Stay Outraged At The Lies

“President [sic] Tr-mp boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up information in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S. ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether that was true.”

—Washington Post, 3/15/2018

You could say, as the Washington Post did in a headline, that “Tr-mp says he made up trade claim in meeting with Justin Trudeau.” Or you could put it like USA Today did in a headline, “Trump, on tape, admits making up trade facts in talks with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.” Or you could simply and honestly put it like Vox did in its headline this morning:

Caught lying about trade with Canada, Tr-mp tweets some new lies about trade with Canada

One would think that at this point all news outlets worth their weight in megabytes would prefer the honest approach and call Tr-mp’s lies lies. You know, like when he says, and keeps saying, that the U.S. has “a Trade Deficit with Canada” when we in fact have a $12 billion surplus.

But on we go. Some journalists, or their editors, still refuse to call lies lies. Others have, apparently, just come to accept the fact that “Tr-mp lying” is rather normal behavior and just not that shocking, not a big deal anymore. In a discussion on CNN this morning about the trade deficit lie, host John Berman asked Mark Preston, CNN’s Senior Political Analyst, this question: “When you brag about not knowing, brag about lying, what message does that send?” Here was Preston’s answer:

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: …I don’t find it egregious that he lied to the Prime Minister, in the sense that we know this now. The idea that we think that he’s not going to lie would be more of a story at this point.

Preston goes on to say that what he finds egregious is that Tr-mp would admit that he lied in front of a bunch of people at a non-public fundraiser.

That’s where we are. Some journalists (Preston did get some pushback from The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein during the segment) are correct in saying that the “news” these days would be if Tr-mp didn’t utter a lie every time he opens his mouth. But these jImage result for liarsournalists are wrong to say that we should essentially normalize such predictable lying. We absolutely can’t get used to the idea, no matter how often it happens, that being lied to by the man pretending to be the president is baked in the cake, that such lying is not an “egregious” act. We simply can’t let that happen.

CNN’s Mark Preston was right, of course, that Tr-mp’s willingness to admit, behind closed doors and to the ears of fat-cat donors and other cultists, that he lied to the leader of one of our closest allies is outrageous in and of itself. But we must never lose sight of or get accustomed to the fact that the original sin is and always has been this: the Electoral College installed a buffoonish pathological liar in the Whites’ House.


A Bad Hair Day

It was, of course, quite predictable.

After yesterday’s surprise announcement—that the world’s two most powerfully ridiculous haircuts would meet with each other somewhere, sometime, and for some reason—it was inevitable that talking heads on cable news and elsewhere would give Tr-mp credit for his “Call Him Rocket Man” bluster that, the argument goes, brought Kim Jong-un to the bargaining table.

Here’s a typical example of what I mean. This morning on CNN, host John Berman did a segment on the Tr-mp-Kim meeting, mentioning that “the administration wants to take credit for the North Korea summit.” Berman then quoted from Mike Pence’s fresh statement, which gave the broad-shouldered Tr-mp credit for his “strategy to isolate the Kim regime” and asserted that this amazing feat was accomplished “despite the United States making zero concessions.” Berman, who is normally a pretty good journalist, should have injected the obvious: the U.S. did give a concession, a big one. The idea that, say, Obama would have met with Kim in the way it appears Tr-mp will meet with him would have caused Republican heads to pop like cheap balloons. But Berman didn’t mention that it was a very big concession to normalize Kim with the highest-level-meeting possible. It apparently wasn’t on his mind.

Instead, the CNN host, who had already said something ridiculous, namely that “you may not think the North Korea meeting is good, but it’s an accomplishment, nonetheless,” continued by engaging one of his conservative-pundit guests, Matt Lewis, this way:

BERMAN: What the White House wants to do, though, is to suggest that [Tr-mp’s] rhetoric, the “fire and fury” rhetoric, you know, calling Kim Jong-un “fat,” that that’s part of it. Is it because of that, or in spite of that, though, Matt, that this is happening?

Okay. Here we go with the careful conservative spin, as opposed to the more outrageous conservative spin.

LEWIS: First I think, look, this thing, we don’t know how it’s gonna play out. And the fact is Donald Tr-mp is even meeting with Kim could—there’s an argument that it’s a bad idea, that it’s being done without preconditions, that it’s gonna be a propaganda coup, so, uh, but I don’t think that plays in Peoria. I think the average American is optimistic, hopeful. Maybe it’s the triumph of hope over experience but the average American I think does like this.

