A Few Notes on Fascist Politics

My copy of Jason Stanley’s excellent, short book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them is on its way back to the library.   While reading it I wrote about the book in some detail HERE.    Before I turn it in for others to read (noting that free public libraries are one of the great institutions of democracy) I’d like to share some additional notes, which follow his ten points of fascist politics. 

MYTHIC PAST:   We once were great, then we were weakened by our eternal enemies, we will struggle to become great again.

PROPAGANDA:  if you can control the information and the spin that the public gets, the battle for public opinion is largely won.    Stanley wrote the book a couple of years ago, so he doesn’t give the following example (but I can):

An investigation reveals troubling evidence of wrongdoing by the president.  The president hires a new Attorney General to take control of the situation, which is threatening to spiral out of control for the president.   The new A.G. does not release the fully redacted summary of the report that is given to him by the investigator.   Instead the new A.G. announces that since the investigator “punted” and didn’t make a charging decision (for reasons the A.G. conveniently ignores) he has been forced to make the hard call on the mass of evidence contained in the report.  That call is “no collusion, no obstruction”.

“No collusion, no obstruction” is the only news the public has until a month later, when the A.G. releases the redacted report and the investigator’s own summaries.  By then, most Americans believe the president has been completely and totally (or at least largely) exonerated by a nothing-burger investigation.  Even though there is a massive trove of evidence that looks very incriminating to the president.

Even though the last lines of the Report  say if the investigator could have exonerated the president in the face of the weighty evidence against, he would have exonerated him.  He could not exonerate him.  No matter.

Propaganda is always simple, nuance is hard and tricky.  Who are you going to believe, someone who confidently says “I never lie” or a person who writes 448 dense pages of legalese examining the evidence behind that assertion in excruciating detail?

ANTI-INTELLECTUAL:  rigorous intellectual debate tends not to support fascist politics or the policies of fascism.   Everywhere fascism triumphs intellectuals and open debate have been removed from the public sphere.   Stanley writes (of the removal of certain books and subjects from university curricula):

The priorities here make sense when one realizes that in  antidemocratic systems, the function of education is to produce obedient citizens structurally obliged to enter the workforce without bargaining power and ideologically trained to think that the dominant group represents history’s greatest civilizational forces.  Conservative figures pour huge sums into the project of advancing right-wing goals in education.  For example, the Charles Koch Foundation, just one of the conservative foundations in the United States funded by right-wing oligarchs, alone spent $100 million to support projects largely devoted to conservative ideology at around 350 colleges and universities according to some sources. 


Throughout Mein Kampf, Hitler is clear that the aim of propaganda is to replace reasoned argument in the public sphere with irrational fears and passions.

UNREALITY:  believe half of what you see, none of what you hear, and everything the leader says.   There are facts and there are also, more importantly “alternative facts”.   

This disorienting storm of falsity, and distortion of language itself, is a deliberate tactic of fascist politics.  Stanley discusses  the liberal concept of  “the marketplace of ideas” where good arguments will, through the use of reason and persuasion, drive out bad arguments.  At least that’s the theory.

The argument for the  “marketplace of ideas”  presupposes that words are used only in their “descriptive, logical or semantic sense.”  But in politics, and most vividly in fascist politics, language is not used simply, or even chiefly, to convey information but to elicit emotion.   

and of special, sickening relevance to our current political situation:

…citizens look to politics for tribal identification, for addressing personal grievance, and for entertainment.   When news becomes sports, the strongman achieves a certain measure of popularity.  Fascist politics transforms the news from a conduit of information and reasoned debate into a spectacle with the strongman as the star.

HIERARCHY:  This applies to groups as much as to individuals in fascist politics, which, as Stanley’s title conjures, divides the world into us (good) and them (bad). Members of the inferior “them” groups are the ones citizens of the superior “us” group may freely take out their frustrations on.  

In the day to day politics of fascism, on a personal level, loyalty to the leader is the most important element to rising in the fascist “meritocracy”.

VICTIMHOOD:   Stanley begins the chapter describing President Andrew Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.   Johnson vetoed it on the ground that

“this law establishes for the security of the colored race safeguards which go infinitely beyond any that the General Government have ever provided for the white race.”  As W.E.B. Du Bois notes, Johnson perceived minimal safeguards at the start of a path toward future black equality as “discrimination against the white race.”

The fascist in group is always the fully justified, righteous victim of the angry out group.

LAW and ORDER:  This slogan stands in for the idea that law will be used to preserve and protect the desired order.   

A healthy democratic state is governed by laws that treat all citizens equally and justly, supported by bonds of mutual respect between people, including those tasked with policing them.  Fascist law-and-order rhetoric is explicitly meant to divide citizens into two classes: those of the chosen nation, who are lawful by nature, and those who are not, who are inherently lawless.

Stanley focuses on the explosion American incarceration where people of color are disproportionately arrested, convicted and sentenced.   Law and Order is a slogan that resonates much stronger than “we are afraid, as Jefferson was, of the righteous rage of a race on whose neck we have kept our foot for centuries.”  Nixon exploited this powerful, racially charged euphemism  in his presidential campaigns (his “southern strategy”) as have virtually all right-wing politicians since.  

SEXUAL ANXIETY:  Fascist politics is patriarchal, with the strongman leader as the hyper-masculine father of the nation.    Demonizing anyone who deviates from this vision of mythic order is a common element of fascist politics. 

