Monday, November 5, 2018

Peak Freak

So we’re down to the last 24 hours before the polls open for the mid-terms and everyone is in the full-press mode to the end.  My e-mail box is stuffed with pleas from candidates all over the country (that’s because of posting the blog’s e-mail address), the cable channels are filled with warring ads from both parties and PAC’s, and even my phone is getting in on the act with texts urging me to vote early.  I only hope the enthusiasm and urgency was reciprocated by the early voters and will be tomorrow when the polls open.

Meanwhile, Trump is running around the country like his hair was on fire (okay, skip the cheap shot about flammable materials and accelerants) doing his best (or worst) to scare the crap out of the foolish and the weak, going only to places where he knows he’ll get a fawning reception, lying his ass off about what the Democrats will do when they get back in power; lying to the point that reporters aren’t couching their terms in quasi-objective modes but calling him a flat-out liar.

Trump has never been hemmed in by fact, fairness or even logic. The 45th president proudly refuses to apologize and routinely violates the norms of decorum that guided his predecessors. But at one mega-rally after another in the run-up to Tuesday’s midterm elections, Trump has taken his no-boundaries political ethos to a new level — demagoguing the Democrats in a whirl of distortion and using the power of the federal government to amplify his fantastical arguments.

In Columbia, Mo., the president suggested that Democrats “run around like antifa” demonstrators in black uniforms and black helmets, but underneath, they have “this weak little face” and “go back home into mommy’s basement.”

In Huntington, W.Va., Trump called predatory immigrants “the worst scum in the world” but alleged that Democrats welcome them by saying, “Fly right in, folks. Come on in. We don’t care who the hell you are, come on in!”

And in Macon, Ga., he charged that if Democrat Stacey Abrams is elected governor, she would take away the Second Amendment right to bear arms — though as a state official, she would not have the power to change the Constitution.

Unmoored from reality, Trump has at times become a false prophet, too. He has been promising a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class, though no such legislation exists. And he has sounded alarms over an imminent “invasion” of dangerous “illegal aliens,” referring to a caravan of Central American migrants that includes many women and children, is traveling by foot and is not expected to reach the U.S.-Mexico border for several weeks, if at all.

This kind of desperation usually presages a humiliation.  Those of us of a certain age remember the mid-terms of 1970 when the Nixon administration unleashed a barrage of lies and fear that backfired spectacularly to the point that when Nixon formed his reelection committee he instituted a mindset that amplified his inborn paranoia to the point that led to felonies and articles of impeachment.

To their credit, most of the Democrats have ignored the outrageous bullshit and focused on the things that matter to the voters such as the assault on healthcare and the grossly unfair tax cuts that left them holding the bag on the deficit.  They know — and hopefully the voters will too — that schoolyard taunts and conspiracy theory fantasies are distractions that work great in the MAGA mindset but are not solutions to the problems that they see everyday: sure, the economy is doing great (thanks, Obama!) but we still have lead in our water, red tide on the beach, crushing tariffs on steel and soybeans, and a promise to repeal the healthcare provisions that everybody needs.

We will know in 48 hours which way worked.  Being the optimist that I am, I think the voters of this country will deliver a resounding defeat to the voices of fear and loathing.  I believe the Democrats will take control of the House, they will win a number of governorships, and, most importantly, make deep inroads in state and local elections to begin to turn back the sea change, both literally and figuratively, that got us to this stage.  If not, we’re witnessing the unraveling of the promise of democracy and this could be one of the last elections where we really had a choice.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sunday Reading

Reigns Of Terror In America — Jill Lepore in The New Yorker on the legacy of fatal hatred in our nation.

