Friday, June 22, 2018

Spoken into the Void




Except for the occasional spikes in viewing, I feel like I'm speaking into the void.  This was the lead story in a collection of essays by Adolf Loos at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in describing the state of European architecture at the time, resulting in his most famous essay, "Ornament and Crime."

He likened ornament in architecture to tattoos on convicts.  He felt that we as Europeans were above all that but today the proliferation of tattoo parlors across Europe and America says otherwise.  The tattoo has long been an emblem of identity, but was largely viewed as one among marginalized persons, gangs and miscreants.  When sailors, merchant marines and other sea men came back from the Pacific with tattoos emblazoned on them, tattoos began to reach a broader segment of the population and have proliferated over the decades.

Some prefer modest tattoos in immodest places to be seen only by loved ones.  Others literally cover their bodies head to toe in tattoos, proudly showcasing themselves on social media.  The boldest emblazon their crudest political and religious supremacist beliefs on themselves as if they are begging for a fight.  Whatever the case, it is irremovable other than to go through a painful laser operation, often leaving scars.

Right now, America is going through such a process.  Regardless of your political view, all Americans are being branded by the Trumpism taking place, and it will be a painful process to have this stain removed.

I'm still scratching my head as to what Republicans saw in Trump to nominate him for President.  Given how the general election turned out, it seemed like any of their nominees could have beaten Hillary Clinton, as Trump was the worst nominee imaginable.  Polls consistently showed him as the least liked among the broad field of candidates, but there he was after a tortuous serious of primaries - the last man standing.

In the end, Republicans embraced him, some even rode on his coat tails into Congress and state governments.  There was this belief that he would "pivot" at some point and embrace a broader set of ideas, enlarging the party into a "big tent," but as each month of his presidency has gone by that tent has gotten smaller and smaller.

Many Republicans now try to disown him, while others have left the party, remarking that Trump has turned the GOP into a cult of his personality.  But, they all served as his enablers, as so few spoke out against him during the election.  Even those who tried to keep a low profile, like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, were enablers as they waiting out the election.

Whatever good instincts his supporters claimed he possessed have all but disappeared in the wake of the immigration crisis along the border.  We have seen the most vile, ruthless manifestation of Trumpism yet.  One which he tried to pass off on "Democrats" before him, but in reality was the product of his own shameless administration, using women to try to defend this heinous separation policy, and now his wife and daughter to put a kinder, gentler face on the crisis.

You'd have to go back to WWII to find a similar analogy, as Laura Bush referred to in her condemnation of the immigration policy.  This was when Japanese-American families were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in internment camps, purportedly for their protection.  It took decades to finally reach a settlement with the survivors of those atrocious policy.  The scar still remains.

It seems that the only good immigrants are white immigrants in American society.  Darker hued immigrants are seen as a taint on the purity of our founding fathers' vision of America.  The Constitution is greatly overblown, as it never had plans for persons of color to become full members of our society.  That only came about through amendments over the years, starting with the 13th amendment, which eliminated slavery in the country, and even then it was permissible "as a punishment for crime."

For decades Southern states got around the 13th amendment by locking up blacks for a variety of  minor crimes and putting them on chain gangs for indefinite periods of time.  This split apart families the same way slavery had.  It was only with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that these wrongs and many others were addressed.   Yet, here we are 50+ years later, seeing it play out all over again as the Trump administration takes a "zero tolerance" approach to illegal immigration.

The last comprehensive immigration bill was signed by Reagan in 1981.  Since then we have had several attempts to tighten the policies, most notably a 1996 illegal immigration "reform bill" that allowed the government more severe measures in dealing with this unwanted problem.  It was a product of the new wave of conservatism at the time, resulting in the notorious "Contract with America" that was going to restore the original intent of the Constitution, among other things.  Bill Clinton begrudgingly signed onto it, making this new reform bill the law of the land.

This is what many conservative pundits point to in defending the heinous actions of Trump, even though there was nothing explicitly written in that bill that allowed for the separation of families illegally crossing into the country.  All the bill did was allow more severe punishment for what is regarded as a misdemeanor crime.  It is only in this broad sense that the Trump administration could "justify" its policy, which it has now formally retracted.

To hear Trump, he was simply redressing a bad "Democratic" policy.  He continues to refuse to own up to the policy at his campaign rallies.  He makes it sound as if he was enforcing the law of the land, putting the onus on Congress to come up with a new immigration bill.

Maybe this is Trump's style - manufacture a crisis in order to get Congress to act, but he does so in the crudest way imaginable and appears to gloat over his decisions like a ruthless mobster extorting local businessmen.  This mobster mentality is something we've only seen before in autocratic governments - notably the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany - and today in Russia and China.  It is the product of a criminal mind, not a civilized mind, determined to attain power at any cost and hold onto it as long as humanly possible.  Persons become meaningless in society, especially ones who are viewed as outsiders.  We are all just extras in a dark game being played out.

In this sense, Trump's unquestioning supporters are just as much pawns as are the immigrants being detained along the border.  Trump is playing on their Nativist sentiments, hoping to put pressure on conservative state and federal legislators who speak out against him.  It is a form of extortion that has led to a new wave of Trumpist candidates scoring victories in Republican primaries, which he hopes will carry over in November, increasing his power base.

The only problem is that his tactics are so crude and openly vengeful that he is helping to energize the Democratic base like never before, ensuring strong opposition even in conservative states like Texas, where Beto O'Rourke is gaining on incumbent Ted Cruz, running a highly charged grassroots campaign.  So much so that Ted is now looking for any good photo-ops he can, whether it is a pick-up basketball game with Jimmy Kimmel or reversing his position on family separations.  Anything to make him look human.

It's hard to believe Ted Cruz was once a serious challenge to Trump in 2016, but given the choice the Republican establishment chose to side with Trump.  You'd think Ted would be embittered by the way he was dumped, but he was quick to embrace Trump rather than risk losing favor among the Teabaggers-turn-Trumpists.

This is a movement that began in 2010 with the rise of the Birthers and Tea Party, which Ted and Trump were quick to embrace and turn into their political fortune.  Ted turned into a successful Senate bid in 2012, whereas Trump became our 45th president, as hard as it is to believe.

But now a fatigue has set in, which is all too common among such rebellious movements.  If no appreciable gains are seen, at least ones your elected officials can take credit for, then apathy is sure to follow.  Trump continues to talk a good show, but the reality on the ground doesn't favor his bedrock supporters.  So, he does what any embattled autocrat would do - blame it on the other side.

You can get away with this to some degree, but the fact that he has done nothing to expand the base of the GOP puts Senators like Ted Cruz in a difficult place.  They now have to try to create a little bit of space between themselves and Trump if they hope to stay in office, hoping that their electorate will see the difference.  But, you can't create too much distance, as Mark Sanford did in South Carolina, otherwise Trump will lash out at you as a traitor to his cause.  Sanford was merely too soon in condemning the family separations.  Trumpist Katie Arrington may well win the conservative South Carolina district, as Sanford won by 20 points two years ago, but the mood changes quickly even in the reddest of Congressional districts.

It's like Americans want to have this tattoo removed, no matter how painful the process.  They've had to wear it for two years whether they wanted it or not, and it has come time to take it off.

