A Time For Justice: Bannon Et Al

A presidential pardon does not mean the person being pardoned is innocent.  Quite the contrary, if he/she were innocent, they would have proven so in a court of law.  Only those who either have been found guilty or whose trial is pending but it is expected they will be found guilty, are pardoned by a sitting president.  Think about that one for a minute … the innocent do not need presidential pardons.  Or, as U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who dismissed Michael Flynn’s prosecution after Flynn was pardoned by the former guy said …

“… [the former guy’s] decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one. Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot.  However, the pardon does not, standing alone, render [Flynn] innocent of the alleged violation.”

Steve Bannon is a criminal in many senses of the word, and if he were charged for every time he has broken the law, the indictment would take a full ream of paper.  But the charges for which he was pardoned by the former guy stem from a fundraising scam for the ‘border wall’ on the southern U.S. border.

Bannon and another organizer, Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, lied when they claimed they would not take any compensation as part of the campaign, called “We Build the Wall.” Bannon received more than $1 million through a nonprofit entity he controlled, sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage while keeping a “substantial portion” for himself.  The We Build the Wall campaign, publicly supported by several of the former guy’s allies, raised more than $25 million through hundreds of thousands of donors.  This is the same border wall, by the way, that the former guy kept telling his supporters Mexico would pay for, even though most of us were well aware that was never even a remote possibility.

Bannon and Kolfage along with two others — Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea — routed payments from the crowdfunding campaign through the nonprofit and another shell company, disguising them with fake invoices to help keep their personal pay secret.  All four of these men were arrested in August of last year, and all except Bannon are awaiting trial, for the other three did not receive presidential pardons.

Bannon’s case, however, does remain pending.  This week, Bannon asked a judge to follow others in New York and elsewhere who outright dismissed cases after the former guy issued pardons, citing the post-pardon dismissals of charges against Michael Flynn and rapper Lil’ Wayne.  Not so fast there, Stevie …

Presidential pardons do not cover charges filed by states, and the New York attorney general’s office has partnered with Manhattan’s district attorney to investigate Bannon’s fundraising scam.  If New York finds evidence enough to file charges, then all bets are off for poor li’l Stevie Bannon.  Meanwhile …

Steve Bannon, along with Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, played an indisputable role in the attack on Congress and the Capitol on January 6th.  While none of the three actively participated in the events of the 6th, all three operated behind the scenes in an attempt to stage a coup and steal the voices of the voters, overturn the election, and install a dictator in the Oval Office.

Bannon previously served as a prominent sponsor of the group “March for Trump”, co-organizers of the January 6th attacks.  Shortly after Trump lost the 2020 election, Bannon’s “War Room” podcast was banned from Twitter for suggesting Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded …

“I’d put the heads on pikes. Right. I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you are gone.”

If I made a statement like that, I would be writing this blog from the inside of a jail cell.  Make no mistake … Steve Bannon is a very nasty man whose crimes are numerous.  He may have been ‘pardoned’ by another nasty ‘man’ for one of those crimes, but the rest will eventually catch up with him.  The same, I hope, will be true for the likes of Michael Flynn, his brother Charles, and Roger Stone the ultimate conspiracy theorist.  The nation … the world … does not need people like this.

When Richard “Tricky Dicky” Nixon left office under a cloud of shame in 1974, he was soon pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford.  No doubt an agreement had been worked out beforehand that kept Nixon out of the courts and out of prison until his death twenty years later.  The former guy and his associates such as Bannon et al will get no such reprieve from President Biden.  These men – Bannon, Flynn, Trump, and more – are criminals and must be treated as such, else how can we claim to be a nation that values fairness, equality, a nation of laws, of justice?

Wise Words From A Wise Man

Last night, I read Nicholas Kristof’s column from yesterday, an open letter to his conservative friends.  While he is kinder and more forgiving than I am, I do agree with most of what he says, so I’ve decided to share his letter here with you.  Mr. Kristof has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, as well as numerous other honours far too numerous to list here.


A Letter to My Conservative Friends

Hold us accountable, but please do the same for the charlatans who deceive you, use you and cheat you.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

  • Jan. 27, 2021

AMHILL, Ore. — This is an open letter to some of my old friends and neighbors who believe that Donald Trump won re-election, who think that face masks are for wimps and who fear that Democrats are plotting to seize their freedom.

Dear friends and neighbors,

Relax! We liberals aren’t plotting to round you up in “re-education camps.”

