Today’s News Bits

The MAL documents case is going nowhere, and at a snail’s pace at that. It’s too obvious that Loose Cannon is deliberately trying to do Trump favors. And the bobbleheads on MSNBC last night said that the screwups that will certainly throw Cannon’s trial schedule way out of wack could very well impact the other Trump trials scheduled for 2024. But so far what Cannon is doing isn’t quite blatant enough to force her to recuse herself. Here’s a rundown.

Yesterday was Let’s Laugh at George Santos Day. The Ethics Committee Report came out, and it’s a doozy. He used campaign funds to shop in luxury stores and get Botox treatments. He made a $4,127.80 purchase at Hermes, for example. And he lied to everybody about where money was coming from and where it was going. There’s always been a level of exceptable graft in Washington; as long as it’s subtle and doesn’t leave a paper trail. But Santos was off the charts. Even his campaign staff told him he needed psychiatric help.

“House Ethics Chairman Michael Guest, a Mississippi Republican, introduced a resolution Friday to expel GOP Rep. George Santos of New York from Congress,” it says here. But they won’t be voting on it until they get back from Thanksgiving break. Santos has announced he won’t be running for re-election. Well, no, I’m sure he won’t. And he won’t qualify for any congressional pension.

Is Trump Getting Crazier? This is a question from James D. Zirin at Washington Monthly. In recent speeches Trump has confused Joe Biden with Barack Obama, called Viktor Orban the President of Turkey, and mis-stated what city he was in at the time. He also appears to be having a harder time with basic words,

But it’s not just misidentification. It’s the cadence and slurring of speech, too. Trump is having trouble with names. “On purpose” came out as “on perfect.” Adherents of Karl Marx came out as “markers,” not Marxists. He warned that Biden is drifting us into World War II.

He’s been doing stuff like that all along, though. Remember “covfefe” and the time George Washington’s Continental Army took over the airports? Trump’s head was never screwed on all the way. If his mental bumbling seems to be getting more frequent, it might be dementia, or it might be the stress of impending criminal charges. Or maybe all that hydroxychloroquine he said he was taking scrambled his brain.

Tom Nichols writes at The Atlantic that he’s been reluctant to call Trump a fascist.

Fascism is not mere oppression. It is a more holistic ideology that elevates the state over the individual (except for a sole leader, around whom there is a cult of personality), glorifies hypernationalism and racism, worships military power, hates liberal democracy, and wallows in nostalgia and historical grievances. It asserts that all public activity should serve the regime, and that all power must be gathered in the fist of the leader and exercised only by his party.

I argued that for most of Trump’s time as a public figure, he was not a fascist but rather a wannabe caudillo, the kind of Latin American strongman who cared little about what people believed so long as they feared him and left him in power. When he would make forays into the public square, his politics were insubstantial and mostly focused on exploiting reflexive resentment and racism, such as when he called for the death penalty for the Black youths wrongly accused in the infamous Central Park–jogger case. But Trump in those days was never able to square his desperate wish to be accepted in Manhattan society with his need to play the role of an outer-borough tough guy. He was an obnoxious and racist gadfly, perhaps, but he was still a long way from fascism.

As a candidate and as president, he had little in the way of a political program for the GOP beyond his exhausting narcissism. He had only two consistent issues: hatred of immigrants and love for foreign autocrats. Even now, his rants contain little political substance; when he veers off into actual issues, such as abortion and taxes, he does not seem to understand or care about them very much, and he will turn on a dime when he thinks it is to his advantage.

Trump had long wanted to be somebody in politics, but he is also rather indolent—again, not a characteristic of previous fascists—and he did not necessarily want to be saddled with any actual responsibilities. According to somereports, he never expected to win in 2016. But even then, in the run-up to the election, Trump’s opponents were already calling hima fascist. I counseled against such usage at the time, because Trump, as a person and as a public figure, is just so obviously ridiculous; fascists, by contrast, are dangerously serious people, and in many circumstances, their leaders have been unnervingly tough and courageous. Trump—whiny, childish, unmanly—hardly fits that bill. (A rare benefit of his disordered character is that his defensiveness and pettiness likely continue to limit the size of his personality cult.)

