Saturday, September 30, 2023

Religious Fraud- Or a Cultist



In Acts 7:32 (ESV) of the New Testament, Stephen explains that at the burning bush, God notified Moses "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look."

Sad (not surprising) to say, Tulsi Gabbard's followers on Twitter/X seem unaware this probably is not who the former US Representative from Hawaii, now a political Independent, is referring to:

 

The first Samoan and Hindu member of the United States Congress was raised in an offshoot, headed by a Chris Butler, of the Hare Krishna movement.  The Science in Identity Foundation appears to hold Hindu beliefs with a dose of extreme anti-gay, anti-Muslim sentiment. Raised by a Catholic father and Hindu mother

Gabbard has described her experience growing up in the group as one that was seemingly positive, some other ex-members have described themselves as survivors of a cult.

"I was raised to believe Chris Butler was God's voice on earth, and if you questioned him or offended him in any way, you were effectively offending God," someone who identifies as a former member of the SIF wrote in a 2017 Medium post. "Questioning the leader was spiritual suicide, which was seen as worse than death."

Another former member told New York Magazine that Butler was vulgar and vindictive, excoriating people for small slip-ups like driving poorly or failing to clean water cups properly.

The congresswoman has cited  "my gratitude to (Butler), for the gift of this wonderful spiritual practice that he has given to me and to so many people." However

Gabbard has often downplayed the influence of Butler, telling the New Yorker that she has "had many different spiritual teachers, and continue[s] to." But she acknowledged that he had shaped her Hindu identity, referring to him as her "guru dev," or spiritual guide. Gabbard also told the New York Times in 2019 that Butler and his work still guide her.

The guru dev brooks no criticism and is described by former members as controlling the members of a cult but

Butler has denied these claims, and Gabbard told the New Yorker that these experiences didn't chalk up to her own: "I've never heard him say anything hateful, or say anything mean about anybody," Gabbard said. "I can speak to my own personal experience and, frankly, my gratitude to him, for the gift of this wonderful spiritual practice that he has given to me, and to so many people."

A year ago, Tulsi's aunt, a retired University of Hawaii English professor, told The Independent 

Once again I find my niece’s apparent penchant for parroting extremist toadies such as Tucker Carlson and vile ‘strongmen’ such as Vladimir Putin, to be problematic and deeply troubling.... It gives me no pleasure to ​note that Tulsi’s single governing principle seems to be expedience, which is in effect no principle at all.

The snide smile sported by Gabbard at the 1:00 mark of the tweeted video supports Caroline Sinavaiana Gabbard's opinion that her niece is guided by expedience rather than faith. Or perhaps Gabbard, as a Hindu, believes in the religion's many deities, a theological belief contrasting sharply with the monotheism of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. 

We may never know, though.  All a public figure needs to do to get a free pass is to say "God" (or perhaps "god") as the media shrinks from its responsibility to ask for clarification. But Tulsi Gabbard, who once substituted for Tucker Carlson on Fox News and is a critic of the Democratic Party she once belonged to, is still a player, slightly diminished. When an individual cites God in promoting a political agenda, especially one legitimately considered hateful, her remarks should not be taken at face value.

 


Thursday, September 28, 2023

Advocates for Donald Trump



It really is quite extraordinary- not surprising, but extraordinary. On Monday, Brian Klaas of The Atlantic wrote

Late Friday night, the former president of the United States—and a leading candidate to be the next president—insinuated that America’s top general deserves to be put to death.

That extraordinary sentence would be unthinkable in any other rich democracy. But Donald Trump, on his social-media network, Truth Social, wrote that Mark Milley’s phone call to reassure China in the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was “an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH.” (The phone call was, in fact, explicitly authorized by Trump-administration officials.) Trump’s threats against Milley came after The Atlantic’s publication of a profile of Milley, by this magazine’s editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg, who detailed the ways in which Milley attempted to protect the Constitution from Trump....

Trump loves to hide behind the thin veneer of plausible deniability, but he knows exactly what he’s doing. If a mob boss were to say, “In times gone by, people like you would have had their legs broken,” nobody would mistake that for a historical observation. The suggestion is clear, and it comes from a man who has one of America’s loudest megaphones—one that is directed squarely at millions of extremists who are well armed, who insist that the government is illegitimate, and who believe that people like Milley are part of a “deep state” plot against the country.

Noting that a member of the House of Representatives has echoed Trump's wish with “in a better society, quislings like the strange sodomy-promoting General Milley would be hung," Klaas' primary concern is political violence, a growing likelihood in the USA.

That possibility is serious enough but would not even be the most devastating outcome of Trump's threats. In the past week, the ex-President has encouraged assassination of a general and has denounced a major media company, which he said "should be investigated for its 'Country Threatening Treason." Attacking the 2020 election, last December he posted  "A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

The wish list thus includes termination of military officers performing their duty, media which questions him, and the entire framework of the rule of law, including the Constitution. It's clear Donald J. Trump intends to corral the military and all law enforcement as the next President, and it's not to maintain a democratic republic.

Then on Wednesday evening, several Republican candidates for President participated in a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, and Ron DeSantis criticized the leading candidate, Donald J. Trump, for not showing up.  Christie further knocked the ex-President for running up the national debt and cozying up to Vladimir Putin, as he maintained Presidents Biden, Obama, and GW Bush had done. Haley knocked her ex-boss for largely ignoring the threat posed by China.

Seven candidates, fewer than half would criticize Donald Trump for not joining them on stage, two for a policy issue, and none for supporting totalitarianism.

Then it got worse. At evening's end, Dana Perino would ask what seemed like a silly question, but for which the response was telling:

And candidates, it’s now obvious that if you all stay, in the race, former President Donald Trump wins the nomination. None of you have indicated that you’re dropping out. So, which one of you, on stage, tonight, should be voted off the island?  Please use your marker, to write your choice, on the notepad, in front of you. 15 seconds, starting now. Of the people on the stage, who should be voted —



They are competing for a presidential nomination. Thus far, the leading candidate has refused to show them the courtesy or respect by engaging in debate. He obviously is taking both them and the voters for granted.

