Garbage Collection is Punishment Enough

How many times a year do you stop to admire your garbage collector? It’s a thankless job, with little or no respect. But if they weren’t there to haul away out excess, how long would it before before the garbage crowded into the photos of our remodeled bathrooms and manicured lawns?

This is the functional equivalent of the GoPs political strategy, copied from the Slavic iron-men who inherited the rump of the Iron Curtain. Create a mess, then build disdainful messaging about those that dare to try to clean it up. The most egregious case was in Ukraine, were a crusading president was blackballed and eventually jailed for associating with those who had promised to turn state’s evidence in corruption cases.

This was the playbook in the Obama presidency, where many blue-collar workers turned to the Tea Party wing of the GoP when Obama didn’t jail Wall Street executives after the 2008 meltdown created by the Bush Administration. It was furthered by Trump’s “Birtherism” crusade. It is occurring now with the investigations of Donald Trump.

Look: the GoP grandees know that Trump was crazy corrupt. It’s just that if they lose the MAGA base, they will never be able to obtain a majority in any chamber of government in the country – gerrymandering or no gerrymandering. So that are sucking it up and refusing to deny Trump’s lies, waiting for the Biden administration to bring charges and usher POTUS 45 off to a federal lockup. They will then spin outrage and myths around the corrupt handling of the case, cementing their control on the MAGA base.

For this reason, I was happy to hear that the Southern District of New York is investigation Oleg Deripaska, the Russian aluminum magnate who promised to build a smelting plant in Kentucky. The only way to take down the stinking trash heap which is the Republican Party leadership is to take out Mitch McConnell. The Senate leader of the GoP caucus uses his control of party money to maintain iron control over his peers, which has turned the “Worlds Greatest Deliberative Body” into a legislative traffic jam. A sizeable portion of that money was funneled into the 2016 election cycle (up to $50 million, by some accounts) from Vladimir Putin’s inner circle through the National Rifle Association. If that can be traced and detailed, we might have enough to put McConnell career in a noose.

The Manchin Candidate

West Virginia is a state unlike any other. Largely beholden to the coal, tobacco, and chemicals industries, when DuPont was discovered fouling public waters with PFAs (an “immortal” mutagen), the State environmental agency responded by increasing exposure limits. The current governor (Jim Justice) is a “chip off the old Trump” whose billion-dollar wealth is defrayed by $700 million in personally-guaranteed loans and hundreds of millions in estimated coal-field restoration costs.

For years, I have watched with frustration as pundits look at conservative politics and descry the major policy threads of ethno-nationalism, abortion, and trickle-down economics. These are all smoke screens. The animating issue of conservative politics is the proposition that the free market is the only valid forum for negotiating the distribution of power. Democracy is a mechanism that blunts the exercise of their profit motives, and global corporations, organizing through the world-wide-web, have run an organized campaign to undermine democratic processes.

In countries such as Russia and China, that was simplified because democracy was never firmly established. These states operate as kleptocracies, changing rules to allow those closest to the head of state to seize economic sectors as state-sanctioned monopolies. Facing the pressure of monopolistic competition, the response among Western corporations has been to finance movements that narrowly align governmental and corporation objectives.

So don’t fool yourself that Joe Manchin, the senior Democratic senator from West Virginia, really believes that the filibuster is a tool for ensuring bipartisan compromise. That is a smoke screen. Representing a state so deeply corrupted by corporate interests, he is almost certainly constrained by other considerations. Not least being protecting the wealth of men, such as Jim Justice, who (as did Donald Trump) seek office principally to exercise the powers of government to shield their wealth from taxation and contractual obligations.

The only effective response to global corporatism is the same one that eventually reined in inter-state corporatism: creating regulations that span the domain of their activism. This was accomplished through federal regulation in the first half of the twentieth century, but the corresponding global framework has been propagandized against since before Ronald Reagan (the old “UN Black Helicopters” and “One World Government” canards). It is time for liberal pundits to open their eyes and recognize that this problem cannot be solved one state at a time. The EU has led the way in building multi-national business frameworks, and protecting their market from exploitation by kleptocratic powers. The US should take a serious look at participating.

