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Of green lights and quid pro quos

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This feels like the real thing, doesn’t it? I mean, the end of Trump. What with impeachment rolling on full steam as UkraineGate grows more scandalous by the minute—and with Trump’s incredibly horrific blunder concerning abandoning the Kurds—the fool in the White House has sealed his own doom.

Let us hope so, at any rate. Someday, all this may seem to have been inevitable. We all wondered how Trump could get away with so much bullshit, month after month, year after year, and still keep 95% of Republicans, and 38 percent of the country, behind him. The rest of us shook our heads in bewilderment. How could this horror continue? Why didn’t Republicans see?

Now, maybe they have. The Senate in particular seems to have their eyes suddenly opened; I don’t quite understand their love for the Kurds—that story may be explained someday—but I suspect it has to do with evangelicalism. Somehow, saving the Kurds is connected (in evangelical brains) to support for Israel, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that saving the Kurds is tantamount to defeating Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy. At any rate, the evangelicals need a healthy Israel—at this point—because without Israel, there’s no place for Jesus to return to; and the Rapture, which has become a semi-official plank in the Republican Party platform, cannot happen.

Radical Christians, including Pence and Pompeo, freak out at the notion that the Rapture might not occur on schedule. Their weltanschauung cannot grasp that: they’ll do anything in order to usher in the End Days, it’s so central to their core belief. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution is awkwardly juxtaposed to the Rapture: if the Constitution is inconvenient, then ignore it. Never mind that the President of the United States is a sinner, and a grievous one at that, probably not even a believer, and undoubtedly a criminal: God moves in mysterious ways, and who’s to say that He, in His infinite wisdom, has not selected a bad man to bring about His ends? King David was no angel (to paraphrase Trump’s description of the Kurds), but God used David; in such a manner, God is using Donald J. Trump to bring about the Rapture.

What can you say about this kind of thinking? What can you say about the men who think it? Yes, they’re mentally ill. Yes, they’re delusional. But there they are, this Christian-evangelical bunch of lunatics who currently run our government.

But the funny thing is that Trump may have overplayed his hand when he counted on the evangelicals to support him in everything he did. You can’t really blame him: they stood by him through the Access Hollywood tape, through the Stormy Daniels adultery scandal, through the hush money payoffs, through Trump selling out to Putin on just about everything, through his vulgarity and bullying…through the whole panoply of Trump’s stupidity and evilness. No wonder Trump thought they’d stand by him as he sold the Kurds down the river.

Well, Trump should have studied his Rapture more thoroughly. For it turns out there’s one thing the evangelicals treasure even more than him: Jesus. Trump forced the evangelicals to choose between him and their Lord. Not surprisingly, they chose their Lord.

So the Green Light to Erdowan resulted in Turkey’s invasion of Syria, and the quid pro quo to Zelensky resulted in an impeachment inquiry. Republicans in the Senate might have stonewalled right through impeachment, were it not for the Green Light. But the Green Light made it impossible for them to do so. The House absolutely will vote to bring articles of impeachment against Trump, probably within the next month. McConnell has already said he’ll have to convene a trial. Were the Senate to vote today, there would not be enough Republican support to convict and remove from office. But a month is an awfully long time in politics, and Trump—frustrated, enraged, irrational—is going to do a lot more stupid stuff in the next 30 days; his judgment is fried. One by one, Republican constituents are going to let their Senators know that they’re comfortable with conviction and removal. One by one, Republican Senators will grow spines. These are going to be breathtaking, historic days; and for Democrats, wonderful ones.

Rest in peace, Elijah Cummings.


Loma Prieta: 30 years ago

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Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the 6.9 magnitude temblor that wrecked large parts of Northern California.

I remember it well. I was living in Oakland and working as a stringer, or freelance reporter, for the Oakland Tribune newspaper; I’d been assigned a little story for the regional section of the paper (“local girl wins kite-flying contest”) and was interviewing her father over the phone. I was in Oakland; he was in Walnut Creek, about 16 miles away to the northeast. At 5:04 p.m., I felt the first tremor and told him, “We’re getting a little earthquake.”

“Nothing here,” he replied.

“It’s not so little.”