Perino gave the candidates an opportunity to say that in so doing Donald Trump had forfeited his right to be the nominee of their party, or at least that he should step aside for one of the worthy candidates.

Only Christie offered up Trump. Two (Pence, Burgum) said nothing while four of their colleagues explicitly ruled out answering the question. 

Six of the seven thereby either actively or passively defended their main rival by implying that he should remain in the race. At a (bare) minimum, they could have said, "any candidate who doesn't respect Republican voters should not be the nominee." They wouldn't even have had to utter the name "Trump."

Their rival has been indicted four times, including for encouraging a coup against the government of the United States of America and for purloining top secret documents, even ones disclosing nuclear secrets and plans for possible military action against an enemy. That individual now has given the thumbs up to assassinating a general, closing down a media company not subservient to him, and terminating the Constitution.

MAGA this, MAGA that. By contrast, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and Tim Scott all are part of the non-chaos wing of the Republican Party, which much of the media ignorantly characterize as "moderate." And all but one of those, a guy who hates unions, teachers, and reproductive care for women, appear perfectly fine with Donald J. Trump becoming the 47th President of the USA.

Bring him on! Four more years! Trump for President, cry GOP voters- and the candidates for President. If I didn't know any better, I'd think it's one political party alone responsible for polarization of the nation.

 


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Fallen Angel


Cory Booker has joined the growing chorus of New Jersey public officials who have called for the resignation of the state's senior Senator, Robert Menendez.


There must be two (2) men named Cory Booker in New Jersey politics because shortly before an eight-count indictment was handed down for Senator Menendez in 2015

Mr. Booker held up a different New Jersey politician as a paradigm of civic virtue: Robert Menendez, the state’s senior senator.

“I knew him well when I was a mayor, because every time Newark needed something, he would show up — sort of like a superhero,” Mr. Booker told a select audience at a breakfast hosted by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on March 25, about a week before Mr. Menendez, a fellow Democrat, was indicted on bribery charges.

Describing the “respect and reverence” he felt for his colleague, Mr. Booker hailed Mr. Menendez as “one of the greatest advocates for justice on the planet Earth.”

A scant three years later, all had been forgiven, if not forgotten, because

Every major Democratic power broker in the state quickly endorsed Mr. Menendez for re-election in 2018: Philip D. Murphy, the governor-elect; Senator Cory Booker; Stephen M. Sweeney, the senate president; Craig Coughlin, the incoming speaker of the State Assembly; George E. Norcross, an influential political leader in southern New Jersey; and the county chairs in northern Democratic strongholds such as Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Essex and Middlesex.

There was, however, one individual who challenged Menendez in the party's primary that June, Lisa McCormick, a virtual unknown who did not report spending any money on the race, received the support of almost 4 in 10 Democratic voters.

While Menendez, D-N.J., was never seriously threatened with losing his party's nomination for another Senate term, his performance wasn't a good sign coming on the heels of his Senate Ethics Committee admonishment and a criminal corruption trial that ended in a hung jury before the charges were dropped.



Once it was clear Menendez would be seeking re-election in 2018, the old boy network swung into action and everyone fell into line. Six years later, society has changed and it need not be a boy (man) and most Democrats would prefer someone reasonably young.

But it's the same idea, a refusal to challenge an incumbent because he or she is an incumbent.  They don't meet in smoke-filled rooms anymore but Democratic officials could have found any one of a number of legitimate individuals to run against Bob Menendez. 

Now they have found their beer muscles. Democratic U.S. Representative Andy Kim, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2018, has announced that he will run for the seat. With Democrats jumping ship on Menendez, the party has de facto announced that challenges to the incumbent are welcomed. In the unlikely event he actually does survive to run for a fourth full term, Menendez would be defeated in a primary.

The Democratic Party is thereby missing an opportunity to leverage to its advantage the corruption charges against the Senator. They could stand united, recommending that Senator Menendez agree in writing that he will resign- at the same hour of the same day that Clarence Thomas resigns.

Of course, the GOP would reject this arrangement. Still, it would give Democrats an opportunity to switch the narrative, diverting attention to the far more grave accusations against a far more important figure, a United States Supreme Court Justice.

And of course, Democrats wouldn't consider doing this. Turning the tables on Republican wrongdoing when they can more easily adopt virtue signaling would be against their religion of turning on one of their currently disfavored own. Fingers held in air, they have determined which way the wind blows, just as they did when they gave full-throated support to their colleague in his last re-election bid. Wind direction has shifted, and so have their principles. Menendez is reminiscent of the snake who noted "now you knew darn well I was a snake before you brought me in."

In 2015, Robert Menendez not only was acceptable, he was "one of the greatest advocates for justice on planet Earth," high praise from a powerful, black public servant. In 2023, he would be thrown under the bus- were there still room under that metaphorical bus, where lay the likes of Al Franken, Anthony Weiner, and Van Jones.



 



Monday, September 25, 2023

Right, As Usual



The Mueller report explicitly chose not to exonerate Donald Trump for anything, did not find anything approximating a "hoax, neither the Inspector General nor Mueller "rubbished" the Steele dossier, and if Miranda Devine believes that a presidential candidate warning the nation of the threat from Russia "put us through hell," she has a rather limited perspective on hell.


— Miranda Devine (@mirandadevine) September 25, 2023

 

John Durham's probe into the FBI investigation into a possible connection between the Trump campaign and Russia produced no evidence of what Trump had called the "crime of the century." Ken Starr's investigation of the sex habits of Democratic president Bill Clinton's sex habits cost $52 million. 

