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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

In Racial Debacle At Smith College, A Warning To The 'Woke'

Had I not once spent a semester living adjacent to the Smith College campus years ago, I'd probably never have read Michael Powell's extraordinary New York Times account of a tragicomic racial debacle there.

Ho-hum. Isn't this what they do at these fancy private colleges anymore: turn themselves inside-out in furious arguments about race and sexuality?

Me, I was teaching at a nearby state university. Our home in the woods had burned down and a colleague on sabbatical generously offered his Northampton house rent-free.

I don't believe I ever set foot on the Smith campus, although our beagle Joan cleverly turned herself into a campus dog and gained several pounds. It took months to work her back into shape after we moved back to the country.

Nevertheless, what happened at Smith College caught my eye partly because I'd had an experience somewhat like it, albeit on a purely personal scale. At Smith, a young Black student was approached by a (white) campus security officer who asked why she was eating all by herself in a dormitory closed for the summer, and was she OK.

Definitely not. The student took to Facebook to complain that the experience had left her near "meltdown." "All I did was be Black," Oumou Kanoute wrote. "It's outrageous that some people question my being at Smith College, and my existence overall as a woman of color." She hyperventilated about the security guard's "lethal weapon."

She accused several college employees of bigotry, publishing their photos and email addresses.

The campus erupted into an episode of moral panic like those that have periodically swept New England since the 17th century. Smith president Kathleen McCartney offered a fulsome, some would say groveling, apology and suspended several employees. The Washington Post, New York Times, and CNN reported the outrage at face value. Militant students made denunciations and threats against the suspended employees.

"Racist" was the least of it.

Smith College announced "anti-bias" training for staff and faculty, complete with intrusive psychological queries. The ACLU demanded separate dormitories for "students of color." (A practice formerly known as "racial segregation," but who's keeping score?)

Eventually, the college got around to investigating the offended student's complaints, hiring a law firm experienced in such probes. Uh-oh. Pretty much none of her allegations checked out. The security guard, like all campus cops, was unarmed. The employees she pilloried had been off duty that day.

One falsely accused janitor quit his job. "I don't know if I believe in white privilege," he told a reporter. "I believe in money privilege."

Tuition and fees at Smith College come to $78,000 a year.

The college released the report exonerating its employees, but they got no apologies. They were pretty much all laid off due to Covid anyway. Ms. Kanoute seems no longer available for comment, probably best for all concerned.

My own experience at the large state university up the road was comparatively benign, although it could easily have wrecked my academic career. It definitely helped me decide I didn't want one.

As a graduate of a Southern university (U.Va.), it took me a while to understand that I'd arrived on campus under suspicion. Granted, I'd met people in Charlottesville who hadn't gotten over the Civil War, but they were regarded as cranks. And true, certain Massachusetts colleagues openly patronized the person described as my "pretty little wife" due to her Arkansas accent, but ordinary New Englanders asked her questions just to hear her talk. No harm, no foul.

Then I assigned a failing grade to a Black student, basically to be sure she was alive. Margaret had done poorly on the mid-term, and then vanished. She submitted no term paper, and was a no-show for the final. I figured an "F" would smoke her out if she hadn't left school. Indeed, she did turn up with a preposterous alibi about cutting her foot on a discarded light bulb.

I agreed to let her make up the work. The paper she turned in was derisory. Her exam revealed no familiarity with the course work. I gave her a minimal passing grade and figured we were done.

The good news is that the subsequent formal investigation was conducted by a senior faculty member not associated with my department's "radical" faction. After conducting interviews and scrutinizing Margaret's written work—what little there was of it—he ruled that I'd treated her as strictly as I treated all my students, finding no evidence of racial bias.

That was a joke. I was a pushover.

Margaret, however, was a pioneer. In basketball, it's called "working the refs." In academia, it's known as "critical race theory."

A few days after my exoneration, a colleague commiserated that an "aristocratic Southerner" like me must find State U's diverse student population challenging. Ethnically, I am an Irish Catholic from Elizabeth, N.J.

I figured I needed to quit before I got fired.

GOP Will Decline Until Trump Implodes -- Like His Abandoned Casino

"You don't have to be a genius to succeed in politics," the late Robert F. Kennedy once told a friend of mine. "But you do have to be able to count."

In a nutshell, that's why the Republican Party needs somehow to shed itself of former Boss Trump or, for practical purposes, cease to exist. Practical purposes defined as winning national elections.

Polls show that strong majorities of GOP voters have been taken in by Trump's biggest and most fundamental lie: that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him due to massive voter fraud. Never mind that Trump's peerless team of crackpot lawyers failed in 60 separate state and federal courts to prove a single claim. Not one. Nor that the infinitely cunning Democrats somehow managed to lose congressional seats while also cheating Trump.

Never mind too that Republican election officials in Georgia, to name just one state Trump lost, recounted the votes three times without changing the result; nor that two Trump-endorsed candidates then proceeded to lose U.S. Senate runoff elections there and promptly conceded defeat.

The simple fact is that record turnout buried Trump by seven million votes nationwide. True Believers, however, know what they think. George Orwell put it this way in his classic political satire 1984 : "In the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense."

Orwell also understood that denying reality was ultimately fatal. A ship's captain can deny the existence of icebergs and turn off the radar, but icebergs can sink ships regardless of popular opinion.

Blinded by the cult of Big Brother Trump, almost three-quarters of Republican voters profess to believe that he actually won, that Joe Biden's presidency is illegitimate, and that they'll support Trump again in 2024.

Bless their gullible hearts.

Two quick caveats: first, the Republican Party is shrinking like a proverbial iceberg in the Gulf Stream. Three quarters of GOP voters is a smaller proportion of the general electorate than it was six months ago. Second, that if one-quarter of Republicans refuse to support Trump, he can stage all the MAGA rallies he wants, but he cannot win a national election.

In Arkansas, where I live, two prominent Republicans are sending up flares as the good ship GOP sails into dangerous waters. First came Jim Hendren, a retired fighter pilot, veteran state legislator, and state Senate majority leader. OK, so he waited until after the election and the failed January 6 coup attempt, but Hendren released a nine-minute video making his contempt for Trump and Trumpism clear.

He singled out Trump's 2016 slandering of Mexican immigrants as rapists, his ridicule of a Gold Star family, and his mockery of the late Sen. John McCain's heroism. "I watched the former President actively fan the flame of racist rhetoric, make fun of those with disabilities, bully his enemies, and talk about women in ways that would never be tolerated in my home or business," he said.

