Trump, the “gift” that keeps on giving

I’m starting to root for Donald Trump for 2024 Republican Party presidential nominee.

I don’t actually want him to be president again, unsurprisingly. And I admit just as he surprised us in 2016 by actually winning the Electoral College, he might do so again in 2024. But I suspect that any other Republican nominee would have a much better chance of winning a general election than Trump would have.

Trump’s narcissism though is sort of a gift for Democrats. The more he is out there, the easier it is for Democrats to win elections. That’s because when he’s out there, elections become a choice between the less-than-perfect Democratic president and Congress and what he has to offer.

Before the 2020 election, I noted that a majority of voters polled had repeatedly said they would not vote for Trump. That’s how an otherwise milquetoast candidate like Joe Biden was able to crush Trump’s reelection bid by 4.4 percent and 7.1 million votes. Voters weren’t largely voting for Biden; they were voting against Trump.

And it wasn’t the first time. In 2018, Trump’s polarization caused Republicans to lose the House, adding 41 Democratic seats. Only in the Senate did Republicans add two seats, seats that were short lived when in 2020 Democrats unexpectedly picked up two senate seats, both in Georgia of all places.

In two months we’ll know if the Trump effect still exists. If Democrats retain Congress or even add seats, it’s likely because once again voters are motivated by Trump, just more against his candidates than for them. A conservative Supreme Court isn’t helping. Women are registering to vote disproportionately this year, and polling suggests it’s largely due to the court’s unwelcome Dobbs decision removing abortion rights in many states. While Trump has enjoyed success in getting his endorsed candidates winning their primaries, as even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has noted their quality is suspect. It’s pretty clear Mitch McConnell doesn’t expect to win back a Republican Senate majority in November.

Probably the best thing that could have happened to the Republican Party was if Trump had just shut up and played golf. Candidate quality probably would have improved as candidates would likely have leaned more centrist and thus more electable. Without Trump’s constant bloviating, it would be much easier to frame the midterms around Democratic Party failures. But by sucking all the oxygen out of the room, once more, it’s become largely a referendum on Trump.

Thankfully, Joe Biden is taking the issue head on, calling out MAGA Republicans as a threat to democracy. I wonder what took him so long, but clearly it has traction. Even Republicans seem to have a hard time denying the obvious, since they are working so hard to make elections unfair so their candidates win disproportionately. At a visceral level, voters seems to understand Biden is simply stating the truth. This may explain why the generic ballot question now shows a majority of voters preferring a Democratic to a Republican candidate in November’s elections, not to mention Biden’s improving approval ratings.

Trump is a polarizing figure and always has been. You either love him or loath him and in general the more you come to know him, the more you come to loath him. He won’t change who he is to appeal to a wider audience. So as long as he’s going to be around anyhow, Democrats might as well try to use him to their advantage. At least they can go to voters and truthfully say, “At least we’re better than that guy!” And a majority of voters are likely to agree. So, yeah, Trump for Republican presidential nominee in 2024! It seems a pretty safe bet, or should, if the midterms benefit Democrats.

No wonder Trump wants to rig future elections. It’s the only way that he can “win”. A majority of Americans simply can’t stand him.

Trump is truthing his way toward justice

It’s been another busy week in Trumpland. Of course, it’s always a busy week in Trumpland. Trump has always believed that it’s more important to have his face and voice in the news, even in a bad way, than to not have it in the news at all.

Even with a scorecard, it’s hard to keep track. The latest event was the unsealing of a redacted 38-page affidavit used by a judge, which documented probable cause for the latest search of Donald Trump’s Mar a Lago estate. In it, we learned that back in January, after months spent by the National Archives to recover classified and other national security documents taken by Trump when he left office, 184 classified documents were retrieved including 25 top secret documents. In June we learned that Trump’s lawyer falsely asserted to the Justice Department that all classified material at Mar a Lago had been returned. It’s hard to know exactly how many more of these documents were retrieved in the August 8 raid, but at least six boxes contained classified information.

Alex Jones
Alex Jones

Trump has reportedly claimed these documents were “mine” and anyway he had a standing order that any documents taken to the White House residence were declassified. The Presidential Records Act though (ironically passed after Richard Nixon’s abuses during Watergate) says all documents used to conduct official U.S. government business belong to the government. Also, one of the laws cited in the affidavit which Trump likely broke does not require a document to be classified in order for it to be protected. It has to contain sensitive defense information. It appears that many of these documents qualified.

I asked my wife what she thought would happen to her if she took these sets of data and stored them in our home. She figured she’d be in police custody somewhere and probably in an orange jumpsuit. She also figured any possibility of being free again would be decades away, at best.

I’m no lawyer, but this sounds right to me, based on what I remember when I had Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information access and swore to uphold national security laws back in the 1980s.

But if she had stored those documents in our house, they would have been much better protected than they were at Mar a Lago. Our doors are normally locked. If the front door is unlocked, someone is home and near the door. At Mar a Lago, apparently anyone can walk in through a beach tunnel and, at best, you are challenged by a Secret Service agent if you get too close to Donald Trump.

