Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Behold The Hypocrisy

What an embarrassing performance by truly loathsome people. As others on the Senate Judiciary Committee sat by, buttockly-self-thumbed, lifetime members of the Republican Deplorable Caucus harangued Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, repeating the same discredited charges, over and over, each climbing higher into the grandstand. Interminably interrupting her answers. Rudely. Deliberately disrespectful. To impress their disrespect- and rudeness-loving base.

Cruz, Graham, Hawley, Blackburn, Cotton. Wasting opportunities to question her substantively, they chose to play for airtime on Fox “news,” et screech. Generate money-raising campaign ads. Cruz, about whom there aren’t words, printable or otherwise, adequately to convey his repugnance, was caught searching for online self-mentions immediately after he’d finished his act. Q, as they say, E.D.

Ignoring the number of national police organizations supporting her, encephalopathy-vector Josh Hawley, who openly encouraged violent lawbreakers on January 6, claimed she’s “soft on crime.” Loves her some child pornographers, said all the rest; most especially the smarmy, self-righteous Lindsey Graham. No matter her explanations, cut off so often she may as well have not even tried, they perseverated in their made-for-TV charges

Previewing the game-plan for future elections – namely, pushing culture wars, transgenderism most especially, because they have little else to offer -- Blackburn demanded a definition of the word “woman.” As only he can, Cruz notched it up. And they all harped on base-inflaming “critical race theory,” nonexistent in K-12 schools, and forehead-slappingly irrelevant to the proceedings. For particulars, read this.

Then, for those interested in what’s really behind it all, watch Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) lay it out like a picnic blanket, confirming why we so desperately need conscientious congresspeople.

Have those preening protectors of Supreme integrity spoken out about the ethical travesty of Ginni Justice Thomas pressuring Trump’s chief of staff to overturn a lawful election? Or her husband, alone, voting against allowing Congress to see those communications? What may we extrapolate about his own mindset, when his wife extols and parrots a certifiable lunatic, in those emails he wanted hidden? On the list of concerns about the ultimate arbiters of American law, doesn’t this rank higher than children’s books?

Those questions don’t matter to that claque. Closing the feedback loop that runs directly from internet conspiracies to Congressional deplorables to Fox “news” and thence injected into Trumpofoxified brains, which restart the loop, Laura Ingraham did her part. To her contentedly credulous viewers she horrored that if Judge Jackson is approved, "It's goodbye to voter enforcement. It's goodbye to the Second Amendment. It's goodbye to moms and dads raising their kids as they see fit. Goodbye to the right of the unvaccinated to live freely in society. And someday goodbye to the right to maybe even drive a gasoline-powered car.” Didn’t have time, evidently, to include forcing your children into sex acts while drinking their blood.

But that’s not the worst current example of the downward-spiral churning between Republican leaders, right-wing media, and their dupable believers. It’s biolabs in Ukraine, which do exist, but about which Putin lies that they’re manufacturing weapons to attack Russia, therefore justifying his invasion. Debunked but regurgitated (which should become their corporate motto) by Fox’s tyrannophilic talkers, the lie lives on. Last week, Russia’s Defense Ministry took it to Q-worthy levels: Hunter Biden bankrolls the labs.

Care to guess who lapped it up, passed it on like a kidney stone? “What are the outlines of that story,” asked Tucker. “We’re not sure. We know it’s legitimate to ask what it means, why wouldn’t it be? You’re not a Russian agent repeating discredited Putin talking points if you ask. You’re a good citizen.” Butter wouldn’t melt, as he oh-so-innocently, just-askingly poisons his followers. Putin seems to have designed the perfect disinformation dissemination scheme.

And so it goes. The SCOTUS hearings revealed the cynical depths to which right-wing media descend in order to deceive their listeners; how the lies start, who repeats them in Congress, and how Foxification embeds it too deeply to be excavated. We’re seeing how irresistible and effective it’s become. Force-feeding an oligarchic Trumpublican agenda which will, in fact, make life worse for most of their viewers, and for democracy. But not themselves. It’s a dangerously effective, democracy-destroying, self-perpetuating, perverted system of virtual brainwashing; a solution to which, having become “normalized,” is hard to envision.

