One Thing I Don’t Feel Is Safer

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

So the country is pretty broken.

The fact that Kyle Rittenhouse walked away free from the courthouse in Kenosha cannot be a surprise. The trial was headed on a straight line to this verdict for weeks, nudged along by a judge who clearly was enjoying the spotlight that had come down on his private little satrapy, and by a mediocre prosecution that also was hamstrung by the quirks of Wisconsin law. For example, there is no state manslaughter statute, which surely might have been helpful.

The most poignant words out of the courthouse came from the families of the two people Rittenhouse killed, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, who said that they felt abandoned by the prosecution, that the prosecutors did not seem to advocate for the dead and wounded. Given that, in almost every trial, the prosecution spares nothing to use the family members of the victims to inspire sympathy from the jury—and, occasionally, from the judge as well—the fact that the families of the people whom Kyle Rittenhouse killed felt abandoned strikes me as extraordinary. I don’t know where all the Victims’ Rights firebrands are, but they weren’t in Kenosha. Hell, the people Kyle Rittenhouse shot weren’t even allowed to be referred to as victims in court.

What I do not feel right now is safer.

I’ve tried to imagine how I would have felt were I on a sidewalk in Kenosha that night and saw this pudgy little fellow walking up the center of the street with his AR-15, preferred weapon of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, strapped across his chest. I guarantee I would not have felt safer. I would not believe that Kyle Rittenhouse was there to protect me. Upon seeing him, I would’ve concluded that things were getting dangerously out of control and that it was time to find some safe place to be for a while. I would wonder why somebody gave Lumpy Rutherford a military-grade weapon and turned him loose in a situation already grown volatile.

I remember seeing protestors with long guns showing up at some of President Obama’s rallies and thinking that something serious had changed in our politics. Open carry transforms any mass event into a potential firefight. Open carry transforms an already violent event into a potential bloodbath. It is only a matter of time, and after yesterday’s verdict, you can reset the Doomsday Clock a little closer to midnight.

Not long after the verdict, the family of Anthony Huber, the second person Kyle Rittenhouse killed, issued a statement that said, in part:

We did not attend the trial because we could not bear to sit in a courtroom and repeatedly watch videos of our son’s murder, and because we have been subjected to many hurtful and nasty comments in the past year. But we watched the trial closely, hoping it would bring us closure. That did not happen. Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street. We hope that decent people will join us in forcefully rejecting that message and demanding more of our laws, our officials, and our justice system.

The police officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times, leaving him paralyzed, faced no criminal trial.

Kyle Rittenhouse killed two people and wounded a third in the aftermath, and walked out of the courthouse a free citizen—a killer, if not a murderer.

Two killed. Two wounded. No crime committed.

Welcome to 2021.


One Dakota Seems Like More Than Enough

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

I grow less certain by the day of the necessity of our having two Dakotas. One seems more than enough, except when it seems like we have one too many. I fear that this is one of those times. North Dakota is a bubbling beaker of pure prion disease. The governor just signed a bill designed to prevent something that isn’t being taught in the schools from being taught in the schools, and everybody is pretending that this is an ordinary bit of legislative business. From KVRR:

Gov. Doug Burgum signed the measure banning the teaching of critical race theory after the Senate gave its approval Friday. Though there is no evidence that the idea is being taught in North Dakota, Fargo Rep. Jim Kasper, the main sponsor, said the bill would ensure it isn’t taught in the future. Senators also approved a bill to restrict vaccination mandates, which Burgum signed. The measure provides exemptions for medical, philosophical or religious reasons, and would allow workers to avoid vaccinations if they agree to testing.

Unless the North Dakota schools plan to someday teach a third-year law-school curriculum, Critical Race Theory is not going to be wedged in there between English and Mathematics. Ever. But that’s the thing about bogeymen. They never sleep as long as they are useful. You may have noticed that Glenn Youngkin doesn’t talk much about Toni Morrison now that he’s won his election. It’ll come back, though, the way it has in North Dakota.

Burgum made a billion selling his software company to Microsoft, so he’s completely insulated from whatever damage he might do as governor, but there’s a great deal percolating under the surface of what appears to be a fundamentally absurd political “issue.” From WDAY:

The bill defines critical race theory as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of learned individual bias or prejudice, but that racism is systemically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.”

