cool down papa, don’t you blow your top

The buzzard told the monkey you are choking me.
Release your hold and i will set you free.
The monkey looked the buzzard right dead in the eye,
And said your story’s so touching, but it sounds just like a lie.

Irving Mills / Nat king cole

Two scenarios:

Scenario One: President Uncle Joe Biden’s lawyers, while going through files in an office in a private policy institute Uncle Joe used in the period between being Vice President and President, come across two files that appear to be classified. They notify the Department of Justice and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and return the documents without being asked. The Attorney General immediately appoints a prosecutor to investigate. (Edit: apparently there were ten documents, not two.)

Scenario Two: President Comrade Trump has multiple highly classified documents transferred to his home, which is shared with a public venue. Four months later, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asks for the return of those documents. Trump returns two dozen boxes of material, including some of the classified documents. NARA informs Trump that they’re still missing some documents, and ask him to return the rest of the material he took from the White House. Seven months later, Trump returns another dozen boxes of material. A year after Trump left office, NARA informs Trump he STILL hasn’t returned all the documents. The Department of Justice is notified. Sixteen months after Trump left office, the DOJ issues a subpoena for the return of those documents. Trump claims he’s returned everything. Eighteen months after leaving office, a federal judge issues a warrant for the FBI to search and seize the still-missing documents. They find nearly 200 classified documents, including some labeled TS/SCI (which are so secret they’re only to be read in a secure room in which no cameras or recording devices are allowed). In total, around 13,000 documents Trump wasn’t allowed to take are recovered from Mar-a-Lago. The Attorney General appoints a prosecutor to investigate the matter 23 months after Trump removed the documents.

The News Media: Both Trump and Biden in possession of classified documents! Prosecutor to investigate!

Attorney General Merrick Garland hears Trump’s attorneys.

This is absolute bullshit, of course. Biden and his lawyers acted properly. They discovered the two documents, notified the appropriate agencies, and acknowledged the mistake. Trump did the exact opposite. He deliberately removed thousands of documents, he and his lawyers resisted returning them, lied about them, and the FBI was forced to go to Mar-a-Lago in order to retrieve them.

Attorney General Merrick Garland delayed ordering a prosecutor to investigate Trump’s handling of classified documents for nearly two years, but immediately ordered one to investigate Biden’s handling of them. Why? To appear non-partisan. To avoid giving MAGA Republicans a reason to claim the DOJ is unfair. As if MAGA Republicans have any interest in Fact or Truth. MAGA Republicans will, of course, claim the two scenarios are exactly the same.

The only question is whether the news media will have the integrity to report this matter accurately. And sadly, I think we know the answer to that. Is there anything we can do about it?

Nope, not really. And let’s face it, there are more equally stupid but far more critical issues we’ll be dealing with in the very near future. In this on particular case, maybe we should consider the advice of Nat King Cole: “Cool down papa don’t you blow your top.”

getting shit done

Here’s the problem one of the countless problems with the modern Republican Party: they’ve completely abandoned the idea that the purpose of government is to get shit done.

They say they want shit done, but they’re not willing to engage in the process required to get it done. I suspect some of them mean it when they say, “There’s shit we need to get done.” But there’s a hefty chunk of the GOP that actively interferes with getting shit done simply so they can blame President Uncle Joe for failing to get shit done. They love telling everybody “Shit that needs to get done is NOT getting done, BUT if you elect us, we’ll do all kinds of shit.” Except, of course, when they get the power and authority to get shit done, they…well, they shit the bed.

We’re witnessing that right now in the food fight over electing a Speaker of the House. The most telling (and probably least discussed) aspect of this fuckparade is the simple fact that apparently nobody in the Republican House can count votes. Each of the political parties in Congress has a semi-formal position called a Party Whip. The job of the Whip is 1) to find out how members are going to vote, and 2) to try to ensure they vote the way the party wants them to vote. Right now, ain’t nobody in the House GOP doing that. Nobody seems to have reliable information on how many people are going to vote for or against Kevin McCarthy for Speaker.

