whistle and go fishing

My heart’s in the ice house. John Prine is dead, the world is locked down, and Bernie Sanders has suspended his presidential campaign.

I have mixed feelings about that last thing. Last July I said “I just wish he hadn’t decided to run for POTUS again” so you’d think I’d be glad that Bernie suspended his campaign. And I sorta kinda am. But I’m also sorta kinda not. I’m sorta kinda glad on account of Bernie has some followers who flat out piss me off and (in my opinion) taint his campaign. But I’m sorta kinda not glad because Bernie has almost single-handedly shifted the Democratic Party to the left.

He did that partly by being a Democrat of Convenience. He runs as a Democrat without actually being a Democrat, but his positions are so popular he yanked the Democratic Party leftward. There are folks in the Democratic National Committee who aren’t happy about that, of course. And that brings me back to being sorta kinda glad Bernie is suspending his campaign now, at this point in time, rather than later. Because some of his supporters are DNC conspiracy theorists. They believe the DNC ‘rigged’ the primaries to defeat Bernie (and, in some cases, to re-elect Comrade Trump).

Here are some actual, not-made-up, real comments taken from a couple of Facebook groups that support Bernie:

— [T]he DNC plots against Bernie, violate the constitution by stealing the election/votes, asks us to vote for an absolutely terrible choice instead and then whines to us about how they won’t beat trump because of US!?
— The Democrat Party could have changed their voting date if they wanted, but they rigged their election again to boot Bernie out
— The DNC knows the numbers, and either believe they don’t need Sanders voters for them to win, or else they actively want Trump to win. Either way, my one vote isn’t going to change the election. I bear zero responsibility for their loser plans.
— I want to be counted as one of the growing number of people rejecting the DNC
— If you’re voting for Biden you’re giving the DNC consent to rigging elections.
— I’m willing to lose this election to trump if it teaches the DNC the lesson that they Will Never win another election ever again until they listen to us and run a progressive candidate.

There are Sanders supporters who apparently actually believe the DNC is somehow violating the US Constitution by setting rules for the Democratic Party primaries. Who apparently actually believe the DNC is secretly working to elect Trump. Who apparently actually believe NOT voting for Biden will somehow teach the DNC a lesson.

Look, the DNC sets the rules for the Democratic Party primaries because they’re the Democratic Party’s National Committee. Who else is going to set those rules? The Green Party? The Republican Party? This is how things work everywhere. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees are chosen by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nomination Board, not by the Country Music Assocation’s Nomination Board. Michelin stars are awarded to restaurants by Michelin’s full-time staff of anonymous restaurant reviewers, not by Yelp feedback.

Bernie didn’t lose the nomination because the DNC conspired against him; he lost because more people showed up and voted for Biden. Warren didn’t lose because the DNC conspired against her; she lost because people didn’t vote for her. Booker lost because people didn’t vote for him. Harris lost because people didn’t vote for her.

Joe Biden, go figure.

Joe Biden won because people voted for him. Why did they vote for him? Damned if I know. I don’t think he was anywhere near the best candidate (SPOILER: the best candidate was Warren). But Biden got the votes. You don’t have to like it to accept the reality of it. You don’t have to LIKE gravity to accept that if you drop a rock, it’ll fall on the grass (if you’re outside and standing on grass — let’s not get too fussy about this).

The other reason I’m sorta kinda glad Bernie has suspended his campaign now is so we can get the following completely predictable bullshit conversation out of the way. You know the conversation I’m talking about, but here are a few actual, not-made-up, real examples of it (again, straight from Facebook pro-Bernie groups):

— A choice between two rapists is no choice at all. Joe Biden is Trump with fewer obnoxious tweets and even more dementia.
— I’m not voting for another monster just to stop a monster.
— Voting in the moderate choice is just as bad as trump.
— what is the real difference between Biden and trump
— There is no really big difference between Biden and trump…they are both representing the neoliberal agenda
— I can’t vote for either with a clear conscience. Trump and Biden are sexual predators. I can’t vote for them and feel good about it.

Okay, Biden wasn’t my first choice. Hell, he wasn’t even in my top five. He might have been in my top ten, but near the bottom. But Jesus suffering fuck, people, he’s in a totally different political galaxy than Comrade Trump and is infinitely preferable.

If you think there’s no difference between Joe Biden and this fuckwit, then you’re an idjit.

