Nothing Left To Stop

Donald Trump loves his generals until he fires each of them. There are no more generals working at the White House. As for those at the Pentagon, they’re a bunch of dopes and babies who don’t know how to win anything. He does. They don’t. And they also don’t understand that we’re in NATO and helping South Korea and Japan in order to make money. They need to pay us ten times more for their protection or we’re gone. If these generals were businessmen they’d be out of business in a week. And they worry about war crimes too. Trump pardons those convicted of war crime. Those are our killers. Let them kill. And these generals also don’t see protesters in the streets as enemies of America. Trump had to call in his loyal DHS Stormtroopers to bust heads in Portland, to escalate racial tensions as far as possible, to scare the crap out of Americans who then might long for martial law to keep white folks safe from being murdered by all those young black bucks coming for their women, or something. His generals balked at mowing down American citizens, even with rubber bullets. They don’t think like Trump.

He hates that. And they barely tolerate him. But they do, generally, keep quiet. There is the chain of command. Trump is the commander-in-chief. He says he knows more about all things military than all of them combined. He’s allowed to say that. All they offer back is silence.

But there is retirement. And there is that admiral:

William Harry McRaven (born November 6, 1955) is a retired United States Navy four-star admiral who last served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command from August 8, 2011, to August 28, 2014. From 2015 to 2018, he was the chancellor of The University of Texas System…

McRaven is credited for organizing and overseeing the execution of Operation Neptune Spear, the special ops raid that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. CIA Director Leon Panetta delegated operational and executional decisions on the raid to McRaven, who had worked almost exclusively on counter-terrorism operations and strategy since 2001…

In December 2011, McRaven was runner-up for Time Person of the Year for his role in the operation.

Those are his credentials. He rid the world of Osama bin Laden. He retired to Austin to run the state’s university system for a few years. And then he relaxed, and apparently started thinking about things:

In August 2018, McRaven expressed support for former CIA Director John O. Brennan, whose security clearance had recently been revoked by the Trump Administration. He authored an open letter to President Donald Trump in The Washington Post entitled “Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President” in which he affirmed his regard for Brennan, his former colleague, and offered criticism of the decisions and personal behavior of President Trump. McRaven said of Brennan, “He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question except by those who don’t know him.” Of Trump, McRaven wrote, “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, you have divided us as a nation.”

And then there was this:

In a November 18, 2018, interview on Fox News, Chris Wallace mentioned McRaven’s name. Trump retorted twice, “Hillary Clinton fan” and accused McRaven of being a fan of former President Barack Obama. McRaven later told CNN, “I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else. I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times”

And then there was this:

On October 17, 2019, McRaven published an op-ed in The New York Times with the headline “Our Republic Is under Attack from the President” arguing that if Trump did not demonstrate leadership, the sooner he is replaced, the better. He elaborated his position in a CNN interview the same day, saying that Trump was undermining domestic institutions and damaging America’s international standing, especially with respect to the treatment of the Kurds during the 2019 Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria.

And then there was this:

Upon the February 2020 dismissal by the president of Joseph Maguire for having briefed congressional intelligence committee members about emerging evidence of foreign efforts to interfere in the 2020 presidential election, McRaven authored a guest editorial in The Washington Post in which he declared that, “As Americans, we should be frightened – deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security – then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”

But that’s the problem here. To a military man, an officer and a gentleman, integrity and character are everything. To an aggressive businessman who knows how to get what he wants, integrity and character ruin everything. They get in the way of getting things done. But one can always fake integrity and character if that’s what makes people happy. It doesn’t matter. Just get things done.

These two will never understand each other, and now it’s come to this. McRaven sees the absurdity:

In the 1997 film “The Postman,” set in post-apocalyptic America, Kevin Costner plays a drifter trying to restore order to the United States by providing one essential service, mail delivery. In the story, hate crimes, racially motivated attacks and a plague have caused the breakdown of society as we know it. In his quest to restore order and dignity to the nation, the Postman tries to recruit other postal workers to help rebuild the U.S. government. But Costner’s character is opposed by the evil General Bethlehem, who is fighting to suppress the postal carriers so he can establish a totalitarian government. Fortunately, our hero, gaining inspiration from the motto, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night,” fights on against Bethlehem and saves the country.

