Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Not Everywhere

“This wicked act of mass murder is pure evil,” President Donald Trump stated at a Future Farmers of America event in Indianapolis on Saturday. He should have stopped but unfortunately went on to claim that it is "hard to believe and, frankly, something that is unimaginable." Inadvertently indicting himself, Trump had told reporters a few hours earlier "it's a terrible, terrible thing what's going on with hate in our country, frankly, and all over the world."

No, not all over the world because as Vox's German Lopez notes

Every country in the world has bigoted extremists and people with serious mental health issues that may drive them to violence. But in America, it is uniquely easy for one of these people to obtain a gun and carry out horrific tragedies like the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

As the chart below indicates, there are more civilian-owned firearms per capita in the USA than in any other nation, more than twice as many as in second-place Yemen, wracked by civil war. Not surprisingly

The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times that of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to United Nations data for 2012 compiled by the Guardian. (These gun deaths are a big reason America has a much higher overall homicide rape, which includes non-gun deaths, than other developed nations.)

All other things being equal, jurisdictions with more guns have more gun deaths and

 A 2016 review of 130 studies in 10 countries, published in Epidemiologic Reviews, found that new legal restrictions on owning and purchasing guns tended to be followed by a drop in gun violence — a strong indicator that restricting access to guns can save lives. A review of the US evidence by RAND also linked some gun control measures, including background checks, to reduced injuries and deaths.

Even before Donald J. Trump was elected President, mass murder at a synagogue was not unimaginable. Now it far more imaginable, and just another calamity he can happily exploit.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Not Only In Retaliation

It's time to put an end to this.

That could apply to many things, especially GOP hegemony. However, in this instance it is a myth which helps sustain the President's popularity. It began even before Donald Trump took office, perhaps even before veteran conservative Republican columnist Fred Barnes on January 13, 2017 wrote

The new rule is simple: When you attack Trump, he will hit back harder than you could have imagined. "He learned this in the New York media when he was a businessman," Newt Gingrich said in a speech in December.

This is "Trump's core model," says Gingrich, who understands how Trump operates better than anyone else. There's a reason for Trump's counter-punching....

Donald Trump is no counter-puncher. He is a puncher, whether counter-punching or seizing the initiative. 

A counter-puncher retaliates. A counter-puncher hits those who seem to hold the upper hand or at least could stand toe-to-toe with the adversary unless beaten down. A counter-puncher is even likely to hit someone because the adversary deserves it, even when there is no concrete advantage to the counter-puncher.

A true counter-puncher does not learn of someone being targeted in a bomb plot and respond with
A counter-puncher might have appeared at his own campaign rally a few hours after the arrest of Cesar Sayoc for sending explosives to Hillary Clinton and other perceived opponents of the regime. But he would not have "resurrected some of his favorite political insults" including "Crooked Hillary" and "Cryin' Chuck Schumer."

A counter-puncher would not have earlier responded to the report of an explosive being sent to CNN by tweeting
A true counter-puncher will not want to hit Representative Maxine Waters- another Sayoc victim- and then back off because he "seemed aware that his conduct was under scrutiny, emphasizing that was going to be 'nice' in his remarks."  A counter-puncher may have slammed her anyway, notwithstanding the possible repercussions, because he sensed that she had hit him.

Moreover, he most assuredly would not have blamed a church or a synagogue for a grotesquely criminal attack which left twelve innocent people dead.

Because Donald Trump is a coward- and a coward will punch and punch, in retaliation or not, until someone punches him back. Unfortunately, only one individual has, and that is not enough to tear the mask off this brawler.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Going Positive

I never liked Jim Carrey as an actor/comedian but as a speechwriter, he's obviously very, very good. Accepting the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Los Angeles on Friday night. Carrey

praised his comedy hero, actor Charlie Chaplin, for the ingenious, subversive political commentary in his films.

With “Modern Times,” he criticized capitalism without a conscience, and that’s what we have now: capitalism without a conscience. He showed the common man being fed through years of brutal dehumanizing industrial age. He took on the American right wing of its day and its worst evils: hatred of immigrants, contempt of the truth, greed, and the abuse of power. We are fighting those same evils today.

Carrey went on to dedicate his award to people he believed to be true heroes ― a term the comedian says has been warped by reality TV ― Chaplin, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, professor Christine Blasey Ford and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Ford and Kaepernick boldly and patriotically went- publicly- where no others had. However, non-American citizens, as Carrey seems to understand, can perform an extremely valuable service to the USA.

"I'm a former intelligence officer, and we're your closest ally," Christopher Steele told the Federal Bureau of Investigation when presenting it with the raw intelligence of contacts between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir Putin, the latter trying to sow disunity within the USA and also the transatlantic alliance. Making an enemy of Vladimir Putin has been known to increase mortality.

If such loyalty to the USA were present in the White House, Carrey wouldn't have to single (triple?) out Steele, Ford, and Kaepernick. Another worthy individual came up big the night Carrey accepted his award:

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has declined an invitation to the White House from President Donald Trump.

