McCarthy’s speech stunt gives gift of Democratic midterm slogans

Bootlicker Kevin McCarthy showboated his way through an evening of scorn and ridicule for his audience of one: Herr Trump. His sad evening comedy routine for the “just joking!” crowd was an act of political theater given no votes in his caucus were ever in danger of voting for the bill, thus no need to persuade them. McCarthy’s speech sparked jeers and heckles from the chamber itself as well as the wider outside world, as tweets poured forth from inside and out of the Capitol.

Fortunately, the GOP Leader failed to stop Biden’s Build Back Better plan while gifting the Democrats with a healthy dose of both comedy gold and some irresistable mid-term slogans:

Kevin’s nuts roasting on an open fire

The Twitter Blue Check crowd was scathing all night — just raking McCarthy deservedly over the coals for the stench of rank hypocrisy from the chamber this evening:

Democratic green room was lit

Even Congressional Democrats got in on the act, while in the act:

Inside the 4th Wall

House Democrats heckled back from the floor as McCarthy droned on:

What is Mr McCarthy going to say to his constituents in Bakersfield and Lancaster now? Is he going to have the gall to still claim credit for the money flowing in to his district? The hills this man wants to die on are paid parental leave, free pre-K, $35/mo insulin, teacher recruitment and training, Medicare out-of-pocket caps, replacing lead pipes, updating VA facilities, elder care, and expanded vaccine production among much else. It is going to be easy to skewer him and the House Republicans in general in 2022, given his imprimatur on a cross between a toddler’s tantrum and an Oscar-winning performance by the Minority Leader tonight.

Property vs. People, all the way down

Or capital vs. labor, oligarchs vs. plebes, plutocrats vs. proles, rich vs. poor — however you want to narrate it, the property vs. people struggle continues on in new and old ways, each and ere day.

Here in America, the plutocrats have devised many clever methods of hiding the class struggle behind a race war smokescreen, that is both real and manufactured — instigated, exacerbated, agitated by the likes of schlubby wife abusers like Sloppy Steve Bannon, wrinkly old Palpatines like Rupert Murdoch, and shady kleptocrats like Trump and Putin.

The United States has nursed an underground Confederacy slow burning for centuries, for sociopathic demagogues to tap into and rekindle for cheap and dangerous political power. Like The Terminator, racist and supremacist troglodytes seem always to reconstitute themselves into strange and twisted new forms, from slavery to the Black Codes to sharecropping to convict leasing to Jim Crow to Jim Crow 2.0 — the psychopaths want their homeland.

The political left loves people, and our extremists for the most part destroy capital or property that insurance companies will pay to make shiny and new again — unlike the right wing extremists who bomb federal buildings, killing hundreds of people and costing taxpayers’ money to replace.

Meanwhile, the right wing claims to be the righteous party for its extreme fixation on life before birth, yet its regulation-allergic capitalists destroy people and the natural world more broadly, from factory farming to deforestation, the destruction of habitats, strip-mining and other toxic extraction practices, and on into climate change itself. Being in fact the chief architects of manmade atmospheric devastation, they have managed to make themselves invisible from the deed by simply (wink wink!) denying it exists.

WWJD?!

Certainly, not anything the Republican Party is up to. Jesus would be sad.

What’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill?

Another big legislative win crossed the line for Biden’s agenda late this Friday night: the $1.2T bipartisan infrastructure bill passed the House with 6 Democrats dissenting and a whopping 13 Republicans joining to finally bring Infrastructure Week to the American people. Still to come is the other partner to the twin bills circulating in Congress, the Build Back Better reconciliation bill that would add another $2T to the most Keynesian U.S. budget in decades.

Nevertheless, the bill is largely paid for via various means including adding significantly to economic growth and GDP over the next 10 years. The Biden infrastructure bill will not raise taxes on any families making less than $400,000, a campaign promise the president consistently made and has now delivered upon.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is the second significant piece of legislation passed under Biden’s tenure in the White House, following the $1.9T American Rescue Plan back in March to successfully tame the covid-19 pandemic.

Infrastructure Bill 2021: Breakdown

What’s in the bill? A slate of sorely needed national funds to modernize our transportation, energy, and broadband systems, including provisions for increasing renewables and lowering emissions on a large scale to combat climate change. Here’s a list of what’s included in the largest single infrastructure investment in American history:

  • $110B for roads, bridges, & other infra
  • $11B for transportation safety
  • $39B to modernize public transit, including replacing 1000s of vehicles with zero-emission models
  • $66B to modernize passenger and freight rail
  • $12B for high-speed rail
  • largest federal investment in public transit in history
  • $65B in broadband
  • $42B in airports and ports, including emissions reduction and low-carbon technologies
  • $7.5B for 0- and low-emissions buses (including school buses) and ferries
  • $7.5B for national network of EV chargers
  • $65B to rebuild the electric grid
  • $55B to upgrade water infrastructure
  • $50B to critical infrastructure cybersecurity
  • $21B to clean up toxic waste

Freedom produces diversity

Freedom means the right to make choices. When you have a large population, that means many different kinds of people are making many kinds of different choices for different reasons. That means, mathematically speaking, a broad distribution graph of options chosen over time. Freedom produces diversity, as a direct consequence of its own laissez-faire philosophy.

The Founders knew this. James Madison was an intellectual of his day, and a polymathic student of the great ideas of his time. It is hard not to see the influence of exposure to Condorcet’s theory about decision-making in Madison’s later ideas about diffusing the flames of faction by essentially dousing them in the large numbers of people spreading out within the growing nation. He believed that ideas and interests that were actively opposing each other would be a good way to preserve enough vigor to sustain an active self-governing democracy.

