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.

Who’s At Fault? Here’s Who.

PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — A former student opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle at a Florida high school Wednesday, killing at least 17 people and sending scores of students fleeing into the streets in the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

—Associated Press, 2/14/2018

If you voted for Republicans—or a few Democrats—who have taken money from the NRA and other gun rights absolutists, you have the blood of high school students on your hands tonight.

If you voted for Ted Cruz ($360,727 from gun rights groups in 2016) or Marco Rubio ($176,030) or Paul Ryan ($171,977) or Roy Blunt ($49,430) or, God forbid, if you voted for Tr-mp (the NRA alone spent $30 million to support him in 2016), you are partially at fault for today’s mass murder.

To be sure, you didn’t directly enable the psychopath or sociopath who plotted to kill today, but you indirectly armed and enabled him and other recent killers like him. You are part of a system that makes such atrocities not only possible, but now routine, in this sick, sick country.

And I don’t give a damn if this accusation pisses you off. I don’t care if you are offended. Your fatigued and feckless “thoughts and prayers” are dangerous weapons precisely because they are fatigued and feckless weapons. They are diversions from the truth.

The truth is that your perennial votes for politicians who make it easy for dangerously troubled people to get assault weapons in their hands—weapons of war that kill scores of innocent people—are to blame. The blood of innocents flows from the ballot box where you make peace with the devilish system you vote for when you vote for Tr-mp and Cruz and Rubio and Blunt and others like them. Your reliable votes make possible much of the carnage we see. Your votes.

You can’t put this on your neighbor. You can’t pin this on me. You can’t blame mental illness. You can’t fault the schools. You can’t indict anyone but yourself. You can’t simply call this “pure evil” as Governor Rick Scott did tonight or offer meaningless ex post facto prayers and move on and say we’ll talk about this stain on civilization at a later date. You can’t say, as Florida’s corrupt Attorney General Pam Bondi said, that you will pay for the victims’ funerals and then think you’ve washed away the blood and guilt.

No. You can’t escape so easily.

You will go to bed tonight with at least some of the responsibility for the awful, awful horror that happened today. You will sleep beside that reality, knowing that the blood of kids and their protectors is there with you on your pillow, as if these latest murders were committed right there in your bed. That blood will be there when you get up. It will be there when you shower for work or pick up your morning paper from the lawn or login on your computer.

And it will be there when Sunday comes. It will be there when you get prepared to pretend to worship your God of Love who you think gives a damn about Second Amendment absolutism. It will be there when you next see your living kids or grandkids or your friends’ living kids or grandkids or your neighbors’ living kids or grandkids or your co-workers’ living kids or grandkids. The blood of dead high schoolers in Florida and those charged with their care will be as close to you as your soft, soft pillow, in that quiet time before you sleep the sleep of the guilty. And that blood will be there so long as you refuse to repent of your electoral sins.

I, for one, am tired of making excuses for your ignorance or stupidity. I am tired of rationalizing your disturbed and disturbing mind that has been poisoned by NRA propaganda and the conservative media establishment that amplifies it. At some point you have to quit enabling the devilish system and the blood it spills or be willing to embrace and live with the dreadful truth that it spills that blood in your name.


Will Democrats Waste An Opportunity To Get A Better Deal For DREAMers? Yep.

“If we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown. We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown…”

—Tr-mp, 2/6/18

as some folks are being distracted by Kim Jung Tr-mp’s creepy despotic desire for a yooge military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, yet another shutdown looms this week, as funding for the federal government theoretically runs out just after midnight on Friday. But negotiations in the Senate have come to an end, as the Rs and Ds hammered out a two-year deal that would seemingly put an end to this Chinese water torture we’re all experiencing.

But some of us believe Democrats have squandered an opportunity in this moment of agreement.

This morning Nancy Pelosi, who is under attack not just from Republicans but from members of her own party, took to the House floor and began doing what she should do: speaking for Democratic Party values, particularly protecting DREAMers from the fear of TPelosir-mp and his deportation forces and giving them some semblance of peace in this nasty reality show Tr-mp, John Kelly, Stephen Miller, and Sean Hannity are directing.