In an interview with Turkey's Haberturk TV on Friday, Cengiz said she believed the invitation was aimed at influencing public opinion in the president’s favor. She added that she would not visit the White House unless the U.S. both made a sincere effort to solve Khashoggi’s killing and demanded that all those responsible be tried and punished.

Cengiz, a Turkish national, was placed under 24-hour police protection in Turkey on Monday, just days after Saudi Arabia finally admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside its consulate in Istanbul.

She was one of the last people to see Khashoggi alive, having gone with him to the consulate on Oct.2. She waited outside for nearly 12 hours, alerting friends and officials when he failed to emerge.

A week after his disappearance, Cengiz wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post urging Trump to help shed light on her fiancĂ©’s disappearance. “Jamal is a valuable person, an exemplary thinker and a courageous man who has been fighting for his principles,” she wrote. “I don’t know how I can keep living if he was abducted or killed in Turkey.”

Jamal Khashoggi was a legal resident of the USA and journalist for inarguably one of its three top newspapers. Yet, within days of his murder, Republicans began

mounting a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist’s alleged murder by operatives of Saudi Arabia — and support Trump’s continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom.

Trump’s remarks about reporters amid the Khashoggi fallout have inflamed existing tensions between his allies and the media. At a Thursday rally in Montana, Trump openly praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for assaulting a reporter in his bid for Congress last year...

 Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son and key political booster, shared another person’s tweet last week with his millions of followers that included a line that Khashoggi was “tooling around Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden” in the 1980s, even though the context was a feature story on bin Laden’s activities.

“Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of — he’s my guy,” Trump said

 “Trump wants to take a soft line, so Trump supporters are finding excuses for him to take it,” said William Kristol, a conservative Trump critic. “One of those excuses is attacking the person who was murdered.”

Colin Kaepernick, Christine Ford, Christopher Steele, Hatice Cengiz. True courage is hard to come by in Trump's America, but some people stand above almost all others.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Don't Call Him Stupid

Thirteen months ago, respondents in an ABC News/Washington Post poll were asked an open-ended question of what one word best describes Donald Trump. The most common adjectives or nouns were
"incompetent," "arrogant," "strong," "idiot," "egotistical," "ignorant," "great," "racist" "a------" and "narcissistic."

Respectively: somewhat, yes, no, no, yes, yes, no, probably, yes, and yes.

The one "no" I attributed to a positive characteristic was "idiot" because President Trump is no idiot.

President Trump was at his dumbest when he admitted to NBC News' Lester Holt that he fired James Comey as FBI director because of "this Russia thing." At worst (for him), the act may have set in motion events that will bring down his presidency and/or lead to his indictment. At best, however, Trump may skate on the whole thing, even on any charge that he obstructed justice by eliminating Comey.

But look at what- or who- he ended up with.   When the President announced his nomination of Christopher Wray to replace Comey, he stated that Wray "will again serve his country as a  fierce guardian of the law and model of integrity..."

Given that Donald Trump sees himself as synonymous with the country, this seems to have come to pass. 

On Friday morning prior to the arrest of apparent Trump Bomber Cesar Sayoc Jr., the President tweeted "Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this “Bomb” stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows - news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!" 

Nonetheless, this exchange (at 20:40 of the video below) between a reporter and FBI director Wray took place at a news conference following the vote:

"When did you first brief the President that you had a suspect in custody and what was his reaction?"

"I'm not going to get into our discussions with the President. I will say I received a very nice congratulatory call from the President shortly before heading over here and saw the remarks he made at the White House...."

The Intercept's Cody Fenwick remarks

... it’s deeply concerning that the president may have been actively stoking suspicions about the reality of the attacks even as the United States’ own law enforcement agencies were in direct pursuit of a serious suspect in the matter. If he was fully aware of the FBI’s progress in this case and the seriousness of the matter, then it is condemnable behavior. It would mean he has a lack of genuine concern for the safety and security of those who he deems political enemies and is willing to disregard violence as long as it can serve his political aims.

Either Donald Trump knew about the situation or the FBI director avoided telling him, which would be extraordinary- or it withheld from the President of the United States of America significant intelligence, itself remarkable behavior.

Yet, this is less serious than the action taken by the FBI to facilitate Senate approval of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court.  An FBI investigation was commenced in late September to allay concerns of senators Flake and Collins after the Judiciary Committee's vote to send the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Senate floor. The New York Times, though, reported that

Democrats were to some degree in the dark about the inquiry’s parameters. In a letter to Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, and Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee asked for a copy of the directive sent by the White House to the bureau laying out the scope of the investigation.

“If the F.B.I. requests any expansion beyond the initial directive, please provide the names of any additional witnesses or evidence,” the Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, wrote in the letter.

It is not unusual for the White House to specify the scope of a request for additional background information on a nominee. No evidence has emerged that the White House has forbidden any investigative steps, and President Trump has said he wants agents “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.”

The White House did not need to tell Christopher Wray whom he could not interview. He knew to restrict the probe because he knew his place.  

"The rules for background checks," the Times added, "require that agents ask the White House if they want to expand the scope of their investigation or interview other witnesses." The agents themselves undoubtedly would have had to get approval from the Director of the FBI, and they're well aware of who nominates the director and who can fire him.

