Thursday, February 18, 2021

Response to Gone for Good

(See: Just Above Sunset : Gone for Good)

Hey, so whatever happened to “never speak ill of the dead”?

I should remind you that because all these chubby purveyors of right-wing outrage, at some point in their lives, must cross paths, it was natural to expect Rush Limbaugh and my old boss Roger Ailes to collude, which they did from 1992 to 1996, when Ailes produced Limbaugh’s ill-fated TV show. Rush eventually admitted he hated the TV version, maybe because it was a medium in which it was too hard to get away with his particular jocular schtick, so he went back to concentrating on radio.

I once bought one of Limbaugh’s books, I can’t remember which, in which I think I discovered the secret to his success, which was that he would every now and again interrupt his broadcast blather to earnestly remind his listeners once again that he is not a journalist, that he’s an entertainer, and to warn them to not take his silliness seriously or hold him to any standard of truth, that he is there just for the ratings and the money — and then he would go back to spouting his usual bullshit, which of course people continued to take quite seriously. Due to this disclaimer, you never could call him on his lies, since he would insist that he never meant for people to believe them in the first place!

It was the same bullet-proof “Gaslight” formula later perfected by Donald Trump (remember his famous misinterpretation of the Mueller report? No Collusion” and "Complete and Total EXONERATION), which Trump undoubtedly learned from Rush.

And why does it work?

Because there is just a large enough cohort out there that wants to believe that, say, "Black people are trying to live off the wealth of the rest of us", even though such a claim is totally unsupported — but a claim being unsupported is okay because, after all, it’s meant to be taken only as light-hearted humorous entertainment, maybe to be taken "seriously but not literally”, and not necessarily to be actually believed! (Wink-wink!)

In short, just hearing this “alternate facts” nonsense from someone in mass media seems to give permission for some of us to accept the otherwise crazy stuff that we want to believe but that we shouldn’t believe, weird stupid “politically-incorrect” stuff that had always been considered unacceptable in civilized society.

But this also describes the success of the Republican belief system in the age of Limbaugh and Trump. People feel they have a right to want to live in a society that, let’s face it, isn’t necessarily fair to everybody. After all, the whole world isn’t necessarily fair, and who are we to mess with God’s plan?

Except for maybe just the words “Small Government, Low Taxes”, there essentially is no Republican doctrine that Republicans are seriously selling to the public, since none of its underlying truths (e.g., “tax cuts pay for themselves”) make any real sense, but this is not to say that there aren’t a whole set of aspirational “hopes and dreams” that citizens feel they have a right to believe in, their lack of veracity notwithstanding, along with which, if we’re lucky, will come a straight-talking blond-haired American messiah who takes no shit from “progressives" in his fight to make these dreams become reality.

This is why, even as thoughtful so-called "movement” conservatives insist Limbaugh and Trump aren’t true conservatives, Limbaugh and Trump and their ambiguous wink-wink “truthiness" have turned out to be way more popular with the “I-could-never-be-a-Democrat-because-I-just-hate-Godless-Communism” Joe-and-Karen-Sixpack conservatives of the world than these “thinking-man” conservatives ever were or will be.

The tragic truth is, Limbaugh, who helped create Trump and our modern post-truth world, might be dead but he is not at all gone for good.


Monday, February 15, 2021

Response to Our King in Exile


We’ve all been looking forward to putting Trump behind us, but the plain fact now is, this still ain’t over.

I’m not even sure it would have been over had Trump been banned from ever running again, since that would just have made it obvious to his underground army that they will need to achieve their goals with guns rather than even bothering with the political route — although, let’s face it, they will probably reach for their guns anyway if they lose in 2024.

It’s also possible to interpret that part of McConnell’s speech in which he blatantly lied about it being Nancy Pelosi’s fault for not bringing the impeachment article over to the Senate earlier, as a big wink to signify that his big moral take down of Trump was not at all to be taken seriously.

But what should also be noted is the disingenuousness of Mitch and the others basing their votes to acquit on their alleged belief that this whole impeachment was unconstitutional. If they had really believed that, then the logical thing to do would not be to legitimize the vote by participating in it, but instead to refrain from voting altogether! Specifically, the way to do this would be for all of them, just before the vote, to just stand up and leave the room.

But the problem with doing that, of course, would be that this would merely alter the ratio of the quorum by reducing the number of those “present", which would, in turn, throw victory to those voting to convict, at least according to Benjamin Wofford in The Washingtonian:

In theory, a vote to convict the President (or anyone else) would count as legal with as few as 34 members, not 67, assuming the absolute minimum (51) participated.

