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A Fascist America (4)

5-23  Hair Trompf loves him some Mass Extrajudicial Killer.  What a way to start a page.  It’s sickening.  Can there seriously be anyone left who has the slightest doubt?  Of course some people won’t admit to the obvious.

In this episode we’re exploring what “Fascism (American Style)” is like, by observing the Trump family (and Republican Party) style of governing.  Like I said, sickening.  It wears people down.  T stays up all night, thinking of ways to keep everybody else awake all night.

5-24  How the Trompf budget would affect government spending on all services, over the coming 10 yrs.  Analysis by David Leonhardt (NYT).  Analysis by Jamelle Bouie (Slate).  Analysis by Maya MacGuineas (NYT).  Commentary by E. J. Dione Jr. (WaPo).

Republican House of Representatives candidate, and multimillionaire, Greg Gianforte has body slammed a reporter, breaking his glasses (and on the day before the election, btw).  Audio evidence.  Witnesses.  Sheriff investigating.  Hair Trompf set the example and the tone for this.  Later:  statement by three  witnesses (Fox News crew):

Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top [of] the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of “I’m sick and tired of this!”

Sheriff who is investigating has donated to G campaign.  Here is coverage by The Guardian, the British newspaper for which the reporter, Ben Jacobs, writes.  Here’s background on the perp.  The similarities between G and T are striking, incl violence, blaming the victim, attacking the press in general, wealth, and heavy investment in Russian companies that the US sanctioned because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Jacobs’s paper had uncovered (here’s earlier, NYT notice of similarities).  Additional coverage (by a liberal newspaper).  Here’s national TV coverage by “Fox and Friends.”

5-25  Major MT newspapers rescind endorsement of G.  Some Republican reactions.

[Pages (1) and (2) and (3).  Index page.]

Proceeding with Impeachment (2)

Forget Trompf. By now he’s just a supperation, a running sore on the face of the nation. What you see is what you get, and everybody in the world can see the disfigurement. The ooze is his personality, his family, and his fiends.

But the cancer in our bones is the Republican Party—its owners, politicians, and core voters.

By core voters I mean people whose motivation is hatred of Democrats. They will never vote for a D, no matter who is the R candidate. I completely empathize. When I was 16 I liked Ike. VP Nixon came to my town, and as his ‘50s “motorcade” passed my place on the curb, I actually saw him in person and shouted, “Good luck!” Luckily, by the time I was old enough to vote I had become a Democrat. I have never voted for a Republican, and I never will. I haven’t wished a Republican candidate good luck since 1956, and they’ve gotten steadily worse.

What I dislike most about the R Party is its core voters, The Privileged. They are composed of four groups: the wealthy (who have cornered the market on wealth), the racists (who have cornered the market on hatred), the masculinists (who have cornered the market on fear), and the fundamentalists (who have cornered the market on godly self-righteousness). The markets in which they have invested themselves express and imprison their individual personalities and their Party.  As a Party, they vote to sustain the mythic concepts of intrinsic superiority and deserved privilege of wealth, whiteness, malehood, and Christian purity.  They think of themselves as the real America.

That’s what we’re up against.  There’s no way that I can vote for such people.

They hate Democrats because today’s Democratic Party threatens their privilege.  They vote Republican because today’s Republican Party defends their privilege.

In lump, these self-privileging, core Republicans comprise 30-35% of American adults.  That’s scary.  They are perfecting and institutionalizing minority rule, as their privilege.  Their governance is fascist because their ruling party is owned and operated by mega-wealthy business folk.  When they decide that their position as The Privileged is being jeopardized by Trompf, they will move to replace him.  But the cancer will remain in our bones.

The economy will get worse for everybody who is struggling to keep up, while getting better for the wealthy; prejudice, discrimination, and demonization of the Other will be encouraged, and with them will come violence, and oppression by police; the lives of women will be circumscribed; adequate health care will become rare; America’s contribution to global warming, along with degradation of the environment, will increase; children will be forgotten; education will be further weakened; dissent will be delegitimized, and democracy will be further curtailed.

The Privileged will rule, by divine right.

Trompf or no Trompf, the Republican Party must be thrown out of office.

I wish, dear Reader, that I could offer a less sordid tale.  But sometimes novels are like this.  Meanwhile, thematically, these characters carry forward, into our own time, some major psychopathologies of our democracy.

[Page (1) of this episode.]

