Extra-democratic Means

If you are born to great privilege you will often find your own interests different than, say, the smelly bum on the subway.   In some cases that malodorous layabout can walk into a voting booth (provided he has an address and is registered) and cast his vote for a candidate who may hate your freedom.   You can bet the vote such a person casts will go against the liberty interests you cherish — the liberty to be left alone by the government, except in case of fire, crime, sewage, roads, airports, etc.

In the same way America learned that a judicial process (or even a criminal charge) is not always necessary or desirable before executing a fiercely dissenting American citizen, wealthy Libertarians learned that electoral politics is not the best way to accomplish their goal of keeping all of their money.    Extrajudicial killings by the American government, once super controversial, are now routine.   Extra-democratic means, while taboo in theory, have always been used to protect the privileges of our most privileged persons and their eternal avatars.  Extra-democratic means (for passing unpopular laws) are now the preferred method of the ruling oligarchs here and abroad.  

In the case of America’s wealthiest, we call them philanthropists and job creators, not oligarchs. Sure they wield disproportionate political power, exert massive, decisive influence on the policies that affect us all (particularly the most vulnerable among us), but that doesn’t make them oligarchs.  We reserve the epithet “oligarch” for Russian and Chinese billionaires, or the occasional Ukrainian or Uzbek, who acquired their wealth through suspicious and probably illegal deals with their corrupt, anti-democratic governments.

Which brings us to President Fuckface.  Born booted and spurred, entitled to ride the rest of us like the beasts of burden we are, he has never known a desire he needed to resist.   His fortune is largely the result of decades of his wealthy father’s fraud, tax cheating and abusing government generosity, as documented by the NY Times, who published the detailed account in the face of toothless threats from Trump’s lawyer.   He is the personification of the kind of wanton privilege that has long championed extra-democratic rule by the truly deserving elite.  His cabinet, same powerfully smelling ilk.  His mandate: fuck you, wasshole.    

Mr. Trump always lawyers up, as any good scofflaw with the money does.   He hired for the Justice Department the people most supportive of his right to do whatever he likes.  He vigorously attacked and resisted the DOJ investigation into his ass-kissing of Vladimir Putin, publicly denied his many public attempts to obstruct the investigation and was shielded from the “perjury trap” the cunning yet uncontrolled man would have walked into had he taken an oath not to lie to the Mueller team.  It is universally recognized that he has absolutely no control over his lying. His candid remark to a television interviewer that he tries to tell the truth whenever he can instantly went the way of his dozens of often imbecilic daily tweets.

The famous vanity of the vainglorious self-promoter allows calculating people to openly audition for government positions.  Boof Kavanaugh had written a law review article laying out why what any dodgy president might fear need not be feared.   Somebody described the article to Trump and the president was very interested in a Supreme Court justice who believes the president is essentially a king.  Kavanaugh was his man, went to the top of the list of 25 carefully vetted right-wing zealots selected by the Koch-funded Federalist Society.  William Barr sent Trump an unsolicited letter opining that Trump’s excrement has a delectable odor.  Barr became Trump’s obvious choice for head of the Justice Department, to succeed  a loyal but disappointing supporter too racist to be appointed to the federal bench.   Imagine how racist that is!

The thing to remember is that although these liberty loving, government hating privileged few have a vastly louder voice than you or me in our democracy, easy access to their elected officials, direct ways to influence legislation, etc., that we still have elections and the results, though they might sometimes be in question, are binding.   Trump won the slaveholder’s Electoral College by less than 80,000 votes while losing the popular vote “bigly” (he has the best words).  There was no revolution or even any outbreak of violence when the raging asshole was sworn in, in spite of the horror felt by perhaps 200 million Americans who didn’t vote for him.  

Elections still matter to us, whatever extra-electoral shenanigans are always going on behind closed doors in the halls of power.   We need to continue organizing, being smart, protesting this administration’s worst excesses, and raising important issues (like slowing catastrophic climate change and protecting safety regulations).  We have to keep the pressure on the lawless, lying, compulsively doubling down, prone-to-bankruptcy demagogue.

Most importantly, we need to vote out the world’s most conceited exhibitionist wanker in 2020.  In the meantime, there’s a strong, multi-pronged case for impeaching him, too.

