What We Now Know


Here we are, three weeks into the Trump administration.  What we now know:

The right-wingers are hypocrites:  Classified information leaks and private servers and botched rescue missions were grounds for countless investigations and imprisonment when Hillary was the alleged perpetrator, but not an issue when Trump invites Putin in to hack the election, or when it’s revealed that several senior members of the Trump admin are using private servers, or when inadequate planning and preparation results in a failed mission in Yemen. There were also the unfounded accusations of pay for play funneling of contributions to the Clinton Foundation while Trump has yet to divest himself from his business interests and is actually funneling tax payer dollars into his family’s empire. The only sound more deafening than the hysterical calls for investigations into “crooked Hillary’s” alleged wrong doing is the silence of the same Republicans as Trump openly and brazenly engages in the same behavior and worse.

Trump is Putin’s puppet:  Trump is quick to criticize the U.S.A. and our allies but still has not said an unkind word about Putin.  Today it was reported that contrary to what he indicated before, that during the transition period, Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had conversations with Russian contacts about the sanctions President Obama was planning on implementing. Earlier this week, the Washington Post and New York Times printed stories that intelligence investigations into the dossier filed by an English intelligence agent about leverage Putin has on Trump  have so far been verified to be true. So far they haven’t checked out the more salacious details in the dossier, and I personally doubt their veracity. What does seem obvious is the fact Putin has something on Trump, and if we ever want to find out, somebody’s going to have to subpoena Trump for his tax returns. But even if we never get to see the tax returns, there’s still plenty of other evidence of Russian ownership of Trump – take this quote from his son in 2008:

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Trump is to be taken literally: This was one of the stupidest rationalizations for Trump’s insane rhetoric on the campaign trail, that when, for example, he spoke of “banning Muslims” from entering the country he was somehow speaking metaphorically.  We know now what was obvious all along – the man is too much of a moron to master such nuances as subtlety and context, and the reason for all the bat shit crazy things that leave his mouth is that he is in fact bat shit crazy. How bat shit crazy is he?  Crazy enough to think that more than three million illegal immigrants committed voter fraud, and that every one of them voted for Hillary, but not in key Electoral College states.  Crazy enough on the day after the inauguration to send his press secretary to angrily scold the press that the crowd that showed up to Trump’s inauguration was “the biggest crowd to watch an inauguration ever. Period.”  Never mind that this was patently false, it was also completely irrelevant. The ravings of lunatics shouldn’t be taken literally … that is, unless that lunatic is the most powerful man in the world, in charge of a nuclear arsenal large enough to destroy the world several times over.

Flooding instead of draining the swamp – The aggregate wealth of the twenty four people who serve on Trump’s cabinet is more than that of the bottom 100 million, or about one third, of the American population. And what a bunch: The new Secretary of Education has been the leading advocate of eliminating public school systems; the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency has been the loudest proponent of eliminating the EPA and has several open law suits against the Agency, the Secretary of State, the former CEO of Exxon, has implemented complex business structures in Russian oil that have helped make Vladimir Putin possibly THE wealthiest man on the planet. And in the ultimate “fuck you” to the American people, Trump has put the one man in the country who might be even stupider than himself – Rick Perry – in charge of the Department of Energy. Perry is a knuckle dragging climate change denier who now has responsibility for the safe and effective maintenance of our nuclear arsenal.  Traditionally, the post has been manned by individuals well respected in the scientific community.  Perry would be over his head in your four year old granddaughter’s wading pool let alone the department of energy, a department he once almost suggested shutting down, if only someone in the audience hadn’t waved something shiny in front of him, causing him to forget the name of the department.

The Republican Party has no interest in governing – and they haven’t for the past sixteen years.  They do have an interest in maintaining power.  Why?  So they can complete their fire sale of everything of value in this country to their rich and powerful donors and cronies.  They want to privatize social security and Medicare, not because these institutions are at risk, but because there is money to be made.  They want to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, even at a time when oil spills and sinkholes and tainted drinking water are impacting more and more people. They want to sell off the National Parks to mining interests and real estate developers.  They want to privatize public schools and prisons.  They want to repeal banking legislation that was passed to prevent the predatory practices that nearly destroyed the global economy in 2008.  They want to eliminate all federal funding of the arts, because artists rarely vote for them.  They want to eliminate the minimum wage, paid overtime, even child labor laws.  They want to repeal regulations ensuring workplace safety.

