Trump, The Pathological Liar

“To my mind, this question at the top level is so obviously answered, you cannot have a president who’s a chronic liar. I don’t care what your passions around tax cuts or regulation or immigration. I respect difference there,”

“The President of the United States cannot be someone who lies constantly. I thought Republicans agreed with that. It’s one of the reasons I’m no longer a Republican. I hope the American people will realize we have to start at that values level no matter what our political background and answer that question first. And if that’s a close question in an election, then get to the important policy differences.”

James Comey (via CNN)
Comey on 2020 election: “You cannot have a president who’s a chronic liar”

Methinks he feels responsible for the mess we are in. I agree with him.

Treason

During my recent convalescence, I watched a lot of television. A lot of television for me, considering I haven’t watched TV much since cutting the cable three years ago. I went through the several series on Netflix that I mentioned previously, but I also spent a lot of time watching several Ken Burns’ PBS series that I’ve had bookmarked for years.

The one that stuck in my mind was The Vietnam War, especially episode seven. You know the one. The one where we discover that Richard Nixon committed treason, and Lyndon Johnson caught him lying about it? For some reason, that series and that episode specifically reminds me of the political climate of today. More than one person has said to me,

You can’t say Donald Trump has committed treason because he hasn’t been conspiring with anyone we have declared war on.

…and I’ve found that non-denial denial quite revealing. Yes it is true that he hasn’t been shown to be conspiring with anyone we are currently at war with, but it is rather convenient that congress doesn’t declare war on enemies anymore. It’s also rather convenient that conventional war is limited to puppet governments and so-called third world regions, while information warfare is carefully treated as different from conventional war. As if destruction of a country’s political and social structure is somehow less damaging than the wholesale bombing campaigns of previous generations.

I mean, it is easier on the furniture and the infrastructure. It costs fewer lives, for the most part. But the uncertainty created by the mis- and dis-information campaigns currently being waged is psychologically as harmful as physical violence. You never know what is true and what is not true these days. All words are lies, especially words that come from government authorities. Sources that most people want to trust, demonstrably cannot be trusted. This has been true since Donald Trump took office proven time and again by investigative reporting.

Just like in Nixon’s time, White House sources deny that the reports are true, but their denials are clearly stamped as false, stamped as face-saving bullshit put out by the Bullshitter-in-Chief. Nixon conspired with Hanoi to prolong the Vietnam war in order to gain the White House. Donald Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to gain the White House. No, we can’t prove it aside from the synchronicity of events that bear out coordination of efforts. But those events do occur in a properly causal relationship, and Trump did have business interests in Moscow that he still denies existed.

No, we aren’t at war with Russia, so that’s not treason per se. But if you think that just because we aren’t at war with another country, it’s OK to take their stolen information, their disinformation structures and use them against our own people? If you think that is OK, then I seriously have to question your sanity, your loyalty.

I just finished watching All the President’s Men. That line that Robard’s character utters near the end? That line keeps replaying in my head now. Those same pressures that were on the Washington Post back in 1974? Those pressures are on every single American today. There are no more gatekeepers. There is no barrier to information any longer. If we are misinformed, it is because we allow ourselves to be misinformed. Not allowing yourself to be comfortably deluded? That is what it means to be a good citizen. To know what the truth is, and to stick to it no matter the pressure to conform.

“We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there,” Robards’ says. “Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. Good night.”

All The President’s Men

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct by officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, refusal to obey a lawful order, chronic intoxication, and tax evasion. Offenses by officials also include ordinary crimes, but perhaps with different standards of proof and punishment than for nonofficials, on the grounds that more is expected of officials by their oaths of office.

An example of a bad Wikipedia page.

The above came up in a Google search as an example of what the phrase High Crimes and Misdemeanors means, and it is a pretty common example of the kind of confusion that I see among the non-legally educated public. I’ve heard this dozens of times from a myriad of places, and the confusion over this phrase, like the confusion over the purpose of the Electoral College, is about to drive me nuts unless I take the time to explain it at least once.