Dehumanize those you wish to destroy

If you see the pleading humanity in the eyes of someone who simply wants to live, you will have a harder time driving a bayonet into him, even selecting his home for a remote controlled missile strike.   Thus, in order to have successful war, and an effective army, you must dehumanize the persons you are about to kill. Those you are about to wipe out must be seen as an inhuman enemy, if you are to kill them without hesitation.  Without the crucial step of dehumanizing the enemy, you are going to have an army with a lot of fucking qualms.   It is common sense to make them hate the dehumanized enemy first, War 101.

This dynamic of dehumanization is not limited to physical war, of course.    It applies, in an increasingly visceral way, to politics in our divided world.   The humanity of the opposing side is amazingly easy to dismiss, particularly when tempers flare.   We believe it is a human right, in a wealthy, industrialized country, to have enough food to eat, sufficient clothing and a place inside to sleep every night.   You believe that people with mental problems, living in poverty, isolated and unable to thrive for one reason or another, are not quite as human as those of us who are not homeless.   We believe that care must be taken to protect the weakest among us.  You believe the weak should learn to be as strong as the rest of us, it is a matter of principle, liberty and life choices.

We can go on and on with the examples.  The fossilized fucking Koch brothers, Charles and David, can smile their grotesque rictus grins now as they prepare for eternal life, to see how far to the merciless side they and their privileged ilk have swung the public discussion about rights and humanity in America.   Tax is equated with murder, liberty trumps every other value — to a man like Charles, born to great wealth who then went out and earned billions of dollars.   I cannot see the humanity of these two motherfuckers, no matter how many philanthropic endowments David seems to make.  

Yet, even these two prime pieces of shit are as human as you or I, presumably.   They have things they love and care about deeply, people and places they are very attached to.  They feel pride and shame, fear and boldness, happiness, sorrow; sometimes they must feel humility, gratitude. 

Like the rapists who keep surging over our borders, in search of young girls and boys to rape.   Like the vicious murderers who mass along the Gaza border with Israel, surging toward the fences and screaming the most hateful things, expressing their deadly wishes with molotov cocktails on kites.   Like those who support Trump/Hillary and all they represent.

If you think calmly, for even a moment, you will see the sickeningly idiotic fallacy of each of the examples in the paragraph above.

For every Mexican rapist who comes to the U.S. border there are many thousands of people, humans, merely seeking a less desperate life.  The vast majority never rape, would never think of doing such a thing.   Yet, they can be painted as rapists, drug smugglers, killers, wetbacks, Spics, Beaners, ass-dickers, what have you.   See?  Then any reasonable person would support using any force necessary to keep these sick fucks out of our great nation.

Same with the Palestinians who are being shot with live ammunition for massing along the Gaza/Israel border every week.   They are not desperate, not living in isolation and generations of poverty– they are all hate-filled terrorists that Israeli snipers may take out with impunity.   The Israeli defense minister proclaimed as much when he approved the use of live ammunition against the masses of Gazans who come to the border fence to rail against Israel’s policies.   All terrorists, not a single one a human being with any human need like any of ours!

Same with those who support a rather angry, harsh president who lies publicly many times every day.   It’s hard for someone like me to remember that these people are as human as I am, as human as people I love and care about.   Every one of them has a compelling reason to overlook the man’s many flaws, see only the greatness he promises to deliver.   Which is a very human thing to do, see the best in somebody, in the face of their large and glaring flaws.  

I can’t see the good in Trump, I think of him as a very dangerous, supremely damaged and self-serving man-child.    I have to look hard to see the humanity of those support him, those who come forward to sing his praises.  I can’t often do it, all I want to do is make them shut up when they open their mouths to explain why a greed-driven, unapologetic, compulsive liar president is actually a great thing for American democracy.

Same with those who voted for Hillary.  I held my nose to vote for her, as did many I knew, but there were people who truly thought she’d make a great president.   Human hopes were placed on her by other humans.  The whole process, very human.

But, fair is fair, it is truly hard to hate if you constantly see the humanity of the person you are supposed to destroy.   Dehumanization is the only humanly possible way to do that.   The enemy must always be nothing like us, he must be motivated only by vicious, inhuman desires.   Otherwise, we’d be constantly killing ourselves and members of our own tribe, and how much would that suck?

 

Again, no law was broken! Witch hunt!

