Impeachment Trial: Why Democrats didn’t call witnesses

There was a period of dashed hopes on Saturday morning during the impeachment trial of former president Trump. After securing a last-minute and unexpected motion to call witnesses, based on resurfaced testimony from Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), the House Impeachment Managers in conference with Senate Democrats and negotiation with Senate Republicans ended up deciding to call the vote instead.

They did win a concession to read Herrera Beutler’s statement into the Congressional record, and a historically unprecedented 57-43 impeachment vote to convict with 7 Republican Senators crossing the aisle to vote to convict the president of their own party of inciting sedition. But many Democrats who had gotten our hopes up for the prospect of getting to the bottom of what really happened on January 6 were quite deflated, and there were plenty of folks angry at Democrats for “caving” to Republicans once again.

The Real Reason Democrats didn’t call witnesses

As the Democrats have been making the press conference and media rounds to talk about the impeachment and talk about why they ultimately ended up deciding not to move forward with calling witnesses, some of the anger is subsiding but plenty of people are still miffed.

In my opinion, what is probably the strongest reason of all that Democrats didn’t call witnesses, is the one fact not being widely cited by the Democrats including the House Impeachment Managers. And that argument is: walking and chewing gum at the same time was not going to be possible. Calling witnesses would have meant getting led down the garden path by the Masters of Game Delay.

There was some optimism before the impeachment trial that the Senate would be able to find a way to handle the trial and also juggle legislative business plus confirmation hearings and votes for Biden cabinet members and other high-level executive positions. Unfortunately, the parliamentary rules for impeachment proceedings are both old and strict, and preclude the Senate from taking up other regular legislative or executive business while the trial is in progress from Monday to Saturdays until complete, according to the rules of 1868.

The only way to get around this is to have the chamber meet in a separate session. And the only way to get a separate session is via unanimous consent — which requires a full 100 votes. After the vote on calling witnesses, McConnell indicated he would withhold his party’s support for unanimous consent to do any other business besides the trial. He also reportedly threatened to obstruct and delay the rest of the 2-year legislative agenda, including the confirmation of Merrick Garland as AG. Everyone saw the struggle to get to just 57, so I agree it does not seem credible that enough GOP Senators at that point would have suddenly found an “I am Spartacus!” moment.

It would have sandbagged Biden’s agenda

Not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time would have tanked Biden’s ability to get the help to the American people that they need — full stop. No budget reconciliation and covid relief plan. No cabinet nominations. No other executive branch noms. No economic plan.

It would only play into the hands of Republicans to obstruct Biden’s agenda indefinitely and infinitely. Their base is rewarding them only for loyalty to Trump, and punishing any of the “deviants” who vote to hold him accountable. The GOP would just blame the Democrats for not getting anything done, and for dragging out this “highly political” trial that actually they will be drawing out with procedural nonsense and legal abuse — a Trumpian specialty!

I think it’s arguably just as important that Democrats be able to say that they got swift and solid help to Americans in a time of crisis, otherwise the 2022 midterms are the next jump point for authoritarian takeover. We can still pursue justice via other means that are just as enduring and have the potential to uncover so much more about the events leading up to and surrounding January 6.

The Other Good Reasons

Beyond the parliamentary jiujitsu, there are several other compelling reasons Democrats didn’t call witnesses:

  • Witnesses are not generally called live onto the Senate floor — for impeachment trials, depositions are taken in trial committees, then read into the record. Senators have to submit their questions in writing, and there is no live cross-examination. In other words, the thing most folks would be looking for which is public testimony, would not be forthcoming — the committee work could take weeks or months, and Republicans benefit more from agenda delays because their base no longer even cares about policy anymore.
  • Entering Jaime Herrera Beutler’s statements into the record accomplished the same thing a deposition would have done — it read her testimony into the official legislative annals of history. It gave additional ammunition to any of the potential federal, state, or local investigations that may follow the conclusion of the trial. And it showed indelibly the lengths to which even Republican lawmakers were willing to go to pursue justice against this lawless president.
  • No more Republican votes were going to change anyway — the trial was at “peak persuasion” because the rest of the pack were going to hide behind the procedural issue regardless. In other words, like SCOTUS to Trump’s frivolous election fraud claims, they refused to hear the case “on the merits” even though they were subject to a binding resolution on that very question that their chamber had passed on Tuesday. They chose to ignore their own binding resolution and continued to cite the fact that Trump was no longer in office as the reason the Senate lacked jurisdiction to censure him — despite the fact that it was now minority leader Mitch McConnell who insisted on delaying the start of trial past inauguration day in the first place.
  • They had already effectively made their case — as “beyond a shadow of a doubt” as is ever likely to happen in any impeachment trial ever, yet still falling on deaf ears, there isn’t much doubt that the House Managers overwhelmingly presented a successful case. I’m sympathetic to the argument that it may have proved diminishing returns as pursued through additional Senate trial time, and is undoubtedly better pursued by the justice system and through other committee work in both the Senate and the House.
  • A 9/11-style commission is much more appropriate to actually get to the bottom of the political aspects of the crime — the independent commission created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today is going to have far more time, budget, reach, and depth than a drawn out trial in the Senate, and it won’t cannibalize the agenda of other business. It can go all the way down the rabbit hole and lead us to evidence on other potential co-conspirators, including Cruz, Hawley, Tuberville, Lee, Gomert, Greene, Jordan, Gosar, et al, all the financial ties in and around the Ellipse rally, and perhaps new federal charges for Trump’s pardoned felon buddies Bannon, Stone, and Flynn. Democrats didn’t call witnesses because now, they can call as many witnesses they like without any pressure or obstruction from Senate Republicans.
  • His lawyers are just lying — the defense portion of the witness process would be just as looney toons and Four Seasons Total Lawyering as in the main show. Trump’s lawyers are just distorting, distracting, and debasing the profession of law with their clownish disregard of the augustness of the chamber in which they stood. Giving them more time to muddy the bulk of the trial record, and more time to delay delay delay and inject the Big Lies over and over again into public consciousness, would not have necessarily been worth the tradeoff in what we might learn from additional witnesses ourselves.
  • Other witnesses went cold — Pence’s staff spoke up to refute the claim that Trump evinced concern for him during or soon after the January 6 attack. They said the former president did not contact Pence at all that day, or for 5 days afterward. And yet, when contacted by the House Impeachment Managers, they indicated they would not be willing to go so far as to testify in the trial.
  • Enthusiasm for the trial would wane in the public eye — unfortunately, the general public has a much shorter political attention span than most of us Blue Check intellectuals. While it would be total catnip for us, it would like start to have diminishing returns in the eyes of the voters, especially when they discover that other business is not proceeding. Regardless of the fact that it’s actually the Republicans holding other legislative business hostage for the trial, it will be blamed on Democrats and our entire political system has been primed to blame everything on Democrats and is generally successful — like muscle memory.

I will be looking forward to the results of the independent commission, as well as the continued criminal prosecutions of the insurrectionists and at some point, hopefully, whoever it was on the inside who was helping them.

