Friday, December 29, 2017

Comes Now The Hard Sell

Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
Kicking off a multi-million-dollar campaign to sell their cheaply-bought, self-enriching, middle-class deceiving, poor-people-harming tax cuts, it’s fitting that the Koch brothers began with an ad featuring a young girl thanking Trump for “allowing” her to say Merry Christmas again. In the alt-universe, the apparitional war on Christmas remains a favorite manipulation, perfectly illuminating their (the Koch’s, Trump’s, McConnell’s, Ryan’s, Hannity’s, et kleptera) confidence in their ability to distract bedazzled voters from their rapacious, destructive agenda.  
Allowing! Well, clutch my pearls and call me Sarah!! Because until Trump, borne to us on wings of angels, beleaguered Christian-Americans had been prohibited – under penalty of (?) – from saying those sanctified words, even amongst themselves, evidently. Kenyan brain implants. Inserted as you watched Fox “news,” neuro-receptors ironically impervious to disturbances. 
Confident that the programmed will continue to buy the fiction of attacks on Christmas and other imaginary horrors, Republicans are relentlessly undoing environmental protections, blessing the poisoning of ourselves and our children. As they deploy voter suppression laws across the land, as they remain silent about (or, improbably, ignorant of) the effluvium of lies coming daily from Trump, they distract the distractible, via a phony “war.” (For those who believe the lie that Obama eschewed the words, it’s disproved in two seconds of googling.) 
Allowing!! Believe it! For, whilst you turn your gaze to heaven, Rs have more regulations to extinguish. Like ones penalizing nursing homes for lousy care. Which they just did. Say it loud: Merry Christmas! (Not you, grandma. Hands off the call button!)  
Allowing!!! All praise be to Trump, giver of those things which He hath not yet taken away. How sweet the sound, how long the silence.  
In this, the most believer-dense democracy on earth (teetering, but not yet pushed over the cliff), wherein Christianity is sprinkled on laws like ash from fires ravaging parched land, and where prayers in the Cabinet Room are led by a neurosurgeon-cum-housing expert giving thanks to God and Trump (not necessarily in that order) for erasing budget deficits after the signing of a bill INCREASING them: people will weep in agreement, thank Dear Leader for allowing them, once again, to mouth those forbidden, commercialized words. (Not fake news: during Barack Obama’s presidency, when an actual president was tweeting “Merry Christmas,” Trump tweeted “Happy Holidays.” You can look it up.)  
Around that Cabinet Room sang they their hosannas and genuflected them their knees. (Only missing were fifty-foot posters and a stiff-armed and -legged military parade.) And He smiled upon them. (More of a smirk, really, but it warmed in them that which had replaced their souls.)  
So cocksure of his deceptions is Trump that he hied himself to Mired-in-Loco immediately post-signature to announce to his pals, “You all just got a lot richer.” Fast flew he, outracing his biggest lie of all, that the bill was about helping the middle class, that he and his buddies would suffer. 
So anxious he was to reap his millions, he signed the bill this year, allowing its effects to commence in 2018 instead of 2019; those who care to look may feel the hurt in time for the next election. Oops. (“Oops” assumes cultists will find their way out of their thrall, to search beyond the promises. Shall one hope?)  
The thing about predictions concerning what I and nearly all analyses consider a regressive, budget-busting, Koch/Trump/Corker-enriching, capitalism-threatening tax bill is that at some point we’ll learn who’s right. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it loud and clear. Will Trumpists, if it’s they? It would require unprecedented rejection of claims of fakery, but there’s a first time for everything. So, while we await the reckoning, let’s take a moment: the year is almost new, a time for resolutions and resolve. 
Here’s mine: knowing the unlikeliness of puncturing the reality-resistant bubble in which Trumpists live, I’ll keep trying. Because, years from now, wandering amongst the rubble, I don’t want my grandchildren (or theirs) to think I was among those gone silent as democracy crumbled around us; when our government, helmed by an amoral, ultracrepodarian mammothrept excused and enabled by an avaricious, conscienceless Congress, turned away from science, from the needy, from inclusive governance; polluted our land, ignored the climate crisis, dismissed our future as less important than making themselves and their paymasters “a lot richer” now. While average Americans paid the price. 
Silence is acquiescence. So, no.
[Image source]

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Temperature At Which It All Burns Down

My next newspaper column.