As you probably know, during the recent government shutdown, Senate Democrats made a “deal” with Mitch McConnell that if they would reopen the government and help Republicans keep it open, then McConnell would bring an immigration bill to the floor that would be accompanied by genuine debate; that is, the bill would be subject to an open amendment process. But even if one could trust McConnell, which one can’t, and an acceptable DREAMer deal could be reached in the Senate, the problem of what to do in the House would still remain. After all, a comprehensive immigration bill passed the Senate in 2013 with bipartisan support and then-Speaker John Boehner refused to bring it up for a vote in the House because, alas, he knew it would pass.

Today we have the same dynamic. And despite Pelosi’s long, long speech this morning, there is no reason to believe things will change.

Even if Democrats and Republicans in the Senate could work out an agreement for DREAMers, there is no evidence that Paul Ryan would move on it in the House. In fact, the evidence goes the other way. Ryan has said he won’t bring up any bill that doesn’t have Tr-mp’s approval, and since Tr-mp’s position is impossible to discern on some days and impossible for Democrats to accept on others, that’s the same as saying, “I don’t care what happens in the Senate. This is Tr-mp’s House.”

But Pelosi says the current budget deal—which she had a hand in negotiating—is a no-go for her “without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell.” On the House floor this morning, she said to Speaker Ryan:

Let Congress work its will. What are you afraid of?

Well, we know what Ryan is afraid of. He’s afraid an acceptable fix for DREAMers will pass Congress and he’s trying to protect Tr-mp from having to either sign or veto a bipartisan bill that won’t have all of the bigotry in it that Tr-mp and his fear-the-brown Brownshirts desire.

I totally doubt it, but I wish Tr-mp’s puss-filled bluster yesterday“Let’s have a shutdown”—had something to do with Pelosi’s actions this morning. But the truth is she had pressure from immigration reform activists on our side and felt compelled to at least speak up and put some small amount of pressure on Ryan. However, she wasn’t really leading a movement among her members to oppose the new bipartisan budget deal if Ryan didn’t commit to an open DACA process in the House. Thus, despite all the affirmation of Democratic support for DREAMers, they will have to wait for another day.

If I were a Democratic Party leader in Congress, after Tr-mp made all those noises about a shutdown in front of the cameras—coming on the heels of his calling Democrats “un-American” and “treasonous” for not acknowledging his elementary ability to read a speech off a teleprompter—I would have told my negotiators working on budget and DREAMer deals with Republicans to inform everyone that the game had changed: “Tr-mp will get his shutdown, since he wants it so bad, unless we stop talking nonsense about appeasing him with race-based fig leaves and stop talking about an effing wall.” And I would have added: “Don’t even think of blaming any goddamned shutdown on us. We have the tape.”

This may shock all of you, but I’m not a Democratic leader. I’m just a Democrat. And there seems to be no indication from my party’s leadership that Tr-mp’s widely-reported words about wanting a government shutdown gave Democrats more leverage in negotiations for DREAMers, leverage that was only good if leaders had the guts to use it behind the scenes. But they didn’t. Thus, despite Pelosi’s necessary but relatively feeble efforts on the House floor today, a budget deal has been made and Democrats in the Senate and House will provide enough votes to pass it.

And now we move on to the next deadline: March 5, when DACA protections expire. That day will come and Democrats will have lost an opportunity for a better deal, an opportunity that Tr-mp himself gave them yesterday.

The Chinese water torture will continue.

The Hangman

And the mourners are all singin’
As they drag you by your feet.
But the hangman isn’t hangin’
And they put you on the street.
You go back, Jack, do it again.

——Steely Dan, 1972

In the U.S. Constitution there is a blueprint for a political gallows just in case one of our presidents, vice presidents, or “civil officers of the United States” commits “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The impeachment process in Article 2, Section 4 has been used only twice for presidents and twice it resulted in the political equivalent of acquittal. That is, two of our presidents have been threatened with a political lynching but the hangman wasn’t hanging.

