Saturday, September 23, 2017

Maybe It Will Take Actual Bread & Circuses?

Do you think that now, with 45 attacking the NFL & NBA, his supporters will finally start to see the light?

Personally, I doubt it. Even with the revelation that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez suffered from an extreme case of CTE, after the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant passed on visiting the White House while Trump is in residence there, after Trump decried the NFL's efforts to decrease the incidence of concussions and brain damage among players, and complained about "disrespecting our flag" as more and more players are taking a knee during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," none of this will change those people's minds. The only thing that might change their minds is if the NFL Players Association called for a general strike...and fat chance of that ever happening! Colin Kaepernick can't even get a job as a reliever, and player support for him is somewhat less than universal.

Unfortunately, it's going to take a lot more felt pain by everyone, and finding some way to return to a mutually-shared reality, before we see real change. As long as people can watch Fox and ESPN all day without hearing any mention of the Russia probe, or go about their lives knowing the starting lineup of their local football franchise but not know who Robert Mueller is, or who represents them in Congress, nothing will change.

I don't know what could be the solution; maybe add cheerleaders and physical contact in the Senate? Have legislators really fight it out with sword and spear, rather than with words? Trump has turned serious politics into reality tv, maybe nothing is too absurd to consider now.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Moment of Truth

The Racist-in-Chief tweeted this morning that it was "sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can't change history, but you can learn from it."

Obviously he hasn't learned a goddamn thing from "history."

History teaches us that prejudice is wrong, that judging a person or a group solely on the basis of race is wrong; it teaches that prejudice leads to racism, a systematic denial of basic human rights to a group of people based on prejudice. History teaches us that racism leads to physical and mental suffering, to rape, enslavement, torture, murder, and genocide. The history of the 20th Century teaches us that racism is a virulent evil, one that must be eradicated for the good of humanity, indeed, for our very survival. The lessons of history teach us that racism left unchecked leads to war, destruction, and death.

America, for all its faults, was thought to have grown morally throughout the last century, to have reached a point where at least it was ready to outgrow racism, if not to actually begin to do so. The election of Barack Obama was hailed as “the end of racism!”  Some Americans had their doubts – I was one of them - but it seemed that the arc of history was truly bending towards justice.


The election of Donald Trump heralded a sharp reversal of this trend. The white nationalists, the neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan all celebrated his election, seeing it as evidence of their growing political power, and the ascension of one of their own to the White House. Neo-Nazis famously cried “Hail Trump!” after the stunning results of last November. And this past week, Trump proved that he truly was one of them.

Never before has an American President defended neo-Nazis. Never before has a President claimed that “there were good people on both sides” in describing a white race riot. Donald Trump dropped the semi-ambiguous facade he’s coyly maintained since the election, and came out foursquare for white racists and neo-Nazis. And in doing so, Trump betrayed his oath of office. By siding with the spiritual heirs of the Third Reich, with racists and anti-Semites, Trump has abandoned  his office, and spat upon the Constitution and the American people.

Donald Trump has unquestionably demonstrated his unfitness for office. His foul and unstable temperament, lack of experience, and documented racist and anti-American sentiments render him not only incapable of performing the duties of the President, but disinclined to do so! He wants to be a king; well, he can be king of the penitentiary, if the Mueller investigation bears fruit. He wants to be loved?—he should get a dog.

Trump’s now unquestionable racism should come as no surprise. Throughout his life, he has demonstrated racist thoughts and beliefs, and a pronounced tendency to lie, time and time again. From his very first appearance in the New York Times with his father, as the defendants of a housing discrimination suit brought against them by the federal government, his strident and false belief in the guilt of the  Central Park Five, his first forays into politics with his loud and continued promotion of the lie that Barack Obama was not born in America, to nearly every moment of his presidential campaign and time in office, starting with his lies about Mexicans at the beginning of his campaign, his lies about millions of imaginary unregistered voters, and continuing up to the present moment, which finds him defending neo-Nazis and racist white nationalists. Trump has now aligned himself with the most odious and hateful segment of the American populace.

This is a pivotal moment in American history. This is the time that in later years will be remembered as the moment when America at last lived up to its rhetoric, and rejected the evil in the White House, or the moment when the American Experiment finally faltered and died. It remains to be seen if we have the will to do what is right.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Liars and Deceivers From Day One

The Guardian has an exclusive report that only four days after inauguration, the Trump administration began to censor Agriculture Department staff, instructing them to avoid using the term "climate change":

Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work, with the officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead.
A series of emails obtained by the Guardian between staff at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a USDA unit that oversees farmers’ land conservation, show that the incoming Trump administration has had a stark impact on the language used by some federal employees around climate change.

