Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Still Crazy After All These Years

Hey, remember Michele Bachmann, the batshit-crazy congress-critter from Minnesota with the look in her eyes that if you saw her on the Metro Rail you’d change cars?  Yeah, well, she’s still at it and claiming that we will never see a more godly and biblical president in our lifetime than guess-who.

Well, yeah, if by godly and biblical you mean adulterous, racist, buys-off-porn-stars creep, I think she’s on to something.  But then, she’s probably a few milligrams short on the Prozac, too.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Setting The Barr

I’m not at all surprised that Attorney General William Barr told the Senate that there may have been some “spying” during the 2016 campaign.  After all, he was hired by Trump to follow up on the right-wing nutsery claims about the Democrats doing it, and although he has no offer of proof, he basically echoed what Trump as been screaming about all along.

The fact that the FBI and other intelligence agencies may have had legitimate reasons to investigate the glaring clues that a foreign hostile power was trying to interfere with the electoral process doesn’t matter.  All these conspiracy whacks hear is “spying” and they’re over the moon.  Now the emboldened GOP will say “There should never have been an investigation of anybody at all!”  That’s tantamount to saying, “Yeah, it was fine with me if the Russians wanted to put Trump in office.”

Trump got the attorney general he really wanted in William Barr: a yes-man who does his bidding.

Backward, Christian Soldiers

Some religious nutjob in the Texas state legislature is trying to criminalize a medical procedure.

Men and women, young and old, native Texans and immigrants, they rose to ask lawmakers to protect life, describing a “genocide” and foreseeing the arrival of “God’s wrath.”

The act of public atonement they are seeking is passage of a bill that would criminalize abortion without exception, and make it possible to convict women who undergo the procedure of homicide, which can carry the death penalty in Texas. Though it faces steep odds of becoming law, the measure earned a hearing this week amid a larger legislative push in GOP-controlled states to curtail abortion rights, in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.

The legislation is the brainchild of state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Republican from Arlington, Tex., who was placed under state protection because of death threats he received when he first introduced the bill in 2017. The Air Force veteran, who has been married five times, argues that the measure is necessary to make women “more personally responsible.” He said Tuesday that his intention is to guarantee “equal protection” for life inside and “outside the womb.”

Some of his supporters see the issue in even more fateful terms.

“God’s word says, ‘He who sheds man’s blood, by man — the civil government — his blood will be shed,’” said Sonya Gonnella, quoting the Book of Genesis and asking lawmakers to “repent with us.”

Announcing herself as a “follower of the lord Jesus Christ,” Gonnella was among hundreds of people who testified in a marathon hearing that stretched from Monday into early Tuesday before the Texas House’s Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence.

It was the first time in the state’s history, committee members said, that public testimony had been heard on a measure holding women criminally liable for their abortions. The legislation was left pending on Tuesday, as Democrats claimed there was a contradiction in the agenda advanced by its supporters, who call themselves “pro-life.”

These are more than likely the same people who got hysterical about “Sharia law” when a woman wore a hijab while shopping at Dollar General.  Irony, we hardly knew ye.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

“That Country”

Vox details the Trump administration’s odd and dangerous vendetta against Puerto Rico.

On the heels of the Senate’s failure to pass a disaster relief bill on Monday, President Donald Trump posted a string of factually inaccurate tweets defending his position that federal government aid to the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico should be limited to food stamp subsidies, and made clear he prioritizes the needs of US citizens living in flood-ravaged Midwestern states above those of US citizens living in Puerto Rico.

In his tweets Monday evening, Trump oddly referred to the US territory as a “place,” accused Puerto Rican politicians of being “incompetent or corrupt” — he referred to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz as “crazed” — and framed the question of how much disaster relief funding to provide to the island and flood-affected farmers in the Midwest as a zero-sum game, writing that “the Dems wants to give [Puerto Rico] more, taking dollars away from our Farmers and so many others. Disgraceful!”

[…]

Trump, however, doesn’t seem to accept that Puerto Rico is really part of the United States. As a result, he frames providing emergency aid to the island as “taking dollars away from our farmers.”

And it’s not just him — during an MSNBC interview on Tuesday morning, White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley twice mistakenly referred to the US territory as “that country.”

The truth seems to be that Trump doesn’t understand that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and that the people who live there are citizens to the same degree as people who live in Iowa or Ohio, or, more importantly, Florida.  The one exception is that the people of Puerto Rico do not get to vote in the presidential election if they are living on the island.  But if they move to the mainland — and a lot of them did after Hurricane Maria — they can vote.  And they will.

