Monday, September 28, 2020

The day after: Does a Long Island P.O. Box hold the key to the mystery?


You know, I'm not a drinker. But when the NYT released its bombshell story yesterday, I decided "This is it. VT DAY!" Celebration seemed to be in order. Boy howdy, did I celebrate.

(VT Day = Victory over Trump.)

And now here we. The day after. Did a tectonic political shift occur? Apparently not. MSNBC is still running endless stories about coronavirus, as usual. The right is still trying to smear Hunter Biden, as usual. 

Everybody seems resigned to the fact that Trump's supporters will not desert him despite the new revelations. It's a story about money, and most people know nothing about money. 

Trump himself is simultaneously complaining that the NYT received the documentation illegally and that the stories are "Fake news." His dimwitted followers do not understand, will never understand, that the documents can't be both fake and illegally obtained. 

The naivete of the average American is very dangerous. People still believe that The Apprentice was real, even though the whole thing was an obvious sham.

Is Trump really rich? Why would a billionaire do a silly TV show? The money Trump made from the show was invested in poorly-run businesses. Some of his businesses appear to be money-laundering operations. 

The fascinating opening chapters of Michael Cohen's Disloyal portrays Trump as a millionaire (or maybe a thousandaire) pretending to be a billionaire. Noel Casler, Trump's personal assistant on The Apprentice, has said that the producers had to rent new furniture because Trump's stuff was so shabby.

After the NYT released its bombshell article, pundits on teevee kept repeating that Trump has an impending debt of $300-$400 million. Dan Alexander, an investigator at Forbes, shows hard documentation which proves that Trump actually owes more than a billion, and the bill will come due pretty damned soon.  

(Turns out Alexander has yet another Trump book for us to read before election day: White House Inc.: How Donald Trump Turned the Presidency Into a Business.)

In today's Forbes piece, Alexander argues that Trump really is a billionaire -- technically -- though he's not worth the $11 billion he has claimed.

Don’t be fooled: The news is not that the president is broke (the Times story notes that tax returns do not list someone’s net worth). The news, instead, is that Donald Trump seems to have avoided paying much in taxes despite significant operating profits at certain properties. In other words, he figured out how to share very little of his fortune with the country he now leads.  

Maybe so, but Trump isn't that rich.

In fact, Trump is a multibillionaire, worth $2.5 billion, by our count. His portfolio, which includes commercial buildings, golf properties and branding businesses, is worth an estimated $3.66 billion before debt. The president has a fair amount of leverage—adding up to a roughly $1.13 billion—but not enough to drag his net worth below a billion dollars.

Despite Alexander's expertise, I'm not convinced. The tales told by Cohen and Casler speak of a poseur, not a powerhouse.

That $1.13 billion appears to be roughly the same amount he owes, or so I gather from Alexander's earlier thread. I'm sure that Trump has some money, though how much remains open to debate. But I'm also sure that Trump needs a good deal more, or the whole edifice may come crashing down. 

That's why he engaged in cheesy money-raising schemes like his attempt to move the British Open to his golf course in Scotland, or his attempt to hold the Group of Seven summit at his Florida resort. If his fortune were secure, he would have avoided that sort of cheesiness.

We return, as always, to the old question: How much does he owe to Putin? The Russian links still tantalize. 

The Times account did not specify who Trump’s creditors are and sheds little light on his business connections with Russia. It did note that he made more money from holding the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013 — $2.3 million — than from any other pageant. That money came from the Agalarov family, which is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and which lost $10 million on the transaction.

This should serve as a reminder that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III refused to look into Trump’s financial dealings with Russia, which Trump said was a red line for him. That investigation still needs to be conducted. But even the bare facts revealed by the Times show why both former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former director of national intelligence Daniel Coats suspect that (as Coats told Bob Woodward) “Putin had something on Trump.”

A president who needs to raise money rapidly is a president who will modify foreign policy to please foreign donors. 

What happened to all of that reelection money? The obvious theory is that Trump hoped to use his reelection campaign war chest to pay his debts. The campaign raised a billion dollars. One shudders to contemplate the question "Who donated?" 

Yet Trump has nothing to show for it. The campaign is now broke. 

Where did the money go? If it went into Trump's pockets, did he declare it as income?

An investigator named Brendan Fischer looked into the Trump campaign's financials for August. Seventy-five percent of the money went to an LLC called American Made, set up by "senior Trump officials." (This probably would include Brad Parscale.) From there, the money just...disappeared.


Long Island mystery. But it gets worse. Here's a story from a few days ago that few noticed: The Trump campaign has  been sending an awful lot of money to a post office box in Hicksville, Long Island. That's a rather affluent suburb. Why is the money going there and who is receiving it?

Mention of Long Island naturally made me think of Charles Gucciardo, a lawyer who happens to be a big Trump supporter. His name came up during the Ukraine scandal. Remember that?   

I am sure you recall Lev Parnas, who was allegedly Rudy Giuliani's client, though he seems to have been more of a paymaster. Although Lev was hurting for cash, he somehow got a half-million into Rudy's pockets. Rudy used that money to pay for his dubious Ukraine "investigation." 

Where did Lev's money come from? From Charles Gucciardo of Long Island.

Chuckie invested in a not-terribly-promising company started by Lev Parnas. That company, which bore the marvelously fragrant name Fraud Guarantee, was a godsend to late night comics. The concern seemed to have the word SCAM written all over it.

Turns out they were quite a tight crew -- Anthony Scaramucci, Lev Parnas, Charles Gucciardo and Rudy Giuliani. The first three went on a trip to Israel together, as seen in the accompanying photo. 

Lev and Mooch have switched sides. They've had their fill of Trumpworld machinations. Lev keeps promising some grand revelation -- but so far, he has not delivered. (At this writing, he has yet to comment on the NYT's story.)

Mooch seems particularly approachable. Perhaps someone can ask him: Do you think that Charles Gucciardo is the fellow who picks up the mail at P.O. Box 1926 in Hicksville, Long Island?

If you fire up Google Earth, you'll see that Hicksville isn't that far from Gucciardo's office. Seems like the kind of area where a lawyer like that might buy a home. Just sayin'.  

In this story, I speculate that Gucciardo may have links to Russian oligarchs -- specifically to Dmitrty Firtash, who can definitely be tied to Trump. I believe that Firtash is also tied to the Mogilevich crime syndicate, the most dangerous criminal organization in the history of the planet. 

Please understand: I am not saying that Gucciardo is in with the Russians. I have seen no proof to back that claim. But allow me to repeat some points made in that earlier post...

Gucciardo is a personal injury lawyer. While I am NOT alleging or implying that he has ever done anything criminal or unethical, it is interesting to note that personal injury lawyers have been involved with a certain type of very lucrative scam, as described here

The Russians became masters of that particular scam.

In the past, one lawyer who profited from this scam was none other than Donald Trump's former bagman, Michael Cohen.

A Rolling Stone investigation found that Cohen represented numerous clients who were involved in deliberate, planned car crashes as part of an attempt to cheat insurance companies. Furthermore, investigations by insurers showed that several of Cohen’s clients were affiliated with insurance fraud rings that repeatedly staged “accidents.” And at least one person Cohen represented was indicted on criminal charges of insurance fraud while the lawsuit he had filed on her behalf was pending. Cohen also did legal work for a medical clinic whose principal was a doctor later convicted of insurance fraud for filing phony medical claims on purported “accident” victims. Taken together, a picture emerges that the personal attorney to the president of the United States was connected to a shadowy underworld of New York insurance fraud, a pervasive problem dominated by Russian organized crime that was costing the state’s drivers an estimated $1 billion a year.
For more on the Russian angle, see this 2003 story, originally published in Fortune.
Investigators have also found evidence of other serious crimes allegedly committed by members of the ring, including money laundering and extortion. Many of those indicted are Russian emigres, and some of the illicit funds have been tracked to large corporations in Russia. Prosecutors refer to the investigation as the "Boris" case--an acronym for Big Organized Russian Insurance Scam.

(Cohen doesn't talk about this stuff in his book. I think he knows better than to cross the Russian mob directly.)

Let's bring the discussion back to the Trump campaign.