The Republican Party is a criminal organization

Only 7 out of 50 among them are patriots — the rest, cowards and knaves who continue to seek destruction of this republic out of self-interest and an authoritarian’s need to dominate others. Today’s impeachment vote of acquittal for Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection was brutal but of course, not surprising. It highlighted once again something that’s been hiding in plain sight for some time — that the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

“Law and Order” is just another Big Lie

It’s used to cover up quite the opposite — criminality, entitlement, sadism, and a zeal for the domination of others. Including both the violent insurrectionist kind and the pasty jowly turtly slow walking kind on the right wing. The GOP is an insult to the rule of law.

There is no best time to impeach a president

Unfortunately the spineless toothless Republican Senators defanged the Constitution today, by casting into doubt its power to achieve healthy checks and balances between the branches of government. They gleefully gave up the role of Congress in moderating the chief executive — to the probable detriment of us all.

As usual, they performed a series of timeline hacks, rhetorical games, and parliamentary tricks that resulting in the “logical” impossibility of ever successfully impeaching a US president. They are masters at avoiding responsibility for their actions, and fiercely protect their own, even despite heinous crimes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his merry band of “institutionalists” have managed to do more damage to our institutions than any other Republican administration, and that’s truly saying something.

In addition to sowing doubt about our elections, throwing SCOTUS and the courts under the bus despite having packed them with conservative judges and loyalists for years, damaging our sovereignty and our national security, and impugning our reputation with nations around the world, they’ve managed to turn the United States into a kleptocracy. It’s official: the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

Let the DOJ do its work

Even Trump’s own lawyer advocated for it, along with McConnell. Though he can’t be trusted and will surely have tricks up his sleeve, it would be cathartic to see Attorney General Merrick Garland and the much-maligned Department of Justice bring down the largest RICO case in the history of history. I hope that karma brings justice to all of them, regardless of the actual outcome here and now.

Impeachment vote 2021: Why the Senate must convict

The articles of impeachment 2021 are so much clearer and simpler than last year’s impeachment — it’s the Marie Kondo version of indicting the president’s conduct. His coup attempt most certainly did not spark joy!

At least, not to the patriots who defended the United States Capitol from invasion on January 6, several of whom lost their lives including Brian Sicknick who lied in honor last week, as well as 2 Capitol Police officers who took their own lives subsequent to the events of that darkest of days in American history.

That is why it is important to both get the memory of that day seared into the historical record, and continue good faith efforts to seek justice for the trauma inflicted upon the nation by its supposed guardian. The House impeachment managers are doing an incredible job evoking both the clarity of the law pointing to his guilt, and the emotional gravity of what Republican House #3 leader Liz Cheney referred to as the “gravest violation of his oath of office by any president in the history of the country.”

He’s guilty

He said he would do it, and he did it — Trump refused to accept the results of a free and fair election, convinced his supporters it was stolen from him (and them), and that they had to “fight like hell” to “take their country back.” And yet Republicans want to claim that he could have had no idea what they would do, and that the whole thing was “obviously” an innocent misunderstanding and a “boys will be boys” sort of thing.

Nonsense — his droogs Mike Lindell, Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and of course his royal brood were involved in planning this, along with multiple sitting members of Congress, some of whom spoke at the “Save America” rally at The Ellipse. Rally organizer Ali Alexander fingerprinted Reps Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama as his co-conspirators in the endeavor.

They made sure security was intentionally lax by decapitating the defense apparatus during the lame duck period, and installing a bunch of loyalist partisan hacks into “acting” positions of power who were pliable or even eager to do the president’s ill bidding.

Free Speech does not protect the abuse of public trust

Trump’s lawyers filed a brief indicating a First Amendment defense for their client, which former acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler ripped to shreds in a scathing essay. Free Speech does not give you a license to be incompetent at your job, and the Trump’s failure to secure the Capitol during a violent insurrection was a dereliction of duty of the highest order — even if he hadn’t been involved in sowing it, planning it, funding it, promoting it, hosting it, and encouraging it.

1A also does not give you the right to use words to plan criminal activities, because that would be absurd. It would essentially render all law meaningless as a deterrent, so long as you only ever give orders to someone else to carry out your dirty work indirectly vs. getting your own hands dirty.

His conduct is not defensible

Republicans are trying to squirm away on procedural grounds so they can remain cowardly supplicants to the tyrant they love or fear, or both. They do not want to have to confront the reality of Trump’s abhorrent and unforgivable behavior on January 6, their role in enabling it, and their continued role in undermining small d democracy in this nation.

There is no defense of Trump’s behavior, but the GOP wants to pretend it has a mere technical disagreement with a document’s language as an excuse to not put themselves on record for the more serious and obvious hypocrisy of giving egregiously anti-American behavior a pass — it’s like a plea bargain of sorts.

He cannot hold public office

Breaching the public’s trust is grounds for disqualification from holding future office. Why should a free people suffer the tyranny of one who abrogates duty and holds in contempt an oath they swore, as if words have no meaning? Which, in essence, is the argument of Mr Textually from day 1 of the Trump impeachment trial.

The idea that a former official cannot be impeached is baseless, because the provision of preventing them from holding future office is enumerated in the Constitution to explicitly explain the rationale. And if ever there were a case of clear unfitness for duty, it is before the Senate right now.

Acquittal nullifies impeachment power altogether

If fomenting an armed insurrection to stay in office when you lose a democratic election is not an abuse of power, I really don’t know what is. If throwing out the will of the people and keeping yourself in power by force is not a violation of the oath of office, then oaths are worthless and there’s no point in speaking them anymore. They will have become dead sea scrolls, in a language dead to us and on a parchment too brittle for continued use.

Let us not throw out the Constitution while professing to save it. Senators know better, and they know that We the People — and not their ever-shrinking base — know they know it as well. The game theory is on our side as the timeline keeps ticking away.

Senators should vote to convict, for what is most certainly the highest presidential crime ever committed in the history of this nation. To preserve this republic, if we can keep it, Congress must hold him accountable for his behavior and apply consequences for defiling the founding principles of America.

American Fascism: a Right-Wing Authoritarianism Dictionary

We glibly believed it could never happen here even though we’ve been warned again and again. And in some sense, even though it’s been here all along — hiding in plain sight. I’ll be adding to this authoritarianism dictionary over time, as I can chip away at it and as new words get added to the lexicon.