Whoopsy! That’s not exactly the result these crafty Republicans had been looking for!

Their original scheme had not been to simply lodge some drive-by principled protest, it had been to come up with the perfect hook, some arcane-sounding jibber-jabber with just enough patina of impenetrable obscurity to dissuade close scrutiny, allowing them to register mock disgust at the totally unacceptable behavior of a guilty-as-sin president, while at the same time “accidentally” letting him off with an acquittal, and doing it in such a way that wouldn’t later give him reason to come after them.

So they did what they did, even though it made no logical sense, but as luck would have it (for them), everybody had given up expecting logical sense from Republican leadership decades ago, way before Trump even came along.

And as an added thought:

While I was never big on getting rid of the filibuster, assuming it would come back to haunt us by not being there for us once we found ourselves back in the minority, I’m starting to conclude that every time we Democrats put our ambitions on pause to do the “fair” thing and work with the folks across the aisle, it becomes a case of “Lucy and the football” — which is to say, we live to regret it.

(By the way, for Ted Rall's political take on the Lucy/football gag, see here.)

Maybe we need to temporarily put aside solving the problem of insuring minority party rights in the Senate for some other time.

In the meantime, maybe we need to enact our Democratic agenda — which, let’s not forget, is backed in most polls by a wide majority of all Americans anyway! — just to prove, once and for all, that being fair to everybody in the country works out better for everybody in the country  which includes poor people not born with the same opportunities rich folks were, but also the rich people, too.

What makes me think the American economy will do better under us Democrats, with our annoying inclination toward fairness toward everybody?

Because history shows it usually does! Seriously, you can google it! The American economy tends to do better during Democratic administrations!

(Why does that happen, you ask? These two guys came up with eight possible explanations.)

But for some reason, we keep forgetting that this country is designed to be self-governed, which is because it belongs to all of us, not just those somehow connected to power and wealth, and all of us deserve a say in what kind of a country we want it to be.

Not that demonstrating how good a self-governing country can be will necessarily stop those armed thugs from, once again, trying to turn the United States into a banana republic! Still, it’s something that, at some point, has to be done.

 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Response to Finally, American Fascism

(See "Just Above Sunset : Finally, American Fascism")

But what’s next?”

We could start that discussion with what is apparently Trump’s gift to American politics:

If nothing else seems to work for you, go radical! Try outright bald-faced lying! It worked for Trump  or at least it almost did.

Pick some ridiculous lie — like that Democrats eat little children — and repeat it over and over!

It will drive the libs crazy! They won’t know how to handle it! It confuses them and confounds them when they find themselves constantly “fact-checking” you, as if anybody cares. Just ignore them. Your base will love watching the Dems sputtering away. Eventually, everyone will forget what we were arguing about.

So why do so many Republicans turn to lying for their salvation? 

Here's something that will surprise most of us: Republicans are actually in the minority in this country!

On December 17, 2020, Gallup polling found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, 25% identified as Republican, and 41% as Independent. Additionally, polling showed that 50% are either "Democrats or Democratic leaners" and 39% are either "Republicans or Republican leaners" when Independents are asked "do you lean more to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party?"

And when you're a political minority in a majority-rule country, sooner of later you find yourself at the end of the road and discover you’ve actually gone nowhere, and that playing by the rules no longer gets you where you want to be, which is winning all elections, and running the country.

So, like Trump, you get creative! When truth isn't your friend, what else can you do but make stuff up?

Did you see the way Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene weaseled out of her claim yesterday, that all those school shootings didn’t really happen? Okay, she finally confesses, maybe they did, but they only happen because we don’t adequately defend our kids, or something.

So where does she stand on telling the truth? It hardly matters, she might just as well say, since whether something actually happened or not is not really the point.

The real point is to troll the Democrats just enough to keep your base awake and liking you. But try to avoid dwelling on "The Truth", since, as Republicans learned from Donald Trump, "The Truth" will not "set you free", and it might just land you in jail — or at the least, impeached. (Maybe even twice!)

So the answer to your “What’s next”?

Expect to see Trump clones, all competing to see who can get the most attention with the most outrageous lies. We’re not rid of Trumpism by a long shot.

If you, like I, thought the world might now wake up out of a bad dream, we both need to remember that, in those movies, just after the wife turns her back on what she thought was the dead body of the wife-beating husband she just killed, he springs back to life.

