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Gender: Male
Home country: USA
Current location: PA
Member since: Wed May 11, 2005, 10:48 PM
Number of posts: 10,458

About Me

I love spending time with my grandchildren and gardening.

Journal Archives

We Need to Speak Honestly About the GOP's Evolution Into a Conspiracy Cult

We Need to Speak Honestly About the GOP’s Evolution Into a Conspiracy Cult


One of the challenges in analyzing modern American politics is accurately describing the Republican Party without seeming unserious and hyperbolic. Major publications are understandably in the habit of presenting both sides of the partisan divide as being inherently worthy of respect and equal consideration, both as a way of shielding themselves from accusations of bias and as a way of maintaining their own sense of journalistic integrity.

Unfortunately, the modern Republican Party’s abdication of seriousness, good faith and reality-based communications or policy-making has stretched even the most open-minded analyst’s capacity for forced balance. Donald Trump’s own inability to string together coherent or consistent thoughts has led to a bizarre normalization of his statements in the traditional media, as journalists unconsciously try to fit his rambling, spontaneous utterances into a conventional framework. This has come at the cost of Americans seeing the full truth of the crisis of leadership in the Oval Office for what it is. For instance, it was ironically salutary for the American public to witness Donald Trump’s bizarre pandemic press conferences where he oddly attacked reporters for asking innocuous questions and recommended researching bleach and sunlight injections, because they got to see Trump raw as he truly is, without the normalization filter. Republicans have long argued that the “mainstream media filter” gives them a bad shake, but the reality is the opposite: sure, it’s not as good as being boosted by Fox News’ overt propaganda, but it does them a greater service than letting the public see them unfiltered at all.

But there comes a tipping point at which it becomes too dangerous to keep up the pretense. Most people left of center would argue (rightly, I believe) that we hit that point long, long ago and the time to re-evaluate journalistic norms and practices should have been decades earlier when the GOP was busy covering up the Iran Contra scandal and promoting the Laffer Curve as serious public policy. Or that any number of catastrophes of conservative public policy and norm erosion since should have sounded the alarms along the way, from the Bush v Gore decision and the Brooks Brothers Riots to the lies justifying the invasion of Iraq, to the deregulation-fueled Wall Street crash, birtherism, the Benghazi obsession and the nomination of Donald Trump. Many would point with legitimate outrage to the abdication of responsibility in the face of climate change, yawning inequality, forced family separation policy, children in cages and so much else.

But even faced with awful consequences of all these horrors, a defender of traditional journalism might simply chalk them up to policy differences in a democratic society. They would be wrong to do so, but the position would be intellectually defensible in principle.

But recently there has been a shift among GOP voters that is different not just in degree of virulence, but also in kind. For a host of different reasons, core Republican voters have begun to reconstitute themselves as a conspiracy theory cult devoted to beliefs that were once relegated to the farthest fringe–fictions that cannot help but end in civil conflict and violence if they fully become canon among conservative voters nationwide. This process arguably began as far back as Glenn Beck’s prominence on Fox News, but it has now blossomed into a grandiose collective paranoid fantasy.


George W Bush paved the way for Trump - to rehabilitate him is appalling

George W Bush paved the way for Trump – to rehabilitate him is appalling


On Saturday, Bush put out a video calling for compassion and national unity during the coronavirus crisis. In it, he declared: “We are not partisan combatants; we are human beings.” This is a lovely message; really, it is. It is just a shame he wasn’t so invested in our shared humanity when he used the fabricated threat of weapons of mass destruction to bomb Iraq into oblivion. It is a pity he didn’t think about “how small our differences are” when he fought LGBTQ+ rights. It is unfortunate he wasn’t so concerned about compassion during his botched and heartless response to Hurricane Katrina.