Not surprisingly, the movie was panned by critics and was a financial disaster. I mean really, racial strife and a plague so bad that it threatened our society? And even if that happened, who would try to destroy the Postal Service? Where do they come up with these crazy plots?

Ah, but here we are:

Today, as we struggle with social upheaval, soaring debt, record unemployment, a runaway pandemic, and rising threats from China and Russia, President Trump is actively working to undermine every major institution in this country. He has planted the seeds of doubt in the minds of many Americans that our institutions aren’t functioning properly. And, if the president doesn’t trust the intelligence community, law enforcement, the press, the military, the Supreme Court, the medical professionals, election officials and the postal workers, then why should we? And if Americans stop believing in the system of institutions, then what is left but chaos and who can bring order out of chaos: only Trump. It is the theme of every autocrat who ever seized power or tried to hold onto it.

That is how these things work, and there is the current specific example:

As Trump seeks to undermine the U.S. Postal Service and stop mail-in voting, he is taking away our voice to decide who will lead America. It is not hyperbole to say that the future of the country could depend on those remarkable men and women who brave the elements to bring us our mail and deliver our vote.

So even if that Kevin Costner movie was just awful – and it was – there was something to the premise. America just had to wait for the right moment to appreciate that premise.

This could happen here. This just did happen here. That’s what Will Bunch explains here:

The once-fantastical notion of a political or military coup in the United States has long lingered in the American imagination. Older Boomers might remember, for example, the book and movie Seven Days in May. It’s a riveting plot line because, in a nation with a 231-year tradition of peacefully transferring power, a coup was always something that can’t happen here. Americans’ knowledge of how coups even work comes mostly from stories on NPR from faraway lands where soldiers seize a nation’s key choke points, as tanks roll onto the tarmac of the international airport and camouflaged men appear at the state TV station.

That’s always far away. Bunch argues that’s what is happening right here and right now:

Donald Trump and his loyalists have seized control of a key American choke point: the U.S. Postal Service, a vital institution that’s existed in some form since before the Declaration of Independence and is shouted-out in the U.S. Constitution. It’s a brazenly opportunistic move, taking the good-natured – and only in hindsight, naive – intentions of state and local officials to make it easier to cast ballots in a pandemic by encouraging voting by mail, and diabolically turning the plan on its head. Just as past tyrants might have burned bridges or wheat fields, Trump and his designated henchman – his wealthy donor Louis DeJoy – are vandalizing the post office in plain sight with the election less than three months away, disappearing mailboxes and throwing expensive sorters into dumpsters.

“Mail is sitting for a week to 10 days before they’re even scanned to go out,” Nick Casselli, a postal workers’ union leader here in Philadelphia, told the Inquirer’s Ellie Rushing earlier this month. He has described local post offices with curtailed hours, workers barred from working overtime and – most disturbingly – seven of those crucial sorters yanked out of a West Philadelphia facility. Some people in the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods go days without a mail delivery.

That may be the “new normal” for everyone soon even if every Trump supporter is cheering:

Trump and DeJoy are arguably committing a felony in tampering with the U.S. mail for personal gain, in hoping to aid the president’s reelection. Like with any criminal racket, everyday citizens are getting caught in the crossfire. Sick people – especially veterans – are waiting on life-or-death medications, or disability checks are taking weeks to arrive. In a stressful year of coronavirus and double-digit unemployment, the mail problems are sending folks over the edge.

This is a nine-alarm fire for American democracy. The Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote this weekend “if journalists don’t keep the pressure on Postal Service problems, they will be abdicating their duty” – and she’s right.

One reason to keep hammering on the issue is that the idea of politicians so brazenly hijacking USPS is such an alien notion to most Americans that people aren’t thinking clearly, proposing normal-democracy solutions to a problem created by authoritarianism. It was only a few months ago that many folks – myself included – pleaded for the Trump administration to listen to Democrats in Congress and agree to a multibillion-dollar bailout of financially troubled USPS.