We may fairly ask: Did Russians fund the Trump Campaign? (It's not legal for foreigners to donate to an American presidential campaign.) And if they did, did Trump filch from that fund to pay down his own sky-high personal debts? Or did the Russians give him the money knowing that Trump would use it to pay off his sky-high personal debts? 

Either way, I can easily understand why Brad Parscale -- until recently, Trump's campaign manager -- appears to have lost his reason, at least temporarily. According to one news report, he has been acting strangely for the past two weeks. 

Maybe that's when Trump's tax documents reached SDNY. 

These machinations would put anyone under a lot of stress. Human beings simply are not built to withstand that kind of pressure. 


Sunday, September 27, 2020


Holy living lord of fuck. This is it. THIS IS FREAKIN' IT

He pays no taxes. He's either the most outrageous tax cheat in history or he ain't wealthy. Or both. His claimed losses were clearly tax fraud. I mean, if this guy lost money to that extent, he couldn't stay afloat.

(Trump claims "Fake news." I think he's lying. But I suppose that there's a possibility that someone on Team Trump pulled the all-time most audacious disinfo op.)

Still no further details on an important point: Was he really being audited in 2016? If so, how long was he being audited? Nobody else has ever been audited for more than two years.  

Let's look at some more-or-less randomly-chosen tweets

That explains why he stole so much from his re-election campaign.

More to come. I -- even I, the most morose of all bloggers -- am officially happy

God willing, our long national Trumpmare may finally be over. 

If I were Biden, I'd offer Trump a pardon in exchange for an immediate resignation. The Supreme Court would be worth it. 

Hahaha. Good news, indeed.

Sure, a great whacky idea for Biden. A pardon on federal charges would leave plenty of state charges to try him on.
Precisely. Pardon him on all federal charges and let the state attain justice. If nothing else, this would be an amazing headline-grabbing gesture by Biden during the debate.

And at this point, I've used up all vodka in the house.

This is a good day. The only thing that could make it a better day is more vodka.
It would be such a perfectly humiliating “Trumpian” move for Biden to employ.

Any question of his actual wealth must drive Trump crazy. Any implication of criminal liability would be worse.

This is very interesting, and enjoyable.

And thank you for the collection of tweets. Good post.

The Biden Store already has stickers available saying: "I paid more income taxes than Donald Trump."

Alright, Polyanna, calm down. We all know this is exactly the sort or gambit that the Stone crowd loves. I'm just waiting for the announcement that it's all fake. I mean, there's nothing incriminating here. Damning, yes, but all legal, no involvement with Russia, no information debunking his claims to be a billionaire based on earlier wealth. So you leak something you know everyone will make a big fuss about, but leave out anything actually damaging, then debunk it and make a fool out of everyone, not to mention discrediting any real leaks that might come out later. Disinformation. Put in a few bits that can be verified to make it believable, intelligence services call it chickenfeed.
Didn't he said before during one of the debates that he didn't pay taxes? So what's new. Am l missing something
No, he didn't say that. Hillary Clinton mentioned his deadbeatness in one of the debates. Trump muttered to the effect that made him "smart."
Stephen, knock it off with the sarcasm. This really is the end of the Trump campaign for all intents and purposes. I believe Putin has washed his hands of the whole farce, a farce that should never have been allowed to take place in the first place in 2016, but CNN is the major culprit in the creation of Donald Trump's campaign with nonstop coverage, in Jeff Zucker's attempt to turn the presidency into a reality TV show. Even if every single thing regarding Trump's taxes was legal, voters do NOT like somebody who doesn't pay his fair share in taxes. It really is the end of the 2020 campaign.
The only question now is: Can Benedict Donald and his minions (and his Russian masters) still cheat their way to "victory"?
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Amy Barrett, Trump, drugs and more

First, an appetizer:

Why normal people hate the left. Here's a Google review of a Burger King not too far from me:

Racist place ..Tells me that the vegan burger was not made for vegetarians... and it will cross contaminate with meat ... as they use the same grill ... in a world with more vegans then ever ... refusing to support healthier way of living ... refusing to change the old unhealthy way of living.

A young non-white woman walks into a place called BURGER KING. Surprise! She does not find the vegan meal of her dreams. And that, apparently, is grounds for a charge of racism.

After we defeat Trumpism, our next duty is to defeat the screwball lefties. They're almost as nutty as the Q crowd.

Amy. Yes, I hate her too. Have to admit: I was wrong in my prediction that Trump would pick a non-Catholic. I still believe that Michael Wolff had good sourcing for the passage in Siege in which Trump complains about the number of Catholics on the Supreme Court. 

But in this case, Amy Coney Barrett has been pre-vetted, and the clock is ticking. I must presume that expediency outweighed all other concerns. 

Fortunately, the Dems have plenty of methods to try to run out the clock. Normally, I'd be against these tactics, but McConnell's unendurable hypocrisy means that Dems are justified in using Chicago rules. You surely remember Sean Connery's great speech in The Untouchables: "If they send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue." 

The usual argument against playing that kind of hardball is that doing so will endanger Democrats running in tough races. But Doug Jones of Alabama -- whom most observers have written off -- has said, in essence, "Screw that!"

“We know that the votes are not there [to block the nominee], but you do what you can to call attention to it,” said Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent who could be pulled off the campaign trail as a result. “The issue is that this is a power grab.”

Follow Doug's lead, Dems! 

And let's pour some serious money into his race. Jones was down by 17 in early August, but 538 now has him down by only 7 points. I saw one poll (perhaps an outlier) which had him nearly tied. The man has improved his position considerably despite running a campaign on vapors. Surely his bravery deserves some reward? Surely the people who put him in office the first time ought not be snubbed or ignored? One or two million dollars could make a huge difference here.

Back to Barrett: Republicans are trying to insinuate that opposition to this nominee is founded entirely on anti-Catholicism. It's a false charge. First: Dems don't like her for all sorts of reasons. Second: Nobody opposed Gorsuch or Kavanaugh on religious grounds. Third: Criticism of the "People of Praise" sect is not criticism of Roman Catholicsm. Barrett's group has non-Catholic members and belongs squarely within the Pentacostal tradition. Many mainstream Catholics consider the sect to be rather weird.

Nota bene: Don't describe this group as a "cult." Within the RC tradition, that word doesn't always have Manson-y overtones. To a Catholic's ears, the word "sect" has a much slimier sound.    

Let's find some way to disparage Barrett without disparaging Catholicism. 

I know that this advice will be hard for some of you to follow, because many Americans view Catholicism as the one religion which everyone must HATE HATE HATE at all times. I'm well aware that you've been programmed to react with rage the moment you see a rosary. You can't help it, just as my dog can't help but give chase when he sees a squirrel. 

But you are not a dog. You must exercise a certain amount of self-control.

Remember: Biden is Catholic. 

Remember: Although Trump won the Catholic vote last time, polls suggest that the Orange Oaf is losing those voters in 2020. Let's keep things moving in that direction.

Remember: People don't like it when you insult their faith. They really don't. Weird, innit?

Remember: Lefties often forget that the goal is to garner more votes, not fewer. That's how this whole democracy thing works. 

On November 4, you can go back to tossing feces at an effigy of the Pope. As long as you're not helping Trump, I don't give a damn what you do.

Trump, Lindsey and drugs. Why does Trump keep claiming that Biden is a drug user? He has actually asked for Biden to take a pre-debate drug test. Is this projection? Or are we seeing hints of a larger Republican plot?

Trump's comment reminded me of something that has been bugging me for the past 48 hours.

A couple of days ago, I popped into the "Morning Joe" show in medias res. Mika was absent. Since I came in late, and since the feed was audio-only, I'm not sure about the context of what I heard. Joe Scarborough was talking "off the record" to...well, someone. Was he kidding when he said "off the record" or did he genuinely think that the cameras were off? Beats me!

Anyways, Joe spoke "off the record" about Lindsey Graham. He told a funny anecdote about the time Graham cut himself while testing the sharpness of a knife: "Seriously. You have to keep that guy away from knives. And blenders!"

Just before cutting away to a commercial, Joe added that there were other things about Lindsey he could disclose. "Things like Adderall."

No further details.