"Then for months," he continued "I watched as members of my own party and our former president tried to overthrow the results of a fair and free election ... with lies, with false statements, conspiracy theories, and attempts to subvert the Constitution."

In subsequent newspaper interview, Hendren got down to the arithmetic: "There's a real danger that the Republican Party is going to be one that you can't win a primary without being a Trump supporter, and you can't win a general by being a Trump supporter," he said. "What would have happened, then, is we've taken a party that was about principle and about conservative government to one that is about one man and a personality. And that is a race that doesn't end well for the GOP."

One can certainly quibble with Hendren's characterization of Arkansas-style conservatism. Also, it's widely suspected that he's setting up to run as an independent gubernatorial candidate against Trump's former Assistant Liar Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has vowed to protect the state from being taken over by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Seriously, she has.

Hendren's uncle, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, has made similar noises, appearing with CNN's Dana Bash to say that he cannot under any circumstances support Trump in 2024. Like Wyoming Rep. Liz, Cheney, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, and my personal favorite, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, they're making a principled attempt to rescue the GOP from the Trumpist delusion.

Or at least to be there to pick up the pieces in the quite likely event that Trump self-destructs between now and 2024.

Did you see that Trump Casino they imploded in Atlantic City last week? Like that.

In Winter Storm, Saving The Calves Requires Tough (And Tender) People

OK, so you've got to shovel the car out and keep the water faucets dripping. You may need jumper cables to get the fool thing running. Not that you really need to go anywhere.

At least you're not a cattle rancher. Because your country cousins aren't getting much sleep this week. Stubborn beasts that they are, a million cows out in the boondocks are deciding that conditions are just right for giving birth. Ten below, thirty mph winds and driving snow? Perfect.

Of course, it's not really a decision. Back last spring when they were bred, winter seemed far away. Even so, there's nothing like a blizzard to send a cow into labor. Lovely Suzanne, the sweetheart of my small herd, chose just such a February night to deliver her first calf on windswept high ground near the hay ring. I feared that the little heifer, wet from afterbirth, would freeze to death before morning.

Fortunately, the pasture gate was close. So I picked her up, backed out the gate, and kicked it shut. Then I carried her to the barn about 50 yards away. Suzanne anticipated my intentions, ran clear around the barn and was waiting in a stall before we got there. I don't know which surprised me more: her intelligence or her trust. We named calf Violet, and she grew to be the image of her mother, sweet-natured and lovely.

Along with blizzard conditions and the coldest temperatures in 20 years, what got me thinking about Suzanne and Violet was a Facebook post a friend sent me depicting an old boy on the frozen steppes of Oklahoma, wallowing in a hot tub with an Angus calf he'd saved.

Posted by Lacie Lowry, an Oklahoma City TV journalist, at last reading it had drawn 1153 comments, mainly photos of rescued calves in unusual places: laundry rooms, kitchens, snuggling by fireplaces with children and dogs, even the occasional cat. Calves in pickup cabs, calves under hair-dryers, calves wrapped in comforters and blankets, even one calf wearing pajamas. Calves saved by farmers and ranchers all across the blizzard-battered Great Plains.

Trump voters most of them, it's worth remembering if you're an animal-loving Democrat prone to holding grudges. Decent folks, doing their best.

"The thing about cows," my Perry County neighbor Micky Hill once told me, "is they're always planning something." He'd been recounting the saga of the Milk Bandits, half-grown twin heifers who'd taken to stealing their younger siblings' milk.

"Daddy seen them calves was poorly," he said. "They just wasn't growing up right. Then one evening right around dusk, he seen them full-grown heifers sucking on mama cows. Not their own mamas. Other cows."

"So we took and put them in a borrowed pasture by themselves for a few weeks. Sure enough, the calves started thriving. Then come hay-feeding time, so we put them all back in together. Everything was fine for a little bit, but then the calves started looking sickly again."

"So one night Daddy slipped out to the barn after dark. Turned out them two heifers were chasing the Mama cows around until they'd get one cornered. Then they'd each take a side, grab an udder and lift the cow clean off the ground to where she couldn't kick or run away. They'd flat suck her dry in maybe half a minute, and then start in to chasing another one."

"And the thing is," he said "they knew to wait until dark."

The Milk Bandits had earned themselves a one-way trip to the sale barn. Likely somebody wanted them for breeding purposes, but there are no guarantees.

Like all mammals, cows definitely have minds of their own, and complex social lives. Researchers at Sydney University in Australia are just now discovering how complex. Doctoral candidate Alexandra Green has been recording and studying bovine vocalizations. She's catalogued some 333 separate sounds. She can identify individual voices without having to look.

"Ali's research is truly inspired," says her professor. "It is like she is building a Google translate for cows."

So what was I thinking when I sold Violet and her younger brother to a fellow from the next county? Well, that I couldn't let her breed with her father Bernie. She rode off down the road crying out, as they do.

However, by spring, Bernie had worn out his welcome. Trampling fences, fighting other bulls, breeding the neighbor's cows — the usual bull stuff.

Violet's new owner offered to return her as part of Bernie's sale price. Deal! If I live to be 100, I'll never forget Suzanne and Violet's reunion. Mother and daughter spotted each other from a distance as Violet stepped off the trailer. They galloped together, crying out with joy, and remained inseparable for days, nuzzling and licking each other.

I like to cried, as country people say, clearly not tough enough to be a real rancher.

Elitists, Idiotic Hallucinations, And Marjorie Taylor Greene

As a native of New Jersey—state motto: "Oh yeah, who says?"—I am congenitally immune to conspiracy theories.

Also impervious to the imbecile insults of he-man Trumpists obsessed with the imagined sexual preferences of strangers. While there is no level of invective to which I am incapable of sinking, editors urge me to keep it clean.

"You guys sleigh me," one guy taunted the other day regarding the Democrats' alleged loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.

I mean, why bother?

Today I live in Arkansas, where our idiot legislature is in the process of enacting a Stand Your Ground law, which means that if you send me a hostile message and then get in my face, I'll be legally entitled to shoot you dead.

Or, at minimum, to sic Daisy the basset hound on you.

So be very careful.

But when the Congressmen (and women) get crazier than the anonymous emailers, things are clearly getting out of hand. How far out of hand? Well, here's what Sen. Mitch McConnell (!) said the other day with reference to Georgia's notorious Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene:

"Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country. Somebody who's suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.'s airplane is not living in reality. This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families."

Quite so, although if I thought like Greene I'd wonder if she isn't a "crisis actor" pretending to be a lunatic to discredit conservatives.

But it's actually her constituents I worry about.

