Tuesday, May 29, 2018

That Old Time Religion

It’s been almost forty years since Jerry Falwell and like-minded ministers saw gold in them thar GOP rubes and hitched their hallelujah wagons to the idea of becoming the busybodies of the nation and make a shitload of money while doing it.  It appeals to both their prurient instincts and their love of money, and it was all tax-free.  Yip-yah!

Now they’ve merged their holier-than-thou lust to the epitome of the conman in Trump who represents the id of these so-called pastors of the Lord: sex and power.  The number of preachers who have been caught with their hands on someone else’s wife or put a rent boy on their American Express has become so numerous that it borders on cliche, and the way they’ve raided the collection basket to feather their 16,000 sq ft “manses” raises the level of tacky to giddy heights. So of course they admire and excuse the excesses of Trump and support his political agenda.  He’s their idol.

It’s reaching the second generation.  Jerry Falwell, Jr. picked up his late daddy’s con with Liberty University, a diploma mill of hatred, bigotry, and superstition, and of course he’s a supporter of Trump. He had him speak to the rapturous crowds (and made attendance mandatory just in case someone had a fit of free will) and backs him on everything from hating the transgenders to booting out the Dreamers because, as we all know, Jesus hated Mexicans.

Not to be outdone by that Jerry-come-lately, though, we have Franklin Graham, the scion of the late Billy Graham who pioneered the path to fame by deigning to talk to presidents.  Now Mr. Graham is going around the country and rallying the foolish and the weak to the Trumpian cause because blatant hypocrisy is all the rage now and there’s always a collection basket at the door.  He’s even marching into the lion’s den of them all, California.

PASADENA, Calif. — Franklin Graham stood in a packed locker room at the Rose Bowl, surrounded by fellow evangelists, pastors, and his top Los Angeles donors. It was two weeks before the California primary, and Mr. Graham was urging them to take a stand against their state’s “blue wall.”

The blue wall of California, Mr. Graham told the gathering, represents secular values that have taken root on the country’s west coast.

“Progressive?” he went on, “That’s just another word for godless.” Now is the time for churches to “suck it up” and vote.

According to the article from the New York Times, Graham is finding big crowds and a lot of money in his hate speech about people who aren’t like Us.  He knows that people are looking for an excuse to justify the blaming of their self-wrought misfortunes on others and ratify the idea that a level playing field is biased against them.  Like a lot of charlatans, he’s very good at finding a problem and blaming it on someone else without offering any sort of solution other than prayer and a plea for more money.  He knows it works, too; it always has.

The exploitation of tribalism is as much a part of human nature as self-pity and flatulence.  It’s the root of nations and religion; we’re Us, they’re the Others, and because we have our self-doubts, they must always be seen as oppressors just waiting to pounce.  Here in this noble experiment of America, we tried to appeal to our better angels, striving for unity of purpose over identity by giving it a new one: a nation of laws, not tribes.  It has always been an uphill struggle; the massacre of the natives under the guise of Manifest Destiny, Reconstruction, the civil rights struggle, the Red Scare, the Cold War, the Sixties, the Southern Strategy, terrorism, and Trumpism have tested the simple concept that yes, we were serious about the idea that all of us are created equal and that we are all entitled to equal protection under the law.

In the case of Mr. Graham and his followers, he is seeking to exploit the fear and loathing that is inherent in the radical idea we should have learned in kindergarten: that it is meet, right, and our bounden duty to share our toys with others and help those who don’t have the same gifts granted by nature or God or whatever it is that gets you through the night.  The notion that Jesus, who, according to the mythology that they claim they hold dear, came along to lift up the least among us would endorse this hatred and Otherism wrapped in the flag and biblical verse should make even the most pious Christian blush with shame.

We have never made it through the nights of fear and loathing without lingering scars and a degree of PTSD, nor have we made it through good times and advancement without backlash from those who thought the status quo was just fine.  Roughly translated it comes out as “I want my country back.”  The problem with that is that it was never “my” country to begin with.  It is Ours.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Thanks For The Warning

David Brooks seems to think that the Left in America will become just as tribal and authoritarian as the Right did when the dust settles after Trump.

Tribalism is in the air, on the left as well as on the right. It is based on a scarcity mentality, the idea that life is a zero-sum war between us and them. It emphasizes division and conflict, not solidarity and cohesion. It draws out the authoritarian tendencies in any movement. On the right, tribalism brings us the ethnic authoritarianism of Donald Trump. On the left, it seems likely to bring us the economic authoritarianism of a North American version of Hugo Chávez.