Trump’s Grand Slam

With Biden safely ensconced in the Oval Office, the most vocal concern of the political classes is redirect the passions of the dispossessed electorate that Trump seized from the GoP in 2016. This is not principally a political concern, as factors have aligned to undermine the Republican strategy of minority rule. Trump did not certify the census, and with control of the both houses of Congress and the White House, Democrats can act rapidly to impose standards on election and apportionment procedures in the States. Power will tip to the Democratic Party, and the Republicans will confront the necessity of re-inventing themselves.

What are the forces that will define that re-branding? Politically, we focus on the ethno-nationalist minority of the party. As forgotten citizens, they – like seniors – have both motivation and time to organize politically, which brings them disproportionate power in the primary process. But they do not share the motivations that seal the loyalty of most Republican voters. For most Republican voters, the principal drivers are financial entitlement and resistance to reproductive self-determination. The latter is going to be resistant to reform, but the former is far more dangerous. They have money.

While most retrospectives on Trump’s presidency focus on his abusive manipulation of his adoring codependents, I think that we need to remember why Trump sought power in the first place. Trump’s twisted amplification of ethno-nationalism was almost a parody, but he was born into financial entitlement. That concerns provides a fairly coherent explanation for his policies while in office.

Remember that Trump did not enter the race intending to win. He wanted to build his brand. What was the nature of that brand? Trump leases his name to real estate developers around the world. Unfortunately, the brand was not compelling. Investigations of his business dealings in the Arab world showed that they were largely money laundering operations for organizations such as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. This was also true of many of the investments made by Russians in the US property market.

But it was the only game he had. Remember his nominating convention, with “TRUMP” in 90,000 point font over the stage. This was not vanity. It was a branding.

Trump’s Administration was full of people like him. Mnuchin, Tillerson, Zinke, DeVos, and Ross were all of this mold. Others, such as Ben Carson, played the sport of presidential politics largely for the speaker’s fees. Among them were those who had come under scrutiny by the Obama Administration for consumer fraud or violation of foreign trade restrictions (Tillerson in Russia).

Trump and Tillerson were unique, however, in the global scope of their entanglements. The State Department hosted investigators sent out to scrutinize their activities, and attracted nationals seeking to curry favor by reporting on a man who had made himself Obama’s enemy. At home, the Department of Justice was the principal danger, with numerous investigations in Federal Districts underway. Treasury, auditing Trump’s tax returns, was another threat. All of these institutions were eviscerated or suborned for corruption.

And finally, there was the rest of corporate America, who considered Trump a buffoon. What we saw in Trump’s Administration was lifted directly from Vladimir Putin’s playbook in the aftermath of Boris Yeltsin’s abdication. Yeltsin was abused by the post-Soviet oligarchs, but Putin used his control over the levers of justice to slowly strangle them, eventually becoming de facto owner of Russia. This was Trump’s aim as well.

He almost succeeded. The financial markets soared, and the Wall Street Journal joined FOX News in giving Trump credit. What the market manipulators didn’t count on, though, was the method seized upon by Putin. There is no honor among thieves, and behind every wealthy man are ten underlings that would be happy to take his place. Trump cultivated them, and was perfectly satisfied that the Senate refused to take action on his appointees to vacant Cabinet positions. As for those beyond his reach: Trump’s attack on Jeff Bezos was a fascinating set-piece of global character assassination, and I assume that his Saudi Arabian allies participated with the aim of securing the arms they needed for their war in Yemen.

I am working on a craft project that will eventually manifest as a “Memorial to the Abuse of Privilege.” The foundation evokes the 400,000 COVID deaths in the last year of Trump’s term. The narrowness of the Biden victory should give us pause. It was not superior campaigning or a compelling vision of the future that propelled Biden to victory. Trump’s botched COVID response carried heavy financial consequences. The Lincoln Project sprang up to lead the opposition to his second term. I believe that without COVID, Trump would still be president, and American democracy would have died.