SODOM AND GOMORRAH:  cities, which tend to be places where diverse populations live and work, and differences are tolerated, even embraced, are seen in fascist politics in stark contrast to the country, where the mythic national purity they extoll still prevails.   Stanley cites a  few counter-factual lines from one of Donald Trump’s campaign speeches:

“Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever.   You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street.”  And yet during this time, cities in the United States were enjoying their lowest rates of crime in generations and record low unemployment.  Trump’s rhetoric about cities makes sense in the context of a more general fascist politics, in which cities are seen as centers of disease and pestilence, containing squalid ghettos filled with despised minority groups living off the work of others.

ARBEIT MACHT FREI:  “Work Will Set You Free” was the false promise on the gates of places like Auschwitz where slave laborers were routinely worked to death.  Hard work is a trait of “us”, laziness and parasitism are traits of “them”.  It is not a stretch to argue, in a fascist society, that vicious, life-sapping parasites should be worked to death.

Stanley spends some time laying out the fascist hostility to organized labor.   In labor unions workers of various races, backgrounds, genders, sexual and political orientations have common goals: better working conditions, fair pay.  These shared goals tend to unite working people who fascists seek to keep apart, exploiting their differences to create the hierarchic caste system necessary for a fascist regime.

Mr. Hitler again, from Mein Kampf, calling the kettle black in the way of fascist leaders everywhere, projecting on to their enemies exactly what they are doing:

“[The Jew] is gradually assuming leadership of the trades-union movement– all the easier because what matters to him is not so much genuine removal of social evils as the formation of a blindly obedient fighting force in industry for the purpose of destroying national economic independence”  

Stanley demonstrates that fascist politics is more effective under conditions of stark economic inequality.    

I note that while the many of the wealthy captains of Germany industry were initially alarmed and horrified by Hitler’s rise,  as many of their counterparts here in America were by Trump’s ascendance, they soon found their profits rising, their wealth greatly enhanced and their privileges well-protected.   The most unscrupulous of the German businessmen availed themselves of Hitler’s generous offer of very low cost slave labor.  The SS charged $1 a day for death camp prisoners who could, literally, be worked to death making products for Germany.  

It has long appeared to me that slave labor (as long as their slavery can be kept secret) is the ultimate dream of corporate bottom-liners.   Corporate employers in Nazi Germany had the perfect situation, hard working very low cost employees who spent their nights in death camps and, obviously, no labor unions.   Hitler abolished them shortly after taking office, after allowing organized labor a last May Day parade in 1933 — he outlawed collective bargaining and the right to strike. 

This rascal we have now as president, I have to say, seems to check every box of fascist politics.  He is not alone, as the party he has seized leadership of has been steadily heading this way for the last few decades.  Hard to blame them, really.   The vast privileges of the inheritors of immense intergenerational wealth are threatened by the notion of things like a social safety net, a commitment to pursuing our common goals (like preventing the destruction of our biosphere) and fulfilling the basic human needs of citizens great and small.   The exponents of fascist politics, a politics of division, have expertly used people like Mitch McConnell and Mr. Trump while enlisting widespread support for otherwise unpopular policies that only help the already powerful.

God bless these United States, man.


To Muse or Not to Muse

Thinking something over because it perplexes you is not everybody’s path to happiness or a better life, I understand.  Contemplating a troubling mystery is not for everyone, you have to be pushed toward it,  it takes a certain turn of mind, and a bit of luck, even.   In my own life, because of the things I suffered when I was young (and the ongoing sufferings we all must sometimes endure) I find myself looking for patterns, clues, examples from the past that point to a better way, less friction with others and  more peace with myself.  The lessons of the past, as they are called, food for thought.  I’d like to think that as I’ve aged I’ve somehow become wiser and more merciful than I was as a confused, angry teenager.   Any improvement I’ve made has been the result of wrestling with things that trouble me.

My feeling is that if you get no insight into the things and situations that cause you pain you will always be in pain for the same reasons you always were.   Your reactions will remain unchanged and those reactions will fuel the behavior of others toward you.   The philosopher Moms Mabely is sometimes credited with the pithiest statement of this:  “if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”  

The only way, it seems to me, to avoid getting what you always got is if you learn to do things differently than you’ve always done.  In other words, doing that difficult thing: learning what you need to do better from the experiences of the past.   Hard fucking work, no doubt, and, though I try not to judge, I often have a hard time respecting people who don’t even make the attempt to learn from their mistakes. Such people are never wrong, no matter what.   If you look back with even a small amount of honesty it’s not that hard to see when you’ve impulsively done something that hurt someone or made things worse, justified by a shaky rationale conceived in anger or something like it.    

I had a close friend for many years who was extremely bright and also very angry. Because he was so angry, on such a fundamental level, almost everyone he ever knew eventually became a rival, an adversary and finally a hated enemy.   Not long ago, when his mother died, his older brother asked me to reach out to him after informing me that I was his brother’s only friend.  

I took this news philosophically, as I hadn’t spoken to the guy in more than a decade, after finally realizing there was little I could do to remain friends with someone as implacably angry as he was.  Our few emails back and forth after his mother’s death illustrated quickly that nothing had changed in his world– he was still and always the victim, and angry and defensive about it.  Because he is a smart and articulate person he also made a brilliantly baroque case that the world, including me, was wrong and he alone was right.   Zero sum game, black or white, no nuance or possibility that anything could be any other way — you dig?

Because of the damage done to him as a child, however it had happened, he constantly relived variations on the trauma in every relationship he had.  He lived the ‘repetition compulsion’, casting others in the roles of people he blamed for his persecution, a series of putzes he at first thought were very cool, and then playing out the identical  senseless drama of betrayal time after time.  Each of these future putzes, every one of whom he put great hopes in, came to reveal the same awful thing — that they were complete and unredeemed fucking assholes.  

