The Republican Party Is What Happens When Bad Ideas And Thinking Metastasize

The reason Republicans have to rely on gerrymandering, voter suppression and terrible legislation to win elections is because nobody except them will vote for their ideas. To be clear, the only problem Republicans see looming in America’s future is diversity and the loss of political power that diversity will cost them. They see a loss of political power as a “cost” rather than as what must happen if America is ever going to live up to its full E Pluribus Unum potential as the greatest experiment ever in human self government. The fact is, conservative America doesn’t want America to live up to that potential. They want “All men are created equal” to mean what it meant to the country’s white, Christian, land-owning founders — just them and only them. That is originalism. A very bad idea (because it’s bullshit). Originalism isn’t the idea itself, originalism is the bad idea’s manifestation out here in reality. The idea is a toxic cocktail of racism, bigotry, misogyny, magical thinking and outright bullying. Want to know what happens to someone who swallows this idea?

Look around. You can practically smell the cancer.

This awful idea — that America is some white peoples’ homeland (aside from the Native American population white peoples’ pathogens obliterated) — flies in the face of reality. Europe is white, Christian America’s homeland. And, while the organizing principles that knitted themselves into our Constitution flowed from the French Enlightenment, some of those principles also flowed from pure, unadulterated greed. The entire southern economy was built on stolen labor — slavery. That is what slavery is ultimately, stolen labor. A slaver wants a slave to work for zero pay. Sure, the slaver will have to feed, clothe and house the slave, but (the fact that slavery thrived in America proves the point), those costs must have been negligible compared to the profit one could make off the actual slaves themselves.

To this day, people will argue — thinking it’s a good argument — that, without slavery, the south could never have had an economy and thus neither could Early America. First, that means America can only happen with slavery in the picture. Bullshit. Most of Europe got rid of slavery and built their economies just fine without it. They may have enslaved the lower classes indirectly and in a thousand other ways, but, at least they quit buying and selling humans in public. Republicans don’t want Americans learning Critical Race Theory because, being conservatives, they want America to live in the past but they don’t want America to examine the past (because then they wouldn’t want to live in it). If conservatives really believed that getting all Americans to live in the past was a good thing, they’d package it that way.

Conservatives are very good at packaging things. Being cynical, they understand how to direct message. The world is black and (especially) white to them. Whatever they feel matters more than any fact ever could. Therefore, the Truth is whatever they say It is. If, they say “Mission Accomplished” then whatever the mission is, as far as the Republicans are concerned, that mission is as “accomplished” as it’s ever going to be. Of course, the mission wasn’t accomplished. We should never have invaded Iraq — another awful idea. We should never have changed our objectives on the fly in Afghanistan.

Bad ideas flow from Republicans like pus from a wound. Trickle down economics? Bad idea. Tax cuts for the wealthy? Bad idea. Refusal to admit climate change is real and it’s being sped up by human activity? Bad idea. Making church and state the same thing? Bad idea. Poll taxes? Bad idea. Separate But Equal? Bad idea. Slavery itself? Horrible idea! Segregation? Bad idea. Refusing women the vote? Bad idea. Citizens Unlimited? Bad idea. Making Donald Trump their 2016 nominee despite knowing Russia owned him (as GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy himself put it: “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!”) Bad idea. Obstructing justice on Trump’s behalf? Bad idea. Taking part in the January 6 insurrection? Bad idea.

I could go on… and on… and on.

As the Reagan years waned, the Right Wing Money saw diversity’s handwriting on the wall of America’s future. That terrified them because it meant that after 200 years of bamboozling the rest of America into believing that “All men are created equal” referred only to them, the rest of America was done with being bamboozled. America has always been a great idea poorly executed because white people selfishly held America back. Fortunately, that bad idea has run its course.

The only real idea conservatives and Republicans have in their heads is permanent minority rule. That would be originalism’s natural, organic conclusion: the “originals” get to run America forever just because they say so. Talk about a crap idea! That is what has been metastasizing all along in real time. Unable to get the Constitution itself to go along with their bullying, Republicans in Texas devised a way for ordinary citizens to do the hard work of keeping women in their place. Republicans in the rest of America have already seized on this cancerous idea and begun to metastasize it even further. They want to make this cancer even more cancerous still.

What makes this idea even worse — from the conservative perspective — is that the short term gains (putting women in their place) will be superseded by electoral oblivion when those same women show up en masse to vote out every Republican they can. It is a very bad idea to take away anyone’s rights; they’re not going to take it well — or take it PERIOD. The Republicans probably expect to slowly squeeze the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness out of America but they’re going to be shocked by what America does.

In all the places where authoritarianism and fascism succeeded, it did so in homogenous environments like Germany where everyone (fascists and non fascists) were German. Their families were German (or proto-German) for a millennium at least. Their whole culture was homogenous. Same goes for any place where authoritarian power ruthlessly asserted itself: it’s always done so in a relatively homogenous culture. That’s not the case in America. For the first time ever in human history, a nation has been slowly building itself using other nations to supply the people. That’s the whole point of America and the American dream: anyone from anywhere can come here and — provided they’re willing to put in the sweat equity — reinvent themselves and their futures. In America, the past is NOT prologue.

The world has flocked to America — bringing its great ideas with it. America is what happens when great ideas flourish. But, our present is what happens when a bad idea — permanent minority rule — tries to bully a good one: diversity. The best way to deal with a cancer is to either radiate it out of existence or excise it outright as soon as possible. That is exactly what America must do.

Because it’s a really good idea.