The Shearing of Hair Trompf (5)

5-17  Putin defends Trump.  Ha!  Perfect beginning of a next page of this episode.  Certainly the first person to ask.  And what about Jared?  On a larger stage than American fascism, what we’re glimpsing is the machinations of the international oligarchic criminal class.  Meanwhile, a Republican congressman, while not mentioning the “I” word, takes a step toward seriously thinking about it.  And now, two have actually said it, “impeachment” (as being appropriate if a president has committed obstruction of justice).  Well that’s a start.

At this point I want to mention, again, The Irony of Democracy, which I read with colleagues and students in a class in the ’70s.  Dye, Ziegler, and Schubert suggested that, ironically, when a democracy is in mortal jeopardy, that society depends upon its elite to defend democracy and save it.  During Watergate the Republican Party ultimately decided that it was in their best interests to push their own guy out of the White House.  They paid a high price in the election of ’76, but more than recovered in ’80.  Are there Rs who think that way today?  Or, at least, will the Koch Bros and their ilk see dumping Trump as serving their own fascist interests?  My memory is that, while people considered Nixon’s actions to be an attack on democracy itself, they did not worry that, even as vindictive, paranoid, and volatile as he was, he might explode.  He was containable.  But people are concerned about how violently T might act out, when he knows he’s going down.  Who, among our elite, can and will contain T if he explodes?  The “intelligence community”?  The Joint Chiefs?

The Secondhand Russian Connection now showing (or at least this makes a good trailer).

Later:  Sur ‘nuf, we had reached the breaking point.  A Special Counsel.  Who?  What (and how independent)? It seems he has what it takes, personally and by law; but can the Rs yet limit his actions to being only a patch?  NYT reporters on the difficulties.  And JM on why we also need an ” ‘independent commission‘ to investigate what happen in the 2016 election”!

Rs will stay with T as long as (1) he is significantly useful to their realization of their privatization dreams, or (2) they don’t dare dump him because of the anger of his base of supporters.  How long will at least one of those continue to be a potent influence?

Republican politicians will not put the welfare of the nation above their own interest, if indeed they ever consider making such a distinction, because they serve at the pleasure of the aristocracy (as absurd as that sounds).  They are the chosen and purchased instruments of the oligarchs.

And later still:  Two thoughts, either of which could work for the plot line:  People are saying, wisely, to be sure, that this thing is likely to drag out for a long while yet; but (1) these things can also snowball, or even avalanche and catch a lot of folks before they can get out of the way, and (2) while it probably would be good if things now proceeded slowly enough for Mueller to explore everything, thoroughly, it might also turn out that the Rs don’t want that to happen and they will push T out, surprisingly soon.  T might even be feeling it, and arranging his fantasies to make himself look good in his eyes as he rolls on.  Why should he go on being President, taking all that abuse?

5-18  R House leadership knew, full well, in June 2016, what was happening, and how much was at stake.  They’re like school kids chattering in the cafeteria.  In order to understand what is happening us, what we have done to ourselves, it is necessary to understand that these people are fools.  They are in office, not because of competence for national leadership, but because their seats have been paid for by the Koch Bros and their Ilk, at whose pleasure they serve.  They are ideologically sincere, but their ideology is shallow and self-rationalizing.  5-19  Admin trying to limit Mueller’s investigative reach.  What are they hiding?  And what about Pence’s role?  And now:  The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter. (WaPo)

5-21  McCain “almost speechless.  “Financial crimes“?  Yuh think?  And “Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Sunday he wants every single note the White House has on President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office earlier this month.”  5-22  Two U.S. Intelligence officials say Trump inappropriately asked them to deny evidence of collusion [and];  Comey, Sessions both cancel planned testimony to Congress; Flynn takes the 5th; and T lawyers up.  5-23  Former CIA Director Brennan “saw information the was worthy of investigation,” and knew that T campaign people were in touch with Russians.  5-24  “American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.” (NYT)  5-25  FL GOP operative colluded with Russian hacker of election data.  And the FBI is finding Kushner interesting.

[Pages (1) and (4) of this episode.]

Proceeding with Impeachment

And what rough beast?

Or, “When you’re President they let you do anything.” [5-16  JM sees it that way too.#]  Or, he’s a maniac, maniac, maniac.

Where is Dick Cheney when I need him? [5-17  But there she is, our old friend Liz.]  Have I only Henry Kissinger to remind me of my past Realities? The Republican Party has been morally and intellectually bankrupt all my life. The reascendancy of their national betrayal began when they persuaded Ike to give them cover. Oh, mon général.

If I were making this up, the narrative would go something like this:

The playas make plays that are true to themselves, consistent with character traits that they have established in earlier episodes.