Regardless of the origin, Madison clearly himself was advocating for the power of diversity to preserve the very republic. He believed that this diversity of views in fact provided the structure that would help prevent singular demagogues from rising up too far and destroying democracy forever in their quest for unlimited power. The founders shared this foresight — that giving Americans the freedom to live as they may would lead to a healthy democracy, through the promulgation of different ideas and knowledge as well as through vigorous debate.

You can’t have freedom without diversity

Many who cite Freedom as their patriotic raison d’Γͺtre do not seem to tolerate well the exercise of freedom by others, particularly others they disagree with or do not like. But as the great Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer once said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” She had the insight that if her rights could be taken away from her, then no one else’s rights would be safe in this nation either.

America has always struggled to live up to its founding ideals — but it seems like if we want to truly honor their memories, we would continue to take that vision at face value and continue to carry the light of the torch of equality, perhaps upwards to the crest of a hill from whence we may shine once again

Neoliberalism Explained: Why it must be dismantled

Neoliberalism is the dominant economic orthodoxy in the modern era. It is both a political and a financial ideology, with the following extremist beliefs:

  • Antigovernment sentiment — Their pitch is that all governments, including democratic ones, threaten individual liberty and must be stopped (or “drowned in the bathtub,” in the words of anti-tax zealots and movement conservatives).
  • Free markets should conquer governments — They claim, absurdly, that the toppling of self-governance would improve both economies and individual liberties.
  • The victory of markets is inevitable and there is nothing you can do about it — The fall of the Soviet Union was deemed the “end of history” by neoliberals, who believed that laissez-faire free market capitalism would inevitably triumph over all other forms of economic and political systems.
  • Economies work best when governments don’t intervene — Neoliberals want to prevent the powers of government from interfering with their ability to cut corners, dump industrial waste, pay fair wages, offer benefits, adhere to safety standards, engage in deceptive advertising, commit tax evasion, and so on — while continuing to supply them a steady stream of the public’s money via unpaid for tax cuts that balloon holes in the deficit. They fight against regulation tooth and nail, and try to claim that markets operate “naturally” as if under something akin to laws of physics — while failing to mention that there are no markets without regulation, without standards of fairness, without a justice system to enforce contracts and do its best to ensure a relatively equal business playing field.
  • The alchemy of neoliberalism will transmute greed into gold for everyone — The neoliberal promise is about spreading wealth, freedom, and democracy around the world — at the barrel of a gun, missile, or drone if necessary. Neoliberals consider greed to be the essence of human nature, and have modeled an entire societal system around this most base of human instincts. They claim, improbably — and surely many are True Believers — that narcissism and the aggressive pursuit of power and wealth will somehow magically create peace, happiness, and riches for everyone.

The insistence that governments and self-rule should be subordinated to the ultra-rich, to the oligarchs — that, to me, is the core essence of why this framework is evil. The staggeringly dissonant conviction about transforming sociopathy into global peace is a very close second.

Since the 1970s and accelerating with Reagan years, wealthy elites in the right wing have been spending gobs of their ill-earned wealth on creating a conservative movement echo chamber of think tanks, talk radio, literature, televangelists, YouTube streamers, and more — it is the vast right-wing conspiracy Hillary Clinton warned us about. It most certainly exists, and it most certainly is aggressively pursuing its political aims to disenfranchise the American people as fully as possible, so as to better walk away with an absurdly unjust share of the mutually created wealth by the wealth of intelligent and diligent labor here in the United States.

It appeals to the MAGA crowd because it allows them to vicariously tag along with the rich and powerful right-wing bigots who flaunt and dangle their wealth in front of the plebes by which to entice them to open up their wallets and send in a meagre donation for this or that white victimhood fund that does nothing but enrich the scam artists who run it as a hollow shell. It validates their hardcore white supremacy and casual racism alike, provides the sadistic satisfaction of attacking their enemies (symbolically and/or literally), gives them something to do and believe in, and keeps them entertained while their pockets are being fleeced in broad daylight.

Neoliberalism has succeeded in undermining some of the last shreds of democratic infrastructure and civic goodwill in society at this point in American political history. The defenses brilliantly architected by the Founders to ensure checks and balances would manage the power games in Washington to within workable levels have frayed even further under 4 years of Trump, and the vitriol of the January 6 coup attempt and insurrection that’s fueled further right-wing Big Lie entrenchment and domestic terrorist extremism.

Democracy is in crisis, and neoliberalism the culprit of this hostage story.

At least Joe Biden is correct in his analysis of the solution: we should tax the rich.

The Origins of Conservatism in the 1920s and 30s

(notes / draft) What are the true origins of conservatism?

1930s, in opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal

3 main factions then:

  1. libertarians — Milton Friedman
  2. traditionalists — William F. Buckley, National Review (1955), Barry Goldwater
  3. anti-communistsJohn Birch Society, Robert Welch, McCarthyites

After the Allies won World War II, a number of the early Hitler sympathizers “hid out” in anti-communist circles, allowing them to cloak their underlying fascism inside of the American Cold War project and give it a semi-presentable face in conservatism.

In the 1970s, 2 more conservative groups emerged for a total of 5 main sects:

4. neoconservatives — Ronald Reagan

5. the religious right — the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell Sr. & Jr., Jimmy Swaggart, Jim & Tammy Fae Baker, Pat Robertson, Jesse Helms, Paul Weyrich, Paul Regnery, William Rusher, prosperity gospel

  • Evangelicals
  • fundamentalism
    • relationship between fundamentalist thinking and authoritarianism
    • rejection of science and empiricism
    • rejection of the liberal political order
    • limitations of received wisdom
  • Christian nationalism
    • Biblical law
    • End Times

Other topics

  • neoliberals & theocons — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, and others who led us into forever wars in the Middle East
  • MAGA
  • white supremacists & Lost Cause religion
  • right-wing anti-government violence
    • domestic violent extremism
  • conservative ideology
    • a form of totalism

Trump is driving Evangelicals from the flock

It’s been said that the devilish ways of pedophiliac liberal Democrats are killing Christianity in America, but the numbers tell a different story. Following the 2016 Armistice in the War on Christmas, Donald Trump yet managed to drive 1 in 7 Evangelicals from the fold, according to data from Pew and PRRI.