There is little to suggest Trump will save the GOP, as he aims his tirades at all the wrong people, splitting the Republican Party in the process. West Virginia was considered a Senate seat they could win, but after a bitter Republican primary in which ex-con Blankenship is now running as an Independent, Joe Manchin holds as much as a 13-point lead over his Republican challenger.  For many Republicans, this tattoo is permanent.

For the rest of us, the mid terms is the one chance we have between now and 2020 to corner Trump and make his Presidency as insufferable as possible in his remaining two years.  We won't remove the stain entirely, but at least we can make it less visible.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

We're America, Bitch!




The shit just keeps getting deeper.  Not only does the White House refuse to take any action on the growing crisis along the border, but has now officially removed itself from the UN Human Rights Council.  Nikki Haley issued a truly ugly speech that rings hollow in the wake of all the atrocities the US is committing at the moment as it separates migrant families at the border.

You just have to wonder if there is anyone even considering "damage control" at this point?  Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin is resigning, and it appears John Kelly will soon follow suit, now that John Bolton is clearly exercising his influence on the White House.  There is no longer any room for more temperate minds like Kelly in the Oval Office.  All though, it must be said he has done a horrible job of managing Trump.

It is really hard to fathom what Trump has to gain from all this.  If he is using the kids to push Congress to come up with an immigration bill, it certainly won't be one that favors his interests.  Republicans are trying to get him to cease and desist on the separations so that they have a better chance of reaching a compromise with Democrats, but Commander Donald continues to double down like the truculent toddler king that he is.

Trump is bitter that he didn't get rave reviews from the media over his summit with Kim Jong-un.  Most analysts feel he was played by the North Korean leader, which doesn't sit well for a man who considers himself King of the World.  So, he lashes out at everyone around him, blurting all kinds of nonsensical statements that threaten to topple his highest approval rating since he first took office.  Not that it was any great shakes at 45 per cent.  This is a man who constantly needs to have his ego massaged, and right now his ego is taking a beating.

This spills over to his minions.  Nikki Haley, the once respected governor of South Carolina, is left with no choice but to defend him, despite the fact it tarnishes what little good reputation she had remaining.  In the eyes of the world, she is no better than one of the wives on The Handmaid's Tale, as she defiantly supports her Commander's position. This is a long fall for a woman who once was regarded as a future Republican presidential candidate.

This is what happens when you bring a guy like Bolton on board.  The talking mustache has no time for the UN or any international organization.  If he has his way, the US will pull out of the UN all together in the coming months, barring a Congressional override.  Bolton is the paragon of the "We're America, Bitch!" policy, in which the US takes no guff from anyone.

You can't really call it a doctrine, as Jeffrey Goldberg writes, if there is little evidence of thought.  What you have is a "glandular" president, who preaches from the gut.  His deplorable audience loves it, but all this hyperbolic venting doesn't lead to anything coherent in the way of foreign policy.

What you get instead is a badly warped manifesto that is cobbled together from reactionary statements over the years, and filtered through Fox News pundits, like Bolton himself.  There is nothing original in what Trump says.  However, it's frightening that these thoughts have moved from the fringe to the center now that he commands the highest office in the land.

Many hoped that Trump would confine himself with an American agenda, but apparently he feels he can awake the same yearnings in Europe, which is why he named Richard Grenell as Ambassador to Germany.  Grenell is another firestarter like Trump, who wants to embolden right-wing groups throughout Europe from his perch in Berlin.  Protocol be damned!

After all, Trump is that same guy who dubbed himself Mr. Brexit, much to the chagrin of Nigel Farage, who considered himself the original Mr. Brexit.  Much like the situation in America, Trump hasn't made any attempt to take the pulse of Europe, making outlandish statements concerning Germany, in the lead up to a NATO summit next month.  He treats Germany, as he does Canada, as an enemy, because their leaders aren't willing to play ball with him.  So, he needs someone like Kim to play ball with, figuring he can win this schoolyard game against a much smaller opponent.

In the process, he has dragged America's international reputation into the gutter as no president has done before.  Not even George Bush made such a mockery of American hubris.   At least he tried to work within international conventions, even if he tried to undermine them at the same time, through surrogates like Rumsfeld and Cheney.  Trump makes his intentions abundantly clear to everyone, leaving no room to negotiate.

He takes any reaction to his policies, if you can call them that, as a personal affront and immediately vows further retaliation as we are currently seeing in his trade wars with China and Canada.  This has resulted in the Dow taking another nosedive, and a spike in oil prices, both of which he bellyaches about without realizing he is the root cause.  He blames Wall Street and OPEC instead.

Obviously, there is no one in his administration who will stand up to him.  Instead, we see Pence, Bolton and Miller egging him on, leaving it up to the women in his administration to explain his vile actions, whether it be Aunt Sarah, Aunt Kirstjen or Aunt Nikki.  It would be comic if it weren't so damn serious!

Is there any other recourse but to initiate impeachment hearings?  Of course, Republicans won't act fearing it would dominate the election cycle and ruin what slim chance they have of holding their majority in Congress.  Instead, they are left to try to cajole a tyrannical president into lessening his grip on power, and think of the greater good of the party this Fall.  Fat chance!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018




The border crisis is really heating up and is quickly turning into the signature issue of this election year.  For its part, the Trump administration is doubling down on its heinous policy, although you get a broad interpretation of events from its various faces.  The most blunt was Hitler Youth poster boy Stephen Miller's statement, "it was a simple decision."  Others either deny there is anything inhumane about the separations taking place, or try to pin the blame on the Democrats, as Trump is doing himself.

In the "alt news media world," pundits dismiss the cages as walls out of chain link fences, Democrats are using child actors, and that the whole thing is a "manufactured crisis," while they defend Trump's
horrible immigration policy.

On the campaign trail, Trump's surrogates double down on this "zero-tolerance" approach, like Rep. Lou Barletta, who is now running for the US Senate.  He seems to forget that Senate elections are statewide, not regional, and that he has a lot more people to convince than his conservative 11th district.  He's running against popular Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who currently enjoys an RCP average 16.5 percentage lead in the race.  It's doubtful his statement will make a dent in that gap.

It's not just Democrats who are lashing out at this atrocious decision by the Trump administration, but conservative religious stalwarts like Franklin Graham, former First Lady Laura Bush, and even Trump's own wife, Melania.  Graham called the policy "disgraceful."  Laura Bush likened it to the Japanese internment camps during WWII, and Melania said it is just plain wrong, being an immigrant herself.

Several Democratic male leaders used Father's Day to make their protests seen, partly in response to the callous tweet by Ivanka honoring her father and husband on Sunday, but also noting that no parent should accept what is going on along the US border.

Women are making the biggest gains in elections across the country, scoring victories in special elections and taking their party's nominations in primaries.  Democratic women have been the most successful, but you see the occasional Trump woman surrogate defending his noxious views.  It's not clear cut how women will vote this Fall, but safe to say very few women can accept seeing children separated from their mothers.

For once, the press is really grilling Trump, Huckabee and Nielsen on the separations, holding them accountable for their steady stream of lies.  You can see the strain on Aunt Sarah's and Aunt Kirstjen's faces as they try to justify Commander Donald's policies.  It's playing out like a scene from The Handmaid's Tale before our eyes.  You just wonder how long before their faces crack.

