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How the Right plans to take over (dream on…)

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We now know the white supremacist-ammosexual-neo-nazi playbook for seizing power, courtesy of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), the fascist cell that organized yesterday’s “gun rights rally” in Richmond.

Here’s their plan:

  1. Storm government centers of power with a vigilante militia of armed, rightwing thugs.
  2. Take control of relevant offices (communications, command-and-control, courts), using whatever power is required.
  3. Patrol contested and protected areas with armed drones.
  4. Use social media to maintain contact with fellow radicals.
  5. Intimidate ordinary citizens by open-carrying guns and assault weapons and by threatening anyone who looks like a liberal.

This is essentially the same plan Hitler employed when, in 1923, he attempted to pull off the Munich Beer Hall Putsch. Of course, back then there was no social media; in its place Hitler used flyers, telephones and word-of-mouth to keep everyone on the same page. In Hitler’s case, the coup was a failure, but, as he wrote in Mein Kampf, he didn’t care. He knew his day would come, and it did, ten years later, when he became Chancellor of Germany and launched the Second World War, which killed 75 million people.

Who are these gun nuts, anyhow? Let’s take a look at the website of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Several things pop out from the home page: Fear-mongering leads the way in the page’s opening statement: “The 2020 Legislative Session started January 8, 2020 and represents the greatest threat to gun rights Virginians have faced in modern times!”

We know that’s a lie. These ammosexuals are scaring gun owners by telling them Democrats are coming to take away their guns. “They’re going to come kicking in our doors on no-knock raids,” is how one gun freak, peddling the Breitbart/NRA line, put it on T.V. But, of course, Democrats have no intention of doing anything like that. What Democrats are proposing is common sense gun control: Senate Bill 16 bans “assault firearms” and limits the number of shotgun magazine rounds. Surely, decent Americans can agree that no one needs an assault weapon, unless that person is planning to commit mayhem. Normal Virginians are the first to understand this: A solid majority supports banning assault weapons, while even larger majorities demand background checks and a “red flag” law to prevent crazy people from having guns.

Scroll down a little further on the Virginia Citizens Defense League home page and gaze upon a photograph of hundreds of them. What do you see? White, white, white. Nary a face of color among them. MAGA hats sprinkled throughout. Then, go to their “Media” link, where you’ll find “VCDL TV” and an interesting video entitled “No Guns for Negroes.” In it, a Black man’s voice—stentorian, like Morgan Freeman’s—lays out a case for more guns in the Black community. Yes, you read that right: More guns for Blacks. Their rationale: Gun control laws have been used to disarm Blacks from defending their freedoms “Young Black men” should not be prevented from gun ownership, no matter what their past criminal record is. Confiscating guns in the inner city denies Blacks “the right to defend themselves.”

What are we to make of such gibberish? First of all, it comes from the lips of white nationalists—the neo-nazis and KKK members who rioted in Charlottesville, people who dread and hate Black people and whose secret manifestos contain plans to round them up for deportation. Secondly, it’s standard NRA crap, designed to help gun manufacturers sell more weapons. Finally, does it make any sense at all to suggest that “young Black men” in the inner city need more guns? To defend themselves from whom? Clearly, the manipulative minds at VCDL are just making mischief here. The Right has been trying very hard to attract Black votes, and by presenting this bogus argument, which sounds sympathetic to Black people but actually is anything but, they’re hoping to bamboozle Blacks. I think Black people are smarter than that.

The website has lots of other inflammatory and misleading things on it (a particular favorite is one that accuses Democrats of siding with ISIS!), but you get the idea. That’s who these people are: white supremacists who see their domination eroding as America gets browner and blacker…neo-nazis who hate democracy because it lets people of color and (gasp!) Gays vote…anti-abortion types who scream about family values, then imprison Brown babies at the border, cut funding for Medicaid, and try to kill Obamacare…home-schooled “Christians” who claim global warming is a hoax, even as rising sea levels threaten Virginia’s barrier islands, which protect inland areas from storm surge…

Yesterday’s gun rally ended peacefully, thanks to the efforts of Virginia’s Democratic Governor, Ralph Northam, who wisely declared a State of Emergency and forbade guns from the rally site. But “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” We have to watch these ammosexuals who are itching for a fight. Let them have their little parades. But keep them under careful scrutiny. This dangerous fifth column needs to be controlled!


