Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Texting, Texting, One Two Three

So Fox “News” knew it was lying about Trump’s election lies. It’s an important insight into today’s eroding political landscape, raising questions for which there may not be time to answer, much less rectify, before democracy dies, beginning in homes where Fox blares nonstop and unquestioned.

It’s not the revelation itself that’s significant; after all, people having observational abilities within two standard deviations of the median reckoned the network’s mendacity ever since “Fair and Balanced.” Fox is to news what prison food is to fine dining. It's why I’ve never written Fox “news” without quotation marks.  

Dragged from the darkness by the $1.6B Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against Fox, texts between Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham expose their unalloyed derision of guests pushing Trump’s claims of fraud. Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and others; even Trump himself. 

Worse, though, was their justification for continuing to lie, as seen in Tucker’s reaction to Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich, who dared to fact-check Trump’s claim of destroyed ballots. After the Foxified audience flooded their website with vitriol toward the truth-teller, Tucker texted to his co-conspirators, “Please get her fired. Seriously... what the f...? It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down.” There aren’t words strong enough for how shameful that is. Riches above all, democracy be damned. 

There are dire implications: Numerous studies have shown neurophysiological differences between the brains of liberals and conservatives. Different areas light up on scans when shown frightening or disgusting images, for example. The backfire effect, wherein beliefs are hardened after being presented with facts that disprove them, is more common in conservatives. Differences have been shown in empathy, openness to change, and more.  

Thoughts form within billions of neurons. Different thoughts could be expected to arise from separate areas. The question, then, is whether the divergent pathways are acquired, or inborn. As opposed to the so-called “Twitter files,” debunked laughably by self-inflicted wounds delivered from Gymnasium Jordan’s own subcommittee, the Fox files raise meaningful questions: Are Fox and similarly amoral media playing to a preborn audience, or creating one? Does the brain choose its source, or does the source produce the brain?

It’d be interesting to investigate. Babies aren’t born racist or homophobic or hateful of others, for instance. Those attitudes must be taught. What might we learn from studies done on people having “neutral” scans, if such exist? What if they were randomly divided into groups, one of which was constantly exposed only to right-wing media; the other only to, let’s call them, “honest” ones? If scanned again, sometime later, would those liberal/conservative neurophysiological differences have appeared? Would both brains have changed, or is “liberal” the baseline? Would changes be permanent? Would permanence depend on length of exposure? 

Given the plasticity of the human brain, its ability to repurpose remaining parts after a stroke, it’s likely the answers would be yes. If so, lying media, intentionally appealing to viewers’ worst instincts, keeping them constantly enraged, are causing irreversible damage in brains and, in turn, to America. Deliberately. For stock prices. 

The revealed texts won’t penetrate those brains. Fox knows it, and won’t stop. There’s big money in it. Consider the toxic train tragedy in Palestine, Ohio: Foxians immediately criticized Transportation Secretary Buttigieg’s and President Biden’s response, even though Governor DeWine acknowledged Biden offered help immediately, which he rejected. Tucker is mongering that it’s a result of anti-white, liberal racism. Nor have he or his accomplices mentioned Trump’s pigheaded killing of President Obama’s regulations intended to prevent exactly that kind of disaster. Did Trump, on his photo-op there? 

The harm caused by electing the Foxified is only increasing. Michigan’s GOP just chose as its president a rabidly election-denying anti-vaxxer, who calls evolution “one of the biggest frauds ever perpetuated on society.” Idaho’s elected a similar. Presidential candidate Nikki Haley had as her campaign-kickoff prayer-giver “Pastor” John Hagee, who blames natural disasters on gays; and she enthusiastically accepted the endorsement of rabid election-denier, General Don Bolduc, who considers vaccines delivery devices for Bill Gates’ microchips.

Idaho’s GOP legislators want to criminalize providing vaccines. Arizona’s then-Attorney General had documents proving no election fraud and kept them hidden. MTG is babbling secession. Hannity likes it. Kevin McCarthy gave exclusive access to video of the insurrection to Russian propagandist and inveterate liar Tucker Carlson, who’ll now know the location of every security camera and safe room in the Capitol, while he creates out-of-context, edited compilations. Top to bottom, it’s dishonesty as policy.

Those inculpating texts won’t restore Foxed-up politicians and their voters to sanity. The slimmest of hope for democracy is Fox being sued into extinction or, improbably, rejoining America as a partner. Then, upcoming generations might rise above lesser forms of brainwashing, compared to the lies of Fox “news,” in whose victims truth-rejecting brain modification appears eternal.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

I'm Not Crazy. You're Crazy!


