Podcast: No War With Iran. Period.

Why simple is best when it comes to opposing war in Iran, and why war won’t work politically for the Trump White House.

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The Fake Decade

by Keaton Weiss

President Trump has used the word “fake” so often, he seems to think he invented it. In a 2017 interview with Mike Huckabee, he said, “I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with is fake’.” Liberals, in predictably snarky fashion, scoffed at the remark, because of course Trump didn’t actually invent the word itself. But in a decade defined by institutional corruption, deception, greed, negligence, and hypocrisy, is it really any wonder we’ve elected a president who weaponizes the concept of “fakeness” as frequently and aggressively as Trump does?

This was the decade we learned that Lance Armstrong, whose story of beating cancer, starting a foundation whose yellow wristbands became a symbol of hope and resilience, and winning the Tour de France, made him an American icon, was a doper. A cheat. A fake.

Wells Fargo employees, in order to meet sales requirements, opened millions of fake checking and credit card accounts.

Elizabeth Holmes, celebrated by Forbes in 2015 as the youngest and wealthiest “self made billionaire” in America, had come up with a fake blood testing method (she even used a fake voice to do it!), and is facing a massive fraud trial in June of next year.

The Sackler family was exposed for faking information about the addictive nature of OxyContin and fueling the opioids crisis, and their company, Purdue Pharma, declared bankruptcy in response to an onslaught of lawsuits.

This was also the decade we learned of dismal working conditions at factories and warehouses owned by the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, billionaire businessmen whose successes are supposedly sterling examples of the fully realized American dream.

This was the decade of the #MeToo movement, which exposed many of the fake liberals in Hollywood and in the media for the misogynist pigs they really were.

Boeing made a fake airplane. Volkswagon faked their emissions tests. Celebrities faked their childrens’ ways into elite colleges and universities (and served just 14 days in jail for it.) We even had a fake (Fyre) music festival!

The decade began two years into Barack Obama’s first term. Obama was elected to unite and heal a nation reeling from a recession caused by a war that was started for fake reasons, and a housing crisis made possible by the issuing of fake mortgages. Obama won a landslide victory on the platform of “Hope and Change,” which turned out to be, for the most part, fake.

Then, we had an election in 2016, which consisted of a fake Democratic primary race in which the supposedly neutral Democratic National Committee was actually being financed by one of the candidates in the running, whose name I always make a New Year’s Resolution never to speak again. On the Republican side, we had a candidate who likes to call things fake. And he won the whole thing.

One of the things the liberal class (ie, the Starbucks drinkers, the MSNBC wine-moms, the Washington Post subscribers) laments most about Donald Trump is that he ‘undermines public faith in our institutions.’ To them, this is a real shame, because these institutions are, in one way or another, part of a system that has served them pretty well over the years. Financial institutions like the big banks and the stock market are of course primarily involved, but beyond that, institutions like Hollywood and professional sports are secondary participants, in that they provide the masses with the “bread and circuses” necessary to distract them from the struggles they endure every day. When even those institutions become corrupted, the public begins to lose all faith in everything. And so an era of institutional corruption breeds a culture of bitterness and despair, and out of that culture emerges a demagogue like Donald Trump who can so effectively harness the collective negative energy that had been festering in America throughout this whole fake decade.

What this means, of course, is that the liberals have it backwards. Trump hasn’t caused people to lose faith in our institutions, he’s simply seized upon a jadedness that had already made its way into our culture by way of incident after incident of institutional failure of every kind. This realization is an uncomfortable one for the liberal class, as they themselves bear some responsibility for perpetuating both the system itself, and the lie that it’s functioning in a way we should all appreciate. And so, they’d be quick to point out when challenged with this point, that Donald Trump is the biggest fake of all. They have a point, don’t they? Well, yes and no.

Trump is no doubt a fake himself. Everything about him is fake. His hair is fake. His skin tone is fake. He gorges on fake food and guzzles soda laced with fake sugar. He’s probably a fake billionaire, but whatever real money he’s made came from his fake universities, fake charities, and selling people the fake hope that if they throw a dollar down one of his slot machines, they’ll hit the jackpot and become a big winner. He hosted a fake TV show where he played a fake boss and fired people for inadequately doing fake jobs. One the one hand, yes, he’s the personification, the physical manifestation, of fakeness.