Senator Schaible comes from Mott, the pheasant-hunting capital of North Dakota. There are 2,382 people who live on Mott’s 588 acres. Mott’s population is 99.5 percent white, so clearly, Senator Schaible has been well-prepared from birth to know the country’s racial history well enough that he can decide what about it should be taught in North Dakota’s schools. But, as Judd Legum at Popular Information points out, the bill Burgum signed could be manipulated into covering a lot more than graduate-level legal theory. Which, as this section of the law demonstrates, is its entire point.

A school district or public school may not include instruction relating to critical race theory in any portion of the district’s required curriculum…or any other curriculum offered by the district or school. For purposes of this section, “critical race theory” means the theory that racism is not merely the product of learned individual bias or prejudice, but that racism is systemically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.

In fact, as Legum argues, the law may forbid discussion of itself in the classroom because of all the work being done in that first sentence by the phrase “relating to Critical Race Theory.” Since the authors and supporters of the law either don’t know what CRT is, or, more likely, they don’t care, almost anything could be said to “relate to” it. Bogeymen never sleep while they are useful, and this one apparently isn’t even tired yet.


Bannon Arrested for Contempt of Soap

Satire from The New Yorker, by Andy Borowitz:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In what congressional Republicans are calling an act of flagrant overreach by the Department of Justice, the former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been arrested for contempt of soap.

The basis for the arrest is a rarely enforced 1858 statute requiring White House employees to conform to minimal standards of hygiene during their tenure with the executive branch.

A defiant Bannon said that he would fight the federal government’s “outrageous” attempt to make him come into contact with soap and water, and declared that his avoidance of both was a life-style choice.

“You can lock me up but you can’t hose me down,” he thundered.


Trump’s Lawyers Lost Another Case in Which They Relied on Extreme Nonsense

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

There are several things I’ve noticed about the lawyers employed by El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago, besides that a) some of them show no signs of having, you know, been to law school, and b) none of them are likely to get paid. Perhaps because of these two facts, and perhaps because their client is a delusional nutball, these lawyers take the most extreme positions possible at almost every opportunity. These include assertions of privilege and confidentiality that exist only amid the Special Sauce-encrusted stalactites of their client’s mind. This gives the judges to whom these arguments are presented no choice but to toss the former president*’s case completely—and rapidly—out of court. It also gives federal judges a chance to crack wise from the bench, and you never want to do that.

For example, on Tuesday night, for the second time in two days, Judge Tanya Chutkan 86’d the former president*’s effort to shield records and documents from the special congressional committee investigating the insurrection on January 6. Currently, this material is stored at the National Archives, and the former president* is transparently desperate to make sure it stays there, locked away amid Lincoln’s breakfast orders and rum-stained early drafts of the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty. Late Monday night, she refused to issue an emergency order blocking the transfer of the material. And then, on Tuesday, Judge Chutkan made it official. From CNBC:

“At bottom, this is a dispute between a former and incumbent President,” Chutkan wrote in a 39-page opinion. “And the Supreme Court has already made clear that in such circumstances, the incumbent’s view is accorded greater weight.” Trump’s view “appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity,’” Chutkan wrote.

“But presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”

Ooooh, as the kidz say, snap!

The problem with this approach, besides the fact that it always loses, is that it doesn’t give the judge any room to ponder. The arguments are so threadbare and the theories on which those arguments are based so comically absurd that they don’t give most judges anything to chew over. Lawyers like to present arguments that cause a judge to say, “Let me think that over.” (Judges love to ponder.) The Trump legal teams consistently present arguments that cause judges to say, “No, seriously, what’s your point?” This is not helpful.

The former president* will appeal this ruling because that’s what he does. But the U.S. Congress isn’t some unlucky glazier from New Jersey. He can’t money-whip it into exhaustion and defeat. So he will send his lawyers once more unto the breach with increasingly preposterous arguments and legal theories developed by the renowned law professor, Dr. Otto Yerass. The hope for the Republic is that, sooner or later, he’ll run out of bad lawyers and/or judges willing to listen to this nonsense.

atlanta, georgia   october 30  former first lady and president of the united states melania and donald trump do "the chop" prior to game four of the world series between the houston astros and the atlanta braves truist park on october 30, 2021 in atlanta, georgia photo by elsagetty images

Ted Cruz Picked a Fight With Big Bird and Lost

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

Because I am a man of Christian charity whose heart is forever bursting with concern for my fellow man, I would like to begin the week by saying that I have grown concerned about Tailgunner Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from the great state of Texas. Frankly, on its way off the rails, I think his trolley has gone around the bend.