Vulnerable, Entitlement, Diversity, Transgender, Fetus. Evidence-based. Science-based.

Attendees at a meeting confirmed researchers at the Centers for Disease Control were told not to use those words. Days later, CDC’s head issued a non-denial denial, claiming reports “mischaracterized” what was said. Either way, it’s hardly Trump’s first attack on knowledge.

The EPA website scrubbed references to climate change and links to resources for understanding it. Ryan Zinke just upbraided a national park superintendent for using the phrase. On Monday, though the Pentagon disagrees, Trump removed global warming from the list of security threats to our nation. Leadership! Problem solved.

Is it hot in here? Feels like 451ยบ Fahrenheit.

None who still support Trump will find this disturbing. Certainly not Congressional Republicans, whose latest secretion is a greedy, grift-, graft-, and loophole-laden, dishonestly sold, economically unsound (see: Kansas) tax bill, refusing input from experts, holding no hearings, addressing concerns of none but their corporate benefactors. Overstated? We’ll find out. Maybe even before it’s too late.

How obvious is their disregard for you, Trumpophiles; how cheaply bought they believe you to be? Temporary trifles for you; permanent payola for the corpocracy.

In happier times, liberals and conservatives wanted the same thing: the best future for America and its children. Differences lay in how to achieve it; especially the role of government in protecting and providing. The end, if not the means, was shared. If it still applies to some, it most surely does NOT to Congressional Republicans currently in our employ, nor to the temporary indweller of the Gold House.

If you act to silence scientists, defund and ignore their research, you’re not concerned about your kids’ future. More so if you choose to allow widespread poisoning of their forever home. Whitewashing history books, diverting taxpayer funds to Bible schools and Scientology-based charter schools steals from kids intent on learning to think for themselves. That’s not forward-looking, either.

If your idea of tax reform is ninety percent of it benefitting the top one percent, busting the budget to prepare for defunding social programs, gifting unpublicized carve-outs to America’s most wealthy, you’re concerned only about self-enrichment, future be damned. If you supported a candidate for the senate notorious for flouting Supreme Court rulings, ruing the end of slavery and subservience of women, advocating repressive theocracy, you favor neither democracy nor the Constitution.

But that’s just nibbling at the parchment’s edges. We’re now witnessing a Constitutional-crisis-inducing effort to delegitimize inquiry into interference in our democratic institutions by a foreign enemy. Fox “news,” Trump’s Soviet-modeled propaganda organ and disinformation generator, is leading the calumniation. Attacking Robert Mueller as “a partisan hack,” leader of “a coup,” and worse, Fox talkers speak with one increasingly seditious voice. Long since having crossed all lines, one even implied a Jones-worthy FBI assassination plot against Trump.

Robert Mueller, Republican, Vietnam Marine veteran decorated for bravery, whose reputation for dogged honesty serving presidents of both parties has been unquestioned throughout his career: pilloried by miscreants fearful of what he’ll find, afraid of being thrown off the money train, of their arrant mendacity being revealed. Preprogrammed, the Foxified swallow it: hooked, party-lined, America-sinkers.

In the world’s longest-lasting (so far), most admired (until now) and emulated democracy, we’re witnessing suppression of facts our government dislikes, of voting by people it dislikes, and, now, coordinated attempts to subvert a constitutionally empowered inquiry it dislikes, into its very legitimacy. How can any lover of what America once stood for not be appalled?  