“Now I’m getting it.”

“It’s big! Gotta go!”

Loma Prieta Mountain, the epicenter of the earthquake, in Santa Cruz County, is about 71 miles south of Oakland. Earthquake waves travel an average of 4 miles per second. Since Walnut Creek is further away from the epicenter than Oakland, it took about 4 seconds longer for the waves to reach the kite girl’s father; and our phone call was a vivid illustration of that time delay.

As I hung up the phone, I heard various objects in my home crashing to the floor: wine glasses, framed photos and the like. Outside, car alarms were blaring. The entire house shook violently—and then stopped. A terrible silence ensued, except for the car alarms. The whole thing had lasted a mere 15 seconds.

I ran over to my next door neighbor, Robert’s, place and banged on the door. When he opened it a cloud of marijuana smoke drifted out. “Robert!” I gasped. “Was that the Big One?” All of our electric power was now gone, but Robert had an early-model battery-powered T.V. Its screen was only four inches wide, but he was able to get one of the local San Francisco television stations that remained on the air via their generators. When the announcer said that the Bay Bridge had collapsed, Robert and I almost became hysterical.

The bridge hadn’t collapsed, after all; a portion of the upper deck had, and several cars plunged into the breach, killing one driver. The most deaths occurred on a 2-mile stretch of the 980 Freeway in Oakland (on which I’d driven earlier that day): the upper deck pancaked onto the lower deck, crushing hundreds of cars and killing dozens of drivers. It had been rush hour; the only reason more people hadn’t been on the freeway and died was because the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s were playing against each other in the World Series, at Candlestick Park. Most of the Bay Area had taken the afternoon off to watch the historic ballgame.

A month or so later, I was in the city room of the Oakland Tribune, meeting with my editor on another story, when the paper’s general manager entered and yelled that he had an announcement. The fifty or so people in the room immediately gathered around in silence. No one had the slightest idea what he was going to say.

What he said was, “I am pleased to announce that our newspaper has just won the Pulitzer Prize!” A tremendous cheer went up; the Trib always had a bit of an inferiority complex, and it was amazing to be in that place, at that time, when so many hard-working people felt their efforts had at last been recognized. The specifics: one of our photographers, Michael Macor—with whom I had often worked—had snapped the pictures of the collapsed, smoking 980 freeway, pictures that were reproduced around the world and became, with other images such as the fallen houses in the Marina, the graphic symbols of the Loma Prieta Earthquake.

We here in the Bay Area, as well as other Californians from Los Angeles to Bakersfield to Santa Rosa and who knows where else—live with the possibility of “the Big One” looming at the edge of our minds. Earthquakes are our hurricanes, our potential Katrina: we had a 4.5 magnitude just a few miles from my house the other day, a reminder from the San Andreas network of faults that it is ready to rupture anytime. I went to Grocery Outlet yesterday and stocked up on canned foods to join my bottled water for my earthquake supply kit. This is the reality we live with in California: the possibility of a major disaster, in which we may be on our own for a considerable amount of time.


Wine Reviews: ICAN wines in a can

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I have absolutely nothing in principle against wine in cans, especially white wines and rosés that need to be refrigerated. There’s no reason not to put such wines in cans. Aluminum cans are recyclable; they reduce your carbon footprint; they help, in a small way, to heal our planet. Only snobs would object to a good wine just because it’s in a can, instead of a bottle.

I’ve always been in favor of alternative packaging. I remember when screwtops were introduced. Tangent, a Central Coast producer, was one of the early adapters, and I loved their white wines. I was glad to see an important winery making the argument for alternative closures, and I was glad when ICAN Wines asked me to review two of their wines in 375 ml. aluminum cans.

ICAN is from Mercer Family Vineyards, in the Horse Heaven Hills of Washington State. I’ve never had any of their wines (since California was my bailiwick), but I looked their scores up on Wine Enthusiast’s website, and saw that the Washington reviewer has consistently given Mercer scores in the mid- to high Eighties, which, considering their price, isn’t bad.