Biden says he’ll increase taxes on the wealthy. The Tax Policy Center calculated that Biden’s plan would raise $4 trillion over a decade—one of the largest wealth transfers in American history. He supports subsidies and Medicaid funding, along with a public option, in order to achieve universal health care. It’s not Medicare for All, but it’s an improvement over the current feral insurance system. He’s advocating a US$17 trillion clean energy investment, and tighter regulations to bring emissions to zero. He’s supporting $2 trillion in new spending on early education, post-secondary education, and housing. He’s talking about a $1.3 trillion infrastructure plan. He’s in favor of a $15 minimum wage. He wants to close the gun show loophole and ban the sale of assault-style weapons. He’s in favor of immigration reform and wants to provide undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. He’s just come out in support of Warren’s bankruptcy plan.

Comrade Trump is opposed to all of those things. If you say there’s no difference between Biden and Trump, you’re completely fucking delusional. Or stupid. Or a Russian troll. Or so goddamned well established in your privilege that Trump’s policy depredations won’t have much effect on your life. Also? Fuck you in the neck, just on general principles.

I’ll vote for Joe Biden. Hell, I’ll hold my nose and even campaign for him. I’ll probably give him some money. Not because he’s the best candidate, but because I can forgive myself for voting for him. I couldn’t forgive myself for voting for anybody else.

As the poet Prine said:

Father forgive us for what we must do
You forgive us we’ll forgive you
We’ll forgive each other till we both turn blue
Then we’ll whistle and go fishing in heaven.

in which I respond to billy’s questions

The fact that we’re in the early stages of a pandemic makes re-litigating Comrade Trump’s impeachment seem like a waste of time and energy. But I made a promise to respond to comments made in the preceding post.

It was a promise made to a guy who disagrees with almost everything I believe in, whose views are almost universally the opposite of my own, and who has over the years repeatedly challenged the stuff I write. But here’s the thing: this guy has absolutely no reason to read this blog — yet he does. Not consistently; there have been long stretches in which I haven’t heard from him. But I respect the fact that he occasionally reads stuff he dislikes and disagrees with, because getting out of the bubble of agreement is always important — for everybody, conservative and liberal alike.  Since he made the effort to read and disagree with me, I feel an obligation to make the effort to respond. So here we go.

1. Where is the law that says it is illegal to ask another nation to investigate someone you think it corrupt and possibly doing something illegal in said nation?

It’s not illegal. In fact, it’s fairly routine when done through official channels. If there’s information that a US citizen is or has been engaged in a crime in another nation, the Department of Justice contacts that nation’s law enforcement agency and they conduct a joint investigation. It’s treated as a matter of law and it’s handled by law professional prosecutors and policing agencies.

But that isn’t what happened. Trump personally called Zelensky and in the course of their conversation asked him to launch an investigation of the son of a political opponent as a favor. He also suggested Ukraine to coordinate that investigation with his own personal private attorney. That’s wildly inappropriate. Making that request in the same phone call that included Zelensky’s plea for promised military support from the US only emphasizes how inappropriate it was.

2. No again, not a single aide who “expressed concern” had first hand knowledge of the call, not a single one.Each and every one was at best 2nd hand knowledge or even 3rd. Plus the call transcript was released and there was nothing there even close to something that looked like a crime.

That’s just not accurate. We only know the names of seven officials who listened in on the call between Trump and Zelensky, although there are probably at least half a dozen other aides who were on the call. Of those seven, we know that three voiced concerns about Trump’s request: Col. Vindman, Jennifer Williams, and Charles Kupperman.  Vindman and Williams testified after being issued a subpoena — despite being told NOT to cooperate by the White House; Kupperman asked a federal court to determine which order (the subpoena or the president’s) he should follow.

Was there anything ‘even close to something that looked like a crime’? Yes. This is directly from the transcript:

Zelensky: “We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps, specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.”
Trump: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.”

Trump responded to Zelensky’s comment about buying Javelin missiles with a request for a ‘favor’. That makes it sound like the sale of the missiles was dependent on the favor. Since those missiles were authorized by Congress (the legislative branch), it would be illegal for POTUS (the executive branch) to withhold them — for ANY reason, let alone in exchange for a personal favor.