The great Jane Mayer recently reported on the close cooperation between Fox (former home of Fair and Balanced news [1]) and the Trump administration (MAGA!  MAGA!), starting during the campaign (and even decades earlier, actually).  She makes the case that the popular cable news channel is an indispensable ratings-driven propaganda megaphone for Trump.   It’s a problem for American democracy that Fox (whose business model, constantly stoking the fear and rage of its demographic to maximize ratings — the same engine that drives Trump’s political machine) often casts the decisive vote on Trump’s actual policies.  Fox increasingly plays to its demographic base, which is identical to the president’s base.  She writes:

The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead.

Terry Gross’s great recent interview of Jane Mayer is here (along with a link to the New Yorker article, The Making of the Fox News White House).

The report details the many key ways Fox helped presidential candidate Trump and the ongoing symbiosis between the administration and the powerful right wing cable news channel.   She describes the long relationship between Trump and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, an arrangement that dates back to the NY Post days in the seventies when Donald helped Rupert sell papers while building his own billion dollar brand as a gold-plated rascal on Page Six.  [2]

Mayer’s article includes an account of how Fox News buried a blockbuster, game-changing news story on the eve of the 2016 election.  A young female Fox reporter had months earlier uncovered the Stormy Daniels story, Donald stepping out on Melania to have sex with a porn star, shortly after Melania gave birth of Barron.   One reflexively adds — allegedly — though the $130,000 payment and non-disclosure agreement the adult film star signed suggest that something Trump didn’t want anyone to know about went on.  The Fox reporter’s well-vetted story was stalled by editors for months and finally killed, much to her dismay, eliminating any unwanted October surprises.   The reason the reporter, Diana Falzone, was finally given, days before the election, was that “Rupert wants Donald to win”.   [3]

But I ask you, playing devil and advocate both– what law was violated by Trump’s friend’s news channel not airing the destructive news that the president was unfaithful to his wife and paid hush money to keep it quiet?   What law, you merciless bastards?  Reporting the story would have certainly tipped a very close election (between America’s two most widely hated candidates) and probably cost Trump the election, so why would his friend report it?   Again, what law was broken?

I know, I know, “character”, “morality”, “we don’t expect our presidents to be outright in-your-face scumbags,”  blah blah blah.   Those arguments are the last refuge of losers who have nothing, NOTHING!    As for Fox on-air personality Sean Hannity speaking at Trump’s final rally before the 2018 midterm elections — Hannity is not a news guy, he’s on the Fox entertainment side.  He can entertain any idea he wants, support any cause.   He loves Trump, he’s a free American freely being free.   Again, you merciless pricks, WHAT ACTUAL LAW DID HE VIOLATE?

Yeah, I know you America haters will jump on this bit about soon to be former White House Communications director (and former Fox executive) Bill Shine, about the many pay outs to settle sexual harassment suits at Fox:

Shine wasn’t personally accused of sexual harassment, but several lawsuits named him as complicit in a workplace culture of coverups, payoffs, and victim intimidation.  [4]

Again– what law?   What specific law?   You got NOTHING!

Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side is a brilliant and horrifically detailed exposition of America’s recent “rendition” and “enhanced interrogation,” our secret kidnapping and torture program.   The book was, if I recall, a best-seller.    Her more recent Dark Money, equally compelling, equally best-selling,  is a detailed history of the more than forty year Koch Brother struggle to make their father’s extremist anti-majoritarian vision of democracy the credo of the modern Republican party.   These great books should be part of every discussion of recent American history.  

Of course, there is no law that anybody in America needs to know history, or be fair, or balanced, or even rational.   Show me the fucking law, fuckface!

 

[1] As Jane Mayer quietly points out:    (That motto was retired in 2017.)

[2]  Yeah, of course, another fucking footnote… quoted from the article:

Trump became famous, in no small part, because of Rupert Murdoch. After Murdoch bought the New York Post, in 1976, he was introduced to Trump through a mutual acquaintance, Roy Cohn, the infamous legal fixer, who, as a young man, was Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel. Cohn saw the potential for tabloid synergy: Trump could attain celebrity in the pages of the Post as a playboy mogul, and Murdoch could sell papers by chronicling Trump’s exploits.