The Satan of this melodrama, Hair Trompf, is not brought down without a mortal struggle. He thrashes, trying to dominate or destroy everyone who threatens him. (Subsidiary characters quickly come and go.) He has been given enormous power, he feels entitled by Nature, and he feeds on chaos. I don’t have the heart, right now, to detail the damage that he does on his way out.

Meanwhile, the princess and her charmed prince pursue and protect their business interests. They are stone cold survivors. The clueless adult sons follow orders and enjoy life. What’s it to them?  Melania protects her son.

Sessions, Miller, Bannon, and the jerks who take orders from them, move to accomplish as much as they can of their evil racist agenda while they still have power. This might be their last chance.

Indeed, many hard-core R voters (roughly a third of voters who show up and are allowed to vote) are anxious about losing a champion of their financial interests and social privileges, and are incensed by the possibility that politicians in their own party will rob them of this opportunity to triumph over the weak, misguided, alien, and impure. [ * ]

Wealthy corporatist Republicans, owners of the Party, plot to increase their power at all levels of government, regardless of how this drama plays out.

Republicans in Congress calculate how much power they will gain or lose when they choose sides. Many conclude that they would be personally safer, and would have more political power, under a Pence regime. Yet, when they begin to see T’s power waning, they feel a chill political draft, as if being unclothed. Those who are up for election in 2018 are encouraged to side with Pence against Trump by promises by the Koch Bros to donate hundreds of millions to their campaigns, along with Pence-Kobach, massive voter suppression.

The Old Guard of the Democratic Party, the Clinton-Obama Establishment, is increasingly exposed as being too weak to influence the struggle against Trompf. Its beast, in the Midwestern jungle, has lept. Its romantic neoliberal character has turned out to be its fate.

What, then, brings the Trompf tower crashing down?

(1) True to his character (greed, hatred, delusion—he’s the anti-buddha) Trompf destroys himself. His anti-democratic actions (much bigger than The Russian Connection, now that he is President) make his position in the presidency untenable, short of a Republican suspension of democracy. That hangs in the balance.

(2) The liberal and Progressive, democratic, majority of the American electorate become so pissed that they insist that T be gone.

(3) Those Democrats in Congress who are not beholden to Big Money ally with newly independent members of the press (established and new), and with the liberal and Progressive intelligentsia, to steadily expose T’s impeachable offenses and to effectively influence the Republicans to believe that their best bet is to grab the Constitution and jump ship.

(4) The Republicans gamble that they can replace T with Pence and maintain their Congressional majorities in 2018. They lose.

Actually, it’s a pretty good story.

But I’m not making this up. This is a nonfiction novel, I don’t know how the plot will end, and here’s a powerful counter-narrative.  In this episode, running concurrently with A Fascist America, and The Shearing of Hair Trompf, we’ll watch and see.

On!

[ * Update:  In view of this poll, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, breaks through the R support for Trompf.  I’m guessing that these partisan voters know, concretely, exactly what they want from T and their party, and they will be greatly disappointed if it is not delivered to them.  E.g. 1 a Wall and increased deportations, 2 war against muslims, 3 return to racial “separate and unequal,” 4 jobs for the white working class, 5 lower taxes, 6 punishment for abortion, 7repudiation of Obama achievements such as affordable health care.  These are what T told them they could hope for, if they elected him.

So if this view by Chris Whipple in WaPo is accurate, whether or not T keeps his job might depend on whether he can be governed.  It may be that the only person who could successfully hold the position of Chief of Staff is Ivanka-Jared.

4  failing as of 5-16

6  expands gag rule]

McC-Ryan are trying to make their dreams come true before their center cannot hold.  Too late.  If they don’t jump, they’re going down with the ship.  The situation has moved from intolerable to insufferable.  If the Rs don’t get T out of the White House soon, they are going to lose the confidence of two-thirds of the American voters.

# A key moment will come when (if) a significant percentage of Ky voters signal that McConnell no longer represents their best interests.  5-20  A check-in.

The Shearing of Hair Trompf (4)

5-12  It’s getting real. From WSJ:  “—A Treasury Department unit that specializes in combating money-laundering will share financial records with an expanding Senate probe into possible ties between Russia and President Donald Trump and his associates,. . . particularly interested in information about shell companies, money laundering and the use of property transfers that may be germane to the committee’s Trump investigation. . . . The inquiry could also include businesses owned by or associated with Mr. Trump’s family members, including Kushner Cos., where his son-in-law and now senior White House aide, Jared Kushner, was previously the CEO.”

Cultivate patience.  Practice your breathing.