Back in 2018, Greene suggested on Facebook that California wildfires were started by a laser beam from space controlled by sinister Jewish bankers. She has written articles with headlines like "Democratic Party Involved With Child Sex, Satanism, and The Occult."

So naturally, her north Georgia district elected her to Congress. During the dark days of the last century, it wasn't necessary to be so excruciatingly polite about what H.L. Mencken called "the idiotic hallucinations of the cow States." Today, somebody's apt to call you an "elitist" for pointing out that the fine citizens of Georgia's 14th district are too dumb…

Well, that they've got some explaining to do.

Needless to say, Trump loves her, presumably all that was necessary to send her to Congress.

Of course, religious crackpots have been with us since the beginning of time. However, contemporary American political lunacy began with Rev. Jerry Falwell's promotion of The Clinton Chronicles during the 1990's—a series of bizarre, slickly-produced videos charging Arkansas' fun couple with embezzlement, drug smuggling, and murder.

After 12 years of Reagan and Bush, some Republicans simply lost their minds at the prospect of a Democratic president. Ever since FDR, they've pretty much done that whenever a Democrat takes office. I once had the opportunity to ask Rev. Falwell, on camera, if the Sixth Commandment forbidding adultery was more important than the one that condemns bearing false witness.

Falwell said both sins were equally bad. But he clearly didn't like being asked. He also claimed to have no idea if the wild allegations in the The Clinton Chronicles were true or not, a pretty shabby alibi.

For that matter, a friend of my wife's once got shown a list of Hillary's 50-plus murder victims by her cardiologist. Because she wanted her heart looked at by a person capable of critical thinking, she changed doctors.

Next came Tim LaHaye's best-selling series of Left Behind novels, an elaborate "End Times" fantasy aimed at the same gullible demographic. My favorite scene featured plucky Christian survivalists fleeing Chicago during a nuclear attack and pausing along the highway to buy a fully-loaded Land Rover. With a mushroom cloud looming over Wrigley Field, the dealership was open for business. I also loved the battle at Armageddon where the Antichrist's tanks got stuck in mud made by the blood of righteously slaughtered sinners.

I'd bet a lot that Marjorie Taylor Green owns a boxed set. Righteous slaughter is what she's all about. She's fantasized publicly about executing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats.

Anyway, next came the Internet, President Obama, and a one-way trip to Crazytown for millions of gullible souls. Notice how you don't hear much about "The Rapture" anymore? The End Times no longer hold allure. They're all wearing MAGA hats now.

God brought them Donald J. Trump, and Trump has brought them QAnon. It's no longer bad enough for Hillary Clinton to smuggle cocaine and murder political rivals. Those are penny ante crimes. According to QAnon, she worships Satan, molests, tortures, and eats babies.

True, a recent NPR/Ipsos poll showed only 17 percent of Americans believe that prominent Democrats are devil-worshipping cannibals, but another 37 percent said they couldn't be sure either way.

Those are Marjorie Taylor Greene's people.

If It's Show Trial Or No Trial, The Right Choice Isn't In Doubt

The only thing worse than staging a Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump—giving the big bully a national stage to whine about being persecuted and put on a pro-wrestling extravaganza—would be not staging a trial, and letting the would-be American dictator get away clean.

That's Congress's dilemma. Show trial or no trial.

Duty calls. There's really no choice.

Over at our place, Boss Trump's departure from Washington on Air Force One began the best 24 hours of the year, if not the decade. First, the ultimate Florida Man flew off to the happy golfing-ground of celebrity thugs and deposed dictators. O.J. Simpson, Al Capone, Richard Nixon, Cuba's Bautista and Nicaragua's Somoza all settled there, among others. The boulevards are crowded with South American drug lords.

As Diane Roberts wrote in the Washington Post "reality is negotiable" in the Sunshine State. "Trump still won't admit he lost the election, and he still denies any responsibility for inciting the mob that looted, pillaged and desecrated the Capitol, leaving four rioters and a police officer dead. In Florida, he won't have to." Trump's taking up residence is a Carl Hiassen novel waiting to be written.

Later that same evening, the coach's daughter and I watched our Arkansas Razorbacks in a comeback win against Auburn. We've been watching Razorback basketball for almost as long as we've been married, a very long time. It's a bonding ritual.

Next morning we reported to the university hospital for our Covid-19 vaccinations. A huge relief, if you haven't had yours.

As I say, pretty much a perfect 24 hours.

If he'd just stay put Trump could cheat at golf and squat on his golden toilet for the rest of his life as far as I'm concerned. But you know he can't live without publicity. Absent the crowd, Trump doesn't exist. This is a guy who used to call New York tabloids impersonating his own press agent to brag about the starlets he was banging.

Publicity and conflict, that is. Without enemies, Trump is nothing. Life to him is a zero sum game. If he isn't humiliating somebody, then he must be a loser. And that way, as his niece Mary Trump has written, lies psychological dissolution. Being him must be hell these days.

Nevertheless, try him the Senate must, regardless of the odds of conviction. To do otherwise would be to wave off the most consequential crime against American democracy since the Civil War. That it was an incompetently conceived and poorly executed coup attempt can't disguise that's exactly what it was: an attempt to overthrow the US government by force.

The mob was chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" within an hour of Trump giving them their marching orders. During his speech at the so-called "Save America" rally, Trump emitted an encyclopedic list of lies claiming election fraud, and then urged the crowd to march to the Capitol to "fight like hell," or else "you're not going to have a country anymore."

As Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, put it in announcing her vote for impeachment, "the President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack." Former Attorney General William Barr called his actions "inexcusable."

Senate Republicans who alibi that it would be "unconstitutional" to impeach a former president are simply hunting cover. Sure he's already gone, but a secondary effect of conviction would be to disqualify Trump from ever running for office—and that would certainly be worth the effort.

Not trying Trump would also embolden any future would-be president-for-life to run wild with no fear of consequences. So it simply must be done. The "unconstitutional" gambit is GOP Senators fearful of MAGA cultists turning against them in future primary elections.

Florida's own Sen. Marco Rubio went on Fox News to warn that "We already have a flaming fire in this country, and it's like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire."

Appeasement isn't how we've traditionally dealt with terrorists in this country, Senator. But nice try. And good luck running against Ivanka.

Meanwhile, what nobody knows is what kinds of evidence House managers will produce at trial to make Trump's guilt even clearer. Some of these MAGA goons facing serious prison time could be motivated to start talking. It's already clear that the mob didn't gather by chance.

Rejected nationwide by a large majority, and twice by Georgia voters, Trumpism has never been weaker. A well-conducted impeachment trial could be exactly what's needed to finish it off.