[3] Jane Mayer writes:

When Shine assumed command at Fox, the 2016 campaign was nearing its end, and Trump and Clinton were all but tied. That fall, a FoxNews.com reporter had a story that put the network’s journalistic integrity to the test. Diana Falzone, who often covered the entertainment industry, had obtained proof that Trump had engaged in a sexual relationship in 2006 with a pornographic film actress calling herself Stormy Daniels. Falzone had worked on the story since March, and by October she had confirmed it with Daniels through her manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez, and with Daniels’s former husband, Mike Moz, who described multiple calls from Trump. Falzone had also amassed e-mails between Daniels’s attorney and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, detailing a proposed cash settlement, accompanied by a nondisclosure agreement. Falzone had even seen the contract.  

[4]   Jane Mayer:

But at least four civil lawsuits against Fox have named Shine as a defendant for enabling workplace harassment. One of these cases, a stockholder lawsuit that Fox settled in 2017, for ninety million dollars, claimed that Ailes had “sexually harassed female employees and contributors with impunity for at least a decade” by surrounding himself “with loyalists”—including Shine. The suit faults Fox for spending fifty-five million dollars to settle such claims out of court.

 

The Privileged Hate Democracy

If you have every advantage in a rigged game you will naturally hate any proposed changes to the rules to make the game more fair.   The hateful anti-majoritarian Koch belief system that is now in full force in our government has advanced largely by stealth.   If the majority of Americans understood the real goals of their many think tanks and other public influence machines, the extent of their dark money funding of extreme right partisan candidates and “grassroots” groups like the “Tea Party”, they’d be horrified.  Sunlight may be the best disinfectant, but these motherfuckers hate it.  As for a fair fight in the court of public opinion– fuck that!   We’re winners, not losers like the rest of you assholes!

So, while it’s sickening, it’s not surprising that the party of Trump, of Fred Koch’s restless ghost, of his vampire heirs Charles and David, of the racists and xenophobes, and the rest of the hateful creatures we thought might have left the stage, cast not a single vote to make our electoral democracy less of a rigged game favoring the rich and powerful.  Money is speech, yo.  If you have a thousand bucks, that’s how loud you speak.  If you have a billion, yo, you speak louder.  Fair is fair.  One man, as many votes as he can buy.

Here’s the pertinent blurb, from today’s Democracy Now broadcast:

The House passed the For the People Act on Friday, a wide-ranging bill that seeks to expand voting rights and curb gerrymandering, reduce big money in political campaigns and strengthen ethics requirements for political candidates. One of the bill’s provisions would make voter registration automatic. This is Democratic Congressmember John Lewis speaking on the House floor Friday.

Rep. John Lewis: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? The time has arrived to tear down the barrier to the ballot box. Today we are able to do our part in this long fight for the very soul of our nation.”

Not a single Republican voted in favor of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he will not bring the bill to a vote.

(source)

And Mitch, we all know, is an honorable man.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

The 1950s detective in the fedora ponders the hesitation of the woman on whose doorstep he and his partner stand.   After an appropriate pause, he nods stoically and proceeds.   “Perhaps this world is a hallucination, ma’am, but, that noted, we need the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

“Officer, I appear to be hallucinating,” says the woman floridly.

“No matter, ma’am, just give us the facts as you see them,” 

“Well, officer, we are all born sinners, as the Holy Bible teaches.   There is Original Sin, the one we all have as a birthright from the first woman and the first man God ever created, who disobeyed Him (in favor of a cunning snake and a seductive woman, respectively) and there are the sins people commit on their own after they are born.    It is hard to tell, officer, which category of sin applies when.   Also, when to roast the unrepentant sinner at the stake and when to hate the sin and love the sinner, that is, when to forgive, even the most terrible sins.”

“Whatever one thinks of any of this, ma’am, the Christian leaders who most righteously frown on sin can also be very forgiving when the sinner is a friend of their cause with a huge public platform.  ‘Who among us?’, you know the drill, ma’am.”    

The woman intently studies something just over the officers’ shoulders.   Neither detective turns to look at her hallucination.

“The Bible also notes, ma’am, that all is vanity, and this striving after the wind benefitteth not anyone who seeks not to lose their soul in a futile quest for that which cannot be found,” says the detective.  

After a suitable pause, the detective continues “all that said, ma’am, what we are really after are the facts.”

“OK, he lied, which makes him a liar, I know that.  I voted for him, knowing that he was a liar, but then he lied publicly more than 8,000 times, so far, as documented by the pundits and their researchers.   We also call them pundents, officer, though I have no idea why so many people have adopted Sarah Palin’s mispronunciation of the word.”