But now, Nichol says, his moment as a fascist has arrived. His recent rhetoric and stated plans for his second term put him squarely in the fascist camp. The problem is that so many people have been calling him a fascist all along that it’s not registering now.

18 thoughts on “Today’s News Bits

  1. "During a 1976 presidential debate against a then-obscure Georgia Governor named Jimmy Carter, (Gerald) Ford famously uttered: "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe." The moderator, Max Frankel of the New York Times, responded incredulously, "I'm sorry, what? … did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence in occupying most of the countries there and making sure with their troops that it's a communist zone?" But Ford refused to back down from his original statement, insisting that Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia are free from Soviet interference. The answer haunted him for the remainder of the campaign and arguably cost him the election."-TIME online

    Those were the days.

  2. Fascism is a slippery word, even when used by experts with the best of intentions. The problem is compounded in that many in the Republican party are outright fascists, even if their leader hasn’t quite acted the part. It’s often misused, applied to people who violently fight for their cause – for example antifa – whose political orientation – even their name – is opposite of fascist. And so it’s a very muddy word.

    El Caudillo – is a word Charles Pierce (at Esquire) has been using for a long time to describe Trump. I never really knew what it meant until reading the Tom Nichols piece. It’s a tragedy that it fits Trump perfectly and yet is so unknown to English speakers. The best terms we have are “authoritarian” or “strongman” but these don’t quite get at the malevolence. “Totalitarian” does, but it’s better suited for a country where the state runs everything.

    Instead of El Caudillo – a word familiar to Latin Americans because they lived under these types – a new word – “Trumpist” or “Trumpy” is entering the American lexicon to describe our homegrown el caudillos.

    You know Santos is in trouble when even Republicans can’t stand him. Fortunately his career is over, thank God he won’t get a Congressional pension. Every now and then we get a whiff of some rather musty lingerie in his closet. His crazy life could provide a character for a Hollywood movie, just another nutty grifter.

    I saw a video of Trump from 30 years ago. He was smart, articulate, able to speak in complete, coherent paragraphs. I measure his decline in a linear fashion from then. Won’t matter to his followers who are only tuned into the rage.

    OT, read in Robert Hubbell’s substack, that NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen is pushing the mantra “Not the odds, but the stakes” – to frame the 2024 election, in an effort to get the media to report on what’s at stake instead of lazy horserace reporting.

  3. Is Trump a fascist?  There is the fable about the intellectual who spent decades on his theory that William Shakespeare could not have been the author of all the plays and sonnets attributed to him. His final conclusion was that the work had been done by a different writer with the same name. 

    Is it not enough that Trump would declare martial law on day one, use the military against unarmed protesters, and build concentration camps for "illegal" members of US society? And he would jail or put in mental institutions those who have participated in the prosecutions in courts? Perhaps these don't qualify as pure undistilled fascism in a hair-splitting analysis. It's a distinction without a difference. However, the semantic debate, useless as it is, forces the features of a second Trump presidency into the open in the debate. The cultists love it and the vast majority of Americans will be repulsed by the vision of what Trump actually is promising. Getting that picture in front of voters in advance of the actual events is the trick.

    Is Trump losing his mind?  There's the scene from Jaws when Quint is sliding on the deck of the Orca into the mouth of the shark. He's kicking at the gaping maw, doomed, terrified, yet still full of hate for his nemesis. That's Trump facing the criminal legal system. Imagine the slide will take a year and the events of almost every day in many different jurisdictions support the most likely outcome that you will be consumed. Don't discard that Trump has ALWAYS had a life of privilege where he's been insulated from the consequences of misdeeds, from grade school on to adult life while Daddy could buy Trump's way out. 

