Tag: Republicans

Thoughts on the State of the Union

DarkBrandon

I did not watch/listen to President Biden give his State of the Union speech in real time last night. I had an umpiring shift and was otherwise occupied going out to Cal Anderson Park and moving soccer players off of our field (they were, for once, entirely cooperative; thanks, guys) before officiating a few games. I got home around 12:30am, put a pizza in the oven, and settled in to watch the speech in the wee hours.

It did not disappoint. This was a home-run of a SOTU address, not only touting the various accomplishments of the Biden term thus far, not only setting an agenda for future accomplishments in term two, not only calling out the dire threat and horror show returning the previous guy to office would be, but taking the fight right to people in the room with him—Republican Congressmen and SCOTUS Justices—and once again deftly handling the hecklers and outbursts from Congressional nutjobs.

Referencing FDR's "no ordinary time" remark regarding World War II, the president got things rolling with, “My purpose tonight is to wake up the Congress and alert the American people that this is no ordinary moment, either.” We have a new fight against fascism today, and this time it's not just overseas but domestic. In a skillful poke at Republican hypocrisy he invoked Ronald Reagan and the Berlin Wall, comparing Regan's demand that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev "tear down this wall" to Donald Trump encouraging Vladimir Putin to "do whatever the hell you want." Driving it home, Biden said, “A former president actually said that, bowing down to a Russian leader. I think it’s outrageous. It’s dangerous. And it’s unacceptable.”

Biden successfully (I think) reached potential voters with lines like "Does anybody really think the tax code is fair?" and "Clearly those bragging about overturning Roe v. Wade have no clue about the power of women in America." Direct, forceful statements that simultaneously attacked Republicans, offered positive hope for progress, and appealed to not just the Democratic base but ideological moderates and, frankly, a lot of people that wear MAGA hats. (I mean, that latter group is too far gone to hear it, but the appeal was made nonetheless.)

Oh, and he absolutely torpedoed the "dottering senile old man" caricature of him that right-wing media has been constantly perpetuating. In the moment, Republicans were complaining not that "Sleepy Joe" is addlebrained and weak but that Biden was too loud, too fervent, too mean. Make up your minds, asshats.

I read a lot of takes from around the Interwebs today. Most were effusive, none were really negative except Sean Hannity's, and all he could say was that the president "seemed off," like he was grasping at straws to find any way he could spin the event to fit his old-man-Joe narrative. Some, like Pod Save America's Dan Pfeiffer, focused on the nuts and bolts of the speech's content, but most honed in on Biden's energy, Biden's ability to be quick on his feet and ad-lib, and the astonishing behavior of the Republicans.

From Mary Trump:

In the course of his master class, Biden got considerable help from the other side—whose tantrums and outbursts and lies he handled with the deftness of a practiced Kindergarten teacher. They fumed, they pouted, they squirmed, and, like [House Speaker] Mike Johnson, they sat silently even when Biden was talking about removing lead from water in order to protect our children, lowering prescription drug costs, saving democracy from Russian aggression, and the record growth of small businesses—basically anything good about America or the positive progress this country has made since Biden had been in charge.

Joyce Vance:

Biden said, unlike all the people who don’t, that he would always tell the truth about January 6: “You can’t love your country only when you win.” He asked Congress to uphold their oaths and defend the country against all threats, foreign, and, Biden emphasized, “domestic.” Speaker Johnson pressed his lips together and looked mighty uncomfortable. I don’t think he enjoyed himself tonight.

And Steven Beschloss brought it back to the bottom line:

It was a bracing, optimistic, vigorous expression of what the next eight months (and beyond) can look like. Biden made clear last night, as millions of Americans were listening, that now is the time to choose—not just who we want as president, but what country and what future we want. Few times in our history has that choice been more critical.

Well done, Joe. Keep it up.

 

 

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Darrin Bell FTW

dbell

 

The genius behind Candorville cuts right to the heart of the matter.

I'm not sure what the green bottles signify. Any ideas? (UPDATE: Oh, are they spray paint cans, they've just retitled the banner? OK. Sorry, Darrin, it should have been obvious.)

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Supremely problematic

scotus2
Bribes taken at the back entrance

As if we needed more evidence to support the idea, today's decision by the Supreme Court of the United States granting former president VonClownstick's request to an appeal regarding his claim of "presidential immunity" gives even more reason to believe the Court is corrupt and working in tandem with the Republican party and not in the service of the Constitution or the rule of law.

It's not a "win" for the former president in that all they've decided is to hear his appeal, not to necessarily agree with it, but it is a huge win for him in that it grants him at least two more months of delay in resolving this matter. The likelihood of his standing trial on this case—in case you've lot track, this is the Jack Smith/January 6th insurrection case, not the stolen documents case or the hush money case or the Georgia electioneering case or the civil fraud case or the suits against him from DC police or any of the other myriad court cases the guy's been up to his eyeballs in for his whole life—and a verdict being reached before the November election is now pretty remote.

The trial had been scheduled to begin next week, on March 4th. That won't happen now, as SCOTUS has suspended that until the outcome of its hearing the appeal, which won't happen until April 22nd. When they issue a ruling will come who knows how long after that. Quoting former US District Attorney Joyce Vance:

The case could have been handled much more quickly, especially because the issue before the Court isn’t difficult: either presidents can commit crimes to stay in office or they can’t. The timeline here was a choice, made by the Justices. They chose to give Donald Trump at least two more months of delay. We don’t know how a specific Justice votes on a cert grant. But we do know that at least five Justices voted to hear this case because while it only takes four votes to grant cert, it take five to grant a stay, and the Court’s order, continues the stay in the trial court while the appeal is underway.

It could be June or July before SCOTUS makes a call on this. A trial will take months. Election Day is immovable and doesn't care if a trial is over yet or not.

Clarence Thomas is corrupt. He's taken de facto bribes for decades and refuses to recuse when he's clearly got a conflict of interest in a case. Sam Alito has taken similar de facto bribes from people associated with the right-wing Federalist Society. Neil Gorsuch sold property to a lawyer with 22 subsequent cases before the Court (and no, he didn't recuse himself). Brett Kavanaugh somehow got confirmed by the Senate despite committing perjury in his hearings, having suspicious financial activity and very credible sexual assault allegations against him, and had eighty-three complaints of ethics violations levied against him for conduct in those hearings. Amy Coney Barrett, like Gorsuch, sold property to persons with business before the court and did not recuse; she also refused to recuse in a case involving the David Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group that spent "seven figures" lobbying for Barrett's confirmation by the Senate (AFP also lobbied for the confirmations of Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, who likewise refused to recuse). John Roberts' wife had a heavy financial interest in a case before the Court and Roberts was fine with presiding over it; he utterly failed to do his job in presiding over the Trump impeachments; and as the Chief Justice he has repeatedly claimed that everyone on his Court has behaved in an exemplary ethical fashion, declining to enforce any sort of ethical guidelines for the Court.

More important than any of that, though—but it is related—is that two-thirds of this Supreme Court has shown itself to be loyal to ideology, not law; Republican policy, not the Constitution.

They support states' rights until it conflicts with their ideology. They support legal precedent until it conflicts with their ideology. They support Constitutional principles—until they conflict with their ideology.

