Why in the hell did we need cryptocurrency? The collapse of FTX and SBF explained, sort of

Let me ask you something: Let's say you have a lot of money, or even just a moderate, middle-class amount of money, and you're looking for someplace to keep it. I mean, you don't just leave money sitting around on the kitchen counter or on a side table next to you on the couch so you can reach over and fondle it as you watch the ads for stuff you don't need, like a Peloton bike, because you already took the one you bought a couple of years ago and put it in a friend's garage sale and managed to get 20 bucks for it, so now you have yet another 20 bucks to add to the money you were already looking for a place to keep.

You could put all your money, including the Peloton $20, in a bank. Of course, if you walk in with a wad of cash and ask for a deposit slip and make a big deposit, that might garner you some perhaps unwanted attention, but hey! A bank is a bank and that's what they're supposed to do, right? Take your money and keep it for you so you don't have to worry about somebody coming into your house while you're sleeping and take it from you.

Alternatively, you could put your money to work for you. I've always loved that phrase, usually delivered by a friend offering you what he thinks is good advice on an occasion or in a place in which alcohol is involved — "you should put that money to work for you, man!" I don't know about you, but I have never personally witnessed any money getting up in the morning and drinking a cup of coffee and grabbing a lunch box and going out the door to work, but maybe that's just me. The idea behind putting your money to work for you is, or can be, a good one — the concept of taking at least some of your money and putting it in an interest-bearing savings account so it earns interest, or using a portion of your money to buy stock — a certificate of part ownership — in a company, whereby if the company is successful at say, selling Peloton exercise bicycles, will increase in value and possibly even pay you a dividend at the end of the year, adding to the amount of money you initially had.

Or, in this modern age, you could use your money to buy a bitcoin, or even multiple bitcoins, or some other form of cryptocurrency, which if you've been reading the headlines lately, can turn out to be a little like taking your money and exchanging it for chips at a casino and putting piles of them on every single number or red or black or odd or even betting line at a roulette table and then watching the croupier — wow, there's a guy in a vest and a bow tie called a croupier, kind of like a fancy teller! — spin the roulette wheel and wait for the little ball to fall into a slot that allows the croupier to take all of your money except for however much of it you put on the number or color or odd or even that won.

That is in fact what happened to a whole bunch of people — we don't know the number yet, but we're told there were lots of them — who thought it would be a great idea to buy bitcoins or ethereum tokens or any of the hundreds of other cryptocurrency mediums with their hard earned money, rather than doing something boring with it like put it in the stuffy old bank over on Broad Street or buying stock in a boring old company like, say, Peloton.

These people all bought cryptocurrencies from a company called FTX, or in some cases stored cryptocurrency there that they'd bought someplace else, because FTX was — notice the past tense, because FTX is no longer — an "exchange" where cryptocurrencies could be bought and stored and, yes, exchanged. The question of what, exactly, cryptocurrencies could be exchanged for remains somewhat mysterious, so we'll have to suspend our normal, rational hunger for such information as one would normally want, like what you're getting when you buy a cryptocurrency, or what exactly you can do with it once you buy it, because, well, it appears that when you dive into the shiny new world of cryptocurrencies, it is necessary to suspend normal human stuff like rationality and beliefs, or it wouldn't make sense for you to be buying cryptocurrency from some "exchange" in the Bahamas, where FTX was incorporated, in the first place.

I was curious as to what exactly cryptocurrency is, so I decided I would do a little research, given the fact that a whole lot of people just lost a whole lot of money buying or investing in the stuff. Well, what I came up with that best describes this shiny new world came from Wikipedia:

A cryptocurrency, crypto-currency, or crypto is a digital currency designed to work as a medium of exchange through a computer network that is not reliant on any central authority, such as a government or bank, to uphold or maintain it.

See, that would give me pause right there. The thing we're talking about turns out to be just a new form of money! Except it's, uh, not exactly money, because you don't take your money and invest in money, you hopefully, anyway, invest in something that is not money so that your money, which is over here…or it was over here, anyway…might have a chance to increase. In other words, you'd take some of your money and invest it in something and hopefully when all is said and done and you want your money back, it will turn out that when you sell the thing you bought with your money, you will end up with more of it.

So the thing we're talking about turns out to be just a new form of money! Except it's, uh, not exactly money, because you don't take your money and invest in money, do you? You invest in something that is not money.

Well, folks, that's not what happened with FTX, because it turned out that what happened with all the money all these people invested with FTX, was that the company turned around and bought something called FTT's, which are described as — bear with me here — the "native token of the FTX trading platform," according to CNBC, the network that is supposed to know a whole lot about stuff involving money.

See? Already at your dinner party, you've got some more brand new stuff to talk about! FTT, a really cool acronym! Native token! Trading platform! Just listen to the knowledgeable-sounding stuff pouring out of your mouth as you discuss the important dinner party topic of what you, and others, are currently doing with your money!

But it turns out there was a problem not only with FTX and FTT, which was basically its house cryptocurrency, but with the whole idea of these cryptocurrencies, because the very nature of cryptocurrencies is that they can essentially be minted by anyone, in any amount, at will, and then sold, or exchanged as the saying goes, for prices set by the market, and the market, in this case, was FTX itself, the exchange that had minted the cryptocurrency FTT in the first place. If that sounds a tad like double dealing, well, I'm with you there, for sure.

But anyway, let's try to understand what happened with this massive financial clusterfuck. According to every report I've read, the guy who started the whole thing, one Sam Bankman-Fried, who every report in the whole world refers to by yet another acronym, SBF, doesn't really understand it himself.

Bankman-Fried — oh, hell, we may as well go along with the rest of the acronym-tossers and call him SBF — has been giving interviews all over the place trying to explain what he thinks happened to billions and billions of other people's money that he accepted as investments at FTX and then somehow, like just poof!, disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to it, various amounts of it, anyway. Eight billion, 20 billion — the billions get thrown around like, yes, tokens in these stories about SBF as he apparently tries to understand himself how one day, there was all this money, enough to buy condos in the Bahamas and private jets and to give away to charities as part of his "ethical philanthropy" philosophy, and even enough to have one of his companies (he owned…past tense again…90 percent of it) called Alameda Research, which he described as an investment bank, lend him a billion dollars — apparently a billion of the dollars that people invested in FTX, which he turned around and used to buy FTTs sold by Alameda Research but, in reality, used to fund a loan to himself.

You're going to find this hard to believe, but when I say SBF is struggling to understand what happened to all the money he took in at FTX, he is really struggling, or at least he's trying to look like he is. You would think that someone who started a business investing other people's money would have some understanding of what he was actually doing with all that money, but in the case of SBF, you would be wrong. All of SBF's answers to specific questions about what happened to cause the collapse of his multi-billion-dollar empire wander and pause and hem and haw, but let's just take a single example to give you a taste of it.

We're talking here about a 30-year-old wunderkind who started this gigantic cryptocurrency market — is that what it is? I'm not sure, and neither is he, apparently — and now finds himself not only in the public eye but on a legal hotseat involving the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, and God only knows how many foreign law enforcement entities, and here is what he sounds like.

Reporter Theodore Schleifer of the online magazine Puck interviewed SBF by Zoom from his residence in the Bahamas. Just to give you a flavor of this guy and how he's taking the whole thing about losing tens of billions of other people's money (and nearly all of his own fortune along the way), here is how Schleifer introduces the circumstances of the interview: "Over the course of 45 minutes, during which Sam occasionally played Storybook Brawl on his computer, we discussed…" Well, they discussed a lot of things, but that single sentence kind of tells you all you need to know about the baby-faced SBF, doesn't it?

Here is just one excerpt from the interview, quoting the question as well as the SBF answer to give you even more flavor of SBF's knowledge about what we will call the "whole crypto thing" and his attitude about his role in the collapse of FTX and what happened to all those people's money.

Schleifer: I have always wanted to understand how you had so much personal liquidity to take a $650 million stake in Robinhood, to invest hundreds of millions in Anthropic, and spend tens of millions on politics and philanthropy. Where did that money come from?

Sounds like a reasonable question, doesn't it? It's money. You took it from people. Where did it go? What happened to it?

SBF: At the end of the day, dollars are fungible, which means that it's not trivial to answer the question of where $1 in particular came from. But my basic sense is that the bulk of it just came from trading profits from Alameda. Between 2019 and just reaching 2021 or so, all told, Alameda had, I think, a couple billion dollars of trading profits, and then had obviously a whole lot more in market profits, although that all crashed, I think, this year.

Got that? "The bulk of it." "Trading profits." "A couple billion dollars." "A whole lot more in market profits." "That all crashed, I think, this year."

He thinks that all crashed. And what the fuck is the difference between so-called trading profits and market profits? Profits from what? Alameda Research was an investment bank. Investment banks invest money in stuff. What did Alameda invest in? And if FTX was established as a cryptocurrency exchange in order to be outside the controlling claws of governments and banks, why the hell did it need an investment bank anyway?

SBF still doesn't understand what happened to all that money he took from people and put into FTX and turned into FTTs or whatever the hell else he turned it into, but I think I do. It was all just another boring old-fashioned Ponzi scheme, you know, where somebody sets up a phony company and takes people's money and promises them a big no-risk return on their investment, and then he just does whatever the hell he wants with it. Bernie Madoff ran one of those in much the same way SBF ran his. On one floor, he had a company that took in the money. On another floor, he had what he called his "trading" department, where the money was supposed to be invested, like an investment bank does. Instead, on that other floor, he had a whole department that just created phony statements which were mailed to investors claiming that their money had returned a 10 percent profit, or something like that. But when the investors wanted their money back, there was no money, because Bernie had spent it on watches and fancy cars and airplanes and houses.

Think of it this way: SBF had one floor, FTX, set up to take in the money, kind of like a cashier at a bank. And then he had another floor, Alameda Research, set up to invest the people's money, but that wasn't what they were doing at all. They were minting a cryptocurrency called FTT, and then sending people statements telling them how many FTTs they had. But the money — you remember money, the green stuff people earn with their hard work — was being used by SBF to donate tens of millions to Democrats right out in the open, and the same tens of millions to Republicans as "dark money," because, you know, Sam didn't want all his investors like Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen and other notables to have to sit at dinner party tables and talk about how their money was being used to elect nasty, distasteful, MAGAish Republicans, did he?

SBF is out there as we speak, on a kind of the one hand didn't know what the other hand was doing tour, giving interviews to Puck and Vox and ABC's George Stephanopoulos, trying to get the heat turned down on the stovetop he finds himself parked on. I never thought I'd see a cool customer like Stephanopoulos have his head explode as he listened to SBF's circular reasoning and dodging and shrugs and whatever's, but I swear I saw old George's hands fly up at least twice grabbing at his head to make sure it was still there.

But SBF knew, because both of those hands were his, and he used them to do two things: take money from people and spend it on himself and the things he was interested in, like politics and "ethical" philanthropy, and video games that he could play on his computer while he was giving Zoom interviews from his sparkling condo on the sparkling waters of the Bahamas.

And the whole cryptocurrency thing? Well, it's just rolling along, taking in actual dollars and turning them into so-called cryptocurrencies, which can only be used, so far as I can tell, to buy other cryptocurrencies or to be returned to investors as actual cash, the way people used to do at banks when they wrote a check and stood there waiting as a cashier counted it out for them before handing it over.

Why people want to buy funny money like cryptocurrencies rather than, say, Peloton bikes or stock in Peloton-style companies is a subject for another time, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the ever-present need for having something hip and hot to talk about at dinner parties.

Who missed Thanksgiving dinner this year? Everybody who got shot

There have been 607 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, the most authoritative source. It defines a mass shooting as an event when at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter. That we even have such a thing as a "Gun Violence Archive" is a black mark against this country which can never be erased. We are the only country in the world with more guns than people, the only country in the world with an excess of 30,000 gun deaths each year, the only country in the world with mass killings like the one that happened earlier this year in Uvalde, Texas, when a teenage gunman fatally shot 19 students and two teachers at the Robb Elementary School, wounding 17 others.

So far this year, 639 people have been killed in mass shootings. More than 2,500 were wounded, according to records kept by CNN. During the month of November alone, there have been 35 mass shootings, with a total of 185 people shot with a firearm, and 49 of them killed.

As we count our blessings that we were not among the dead during this Thanksgiving week, let's have a look at the mass shootings that killed 45 people during this month alone, sending 140 to the hospital.

Nov. 1: In East St. Louis, Illinois, two people were killed and three were wounded when a fight broke out after an argument.

In Baltimore, three adults and a teenager were wounded in a nighttime shooting.

In Denver, one person was killed and five were wounded in a drive-by shooting.

Nov. 2: In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, two people were killed and three were wounded in a shooting downtown.

Nov. 4: In Chicago, four men were wounded in a shooting on the street in the city's Humboldt Park neighborhood.

In Orlando, a 23-year-old man shot and killed a four-year-old girl and three women.

In La Plata, Maryland, four people were shot dead in a house.