TermTopicDefinitionNotesRead more
13th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe Amendment that put an end to slavery. It was passed by Congress and ratified by 2/3 of the states in 1865.
14th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe second Constitutional Amendment passed following the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to freed African American former slaves, along with equal civil and legal rights as specified in the Constitution.This Reconstruction Amendment also contains the critical due process clause that has been so important to the pursuit of civil rights.
15th Amendmentwhite supremacyThird and last of the Reconstruction Amendments, the Fifteenth gave African Americans the right to vote -- and prohibited any type of voter discrimination on the basis of race.
19th AmendmentmisogynyThe woman's Suffrage Amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States.
4chanalt-RightA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4chan
8chanalt-RightIf 4chan isn't raw and lawless enough for you, try the even more right-wing "free speech"-haven 8chan, which is notorious for incubating a large swath of the Gamergate culture.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8chan
abortionreligious extremism
active measuresRussian
aggrieved entitlementwhite supremacy
America's "original sin"white supremacyslavery
amoral
armed robberyorganized crime
ASPDabuse & controlantisocial personality disorder
assassination
astroturfingPretending a well organized and financed operation is a grassroots groundswell
authoritarianism
banality of evil
banana republicpolitically unstable countries whose economies are monocultures controlled by an oligarchy; puppet stateshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_republic
birth controlmisogyny
bitcoinalt-Right
Black Codes
BLMwhite supremacyBlack Lives Matter
BLM (US)Bureau of Land Management
blockchainalt-Right
blood libel
Blue ChecksReference to Twitter's "verified" feature for certain members, who have satisfied the company that they are who they say they are. Originally the feature was meant to identify the official accounts of news sites and reporters, so it has both an association with -- and a legitimate lineage from -- the media industry. "Blue Checks" is perceived as a pejorative term, to the right wing. It's a shortcut for referencing "fake news," the "lamestream media," and the "intellectuals" all in one fell swoop: The Establishment.
bolt holeEnd TimesA type of retreat or refuge for those in the survivalist subculture, to be absconded to in case of disaster or apocalypse.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)white supremacySupreme Court decision ordering the desegregation of schools. Resistance to the ruling took the form of "states' rights" advocates, among much else.
bug-out location (BOL)End TimesAnother name for a bolt hole or survivalist refuge location.
CalexitMovement to split the state of Californnia into East and West statesNigel Farage, Scott Baugh, Arron Bank, Gerry Gunster
capital gains tax
civil society
Civil War
Cluster B
collective narcissism
Communism
conscience
conspiracy theory
covert narcissist
cults
deep stateNetworks of opposition within governments who undermine the official regimeWas also used as a concept in WWII Germany to mean anyone "not loyal to the Nazis"https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/world/americas/deep-state-leaks-trump.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0
democratic socialism
desegregation
disinformation
domestic violenceabuse & control
Doomsday Clock
double standardmisogyny
down ballot
doxingabuse & controlresearching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual
Drain the SwampCampaign slogan of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential contest.He was referring to the dastardly no-good downright evil of individuals like his campaign advisor, Roger Stone, known for his role in about-to-be impeached Richard Nixon's campaign as a "dirty trickster," a moniker he relishes to this day.
Emancipation Proclamationwhite supremacy
empathy
estate tax
"Eternal Rome"ideology positing Russia as a geopolitical bulwark of conservatism against a weak-kneed West (part of Alexander Dugin's reformulation of Eurasianism theory)
exfiltrationThe removal or copying of data from one server to another without the knowledge of the owner
facial recognition
fake news
false flagRussiancovert operations designed to deceive by appearing as though they are carried out by other entities, groups, or nations than those who actually executed them
fascism
fellow travellers
fifth column
fifth world warRussiannon-linear war; the war of all against allterm coined by Putin's vizier Vladislav Surkovhttp://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n20/peter-pomerantsev/putins-rasputin
Financial Crimes Enforcement NEtwork (FinCEN)organized crimeDepartment within the Treasury that handles and maiontains FBAR filings from US persons holding in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks.
FISA Courtorganized crime
FISA warrantorganized crime
fiscal policy
Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)Legal statute requiring those persons lobbying on behalf of a foreign government or other entity to register such with the U.S. government.
foreign bank account report (FBAR)Required disclosure to the US treasury by persons holding in excess of $10,000 in funds in foreign banks.
forensics
Freedmen's Bureau
FreedomFestConservative evangelical event annually in Las Vegas
free trade
fronto-paralimbic areaPart of the brain associated with empathy, along with the anterior insula
GamerGatealt-Righthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamergate_controversy
genocide
gift tax
"global cabal"conspiracy theoryeuphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived "Jewish conspiracy" behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EUsimilar to/related to "cultural Marxism," neo-Nazism, and anti-Semitism in general
Grand Jury16 to 23 people impaneled to hear evidence from a legal prosecution, and decide if said prosecution has a caseworthy set of evidence to bring charges.
Greensboro Massacre
Great Migration
Great Society
human traffickingorganized crime
hybrid warfare
incelmisogyny"involuntary celibate" -- a male individual who believes society owes him sex
inflation
information warfare
interest rates
interpositionwhite supremacyDubious theory underpinning the idea of states' rights, which is that individual states have veto power over any laws passed by the federal government
Jim Crow Southwhite supremacy
Johnson Amendmentprosperity gospelAllowed televangelists to funnel tax-free riches into luxury goods and political advocacy
KochtopusTerm for the sprawling political machinery of the Kansas-based billionaire Koch Industries inheritees, Charles and David.
kompromatRussiancompromising material on a head of state or other important figure; typically used for blackmail purposes
lamestream mediaalt-Right
liberalismPolitical and ethical framework based on individual liberty via human rights and equal protectionLiberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Whereas classical liberalism emphasises the role of liberty, social liberalism stresses the importance of equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programmes such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality, and international cooperation
lobbying
"Lock her up!"alt-Right
Logan Act
lynchingwhite supremacy
machine learning
Mafia stateorganized crimeA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates.Term coined by former KGB/FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko. See also: kleptocracy
MAGA
malignant envy
malignant narcissismabuse & control
manospheremisogyny
Marxism
#MeToomisogyny
micropenismisogyny
micro-propaganda machineMPMthe “micro-propaganda machine” — an influence network that can tailor people’s opinions, emotional reactions, and create “viral” sharing episodes around what should be serious or contemplative issueshttps://medium.com/@d1gi/the-election2016-micro-propaganda-machine-383449cc1fba#.3iq7mbess
misogyny
money launderingorganized crime
narcissism
narcissistic collusion
national debt
national deficit
neggingabuse & control
neomaniaobsession with the new -- a hallmark of Americsan culture
New Deal
non-linear warfareRussian
novichokmilitary-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and used in the poisoning of former FSB agent turned Putin critic Andrei Skripal and his daughter in Lonson in March, 2018
oligarchy
one-party state
open source intelligence
opposhort form of opposition research
outrage industry
Palantir
pathocracy
patriarchymisogyny
peculiar institutionwhite supremacyslavery
plausible deniability
Plessy v. Ferguson1896
plutocracy
populism
postmodernism
post-truth
Potemkin villageAny structure or facade built expressly for the purpose of making the situation appear more favorable than it really ishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potemkin_village
Powell MemoLewis Powell's 1970s memo to the wealthy white male elite, in anger over the crackdown against tobacco companies, as a call to arms to organize politically against "anti-capitalist" forces
PRabuse & controlpublic relations
Progressive Era
propagandaabuse & control
prosocial behavior
psychopathabuse & control
psyopsRussian
PUAmisogyny"Pick Up Artist" -- a self-styled lothario who helps train other would-be casanovas in his ways of manipulative charm
race riots
race war
rape culturemisogyny
Reagonomicsconspiracy theorysee also: trickle down economics, supply side economics, Chicago School econ
Reddit
retweetWhen a Twitter user amplifies the tweet of another, by "retweeting" it out to her or his network
Right anterior insular cortexPart of the brain associated with empathy; psychopaths have a deficit here
right-wing authoritarian
Ruby Ridge
sadopopulism
Second Wave Feminismmisogyny
senicide
sexual assaultmisogyny
sexual harassmentmisogyny
shadow profilessurveillance capitalismData that Facebook collects on people who are not members of Facebook, via association with their friends who arehttps://www.zdnet.com/article/firm-facebooks-shadow-profiles-are-frightening-dossiers-on-everyone/
shared reality
show trials
Signalencrypted messaging app
SJWwhite supremacySocial Justice Warriors -- used as a pejorative by the alt-Right
socialism
sociopathy
sockpuppet accountsFake social media accounts used by trolls for deceptive and covert actions, avoiding culpability for abuse, aggression, death threats, doxxing, and other criminal acts against targets.
SMStexting
special interest groups
spearphishingAn email designed to appear as if from a trusted source, to solicit information that allows the sender to gain access to an account or network, or installs malware that later enables the sender to gain access to an account or network
spite voter
stochastic terrorismhttp://www.vox.com/2016/8/10/12422476/trump-second-amendment-hillary-stochastic-terrorism-anti-abortion-violence
suffrageThe right to vote, sometimes referred to as "the franchise."
swattinghoaxed reports to emergency services intended to provoke a SWAT team response at the target's home; a form of Internet-based attack used by Gamergate, the alt-Right, and other groups and individuals
symbolic violence
tax avoidance
tax fraudorganized crime
tax havens
Third Wave Feminismmisogyny
total war
trial balloonInformation put out or leaked to the media to gauge public reaction.
trickle-down economicsconspiracy theory
truth decayconspiracy theory
The Turner Diarieswhite supremacy
unmaskingcybersecurityIntelligence protocol redacting American identities from transcripts of foreign intercepts
volcel
Voting Rights Actwhite supremacy
Waco, TX
wag the dogabuse & control
wage gapmisogyny
watering holecybersecurityhacker attacks that infect entire websites
whataboutismRussianClassic debate tactic of old Soviet apologists to deflect criticism of Soviet policy; whenever an American would levy a critique, the response would be, "What about the bad things America does?"Trump parrots this strategy in an early Feb 2017 interview with Bill O'Reilly, in response to a comment about Putin being "a killer"http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/04/politics/donald-trump-vladimir-putin/
white nationalismwhite supremacy
women's liberationmisogyny
World War IWWI gave job opportunities to blacks in the North, causing a great migration -- as well as a backlash and resistance from Southern law enforcement.
World War II
Yes CaliforniaMovement to secede from the US entirely, run by Marcus Ruiz Evans, Louis J. MarinelliMarinelli lives in Russia