[…]

In Venezuela we saw how a politician used demagogic sectarian rhetoric to establish an authoritarian regime and then destroy a people. I’m sure many of my left-wing friends believe that that sort of tribal us/them mentality won’t hijack and corrupt their own movement. But as someone who lived through the last 30 years of conservatism, I’m here to tell you, it can. Politicians these days have decided they don’t need the thinkers anymore.

I don’t discount any possibility, but if there’s someone he thinks is going to be the left-wing version of Trump and the knee-jerk non-thinkers, I’d be interested in hearing who that could be.  The only two names that crop up in his column are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who seem to be the favorite targets of the right as exemplars of Commie pinko agitators.  Oooh.

I may be too hopeful, but I think the Democrats are not going to put up a candidate that equals Trump and his minions in the flaming fake-news rhetoric.  By the time we get to the full-tilt election cycle of 2020 — which is probably sometime next week — the country will be wanting a respite from the shouting, the hatred, and the Twitter feeds.  Mr. Brooks should probably consider what Jon Meacham writes about when he looks at how FDR brought the country together through calmness and appealing to, as Lincoln put it, “our better angels.”

Friday, February 16, 2018

Priorities

Via The Hill:

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) early Thursday warned against rolling the conversation around Wednesday’s deadly shooting at a Florida high school into “taking away citizens’ rights” to own guns.

“There’s more questions than answers at this stage,” Ryan told Indiana radio host Tony Katz.

“I don’t think that means you then roll the conversation into taking away citizens’ rights — taking away a law-abiding citizen’s rights. Obviously this conversation typically goes there,” he added.

Translation: the rights of murderers are more important than the rights of victims of gun violence.

Thanks for clearing that up.

And then there’s Marco Rubio:

“I do think that in some circles, it isn’t fair or right to create this impression that somehow this attack happened yesterday because there is some law out there that we could have passed to prevent it,” Rubio said toward the end of a lengthy speech in which he wavered between dismissing gun control efforts and advising against saying “there is nothing we can do.”

By this logic we might as well repeal laws against murder, arson, and speeding on the interstate because someone is going to do it anyway.

This from the man who received over $3 million from the NRA.

Via Commenter jeffg166.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Here we go with my annual recap and prognostication for the year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

  • I have no earthly idea what will happen with Trump in the White House.  But I can say that for the first time in my life — and I will hit 65 this year — I am frightened both for myself and my country.
  • At some point in 2017 elements of the electorate will realize that they got conned into voting for Trump and that they were played for fools.  The backlash will begin when they find out he can’t follow through on his bullshit promises, and reach a peak when they find out that repealing Obamacare and deporting 11 million people effects them personally.  When it happens, it will not be pretty.

I’m still frightened.  Nothing — not the Mueller investigation, the revelations coming from various sources, or chatter about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — has calmed my fear that he is still capable of doing something that puts us and the rest of the world in peril.  As for the second bullet point, we are seeing faint glimmers that disillusionment is happening in the nooks and crannies of America where he can do no wrong, and no amount of tweeting and bullshit from Fox News can turn around his dismal approval numbers.  But that just means that fully 1/3 of the electorate still approve of him.  Even his failures — Obamacare yet survives and the deportations haven’t happened — haven’t dimmed the hopes of the dim.

  • There will be a downturn in the economy thanks to the cyclical nature of economics and the instability in the market by the Twitter-In-Chief. He will, of course, blame it on Barack Obama.

Obviously I’m not an economist because if I was I would have known that the economy lags behind and the continued growth and low unemployment rate are a result of Obama’s policies.  Of course Trump is taking credit for it.

  • A year from now the Syrian civil war will still be dragging on.  ISIS will still be a factor, and if Trump does what he says he will do with the Iran nuclear deal, expect to see them re-start their nuclear program.  “Dr. Strangelove” will be seen by historians as a documentary.
  • The refugee crisis will continue and fester once nativists and right-wing elements win majorities in western European countries.

The Syrian civil war goes on but it’s not dominating the news cycles, and ISIS is a lessening factor.  I don’t know if it’s sheer exhaustion.  The refugee crisis goes on but with a lesser magnitude.

