Day 1232 – Support For Trump Slipping

More generals came forward yesterday to criticize Trump photo-op stunt last Monday that involved attacking peaceful protesters.  Critics also lambasted the emergence of unmarked “troops” in DC who stand guard around the White House, conjuring notions of secret police.  Rumors circulated yesterday that the officers reported to AG Barr and were both prison guards and members of ICE. Speaker Pelosi wrote a letter to Trump yesterday expressing concern over the “militarization” of DC and asking for for a list of federal agencies who were involved in policing the nation’s capital, and last night the mayor of DC announced that the troops could no longer stay in private hotels in the city as that would violate the Constitution.

Along with Esper, Mattis and Mullen, the latest military officers to speak out against Trump’s use of the military include General Dempsey, General Hayden, General Thomas, General Silveria and General Goldfein.  Here’s an excellent article and summary by Fred Kaplan in Slate:

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/trump-commanders-esper-mullen-miller.html

Trump has long assumed the military was “with him” and often referred to “my Generals” but the current situation casts grave doubt on that assumption. Military officers take their oaths seriously and can only rise through the ranks if they have respect for civilian authority and some measure of humility.  To be used by the president in such a blatantly political and unsavory way is clearly creating a lot of anger and alarm among our military, as it should.

Meanwhile, large protests continued across the nation yesterday, and while the vast majority were peaceful and without incident, social media was full of videos of police brutalizing seemingly harmless and peaceful protesters.  The looting and destruction of property seems to have ebbed, but anger at the police has not, and the actions of some cops are not helping.  It’s almost as if the script has gone like this:

  • Protesters: “Police abuse black citizens, as the death of George Floyd confirms.”
  • Police: “It’s only a few bad apples.”
  • Protesters: “That’s not true, and we’re protesting to force a systemic change.”
  • Police: “We will prove our point by beating you with our batons.”

Protest leaders have done an increasingly good job of keeping protesters calm and peaceful–although peaceful doesn’t mean timid, and a person can be peaceful and angry at the same time, which is perfectly legal.  But certain police seem intent on beating up and brutalizing protesters, which adds fuel to calls for policing reforms like those being drafted by Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. You can read the framework for their proposed changes here:

https://www.booker.senate.gov/news/press/booker-announces-framework-for-comprehensive-police-reform-legislation

Many lawmakers have been publicly discussing measures to de-militarize our local police forces, and some have been drafting legislation to require all law enforcement agents, including those in the ‘District of Columbia to wear agency insignia and ID, which it seems clear we need in light of Barr’s secret goon squad.

Trump’s sabre rattling, abusive photo-ops, and fear-mongering about the virtually non-existent “Antifa” are merely distractions from his catastrophically failed presidency.  Covid continues to spread, with 110,000 now dead and close to 2M infected, and new areas are becoming hotspots. Another 1.8M jobless claims were announced yesterday for the preceding  week, making a total of 43M losing work (though a few have been re-employed) since the lockdown began.  In the past few weeks Trump and his regime have done NOTHING to address these historic calamities, and things will only get worse before they get better.  Fortunately, Trump’s abysmal performance is finally showing up in the polls.  As reported in WaPo, a new poll from Public Religion Research Institute shows only 41% view Trump favorably, and among Republicans, his favorability has slipped from 90% in April to 83% now.  He’s lost big ground among white voters with a college degree, too.  Here’s the article by Greg Sargent:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/04/more-signs-emerge-that-trumps-base-is-eroding/

On the subject of the pandemic, here’s a fascinating article suggesting that some medical experts now think Covid-19 is not a respiratory virus but actually a vascular virus that enters primarily through your lungs.  This would explain why people most at risk of dying are those with cardiovascular issues and immune deficiencies.  The article references a research paper published in the Lancet that is also a fascinating, though technical, read.

https://elemental.medium.com/coronavirus-may-be-a-blood-vessel-disease-which-explains-everything-2c4032481ab2

Have a safe and peaceful weekend.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1231 – Generals Condemn Trump

The police officer accused of killing George Floyd had his charge increased from 3rd degree to 2nd degree murder yesterday, and the other three police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd were charged with accessory to murder and arrested.  It was a significant and overdue step on the road toward justice for the Floyd family and the nation.  Minnesota AG Ellison noted that it will be difficult to obtain convictions but he believes the state has a strong case.

