the bluto party

You know what? It’s time we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘anybody who is paying attention to what’s happening right now in the United States’) stopped thinking of the Republican Party as a legitimate political party — because they’ve stopped acting like one. A political party is just a collection of people who share the same general ideology and hold the same general political positions in regard to governance. The operative term there is ‘governance’. Based on their behavior, Republicans no longer believe in governance; they only believe in ruling.

Seriously. The folks who represent Republicans now have abandoned the notion that every political party should be subject to the same rules and laws. Since Trump took office, Republicans have gutted congressional oversight, they’ve perverted the advice and consent process, they’ve twisted the concept of judicial review. Worst of all, they’ve changed the executive branch from being just one of three co-equal branches of government into…well, Bluto. What Bluto wants, Republicans deliver.

In fact, Republicans have become the Bluto Party.

Bluto, if you’re not familiar with him, was Popeye’s nemesis. A loudmouthed, blustering, bully who tries to get what he wants through brute force and/or trickery. In the Popeye cartoons Bluto takes on a variety of guises — sometimes he’s a fellow sailor, but he’s also shown up as an evil professor, a wicked hypnotist, a lecherous lifeguard, a devious sheik, a generic thug.

It’s the same with modern Republicans. They take on various guises, but they all behave like Bluto. You can put Bluto in a suit and a tie, but he’s still Bluto. You can put him in a drawing room or an orchestra pit, but he’s still Bluto. You can spray him with a gentleman’s cologne, he’s still Bluto. You can dress him in judicial robes, still Bluto. There is absolutely nothing you can do to unBluto him. He’s Bluto to the bone.

“You’d better lock up your doors today.
‘Cause Abu Hassan is on his way.
Go in hiding when I come riding
from me and my forty thieves.

Your wife and children, your money too,
I’ll steal them from you before I’m through.
I’m out gunning, so start in running
from me and my forty thieves.

My gang’s the roughest,
But I’m the toughest,
and that’s no lie.
You’ve got to hand it
to this bad bandit,
because I’m a terrible guy.

Comrade Trump, of course, is the bull goose Bluto. All lesser Blutos must bow to him. He’s released the inner Bluto in every Republican in government. For example, Bluto says it’s perfectly okay to ignore subpoena if it’s issued by congressional Democrats. Bluto argues (in front of Bluto-dominated courts) that a congressional subpoena MUST have a legislative purpose. But Bluto Republicans in congress have a long (long, long, long) history of issuing subpoenas for purely investigative purposes — even when those investigations have repeatedly turned up nothing.

I’m basically saying ALL Republicans in government now are Bluto. Republicans in Congress — Bluto. Republicans in the Justice Department — mad Bluto. Republicans who’ve been place in federal courts even when rated unqualified — totally Bluto. You may say that it’s not fair to paint all Republicans with the same brush, and I suppose you’d be right. But I’m of the opinion that if they’re benefiting from Bluto Republican behavior and not calling it out, then they’re Bluto too, and just as guilty as every other Bluto.

The only comfort to be found in this is that Bluto always gets his ass kicked in the end. I mean, it works that way in the cartoons. So I’m sending spinach to Joe Biden and every other Popeye motherfucker running a campaign against Bluto.

really most sincerely dead

Well, that’s it then. The rule of law is dead. Officially dead. Medically dead, legally dead, dead in every meaningful way. Stone dead. Dead as Marley’s ghost. Deader than that, in fact, since Jacob Marley at least came back in an attempt to set things right. That’s not going to happen here. The rule of law in the United States is as dead as the Wicked Witch of the East. Not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

Comrade Donald Trump killed it. Attorney General Bill Barr helped. Trump pushed it out the window and left it crippled and bleeding in the gutter; Barr finished it off by dropping a cinder block its head. 

I’m not a fan of the FBI, although I recognize their dedication and, to some extent, their sincerity of purpose. What they did to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was no different from what law enforcement officers at all levels–federal, state, county, and municipal–do every day. They gathered their facts, they interviewed the suspect, they gave him a chance to tell the truth. He didn’t.