Last night, after news broke that Tr-mp had ordered the firing of Robert Mueller last June, I heard utterances like these on cable news: “He’s in legal danger.” “The evidence is obviously mounting.” Tr-mp “looks guiltier and guiltier.” But the truth—the awful truth—is this: Mueller could stack evidence of guilt against Tr-mp as high as Tr-mp Tower and it wouldn’t matter. The immediate constitutional hangman is the Republican Congress.

There is no apparent legal danger for Tr-mp. Mueller could prove without a doubt that Tr-mp is a crook, a grifter, an obstructor of justice a thousand times worse than Tricky Dicky. He could prove Tr-mp abuses puppies and pussies. He could prove it wasn’t Russian hookers who pissed on Tr-mp, but Putin himself. He could prove Tr-mp played doctor on gymnasts. And on and on.

A veritable mountain of probative evidence simply would not matter because the prevailing opinion among legal scholars is that not only is the indictment and prosecution of a sitting president a constitutionally dubious notion (thanks, Founders), but even it were clearly an option under the Constitution, it is highly unlikely that Robert Mueller would himself shoulder the burden of playing the hangman in this drama. He would likely just report the evidence, whatever it is, to the Republican-controlled Congress and say, “Here’s the rope.”

And we know, or should know, how that would go.

Think about it. Evidence of guilt wouldn’t matter because evangelicals, the most faithful Republicans God ever made, have officially and permanently mulliganized Tr-mp. Evidence wouldn’t matter because an entire cable channel is unashamedly attacking real facts and inventing facts of its own, all in service to its cult leader. Evidence wouldn’t matter because the hangman in this case is afraid of being hanged himself by Republican primary voters, were he to carry out his constitutional duties.

I suppose I should say hangmen. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are in charge of the gallows. And what evidence is there that they would place a political noose around that nectarine neck and trigger the trap door?

Consider: Ryan has a rogue member, who for some reason is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who clearly is compromised, if not clinically insane. And what has Ryan done? Nothing. Ryan has done nothing and will do nothing. He has mulliganized Tr-mp, too.

McConnell has a conspiratorial chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who is both compromised and nuts, and McConnell—whose wife works for and praises Tr-mp at every turn—won’t say a word. Another mulliganizer.

The truth is we should not expect the corrupt to bring the corrupt to justice. I know there has been a lot of excitement around this latest revelation of Tr-mp’s malfeasance. Folks are saying that finally it is obvious that he obstructed justice. Yeah, well, it has been obvious since the day he fired James Comey. It has been obvious since he told the Russians themselves that he fired Comey (“He was crazy, a real nut job,” Tr-mp said) to free himself from the “great pressure” from the Russia investigation. It has been obvious since he told NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired Comey because the “Russia thing” is “a made-up story.” This latest reporting simply adds to a pile of evidence that Republicans are increasingly ignoring, or worse, discrediting.

It has been obvious and it is obvious now. This present Republican Congress will do nothing, no matter what Mueller discovers or alleges. The only remedy for fighting the corruption that Tr-mp represents falls on we the people. And we the people need to come to terms with that.

Tr-mp’s removal will begin, hopefully, in November of this year. It will finish, hopefully, in November of 2020. If that doesn’t happen, Tr-mpism will triumph. And if it does, respect for American democracy and the institutions that support it will be gone, and deservedly so.

It is pretty simple. We have to stop this lawlessness ourselves. The American electorate is, ultimately, going to have to be the hangman.

the hangman.jpg

Hello Jell-O

In 1988, Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks fought for the undisputed heavyweight title in what was billed as one of the greatest fights in history. Ironically, the event was held in the now-defunct Tr-mp Plaza Hotel and Casino in New Jersey. Tr-mp called the fight a “monster.”

It lasted 91 seconds.

According to Wikipedia, Image result for mike tyson vs. michael spinksSpinks, the loser, conceded that “fear was knocking at my door big time.” Tyson (who today is a Tr-mper) reportedly said, “The first punch I threw, he wobbled a bit. I knew right there I had him.”

