Sunday, March 31, 2019
Ukraine might have an actual comedian as president after today, but we have our own stand-up comedian-in-chief expounding on wind energy and how deep the Great Lakes are in another one of his signature rallies in Grand Rapids, MI. Like Trump, Volodymyr Zelenskiy is backed by Russian money and would be yet another world leader in Vladimir Putin's back pocket. The funny thing is that Zelenskiy comes across as much smarter in person, which I suppose is why so many Ukranians are taking him seriously, even if it means a tilt back to the East in their political seesaw.
Trump couldn't have been any dumber this past Friday night, putting his ignorance on full display with a cheering audience loving every minute of it. All those bleached blondes on the front row looked like they washed their brains with Clorox. You can't help but chew over the memorable lines, because there are so many of them, which is why he draws crowds. He is an entertainer if nothing else, and his loyal following loves him for it.
We continually make fun of the MAGA crowd, but time and again they get the last laugh, because until Trump is unseated they got what they wanted, they got us, to paraphrase the great improviser. Trump may not be making American great again but he sure is delivering a vision of the country these persons have been yearning for: a ruthless abomination of the Old Testament, which he lords over like Moses himself. Only difference is that Trump doesn't answer to any god. He only answers to himself.
To drive his anti-immigration policy home this weekend, he cut off aid to the "Mexican" countries of Guatelmala, Honduras and El Salvador, all but assuring more migrant caravans in the months ahead. Central American refugees are already living in cages underneath overpasses at the border, as they wait to be processed. Mexico wouldn't accept them after Trump tried to pawn them off on our neighbor to the south. Not that long ago, Trump was promising a yuge aid package to Central America to help relieve the crisis, but his Friends at Fox talked him out of it. Now these "invaders" get nothing.
Steve Bannon described it as going "full animal." In Trump's mind, the Mueller Report fully vindicates him and he can do whatever he wants these next two years. There's no one who can stop him, not even "little pencil neck Adam Schiff," who has vowed to continue investigations into Russian collusion and obstruction of justice. Ironically, the other resident legal export at Fox, Judge Nap, sided with Schiff, much to the chagrin of the Fox viewing audience that now considers poor Nap a sellout to the Left. Justice Jeanine has since reasserted her role as the leading legal expert on Fox, as unapologetic as ever after her little fallout over her disparaging remarks about Ilhan Omar's turban. Sorry, here's the actual clip. Hard to tell the difference sometimes.
We don't need a comedy about a chocolate king as president, as they have in Ukraine, we have a 24/7 reality show with its own laugh track. Trump is in full campaign mode, going after everybody and everything. He showed his disdain for "windmills," wondering out loud what happens when the wind stops blowing, christening himself an expert after his 30-second soundbite.
Zelenskiy could only wish he had that much freedom to express himself, even in his sitcom, which you can watch on Netflix. There's nothing new about the theme. Servant of the People is a Ukrainian parody of West Wing. Zelenskij is backed by the Russian Jewish producer of the show, Igor Kolomoisky, who currently resides in Israel to avoid facing trial in Ukraine over charges of bank fraud. Kolomoisky is also bankrolling Julija Timoshenko's presidential bid, pretty much assured one of them will face Poroshenko in a run-off next month. Russia helps by keeping Ukraine's civil war going in the Donbass region, which has taken a heavy toll on the country.
For Trump the war is with Mexico, threatening to close the border if Congress and the US courts don't stop trying to block his national emergency. It doesn't matter that Mexico has nothing to do with Trump's border crisis. Most of the asylum seekers come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, but in the eyes of Trump and his Magaheads, "what's the diff?"
All the chaos Trump stirs up isn't helping the economy, which has slowed considerably since its high last summer of a 4.2% increase in GDP. 2018 closed out at 2.2 per cent, and looks like the first quarter of 2019 will be even worse. Most economists see a recession ahead, but don't tell Trump that. He's still gloating over last summer's high.
Anytime you wonder how much lower Trump can reduce the office of the presidency, he shows you he still can. Whether it is chiming in on the Jussie Smollett case or deciding to recognize the disputed Golan Heights as part of Israel to boost his friend Bibi in the upcoming parliamentary elections or lashing out at dead senators, Trump finds a way to continuously lower the bar. His attacks against his new archnemesis Adam Schiff only reveal how insecure he is about the Mueller Report being made public. Like his tax returns, Trump has no intention of letting this report see the light of day lest he be revealed a total fraud.
What good will he might have gotten over Barr's summary of the report was quickly undercut by his extrajudicial attempts to kill "Obamacare" and his budgetary proposals to gut Medicare and Medicaid. Health care looms large in the 2020 elections and Trump handed the Democrats their favorite talking point, much to Republicans' chagrin.
If this is going "full animal," then the Republicans have a lot to worry about come next November. It is best to keep such animals caged and let them out only under highly supervised conditions. He may appeal to the base of the party but such audacious claims and executive orders don't play well on the broader public, which is always struggling to pay health insurance premiums.
