Cutting Through The Crap

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Damage Is Done

My latest newspaper column:
Win or lose, Donald Trump has done incalculable damage to America. It can’t be overstated. A disordered egomaniac who can’t abide not being adored by others as much as he adores himself, he’s doing everything he can to delegitimize the core of our democracy. Free and fair elections. Unencumbered press. And, above all else, trust in the process. This is worse than his career of cheating and lying, even worse than his sexual predation. It fits the definition of sedition. It’s unspeakably dangerous. He doesn’t care. 
Trump won’t commit to accepting election results, telling people to vote, then to go to “certain places” to be on the watch for unspecified dastardly voting activity. He believes (or, at least, wants you to believe) his losing could only occur if the election is “rigged,” which happens to be impossible. His latest lie: the US is letting undocumented immigrants “pour into the country” to vote. This is deliberate incitement. If our democracy isn’t about respecting the outcome of elections, it’s about nothing. He doesn’t care. 
To avoid personal embarrassment, he stokes anger and resentment. Physical attacks on reporters, death threats to them and their kids are signs of what’s to come. The latest foreshadowing: standing threateningly, locked and loaded, outside Democratic offices. Post-election plans for attacks are being uncovered. This imperils us far more than ISIS. He doesn’t care. 
It’s entirely attributable to his words. For Trump, it’s about rationalizing failure, but his supporters accept his ravings as truth. As with his birther lie, systemic harm is of no concern, only aggrandizement and revenge. Especially revenge: his career is rife with acts of it. Handing pitchforks to an angry mob, he’s tearing the country asunder. He doesn’t care. 
Expecting a fawning press and lying with impunity, as it had been in his “business” career, Trump now bans and blames news organizations that uncover his lies. Enabled by supporters taught to pre-reject facts based on source not content, and to mock expertise, he claims media bias. But our democracy depends on a free and skeptical press and a well-informed electorate, both of which he scorns, because they’re constitutionally intended to protect our country from the unbridled power that he seeks. He doesn’t care. 
As he strikes out (in both senses), his rallies become more frightening. Having swallowed the paranoid Trumpic rantings, ignorant of the reasons for the First Amendment, his minions are convinced media are the enemy. To explain away revelations of his vulgarity and unethical business practices, Donald Trump pretends he’s the victim. And his supporters scream at the bulwark of democracy. He doesn’t care. 
For a narcissistic and pathological liar, this has been perfectly predictable. Facing the inevitable, he’s become a cornered rabid dog. In full conspiracy mode, speaking recently in Florida, resorting to a time-honored anti-Semitic trope, he imagined a planet-wide conspiracy against him, run by “international bankers.” Making ever-wilder claims, likening his suffering to Jesus, he fed fuel to the fires festering within his furious fans, who stand ready to burn it all down. (I’m glad Democrats raised money to rebuild that firebombed Republican office.) You’d avoid a guy ranting like this on a street corner. That this one is the Republican nominee for President of the United States embarrasses us all. He doesn’t care. 
The description may not fit all of his enthusiasts, but if Trump wins, the most democracy-rejecting, misinformed haters of nonwhite and non-Christian Americans will find themselves welcomed into the mainstream. If he’s defeated, there’s no doubt they’ll buy his claim of rigging and respond accordingly. They already have. What then? Two sides, separated by a deliberately constructed wall of hate for the winner, the losers readying, literally, to shed blood. A country in flames? He doesn’t care. 
Donald Trump says “America,” but it’s only himself he’s ever wanted to make great, because, I think, somewhere inside he knows he’s not. As losing looms, he’s lashing out even more at the essential qualities of America, willing to take it down with him. It’s past time for true conservatives and their “leaders” to admit the damage he’s doing and call it out. It’s getting worse by the day. Win or lose, that is his legacy. Donald J. Trump doesn’t care.
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Thursday, October 20, 2016

When It's Obvious, It's Hard To Be Original

All the things that I'd be saying about that third debate have already been said, by pretty much all observers. Hard to point to something new about something so obvious.

So I'll just mention two things: first, Trump was allowed to avoid answering whether he'd leave a residual force in Mosul. Hillary was clear: no. I think it's at the heart of Middle East policy: Does having a mass of troops in that region promote stability or foment resentment and continuing conflict? If it's necessary for stability, what's the endpoint? Can there ever be one? Hillary seems to have learned the obvious lesson.