The idea that Matt Lewis, who used to write for one of the slimiest conservative rags around, The Daily Caller, knows what the “average American” thinks is one thing. But what made his take on all this so ridiculous is what he said after he spoke for average Americans:

So, I think it is good politics for Donald Tr-mp. The question is does he deserve credit for it? I think he actually might. Look, I don’t know what North Korea is up to here. Maybe they’re just buying time. Maybe they’re just trolling us. But there is a possibility that we have spooked them. Maybe they’re afraid of Donald Tr-mp.

That is pretty much what I have heard, in some form or another since last night.

Now, far from wanting to meet with Tr-mp because he’s afraid of him, it is infinitely more plausible that the reason Kim wants to meet with Tr-mp is because he has never kim and tr mp.jpgseen a Western “leader” so stupid and manipulable. One could argue that Kim senses that his best option right now is, before Mueller tries to take him away, to take advantage of Tr-mp’s pathological need to satiate his insatiable desire for attention and approval, which would come from such an unprecedented meeting. Kim in the meantime would not have to agree to anything verifiable, would buy more time for developing his nuclear capabilities, and would get what the North Korean himself seems to have a pathological need for: recognition as a genuine, world-class player.

Another more frightening possibility is that Tr-mp will get pushed into a corner by Kim’s refusal to de-nuke, and Tr-mp, then out of diplomatic options, would be made to look and, more important, feel weak, leaving his disturbed mind no option but to order a preemptive military strike that will start that part of the world on fire.

This is our existence these days, one in which two disturbed and disturbing people with strange heads get to meet together to determine the fate of millions, while host and pundits on TV talk of “accomplishments.”



Finally, The Kansas Election Fraud Lie Is On Trial

Another man whose face should be on a wanted poster for the damage he’s done to our democracy will go to federal court today to essentially defend not himself, but his dark political philosophy. His name is Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas, who is now running for, uh, governor. God must really, really hate Kansas for some reason. Maybe the Almighty doesn’t like sunflowers or meadowlarks. Or maybe he doesn’t like the fact that people there stepped on his creative toes by  making up their own bird and calling it a jayhawk. I don’t know just what it is, but the Big Guy clearly is raising up one asshole politician after another to torment Kansans. Problem is, though, Kobach hasn’t just hurt his state. He has spread his poison all around the country.

From NBC News:

Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state and President [sic] Donald Tr-mp’s chosen election fraud expert, will defend his claims of widespread election fraud Tuesday in kobach wanted postera major voting rights case that could put the president’s unsubstantiated assertions on trial, too.

Kobach is facing off in federal court against the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that the Kansas law requiring voters to prove their citizenship with documents like passports or birth certificates violates the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), the law that standardized the federal voter registration form and made it available at Department of Motor Vehicles nationwide.

“Kris Kobach has been the nation’s chief purveyor of false things about voter fraud,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said. “Now it’s time to prove it, and I don’t think he’s going to.” […]

“If we lose, it sends a signal to other states that Motor-Voter is really just a suggestion and you can impose any requirements on registration application that you want,” Ho said.

That NBC News article doesn’t really get at just what an asshole Kobach is, but this excerpt from the ACLU website will help make that point:

The ACLU will have the opportunity to show in open court how the documentary proof-of-citizenship law has blocked the voter registrations of more than 35,000 Kansans. The ACLU will also demonstrate at trial that Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is personally defending it in these proceedings, has not been able to produce evidence showing the law is necessary for the state to enforce its voter qualifications. Although the Tenth Circuit’s order blocking the Kansas law is in effect pending the outcome of the trial, the ACLU has had to file a motion charging Secretary Kobach with contempt for repeatedly refusing to comply with that and related orders. A federal court has already sanctioned Secretary Kobach for making “patently misleading representation to the court.”

Since that snippet also doesn’t quite do the job of indicating Kobach’s political depravity, I should mention how Kobach has been in bed with ALEC, the far-right “American Legislative Exchange Council” that has done, and is still doing, much to hurt the lives of people without lots and lots of money. To put it succinctly, ALEC’s mission is to radically transform the country via reactionary policymakers in the several states, policymakers like Kris Kobach. Here’s how The Nation’s John Nichols described its mission several years ago:

ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces.