Trump continued to take heat for his disastrous photo-op at St. John’s Church near the White House, especially for using the military to force out peaceful protesters from the area.  Two days ago James Miller resigned from the Defense Science Board and accused Secretary Esper of violating his oath by going along with Trump’s photo stunt, and many wondered if any military brass would speak up in similar fashion.  Yesterday we got our answer.

First, Secretary Esper surprised Washington and Trump by claiming in remarks to reporters that he didn’t know what the trip to the church was all about.  Further, Esper said that bringing the military into a civilian matter like protests was wrong, and that invoking the Insurrection Act should only be done as a last resort in times of grave threat, something America is nowhere near.  The remark went squarely against the Trump party line, and many are wondering if Esper will be fired soon.

Second, General George Mattis, former Trump Secretary of Defense, issued a scathing statement about Trump’s use of the military in DC, pointing out that Trump is the first president in Mattis’s lifetime who does not try to unite the country, but rather tries to divide us, saying that we have not had mature leadership in Trump’s tenure, and implying that Trump is making a mockery of the Constitution.  Trump later tried to belittle Mattis despite the fact that Trump hired him and praised him constantly.  Read the full statement by Mattis here:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/james-mattis-denounces-trump-protests-militarization/612640/

Third, retired Marine 4-star General John Allen said, “Right now, the last thing the country needs–and, frankly, the U.S. military needs–is the appearance of U.S. soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on America citizens.”  He added, “We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of American democracy.”

Trump enforcer William Barr, however, continued to push for military involvement in the DC protests, and yesterday many members of law enforcement were recorded facing protesters wearing full battle gear without any badge, nametag, nor branch insignia.  When asked who they worked for, all they would say was “the Department of Justice.” In other words, Barr seems to have co-opted his own military unit.

Fortunately, thanks in part to the arrest of the three officers assisting in the killing of George Floyd, protests around the nation yesterday seemed less intense, with fewer violent incidents.

Barack Obama participated in a live town hall for the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, part of the Obama Foundation, that serves black boys and young men.  NPR had a good summary of the comments here:

https://www.npr.org/2020/06/03/869208191/obama-urges-young-people-to-keep-up-their-protests-to-bring-change

Obama spoke about how we should be responding to the Floyd killing, and it was an extraordinary reminder of what a thoughtful, hopeful president sounds like, rather than a blustering, whining, divisive liar like Trump.

It’s also important to note that the Covid pandemic continues to ravage the nation.  America saw an UPTICK in the number of cases yesterday, and several southern states including Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia all experienced a weekly rise in new cases of 35% or more.  This outbreak isn’t going away, and we might in fact be seeing the beginning of a second wave as the federal government has essentially abandoned any effort to fight or contain the virus and certain states relax restrictions.  Again, Trump and the feds seem to have given up and gone home, hoping that the states will deal with the mess.  No more pressers, no more Doctor Fauci.  It’s truly a disgraceful capitulation by an incompetent administration that will cost tens of thousands more lives.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1230 – They Violated Their Oaths

Protests continued yesterday and it seemed the contrast between protesters and looters/agitators was becoming clearer.  The vast majority of protesters have been peaceful and non-violent, and the bulk of the protesting has occurred during the day.  But as each evening sets in, other people are taking advantage of the relatively empty business districts (due to the pandemic) as well as the preoccupation by police with the protesters, and looting.  Some people are also using the vacuum to vent their rage and destroy/deface property, both anarchists and supremacists.  Now the media and the police are becoming increasingly aware of this important distinction.  Protesters are going out of their way to distance themselves from looters and troublemakers because these activities are antithetical to the issue of social justice, especially equal treatment of black citizens by law enforcement and the justice system.  And it’s important that we continue to support the protesters and denounce the others.