I’ve said it before, and will again: our democracy works best with two viable, opposing parties, assuming both are committed to problem-solving, understand cooperation, accept democracy in the form of election results even when they lose, are favorably inclined toward reality, place a modicum of value on truth-telling, and are disinclined to elect and cover for rude, brazen liars.

Until a few years ago, I included most Republican politicians in that description. At this point, though, I can’t understand how anyone – and not just politicians -- who considers themself conservative can continue to support Trump and Trumpism. If “MAGA Republican” isn’t an oxymoron, “MAGA conservative” most certainly is.

In the latest of many examples, we’ve learned that after the 2020 election but before January 6, Trump engaged The Berkeley Research Group, an atypically (for him) reputable firm, to investigate his theories of how the election was stolen from him: fraud, dead people voting, two thousand mules, hacked voting machines, suitcases, etc.: the Trumpian disloyal flush. After characteristically thorough work, BRG found nothing of significance. Some discrepancies, in fact, favored Trump. So he buried the report and continued to lie, planning ways to overthrow the election and encouraging an insurrection.

He knew he was lying; but, because he’s a damaged person who probably initially believed if he lost it had to be fraudulent because he’s Donald Trump, he kept on doing it. Loved watching deluded followers ransacking our Capitol at his behest. Even now, he insists he won by “a landslide.” How can anyone who loves America not be outraged? How can they not comprehend his dangerous unfitness?

And what to make of the latest information about the depth of collusion with Saudi Arabia, resulting in personal riches for him and Jared Kushner? Billions for Jared; millions for himself. The money rolled in after, as Trump put it to Bob Woodward, referring to Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, "I saved his ass.” Meaning supporting his regional corruption and letting him off the hook for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. "Tell Mohammed he owes us," he told his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Evidently, he got the message.

As House Republicans prioritize Hunter Biden’s laptop and pursue the prurient pixels of pudenda planted therein, will also they investigate Trump’s obvious jobbery? Is a polar bear black?

Now seems a good time to mention Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ “response” to President Biden’s State of the Union address. After admitting, last week, that I didn’t watch, I’ve since looked into it. Has anyone uttered more ironic, clueless, un-self-aware words, in the history of politics starting in ancient Athens, than “The choice is between normal and crazy”? Timed to perfection following Marjorie Taylor Greene behaving like a third-grader, and all of her party pretending that Biden lied when saying, truthfully, that some Republicans would cut Medicare and Social Security. It’s on tape, people. Rick “sunset” Scott, Ron “reauthorize yearly” Johnson, Mike “pull it out by its roots” Lee, and more.

And, oh, the ballooning hot-air conspiracies: aliens; false flag precursor to martial law; bowing to China... Such is the the party of Trump. And Tucker. Gosar. Boebert. Cruz. Gaetz. Normal? Ron DeSantis turning Florida into an education-killing, book-burning, Disney-ruling autocracy. CPAC honoring Kari Lake for “exposing” widespread voter fraud, if “exposing” means “insisting despite proof of the opposite.” Normal or crazy?

Ms. Sanders was right. Just got the parties backward. Avoiding meaningful policy like Alex Jones and vaccines, she railed mostly about “woke” without defining it, confirming that her party has nothing to offer except to embittered distractibles. When she bragged about killing CRT in her state without saying what the initials stand for, observers may be excused for assuming she meant “Clear Rational Thought.”

Normal versus crazy. When I heard of bumper stickers and T-shirts saying “Make America Florida,” I figured it was a joke. It’s not. There’s no doubt that there are plenty who love the idea; especially those who believe the election was stolen, that liberals groom children to become gay, trans, or mealtime blood donors, that teaching Black history harms white kids, and that education is elitist. People who couldn’t define communism or socialism or capitalism or liberalism (or conservatism) if you handed them a dictionary in a wet paper bag. Parents grateful to have their children grow up in a state where teachers are required to remove all books from classrooms, including one about baseball hero and devoted humanitarian Roberto Clemente because he wasn’t, you know, white. So the book might offend DeSantisoid sensibilities.

Florida: where an out-Trumping-Trump, autocratic governor threatens to end all AP courses and sex education, along with press freedom. Who hired as the state’s surgeon general a “doctor” who mysteriously made it through medical school without a kindergarten-level understanding of science. A snide, angry, bullying, self-important governor who was reelected in Florida by a landslide, which proves the point.