McSally? #LockHerUp

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It pissed me off when that awful Arizona Senator, McSally, called the CNN reporter “a liberal hack.”

Not only is that an offensive term, but McSally’s body language was a mirror into her dark soul: angry, resentful, paranoid, self-aggrandizing, bullying, vicious. Does that remind you of anyone? Yes, McSally’s Fuehrer, Donald J. Trump.

Republicans have always been a nasty bunch. Of course, politics ain’t beanbag, as the American humorist Finley Peter Dunne once quipped, and Democrats can go for the gut, if they have to. But Republicans, it seems to me, have been quicker to resort to insults, and far nastier—because they have so little of substance to bring to any conversation, and because their default emotion is resentment.

Under Trump, of course, the politics of insult and smear has reached a new high—or low. Trump is an unhappy, unstable and thin-skinned man, and he makes no attempt to hide his deplorable side. Most men and women, when elected to high office, would at least try to put forth their better angels, but not Trump. He sees nothing wrong with being an asshole. He gets off being an asshole. In fact, he credits his asshole-ness with getting elected in the first place, which may well be true: Republicans like assholes, as long as they’re white nationalist assholes. And now, after three years in office, he’s worse than ever: mocking, scorning, disrespecting, his comments oozing sarcasm and resentment, and lying at an ever more prodigious rate. Republicans see him and think, “If he can get away with that shit, then so can I.” Hence McSally. What kind of person has Trump as her role model?

Democrats are so reasonable: Nancy Pelosi’s calm dignity, Adam Schiff’s lawyerly precision, Joe Biden’s decency, Mayor Pete’s scholarly grace, Amy Klobuchar’s good humor. Barack Obama is in a class by himself: surrounded by a perpetual aura of heartful decorum and gentleness. What is Trump surrounded by? Flies, darkness, vulgarity and fury. It’s as if he just crawled out of a sewer.

I heard some T.V. talking head over the weekend say something I strongly agree with. He said (I paraphrase), it’s time for the news media to stop treating both sides equally: “Here’s the Democratic side. Here’s the Republican side. You decide.” (It’s what Chuck Todd does on Meet the Press.) That used to work, when both sides had intellectually valid points to make and merely differed on policy specifics (tariffs are a good example of a topic in which reasonable people can disagree).

It no longer works to portray both sides equally, though, because one of those sides—Republicans—no longer possesses any validity. Republicans are disinterested in making sense, in talking truth, in facts. They don’t care about uniting the country—in fact, they want to divide it. They no longer care about fundamental decency, about respecting traditional American values. They’ve gone further into indecency than any political party in modern history, and in so doing they’ve followed their leader from the sewer to the cesspool to the swamp.

Martha McSally merely aped her leader. Study carefully the clip of her making her “liberal hack” insult. Some part of herself knows she’s not being a good Christian: her face gives it away. But that’s only part of the story: She also knows she no longer cares about being a good Christian. She’s dropped all pretense of decency, and is physically enjoying her romp through the muck of nastiness. She has given in to, yes, her dark side.

As have her Republican colleagues in the Congress, and all Americans who continue to call themselves Republicans. Someday, these people, who invariably call themselves Christian, are going to have to explain how they manage to support the most unChristian president in history.

Is it possible for a man to say he believes in god, and then to profane that god with every breath he takes? I’ve never been able to understand that. I, personally, have no fixed belief in god, and a main reason for that is because the most god-preaching people I’ve seen have been the most hateful. Many people, including Ghandi, have said they love Christianity and Christ, but they hate Christians. That’s pretty much how I feel. As the Sojourner, Stephen Mattson, said,I love the grace, forgiveness, and love that Jesus reveals in the New Testament, but the only Christians I know promote judgment, fear, and shame.” Thinking of Jesus, or reading about his works, my heart grows tender, my eyes moist. Then I see a Franklin Graham or a Devin Nunes on T.V. and I want to throw up.

We have to beat these thugs, we just have to. This Impeachment trial is going to be great fun to watch, and we’re going to learn more and more about Trump’s crimes as the weeks unfold; but he’s not going to be convicted because his co-conspirators, Republican Senators, have “the fix” in. So that leaves Election Day. I’m not a praying man, but if I were, I’d pray for a Blue Wave 2020, in which we keep the House, take the Senate, and overwhelmingly elect a Democrat as president. A humiliated, infuriated Donald J. Trump can then skulk off to Mar-a-Lago and play golf as much as he likes.