On the other hand, though, he’s so fake that no one actually feels deceived by him. He “breaks the fakeness meter,” if you will. His hair is so fake that we know for sure it’s fake. The blonde dye, or spray, or whatever the fuck it is, is so hastily and lazily applied, we can see the gray at the bottom of each strand of hair. Whatever he does to his face to turn it orange is done so badly we can see his natural skin color in big circles around his eyes. We know what garbage he eats, because we eat it too. We know that reality TV is bullshit, because we watch it. And we know casinos are a scam, because we’ve all lost money at ’em. We know that when he denied his affair with Stormy Daniels that he was lying. And if we know he’s lying, is he actually manipulating us? I’d argue, not really. When your child has chocolate all over his face and you ask if he stole cookies from the cookie jar, and he says no, do you really feel like you’ve been duped, manipulated, deceived, or defrauded? No. He’s just a lying little shit. And that’s ultimately what Trump is. He’s not pre-packaged. He doesn’t come with the pretense of integrity, naturalness, or fair play.

But when Lance Armstrong denies having used performance enhancing drugs, or when Wells Fargo tells us we can trust them with our money, or when the Sacklers tell us we needn’t worry about getting hooked on their product, or when Hollywood’s sexual predators pose as women’s rights advocates, we take them at their word. So when they betray us, it hurts, because we believed them. Since we know Trump is full of shit even before he opens his mouth, his lies don’t have the same emotional effect on us.

Therefore, Trump’s overt, over-the-top artificiality, along with his repeated branding of any and all opposition to him as “fake,” makes perfect sense in a decade defined by widespread institutional fakeness, because Trump is a constant reminder that fakeness is everywhere. He didn’t hoodwink the country into electing him; he simply gave the country a way to express their frustration at having been hoodwinked into thinking their politicians cared about them, and that their banks were taking care of their finances, and that their media wanted to keep them informed, and that their idols in sports and entertainment were exemplars of virtue and excellence, and that the people who make their medicine do so because they actually want to heal the sick, and that the American dream is attainable for anyone who works hard and plays by the rules.

Of course, there are real solutions to these problems that could be explored, and thankfully, are being explored. Ideas like Medicare For All to replace the fake healthcare reform of Obamacare, or a Green New Deal instead of the woefully inadequate Paris Climate Accord, or student debt cancellation to make the American dream actually possible for a generation saddled with crippling high interest loans, are all being floated in this critical election year as we close the book on the previous decade. But in these fake times which we live, real solutions to real problems are deemed – you guessed it – unrealistic.

And so, the Fakeness Train doesn’t just roll on, it builds steam.  This makes Trump the favorite to win in 2020. He is the distillation of this American moment, and of the previous American decade – the fake decade. We’re very much a fake country right now. And so if we’re going to turn this around, and see to it that this next decade is more fruitful than the previous one, and we must, we’re going to have to get real.

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Who Are Joe Biden’s Supporters? One Op-Ed Writer Accidentally Breaks It Down.

by Russell Dobular

Melissa Henneberger, a regular contributor to the KC Star, and the political editor for the Huffington Post, recently published an article in USA Today that explains the unfathomable in a way that no other pundit has managed to do: who the fuck are these people keeping Joe Biden at the top of the polls month after month? Whether they’re progressive, centrist, Republican, what have you, I’ve never talked to a single person who actually wants to see Joe Biden become the Democratic Party’s nominee. At best, I’ve spoken to a few who have swallowed the “electability” narrative. But an enthusiastic Biden supporter is virtually impossible to find in the wild. We owe a debt then to Ms. Henneberger for voicing her full-throated support for Biden in a column that reflects not only her worldview, but, in all likelihood, the worldview of a lot of these mystery voters who think a man whose every public appearance is a nerve wracking, suspense filled exercise in waiting for him to say something horrible, is the best person to run against Donald Trump.