Far from the surge in True Believers prophesied by the right wing, the religious right’s deal with the proverbial and/or literal devil seems to have driven members away. Trump is losing Evangelicals, and really — should we be so shocked? If it doesn’t matter (to some) whether our leaders are serial philanderers and lifelong business cheats, or earnestly striving public servants spreading compassion — what use is their moral code, then? None. It is bankrupt.

ShrΓΆdinger’s Moral Leadership

The religious right can’t have it both ways — either moral leadership is important, or it isn’t. It can’t selectively be important *only* when a Democrat is in power. Evangelicals also need to make a choice between God and Caesar. Prosperity gospel is the latter and not the former, but many pretend otherwise or are fooled — after all, fool’s gold can still fool.

Cognitive dissonance upon dissonance continues to fall in the totally unraked forest of right-wing values. I’m aiming to continue pulling on a few threads connecting the religious right, and Evangelicals in particular, to the rise of political extremism in the Republican Party:

  • The pitch that winning the culture war is more important than God’s law is thin at best
  • Donald Trump is not a Christian
  • The “imperfect vessel” fails as moral justification
  • Jesus didn’t care about tax cuts
  • Christian leaders’ claims that politics is amoral ground beyond the reach of God’s teachings is self-evident nonsense
  • Christians are leaving their own moral house unguarded. No one is showing the living proof of Jesus’ teachings anymore — and it’s not the fault of the people on the left who weren’t doing it before.

Essential thinkers on authoritarian personalities

Many people around the world were shocked in the aftermath of World War II. How could “polite” society break down so utterly, so swiftly, and so zealously? Why did authoritarian personalities come to dominate human affairs, seemingly out of nowhere? How thin is this veneer of civilization, really?

A braintrust of scholars, public servants, authors, psychologists, and others have been analyzing these questions ever since. Some of the most prominent thinkers on the subject of authoritarianism were either themselves affected by the Nazi regime, or lived through the war in some capacity. Other more recent contributions have built on those original foundations, refining and extending them as more new history continues to unfold with right-wing behavior to observe.

Top research on authoritarian personalities

  • Theodor Adorno — Forced into exile by the Nazi regime, the German philosopher was a member of the Frankfurt School who tried to make sense of the evils of Hitler’s rule. He developed the F-scale in 1947, a personality test designed to identify authoritarian personalities through a set of signature traits like conventionalism, aggression, superstition, cynicism, stereotypy, projectivity, and preoccupation with sex. His studies on antisemitism and propaganda would lay the groundwork for sociological studies at the Institute for Social Research at Columbia University, the Frankfurt School’s intellectual and literal home in New York City during WWII.
  • Bob Altemeyer — Canadian psychology professor who built upon Adorno’s work to create the Right-wing Authoritarianism Scale in 1981, the now standard diagnostic tool for identifying authoritarian personalities. Altemeyer’s research on authoritarian followers added new dimensions to the field of study, often focused previously on the psychology and behavior of authoritarian leaders of the day such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. His most recent book, The Authoritarians, compiles the essential insights from his forty years of research on authoritarianism and is available for free at the link above.
  • Erich Fromm — A German Jewish psychologist and sociologist, Erich Fromm fled the Nazis and worked with the Frankfurt School of exiles on issues of social change, socioeconomics, and a broad range of interdisciplinary studies across the social, political, and economic sciences. His first book, Escape From Freedom (1941), is considered one of the founding tomes of political psychology. In 1964 he coined the term malignant narcissism to describe the depths of ultimate evil he lived through during Hitler’s rise to power, a phrase clinically synonymous with psychopathy — the quintessential cold-blooded killers who show no remorse for their murderous zeal. His concept of group narcissism (1973) extended Freud’s theory of collective narcissism to describe the phenomenon where members of an ingroup hold inflated views of their group that require external validation from others to continuously reaffirm their supremacy.
  • Hannah Arendt — Born Jewish in Germany in 1906, Hannah Arendt got her doctorate in philosophy in 1929 but was unable to find footing in her academic career due to the sharp rise of hostility towards the Jews. Arendt fled the country in 1933 after Hitler came to power and she was arrested for her “illegal” research into antisemitism. Forced to flee again from her exile in France in 1940, she escaped to New York and became an American citizen in 1950. Her first book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), is considered one of the seminal works on the subject. Among her many other titles, The Human Condition (1958) may be the most influential — it establishes her core philosophy of “natality,” the idea of human affairs naturally renewing itself through the literal process of birth, with new individuals arriving continuously to reinterpret both the present and the past as well as re-imagine the future.
  • Karen Stenner — An Australian political scientist, Stenner is known for her cross-cultural research findings that show about a third (approximately 33%) of whites in a given population will tend to have authoritarian predispositions. Her work also shows the difference between authoritarian personalities, who have a great distaste for difference and diversity, and conservative mentalities, who have a significant aversion to change. Stenner posits authoritarianism as the result of a low tolerance for ambiguity, complexity, and — as a consequence — sociocultural diversity: “freedom feeds fear which undermines freedom, and democracy is its own undoing” (from her 2005 work The Authoritarian Dynamic).