On Friday, May 9, 1958, Rabbi Jacob M. Rothschild, of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, in Atlanta, delivered a sermon called “Can This Be America?” Crosses had been burned and men had been lynched, but Rothschild was mainly talking about the bombs: bundled sticks of dynamite tied with coiled fuses. In the late nineteen-fifties, terrorists had set off, or tried to, dozens of bombs—at black churches, at white schools that had begun to admit black children, at a concert hall where Louis Armstrong was playing, at the home of Martin Luther King, Jr. One out of every ten attacks had been directed at Jews, at synagogues and community centers in Charlotte, in Nashville, in Jacksonville, in Birmingham. In March, 1958, about twenty sticks of dynamite, wrapped in paper yarmulkes, had exploded in an Orthodox synagogue in Miami. The blast sounded like a plane crash.

“Our first duty is not to allow ourselves to be intimidated,” Rothschild told his congregation. Five months later, some fifty sticks of dynamite exploded at his temple, Atlanta’s oldest, blowing a twenty-foot hole in a brick wall, toppling columns, shattering stained-glass windows. “We bombed a temple in Atlanta,” a man claiming to be from the “Confederate Underground” said, when he telephoned the press that night. “Negroes and Jews are hereby declared aliens.”

Rothschild grew up in Pittsburgh, in Squirrel Hill. His family went to Temple Rodef Shalom, just blocks away from the Tree of Life Synagogue, where eleven people were recently shot and killed during services. Robert Bowers, the man charged in the case, had repeatedly posted on social media about a Jewish aid organization he thought was helping refugees cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The shooting followed a series of mail bombs sent to prominent critics of the President, allegedly by Cesar Sayoc, Jr., a Florida man whose white van was plastered with Trump stickers. In the days after these atrocities, Donald Trump announced his intention to end birthright citizenship—to declare, by executive order, that millions of U.S.-born children are aliens. Can this be America?

Rothschild, the liberal from Pittsburgh, moved to Atlanta to take up his pulpit in 1946, the year that a white-supremacist organization was founded in the city. The Columbians asked potential members three questions: “Do you hate Negroes? Do you hate Jews? Do you have three dollars?” On Yom Kippur in 1948, Rothschild sought to stir his congregation out of its silence. “There is only one real issue,” he said. “Civil rights.” The reign of terror Rothschild decried in 1958 had begun four years earlier, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, when White Citizens Councils began forming across the South to oppose desegregation. And then the bombings started, targeting the institutions that hold societies, and nations, together: schools, houses of worship, newspaper offices.

Standing at the site of the Atlanta temple blast, Mayor William B. Hartsfield declared, “Every political rabble-rouser is the godfather of every sneaking cross-burner and dynamiter at work in the South today.” In the Atlanta Constitution, the syndicated columnist Ralph McGill wrote, “To be sure, none said go bomb a Jewish temple or a school. But let it be understood that when leadership in high places in any degree fails to support constituted authority, it opens the gates to all those who wish to take law into their hands.” The F.B.I. investigated, as Melissa Fay Greene recounts in a book about the bombing, and five men were arrested. The American Nationalist, a California newspaper, ran a story that announced, “SYNAGOGUE BOMBING A FRAUD: Jewish Groups Use Bomb Incident to Confuse Gentiles.” Only one man, George Bright, was ever tried; he was acquitted. McGill won a Pulitzer Prize. “If you call that a prize,” Bright scoffed. “Pulitzer was just a Jew.”

America’s latest reign of terror began not with Trump’s election but with Obama’s, the Brown v. Board of the Presidency. “Impeach Obama,” yard signs read. “He’s Unconstitutional.” In 2011, Trump began demanding that Obama prove his citizenship. “I feel I’ve accomplished something really, really important,” Trump told the press, when, that spring, the White House offered up the President’s birth certificate. This fall, Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, fell into the same trap. For the five years of Trump’s campaign for political attention, leading up to the 2016 election, and for the first two years of his Administration, attempts to fight Trump on his debased terms have only strengthened him.