And yet in July of 2018

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges twelve Russian nationals for committing federal crimes that were intended to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. All twelve defendants are members of the GRU, a Russian Federation intelligence agency within the Main Intelligence Directorate of  the Russian military. These GRU officers, in their official capacities, engaged in a sustained effort to hack into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, and released that information on the internet under the names "DCLeaks" and "Guccifer 2.0" and through another entity

Hillary Clinton tells Jen Psaki

That is his modus operandi in the sense that he hates democracy, he hates the West, and he particularly hates us and he has determined that can do two things simultaneously. He can try to continue to damage and divide us internally and he's quite good at it and sadly he has a lot of apologists and enablers in our own country, people who either don't see the dangers or dismiss it out of hand and/or maybe agree with some of the position he's taken on certain things, including his barbaric invasion of Ukraine. So, dividing us and then trying to seize territory in such a brutal way to try to expand his reach, to try to restore the Russian empire, if not the former Soviet Union, that is who he is.

I've said that for years. Part of why he worked so hard against me he didn't think he wanted me in the White House and part of where we are....

She has said it for years, and Vladimir Putin had good reason to help prevent the former Secretary of State from being elected. Five days before the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reported

In one of her last acts as secretary of state in early 2013, Hillary Clinton wrote a confidential memo to the White House on how to handle Vladimir Putin, the aggressive and newly reinstalled Russian president. Her bluntly worded advice: Snub him.

"Don't appear too eager to work together," Clinton urged President Obama, according to her recollection of the note in her 2014 memoir. "Don't flatter Putin with high-level attention. Decline his invitation for a presidential summit."

It was harsh advice coming from the administration’s top diplomat, and Obama would ignore key parts of it. But the memo succinctly captured a personal view about Putin on the part of the future Democratic presidential nominee: a deep skepticism, informed by bitter experience, that will be likely to define U.S.-Russian relations if Clinton is elected. Her lasting conclusion, as she would acknowledge, was that “strength and resolve were the only language Putin would understand.”….

Clifford Kupchan, chairperson of consulting firm Eurasia Group and Russia expert who attended private meetings with Vladimir Putin while Clinton was Secretary of State, stated "It may well be useful that she has a tough image. Mrs. Clinton has been through the same journey that a lot of us have gone through on Russia, which is dashed hopes" and "she doesn't wear deeply tinted sunglasses of any kind."

The NATO alliance, which President Trump had attempted to scuttle, has rallied to President Biden's call for a united front against the Russian attack on Ukraine. By contrast, Biden's immediate predecessor in March of 2022 had attributed the invasion two-and-a-half weeks earlier to "a lot of love" on the part of the Russian president. The invasion may have been deterred, making the leadership of our 56th President unnecessary, had Hillary Clinton, who warned Obama about Putin, not lost to Donald Trump, who would have only encouraged and supported Vladimir Putin's territorial ambition. But her emails!

 


Saturday, September 23, 2023

Brilliantly Reprehensible



Easy answer(s): no, and yes..

Senator Fetterman has accepted the accommodations the US Senate has, as it should, made to enable him to function fully as a Senator after the stroke he suffered when running for the seat. He deserves, and has deserved, a chance. However, his stroke was not a choice; his wardrobe is a choice.  

For those living under a rock, The New York Times helpfully explains

The recent decision by Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, to relax the Senate’s informal dress code and allow members to enter the chamber in casual attire, or even gym clothes, has set off waves of consternation and cries of dismay in the stuffy upper chamber. Many senators, mostly Republicans, have publicly expressed concerns along the same lines as Mr. Vance’s, and privately have said that the change could harm America’s standing on the international stage....

The new rules, which direct the sergeant-at-arms to no longer enforce the longstanding dress code for members, appear to have been changed mainly to accommodate Mr. Fetterman. Since returning to the Senate after being hospitalized for depression, Mr. Fetterman has refused to squeeze his hulking, 6-foot-8 frame into a suit, navigating the Capitol instead in airy basketball shorts and oversized sweatshirts. The rule change will now allow him to enter the chamber, and even preside over it, in his preferred state of dishevelment, which doubles as a way to signal his blue-collar, outsider status.

Kudos to Mr. Fetterman, who understands the tenor of the times, similarly to Volodmyr Zelenskyy, who showed up at the United Nations while dressed casually to suggest a military man of the people, in the trenches with the soldiers he commands.  As Fetterman no doubt understands, he himself is projecting an image of an auto mechanic in Sheboygan or, better yet for his career, Stroudsburg, Pa.

Fetterman is handling his personal trait of laziness and slovenliness quite effectively, with humor and without a defense of his behavior. (In the words of a famous con man, "if you're explaining, you're losing.")  The Times noted

“Thankfully, the nation’s lower chamber lives by a higher code of conduct: displaying ding-a-ling pics in a public hearing,” Mr. Fetterman replied, referencing Ms. (Marjorie Taylor) Greene’s move during a recent House committee hearing to display oversized nude photos of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, engaged in sex acts. 

And in a stroke of genius, the Pennsylvania senator tweeted (X'ed out?) to his colleagues a challenge they cannot accept when he remarked "If those jagoffs in the House stop tryng to shut our government down, and fully support Ukraine, then I will save democracy by wearing a suit on the Senate floor next week." The combination of sound policy, sarcasm, and salty language from the elementary school playground wins the day.

Fetterman isn't dressing casually because, whatever he might suggest, he believes the issues of the day are far more important than clothing. He is making a conscious choice to dress down to make a statement. Recognizing the mood of the American people, he is giving a middle finger to the Majority Leader, tradition, mores, and the notion that dressing respectably in formal, important situations (such as the Senate floor) conveys respect for colleagues and the people one represents.

It would be better if Chuck Schumer had the courage to eliminate the dress code, rather than expecting the responsible members of the chamber to adhere to a non-code code while a few others let their freak flags fly. It would be even better if the Majority Leader were to relax the rules for everyone working in the Senate rather than merely for the elite 100.  The last word goes to Senator Sherrod Brown, who understands that genuine populism is more- different than, really- than virtue signaling with something as superficial as clothing.  Recognizing that the change in enforcement won't affect Senate staffers, the Ohio Democrat stated "if we are allowed to dress casually, they should be allowed to dress casually. To me, it's a dignity of work issue."