  • Our diplomatic thaw with Cuba will freeze as the attempts to end the blockade will not get through Congress. Only until Trump gets permission to open a casino in Varadero Beach will there be any progress.

Trump rescinded some of the Obama administration’s changes in our relations with Cuba but not enough to return us to Cold War status.  The blockade, such as it is, enters its 57th year.

  • Violence against our fellow citizens will continue and take on a more xenophobic tone as the white supremacists think they are now in control. The attorney general will do nothing to put an end to it because, in his words, “they had it coming.”

Charlottesville and Trump’s tacit support of the Nazis proved that to be true, more’s the pity.

  • We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. 2016 was an especially painful year. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I lost two uncles and a nephew since I wrote that.

  • The Tigers will finish second in their division.

They traded Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he helped the Astros win the World Series, but…

Okay, now on to predictions.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.
  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)
  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.
  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.
  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.
  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.
  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.
  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.
  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)
  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.
  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.
  • I’ll do this again next year.

Okay, friends; it’s your turn.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Speaking Of Weak

Via the Washington Post:

Trump moved quickly Wednesday to gain ­political advantage in the wake of the New York terrorist attack, casting blame on Democrats for lax immigration laws and calling the criminal justice system’s handling of suspects “a joke.”

A day after a man, identified by authorities as an Uzbek immigrant, killed eight people on a Manhattan bike path in an act authorities said was inspired by the Islamic State, Trump seized on the deadly crime to renew his calls for a series of hard-line policies.

The president said he would move to eliminate a popular “diversity lottery” for foreigners seeking U.S. visas and direct the State Department to ramp up “extreme vetting” of immigrants. He also suggested he would consider sending the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, a legal permanent resident of the United States, to the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It took him five days to say anything about the sniper attack in Las Vegas that killed over 50 people, and then it was on the level of “thoughts and prayers.”  No talk of cracking down on people owning an arsenal that would have fought off a battalion or tightening controls on weapons that clearly don’t belong in civilian hands, but when a legal permanent resident uses a rented truck to kill eight people, suddenly he’s Osama bin Laden 2.0 and it’s off to Gitmo with him.

Why the difference?  Because Trump knows that a guy with a foreign-sounding name, regardless of his legal status and alleged alliance with ISIS, is an easy target.  A white guy with a rifle is his base.  Trump can only play to them, which proves he hasn’t the guts to take on the NRA.  (And there’s no powerful lobby pushing for rental truck rights.)

As for the justice system being “weak,” it may have had its ups and downs but by and large it’s worked pretty well for the last 200 years or so, and if you really want to know how well it works, just wait until Robert Mueller finishes his job.  Trump himself might find out just how weak it really is.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Random Thought

Conservatives and Christian zealots applauded when a county clerk in Kentucky defied the law based on her religious beliefs, and they’re about to elect a senator in Alabama who ordered judges in that state to also defy the law based on his religious beliefs. But they got their tits in an uproar about a silent protest that breaks no law and is in keeping with various religious traditions including Mennonite, Quaker, and Amish.

What am I missing here?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Not In A Vacuum

The recent attacks of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats against Jewish community centers are part of a pattern, according to Josh Marshall.

Anti-semitism is almost inevitably and almost always part of rightist political movements. It is a natural feature. This is not always explicitly so. It is not always that way at first, but eventually it is always there.

That is the case with Trumpism.

There are various theoretical reasons why this might be so. The most obvious is that rightist politics usually base themselves on cultural, racial or religious purity and unity. This makes Jews outsiders by definition. These rightist movements are also generally looking for outsiders to define themselves against and to pivot against. But these theories matter less than history. Why this is so is much less important than a lengthy historical record which demonstrates that it is so.

[…]

We are of course seeing arguments now about whether this outbreak of anti-Semitic agitation is tied to Donald Trump. I see little point in actually participating in this argument. Republicans and Trump supporters who deny the connection don’t really believe what they are saying. It is obvious that they are connected. We’ve never seen anything like this in decades. Are the KKK and anti-Semitic white nationalist groups really just confused when they say that Trump is the best thing that has happened to their groups in decades? Are we supposed to ignore that the President’s top advisor has clear ties to all of these groups and has spent years bringing them to greater prominence?

This is all obvious – obvious enough that there’s really no point debating the point. Whether Trump personally has antipathy toward Jews is irrelevant. His movement and his actions enable and encourage hostility toward Jews and the hostility inevitably spills over into violence. It is not yet as lethal. But it is no different in its basic contours to the immigrant bashing that led to the murder of the Indian immigrant Garmin employee in Kansas.