“Make America Florida” means electing a dictator, not a president, who’ll make sure citizens remain ignorant enough to keep voting for people like him. Unless he gets rid of voting altogether. MAGA: Make America Go Authoritarian. By all evidence, that’s what they want. And, unless unwoke citizens wake up and stop it, it’s exactly what they, and we, will get.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Pop Goes The Country


I didn’t watch President Biden’s State of the Union Speech. Unlike the majority of Americans who, according to a recent poll, think he hasn’t accomplished much, I’m aware of his many and impressive achievements, which have had an enormous, positive effect on economic growth, job creation, and the future of infrastructure and energy. I’m also aware of how Foxotrumpification infiltrates Foxified brains with falsehoods, removing truth-seeking neurons like brain-eating amoebae

I don’t miss seeing standing Os on the left and hand-sitting and the now-normal rude heckling on the right. I’ve read about disgusting rudeness from MTG and other believers, though; loved, no doubt, by MAGAs. I didn’t watch Sarah Huckabee’s response, either; but, as she tops the list of her party’s most shameless and facile liars --a very high bar – I admire the choice.

Speaking of lies: the balloon. We can speculate what China gleaned from hovering one over sealed missile silos for a few hours, but we know for sure what they did learn. They learned how easy it is to poke the eye of our already-blind partisan politics. They know the R party will embrace any opportunity to charge our president with treason. (At the last minute, they canceled plans to censure Joe for his handling of the incident. Are they eschewing looking ridiculous? Why now? It works so well for them.)

Chinese leaders learned which members of that party they can rely on to fan the flames of division. And they know if there’s ever another R president, they have a decent chance of killing American civilians by floating a few more, to be shot down with tough-guy immediacy over whatever land they may be hovering. The rest of it – several balloons unnoticed by the Trump administration, improved surveillance in Biden’s, the jamming of the balloon’s communications rendering it impotent till it became a safe and recoverable target, the potential information gained by finding it in one piece – that’s all been said.

So we float on. Beginning with the R House-members wearing AR15 lapel pins. Nothing more needs saying. It speaks for its disgusting self; who and where they are. Like MTG accompanying a balloon on her way to the SOTU. 

Speaking of disgusting, it’s now undeniable how dangerously regressive Trump’s federal judges are: specifically, the Trump-stuffed Fifth Circuit’s overturning of a law preventing convicted wife-beaters from purchasing guns. Since most people aren’t standing while reading, it’s probably safe to present their reasoning: Because women were essentially chattel in 1789, and since there were no laws against wife-beating, the court ruled based on the so-called Bruen test (gun laws must reflect regulations in place at the time of the Constitution’s framing). “Through that lens, we conclude that (the law’s) ban on possession of firearms is an ‘outlier’ that our ancestors would never have accepted.” Trumpic jurisprudence. Amazing.

Fully depleted of smackable gobs, we can only wish they’d follow their logic to view gun regulations as applying only to muskets. Be unsurprised when SCOTUS upholds the ruling, or when they decide that nothing, not just weapons, can be regulated if it didn’t exist when the Founders strode Philadelphia’s horse paths.

Another fibment fed by rightwing screamers: they’re coming for your gas stoves! Here’s what’s true: emissions from gas stoves can be harmful to some people with some pulmonary diseases, and precautions should be considered. And here’s what’s not true: plans to outlaw them. What’s also true: being untrue is a requisite for the screams of right-wing screamers. What’s also not true: it’ll stop anytime soon. Truthless Ted Cruz has promised to create the ”Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act.” If shortened to the “Free Range Act,” though, some liberals might get on board.

For performative Republican legislation, nothing beats the Republicans’ Condemnation of the Horrors of Socialism Act. Passed with the help of several weak-kneed Democrats, it was a cynical circus, an attempt to “gotcha” Democrats who refused to fall for it. A brave few stood up to say no one is advocating for pure socialism in the US, asking if they plan to defund America’s socialist programs, such as police, military, highways, dams, schools, the postal service, help for the needy. Rick Scott would add Medicare and Social Security.

It’s like Jim Jordan's show of requiring the Pledge of Allegiance to open his committee meetings. In a just world, he and his colleagues who voted to overturn the election and who still consider the insurrectionists patriots would be struck dumb as they pledged, heart-handed. (Of course, the dumb has already happened.) 

We can’t finish without noting Trump’s announcement that he could end Russia’s criminal war against Ukraine in twenty-four hours. Totally believable. Being a self-serving scammer, uninterested in saving lives now, he’s not sharing his plan. Totally on-brand.