He had quite a weekend. First, he picked a fight with Big Bird…and lost. Le grand oiseau proclaimed that he had received his COVID vaccination. From the Guardian:

My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. [CNN reporter] Erica Hill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!”

Over the past year or so, the Tailgunner has taken on a second career as a Twitter troll, and he is the worst Twitter troll I have ever read. This is not a matter of ideology. This is a matter of The Funny, and the Tailgunner could not find The Funny with a flashlight, two guard-dogs, and the ghost of George Carlin to show him the way. That said, this United States Senator decided that a public-health message from a large yellow puppet was something up with which he would not put.

Cruz responded: “Government propaganda … for your 5 year old!”

I feel stupid even mentioning this, but the Sesame Street gang has been dishing out comforting medical knowledge like this for decades. (There even was a West Wing bit about how the Muppets came to the White House so Mrs. Dr. Bartlett could give Elmo a shot.) But, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Cruz found allies among the flying-monkey escadrille.

Other rightwingers piled in. Lisa Boothe, a Fox News contributor, said “brainwashing children who are not at risk from Covid” was “twisted”.

Children are at risk from Covid, if less so than adults. In October, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 66 children aged between five and 11 had died from Covid-19 in the US. Children can infect others and infections in the five to 11 age group are rising, the CDC said, accounting for 10.6% of new Covid cases. Undeterred, Steve Cortes, a host on the conservative Newsmax network, said of Big Bird’s tweet: “This kind of propaganda is actually evil. Your children are not statistically at risk, and should not be pressured into a brand new treatment. Do Not Comply!”

These are people who allegedly are sympatico with Cruz, but hey, over the past five years, it’s become plain to me that there’s nobody who could wrench the wheel away from him on his turn toward Crazytown. He ended up a staunch supporter of a guy who’d insulted his wife’s looks and alleged his father was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald. When Texas was hit with a once-in-a-century winter storm, he beat feet for Cancun and used his children as human shields against the public opprobrium he so richly deserved. And through it all, he’s been tweeting away, risking relegation to a lower division of Twitter hell.

Last month, before he lost a decision on all cards to Big Bird, Cruz spoke to an audience at Texas A&M University, which is a pretty good place to lose your mind, all things considered. Cruz—who, we remind you, is a United States Senator—let his freak flag fly. From HuffPost:

“I’m not there yet,” Cruz told an audience last month at Texas A&M University about Texas seceding from the United States — popularly known as “Texit.” For one thing, Cruz insisted, Texas has a “responsibility” to the nation because “right now it’s an amazing force keeping America from going off the cliff, keeping America grounded in the values that built this country.” But he’s prepared to change his mind. “Look, if the Democrats end the filibuster … if they pack the Supreme Court, if they make D.C. a state, if they federalize elections and massively expand voter fraud,” which doesn’t exist, “it may become hopeless,” Cruz said. “We’re not there yet.” But if it does become “hopeless,” that’s when the state should grab NASA, the military and the oil, he added.

The last Texas senator to talk openly this way was Louis Trevezant Wigfall, a secessionist fire-eater who left the Senate in 1860 after depositing this oratorical pile of dung into the congressional record:

“You shall not publish newspapers and pamphlets to excite the non-slaveholders against the slaveholders, or the slaveholders against the non-slaveholders. We will have peace; and if you do not offer it to us, we will quietly, and as we have the right under the constitutional compact to do, withdraw from the Union and establish a government for ourselves; and if you then persist in your aggressions, we will leave it to the ultimo ratio regum (a resort to arms), and the sovereign States will settle that question. And when you laugh at these impotent threats, as you regard them, I tell you that cotton is king.”

Nice precedent to follow, Tailgunner. Better to heed the warning of old Sam Houston, issued at the same time Louis Wigfall was running amok in Washington.

“I would lay down my life to defend any one of the States from aggression, which endangered peace or threatened its institutions. I could do more for the union, but I wish to do more; for the destruction of the union would be the destruction of all the States.”

And you don’t get NASA, pal, or “the military.” They’re both big-government programs, so they belong to us.


There Was No Voter Fraud in Virginia Because a Republican Won

From Esquire, by Jack Holmes:

No one can actually say, at this point, why exactly Glenn Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race. That doesn’t mean everyone isn’t already saying everything, however, or that it doesn’t matter that a Republican just won fairly handily in a state Joe Biden carried by 10 points a year ago.

