Friday, June 29, 2018

Truly, It's Now Or Never. Vote!

My next newspaper column:
Seen on T-shirts at Trump’s “Tell Me How Great I Am” rallies: “Rope. Journalist. Tree. Some assembly required.” Good one, huh? 
Revealing everything about the authoritarian mastery of Trump over gratefully-manipulated Trumpists, it announces the danger to democracy they – Trump and his enraptured cult -- represent. The only thing it doesn’t tell us is whether cultists don’t see it, or whether they do and like it that way. Our founders foresaw the dark possibilities and tried, unsuccessfully since 2016, to protect against them. 
From Trump’s own words we understand the cynicism of his attacks on journalists: it’s to destroy their credibility as they illuminate his lies and disregard for the institutions of democracy. Such is the nature of his followers that he can brag about it and still succeed in the grift.  It’s a safe bet the people who wear or like those shirts, lavishing love on Trump and hate on everyone else, outraged that Sarah H.S. was asked to leave a restaurant, were delighted by refusals to serve gays, and by that guy who wouldn’t serve Joe Biden. 
The people condemning shouters at Trump’s hate-mongers in restaurants, lamenting the loss of “civility” in our politics, elected a man who insulted opponents in his own party, along with their wives and parents; who called for his audience to “beat the crap” out of protesters at campaign events, promising to pay their legal fees; who lies that liberals want open borders and love criminal gangs; who refers to the FBI as “scum.” Civility, indeed.  
It’s hard to decide, though, about those recent incidents: people on the right denouncing them are the personification of hypocrisy, of course, but it’s doubtful the harassers will accomplish anything positive. Mainly, though, and leaving aside the question of going as low as they do, by now it’s clear there’s nothing – literally nothing – that will cause Trump’s enablers to reflect on how his actions endanger the country they claim to love. Which, by now, we know they most certainly don’t: not most of its citizens, not its founding principles, not its immigrant origins. To wear those shirts is to announce ignorant rejection of our Constitution, commitment to not learning anything new, and to not thinking beyond one’s carefully-taught prejudices. 
That’s the point, and it’s also lessons learned from years of blogging and being a columnar opinionator: those who still support Donald Trump are unreachable. Time spent explaining his daily effluent of lies, his unsustainable budget priorities, the impacts of his science-denial, his egotistical tariffs (Harley!), his disregard for the environment, how he got played by Kim (still building nuke facilities, Putin’s next), is time wasted. It will be excused, ignored, denied; rejected as liberal “hatred,” communism, or fake news. They’ll resent comparisons of their “president” to despots who gained power by attacking the press and lying repetitively, or of themselves to those who seiged them their heils. 
Nor will they be swayed by true conservatives like George Will calling for voting today’s Republicans out of office or Jennifer Rubin decrying their dishonest, corrupt leader. (Note to a recent letter-writer: I’ve always distinguished between Trumpists and true conservatives. The latter deserve respect. “Conservative Trumpist” is oxymoronic.)  
Even if it’s morally acceptable, shouting down Ms. Nielsen or Mr. Miller, refusing to serve professional liar Sarah or pose with deceitful Paul is poor time management. Every minute spent that way, every dollar for causes not aimed at getting out the vote or fighting red-state voter suppression or supporting candidates committed to protecting democracy and its institutions, is squandered. There’ll never be an awakening among Congressional Republicans, and the right-wing ideologues Trump has appointed to courts are bent on preventing equality among minority voters, favoring corporations over employees, and preserving the selling of politicians to the highest bidder. 
The only remaining solution to cynical gerrymandering, promoting lies, suppressing votes, destructive budgets, denying civil rights, demonizing immigrants, is to flood the gates with new voters and ones formerly too lazy, offended, or delusional to have voted last time around. People with the most to lose, should Trumpism persist. Which includes non-wealthy Trumpists.  
And now, as if completing a circle, we learn of the murder of journalists in Baltimore, two days after right-wing hero Milos Yiannopoulos called for just that. After months of Trump calling them enemies of America. 
Sean Hannity, Trump’s nighttime whisperer, blamed Maxine Waters.
[Image source]

Thursday, June 28, 2018

This Is How It Works

Two days ago, right-wing hero and modern-day Nazi Milos Yiannopoulos called for assassinating journalists. Today, it happened.