Capitol Riots: The President led a terrorist attack on Congress

January 6: A Day that will live in ignominy. The day Capitol riots broke out when an angry mob, following instructions from Donald Trump, stormed the halls of Congress and came within minutes of a potential hostage situation or worse: a massacre.

I’m still processing the events of Wednesday, as are many. Even though I fully anticipated something horrifying given the utter obviousness of the confrontation brewing, I did not have a particular picture in mind of what that thing was going to be.

Despite having steeled myself for the past 4+ years, I wept many times at some of the imagery and video footage. The defilement of the people’s halls by a violent armed mob who took selfies with Capitol Police was just not something I could have conceived of.

There must be accountability

This was one of the darkest days of our nation. Even during the Civil War the Confederates never stormed the US Capitol, so to see the Confederate flag waving in Congress was a desecration. It twisted me up to have such a raw display of America’s deepest gash of white supremacist history taken symbolically and literally to the nation’s capital.

This event was broadcast around the world, to our allies and to our enemies. We received rebukes from Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran. We — the supposed bastion of democracy. The country that lectures other nations around the world on how to do democracy better. We have been humiliated for the entire planet to see.

We need answers about what happened here. The people deserve to know who planned this, who helped this along, who looked the other away, and perhaps most importantly: who still agrees with it (Hawley and Cruz, for one — they must go).

We must stop fascism in America

The rot of fascism has been allowed to spread to the point where a violent mob of white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy nuts, MAGA faithful and a demon’s host of all stripes came within minutes of taking hostages inside the chambers of Congress. Five people lost their lives and already are being made into martyrs.

This did not begin with Trump, but he certainly amplified the signal at a much more psychotic rate than under previous administrations, certainly of my lifetime. We are now at a dangerous precipice: in a time of staggering wealth inequality, a once in a century health crisis largely being ignored by the right wing, deeply bitter partisanship played out over decades, the creep of authoritarianism around the world — and now at home.

Wednesday’s Capitol Riots did essentially mark the “crossing of the Rubicon” that the Trump cult begged him to do — it was a coming-out day for fascism. It was the President of the United States instructing an armed mob to walk up to the Capitol where lawmakers were certifying the election for the guy who won it, and telling them to “take our country back” and give it to him — by force if necessary. Which, of course, was necessary.

That is the Rubicon — the Rubicon is the willingness to use political violence when you have exhausted all other legal, shady, illegal, and hideously criminal means. That is the fascist twist. If we do not react now; if we do not censure, remove, and allow justice to hold these individuals accountable — both inside and outside of the government — they will take it as permission to try again and again until we deal with this.

We must hold the insurrectionists accountable — if we are to keep this republic.

Lordy, there are tapes: Trump extorts the Georgia Secretary of State

The Trump Tapes make the Watergate Tapes seem like Polyanna. It’s not like a 10x or a 100x — it’s like a 1000x Watergate.

Here is the full audio of the President of the United States essentially verbally abusing GA SecState Brad Raffensperger for over an hour on Saturday, January 2: Trump Tapes: phone call and transcript

There’s the usual chatter in legal, justice, and natsec communities about whether or not this constitutes a crime — the consensus seems to be strong that it does, but then again any smidgeon of wiggle room leaves me feeling a little bit queasy.

If this isn’t a crime; if this isn’t an impeachable offense — then nothing is. If a President can get away with this to keep tyrannical grip on power after losing an election quite resoundingly, then the republic is dead and all its ideals of self-governance with it.

New year, new Lost Cause: The Sedition Caucus

And yet… that’s not all. 11 additional Republican Senators have come forward to follow Josh Hawley’s lead in objecting to one or more states’ count of electors in the ceremonial Jan. 6 readout of the state certifications. The new Sedition Caucus is led by Texas lawyer and newfound facial hair enthusiast Ted Cruz, who is in danger of winning a Daytime Emmy for his crisis acting on the Fox News network.

Along with Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), James Lankford (R-OK), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Senators-Elect Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Mr Cruz presented evidence that the people they told to believe the election was rigged then did in fact believe that the election was rigged, and for this reason required another dangerous — and admittedly symbolic! — delay in securing the sovereignty of the nation.

Essentially they are making an argument to keep this President’s fragrantly, steamingly, scathingly unethical, anti-democratic, and anti-conservative, institution-destroying behavior protected and reinstalled against the will of the people for another 4 years of “deal-making” just like this. They haven’t been silently seething at or embarrassed by Trump’s behavior this whole time. They’ve been licking it up — “finally, a guy who will really keep fighting forever!”

However, now The Sedition Gang have been caught flat-footed by the timing of the Raffensperger call breaking — even Tom Cotton has now changed his tune and come out against the coup (though not without getting a few digs in at the Democrats). That is going to start turning the momentum back the other way, with luck. Even Lindsey Graham is inching back from the ledge a bit. The Jan. 6 reception may be chillier than they think.

Hoping it’s all fuel for the blue trifecta in Georgia.