Finally, an off-topic word about President Biden’s speech and the ad-lib which, according to “analysts and experts,” pushes our relationship with Russia “closer to collapse.” After the invasion, other than Trump’s continued praise of Putin, and, yet again, asking him for electoral help – this time mid-war-crimes -- what relationship remains? Here’s fuller-than-Fox context, for when President Biden said what we’re all thinking.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

One Of These Things Is Just Like The Other

A few days ago, Vladimir Putin, “president” of Russia, held a rally for himself. In a stadium that
holds 81,000 people, he and his state media later claimed there were 200,000 enthusiastic attendees. Something like that has never, could never happen here. Nor would the equivalent of millions of Putinists ever believe easily refuted lies from an American “president.” It’s unimaginable. 

Behind Comrade Putin were signs praising his brave fight against “Naziism,” a false claim made repeatedly from the stage as well as before and after the rally. This is also something that has never, could never happen here: a “president” so unironically insisting something is true when it’s clearly not. Nor would we ever see American leaders advocating, as is currently happening in Russia, for teaching the equivalent of Putin’s falsehoods in schools while outlawing truth-telling. Especially not in any red state. We’re lucky that way.  

Putin also railed against people he defined as enemies and traitors; namely, Russians who don’t agree with him. Implying they should be locked up, he fed the crowd scapegoats for his own failings, stoking their easily-manipulated, innate fears and hatreds. Later, he fired and arrested several high-ranking military and intelligence officers, over his own Ukraine debacle.

We cannot think of examples or even imagine an analogous set of circumstances in America, with our Constitutionally-mandated separation of equal branches of government, and a Congress fully committed to checking and balancing any “president” who’d seek unrestrained power by repeatedly lying and ignoring the law, firing members of the Department of Justice who insisted on following it. No way. Not here. Someone like that couldn’t even be nominated by a “conservative” party, much less become “president.” Good for us.

In the United States of America, where education and the ability to think for oneself are among the immutable values on which democracy depends, millions of citizens could never fall victim to such undisguised disinformation. There’s no way media would spring up, dedicated to amplifying the lies across all platforms. As we witness the unmistakable components of maintaining tyranny on display in Russia, resulting in the horrors in Ukraine, we rejoice at how steadfast are our leaders and media, right and further-right, past and present, in rejecting comparable threats to democracy here.

Or not. Putin and Trump aren’t just analogous: they’re carbon copies, as are their media. The only difference is that now, in Russia, real news has been effectively squelched. Most Russians will never see or hear it; those who do will have had to resort to short-wave BBC broadcasts and the occasional, breakthrough hack of state media. In the US, all that’s necessary, so far, anyway, is to change channels. But since that’s inconsistent with maintaining the make-believe Trumpist worldview, it’s not happening. Even with the consequences so clearly on display overseas.

How did Putin manage to inhabit Trump so successfully? Was it merely recognizing that Trump craves flattery so desperately that he’d do anything after getting it, or something bribe-worthy? Whatever the reasons, in his four years Trump gave Putin much of what he wanted; including lifting sanctions on his pals, handing him Syria, attempting to weaken NATO, making oil great again, and threatening to withhold weapons from Ukraine unless President Zelensky claimed to be investigating family Biden. Every single Republican member of Congress, save one, voted to let him off the hook. 

It’s reported that many of the people attending Putin’s rally were there under threat. Similarly, it’s likely that many in Russian media push the party line out of fear of consequences if they don’t. Which isn’t the case with Fox “news” and its star griftnesses. Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, Pirro; they’ve all been repeating Russian talking points nearly word for word, without evidence of being forced. So much so that Putin is demanding his media feature their words as often as possible.

As we struggle to understand this Foxian defense of a global adversary and brutal dictatorship, we may have gained unexpected insight, thanks to Putin’s Trump-like rally. Some may suppress it, or rationalize it, or have never even thought about it, but the similarities between Putin and Trump (and, much more so, future Trump if we let it happen again) are now undeniable.

Which means that if Foxworld – including many Congressional Rs -- were to criticize Putin, it would equate to criticizing Trump, a bolshoi nyet-nyet. Doing so would call attention to their interchangeability. So they don’t.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? More than believing it’s about hating the equalizing potential of democracy and wishing for a home-grown dictator who’ll enrich and protect them and get rid of liberals. Right?