I was horrified when a couple of old friends here asked if they were in danger for having supported Donald Trump. I gently told them that they were in no peril — and I was stung that they felt greatly relieved to hear it.

Yes, I know that Fox News is peddling nonsense about Democrats setting up re-education camps, and that a Wall Street Journal column asked, “If you were an enthusiastic Donald Trump supporter, are you ready to enter a re-education program?”

Folks, you’re being played. Again.

These are some of the same charlatans who argued last year that, as Fox News put it, the coronavirus is “just like the flu” and that mask mandates are a step toward “tyranny.” More than 400,000 coronavirus deaths later, some people are dead because they believed that drivel.

Then there’s the rubbish about the election. This month, just days before Joe Biden’s inauguration, a childhood friend told me confidently that Trump would swoop in to serve a second term. When I told him he was wrong, he was astonished that I could be so poorly informed, and he helpfully advised, “Don’t pay attention to those liars in the mainstream media.”

You’ve been hoodwinked, exploited and manipulated by con artists waving flags, casting lies and monetizing bigotry. Steve Bannon, who suggested beheading Dr. Anthony Fauci, defrauded Trump supporters into donating to build a border wall and then used some of the money for himself, according to a federal indictment.

Here on our family farm, we received a direct mail appeal warning about “Islam in Yamhill Schools” and pleading for donations to protect Christianity. No, that isn’t about conservative values, but about spreading hate and hysteria while grabbing at your wallet.

So let’s give America a chance to heal. And, as I told my worried friends, don’t hesitate to stand up for your conservative values. We need Republicans! America benefits from a loyal opposition.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week called for trying harder to keep schools open. On that issue, Republicans have been more right than many Democrats.

But half a century ago we didn’t need the racist George Wallace wing of the Democratic Party, and today we don’t need the wing of the Republican Party that embraces conspiracy theories and winks at violence.

The grand question: Without that wing of today’s G.O.P., what’s left?

One glimpse of the conundrum: The G.O.P. representation in Congress is losing Rob Portman, a widely respected senator who announced he will step down, and just gained Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, an extremist who in 2019 endorsed the idea of shooting Nancy Pelosi in the head. When a party loses a statesman and gains a kook, that’s a bad omen.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii G.O.P. this week recommended the “high quality” commentary … of a Holocaust denier. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned on Fox News that Democrats are trying to “exterminate the Republicans.” Sure, Democrats sometimes say and do dumb things, too, but there’s no symmetry.

As I see it, the last, best hope is twofold. First, Republican leaders must learn that extremism is a losing strategy. Only one G.O.P. candidate for president has won the popular vote in the last three decades, and the loony Arizona Republican Party has lost about 10,000 members since the riot in the U.S. Capitol and its censure of party elders like Cindy McCain. If Trump is further discredited through prosecutions or scandals, it is possible (though far from certain) that his malign influence on the party will diminish.

Second, to dampen that extremism, advertisers should stop supporting networks that spread lies and hatred, and cable companies should drop channels that persist in doing so. As a start, don’t force people to subsidize Fox News by including it in basic packages.

Is this a slippery slope? Yes, and it makes me queasy. But we all recognize that there are red lines: Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan grand wizards have First Amendment rights, but we shouldn’t pay to give them microphones, nor should commentators on the left or the right get megaphones to promote violence. Extremists enjoy free speech but shouldn’t be buttressed by advertisers or our cable fees.

So, conservative friends, fear not: We’re not plotting to lock you up in detention camps. We need you to keep us honest. But you’ve been scammed in ways that have hurt the country we all love. Hold us accountable, but please do the same for the charlatans who deceive you, use you and cheat you.

Confirmation of Sabotage!

I don’t understand why we haven’t heard more about this story …

G.O.P.-Led Senate Panel Details Ties Between 2016 Trump Campaign and Russia

Everybody understands this, right?  After the years of Trump decrying that the investigation led by Robert Mueller was a “hoax” and a “witch hunt”, the Senate Intelligence Committee, a bi-partisan committee comprised of eight (8) republicans and seven (7) democrats, determined that Russia did, in fact, conspire with members of the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favour. committee-membersThree years … these 15 people have dedicated the last three years to investigating the exact same things Robert Mueller and his team investigated, reviewing the exact same data that the Mueller team reviewed, and they have drawn almost the exact same conclusion!  That Russia did interfere in our elections on Donald Trump’s behalf, and that the Trump campaign aided and abetted them!  WHAT THE HELL more proof does Congress, do Trump’s base, need in order to be convinced that Trump & Co BOUGHT the election … he did not win it, but he PAID for it!!!  Oh, he didn’t do all the dirty work with his own hands, but left most of the dirty work to the likes of Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, his own children and  others, some of whom are serving prison time today, others who should or soon will be.  But you can bet your last dollar that Trump knew every move that was made, every dollar spent or received, and knew just how far Vladimir Putin was willing to go to help put him into office.