Thursday, September 21, 2023

Tourists at the Capitol


Victoria Kulheyko immigrated to the USA from Ukraine when she was 21 years of age. She married Jason Spartz, became a businesswoman, then a GOP state legislator in Indiana, then a member of the United States House of Representatives from that state. She may not be acquainted with the term "jump the shark" but accomplished it by stating

You have in my district, in my town, FBI phone numbers all over the district- "please call," call them. People are truly afraid. I just want to make sure if you're not aware, you are- and this a big problem- then people are afraid of their own government.... it's like KGB.

It shouldn't be necessary to explain to someone who spent the first few years of her life in the Ukraine before it became Ukraine that

With the Communist Party and the army, the KGB formed the triad of power that ruled the Soviet Union. The KGB played a particularly important role in Soviet foreign policy. Foreign intelligence allowed the Soviet Union to maintain rough parity with the West in nuclear weapons and other weapons systems. Inside the country, however, the role of the KGB was baleful. Scholars disagree about the human cost of the KGB and its predecessors, but many estimate that they were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people.

When the Federal Bureau of Investigation becomes responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people... or millions of people.... or a hundred thousand people.... or- well, you know where this is going.

Further, as a sentient human being, Spartz should be aware that there is nothing unusual about a law enforcement agency attempting to gather information about a crime by seeking the public's help in tracking down individuals who may have been involved in the offense(s). It should not disturb a member of the US House of Representatives if the FBI is asking members of the community to call the agency if they know of someone who was involved in a coup against the government.

This is done all the time by local and state police forces. Coming as she did from that part of the world, the congresswoman may not fully understand that in the USA, oppressive police tactics are much more common among state and local police (see Chauvin, Derek) than in the FBI. Every day in the USA, apart from the more common responsible and respectful police, there are excessive acts of force committed by local forces. Neither Spartz nor the Republican Party, 3+ years out from the George Floyd protests. has seemed particularly concerned about this, yet are periodically apoplectic about the FBI. And putting up phone numbers at which the FBI can be contacted is similar to the reasonable tactics of law enforcement everywhere.

And then Hunter Biden and Hillary Clinton because, of course. Prior to that, Spartz had claimed

There were some people who came January 6th. There probably were some people that came on January 6 here and you know what, had bad intent but a lot of good Americans from my district came here because they are sick and tired of this government observing them. They came with strollers and the kids and there was chaotic situation because proper security wasn't provided.

 

Videos from January 6, 2021 showed few individuals with strollers, and good for the right-wingers wise enough to keep babies and toddlers away from a gathering which possessed the potential to turn into a riot. However, "there probably were some people that came on January 6 here and you know what, had bad intent but a lot of good Americans from my district came here" was reminiscent of an infamous moment in recent American history.

In August of 2017, approximately a month after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump remarked "you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides."  Trump claimed that the very fine people in the rally were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and renaming of a park, which had been named in honor of the Confederate general- someone who had fought valiantly to maintain the institution of slavery. Oh, so fine.

The individuals charged by the Justice Department for January 6 were violent and/or "parading or demonstrating in a Capitol building," the latter treated as misdemeanors and invariably resulting in a non-custodial sentence. Those who were sentenced to prison were charged with a crime and, if found guilty, would  in any other context, be condemned by conservatives as criminals or "thugs." But those breaking the law on January 6 were, in many instances, defended as "good Americans." 

Victor Spartz is no Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, or Matt Gaetz. She is, therein, evidence of the sewer the brunt of the Republican Party has crawled into.



Tuesday, September 19, 2023

If Those Are "Pro-American Values," We're In a Lot of Trouble



With a straight, even smiling, face, Vivek (rhymes with "fake") Ramaswamy says for the camera

Chris, I know you went to Penn State and know what? You might be part of a different political party but forget about the partisan affiliation. Stand for pro-American values. Answer what it means to be an American.

If you share the same American values, we're on the same team. Leave the rest to details. But the same values? That's what makes us American.


 

Actually, the dividing line in the USA is between, well, not rich and poor but between the rich and the rest of us.  As of three years ago (when the gap probably was smaller than now), the richest 1% of Americans possessed 30.4% of all household wealth in the nation while the bottom 50% held 1.9% of all wealth. Of course, the top 20% held a much greater percentage of the wealth than a mere 30.4%.

Of course, right-wing libertarian Ramaswamy would only be delighted to hear those numbers. However, he would claim that he adores "pro-American values." 

These values might include the rule of law, equal protection under the law, and a preference for democracy. 

Ramaswamy promises as President he would pardon all "non-violent" offenders arrested after the insurrection on January 6, 2021 to overthrow the Us government. Though it is unclear how he would define "non-violent," it appears that he would include many defendants who stormed the U.S. Capitol after overwhelming law enforcement officers, whether they were among those who helped erect a gallows and cheered "kill Mike Pence."

The candidate also vows to pardon- "on day one"- without verdict by a jury, the ex-President who has been indicted four times. If federal, New York City, and Fulton County, Ga. grand juries have it right, Donald J. Trump has done such things as falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments; worked to overthrow illegally the results of the 2020 presidential election; willfully retained national defense documents and obstructed justice in concealing retention of those documents. But Vivek Ramaswamy wants to give the defendant a free pass, with or without evidence being presented to a jury of the defendant's peers.

And so Ramaswamy has declared "Donald Trump, I believe, was the best president of the 20th century." The candidate is doubtless aware that his hero:

- wouldn't attend a memorial in France for U.S. soldiers and others killed during World War I because of rain

- asked generals to throw him an opulent parade for Independence Day, 2022 while adding "look, I don't want any wounded guys in the parade" because "this doesn't look good for me";

-  pressured the Saudis to cut oil production, with the intended effect of raising oil prices for American consumers;

- on his way out the door; stole from the White House documents of the highest, "top secret" classification, pertaining to "defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for a possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack

- downplayed at least 50 times the impact of a coronavirus while in early 2019 privately informing a journalist that SARS-CoV-2 was a far greater threat than anyone knew

And those are only a few of President Trump's greatest hits while in office.  Who can forget his criticism of John McCain because "he's a war hero 'cause he was captured. I like people that weren't caputured, O.K.?" (Can you sense a pattern here?)  And there was one of my favorites, which captures Trump's "pro-American values" better than almost anything he ever said or did:


 



This isn't even considering the history of lies and misleading statements- evidently a pro-American value, according to Vivek Ramaswamy- which characterize the former President's political career. It's those "pro-American values" which, it appears clear, mean as much to Ramaswamy as do "family values" to various Republican politicians.


