Thursday, January 21, 2021

Is He Really Gone?


"But the same pathologies that abetted Trump’s political rise, animated his followers and became hallmarks of his turbulent single term have now, in the twilight of his presidency, left him a man diminished."

Is that true? Is Donald J. Trump "diminished"? What about his mob of  insurrectionists? Are they diminished? Are they even embarrassed?

The Federal prosecution of members of the mob might take some of the starch out -- one arrested in Kernersville yesterday, the first North Carolinian taken in on Federal charges; also the uncovering of actual conspiracies coordinating the presence of militia members with "combat techniques" taught by members of the US military. The FBI's knocking on doors all over the nation may sap some of that vim for putting yourself on Facebook while ransacking the seat of constitutional government. Prosecution of federal conspiracy charges -- Jeez. As Dr. Samuel Johnson is famous for saying, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” 

The anger behind that mob -- a reaction to perceived victimhood -- ain't diminishing. It's probably just going into hiding -- with the FBI on the hunt -- going underground to fester, resupply, and snipe. Or, on the other hand, it's going into the sick ward. In a Marist poll, only 39% of Trump voters said they would get a COVID vaccine. Thinning the herd via pandemic seems like the ultimate cult devotion.

Trump himself gets it that the Republican Party is done with him, so he intends to be done with them first. The Wall Street Journal got the story yesterday that Trump had spoken out loud the bright idea of starting a brand-new political party, "and we'll call it The Patriot Party." Who didn't show up to see him off at Joint Base Andrews early yesterday morning? None of the Republican Party grandees, McConnell, McCarthy, even Pence wasn't there, and McConnell is sounding more and more like a vengeful man who intends to leave the bark on.

"It is unclear whether such an effort at a new party would involve the recruitment and running of candidates or serve as a media and merchandise empire for the former president." We're betting the latter. Third parties often start off with a bang and then fizzle. There would certainly be a bang for the Patriot Party, fer sure, with an equally and opposite debilitating impact on the GOP, but unless Tramp himself -- or a Trump -- is on the ballot, not sure this movement, based on resentment, has staying power.

My number one question in watching Trump helicopter into retirement: What sort of factor will he be in elections going forward -- if any -- and how durable is the "Trump effect" that foiled Democratic ambitions last November, if Trump isn't on the ballot?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

How Joe Biden Will Begin To Reverse Trump Policies

We expect the newly inaugurated president to sign some 15 separate executive orders this afternoon, with more promised in the next weeks.  The collective effort was characterized by Biden's aides as “undoing” and “reversing” policies implemented by Trump that were “harmful” or “inhumane.” 

The Pandemic

Swiftly following his swearing in, President Biden plans to sign executive actions that will require masks on all federal grounds, and he will ask agencies to extend moratoriums on evictions and on federal student loan payments. He will urge Americans to don face coverings for 100 days while reviving a global health unit in the National Security Council — allowed to go dormant during the Trump administration — to oversee pandemic preparedness and response. He will also begin to reverse steps taken by President Trump to withdraw from the World Health Organization by dispatching Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease official, to speak at the international group’s executive board meeting tomorrow. He will create a White House Covid-19 response team that will coordinate across the federal government and with states on ramping up vaccinations, distributing more masks and gloves, expanding testing capacity, reopening schools and more. 


The new president will sign an order repealing the ban on travel from several majority-Muslim nations. Another order will call on the Department of Homeland Security to continue an Obama-era initiative protecting “dreamers” from deportation and issuing them work permits as long as they qualified under the requirements laid out when the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, began in 2012. Biden will also end the national emergency over the border that Trump declared as a way to circumvent Congress when lawmakers would not grant him funding for his wall. He also promises to repeal the Trump administration’s interior immigration enforcement order that sought to withhold federal funds from cities that shielded undocumented immigrants. And he will halt construction on the border wall. 

The Census

The new president will nullify the Trump administration’s directive that attempted to exclude the counting of noncitizens from the U.S. census.


President Biden plans to sign an order revoking the permit, issued by the Trump administration, that allowed for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and he will sign an order to rejoin the Paris climate accord. The United States will officially be part of the 189-country climate agreement in 30 days.

Racial Equity

President Biden plans to rescind the “1776 Commission” established by the Trump administration to push a much more conservative (lily white) version of American history in public schools. That commission issued its report only this week to widespread scorn from historians because of its soft-soap on the history of American slavery. In other orders promised for coming days the president-elect has promised to root out systemic racism from our institutions, holding the federal government accountable for advancing equity for families across America.

Transgender Rights

The new president plans to revoke "in coming days" the ban on transgender people from serving in the military.

Abortion Rights

President Biden intends to reverse the so-called "global gag rule" (the "Mexico City policy") that blocks U.S. aid to organizations abroad that perform abortions or offer counseling on the procedure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Thom Tillis -- Creampuff on Milquetoast


In an online lunchtime chat with the John Locke Foundation's Donna Martinez that was streamed live yesterday, Senator Thom Tillis claimed that he had not read the five paragraphs in the House's impeachment article against Donald Trump.

Asked whether he'd vote to convict the president, Tillis -- an overcooked noodle, sliding off the spoon -- wouldn't answer yes or no.