Starr Redux

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I have to admit that my jaw dropped this morning when I learned that one of Trump’s defense lawyers is going to be none other than Kenneth Starr.

Those of us of a certain age remember Starr well. He was the Special Prosecutor in charge of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. When the Whitewater case he was trying to build against Clinton—corruption—collapsed completely because it was a lie to begin with, Starr found another way forward. A gossipy woman named Linda Tripp brought to his attention that Clinton had been having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Monica had a dress as evidence. Starr pounced.

Clinton’s trial was disgusting and nauseating, not because of Clinton (he had an affair; so what?), but because of Starr. To begin with, Starr had an off-putting way about him; arrogant, small-minded, nasty. And then there was the sexual nature of the case itself. Starr, it turned out, was a prurient little man, obsessed with sexual details of body parts, bodily fluids, specific sexual acts. Like the censors of old, who seemed to get off on the things they were deploring, Starr came across as a smutty weirdo, with secrets of his own to protect.

It didn’t take the public long to figure all this out. They didn’t like Starr, not one bit. He was creepy, an old perv, a bit ludicrous. Whenever he talked about sex, one wanted to take a shower: that was the effect Kenneth Starr had on the American people. The result was that Clinton was vindicated in his Senate trial, and went on to enjoy his highest popularity ratings ever. He ended his second term on a high note, while Kenneth Starr—disgraced, embarrassed, humiliated—was banished to become the dean of a Christian law school in Southern California, about as far from the nation’s political center as one could get.

But he’s baaaack!

Think of the irony. Here’s Starr, once so contemptuous of Bill Clinton’s extra-marital affair that he wanted to remove him from office, now representing a man who is, as far as we know, the most adulterous, sexually-voracious president in American history. Starr, who painted Clinton as a depraved predator, now will defend the man who bragged about groping women’s pussies, and who pays off porn stars to keep silent about his sexual escapades with them. Is there some cognitive dissonance here?

Well, everyone in our American way of life deserves a good defense, so let’s give Starr—and Trump—a pass on that one. Let’s muse, instead, on precisely what Trump’s defense is going to be.

First of all, it will be noteworthy for what it is not: a refutation of the facts. No Republican has disputed the essential facts: the Congress voted to give Ukraine weapons and money to fight the Russians. Trump, facing a tough re-election campaign, in which his most-feared opponent is Joe Biden, wants to smear Biden with something, anything, to drain off just enough votes so that he can narrowly win (as he did in 2016). Trump, through intermediaries and, eventually, in that notorious phone call, tells Zelensky the aide will not be forthcoming unless Zelensky announces he’s investigating the Bidens. That was Trump’s crime, now verified by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office.

That’s why he’s being impeached (the second reason is his obstruction of Congress). So there’s not a single Republican defender who has said Trump did not do these things.

Instead, the Republicans are fighting in the court of public opinion. It’s a P.R. battle, not a legal one. The Republican argument goes like this: It doesn’t matter if Trump broke the law. What matters is whether or not Americans are upset enough about it. If they are, then they’ll bring pressure on Republican Senators to remove him from office. If Republican Senators sense this pressure, they’ll side with Democrats. But, so far, they’re not sensing it—with the possible exceptions of Collins, Murkowsiki and Romney, and they may end up siding with Trump.

So this is all political, which is the way impeachment is supposed to be. For the life of me, I can’t see any way that the American people, including the voters in Maine, Alaska and Utah, will support the Republican agenda of coverup and repression of evidence. It’s so horrible what Trump is doing, including his wag-the-dog killing of Soleimani. Politicians have always played partisan games, but I’ve never seen anything as deplorable as what Republicans are doing now. Everybody knows exactly what’s going on. The crime is continuing right in front of our faces, and these Republicans seem proud of their brazenness. They may get away with it in the Senate—in fact, there’s no doubt they will. But Election Day is just ten months away, and I feel stronger than ever that a massive Blue Wave is going to sweep Republicans from power, and give us a Democratic president and Congress. Then we’ll relaunch investigations: into Barr, into Pence, into Giuliani. Republicans will call it a witch hunt. I’ll call it Justice.


No, it’s not okay to squat in someone else’s house just because you’re homeless!