    When I was facing a maximum of months in prison, it bothered me. It affected my sleep and my temper. And all my life I've been, by income, lower-middle class. Trump has always had a golden toilet existence. He's looking at years and the penalties of each case will be gathered and stacked. What do I mean? SOP for penalties in a criminal case with multiple charges is assign a sentence less than or maybe equal to the penalty for the ONE most severe charge. So a penalty of hundreds of years in jail isn't possible for the hundred or so charges in the four criminal cases. BUT the judge won't make the sentence concurrent (running at the same time) in separate jurisdictions in separate trials. So if Trump got a total of five years in GA, after that was done, he'd begin the sentence for the DC federal trial, say two years, and then the FL federal trial, say five years. (I'm ignoring NY – though criminal, I do not think the judge will impose jail time.) Yes, in the GA RICO case, there's a 20-year minimum that ends Trump's golf career. 

    I think a real mom boss who grew up in the streets with real blood and violence would be scared of the most likely outcome. So Trump is going crazy under the strain. I think it's going to become more obvious as the cumulative strain draws Trump into more bombastic and threatening public decrees.

    The barometer of Trump's strategy is the tone of Trump's posts. Is he moderating to try to draw in moderate voters? That means he's trying to win the election. Is he publicly promising prison for the judges in his trials? Trump is planning a violent takeover of government after the date of the election regardless of the outcome. IMO, Trump can't whip his cult into a frenzy over the next year and promise to moderates that Trump will observe the decorum of the Oval Office as set in the Constitution and by statute. At the moment, Trump is pitching exclusively to the cult. 

    The main flaw in Trump's plan is that Trump HAS to be in the White House to replace the Joint Chiefs with lackeys in order to use the military to quell protests and grab control of state governments who have (or will be) prosecuting Trump. But Trump can't get in the WH if he loses the election, which I consider likely. The assumption that "patriots" can overcome the federal forces is preposterous. But that's how it will play out because Miller and Bannon are telling Trump they can raise the military force and the liberals will surrender at the sight of their approach. The failure of J6 means the "faithful" won't show up for a rematch. 

  4. I don't have strong evidence for this.  Hunches. 

    I wonder if the authoritarian movement in our country is happy to have us all focus on TFG as if that will be the path to preventing a collapse of our constitutional democratic republic. I wonder if they want us to be distracted by all of that and are meanwhile working toward something completely different. To be clear, I am always, every day, concerned about a repetition of the 1930's and WWII.

    I have that involve suspicions but not certainty.

    Is Nikki Haley a secret supporter of the anti-American movement in our country?  Is she a supporter of the movement to turn our country into a theocracy?  Is she among the Branch Dividians 2.0 Bannon spoke of? What if the D party is totally preoccupied with preparing to run against TFG between now and the Rep convention, but it turns out that Haley comes out of the convention as the candidate?

    Deep deep divisions within the D coalition have emerged as a result of events in the middle east. This is deeply concerning. It's not just Arab Americans vs Jewish Americans. So much of the youth is totally pissed off at Biden for supporting Netanyahu's "genocide" in Gaza. I've heard an analyst say that Hamas's decision to to Oct. 7 was to derail a likely agreement between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. The argument was that Netanyahu and Hamas need each other (as "the enemy") to retain their power. I'm starting to wonder about that middle east agreement.  It's easy enough for me to view MBS, Sisi and Bibi as all being part of an international right wing authoritarian movement.  And you can throw in Iran, Russia and North Korea in there too. And the odd thing is that Hamas is an instrument of Iran. Is is in Iran's interest to invisibly support an ongoing never-ending conflict between Israel and the Palestinians?

    It's bad enough that things are unraveling in the middle east, but the scary part if that it is fanning the flames of division on our country.  And I don't know if we can survive it. I hope our country can find a way through it. If TFG gets in the WH we are screwed. I'm not sure if we would still be screwed if Haley became president. But I sure as heck am worried about the Dem coalition.

    I've evolved over the past few years (with some thinking that goes back decades) to view the world in a very different way today.  It's almost as if what we think of as "countries" no longer has the weight and power that it once had.  It's almost as if there are two global political parties. One of them is authoritarian, feudal, plutocratic, despotic.  And the other is all of us who oppose that.  Clearly the authoritarian party has been organizing for many years across national boundaries, thanks to the internet, social media and cell phones. And that devolved world view has naturally attracted the super-wealthy and the multi-national corporations, both of which view nation states and their "rules-of-law" as obstacles to their goals of capturing all of the wealth from society at the expense of vast majorities of their fellow humans, whom they view as underlings. If they win, the entire world becomes like Afghanistan: totally corrupt and hopelessly so. Scares the heck out of me.