Never Mind The Icing, How’s The Damned Cake?

Ever order a piece of cake somewhere because the icing looked enticing — and then you got to the cloying, overly-sugared cake underneath and the whole experience went to hell in your mouth? It’s a little like false advertising, isn’t it? And, frankly, where cake is concerned? It’s always about the cake. The icing’s just… icing. News headlines can be that way — especially when they’re “breaking”. The flashing red looks awfully fresh. Too bad the news story cake underneath is more than a day old and staler than a Republican’s breath. Republican politics are all icing too. Every single restrictive voting law Republicans just shoved down our throats was covered in “ballot box integrity” icing that was clearly rotten. Personally, I blame our news media and its icing addiction for a lot of this problem. If we had kept to news outlets like, say, The New Yorker that have always been about cake over icing, we might have had a clearer idea of what the Donald Trump cake really was and is. It may look like a perfect piece of chocolate cake — Donald’s preference — but, beneath the icing? Hell lurks.

In cakes as in news stories, the devil absolutely is in the details. A cake made entirely of bullshit is going to taste entirely of bullshit. Same goes for cakes made of racism, lies, corruption, deceit and treason.

When Trump came down that golden escalator — like his gold toilet upstairs, a Trumpian triumph of icing over cake — and informed us that “Mexicans are rapists”, he told us exactly what kind of cake he was. When, shortly thereafter, he added “pussy grabbing” to the mix, he further cemented his cake’s true nature. And yet, our news media got distracted by another bit of icing: “her emails!” As we all know — there was literally NO CAKE beneath that icing.

While our news media went bananas over Hillary Clinton’s icing — ignoring the cake again (especially the parts where she repeatedly told us exactly who and what Donald Trump was) — the Trump cake, already rotten from within, began to metastasize into something beyond cake. Despite constant signs that the Trump cake was corrupt… treasonous… toxic — our news media continued to report on the icing that Trump was a “normal POTOUS” albeit one who did things “differently” or “his way”.

Ever since Trump lost, our news media has continued to eat the Republican icing that what they’re doing is politics. It isn’t. When you attempt to overturn the results of an election because you lost, that’s not political behavior, it’s CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR — done for a political reason. Icing v cake, right? But, every time our news media serves up a slice of Margorie Taylor Greene as if she was a legitimate politician instead of a criminal seditionist, they’re selling us amusing, bullshit-scented icing instead of the toxic cake within that’s going to kill us.

Our news media’s reaction to the fall of Afghanistan was pure icing over cake. No argument — that was some awful icing. But it was very much a part of the cake underneath and, in the case of Afghanistan, if you want to “appreciate” the icing, you absolutely must appreciate every last speck of the cake. Joe Biden may have pulled the cake from the oven — with its icing already on fire — but he didn’t bake this cake. In fact, Joe Biden (look it up!) preached against us even making this cake (the nation-building part). And, once you scrape off the icing, the first thing you see is how “orange” the cake is. Oh, wait — that’s not orange, it’s facial makeup. There’s a face inside that cake and it’s Donald J Trump’s.

With news — as with life — it would behoove us all to make false advertising, non-breaking “breaking news” and deceptively iced cakes go away. We’d all benefit, too, if Republicans went away. Until such a thing happens, I’d be willing to accept if they’d just ice themselves a little more honestly. Want to know what’s really lying inside any Republican’s soul? This — exactly what the icing says:

In Scriptwriting, We Call It A “Yes-No-Yes-No” Argument; In Cable News They Call It “Cable News”

A confession: though I write scripts for a living, I despise reading the damned things. It’s not necessarily the scriptwriter’s fault; the screenplay format itself defeats many a talented writer. But, storytelling itself can defeat writers too — especially when they’re mediocre at it. Journalists are storytellers first and foremost. Their canvas is the present or a deep dive into something from the past that helped shape and explains the present. But, regardless of when the story you’re telling takes place, the principles of storytelling remain the same. It’s all about adding information, scene by scene, to propel the story forward through all its good parts to a satisfying conclusion. Scenes that don’t add information don’t belong. Instead of moving the story forward, pointless scenes bring the story to a halt — or tell a different story — their own. Or, more likely, no story whatsoever.

The epitome of the utterly useless scene is two characters engaged in a “yes-no, yes-no” argument that literally goes nowhere. Scenes don’t necessarily have to have the words “yes” and “no” to be “yes-no” scenes. They just have to contain an argument that goes on and on without actually getting anywhere. You know, like the American news media reporting any story that isn’t a royal wedding.

With the Donald Trump story, the “yes-no, yes-no” scene often began with Trump doing something outrageous — like giving away secrets or backing Vlad Putin’s agenda over our own. The news media would look to the rest of the GOP, expecting them to be just as shocked as the press was pretending to be. Yet the Republicans never flinched. Their loyalty to Trump never faltered. “Why do the Republicans remain so loyal to Trump?” our news media talking heads would demand to know.

The talking head panel would then kick the question around — same as they did the day before and the day before that. That they kept having the same damned conversation wasn’t because an answer was so elusive and hard to tease out from the shadows. No, it was because our news media — insisting that “both sides do it” — have made themselves incapable of framing any story correctly. If you truly believe that “both sides do it”, it’s because you think that people are all, at the core, alike; the fact that they take differing sides is just them being “political” — which, of course, “both sides do”. But the two sides in this conversation — conservatives vs progressives — are entirely different in their vision for the future and for America.