So it’s likely if the suspect were anyone other than Donald Trump, they’d be in custody already and probably in an orange jumpsuit. This would have happened months ago. Trump would be proclaiming from behind bars that orange is the new black.

All this is so mind-blowingly stupid, you have to wonder how even Donald Trump could be so stupid and reckless. But, like with Alex Jones, if you have malignant narcissism it simply wouldn’t occur to you that it’s not yours. It’s yours because you deem it to be so, and that’s that.

It’s not about the law; it’s just a test of wills. If you are rich enough, you just keep throwing lawyers at the problem until it goes away. It’s worked for Trump his whole life, but so far it’s been in the civil arena only. Yes, there have been some setbacks. He’s paid some penalties for his fake charity and fake university. He’s paid off porn stars and others to avoid certain other lawsuits. Money makes things go away or at least drags them on long enough where it becomes moot. Trump’s latest drag-it-out maneuver is to ask a Florida judge to appoint a special master to review the documents seized at the raid, so he can retrieve “his” stuff. This looks like another meritless petition, but its true purposes are to delay things and to muddy the legal waters.

It’s probably not going to work this time. These are actual crimes that Trump is being investigated for. The evidence against him is overwhelming. He doesn’t even deny taking the materials. The Justice Department repeatedly gave him plentiful opportunities to discreetly comply with the law, which he largely ignored. His malignant narcissism though clearly had the upper hand. Those documents were “his” and those trying to get them were wrong simply because he was president and he says so. So screw ’em.

Just as with Alex Jones’s stunned state (see picture) when his trial judge had to repeatedly remind him that he must tell the truth, we can expect that if Trump ever comes to trial there will be a similar photo of him. The idea of actual justice applying to him just doesn’t register. He’s not a regular citizen. He’s Donald Trump, the almighty. The laws bend to him, not the other way around.

Jones though apparently seemed at last to register the magnitude of his mistake. Should it come to it, I don’t think Trump will ever have a Come-to-Jesus moment.

I’d love to see him receive actual justice. He may even get close to sentencing and conviction. But I suspect in the end the Justice Department will cut a deal. I bet he’ll have to pay a hefty fine and sign an agreement to never run for public office. All this will be justified to keep Trump from inciting civil war by his supporters. Then he’ll be back to Tweeting or Truthing or whatever it is called at the moment.

I suspect there is no relief from Trump except his death. And, sadly, having observed Trump, there will be plenty of other rich men with deep pockets more than willing to give it one more go.

I’ve been enjoying a lot of schadenfreude lately

First, it was Alex Jones’s comeuppance in court. He mouthed off to the judge and ended up with two judgments resulting in about $50M in punitive and compensatory damages for claiming the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was staged.

This weekend though it was watching Donald Trump writhe in Bedminster while FBI agents raided his Mar a Lago estate and left with eleven sets of documents, most of which were classified, all of which his lawyer attested in June did not exist.

Some of the material seized contained the Top Secret classification, and some of it was marked as SCI material. I once had a Top Secret clearance, and I could view certain siloed Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI). I’m pretty sure I never did, because I don’t recall going to a SCIF (SCI facility), which is the only place I could have read it. If I had a need to read it though I would have had to prove my need, needed to have read it in the facility, and would have had my entry, exit and the documents I read logged. I would have been watched the whole time too.

So it really can’t be overstated how big a security breach this is. The Oval Office is not a SCIF. I’m not sure where the nearest SCIF is but there is probably one in the basement. The War Room might be considered a SCIF. If so, Trump couldn’t be bothered to walk there. A president that follows the law would read it (and leave it) there.

But at least the White House is a secured building. Mar a Lago is not, at least it’s not up to federal security standards. And while Trump may think that when president he could instantly declassify anything, he couldn’t. He’d have had to go through a process which would have included feedback from the agencies affected.

Instead, he threw the stuff in boxes and brought them with him to Florida and appears to have largely stored them in rooms that were not even locked and in a resort open to the public, presumably full of people who never passed a background investigation. Why? It’s not too hard to figure out. Trump is thoroughly corrupt and probably saw some way to profit from their possession. That it was also illegal probably didn’t cross his mind, or simply didn’t bother him.

Meanwhile, his supporters cheered him on, even as his excuses kept changing and were contradictory. From the Law and Order Party and their reactions, we learned that Law and Order applies only to non-Republicans, but certainly not to a former President of the United States, unless they are a Democrat. How dare the jack-booted thugs of the FBI raid his home! The only reason they would do this is because it’s a political act.

For years, Republicans were in a lather because a potentially classified email might have been stored on Hillary Clinton’s private server. But actual voluminous classified documents, including some containing sensitive intelligence sources and methods were stored offsite and unlocked doesn’t bother them at all as long as it was on Donald Trump’s estate. Because, well, reasons.

Trump, of course, said the “raid” was illegal, as if a search warrant signed by a federal magistrate is not legal. This sent his supporters into a predictable tizzy. One unhinged supporter who also posted on his Truth Social site stupidly entered a Cincinnati FBI field office to wreak vengeance with his gun to be quickly shot to death by the many heavily armed agents there.