Tillis said there are "a lot of questions that I’m still getting legal advice on."

"Legal advice" -- under the rubric of "Do I dare to eat a peach?"

Tillis also questioned the ramifications of a potential second vote in the Senate to bar Trump from holding elected office in the future. Tillis noted that, while conviction requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, a subsequent vote to bar him from running again would require only a majority vote.

“I’ve got to wrap my head around that," he said.

Anything as mushy as that Tillis noggin ought to be pretty easy to warp into any shape you want.

Hattip: Travis Fain.

The Body Count -- Steven Dillingham, Census Bureau Director


A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

Steven Dillingham, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, announced his resignation yesterday in the wake of allegations that he had supported a partisan push to deliver data on undocumented immigrants to President Trump before the president leaves office.

Reports last week from bureau whistleblowers said political appointees were pressuring staff members to release state tallies of undocumented immigrants by Jan. 15, regardless of their accuracy, to boost Trump’s effort to exclude them from congressional apportionment. Those reports prompted calls from civil rights groups and Democratic lawmakers for Dillingham to resign.

Dillingham was appointed director two years ago as the bureau was embroiled in lawsuits over the Trump administration’s push to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, an effort that was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court. His appointment had been set to last until the end of 2021.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Trump Leaves a Ticking Time Bomb in the NSA


This guy. Michael Ellis, a lawyer and Trump loyalist, who had been an operative for Republican Rep. Devin Nunes and then graduated to the Trump White House in various roles (a lawyer for the National Security Council and then the White House’s senior director for intelligence), where he did what he could to stop the publication of John Bolton's book, "The Room Where It Happened." Ellis is said to have overruled the decision by a career official to clear Bolton’s book for publication, even though he had no formal training in the classification of national security information. Then the William Barr Justice Department, under pressure from Trump, sued Bolton to recoup his profits from the book.

Anyway ... this guy ... Michael Ellis has been forced on the National Security Agency in the last days of the Trump administration as the NSA's general counsel. Trump's last (acting) defense secretary ordered the NSA to hire Ellis, something the director of the NSA clearly didn't want to do -- to embed this political punk into the ranks of the Senior Executive Service, which will protect his job from a political firing by the Biden administration (though they can reassign his ass to a place where he can't continue to spy for Trump).

Mr. Ellis is seen as a smart lawyer. But the push to install him in a permanent government job puzzled some. According to former officials, he is likely to enter the general counsel’s office under a good deal of suspicion and will have an uphill battle to win the confidence of [NSA Director] General [Paul] Nakasone.

Mr. Ellis will be a member of the Senior Executive Service, a Civil Service job that has strong protections against firing. However, civil servants can be easily moved in the Defense Department, so he could be given a legal job elsewhere in the sprawling department — overseeing compliance with environmental regulations at a remote military base, for example. [NYTimes]

Gotta ask why Trump and his minions were so determined to give one of Twitterman's loyal foot soldiers such a prominent perch in the national spy agency. Gosh, it's almost like Trump wants to keep an eye on how, say, Russia may be faring under the new Biden administration.

And how many other Trump moles have been similarly installed for longterm spying in other government agencies?

Inside the Insurrection


A New Yorker reporter's footage from inside the Capitol riot is chilling, especially for revealing how the insurrectionists see themselves and congratulate their own testosterone.

The crisis in our nation wasn't just for that one day. Their devotion to the big lie becomes an enduring burden for the survival of the Republic.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

We Need Another Stacey Abrams in North Carolina


Next month, the state executive committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party will vote on a new chair for the state party. The only announced candidate for the job right now is Bobbie Richardson, who is currently 1st vice chair and a former member of the NC House. She was appointed to the Dist. 7 House seat in 2013, won reelection in 2014 and 2016 but lost her seat (by a large margin) in the elections of 2018, after redistricting dissolved her old constituency and replaced it with a much whiter, more Republican electorate. 

(The old Dist. 7 had been considered one of the most racially gerrymandered in the state. While redistricting generally across NC in 2018 made Democratic gains in the General Assembly possible, that redistricting hurt a handful of Democratic incumbents, and Richardson was one of those.)

Could Richardson be our Stacey Abrams? Would she have the vision and the juice to mount aggressive voter registration and outreach to find and motivate the people who haven't been participating in our civic contract? While Black voter turnout in North Carolina increased 4.1 points last fall over 2016, it wasn’t enough for Democrats to flip the state for Biden or to flip at least one chamber in the General Assembly. Some 68.4% of North Carolina’s Black voters cast a ballot in the 2020 elections, compared to 78.8% of white voters. That's the winning margin right there, all those votes left untapped.

Richardson spent 35 years teaching in North Carolina schools, with a wealth of preparation behind her including a doctorate in education leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill. She's been a stand-out leader in her community (which is clear from reading her bio), but can she bring a Stacey Abrams level of organizing and reform to the North Carolina Democratic Party?