I found this fascinating, and also, very, very disturbing and ultimately defeating.  His resistance to any kind of insight into his behavior was fierce.  He was convinced, in each case, that he had been viciously wronged, had been completely blameless and absolutely justified in acting exactly as he had, at every step.   Each one of his stories was predictably the same — initial admiration, disillusion, betrayal (often violent)–  and yet he was compelled to repeat the same aggravating three act drama every time.   If you pointed out the similarities between the new story and every other one, or ventured the opinion that any of it had anything to do with his unattainable expectations of others and his own behaviors justified by his unexpressed anger, he’d become furious, since he was the least angry person he’d ever met.

We like to think that we’ll always have our favorite people in our lives.   Sometimes we keep old friends, and some people manage to keep all of their friends, but other times things like resentment, anger, envy, competitiveness and irrational things that bubble up and are hard to put a finger on wind up prying people apart. 

Anger is among  the hardest things we all have to deal with.   Do we have a right to be angry? Quite often we do.   We all live in an aggravating world, in a misguided and often vicious and violent culture.   In my own life, both of my parents were quick to anger.  There was a lot of yelling in the little house my sister and I grew up in.   I don’t hold this against my parents anymore.   I don’t say that lightly, it took me many years to truly understand that if they had learned to deal with their feelings of disappointment, frustration and helplessness, they would not have treated my sister and me the way they did.   They did the best they could, but neither ever obtained much insight into how damaging uncontrolled anger is. 

As a child, if you can’t learn something like how to deal with frustration and anger from your parents, you are up against a hard game.  You have to find teachers, make many, many mistakes, accept insights wherever you find them, become your own teacher in how to do better dealing with difficult emotions, difficult people.  

I’ll end with the only simple, useful thing I’ve learned for sure.   There are certain people who, once they become angry at you, will never stop being mad at you, no matter what you do.  An apology won’t work, whatever you’ve done is unforgivable and characteristic of the kind of bad person you are.  Conversation will not lead anywhere better, there is nothing you can say or do that will lead toward mutual understanding or forgiveness.   When you find every attempt to make peace thrown back on you, the only thing to do with this type is to walk away.  

I’ve learned this painful lesson only after understanding that the only other choice is a bad one– to make a kind of false peace by accepting that you are an offensive asshole unworthy of being treated any better than the way this angry person is prepared to treat you.  If you are ready, in the interest of “peace”,  to accept a view of you distorted by someone’s anger as some kind of truth, you’re setting an inevitable trap for the future.   A trap you must continue to live in, harshly judged, awaiting whatever you “deserve”.   This kind of bogus peace will almost always come back to bite you sooner or later, and in the meantime, you must accept the unacceptable as the best you can get.   The only choice, once mutual peace is off the table, is leaving the room, closing the door.

On one level, you could call what I am advocating the same thing my unhappy, angry friend who lived in a world of discarded putzes did, but I will try to explain how it’s different.   We both justify our actions as the only thing to be done, yes.  My friend’s drama was always the same — he’d acted in good faith, thought the other person was too, there were warning signs, he tried to correct course, he was viciously betrayed.  You can see this as similar to what I have laid out, but there is a real difference.   Unlike me, he was never at fault, in any way, ever.  Kind of like our current president and many badly damaged people one encounters.

I have many times realized that I’ve said or done something hurtful to somebody I care about.   It is natural to do this from time to time, no matter how hard we try to be perfect, particularly if we were raised by people who often spoke out of anger before they gave themselves time to consider the better thing to say.   People who are angry enough to rage at somebody don’t always have the ability to admit they were wrong, even later.  When there can be no acknowledgment of a hurtful mistake the cycle of ill will is complete, if you remain in the radius of  harm.

When I become aware I’ve hurt somebody I’ve learned to move quickly to reassure them of my friendship, apologize, seek forgiveness.  I’ve found that people who value you in their lives are quite ready to forgive.   I extend this forgiveness to anyone who shows the humility to express genuine sorrow for some hurtful thing they’ve done. It is not easy for people to make themselves vulnerable to somebody else, particularly in our kind of win/lose culture, I appreciate the difficulty and respect those who can.  [1]

Look, this attitude about seeking and extending forgiveness does not make me Jesus Christ.  When someone slights me a few times, then refuses to acknowledge any role in a conflict, and escalates things aggravatingly every time I try to make amends, I have the same initial response that virtually any toxic male in our violent culture has.  My first feeling is violence, punch my antagonist hard in the mouth to make him shut up.  Just stop the fucking noise.  If you are only capable of making things worse with your righteous, enraged bullshit and whining, for the love of Christ, just shut up.

I don’t chide myself for this feeling.  The feeling is understandable and the reflex was planted deep, long before I was old enough to have any say about it.   I have not hit anyone in anger in many years.  I’ve made some progress in controlling what my anger at first compels me to do.  And yet, the feeling can’t be denied, I can’t pretend I’m not provoked to feel that way, once I am provoked.   Each of us has our breaking point.  

The only thing we can do when a feeling like this is choking us is to make a better decision than smashing somebody’s face.   I’m not going to hit this infuriating person in the mouth to make his maddening sounds stop, no matter how strongly I feel the desire to.  I’ve learned to take a breath, as many breaths as I need, walk away, think (perseverate, if you like), recover as much of my better nature as I can.   If there is no way to peace with someone who is acting unreasonably, provocatively, secure in his right to rage, at a certain point you have to accept it and keep away from that person.

Once I come to this unfortunate acceptance, after exhausting my efforts to defuse things and make peace, there is only one more thing I have to do.   I don’t necessarily advocate it or defend it, but it is the best I can do in these situations, considering the angry environment I come from.

