Why Are Republicans So Skilled At “Bullsh*t Kabuki”?

Last night, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy treated America to a (literally) record-breaking performance. He stood in the House of Representatives — in theory to spew a few dishonest words about the BBB before the House voted on it — and then, like men do in a room, he hijacked it. Kevin spoke for eight plus hours — flipping through binders filled with filler Kevin could reference as he spoke. And spoke. And spoke. Kevin was filibustering the vote the best (the only) way he could in the House where no filibuster exists. In the end, it didn’t matter one bit. The House just passed it! So, why was Kevin doing this? Was it because the legislation that just passed the House would do terrible things to his constituents and his district? No. The opposite is true. Most Americans — including the Californians in Kevin’s Central Valley district — want desperately what the BBB will provide Kevin’s constituents using their tax dollars. Even the CBO score agreed that the BBB would be better for America than doing nothing and a kajillion times better than anything any Republican has done or would ever propose.

Eight hours of bullshit kabuki. That’s what Kevin put on — and, if we’re fair — skillfully! Republicans can’t govern to save their lives (which they prove every time they get elected to office). But, damn if they can’t perform bullshit kabuki with consummate skill.

Remember Kyle Rittenhouse, weeping for himself on the witness stand — blubbering away, woe to him, because he’s being held to account for murdering people with a gun that should never have been in his ignorant, racist, adolescent hands? How about Travis McMichael insisting on cross examination that Ahmaud Arbery’s running away from him for ten minutes — no weapon, no backpack, just fear for his life — posed a mortal threat demanding lethal force (three shotgun blasts, two of them hitting Arbery and killing him)? Or Brett Kavanaugh wailing angrily at anyone who’d dare question his integrity? Equally disingenuous (but deserving of note): Republican Senator Susan Collins insisting (all evidence to the contrary) that she supports reproductive rights.

Bullshit kabuki is what you resort to when you have nothing under the hood to sell. Conservatives, don’t forget, want to “conserve” a Confederacy of whiteness. They want us to hold firmly onto the version of “All men are created equal” that doesn’t actually mean “all men” but does mean “only men”. Republicans know they can’t pitch regressing America back to 1850 to a diversifying electorate increasingly reluctant to let white people get away with abusing everyone NOT white. That’s why Republicans suppress Democratic voters and gerrymander. That’s why Republicans deal in dark money. That’s why they’ll even commit treason to hold onto power.

Once you’ve acknowledged — as Kevin McCarthy did on June 25, 2016 — that you suspect your presidential nominee might be compromised by a hostile foreign government (“There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” is how Kevin put it as he entered a meeting of Republican leaders a full month before the GOP nominated Trump) — you’ve nowhere to go except to the FBI. When you don’t — and neither Kevin nor any other Republican in that room even thought about calling the FBI — you cross a very real line. In hindsight — considering how deeply Vlad Putin still has his hooks into Trump? Kevin’s suspicions become even more problematic.

But that’s just from a legal perspective. We’re talking kabuki! Performance! And, from THAT perspective, Republicans are true “artistes” — and I’m here to celebrate their “artistry”. Below — some examples of Republican Bullshit Kabuki and my personal ratings and notes. I’ve given up drinking (but taken up smoking cannabis that much more); still, I appreciate structure and intensity. Great bullshit kabuki is like a big, massive red wine that can’t even spell “subtlety”. It’s kind of a cross between Hamlet’s advice to the players not to saw the air too much with their hands and MacBeth’s “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.”

That’s how I score it!

MY SCORES

6/10 Kyle’s good but he’s too clearly coached. He’ll get better after a few years in the can — if he’s sent to the can. As of this writing, Kyle’s jury is still out, his fate undecided. If the jury acquits Kyle, he’ll be free, but his bullshit kabuki skills won’t evolve. Hey, I worry for the kid!

Brett is what world class bullshit kabuki is all about. It’s defiant. Sociopathic even. Brett loves beer, man! And rape! And there ain’t nothing wrong with that! See what I mean about being “full of sound and fury” but “signifying nothing”?

The Bullshit Kabuki King, of course, is Donald Trump. He’s a whole school of bullshit kabuki unto himself.