Nov. 5: In Gainesville, Florida, five people were shot and wounded outside a grocery store.

In Philadelphia, nine people were shot and wounded while they stood outside a bar in the city's Kensington neighborhood.

Nov. 6: In Buffalo, four people were wounded in a mass shooting inside what police called a "party venue."

In Jordan Township, Pennsylvania, three people were killed by the same gunman in two separate locations.

In Chicago, one person was killed and three were wounded in a shootout with a security guard outside a nightclub.

In a second Chicago shooting, five people were wounded at a birthday party on the city's Southwest Side.

In Tulare, California, five people were shot and wounded during an argument after a drag race.

Nov. 7: In McAllen, Texas, a man shot and wounded four of his neighbors during a dispute over a palm tree.

Nov. 11: In Jersey City, New Jersey, four people were wounded in a shooting on the street.

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Nov. 12: In Indio, California, one person was killed and three wounded in a shooting on the street.

In Fort Worth, Texas, four people were shot and wounded in an apartment complex.

Nov. 13: In Enfield, North Carolina, one adult was shot and killed, and five adults were wounded along with a teenager at an outdoor bonfire.

In Omaha, Nebraska, one person was shot dead, and seven others were wounded at an early morning gathering on the street.

In Philadelphia, four people were shot and wounded during an argument at a nightclub.

In Memphis, four people were shot and wounded outside a high school.

In Charlottesville, at the University of Virginia, a man shot and killed three students and wounded two others after a school bus trip off campus.

Nov. 16: In Phoenix, a man shot and killed his wife and three children and then killed himself.

Nov. 17: In Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, three Customs and Border Protection agents were shot, one fatally, along with a suspected drug smuggler.

Nov. 18: In Chesterfield County, Virginia, a woman and her three children were shot and killed in what police called a "domestic dispute."

Nov. 19: In Colorado Springs, a gunman with an AR-15 style rifle shot and killed five people and wounded 25 others inside Club Q, a gay bar and nightclub.

Nov. 20: In Philadelphia, Mississippi, one man was shot and killed, and six others were wounded during a dice game on a farm.

In Dallas, four people were wounded during an argument outside a pool hall.

Nov. 22: In Chesapeake, Virginia, a night manager at a Walmart killed seven people and wounded six others before killing himself inside the store.

Nov. 23: In Philadelphia, four high school students were shot outside their school just after early dismissal for Thanksgiving in a drive-by shooting.

In Temple Hills, Maryland, four teenagers and one adult were wounded in an unexplained shooting.

Nov. 24: In Houston, a man walked into a home while people were having Thanksgiving dinner, shot two people dead and wounded two others.

That's just this month, folks, and it's not over yet. These United States are on track to beat last year's total of 690 mass shootings during the 365 days of 2021. Whatever number we end up with this year, guns are being used to kill multiple people nearly twice a day on average, and that doesn't count the number killed in shootings that kill or wound less than four people at once.

So if you made it through Thanksgiving without being shot, watch your step this weekend in grocery stores, bars, nightclubs and even walking down the street. There are enough guns out there in private hands to put a bullet in every one of us with plenty of ammunition left over.

I hope you have a nice weekend, if you survive. If not, you'll have plenty of company as a statistic.

Is this the end of the national Trump bender? I wouldn't count on it

Think back. We've been here before. In 2016, there was the famous "Access Hollywood" tape, when Trump bragged about his tendency to "grab'em by the pussy." Then WikiLeaks moved in to save him with the first of its dumps of hacked Democratic Party emails, these from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Two days later, during a debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump was asked whether what he had talked about on the tape amounted to sexual assault. He shrugged off the question, calling his statements nothing more than "locker-room talk" and, amazingly, admitting, "I'm not proud of it." It was over. He was elected president a month later.

This article first appeared at Salon.

Then came the revelation by FBI Director James Comey in March of 2017 before the House Intelligence Committee that Trump and his campaign had been the subject of an FBI investigation since the previous July. Half the oxygen immediately got sucked out of the hearing room, and there were reports that nearly a tenth of the air in Washington proper had left, too. A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the links between Trump, his campaign and the Russians. Then came leak after leak after leak, all of which Trump seemed to surf like perfect waves. The report by special counsel Robert Mueller was filled with evidence of obstruction of justice by Trump, but found no "collusion" – legally speaking, a meaningless term – between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and the story died right there.

Just four months later, a transcript of a telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was released, revealing in no uncertain terms that Trump had attempted to extort Zelenskyy into helping him with a phony investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. Another Washington lid blew into the skies. Just two months after that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated an inquiry into impeaching Trump. A month later, three House committees held hearings about Trump's attempts to get Zelenskyy to aid his re-election campaign. Just over a month after that, on Nov. 13, the House of Representatives began impeachment hearings. On Dec. 10, the House Judiciary Committee voted two articles of impeachment, one for abuse of power, the other for obstructing Congress. A week later, the House voted, mostly along party lines, to impeach Trump. In January of 2020, the Senate began the impeachment trial of Trump. On Feb. 5, the Senate acquitted Trump.

Dodged another one, you figured — but it wasn't over. Trump instigated the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and after he had left office, the House again voted to impeach him, this time for "incitement of insurrection against the U.S. Government." The Senate in turn voted 57-43 to convict Trump of inciting insurrection, falling 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority required by the Constitution.

Talk about dodging bullets! Donald Trump is the American political tap-dancer of all time. Not only as a political figure, but as a businessman, Trump has had more lives than nine cats.

And now the midterm elections have failed to provide the red wave many pundits had predicted for the Republican Party. At this writing, control of both the House and the Senate is still up for grabs, and you-know-who is being blamed for the poor performance of Republican candidates in almost every state that doesn't start with "Fl" and end with "a." Trump-endorsed candidates went down in battleground contests for the Senate and governorships. Election-denying Trump-endorsed candidates for statewide offices like secretary of state and attorney general lost in multiple states. At least one state house was flipped from Republican to Democratic control, and Democrats held control of several other state governments with many candidates either endorsed by Trump or hewing closely to his election lies losing their races.

You-know-who is being blamed for the poor performance of Republican candidates in almost every state that doesn't start with "Fl" and end with "a."

I have officially lost count of the number of stories I've seen with titles like "Conservatism Inc. is breaking up with Trump — again," and, in my own state, "It's time for him to retire: Some Pa. Republicans want to push Trump aside after their election losses." Another popular headline, encompassing not just Trump but House Minority Leader (and aspiring House Speaker) Kevin McCarthy, has "the knives are out" for its punchline. And then there are the stories trumpeting (intentional pun) stuff like "Trump's midterm meltdown is in full swing" and "Facing GOP blame for midterms, Trump pushes 'stable genius' line." Rupert Murdoch's New York Post broke with Trump with the headline, "Humpty Trumpty." Even the Wall Street Journal (Murdoch's upper-class rag) weighed in, calling him the midterms' "biggest loser."

There are an equivalent number of stories lauding the second coming of Ron "God chose me" DeSantis as the great Florida Man Hope of the Republican Party. DeSantis, educated at Yale and Harvard, is said to be a culture warrior in Trump's image, but smarter. His symbolic war with the Walt Disney Company for being "woke" is somehow considered "courageous." So is his "don't say gay" nonsense and the rest of his culture war pandering.

Trump, blamed for midterm losses by nearly every establishment figure in his party, has flipped the script and placed the blame on his eternal nemesis, Mitch McConnell, along with — get this — that piece of fluffy fleece in a royal blue vest, Glenn Youngkin! The only person who believes Youngkin stands a chance at the Republican nomination in 2024 besides Trump is Youngkin himself … and possibly his kids.

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Haven't we been here before? The last time, it was Ted Cruz (Harvard, Princeton) who was the Great Cowboy Hope of the anti-Trumpers in the Republican Party. Or was it Marco Rubio? Rick Santorum? Chris Christie? I forget. It was one of them, or some combination of them, who was going to save the party from Trump, who was, you know, accused of sexual harassment and assault and extramarital affairs and who knows what else.

And now here we go again. This time Trump is damaged goods because he is under investigation in I-don't-know-how-many-jurisdictions, for committing I-don't-know-how-many-crimes. Yes indeed, he is facing likely indictment by the feds on multiple counts of conspiring to interfere with a legitimate government function (certification of electoral ballots) and mishandling of sensitive national security information (the hundreds of secret and top-secret documents he removed from the White House and kept in a basement storage room at Mar-a-Lago.)

One of our biggest problems with Donald Trump is that despite how repellent he is, he's as riveting as a gruesome car wreck. The amount of trouble he gets into is unbelievable. The way he screws everything up is jaw-dropping.

And then there is the grand jury in Georgia looking into Trump's phone call with Brad Raffensperger, when he asked the Georgia secretary of state to "find" enough votes for him to be declared winner in the state. Seemingly half the people who knew Trump or worked for him in the White House or served at one time or another as his attorney have testified before the Georgia grand jury, so that investigation can reasonably be assumed to be going somewhere that is not good for the former president.

But what does all this amount to in the end? Looking back at Trump's tap-dancing around, through, over and under previous controversies, I am led to the conclusion that Trump will once again exchange his tap shoes for skates and, yes, skate.

One of the major problems this country has with Donald Trump is that despite how repellent he is, Trump is as riveting as a gruesome car wreck. The amount of trouble he gets himself into is so unbelievable, it's fascinating. How he screws up stuff like blackmailing a foreign president by having White House staffers listening in on the call is jaw-dropping. The legal problems all this stuff causes him are as complex as they are heinous. The court orders he manages to get issued on his behalf, like the appointment of a special master to review the Mar-a-Lago documents, are flabbergasting. The appeals of those orders by the Department of Justice are incredible. Even Trump's tussles with his many, many lawyers are fascinating, as is the way he has managed to get the Republican National Committee and one of his super PACs to pay his legal bills. He is a past master at laying off his debts as well as his moral responsibilities.

His diabolical slipperiness does more than keep him in the news and in the public eye. Nearly everything surrounding the man is grimly hypnotic. I've been covering politics for just over 50 years, and I cannot recall another American politician who has proved more spellbinding in the way he lives his personal and public life, not to mention the way he has sold himself, with his New York accent, multiple ex-wives and mistresses, business scandals and all the rest of it to the American public, or to 74 million members of it, anyway.

Will Trump be able to keep all his balls of grift, grab and go in the air? It's time for me to deliver the old chestnut that only time will tell, but my instinct tells me to add this: He may be on the canvas for the moment, but he'll be up at the eight-count, just like he has so many times before.

GOP's Halloween horror show: Marjorie Taylor Greene and the ghouls

All thanks to Elon Musk, who has revived the perfect word to describe what the Republican Party has in mind for us if they take over either or both houses of Congress in January: Hellscape. That's what they're planning to turn this country into — a nation that is already struggling with issues of race, economic inequality, gender, immigration and, yes, crime. They've got plans for the hellscape they dream of: More guns on the street will solve the crime problem; going colorblind will wipe out issues of race; keeping the minimum wage right where it is will take care of economic inequality, which is exactly where they want it; passing laws against gender-affirming medical care will handle those scary trans kids; and accusing Democrats of "opening the border" should keep all those brown people on the other side of the wall they (sort of) built but have already forgotten is there, probably because it's a total failure.

This article first appeared in Salon.

The poster child for the Republican legislative future is Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. With Donald Trump already squawking about putting her on his ticket when he announces he's going to run for president — maybe as soon as next month — the Republican Party is planning on giving MTG some seat-time by electing her to the House Republican leadership in some as yet unnamed capacity.

It doesn't really make a difference what job they give her, because they don't want the first-term congresswoman's legislative experience. They want her mouth.

In less than two years in the House, MTG has already provided us with a virtual encyclopedia of radical hate and lunacy. Let's take a look at her recent language about abortion to kick things off. The Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade was a "miracle" and a "blessing," Greene said. Last year, when arguing against exceptions to abortion bans for rape and incest, she called a fellow Republican lawmaker, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, "trash" for supporting the exceptions. "She is not conservative, she is pro-abort," Greene said of Mace on Twitter.

Earlier this week in an appearance on a radio show, when a woman called in and said, "My body is my body and I don't want the government telling me what I can do with my body," Greene reacted to the woman, who sounded as if she could be elderly, by saying, "Ma'am, are you having children any time soon?" When the woman brought up the case of a 10-year-old girl who was raped in Ohio and had to go out of state to get an abortion, Greene again mocked the woman for not sounding as if she were of child-bearing age. "Again, ma'am, I know you say it's your body, your choice, but I don't think you're having any children any time soon and I think we need to focus on the future of America and that's our children and the unborn, they're our future also. So let's focus on protecting their lives instead of being focused on the lie that abortion is women's health care, because that's not health care."

Greene of course voted against a recent bill in the House that would codify Roe v. Wade into law, and it doesn't sound like her sympathies lie with the nation's elderly, either, who may see their Social Security and Medicare benefits slashed if Kevin McCarthy takes over as the next speaker of the House.