But talk to a Trump voter and QAnon conspiracist and you might be shocked. They want to go back to work because if we don’t, small business will die in America. They are not classically ethno-nationalist; they believe that the aggrieved ethnic and racial minorities have forgotten indentured servitude and corporate towns and the labor abuses of industrialization and violent suppression of unions and fighting in foreign wars and the deflationary gold standard and corporate welfare and globalization and think “Well, if you deserve restitution and opportunities, what about us?”

In other words, they recognize that the enemy are those that abuse privilege. They bet on Obama, and felt betrayed by his lax treatment of Wall Street raiders in 2009. If the Democrats choose to expose and fight global corruption, they’d win them back, and the Republican Party would have to drag its libertarian corporate pay masters back into a sustainable social contract.

Remember to Heal, Learn to Protect

At the Capital Mall memorial for the 400,000 dead of COVID, President Biden opined that remembrance is necessary to healing. This reflects the institution of Holocaust memorials, and the Vietnam Memorial wall. Great tragedies reflect a tearing apart in human nature, a locus in which dogmatism (Nazism, Colonialism, or Trumpism) tries to force society to conform to its views. To remember, as a psychic practice, is to confront lies with truth. Upon that foundation, we can then project the love that heals.

But healing is not enough.

We are on the “path of the knowledge of good and evil.” We cannot just paper over the past. Our burden is to understand it, and prevent its repetition.

Prior to the Sack of the Capitol on January 6th, Biden promised that he would “focus on the future.” That is an error. The perfidy of the last four years must be exposed, analyzed, and measures taken to guard against its repetition. While the Republican caucus – led by McConnell, Grassley, Nunes, Rosenstein, Graham, Sessions, and Trump – managed to squash full investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the DoJ must be tasked with completing a full national security and financial review. The FEC (Federal Election Commission) must be reconstituted and tasked with a complete review of campaign finance during the Trump Administration. Every Cabinet officer must be tasked with exposing self-dealing by their outgoing predecessors. Congress, which is allowed to define the framework under which States conduct their elections, must expose bias in existing practices and ensure all voters are represented. And apportionment, manipulated by the GoP’s “Red Map” algorithm following the 2010 census, must be constrained by fairness algorithms that prevent gross bias in favor of any political party.

Much wrongdoing will be exposed, and it might be politically importune to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators. But without knowledge, we cannot learn, and the last four years will be repeated.

Biden’s desire for comity is laudable, and the olive branch should always be held out. But that olive branch should not be a used as a shield by the enemies of democracy to prevent exposure of their wrong-doing. At the very least, Biden must allow Kamala Harris, long known as a lion in the fight against corruption, to exercise her skills to maximum effect.

Republican Anarchy

The lack of an organized Republican response to the anarchy at the Federal Capital Building helped to bring this into focus.

While reading outside the CB&TL this morning, I overheard a Republican witnessing that he believed that “people should be free to do what they want.”

The GoP has invested money in demonizing the word “socialist,” and wields it as a tool to attack any program that attempts to protect people from the consequences of irresponsible choices by others.

For example, if your co-worker contracts COVID and continues to come to work, and you catch COVID, should you be responsible for your ICU bill? Or should they be forced to pay? Isn’t that why we have insurance, because often serious accidents can be traced to the choices made by others? For example, to drive drunk, or install slippery surfaces at entrances that are highly trafficked on rainy days, or employ unskilled labor to construct buildings, or to pay exorbitant executive salaries that destabilize corporate finances leading to collapse and loss of jobs.

It is time to call a spade a spade: most Republicans are not “conservative” in the sense that they believe in preserving institutions that serve the common welfare. Rather, they are anarchists. I would encourage Democratic policy-makers to wield that word in like a knife in policy debates. The endpoint of libertarian politics, as financed by the Koch brothers and implemented by Reagan, Rove, DeVos, and Trump, is anarchy. Resistance to common-sense social policy measures should be labelled as anarchist, and those such as Hawley, Cruz and McConnell should be tarred with that epithet.