Now, that makes no sense. It seems that we could give DeJoy $1 trillion and he’d still be throwing letter sorters in the trash.

Bunch argues that’s not cynical, only realistic:

Trump may be a narcissistic buffoon who’s wrong about nearly everything, but unfortunately there is method to the madness of slowing down the mail. As of right now, even after a week of bold, negative headlines about what’s happening at USPS, a staggeringly high number of Americans plan to vote by mail in November – nearly half, according to some recent polls.

But like everything else in an America that’s now divided not just politically but culturally, mail voters are not created equally. Arguably, postal voting is becoming this fall’s version of masks. Like facial coverings, mail ballots have been embraced with a religious fervor by liberals who want to show good communal citizenship and that they take the coronavirus threat seriously. But conservatives have absorbed a bombardment of lies from Trump and his state media Fox News that vote-by-mail is prone to fraud by big-city Democrats.

Those opposing notions are set in stone now, so there’s no way out of this mess:

Trump is trying to sow doubt in the minds of Americans about the integrity of the election, so that he can discredit the result even if a final vote count sometime in November shows Biden as the apparent winner. Remember the poll: Trump has trained his voters to cast their ballots on Election Day – the results that will be tallied and released before most of the majority-for-Biden mail ballots are counted.

Even in a scenario where, say, 54% of the electorate backed Biden, Americans are likely to wake up on Nov. 4 with a partial result showing Trump ahead. If a wave of mail-in ballots then propels the Democrat into the lead, Trump and chorus on Fox News will declare it must be fraud – that urban Democratic machines somehow stuffed the mailboxes or Russia or Iran or that 400-pound guy in his bed intervened.

What then? Welcome to Belarus. Thousands and possibly millions of Americans will flood the streets demanding that Trump concede the election. Those protesters will be met by the state security force that Trump, like any wannabe dictator, has forged, consisting of those Homeland Security goons we witnessed in Portland and corrupt police unions that have shown their white-supremacist colors by racing to endorse a neo-fascist president.

And that’s the end of this version of America:

It will be an American civil war, and even though I don’t see how Trump holds onto power (the military brass, after all, can’t stand him), the damage to our democracy will be profound.

But maybe an American civil war, a second one, can be averted:

President Trump’s unprecedented attacks on the U.S. Postal Service amid widespread mail delays across the country are shaking voters’ faith that their ballots will be counted, prompting a rush among federal, state and local officials to protect the integrity of the Nov. 3 election.

Thousands of voters have called government offices in recent days to ask whether it is still safe to mail their ballots, according to officials across the country. Attorneys general from at least six states are huddling to discuss possible lawsuits against the administration to block it from reducing mail service between now and the election. State leaders are scrambling to see whether they can change rules to give voters more options, and Democrats are planning a massive public education campaign to shore up trust in the vote and the Postal Service.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday announced that she was calling the House back early from its summer recess to vote on legislation later this week that would block changes to Postal Service operations. House Democrats on Sunday also announced plans for an emergency hearing on mail delays later this month.

But it may be a bit late for that:

For months, elections officials in both major political parties have been encouraging voters to cast their ballots by mail to avoid coronavirus infection. The effort has worked, with record numbers voting by mail in a slew of primaries this spring and summer – and planning to do so again in November, according to numerous public polls. More than 180 million Americans are now eligible to vote by mail in the fall after many states relaxed their rules.

But the president, lagging in the polls behind presumed Democratic nominee Joe Biden, has been lobbing nonstop attacks on voting by mail, making unfounded claims that it opens the door to rampant fraud. In fact, states that have embraced universal mail voting have documented tiny rates of ballot fraud, data shows.

Last week, Trump went further, saying he opposes billions of dollars in urgently needed election funding for the states and the Postal Service because he doesn’t want states to make it easier for Americans to vote by mail.