Trump continued to suffer blowback yesterday from his ridiculous photo-op at the St John’s Church near the White House.  Former military brass, Republican commentators and even some Republican politicians joined Democrats to denounce Trump’s brutal and unAmerican treatment of protesters prior to the photo-op.  In case you missed it, we posted on the ITFIO Facebook page the resignation letter of James Miller from the Defense Science Board run by Secretary Mark Esper.  Miller slammed Esper and Trump in his letter, impugning their integrity and suggesting that they violated their oaths of office in their treatment of peaceful protesters for Trump’s photo-op.  It’s a must-read.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/02/secretary-esper-you-violated-your-oath-aiding-trumps-photo-op-thats-why-im-resigning/

In other good news, racist incumbent Iowa congressman Steve King lost his primary contest yesterday and won’t be returning to the House next term.  The Republican winner probably has a strong chance of keeping the seat for the GOP, but it’s not a lock, especially with Trump hurting down-ballot candidates.

It was also reported yesterday that Trump and the RNC decided to move their 2020 convention out of North Carolina because the NC governor insisted they use masks and social distancing.  But Trump, determined to risk the lives of Republicans for the sake of adulation, wants a “normal” convention where his cult can pump his ego. And if his poll numbers continue to slip, he’ll need emotional support.  Nate Silver of 538blog reported yesterday that Trump’s disapproval rating hit 54%, noting that “no president has had a higher *disapproval* rating than Trump now has.”

Another in-case-you-missed-it item, Congressman Antonio Delgado published a fascinating and poignant op-ed in the Washington Post about his experience as a black man in America and why protesting is only important if it leads more of us to voting.  Here’s a link:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/02/i-know-how-painful-racism-is-we-cant-give-up-voting/

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1229 – Trump Crosses Another Line

Trump emerged from his bunker yesterday and held an angry, ranting call with US governors in which he implored them to arrest protesters and sentence them to ten years (does Trump actually think governors have the power to make that happen?). Trump then had ten different law enforcement and military groups coordinate to violently attack a large gathering of peaceful protesters outside the White House to clear them from an area he needed to cross to get to the nearby St. John’s Church for a photo op while he brandished a Bible.  The Bishop of the parish complained afterwards that nobody warned the church that Trump was coming, and Trump failed while he was there to pray.  Maybe because Trump has never prayed nor been a real Christian?

More importantly, Trump threatened to send military troops to states whose governors could not “defend the life or property” of residents, calling protesters “terrorists”.  Presidents are not allowed to send troops to any state without the consent of the governor unless the president invokes the Insurrection Act of 1807, allowing him to send Federal troops when the state cannot otherwise enforce its laws.  This would be, yet again, straight out of the Dictator Handbook.  Trump expanding his power and pretending to care about “law and order” as he uses force to look tough. Meanwhile, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the “protesters” inciting violence and destroying property are not generally part of the Black Lives Matter movement and don’t give a damn about George Floyd. Many of them are white supremacists masquerading as leftists or “antifa”–as CNN reported last night–in order to stoke fear and open the door for Trump to increase power.  Now would be a good time to call our Senators and urge them to denounce any Trump power grab.

Trump has crossed many red lines in his presidency.  But it seemed like Trump’s irresponsible actions and dangerous statements yesterday catalyzed something new.  People I’ve known for years on social media who never post or say anything political were suddenly venting their anger at Trump last night, and there were long threads on Facebook unlike any I have seen.  The vast majority were horrified that Trump had driven our nation into such a deep ditch and recognized the gravity of a moment where the president, rather than working for unity, was dividing America and threatening to use troops against our own citizens.  And what other conclusion could a rational person come to?  Forty-one million Americans unemployed, our national debt skyrocketing, a Covid death toll surpassing 105,000 citizens, our nation’s cities burning with rage at the racism and police brutality that Trump continues to fuel as he openly fantasizes about grabbing more power.  The outrage on Twitter was relentless and continued throughout the day and night, coming from ordinary citizens to public figures to former President Obama and Joe Biden.