It’s not a far stretch to say that when you lead a movement that is attacking an entire community based on their faith — Muslims, for example — you’re opening the hatch to attack other communities as well; “Hey, while we’re bombing a mosque, what about those other folks who don’t worship like us?”

Trump’s recent statement against anti-Semitism was too little too late, and when the Ann Frank Center said so, his minions slammed them for being ingrates.  That right there is enough to tell you that he’s paying nothing but pre-programmed lip service, which actually proves the point.

Friday, September 2, 2016

This Cannot Be Our Legacy

Josh Marshall has thought this through and comes to the conclusion, as a lot of us have, that Donald Trump is engaging in the same kind of campaign that we’ve seen with red and black banners and brown shirts or burning crosses.

… Watch Trump’s speeches, with the yelling, the reddened face, the demand for vengeance and you see there’s little to distinguish them from what we see at Aryan Nations or other white hate rallies that we all immediately recognize as reprehensible, wrong and frankly terrifying. This isn’t ‘rough’ language or ‘hard edged’ rhetoric. It’s hate speech. Precisely what policy solution Trump is calling for is almost beside the point. Indeed, it wouldn’t be hate speech any less if Trump specified no policy solution at all.

This isn’t normal. It was normal in the Jim Crow South, as it was in Eastern Europe for centuries. It’s not normal in America in the 21st century. And yet it’s become normalized. It’s a mammoth failure of our political press. But it’s not just theirs, ours. It’s a collective failure that we’re all responsible for. By any reasonable standard, Donald Trump’s speech on Wednesday night should have ended the campaign, as should numerous other rallies where Trump has done more or less the same thing for months. There’s a reason why the worst of the worst, the organized and avowed racists, were thrilled and almost giddy watching the spectacle. But it has become normalized. We do not even see it for what it is. It’s like we’ve all been cast under a spell. That normalization will be with us long after this particular demagogue, Donald Trump, has left the stage. Call this what it is: it is hate speech, in its deepest and most dangerous form.

And it must stop.  This is not the country that we want.  This is not what we can leave to the generations who will follow us and look to us and tell us that this is the legacy we gave them.  I can’t look at my 15-month-old great-nephew or the 350,000 students of Miami-Dade County Public Schools and say, “Here you are, this is the best we can do for you.”

I grew up as a baby boomer in the 1950’s and ’60’s believing that the marches for equal rights and brotherhood were really changing America from a land that just talked of those values to one that made them a reality even as there were those who fought back with the fire of fear and loathing.  We even thought — naively — that once they were achieved in large part that as the years passed we — all of us — would accept and welcome new cultures, new voices, new names and leave the distrust of the different behind.  But human nature does not change by legislation or popular sentiment and there will always be in us the instinct to shy away from the change.  And there will always be those who will exploit it for their own gain.

This cannot be our legacy.  We have worked too hard and come too far to leave it to the haters and the fear-mongers.  The days of going to war to end discrimination and a holocaust only to return home to a land of Jim Crow and restricted country clubs is the legacy of one generation that worked to change that.  Ours must be that we shun those who would bring it back and in the name of “freedom” turn that word and its values into a cudgel or a wall.  Not now, and never again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Brave Soldiers

All hail the brave soldiers of the United States Senate who bravely withstood the will of 92% of the people and voted down not one but four attempts to keep assault rifles out of the hands of murderers.

A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando’s mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists.

In largely party-line votes, senators rejected one proposal from each side to keep extremists from acquiring guns and a second shoring up the government’s system of required background checks for many firearms purchases.

With the chamber’s visitors’ galleries unusually crowded for a Monday evening — including relatives of victims of past mass shootings and people wearing orange T-shirts saying #ENOUGH gun violence — each measure fell short of the 60 votes needed to progress. Democrats called the GOP proposals unacceptably weak while Republicans said the Democratic plans were too restrictive.

The stalemate underscored the pressure on each party to stand firm on the emotional gun issue going into November’s presidential and congressional elections. It also highlighted the potency of the National Rifle Association, which urged its huge and fiercely loyal membership to lobby senators to oppose the Democratic bills.

“Republicans say, ‘Hey look, we tried,'” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “And all the time, their cheerleaders, the bosses at the NRA, are cheering them.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Orlando shootings — in which the FBI says the American-born gunman swore allegiance to a Islamic State group leader — show the best way to prevent extremists’ attacks here is to defeat them overseas.