Second, not that it's as big a deal: Trump claimed (in the long list of things he denies he's ever said or done, for which there's documented evidence that he did) he never said he'd be fine with various countries having nuclear weapons. To which Chris Wallace said nothing. It was in an interview with Chris Wallace that Trump said it.

And second second, speaking of Wallace: a couple of his questions were long-time Fox talking points, framed inaccurately. The rate of economic expansion, for one.

(Third second, not original at all: it's really depressing that in three debates, climate change wasn't a topic. Hillary did mention that Trump thinks it's a hoax, to which his in-depth response was "I never said that." Which he has, many times, many ways.)

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In Plain English

Monday, October 17, 2016

That Firebombing

That firebombing of a Republican headquarters in North Carolina is very disturbing and, if it was self-identified "liberals" who did it, disappointing in the extreme. For one thing, I've always believed such things were much more likely (mainly because it's true) to be the work of right-wing zealots. Planned Parenthood, Mosques, Democratic offices, homes, and, you know, what-not.

I was impressed by Hillary Clinton's response. Donald didn't disappoint, either, but for opposite reasons. And I'm very glad that local Democrats and many from far away have been raising money to rebuild the building. Whoever did it, one hopes, will be found, and (after a fair trial and adequate legal representation) locked up for a long, long time.

I can't help but point out, however, that if it had been an attack on a Democratic office, Alex Jones would be leading the chorus of claims that it was a "false flag" operation (a term with which I'd not been familiar until he used it in reference to the murders at Sandy Hook). Just sayin'.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

They Hate America

My latest newspaper column:
I thought it might be overlooked in the morass, but Mike Pence pointed to it as “one of the better moments of the debate.” Trump’s henchpeople in the audience whooped and hollered their unbridled (and, one would hope, thoughtless) approval. Their campaign manager called it a great night for democracy. What they were celebrating was the reincarnation of Joseph Stalin and his gulags. 
And I’d thought the worst moment of the night would be when Trump held a pre-debate news conference with women who claim to have been abused by the spouse of his opponent. Or when he repeated the Foxilimbeckojonesan lie about Hillary Clinton laughing at a rape victim, now sitting next to him, to whose case the courts had assigned her. The lie is Trumpic on many levels, not the least of which is rejecting a mainstay of the American system of justice: the right of the accused to a fair trial and effective counsel. Never mind that the truth, as usual, is entirely different from Trump’s massive falsehood.  
Donald Trump thinks, as do his followers, the “I know you are but what am I” defense is how to deal with his admission of being a sexual predator; and, evidently, he believes he’s diminishing Hillary by mentioning her husband’s infidelities. But if it does say something about her, it says the same about his own wife. (You may choose up to three.) And, for the record, had he used another p-word, say, pudendum, it wouldn’t have made the revelation any less sordid. Because it’s not his words. It’s his bragging about acts which, if adjudicated, would require that he register as a sex offender. 
But there I just went, distracted by the enormous vulgarity of the man, at the expense of his much more disturbing inclination toward tyranny, and the enthusiasm with which his followers embrace it. 
This is the Donald Trump about whom I and everyone else who’s paying attention have been warning: the one who’d undertake to jail his political opponent if he wins the election. The one who’d emulate the worst despots, past and present; the one to whom the future of the country is less important – so much so that it doesn’t register with him at all – than the coddling of his own disturbed ego. He’d round up and jail his opponent. (Why even bother with the “special prosecutor,” Trump? You’ve already announced the outcome.) And they cheered. Polluted by decades of propagandizing, they cheered, exhuberently, the end of democracy, the burying of our Constitution under the weight of deliberate and undeniably effective endumbification. They cheered it like a Wilson to Baldwin touchdown. 
Because, according to the vision that was planted in their brains, the system is so corrupt we must destroy it to save it (Vietnam reference). It justifies electing a vindictive, power-hungry, lying, know-nothing claimer of knowing everything. It justifies cheering for the imprisonment of political opponents. Cheering in the certainty it’d never be them in the boxcars, because they are, after all, white, Christian, native-born patriots (assuming patriotism includes hating everything else about our country, including most of its people and, definitely, its legal system.) They cheered. Couldn’t help themselves. Dreaming of vengeance, of watching others suffer hard justice that cometh from an almighty personal savior, ceding all power to him, they cheered. Enraptured, grateful for the first coming of Donald Trump, they cheered. (Okay, bad metaphor: nothing about Donald Trump is remotely like Jesus. Which broaches a mystery for another time.) 
Faced with deciding whether or not to prosecute his predecessors Dick and George for what were, by definition, war crimes, President Obama chose not to, sparing his country and the world the divisive spectacle, not to mention learning the depth of the atrocities, only now being revealed, committed in our names. In that case, the criminality was obvious. In Hillary’s, millions of dollars and wasted hours spent kangarooing her have not led to criminal charges. So Trump and his still-faithful proposed punishment by assumption, by conspiracy theory, by dictatorial fiat. Stomping on the Constitution, waving the flag and shouting USA, USA, USA! 
And it was the p-word that was too much for Paul Ryan (kind of) and John McCain. 
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Friday, October 14, 2016