Rothschild delivered a sermon to his congregation the Friday after the bombing, its title taken from the Book of Ezekiel: “And None Shall Make Them Afraid.” Eight hundred people crowded into the blasted synagogue. “Never did a band of violent men so misjudge the temper of the objects of their act of intimidation,” Rothschild said. “Out of the gaping hole that laid bare the havoc wrought within, out of the majestic columns that now lay crumbled and broken, out of the tiny bits of brilliantly colored glass that had once graced with beauty the sanctuary itself—indeed, out of the twisted and evil hearts of bestial men has come a new courage and a new hope.”

Courage and hope are not the language of Trump’s most vociferous political opponents. Blame and grievance are their language, the language of the times, the grammar of Twitter, the idiom of Trump, the taste of bile. Trump’s critics have often answered his viciousness with their own viciousness, his abandonment of norms with their abandonment, his fear-mongering with their fear-mongering, his unwillingness to speak to the whole of the country with their own parochialism.

But the bloody-mindedness of deranged and broken men can be countered only by principle and fortitude. Rothschild once introduced Dr. King at a banquet in Chicago. King, he said, had been met with “wild thunder.” Never did he speak with more thunder than during his Christmas Eve sermon in 1967, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, in Atlanta, not far from Rothschild’s temple. “If we don’t have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves,” King said. “There have always been those who argued that the end justifies the means, that the means really aren’t important,” he said. “But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.” Another tree has been cut down. May a new seed be sown.

Only Going To Get More Extreme — Jonathan Chait in New York on what will happen if the GOP retains control of Congress.

Politics since Donald Trump’s election has felt like a static state of misery, as the president’s approval ratings have been surprisingly stable and the only apparent variable has been each party’s chances of gaining or consolidating power in the midterms. But that reading ignores something tectonic: the rapid decay of the institutional Republican Party. Everything that was terrible about the party that nominated Trump is significantly, terrifyingly worse today. Even more distressing: It is likely to lurch further rightward regardless of the outcome of the elections. This will happen right away.

It was not so long ago that most Republican professionals firmly believed the party was still theirs and Trump had merely borrowed it. The GOP Establishment, one congressional staffer told the reporter David Drucker earlier this fall, had “forced Trump to govern as a ‘conventional conservative.’ ” Ten months ago, when the Senate voted to pass a huge tax cut, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, “If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work.”

They couldn’t. They tried convincing the public their tax cuts for the rich will mostly go to the middle class, but the middle class doesn’t believe them. “I would have bet you a lot of money going into this year that if you cut people’s taxes by thousands of dollars per year, that would be politically popular,” Republican consultant Ryan Ellis told Politico. “But it has not worked out that way.” As private Republican polling has confirmed, the party “lost the messaging battle” on taxes.

Rather than finding another line of work, however, McConnell’s colleagues have grasped a disturbing reality: They don’t need to sell their policies to the American people. They’re better off following Trump’s political formula of constructing an alternate reality in which their party is cast as one of economic populists. Recently, Trump has been insisting he has another plan to give the middle class a tax cut. A big one! A whopping 10 percent cut, just for the average taxpayer. “We’re doing it now for middle-income people,” Trump told reporters about a bill he claimed would pass before Election Day.

Reporters quickly noted this was impossible. Congress was out of session until after the election; it would need 60 votes to pass another tax cut, anyway. Trump then insisted he had a secret plan, which he would reveal soon, that would allow a huge middle-class tax cut without adding to the deficit. “We’re doing other things, which I don’t have to explain now, but it will be pretty much a net neutral,” he told reporters. No such tax proposal exists, and nobody actually believes anything like it will ever materialize. Yet Republican leaders are pretending to take Trump’s instructions seriously. “We will continue to work with the White House and Treasury over the coming weeks to develop an additional 10 percent tax cut focused specifically on middle-class families and workers,” promised House Committee on Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady. Why shouldn’t they go along? What cost is there to sustaining the lie?