Below is a chart showing who, amongst the Trump campaign, had contact with the Russians and when. contacts

For further detail about the key players, the New York Times has an excellent assessment.

Some of the most insidious republican senators were on the committee … Richard Burr, Tom Cotton, Susan Collins, and Marco Rubio … and yet, the findings were in agreement with those of the Intelligence Community and of Special Investigator Robert Mueller.  This speaks volumes, and yes, I have seen the story reported in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico and others, but … nobody seems to be talking about it!  Why???

Is everybody too wrapped up in his threats, his bullying, his name-calling, to stop and take a look at this report and what it means???  Is his ‘deflect and distract’ operation really working that well?  I would agree that there are a few serious issues this election season:  the denigration and destruction of the United States Postal Service, systemic racism, voter rights and suppression, climate change, the handling (or rather, mishandling) of the coronavirus pandemic, the failing economy … well okay, perhaps more than a few.  Still … we cannot remain silent on the results of this committee report!

For one thing, it is only further proof that the 2016 election was, in fact, interfered with by the Russian government and with the full knowledge of Trump and his cronies.  For another, we are told by the intelligence community that the Russians have been working to help sabotage our November election that is just over 10 weeks away.  Do you really think it’s coincidence that Russia claims to have a vaccine for the coronavirus that will soon be ready to go?  Do you think it’s coincidence that Trump has been ‘demanding’ the G7 allow Russia to sit in on their next meeting, whenever that may take place?

Since I don’t have a direct conduit to Mr. Putin’s brain, I cannot know his reasons for ‘preferring’ Trump both 4 years ago and now, but I can form an intelligent guess.  Putin wants the U.S. to look the other way when he does things that may be against United Nations protocol.  Putin has made no secret that he would like to rebuild a Soviet-style empire.  He needs the U.S. to, at the very least, sit back and turn a blind eye.  Donald Trump is not an intelligent man, and is far more easily manipulated with the promise of some small reward than Hillary Clinton would have been, or than Joe Biden would be.

You can, if you are so inclined, read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report … well, you can read the parts that are not redacted, at any rate.  And there’s another point.  Why does any of this report need to be redacted?  These are events that happened, mostly 3+ years ago, and I cannot conceive of any events or conversations that would cause a national security issue today, hence the need for heavy redactions.  The only damage this report will cause is to the key players who were treasonous in their dealings, who put Trump and the Republican Party ahead of the best interest of the nation.  We the People have a right to know … we have a right to know who said what and when.  We have a right to know just what the Russian government did to sabotage our election!

I close with one reminder:  despite the help of the Russian government, despite the gerrymandered districts and restrictive voter I.D. laws, Donald Trump did not win the vote of We the People – he lost by nearly 3 million votes.  He won only the electoral college, and that only because of unfair district boundaries.  Will we allow this to happen again this year?  I damn sure hope not!

Discord & Dissension-Part XIII-The Administrative State

In this week’s episode of mine and Jeff’s project, Jeff reminds us all just why it is so important that we vote Trump and his band of crooked cronies out in November. If the people of this country weren’t convinced that Donald Trump & Co are out to destroy our government before, then they surely must be after the bungling ineptitude of the past two months! Thanks Jeff … great post!!!

On The Fence Voters

As my friend Jill and I have been pointing out over the last several months of our project, the issues that confront us in this year’s election are enormous and growing by the minute. While many Americans may not have realized how crucial good government is to our well-being before, they certainly do now. We see, in real-time, what an incompetent and unresponsive government can do to a society. Lives continue to be lost at an alarming rate, while the leader of the free world dithers and blames everyone but himself.

Unfortunately, though, our current president and the Republican Party paved the way for this. When a political party believes that government should only exist for security purposes, and not much else, what you see is what you get.

This mantra is nothing new. The attack on the government by the Republican Party began many years ago, highlighted by none…

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Rules Rein in Our Worst Impulses

Jerry over at On the Fence Voters provides us with an introspective summary of our government today … and why we must make some changes soon.