“No one wants terrorists to be able to buy guns,” McConnell said. He suggested that Democrats used the day’s votes “to push a partisan agenda or craft the next 30-second campaign ad.”

Well, Mitch, it’s about damn time we made it a partisan issue because the NRA has been doing that for the last forty years, and it won’t be just one 30-second campaign ad; this is going to be plastered all over: THE REPUBLICANS WANT TERRORISTS TO BUY GUNS THE WAY YOU BUY CHEWING GUM with your reptilian smirk underneath it all.

General LaPierre and his ranks are very proud of you, though.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Playground Battles

I’ve often referred to the back-and-forth in this cycle’s primaries as being on the level of playground squabbles with the name-calling and the taunting.  It seems to be having an impact on real playgrounds.

Something ugly is happening inside America’s classrooms.

Headscarf-wearing Muslim girls are being called terrorists. Latinos are warned of deportation and teased about wall-building along the US-Mexico border. The N-word is making a comeback, and children younger than ever before are using it.

Although name-calling has always been a feature of playground life, teachers across the US say it has grown nastier since Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric during the election campaign.

“I think there’s a real danger of harm taking place in all American schoolchildren,” Maureen Costello, an education expert at the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a civil rights group, told Al Jazeera.

“We’ve seen 10 or more years of anti-bullying work get rolled back by a hostile atmosphere in many schools. Teachers describe disillusionment, depression and discouragement among kids who feel like they now know what people have thought about them all along,” Castello said.

An SPLC survey of some 2,000 US schools found that two-thirds of teachers described their vulnerable students – including blacks, Muslims, Latinos and other minorities – as affected by rhetoric in the 2016 White House race.

It shows a spike in racist bullying. For Muslims – or even some non-Muslim brown-skinned children – the acronym “ISIS” has become a stock taunt, referencing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, which is also known as ISIS).

The bullying causes more than just upset. Some Mexican pupils now fear that Trump’s promise to deport an estimated 11 million undocumented migrants will come to pass and that they, and their loved ones, will get kicked out of the US, Costello said.

While Trump’s focus on African Americans has been limited to ejecting civil rights protesters from campaign rallies, some black youths expressed “irrational” fears that segregation or slavery will make a comeback, researchers found.

I’m old enough to remember the taunting and the demonstrations when schools started to be integrated in the 1950’s and ’60’s.  I thought we had grown out of it.  Silly me.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Right To Think Is On Trial Here

Continuing the theme of imaginative fiction (see below), there’s a new movie out that turns “Inherit the Wind” on its head and comes up with a teacher being sued by the evil ACLU for having the temerity to think that Jesus was a real person.

In a pivotal scene from the famous 1960 film “Inherit the Wind,” a biblical scholar, prosecuting a defendant on trial for teaching evolution in a town whose laws forbid it, is called to the stand as an expert witness. Slowly but surely, he begins to unravel on the stand. The defense attorney, Henry Drummond (rendered vividly by Spencer Tracy), pulls apart his literal reading of the Bible. If Joshua had really made the Sun stand still, wouldn’t the Earth have been destroyed? Where did Cain’s wife come from if “in the beginning” there were only Cain, Abel, Adam and Eve? How can we be sure the Earth was created in 4004 B.C. if the Sun, the metric by which we measure time, was not created until the fourth day?

“God’s Not Dead 2,” the sequel to the commercially successful movie of the same name, is an inversion of this theme. In the film, Grace, a history teacher played by Melissa Joan Hart, is asked whether the nonviolent philosophy preached by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. has parallels to that preached by Jesus in the Bible. In response, she quotes scripture, and endorses the analogy. A scoffing student ridicules her by sneering, I kid you not, that Jesus could not have been great because he died. Grace responds that Jesus, like King, died out of dedication to causes larger than himself, and that this does not detract from the greatness of either man. Teachers, administrators, and the ACLU alike are outraged by this lesson, and Grace winds up in court, where her lawyer finds himself proving, as one of the satanic ACLU attorneys puts it, “the existence of Jesus Christ.”

