Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A New Day in History

Four years of unimaginable dystopia come to an end today as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn into office as President and Vice President of the United States. It is a solemn occasion held in a city filled end to end with soldiers to protect the incoming executives from the white nationalist rebellion fostered by the outgoing President. The event will be attended by a carefully selected few in a time when uncontrolled pandemic sweeps through the country, killing thousands every day and interrupting normal business and daily activity. There will be no inaugural balls, no parties, not even a parade.

The country looks ahead to recovery. Management at the federal level, which has been suspended for months, will be resumed today. Incompetent grifters appointed to powerful positions will be ushered out. Policies implemented to serve the rich and greedy will be reversed in executive orders and legislative bills, one by one. Hands will reach across the chasm to our allies, reassuring them that we are awakening from our nightmare. Tyrants around the world will once again be pressed to promote policies of freedom and human rights.

The Trump legacy will not end abruptly. We can expect racist mobs, police violence, outbreaks of anti-American sentiment, to continue. Republicans and their propaganda media outlets have declined to refute the Big Lie, and millions of gullible citizens still believe against all evidence that Biden and Harris won a rigged election. The Big Lie will be the Trump legacy, and it will be Biden's challenge.

The fact that we survived to this point is confirmation of the strength of the Constitution and the wisdom of the Framers. We wish the new administration good fortune in leading the recovery of a badly injured country.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Two Theories About What Happened

The people who were supposed to be in charge of security at the Capitol on January 6th all said nearly the same thing: "We had no idea this group would be a problem." They said this even after weeks of social media postings and rally promotions declaring the intention of storming the Capitol and starting a civil war, among other things. They said this even though their own field offices had sent memos and notices warning of violence. The security people said they were caught totally by surprise.

So it seems like you have a choice of two theories. One, the heads of the Pentagon, the Capitol Police, Metro Police, House and Senate Sergeants at Arms, and every other police and security force were in on it. They may have been part of the planning process, with Trump and his entourage telling them to stand down and stay away and let the rightwing revolutionaries do their thing busting up the Capitol. Once the election was disrupted and the Vice President and a few Congresspeople had been executed, then they could send some cops and soldiers in to chase everybody out. Oh, and no arrests, please. We'll blame antifa afterwards, no problem.

This theory is entirely plausible. If you live around here you know how the government buildings are, you don't just stroll into them. Once you get through the lines, after the barricades, there are metal detectors, x-ray machines, pat-downs and wanding. And whenever there is a protest or parade the whole mall and surrounding area is flooded with cops. January Sixth there was none of that. All of Congress -- both chambers -- were meeting together, along with the Vice President, in one room, and there were a handful of Capitol Cops stationed outside, about the same as any pandemic Wednesday with tours canceled.

There are reasons to believe the theory that this attempted coup was a setup from top to bottom. We can be sure that Trump himself was in on it, refusing to authorize National Guard help from DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and we can be sure his idiotic Acting Secretary of Defense was in on it, and probably some generals who denied requests for support and made sure the military was not ready. There were plenty of mid-level officials who could have assigned security to the occasion, and all they had to do to make the plan a success was nuthin. Just sit there and let the crowd have its way. Memos sat on desks, requests and pleas went unanswered.

The second theory is that they really did not expect violence. Sometimes they express this by saying that they viewed it is a smallish political rally on the mall, happens every day. Some of them said they did not have any reason to believe that Trump followers would have bad intentions. The most-repeated reason was that they didn't like "the optics" of a bunch of uniformed troops outside the Capitol.

This is worse.

I can see if two political factions organize to oppose one another. One side wants democracy and the kind of government we have had for a couple hundred years with constant improvement and expansion of individual rights, and the other side wants to overthrow the US government and install their God-sent dictator to rule us in glory for life. We understand what is going on there. Antifa, and fa. Democrats and Republicans.

Remember when Trump wanted to hold up a Bible in front of a church? They loved the optics of a bunch of uniformed troops shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in a public place. It was Trump's greatest moment, optically, you can still see the dramatic, photogenic clouds of gas, the scrambling, choking crowd, the cops in riot gear with their weapons out, beating citizens. Later one general apologized for stepping out of his role (the optics there were not so good); otherwise everyone understood, that is what this government does. Portland, Seattle, Kenosha, Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Denver, Miami, Detroit, Port Huron, St. Louis, Buffalo, New York City, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Pearland Texas, Tacoma ... the federal government sent extra uniformed officers into American cities with military-grade technology to make sure the FOX-watching public could enjoy "the optics" of a repressive police state putting down an uppity minority.