Fox "news" archetype and Donald Trump's night-time whisperer Sean Hannity immediately blamed Maxine Waters, not even mentioning Milos.

That's how they do it.

Lionized by Trumpists (and Trump), these people are as horrible as humans can get. Their sort put into office such miscreants as Mitch "shameless" McConnell and the rest of the R senators, who'll select the next S.C. Justice.

If no one at Fox, no R congressperson, no one in the all-White House condemns what Hannity and Milos said, let's just kiss America goodbye and find a way to be happy about it.

Trump, of course, reached into that fermenting bin of thoughts and prayers that Republicans keep around for these occasions. That was after informing his cultists that journalists are America's enemies.

So there's that.

But Maxine Waters.

[Image source

The Mother Of All Conflicts Of Interest

It's the conflict of interest to end all conflicts of interest (possibly literally.) Democrats are focusing on the upcoming Supreme Court nomination by trying to shame Mitch "Shameless" McConnell into following his own "rule" about appointments close to upcoming elections.

They're missing the point: the next Supreme Court Justice may well be called upon to decide the legal status of Trump's various crimes. To allow him to appoint that person is allowing a conflict of interest of cosmic -- possibly existential -- impact. In a democracy where both parties cared more about the rule of law than about their own power, there'd be no question: no appointment till after Mueller has had his say and the issues raised, if necessary, are adjudicated.

In the Republicans-making-the-rules-despite-having-fewer-popular-votes country in which we're living, that truth will most certainly be ignored. Likewise, when the "minority party" (with which the majority of Americans agree on most issues) can't get its head out of its own ass.

[Image source]

Friday, June 22, 2018

Are We Who We Are?

My latest newspaper column:
Yes, it IS who we are, our country if not every citizen. Because of the President of the Electoral College and everyone who enables him, in the eyes of the world the United States of America has joined the disgraceful list of governments that have, over the course of human history, taken children from their parents and locked them up. 
According to Trump, it sends a message. Indeed it does: he’ll punish children because of what their parents did; not unlike descendants of Adam and Eve (his cult considers him heaven-sent). Both Jeff Sessions and Trump’s mousepiece cited the Bible to defend it.  
God knows the Bible calls for worse than taking children from their parents. Many religious leaders quote it to rationalize various forms of inhumanity. In the case of the “president” of the United States, though, our laws are clear: the Bible isn’t an acceptable justification for his behavior. Not that Trumpists agree with that concept.  
To his compartmentalized credit, and unlike self-described “pro-family” groups, Franklin “Clinton’s infidelities mean he’s untrustworthy but Trump’s are none of our business” Graham didn’t like treating children like this. Lying as usual, Trump blamed Democrats for non-existent laws that forced him, poor man, to do this unhappy thing. That’s glaringly, almost laughably false. But lying is who Trump is, and Trumpists seem to love him for it. 
Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy apes his favorite “great guy,” leader of the planet’s most brutal, repressive government. After his performances in Toronto and Singapore, Trump demonstrated he wants onto that list: democracy isn’t his cup of cheeseburger, and they love him for that, too. None have argued otherwise. 
Rather than brutalizing children, how about recalling the compassion that once made America great? Trump’s reluctant, hasty, half-about-face doesn’t fit the description. But it does prove he was lying about Democrats.  
Recently, I opined that since Trump’s economic policies will hurt average Americans, the best explanation for their continued support is they like how he treats people who aren’t white male Republican Christians (dictators Kim and Putin excepted.) Readers were outraged. Shame on you for implying racism, they said. None repudiated the examples that were given, though. (I admit to error in that column, in failing to mention theocracy as a factor in Trump-love. Trump himself is as Christian as “talented” Chairman Kim, but he’s the means to an end.)  
Then Virginia Republicans nominated a vocal white supremacist to represent them in the Senate. Shortly thereafter, the execrable Ann Coulter said the captive children are “child actors,” coached by Democrats to look sad. Trump retweeted it. Fox “news” Laura Ingraham insisted detention is like “summer camp,” Cory Lewandowski said “wah wah,” and Tucker Carlson warned keeping those families together endangers America. (What say you now, Tucker?)  
Even if they were held in luxury hotels, ripping innocent kids from parents whose crime is seeking refuge and a better life is not okay. Not for America, not for our moral standing in the world, which, Trump’s Putinophilic eradication of it notwithstanding, remains vital. 
Oh, but President Obama did the same, say what-aboutists. To children who came alone. Not using them as political pawns. Not without plans for reuniting. 
Per polls, a majority of Republicans (and only they) approve of the kidnappings. When your party is overtaken by xenophobes, racists, and cowards, it’s political poison ivy: unless you remove yourself, you’re tainted. Stand up or stock up. 
“Not-racist” Trumpists claim President Obama was deliberately divisive. Behold, then, the words of their inamorato, tweeted this week: “Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime, and they want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad… to infest our country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters.”  
What despicable, racist, divisive demagoguery, unworthy of any president, much less a yuge popular vote loser. Count on Trumpists believing it. After an hour with Supreme Leader Kim, Trump proclaimed he’d solved the nuclear problem: the cult sang its hosannas. Likewise, for his opposite-day lies that the DOJ IG report “completely exonerates” him; and for his fabrications about its conclusions. (Five-hundred pages. Think he read it?) Taking millions in cash from corrupt Russian oligarchs earns silence, though. 
Welcome to Trump’s “great again” America: led by a habitual liar, half-filled with people who believe it all. 
[Image source]