If you were to speak to lawyers about the meanings of these terms, you would get a completely different answer than you would get out of the general public or from the mass media or social media. Specifically, High Crimes and Misdemeanors is a phrase in the U.S. Constitution. It is a term of art, not a type of crime that we must define through some mystic process in order for it to be understood. The definitions already exist.

A misdemeanor is a known quantity defined by law, just like a felony is defined by law.

Felonies and misdemeanors are two classifications of crimes used in most states, with petty offenses (infractions) being the third. Misdemeanors are punishable by substantial fines and sometimes jail time, usually less than one year. Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first degree felony being the most serious. They include terrorism, treason, arson, murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, among others.

Findlaw – Classifications of Crimes

There are many possible misdemeanors that could be charged against the sitting president, if a president could be indicted in the fashion that a normal citizen could be charged. I would go so far as to argue that this president should be charged as if he was a normal citizen considering that he is well beneath the quality of human being that I would define as normal, but the niceties of tradition and political maneuvering hamstring most of the arguments that would allow for the direct prosecution of a sitting president for provable crimes in your average courtroom in Washington D.C. or elsewhere.

Lacking the ability to bring charges against a sitting president directly, we have, by definition, to be able to remove a president without having to meet the high standards that a criminal prosecution would require; in other words, the bar for impeachment of a official is lower than the bar for convicting an average citizen. This is because the standards of behavior are higher for political officeholders than the standards of behavior for your average fry cook.

That is why the term high crimes, is used in the U.S. Constitution, rather than the legal term felony,

high crime : a crime of infamous nature contrary to public morality but not technically constituting a felony

specifically : an offense that the U.S. Senate deems to constitute an adequate ground for removal of the president, vice president, or any civil officer as a person unfit to hold public office and deserving of impeachment

Webster’s Legal Definition of High Crime

…and that is why I have maintained that Donald Trump was a fool to even try to run for the office of the president for three years running. This is still my opinion, and the evidence for this opinion has only increased over his time in office. Impeachment is a pro forma operation when it comes to Trump, inc. His crimes are known. I, a layman, have detailed his crimes across the hundred-odd posts on this blog that I’ve written about this subject, and there are many more crimes that I’m sure I’ve missed in the last three years of the non-stop Trump media orgy we’ve all lived through. As to the specific criminal charges relating to the 2016 election that could be brought against him, those are icing on the cake. They aren’t needed, although everyone seems to think they are what will determine the future of the Trump presidency.

They won’t, because they aren’t the crimes that can be proven here and now. The Mueller report documents the crimes of obstruction that could be brought against Donald Trump, but he rightly or wrongly refused to bring those charges against him. In any case, the job of accusing and then convicting a sitting president and removing him from office falls to the Senate once articles of impeachment are passed by the House of Representatives. The crimes that can be proven right here and now without a protracted redaction fight in the courts are the financial crimes documented by his corporate accountants, and these crimes are a subpoena away from being proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

People who expect Trump to last another two years should probably hang onto their seats (yes, I’m looking at you) because it is liable to get really messy over the next 18 months. No one can tell you what will happen, because nothing like this has ever occurred in the history of the United States. We are in the moment of crisis when Rome became an empire and was no longer a Republic. We are in the twilight era when the USSR was ceasing to function, but continued to grind on for a decade and more through sheer inertia.

The impeachments should not be limited to Trump, either. The Attorney General, the Treasury Secretary, even the Vice President are all open targets based solely on their behavior within the Trump administration. The emoluments clause remains the albatross hanging around all of their necks, collectively. They have all conspired to allow Donald Trump to profit from the office of the president, allowed him to steal funds directly from all of us to further his own fortunes. This cannot be tolerated.

The Trump administration will end a longstanding requirement that certain nonprofit organizations disclose the names of large donors to the Internal Revenue Service, a move that will allow some political groups to shield their sources of funding from government scrutiny.