Conservative George Will had an amazing column in the Washington Post yesterday calling for Trump’s removal that I encourage everyone to read.  He has especially harsh words for the Republicans in Congress who coddle Trump:

We cannot know all the measures necessary to restore the nation’s domestic health and international standing, but we know the first step: Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration, leaving the Republican remnant to wonder: Was it sensible to sacrifice dignity, such as it ever was, and to shed principles, if convictions so easily jettisoned could be dignified as principles, for . . . what?

He then concludes about Trump:

Those who think our unhinged president’s recent mania about a murder two decades ago that never happened represents his moral nadir have missed the lesson of his life: There is no such thing as rock bottom. So, assume that the worst is yet to come.

Please read the entire editorial here, it’s not long:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/no-one-should-want-four-more-years-of-this-taste-of-ashes/2020/06/01/1a80ecf4-a425-11ea-bb20-ebf0921f3bbd_story.html

The next 150 days will be tough and grueling and dangerous.  But we have to answer the call to defend our democracy from fascism as represented by Trump and his cult.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 1228 – Hiding In A Bunker

Cities around the nation suffered major protests and violence over the weekend as anger over the murder of George Floyd–and many others–continued to rage.  One of Floyd’s killers was arrested over the weekend, but the other three who supported and participated with him have yet to be charged.

Watching coverage of the rioting this weekend was heartbreaking.  Cities seemed to be dealing with at least three different groups.  1) People protesting police brutality against blacks; 2) People looking to incite violence and/or destroy property as a provocation to violence; 3) People looking to loot and/or steal property while the police were otherwise occupied.

A significant majority of participants in the protests fell into group one, usually going out of their way to remain non-violent and non-threatening.  But they were often overshadowed by people in group two, especially after dark, and it became clear that people in group two consisted of several opposing factions, including anarchists trying to destroy the state as well as supremacists disguised as anarchists trying to create a mess they could blame on “leftists” or “antifa” (which stands for anti-fascist) to further their Nazi dream of starting a race war.  Group three were merely opportunists, and many of them were likely fueled by the economic catastrophe brought on by the failure of the federal government to respond adequately to the Covid pandemic.

This paroxysm of violence was understandable in light of yet another instance of police killing unarmed black citizens, and it’s not difficult to support the anger protesters felt toward the police.  But it’s critical that activists look at the bigger picture here.  The overarching goal is justice for George Floyd and every other citizen of color in the future.  And the only way that’s going to happen is if we dump Trump this November, along with as many Republicans as possible.  All Trump did this weekend was fan the flames of violence on Twitter while doing NOTHING else.  He reportedly hid in his bunker in the White House as loud protests raged nearby, and by Sunday evening the #bunkerboy and #bunkerTrump hashtags were trending on Twitter in response to his notable absence.  Most presidents would address the nation and urge calm, but Trump is a divider, a supremacist, an authoritarian, and a coward, so he naturally stayed out of sight.

But the grave risk now to the protest movement is that it starts to play into Trump’s hands.  Dictators will stoke violence, then use that violence to scare voters into supporting them.  “These thugs are destroying America, so I will send in the military to save you!  I’m so strong!!  And while I’m at it, how about some martial law?  And why don’t we postpone the upcoming elections until it’s safe.”  We’ve already seen Trump stoking violence, so it’s no surprise that a number of white supremacist groups have been infiltrating protests trying to stir up trouble.  (In fact, once they are identified, protesters will grab them and hand them over to the cops.)  We’ve also seen a flurry of activity on social media by Russian bots and troll farms trying to fan the flames of violence and encouraging supremacists to take to the streets.  It’s a recipe for violent conflict, and it allows Trump to respond with greater and greater force, and to stoke greater and greater fear among voters.  It’s been said that authoritarian regimes gain power the same way a Boa Constrictor kills its prey–each new power they grab they never let go of, tightening until democracy is dead.  And we know that Trump–and his supremacist advisers like Miller and Bannon– have been thinking along these lines for many years.  Trump has already talked about sending the military to Minnesota and designating “antifa” as a terrorist organization (it’s not an organization and he doesn’t have any meaningful  power to designate terrorist organizations, but he doesn’t care) to create a new liberal boogeyman for him to demonize. We simply cannot allow looters, anarchists and Nazis to give Trump an excuse to grab more power and stoke more fear.  Because the vast majority of protesters are neither causing violence, destroying property nor looting.