That’s routine interviewing technique. Say you arrest a kid for shoplifting. You have him on the store’s CCTV sliding a pair of expensive sunglasses up his sleeve. You detain the kid and say, “Tell me what happened.” If the kid fesses up, that tells you something. It shows some contrition and you take that into consideration when deciding what to do. If the kid lies, that also tells you something. You know he’s still hoping to get away with it, and you take that into consideration.

Flynn got caught. He was given a chance to tell the truth, and he lied. He pleaded guilty to lying. Then he tried to take it back. Then he re-affirmed his guilty plea. Then he tried to take it back again. That tells you something. He was still hoping to get away with it. And hey, he did.

He betrayed his country, and thanks to complicit political appointees in the Department of Justice, he got away with it. Never spent an hour in jail. Nor will he.

The only hope this nation has of returning to some semblance of the rule of law is if voters turn out in massive numbers–numbers large enough to overcome whatever barriers are put in place to hamper voting. Because if we know one thing for certain, it’s that Trump will cheat. He’ll lie, cheat, steal, connive, do anything he can get away with to win. Because he’s learned there’s nothing to stop him–not the Department of Justice, not Congress, and certainly not his conscience.

Ain’t nothing going to stop him. Unless it’s us.

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Stay alive. Vote your ass off.

 

it stinks

I’m trying to remember when I hit that point where I stopped trying to keep track of each and every awful thing that happened that day.

I mean, there was actually a time when I could read two or three news sources and feel like I had a solid grasp of all the awful things that happened on any given day. Later I found myself focusing on the primary awful things that happened, because it would take a spreadsheet to keep track of the picayune awful things. But over time, every day became a muddle of major corruption, lying, gross incompetence, vindictiveness, and venality, all of which existed in a melange of Trumpian hate-rage. And it was impossible to keep track even of all the massively awful things that happened in a given day.

This guy is awful in so many ways you need a quantum computer to keep track.

It’s hard to imagine a president who in the course of a single day would 1) shirk his duty during a pandemic that has cost more than 65,000 American lives, 2) lie about the availability of testing necessary to know the extent of that pandemic, 3) encourage states to re-open their economies even though NONE of those states have met the guidelines issued by the president’s own task force, 4) try to extort political favors from states in desperate need of federal financial aid as a result of that pandemic, 4) try to undermine the 2020 presidential election by claiming vote-by-mail is risky, 5) find ways to threaten the unemployment benefits of the nearly 20% of the US workforce that’s unemployed because of the pandemic, 6) use his presidential emergency powers to force workers in the meat industry to continue to work despite the alarming number of Covid-19 cases appearing in meat-packing plants, 7) block the nation’s most trusted information source from testifying in front of the Democratic-led House while allowing his testimony in the Republican-led Senate, 8) encourage armed insurrection against the legitimately elected Democratic governors of states he doesn’t like, 9) float the idea of pardoning his former National Security Advisor whom he’d fired because the man had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI (and the Vice President) about his dealings with Russian intelligence (not to mention his failure to register as a foreign agent of Turkey OR his involvement in a plot to kidnap a Turkish dissident cleric), 10) denigrated and undermined the leadership and line staff of the nation’s primary national law enforcement agency, 11) promoted a number of conspiracy theories, including one about the origins of the pandemic, and 12) tried to pressure US intelligence agencies to substantiate that conspiracy theory.

That’s just what I can recall of the major awful stuff Comrade Trump engaged in one a single day. There’s bound to be awful stuff I’ve missed.

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Comrade Trump ohmyfuckinggod I can’t even look killmenow.

All of this horror is compounded by state governors who are willing (or actually eager) to curry favor with Trump for their own political reasons. Like so many other Republican governors, the governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, refused to issue a state-wide shelter-in-place order. She’s not only supporting Trump’s executive order to require workers at meat-packing plants (a large proportion of whom are immigrants) to report for work regardless of Covid-19 outbreaks, she’s also informed low wage workers who are reluctant to return to work because of pandemic fears that if they refuse to return to work, they will be denied unemployment benefits.

The result of this monstrous cascade of really, truly, awful stuff from Trump and his supporters is a sort of numbness. It’s like living downwind from a paper mill or a hog containment farm — you sort of get inured to the stink. Some days stink more than others, but every day stinks horribly.