Trust me on this — conservatives want one thing for the future (they want it to look like the past as much as possible — the thing conservatives want to conserve) while progressives want the diametric opposite. Unlike conservatives, progressives don’t fear the future. It’s the past that progressives want to get away from — our racist, misogynist, corrupt (and now treasonous) past. Of course, we want to prosecute all those the people who did these terrible things first (as we must). If cable news shows really wanted to, they could make these conversations on their air much more meaningful. But, first, they’d have to put down their cynicism and see the world they’re reporting on as it actually is.

In a movie or television script, the goal always is to move the story forward toward its conclusion. Every scene must both build upon the scenes that came before it and then add new information that will propel the story into the next scene. This requires the storyteller to continually aggregate all the new information into the story — baking it into the architecture in essence. Otherwise, every new scene would start — as cable news shows do — by returning to square one where we didn’t know the things we’ve subsequently learned. That’s how we get to a place where our news media can’t decide whether or not Donald Trump is/was/will always be a racist.

Anyone who says and stands by “Mexicans are rapists” is a racist. He’s telling us so. All we have to do is listen to the man. It’s stupid to ask racists if they’re racist to begin with. How the hell would they know? They have zero perspective on racism BECAUSE THEY’RE RACISTS. And racism, like beauty, isn’t in the racist’s eye, it’s in the “beholder’s”. In racism’s case, that will be the racist’s victim. THEY’RE the only people qualified to answer that question. They’re the only ones who actually know.

Our cable news talking heads can’t decide if Republicans are honest actors or not because they can’t aggregate the information that would tell them they’re not. Honest actors don’t obstruct justice the way Republicans do. They don’t stand with seditionists and traitors. They don’t do everything within their power to undermine our democracy because — being so regressive — no one will vote for them. But Republicans do. And we know that because they’ve been doing it for almost five years now. That’s a pretty reliable data set.

In a movie or TV show, the presence of a “Yes-no, yes-now” argument is evidence that the storyteller isn’t up to the job. In American politics, it’s evidence that a Republican is nearby. And so is corruption.

What If Joe Biden Ran His White House The Way Donald Trump Ran His?

Quick — chose a word to describe Donald Trump’s White House. I bet the word “chaos” — or the abstraction described by “chaos” flashed through your mind. That chaos wasn’t Trump brilliantly playing some version of game theory above all our heads. It was a criminal and a traitor who never really wanted to be POTUS running America the same way he ran his own business. And Trump’s business, let’s be real, was not some world-beating real estate company, it was a mon ‘n pop money laundering shop . That’s what Glenn Simpson realized back in 2016 when his company Fusion GPS was hired to do oppo research on Trump for the benefit of the Marco Rubio-backing owners of the conservative Washington Free Beacon. Evidence of more money laundering keeps popping up. Take the Trump project in Azerbaijan which, in addition to evidencing money laundering connections, also evidences connections to Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guard — a sworn enemy of America.

Or take the entire Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin relationship as a whole. A case can already be made — and its make-ability will only get stronger with time — that everything about it is treasonous.

Trump ran the Peoples’ House like a cheap whorehouse with deep criminal ties. By contrast, Joe Biden, doesn’t. He’s like the democratic-spiritual Gallant to Trump’s complete & total Goofus. From the instant Team Biden took the reins of power from the Trump Clique, America began to “function” again rather than lurch haplessly from crisis to crisis. If you perceive government as public service then when the people grant you political power because you won an election, you’re apt to use that power to serve the public rather than use the power to abuse the public. But, if you’re like the GOP, you perceive “public service” as a way to get the American public to serve you. And, if you’re Donald Trump, you see the White House as the ultimate cash machine.

The simple fact is Joe Biden does not and would never run his White House the way Trump ran his. Honorable public servants behave like honorable public servants while criminals behave like criminals. Our news media however sees little difference between them. They instantly adapted to Trump and his lying by assuming Trump was lying. They didn’t really challenge Trump on his lies, they just agreed amongst themselves that Trump was probably lying no matter what he said. And that was fine with them. That’s how “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” got normalized. Our news media decided that Trump was a “different” kind of politician who shot from the lip and drove their ratings ever higher. In a way, our news media are like all those conservatives who turned up their noses at Trump’s racist, anti-democratic behavior but tolerated him because Trump was putting money in their pockets.

As these humps will soon learn, if you stand with a racist, corrupt traitor, you will be painted with the same brush they’re painted with. Stand with a liar, that makes YOU a liar. Same goes for any stripe of criminal especially traitors.

It seems our news media now expect Republican administrations to be corrupt just like they expect Democratic admins to be competent and professional. That makes it odd and painful that the news media continually try to hoist Democrats on their own petard when that petard is the commonweal. Trump set the catastrophe in Kabul in motion before he left office — like a car bomber parking his vehicle in the shadows and walking away. He surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban behind the government of Afghanistan’s back. He opened the prisons and released the very people now trying to run Afghanistan for the Taliban. In short, Trump did whatever Putin told him to do vis a vis Afghanistan. You’ll notice, please, how much benefit Russia (and China and Iran) are gaining from what Trump did. It’s not a coincidence.

One of the benefits of having Democrats in power — especially in the White House — is that Democrats, unlike Republicans, like governing. They bring genuine expertise to their work and genuinely aspire to make both America and the world a better place. Faced with challenges, Democrats go deep into problem-solving mode. Republicans, by contrast, go deep into finger-pointing mode. Unequipped to solve anyone’s problems, the party of personal responsibility makes it a point to never take responsibility for anything. Or to ever plan for anything since planning might take money meant for some Republican’s pocket and spend it on, you know, a disaster as it’s happening.