In other words, we should expect more of the same, but on steroids.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Response to The Formalities


First, a little Q&A:

Q: 
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Monday that Democrats, in pursuing impeachment against Trump, were being “sore winners” and said there were not enough Republicans who would vote to convict him.

“Why are we doing this?” he added.

A:    For the same reason we customarily arrest lawbreakers in this country, and then try and also punish them for breaking the laws that they broke.

Because we’re a nation of laws. Because we believe in obeying the laws we spend so much time and effort to pass. Because if we don’t, then our laws mean nothing, and nobody has to obey any laws, rendering laws quaint and optional, or at least optional for corrupt people who are powerful enough to get away with disregarding them.

Okay, you ask, but is "impeaching" a president really the same as punishing someone for "lawbreaking"?

You're right, it's not exactly the same, but we do impeach for committing "high crimes and misdemeanors", so let's just say, as the old saying goes, it's "close enough for government work."

And if going big and launching an attack on your own country is not enough to remove you from office, we probably need to devise some other way of dissuading presidents from doing that sort of thing.

And the good news, we already have!

Since he'll already be out of town when the Senate convicts him, we can just vote to prohibit his holding any federal position in the future, which is the part that really matters anyway. If we can't even achieve that, then what's the point of calling ourselves "self-governing"?

In short, if presidents can just break the law, knowing that if they fail, they can always just argue that we should let bygones be bygones, future presidents will be incentivized to do the same, without consequences.

And THAT'S why we're doing this  and thanks for asking, Ron!

One could also ask of those who will vote against conviction, “Why are we NOT doing this?”

And the answer, for them, could easily be, “Because we, as Republicans, can get away with NOT doing this?”

Because, let’s face it, whether an illegal act is impeachable or not is a matter of opinion. Yes, it’s pretty indisputable that Trump did do what he is accused of doing, but whether there’s anything wrong with a president doing that is a matter of personal opinion, and if I decide there’s nothing wrong with doing it, nobody can deny me my opinion.

And just as I might decide to see nothing impeachable about a president extorting an international ally to do him political favors, even putting that country at risk of being overrun by a mutual enemy, nobody can tell me that I need to believe that that same chief executive sending a lynch mob — made up of personal followers of his — to intimidate the legislative branch into illegally counting votes to keep him in office, then who’s to tell me I can’t?

After all, voting my opinion about somebody's unlawful behavior doesn’t break any law in itself! In fact, the last I heard, jury nullification is legal in this country!

Or to look at the big picture, which is more important to preserve here, the continued existence of the Constitution and the country it defines, or the continued existence of the Republican party? Those senators who choose to acquit the president in this case will be choosing the latter. After all, why even have a democracy if it continually allows the wrong people to get into power?

Did Biden and the Democrats win by use of fraudulent voting practices?

But in fact, that misses the point. Whether they did or they didn’t, we can’t continue to allow our country to be handed over to the socialists and antifa and police-defunders and black-lives-matter crowd! Which is another way of asking, What’s the point of having a democracy if the opposition party sometimes gets its way?

After all, as I’ve heard it said somewhere by people who sound like they know what they’re talking about, the United States of America was not created by the founders to be a democracy; we were supposed to be a Republic!

(Whatever the hell that means.)

But the point here is, my country, imperfect as it is, is expendable, while my party is not.

To put that another way, we can always scrap the country and start a new one, but this time, we can make sure it’s founded on the right principles, which...

** ensure it be a Christian nation (or maybe it needs to be a “Judaic” Christian one, since otherwise that “Second Coming of Christ” thing won’t work?), 
 
** managed by the people of the race of the original founders, 
 
** with certain select citizens imbued with the God-given right to bear whatever arms they themselves feel comfortable with, 
 
** (but with nobody keeping an actual list of who bears what arms,) 
 
** and with other obviously inalienable basic principles to be named at a later date as we become aware of them, 
 
** and all elections that come out the wrong way to be immediately overruled as fraudulent, with neither fuss nor bother, 
 
** and all winners of rigged elections to be replaced by those of the people’s real choice.

Although I suppose there’s a chance Trump’s Republican defenders in the Senate — who also defend the "January 6th Thugs", it might be presumed — haven’t carried their reasoning out that far.

In fact, I’d be curious to hear what the current state of their thinking is, if any.


 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Response to Just Ruin Things

 (See: Just Above Sunset : Just Ruin Things)

On voters moving away, and then later, back again to Georgia:

“Really? How many people do that?” Trump said. “You mean they moved out and then they said, ‘The hell with it. I’ll move back.’ That does not sound… very normal. You mean they moved out, and, what, they missed it so much that they moved back in?”