Let Trump chase windmills or even make his pitch for the wall, but health care is not something to be tampered with, which every previous Republican president has learned the hard way. Republicans will also have a hard time holding onto their Senate majority, as they have 22 seats to protect this time around, not 9 like in 2018. Alas, Trump finds a way to chew through his leash and get out of the backyard, terrorizing the neighborhood at the most inopportune moments.
Even Vladimir Putin must be wondering if Trump is worth the trouble and if there are more stable American politicians he can buy through the NRA. He certainly has the chance to make Trump's life miserable by mobilizing troops to Venezuela and making US efforts to topple Maduro even more difficult. This was seen as a potential foreign policy coup for the Trump administration. Now, it is Syria all over again.
Anyway you look at it, Trump is cornered. He bides his time simply because it isn't worth the effort to impeach him. This is a reality show in its last full season and is destined for an ugly finish. In the meantime I will leave you with Olivia Newton John's classic refrain,
Let's get animal, animal
I wanna get animal
Let's get into animal
Let me hear your body talk
Let me hear your body talk
Friday, March 29, 2019
or so Trump would like to think
Our "exonerated" president has been doing a victory lap ever since his AG released a 4-page summary of the 700-page Mueller report absolving him of all charges of collusion and obstruction. The only problem is that the WH is not releasing the full report so all we have is Bill Barr's word that this is the case. That appears to be enough for the mainstream media, which reported the story as a major setback for Democratic leaders. Republicans are now demanding Adam Schiff resign as head of the House Intelligence Committee since he refuses to accept this summary as the final word on the matter.
The amusing thing about all this is that the Republicans refused to cease investigating Hillary Clinton for Benghazi and the purged e-mail scandals, spending the better part of four years on this literal witch hunt, which yielded no indictments, let alone prison sentences for anyone involved. Even after the issue seemed resolved, James Comey reopened the case in regard to her e-mails a week before election day, which many felt aided Trump in overcoming all the scandals swirling around him, only to close the case again two days later.
The Mueller investigation was never about Trump, he just made it about himself. The aim was to see if members of his campaign staff actively colluded with Russian operatives to spread lies and disinformation during the presidential campaign. Mueller served up 36 indictments, mostly for perjury, including top aides Flynn, Manafort, Stone and Cohen, all of whom were eventually found guilty. If we are to believe Barr's summary, Mueller could find no proof that Trump was aware of these efforts to seek information from the Russians that could undermine Hillary's campaign. All we have is Cohen's damning testimony, which Mueller apparently couldn't verify.
What Trump glosses over is all the links between Russian oligarchs and conservative organizations, notably the NRA, to provide money and resources to Republican candidates favorable to Russian interests. The list is a long one and includes GOP leaders Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and even the late John McCain. Since the money was funneled through political action committees they may not have been fully aware of it, but that doesn't absolve them of their role in this ongoing nightmare. Russia still uses these highly porous PACs to influence elections. It is for this reason that Mitch has no intention of letting the Mueller Report see the light of day. I imagine there is much to pick over.
Unfortunately, our mainstream media has lost its journalistic edge and doesn't appear overly interested in pursuing the report any further, other than noting the egg on Democratic faces. I was shocked by how quickly CNN talking heads ceded the upper hand to Trump, after pummeling him for the last two years with the ongoing investigation. Trump has turned around and used the report's alleged findings to pummel CNN and other mainstream news outlets he calls "fake news."
This is far from over and there is no reason the Democrats should let go of the story, especially given most people think Trump has not been exonerated. Nancy Pelosi has backed her colleagues in demanding the full report be made available to Congress by April 2. The catch is that the House may have to formally introduce articles of impeachment to force the WH to hand it over, something Pelosi has said isn't worth it.
Many thought the Mueller Report would be the silver bullet, and many still think it is if only they can get their hands on it, but is it worth the risk? Mueller was never going after Trump himself. He was going after those around him, partly because you cannot indict a sitting president. We can argue over the independent nature of this investigation since it is not being shared with Congress, but the DOJ is within their rights to sit on it. I doubt you will find a silver bullet, much less a smoking gun. We have seen all the indictments and now it is up to the Southern District of New York if we will see any further indictments against the Trump family over tax fraud allegations.
Trump ran his campaign like a mafia don. He gave cryptic orders that could be interpreted any number of ways, allowing him to deny any direct involvement. This was clear from Cohen, who provided checks and other forms of "proof" that Trump was fully aware of the events taking place, but these checks were not earmarked specifically for Stormy Daniels or for any other transactions that would incriminate him. Trump is well insulated as any crime boss would be. What we ended up with was a whole bunch of nothing.
Worse, the amount of media energy expended on these investigations allowed the Trump administration to undermine the executive branch and all of government for that matter. It was only with the election of a Democratic House in 2018 that we had some return to proper oversight into the actions of Trump's administration. Nunes turned a blind eye during his leadership of the House Intelligence Committee and now the Republicans are trying to shutdown Schiff, who leads the committee after being its most outspoken critic when it was under Nunes' control.