The White House Press Corps is determined to blame Joe Biden for the fall of Afghanistan. Their hearts may be in the right place, but their heads are shoved so far up their own asses that it doesn’t matter. They won’t be seeing daylight any time soon. Personally, I think the news media preferred having Trump as president to having Biden there. With Trump in office, there was NEVER a “slow news day” because chaos could erupt from anywhere at any time. These days — with Biden in the White House — there are days when, it sure feels like “nothing is happening”. Of course things are happening — just not with the narcotizing relentlessness of the Trump years.

It’s not in Joe Biden’s nature to act like Donald Trump — or like any Republican. But, if he could pull it off, he could tell the press they’re public enemies for caring about Afghanis. Biden could lie to the entire press corps’ face then insist either he never said it or was just “joking” when he did. Quick side note — people like Trump who have literally NO sense of humor? They can’t laugh at themselves — that’s how you know they have zero sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you literally can’t see humor. You literally can’t see irony. You can laugh — at others — the way bullies do, but you can never laugh WITH anyone because, frankly, having no sense of humor, you can’t really grasp what everyone else is even laughing about.

Biden — any Democrat really — would seem far more successful if they simply refused to answer the Republicans’ questions. They aren’t being asked sincerely anyway. They’d seem even more successful if they approached politics with the same Machiavellian intent as the Republicans do. Trump’s White House failed because they’re all failures who suck at everything except being criminals. Biden’s White House has been tasked with, first, cleaning up the mess the Republicans made of America’s government and the world.

If Biden ran his White House with the same chaotic fervor Team Trump did, he’d probably get away with it — because he’d be ignoring the news media’s bitching and moaning about it.

Conservatism Can’t Think “Outside The Box” Because Conservatism IS “The Box”

For all of conservatism’s many negatives, “truth in advertising” isn’t one of them. To its credit, conservatism will tell you right up front what it’s all about and what it wants our collective future to be: our past It’s right there in conservatism’s name — conservatives want to CONSERVE. Fair enough. Conserving the environment is good. Conserving tradition can be good. It can be rotten too. It’s situational. One thing we know conservatives can’t and definitely don’t want to conserve though is the future. Fortunately for them, as the future hasn’t happened yet, it’s the one time frame we can’t conserve. Just as well. The future is the one time frame conservatives want to avoid — by conserving as much of the past that remains in the present as they possibly can — and then locking that version of the present into a kind of stasis,. If conservatism could have its way — which is what they’re trying to do now — America would become a one-party state: theirs. This permanent minority rule wouldn’t just hold us in the present, it would in fact begin to regress us back into the 50’s — an era conservatism and the current version of the Republican Party think of as the “the white man’s golden age“. That’s 1850 we’re talking about!

In America, conservatism is old, Christian white men desperate to maintain what had been a hegemonic hold on power born of a great idea poorly executed. “All men are created equal” needed a rewrite it never got — and diversity — in order to fully live up to its E Pluribus Unum potential. That’s always been the dynamic tension at the heart of the American experiment. Though white people articulated the great idea, everyone other than white people are far better at realizing the great idea’s “E Pluribus Unum” potential. That’s because they are the “Pluribus”. Racism bubbles to the surface when one group thinks it’s superior to another group (as white people do toward Black people and brown people and Asian people and everyone else who isn’t white like them). The reason people from all over the world latched onto E Pluribus Unum is the same reason white Christian men thought “All men are created equal” was just fine as written — and as intended.

The white men who founded America and intended to hold all political power for themselves were actively defining the box they intended America to be. “All men” meant them. White, Christian men intended that white, Christian men would be America’s perpetual stakeholder pool. White, Christian, land-owning men more specifically. No E Pluribus Unum in sight. That’s where “originalism” comes from.

Consider “originalism”. Consider how we get a thing like “originalism”. It’s white, Christian men saying “Well, since we thought of the great idea, we’re the ones who should always get to run it how we like it!” Originalism insists, that America must always be exactly how the white men who invented it intended it to be. Any other version of America, says originalism, is an aberration, E Pluribus Unum be damned.

“Originalism” is “the box” with a tired, old bow on it.

The reason conservatives (and therefore Republicans) can’t run on the strength of their ideas is simple. They have none. Their new idea is to turn America back into how it was. That’s why Republicans have to resort to suppressing Democratic voters and gerrymandering. It’s why they’re corrupt. They’re so desperate to hold onto power that they even co-conspired with a hostile foreign government actively engaged in cyber war with us. Think about that! Conservatism saw more common purpose with Putin (and now with the coronavirus) than it did or does with other Americans. That, to bring it around, is because all those “other Americans” aren’t “them”.

By its nature, conservatism cannot innovate its way out of our problems; that’s because the act of innovating itself threatens conservatism. How can there be new ideas when the old suffice? If new ideas work to solve our problems, it means old ideas can’t or don’t. Any problem conservatism can’t solve poses a threat to conservatism itself because the only way out is through innovation — doing it differently than before. And, most likely, doing it better, too.

Two words conservatives hate are “new” and “improved” because “old” and “how it was” is how they like it.

If not for the Electoral College’s artificial hold on the presidency — if we actually just elected our POTUS via popular vote — it’s likely a Republican would never win the presidency ever again. Future Democrats would run up even bigger margins than Joe Biden’s 7 million vote cushion. Ah, but the EC is another old, artificial, racist governing structure trying to keep “All men are created equal” from turning into “E Pluribus Unum”. Just like the structure of the Senate — another example of white power tilting the playing field toward itself.