The Democrats can't afford to let up the pressure or give in on a compromise immigration bill that would provide Trump funding for his wall, which seems to be what he is after.  His efforts to use Dreamers as bargaining chips has been stymied by federal courts, so now he takes his aim on the recent wave of refugees.  Any compromise would be viewed as a sell out at this point, which is why Democrats have to make sure Chuck and Nancy don't cave.

Unlike 2016 when Trump was successfully able to use immigration as a rallying tool for conservatives, it has mobilized Democrats across the country this election year and appears to be turning Independents and Moderate Republicans as well.  This doesn't bode well for the GOP, as Trump surrogates scored well in the primaries but will have a very tough time generating broad support in the general election in November.

Trump has thrown his support behind his loyalists like Corey Stewart of Virginia, who is this year's Roy Jones.  Virginia Republicans are deeply worried Stewart will drag down the entire party in the state, as he resurrects all the issues that have divided Virginians and led to a huge turnover in the State Assembly.  But, Trump is either oblivious to the shifting political tides or simply doesn't care.

To a certain degree we have become inured to the crossover of politics into popular television.  Most reporters now see the Trump administration as a reality show presidency, and treat it accordingly.   However, by making it funny or lashing out at it as various comedians have done, they only help popularize his presidency.  What had been lacking was a sobering view of the consequences of Trump's policies, and we are now seeing it play out in real time along the US-Mexico border.

He can try to run from it, but it shouldn't work this time around.  He's been in office nearly 18 months.  Any effort to pin these policies on Obama or the Democrats, who lost any control they had in Congress in 2014, should fall on deaf ears.  The news media, which he has openly vilified throughout this time, should not give an inch.  This is their moment.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Anthony bids adieu




When you die, you are immediately relegated to history, but it seems the good folks at CNN struggled mightily to keep Anthony Bourdain alive.  The teary tributes poured out on the screen.  I imagine if Anthony could have seen it, he would have gagged, as he didn't strike me as much of a sentimentalist.

His death is a bit of a jolt, but was he really that important a figure?  So many persons talked about how he opened up new territory on his travel shows:  sitting down with Bobby Seale at Miss Ollie's in Oakland and reminiscing on the Black Panthers, or taking us on a culinary tour of Gaza.  Food and politics get intermixed as in the makloubeh he illustrated in his Gaza segment.   

Most of us have had to battle with our own families over the dinner table and know full well what it means to inject politics into a holiday meal, but here was Anthony making it seem so easy.  He brought contentious issues literally to the dinner table, casually talking about them as though we shouldn't give it a second thought.  An interesting style that found its mark.

He's not alone in this.  Conan O'Brien brought a similar disarming approach to his travels to Israel and Palestine last year.  You could say he was inspired by Bourdain, but he gave it his individual stamp.  He's had similar trips to Cuba and other geographic hot spots.  But, Bourdain is a genuine globetrotter.  He's been all over the place in his culinary adventures for the Travel Channel and CNN, giving us juicy insights should we ever want to travel that way.

What he gives us is food with an attitude.  It's been his way since he burst on the scene with Kitchen Confidential at the start of this millennium.  He quickly took his show on the road and never looked back, which makes us wonder why he should decide to off himself at the pinnacle of his career.  He was just shy of 62, which many consider the new 40, keeping himself healthy with jiu jitsu and his younger soulmate, Asia Argento.  Maybe there was nowhere left to go? 

Best not to try to make sense of these events.  Obviously, Anthony harbored his share of demons.  He was about the same age as Robin Williams.  If he battled depression, he kept it to himself.  Looking back, a few persons found harbingers as one always does in retrospect.  But, we all thought Bourdain would cantankerously grow old, not realizing how hard it is to keep turning out these shows.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My kingdom for a pair of stacks




You really have to wonder about the scheduling at the White House to plan a summit with North Korea so closely on the heels of the G-7 summit that Trump had to leave Quebec early to make it to Singapore on time.  But, one appears to have served the other.  Trump used the G-7 to display his "toughness" as a prelude to what was billed as his hardball summit with Kim Jong-un.

The interesting part is that "toughness" didn't appear until he was back on Air Force One, tweeting his ornery texts that he would not sign the G-7 joint statement because he didn't get the concessions he wanted from the other members.  He took most of his venom out on Canadian Pres. Trudeau, who days before had vowed retaliatory tariffs on the US.  His Trumpness made it sound like he was responding to Trudeau, an odd habit that has emerged in which Trump tries to turn the tables hoping that no one sees him do it.

It seems to work among his faithful, who have now unleashed their vile anger on Canada, as if this whole tariff idea began in Ottawa, and they will be made to suffer at the hands of that dastardly villain, Justin Trudeau.  One of Trump's advisors went so far as to say that there will be "a special place in hell" for Trudeau, albeit retracting his words a short while later.

There was also the amusing question of Trump's height, which has once again been called into question following a group photo in which Trudeau was clearly taller than Trump.  Justin is officially listed as 6'-2" (188 cm), whereas Trump claims to be 6'-3" (190 cm).  Little wonder he was so happy to be standing next to the diminutive and rotund Kim.  Maybe the North Korean leader can put Trump in contact with a good cobbler.

So, how does Canada become the bad guy and North Korea the good guy in this topsy-turvy world?  I'm still shaking my head because I would never have expected such a turn of events in a matter of days.  The mainstream media appears equally befuddled, not sure which direction to turn, but for the most part pushed the Canada story aside to focus on the historic summit between Trump and Kim.



The on again-off again-on again summit played out pretty much as you would expect, with Trump trying to bask in the limelight of this historic meeting, claiming he has formed a "very special bond" with the young tyrant, and expects to see great things come from it, maybe even "great condos" on North Korea's beautiful beaches.  He'll put Dennis Rodman right on it.

It all has the sleazy quality of one of his Celebrity Apprentice episodes, which Rodman appeared on twice.  Trump prefers fringe figures like Kim to our traditional allies, giving him a special place at the table.  For the Rocket Man, this was a dream come true.  No doubt he was a fan of Trump's reality show and longed for the day he could meet the great showman.  It finally came to pass, and to a large degree he can thank Rodman, who helped create this opening.

No one knows what the US will get out of this historic deal.  There seems very little in the joint statement they signed to suggest any binding commitments, but we assume Mike Pompeo will work out the details.  I have to think ending "war games" off the Korean peninsula is something Trump threw in at the last moment and will soon retract once his advisors have had a chance to talk to him.  It sent  Lindsey Antebellum into a tizzy fit, vowing to push through a blanket war resolution in Congress if Kim doesn't begin denuclearization immediately.

Yet, Trump couldn't bring himself to sign a joint statement with traditional American allies after cutting short his time at the G-7, claiming that the EU and Canada have treated us like a "piggy bank that everybody's robbing."  He's great at these bogus analogies, leaving it to the media to parse out his incredulous statements.  However, it seems Merkel, Trudeau and other G-7 members have had their fill of his antics and plan to get tough in the weeks ahead, putting His Trumpness in the uncomfortable position of actually having to respond, not just spouting bellicose grunts like a beached whale.

Most likely, the remaining members of the G-7 will treat the US as they do Russia, someone they have to do business with, but will keep at arm's length.  Macron even went so far as to say the other six members can get along just fine without the US, as they have Russia since disinviting the country to G-7 conferences following the annexation of Crimea.  Macron noted that together, the "G-6" has a far bigger market than the US.

