Party of the Lie

Oppression is always based on a lie. Not all human lives are of equal value. Blacks, Hispanics and Muslims are inferior to Whites (and no true White can be a Muslim). An animal has no rights whatsoever, nor any real feelings, either. Jesus Christ, and His father, in their infinite mercy, intended wealthy white men to autocratically rule over everybody else, for the benefit of all. A “well-regulated militia” means every individual can own as many guns as he likes, with no regulation allowed. A fair and decisive election that even Bill Barr stated was without fraud on a scale that would change any results was “stolen”, we need to fix the laws to allow the GOP state legislatures to make the final calls in every state on which votes to throw out to ensure “election integrity”. The Civil War was not fought to defend slavery, it was purely an issue of states’ rights (to own slaves or not).

The list is endless.

Someone well-born has the God-given right to rule over the rabble, those who chose the conditions of their birth less wisely. A self-evident truth like “all men are created equal” obviously excludes natural inferiors like women, white men without land, slaves, the servant class, indigenous non-citizens, Chinese, other immigrant groups (unless they obtain sufficient wealth to make themselves equal), felons who’ve served their sentences and the rest of them.

These things are so self-evident, they really go without saying. When the law is forced to say them, they sometimes do so unequivocally, as in the unappealable words of the Supreme Court: the Negro “has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.” [1]

After four fun-house years when repeated presidential lying was just doing what a solid 39% of Americans loved, what they themselves, if they had the power, would do, we have a party finally and irrevocably devoted to defending what is now routinely called The Big Lie — that the 2020 election was stolen. Because of widespread belief in this lie, you see, we need to fix laws that are not broken, to ensure that something that didn’t happen never happens again.

The Big Lie was a technique perfected and named by Hitler’s brilliant Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. It’s a simple technique. Make an audacious lie (they get more attention and enflame more outrage than small lies) and repeat it over and over and over via the mass media. It works like magic, so seamlessly that after years of doing it, a depraved government can indulge its wildest fantasies. Why not, as millions of credulous Americans would celebrate, put Tom Hanks, Oprah, Hillary and the rest of those sick child blood drinking pedophile fucks in torture camps?

We now have one major political party, representing a solid 40% of our citizens (conservative estimate), marching in lockstep to the Big Lie. Because voting rights advocates have made great strides bringing more people to the polls, and we had a historically large turn out in 2020, during a pandemic, no less, we need new laws that would allow GOP state legislatures the final call on which votes to count in each state.

Such laws, which would ensure “election integrity” would also relieve any future Trump of the need to call individual state election officials, or fly them to Washington, to persuade them not to certify votes or to change certified vote totals. We need these laws, the GOP argues, to stop voting fraud, whether it actually happened or not, because of mass perception of widespread fraud that, tens of millions believe, led to an infernally clever, successful conspiracy to steal the election. This was an argument ambitious Lyin’ Ted Cruz made continually in the days leading up to the January 6 riot at the Capitol, so many Americans believe this baseless lie, we have to have a commission to investigate it before we allow a possibly stolen election to stand.

The 2020 election, with its historically large turn out, was miraculously clean and fair, in spite of widespread fear, and certified as such by members of both parties. This included the president’s own gunsel, one of the most powerful men in government, Bill Barr, who stated unequivocally, after railing nonstop about the danger of unverified massive voter fraud (by mail) leading up to the election, and authorizing federal investigations into suspected fraud right up to election day, that there had been no fraud anywhere on a scale that would have changed the results of the election [2].

Because of this lie, that the 2020 election was stolen, we had a riot in the Capitol to stop the certification of the Electoral College votes that Biden won by the identical “landslide” Trump won by in 2016. A riot there is now great dispute about, Republicans not supporting a full investigation into whether the president and his underlings planned and incited it, spending some $54,500,000 dollars (according to evidence produced in Trump’s second impeachment) to publicize, organize and foment it.

Republicans don’t want an investigation, because, after all, it would be so partisan and unfair, with Democrat [sic] control of the government. Can you really even call it a riot if only five people were killed, and only 140 police officers were seriously injured? The GOP resents all this kerfuffle about the so-called insurrection, this “riot”. Isn’t a riot, by definition, what Black people do? There were no Blacks in this one, among the violent antifa terrorist provocateurs posing as Trumpists, so how can it be a riot?

That is one of the terrible things about a Big Lie, or any lie you insist on, really, it leads to endless lies to support it. You have no choice, once you commit to an audacious and baseless lie, but to continually shore it up with further lies, block any inquiry that could show your lie is a lie.

It’s not even like an investigation into the cause of the January 6 “event” at the Capitol will necessarily lead us to the truth. Recall that when the 9-11 Commission finally met, after many months of stonewalling by Cheney and Bush, it had strict limits put on certain parts of its investigation. For example, when they interviewed Bush and Cheney there could be no notes taken, the two would take no oath to tell the truth, nobody could discuss anything either of them said, and nothing from that “testimony” could be included in the report. In other words, we have nothing to hide, and the power to enforce our right not to have to do so.

Trump, although its most grotesque and tireless exponent, was not the first powerful Republican (or Democratic, for that matter) compulsive liar. Trickle Down Economics, for example, the idea that giving more money to the wealthiest would immediately produce a tiny trickle of money to everybody else, was a big lie. If you give money to poor people, they spend it to buy things they need and want. If you give money to rich people, they hoard it, having no real need for the additional cash. Seems simple enough, but you repeat the idea that those who inherited $100,000,000 or more are “job creators”, that a “Death Tax” on their inherited fortunes unfairly penalizes those same people, and, in time, you can convince enough people to have your way.

As always, Heather Cox Richardson has a great analysis, this time of the current tug of war between voting rights activists, Big Business and the GOP on the final outcome of Trump’s last, greatest, most lucrative [3] Big Lie. Here you go, Heather for the bigger picture.

[1]

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[2]

Barr, of course, his heroic efforts on behalf of Trump during his historically unjust and partisan stewardship of the Department of Justice aside, is now widely regarded by Trumpists as a disgrace who lacked the courage, like cowardly traitor Mike Pence, to do what was needed to keep their president in office. Finally, something we can all agree on in this brutally divided nation, Bill Barr is a disgrace.

[3]

Trump has raked in something like a half a billion in donations based on this Big Lie, the number was about $207,500,000, as of November 23, as the Rupert Murdoch-owned right-wing Wall Street Journal reported on his Big Lie-based fundraising on December 3, 2020, using the election lie to fleece both his sucker followers (they’d love him even more if he shot somebody in the face on Fifth Avenue and skull-fucked the corpse with his unimaginably gigantic member) and the usual mega-wealthy Betsy DeVos-style true believer cynics who fund right-wing crusades of all kinds.

I came across this article searching, unsuccessfully so far, for how many tens of millions of dollars Trump/RNC spent on their more than 250 lawsuits attempting to limit voter access prior to the 2020 election and the 60 or so claiming fraud and illegality that it lost after the election.

This is from Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ December 3 account:

President Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have raised more than $207.5 million in the weeks since Election Day, his campaign said Thursday, as their claims of voting fraud have generated a financial windfall that could be deployed in future political ventures.

Despite an aggressive legal effort by the president’s attorneys in many states, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud and numerous federal and state officials have disputed the campaign’s fraud claims.