Conservatism’s answer to virtually all of our massive problems is the same: do nothing (as if doing nothing was a cheaper option) regardless of whether the problem is climate change, racism, corruption or treason. Even among conservative Democrats, there’s a latent desire to just “kiss and make up” — to go full bi-partisan kumbaya with the very same bad actors trying to destroy the American republican from within. Doing nothing is invariably the most expensive option of all.

If we do nothing to save our democracy, it will go away. If we do nothing to save our environment, it will become uninhabitable. If we do nothing to save human decency, indecency will eventually come for us.

Solving these problems demands, first, acknowledging them. White America is balking at the whole idea of walking in the door to marriage counseling. They don’t want the marriage between them and everyone else to endure — at least, not the way everyone else imagines the relationship. Like I said, it turns out that everyone BUT white people seem to have a knack for democracy. Black Americans have such a solid grasp of it — and why it matters — that they have endured three hundred plus years of brutality by the white people with the great idea in order to manifest the great idea in ways white people would never have thought of — because they were always in power.

When people keep putting obstacles in your way, problem-solving around them becomes second nature. Joe Biden’s administration could write a few volumes on the topic. Afghanistan could fill a whole library. The pandemic could fill a zip code full of nothing but libraries. The conservative response to Afghanistan was “get greedy”. Its response to climate change is deny it’s happening. It’s response to voting rights is restrict them as much as possible because — as Donald Trump himself put it, “when too many people vote, it’s bad for Republicans”. Yeah — exactly.

Democracy itself is bad for Republicans.

The Reason All Republican Arguments Sound Like Bullsh*t Is Because That’s What They Are

No one ever does anything “just because”. Trust me on this. It’s something storytellers know about human nature because we have to draw on human nature to create believable characters that ring true both inside and out. What’s worse than a character you’ve come to love who suddenly acts “out of character” — not because their author has crafted some ingenious (if convoluted) storyline for them, but because their author has flat out betrayed them. Or, more accurately, the author has betrayed how the rest of us understand human nature. Someone behaving badly may not be able to articulate their motivation, but, even if it’s because their brain chemistry’s funky, they’re doing it for a reason. Our news media quickly made the decision that Donald Trump did what he did and said what he said because “that’s how he is”. In other words, Trump behaved/behaves like he does “just because”.

That was the news media’s explanation for Trump having his head so firmly stuck up Vladimir Putin’s ass: “it’s just how Trump ‘is’.” That was why Trump said “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing is okay!” — because that’s how he is. Ummmm, no, actually. Trump said “Mexicans are rapists” because he’s a racist and he bragged about “pussy grabbing” because he’s a misogynist pig and (like his imaginary Mexicans) a rapist. But, our news media didn’t really care about that because “but — her emails” apparently was more “newsworthy” to them.

To this day, our news media won’t call Donald Trump a racist. Well, a few of them will but most wouldn’t dare. They think it’s logical to ask a racist if they’re a racist — as if the racist had the least bit of perspective with which to answer such a question. Racism — like beauty — is in the eye of the beholder, not the object itself. Want to know if someone’s racist or not? Ask their victims. As the people who could have been subjected to the racist’s racism. They’ll know. They’ll happily tell you who is and who isn’t racist.

But, if you’re willing to let a racist tell you he’s not racist, you’re already willing to give bullshit credence. And every Republican knows it. All they have to ever do to make the American news media compliant is to draw them into that vast Republican Rabbit Hole where truth and patriotism and human decency all go to die. And our news media happily leaps right in. Suddenly, rabbit hole logic takes over. Up is down and down is up and both are sideways. It really doesn’t matter what the rule of law actually says since the Republican imperative is to violate its spirit regardless. And news events — even damning ones! — they lose all context. Acts of stone cold treason become minor details in forgotten stories.

For example — in June 2016 (the Washington Post reported in 2017 when their reporter heard a recording of the meeting), current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a room of GOP leaders — their nominating convention a month away — and said: “There are two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” It was the nervous laughter in the room that made McCarthy add “Swear to God!” Why was there nervous laughter and not outrage — that such a thing was even remotely possible? Because everyone in the room knew 1) it WAS possible and 2) it was a fact. In fact, it was such a fact that then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made everyone in the room promise to keep this piece of information (not speculation apparently) a secret.

As Paul Ryan himself put it: “That’s how we know we’re family”.

When, a year later, one intrepid reporter — having read the story in the Washington Post — asked McCarthy about his comment, McCarthy replied that he’d been “joking”. Quick side note: people with no sense of humor (people who can’t laugh at themselves) cannot make jokes. That is, they can’t make jokes that aren’t at someone else’s expense. Kevin McCarthy was not joking when he said he thought Putin pays Trump. That response was flat out bullshit. It was a lie — but, per usual, the “journalist” let it go — because that’s how bullshit and lies get normalized into the kind of toxic propaganda our news media can’t discern from news stories.

But, telling truth from bullshit isn’t really that hard. It’s no harder than separating feelings from facts.

When someone who’s based their point of view on facts gets challenged, they lay their facts on the table. Emotions may validate but they don’t elucidate. If anything, emotions cloud our thinking. That’s why our news media can only see the tragedy unfolding in front of us in Afghanistan. It IS a tragedy. But if you want to report it truthfully, you have to report the whole story — how we got to the tragedy part and not just the tragedy part. Joe Biden didn’t enter his presidency in a normal fashion because his predecessor 1) is still trying to hold onto power, 2) pre-surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban before Biden even was sworn in, 3) denied Team Biden any sort of transition so that they could see this fiasco coming at them, and 4) are all stone cold traitors to begin with. To report this story as “And then Joe Biden screwed it all up!” is insulting not just to Joe Biden but to America and Afghanistan, too.