There's Hypocrisy, And Then There's Hypocrisy

I was gonna write something like this, but then I found it pretty much already wrapped up with ribbon. I don't know who "Alex Schiller" is. But it's evidently making the cyber rounds (I saw it on Kos):
Bill Clinton cheats on his wife. Impeach him. Trump proudly brags about sexual assault (and has cheated on his wives). Elect him. Hillary oversaw the department of state while 4 people died in an embassy attack. Put her in jail. 2 Republicans were in office while over 200 people died in embassy attacks. No problem. Immigrants don't pay taxes. Round them up and kick them out. Trump doesn't pay taxes. He's a business genius. Hillary's foundation only spent 87% of their donations helping people. She's a crook. Trumps foundation paid off his debts, bought sculptures of him, and made political donations to avoid investigations while using less than 5% of funds for charity (and he got shut down by NY State). So savvy... Put him in the white house. 
Trump made 4 billion dollars in 40 years, when an index fund started at the same time with the same "small loans" he received would be worth $12 billion today... without a trail of bankruptcies, thousands of lawsuits and burned small business owners. He's a real business whiz. Hillary took a loss of $700k. She's a criminal. Trump is the first candidate in the modern era not to release his tax returns, and took a billion dollar loss in 1 year. Genius. Hillary takes responsibility for private email servers and apologizes. Not credible. Trump denies saying things (on the record) he actually said (on the record), he's just telling it like it is. 
Your arguments are thin. Your ignorance of reality is shocking. Your double-standards are offensive, and your willingness to blindly support him and recycle the rhetoric is absurd. Your opinion is not fact. Your memes are not news articles. And your hypocrisy is not a platform.
Alex Schiller
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Thursday, October 13, 2016


This is Donald Trump, after a woman fainted at one of his rallies:
... When she came back, after being treated for passing out in the tarmac heat, Trump boasted that his supporters were tough — tougher, even, than the safety rules in place to protect professional football players. “That woman was out cold, and now she’s coming back,” Trump said from the podium. “See, we don’t go by these new, and very much softer, NFL rules. Concussions — ‘Uh oh, got a little ding on the head? No, no, you can’t play for the rest of the season’ — our people are tough.”...
At this point, he could save himself and his supporters a lot of time by reducing his speeches to this:
"I'm an asshole. I'm the best asshole, that I can tell you. I have great asshole words, believe me. I know more about being an asshole than anyone, even some pretty great assholes. Vote for me because I'm an asshole and so are you."
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The 'Splain In Maine Is Plainly Insane

The governor of Maine (a state I'd always considered kinda staid and definitely sane) is a nutjob of epic proportions. But at least he's unbagged a cat whose condition was deducible from the start. Said he:
“Sometimes I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law,” LePage said in the interview. “We’ve had eight years of a president — he’s an autocrat — he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress, and every single day we’re slipping into anarchy.”
So the problem today's Republican party has had with Barack Obama is not that he's acted like an autocrat (a common if ridiculous claim) but that he's the wrong autocrat. Not their autocrat.

And if you think, well, Gov. LePage (isn't that glue?) is just speaking for himself, what is it about Donald Trump's "message" that his flock are cheering on? It sure as hell isn't because he's a constitutionalist.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Prepare The Gulags

Well, the second debate was hard to watch, mainly because neither of them did themselves, or us, very proud. Hillary was able to get in some serious policy discussion, and when asked at the end what she admires about Trump she managed to come up with some praise for his kids instead of the more truthful but probably less politic "Not one fucking thing."

Still, it was mostly a bunch of personal insults, the more grievous of which came from Donald, as expected. His were more personal, tacky, and pointless than hers ("She has hate in her heart," said the Mexicans-are-rapists candidate.)