If there were an Oscar for best use of cinematography to whitewash a bloody legacy, then Dubya has certainly earned it. His three-minute message – which was part of The Call to Unite, a project featuring videos from celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts – has been viewed more than 6m times and generated widespread praise. With Trump in office, suddenly Bush doesn’t seem so bad to many observers. At least Bush could reach across the political aisle now and again. “Bush handled post-Katrina by asking his father and Bill Clinton to help,” tweeted Maggie Haberman, the New York Times’ White House correspondent. “The current president has been uninterested in asking his predecessors to get involved as the country deals with Covid.”

We don’t have to do this. We don’t have to normalise Bush or rewrite his record just because Trump is unleashing his own campaign of shock and awfulness. We don’t have to minimise the enormous damage Bush did just because he didn’t tweet misspelled abuse at his political enemies. We don’t have to do any of this – but a lot of Americans seem desperately to want to. This is partly because the US has a deep-seated reverence for its heads of state, as illustrated by the fact they retain the honorific of president after they have left office. Perhaps because Britain is a monarchy with a longer history than the US, we don’t see our head of government as a national mother or father figure in quite the same way.

However, the bigger motivation behind the apparent desire to rehabilitate Bush is probably a desperation among liberals to see Trump as an anomaly who doesn’t reflect the “real” US. But Trump is not an aberration. He didn’t emerge from a vacuum. The lies, jingoism and anti-intellectualism of the Bush era helped pave the way for him – and the steady rehabilitation of Bush is paving the way for Trump to evade accountability in the future.


A Federal Judge Condemned the "Roberts Court's Assault on Democracy.'' It's About Time

A Federal Judge Condemned the “Roberts Court’s Assault on Democracy.’’ It’s About Time.

Nowhere is the problem of asymmetrical rhetorical warfare more apparent than in the federal judiciary. For the past several years, federal judges, notably those appointed by Donald J. Trump, have felt unmoored from any standard judicial conventions of circumspection and restraint, penning screeds about the evils of “big government” and rants against Planned Parenthood. Most of the judicial branch, though, has declined to engage in this kind of rhetoric. There are norms, after all, and conventions, standards, and protocols. There seems to also be an agreement that conservative judges demonstrate deeply felt passion when they delve into such issues, while everyone else just demonstrates “bias” if they decide to weigh in. So when Justice Clarence Thomas just last year used a dissent to attack the integrity of a sitting federal judge in the census case, it was mere clever wordsmithing. But when Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggests, as she did recently, that the conservative wing of the high court seems to be privileging the Trump administration’s emergency petitions, she is labeled—by the president himself—unfit to judge. It’s such a long-standing trick, and it’s so well supported by the conservative outrage machine, that it’s easy to believe that critiques of fellow judges by conservative judges are legitimate, while such critiques from liberal judges are an affront to the legitimacy of the entire federal judiciary.

This dynamic is why it’s so astonishing to see progressive judges really go for broke in criticizing conservative bias in the judiciary, as U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman does in criticizing the five conservative justices on the Roberts Supreme Court in an upcoming Harvard Law review article. The article begins, brutally:

By now, it is a truism that Chief Justice John Roberts’ statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee that a Supreme Court justice’s role is the passive one of a neutral baseball “umpire who [merely] calls the balls and strikes” was a masterpiece of disingenuousness. Roberts’ misleading testimony inevitably comes to mind when one considers the course of decision-making by the Court over which he presides. This is so because the Roberts Court has been anything but passive. Rather, the Court’s hard right majority is actively participating in undermining American democracy. Indeed, the Roberts Court has contributed to insuring that the political system in the United States pays little attention to ordinary Americans and responds only to the wishes of a relatively small number of powerful corporations and individuals.