Mostly the Republicans want to bury this story as quickly as possible and get onto what they do best: branding Democrats as social liberals hellbent on turning America into a welfare state like Venezuela. Funny enough they have run into a little problem with this pitch as Russia has taken the side of Venezuela, forcing Trump's hand in trying to topple the Maduro regime. It is Syria all over again. Russia knows Trump is a coward and will back down, as he did in Syria. Another mess for the Republicans to have to deal with.
Fact of the matter there is so much the Democrats can use against Trump and the Republicans on the campaign trail that the Mueller investigation is largely incidental. Trump has yet to have a single major trade deal ratified. North Korea remains in limbo. He is once again going after "Obamacare" and proposed a budget that would slash Medicare and Medicaid by a whopping $600 billion, oblivious to the public outcry against such measures. He also continues to pursue an unfeasible wall along the border of Mexico that has deeply divided the country.
Let Trump do his victory lap. Maybe now we can focus on all the horrible things he has done while he has been in office.
Saturday, March 23, 2019
If nothing else, New Zealand is showing us how a nation should come together to deal with a horrible tragedy. The country is showing an incredible amount of unity with a Maori biker gang offering security for the mosques in Christchurch. Women are wearing headscarfs in solidarity, and many persons are turning in assault weapons as part of a buy back program by the government included in the assault weapons ban that was immediately imposed. This is obviously a civilized nation that seeks to protect its citizens no matter what religion, race or creed they are.
We've had countless mass shootings in America, one that even reached the same epic proportions in Las Vegas, but no state let alone federal government has come together the way New Zealand has to show its solidarity with the victims. The students of Parkland who spoke out after the horrific shooting at their school have been perpetually mocked in the conservative media and on social media. No telling how much this affected Sydney Aiello, who recently took her life. The latest victim in the ongoing battle over gun control in the United States.
Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, worked quickly with facebook and other social media outlets to take down footage of the horrific shooting spree, as well as purge the assailant's white nationalist manifesto. She is doing everything she can to erase his name, not mincing any words in describing his crime.
Back in the USA, Donald Trump played dodge ball with questions thrown at him, as the assailant named him among others as inspiration for his act of terror. Trump tried to downplay white nationalism much like he did after the tragic incident at Charlottesville, where a white nationalist ran over a protester during a march in the college town.
Trump celebrated violence throughout his campaign and continues to do so as president. For him it is all part of a reality show he has created, where he pits one group of people against another and sits back and watches the anger projected in the streets. He does this on the international stage as well, spending well over a year trying to bait North Korea into a war and now doing so with Venezuela. He sends ambassadors to Europe with the expressed purpose of stoking nationalist sentiments on the continent. Most recently, he stirred up more anger in the Middle East by recognizing the disputed Golan Heights as a part of Israel. Yet, the man continues to believe he is as worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize as anyone.
Beyond making a mockery of the idea of peace through strength, which has long been the foreign policy of the United States, Trump sees violence as something he can exploit for political gain. The subtle and not so subtle threats are all designed to stir up the religious conservative base of his party, which supports him no matter what others say of him, even other Republicans. One of the reasons for his unsolicited attacks on John McCain is to warn other Republicans that to defy him is to earn the wrath of the Magaheads in the primaries. This is why you don't hear a peep out of Lindsey Graham, who had been one of John McCain's most ardent admirers. This kind of posthumous condemnation is the hallmark of totalitarian leaders demanding absolute loyalty.
Trump hates democratic societies, and I'm sure recoiled at PM Ardern's suggestion that he show respect for Muslim communities. He has used Muslims as the prime target for his call for tighter immigration policies and border security. The US has severely limited the flow of Muslims into the country, not worried in the least by the family separations and the loss of business that has resulted. For him, Muslims are the bane of existence, a sentiment reflected by his party faithful.
It doesn't matter that white nationalists have carried out far more hate crimes than Muslim extremists in America, or that matter around the world. He casually dismisses these horrific crimes because he has used the same sentiments expressed by white nationalists to stir up the base of his party. Often, he plucks the same expressions from their copy-paste manifestos culled from the memes readily available on social media.
This wasn't a lone wolf attack in New Zealand. The assailant was just another soldier in the silent army of white nationalists who believe in The Great Replacement theory that a white genocide is taking place and that he has to do what he can to level the field. If he can take out 50 Muslims in one day then he has done his part to purge the world of unwanted "invaders." It doesn't matter that Muslims are a very small minority in New Zealand or Australia, where the gunman came from. The very fact that they had established a beachhead in the land down under was enough to send him over the edge.
It's a theory that's been around a long time but has been popularized in recent years by such far flung figures as Renaud Camus and Pat Buchanan, and picked up by Australian MPs like Fraser Anning, who got a rather rude rebuttal to his ludicrous claims. We hear it constantly on Fox News through the mouths of Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham and others.
White nationalists feel as if they have lost their place in the world. No longer do they have such colonial reach even in distant places like New Zealand, which has created an inclusive society regarded as one of the safest places to live in the world. The Australian gunman broke that peace, but the country has refused to descend into the same quagmire we see here in America. Rather, it has shown Muslims they are welcome and a vital part of their community. A lesson we could learn here in the United States.