Electing a Speaker of the House

As I write this, the House is getting ready for the 7th attempt to elect a Speaker of the House. With any normal political party, this would be a formality. It’s been a formality for around a century. With any normal political party, there wouldn’t BE a vote until the party was certain they had the votes necessary to win. A normal political party would want to elect a leader who’d demonstrated strength of purpose, personal integrity, strong policy views. But the modern GOP isn’t a normal political party; the man most of them want to be their leader has cravenly given in to the threats of the GOP’s most extreme elements. He’s demonstrated a moral and ethical flexibility that offends both his supporters and his opponents. Kevin McCarthy stands for nothing other than a desire to be Speaker of the House.

Here’s a True Thing: governance is about getting shit done. It’s about the dull, grinding, detailed work of talking to people you disagree with and finding ways to compromise. The modern GOP isn’t willing to do that. The modern GOP isn’t capable of that. If the Republicans, as the majority party in the House, aren’t even able to elect a leader, they’re certainly not going to be able to get any meaningful shit done.

The modern GOP is more focused on doing shit TO others than in getting shit done. They’ve ceased to be a political party; now they’re basically acting as an incubator for future Fox News hosts and right-wing media darlings.

It’s going to be a long, long two years in Congress. Assuming the House ever manages to elect a Speaker.

fractally awful

In a few short days, Republicans will assume control of the House of Representatives. That guarantees the next two years are going to be a colossal shit-show.

It’s going to be fucking awful. Worse, it’s going to be fractally awful. I mean it’s going to be awful in the same way on every scale. Individual GOP members of Congress will be awful, Congressional committees will be awful, the GOP majority in the House itself will be awful, and they’ll all be awful in a self-similar way.

Individual Republican members of Congress will lie. They’ll lie in committee meetings. The GOP led committees will build investigations around those lies. They’ll amplify the lies on GOP-friendly ‘news’ channels. They’ll use the existence of those investigations based on lies as evidence that the lies must be legit (if Congress is investigating it, there MUST be a reason for that investigation). They’ll use those lies and investigations as a mask to distract the public from their policies, many of which actively harm the US and our allies. Traditional news media will report those lies and lie-based investigations as if they’re legitimate Congressional inquiries. When it comes time for the next election, they’ll use those investigations as evidence that they were doing the will of the people.

We know they’ll do this because they’ve said they’ll do it. We know they’ll do it because they’ve done it before. When Republicans controlled the House during the Obama administration, they spent two years investigating the terrorist attack on the State Department’s unfinished diplomatic compound in Benghazi. There were eleven Congressional investigations which held as least thirty-three Congressional hearings, most of which were public.

Each of those investigations published a report. Each report concluded that nobody in the Obama administration officials had acted improperly. Each report concluded that the State Department’s security at the unfinished Benghazi compound was ‘inadequate’. None of the reports acknowledged that the security was inadequate because for two years prior to the attack, House Republicans had reduced the Obama administration’s budget request for improved diplomatic security.

The two-year-long Benghazi investigation was a political stunt. We know it was a political stunt because they basically admitted it. Kevin McCarthy, who was running to be named the Speaker of the House (just as he is now–stupid history repeats itself stupidly) basically admitted it on a Fox News interview. He said:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

By the way, three months after the attack on Benghazi left four members of the State Department dead, an attack on the Sandy Hook Elementary School killed six adults and twenty children (six and seven-year-old children). How many special committees did the GOP create? None. How many Congressional hearings did they hold? None. How many investigations did they launch? None.

Congress, the next two years.

That was almost exactly a decade ago, when radical Republicans in Congress were just a fringe element of the GOP. A decade later, that element is no longer the fringe; now they control the entire Republican Party. Ten years ago they ignored the murder of school kids and focused on a political stunt grounded in a legitimate tragedy. Now they’re planning to do the same, but instead of an actual tragedy, they have–and this is so fucking stupid and shameful I’m almost too embarrassed to say it–they have Hunter Biden’s laptop.

I said it was going to be a colossal shit-show. I probably understated the reality. It will almost certainly be a shit-show of Biblical proportions.

Santos Clause

Is anybody surprised? No, of course not.

Sure, Republican George Santos ran for Congress and blatantly lied about almost every aspect of his life and career. Sure, he lied about his employment, his education, his charitable work. Sure, he lied about his family, his ethnicity, probably his name, possibly his nationality. And sure, he got away with it because nobody bothered to check. He got away with it and he got elected.

After he was elected, he was exposed as a liar. Santos denied being a liar, because why start telling the truth at that point? He tried to deflect attention away from his lies, but it didn’t work. So what the hell, he admitted being a liar. He said he was elected based on his policy positions, not his resume. So what if he lied? He fully intends to serve his term in Congress.

