Politics

What Had Long Been Forsaken

In the future, when our children and grandchildren ask just what the hell happened to us, this is a pretty good summary:

COVID-19 didn’t lay America low; it simply revealed what had long been forsaken. As the crisis unfolded, with another American dying every minute of every day, a country that once turned out fighter planes by the hour could not manage to produce the paper masks or cotton swabs essential for tracking the disease. The nation that defeated smallpox and polio, and led the world for generations in medical innovation and discovery, was reduced to a laughing stock as a buffoon of a president advocated the use of household disinfectants as a treatment for a disease that intellectually he could not begin to understand.

As a number of countries moved expeditiously to contain the virus, the United States stumbled along in denial, as if willfully blind. With less than four percent of the global population, the U.S. soon accounted for more than a fifth of COVID deaths. The percentage of American victims of the disease who died was six times the global average. Achieving the world’s highest rate of morbidity and mortality provoked not shame, but only further lies, scapegoating, and boasts of miracle cures as dubious as the claims of a carnival barker, a grifter on the make.

As the United States responded to the crisis like a corrupt tin pot dictatorship, the actual tin pot dictators of the world took the opportunity to seize the high ground, relishing a rare sense of moral superiority, especially in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The autocratic leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, chastised America for “maliciously violating ordinary citizens’ rights.” North Korean newspapers objected to “police brutality” in America. Quoted in the Iranian press, Ayatollah Khomeini gloated, “America has begun the process of its own destruction.”

Trump’s performance and America’s crisis deflected attention from China’s own mishandling of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, not to mention its move to crush democracy in Hong Kong. When an American official raised the issue of human rights on Twitter, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, invoking the killing of George Floyd, responded with one short phrase, “I can’t breathe.”

These politically motivated remarks may be easy to dismiss. But Americans have not done themselves any favors. Their political process made possible the ascendancy to the highest office in the land a national disgrace, a demagogue as morally and ethically compromised as a person can be. As a British writer quipped, “there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid”.

As they stare into the mirror and perceive only the myth of their exceptionalism, Americans remain almost bizarrely incapable of seeing what has actually become of their country. The republic that defined the free flow of information as the life blood of democracy, today ranks 45th among nations when it comes to press freedom. In a land that once welcomed the huddled masses of the world, more people today favor building a wall along the southern border than supporting health care and protection for the undocumented mothers and children arriving in desperation at its doors. In a complete abandonment of the collective good, U.S. laws define freedom as an individual’s inalienable right to own a personal arsenal of weaponry, a natural entitlement that trumps even the safety of children; in the past decade alone 346 American students and teachers have been shot on school grounds.

The American cult of the individual denies not just community but the very idea of society. No one owes anything to anyone. All must be prepared to fight for everything: education, shelter, food, medical care. What every prosperous and successful democracy deems to be fundamental rights — universal health care, equal access to quality public education, a social safety net for the weak, elderly, and infirmed — America dismisses as socialist indulgences, as if so many signs of weakness.

How can the rest of the world expect America to lead on global threats — climate change, the extinction crisis, pandemics — when the country no longer has a sense of benign purpose, or collective well-being, even within its own national community? Flag-wrapped patriotism is no substitute for compassion; anger and hostility no match for love. Those who flock to beaches, bars, and political rallies, putting their fellow citizens at risk, are not exercising freedom; they are displaying, as one commentator has noted, the weakness of a people who lack both the stoicism to endure the pandemic and the fortitude to defeat it.

— Wade Davis, “The Unraveling of America,” Rolling Stone, August 6, 2020

I’ve been saying for years that 9/11 — or rather our panicky response to it, when we willingly started surrendering our personal liberties in the name of “safety” and declared war on a country that had not attacked us — put the lie to our national self-image as “the home of the brave.” That was the first of our myths to crumble. Now it seems like all of them are crumbling, all at once. COVID-19 has exposed every crack in the shaky foundation of our society, every weakness of the no-holds-barred capitalist system and the every-man-for-himself philosophy that have defined this nation, at least during my lifetime. And although I’m perfectly cool with those concepts getting thrown in the bin, the way it’s happening — our national humiliation on the world stage — is agonizing. And infuriating. I think I finally understand the anger so many right-wingers have felt for so many years, their impotent rage at the notion that the country they thought they knew is dissolving before their very eyes. Of course, they attribute the dissolution to an entirely different set of causes, and they have an entirely different set of solutions. But the basic emotional stew of anger, sorrow, shame, and utter powerlessness… yeah, I get that now.