The “evangelicals” are a bunch of narrow minded hypocritical assholes who believe in only one thing – that abortion should be illegal.  Although I am pro-choice, I can understand why someone might be pro-life.  But I can’t understand how that can be the only issue a person might vote on.  Even if access to abortions was wide spread and open (which it is not), only a relatively small percentage of the population would be ever impacted by the issue.  But the evangelicals gave their votes to Trump because he changed from being pro-choice to being pro-life during the campaign, despite all of the unholy vitriol he espoused, from his many disrespectful remarks and misogynistic language about women, to his advocacy of torture and killing innocent family members of terrorists, to his open mocking of disabled people to his open courting of racists and overt espousing of racial sentiments. Any true believer would have trouble reconciling such an amoral narcissist with the values they claim they hold dear.  So if you voted for Trump, you’d do well not mention Jesus to me anytime – no candidate in my lifetime has ever been the antithesis of everything Jesus of Nazareth stood for as Donald Trump.

After three weeks, anyone who voted for Trump and still enthusiastically supports him is an idiot. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but how much more egotism and incompetence will it take to admit you made a mistake?

All of the anti-Trump protesters had better be ready for the long haul, because it’s going to take a lot more than waving a sign for an hour or two to create change.  Right wing nut jobs have taken over all branches of the federal government, they have control of more than 35 state governors and legislatures, and they have all the money.  And the Democratic Party is in shambles.  I have no idea how to best fight this, but I think the first step is to take an accurate and honest inventory of where things are and how much ground needs to be made up.

This is not and never will be normal. We cannot accept what’s going to happen, inevitable as some of it might be, as the way the system works, because our system has been taken over. Where we are now is not a function of American democracy, rather, it’s the result of a slow and eroding occupation of our country by a rich and powerful and radicalized minority, while the majority, fat and lazy, slept.

Don’t look to history for comfort – This has never happened before, at least, not here.  There have been similar Fascist take overs in the past in other countries, but never in the world’s greatest and dominant super power, never with these armed forces and this nuclear arsenal, never in the age of information, of the internet.  We’re heading into unchartered waters.

So, to quote that great political philosopher Bette Davis, “Fasten your seat belts – it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

 

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Ostriches


Today, January 27th, 2017, was International Holocaust Remembrance day. It also happened to be the day that President Trump signed an executive order shutting the door to the United States on all refugees from all countries.

Trump is an incompetent madman, and his die hard supporters are morons.  But as bad as they are, they are not the worst.  The worst are those who accept all of this madness as a new normal, who dismiss the discourse as nothing more than the usual partisan bickering.  Admittedly, often times the dialogue fails to rise above the lowest levels.  But the stakes are so much higher now. There are literally lives at stake.

Trump’s decision today violates the best interests of both American values and American interests. It violates the values of freedom and compassion that we’ve tried to live up to ever since they were written into our constitution, and it goes against our interests in that it will only give rise to the very extremism the order is intended to protect us from.  Of the thousands of people we turn away and condemn, it’s inevitable that hatred for America and Americans will rise. American people, soldiers and tourists, Republicans and Democrats, will become targets of retaliation both at home and abroad.

To those of you out there in Facebook land who are tired of all the political posts, who wish that social media would get back to just being pictures of cute little kitties and the such, to those of you who are sick of all the hate and think you’re above all of the fray, go ahead and stick your head in the sand.  You won’t be the first ones to tune out the cries of innocent people dying.

Today is a reminder that we have to remember the Holocaust because we can no longer hear the crying of six million innocent lives. But if you listen closely, you can hear the same silence that emboldened another small man who become the architect of the perversion of another great nation in 1933.  It grows louder with every order Trump signs, and the shadows of guilt spread over the souls of those who remain silent like a cancer, black and bitter and cold.

Snake Oil


The liars at the NRA are at it again with a new television commercial. If you haven’t seen it yet, it features an attractive woman waking up alone in the middle of the night to the sounds of a shadowy intruder in her home.  As the voice over explains that it takes an average of eleven minutes for authorities to respond to a 911 call, she reaches for a gun in a gun safe on top of her dresser. But the gun vanishes as the voice over explains that “Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self-defense.”