But it isn't just Greene's votes against every bill put forward by Democrats, or her radical stance on denying women the right to an abortion even in cases of rape and incest. It's the way she goes about the business of being a member of Congress that shows what we can expect if she, as expected, becomes part of the Republican House leadership.

The day after a mob of Trump-backing thugs assaulted the Capitol and injured more than 140 cops in the process, MTG was on a right-wing YouTube show hosted by Katie Hopkins, a far-right British commentator with a long history of racist and antisemitic views. It was Greene's fourth day as a member of Congress, and she was already laying claim to a spot on the far right of the Republican Party that no one had yet occupied — although most of the party faithful have joined her there since then. "It's almost like you're one of them," Hopkins said to Greene, referring to the mob that attacked the Capitol the previous day. The New York Times Magazine quoted her reply this way: "I am one of those people," Greene said emphatically. "That's exactly who I am."

In that same magazine feature, published just over a week ago, writer Robert Draper listed Greene's radical fringe beliefs. Greene refers to "undocumented immigrants as rapists, transgender individuals as predators, Black Lives Matter protesters as terrorists, abortion providers as murderers and her political opponents as godless pedophilia-coddling Communists… [S]he has continued to insist that Trump won the 2020 election. She maintains that America should have a Christian government and that open prayer should return to classrooms. She has called for the impeachment of not just Biden but also Attorney General Merrick Garland and the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas." Greene openly calls herself a "Christian nationalist," is unabashed about her adherence to QAnon beliefs and regularly refers to various Democrats as child abusers, Communists and godless heathens.

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And where has all this right-wing venom-spewing gotten her? Well, the talk about Greene as Trump's possible running mate has only just begun, but already it's gospel on the right. She has made appearances with suspected sex-trafficker Matt Gaetz, campaigning for J.D. Vance in Ohio; with Arizona MAGA darlings Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs; on behalf of Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate and fellow Christian nationalist Doug Mastriano; and, of course, alongside MAGA King Donald Trump at several of his recent rallies around the country.

The woman has yet to serve out a full term in the Congress, and she has become the face of the party's future.

What does the future according to Marjorie Taylor Greene look like? She recently released a TV ad for her own congressional race in Georgia (which is no contest) showing her standing in a field and comparing Democrats to wild hogs out to destroy America. Wearing a pair of aviator shades and a black muscle T-shirt, she climbed into a waiting helicopter and shot a feral hog from the air with an AR-15 military-style assault rifle. After the chopper landed, she stood over the hog with a raised fist and a wide grin. "Let's help American farmers out," she shouted. "Sign up below, and let's go hog hunting!" On the screen was a chyron reading, "Enter to Win Now! MTGHOGHUNT.COM."

She had just compared Democrats to wild hogs, and she was fund-raising with a sweepstakes that promised a chance to "go hog hunting."

It's Halloween, and Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn't need to shop for a costume. She can just go as herself.

Beating a dead horse: Jan. 6 committee has proved what we all knew. Does it even matter?

The House Jan. 6 committee, bless its heart, went through it all again on Thursday:

  • All the lawsuits Trump filed, and lost, attempting to overturn election results in the battleground states, including excerpts of judges' decisions slapping down 61 of the 62 suits. (No. 62 was a minor technical issue that didn't change anything.)
  • The pressure campaign by Trump on elected officials and legislators in battleground states trying to coerce them into helping him overturn the election, including the infamous hour-long phone call four days before the Jan. 6 insurrection to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger when Trump asked him to "find" enough votes so he could carry the state. "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," Trump pleaded.
  • Pressure on the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of election fraud, which resulted in Attorney General William Barr telling Trump that all his charges of fraud were "bullshit" just before he went public in an AP interview and resigned.
  • A continuing campaign of pressure on the acting attorney general who replaced Barr, Jeffrey Rosen, and his underlings, aimed at persuading the Justice Department to intervene with state legislatures to help Trump overturn the election.
  • The two-month tsunami of lies told by Trump after Election Day, claiming that the election was "stolen" when he knew perfectly well he had lost. The committee included video of Trump repeating stories about "suitcases of votes" and Dominion voting machines, claims that he had been told were false by aides and other officials, including Barr. The committee presented new information that Trump's team had plans, months before Election Day, that Trump would declare victory on election night whether he won or not, a lie he has repeated relentlessly ever since.
  • Trump's conspiracy with an outside lawyer, John Eastman, and the chairs of state Republican parties around the country to submit slates of fake electors they hoped would confuse or delay the count of electoral votes, or even throw the election into the House of Representatives, where Trump knew he had the votes and would be declared winner of the 2020 election by constitutional fiat.
  • A powerful reminder of the "Sunday night massacre," when Trump's attempted appointment of DOJ underling Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general ended only after other officials at Justice and Trump's White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, threatened to resign in protest.
  • More details about Trump's plan, which began weeks before Jan. 6, to send an angry mob to the Capitol after his speech on the Ellipse. He and his aides knew the mob would be armed and equipped with military equipment such as Kevlar vests, tactical helmets, riot shields, handguns and rifles.
  • New information was presented from recordings, texts and emails finally given up by the Secret Service and Homeland Security after months of stonewalling. All the information backed up testimony the committee had already received from White House aides about the predictions of violence and the firearms the Secret Service knew were in the crowd at the Ellipse. Some of the new texts and emails contradicted sworn testimony by Trump aides like Jason Miller, who had previously told the committee that he knew nothing about the potential for violence on Jan. 6. The committee uncovered texts that showed he knew exactly what right-wing groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were planning. The committee announced that it is "reviewing" previous testimony, with an eye toward charging anyone found to have lied.

And finally, the headline: The committee voted unanimously to issue a subpoena to Trump, calling on him to provide documents and testify before the committee.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Good luck with that. The chances of getting Trump before the committee are almost nil, with Republicans likely to take over the House majority in January. In fact, it will take luck or a miracle for the entire enterprise of this select committee to have any effect on Trump's seeming death grip on the Republican Party. After more than 20 hours of testimony in nine hearings held over the course of five months, the committee's work hasn't even budged the needle of Trump's approval ratings.

More than 20 hours of testimony and evidence in nine hearings, over the course of five months. Trump's guilt is clear. Has that demolished his popularity? Not exactly.

According to the polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight, Trump's average approval rating was at 42.7 percent at the beginning of the hearings early in the summer. It stood at 40.4 percent when the hearings ended on Thursday. A Monmouth University poll at the beginning of the hearings found that 29 percent of Americans (and 61 percent of Republicans) believed that Joe Biden only won the 2020 election because of voter fraud. The exact same proportion believed the same thing at the close of the hearings. In fact, the Monmouth poll found that when the hearings began, 42 percent of Americans held the former president "directly responsible" for the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. That number went down to 38 percent by last month, with the final hearing still to come.

As these congressional hearings have proceeded, a powerful department over in the executive branch has been assembling a criminal case against the former president for his theft and mishandling of government documents after he left office. The Department of Justice has been investigating Trump for his apparently illegal removal of thousands of documents and other materials from the White House when he left office. Some of the documents bear the highest classification markings intelligence agencies can use and were found in Trump's office and residence in Mar-a-Lago, when the FBI searched the premises in August.

That DOJ investigation has tracked the House hearings almost month by month. In June, the month of the first committee hearing, the DOJ sent officials, including the leader of its counterintelligence division, Jay Bratt, to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve an envelope containing 38 classified documents that Trump asserted was the sum total of all the government-owned materials he had stored at Mar-a-Lago. One of Trump's lawyers signed an official statement to that effect, a sworn affidavit that was proved false when the FBI discovered 11,000 more government-owned documents, including another 100 folders of highly classified documents, during its August search.

I have written in these pages about the travails of the DOJ investigation in court over the last few months as a Florida federal judge, Aileen Mercedes Cannon, has done her best to impede the government's investigation of the man who appointed her to the bench, Donald Trump. Those travails appeared to come to an end on Thursday when the Supreme Court rejected Trump's emergency plea for the court to stay part of an order by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that removed the 100 or so folders of classified documents from the special master appointed by Judge Cannon to review the entire Mar-a-Lago trove for possible attorney-client privilege and executive privilege.

Trump incited an armed mob to attack the Capitol. He stole classified documents. He could end up in prison. But 40% of the public is just fine with all that.

So, with just three weeks left until the midterm elections and two years before the next presidential election is held, that's where we stand. Donald Trump's stranglehold on 40 percent of the electorate looks unassailable, since it hasn't been affected by the House committee hearings or a steady drumbeat of news about the DOJ investigation of Trump for possible serious felonies, including violations of the the Espionage Act, which is intended to prosecute spies against the United States.

The select committee has proved to the public, or at least to those who were watching, that Donald Trump conspired to overturn the 2020 presidential election in multiple ways, including inciting an armed mob to attack the seat of federal government. He knew his vice president's life was in danger. He watched the insurrection on TV in the White House and listened to reports that Capitol and Metropolitan police were being attacked by his supporters, and he did nothing. The Department of Justice is amassing evidence of crimes that could end up with Trump being indicted. A conviction could send him to prison.

And here's the thing: Forty percent of the country is apparently just fine with all that. They will try to vote him back into office if he decides to run for president again. Given that Trump may end up convicted of a felony that could bar him from holding any federal office, the words "constitutional crisis" come to mind. So do the words, we're fucked.

Don't ditch those masks! New COVID surge in U.K. shows what's waiting for us this fall

I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods, but here in our small town on the edge of the Poconos, fall is finally here. It's nippy in the mornings and doesn't get above 60 on some days, and only rarely brushes against 70. The sun is a little lower in the sky every day; people are wearing their quilted Carhartts and fleece Patagonias, and lined boots can't be far away.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Everyone is still going maskless inside and out. It's been this way all summer. You go into the Turkey Hill quick-stop, or the Key Food, or even to one of the small shops on Main Street, and nobody is wearing a mask. I did see one at an art opening last week for "Andy in Nature," an exhibit of photographs of Andy Warhol by Christopher Makos and ethereal flowers by Paul Solberg. There were probably 200 people packed into the soaring space atop Forest Hall, built in 1904 to house the Yale University Forestry School summer program. (The American conservation movement was born in this town, incidentally.) The mask at the opening wasn't worn by yours truly; I've been as accepting as everyone else of the fiction that the COVID pandemic is over.

It only seems that way. The average weekly case count here in Pennsylvania is about 2,500; that number has hovered between 2,500 and 3,500 daily since early in the summer. On Thursday, the number of new cases nationally was 100,524, with a weekly average of 50,000, down from a high of about 126,000 at midsummer. While the case count has gone down since spring, the national death count has stayed more or less steady, at about 400 a day.

You have to Google to find those numbers, because deaths from COVID have gone the same way news about Hurricane Ian will go when all the hoopla is over and shots of splintered homes and flipped-over cars and pleasure boats perched on people's front porches have left our TV screens.

COVID numbers are as hard to find as people wearing masks in the supermarket, even though health care experts say the current statistics are likely a "massive underestimate," according to U.S. News, "as many relied on at-home tests that aren't reported to health departments."

Even if the death count stays around 400 a day — and it's likely to get much higher, given a likely new surge — more than 145,000 Americans will die from COVID this year.

The White House and the Centers for Disease Control are on the case, however. They predicted in the spring that as many as 100 million American citizens could become infected with COVID over the fall and winter. That is nearly one-third of our population, folks, a whole lot of people by anyone's count. David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was interviewed for that U.S. News report and said the 100 million new infections predicted by the CDC are possible because hundreds of thousands of cases are never reported to local health departments, meaning the CDC never gets the full picture.

"I don't think it's unreasonable to think that we've had about 100 million infections the past three months, so why couldn't that happen again in winter?" Dowdy said. If the death count stays at 400 a day — and it's likely to get much higher given the predictions of a new surge in infections — more than 145,000 of our fellow citizens will die from COVID this year. That's well below the 2021 total of 415,000, but it's still a lot higher than the number of deaths from influenza every year.

So is COVID turning into just another form of the flu? You get a booster shot every fall and go about your life as usual? Not really, especially when you consider the effects of what has become known, for want of a better term, as "long COVID." The stats on this mysterious chronic form of the disease are eye-popping. According to information gathered by the Census Bureau gleaned by adding new questions about COVID to its Household Pulse Survey, about 16 million Americans suffer from long COVID today, with as many as 4 million out of the workforce due to the long-term disease.

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A study by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank backed up the findings of the Census Bureau. It found that 21 percent of people who have contracted COVID still suffer from symptoms three months later, which the Minneapolis Fed defined as long COVID. About 70 percent of Americans have come down with the disease. Taking 21 percent of that figure yields a total of 34 million people of working-age who have or have had long COVID. The Fed survey found that 50 percent of people with long COVID eventually beat the disease, yielding a figure of 17 million, unnervingly close to the Census Bureau estimate of 16 million.