🤞🏾💃🏼

Freedom is a liberal idea

The right wing is full of contradictions — a defining trait, almost. Chief among them is this bit of cognitive dissonance:

  • hatred of liberals
  • love of “freedom”

You can’t have this both ways, philosophically speaking. The entire concept of individual liberty (hint: it’s right there in the name!) is a core insight of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment Inspired the United States

This 18th century philosophical movement grew large in Europe, predating the French Revolution of 1789 and influencing heavily the American Revolution. Resting on the then recent revolutions in science, math, and philosophy including the works of Descartes, Galileo, Kepler, and Leibniz, The Enlightenment has its roots in 1680s England with the political philosophy of John Locke.

Locke argued that human beings are capable of self-improvement via rational thought and accumulated experience. His philosophy was a break with traditional assumptions that knowledge came only from authorities, and that truth was opaque and unknowable. Working in the same era as Isaac Newton, Locke’s ideas about human nature were highly informed by the Scientific Revolution well underway by this time. The two strains of philosophy have a common commitment to reason and empiricism at their core.

Political ideas of The Enlightenment

You can appreciate why any number of authorities would find the radical ideas of the Enlightenment philosophers potentially threatening — their age-old power structures were in jeopardy. It represented the democratization of knowledge, removing a dependency of the less powerful upon the powerful as a singular source of truth. The church, monarchy, and aristocracy were all on the chopping block — sometimes literally — during this age of philosophical and political revolutions.

The following philosophical and political ideals emerged from The Enlightenment:

  • Reason is the primary source of authority and legitimacy. Phenomena can be examined in the real world to understand more about how things work and what is true. Everything should be subject to critical examination, versus simply being taken on faith.
  • People have natural rights, and prime among them is liberty — or freedom to pursue the kind of life they so choose, without infringing upon the natural rights of others.
  • Equality is the concept that all members of a nation or society are equal members and have equal standing in terms of their political influence and power. These are expressed in the American concept of equality before the law (14th Amendment), free speech, and one person/one vote.
  • Progress as the collective project and meaningful unifying force for a nation or group. The goal is to create better societies and better people by discarding outmoded traditions and embracing rationalism.
  • Religious tolerance as a rational way to prevent civil unrest. Appears in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789) and in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
  • Consent of the governed is one of several foundations of liberal thought from philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who stated that to be legitimate, political power must be representative and agreed to by the people bound by it.
  • The social contract is a foundational concept from both John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, extending the consent of the governed and placing it as the true basis for governmental authority.
  • Constitutional government has its underpinnings in a 1748 work by French judge and political philosopher Montesquieu, The Spirit of Law. This tome is the principle source for the concept of separation of powers in government as a system of healthy checks and balances to protect political liberty.
  • Fraternity in a philosophical sense is concerned with an ethical relationship between people, based on love and solidarity as the foundation for how individuals in society should treat each other.
  • Separation of church and state is a logical outgrowth of freedom of religion. The idea is older, but its introduction to the United Sates is attributed to Thomas Jefferson who declared the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause to be about building a “wall of separation between church and state.”
  • Property rights as a natural outgrowth of natural rights and labor (Locke).

Freedom is self-determination, but is not unlimited

The history of political philosophy reveals the evolution of Enlightenment thinking over the course of centuries, and how the ideas underpinning our government have deep roots. Freedom isn’t a new idea, and it does come with some caveats.

The first caveat is that freedom cannot be unlimited if we are to have a civil society. As Hobbes put it, if men are left to their natural state our lives will be “nasty, brutish, and short.” Also, we cannot preserve equal rights for all citizens if some members of society are allowed to trample on the rights of others.

That’s why the concept of liberty is so important. It’s important to our democracy, and it’s important to our day to day lives and how we treat each other. Freedom and liberty are similar and we often use these words interchangeably, but there is a very important distinction between them.

Liberty flows from equal rights

Liberty means that I have freedom, but only insofar as I don’t intrude upon your freedom. I must respect your rights and not invade your sovereign boundaries of life and property. For all persons are created equal, and the rights of one another shall not be infringed.

Political liberty has its foundations in Greek philosophy and was closely linked with the concept of democracy. Aristotle and Plato among others planted the seeds that would later be picked up by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and John Stuart Mill — giving us our modern concept of liberty today.

Hyper Partisanship: How to understand American politics today

Buckle up, we’re in for a wild ride. Many of the serious scholars of political history and authoritarian regimes are sounding the alarm bells that, although it is a very very good thing we are getting rid of the Trump crime family soon, it is still a very very bad thing for America to have so rapidly tilted towards authoritarianism. How did we get here?! How has hyper partisanship escalated to the point of an attempted coup by 126 sitting Republican House Representatives?

These are some of the resources that helped me grapple with that question, and with the rapidly shifting landscape of information warfare. This outline is a work in progress, and I’m planning to keep adding to this list as the tape keeps rolling.

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

  • Karen Stenner — Australian political psychologist Karen Stenner found that approximately 1/3 of populations are authoritarian, or have authoritarian tendencies.
  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Derrida — the logic of the unconscious; performativity in the act of lying
  • ketman — Ketman is the psychological concept of concealing one’s true aims, akin to doublethink in Orwell’s 1984, that served as a central theme to Polish dissident Czesław Miłosz‘s book The Captive Mind about intellectual life under totalitarianism during the Communist post-WWII occupation.
  • Erich Fromm — coined the term “malignant narcissism” to describe the psychological character of the Nazis
  • Fascism — elevation of the id as the source of truth; enthusiasm for political violence
    • Jason Stanley — How Fascism Works
    • Robert O. Paxton — The Anatomy of Fascism
    • Tim Snyder — On Tyranny
    • Federico Finchelstein — A Brief History of Fascist Lies
  • Tyrants
  • John Dean — 3 types of authoritarian personality:
    • social dominators
    • authoritarian followers
    • double highs — social dominators who can “switch” to become followers in certain circumstances
  • Loyalty; hero worship
    • Freud = deeply distrustful of hero worship and worried that it indulged people’s needs for vertical authority. He found the archetype of the authoritarian primal father very troubling.
  • Ayn Rand — The Fountainhead
  • Richard Hofstadter — The Paranoid Style
  • Lakoff — moral framing; strict father morality
  • Neil Postman — Entertaining Ourselves to Death
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Can be disguised as hyper-rationalism (Communism)