It’s the same nonsense that Donald Trump has been spreading about how if elected, Hillary would “do away with the second amendment,” as if that were even possible.  While she has proposed relatively minor and common sense increases in gun control, unless the woman purchased her weapon from a gun show or one of the other loop-holes that don’t require registration, her gun will still be there. The commercial is more of the nonsensical paranoid “Obama’s going to take your guns away” fantasy that the NRA has been perpetuating for the past eight years. And as their subjects shoot each other up and as the body count rises, they and their gun manufacturing masters continue laughing all the way to their affluent suburban bank.

The simple fact is that president Obama has been the best thing to ever happen to gun and ammo manufacturers. Eight years into his presidency, there are more guns in circulation than ever before, and even as we’ve experienced the nightmares of Newtown and Aurora and the countless other mass shootings, even as we’ve made the jobs of law enforcement even more difficult with the passage of open and concealed carry laws, the extremism and fear mongering perpetuated by the NRA continues unabated, and as its constituency digs in, the second amendment becomes its shield.

This devotion to the constitution might be considered noble if it wasn’t so selective. One need only look at the other amendments that Trump has proposed violating:

  • His immigration policy of “mass deportations” would violate the Fourth Amendment‘s ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures,” as well as the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments by relying on racial profiling.
  • His proposed ban on Muslims would violate the First Amendment.
  • His proposed “database” of Muslims would violate the Fifth Amendment.
  • His advocacy of state-sponsored torture would violate the Fifth and Eighth Amendments.
  • His proposal for “opening up the libel laws” to enable  the executive branch to sue the media would violate the First Amendment.
  • His support for mass surveillance and the bulk collection of citizens’ data would violate the First and Fourth Amendments.

That’s a total of five amendments that Trump’s policies would trash – and there are probably more, as I am no constitutional scholar.  Yet the NRA would have us ignore these in order to protect ourselves from a moderate interpretation of the Second Amendment?

None of this makes any sense – especially when you consider that the supposed foundation of political conservatism is the prevention of government overreach. How can the very same people who fear the government coming to their homes and removing their guns be okay with the same government locking up and deporting millions of people?  How can they be so sensitive to perceived slights to their religion and support a ban on another religion?

The answer is that a large chunk of the modern conservatives in this country are fear ridden and selfish idiots who can’t see the forest for the trees. Only Jesus and guns can save their narrow minded white asses from the black and brown people who are so frightening to them that they’d throw away everything this country has stood for so that an orange haired lunatic con man can protect them. That they buy the snake oil he is selling is a reminder that there is no constitutional amendment against stupidity.

Problem Child


The Republican establishment is beside itself, trying desperately to figure out a way to deny Donald Trump the presidential nomination. Truly mystified, they ask themselves, “How did this happen?”

Are you kidding me?  Even the Republicans can’t be that stupid.

Donald Trump is the love child of the Republican Party and the toxic wack-a-doodles known as the tea party. Having given up what was left of their virtue in return for easy votes, the extremism and radical rhetoric spawned by their unholy union has taken the form of the orange-headed fascist mutant. It’s disingenuous for the Republican leadership to come out now and blast Trump for being too extreme, for inciting violence and hatred, when their entire agenda for the past seven and a half years has been to obstruct and destroy the elected president rather than govern. Even in this past week, as they decry Trump’s unfitness to govern, Mitch McConnell announced that he will not allow a vote on President Obama’s nominee for the supreme court, despite there being no historical precedent for denying a vote in an election year, despite polls showing that by a two to one margin the public thinks a vote should occur, and despite the responsibility spelled out by the constitution of the Legislative branch to advise and consent.  But, hey, not doing his job is nothing new for McConnell.  This is, after all, the same man who said, in 2010, that his “top priority was to make sure Barack Obama is a one term president.” Given his failure in this regard, one has to wonder why he still has a job.