I reach deep into my well-worn tool kit.   I set out in words the precise thoughts that will do the most direct harm to the person who can’t stop attacking.  I write these thoughts out in detail, politely and firmly but without mercy or any hope of reconciliation (since there is none, as already seen).  I employ that maddeningly superior tone that unchallengeable masters of the universe always use when addressing drones.   In each paragraph I cooly remove another arm, a leg, set them side by side on the table.  My last lines sever the head, which I leave beside the limbs.   Now it is finally quiet.

In the end the violence is about the same as punching someone hard enough to make them shut up, but the beautiful quiet afterwards is nice.   It is not exactly peace, and a terrible loss is still there, along with the sadness that comes with a great loss, but the knowledge that this kind of pugnacious anger will no longer come at you from this particular person– in my mind, better than giving in and socking somebody.   No matter how much they might actually deserve it.


[1]  The kind of apology that does not help is what Harry Shearer calls the if-pology. “If I did something wrong, then I’m sorry.”   Think of Joe Biden’s decades-belated variation on the classic if-pology, delivered to Anita Hill recently — I feel sorry for what they did to you, and for whatever part you may think I may have played in what they did to you.   An apology Anita Hill was right to dismiss.

An apology, to be meaningful, must acknowledge the hurtfulness of the specific thing that one is sorry about and contain some sort of promise to try not to do it again.

Compare that to the kind of apology I was given right before an old friend I finally had to behead told me he loved me and that I, therefore, had to be his friend.

“I already apologized to you, so I don’t know what you want from me.  You think I did something to you, which I didn’t, and so no matter how many times I fucking apologize, you are too much of a rigid, angry and unloving fucking asshole — who can never admit to being wrong, I might add  —  to even hear it”

And then, as though proving his point, I could not find it in my heart to accept his apology.

Time for Trump to show some balls

I’ve got to take Trump’s side here for a minute, if only to play debutant’s advocate.

People are in the news again openly attacking Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, two innocent and loyal men (one unjustly imprisoned for seven and a half years under fake federal charges by supporters of criminal Hilary Clinton) who are being openly persecuted by liberal cucks and so-called judges.  They are being ruthlessly crucified in the lying liberal media!   A whole lot of nothing about them repeatedly violating gag orders and nickel and dime crap like that.  Isn’t it illegal, according to the Constitution that liberals love to hide behind, to stop someone’s freedom of speech?  Talk about unfair double standards…

Here’s the thing, Mr. President.   You have your Roy Cohn, why are you not letting slip the dogs of war?    A.G. Barr has already done this exact thing before, he did it to nail the lid closed on the so-called Iran Contragate conspiracy theory.  PRE-TRIAL PARDON (google Caspar Weinberger indictment).    Barr can make you look good, and strong, and unhesitating in the face of vicious attack.  Pardon these two innocent men before it’s too late for either of them.  Do it BEFORE any further completely illegal, partisan guilty verdicts come down.  

If Manafort is convicted on NY State charges (and thank God your justice department was able to intervene to keep him out of NYC’s shithole Riker’s Island prison), well, it’s bye bye Paul.   A presidential pardon only works for so-called federal crimes.    Roger Stone is another stand up guy who has helped you a lot.  Are you just going to let him twist in the wind, with a gag around his mouth?   Do something, man.   It’s time to show some real balls and put this whole disgusting, illegal witch hunt to bed once and for all.

Another idea:  Absolute Pardon!    Everybody who is under investigation, indictment, suspicion, everybody in contempt of subpoenas of all kinds, anyone who could theoretically be called to testify or produce documents of any kind:  ABSOLUTE PARDON!   Think about it.   There had never been a pretrial presidential pardon for anyone, let alone someone indicted for felonies, until Bill Barr brilliantly broke new ground!  [1]

Ask Bill Barr if there are any limits on the powers of the United States President.  He will tell you, plainly, that there are not — unless limitations are placed under explicit, written, orders from Jesus Christ Himself.


[1]  More on presidential pardons HERE


Hope Hicks answers to Congressional committee “inadequate”

Hope Hicks, a young woman who was one of candidate and president Donald Trump’s closest aides (she served as a top White House press official) appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last week.   She “testified” for eight hours, with five attorneys (two personal, two White House, and one from the DOJ.  The DOJ?  WTF?)  present to advise her, and, according to the transcript of the closed door meeting, gave inadequate (NO) answers to 155 questions.  The White House lawyer objected each time, claiming she was immune to testifying about anything that happened during the presidency of the most transparent president in history.

Her name appears in the Mueller Report more than 180 times.   She was, for a long time, known as the president’s closest confidante.  Her testimony could go a long way toward illuminating the president’s state of mind and his intent in the days he first began trying to shut down the Mueller investigation.  

Although, of course, current Attorney General Bill Barr has already taken care of the issue of president’s completely, unimpeachably non-criminal intent.   He  famously excused the president’s many guilty-appearing actions as the understandable anger and frustration of an innocent man unfairly attacked by traitors and spies.   And Bill Barr, we all know, is an honorable man

Hope Hicks spoke, under oath, to Mueller’s investigators about Trump’s rage when Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel on May 17, 2017.  He was, according to Hicks, who saw the president immediately after his outburst at Jeff Sessions in the Oval Office, as upset as she’d ever seen him.  

The only other time she saw him as distraught, she told Mueller’s vicious partisans,  was when the completely out of context, innocent Access Hollywood pussy grabber tape came out toward the end of the 2016 campaign.  When Sessions told the president that Trump himself was now under investigation, Trump apparently said “I’m fucked.” before lashing out at Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III:

According to notes written by Jody Hunt—then chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions—Trump “slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.’”

“The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, ‘How did you let this happen, Jeff,’” the report continues, paraphrasing Hunt’s notes.