“Really” Indeed!! Has this guy never actually listened to the words? The concept of moving back is literally right there in the intro of Georgia's world famous State Song!

Melodies bring memories
That linger in my heart 
Make me think of Georgia
Why did we ever part?
Some sweet day when blossoms fall 
And all the world's a song
I'll go back to Georgia
'Cause that's where I belong.

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through 
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind. 
Georgia, Georgia, a song of you
Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

Other arms reach out to me 
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see 
The road leads back to you.

Georgia, Georgia, no peace I find 
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

When I was born, my family was living in Los Angeles. Before I was even one year old, we moved to New York. Before I was five, we moved back to Los Angeles, and then when I was twelve, we moved back to the New York area again.

Why? Who knows! For one thing, I think my folks kept missing their friends back home. And I’ve met other families that did something similar, for that same reason.

Although I hear there are Georgia legal types looking into prosecuting Trump for things he said on the call, I have to disagree with many in the media who see that phone call as Trump obviously encouraging Georgia’s secretary of state to break the law, and to arbitrarily “find” 11,780 votes, I suppose by cancelling out some suspected “illegal” Biden votes.

But in fact, if you listen to the whole interview, you hear Trump being just good enough at being bad to never specifically ask Raffensperger to do anything other than find what Trump might actually have believed were legitimately illegal votes for Biden, and then just Sharpy them out of existence. What Georgia was supposed to do after that, of course, is unclear, since the votes have by this time been counted three times, then legally certified, and then sent down the assembly line to the electoral college.

If there’s a procedure to undo all of that, no White House person on the call ever says what it is, although Mark Meadows does suggest at the end that Raffensperger had agreed to simply rescind the old certification, in what Trump called a “recalculation”, but Raffensperger pushed back on that: “That’s not I said.”

Still, would trying to do that be "illegal”? I’m not sure, but I would think there’s not even a way of trying it.

What Trump never seems to acknowledge is, if Raffensperger were  as corrupt as Trump is — and also any good at it — then one might assume that Trump would have consequently won Georgia, in which case this silly phone call would probably not even have taken place. But since he apparently wasn’t either that corrupt or that good at it, this whole one-hour call was destined to be nothing but a time-wasting chatfest.

I wish I had been Brad Raffensperger on that call; I would have enjoyed giving Trump the kind of one-on-one counsel that he never gets from the yummies he surrounds himself with, and maybe even asked Trump directly if he thought arbitrarily zeroing out the votes of the 7,060,140 more Americans who voted for Biden than for him is really what the world’s most respected, continuously-operating democracy really deserves.

Then again, I might still have agreed to meet with them and see what evidence they think they have, but just to explain to them why what they have is nothing but rumors and not in any way evidence.

And it all comes down to what constitutes truth when it comes to who won Georgia. Maybe God knows the Truth, but since He’s not making phone calls to tell states which votes, and for which candidate, He wants counted, we'll need to jury-rig our own systems of deciding truth, and so at some point, after we exhaust checking into all the nutty internet claims that end up going nowhere, all presidential election nights eventually have to come to an end, and hopefully comfortably before twelve noon of January 20th.

And while I’m sure the president is a firm believer in that old presumption 
 that everyone respects a competitor who never gives up and who fights on, even after the janitor has finished sweeping up  I'd argue that that bullshit is grossly overrated. To make that point even pointier, I would imagine that, at some point, even the humble chicken stops running all over the barnyard once it finally comes to realize that its head has been cut off. I just have to wonder if Trump may not be as quick-witted as a headless chicken.

But I say, thank the gods (assuming there are any) that, at this point in our history, there are just too many of us “Deep Staters” in America to allow someone to get away with stealthily taking away the right of Americans to rule themselves, instead of just handing over the car keys to some strong-willed, though otherwise feeble-minded tyrant-wannabe with the gift of gab who happens to stumble by.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Response to Fed on Fantasies Forever

(See: Just Above Sunset : Fed on Fantasies Forever)

You still hear people claiming that Trump was, at one time in the vague past, a Democrat, but given the fact that he’s apparently willing to demolish the whole "self-governing" part of how our country picks its leaders, I would argue that he’s never been a Democrat, nor even been a small-d democrat.


I think these people may be confusing the word “Democrat" with a similar-sounding word, seen here in Wikipedia:

“Demagogue … a leader who gains popularity by exploiting emotions, prejudice, hatred, and ignorance to arouse the common people against elites, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation. Demagogues overturn established norms of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so. Demagogues frequently present themselves as populists, to the point where ‘populism' itself has now acquired a negative connotation.”