The FBI interviewed stunningly few individuals and its feeble inquiry was designed to avoid uncovering any facts which would jeopardize Senate approval of Judge Kavanaugh. It was a farce and worse, undertaken in the manner that White House Counsel Don McGahn, arguably the pivotal player in the nomination, was intent upon. Kavanaugh was McGahn's boy, and the White House counsel was determined he would be approved, facts be damned.

 "I am proud to announce Christopher as my choice as the Director of the FBI," President Trump noted in his statement a year ago June.  Donald Trump knows a partisan hack when he sees one.  He may be ignorant, arrogant, racist, egotistical, and narcissistic. But an idiot, he's not.

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Friday, October 26, 2018


Amarnath Amarasingarn and Colin P. Clarke didn't have all the answers, but were on to something when one year ago they wrote

By continually staking claim to big and small terrorist attacks, regardless of target selection or casualty count, ISIS has attempted to instill a sense of omnipresent and unpredictable danger. And in the process, terrorism fatigue may be setting in around the world.

The quest to organize and inspire a steady stream of attacks in the West comes with a cost. It can make the outrageous seem relatively normal. People become numb to the violence. As the once-shocking violence becomes normalized, they are no longer able to muster the requisite outrage or compassion to respond.

One year later, as the nation yawns to another round of terrorist attacks (twelve bombs- and counting) sent to perceived opponents of President Trump), their observation appears particularly prescient.Seven months later, we learned of a possible parallel to this reaction to terrorism. 

Tali Sharrot and Neil Garrett noted research which (as they put it) found "people are less likely to criticize the unethical actions of others when such behavior increases gradually over time." They thus speculated "that voters (and perhaps even the president's own advisors) may desensitize to the president's falsehoods in the same way that they do to overused perfume, making them less likely to act to correct this pattern of behavior."

The desenstization or fatigue, however, is only part of the reason that Americans no longer are mustering appropriate outrage at terrorist acts.

The other is failure to use the word terrorism.  This is not always the case, of course; if the culprit's name is Omar, Khalil, or Muhammad, terrorism becomes an issue. The act may be considered terrorism or discounted as terrorism. However, it invariably- as it should be- is evaluated in the context of the possibility of being a terrorist act.

In their Friday morning, 10/26/18 on-line articles about the 11th and 12th bomb packages being delivered, The New York Times and The Washington Post invoke the term "terrorism" or "terrorist" only once- in unavoidably quoting James Clapper, one of the victims. In its article, USA Today uses neither term at all.

The Oxford Living Dictionary defines "terrorism as "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims." Surely the intended targets of the packages were civilians because they are not enemy combatants, in a war or otherwise. Although none of the bombs has exploded, they still represent an unlawful use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. 

There should not have to be a Muslim and/or Arab, or someone suspected of being Muslim and/or Arab, for a terrorist act to be attributed to possible terrorism.  Because it is, unjustifiably, required, virtually all terrorism seems to be coming from The Other. That not only desensitizes us to the threat of terrorism, but is a massive political gift to the hatemongers such as Donald Trump and the voters the President preys upon.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Clear Understanding

It's nearly November in an even-numbered year, so President Trump went to the old standby when on Monday he

said he would propose a tax cut for middle-class Americans next week “of about 10 percent” and that Congress would vote on it soon, but he offered few details and lawmakers did not appear to have any plans to act on his announcement.

Speaking to reporters before a trip to Texas, Trump said the White House was looking at putting out a proposal next week, which he said would be “a very major tax cut for middle-income people. And if we do that it’ll be sometime just prior to November.”

“We’ll do the vote after the election,” Trump said, again suggesting a cut after floating the idea on Saturday.

Aside from saying the tax cut would be about 10 percent, the president offered no details.

It may not pass and if it does, will benefit the wealthy and/or corporations more than the middle class, thereby rendering it advisable to offer no details.  However, Trump knew to signal to conservative and moderate, Republican and independent, voters that he wants to cut their taxes, if only those evil Democrats will let him.

Bipartisan "cred" is all the rage in politics now.  The Twitter page of a US Representative from suburban eastern Pennsylvania blares "Brian Fitzpatrick- Ranked #1 Independent Freshman Congressman" with an obvious intent to hide his partisan (Republican) affiliation. 

Never one to let a terrorist atttack(s) interfere with a good nationalist campaign rally, the head of Fitzpatrick's party appeared in Mosinee, Wisconsin Wednesday evening.  Feigning independence, the President

again directed the crowd’s attention to his bipartisan efforts: “By the way, do you see how nice I’m behaving tonight?” he asked. “Have you ever seen this? We’re all behaving very well!”

Not only bipartisanship, but self-awareness: Have you ever seen this? We're behaving very well!

By contrast, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker responded to these acts of terrorism by issuing a statement reading

There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.

Oh yes, they have. Politico Wednesday reported

when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was announced as the keynote speaker at the Lincoln Dinner in Lexington, Ky., in August, the event sold out in under two hours...