    Enough bed-wetting from me. There are many months ahead of us. 

    Oh one more thing.  The TV is on and they are talking about judges in various trials of TFG struggling to find a "balance" when establishing the procedural/scheduling elements of their proceedings, as if TFG has a constitution right to not have legitimate legal proceedings interfere with his political campaign. WTF is the matter with those judges?  Chutkan has it right. The first amendment cannot possibly confer to me the right to ignore my duty to comply with the judicial branch if I choose to run for a public office. If the judiciary invents some constitutional rights of a "candidate" then TFG can just schedule zoom rallies for every day of the rest of his life and avoid the legitimate legal consequences of his actions. All he would have to do is keep finding some office to run for.  If he loses in 2024, he immediately declares that he's running in 2028 and his campaign starts tomorrow. That's absurd. 

    Sorry for the gloom.  I hope the worst possible things don't happen.




    • I think the authoritarian movement (I like the word "Nazis" for brevity.) is temporarily screwed because so many followers are fixed on Trump as the cult leader. Until Trump dies, a big chunk of Nazis will be fixed on springing Trump from prison, which I think is inevitable. (Prison is inevitable.) IMO, the GOP will want to move on from Trump to a less fascist message because 1) it's not selling to moderates and failing at the ballot box and 2) in its most violent form, fascism is too unpredictable. The Nazi mob can turn on anyone, including the moneyed class. The outcome of the French Revolution is not lost on the US aristocrats who know they don't have firm control of the mob.

      The Nazis won't go away but they will splinter internally into Trumpists and generic fascists. The two groups won't play nice together. The establishment GOP, driven by the donor class, will want to sell a different message, abandoning book-banning, misogyny, and racism. The Nazis won't like a moderate GOP apparatchik. 

      It's inevitable because Republicans are getting killed in elections by women and minorities. Numbers don't lie. A big chunk of left-leaning women, Blacks, Hispanics, and "moderate" voters has to be reclaimed to make the GOP mathematically viable without a fascist wing. Or the GOP will become less and less viable in elections with the age shift as boomers die off.

      I concur with the conspiracy theory (totally without evidence) that the global aristocracy worked a right-wing plan to destabilize democracy with the goal of establishing a system that gives big money (I mean global BIG money) veto power over any political system in the industrialized world. The Frankenstin problem emerged. They discovered they can't control the monster and the monster may turn on THEM. So I think they're retreating to the old money-in-politics system. My conclusion (and yours) implies "they" operate as a united monolithic group and they don't. But one faction, the Federalist Society, seems to be supporting the disqualification of Trump as a candidate. 

      Worth noting: The Trumpian cultist thinks Trump is in a war with the "deep state" which is the government arm of a diabolical plot by (usually Jewish) bankers and big money generally. In the mythical world of Q, Trump is the billionaire champion of the little guy against the billionaire plot to subvert the natural order (white supremacy) and install a global tyranny.  So you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the mob is totally comfortable with extrajudicial justice but it could as easily extend "up" in the social order as it does "down" to Mexicans and members of a synagogue. The Trumpian system raises "Order" as an objective, discounts "Law" and the justice system and the rhetoric names the ultra-rich as the villains. 

      My read on the USSC is that they are NOT fans of Trump. J6 happened because the USSC did NOT come to Trump's rescue. There's going to be a lot of remorse on the right side of the bench because the FS abhors holding the very rich to the same legal standard as the poor. But Trump is going under the bus – he's denied the authority of the FS fairly openly and he's vetting loyalists who are NOT FS loyalists. 