Sessions himself told the special counsel that Trump said, “’You were supposed to protect me,’ or words to that effect,” according to the report.

“’Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,’” Trump continued, per the report. “’It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

source    (obviously Breitbart, FOX and The Stormer cover this material differently)

here is a direct citation to a searchable version of the lying, vicious, totally exonerating Mueller report where you can find the quotes cited above on page 290


OK, truthfully, between you me and the lamp post that any one of Trump’s treasonous enemies could be hanging from (in Trump’s perfect world) — the Democrats are reaching here.  Hicks was close to the president, true, and told Mueller that the president was very angry that Jeff Sessions would not protect him, as Roy Cohn [1] (who was disbarred toward the end of his despicable life) always had.   But, seriously, is that any reason to put her in position to commit perjury to protect the man she owes her career to?  (She’s now an executive at the company that owns FOX news).

Let us not forget, Hope Hicks gave those Democrat traitors on the Judiciary Committee a legal sounding reason for not answering anything they asked.  She cited “Absolute Immunity” a perfectly legal sounding term one of Trump’s more creative (and brazen) lawyers pulled directly out of his Roy Cohn-like homophobic ass.  Will this novel yet legal sounding reason for giving inadequate sworn testimony stand up in court? Only if Boof Kavanaugh has the final say.  

Although, even Boof would probably be constrained by the long held, indisputable legal principle that says once a privilege is waived (as Executive Privilege was waived  for Hicks once the then White House employee voluntarily spoke under oath to Mueller) it cannot be reasserted.

The fucking law again!   So goddamned unfair!   Where is Roy Cohn when you need him?!!!


[1]  (recycled footnote from here)  

Because when I have any doubt about a factual assertion I make here I do a quick and easy fact check, I asked google “was Roy Cohn a homophobe?”  He was, many sources agree.   Here is one of the results that came up in about one second, a marvelous little summary of the career of this malevolent creature, a career I highlighted in a footnote scroll to the bottom of this one for two excellent treatments of this evil fuck:

Roy Cohn – RationalWiki

Sep 5, 2018 – Roy Marcus Cohn (1927–1986) was a lawyer, a rabid anti-communist, a closeted homosexual and homophobe, a Jewish anti-Semite, …

Some readers (Jews in particular) might find this review of two biographies of Cohn the reviewer waded through, disturbingly fascinating.


(above) the self-hating Roy Cohn, living picture of Dorian Grey.

This is not that hard

So much of what this reality-TV president does is simply wrong, some of it illegal too.   I’m tempted to use the word evil for much of what this divisive demagogue does.   It is not that hard for the average impartial citizen to make a strong case against him, based strictly on his public actions.   He has been showing us the worst of himself, and ourselves, since the day he declared himself a candidate for President of the United States.

One of his first acts as president was to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio for contempt of a federal court who slapped him down for running a punitive outdoor “concentration camp” (his term) penal colony in the Arizona desert.  That pardon sent the clear message that if you are brown, red or tan, or have a Hispanic surname, you are fair game for any rough treatment our bold law enforcement officers can come up with, no matter what a so-called federal judge may have to say about it. 

It wasn’t long before Trump’s cruel family separation policy at the southern border was challenged in federal court.  That court ruled that the children must be reunited with their parents.   The Trump administration has yet to comply with that order, after offering excuses to Congress, including the inexcusable fact that they never really kept track of which little confiscated illegal belonged to which Mexican or Honduran rapist/terrorist/drug dealer.   

The largest detention center for illegal immigrant and asylum seeker children separated from their parents is a military base that was a former concentration camp for interned Japanese Americans.   The Trump administration is in court, defending its inhumane policy towards brown children.  Republicans are hissing at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for calling a concentration camp where inmates sleep on the ground a “concentration camp”.

Trump’s father was a young man when he was arrested at a Klan Rally in Queens, NY, in 1927.   He was released without being charged.  He gets the benefit of the doubt, he may have just gone to watch the Klan parade out of pure curiosity rather than to show solidarity with a group of racists whose beliefs he shared.  His son, our president, who has publicly insulted the intelligence of every black woman who ever criticized him, gets no such benefit of the doubt (particularly in light of the Trump dynasty’s obscene defense against the DOJ’s well-documented charges of race and ethnicity based Fair Housing Act violations). 

If you consider only Trump’s reactions to murderous racist rage at a provocative rally staged by White Supremacists in Charlottesville, you get the picture.  In his mind there are some very fine people, on both sides, fine Nazis, fine Klansmen, fine black sons of bitches who should be thrown off professional football fields if they don’t show respect for the American flag and all it stands for. 

There is his lifelong view of the law and lawyers.   The law is an obstacle to making profit, lawyers are the tool to remove that obstacle.  A time-tested strategy is the lawsuit meant only to delay and wear the other party down, if not bankrupt them.  Trump has used this blunt axe literally hundreds, if not thousands, of times over his long career as a deadbeat billionaire.   

Trump’s legal philosophy is to never back down, no matter what the so-called law says.   Any defense is better than no defense.   Trump continues to claim never to have lost a lawsuit and never to have settled a case, even as he did both days before the 2016 election and in the weeks after.   As the man himself said, in a rare moment of telling the truth (he told an interviewer candidly that he tries to tell the truth, when he can), he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and his base would still love him.   

He has, in fact, done the legal equivalent of shooting somebody in the face by his deliberate, public obstruction of justice.  Not only his pattern of trying to obstruct the investigation into the 140 documented instances of his campaigns coordination with Russia.   Forget Russia, with whom Mr. Trump apparently did not have every provable element of an indictable criminal conspiracy (though there were plenty of instances of coordination, if you don’t like the word “collusion”)  and just look at the clear and unwavering pattern of obstruction of justice laid out in Mueller’s summary, right before Mueller’s conclusion that, based on this mass of evidence, he could not exonerate Trump of obstructing justice. 