And if not? Well, state and federal prosecutors in several jurisdictions are looking at Trump for financial and tax crimes, not to mention what the U.S. criminal code calls "seditious conspiracy," i.e. the use of "force to prevent, hinder, or delay, the execution of any law of the United States."

Works for me.

How To Answer The Criminal Delusions Of Donald J. Trump

Some years ago, my wife and I were walking along the edge of horse pasture when a stampede broke out. We heard them before we saw them. Nine big mares—Shire/thoroughbred crosses—went thundering past at a dead gallop, a thrilling and somewhat scary sight.

I knew them all by name, they knew me, and a horse will never trample you on purpose, but these were 1500 pound animals fleeing headlong at 30 mph. The only thing to do was freeze for a heart-stopping moment. As the herd swept past I noticed the two youngest animals at the rear looking back over their shoulders and making eye contact, as if to say: "I don't see anything chasing us. Do you? Why are we running?"

Just then the lead mare went pounding into a run-in shed and stopped dead. The rest imitated her at once. Evidently the whole thing had been caused by a horse fly on the herd boss's butt.

The equine equivalent, if you will, of Donald Trump tweets about election fraud. Except that the horse fly was real, and if you've ever been bitten, you'd run too. To hear Boss Trump's aggravated supporters, however, most are stampeding from largely imaginary dangers.

Consider, for example, the Colorado man who told the New York Times that he quit his job as fuel truck driver because he refused to wear a mask. He sees masking not as a temporary public health measure but a harbinger of tyranny. He sees himself as "a guy up on the wall of a city seeing the enemy coming, and ringing the alarm bell."

He asked reporter Sabrina Tavernise if she's "OK with internment camps if you refuse to wear a mask or take a vaccination?"

In short, he's a naive fellow whose judgement has been overwhelmed by Trump and right-wing talk radio. It happens to a lot of guys that drive trucks; all alone on the highway with Rush Limbaugh.

At this point, it's worthwhile revisiting the wisdom of Charles Mackay, the 19th century Scottish author of "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds." "Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."

The abiding political question of the moment is how many Trump cultists are as smart as those two skeptical mares at the back of the herd?

Also, can calm, steadfast Joe Biden end the stampede?

On a related question, it's also worthwhile quoting Rep. Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat. Asked by NJ.com what he thought about letting bygones be bygones after a Trumpist mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, he responded with deadpan Jersey sarcasm: "Yes, we've got to come together," he said. "I'm not going to condemn someone who just attempted to kidnap and kill me. It would only foster division."

In short, the new administration is going to have to proceed in two directions at once: restoring rational, competent governance even as it deals sternly with the criminal delusions Trump left behind.

The staggering incompetence of the Trump administration's handling of Covid-19 vaccines poses both a threat and an opportunity. "This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country," Biden has said. "You have my word that we will manage the hell out of this operation."

They damn well better. It's the public health equivalent of the Normandy landings of 1944. The lives of millions are at stake. To be honest, I thought Biden was exaggerating when he said just after the election that the Trump administration had no plan for the vaccine rollout. But it was simply a fact.

Partly because Trump himself has no interest anything that doesn't directly affect him, and partly because he filled his administration with incompetent brown-nosers, the matchless capacities of the Federal government to produce, distribute, and administer the vaccines mainly sat idle.

When people begin to see the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard setting up thousands of mass inoculation sites and sending mobile medical teams into remote communities, the political climate in the country will also begin to change. It will be a hard slog, but the day this accursed plague begins to recede will be the day Trumpism does too.

Ask somebody who's already been vaccinated how relieved they feel.

Meanwhile, as Rep. Malinowski implies, some of those jerks who invaded Congress need to do serious prison time. Maybe even the head insurrectionist himself, depending upon how much active collusion investigators can find.

"The mob was fed lies," Sen. Mitch McConnell has said. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence" to stop the votes being counted.

The word for that is sedition, and the remedy begins with impeachment.

Boss Trump, America's Biggest Crybaby, And His Whining Imitators

Last week was a bad one for right-wing crybaby culture. Scarcely had Boss Trump's paranoid mob retreated from the U.S. Capitol than the whining began. My favorite thing on Facebook was a photo of two guilty-looking dogs welcoming their master at the front door: "We're so glad you're home," the caption reads. "Antifa have done a s**t in the hallway."

This even before news reports documented that members of the mob had done exactly that in the halls of Congress — urinated and smeared feces on the walls. A junior high school rebellion if ever one was.

Several members of the GOP Clown Caucus — Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mo Brooks of Alabama, and Paul Gosar of Arizona —nevertheless argued, as Gaetz put it, that the rioters were "masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa."

Over on Fox News, Laura Ingraham took up the cry.

The mythical antifa, that is, which has never been shown to exist as an actual organization outside the metaphysical netherworld of Trump's tweets. It's at worst a campus debating society, otherwise a hoodoo; a haint; a boogeyman signifying his followers' fears.

See, that's the thing about Boss Trump: even before he's an epic liar and blowhard, he's also a world-class crybaby. Everybody's always picking on him, and nothing has ever been his fault.

OK, so he urged a mob to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and "fight like hell" to prevent Congress from certifying his electoral defeat. "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long," he said in a soon-deleted tweet.

Deleted by Trump himself, that is, just before Twitter deleted him altogether, something the company ought to have done two months ago when he began his post-election whine-fest.

"Sacred," no less. Boo hoo hoo.

They allowed him to lie, but Twitter's terms of service do forbid threats of violence.

On cue, certain of Trump's most reckless enablers declared that they too had been victimized. Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican last seen raising a clenched fist to the rioters, denounced publishing giant Simon & Schuster for cancelling a book contract with him.

Downright "Orwellian" he claimed. "It's a direct assault on the First Amendment," he wrote. "Only approved speech can now be published. This is the Left looking to cancel everyone they don't approve of. I will fight this cancel culture with everything I have. We'll see you in court."

Now you'd think that a privileged character like Hawley — a banker's son who attended Stanford and Yale Law School before becoming a Mizzou law professor and state attorney general before ascending to the U.S. Senate — would know perfectly well that the First Amendment does not entitle him (or anybody else) to a book deal.

In reality, I'm confident he does know it. There will be no lawsuit. But Hawley thinks that benighted Trump supporters whose votes he hopes to inherit do not.

Similar First Amendment hokum was vended by former White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Writing on Twitter, ironically enough, Sanders complained that "I've lost 50k+ followers this week. The radical Left and their big tech allies cannot marginalise, censor, or silence the American people. This is not China, this is the United States of America, and we are a free country."