But he was being too obvious:

“I am alarmed. I am disheartened,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is pushing for a $3.6 billion cash infusion to help states prepare for the fall elections in the latest coronavirus relief package. “But no one in America has given up, because people are on to him. They know what he’s doing. Americans, as you can see from their votes in their primaries, would rather put ballots in the mailbox than their families in the hospital.”

No, not so at all:

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Sunday that the president is open to more post office funding if Democrats support more help for “normal Americans,” such as the stimulus checks and small-business relief that Trump has demanded.

Those would be much smaller stimulus checks and small-business relief with no oversight at all this time, but never mind that. Everyone was trying to figure out what Murtaugh meant by “normal Americans” and he wasn’t saying. But all Republicans know who the “normal Americans” are. That would be them.

That had to be cleaned up:

In an appearance Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows appeared to back off Trump’s earlier comments, saying the president is open to legislation that would ensure adequate postal funding to manage the surge of mail ballots this fall. Meadows also said no postal sorting machines will be taken off line between now and Nov. 3, insisting that previous removals were part of a plan that predated the Trump administration.

“The president of the United States is not going to interfere with anybody casting their vote in a legitimate way, whether it’s the post office or anything else,” Meadows said.

So that which the president of the United States had been saying for weeks he hadn’t said, or he was just kidding, or everything on tape was a “deep fake” CGI creation someone cooked up to make this president look bad? Mark Meadows wasn’t saying, and no one was reassured:

Attorneys general from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington and North Carolina, among others, have begun discussions on how to sue the administration to prevent operational changes or funding lapses that could affect the election. They expect to announce legal action early this week, according to several involved in the talks.

“This is not just terrible policy, but it may be illegal under federal law and other state laws as well,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D). “A lot of work is being done literally as we speak over the weekend and at nights to try to figure out what Trump and DeJoy are doing, whether they have already violated or are likely to violate any laws and how we can take swift action to try to stop this assault on our democracy.”

Eric Holder, who served as U.S. attorney general under President Barack Obama and now leads the anti-gerrymandering group National Democratic Redistricting Committee, is also considering legal action, a spokesman said.

That’s unpleasant, and there’s this:

House and Senate Democrats said they are launching investigations into service changes at the Postal Service. And the House Oversight Committee on Sunday scheduled an emergency hearing on mail delays and concerns about potential White House interference in the Postal Service, inviting DeJoy and Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan to testify Aug. 24.

Donald Trump usually does not allow anyone in his administration to testify to Congress about anything at all, but the walls are closing in on him:

The public outcry has led even Republican lawmakers to press the Postal Service to alter its approach.

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) announced Friday that he supports a reversal of DeJoy’s policy changes. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) wrote a letter to DeJoy urging the same, citing the heavy reliance of small businesses, veterans and seniors on the mail in his rural state.

“The reason the president doesn’t want people to vote by mail is that polls show that people who want to vote by mail tend to vote for Vice President Biden,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a regular critic of Trump, said in a video interview with the conservative Sutherland Institute. “People who tend to want to vote in-person tend to want to vote for President Trump. So this is a political calculation.”

But that’s only three Republicans. Three of Trump’s short Tweets of Death™ and their careers are over, but this has moved beyond that world:

Taylor Swift has a message for her fans: Vote early.

The singer took to Twitter on Saturday to unpack the recent changes by the US Postal Service, including reducing operating hours and removing letter collection boxes. The singer put the blame for these changes directly on President Donald Trump.

“Trump’s calculated dismantling of USPS proves one thing clearly: He is WELL AWARE that we do not want him as our president. He’s chosen to blatantly cheat and put millions of Americans’ lives at risk in an effort to hold on to power,” she said.

She continued, “Donald Trump’s ineffective leadership gravely worsened the crisis that we are in and he is now taking advantage of it to subvert and destroy our right to vote and vote safely. Request a ballot early. Vote early.”

Lyndon Johnson knew he’d lost the war and his presidency in early 1968 when Walter Cronkite, at the time polling as the most trusted voice in America, just back from Vietnam covering that Tet Offensive, said right out there on national television that this thing could not be won. Johnson said that when he lost Cronkite he knew he’d lost America. Donald Trump just lost Taylor Swift. Maybe he just lost America.