More foundational thinkers

  • Czeslaw Milosz — Author of The Captive Mind (1953), the Lithuanian-born poet, writer, and activist grew up in Poland and lived through the German invasion and Soviet occupation there during and after World War II. In the book, he describes the psychological and social effects of living under Communism, with emphasis on the surprising complicity of many members of the Polish intellectual and creative class.
  • Vaclav Havel — A Czech playwright who became more politically active as a dissident after the Soviet invasion of Warsaw in 1968, Havel wrote The Power of the Powerless (1978) about his experiences living in the lies of a communist regime. He was a political prisoner under the anti-intellectualism of Soviet rule multiple times, once for as long as 4 years.
  • Viktor Frankl — Holocaust survivor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher who chronicled his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, his observations about his fellow prisoners, the guards, and the psychology of Hitler’s murderous antisemitic regime more broadly. After being liberated from Auschwitz, having lost the rest of his family to the camps, he returned to Vienna to head a hospital neurological department and wrote Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) over the course of only 9 days. He went on to develop logotherapy, a branch of psychotherapy that places the search for life’s meaning at the center of human motivation, and laid the groundwork for the development of positive psychology.
  • Herbert Marcuse — Another refugee intellectual with the Franklin School, Marcuse worked with the pre-CIA OSS to research and counteract Nazi propaganda.
  • George Orwell — The British author most synonymous with portraying the evils of totalitarianism through his two classic fiction works Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). To this day we use the term Orwellian to describe the creeping dread of a dystopian, all-powerful government pumping out lies and thought control.
  • Robert O. Paxton — Seminal work on the nature of fascism
  • Timothy Snyder — Yale professor and scholar of autocratic regimes
  • Masha Gessen — Russian-American journalist, author, and queer activist whose definitive biography of Vladimir Putin, The Man Without a Face (2013), is one of several must reads on the rise of Russia’s revanchism with the West.
  • George Lakoff — Linguist who analyzes political messaging and writes about the strict father vs. nurturing parent Manichaean struggle between conservative/authoritarian and liberal value systems. Lakoff stresses the counterintuitive finding that approximately 98% of our thinking is done unconsciously, and that we are driven by these unconscious thoughts and beliefs to a much larger extent than we are generally aware of.
  • Alice Miller — Swiss psychologist whose career uncovered that the consequences of child corporal punishment tend to be authoritarian personalities later in life. Her work shows that child abuse perpetuates emotional blindness later in life and a number of vicious cycles in society from generation to generation, from aggression and paranoia to corruption, crime, and violence.
  • Jerrold Post — One of the foremost researchers on political paranoia and a founder of the field of political psychology, the professor spent 2 decades as a CIA agent prior to teaching and writing about the political behavior of malignant personality types. His last book, Dangerous Charisma: The Political Psychology of Donald Trump and His Followers (2019), was published one year before the 2020 election.
  • Richard Hofstadter — studies the “paranoid style” in American politics
  • Jonathan Haidt — Author of The Righteous Mind
          

American Fascism: a Right-Wing Authoritarianism Dictionary of the Shadow Confederacy

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. It could happen here, and it did, because it’s happened here before. This authoritarianism dictionary charts the rise of language, ideology, tactics, and historical movements over the modern political period, to arm us with the knowledge we need to understand the tricks of the trade.

For a long time it was convenient to think of authoritarian personality as primarily a European problem, or in any case, a phenomenon that happened elsewhere. We are still waking up (…again) to the scope and depth of the problem, while anti-government groups organize relatively openly and we have yet to see justice for the January 6 attack on our capital. There is much work to be done, and in the meantime we can always continue to educate ourselves about our nation’s history — and the role of slavery, white supremacy, and racism in the shaping of the country and the future class structure of today’s America.

The myth of white innocence is toxic to this understanding. Those who say they “don’t see” race or “don’t want to talk about” race put their white privilege on full display in demanding their right to opt-out of the discussion on race. They’re not interested in having a discussion on race — they’re interested in silencing events like the Tulsa Race Massacre and ensuring we lack the language even to describe the horrors being visited upon human beings by the silencers. The only “discussion” they want to have about the matter is spoken in the words of Smith & Wesson, Chapter AR-15.

American Authoritarianism

White supremacy, in fact, in part inspired Hitler and the Nazis. In turn, the Nazis inspired the original America First movement at the hands of Charles Lindbergh, a notoriously avowed anti-Semite who vociferously opposed America’s involvement in World War II. Lindbergh and the other early movement conservative extremists lost the battle, but the Allies won the war — and — fascism as an ideology was defeated in the popular mind for a goodly while.

But prejudice is a beast that never sleeps — only fitfully slumbers and simmers beneath the surface. It has been rebuilding covertly for years and decades, if it can even be said to have gone away.

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. It’s highly encouraging that the American people were able to throw off the would-be dictator Trump, but the Republican party continues to press their seditious aims in his name. They continue to trade on the Confederate ideals long defeated, discredited, and dishonored in this nation. Let’s educate each other on the techniques being used against us by the powerful to limit our frames, and to inhibit our awareness, our choices, and our awareness of our choices.

The hour is late, and we must act with all haste.