So, will Trump now align the US with China and Russia, becoming a part of their "BRIC?"  This would be really something, as BRIC was formed to counteract the influence of the G-7 in the wake of Russia's summary dismissal.  Brazil and India are also major partners.

Like everything else about this administration, his advisors haven't thought out the consequences to Trump's rash actions that stem from his reality show mentality.  They just respond in turn, like good sycophants, lashing out at Trudeau, Merkel, Macron and everyone else that questions His Trumpness's dictates.  This as he cozies up to dictators and autocrats, with whom he has a special affinity.  Democracy has no place at Trump's boardroom.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pardon me, Mr. President




As Trump fishes for more pardons to give, you wonder if he will soon be issuing his own Emancipation Proclamation to rebrand history.  In an absurdly ignorant move, Trump offered to pardon Muhammad Ali,  blithely unaware that his conviction had been overturned long ago.  But, His Trumpness was looking for another high profile pardon in the wake of Jack Johnson and Alice Marie Johnson, which came after WH visits by Sly Stallone and Kim Kardishian.  It seems to pay to have friends in Hollywood.

This all part of Trump's new gambit of turning black voters out for him in 2020.  It arose after Kanye West's surprising endorsement, or rather re-endorsement, as the rap mogul had first supported Trump back in 2016.  At the time, Kanye's buddies chalked it up to fatigue, but he has reappeared fresh and as energetic as ever, ready to stretch his label beyond music and fashion and into architecture.  Get ready for Yeezy Home.

While Kanye's heart may seem to be in the right place with his push for affordable housing, his man in the White House is proposing a 20 per cent hike in rents for HUD recipients.  However, it doesn't stop Kanye from singing praise for Trump, or getting his wife Kim on board the Trump bandwagon.  She was positively "starstruck" by her visit to the White House.  Frederick Douglass would be proud!

Trump is convinced he is winning the black community over, even as he lashes out at NFL players over the national anthem.  Recently, he disinvited the Eagles to the White House.   Yet, he wants NFL players to give him suggestions for future pardons, as he tries to play both sides of the political divide in the warm up to the fall mid-terms.

Maybe he can pardon Leonard Peltier, if he is genuinely interested in those treated unfairly by the justice system.  No previous president has been willing to take the chance.  This might make up for his horrible decision to advance the Keystone and Dakota pipelines through tribal lands in the eyes of the Native American community.  But, I wouldn't hold my breathe.  Not a yuge demographic here to work with.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Border Wars




I was listening to some BBC pundits try to make sense of Trump's tariffs announced on Friday, and they had a pretty hard time of it.  One woman more or less nailed it when she said that these tariffs are aimed purely at his base, fulfilling his promise of a tough trade policy on the campaign trail.  I was waiting for one of them to point out that these tariffs may hit his base the hardest, as auto companies rely heavily on cheap imported steel to keep their prices down, and much of this steel and aluminum comes from Canada, but the British pundits were focusing mostly on the impact on Europe, which appears to be negligible at first sight.  I guess this is why Jean-Claude Juncker sees this more as an annoyance than anything else.

Not so for Canada, which was notably pissed and promised retaliatory tariffs within a month, assuming Trump actually goes through with these proposed tariffs.  What makes this even odder is that the US actually enjoys a trade surplus with Canada despite its heavy reliance on Canadian oil, steel and aluminum.  But, for whatever reason the Trump administration is claiming they have a $12 billion deficit based on "re-exports."  Given the overall trade between the two countries is over $500 billion a year, a $12 billion deficit either way would account for no more than 5% on either side (small change as Wilbur Ross might say) but I guess the Trump administration is determined to create enemies where none exist.

I suppose this is a way to try to get more favorable terms out of NAFTA, which the Trump administration is determined to rewrite.  He's already managed to alienate Mexico, which is taking its trade elsewhere, namely Brazil.  This is already beginning to hurt American farmers.  What's to stop Canada from turning to the EU and Britain in the coming years, or for that matter South America.  Needless to say, it doesn't seem like Wilbur, the talking Campbell's Soup can, and Steve "the Dweeb" Mnuchin have thought this out very deeply.  They were just looking for a quick hit in an effort to boost insurgent Trump loyalist candidates in the Fall.

The only problem is that it didn't work for Rick Saccone, who lost his special election in February to an insurgent Democrat, when these sanctions were first announced.  Everyone, including the Republican orthodoxy, thought the tariffs were a dead letter, but with Trump nothing is a dead letter, and so we go through another round of inflammatory talks.

Perhaps the only consolation is that he announced the tariffs on Friday and has the weekend to think about  it, before the stock market reacts on Monday.  This gives time for Mitch and other Republican stalwarts to talk to Trump and try to get him to back away from these punitive measures.  Sadly, Trump appears to have finally made up his mind on the subject, and when he does that there is no way to reach him.  He will have to rely on his deep-pocket supporters to bail him out on Wall Street, as it looks like the Dow is in for a big hit.

If there is any reason behind these rash actions, it is His Trumpness does these things because he can.  He loves nothing more than exercising his executive power in the White House.  It makes him feel like a king.  It's great fun to see the world react to his pronouncements the way it does.  To hell with the consequences.  He will leave it up to his successor to clean up the mess once he's gone.  In the meantime, he is going to get as much mileage as he can out of being the "Leader of the Free World."  He might even attach "LFW" to the end of his name like some fancy title.

The only problem is whatever trust other countries had in the US being a stable international influence is now gone, and maybe even irrevocably, as who is to say we won't get another "Donald" somewhere down the line the way this country vacillates between executive leaders.

Other countries have their electoral revolutions.  We see what is going on in Italy at the moment.  However, there isn't such a big swing in policies as there is in the US from one administration and the next.  You look at dear old Britain, despite the shake up Brexit created, things still move along relatively smoothly, because conservatives and liberals can communicate with each other and settle their differences in a civilized manner or at least politely agree to disagree.

Not so in the US, where Trump and the Republicans have done everything they can to shut Democrats out of the process, heeding no advice from the other side whatsoever as they push through their heinous policies both in the White House and Congress.  If something goes wrong, they blame the Democrats.

The only problem for Republicans is that the White House isn't heeding any of its advice either, leading former House Speaker John Boehner to muse that it has now become Trump's party to do with what he likes.  There is no longer any push back.  Not like Boehner had much of a spine himself, but Mitch and Paul have no spines at all.

As we descend on this path toward autocracy, we can only speculate about the near future.  Will Americans push back in the midterms, electing Democrats in droves?  Or, will they once again fall prey to the populist rhetoric streaming out of Trump's mouth on his campaign whistle-stop tour of red states?  Trump is crowing about low unemployment rates at every stop, as if he single-handedly brought this about.  Will Americans buy it?

George Bush enjoyed a lot of popular support back in 2002, which allowed the Republicans to dominate the midterms that year, a rare event given the sitting president was of the same party.  Trump has far less good will at this point in his tenure.  Even Rasmussen, his favorite poll, has him -2 per cent as of Friday.  You would never know it to hear him talk, but I think even his most loyal supporters have to wonder what the fuck he is doing by going after Canada?