The size of the postelection fundraising haul between Nov. 4 and Nov. 23 is unprecedented for a losing candidate, much less an outgoing president. The fundraising total ensures Mr. Trump will have a considerable war chest at his disposal as a major figure in the Republican Party, especially as he contemplates a second White House bid.

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Robin Givhan deserves another Pulitzer Prize for this one

from yesterday’s Washington Post

The witness would not be described as angry

By Robin Givhan

Senior critic-at-large March 30, 2021 at 7:14 p.m.

The witness Donald Williams was trained in mixed martial arts. He had experience working in security — and alongside police officers — and handling potentially unruly crowds. He also described himself as an entrepreneur and a father. But during his hours of testimony over two days in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is charged in the death of George Floyd, there is one thing that Williams made clear he was not: an angry Black man.

That he could not afford to be. He was not allowed to be. He could cry for Floyd. He could despair for him. But he was not supposed to be angry, even if that was what Floyd’s death demanded.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson has made anger central to his argument for Chauvin’s acquittal. In his version of events, the anger of the growing crowd on the street that May afternoon distracted Chauvin from the man he had pinned under his knee. Floyd, who had been accused of circulating a counterfeit $20 bill, was in Chauvin’s custody, which meant that he was also in his care. But the crowd — that dangerous, unruly mob, according to Nelson — had distracted Chauvin so that he could not attend to Floyd’s well-being. He could only concern himself with his detainment.

To that end, according to several witnesses, including Williams, the White police officer adjusted his knee to apply more pressure, to ensure that Floyd’s Black body remained immobile — until his immobility turned into unconsciousness.

The defense’s narrative makes use of one of the culture’s most damaging and enduring stereotypes about Black men — and women, too. These people ooze anger, and Black anger is inherently menacing. It isn’t justified or understandable or controlled, even when it is all of those things. It most certainly is not righteous. And when it rises, it must be tamped down, defused and crushed.

Nelson, bespectacled and bearded, and with an affinity for florid neckwear, worked hard to have the jury see Williams as enraged — as a man who was yelling at Chauvin and threatening fellow officers. Nelson detailed the many expletives and insults that Williams directed at Chauvin. He portrayed Williams as a man who was advancing toward the police with his chest thrust forward and spoiling for a fight

“It’s fair to say you grew angrier and angrier?” Nelson asked.

“I grew professional and professional. I stayed in my body,” Williams replied. “You can’t paint me out to be angry.”

Williams said he was speaking loudly so that he could be heard, so that he wouldn’t be ignored. He was imploring Chauvin to relent. He was calling Chauvin a bum and lacing his speech with expletives because the situation was too dire for polite conversation. Derek Chauvin’s defense team said on March 30 that Donald Williams, a witness, grew so angry at police that he wanted to fight them.

What Williams saw was, on its face, enraging. He had happened upon the sight of Floyd facedown on the ground with Chauvin on top of him for more than nine minutes. He heard Floyd cry for help and cry out for air. A young bystander saw him turn “purple” and described him as looking “really limp.” Kids saw this horror. Children. The gathered crowd all watched as their pleas to render aid to Floyd went ignored.

Anger is surely the natural human reaction, along with alarm and concern, but Nelson has characterized that as a wholly unnatural response to Floyd’s dire circumstances, as if he was not worthy of any of those emotions. Should the crowd simply have stood silent?

History would probably have excused their anger. So many other people of color — unarmed and stopped for minor offenses or for nothing at all — have died during encounters with police officers. They have been deprived of air, riddled with bullets; they’ve been killed without consequences because their death was deemed reasonable. When does fury become moral and decent if not in the face of all that?

Williams seemed to understand the perilousness of leading with anger. He refused to let it be his abiding message on Tuesday afternoon in a Minneapolis courtroom as Nelson tested him. No, his words weren’t getting angrier that awful day in May, he said, “they grew more and more pleading — for life.”

Williams was so alarmed by what was unfolding before him that he even called 911. He called the police on the police because he had not given up on law enforcement. He still had faith that they had the capacity to protect and to serve. He trusted in their outrage even if society demands that he deny his own.

The phrase resonated. “I stayed in my body.” Williams remained in control. He maintained focus. He was attuned to his movements and gestures. He didn’t let emotions take hold. He didn’t relinquish his soul.

As he spoke from the witness stand, Williams’s deep voice rumbled from a body that was both solid and still. On his second day of testimony, he wore an open-collared dress shirt in a sea-foam green. His hair was cut close. He didn’t fidget or appear nervous. He didn’t look imposing, but he often looked perplexed.

When Nelson questioned his emotions, pressed him about the expletives he’d used and took a sharp tone, Williams cocked his head sideways and furrowed his brow. Then a slight smile flashed across his face.

Williams did not display a hint of fury. Outrage can be a burden, but it can also be a source of power. If Williams had any anger, he was keeping it in reserve.

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Headshot of Robin Givhan

Robin Givhan is senior critic-at-large writing about politics, race and the arts. A 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner for criticism, Givhan has also worked at Newsweek/Daily Beast, Vogue magazine and the Detroit Free Press.Follow

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What’s the harm of a lie?

It depends on the lie, of course. Some lies cover up terrible crimes, cause massacres, justify endless wars — others just make us uncomfortable. At the same time, every lie attacks our sense of fairness and undermines our faith in ever being able to get to the truth of anything. A lie is almost always a motivating factor for outraged violence, like lynchings. That some lies are relatively harmless does nothing to diminish the harm that lying does.

I had a friend who used to lie — almost always about small things. His particular tic of untruthfulness never bothered me very much. It was hard to tell, much of the time, why he’d told a particular lie. I always chalked it up to the very nervous fellow’s neurosis. I knew his mother, she was the same way. Could look you in the eye, and with the greatest apparent sincerity, assure you of something that was manifestly not true. These little lies can take their toll in a relationship, certainly, but, truly, I never held it against either of them.

Then there are bigger lies, about fundamental things. These are the clearly dangerous ones. By changing the truth, and distorting what actually happened, they serve to deny the validity of your rightful reaction, block the way to solving the actual problem and allow the liar to prevail. Big Lies justify all sorts of things. With a big enough lie, you can have a mob go into a neighborhood and feel totally righteous raining holy hell down on random passersby.

Lying is often motivated by an attempt to protect oneself from shame or accountability. I know a man who has lied since I met him, about almost everything. His father told my father “don’t believe a word he says, Irv, he’s a liar.” He lost his job, took his dead father’s credit cards, maxed them out, had the bills sent to a PO box he rented. Came home every week with a fat cash advance and pretended it was his pay from work. What could go wrong? Everything was fine for months, until his wife found a large unpaid credit card bill, sent to his secret PO box, in his pants pocket while she was doing the laundry. Eventually the credit card companies came looking for their money. If you ask the guy about this, he will have a story, if he doesn’t immediately go on the attack.

What is the harm of a lie? You know the answer to that from your own life, from the times a lie really mattered. The real harm comes when the lie is indignantly insisted on, over and over. Liars have a tendency never to back down and the rest of us tend to believe most things we hear over and over, or at least to develop doubts about what actually happened, based on an insistent lie. Undeviating repetition is crucial for convincing people of the lie, undermining our certainty about truth and falsity, or at least wearing us out and making us drop the whole subject in disgust.

An obvious recent example of what many are calling The Big Lie is about the 2020 election. It is the first time in American history that a president who lost an election, an election certified as fair by election officials of both parties, refused to accept the results — even after his successor was sworn in. He lied, over and over, continues to lie every time he speaks publicly, about massive fraud his lawyers could produce no evidence of in court.