Unwelcome in swaths of the nation’s capital, some of the most controversial White House officials have become the hottest “gets” ahead of the midterm elections — thanks in part, allies of President Donald Trump say, to a damning disconnect between liberal elites and the regular people who make up the president’s base...

“Republicans love the most visible people who are constantly doing battle with the people they hate the most, which is the media,” said Kentucky Republican strategist Scott Jennings, who served as the emcee of the dinner Sanders headlined. “It’s why Trump is the president, and why people like Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway are such big celebrities.”

And so, though making the obligatory bipartisan remark, the President on Wednesday knew to add "The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories. Have to do it."  He stayed on message Thursday morning, tweeting

After a terrorist attack on a cable news organization, the candidate who knew he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose anyvotes is the President who knows he can demonize the media, lose no votes he hadn't lost a long time ago, and drive his horde of haters to the polls.

That is a fellow with a whole lot of comprehension.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Border

As a tease to his recent article in The Atlantic, David Frum on Tuesday tweeted "If liberals insist that enforcing borders is a job only fascists will do, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals won't."

In her own confused way, a co-host on The View tried to makea similar point when

In a conversation Monday about the migrant caravan heading to the United States from Central America, The View’s Meghan McCain accused co-host Sunny Hostin of calling her a liar, after claiming that “the left” wants ‘open borders and no consequences’ for undocumented immigrants.

“When you see these images, this is a conservative fever dream and a gift to the mid-term elections because this is exactly what conservatives think people on the left want to have happen into this country,” McCain said. “What a lot of people on the left are saying, no one on this table, is that you want open borders and no consequences.”

Very few people on the left are "saying" that they "want open borders and no consequences." However, they- and yes, that includes Hostin- seem to be saying that. In his article, Frum criticizes President Trump and appears to understand that support on the left for open borders is neither policy nor explicit record. However, he observes 

in the Democrats’ liberal base, the mood toward the caravan is positively sympathetic. The caravan’s slogan, “People without borders,” chimes with the rising sentiment among liberals that border-enforcement is inherently illegitimate, and usually racist, too.

Frum adds

The theory behind the caravans—this latest, and its smaller predecessors over the past 15 years—is that Central Americans have valid asylum claims in the United States because of the pervasive underemployment and gang-violence problems in their countries. If that claim is true, that is a claim shared not only among the thousands in the current caravan, but the millions back home. A 2013 Pew survey found that 58 percent of Salvadorans would move to the United States if they could. The seven countries of Central America together have a population of some 45 million, or about the same as Mexico’s back in 1970, when the mass migration from that nation began.

The fortuitous rise in the ratio of workers to job openings, which may boost wages, undermines one of the legitimate arguments against increased immigration. Nonetheless, it is having a perverse effect as

The strong US job market is again attracting low-wage workers. After a dip in 2017, illegal crossings of the southern border in 2018 have returned to their levels of 2016—and are running well ahead of 2015. If the thousands of people in the caravan successfully cross the border, lodge asylum claims, and are released into the U.S. interior pending adjudication, many more seem likely to follow.

Why wouldn’t they? More than 60 percent of the population of Honduras lives in poverty, according to the World Bank, and very nearly 60 percent do so in Guatemala. While rates of crime and violence have declined in both countries since 2014, they remain appalling by world standards.

The likely political consequences should be evident and are, at least to Frum, who recognizes

For Trump, the caravan represents a political opportunity. Here is exactly the kind of issue that excites more conservative Americans—and empowers him as their blustery, angry champion.

For Trump’s opponents, the caravan represents a trap. Has Trump’s radical nativism so counter-radicalized them that they have internalized the caravan message against any border enforcement at all? If yes, they will not help immigrants. They will only marginalize themselves—and American politics will follow the European path in which anti-immigration parties of the extreme right cannibalize the political center.

The images of thousands (or what appear to be thousands) of refugees- demonized by Trump as immigrants or terrorists- is potentially devastating to Democrats, and are repeatedly played on cable news.  (It doesn't help that they appear to look different than most Americans.)

Pointing out that immigrants have a lower crime rate than native-born Americans, work hard,  are not terrorists, are in Mexico rather than knocking on the door in Brownsville, Texas, or often speak English (which, revealingly, goes unmentioned) will not erase those images. Nor will references to a "nation of immigrants," the promise of the Statue of Liberty nor to Jesus welcoming strangers and refugees, the poor and the persecuted.

Democrats promptly should turn the issue around, arguing that deportations have declined since Donald Trump became President, people are still overstaying their visas, illegal immigrants are staying in the country longer, and caravans will become the norm with this guy's policies. In the short term, the least Democrats could do is to emphasize that Trump's policies are a failure in protecting the interests of Americans. In the long term, they need a simple and coherent, yet sensible, message.

Otherwise, as David Frum realizes, Republicans in the Trump era are going to present Americans with an either-or choice: vote for those of us who will defend Americans, or for the ones who will defend the other. And the demagogues do not intend to lose.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

However, He Does Dress Well

Van Jones always had it in him. He "resigned" as "green jobs czar" by President Obama, who was unwilling to take the heat from Republicans criticizing Jones.  Because it is the only sensible approach toward someone who won't defend you against his political enemies, Jones then became a huge supporter of, and surrogate for, Obama.