Next time: why our news media loves bullshit kabuki…

There’s No Point Being “Honest” With Everyone Else If You Can’t Be Honest About Yourself First

There’s an iconic film moment in the movie “A Few Good Men”. Military JAG officer Tom Cruise has the movie’s villain (played by Jack Nicholson) on the stand where he’s pressed him hard to get at “the truth”. Nicholson’s Colonel Jessep barks: “You can’t HANDLE the truth!” Of course, in the movie (written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Rob Reiner, both very progressive), we’re meant to shake our heads at Jessep’s arrogance. Of course we can handle the Truth. Ah, but, can we? Can any of us really handle the Truth about who we are and where we are in our lives versus where we wished we’d be? As much as I advocate in this blog for “living bullshit free”, the unvarnished truth about humans is we need a certain amount of bullshit just to get through each day. Hell, we need a certain amount of bullshit just to justify getting through most days. Especially these days.

The trap in being honest with ourselves is if we equate being honest with being judged. The reason we don’t want to be honest is because we don’t want to be judged — especially if we’re just “being honest”. Inside our own heads though, things get grey. We don’t judge ourselves the way we judge others. We couldn’t stand it if we did. But, if we could push past that kneejerk judgment, let our psychological hair down and run free, we’d probably be shocked by the stone, cold truth about ourselves. That’s neither good nor bad. It’s just the Truth.

For instance: none of us can say whether or not we’re racist. It’s not up to us. It’s up to anyone toward whom we may have been racist. IF someone were to accuse us of being a racist (or bigoted or misogynist in any way), would we accept hearing such a terrible TRUTH about ourselves? Or would we insist the “truth” was otherwise — something kinder and gentler toward us? Being honest with oneself is hard, hard work. But the payoffs are considerable. Important detail: being totally honest with yourself about yourself must precede any attempt to be totally honest about anyone else.
If you’re doing it right, being honest with yourself about yourself is pretty much a full time job all by itself. You won’t have time to give others the “benefit” of your honesty. If the world was working the way it should, all those others will be as consumed as you will be by the work involved in patrolling their own “perimeters of truth”.

One of the first benefits of being honest with oneself however is how it opens one’s eyes to the myriad ways OTHERS aren’t being honest with themselves but with some very important, very human context around it. On the one hand, that can make us more empathetic to why and how others dance around the truth. On the other, the context makes it crystal clear when others aren’t being “truthful” about WHY they’re dancing as fast as they’re dancing: they’re being cynical. Or, worse, corrupt.

The whole point of being honest with oneself is to “vaccinate” against bullshit and bullshit’s influence on our psyches.

Cutting ourselves slack is completely understandable. We all have to live inside our own heads. But, we have to recognize (if only to ourselves) that that’s what we’re doing. Again, the point isn’t to judge, it’s merely to RECOGNIZE what really is versus what isn’t and probably never was.

There is not a Republican Congressperson alive right now who doesn’t know what they’re really doing. They KNOW they’re not working to make America a stronger democracy dedicated to expanding its electorate. They KNOW that what they’re doing will, in fact, undermine American’s democracy because that is the point. If you can’t win elections via the strength of your ideas and arguments, you’re going to have to “win” elections by “other means”. Republicans don’t suppress Democratic voters because they believe in democracy, they do it because they fear democracy. That’s not a judgment; it’s a stone cold FACT.

Hey, look — Republicans aren’t “obligated” to want the greatest experiment in human self government to continue. They are obligated however to be honest about their intentions. And, if they refuse to be honest about themselves, it’s incumbent on our news media to force them to be honest. That’s their Constitutionally mandated mission — to be the final check on power. Honesty and sunlight — they both work wonders on a dark, corrupt world.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare put it this way: “To thine own self, be true”. Of course, the person giving that advice (Polonius) is a deceptive skunk, but the sentiment’s right. We can only really be honest — and the sunlight can only do what we need it to do — if we begin the process with ourselves to ourselves.

It’s Holocaust Remembrance Day – A Good Day To Remember “What A Piece Of Work Is Man?”

That damned Shakespeare — he always seemed to nail us humans with all the irony due us. Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. 76 years ago today, the Russian army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi’s death camps. 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, died within Auschwitz’s razor-wired fences. Some were openly murdered — shot, gassed, hanged. Others were worked to death. Others succumbed to sickness or disease or just the weariness of hopelessness. This happened because some humans regard other humans as “cockroaches”.