I’m really hating this year.

spacer

“We should be the America that cherishes each other…”

There’s never been any question that I would vote for Joe Biden if he is the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. I’d vote for a ham-salad sandwich if it was running against the current occupant of the Oval Office. But after listening to a speech Biden delivered today in Philadelphia ahead of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, for the first time I feel some genuine enthusiasm for him. He’s a low-key speaker, to be sure. He doesn’t have Obama’s eloquent delivery or Bill Clinton’s charisma. But I like what he said. And I liked the sense of earnestness and empathy in the way he said it. This is a man who gets it… who sees America for what it is and for what it ought to be. He’s not a revolutionary, he’s not promising utopia, but he’s not a cynic either, and I think a Biden administration will be a step in the right direction. Or at least a a step back toward the light:

The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push and pull for more than 240 years, a tug of war between the American ideal that we’re all created equal, and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart. The honest truth is that both elements are part of the American character, both elements. At our best, the American ideal wins out. But it’s never a rout, it’s always a fight and the battle is never fully won.

… 

“I ask every American, I mean this in the bottom of my heart, ask every American, look at where we are now and think anew. Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this what we want to pass onto our children and our grandchildren: fear, anger, fingerpointing rather than the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety, self absorption, selfishness? Or do we want to be the America we know we can be? The America we know in our hearts we could be and should be?

“We hunger for liberty the way Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas did. We thirst for the vote like Susan B. Anthony and Ella Baker and John Lewis did. We strive to explore the stars, cure disease, make an imperfect union more perfect than is been. We may come up short, but at our best, we try.

“My fellow Americans, we’re facing formidable enemies. They include not only the Coronavirus and a terrible impact on the lives and livelihoods, but also the selfishness and fear that have loomed over our national life for the last three years. And I choose those words advisedly, selfishness, and fear. Defeating those enemies requires us to do our duty. And that duty includes remembering who we should be. We should be the America of FDR and Eisenhower, of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., of Jonas Salk and Neil Armstrong. We should be the America that cherishes life, liberty, and courage, and above all, we should be the America that cherishes each other. Each and every one of us.”

Each and every one of us. E pluribus unum… out of many, one. That’s my America. And I want it back.

 

spacer

Justice for All Is the Duty of All

“It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country. It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future. This tragedy — in a long series of similar tragedies — raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society? The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving. Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place.

“America’s greatest challenge has long been to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity. The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union. The answers to American problems are found by living up to American ideals — to the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by God with certain rights. We have often underestimated how radical that quest really is, and how our cherished principles challenge systems of intended or assumed injustice. The heroes of America — from Frederick Douglass, to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, Jr. — are heroes of unity. Their calling has never been for the fainthearted. They often revealed the nation’s disturbing bigotry and exploitation — stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine. We can only see the reality of America’s need by seeing it through the eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised.

“That is exactly where we now stand. Many doubt the justice of our country, and with good reason. Black people see the repeated violation of their rights without an urgent and adequate response from American institutions. We know that lasting justice will only come by peaceful means. Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress. But we also know that lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice. The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all.”

— George W Bush, statement on the nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd

I never thought there would come a day when I’d be posting a quotation from Dubya, of all people, let alone nodding in agreement with it, but here we are. Strange times.

spacer

Better Government in Charity than Indifference

“Governments can err, presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”

— President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (one of my personal heroes) in a speech accepting renomination for the presidency, June 27, 1936

spacer

Failure

You want to know just how far we’ve tumbled into this awful parallel universe that’s like a distorted funhouse-mirror version of the place we’re supposed to be? Far enough that I’m actually finding wisdom in the writing of David Frum, the man who gave George W. Bush the phrase “Axis of Evil.” That’s how screwed up everything is. So screwed up that I’m not only listening to the propagandist who helped Dubya bamboozle this nation into an unjust, endless (and endlessly expensive) war, but that I’m nodding in agreement with him.