On The Fence Voters

Before the bizarre 2016 presidential election, Alt-Right hero Steve Bannon wrote, “The Tea Party in the United States’ biggest fight is with the Republican establishment, which is really a collection of crony capitalists that feel that they have a different set of rules of how they’re going to comport themselves and how they’re going to run things.”

Bannon and his Alt-Right compatriots were ready and willing, but not quite able, to crush conventions, to eliminate the establishment, and to relegate long-established rules to a bygone era. One must destroy the status quo in order to build Utopia.

They just needed a bellicose bull to obliterate the china shop. And along came Donald Trump.

Bannon portrayed the defenders of the status quo—particularly within “the Republican establishment”—as “a collection of crony capitalists that feel that they have a different set of rules.” So Bannon and millions of like-minded Americans set about to…

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Filosofa’s Mini Rants

Because I cannot afford a new computer at the moment, I shan’t write about today’s impeachment proceedings except to say that should Jim Jordan and I ever run into each other in person, his head is likely to look like a rotten turnip once I am done bashing it!  Since it is not prudent for me to write about the proceedings today, I figured a few snarky snippets or mini rants might alleviate some of the pressure in my head.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell posted the following on Twitter last evening …

“Critical legislation is currently frozen in place. Casualties of Democrats’ apparent inability to make headway on anything besides fighting with the White House.”

Seriously, Mitchie???  How many bills have been passed by the House that are sitting somewhere in your office because you refuse to even bring them to the Senate floor for a vote???  This was the most hypocritical statement I have ever heard!  The House is doing its job at the moment, investigating the criminal activities of the person sitting in the Oval Office.  You’ll get your chance to try, and hopefully convict him soon.  Meanwhile, why not earn your fat paycheck by passing some of the legislation that has been sent to you by the House?McConnellYou could start with … For The People Act to secure America’s elections, expand voting rights, and get money out of politics.  It was passed by the House and sent to the Senate 250 days ago!  The election is in less than 12 months, and your fat patootie is still sitting on the bill to ensure the integrity of the election.  Do Your JOB, Mitchell!


Gonna need a new computer after all if I keep beating the lettering off the keys …


U.S. representative Devin Nunes from California is an idiot.  There has never been any doubt.  I’m seriously considering reprising my Idiot of the Week feature for people like Jim Jordan, Mitch McConnell, and Devin Nunes! The man once co-sponsored an act to discourage frivolous lawsuits, but yet he himself seems to be ‘sue-crazy’.  In just the past two years, he has sued …

  • A stone fruit farmer in Dinuba, and two other people, for conspiring to damage his 2018 reelection by asking that Nunes not be allowed to call himself a “farmer” on the ballot.
  • The research firm Fusion GPS and a Democratic group called Campaign for Accountability for attempting to interfere with his “investigation” (quote marks are mine) into ties between President Trump and Russia when he was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
  • Twitter and a couple of parody accounts, including @DevinCow, who has called Nunes “a treasonous cowpoke.” He is asking for $250 million to assuage his hurt feelings.
  • McClatchy, parent company of Nunes’ hometown paper, the Fresno Bee, for writing that he had a financial interest in a winery sued by an employee who was asked to work on a charity cruise where men behaved very, very badly.
  • And, most recently, Esquire magazine and the journalist Ryan Lizza, who Nunes claims have defamed him to the tune of $75 million in writing about the Nunes family dairy farm, which is not in California, but in Iowa.

nunesSheesh … is he trying to compete with Donald Trump for the Guinness World Record of most lawsuits?

I could actually write an entire post about Nunes, but he’s not worth that much of my time or energy, so I will confine myself to his latest antics.  Now, Nunes is a conspiracy theorist … almost as much of one as Alex Jones!  Back in 2018, he came up with some long-winded theory that the FBI was conspiring against Trump.  As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes participated in yesterday’s impeachment hearings … the ones I’m not writing about tonight.

Nunes began with an opening statement which included a misleading claim that Democrats on the committee had tried to “obtain nude pictures of Trump from Russian pranksters who pretended to be Ukrainian officials.”  Then he went on to allege that the Ukraine whistleblower who reported Trump’s call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was “acknowledged to have a bias against President Trump” and falsely claimed that the whistleblower’s “attorney touted a ‘coup’ against the president.”

Nunes also falsely claimed that Trump’s July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was to express “concerns about foreign corruption,” even though Trump did not mention “corruption” once on the call. Nunes also falsely claimed that the “officials’ alarm at the president’s actions was typically based on second-hand, third-hand and even fourth-hand rumors and innuendo,” even though multiple witnesses testified about first-hand interactions with Trump and with others.