Adelman, who sits in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, goes on to methodically chronicle that which is hardly news to anyone who has observed the rightward turn of the Supreme Court. His article brings into clear relief the court’s systemic attack on voting rights for minority and other marginalized communities, by way of striking down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, as well as repeated blessing of voter suppression and decisions not to adjudicate political gerrymandering. He notes that the court privileges the wealthy and corporate interests at the expense of the public. He lays out in detail the rise of the conservative legal movement, starting with the infamous 1971 Lewis Powell memo that served as a right-wing call to arms and tracing its progress through the current well-funded effort to reverse the New Deal in the courts. The article ultimately portrays the slow movement of the Supreme Court to the right—and then the far right—through a long line of cases that reversed the Warren court’s protections for minority groups and poor and working-class Americans. It shows how the court has undermined unions and boosted corporate interests. The court, he notes, has greatly contributed to income inequality, health care inequality, and the hollowing out of the American middle class.

Adelman ends with this caution:

We are thus in a new and arguably dangerous phase in American history. Democracy is inherently fragile, and it is even more so when government eschews policies that benefit all classes of Americans. We desperately need public officials who will work to revitalize our democratic republic. Unfortunately, the conservative Justices on the Roberts Court are not among them.


"Mr. Barr could not be trusted." We all knew that, so what will come of this?



Mr. Barr could not be trusted, Judge Reggie B. Walton said, citing “inconsistencies” between the attorney general’s statements about the report when it was secret and its actual contents that turned out to be more damaging to President Trump. Mr. Barr’s “lack of candor” called into question his “credibility and, in turn, the department’s” assurances to the court, Judge Walton said.

The judge ordered the Justice Department to privately show him the portions of the report that were censored in the publicly released version so he could independently verify the justifications for those redactions. The ruling came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking a full-text version of the report.

The differences between the report and Mr. Barr’s description of it “cause the court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller report to the contrary,” wrote Judge Walton, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

Mr. Barr’s public rollout of the Mueller report has been widely criticized. Still, it was striking to see a Republican-appointed federal judge scathingly dissect Mr. Barr’s conduct in a formal judicial ruling and declare that the sitting attorney general had so deceived the American people that he could not trust assertions made by a Justice Department under Mr. Barr’s control.


Pissed about Super Tuesday? Suck it up: Beating Trump means supporting the Democratic nominee

Pissed about Super Tuesday? Suck it up: Beating Trump means supporting the Democratic nominee


In a new essay for the New Republic, political scientist and pollster Rachel Bitecofer describes this moment in political history:

As the electorate is currently constituted, there are more potential Democratic voters out there than there are Republican, and not just in California. There are more in the Midwest and in the Sun Belt. There are so many more in Virginia and Colorado that both states have moved off the swing state map.

The 2020 election will be a battle of the bases, with nothing less than the country's survival as a functional democracy on the ballot. Partisanship is a hell of a drug — especially when it's cut with a heavy dose of existential fear.

There are eight months to Election Day. Much can and will happen that is outside of the ability of the pundits, the pollsters and the commentariat to predict. But one thing is certain. There will be Democratic and independent voters who are upset that their preferred candidate is not the party's presidential nominee. Some of these voters may choose to stay home, to vote for a meaningless third-party candidate or even to support Donald Trump in some ill-conceived protest against the system.

Such impulses are dangerous. Instead, these angry and disaffected Democrats and independents must vote with their heads and not their hearts, must embrace a new maturity, and must abandon childish purity tests that are best suited for halcyon days and a time of "normalcy" than for the nightmarish crisis of the Age of Trump.

Not to support the Democratic nominee — whoever that may be — is to aid Donald Trump and his authoritarian movement in their quest for a second term.

Moreover, not to vote against Donald Trump is to betray American democracy and the very values that so many disaffected progressives, Democrats and independents claim to embrace. Is the Democratic Party perfect, or even fully functional? Of course not. But to sabotage it now is to embrace darkness.

institutional ability of the press to fully convey the abnormality of this presidency is in doubt

Trump’s new attack on Biden exposes his own unfitness


In this election, the institutional ability of the press to fully convey the abnormality of this presidency is in doubt. As Brian Beutler details, we’re already seeing a rerun of 2016, which was beset with the press corps’ failure to clearly demarcate Trump’s history of corruption and racism from the lesser sins of Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s allies are counting on these failures to resurface. GOP senators are intensifying sham investigations into Biden and his son, in the obvious expectation that if he’s the nominee, whatever they purport to find will be treated as legitimate news, casting a pall of corruption over him.