Unable to refute content, unhappy readers charge that, consumed by hatred of Trump and Trumpists, I’m not even-handed or civil enough. (Thoughts on Hannity? Pirro? Limbaugh? Asking for a friend.) They miss the point: it’s not hatred, it’s love. Of a country to whose sick I dedicated a career of healing; in one of whose wars I was wounded while serving; in which my vulnerable grandchildren will grow up. I wish its democracy to endure, with breathable air, tolerable climate, diversity valued, its wealth more generously accessible, policies evidence-based, treatment of transgender people and fetuses science-based, entitlement to health and happiness a given.

Trump and his co-conspirators are looting America, attacking our founding principles, burning it all down. This isn’t a time to discuss the occasional value of fires. Such exigency demands non-stop shouting, “Wake up!!” Screaming at the top of our lungs.

Oh. And Merry Christmas.

[Image source]

Monday, December 18, 2017

First Thought, Second Thought

Always about him until someone reminds him to pretend to care. But he's monitoring, so.

[Screenshot source]

Of Dull Knives And Gunfights

Talking Points Memo is one of the most informative, insightful, and intelligent liberal websites out there. Here's a slice of a post from Josh Marshall, its creator:
Behind the new faux controversy over Mueller getting Trump transition emails is a key and probably too little discussed aspect of the Russia story: Mueller’s team has some of the most accomplished and aggressive prosecutors and legal minds of their generation. They’re facing off against a team of has-beens, 3rd or 4th rate lawyers and in some cases simple incompetents. Why? Because Trump values sycophancy above competence and because none of the top lawyers were willing to work for him...
He goes on, compellingly: namely, that Mueller's people know what they're doing and, likely, already have the goods. Of that, I think there's little doubt. The big question is what Congressional Rs will do with the info when it comes out; and to what extent, if any, Trumpists will find it enlightening, and wise up.

The answer remains to be seen. About that, I'm less optimistic.

[Image source]

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tough Call

My upcoming newspaper column:
Here’s what I wish Al Franken had said: “Yes, the USO picture is real, and so are some accusations, and I’m ashamed. I’ll never do it again. I understand my colleagues’ calls, but I work hard at my job, fight the right fights, and I’ll work just as hard to regain my reputation. If I fail, voters will replace me. Until then, I’ll keep working for progressive causes and exposing the dangers to democracy and our planet that this administration represents. I hope my colleagues will continue to work alongside me, as they have until now.”  
Or something.  
I take him at his word that some of the claims against him are false, but, because there’s no acceptable number, it doesn’t really matter. I do wish there were a way to ascertain truth in a he-said, she-said situation, because it has enormous implications and potential for abuse, in either direction. Which is why I’m troubled by the pre-touchdown end-zone dances of people like Roger Stone and Steve Bannon, who somehow knew in advance that charges were coming, against Franken and others.  