Cognitive and psychological data

  • conservative minds don’t accept new information coming in
    • vs. Bayesian logic
    • vs. Thomas Kuhn scientific revolutions
  • Psychological biases
    • Status quo bias
  • The Asch Experiment — more than 60% of the time, people bow to social pressure
  • Stanley Milgram 1974 — we will submit to the demands of authority to a far greater extent than we might expect
    • it absolves us of responsibility
    • a “loophole” to quickly route around our conscience, making “normal” persons susceptible to the appeals of psychopaths
  • The Marshmallow Experiment — drive towards instant gratification
  • Edward Bernays — Propaganda
  • Narcissism and Sadism | The Dark Triad — difficult personalities
    • narcissism = seeing oneself “above”
    • Christopher Lasch — Culture of Narcissism (1979). Idea that narcissism is a defense mechanism against social change and instability in the modern world. It’s a method of psychological self-preservation in a hostile, threatening world; a cynical ethic.
    • Tom Wolfe — The Me Decade
    • Jerrold Post — authoritarian parenting
    • The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump
    • Mary Trump — Too Much and Not Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man
    • narcissistic injury
    • narcissistic rage
    • aggrieved entitlement — elevated expectations combined with resentment at society for not meeting them (Michael Kimmel, 2013)
    • dehumanization of the Others
    • splitting; black and white thinking
    • object permanence
    • magical thinking — relation to Norman Vincent Peale and prosperity gospel
    • Political ponerology — the nature of evil; interaction of difficult personalities with power and politics
      • pathocracy — Andrew Łobaczewski (2007)
      • sadopopulism — Tim Snyder
    • Narcissistic collusion — the interplay of the grandiose expectations of the tyrant and his followers. It gives him power as a meshing of mutually compatible needs.
    • Narcissism of small differences — Freud 1991
    • Scapegoating
    • Psychological decompensation
    • Psychopath World
      • The Upside Down — up is down, black is white
      • No conscience
      • No empathy
      • The ultimate narcissist
      • Obsession with power, dominance, and hierarchy
      • Primitive goals, relentlessly pursued
      • Rigidity; inflexibility
      • No access to higher human ideals
      • Performative; mask-wearing
      • See people as objects for their use
      • Control issues
      • Cruel and sadistic
      • Empty and thrill-seeking
      • Enjoy breaking rules
      • Inauthentic; insincere
      • Projectivity
      • Destructiveness; recklessness
      • Conspiracy-minded
      • Cold and inaccessible
      • Reptilian
    • Terminology: ASPD and the shifting umbrella of personality disorder and Cluster B
    • Malignant narcissism as a historical conception of this group of personality traits
  • Paranoia
  • Abuse culture
    • Bullies
    • Emotional abuse
    • psychological abuse
    • physical abuse
    • financial abuse
    • legal abuse
    • abuse of power
    • Alice Miller — Her work identified the psychological impact of childhood neglect and abuse, not just at the individual level but at the societal level — where it has a tendency to produce a hierarchical worldview characterized by the need to control the environment.
    • One-sided development — Dąbrowski (1996)
  • Cults
  • “Big Cults” — rise to the level of nation-state and even beyond
  • Psychological warfare
    • Propaganda
      • Bernays –> Goebbels
      • Michiko Kakutani — The Death of Truth
    • Emotional abuse
    • Interrogation techniques
    • Disinformation
      • Conspiracy theories
      • Fake news
        • “Flood the channel” strategy
        • Overwhelm and drown out the truth
        • Deep fakes
      • Lying with statistics
    • Bot networks and cyborg botnets
      • agents
        • distraction
        • confusion
        • probing
        • persuasion
        • conversion
        • neutralization
      • flying monkeys
      • automated response
      • timed response
    • Extortion
    • Doxxing
  • Religious extremism
    • Evangelicals
    • Dominionism and extremist religious circles believing literally in the End Times and the rapture coming soon (Tim LaHaye et al), including at the highest levels of government (Pompeo, Pence, etc.)
    • Calvinism
    • Prosperity gospel
  • Living on Fantasy Island
    • Norman Vincent Peale — the power of positive thinking (1952)
    • Ernest Becker — The Denial of Death & the basis for fundamental self-deception
    • Buddhist / Shambhala conceptions of “The Cocoon” — a mental place of safety we construct for ourselves to remain shielded from Real Reality
    • Republican Denial Bubbles: climate change, trickle-down economics, “no one is racist,” birtherism, covid is a hoax, everything is hunky dory, you are getting very sleepy…
    • It Was All a Lie — Stuart Stevens, former GOP strategist and co-founding member of the Lincoln Project, spills the beans on the Republican capture of civic discourse with a set of false narratives all spinning out from the white supremacist backlash to the civil rights movement of the 60s.

HISTORY

  • Capitol Riots and Putsch — insurrectionists storm the Capitol
  • Raffensperger extortion call
  • Georgia runoffs
  • Biden elected + Big Lie begins (continues, really)
  • George Floyd murder and summer of protest
    • long struggle with police brutality and “driving while Black”
  • Votings Rights Act gutted
  • Citizens United
  • Growing nationalization of politics parallels the demise of local news

Hyper Partisanship in Congress: The Gingrich Years

  • Newt Gingrich and the Contract on America — Steve Kornacki, Julian Zelizer
  • Rise of Evangelicals and the deals with the devils (Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, prosperity gospel, etc)
    • ALEC
    • abortion as a 180-degree turn for use as a wedge issue
    • Brown v. Board of Education & the fight over segregated Christian private schools
  • White nationalism’s reputational laundering
    • David Duke popped back up in both the 90s and the 2010s
    • Some Vietnam vets nurtured their own “stabbed in the back” culture after the war
    • Rise of the militia movement
      • Many returning soldiers saw the fringe left Communist movement in the US as an “enemy at home”
      • Greensboro, NC massacre
      • The Order
      • KKK & KKKK
    • Paramilitary operations in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere in Latin America to “bring the war home”
    • After the fall of Communism, the movement needed a new enemy. During the immediate post-Vietnam era they claimed to be working on behalf of the state, but towards the end of the 80s they did a 180-degree turn to a hard anti-government stance
    • Survivalist fringe
      • Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing
      • Waco
      • Ruby Ridge
      • Unabomber / Ted Kaczynski
    • Intersection of militia movement with NRA
      • Intersection of NRA with Russian active measures

Post-Soviet Capital Flight and the Rise of Russian Organized Crime

Rise of Dark Money

The explosion of Super PACs and other seemingly endless vehicles for anonymous money lending to political campaigns exploded after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. The hyper partisanship tilted even further when the GOP quietly began accepting far more foreign contributions than many people realized.

  • Citizens United
  • Koch Brothers / Kochtopus
  • offshore tax havens
  • unregistered FARA agents (Flynn, Manafort, Elliott Broidy, etc)
  • Jane Mayer
  • Panama Papers — biggest offshore data leak in history
  • FinCEN files

Rise of Russian Hybrid Warfare

  • Gerasimov Doctrine
  • Vladislav Surkhov’s surrealistic war theater
    • Fifth World War: all against all
  • Cheka –> KGB –> FSB / GRU
  • Psychological warfare
  • Cyber warfare
    • energy grid
    • US Treasury
    • election infrastructure
    • nuclear weaponry
  • Information warfare
    • Disinformation
    • Cyborg bot networks
    • IRA & Robert Mueller indictments
    • Cambridge Analytica, data theft, and microtargeting
    • Astroturfing, fake activism, paid crisis actors
  • Financial warfare
    • Magnitsky Act
      • Bill Browder
      • Natalia Veselnitskaya
      • Trump Tower meeting June 9, 2016
    • Campaign funding
      • Marie Le Pen (France)
      • Viktor Orban (Hungary)
      • Brexit (UK)
      • Trump / GOP (US)
      • Law and Justice (Poland)
    • Corruption — organized crime, money laundering, bribery, human trafficking, drugs, arms, fraud, racketeering, etc.
  • Proxy warfare
    • Private security forces and arms’ length deniability
      • Yevgeny Prigozhin
      • Erik Prince
    • Ukraine
    • Belarus
    • Syria

Role of Facebook, Google, and Big Tech

Silicon Valley played its part in enabling — and profiteering from — hyper partisanship not just in the U.S., but around the world. Facebook in particular has a reputation for being callously cheap about moderating content from hate speech to live mass shooting video, including arguably playing a significant role in the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar.

