willing to lie and debase themselves in support of an unpopular president who is repudiating many of the principles they have spent their lives advancing? The Washington Post

In answer to her question, she comes up with three distinct “categories” of Republicans and for the reasons they justify their support for Trump. Rubin calls the first group the “cynics”. These are Republicans who know Trump is not up to the job but see an opportunity to get as many Republican “wins” as possible as in federal judgeships, lower taxes, and the opportunity to “bolster their resumes” by having been a part of the Trump presidency.

Her second category is really a pitiable group who fear that if they cross Trump they will lose their jobs either in government or in the public sphere in terms of “think tanks, right-wing media, donors, . . . No plum lobbying gigs, Fox contributorships for them” Rubin writes. They fear “ostracism would ruin them financially and personally”, so they swallow what little pride they have and make a deal with the devil to ensure on some level they retain their tarnished bona fides.

Finally, Rubin points to the a vast category that may be the worst of the lot, “cranks and haters”. This group includes the deplorables, white nationalists, the ultra conservatives and a vast majority of white people willing to push the limits of the Constitution to ensure they retain a rapidly shrinking place in an ever-increasingly diverse America. An America they believe seems to be leaving them behind in favor of brown and black people, non-Christians, people of different sexual orientations, and others who aren’t like them. You have to admire Rubin’s prescient insight into the party she supported for years, but in the end, had to admit little resembles the one she knew in the past. Her assessment of Amash is both admirable and spot on.

Beyond the optics and delight liberals take in seeing the president brought down a notch by one of his own, Amash as done something that Republicans and not a few Democrats are wont to do: Stand on principle and defend the Constitution which is under attack by this administration. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer have “rational” arguments against impeaching the president, arguing without Republican support impeachment would be dead in the water in the Senate.

This is hard to argue against, but when coupled with the all assault on Congress’s lawful task of oversight, that argument will eventually have to be overcome and impeachment follow unless things change. No American wants to see the country go through the impeachment process; it’s a nasty, soul-killing event that does the country no good. However, sometimes, bad apples have to be culled, or chance losing the entire crop. Amash’s stance, as brave and laudatory that it is, probably will not start a movement in the Republican Party to stand up to Trump. Yet, it is a chink in what was once a formidable cloak Trump surrounded himself in for the last two years. One has to wonder how far down the rabbit hole America slides before men and women of conscience say no more.

Living Large In Carson City: Now that the day of reckoning has arrived, they cry socialism! E. A. Sherman Edition

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 “When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.” Winston Churchill

The alternative universe that America has become continues to chip away at both decency and sanity as the Trump locomotive to hell steams merry along toward parts unknown. Some weeks are simply bizarre in their oddity. Others, like this one, crosses over to bat shit crazy and picks up speed. The convening of this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is partially to blame. Crazy is as crazy does when that band of lunatics come together to eat their young and idolize the more base attributes of what it means to be an American. From Michelle Malkin making fun of John McCain’s ghost to wild man Sebastian Gorka’s take down of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s  New Green Deal, the crowd loved every minute of it and showed just how far afield the Republicans have wandered. Gorka, conversely, tiptoed very closely to waxing poetic when he stated,

“You know what the biggest threat to America is? Not socialism in Moscow, socialism here in America,” Gorka said, encouraging attendees to “boo” and “hiss” at the idea. “It’s a watermelon,” he added. “Green on the outside, deep, deep red communist on the inside. They want to take your pick-up truck, they want to rebuild your home, they want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.” The Daily Beast

I know. Breath-taking in its simplicity and utter stupidity but not without a hint of humor; something I am not sure Gorka intended.

Of course, not to be outdone, Donald made his appearance on the CPAC stage by (as Stephen Colbert noted) dry humping the American flag. Colbert also quipped that it was the first time an American flag volunteered to be burned. Fun times, no? More on Trump and his two-hour rambling speech where he pulled out every meme from the past two years along with his tired outlandish statements on crowd size to his adoration of, well, Donald Trump.

What fascinates me about the CPAC debacle is the rabid nature of the crowd that attends this abortion of right thinking; Malkin’s McCain comment got a standing ovation from some of the delegates present. These are not the basest of the base who attend Trump’s rallies. Certainly, there is probably a contingent of those people present, but this group represent the cream of the Republican Party. They are the money givers. They come to see the Republican elite speak about issues like guns, abortion, the Green New Deal, and to bash the Democrat Party. This year’s theme, as so eloquently stated by Gorka, is the socialization of the Democrats. It isn’t true, but just like their exalted Orange Leader, truth has little merit or credibility when it comes to degrading more than half of the American public.