If, along with other examples of men behaving badly, this leads to changes in how women are treated in the workplace and elsewhere, it’s a good thing. If the recent spate of public exposure will wise men (holiday reference) up and give women the respect and safety they deserve, maybe it’s worth it. But the loss of a hard-working, smart, progressive senator who’s done more for women in a day than Trump has done in his life, over pale claims compared to those against Trump, is a high price.  
And that’s the problem: politically, it’s an unfair fight. Liberals have lately been quick – too quick, in some cases – to rid themselves of alleged abusers, broadening the definition to near-meaninglessness. There’s a difference between rape (of which the occupier of the Awful Office has been accused) or grabbing women by their pudenda (about which the occupier was recorded bragging. On tape. In front of people. Before suggesting it’s fake), and patting someone’s behind. The former are criminal offenses. The latter is, at minimum, oafishness. Does it merit summary firing? I don’t know. I really don’t. I do know, though, that there’s an orchestrated take-down effort happening. 
Is it coincidence that the charges against Franken came after he was so hard on Jefferson Sessions? Someone just pitched (clumsily) a fake abuse story about Chuck Schumer to news organizations. NPR canned Garrison Keillor, a Trump satirist, for what was evidently an isolated offense, a pretty minor one, about which he’d apologized, and the apology accepted. Until someone mysteriously stepped in. MSNBC fired Sam Seder, Trump antagonist, for a satirical comment excoriating Hollywood(!), sent to them, out of context and years later, by the same Republican operative who later forwarded that Schumer fakery. Now it’s The New Yorker and Ryan Lizza, outer of Scaramucci. 
 These overreactions reflect the sort of self-righteous “liberalism” Trumpists criticize but are happy to weaponize. In this arena, Democrats are the ones who’ve found a conscience. Republicans take advantage. Democrats take the bait. Franken takes the fall. 
Mitch McConnell, after effectively endorsing Roy Moore, called on Franken to resign. Does that compute? Is it because Franken, ashamed, admitted failings while Moore and Trump, unashamed, didn’t? Is that the criterion by which we should believe women?  
To defenders of Trump and Moore (let’s not forget Clarence Thomas), the only believable women are those accusing Democrats. That’s looser than Donald’s dentures. Many Republicans deny, others just don’t care about, or define away, abuse of women and young girls. Or, per preachers(!) excusing Moore, it’s okay because teenagers are “pure.” Besides, the Bible says women’s proper role is obedience and being vessels for the seed of man. 
It’s a microcosm of where the parties stand on issues affecting women. Reproductive rights, pay equity. Women’s health in general, child care for working moms, CHIP (after outrage, it might get funded). Rape, even: there can’t be rape in marriage; make the best of a bad situation; if rape is inevitable, (and I quote) “relax and enjoy it.” 
Do women who vote for this perversion of conservatism accept people like Roy Moore’s claims of their inferiority? Does their racism/Bible-based homophobia Trump everything? Sixty-three percent of white Alabamian women (and eighty percent of self-identified evangelicals) voted for Moore. So which is it?
[Image source]