Naturally, Joe Scarborough's cryptic remark reminded me of the reports -- backed by some evidence -- that Trump himself abuses Adderall. We've discussed this issue in previous posts: See here and here

If you want to hear "Trump on drugs" stories, the go-to guy is comedian Noel Casler, who functioned as Trump's "talent wrangler" on that awful Apprentice teevee show -- which, according to Casler, was originally the idea of none other than Vladimir Putin. 

Casler is full of hilarious/awful tales, many of which seem credible. Some do not. Basically, Casler makes porn for Trump-haters. That's his shtick.

I'd feel better about Casler's revelations if more of them had independent backing. For example, he says that Trump often used racial slurs -- including the dreaded N-word -- during filming. Casler claims that Trump was particularly prone to use such a language while in the presence of a person of color, as a display of power. 

But Michael Cohen, who knew Trump quite well, says that Trump did not use that word, although Trump's attitudes were nevertheless quite racist.  On the other hand, Omarosa Manigault backs up Casler's account. 

As far as I can tell, nobody has seconded Casler's claim that Trump wears Depends. 

If you've never heard Casler's spiel before, check out the interview embedded below. His most recent interview (which I've not yet heard) is here

Come to your own conclusions. If nothing else, the guy is a terrific storyteller. 

Judge Amy has a record for election rigging for the Republicans. Maybe he didn't want a Catholic, but this one might be very helpful.
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Friday, September 25, 2020

Dirty trick

Never forget that the Republican party is the party of Roger Stone, Jacob Wohl and James O'Keefe. It's also the party of Karl Rove, the guy who once bugged his own office in order to frame an opponent. 

It's the Fake-Out Party. The Conspiracy Party, if you will.

Earlier today, this link went to a DOJ announcement that nine absentee military ballots were found discarded in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The link no longer works because the story had to be revised. A bad sign, that. At first, U.S. Attorney David Freed said that all nine ballots were cast for Donald Trump; a later statement said that only seven ballots were Trump ballots. The revised story is here.

Obviously, this "discovery" is bogus. I am convinced that those discarded ballots were planted. 

The purpose of this conspiracy is to buttress Trump's narrative that mailed ballots cannot be trusted. Even though absentee ballots have been used for far longer than I've been alive, and even though Trump himself votes absentee, the Republicans want the nation to mistrust the very concept of voting by mail. 

As I've noted previously, mailed votes leave a paper trail, which means that a mailed vote is more trustworthy than a computerized vote. But there's another reason why Trump wants to discredit voting by mail: He does not want mailed votes counted on election night

Polls clearly indicate that many more Democrats than Republicans intend to vote by mail, due to Covid fears. Absentee votes are generally counted last. Trump has made no secret of the fact that he wants to stop the vote count before the mailed ballots are tallied.

Hence the current exercise in political theater. From TPM:

Gerry Hebert, a former DOJ official who for several years worked in its voting section, said in an email that Thursday’s press release was “inconsistent with DOJ handbook for prosecuting election cases, which generally discourage public statements by DOJ re: ongoing investigations.”

The FBI does not talk about investigations in public. It is unheard-of to reveal such a thing prematurely.  As I said: This is theater.

Revealing who the ballots were cast for was pure propaganda. From a legal perspective, the recipient of those votes is immaterial to the investigation. 

Do Trump's ratfuckers always have to be this obvious? I miss Rove. He had more finesse.

Naturally, the entire right-wing propaganda machine pounced upon this story with an immediacy that suggests forewarning. Right-wing trolls instantly -- and I mean instantly -- flooded the internet with comments blasting liberal perfidy. 

It was quite impressive to watch so many players coordinate their movements so precisely. Busby Berkley came to mind.  

This story has a number of obvious absurdities. Here's a big one: Due to a longrunning dispute involving the Green Party's place on the ballot, there was a holdup in the issuance of ballots in Luzerne County. Ballots won't go out until October

The exception: Ballots were sent out to military personnel on August 25. It's fair to posit that most of those ballots have not been cast yet. Perhaps none have been cast. Any ballots that were completed and sent in should have remained in their security envelopes. (The system uses two envelopes per ballot.) 

The law clearly states that ballots are not to be opened until election day. Anyone opening those envelopes risked jail.

Who would have had access? Ballots coming in from overseas would have ended up in the possession of the Luzerne County Election Bureau...

...which is controlled by Republicans.

Let us posit that a hypothetical Dem malefactor lurks within that Republican-controlled office. Let us visualize said malefactor tearing open envelope after envelope in search of Trump votes. In doing so, our hypothetical Dem malefactor would have ruined potential Democratic ballots.  

Consider this headline from earlier this month: Trump Losing The Military Vote, A Traditional Republican Bloc.

A stunt like this might well have reduced the Biden vote. So why would our hypothetical Dem malefactor do such a thing? Doesn't make sense.

Speaking of things that don't make sense: Why on earth would our hypothetical Dem malefactor dump the evidence where it could easily be found? Why not burn it? 

We are told that the material was found in a dumpster. Who rummaged through this dumpster, and why? Usually, only very poor people scrounge through garbage, and the desperate don't care about politics. 

If I were discarding evidence of a crime -- and if I possessed neither a match nor a shredder -- I'd place the material in a dark plastic bag filled with dog doo or some other icky gunk. Then I'd toss that bag into some random suburbanite's garbage can. Problem solved.

Was that dumpster adjacent to the Luzerne County Elections Bureau? News stories do not so state, but a close reading of the available material suggests that such was indeed the case. I strongly suspect that the ballots were meant to be found. 

Perhaps they were "found" by the person who placed them in that dumpster to begin with. Again: Republicans control that office.

From the revised DOJ press release:

Investigators have recovered nine ballots at this time. Some of those ballots can be attributed to specific voters and some cannot. Of the nine ballots that were discarded and then recovered, 7 were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump. Two of the discarded ballots had been resealed inside their appropriate envelopes by Luzerne elections staff prior to recovery by the FBI and the contents of those 2 ballots are unknown

Strangeness abounds here. "Some" can be attributed to specific voters? "Some" indicates more than two.

Each ballot was in two separate envelopes, and only the outermost envelope would display the voter's name. One would have to open both envelopes to determine that a vote was cast for Trump.

Are we supposed to believe that the malefactor tore open the envelopes then placed the ballots back inside opened envelopes? 

Are we also supposed to believe that two of the nine envelopes were opened in such a way that they could be resealed? A CIA flaps-and-seals expert could do the trick, but I doubt that someone at the Luzerne County Elections Board would have the necessary skill set. Anyone who did have the skills would have used those skills in all instances, and would have been much more professional in disposing of the evidence.

Finally: Why? What's the motive?

Nine ballots are extremely unlikely to affect an election. But concocting a bogus incident of this sort definitely benefits Trump's propaganda campaign. Those nine ballots could give Trump all the "evidence" he needs to call a premature end to the vote count on election night.

The Democrats lack motive. Only the Republicans had any motive to stage this bit of theater.   

As I keep saying: Real conspiracies do exist. The conspiracy theorists are the conspirators.

Don't be surprised to see a rash of similar incidents in the near future. Just now, I fleetingly saw a reference to a similar case in Wisconsin -- another battleground state where Trump would love to halt the tallying before the absentee ballots are counted. Frankly, I've not yet read the relevant news stories coming out of Wisconsin. 

The important point is this: Such "dumpings" were previously unknown in the long history of absentee voting. So why now?

Weekly reminder:

Friday nights 8 PM - 9 PM North American Central Time:

The Magical Mystery Tour. Host Tom Wood takes a look at the Beatles from a different angle each week.

Friday nights 9 PM - 12 AM North American Central Time:

Beaker Street, the legendary rock radio program, has returned. Iconic host Clyde Clifford has returned from his medical absence.

Both shows can be found at Arkansas Rocks

If you can't catch Beaker Street live, MP3 files are available soon afterward at this site.
"Real conspiracies do exist. The conspiracy theorists are the conspirators."

A clever play on words, Joe, but much too facile and Langley inspired for a greybearded, well-read student and chronicler of non-mainstream history such as yourself. You certainly can't have missed the discovery, many years ago, that the very term "conspiracy theorist" was Mockingbird-ed into contemporary parlance as a pejorative term by the very perps (or accessories after the fact) of the JFK hit -- to ridicule any and all skeptics of the Warren Report.

And you're one of those pesky skeptics, aren't you?