He told his followers that they had been robbed, that he had massive, incontrovertible proof of widespread fraud, that the election was stolen, that the courts are corrupt enemies of the people who were in on the Steal. He called state election officials and tried to get them to change vote tallies, he told the Georgia Secretary of State exactly how many votes against him, 11, 780, he needed thrown out. He whipped up the anger of his most violence-prone followers, so much so that they rioted and Twitter eventually stopped its weak attempts to use disclaimers to hold him accountable for lying, banning him outright from the platform he’d used to such great effect.

When his incensed followers rampaged at the Capitol, injuring more than 100 police officers, killing at least one, trampling one of their own to death, and stormed the building to stop the lawful final certification of the votes, pausing to spread feces on busts of Democrats, it… uh, nobody was threatened that day, nobody chanted for the lynching of Mike Pence, or taunted next in line Nancy Pelosi, nobody released tear gas in the building, nobody tried to crush police in doors, or beat them with their own shields. It was a totally non-threatening riot, completely peaceful, the protesters were literally hugging and kissing the police — and nobody was arrested that day, which kind of proves that nobody was threatened or harmed in any way.

None of the Republicans who were locked down during the riot felt threatened — as the few who will talk about that day continue to insist. The Democrats, according to the GOP and its backers, are trying to blow the whole thing out of proportion for political advantage — lying liars using the liberal media to spread hateful propaganda, which is what these freedom-hating communists always do.

The old maxim that all it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing now comes into play. Even the handful of Republicans who voted to impeach and convict the former president for provoking the insurrectionist mayhem at the Capitol are quiet about it now, taking their political fortunes into account as they maintain a discreet silence. The corporations who loudly pulled campaign funding after Trump’s riot have now quietly resumed funding these candidates. The most ferocious advocates of the Stolen Election myth are raking in huge donations behind their fierce refusal to back down.

Last week Georgia became the first of 43 states (the hell are you waiting for, former Confederacy?) to pass laws that would allow the GOP to bypass the safeguards that protected the integrity of the last election and disqualify any votes they believed to have been cast by fraud. These “suspect” ballots are, of course, the ones cast in cities, in areas where many “non-whites” stand on line for many hours to cast votes that are cast with no wait in rural and suburban, heavily GOP areas. What is the basis for this new law? Repeated false allegations of massive voter fraud, elections that need their integrity protected, because millions of Trump supporters honestly believe fucking “n-words” illegally stole the will of the real people of Georgia by 11, 780 fake votes last time. This new law will allow a gerrymandered state legislature to have the final say on whose votes count and whose get tossed as “suspicious”.

Heather Cox Richardson, historian, is often described as apolitical. She gives the facts, lays out some of the echoes of history. She often sets the details of true events against modern day claims. Sometimes, simply juxtaposing two things is a political act. Of Trump’s Big Lie about massive fraud that never happened, the lie the Heritage Foundation has cited as valid grounds for the model legislation it produced, that 43 states are considering enacting into law, Cox Richardson compares it to the lies that were at the heart of the Ku Klux Klan, the “Redeemers” and the “segregationists”. A political act, by Heather, setting a true account of treachery against a lying story to justify similar chicanery, but there is nothing inaccurate about it. You can read the whole discussion here.

Is a lie not a lie because the liar honestly believes it’s true? We’ll take a look at that sticky business down the road.

(to be continued)

White Pride

Easy to vote and hard to cheat, secure, fair and accessible, you say. No significant cheating was found, by officials in both parties, in the secure, fair and historically accessible 2020 Georgia elections, but, what the hey. Georgia will fix it, next time millions of unqualified voters sneak their way to the ballot box to subvert the will of the leader– and they won’t leave it up to a “principled” Secretary of State, either.

Kemp, well-known midnight purger of Georgia voting rolls (when he was Secretary of State running for governor), was so proud that he signed this important voter suppression law in his office, behind closed doors, under a painting of a famous slave plantation. Georgia state representative Park Cannon, who knocked on the governor’s door during the secretive signing ceremony, was handcuffed and hustled out of the building by silent Georgia State Troopers. She was later charged with two felonies, court challenges to follow. Oh, yeah, naturally Rep. Park Cannon is a Black woman.

Before the fat compulsive liar was banned from Twitter, Mr. Trump tweeted things like this, daily:

The 65 days that led to chaos at the Capitol - BBC News

After forcefully inciting the Stop the Steal riot, and personally leading his army of passionate, credulous totally non-racist peaceful supporters to storm the Capitol on January 6, Trump tweeted this, one of his last:

Donald Trump's Twitter, Facebook video censored during Capitol Hill riots -  Texas News Today

Here is what Mr. Trump said about Brian Kemp during his long rant to his supporters, while exhorting them to go to the Capitol to find the traitorous Mike Pence and Stop the Steal on January 6th. I’ve left the good natured rambling diatribe that follows, as a reminder of the essential incoherence of the compulsively lying malignant narcissist (got to love his winking defense of innocent, righteously outraged conspiracy victim Boof Kavanaugh):

And I had Brian Kemp who weighs 130 pounds. He said he played offensive line in football. I’m trying to figure that out. I’m still trying to figure that out. He said that the other night. “I was an offensive lineman.” I’m saying, “Really? That must have been a very small team.”

(LAUGHTER)

But I look at that and I look at what’s happened and he turned out to be a disaster. This stuff happens. You know, look, I’m not happy with the Supreme Court. They love to rule against me. I picked three people. I fought like hell for them. One in particular I fought.

They all said, “Sir, cut him loose, he’s killing the senators.” You know, very loyal senators. They’re very loyal people.

“Sir, cut him loose. He is killing us, sir. Cut him loose, sir.” I will never — I must have gotten half of these senators. I said no, I can’t do that. It’s unfair to him, and it’s unfair to the family. He didn’t do anything wrong. They made up stories. They were all made-up stories. He didn’t do anything wrong. Cut him loose, sir. I said no, I won’t do that. We got him through, and you know what, they couldn’t give a damn. They couldn’t give a damn. Let him rule the right way, but it almost seems that they are all going out of their way to hurt all of us and to hurt our country, to hurt our country.

You know I read a story in one of the newspapers recently how I control the three Supreme Court justices. I control them. They are puppets. I read it about Bill Barr that he is my personal attorney, that he will do anything for me, and I said you know it really is genius because what they do is that and it makes it really impossible for them to ever give you a victory because all of the sudden Bill Barr changed, if you hadn’t noticed. I like Bill Barr, but he changed because he didn’t want to be considered my personal attorney.

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Kemp has now redeemed himself in the eyes of his former backer, one would think. Redeemed in the sense of the “Redeemers” who restored white rule to the former confederacy after a political compromise (ending the stalemate in the 1876 election) removed federal troops who were enforcing things like the Ku Klux Klan Act in the states that seceded to defend White Supremacy. If the law Kemp signed the other day had been in effect for the 2020 election, Trump wouldn’t have had to make phone calls to Georgia state officials asking for the election results to be thrown out, the GOP state legislature could have easily, and legally, fixed things for him.