So he was in character when he interviewed in Ohio five members of a rural white family, three of whom voted twice for Obama but switched to Trump, one not old enough to vote until 2012 who switched from the Democrat to the Republican, and one who voted for Obama but passed on both Trump and Clinton. He was surprised to learn that they did not fit the stereotype of Trump supporters as being racist- they even denied it!

He brought them to the studio and gushed "you know, that was a life-changing thing for me and I just learned so much from it. It was a total stereotype shatterer" (sic). Really.

Consequently, it shouldn't have been surprising to read

Liberal CNN commentator Van Jones says he has no regrets over his praise for President Trump’s first address to Congress which landed him in hot water with the left.

Mr. Jones, a former President Obama adviser who now hosts “The Messy Truth” on CNN, sparked liberals’ ire last week after he said Mr. Trump’s honoring of a slain Navy SEAL during his Feb. 28 speech was “one of the most extraordinary moments” in American politics.

More than a week later and Mr. Jones still stands by his words, telling The Daily Beast that he was just being honest about how he felt “in the moment.”

“No, I don’t regret it, because it was honestly how I felt in that moment. My dad’s in the military and that moment where everybody in Congress stood up and applauded that widow, that really moved me,” he said. “And it moved a lot of people. I said, if he keeps doing stuff like this, he’s going to be there for eight years.

Jones would gush over Barack Obama, then was awed by Donald Trump. Therefore, we should not have been shocked when Jared Kushner came out of hiding in order to give an interview to,,, Van Jones.  Nor was it odd- albeit naive and unprofessional- when

“I want to start — how did you get this job?” he asked Kushner, who was seated rigidly in an oversize armchair. “I mean, you have, like, the dopest job in the world — the secretary of everything. Does it bug you when they call it secretary of everything?"

“Yes,” Kushner responded, with a small smile.

“You’re a business guy,” Jones went on. “How did you wind up in this position?”

It could be because Jared Kushner is husband to Donald Trump's favorite person beside himself.  Or it could be the cushy relationship between the Trump Organization and the Kushner Companies, or because Jared knows where some of the bodies are buried.

Jones was appropriately mocked online and responded in part "I really wanted to make sure that he was able to explain himself without having to defend himself on everything, because when you get somebody like that talking, sometimes, just let them talk."

Kushner should be allowed to talk, but then challenged if what he says is inaccurate or even at all controversial.  And he would have been, had his interviewer done a better job impersonating a journalist.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Trump's Plan

Donald Trump is warning people who plan to vote Democratic. But he also is warning all of us when he tweets
Eleven hours later, Paul Krugman responded  "If Democrats don't at least take the House, God help us. But even if they do, we'll be facing a nightmarish political scene. Republicans will claim that the election was stolen, and deny the majority's legitimacy."

Journalist Carl Bernstein said Sunday that President Trump has discussed ways to challenge the results of the midterm elections if the GOP's grasp on power slips.

During an appearance on CNN, Bernstein said his sources relayed this information to him on Friday, warning that Trump has talked about a disruption campaign if the results are close but have the Democrats taking control of the House or Senate.

"I talked to people ... in touch with the White House on Friday who believe that, if the congressional midterms are very close and the Democrats were to win by five or seven seats, that Trump is already talking about how to throw legal challenges into the courts, sow confusion, declare a victory actually, and say that the election's been illegitimate," Bernstein said after being asked if Trump's challenge to fraudulent voters was a form of voter suppression.

"That is really under discussion in the White House," he added.

Really, this is the least President Trump can do to support his party's state-by-state efforts to suppress the vote of individuals likely to pull the Democratic lever(s) though, as Krugman  recognizes, it will go beyond mere claims of fraud.

In Ohio, voters are disenfranchised if after not voting in two consecutive elections, they fail to return a notice warning them they will be purged from the rolls.

In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has virtually eliminated the right to vote of felons who have served their sentence.  

Mindful that many residents of Native American Indian tribe reservations have only a P.O. box, North Dakota has implemented a law requiring voters to present identification with a current street address. 

Georgia Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp has purged voter rolls of nearly three-quarters of a million people, and absentee ballots are being rejected on the flimsiest of grounds, including a trivial difference between the voter registration form and government documents- or the signature on the absentee ballot.   

Dodge City, Kansas, most of whose residents are Latino, has moved its one polling site outside of town, more than a mile from the nearest bus stop.

These are on top of voting restrictions in numerous states, nearly all of them Republican-controlled, implemented before 2018. (Note inclusion of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. That didn't work out so well for Hillary Clinton.)

In an obscene display of bothsiderism, the mainstream media dutifully reported GOP claims of "mob rule" when Eric Holder said "when they go low, we kick them."   But he was speaking especially of voter suppression and gerrymandering, both reducing the impact of minority voters. Donald Trump has now told us what he and his minions have in mind if the GOP doesn't retain control of both chambers.  Democrats need to be ready, kick back, and not aim for the shin.