Yes, and we remain free to ignore Sanders' whining, as her high school civics teacher took to Twitter to remind her.

Any newspaper that doesn't like this column is free not to print it. Nobody can make them.

And I remain free to write that she and Hawley sound like big babies. Government can't stop me. That's what the First Amendment is all about.

But back to the biggest whiner of them all. For as long as he's been in public life, Boss Trump has urged boycotts and threatened reprisals against individuals and organizations that criticize or otherwise offend him.

It's one of the disappointments of my life that my scribblings remain too obscure to attract the great man's ire. However, a list of all the columnists and TV journalists that he's demanded be fired could fill this entire column. He's called for boycotts of Apple, CNN and Amazon—the last to put pressure upon the Washington Post.

Trump threatened to revoke NBC's broadcast license, demanded the immediate sacking of the "failing" Wall Street Journal editorial board, and denounced the "failing" New York Times. (Both, in reality, thriving.)

Nary a peep, of course, from the born-again civil libertarian Josh Hawley, and certainly not Sanders, who often endorsed Trump's threats.

But you know what? Next week's planned uprisings will fail too. Forewarned, real soldiers will be guarding the Capitol this time and the renegade crybabies will soil their pants and go home.

The Excruciating Pain Of Climate Catastrophe In Our Fire-Ravaged West

I got a call recently from one of my oldest friends, a retired rancher in Montana. As iconoclasts go, Ansel set the curve. We became friends during graduate school at the University of Virginia. One time he was delivering a seminar paper on William Faulkner's narrative techniques when he paused, dug in his thick, black hair and yanked.

"Tick," he announced calmly, before tossing it in a wastebasket and finishing his talk. Later, he explained that he'd been squirrel hunting, not an everyday pastime for a Ph.D. candidate.

So it wasn't a big surprise when he left academia to raise sheep in remote Highland County, Virginia. Over time, he kept moving further from civilization until he ended up seventeen miles from a town of 300 overlooking the Crazy Mountains in Montana—by then a world-class breeder of Suffolk sheep.

Most summers I would load up a couple of basset hounds—a mutual passion—and make the 24-hour drive to visit for a ten days of trout-fishing, fence-riding, baseball-watching and late-night bull sessions. One year I arrived while he was doing business on the phone. Without pausing, he slid a bottle of Irish whiskey down the counter and kept talking. His teenaged daughter was aghast. I explained that her father dislikes Irish whiskey; the bottle was a gift. My wife and his ex-wife remain the closest of friends.

Ansel alerted me to an extraordinary essay in Range, a quarterly with cowboys and grizzly bears on the cover. "The cowboy spirit on America's outback," is how the publication bills itself. It features articles sympathetic to the Bundy family's ongoing war with federal "tyranny." The editors think there are too damn many grizzlies killing livestock in Montana.

And a remarkable essay it is. Ansel was hoping I knew a national magazine editor who could reprint California rancher Dave Daley's saga of the "Bear Fire," the catastrophic blaze that destroyed hundreds of square miles of forest habitat, killed 80 percent of the author's 400 cows in the worst agony imaginable, and left him shattered, despondent, and terribly angry.

Ansel said it squared with everything he knew.

Alas, I know no such editors, but as a former small-scale cattleman, I do have a limited understanding of Daley's profound grief. Like any domestic animal, cows can get next to your heart: their unique, steadfast personalities, their strong emotional bonds.

A well-meaning friend asked Daley's daughter if the family home had burned. No, she answered, but a house can be rebuilt. A way of life cannot. At least not during our lifetimes.

The author wakes up nights crying.

"I cry for the forest, the trees and streams," he writes, "and the horrible deaths suffered by the wildlife and our cattle. The suffering was unimaginable. When you find groups of cows and their baby calves tumbled in a ravine trying to escape, burned almost beyond recognition, you try not to retch. You only pray death was swift."

Certainly, the author knows whereof he speaks. His family has been grazing cattle in what's now the Plumas National Forest since the 1850s: Taking them into the mountains after spring snowmelt and gathering them every October. He has a PhD in Animal Science, and is a past president of the California Cattlemen's Association.

Much of Daley's essay recounts the agonizing labor of family and friends—experienced local hands all—working with chain-saws and four wheelers to find and all too often euthanize cows with agonizing injuries; burnt hooves and incinerated udders. The photos are harrowing.

And what the author believes is that these catastrophes don't have to happen. Forest fires are inevitable and can be beneficial in clearing undergrowth that serves as fuel and sucks the moisture from the soil. Virtually all of California's most destructive fires, he points out, have started on public land.

"For those of you on the right who want to blame the left and California," he points out, "these are National Forest lands that are 'managed' by the feds. They have failed miserably over the past 50 years. Smokey the Bear was the cruelest joke ever played on the western landscape, a decades-long campaign to prevent forest fires has resulted in mega-fires of a scope we've never seen. Thanks, Smokey."

Daley sees tree huggers sharing the blame: "And, for those of you on the left who want to blame it all on climate change, the regulations at the state and federal level have crippled—no, stopped—any progress towards changing the unmitigated disasters facing our landscapes."

Alas, it's the "Tragedy of the Commons" writ large. Everybody's got a claim on the National Forest, but nobody's responsible. Insofar as Daley offers a solution, it would be a return to local control, and to controlled burns like Native Americans used to manage ecosystems for 13,000 years before white men arrived.

But that looks politically impossible. For example, who qualifies as "local"? Hence, perhaps, Daley's helpless anger and his elegiac tone.

The American Institutions That Broke Trump’s Coup

There are basically three American institutions preventing a far-right uprising to install Boss Trump as president-for-life. You know, like Vladimir Putin or Kim Jung Un. They are the U.S. military, the state and federal courts, and most importantly, the local election officials—many Republicans—holding firm against a Trumpist coup d'etat.

Trump may huff and puff, but he can't blow the house down.

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How Will Trump Finally Escape His Embarrassing Defeat?

As I write, it's impossible to guess how this sitcom ends. Boss Trump's comic opera coup attempt has clearly failed, as even Emily Murphy, the hapless head of the General Services Administration was forced to concede. Once Pennsylvania and Michigan certified that Trump had lost both states, she really had no choice. The formal transition to Joe Biden's presidency has begun.

President Putin will be disappointed. Discrediting democracy is Job One for the Russian dictator. Peddling phony claims about voter fraud and election rigging is right out of the Kremlin playbook. It's become unfashionable to say so, but that's the biggest reason Putin invested in Trump to begin with.