Or have you now, in the pitiful scramble against the gathering darkness of your twilight years, resolved to swallow whole the Warren Report (like you did the 9/11 Commission Report) so you can present yourself to Saint Peter as a dutiful adherent of Romans 13, verses 1-7?
Anon, I don't think you are welcome here anymore. I don't discuss 9/11, so you have no idea what I think about that report, nor will you ever. Being a typical conspiracy-crazed asshole, you have allowed presumption to substitute for facts (or, in this case, the lack thereof). Don't think that you can coax me into a dialogue I disdain. You ain't worth the aggro.

In the '90s, I met nearly all of the major JFK assassination writers. Although I am still sympathetic to their side of that argument, I learned a hard lesson from keeping that sort of company: Conspiracy theory is junk. As in heroin. It's an addiction. Even when a theory turns out to have a factual basis, addiction is addiction is addiction.

The addiction has now overtaken the entire nation. The public must get the needle out of its collective arm.

For me, everything clicked into place when I finally understood that the assassination was masterminded by James Jesus Angleton. When I say "conspiracy theorists are the conspirators," I'm thinking primarily about him. Angleton was THE classic example. (Well, him and Hitler.)

When I learned about JJA's pre-war (and post-war) closeness to Ezra Pound -- who filled Angleton's poetry journal with weird ramblings about Jewish bankers -- I realized that Angleton was a conspiracy theorist well before he became a spy.

Unsurprisingly, Angleton was a substance abuser. I'm starting to believe that this country's current addiction to paranoia must have some relationship to our concurrent addiction to drugs. It's no coincidence that Trump and QAnon are most popular in those parts of the country where opiates and meth are massive problems. (I would also note that Bill Cooper -- a hideous racist -- has become weirdly popular with urban blacks who abuse drugs.)

I spent enough time with conspiracy buffs to learn their dirty little secrets. One of the reasons I never completely fit in with them is that I never smoked pot and rarely drank to excess. (Although I certainly plan to do so on election night!)

The JFK assassination researchers meant well and did well, but they inadvertently created a subculture which aided the rise of fascism in America. Those who searched for the mastermind BECAME the mastermind. Fear-addicts, like other addicts, keep seeking harder shit. I still admire Jim Garrison, but I know damned well that people who read his book soon ended up mainlining Nesta Webster and Bill Cooper.

That descent is a real thing. I saw it happen to acquaintances of mine during the '90s. The conspiracy books they read became ever more absurd. "Rush to Judgment" led to "The Committee of 300." Evidence, footnotes, rational argumentation -- none of those things mattered any longer. The conspiracy addicts I knew just wanted the dopamine hit offered only by purified paranoia. They also loved the self-satisfied feeling one gets from being "in the know," even though they were actually the most gullible people imaginable -- born suckers, perfect prey for any con artist who callously fed their addiction.

With that ever-present monkey firmly affixed to their backs, my acquaintances stopped caring about family and career and art and sports and hiking and road trips and dinner parties and all of the normal pleasures of life. I've seen it happen. To an appalling degree, it happened to ME. I finally made my escape in the late '90s, after meeting the right woman. As I've said before, I suddenly realized that all I REALLY wanted was a girl and a dog.

Back in the '90s, the "paranoia junkies" were consigned to a subculture. Now, that subculture is THE culture. The addiction that hit "my circle" twenty-five years ago has turned millions of Q junkies into an army of monsters.
Thank you, Joseph, and I mean that sincerely. Now I understand you better and I can sympathize, if not empathize, with your present perspective and the life experiences that put you there.

From my perspective, which is in strong congruence with the recent Hannah Arendt quote in your comments section, twenty years ago you peered into the abyss and the sight was so numbingly, terrifyingly abominable that you had to turn away and never look back -- or you might have gone mad. And to effectively bolster that permanent aversion, you also recognized that way too many of your then-peers, who were shining shaky and often poorly focused beams of light into that abyss, were themselves turning into junior versions of the very Gorgon they had exposed.

In place of the solace of religion you then found comfort and hope by putting your severely shaken trust in traditional-liberal, New Deal-based Democratic Party politics and candidates.

So be it; may the spirit of FDR bless you and guide you. I think you are a good soul, and I will continue to learn from your blog, as I have for well over a decade.

But I also don't think the Gorgon has gone away... and in this post-9/11, Trumpism-cum-fascist, virus-bedeviled world, its evil plans for us proceed at an ever-quickening pace.
Late on this comment, but I found it interesting that here in central PA, I received a mail in ballot application from the Trump campaign. Trump's face is on the front, and inside I'm asked to fill out the application included and send it in and to please use it to vote for Trump. I laughed when I saw this. Obviously, he's either not up on what his campaign is doing, or he doesn't really have any issue with mail in voting (certainly it looks like he and his dirty tricksters are trying to create issues with it). Of course, I rarely vote for Republicans and it's possible his campaign sent these to probable Dem voters to trick them into voting by mail. I didn't look closely at the application or compare it to the one on PA's government web site that is the official one, but anything is possible with Trump I suppose.
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Thursday, September 24, 2020

War is coming

The hunt for the right words has never hurt so much. 

What happened in Kentucky was terrifying, outrageous, unjust and infuriating. Although the grand jury's decision was racist, this problem goes well beyond race. If the police are allowed to murder an innocent woman asleep in her bed, not one of us is safe. We live in a police state. 

Although I've always advocated peace, even I felt an immediate desire to see buildings burn. 

Or rather, part of me wanted that. As before, the superego must override the Id. Violence can only help Trump. If Trump wins, the police will become even more Nazi-fied. If Biden wins, there is a good chance that reform will occur.

My gut reaction: The Trump forces arranged for yesterday's miscarriage of justice to occur, and they may be arranging further outrages before election day.

I can't prove that this conspiracy exists, but I can smell it. Trump wants violence. He wants to scare white voters into voting for a law-and-order authoritarian.

Trump has, in essence, outlined plans for a coup. Even Republicans were bothered by yesterday's statement. These words will live in infamy:

Forty-one days before the election, Donald Trump failed to affirm on Wednesday the most basic civic question any president could get. "Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power after the election?" "Well, we're going to have to see what happens," Trump said from the White House press room podium. "I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster ... get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very ... there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."
The reporter who asked Trump that question was Brian Karem, who later tweeted:
This is the most frightening answer I have ever received to any question I have ever asked. I’ve interviewed convicted killers with more empathy. @realDonaldTrump is advocating Civil War.
Although Trump's deteriorating relationship with the English language makes his exact intention difficult to determine, I believe that our marble-mouthed Fuehrer said what he said because he hopes to dissuade voters from using mail-in ballots, even though he himself has voted by mail. (Or did he mean to "get rid" of all ballots? It's possible!)

Trump just validated this blog's longest-running theme: Computerized election rigging is real. Why else would he go to such lengths to prevent Americans from voting by mail? A mailed vote offers a paper trail. 

I have long argued that the only way Trump could have achieved total control of the Republican party is by threatening to reveal that party's greatest sin. He knows that pro-GOP operatives have interfered with presidential vote tabulations throughout this century.

How would this nation respond if this sin were unveiled?

Would every judge appointed by Bush and Trump have to resign? Would we nullify all Bush-era federal laws? Or would practicality force us to accept legislation signed by two anti-presidents who had no right to sign legislation? 

The Catholic Church has always recognized the validity of rites performed by priests later defrocked for grave offenses. We may have to adopt a similar stance.  

Vote by mail. Some Democrats have now begun to advise against mailed ballots. No. If Trump can use the post office, so can anyone else. 

I disagree with the conclusion of Barton Gellman's extraordinary article: Democrats must use the mail to vote. There is a good reason why Trump wants to scare you away from that method of voting. When the enemy says "Don't do that" -- that's what you do. 

The danger is this: Voting by mail means that a large "blue shift" may occur during the counting on election night. For a while, Trump will seem to be winning in Florida or Pennsylvania, but absentee ballots -- usually counted late in the game -- could shift those states to Biden. Trump wants his conspiracy-crazed followers to react with fury and violence if such a shift occurs. 

Trump wants war. He is the ultimate Boogaloo Boy. 