This guy, whoever the fuck he really is.

Nobody in the GOP seems at all concerned about this. And why should they? I mean, they openly abandoned traditional conservative values when they chose Comrade Trump as their presidential candidate in 2016. Hell, they didn’t just abandon traditional conservative values, they abandoned the very idea of Truth as a valued commodity. They abandoned Science and a consistent, coherent political ideology. They abandoned the whole concept of representative democracy. They even abandoned religion as a practice, though they’ve retained the illusion of it as a tool.

George Santos doesn’t believe in anything but holding political office. He doesn’t stand for anything but holding political office. He doesn’t care for anything except holding political office. He doesn’t respect anything except…no, he doesn’t even respect the political office he wants to hold.

George Santos is the distillation of the Republican Party. A vacant husk, a soulless golem, a mindless and purposeless corruption driven by an unreasoned desire to hold power over other people, animated by rage and resentment and bitterness over the possibility of losing privilege.

Let me turn it over to Tommy Eliot.

We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar

election day

I have no idea what’s going to happen today. Neither do you.

Maybe it’ll be a quiet day. Maybe voters will line up, take their turn in the voting booth, greet each other like good citizens, then patiently wait to see the results of the election. Maybe everybody will accept those results. Maybe. But probably not.

Maybe we’ll get to see the blue wave we’ve heard so much about. Maybe Democratic voters will turn out in such massive numbers that despite the monstrous gerrymandered voting districts, Democrats will retain control of both houses of Congress. Maybe some of the worst GOP assholes will be handed their hats and told to go home. Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe Republicans are right. Maybe voters are so afraid of imaginary enemies–of Antifa and BLM, of caravans of infected drug-toting immigrant rapists from South and Central America, of gay teachers brainwashing white hetero Christian students into becoming trans furries who drink soy lattes while using the litterbox–that they’ll vote for authoritarian leaders who’ll protect them from…something. Maybe. I hope not, but maybe.

Maybe there’ll be violence at polling sites. Long lines, political hatred, the easy availability of firearms, the loosening of restrictions limiting who can own and carry a gun and where they can legally carry them–all those things contribute to the probability of mayhem. And if schools and churches and supermarkets are vulnerable to mass shooting incidents (I fucking hate the term ‘incidents’ to describe these), will anybody be surprised to hear about one at a polling site? Maybe blood will be shed today. Maybe. Again, I hope not. But only an idiot would dismiss the possibility.

I don’t know what’s going to happen today. I don’t know what’s going to happen today partly because I don’t quite recognize the nation we’ve become.

I don’t know what’s going to happen today, but I know this: I voted. I voted for the nation I hope still exists. I voted for the nation I want us to become.

Maybe it’ll happen. Maybe not.

If you haven’t voted yet, go vote now. Vote for your lives.

an inspiration?

At the end of Thursday’s hearing by the House Select Committee, Liz Cheney made a point of praising the women who testified before the committee. She named Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, as well as Sarah Matthews who had testified moments before. But Cheney singled out Cassidy Hutchinson for particular praise.

“She sat here alone, took the oath and testified before millions of Americans. She knew all along she would be attacked by President Trump, and by the 50, 60 and 70-year-old men who hide themselves behind executive privilege. But like our witnesses today, she has courage, and she did it anyway. Cassidy, Sarah and our other witnesses, including Officer Caroline Edwards, Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, are an inspiration to American women and to American girls.”

Yes. And no. And yes again. Yes, all of these women deserve praise for doing the right thing. But let’s look at the totality of their circumstances. The two Georgia election workers were just doing their job like tens of thousands of election workers in every precinct in the United States. It’s an important job, but not an especially demanding one; it took no courage for them to do the right thing. Their courage was tested afterwards, when they were vilified for having done their job properly. Partisan politics didn’t play a role in their jobs.

Officer Edwards at the fist barricade

Officer Edwards was doing her job as well, but on January 6th her job put her in direct physical danger. She was one of a handful of officers who were the first line of defense at the Capitol building. They were quickly overwhelmed; she was knocked down, knocked unconscious, suffered a traumatic brain injury–then after she regained consciousness, she went back to work and for several hours fought in close combat with rioters. That clearly took courage and dedication. Partisan politics didn’t play a role in her job.