Obama’s approval rating is currently at a three year high.  Therein lies the main problem for both parties.  For the Republicans, it shows that all of their hate filled vendetta against Obama isn’t working, and people who don’t belong to the tea party are tiring of their antics.  This has been the one same shrill note they’ve been sounding for years now – Obama bad.  They’ve even intentionally sabotaged key legislation and then brazenly blamed Obama for is failure. One example of this:  I heard Ted Cruz, one of the most extreme obstructionists, blame Obama for cutting the military, when the cuts were actually mandated by sequesters that were part of the Cruz engineered government shutdown.

Obama’s approval rating also points to the main problem that Trump presents for the Democrats, and that is he’s not running. If he were, I have no doubt he’d sweep the floor with the puffy haired petulant little brat.  It would be the clear contrast between mature adult and spoiled child.  Obama has weathered seven and half  years of vile hatred and lies with grace, dignity and good humor, while Trump has blown his stack over a couple of soft ball questions lobbed at him from a Fox News reporter, resorting to sophomoric and ugly personal attacks.

The problem for the Democrats is they are running two politically flawed candidates, both of whom will be easy targets for attacks from the right. Fair or not, Hillary Clinton is going to have to fend off attacks against her character, as she’s already been branded as “untrustworthy.” For Bernie Sanders it will be how he’s embraced the term “socialism.”  And trust me, I know, there’s nothing really to fear in the term; that “democratic socialism” really refers to a return to a fairer economic model, where the distribution of wealth isn’t tipped to the top one percent to the degree it is today. That doesn’t matter. Any kind of nuanced discussion always loses out to the Pavlovian fear-inducing emotional responses triggered by the sound bite definitions assigned to such words.  Just as “liberal” has come to mean “weak,” “socialism” is code for “communism” and “untrustworthy” means, well, “untrustworthy.”  These one word character assassinations are extremely effective and easy, especially when relentlessly hammered into our brains.

A friend of mine posted “If voting really mattered, they’d make it illegal” on Facebook yesterday. If ever there were a year to prove that sentiment wrong, this is it. The stakes were high enough with an on-going health care crisis, global unrest, environmental disasters, assaults on individual rights to privacy, and the potential for another economic collapse hanging in the balance.  Throw in the front running candidacy of Trump and his growing fascist following, the racism and misogyny of his rhetoric, and his advocacy for violence and his followers’ willingness to engage, you have the greatest threat to American democracy in my lifetime.

Above all, Trump must be stopped.

So it turns out I agree with Republicans on something.

 

 

 

A Night to Remember


There was an extraordinary moment during last night’s Republican debate when the front runner, Donald Trump, advocated the murder of innocent family members of suspected terrorists.  As my jaw hit the floor, I waited for the response from the other candidates and the moderator. Only Jeb Bush responded, saying it was crazy while Trump made silly faces mocking him, and a bit later, Rand Paul spoke up about how such a plan would violate the Geneva Convention, to which Trump responded, “so they can kill us, but we can’t kill them?”  Nothing from the moderators, and nothing else from the other candidates in what was an excruciatingly long fear fantasy about how this country is on the verge of collapse due to radicalized Jihadists or Muslim extremism.

In all the talk about terrorism, not a word was mentioned about the radical Christians who killed three people and injured nine more, including five police officers, in the Planned Parenthood attack. Not a word on all the mass shootings we’ve endured over the past few years.  Somehow, people getting shot in elementary schools and movie theatres doesn’t register a blip on the radar screen. The candidates that are owned by the NRA always point to the constitutional rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.  These arguments lose their validity when the same politicians advocate unconstitutional activities like torture or the murder of innocent people.

It’s clear that in the Republican view of things, we are to be fearful of foreigners, whether they are Muslims or Mexicans.  What they seem to miss is that by all the tough guy rhetoric, they are in fact empowering ISIS, that they are making the point that ISIS wants Muslims to believe, that the United States hates them and wants to stamp them out.  How is a law abiding Muslim citizen supposed to react when one of the candidates threatens to kill him with no regard for innocence or guilt?  Radicalization begets radicalization, and Trump’s comments were reckless and insanely extreme.