New York Times

We The People not only expect but demand that we be told who buys whom and at what price, no matter how much power that person or group believes they have. This will be true for as long as as bribery, private financing for campaigns, is allowed. Mnuchin answers directly to Trump. He should be indicted along with Trump and the rest of his administration for high crimes and misdemeanors. This is no longer a request. #ImpeachTrump or join him on the dock to be charged with him. Pick one.

If you are afraid of where the truth might take you, if your loyalty is to a would be king and not the nation, then you are complicit. If you’re outraged at my words instead of at the thought of what that process might find, if you don’t want to know the truth, well, then you’re the problem.

Stonekettle Station

Breaking the Western Mythos

New York Times

From the ACLU: “Two nights ago, an armed civilian militia organization describing itself as the ‘United Constitutional Patriots’ arrested nearly 300 people seeking safety here, including young children, in New Mexico. Other videos appear to show even more recent arrests…”

That’s where I’m going. Right there.

This is the myth, the heroic white cowboy legend, that Trump’s generation sold itself, an America that never was, small, limited, SIMPLE, where problems are solved with a gun and rope and all a good woman needs is a rough man to defend her from the savages outside of town.

When those who call themselves conservatives today talk of conserving “our” history, well, that’s the history they mean and they would erase anyone who does not fit their myth from it — or relegate the rest of us to the help or comic relief.

Stonekettle

If you look below the surface of the Western mythos you will find rare gems of television and Hollywood gold, like the 1950’s television series Maverick. I stumbled across this series a few years ago when James Garner died. I need to backtrack a little bit here.

I grew up watching detective stories at my dad’s feet. He had a weakness for cop dramas. If Hawaii 5-0 or Dragnet or any one of a dozen other shows I could name was on, he was watching it. I didn’t care much for most of the cop shows he watched, but the detective shows like the Rockford Files always intrigued me. Rockford, being an ex-felon, ex-cop, never carried a gun. In the world constructed around the character of James Rockford, it was a liability he didn’t want to have to answer for. If he needed a gun he seemed capable of taking one from whoever was threatening him.

It came as a surprise to me, learning more about him after his death, that the lack of a gun was a limitation that he demanded be written into the stories that he took part in. He felt that the gun was a crutch, it allowed the writers and the actors an easy way out of any situation. Just shoot your way out and you were the hero. Those weren’t the kinds of stories that James Garner wanted to be known for. This was true of Maverick as well as being true of Rockford Files. Guns were only carried by bad guys and lawmen, and the Mavericks had to learn how to turn a losing hand into a winning one by using their minds and the gullibility of the people around them. Rockford couldn’t carry a gun or he would go back to jail, so once again the stories had to be a little more clever in order for them to be interesting to the viewing audience.

Sure there were fistfights and concussions galore in both series, but this was the sixties and seventies. You had to have something to keep the audience watching back then. Dialog was simply not enough to keep them entertained. But the heroes of the series didn’t win because they were the fastest with a gun. They came out on top because they were smarter than their opponents were.

The more standard Westerns never kept my attention as a child. The closest I came to watching standard fare back then was watching The Big Valley or High Chaparral. I can watch Clint Eastwood in virtually any film his production company made and enjoy myself, but shows like Bonanza never held my attention. They were all too predictable.

Comparing what I call a Western with what the average Western looks like, is like saying that Lost in Space and Star Trek are equal because they are both science fiction television shows. I know, this insistence on distinction with a difference makes me an outlier, not the subject of the Stonekettle Facebook post I quoted at the beginning.

I get it.

…And yet there were five seasons of Maverick. There were six seasons of Rockford. A second Maverick series. A Maverick movie. Someone is watching Rockford right now somewhere out in TV land. There has to be a significant number of people like me out there. Like us out there. The question is, are there enough of us? Enough to change the myth? I still hope so.

Facebook comment expanded for the blog.

Twitter Trolls

Nothing about this man is real. I’d be willing to bet pretty much anything on that fact. His marriage to the Banshee Queen, his opinions about Trump’s mental health, his education and pretty much everything about him is probably fake. If the man exists at all, I imagine he lives in his mom’s basement playing fortnite and QQ’ing every time some twelve year-old ganks him.