I wonder whether this was written before Trump was elected, or whether it was written since. It sounds too spot-on to be the former. But it’s strange we don’t hear this word used more often these days. Maybe it’s just too obvious.

Why do people follow a demagogue? For the same reason that more people watch fictional dramas, 
sitcoms or popular movies on television than boring news. Non-fiction may have the advantage of being factual and truthful, but slogging through it is just not as much fun, especially when it tries to teach you something you don’t really want to know.

Fiction has the same appeal to our senses that demagoguery does. For one thing, it’s filled with whiz-bang in-your-face excitement, designed to get your attention and entertain you, and for another, since every average American schmo knows that “being responsible” is totally overrated, there’s no real responsibility on your part to actually believe any of it.

But when you think about it, digging for the truth beneath all these fun-filled election-fraud claims is actually tedious work, and plunges us into the hazy realm of a certain boring philosophical topic that, back in the day, could be counted on to put kids to sleep in Philosophy 101, and that would be:

Epistemology!!

And just in case we forget what that is, here’s Wikipedia again:

"Epistemology ... is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature of knowledge, epistemic justification, the rationality of belief, and various related issues. Epistemology is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with ethics, logic, and metaphysics."

(What’s that you say? You feel your eyelids getting heavy?)

It’s all well and good for you, along with every cable news anchor, to continually insist that, as every right-thinking person knows, Biden won that election fair and square, with there being no evidence of massive fraud, but don’t even try to explain how you know this to be true (mostly because most people will have dozed off by the time you get to the meat of your argument) except to say you know it’s true for the same reason you know two-plus-two equals four and not five.

But wait! How DO you even know two-plus-two equals four, and not five?

Maybe because you can demonstrate it’s true with sugar cubes, but more likely it’s just that you’ve always heard it’s true from people you trust wouldn’t lie to you.

Or maybe you could also demonstrate to the MAGAs, by nattering on in torturous detail about how states nowadays ensure that elections are virtually impossible to rig, and that had the millions of votes in all these various states been rigged, the fix would have had to be so massive and blatant that even astronauts could see it from space, and that nobody, not even the most biased Obama-appointed judges in all those courts could get away with denying it.

But the MAGAs still won’t buy it, because they don’t share your world view and don’t see evidence the same way you do, but also because, deep down, they’re more loyal to their dear leader than they are to their country, and don’t even see the worth of living in a country that won’t elect the guy they want to be president, so threatening officials who won’t join their scheme, and thusly destroying the country itself in the process, isn’t all that big a deal it might be to you and me.

And so, because it’s much more entertaining, they choose "Reality TV" over “Reality”!

And so maybe it’s not epistemology after all, since, with these people, it’s a case of — to paraphrase what people in the 1950s used to say about art — “I may not know much about truth, but I know what I like!"


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Response to As Good as Gone

(See: Just Above Sunset : As Good as Gone)

If all goes as it should, yes, Trump is as good as gone, but that’s becoming a really big “if”.

For example, if Texas scores a surprise win in SCOTUS — or worse yet, if Republicans somehow prevail in that joint session of Congress — I can’t see any way of this country surviving as a nation state. Can’t you already hear the dead-enders? “If Donald Trump is not kept on as president, then the country doesn’t deserve to survive!”

Then again, so what? Republicans have been working too hard for too long, and without noticeable success, to squeeze what they've wanted out of America as it is.

It seems hugely trivial now, but I can’t help but remember Trump and his poodles all yapping about 2016 
 falsely, that Democrats’ suspicions that Trump could not have won without Russian collusion was just Democrats not being able to accept that Hillary Clinton could have even possibly lost the election — as I now watch the Republicans sputter in dismay that there had to have been "massive” fraud involved in 2020, since how else can anyone explain Trump's loss?

In truth, Donald Trump’s whole presidency has apparently been a publicity stunt, and the fact that so many in his own party can’t distinguish between governance and this wicky-wacky clown show they’ve been putting on speaks volumes about their capacity to govern. We seem to have come to that point in our history at which — to borrow from my day as a platoon leader in the Air Force ROTC when I accidentally marched my whole platoon into a huge bush — the whole Republican party should simply all “halt, fall out, and regroup somewhere else."

But then, why even bother regrouping somewhere else? There’s nothing for them to do there that they haven’t tried already.

Back those many years ago when I was born in this country, little did I suspect it wouldn’t live forever.