This really shouldn't be a surprise, but it makes my blood boil The Secretary of State us the former CEO of Exxon/Mobil, most of the rest of the cabinet are billionaires. It's likely that the only ones who recognize the truth of climate change are the military men around t.Rump, Mattis, McMasters, and Kelly. The Defense Department isn't blinded by conservative ideology. Oh, and Ivanka, the Princess of America, and her consort Jared the Boy Wonder, are also believers in reality. But as this story shows, even while Agent Orange's hand was still burning from touching a Bible during his inauguration, he had started to warp the government to spread his lies. 

Climate change is not "an elaborate Chinese hoax," as Agent Orange has repeatedly said; it's real, its effects are all around us now, but Trumpistas would rather believe an orange huckster that what scientists, and now even their own eyes, are telling them. Why? Because "it's too hard" to understand science, because lying politicians and Bible-thumping con men in the pay of the oil companies told them not to believe experts who've spent their entire lives studying this, that they should listen to them instead and keep buying gas-guzzling cars and work in the coal mines, instead of supporting efficient public transportation, renewable energy, and intelligently-designed vehicles; they've been told that they should believe the lie that "renewable energy is a job killer" when in fact the opposite is true, that concern about the environment is "hippy nonsense." Will it be "nonsense" when Miami and New Orleans sink beneath the waves? Will the foolish conservatives on Wall Street believe it when they need to take a boat to work?

I admit that I came late to the environmental movement, I've always been more concerned about social and political justice for people of color. But, as a friend once said to me, "what justice will there be for anyone, when there's no planet to have it on?" They were right. Most of the planet now realizes this. America, alone in the world with just Syria and Nicaragua as company, is not a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement. Every other nation on Earth is. Thanks to this orange fossil in the White House, we're backing away from the future as fast as we can.

We have to remove this tange traitor, as fast as possible, by any means necessary. Him and all his minions.

 P.S. The New York Times reported ( this evening that an as-yet unreleased draft report, authored by 13 government agencies, unequivocally states that climate change is real, is happening in the air, land, and seas right now, and we're suffering the effects already, and that it is without question the result of human activity. This is also the polar opposite of the pack of lies promulgated by these bastards. Let's see if they allow the report to be officially released.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Scarey Moocher Thinks He's King

Newly-appointed White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, hereafter known as the Scarey Moocher, arrived in D.C. this week, with a lot of asskissing for Agent Orange, and a ton of outer-borough-New-York-Italian-style bluster. Tonight the media is all atwitter over a scatological interview with the Moocher in the New Yorker, in which he proudly lowered the political discourse to the level of a street-corner argument between two goombas from the old neighborhood in Canarsie.

Scaramucci threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff to squelch the leaks, intensified his feud with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who wanted no parts of the Scarey Moocher in the administration, and basically did an impression of The Sopranos' consigliere Silvio Dante:

                  Which one is the pretend mobster? (Answer: both!)

Scaramucci called Priebus "a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” inaccurately complained that publicly posting his financial-disclosure form from his time at the Export-Import Bank was "a felony," (it's not; it's public information) and said that, unlike senior advisor Steve Bannon, "he had no interest in media attention. 'I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.'”

Why is everyone surprised about his language, his confrontational attitude, his lack of respect? Twitler himself has no respect for the office of the President, for our democratic traditions, or even the rule of law itself, and he sees something of himself in Scaramucci. Why, then, should a foul-mouthed ethnic from Long Island be such a shocker? What do you think Agent Orange, a Queens boy himself, is?

With the installation of the Scarey Moocher into the White House den of thieves, the transformation of the center of American government and the heart of the Free World, into a bad imitation of an extra season of HBO's The Sopranos, is complete. We've lost our democratic government, and replaced it with a television show... and a bad imitation of one, at that.

After publishing this piece, I came across this Silvio Dante quote from The Sopranos that seems uncannily appropriate for our time. The subject, of course, is open to your interpretation:

"I genuinely don't think there's anything to gain by keeping him around."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Just Because You Can Spout Bullshit At Lightspeed Doesn't Mean It's Not Bullshit

My TV is in grave danger from the Republican Party. If I see one more, just one more fast-talking, superficially slick, intellectually bankrupt, morally deficient GOP representative, senator, or "strategist," I'm gonna toss a shoe at my TV! And since my shoe of choice is usually a size 12 EEE Tony Lama western boot, that sucker's gonna die.