Nobody’s a cockroach, ya see. We’re all humans. Capable of great things. But, alas, also capable of great evil — all while seeming filled with the potential for good. Sometimes, irony burns hotter than the sun. What a piece of work IS man? In “Hair”, Galt McDermott (working with James Rado and Jerome Ragni) even put it to music —

“What a piece of work is man? How noble in reason?”

“How infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable!”

“In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god!”

“The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”

“And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

“Why it appears no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.”

Never forget. Never again.

If The Rule Of Law Becomes A “Thing” Again, It Will Have To Void Donald Trump’s Presidency — Or Immediately Stop Being A “Thing”

The Rule Of Law is a lot like Hamlet. Well, it’s a lot like Hamlet’s dilemma: “To be or not to be”.

The Rule Of Law is like integrity that way — it’s an all or nothing proposition. Ever met anyone with, say, 90% of their integrity intact? “I trust John 90% of the time. It’s that 10% about him that worries me” is not something anyone has ever said. The instant mistrust appears in any way, shape or form? Trust is gone.

The Rule Of Law is pretty specific about most things (though, as we’re realizing, not specific enough about certain important things). It says what one cannot do and what should happen to them if they do those things anyway. One thing it says explicitly — it is against the Rule Of Law to solicit any kind of foreign help in any sort of American election.

There’s no wriggle room there. All v Nothing.

That means if Donald Trump — or anyone working with him or for him — sought or received any help whatsoever from anyone foreign, they broke the law. That means Trump’s campaign should have stopped right there, right then. How can an illegal campaign continue to run and be legit when it’s conspiring with a foreign country that’s created an actual plan to do do the literal thing it’s doing in order to disrupt America?

The answer is “it can’t”. That it did continue running — and that it “won” — shouldn’t make us shrug our shoulders in surrender, it should make us bristle.

Let’s come at this differently. It’s not an election. Let’s say you manufactured a winning lottery ticket that scored you $100 million bucks. The lottery’s rules say you can’t do that. If you make your own lottery ticket and claim the prize, you may be handed the prize but you did not “win” it. it’s not legitimately yours.

If the lottery agency figures out that you might have cheated — and they investigate — and discover that, yeah — YOU CHEATED — what do you suppose that lottery agency will do when they learn you’re guilty as charged? Will they let you keep the $100 million? You better believe they won’t.

That money’s coming back — and you’re going to prison.

Same token — and this is an example even Donald Trump can appreciate. Let’s make it a beauty pageant this time. Contestant T (for Trump) doesn’t play by the pageant’s rules which say pageant contestants can’t even talk to the judges before the contest. Instead, Contestant T seduces or pays off every single judge — and wins. Is that win legit? If the rest of the judges — or the pageant’s backers or advertisers — get wind, how will they feel? Will they agree that regardless of the rules being blatantly violated for the purposes of winning, nothing can be done and the (cheating) winner they crowned is the only person who can be winner now and — despite not winning fairly — will get to keep her crown and everything that went with it including money?

I doubt it.

An office is no different than a beauty pageant crown. If you broke the rules to get the crown, the crown does not belong to you.

Neither does anything that came with the crown. In the case of the presidency of the US, the crown comes with power. It comes with the AUTHORITY to nominate judges and sign legislation into law. But only if you HAVE THE AUTHORITY. If I show up at the airport wanting to stamp the passports of people entering the country, they’ll kick me out — I’ve got no training, no history, no authority to allow anyone into the country.

The same goes for Trump. If he was never the legitimate potus then he never had any of the authority a legitimate potus has. If he never had the authority, then nothing he’s done has been authorized by We The People. Without that authority, those judges & legislation have no legitimacy.

As former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner has pointed out, an awful lot of Donald Trump’s lifetime nominees to the federal bench went before the Senate — for their nomination hearings — and lied through their teeth. They perjured themselves repeatedly. That means they can be impeached — and they most definitely WILL be impeached. Or voided.

Donald Trump — the Projector-In-Chief — has projected his own illegitimacy from the moment he was sworn in before a teeny tiny crowd. It’s about damned time we listened to him.