Next, Trump said that if classified information was found, it was only because the FBI somehow planted it there. This is after he voluntarily returned classified information he had taken with him when he left office. I’m sure Mar a Lago has a surveillance system. I can’t wait to see the videos of FBI agents surreptitiously bringing classified documents into Mar a Lago just so they could later find them. I’m sure his supporters think these videos must exist. But if it doesn’t, it’s no matter. The government somehow surreptitiously erased the data. It was probably the CIA or NSA.

His supporters are convinced the only way to make things right is to get rid of the FBI altogether. Well, if no one is around to enforce the law, that certainly solves the problem of future Donald Trumps doing the same thing. We won’t need much of the court system either because there won’t be much left to bring before a judge if no one is investigating crimes. Anyhow, they tell us that we need to do this because of the danger of tyranny. Umm, if there are no FBI agents, instead of tyranny you’ll get a lot of anarchy, as who will be around to enforce the laws? You know, those laws the Party of Law and Order supposedly want prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law except, of course, if the lawbreaker is a Republican.

These rationalizations don’t matter in the least. Republicans don’t care about reasons, only outcomes. The only acceptable outcomes are that those in their party get to act with impunity and the rest of us don’t. Any means needed to achieve this outcome are perfectly okay. Democracy obviously means nothing to them. In fact, the law means nothing to them. The only thing that matters is power, and that they are the only ones allowed to wield it and to decide what it is.

And that’s because they clearly know best. Watching their ping ponging explanations as Donald Trump changed his explanations clearly demonstrates their sound minds, even temper and fairness. It’s a mystery to them why the rest of us would object.

If we do have a country of law and order, Trump will be prosecuted and convicted for these egregious violations of national security. Should it come to it though I’m confident that Trump will evade justice somehow. It looks like Russia is waiting for his exile. At least he’d feel at home there.

Our nation’s biggest political mistake

The missus and me have been watching Showtime’s The First Lady. It’s a pretty good series and features three first ladies, at least in this season: Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michele Obama. All were groundbreaking in their own ways. Betty Ford though was an unusual choice. Her husband Gerald Ford became our only unelected president and he failed to win the 1976 election, which brought in Jimmy Carter instead.

Betty Ford was definitely an unusual first lady. She suffered from alcoholism and later famously founded the Betty Ford Center. She also had breast cancer and underwent a partial mastectomy, which she did very publicly, to the consternation of the White House. Betty (played by Michele Pfeiffer) spoke her mind.

There’s a scene in the series though that stood out to me. Not long after Jerry becomes president, he famously pardons his predecessor Richard Nixon for his Watergate-related crimes. As depicted in the series though, Jerry completely blindsides Betty on his decision: she finds out about it while watching him on TV.

She icily confronts him about it later when they retire. Nixon, she tells him, is a bad man and needed to be prosecuted. Jerry says the country needed to heal and it was impossible to get anything done unless he made the issue go away. He saw the pardon in the nation’s interest.

Betty was right and Ford’s decision famously cost him the 1976 election. Americans felt betrayed by Nixon and overwhelmingly wanted him brought to justice and put in prison. Ford’s pardon obviated all that. Watching it in 2022, it reminded me that we are still living with Ford’s catastrophic mistake.

That’s because it set a precedent, let alone spurred rumors that there was a secret deal between Nixon and Ford that Nixon would nominate him for vice president if he would pardon him when he was president. Nixon’s vice president Spiro Agnew resigned due to corruption during his time as Governor of Maryland. (Agnew, BTW, got off relatively light: a $10,000 fine and three years of unsupervised probation.)

I seriously doubt Donald Trump could ever have been nominated, less elected, if Nixon had been prosecuted. Maybe he would have gotten a relatively good deal from the courts like Agnew got, but at least he would have been held accountable by the law. Future seekers of our nation’s highest office would have looked at what happened to Nixon and think, “I’m not going to make his mistake.”

But so far anyhow Donald Trump has escaped consequences for his disastrous presidency. He survived two impeachment conviction votes because his party was spineless enough to put party above country. It’s absolutely clear that had Nixon been impeached, he would have been easily convicted and removed from office. Nixon just had the good sense to cut his losses by resigning.

The rule of law meant something in the 1970s. It doesn’t seem to mean that much anymore, particularly if you are granted a lot of political power.

Donald Trump was liberal in his use of executive power. He pardoned lots of his cronies and supporters, absolving them of paying any penalties for their unlawful acts, mostly on his behalf. Trump remains under investigation at both the federal and state levels, but he’s clearly going with a run-out-the-clock strategy. Our Attorney General Merrick Garland seems content to slow walk justice, working from the bottom up. Garland says upper level prosecutions will come in time if they are warranted. We’d be wise not to hold our breath.

Crimes by politicians seem to be the very last of the Justice Department’s priorities. In reality, it should be the other way around. Indeed, the Justice Department should arguably be a separate agency funded by Congress but overseen by the courts. If it’s accountable to the Executive, it’s susceptible to corruption, which is exactly how the department was managed during the Trump years.