What does all this mean? Well, the Census Bureau survey estimated that lost wages from long COVID could be as high as $230 million. If you look at that very dry statistic more closely, you find that hundreds of thousands of mothers and fathers are out of work, suffering from what the New York Times recently described as "a constellation of debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, neurologic symptoms and more that can occur even after mild infection … [and] racing hearts and brain fog so devastating that they were unable to work." Those mothers and fathers are probably passing the disease along to their kids, and at the least aren't there for them in the same way they were when they were healthy. The effects of the disease creep through the population in all kinds of ways and end up affecting us all, young and old.

Many long COVID patients seeking help at a recovery clinic in Boston, according to the Times, "were white and just over 70 percent were female." But the disproportionate number of white female patients in the Boston clinic may be an anomaly caused by the economic status of those who got it together to present themselves for follow-up care. A study done in Los Angeles found that many of the patients who were infected with COVID and hospitalized "in the first pandemic wave, were disproportionately Black and Hispanic men…[and] Black and Hispanic patients had lingering symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath at similar rates as their white peers."

Although long COVID doesn't appear to discriminate, the Times reported that "at every turn, Covid-19 has revealed the fault lines in our health care system and society. It should come as little surprise that the care delivered in the wake of this virus threatens to further entrench pre-existing disparities." That means people who can't afford medical care, or those who can't access it because they live in rural communities distant from clinics and hospitals, are not receiving adequate care to treat the symptoms of long COVID. They fall between the cracks in the health care system and end up as one of the 4 million people out of work due to the long-term effects of the disease.

Data suggests that the U.K. is heading into "the beginning of the next wave," and the CDC expects a steep increase in the U.S. during the fall and winter.

It gets worse: CNN reported this week that British data confirms the CDC estimates of a steep increase in COVID over the fall and winter. The study found that the U.K. could be heading toward a fall wave of new infections, "and experts say the United States may not be far behind." The Zoe Health Study, by following COVID since the earliest days of the pandemic in 2020, "has accurately captured the start of each wave, and its numbers run about one to two weeks ahead of official government statistics," according to CNN. About 500,000 people in Britain use an app on their phones to report their daily symptoms and the results of home COVID tests. "After seeing a downward trend for the past few weeks, the Zoe study saw a 30% increase in reported Covid-19 cases within the past week," CNN reported. "Our current data is definitely showing this is the beginning of the next wave," Dr. Tim Spector told the network. He is a professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College London.

On the home front, "We are seeing the increase in many respiratory viruses right now in the U.S., so it's not a stretch to think that a new COVID wave (or ripple) will be coming soon," Nathan Grubaugh, who studies the epidemiology of microbial diseases at the Yale School of Public Health, said in an email to CNN.

We got our boosters earlier in the week, and researching this piece has made me think again about following the crowd and going about life as usual when it comes to COVID. Starting this weekend, when we grab our jackets and scarves to walk up the street to our local deli or stop by Lowe's to pick up some mums and potting soil, I think we'll be grabbing our KN-95 face masks too.

Who wants to be a silent statistic, either in the hospital or the grave?

They have him surrounded: Trump now faces legal troubles in three states, plus D.C.

If you just count the number of cellphones seized over the past few months from Trump cronies, you would have to conclude he's in deep doo-doo. Trump is known for eschewing emails and texts — and fuhgeddaboudit when it comes to putting his name on actual sheets of paper, unless they're executive orders banning Muslims and ripping immigrant children from the arms of their mothers.

Trump is a phone guy, and his favorite thing to do as president was to get on the phone and swap gossip and plot with his close associates. One of them was My Pillow Guy Mike Lindell, a frequent visitor to the Trump White House and a longtime supporter. Lindell's cellphone was seized by the FBI on Wednesday. Lindell appeared at Trump's Jan. 6, 2021, rally on the Ellipse and has been used regularly this year to warm up crowds at Trump rallies in Illinois, Florida, Arizona and other states. Lindell's phone was taken as part of a DOJ probe into the theft of voting data and voting machines in several states, including Michigan, Georgia and Colorado. Lindell published private voter data stolen from a voting machine in Colorado on his website, Frank Speech.

Another cellphone seized by the FBI as part of its criminal investigation into Trump belonged to former law school professor John Eastman, the author of the infamous memo planning the submission of slates of fake electors to Congress from battleground states lost by Trump. The FBI also took possession of the cellphone of Scott Perry, the Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who introduced Jeffrey Clark to Trump. Clark was an acting assistant attorney general whom Trump considered appointing to the top post as part of his plan to overturn the election results in Georgia. Just this week, the FBI took the cellphones of Boris Epshteyn, a former White House aide who now serves as an in-house counsel coordinating the handling of Trump's various legal woes, and Mike Roman, who was the Trump campaign's director of Election Day operations and is now an aide to the former president. Both Epshteyn and Roman are suspected of being part of the scheme to name fake electors from states Trump lost in 2020.

The DOJ has also served subpoenas on what Politico called "a slew of false electors, including at least three state Republican Party chairs," and the FBI searched the home of the aforementioned Jeffrey Clark.

All of this happened before this week, when 40 subpoenas were issued to a brand new slew of Trump associates as part of the DOJ's investigation into attempts to overturn the election of 2020, and their connections to the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Politico reported that the cellphones of two more people were also seized. "Every day feels like something else is piling on," one former Trump official told Politico. Some people close to Trump told Politico that the total number of subpoenas issued by the DOJ may be higher, between 50 and 75. At least some of the subpoenas have been gone to people who have knowledge about Trump's mishandling of classified documents he took from the White House and stored at Mar-a-Lago.

The subpoenas served by the FBI require appearances before one of the two grand juries currently sitting in Washington. One of them is looking into attempts to overturn the 2020 election and the possible conspiracy leading up the events of Jan. 6. The other is focusing on Trump's mishandling of the classified and other government documents that he had stored all over the place at Mar-a-Lago.

A third investigation has been opened by the DOJ into the Save America PAC, a Trump-affiliated entity that has raised more than $115 million and distributed it across several political committees. Three million dollars of the Save America money was reportedly paid this week to Trump's latest save-me-please attorney, Chris Kise, whose name has appeared on all the recent court filings in Florida regarding the appointment of a special master to review the documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago. Kise reportedly demanded to be paid up front for his legal work, including a proviso that he can bill additional hours if need be, because Trump has a long record of refusing to pay his bills, including attorney's fees.

It is not known which of the two Washington grand juries issued the subpoenas concerning the Trump super PAC, but sources told the AP that some of the subpoenas and search warrants issued recently sought information about Trump's fund-raising activities.

So in Washington alone Trump is under investigation for the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, for his mishandling of classified and other government records, for his involvement in the fake elector scheme and for his fund-raising with the Save America PAC.

There's a lot of criminal exposure for a lot of people in the Georgia case, including Rudy Giuliani, Lindsey Graham, the 16 fake electors — and Trump himself.

As if that weren't enough, there is the ongoing criminal investigation in Georgia into Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in that state, including his infamous phone call with Brad Raffensberger in December 2020, during which Trump asked the Georgia secretary of state to "find 11,780 votes," the number Trump believed he needed to be declared the winner.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has convened a grand jury to look into "attempts to disrupt the lawful administration of the 2020 election in the State of Georgia." Her investigation reportedly includes the Trump campaign's attempts to appoint a slate of fake electors from Georgia. The 16 people who signed fake documents certifying that they were official Georgia electors are targets of the investigation, as are Trump campaign officials and other associates who coordinated the fake elector scheme. One such person is former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has been informed that he's a target. Another Trump crony subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who placed calls to Raffensperger trying to get him to reexamine absentee ballots cast in the 2020 election, citing the possibility that a new count would overturn the Georgia results. Georgia law makes it a crime to "tamper with electors list, voter's certificate, numbered list of voters, ballot box, voting machine, direct recording electronic (DRE) equipment, or tabulating machine," or to conspire "with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony," or to engage in "criminal solicitation to commit election fraud."

That's a lot of exposure for a lot of people in the state of Georgia, including Trump himself, chiefly because of the conversation with Raffensberger (which was recorded by an aide), but also because of his association with people known to be involved with attempting to overthrow election results, including Giuliani.

And there's more! There are two investigations of the Trump Organization, the former president's business incorporated in New York, which is wholly owned by him. State Attorney General Letitia James has been conducting a civil investigation into Trump's company for its inflation of real estate values on property it owns for insurance reasons, and its underestimation of those values for tax purposes. Trump was deposed as part of that investigation and reportedly invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times during a six-hour interview.

James' civil lawsuit closely tracks with the criminal investigation of Trump's company being conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who recently convicted the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, on tax fraud and other charges. Weisselberg has agreed to testify in the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump Organization but not against Trump himself. Either New York investigation of the Trump Organization could result in the "corporate death penalty," whereby a court would be asked to dissolve the entire company and outlaw it from doing further business in the state.

Trump can't keep paying his lawyers out of the Save America PAC if he announces he's running for president — which goes a long way toward explaining why he hasn't done so yet.

It is not known how many lawyers Trump has working for him on all these legal troubles, but he won't be able to continue paying them with funds from the Save America PAC if and when he announces he is running for president, which probably goes a long way toward explaining why he hasn't done so yet. Trump doesn't give a damn about any Republican other than himself, but he does care a whole lot about money. The prospect of paying his attorneys in Washington, Florida, New York and Georgia out of his own pocket just might put him off announcing for several more months at least. After the midterm elections on Nov. 8, the DOJ will no longer be constrained by its self-imposed "60-day rule" of not initiating criminal proceedings in advance of elections. All bets are off after that, and maybe the DOJ will stop issuing subpoenas and executing search warrants and start making arrests.

If the DOJ follows the methods it has used in previous investigations, it's likely to start small, which means that a lot of little Trumpies had better start jockeying to hire the best lawyers they can find now, rather than later.

As for Trump himself, well, your guess is as good as mine. But right now, he's looking a lot like Custer at Little Bighorn – surrounded on all sides with no way out. He's been there before when he faced two impeachments, but many of the people who defended him then, including his former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, have already testified before grand juries investigating Trump and cannot be counted on to have his back this time.

I don't know about you, but if I were waking up every morning and writing checks to lawyers — even super PAC checks — I wouldn't be a happy camper. At this point, I'm thinking that maybe what they call a global plea deal made by Trump, to wrap up all his federal and state criminal investigations in return for not running for president, might be his best bet. Right now it looks like if he doesn't make such a deal, he might lose his golf, his money and his freedom.

Trump and consequences: His own unforced errors will mean indictment

The last week in August is usually a sleepy time in America, news-wise. A gigantic blanket of heat settles over the country, driving everyone inside, or to beaches and lakeside retreats. Congress is in recess with the president typically vacationing somewhere that features refreshing breezes if not cool temperatures; cable news anchors have retreated to their second homes in the mountains or by the seaside; even newspapers tend to take the slow-news days to run culture features on trendsetters and hip designers who have set the looks everyone will be sporting in the fall.

This article first appeared in Salon.

But none of that holds true when the disrupter in chief is facing investigations in multiple states and by the federal government itself that could land him in criminal court, and maybe even in jail. The former president, who throughout the past week had his lawyers refer to him as "President Trump" and "the President" in legal papers filed on his behalf in Florida, is facing a lawsuit in New York that could disassemble and fine out of existence his business, the Trump Organization; an investigation by prosecutors in Georgia for attempting to overturn the 2020 election results in that state (which he lost); and an investigation by the Department of Justice into his handling of official documents and national defense information that he spirited away to Mar-a-Lago when he left the White House and then refused to return to the National Archives over a period of almost 18 months.

It's not a pretty picture for a man who would rather be on one of his golf courses than hiring new lawyers and holding Zoom meetings with them, especially when it became known this week, according to a report in Politico, "the Republican National Committee is not paying for Trump's legal fees related to the FBI's investigation and retrieval of documents at Mar-a-Lago."

It's not going to be cheap. The former president had four lawyers in a Florida courtroom on Thursday to argue his motion that a so-called special master should be appointed to go through the documents seized by the FBI in its search of Mar-a-Lago early in August. Trump had ordered his lawyers to file a motion requesting the outside arbiter to review the seized materials for documents that might fall under either attorney-client privilege or executive privilege, the second of which is accorded to presidents while in office to protect their communications with top aides and other senior government officials. (It's unlikely to apply in this case, both because ex-presidents have limited recourse to executive privilege and because the FBI and the Justice Department are themselves part of the executive branch.)

That was on Aug. 22. That same day, Trump issued a statement calling the FBI search of Mar a Lago a "raid" and a "break in" and accused the FBI of "planting" materials in his Palm Beach residence. The search warrant, issued by Judge Bruce Reinhart, authorized the FBI to seize all physical documents and records constituting "evidence, contraband, fruits of crime" or other items illegally possessed in violation of three criminal statutes: 18 U.S. Code § 793, a subsection of the Espionage Act related to gathering, transmitting or losing defense information; 18 U.S. Code § 2071, relating to concealment, removal or mutilation of government records; and 18 U.S. Code § 1519, which relates to destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcy.