What makes organizations such as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard or a Trump casino valuable to their big-time participants is the untaxed, international flow of large sums of money.  Here’s a brief New Yorker explanation of how that can work.  MoJo is on it.

5-13  So it has come to that.  Listen to Lawrence Tribe in this video clip.  If he’s right, and surely he is, then right out there like the nose on its face, President Trump has committed impeachable offenses (with more that are likely to join the nose, some of which he has already committed, and new ones that he will commit or at least compound, because Donald Trump will go right on being himself).  And here’s Tribe’s WaPo column, “Trump Must Be Impeached.  Here’s Why.”

That’s the moment that we are in now.  Surely everybody in DC knows it, and Republicans are trying to calculate how best to ride the storm.  There seems to be lingering support for T among the R active voters.  How soon can they be brought around?  How soon will they shift to Pence?  If the politicians wait too long to move against T, they will find themselves having to take sides at the very moment of run-up to the 2018 election.  During Watergate, my own, conservative R Congressman, David Dennis, defended Nixon to the end, and lost his seat, although the district (recently IN 6th, but the 10th at the time of Watergate) was solidly red, and is, again, today.

5-14  Recently fired U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New york, Preet Bharara, explains why we must have a “truly bipartisan investigation in Congress,” an FBI Director who is “apolitical and sensitive to the law-enforcement mission, not someone with a long record of reflexive partisanship or commentary on the very investigative issues that will come before the bureau” and “an independent and uncompromised special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.”

5-15  And here’s some added urgency (just imagine if Hilary had done this!).  Here’s some added thought about it.  And.  5-16  The President says he has the “absolute right” to share intelligence with another nation, including info that intel officials say cannot be reported by WaPo because that would “jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.”  If I were making this up, I’d show Trompf recklessly, cluelessly, jeopardize the intelligence capabilities of the U S and some of our allies (as Anne Applebaum puts it:  “revealed details of an ongoing intelligence operation”); I would show him putting himself in these situations at the request of Putin, in order to protect his relationship with Putin, so that Putin does not reveal information about T’s criminal business activities.  It’s a matter of two absolutists of a feather trying to settle into the same nest.  From T’s point of view, that nest is his delusion of grandeur, his fantasy that he can do no wrong.

Ouch.  I think the Intelligence Community is going to have T for dinner, and they won’t waste time at the stove.  If it comes down to T v. the IC’s ability to protect the nation, from terrorists, Russians, N Korea, T is outa here.  The clown isn’t funny anymore, nobody’s laughing but the Russians, and the CI will not tolerate White House chaos.

And oops, Mr. Comey has been documenting his experiences, of obstruction of justice.  Another take.

[Pages (1) and (2) and (3) of this episode.]

A Fascist America (3)

5-11  This page gets started with a joke, as Hair Trompf legitimizes and further enables Republican voter suppression by empowering two leading suppressors, as chairs of a presidential “commission on election integrity…to promote fair and honest Federal elections” by investigating “voter fraud,” a hoax that Republicans invented to cover up their voter suppression fraud.  Another on Kobach.  Another on the commission.

What it’s all about, Alfy (Republicans Party like it’s 1877).  And it’s all adding up to . . . . A President above and outside of the law.

Update 5-16  JM clearly lays out what the Republicans mean by “election integrity” re. this commission.

5-12  Having tried to intimidate a witness (after failing to block her testimony) who was about to give testimony, under oath, that might be damaging to him, now the President preemptively  threatens a private citizen who might speak in opposition to him (and is the former Director of the FBI), and furthermore threatens to undermine the press in its coverage of the presidency.  (Wait.  I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here.  It’s going to be really interesting, when we find out what he’s hiding.  That’s the only up-side that I see to this squalor.)  But did Comey sign a confidentiality agreement?

(Okay), friends Carolyn and Patti have reminded me of what, as narrator of this narrative, I’m declaring to be narratorial premise four:  the President of the United States probably has “lost it,” declined into senility and accompanying paranoia (to which he had a tendency anyway).  (Are writers and editors signaling such, lately, by quoting him verbatim?)  This doesn’t negate anything of his being a strongman authoritarian, or anything of the Republicans being a fascist party that is demolishing our democracy.  But if it is the case (and again, I’m going with it), then (1) I feel bad for the person and his family (although I continue to feel outrage and contempt about the kind of person he has been, and the things he has done to people); (2) like the family members, politicians, and operatives around Reagan in the last years of his presidency, Sean Spicer and everyone around T (including journalists) knows what a mess they’ve got on their hands; and (3) T is now an instrument, albeit a difficult one, in their hands, and they are using him to do things that are just as destructive as he would do anyway.  But (4) the mental health of the President is incalculably significant, and not just to a narrator’s understanding of him and attitude toward him as a character in the novel.  When will the explosion of revelation happen, and how big will it be, given the attempts to contain it?