Monday, April 1, 2019

April Fools

Wow, are they stupid.

On Sunday, “Fox & Friends” quickly jumped to news of the president’s plans to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to three Central American countries over the flow of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has already warned of closing the border.

As Henry talked about the president “going full-court press on Mexico” and co-host Pete Hegseth spoke of “cutting payments, aid payments, to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,” a chyron — the caption superimposed over the video — characterized it slightly differently. It referred to them as “3 Mexican countries.”

[…]

Later in the show, Henry would apologize for the chyron, saying that “it never should have happened.”

Actually, this is par for Fox News, and I’m sure that the base that they play to saw absolutely nothing wrong with the chyron.  As one person on Twitter noted, all Latin American countries look alike to them, and another remarked this pretty much sums up the Trumpian view of the region.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Fast Action

It took New Zealand less than a week to immediately ban the weapons used in the mosque massacres last Friday.

Even if it could pass constitutional muster — which it probably could since the 2nd Amendment talks about “well regulated” — nothing like the swiftness and surety of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s actions could happen here.  American politicians are too enamored of the money — or the threat of the lack of it — from lobbyists and PAC’s to do any more than offer thoughts and prayers.  And even those come at a cost.

So while the thoughtful and caring people of the world deal with problems like this with dispatch, we worry where our next electoral victory will come from.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Speaking Ill Of The Dead

I was never a big fan of John McCain politically, and I think his nomination of Sarah Palin as his VP choice in 2008 led in part to Trumpism, but the man is dead.  Trump is a coward for attacking him.  But even more cowardly is the Republican leadership’s silence in response.

We always knew Trump was a jerk and a bully, so his craven bigotry and shallowness is no real shock.  But for the folks who less than ten years ago championed Sen. McCain and his “mavericky” style as the leader of their party to suddenly cower in the corner because a barroom drunk starts bellowing says a lot more about them than it does about the drunk.

It’s just more proof — as if we needed it — that Republicans will say anything, tolerate anything, and enable anyone, no matter how loathsome, who will somehow keep them in power.  And that’s more disgusting than Trump’s routine.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Keep Marching

Matthew Yglesias in Vox:

The Women’s Marches over-awed Donald Trump’s Inauguration. Protesters at airports checked the initial version of Trump’s travel bans. Ordinary Americans’ phone calls and door knocks defeated multiple attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act. It all sent a clear message during Trump’s first two years in office: Resistance works.

Engaged protesters were not able to block the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, but they did render both toxically unpopular. The resistance spurred an unprecedented level of interest in special elections, swinging seats across the country, and powered Democrats to sweeping wins in the 2018 midterms.

And then it stopped. There was no mass mobilization to call senators in advance of the resolution blocking Trump’s border emergency declaration. There were no crowds on Capitol Hill. There are no reports of Republican senators canceling town halls because they’re afraid to face angry crowds demanding a floor vote on the anti-corruption bill HR 1. There are no protesters demanding that Trump accede to Congress’s request for his tax returns in part because no request has been made.

The resistance has demobilized. And for Democrats, it’s probably a huge mistake.

It’s perhaps more a matter of how people look at life in general that has led to this.  Conservatives not only see the glass half-empty, they’re on the lookout for someone, somewhere, to dash it from their lips.  They live in a world of suspicion and hyped-up tension; every stranger is a danger; every person that doesn’t look or sound like them is up to no good, so no matter what the reality is, you can’t trust anybody.  That explains why even after winning elections the right-wingers never stop complaining and campaigning.

Progressives see it the other way: everything has the potential for beauty and comity; we can just all get along if only we’d trust our inner goodness.  Electing their people will turn everything right and we can all take a deep cleansing breath and relax.

But you cannot stop and rest on your laurels and think the defeated will retreat, having learned their lesson.  They’ll be back with a vengeance because that is what they do.  That’s why after the election of the first African-American president so many people pronounced racism was dead and believed we had at last grown past the original sin of slavery and institutional bigotry, only to have it made abundantly clear that not only was prejudice and paranoia still alive and well, it could elect the most dangerous threat to American democracy since Fort Sumter.

It’s easier to scare people with a siege mentality, and it’s a great control mechanism; keep the followers in line (and getting their money) with fear and loathing.  (Organized religion figured that out thousands of years ago.)  The Democrats cannot let their guard down, and they don’t have to make up fake news or gin up paranoia to show the world that they need to keep up the marching.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Better Things To Do

You would think that with all of the things going on in the world today, including natural disasters such as flooding the Iowa and Nebraska, an entire fleet of aircraft grounded, North Korea rattling their sabre (again), white supremacists shooting up mosques in New Zealand, an American president would have more important things to worry about than a late-night comedy program on TV putting up a re-run that made fun of him.