Lost in the morass was the single most disturbing thing Donald Trump said: if he wins he'll appoint a special prosecutor to go after Hillary Clinton and put her in prisonThat got enthusiastic applause from his henchpeople in the audience and, no doubt, will be cheered across the digital landscape that's found in a certain deplorable basket.

But think about it: if you piss off Donald, he puts you in prison. A gulag, I'd guess. Nor do his supporters find the idea the least bit repugnant or frightening. And they say when we liberals call him a demagogic tyrant and criticize his supporters, we're being nasty. Maybe that promise of his will burble up through the cesspool and be seen for what it was: the announcement of a would-be dictator, the first step toward subjugation, cheered on by those who assume they'd never be next.

I can't help thinking of President Obama right after he was elected, when there were calls for prosecution of his predecessors Dick and George for what were actual, undeniable, by-definition war crimes. Not in the country's best interest, the president decided, in what was the first of several decisions that disappointed the leftest side of his supporters. (For the record, I thought it was the right decision, but would have, on a personal-satisfaction level, loved to have seen it happen. But we liberals are able to think beyond immediate and selfish gratification.)

No, that was damn scary stuff, what Donald said and how his delusional followers reacted. USA! USA! USA! Give me your tyrants, your poorly informed, your huffing masses yearning to bleed me...

[Added: looking at various sources after I wrote the above without searching, it seems others saw it as I did. Reassuring on some level. Mike Pence, however, called it one of the best moments of the debate. So there you have it.]

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They're Shocked. Shocked!

Here's the thing: there's nothing that the pussy tape revealed about Donald Trump that wasn't already known. It's just that, being so glaringly on the record, it's harder for the hypocrites to continue to look the other way.

So this mini-flood of unendorsements and calls for dropping out are nothing more than admissions of that hypocrisy; that until it became screamingly undeniable it was okay to overlook his vulgarity, his pathological lying, his business scams, his fake charity, his instigating of violence, his attacks on the electoral process, on the press, on all Americans who aren't white Christian native-born males, his rallying of the worst of our American racists. And none of the suddenly awakened have criticized any of that, not even now.

Instead of proclaiming their born-again moral standing, they should be publically shamed for waiting so long.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Hats On For Trump

It's Not Too Late

My latest newspaper column:
The Dallas Morning News. The Arizona Republic. The Cincinnati Enquirer, The New Hampshire Union-Leader, The Richmond Times-Dispatch. The San Diego Union-Tribune. Et mucho cetera. Conservative newspapers, which have always endorsed the Republican candidate for president, some of them for well over a century. Not now. In rejecting Donald Trump, most endorsed Hillary Clinton. A couple nodded to Gary “Aleppo?” Johnson. USA Today, having never opined on a presidential race, implored readers not to vote for Trump. 
“Dangerous, unstable, liar, thin-skinned, vindictive, uninformed, ” they said, costing them readers and evoking death threats. (Death threats: America’s answer to Voltaire.) Turns out defending true conservatism is heroic. 
I agree liberals don’t have exclusive answers to our many problems. (We’re totally right about trickle-down economics, though.) I get why people dislike Hillary Clinton, even if their reasons are largely based on Foxilimbeckojonesean lies and exaggerations. I know people want “change.” But it’s long past time for true conservatives to admit, as The Atlantic put it, an “ostentatiously unqualified” person has won the nomination of their party, one who neither represents their politics nor the kind of change they want; who ought never become the personification of The United States to the world. Simple observation is all it takes. 
Donald Trump spent last week tweeting awfulness about a former Miss Universe because Hillary Clinton berated his treatment of her. He couldn’t stop himself. Day after day it continued, childishly, compulsively. Well, Trumpites, fustigation comes with the political territory. Only the most Foxilimbeckojonesian can say President Obama hasn’t handled the disrespect he’s received from Republicans with dignity and restraint. What would Donald do to those who offend his brittle ego? What has he done throughout his career, and threatened to do as president? If the prospect doesn’t frighten you, I’d love to know the medications you’re on. 
An embarrassing onslaught of adolescent insults and incoherent rambling followed his debate loss. To a woman! During the VP debate Donald tweeted that Hillary’s ties to Putin, for whom he professes admiration, with whose country he does business, need to be investigated! And he mocked Tim Kaine’s looks. What sort of mind... ?
I’ve heard from readers who declaim their hatred of “everything” about liberals, using it to excuse supporting a candidate so obviously lacking integrity. “It’s not a personality contest,” one reasoned, evidently ignorant of the difference between personality and character. It’s impossible to open their eyes to the malignant mentality of Donald Trump. If he hates the same things they hate, it’s immaterial that he’s a psychologically unfit, narcissistic, vengeful, congenital prevaricator who, throughout his life, has shown no sense of personal or shared responsibility. “Finally,” they say. “Someone who thinks like I do.”
Backing a man so bereft of decency, a “businessman” who’s cheated, broken laws, gone bankrupt (losing a billion dollars in an up market and using trickle-down tax law to pay no taxes shows “business savvy,” they say, faces straight as a rifle barrel); needed daddy’s bailouts, repeatedly, to keep him afloat; run scams and phony, illegal charities; been sued thousands of times; regularly stiffed and bullied people who worked for him; a recidivist vulgarian who smears his opponent for her husband’s infidelities while claiming he’s proud of his marital behavior (but pled The Fifth about it in court) – this confirms they’d vote for anyone, no matter how unsuited, even a classic demagogue, as long as he’d enrich them or punish people unlike themselves. This is immorality greater than Trump’s: he can’t control himself. They could. 
My pen pals won’t change, nor will the white supremacists flocking to Trump. I disbelieve they represent all supporters, though. Surely there are some to whom the continuing revelations of his incompetent and unscrupulous behavior will reach the point of awakening. Those Republican newspapers got there, after all. And they have company
It’s always been too late for my epistolers, but not for you, honorable conservatives. If Hillary Clinton is as bad as you think, and if your party finds a credible candidate, it should be easy to defeat her in four years. This singular election isn’t about political philosophy. It’s about keeping a vulgar, sociopathic grifter out of the Oval Office. Have the self-respect to acknowledge and act on it. It can be our little secret.
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Monday, October 3, 2016