Republicans are attempting a similar trick to resolve their political liability on health care, where Trump has ramped up their strategy dating back to the beginning of the Obamacare debate: promise to do all the good stuff Obama­care delivered but without making anybody pay for it. The administration, joined by several Republican states, is suing to overturn Obamacare’s regulations preventing insurance companies from charging higher rates to people with preexisting conditions and, in the meantime, undermining those protections by allowing insurers to sell cheaper plans to healthy people. Yet the Republicans’ health-care message has betrayed not the slightest hint of their anti-regulatory fervor. Arizona’s Martha McSally, who as a member of Congress gave a pep talk to wavering Republicans urging them to vote to repeal Obama­care and not replace it, is running ads for her Senate campaign claiming she “led the fight” to “force insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions.” Florida governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott, whose state is currently supporting the Trump lawsuit, is declaring in an advertisement, “I support forcing insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions.” Trump himself has advanced this lie to its Orwellian conclusion. Not only does he promise to defend the regulations he is actively seeking to eliminate, he has accused Democrats of trying to destroy them: “Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican.”

The defensive effort to steal the economic-populist mantle from Democrats, without making any substantive concessions toward that end, has been largely overshadowed by the louder cultural messaging that accompanies it.
Republicans have stoked white racial paranoia against a shifting array of targets. Kneeling football players and transgender bathrooms have momentarily given way to a convoy of Central American migrants that allegedly contains “unknown Middle Easterners.”

And Trump’s allies have gone from justifying his ­reality-show authoritarian persona as a necessary expedient to embracing it as a positive good. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate,” a senior Trump-administration official told the Daily Beast, defending the president’s fearmongering attacks on a caravan of potential refugees. “This is the play,” Scott Reed, a strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the Washington Post. “It’s a standard tactic to use fear as a motivating choice at the end of a campaign, and the fact is the fork in the road is pretty stark.” In Texas, when a fan at a Ted Cruz speech exclaimed about Beto O’Rourke, “Lock him up!,” Cruz answered, “Well, you know, there’s a double-­occupancy cell with Hillary Clinton.”

The degree to which Trump’s party has molded itself in his image is worth bearing in mind when contemplating what the next two years might bring.
If Democrats win the House but not the Senate, they will be working with an even more hardened foe: The Republicans who will have lost, or who are retiring, are those most vulnerable to outside pressure; the surviving core, from the reddest districts, will be the most Trumpian. They will be much less likely to abandon their president in the face of incriminating evidence than were Richard Nixon’s Republicans in 1974, and much more likely to escalate his attacks on the rule of law into a full-scale culture war.

In the event Republicans retain full control of Congress — improbable, but about the chances FiveThirty­Eight gave Trump toward the end of October two years ago — the transformation would be even more dramatic. The American people would be led not by a party learning to accommodate its unhinged leader but one trained by him, and the con job they have been enacting on the American people would swiftly come to completion.

Imagine Republicans waking up after Election Day and discovering their aging coalition has been given a new lease on life. They will instantly grasp the possibilities available by campaigning in opposition to reality: telling voters they are protecting popular social programs that Democrats are trying to cut and reinforcing this message through media channels their party effectively controls. What would stop them from launching the full-scale assault on the welfare state that Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan never mustered the courage to fully enact? Why wouldn’t they go through with abolishing Obamacare and slashing funding to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

Though they control all branches of the federal government, Republicans have been held back for two years by the expectation of a backlash and a setback in the midterms. After not one but two expert-defying victories, the Trumpian cult of personality would grow exponentially. For all the unprecedented and brazen acts the past two years have brought, what we have not yet seen is a Trumpian party that feels invincible.

If The Trumpistas Win: Get the hell out.

It’s the ultimate fantasy: Escape the 9-5 by moving to a place where it’s so cheap you barely need to work — and could even retire early. The Panama-based Live and Invest Overseas advises people on how to do just that, and the company has just announced its list of the 10 best places in the world where you can move in 2018 and live very well for very little.