Monday, March 11, 2019
Anti-Semitism is on the rise in both Europe and the US, but it is also being used as a cudgel to stifle opposition. We recently saw this in a tweet by Ilhan Omar, which was blown way out of proportion, forcing the Democratic-led House to pass a resolution against any form of racism or bigotry. Many didn't think the resolution went far enough, notably Donald Trump, who called the Democrats an "anti-Israel" and "anti-Jewish" party for not publicly admonishing Omar for her alleged anti-Israel comments. There were those who wanted her thrown out of Congress all together.
Omar may have used a trope, for which she apologized, but she was in fact questioning the huge financial support Congress gives Israel every year, while so many Palestinians suffer under Israel. This is an issue close to her heart and the community she represents. She is one voice. Yet, Trump and many Republicans see this "anti-Israel" attitude infecting the whole party. One conservative critic went so far as to call it "Corbynism," referring to British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been under attack recently for a number of things, not least of all anti-Semitism.
In his own way, Bret Stephens is showing just as much bigotry and contempt as he claims Omar is showing, as he picks at a couple of tweets to try to present her as a radical Leftist who insidiously pushes an anti-Israel agenda in Congress. This is the same criticism being leveled against her by many conservative pundits, and in turn the Democratic Party in general, although Stephens doesn't go that far.
It's pretty tough to speak out against Israel these days, even as it makes life harsher and more miserable for Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza. No one wants to be reminded of the many failed attempts to reach some kind of land agreement between Israel and Palestine that would allow them to live as two separate independent states. The last attempt was in 2000 by Bill Clinton, a last gasp effort before the Jewish conservatives regained control of the Knesset, that failed and Palestinian leader Arafat was held largely to blame. Since then neither the US nor any other country has made any substantial effort to resolve the malingering crisis.
The interesting part about Stephens' opinion is that he resorts to a few tropes himself like stating that Israel is far more democratic and progressive than Palestine, specifically noting gay and women's rights. Fact is Palestine is a democratic government authority with elected leaders, and at least on the West Bank there are no laws prohibiting homosexuality and women having equal access to government. Like so many pundits, Stephens lumps Palestinians in with repressive countries like Saudi Arabia, when in fact the Arab world is not homogeneous in its views toward gender and sexuality. For that matter, nor is Palestine as Gazans are much less tolerant than their West Bank cousins, which is why the two regions have split politically, making the crisis all the more thorny to deal with.
Israel is also not homogeneous in its views. Far from it. Bibi Netanyahu has managed to hold sway for the past decade largely through a coalition of rightwing parties to counter a fractured Labour Party that hasn't managed to regain the majority since 2000. He was barely able to form a coalition in the wake of the last elections and may finally lose power this April when Israelis vote again, especially with corruption charges hanging over his head.
As for American Jews, many are openly critical of the situation in Israel, but it is much harder to call them anti-Semitic, although it has been done.
Despite Trump's bellicose rhetoric, 75 per cent of Jews voted for Democratic candidates in the recent midterm elections, the same percentage that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. That's a rather overwhelming amount of support for a party being labeled anti-Semitic. The reason is quite simple there are more Jews represented in the Democratic Party than there are in the Republican Party. Last count, 16 Democratic Jews in Congress as opposed to only 2 Republican Jews, not to mention the wide disparity at the state and local level of government.
One has to be careful not to use tropes, and Ilhan Omar apologized for her reference to "Benjamins," but by condemning her and the entire Democratic Party, these critics have used tropes themselves, namely the Socialist and Leftist tropes to paint the resurgent Democrats as a pre-war band of communists.
Oddly enough, Jews were overwhelming socialist in Europe before and after the war. Many found high-ranking positions in the Soviet Union, even the notorious Cheka, as Yuri Slezkine writes in The Jewish Century. It wasn't until Stalin imposed his iron will that Jews found themselves out of favor with Soviet authorities, and sought emigration to the new homeland of Israel after the war. Even still, many Jews continued to hold high-ranking positions within the USSR. So you can be both Jewish and Socialist. In fact, Israel itself is a socialist democracy.
This gets us back to Jeremy Corbyn, who has been accused principally of fostering a militant brand of socialism, brooking no compromise and therefore leaving poor Theresa May out on a limb when it comes to Brexit. Much easier to blame him for the impasse than it is members of her own party, who have split with her on the soft deal she is proposing. If she could just get her own conservatives in line she would have enough votes to pass the EU exit deal, instead she faces another historic loss.
Corbyn is an irascible cuss. He's a far cry from the ever so amenable Tony Blair who was open to any compromise. These anti-Semitic charges are nothing more than an attempt to break the Labour Party apart, which made substantial gains in the last elections, just as singling out Ilhan Omar's tropes is an attempt to drive a wedge in the Democratic Party before the upcoming 2020 elections.
Politics uses myths and legends to create stereotypes that are easily digestible in the media. Hence, we see political discussion reduced to memes in social media, often far uglier than any carnival float you will find in Europe. The myth of Israel is a favorite one for conservatives because it plays into their own legends regarding American exceptionalism.
Anti-Semitism remains, but when it is used as a cudgel to beat unruly politicians back in line you have to wonder to what degree it is being exploited for political purposes. This is certainly the case in Britain right now, and if Trump has his way will be the case in America as well. This guy will use any trope to get himself re-elected, as will Republican Congresspersons.