Gerald Ford’s intentions in pardoning Nixon were likely noble. As I noted on his passing, Gerald Ford was a genuinely good person and likely our most decent president, something I don’t say lightly when it comes to Republicans. After leaving office, he and his rival Jimmy Carter became something of best friends, something hard to image today. Both men didn’t hold grudges and both were drawn to each other by suffering the shame of being one term presidents.

But his pardon of Richard Nixon remains a catastrophic mistake. The times we are living through today would likely be at least a whole lot less rocky if he had let the justice system work. Instead, our democracy is at the breaking point and our Justice Department’s inability to focus on what really matters is contributing greatly toward it.

White replacement theory is so painfully dumb

In my last post, I noted that Trump famously said he likes the uneducated. I’m not surprised, since Trump is appallingly uneducated. But he can relate to them. But Republicans in general seem to prefer the uneducated because they will believe any sort of crap they throw out there.

White replacement theory is just the latest example. It was made tragically manifest Saturday with a shooting in Buffalo, New York by a white guy from Conklin, New York. Conklin is a stone’s throw from where I spent my formative years, in Endwell, near Binghamton. I remember our area as being painfully White, so much so that I don’t recall seeing my first Black person until I was in my teens.

It was less so last time I visited. But I have a feeling Conklin remains pretty lily White. Anyhow the alleged shooter was echoing the theory’s talking points by plenty of others in the G.O.P. including, most prominently, Fox News commentators Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. The theory, in case you are unfamiliar with it, is that there is a conspiracy among elites to replace White people with people of color.

You notice that it’s always a conspiracy? It can’t happen as a result of natural forces; it must be some vast left wing conspiracy at work. Like Trump’s idea that China had a weapon to create hurricanes, it’s an idea so painfully dumb it actually makes my head hurt. It’s just laughable that anyone would actually believe this crap. But the shooter apparently did. He was so animated by it he allegedly killed ten Black people including a store security guard, and wounded three others. He pleaded not guilty, but he has a 180-page screed you can read if you got the stomach for it and, of course, for a while it was streamed live on Twitch from his helmet cam.

We know that skin color amounts to less than one percent of our DNA. So we are all fundamentally the same. White replacement theory makes about as much sense as a conspiracy than that blondes or pug-nosed people control the world. If someone came to me with the latter idea and they sincerely believed it, I would do my best to get them to see a mental health professional. The same is true with anyone who believes (fill in the blank) are engaged in a massive, hidden conspiracy to (fill in the blank).

These theories seem to be attractive because it’s a way to make sense of the nonsensical. It’s like believing that God is love and God is hate at the same time. Something has to bridge the divide if you are to maintain any semblance of sanity, so something laughable must be invented. There are no grand conspiracies. There is no Trilateral Commission. Trump lost the 2020 election too and it was likely the most secure national election of all time.

If you were concerned about White replacement though, a lot of what the Right is doing is counterproductive. Take the expected Supreme Court decision expected to overturn Roe v. Wade. For the most part, white women aren’t going to have a problem getting an abortion. We know this because it was the case when it was last illegal. It will be a problem for people of color who are predominantly poorer. Anti-abortionists, many of whom are also racists, are making worse the very problem they decry.

Birth rates are higher among minorities because it’s harder to get abortions, it’s harder to afford birth control and when you are economically challenged you are often put at disproportionate risk for incidents like violence, rape, and marital abuse. Good Catholics won’t use contraception, but most Catholics look the other way on what the Church teaches them.

Catholicism might explain why Hispanic Americans have a higher birthrate compared to Whites. But it doesn’t explain the birthrates among Blacks, who are not disproportionately Catholic. My black friends tend to have more children mostly because they are more likely to have had dysfunctional relationships, which is likely largely a result of living at the margins most of their lives.

The reverse is true. The birthrate among Whites is down not because of a grand conspiracy, but because they have more control over whether to opt to have a family or not. The average age of a mother having a first child in the United States is now 30. Having babies is not a priority, and easy access to contraception and abortion makes it easier to avoid.

That’s because having kids today is darn expensive, at least if you don’t want them to grow up in poverty and have something resembling a first-world lifestyle. We stopped at one child because we figured this out thirty years ago. Indeed, the cost of raising just our daughter was at least $200,000, and likely a lot more than that, and that included a discounted public education. With two kids, it’s not clear we’d now both be retired and debt free.

If you want more White babies, I dunno, maybe make it cheaper to have kids? For example, childcare could be subsidized, like is true in much of Europe. But we can’t have that; it’s socialism. Maybe grant parental leave to new mothers and fathers? Except for a handful of states, that’s also seen as socialism by Republicans. Maybe subsidize baby formula and disposable diapers? More socialism, naturally. Oh, and maybe robustly fund the public schools so our kids don’t grow up believing racist crap like this? Republicans though seem to want to get rid of public schools altogether and keeping kids from being enlightened seems to be the animus behind “woke” laws.

If the United States was to be a nation for Whites, then maybe we shouldn’t have invited over so many minorities? Of course most Black Americans are ancestors of slaves so they had no choice in the matter. But Southern plantation owners had no such qualms and needed someone to pick their cotton for cheap. We brought over so many minorities and people of color mostly so Whites could live their lifestyles on the cheap. Our country didn’t build itself. It was largely built on the backs of slaves and the oppressed.