Partisan politics is why Sarah Matthews and Cassidy Hutchinson had their jobs. They each made a deliberate choice to work in the Trump administration. They supported the Trump administration. They knew who Donald Trump was–how he behaved and how he treated others. They knew his history. And they chose to work for him They directly witnessed how he ran the White House, how he reached policy decisions, how frequently his staff quit or were fired, how he demanded loyalty without returning it. They knew Donald Trump and they willingly supported and represented him.

That makes them complicit in Trump’s behavior. They worked for him diligently for four years, during which they were willing to disregard or condone his bad behavior. It wasn’t until he actively urged an angry mob to engage in a violent insurrection in order to illegally retain power that they decided he’d gone too far.

It’s to their credit that they were willing to draw the line at sedition and insurrection. And it’s to their credit that they were willing to testify against Trump. That took courage, because Liz Cheney is right–they both knew how Trump and his supporters would treat them. Because they’d see him do it to others. Because they were okay with him doing it to others. It took courage for them to step up; but it doesn’t make them heroes.

Officer Edwards, unconscious.

So yes, the courage of these women should, as Cheney said, be “an inspiration to American women and to American girls.” But no, there’s nothing inspirational about being willing to work for corrupt, cruel people until their corruption and cruelty becomes intolerable. And yes, it’s better to draw the line too late than not draw it at all.

They were all just doing their jobs. Cassidy Hutchinson and Sarah Matthews aided a corrupt White House until the corruption became too much for them to accept. Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman simply processed ballots according to the rules, and were unfairly vilified for it. Officer Caroline Edwards helped provide security for the Capitol Building and protect the people inside.

You want inspiration for redemption, look at Hutchinson and Matthews. You want inspiration for honesty and integrity, look at Moss and Freeman. But if you want a hero, look at Officer Edwards.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Just a reminder that patriarchy is a social structure kept in place by ordinary folks. Pay attention to how people in power treat people with lesser power. Call out assholes, even if they’re people you generally agree with. Support decency, even if it comes from people you disagree with. And every chance you get, add a match to the fire that will burn the patriarchy to the ground.

well, here we are

I haven’t written here for a week or so — not because I don’t have anything to say, but because there’s SO MUCH to say. I start to write about this, which is necessarily tied into that and is deeply connected to this other thing. You can’t, for example, write about abortion without also writing about the political corruption of the Supreme Court, which means you also need to address the rising fascism of the Republican Party and the green grass grows all around, all around.

But here we are on July 4th. Independence Day, right? When we celebrate the decision by a group of colonists so fed up with a hostile government that subjected them to such “a long train of abuses and usurpations” that they felt it was necessary “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them.”

I think the operative term there is necessary. It’s from the Latin necesse (which meant ‘unavoidable’) and cedere (to withdraw, go away). Necessary, a thing from which there is no backing away. The colonists felt it was necessary to rebel against the government that oppressed them.

When we think about the Declaration of Independence, we tend to focus on the dramatic bits at the beginning. Mainly this line:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That’s powerful stuff, no mistake. Beautifully written. But we forget that the biggest chunk of the Declaration is a list of grievances — an inventory of all the shit the government of the King of England was imposing on the American colonies. That list includes stuff like:

— He has obstructed the Administration of Justice
— He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices
— He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us

There’s another small chunk of Declaration that gets overlooked. It’s just a paragraph that basically says, “Hey, look, we warned you guys about this. Repeatedly. We asked you nicely to knock this shit off. We have appealed to your native justice and magnanimity. But no, you fucking ignored all those warnings. You have been deaf to the voice of justice.

A lot of us today feel much as those colonists did almost 250 years ago. Instead of a tyrannical king or queen, we have to deal with a neo-fascist Republican Party. We have to deal with Republican at the state level who are actively manipulating laws to undermine the process of representative democracy. We have to deal with a Republican Supreme Court that ignores legal precedence when it conflicts with their personal religious beliefs or their political ideology. We have to deal with a former president who not only refused to accept the result of a free and fair election, but continues to foment sedition.

Those colonists had to choose — do we keep putting up with this shit, or do we act? We have to make a similar choice. We know basically what needs to be done. The Supreme Court MUST be made neutral. It MUST be returned to balance. Not a liberal Court (as much as I’d love that); just a Supreme Court that isn’t governed by any partisan ideology.