But no.

Other U.S. presidents have decried horror abroad as an affront to values shared among liberal democratic allies, but Trump has made no major address to mourn those gunned down last week as they worshiped at mosques in New Zealand. He has not condemned the professed white-supremacist motives of the accused killer.

Instead, Trump has spent the past few days, including the hours before and after the church service, rallying his most loyal supporters around his nationalist agenda against illegal immigration, attacking a familiar list of perceived enemies and adding new ones, all while casting himself as a victim of unfair attacks.

It was a weekend of nonstop grievances from the leader of the free world.

“It’s truly incredible that shows like Saturday Night Live, not funny/no talent, can spend all of their time knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side,’ ” Trump tweeted just before 8 a.m. Sunday. “Like an advertisement without consequences. Same with Late Night Shows.”

SNL had rerun an episode Saturday that opened with a sketch lampooning Trump as a bitter and bewildered George Bailey from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The president suggested the federal government should target the show. “Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this? There must be Collusion with the Democrats and, of course, Russia! Such one sided media coverage, most of it Fake News. Hard to believe I won and am winning. Approval Rating 52 percent, 93% with Republicans. Sorry! #MAGA.”

Okay, stop right there.  The federal government can’t target the show; the FCC has no control over the networks.  And it sounds like he’s calling for the return of the Fairness Doctrine, which was abolished during the Reagan administration because gas bags like Rush Limbaugh complained that they were under the mistaken impression that they had to give equal time to opposite points of view.  You really want that back?  (Actually, it wouldn’t make any difference.  Most, if not all, of the news, fake or otherwise, comes via cable, and that’s not regulated by the FCC either.)

The point is that with all the shit going down in the world, we have an obsessed narcissist and coward in the White House who seems to think the only thing that matters is what other people think of him.  That’s not how you run a democracy.  It is, however, how you run a dictatorship.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Reading

John Cassidy in The New Yorker on confronting the rise of right-wing terrorism.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the twenty-eight-year-old Australian who allegedly carried out a racially motivated gun massacre, in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, appeared in court on Saturday morning and was charged with one count of murder. According to a report from the New Zealand Herald, Tarrant “appeared in white prison clothing, with manacled hands, and barefoot. He smirked when media photographed him in the dock, flanked by two police officers.” He didn’t enter a plea and was remanded in custody. The court hearing, at the Christchurch district court, was closed to the public, but the judge allowed some members of the media to report on the proceedings.

As they were taking place, surgeons were still operating on some of the victims of the shootings, which occurred at two mosques, and the confirmed death toll rose to forty-nine. More horrifying eyewitness accounts emerged, and the whole of New Zealand, a remote island nation of about 4.9 million people that had only thirty-five murders in all of 2017, was in a state of deep shock. “I honestly thought somebody was carrying a water pistol—this is New Zealand, you know—or a showing of a pellet gun or something,” Omar Nabi, a Christchurch man whose father was shot dead at one of the two mosques that were attacked, told reporters. “We feel safe here because it’s multicultural. We’re accepted no matter who we are.” Tragically, it took just one heavily armed fanatic to upset this equilibrium.

Tarrant grew up more than fourteen hundred miles away from Christchurch, in Grafton, New South Wales, a small city located about three hundred and eighty miles north of Sydney. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald reported that, when Tarrant lived in Grafton, he was known “as someone who was dedicated to fitness and ran free athletic programs for children.” He lived in a modest home, and, after leaving high school, in 2009, he got a job at a local gym. “He never showed any extremist tendencies in conversations I had with him,” Tracey Gray, the owner of the gym, told the Herald. In social-media posts, Tarrant said that he quit his job in 2011 and set off to travel the world.

It’s not known yet when he settled in New Zealand, but recently he had been living in Dunedin, a coastal city about two hundred and twenty miles south of Christchurch. “This individual has travelled the world with sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, on Saturday. “This individual was not on the radar of either the New Zealand intelligence agencies or the Australian agencies.”