To Be Fair

Donald Trump has said and done plenty of awful things, far more than enough to disqualify him from the presidency. So it pisses me off when people mischaracterize what he (or any politician they don't like) says, because it weakens the very real, the very deep and broad and iron-clad arguments against him. It gives ammunition to those who claim "the media" are unfair to him.

Case in point: today he spoke to a veterans' group and was asked about the high suicide rate among veterans (the question was really about spiritual care, i.e., chaplains being involved). His answer has gone spirochete, and is being reduced to "Veterans who kill themselves are weak." This is NOT what he said. This is what he said. (The video is within the linked article.)

It's fair to suggest it's yet another campaign promise that'll be ignored. It's fair to comment that "can't handle it" isn't a helpful way to describe the problem. And it's fair to wish, as I do, that someone had asked where he plans to get the money and the necessary personnel, and whether, based on past performance, the Rs in Congress would provide the funds. But I'd say he really didn't imply that suicide is about weakness. Watch for yourselves and see if you agree.

Taking stuff out of full context, twisting words -- that's SOP for all the RWS™. With a horrifyingly pathological guy like Donald J. Trump, there's no need to distort what he says. Which, by the way, is why Hillary's ads that consist only of him saying what he says are so powerful.

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Can't Believe I Watched The Whole Thing