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Bar And The Low Bar

When pushback comes to shove-it, there are no "moderate" Republicans. This guy, one of the very few ever unanimously deemed unqualified to be a judge by the ABA, is now a lifetime federal one.
... Every Republican present voted to confirm Grasz, 56, to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. That includes moderates like Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), as well as retiring Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). Every Democrat opposed him in the 50-48 vote...
These are horrible people, every damn one of them. There are no standards. If he'd okay their latest voter suppression plans, or gerrymandering, or assault on civil rights, they'd give their yea to Charles Manson, may their version of a god rest his soul.

[Image source]

The Man In The Moon

Trump directs NASA to refocus on putting people back on the moon. Then MARS.

First thought: Okay, cool. New technology. Neat live video, if I live that long.

Second thought: Trump directs NASA to stop paying attention to how we're destroying the planet, and how much worse it'll get with his deregulation/fossil fuel madness.

Third thought: Yep. Important to think at least twice.

[Image source]

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Man Who Would Be King

My upcoming newspaper column:
First came kakistocracy, as Trump drained thieves and incompetents into his government. Then, following in goosestep, oligarchy and, to facilitate it, prevariocracy. Finally, undisguised despotism, as Trump does everything he can to gain unfettered control of our government. If the following doesn’t cause alarm even among Trumpists, nothing will. (It won’t. Nothing will.)  
Remember Eric Prince, brother of public education’s enemy number one, Betsy DeVos, former CEO of Blackwater, Bush’s private army in Iraq? Trump is, according to multiple reports, considering his proposal to establish a private intelligence agency, designed to counter the “deep state” actors in the CIA, working, in the minds of Trump, Hannity, Jones, and millions of paranoid denizens of the alt-universe, to “bring down” the Trump presidency. (In that world, “deep state” and “bring down” are terms to describe seekers of truth; people patriotic and brave enough to expose the anti-democratic, destructive activities of Trump and his swampizens.) 
Taking care not to overheat your brain, think about it: our historically low-approval, popular-vote-losing, Nazi-excusing, dictator-admiring, political-opponent-threatening, promise-breaking, violence-promoting, prevaricator-in-chief of the USA, until recently considered the moral and economic leader of the world (America, that is, not the recidivist confabulator), would install for his own use a separate, privy spy agency, unconstrained, following its own rules, outside the oversight of Congress, to gather intelligence on anyone he chooses, answering only to him. A group headed by a man indicted for money-laundering and, along with four former executives of his company, for weapons violations and making criminally false statements while under investigation. 
The sorts of people who claim Trump has never lied and is making America respected again, or who write letters asserting the mere promise of corporate tax breaks is stimulating our economy (ignoring the fact that such breaks are great for investors but neutral-to-bad for the economy) will see nothing worrisome in dismissing input from intelligence and law-enforcement agencies sworn to independence, and trying to get us to ignore it, too. One must hope actual (if theoretical) conservatives resistant to Foxolimjonesification are as horrified as those of us who recognize and warn of impending Trumpic danger. If not, we’re done for.  
Adding ignorance to outrage, after which Richard Nixon sat up in his grave and said “I told you so,” Trump’s attorney just claimed a president can’t obstruct justice, by definition. He IS justice. And, by inference, sole arbiter of constitutionality (assuming the Constitution is, to them, more than a quaint set of unenforceable guidelines). A president who considers himself above the law and has the lawyer to prove it, would spawn a mechanism to spy on and take down anyone he deems a threat. 
No one who loves America, no one who considers him- or herself a patriot (admittedly a word made devoid of meaning at the hands of the party of Gingrich, Rove, Cheney, and now Trump, Pence, McConnell, Moore…) should be okay with this. It’s safe to assume, though, that the thirty-three percent of Americans who still approve of and defend Trump are, and will be even if they wake up in Gitmo, mistakenly or otherwise. (Not unlike the Alabamans who’ve said they’ll vote for Supreme-Court-ignoring, twice-removed-from-office Roy Moore even if he did molest young girls.) 
When will the putative Republicans among the sixty-plus percent who disapprove of Trump do more than answer opinion polls? When will they choose country over party and join those of us who are trying to arrest this steadily increasing threat? There’s not a lot of time left. 
The FBI, which Donald described as “in tatters,” just foiled a right-wing American terrorist who, armed with five high-power rifles, planned mass murder at a Florida mosque. Because it doesn’t fit his fabricated narrative, Trump ignored it. It’s counter to his falsehoods about the FBI and about immediate origins of terrorism; claims intended to consolidate power. 
Not satisfied with demeaning the FBI and CIA, Trump has gutted the State Department, whose counsel he rejects as well. It’s a terrifying trifecta: arrogance, megalomania, ignorance. As if we need more proof, Trump, unilaterally, against advice from all quarters, just pronounced Jerusalem the capital of Israel and intends to move the US Embassy there. Poof: US credibility as an honest broker disappears. It’s almost as if he WANTS the Middle East to blow up. 
War, after all, is the trough at which dictators feed. 
[Image source]

Thursday, December 7, 2017

You Can Call Me Al

I can't escape the feeling that this was orchestrated by people like Roger Stone and Steve Bannan. I take Franken at his word that many of the claims are false. But he did what had to be done, I guess.

I trust the good that comes from the absolutely necessary awakening to the ongoing abuse of women in the workplace and elsewhere will make up for the loss of a smart, hard-working, formerly effective liberal Senator.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Time To Wake Up