If war comes, our best weapon is the dollar. The red states are poor; money is blue. If we withhold our taxes, if we disrupt Wall Street, if we make commerce impossible -- we will win the coming war. Without blue money, the United States of America is out of business.  

If everything goes to hell, even the most obdurate Republican will admit through gritted teeth that Trump is not worth it. 

Trump has clearly stated that he wants a new Supreme Court to rule his way on election-related issues. He doesn't trust John Roberts. If Michael Wolff is right, Trump doesn't even trust Kavanaugh.

We must fight Trump's nominee as fiercely as the American army fought the Nazis on the beaches of Normandy. Not only that...

We must make clear to the Supreme Court that we will not accept a stolen election. 

We, not they, will decide what constitutes "stolen." Neither casuistry nor propaganda can blind us.

If Biden clearly wins but does not take the oath due to some Machiavellian machination -- there will be war. 

If that conflict ends the American experiment, so be it. Without democracy, this country has no right to exist.

Our Supreme Court justices, along with all others who hold power, must ask themselves: Is Donald Trump worth it? 

*  *  *

Here's an important thread by Asha Rangappa:

It is important to take note and be prepared for the unprecedented actions Trump says he intends to take after the election. But it is also important not to allow his *wishful* reality to *become the reality. To do that, consider Trump's psychological POV right now: 

Every time Trump spouts this kind of garbage, he is revealing that he is TERRIFIED. Ab. So. Lute. Ly. Terrified. His **existential** fear is losing. And he knows that there is a very good chance he is going to lose. And he can't do a damn thing about it. He will be a LOSER. 

Remember that in pretty much every instance Trump has faced like this in the past, he's had an exit strategy. He walks away. But he can't get out of the election. He's like a mail-order bride who has to go through with it. Except in his case, if he loses, he may end up in jail 

This situation is like the coronavirus. He understands the reality, he knows he can't escape it, so his only option is to create an alternate reality. Reality, however, caught up with him with COVID. So it is up to YOU to make sure the same happens with the election. 

I and @davidashimer wrote about various possibilities in this piece. An important way to empower ourselves, in addition to VOTING, is for commentators and media to manage expectations.... 

To wit: We have a process in place for elections. That process will be followed, whether he likes it or not. Every vote will be counted. Due to the high volume of mail-in votes, there will be delay in reaching a final result, which is proof that our process is WORKING. 

Empirical research shows that lies travel faster than the truth, especially on social media. Therefore, the previous tweet needs to saturate the information space, by everyone, starting NOW. Also, we WILL have a peaceful transfer of power, as we have for 231 years. Pass it on. 

Finally, this is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. As long as the Constitution exists, we have peaceful means to resolve disputes -- like our judiciary -- and our voice. We retain the power of peaceful protest.

In short, this thread is a reminder that what Trump *says* is NOT a fait accompli. His goal is, as @RepSwalwell said in our #JusticeLeague event tonight, to sap you of hope. He does not have the power to do that. Don't let him. He is weak, and afraid. You are not.

Please try to be more rational and realistic, Joseph. The "money power" (yeah, I know that's a code term, but hey, you know it's accurate) will never let Trump stay in office one day past his usefulness to them, and they're already mighty disgusted that he hasn't done a full-scale invasion of Syria and Iran or an irrevocable war provocation with China despite the all the slimy promises that shadow-president Kushner made to the mega-donors, "defense" contractors and foreign banks during the last campaign.

If the Orange Oaf recklessly rambles much further out of the control of his true masters, why they'll simply give the go-ahead for whichever of the many on-the-shelf contingency plans for termination looks easiest (at the moment) for diverting suspicion and blame.

Truth be told, all of Donnie's likely replacements, on both sides of that illusory isle, have made similar covert commitments to the "money power" anyway, or they would never have risen to the lofty political heights where they currently perch -- like the buzzards they are at heart... waiting, watching and hoping... for Trumpy Dumpty to have his great fall.
Gellman's article was speculative bullshit, and The Atlantic never should have printed it. Glad you took him to task regarding mail-in ballots. That set my bullshit detector right off because I KNOW it is a great way to vote with little chance of fraud. I live in a state which has had it for TWENTY years, and nobody of either party wants to go back to the old system. Note Gellman never talked about the tampering of the electronic voting machines or tabulators. That to me was a giant red flag right off the bat regarding his article. His motive seems to be to depress voter turnout since according to him, Trump is going to rig the election or the outcome anyway. The article is completely irresponsible.
Anon, I don't like your use of that code term. This is an ANTI-Nazi blog.

I meant something different. As I've pointed out pretty relentlessly since this blog's founding (back in 2004), the red states are leech states: They take more from the federal government than they contribute in taxes. The blue states are producer states: They give more than they receive.

Financially, this country can live without Alabama or Mississippi. It can't live without New York or California or Illinois or Washington. The United States needs Silicon Valley tech gurus; it doesn't need hillbillies who blow up their trailers making meth.
Pick your points of outrage more carefully before gushing with all you've got. The Louisville grand jury received evidence and testimony (which they must have found credible) that although those cowboy-cops planning the pre-dawn drug raid did get a "no-knock" warrant, one of them decided to announce their presence anyway and, understandably, the gal's current bedmate then grabbed his pistol and fired first. Scared sh*tless, the fuzzy boys, of course, started blasting away but had such lousy aim, perhaps in dim light, that the poor woman got drilled by mistake.

The mainstream media's incessant, stir-the-pot repetition of the bare-bones details of the grisly story too infrequently mentioned the first shot or the fact that the EMT lady's previous live-in main-squeeze was the actual target of the drug-hunting goons' raid but their way-out-of-date "intelligence" missed the crucial fact that he'd skedaddled weeks earlier.

It was a colossal screw-up, not an intentional murder, and whoever the fascistic superior officer and/or judge are who requested and issued that reckless, unconstitutional warrant deserve, IMHO, much more blame and charges (criminal as well as civil) than those fecklessly pitiful officers who were obligated to carry it out or risk demotion or dismissal.
The matter should have gone to a jury. SOMEONE screwed up. I agree that the cops who entered the home did not intend to commit murder, but they shouldn't have been sent in there like that in the first place. If you pop into someone's house, chances are good that someone will pull a gun on you.

I've lived in some pretty iffy places, and I've seen cops in L.A. nab genuine bad guys. We're talking large operations with SWAT guys monitoring every possible means of escape. It was pretty fascinating. I respected those cops. They knocked on the door, they waited, they negotiated, they did everything they could to avoid weapons being discharged.
Joseph has already taken you to task, but the following observation is of some use.

You wrote “The "money power" (yeah, I know that's a code term, but hey, you know it's accurate)...” well, it is a code term for antisemites and the out-and-out Nazis, who used to be scarce. Maybe they still are, but riots and use online forums to appear more than they are.

If it were my blog, your post would go straight to the bit bucket, but Joseph is a good editor and discussion has it’s value. Just so that You know that We know what you are, and are not buying it.

The further problem is money power” is so vague as to be meaningless. We’re not little kids here, and we know that money makes the world move. But that hardly begins to explain the messy situation we are in. Indeed, the use of the term tends to obscure more than it reveals.

Joseph has provided a fair amount of information, suggested books, etc to point the way to understanding the sources of our corruption. Fundamentally, it’s the usual cabal, which cares nothing of religion or nation, of the secret police and the oil industry and their associated thugs.
"The usual cabal" eh? Well, a dangerous, power-mad and ultra-wealthy group by any other name can still purchase politicians left AND right, start false-flagged wars at will and commit mass murder by a quantum factor -- as endlessly repeating history sadly shows. The Nazis did tell the truth about the dangers of Communism, and the Communists were spot on about Nazism.

BOTH were eventually recognized as ghastly butchers and dire enemies of humanity (sometimes financed out of the same deep pockets) but it's the "free market, freedom-loving" United States, 75 years out from the horrors of WWII, that now stands as the current invasion-mad and bomb-happy, world champion mass murderer, with that "usual cabal" still calling the shots and shoveling the cash.
“Financed out of the same deep pockets...”
Antisemite, I’ll not engage much longer with yoy.

This is anon 7:56 again. I had meant to add a bit to my previous comment.

I’ll admit to glibness regarding the phrase “usual cabal.” For which I apologize. But there are stealthy groups and conspiracies that operate, and some of them seem to share noticeable patterns.