Monday, September 18, 2023

Blame NBC



The interview by Kristen Welker of NBC News' Meet the Press of former President Donald J. Trump has been held, edited, and broadcast, and thankfully we are done with that. Not thankfully, we are not done with with Kristen Welker or her network's behavior.

In an example of "I'll hit you over the head with reality, and you still won't acknowledge it," Welker ended the broadcast by stating

Before we go, I want to take a moment to thank you, our viewers. It is an incredible honor to be sitting in this chair, and I feel the huge responsibility it carries. I also want to recognize all of the women, all of the people of color who’ve been pathfinders to make this moment possible as well as all of the journalists who have mentored me along the way.

For the 371st on this blog: "people of color" means "colored people" and anyone over the age of 55 knows from experience that "colored people" was a pejorative term, only a little less nasty than the n-word. Anyone under 55, especially a journalist (which Welker purports to be), would know this from a modicum of knowledge of American history.

By contrast, Welker did accurately use the word "incredible" to describe the honor. As most viewers who have watched her over the years should realize, Welker's claim to be a legitimate journalist is indeed "incredible."

Nonetheless, she should not be so full of herself as to claim that she has been "honored," which is a term an individual appropriately applies to someone else. If an individual believes she herself has received unmerited favor, she recognizes herself as "privileged."

Which, indeed, Kristin Welker is, as she (presumably unintentionally) made clear when she added

When my colleague Andrea Mitchell applied for her first job at a news radio station in Philadelphia in 1967, she was told the newsroom was no place for a woman. Well, she talked them into hiring her for the overnight shift. I'm here because she and other fearless women never stopped fighting for their places in the newsroom. And now, all five Sunday shows are moderated or co-moderated by women. So to Martha, Margaret, Dana, and Shannon – I am incredibly honored to join you on Sunday mornings. I also stand on the shoulders of the first moderator and co-founder of this broadcast, Martha Rountree, who had the courage to launch this program back in 1947. Here's what she had to say accepting a Peabody award, on the mission of "Meet the Press."



If Andrea Mitchell indeed were told the newsroom was no place for a woman- a claim it would be impolitic to question- she spoke to a person (a man, we are to assume) who was narrow-minded. Instead, he should have told her "we'd love to have more female reporters or women on camera but not you." Further, any skill Andrea Mitchell demonstrated in her early years as a reporter on local television in Philadelphia has not only eroded, but been reversed as the years drone by and she increasingly fails as a cable news host. Perhaps she and husband Alan Greenspan need the money.

If we looked objectively at the general issue of the quality of the personalities on cable news and specifically Welker, we'd find it ironic that Welker would assert

I'm here because she and other fearless women never stopped fighting for their places in the newsroom. And now, all five Sunday shows are moderated or co-moderated by women. So to Martha, Margaret, Dana, and Shannon – I am incredibly honored to join you on Sunday mornings.

There she is, incredibly honored again and if you don't believe me, just ask her. Were I a woman, I would not point out "all five Sunday shows are moderated or co-moderated by women."  We don't know whether women are well-represented throughout the news industry or at least the cable news industry, a subject Welker appears disinterested in. However, we know that the proliferation of women in front of the camera has coincided with the steep decline in the importance of these shows, though whose inferior quality is unrelated to the gender of its hosts.

On Saturday, Charlie Pierce commented

This weekend, Kristen Welker takes over the chair of Meet The Press, a television dinosaur that should have found its tar-pit decades ago. (The same can be said of all The Sunday Showz. We essentially have Sunday Showz 24 hours out of every day on cable television. I'm all for bringing back Davey and Goliath on the Lord's day.)

Davey and Goliath, or perhaps an in-depth report on a couple of the important news events of the past week, with background and other context.  That is as unlikely as snow in Miami this month.  Pierce is wrong when he argues

It's silly to blame Welker and NBC for having him on the air. And it's probably unfair to Welker if she fails to get the former president* to break down and confess as though he were the surprise villain on an old episode of Perry Mason.

Oh no, it's not "silly" at all given that NBC knows about Welker, her weak performance generally and as moderator of one of the Biden-Trump 2020 debates.  The CNN "town hall" with Donald Trump conducted by Kaitlin Collins, sort of a Kristen Welker with journalistic chops, completely failed and yet- or perhaps therefore- NBC decided it should give the analogous crucial assignment to Welker. In their panel discussion following the interview, The New York Times' Peter Baker (before subtly walking it back) said the quiet part out loud:

Yeah, I was struck by how defiant he is. Defiant of you, defiant of the system, defiant of facts, right? He's just a bulldozer, shoveling falsehoods and lies throughout your interview, and you're – you’re fact-checking him all along the way.

Having correctly observed that Trump was "defiant of you, defiant of the system" and "just a bulldozer, shoveling falsehoods and lies throughout your interview," Baker remembered that criticism of the host on cable news is not a wise career move, checked himself after "you're," and added "you're fact-checking him all along the way." (Nice catch, Baker.)  Rather, her fact-checking was imprecise and ineffective, just as Collins' fact-checking had been ineffective. 

Pierce is right, though, that the news media cannot avoid giving an individual a platform when he may "may have his party's nomination" for President "wrapped up by Easter." However, it is by whom, and how, which matters. 

Kristen Welker addressed Mr. Trump on 25 occasions as "Mr. President."  Although an ex-President may be referred to as "President X," or "President Bush" or "President Trump," he should not be addressed as "Mr. President." In doing so, the Meet the Press interviewer gave Trump an honorific he no longer deserves and placed him on a pedestal no ex-President warrants.

Moreover, Donald Trump cannot be effectively interviewed by a Welker or a Collins or any other female or male journalist of that sort. He must be interviewed by a man or a woman who is preternaturally confrontational- even loud- and able to switch his/her affect seamlessly.