Friday, June 15, 2018


My next newspaper column:
Item: Putin says he and Trump talk “regularly.” Your columnist has obtained a transcript, dated 6/10/18:  
Putin: Donald, is President Putin. I must congratulating you how G7.  
Trump: Thank you, Mr. President. Sergey made pictures of your instructions. I almost forgot to call Justin “weak,” though. His drawing of it wasn’t very good, I hate to tell you. But when I climbed up to my plane I got tired and it reminded me.  
Putin: Please to not forgetting again, Donald. I am not joke. But is okay. You did job it is please me. Make vorth it my vork Bookface and Tveeter make Americans say Trudeau and Macron and Merkel voman is bad guys and you smart for do it. You finish break G7 and NATO, people is cheering you in Russia like is me also.  
Trump: It’s tremendous you’re happy, Mr. President. Speaking of which, since I did so terrific, the best terrific, I didn’t even want to go to Canada till you gave me your plan which was an incredible plan, can we talk about that, what is it, kompromat now? Everyone is saying I’m getting Europe to hate America bigly and letting you do Libya your way, like we ... it’s happening really fast, because I alone could fast it. And I’m making Americans hate each other, the press, the FBI, even starting to hate democracy. Isn’t it time we …  
P: Donald, ve haff too much talking already dis. Ven I making promise I keeping, like you replace Obamacare, tax plan hurting you, release tax forms, balance budget (muffled background laughter). Don’t afraid, Donald, I making nobody care. But for sure I keeping promise. Also I giffing Kim video he show you your meeting. For now just copy, he keeps it. You not talk him murders, feed uncle dogs, politics prisoner. If reporter ask, say he talent, he great guy, people love, only do bad vhat he see his father. You stop wargame, you put someday hotel.  
T: Fantastic. I trust you big-time, Mr. President. Get me reelected, I’ll have every American trusting you, too. I love what you’re doing for the mid-terms, by the way, and the Mueller investigation. People are saying it’s totally corrupt, so whatever he’s figured out, my voters won’t believe him. Your guys are great. And it’s fantastic how you got Hannity to help. He’s yuge, the best, let me tell you.  
Unidentified voice: I’m just a patriot, glad to help. So is Rupert. And, Vlad, shall I stay on the line after Donald hangs up?  
P: Is better you calling back use red phone.  
T: Sean’s on the line? … Wait, you two have a…  
P: Not concern, Donald. Ve telling you everytink is right time, yes Sean?  
Voice: Uh … huh.  
T: Of course, yes, sorry, President Putin. We’re a fabulous team. You and me and Rocket Man (I wish I could still call him that). Speaking of which, have you decided about his nukes? It’ll be hard to make it look like I won if it looks like he keeps them. I really hate being a loser, so ....  
P: Donald, it is not matter me much. Ve know he never using nuke, all it is game. But you earning to make choice. You talk him, you say he haff, not haff, you make look inspect, is okay. Yes, no, Sean is say you genius, people believe, Russia strong no matter. For sure Kim not play you fool. You can trusting him like me. 
T: Perfect. Now, sir, before you go. Rudy is starting to be a problem…  
P: You keep. Is make me laugh. Also Pruitt, make American sick, Devos make stupid, is good, you keep also. And I keeping Meetch and Devin.  
T: Your call, Mr. President, always. You’re so strong, it’s an honor to help you. You and me, we’re …  
P: Yes, Donald, is for sure I make you strong like me. Not need vorry. I happy sharing power no problem. I am like Russia history.  
T: Hist…  
P: Donald, you relaxing. All is vorking like is charm, you big power. Now listen me, Fredovich. I watching you much snore, maybe too fat? Not good for health. Get real doctor not idiot. Ve still having vork. 
T: Okay, Mr. President Putin, I’ll … Hey, how do you know…  
P: (unintelligible)