If you believe anything he or his purported wife or her employer says, your head rings like a bell when you strike it. He is a troll. He’s a troll’s troll trolling Twitter trolls. The only thing to be gained from noticing this floating turd in the American toilet bowl of modern politics is this; his mere existence bears out my opinion that even listening to the noise around the Orange Hate-Monkey makes you more stupid. Bullshit is bullshit, no matter who is shoveling it.

I generally despise Twitter and only stay on the platform in order to cull the news from news organizations through my aggregator of choice, Nuzzel. That is the only real function Twitter serves. To give the average user the ability to troll the media directly.

The Delusion of Money

If there is one reason, philosophically, that libertarianism has become laughable to me in my later years, it is because of  the delusion of money. Another one of those if I had a nickel moments is the one were a libertarian spouts off about taxes being theft, or the poor stealing from the wealthy, or some other expression that lets the hearer know that they think money belongs to them. That money can belong to any one person rather than to the group that makes exchanges in the currency as a whole.

When I reply, explain Libertarian Socialism then, they short circuit like a drone android calling for Norman. Libertarian Socialism, a political movement that dismisses notions of taxes as anything other than the monetary recapturing tool that it is, sees Guaranteed Minimum Income as a necessary function of living in large groups. Discovering what money is and what its functions in human society are has lifted a veil from my eyes. I have struggled with how to present the conceptualization that seems so clear to me in a way that will be understood by others. Understood by others who have not dropped their preconceived notions about money on the wayside. Understood by them and not simply have it rejected out of hand.

I can tell you for certain that the Nolan chart and all it’s minor variations don’t deal with the reality of economics; and consequently, they do not measure economic freedom as they claim to do. This fact makes all libertarian ideas that deal with economics flawed at the precept level, shattering the entire structure of libertarian philosophy. Shatters any philosophy that includes the ideals of money as an individual possession. You cannot define libertarianism as different than the same flawed left/right and/or liberal/conservative political lines without a measuring stick that is separate from social freedom, and economic freedom enables social freedom more than any other kind of freedom one can imagine. The two go hand in hand. Understanding what money is, conceptually, is the first step to understanding how the systems we live in can be improved.

Money is not a thing; or rather, money isn’t just one thing. Money is not a possession, although physical representations of money can be possessed. Money is not a commodity even though it is currently traded like a commodity. If I had the last glass of water you could have all the money in the world and you couldn’t buy that last glass of water from me. That is the difference between a commodity and a currency. Money isn’t even a set value as my previous writing on the subject of money skims over. So what is money?

I’ve been bashing my head against this wall and several others for the last decade and more. It’s part of the overall arc of EPHN, my languishing work on Emergent Principles of Human Nature. The work languishes because I lack the depth of knowledge to deal with the questions posed by writing the work, not by my ability to express the ideas contained within it. The accumulation of information takes time, and so the work languishes, in a general sense. At the same time, my understanding grows about certain subjects that interest me, and one of those subjects is the delusion of money.

Money = lubricant

Any mechanical part that moves in relation to another part of a mechanical construct, like a motor or an engine, has to be protected from the friction present when any two parts come in contact. This protection can take several forms, and even several forms at the same time. Motor oil. Hydraulic fluid. Ball bearings. Grease. Money is like these things in many ways. It reduces the friction between one side of the economy, supply, and the other side of the economy, consumption.

If you provide sufficient funds to each household to allow them to meet needs you will see how much of each product needs to be produced based on the value assigned to the product by the consumer. Thusly, money eases the acquisition of goods and services for the people who need them. Without money we are forced to barter one good for anther one, and that system has never functioned in a way that the average human found acceptable, which is why we invented money in the first place.