3. This impeachment was most certainly a coup attempt and was done in secret. Do you know remember the secret meetings that republicans were not allowed to attend? Do you now remember how this imaginary whistleblower’s name was not allowed to be told to anyone and how Schiff lied that he never met the man? Now you are just bending yourself into a pretzel to defend this farce.

There were no ‘secret meetings’ that excluded Republicans. There were classified meetings held in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). Only members of the House Intelligence Committee were allowed to attend because the material discussed was classified. But GOP members of the committee did, in fact, attend. Republicans (and Democrats) who were NOT on the committee were NOT allowed to attend.

The whistleblower remained anonymous because that’s the law — the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, a law which was passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate, and signed into law by President George Bush, a Republican. It’s designed to protect employees who become aware of possible improprieties in gov’t agencies, but fear for their jobs if they speak out.

Schiff wouldn’t have met the whistleblower, because that violates the Act. There’s a process that takes place: the whistleblower files a complaint with the appropriate Inspector General (in this case, the Intelligence Community IG), who determines if the complaint is credible. If it is, the IG notifies the chair of the appropriate Congressional committee. The chair (Schiff, in this case) assigns a staff member to communicate with the whistleblower in order to protect his/her identity. So somebody on Schiff’s staff knows the identity of the whistleblower, but that person would be prohibited by law from telling Schiff.

4.Bloodless coup not ring a bell to you at all? Not all coups need to be grounded in violence. A violent coup would almost never take place in this nation in this day and age, it would have to be a bloodless coup like the one attempted by the dems. I already told you that Pense most certainly would be next to be impeached if Trump was removed because of course Pense was privy to this call and also defended the president so he would not be fit to serve and would be removed in favor of teh Speak of the House, thus a full removal of the party in power.

You don’t get to change the definition of coup d’état because it’s inconvenient. By definition, a coup d’état is an illegal and violent attempt to overthrow an existing government. Impeachment, on the other hand, is a legal process outlined in the US Constitution. It doesn’t overthrow the government; it’s a process by which a high ranking official can, after a public trial, be removed from office IF CONVICTED by two-thirds of the Senate. A public multi-day trial that’s resolved by open voting isn’t anything like a coup.

Speculating that Vice President Pence would also be impeached in the event Trump was removed is just that — speculation. But even if Congress DID decide to impeach Pence as well, it would still involve a slow, public, legal, Constitutional process in which at least two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to convict him.

Dude, that’s just not a coup.

5.Threats of violence only by supporters of the president… oh that is rich and lovely re-write of history.

During the impeachment process, credible threats of violence were made against the Democratic staff and against the witnesses who testified against the president. They had to be assigned protective services. To my knowledge, no such threats were made toward Republican staff or witnesses who testified for the president.

6. Why was biden’s quid pro quo not illegal?

I assume you’re talking about then-Vice President Biden warning Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that if he didn’t fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, the Obama administration would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees. That wasn’t illegal because it was official public US policy made with the support of Congress.

Viktor Shokin was universally seen as a corrupt official. As Prosecutor General, Shokin blocked investigations into other corrupt officials and corrupt organizations. He also blocked prosecutions against police officers accused of shooting civilian protesters. The European Union, a number of international financial institutions, and the citizenry of Ukraine (there were street protests against Shokin) all agreed that Shokin should be removed from office.

Again, Trump was impeached because there was convincing evidence that he used the Office of the President of the United States to illegally and unethically pressure the president of Ukraine to initiate an investigation of a political opponent by suggesting monies and aid appropriated by Congress — and necessary in Ukraine’s war against Russia — might be dependent on Ukraine doing that investigation as a ‘favor’.

It’s true a LOT of us actively dislike Trump. It’s true a LOT of us would like to see him (and Pence) removed from office. Just as it was true that a LOT of conservatives would like to have seen President Obama (and Biden) removed from office. Just as it was true that a LOT of us would have liked to see George W. Bush (and yes yes yes Cheney) removed from office. The only difference is that Trump engaged in behavior that was egregious enough legally to warrant impeachment proceedings.

but not unexpected

…but not unexpected. That phrase gets a lot of exercise when we’re talking about the behavior of Comrade Donald Trump. The president’s response was irregular, but not unexpected. The president’s comments were undiplomatic, but not unexpected. It’s a nice way of saying ‘Yeah, as usual, Trump is being an asshole’.