Hannah Arendt saw that Stalin and Hitler represented the same system, es explained in “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” Main points:
Personality cult of leader.
Strong secret police.
State terror aimed at any perceived enemy group or person.
Judicial system that served only the leader or his party.
Secret camps into which people disappeared.
Many killings.*

But two very different countries. In Germany, the financial backers of Hitler were those with most to fear from the communists. That is, wealthy industrialists, including Henry Ford, who was a raging antisemite.

Of great interest, another source of support Hitler found in Germany were some communists who thought that not fighting the Nazi takeover would result in Hitler taking power, doing damage which would certainly, as per their much vaunted theory would of dialectical necessity, bring about the extreme necessary to make the revolution. That was delusion. Stalin had his own reasons for thinking Hitler trustworthy, hence the pact. More delusion.

As far as who backed the Communists: no noticeable number of actually wealth would have: they had everything to lose. That is one of the more obvious conspiracy stories ever told.

To sum up. The big money interests backed Hitler because they saw him as the most effective bulwark against the Red Peril, communism.

And instead of the only the state being vulnerable, there are many other entities en to committing malfeasance.

In the parlance of our day, there are many rooms (due in part to privatization of formerly government tasks), many adults who should be doing something (but aren’t acting to protect the rule of law). And there is no single 800 pound gorilla throwing its weight around.

So, to corrupt a government and society takes money. The industry with the most money is petroleum, an industry known for its thuggish ways and connections to CIA. No action on climate change

The situation with NSA and its allies in big date, as well as the privatized companies like DeLoitte, Palantir etc, indicate a growing secret police threat. No action on privacy or data security.

Big pharma and insurance have huge money. Hard to make improvements in health insurance.

And, as ever, the military... The list could go on.

In sum, we’ve nearly lost our Democracy, and a certain code-worded religion plays only a peripheral role. There are so many sources of corruption.

Absence of transparency and accountability form a fertile ground for the mind-dulling conspiracy stories of days long gone.

* Sound familiar?
"As far as who backed the Communists: no noticeable number of actually wealth would have: they had everything to lose. That is one of the more obvious conspiracy stories ever told."

If you are totally ignorant of the prodigious research findings of Anthony Sutton, I understand your position and do not fault you.

But if you are, and instead maintain that they are but foolish works of fiction and fantasy -- please link to where they have been factually (not ideologically) debunked.
I read Sutton's book on Skull and Bones, which was hilariously under-researched crackpot bullshit. That's all I need from HIM.
That's not a fact-checking rebuttal, Joseph. That's just the kind of emotional, vulgar, schoolyard-taunting dismissal a Trumper would come up with. And you, of all people, know (and are) better. Kerensky's fall and Lenin's rise were very well-financed indeed, but the "court historians" you grew up reading knew not to go there.

Sutton's dangerous (to his career) revisionism, in the earlier works you haven't read, meticulously documented Wall Street's hedged bets on BOTH of those grossly distorted and ultimately mass-murderous versions of Socialism -- Nazism AND Communism.

As Sutton found out, it can be mighty lonely out there when you "don't please either side".
Anon7:56 here again.

I had been unaware of Sutton’s historical works. I was somewhat aware of his book “War on Gold,” which struck me as all such works do. The author hates Keynesian economics. But Keynesian economics work very successfully. So, it’s like trying to argue that the hammer won’t drive the nail.

I had to go to Sutton’s Wikipedia page, after being reminded by Joseph of a vague memory of the Skull & Bones book. So, I can’t say much more about him specifically. But, in general, this: if what is reported there is an accurate summary, it seems wrong. The Russians have a rich tradition of excellence in the mathematical sciences, which would include engineering and, now, computer programming. Their skills at espionage are also a matter of record. They could buy on the open market and reverse engineer. But they went further. Their military electronics were designed and built to withstand an EMP event, which would result from a nuclear blast (those of the US were not). It’s not that they were or are perfect, but it would be unwise to so greatly underrated them by presuming that they had to rely on the US and Europe for their technology.

Back to gold. The libertarians seem to dislike central banking (and fractional reserve banking) for various reasons that can be found on any of their websites (friendly hint: none of it makes any sense, so Do Not Waste Time trying to follow their arguments*). Their cure for the problems they imagine is gold, which in their thinking guarantees solid value. Well, does it?

Back in the days before central banks, the gold standard was said to define value. There were frequent panics, runs on banks, and depression. It is very hard to see evidence for success in that record. So, no, value is not guaranteed by the gold standard system.

Furthermore, if there was only so much gold in the country’s treasury, strictly controlling a limited number of dollars, how much economic growth could occur? Dollars would be scarce, much more scarce than they are in our reality. So economic growth would be severely constrained.

*For a solid treatment of how standard economics works, there was a very good book written by Robert Guttmann, “How Credit Money Shapes the Economy.” Clear and non-polemical.

True, that book written in the 90’s is getting to be a bit old. And I’m not sure if anyone is really able to understand the possible results of the extreme of Quantitative Easing that has become our reality today. But economics in a historical science, and we’ll know more in a few years, if we’re lucky. Yet, it is a very good book which does explain why commodity money, like gold, is unworkable.
Leave it to the fucking right-wing conspiracy theorists. With all that's going on the world right now, they want to change the topic to the crackpot ideas of a pseudo-scholar like Anthony Fucking Sutton.

It was the Germans who inflicted Lenin on Russia in order to knock that country out of WWI. Everyone knows the story. Later, the Nazis invented the conspiracy theory that powerful Jewish bankers were behind the rise of communism. This idee fixe was later taken up by the John Birchers, a movement founded largely by people who had been pro-fascist before the war. The Birchers spent decades trying to convince the world that the cold war was a fake, and that Jewish bankers (although the Birchers usually tried to avoid saying the J-word out loud) were behind both Wall Street and the Kremlin.

Look, my beard is grey, I started paying attention to politics when Nixon was in office, and I've been fascinated by various fringe movements since the 1970s. (Arguably even earlier. I read my first book about the JFK assassination while Ruby was still alive.) In other words, I'm not a naive kid, and I can't be bamboozled THAT easily. And I don't have to read every fucking book by Anthony Fucking Sutton to get an good idea as to what that creep was all about.

Fun has been fun, but enough is enough. I'm going to shut the door on further outbursts of Birchism in these pages. This site is my HOME -- far moreso than my physical home -- and Birchers (and their kin) are not welcome here.

You have a big damned internet in which to romp and scamper and do all sorts of mischief. Don't come round HERE any more.
Well, then, there is the editor’s judgment.

I’m fine with that. I think that a bit of discussion is valuable, to a point. But right wingers don’t really argue and libertarians engage in sophistry which is designed to confuse the unwary and to waste time. They are both cults, which is why their rhetoric is so bizarre: if you want in, just buy in, believe that “Wall Street” (and who might that be a code for?) funded the Bolshevics.

By a funny chance, last night, I came upon Gaeton Fonzi’s story about Marita Lorenz and Frank Sturgis. Rather prolix, yet compelling. It’s a chapter from his book “The Last Investigation.” It is as rich in detail with plenty of implications for further speculation and questions that might have been but never were asked. But then, the whole point is that it was designed to go nowhere. Link:
I love that book -- and I met Gaeton. Great guy. One of the best books about the assassination you can over hope to read.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

What we must do

Mitt Romney's compliance with Mitch McConnell proves, once again, that we cannot expect decency from any Republican. The party is all about power, not principle.

Democrats and centrists have finally awakened to the threat: Fascism is here. How can we beat it back? 

If -- and it's a big "if"  -- Biden wins and the Senate goes blue, we must plug the holes in our democratic system which have allowed anti-democratic forces to take hold. What systemic changes should we institute? 

Here are some ideas:

1. End the filibuster. I've always advocated this move. Once the filibuster ends, much good can happen -- if the Democrats act rapidly. We will have only a two-year window.

2. Pack the courts. The counter-argument has always been "If Dems increase the number of Justices to 11, the Republicans will increase it to 13." The number nine is traditional, not constitutional. In 2016, Mitch McConnell abandoned all pretense of civility and respect for tradition. We must respond in kind. 

We received a punch. We must punch back -- harder. 