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

No Thank You, Saturday Night Live

Six days ago, Bill Carter, a media analyst for CNN, noted that the Saturday Night Live takedown of Brett Kavanaugh starring Mat Damon failed to prevent Kavanaugh's approval because of its audience. Most of the program's viewers are on the left and already opposed to Kavanaugh and

Nothing SNL does is going to break through the counter-media of Fox News, where the prevailing entertainment culture is considered prejudiced and exclusionary, and so, dismissible. The laughs are impossible to hear over the ongoing dissonance.

Point well-taken, though there are two additional reasons:despite a credible job by Damon, the skit wasn't particularly funny, and Senator Collins had her mind made up at the jump.

Implicit in Carter's analysis is an assumption that the Saturday Night classic is scrupulously left-wing, and hence pro-Democratic.

But notwithstanding the political preferences of the actors, SNL did not damage candidate Donald Trump's (political) health. Recently, The Hill reported

Former “Saturday Night Live” actor Taran Killam said the show’s creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels told the cast to tone down criticism of then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and find ways to “make him likable.”

Killam was included on an episode of the “I Was There Too” podcast released Tuesday to discuss what it was like on the “SNL” set before the 2016 presidential election.

The comedian, who played Trump on the show before his departure in August of 2016, said that Michaels was “so specific” about what the NBC cast could say about Trump.

He recalled Michaels telling the cast not to “vilify him.”

“He’s like any New York taxi driver ... He just says whatever it is he’s thinking,” Killam recalled Michaels saying. “You have to find a way in that makes him likable.”

Trump was brought in as a guest host for the show in 2015, before the Republican primaries.

“One of the things I do respect about Lorne is he is a very good host to his guests,” Killam said on the podcast....

“I don't necessarily put so much weight into [the idea of] Trump hosting ‘SNL’ helping him become president, but there's definitely something where it normalizes him and it makes it OK for him to be part of the conversation,” Killam told NPR in the interview.

(The video below is from one year ago, with emphasis not on making Trump likable but on giving him the opportunity to host one program.)

Back in September, 2006, when we hoped Saturday Night Live would help destroy Trump as it did Sarah Palin, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri observed

Saturday Night Live’ will certainly matter from now until the election a great deal.

“It’s among the things I can’t control,” Palmieri said with a hearty laugh. “‘Saturday Night Live’ — among the things I can’t control.”

That turned out to be quite prescient because Lorne Michaels was the only one who could control Saturday Night Live. He did, and with his assistance we got President Donald J. Trump.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Made For Each Other

Blogger Spocko recognizes that the most ardent supporters at Trump rallies cannot be shamed because they have little sense of shame. However

the Trump advance team only puts real supporters behind him so now is the time to name them.

The people who let out their inner misogyny, bigotry, racism and sexism when supporting Trump's comments need to be named now when Trump appears to be winning. Because soon Trump and the views he expresses will experience a huge setback.  The excuse "we won, so it doesn't matter" will no longer provide an excuse.

We know that the excuse will be used. A similar one is popular nowadays among (the few) individuals who have had second thoughts about Trump now that he has misbehaved as President, conveniently claiming that they didn't like Trump but voted for him only because of "Hillary."   (In most cases, that is, in the true sense of the word, unbelievable.)

Moreover, Spocko realizes

Trump's goal is to link winning with his misogynist views. Because greed is his driving force, he also wants people who agree with his views on women, business, and truth to believe it will MAKE them money. (This is why he hid his father's constant influx of cash to shore up his massive business failures.)

He also wants people who agree with him.... to believe it will make them money.   It's no coincidence that President Trump's personal pastor is Paula White, queen of the prosperity gospel, who gave the invocation at Trump's inauguration.

That would be the Paula White who has been married thrice and declared bankruptcy once, under suspicious circumstances. Paula White, a heretic, con woman, hustler, and high school graduate who has been ordained by no one and is best 

known for her controversial strand of Christianity known as the prosperity gospel, advocates of which teach that living as a faithful Christian will result in not only eternal life but also abundance of material wealth on earth. White said in a 2007 televised event, “Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan.”

But such views are controversial among many Christians, particularly given the instruction by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

"Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe," tweeted Russell Moore, orthodox Christian and president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, in June of 2016.

Believe the right things and give to her empire, Paula White preaches, and God will recognize you as holy while material blessings flow to you.   On the cover of White's 2009 book "Dare to Dream," the future President wrote "read this, and you'll be ready for great success."   One of the greatest practitioners of the Prosperity Gospel hustle, Paula White taught Donald Trump welI, and he is working the con on his supporters, hidden but in plain sight.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

More Than Face Value

Earlier this month, CNN reported

"In their quest for power, the radical Democrats have turned into an angry mob," Trump said at a rally in Topeka, Kansas, on Saturday. "You saw that today with the screaming and the shouting, not from the 200 people or less -- you know what? Those people, they couldn't fit in the front row."

"You don't hand matches to an arsonist, and you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob," he added. "That's what they have become. The Democrats have become too extreme and too dangerous to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law, not the rule of the mob."