As she so often does, historian Heather Cox Richardson captures the essential nature of this struggle, between a small group of powerful white men meeting in secret and the rest of us, whose voices are limited to the ballot:

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed his state’s new voter suppression law last night in a carefully staged photo op. As journalist Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out, Kemp sat at a polished table, with six white men around him, under a painting of the Callaway Plantation on which more than 100 Black people had been enslaved. As the men bore witness to the signing, Representative Park Cannon, a Black female lawmaker, was arrested and dragged away from the governor’s office.

It was a scene that conjured up a lot of history.

Voting was on the table in March 1858, too. Then, the U.S. Senate fought over how the new territory of Kansas would be admitted to the Union. The majority of voters in the territory wanted it to be free, but a minority of proslavery Democrats had taken control of the territory’s government and written a constitution that would make human enslavement the fundamental law in the state. The fight over whether this minority, or the majority that wanted the territory free, would control Kansas burned back east, to Congress.

In the Senate, South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond, who rejected “as ridiculously absurd” the idea that “all men are born equal,” rose to speak on the subject. He defended the rule of the proslavery minority in Kansas, and told anti-slavery northerners how the world really worked. Hammond laid out a new vision for the United States of America.

He explained to his Senate colleagues just how wealthy the South’s system of human enslavement had made the region, then explained that the “harmonious… and prosperous” system worked precisely because a few wealthy men ruled over a larger class with “a low order of intellect and but little skill.” Hammond explained that in the South, those workers were Black slaves, but the North had such a class, too: they were “your whole hireling class of manual laborers.”

These distinctions had crucial political importance, he explained, “Our slaves do not vote. We give them no political power. Yours do vote, and, being the majority, they are the depositaries of all your political power. If they knew the tremendous secret, that the ballot-box is stronger than ‘an army with banners,’ and could combine, where would you be? Your society would be reconstructed, your government overthrown, your property divided… by the quiet process of the ballot-box.”

Hammond believed the South’s system must spread to Kansas and the West regardless of what settlers there wanted because it was the only acceptable way to organize society. Two years later, Hammond would be one of those working to establish the Confederate States of America, “founded,” in the words of their vice president, Alexander Stephens, upon the “great physical, philosophical, and moral truth… that the negro is not equal to the white man.”

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Meantime, several propagators of the Big Lie about a stolen election engineered by dead Socialists and Dominion voting machines, (the mother of an equally Big Lie about the harmless intentions of the unarmed peaceful patriots who attacked Capitol Police with Bear Spray, other chemical irritants, tasers, flagpoles, barricades, their own shields, etc. [1]) are being dragged into civil court for defamation. Their defense, the noted FOX defense (used to get entertainer Tucker Carlson off the hook for some of his more incendiary lies) is that it should be obvious to anyone that these were wildly exaggerated statements intended solely to whip up angry, low-information people and that only a moron could believe were actually true, no matter how specific or otherwise plausible they may have sounded.

Like the constantly trumpeted claims of widespread voter fraud that were not backed by any evidence whatsoever in any one of almost four hundred Trump/RNC lawsuits brought before and after the election. As no less an authority than Lyin’ Ted Cruz insisted, in the days before and after the January 6th Stop the Steal Riot, loud and angrily repeated widespread allegations of voter fraud are good enough to support anti-fraud measures [2].

Now, about that filibuster, Mr. Manchin…

[1]

Trump went on FOX the other night to insist again that his riot, in which one police officer was killed by peaceful protesters and 140 more injured by those same law and order patriots, was a love-fest featuring hugging and kissing between his people and the police. What is it with the homoerotic suggestions of this giant orange homophobe? He and the North Korean dictator “fell in love”. Sure did.

[2]

This very specific sounding, but false, fabricated claim of fraud, an outright lie unsupported by any evidence, made by Trump while urging his supporters to go to the Capitol and Stop the Steal, stands in for the rest:

There were over 205,000 more ballots counted in Pennsylvania. Now think of this, you had 205,000 more ballots than you had voters. That means you had to — where did they come from? Do you know where they came from? Somebody’s imagination, whatever they need it. So in Pennsylvania, you had 205,000 more votes than you had voters, and it’s — the number is actually much greater than that now. That was as of a week ago, and this is a mathematical impossibility unless you want to say it’s a total fraud. So if Pennsylvania was defrauded.

Over 8,000 ballots in Pennsylvania were cast by people whose names and dates of birth match individuals who died in 2020 and prior to the election. Think of that. Dead people, lots of dead people, thousands, and some dead people actually requested an application. That bothers me even more. Not only are they voting, they want an application to vote; one of them was 29 years ago died. It’s incredible.

Incredible, yes, that’s the exact word, sir — too extraordinary and improbable to be believed. In your defense, sir, only a raging imbecile would take you at your word.

How many times do we have to fight the same fight for basic equality here in the USA?

Have we not fought, and won, all these fucking battles for democracy before? Apparently not. What we politely call “segregationists” succeeded, for a solid century, in nullifying the results of the Civil War, effectively voiding all rights conferred by the Thirteenth (no involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime…) Fourteenth (full rights of federal citizenship for anyone born here) and Fifteenth amendments (right to vote may not be denied on account of race or previous condition of servitude) [1]. Almost 100 years later Congress had to pass new laws to enforce civil rights and voting rights, both laws vigorously opposed — and energetically filibustered — by segregationists (racists, let’s call a fucking spade a spade). They’ve been at it continually since the Supreme Court struck down segregation in public schools in 1954, seeking to end “judicial activism,” “get government off our backs” starve it of tax revenue (particularly from the super-wealthy) and “drown it in the bath tub”. They are at it full-throttle right now, in the wake of their champion Donald Trump’s electoral defeat in spite of getting 75,000,000 votes.

You’ve heard about the 43 states, including every state Trump narrowly lost, voting on 253 new voter suppression laws to address non-existent “voter fraud” committed exclusively by Democrats. Had these laws been in place for the 2020 election, we’d now be a white supremacist autocracy under the triumphant Donald Trump and family. The final arbiters of the legality of these new voter suppression laws will be Trump’s 6-3 Federalist Society Supreme Court, a group that has rarely met a voter suppression measure they’ve considered unconstitutional.

The first of these open voter suppression bills was signed into law yesterday by Georgia governor Brian Kemp, a man mocked as a runt and a coward in the incendiary harangue Trump delivered on January 6th, including a long-winded, maniacally detailed recitation of debunked lies supporting his false claim of massive voting fraud, before he bravely marched with his millions of freedom-loving supporters to peacefully, patriotically storm the Capitol to Stop the Steal.

There was an ugly arrest yesterday, of a Georgia state representative, sickeningly reminiscent of 1950 — several beefy white Georgia State Troopers silently hustling a handcuffed black woman away, ignoring questions about why she was being arrested. The only difference between the 2021 arrest and one in 1950 is the absence of a beat-down and the repeated use of the unexpurgated “n-word” during the subduing and arrest of this dangerous little elected official. Her criminal act was knocking on the door of the governor’s office while he was in a private signing ceremony with six other white guys, making the new voter suppression bill binding Georgia law.

The only way to defeat these kinds of clear race-based voter suppression laws (the Georgia law severely limits the use of drop box, bans most absentee voting, — it had originally intended to ban Sunday voting — and criminalizes bringing water to anyone on a long line to vote Democrat — ya’ll know where those long voting lines are…) is by a federal law that would preempt these measures. HR-1 became S-1, The For the People Act, the other day, and when the Senators get back from yet another two week break, the GOP filibuster of this voting rights act will begin.