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The biggest local story in Oakland lately is the one about the homeless women who squatted in a house that didn’t belong to them, refused to leave when they were evicted by the rightful owner, were arrested, brought to jail, got bailed out, and, yesterday, returned to the same house, saying they’re determined to fight.

The women, all Black, insist that housing is a “right.” The house in question is owned by a Redondo Beach (Los Angeles County) corporation, Wedgewood, that buys “distressed residential real estate,” fixes it up, and flips it.

The women had been living in the house for months before the story burst into the headlines following Tuesday’s early-morning roust of them by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. The women had barricaded themselves inside; deputies had to ram the front door down. The before-dawn raid was planned for 5:45 a.m. because the womens’ supporters had stated they would show up to prevent the women from being evicted.

The six women who had taken up residence in the dwelling called themselves Moms4Housing. The essence of their position is that they have “a right to housing.” Wedgewood, in turn, replied that the property they seized did not belong to them, and thus the women were illegally occupying it. A local judge agreed, which set the Sheriff’s Department into motion. At the time of my writing these words (Thursday morning), the women are said to be considering their next move. They’ve appealed to Gov. Gavin Newsom to help them. But their Twitter feed hasn’t been updated since Tuesday.

The case has garnered international attention, with everyone  from CNN and the New York Times to the British Guardian taking notice. It has all the elements of a real potboiler: Race. The housing crisis. Cops and angry crowds. The potential for violence. The fact that it’s in Oakland, where Oscar Grant was killed a few years ago, helps drive its newsworthiness.

Our local nextdoor.com social media site has become a hotbed of commentary. By my reading, most people agree with Wedgewood that the women illegally occupied a house that wasn’t theirs, and that they have no legal right to “housing” and must leave. An important part of this story is that Wedgewood offered to pay the women money to resettle, but they refused, determined to remain in the house that isn’t theirs.

Some people on the nextdoor string feel that moral issues outweigh legal ones. Sure, they agree, the women don’t own the house, so technically, they’re breaking the law. But, they continue, the women do have a “moral right” to housing. And the fact that Wedgewood isn’t a person, but a corporation that flips houses, doesn’t exactly make the company sympathetic. Flipping houses, which happens all the time, isn’t the main reason for California’s homeless crisis, but it probably does contribute to the high cost of housing, and to the gentrification of impoverished neighborhoods like West Oakland, where the brouhaha is happening. West Oakland has historically been a Black neighborhood, but gentrification is bringing in people of all races and nationalities, who can afford to buy homes there, and there’s no question that people are being displaced.

My own feeling is mixed. Of course I’m sympathetic to the mothers, as I am towards all homeless people, especially now that the weather in California has turned cold and wet. I’d hate to be out there on the streets.

At the same time, it’s very hard for me to justify the moms’ actions in squatting in a privately-owned home that doesn’t belong to them. They do have other options: Oakland is currently using Tuff Sheds for some homeless people; there is shelter space (admittedly limited); private organizations like Catholic Charities have offered to help; and at least some of the homeless moms (all of whom are said to have jobs) must have family or friends, with whom they could couch-surf until they’re back on their feet.

Then there’s the slippery slope argument: if homeless people have a “right” to seize private homes and live in them, where does it stop? If I went away for a week and came home to find homeless people had broken into my place and were living there, what would I do? I’d do exactly what Wedgewood did: Call the cops.

Private property is private property; that view is sacrosanct and is embedded in our laws and values. Some of the moms’ supporters say that private property may be an anachronistic concept, in this day and age when nearly 160,000 people are homeless in California. But I don’t agree. To abolish private property would be tantamount to a Revolution, and neither California nor America needs that kind of fight at this time.

So we here in Oakland are all watching the situation over on Magnolia Street. Will the women cut through the police yellow tape and boarded-up door and re-occupy the house? Will their supporters show up by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, surround the place and not let cops through? What will the Courts do? How will the Sheriff’s deputies and Oakland Police Department react? The last thing we need in Oakland—God forbid!—is violence between Black activists and cops. That would be awful.

In the end, I blame the moms. Sorry, but they don’t have a right to seize someone else’s house and live there. I’m not even sure there is a such thing as a “right to housing,” like the Constitutionally-protected right to bear arms and the rights of the press. I’d like to live in one of the big mansions in tony Piedmont, not far from my little condo, but I can’t afford to, and I’m not about to squat and claim some kind of “right” to break the law.