Protesting is essential to democracy, especially in times of great injustice.  But we have to reinforce the point that real power comes from political organizing and voting.  Republicans have known this for decades.  If we elect a more diverse group of mayors, sheriffs and district attorneys committed to justice, fewer George Floyds will be murdered because cops will be held more accountable.  And this holds true for an entire range of other issues that overlap this crisis.  We will also have better education, healthcare, housing, tax fairness and wages.  Voting, and then holding our elected officials accountable, is a lot more effective and a lot less dangerous than protesting.  And we can’t lose sight of that fact.  Real political power comes from organizing your community and getting everyone to vote.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 1225 – Glorifying Violence, Again

Protests continued to rage across the nation yesterday and several of them turned violent last night.  In Louisville Kentucky activists took to the streets to protest the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the protesters were fired upon by police. At least seven people were wounded.  In Columbus Ohio rioters looted and destroyed a number of businesses near the state house.  And the Minneapolis police barracks where the cops who killed George Floyd were stationed was surrounded by protesters and eventually set on fire.  It seems likely that the rioting could continue until the police who killed Floyd are arrested. 

President Trump took to Twitter after midnight to politicize the rioting and stoke the radical Trump base, posting this about Minneapolis:

….These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.  Thank you!

First, calling the protesters “thugs” was a racial epithet in this context.  Second, the military is not generally allowed to intervene in a state matters–each state’s National Guard is under the control of each governor.  Third, Trump was clearly promoting VIOLENCE and extrajudicial execution.  Twitter erupted in anger and Trump’s tweet was reported to Twitter management by countless users for glorifying violence.

Earlier in the day Trump had issued an executive order rescinding laws passed by Congress to protect internet platforms like Twitter and Facebook from libel lawsuits.  The order sprang from Trump’s anger that Twitter had placed a fact-check warning on one of his (blatantly misleading and inaccurate) tweets.  Ironically, the person most negatively impacted by this order might be Trump himself, as it would push platforms to more aggressively police posts for accuracy.  But most legal scholars agreed that the order was likely unenforceable and would be rejected by courts because it went against the will of Congress as expressed in legislation.  The president can’t undo laws to suit his whims.  So it almost seemed like his promotion of violence last night (he also retweeted a post the night before that said “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat”) was meant as a taunt to Twitter.  And Twitter called his bluff.  They covered his tweet with this warning:

This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.

Trump will almost certainly wail and whine about the disclaimer and try to use it to show his cult how unfair the mean internet companies have been to him.  But we can’t let the grotesque content of Trump’s tweet be overshadowed by his tantrums. He’s actively stoking violence and dividing people. He’s threatening military intervention in a domestic matter which is Chapter One of the Dictator Playbook.  Every day we suffer a new low, a new scandal, a new stain on the presidency from the manifestly unfit divider-in-chief.

Trump’s corrupt regime also announced yesterday that they won’t be releasing their usual economic projections this summer.  The White House said that because the pandemic has created extreme economic volatility, they will break with decades of tradition and forgo their usual projections.  In other words, the White House won’t do anything that risks shining a light on the economic catastrophe that it has contributed to.  Perhaps they hope that if they ignore it, it will go away.

We have to make sure THEY go away in November.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Have a peaceful weekend.