Sunday, March 10, 2019
People are making a big fuss over the Donald signing all those Bibles in Opelika, Alabama, the site of a devastating tornado, but he was literally signing anything placed in front of him, including a woman's bare chest. It's not like he put much thought to what he was doing. The persons who thrust these Bibles in front of him did. This is what we should be concerned about.
There is a significant portion of the conservative religious community that thinks Trump was sent by God to take back their country from the liberal infidels. Leading evangelists like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham have been the most supportive, coming up with all kinds of excuses for his inexcusable activities. Falwell makes no apologies for his support, saying that religious conservatives should stop electing "nice guys," fighting fire with fire with the liberal fascists. Odd for a man who just recently invited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Liberty University after calling her stupid and a liar.
This Toxic Christianity, as Harriet Sherwood calls it, has spilled over into the social media and the broad-reaching tele-evangelist community. Sherwood quotes Bill Leonard, a professor of church history, who says that Liberty University was established for the expressed purpose of creating "generations of rightwing Christians who would run for public office for everything from dog-catcher to US President." These modern-day Christian soldiers are very active in stirring up the base of the Republican party, that is now predominantly religious conservative.
It's not surprising they flock to someone like Trump, who projects himself as an autocratic leader. After all, this is the basis of the Bible. God brooked no compromises, and he made it expressly clear to Moses and his son Aaron that they should lead by stern example, listing the laws and their harsh penalties in the following chapters. These are Old Testament Christians, who adhere more to the Books of Moses than they do the teachings of Christ, which were much more tolerant. Apparently, Jesus wouldn't have a place in Jerry Falwell's world. Instead, we get a modern-day Moses, Ten Commandments style. All though looking at the clip, Trump is more like Dathan, played by Edward G. Robinson.
Religious conservatives have been raised on movies like Cecil B. Demille's The Ten Commandments and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. There is a thriving movie industry built around religious themes that has become even more popular in the Age of Trump. Gibson showed there was a huge market for his Passion that went largely untapped, as his movie reaped millions at the box office after being turned down by major distributors.
It doesn't matter that Gibson is a deeply flawed man, or that Trump is even more deeply flawed. In religious conservatives' minds, God chose flawed men to deliver his message, citing that Moses had killed an Egyptian, which led him to wander out into the wilderness and find God, as well as a wife and children. Gibson repented for his many sins, the singular hallmark of Christianity, and founded a church to deliver his traditionalist message. So far, Trump has not confessed to any sins, much less asked for forgiveness, although he has had numerous opportunities to do so.
Yet, religious conservatives accept Trump just the same, largely because he came out against abortion and gay rights. He even went so far as to issue an executive order to purge the military of openly transgender soldiers, despite there being no expressed need to do so, although that decision is currently being litigated.
His past track record suggested he was a much more open-minded man. He even courted transgenders like Caitlyn Jenner on the campaign trail, saying she could use the ladies room in Trump Tower anytime. Associates and friends from before he was President said he had no barriers in his enterprises. Women especially enjoyed prominent positions in his organization. He was even good friends with the Clintons, praising Hillary as late as 2013, for her services to the country. He also was much more articulate then.
Trump always wanted to be President, but couldn't find the right path until 2015. He saw how vulnerable the Republican Party was and how desperate its electorate was for a strong leader, so he sought to fill that gaping void with his big mouth. No one gave him a chance until Jerry Falwell Jr. invited him to Liberty University to give a speech in January, 2016, and endorsed him before the first primary in February. Trump got off to a slow start but by March was scoring big victories in the primaries, particularly in the South where support for him was the strongest. As other candidates dropped out, Trump only had Ted Cruz to content with, which the Republican orthodoxy in no way could abide by, so they threw their support behind Trump as well.
While many credit Roger Stone, Steve Bannon and Paul Manafort for engineering Trump's audacious victory in November, 2016, a lot of credit should go to Falwell for making Trump acceptable to the base of the Republican Party, when religious conservatives were leaning toward Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, both self-professed Evangelical Christians.
This was a major turning point for the religious conservative movement. Before, it had expected its political leaders at the very least to attend church, but here they were supporting a man who could probably count on his tiny hand the number of times he had been to church or opened the Bible for that matter. When he tried to quote verse, he stumbled badly, but would bounce right back from these missteps by effusively praising the religious leaders around him.
Trump was the classic carnival barker you would find in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. He understood that people wanted to see excitement, so he created excitement by making big issues out of non-issues, like the wall, and turning the Republican primaries into the biggest show on earth by defying all norms. No one could take their eyes off him. He was on the news 24/7. People were amazed that this gross caricature of a man could command so much attention.
As we are finding out with the Cohen testimony, it was always an act with Donald Trump. He had no set convictions or beliefs. He chose whatever suited him at the moment and put his full breath into these beliefs. It was the case when he championed the reconstruction of the twin towers over the new design for the World Trade Center. Likewise, his decision to become the leader of the Birther movement when he toyed with running for President in 2011. Don't ask for any of it to make sense because it doesn't. He just as quickly sheds these beliefs as he did embrace them.