Or, if you prefer, just look at how Trump has doubled and tripled down on his obstruction since the strategically redacted Mueller Report was released.  Recall that the unredacted report was carefully vetted by the president’s legal team before anybody else in the world saw any part of it.  After that consultation, Barr famously (infamously, actually) concluded that Mueller hadn’t proven jack shit, that all his “evidence” was nothing and that Mueller had “punted” and left Barr to decide, and Barr decided “nothing to see here, case closed.”  Millions of Americans, on both sides of the political divide took this as the final word on Mueller’s investigation/”witch hunt”. Trump himself added “no re-do, no do-over, no backsies, I’m the rubber you’re the glue, I know you are but what am I? make me!!!  nyah yah yah yah yeah!”

Bill Barr’s cynical distortion of the findings of the Mueller investigation (accurately trumpeted by the president and his followers as ‘no collusion, no obstruction, complete and total exoneration!’) ,was immediately protested by the “by the book” Robert Mueller III.    Here is the heart of Mueller’s immediate reaction to Barr’s first public spin and strong suggestion of complete exoneration, aired live, worldwide on March 24th (broken into sentences for ease of reading/digestion):

As we stated in our meeting of March 5 and reiterated to the Department early in the afternoon of March 24, the introductions and executive summaries of our two-volume report accurately summarize this Office’s work and conclusions.

The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions.

We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25.

There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.

This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.  See Department of Justice, Press Release (May 17, 2017).

Again, Mueller writes like a careful, cautious, subordinate, rules-bound lawyer writing respectfully to his superior.   You actually have to decode the lines about Barr’s misleading summary of the investigation which:  “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the report and consider it alongside other careful, lawyerly Mueller euphemisms.   

Mueller is the same lawyer who characterized Trump’s complete and total NON-ANSWER — the transcript says “TRUMP:  (no answer provided)”–  as “inadequate”.  Trumps refusal to answer certainly resulted in an answer that was not adequate, the non-answer could hardly have been more inadequate, but it was also NO ANSWER WHATSOEVER and a clear and unmistakable expression of the president’s utter contempt for the law.  I’d venture to guess that no mafia boss ever had the gumption to give a silent “fuck you” as his final answer to a prosecutor’s interrogatories.

Mueller apparently sent follow-up questions to Trump that were also disposed of by “inadequate answers.”   These “answers” were inadequate for the same reason Trump’s final answer to the original written questions was inadequate.  Trump simply ignored the follow-up questions because “I know you are but what am I?  Make me, loser.  You’re the rubber, I’m the man! My lawyers will fuck your lawyers UP!”  In Muellerspeak, bending over backwards to remain impartial even when the weight of the evidence you have uncovered points to the guilt of the subject you are investigating, a silent “fuck off” is, to be as candid as he can, “inadequate.”

There are dozens of articles of impeachment that could be drafted against this unimpeachable man with his narrow majority of politically motivated zealots in the Senate who will never convict him no matter what and a Justice Department that has already shown no hesitation to lie, evade and equivocate to protect the Unitary Executive. 

The president’s shameless, open monetizing of the most powerful office in the world by itself should be enough reason to open impeachment hearings.  The fact that White House staffers have Mar-a-Largo credit cards that can only be used at the president’s expensive private membership resort should,  by itself, be enough  for Congress to open immediate hearings.

Trump’s refusal to turn over financial documents, and ordering his dumbly smiling Secretary of the Treasury to illegally refuse to produce documents pursuant to a legal request by Congress (as his lawyers simultaneously and baselessly appeal a judge’s ruling that Deutsche Bank must produce records of their hundreds of millions in suspicious-looking loans to Trump), alone are probably grounds for his impeachment.   (Make the weak Dems take me to court, if they want to try to force me to follow the law.   I own the courts!)

His utter disregard for the rulings of federal courts over reuniting children ripped from their mothers’ arms by itself could probably be stand-alone grounds for impeachment. 

The seven or eight instances in Mueller’s summary of obstruction of justice that directly involve Trump in a seamless pattern of presidential obstruction should be seven or eight articles of impeachment.

Forget how distasteful and embarrassing it is to have a routinely lying bully and braggart as our president.   He is an easy person to dislike (unless you love him).  An EXTREMELY stable genius who cannot seem to express a single thought without veering toward an incoherent attack on some real or imagined enemy who is persecuting him without any cause whatsoever.   “… time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying and Treason.”  

I understand, he speaks to people who are, as most Americans find ourselves, desperate, powerless and angry.  But Trump speaks ONLY to desperation and anger (also greed, must not forget the never sated greed of our greatest and most important citizens and their eternally living corporate avatars) and the bar for stoking righteous rage is very low– it’s “us” (yay!) or “them” (lock them up! lock them up!).  It’s especially easy to keep the rage going full tilt with a fawning mass media echo chamber to bellow into.  So simple, as we’ve seen, that a supremely confident simpleton can do it!

Forget all that for a moment and look only at what Trump is doing, in terms of normalizing presidential contempt for the rule of law.   He has always been above the law, as the greatest human mankind has ever produced (also the most sensitive to a slight, which is an odd contradiction) and his position as president, the world’s most powerful man,  is that he is still and always above the law.  He is a law unto himself.   Truth and “lies” are beyond the point, not worth discussing, really, unless the lie is slam-dunk provable perjury, which is exactly why only a moron takes an oath to tell the truth.