Now people who believe in the White replacement theory want them gone, or at least oppressed and disempowered. Because that’s like totally fair because having people near them with a different skin hue makes them very nervous.

To me, fully enfranchising all Americans is long overdue and would demonstrate America at its best. What’s really going on is that Whites are reaping what they have sown. Many just don’t want to pay the price.

Blogging in unprecedented and depressing times

Well, this is new: two new email subscribers to my blog in less than twenty four hours! Welcome! Occam’s Razor is a very obscure back corner of the internet, so it’s flattering when I get new subscribers. I hope you find it is worth your time.

In 2002, when I started blogging, it was chic. For a time it was glorious to be a blogger, even an obscure blogger like me that likes to publish anonymously. I rode a wave. I’d routinely get hundreds of page views a day with no effort. Also, people would leave comments.

But things rarely stay novel on the Internet. Blogging got commercialized and monetized. Tech firms found ways to move readers to aggregator sites and social networks that were more interesting and more profitable. To get your blog read, you generally needed to be some sort of minor celebrity, or, more recently, attach yourself to a major blogging platform like Substack. That’s why I’ve ruminated ending the blog in December when I hit the twenty year mark. Now, maybe not so much.

In truth, to succeed in blogging you had to work hard at it: posting regularly and spending a lot of time marketing it. Then you had to hope that people would want to read your blog. I simply didn’t have the energy to give it that kind of attention. I care enough about the blog to try to post to it regularly and to make a post as interesting and insightful as I can, but not enough to market it. Besides, it’s not a blog for most people. It’s a blog for the intellectually curious, or at least I hope it’s that.

I’m a guy that thinks a lot. It’s human to look for meaning in life even though with so much chaos in life it’s doubtful that much meaning can really be ascribed to it. Still, I’m convinced that that while not everything in life has meaning, a lot of it does. When I can piece together these inferences, it’s hard for me not to share my insights here.

It’s clear to me that we live in unprecedented times. Things are more likely to end badly than not as all sorts of macro forces are at work. We simply lack the national and international will to change things at the moment. There are attempts, like the Paris Climate Accords. But because we live in a world of countries, and each one is autonomous, there’s no way to orchestrate the change that is needed. As disorder gets worse, it may spur the change that is needed. Vested interests though are hard at work to keep this from happening.

We are being played. Republicans play to the fears of their base, and actually inflame those fears to make things worse. In the last ten years it’s gotten clearly Orwellian. Republicans in general simply refuse to accept facts. Trump himself said he loves the uneducated. No wonder because he’s appallingly ignorant on so many levels. The latest example reported recently is that he thought China was using weapons to create hurricanes.

It’s but just one example of an endless supply of baseless and supremely ignorant ideas Trump and Republicans in general wallow in all the time, like Hunter Biden’s laptop. It’s done to acquire power because it’s well known that appears to emotion easily out trump appeals to reason. It’s just that in 2016 Trump somehow got put into office and could actually try to act on this crazy stuff. Naturally he was inclined to believe anything that kept him from examining his own logic.

If we feel it is true, then it must be right, regardless of whether science says otherwise. The American west is quickly drying up as the planet heats up. There won’t be the water to sustain the people who live there. They’ll be migrating east, for the most part. It’s not a question of if, but when. Climate change is happening, but even as Indians die from heat so intense their bodies can’t keep up with it, the skeptics won’t entertain the idea that climate change is the root cause.

It’s getting worse and quickly accelerating. So what are people doing? In America, is seems they are mostly migrating to Florida, whose coastlines are already being ravaged. In twenty years Miami will mostly be underwater. My sister retired from Fort Lauderdale to Titusville. Her house rests on a bluff of sorts about thirty feet above sea level. Good for her but it’s a stopgap measure. She just likes to boat. The most valuable land in the future isn’t in Florida, it is already for sale at bargain prices in states like Ohio and New York where the climate will still accommodate people. Instead, people are moving in droves to doomed states like Florida. It makes no sense.

Just to mitigate climate change around the edges will require rethinking and redoing everything. The American lifestyle is simply not sustainable. It requires people to act and think logically and coherently. It means trusting in scientists. It means hunkering down, eating less meat and living more like a village lifestyle than a jetsetter’s lifestyle. It means having fewer children, reclaiming blighted areas and ending deforestation. At some point it will means closing economic markets like Brazil and, yes, potentially the United States, until we act sustainably.

That’s what’s required. But I’m betting we’ll continually choose to fall over our own tied shoelaces instead.

Republicans are dancing to the Pied Piper

Attention Republicans, or should I say lemmings: you are being misled. Right off the cliff, I mean.

I hate to break this to you, but you guys (and gals) are painfully easy to manipulate. All your opinion leaders have to do is play to your prejudices and you fall in line like enthusiastic sheep welcoming the glory of the slaughterhouse.

I am sure there are “woke” Republicans, in the sense that some of these sheep know what awaits them. I don’t think there are many of them. Most came out as Never Trumpers years ago and have been scorned by their own party. Others are lying low, like Jeb Bush, hoping for a day when all this madness is gone and they will be in vogue again.