Somewhere along the line, Tarrant got radicalized and became a hateful racist who was consumed by alt-right conspiracy theories and historical nonsense. The manifesto he posted online showed that he was consumed with Australia’s European heritage, and it made reference to incidents that European white nationalists cite to vilify Islam and Muslims, including the long-running child-sexual-abuse scandal in Rotherham, England, and the sexual assaults in Germany, in 2015 and 2016. “It was not immediately clear whether Tarrant was involved in far-right neo-Nazi groups in Australia,” the Herald’s Michael Koziol wrote. “However, imagery from Tarrant’s now-removed Twitter profile bears striking similarity to those used by an extreme-right, anti-immigration group called The Dingoes. In his writing, Tarrant echoed views expressed by Anders Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing terrorist who killed 77 people with a van bomb and gun massacre in Norway in 2011. He specifically mentioned Breivik by name, claiming he had ‘brief contact’ with the mass murderer and had received a ‘blessing’ for his actions from Breivik’s associates.”

So much for Donald Trump’s absurd response, on Friday, when he was asked whether he thought that white nationalism was a rising threat around the world. “I don’t really,” Trump said. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.” Of course, Trump had good reason to try to minimize the threat from the extreme right. In his manifesto, Tarrant praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” while also criticizing his leadership skills. “As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no,” Tarrant wrote.

Of course, right-wing terrorism is now a very real and deadly threat in many Western countries, the United States included. Last October, Robert Bowers, a forty-six-year-old Pittsburgh man who ranted online about the threats presented by “illegals” and “the overwhelming Jew problem,” allegedly gunned down and killed eleven worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue. Just last month, federal agents arrested Christopher Paul Hasson, a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard who had called for “focussed violence” to “establish a white homeland.” Like Tarrant, Hasson had been inspired by the Norwegian terrorist Breivik, and, according to the prosecutors, he was intending “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”

These are just the most visible recent examples of the ongoing violence perpetrated by white supremacists and other right-wing nuts. “Right-wing extremists were linked to at least 50 extremist-related murders in the United States in 2018, making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995,” the Anti-Defamation League noted in January. Even the Trump Administration’s own report, “National Strategy for Counterterrorism,” which was published last year, acknowledged that “domestic terrorism in the United States is on the rise,” and it cited “racially motivated extremism” as one of the causes.

Another factor, undoubtedly, is the role that social media plays in cultivating the growth and amplifying the impact of extremist groups. In this case, Tarrant not only inhaled hatred and bigotry from the online world: he also live-streamed his murderous attack on Facebook, and the giant social network didn’t even know about it until they were informed by the police in New Zealand. By that stage, the gruesome video had gone viral. “The attack was teased on Twitter, announced on the online message board 8chan and broadcast live on Facebook,” Kevin Roose, a columnist for the New York Times, wrote. “The footage was then replayed endlessly on YouTube, Twitter and Reddit, as the platforms scrambled to take down the clips nearly as fast as new copies popped up to replace them.”

What can we do about all this? In the face of all the hatred, the violence, and the enabling digital technology, it is easy to feel helpless. But some things can be done. To begin with, as Simon Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, argued in a recent analysis, politicians from all parties, the President included, need to openly acknowledge the scale of the threat represented by right-wing terrorism, and to commit to tackling it in a number of different ways. One obvious step is to beef up the law-enforcement resources devoted to tracking right-wing extremism and investigating possible plots to carry out threats. In addition, the Trump Administration “needs to understand how overheated rhetoric—including the president’s own words—can lead to violence,” Clark wrote.

In addition, the Republican Party must face up to the responsibility it bears for refusing to accept that lax gun laws are another enabling factor for domestic terrorists of all ideological stripes. When Australia tightened its gun laws some years ago, following a gun massacre, New Zealand chose not to follow suit. That was a terrible error. On Saturday, New Zealand’s Attorney General, David Parker, said that the government would now ban semi-automatic weapons of the type that were used in Friday’s attack.

Parker also pointed a finger at the U.S. technology giants, saying, “How can it be right for this atrocity to be filmed by the murderer using a go-pro and live-streamed across the world by social media companies? How can that be right? Who should be held accountable for that?” At the very least, the big tech enterprises—such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter—must redouble their efforts to monitor hate speech on their platforms, take it down rapidly, and ban the people and groups who are spreading it. But, at this stage, it is too dangerous to leave this task to the companies, which, ultimately, are motivated by the desire to maximize traffic on their platforms. It is time for some collective action, also.