Yet, religious conservatives continue to embrace him, offering up their bare chests to him and thrusting their Bibles in front of him to sign, on the cover no less, as if he is God himself. You have to wonder if Jerry Falwell Jr. privately considers if he created a monster, or at the very least allowed this monster to become the face of the religious conservative movement. Either way, he owns him. He's the one who gave him a forum in front of this large following and to become its de facto leader come hell or high water. There is no sign of these faithful abandoning him no matter what Michael Cohen or anyone else has to say about him. As far as they are concerned, he is their Moses. Let them Trumpet His Name.
Friday, March 8, 2019
International Women's Day is now universally celebrated but for the longest time was seen as a Soviet holiday. It didn't matter that the idea originated at the International Socialist Woman's Conference in New York in 1910, it wasn't until 1975 that the United Nations adopted it the world over. It has been stripped of its socialist origins and turned into a day to celebrate women's achievements.
Nonetheless, many of those achievements go unrecognized. It took decades for the public to acknowledge the role women played in science and technology, largely seen as a male frontier. Hidden Figures called attention to some of the women who worked for NASA in the 1960s and Margaret Hamilton has only recently received attention for the pioneering role she played in landing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.
In reading the Books of Moses, it is no surprise women are largely ignored. God didn't seem to have much time for women other than for procreation. Sex and menstruation were seen as unclean activities and when it came time to doing a census of the Israelites, only men above the age of 20 were counted. Throughout the Old Testament, you rarely hear of a woman by name, they are seen largely as the property of man, as noted by Kate Millett in Sexual Politics.
This all changed with the socialist movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. Women demanded their right to be counted and to vote, although that would take much longer. In America, this movement was led by seminal figures like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but others before them like Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, had demanded they be recognized. John wisely did.
As much as we would like to strip women's rights from socialism, the two go hand and hand, which is why we see fiery young Congresspersons like Alexandria Ocassio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar not backing down to the pressure they face on Capitol Hill, which still remains largely a male dominated society. It wasn't until the election of five women senators in 1992 that the Senate even installed a women's bathroom.
Democratic women far outnumber Republican women in Congress, and have much greater representation on committees. This was made painfully obvious during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, where four Democratic women sat on the panel and no Republican women, despite there being seven Republican Congresswomen. Republicans don't like being reminded of this discrepancy and have since added Joni Ernst and Marsha Blackburn.
The odd thing is that white women still vote overwhelmingly Republican in the presidential elections. Even Trump, despite his misogynistic past, won the white women's vote, which is all the more odd since he was running against a white woman. It appears his misogyny caught up to him in the midterms where an historic number of women won House seats. Something even Trump took time to note in his deferred State of the Union Address.
I suppose it is because many white women don't like being viewed as feminist or socialist, preferring to see themselves as traditional and conservative. Yet, conservative women for the most part work just like their liberal counterparts, a right that only relatively recently has been afforded them thanks to the socialist movement. Even still, women only earn 80 cents to the dollar of man, which is also a sore point among conservative women.
It seems the biggest difference of opinion comes down to reproductive rights. Conservative women remain staunchly anti-abortion and cast their disapproval on contraceptives, often citing the Books of Moses, whereas feminists continue to advocate choice and would like to see the widespread availability of contraceptives, particularly in high school, where teenage pregnancy is a big problem.
This came to a head in the Women's March on the Capitol in 2017 when pro-choice organizers rejected pro-life marchers despite both wanting equal pay for equal work, which was the theme of the march. Even Hillary Clinton chimed in on this one, supporting pro-lifers right to march, much to the chagrin of leading feminists.
It is for these reasons that not all women celebrate International Women's Day, at least not in America. For many conservative women, it is still seen as a socialist holiday, which they simply can't accept despite best efforts to turn this day into a Hallmark card holiday.
Early pagan cultures in Europe celebrated the woman and many native American cultures were matrilineal if not matriarchal in order. Yet, with the advent of Judaism and other male-centered religions, women found themselves subordinated to man and have struggled these past 4000 years to remove themselves from the shadows of society. This subjugation can still be found in orthodox societies around the world.
Even in so-called liberal societies, women face many barriers. Sexism may not be so obvious but still exists and finds more subtle ways to deter women from gaining positions of greater authority. It is changing, as we saw this last election, especially at the state level where women became the majority in a state legislature for the first time in Nevada. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would be proud. They fought for women's suffrage at the state level after having failed to convince Congress to include women in the fifteenth amendment.
In time, we will have our first woman president, maybe even in 2020, as an historic number of women vie for the position in the Democratic Party. That will only happen when women bridge their differences and White women vote along with Black and Hispanic women for a woman who best represents their interests.
International Women's Day still carries its political stripes. It is an opportunity to pay tribute to the women who have pushed for equal rights as well as those who made pioneering achievements over the last two centuries and even before. Most important, it is a day to recognize the women among us who makes our world a better place, and the valuable parts they play in our lives. Share that love and appreciation today!