Was it Critical Race Theory, a largely phantom issue in K-12 public schooling to which Youngkin devoted a lot of his campaign? (An issue cooked up by a conservative activist by his own admission, to which Fox News has devoted a huge amount of programming?) That probably energized the Republican base, and some polling indicates “education” was a top priority for Virginia voters. But there’s also a compelling argument that the suburban (white) women who swung heavily towards Youngkin might have been thinking of school closures and other COVID-19 mitigation measures when it comes to “education.” Zach Carter has written for The Atlantic on this, buttressed by statistics out of Northern Virginia that appear to indicate many thousands of parents pulled their kids out of public school during the pandemic. The school-board meetings have in many cases become opportunities to showcase the energy and power of grassroots reactionary fervor in America, not unlike the Tea Party of old, but there are probably people more quietly concerned about schools and kids.

That coalition—a surging right-wing Republican base in more rural areas convinced that Democrats are trying to destroy America itself, combined with gains in the suburbs among people who really just want their kid in school every day and know a Republican will deliver that—would make some sense and also spell some trouble for Democrats. In that scenario, the kind of upper-middle-class types who swung towards Biden in 2020 did not have an issue with Trump’s authoritarianism, just the vulgarian stuff, and they’re not altogether impressed with how Democrats have managed the American exit from pandemic life. Democrats who have not already done so will need to come to grips with the fact that an exit is necessary.

falls church, virginia   november 02 democratic gubernatorial candidate, former virginia gov terry mcauliffe speaks to supporters during a canvass kickoff event on november 02, 2021 in falls church, virginia virginia and new jersey hold off year elections today in the first major elections since us president joe biden's victory in 2020 virginia's gubernatorial race pits republican candidate glenn youngkin against democratic gubernatorial candidate, former virginia gov terry mcauliffe photo by win mcnameegetty images

Or was it all down to Terry McAuliffe himself, a Clintonista retread whose campaign seemed to spend most of its time and energy trying to paint Youngkin, a former private-equity executive in the more traditional Republican mold (tax cuts and deregulation while playing footsie with the right-wing extremists in the base) as Trump reincarnate? It does not seem like this worked—Youngkin bills himself as a Businessman Outsider but also presents as a normal person who likes basketball—but more to the point, what was a vote for McAuliffe a vote for?

Or maybe all this is irrelevant, and folks once again want to find things over which they feel they have some control to explain the outcome. Political scientists traditionally see three main determining factors in an election: 1) the state of the economy; 2) whether the country is at war; and 3) how long the party currently in power has been there. Midterms—and off-year contests like this one—are almost always bad for the party in the White House. Perception of the American economic recovery from pandemic distress has gone negative along with Joe Biden’s approval rating. It probably doesn’t help that Democrats have assembled their usual circular firing squad in Congress, as they negotiate themselves to death without yet passing either infrastructure bill. But more fundamental factors may well be in play.

Speaking of which, one of the newer fundamentals in this country’s politics is that elections are only legitimate if Republicans win them. At least according to Republicans. You may notice there have been zero concerns raised about Voter Fraud or any other phantasmagorical election threat in the Virginia race now that a Republican won. (This, not long after you could find a segment on Fox News in which you’d learn the only way a Democrat could win a statewide election in California[!] was through fraud.) This is because Republicans consider themselves the true polity: Real America. In this case, they chose who will wield power, so there’s no need to backfill all the mumbo-jumbo about Hugo Chavez in order to declare the Democrat who got more votes illegitimate. Plenty were prepared to, though. Youngkin might not have gone as hard in the paint on this stuff, but a campaign surrogate, Republican state senator Amanda Chase, was talking it up at a rally last month. Reuters helpfully reminds us that Chase called on Donald Trump to declare martial law following his 2020 loss.

That’s all baked in. The scary part, maybe, is that the average voter does not really care about the ongoing threat to democracy. Is that new? And is it a failure on the part of Democrats? Can we fault a national political media that has mostly returned to who’s-up-and-who’s-down coverage 10 months after an outgoing president fomented an insurrection? Or is it down to another fundamental: most people just think about their jobs, their houses, and their kids. Most folks, particularly swing voters, do not walk into the voting booth thinking of themselves as guardians of democracy, nor do they spend a lot of time digging into the latent authoritarianism in the conservative movement that allowed Trump to flourish, and which has gone on flourishing now he’s retired to the buffet line at Mar-a-Lago. The consequences of these weird fundamental consistencies in American politics combined with the rise of genuine anti-democratic fervor could be scary indeed.