Just as P.T. Barnum observed there’s a sucker born every minute, the rest of us “woke” people realize there’s at least one new Republican sheep anxious to bound toward the slaughterhouse born every minute too. Indeed, plenty of these sheep have bounded so hard they didn’t make it and fell over dead along the way. They were unmasked and unvaccinated, for the most part.

After all, their ultimate opinion leader, Donald Trump, told them the pandemic was largely fake news and flouted common sense rules to mitigate the spread of the disease. You guys ate it up because if there’s anything guaranteed to get you riled up, it’s “owning the libs” and appealing to your sense of aggrievement and self-righteousness.

The libs, by the way were, for the most part, busy limiting social contact, masking and getting vaccinations and boosters as soon as they could. Of course you wanted the opposite of that. By definition in your mind anything a liberal does must be wrong, so you had to head in the opposite direction. In the past though you might have ambled in that direction. Now you sprint in that direction.

Your opinion leaders don’t think and behave at all like you. Take Tucker Carlson. When was the last time you wore a bowtie? What about Sean Hannity? When was the last time you wore a suit and parted your hair in the middle? What about Donald Trump? How many of you got at least $100M seeder money from your father? How many of you self-reliant types had a big daddy to bail you out when you kept tripping over your own shoelaces? How many of you go years between going to church, as is typical of Donald Trump, who shows up maybe at an odd funeral? How many of you choose golf and country club dining over a NASCAR race, a shooting range and dinner at an Applebees? How many of you got vaccinated and boosted while Fox News tracks employees vaccination statuses and requires masks in many meetings? In short, aren’t your leaders full of hypocrisy? Why can’t you see their bullshit? The rest of us can.

It’s because they know how to pull your strings and as I said, it’s not hard. If I wanted to use you like grist in the mill I could do so as well; I’d just have to lose a sense of conscience, which for them is long gone. Arguably, Donald Trump never developed one. Worse, these conscienceless people’s habits have turned you into arguably horrible people.

Just five years ago, I knew of conservatives ago really didn’t care if people were gay and had no problem with gay marriage. It was live and let live for a lot of these people back then as many were libertarian in spirit. Much of their overt racism was gone too. Today, it’s all back, baby, because your opinion leaders like Donald Trump know these fears are easily rekindled.

And that’s what it’s all about: keeping you afraid. They know that our most powerful motivator is fear. It’s in their interest to keep you feeling afraid because when you feel afraid you vote for them. Your ability to believe ludicrous crap is apparently bottomless, such as the 2020 election was somehow “stolen” when there was virtually no evidence this was true, as attested by many judges who were appointed by Donald Trump.

And when they are in power, they are glad to pick your pocket. They do it indirectly with obscene tax cuts for the rich. But they also do it directly, like by channeling your donations to Trump’s PACs into his own pocket.

You are not just being used; you are being abused. You are being treated badly. You are like an abused wife certain it must be something she did that’s responsible for making her husband beat her. At root, they’ve recognized that you don’t have much self-esteem and they can use your faults against you and to profit them. And you are dying needlessly by the hundreds of thousands, mostly from covid-19, because you are under their spell. It must be the liberal’s fault that you got the disease. It all must be part of some massive conspiracy when in truth massive conspiracies are virtually impossible to pull off.

I don’t expect you to wake up and smell the coffee, as Ann Landers used to say. Most of you won’t make it to the end of this. The rest of us pity you and, yes, fear you too. Your opinion leaders have created tens of millions of loose cannons. All the rest of us can do is hope that when they go off we can avoid most of the shrapnel and that your exalted leaders take direct hits. Believe me they deserve your retribution.

Pondering the Ukraine war endgame

I guess it’s good news that so many Americans now hate Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a way, I’m surprised because about 30% of voters tend to vote Republican and whatever Dear Leader (Trump) says goes. Trump has never hid is fascist inclinations. Indeed, he sensed them in the party and brought them to life. Trump’s initial praise of Putin’s invasion though was quickly tempered when he discovered it wasn’t working with his base.

Granted, the Republican Party in mostly Southern states has certainly not given up its fascist tendencies. They’re taking a mile instead of an inch. In Missouri, it’s likely that it will soon be a crime for a woman to go out of state for an abortion, a law which I suspect violates the interstate commerce clause of our U.S. constitution and will probably get invalidated. In Florida, you can’t say gay or LGBTQ and keep your job, at least if you are a public school teacher. This also seems to violate basic civil liberties and probably won’t stand up in a federal court either. Meanwhile, in Texas, which is all about ensuring parental rights by making sure students can’t get banned books in its schools, is perfectly fine with taking away parental rights to make decisions about helping their transgender kids get the hormones and surgeries they need to thrive. It’s an anti-freedom agenda masquerading as a freedom agenda. These sorts of policies would feel very much at home in fascist Russia.