      • I see your logic, Doug and I hope you're right.  But I still can't feel easy about all of this. And that is because despite our ability here to do intelligent analysis and apply practical logic to get a sense of what is unfolding, I believe that there are times in human history when the conditions of human existence in individual societies worldwide produce powerful drivers of events that don't actually make sense in the context of the "way things have been". I don't think the human race has figured out how to cope with the information ecosystem that we have created in the past hundred years (radio->tv->internet). And putting that together with the enormous global wealth inequality, I think we have conditions similar to other times in history that have spawned ugly periods.  

        Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!  And FWIW the comment by Moonbat further down this thread is pretty consistent with where my head is at. 

  5. You must wonder why George Santos is a bridge too far, and Donald Trump is a sacred cow?  In my fantasy world he is the warm-up act for a much-needed republican house cleaning.  They had two chances at impeachment and could not find the moral character to see the moral problems with the poster child for the seven deadly sins.  I haven't counted but I am not sure George has a perfect score.  Oh well, you have to start somewhere.  

    There are a matching seven virtues, and both George and the Donald are quite short on humility.  Just putting the word humility in a sentence with both of their names takes a pry bar of some magnitude.  Come to think of it, Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were not known for their humility either.  Of late, Elon Musk has gone a bit swastika, and caught the ire of the business community.  Did he change the name of Twitter to X because Uber was already taken?

    • "You must wonder why George Santos is a bridge too far, and Donald Trump is a sacred cow?"

      Well it doesn't take any courage to cast Santo's aside, holding him accountable for being an asshole will not cost anyone their next election. If a republican politician goes against Stump they are toast. Just ask, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Liz Cheney, the list goes on and on and on! That's what happens when a party is controlled by FAUX news and hate radio.

  6. Tom Nichols: "glorifies hypernationalism and racism, worships military power, hates liberal democracy, and wallows in nostalgia and historical grievances"…. Well hell that aint just Stump that is the entire GOP. Show me one Republican politician (or voter for that matter) that doesn't worship military power and wallow in nostalgia, I would argue they do not exist.



  7. The difference between George Santos and Donald Trump is that DJT is a skilled demagogue who cultivated a vast cult, millions of followers, abetted by the rw media machine, made even more powerful by gerrymandering. Republicans are too afraid to go against this power.

    Santos is a skilled serial liar and grifter, without any following. As (I think) Harry Litman explained, he tried to social climb from a life of low level lying and stealing, to over-the-top, high-end brazen lying and stealing – including running for and getting himself into Congress, and then abusing this position. He simply lacks DJT’s political base to save himself, and so Republicans can eviscerate him with impunity, and they must, because he’s far too much of a liability.

    DJT could do everything Santos has done, but because of his rabid cult, and gerrymandering, he is force to be contended with, a heavyweight in the Republican political calculus.

    Nikki Haley is a chameleon, very skilled at talking out of both sides of her mouth simultaneoulsy. Maybe I’m somewhat charmed by her, I don’t see her as particularly evil, just a visionless weathervane, in the mold of Kevin McCarthy. I have to give her credit for calling Ramaswamy “scum” at the recent debate. The one true thing I’ve heard her say.

    I’ve been enjoying this course on global world history, the professor is outstanding. I was intrigued by Roman history, specifically the period when it transitioned from a republic to an empire. It has parallels for our own time.

    The key idea is that around the time of this transition, the Republic’s political structure was stressed and increasingly incapable of dealing with real world conditions. Two generals, Pompey, and then his protege, Julius Caesar amassed private armies which eventually challeged the state. It’s not unlike Trump’s “private army” of MAGAts who rioted on Jan 6, or who inhabit Congress and seek to destroy it from within, or the Project 2025 promise to install lackeys to repurpose the government.

    In the Roman case, Julius Caesar was followed by Augustus, who was a political genius. He kept all the trappings and external political features of the Republic, while effectively, for all practical purposes transforming it into an Empire, making himself Emperor. In other words, he radically changed the political system without anyone knowing it. This is similar to what Trump is attempting with Project 2025 – install lackeys who will effectively keep all the surface features of our government, as they are today, but completely subvert their purpose. A democracy on the face of it, only.

