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Here is the senior senator representing West Virginia, the infamous DINO, Joe Manchin. I say he represents West Virginia, but that is misstatement: Joe Manchin only represents extremely wealthy mining and energy interests (he is a multimillionaire thanks to his family coal company, which he has certainly not divested from). If everyone else in West Virginia died horribly, I doubt Manchin would notice or care, so long as his coal baron buddies continued to prosper. In slavish deference to his masters who keep pouring barrels of crude money on him, Manchin is busy destroying the infrastructure deal, the reconciliation deal, the voting protection bill, filibuster reform, DC statehood, and every other piece of Democratic legislation which requires his vote (which is all of them, thanks to the electoral advantages which Republicans have built into the system for themselves).

Why am I picking on Joe Manchin? (other than the fact that this crooked, self-satisfied oaf is about to deliver the nation into the anti-democratic hands of the fully Trumpified Republican party?) Isn’t the other West Virginia senator (some anonymous fascist) much worse? Isn’t Manchin’s bland centrist corruption, fairly normal and unremarkable in our nation? Well yes to both of those last two questions…and perhaps that is what makes me most angry of all. Corruption is becoming so rampant in our nation that it is unremarkable. After railing against the political apathy of people who say “everybody is equally corrupt”, behold, the Democrats’ last chance to pass meaningful legislation is being destroyed by someone who is indeed equally corrupt. Gah! Why not just lay back and LET the Republicans burn down the Reichstag and goosestep all over the constitution?

When I was growing up, earmarks were the big thing in Washington. Swing senators would vote for huge omnibus bills because they had expensive, bloated gifts for the constituents tacked onto the end. If faced with today’s choices, the senior senator from WV from back in those days, Robert Byrd would have demanded that the Pentagon be moved to Parkersburg (or some equivalent piece of megapork) but the legislation would pass for reasons above and beyond the personal finances of Senator Byrd. In fact that sort of thing is how WV ended up with a massive radio telescope and the Social Security Administration Center. Joe Manchin illustrates that the only things that matters in today’s politics are the needs of lobbyists and how these needs intersect with a senator’s personal portfolio. If the nation is taken over by white nationalists or destroyed by extreme climate events, it certainly doesn’t matter at all to Joe Manchin (so long as coal mine owners live lives of lavish wealth).

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I was looking forward to writing about that crown that was stolen in Germany…but I guess we will have to wait until tomorrow to talk about stolen crowns. Today the President of the United States, the famous New York real estate conman Donald Trump, fired the Director of the FBI for investigating the extent to which the Trump electoral team colluded with the Russian effort to undermine or taint the American election. This was, of course, not the reason given for Comey’s summary dismissal, but it is exceedingly difficult to draw any other conclusion. Director Comey was a divisive and flawed figure in his own right. Some eminent neutral observers blame his strange behavior last year for Hilary Clinton’s shocking electoral loss. However, now that he has gone off to join Sally Yates, Preet Bharara, and everyone else who has investigated Trump, it is looking like he was the best FBI Director we are likely to get. Who knows what cartoonishly malevolent or benighted figure the administration will dig up to replace him?
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The whole episode paints a disturbing picture–but the dark image which is emerging is hardly unexpected to anyone who has any familiarity with Donald Trump.
Trump reminds me of a naked drunkard dancing on banana peels at the top of a tall slippery marble staircase with a huge ornate cake at the bottom. It seems like there is only one way this scenario could possibly end, and yet his comeuppance keeps on being deferred by the increasingly irrational and cowardly behavior of everyone else. Trump is an old man who lives on steak and hamburger and does not exercise, it is possible he will manage to escape falling into the cake (or, to be less allegorical: he might avoid impeachment and prison because of a massive coronary). Yet, as we all breathlessly await his tragicomic downfall, he is doing terrible damage to institutions the nation really needs, and he is undermining our faith in each other and ourselves.

A few years ago, I was talking once with my uncle about a colleague of his, a Chinese scientist who naturalized to America to work as a physicist. This colleague had a son who had excelled in school and otherwise had a life of great promise, however, when my uncle asked what career he had chosen, the Chinese-American physicist was reluctant to talk about it. My uncle thought that the promising son had fallen into drugs or crime and was happily astonished when the physicist confessed that his son had become a successful FBI agent. But to a Chinese person, being part of the national secret police was not a thing to talk about or be proud of. If we are not careful we could find ourselves in a similar situation here.
Most people do not think of the FBI as the internal police (although that is clearly what they are). The Bureau has its own checkered history (I bet Donald Trump would not have dared to fire J. Edgar Hoover) yet their bravery, zeal, and hard work are rightly famous. If a movie has an FBI agent, he is usually the hero. We don’t call dismissively call the FBI the secret police because if, goodness forbid, there were a crisis we would be happy to see them. They have a worldwide reputation as a bastion of upright cops. They are the good guys.
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And now, like affordable health care, or national parks, or basic scientific research, this too is under threat because of the corrosive awfulness of our executive branch. Are the FBI to become a bunch of goons who exist for the president’s narcissism and self-aggrandizement and to protect his crooked international business deals? Think of how awful it is to even suggest that!
Republicans are exulting over the unprecedented power they have garnered (in an election where they solidly lost the popular vote). They are passing immensely unpopular legislation and privatising big hunks of the government to their cronies. They are gleefully making it easy for the president to get away with anything he likes. It is difficult to see how they think it could possibly end for them. Do they imagine Trump will reign forever? Do they not see or care how bad he is for them and the things they claim to care about?
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The danger to democracies is that the institutions start to seem corrupt and nobody believes in them causing a feedback spiral. When I try to talk to hard-working and idealistic Millenials about politics they all seem SO cynical (and I am a world-weary Generation X person). Clearly, they have bought into the false equivalency of seeing all politicians as the same. It does not shock them to suggest that the FBI could be easily subalterned. They do not have illusions that the system is anything other than a rigged game of business cartels and their pet politicians. I find that sad. If they had just gone out and voted, none of this would be a problem. Their cynicism has deepened the problems they are cynical about.

There are good people at the FBI and among the Republicans (although it is hard to imagine that congressmen have a principled reason for letting little kids die so that giant crooked insurance companies can become more rich, I am sure they truly think it is for the best). But these good people need to step up and speak out. We need to keep concentrating on the fact that we are all on the same side. Not red versus blue, but Americans together against corruption, malfeasance, and iniquity. We need to celebrate bravery when it appears. I thought Sally Yates was superb this week. She was the attorney general just a few short months ago… We need to keep asking questions until we get real answers and not stupid malarkey.
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This post is a reminder that we need to keep believing in our institutions and trying to support them (even if it seems increasingly possible that the President of the United States could be a traitor and a criminal who is surrounding himself with white supremacists and weak minded yes-men).

Jeremiad over: have a good night!

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