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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.


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.


The Bolton testimony: Bill Kristol’s startling prediction

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Bill Kristol has been a lifelong conservative Republican, a neo-con who as a rightwing gadfly in Washington helped kill Bill and Hillary’s healthcare plan in the 1990s, and was a strong advocate of George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq.

Kristol, for all his conservatism, was not a Trump fan—Trump, after all, was not a Republican–and has in fact been one of Trump’s harshest critics—harsh, that is, by Republican standards. He’s a favorite political commentator on MSNBC. Like his Republican counterpart Steve Schmidt, he takes pleasure in blasting away at a regime he considers corrupt. Kristol’s most recent move vis-à-vis Trump came last month, when he and other Republicans formed an organization called “Republicans for the Rule of Lawdemanding that Trump permit the U.S. Senate to call witnesses in the upcoming Impeachment trial.

That was good. But yesterday, Kristol did something even better. In the midst of all this uncertainty about where Impeachment is headed, he made a startling prediction on Twitter:

“What’ll happen: House sends over articles. Senate adopts McConnell’s rules on party line vote, convenes as court of impeachment. House managers make case, show need for witnesses, seek to call them. CJ Roberts agrees. His ruling upheld by 47 Dems + ~ 12 Reps. Bolton testifies.”

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll recall I was feeling despondent: Trump is winning the Impeachment game, I thought…McConnell is beating Pelosi…there won’t be witnesses…etc. Today, I’m more upbeat, and the reason is that Kristol has a pretty good feeling for Washington politics. His radar has often been accurate. So what does his Tweet mean?

Bolton—if you’ve been following this—has been central to the Democratic case for Impeachment. He was Trump’s National Security Advisor—one of the top posts in the administration—until he left that job; whether he was fired or quit is irrelevant. We knew from other sources that Bolton had been frustrated and infuriated by Trump withholding Congressionally-approved aide to Ukraine because Zelensky was dragging his feet about inventing dirt on the Bidens. (Bolton famously was said to have called bagman Giuliani’s involvement in the scheme “a drug deal”).

For weeks, Democrats wondered if they’d be able to get Bolton to testify in the House Impeachment inquiry. During that period, Bolton remained mute. It looked like he wouldn’t…then it looked like he might…no one knew. Then the other day, Bolton, in a statement, cleared the record: He will testify, he said, if subpoenaed.

That was cheerful news to Democrats, although it led to the question of why he hasn’t already been subpoenaed. The ostensible reason the House Democrats haven’t already subpoenaed him was because Pelosi feared that process would take months, and she was anxious to wrap things up by the end of 2019 or early in 2020. As for the Senate, it was unlikely McConnell would allow a Bolton subpoena. Bottom line: No Bolton.

That’s the context of Kristol’s tweet. It’s true that if McConnell has his way, there will be no witnesses—including Bolton. But the wild card is the man who will be presiding as Magistrate over the Trial, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.

Roberts, like Bolton, is a conservative Republican, but you have to remember that he was the swing Justice responsible for some great Democratic victories: striking down California’s Proposition 8, which declared that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and the Big Enchilada: legalization of gay marriage. Rightwing evangelicals went ballistic after SCOTUS’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges gay marriage ruling; they could hardly believe that a professed Christian like Roberts, who is Catholic, would side with the “homosexuals’…uncleanness [who] dishonor their bodies [and] exchange the truth of God for the lie,” in the immortal words of Franklin Graham. But Roberts did.

Was Roberts stung by Christian criticism of him? We cannot know his innermost thoughts. But now he will be presiding over the Impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump. There has been much speculation about whether he’ll be an activist Magistrate or a passive one; we just don’t know at this point.

But Roberts, Kristol predicts, will be an activist Justice. He will uphold a motion (presumably by Senate Democrats) to call witnesses. Republicans will object; there will be a strenuous floor fight, but Roberts will assert his sovereignty over the proceedings (which he has every right to do), putting his own prestige (which is very high) on the line and, in essence, daring Republicans to defy him. Democrats, joined by enough conscientious Republicans to pass the motion, will call Bolton (and possibly others, such as Mulvaney) to testify. Schumer will issue, in the name of the Senate, a subpoena; Republicans will resist it, but the same coalition, presided over by Roberts, will approve it. Bolton will show up, raise his right hand, swear to tell the truth—and the game will be on.

Will Bolton say what we all think? “There was a quid pro quo. Trump extorted or bribed Zelensky.” If he does, it’s a whole new ballgame, and Trump and his enablers need to be very afraid.


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