That would include laughing at the interviewee at the right times, not unlike the manner in which vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden to his advantage periodically chuckled at the absurdity of remarks of vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan in their debate in 2008. The interviewer of Trump should be someone with the force of personality to put the GOP candidate on the defensive and unnerve him.

This needn't be someone who normally warrants a Pulitzer Prize or is necessarily the best journalist in a news network's stable. It would be someone whom Trump would personally attack at his own peril, a person unafraid at the propitious time(s) to channel effectively the anger of the her community toward Mr. Trump.

Handing Joy-Ann Reid this assignment would have resulted in the most fruitful, let alone most interesting, interaction. Perhaps Donald Trump would have refused to be interviewed by her, in which case a real news organization would reply "we make our assignments ourselves. If you don't like it, take a hike."

How fitting that would be. In her remarks at the close of Meet the Press, Kristen Welker saluted "all the women, all the people of color who have been trailblazers." The interview should have been conducted by Reid, who is a woman "of color" and who, if NBC had been interested, would have performed this particular task as it should have been.



Sunday, September 17, 2023

Hunter




President Joe Biden's son Hunter has been indicted and the right-wing now is satisfied that justice is being upheld.

Just kidding. Of course, they're not.


Below is Norm Eisen speaking truth to CNN viewers, noting

And if you look at the statistics, for example in 2019, there were only three referrals of these kinds of charges in Delaware. Do you know how many were actually referred to the U.S. Attorney? Do you know how many were actually prosecuted, Roger? Zero.

This is disproportionate treatment precisely because he bears the name "Biden." In a normal universe, this would never be charged. I represented people, including on weapons charges, for thirty years. This case would never be charged if his name were not "Biden."


According to The New York Times, Biden was indicted on three charges. One of them accuses him of possessing a firearm while addicted to a controlled substance, for which the maximum sentence is ten years in prison. The other two pertains to an alleged lie on ATF Form 4473, in which he accused of lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, and the other making the false claim on the application, for which the defendant can receive a maximum sentence of five years.

Question 11e on the federal firearms application (emphasis theirs) reads

Are you an abuser of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?

Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.

If you're wondering why an individual who wants a firearm would admit to using illegal drugs- thus jeopardizing the opportunity to own the weapon while simultaneously admitting to committing a criminal offense- you've been paying attention. 

Nonetheless, the ATF has a strategic reason for including that question, and it's not a commitment to keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of felons. It is used for an "add-on." Though the defendant may be found not guilty of all other charges, lying on ATF Form 4473 is easily proven, thus saving the prosecution from the embarrassment, let alone expenditure of considerable resources, of having secured an indictment while failing to convict the defendant on anything. If the accused pleads guilty, the prosecutor may convince the judge to increase the penalty imposed upon the defendant.

Thus, rarely is an individual prosecuted for any or all of the three charges which Hunter Biden faces. The motivation for charging Biden is almost entirely political, where "almost entirely" may be superfluous. Nonetheless, the defendant deserves little sympathy because, notwithstanding the reason he is being charged, he could have avoided legal trouble without his memoir "Beautiful Things,: in which he outlined his problems with alcohol and illegal drugs. No one twisted Hunter's arm to compel him to write any book.

Still, this saga presents an opportunity for Democrats serious about keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Assuming adequate resources, the Justice Department should prosecute individuals who knowingly answer one or more pertinent questions falsely on their firearms application.

Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland has remarked "I think our Republican colleagues would probably be demanding that the charges be dropped if it were for almost any other American. They don't believe in gun charges. They would be trying to turn him into some kind of Second Amendment martyr."  

If Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has wanted Hunter Biden prosecuted, now complains on Twitter/X because "they chose the gun charges," Democrats should counter by advocating prosecution of individuals who choose to lie to obtain a firearm, even exploring legislation to reinforce their belief that possession should be limited to qualified, honest individuals. This would have the potential of putting Democrats simultaneously on the side of law enforcement and gun safety.

 


Friday, September 15, 2023

Not Nuts. Not Stupid. Only Dangerous.


Former member of the United States House of Representatives and former Republican notes the continuing, probably increasing, support of white evangelicals for Donald J. Trump.


 Anyone who thinks Donald Trump is a man of “deep faith,” or a man of ANY faith for that matter, is seriously nuts. https://t.co/FeAY24TD0D


One of these individuals is Jim Caviezel (rhymes with "weasel" because, of course) who played the Son of God himself in the awful "The Passion of Christ."  Ron Filipkowski reports

His new faith-based movie is out, and he encourages Donald Trump to watch it to put him "at peace and at rest, because you more than anyone have done incredible things. Jesus talks about that."

The former actor who played Jesus says that Trump may not quote the Bible or talk about God much because "he is private in his faith." Caviezel then says Trump is just like David. "Trump is like that ... I believe Donald Trump was selected by God."

He then said when God called upon Trump to run for president, "he listened to the voice and probably didn't think he was the best guy ... but a guy like him will able to sit there and watch this and feel safe and at peace."

Perhaps one of Donald Trump's greatest cons, in a lifetime of cons, was convincing evangelicals that he is one of them.


Filipkowski commits a very common error, even (especially) among the best known media outfits. It is not a "faith-based" movie. It is a religious movie. You, the readers, have faith: that after Friday, there will be Saturday; that it will snow in northern Maine this winter; and that if nominated for President, Donald Trump will not select Mitt Romney to be his running mate.

Jim QAnon Caviezel probably does not represent most evangelical/conservative Christians. Nonetheless, it is correct that "convincing evangelicals that he is one of them" is one of Trump's greatest cons. And Joe Walsh should be congratulated for consistently calling out Trump, especially for being religious, or a man of faith, or Christian in any meaningful sense of the word.