Day after day, for the last week especially, every news channel - even MSNBC - has had one of two variations on this model. Either the Blow-Dried Yuppie Slickster, or the balding, fatassed Good Ole Boy. Both versions display the same behavior: first they deliver a rapid, breathless spiel on "the Many Evils of Obamacare, and How It Hurts The American People," followed by repeated assertions that "Obamacare is failing!" but a flat refusal to discuss the details of exactly how and why it's "failing." Then  they'll reject the idea of actually reflecting and considering the implications of their constant bleatings for their constituents who, under this newest scheme, could be left with no health insurance at all; and all this nonsense is being spewed out at the interviewer with all the fast-talking, morally vacant, ignorant aggressiveness of a used car salesman in a cheap polyester suit.

And by then, I'm ready to toss a shoe at the TV. Who do they think they're fooling with this routine?

A lot of people, apparently. I first noticed this susceptibility many Americans have to fast-talking con men years ago, when I first moved to the Midwest. College bull sessions would be dominated by some ignorant, corn-fed jackass repeating something he had read but didn't understand in the Wall Street Journal. (Well, they *tried* to dominate the discussion, but I usually sliced right through their bullshit.) After college, I noticed the same deficiency in many Midwesterners; then, with the rise of Reagan, this disease spread nationwide. It's frankly disgusting, but it goes a long way towards explaining the rise of conservatism, and the election of, and continued support for, Agent Orange in the hinterlands.

Just because someone sounds confident, sounds like they know what they're talking about, doesn't meant that they are confident or that they do know what they're talking about. And rapid-fire recitations of talking points is not a substitute for clear, analytical, factually-based thinking; quite the opposite, in fact. Whenever you hear someone spewing oft-repeated talking points, stop them and ask: what facts are there that support your assertions? How is the present system or situation or plan inferior to the one that was in place before its institution? What do you have for a replacement, and what's so great about it? Usually, you'll see them sputter, and then fall upon another set of talking points. What you won't hear, 99 times out of 100, is some original thinking, or some facts that are new to you, or just plain facts, and not some inane nonsense that makes you pinch yourself to make sure this is really happening, and isn't an LSD flashback.

What you will hear, though, as their defense of their bullshit progresses, is something even crazier than their initial assertion. For example:

"Who knew healthcare was complicated?" said Agent Orange.
"Everyone!" said the rest of America.

"Only Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and myself attended that meeting with the Russian lawyer," said Trump Jr.
A week later, the number of people attending that meeting had doubled, including a former Soviet intelligence officer, and the number of meetings had increased from one to two. By next week, we'll find out that Boris and Natasha were also in attendance, with "Moose and Squirrel" listening through the adjoining wall with the office next door.

"We're gonna build a wall on our southern border, and Mexico is gonna pay for it!" said Agent Orange.
"No we're not," said Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.
"We're gonna build a big, beautiful wall, and Mexico is gonna pay for it!" said Agent Orange again.
"Fuck you, no we're not!" said former Mexican president Vicente Fox.
"We're gonna build a wall, and Mexico's gonna pay for it, and it's gonna have solar panels and be transparent, so you can see the 60-lb. bags of drugs being tossed over it, and not get hit in the head by them," said Agent Orange one more time.
"BHWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!! You crazy orange man!" said everyone in Mexico.
 "We'll pay to build the wall, and then get the money back from Mexico," said the crazy orange man, but by this time, only the other crazies were still listening.
Americans didn't used to believe bullshit just because it came wrapped in a nice box with a bow. (e.g., Ivanka: "I support working women." Truth: she supports them in Bangladesh, and Vietnam, and China, at $173/month in wages) We used to not fall for the Flim-Flam Man.We need to retrain ourselves in those skills.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Best Line of the Day

I'm catching up on a ton of new information about the Trump-Russia connection, in preparation for the next couple of posts, but this line stood out in all of my reading today, and I wanted to share it with you.

Linda Stasi at the New York Daily News:
The only Russian agents missing from Donny Jr.s’ meeting were Boris and Natasha from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Wheels Are Coming Off The Clown Car

You really have to hand it to right-wing media. Give them a story about treason, collusion, and a hostile foreign power's interference with U.S. Presidential elections, and they'll respond with a red herring the size of the Larson C Antarctic iceberg. Today NBC News reported that the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr., his brother-in-law and current White House Whiz Kid Jared Kushner, and the at-the-time campaign manager Paul Manafort last June--you know, back when we had a functioning democracy?--brought along a plus-one: a former Soviet counter-intelligence officer:
The Russian lawyer who met with the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — a former Soviet counter intelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, NBC News has learned.
NBC News is not naming the lobbyist, who denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies. He accompanied the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort.
The Russian-born American lobbyist served in the Soviet military and emigrated to the U.S., where he holds dual citizenship.
Veselnitskaya acknowledged to NBC News that she was accompanied by at least one other man, though she declined to identify him.
The presence at the meeting of a Russian-American with suspected intelligence ties is likely to be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate panels investigating the Russian election interference campaign.
Just like in the Mafia, there's no such thing as a "retired" counter-intelligence officer. James Bond, or, in this case, Illya Kuryakin, never retires: he either dies in active service in the line of duty, or goes on the "inactive status list," still able to take jobs for which he can be hung if caught, but avoiding all the pesky responsibility on the part of the home government. They can just leave him out in the cold, alone, if detected, and never have to admit responsibility for his actions, or pay his pension. A pretty convenient arrangement - for the government, if not the agent - for those ultra-high-risk assignments, the kind that sound like a bad Hollywood movie, they're so outrageous. Like, for example, sabotaging an American presidential election. But that's who you choose for those kinds of tasks, someone who has no apparent or current ties to your government. "Once in, never out" is a motto shared by the CIA, Mi-6, and the Cosa Nostra.