Authoritarianism Dictionary

TermTopicDefinition
1st Amendment
2nd Amendment
13th AmendmentThe Amendment that put an end to slavery. It was passed by Congress and ratified by 2/3 of the states in 1865.
14th AmendmentThe 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.
15th AmendmentThird 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 AmendmentThe woman's Suffrage Amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States.
4chanA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.
8chanIf 4chan wasn't raw and lawless enough for you, you could try the even more right-wing "free speech"-haven 8chan while it still stood (now 8kun). Described by its founder Frederick Bennan as "if 4chan and reddit had a baby," the site is notorious for incubating Gamergate, which morphed into PizzaGate, which morphed into QAnon -- and for generally being a cesspool of humanity's worst stuff.
8kunThe rebranded incarnation of 8chan after being booted offline and haggling with its founder, Frederick Brennan.
abortionThe safe medical procedure for ending a pregnancy.
active measuresA style of political warfare originating in the Soviet Union in the 1920s incorporating spycraft, disinformation, propaganda, sabotage, and destabilization, among other offensive programs targeting the USSR's geopolitical foes including the United States.
ad populum
aggrieved entitlementA term coined by sociologist Michael Kimmel, who documents the perceived emasculation of America's white male uneducated class and their reactionary rage against social justice and marginal groups getting the spotlight.
America's "original sin"A reference to the institution of slavery.
amoralWithout morality; without empathy or compassion.
anti-abortion
anti-CommunistThe Cold War Red Scare was promulgated by Senator Eugene McCarthy with help from lawyer Roy Cohn -- who later famously weaned Donald Trump in his image. The John Birch Society and movement conservatives seethed about ehe enemies within, as middle America set about booming with the Boomers for an entire generation of widely shared prosperity.
anti-intraceptionPsychologist Theodor Adorno's term for individuals who resist self-reflection and exhibit the absence of looking inward.
anti-racism
anti-taxGrover Norquist is a little piggie
armed robberyHolding someone or something up at gunpoint.
Ashe experiments
ASPDantisocial personality disorder
assassinationThe killing of a head of state or other important figure for political or ideological reasons, as opposed to murder as a crime of passion.
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 states
bandwagon
The Big Lie
birth control
birtherism
bitcoinThe original cryptocurrency represents an entirely new form of money; a way to store value digitally usig the blockchain.
Black Codes
BLMBlack Lives Matter
BLM (US)Bureau of Land Management
blockchainDigital ledger of events and transactions that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
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.
bolt holeA type of retreat or refuge for those in the survivalist subculture, to be absconded to in case of disaster or apocalypse.
Brooks Brothers Riot
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)Supreme 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)Another name for a bolt hole or survivalist refuge location.
CalexitMovement to split the state of Californnia into East and West states
Calvinism
capital gains tax
carried-interest taxmore significant for private equity than for hedge fundsa subset of capital gains taxationWarren Buffett’s famous complaint that he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary: β€œIt offends our values as a nation when an investment manager making fifty million dollars can pay a lower tax rate on her earned income than a teacher making fifty thousand dollars pays on her income.”
cathexisA kind of fusion the people of a nation may claim to feel with the fascist leader.
Citizens United
civil society
Civil War
climate change denialism
CloudFlareA company that protects websites from cyberattacks, it dropped support for 8chan after the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso. The shooter had posted his anti-immigrant manifesto on 8chan before the event, another in a series of eerily similar patterned shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand and a San Diego synagogue.
Cluster B
collective narcissism
Columbine Massacre
Communism
The Confederacy
conscience
conspiracy theory
convict leasing
covert narcissist
Critical Race Theory
critical theory
crocodile tears
crying wolf
cultism
cults
cultural Marxism
dark money
death cult
deep stateNetworks of opposition within governments who undermine the official regime
democratic socialism
desegregation
disinformation
domestic violence
Doomsday Clock
double standard
down ballot
doxingResearching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual
Drain the SwampCampaign slogan of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential contest.
El Paso Walmart shooting
Emancipation Proclamation
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
Fairness Doctrine1949 FCC policy requiring broadcast networks to present controversial issues important to the public in a non-partisan way, that was repealed under Reagan in 1987.
fake news
false flagcovert 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 warnon-linear war; the war of all against all
filibuster
Financial Crimes Enforcement NEtwork (FinCEN)Department within the Treasury that handles and maiontains FBAR filings from US persons holding in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks.
FISA Court
FISA warrant
fiscal policy
flat earthers
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
forever wars
The Frankfurt School
Freedmen's Bureau
FreedomFestConservative evangelical event annually in Las Vegas
Free Speech
free trade
fronto-paralimbic areaPart of the brain associated with empathy, along with the anterior insula
fundamentalism
Gab
GamerGate
genocide
gift tax
"global cabal"euphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived "Jewish conspiracy" behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EU
globalists
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 Awakening
Great Migration
Great Society
greed
Guantanamo
human trafficking
hybrid warfare
hypercapitalism
incel"involuntary celibate" -- a male individual who believes society owes him sex
inflation
information warfare
interest rates
internationalist
interpositionDubious theory underpinning the idea of states' rights, which is that individual states have veto power over any laws passed by the federal government
Iran-Contra
iron triangleA conspiracy between organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders to turn the state into a kleptocracy -- or "rule by thieves"
Jim Crow South
Johnson AmendmentAllowed televangelists to funnel tax-free riches into luxury goods and political advocacy
Karen
kleptocracyLiterally, "rule by thieves" -- a system of government in which the people at the top steal wealth from the nation and its people for themselves and their cronies.
KochtopusTerm for the sprawling political machinery of the Kansas-based billionaire Koch Industries inheritees, Charles and David.
kompromatcompromising material on a head of state or other important figure; typically used for blackmail purposes
lamestream media
liberalismPolitical and ethical framework based on individual liberty via human rights and equal protection
literacy tests
lobbying
"Lock her up!"
Logan Act
Lost Cause religionAfter the Civil War, the Confederates never accepted defeat. Instead, they wove a noble victim mythology into white southern Christianity, in an attempt to memory hole the terrorism they'd wrought -- and wished to continue practicing without scrutiny or accountability, thank you very much.
lynching
machine learning
Mafia stateA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates.
MAGA"Make America Great Again" -- one of Donald Trump's campaign slogans.
malignant envy
malignant narcissism
manosphere
Marxism
mental predation
#MeToo
microaggressions
micropenis
micro-propaganda machineThe β€œmicro-propaganda machine” (MPM) β€” an influence network that can tailor people’s opinions, emotional reactions, and create β€œviral” sharing episodes around what should be serious or contemplative issues
minority rule
mirror neurons
misogyny
MK Ultra
money laundering
narcissism
narcissistic collusion
natalityHannah Arendt's term, and her most hopefuly theory for the future of humankind -- that it will continually be renewed by the literal birth of new generations of humans to reinterpret the human condition and our existence in the world.
national debt
national deficit
national security
NDANon-disclosure agreement
negging
neomaniaobsession with the new -- a hallmark of American culture
New Deal
New Jim Crow
non-linear warfare
normalcy bias
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
nullification
obstruction
Oklahoma City bombing
oligarchy
one-party state
open source intelligence
opposhort form of opposition research
outrage industry
PAC
Palantir
paralipsisA rhetorical device in which the speaker feigns ignorance of the thing he or she is saying; "Saying / not saying" -- it offers a thin veneer of plausible deniability in a naked attempt to escape accountabilitty for saying exactly that.
paralogic
paranoia
pathocracy
patriarchy
peculiar institutionslavery
peonage
plausible deniability
Plessy v. Ferguson1896
plutocracy
poll tax
ponerologyThe study of evil
populism
postmodernism
post-truth
Potemkin villageAny structure or facade built expressly for the purpose of making the situation appear more favorable than it really is
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
PRpublic relations
previous question ruleA parliamentary rule present in the initial decades of the Senate, borrowed from British law, that allowed the majority proponents of a bill or measure to call an end to debate about the provision with a short warning period of usually about 5 minutes.
Progressive Era
propaganda
prosperity gospel
prosocial behavior
psychopath
psyopsPsychological operations
PUA"Pick Up Artist" -- a self-styled lothario who helps train other would-be casanovas in his ways of manipulative charm
Pulse Nightclub shooting
race riots
race war
rape culture
Reagonomics
Reddit
regression
retweetWhen a Twitter user amplifies the tweet of another, by "retweeting" it out to her or his network
RICO
Right anterior insular cortexPart of the brain associated with empathy; psychopaths have a deficit here
right-wing authoritarian
Roe v. Wade
Ruby Ridge
running out the clock
sadism
sadopopulism
Sandy Hook school shooting
Second Wave Feminism
Section 230
senicide
sexual assault
sexual harassment
shadow profilesData that Facebook collects on people who are not members of Facebook, via association with their friends who are
sharecropping
shared reality
show trials
Signalencrypted messaging app
sit-ins
SJWSocial 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
stand your ground
stochastic terrorism
suffrageThe right to vote, sometimes referred to as "the franchise."
SuperPAC
supremacy
surveillance capitalism
surveillance state
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 fraud
tax havens
Third Wave Feminism
totalism
total war
trial balloonInformation put out or leaked to the media to gauge public reaction.
trickle-down economics
truth decay
The Turner Diaries
Tulsa Race MassacreA mob of murderous whites descended on the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, dubbed Black Wall Street, and razed it to the ground. They dropped homemade bombs in the first ever domestic aerial attack on American soil. Over three hundred Blacks were murdered and hastily buried or burned. Police and other state officials were complicit; no one was ever charged for the crimes and insurance companies refused to honor Black business owner's claims from the destruction of their livelihood and senseless slaughter of their friends, families, and community.
Twitter
Uberman
unmaskingIntelligence protocol redacting American identities from transcripts of foreign intercepts
vast right-wing conspiracy
volcel
Voting Rights Act
Waco, TX
wag the dog
wage gap
Watergate
watering holehacker attacks that infect entire websites
whataboutismClassic 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?"
white collar crime
white nationalism
women's liberation
word salad
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. Marinelli