Walsh gets a lot of grief on social media for noting that the emperor has no clothes, which is unjustified, because the emperor is plainly nude. However, it is not being "nuts" that enervates the support of so many white evangelicals for the crude and rude 45th President. Asthis article from the AP in January notes, there are many reasons and reasonable explanations but I believe this is the best explanation:

Robert Jeffress, pastor of an evangelical megachurch in Dallas, has been a staunch supporter of Trump since his first campaign for president and is sticking by him even as rivals like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence tout their Christian faith.

“Conservative Christians continue to overwhelmingly support Donald Trump because of his biblical policies, not his personal piety,” Jeffress told The Associated Press via email. “They are smart enough to know the difference between choosing a president and choosing a pastor.”

“In many ways, Christians feel like they are in an existential cultural war between good and evil, and they want a warrior like Donald Trump who can win,” Jeffress added.

Of course, those of us old enough do remember when the GOP nominated for President believing Christians such as Gerald Ford and George W. Bush or those, such as George Herbert Walker Bush or Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) who at least pretended to be people "of faith." At that time, we all were expected to believe, with nary a doubt expressed by mainstream media, that Republican politicians were solid Christians (or at least theists) while Democratic ones were godless, and that it mattered. The catchphrase "family values" enabled Republicans, especially (not exclusively) conservative ones, to pose as the guardians of traditional, homespun American morality.

We've since learned that was all a crock, though the media never will concede they  were sold a bill of goods. What is true- though obscured- then is acknowledged now. Jeffress recognizes that conservative Christians are not stupid, and are smart enough to know the difference between choosing a president and choosing a pastor.

Furthermore, "nuance" is not in their dictionary, online or in hard copy. That probably speaks to a lack of tolerance; a lack of intelligence, far less so.

Most do think they are in an existential war between good and evil. They want someone whom they think can roll over Democrats, liberals, and all others they believe do not uphold biblical principles and apply them to governance.  Getting three right-wingers on the U.S. Supreme Court has not hurt.

The ex-President's obvious lack of religiosity or piety has not, and will not, become a stumbling block to gaining the support of white religious conservatives. Trump clearly panders to them, beginning with the selection of Mike Pence as his running mate, continued with his support of Christian nationalism, and probably actually was enhanced when he posed in front of St. John's Episcopal Church across from Lafayette Park and held a Bible as if it were a poisonous snake. Why would he bother to hold up a Bible, Christian conservatives probably thought, if he did not value our support?

It would be far less divisive if their hero were not someone brazenly bigoted, self-centered, viciously belligerent, and corrupt.  However, given a choice between someone with those personal characteristics who will work on their political behalf and a decent human being who will not do so, they will choose the former. And truth be told, offered a choice between someone with Trump's characteristics who will promote those policies and an upright human being who also will do so, most Christian conservatives still would opt for the crude and rude option. After all, they are convinced they are in a war between good and evil, and are sure they are not the evil ones.

 


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Promoting Government



I think they do know.


The motivation isn't the same with each member of the House Republican caucus who is inviting chaos.  Many represent districts which are extremely conservative, in which the incumbent faces greater danger of losing his or her seat from a primary challenge from an even more ridiculous Republican than the member does in a general election. And most welcome the additional campaign contributions they know will come their way if a reckless, radical, and ruinous (alliteration day!) proposal is made or path followed.

Nonetheless, there is an additional reason.  They believe impeachment proceedings and shutting down the government makes government look dysfunctional and incompetent. And they know that government, especially on the national level, is associated with the Democratic Party. When government is seen as ineffectual, the default position is to conclude Democrats are responsible (or, rather, irresponsible). If Congress and the presidency are controlled by the GOP, blame can be credibly laid at the feet of Republicans. However, if power appears split in Washington, Democrats must do a yeoman's job to convince voters that it is Republicans who are disruptive and destructive. 

It's almost inevitable that Democrats would be held responsible in the short term or the medium term for the perception of failure or success of government. Therefore, it's critical that the public recognize that government is both desirable and necessary.   "The era of big government is over," President William Jefferson Clinton once insisted, thereby suggesting the superfluousness of government. 

Chris McGreal of The Guardian recently traveled to Dayton to understand the problems Democrats face in appealing to the voters, especially those of the working-class, in the once-swing state of Ohio. Among those he spoke to were Fred Strahorn, once a member of the Ohio House of Representatives and minority leader of the state's General Assembly.  Strahorn 

said there would be no quick comeback for the party in Ohio and that ultimately winning voters’ confidence was a long game. He wants the Democrats to have the courage to embrace what he regards as one of the party’s greatest strengths, defence of government as a means to improve people’s lives.

He said the party had become afraid of doing it in the face of relentless Republican attacks blaming people’s problems on “big government”, a strategy reinforced by Democrats in Congress who serve the interests of corporations.

“One of the failures, multi decades long, is not telling people what government does for them and remind them on a regular basis, so they’re not so easily turned against it. We’ve not defended government, not really explained all the things that government does that you actually like, want and use,” he said.

“Therefore when somebody comes along and takes a swack at it, it’s easy for people to believe because they never hear anything but that. If you don’t counter that it really makes it hard for that electorate to see you as somebody who’s trying to help them because you haven’t explained how that works. That’s your battleground.”

Republicans have a narrative, which they consistently tout and the media finds agreeable, that government only interferes with the initiative, productivity, and general wonderfulness of individuals. Individual Democrats boast, as they should, about what they individually have done to improve the lives of individuals and families, or what the President of their party has done. However, they recoil from the thought of making clear that government has in any way improved their lot in life and avoid contradicting GOP claims of the evil it doe.

They even occasionally slam Donald Trump by lauding President Ronald Reagan, he who undermined the public's faith and trust in the federal government with the famous "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help,'" 

Aside from- possibly- his own family, there are three people Kevin McCarthy cares about: 1) Kevin McCarthy; 2) Kevin McCarthy; and 3) Kevin McCarthy. So McCarthy is trying to save his own skin by threatening to shut down the government. But he also knows he does it against a backdrop of nearly forty years of one side tearing down government and the other side refusing to fight back..