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Blame Joe

Despite not needing a gas station for eight years, your columnist is aware of prices and that people are leaving stickers on pumps blaming President Joe Biden for rising costs. Of course they are. Like every bit of malicious misinformation spun from rightwing media, the Trumpic swath of our population accepts it as gospel. And Jeff Bezos will sell them the stickers

The truth, though, as experts (people Trumpublicans don’t like very much) tell us, is that presidents have little direct control of or effect on the price of gas at the pumps. Indirect, well, yes; a perfect example of which is how the economy tanked under Trump, in large measure because of the pandemic which, due to his inept mishandling, led to massive unemployment. Which led to diminished demand, and, therefore, dropping prices. Supply and demand: it’s capitalism!

Cheap gas meant not much incentive for oil companies to produce it; so production decreased. As the economy has recovered under President Biden’s stimulative guidance, with unemployment now at near-record lows, demand and prices are increasing. So far, companies seem to see no reason to increase output to bring prices down. They’re raking it in as it is. It’s how it works. Otherwise, we’re talking socialism, which let’s not even.

But Brandon canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, scream the screamers. True. Had he not, it wouldn’t have been finished, even now. And if it had, funneling shale oil, the world’s dirtiest, through America’s fertile heartland (pipelines leak, by the way), its product would have been processed on the Gulf Coast, from where much would have been exported.

Then how about President Biden’s devious plan to increase renewable energy, because, you know, climate change? Which threatens all currently living things on our planet except, maybe, cockroaches. Yes, how about that? Concern for our future. Like an actual president.

Or how about the fact that the Biden administration issued more drilling permits in his first year than the Trump whatever-it-was did in his? Should he be forcing oil companies to drill? Republicans claim to espouse free-market capitalism.

Speaking of which, in 2021, profits reported by BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell totaled over sixty billion. Could they have afforded to keep prices where they’d been? Does a bear sit in Ukraine? Would it surprise Trumpists to learn that the US remains a net exporter of oil under President Biden? For those interested in reoility, there are reputable sources which, unlike Fox “news,” et ugh, are accurate. Here are two.

So let’s return to the other existential threat to humanity in general and America in particular: the leader of the Republican Party, the party of small government and democracy and freedom, Donald J. Trump. Still revered, mysteriously still their preferred future presidential candidate. In South Carolina, at his latest gathering of the gulled, adding something new to his usual catechism of self-praise and election lies, he said this, about his next term: “We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the President of the United States…” Not said: “… and sendable to Siberia.”

They cheered, of course. Because an unrestrained “president,” able to rid the government, at all levels, on a whim, of people who might stand up to his transgressions, or, worse, know what they’re doing, doesn’t bother them at all. And why would it? They’ve made Tucker Carlson Fox’s most popular seditionist, whose nearly word-for-word promotion of Russian propaganda has made him a go-to for Russian TV. Where that kind of “president” already exists. 

Because he’s never admitted a mistake (understandable, as there’d be no time for doing anything else), excusing his earlier praise of Putin’s invasion, Trump now claims Vladimir Putin “has changed.” The loveable guy to whom he’d granted everything he wanted wouldn’t possibly have invaded Ukraine. Right. No way it could be that, like Kim and Xi, Putin played Trump for the needy, praise-craving narcissist he is. To any open-eyed observer, Putin hasn’t changed at all.

Nor has the Republican Party, since its conversion to one of blockage and trickle-down. As proof, one-upping the six-week rules running rampant in red states, Missouri legislators are considering a proposal to ban abortions even in the case of ectopic pregnancy. If it becomes law, women will die. Hopefully, it won’t. But it shows where we’re headed if they regain federal power. 

What has passed is Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill. Denials from Governor DeSantis about that characterization notwithstanding, it’s snowflake/cancel culture squared. And evil. It’ll require another column to say why, but only common sense to know Trumpublicanism must never again control the federal government.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

From Russia With Lessons

One result of Putin’s criminal war is that it’s conceivable – if unlikely – that devotees of America’s rightwing misinformation mills posing as “news” organizations might notice the lies flowing from Russia’s state-controlled media, and draw comparisons. Putin sycophants,
doing his bidding, denying the obvious, reinforcing his lies. Somewhere, deep in disused parts of their brains, the Foxotrumpified might sense certain similarities and look elsewhere for information. It could save America, if not Ukraine.