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Nativist Paranoia And Malignant Narcissism Define Trump’s Cult

New rule: once a political dispute reaches the Rudy Giuliani stage, there's nothing left but punch lines. I'd say the same of Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, a husband/wife team of Washington lawyers with a practice limited to right-wing talk shows. A desperate Boss Trump has recently added all three to the legal team striving to reverse his near-six million vote loss in the 2020 presidential election.

In related news, "Meet the Press," the venerable Sunday political talk show, was unable to find a single Republican U.S. Senator to appear on its November 15 broadcast. Host Chuck Todd reports that he invited every last one, but they all had something more important to do.

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How Boss Trump Blew Up His Own Election Fraud Scheme

Displaying the same staggering incompetence that has led to the deaths of thousands in the Covid-19 pandemic, Boss Trump made two big tactical errors in his failed effort to keep the White House: First, he telegraphed his scheme to overturn the election, and then he waited too long to make his big move.

These blunders brought him to a classic, indelible Trumpian moment: simultaneously demanding that vote-counting stop in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but continue in Arizona and Nevada. The difference being that Trump was temporarily leading in the first two, but trailing out west.

At this writing he appears to have lost all four states.

Just as he lost the national popular vote, it bears emphasizing, by one of the largest popular vote margins in U.S. history—likely in excess of five million votes after they're all tabulated. Spontaneous celebrations broke out in the streets of almost every large American city when the result was announced. It felt awfully like the collapse of authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the world. You'd have to be actively delusional to believe that even this Supreme Court could find a way to overturn it.

Trump himself appears to be a True Believer. Never mind that he had no winning political strategy. Yes, his frantic series of Covid "super-spreader" rallies brought millions of enraptured supporters to the polls; but they also stimulated larger numbers of Americans to cast their votes against him. If MAGA believers risked their lives; Trump's opponents felt they were saving their own.

But disenfranchising millions of absentee voters amid the Covid pandemic was never going to work. A politician more firmly in touch with reality would have realized that.

Of all people, sycophantic Attorney General William Barr has implicitly acknowledged as much. His order instructing U.S. Attorneys to look into allegations of voter fraud has a caveat that gives the game away: "While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries."

Then there's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has predicted that "there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."

In his dreams. Pompeo is not a stupid man, but he badly wants the 2024 Republican nomination.

GOP senators too appear to think they must judiciously humor the big crybaby until the hissy fit passes. Trump's angry toddler act—crying, screaming, throwing food on the floor, holding his breath until he turns blue, and breaking things—won't actually change anything. Eventually, he'll wear himself out.

Or not. I really don't care. Do you?

Even Fox News cut away from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany when she alleged widespread voter fraud without a scintilla of proof. Then there was Rudy Giuliani, holding forth in the parking lot of a landscaping business appropriately located between a crematorium and an adult bookstore that his bookers had evidently mistaken for the Four Seasons Hotel. Trump's personal lawyer, as one British reporter put it, ended up "struggling to be heard over a man in his underpants shouting about George Soros."

The exact proportion of MAGA True Believers in the population isn't clear. Presumably the same fools who bought into the "birtherism" conspiracy theory Trump used to win notoriety in the first place are equally prepared to believe in the myth of a stolen election.

But not very strenuously over time, I suspect. For most people, politics is a secondary passion, like being a football fan. You think you'll never survive your team losing, but the sun comes up and there's another game. Clinging to a lost cause can get tiring, leaving a person mired in an ever more irrelevant past.

Here's how Charles Mackay, the 19th century Scottish author of the classic book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds put it: "Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."

Freed from the spell of Trumpism and the daily necessity of rationalizing a malignant narcissist's follies and outrages, many will find themselves inwardly relieved. Over time, MAGA hats will become the equivalent of Confederate flags, a symbol signifying that you're a resentful loser.

Meanwhile, here's how an American president talks:

"Let's give each other a chance," Joe Biden said in his speech laying claim to having won the 2020 election. "It's time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans. The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America."

That's a message millions wanted to hear.

Brett Kavanaugh Explained How He Plans To Cheat American Voters

Unless my Election Day expectations are badly mistaken, we're going to hear a lot less from the U.S. Supreme Court in coming weeks than many anticipate, because the presidential election won't be close enough to steal. If I'm wrong, the nation is in for a spectacle of legalistic casuistry, pettifoggery and intellectual dishonesty like something out of Kafka's The Trial.

My own favorite literary portrayal of the judiciary, however, occurs in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, in which our hero explains his native country's legal system to his Master Houyhouyhnm, a philosophical talking horse who has never encountered a Yahoo capable of reason.

"I said, 'there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves.'"

Of course, Swift lived in an Ireland ruled by English judges, but the situation feels familiar. Citing a dispute over livestock, Gulliver explains: "they never desire to know what claim or title my adversary has to my cow; but whether the said cow were red or black; her horns long or short; whether the field I graze her in be round or square; whether she was milked at home or abroad; what diseases she is subject to, and the like; after which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years, come to an issue."

These days, of course, things can move more quickly when politically convenient. So it is that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh got the ball rolling early with a recent opinion so filled with factual and legal absurdities that it became necessary for him to issue a correction. It is not recorded whether or not the great man's well-known fondness for beer played a role.

A constitutional "originalist" like his newly-installed colleague Amy Coney Barrett, Kavanaugh embraced what the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin called the "Cinderella theory" of voting—i.e. that votes not counted by midnight on Election Day turn into pumpkins.

This would be news to the authors of the Constitution, who lived in a time when it could literally take weeks to travel, from, say, Washington to Boston, depending upon the winds and tides. That's why the Electoral College doesn't meet until several weeks after the election, and the results aren't tabulated by Congress until the second week in January.

Nevertheless, Kavanaugh's opinion claims that states "definitively announce the results of the election on election night." This is brazen nonsense. Even the TV networks don't necessarily do that; not that it's Wolf Blitzer or Lester Holt's decision to make.

"To the contrary," as Mark Joseph Stern writes in an astringent takedown in Slate, "every state formally certifies results in the days or weeks following an election," and every state always has. None certify results on election night, nor ever have. For most of American history it's been a practical impossibility, and remains so today.

So why would a supposedly brilliant Supreme Court Justice make so elementary an error? Basically, because it's not a mistake at all, but a necessary prelude to Kavanaugh's attempt to cast suspicion (and to instruct Trump-appointed judges around the country) regarding mail-in and absentee ballots.

"States," the Justice pronounces, "want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election."

To which Justice Elena Kagan responded tartly in her dissent that "there are no results to 'flip' until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more 'suspicio[us]' or 'improp[er]' than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night."