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Jared and Ivanka should both be booted from the White House. No President in modern history has involved his children and in-laws to this extent in his administration. Throughout 2017, Jared Kushner essentially acted as Secretary of State, supposedly trying to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine that never materialized. It was also reported that any foreign diplomat wanting access to the President had to go through Jared first. Pretty amazing for a young real estate developer known for his busted deals than any great negotiating skills.
Ivanka similarly gets unprecedented access to classified information and meetings going on in the White House. She has been used principally to try to defuse tensions, but Trump only knows what else she is doing. Like her husband, she has full security clearance and is not afraid to use this access to her advantage, especially when it comes to gaining lucrative trademarks with countries like China, a serious conflict of interest.
Donnie Jr. and Eric are used mainly as surrogates in the conservative media, along with Eric's wife, Lara, who produces a Trump propaganda arm called Real News Update that was started in 2017. All are frequent guests on Fox News and other conservative news outlets.
To put this in perspective. Ronald Reagan had four grown children when he came into office and none served in his administration. His oldest son and daughter, Michael and Maureen, actively promoted his agenda any chance they got, but neither had security clearance nor played a role in his policy decisions. The same was true for George H.W. Bush, who had three grown sons. Jeb and George W. played active roles in their father's campaign, but neither were actively involved in their father's administration. While there are no explicit laws prohibiting children from playing roles in their parent's administration, it has been considered unseemly to do so.
Donald Trump has no such scruples. He built a family business and now he has a family White House. Key members of his administration have all complained of the prominent roles Jared and Ivanka play in his White House but they all were powerless to do anything about it. John Kelly tried his best to freeze them out but to no avail. Former Secretary of State Tillerson was notably disgruntled by the role Jared Kushner was playing the Middle East, but accepted it. We were all told how great a job Jared was doing in negotiating the peace deal of the century but in the end neither Israel nor Palestine have been impressed with his efforts. If we are patient enough his plan might be finally unveiled after the Israel elections this April, or so we are told by Jared.
It doesn't matter that Kushner has absolutely no qualifications to undertake such an ambitious effort. He was never more than a third-rate real estate developer in New York trying to pick up where his jailed father left off, but along the way he made friends with the notorious MBS and other dubious figures in the Middle East and now tries to use this as leverage to broker peace deals for his father-in-law. Mostly, he is being used as access to Donald, which Mohammed bin Salman put bluntly.
Just this week, Jared tried to go incognito to Riyadh to meet with the crown prince, ignoring the US Embassy, which is supposed to handle such meetings. This is apparently the norm with Kushner in Saudi Arabia as he likes to keep his dealing with the House of Saud confidential. As with much of this "family business," Trump often keeps government officials in the dark, so that we can only speculate on their activities. It seems that one of the perks for Saudi Arabia backing Jared's Middle East Peace Plan is to get nuclear weapon technology.
Trump seems to only trust his children to do his bidding, largely because independent officials wouldn't go along with such half-baked schemes. He goes through White House staff the way he went through contestants on The Apprentice. His administration is hardly recognizable today from what it was when he first took office in January, 2017. The constants are Jared and Ivanka and his adoptive Hitler Youth, Stephen Miller. All others have either left or been shuffled about to fill the many vacancies in his administration.
How is he allowed to get away with it? In large part it is because there is nothing in the Constitution that explicitly forbids it. The Founding Fathers were very much against nepotism but for whatever reason were vague when it came to setting it down as constitutional law. Security clearances are a relatively modern instrument and are subject to the President's discretion. Jared and Ivanka were both initially denied security clearances, but Trump overruled these decisions, which he has the power to do. Similarly, he can revoke security clearances like he did with John Brennan when the former CIA director lambasted Trump's policies in the media.
Basically, Congress doesn't know what to do with Trump or his family. The Democrats have vowed to investigate the matter of security clearances, especially in regard to Jared and Ivanka, but it won't stop Trump from allowing them access to his inner circle. The President has wide-ranging authority on such matters, which is a serious concern when you have a man who appears to be suffering through the later stages of dementia and needs the flag and his kids to fall back on, as well as adoring conservative audiences.
It is doubtful anything will come of these investigations because Trump refuses to cooperate and Republicans in Congress plan to stonewall them. For whatever reason, the GOP has aligned itself with the President and feels it can weather the scrutiny of overreaching Democrats. It doesn't matter that they brought far greater scrutiny to bear on the Obama administration, notably the Benghazi attack, and went out of their way to bring his administration to a screeching halt when the Republicans commanded both houses of Congress. What is good for the goose is obviously not good for the gander.
The investigations will happen anyway and they are sure to uncover some unfavorable stories, as we have already had with the Cohen testimony, which the Republicans tried so hard to drown out with their CPAC convention, Trump's aborted summit in Hanoi, and the attempt to displace Maduro in Venezuela. Cohen's salacious accounts still dominated the airwaves, and with the Mueller report due any day, it is likely we will hear even more damning stories, possibly even major indictments of one or more of his children. Jared and Donnie Jr. have been directly linked to the infamous meeting in Trump Tower with Russian operatives.