Beaten from the Inside Out

In Revelation 11, Christ hands John the little scroll, humanity’s portion of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, with the words “It will be sweet in your mouth, but make your stomach bitter.”

This is how sin defeats us. It adorns itself in pleasant expectations, then eats us from the inside out.

Having surrendered myself in the service of love, I expect nothing. But every now and then Sin sends an emissary in human form. I extend my compassion, and it gains a toehold.

When the blasted waste of my father’s brilliance was evident in the collapse of the company founded by my brother, the investor that consumed it sought to turn me to the realization of his dreams. The setting was an insurance information systems conference in Reno. He invited me out to dinner, sharing that his years in the open-cry pit of the NYSE had oriented him to an experience of personal energy that he wanted to share with people through online gambling. Confident in my capacity to create value, I redirected the conversation. As we walked back to the elevators, he offered to stake me at the blackjack tables, saying that he wanted me to know the feeling that comes with winning.

I demurred, and headed back up to my room. That night, I had terrible cramping in my gut, and voided everything that I had eaten. Headaches followed, and I tossed in my bed, unable to sleep. As is my habit, I asked “Where is this coming from?” Absorbing the casino with my mind, I perceived a blue field of energy that was trying to consume me. Returning to the bathroom, a woman’s voice advised, “Let your body do its work.” Squeezing the last contents out of my stomach, the demon was purged.

Recognizing the power of the thoughts carried in my prefrontal cortex, the resistance attacks me through my sinuses. When I become dispirited, I do not maintain my schedule of sinus rinses. My upper sinuses become blocked and the bacteria turn septic.

This was my condition on Thanksgiving. I woke with a headache early in the morning and began the unpleasant drainage, starting with an essential oil rinse. The septic fluid upsets my gut, and violent purges are expected.

But this occasion was worse. A deep part of me was committed to full expulsion. The vomiting continued until only a few tablespoon of yellow paste were produced. Below the appendix, powerful spasms in the colon and abdomen forced everything toward the rectum.

And the images, in this case? Entering through virtuous intentions of our forefathers, having occupied the institutions we inherited: Mnuchin, the profiteer of suffering; Trump, the catalyst of chaos; and Miller, the tormentor of the weak.

You are beaten, boys. Time for you to go.

Demagoguery and Socialism

PAINFUL conversation outside the coffee shop today.

“Socialism” as a political philosophy holds governments should be judged not by ideology but according to how their policies affect the people they are responsible for serving.

While you can argue that Democratic candidates, in focusing on COVID, are “socialist” in their analysis of the Trump Administration, they have not addressed the core issue. The universal criteria for political rhetoric is “who is the speaker trying to love?” Any rhetoric that starts with “I” is immediately discounted, for the candidate can not love every voter. All a candidate can do is promise that government will be held accountable to the people. That requires measuring what is happening, and sharing that information with the public. This requirement transcends COVID and encompasses every aspect of Executive Branch operation. Absolute and full transparency is the minimum, and a standard that the current Administration has failed at every turn.

The seduction of the conservative agenda is based upon a false interpretation of the American Golden Age that followed WWII. The narrative is false because the singular factor that propelled American wealth was the destruction of every other industrialized economy during WWII. That circumstance cannot and will not ever recur. Policies must be evaluated, therefore, according to their effects today.

We need to stop divorcing ourselves from reality. While that might seem to begin with investigation of the lived experience of the America people, we have a further precondition: respect for those that serve the public welfare. It is evil to attack those that stand in the path of danger to save lives.

Donald Trump, Really

Working overtime on Wednesday as a Census enumerator, I caught only a glimpse of the debate. Picking through the analysis the next day, I shook my head.

They still don’t get it.