It’s impossible to stress how deeply unrealistic the film’s premise is, and important to stress that this case was not “based on a true story,” itself a loose specification. Nor was it a dramatized version of real events as “Inherit the Wind,” based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, was. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who saw the film with a vaguely critical eye, but should be surprising to anyone who took its message to heart. The movie suggests the persecution of Christians in our society is readily apparent in the real world, and not just as artistic license. (“Join the movement,” the closing credits implore). Then why on earth would its writers and producers have to invent such a case out of thin air, rather than portraying one of the multitudes of victimless crimes for which Christians throughout the country are presumably being prosecuted? Perhaps because employees demanding contraceptive coverage or gay couples service might be more sympathetic than fiendish ACLU lawyers?

If this is an attempt to shame the play and the film of “Inherit the Wind,” it misses the point entirely.  Playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee went to great pains to avoid taking sides in the debate over evolution — the end of the play shows Drummond weighing the bible and Darwin’s book equally — and comes out instead clearly on the side of allowing people to think for themselves.

This notion that Christians are somehow being persecuted for their beliefs and that they are at risk of losing their lives or property because of it is just bizarre.  They have this idea that if they are criticized for being bullies or actually denying other people their lawful rights, somehow they’re the victim and they’re the martyrs.  So they feel the only way to allow Christianity to prevail is to pass laws that legalize hatred, paranoia, and bigotry.  And, for good measure, make movies.

If they want to really know what it’s like to be persecuted and at risk for their religious beliefs, try being a Muslim in America.  Or even, in some places, Jewish.  Then get back to us.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Year From Today

A year from today will be the first day of a new president’s administration.  Hopefully it will not be the first day of the administration of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush, and Barack Obama will have left office to someone who is not going to turn the clock and the country back to whatever it would be for someone who demands that they “want our country back.”

Keeping with my New Year’s Eve prediction, I believe it will be Hillary Clinton, but a year is an eternity in politics, and a year ago no one really believed that Donald Trump would be the GOP front runner or that Bernie Sanders would be running neck-and-neck in some polls with Ms. Clinton.

One thing that I know will not change is that the right wing noise machine will still be in full force and that even if the Democrats re-take the Senate and chip away at the GOP majority in the House, the Republicans will still be in full denial and recalcitrance mode.  The vow to thwart a Democratic president’s every move will be renewed if not redoubled; a wounded and tattered GOP is still dangerous, and after losing three presidential elections in a row, they will not be in any mood to compromise, and they will, of course, blame it all on everyone else.

I have no idea what it will take to get them to break away from their desperate nail-hold on some semblance of power, and shake off the lunacy that somehow “the American people” are with them or agree with their fringe views on women, minorities, immigration, guns, and taxes.  But as long as they’re held in the thrall of a few people with a lot of money to support their 18th century views on equality and rights, they will keep pushing for them.  Money is a powerful drug and so far there is no cure or rehab for it in politics.

If though, by some stunning reversal of evolution and progress, a Republican is walking in to the Oval Office a year from today, it will be as if the country is rewarding them for their infantile and reckless behavior over the last thirty years, made all the worse by the number of Democrats, independents, and even the few remaining moderate Republicans who decided they were above it all and found some excuse for not voting the previous November.

So we have a year, folks.  A year to get ready to take on the money, the hatred, the gob-smacking lies and grasps of desperation that will infest this nation until November 2016 and beyond.  It’s not going to get easier and trust me when I tell you that there will be many times we are going to get to the point of saying the hell with it and start Googling permanent residence status in St. Kitts.  But it’s our country, too, and I’m not going to give it over to the fear and loathing crowd.  Not without a fight.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Yes, It Can Happen Here

In 1935 Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel titled It Can’t Happen Here about  Senator Buzz Windrip who rose to popularity and became President of the United States by running on a ticket of social and economic reforms and a return to patriotism and traditional values.  After he’s elected he imposes a plutocratic/fascist regime with the help of a paramilitary force called the Minute Men, much like Hitler’s SS.  The title of the book comes from the idea that such an event can’t really happen in America.

Yes, it can.  We’ve gotten close on several occasions, most recently in the mid-1930’s when, out of the depths of the Depression and in the fear of Bolshevism in Europe, Huey Long — on whom Lewis based Windrip — came very close to running for president in 1936 only to be stopped by an assassin in 1935.  And now Donald Trump is doing it again, and if yesterday’s declaration of banning the admission of “every” Muslim, including American citizens coming back from a trip to Toronto, is any indication, he’s just getting warmed up.  He’s already demonized blacks, veterans, the disabled, women, and anyone who raises an objection to his rhetoric, so of course picking on the religion that is being portrayed as the enemy — another pickup from you-know-who — is the next step.