"The optics" is Washington talk for how a show looks to a white audience, and armed-to-the-teeth police cracking down on Black people and hippie socialists is great optics. Those militarized police are rarely enforcing any law, the protesters have a right to be there, but if anybody breaks a window or starts at fire the networks play it over and over again and the optics are great when the cops show up at a protest, an army attacking its own citizens.

But January Sixth, this was white people, Republicans, and the optics of police actively controlling a crowd of insurgents would not look good to white people who normally sit at home and watch TV and the announcer tells them that "BLM and antifa" are looting and rioting and the police had to be called in, and they're dumb enough to believe it. Honey, aren't the police supposed to be on our side?

Two theories, both correct. This was a plot by the fascist right, from the President all the way down to the local police chiefs, to overthrow the federal government, and it was racist security professionals believing their own propaganda. Could it be that any police authority actually believes that "BLM and antifa" are a danger and white supremacists are not? Well, yes, that is exactly what they say. The police departments are infiltrated with white supremacists, including their leadership, definitely their unions. Local police and federal officers have been violently and increasingly suppressing Black people throughout this administration. It makes sense to them to gas and beat groups protesting for rights for Black people, and it just doesn't compute that their own side would cause any trouble beyond a little, y'know, boys-will-be-boys rowdiness, driving around shooting off guns and cracking skulls for fun.

Yes, of course this was planned. Trump has been firing and replacing people in his Cabinet Departments on the basis of loyalty alone for a couple of years. He knew that someday he would need them for this. He and his staff met with police and military leaders and made sure nobody would be around when his people decided to attack. Trump and his family and associates had been talking with violent rightwing groups, planning how they would pull it off, and were actively coordinating with them on the phone while the attack was underway. At the same time, profoundly biased police simply could not imagine any threat from racist Trump supporters. Simply. could. not. imagine. They favor white conservatives so much that they didn't think action was necessary when the mob started marching against our democratic government, breaking windows, smashing in the doors, when they set up a gallows and chanted "Hang Mike Pence" and "Where's Nancy Pelosi" and swarmed through the Capitol building. Their racism is so baked-in that they could not imagine any problem with a white, conservative crowd.

Joe Biden will be inaugurated the day after tomorrow and now the District of Columbia is wall-to-wall soldiers. Citizens will not be able to come into the city for the event, the bridges are blocked, roads are blocked, there are fences and barricades everywhere. There will be no celebration, no inaugural balls, no parade, no cheering crowds. It is a weird transition in a country under attack from within (and there is concern about traitors among the troops). At least these four years of overt, government-sanctioned fascism will be coming to an end.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Closing One Door, Opening Another

If you look back at previous posts here, you will see that on December 21st I wrote, "Trump is planning a 'wild' demonstration in Washington DC on January 6th, the day when the Electoral College vote count is finalized and the results are certified by Congress." That was three weeks before Trump's attempted coup, which took law enforcement entirely by surprise. How did I know that was going to happen? Everybody knew that. Trump had announced it. The social media were all full of talk about it, with lefties agreeing among themselves that it was a good day not to counterprotest -- and in fact there was no counterprotest or liberal presence as far as I saw -- and the radical right licking their chops and planning what to wear on the Big Day (Proud Boys decided on a black ensemble).

And yet, you saw it -- rightwing radicals walked right past the understaffed police, into the Capitol building. Smashed windows, broke things, wandered the halls, stole stuff. A few of them died, one shot by cops, but then after a few hours they walked right back out of the building; some of them paused to pose for selfies with the cops. Almost no arrests. Maryland's Governor Hogan says he offered the Maryland National Guard to help, and was delayed by the Defense Department while rioters looted and vandalized the Capitol; the federal government told him no thanks, not right now -- I will be interested to learn about coordination between the Trump crime syndicate and the Pentagon in this attempted revolution.

Many of the rioters were armed and at least one man in military fatigues who was moving together with several others was carrying a handful of expensive twist ties that are used by police for handcuffs, as if he planned to take hostages; there appears to have been at least one team on a mission inside the Capitol. Work is ongoing to identify the violators, and it appears there are a number of military and police personnel among them. We'll see. The Pentagon agreed to provide 300 unarmed troops, mostly to help oversee traffic checkpoints and Metro subway stations. That's it. They are pretending to have been totally taken by surprise here.