And here’s how Nichols described the Kobach-ALEC corruption:

Kansas Republican Kris Kobach, who along with ALEC itself helped draft Arizona’s anti-immigration law, has warned of “illegally registered aliens.” ALEC’s magazine, Inside ALEC, featured a cover story titled “Preventing Election Fraud” following Obama’s election. Shortly afterward, in the summer of 2009, the Public Safety and Elections Task Force adopted voter ID model legislation. And when midterm elections put Republicans in charge of both chambers of the legislature in twenty-six states (up from fifteen), GOP legislators began moving bills resembling ALEC’s model.

That model, Nichols pointed out,

is also determined to ensure that citizens do not have the final say on who is elected president, an agenda outlined in such documents as its Resolution in Support of the Electoral College and its ardent opposition to the National Popular Vote project (which it has warned would “nationalize elections and unravel Federalism”).

The truth here is that Republicans now assume that a national majority of Americans will continue to reject their economic voodoo, so methods must be developed to ensure they can continue to run the country without that majority. One way of doing that is through election voodoo.

And the high priest of that election voodoo is Kris Kobach.


The Two Unforgivable Sins Of Mitch McConnell

A couple of crooks—“true friends” one of them says—met in the Whites House today. For all I know, Tr-mp and Benjamin Netanyahu discussed legal strategies to fend off the law. Or discussed war strategy against Iran. Or simply discussed how messy democracy is and, gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to be rid of it.

In any case, whatever the two scoundrels talked about, we can rest assured that not much talk among the Washington press corps today will involve Mitch McConnell, a crook of a different sort. He is one scoundrel who never faces that much scrutiny, and certainly not much scrutiny proportional to the outrageousness of his transgressions.

When you do hear talk of McConnell in the non-opinion press, it usually begins, and often ends, like this: “McConnell is a master of the Senate, a real legislative genius.” Well, maybe he is. But if so he uses such mastery and genius in a corrupt fashion, as when he deprived Obama voters of the power of our vote by stealing from us a Supreme Court nomination and appointment in 2016. I repeat: he stole that nomination and appointment not just from Obama, but he stole it from We The People who voted for Obama. Our vote for the winning presidential candidate in 2012 entitled us to a justice chosen by the winner of that election, not one essentially chosen by Mitch McConnell a year later. That, admittedly, is a special kind of crookedness, Image result for mitch mcconnell and trumpbut in some ways it is a worse kind of crookedness than the corruption that most certainly is behind the crimes Tr-mp and Netanyahu are credibly accused of.

So, at the heart of McConnell’s theft of that Court seat was a disdain for democracy: Obama voters expected and were democratically entitled to one kind of justice and we ended up with a judicial monster, in terms of Neil Gorsuch’s zealous reactionary conservatism. McConnell’s anti-democratic deed was just part of his attempt to sabotage Obama’s presidency, of course. But that dirty deed was particularly prophetic, as we learned of what else McConnell did in 2016.

Although you wouldn’t know it from the press coverage it hasn’t much received, but we have known since December 9, 2016—just one month after the election—that Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders refused to join with Democrats and warn the public about Russian interference in the election while it could have possibly done some good. As The Washington Post reported at the time,

the White House wanted congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions…

In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.

And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”

The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

I remind you that we learned of McConnell’s non-action and subversive threat shortly after that fatal or near-fatal election. And from time to time, there have been a few straight news reports about it, mainly if someone like Joe Biden speaks up, as he did in January of this year, when he said McConnell “wanted no part of having a bipartisan commitment.” Mostly, though, the relatively small amount of noise made over this naked, anti-democratic partisanship has been made by opinionators like Brian Beutler at The New Republic, who tweeted last July:

McConnell ran interference for Tr-mp during the campaign to stop Obama from warning the country about things Tr-mp was lying publicly about.

Only one Republican that I know of has recently called into question McConnell’s behavior. John Weaver, who has worked as a top adviser to John McCain, as well as a chief strategist for Jon Huntsman and John Kasich, wrote just last month:

We need to revisit why refused to join in warning America the Russians had attacked us.

And the one time that I know of that McConnell was openly asked about this moral failure was, as Steve Benen noted, in July of 2017, right after the Junior Tr-mp meeting with the Russians was all the rage. NBC’s Kasie Hunt asked McConnell if he regretted his “course of action” of not warning the public before the 2016 election. McConnell, apparently a man without regrets of any kind, didn’t answer that question. Instead he said this:

What I have a lot of confidence in is the Intelligence Committee handling this whole investigation. Senator Burr and Senator Warner have ball control, and we’ll hear from them later.

Yeah, well.