So, lets start with the headline:

“Joe Biden is my Harvard, not my ‘safety school.’ He really is my favorite 2020 Democrat.”

So, listen Mel (can I call you Mel? I feel like if I’m going to break this down we should get comfortable), I know that a Notre Dame graduate such as yourself who earned her degree in European Studies (of all things) in frikkin’ Belgium (of all places), is probably completely incapable of understanding the class implications of this headline, but as soon as you wrote it, you lost most of the voters who are going to decide the next election. Those would be the same voters who decided the last one: blue-collar workers in the Midwest who are living in third world conditions right here in the United States of America. They don’t have “safety schools,” and they generally don’t go to Harvard, or know anyone who has. Their choices aren’t so much between Harvard and Notre Dame, as they are between food and insulin. Really, if we consider your age (61) and correlate it with this headline, we could stop right here with a pretty good understanding of where a large portion of Biden’s support is coming from. But I have the morning free, so lets continue.

“I keep reading that no one — not even Jill Biden — actually prefers Joe Biden to the other Democratic presidential candidates. Supposedly, he is a front-runner who is solely supported, with tiny sighs and great regret, by those too fearful to follow their hearts. My friend Walter Shapiro has written that Biden is the “safety school” of Democrats — regarded fondly, but the first choice of nobody.”

Okay, so to be fair, apparently you didn’t start this whole “safety school,” thing. You wrote this article in response to your friend Walter’s article. I’m sure you and Walter had a delightful discussion about all this over drinks at some famous Washington watering hole favored by pundits and Senators, after your response went live. But, listen Mel, and this is just a suggestion; maybe if you want to really understand what’s happening in the country, you need to stop taking your cues from folks like Walter, and start spending a little more time with average people. ‘Cause this is starting to sound like a private conversation between two rich assholes that somehow spilled out into the public sphere.

“Early admission: He’s my Harvard, OK? And I do not favor the former vice president because I think he has the best chance of winning, which may or may not be true.

Instead, if the contest were tomorrow, I’d vote Biden because I think he’d do the best job if we did manage to grab the wheel away from a president who reminds me more every day of “Vinny the Chin” Gigante, a mob boss who used to go around New York City in his bathrobe and house shoes, babbling to himself. (Vinny might have been faking madness to stay out of prison, but the guy currently faking sanity to stay in the Oval Office does a pretty good Vinny imitation all the same.)”

Again, with the Harvard. Okay, I guess you’re kinda locked into this conceit now, but Jesus. And, Trump, bad. Got it. So, why exactly do you feel Biden would be the best person to undo the Trump era? Do you have any policy positions of Biden’s that you particularly favor, or any past accomplishments of Biden’s that you can point to as evidence of his exceptional gifts? I’ll wait.

“So how is it that everywhere I go, I meet Biden supporters who don’t know they’re settling? And how is it that only we nonexistent Joe enthusiasts seem to be able to see each other?”

Well, since you’re asking, Biden polls around 28/29%. That means about two-thirds of Democratic voters don’t want him. The ones who do want him, tend, like yourself, to be over 60. So, it’s probably just that you don’t really speak to anyone outside your older, wealthy, white demographic, and that ends up giving you a warped impression of his level of support. Glad I could help.

“At a wedding in New York, changing planes in Washington, over coffee in Boston and on my porch in Kansas City, what I hear from pro-Joe Democrats is hardly resignation. Nor is it some complicated, defeatist calculus about how appealing non-Trump-loving Republicans might find him.”

Sigh. Okay, Mel, breaking down this article is kind of like watching someone shooting arrows all around the target, hitting every spot but the bullseye. You keep on answering your own question. Most people are lucky if they get to take a vacation once in a year. They aren’t gallivanting all around the nation attending weddings and grabbing coffee. Honestly, it sounds nice. But maybe having that lifestyle and surrounding yourself with people who also enjoy that lifestyle has made you completely useless as a political journalist, if the measure of usefulness is to actually understand things.

“Don’t underestimate Biden: He knows what America needs and how to get it done.

A childhood friend in Illinois talks about how blessedly comfortable Biden makes her feel — and if you think “comfortable” means meh, you must have slept through the past three fun-filled years.