Frum’s breakdown in The Atlantic of Donald J. Trump’s catastrophically incompetent response to the COVID-19 plague is exhaustive, irrefutable, and frankly pretty damn nauseating. Given how quickly events have seemed to move and how quickly we’ve lost track of all the contradictory statements and back-and-forth dithering — a fog of war that I believe has been quite deliberately promulgated by the Con Artist in Chief — it’s well worth your effort to wade through, to remind yourself. But everything that the history books will really need to report is contained in the opening paragraphs:

That the pandemic occurred is not Trump’s fault. The utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic is Trump’s fault. The loss of stockpiled respirators to breakage because the federal government let maintenance contracts lapse in 2018 is Trump’s fault. The failure to store sufficient protective medical gear in the national arsenal is Trump’s fault. That states are bidding against other states for equipment, paying many multiples of the precrisis price for ventilators, is Trump’s fault. Air travelers summoned home and forced to stand for hours in dense airport crowds alongside infected people? That was Trump’s fault too. Ten weeks of insisting that the coronavirus is a harmless flu that would miraculously go away on its own? Trump’s fault again. The refusal of red-state governors to act promptly, the failure to close Florida and Gulf Coast beaches until late March? That fault is more widely shared, but again, responsibility rests with Trump: He could have stopped it, and he did not.

The lying about the coronavirus by hosts on Fox News and conservative talk radio is Trump’s fault: They did it to protect him. The false hope of instant cures and nonexistent vaccines is Trump’s fault, because he told those lies to cover up his failure to act in time. The severity of the economic crisis is Trump’s fault; things would have been less bad if he had acted faster instead of sending out his chief economic adviser and his son Eric to assure Americans that the first stock-market dips were buying opportunities. The firing of a Navy captain for speaking truthfully about the virus’s threat to his crew? Trump’s fault. The fact that so many key government jobs were either empty or filled by mediocrities? Trump’s fault. The insertion of Trump’s arrogant and incompetent son-in-law as commander in chief of the national medical supply chain? Trump’s fault.

For three years, Trump has blathered and bluffed and bullied his way through an office for which he is utterly inadequate. But sooner or later, every president must face a supreme test, a test that cannot be evaded by blather and bluff and bullying. That test has overwhelmed Trump.Trump failed. He is failing. He will continue to fail. And Americans are paying for his failures.

Today, Friday, April 10, 2020, my religious friends are all engaged in a day of fasting and prayer to heal the world of COVID-19. I don’t believe this will do any good. I’m not a religious man, and if there is a God, I don’t believe He or She or It troubles themselves much with what happens down here on this lowly speck of cosmic dust. But even I have reached a point where I just can’t think of much else to say except… God help us.

spacer

Profile in Courage

I’m no fan of Mitt Romney.

I’ve always thought he comes across as humorless, patrician, and condescending, an uptight son of privilege who’s too eager to wag a sanctimonious finger at his lessers. And the vibe I get is that we’re all lesser in his view, unless we belong to his church or his economic class, preferably both. The fact that he’s a hero to so many in my home state just makes him all the more grating: savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics and an aspirational role model of capitalistic success with perfect executive-style hair (never mind that his particular flavor of capitalism is the twisted evil kind that drives companies into the ground and ruins workers’ lives while a small handful of Wall Street gamblers makes enormous bank). Some true believers even claimed for a time that he was the fulfillment of a bit of Mormon folklore about a member of the Church riding in on a white horse to save the country when “the Constitution dangles by a thread.” Insert eyeroll here.

I’ve got to hand it to him, though: I think he showed true courage and character yesterday when he broke ranks with his party to vote “guilty” in the impeachment trial of Donald J Trump,  the only Republican with spine enough — and moral clarity enough — to do so. He knew it would cost him; he even addressed that possibility in the speech he gave before the vote. And sure enough, a lot of those same folks who were so quick to link him with that hoary old prophecy in 2012 are this morning calling him a traitor (ironic, considering that, well, the Constitution is dangling by a thread right now, and Mormon Mitt did what he could to try to save it). I have no doubt Trump has underlined his name three times on the Imperial Enemies List, and back here in Utah, our local Republican apparatchiks have called him in to discuss censuring him or maybe even recalling him from Washington for good.