Of course everyone with the sense nature gave a goose will condemn him, including his rivals for the GOP nomination, but he’s going to get a bump in the polls and he’s going to roll on as the establishment Republican Party reels in horror and asks, with no sense of irony or self-awareness, “How could this happen?”

Charlie Pierce thinks that Mr. Trump has reached the stage of desperation and this plan to ban all Muslims from coming into the country is his last flail before he gets taken over by the comparatively moderate Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

It is utterly immoral, completely unworkable, incredibly expensive, and the person proposing it admits he has no idea of the nature of the problem this proposal was designed to combat—except that it was designed by He, Trump, which apparently makes all the difference.

We keep saying that this won’t last, that certainly Donald Trump is going to go too far and the country will finally turn against him and he’ll drop off the screens.  We thought that after he dissed John McCain’s time as a P.O.W. in Vietnam, after he tangled with Fox News, and after any number of declarations that heretofore would have killed off any other presidential campaign, but unless we’re waking up this morning to nation that has finally had enough, he’s going to keep on stomping.

Footnote: See also All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, which truly follows the life and death of Huey Long.  The film version with Broderick Crawford is stunning and scary as hell.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Notes From Post-Racial America

Via The New Republic:

For years, white supremacists in the Dothan, Alabama, police department planted drugs and guns on black people.

According to Internal Affairs records obtained by the Henry County Report, their superiors, several of whom have since been promoted, knew about the practice and helped cover it up. Indeed, the lieutenant implicated by the documents is now the chief of the department. The sergeant who obstructed the Internal Affairs investigation went on to become sheriff and then director of homeland security for the state, a position he continues to hold today. The district attorney at the time (still in office) sat on exculpatory evidence and proceeded with felony prosecutions against the individuals the officers had framed.

There’s a lot going on in this story, which the Alabama Justice Project helped break thanks to anonymous whistleblowers within the Dothan Police Department. But one detail that’s worth highlighting is the affiliation of the dozen or so officers involved with a secretive neo-Confederate organization that holds the Civil Rights Movement to be a Jewish conspiracy and believes the path forward on American race relations is to ship black people back to Africa.

But we elected a black president, so we’re good, right?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Find A Better Example

The forced internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II was one of the most shameful episodes in our country’s history.  Thousands of people were uprooted from their homes and livelihoods for no other reason than they happened to look like or share a country of origin with the people who bombed Pearl Harbor.  For the last seventy years we have been trying to make amends, going so far as to issue an official apology on behalf of the United States from Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Now there are those who are citing that horrible chapter as an inspiration on how to deal with Syrian refugees.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you David Bowers, mayor of Roanoke, Virginia:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.

Seriously?  He’s using that as a talking point for setting up concentration camps?  (Well, at least he didn’t suggest that we offer everyone a shower before being put into the camps.)

George Takei has a response:

Mayor Bowers, there are a few key points of history you seem to have missed:

1) The internment (not a “sequester”) was not of Japanese “foreign nationals,” but of Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. I was one of them, and my family and I spent 4 years in prison camps because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. It is my life’s mission to never let such a thing happen again in America.

2) There never was any proven incident of espionage or sabotage from the suspected “enemies” then, just as there has been no act of terrorism from any of the 1,854 Syrian refugees the U.S. already has accepted. We were judged based on who we looked like, and that is about as un-American as it gets.

3) If you are attempting to compare the actual threat of harm from the 120,000 of us who were interned then to the Syrian situation now, the simple answer is this: There was no threat. We loved America. We were decent, honest, hard-working folks. Tens of thousands of lives were ruined, over nothing.

I admire Mr. Takei for a lot of reasons, not the least for being a wonderful punster as well as a role model for gay people, but he also has a life experience that he has turned into a lesson for us all.

Mr. Bowers, on the other hand, does a fine job of showing us how to be an asshole and put it out there in an official statement.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cowardice

I had almost forgotten that Carly Fiorina was still running for president, but this little incident reminds me why she’s not worth considering.

Carly Fiorina is defending her decision not to correct a man who characterized President Obama as a “black Muslim” at a diner in New Hampshire.

Fiorina said it wasn’t her job to defend the president, noting that he “isn’t on the ballot.”