The matter of McConnell’s crookedness came up again yesterday on Meet The Press, during an interview Chuck Todd did with Denis McDonough, who was Obama’s Chief of Staff for the entire second term. (McDonough also served as the Chief of Staff for Obama’s National Security Council and then Deputy National Security Advisor. So, this man has an understanding of the intelligence business.) Todd, playing into Tr-mp’s deflective accusations against President Obama, asked McDonough whether the Obama administration had done enough about the Russian interference by asking him,

Did you choke?

Now, that kind of provocative question is fine with me, so long as it goes both ways. Like, if Todd interviewed McConnell and he asked him, “Did you shit on our democratic values by depriving Obama of a Court pick and by using your Russia silence to aid the Russians who were aiding Tr-mp?” You know, that sort of evenhandedness I can stomach. But for some reason, it never quite comes out that way.

In any case, McDonough tried to defend what the Obama administration had done, including he claimed, getting Vladimir Putin to back away from actually tampering with voting mechanisms:

We had great fear that that was what they had in mind during the course of the summer of 2016. We had great fear that we needed to take significant steps to stop them from doing it: A direct confrontation with President Putin when they were both in China; we went to the bipartisan leadership of Congress to ask them to work with us to ensure that the states had what they needed—and by the way, Chuck, the lack of urgency that we saw from the Republican leadership in 2016, we continue to see to this day today. It’s beyond time for Congress to work with the administration, to work with the states, to ensure that our electoral systems are ready to go. This is not a game.

It’s not a game to some of us, but it is to Mitch McConnell. And he plays to win, no matter the cost of winning. I will here insert the back-and-forth between Todd and McDonough that leads directly to McConnell’s involvement. The exchange began after Todd played Joe Biden’s remarks from January, when he said that McConnell “wanted no part of having a bipartisan committment”:

mcdonough on meet the pressCHUCK TODD: Do you stand by what he said, that Mitch McConnell is the reason why everything was a lower grade, sort of everything that you did in ’16, that you couldn’t be as robust in a bipartisan sense because Mitch McConnell didn’t sign on?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: What I know is that the intelligence community approached the, the entire leadership of the Congress—

CHUCK TODD: So called Gang of Eight.

DENIS MCDONOUGH: —in the early August, 2016. Several members of that group did not take the briefing until early September, 2016, indication number one of a lack of urgency. Number two, the president asked the four leaders in a bipartisan meeting in the Oval Office to join him in asking the states to work with us on this question. It took over three weeks to get that statement worked out. It was dramatically watered down. You can ask Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, even the Speaker—

CHUCK TODD: And it was watered down on the insistence of Mitch McConnell?


CHUCK TODD: And nobody else?


CHUCK TODD: Okay. Do you have any understanding as to why?


I do.

The Truth About Democrats And The Gun Meeting

It isn’t often that I vehemently disagree with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. Last night was one of those times. In fact, O’Donnell’s “Rewrite” segment may have been the single Image result for lawrence o'donnell and rewriteworse segment any progressive or liberal on television has ever put together, as well-meaning as it was.

The segment was essentially O’Donnell’s editorial take on the bipartisan meeting yesterday between various members of Congress and Tr-mp that was supposed to be a brainstorming session designed to come up with ways to stop the carnage in America’s killing fields, especially our schools. Instead the made-for-TV meeting, sometimes weirdly featuring giggling and guffawing, was a dazzling display of ignorance and authoritarian stupidity on the part of Tr-mp, which was predictable and therefore fatiguing, and an embarrassing display of impotence and groveling on the part of Democrats, which was unwarranted and therefore disheartening.

But let me give you a little bit of what O’Donnell, who was once a top staffer in the U.S. Senate, said in defense of those Democrats, including two senators who have been our champions on gun control, Dianne Feinstein and Chris Murphy:

The Democrats clearly made a calculation before the meeting started to approach the meeting professionally in the hope of actually getting something done. Any one of the Democrats could have become a big media star tonight by repeatedly explaining to the president [sic] how wrong he is, how ignorant he is, and how much of a problem he and his party have been for gun legislation.

So, every Democrat in the room resisted the urge to attack the president for his own position on gun policy after all previous mass murders because it was a meeting in which there was cause for some hope of strengthening background checks, which everyone in the meeting including the president [sic] seemed to be in favor of.

Now, leaving aside O’Donnell’s ridiculous and too-cynical assertion that any Democrat who would have stood up to Tr-mp in that widely covered meeting would have done so merely to “become a big media star,” let us quickly look at the bill most discussed during yesterday’s meeting that would strengthen background checks, known as the Manchin-Toomey amendment.