Sound familiar?

I don’t know what could have been more predictable than the outcome of the Senate Democrats’ efforts to get a deal on DACA and the DREAMers in exchange for the necessary votes to keep the government running. And I don’t know what could have been more predictable than how the press would cover the whole thing—as a fight with a clear winner and a clear loser.

CNN’s Jake Tapper is about as mainstream as journalists come. He is conventional in his view of politics and how to cover it. He began his Sunday news show with words straight from a fight promoter’s lexicon: “Shutdown showdown.” Senate Democrats, not being idiots, knew how the press would cover this story. It wasn’t hard to figure out: Who would blink first? Who would be able to take the tough punches? Who would stand and fight until they won? Now, after we have witnessed the political equivalent of a 91-second fight, we know the answers: Senate Democrats blinked first. They were unable to take a punch. And Republicans stood and fought until they won.

And you know why the Republicans won this political fight? Because they’re ruthless assholes. And in order to beat them, you have to either fight like ruthless assholes or you have to outsmart them. Democrats did neither one. They were Michael Spinks and found fear knocking at their door bigtime. Republicans were Mike Tyson—who once got pissed off during a fight and gnawed both of Evander Holyfield’s ears—who saw Democrats wobble a bit after the first punch was thrown and they knew they had Democrats then and there.

The wobble came when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with Tr-mp last Friday. Schumer, who by now ought to know he can’t trust Tr-mp, admitted he offered to pay some amount of money for Tr-mp’s colossally stupid border wall. That was it. Fear had knocked on Schumer’s door and he answered it. Talk about Jell-O. Republicans then, sensing a sure victory, ratcheted up the rhetoric, including an unforgivable racist advertisement paid for by the Tr-mp campaign, an ad that Democrats answered by caving in to Mitch McConnell, allowing Tr-mp and his ugly apologists to claim victory for him.

The truth is that Democrats, the party of government, should never have, without a clear strategy and commitment to win, jumped into the shut-down-the-government ring with ruthless assholes who don’t much like government in the first place. Democrats are the good guys when it comes to the value of government and the services it provides, and using a shutdown as leverage runs contrary to their nature. They aren’t vicious cutthroats who use our troops as props in a sick game of chicken. They aren’t callous schmucks who use anti-immigrant racism to appeal to the worst instincts of some Americans and stoke resentment in others. That’s why Senate Democrats had to use their smarts, not their ruthlessness, to help the DREAMers.

And it just wasn’t very smart for them to get into a fight unless they were prepared to take some hard punches and still keep fighting. Clearly they weren’t. And the only thing that was accomplished by their well-meaning efforts, was that they look weaker than they really are. Senate Democrats can, with the filibuster, keep some bad things from happening to the country and help get a few good things done, like, possibly, a decent DACA-DREAMer bill. But behind that filibuster strategy has to be a willingness to, when it matters, stand in the ring and slug it out with Mitch McConnell, who is as ruthless as they come and as big an asshole as exists in Washington.

Speaking of assholes, one of Jake Tapper’s guests on his Sunday program was Mike Mulvaney, Tr-mp’s budget director and a former congressman who was one of the most zealous right-wingers imaginable. Tapper played a clip of Mulvaney—who supported the supposedly infamous shutdown in 2013 when Obama was in office—being asked if “the fight” in 2013 was worth it. Mulvaney said at the time:

MULVANEY: It was. Any time you fight for something you really believe in, and something you think is important, then the fight is — the fight is going to be worth it. If you stand up for what you believe in, I think you’ll always end up on the right side of things.

Apparently, Mulvaney was right. There he was on CNN and elsewhere on Sunday, four years and four months after that disgraceful shutdown in 2013, riding high as a proud member of the Tr-mp administration, enjoying his party’s complete control of every branch of the federal government. Neither he nor his party paid a price for their attempt to hold the country hostage for 17 days just because Republicans like Mulvaney and Ted Cruz did not like Obamacare. It didn’t hurt them a bit, as we are reminded every day when Tr-mp and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell torment us with their presence. Democrats, when the next fight comes up, need to remember that. If DREAMers are worth fighting for, and if Republicans insist again on getting in a ring and having it out, then that’s what needs to be done—without political fear.