Facing worldwide outrage, Putin doesn’t care. As his lies are documented, he lies more. His only supporters among leaders are the world’s worst dictators. Sound familiar? Trump still defends him, while insulting America. And he continues to envy Kim Jong Un’s “total control.” Fair warning.

Speaking of the world’s worst, we’ve just seen Lauren Bobert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, about whom “world’s worst” understates, screaming at President Biden during his State of the Union address to Congress. Belligerently. Proudly. Fund-raisingly. Not-reprimanded-by-Republicansly. Owning-the-libs-but-never-legislatingly. The more blowback they get from liberals, the more pleased with themselves they and their ilks, Tucker, Laura, Jeanine, et al., are.

Creating destructive outrage is their horrors d’oeuvre. It’s their most reliable vote-getter/money-maker, because it’s what keeps their misinformed voters/audience coming back. That, and the hypocrisy, never more apparent than when those truckers were blockading Ottawa. Having decried BLM and almost-imaginary Antifa whenever they blocked a road for a while, as if it were America-crumbling revolution against all that’s good, they treated those truckers like the heroes they weren’t. “Law and order” Hannity all but encouraged violence against the Canadian police who were arresting them. 

During Canada’s convoy, there were still rules in place to protect citizens from Covid-19; deserving, therefore, protest because freedom. America’s freedom-saving “people’s convoy,” on the other hand, came to D.C. to protest that which was already going away. Possibly realizing their tardy ridiculousness, they didn’t actually blockade. Circling the Beltway for a while, meeting with world’s worsers Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson, confirming everything you’ve thought about that pair. Heading next to Atlanta, maybe, to protest the New Coke.

Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson reached a new low (or high, for those who love his lowness) when he demanded to see President Biden’s SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s LSAT scores. Golly: he never asked about Amy Coney Barrett’s or Brett Kavanaugh’s or Neil Gorsuch’s. Can anyone spot the difference?

That was even worse than his fawning defense of Putin because he, Putin, has never harmed him, Tucker, personally; and Tucker is what matters to Tucker. It’s not in spite of such spewage that people watch him; it’s because of it. Truth-seeking people would have abandoned him long since. 

But Tucker isn’t the only one disparaging Judge Jackson, whose judicial record is one of excellence, her professional background broad and unique. Because she was once a public defender, though, she’s “soft on crime,” Republican senators claim, unfurling a favorite rightwing shibboleth. And Mitch “Dark Money Poster-boy” McConnel is VERY concerned there’s “dark money” behind her nomination; whereas the dark money behind the aforementioned Trump appointees could pay for an unseized Russian oligarch’s yacht.

For some reason, McConnell forgot to mention Judge Jackson’s endorsements by police. But, having rushed Ms. Coney Barrett through in a minute, he and his obediences remembered to accuse Democrats of rushing Judge Jackson, whose nomination is following a typical schedule. Why wasn’t Mitch turned to stone after his “dark money” and “rushed” twofer? Are there no gods?

Everything is upside down. Climate change is fake, Q is real. Masks don’t work, vaccines kill. Refusing them is patriotic freedom-stuff. Putin’s war is President Biden’s fault. (John Bolton says Putin delayed invading because he was waiting for Trump to withdraw from NATO in his second term.)

Consider the sacrifices made by Americans during WWII; ponder how and why so much has changed. Women turned in their nylon stockings to be made into ropes and parachutes. Pots and pans, too: metal for manufacturing war machines. People accepted, without complaint, rationing of milk, gas, coal, butter, sugar, firewood. And shoes. Planted victory gardens. “Freedom isn’t free,” bray anti-mask whiners, while refusing the minor sacrifice of protecting America by masking up.

Joining hands against actual Nazis, that generation were unreservedly willing to endure hardship, to defend actually-threatened freedom. Now, the Trumpofoxified mistake Dr. Fauci for a Nazi, and themselves for patriots defending not-at-all threatened freedom. What happened? Newt Gingrich happened. Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Mitch McConnell. Rupert Murdoch. And finally, cherry on the cheeseburger, Donald Trump.

Those Foxified and Fox-loved trucking convoyeurs have it all: selfishness, arrogance, delusion, misdirected anger. Which exposes another thing we’re learning from Putin’s atrocities: what real heroism and patriotism look like.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Sixty-Two Percent


(Couldn't decide between the pictures.)