All the Joe Manchin (D)-Pat Toomey (R) bill, which failed to pass in 2013 almost entirely because of Republicans, would essentially do about strengthening background checks is expand existing checks to include gun shows and Internet sales (while, incredibly, expanding the interstate sale of guns). That is just about it. The bill does not restrict the sale of any type of weapon between private parties. And, as a tribute to the NRA, the bill goes out of its way to outlaw any type of gun registry, even though a gun registry is already outlawed.

I ask Democrats in Congress this: Is the Manchin-Toomey legislation, in this moment of increased pressure on Republicans to act, really the best you can hope for? Huh? Is Manchin-Toomey what you are going to bring back home to your fired-up and fired-on constituents and ask for votes?

O’Donnell later commended Senator Feinstein for playing the role of the Proper Senator, which he said was, “to never give up hope that there can be some progress, even minor progress, even in the age of Tr-mp.” Then the former Senate staffer said something stunning:

The job of Senator, done well, is never easy. But in the age of Tr-mp the job of being a Democratic senator has never been more difficult. Never. The easiest thing for Democratic senators to do in the room with the president [sic] today would be to attack him, to show how much smarter they are than he is. But the Democrats didn’t do that. They chose professionalism over grandstanding in the very slim hope that they might actually get Donald Tr-mp to sign something, the slim hope that Donald Tr-mp might force the Republicans in the House and Senate to take a baby step in the right direction…

For people who hate Donald Tr-mp and wanted to see him attacked by those Democrats today it was probably a difficult meeting to watch. But if you know what professionalism looks like in the Senate and the House, you know that what you saw today was Democrats whose oath of office obliges them to never give up hope.

First of all, there are hard jobs in this life. But being a U.S. Senator isn’t one of them, for Democrats or Republicans. It may be a frustrating job, but it ain’t hard. And, in fact, for Democrats “in the age of Tr-mp,” the job is much easier, if they stop being Proper Senators while meeting with Tr-mp in front of TV cameras and stop pretending that Tr-mp is a person they can do business with. If DACA didn’t teach them that lesson, then they are unteachable. The job is easier for Democrats not only because they don’t have to defend the indefensible Tr-mp like Republicans have to do, but because they are dealing with a principle-less know-nothing in the Whites’ House whose words uttered in a meeting staged for television are only worth something because they are worth ignoring.

Secondly, it is shameful, in this powerful cultural moment in which the momentum is swinging in the right direction, to merely cling to a “very slim hope” and beg Tr-mp and the Republicans for a relatively tiny victory like Manchin-Toomey. I mean, I am typically an incrementalist regarding most things, but the “slim hope” strategy is absolutely shameful right now. This is the time to aim high, much higher than a bill, which itself is a compromise of a compromised bill, that fails to do a damn thing about the availability of battlefield weapons on American streets.

Joe Manchin said this morning that his bill represents an opportunity to get “meaningful change.” Well, the meaning of “meaningful” has changed. And Democrats need to shout that truth to Tr-mp and to all Republicans who seem to be in a state of permanent prostration before Wayne LaPierre and the gun lobby. And if Republicans stay prostrated, that will make it easier for newly energized gun control voters to roll over some of them in November, so long as there is a tough gun control Democrat on the ballot.

Finally, as for O’Donnell’s claim that alleged Tr-mp-haters “wanted to see him attacked by those Democrats,” he’s wrong on two counts. Most of us don’t hate Tr-mp. Or at least we shouldn’t. He’s clearly a disordered human being whose mental disturbances should arouse in us something much more akin to pity than hatred. What we should hate, though, is the undemocratic system that initially empowered him and the Republican Party that keeps him in power. What we should hate is the Tr-mp administration’s corruption and incompetence, even as we fear the public is getting used to it.

And most of us didn’t want Democrats to attack Tr-mp yesterday just for the sake of attacking him. We wanted Democrats to attack the phoniness and hypocrisy of the entire enraging spectacle. We wanted Democrats to defend President Obama, who himself was attacked and slandered by Tr-mp at that meeting. We wanted Democrats to show a skeptical country, particularly skeptical young folks who are just getting their first taste of political activism, that there is at least one party willing to fight for bold—bold—reforms like reinstating the assault weapons ban and implementing truly universal background checks, even if the fight is hard and the outcome uncertain. What we wanted was a group of Democrats who refuse to initially and meekly settle for “baby steps in the right direction.” 

