Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thanks for all the hits!

It's a very pleasant surprise waking up to see I had 1539 hits yesterday.  I'm lucky if I get that many hits in one month.  Not only that but there have been an additional 457 hits so far today.  Not sure what I owe the pleasure of all this visitation to, but it appears to come largely from the United States, and to a small degree Vietnam.  I'd like to think a few persons have taken interest in the blog, but the hits were mostly to the main page, with no significant increase in individual posts.  Alas, that means no comments.   So, I have no idea why you took a look, except maybe by accident.

If so, I hope you at least scanned or maybe even read one of the posts.  I've been keeping this blog going for the better part of nine years with the hope I might rekindle some fire after most of the old NYTimes followers left.  The blog was a safety net for those who had kept the American History forum alive in the old NYTimes reading forums.  The individual sites can no longer be reached without Mick Sussman's secret key, assuming he is still there.  Over time, I turned it into my personal blog, commenting largely on the state of American politics the last two years.

It's hard to keep track of all the twists and turns in the Age of Trump.  No sooner did I post on the recent Supreme Court decisions than Anthony Kennedy retires.  He has been regarded as one of the moderate voices, especially when it comes to abortion and civil marriage rights.  His departure allows Republicans to stack the deck even more in their favor with a judge less sympathetic to these rights.

Everyone from Chris Matthews to Rachel Maddow has been urging the Democrats to block any Trump appointee, but the guy in control here is Mitch the Turtle, who will no doubt seek a replacement in the shortest order so that we have a new conservative justice before the end of the year.   It was the Turtleman who offered Trump a choice of four picks in January, 2017, and His Trumpness was most impressed with Neil Gorsuch, being the rugged, good-looking guy he is.  Kind of like the Marlboro Man.  I'm sure Mitch will have a similar buffet of judges offered in the coming weeks, who will be acceptable to potential Republican naysayers like Jeff Flake and Susan Collins.  Don't want to leave confirmation in the hands of a potentially Democratic Senate next January.

If Trump had his way, we would probably see him nominate Jeanine Pirro, as Donnie Jr. has intimated.  However, at a well-manicured 67, she doesn't fit the age profile.  His Trumpness is looking for someone in his or her late 30s or early 40s who will sit on the bench for the next 45 years, and be as conservative as hell.   Unless Jeanine has discovered the Fountain of Youth, she is a no go.

Of course, this defeats the whole purpose of a Supreme Court, which is supposed to be a non-biased bench whose sole task is to properly interpret the Constitution.  Unfortunately, that isn't the way it has turned out with justices offering political moreso than legal opinions on the recent rulings.  In that sense, Jeanine Pirro, or anyone of the Fox judicial pundits, would be right at home on the bench.

The Supreme Court has a long history of going through so-called liberal and conservative cycles.  It was the last "liberal" cycle that gave us Roe v. Wade, which Republicans have been trying for the last 45 years to reverse.  They may do so if they get a favorable conservative judge on the bench, which is what has Chris Hayes moaning that a battle over abortion is on the horizon.   This was one of the only good things about Kennedy, as for the most part he took the conservative side on decisions.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wow, indeed!

Remember all this talk about how Obama would appoint "activist judges?"  Well, it seems the Republicans have an extra ace in the hole in Neil Gorsuch.  For some strange reason, unbeknownst to any Constitutional law, five Supreme Court justices have decided to uphold Trump's self-professed Muslim Ban.  Granted, the executive order had gone through three writings in an attempt to remove the most contentious aspects of it, but nevertheless this is a ban that should have never been allowed to happen because the motives were clear.  As a result of this 5-4 vote, Trump is now fully emboldened to carry out an immigration policy that will be the most punitive we have  seen since WWII.

This past week, the Supreme Court also empowered Texas to gerrymander voting districts so that Republicans could maintain their hold on the state's politics.  We can expect more such cases from other states, as gerrymandering has become de rigueur in the Republican effort to maintain a chokehold on American politics.  Even if they suffer massive defeats this November, they will still have the Supreme Court to fall back on, as they did throughout the Obama administration.

We learned just how important holding political sway on the Supreme Court is!  Republicans have held the majority in the highest court of the land for the past 45 years.  Yes, forty-five fucking years!  They made it their mission during the Nixon administration, and haven't let go since.  Granted, a few of these picks didn't turn out to be as conservative as Republicans thought, but even with the occasional break, Republicans have to be happy with what they accomplished.  It's like having your own Supreme Council, as in Iran, that can overturn anything the Democrats try to do.

This has almost nothing to do with the Constitution, other than the perversion of it, as we have seen in some of Justices Thomas's, Alito's and now Gorsuch's opinions.  This court has undermined the 15th amendment and Voting Rights Act to uphold corporate sponsorship in the infamous Citizens United case, and now goes a step further in accepting Texas' notoriously gerrymandered districts.

For these conservative judges, the Constitution is something they can pick through to justify their opinions, similar to the way conservative politicians use the Bible.  They take passages out of context, yet proclaim they are ascribing to the "original intent" of the Constitution.  I suppose to some degree they have a point, since initially the Constitution gave no voting rights to minorities.  This was something we had to fight for 80 years later in the most bloody American war.

However, the Founding Fathers did give room for amendments, and Congress has utilized that right, and the Supreme Court upheld these amendments, so why is the current conservative court working so hard to undermine them?