No matter what happens in that regard, though, he followed his conscience, and I respect that.

His full statement is worth reading if you’ve got a minute, but here’s the important bits:

The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Yes, he did.

The president asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

The president withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so.

The president delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.

The president’s purpose was personal and political.

Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.

What he did was not “perfect” — no, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.

I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the president from office. The results of this Senate court will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgment of the American people. Voters will make the final decision, just as the president’s lawyers have implored. My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate. But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me. I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong.

We’re all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that is distinction enough for any citizen.

Now, there are cynics who say that this was a calculated move to play both sides of the aisle and gain some good press clippings to use in another possible run at the Oval Office in 2024. I suppose anything’s possible. But I honestly don’t get that feeling from any of these words. I watched the video of him delivering this statement, and I do think he was sincere.

I still don’t like the guy and I will never vote for him. He’s still all the things I said in my introduction, and by his own admission he’s voted for about 80% of Trump’s agenda, which in my opinion is more than enough to disqualify him from the presidency. (Let’s be honest, the odds of me ever voting for a Republican for any office are virtually nil at this point.) But he did a good and honorable thing yesterday.

Frankly, he surprised me.

I only wish a few more of his fellows had been equally as strong and unexpected with their votes.

spacer

“Right Matters.”

As the impeachment trial of Donald J Trump stumbles to its likely conclusion this weekend, if not tomorrow, I am under no illusion whatsoever that Senate Republicans will vote to remove that poisonous carbuncle from the White House. It is clear that they’ve abandoned any pretense of caring about anything other than maintaining their own party’s grip on power. I can only hope that a tsunami of angry voters washes them all out of office this November, and even then, the succeeding administration is going to have a very big job repairing the damage done to our nation over the past three years. Honestly, I’m not sure if anyone can repair it. And that’s assuming that Trump and Mitch McConnell don’t manage to stay in office. If that happens… well… let’s just say the country I grew up in already feels very, very far away.

No matter what happens tomorrow, though, or Saturday or eight months from now, but especially if things don’t go the way I’m hoping they will, let no one ever say that there weren’t people who tried. That there weren’t those who were absolutely aware that we’re standing at a crossroads and who didn’t do their damnedest to appeal to the other side’s intellect and patriotism and sense of morality. Consider the remarks made by Representative Adam Schiff a week ago tonight as he concluded his opening arguments. In my view, this was a genuine Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment. The fact that these thoughtful words didn’t sway anyone on either side, that minds were already made up and votes predetermined before this sham trial ever even began, speaks volumes about these crazy, exhausting times:

The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interests first. … Colonel [Alexander] Vindman said, “Here, right matters. Here, right matters.” Well, let me tell you something, if right doesn’t matter … it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. Doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. Doesn’t matter how well written the Oath of Impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost.

If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The Framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves, if right and truth don’t matter. And you know that what [President Trump] did was not right. That’s what they do in the old country, that Colonel Vindman’s father came from. Or the old country that my great grandfather came from, or the old countries that your ancestors came from, or maybe you came from. But here, right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth. No constitution can protect us, [if] right doesn’t matter any more. And you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because right matters and the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.

Otherwise we are lost.

I fear I already know the answer to that implied question. I won’t be surprised when the Senate acquits Donald Trump with a vote along party lines. No, I won’t be surprised in the least. But I will mourn. Because once upon a time, I believed that what Schiff was saying, what Vindman said, was true. And I no longer do. And if I’m honest, I haven’t in a very long time. And that is heartbreaking.

spacer

Heinlein on Whether It Could Happen Here

As for … the idea that we could lose our freedom by succumbing to a wave of religious hysteria, I am sorry to say that I consider it possible. I hope that it is not probable. But there is a latent deep strain of religious fanaticism in this, our culture; it is rooted in our history and it has broken out many times in the past.

“It is with us now; there has been a sharp rise in strongly evangelical sects in this country in recent years, some of which hold beliefs theocratic in the extreme, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, and anti-libertarian.

“It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.