My favorite(?) example of a Justice's hypocrisy and obtuseness came when, in hearing the case regarding Colorado removing Trump from their primary ballot, Alito opined that a single state shouldn't have so much influence on who wins a presidential election. This was from a guy that worked on the Bush v. Gore case in Florida in 2000, a case where the Court completely improperly stepped in to halt a recount and declare that Bush won the presidency because of an incomplete ballot tally in one state.

If not for the presence of too many Republicans in the House of Representatives, Clarence Thomas, at least, would be looking at impeachment. (Personally, I think Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett should all be impeached, with the latter three being deemed to have been appointed by a treasonous president, but that's a pipe dream.) Gorsuch's seat was blatantly stolen by the Republicans when they refused to confirm anyone appointed by then-President Obama, giving his a uniquely tainted Justiceship.

There is so very much damage to repair from the Trump years, with correcting the Supreme Court near the top of the list. But to do it, we're going to need voters to step up and not only re-elect President Biden, but elect enough Democrats to the Senate and House to neuter the fascist plans of the now-authoritarian Republican Party.

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Journalistic malpractice

Biden bike

There has been a disturbing trend in the world of American political punditry of late. Journalists and commentators and substackers and the like, including people I generally respect, have been jumping on the "President Biden is too old and shouldn't run again" bandwagon. This bugs me on a number of levels, most of which redound to (a) Joe Biden has a remarkable string of positive accomplishments in just three-plus years in office and has shown zero evidence of losing his capability to keep doing so; and (b) it's another success story for Republican propaganda movers who spout bullshit on Fox "News" and the like and see it travel all the way into the words of people like Robert Reich and Ezra Klein and Jon Stewart.

Klein's piece in the New York Times is particularly galling because he all but admits he's furthering an argument based on propaganda.

Titled "Democrats Have a Better Option Than Biden," Klein's essay spends a great many words on explaining just how awesome a job Joe Biden has done as President before concluding he has to go. It's insane. After trumpeting many of Biden's accomplishments—uniting the party leadership, wrangling a contentious Democratic caucus in the Senate to pass several pieces of landmark legislation, shepherding a post-peak-COVID economic recovery that is the envy of the world—he looks at the polling (which isn't currently great), mentions that Trump-appointed special counsel Robert Hur peppered a report utterly clearing Biden of any wrongdoing in a classified-documents matter following his vice-presidency with insults and innuendo deliberately fabricated to further this very bit of propaganda, and then basically throws up his hands like Bud Selig at a tied All-Star Game.

Acknowledging that there is no indication, zero, from anyone who works with the president, from White House staff to former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, that Biden is in any way incapable or inattentive, Klein says that doesn't matter because campaigning for re-election is hard and tiring.

He cites as evidence that Biden isn't up for a campaign that the President didn't do a TV interview for the Super Bowl pregame show, as has become customary over the past several years. "The Super Bowl," Klein writes, "is one of the biggest audiences you will ever have. And you just skip it? You just say no?" Well, let's think about this for more than two and a half seconds, Ezra. Who would have conducted that interview? CBS claimed not to have a correspondent in mind for the job, but Margaret Brennan of "Face the Nation" was surely in the mix and she's...well, to be fair, she's not Chuck Todd or Sean Hannity, but nor is she Cronkite or Koppel. Whether Brennan or someone else, the hot topic of the day in  newsrooms was that stupid Robert Hur report, which was basically being regurgitated without pushback in mainstream news media. I don't blame the President for not wanting to provide another opportunity for a reporter to give more oxygen to GOP smears. Was it risky? Sure. It's a pass at a big audience, but not the audience Klein was making it out to be. The Super Bowl itself is a ratings bonanza. The pregame interview with the president is a few minutes when a large chunk of that audience goes out for a snack run or yaks with their guests at the Super Bowl party, they're not really watching.

Also, the media landscape isn't what it was even a few years ago. TV interviews have their place, to be sure, but in terms of campaigning, which is what Klein is talking about here, a sit-down on CBS with a correspondent more interested in drama than journalism probably doesn't serve much purpose. TV news is a different beast today than in decades past. Digital media is far more important for the under-50 demographic. Navigating that has its own set of challenges, but skipping the Super Bowl just isn't the big deal Klein and others make it out to be.

Yes, to campaign successfully, Biden needs to be in view doing his job and showing the world he's sharp. And yes, slipping up and saying the name of the former Chancellor of Germany instead of the current one isn't helpful, but it's the sort of thing Joe Biden has done for decades and isn't necessarily a sign of age-related decline. Journalists have to stop feeding the GOP meme that "Grandpa Joe is feeble and senile" and instead remind the public that age is but one factor when assessing one's overall health and in and of itself the number isn't indicative of anything. As stated by a professor at Australia's University of Sydney, "It’s important to realize that as people age they become more diverse in their abilities and characteristics, probably more so than at younger ages."

Joe Biden is 81. He bicycles (both on a traditional bike and a Peloton), lifts weights, and has a personal trainer. He doesn't have a special diet, but never overeats, according to his medical-doctor wife. He has a few ailments—acid reflux, arthritis, persistent sinus irritations, things most of us can relate to to one degree or another—and plays through the pain, as it were, of his osteoarthritic spine. He had COVID, but thanks to vaccinations and boosters did not have a serious case. He is, in short, a healthy dude.

Franklin Roosevelt died at just 63, he was literally dying during his last run for reelection. He actually did fall asleep during meetings and need a great deal of assistance due to frailty, but no one believes FDR wasn't up to the job. Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer's, by some accounts as early as 1984 when he was 73, certainly by the time he was into his second term at 75, yet people still lionize the guy (which is crazy, but not because of his dementia). JFK's physical health was terrible, he had Addison's disease and treated back pain with heavy use of amphetamines. (Kennedy's health was so consistently troubled that within the Kennedy clan, there was apparently a running joke that if Jack Kennedy were to be bitten by a mosquito the mosquito would die from food poisoning.) Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated in his early 60s by a stroke in mid-term and continued on with others largely running the show for him. Chester Arthur had a fatal kidney infection, a symptom of which was extreme fatigue, but ran for reelection anyway (he lost) before dying at age 57. Then there's now-77-year-old Trump, who has lied continuously about his own health and made sure that official reports were edited to show he had no ailments, suggesting he has many (plus he's, you know, sociopathic and staggeringly stupid). Every one of those guys was/is younger than Joe Biden and in far, far worse health.

Klein also disputes that the Joe-is-too-old issue is propagated by news media. He writes, "In poll after poll, 70 percent to 80 percent of voters are worried about his age. This is not a thing people need the media to see." Really? Why do you think those people were "worried about his age" if not because of what they saw on/read in the news? Because he said Mitterand when he meant Macron one time? Because he talks a bit more quietly than others? OK, then what are reporters like Klein doing about that? He almost does something about it with this piece, making many good points about how successful and capable Joe Biden has been and continues to be, but instead he chose to perpetuate the meme. Even if I were to accept the statement that "this is not a thing people need the media to see," here you are, Ezra, in the media, reinforcing the idea and making it worse!