  • Facebook as a rogue nation state with almost 3 billion non-voting citizen-serfs
    • Reluctant moderators require regulating
    • Questionable ethics
      • Moral hazard in political leanings
      • Paid propaganda machine for dictators and authoritarian regimes around the world
      • Allow disinformation to “skirt around” the rules too often, or fail to police bad actors at all
      • Fail to live up to their own moderating standards repeatedly
      • Refuse responsibility for arguably essential roles in geopolitical disasters including the Rohingya massacre in Myanmar and
      • A business model that fundamentally benefits from human conflict
      • Cambridge Analytica
      • Traumatic conditions of the Facebook moderation team, in the US and abroad
  • Google’s capture of the web
    • monopoly powers
    • surveillance powers
    • AI powers
    • collapse of online advertising market
    • collapse of local journalism
    • Youtube radicalization
  • Surveillance capitalism
  • Data as the new oil

Economic insecurity and staggering inequality

  • Piketty
  • Gilded Age
  • Progressive Era
  • Anti-Trust
  • Herbert Hoover –> FDR
  • Great Depression –> New Deal prosperity
  • Keynesian economics
  • Hillbilly elegy
    • Bowling Alone
    • The Big Sort
  • Globalization
  • Opioid crisis

Republican Myths

As further enabled by the rise of the PR-state

  • White supremacy and the myth of American innocence
  • Trickle down economics –> Reagan
  • Powell Memo –> Think Tanks
  • McCarthyism; John Birch Society
  • America as a Judeo-Christian nation
  • Immigration is bad
  • Climate change denialism
  • Smoking is good for you

Americana and Hyper Partisanship through the ages

  • 2020 election
  • 2016 election
  • Obama years
  • 2008-09 financial crash
  • 9/11, WMD delusions, Iraq War, Islamic terrorism
  • 2000 Bush v. Gore
  • Welfare queens
  • Clinton and the Crime Bill
  • Reagan years
  • Watergate
  • Spiro Agnew
  • Nixon’s war on drugs as a proxy for the war on 60s counterculture
  • White militia movement
  • Civil rights & Vietnam
  • Cold War
  • The Holocaust; Stalin’s Great Terror; Mao’s famine
  • WWII & fascism
  • New Deal
  • Great Depression
  • WWI
  • Gilded Age
  • Snake oil
  • PT Barnum
  • Great Awakening preachers George Whitefield & Jonathan Edwards
    • they argued that church authorities should not own people’s direct relationship with God
  • KKK
  • Jim Crow
  • Reconstruction
  • Civil War & Confederacy — the ur-Hyper Partisanship.
  • States’ Rights
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Slavery
  • Racism, Misogyny
  • Federalism vs. Decentralization
  • The Constitution and the Rule of Law
  • Democracy overthrows monarchy
  • Spirit of the Laws — Montesquieu
  • Social contract; consent of the governed
  • Puritans
  • Religious freedom
  • Liberty vs. freedom
  • The Enlightenment
  • Magna Carta
  • The Bible

Public education makes us all smarter

The state has an interest in educating its citizens. There are a number of reasons a nation could benefit from attending to the education of its citizens, creating a state interest in public education. Many of them are economic, and contribute to the growth of industry and health of communities:

  • More people generating more value increases GDP, compounded over time
  • Increased entrepreneurship
  • Increased innovation, and dynamism in the economy along with it
  • Improved public health and saving cost on health care
  • Longer life spans means more working years at greater seniority levels, contributing a lot of surplus value to the economy
  • Increased incomes provide more free time to contribute to civic life and be informed voters
  • Decreasing the number of “Lost Einsteins” — talented individuals who do not get a chance to shine their lights and contribute their gifts

We all have an interest in investing in the development of our human capital, because it is rational to do so. It will pay many dividends over time, both directly and indirectly.

Time only runs forward

Can’t go back — as far as we know. That makes the politics of nostalgia, of the rose-tinted past, of MAGA, to be by definition an exercise in magical thinking.

We can’t go back to the past.

Psychologically speaking though, it is common to harbor this belief. This wishful thinking.

The Politics of Fear

It is the availability of memory stacked against the uncertainty of the future. For those who lack a certain sense of imagination, the road ahead can seem dark and dangerous. They are vulnerable to succor and protection — from enemies they believe to be around every corner.

In exchange for loyalty to the Strongman, they get fake superficial protection while the leader and his cronies raid the community coffers. Meanwhile the autocrat blames the opposition party for all the followers’ ills, despite obviously being in power himself. They hail him as a truthteller.

Magical Thinking

This blindness to the constraints of reality is more common than we might think. And regression is a common defense mechanism which encapsulates in microcosm this macro nostalgia: wherein we fall back to the carefree mentality of childhood. It’s a method of escapism and avoiding responsibility on one hand, and an aspect of the denial of death.

But we must grow up, and bravely face our fate. We must make decisions that shape it, and guide our course through the significant constraints of life and the unexpected obstacles.

Creativity is the Antidote

Ironically, something worthwhile we may have left behind in childhood can help get us out of this mess. Creativity shares the imaginative aspect with magical thinking, but the difference is its recognition of the constraints of reality. Time, resources, skills, prevailing conditions, random chance, and much more all must be favorable for us to achieve our creative goals and solve our problems. It requires effort and incisiveness. It requires an addiction to reality.

Creativity requires humility — something in short supply. We will need to cultivate vulnerability and non-aggression and deliberation. We will need to rediscover community and rededicate ourselves to civics.

I’m ready. Are you?

kompromat

What I do when I have compromising files to hide is I distribute them evenly across 3 different laptops and ensure that all 3 highly reliable “works for decades” Apple machines go kaput at the same exact time, at which point I leave my home and fly across the country to a jurisdiction patrolled by Rudy Giuliani to service these machines and perform data recovery because I am looking to add maximum inconvenience to my very busy life — a life so busy that I completely forget about my 3 precious laptops which once contained both my livelihood and my most deeply personal and secret materials.

You?

Also, data recovery for 3 laptops is totally $85.

Tactics of emotional predators

Chances are you’ve had an encounter with an emotional predator — whether you’re aware of it or not. Most everyone is familiar with the physical abuser: typically the man who beats his wife or female partner. But emotional abuse, and psychological abuse, are also integral components of abuse and are often present with, and precursors to, intimate partner physical violence.

Often individuals who abuse others have a personality disorder that increases their chances of becoming an abuser. Many of these personality disorders have narcissism at their roots — a psychological defense mechanism in which an individual harbors grandiose fantasies about themselves and feels selfishly entitled to having all their demands met.

Narcissists require a constant stream of admiration, or “narcissistic supply,” coming their way. They achieve this through charm, emotional manipulation, and all sorts of shady, unethical, or downright illegal tactics and behaviors. When a narcissist wants something from you, or wants you to do something, he can become a devious emotional predator who takes advantage of your good will for his own ends without thinking twice.

How to identify an emotional predator

One way to protect yourself from emotional predators is to understand how they behave, and become familiar with how to detect manipulative and deceptive behavior as early on as possible. If you see any of the warning signs below in a loved one, coworker, community member, or position of leadership, then use caution in dealings with this individual. Seek external advice and assistance in threat assessment before placing further trust in this person.