What we have is a case of imperial overreach, buoyed by what he believes to be his victory over North Korea.  He was positively gloating over the huge envelope he got from the Supreme Leader and is now very much looking forward to his big date in Singapore on June 12.  He thinks he can bring this same style of "hardball" to NAFTA and the G7, getting great nations to bend to his will as he believes he has Kim Jong-un.  Well, he better hope he gets something out of this summit otherwise he is going to look like the biggest fool in recent history.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Feckless C*nt




It sounds like a title from a dimestore crime noir novel, but Samantha Bee finds herself under fire for impugning the motherhood of Ivanka Trump.  It came at the end of her segment on the plight of illegal immigrant children being stripped from their parents and being placed in detention centers, whereabouts unknown.  However, it quickly became the sole takeaway from her Wednesday episode.  Samantha has since apologized, but no matter, the Roseanne fans want her head to make up for the loss of their favorite show.

Funny that the same people who are so quick to maliciously impugn others, get so bent out of joint when someone goes after their icons.  Not sure why Trumpkins should revere Ivanka, as she is the liberal one in the family.  She has even gone so far as to claim she is the voice of moderation in the White House, which is why Samantha so brusquely singled her out to get her to do something about this heinous immigration policy.

In this incidence, Trump claims he is just following the same program of his predecessor, even if his justice department has ratcheted up detentions ten fold in the past year.  Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is aiming at a 100% prosecution rate on illegal immigrants, including children.  Of course, Congress could step in and pass a long overdue immigration bill that would address many of the issues concerning illegal immigrants, but this being an election year, again, fat chance!  Besides, they would need the president's signature on it.   Better to blame the Democrats, even if there is no basis for his allegations.

Is Ivanka to blame for her daddy's harsh policies?  The most she can be blamed for is an inopportune shared cuddly image of her with her two-year old son, Theodore.  It was just bad timing.  Any other time, like say Mother's Day, everybody would have been gushing over the rare glimpse into the first daughter's private life, but now she finds herself being publicly shamed for it.

I imagine she wanted to show off her kids after the all attention she saw Little George and Charlotte get on the other side of the pond during Harry and Meghan's wedding.  She was just trying to engage with the public like a royal princess would, proud of her little charge.

Instead, she should be engaging in real issues that affect all mothers, according to Samantha Bee.  Ivanka can get closer to Trump than any other mother can get.  Surely, she can impress on him the importance of keeping families together, rather than letting them be ripped apart at the border for having the audacity to seek green pastures in America, like his parents once did.

Hard to believe, Donald Trump is only a first generation American.  Ivanka's own mother is an immigrant.  His Trumpness's current wife is also an immigrant, who relied on his connections to get a much sought after H-1B visa to stay in America.  Apparently, we are in short supply of supermodels here.

Sad fact is that Ivanka has very little influence over her father, otherwise we would never had him as president.  I don't think for one moment she wanted him to actually run for office, although it has greatly benefited her clothing line. But, we got him anyway, as hard as it is to still accept.

In less than two years, the Donald has managed to turn the United States into Trumpistan, his version of a Central Asian autocracy, where family comes first and all others in the administration are left to explain this nepotism to what he considers to be his adoring public.  Donny Jr. and Eric are the American version of William and Harry.

Meanwhile, borders are being sealed, so that there will be fewer persons to take advantage of all the "loopholes" in our lax immigration laws.  He has ICE doing house to house searches for any illegals hiding in our midst.  These are the kinds of policies you would expect to see in a Caucasian country.

Ivanka, like a good princess, wants her cake and eat it too.  She expects to have all the perks that come with being part of the First Family of Trumpistan, but won't take any responsibility for the actions emanating from the Royal White House.  Hence, feckless.  As for cunt, Sally Field thinks it makes the statement an oxymoron, as cunt represents empowerment, not fecklessness. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Roseanne and the Bounty King




Roseanne is such a committed loyalist that she ran interference for His Trumpness when news broke of the adjusted death toll in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria. You might remember the last time His Trumpness paid any attention to Puerto Rico was when he was tossing out rolls of Bounty paper to islanders in the aftermath of the hurricane.  It was just more than Aunt Sarah could handle at the press conference this past week.  How else to explain these crazy tweets in the early morning hours?

The Ambien queen hit all the favorite whipping posts from Valerie Jarrett to Chelsea Clinton to George Soros, ultimately blaming Michelle Obama for the cancellation of her sitcom reboot, although you have to wonder why VJ at this stage?  It was so bad even her Friends and Fox were urging her to cease and desist, but there was no stopping the conservative den mother once she got going.  Leave it to the old man to come to her defense.  Sort of.

Of course, the news media ran with the Roseanne story, leaving Puerto Ricans to continue their struggle to reclaim their island on their own.  You really have to wonder what's so special about this foul-mouthed comedienne that made ABC waste time on her in the first place.

Ever since the 2016 election upset, Matt Bai says the television networks have been struggling to cash in on this "silent minority" that propelled Trump into the White House.   It wasn't enough to make Trump the star of their nightly news programs, they wanted something to fill the prime time slots so welcome back Roseanne.  Now, they discover just how toxic she is.

Susan Rice reminded us that it wasn't the Ambien that set Roseanne off, but 2013 feels like last century.  It makes you wonder why anyone would want to be associated with this vile creature, but apparently she can hide her fangs during the day.  Roseanne even got Wanda Sykes to help reboot the show, only for Wanda to quickly announce she no longer wanted any part of this crap.

Now that she has the Trumpkins on her side, Rosie seems to have found her "big swinging ape balls" and is going to challenge ABC.  Who knows she might even get His Trumpness to come down hard on the network like he did CNN when he blocked the AT&T merger with Time Warner.  News, entertainment and politics are now seamlessly interwoven.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico fights just to get electricity throughout the island.  Much of the support is coming from private interests as Congress has been slow to get funds to the territory.  The staggering death toll, which greatly exceeds that of Katrina, should give anyone pause, but hardly registers a blip on the Nielsen ratings compared to Roseanne.

If things don't work out at ABC, Rosie the Revanchist will likely land on some cable network, where she can vent her rage against the liberal Hollywood machine.  I'm sure she will delight fans in her reveries.  She's getting plenty of defenders on the social media.  Who knows, she might even land a job in Trump's administration, filling if for Aunt Sarah, who seems to be under a lot of stress these days.  Wouldn't that be a gas!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Coward of the Country





It seems Trump can't wait for that military parade this Veteran's Day, telling naval graduates that they are part of "the most powerful and righteous force on the face of the planet."  In his mind, this makes the US "respected" again, intimating that threats not diplomacy is what brings belligerent countries like North Korea and Iran to heel.

This should give moderate Republicans further pause, as Trump, a draft dodger, used a naval commencement address as just another backdrop for a political rally, in which he not so subtly proclaimed his "victory" over the NFL, and proudly proclaimed that he will never "apologize for America," which conservatives felt underscored Obama's administration.

At every stop, our president trumpets a highly toxic form of nationalism meant to divide the nation between true believers and agnostics.  This religious tone is as false as his feigned military stance. This a man who has rarely set a foot inside a church, much less cracked open his family Bible other than to read the inscriptions on the inside of the cover.  For him, nationalism is just another brand to sell to a gullible public who honors religious and military tradition above all else.  Nay-sayers be damned.

You hear the odd Republican speak out like Jeff Flake or Lindsey Graham on Trump's latest shenanigans, but in the end they toe the party line, doing little in Congress to stop the President from politicizing every aspect of society, most notably the FBI, because it has the audacity to investigate his campaign staff over rather obvious Russian ties.  Republicans won't even censure Trump, a relatively innocuous gesture, despite the many reprehensible things he has said of its own members, not to mention many others.