Never mind also that Boss Trump himself has always voted absentee until 2020. Nor that many 'suckers" and "losers" mailing ballots from U.S. military deployments around the world would also be disenfranchised. That's the Trump plan to abscond with the presidency: just don't count upwards of one third of the ballots and he wins.

Bret Kavanaugh is down with it all the way. It appears likely that the rest of the GOP-appointed justices, with the possible exception of Chief Justice Roberts, who sometimes appears concerned about the court's future, would back his play. Assuming, as I say, that there's any play to be made; and that the Justices believe that the spectacle of courts ordering millions of legally-cast votes to be discarded would serve even the short-term interests of the Republican Party.

If so, they ought to ditch the sacerdotal black robes and wear brightly-colored red team uniforms on the bench. For that matter, I can just see Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett decked out in cheerleader costumes with a big T on their chests, can't you?

Super-Spreader Trump Becomes The Typhoid Mary Of Coronavirus

If Boss Trump is headed for defeat, he's getting his revenge early. His revenge upon his deluded supporters and the people they love, that is. Trump's re-election campaign now consists mainly of what epidemiologists call "super-spreader" events: large-scale rallies of unmasked, non-socially distanced Trumpists yelling in each other's faces while the Big Man emits a non-stop barrage of falsehoods, exaggerations, and barefaced lies.

Let me put it this way: If, say, the Rolling Stones decided to put on free concerts at airports around the country, they'd likely end up being taken into custody and deported as undesirable aliens. Of course, they'd also draw far bigger crowds than Trump, but that's not the point. The point is that Trump's actions are reckless and immoral; the peacetime equivalent of war crimes.

"Covid, covid, covid, covid, covid," he hollers. Trump claims that the United States is "turning the corner" on the pandemic, and that the accursed news media will quit reporting Covid-19 fatalities come November 4. He claims that health officials are motivated by greed because "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" if they report that the virus was the cause of death.

Surveys have shown that more than a thousand physicians and nurses have died fighting the disease nationwide.

As ever, what he accuses others of doing is an excellent guide to the question: What would Trump do? Answer: he'd steal the silver dollars off a Covid victim's eyes and demand an investigation of Joe Biden

According to the Washington Post, the Trump campaign organization signed an agreement with officials in Duluth, Minnesota to limit attendance at a September 30 fly-in rally, in accordance with public health guidelines. Hours before the event, it became clear that no effort was being made to honor the agreement; some 2500 Trump supporters bunched up without masks on the tarmac, ten times the agreed limit.

Health Department officials' protests were simply ignored. Three days later, Trump himself was taken to Walter Reed Hospital by helicopter. Three weeks after that, the following headline appeared in the Duluth News-Tribune: "St. Louis County sees another record-breaking week of COVID-19 cases."

Any questions?

The Trump Circus subsequently performed in Janesville and Waukesha, Wisconsin in the midst of a record-setting pandemic outbreak there. "It took us 7 and a half months to reach our first 100,000 cases, & only 36 days to reach our second," the Wisconsin Department of Health tweeted. "In just two short months, the 7-day average of new confirmed cases has risen 405%."

But the show must go on. Trump regaled his Janesville audience with a veritable torrent of lies. The New York Times did a thorough fact-check of his October 17 speech. Reporters documented 130 false statements during Trump's 87 minutes onstage. Nearly three-quarters of his factual claims were untrue. The most egregious concerned Covid-19, probably because the disease represents his single greatest failure and most damaging political liability.

Another question: Does Trump count upon his supporters' invincible ignorance or simply share it? I fear it's a little of both. In Janesville, Trump made this absurd claim two minutes into his harangue: "When you look at our numbers compared to what's going on in Europe and other places," he said "we're doing well."

Any regular newspaper reader knows that this is simply nonsense. As the Times reports, "America has more cases and deaths per capita than any major country in Europe but Spain and Belgium. The United States has just 4 percent of the world's population but accounts for almost a quarter of the global deaths from Covid-19."

Germany, to choose the most striking comparison, has suffered only 122 deaths per million of its population, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has recorded more than five times as many: 686 per million. Neighboring Canada, meanwhile, is at 264 per million. Several Asian countries, have handled the pandemic even better.

It's a matter of capable leadership and public cooperation.

No wonder Trump appears to have succumbed to a case of dictator envy. "COVID, COVID, COVID is being used by [the 'Fake News' media] in total coordination" he tweeted the other day "in order to change our great early election numbers. Should be an election law violation!"

Yeah, well they all report the same World Series scores too. Furthermore, if Trump had good election numbers, he wouldn't whine so much. Has there ever been a bigger crybaby in the White House?

(In related news, Vladimir Putin has issued a mandatory mask mandate after a surge in Russian Covid infections. Go figure.)

Meanwhile, the rallies go on; a bizarre spectacle people treat as if it's normal. Trump has become Covid-19's Typhoid Mary, an Irish cook who unwittingly infected 53 people back in 1906.

But unlike Mary, he should know better. If anybody should be locked up, as his rapt admirers chant, it's the Super-Spreader in Chief.

Militia Misfits Are Ridiculous And Infantile -- Yet Still Terribly Dangerous

Back in my own days playing guns, we had the coolest hideout ever: a hut we'd built on a wooded half acre out of lumber liberated from a subdivision under construction. The way we looked at it, they owed us; a fair exchange for converting the woods and ponds where we hiked, fished, and ice-skated into a suburban subdivision. Rolling Hills, they called it.

OK, so the fireplace didn't draw, the roof leaked, and the secret compartment under the floor where we'd stashed our prized collection of naughty magazines got nibbled into the world's naughtiest mouse nest. It was a perfect hideout. No girls allowed. (Not that any of us knew an actual female person who'd willingly crawl into that dank interior.)

It was our secret refuge. We were twelve years old. We called ourselves "The Royal Majestic Order of the Quince," after a nearby flowering bush. We weren't trying to scare people, but not just anybody could be a Quince. Our weapons of war were BB guns, slingshots and acorns. Sometimes we took our little brothers prisoner and locked them up until they cried. Then a little while longer. We fancied ourselves merciless and bold.

Anyway, I couldn't help but think of all that pre-adolescent play-acting when I read about the "Wolverine Watchmen" and their hidden basement hideout behind a trap door under a vacuum cleaner store in rural Michigan.

We soon grew out of it. The Wolverines, apparently not.

See, that's the thing about these self-styled militiamen and wannabe terrorists. Their view of the world is essentially juvenile. Which doesn't mean they can't be dangerous. Quite the opposite.

To underline the point, here's a classic militia rant: "I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control."

Sound familiar? It's Timothy McVeigh, terrorist murderer of 168 people in the 1993 Oklahoma City truck bombing.