And it will continue to stink horribly until we get rid of the hog farm.

trump, burr, and the missing worldwide threat assessment

Here’s a curious thing. Last month Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Tar Heel Circle (which is more formally known as The North Carolina State Society of Washington DC). That’s not the curious thing; members of Congress routinely meet with ‘important’ people from their home state — business owners, social leaders, local politicians.

This smarmy fucker knew.

The curious thing is what Burr told those ‘important’ people. He warned them about a virus coming to the U.S. He told them it was “much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history. It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” You know, the pandemic that killed millions of people worldwide. He talked about travel restrictions and schools closing. He talked about how the military might need to be mobilized.

Here’s another curious thing. At the same time Burr was giving his speech, Comrade Trump was assuring the public that “the coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.” He acknowledged a small number of US citizens had become ill, but “they’ve gotten very much better. Many of them are fully recovered.” We know, of course, that wasn’t true.

Had we been told the truth, the butcher’s bill wouldn’t be so high.

Here’s yet another curious thing. Every year in January or February, the US intelligence community provides the House and Senate intelligence committees with a briefing on global threats. That briefing is usually accompanied by a public hearing and the publication of an unclassified report called the Worldwide Threat Assessment. This year, the public hearing for the 2020 Worldwide Threat Assessment was canceled. It hasn’t been rescheduled. The report, which is usually unclassified, was suddenly classified.

One more curious thing: Senator Richard Burr, who issued that dire warning to the ‘important’ people of the Tar Heel Circle, is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee that first learns the details of the Worldwide Threat Assessment.

More curious things. In 2017, the Worldwide Threat Assessment said this about the threat to public health:

“A novel or reemerging microbe that is easily transmissible between humans and is highly pathogenic remains a major threat because such an organism has the potential to spread rapidly and kill millions.”

The 2018 WTA:

“A novel strain of a virulent microbe that is easily transmissible between humans continues to be a major threat, with pathogens such as H5N1 and H7N9 influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus having pandemic potential if they were to acquire efficient human-to-human transmissibility… a severe global influenza pandemic could cost the equivalent of 4.8 percent of global GDP—more than $3 trillion—and cause more than 100 million deaths.”

The 2019 WTA:

“We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or largescale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.”

We can, I think, safely assume the now-classified 2020 Worldwide Threat Assessment repeated what the last three WTAs said. We can, I think, assume that what Senator Burr reported to the ‘important’ people of North Carolina came directly from the 2020 WTA. We don’t have to assume that information was kept from the general public for at least six weeks; we know that’s true. Six weeks during which the US government failed to respond to a health threat they knew was coming. Six weeks in which the Trump administration could have prevented needless sickness and death.

We can’t blame every Covid-19 death on folks like Trump and Burr. But we can hold them responsible for a lot of them.

They knew. They knew it was coming. These fuckers deliberately downplayed the threat to the public while warning the ‘important’ people.

We need to see the 2020 Worldwide Threat Assessment report. We need to know what they knew. We need to hold all of these fuckers accountable. We need to toss them out of office. We need to publicly name them and shame them. We need to hang the scope of this pandemic around their necks and make them wear their shame every day for the rest of their miserable lives.

headline writers and pundits

Why Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Flopped. That’s an actual headline of an article on Slate. Trump’s War Against ‘the Deep State’ Enters a New Stage. That’s a New York Times headline. And this from Politico: How Bernie’s triumph in New Hampshire exposed his vulnerabilities.

Headline writers and pundits — they’re a major part of the problem. You write a headline stating Kamala Harris is having difficulty raising funds, and readers become hesitant to donate to her. You write a headline saying Cory Booker isn’t connecting with ordinary Americans, and folks who consider themselves ordinary Americans begin to wonder why Booker isn’t connecting with them. You write a headline saying Warren’s campaign has flopped, and some Warren supporters start looking for another candidate. You write a headline referring to ‘the Deep State’ and that legitimizes a conspiracy theory based on Russian disinformation.

Much of the time, people don’t read beyond the headline. Any nuanced discussion or argument gets lost. Cut and paste those headlines into posts on Facebook and Twitter, and the effect is amplified. Promising candidates get prematurely axed, campaigns stumble and fail.