No, we have to hear from two former Navy cadets, who admonished their academy for inviting a "physical coward" to deliver this year's commencement speech.  As long as institutions keep giving Trump an open mic they serve as his enablers.  Granted, the President is the Commander-in-Chief, but when he politicizes an institution, as he did the Coast Guard last year, he sullies the reputation of that institute.   This is why these cadets took offense to his presence.

Trump cannot contain himself.  He sees any audience as a validation of himself.  We have the most narcissistic president ever, and yet the institutions we honor appear powerless to rein him in.  Even the FBI is taking an overly cautious approach out of fear its directors can be canned at any moment.  Sure, various Congresspersons have issued threats that another public firing will not be tolerated, but they have made very little effort to stop the president from publicly besmirching the organization, labeling the investigation "spygate," which is now being bantered about in the conservative blogosphere as a "gate" worse than "Watergate," especially since it involves you know who.

It doesn't matter that there is no evidence supporting Trump's outrageous claims, anymore than his claim that Obama went so far as "to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process."  This is a man who has no shame and will use anything to try to influence public opinion in his favor.  So, he uses the Navy to offer his version of "the truth."

The speech starts out simply enough, honoring the recent graduates and those who served before them, but soon meanders into his idea of what makes the country great, notably himself.  In Trump's mind, no president before him measures up to the standard he is now setting, repeating his mantra, "winning" over and over again, as if he alone can deliver on the American dream.

He couldn't help but throw in a dig at the NFL, anymore than he could Obama.  He somehow managed to avoid McCain.  A good thing as he was a graduate of Annapolis in 1958.

Whatever "spirit" Trump is "reawakening" is a highly corrosive one, and I would hope this year's graduates honor their institution over the President as the two former cadets did in penning their op-ed piece to The Baltimore Sun.  But, that's not enough.  More Americans have to speak out against this demagogue before it's too late.

You can already see the conservative political wheels turning in anticipation of the mid-terms, as they try to turn a 30-year loafer into the poster child of Millennials, their worst political nightmare.  Turn the FBI investigation of Russian collusion in the Trump campaign into "spygate," and make Nancy Pelosi into this year's Hillary Clinton.  They hope to muddy the waters enough that the "blue wave" or "tsunami" the Democrats are anticipating this Fall recedes long before November.

No one knows better how to muddy the waters than Trump.  He thrives off controversy, he enriches himself by it, he turns his exploits into a never-ending news cycle so that very little else gets heard.  This is why Republicans leave the President to his own devices, so that they can quietly pass legislation that strips away our access to the Internet, workers' rights and health care, all the while confirming conservative judges who will maintain their heinous policies long after they are gone.

It's not just the president who is a "physical coward," it's all those who serve as his enablers.  Yes, Jeff Flake, "our presidency has been debased," but until you, a US Senator, actually do something about it, you have allowed this debasement to happen.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Jilted




I guess when the military mints a shiny new medallion for the event, you do get second thoughts about pulling out.  After all, this is a man who loves shiny objects, and this is definitely a collectible.  Twenty per cent discount today, although I wouldn't count on it arriving any time soon.

Trump's ghostwriter chalks it up to His Trumpness' morbid fear of being humiliated and shamed, but I'm guessing it is his inner circle that got cold feet, afraid Trump might pull a "Reykjavik."  This was the time Reagan almost gave away the farm to strike a deal with Gorbachev, but in the end got nothing.  Bolton and Pompeo and to some degree Pence worried that Trump would either go all in or botch the deal so best not to risk it.  Instead, Bolton and Pence taunted Kim, who retorted as expected, leaving their Commander-in-Chief with no choice but to sign a letter to "His Excellency," backing out of the highly anticipated date.  It's rather obvious from the carefully worded statement that Trump had no hand in writing it.

Given Trump's refusal to take notes and in anyway prepare for such events, it is probably a good thing.  Our president is no diplomat.  He isn't ready to go through the long process of negotiations anymore than Reagan was back in the 80s.  This isn't something you can do all in one meeting, which is probably what Trump expected to come out of the Singapore Summit, and collect his Nobel Peace Prize in December.  Hence, the Soviet-looking medallion in anticipation of the even shinier object he would get at the end of the year.

I don't think Kim is too upset over the broken date.  He pretty much got what he wanted out of the last six months of awkward negotiations.  His athletes competed in the Winter Olympics.  He received a whole lot of international attention and got the White House to call him "Supreme Leader," and "His Excellency."  The letter of rejection itself showed an incredible amount of respect from a President who had petulantly taunted him all last year and well into this year.  So, in that sense Kim won.

It might take awhile for this to sink into Trump's thick skull, but he already appears to sense he lost a golden opportunity.  His advisers may not have thought him up to the task, but in his heart Donald felt he could pull off the "Deal of the Century," better than any Iranian nuclear deal or reopening relations with Cuba that his predecessor negotiated in the last two years of his administration.  You can almost here Marlon Brando moaning, "I could've had class.  I could've been a contender.  I could've been somebody."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

When Harry Met Meghan




Watching the royal nuptials today, I was amazed by just how smitten Harry is of Meghan.  He literally melted into a teenage boy, as if she were the storybook princess being escorted on his father's arm.  It was really beautiful in that sense, as you see how much love there is between the two,  which the Reverend Michael Curry expounded upon in his rollicking sermon that momentarily transformed St. George's Chapel into a black gospel church.

Town and Country offers a timeline of the events that led up to their engagement last year, as well as the tensions that ensued.  A lot of folks weren't ready for this storybook romance.  There were a lot of ugly anecdotes thrown around, and Meghan found herself having to deal with two half-siblings who tried to suck all the air out of her impending wedding.  Even her father, not in the best of health, got dragged into this tabloid fever, and in the end chose not to escort her down the aisle for fear he would draw more negative publicity toward her.

In a BBC interview, Harry and Meghan said they were blindsided by the tabloids, shocked that their engagement could engender so much controversy.  This is what happens when you try to have a high profile wedding in the Age of Trump.  There was all kinds of talk as to whether the Obamas would be invited and how the Donald would react to no invitation.  In the end, no Obamas and no Trumps, not even Ivanka, who was ridiculed unmercifully on twitter for lack of a royal invite.

Much of this controversy swirls around Meghan's culturally mixed roots and former marriage, both of which have been dissected to no end in the media.  There were those, notably her half-siblings, who lashed out at her as if she were a "cougar" trying to snag a younger prince.  Her half-sister Samantha, from their father's first marriage, made all sorts of outlandish claims in a pathetic attempt to garner attention.  It was like a B-movie version of Cinderella being played out in the tabloids.

Harry immediately rushed to Meghan's defense, pleading to the tabloids to cease and desist in all these unfounded allegations, but there was no stopping the rumor mill once it got churning.  Smartly, Meghan just screened it all out, working with her best friend, Jessica Mulroney, to help arrange the wedding.

I must say the result was glorious.  Not only did Meghan look absolutely stunning in her flowing Givenchy dress, but the choice of ministers and choirs for the event was truly inspired.  In addition to the Reverend Curry's rousing sermon, the Kingdom Choir of South-East England rendered a beautifully subdued version of "Stand by Me," which could be interpreted on many levels.