The former spy in question has since been identified as "Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist who since at least last year has been working with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to overturn a US law sanctioning Russians."

So here we have the candidate's son, his son-in-law, and his campaign manager - greedy, crooked idiots all - sitting in a room with a foreign, non-English-speaking woman whom they've been told is working for the Russian government and who has damaging information about the candidate's opponent, a former spy for the former Russian government, and a translator, since Ms. Veselnitskaya doesn't speak English. Sounds like a pretty memorable - and suspicious (but I'll get to that later) - grouping to me, how about you? I mean, it's not every day that you encounter a Russian lawyer and a former Soviet spy! And her translator, too. Seems to me that the people who attended that meeting would stick out in my mind for a long, long time.

But what does Jared do, when it's time to fill out his SF-86, the required government form to obtain a security clearance? A form that several times in several places tells you in no uncertain terms that supplying false information opens you to charges of perjury, with a maximum penalty of five years in a federal penitentiary? He forgets about this meeting! In fact, he forgot about meeting not only Ms.Veselnitskaya, but meeting over 100 foreign nationals, including a clandestine meeting during the transition with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Boy Wonder wanted to explore the possibility of setting up a back channel line of communications with the Kremlin, one that would use Russian communications equipment and facilities, and would be unknown to and undetectable by American intelligence services. In all, Young Jared forgot so much that he needed three supplemental forms to cover all the foreigners, especially Russians, that he's talked to over the last seven years.

But here's where it gets laughable. While every news organization is asking who was the sixth person in the room?" "Will Junior or Jared face perjury or conspiracy charges?" "Who were these people they met with, and what is their connection to Putin and the Russian government?", while all these serious and seriously damning questions are being posed, good ole Fox News "solves the mystery" with a "timeline shows how Russian lawyer got into US for Trump Jr. meeting." And the answer to the mystery which was not a question being asked by anyone, is, as always, the Obama Administration! Now and forever, ever ill of mankind, every trouble-spot around the world, every political drama, every Constitutional crisis, was originated by, and the fault of, Barack Obama's presidency.

And of course, just like a two-year-old who's not mature enough to take responsibility for their actions, Agent Orange rises to the defense of his son by smearing former Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The Buffoon-in-Chief said that "somebody" - his favorite source of information, akin to an SNL skit by Bobby Moynihan, the all-knowing "somebody" - "said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch. Now, maybe that's wrong. I just heard that a little while ago, but a little surprised to hear that. So, she was here because of Lynch."

Of course, he's dead wrong. The Daily Beast goes on to report that
“In Sept. 2015, DHS paroled Natalia Veselnitskaya into the U.S. in concurrence with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, allowing her to participate in a client’s legal proceedings,” the DHS statement to BuzzFeed News read. “Ms. Veselnitskaya was subsequently paroled into the U.S. several times between 2015 and 2016, ending in February 2016. In June 2016, she was issued a B1/B2 nonimmigrant visa by the U.S. Department of State.”
Trump's penchant for lying once again has put him at odds with the truth. His preoccupation with President Obama makes lie again and again, even when the facts are easily verified. But the way that wingnut media outlets like Fox support and defend those lies are what saddens me. Facts are no longer things that everyone can agree upon. Truth is relative to one's political persuasion. Reality is malleable, dependent on a person's party identification.

If we can't all agree on what's true or not, what's real or not, how can we ever solve the problems of climate change, economic disparity, racial division, educating the next generation in a manner that doesn't leave them destitute, repairing and revitalizing our crumbling infrastructure, and staving off the next global mass extinction event (coming to a polar bear near you!), as well as regaining our position as the leader of the free world, disarming North Korea, and finding a lasting peace in the Mideast?

We have to face our warts and confront our crazy relatives, not just over the Thanksgiving turkey once a year, but every day the clown car remains parked with the White House fleet. We have to hold the Trump Crime Family responsible for their words and their actions, and replace them immediately if they cannot.

This isn't funny, anymore.