Whew. No wonder Trump went judge shopping and had his lawyers file the motion for the special master with a different federal judge, Aileen Cannon, whom Trump had appointed in 2020 and who did not assume her position until Nov. 13 of that year, less than a week after it became clear that Trump had lost the election. Cannon, 40, is a conservative lawyer who has been a member of the Federalist Society since 2005.

Trump made a couple of notable errors when he ordered his lawyer to file the motion for a special master. First, he waited two weeks after the FBI search of his home to file the motion. That meant the Department of Justice had all the documents seized from his home and office in its possession long enough to have gone through and cataloged them, and, as it turned out, to have its own "privilege team" review the documents for any communications between Trump and his lawyers that would be privileged and segregate them.

That's what the DOJ told Judge Cannon in an initial response to the Trump motion last week. The judge, however, realizing that she was under the biggest microscope in her life, ordered the DOJ to file a more detailed response to Trump's motion, and ordered Trump's lawyers to file a response to the DOJ's filing.

All of which amounted to the second error Trump made in his initial filing. His motion opened the door for the DOJ to go beyond what it had already been ordered to do, which was to release the search warrant, a redacted inventory of what it had seized and a redacted copy of the affidavit establishing probable cause, which had provided Judge Reinhart with the evidence he needed to issue the search warrant in the first place. The release of the search warrant and affidavit was not unprecedented, but it was unusual, and Reinhart ordered the release in response both to public demands from Trump on Truth Social and to a lawsuit filed by media organizations.

The materials Reinhart released were not helpful to Trump. The warrant laid out the laws he was suspected of violating (listed above) and the affidavit provided a window into the reasons the DOJ had obtained the warrant. The National Archives had sought the return of the documents Trump took from the White House for months in a back-and-forth with Trump's lawyers, and Trump had responded to a subpoena from the DOJ only after a visit by Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence section of the DOJ National Security Division.

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If Trump had used a shovel to dig the hole he was in before, he used a backhoe to respond to the subpoena, ordering one of his lawyers, Christina Bobb — a former host on the far-right One America Network who also worked with Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis in their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election — to sign a document certifying that a search of Mar-a-Lago had been conducted and all documents Trump had taken with him from the White House had been returned to the National Archives.

This turned out to be, to use a common legal term when describing matters Donald Trump, bullhockey. Bobb did not appear in court on behalf of Trump in Florida on Thursday, possibly because she is consulting criminal defense lawyers of her own, since she may face charges of lying on an official document and obstruction of justice.

Trump moved from a backhoe to an excavator to dig his hole even deeper when he filed his motion for a special master. The DOJ response to the Trump motion filed on Tuesday reads like a "target letter," a notification by a federal prosecutor to a suspect that he has been under investigation for violating one or more federal statutes. In Trump's case, there are three laws the DOJ believes he has broken, and in its filing on Tuesday, Bratt and Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, laid out its case in spades.

In addition to revealing that the FBI had recovered more than twice the number of secret and top-secret documents that Trump's lawyer Bobb had turned over to the DOJ in June in response to the subpoena, the filing revealed that many of those documents had security classifications so high that several DOJ prosecutors had to receive higher levels of security clearance just to process the documents. The documents seized on Aug. 8, we would learn, included some with "sensitive compartmented information" designations that marked them as having come from HUMINT, or human intelligence, and SI, or signals intelligence, and potentially containing the most closely held kinds of government secrets — the identities of some of its agents and sources of intelligence information.

The documents seized on Aug. 8 included some with designations that marked them as containing the most closely held kinds of government secrets, like the identities of agents and sources of intelligence.

All of that was shocking to learn from the DOJ filing, but more important was the fact that federal prosecutors have found a way to get around charging Trump with possession of classified documents. The laws Trump is suspected of having broken involve "national defense information," which does not require that a document be classified. It is a crime to simply have so-called NDI outside of a secure federal facility, or to use persons who lack the proper security clearances to move it around, and it is an even bigger crime to keep it from federal officials when they demand its return.

The DOJ evidently has tapes from Mar-a-Lago security cameras that show who moved top secret documents around from room to room and who had access to the places where they were stored. Not to put too fine a point on it, but neither Trump himself nor his staff are cleared to possess or move sensitive NDI materials, and the DOJ filing establishes beyond doubt how Trump delayed, denied and disrupted attempts by the National Archives and the DOJ to get him to give up the documents he took from the White House. The fact that the DOJ had to get a search warrant from a federal judge and deploy some 30 FBI agents, all of whom had at least top-secret security clearances, to search Mar-a-Lago, is all the evidence you need of Trump's efforts to avoid returning the documents.

There is a kicker in the DOJ filing. Trump is suspected of violating statutes involving obstruction of justice in his handling of the documents he took to Mar-a-Lago. But it's not the kind of obstruction where you lie to investigators or encourage witnesses to lie or avoid talking to the FBI or prosecutors. It's an obstruction law passed under George W. Bush in 2002. The only thing the feds have to establish in order to prove Trump obstructed justice under that law is that he failed to return government property, or encouraged others to avoid returning it, when it was demanded by the government. The documents Trump removed to Mar-a-Lago and refused for 18 months to give back to the National Archives, where they belonged, all fall under that category.

Then there is the matter, revealed in the DOJ filing, of the national security analysis underway by the director of national intelligence to determine what damage may have been done to the nation's security by the disclosure of any of the secrets Trump stole. The documents that appeared in the now-famous photo accompanying the DOJ filing showing Top Secret/SCI and Secret/SCI documents displayed on the floor of Trump's Mar-a-Lago study are clear evidence that the documents were not secured as required by federal law. Three of the documents were found in an unlocked drawer in Trump's desk alongside three of his passports, and the others were discovered in a leather-bound box kept in his study. Trump's study is located just off the main ballroom at Mar-a-Lago, effectively a public space, and was used in the past as a bridal changing room for weddings. One of Trump's lawyers did him a further disservice on Wednesday night when she went on Fox News and said that she had been in Trump's study on an unrelated legal matter and that Trump frequently has guests in that office.

Under the laws regarding national defense information, those guests would be required to have the highest security clearance the government issues just to be in the same room with the documents seen in the FBI evidence photo taken in Trump's office. In fact, Trump himself would need the same security clearances to be in the same room with those documents. He may be a former president, and he may have had the right to review top secret information while he was in office. But he's a civilian now, and in 2021 President Biden ended the previous practice of providing former presidents with intelligence briefings because it was known that Trump had a habit of revealing secrets, even to foreign officials, and then bragging about it. So he's not allowed to possess or even be in the immediate vicinity of the stuff he was keeping in his office, or in the Mar-a-Lago storeroom that was not adequately secured until the DOJ demanded in June that he put a lock on the door.

Trump is a civilian now, and he's not allowed to possess or even be in the vicinity of the stuff he was keeping in his study, or in a Mar-a-Lago storeroom that was not adequately secured.

Here's the upshot of all this, folks. There are consequences when you willy-nilly have your lawyers file motions in federal court demanding stuff like special masters. One of those consequences is that you allow the government to reveal to the public all sorts of damaging information about you. Judge Cannon said in court on Thursday that she will probably order the government to provide Trump's lawyers, and the public, with a more detailed list of the materials seized in the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. Trump's lawyers demanded the expanded inventory of the seized materials, (which was in fact released by the court on Friday) and even demanded the return of the documents the FBI took from Trump.

In a word, notgonnahappen.

What will happen, however, in all probability, is an indictment of Donald Trump for violating the laws discussed here. Legal experts and former DOJ officials predict that the department will wait until after the midterm elections in November, to observe that somewhat-famous DOJ policy about not interfering with politics during an election season.

We all learn as little kids that it's wrong to take stuff that isn't yours and it's wrong to lie about it when you get caught. All of us, it seems, except spoiled brats who have gotten away with not paying their bills, welching on their debts and lying practically every time they open their mouths. The Republican Party enabled Donald Trump to beat two impeachments for crimes that would have driven any other president from office. But he is about to learn, rather late in life, that there are consequences when you take something that isn't yours and refuse to give it back.

This time, there will be no one in the White House to pardon him.

Life after Trump: Someday he'll be gone and what will Republicans do then?

The problem with politics is that it's a zero-sum game. There is a finite number of voters out there; every vote that you get is a vote the other side doesn't get. That's why the headlines following the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago were practically unanimous: "FBI search cements Trump's hold on GOP," screamed the Hill. "Trump's dominance in GOP comes into focus, worrying some in the party," was how the Washington Post put it.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Other headlines made the same point but tied Trump's iron grip on the party to Liz Cheney's primary defeat in Wyoming. "What Liz Cheney's Lopsided Loss Says About the State of the G.O.P" was the New York Times take. "Liz Cheney and the Demise of Anti-Trump Republicanism" was the headline in a New York magazine story that framed Cheney's fall as the death knell for the "ancien régime of conservative Republicanism as we knew it not so very long ago."

And that was just on Wednesday.

Suffice it to say that political pundits and professionals are in agreement that despite — or even because of — all the scandals surrounding the former president, Trump has achieved an unprecedented stranglehold on Republican voters. But which voters is a question that's not being asked. Sure, Liz Cheney got just under 30 percent of the Republican vote in a deep-red state, but the pundits seem to be ignoring the fact that it was Cheney who lost, not her voters. They stood by the Republican Party's top Trump critic, a woman who announced upon her defeat that she would "do whatever it takes" to keep Trump out of the White House. Where do those people's votes go now?

Television coverage of House races where the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump were on the ballot showed people who questioned Trumpian orthodoxy being shouted down at town halls. Trump followers stole lawn signs supporting candidates who failed to adequately bow down to the Master. The New York Times reported, "The cleansing of Trump critics from the Republican Party is still in progress and so thorough that much of it now happens without Mr. Trump's direct involvement. Allies at local and state parties, as well as at Republican-linked organizations, censure or oust those who break with the new orthodoxy."

That doesn't sound much like asking those people to stick around and vote Republican when there isn't a Trump-endorsed or at least a Trump-loving candidate on the ballot. The problem with jettisoning every Republican voter or candidate who isn't loyal to Donald Trump is that demographics already show that the party is going to need those people "going forward," as the saying goes.

This applies to candidates who have entertained the idea of running against Trump in the 2024 Republican primaries, if Trump decides to run for president again. Multiple stories have covered potential Trump opponents, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, pledging allegiance to the Monarch of Mar-a-Lago after the FBI search of his home in Palm Beach. DeSantis appeared at a rally for Turning Point USA last weekend and criticized the FBI: "They're enforcing the law based on who they like and who they don't like," DeSantis told the crowd of fresh-faced young Trumpazoids. "That is not a republic — maybe it's a banana republic when that happens."

The Hill quoted a Republican political consultant at the rally saying, "Any pathway for DeSantis to primary him from the right just closed completely shut if Trump decides to run. Our voters now want revenge, and I suspect that will manifest into them concluding the best way they can get revenge is by sending Trump back to the White House."

The Republican Party is doing everything it can to banish from its ranks anyone who is deemed insufficiently loyal to the former president, especially the so-called "impeachment 10," the Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol assault.

Steve Benen, who writes for the Maddowblog on MSNBC, reported — yes, on Wednesday again — "As members of the Impeachment 10 can attest, it would also be a mistake to downplay Trump's influence — especially when the former president, fueled by a petty sense of vengeance, is determined to destroy the careers of specific members of his party. What mattered was that much of their radicalized political party wouldn't tolerate their heresy, which would overshadow every other part of their careers in public service."

Cheney's defeat wasn't just the defeat of an anti-Trump Republican. It was a defeat for what were once known as "movement conservatives," the group of Republican leaders who had molded the party in their own image as being for tax cuts and national defense, and against anything "liberal," especially abortion and government handouts. It was, in short, the party of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But what does Newt have to say today? Well, interviewed by the Hill for its story about how the FBI search had strengthened Trump's hold on the party, Gingrich said, "On the Republican side, with the exception of never-Trumpers … virtually everybody else assumes the FBI is corrupt. They assume the Jan. 6 committee is a fake committee covered by fake news, and they presume there is an effort to martyr Trump. If they keep this up, he won't have a major opponent for the primary."

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Democrats have a lot to run on in the midterm elections, which are now less than three months away. They've got lower gas prices, passing the "Inflation Reduction Act" and the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, but so far they have been only too happy to make Trump the big issue. Trump has done his part to help them as several of his endorsed candidates appear to be failing. Mehmet Oz is behind John Fetterman in his race for the Senate in Pennsylvania. J.D. Vance is about even with Rep. Tim Ryan, or slightly behind, in Ohio. Hedge-fund bro Blake Masters is trailing Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona, and Herschel Walker continues to walk into walls in his campaign against Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia.

As longtime Democratic consultant James Carville told the Hill, "The problem the Republican Party has is, they got really stupid people that vote in their primaries. And … really stupid people demand to have really stupid leaders. That's where the Republican Party is now." Asked about Walker's candidacy in Georgia, Carville said, "Come on, man, that guy had an ill-fitting helmet. He's not right. He's not right at all."