His authenticity and experience are exactly what the country needs now, says a former colleague in Florida.”

We get it. You know at least one well-connected rich person in every state, and you’ve polled all of them. I know this is an opinion piece Mel, but even by op-ed standards this is pretty lazy writing. You again offer no explanation as to why Biden is the best choice for the current moment, and your sources are a childhood friend and a former colleague, who themselves have nothing meaningful to say about Biden. He makes one feel “blessedly comfortable,” and another admires his “authenticity and experience.” Might I ask if these friends of yours already have high quality health insurance coverage? If the answer is “no,” I promise to meet you for coffee in whatever East Coast city you happen to be gathering the opinions of upper-class professionals in at the time, and offer you a face to face apology for this entire misunderstanding.

“And best of all, he would have no learning curve, so he could get right to work undoing the damage caused by what’s-his-name, says a therapist in North Carolina.

“He’s a good, honorable, smart, decent, civil man who has dedicated his entire life to public service,” says Morna Murray, executive director of the Rhode Island Disability Law Center and former senior counsel to Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. “He was a great senator and vice president, and I’m pretty sure it does not get much better than that!”

More state-name dropping, more professional class friends who also like Joe Biden, and more vacuous quotes. BTW, Morna, speaking of vacuous quotes, are we talking about the same “great Senator” who made it impossible to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, voted for the Iraq War, and whose crime bill was instrumental in incarcerating a generation of black men? Lemme guess; you have no outstanding student loans, no one close to you had to serve in that war, and you have no experience of the criminal justice system except through your work as an attorney (GW Law, Class of ’86). IM me if I’m right.

Joe Biden isn’t the boringly reassuring candidate Democrats were hoping for.

It’s early in the campaign, and I’m not even trying to win converts; love who you love, and I will, too. But pundits, please stop insisting that nobody is excited about Biden’s candidacy, or that he’s the head-over-heart guy who appeals only to those making a bloodless, Vulcan and strictly strategic choice.”

No, Mel, you’re right. If nothing else you’ve convinced me that he’s the passionate first choice of elderly elites. Point taken.

An empathizer with a giant heart.

Really, have you met Joe Biden, people? I ask because if you’ve glimpsed him at any point over the past 40 years, you may have noticed that his biggest selling point is his giant heart, and the way that after multiple tragedies, he walks through the world as the compassionate consoler and messy, highly emotional and ever-ready empathizer we do need most right now. It’s strange for those of us who appreciate these qualities in him most of all to then be told that we shouldn’t be so passionless and practical in choosing a candidate.”

Privilege is . . . having the luxury of prioritizing personal demeanor over actual policy. Here we are coming to the end of this article and your “big pitch” for Biden. You still haven’t mentioned one way that Joe Biden has made the country better in the course of his decades-long political career, or one policy he’s put forth that will make it better going forward. Your idea of a qualification seems to be, “He’s a nice guy.” I’m sure he is a nice guy one-on-one. He’s also made it harder for families to declare bankruptcy and made it easier to send people to jail for drug crimes. The performance of empathy and the practice of empathy are two different things, Mel. Where the latter is concerned, Biden has used his power in a way that’s downright sociopathic. Why would we want to give him more of it?

“It’s so painful to watch Biden being Al Gored, with every utterance shorn of context in service to the narrative. Then, it was that Gore exaggerated. And he did, but the planet is considerably worse off today because we were saved from that nightmare. Today, of course, it’s that Biden is gaffe-prone. And he is, but by getting stuck on Biden gaffes as we did on Gore exaggerations, the planet will be worse off.”

Gaffes are when you mean to say, “I love it here in New Hampshire” and you say, “There’s a pink elephant in my boat.” In other words, if it’s a gaffe, it doesn’t actually reflect your worldview – its just a random slip of the tongue. Biden classics like this description of Barack Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man,” and the more recent suggestion that black parents don’t know how to raise their children, “Social workers help parents deal with how to raise their children. It’s not like they don’t want to help, they don’t know what to do,” are not “gaffes.” They’re the views of an old, white dude whose idea of what it means to be “liberal” was formed in union halls circa 1975. If you’re comfortable electing someone with those views, you do you, but to suggest these are simple misstatements that don’t reflect Biden’s true feelings is a stretch.