The truth is, we set Afghanistan up for failure when we walked in the door. We set the hook firmly when we changed our mission from “Get bin Laden” to “Turn Afghanistan into the democratic picture book American could never be”. Joe Biden did not suddenly change his mind about nation building in Afghanistan, he’s ALWAYS opposed the idea. It sucks being the only adult in a room filled with juveniles and their enablers but that’s Biden’s situation vis a vis both Republicans and the news media. From our news media’s point of view however, all those juveniles and their enablers have integrity equal to Joe Biden’s. Their feeling, in other words, have the same weight as Joe Biden’s facts.

No good can come of this.

Want to know why every Republican explanation for even the simplest things sounds like utter bullshit being invented right on the spot? That’s because it’s utter bullshit — being invented right on the spot.

A great day of reckoning awaits the entire Republican Party — at least it better. If America, Americans, the rule of law and the Constitution don’t punish every single Republican who in any way co-conspired to end the greatest experiment in human self government ever then that experiment will absolutely end. Bullshit will win the day.

When that happens, we can prepare for the worst because the worst will happen. Bullshit will finally have superseded truth as our baseline common experience. Betcha Republicans are already drooling at the thought.

Of Republicans And Rabbit Holes

How does one answer the question “And when did you stop beating your wife?”? There is no good way,. That’s the point. Same goes for “When did you stop loving me?” or “Why don’t you respect the flag?” These aren’t legitimate questions. They’re a passive-aggressive set up meant to put the person being asked the question at the event horizon of a rabbit hole. On one side of that horizon — wide open space in the form of logic and reason. On the other — a chaotic, blazingly bonkers, Wonderland-style black hole that sucks every bit of reason from any argument (before you can even argue it) and compresses this concentrated nonsense down into a singularity of such incredibly dense illogic that no kind of enlightenment or rationale can penetrate it whatsoever. This is true darkness. Logic as a null set. And every Republican’s intention is to suck, draw or push the rest of us into and down that very rabbit hole.

When Mitch McConnell — the long time chief engineer of all Republican rabbit hole construction — told Barack Obama (the democratically elected president) that, despite the fact that the MAJORITY of Americans voted for him and therefore for the his judicial nominees that he couldn’t fill Scalia’s vacant SCOTUS seat, he not only put Obama at the precipice of a rabbit hole, he put America at the precipice of one. What McConnell was doing — denying American voters the benefits of winning elections.– is an enormous rabbit hole. Mind you, if the Democrats attempted such a thing (which they wouldn’t; Democrats simply do not think this way), every single Republican’s head would explode. No part of the Republican argument makes the least bit of sense. But then, no one really expects it to — that’s a whole other rabbit hole that the first rabbit hole (voting rights) lives inside of. No one expects Republicans to EVER make sense.

For all their insistence that “both sides do it”, our news media do not hold “both sides equally culpable”. For some reason, the guilt always gets hangs around Democratic necks. That’s probably because the Republicans, not wanting EVER to take an ounce of responsibility for their actions (cos why would “the party of personal responsibility” do that?”), have split the scene before responsibility could be accurately assessed. Joe Biden did not put us into Afghanistan on an endless mission. His administration didn’t pre-negotiate this surrender with the Taliban, Donald Trump’s administration did that. Biden didn’t lock his team out of the transition process — where they might have learned how Team Trump was setting them up for failure. Team Trump did that.

Afghanistan itself is the rabbit hole where empires go to plunge helplessly to their demise. To report the story without all its context is to mis-report it. And yet, mis-report it our news media does — even knowing what they know because, one of the constants about Republican rabbit holes is that facts never get aggregated or integrated into the general knowledge base. Think about it — how long, how many lies, did it take for our news media to finally admit and accept that Trump was more likely to lie to them than tell them the truth?

The first official lie Trump told them was “Mexicans are rapists” and, to this day, the news media has more or less accepted that candidates for the office of president can say — and get away with saying — such things. That, right there, is another rabbit hole. Right beside it is one marked “pussy grabbing”. And beside it, another marked “But her emails”.

That Republicans keep shoving us down their rabbit holes is understandable. It’s the only way they can win election any more since no one but them wants to live in the racist, misogynist, ignorance-embracing shithole that they dream of turning America back into. That the news media insists that Republicans are honest actors seeking to undermine our democratic principles as a matter of “political choice” is flat out offensive. The GOP’s moves to undermine and alter the results of elections 2016 and 2020 were not and are not political acts at all. They’re entirely CRIMINAL — though being done for political reasons.

When Democrats respond to these criminal actions, they are not acting politically either. They are citizens responding to criminal acts being perpetrated against them (albeit criminal acts being carried out for political purposes). When the news media insists regardless that it’s political (since politic are what’s motivating the Republicans), we get this wonky, stilted, wholly inaccurate view of the playing field.

Every last one of our problems — the climate, voting, treason, the pandemic — has been exacerbated by whatever the Republicans’ response to it has been. That’s not a coincidence. There is a method to the GOP’s madness — a point to this terrible exercise: permanent minority rule. That is what sits on the other side of the singularity all this Republican greed and corruption are drawing us toward.