Proteanism vs. cultism: The battle between open and closed societies

  • proteanism is Robert Jay Lifton’s idea of a model for the self that could serve as an aspirational escape hatch from the clutches of cultism, which is otherwise always happening
  • cultism (i.e. “losing reality“) is what happens “by default” if effort is not made to form and maintain healthy cultures
  • cultism is what most individuals devolve to or maintain throughout their lives, if they lack proteanism
  • I believe professor Lifton is onto something real in this particular interpretation of our Manichaean struggle — in which the political left and the right have self-sorted into separate clusters with wildly disparate interpretations of reality
  • the cultists are dying (quite literally) for the words of a delusional sociopath who swept them out of power with his spew of thinly veiled white supremacy and gold veneer charm
    • they want the apocalypse to come
    • The oil preachers have brainwashed the masses into believing climate change is The Rapture — they want climate change. They think it’s God’s plan.

Cultism as a kind of collective personality disorder

  • we all get stuck in our own mental loops sometimes. Some people are exclusively stuck in their own mental loops — most are disregarded, but some achieve wide notoriety, wealth, and sometimes political power.
  • Some nefarious mental predators thrive on getting other people stuck in *their* loops — everyone from garden variety abusers to cult leaders take this general approach to convincing others to abandon their own ways of thinking and spend all their time consumed with thoughts of The Authority’s Philosophy. Some individuals with an authoritarian worldview willingly submit to a strongman and abdicate decision-making to untrustworthy others.
  • Charismatic leaders have ruled over human groups since the dawn of humanity itself, but only in the past century with the invention of mass media technologies and techniques have demagogues been able to achieve a kind of totalist saturation of the common space and common understanding — giving them an ability to spin the entire agenda in their favor, and in turn, effectively “own reality”
  • When a leader with a personality disorder achieves power, he draws the other antisocial sleeper cells out of hiding for the coming feast.
  • The leader installs his cronies into positions of power and corrupts the institutions that are meant to safeguard democracy. Instead of acting as a bulwark against nefarious intent, these agencies begin to look the other way against crimes committed by the leader and his buddies — and later, will directly participate and optimize their contributions.