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Donald Trump Should Beware of Cosmic Irony


I heard Fran Lebowitz say she worries about dying in such a manner that people will laugh. It's called "cosmic irony," that force in the universe looking to embarrass you in your last minutes. Like Nelson Rockefeller, dead of a heart attack in the secret apartment of his very young mistress. Like Sir Francis Bacon, a most arrogant but scientific Elizabethan, dead of pneumonia after stuffing a chicken with snow. Like Draco of Athens, literally killed by kindness, suffocating under a pile of gifts showered on him by grateful citizens. I could go on.

People laughed.

Like, say you're a proper and judgmental church lady. A garbage truck with your name on it may be stalking you in the streets. People will laugh, most likely in private but still.

I don't know if Donald Trump worries. Pariahs often don't. Pariahs lack the self-reflection to recognize any ironies, let alone the cosmic variety, but he should, if he could, avoid living in such a way as to invite the flying fickle finger of fate. Self-absorption paves the road for cruel hilarity.

Say, he blunders into Melania's bedroom in the middle of the night, and she mistakes him for a Mexican rapist and puts a bullet through his heart. Say, a judgmental young woman grabs him by the privates and precipitates an exploding aneurysm in his femoral artery. Say his smartphone catches fire and he's wearing clothes fashioned out of cellulose fibers, designed and sold as a brand by Ivanka.

Dreaming up those scenarios could be a parlor game. I remember when we had a similar one for Dick Nixon: "I won't be satisfied until he ________." It's a ghastly theater of revenge porn, not entirely unlike the scenarios the mob at the Capitol last week were playing in their heads as they went hunting for traitors. 

The Youngest Member of Congress Reveals His Character


Newly elected NC-11 Congressman Madison Cawthorn spoke at the Ellipse rally of Trumpists last Wednesday. Cawthorn said in part: “The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans, hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice. Make no mistake about it, they do not want you to be heard. But my friends, when I look out into this crowd, I can confidently say, this crowd has the voice of lions. There is a new Republican Party on the rise that will represent this country, that will go and fight in Washington, D.C.”

Henderson County Sheriff George Erwin, who had worked hard for Cawthorn's election, couldn't stand it. He said about Cawthorn's speech, “Words mean things. You can inflame a group and you can calm a group by the words you used. To me, he inflamed,” Erwin said. “.... You rile people up and then afterwards, you’re going to say, ‘Well, this is appalling. This is appalling and I back the blue.’ No, you don’t. You fired these people up and the first line of defense was law enforcement. People are dead. You can’t take that back.”


Sure enough, Cawthorn waited until the next day to tweet his disgust with the insurrectionists -- "it wasn’t patriotism it was thuggery.” And then he told a WLOS reporter that he didn't feel any responsibility for what happened. No responsibility. "I'm not responsible at all." That's it, that's the same Trumpist inability to see self, to see clearly what you did and to know it for what it was, and to admit it, at least to yourself.

Sheriff George Erwin
Sheriff Erwin shared his shame that he had worked so diligently to get that young man elected: “This is all on me. Calling all these people, getting them to endorse, introducing him to county commissioners, law enforcement officials. That is all on me. I’m a big boy. I’ll take my punishment. I am not happy with what I’m seeing. I think this is just going to be the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think it’s going to get any better.”

Indeed, there's a Cawthorn contrail going all the way back to election night -- "Cry more lib" -- as he plays to a national hardcore audience. He wants to be their new star. Speaking at the Republican National Convention went to his head, and now he's all about the tough guy act. On Dec. 21, at a speech before the young conservative group Turning Point USA, Cawthorn said that if other Republicans were not on the record “calling for fair, free and just elections” he would come to their districts and fund primary opponents. Call your congressman and feel free, you can lightly threaten them and say, you know what, if you don’t start supporting election integrity, I’m coming after you, Madison Cawthorn is coming after you, everybody’s coming after you,” Cawthorn told the group.

His character comes out in other ways, too: "Erwin said Cawthorn’s hiring and his treatment of people in the office turned him off, as did the new congressman’s seeming priority for a national spotlight over district concerns."

The sheriff isn't the only Republican in the 11th District to speak out against Cawthorn. Eddie Harwood, a Buncombe County conservative, posted this on Facebook: “But after his role in inciting this mob violence we saw at the Capitol, my worst fears about his immaturity and willingness to pander to the worst instincts of the right-wing fringe were realized,” Harwood wrote. “Make no mistake: There is blood on his hands. He played a role in encouraging the violence and attack on our democracy, going to get his picture taken and trying to get on the right-wing news by whipping up the crowd that attacked our democracy and our constitutional process. It was disgusting.”

The Trumpists probably outnumber the Sheriff Erwins and the Eddie Harwoods of the 11th District, and the Trumpists in the 11th District are still jazzed by their RINO-hunting last week and aren't about to let anything bad (or even "adult") happen to Madison Cawthorn. Consider the threatening phone call to the Haywood County Democratic Party: "Are you the fuckers that are calling for Madison Cawthorn to resign? We're coming after you." Then a brick went through their HDQs window.

That's the situation in the 11th District. That's the shape of the Republican Party. Cawthorn is probably going to be their burden until 2022, when the potency of Trump's bullying may be gone. We'd love to see Col. Moe Davis run for that seat again.

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