Then you, the money issuing authority, sit back and wait. You wait to see where the money goes. When you notice that money is pooling in areas and not being spent, you tax those pools that don’t enhance the economy, the economic backwaters that don’t serve the purpose of lubricating the system generally. You tax them because money hoarding is a corruption of the intent of the system. Money is for spending not for hoarding. Property is what you keep. If you want to hang on to wealth, invest it.

T-shirt political humor. What different governments would do with your cows.
Amusing, but not true.

The disconnect over the subject of money really isn’t the fault of libertarians themselves. Classical economics deals with the individual rational actor the homo economicus as he is occasionally referred to. Economics was setup at the outset to create the delusion of the supreme individual modifying the market with his rational demands. This has proven not to be the case, and most economists who come from the Chicago school are caught up in the delusion. Capitalism, as classically taught, was at war with a socialism that eschewed profit. The Marxist utopia of communism. Like most utopias, Marxist communism is a dystopia that we would be better off not pursuing. However, in a general ideological sense, capitalism and socialism aren’t even in conflict. Authoritarianism and democracy are in conflict, and authoritarianism is in ascendency.

Authoritarianism has been in ascendancy since Vladimir Putin started trying to dismantle the democratic West, and China decided to help him. When there is one party, and you control that party, knowing who your enemies are makes controlling that government child’s play. Consequently these rising authoritarian regimes (including the United States under Trump) have a lot of political prisoners. Removing them into the slavery of the prison system is the best way to clear your path. This is one of those facts that should have been obvious to us in the US for a very long time. We’ve been growing the prison population since Nixon was in office, and we now have the largest prison population per capita. Most of those people are there because of crimes that were invented in order to criminalize Nixon’s political opposition, and it has proven prudent for each president since Nixon to leave those people there.

Capitalism and socialism are not in opposition. Capitalism and socialism can be present in the same mixed system because they deal with different parts of human interaction. Profit is not evil. Profit, when properly managed, is the reward for the entrepreneurial spirit. Profit, when held as an inviolable sacrement, leads to worship of the wealthy, what Objectivism has turned into over the last half-century. The Trump administration is laboring under this delusion of money. This holy profit-taking. Trump has started beating the drum of red baiting. He is promoting the same old schtick that Nixon and McCarthy did so well with two generations ago. I’ve said this from the moment that he announced his candidacy and he’s proven it daily since the broken system we live in delivered him into office. Trump believes in the zero-sum game and is right now rigging it to favor the wealthy who currently own our country.

Subscribing to the delusion of money as Trump and the average American thinks of it today is to go back in time to the days of the robber barons, when monopolies ran roughshod over Americans and the the world at large, when the simple fact that you had money meant that you had the right to rule. We don’t want to go back to those days. This is why Make America Great Again is the chant of mouth-breathing idiots. The America that they think was greater than it currently is was an America where they would have died young of a preventable disease, probably at the hands of someone like Don Jr.

To paraphrase what I said to Trump Jr: Never too earlier to teach her about conservative capitalism either.

Put her in an orphanage that sells her out to work in a coal mine. Kid that size can get into spaces an adult can’t, business can find all sorts of uses for them. You don’t have to pay them. They don’t need safety equipment. You hardly have to feed them. And if they die, fuck it, you can always get more.

Meanwhile, the Robber Baron she works for gets 99% of all the candy in the world and she and all the other kids get to split 1%.

Oh, and while you’re teaching lessons, Junior, make sure she knows her lady parts belong to you.

Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

The reason why those of us who live in the great post-WWII dollar hegemony can be so secure in our delusion of the value of our money is explained in this episode of Planet Money.

Planet Money – Episode 553: The Dollar At The Center Of The World


If you combine the dollar being the world currency with the results of moving off of the gold standard as detailed in Lords of Finance you can create a money background for yourself to muse about the current perilous status of the dollar against. Or you can be like the libertarian that I was trying to enlighten today who called out for Norman before locking up in the illogic of money being a social construct. Pick one.