"The presidency is a performance," Klein writes, using the word not in the sense of your annual performance review at work, but in the sense of an actor performing a role on stage. And people answering pollsters don't like what they see on the stage. So get someone else, practical concerns be damned, choosing the right person to do the job after the campaign be damned, the only priorities should be charisma and poll numbers.

Klein's conclusion seems to be, "Americans are stupid. Thus, if we want the Democrats to win, we must replace the man who has had arguably the most effective and successful first term as President since LBJ with a hypothetical younger person who may or may not be an empty suit."

My conclusion is, "American journalists are failing. They are allowing disinformation and propaganda to fuel their reportage without adequate analysis. They are prioritizing drama and conflict over truth and facts. And they convey that running for president is what's important, not the actual job of being president."

Look, Klein is scared. I get it, I'm scared too. This is a literal must-win election. Biden cannot lose or else Trump regains power and destroys this country as we know it, contrary to what Jon Stewart said the other night (he said, addressing supporters of both candidates: "If your guy loses bad stuff might happen, but the country is not over. And if your guy wins, the country is in no way saved." I never thought Jon Stewart would be one of the guys not paying attention). The fact that Biden is behind in the polls is unfathomable to anyone paying attention, and the fact of the matter is that a not inconsequential fraction of Americans are stupid. Rubes, conned into following a cultist who thinks they're disgusting and exist solely for him to exploit. Another percentage is not in the cult, but is ignorant enough to support candidates that hurt them, what I think of as the "battered spouse contingent" of the Republican party that has existed for decades. Between the two groups, there might well be enough of them to plunge us into a new dark age. It's fucking terrifying.

But: (a) Biden is who we've got, there is no practical way of replacing him on the ticket unless he voluntarily cedes the top spot to Kamala Harris, and then Klein and company will freak out because Americans are racist and sexist as well as ageist; (b) Biden is actually a damn good president; (c) Republicans and Russians (is there a difference any more?) will tar and feather whomever the Democrats nominate with fabricated propaganda and the sheep currently comprising the bulk of the American news media will regurgitate it all anyway. "But her e-mails." "Swift Boat Veterans for 'Truth'." Birtherism. The Willie Horton ads. Who the candidate is is merely a detail, the smear campaign will just be retailored.

We've got some time before November. Let's do better than the "journalists" in informing the public and getting out the vote.


 UPDATE: One newscaster/pundit that is trying to educate the public about true things is Lawrence O'Donnell, who took this on in his show a few nights ago. He covered some of the same ground I did above (written before I saw the clip), and I recommend this video, share it around. It's longish, but clarifying.

 

 

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Mass insanity

634054 1

I am one of those people that follows politics and the national news fairly closely and that's not been terribly good for my mental health the last several years. The American Nervous Breakdown, as Bob Cesca calls the phenomenon that has led to our current social reality, has many facets. It's not just the propaganda that feeds the bonkers cultists who go to Trump rallies and buy AR-15s, the bonkers voters who elect the worst people Congress has ever seen, the bonkers corruption happening out in the open on the Supreme Court, and the bonkers racists that feel like they now have permission to be openly hateful in all their daily interactions. It's also those of us seeing all this going on and justifiably freaking the fuck out about it.

We have to keep tabs on it, too. It does no one any good, not even ourselves, to ignore it and act like that dog in the fire meme saying "this is fine." Yet, a huge percentage of us here in ’Murca are doing just that, either not paying attention at all or somehow are of the mind that the literal fascist uprising that is the modern Republican party is hunky-dory with them, and the consequences for this ignorance could be catastrophic. Thus, the anxiety meter goes to 11.

Joe Biden has an approval rating of just 41%. That's crazy. When you consider the obstructionist Congress and the sheer scale of damage to governmental function he inherited, his accomplishments are amazing

The recent polling—yeah, I know, polls; not exactly the most reliable information of late, the methodology is still in need of some tweaking—is astonishing. A huge majority of Americans think the economy is merely "fair" or "poor"?! Inflation is way down. Unemployment is remarkably low. People are spending. Yes, some things are more expensive than they were a couple years ago, but some of that is normal and the things that are a real concern for folks—housing costs, insurance, medical care—have to be looked at in context.

There is a lag time to policy change. Much as we might like the effects of legislation or judicial appointments to be immediate, they're not. Just as the inflation we've been dealing with of late can be traced to consequences of the COVID pandemic and its horrendous mishandling by the previous administration (as well as the consequences of some positive things, like rising wages), the stabilizing effects of the Inflation Reduction Act and tax reforms take time to spread through society. Just as the horrors being visited on us by the Supreme Court and other jurisdictions since Joe Biden took office are the result of the previous guy's appointments and the Republican Senate's leader preventing President Obama from filling a staggering number of judgeships—a years-long buildup—reclaiming the judiciary for the rule of law and the Constitution is not a short-term project.

We've got a critical vote coming up in 11 months. People better start paying attention.

Upset that your health insurance costs more? I am. I had to change to a worse policy for next year and I'll still be paying about 25% more in premiums. Is that Joe Biden's fault? Hell no! In fact, he's managing to keep it from being worse! The alternative—those fascist Republicans—want to kick people off of health coverage altogether. They want insurance companies to rob the rest of us blind. Give Joe Biden a Democratic supermajority in Congress and we'll get an expanded Affordable Care Act and better coverage for less.

Pissed that your groceries cost more? Well, in point of fact, not all of them do, some things are less expensive now, but the alternative to President Biden and Democratic attention paid to the affordability and quality of those groceries is those fascist Republicans, who want to abolish regulations that seek to ensure the meat and produce you buy won't put you in the hospital, a hospital that you won't be able to afford because they will have also taken away your health insurance.

Squeezed by your rent every month? Well, that's really a function of locality and a lot of interrelated factors, so I'm not sure what will help there. But I can tell you that the Republican policy that favors corporations over human beings will allow more and more disparity and exacerbate the wealth disparities that make cities like mine so damned expensive to live in.

And then there's the "Biden's too old" thing. When people say they're concerned about Joe Biden's age, there needs to be a follow-up question: What factors related to his age worry you and have you seen any evidence that he's at all incapable? Do people think he's forgetful or can't stay focused? All evidence says he's not and he can. Do people think if he does become incapable that he'll deny that reality and his staff and cabinet will allow it? Do they even know who's in the cabinet? Do people think if he dies in office or had to resign for his health there'd be no capable and effective replacement—i.e., do they fear Kamala Harris? Why? How much of the "he's too old" thing is camouflaged racism/misogyny regarding the VP? And, once again, even if people insist their age-related concerns are legitimate, consider the alternative: a doddering, fascistic criminal in far worse health and cognitively challenged even at his peak, who is bent on petty revenge and completely lawless, greedy, and sociopathic.

I swear, every election cycle it appears that more Americans get dumber. Here's a poll I'd like to see conducted: Let's survey Americans about their knowledge of how their government works. Show them some "Schoolhouse Rock" and ask if they knew about the details presented therein before.

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The Plan: Fascism 2025

cylons

So went the introduction to the outstanding 2004 science-fiction show Battlestar Galactica, which chronicled the struggle of a human race from elsewhere in the galaxy struggling for survival after their worlds were wiped out by AI robots that had become pissed off at their creators.