Trump once bragged to an interviewer about what a great athlete he was, claimed that he could have been a professional baseball player (and considered it, though the money at that time wasn’t very good, which is why he never allowed a major league team to draft him).  He was playing baseball at this superstar level at exactly the same time that crippling bone spurs kept him from being drafted into the Vietnam war, over the course of several deferments.    Truth and falsity are purely transactional elements to Trump, to be mixed and matched as required to “win”.  

The law, Trump has long held, is for “ethical” suckers and black and brown sons of bitches who are vicious, criminal parasites who need to be hammered hard by law enforcement.   That’s why you hire an army of the best lawyers who will work for you, to keep yourself free of fucking rats, spies, traitors and enemies.    Mr. Trump  lives in a vulgar gold-plated world where his word is law and undying loyalty to him is the only quality he prizes.   Like in the fondest dreams of the spoiled, abused little millionaire bully he was at eight years old.

This uncouth, impulsive, contemptuous child-man is not a president who embodies the democratic aspirations American patriots have been dying for all these years. 

He is an inexorably spreading stain that needs to be removed before it succeeds in blotting out democracy itself.   

As the earth itself becomes uninhabitable because the most powerful man in the world refuses to believe that the unanimous opinion of the world’s scientists, including US government scientists, means nearly as much as record-breaking profits for private, government subsidized oil companies. 

God bless our two and a half century experiment in democracy.   This inexorably spreading stain needs to be removed before the experiment is fouled beyond salvation. 

Yeah, I know, fuck “science”.

Lawyerly Understatement

I missed delivering to you a wonderful, if also sick, punchline in the debate over whether Trump obstructed justice, continues to obstruct justice by willfully disobeying legal requests for documents and testimony and ordering everybody in his orbit to resist, to dummy up.   He is one lawyered up presumed-innocent guilty-acting motherfucker, I’ll say that for him.

Lawyers with any skill are masters of evasion, within the narrow bounds of truthfulness and their ethical responsibility the best of them can obscure the truth like nobody’s business.   Think of Bill Barr’s supremely misleading remarks at his confirmation hearing, Boof Kavanaugh’s tearful and evasive rant at the end of his sickening confirmation process.   Numerous demonstrable lies, but none, arguably, rising to the level of perjury.  A good lawyer knows how to walk purposefully up to the line of perjury and phrase things so his answer achieves the desired purpose without crossing the line.   

This ability to cavil [1], and the willingness to employ cant [2],  while directing attention away from damaging truth, is the main reason lawyers are so despised by so many.   Just make it plain, you lawyerly fuck.   There is even a movement, in law schools, to encourage young lawyers to write in plain English.   I don’t know how well it’s caught on.  Most of the legal writing I wade through is larded with conditional phrases, qualifiers, finely parsed distinctions, self-serving characterizations and shit like that.  We long for people to just speak plainly, just say what you mean, particularly lawmakers and government officials.  Speak plainly without lying– not a lot to ask, even from lawyers.  Plain talk is refreshing, it restores our faith in our human capacity to communicate openly.

Procol Harem’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” is apparently one of the most popular wedding songs of all time.   The band made many millions in royalties over the decades since the song was on the charts.   One member of the band, the organist who wrote the distinctive Bach-like intro, was not credited as one of the songwriters.  He received no royalty checks.   An interviewer spoke to him during his lawsuit against the others for the millions in back royalties he claimed were owed to him, and the right to future millions.   

The interviewer (you have to picture both of them as British, which they are, for the full effect) listened to his story and said “so, you’re saying they could have been more generous to you.”   

 “They could hardly have been less generous,” the uncredited songwriter replied. [3]

We have Robert Mueller, lifelong conservative and former FBI director, a public servant seemingly beyond reproach, a Marine and before that an Eagle Scout.   He investigated a president who was constantly trying to undermine his investigation, made several attempts to rig the outcome, including a few feints toward firing Mueller, actively discredited Mueller’s impartiality and eventually hired a faithful and dogged Attorney General who vowed to protect him no matter what the investigation found.   Mueller found a mountain of evidence of apparent presidential wrongdoing, but he obeyed a regulation that he said compelled him to abide by two OLC memos, both written during presidential impeachments, and from which he concluded he had an ethical and legal duty not put the president under an unfair cloud.  

Let’s be clear.   The president bragged about being ready to speak to Mueller any time, but his rotating army of lawyers (notice that nobody works for Trump for very long) vetoed that.  Trump, they all agreed, would be walking into a “perjury trap”.  We note that a “perjury trap” only works against a compulsive liar who has at least one dirty secret to hide.  The president consented to answer written questions from Mueller, questions he claimed, ridiculously, to have answered all by himself.

Fast forward past Bill Barr’s numerous infomercials for his boss’s exoneration by a disappointing Mueller who weakly punted responsibility to the A.G. to make a final, binding charging decision about the extent of the president’s arguable misconduct and his corrupt acts done with the power of the president of the United States.    This was a month before any part of the completed report was released to anyone but Trump’s lawyers, the only people so far to have seen the document before it was redacted.

Past Mueller’s remarkable letter to Barr, the letter that was not seen by the public until many weeks later.   Mueller’s letter was immediately after Barr’s public comments on the report.   Mueller contested Barr’s distorted mischaracterizations, informing him that his misleading remarks have caused public confusion and requesting again that Barr immediately release Mueller’s own redacted summaries.   The remarkable letter, a very important piece of evidence for Congress, is here.

Past the month that Barr waited to release anything from Mueller but his own deliberately misleading spin about COMPLETE AND TOTAL exoneration, which many Americans who will never even read an article about the 448 page report (“that speaks for itself”) believe to be unimpeachably true in spite of instance after instance, with names, dates, quotes from people involved, all fitting a larger, consistent, pattern of obstruction of justice.