    Augustus eschewed Julius Caesar’s loud and obnoxious machismo, living very modestly, on purpose. He also managed to live and rule for many decades. By the time he died, nobody was still alive who remembered what the Republic was really like.

    What I’m really afraid of is not all the divisions triggered by the war in the middle east, bad as this is. I’m afraid of AI. If you think people are confused and bamboozled today, you haven’t seen anything yet. And there are enemies outside and within eager to use to weaken this country.

    Historically, new technologies have always up-ended power relationships. The tendency over five or more centuries is to democratize power, to empower individuals over big groups. The printing press shattered the power monopolies of the Catholic Church and the monarchies. The internet gives each person vast power, the ability to reach millions across the globe. It’s a sign when young children aspire to be YouTube influencers and, for a few of them, live extremely well as a result. AI has vast potential for good but also for evil. It’s an open question whether a country like ours, born during the printing press-engendered Enlightenment can survive these latest iterations, and in what manner.

    The tendency is to break up political entities that have too many internal conflicts, that can’t hold together. That future isn’t unthinkable for the US, and it’s actively espoused by powerful fringe characters like MTG.

  8. Just made the mistake of turning on the tee-vee while eating lunch. MSNBC did a story on some right-wing tool (Clay Higgins) accusing FBI director Wray and the FBI of orchestrating the J6 attacks. I wish Wray would have said "hey I thought it was antifa?" Anyway the bobble-heads opined on why the congress-critter was spewing conspiracy theories in an official hearing. Peter Baker (NYT Hack), said "oh he's just doing what his constituents want"? Always with the passes for these fucking nut-jobs. The right wing is pushing this garbage because they know what the commercials are going to look like in 2024 against Stump. If they can get this garbage into the media bloodstream it might help. MSNBC seems more than willing to assist the Q-nuts by airing the conspiracy and then blame on the dullard hicks who voted for this trash! Liberal Media!

  9. I see your logic, Doug and I hope you're right.  But I still can't feel easy about all of this. And that is because despite our ability here to do intelligent analysis and apply practical logic to get a sense of what is unfolding, I believe that there are times in human history when the conditions of human existence in individual societies worldwide produce powerful drivers of events that don't actually make sense in the context of the "way things have been". I don't think the human race has figured out how to cope with the information ecosystem that we have created in the past hundred years (radio->tv->internet). And putting that together with the enormous global wealth inequality, I think we have conditions similar to other times in history that have spawned ugly periods.  

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!  And FWIW the comment by Moonbat further down this thread is pretty consistent with where my head is at. 

  10. When I reply to a comment, how do I get it to appear right below that comment instead of way down at the bottom of the thread?


    • Hit "Reply" right beneath the comment. Going to the bottom of the page, and filling out the "Leave a Reply" box appends your comment to the end of the list.

  11. The flip side of the coin re the MAL documents case…

    A talking head , Ben Meise on Meidastouch, theorized that Willis in GA waited to see what Cannon would do with the federal case. With clear indications that Cannon will delay the case as long as Trump wants, Willis asked the judge to set a trial date for August next year. If I recall correctly, Willis is also setting a deadline for flippers. After that date, a co-conspirator can plead guilty but the DA won't be offering reduced sentences. 

    The judge has not responded but the ploy of delaying the MAL docs case may have landed him in worse trouble. Winning the presidency for Trump is a long shot if he's convicted of a felony in any of the criminal cases. There's a good chance (I think) that everyone will flip on Trump except Eastman and Mayor Bug-eyes. The GA case will be televised – Trump does NOT want it to be the lead story every day from Aug to mid-Oct. It could happen.

    • "Winning the presidency for Trump is a long shot if he's convicted of a felony in any of the criminal cases"

      I think he's a long shot no matter what. He has enough money and crooked lawyers to delay every trial until after the election. So I don't think there will be a verdict, even if there is the media and the magats will hold onto the appeals. Felon or not he has the same rotten core. He's not going to win either way. The polls are complete bullshit, his only hope is if we can't stop talking about him he stays "viable" and some crazy shit happens! I share concern about a second term only because he has a couple superpowers and the american media pulling strings for him. It's not going to work, he's toast!

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