Four years ago it was this:

Some white supremacists have anointed Taylor Swift an “Aryan goddess,” claiming that she secretly espouses far-right beliefs and is waiting for Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency to make her true views known.

They were wrong. But everyone was wrong. No one expected this. There was only that Kevin Costner movie. And now it’s civil war.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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1 Response to Nothing Left To Stop

  1. Rick says:

    Concerning this Post Office business:

    Something I wish we all were discussing is, shouldn’t the United States Post Office go back to being a regular department of government, like it used to be? Maybe Biden should tout that idea, or even campaign on it.

    My belief is that, before we choose whether a service should be performed by government rather than the private sector, we need to decide if…

    (1) We the People think it’s an essential service, and one that we’re willing to cover the losses for with our tax payments, and

    (2) that it can’t either be performed at all, or can’t be performed adequately for the country’s needs, if left to the private sector.

    Given the fact that most people think that, in its present state, it can’t do the job we want it to — that is, deliver letters and packages anywhere in U.S. jurisdiction in the world, no matter how far away, for the same price — and by “people”, I mean not just “normal people” but also Republicans! — then it should go back to being a governmental department. It’s really just that simple.

    Whether it can pay its own way shouldn’t even be a consideration once it’s been determined that the American people think it’s an essential service of government.

    The way this is being presented is, if it’s having financial problems, then we need to “privatize” it — remembering that the word “privatize”, in this case, is just another word for “abolish”. There’s no need to convert the Postal Service into a private company that isn’t able to handle our needs, since there are already private companies out there doing that.

    And who do we have to thank for a Post Office Department that suddenly can’t perform the functions it had been doing for hundreds of years?

    First, there was President Richard Nixon, who, following the settlement of a nationwide postal strike in 1970, abolished the “Post Office Department” and, for some obscure reason, converted it into the United States “Postal Service”, an “independent establishment” of the federal government which, though still under the thumb of the government but with no help from taxpayers, will now be required to support itself.

    And then, in 2006, something else happened to make it even harder for the service to pay its way. This is from Eric Levitz in New York Magazine:

    The Postal Service’s financial problems are largely an artifact of a 2006 law that arbitrarily requires the agency to pre-fund 75 years worth of its retirees’ health benefits.

    Its status as an independent, self-sustaining agency is also relatively novel and unnecessary. The federal government could cover the Postal Service’s annual losses for about $14 billion a year — which is roughly one-tenth of the amount of money that Congress has added to the Pentagon’s annual budget since Donald Trump took office.

    Our country can easily afford to sustain an unprofitable public institution that provides 600,000 Americans with good jobs, and 90 percent of all U.S. residents with a service they approve of.

    Nixon gave libertarian conservatives what they’ve always wanted, even though the American public never has, and apparently did so after little if any public discussion. We the People are now going to have to undo these so-called reforms foisted upon us by the likes of Donald Trump, and then pay more attention from now on.

    First of all, do we demand that the Pentagon, for example, “pays its own way”? God knows what foolishness that would lead to — and in fact, there’s been some consideration by this president to rent out the army as sort of a mercenary force to countries willing to pay the freight.

    For the same reason, we should not expect the White House itself to earn enough to cover expenses to run itself. How? From tour ticket sales? Maybe the building could be converted to a hotel, complete with four-star restaurant? Maybe they could charge to have a photo taken with the president! (You think he hasn’t considered that idea?)

    Speaking of which, it might be a good idea from now on for us to put a cap on how much the White House can spend. If we do that, then maybe some corrupt president wouldn’t assume the rest of us should pick up the cost of his flying Air Force One to Florida every weekend, and then charge us rent to house Secret Service agents.

    The idea should be that, after a certain amount, the president could foot those bills himself. And if he decides not to pay for housing the agents? He could just leave them behind in Washington. No skin off our teeth!

    But that’s just one of many American reforms a President Biden could promise, another being getting rid of the Electoral College, which most of the country should, by now, be ready to admit has not served us well.

    Rick

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