But there is something about waging an unprovoked war on a neighboring country has them siding with Democrats, for unknown reasons. Or maybe it is sort of known. Ukraine is overwhelmingly White. When they get to see it up close on the news, it’s not hard to picture that happening here. They don’t want that. It might interfere with their church services and affect the value of their stock portfolios.

So on this issue pretty much exclusively they are aligning with the civilized world and even (ick!) Democrats. You know they are serious when they are for banning oil from Russia, even though it would push up oil prices at home. Their campaign ads will say otherwise, but they can’t hide their votes in Congress.

In the ten days since I wrote about Ukraine, not a whole lot has changed. Certainly a lot more people are dead, the carnage is increasing and likely people are beginning to starve, on both sides. A massive Ukrainian nuclear power plant had a close call and hospitals and residences have been blown up, but Russia hasn’t really gained any ground since March 3. It occupies at best about ten percent of the country, it has few troops in reserve, and logistical difficulties make some sort of partial retreat, or at least troop consolidation, likely.

But Russia still has nukes, and Vladimir Putin has ordered his nuclear force on high alert and has made vague statements like he might start a nuclear war unilaterally. If he is determined to win in Ukraine, nukes would probably do it. There likely wouldn’t be many Ukrainians left afterward. But he’s already reviled across the world, so it’s not implausible that he might use them.

Ukrainians are calling for a no fly zone over their country, enforced by NATO. If I lived there I’d want one too. But it’s a really bad idea if you consider nuclear war worse than horrendous bloodshed in Ukraine. I am grateful we have a president that knows this and won’t put our armed forced into play in or over Ukraine. Had Trump won reelection, he’d probably have encouraged Putin to do his worst to the country.

No one wants to see this continue but it’s hard to see an endgame. That’s not to say the future is hard to predict. This is becoming Putin’s quagmire. There is no face saving way to get out of it and declare a partial victory. It’s unclear if he even understands that he is losing. He’s surrounded by people who have survived by honing their skills as yes men. By controlling the Internet and the press, most Russians don’t understand what’s really going on and are cheering him on.

With time though it will be impossible for them not to figure out that their Dear Leader made a huge mistake. Their currency is becoming worthless and getting goods and services from outside the country is becoming impossible. With time, things will just stop working for lack of parts and people who can fix them. Putin can’t hide the closures of so many western businesses in the country, particularly the local McDonalds. Its military is already bogged down and supplying it will become increasingly problematic. As body bags keep returning regularly, it will become difficult to hide the scope of his misadventure. Moreover, most Russians are used to the Internet and richer Russians used to foreign vacations. They will resent what they have lost.

That’s not to say Putin won’t retain power. He has a powerful police state and saying anything not the party line can get you fifteen years in prison. But his focus will inevitably turn inward. His failures could tip him into the selective use of nuclear weapons. He doesn’t appear to be one of these people that can accept defeat or accept compromises.

So for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis there is a real possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. It may be the use of one tactical nuclear weapon, say a neutron bomb over Kyiv, or a bunch to quickly take control of major cities. Putin does not appear to be suicidal, which is what their use on the West would result in. But he’s a hard man to read other than he’s infinitely stubborn and unwilling to compromise, traits that unfortunately resemble the vast majority of Republicans in power too.

If we can keep Putin from using his nuclear weapons (a big if), it is likely that in a year or two this will resolve itself. Russia is likely to grind to a halt to be held together through intimidation and force of arms. While it may hold itself together, it will be a shell of its former self and increasingly unable to maintain even basic services. A new Russian revolution is certainly possible, but unlikely. Anarchy and large scale national dysfunction is the more likely result.

I don’t think socially-distanced Vladimir Putin will be alive in two years. I think it’s much more likely that someone close to him puts a bullet in his head first.

Trump is pretty much insane … and unelectable

It was quite a weekend for our ex-“president”. At a rally in Texas he said lots of memorable things, at least if you are trying to sound insane and deranged.

Perhaps the most remarkable was that the Vice President can select the next president. That’s right: all that presidential campaigning is pretty much irrelevant because apparently actual votes no longer count. When Congress meets to certify the votes in the Electoral College, apparently the Vice President can decide which of these electoral votes to recognize because by law they must preside over the session.

This is great news if you are a wannabee dictator but not such great news if you take this seriously and look to January 2025. Then presumably still vice president Kamala Harris could declare that she will recognize Electoral College votes from only those states that voted for Joe Biden. What? This might not add up to 270 Electoral Votes? No matter, according to Trump the Veep makes the call.

This was one theory advanced by John Eastman, a former Justice Department official that mentioned the idea but disavowed it when pressed. His second was the idea that the Vice President could decide that certain states electoral college votes were in dispute, so they couldn’t be counted, so the result would be determined by the House, where each state gets one vote. With the majority of states being red (because there are a lot of rural states) guess who wins? That’s too nuanced for Donald Trump though.

When the United States was founded, the powers of the president worried the founding fathers. They looked for the most benign word possible to express their intent and picked president, because a president by definition merely presides over an institution. They wanted it clear that the real constitutional authority rested in Congress, which makes law. The job of the president was to ensure that Congress’s laws were faithfully executed. It’s right there in the president’s oath of office. The mere idea that the nation’s second presider, the Vice President, could decide who the main presider of the country would be would have been seen as preposterous. But Trump says with a straight face that this is what the law says.