Just change "Cylons" to "Republicans" and you have a description of the modern GOP.

The show was awesome. And dark. And eventually, in the end, had a fairly happy ending where humans and Cylons resolved their differences. I'm hopeful the United states will also have a happy resolution to its current shitshow, but I'm less hopeful that we'll get there without a BSG-style violent upheaval.

But let's look at the text. "The [modern Republicans] were created by [Americans.]" We (that's the collective "we," of course) created this problem. We voted in Ronald fucking Reagan in 1980, whose administration started down this road to normalizing selfishness and overt hatred of our fellow citizens. We permitted Newt Gingrich to rule Congress ten years later and model even more overtly asshole behavior. We reelected George W. Bush after his incompetence abetted 9/11 and his reaction to it was massively counterproductive. We kept sending Mitch McConnell back to the Senate. We let the "tea party" send representatives to Congress. And we allowed Donald Trump to ascend to the presidency. All made possible by propaganda outlets we have permitted to not just exist but flourish.

We created the modern Republican base. They evolved to master the ability to manipulate enough rubes to make violence and bigotry of all kinds acceptable to far too many of us. And they have all now rebelled against the very U.S. Constitution they pretend to revere. There are more and more MAGA-whackjob copies popping up in all kinds of offices, often indistinguishable from each other.

And they have a plan.

Unlike the Cylons, the Republicans have made their plan public. And it's scary. Cylon-level scary.

Funded by the right-wing "think tank" The Heritage Foundation, which is funded mostly by the Kochs, “Project 2025” starts with firing tens of thousands of government employees that form a backstop against authoritarian rule and replacing their positions with cultish obedient flunky jobs. The civil service was revamped under Jimmy Carter to enhance career professional continuity and lessen political bias in disruptive turnover; the Trumpublican Plan would turn it entirely into a political arm of EmperorPresident Palpatine. The Justice Department is, naturally, a high priority for The Plan, because everything the modern GOP does is in some fashion or other illegal and prosecutable and they can't have pesky things like the law getting in the way of their power. And the FBI has a thing about combating misinformation; since misinformation is the GOP's primary communication tool, the FBI can't be allowed to do that, so raze the DOJ is right there in The Plan.

The Plan also seeks to control the access of the press to the government, saying the new administration should stop giving the press corps space to work at the White House.  It seeks to reduce (in advance, presumably, of eliminating) the role of the Senate in confirming executive positions. It would eliminate environmental protections, put a stop to using renewable energy and expand fossil fuel use, and accelerate a climate change crisis that, without drastic intervention, will wreak havoc on the population of the planet in a very few years' time all for the sake of industry profit and putting a boot on the neck of "woke."

We see progress toward their authoritarian fantasy coming true by the elevation of Mike Johnson to Speaker of the House of Representatives. Johnson's full-on MAGA Trumpist ideology—plus selective bible-thumping, not a Trumpy thing but a huge part of theocratic wannabe authoritarians' agenda—promises to make for a truly destructive period of Congressional ineptitude.

2024 is just around the corner. Everyone needs to be registered to vote and ready to send a loud and clear message. Republicans need to be not just defeated but trounced in the elections a mere 53 weeks from now. If not, we're in for real trouble. Cylon apacolypse trouble. We created this, but we can still change course and rectify things if we show up and act.

As Commander Adama once said, “Sooner of later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things you've done anymore."

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This is secret information, look at this

spilleddocs

Well. Quite the news day, isn't it. I was working last night—at the umpire gig, training a new guy for three games—and didn't catch up on the indictment news until the wee hours of the morning; then, as is my custom, I was up very late and slept in quite late today and since waking have been catching up on the news around the unsealing of the indictment of former president VonClownstick.

I've printed out the whole thing and am going through it, no doubt I will have more to post afterward. Meantime, here are some bits said by others I've come across around the interwebs (including Twitter, which I went to today for stuff related to this news but which I generally no longer peruse or patronize; I do wish the folks I had enjoyed following there eventually make the move to Spoutible).

"Again and again, though, the indictment … recontextualizes [the alleged actions] relative to Donald Trump doing the only things that he ever does. Breaking laws in an oafish, overt, seemingly arbitrary way is absolutely Some Donald Trump Shit. But what Trump was doing with all those secret and confidential documents, the indictment reveals, was also Some Donald Trump Shit. While he is certainly one of the most bribe-able individuals of his generation and unquestionably unbound by any higher or finer concerns whatsoever, and while that would not really be the sort of person you'd want having a bunch of sensitive documents in their possession, it is equally salient that Trump is fundamentally an absolutely whopping bitch whose deepest personal desire and abiding life's passion has always been showing off in weird ways and pursuing vinegary personal feuds."

—David Roth

Also, to no one's surprise, Republicans by and large are losing their minds over this and pretending all of this is nothing more than a political hit job. Projection has become the default trait of the modern Republican. Dan Bongino compared President Biden to Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Hitler for "arresting [a] political opponent" (even though no conviction, let alone sentence, has yet occurred, even though Jack Smith is a non-political special counsel, even though the lack of due process in Pot's Cambodia, Amin's Uganda, and Nazi Germany makes his comparison worthless). Kevin McCarthy, with a straight face and without intending irony, said, "I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable." Ron DeSantis said “[The] weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society," Nikki Haley said that "the American people are exhausted by … vendetta politics," Thom Tillis called it "sad" that "Democrats are presuming guilt for sheer political gain," Steve Scalise claimed that "Joe Biden is weaponizing his Department of Justice against his own political rival." All of this from people who joined in with the crowd shouting "LOCK HER UP" about Hillary Clinton, called for suppression of journalists, and supported unwarranted political hitjobs and baseless accusations and investigations of Democrats Mark Warner, Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Eric Swallwell, Elijah Cummings, and others, not to mention nonpartisans Anthony Fauci, Andy McCabe, Robert Mueller, the entire FBI, and basically anyone else that spoke out against the treasonous and criminal behavior of Donald J. Trump, his family, and/or his businesses. The 21st Century GOP: Hypocrisy on parade.

As I delve into this long document, I give you some highlights as presented by the guys from Pod Save America. Enjoy.

 

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Bits and pieces

car
Returned after paying impound ransom. Glass half full.

Howdy. It's been over a week since the last post, but not for lack of material. I'd actually intended to write about a few things since the Great Car Caper, including its own follow-up, but you know how it is. Work, inertia, splitting headaches, a general feeling of "I just don't want to be at my desk anymore tonight." Anyway, in lieu of the various individual posts I'd been pre-writing in my head since then, here's a catchall one with a few bits and pieces from what I'm sure would have been much more elaborate and articulate ramblings had they gotten their due in a timely manner.