Here’s another one whose head should be made to look like a rotten turnip!


Oh, and now that you’ve gone and mentioned Trump …


The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, arrived at the White House today for a visit with Donald.  Don and Recep have a close relationship, there are ties that bind them.  Back in 2015, after Trump threw his hat in the ring, he did an interview with then-Breitbart host Steve Bannon.  When asked about how he would deal with Turkey if he were to become president …

“I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It’s called Trump Towers — two towers, instead of one. … And I’ve gotten to know Turkey very well. They’re amazing people. They’re incredible people. They have a strong leader.”

Yep, straight from the horse’s mouth … a “little conflict of interest”.  But wait, it gets even better.  Two of Erdoğan’s sons-in-law play a role here.  One is Turkey’s Minister of Finance, and deals directly with Trump and Trump’s own son-in-law, Jared Kushner (you remember, the one who lied on his security clearance forms and was, therefore, not given the highest level security clearance?).  The other son-in-law is actually a Trump business partner and advisor.

After a phone conversation between Trump and Erdoğan last month, Trump pulled our troops out of Syria, leaving Erdoğan to invade the Kurdish-held lands and devastate our allies, the Kurds.  And yet, Trump praised Erdoğan …

“We’ve been friends for a long time, almost from day-one. We understand each others’ country. We understand where we are coming from. They’re highly respected in their country and in the region.”

Understands???  Trump understands NOTHING!  Another dictator that Trump praises and claims a kinship with, while he feeds our allies to the sharks.


Well, I thought this little rant might help me calm down, get rid of some of the angst residing within my head, but it has only made it worse.  Perhaps a little snack …

A Basketful of Snippets (The Snarky Kind)

Something caught my eye this morning, blatant racist behaviour by cops – the people we are told to respect and look up to.  But first … there was this by Fox News’ own Tucker Carlson …

tucker-carlson

“Duh … who me?”

“If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns, problems this country has, where would white supremacy be on the list? Right up there with Russia probably. It’s actually not a real problem in America. This is a hoax. Just like the Russia hoax, it’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power.”

Now, keeping in mind Mr. Carlson’s claim that white supremacy is naught but a ‘hoax’, a ‘conspiracy theory’, consider the following …

I was incredulous, couldn’t believe what I was reading.  Surely this was a joke, albeit a sick one?  But no … this was no joke.  It happened in Galveston, Texas, last Saturday when police arrested Donald Neely on suspicion of criminal trespassing, though there is no indication that Mr. Neely did anything wrong … seems like he was just the wrong colour, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  Two white officers, identified only as P. Brosch and A. Smith, were on horseback when they saw Mr. Neely, who is African-American, and decided to arrest him.

The officers both had radios and could have called for a squad car to pick up Mr. Neely.  But they did not do that.  Instead, they put him in handcuffs, behind his back, then attached a rope to the cuffs, re-mounted their horses, and pulled Mr. Neely down the street by the rope.Donald-Neely-arrestA couple of passersby saw this abomination and took pictures and videos.  Needless to say, the community, or at least part of it, was incensed.  Galveston police chief Vernon Hale offered a tepid apology …

“First and foremost, I must apologize to Mr. Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment … I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of arrest … my officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest.”

Poor judgment???  No malicious intent???  If you buy into that one, come see me, for I’ve got a great bridge I’ll sell you cheap.  The officers, as of this writing, have not been disciplined nor terminated.  Anybody else thinking “Jim Crow”?


In other news …

  • You guys remember a few weeks ago when I got banned from Twitter for a day for calling Ann Coulter a ‘bimbo’? Well, guess who’s been banned now?  No, no … not me.  @TeamMitch, Mitch McConnell’s campaign account.  Remember that picture I showed you of the faux tombstones, one with McConnell’s opponent, Amy McGrath’s name on it?  Well, since he posted that picture to his campaign account on Twitter, that account is banned until they agree to take the photo down!  So, perhaps Twitter does have some standards after all.  Now, if they would just ban Trump for all his bluster, ranting and lies …

  • Remember back in July, when Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced her resignation as White House Press Secretary? Trump then replaced her with Stephanie Grisham, who until that time had been Melania Trump’s personal slave spokeswoman, but we have seen nothing of her since then!  Nary a press briefing has she held, not even an impromptu gathering on the White House lawn.  Hmmmm … suspicious?