Perhaps, as my colleague Evan Osnos suggests, part of this could be a collective decision on the part of all of us to deny the terrorists the publicity and attention they crave. But how would that work in practice? Like it or not, it is big news when some embittered human shell goes out and kills fifty or a hundred innocents. People demand to hear about it. Perhaps refusing to name the shooter and blacking out his or her face in news photographs will discourage some future attackers, but that seems like a lot to hope for. Even if it had some effect, there would still be an urgent need to crack down on racial incitement and right-wing extremism generally. Only governments have the power to do this effectively.

Around the world, we are being confronted with the rise of a murderous and hateful ideology that targets minorities, glorifies violence, and thrives on modern communications technology. The response needs to be commensurate with the threat, which is spreading ominously, and to the most unlikely of places. Even bucolic New Zealand, a place where Silicon Valley billionaires are buying personal retreats in case it all comes down closer to home, couldn’t escape the plague.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. on money and morality in college admissions.

If you think you’re angry now, wait till you read the court documents.

Not that the summaries of a college cheating scandal so massive it briefly bumped Donald Trump from the “Breaking News” chyrons were not enough to make a nun cuss. Indeed, the story offered a perfect storm of outrage: the wealthy, well-known and well-connected gaming the system, lying, fixing tests and paying bribes to get their kids into prestigious colleges. It didn’t hurt that two of those arrested were famous actors: Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” fame and Lori Loughlin, who played “Aunt Becky” in that masterwork of saccharine banality, “Full House.”

But there is something about the tawdry details found in the affidavit by FBI agent Laura Smith that is truly infuriating. In its 204 pages, you get William “Rick” Singer, the scam’s mastermind, coaching his clients on lies they can tell to get a different ACT or SAT test site or some accommodation the testing services reserve for kids with learning disabilities. You get him soothing parents whose kids have entered school as purported athletic standouts and now worry that those kids will be asked to actually do something athletic. You get him scheming with parents who want their kids to think they did well on tests, when actually, one of Singer’s confederates secretly substituted his correct answers for their wrong ones.

And you get attorney Gordon Caplan, as captured on an FBI wiretap, fretting about what might happen if his daughter gets caught. “To be honest,” he says, “I’m not worried about the moral issue here.”

Ahem.

I am an alumnus of the University of Southern California, one of the schools — Harvard, Yale and Georgetown are among the others — Singer helped people like Caplan cheat their children into. Me, I got in because my mom and my counselor, Mr. Isaacs, moved Heaven, Earth and all the precincts in between to get my application approved and my tuition paid.

So forgive me if I am unable to dismiss “the moral issue here” as airily as Caplan does. Forgive me if I find these people and their scheme disgusting. But there is an object lesson here beyond disgust.

We live in a nation where equality is the official creed, but hardly the lived reality. To the contrary, people are jailed here because they cannot afford justice, ignorant here because they cannot afford learning, hungry here because they cannot afford food, dead here because they cannot afford health.

And the worst thing is, we accept that as somehow preordained, beyond our capacity to fix. Meantime, Forbes reported last year that the average CEO pulls down a salary 361 times more than his workers. In the 1950s, he earned “only” about 20 times more. How well do you live on your salary? How well could you live on your salary, times 20?

Yet when working-class people demand a wage large enough to simply sustain themselves — $15 an hour — it’s regarded as a radical idea and an existential threat. As perhaps it must be in a nation where poverty is structural, where the routes up and out are increasingly constricted and workers are kept distracted from their own plight by fights over race, religion and sexuality.

So this should be a wake-up call. While poor people fight internecine wars, while they choose between lights and food, while their services are cut and their industries disappear, rich people — some, at least — are writing large checks to lie their children into college. Every advantage in the world, and they take more.

If that’s not a moral issue we all should worry about, I don’t know what is.

Doonesbury — Building.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Consequences

Trump’s defenders said the five-week government shutdown in December and January proved that we can get along without having all those bureaucrats wasting, frauding, and abusing the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.  Who needs government oversight anyway?  All they do is create red tape that hinders the capitalists from making money, and all those needless regulations just get in the way.

Uh huh.

A software fix to the MCAS flight-control feature by the FAA and Boeing had been expected early in January, but discussions between regulators and the plane maker dragged on, partly over differences of opinion about technical and engineering issues, according to people familiar with the details. Officials from various parts of Boeing and the FAA had differing views about how extensive the fix should be.

U.S. officials have said the federal government’s recent shutdown also halted work on the fix for five weeks.

The FAA concluded the delay was acceptable because its experts agreed with Boeing that there was no imminent safety threat, according to one person briefed on the discussions. The FAA also determined that steps taken after the Lion Air crash to inform pilots world-wide about the system’s operation were adequate to alleviate hazards.