3. Increase the number of states. Here is a devastating blow that the Republicans cannot return, at least not easily.

There are 3.2 million Puerto Ricans. The vast majority of them would prefer statehood to their current sorry situation. 

The 706,000 residents of the District of Columbia pay taxes but have no representation. They deserve statehood. All of the arguments against DC statehood are effectively rebutted here

Not only that: Statehood should be granted to Guam (population 170,000), the Virgin Islands (population 100,000), American Samoa (population 55,000), and the Northern Mariana Islands (population 50,000). 

Each new state will have two senators and at least one House member. Puerto Rico would get four or five representatives in the House. All of the new senators will likely be Democrats.

(You wanna play hardball, Yertle? That's hardball.)

Heretofore, the Republicans has always defended the idea that sparsely-populated states like Wyoming should have the same number of senators as densely-populated California. That idea will be much less attractive to them after six new states are created.  

Can the Republicans punch back by dividing red states? Perhaps, but the Constitution makes division far more difficult than admission. 

(Incidentally, in 1905 there was a move to create an American Indian state -- the State of Sequoyah -- from the eastern section of present-day Oklahoma. An idea worthy of reconsideration...?)

4. Electoral college reform. Ending the electoral college is extremely necessary -- and extremely difficult. 

One commonly-heard plan is for a certain number of states to pledge that its electors will support the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. The problems with this suggestion are obvious: 

1. No red states will agree to such a compact. Even purple Florida has not yet agreed, and probably never will.

2. A pledge can be broken. Yertle and Lady G -- and now Mitt Romney -- have demonstrated that Republicans lack honor. They will ignore a mere pledge the moment doing so serves their purpose.  

However: Increasing the number of blue states will motivate the Republicans to support a constitutional amendment to do away with the electoral college. If our territories become states, the electoral college will give wildly disproportionate weight to the presidential votes cast in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands or Guam. 

In 2005 and again in 2009, Representative Gene Green of Texas introduced the Every Vote Counts Amendment. Representative Steve Cohen offered a similar proposal in 2017. Whenever this notion has popped up in the past, most people have snickered. The snickering will stop when five sparsely-populated islands (plus DC) become states. Republicans will demand a popular vote system. 

Increasing the number of states is the key than unlocks many doors.

5. A voting reform amendment. As long as we're amending the Constitution, let's take other measures to improve the voting system. I say that Democrats must compromise. We must give the Republicans something they want in order to gain our own goals.

Let's keep things simple. No computer -- of any kind -- should be used in the official casting or tabulation of votes for President, Vice President, Senator, Representative, Governor or state legislator.  

Computers may be used as an adjunct to the actual vote, but their results will be unofficial.

The full paper trail for each election should be warehoused for a period of at least four years. Recounts should be as easy as possible. If there is evidence that any party has attempted to interfere with the election (such as a wide disparity between the final tally and exit polls), the federal government will pay for the recount. 

There must be terrifyingly severe penalties for anyone who interferes with the counting or the recounting.

No Secretary of State may run for another elected office while holding that position, or for two years thereafter.

To mollify Republicans concerned with voter impersonation, the government should issue voter identification cards with picture ID and magnetic stripes. This innovation will make voting easier, even for the homeless. One need merely present this card for admission to the voting booth; no further identification will be necessary. 

(Some will ask: "What if someone allows his card to be used by another person?" My first response: So what? If I want to give my card to Nutsy McDruggie -- if I tell him "Go ahead and do my voting for me" -- that's my decision. The "one person, one vote" rule would still apply.)

Yes, I know that voter impersonation is largely a right-wing myth. But why not ameliorate all fears? 

A national voter identification card could go a long ways toward ending the problem of voter caging. By giving the Republicans what they want -- or claim to want -- we will benefit the cause of true democracy.

6. End gerrymandering. Arguably, Mr. Jerry Mander will always live among us. But we don't need a Constitutional amendment to reduce his power. Legislation offers remedies.

Increasing the number of Supreme Court Justices could reverse the wrongly-determined case of Rucho v. Common Cause, That decision removed the federal government from the issue, forcing the problem to be fought state by state. Things will be a lot more manageable if a federal judge can say "This district is as misshapen as a wet spaghetti noodle. Fix it." 

Otherwise, let's support the Redistricting Reform Act

As things stand, such an act has no chance of becoming law. But if the Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency -- and if the filibuster goes away -- passage becomes thinkable. 

We will have only two years to act. Even issues as important as climate change, health care and police reform must take a back seat to the challenge of preventing the Republicans from exercising an undemocratic share of power. 

As long as the Republicans hold disproportionate power, no lasting improvement can occur. Any gains will be both infuriatingly incremental and easily reversed. Thus, it is pointless to think about issues. Think about remaking the system.

All of the above ideas have been discussed by others. What follows are my own humble suggestions.

7.  Curtail the freedom to oppose freedom. Right now, Peter Thiel -- a billionaire who makes no secret of his desire to abolish democracy -- holds enormous power within the NSA and the military. This situation is outrageous, suicidal and downright obscene.

Thiel champions a political philosopher who literally wants a return to monarchy. (Since Thiel is gay, I'm not sure how he intends to fulfill the monarch's primary duty -- but if Edward II could do it, Thiel can find a way.) Currently, pundits treat Thiel's antidemocratic ideas as quaint. To the contrary: He is very powerful, and what he stands for is very dangerous.

Our founding fathers were children of the Enlightenment. This nation was founded on democratic values. A new president must recommit America to democracy by limiting our right to oppose democracy. 

Anyone who thinks like Thiel, and any employee of such a person, must never be granted access to this country's national security secrets. Antidemocrats must be forbidden from influencing, accessing, or contributing to any government official -- high or low, elected or appointed. 

That's not all.

Today's greatest threat is the international fascist movement. (If you prefer to call it the "new authoritarianism," fine. But I prefer a blunter terminology.) A new Democratic president should state a new American doctrine: Any individual who supports an authoritarian ideology shall be considered an Enemy of the United States of America, as defined by the Constitution.

I'm referring to this passage:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

It is insane not to apply the word "enemies" to the Boogaloo movement, to the Dark Enlightenment movement, and to any other fascist movement. 

Treason carries the death penalty.

Yes, I am talking about treason trials for Peter Thiel, for the Boogalooers -- for all antidemocrats, including those libertarians and Marxists who disdain the voting booth. No mercy for these traitors. Fascism is the greatest political threat of our time, and that threat will end if and only if we muster up the courage to imprison -- and execute -- the treasonous vermin who live among us. 

The threat is existential. The United States of America should no longer grant its citizens the freedom to oppose freedom. 

Obviously, everyone should have the right to advocate the economic ideals favored by Hayek or Marx or any other extreme thinker -- but no-one has the right to impose those ideals through any means other than the ballot box. Democracy is fundamental. The solution to democracy's many flaws is more democracy, not less. 

No non-democratic nation is legitimate. That principle should be the bedrock of our foreign policy. However, opposing antidemocratic governments should not be construed as an all-purpose excuse for endless war.

I also believe that the government should root out postmodernism, an antidemocratic movement within our universities. Though often misunderstood as a left-wing phenomenon, postmodernism is actually a variant of fascism: Both philosophies oppose the Enlightenment, both oppose science, both advocate cultural separatism, and both are inherently racist. 

The term "postmodern" means "post-Enlightenment." Since our country is founded on Enlightenment values, the American taxpayer should no longer subsidize academics and university administrators who oppose those values.

8. Reform the Republican party. How can those outside the party force the GOP to reform? It won't be easy, but it can be done.  

Step one: Investigate the Republican leadership for ties to Russia and/or the international antidemocratic movement. 

Some will object to this partisan focus: "Shouldn't we investigate the Democratic party's leadership as well?" I see no reason why we shouldn't. 

Honestly, I don't think that any important Democrats will ever be found guilty of ties to Russia. If such ties existed, Barr would have used that information by now. But we all know that an honest investigation will turn up evidence that the GOP as a whole has a "Putin problem" -- for example, Lindsey Graham has received Russian money. The Kremlin's influence goes way beyond Trump and his immediate circle. 

An investigation will result in an official report. A report filled with damning, incontrovertible evidence will allow a Democratic president to make the most drastic move in American political history. The president can use membership in the Republican party as the basis for denying a security clearance. 