My latest newspaper column:
These moments happen in life. You’re faced with a challenge up to which you fear you might not be. You call upon all of your strength and resolve, looking for something within yourself you’re not sure is there. On such occasions, you convince yourself there’s no choice but to go forward, take whatever comes. It’s the right thing. It’s life. We do what we must. 
So I watched the debate. 
Turns out a lifetime of accusations of everything from murder to fidelity has prepared Hillary Clinton for the likes of Donald Trump. I was wrong to think he could rattle her. Compared to his annoyance, her (mostly) calm was impressive.  It goes without saying, of course, that his supporters wouldn’t change their minds if he’d danced naked singing “I am the Walrus.” Nor could she have done anything to put off her committed voters. Our predictable opposing opinions don’t matter, though: the question is how “undecideds” were affected, along with those who’ve said they wouldn’t pay attention until the first debate. What did they make of it? More importantly: are people who’ve not yet made up their minds (hard to believe) the sort who’d truth-check the lies Trump told? To recognize how alarmingly unsuited he is for the presidency, even as it was there for the observing. 
Will they make the effort to discover that, though he denied it straight up, he really did say climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese? (His actual words: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.") Rather than accept his pretense, will they confirm that his only public comment before the Iraq invasion, when asked if he was for it, was, “Yeah, I guess so.” Or that the first public record of him stating his opposition was in 2004, well after the fact, when the calamity was apparent to everyone not named Bush or Cheney or employed by right-wing media. Will they gape at his claim of a non-existent endorsement by ICE? Or at his bass-ackwards concept of Chinese money and piggy banks? (But he understands finance!) 
Mr. Trump got a whoop from somewhere in the crowd when he non-sequitured that he’d release his tax returns when Hillary released those deleted emails. (How does one release deleted emails?) Secretary Clinton reminded him that being audited is a phony excuse for not releasing his taxes, suggesting the obvious: they must hold embarrassing information. Like not paying any. About which he bragged. After bemoaning deficits and crumbling infrastructure, things the rest of us pay for, because we’re citizens. Interviewed after the debate, he baldly denied that he’d said, mere moments earlier, that not paying taxes made him “smart.” 
Scorekeepers counted interruptions: Fifty-one times he interrupted her. Seventeen times she interrupted him. (Seventeen too many, if you ask me; but, under the circumstances, remarkably restrained.) 
The lies, though. If Hillary, like all politicians, has been known to stretch or fudge the truth in her favor, and if she’s occasionally had a “bullets in Bosnia” moment, Donald’s lies are a lifestyle choice. In the debate, the matchup wasn’t even close.  
The careful observer might intuit that there is much about Donald Trump that bothers me. But his lies are something truly unnatural. He repeats them when shown to be false. He denies statements that are on the record, continuously. What can it mean? Does he think so little of his supporters that he assumes they won’t notice, or care; or that they like him best when he’s lying? Does he believe that as words pass his lips, no matter how demonstrably false, they metamorphose into truth, because he’s The Donald? Whatever the explanation, “normal” isn’t on the list. 
In claiming his temperament is the best thing about him, “by far,” he did say one true thing. As an example, ex post debato, his campaign pointed to the fact that the serial adulterer hadn’t mentioned Hillary Clinton’s husband’s infidelities, demonstrating a keel most even. Amazing! No, at the debate we saw his true temperament: peckish, rude, repetitive, limacine, prevaricating, unprepared, thin-skinned in ways no president should be. And there’s thisBy his own words, that’s the best part of him. So, yikes. 
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Thursday, September 29, 2016

I'm Gonna Be Rich

I'm working on a plan to make a lot of money. I'm gonna set up a website for sending thoughts and prayers with just a couple of clicks. Because why not make it even more effortless? Sure, Facebook makes it pretty darn easy, but it's kinda impersonal, right?

My site would have options for the object and the subject: families, friends, victims and stuff; shooting, injury, cancer, etc. "Other" ought to work, too. And there'd be the ability to send just thoughts or just prayers. Maybe I'll toss in choices of deities to whom the prayers would be directed; maybe a list of expected or desired results.

Pictures of flowers and teddy bears would be a nice touch. No need even to travel to the location to deposit them or spend full price. Click, click, message sent, tastefully decorated and sincere.

I suppose providing a choice of thoughts would require too many clicks. "Thoughts" pretty much covers it; specificity is too effort-intense. Prayers? Not sure if it'd be worth making people choose. For healing, or cure, or even that the entity to which the prayers are directed might retroactively prevent the particular tragedy in question. Too much of that might generate uncomfortable questioning of the entire concept of prayers. Not good for business.

I'm thinking of allowing reduced charges for groups. Somewhere around $1.50 to start, $1.25 per person for groups of ten or more. Maybe get down to a buck apiece for a whole churchful. There'd be an option to make it repeat daily or some other time interval until the thoughts are effective and/or the prayers answered. Also, the user would have the option to feel even better by paying a voluntary surcharge, part of which I could donate somewhere.

Now I need to come up with a good name.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Man Of Temperament

As an example of his unbelievable (that I can tell you) presidential temperament, Donald Trump's campaign pointed to his great restraint in not mentioning Bill Clinton's infidelities in the debate. Yes, the serial adulterer who swaps wives like out-of-warranty cars, held back on criticizing a woman for staying with a man of similar but much lesser proclivities. A woman who, evidently, considers marriage vows worth holding through thin.