The enemy at the gates is us

  • Cultism can be induced very simply, by stressing a population. That’s it — that’s all it takes, for people to turn inward, become suspicious, and react with excessive fear in the face of gnawing uncertainty.
  • It takes strong character to resist the siren songs of disinformation and spoon-fed flattery
  • Building strong character is hard work. Much much harder than most people are interested in putting in — or even capable of
  • Consequently, many people of weak character are easily taken in by con men, grifters, and slick talkers of all stripes.
  • However, these con artists are very good at one thing: convincing people of weak character that specific enemies are to blame for all their troubles, and getting them to give money or take action against these Satanic Democratic pedophiles who want to ruin the world with their Leftist Apocalypse, instead of ruining the world with the proper Rightist Apocalypse and Rapturing all the evil elites away!
  • These pawns, peons, and proles will dutifully go looking over hill and dale, under Pelosi’s chair for the violent Antifa socialists who want to take over the government
  • They want to build a physical border wall to keep out poor, bedraggled refugees while allowing foreign bidders to pay pennies on the dollar to buy political influence through Facebook, Google, and other unregulated new media platforms
  • It’s McCarthyism turned on its head — but since we’ve already cried wolf once, no one will really believe that Russians pulled off the greatest psyops campaign of all time
proteanismcultism
seeks expansion of event horizonradical reduction of the "size of the universe" and human potential
open systemclosed system
personal growthstagnation; stasis
Bayesian logicmotivated reasoning
collects dataselective exposure
positive disintegrationimmaturity
questions authorityfollows orders
new ideasold dogma
improvisationalritual
iterativerecursive
expansivelimited
motivated by lovemotivated by fear
generativedestructive

Values of the Left and the Right: Liberal vs. Authoritarian Worldviews

The following list must be prefaced with some caveats about painting with broad strokes, and acknowledging everything is a distribution and Not All Republicans espouse all of these things to the same degree or even at all. Nevertheless, both the extremism and the polarization in our political system is the highest in recent memory — certainly in the totality of my Generation X memory, and by all accounts the highest since the 1930s. Extremism is high on both the Left and the Right, but research shows it’s been growing much more extreme on the Right.

And in many ways it feels like we are living through something akin to the 1930s, again. The rise in authoritarian regimes and totalist thought and linguistic patterns is troubling and dangerous. The United States never had an armed insurrection take over the Capitol building prior to January 6, 2021. America has had many periods of brutality in its past and present, but historically speaking nothing like the recent decades of escalating mass shooter events.

What can explain the religious devotion to a failed businessman and failed President on the Right? Loathe him through we might on the Left, Trump is revered on the Right for espousing the “virtues” of a traditional hierarchical society, and for giving coded approval to America’s most shadowy extremist groups that he would be finding excuses to look the other way if they chose to strike. They both held up their ends of the bargain, with would-be assassins in tactical gear assaulting the nation’s lawmakers as they certified the 2020 election results as mandated by the Constitution, and paid puppets in the Senate letting them all off the hook… technically speaking, that is.

Trump looked the other way, but only for another 14 days — until Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. With a new sheriff Merrick Garland in town, all bets are off regarding leniency for the nation’s most vile and seditious lot who stormed the Capitol and disrupted the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in US history — a sad day for the country and its venerable history of managing to keep the republic.

This will be a work in progress, as usual. And a tool for discussion — we’re going to need it for the coming years.

Liberal ValuesAuthoritarian Values
EqualityHierarchy
JusticeForce
LibertyControl
Popular sovereigntyUnpopular rule
Common goodPrivatization
LogicMagical Thinking
ReasonPower
TruthPropaganda
HistoryMyth
RealityFantasy
ResponsibilityEscapism
RationalityIrrationality
IntegrityHypocrisy
CharacterCharacter disorder
WisdomIgnorance
GenerosityGreed
HonestyDeception
EarnestnessCynicism
SkepticismLoyalty
CuriosityBoredom
CompassionContempt
EmpathySadism
Driven by careDriven by fear
MoralityNihilism
TransparencySecrecy
ConsiderationCallousness
PatienceImpatience
MaturityImmaturity
Emotional intelligenceEmotional manipulation
WholeheartednessCognitive dissonance
VulnerabilityDefensiveness
AuthenticityMimicry
DeliberationAct without thinking
De-escalationAggression
ConsciousUnconscious
Self-awareSelf-deception
EducationBrainwashing
DiversityConformity
CreativityDestruction
ArtisticFundamentalist
SolutionsGrievance
CommunityRugged individualism
TrustDistrust
GratitudeEnvy
RespectDisrespect
SustainabilityExtraction
Self-regardCathexis
SpiritualityReligiosity
Self-actualizationFollow the leader
Problem solvers"Tear it down"-ers

Political contributions by industry, 2019-2020

These numbers come from the FEC by way of opensecrets.org, and indicate the industry each donor reports they work for (or Retired, if they report not working any longer). The overall political contributions have skyrocketed within our system since the Citizens United ruling gave corporations wide latitude to give money to political campaigns, without necessarily any disclosure or transparency requirements attached. The era of dark money in politics has not been a healthy one in terms of preserving our democracy.

Of note:

  • Retired folks tend to lean Republican in their political contributions (i.e. older skews GOP)
  • Finance and Real Estate are more seemingly even or slightly Democratic than I would have predicted
  • Manufacturing and Oil & Gas are the 2 largest Republican leaning industries — both dwindling and diminishing over the long term horizon.
  • The Entertainment industry is one of the most left-leaning of the bunch, giving more than about 90% overall to Democratic candidates or causes. No wonder it’s a favorite target of the Sedition Caucus!
  • Any way you slice it, Democrats appear to be vastly outpacing Republicans in terms of fundraising efforts — yet they are the ones calling for campaign finance reform, because the system of peddling influence is so out of hand.
  • Business is definitely outspending labor, however.
IndustryOverall TotalTo Democrats & Liberal GroupsTo Republicans & Conservative GroupsLean
Retired$1688335247$558769474$956076774Leans Republican/Conservative
Securities/Invest$799576406$195353417$119774048Leans Democrat/Liberal
Democratic/Liberal$774146476$317188055$154316Solidly Democrat/Liberal
Misc Finance$485711802$74077242$57181223On the fence
Real Estate$413020609$140563098$176894028On the fence
Education$348509465$288454435$31460036Solidly Democrat/Liberal
Repub/Conservative$339055614$69348$157252042Solidly Republican/Conservative
Lawyers/Law Firms$335929913$257159915$57685804Leans Democrat/Liberal
Health Professionals$269975444$140853584$78014653Leans Democrat/Liberal
Electronics Mfg/Eqp$208004155$94608885$32603257Leans Democrat/Liberal
Non-Profits$202452440$69589426$19720845Leans Democrat/Liberal
Candidate Cmtes$188819128$136105830$51564268Leans Democrat/Liberal
Misc Mfg/Distrib$157276344$29647438$48516563Leans Republican/Conservative
Business Services$156224706$103637971$33237078Leans Democrat/Liberal
Civil Servants$152396172$108270008$32933733Leans Democrat/Liberal
Health Services$151572671$30508636$20672661Leans Democrat/Liberal
TV/Movies/Music$148578590$94319349$11506121Solidly Democrat/Liberal
Oil & Gas$138613800$12208486$62767803Leans Republican/Conservative
Casinos/Gambling$135900829$11447516$12059744On the fence
Insurance$124556637$47865829$53786498On the fence

Efficiency isn’t everything

There are many things in life you don’t want to rush through; many experiences you wish to linger. The American cult of efficiency is a kind of over-optimization, and over-fitting of a line that delusionally demands up and to the right every single day, every single quarter, every single time.

The benefits of stopping to smell the flowers have been extolled by sages and philosophers throughout the ages. In all of recorded human history lies some form of the mantra, “haste unto death” — for it is true. We rush headlong off the cliff after all the lemmings ahead of us. We can’t help ourselves — eternal moths to eternal flames.

The slow life

From the cuisine to jurisprudence, from behavior economics to psychological well-being, moving more slowly has numerous well-established benefits. Efficiency should never be the only goal, in any domain or at all times. As Madison strongly agreed with, “moderation in all things” is the mathematically optimal way to approach life, justice, and governing. Influenced by the Marquis du Condorcet, the invention of statistics, and a distaste for extremism in all forms, The Founders were prescient regarding the later theory of the wisdom of the crowds. They sought to temper the passions of the crowds via checks and balances in our system of governance.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. That the veracity of the quote remains unsettled is unsettling, like strange fruit swinging in the southern breeze. Yet the “quick justice” barbaric efficiency of slavery, the Confederacy, Jim Crow, superpredators, and mowing down unarmed Black men for traffic violations to name a few, are no examples of fairness. Faster isn’t always better, especially when it comes to justice. It takes time to gather facts, talk to witnesses, piece together the crimes and document them in an airtight way, brokering no doubt in the mind of a single jurist.

More efficiency topics

Areas I’ll be further exploring:

  • Slow thinking — Daniel Kahneman’s behavioral economics and cognition theory about slow and fast thinking systems in the brain, how they physiologically arose, and their implications for bias, decision making, geopolitics, and more.
  • Journey vs. Destination — It’s not just about getting to the same restaurant and eating the same thing. The end doesn’t always justify the means. Traveler vs. Tourist. Go with the flow. Roll with it, baby.
  • An ounce of caution — A stitch of time. He who makes haste makes waste. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Be careful!
  • Self-reflection — Thoughtfulness. Rumination. Mindfulness. Presence.
  • Being too busy speeds up time, not necessarily in a good way. Leads to the unexamined life, a Stoic no-no. Socrates would not approve, dude.
  • Enoughness — Sustainability. Patience. Non-violence. Whole-heartedness.
  • Hierarchy vs. Fairness — Consensus takes a lot longer. Dictators and monarchs are nothing if not efficient.
  • The appeal of fascism — History and ideology of the Nazis and their obsession with efficiency.
  • PR — soundbites. Simple narratives. Tropes, slogans, repetition.
  • Entertainment — intellectual empty calories. Neil Postman. McLuhan.
  • Automation — AI, bots, robotics, threats to labor
  • Walking vs. Transportation
  • The slow food movement
  • Speed reading
  • Speed runs — video games

Biden’s American Rescue Plan: Democrats’ first big win

The $1.9 trillion covid relief package that passed the Senate this weekend is a major legislative victory just 6 weeks into Biden’s term. The American Rescue Plan will give his Presidency and Democrats in the 117th session of Congress a huge boost — in enacting more of Biden’s agenda, in the economy, in replenishing strained state and local coffers, and in giving the Democrats 100% of the credit for the hope, the recovery, and the return to normalcy for hundreds of millions of Americans. Senator Sanders called it the “most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country” — and he’s a tough one to please!

Of course, the right wing is churning out its usual disinformation machine around the contents of the bill. Zero Republicans voted for it, which puts them on record indelibly forever as voting against relief checks, against pandemic assistance, against schools reopening, against… everything of most relevance to most people at this time, according to the majority of Americans polled who favor it (62%). Let’s take a look at all the urgent relief that’s actually in the bill.

What’s in the American Rescue Plan

  • $1400 direct checks
  • $300/week unemployment extension through September
  • Increased child tax credit to $3000-$3600 in 2021 and made it fully refundable
  • Extending COBRA benefits and health benefits
  • $170 billion for safely reopening schools
  • $20 billion for vaccination programs
  • $30 billion for PPE
  • $350 billion for state and local governments devastated and depleted from the pandemic
  • Funding for covid testing, contact tracing, and forecasting
  • Relief for restaurants, small businesses, and farmers
  • Child care and child nutrition funds
  • Tax credits for sick leave and family leave
  • Funding for community health, mental health, and the opioid crisis
  • Emergency rental assistance, rural housing, homelessness relief
  • FEMA funding
  • Funeral assistance
  • Relief to airlines, airports, and aviation manufacturing
  • Extend benefits to rail workers
  • VA funding

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.