5-14  Trompf is the consummate leveler.  If his dream comes true, he will be a lone tower rising out of an endless, flat, desert:  Language.  Other institutions.  The body (incl the brain, btw).

5-16  But now a strange thing has happened, to me, your narrator. For the moment, at least, I’m finding it hard to see T as a fascist leader of his country. I suspect that it is impossible for him to function effectively, simultaneously as Donald Trump, Trump the corporation, and Herr Trompf the fascist President of the United States.  If he put the three together we’d have the Apocalypse.  I suspect that, in this combined position and circumstance, each of those now blocks the other. I shudder to think of what might happen on his first foreign excursion. He has so exposed himself, in his first 100+ days, especially with regard to Russia and Intelligence, that no one can trust him.  No one, anywhere, with anything.

5-18  While we’re characterizing fascism, American style, here’s one of it’s faces.  Not soulless, in my view of it, but one of those banal evils that is so vacuous that it is one of soul’s chief tormenters.

5-19  On the key Q of whether today’s Rs can put principle and democratic country above their party interests (corporatism, privatization, and permanent minority rule).  5-20  On billionaires keeping up with the Joneses.  The KBI will spend millions to influence Congress to increase their wealth.  Where are our billionaires who are pouring money into making sure that everybody gets to vote, and that dissent is not oppressed?  And surely this staged, static, sociopathic family photo, with only T smiling, and the child isolated, shows us what happened to little donnie.  And there’s the oppression of dissent, by the militarized police etc.  And the general governmental disrespect for the rule of law:  . . . I do know this: Comey understood Trump’s people as having neither knowledge of nor respect for the independence of the law enforcement function. And he saw it as an ongoing task on his part to protect the rest of the Bureau from improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he did not regard as honorable. –  Benjamin Wittes, “What James Comey Told Me About Donald Trump,” Lawfare.

5-21  T doubling down on conservative media conglomeration.  5-22  Kushner keeps his real estate holdings.  T moves to block ethics inquiry into ex-lobbyists on his payroll.  Justice Gorsuch wants more corporate money in politics.  5-23  Office of Government Ethics insists it will remain independent and will do its job.  Um (how to “measure compassion,” in the abstract, and in politics.)

[Pages (1) and (2) of this episode.]

A Fascist America (2)

5-10  With the events of the last 24 hours or so, the actions of this episode and those of the “Shearing” episode are merging.  I find myself wanting to post the same items in the plot line of both.  That’s not surprising.  (I think JM feels it too.  Pressures are compounding.)

So I’m beginning this page (2) with an observation about the narration:

In my telling (I being the narrator here), the first premise of the narration of Hair Trompf’s presidency is that he fantasies that he is an Absolute ruler, who can do no wrong, and who will not tolerate anyone who threatens his power. Or here’s another telling.

The second premise is that for Hair Trompf, the American presidency is a well-deserved position for him, on the world power stage, that bestows extraordinary privilege, and that he should use as a platform from which to acquire even more personal privilege by acquiring more personal wealth, as kings did before him. (And note well: the Clintons and the Obamas fell for the same temptation, thus sapping their own power; the difference is that being sane, they also tried to advance the general well-being. That is very significant, but not huge. We need huge.

Keep in mind that I am a heavily biased, and sometimes questionably reliable, narrator.  For one thing, I’m just back from Paris with a bad rhume.  Ha!  Corrected to “rhyme.”  The Shadow knows.  The author of this tomb feels even worse, though, because a pick pocket team lifted his iPhone (c’est à dire, his photos!).  Curses.  He’s trying not to mope, but I’m staying out of his way.

Okay, sans rime, et merci à Wallace Stevens:  It was Monday, and it was going to be Monday.  Paris to Seattle.

Of course a third premise is that this presidency is simply a catastrophe for the American people.  The entire chorus is beginning to move in the same direction, down the stage, and I don’t know what can turn them around.

The inability of the Republicans to get rid of their jerk displays their hopeless cynicism, the unfathomable depth of their shallowness, and their personal cowardice.

In my opinion.

The Q is, how far will the Republicans go, and how soon, toward ending democracy.  It simply is not compatible with their interests, and they know that.

Stevens said that “the tongue is an eye.”  I’ll add that the eye is a tongue.  We must open wide our mouths.  Speak honestly, so as to see truly.

[Pages (1) and (3) of this episode.]