Michael Spinks, who lasted 91 seconds against Mike Tyson in 1988, retired and never fought another fight. Senate Democrats don’t have that option. They are elected officials who were put in office by their voters to do the right thing and fight the good fight. If they aren’t willing to do that when it matters, then Democratic primary voters should send them into retirement.

Women + Men + Children + March = Hope

I normally don’t approve of parents bringing their little kids into political protests. But, dammit, this time it is different. This moment isn’t just about this or that public policy. It is about defending American values that are worth defending. And this sign gives me the most hope for the future that I have had for some time:

Khrushchev’s Granddaughter: “Trump’s America is in some ways even worse than Russia was during my Soviet childhood.”

Remember Nikita Khrushchev? Okay, maybe you, like me, only remember him from history books. He led the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and was removed from power in 1964 by his rivals. In any case, Khrushchev, who died in 1971, had a son named Leonid who was killed in World War II, leaving behind a two-year-old daughter named Julia. Khrushchev adopted his granddaughter Julia, who later had a daughter named Nina Khrushcheva. Thus, Nikita Khrushchev was both the great-grandfather and the adoptive grandfather of Nina Khrushcheva. Got it?

I said all that to introduce excerpts from an article written by Nina Khrushcheva (“Donald Trump’s not quite Joseph Stalin. But his ‘Fake News Awards’ should scare us”). She was born in the former Soviet Union in 1964 and today is a scholar and writer, working as an associate professor of international affairs at the New School, in New York, as well as a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. While Senator Jeff Flake is getting a lot of attention for comparing Tr-mp to Stalin, Khrushcheva has her own take:

As a former Soviet citizen, I am frequently overcome by a horror-movie feeling of fear and disbelief. It’s almost as if I don’t know where I am. In cosmopolitan New York? Or back in monotonous Moscow, listening to Soviet leaders boasting from the Kremlin about Communism’s drummed-up victories and denouncing their illusory enemies? … Frankly, Tr-mp’s America is in some ways even worse than it was during my Soviet childhood. When I was growing up in Moscow in the 1970s, not even Pravda used such menacing language for the Kremlin’s critics.

She wasn’t finished. She briefly discussed the history of a few autocracies who labeled journalists as enemies, journalists who “were subsequently censored, harassed, injured, or even killed just for doing their jobs.” She said that “America under Tr-mp,” although a place where journalists’ lives aren’t in real danger and they are free to provide “the real facts,” is nevertheless a place where Tr-mp’s attacks on journalists, his threats of lawsuits, his desire to change our libel laws, “can amount to the conditions of state censorship” because such actions are “designed to instill intimidation and fear.”

Khrushcheva—remember she grew up in the Soviet Union—ends her provocative piece this way:

Not only does Trump appear less democratic than the Soviet autocrat Khrushchev, but his anti-free speech rhetoric places him in unsavory company; the current pantheon of world rulers who share his disdain for the free press include Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, China’s Xi Jinping and the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte.

In democratic societies, a free press guaranties that the state’s menacing language can never turn into menacing actions against its people — as Stalin’s Gulags did. That’s how many dictatorships have thrived. Where would Nazi Germany be without Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who dubbed the Jews the “sworn enemy of the German people” because they doubted Adolf Hitler’s Aryan agenda?

Of course, the flashy real-estate tycoon-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-foulmouthed president is arguably more like Charlie Chaplin’s buffoon character in “The Great Dictator” (1940) than the real Hitler or Stalin. Or perhaps Trump is more like Hollywood’s mean clown “Pennywise” — “Trumpywise” — insulting some, punching others and scaring the rest.

But the danger of this nightmare is that it gets more real every day. And the longer it lasts, the harder it will be to wake up.

Our job is to keep the nightmare from becoming more real, and one way of doing that is by encouraging and supporting good journalism and calling out those among us—our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors—who can’t tell real journalism from propaganda.