“Perhaps they are being mischeevious, ma’am,” says the deadpan detective mischievously.

“I knew he was not a very ethical man when I voted for him.   I didn’t imagine he would behave this unethically once we made him the most powerful man in the world, literally did not see it coming.   We voted for him to put an end to corruption, to drain the swamp, as he promised to do.   We live in desperate times, officer,  I just did what millions of other desperate people also did.   But you’re not here about any of that, are you?”  

“No, ma’am,” says the detective.  

“So you’re not here about my reaction to his long speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference?”

“No, ma’am,” says the detective.  

“I didn’t like to see him hugging the American flag again, or using the word ‘bullshit’, I don’t think that’s a good thing for the president to do, with children watching it on the internet and so on.  On the other hand, I admit, I was impressed that he didn’t hump the flag while he was hugging it.  The temptation to drive his hips into it a few times must have been strong.”  

“Yes, ma’am,” says the detective, with no discernible emotion.  

An awkward interlude follows during which the woman watches a vivid and troubling scene unfolding behind the impassive detectives.

“Well, ma’am,” says the detective finally, producing a business card he hands to the woman, along with a photograph of a dog  “if you see this pooch, please contact me at this number.”  

“We certainly will, officer, always glad to be of service,” says the woman, who then begins keening uncontrollably. 

 

So Easy to Blame Billionaires!

For every ten generous, philanthropic, humanistic billionaires, we find one like the former president of Purdue Pharma, creators of the highly lucrative, highly addictive, falsely marketed opioid Oxycontin.   The Sackler family made $4,000,000,000 in profits from this “safe” alternative to traditional opioid painkillers.    Back in 2001 Richard Sackler apparently mapped out part of the family’s strategy for keeping its hands clean.   Here you go, from one of his confidential emails that came out recently in the Massachusetts lawsuit against the billionaire philanthropist drug marketers:

Screen shot 2019-02-27 at 4.15.56 PM.png

There are, of course, reckless criminals and supremely careful ones.   It’s the cunning criminals we really have to worry about.

 

Thank God Level Heads Prevail

The president was having dinner in Vietnam with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un as his former “fixer” Michael Cohen began testifying in the House of Representatives.   POTUS appeared relaxed, sitting next to Kim, and he smiled for the cameras and the single print reporter he allowed into the room.   Mr. T heaped praise on his young colleague, an absolute ruler who may have done a few questionable things, like feeding an uncle of his to a pack of savage, starved dogs.   In the case of the savage dogs, demonstrably fake news, FAKE NEWS! — Kim had his uncle killed by a machine gun firing squad, like any respectable dictator would have done. [1]  One has to maintain perspective, as Mr. T did in predicting a wonderful future for Kim.  Perspective is crucial, particularly as India and Pakistan (both nuclear powers) are killing each other again over Kashmir and America is determined to effectuate regime change in Venezuela.

In ordinary times, the American president would reach out to both sides, urge calm, initiate diplomatic talks.   A person can only do so many things, though, even the most stable genius ever to lead a major country has his limits.   So as he and his Secretary of State schmooze with the North Korean dictator it is up to others to carry out some of these things, like smearing the president’s former personal fixer as a self-promoting liar so corrupt he won’t swear not to profit on his notoriety by signing a book or movie deal.  

Everyone loves calling inconsistent people hypocrites.  Such a harsh word!   True, Trump did say, in 2011, that law professor Barack Obama had been a bad student and called on him to release his high school and college transcripts.   True, Trump did have his personal attorney write to the schools Trump went to, and the organization that gives the SAT exam, and threaten them with legal action if they released Trump’s perfect scores and tiptop grades.   I’d say that’s a wash, really.   Hypocrite!  Such an easy word to hurl, but the facts also matter, no?

Michael Cohen was an unprincipled, lying scumbag, seems to still be one.   He worked for an unprincipled, lying scumbag.   What are you going to do?   Nothing illegal about being an unprincipled scumbag, unless you are convicted of a crime, as only one of them has been.   The other one?   Totally, totally innocent, until indicted, tried and found guilty by a so-called judge.

Meanwhile, as Pakistan and India square off, as the US and Venezuela prepare to forcefully argue the meaning of freedom and/or democracy, thank God we have level headed leaders looking out for us all in these troubled times.   And God bless these United Shayyssh.

 

[1] Snopes debunks the story, which originated in a piece of Chinese satire, here.