  • Car update: The police recovered my car relatively soon after its theft and the only damage to it was superficial (exterior) and annoying (interior), which is to day a chunk missing from the plastic "rain guard" (I suppose it guards from rain getting into the door seal?), a small dent, and what appears to have been an aborted attempt to remove my Biden-Harris bumper sticker; and a truly impressive amount of garbage strewn through the inside. Mostly the trash was food wrappers, candy remnants, fast food bags, fast food detritus, that sort of thing, plus a few empty cans of spray paint. I presume the thieves were graffiti taggers.
    My working theory is that the thieves used the car to go from place to vandalize with spray paint to next place to vandalize with spray paint, with stops at various fast food and convenience store candy marts, until it ran out of gas, at which point they abandoned it to likely steal someone else's car rather than buy fuel. Score one for my inefficient internal combustion engine.
    I emptied all the trash, plus a little of my own trash that was still there, and aired the car out for a day or so to get the smell of fast food out of it. That done, and since I don't care to try and fix the superficial exterior damage, the only real harm done to me aside from the inconvenience of being without it for a few days was the ransom demanded by Lincoln Towing, the company that provided the impound lot the police use. They charged me the towing fee, a city regulatory fee, and hourly storage fees for the time they had the car. Quite the racket they've got going. Other cities have laws that protect auto theft victims from this kind of predation, but not this one. Apparently there was an attempt to pass a measure to address this in the state legislature some time back, but it didn't go anywhere. Alas. Still, way cheaper than replacing the car, so I'm choosing to look at it in a glass-half-full sort of way. And I ordered a wheel-lock thingy for future use when parking on the street.
  • Erik went to Korea. And Taiwan. Who knew? This strikes me as a little weird, not because Erik went to these places, but because not long ago I had a strange dream in which my dad and Marty were planning on moving to Pusan. It made zero sense.
  • The CNN thing with the "Town Hall" debacle featuring former President VonClownstick was something I was all worked up to write a whole screed about, but now that some time has passed I'm less outraged. Not because the event wasn't deserving of outrage, it was. The fact that CNN thought hosting such a forum would result in anything other than a fiasco is mind-boggling. On the other hand, CNN is under new management that wants it to be a place for disaffected Fox "News" viewers to go, so maybe this is just the first taste of their new business plan. Regardless, the thing did serve a positive purpose among all its rampant disservices, and that is that it provided a ton of material for campaign ads against VonClownstick. The program reminded those of us that were no longer paying attention to politics and the news as deeply as others of us do just who this guy is, that he has not changed, that he will not change, that he is among the vilest human beings to have ever lived. And of who his fans are. That he has followers that just eat his vileness for breakfast and regurgitate it onto society.
    Most of the news coverage after the fact has been criticism of CNN. Slate.com has a good analysis of it that includes:
    Absolutely every single moment of this debacle was predictable, and it is enraging to see CNN making the exact same mistakes it made when Trump first entered into the public sphere eight years ago. The network gave a seditious would-be despot carte blanche to openly lie on live television for an hour, in front of an adoring crowd, with ineffective pushback from a reporter who, if Wednesday night is any indication, is nowhere near ready for prime time. The pregame chatter among CNN’s vacuous panelists, meanwhile, used the same empty framing that has long made the term “talking heads” a pejorative.
    All the CNN-bashing is deserved, to be sure, but it misses the bigger issue of what the former president said during the televised hour of journalistic seppuku. He perpetuated his election lies. He once again defamed the woman he has been ordered by a court to pay $5 million to as damages for his sexual assault and defamation of her. He called the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade "a great victory." Instead of answering a question about why he stole government documents after leaving office, he insulted the questioner. Of the January 6, 2021 insurrectionist footsoldiers, he said "They were there with love in their heart. That was unbelievable and it was a beautiful day." He avoided taking any kind of position on the war in Ukraine, lest it upset his good friend Vladimir. That is all very, very important information that should show everyone in the world how this man should not be allowed anywhere near any position of any authority ever again, but because of how it was presented (and subsequently covered by many) I fear that point will not get across to anyone who needs to hear it.
    CNN CEO Chris Licht said, in response to the criticism of his network's production, "You do not have to like the former president’s answers, but you can’t say that we didn’t get them." Except, yes, Chris, I can say you didn't get them. You got propaganda. You got deflections. You got bald-faced lies. When he was all but cornered on the stolen documents thing, you got "You're a nasty person" as his "answer."
    The American news media as a whole is terrible, TV news in particular, but outlets one might consider to be better, like National Public Radio, are guilty of the same kind of malfeasance, treating the sort of behavior DJT and his minions exhibit as basically normal politics when it is anything but.
  • Related to the CNN thing, there is The Gun Thing. I had some further ranting to do on that, on how the gun "debate" is evidentiary just on its own of the fact that the modern Republican party deserves to be labeled a domestic terrorist organization, but instead today I think I'll just let Wil speak for me.
  • I had another umpiring shift yesterday, four games in the sun on the first summery weekend we've seen this year up in these parts. By and large it was a good day, few points of conflict. But there were some, and they put me in mind of something my friend (and softball teammate) Mack posted over on the Book of Faces. I will reproduce it here:
    I'm sure my Laws of Sports Conduct apply to every recreational sport, but I don't play "every" recreational sport, I just play softball, and here goes:

    1. Never so much as grumble to an umpire.

    Teams, you're paying the ump like $20 to have them give an unbiased opinion on balls and strikes, safe and out, so STFU and take their word for it. Without an umpire, you'd have no walks and no strikeouts, and some batters would be there for like twenty pitches before they put the ball in play. Also, don't expect the umpire to be better at umpiring than you are at playing. ???? If you suspect that an umpire is mis-applying the rules, you'd better have your rulebook handy, or else don't go out there. Simply, don't. You have a fixed amount of time to play your game. Every minute you spend interacting with an official can cost your teammates an at-bat or even an entire inning of play. It's not worth it.

    2. Try to not hurt anybody.

    Your job on the field is to make sure nobody gets hurt. So when you're thinking about doing something "sportsmanlike" that can get somebody hurt, don't do it. Don't. Just don't do it. Never ever ever "take someone out" at second base. Don't do it. Your "job" isn't to prevent the double play, it's to keep the opposing player healthy enough to go out to the bar after the game. Don't throw your bat, don't make throws that your teammate can't handle, don't do the "fake tag" thing that makes somebody slide when there isn't even a play on them, and on fly balls—yell loud and clearly that either you're taking it or the other person's taking it. No crashes over a silly pop fly, OK?

    3. Respect the equipment.

    If you're the kind of player who slams a bat down after striking out, or throws a glove after making an error . . . you need to chill the fuck out. You look like a poster child for a domestic violence abuser, and if your teammate is caring enough, they will and should refer you to some counseling. I often joke that a good craftsperson always blames their tools, because it's obvious that it's not the tool, it's the craftsperson. It's really okay if you're a player who drops a ball or swings and misses. The greatest baseball players in history do that. The reason they "act out" is because of some stupid code that "shows they care." You don't have to show you care—because you shouldn't care. The game doesn't matter. We do this for recreation, not recognition, and certainly not for the adulation. Chill the fuck out.

    4. Be supportive of the other team's players.

    You're not being disloyal by showing appreciation when the other team makes a nice play or gets a nice hit. It's been proven that we feel better after a high-five than we do after grumbling about a missed opportunity. You don't have to applaud wildly when they turn a double play against you, but you might feel better telling the shortstop, "Nice play" rather than think, "you fucken bastid!"