Is Perspective-Free Journalism Really “Journalism”?

If the fall of Afghanistan proved anything — aside from the fact that we set ourselves up for failure (alongside the Afghanis who helped us) the instant we landed in country — it’s how little perspective our news media brings to work each day. We knew lack of perspective (like failure of imagination) was a chronic journalistic problem throughout the Trump years — that’s both his pursuit of power and his abuse of it. The news media has always accorded wealthy, white, male Christians undue deference, normalizing their criminality like it was part of the architecture. It’s utter nonsense to think our press begins telling any news story from a genuinely neutral position. The playing field we all step onto is heavily skewed in one direction. If you don’t report that at the start — and if that fact doesn’t inform every last bit of your reporting than, really, you’re telling some other story about an imaginary world that only looks like ours. If you cannot report that bit of perspective because you can’t see it, then what you’re doing every day to pay the rent or the mortgage isn’t journalism.

What’s happening in Afghanistan is a human tragedy of monstrous proportions. What’s about to happen to the women of Afghanistan is even more monstrous. It’s impossible not to be emotionally gripped by video of the genuine terror all those desperate Afghanis thronging Kabul’s airport are feeling. But, leadership demands reacting with one’s head and not one’s heart. One must take off all blinders and see the world for what it is — in realpolitik terms. The reason we were still in Afghanistan is because, up till now, we have refused to see the world as it is. Wanting to make the world a better place for everyone in it is a lovely ideal. But doing good is way more complex than that especially when the good involves changing another culture’s culture or trying to install a form of government that you yourself haven’t mastered.

Journalists describing their own arduous route to the Kabul airport mention having to pay bribes at various points along the way in order to continue along the way. That’s just how it is here, they point out. It’s how it is in a lot of places where they don’t have dynamic economies and corruption is the business model. Now, right there, each and every journalist on the ground is providing deep perspective about the rules on the ground. Put all judgment aside — whether paying bribes is good, bad or a necessary evil. And don’t forget: Afghanistan is only a country because a Western colonial power made it one, drawing up borders that never existed before in the tribal lands where those borders got drawn.

One of those lines got drawn right through the Pashtuns’ tribal territory. One second they were all in one territory, the next, some of them were Afghanis and the rest Pakistanis. The border may have made the Afghani Pashtun Afghani on paper, it did not make them Afghani in their hearts.

There’s yet another layer of complexity here that needs to be in our collective perspective but isn’t yet. Sarah Chayes covered the Taliban’s fall for NPR back in 2001. After reporting from Kandahar — the Taliban’s capitol — Sarah returned and set up base there. She stayed for a decade and “…ran two non-profits in Kandahar, living in an ordinary house and speaking Pashtu, and eventually went to work for two commanders of the international troops, and then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” This Western journalist has very real perspective about the topic she’s writing on. Her knowledge isn’t just surface detail, it’s cultural and deep. She knows whereof she speaks.

Four things brought us to this awful moment, Chayes writes (and I recommend that you read her reporting yourself!): Afghan government corruption, and the U.S. role enabling and reinforcing it, Pakistan, Hamid Karzai and self-delusion. Pakistan is the key. Pakistan is behind most of the other three items on Chayes’ list. To be fair, corruption being a human frailty no matter the country, impoverished Afghanistan (with no real central government to speak of, no infrastructure, no national identity to rally ’round) was and remains organically corrupt. Again — not judging, just trying to describe accurately (so we can judge later).

Chayes writes —

Do we really suppose the Taliban, a rag-tag, disjointed militia hiding out in the hills, as we’ve so long been told, was able to execute such a sophisticated campaign plan with no international backing? Where do we suppose that campaign plan came from? Who gave the orders? Where did all those men, all that materiel, the endless supply of money to buy off local Afghan army and police commanders, come from? How is it that new officials were appointed in Kandahar within a day of the city’s fall? The new governor, mayor, director of education, and chief of police all speak with a Kandahari accent. But no one I know has ever heard of them. I speak with a Kandahari accent, too. Quetta is full of Pashtuns — the main ethic group in Afghanistan — and people of Afghan descent and their children. Who are these new officials?

In fact, Pashtuns make up 48% of Afghanis. The thing is, they identify as Pashtuns first and Afghanis… maybe second. “Afghani” remains a made up designation. The power inside Pakistan — always looking to improve its situation and why not — benefits from controlling not only the Pashtuns but — look at it from their point of view — controlling Afghanistan, the country on the other side of that made up border. Way better to have a staunch ally there than a foe. That’s the context for this —

The Taliban were a strategic project of the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI. It even conducted market surveys in the villages around Kandahar, to test the label and the messaging. “Taliban” worked well. The image evoked was of the young students who apprenticed themselves to village religious leaders. They were known as sober, studious, and gentle. These Taliban, according to the ISI messaging, had no interest in government. They just wanted to get the militiamen who infested the city to stop extorting people at every turn in the road.

Chayes points out “both label and message were lies”. Of course they were!

Within a few years, Usama bin Laden found his home with the Taliban, in their de facto capital, Kandahar, hardly an hour’s drive from Quetta. Then he organized the 9/11 attacks. Then he fled to Pakistan, where we finally found him, living in a safe house in Abbottabad, practically on the grounds of the Pakistani military academy. Even knowing what I knew, I was shocked. I never expected the ISI to be that brazen.

Meanwhile, ever since 2002, the ISI had been re-configuring the Taliban: helping it regroup, training and equipping units, developing military strategy, saving key operatives when U.S. personnel identified and targeted them. That’s why the Pakistani government got no advance warning of the Bin Laden raid. U.S. officials feared the ISI would warn him.