If you need further examples of just how confused the problem of money is, here is another one. TED Radio Hour, The Money Paradox. I did get one response from a libertarian after writing this piece. He informed me that I wouldn’t be taken seriously on the subject of money unless I looked like a rich man. People who are wealthy don’t bother with trying to look wealthy. They don’t need to convince anyone of their wealth because they are reassured that they have wealth in simply living their lives.

Frugality is how you establish wealth. The richest woman in America ate cold porridge every morning because she was too cheap to heat it. Doing well with less is how you illustrate monetary wisdom. Not paying too much for clothing is bedrock for doing well with less. Fooling stupid people with nice clothing that you pay too much for is nothing more than a confidence game. Red ties are a dead giveaway for a schyster. Never take a man in a red tie seriously. Words to live by.

Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.

Gene Roddenberry

This article was posted when it was because of a conversation that was evolving on a Facebook group I’m part of. A conversation between people convinced that their personal beliefs are somehow manifested in a show they love, Star Trek in this instance, and then argue that their political beliefs somehow are justified in the show. Star Trek represents a post-scarcity economy, as several people went to great pains to explain during that evolving conversation. As expected, the notion that there could be a society where everyone gets enough to eat and has a place to sleep that protects them at night from predation, that notion is conceptually beyond the thought processes of your average Stormtrumper. This fact doesn’t change what the show’s creator set out to do.

What Trump Can Teach Us About Constitutional Law

For any #MAGA out there. You know who you are.

Trumpconlaw is another podcast hosted by Roman Mars of 99% Invisible fame. When the show first started, I started tweeting out my own version of promos for each episode. The series of them can be found under the tag TrumpConLaw on this blog. This post should appear as the header for that series of tweets.

I am slowly working my way through the 99% Invisible archive. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever make it all the way through, but hope springs eternal. 99% Invisible is undoubtedly one of the best designed websites in existence. All Roman Mars podcasts and the podcasts that are presented through his distribution group, Radiotopia, are among the few podcasts out there that are easily shareable; easily shareable because the link to the hosting website is actually referenced in the feed address for the podcast you are listening to. I remain baffled as to why more podcasts do not design their feeds to be easily accessible in this way. In any case, give some of these podcasts a listen. It will take your mind off of the impending doom looming over the US today.


TED2015 Roman Mars Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed

#30 The 25th Amendment

Twitter

This has been one of the most illuminating podcasts I’ve heard on the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) and his near-daily flirtations with destroying everything we Americans hold dear. I have taken the time to create a tweet for each episode, putting the wordage on low heat and letting it simmer till it is reduced to its defining 280 characters. I present them here in all their minimalist glory.

I embarked upon this task because I knew I would be posting links to these podcasts, repeatedly. I wanted to be able to explain why the #MAGA, Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, were wrong about whatever lie their OHM had poured in their ears most recently. Most of these Tweets have come in handy more than once; so I figured, why not share them?

#29 Birthright Citizenship

…and he’ll pry my birthright from my cold dead hands, but not one moment before that.

This has been one of the most illuminating podcasts I’ve heard on the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) and his near-daily flirtations with destroying everything we Americans hold dear. I have taken the time to create a tweet for each episode, putting the wordage on low heat and letting it simmer till it is reduced to its defining 280 characters. I present them here in all their minimalist glory.

I embarked upon this task because I knew I would be posting links to these podcasts, repeatedly. I wanted to be able to explain why the #MAGA, Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, were wrong about whatever lie their OHM had poured in their ears most recently. Most of these Tweets have come in handy more than once; so I figured, why not share them?

#28 Dereliction of Duty

Twitter

This has been one of the most illuminating podcasts I’ve heard on the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) and his near-daily flirtations with destroying everything we Americans hold dear. I have taken the time to create a tweet for each episode, putting the wordage on low heat and letting it simmer till it is reduced to its defining 280 characters. I present them here in all their minimalist glory.

I embarked upon this task because I knew I would be posting links to these podcasts, repeatedly. I wanted to be able to explain why the #MAGA, Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, were wrong about whatever lie their OHM had poured in their ears most recently. Most of these Tweets have come in handy more than once; so I figured, why not share them?