If Trump decides to run in 2024, and that doesn't seem like a very big "if" at this point, it's pretty clear he will run as a single-issue candidate: The 2020 election was "stolen" from him. Full stop. The search of Mar-a-Lago is just gravy, and there's sure to be more gravy to come as he faces grand juries in Washington, D.C. and Fulton County, Georgia, not to mention the continuing saga unfolding before the Jan. 6 select committee in Congress.

Trump's base is apparently prepared to stand by his side. A poll conducted last month by Monmouth University revealed that an astonishing 61 percent of Republicans believe Jan. 6 was a "legitimate protest." Fifty-eight percent told pollsters they believe that only by "voter fraud" did Joe Biden win the 2020 election.

But the question remains: Where do these voters go when Trump is gone, either because he loses the 2024 presidential race and is once again unable to overturn the results, or because he is convicted of a crime that carries a ban on holding further federal office? At least one of the federal statutes for which Trump is under investigation supposedly carries that penalty, and although it's not clear that a law passed by Congress can prevent someone from becoming president, it's pretty much beyond argument that if Trump were to run and lose in 2024, he would be way too old to run again in 2028.

When Trump isn't on the ballot — and he's only got one more shot at doing that — how much power will pledging allegiance to his legacy have in the Republican Party of the future? Can Trump maintain his iron grip on the Republican Party from the political grave? I'm sure the whole "owning the libs" thing will still motivate the Republican base, but with Trump having patented that particular political tactic, will others be able to make it work as well?

This might seem almost too delicious to contemplate, but it just may be that the name "Trump" has been the magic elixir that stoned the masses for the past six years, and that once he's gone it will lose its twisted power. Whether Republicans will turn out to stand in line at polling places when their drug of choice is no longer available may well be the great question of our political future. Your guess is as good as mine about what the answer is, but for now, the lesser "leaders" of the Republican Party aren't spending much time contemplating life after Trump. That may be their biggest mistake of all.

Right-wingers thought they had a foolproof game plan in Kansas. It fell apart — and that could change everything

Pundits have been wearing out their thumbs on Twitter ever since the results of the Kansas referendum on abortion came in Tuesday night. The victory on the "No" side, against amending the state constitution to remove its protection of abortion rights, was decisive, 59 to 41 percent. Voting "Yes" in the referendum meant that the constitution could be amended and laws further restricting or banning abortion entirely could be passed in the state.

Republicans had made the vote confusing on purpose. To a casual observer, a "no" vote might seem to mean you were against abortion rights, and "yes" vote that you were for abortion rights, when in fact it was the other way around. The state Republican Party also scheduled the vote on primary day in August, when turnout is typically much heavier for the GOP in a state where Republicans outnumber Democrats almost two to one and frequently have competitive primary contests, while Democrats rarely do and their voters often don't bother to show up.. Furthermore, Republicans were betting that turnout among independents would be low because they are not permitted to vote in either party's primaries.

That strategy failed across the board. Turnout among Democrats was high, as it was among independents, all of them apparently driven to the polls by the abortion referendum on the ballot. The vote by political party was not monolithic, either, with many Republicans crossing over to vote no. Even in the conservative rural counties of western Kansas, which Donald Trump carried by lopsided margins in 2020, the vote against the referendum measure was in the range of 40 percent, meaning that many Republicans voted to preserve abortion rights

Republicans put this referendum on the ballot because a 2019 state Supreme Court decision, on a 6-1 vote, found that the Kansas Constitution protects a woman's right to abortion. Why did a conservative court in a conservative state find a right to abortion in a state constitution where the word "abortion" did not appear? Because of the first sentence of the Kansas constitution's Bill of Rights, which borrows from the language of the Declaration of Independence: "All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The court wrote:

We conclude that, through the language in section 1, the state's founders acknowledged that the people had rights that preexisted the formation of the Kansas government. There they listed several of these natural, inalienable rights—deliberately choosing language of the Declaration of Independence by a vote of 42 to 6. We are now asked: Is this declaration of rights more than an idealized aspiration? And, if so, do the substantive rights include a woman's right to make decisions about her body, including the decision whether to continue her pregnancy? We answer these questions, "Yes."
Included in that limited category is the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one's own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination. This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life—decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.

The word "resounding" comes to mind, doesn't it?

It was the decision of the Kansas Supreme Court that was on the ballot last Tuesday. Did Kansans believe that their state and its government were founded on principles that were worth standing by? Did they, in the words of the court, believe that their constitution's words were "more than an idealized aspiration?"

That's what the vote was about. Did the words that founded the nation, and were then employed to found the state of Kansas, have meaning? Voters were being asked, in effect, whether the word "rights" has meaning. Both the federal and state constitutions have bills of rights. They are not bills of doubts, or bills of exceptions, or bills of maybes, or bills of questions. The Constitution of the United States is said to be the supreme law of the land, just as the constitution of Kansas is the supreme law of that state. They are not suggestions; they are laws.

You don't get to vote on laws very often. You vote for people to represent you, and those people make the laws. But this time, Kansans got a chance to vote on the law that grants a woman the right to control her own body, and they voted for it — yes, resoundingly.

Do the words that founded the nations have meaning? Does the word "rights" have meaning? That's what Kansas voters were asked to decide.

The question now is whether that vote will translate into votes in Kansas and other states for people who make laws that respect the principles this country was founded on, or whether so-called conservatives will continue to vote for people who make laws of convenience, or laws crafted to fit in with other principles such as those found in religious texts or political rhetoric.

The New York Times published a story after the vote on Tuesday suggesting that if polling on abortion rights reflected how voters around the country might decide similar referendums in other states, "around 65 percent of voters nationwide would reject a similar initiative to roll back abortion rights, including in more than 40 of the 50 states." Well, Republicans may be rigid, but they aren't stupid: The Times story and those numbers can be counted on to assure that Republicans will resist any movement to put the right to abortion up to a popular vote in states across the nation.

Though the vote in Kansas is cause for celebration, the answer to how much it matters will come in November, when voters in all 50 states go to the polls and are faced with a reality that has been there all along: It's not just about who you're voting for, it's about what they stand for.

Liz Cheney's smug, self-satisfied con job: Don't fall for it

You don't even have to look for the tell. It's right there in the first thing they say after they "cooperate" with the Jan. 6 Committee: The Republican functionary witnesses sit there looking smug and self-satisfied as they tell what they know about what Trump did and the puny shit they did to try to stop him, and when they're finished they've been told they can smile and say, "but just look at his accomplishments."

This article first appeared in Salon.

That creation stamped out of a prep-mold in a suit and tie sitting at the witness stand on Thursday night with the last name Pottinger was a perfect example of the con job they're trying to run. Why, I was so horrified by what I saw when I got finished with my off-site meeting with India's ambassador to the United States that I resigned!

Then what does Pottinger tell us? A complete and utter crap-load of smarmy claptrap about how dedicated he is to "national security," and how proud he was that he served as deputy national security adviser, and how Trump got "tough" with China and put together some treaty in the Middle East that's not worth the paper it's written on.

Mr. Pottinger was at his desk in the National Security Council office when Trump was completely and utterly capitulating to Vladimir Putin at Helsinki. He was sitting there in the Executive Office Building working for John Bolton when Trump was putting a gun to the head of Volodymyr Zelenskyy and telling him he wanted the "favor" of trashing Joe Biden before Trump would release $400 million in military aid the Ukrainians needed in their fight against the Russian incursion into their territory. Pottinger sat there on his hands when Trump fired Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on utterly spurious grounds, knowing that she had done nothing to deserve it and that Trump was just positioning himself to exploit Ukraine in his effort to get reelected.

Pottinger knows full well that it was Trump's lap-dog nuzzling of Putin and his constant attacks on NATO and his weakening of U.S. support for Ukraine that gave Putin the idea he could attack Ukraine and get away with it in the first place. Where was our hero Pottinger when Trump virtually disassembled the entire foreign service profession at the State Department by cutting its budget by more than 30 percent? We're supposed to thank him for his heroic decision to resign 14 days before Trump left office after helping to facilitate every stupid-ass foreign affairs move Trump made for four long years?

It's a con job, and the chief con artist running the whole game is Liz Cheney. She was right there at Trump's side for 3.9 years as he loaded up the Supreme Court with right-wing lunatics and ripped children from the arms of migrant mothers at the border and then proceeded to lose them in a miasma of botched red tape and incompetence. She was all-in for that crime against humanity. She was all-in for the tax cut for millionaires and billionaires like her father who used his political connections to make millions as chairman and CEO of Halliburton and then turned around and loaded up Halliburton's coffers by being the chief architect behind the war in Iraq.

Cheney was all-in for Trump's absurd wall on the border. To this day she's all in on every attack on women's rights Trump enabled, including the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

She was all-in for Trump's absurd wall on the border, another boondoggle for Republican contractors that has done precisely nothing — zero, nada, zip — to stop migrants from crossing the border who are seeking to flee oppressive regimes in Central and South America. She is, to this very day, all in on every attack on women's rights Trump enabled with his Supreme Court appointments. including the disastrous decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. She was all-in on Trump's loon-laden appointments to his Cabinet, all-in on his assaults on the environment and the regulatory powers of the EPA and other important agencies. She is still all-in on the complete legacy of Donald Trump, with the sole exception of his attempted coup after he lost the election of 2020.

And how about "rule of law" hero Pat Cipollone? He sat there in his White House counsel's office for more than two years while Trump told lie after lie after lie and eviscerated every single tradition and norm that has helped keep our nation running for 240 years. He supported Trump's disastrous policies at the border, including taking children from migrant parents and then losing them. He defended Trump at his first impeachment trial for soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election, when Trump attempted to extort a foreign leader and obstructed justice by instructing officials to ignore subpoenas and refuse testimony. Cipollone authored an eight-page letter to Democratic leaders refusing to cooperate in any way with the impeachment inquiry and accused Democrats of "violating the Constitution, the rule of law and every past precedent" in their investigation of Trump. He represented Trump at his second impeachment trial for inciting the riot on Jan. 6. He provided legal cover for everything Trump did to attempt to "deconstruct the administrative state," in the immortal words of Steve Bannon.

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In short, Cipollone enabled Donald Trump right up to his attempt to overturn the election of 2020, and then he refused to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee until testimony by witnesses like Cassidy Hutchinson forced him to meet with the committee, and then he still refused to answer questions about what Donald Trump did on Jan. 6 on spurious executive privilege and attorney-client grounds, although he knows perfectly well there is no privilege if you witness a crime being committed, which Cipollone certainly did if he was present in the room with Trump on Jan. 6. And he was.

And Cipollone was the chief usher to Trump's right-wing theocratic appointments to the Supreme Court, and I'm sure his buddies in the Federalist Society have patted him on the back so much he's worn out a couple of suit jackets.

Are we supposed to be impressed that these Republican witnesses "stood up for the rule of law" after four years of an administration that never cared about it?

Liz Cheney has spent about a quarter of her time on the dais of the Jan. 6 committee hearings reminding us that all the witnesses called before the committee to testify about Trump have been Republicans. Oh, boy, does she beat that tired-ass drum, like it's supposed to mean something. Of course they're Republicans! They were working for Donald Trump! And we're supposed to be impressed that responding to subpoenas, they showed up and in many, many cases reluctantly revealed a few "truths" about Trump's lies and illegal behavior after he lost the election in November? We're supposed to be impressed that they "stood up for the rule of law" after participating in an administration whose hallmark was breaking laws and norms for four long years?

I'm sick and tired of Eric Herschmann getting praised over and over again for telling John Eastman that the only two words he wanted to hear out of his mouth were "orderly transition!" Wow! What a tough guy!

Uhh, hey, Eric, did it ever occur to you while you sat there watching Giuliani and Eastman and Jeffrey Clark and Sidney Powell and the rest of them commit multiple federal crimes in your presence in the damn Oval Office that you should pick up the phone and call the deputy attorney general in charge of the criminal division and report a crime?

Herschmann was in his White House office supporting Trump through two solid months of lying about "winning" the election, while he had his minions file no less than 60 lawsuits to overturn election results, every one of which he lost. Herschmann and the rest of the White House heroes supported everything Trump did right up until they made a determination that participating in Trump's conspiracies to overturn the election might subject them to criminal charges, and only when served with subpoenas demanding their testimony in the face of possible jail time did they reluctantly utter a few squeaks of disapproval to congressional investigators.

Wow! That's some heroic Republicans for you! And according to Liz Cheney, these Republican pipsqueaks should be thanked for "coming forward and telling the truth."

At the close of Thursday's hearing, Cheney gave one of her self-justifying-reach-around-and-pat-myself-on-the-back-like-I'm-triple-jointed statements, and this one was a doozy. She included this gem, which apparently we're supposed to get down on bended knee to thank her for: "As January 6 approached, I circulated a memo to my Republican colleagues explaining why our congressional proceedings to count electoral votes could not be used to change the outcome of the election."