“Nevertheless this business of legislating religious beliefs into law has never been more than sporadically successful in this country — Sunday closing laws here and there, birth control legislation in spots, the Prohibition experiment, temporary enclaves of theocracy such as Voliva’s Zion, Smith’s Nauvoo, and a few others. The country is split up into such a variety of faiths and sects that a degree of uneasy tolerance now exists from expedient compromise; the minorities constitute a majority of opposition against each other.

“Could it be otherwise here? Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not — but a combination of a dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday’s efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck.

“Throw in a Depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negrosim, and a good large dose of anti-“furriners” in general and anti-intellectuals here at home, and the result might be something quite frightening — particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington.”

— Robert A. Heinlein,
“Concerning Stories Never Written” (the afterword to Revolt in 2100)

It is worth noting that Heinlein wrote those words in the 1950s. And also that in his “Future History” cycle of science fiction stories, which includes Revolt in 2100, he pegged the late 20th century and much of the 21st as “The Crazy Years” when America becomes a puritanical theocracy, and spaceflight and other technological and scientific advancement all but ceases.  With today’s Supreme Court decision not to put a stop to partisan gerrymandering, anti-abortion and “freedom of religion” laws springing up all over the place, Mitch McConnell’s heavy-handed and nakedly obvious power plays, and of course a president who has made it plain he’d rather rule as a dictator than govern as an elected official bound by rules and procedure, I fear we are living through the early phase of The Crazy Years right now…

spacer

It Is Not Okay

Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat from California and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, responded today to Republican calls that he resign for supposedly spreading conspiracy theories against the man in the White House. His defiant words are nothing short of inspiring:

My colleagues might think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for president as part of what’s described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that’s okay. My colleagues might think it’s okay that when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help — no, instead that son said he would ‘love’ the help with the Russians.

You might think it was okay that he took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that the president’s son-in-law also took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public. You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think it’s okay. I don’t.

You might think it’s okay that, when it was discovered a year later that they had lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions, you might think it’s okay that the president is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think it’s okay. I don’t.

You might think it’s okay that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s okay. I don’t. You might think it’s okay that that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data, to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s okay.

You might think it’s okay if that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, if they were listening. You might think it’s okay that, later that day, the Russians in fact attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s okay.

You might think that it’s okay that the president’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back-channel of communication with Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s okay.

You might think it’s okay that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it’s okay that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say, in terms of dirt on his opponent.

You might think it’s okay that the national security adviser-designate secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI.

You might say that’s all okay. You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s okay. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt, and evidence of collusion.

Now, I have always said that whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime was up to the special counsel and that I would accept his decision, and I do. He is a good an honorable man and he is a good prosecutor.

But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is okay. And the day we do think that’s okay is the day we will look back and say, that is the day America lost its way.

And I’ll tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today. I don’t think it’s okay that during a presidential campaign Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin’s help to consummate a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune. According to the special counsel, hundreds of millions of dollars. I don’t think it’s okay that he concealed it from the public. don’t think it’s okay he advocated a new and more favorable policy towards the Russians, even as he was seeking the Russian’s help, the Kremlin’s help, to make money.

<End quote>

All of that happened. It’s real. It’s on the record. Like I said the other day, maybe Mueller couldn’t connect the dots to make a legal case (or maybe he wasn’t given the time he needed to make the connections, which is what I strongly suspect), but that doesn’t mean the dots aren’t there, or that they don’t stink.

See, here’s the thing: I make no secret of the fact that I’m a liberal Democrat. Many people would take that fact and assume that my feelings about the man currently occupying the Oval Office are simply partisan, that I must hate Trump because he is a Republican. Not so. I would despise Donald Trump regardless of what party he ostensibly belonged to, and in fact I did despise him long before this national nightmare ever began. I despise him because he is so transparently corrupt, so transparently hungry for power, so proudly ignorant, and so thoroughly lacking in empathy or anything resembling grace, class or dignity.

But you know what? I think I despise the Congressional Republicans who are defending him even more. Because they know what he is and what he’s doing, and they don’t care. These same Republicans who genuflect to the Constitution, who weep at the sight of the flag, these upstanding “family values” people who are so quick to weaponize the smallest transgression made by a Democrat and who will not ever let go of anything… these same people turn a blind eye to the sins of Donald J Trump. They claim that any question at all about the man’s behavior is all “conspiracy theories” and sour grapes for a lost election. “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” they call it.