A party who perceives its only path to power as through partisan gerrymandering, dark money funding and voter suppression, and has 50 votes in the senate (and a 6-3 Federalist Society minoritarian majority on the unappealable Supreme Court to review challenges to state voting laws), will have no problem raising 41 Senators, even if forced to, to stand and take turns reading Dr. Seuss books, mischievously sharing the most racist images in the books his executors are no long publishing (as I would if I were them, wouldn’t you?), to block debate on this crucial law.

Democrats are currently agonizing about how to placate the most reactionary of their one-vote majority caucus so they can push back against the filibuster, the obstructionist parliamentary maneuver Barack Obama not unfairly called a Jim Crow relic. With the filibuster in place, democracy, as the sainted Framers of the Constitution conceived it, is as dead as the Fourteenth Amendment was (except for corporate “persons”) for almost a century of racist terrorism with no remedy at law. (Thankfully the State no longer kills unarmed blacks with impunity…)

Seriously, how many times do we have to fight, and win, the same basic rights of citizenship in a democracy?

We know how before Mitch McConnell became the master radical obstructionist he is today, the filibuster was used to block the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The (Roberts Supreme Court gutted) Voting Rights Act of 1965. Before that the filibuster was a favorite tool of supporters of slavery like John C. Calhoun and by opponents of oppressive federal anti-lynching laws (what kind of country do we have if you can’t even lynch a goddamned troublemaker in your own county?). You can draw the through line yourself, and picture Lyin’ Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham to block the funding of Obamacare a few years back [2] before even talking was abolished for the debate-blocking filibuster (the mere threat of filibuster, backed by 41 votes, is all it takes today to block any debate).

Because effective democracy is based on open, fact-based debate, and then a vote and majority rule, (and because these proposed GOP voter suppression laws are clearly aimed at one segment of the electorate) we hear things like this:

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) argued Tuesday that the Senate filibuster “has no racial history at all. None. There’s no dispute among historians about that.”

[The Washington Post quickly debunked that made for FOX news talking point]

That’s false. Historians know the filibuster is closely intertwined with the nation’s racial past and present. To be sure, senators have filibustered issues other than civil rights over the Senate’s history. But it is impossible to write that history without recognizing the centrality of race.

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So says the author of a fine article on the filibuster, writing in the Washington Post.

No racial history at all. None. There’s no dispute among historians about that.

Oh, yeah, from that same article, we’re reminded that McConnell’s Senate colleague from Kentucky, another peach of a southern gentleman, filibustered the latest attempt to pass a federal anti-lynching law.

Attitudes on race continue to color contemporary Senate filibusters. Just last year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) temporarily halted passage of a measure that would make lynching a federal hate crime.

It is clear enough what we are up against. I’m sometimes chided for comparing this group of any-means-necessary extremists, who march in lockstep, support any useful lie and vote in a disciplined block, to the devoted followers of Hitler in the German Reichstag. Trump is no Hitler, though arguably as racist and stupid as the author of one of few books Trump has ever read. It wasn’t for lack of trying to be a dictator, though, Trump just didn’t have enough time to do much as far as the really historically memorable stuff. Remember, it took Hitler almost a decade to start the actual mass killing program he is so rightfully famous for. All Trump got to do was ban Muslims, appoint three ideologically pure rightwing extremists to the Supreme Court, gut fedral agencies, pull children from their mothers’ arms and put them in cages, repeatedly and openly lie, advance cruelty as national policy, defend white killers of blacks while ordering the extrajudicial execution of a Seattle man accused of killing a white supremacist (both were white), use military force against peaceful protesters, attempt to overturn an election by force and a few other things like that.

To be fair and historically accurate, though both Trump and Hitler can be fairly characterized as angry, irrational, lying sociopaths, it is beyond dispute that Trump is no Hitler. He didn’t have enough time to dismantle every norm and safeguard, and American democracy held, if just barely. With these new voter suppression laws, which would allow the overturning of unfavorable vote results by partisan loyalists as Trump urged the Georgia Secretary of State to do, and will be interpreted by doctrinaire Federalist Society judges rammed through by McConnell and co., he may get his chance, if he can stay out of prison.

End the filibuster or bust. How hard can it be to get resolute “centrists” Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on board?

Oh, yeah, I forget– push them too hard, they’ll vote to abolish the filibuster and then change parties to become Republicans, handing the highly principled Mitch McConnell majority leadership and officially ending the legislative process as we know it. LOL!!

[1]

In the late 1870s, the Southern Republican Party vanished with the end of Reconstruction, and Southern state governments effectively nullified both the 14th Amendment (passed in 1868, it guaranteed citizenship and all its privileges to African Americans) and the 15th amendment, stripping blacks in the South of the right to vote.

In the ensuing decades, various discriminatory practices including poll taxes and literacy tests—along with Jim Crow laws, intimidation and outright violence—were used to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote.

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[2]

Republican Senator Ted Cruz finally took his seat in the U.S. Senate at noon today after finishing a marathon speech about President Barack Obama’s health-care law that lasted more than 21 hours and involved a reading of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.

The Texas legislator began his overnight talk-a-thon Tuesday afternoon and by 7 a.m. ET Wednesday, he confessed he was “a little bit tired.” But he also said he was inspired and encouraged by the Americans who support his determined push to scrap Obamacare, as the health-care law is known.

“I intend to speak in support of de-funding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand,” Cruz, sporting running shoes with his suit, had said when he began speaking. “All across this country Americans are suffering because of Obamacare. Obamacare isn’t working.”

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Common Sense vs. the Death Lobby

Why can Congress not regulate gun ownership in any meaningful way in this country, even in the face of the disproportionate gun deaths here, including regular mass shootings? Why can we not have laws supported by more than 90% of us, regarding limiting the availability of guns, and banning the most lethal kinds.

Guns (even military assault rifles designed for instantly spraying an area with deadly fire for maximum killing in war-zone firefights) are considered essential to “freedom” and the continual mass shootings (and thousands of one on one gun murders and even more gun suicides here every year) are simply the price we pay for “freedom”. An asshole argument, made by cynical, indifferent assholes, sure, but you can get shot here if you want to argue about it too loudly. Every angry 21 year-old white American male gunman has a right, conferred directly by Jesus Christ Himself, to own as many guns as will make him feel safe and powerful.

You recall how hard it was to get tobacco companies to stop pushing cigarettes on children? They were a very, very powerful lobby representing billions in profits with brilliant, aggressive lawyers fighting off pesky wrongful death cases for decades. One of their biggest legal guns, former tobacco attorney Lewis Powell, after writing an influential memo on how Commies want to destroy our freedom by attacking corporations in court — and stressing the importance of having judges who will hold the line on corporate rights — went on to become a long serving pro-corporate rights Supreme Court justice. We have several of them up there now, dedicated corporatists like John Roberts, the self-proclaimed balls and strikes umpire and, before that, the creator of the brilliant, now ubiquitous “arbitration clause” that is in virtually every contract consumers sign with corporations.

Let’s pause for a second to appreciate how brilliant that arbitration clause is, from a corporate point of view. In signing the contract you agree to forego any judicial remedy outside of binding arbitration, for any injury, even death, sustained due to the actions of the corporation you signed the contract with. Instead of a costly class action where a million similarly injured customers can hold a negligent corporation accountable in a court of law, every individual customer agrees to a one on one arbitration, the costs usually shared evenly between the complaining customer and the corporation, and the arbitrator will decide whose rights have been violated and by how much. Plus, the beauty part, whatever the arbitrator decides is binding, no appeal. It’s right there in the fine print you signed, bitch.