A case in point was Michael Cohen’s public testimony last week. As has been noted by numerous pundits, the Republicans were more intent on destroying Cohen’s credibility than exploring the substance of his testimony, which was more than a little damning of the president. Yet, led by the popping jay, Benghazi nutcase, Jim Jordan, ranking minority member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the Republicans put on a third grade snit fit over the fact that Cohen couldn’t be trusted because he had already lied to the committee (if you haven’t seen SNL’s cold opening last week, click here). The concept of someone “seeing the light” and turning over a new leaf was beyond their small minds. The party line was attack, attack, attack the messenger and leave the rot smoldering at the top of the party alone.

Like many Americans, I haven’t been able to understand the Republicans’, and especially the basest of Trump’s base, outright vitriol and out-of control-anger at the rest of the country. Again, like many Americans, I thought once Trump had won the presidency that he would tone down the rhetoric and seek a middle ground that recognized all Americans’ shared values. We were all in for a surprise. Rather than ratchet down the ill-humor, he took his vile angry message from 10 to 15 as Matt Damon so accurately spoofed Brett Kavanaugh last year. For all intents and purposes, he has never left the campaign trail, holding one large meeting after another parroting the same message over and over again: CNN Bad, Fake News, Democrats want to turn America into a socialist country, the press is the enemy of the people and on and on.

One theory of Trump’s madness and cockeyed world view was explored by Mehdi Hasan in the NewStatesmanAmerica in an article titled Could Donald Trump refuse to leave office when his presidency is up? Hasan posits that Trump’s fascination with authoritarian dictators may be an underlying secret desire to mold himself into one of the same as time goes by. He points out that in the past that Trump often opined or joked about radical thugs who have come president for life or have shown strong armed tactics to keep the people of their countries in check. He has said these things with a smile on his face to possibly soften the impact of his words. Yet, Hasan wonders,

So it was all tongue-in-cheek, right? Right?

Perhaps not. “Authoritarians and aspiring authoritarians often ‘joke’ about power grabs or autocratic behaviour as a ‘trial balloon’ to gauge public reaction,” says Brian Klaas, an American political scientist who specialises in authoritarianism and political violence, and is author of the recent book, The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy. Klaas has a point: Trump’s fellow populist, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, “joked” about assassinating reporters when he came to office in 2016. Today, the Philippines ranks as one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a journalist . . . .

Then there is Trump’s domestic record. Political scientists agree that authoritarian or illiberal rule is not only the result of military coups or tanks on the streets. Rather, the slow erosion of democratic norms can also open the door to creeping authoritarianism. Wittingly or unwittingly, Trump has borrowed from the playbook of every successful autocrat of the modern era. NewStatesmanAmerica

Hasan and Klaas’ theory explains Trump’s erratic behavior at the CPAC meeting earlier this week. Hasan goes on to illuminate the steps a textbook authoritarian follows to take over a government and set himself up as the autocratic ruler of the country. He writes,

Undermine the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary? Check. Trump has attacked “so-called” judges who have ruled against him while tweeting that a New York terror suspect “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY”.

Politicise law enforcement and the security services? Check. Trump fired FBI chief James Comey, tried to sack special counsel Robert Mueller and now wants to remove his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Demonise the free press? Check. Trump has repeatedly lambasted his critics in the media as “fake news”, “scum” and “losers”. He has dubbed leading news organisations such as CNN and the New York Times as “the enemy of the American people”.

Fetishise the military? Check. Trump has surrounded himself with unelected former generals – his chief of staff and his defence secretary, among them – and even demanded a military parade be held in Washington, DC.

Delegitimise the electoral process? Check. Trump has claimed that “millions of people… voted illegally” for his opponent and has spread false claims about “serious voter fraud” in the United States.

Criminalise the opposition? Trump has pressured the justice department to investigate his 2016 opponent, “Crooked” Hillary Clinton, and called for the jailing of her former aide Huma Abedin. NewStatesmanAmerica

Trump’s unhinged two hour long speech at CPAC plays into Hasan’s theory a bit too nicely for comfort. I would not encourage anyone to sit down and listen to the speech in its entirety, but Chris Cillizza in his column The Point lists 67 of Trump’s most outlandish statements, which are chilling in their scope and down right crazy off the wall Trumpisms.