But we got none of that at yesterday’s bizarre meeting. What we got was weird talk about mental health and phony talk from Tr-mp about “comprehensive” legislation that will never, never, never happen. What we got was talk of banning bump stocks and of passing the “Fix NICS,” legislation, neither of which should even be the slightest bit controversial, but for some NRA-related reason is. We got talk of making kids wait until they’re 21 before they can legally buy weapons of war and do God-knows-what with them.

We also got a familiarly confused Tr-mp who seemed to embrace an assault weapons ban as he was playing his self-created and always poorly acted role of “dealmaker.” What we got was an authoritarian Tr-mp openly urging the subversion of due process under law, an assertion that if it had ever exited the lips of President Obama would have gotten him impeached or lynched or both.

And, perhaps most disturbing of all, we got some giddy and “optimistic” Democrats who think yesterday’s meeting somehow put Tr-mp in a bind, as if his ethically-empty words could ever bind him to anything.

In short, it was an embarrassing, pathetic, and unhelpful hour in American politics.

feinstein and tr-mp.jpg


Good To Be A Dick’s

At last, some progress:

dick's and new york times.jpg

Image result for dick's sporting goodsImage result for dick's sporting goodsImage result for dick's sporting goodsImage result for dick's sporting goodsImage result for dick's sporting goodsImage result for dick's sporting goods

You Can’t Fix “Partially Stupid,” But You Can Exploit It

I have heard several people say that the Russians, when they weren’t trying to make Tr-mp president, were “sowing” dissension and division and discord in the American electorate just to muck up the election process. Well, in most cases they were just fertilizing and watering the disunity that was already growing on fertile ground. One of their feeding methods, widely recognized now, was to push a lot of conspiracies through social media platforms (whose greed for advertising dollars is part of an ongoing problem)—and they’re still at it.

As you know, David Hogg and other students-survivors who have spoken up forcefully since the high school massacre in Parkland have been the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories—some promoted by Tr-mp’s friend Alex Jones—that the young people were “crisis actors” hired to agitate and not real students who witnessed the mass killing. This is an old, old tactic designed to discredit social movements, and the Russians, to no one’s surprise, are helping to amplify these conspiracies through a large network of social media bots. Their contribution began just an hour after the Parkland shooting made the news, when Russian-controlled Twitter accounts began flooding the platform with disinformation related to gun-grabbing paranoia. They have also posted countless times on Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook), often using videos to promote the conspiracy. Obviously, the Russians also used YouTube, which has done some, but not enough, work to rid the platform of the poison.

The sad and undeniable truth is that there is a relatively large mental market out there for such mindless, hate-fueling absurdities. Five years ago there were (and still remain) the Sandy Hook hoaxes, as well as all the hoaxes surrounding the Las Vegas massacre. I also should remind you of something from 2016 that you may have forgotten in all the tweetstorms we have so far endured since January of 2017:

Two-thirds of voters with a favorable opinion of Donald Trump  believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and a quarter of them believe that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered…

Two-thirds. Two out of three. Sixty-six percent. Tr-mp voters. These folks get to vote.

An even sadder truth is that many—if not most, if not all—of the pitiful people who fall for, as opposed to seek out, scurvy disinformation campaigns and bias-confirming lies either won’t admit to being duped, or simply don’t give a damn whether they were. And I have evidence to support my claim.

The Palm Beach Post published an article on Friday (“Local Tr-mp supporters shrug off being paid and played by Russians”) that is a must-read for those of you who, like me, wonder what makes Tr-mpers tick, or, more accurate, tick very slowly.

 Anne Marie Thomas and Greg R. North. (Photo by Harry Miller) photoThe article features an interview with two Floridians who were actually part of Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of 13 election-meddling influencing Russians. The two Tr-mpers, a “Leisureville retiree from Boynton Beach” named Harry Miller and a “choir singer from Jupiter” named Anne Marie Thomas, were recruited and paid by the Russians (via their Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that exists to vandalize democratic elections) to do the whole “Hillary for prison” schtick at a flash rally in Palm Beach County in August of 2016. The act came complete with a Russian-supplied script, a pickup truck bed that the retiree had converted into a jail cell, and, of course, the choir singer from Jupiter wearing a Hillary mask and prison garb (her boyfriend played the part of Bill and weirdly admitted, “I was supposed to try to grope all the attractive young ladies I could find”).