Monday, September 11, 2023

Be Careful What Education You Wish For



Today's edition of "could he really be that ignorant" comes courtesy of United States Representative Andrew Gabarino.  (The correct answer typically is "no.") Gabarino, a Republican from New York, here states "a lot of kids have now gone through college that were born after 9/11 and they may never have heard what actually happened that day."

The genius chatting with him responds "well, that's my question, too, we always say 'never again' but are we forgetting?" "Never again" refers to the Holocaust, in which approximately 2,000 times as many innocent people were murdered. But to some people, there is no world outside of the USA, so Gabarino complains "I won't let people forget and a lot of my colleagues won't. It's a bipartisan resolution, um, and it's something that we're going to keep passing until states start putting this in their curriculum."

Hint: if an event is replaced with a date, it has become a thing. The attack on Pearl Harbor never became big enough in the public consciousness to become "12/7" but "9/11" allows this more recent event to live on forever as a cliche. And as the comments upon Gabarino's comment indicate, "9/11" is taught virtually every year in virtually every school in virtually every state.

It should be taught thoroughly and honestly.  Good luck with that if we won't be sufficiently honest to refer to it as "the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."  However, in the unlikely event Will Bunch has his way, the short, medium-term, and long-term impact of those attacks will be remembered and taught.   While condemning the "banal evil" displayed on that day two decades prior, the Philadelphia Inquirer columnist on September 5, 2021 applauded "the killing  of bin Laden and the minimizing of at least the old, original al-Qaeda" and "an airport-security regime that's successfully prevented any hijackings for these two decades."  Nonetheless, the bombings of that day are

a reminder that America could have spent the last 20 years only doing what was necessary — shoring up our anti-terrorism regime on U.S. soil, and right-sizing our role in the world. Instead, our hubris — which was actually masking our inner fears — that America must respond to any threat to our daydreams of exceptionalism with massive force caused us to double down on military imperialism with tragic consequences, in a tortured odyssey that led us full circle to last month’s chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport.

If you're old enough, you remember those fearful, yet self-congratulatory, days and months following the attack during the Bush 43 Administration, in which we Americans were praised for "coming together as one."  Bunch recalls

Any national unity dissolved rapidly into fear and paranoia, which a cynical new government in Washington preferred to exploit rather than tamp down — the better to plant our flag in oil-rich lands abroad and silence any dissent here at home. Those bad tidings — and the conspiratorial mindset we embraced in the wake of 9/11 — would be turned against nations that had nothing to do with the attacks, against immigrants in general, against legitimate protest, and finally, inevitably, against one another. The era that started with the Islamic radicals who hijacked Flight 93 failing to reach the U.S. Capitol dome ended with American fanatics breaching its rotunda.

That outcome may have well been Osama bin Laden's wet dream. Optimistically- though probably not realistically- Bunch believes

Textbooks on political propaganda will, for centuries, study how everyday citizens’ righteous anger and fears over 9/11 were manipulated to win support for invading an oil-rich nation, in Iraq, that had nothing to do with the 2001 attack, and for spending $2.2 trillion and 20 years in Afghanistan on a mission that should have been measured in months. But perhaps even worse, in the long run, was the Cheney doctrine that America needed to project strength in the world by establishing a gulag archipelago of black prison sites where the inhumane dark art of torture was (counter-productively) practiced — its immoral center a concentration camp at Gitmo. It was only natural that this polar opposite of a “kinder, gentler America” would bleed into other areas.

It was able to do so not only because of the development of a massive national security bureaucracy but because, with nary a word from our "liberal media," it was labeled "homeland security." The term "homeland" was almost unknown until its use by officials of the Third Reich and fell into disuse until (perhaps not coincidentally) it was popularized by the the Palestinian Muslim movement in the 1970s to validate its dubious claims upon the Jewish state of Israel. In mid-September 2001, it was disastrously invoked to urge a muscular response to the perceived threat to the nation. Thirteen years later, the great Washington Post journalist Philip Bump noted

It's clear that there was something evocative about the term, combining a bit of military jargon with the idea in need of protection. This wasn't just America that was attacked, it was our homeland. We didn't simply need more security at our airports, we needed homeland defense....  On September 20th, (President George W) Bush addressed Congress and announced the Department of Homeland Security.

Four months after the attacks, the American Dialect Society held its annual vote for Word of the Year, focused on 2001. The group included "homeland" among its candidates. It lost to "9-11."

It was fashionable to repeat "America will never be the same again." Far less superficially, Bunch argues "America was never the same again after 9/11 because the new 'homeland-security state' inevitably criminalized immigration."  Moreover

America was never the same again after 9/11 because homeland security also became a buzzword for stifling political dissent in our own streets, especially as all the surplus military equipment created by our costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan found its way to urban and even small-town police departments, who policed protests with riot gear and mass arrests. When the Department of Homeland Security sent a federal military force in 2020 to Portland to battle anti-racism protesters, there was an aura of inevitability that the monster of 9/11 had been turned against our own citizens.

America was never the same again after 9/11 because the blatant lies that were told to U.S. citizens to invent the case for invading Iraq, easily swallowed by the mainstream media in a shameful moment of jingoistic cheerleading, created the petri dish of cynicism and distrust that allowed conspiracy theories to nurture and grow, first about 9/11 itself but eventually about matters as diverse as “the Big Lie” of the 2020 election or COVID-19 vaccines. The cable-TV news regime that grew in the wake of 9/11 often fueled misinformation instead of quelling it.

I'm not as sanguine as is Bunch that "textbooks on political propaganda will for centuries" explain how politicians, their allies, and the media manipulated the emotions of we the people into support for the expanded military-industrial complex, vast surveillance apparatus, and torture regime that  has gone insufficiently challenged the past couple of decades. Nonetheless, Representative Gabarino ought to be careful about advocating for (presumably) an expansion of emphasis in schools on the events of September 11, 2001. The information taught might actually be comprehensive and truthful, which would be unpleasant for those who would prefer history be viewed as never-ending confirmation of American Exceptionalism.

 


The Lie Laughed At Around the World

I suppose if a guy would in the Oval Office advocate the execution of "a staffer who leaked a story ," it's not surprising th...