Hasan wrote his article a year ago, and arguably, things have only gotten worse. This week he published a corollary of sorts in the exceptional publication The Intercept titled Yes, Let’s Defeat or Impeach Donald Trump. But What If He Refuses to Leave the White House? If The Intercept article is anything, it is scary frightening. He begins with this little scenario,

Trump has been laying the groundwork for 2020. Think about it: Why would a president who has violated a number of U.S. laws, traditions, and norms — from obstructing justice, to defying the emoluments clause, to threatening the free press, to inciting violence — show any deference to Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution?

Consider this scenario: On the morning of November 3, 2020, it becomes clear that Trump has lost both the electoral college and the popular vote to the Democratic candidate, whoever they may be. The president, however, rather than calling his Democratic opponent to concede, holds a rally with his supporters at which he declares himself the winner, tells the crowd “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” slams the “fake news” media, and claims “millions and millions” of people voted illegally for the Democrats. He denounces a “deep state” coup and warns of “violence.”

Do you really think this isn’t possible? That this potential scenario shouldn’t make us all very afraid? The Intercept

Hasan goes on to cite Trump’s narcissistic personality that leads him to believe he can do no wrong and knows more about everything than you or me. One could almost get the impression that Trump thinks he is ordained by god to lead this country. I write almost because I don’t think Trump has in his small personality or brain a scintilla of godliness or understanding of anything divine.

What Hasan’s articles does for me is answer that haunting question of why is Trump’s base, and for all practical purposes the Republican Party, so angry and pissed off? It seems obvious that Trump is grooming them in case he needs their support should the American people come to their senses and kick him out of office in 2020. If that happens, the ensuing days after November 2 will be crucial to whether or not our democracy can survive the Trump presidency. I would like to reply in the affirmative, but then there again, I never thought he would be president in the first place.

Living Large In Carson City: In The Kingdom Of The Blind, The One-eyed Man Is King Edition

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The problem with writing about Donald Trump is that once an idea pops into my head, and I think about it for a half a day or overnight, four or five other horrific acts come to light that are as equally worthy of ridicule. As one of the pundits of The Intercept noted recently, by the time I finish writing this piece, Trump will have told 27 more lies that defy credulity. The man wallows in his falsehoods. It would be funny if it were not so dangerous and maddening.

On Tuesday,  Trump entered a new phase of his truth challenged tenure as the most powerful man in the world. He lied once again to support an unpopular opinion that he wants to put over on the United States and the world. In a press release (aptly named), Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia, he sold out Jamal Khashoggi and America’s good name on the world stage by putting profit over a man’s life.

While Trump’s association with the truth has been an issue from day one of his administration, this new phase tears the mask off of his illusion by putting himself at odds with his own security and intelligence agencies – again – and for what? Ostensibly, his rationale is that the United States would lose $450 billion dollars in arms sales in the future and countless jobs. He stated,

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States.

This sounds great on paper, and his statements of “facts” will no doubt pass muster for his walking zombie base, but there is a catch. There is no hard and fast “deal” that will hold the Saudi government to the pledge of investing or spending $450 billion for American goods or services. His “hundreds of thousands of jobs” is down from October 20 when he stated the deal would produce 100 million jobs for American workers. The Pulitzer Prize winning website, Politifact, gave the 100 million job estimate a Pants on Fire rating and came to these conclusions,

Key takeaways
  • Saudi Arabia has not ordered $110 billion worth of military goods and services.
  • Saudi Arabia has not ordered $450 billion worth of goods and services across the board.
  • Over one million jobs are not at stake. Politifact

While the $450 billion figure is bogus, Trump’s intentions, however, are rooted in monetary gain . . . his. Trump and his family have had ongoing financial ties with the Saudis for years. Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal claims to have bailed Trump out of bankruptcy twice by purchasing goods or providing backing for Trump’s failing hotel empire. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law, has had extensive dealings with  Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MSB), the supposed mastermind of the Khashoggi killing. Kushner’s dealiings go beyond his  quest for peace in the Middle East to rather mysterious meetings and providing secret information to MSB that targeted supposed enemies of the young Saudi prince.

It does not take a rocket scientist to envision Trump and his family’s motives for making nice with the Saudis. Once America can rid itself of the pest that has become Trump, he will certainly use his connections and call in the “favors” (like siding with Saudi Arabia over the CIA that MsB is innocent) for personal advancement of his goals. In effect, Trump placed a foreign power over the United States simply for monetary gain. In one fatal strike at our democratic process, he has set himself up as the final arbiter of American foreign policy that just so happens to be personally beneficial for himself and his family.