Past the month after that, before it was revealed that Barr had perjured himself when he said under oath that he had no idea how Mueller felt about his characterization of the Special Counsel’s findings.   He mocked the question, in the way that religious men who believes they are carrying out the Lord’s will often do and got a laugh from the Republican peanut gallery in the Senate that day.   “How would I know what Bob thinks of my summary?”

Past the day, a month later, when the letter from Mueller (dated two months earlier) that told Bill exactly how Bob felt was revealed.  As soon as Bob heard Barr’s lying summary of his findings he wrote to correct the record.  Bob was angry enough to put it into writing, make a record that he was protesting this confusing mischaracterization of the investigation’s conclusions finally became public.   Mueller was obeying the best instinct of a law-abiding lawyer, he was making a record.   With luck, fifty years from now when everything is unsealed, posterity will know that Bob Mueller was, in the end, an honorable man.

Mueller got up in front of cameras, the day he retired from his role as Special Counsel, and spoke publicly for almost ten minutes.   His remarks were bookended by the continuing untruthful spin of the deeply religious, God-fearing protector of the Unitary Executive, William Barr.   Mueller spoke carefully, like a lawyer.  He may have reiterated that the president, rather than, as he claimed, fully cooperating with investigators, submitted answers that were “inadequate.”   I don’t think he cited the president’s refusal to answer follow up questions to remedy the inadequacy of his lawyers’ written answers.

“Inadequate”, that was how Mueller characterized the answers you can read here.

I was surprised to find the interrogatories on-line.   I’d heard that Trump’s attorneys had answered virtually every question with a variation on “I don’t recall”.   I scanned and found this to be true for every answer I read.   Mueller’s questions are detailed and lawyerly, a challenge to read, and in light of the evasive answers given, not worthwhile struggling to read.   

Trump’s team of lawyers worked hard to craft the carefully phrased answers, virtually all of which are variations of “I don’t recall” or “I have no specific recollection” or “for the life of me, I truly don’t remember” or “how do you expect me to remember a detail like that?   Wouldn’t that make me look guilty if I did remember doing that, fuckface?”

Here’s what you do, and I promise it is worth the payoff.  Quickly skim the questions, just looking for names you are familiar with, run your finger quickly down the questions.  You’ll see Manafort and Flynn and Jared asked about.   The president answers, under penalty of perjury, that he doesn’t recall anything and that he’s been informed his office has already fully cooperated and provided all necessary documents and information.  Publicly the president was whining daily about the unfair, illegal witch hunt against him which was so unfair and vicious and SAD!

Skip down to Mueller’s last long, complicated question.  It is about Michael Flynn, K.T. McFarland, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Erik Prince, “or anyone else associated with the transition”.   Follow your quick moving finger down  until you get to the president’s last “inadequate” answer.  GREAT SHIT!

Go read it now, quickly, just follow your finger to the bottom, it will take a minute.  Otherwise this next bit will be a spoiler.

Mueller could have told America, more accurately, truthfully, straightforwardly, unequivocally and unconfusingly:  “not only did the president refuse to cooperate with requests to speak to him directly, his legal team submitted evasive written answers pleading no memory of anything and, in one remarkable display of contempt I’ve never seen in my long career as an attorney and in law enforcement, refused to answer at all.  Not even another assertion about the presidents monumentally poor memory.   You figure it out, assholes!”

“Inadequate”?  Trump’s last written answer to the Mueller investigation  could hardly have been less adequate! 

click here for question and final answer


[1] cavil (v):    make petty or unnecessary objections.  complain, carp, grumble, moan, grouse, grouchwhinebleat, find fault with, quibble about, niggle about…

[2] cant (n — can also be used as a verb):  hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature;  the pretending of having virtues, principles, or beliefs that one in fact does not have; dissembling, dissimulation, hypocrisy, insincerity, false piousness    

words related to cant:  deceit, deceitfulness, deceptoin, deceptiveness, dishonesty, double-dealing, falsity, perfidy, two-fadednees, affedtation, affectedness, pretense, pretension, pretentiousness, sanctimoniousness, self-righteousness, self-satisfactoin, duplicity, fakery, falseness, fraudulentness, shamming, artificiality, glibness, oiliness, smoothness, unctuousness 

antonym: sincerity

[3]     from WIkipedia:

In 2005, former Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher filed suit in the High Court against Gary Brooker and his publisher, claiming that he co-wrote the music for the song.[44] Fisher won the case on 20 December 2006 but was awarded 40% of the composers’ share of the music copyright, rather than the 50% he was seeking and was not granted royalties for the period before 2005.[45]

Brooker and publisher Onward Music were granted leave to appeal, and a hearing on the matter was held before a panel of three judges during the week of 1 October 2007. The decision, on 4 April 2008, by Lord Justice Mummery, in the Court of Appeal upheld Fisher’s co-authorship[46] but ruled that he should receive no royalties as he had taken too long (38 years) to bring his claim to litigation. Full royalty rights were returned to Brooker.[47]

On 5 November 2008, Fisher was granted permission to appeal this decision to the House of Lords.[48] Lawyers say it is the first time the Law Lords have been asked to rule on a copyright dispute involving a song.[49] The appeal was heard in the House of Lords on 22–23 April 2009.[50]

On 30 July 2009 the Law Lords unanimously ruled in Fisher’s favour. They noted that the delay in bringing the case had not caused any harm to the other party; on the contrary he had benefited financially from it. They also pointed out that there were no time limits to copyright claims under English law. The right to future royalties was therefore returned to Fisher.[51][52] Both the musicological basis of the judgment and its effect on the rights of musicians who contribute composition to future works have drawn some attention in the music world.[53]