  • But, speaking of press secretaries, Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, Grisham’s second-in-command, criticized President Obama, saying that while Trump is trying to “move the country forward”, Obama is taking it “to a dark place that we never want to be and we never want to visit again”. Say WHAT???  Presumably he was referring to Obama’s speech earlier this week where he urged us to reject leaders who stoke fear and hatred and normalize racism, but I have no idea how that is taking us to a dark place.  Seems to me it is Trump who’s taking us to a dark place.

  • BrockwaySpeaking of a dark place … here’s a sample of some ‘great’ behaviour. Curt James Brockway took umbrage, I guess, with a child age 13 who failed to remove his hat at an event at the Mineral County (Montana) Fair on Saturday when the national anthem was played.  The kid wasn’t being obnoxious, he just didn’t remove his hat, which is certainly his prerogative.  But ol’ Curt decided to slam the kid into the ground and the child suffered a concussion and temporal skull fractures.  Oh, and by the way, much of the fair is sponsored by the NRA.  Tell you anything?curt-brockway-assault

  • One last snippet, and this one will have you rolling your eyes and shaking your heads. It involves Trump’s buddy Steve Bannon, so don’t look for logic.  Bannon claims that the El Paso shooting was actually a sign of how ‘great’ Trump’s economy is!  That’s right, folks … if the economy were not so great, all those people wouldn’t have been in Wal-Mart (never mind that people only shop at Wal-Mart when they cannot afford to go elsewhere) and that the shooter wouldn’t have had anybody to shoot.  And as for the democrats, according to Bannon … “What the Democratic candidates are attacking is the Trump miracle.”  Stop shaking your heads now, else you’ll develop a rattle up there … trust me, I’ve had one for a while now.

And on that note, I will leave you to go find a more peaceful blog to read.  Something fun and uplifting.  Might I suggest this one by Gottfried over at Banter Republic … he’s always good for a bit of humour!

We’re Not Laughing Anymore …

George Monbiot is a columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian, known for his political and environmental activism. I’ve often found his column insightful, and in today’s column he makes some very astute observations about what we’ve been calling the “populist” movement, how and why the world seems to have suddenly turned upside down on its axis.


From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are on the rise – backed by billionaire oligarchs

The ultra-rich are benefitting from disaster capitalism as institutions, rules and democratic oversight implode

George-Monbiot @GeorgeMonbiot

Fri 26 Jul 2019 06.00 BST

 

Seven years ago the impressionist Rory Bremner complained that politicians had become so boring that few of them were worth mimicking: “They’re quite homogenous and dull these days … It’s as if character is seen as a liability.” Today his profession has the opposite problem: however extreme satire becomes, it struggles to keep pace with reality. The political sphere, so dull and grey a few years ago, is now populated by preposterous exhibitionists.

bolsinaro-trump

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro at the White House with Donald Trump. ‘A host of ludicrous strongmen dominate nations that would once have laughed them off stage.’ Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

This trend is not confined to the UK – everywhere the killer clowns are taking over. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Matteo Salvini, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán and a host of other ludicrous strongmen – or weakmen, as they so often turn out to be – dominate nations that would once have laughed them off stage. The question is why? Why are the technocrats who held sway almost everywhere a few years ago giving way to extravagant buffoons?

Social media, an incubator of absurdity, is certainly part of the story. But while there has been plenty of good work investigating the means, there has been surprisingly little thinking about the ends. Why are the ultra-rich, who until recently used their money and newspapers to promote charisma-free politicians, now funding this circus? Why would capital wish to be represented by middle managers one moment and jesters the next?

The reason, I believe, is that the nature of capitalism has changed. The dominant force of the 1990s and early 2000s – corporate power – demanded technocratic government. It wanted people who could simultaneously run a competent, secure state and protect profits from democratic change. In 2012, when Bremner made his complaint, power was already shifting to a different place, but politics had not caught up.

The policies that were supposed to promote enterprise – slashing taxes for the rich, ripping down public protections, destroying trade unions – instead stimulated a powerful spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation. The largest fortunes are now made not through entrepreneurial brilliance but through inheritance, monopoly and rent-seeking: securing exclusive control of crucial assets such as land and buildings privatised utilities and intellectual property, and assembling service monopolies such as trading hubs, software and social media platforms, then charging user fees far higher than the costs of production and delivery. In Russia, people who enrich themselves this way are called oligarchs. But this is a global phenomenon. Today corporate power is overlain by – and mutating into – oligarchic power.