CNN can go take a flying leap, too. It wasn’t only the moderators who ignored these outrageous remarks, I watched the post-debate coverage in vain waiting for someone to mention them.  But no, they were too busy doing their post-game analysis – and by post game, I’m referring to how the entire night was presented.  It was just like an NFL football game, as the pre-debate show focused on strategies and who was winning or losing, offense and defense, and who had what strengths and weaknesses.  The scene got even more surreal when the debate opened with a woman singing the national anthem. Then the post-game show, with the highlights and lowlights, who had the best sound bites. “Jeb Bush was more aggressive, Ted Cruz was rude, “, etc. etc.  Never mind that the front runner advocated the state sponsored murder of innocent civilians.

I’m also fed up with the Democratic Party, whose strategy seems to be to run and hide. Their next debate is Saturday, the 19th, the Saturday before Christmas, traditionally one of the lowest viewed nights of the year.  There’s been nothing coming out of the Clinton or Sanders camps, while the whole nation tuned in last night to hear all the Re-Pubes relentlessly attack Obama and Clinton.  As usual, they are quiet and unresponsive (“feckless,” as Chris Christie called them), unwilling to engage in the muddy brawl that the Republicans understand modern day politics to be.  As usual, they stand by doing nothing while the right slices them open.  President Trump doesn’t sound as nearly unlikely as it should, and if it becomes a reality, the Democrats need only to blame themselves – again.

When I was growing up, one of the questions was, how did an advanced and powerful country like Germany fall into the hands of Hitler?  It could never happen here, we were assured, we have too many checks and balances.  Yet here we are, less than a year away from our next presidential election, with an unapologetic fascist and indisputable egomaniac who spews outrageous hatred, as the frontrunner of the Republican Party.

We need to wake up while we still can.

The Donald Trumps the Constitution


In the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, Donald Trump is calling for a complete ban of all Muslims entering the country. This is an extraordinary proposal that goes against everything the U.S. stands for. It is so blatantly unconstitutional, it so violates the freedom of religion that the constitution grants everyone the right to, that to call it outrageous is an understatement.  Trump’s comments at best reveal an arrogance and stupidity that would render him unfit for the job of most powerful man in the world, at worst they reveal a dangerous fascist who would threaten world stability.

About San Bernardino – another tragic loss of innocent American lives. I find it interesting that at first, the Republican Party was silent, but then, once it was revealed that the shooters were Muslims who’d been radicalized, all Hell broke loose.  Republicans were suddenly outraged that the seeds of radicalization had been sewed right here within our borders, and soon I heard one of them say that this was the second worst act of terrorism, after 9/11, that we’ve been subjected to.

That is simply wrong.  The second worse act or terrorism was the Oklahoma City bombing.   Perpetrated by a white Christian, Timothy McVeigh, it killed 168 people and injured more than 680 others. Yet Oklahoma City is largely forgotten and rarely a part of the terrorism conversation, as is Ted Kaczynsky, a.k.a. the Unabomber, who killed three and wounded twenty three people.  The shooter at Sandy Hook was white, too – yet when terrorism is discussed, his name never comes up. Murder sprees by white Americans don’t mobilize the political base.

In the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino incidents, there’s a movement gaining a lot of momentum that we should send ground troops in to eliminate ISIS.  This seems problematic to me and would put our troops at great risk, as ISIS is not a country, and there is no way to go into battle knowing who’s a bad guy and who’s not.

I find the Republican outrage about radical Islam to be inconsistent with their continued silence on mass shootings.  I think it’s time we start naming mass shootings for what they are: acts of terrorism. If we’re at war against terrorists, we need to count the 462 American lives taken by American terrorists in mass shootings so far this year. Donald Trump and his followers have no problem with ignoring the constitutional rights of Muslims, yet they hide behind the constitutional right to bear arms when a white male commits an act of terrorism.

The right’s reaction to mass shootings is insanity – more guns and the elimination of gun-free zones, and a refusal to consider even the slightest legislation calling for gun registration and background checks.  The latest example of this insanity it that the government maintains a “no-fly” list, a list of characters who have been deemed too dangerous to board an airplane.  Yet, thanks to opposition from the NRA, any one of these people can walk into a gun store and buy a gun with no questions asked.

But numbers are just numbers. We can throw them around all we want to make whatever point we want.  It’s important to remember, though, that for each of the numbers of deaths, there is one innocent life taken and countless others impacted.

I hope that someday we can move forward, and look back on the first couple of decades of the twenty first century as a period when we collectively lost our mind.