Major Senate Republican snowflakes joined in the cry, with former presidential candidate Marco Rubio, Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch, Judiciary Committee chairperson Charles Grassley, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell themselves all decrying "mobs."

That was one or two days before a Trump rally in Iowa in which supporters chanted "lock her up" at the mention of Senator Dianne Feinstein's name. (Iowa is one of those states whose lovely voters, we're told, were smart enough to vote for Barack Obama and against Hillary Clinton.)

Then in Missoula, Montana Thursday evening, Trump declared

But (Representative) Greg (Gianforte) is great- and never wrestle him. You understand? Never. Any guy that can do a body-slam- he's my kind of guy.

I shouldn't say that because- there's nothing to be embarrassed about...

I had heard that he he body-slammed a reporter and he was way up. He was way up and I said "oh, that was the day of the election or two days before- and I said "oh, this is terrible, he is going to lose the election." And I said "wait a minute. I know Montana pretty well and it might help him." And it did.

The obvious (and accurate) takeaway is that President Trump is encouraging violent attacks upon the media, particularly revolting after the Saudis evidently murdered a journalist, a legal resident of the USA whom Trump criticized as not "a citizen of this country, for one thing."

But... wait. Trump did not deny that Gianforte had committed an illegal act nor justified the behavior. He stated that he believed Montanans would reject a body-slamming congressional candidate. Then, he acknowledged, they did not.

It was a subtle- admittedly, very subtle- dig at Montana voters.  The guy assaulted someone,Trump believed voters would reject the assailant, but voila! They don't, and he is elected.

This obviously isn't the most dangerous aspect of a statement meant to encourage violence, and particularly against reporters, by a man who has consistently condemned the press and encouraged violence. However, it is another example of how master magician Donald Trump criticizes or ridicules a group- Christian evangelicals and military veterans, most notably- who proceed to give him their undying support.  "My New Order" did not go unread.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Daring Us To See Through Him

He doesn't need "to try a bit more." Otherwise, Joe Scarborough nailed it when sidekick Willie Geist stated Thursday morning, "so Joe, it was pretty clear what the president said. He said if we win, it was me. If we lose, it wasn't.

The "Joe" in "Morning Joe" replied

It's in the transcript. I mean, he's not even trying anymore. Look at the Saudi bill- he tells his own people repeatedly during the campaign rallies "oh, I made hundred of millions of dollars from the Saudis. I got so rich off the Saudis." 

And then he talks to poor Jonathan Lemire- I feel so sorry for him because he didn't get any sleep last night watching the Red Sox. And then- it's in the transcript! And he thinks the next day he can say "fake news" and the people who support him are so stupid and so dumb and it's insulting to them that he thinks that they can't just read the transcript and see that he's lying through his teeth. He really- he really needs to try a bit more. At this point, it's just become embarrassing.

Donald Trump doesn't have to step up, because it worked so well for him that he became President. During the primary campaign, he spoke of "my little wine and my little cracker." He never has asked God for forgiveness, he boasted, and once referred to "Second Corinthians," which any Sunday School student could tell him is wrong.

Asked whether he preferred the Old or New Testament, he replied "probably equal" instead of "neither more than the other, they're both the word of God" or "the old Testament conceals, the New Testament reveals" God's greatness, or glory, or love for mankind. It's simple, biblically sound, and relatively inoffensive.

He refused to admit to a favorite Biblical passage, instead of saying merely "John 3:16" (for God so loved the world....), which every football fan over the age of 30 has at least once seen on a banner at a game.

He didn't even try- yet was elected President. Avoiding a sexually-transmitted disease in the 1990s, he bragged was "like Vietnam, sort of. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave solider." Trivializing combat, he would have been expected to offend veterans in a nation with people telling soldiers and veterans "thank you for your service." Yet, he defeated Hillary Clinton by 2 to 1 among veterans. His remark, never retracted or even clarified, might have offended Christians also, but evidently many admire Trump, who knew what he wanted what he wanted from women, and got it. A winner.

Donald Trump's supporters aren't especially stupid or dumb, though many lack self-respect. But as Scarborough suggested, Trump believes they are stupid or dumb, once having declared "I love the poorly educated." 

And so President Trump does not have "to try a bit more" to appear honest.  Few of his supporters value honesty or integrity, and he can go on brazenly lying, boasting, or offending people, all the while amazed that they haven't caught on to him.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Public Relations Coup In The Making

Stop it. Stop it right now.

The Washington Post's Kristian Coates Ulrichsen starts strong with "The unexplained disappearance and presumed killing of Jamal Khashoggi brings attention to the security crackdown in Saudi Arabia since Mohammed bin Salman (“MBS”) became crown prince in June 2017. "

But then she refers to "The ruling circle around MBS"  and the "roundup of dozens of influential business executives and ruling-family members by MBS."  She notes "Khashoggi’s presence in Washington represented a credible counter to the image presented by MBS."  However, "The entourage around the prince invested heavily in burnishing MBS’s credentials with the Trump White House as it took office"

We learn about both "the war in Yemen and the blockade of Qatar, both associated closely with MBS," as well as "the time of mounting questioning of MBS’s approach to domestic and international policymaking." Ulrichsen speaks of the slow "buildup of opposition to MBS’s many other mistimed ventures" and "the pressure on Saudi Arabia and MBS, in particular."