What the oligarchs want is not the same as what the old corporations wanted. In the words of their favoured theorist, Steve Bannon, they seek the “deconstruction of the administrative state”. Chaos is the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which the new billionaires thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend. The chaos of an undeliverable Brexit, the repeated meltdowns and shutdowns of government under Trump: these are the kind of deconstructions Bannon foresaw. As institutions, rules and democratic oversight implode, the oligarchs extend their wealth and power at our expense.

The killer clowns offer the oligarchs something else too: distraction and deflection. While the kleptocrats fleece us, we are urged to look elsewhere. We are mesmerised by buffoons who encourage us to channel the anger that should be reserved for billionaires towards immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims, people of colour and other imaginary enemies and customary scapegoats. Just as it was in the 1930s, the new demagoguery is a con, a revolt against the impacts of capital, financed by capitalists.

The oligarch’s interests always lie offshore: in tax havens and secrecy regimes. Paradoxically, these interests are best promoted by nationalists and nativists. The politicians who most loudly proclaim their patriotism and defence of sovereignty are always the first to sell their nations down the river. It is no coincidence that most of the newspapers promoting the nativist agenda, whipping up hatred against immigrants and thundering about sovereignty, are owned by billionaire tax exiles, living offshore.

As economic life has been offshored, so has political life. The political rules that are supposed to prevent foreign money from funding domestic politics have collapsed. The main beneficiaries are the self-proclaimed defenders of sovereignty who rise to power with the help of social media ads bought by persons unknown, and thinktanks and lobbyists that refuse to reveal their funders. A recent essay by the academics Reijer Hendrikse and Rodrigo Fernandez argues that offshore finance involves “the rampant unbundling and commercialisation of state sovereignty” and the shifting of power into a secretive, extraterritorial legal space, beyond the control of any state. In this offshore world, they contend, “financialised and hypermobile global capital effectively is the state”.

Today’s billionaires are the real citizens of nowhere. They fantasise, like the plutocrats in Ayn Rand’s terrible novel Atlas Shrugged, about further escape. Look at the “seasteading” venture funded by PayPal’s founder, Peter Thiel, that sought to build artificial islands in the middle of the ocean, whose citizens could enact a libertarian fantasy of escape from the state, its laws, regulations and taxes, and from organised labour. Scarcely a month goes by without a billionaire raising the prospect of leaving the Earth altogether, and colonising space pods or other planets.

Those whose identity is offshore seek only to travel farther offshore. To them, the nation state is both facilitator and encumbrance, source of wealth and imposer of tax, pool of cheap labour and seething mass of ungrateful plebs, from whom they must flee, leaving the wretched earthlings to their well-deserved fate.

Defending ourselves from oligarchy means taxing it to oblivion. It’s easy to get hooked up on discussions about what tax level maximises the generation of revenue. There are endless arguments about the Laffer curve, which purports to show where this level lies. But these discussions overlook something crucial: raising revenue is only one of the purposes of tax. Another is breaking the spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation.

Breaking this spiral is a democratic necessity: otherwise the oligarchs, as we have seen, come to dominate national and international life. The spiral does not stop by itself: only government action can do it. This is one of the reasons why, during the 1940s, the top rate of income tax in the US rose to 94%, and in the UK to 98%. A fair society requires periodic corrections on this scale. But these days the steepest taxes would be better aimed at accumulated unearned wealth.

Of course, the offshore world the billionaires have created makes such bold policies extremely difficult: this, after all, is one of its purposes. But at least we know what the aim should be, and can begin to see the scale of the challenge. To fight something, first we need to understand it.

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Be Prepared …

I have long thought, and likely said it here once or twice, that Trump is a loose cannon, his behaviours seeming to become increasingly strange and uncontrolled when he senses he is threatened.  His tweets, never exactly intellectual, become erratic when a new indictment is handed down by Robert Mueller’s team, or when he is called out on one of his many daily lies, or when his boot-lickers don’t behave quite as he wants them to.  This is one of the reasons that, while I would love to see him thrown off his royal perch, evicted from the Oval Office, I cannot support a move toward impeachment at this time, for I suspect he would become even more deranged and call for his base to take to the streets with their AR-15s in hand.  Now, I am a nobody and have no basis for my opinion other than observation, but I’ve run across somebody who shares my opinion, somebody who is certainly qualified to make this statement.  That somebody is Robert Reich, whose words I have shared here before, and today I do so again.

From The Guardian, 16 March 2019 …

Trump is cornered, with violence on his mind. We must be on red alert

Robert Reich

What does a megalomaniacal president of the United States do when he’s cornered? We’ll soon find out.