The best thing about that debate was that the Trump-loving GOP finally confronted the daily reality experienced by those working in the White House. For the last eight years, the MAGA faithful have seen only what Fox News and heard only what Rush Limbaugh wants them to know about Trump. The man at the center of the MAGA cult is a media fabrication.

But the White House staff knows that to get anything done Trump has to be kept away. He doesn’t golf only because the Secret Service costs fund his country clubs, Trump golfs because they won’t give him anything meaningful to do.

Trump’s career was built upon his willingness to project himself into the public sphere. Until his father’s death, he was the public face of the Trump real-estate empire, and government and investors gave Donald access to get access to Fred. They heard Donald out.

But behind the blather was a team of people that prepped Donald with talking points and figured out which of the promises could be made true. Donald was happy to take credit for what worked, and quickly exorcised his failures.

This tendency was amplified on the set of The Apprentice, where he would explode arbitrarily during the meetings, and the producers would write and film a back-story to justify his performance. This is the true Trump: a man who expects that the world will conform itself to his will. The end result of coddling him, however, is a total divorce from reality.

I look at his signature, and feel only pity. He has no internal life, and overwrites himself in every moment while annihilating his past.

To understand Trump, read “The Autumn of the Patriarch.” Unless you are in Putin’s circle, because they recognized Trump’s malleability a long, long time ago.

RBG and Roberts’ Rule

The Founders carefully allocated responsibilities among the branches to protect citizens from governmental over-reach. The Executive Branch has flouted those boundaries throughout the Trump Presidency, with Cabinet officers finally acting not as protectors of the Constitution, but as lackeys in service to the whims of the POTUS. In Congress, McConnell has used obstruction to undermine legislative deliberation, and focused on packing of the Federal Courts with partisans – using the filibuster when not in power, and then eliminating it for most positions during the Trump era.

The Roberts Supreme Court was the last holdout in the corruption of the Founders’ intentions. That has been uneven. Roberts hypocritically criticized the House Impeachment Managers for questioning the motives of the Republican Senate in failing to call witnesses, demanding respect for the “world’s greatest deliberative body” that McConnell has corrupted. But at least in the last Court session, Roberts insisted that precedent be honored, siding with the liberal members of the bench when his conservative peers attempted to over-ride prior judgments from his court.

With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, that respect for precedent and the character of the Court is at risk. If Trump and McConnell succeed in seating a conservative ideologue, Roberts will find himself on the losing side in attempting to prevent arbitrary flouting of precedent.

The only method for restoring proper balance on the Court is for a Democratic-controlled Senate to mercilessly impeach Justices for judicial over-reach. The popular expedient – expanding the number of Justices – would be a mistake. Proper functioning of the Court requires thorough probing of the constitutional issues during oral arguments. As more Justices are added, that process will become unwieldly.

No, the proper approach is to erase McConnell’s legacy, just as he and Trump have worked to erase the legacy of our most popular politician (President Obama). Set up the impeachment express, and flush all the Conservative hacks out of the judiciary.

Gotta Love Them Founders

Summarizing an interesting analysis of the consequences of failing to hold the November elections:

The Founders considered the possibility that the Electoral College would fail to return presidential and vice-presidential appointees (note that these are actually two separate decisions by the body) prior to the end-of-term for the current office holders.

The outcome also reflects the fact that Congressional terms end on January 3, while the Executive Branch terms end later (typically around January 20).

  1. If no elections are held, the Electoral College will fail to select either a President or Vice President.
  2. On January 3, the entire House of Representatives loses office, while the Senate reconvenes with only those whose terms are held over from prior elections. Since the bulk of the expiring Senators are Republicans, the sitting Senate will be controlled by the Democrats
  3. When the President and Vice President leave office around January 20th, nominally the Speaker of the House becomes President. But the House is not convened, so the fallback is to the Senate Pro Tem, which – since the Senate will be controlled by the Democrats – is going to be Chuck Schumer.

So as of January 20th, Chuck Schumer becomes President of the United States. Unless he doesn’t want to be President, and props up the selection of a Pro Tem who does.