We caught up with Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, who told us why each of these places made the coveted list. If want to find more cheap places to live abroad, check out “Quit Your Job: 5 Countries Where You Can Live For Under $1,500 A Month.”

Doonesbury:  He’s back!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

All For Show

Via the Washington Post:

Homeland Security and Pentagon officials said Monday that they will send 5,200 troops, military helicopters and giant spools of razor wire to the Mexican border in the coming days to brace for the arrival of Central American migrants President Trump is calling “an invasion.”

The troop deployment, one week before the U.S. midterm elections, appears to be the largest U.S. active-duty mobilization along the U.S.-Mexico boundary in decades and amounts to a significant militarization of American border security.

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Monday that the deployments, dubbed “Operation Faithful Patriot,” already are underway. He said the military, working alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), will focus first on “hardening” the border in Texas, followed by Arizona and California.

The operative phrase in there is “one week before the U.S. midterm elections.”  Next Wednesday, after the election is over and no matter who wins and the caravan, such as it is, is still weeks away from arriving, the Pentagon will quietly issue orders for the majority of the troops to return to their regular duty back home, leaving a few there to clean up after themselves.  Operation Faithful Patriot, which should really be called Operation Midterm Rescue, will be called off.

The article doesn’t say, but this has got to be costing the Pentagon a bundle; not that they’ve ever struggled for money.  But still, deploying 5,200 soldiers and support staff along with equipment, transport, tents, food, latrines, and all the other facilities that go along with them has got to be running up a tab somewhere.  But wouldn’t that money be better spent by providing for and provisioning the immigrants when they eventually get here so that when they’re arrested, they at least have a place to stay before we force them to go back?

But it really doesn’t matter; they’re not thinking that far ahead, because by Thanksgiving the caravan will still be hundreds of miles away, the numbers dwindling down to the desperate ones who could no more represent a threat to the border than the moths that batter themselves against the screens of the back porch on a summer night.  And Trump and his band of xenophobic nationalists will have found another target or another mass shooting to exploit.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Touched

After the events of the last week — the capture of a mad bomber and the murders in the synagogue — it isn’t hard to imagine that a person would want to tune out and walk away.  To witness so much raw hatred and violence roaring at us, attacking us at the core of our beliefs, be they political or religious.  Both acts combine to touch all of us, to challenge us, and not just on those levels; they touched and harmed us all.

For me, there’s a very good chance that one of the victims at the shooting in Pittsburgh was a relative of friends of mine from my years at camp.  That hasn’t been confirmed, but even if she was not, she was someone’s family and they have been torn from the comfort of their faith and devastated at the most vulnerable level.  As for the bomber based in the suburbs of Miami and sending out his missives of hate, once again we’re seeing a distillation of differences of opinion turned into raw emotion, egged on by a heedless and self-centered narrative that only seeks to amplify the differences and make them poisonous.  And the ones who turned up the volume, provoked the anger, then stood aside as the rage built and turned to the rest of us and trotted out the false equivalencies, the “now is not the time,” or the maddening “yeah-but-what-about”-isms that include people being rude in restaurants as the same thing as mailing a pipe bomb.  Their cowardice and blame-shifting only makes it worse, and if you think the solution to murder in a synagogue is more guns, you have no business offering solutions.

Now is not the time to not talk about this and do something about it, and both karma and the calendar have brought us to the point where we can do something meaningful.  Eight days from today we have our moment to do something positive that will, at least in theory, make a change, and that’s voting.  It’s already going on in many places; I am getting bombarded with texts and e-mails reminding me that early voting is already underway here in Florida.  But this time I’m waiting until Election Day; I need to read up on the various amendments and local races because I do not intend to leave a single vote uncast.  So wherever you are, I recommend you do the same.  And if you’ve already voted, either in person or by mail, know that you have already done something that will make more of a difference and bring about more change than all the bombs and raging and murderous anti-Semites ever will.

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.