Friday, June 8, 2018

Why They Love Him

Saturday's newspaper column, today:
Before it became obvious, I wondered how the Republican Party and Trump got so many people to vote against their own interests. Turns out, it’s not against their interests at all: Trumpism is the fulfillment of their darkest dreams. After eight misguided years of complaining US President Barack Obama was authoritarian, deliberately divisive, abusing presidential powers, they’ve given themselves over to Trump, a man who’s all that and more, and they’re enraptured. It’s not that they didn’t want a dictator: they just didn’t want it to be a highly intelligent black guy who spoke of equality for all. 
Right-wing media convinced Trumpists that US President Barack Obama was readying an unaccountable paramilitary force to take them from their homes. Trump is doing it. ICE has become that force, but, confident of exemption, they’ve gone mum. Their forbearance is rewarded with pleasing images of undocumented immigrants, here for decades, respected members of society, paying taxes, putting kids through college, as ICE agents wrench them from their families. That pleasure completely cancels calamities Trump creates for his cultists, including unsustainable budget deficits and soaring debt about which, it seems only yesterday, they were once apoplectic. 
Foxolimjonesified, they believed Operation Jade Helm was US President Barack Obama’s plan to incarcerate them under Texan Walmarts. Other than being above ground, that’s precisely where, with Trump’s approval, children seized from their parents are currently imprisoned, out of sight even of a US Senator concerned about their condition.   
In their silence, Trumpists speak loudly: they’re atingle over those children being taken from their families while they await rulings on asylum. It’s a thrilling message: asylum is history, and so is immigration. And empathy. The gratification more than makes up for rising costs of health insurance. And gas. Increased pollution, ending consumer protections as the price of vicarious vengeance? Totally worth it.   
Hearing Trump claim Democrats hate America and want open borders, Nancy Pelosi loves criminal gangs, inquisitive journalists are enemies of the people, is all they need to disregard the coming pocketbook effects of irrational tariffs. In their minds, Trump is right that Canada represents a security threat. After all, they burned the White House in 1812. Didn’t they? And if Putin, the existential enemy toward whom President Obama was “weak,” chose Trump, he’s totally their guy.   
Evidently, feeling free to call the cops on black people picnicking or entering their own homes produces contagious bliss. How liberating, knowing your “president” won’t criticize you for intimidating women wearing hijabs, refusing to serve gays, bullying people speaking foreign languages in your country. What spiritual elation must derive from turning self-doubts into self-affirmation by diminishing others! Especially when it’s because of skin color, religion, sexual preference, or where they came from. How affirming to see Trump impugn richer-than-us black athletes. 
These pleasures are all they ever wanted from him, and he’s shown that despite breaking promises and lying daily, including about his tax plan about which who cares, they can count on their bitterness being validated, prejudices mirrored, scapegoating perceived victimhood reinforced. It’s this, not his “policies,” that they love about him.  
What other explanation is there? Nothing about Trump’s tax or trade actions are conservative; already squeezing Medicare, among many other adverse effects, they’ll hurt average, non-wealthy Americans. So will his donor-enriching climate-change denial. Hiring crooks and incompetents ought to appall all Americans, regardless of party; yet Trump’s worshippers and Congressional Republicans pretend it away. 
For Congress-dwellers, selling souls for wealth-enhancement is a fair trade. For every other supporter, who’ll receive no enrichment and who’ll be the ones suffering the consequences of an ego-driven trade war started by a narcissist seeking revenge against allies who don’t kiss his … ring, it must be about ratifying their animus. There’s nothing else in it for them; going forward, even less. Tellingly, it’s enough.   
Trump didn’t create these people; he empowered them. Grateful, they excuse an imperious “president” who claims the right to pardon himself and says he’s above the law because he IS the law. Seeing the cataclysm to which this leads, thoughtful believers in democracy, including true conservatives, recoil. Unreachable, Trumpists neither recognize nor care about the implications; the sources of America’s greatness are lost on them. It falls on the rest of us, then, to save it. For them, too, even though they haven’t yet grasped the need.   
[The image came from twitter via Facebook. Best I can do for sourcing.]