If the GOP's leaders are beholden to an Enemy power (as defined above), why should any registered Republican be granted access to classified information?

Exceptions can be granted on a case-by-case basis. The important goal is to cleanse the intelligence community of an antidemocratic virus. We must remove the Enemy Within.

Once that occurs, a Democrat-controlled NSA can remove the minimization protections which hide the covert machinations of democracy's foes. In other words, all of the dirty secrets of the Republican party will finally be exposed. I am convinced that the filthiest of those secrets is election rigging. 

Did anyone ever tell Lady G "We've got something on you"? If that conversation was telephonic, the NSA has a record of it. Trust me.

When that level of filth becomes visible, the Republican party will reform or die. The American people will demand a newer, less-corrupt centrist-conservative party. There will always be a conservative party; there should be. Many current Trump opponents would consider joining such a party. Hell, I might.

You may now be wondering: What if a future conservative president retaliates in kind, investigating the Democrats for entanglements with democracy's foes? If the party of Trump becomes once again the party of Ike, I see no reason to worry about such an investigation

Frankly, if the Democratic party's worst sins are revealed -- good.

Those are my suggestions as to what we must do. You may have other ideas. Feel free to suggest them -- but before you do, ask yourself: Are your ideas practical? Do you have a reasonable way to get from here to there? 

Emphasis on the word "reasonable."

Either you believe in democracy or you don't. Democracy, like it or not, is a popularity contest. Most progressives want things that are not popular. That's why some progressives, like some libertarians, mistrust democracy.

Feminism is not popular -- even among women -- although gender equality is popular. (And no, the two things are not the same; if they were, the poll numbers would match.) Late-term abortion is not popular. Identity politics and political correctness are not popular. Defunding the police is not popular. Defunding the military is not popular. Taxing religion is not popular. Pretending that gender has no relationship to biology is not popular. Most Americans support the right to bear arms, although a majority favors stricter regulations. People will continue to blind themselves to the dangers of climate change if environmentalists continue to insist upon absurdly restrictive lifestyle changes.

You're missing the point of this essay if you talk about your pet issues -- if you talk about any issues. 

No lasting change can occur unless and until the system is changed. The mechanism of democracy must be brought into the 21st century. 

Hence, my question: What systemic change would you recommend? And do you have a practical means to bring about systemic change? 

If you are a mouse, do not talk to me about the need to bell the cat unless you know a way to make Tabby cooperate. 

Everything I have proposed is not just advisable but possible. I have given you not just a There, but a Path to Get There.

Wonderful list Joseph. Yes, your changes should be pursued. Defects in the US political system have always been there but they have never been so exposed as till now. Yet the background drivers are global: gross economic imbalances, resources depletion, species extinction, climate change, pollution, overpopulation, refugees and now the pandemic. Failing political systems everywhere all but guarantee that police state governments backed by surveillance technology will emerge to "solve" these problems. The US will likely not be immune.

"Structural defects tend to persist and in nearly every instance are determinative of the final outcome."

Question: Can Republican State legislatures simply reject the 2020 election results and choose Trump? I wouldn't put it past them.
Assuming Biden becomes president and democrats win the Senate. Change supreme court to 13. At the same time pass a constatutional ammendment to reduce the supreme Court back to 9 via normal death. Also include no replacement within 6 months of inauguration of president.
Would love to know your thoughts on this:
Anon, I read it. My response was pure despair.

I've been giving a lot of thought as to what to do.

Do YOU have any ideas? Seriously. Do you? I'd love to hear any plans or possibilities, even ones that might be considered absurd or unworkable or foolish.
Joseph, I mentioned previously that there is a hardball way of obstructing a SC appointment before the election and that is serial impeachments. Commence multiple serial impeachment investigations in the House against all leading admin officials: Barr, Pompeo, Devos, Mnuchin, Kushner, Chad Wolf, Trump, Pence etc. (This can be done two at a time or even covertly in order not to arouse a blanket refusal by the Admin. Select Trump minions first.)

Then send the impeachment to the Senate and waste time when the Republicans seek to dismiss the charges in a week. Insist that charges and evidence be read into the record, not just submitted as documents. Insist on rolls calls on all votes, quorum challenges, procedural votes, filibusters. Ensure each process takes at least a week before they are thrown out. Then immediately send the next impeachment target to the Senate. When the list is exhausted send the same names on new charges. That should stop an SC appointment before the election.

Beyond that I don't know. Yes, the Republican and media outrage will be enormous. But so what. A Trump SCOTUS pick is a Trump election win. Kick heads and keep kicking.
Barton Gellman is full of shit. Sorry, but he is. This is not a report--this is strictly speculation, and when he proposed voting in person to avoid "problems" I KNEW he was a lying sack of shit. I live in a state--Oregon--that has had mail-in voting for 20 years, and NOBODY wants to EVER go back to voting in person. It has worked great. Ditto for Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii. I was also an election observer in 2014, so I saw firsthand how questionable ballots are handled. Gellman doesn't know what he is talking about. He has NO background in elections or much of anything else. This is not a REPORT--this is speculative, and I am convinced it is designed to dampen voter turnout. Just what Trump wants.
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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Another Dark Day for Democracy

(This is a guest post by D-Jay)

How is it that Donald Trump, the worst man on the planet (or at least the most dangerous, according to his niece), also seems to be its luckiest?

Not only does he manage to stay out of jail in spite of a lifetime of alleged fraud and double-dealing; avoid bankruptcy after squandering the $400 million+ left to him by his daddy through the good graces of shady Kremlin-linked oligarchs; capture the presidency in a perfect storm of racial animus, lying, left-wing idiocy, asleep-at-the-switch Democratic Party campaigning, infuriating false equivalency in the media,  overt Russian interference, and who knows what else…now he gets to pick a third Supreme Court justice.

Will the tragic, untimely death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg prove to be the final nail in the coffin of American democracy?

I wouldn’t bet too much against it.

Some think that Trump would be better off playing fair and waiting to make the appointment, since the blatant hypocrisy of an early appointment might make it harder for the Repubs to keep the senate. 

Oh pleeease!

That would assume he is planning for this to be a free and fair election.

Yeah, sure

Moscow Mitch will now assure that Trump has an unbeatable majority in the Supreme Court, ready to rubber stamp any outrageous claim he might make about his upcoming election fakery. 

Of course they’ll move ahead full-speed before Justice Ginsberg is even cold in the grave.  A 6-3 Trumpian majority just about guarantees that any rulings related to the fast approaching election will go his way.

Rest in peace, RBG!

With you gone, we won’t.

I still blame the left for Dump. What is happening now was their wet dream. They weren't even secretive about. They wanted a bad enough life for Americans to cause revolution. Putin wouldn't have done it without them. Of course the democratic party also to blame. Now what to do, is electing Biden is enough out of this mess. I don't think so.
Anon, I take your point and have made a similar argument in times past. But MOST of the blame for the Trump goes to the far right.

That said, the left is hardly blameless. This shit has happened before: The far left KPD aided Hitler's rise to power by concentrating most of their firepower on the Social Democrats, whom the KPD called "social fascists."

You probably know that Marx once said, late in life, "There's only one thing I know -- I am not a Marxist." He said that in response to certain French "communists" who rejected measures to help the average worker (pay raises, safer working conditions and so forth). Their theory: Making life harder for the average person helped speed along the revolution; the worse things were, the better. Marx thought that this theory was insane.

In the current context, I would place much blame for out current madness on the postmodernists in academia, who are wrongly considered leftists, even though everything they do aids the far right. The po-mo poseurs have done everything they could to increase tensions between races and the sexes. Increased tensions have, in turn, helped fascism come to power in America. I honestly believe that the pomos desired that outcome -- that they've always known what they were doing.
Postmodernists are libertarians, and the rise of postmodernism coincided with the rise of economic neoliberalism. If people claim they are anything they say they are and there is no objective truth, then groups cannot advance their rights at all (racial minorities, women, other groups). There are no protected classes that are protected classes because of discrimination and oppression based on material reality in postmodernism, so civil rights laws, laws in support of women's rights cannot exist in postmodernism. The groups don't exist in the world of postmodernism. What better way to help the likes of Charles Koch and other demented rich people plus corporations than postmodernism?
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