This was a nice push back to all the negative press, not to mention the prevailing Trumpism that has sullied society as of late.  Most importantly, the royal family appears to have fully embraced Meghan and her mother Doria, which will help continue its reformation in the public eye.  A family that not that long ago was rocked by two sensational divorces and the death of Diana, the people's princess.  It was nice to see Fergie on hand for the wedding, in an effort to show there are no hard feelings, although some say she was a wedding crasher.

Unsurprisingly, there were many references to Diana throughout the event, but from start to finish this struck me as Meghan's wedding.  She was fully in control of herself and looked radiant throughout, getting the last laugh on Amy Schumer, assuming she was even aware of the nasty barbs the racy comedienne had thrown her way two days before.

It seems a lot of folks were looking for something to go wrong.  For Meghan to be the runaway bride or for one of her half-siblings to jostle his or her way into the chapel and loudly voice an objection.  But, the wedding came off without a hitch and now the naysayers will have to crawl back into their holes and wait for the next wedding of the century, some 20 or 30 years from now when George, Charlotte and Louis reach marrying age.

I suppose all this angst is just part of the drama, like some sordid reality show.  Lost in these cheap Hollywood theatrics is that the marriage of Harry and Meghan marks a truly dramatic turning point.  Not only did Harry marry an American but one whose African heritage figured so prominently into the wedding.

Meghan made no effort to hide her past, something that would have been unthinkable not that many years ago.  This is not the same stodgy Britain and royal family that shunned King Edward for choosing American divorcee Wallis Simpson over the throne, or even the ones that turned a callous eye toward Princess Diana until it was too late.  This is a royal family and a  Britain that wants the world to know it is in step with the changing times.

Of course, one can be cynical and say it is all just a new publicity angle, Britain wants to be Great again, but we now have two "power couples" in William and Kate and Harry and Meghan who have great potential to bring the Commonwealth together in a way it has never been before, through the power of love, as the Reverend Curry so joyfully expounded upon.  Here we have two marriages where the partners are equals.  Rather than "honor and obey," Harry and Meghan were asked to "honor and protect" each other.  A subtlety probably missed by many listeners but one that really stuck out to me.

This is a royal wedding that comes in the wake of the #MeToo and#TimesUp campaigns, where women are no longer seen as secondary objects.  What makes these two marriages special is that William and Harry have genuine respect for their wives and expect them to be an active part of their royal lives.  They couldn't have honored the memory of their mother any better than in Kate and Meghan, two strong women who will redefine the roles of princess and duchess in the royal family.



 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Second Amendment People




It's like "road rage" has spilled over into every segment of our society, thanks largely to social media.  We  insulate ourselves as we would in a car, our "safe space" if you will, and get very agitated when someone violates that space.  That seems to be the case with the NRA, whose new president vented his frustration and anger with the Parkland students, branding them "civil terrorists" and threatening a "counterpunch," kind of like Trump's thinly veiled threat on the Campaign Trail 2016.

The NRA does itself no favors by making Oliver North its new president. This guy appeals to a very limited following, and in no way is going to expand the reach of the embattled organization, so one wonders just how much weight the NRA will carry in the polling booths this Fall.  It's kind of like having Rudy Giuliani as your lawyer.

As it is, the NRA represents less than ten per cent of gun owners in America, which itself is only about 30 per cent of the population.  So if we do the math, that's roughly 10 million persons, although the NRA claims to have a reach of 14 million persons.  That may seem like a lot, but when you take a population of 325 million, that's not a very big reach.

This is what the Parkland kids have figured out and are hitting the NRA where it hurts most -- corporate sponsorship.  They have been shaming retailers into dropping NRA discounts and detaching themselves from the NRA all together.  Those discounts are important, as this is one of the ways the rifle association solicits members.  If you no longer get a nice rebate on YETI coolers, what's the point in joining the NRA?  Lack of corporate sponsorship also means the NRA will probably have to raise its membership fee next year, resulting in more members saying nah.

It's the equivalent of someone trying to squeeze in from the inside lane of the highway, and so the driver hurls insults at this flagrant abuser from the safety of his car.  Hopefully, it only goes that far and David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and the other Parkland activists don't become anything more than rhetorical targets.

The NRA has been making a bad name for itself for quite sometime, yet it had been able to maintain a tight squeeze on conservative politics by brandishing "second amendment rights."  With more and more mass shootings, the NRA has struggled to convince people it is upholding these rights for the good of the nation and not just peddling firearms.  There does reach a limit to how many guns a person can own, after which it becomes ludicrous.

In regard to the safety of guns, one of the NRA's big talking points, let's do a little more math. You have to search all over the place now since the Center for Disease Control is limited in what it can post on gun violence.  Over the last five years, there have been approximately 35,000 firearm deaths per year in America.  Of those, the majority are suicides, according to the US Department of Justice.  Firearm related homicides in 2016 totaled 11,000, according to the FBI.  Of those homicides, very few occurred in one's home, and many of these cases were domestic violence.  Home invasion amounts to a very small percentage of firearm related deaths.   According to the Gun Violence Archive, only 741 reported incidents so far this year.  Hard to say whether defensive use overlaps with home invasion, but even if we take these as two separate figures, that's 25 per cent of all gun violence deaths so far this year.  End result, you are more likely to shoot yourself or a loved one than a home intruder or someone assaulting you in the street.

Firearms provide an all too easy means of venting rage.  According to the Giffords Law Center, domestic violence assaults are 12 times more likely to end in deaths if a firearm is involved.  This is what happens when you have all those handguns lying around the house, by far the most popular assault weapon, accounting for more than two-thirds of firearm related deaths, according to the FBI.

The weapon of choice in mass shootings is the semi-automatic assault rifle, as you get the most bang for your buck, especially if you include a bump stock that allows you to speed up your rounds.  Not surprisingly, the Parkland students have targeted these weapons, as an AR-15 Bushmaster was used at their high school.  Until 2015, you could buy an AR-15 at Walmart.  Nikolas Cruz bought his assault rifle at Dick's Sporting Goods, which has subsequently banned the sale of such weapons in the wake of this incident.

One could argue that the handgun is a far more dangerous weapon than the assault rifle, but the reality is most persons support gun ownership, and are less likely to go after handguns.  This makes one wonder why the NRA is so busy supporting assault rifles, when it would be in its best interest to cut loose this tainted weapon.

Ever since the ban on assault rifles expired in 2004, sales have increased exponentially, and manufacturers have the NRA to thank for this.  After all, they lobbied hard to get the Republican-held Congress not to renew the ban.  It doesn't matter that school shootings have also increased exponentially since then, the NRA stands behind the assault rifle because it is good for business.

The NRA makes so many crazy arguments to defend the weapon, but mostly they see gun ownership as an inalienable right and persons should be free to purchase whatever gun they choose.  The more one challenges them on this position, the more enraged its members become.  Wayne LaPiere appeared apoplectic at times in defense of assault rifles.  Former Colonel North offers a bit more of a calm demeanor but what comes out of his mouth is pretty much the same, and it is the printed text we most often see.

Essentially, the NRA is digging its own grave defending the indefensible.  The organization was founded on the premise of gun safety, and here they are hawking a paramilitary weapon that has been used in some of the most atrocious mass shootings of modern times.  The NRA estimates that there are 8.5 to 15 million assault rifles in circulation and sees no reason to limit their production.  What's worse, they fight against background checks, gun registration, and other means of identifying the owners, because this too they see as an infringement on individual rights.