So Trump’s temper tantrum about the mythical wall was just a harmless bit of theatre. What could have possibly gone wrong? All those out-of-work bureaucrats got their back pay, didn’t they? And besides, those two planes that crashed? They were from Indonesia and Ethiopia; it’s not like they were real Americans or anything…

People are dying because of Trump.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Little Twerp

Speaking of not worth it (see below), Tucker Carlson doubled down on his petulant adolescent act.

A day after releasing audio of Tucker Carlson making numerous misogynist remarks, Media Matters for America published a new video with clips of the Fox News host using racist and homophobic language to describe Iraqi people, African Americans, gay people and immigrants while speaking on a radio program between 2006 and 2011, according to a report published Tuesday by the nonprofit.

The self-described watchdog of “conservative misinformation in the U.S. media” published the audio from Carlson’s appearances on a Tampa-based radio program, the “Bubba the Love Sponge Show,” just 25 hours after releasing similar recordings in which he’s heard flippantly using sexist language to express his views on child rape, rape shield laws, underage marriage and other sensitive topics.

The new audio highlights about a dozen instances of Carlson using racist language on the “shock jock” show, which he apparently called into for about an hour per week. In 2008, Carlson lamented that “everyone’s embarrassed to be a white man,” before stating that white men deserve credit for “creating civilization and stuff.”

Fox will never fire him.  This is the kind of crap they live for and the more they can outrage normal people, the better it is for their audience that buys My Pillow and boner pills.  And he’s cheaper than Sean Hannity.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Making The Grades

It’s no small irony that Trump made a big deal about Barack Obama’s college transcripts and how he must have gotten into Harvard Law on nothing more than affirmative action all the while he sent his fixers back to his military school to find and bury his own transcripts so no one would ever know how well he did on his SAT’s or GPA.

You don’t need a PhD in psychology to figure that one out.

It also points out the fact that the only reason Trump got into the race in the first place was to show that uppity you-know-what his place.  Trump has been obsessed to the point of madness that Barack Obama is smart, funny, cool, and successful on his own merits and Trump is none of those and never will be.

You don’t need a PhD in theatre or literature to figure that one out.  Hello, Iago and Mr. Claggart in Billy Budd.

What is more disturbing is the fact that rather than celebrate or even acknowledge the fact that a kid from a broken marriage and working-class background could grow up, go to college, become a lawyer, a teacher, an organizer, elected official, and the first non-white president in the history of the country without buying off or gaming the system but doing it pretty much on his own perseverance and determination, Trump is determined to claim that the system is rigged against the people who, through no merit other than the gut feeling of jealousy and resentment about Others, are somehow deprived of their divine right to rule.  It’s a perversion of everything this country stands for.  It’s racism, pure and plain, and I don’t see any benefit in trying to make it sound like anything else.

Historically Challenged

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) compared the immigration situation along the southern border to D-Day.

“Let me just put this in context for the American people. Perhaps the most famous invasion in the history of the world, D-Day; 73,000 American troops landed in the D-Day invasion. We have 76,103, according to my numbers, apprehensions along our southern border last month. We have D-Day every month on our southern border.”

Generally, when a person compares two things for “context,” it illuminates the understanding of those things. In this case, the reaction seemed to be “Huh?”

Sheesh.  As Gillian Brockell at the Washington Post goes on to explain, Allied troops were liberating France and Europe from the Nazis, they were heavily armed, the planning for the invasion took almost a year, thousands more people were involved in the logistics, and the casualties and deaths numbered over 40,000 on the first day.

So, no, the border crossing at Antelope Wells, New Mexico, is not Omaha Beach.  For context, go watch the first half hour of “Saving Private Ryan” or the first two episodes of “Band of Brothers.”

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Trump And Fox: Made For Each Other

After reading Jane Mayer’s exploration of the relationship between Fox News and Trump in The New Yorker, I came away with the feeling that neither one could live without each other in their current status.

In a normal world of the American day-to-day news business, entities like Fox News would co-exist with all the other broadcast or print outlets and the public would see it as perhaps the same way it sees any other media outlet with an agenda such as The Nation or National Review or MSNBC and let nature take its course in the market.  Their brand would be identified and they would find their audience and life in the news media would go on.

But something happened when Trump decided to break out from being a shameless self-promoting con man dabbling in reality TV and on-line “education;” two things that draw in the gullible and the begrudged of the population and therefore ready marks who would open their wallets.  Trump saw Fox News as an easy way to hawk his brand of easy money and glitzy excess, and Rupert Murdoch and his minions saw Trump as someone with an uncanny knack for pushing the right buttons on their audience that bore envious grudges against the “mainstream,” which included anyone that didn’t agree with them that white Christian men with money were the ones who should really be running the country.