So let’s urge President Biden to send him as a special envoy, on a twenty-four-hour trip (not counting travel time) to Kyiv or Moscow or wherever, promising fulsome praise, cash (his lifelong raison d’etre), and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize if he pulls it off; boosting his presidential campaign, even if he’s running it from prison. If Joe does and Trump does, I’ll never write another bad word about him. That’s a promise

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Joe Calling

President Biden hasn’t called me lately, but when he does, this is what I’ll tell him: DON’T.

Don’t yield to Republicans’ demand for drastic budget cuts while insisting that you do the math. It’s their politispeak, not yours. Their performance art and pretense. Don’t play their cynical game. They campaign-promised it, so make THEM tell voters what THEY want cut. They want you to negotiate? Fine. Tell them to open the bidding. So far, they’re dodging specifics like batters facing Randy Johnson’s 90 mph slider (those were the days!)

The closest anyone has come is Trump-fluffer, Santos-excusing, Congress-diminishing Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who’d cut “woke” Defense Department programs. She wasn’t asked to specify examples, of course (it was on Fox “news”), nor did she suggest how much would be saved. But that’s easy: Compared to the total budget, it’d round off to zero. 

Darn it, there I go again. I shouldn’t be so divisive, some readers tell me. We need healing. Stop driving wedges, they urge; speaking, most likely, from among the 48% of Republicans who inexplicably prefer Trump, winner of “America’s Most Indictable,” as their 2024 nominee. The non-divisive healer who just assured us, in what passed for a campaign speech: “We will stop the left-wing radical racists and perverts who are trying to indoctrinate our youth and we’re going to get their Marxist hands off our children.” That’s what he’ll run on. Wedgies? Sounds like he’s got them. When he’s not taking the Fifth.

If Republicans can’t end public education outright, they’d make it into a safe space to send kids of parents who’d prefer to keep them ignorant of everything but arithmetic and third-grade-level reading. Turning school board meetings into combat zones, they aim to populate those institutions with a blizzard of Foxotrumpists, the real snowflakes, more afraid of knowledge than Tucker Carlson is of M&Ms with feet.

And if they don’t succeed in reinventing public schools as groomatoriums for childhood ignorance, there’s always the Nazi-school option. And now they can buy their children the groomtastic JR-15, a kid-size AR-15. It’s America!!

Trump’s only the first to toss his scat into the ring. In MAGA world, no political hopeful can get far without plucking the same strings, repeating tried and true lies, proven to rile the rock-bottom remainders.

But Trump didn’t omit the other Fox-button issues. His “education” plan would cut funds for school programs that include “critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children.” As emperor, inappropriateness will be his to define, presumably.

And he’d have school principals elected by parents. Plus, lest he’d miss a favorite MAGA target, he attacked transgender youth. Because of course he did.

Any red-hat-tossing candidate will be expected to echo – amplify, more likely – the same. Nor could any of them hope to prevail without pushing the election Big Lie; now, per RNC Chair McDaniel, an explicit priority.

How stone-carved are Trumpists’ tendentious talking points? Has anyone apologized for their disgusting, conspiratorial lies about the attack on Paul Pelosi, now that video is available debunking them all? The opposite, in fact. Shown footage of the attacker using his hammer to break in, a Fox guest famous for claiming he was let in by Mr. Pelosi because something-something gay, still insisted his entry should be investigated. Nor has it made an impression that the attacker said he wished he’d been better armed in order to hurt more liberals.

Foxotrumpism is not only about ignoring facts: it’s about actively rejecting truth as if it doesn’t exist. Fox and Trump: hardening hearts against it like two-syringe epoxy. Which applies to investigatory R Congressfolk like Gym Jordan, as well.

If lies are the point, so is corruption. As Kevin McCarthy’s controllers ready their investigations into “weaponizing the government,” we’re learning more and more about Trump’s willingly weaponized Attorney General, William Barr. Those “investigations” will conveniently divert attention from how Barr (and, later, his hired hitman, John Durham) ended or muzzled investigations into Trump’s many crimes. Buried evidence, too. 

Newly unwedged, though, I won’t mention how MAGAgonists blame President Biden for fuel prices and lay egg costs on him, ignoring the massive 2022 profits just reported by both industries. Failings of liberalism or price-gouging? I hold my tongue.

Applying to real life the admonishments I’ve received, if I ever see someone setting a house on fire, rather than trying to arouse the people he put in danger, I shall point out that harnessing fire was a major step forward for prehistoric humankind; and that we must excuse the arsonist as we do Trump, because he was, in effect, just saying what was on his mind.

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