    I've had my share of inappropriate interactions on the playing field. I remember each and every one of them, which is a shame, because I've had so much fun on the field, all of those games and all of those innings and all of those at-bats . . . but it seems that those memories of the pleasant and fun times don't linger. Those memories may not linger, the fun of turning a double play or driving in a run or taking an extra base or making a nice relay throw . . . but the effects of those activities DO linger. They help build friendships, they help build community, they help make the world a better place, one play at a time.
    Fun. Recreational sports should be fun. I'm going out there this season to have fun. I invite you, if you're partaking in a recreational sport, to go out and just have fun! And try hard to not hurt anybody!
    Obviously, Mack's first point is the one that resonates most with me because I'm often on the umpire's side of things. I'm paid a bit more than $20 a game, but not nearly enough to accept the sort of treatment that an occasional player will vent my way. To date I have ejected exactly two players from softball games in over four years, and one of those was for physical violence, but I have been tempted to toss many. Three or four I probably should have tossed but didn't. Yesterday my shift began in an unusual fashion in that, before the games started, I was approached by a guy who had been giving me shit last week. "Hey man," he said, "I just want to apologize for last week. I just started acting out of my head for no reason at all, I don't know what the fuck that was even about. Sorry." This was good, set the stage for a good day that was only marred by one further violation (from someone else on a different team) of Mack's Rule #1 and one inadvertent violation of Rule #2 that led to some potentially damaging violations of Rule #4 that I was able to defuse relatively quickly. The Rule #1 violator is a chronic offender, though, which makes me cringe a little when I see his team on my schedule.
  • I can't believe it's taken me this long to read another Neal Stephenson book. Years and years ago I read Snow Crash, which was terrific, and Zodiac, also quite good, but it's only in the last couple of weeks that I cracked open another Stephenson tome. This one is Cryptonomicon, which is, if I'm recalling Snow Crash properly, not as awesome as that but still pretty darn fine. Plenty more when I finish this one, I guess.
  • I am going to unload my tickets to the Mariners/Yankees game on May 31st. That's a softball (playing, not umping) night for me and I'm already missing the prior week's game for similar reasons. Anyone reading this that wants the pair of (quite good) upper deck seats may have them for cost or in trade, otherwise I'm putting them on StubHub for profit. Let me know.

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Guns are bad, m'kay?

noguns

Guess what. America had another school shooting. Because it's a regular week on Earth.

I realize that this is just screaming into the void (and apologies in advance, this post will probably have more swearing in it than is typical). The Nashville incident this week that resulted in seven deaths barely registers a blip on the societal consciousness because we are so goddamned used to it.

There have been 38 mass shootings in the US just this month. There were 40 last month. 53 in January. A lot of media types are reporting on the specifics of the Nashville case—because it's the newest, it's fresh—looking for motive and details and insights into the perpetrator as an individual, which is, OK, fine, I guess, but that's not what I want to see coverage of. I want to see journalists, protesters, people in general badgering Congress and state legislatures to regulate the fucking guns.

Reporters did approach Tennessee Congressman Tim Burchett on the subject on Monday, which is good. Burchett is a Republican, though, so his response was not helpful. It was, however, relatively honest, which is notable in and of itself for an elected representative identifying with that party. He said, "We're not gonna fix it."

Whether he says that because he believes it's pointless to try or because he doesn't care about gun deaths or because he's too deeply in the thrall of the National Rifle Association's profit motive is up to interpretation, but the bottom line is right there. Burchett elaborated (if you can even apply that word) with, "I don’t think a criminal is going to stop from guns [sic], you know … I don’t think you’re going to stop the gun violence." By which he means, he doesn't think you, the empathetic concerned citizenry, can stop it because we, the Republican party, have enough power to ensure it keeps happening and that suits us just fine.

"We're not gonna fix it."

That is but one of the many reasons it is appropriate to label the modern Republican Party as a domestic terrorist organization.

The House Majority Leader, Congressman Steve Scalise, was asked what he thinks should be done about this issue. His response was eminently predictable. "I pray for the victims. I pray for the families. I get really angry when people try to politicize it for their own personal agenda," he said, trying to mask his own politicizing of the problem. The Senate chaplain, Barry Black, wasn't having it. "It's time to move beyond thoughts and prayers," he said in a prayer service he was leading for Senators. "Lord, deliver our senators from the paralysis of analysis that waits for the miraculous." I suppose that's the chaplain version of "kick these senators and other leaders squarely in the ass and make them act, because they sure as hell won't do it on their own."

Republicans behave as if this is just the normal course of life in America. But when I was growing up, we didn't have active shooter drills in school. We didn't fear that criminals were out there with AR-15 style assault rifles. We have always had a gun-fetishist culture that romanticizes the mistaken idea of the "old west gunslinger," but even in the old west there were, you know, regulations—you show up in town, you had to surrender your guns. The famous gunfight at the OK Corral? It happened because the Clanton gang wouldn't surrender their guns in accordance with the law. Tombstone, Arizona, had more gun control in 1881 that it does now.

I don't know when the NRA managed to convince Republicans that the second amendment to the Constitution didn't actually contain the phrase "well-regulated" or "safety of a free state"—maybe when they trotted out Charlton Heston to speak for them—but at some point the orthodox Republican position became that there should be no laws whatsoever restricting anyone's access to firearms of any kind. Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Warren Burger said in a 1991 interview that the second amendment "has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud [perpetrated] on the American public." Many Republicans know this. Not all of them are insane Alex Jones types, plenty are smart enough to understand what the language of the amendment means and what the intent was with the wording as understood when it was written in the 18th century. But they do not care.

"We're not gonna fix it."

Once, we had a ban on assault rifles. It was effective, so Republicans made sure it went away. Now the assault rifle is a status symbol. Gun fetishists all have to have one. Or two. Or a dozen. Reinstating that ban would be a good start, but it's nowhere near enough.

I've known people that own guns. Most of them were the sort of person I would not trust with one. When I was a teenager I had a friend that lived with her father, a guy I knew to be a drunk and a real piece of shit, and there were multiple guns in her house. I never wanted to be there. I've known people who are not like that, that are basically well-intentioned sorts, that own guns. I had the impression they had them with the perhaps-sublimated hope that they would have an excuse to use them. I've even known a couple of folks who owned one "just for protection" against home invasion or the like. They, I thought, owned their guns out of fear and were far more likely to have the gun used against them or used poorly so that it offered no protection at all.

I have a bias, obviously. I do not support private ownership of firearms at all when it comes to handguns and other guns intended to kill human beings. I find hunting to be revolting, though I respect that it's a different thing and in and of itself can be regulated separately, but mass shootings like this never seem to be carried out with buckshot. Like the Nashville shooter, the perps tend to have assault rifles and handguns. And if we banned those fucking things, I can't help but believe these incidents would decrease dramatically.

They wouldn't completely go away. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that if someone wants to get something illegal, they'll find a way to get it. But it'll take a lot longer, take a lot more effort, and weed out a great many of the prospective perpetrators. Every other developed country on the planet has mental illness among the populace, has media with gratuitous violence, but only the United States has essentially unfettered access to guns and only the United States has dozens of mass shootings every month. Restricting access to guns would prevent many of these incidents, would save lives.