Thus this marriage of convenience and avarice.  Both Fox and Trump know that the more extreme and sensational their stories, the more the aggrieved and self-pitying base will follow them, which explains both the National Enquirer and the New Testament.  It also explains why the evangelicals worship Trump despite his obvious lapses that are antithetical to the strict codes of “Christian” morality that they used to beat up the Clintons and the Obamas.  They know a fellow huckster when they see one, and along with Fox News, they could both feed and pluck the pigeons.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Seen This Before

Republicans fall all over themselves to give in to Trump.

Acquiescence to Trump is now the defining trait of the Republican Party more than two years into his presidency — overwhelming and at times erasing principles that conservatives viewed as the foundation of the party for more than a half century.

Trump’s ownership of the GOP was on vivid display again Saturday, when the president appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, an annual gathering that has transformed into a raucous celebration of Trump, featuring propaganda-style art and a speaker who declared that the president was “chosen by God.”

Standing before an exuberant crowd chanting “Trump!” and “U-S-A,” Trump spent two hours railing against the “failed ruling class,” calling the special counsel’s Russia investigation “bullshit” and portraying his election as a major moment in global history.

“We are reversing decades of blunders and betrayals,” Trump declared at one point, before asserting that he was only joking in 2016 when he asked Russia to release Hillary Clinton’s private emails.

“Lock her up! Lock her up!” CPAC attendees roared at the mention of the former Democratic presidential nominee.

In interviews over the past week, Republicans on Capitol Hill offered an array of reasons for their unflinching loyalty to Trump as the 2020 campaign begins to take shape: a deep-seated fear of his pull with their supporters in primary races; fraying consensus about conservatism as nationalism takes hold of the party; and shared partisan disdain for Trump’s perceived enemies in the news media and the Democratic Party.

“We’re not going to turn on our own and make the Democrats happy,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who is up for reelection in 2020. “We don’t see any benefit in fracturing, but we do see a lot to lose.”

It’s not unusual for politicians to fall in line behind what they perceive is the trend in their favor for themselves and their party, but on scale this massive and without so much as a peep in acknowledging that everything their new leader stands for is counter to pretty much everything they stood for?

Yes, we’ve seen it before.

Rally at Nuremberg

Oh, you think I’m exaggerating? Being alarmist? I don’t think so.

The base — which is where all of this marathon two-hour rant that rivaled you-know-who for blaming all of his and his party’s troubles on someone else was directed — is eating this up like hot wings at an open bar at NASCAR and forcing the mainstream of the GOP to either get in or get out.  It’s going to take more that just an election in 2020 or the Mueller report or the 25th Amendment to remove this cancer.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Your Dose Of Schadenfreude

From the Daily Beast:

The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into whether Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) violated professional conduct rules by threatening former Trump fixer Michael Cohen ahead of Cohen’s congressional testimony on Wednesday.

The organization, which licenses lawyers to practice in the state, would not disclose details of the investigation, but spokesperson Francine Walker, said the bar is “quite aware of [Gaetz’s] comments… and we have opened an investigation.”

“If rules have been violated, The Florida Bar will vigorously pursue appropriate discipline by the Florida Supreme Court,” Walker said in a statement. “The Florida Bar takes its responsibility of regulating lawyer conduct very seriously.”

Reached by text on Wednesday, Gaetz said he had not “seen anything like that.”

Well, you’re about to find out, bugwit.

Gatez, a licensed Florida attorney and ally of President Donald Trump, came under fire on Tuesday for a tweet that appeared to threaten Cohen with personal retribution over his testimony, which alleged that Trump is a “racist” and a “con-man” who participated in criminal activity during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Hey @MichaelCohen212,” Gaetz wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”

[…]

According to Florida Bar guidelines, once the bar’s grievance committee decides that the alleged conduct might have violated ethics guidelines, attorneys have 15 days to respond to complaints against them. Attorneys for the bar then investigate the matter. If the grievance committee finds probable cause to believe that a violation took place, it then refers its findings to the state supreme court, which then makes a ruling and, if applicable, applies sanctions.

Several lawyers made the argument that the congressman had, indeed, engaged in a form of witness intimidation by suggesting that something nefarious would happen to Cohen’s wife once he went to prison.