ICAN’s wines, according to their website, also are sourced from Horse Heaven Hills vineyards. I’ve traveled through that area: located midway between Portland, on the coast, and Walla Walla, it’s part of the huge Columbia Valley appellation, and received its own AVA status in 2005. It’s home to some very prestigious wineries, including Quilceda Creek.

ICAN sent me two wines, a Chardonnay and a Rosé. Here are my reviews. I wanted to like the wines more than I did, unfortunately. If Mercer can boost the quality of these wines, they’d really have something!

ICAN Non-Vintage Chardonnay (Washington State); $5.95/375 ml. The winery chooses to list the appellation as “Washington State,” despite their assertion that the grapes are from Horse Heaven Hills. That’s cool: few people have heard of Horse Heaven Hills, and everyone’s heard of Washington State, so I get it: but if wineries in these smaller AVAs don’t promote them, the public will continue to be ignorant of them.

Anyhow, as for the wine, it’s pretty bland. Vaguely fruity, it shows candied pineapple and peach flavors that thin out on a watery finish. It’ll do in a pinch, but I can’t really say it’s a good value, since the 750 ml. equivalent is nearly $12. You can do better at that price. Score: 83 points.

ICAN Non-Vintage Rosé (Washington State); $5.95/375 ml. Like the Chardonnay, the can bears a Washington State appellation. It has a very pale, partridge-eye color. There’s not much of an aroma. Taste-wise, there are strawberry and orange Lifesaver flavors, with a nice spiciness, and a refreshing bite of acidity. The finish is dry, but watery. The wine is clean, but simple. As with the Chardonnay, I wish the price was lower. Score: 84 points.


What happens when America’s chief law enforcement officer is a religious maniac?

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Let’s understand a few things about William Barr, who currently is Trump’s Attorney-General. We’ll start with his religion, because he says he’s here “to bring God’s law to America,” and since Barr is America’s chief legal officer, we need to understand just what he means.

Barr was born Catholic but became an evangelical Christian at some point in his past; exactly when is uncertain, because Barr is very reluctant to admit it. We know certain things about evangelicals: they believe the Earth is exactly 5,779 years old because that’s what the Hebrew calendar says, and the Bible, according to them, is the literal truth of everything.

They believe that Jesus is going to return to Earth, at which time his enemies (gays, Muslims, Jews, and everyone else who hasn’t accepted Jesus) will promptly be sent to Hell. They believe that, in order to prepare America for this expected Rapture, they must take over all power: government, schools, media, etc. and stamp out non-evangelical messages.

Evangelicals, as their name suggests, are not content to live their religious lives privately. Instead, they believe that God has commanded them to impose their religion on everyone else, regardless of whether or not others wish to accept their religion. This tends to make evangelicals pushy, which explains why they like the bully, Trump. This is not a problem, as long as they don’t have power; but in the case of the Trump regime and William Barr, they do have power. A lot of power. So when Barr rages against “the secular assault on religion,” as he frequently does, implicit in his fulminations is the threat of using his vast powers to repress those “secular” impulses, by force if necessary.

Indeed, the language of militancy runs throughout evangelical discourse, and is Barr’s preferred metaphor, as well. His Justice Department will “fight to enforce traditional values,” he said in a speech last week. Whom will he fight, how will he conduct his fight, and what are those traditional values? His own words provide the answers: He will fight “the secularists.” Who are the secularists? You don’t need a dictionary to know: the secularists are anyone who is not a Christian. That’s me. It may be you.

How will he fight us? The most obvious way is through the law, and Barr’s interpretation of it. This means, among other things, that Barr will fight to make same-sex marriage once again illegal. He will fight to protect the “right” of bigoted bakers not to sell wedding cake to gay couples. He will fight to rid the military of trans people, and he will fight to once again force gay people into the closet. And on many other fronts, Barr will use the courts to bludgeon people into an evangelical way of acting.

What are Barr’s “traditional values”? The most ironic way of identifying them is to look at the life of Barr’s boss, Donald J. Trump. You can identify a “traditional value” as the opposite of anything Trump says and does. Barr says the family is the most sacred bedrock of traditional values. Trump’s addiction to pornography, serial adultery and to grabbing women’s genitals surely is the opposite of “traditional family values” but that doesn’t seem to bother Barr or his fellow evangelicals.