But we can't do anything like that. We can't ban assault rifles, let alone handguns, because Republicans have power and Republicans like violence. Too simplistic? OK, prove me wrong. Republicans like violence. They promote policies that encourage violence. They want criminals to have the very best armaments possible. In fact, they want everyone to be armed to the teeth and settle their problems with a bullet to the head, or at least the threat of one. Why else do they behave the way they do? Give me a convincing argument against that. "We're not gonna fix it" is their doctrine.

Well before this latest mass shooting, Jon Stewart interviewed a state senator in Oklahoma about his efforts to make acquiring and using firearms as simple and uninhibited as possible. It's a great/horrifying interview in which Stewart rams home the hypocrisy of this guy's positions and spotlights just how much this senator in particular and the modern Republican party more generally does not care about gun violence. The whole thing is on his Apple TV+ show, but the bulk of it is available here.

 

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Republicans are insane

MTG
Georgia lunatic Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom people actually voted for

Yes, yes, I know, "not all Republicans." But, come on, can you name me a current elected official identifying as a Republican that is not either a nutcase him/herself or pandering to and enabling a nutcase constituency? And, really, how many rank-and-file Republican voters are playing with full decks and still voting for this party? A group that used to call itself "the party of personal responsibility" but is now "the party of blaming other people and claiming victimhood for everything that ails us or that even makes us feel a little oogy."

It's enough to, well, drive you a little crazy.

Why write about this today, you ask, when the so-called Grand Old Party has been this way for years now? Because Marjorie Three-toes keeps saying stupid things and people keep taking her seriously.

On Tuesday, Congresswoman Greene—there's a phrase to kill your appetite—went into one of her screeds during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee. "I want you to know," she said, "that in 2020 there were 4,800 pounds of fentanyl seized by [Customs and Border Patrol]. But in 2021, fiscal year 2021, it increased to 11,200 pounds of fentanyl was [sic] seized by the CBP. That is a direct result of Biden administration failure policies."

Wait, so… seizing more fentanyl than the previous administration did is a failure? Because… you want as much fentanyl getting into the country as possible?

She continued: "Now here we are in, to date, to date, fisti—fiscal year 2023, they have already seized 12,500 pounds of fentanyl. The Biden administration is failing this country by not protecting our border and securing our border, and stopping Chinese fentanyl from being brought into our country illegally by the cartels, and people are dying every single day because of it."

OK, so we've got even more seizures in fiscal ’23, preventing even more fentanyl from hitting the streets. Which is again noted as "failing this country" by "not stopping" fentanyl from coming in. Except they've seized, i.e. stopped from coming in, 12,500 pounds of the stuff.

If you tried to take this woman literally you'd end up like Norman the android. Is her problem that too much fentanyl is being seized, or not enough? Is she claiming people are dying because too much fentanyl is coming into the country or because not enough fentanyl is coming into the country?

Of course, Greene doesn't actually give a damn about fentanyl. She wants to scare people into thinking Joe Biden wants to kill your children by masterminding some sort of fentanyl smuggling that … gets seized? Is she saying that when it gets seized by CBP it gets taken to a super-secret Biden distribution network that has operatives skulk into the homes of rural white folk and force drugs down their throats? Or does she just not know what "seized" means?

Really, with her it could easily be either.

Greene is nutso enough to believe outlandish nonsense of all sorts, but all that matters to her is that she can get the rubes to believe the nonsense. Which is the tactic of each and every Republican official and candidate for office. Simply adjust the subject to fit a given issue.

Are you a Republican running for office? Is there something about society you don't like? Or that maybe you like but your constituency doesn't? Well, all you have to do is tell the rubes that the thing you (or your constituency) don't like is the fault of Democrats and brown people and immigrants. (Incidentally, the vast majority of smuggling is done by US citizens, but make sure to blame foreigners if you can.) Make up a wacky conspiracy theory to give it heft! And be absolutely outraged, even if it's a thing most people think is fine or is a thing people hate but is, you know, your own fault. Because you know that your base of voters is gullible, impressionable, and willing to be abused. So don't spare the rod! Con those rubes good!

One of those rubes testified to that same House Committee hearing, adamantly claiming that lawmakers “are welcoming drug dealers across our border!” She was upset, see, because her two sons died of an opioid overdose—in 2020, during the Trump administration, when even Greene apparently agrees the CBP was less effective at seizing fentanyl. Tragic, to be sure, but rather than acknowledge that CBP is now clearly more successful in stopping the drugs from crossing the border, she blamed the current government. And Greene doubled down on it, overtly blaming President Biden for those "murders" in a Tweet. Her office was notified that a fact-check verified that Joe Biden wasn't President in 2020, but her staff's reply was on brand: "Do you think they (constituents) give a fuck about your bullshit fact checking?"

Clearly they do not care about fact-checking. Or facts in general. Or any sort of critical thinking. And Greene's staff knows it and enthusiastically exploits it.

The rube that testified made mention of her lack of expertise. "I had heard of the opioid epidemic," she said. "I thought, you know, people are getting prescription drugs and getting addicted and then getting it on the streets, and that it affects their ability to work. I didn't know that people were dying." And the kicker: "I didn't know that my boys were taking anything that could kill them. They didn't think that they were either. They thought that they were safe with pills. But the government knew. The government's known for years and years."

I was uninformed and uninterested. So were my kids. They're dead now because we were dumb. But the government knew things I didn't know, they've known things I don't know for years and years; sure, there was that whole "war on drugs" thing that they tried to drill into every American for a decade-plus, but that wasn't anything we cared about and so it's the government's fault that we didn't pay attention and learn things and that's why my boys are dead now because the government. I'm a Republican and we're the party of personal responsibility.

She can justify that logical train wreck because of what she hears from people like Congresswoman Greene. And Donald Trump, and Kevin McCarthy, and Ted Cruz, and Lauren Boebert, etc., etc., and their mouthpieces on Fox "News."

Republicans are insane. And Republican officials like it that way.

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State of the Union

JRB

When I revived this here blog no too long ago, it was my intention to be posting relatively frequently. Once a week, maybe. More if there were things in the world worthy of rants/opinions/praise. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it hasn't worked out that way.

No excuses, really. My brain keeps running its continual mood roller-coaster, my time-management skills haven't improved any in the new year. But still. I mean, it's not due to lack of material.

For example, there was that fantastic State of the Union address last week that has generated so many different takes by the punditry that it's hard to keep one's head from spinning: President Biden brilliantly focused on his strength as Scranton Joe, appealing to the blue-collar working-class constituency. The president showed a degree of cunning and baited House Republicans into the trap of committing to protect entitlement programs. Biden disappointed with almost no attention paid to climate change policy. The president's call for policing reforms was much too tepid. How could the president ignore the Supreme Court's insane neo-fascist activism? And those are just the takes from the left.

Personally, I thought it was a fantastic speech. I agree with all of the above takes, really, but (a) you only have so much time in a State of the Union address, especially if your name is not Bill Clinton; and (b) the modern news media is largely for shit, and one must be careful to protect from an overabundance of opportunities for cable talking heads to distort and obsess over pet bogeyman issues and/or minor points. Given that, the president and the White House staff did a great job threading their various needles. I was a little concerned that some in the press would harp on the few times he misspoke/had issues with his stutter-compensation (e.g. saying "off the books" when he meant "off the table," or the common thing where his annunciation is weak as he powers through a stutter reflex), but thankfully those were ignored.