Such duplicity can't survive appeal


. "Spare me. That's what I mean. I don't need phony off-the-record after-the-fact friends."

Dem lawmaker drops hammer on GOPers ‘covering their butts’ by rushing to defend Vindman after Trump fired him

Saying “spare me,” Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) trashed the anonymous Republican lawmakers who contacted the New York Times to claim they tried to stop Donald Trump from firing EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman to make it look like they cared.

Speaking with MSNBC host Kendis Gibson, the New York lawmaker expressed disgust with what he called their “cowardice,” while reacting to a New York Times report noting the alleged concerns of Republicans over the president’s actions.

“I think what you’re seeing there is pretty obvious,” Maloney stated. “You’re seeing vulnerable Republicans, after the fact, try to cover their butts by leaking to the New York Times that they want us all to know they were deeply troubled by this. And even though they took a vote that could have absolutely guaranteed that people like Lt. Col. Vindman would be hurt, would be made to pay the price for their fecklessness, for their cowardice, they want us to know they were troubled by it.”

“They’re going to continue to support this president, but they want the New York Times to know they secretly know it’s wrong,” he continued. “Spare me. That’s what I mean. I don’t need phony off-the-record after-the-fact friends.”

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President*

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President
How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election

One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers.

The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings. Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside.

The story that unfurled in my Facebook feed over the next several weeks was, at times, disorienting. There were days when I would watch, live on TV, an impeachment hearing filled with damning testimony about the president’s conduct, only to look at my phone later and find a slickly edited video—served up by the Trump campaign—that used out-of-context clips to recast the same testimony as an exoneration. Wait, I caught myself wondering more than once, is that what happened today?

As I swiped at my phone, a stream of pro-Trump propaganda filled the screen: “That’s right, the whistleblower’s own lawyer said, ‘The coup has started …’ ” Swipe. “Democrats are doing Putin’s bidding …” Swipe. “The only message these radical socialists and extremists will understand is a crushing …” Swipe. “Only one man can stop this chaos …” Swipe, swipe, swipe.


The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable.


John Roberts comes face to face with the mess he made

John Roberts comes face to face with the mess he made

There is justice in John Roberts being forced to preside silently over the impeachment trial of President Trump, hour after hour, day after tedious day.


Roberts’s captivity is entirely fitting: He is forced to witness, with his own eyes, the mess he and his colleagues on the Supreme Court have made of the U.S. political system. As representatives of all three branches of government attend this unhappy family reunion, the living consequences of the Roberts Court’s decisions, and their corrosive effect on democracy, are plain to see.

Ten years to the day before Trump’s impeachment trial began, the Supreme Court released its Citizens United decision, plunging the country into the era of super PACs and unlimited, unregulated, secret campaign money from billionaires and foreign interests. Citizens United, and the resulting rise of the super PAC, led directly to this impeachment. The two Rudy Giuliani associates engaged in key abuses — the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the attempts to force Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents — gained access to Trump by funneling money from a Ukrainian oligarch to the president’s super PAC.

The Roberts Court’s decisions led to this moment in indirect ways, as well. The court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County gutted the Voting Rights Act and spurred a new wave of voter suppression. The decision in 2014′s McCutcheon further surrendered campaign finance to the wealthiest. The 2018 Janus decision hobbled the ability of labor unions to counter wealthy donors, while the 2019 Rucho ruling blessed partisan gerrymandering, expanding anti-democratic tendencies.


Now, we are in a crisis of democratic legitimacy: A president who has plainly abused his office and broken the law, a legislature too paralyzed to do anything about it — and a chief justice coming face to face with the system he broke.
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