“Now, maybe this is not completely unlike that day in fourth grade when our teacher Miss Wiswall said, “No one in here still believes in Santa Claus, do they?” and I put my hand up and said, “I do.”

Not because I didn’t know the other kids would laugh, and not even because I believed in Santa Claus, but because I wished I did, and wanted to stand up for innocence, or maybe just contrarianism, and against being told what to think. What if some other 9-year-old was sitting there crushed at the news? But back to Joe Biden … Him I do believe in.”

Well, what can I tell ya Mel: one person’s idyllic vision of a simpler, more innocent world, is another person’s crushing lifetime student loan debt, Iraq War induced PTSD, and/or draconian prison sentence. Like Joe Biden, I’m sure you’re a very nice person one-on- one. If we ever do have that coffee, I bet you’ll pick up the tab. But, also like Joe Biden, I don’t think you really give a meaningful, flying fuck about the real problems that real people are facing. I think you like to think you care. But you don’t want to do the work that caring would involve. Like, for example, spending five minutes considering Joe Biden’s record before writing something like this. Or spending an additional five minutes considering the impact those policies have had on people outside the coffee in Boston/wedding in New York set. I mean, you’ve been a professional journalist since the late 80’s Mel. You certainly have the training and resources to figure all this stuff out if you really wanted to. The fact that you haven’t suggests that you don’t. So, listen, the next time you see Walter, tell him I said, “Proletarier aller Länder vereinigt Euch!” It’ll probably scare the shit out him, especially coming from you, but I’m sure its nothing a few cocktails at Bullfeathers won’t resolve. Oh, and also, please for the love of God, and for the sake of the nation, stop cranking out this dreck. I promise you, as I sit here at the writing desk that I rescued from the trash some ten years ago, and which now resides in the bedroom of my fifth floor Harlem walk-up, it ain’t helping the situation. Not even a little bit.

Sincerely Yours,

The Unwashed Masses

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Podcast: New Year’s Wine Cave Soiree: Debate Recap, The Importance of Iowa, 2019 Key Moments, and More

As we bid farewell to 2019, we break down the last Democratic debate, the high stakes of the fast approaching Iowa Caucuses, the Wine Cave matter, key moments of 2019, and more.

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Star Trek vs. Aliens: Which Future Will We Have?

by Russell Dobular

Sci-fi writers have a long history of predicting future technologies and social transformations. From Jules Verne and H.G. Wells predicting the submarine and the tank, respectively, to Philip K. Dick describing CGI, and Isaac Asimov foreseeing the self-driving car 50 years before Tesla began experimenting with the idea, science fiction authors have an uncanny track record of nailing the future. But aside from tech predictions, the heart of most great sci-fi lies in its vision of social and economic arrangements. In cinema, these visions are generally dystopian and/or apocalyptic, although in literature there’s a more balanced ratio between positive and negative imaginings. For every 1984 nightmare, there’s a Stranger In A Strange Land, projecting a future in which humanity overcomes it pettiness and learns to live in peace and prosperity.

But in film, setting aside Mad Max-type post-apocalyptic scenarios, there are two distinct camps: worlds in which corporations have essentially become governments unto themselves, and, well, Star Trek. One of the reasons the franchise is so enduring and beloved is that it’s one of the only positive visions of humanity’s future to ever come out of Hollywood. In Blade Runner, Tank Girl, Code 46, Resident Evil, the Aliens franchise, and a host of others, corporations have either entirely displaced the government, or become so powerful that governments are essentially working for them. Ripley and her crew of salty Marines aren’t fighting for flag or country. They work for “the company,” as a private mercenary force.

Star Trek, on the other hand, presents us with a Marxist utopia, in which technology has provided so much material wealth that the need to earn a living has been eliminated, leaving humanity with nothing to do other than to self-actualize. In a world of “replicators” that can produce food on demand, unlimited clean energy, and advanced, largely automated, medical technology, capitalism just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It may not seem like it with Donald Trump in the White House and corporate power over government a lot closer to the Aliens scenario than Roddenberry’s utopia, but both futures are at hand, and a lot of the social turmoil of our historical moment boils down to a battle between them.