In a very real sense, this is an aspect of Trump that has always been just under the surface, but with his siding with the Saudis, American can see a deeper, more brazen set of actions that reveal a side of Trump not openly seen before. He is either deeply afraid of what is coming in the form of Robert Mueller’s probe, or like a junk yard dog facing overwhelming odds, in his case, an up an coming recalcitrant Democratic majority in the House of Representative in January. It is entirely possible he thinks he has little to lose by going down the road he has taken in recent days. So, why not grab for the gusto before the party winds down, and he has to face the consequences?

Regardless, now until the time the new Congress is seated in January is a time of great peril for our democracy. Already, some state officials who were turned out during the midterms are rushing legislation through their state governments to curtail the power of the incoming public officials. Take Wisconsin for instance,

In Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers who gave Gov. Scott Walker wide-reaching executive powers are trying to roll back those powers before Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who defeated Walker in this month’s election, is sworn in next year. Salon

One has to wonder how the Republican Party shifted from a party of ideas to a party of ideologues whose slash and burn rule book is the antithesis of democratic ideals that made this country great. On a local and state level, much can be done to stymie these obvious acts of sour grapes, but nationally, the stakes are even greater.

Christopher Hedges’ column on the website TruthdigAre We About to Face Our Gravest Constitutional Crisis?, brings up some interesting scenarios that he sees could be grounds for concern.

Before this lame-duck Congress adjourns in December we could face the most serious constitutional crisis in the history of the republic if Donald Trump attempts to shut down the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

A supine and pliant Republican Party, still in control of the House and the Senate, would probably not challenge Trump. The Supreme Court, which would be the final arbiter in any legal challenge to the president, would probably not rule against him. And his cultish followers, perhaps 40 million Americans, would respond enthusiastically to his trashing of democratic institutions and incitements of violence against the press, the Democratic Party leadership, his critics and all who take to the streets in protest. The United States by Christmas, if Trump plays this card, could become a full-blown authoritarian state where the rule of law no longer exists and the president is a despot. Truthdig (go here to see the photo accompanying the article if nothing else)

I am not a fan of Hedges normally, and certainly not one for unfounded conspiracy theories, but the argument he makes through his interview with Ralph Nader and his own prognostications, unfortunately, makes too much sense. Before the midterms, I was worried that if the Democrats won both the Senate and the House that Trump might claim the voting results invalid and negate them if he could and declare martial law. Sounds a little nutty, no? Yet, as Hedges points out concerning his theory, Trump has flouted his disregard for the constitutionality of his acts before by firing James Comey and Jeff Session. Nader’s vision of what might be coming is entirely too chilling,

“Trump knows once the Democrats control the House, they can subpoena the records of his administration,” Ralph Nader said when I reached him by phone in Connecticut. “He’s going to want to get this over with, even if it sparks a constitutional crisis, while the Republicans still control the Congress. There’s little doubt this will all come to a head before the Christmas holidays. Truthdig

Again, I am not one to acknowledge unfounded conspiracy theories, yet, given the Trump’s track record over the past two years and his increasingly erratic behavior of the past week, I have to wonder. Of course, much of the glue that holds a theory like this one together is placed squarely on the shoulders of his radicalized base. Hedges notes in his article,

. . . Trump, with Fox News acting as a megaphone for his hate speech and conspiracy theories, has been holding Nuremberg-like rallies across the country to prepare the roughly 40 percent of the public who remain loyal to him to become shock troops. His followers are filled with hate and resentment for the elites who betrayed them. They are hungry for revenge. They do not live in a fact-based universe. And they are awash in weapons.

While this is a disturbing hypothesis, we have to remember that many of Trump’s supporters are angry old white men. It is doubtful that those over 65 years old would be willing to take to the streets to physically support a Trump based coup. The younger supporters include alt-right members, poorly educated white men (and women), and many who see Washington as severely broken and has to be fixed. Do they have enough moxie to back the Orange One up if push came to shove? Who knows?

It occurs to me that the best hope of controlling Trump and limiting the damage he can and is doing to our democracy is found in the ranks of moderate Republicans. The people who got more than they bargained for when they threw their lot in with him two years ago. Reasonable speculation would seem to indicate that as Trump slides deeper into his own demonic dreams of grandeur that the middle of the road Republicans will have to take a stand against him. Unfortunately, as the past two years has taught Americans, we shouldn’t hold our breath on that possibility either.

FYI: This came to light this morning CIA has tapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Large In Carson City: V. Hugo: The Wicked Envy And Hate; It’s Their Way Of Admiring Edition

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Most people in our  hyper-political polarized arena identify with either the Democratic or Republican parties, or they are at the least claim to be conservative or progressive if not outright liberal. Sure, there are the Independents, Bull Moosers and the like, but most stick to the two major groups.  I Think Therefore I Am Not A Democrat Or A Republican in the best of all worlds would mean our elected officials are bipartisan. Meaning that while they identify with one of the two major parties, they are willing to work with the other side of the aisle to get things accomplished.