Donald Trump Is Now the Odds-On Favorite to Be President in 2025

From The Bulwark, by Tim Miller:

So Donald Trump is now the odds-on favorite to be president of the United States in 2025.

I know that lede sentence was also the headline, but I wanted you to read it one more time just to let it really settle in the ol’ noggin before pressing forward.

The twice-impeached, disgraced loser who was schlonged in the 2020 election, tried to stay in power against the will of the people, and then came ten cowardly Republican senators away from being disqualified from ever running for office again, is now more likely than any other person in the world to take the next oath of office on the Capitol steps on January 20, 2025.

How is that for some weird shit?

Now I’m sure some will roll their eyes when this headline comes across the Twitter feed. Attribute this article to my raging Trump Derangement Syndrome or The Bulwark’s Cady Heron-level obsession with Mar-a-Lago’s in-house wedding toastmaster.

But this ain’t about my compulsions. It’s the actual, real-world reality being presented by those who have the most skin in the game.

Both the major off-shore gambling quants and the online trading markets have moved in Mr. Trump’s favor in the past couple weeks.

So what’s the point of this exercise, besides a little post-Halloween fright?

It’s a wake-up call that people should start taking really fucking seriously the notion that a guy who incited a deadly mob on the Capitol in an attempt to overthrow our democracy is the frontrunner to become president again. Once that reality is accepted, there ought to be a lot of downstream considerations being made by different participants in our politics.

(1) The Democrats might want to focus more on competency and broadening their appeal, rather than participating in an internecine murder-suicide over how many trillions of dollars they spend. In addition they might also want to consider focusing on the problems that people tell pollsters they care about, rather than on the whims of D.C. interest groups.

(2) The media should probably start treating Donald Trump like the frontrunner he is, rather than a drunk uncle whose deranged ravings can be ignored unless it’s convenient or there’s a hole in the D-block.

But most importantly, (3) Republican politicians and commentators who claim they don’t want a wannabe authoritarian lunatic to become president again should probably do something to try and stop it.

And on this last point, I am deadly serious.

Nine months ago almost all the leading figures on the right stated that Donald Trump should be removed from office because he was so deranged and dangerous.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board called for Trump’s resignation saying that he “has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy” and that January 6 “probably finished him as a serious political figure.” National Review ranby my countseven separate columns, including one from The Editors, calling for his impeachment. “There must be a consequence and it should come from the nation’s legislature,” they wrote.

Mitch McConnell railed against Trump, “after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in serious danger. Even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters their president sent a further tweet attacking [Pence].” Kevin McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility” for the riot at the capitol. Seven Republican senators voted to disqualify him from ever running for office again.

And yet just yesterday one of their ostensibly more sane colleagues Tim Scott, a potential presidential candidate in his own right (in a non-Trump world), preemptively endorsed Trump for 2024! Why, God, why?

The Atlantic ran a silly, made-for-Twitter column over the weekend about how Never Trumpers should support anti-vaxxer-in-chief Ron DeSantis now, because he’s better than the bad orangina. And I guess that’s true in the most narrow and literal sense. I mean, having a rabid raft of fire ants build a nest inside my ass is also preferable to President Trump Part Deux but I’m not sure a TDSer endorsing Butthole Fire Ants will have a major impact on the Republican primary electorate.

So rather than turning to us Never Trumpers to save the hot mess that is the GOP . . . maybe the DeSantis 2024 movement should start with all the people who supported Trump in 2016 and 2020 but then, when they thought the coast was clear, called for his impeachment a few weeks later?

Maybe those guys could show some balls and start a concerted effort to defeat Trump? But of course, the question answers itself.

Because if Republicans in good standing don’t do anything to change the current dynamic and instead continue their strategy of owning the libs while secretly praying that their god king gets a move-on to his eternal reward, well, then we’re going to be repeating the same nightmare that engulfed us for the past half-decade, all over again.

So here’s my message both to the cowards who know better and to the people of good will who put it on the line because they care about our constitutional Republic:

Right now, today, Donald Trump is the favorite to win the presidency again. If you don’t want that to happen, then start acting like it.