Capitalism, as we’ve known it, can not survive without the need for human labor. The economic collapse of former manufacturing regions gives us a case study in what will happen to most of the country when AI comes for not only blue collar jobs, like truck driving, but service industry jobs like customer service, receptionist, sales clerk, waiter, and cashier and then goes on to displace white collar occupations like paralegal secretary, and medical assistant. In the next phase, even highly skilled professionals like doctors and architects will be displaced by AI’s that can do their jobs more cheaply and with less room for human error. At that point, capitalism can only be maintained in one way: with the use of force. Its no accident then that fascism is on the rise in America. Only a fascist state will be able to preserve our current economic system, even as more and more people fall into poverty and wealth becomes increasingly impossible to attain for anyone who isn’t a media celebrity, a politician, or an heir.

Seen in this context, the fight between Sanders-style progressives, and Donald Trump’s GOP, represents two different responses to the same underlying reality: the center will not hold, and a future in which jobs are almost impossible to come by, is going to be shaped by either socialism or fascism. In other words, its going to either be Star Trek or Aliens. We’re either going to be getting a UBI check every month and going to the doctor free of charge, or we’re going to be living in a corporate-owned police state in which dissenters are labelled “terrorists” and indefinitely detained. Neoliberal capitalism is no longer on the menu, and those who think we can return to a “normalcy” that could only have existed in an economic context that is further deteriorating by the day, are like the 19th Century royalists who desperately tried to preserve a feudal system that could not possibly have survived the industrial revolution, as demands for democracy erupted all around them.

This then is the fight of our times: not neoliberals vs. progressives, or “moderate Republicans” vs. Trump. In the end the real fight is between socialism and fascism. The economic arrangements and assumptions of the last century are simply no longer tenable in the face of rapid advances in AI and automation technology. If you’re still arguing for “good capitalism,” at this point, all you’re doing is throwing up white noise and getting in the way of society having an honest conversation about our most realistic options. The best thing you can do right now, is pick which of these two futures you want, and fight for that future with everything you’ve got. ‘Cause you’re going to be living in one of them either way. Personally, I’m for the one with UBI and transporters.

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Democrats Can Either Defend our Democracy or Bundle Money in Wine Caves. They Can’t Do Both.

by Keaton Weiss

I love wine. My wife loves wine. The first vacation we ever took together was out to Portland, Oregon to visit her uncle, who took us wine tasting there. Then we rented a car and drove down to Napa for another two days of wine tasting before flying out of San Francisco back to New York. But until last week, neither of us had ever heard of a “Wine Cave.”

But because Elizabeth Warren recently called out Pete Buttigieg for his closed-door, high-dollar fundraiser in one of these wine caves, the term is now widely known, even among us working class slobs who’ve never been in one ourselves. This has ushered in a new iteration of the debate about the nature of political fundraising, and the influence that often accompanies it. Are these types of fundraising practices inherently corrupt and therefore intrinsically bad? Are they an unfortunate reality of political campaigning that we must tolerate, however undesirable? Or are they, as Jane Lynch, whose net worth is estimated at $16 million and who is also against “class warfare,” seems to think, completely benign?

For those struggling with this question, I can’t highly enough recommend Ryan Grim’s recent piece in The Intercept on this subject. I came across the article when I saw someone had linked to it in a Facebook group. Without disclosing the group itself or any of its members, I can say this was a very mainstream Democrat, #resistance-type group. Not particularly progressive, to say the least. But someone had posted a link to Grim’s article, and had quoted the following section in her post:

“The wine cave in question was named after, and the event was hosted by, a man at the center of the savings and loan scandal in the 1980s, the largest giveaway to the financial industry in U.S. history until the 2008 Wall Street bailout. This was Craig Hall, 69, a billionaire several times over. . .Hall is a longtime political donor, who, with his wife Kathryn, has given at least $2.4 million to Democratic candidates and causes since the 1980s. As Buttigieg hinted, he hosts an annual event for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the winery.