But don't despair, Trumpophiles: he's promised to get tougher next time around. Please, oh please. Let that mean he intends to bring it up. Because it's not like she won't be prepared for it.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

One Of These Is Not Like The Other

My latest newspaper column:
How many Trumpophiles have discussed his bribery to quash investigations of his phony “University?” Of those who have, how many consider it irrelevant, while believing donations to the Clinton Foundation indicate pervasive corruption? Something mysterious is going on. 
Trump makes a generous donation to the campaign of Florida Attorney General Bondi four days after she announces the investigation. A month later, she shuts it down. After which he hosts a fundraiser for her at Mar-a-Lago. No quo or pro in that quid? Same with a fat donation to then attorney general, now Texas Governor Abbot’s campaign after the investigation into the same thing was dropped, deep in the heart. Perfectly fine. For, quoth Donald, “I’ve got to give to them, because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my a$$...” Pure as Trump Water. Trump brushes off questions like orange dandruff. But Hillary? Flagitious. 
Trump’s Florida “donation” was doubly illegal: “charitable” foundations are prohibited from contributing to political causes. Nevertheless, a much larger contribution went to a group attacking the New York prosecutor going after Trump U. In the past several years, Trump has given little to his fund; so its few donations come from other people’s money, as did his purchase of a portrait of himself for twenty grand. And he’s used it to settle legal problems, including a fraudulent hole-in-one contest. His “foundation” is little more than a slush fund.  
Compare to the Clinton Foundation, which does enormously important work around the world. Investigations have found no significant granting of favors to donors. Nor were those requests comparable to payoffs for dropped criminal investigations. (Appealing for help freeing Korean hostages!) How many know that the Clinton Foundation, which, among other things, provides AIDS medication for millions of people, receives the highest ethical ratings for charitable organizations, higher even than The Red Cross? How many even know what it does? 
Trumpites seem unbothered by his blatant bribery and cheating. Maybe many are unaware of it. Why? Because not just their favorite sources, but also so-called “liberal” media had until recently virtually ignored it, while pumping out repetitive innuendo about Hillary’s relation to her foundation. “Liberal” media concluded, evidently, that nothing they discovered about Donald Trump enlightened or mattered to his voters; for eyeballs, better to go after Secretary Senator Clinton. Only when bloggers kept highlighting Trump’s unscrupulous actions have they started covering them. Will people ever hear about his payoffs for tax breaks on Fox “news?”  
A few years back, Trump paid three-quarters of a million dollars to settle an antitrust lawsuit (“I never settle lawsuits,” he’s said). Briefly, we saw some of the business owners Donald bankrupted by refusing to pay what he owed them. Then, like Trump casinos, coverage folded. How long has it been, though, since major news organizations mentioned the Clinton Foundation or her conspiracy-theory-laden emails? In the midst of a Congressional investigation into improperly influencing US Attorneys, George Bush’s White House “lost” twenty-two million emails. Republicans were unconcerned. Hillary’s deletions? Treasonous. 
Have mainstream articles described Trump jacking up prices at his properties when used by his campaign, billing the campaign, paying himself from its funds, scamming donors? If the race is tightening it’s because of this imbalance in reportage. 
Of course the press should investigate Hillary Clinton. Done impartially, that’s their job. (They blew it with those hammered phones.) But their months of obsession with her while only now awakening to Trump’s conspicuous corruption is as puzzling as the fact that Republicans nominated such an irrefragable fraud in the first place. It seems they’d succumbed to inundatory right-wing claims of media bias, designed to shut down investigative journalism. Without irony, a Trump surrogate recently associated fact checking with liberalism. Besides, the more Donald Trump’s lies are exposed, the more he repeats them. 
Lately the weight of Donald Trump’s career of deception and malfeasance might, at last, be forcing mainstream media to do their job. That his career is one fraud after another is obvious, and it’s just as apparent that his supporters don’t care. The question is whether those who consider both candidates equally bad will, as the evidence mounts, ever open their eyes.
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Saturday, September 17, 2016