The Declaration of Independence was a revolutionary document. I mean revolutionary in every sense of the term. It sparked an actual revolution, it started a shooting war. We don’t want or need that here. We don’t need to turn the world upside down — at least not at this point; we just need to put it back into balance.

But one thing is clear. If we don’t act, if we keep putting up with this shit, if we don’t start electing Democrats who are willing to make some radical but legal decisions to balance SCOTUS, if we don’t do that in the very next election, then we may never see another free and fair election in my lifetime.

anocracy

The CIA (yes, that CIA) sucks in massive amounts of data and information from a whole galaxy of sources. One of those sources, when it comes to assessing the stability of a nation, is the Center for Systemic Peace. You’re probably asking, “Greg, old sock, just what the hell is this Center for Systemic Peace…and is that really it’s actual, no-shit name?”

Yes, that really is its name. The CSP was founded in 1997 to conduct “research and quantitative analysis in many issue areas related to the fundamental problems of violence in both human relations and societal-systemic development processes.” Basically, they evaluate a nation’s stability by looking at stuff–like the spectrum of social conflict, the methods of governance, and the various responses of the population. The CSP does this for just about every nation state that has a population of over half a million. Also, stop calling me ‘old sock’.

One of the CSP’s metrics for national stability is what they call a ‘polity score’. It measures ‘regime authority’ on a 21-pont scale with a zero point at the center: -10 being an hereditary monarchy, +10 is a consolidated democracy. They tend clump nations into three groups: 1) autocracies (-10 to -6), anocracies (-5 to +5), and democracies (+6 to +10).

Now I suspect you’re asking, “Greg, old sock, what the fuck is an anocracy?” Good question. At the high end (+5) an anocracy is a form of government that’s democratic but has autocratic features; at the low end (-5) it’s an autocratic government with some democratic features.

Why am I telling you all this? Two reasons. First, the CIA uses the CSP as a tool for understanding how fucked up nations are. They have their own reasons for doing this, of course, some of which are almost certainly nefarious, but the CSP metrics are universally seen as pretty damned reliable. The second reason I’m telling you this is because the US, for most or our history, has been either a +9 or a +10. For a long time, the US was the world’s longest continuing democracy.

This is insurgency

Now we’re not. According to the CSP, under the Comrade Trump administration the polity score of the US dropped to a +5, which drags us right out of the democracy zone and dumps us in with the anocracies. How’d that happen? You can find the CSP’s abbreviated political history of the US here.

It’s sad that the US is now just a high-functioning, democracy-leaning anocracy. What makes it all very much worse, though, is that anocracies are much more susceptible to insurgencies, and nations that with active insurgencies are more likely to slide into an actual civil war. And we’re seeing overt signs of a growing insurgency movement in the US.

Depending on which poll you look at, somewhere between 17-38% of folks who identify strongly as Republicans believe the use of violence to ‘restore America’ is acceptable or necessary. Every state in the Union has at least one civilian armed militia movement. Some militia groups are national–the Oathkeepers, the III Percenters, the Proud Boys, etc. Members (and supporters) of militia groups have engaged in anti-government ranging from the insurrection on 1/6/20, to a plot to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan and put her on ‘trial’, to threatening the lives of local election or school board official. These aren’t just crimes; they’re insurgent actions.

The III Percenters are insurgents

Again, the US is still at the high end of anocracies. We can claw our way back into the realm of full democracies. But there’s no guarantee we will. At this point, the Republican Party is effectively acting as the political wing of an inchoate collective of insurgent groups, all of whom want to install some form of right-wing authoritarian government. Since Senators Sinema and Manchin have given the GOP the power they need to suppress voting, the odds of the US sinking lower on the polity scale have increased.

The Oathkeepers are insurgents

It’s hard for me to even say this–mainly because this should be unthinkable–but we may be witnessing a cascade of events that will be the end of representative democracy in the United States. And because it should be unthinkable, most of the people in the US aren’t thinking about it at all. Most of us are just assuming everything will go on just about as it always has. And maybe it will. But I’m not confident about it. I keep thinking of the closing stanza of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

ADDENDUM (1/28): It appears that Uncle Joe’s move to the Oval Office has allowed the US to claw its way up from a 5 on the Polity Scale to an 8. We are now a middling, shaky democracy. Yay?