I hope the moms will have the common sense, or get the good advice, to get out. But if they don’t—if they insist on making this an issue–well, then, we’re about to enter unknown territory here in the city I call home.


Another one bites the dust

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This time, it’s Cory Booker. He just announced, via Twitter, that he’s dropping out of the race.

“It’s with a full heart that I share this news—I’m suspending my campaign for president. To my team, supporters, and everyone who gave me a shot—thank you. I am so proud of what we built, and I feel nothing but faith in what we can accomplish together.”

Short and sweet. The Senator joins the other Democratic candidates who have left the race—Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand, Eric Swalwell and the others.

Those who will debate tomorrow night are a dwindling bunch: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Steyer and Amy Klobuchar.

It’s still a tight race (and we can’t count out Michael Bloomberg, who’s ineligible to debate because he’s self-funding his campaign). Biden is still the favorite, nationally, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Percentage-wise, the odds in favor of winning the nomination are:

Biden: 37%

Sanders: 23%

No one: 14%

Warren: 13%

Buttigieg: 10%

All others: 2%

To me, this indicates that most Democratic voters haven’t made up their minds. Overwhelmingly, sentiment among Democrats and many independents is that Trump absolutely must go. Nothing else matters. They don’t care which Democrat is elected, as long as he or she is able to beat the worst president in history and restore normalcy to American politics and culture.

That’s certainly the way I feel. I have a soft spot for Mayor Pete, and I’m amazed that a gay man has come this far; but I wonder if enough Americans can put aside their discomfort with a gay man and vote for him. I also have some trepidation about Sanders and Warren; both may be too far to the left to win the actual election. That leaves Klobuchar, whom I’m increasingly liking. She’s a moderate progressive, has the best smile of all the candidates (no small thing when so much of the race is run on television), and is a woman. It also leaves Bloomberg. I saw one analysis that said Bloomberg, of all the candidates, is best poised to win Florida, because he’s an elderly New York Jew and Florida is filled with elderly New York Jews (of whom I’m one, too).

After the disastrous embarrassment of the 2000 election in Florida (remember “hanging chads”?), Florida has emerged as possibly the most important swing state. I know that people talk a lot about Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin as the swing states, where fewer than 78,000 voters gave the 2016 election to Trump.

But look at the electoral votes of all the states. Let’s assume the Democrats hold all the states they won in 2016. Now, suppose Trump wins Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16) and Wisconsin (10), as he did in 2016, for a total of 46, and the Democrat wins Florida (29). The Democrat then would have to compensate for losing the three Midwest states by winning a state Trump won in 2016 that has at least 17 electoral votes; or the Democrat would have to win at least two Trump states with a combined total of at least 17 electoral votes. What state/s could qualify? Let’s look at a couple possibilities. (Keep in mind that Bloomberg is not included in most recent polls due to his non-debate status.)

North Carolina (15 electoral votes). Trump won in 2016. But Sanders and Biden are currently ahead of him in the polls, according to FiveThirtyEight. So North Carolina, which is trending blue, could be a significant Democratic win.

Ohio (18 electoral votes). Trump won in 2016. Polling results there have been mixed, but in FiveThirtyEight’s latest roundup, four polls show Democrats beating him this year, while only two show Trump beating the Democrat (four others are even). So Ohio could be a big pickup for Democrats.

Texas (38 electoral votes). One of the big enchiladas. The Lone Star State went for Trump in 2016, of course, but guess what? FiveThirtyEight has Biden trailing him by a single point (48%-47%). But RealClearPolitics has Biden beating Trump in two of four Texas polls.

Now, remember I said “suppose Trump wins Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16) and Wisconsin (10), as he did in 2016, for a total of 46.” But is this a valid assumption? No. Currently (as of Jan. 8), every Democratic candidate is beating Trump in Michigan!

So what’s the bottom line?

It’s going to be a fight, but North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Michigan—states Trump won in 2016–are all distinctly winnable by the Democratic candidate! I doubt that Texas will make the switch in 2020. But between the other three, there’s a total of 49 electoral votes. That’s easily enough, with Florida, to hand the election to the Democrat.

So I’m hopeful. This is the Democrats’ race to lose. Given their history of circular firing squads (cf. 2016), it might be too much to expect them to maintain solidarity. But I’m feeling good right now.


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