House Democrats are beginning a series of investigations and hearings about Donald Trump. Senate Republicans have begun to desert him. Twelve defected on the wall. Seven refused to back Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Almost all have gone on record that they want Robert Mueller’s report made public. That report, not incidentally, appears imminent.

Trump cannot abide losing. His ego can’t contain humiliation. He is incapable of shame.

So what does a cornered Trump do? For starters, he raises the specter of violence against his political opponents.

In an interview with Breitbart News published on Wednesday, Trump noted: “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

In case you missed it, “they” are Trump’s political opponents, including House Democrats and the mainstream media. And the “certain point” could be impeachment but is more likely to be reached if the House investigations reveal crimes Trump committed both before and after he became president.

“I actually think that the people on the right are tougher,” Trump warned in the same interview. “But the left plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress … with all this investigations – that’s all they want to do is – you know, they do things that are nasty.”

Here we have it, in a nutshell. In Trump’s mind, congressional investigations that could cause him shame and humiliation, and quite possibly result in a prison sentence, will be countered by forces loyal to him: the police, the military, and vigilante groups like Bikers for Trump.

To put it another way, the work of a democratically elected Congress will be met by Trump loyalists who, he asserts, are “tougher” because they have brute force on their side.

It is impossible to know what bizarre scenario is playing out in Trump’s head. But another hint came on Friday, when, in the wake of the horrific shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, Trump told reporters he didn’t believe white nationalism was on the rise.

“I don’t really,” he said. “I think it’s a small group of people.”

As usual, the facts are otherwise. The number of hate groups in the US increased 7% last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hate crime reports increased 17%, according to the FBI.

Recall that 11 people were murdered at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on 27 October, at the hands of a white supremacist. A few days earlier, a white supremacist murdered two black people at a grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.

It is hardly the first time Trump has played down white nationalism, or signaled his support for those who might use violence on his behalf.

At a Las Vegas rally during the 2016 campaign he said he’d like to punch a protester in the face; at another event encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of any protester making trouble.

“I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees,” he said.

But as Trump becomes ever more entrapped in the web of his own misdeeds, his threats are becoming more ominous.

At a rally for Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley in September, Trump said his opponents “were lucky that we’re peaceful”. He continued: “Law enforcement, military, construction workers, Bikers for Trump … They travel all over the country … They’ve been great.” But, he warned, “these are tough people … they’re peaceful people, and antifa and all, they’d better hope they stay that way.”

In February, the White House Correspondents’ Association called on Trump to make it “absolutely clear to his supporters that violence against reporters is unacceptable”. To date, he has not.

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon, another of Trump’s bottom feeders, predicted that “2019 is going to be the most vitriolic year in American politics since the civil war”.

Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has given cover to some of the most vile bigots in America. As he grows more desperate, he is giving them encouragement.

It is our job – and the job of all senators and representatives in Congress, regardless of party, and of military leaders – to condemn hatred and violence in all its forms, even when the president of the United States makes excuses for it.

And it is up to all of us to reaffirm our commitment to democracy, even when the president of the United States threatens to unleash the military and vigilantes against it.

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.

A Good Deal!!!

I don’t know about you guys, but I could use a little humour at Trump’s expense today.  Andy Borowitz is always good for a few laughs.  This column of his is from 24 January, six days ago, but it’s still funny.


borowitz-andyWASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a bold initiative aimed at ending the shutdown, congressional Democrats on Thursday agreed to fund a border wall and reopen the government if Donald Trump leaves the country forever.

Calling the deal “a huge win for America,” the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said that Trump would get the wall he wanted plus the opportunity to do something “incredibly patriotic” for his country.

Pelosi brushed aside criticism of the offer’s 5.7-billion-dollar price tag, telling reporters, “When you consider what we are getting in return, nine trillion dollars would be a bargain.”

But, even as Pelosi touted the offer, some details remained unresolved, such as finding a country willing to accept Trump.

Although Russia has a practice of providing country houses to former leaders such as Nikita Khrushchev and Boris Yeltsin, it is unclear whether Trump’s two years of service to the Kremlin qualify him for such accommodations.

The White House offered no official response to the Democrats’ offer, but Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave it a full-throated endorsement during an appearance on CNN.

“He should absolutely take this deal,” Giuliani said. “I mean, if he stays in the country, he’s probably going to prison.”


And in case that didn’t quite bring a smile to your face … try this!  I call it “My Dream”