  • Manipulating your emotions
  • Creating unnecessary chaos
  • Consistent inconsistency
  • One-way street
  • Masters of deceptive and misleading stories
  • Love to play victim and hero
  • Diverting attention
  • Denying plain facts
  • Assert the opposite of reality
  • Projection
  • See the world as with them or against them (splitting)
  • Nurturing and maintaining enemies (paranoia)
  • Moves the goalposts
  • Refuses to take responsibility or admit fault
  • Gaslighting
  • Bullying
  • Frequent liar
  • Aggressive and easily angered

Trump is a cult leader

Cult leader playbook:

1. Position himself (and the group — his extension) as the benevolent safe haven to turn to when afraid

2. Isolate the follower from other sources of safe haven

3. Arouse fear in the follower

Rinse; repeat.

Qualities of a Cult Leader

  • Narcissistic — highly self-absorbed, they demand excessive admiration and slavish devotion to their whims.
  • Charismatic — they have a way of grabbing attention, whether positive or negative.
  • Unpredictable — erratic behavior keeps enemies on their toes and fans “on edge” with desire to please Dear Leader.
  • Insatiable drive — it could be status, money, sex, power, or all of the above, but they feel they deserve it more than anyone else on the planet.
  • Lack of conscience — they have no shame and will demand things a decent human being would not.

Trump has all the cult leader qualities and follows the playbook to a tee — doing little else, in fact. He should be considered highly armed and dangerous. An emotionally unstable individual with access to the United States’ greatest powers and deepest secrets. A threat to American life and liberty. Dictator Don.

How a Buddhist might explain our political polarization

We have a hard time understanding how political polarization has become so extreme in the United States. Forget about right and wrong, and stop being so mystified and affronted that Hillbilly Elegy or Neo Neonazi don’t see things the way you do. “How can they support Trump?!?” many a well-meaning Democrat will plaintively cry.

But these judgments are labels we’ve invented — they’re purely symbolic. It’s the feelings underneath that truly produce motivation — there is a physiological reason that “our camp” and “their camp” seem so drastically different from each other. Almost as if we no longer inhabit the same reality anymore. It used to be that we routinely disagreed (and even fought bitterly) over facts — but now we disagree over whether facts have any value at all, which is a very dangerous place to be.

So we don’t necessarily need right and wrong to understand the Trump cult, and it may even get in the way. A Buddhist would offer a far more neutral perspective on the chasm dividing America today:

DNC
- What the liberal left (and a smattering of defected right) enjoyed tonight at the Democratic National Convention was pleasant to us. It felt good.
- To the Trumpkins, the DNC was unpleasant, and greatly so. 

RNC
- For Trump rallies and presumably the RNC, the feelings swap: his fans pass over mere pleasant into a frenzy of malignant envy and sadism.
- For us Democrats, those events are nightmarishly unpleasant. They give us the heebie jeebies.

Political polarization: Nurture and nature

For some of us, it’s just how we’re wired. Others have the nurture member of the dyad to thank, or blame. The community or communities around us and the context we’re in affect our decision-making as well. As our surroundings become more politically polarized, so do we — having a compounding feedback loop effect.

Some of us will grow and stretch and change over the course of our lives. Others have fixed set points. Maybe we should be asking some additional questions beyond, “But how can they believe…” including, “what is it that some people find unpleasant about compassion and love? Is it that they feel those things to be absent in their own lives, or that they’ve been betrayed by those ideals in some way?”

The Founders considered the US Postal Service essential to democracy

The cognitive dissonance of the so-called Republican “agenda” is on acute display, wherein mortal threat to a literally enumerated power of the Constitution given to Congress to establish a federal postal system seems not to bother the Constitutional originalists one bit. Not to mention said power’s role in facilitating free and fair elections. Curioser and curioser!

Somehow, one of the nation’s oldest institutions — instrumental in both our political and economic history throughout its existence — is suddenly considered yesterday’s fish by the seemingly randomly fiscal conservative. It’s, apropos of nothing (except an upcoming election in a pandemic), nigh time to punish the historic public service for not being more focused on the opposite of its stated mission:

USPS mission

The USPS is synonymous with American independence

Moreover, the origin of the importance of the post to the Founders of the nation lies even deeper within the soul of the formation of American independence: as a backlash to the British Stamp Act of 1765.

The colonies’ budding sense of unity was emboldened by collective action overtaken to dislodge the British Imperial Post (and its taxes with it), and this sentiment continued to grow through related historical affronts including the Townshend Acts of 1767, the Boston Massacre of 1768, and the Tea Party of 1773 into the full-fledged political pursuit of independence waged as the American Revolutionary War.

Foundational Acts: Establishing the post was a first priority

Benjamin Franklin became the first Postmaster General when the Second Continental Congress created the Constitutional Post in 1775. In his first term, the nation’s inaugural President George Washington signed the Post Office Act into law, establishing the USPO in early 1792. By the end of his second term, the number of post offices, miles of post roads, and post revenues had grown by 400%.

Washington spearheaded the creation of the post with help from James Madison. With it the two philosophical fathers of the revolution established both a right to personal privacy and a right to public information for citizens of the new nation. They specifically made it cheaper to send news — believing that an informed population was of utmost importance to a self-governing country.

Alexander Hamilton helped the fledgling post office with legal challenges it faced as it modernized, including a dispute with contracted stagecoach services who refused to adhere to delivery standards. Alexis de Tocqueville was impressed by the postal service on his historic visits to the new nation, convinced that the organizational capability of the early post office was essential to sustaining this fledgling American experiment with democracy.

Without the post, no West

Not to mention that, historically speaking, it’s likely there would have been no westward expansion without the post office. Cameron Blevins’ awesome infovisualisation of post office openings and closings between 1850 and into the 1900s clearly shows the reach of the system and its status as the veins and arteries of a rapidly scaling up nation.

Geography of the Post

Roads in general owe their ubiquity and quality to pressures from the mail service to provide reasonable passage for delivery. The Pony Express provides to this day some of the most iconic imagery and symbolism Americans associate with the Wild West.

The postal service was the largest communications network of the 19th century; it bound the nation back together to some small but not insignificant degree following the Civil War. Later, the Air Mail Service of the Unites States Post Office Department would be inaugurated only shortly after motorized plane flight was in regular usage towards the end of World War I.

Without the West, no America

Anyone care to argue that this country would be the same without the great American West? Surely not you, Texas — nor you, Montana. Not even Wyoming. Our national self-conception as a people of Manifest Destiny — a people whose boundless horizons were thrilling, exciting, and full of possibility. Of social mobility. Of personal responsibility.

The American identity is bound to the West. Our entrepreneurship, our creativity, our explorative and adventurous spirit finds itself embodied in the iconic images of the cowboy, the dusty plain, the purple mountains’ majesties that we all learn in childhood curricula. How would we ever have shared that imagery in the first place, if not for the post?

By the way, did you know that the Postal Service is the United States’s second largest civilian employer? After Walmart.

For all of the above reasons and more: this idea of kneecapping the United States Postal Service to further one’s election ambitions is neither moral, legal, nor historical.

It’s criminal.