Swearing also is a “traditional value,” but when Trump publicly uses the f-bomb and “pussy” and “shit” you don’t hear Barr or his evangelical friends criticizing such filthy language coming from a President of the United States. Another traditional value is loyalty to one’s friends, but when Trump throws the Kurds under the bus, where’s Barr? Playing the bagpipes, probably; it’s his hobby.

Well, you can’t expect logical consistency from evangelicals because their minds don’t work that way. Imagine the mental energy that needs to be expended, in the form of denial and resentment, in order to believe that the Universe is 5,779 years old. You have to disregard so much evidence! Our human brains have evolved to make us rational creatures, but at the same time we still possess a reptilian brainstem that rejects reason and science; and it is from this reptilian brainstem that evangelicals like William Barr “think.” An alligator cannot reason; an alligator only knows how to attack and devour its enemy, and this militancy lies behind Barr’s threat to “fight the secularists.”

But William Barr’s inability to think beyond his reptilian brainstem will be his downfall, because he doesn’t realize just how powerful we “secularists” are, when we band together to defend ourselves and our country. There are way, way more of us than there are of the evangelicals. Trump has tried for nearly three years to pack the courts with evangelical judges, but secular-minded judges still remain the majority: this doesn’t mean they’re atheists or agnostics, but it does mean they put the Law ahead of their religious preferences. William Barr does not; like the late Antonin Scalia and the still-living Clarence Thomas (both Catholics), Barr puts his religion front and center, and anything that doesn’t kowtow to it—including the Constitution—is expendable.

This is why the Republicans are going to suffer such a huge electoral defeat next year. Most Americans, of all religions, remain fair-minded. They know that our country was born in a fight against a dictatorship (George III’s monarchy) and they have no wish to see a religious theocracy imposed upon them. There may even be some evangelicals who are beginning to have their doubts about Trump. It’s going to be hard on them, in the coming year; after all the energy and faith they poured into Trump, it will be an enormous strain on their cognitive dissonance to realize that he’s a truly bad, ungodly man, and that he has sold out his country for his own personal greed and profit. So, I feel a little compassion for evangelicals: not much, because they have brought this catastrophe upon themselves; but a little. They’re having a reckoning with themselves, and to be honest, it’s fun to watch them melt down.


Friday News Quiz

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Okay, kids, here’s your final multiple choice quiz of the week. How will Trump and his regime be remembered by History?

  1. Worst in American history
  2. A depraved hiccup, after which normalcy was restored
  3. The cause of Civil War II
  4. The demise of evangelicalism in America
  5. Part of a wave of nationalist-white supremacist governments around the world
  6. All of the above
  7. None of the above
  8. Some of the above

It’s pretty obvious, to me anyway, that #1 is going to be true. We already see the outlines: a greedy, criminal enterprise, similar to a Mafia family, run by an unscrupulous, sexually depraved man. Comparisons have been made to Tony Soprano, but that’s not right, because Tony was—for all his faults—likeable; and Trump is not, not even by his Republican allies.

Concerning #2, we might well return to normalcy, starting when we elect a Democratic President and Congress next year. Or we might not. The seeds of American democracy are strong, but this regime has poisoned the soil, like a toxic waste dump, and it could be a long time before normal conditions are restored.

I doubt if #3, the Civil War II scenario, will ensue, but you never know. This Trump bunch is mentally ill; they’re basically sociopaths (as is Trump himself) and they also have weapons. They may take to the streets, in which case the rest of us would have to fight back. I think that they’ll be talked down from their violence (by their families, or clergymen, or friends) but they just might be angry enough to start shooting.

I earnestly hope and pray that #4, the demise of evangelicalism, comes true. I harbor no illusions that we can crush it 100%. These idiots have always lurked at the fringes of American society and they’re not going away. But we can reduce their numbers, and we can reduce their influence, and we can certainly shame them into shutting up and leaving us alone.

#5, the spread of white supremacist-nationalist governments around the world, is already happening, as my readers know. Trump is only its American incarnation. We’ve seen this before: the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s, which led to World War II. But History doesn’t exactly repeat itself. There are some understandable reasons why Western nations occasionally lurch into nationalism. These reasons are false, on analysis; but the underlying feelings that prompt them are real. Governments, including America’s, need to understand why so many white people seem to yearn for authoritarian, one-party leaders who can make the trains run on time.