Friday, June 1, 2018

Truth About Lies

Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
This week we learned Donald Trump is capable of telling the truth. Well, sure, it was about why he lies. Still, it could come in handy: unlikely as it is, were his supporters ever to prefer truth from him, familiarity with the concept would be advantageous. 
Lesley Stahl, who’s married to a college classmate of mine but that’s not important right now, just revealed her conversation with Trump in which he admitted his constant attacks on the honest (i.e., non-Fox) press are intended to delegitimize them in the eyes of his supporters. It’s almost as if he knew his malfeasance and criminality would eventually come out. And he figured, rightly as it turns out, it’d be easy preemptively to pull the sheep over the wool. While he has no idea what it is that makes America great, he does understand the minds of his disciples.   
“Winning,” gloated America’s second most oleaginous politician, whose name rhymes with “dense.” This he said on the news of the NFL caving to Trump’s cynical and dishonest efforts against their players’ peaceful demonstrations of hope for lost American ideals. Winning, he called it, in what one must assume refers to another example of successfully using people’s basest prejudices and pre-programmed misunderstandings to the benefit of his and his boss’s selfish, destructive agenda. Winning, he announced, because the list has one entry. To those theretofore too blind to see, Jerry Jones’ feline out-bagging gave away the game and, along the way, exposed illegal abuse of presidential power. Ban the kneeling, Trump demanded: it gets me votes 
How effective are Trump’s efforts at confusing his abettors? Well, almost half of Republicans believe millions voted illegally in the last election. A little more than half consider journalists enemies of the American people. With predictable regularity, bending themselves backwards more skillfully than the most limber gymnast, they reject actual news as fake while accepting Trump’s lies as if they were the word of God (which, claim many white Evangelicals, they are). Provided with proof of his lies, they dismiss the sources out of hand. I see it daily in communications I attempt with detractors. Equal parts amazing and frightening, it’s enantiodromia taken to otherworldly dimensions.  
On this planet, meanwhile, Trump continues to supercharge his mendacity. Having called a news conference on the status of talks with North Korea, insisting the speaker remain anonymous, he then denounced a report about it as made up by the “failing” New York Times, claiming the official with whom the White House had arranged the briefing “doesn’t exist.” “This is not normal,” say people with more than two brain cells to rub together. “Not normal” isn’t even close: it’s either insane or a level of lying inexplicable other than that he’s certain his listeners are stupid. Either way, there’s no unbamming the boozled. 
At his latest Applaud Ye The Greatness of Me rally in Tennessee, the audience, as if implanted with chips that lock brains in a mindless loop, shouted “lock her up” and “build the wall,” while Trump grinned like the pussy who grabbed the canary. And, yet again, he promised the cheering zombified eaters of Hannity’s brain, Mexico will pay for the wall. And “enjoy it.” Really, how can anyone find the words to describe this level of free-flowing, self-replicating delusion? President Nieto had a few, but they don’t begin to cover it.   
And now there’s “Spygate,” a word Bostonians know was misappropriated. Trump admitted preferring “branding” an FBI informant a “spy” because the term would “resonate” better than the truth with his tribe. As that latest rally demonstrated, he is, of course, right again. Over and over he repeated it, while the cultists whooped and hollered their unquestioning acceptance. Rudy loves it, too. 
But when a lie is so blatant even Fox “news” talking heads, including Trey “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi” Gowdy, and Judge “Obama Wiretapped Trump” Napolitano shoot it down, surely Trumpists will come to recognize how they’re being seen and played as pliable, distractible fools, treated by Trump with a level of disrespect and condescension always obvious to everyone but them. Finally, they’ll shrug the bonds of deceit and recognize the amoral, authoritarian liar they’ve enabled.  
Right. Now who sounds crazy? 
For people who call for acknowledging the good Trump’s done, okay, here: He finally met with Kim 
[Image source]

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