“I’ve said on many occasions: President Obama tells me he’s a Christian; I take him at his word,” she said on Fox News on Friday. “But the truth is, President Obama isn’t on the ballot.”

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO said it’s her job to defeat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But you haven’t got the courage to defend the president against racism and bigotry because you don’t want to risk losing the votes of the racists and bigots.  Horrible.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Short Takes

Serial number confirms that the piece of the airliner found on Reunion is from Malaysia Airlines MG 370.

The University of Cincinnati policeman indicted for murder in the killing of an unarmed man had his bail set at $1 million.

A California wildfire near Napa Valley has forced 650 people from their homes.

Six people were stabbed by a lunatic in the Jerusalem gay pride parade.

Athletes will swim in filth at the Rio Olympics according to the AP.

The Tigers beat the Orioles 9-8.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ask Yourself

Would you vote for someone who said, “Hey, you know that program where people get the health insurance they need at a price they can afford — maybe even get some assistance in paying for it — and there are no pre-conditions to getting coverage; well, we’re going to take that all away”?  Of course not.  After all, you’re a rational person.

But as Steve Benen chronicles, there are people who are running for office who are doing exactly that, and they’re winning elections.

Why?  Well, because someone else thought it up, got it passed, and it is making them look bad.  So what they’ve done is get a bunch of folks on their payroll — or at the very least who owe them for something — and they’re putting out some very convincing lies, exaggerations, and boogedy-boogedy stories and bullshit.  And it’s working.

That’s because despite our better nature, we’re more prone to believe bad news rather than good.  It’s easier to believe that Obamacare is a “train wreck,” that it’s costing millions of jobs, and that healthcare costs and insurance premiums are through the roof, even though there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back up those claims.  But if it generates PAC money for a candidate, it’s out there.

Maybe it’s our survival instinct; don’t blindly trust things as they’re presented; be skeptical and wary, especially if it comes from the government because, as we all know, the government, be it state, local, or federal, has never done anything good for anybody, right?

It probably doesn’t matter to Ted Cruz or Bobby Jindal that there are people who are willing to put their lives and their fortunes in danger because of some lies he told them in order to bolster his chances to run for president, but is that the kind of person you want running the country?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

This Is Theocracy

Charlie Pierce on the murders in Paris.

…despite the fact that the witnesses make the murderers sound like Bond villains straight from central casting, this was unquestionably an assault on the right of free expression, probably committed in the name of religious fanaticism. It was an act of medieval, anti-Enlightenment barbarism, and the fact that a lot of people who aren’t usually so tender toward France and its leftists — or towards the Enlightenment itself, for that matter — have attached themselves to the horror in order to proclaim their righteousness atop a pile of corpses ought not to obscure the truth of it. There are genuine values — honored only in the breach by some, but no less genuine for that — under armed assault here. Charlie Hebdo‘s staff was murdered to stifle the publication’s voice, no less than Elijah Lovejoy was murdered to stifle his. This is the mass, unbridled, brainless Id of the barbarian at war with modernity in all its expressions. This is where anti-science leads, where a contempt for education leads, where the suppression of women leads, where marrying political fanaticism to religious fervor almost always leads. This is where theocracy brings us, over and over again.

Islam is no more to blame for this massacre than Christianity is to blame for the bombing of an abortion clinic in Florida or the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita.  The cause is religion reductio ad absurdum, and our gingerly response to those who preach it, no matter what their faith, will lead us down this hell-hole again and again.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Stupid Question

A Green Bay, Wisconsin, alderman is in trouble for asking a Muslim woman if she had denounced terrorism after she wrote him to ask about bus service.

Heba Mohammad, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay graduate, emailed Alderman Chris Wery to ask why bus service is not free on Election Day.

Wery replied to say he would look into it, and then proceeded to ask Mohammed about terrorism, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

“I am just curious, you are the founder of the Muslim Student Association at UWGB?” he asked in the email. “Across the country there seem to be some problems here and there with some MSA’s. I just want to be assured that your group in no way promotes or defends militant Islamic ideology.”

“Do you and the MSA condemn both of those as well as terrorist groups such as HAMAS?” he then asked.

Mohammed was taken aback by Wery’s questions and did not answer him.

“That’s kind of hurtful, to be honest,” Mohammed told the Press-Gazette.

Ms. Mohammed should have asked Mr. Wery that because he’s a white Christian, has he condemned the Ku Klux Klan?  What’s his stand on lynching?