Therefore, #6 is incorrect and so is #7. The final correct answer is #8: “some of the above.”

Meanwhile, I am loving the turn of events which UkraineGate is bringing about. I don’t see how Trump finagles himself out of this shitstorm. Neither do I see how his craziest allies—Giuliani, Pence, Pompeo and Republican Congressional leaders—get out of this alive. With every ounce of my hope I envision Nuremberg-style trials in which this entire rogue regime is brought to Justice, convicted and sentenced to prison. See Paris and die? No, see Trump behind bars, and then I’ll be happy to go to Valhalla.

Have a wonderful weekend! To my friends in fire-prone California, stay safe!


4 ways to tell when Trump makes his next moves to be dictator

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We all know Trump wants to make himself Leader For Life, like his friends Putin, Kim Jong Un, Erdogan of Turkey and Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. We’ve read how his spawn, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, are negotiating who succeeds him as Supreme Leader; or maybe it will be Jared. The important thing is to keep it in the family!

But Trump has yet to take certain steps that dictators have traditionally undertaken. How will we know when he’s feeling emboldened enough to escalate his power grab to the next level? Here are 4 ominous things to watch out for.

Organized Security Apparatus. Whenever you have an authoritarian state, you have a secret, oppressive internal police force. The Shah of Iran had his dreaded Savak, Hitler his Gestapo. Trump hasn’t yet formed a secret police. He’s hinted that he “has the gun owners and the cops” on his side, and we’ve seen evidence that there are small cadres of militants playing paintball in the woods and drilling with AK47s for the day Trump summons them to hunt down Muslims, Gays and Democrats. But nothing formalized yet. Keep an eye out for the first formal brigades of Trump Troopers.

The Uniform. Dictators always have cool uniforms for their security apparatchiks. Hitler had his Brown Shirts and his black-shirted SS, with their sexy uniforms and insignia. Trump hasn’t yet established a dress code, unless you count those stupid MAGA hats. The problem with the MAGA hats, though, is that most of the time, the people wearing them at his rallies are fat and ugly—hardly the sort of Aryan role models Trump admires. We’ll know Trump is intent on remaining in power when he dresses his Trump Troopers in gear personally designed by him and the fashionista Ivanka.

The Salute. Dictators, Fuehrers and Duces always have a formal salute that their followers can give him and to each other, a sort of mating ritual that identifies themselves. Hitler’s infamous “Heil”, in which the extended right arm shot skyward, has been much ridiculed, but it worked in its day. Trump doesn’t yet have a Salute. He occasionally gives thumbs-ups, but that’s already been taken (by Churchill). It’s anyone’s guess what Trump will come up with. He’ll also develop some verbal salute to accompany the physical one, although “Heil Trump!” is probably a little too derivative.

Youth Organizations. Hitler had his Hitler Youth, which contained girls’ and boys’ divisions. Their purpose was to indoctrinate children as young as six into proper Nazi doctrine, before they developed the critical thinking skills needed to see through Hitler’s lies and propaganda. We don’t yet have any Trump Youth Organization, but we do have various rightwing Christian and evangelical churches crushing childrens’ abilities to think rationally and replacing them with a Love Trump dedication. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some combination of home schoolers and evangelical churches in which American children are isolated, injected with propaganda and readied for the coming wars.

There’s little doubt Trump has carefully studied the rise and practices of Adolf Hitler (to the extent he’s capable of studying anything beyond his Twitter feed). His acolytes say that he loves to troll the press: his invitation to China to get dirt on Joe Biden, they say, was just “joking around.” But was it? When Trump says he’s the “greatest and wisest” he may be trolling, but he also may be testing the waters to see what he can get away with saying—and he also may be self-inducing himself to believe his own words. Hitler made many of the same boasts: “I will crush” etc. “Only I can solve” etc. “I am the law.” At first people said he was just joking. He wasn’t; and when he believed his own hype, and convinced Germans of it, he launched a war that killed 100,000,000 people and destroyed a continent.