Why does every Republican in Congress (and every “moderate” Democrat from a Red State, like right-leaning Joe Manchin) elected in the last 40 years need a triple A rating from the National Rifle Association? Second Amendment, yo! The Second Amendment is considered by millions to be the most important amendment in our Constitution. Its fans (including indisputable legal genius Antonin Scalia) argue that the ambiguously worded amendment that begins with the words “a well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state” is not about militias at all, but the inviolable right of every individual American to bear as many arms as possible to ensure freedom from all tyranny, including, significantly, the tyranny of a government that would come to take their guns — like they did on January 6th at the Capitol! Pry ’em from my cold dead hands, coercive nanny-state!

Heather Cox Richardson lays out the history of how the once reasonable National Rifle Association (one-time advocates of responsible gun ownership and sensible gun control) became, starting with Reagan, the most powerful right wing lobby in the country (and biggest single donor to our boy Trumpie in 2016, $30,000,000, baby). Heather, as usual, cogent and brilliant.

Why does the United States have such an off the charts number of gun homicides a year? The New York Times published a great article today, zeroing in on the number one cause of all that gun death here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We lead the world, by a gigantic margin, in the number of guns people have. Read this article, with its spoiler alert headline, Why Does the U.S. Have So Many Mass Shootings? Research Is Clear: Guns, I highly recommend it.

Around the world the opinion is that the US, which has 4.4% of the world’s population and owns 42% of its guns, is a violent, racist nation with a mental health epidemic raging out of control under an overpriced, inadequate health care system. I’d have thought that too, but it turns out, and the researchers make a great case: there is an amazingly strong correlation between the number of gun deaths in an area and the number of guns people own. We may be no more violent, racist or otherwise insane than citizens anywhere else, we just have ten or a hundred, or a thousand times more guns than any other country. Here’s a neatly chilling factoid from the article, an illustration of why so many more of us are killed here by guns, which are almost as ubiquitous as John Roberts’ fucking arbitration clause:

[It’s not that we have more violent crime here than elsewhere…] Rather, they found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.

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Fancy that.

Or, as this raging asshole would say, let the American people listen to the propaganda on both sides, go as deep as they want into any monetizable rabbit hole, and make their own informed decisions, which the lobbyists make sure get translated into the most lucrative possible policies, public and private.

The NY Times giveth, and the NY Times taketh away

The New York Times ran a very detailed and pretty decent article the other day entitled The Senate’s “Talking Filibuster” Might Rise Again. It contained this telling graph showing how many times the filibuster (raising number of Senate votes needed from 51 to 60) has been used to block Executive Branch appointments. Remember, Trump’s party is the party of the Unitary Executive, viewing the president as a powerful CEO who gets wide discretion in his appointments and blanket protection for every refusal to comply with norms, even laws. Unless, of course, they hate the current president and are determined to use every tactic to make him a failed one-term loser. In that case, all bets are off.

The man who finally broke the Senate, proud “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell, finding himself in the thinnest of minorities, threatened “scorched earth” if the Democrats “break the Senate” by attempting to curtail the minority’s right to obstruct every bit of legislation, if not every executive branch appointment.

“I want my colleagues to imagine a world where every single task requires a physical quorum — for which the Vice President does not count, by the way.

“Everything that Democratic Senates did to Presidents Bush and Trump… everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama… would be child’s play compared to the disaster that Democrats would create for their own priorities if they break the Senate.

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Go back to the chart above and read the numbers for how many Bush/Cheney appointments were blocked by Democrats compared to Republican denials of debate on Obama’s, a rather lopsided tally — an eye popping escalation of the use of the filibuster under the power-driven, ends-justify-the-means McConnell. As for Trump, the rules didn’t really apply. Trump boasted that he preferred to appoint acting loyalists to high government positions, an ever more unqualified and compliant species of loyalist, since that meant increased obedience, no vetting, no pesky advice or consent, no need to listen to any kind of debate, the ability to instantly fire or transfer acting appointees without oversight from anybody. McConnell wants credit for his principled stand in not caving to Trump’s demand that he abolish the filibuster, which would have made the unhinged Trump’s power virtually absolute.

The New York Times, always bending over backwards to be fair, includes this factually accurate but context-free analysis:

In the first months of Mr. Biden’s administration, Republicans have yet to use the rules to block any of his legislation, but battles are on the horizon. Some Democrats argue that filibuster reform is the only way to overcome united Republican opposition to pass a voting-rights bill or laws to bolster labor rights or to reform immigration policy.

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The Republicans have not actually used the filibuster yet, of course, only because the only law presented so far — voted against by every Republican in the House and Senate– was done by reconciliation, a budget process requiring only a simple majority (used by the GOP under McConnell/Trump to almost abolish the ACA — missed by a single vote– McCain’s famous thumbs down [1]– and to open the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve to oil drilling — both clearly more revenue-related than increasing the federal minimum wage to a living wage). The GOP’s united opposition to voting rights, for Democrats, is on display in 43 states where over 250 restrictive new voting laws have been proposed since Biden’s election.

MAGA, it turns out, is a determined return to the days when openly racist segregationists could use the filibuster, and the “states’ rights” ruse, to block the right to vote of any but their own — the Civil Rights Acts be damned (filibuster all of ’em!) and same for your goddamned Voting Rights Act (filibuster that unholy abortion too!) and stuff your “anti-lynching” laws too, n-word lovers, (we got a tall pine and a long rope for you in Georgia, boy).

But, the truth, of course, as the NY Times intrepidly points out, is that, in the first sixty days of Biden’s term, Republicans have yet to use a filibuster against any Democratic bill so far.

But here’s my favorite classic New York Times fairness tic: “Some Democrats argue…”

“Some Democrats” argue that a party that will not even hold its leader responsible for a inciting a violent riot to prevent the certification of an election signed off on by officials of both parties, a leader who allowed a lynch mob to roam the Capitol looking for his vice president (to hang!) for over three hours, a party that will cast not a single vote for a COVID-related rescue plan that does not immunize corporations for all harm and death resulting from corporate negligence or malfeasance during a deadly pandemic, who will not censure, or even contradict, colleagues who openly supported the Capitol rioters, continue to defend them and to insist the last election was stolen from Trump… Some Democrats, apparently, believe the GOP position on bipartisanship, even among Republican “moderates” and “centrists”, is not as reasonable as it might be.

What the devil is wrong with you, Grey Lady? I mean, seriously, lady, what the fuck?