Now, as the headline of the article makes clear, these Americans—“unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign,” as Mueller’s indictment delicately phrased it—weren’t too upset about being duped by the Rooskies, since the Rooskies were duping them in service to Tr-mp. In fact, Thomas the choir singer was proud of her involvement and her clever improvisational skills:

They say I was “very unwitting.” But I was very witting. I am a creative person. I did things that weren’t in the script. I wore a shirt that had prison number 09112012 on it. That’s the date of Benghazi. That was my idea.

I’m pretty sure many of the 40 or 50 people in attendance at that rally (the dupes claim, of course, that there were 300 folks there) got Thomas’ Benghazi reference, since Republicans invested a lot of time and money into a dupe operation of their own by endlessly “investigating” the murder of four Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya, by Islamic militants. And I’m pretty sure most Tr-mpers at that rally and beyond would agree with Thomas that there isn’t anything to like about Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference. And I am absolutely sure most Tr-mpers today feel the same way Thomas said she felt after her encounter with Russian meddlers was revealed:

I don’t feel like the Russians used me. A week after that event I did another one myself at Harbourside Place in Jupiter.

Those damned Russians were so effective that their mark not only denied she was conned, but they got two Hillary-for-prison acts for the price of one!

In any case, the retired guy with the jail cell on the back of his truck—it cost him $800 to make but he only received $500 from the Russians—defended himself this way:

How would I know the guy was Russian? He had an accent, but I thought he was one of those Muslims, and I figured, he was a new immigrant and I’d work with him because he wants to be involved.

In Miller’s cloudy consciousness, that excuse undoubtably makes sense, as does his predictable lack of enthusiasm for Mueller’s effort to find the truth about Tr-mpski. He said:

They’re trying to connect Trump to Russia. But I was the guy dealing with the Russians, not Trump.

It likely never crossed Miller’s gullible mind that he and Tr-mp both could have been dealing with the Russians, one unwittingly and the other quite intentionally. But I do want to give the retiree credit for his gritty honesty about his encounter with the FBI and his mental acuity:

The FBI were here for five or six hours. They said I’m not in trouble, and I said, “How could I be in trouble? The guy told me to build a cage and I did it.” We’re not totally stupid. We’re partially stupid.

Well, okay then.

Now we see why “crisis actor” conspiracies proliferate, why people still believe Obama is a Muslim foreigner, and why we have a Tr-mp problem, Russians or no Russians.


[photo by Harry Miller, who says he is only “partially stupid.”]


Greitens And The Mug Of A Thug

Just two things about my creepy indicted governor.

First, I love this official mug shot, taken after he was taken into custody on a felony charge:

Second, the Missouri GOP, a morally bankrupt entity, had something predictable to say:

That reference to Kim Gardner is because she is the St. Louis Circuit Attorney, the city’s top prosecutor. Both Greitens and now the Missouri GOP are attacking this law enforcement official because she, well, has decided to enforce the law against Greitens despite the fact that he is allegedly a “law-and-order governor.” One would think that a law-and-order governor, under such dark suspicion, would welcome his day in court. But not so much.

Oh, not that this has anything to do with the GOP attacks on Gardner, but this is what my newest hero looks like:

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI



[photo credit: Danny Wicentowski]

Now It’s Official: The NRA Is A Terrorist Organization

Conservatives, mostly white Christians, have told us repeatedly that you can’t fight terrorism properly unless you are prepared to call it what it is. Tr-mp proudly gets to say these days, “radical Islamic terrorism,” as if invoking an ancient biblical curse on Muslim extremists.

Well, about a week ago Sara Rodriguez, a 16-year-old Florida student from a school near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, named names:

Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old who survived the massacre last week at his school, is a founder of the #NEVERAGAIN movement that is inspiring those of us who were losing hope for a better American future. Kasky said:

This is simply a matter of are you with us or are you against us? Are you for taking steps to save us or are you for taking NRA blood money? We are not letting the United States be run by that terrorist organization. My friends and I, my community and I have stared down the barrel of an AR-15 the way you have not. We have seen this weapon of war mow down people we know and love the way you have not. How dare you tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about? You have no idea what you are talking about.

Some of the “adults” tried to temper Kasky’s remarks about the NRA, saying it is a mistake to label it a terrorist group. Hooey.

These teenagers have earned the right to call the NRA anything they want to. And, by the way, they are onto something. Kasky shut down his Facebook account yesterday, saying,

Temporarily got off Facebook because there’s no character count so the death threats from the cultists are a bit more graphic than those on twitter.