Show me somebody who becomes obsessed with government "tyranny," poses for photos carrying an AR-15 and staring grimly in camouflage fatigues, and who hangs out Confederate flags, and I'll show you a bearded child. In contemporary America, there are few things more dangerous.

Only a child could possibly imagine that kidnapping and murdering Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could lead to anything but disaster. "Grab the fuckin' governor," Wolverine honcho Adam Fox allegedly told an FBI informant. "Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude—it's over."

Now their lives are essentially over, all 13 of them facing state and federal charges after months of accumulating weapons and night-vision scopes, building bombs, communicating in coded messages, and even conducting post-midnight surveillance of the governor's lakeside vacation home.

Playing guns. One guy was going to paint his fishing boat black to facilitate a late night kidnapping; others planned to bomb a nearby highway overpass to distract law enforcement. They first attracted police attention by trying to learn the home addresses of local cops. That will get you busted every time.

Everything came apart after a couple of Wolverines got cold feet and went to the law. The Feds had informants wired for sound during meetings in the basement hideout—two of them, who didn't know about each other.

Gov. Whitmer, see, had provoked the outrage of bearded children across Michigan with a series of stringent lockdown orders meant to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus. "LIBERATE MICHIGAN," the honorary head Wolverine in the White House tweeted on April 17 amid his deadly campaign to "re-open" the economy before public health officials thought it wise.

Two weeks later, armed militiamen occupied the statehouse in Lansing. At least two of the Wolverines participated. I kept wondering what would happen if some fool pulled the trigger. No way and no how should such conduct be legal. The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

Trump urged surrender: "The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire," he wrote. "These are very good people, but they are angry."

Down in the basement, meanwhile, Wolverine chieftain Adam Fox vented: "Everything's gonna have to be annihilated, man. We're gonna topple it all, dude. It's what great frickin' conquerors, man, we're just gonna conquer every fuckin' thing, man."

Evidently, Fox's girlfriend had left him. I can't imagine why.

Then after Gov. Whitmer chided Boss Trump for his refusal to condemn right-wing extremists and white supremacists, he complained that she hadn't thanked him for protecting her. Trump cited "My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement" quite as if he'd played some role in the bust, which he surely did not.

The thing is, all the guns, camouflage fatigues and subterranean hideouts in the world can't give these bearded children what they need—decent jobs and good women to help them keep their heads on straight.

Trump Turned His Viral Infection Into Authoritarian Farce

Only Boss Trump could turn even the Covid-19 plague into a farce. His triumphal return to the White House from Walter Reed hospital—nicely timed for the evening TV news cycle—was like a stunt his pal Kim Jong Un would pull in Pyongyang: pure strongman street theater.

The big man stood glassy-eyed but indomitable on a balcony: corset, shoulder pads, elevator shoes and a half-pound of orange stage makeup accentuating his extreme virility. All the scene lacked was a laugh track, although in the kinds of dictatorships Trump most admires, it is forbidden to smile.

Big, strong me, puny little you. That was the message.

It was four years almost to the day since Trump mimicked Hillary Clinton stumbling at a campaign appearance after being diagnosed with pneumonia. "She's supposed to fight all these different things, and she can't make it 15 feet to her car," he sneered.

So after they carried him to the hospital in a helicopter, the White House sent out a photo of Trump supposedly hard at work. "Nothing can stop him from working for the American people," daughter Ivanka tweeted. "RELENTLESS!" Alas, a close-up showed Trump relentlessly signing a blank sheet of paper.

They do these things better in North Korea.

Back when I raised cattle, it was axiomatic: never let a sick cow die without trying dexamethasone, the powerful steroid that persuaded Trump he was ten feet tall and bulletproof. I've seen it bring animals too weak to stand back to their feet, although not for long unless the underlying infection had been suppressed. It's a stimulant, not a cure.

In humans, dexamethasone also has psychiatric side effects. (In cows, you can't tell. Possibly Layla the abandoned twin calf imagined herself tyrant queen of the herd before disease carried her away. It's impossible to know.) The commonest problems in human subjects are irritability, aggression, and what the drug label calls "psychotic manifestations."

And wouldn't that be wonderful?

That's just one of the reasons nobody but Trump would have been released from the hospital before his treatment regimen was finished. If he weren't going to a fully-equipped White House medical clinic, that phalanx of white-jacketed physicians who staged press conferences outside Walter Reed would have been flirting with malpractice to do so.

An NPR reporter noticed that all of Dr. Sean Conley's written press releases were preceded by a disclaimer saying in effect, "Donald J. Trump has approved this message."

People saw right through it too. A CNN poll found that "69% of Americans said they trusted little of what they heard from the White House about the President's health, with only 12% saying they trusted almost all of it."

Besides, he wasn't really going "home," merely to a smaller hospital where he can be monitored and treated.

What's more, Trump's euphoria was not only chemically-induced, it's also unlikely to last. Repeated doses of dexamethasone can be quite dangerous. It's administered only in serious circumstances, signifying to physicians who don't work for the White House that he was a whole lot sicker when he went to Walter Reed than anybody wanted to let on.

Then where was the hydroxychloroquine, inquiring minds want to know?

So yes, there's every chance that even Boss Trump, the political superhero with "the body that men fear and women adore" in the words of Fifties professional wrestling champ Dr. Jerry Graham, who was bashing rivals with balsa wood chairs at Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, N.Y., back when Trump was an impressionable lad, will get sicker before he gets better.

(Graham also carried a formidable swag belly, and pretty much invented the elaborate blonde pompadour wrestling villains featured back then. Trump basically stole his whole act.)

But I digress. The point is that anybody tempted to heed Boss Trump's advice—"Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life"—would be well-advised to wait a few weeks before venturing maskless to one of his campaign rallies. We don't know, in Dr. Conley's words, that he's out of the woods yet. But we do know that he's actively contagious.

We also know that Trump cares not at all which Secret Service agents and White House flunkies get infected. Not to mention those anonymous hordes in their MAGA hats and Trump t-shirts.

Meanwhile, Trump acolyte Rudy Giuliani, himself memorably described by Jimmy Breslin as "a small man in search of a balcony" went on Fox News to mock Joe Biden for wearing a face mask. Not manly, he said between bouts of heavy coughing. Fox News blonde Martha MacCallum said she hoped he tested negative.

So have I no humane feelings for Boss Trump, his attendant courtiers and poltroons? I'd answer that I have exactly same degree of empathy and concern he'd have for me and my loved ones.

I leave it to readers to decide what that might be.

America Can And Will Defeat Trump's Scheme To Tamper With Our Votes

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]