Bipartisan is a funny word, especially when it comes out of the mouth of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This is not unlike Israel saying the Palestinians aren’t so bad and should be given more respect. It just doesn’t jibe with reality. Earlier this week, McConnell gave an interview to Fox News which appears on their website under the title, Sen. Mitch McConnell: Will Dems work with us, or simply put partisan politics ahead of the country? Despite the fact that on the face of the comment, he is skewing the playing field implying the Democrats don’t have the same regard for the country as he and the Republicans have, which is totally false. He brings up the fact that Congress will now be a divided body with the Republicans holding the Senate and Democrats holding the House. He seems to saying, “What could possibly happen?”

Then he says something weird, stating,

Needless to say, the past two years of unified Republican government will be remembered as a period of historic productivity.

Huh? Sure, as he points out, the two parties have worked together to do the bare minimum of governing by taking care of the nuts and bolts of running the government, but what have the Republicans accomplished toward their or the president’s goals. Health Care and the repeal of Obama Care didn’t happen. Immigration reform is in shambles or would be had a plan been put forward. There wasn’t.

The overhaul of the tax plan and the passage of the grossly unfair humongous tax bill turned out to favor the very wealthy with little or nothing given to the middle and lower classes.

A Congressional Budget Office estimate for the conference agreement announced mid-December said the bill would add $1.455 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years. The Tax Policy Center mapped out how different groups would benefit — or not — over time under the plan, and it projected that people with the highest incomes would see the biggest cuts, while lower earners would see smaller changes to their tax bills, or even have less money after taxes than they would without the bill.

The fact that McConnell can say something like,

What we can make of those opportunities will depend on our Democratic colleagues. Will they choose to go it alone and simply make political points? Or will they choose to work together and actually make a difference?

with a straight face is laughable if it were not so hypocritical. This is the man who said before Obama’s first midterms that the Republicans goal should be to make Obama a one term president. Not, how can we work together with the president but how to boot him out of office as soon as possible? Granted, this is probably the goal of every party that is out of power. It just seems so creepy the way he delivered the statement.

McConnell’s faux concern over the Democrats newly found power makes it difficult to believe he cares even a twit about working with the opposite party.

That message may have been lost on a few House Democrats, who have made clear their preference for investigations over policy results. After years of rhetoric, it’s hardly news that some are more interested in fanning the flames of division than reaching across the aisle. (my emphasis)

Years of rhetoric? This is the man who let Merrick Garland’s confirmation for the Supreme Court sit stagnant for 293 days. Something tells me that McConnell has little interest in bipartisanship. His modus operandi has always been grab everything he can for the Republicans and screw the Democrats. So, let’s not pretend that he is holding out an olive branch to his political opponents. If he is doing that, there is surely a dagger concealed in the foliage that he will gladly pull out and thrust it into the heart of any Dem foolish enough to take him seriously.

What the Republican held Congress did do was run rough shod over the American people in their quest to show favor to big business, Wall Street, and the super rich. It is hard for me to believe anyone would think the Republican Party has the good of the nation behind any of their plans. They have allowed Trump’s horde of marauders to gut environmental controls ranging from clear skies to clean drinking water and place our national forests and parks in jeopardy of being destroyed by commercial greed.

The one galvanizing lesson to be learned from two years of Trump rule going forward is that when Trump needs backing the Republican held Senate will be there to do his bidding. Yet, when McConnell stated above, “After years of rhetoric, it’s hardly news that some are more interested in fanning the flames of division than reaching across the aisle. (my emphasis) The unintended meaning of his words is something like, “Holy shit, the Democrats won the House and are going to kick our butts.” Well, something like that.

But yeah, it is payback time and McConnell knows better than anyone that the jig is up. The Republicans have controlled Congress since those midterms mentioned above in Obama’s first term or nearly eight years and look at the mess America finds itself in today. We are a laughing stock on the world stage. Our allies are so frightened of our president and the Congress that backs him that they are thinking of arming themselves, not just against Russia and China, but the United States as well.  Let that sink in. Our most reliable allies are scared witless of us.

Of course, the Democrats are going to target Trump and his erratic behavior and criminal activities. Who knows what Mueller will reveal in coming days. Who knows whose name is on the many indictments he reportedly has ready to serve. Bipartisanship? Sure, I am all for bipartisanship when both sides play by the same rules. By definition, those are not McConnell’s rules.