Part of the problem is that judges like Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch are no more than proxies for conservative political interests. All had rather unsubstantial careers on the bench, especially Thomas and Alito, but here they are now in the most powerful court in America.  Justices Roberts and Kennedy's rare dissents have been most welcome, but they are indebted to these same conservative interests.

Upholding the Muslim ban makes no sense at all.  This was one of those times you expected Roberts and/or Kennedy to vote with the so-called liberal faction.  This was a ban issued by an impetuous president determined to make good on his campaign promise, which is exactly how the lower federal courts read it.  There was no reason to think otherwise.  Yet, Roberts and Kennedy chose to support it, I suppose not to undermine the authority of the President, as it is seen as his prerogative to protect the nation.  But, these same judges had no problem holding Obama in check when he overstepped his executive authority, which is exactly what Trump did here.

Justices Roberts and Kennedy look more like political hacks than Supreme Court justices after this decision.  It has tarnished whatever impression they were trying to give as being neutral.  They have made one of the worst decisions in the past 80 years.  Vox compares it to the Supreme Court decision to uphold the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.  This leads one to suspect if persons try to take the unlawful detentions taking place along the border all the way to the Supreme Court, these same justices are most likely going to hold up this heinous immigration policy as well.

Little wonder Trump is crowing in his tweets.  This is the sorry state of American politics we have descended to.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Overcoat

Anyone remember anything about the North Korea summit?  It seems like Trump's great foreign policy coup is completely forgotten in the wake of the border crisis unfolding before our eyes.  The protest to the separation policy grew so loud that His Trumpness was forced to retract his edict, and send Melania down to Texas to show that he cared.  Only problem is that her jacket said just the opposite, so now the media is trying to figure out what the hell is going on, as kids get tossed back and forth between detention facilities, with only a relative handful being reunited with their parents.

The jacket has gotten the most attention, given the wacky theories that have emerged, such as Zara reawakening the 1930s in the messaging on their clothes, and that Melania is a willing accomplice.  Of course, His Trumpness dismisses such conspiracy theories, saying it was just a dig at the media.  Whatever the case, the media is not letting go, and neither are celebrities who have donned their versions of the jacket to mock Melania.

Meanwhile, no one really knows where the kids are.  There have been reports of reunification, with parents chasing all over the place to find their kids, but for the most part these children remain caught in the system.  Like so many of Trump's actions, there wasn't a lot of thought put into this separation policy, and now that he has to undo it, there is no plan in place to carry it out.  It does appear that some families are being reunited, only to find themselves head to Ft. Bliss to await processing.  Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is determined to carry out this zero-tolerance policy on immigration, whether it be illegals or asylum seekers, who have become lumped into the same group.

All this is making His Trumpness angry, who has taken to twitter and campaign rallies to vent his rage against Washington.  In his mind, this is all the Democrats' fault for not passing an immigration bill when they had Obama in office.  Of course, he can't be bothered to remember that it was his own House Republicans who stymied an immigration bill in 2013, making sure it never got to Obama's desk.  One he lobbied against at the time.

Most Republicans never wanted an immigration bill because they could so effectively use immigration to rile up their masses on the campaign trail.  Now that they are faced with the actual challenge of doing something about it, they would rather pass the buck to the Democrats, which may very well be the case this November. 

The House attempt at passing a draconian immigration bill failed miserably with more than 40 Republican dissenting.  Not that it ever would have gotten through the Senate if it had passed, which Trump grumpily noted.  It was more a loyalty test than anything else.  The House is littered with Trumpkins, all vying to get Il Duce's attention during the primaries.

Trump figures he can thwart history once again by pulling off an epic "red wave" this November.  Fox has been pushing this surge theory for the past couple months to counter all this talk of a "blue wave" sweeping the country.  It doesn't matter that the Democrats have turned over far more seats in state legislature special elections than have the Republicans, the success of a handful of Republicans retaining their House seats was enough to indicate all is well in America.  Trump still considers himself five-for-five, discounting "Lamb the Sham's" surprising victory in Pennsylvania.  He took time to bash Conor Lamb once again on twitter, still smarting from this one unrecognized loss.

The Republican National Committee is not as confident, funneling huge amounts of money into the election cycle, hoping to offset the grassroots swell favoring Democratic candidates.  Ever since Trump took office, Democrats have been swinging seats across the country.  The biggest shock was in Virginia, where Democrats virtually created a split in the general assembly.  They fell short by a coin flip, after gaining 16 seats in the 2017 statewide election.

Wisconsin, Minnesota and other Midwest states are also swinging back into the blue column in special elections, after Trump broke the "Blue Wall" last November. 

Tariffs, a draconian immigration policy, rising oil prices and a stagnant Wall Street all seem to be conspiring against Republicans in the midterms.  The tariffs made no sense at all, and Republicans are still trying to get Trump to shift course but to no avail.  This is leading to a backlash from Canada, the EU and China, which is sure to impact vulnerable Midwestern states, where Republicans were hoping to score big wins this November. 

Republicans didn't expect immigration to blow up in their face either, but thanks to Trump it is now a yuge albatross around the necks, and Melania didn't make it any easier with her inflammatory jacket.  They can't afford to accept a compromise that favors the Democrats, which is why they are scrambling so hard to come up with something that will at least bring all their US Representatives on board, and hopefully sway a few edgy Senate Democrats who see their political fortune in peril, if a red wave were to actually appear on the horizon.

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," but figured his essays were falling on mostly deaf ears if any ears at all.

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.