For Which We Stand

My latest newspaper column:
In college, I played Conrad Birdie in a production of Bye Bye Birdie at a neighboring women’s school. Washing cafeteria dishes for dollars, a friend and I did Everly Brothers well (or maybe just loud) enough that other students came by to listen. I still love singing. A song with a suitable arrangement gets me belting it out, especially harmony-rich Christmas songs and our National Anthem. Baseball games, Sounders games, I’m standing up, harmonizing happily. 
I dislike singers turning the Anthem into a dirge, or adding their personal trills. I love the guy who leads it for the Sounders. The best I ever heard was at a Dodgers playoff game: Linda Ronstadt. (Wasn’t there. Saw it on TV when making rounds as a tired and otherwise deprived surgical resident in San Francisco. With her impossibly pure voice, wearing a Dodgers jacket, she sang it straight up.) If for no other reason than the joy of singing, you’ll never see me sitting during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner. Plus, I’m not that brave. 
It’s curious that the people lining up behind a candidate whose campaign is based on declaring how terrible America has become are outraged at the simple act of sitting, or kneeling, or locking arms during the playing of the National Anthem. If you think about it (couldn’t hurt!), there’s no greater homage to what America stands for (pun intended). Try it, for example, in the country run by Donald Trump’s inamorato, Vladimir Putin, or in any of the others for whose dictatorial leaders he’s expressed admiration. The freedom we enjoy in this county began with, is predicated on, and is directly descended from the right to criticize government openly, to take actions, symbolic or otherwise, aimed at making things better as one sees it. 
That people, whether athletes or protesters in Ferguson or Selma or Stonewall or Standing Rock or (illegally) Malheur feel moved to demonstrate their displeasure at aspects of our society is, in fact, a much greater tribute to the republic for which our flag stands than standing during a song. Activism for change assumes it could happen; in the US, we know it can. At its essence, then, protest is an expression of confidence in America, acknowledgment that in our society, as opposed to those whose leaders Trump would emulate, committed people can effect change. 
Our view of patriotism has turned upside down. Is it defined by standing up for songs or for what you think is right? Who was more patriotic: Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge, or those who beat them? People searching for survivors at Ground Zero, or Donald Trump bragging after the attack that his building was now the tallest in lower Manhattan? Children courageous enough to integrate schools, or the people who spit on them as they walked through hate-spewing mobs? Our veterans, or Republicans in Congress who voted down bill after bill aimed at providing for their needs? Working people who pay taxes, or Donald Trump who stiffs employees and brags about not paying taxes? People burn Colin Kaepernick’s jersey, but not those of football players convicted of spousal abuse. Whose is the greater transgression against American values? 
While I served in Vietnam, my wife worked for anti-war candidates. She sent packages of goodies for me to share with other troops, and joined hands with war protesters. Some would call me a patriot (not now, of course, because I’m a liberal writer) and not her. I got drafted. She chose to commit to what she thought was (and which turned out to be) right. Who’s the better American?  
Our Constitution was crafted around the idea of protecting individual rights, and on the recognition that wrongs, even in its own words, need a framework for amelioration. Words and actions of protest have always (if slowly) awakened our better instincts, engaged us in difficult discussions, called the complacent to action, made this country better. In the midst of WWII, the Supreme Court recognized this, too. To misunderstand that is fundamentally to misunderstand America. Like Donald Trump, who has threatened, were he to become president, to punish those who disagree with him; and like those despots whose praises he sings.
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Friday, September 16, 2016

Bag. Cat. Out.

Not that it was ever mysterious, but here's proof of the cynical politics behind claims of voter fraud, from another Wisconsin newspaper.
Hours after polls closed in the closely contested 2011 state Supreme Court election, Republican consultants and lobbyists traded emails about launching a potential public campaign to allege “widespread” voter fraud, newly released emails show...

... The emails became public Wednesday through a report by Guardian US, an arm of the British newspaper, which included leaked court documents from the secret John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign...

... Steve Baas, a lobbyist for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and former Republican legislative staffer, floated an idea on the email thread:
“Do we need to start messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number? I obviously think we should.” 
Scott Jensen — the former GOP Assembly Speaker turned lobbyist for American Federation for Children, a private school voucher advocacy group — quickly responded:
“Yes. Anything fishy should be highlighted. Stories should be solicited by talk radio hosts.” 
In another email, Jensen writes that Prosser “needs to be on talk radio in the morning saying he is confident he won and talk radio needs to scream the Dems are trying to steal the race.”
It should be noted that these emails have become public only because they were leaked somehow. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, to which the person in question in these emails was elected in the race in question, ordered them destroyed.

Gee. Anyone shocked? And, in addition to the obvious use of a false premise for political gain, confident they can count on the gullibility of their voters, they mention using talk radio as casually as you use a spoon: it's there, we know what it's for, we use it to feed ourselves.

Once right-wing news sources cover this, letting their listeners and readers know how they manipulate them with lies, the public will finally understand. Right after the sun turns off.

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