Brings to mind the classic history headline from The Onion (America’s finest news source), perhaps the greatest deadpan imitation of the Grey Lady I’ve ever seen:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20190326_121319-1-1.jpg

[1]

Fine, I oversimplified to make a point, slightly. Nothing even slightly broken about any of this shit:

On January 12, 2017, the Senate voted 51 to 48 to pass an FY2017 budget resolutionS.Con.Res. 3, that contained language allowing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process, which disallows a filibuster in the Senate.[33][34][35][36][1] In spite of efforts during the vote-a-rama (a proceeding in which each amendment was considered and voted upon for about 10 minutes each until all 160 were completed) that continued into the early hours of the morning, Democrats could not prevent “the GOP from following through on its repeal plans.”[35][37]

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States. Trump and many Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare.[38] President Trump signed an executive order on January 20, 2017, his first day in office, that according to then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would “ease the burden of Obamacare as we transition from repeal and replace”. Spicer would not elaborate further when asked for more details.[39][40][41]

On March 6, 2017, House Republicans announced their replacement for the ACA, the American Health Care Act.[42] The bill was withdrawn on March 24, 2017 after it was certain that the House would fail to garner enough votes to pass it.[43] The result was in-fighting within the Republican Party.[44]

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Senator Raphael Warnock’s perfect speech in support of the Right to Vote

Watch Senator Warnock’s powerful speech in support of (HR1) the For the People Act, a proposed law that would make voting easier and more universal, outlaw partisan and racial gerrymandering and ensure that political campaigns are less driven by “dark money”. A voting rights protection bill long overdue in our great experiment in democracy.

See if you can find a single flaw or misstep in Warnock’s presentation:

More proof of the already conclusively proved

The New York Times released this, eh, surprising news yesterday:

WASHINGTON — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia authorized extensive efforts to hurt the candidacy of Joseph R. Biden Jr. during the election last year, including by mounting covert operations to influence people close to President Donald J. Trump, according to a declassified intelligence report released on Tuesday…

The reports, compiled by career officials, amounted to a repudiation of Mr. Trump, his allies and some of his top administration officials. They reaffirmed the intelligence agencies’ conclusions about Russia’s interference in 2016 on behalf of Mr. Trump and said that the Kremlin favored his re-election. And they categorically dismissed allegations of foreign-fed voter fraud, cast doubt on Republican accusations of Chinese intervention on behalf of Democrats and undermined claims that Mr. Trump and his allies had spread about the Biden family’s work in Ukraine.

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The line we often hear, about shady things done by powerful people, is that it’s not the crime itself, it’s the cover-up that gets you. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller wasn’t appointed because of well-founded suspicions that the Trump campaign had had strategic help from and over a hundred contacts with Putin’s agents during the lead-up to the 2016 election — he was appointed when Trump fired Jim Comey for not dropping the investigation into Trump’s former National Security Director Mike “Lock Her up” Flynn. Flynn had been reluctantly fired by Trump for lying about his own contacts with Russia, then Trump attempted to squash the investigation and gloated by immediately celebrating Comey’s firing with a bunch of Russians in the Oval Office. It all looked so openly corrupt that Robert Mueller had to be appointed.

Mueller, of course, wound up having to write an entire second volume on Trump’s repeated attempts to interfere with his investigation, cover up his attempts to cover up widespread contacts with Trump’s benefactor Vladimir Putin, instruct his people to stay strong and say nothing, his obstruction of justice. Mueller was forced to do this because Trump’s people lied to him over and over, people like Paul Manafort who Trump later pardoned for not “singing” like a “rat”. Mueller’s short summary of the Obstruction of Justice volume would have made an excellent article of impeachment, but Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic braintrust did not have the stomach for that fight, banking instead on American outrage about Trump’s attempt to shake down the new president of a country few had ever heard of.

One star of the new revelations about Putin’s attempts to sow discord and secure another four years as American president for his pliable friend is slippery Russian intel officer/spy Konstantin Kilimnik:

The report also named Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a former colleague of Mr. Trump’s onetime campaign manager Paul Manafort, as a Russian influence agent. Mr. Kilimnik took steps throughout the 2020 election cycle to hurt Mr. Biden and his candidacy, the report said, helping pushed a false narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for interfering in American politics.

During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Manafort shared inside information about the presidential race with Mr. Kilimnik and the Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs whom he served, according to a bipartisan report last year by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Kilimnik was back at it again, along with others like Derkach,” Mr. Schiff said. “And they had other conduits for their laundered misinformation, including people like Rudy Giuliani.”

Neither Mr. Giuliani nor his representatives returned a request for comment.

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You know, this guy:

Kilimnik was mentioned hundreds of times in the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report about massive Russian interference in the 2016 election that came out in five volumes, the last of them well after Mueller’s discarded work was done. The Republican led committee documented meetings and constant communications between then Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (Roger Stone’s former partner in political dirty tricks) and Kilimnik, the man the FBI is now seeking for Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice. They documented how Manafort had shared detailed polling data with Kilimnik, information that might have come into play when Trump’s surgically precise Electoral College victory was engineered. Though he lost he popular vote, he won every district he needed to win for his 78,000 vote Electoral College mandate.

The Republican led committee got much more detailed information on Trump’s collusion/coordination/close work with Russia than Mueller was able to find. And, because Americans are not sophisticated consumers of information, the Republicans on the committee publicly distanced themselves from their own findings, repeating the mantra that it was all a big nothing fabricated by vicious partisans who hated Trump, no matter how much so called evidence of this collusion they themselves had turned up.

Can anyone really be surprised about this “news” that Putin wanted his guy reelected in 2020? During the 2020 campaign Trump and Barr constantly echoed the incendiary and baseless Putin talking point about mail in voting fraud. Evidence? “It’s common sense,” snorted Barr on national TV, more than once. Draw a straight line from that lie about massive potential fraud by those who voted against Trump, through Trump’s constant carping about a rigged election, to his open attempts to sabotage the US mail system by having his megadonor dismantle hundreds of urban high speed mail sorting machines, remove mailboxes and slow down mail delivery by other shenanigans, through literally hundreds of baseless lawsuits to prevent voting or contest electoral losses, to the well-funded months’ long Stop the Steal publicity blitz, to the riot organized and launched to prevent the certification of the election results, to the screaming about the cancellation of Dr. Seuss and the snarling threats of “scorched earth” in the Senate — and… well, Putin’s laughing, anyway.

Maybe he’s right, comrades. This nation may be too fucking stupid and weak to remain a democracy.

Worldview and World (part 2)

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of an early morning drug raid in Kentucky, using a warrant based on outdated intel, that resulted in the killing of an innocent 26 year-old EMT named Breonna Taylor in her own home. The police who broke down her door and began wildly firing into the apartment were not charged in her death, though they left her bleeding with 8 bullet wounds for twenty minutes before any medical efforts were taken to save her (depraved indifference?). As she lay dying they were busy arresting her boyfriend, who fired once at men who broke down the door — men all but one witness said never identified themselves as police. The boyfriend recently had felony charges against him dismissed, after only a year. Remember, this deadly military style assault was to enforce Prohibition, Louisville police were there to intercept illegal drugs, though none were found. Although no police were charged in Taylor’s killing, scores of protesters calling for accountability for the officers and an end to “no knock” warrants, were arrested for, essentially, felony protest. Fair is fair.

Hard as it is to believe, your worldview will determine how you see the facts of this awful case. A good percentage of the country sees this killing simply as an unavoidable tragedy, something that couldn’t have been helped. Some will argue that Taylor’s boyfriend should not have pulled out his licensed gun when he was abruptly woken by the sound of men breaking down the door. Once he fired into the leg of one of the men, whatever happened after that was coming to him. The same people will defend the Stand Your Ground laws that extend the Castle Doctrine (you may defend yourself with deadly force against a deadly threat in your home) to anywhere and anyone you fear might use deadly force against you. A black kid walking down a suburban Florida street is fair game to shoot, as we have learned, if you can prove he scared the shit out of you.