Oh, and then there was that other stuff he said at the rally: that when he becomes president again he will pardon all those involved in January 6. So much for trying to faithfully execute the laws of the United States! All those laws about interfering with the process of government and seditious conspiracy don’t matter and are trumped by his “get out of jail free” pardon power, a power he used liberally to pardon his numerous cronies. It’s not hard to get away with it when a partisan Senate will refuse to convict any Republican president.

Trump went on to admit he pressured Mike Pence to overturn the election, which is an admission that he tried to instigate a coup. He wanted the military to seize voting machines in states where he didn’t like the vote. He was obviously caught on tape pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to find votes he didn’t have that would let him carry the state, which may lead to a criminal indictment in that state by the Fulton County district attorney. His henchman Rudy Giuliani coordinated sets of alternative electoral certifications from states he clearly lost, all in the hopes that Mike Pence might recognize them. He was looking to declare a national emergency to assert powers he didn’t have. And he might have gotten away with it if Vice President Pence had not showed he was a true patriot by simply doing what the law required of him: preside over watching as electoral votes were counted in Congress.

It will surprise no one when Trump announces he is running for president again in 2024. Whether he could “win” the vote though depends entirely on how willing the states are to corrupt the election process. Trump hasn’t won more adherents since he lost to Joe Biden by nine million real votes and 74 electoral votes. Smart Republicans realize they can improve their odds of winning dramatically by nominating someone like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis instead.

Right now they are just afraid to come out publicly for the idea. The Trump brand has lost its luster. Republicans want someone crazier than Trump, but craftier too. Trump is damaged goods and not loony enough for the base anymore.

I for one am hoping that Trump does run again. It’s the best way to reelect Joe Biden. A strong majority of the country simply loathes Donald Trump.

1/6 could have been a lot worse

A year has come and gone since a violent gang of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol. At the time I remember trying to keep my wife calm by projecting false confidence that it would soon get under control.

It did, but not before a lot of damage to the building, injuries, defacements and the deaths of at least five people. A year later, more than seven hundred people have been charged with crimes from the event, most of them misdemeanors. It’s only in the last week or so that we’ve seen charges of seditious conspiracy against a number of leaders of the so-called “Oath Keepers”.

We were lucky. We were not lucky in preparing the necessary law enforcement for the event, which I warned about on January 3, 2021. It was entirely foreseeable. But we were lucky in that it wasn’t a whole lot worse.

Obviously, it was very bad. The last ones to breach the Capitol were the British army during the War of 1812. This time it was our own citizens. It was very bad for those who died or were injured. Many of those injured incurred permanent disabilities, mostly PTSD. A few of them took their own lives. It was brutal and crazy but with one exception no guns were used, at least by the insurrectionists. Their most lethal weapons were apparently bear spray and flag staffs. The gallows they placed on the Capitol’s frontage was symbolic; it wasn’t tall enough to actually hang anyone or sturdy enough to finish the job.

The insurrectionists’ intentions though were clear enough: they wanted to overturn the results of the presidential election. They succeeded in postponing the process to the wee hours of January 7.

The Oath Keepers though were likely not the only group with firearms on standby. You have to have a firearms permit from the city to bring guns into the District of Columbia. The Oath Keepers kept a cache of firearms in their hotel in Arlington waiting for the moment to bring them in. They weren’t ready, at least at the insurrection’s start, to break the law so flagrantly. The result was a violent melee in and around the Capitol fought mostly with bear spray, flag staffs, Billy clubs and fists.

Imagine the scene if these insurrectionists had come with guns, which would likely have been the more lethal, semiautomatic types. Imagine the casualties on both sides. Members of Congress likely would have been among them, with dozens, if not hundreds, killed. There would likely have been many more of the insurrectionists dead and wounded.

Most likely the insurrectionists would not have succeeded and most likely most of them would be dead. That’s because the National Mission Force was on standby. With shoot to kill orders and armed with all the technology and training needed, they would have brought the situation under control with stunning and quick lethality.

If you have to have an insurrection, as bad as it was, what transpired was about the best possible outcome. Casualties were mostly property and not people. Firearms were almost not used. There was no particular moment that could be used to recruit others to try again. The insurrectionists showed stunning stupidity by streaming a lot of it and leaving electronic footprints all over the place that could be used to charge them. They came off very badly as seemingly unwashed, untrained hotheads who didn’t know what they were doing.

This doesn’t excuse the botched preparations to fully protect the Capitol or our former president’s obvious incitement of a riot, sedition and his foot dragging to get the situation under control. I do hope that eventually he is brought up on relevant charges because it’s clear to anyone with a brain, on both sides of the aisle, that Trump was instrumental in the whole thing. It was entirely preventable. He just had to civilly accept the result that he lost, and wouldn’t.

It’s unlikely that the Capitol will ever be breached again by insurrectionists, or anyone. That’s not to say civil war is impossible or attempts to overthrow the government can’t happen. But it’s likely to happen through corruption of the system, which has been underway for a long time now.