Well, goodness gracious, sakes alive! She wrote a memo! Even thinking there was a need to tell her "Republican colleagues" something that is written into the Constitution should have been all the evidence she needed that the Republican Party had so completely gone off the rails that she didn't belong there any longer. But did she resign and become an independent? Noooooo. She started laying plans for a future she thought she could see, even if none of her "colleagues" could.

I think on Thursday night I realized what the Republican long-term plan is. Liz Cheney and the "adults in the room" in the Republican Party are laying the groundwork for the party to survive after Trump is finally put in jail or in some other yet-to-be-determined way expunged from their midst. Liz Cheney is Dick Cheney's daughter. She is a lifetime right-wing Republican functionary. She wants there still to be a Republican Party so they can continue to grease the skids for billionaires to make more billions and millionaires to make more millions like her dad did.

Remember the arc of Dick Cheney's career? He did his time as a House Republican back when that was a real shit-detail, for which he was rewarded with the secretary of defense slot under Bush I. He was an architect of the first Gulf War, which ensured that oil would continue to flow from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and that oil company coffers in the good old USA would continue to bulge. When Bill Clinton was elected, Cheney was taken under the wing of the Owners who made him CEO and Chairman of Halliburton, where he fattened his own bank account to the tune of several tens of millions of dollars. Then he appointed himself vice president under Bush II and promptly began his campaign for the war in Iraq, which further filled Halliburton's bottom line (it owned KBR, a major defense contractor in Iraq) and ensured that oil would flow from Iraq's massive oil fields and further pad the bottom line of the oil companies to whom he owed his millions.

Liz Cheney learned at her father's knee how the Republican Party works. It's who they are and who they have always been. As Gore Vidal used to call them, they are the "Owners." All the rest of this stuff, like screaming about transgender bathrooms and vaccine mandates and school choice and even their anti-abortion hallelujah chorus with fundamentalist Christians is crap. It's red meat for the rubes. Do you really think they care if their wife's or mistress' hairdresser marries his longtime partner? Do you think if a Cheney granddaughter got raped at college and got pregnant that she wouldn't be able to get an abortion? Do you think if a Cheney granddaughter just wanted an abortion because she broke up with the boyfriend who got her pregnant that she wouldn't be put aboard a biz-jet and flown across state borders to the best abortion doctor in the country?

Of course not. They'll always protect the Owners and their mansions and their yachts and their Gulfstreams and their ability to avail themselves of abortion services or even contraception if it comes to that. They'll always cut taxes for each other even if it means that poor people get poorer and that children don't get fed at lunchtime in public schools and migrants continue to die in tractor-trailers in Texas.

They don't give a shit about the poor. As Liz Cheney is at last admitting, they don't give a shit about Trump, either, so long as they've got their tax cuts and their millions and billions and they can keep the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour and maintain their control over red-state governments. Trump was just a hireling. He strayed off the reservation, and they grew tired of his gross lack of taste and slovenly appearance. So they're serving up a few schmucks with smug grins on their faces to tell us what a bad guy they suddenly discovered he is, after his usefulness to them came to an end.

It's a con job. Don't believe a word of it. They're just ridding themselves of a cancer they accidentally found growing on one of their legs so they can continue stomping on poor people and women and gay people and anybody they don't like and ensuring we stay in our place. They're Republicans. It's what they do.

Cacophony of dunces: When the Supreme Court trashed the Constitution

Watching Justice Samuel Alito go spelunking in his Dobbs opinion through centuries of so-called history and tradition in search of legal justifications to overturn the right to abortion decided almost 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade was like watching a boy play in a pile of dirt. Where do I dig next, he seemed to be muttering to himself as he shoveled manure from a slave-era law in Virginia onto an 18th-century pile of garbage he quoted from some doofus who believed women were inferior beings. Clarence Thomas was right there behind him in his decision that New York can't prevent people from carrying concealed weapons, plowing through statutes from jolly old England and the American frontier to show that Dodge City didn't really mean it when they told cowboys they had to check their six-guns with the sheriff if they came into town.

This article first appeared in Salon.

And then along came Chief Justice Roberts as clean-up man, swinging the club of something known as the "major questions doctrine" to deny the Environmental Protection Agency its statutory authority to — duh — protect the environment unless Congress spells out exactly how they should do it. According to Roberts, it is Congress, not the EPA, that has to write a rule telling corporations they can't empty industrial waste directly into creeks, rivers or the ocean because it's a "major question" if it costs corporations a lot of money, so let's make it as hard as possible for the government to take a chunk out of our golf buddies' bottom lines.

RELATED: Supreme Court's legal terrorism: Appealing to "tradition" on abortion is obscene

Throughout the entire year of decisions by a court that for the first time included all three of the Supreme Court's newest and most conservative members, the Republican majority decided to jettison the doctrine of stare decisis, which means to stand by things decided, and employ their own doctrine on how precedents should be treated: Stare quisquilias acervum or "stand by the trash heap," where they proceeded to throw the court's previous decisions and entire articles of the Constitution.

Throughout this entire year of decisions, the right-wing justices have thrown the court's previous decisions and entire articles of the Constitution in the trash.

All of this in service to their favorite doctrine of all — rights granted by the Constitution must be "deeply rooted in the nation's history and tradition" or they aren't really rights at all. Legal scholars have been predicting that the court will use its new jewel of a doctrine to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, not to mention other recent decisions recognizing rights under the privacy provision of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment … because we have no "history and tradition" of same-sex marriage or gay sex or rubbers or the pill, or anything else they simply don't like.

To justify its abandonment of the court's "history and tradition" of respecting and upholding its previous decisions, the Supreme Court called upon a favorite from an era they apparently revere, states' rights. Speaking for the court's conservative majority, Alito decided to "return" abortion to the control of the states, several of which promptly made performing abortions illegal and effectively established new rules — or re-established old ones — which dictated that women must carry to term babies resulting from rape or incest, and then give birth to them, relying, it would seem, on our deeply rooted history and tradition of slavery.

What can be done about the court's prejudice masquerading as reason? Doesn't the wrongheadedness of the "history and tradition" of the way women were treated at the time the 14th Amendment was written tell us something about all the anti-abortion laws of the past Alito quoted in the world's longest footnote? Women weren't allowed to vote, to sit on juries, to own property separate from husbands or male members of their families, and in some states they did not have the right to sign contracts. Oh, by the way, they weren't allowed to have abortions, either.

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It took decades of fighting for women's rights for us to get rid of some forms of prejudice against women. But "history and tradition" demands we go back to banning abortions, according to Alito.

Alito's decision features a gigantic hole not even the dissenters pointed out: To have "history and tradition," it has to start somewhere. Precedents become part of history only after they make history. If the court is going to require that all our rights must be grounded in history and tradition, that's exactly what Obergefell and the other privacy rights decisions do. They establish a baseline of history that can be depended upon in the future rather than reaching back to 1868 in search of one.

I say if they're not going to respect their own decisions, then neither should we, and neither should lower court federal judges and state judges and legislatures.

Alito's decision has a giant hole: "History and tradition" have to start somewhere. Precedents become part of history after they make history.

Legal scholars use the term "vertical stare decisis" to describe the principle that lower courts should follow and respect the decisions of the Supreme Court. But the law is not something handed down from a higher power or engraved on a tablet with a hammer and chisel. It is a living thing, and it has to breathe and move and eat and expel waste in order to stay alive, and some of the waste that must be expelled can be found in the court's most recent decisions.

I'll tell you how I know this.

When my friend and classmate David Vaught was going to NYU Law School in the early 1970s, I used to pick him up late at night from the law library, and we would drive home together in his old pickup truck to the barge where we were living on the Hudson River. One night as we passed through the Lincoln Tunnel on our way to where the dock where the barge was tied up in West New York, New Jersey, David almost exploded with happiness over a discovery he had made.

He had been given a typical first-year law question to answer, and the way NYU taught its students to solve problems was to trace them to their source. He was being taught that laws came not only from legislatures but, over decades, from court cases and the decisions of judges. The lesson was that legal questions such as who is liable for damages in various situations are never resolved once and for all — the solutions change and even mutate over the years as lawyers argue cases and judges make decisions and new laws are born.

"You can almost hear them arguing amongst themselves, like doctors over a patient," he explained to me. "In one case, a judge will say, well, I think it's the liver, so I'm going to fix it by administering this correction. And then, 10 years later, another judge will come along and say, no, it was the spleen, and it can't be repaired. We must take it out." My friend explained that the cases flow like blood through a body's circulatory system. "The arguments are its nervous system. The courts are the place where the law learns. Judges' decisions are its brain, its memories. Because the law is manmade, it has a human form, and it gets sick and can be made well. The law is happy and sad and stupid and smart just like we are. It's alive."

He was right. We are being forced to listen to a cacophony of dunces arguing over our Constitution right now. The New York Times last Sunday published an op-ed called "Is the Right to Same-Sex Marriage Next?"

No. We are louder than they are, and we have all of our minds and ideas and votes in the songbook from which democracy sings.

The Supreme Court's legal terrorism

With its Siamese-twin decisions on Thursday and Friday, the Supreme Court didn't just turn back the clock or flip through the pages of the calendar looking for a new decade — or century — to love. Calling themselves textualists and originalists, they simply put the Constitution through a search engine and told it to look for some key words: Abortion? Uh-huh, not there. Gay sex? Not in 1791 or 1868! Same-sex marriage? Are you kidding?

This article first appeared in Salon.

But guns? Well, the founders spelled it "arms," but we know exactly what they had in mind! The right to walk around with your guns on your hip or slung over your shoulder because you need 'em for self-defense!

It's tempting to say that the justices handed down these two decisions because they could, but what they did and how they did it is even worse: Just a month after 19 elementary school children and their two teachers were shot dead with a semiautomatic military weapon of war, they mumbled about life and provided for the mechanics of death and. over a 24-hour period, set forth the new outlines of an obscene legal regimen.

RELATED: Amid all the gloating, anti-abortion right dreams of bigger wins — and possible violence

They threw out 50 years of precedent and two of their previous decisions and concluded that since "the Constitution makes no express reference to a right to obtain an abortion," such a right does not exist. But the right to "keep and bear arms" is spelled out clear as a bell by the musket-owning founders in the wonderful Second Amendment.

For a constitutional right to be enjoyed by all citizens, according to the Roberts court, it must be old. Really old. If it didn't exist in, say, 1816, then it doesn't exist at all.

What the six so-called conservatives are relying on these days are two words not found in the Constitution: history and tradition. Both are suddenly seen as absolutely necessary in determining whether certain rights deserve to be preserved. The decisions are rife with phrases like, "We then canvassed the historical record, and found yet further confirmation," and you know what the "historical record" confirmed, don't you? Exactly what the majority wanted it to. It turns out that in order for a constitutional right to be enjoyed by American citizens, it must be old, and the older the better. If a right existed in the 18th and 19th centuries, well, this court is fine with it. But if that right wasn't enjoyed by the citizens of, say, 1816 — like the right to privacy, under which various other so-called modern rights exist, such as the right to purchase and use contraceptives, the right to have sex in the manner you choose, and the right to marry a person of your own sex — then those rights simply don't exist.

The majority leaves out the inconvenient truth that abortions, legal or otherwise, have been performed since the beginning of history as we know it, and the ownership of guns and other weapons of death and destruction have been restricted by class, income, social standing and political power for just as long.

The Thomas opinion on guns, along with concurrences, is 83 pages long. The Alito opinion on abortion, with concurrences, is 147 pages long. I would encourage you to read both decisions, if only to experience the blissful tsunami of their references to the way things were back in the 1700s and 1800s, but it's actually necessary only to take a look at a very few lines from the appendix to the Alito decision, which lists excerpts of the laws on the books forbidding abortion in the 37 states and 13 territories (!) that eventually became states from the 19th and 20th centuries. They are listed in chronological order by date, and just check out the first few:

  • Missouri (1825)
  • Illinois (1827)
  • New York (1828)
  • Ohio (1834)
  • Indiana (1835)
  • Maine (1840)
  • Alabama (1841)

Citing laws from the 19th and early 20th centuries to justify what the majority is doing in the 21st century isn't just corrupt, it's disgusting, it's insulting, it's condescending, and it amounts to madness. The purpose of this list of horrific and antiquated laws and punishments for women who have abortions and people who perform them is to make the point that ending Roe is in some sense returning to normal, because abortion has been illegal for a very long time practically everywhere. But the subtext is just as clear: You should be glad we're not turning the clock back to this.

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The language of the statutes is as brutal as the prison terms, running from six months to 10 years, that were prescribed for women who have abortions and anyone assisting them. I'll give you one excerpt just so you get a flavor of the "history and tradition" of abortion laws that the majority cites with obvious glee. This is from the Virginia statute of 1848:

Any free person who shall administer to any pregnant woman, any medicine, drug or substance whatever, or use or employ any instrument or other means with intent thereby to destroy the child with which such woman may be pregnant, or to produce abortion or miscarriage, and shall thereby destroy such child, or produce such abortion or miscarriage, unless the same shall have been done to preserve the life of such woman, shall be punished, if the death of a quick child be thereby produced, by confinement in the penitentiary, for not less than one nor more than five years, or if the death of a child, not quick, be thereby produced, by confinement in the jail for not less than one nor more than twelve months.