By 2011, my boss, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Taliban were a “virtual arm of the ISI.”

Sarah Chayes, The Ides Of August

As for Karzhai — our choice to pilot Afghanistan after we ousted the Taliban, was “in fact the go-between who negotiated the Taliban’s entry into Afghanistan in 1994! Chayes says “It is my belief that Karzai may have been a key go-between negotiating this surrender, just as he did in 1994, this time enlisting other discredited figures from Afghanistan’s past, as they were useful to him.” Think about this. Chayes can’t say this is a fact because she’s still a journalist at heart and a damned good one. But, she is willing to connect dots that demand connecting if we’re to truly understand what’s happening in Afghanistan with any sort of perspective.

Chayes concludes —

One final point. I hold U.S. civilian leadership, across four administrations, largely responsible for today’s outcome. Military commanders certainly participated in the self-delusion. I can and did find fault with generals I worked for or observed. But the U.S. military is subject to civilian control. And the two primary problems identified above — corruption and Pakistan — are civilian issues. They are not problems men and women in uniform can solve. But faced with calls to do so, no top civilian decision-maker was willing to take either of these problems on. The political risk, for them, was too high.

True leadership — what Joe Biden did and is doing — requires taking those political risks. We fulfilled our original mission — oust the Taliban, get bin Laden and stop Afghanistan from being a terrorist haven quickly. In fact, we could have gotten bin Laden when he was holed up in Tora Bora. We didn’t — a choice made by George W. Bush and Company. We should have exited Afghanistan right about then. It would have messy in its own way as imaginary country Afghanistan tried to set up a government for itself. Of course the Pashtuns would have taken part and if the Pakistani intelligence service wanted to infiltrate them whether as Taliban or some other entity? It would have been easy.

This is just how it is on the ground. It’s the culture — good, bad or indifferent. We can judge it if we like but that won’t change it. And, really, corruption is entirely relative. From the Pashtuns point of view, the West is corrupt. Like everyone else, what they really object to is corruption that benefits the other guy.

If you’re going to report this world journalistically — and by “report”, I mean, at the top of your game — you must have this corruption in mind as you survey the landscape. You also have to understand the corruption’s nature. You have to appreciate the role corruption plays in quotidian life. And you have to understand not just the neighborhood you’re standing in but the entire environment itself. Journalism demands a holistic approach. The details of any one story are vital — bore deeply! But detail divorced from the Big Picture they’re part of can easily deceive. It’s like thinking a piece of the mosaic is the mosaic. No — it isn’t.

Our news media, being corporate, is organically corrupt. The corporation’s fiduciary responsibility is to its own survival. Yeah, sure — most of what any corporation does is within the rules. But every corporation seeks to cut corners. To maximize its profits and minimize expenses. Hey — show me an American who’s never cheated on their taxes (still not judging!) and I’ll show you a null set. All corruption starts locally. We all bend the rules to suit ourselves and our needs. We don’t like to think of it as corrupt but it is.

In journalism, corruption often takes the form of access. The White House Press Corps allowed Donald Trump to get away with literal murder. They refused to ask a known liar pointed questions about his lying because they feared Trump would stop letting them ask questions or, worse, banish them from the White House. They compromised their journalistic integrity in order to “be there”. Game already over from the point of view of corruption. You can’t negotiate with corruption. You can’t quid pro quo it.

But, one thing you can do with corruption is aggregate it. Yeah — if you honestly tell a story about corruption, you’re going to describe how a monster got birthed, how it evolved and thrived and then broke free and ran amok. If that corruption is treasonous — as so much of Trump’s corruption is, was and always will be — you’d expect it to be not just a detail of the Trump story but one of its engines. Once you’ve gone and committed treason, there’s no going back. Even the hint of treason should get a good journalist’s Spidey senses tingling.

Our journalists witnessed the above scene — this moment in time — and refused to call it what it so blatantly was. If they’d applied ANY perspective to this moment, the Trump admin would have ended right there and then.

It didn’t.

In their defense, many of the journalists who covered Afghanistan in country saw with their own eyes what American style democracy could do for Afghanistan’s women especially. If only that had been something we could set in concrete… alas, in order to make that inorganic cultural shift work, America would have had to remain in Afghanistan forever. Pakistan did not want us in Afghanistan and, sooner or later (sooner, as we’re learning) would have moved to remove us. They would have tasked the Pashtuns working for them to step up their aggression. The Taliban never left Afghanistan, don’t forget; they lived in Afghanistan and — if they had passports — those passports would have been either Afghani or Pakistani. They could afford to outlast us because they were home already. And they know their “country’s” culture a lot better than we do.

It sucks what’s going to happen to Afghanistan and its women. Whatever we can do to mitigate it, we absolutely should. But we have to stop lying to ourselves about Afghanistan — why we’re there, who the players are and what they want. And we have to stop reporting on Afghanistan like it was some other country. The stone cold reality is that America staying in any would result in an eventual bloodbath. The longer we stayed, the worse the blood bath because the stronger the resentment.

I’m not faulting a single journalist’s emotional response to this tragedy. But, every time their emotions obscure the true story of how we got here, they’re doing much more harm than good. Not all corruption is malignant. Some of it’s entirely cultural. That goes for the culture of journalism too.

Perspective-free journalism is corrupt journalism. It’s not actually journalism therefore — it’s just another variety of corruption.