This is what makes the NRA an easy target for the Parkland students, and why so many persons have come to the defense of these students.  To once again use the road analogy, the NRA is like a huge SUV putting along the highway forcing everyone to slow down behind it, only now everyone is yelling at it to pull over.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Let's Do the Time Warp Again!




The Trump administration telegraphed their decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal as you would on a bad reality show.  Everyone knew it was coming.  There was nothing Emmanuel Macron or Angela Merkel or even John Oliver could do to prevent it.  In the end, it was Bibi Netanyahu's powerpoint presentation that sealed the deal, although I imagine Trump had long made up his mind (what's left of it anyway) on the subject.

Bibi wasted no time going after Iran in Syria, claiming the Iranians launched rockets at Israeli forces in the Golan Heights first.  Who's to say?  We only have Israeli "intelligence" to verify the claims.  Of course, in most Americans' minds that's good enough.

The repercussions will be felt far and wide, as it is not just Iran, Trump rejected, but the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia, who are all co-signatories.  This leaves it up to the remaining parties to salvage the deal before Iran takes matters into its own hands, and attempts to restart its nuclear weapons program, assuming it ever had one.  The only thing anyone could prove was that they had the ability to start one.  Unlike Israel, which has kept its nuclear weapons program "secret" for decades, but apparently the Middle East is not big enough for two "secret programs."

If it is starting to sound like a bad Western, that's the way we've always treated the Middle East.  Israel is like a fort, the Masada if you will, under constant siege from warring native factions.  For the past six decades the US has supported Israel, hoping to offset this alliance by giving succour to the "Good Arabs" who more or less support Israel's statehood.  Of course Iran has not played along, and therefor they are "Bad Arabs," albeit of Persian descent.

Iran has been supporting guerrilla forces in Syria and Palestine for decades, namely Hezbollah and Hamas, which has earned them the undying scorn of Israel and the US.  Under the Obama administration, the US tried to open up to Iran, as the US previously had under Clinton, hoping to get Tehran to quit providing military aid for these two branded terrorist organizations.  However, succeeding Republican administrations were having no part of it.  Dubya immediately shut down talks with Iranian moderate President Khatami, and now Trump has chosen to rebuff another moderate in Rouhani.  In between we had the crazed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offering us his recalcitrant historical views while waging a holy war against Israel.  This is who Israel wants representing Iran because it makes it easy to label them the "Bad Arabs."

As it turns out, Iran is not a country mired in the dark ages, and its citizens are very open to cultural and economic trade with the US.  With the nuclear deal, Boeing was set to sell $20 billion of aircraft to Iran, a staggering leap in trade between the countries, but now all such deals are called off in the name of Trumpism.  The President has vowed to impose the toughest sanctions yet on Iran.

I suppose he thinks he can carve out a new deal like the one he imagines making with North Korea this summer.  It just takes a little show of force.  The only problem with this logic is that it has been South Korea, not the US, who has been working with Kim Yong-un to bring him to the table.  Now that Trump has rebuffed all the other signatories of the Iran nuclear deal, who will act as his liaison?  Macron may be many things but he is not a stooge.

This is a mess Trump has to clean up himself, or at least leave it to members of his administration while he goes play golf.  His newly installed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will have a lot of catching up to do, as whatever bridges existed between the US and Iran are now burned.  It doesn't seem like he is too worried about it, making his first official foreign visit to Israel, no doubt working with Bibi on that powerpoint presentation.

The other signatories of the nuclear agreement will do their best to placate Iran, maybe even send the country Airbuses instead of Boeings, but then Europe may fear the wrath of Trump, who will no doubt threaten the EU with tariffs if it doesn't support his sanctions.  As for China and Russia, they find themselves sitting in the catbird's seat.  Iran will move even more into its sphere of influence.

Sadly, the Trump White House, and the conservative base it appeals to, has no awareness of the world we live in.  They view Iran as if it was still 1979.  In fact, many conservatives seem to view Trump as the second coming of Reagan, as if all that has happened since 1988 is but a bad dream.  This was Trump's heyday, so not surprisingly he taps into it, hoping to garner all the 1980's energy he can get.  It's like going to those midnight movies and doing The Time Warp all over again.



Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Never-ending shit storm




Does anyone even remember the White House Correspondents Dinner, of for that matter Melania's State Dinner for the Macrons?  No sooner did we have a chance to digest these events than Trump flies off on whole new tangents, erasing any memory of the past.

This is a guy who should have stayed in Mar-a-Lago after the Christmas break.  Signing a massive tax cut and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel did little to offset the sexual assault charges filed against him by 19 women.  This in the wake of his support of pervert Roy Moore who went down in flames in a Senate special election in Alabama.  If Republicans had been smart they would have pushed Trump to resign, but he slouched back to Washington, only to get into a twitter war with Kim Jong-un as to who had the bigger "nuclear button."

It should be clear to everyone that Trump has no shame, yet he continues to enjoy widespread support among his base, and as he noted in his rambling NRA address enjoys a 51 per cent approval rating in the Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll.  One can only chalk this up to the entertainment value he provides, although 18 House Republicans formally nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize thanks to the "thaw" taking place on the Korean Peninsula.

Mind you this is a guy who chastised Rex Tillerson late last year for "wasting his time" on North Korea, and until this past week was still threatening to go nuclear on the "Rocket Man."  This "tough talk" certainly works on a wide cross section of Americans.  Whether it had any impact on the negotiations taking place on the Korean peninsula is anyone's guess, but there are a lot of folks giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, thanks to the kind words of South Korea's Moon Jae-in.  So, we see a temporary bump in his poll numbers, which he watches as he once did the overnight Nielsen ratings for The Apprentice.

The funny part is that Trump is content to break even, but if you look down the Rasmussen report from Friday, you see that "strongly disapprove" outpolls "strongly approve" by 40 to 33, giving him an approval index rating of -7 per cent.  He still polls below 40 per cent in Gallup and other national polls, but he considers these "fake news."

He also dismissed the staggering number of lies assembled by the Washington Post since he took office, which no doubt will lead to more personal attacks on Jeff Bezos, hoping to knock him off his perch as the richest man in the world.  I'm surprised this didn't come up in his NRA address but he was too busy gloating over the support he is getting from Kanye West and the favorable unemployment ratings for last month, especially among Blacks.  He seems to think Kanye boosted his approval among African-Americans two fold.  Maybe he will find a spot for the rapper in his administration.

It's enough to make your head spin, but the news media is eating it up like a giant Baked Alaska. They can't get enough, successfully pushing the Stormy Daniels hush fund to the background, when it should be front and center.  After all, it was just this kind of dirty laundry that brought John Edwards down in the 2008 campaign, but Trump appears to be oblivious to any note of impropriety on his part.  At one point admitting to the pay off, and then just as quickly retracting his statement on twitter, leaving poor Sarah perplexed as to what to say at the daily briefings.  I'm sure they will get their stories straight eventually.

How does Michelle Wolf or anyone else for that matter compete with this never-ending shit storm that is the Trump White House?  None of it seems to matter, as he was able to hold a National Day of Prayer and sign a so-called "religious liberty" executive order with a straight face, and no one smirking in the background.