Little wonder John Kelly didn't want to grant Jared or Ivanka security clearances, knowing their unsavory connections. This is a family that has extensive business ties with Russian oligarchs, Saudi sheikhs and Israeli businessmen, which have heavily influenced Trump's foreign policy.
It is pretty safe to say we have never had anything like this before, but the Republican-controlled House and Senate turned a blind eye to it for two years in return for Trump signing off on their legislation, notably the huge tax cuts they pushing through on a budget reconciliation vote at the end of 2017. Tax cuts that heavily favored the Trumps.
You might remember we warned repeatedly of the nepotism that would pervade a Clinton White House had Hillary been elected. Her husband being a former president and Chelsea being a very active global health active were both seen as having a very instrumental role in her potential administration. At least Bill and Chelsea had qualifications. Jared and Ivanka, like their father, had none. So her we are with the Trump family trying to run the company as they would Trump enterprises.
Enough is enough. We have two years to see this awful experiment play out and nothing has come of it. All this talk of peace in the Middle East, a denuclearized North Korea and an end to our foreign wars has gone for naught. Jared is no closer to a Nobel Peace Prize than is Donald. Ivanka, who enjoyed a fairly strong favorable rating at one time now finds herself universally mocked. The Emperor's New Clothes turned out to be an illusion as anyone in his right mind knew back in 2016. There is no magic to the Trump family name. These are con artists who managed to play the Republican Party for all it's worth, which right now is absolutely nothing.
2020 can't come fast enough because barring a major revelation in the Mueller investigation that the Trump administration can't sequester, we are stuck with this pudgy emperor for the remainder of his term. We can only hope it will be a peaceful transition, although to hear Michael Cohen we have no reason to believe it will be. Now that he has a taste of absolute power, he won't want to let go of it, especially with potential indictments hanging over his head. We shall see.
Sunday, March 3, 2019
You really have to wonder what happened to the Grand Old Party? It's gone from bad to worst to now literally scraping the bottom of the barrel in what has to be the most grotesque CPAC conference yet. It wasn't just Trump's rambling incoherent two-hour speech after hugging the American flag, but a litany of horrible speakers preying on the worst conservative instincts and drawing cheers from the audience.
It was like Trump was staging his own version of The Apprentice with a load of has-been political operatives hoping to regain their glow in the conservative light. Michelle Malkin was probably the worst, as she shamelessly evoked the "ghost of John McCain" to admonish RINO's in the party who won't get on the right side of the wall. This is an Asian-American mind you playing into the white bread world of the Republican Party that has no time for new immigrants, legal or illegal. I guess she hoped to score brownie points with Commander Trump.
Sebastian Gorka and Ted Cruz ripped into the Green New Deal, proposed by Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, telling Magaheads that Democrats want to kill all our cows so that we will no longer be able to eat hamberders, I mean hamburgers. AOC has become the favorite whipping post of Republicans these days, treating her like the reincarnation of Stalin, Hitler and Mao all rolled into one. Truly mind boggling.
Whatever legitimacy CPAC may have carried at one time is gone. This is an empty shell of a conservative political action committee that has sold itself completely to Trump and all the fools who still believe in him. You can only marvel at the ability of these shameless politicians and pundits to keep a straight face as they feed all this bullshit to an audience that has lost all ability to discern fact from feces.
It isn't worth listening to. The sound bites are more than enough to tell you what a fucked up affair this has become in the Age of Trump. He can literally say or do anything at this point and no conservative pauses to question him. CPAC was like the orgy in The Ten Commandments, only when Trump returned from his failed summit in Hanoi he didn't admonish the Magaheads for their idolatry, he joined in the reverie.
There are enough clips to keep comedians busy all week but it is nothing to laugh at. It is appallingly sad that this is the way many conservatives now act. They have lost any ability to think, much less know what is going on in the world. They have become blinded by the excesses of a president and a political party whose only interest is to gut the government and give tax breaks to their wealthy benefactors. Yet, the Republicans believe they are the Party of God.
The Grand Old Party is now an abject failure. The only legacy they can claim is that of the fringe movements like The Know Nothings, the Birchers and the Klu Klux Klan. They have managed to weave all the worst elements of the conservative movement into a train wreck of a political party that survives simply because too many people are blind to their own shame.
As bad as Malkin, Cruz, Gorkin, Meadows and the rest of the headline acts were, none could match the Grand Poobah himself who went off on quite possibly his most audacious riff yet, not showing the least shame as he indulged his audience in a steady stream of misleading statements, lies and downright slander that isn't even worth fact-checking because facts no longer matter in the Age of Trump. It's all about the base, as crass as it is. They eat up anything he says, utterly smitten by the most glorious con man the United States has ever seen. The only purpose this Trumpian fuckfest served was to try to take people's minds off the ongoing Cohen hearing on Capitol Hill, where his former fixer revealed the depth's of our President's depravity for those who wanted to hear it.
Trump returned from his aborted summit in Hanoi so that he could bask in the glory of those who appreciate his unique brand of demagoguery, and giving the media really something to follow, not that rat of a lawyer who sold himself out to the feds. It was vintage Trump and for that we should all truly be ashamed to be part of this spectacle.