It sounds simplistic, I know, to insist on a premise like all communal hatred resulting in violence flows from the same source. Or making the obvious point about the central role early life experiences play in shaping how we see the world, for that matter. It is beyond dispute that how we see the world, our worldview, not only influences what we believe and how we act, it creates the world we live in, to a great extent. All simplistic and self-evident sounding, I know. but I hope my rambling here will shed some light for us, somehow.

Take every situation where an enraged mob goes after a certain group of people simply based on the other group’s ethnic, religious, racial or political identity and rains living hell down on them. Lately it’s angry American fools bashing elderly Asians, shoving them to the ground, slashing them with knives, because they blame all Asians for the “Wuhan Flu”, as our former president, a big fan of tough talk and violence of every kind, dubbed it. How about that Nobel Peace Prize winner, former political prisoner turned prime minister, Aung San Suu Kyi silent on the mass killings and forced evacuations of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims in her country? Two million Tutsis, slaughtered by hand, in a short, bloody span of time, by machete wielding Hutus, another tribal group. Every “ethnic” massacre is a variation on the same theme. The names change, the victims and perpetrators wear different hats, the methods of killing change, but it’s the same thing, every time. Ever hear of “necklacing?” Hell of a technique, Brownie:

Necklacing is the practice of extrajudicial summary execution and torture carried out by forcing a rubber tire filled with petrol around a victim’s chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim may take up to 20 minutes to die, suffering severe burns in the process.[1]

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How can one human “necklace” another human? Easy, apparently, given the right set of circumstances. For whatever reason, the mass killing of despised “others” is a regular feature of our common history anytime masses of desperate people get really enraged, particularly when they are encouraged in this violent group mania by their leaders. It’s always a very similar horror story, a few details changed.

I don’t know why the commonality of every instance of mass violence seems so hard to grasp, or why it doesn’t act as a kind of brake on these recurring slaughters. Every time I hear the next atrocity story it reminds me of the grappling in the media with the “question” of exactly why the insane guy with the automatic weapon went nuts and killed a bunch of strangers before blowing his own head off. It’s as if, perhaps this time, the insane “gunman” who went crazy and started massacring before he “turned the gun on himself” will be the first to have a brilliant, totally valid theory for his insanely violent act.

Seeing that horrific black and white clip of the guy in the cap dumping a load of jiggly, rubber human skeletons down a chute in the early 1940s did not instantly convince me of the commonality of all such massacres, (and we’ll stipulate that the Nazi death machine was unique in its scope, size and efficiency) but it had an effect on my thinking about the subject, my view of the world.

You see something like that as a child and it stays with you, changes the way you think about “solutions” that involve the mass torture and murder of our fellow homo sapiens. I think I would have felt the same way if the clip had been of charging Turks on horseback whipping wailing Armenian women, children and old people into a raging river to drown. How are those things different? How is either fundamentally different than a man with a gun and a badge nonchalantly kneeling on another man’s neck until the pleading, handcuffed man stops moving and then keeps his knee there until the man is dead? Each of these things is characterized by what the law, in an excellent phrase, calls “depraved indifference to human life.”

On a certain fundamental level, we are all taught to accept that war, and mass killing, are simply an unfortunate, but sometimes necessary, inevitable part of politics. A particularly muscular form of diplomacy, practiced at the behest of God’s imperfect but powerful vessels. The way we have been helping the Saudi royal family starve the people of Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, or our devastating blockade of Venezuela — a nation we are crippling economically during a deadly pandemic — just other, more coercive forms of diplomacy. Tally ho! These inferior people, given to a tyrannical form of government, or political beliefs we find repugnant, have simply got to learn to get with the program, we’ll gently starve them ’til they wise up!

Back to the personal, the place where “political” and “religious” beliefs, and “morality” are instilled. If your parent was humiliated as a child, as mine were, they will tend to see the world in a zero sum way. They can’t risk being humiliated any more, the possibility is too traumatic, and so they phrase every disagreement or conflict as a war that must be fought to the death. My father, as he was dying, said he always felt we could never have a real discussion of anything, he thought a fight was inevitable. He said that it had been his fault, because he lacked insight and saw everything in blazing black and white — a win-lose battle to the death. He felt every disagreement with his children inevitably led to a fight since he had never learned any other way, in spite of his education, sensitivity and group dynamic training, vast professional experience and highly developed mind.

In the end, as he was dying, it became important to him, as he reviewed his suddenly-ending life, to confront, out loud, for the first time, how crabbed and destructive his view of the world had been. It should have been as simple as “if you’re in pain, and come to me perplexed, let me listen patiently and try to help you instead of fighting you because I’m angry and afraid.” He realized that simple truth of being a decent human too late, as he apologized to me for the only time in his life. “I was wrong,” he said, also for the first time. Why did it take rapidly approaching death to bring these basic human realizations to him? Beats me. Tragic, truly. On the other hand, what a slippery gift he handed me right before he shuffled off and left me to close his dead eyelids with two fingers of my right hand.

There is really no risk to listening quietly to someone else’s pain, if you care about the person. It is often the only useful thing you can do for someone you care about when they are hurt, understanding how they feel. But to many people, the realm of feelings is always fraught and ready to burst into war. A war over who has the right to feel pain, how much pain is reasonable to feel, to express, how outrageous it is to pour out your troubles as though the person you are crying to doesn’t have even worse troubles! If you tell me I hurt you I am no friend if I say “that’s your problem, asshole.” There is a productive conversation, that starts with yielding to the other person’s right to be hurt, without fighting over how contemptible a worm he or she is to feel that way.

In the wake of my projectile vomiting after that searing Nazi footage from Let My People Go, my father was implacable. It was going to be a hard lesson to me. You see– you disobeyed good parental advice, your mother and I both begged you and advised you not to see what you can now never unsee, strictly for your own good, and now you want my pity because what I warned you about came sickeningly true? It’s good for you to remember next time, you contumacious little prick (yeah, look that up in that dictionary you like so much). And, by the way, seven is not too young to start acting like a man, particularly since you are so smart you don’t need anybody’s advice… (etc.)”

An understandable reaction, I understood it, even at the time. Still, not the reaction a child wants or needs. Understandable from a tit for tat perspective, but not from any other, really.

It is also tempting to repeat the treatment you experienced. This is a familiar tic of the victimized, do it to somebody else, as if abusing another victim will make you feel powerful enough to take your shame and hurt away. The way the more violent of the Ukrainians, recently starved en masse by an inhuman enemy, took it out on their own long-time, powerless, enemies when the opportunity to do so without repercussions presented itself.

I recall the vivid TED talk given by likeable neuroscientist Jim Fallon. He was a funny, mild-mannered expert in the configuration of the psychopath’s brain. He had his family tested at one point, and reviewing the brain scans, found one that was a classic psychopath’s brain. It was his own. He shrugged about it, even when his family and friends unanimously confirmed that he showed many traits of the psychopath. The fact that he didn’t flinch at the diagnosis proved that he had that moral nonchalance characteristic of the psychopath. He didn’t pretend to be upset. His point was that if someone with his brain configuration did not have their violence activated by experiencing or witnessing traumatic physical and psychological abuse during a certain early developmental window, they’d grow up to be people who lacked empathy, but who could also joke, be mild mannered, lead productive lives and never commit violence against anyone else.

Fascinating, if sometimes terribly dark, the way our views of the world are often formed by events early in life, before we know very much. I’ll hope to be on to cheerier subjects soon, boys and girls.