And he went a long way toward shutting up the Democrats who think he's too old to run again. Yes, yes, he's 80. Yes, that's older than even that dottering fool Reagan was when he was in office. But 80 isn't what it used to be, Biden is in good health, and Reagan isn't a fair comparison because he had Alzheimer's. There's no question that being president is a taxing gig (presuming one actually does the work, unlike the previous guy), and advanced age isn't known for providing boundless energy, but Joe Biden has been by many measures an incredibly successful president and has an unparalleled support staff. And his vice-president is wholly competent and ready to step in should he take a turn health-wise and need to invoke the 25th Amendment. On the basis of age and health alone, reelecting Joe Biden at age 82, which he will be shortly after election day 2024, is a far more reasonable prospect than reelecting clearly-befuddled Reagan at 75 in ’84 or stroke-addled Woodrow Wilson at 60 in 1916. FDR in ’44 too, though the public didn't know the full extent of his health problems (not just the polio, he had myriad heart issues from decades of chain-smoking; still, good thing he switched VPs from Henry Wallace to Harry Truman for the ’44 run). Hell, Jimmy Carter didn't have any serious health problems until he was 91 and he had been doing international diplomacy and building houses and generally being a better human being than anyone who'd ever been president before and since.

Still, even after a great SOTU that saw him handle crazy Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene and her fellow hecklers with aplomb, the president's approval rating is incomprehensibly low. Again, I point to the shitty modern news media for the why on this. Because there's no way that the accomplishments of economic recovery from the pandemic, public health improvements with the pandemic (despite the nothing-we-can-do-about-it-now idiocy among the public that resulted in the fact that COVID-19 is still a thing), climate-crisis legislation, actual infrastructure improvements, a 50-year low in unemployment, student debt relief, Justice Jackson, etc., etc. nets a sub-50% approval rating without help from propaganda outlets like Fox "News" and generally shitty media coverage that insists on both-sidesing things beyond any rational measure.

The 538 polling average—which matches pretty well with the well-respected ABC/Washington Post poll—has President Biden's approval/disapproval as 43%/52%. In-fucking-sane. Even Trump's high-water mark was 46% and he did nothing to deserve better than maybe 2%. George W. Bush, the worst president ever before Trump shattered the scale, never polled lower than 45%. Our news media, with its profit motive and increasing reliance on internet platforms easily influenced by disinformation, just sucks.

Also, a lot of Americans are morons and/or willing and eager victims of political abuse by a Republican party that has been steadily devolving into a terrorist organization since Nixon's day. (I refer you to the Republican response to the SOTU, delivered by total nutjob and somehow governor of Arkansas Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who spouted a textbook example of gaslighting and was completely incomprehensible to anyone not immersed in the fantasy fever dreams perpetuated on the Fox Propaganda Channel.) What those polls tell me is less about Joe Biden's popularity and more about how prevalent Stockholm Syndrome is among millions of Americans.

You go, Joe. You're doing great, no matter what polling says.

 

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Abuses of the Department of Justice by Congress

nunes
Congressman Devin Nunes, R-Donald Trump's colon

So, the memo was released. I read it. I’ve not heard any news about it today yet, but I sure heard all the hype ahead of time that Republicans and Fox “News” have been spewing. I was concerned that it would be so much cherry-picked information and half-truth nuggets about the FISA warrant process in general and Carter Page in particular, with so many key omissions and maybe some outright BS added in for fun, that the lemmings that watch Fox “News” and listen to Alex Jones would be so convinced of a nefarious “deep state” oppression of poor, poor Donald Trump that it would spread to mainstream media outlets and actually gain traction with the public.

It still might; I mean, Americans can be pretty damn stupid. Trump’s approval ratings actually went up after his apocalyptic State of the Union speech that announced zero policy or agenda items and stoked fear of immigrants with bullshit about how brown people are coming to kill your children.

But the memo itself? It ain’t all that. If one actually reads it fully—and, you know, knows words, the best words or even some words—it actually undermines the Trumpster brigade’s claims.

It’s also full of shit, of course, no doubt with the intention of confusing and distracting from the big picture by giving us other things to refute and argue about. Even if you allow the title—“Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” which itself implies a conclusion not found—it chooses not to be subtle in propagandizing.

Referring in section 1) to the Steele Dossier as compiled “on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign” omits the fact that before anyone associated with the DNC was involved it was started by and funded by the Washington Free Beacon on behalf of Republicans. It goes on to allege “political origins” of the dossier—which may be true, but those origins were not from the DNC or any Democrats—and claims that Christopher Steele was “working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign,” which is utter bullshit.

It goes on in section 2) and 3) to attempt discreditation of Steele himself, alleging violations of protocol and suggesting that his “desperation” that Trump not become President was the source of, rather than result from, his findings while investigating Trump. Section 4) characterizes the dossier as known to be “salacious and unverified” (portions have since been verified) with the implication that those terms somehow mean “incorrect,” which they do not, and reiterates the suggestion that Steele fabricated his findings due to a pre-existing political agenda. Section 5) ties in the “scandal” of the Pete Strzok/Lisa Page text messages that were critical of Trump (the memo makes no mention of the fact that these messages were also critical of Clinton, Sanders, other Republicans, other Democrats, and evidenced no clear preference for any one person or candidate; nor does it mention that Strzok was removed from the investigation when these text were found, lest there be any appearance of bias), but to do so has to acknowledge that the investigation that the Carter Page FISA warrant was a part of actually originated with another Trump staffer, George Papadopoulos, in July 2016. The memo begins with stating that the issue at hand is the October 2016 FISA warrant, which is the date of a renewal of an already existing warrant to surveil Page.

The thing is, none of the bullshit matters.

In terms of factual, relevant information that shows an improper granting of a FISA warrant or other abuse of power, the memo has exactly zero content.

The origins of the Steele Dossier might have relevance if it were shown to be false, but to date nothing in it has been disproven and several items have been verified. Christopher Steele and his agenda are not the issue, the issue is whether or not Trump staffers (in this case Carter Page and Papadopoulos) are acting as agents of a hostile foreign government. Probable cause had to be shown at each renewal of the warrant, and the memo itself describes the Steele Dossier as “part of” the warrant application. This means that there was other evidence in addition to Steele’s findings that went to establishing probable cause. Nothing in the memo even suggests that any item within the dossier is inaccurate, it simply impugns the investigator. It also admits that at the time of the initial FISA warrant on Page that examination of the Steele Dossier was “in its infancy,” meaning it would not have had much bearing on whether or not to grant the warrant, and that even then it was “minimally corroborated,” meaning that what little they had examined had been corroborated.

Devin Nunes, probably with help from the White House, concocted this document for political reasons only, to attempt to paint Christopher Steele as a partisan who fabricated his dossier because of a hatred of Trump, rather than a concerned investigator who developed a fear of Trump because of what he found while compiling the dossier. It is supposed to be a document that shows “abuses” by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, but gives no evidence of any kind that the FISC issued a warrant improperly.

No careful reading of this memo can lead to conclusions other than motives of purely partisan obfuscation and distraction by someone with something to hide.

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