“It’s that last line that seems really problematic,” emailed Stephen Vladeck, a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law. “‘She’s about to learn a lot…’ What is the test implied in that statement, as opposed to the insinuation that as a result of his testimony, his wife is going to come into negative information about him?”

The guy is an infantile asshole, and if the Florida Bar doesn’t sanction him, at least he’s revealed himself to the rest of the world the fact that he is.  His base may love him, but when the whole Trump corruption blows up, he’ll be lucky to be selling carpet cleaning in Pensacola and calling in to AM radio about how the libtards made him look bad.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Live From Capitol Hill

The breaking news banners will be out in force today on cable TV as Michael Cohen, Trump’s former consigliere, goes to Congress to tell his side of the Trump saga.

Cohen, who said in court last year that he once worked to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds,” will return to the Hill on Wednesday, where those familiar with his testimony say he is expected to describe personal, behind-the-scenes encounters that portray Trump as a lying racist and provide what Cohen’s supporters say they believe is evidence that Trump broke the law after he was sworn in.

But Cohen — who was convicted of lying to Congress and whose allies have been known to exaggerate or misstate the information he possesses — will have to withstand attacks on his credibility. The strength and reliability of his anticipated claims about the president’s possible wrongdoing could not immediately be ascertained.

The Republicans will go after him for lying because, of course, Republicans cannot tolerate lying, exaggeration, or false statements ever at all from anyone no way no how.  So there.

Cohen is expected to describe to lawmakers what he views as Trump’s “lies, racism and cheating,” both as president and in private business, and will describe “personal, behind-the-scenes” interactions he witnessed, a person familiar with the matter said. Perhaps more explosively, he is expected to provide accounts of possible criminal conduct that occurred while Trump was in office, according to two people familiar with his testimony.

It was not immediately clear what those accounts or alleged conduct might be, though one of the people familiar said it had to do with the hush-money payments Cohen helped arrange to buy the silence of women who alleged having affairs with Trump years ago, before he became president. That person said Cohen will provide lawmakers an exhibit to support his assertion; another person said he would provide “very specific details” about the payments, some of which have not been made public.

As sordid and shocking as Mr. Cohen’s revelations about Trump and his dealings may be, it is safe to say that no matter what he says it will not move the needle on the GOP base’s love for Trump one micron.  In fact, it may even harden their support for him because the Deep State and those people (and you know who they are) have had it in for Trump ever since he fleeced his first tenant back in the ’70’s.  And while there may be private misgivings bordering on panic on the Republican side because clearly their president is out of his mind and out of control, they still want their job in Washington because it’s a lot easier — and more lucrative — to say you’re representing your district back in Ohio or Montana or Alabama than it is to actually have to live there and make an honest living.

As for the base itself, they honestly don’t give a shit whether or not Trump lied, cheated, or is a racist because to a lot of them, those are qualities a real man must have to get ahead in this world dominated by political correctness and minorities suddenly having the same rights as everyone else.  (Paying off a porn star?  If only!)  And even if they had any moral qualms about his character, it’s the results that matter according to one billboard seen on I-95 in Broward County, Florida, that thanked Trump for making America First!  So what if the tax cut was basically a Ponzi scheme (Oh, you thought you were getting a big refund? Oops) and the tariffs against the Chinese ripped the bottom out of the agricultural market and the tirade against immigrants left crops rotting in the field and lawns in Beverly Hills unmowed?  What about Hillary’s e-mails?

So, yeah, get the popcorn and enjoy the show, but remember that even when John Dean told the truth about Richard Nixon’s complicity in Watergate in June 1973, it still took another fourteen months for the chickens to really come home to roost, and only then when the Republicans realized that it was their asses on the line if he stayed in office.

Child’s Play

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is a Trump toady and bully, proven time and again, and again:

As former Trump fixer Michael Cohen prepared to testify in public on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee, Trump loyalist Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted an ominous message at him Tuesday.

Cohen testified behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, and he’ll testify behind closed doors again on Thursday, before the House Intelligence Committee.

Gaetz isn’t a member of either the House Oversight or Intelligence committees. But he is close with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), having appeared with him on the congressional campaign trail and in frequent cable TV interviews.

After sending the tweet Tuesday, Gaetz told Vox’s Alex Ward that he was “witness testing,” not witness tampering.

He added to The Daily Beast: “This is what it looks like to compete in the marketplace of ideas.”

The Constitution requires that a person must be 25 years old to be a congresssperson.  Clearly Mr. Gaetz fails that mark, at least on the level of maturity.  This kind of noise isn’t worthy of a 12-year-old.