Day 1224 – Trump’s Doctrine: Withdrawal

The national coronavirus death count officially passed 100,000 victims yesterday, a number so large and heartbreaking that it’s hard to grasp. Many of the deaths were avoidable if only Trump had listened to his National Security and Health officials and taken action alongside other countries, like South Korea.  Instead, Trump dithered and eventually punted to the states–we still have no national effort nor strategy to battle the pandemic, which continues to spread.  The overall numbers are down, but mostly because the hard-hit areas of NY and NJ have done a good job with their lockdowns. Many areas of the midwest continue to see increasingly bad infection and hospitalization rates, which will lead to higher death tolls.  And so on.

Trump knows that 100,000 deaths on his watch “looks bad” so his response has been to create distractions.  Trump usually does this by saying or doing something repulsive and scandalous, which is exactly what he’s been doing all week.  He started by saying that Democrats were trying to rig the upcoming election.  He then moved to insinuating that TV host Joe Scarborough was somehow responsible for the death of a staffer twenty years ago, even though Joe was in a different state at the time of the staffer’s death.  But yesterday Trump sank to an ugly and dangerous new low, retweeting a video made by wannabe cowboys that started by saying “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”  Trump will do his usual bullshit song and dance about how he retweets many things, it was only a joke (it wasn’t), it’s free speech, etc.  But spreading and thereby sanctioning this kind of dangerous shit could compel some lunatic Trumper to open fire and kill people someday. After three years of rallies where Trump often mused about violence and strenuously demonized both specific individuals (Pelosi, Schiff, Waters) and entire classes of people (Democrats, reporters, scientists, the educated), his cult have become a tinderbox of hatred and seething resentment, further fertilized by right-wing media like Fox, InfoWars and OANN.  As much we might rightly hate the Republican party and their corrupt figurehead, we can’t let ourselves hate our neighbors and fellow citizens simply because of their political affiliations.  People are complicated, and most people want the exact same things: safety, security, respect, opportunity.  The day we see our political opponents as sub-human, evil, or irredeemable is the day we are lost, and the day our Democratic enterprise fails.  We have to call Trump out when he stokes violence because we recognize that violence is not the answer, it’s part of the problem.

Unfortunately, Minneapolis experienced a spasm of violence into the night as protests against the killing (murder) of George Floyd by police turned into riots.  Stores were looted and structures were set on fire as police tried to break up the crowds using tear gas, flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets.  Social media was quick to point out that when white protesters carrying assault rifles stormed the state capitol the police did very little to stop them, whereas when people peacefully protested the killing of Floyd they were met with police violence.  It’s a stark example of systematic racism.

China yesterday approved dramatic new legislation to bring Hong Kong further under it’s thumb, and observers expect a violent crackdown when the laws go into effect in September.  Trump and Secretary Pompeo want to keep China from further control of Hong Kong and are weighing their options, but the move by China was surely done in part because they know Trump is weak and distracted.  He talks a big talk but his overarching foreign policy doctrine can be described by one word: withdrawal.  Trump isn’t interested in conducting any meaningful foreign policy, nor is he capable of doing so.  His only skill is sloganeering, and that’s how he’s tried to get things done as president–by Tweeting orders (or shouting policy delusions at his hate-rallies).  At this point, all we can do is weep for the valiant residents of Hong Kong.

Trump’s weakness and incompetence are having a catastrophic impact on the economy.  The World Economic Forum estimated that 2 out of every 5 jobs lost during the Covid pandemic may not come back.  That’s a staggering prediction and speaks to a recovery that will be slow and painful, not the quick v-shaped recovery that Republicans and their Wall Street owners have been fantasizing about and promoting.  Weekly jobless claims will be reported this morning and the bad news will surely continue.  The stock market closed above 25,000 yesterday for the first time since the market collapse, and the real question remains, why is it so high?  If it weren’t for interest rates near zero and massive Fed intervention in the credit markets, the stock market would have cratered–and it might still since the Fed can do little to help corporate earnings, which will surely be disastrous for many companies in the next few quarters.

There are only 158 days until the November election.  Make them count.  So much is at stake.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”