But Pelosi is not the first speaker he’s lavished money on. In the 1980s, he was a major donor to Democratic Rep. Jim Wright of Texas.

Hall first made his money both in the health care industry and in real estate. By the late ’80s he was badly overextended, with federal creditors looking to foreclose on his empire. Hall asked Wright to intervene on his behalf, and Wright did so, strong-arming regulators to go easy on Hall. When Wright’s machinations became public, it contributed to his resignation as speaker of the House.

The story of the S&L crisis is a particularly ugly one. Both parties, with many of the same donors, collaborated to allow the problem — and the eventual cost to taxpayers — to grow for years so that it would not become an issue in the 1988 presidential election. As soon as the voting was over, Americans found out that they were on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars. The government had to allocate $364 million just for depositors in an S&L owned by Hall himself, who eventually paid $100 million to settle a federal lawsuit. Just a few years later, Clinton named Kathryn Hall as ambassador to Austria. Yet the political donations behind this were, for the most part, completely legal and hence not “corrupt” by the narrow definition.”

Obviously, the person who posted the link was outraged by this, as anyone reading it should be. As an example of the corrosive impact of big money on our democratic processes, this is as obvious as it gets. Instead, however, the general consensus among those who responded to the post was that this is just a divisive distraction, and that we all need to just let it go because we have to unite and defeat the GOP. In essence, their attitude was, “Whatever. Vote blue!”

I can’t say I was surprised to read those reactions – I’ve had enough debates with the blue-no-matter-who types to keep my expectations in the sewer. Still though, it does boggle the mind how brainwashed the Democratic base is that they would shrug this story off while, at the same time, they’re trying to convince the majority of Americans that they’re serious about protecting our democracy and our constitutional norms from Donald Trump. If you read that passage and your response is that it doesn’t matter, or that we ought to just accept that this is how the sausage is made, then, to be blunt, you don’t care about democracy.

Democrats’ hypocrisy on this is one thing – we’ve grown accustomed to that by now. But their lack of self awareness is stunning. They’re in the middle of an impeachment process in which they’re attempting to rally support for ousting the president because his actions undermine our democratic system. While they’re doing this, their Speaker of the House, as well as one of their prized presidential contenders, is doing private fundraisers with a billionaire whose history of greasing Democratic politicians for personal favors is proven and documented. And even after he settled a $100 million lawsuit with the federal government, the Democratic President whose wife was the most recent Democratic nominee, awarded Hall’s wife an ambassadorship for which she was probably no more qualified than Hunter Biden was for his Burisma gig. This all gets laid out for them in a succinct, indisputable account, yet they have no real response except to gaslight critics into thinking this is no big deal. And on top of this, they can’t fathom why their impeachment is failing to work for them politically.

Democrats’ own lack of credibility on this issue isn’t the only barrier to impeachment’s success. As Grim mentions in his article, Craig Hall’s donations were legal, and “hence not ‘corrupt’ by the narrow definition.” What this means is that in the minds of many Americans, this democratic system is itself as illegitimate as the Democratic Party’s hollow, sanctimonious rhetoric about their duty to protect and uphold it. And if the system’s already FUBAR, then what’s the difference if Russia or Ukraine fuck it up some more? And as I mentioned in my previous blog post, it’s true that most Americans don’t know for a fact the details of these fundraisers that Grim outlines. But they do know enough about our system to assume that these stories are true, and now, what d’ya know? We have a detailed, documented example of what it is they know intuitively goes on all the time. Remember, this very wine cave in question hosts a fundraiser for Nancy Pelosi every year.

So now that this topic is front and center in the news, Democrats have a decision to make: they can either defend democracy or they can defend private fundraisers with billionaire oligarchs in crystal wine caves. They can’t defend both. And if they hope to convince the public that they’re the Constitution’s last line of defense against Donald Trump and the Russians, or the Ukrainians, or Moscow Mitch, or whoever, then the choice ought to be obvious.

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Podcast: Impeachment – Yay or Nay

Trump’s been impeached. Can Democrats make the case? Will voters care? Or will it backfire?

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