That the Virginia law, which applies to "any free person," is racist on its face causes the Supreme Court majority no shame whatsoever. The entire opinion, along with its concurrences, is practically giddy with delight. Comparing their reversal of Roe v. Wade with the Warren court's reversal of Plessy v. Ferguson in its 1954 decision ending segregation in schools, the Republicans on the court tell us that up is down with smiles on their faces. Their reasoning doesn't even amount to intellectual dishonesty. It's legal terrorism.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it, how long we'll have to wait until a decision comes down from this court with an appendix approvingly listing Jim Crow laws in support of throwing out, oh, let's take a wild guess and say Brown v. Board of Education. After all, why start with boring stuff like affirmative action when we can go back and take care of this whole race thing at its source, huh?

It took the Civil War to end slavery. All it took to return to enslaving women by forcing them to bear an unwanted child and go through the pain and sometimes life-threatening act of giving birth was the six signatures of the Republican majority. For the likes of Thomas and Alito and the rest of them, if it was good enough for the founders, it's good enough for us.

Oh, by the way: here's another word that's not in the wonderful founding document we call the Constitution: Woman.

Big boys playing dress-up: Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are dangerous — and deeply embarrassing

The hearings of the House Jan. 6 committee that began on Thursday night presented plenty of evidence of plain old-fashioned wrongdoing, infantile fantasizing by people old enough to know better, and hundreds of instances of people committing overt criminally indictable offenses at the behest of a president of the United States. But the evidence showed something else, too: an entire political party that has lost the capacity to be embarrassed.

There is so much evidence of behavior and attitudes that are embarrassing that you hardly know where to begin: with the whiny look on Jared Kushner's face and his whiny tone of voice as he described the White House counsel's threats to resign as "whiny"? The aw-shucks shrug of the shoulders given by former Attorney General William Barr, who was the highest law enforcement official in the land, as he explained — if that is even the word — resigning his office because he had finally had enough of what he called "bullshit"? Committee vice-chair Liz Cheney's lengthy recitation of all the phone calls Donald Trump didn't make and orders he refused to issue while a violent attempt was made to overthrow the government of which he was in charge?

See what I mean?

To me, however, the most embarrassing thing of all is the fact that nine veterans of service in the United States military have been indicted for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government for their roles in the violent assault on the Capitol. Not only that, but they dressed up and play-acted their parts as veterans. Some of them, specifically the Oath Keepers, wore military-style camo outfits complete with bulletproof vests and Kevlar helmets, and used a military-style "stack" formation to lead the breach of the Capitol building. Others, the Proud Boys, gave orders to their membership not to wear military-style gear and remain incognito: "come as a patriot" and "do not wear colors!" (referring to their yellow and black Proud Boy uniforms) and "be decentralized and use good judgement" because "we are trying to avoid getting into any shit."

Reading the indictment of five Proud Boys — four of them veterans — that was handed down by a Washington grand jury last Monday is like reading a script for a remake of "Rambo." Using an encrypted social media chat app, the Proud Boys talked about their "Ministry of Self Defense" or MOSD, their "Leaders Group," their "Operations Council" and their "Marketing Council." They even formed a "MOSD Prospect Group" to recruit new members for their paramilitary operations at the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Note: All that excited capitalization is from the texts cited verbatim in the indictment.)

The Proud Boys established something called the "Boots on the Ground Group," and exchanged text messages asking, "Are we going to do a commander's briefing before 10 a.m.?"

"Standby," came the response in primo-mil-speak.

All of the above was in preparation for the assault launched by the Proud Boys on the Capitol. Many of the texts were exchanged before the rally on the Ellipse had even begun.

The indictment of the Proud Boys lays out their childish pseudo-military behavior in excruciating detail: "We stormed the f**king Capitol. That was so much fun."

At 12:53 p.m. on Jan. 6, during the time Donald Trump was speaking on the Ellipse, the Proud Boys effected the first breach of the protective barriers established by police around the Capitol, pushing one of the police officers to the ground. Her head struck the pavement hard enough for her to lose consciousness and suffer severe trauma. Moments later, a Proud Boy text announced, "We have just taken the Capitol," as if the seat of the government of the United States was a military objective. At 1:00 p.m., a member of the so-called "MOSD Leader's Group" texted, "They deploy the mace yet?" One of the Proud Boys, who turned out to be an unindicted co-conspirator because of his cooperation with the Department of Justice, replied: "We are trying."

The indictment lays out this embarrassing behavior by military veterans in excruciating, painful detail. It describes the childish delight they took in each other and the pride in the crimes they were committing by citing the selfies they took, to which they attached such grand comments as, "So we stormed the fucking Capitol. Took the motherfucking place back. That was so much fun." Another Proud Boy added, "January 6 will be a day in infamy."

The Proud Boys used the Washington Monument as a rallying point before they began their attack on the Capitol. From the little hill where the Washington Monument stands, the following memorials to other veterans are visible: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial. Constitution Gardens is also visible, and so is the Signers Memorial, commemorating the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

The Proud Boys used "1776" as a private code for what they called their revolution throughout their text messages to each other. The year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence has also become a key part of the rhetoric of many of Trump's defenders, as if by invoking the founding of the country they can excuse its destruction.

Wearing military garb after you've left the service isn't indictable, neither is using military slang, and neither is singlemindedness to the point of being blind to what you're really doing. But it is embarrassing, in ways none of them will ever understand.

So where were the 'good guys with guns'? Standing around doing nothing, as usual

Nearly 10 years have passed since the last school shooting that killed as many children as were murdered in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. That shooting, at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, took the lives of 20 children and six adults. It was supposed to be the mass shooting that changed everything, remember? The killings were so horrific, most of the victims so young and innocent, that surely the House and the Senate could come up with some sort of "common sense" gun control measures that everyone could agree on.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Ha! Ten years have passed, and what has happened? Exactly nothing. Why? At least in part because within days of the Sandy Hook shooting, the National Rifle Association, one of the largest contributors to the political campaigns of (mostly Republican) politicians in the country, swung into action to stop any momentum for new gun laws before they could even get going.

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, called a press conference in Washington and with a single sentence, began a refrain about guns and gun violence and gun control that is still with us today: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said that day. What we might call the LaPierre Rule has become gospel for gun owners, gun manufacturers, and the political party that opposes any sort of gun control, the Republican Party. LaPierre's Rule devolved into sub-rules, such as this gem: The solution to gun violence isn't fewer guns, it's more guns in the hands of more people.

RELATED: Uvalde shooting timeline exposes an ugly truth: Cops have no legal duty to protect you

The NRA began a campaign after Sandy Hook to put an armed police officer in every school and to push for "open carry" laws across the country. These are state laws that allow you to openly carry a gun — of any kind, handgun or rifle — on your person or in your car without a permit. At this point, 31 states have open carry laws on their books. Fifteen states require a permit to carry a handgun, and only five, including the District of Columbia, have laws that ban the carrying of handguns in public.

Last year, the state of Texas passed its own law allowing the open carrying of handguns and other firearms without a permit. That law was passed less than two years after mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa killed 30 people. The solution to bad guys having guns is more guns, see? Texans don't want to make guns harder to buy, or to limit the times and places citizens can carry their guns. They want to make it easier. They want more guns on the street, not fewer guns.

Figures on gun ownership in Texas vary. One study I saw, by World Population Review, says that 45.7 percent of Texas citizens over the age of 18 own a gun. Another study, by the Rand Corporation, says that 37 percent of adults in Texas live in a household with a firearm. A recent report on NBC said that Texas has the highest percentage of gun ownership in the country. After the shooting on Tuesday, a tweet by Gov. Greg Abbott from 2015 surfaced in which he said, "I'm EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let's pick up the pace Texans." The tweet was posted following a report in the Houston Chronicle that gun purchases in Texas had topped one million for the year.

In Uvalde, the "good guys with guns" wearing police uniforms stood around for almost an hour before storming a classroom and killing the murderer of 19 children and two teachers.

No matter which figure you use, that's one hell of a lot of "good guys with a gun" in the state of Texas, don't you think? If all that's necessary to take down a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, the question after the Uvalde shooting is, where were they? Even the good guys with guns wearing police uniforms, it was revealed on Friday, waited almost an hour before they stormed the classroom where the shooter was, and 19 of them waited until they could be backed up by a SWAT team from the Border Patrol before they finally used their guns to kill the murderer of 19 children and two teachers.

The shooter, an 18-year-old resident of Uvalde, had purchased two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles and more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition and 50 — fifty — high-capacity magazines only days after his birthday on May 16. Texas laws require only that you be 18 years old to buy a rifle in the state, but at that age, you can buy any kind of rifle, including a semiautomatic AR-15 style weapon. The shooter was able to buy two of the AR-15s in the days after his birthday when he was apparently already making plans to kill children at an elementary school in Uvalde. Much has been made of the fact that he was not old enough to buy a beer, but he was old enough to buy a rifle capable of firing two to three bullets per second. He was also able to buy the seven 30-round magazines, containing at least 210 bullets.

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On Friday we heard reports that citizens of Uvalde, including at least one parent of a child who was killed, were outside the school yelling at armed police officers to go inside and take on the shooter. Cell phone video shot at the scene at 12:37 p.m., while the shooter was inside the school killing children, show one officer holding up his hands trying to prevent a person from filming him and shooing a crowd of people away from the doors of the school. One person can be heard calling to the others that they should enter the school and storm the shooter because the cops aren't doing anything. Another video shot at the same time showed numerous police officers in full tactical gear restraining parents who were trying to enter the school to retrieve their children. One father was pepper-sprayed in the face and a mother was handcuffed. In the background, a police officer in armored gear is hiding behind the bed of a pickup truck aiming his AR-style police rifle at the door of the school.

So some of the good guys with guns were doing exactly what so many cops are accused of every day: menacing civilians and pushing them around and threatening to arrest them for doing nothing that was even remotely illegal.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said Friday that the gunman was in the school for nearly an hour before a SWAT team from the Border Patrol arrived and was able to get into the classroom where he was and kill him. By that time, all the children in the classroom were dead.

Also absent from the scene in Uvalde were any of the 13 million people who own guns in the state of Texas, all those good guys with guns that Wayne LaPierre has told us are the only thing that can stop "a bad guy with a gun."

Watching the coverage of the aftermath of mass shootings in this country has become commonplace. The shooting at the Tops Supermarket in Buffalo happened two weeks ago, and here we are looking at images of yet another exterior of yet another building where someone carrying an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle walked in and killed people, this time children this time. The scene is always the same: Heavily armed police officers clad in camouflage uniforms, protected by bulletproof vests and wearing helmets, along with an entire panoply of military-style tactical gear, are milling around talking to each other. A few of them are dispatched to do what the army calls "set up a perimeter," which in the case of mass shootings amounts to stringing yellow crime-scene tape around the scene and then guarding it so civilians can't get near the scene and presumably contaminate evidence. In Uvalde, at least one armored personnel carrier could be seen near the school after all the shooting was over and all the kids were dead.

There are always a lot of heavily armed police officers at the scene of mass shootings after they have occurred. It is beyond me why they think it's necessary to show up looking like they're about to be dispatched to serve on the front lines in Ukraine or some other war zone. But there they are, wearing enough body armor and carrying enough firepower to assault an infantry battalion, and what are they doing? Standing around.

It's all of a piece. Every time there is another mass shooting, more and more money floods into the budgets of police departments and they go out and buy military-spec M-4 rifles and military-spec shotguns and military-spec body armor and military-spec helmets and military-style camouflage uniforms. Why? Because they're cool, that's why. If they're going to go up against one of these mass shooters, every one of whom is outfitted in military-style tactical gear and carrying military-style AR-15 rifles, then by God, they're not going to be one-upped! Just like Greg Abbott and his exhortation to Texans to buy more guns so they could catch up with California (!), the cops are going to buy more guns and more body armor — more of everything — so they can be ready the next time they're called upon to stand around in a parking lot of a building after 10 or 20 people have been shot and their dead bodies are strewn around the floor somewhere inside.

There's a weird, ironic perfection to the fact that the NRA's convention began on Friday in Houston, offering Wayne LaPierre, who is still the CEO of that august organization of gun-lovers, the chance to come up with yet another exhortation to his masses. One year they tried "my dead hands," as in, if you want my guns you'll have to pry them from my dead hands. Then came Wayne's good guys with guns.

Maybe this year Wayne will explain to us that the reason we've had all these school shootings and mass killings is because we don't have enough good guys with guns. More good guys! More guns! That'll show these mass murderers! Next time one of them shoots up a school, we'll have even more people standing around outside picking their camo-clad asses as the bodies of the dead lie there inside submitting to the ministrations of the crime scene investigators.

More guns, and more crime scene investigators! That'll show 'em that in Texas, we're second to nobody!