And today we had NRA jihadist Wayne LaPierre say to CPAC, the annual gathering of family-values phonies, the following:

I call on every citizen who loves this country and treasures its freedom to stand and unflinchingly defend the Second Amendment, the one freedom that protects us all.

Taken along with his other inflammatory remarks in his speech (as well as provocative remarks by NRA propagandist Dana Loesch, who preceded him), I interpret that sentence—a “call”—as a terrorist threat. “Every citizen who loves this country” is a separatist statement. I interpret “stand” as “Stand Your Ground,” a legal justification for using violence even when it isn’t necessary. I interpret “unflinchingly” as using violence without fear.

Largely because of the NRA, but with help from other gun manufacturing lobbyists and the politicians they purchase, children in every American school have to wonder if their last recess was literally their last recess, or if their last math test was their last test of any kind, or if their last glance of parents or siblings or friends would flash through their minds as the sound of gunshots echoed down the halls. If living with that reality isn’t a kind of terror, what is it?

If LaPierre, who clearly is afraid of what is happening before his eyes, was threatening a kind of civil war over the gun issue, he’ll have to go through young citizens who love their country, who are standing their ground with words, or are unflinchingly using their justified outrage to do something that my generation has shamefully failed to do: stare down the NRA.

Cameron Kasky, appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show on Monday, said:

This is going to be the last time a school shooting is going to look like a terrorist attack. That’s a promise.

Kasky and others in the students’ movement, who are now fighting the NRA and its political prostitutes and promoters all across the country and in Washington, ultimately may not be able to keep that commitment. But there is a revitalizing hope in the mere fact that impassioned teenagers are engaged enough and bold enough to make such a promise to the country they love.


UPDATE: I implore you to read this article on the specific damage AR-15 killing machines do to human bodies:

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns

Billy Graham, R.I.P.

He’s finally gone.

As much as Billy Graham admired the blissful afterlife he expected to enjoy, he held on to this life just months shy of a century. That seems a bit strange to me. Was he afraid of something?

I wrote rather harshly of Graham back in 2012, when he endorsed Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith Graham considered a “cult” right up to the moment he authenticated the phony Romney by giving him the white conservative evangelical seal of approval. After the endorsement, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed a reference on its website that told the truth about Mormonism’s cultic nature. Thus, Tr-mp wasn’t the first one to be mulliganized by right-wing evangelicals.

In any case, I watched in cable news-induced agony today as CNN quickly invited the dreadful Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody on to discuss Graham’s impact on our culture. The CNN host, John Berman, mentioned that although Tr-mp tweeted about Russia this morning, he hadn’t bothered to tweet about Graham. Brody, who is peddling a pathetic book about Tr-mp’s mythical “spiritual voyage,” assured everyone that we would be hearing from Tr-mp on the matter, which is a damned good reason to avoid both television and Twitter today.

After the election in 2012—you know, the one that Romney and Graham lost to that closet Muslim—I wrote another harsh piece about Billy, which focused on the fear and division that is a feature, not a bug, of conservative evangelicalism. I mentioned a book Graham wrote:

When I was a kid, several of Billy Graham’s books were in the house, including a book that scared me to death, “World Aflame.” If nothing else, it was the cover that frightened me:

I was seven years old when that book came out. The earth engulfed in flames, and the threat of eternal damnation awaiting those who didn’t surrender to Jesus, tends to make a kid a little fearful, the kind of fear that never quite disappears, no matter how old one gets or how far one gets from the source.

Fear and flames. That’s what Graham spread for seven decades. And as The New York Times noted today, he spread it to a lot of folks:

In 2007, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, estimated that he had preached the Gospel to more than 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories since beginning his crusades in Grand Rapids, Mich., in October 1947. He reached hundreds of millions more on television, through video and in film.

“This is not mass evangelism,” Mr. Graham liked to say, “but personal evangelism on a mass scale.”

The truth is that nobody knows how many minds were infected by Billy Graham’s toxic species of Christianity. That he may have spread such an infection out of a sincere conviction that it was the right thing to do doesn’t mitigate the unfortunate fact that millions upon millions of men, women, and children have had the fear of hell and eternal damnation downloaded onto their hard drives, a virus so cleverly engineered that it is almost impossible to delete.

That is Billy Graham’s legacy, and merely out of respect for a fellow human being who himself was infected with malicious software, may he rest in peace.

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