Here's my next newspaper column:
Time Magazine offered me “Person of the Year” before Trump, but they wanted me to say they invented “Foxolimjonesian” and “Foxification.” I declined.  
When Trump makes a similar claim, and Time responds that nothing he said is remotely true, that’s serious. Unlike my fib, his lies are legion, and affect us all. Since the election, his untruths number more than 1,600. You can look it up. It’s beyond pathological. In a “leader,” it’s alarming. The only thing more so is people who deny it.  
Retaining ownership of the above-noted appellations, I present my latest: Prevariocracy. Because they can’t win honestly with their donor-demanded, economically irresponsible, environmentally destructive, stockholder-enriching, poverty-punishing, no-growth fiscal agenda, Republican leaders created the prevariocracy to push their no-hearings, no-jobs corporate tax breaks. Among other untruths. Trump, his cabinet, and his rapacious Congress aren’t draining the swamp. They ARE the swamp. 
Faced with choosing between protecting the institutions on which America was founded – preserving democracy, in other words – and an agenda constructed expressly to foster and maintain oligarchy, they’ve chosen the latter. It’s a Mephistophelian bargain, at the expense of 95% of us, supporters included. 
Erasing the boundaries between truth and falsehood is but the starting point for today’s Republican leaders. It underpins Trump’s nonstop attacks on non-Foxolimjonesian media, promoting the myth of “fake news” to defame reporters brave enough to expose their fictions. (The Washington Post just parried a Koch-funded O’Keefian scam aimed at discrediting reporting on Roy “Unqualified-even-without-predation” Moore. Trump has contributed ten grand to O’Keefe.) Creating distrust of non-propagandist media, Trump feels free to lie about Russian connections and election interference. And pretty much everything else. 
Deliberate as an IED, Republicans are turning the electoral process into a weapon for retaining power, rather than the means by which we are empowered to influence our government. They’ve chosen to win by gerrymandering, and by promulgating the Orwellian falsehood of massive voter fraud to justify laws impeding access to polling places by Democratic-leaning citizens. In states Trump won by a whisper, it worked to the tune of hundreds of thousands of legal voters turned away. 
Worse: recognizing that people capable of thinking, having access to free-flowing information, are a threat to their deceptions, Republicans have been attacking public education for decades, creating a warehouse of pliable voters, ignorant of science, suspicious of expertise. From rewriting history textbooks to teaching mythology over science, cynically manipulating the faithful, whom they regard as fertile soil in which to plant their dishonesty (when will they see it?), their war on truth and the desire and ability to obtain it has been unrelenting. 
And now they’re targeting access to the internet, where facts counter to their deceits are in abundance, for people immune to the plague of disinformation they’re spreading, aided by Russia. The FCC was inundated with as many as a million fake letters and emails demanding an end to net neutrality. Predictably, suspiciously, the Trump-appointed head of the FCC is refusing to cooperate with investigations. If they succeed in undermining fair access, it’ll hit poor people the hardest. Anyone surprised? 
Simultaneously, almost unnoticed, right-wing media conglomerates like Sinclair metastasize across the land (they’re here), substituting Fox-like propaganda for news. Democracy depends on informed voters; these attacks on accurate information are multi-varied and disturbingly effective.  
And they know maintaining this subversion requires larding federal courts with incompetent ideologues who’ll look the other way from attacks on voting, minority rights, women’s health, environmental protection, separation, consumer protection (a Trump appointee just did), and more. 
Since the American Bar Association has been evaluating judicial nominees, initiated by President Eisenhower in 1953, less than one percent of all nominees had been deemed not qualified. Until Trump’s. Of them, it’s eight percent. (Trump told the ABA he’ll ignore their recommendations. He already has a swampful of choices.) The Republican Senate consented. To them, judicial qualification means willingness to legislate from the bench. Their way.  
Realizing that legislating wealth accretion for themselves and their financers requires destroying the indispensable components of a free society, Trump and Republicans are doing so, enthusiastically. It can’t be overstated how dangerous this is. People who ignore it are facilitators; those who see and excuse it fatally misunderstand, or reject, the true source of American greatness. Trump retweets Nazi anti-Muslim videos. Fox spews state-sponsored agitprop. Congressional deconstruction is relentless. “It can’t happen here?"
It is. Right now.
[Image source: Facebook, somewhere]

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