Nope.You’ve got that wrong, guys.

What has us liberals so angry is the goddamn double standard that Republicans so easily traffic in… that, and the stink of corruption that Donald Trump has carried into the White House like dogshit on his shoes, and the stench of decay that’s growing stronger day by day as it oozes across our entire nation.

I try to be optimistic about the future, about the institutions and ideals that knit this scattered collection of populations and geographies into the thing we call America, but I have to be honest: I just don’t know how we’re going to come back from this. The America I thought I knew when I was young began to die when those idiots drove their planes into the towers. The bleeding accelerated when Americans cheered at the invasion of a country that hadn’t attacked us, chuckled at the images of people being tortured and scoffed at the thought that the Geneva conventions actually applied to us. I naively thought the fever might be breaking with the election of Barack Obama and the strides toward a more truly equal nation that were made under his administration. But then came the backlash. Then came Trump. Then came the racists and the homophobes and the gun-nuts and god-knows how many other kinds of reactionaries and regressives. And now the gleeful nihilists who read Ayn Rand in their teens and took her warped selfishness to heart are knocking out the pillars that hold everything up and half the population actually thinks it’s a good idea.

I’ve said it before many times, usually in reference to my feelings of having taken a wrong turn in my own life, but I’d really like to know just when and where I stepped through that wormhole into a parallel universe. And how the hell can I get back?

I want my country back.

No comments on this one. Not that I ever get any these days, but… yeah. No comments.

spacer

Nothing Has Changed

Today the president’s supporters are practically orgasmic with their gloating and trolling, while Democrats are rending their garments, shaking their fists at the unfair heavens, and crying out, “Why? Why?!” But the truth is, nothing has really changed. No, really, it hasn’t. We still don’t know what’s actually in the Mueller report. We’ve just been given a summary of what it supposedly contains, a summary that was crafted by a political appointee who got the job after writing the president a letter about how terrible the Mueller investigation was. So… yeah. Not the most trustworthy intermediary, in my opinion. Until the American people actually see the full report with our own eyes, I’m not changing my opinion that, for someone who’s supposedly done nothing wrong, the president certainly acts like a man with something to hide. Consider these reminders from Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo:

Based on the publicly available information, the President betrayed his country and serially lied about his involvement with Russia and his knowledge about the Russian interference campaign. We know that despite all denials, throughout the campaign the President was trying to land a multi-hundred million dollar real estate deal that required the assistance of the President of Russia, one that required the end of sanctions. We know his campaign manager was handing over campaign data to a man the FBI judged was a Russian intelligence asset. We know his campaign had a back channel to Wikileaks and appears to have coordinated the timing of the leaks. We know that his top campaign officials had numerous contacts with Russian officials and intermediaries offering campaign assistance and welcomed the assistance. Finally, we know the transition [team] worked with Russia to undermine the sanctions intended to punish the interference campaign.

By any standard, simply these known facts are profoundly damning and constitute a massive national betrayal. The Trump campaign knew about, profited from and encouraged Russian assistance. Putin also appears to have been dangling a massive payoff in front of him the whole time. Russia helped Trump; Trump helped Russia; they were in contact via intermediaries throughout the campaign.

Presumably the report explains the details of these dealings and how they did not constitute either conspiracy or coordination. That is the information, the analysis we need to see. I’d suggest we know very little until we see this information, which is to say, until we see the report.

Mueller may not have been able to connect all the dots within his mandate, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Trump is sitting in the Oval Office (when he bothers to go into work, that is) because of the Russians. Yeah, yeah, Hillary was a less-than-ideal candidate, and Democratic infighting, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the vagaries of the electoral college all played a role, but the thumb on the scale that tilted things over the line belonged to Putin. Whether he made an actual deal with the Russians or not, they did everything they could to install him in the White House, either in hopes that he’d quid-pro-quo away those sanctions or just because they knew he’d generate so much barking chaos that it would tear the U.S. to pieces. Well, mission fucking accomplished, comrades.

spacer