Further, "the White House’s closeness to MBS has been controversial as the crown prince has made one mistake after another and has delivered little result" while "King Salman bin Abdul Aziz overrode MBS," sympathetic to the Israeli cause.

That would be eight(8) references to "MBS." Distressingly, however, Ulrichsen is not alone. David Ignatius' piece in The Washington Post entitled "MBS's rampaging anger will not silencequestions about Jamal Khashoggi" included one reference to "Mohammed bin Salman" and 15 to "MBS." There are two reference to "Mohammed bin Salman" and nine(9)-beyond the headline- to "MBS" in the Columbia Journalism Review's "Reexamining coverage of MBS after Khashoggi's disappearance."

There is even Malcolm Nance(!), who tweeted
Continually referring to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia as "MBS" can soften his image and turn him into an appealing fellow.

The most popular set of initials in the USA is arguably "LBJ," usaually a reference not to the 36th President but to inarguably the greatest player in the NBA, arguably the best player of his generation, and probably one of the three greatest hoopsters ever.

LeBron James is referred to as "LBJ" because he is, well, LeBron James. He neither ordered, nor acquiesced in, the murder of a Saudi journalist and legal resident of the United States. He does not preside over an Islamist dictatorship, nor has he unleashed a powerful bombing campaign slaughtering Yemeni civilians (video from 4/18).

Allowing LeBron James to become"LBJ" has done little damage other than possibly skewing results of the tired talk-radio question "who was better- LeBron James or Michael Jordan? (the correct answer: "Wilt Chamberlain").  But reshaping the image of a mass murderer by changing Mohammed bin Salman into MBS may do so.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Crooked Baby

In a battle- rather, a minor skirmish among apparent allies- there are slightly competing explanations for President Trump's cave-in to the Saudis over the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi:

I think we must add the adjective "Saudi-enriched" https://t.co/hgFMNwqXMZ

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) October 14, 2018

The law of parsimony, or at least Will Bunch, suggests that Abramson is correct. Bunch links us to an article he wrote five months ago in which he explained

Trump stunned his own foreign policy team— including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis — when he tweeted that Qatar is a sponsor of terrorism and seemingly endorsed an economic and political blockage of the tiny, oil-rich nation organized and led by two powerful neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or UAE.

A few months later, people who suspect the worst about Trump and his minions learned a possible motive that was almost too cynical to comprehend. Not long before Team Trump switched gears on Qatar, key officials from the emirate had met with Charles Kushner — father of Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared, who's in charge of Trump's Middle East portfolio — to discuss a massive Qatar-funded bailout of 666 Fifth Ave., the debt-laden Manhattan skyscraper that was threatening to sink the Kushner family real estate empire. But the Qataris rejected the deal — just weeks before the policy about-face. Whatever actually happened, the appearance was simply awful.

It also seems not to have been the full story. This weekend, the New York Times published a stunning report about a plan floated by a longtime emissary for the Saudis and the UAE in early August 2016, when Trump had just grabbed the GOP nomination but faced an uphill campaign against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., aide Stephen Miller and Erik Prince, founder of the notorious mercenary outfit once know as Blackwater, listened intently as the emissary offered Team Trump millions of dollars in assistance, including a covert social-media campaign, to help Trump win that would be run by a former Israeli spy who specializes in psychological warfare, or psywar.

And then there is this:
Well, o.k. However, in the interview conducted on Thursday (broadcast on Sunday) by CBS' Lesley Stahl, the President was asked why he says he "fell in love" with Kim Jong-un, Trump replied. "Sure. I know all these things. I mean- I'm not a baby."

Asked what his "biggest surprise" has been as president, Trump responded. "Okay. So I always used to say the toughest people are Manhattan real estate guys and blah, blah. Now I say they're babies."  To a follow-up question, he remarked "They're babies, the political people."Asked whether like his wife he distrusts some people in the White House, Trump replied "I think I'm guarded anyway. But I'm not saying I trust everybody in the White House. I'm not a baby. It's a tough business."

I'm not a baby... Now i say they're babies.... They're babies, the political people.... I'm not a baby.

If Donald J. Trump is not a baby, he is something very close.  Though holding few if any cards in any confrontation, Riyadh threatened to retaliate against the USA if it responds to Khashoggi's murder.  The President, going beyond the Kingdom's suggestion that it may have been a kidnapping attempt that got out of hand, then suggested the possibility of "rogue killers."

A bully, Trump is a guy who is easily rolled. And that makes it difficult, despite the considerable evidence that Donald Trump is selling out to the Saudis for his family's financial gain, to discount an additional motivation. He is a baby who is letting pipsqueaks threaten the USA. This is not only an extremely greedy individual, but one who asserted "you're fired" enough that it was long before the realization sank in that the baby himself very easily intimidated.

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An American, Technically

The Daily Beast notes Justice Samuel Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann, once again unwitting made herself the internet’s Main Character on Tuesda...