“Maybe change ‘Warren On to Nevada’ to ‘Warren Flopped’.”

Why? Because pundits and headline writers operate on the premise that there MUST be drama in a presidential contest. There MUST be tension and excitement. Anybody in the lead cannot be allowed to gain too much of a lead, because it drains the drama from the contest. There must be turmoil and spectacle, there must be tragedy and sensation. There must be a plucky underdog. There must be an obvious protagonist beset by unexpected problems. There must be a villain. There must be at least one character who experiences a sudden change of fortune. The presidential campaign must follow the Aristotelian notion that the end of the narrative should be both surprising but inevitable.

The public suffers because headline writers and pundits need a narrative. And they need a narrative because a good narrative draws readers and viewers, and readers and viewers generate revenue through advertising. The result is that the public suffers so the mass media can sell shit.

I want to kick all the headline writers and pundits squarely in the balls.

lies, head fakes, stunts, naked self-interest & the stink of corruption

A few months ago I referred to the Republican Party as ‘the trash party‘. I called them that because they’ve basically abandoned everything that made them a legitimate political party. A coherent ideology, a consistent approach to governance, a concern for the common good, applied principles — that’s all gone. The GOP is now a party of lies, head fakes, stunts, and naked self-interest.

And everybody seems to know it and accept it. It’s a given, though most folks refrain from actually saying it out loud. This is how far the ‘Grand Old Party’ has fallen: Republicans in the Senate who are considering — just considering, mind you — the idea of asking for new witnesses — witnesses with direct information about the alleged crimes of the President of the United States, witnesses who are willing and eager to testify — in the ongoing impeachment trial are being described as ‘brave’.

Think about that. Brave? These are elected representatives getting paid a very healthy salary by taxpayers; their only job is to serve the public who elected them. They swore an oath to do that, to defend the Constitution. They’ve sworn a second oath to act as impartial triers of fact in the impeachment of the president. This is one of the critical, fundamental tasks they agreed to accept when they’re sworn in. But Republicans have lost their way so badly that it’s considered courageous for some of them to consider meeting the most basic, minimal expectation of their job.

And let’s face it, very few of us expect those few ‘brave’ Republicans to actually follow through. We expect almost nothing from them anymore — nothing except lies and head fakes and stunts and naked self-interest. They’re hollow, an empty shell of what once was a political party. All the principled Republicans have either left the party or abandoned public office, leaving nothing behind but the trash and the stink of corruption.

this is what scares me

I’m not particularly concerned that Trump will skate on this impeachment trial. I think we all expect he will. Senate Republicans, after all, are all gutless Quislings completely devoid of honor or integrity. So yeah, Trump will almost certainly walk. I don’t like it, but I expect it — and there it is.

What scares me is this: what comes next? If Comrade Trump gets away with this — if he’s acquitted in the Senate despite all the evidence against him — what will stop him from doing it again? What’s will prevent him from allowing — or flat out encouraging — a hostile nation to attack his Democratic opponent? And what could we do about it?

He’s capable of doing that. You know he is.

What’s going to stop him from doing something even worse? What if, say, he declares a national emergency — what if he announces there’s been a threat to certain polling districts and ‘for the safety of the citizens’ orders those polling places closed? What if he says the voters should go to different polling sites, sorry for the inconvenience? What could we do about it? 

Do you think Trump isn’t capable of doing that?

What if the 2020 election goes against him? What if he loses and claims the election was rigged/hacked/manipulated/fraudulent? What if he refuses to honor the result? What if he just refuses to relinquish power? What if he tells his followers to resist his removal from office? What if he tries to declare martial law? What then?

Do you think that’s impossible? It sounds crazy, doesn’t it. It sounds ridiculous. Because it IS crazy and ridiculous — or it would be if anybody else were president. But do you really think Trump wouldn’t try to pull something like that if he thought he might get away with it? What would stop him? Patriotism? Decency? Respect for the Constitution?

That’s what scares me. Not one more year of Trump, as horrible as that would be. What scares me is this: IF Trump gets away with it this time — and right now that seems a foregone conclusion — what’s going to stop him from thinking he can get away with it again? The answer scares me.

Nothing.