Friday evening, Trump announced he was firing Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. In his letter, Trump stated, “[I]t is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

What’s actually vital to Trump is that everybody in his administration MUST be willing to publicly support whatever crazy-ass thing Trump wants to do. Anybody who disagrees or challenges him has to go. When it comes to following the law or following Trump, the law has to step aside.

Comrade Trump signing the two-trillion-dollar covid-19 stimulus package.

Atkinson followed the law. When he received a complaint from a whistleblower in the intelligence community about Trump’s communications with the president of Ukraine, he had an obligation to determine if the complaint was credible and urgent. He decided it was, so he notified Congress — which is exactly what he was legally required to do.

From that moment on, Atkinson’s career in federal government was doomed. He followed the law instead of ‘protecting’ Trump. Same thing happened to James Comey, to Andrew McCabe, to Jeff Sessions (who actually deserved to be fired, but for other reasons), to Col. Alexander Vindman (and even his brother, for fuck’s sake, whose only sin was to be born a twin). Trump attempted to fire Robert Mueller, but couldn’t. All of that was wildly inappropriate. But not unexpected.

Trump didn’t fire Atkinson just to be vindictive. He’s also sending a message to other Inspectors General — including the newest one. That new two-trillion dollar stimulus package? One reason it was delayed was Democrats insisted the bill include a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery — somebody to monitor how the Treasury Department hands out the loans and loan guarantees to businesses. Somebody whose job was to keep Trump corruption to a minimum. The bill also states the new IG MUST notify Congress IMMEDIATELY if the Trump administration withholds information requested by investigators. Because if there’s one thing we know for certain about Trump, it’s that he’s going to pull some sort of nasty-ass scam and then refuse to answer any questions about it.

Trump really really didn’t want a new IG to oversee the stimulus loans, but eventually he had to give in. At least in theory. But this is Comrade Donald Trump (remember in the last paragraph we said he’d pull some nasty-ass scam? Here we go.). In addition to signing the bill, Trump also issued a signing statement…you know, to ‘clarify’ how he interprets the bill. He told Congress he intended to treat the “requirement to consult with the Congress regarding executive decision-making” as “hortatory but not mandatory.” Yeah, I know…there’s no way Trump knows what ‘hortatory’ means. But basically Trump is saying he’s going to consider that ‘requirement’ to just be an earnest suggestion, which he can ignore if he wants to. He also said he won’t “treat spending decisions as dependent on prior consultation with or the approval of congressional committees,” which is a nice way of saying he intends to hand out the money to whoever the fuck he wants to and Congress can kiss his ass. He ends his signing statement by saying, “my Administration will continue the practice of treating provisions like these as advisory and non-binding.” This, in essence, is Trump making farting noises in the direction of Congress.

Comrade Trump signing a statement saying he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants regardless of the law and Congress can pull his finger.

With that signing statement and the firing of Atkinson, Trump is basically telling the new stimulus IG, “Dude, you’re just there for show. Stay quiet, don’t ask too many questions, don’t interfere, just sit in your office, look out the window, and continue to cash those sweet sweet government checks. Or say goodbye to your career and your pension, because, dude, you know I will fire your ass in a skinny minute.”

What Comrade Trump is doing is borderline illegal, immoral, pathologically unethical, utterly reprehensible, and corrupt as fuck. But not unexpected.

and yet this is perfectly on-brand for trump

Jesus suffering fuck. We’re at the very beginning of a national health care disaster; we  just had approximately six and a half MILLION citizens put out of work and apply for unemployment benefits, people are looking at massive hospital bills while being unable to pay their rent or mortgages, and Comrade Donald J. Trump is bragging about talking his friend — Mohammed bin Salman, who had a Washington Post reporter murdered and dismembered — into working with the dictator of Russia — who interfered with the 2016 U.S. election in order to drop Trump into the White House — to raise the price of gasoline in order to increase profits for the oil and gas industry, which supports his bid for re-election.

There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THIS that you’d need a quantum computer to enumerate them. The only thing NOT wrong with this tweet is he spelled everything correctly.

It’s not just that Trump is tone deaf to the suffering of…well, everybody other than himself — it’s that he thinks there’s nothing wrong with associating with murderous dictators in order to aid industries that destroy the climate and the ecology for profit while his constituents are being killed by a pandemic he didn’t bother to mitigate.

I’ll say it again. Jesus suffering fuck.