Here’s the truth about the Deep State

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You wanna know who the goddamn Deep State is? I’ll tell you.

First, a definition. The Deep State is a seditious cadre of right wing religious fascists, rapacious billionaires, and the slime bags on the consultative/media rear end of the Republican Party. Together, they have made common cause against America: they wish to do away with the U.S. Constitution, delegitimize all branches of government (the Congress and the Courts) except for the presidency as long as Trump occupies it, sow mistrust in America’s intelligence services, eliminate all taxes on the wealthy and the corporations they own, destroy independent journalism AKA the First Amendment to the Constitution, and eventually to take this country over as a one-party, religious theocracy.

That’s the Deep State!

Let’s name names.

First among the criminals of the Deep State are so-called “Christian” evangelical preachers. They’ve been burrowing into the fabric of our political structure since the 1970s. Despite the reality of many of them being sexual predators who use the services of prostitutes of both genders for their personal pleasure, they somehow manage to retain the trust of their “flocks,” to whom they preach “family values.” People like Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Franklin Graham are their latest incarnations, but their predecessors include such notorious pervs as Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. They extort money from their (mostly impoverished and ignorant) congregations and use it to live fabulous lifestyles, while arranging for bundled money to be siphoned off to arch-conservative political candidates, which is how they acquired and maintain power with Republicans including Trump and, before him, George W. Bush and Reagan. These people represent a clear and present danger to our nation. They are not religious. They have nothing to do with spirituality or God. They are traitors devoted to Mammon, bent on overturning our multi-cultural democracy and creating a religious dictatorship, with themselves at the controls.

Then there are the greedy billionaires, who never have enough money, no matter how much they possess. Read Jane Mayer’s magnificent book, Dark Money, for more information on them. The Koch Brothers (well, one recently died, thankfully), the Mercers, the DeVoses (one of them is in Trump’s Cabinet), the Coors family—these plutocrats are hell-bent on doing away with taxes while starving the Federal government so that it is no longer able to provide any sort of assistance to struggling people. Their philosophical prophets, to the extent they know how to read, are Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. They despise the poor. They despise people of color. They despise workers, even though without workers they would be pond scum on the surface of America. These are the thugs who buy and sell politicians and judges like soap powder; they bought and paid for the likes of Brett Kavanaugh, and now they expect a return on their investment.

Next in the Basket of Deplorables is the media/pundit/consultant class of far rightwing neo-fascists. They’re the ones you see on Fox “News,” in Breitbart, in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal. Consider Tucker Carlson, if you’re able to do so without vomiting, but of course there are others: Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Daniel Henninger and Kimberley Strassel at the WSJ, and many, many others. These neo-fascists, many of whom are white supremacists, take their talking points from the RNC and directly from the White House. They’re smart enough to know that they lie on behalf of a wannabe dictator, Trump; they’re amoral enough not to care, as long as they get money and power.

You’ll notice I didn’t include Republican politicians in my lineup of the Deep State. People such as Lindsay Graham, John Cornyn, Devin Nunes, Mitch McConnell, the disgraced Pompeo and the repugnant Pence of course are vile; without them Trump and the Deep State could not carry out their nefarious agenda. But they’re not really Deep State because they’re elected; and they can be unelected. It doesn’t matter if they’re turned out of office, because the rightwing Deep State can always find another dime-a-dozen stooge to carry their water.

So there’s your Deep State. This is the cabal that’s working, 24/7/365, to destroy America and install an authoritarian “Christian” regime. This is what must be pulled out by its roots and totally eradicated. And I have a message for Democrats: stop letting Trump and his Deep State put you on the defensive! Stop denying that you’re the Deep State just because they accuse you of it. Turn the tables. When you’re being interviewed on T.V., or speaking at a Town Hall, educate your listeners. Tell them who the real Deep State is. Read this blog. And for God’s sake, take off the damned gloves! The rightwing Deep State plays with knives and guns while you’re out there trying to be, oh so polite and civil. We don’t want polite; we can’t afford polite; they will kill us with polite. Get yourself a knife—a long, sharp one—and learn how to use it on Republicans—rhetorically-speaking, of course!


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