Having only a weekly column, it’s tempting to leave Trump/Putin/Ukraine to others. Pretty much everything that can be said has been and is still being said. On all sides. Including the only side Trump is on: his. Still fanning election lies; rewriting his history with Putin and Ukraine; pretending he’s the one who made NATO strong, who’s been “tough” on Putin.

Right. By calling his invasion “very savvy” and “genius.” He can’t unsay that, nor can those who agreed or refused to condemn it. The forehead has no more slaps to give. 

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, just said, on Fox “news,” of all places, she believed she’d never again see the unity among NATO members that there is now, thanks to President Biden. After Trump left it weakened and in disarray (though not as much as Putin had ordered).

Tempting. But since a recent poll had sixty-two percent of Americans believing Putin wouldn’t have invaded if Trump were still “president,” biting the tongue draws blood. Trump is strong, they say. Biden is weak. Which means truth and thought have lost the Foxotrumpian war on them. Equally sad and terrifying. 

Perhaps some among those polled said it because they understand that if Trump were still in office, Putin wouldn’t have needed to invade. Having done so for four years, Trump would have continued to give Putin everything he wants; would have held the door while he Kazatsky-ed on in. And it’s more certain than heliocentrism that he wouldn’t have imposed the sanctions that President Biden has. 

Strong? Can anyone other than the most lower-colonically self-inserted imagine Trump leading a country under siege with Volodymyr Zelensky’s bravery? He’d have faked another bone spur note and run to Bunker-a-Lago.

Weak? Short of deploying American troops, which worked out great in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, President Biden has done about everything possible, after getting all of Europe – even Switzerland and Sweden! – to buy into the unprecedented economic sanctions which have already left the ruble worthless and the Russian economy wobbling; and he has been and continues to send economic aid and military equipment to Ukraine, and troops to bolster NATO. 

Is it enough? Who can yet say? But do we want a shooting war with Russia? Half a million troops for a mano-a-mano conflict? If we do, will Tucker and Sean sign up? If so, for which side? How about Cancun Ted Cruz? Fisting Josh Hawley? Would Lauren Boebert grab her campaign-prop AR and head there, too? Tough talk is easy. (We who served in Vietnam recall Trump’s five excuses fakery.)

My favorite political blogger, Charles P. Pierce, refers to the “prion disease” (think “mad cow”) that has infected the Republican party. It’s good for a chuckle; but is there a better explanation is there for the insanity that’s overtaken the formerly sane? Reliably deplorable, the cabal known as CPAC just had the usual Republican stars peddling hate and fear with barely an attempt at policy. Other than “Lock her up for real.” “They want to destroy you,” Ted Cruz screamed, to besotted cheers. Not a sniff of useful ideas.

Representatives Gosar and Taylor-Greene just spoke at a convention of white supremacists, which almost makes Republicans’ continued fealty to a lying former “president” who praises Russia while criticizing America seem quaint. Senators Cruz, Hawley, and Cotton grandstandingly and mendaciously attacked Biden judicial nominee Nina Morrison, because, as a lawyer for the Innocence Project, she got wrongly accused inmates freed. How can any Americans, especially conservatives, tolerate such awful people unless they’re infected, too? 

In states where their lawmaking is unrestrained, the encephalopathic cruelty is even worse. In Texas, whose latest voter suppression laws are already disenfranchising thousands, governor Abbot launched an uninformed, intentionally cruel anti-transexual crusade. It’s a full Republican bingo card: anti-science, scape-goat seeking, base-riling, policy-distracting. Designating sexual reassignment surgery on anyone younger than eighteen as “child abuse,” requiring laypeople and doctors to inform on any young person expressing interest in transitioning, it will – like his Big-Brother abortion vigilantism – cause pain and, likely, death

Meanwhile, as Putin readied his invasion, Steve Bannon praised him for and laughed about his LGBT malice. 

How bereft of empathy, not to mention knowledge, must these people be? Derisive. Mocking. Anti-government professing, mask-tyranny crying, vaccine mandate railing. Yet, because it doesn’t affect them, enforcing government control of transgender youth; a deeply private, difficult issue. Which should only be between parents, children, and their doctors. Which affects 0.3% of the population. “Small government!” “Parental choice!” “Pro-family!”

Why does Greg Abbott care? Why does he lie? Only to please an incurably prion-diseased party of democracy-fearing, sociopath-idolizing hypocrites. It’s infuriating. 

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