Maybe the puny police presence calls to mind any of a great number of recent scenes of police by the hundreds, armed to the teeth, teargassing and beating peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters, running over them with their cars, putting their eyes out with rubber bullets. The contrast is clear. Trump had been promoting this "wild" (as he called it) event for weeks. I have seen two social-media videos of people bragging that they were preparing to come to DC "to occupy the Capitol." Nobody was surprised this happened. It appears that the attempted coup was coordinated between Trump's people, the Pentagon and Capitol Police, and underground rightwing militias and mercenaries; the story will come out but I speculate that intended kidnapping and hostage-taking was interrupted by armed Secret Service officers protecting Mike Pence. Otherwise, you have to agree, the plan went very well.

Trump needs to be removed, either by 25th Amendment or impeachment. Nuff said there. It's time for him to go.

A new team is coming in, with a new tone. Today's poisonous Republican rhetoric has been simmering for several decades and it is time to undercut it and establish a kinder, fairer America. We have real problems and do not need to be making up my-inaugural-crowd-was-bigger and I-did-not-say-that-thing-you-heard-me-say fake controversies for people to take sides on. I have previously talked about several concrete steps that could be taken, all of which were implemented in the past and which could take us back to happier days. And how progressive does that sound?

For one, Citizens United was a 2010 court ruling that overturned 100 years of previous law. With a President and both houses of Congress, the Democrats can quickly and effectively write legislation to un-do that terrible decision, which gives unlimited power to corporations that have unlimited financial resources. They didn't used-ta could do that, and it would be good if they couldn't do that again. The ruling had assumed that corporations would be transparent and not corrupt, and those assumptions have been proven wrong. Put some reasonable limits on what people can donate while you're at it. (I suppose taxing political churches would be too much?) We have billionaires and huge companies who could buy the United States of America, cash on the barrelhead, if they wanted to. Let's make it so us little guys have a share in it too, how about that?

Second thing. In 1987 the all-Republican-appointed FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine. This was the rule that said licensed broadcast media -- radio and TV -- had to present controversial issues of public importance and they had to make it honest, equitable, and balanced. "Too much government regulation," those 80's Republicans said, and then they changed the law, allowing rich investors to influence programming so their message would prevail on radio and TV. The result today: one-sided, fact-free propaganda blasting into American family homes day and night. Beyond the point of endorsing an opinion, some of the shows present fiction as news, claiming that news is a form of entertainment. Bring that law back. I get tired of the same "panel of experts" every night anyway, what if we had news that was news? Is that idea too old-fashioned? They should be accountable for their facts and coverage.

Finally, the Voting Rights Act was, you know, awkward. I appreciate that a lot of people wanted to get rid of it. But people we do have a problem. This year Black people were motivated after four years of Trump's overt racism, and they stood in line for hours, in a pandemic, to vote, and they changed history. This week's results in Georgia, you know what that was? A: Black folks. Many states -- you might find that most states -- make it harder for Black people to vote. Latinos, too. Native Americans have real problems, just getting to a ballot-box. Even poor rural whites. We don't need different rules for Southern states at this point, we just need some federal standards for voting. How many locations should there be per thousand people? What is the maximum distance someone should have to travel to vote? What is a reasonable time to wait? What kinds of ID can be required? Mail voting -- if it's okay then let the law reflect that, at the federal level. How will mail-in deadlines work, if the mail is slow? How will signatures be handled? These should be guidelines that the states have to follow. They don't have to offer mail voting, for instance, but it is all right if they do, and these will be the necessary conditions. Like, maybe they can start counting them before election day, is that unreasonable? Today's voting environment is engineered to give the minority party the advantage; the Democrats have a shot now at making voting a fair process that works equally well for all populations.

Sure I want the $2,000, actually I think universal basic income sounds like a good idea, especially now, in the pandemic, but I'll take the two grand. That isn't why we elected Joe and Kamala. America needs a real change. We need to be kind to people who are suffering and who need help, and we need to be fair to everyone. You and I expect fair treatment, and it should be something all Americans can expect from their government.

I want to see the door slam shut on these Trump criminals. The greed and corruption should be punished to the full extent of every applicable law, and this latest violent coup attempt should send a lot of people to prison -- not just local Second-Amendment-Bubbas but also the leaders who lied to them. All of them, the whole Trump family, their lawyers, their donors, the crooked people who work for them. We cannot shrug and move on, we need to slam the door. And I am picturing a tall door, on rollers, made of steel bars. We need to shut the door on this embarrassing chapter of American criminal leadership and open the door to a way of life that benefits everyone. We need to beat the virus, we need to get back to work, our kids need to be in school -- we need live music!