Is This The Country We Want?

It is certainly true that at least some Americans have the country they want. In one way or another they chose, they voted for, this stuff:

First, from CBS News:

A 39-year-old Detroit man who had lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years has been deported to Mexico. Jorge Garcia came to the U.S. with his family when he was 10 years old and has long sought legal status. Garcia, who worked as a landscaper and had no criminal record, was deported on Monday and can’t return to the U.S. for a decade.

His wife and two children, who are all U.S. citizens, hugged him and sobbed as they said goodbye at the airport, the Detroit News reported.

This moral outrage is directly—directly—linked to voters who voted for Tr-mp, many of them falsely claiming to be “family values” voters. Family values my ass.


Recent research indicates:

The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, and children born in America have a 70 percent greater chance of dying in childhood than those born in peer countries.

As you might have guessed, the problem is worse—twice as bad—if you’re black, especially if you’re poor and black. And, as you might have guessed, part of the problem has to do with the choices American voters make year after year:

According to the study’s authors, the problem of stillbirths in the U.S. is also heavily impacted by inequality among women and families, particularly with regard to healthcare access.

This moral outrage, lack of access to quality healthcare, is something voters could fix if they wanted to. Many are ignorant. Many don’t give a damn. I know that is true because Tr-mp’s approval rating after one year in office is still hovering around 40%, which is 40 points too high.


Related to that moral outrage is another one, summed up in the headline of a piece published by The New York Times, “Making Medicaid a Tool for Moral Education May Let Some Die.” The “moral education”—advanced by Republicans and championed by the Tr-mp administration of course—is the imposition of a work requirement on poor folks who get Medicaid. If you can work and don’t, forget about getting any health care. What will happen is predictable because it has been tried in Tennesse. People delayed doctor visits and used more expensive emergency rooms for treatment. Another result:

Delayed care can kill. Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women. One of eight American women will get it. Detecting it early is critical. Specifically, the five-year relative survival rate for localized breast cancer is 98.5 percent when detected early, but only 25 percent when detected at a distant stage. Waiting for 60 days or longer to get treatment raises the risk of dying of breast cancer over five years by 85 percent.

Another study from Tennessee found that losing access to Medicaid led to delays in diagnosis, so more breast cancers were caught at a later stage. Women who lived in low-income ZIP codes were 3.3 percentage points more likely to receive a diagnosis of late-stage cancer than women living in high-income ZIP codes.

The author of that Times piece wrote:

The problem with the latest twist in Republicans’ effort to pare the social safety net is that removing the poor’s health insurance may not just make their life more difficult.

It might kill them.

Again, some folks just don’t give a damn.


Consider this headline in a country that is called, dubiously, the greatest country on earth by some people:

With CHIP funds running low, doctors and parents scramble to cover kids’ needs

In case you don’t know, CHIP is the Children’s Health Insurance Program—established under the Social Security Act—which provides healthcare to some 9 million lower-income kids. The reason the “CHIP funds” are “running low” is because of Republicans. Yep. It’s that simple. If you voted for a Republican, you voted for this moral outrage.


And if you voted for a Republican, any Republican, you contributed to the further erosion of reproductive rights. From Roll Call:

Anti-abortion groups, pursuing a list of priorities, hope to further capitalize on the Republican control of both chambers and the presidency in 2018.

Groups that oppose abortion scored a series of wins last year, including the appointment of several conservatives to top Department of Health and Human Services positions, the House passage of a late-term abortion ban bill and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

On the list of priorities for anti-choice zealots is legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. We all know, thanks to Republican voters across the country, that the bill could pass the House with plenty of room to spare. But thanks to voters across the country who put 49 Democrats in the Senate, it ain’t going anywhere there. So, if you care about reproductive freedom, thank someone in your life who voted for a Senate Democrat. Here’s my “you’re welcome” in advance.


Oh, by the way, there’s more to worry about on the reproductive rights front::

State officials are dismayed that the Trump administration has stalled the process for applying for new family planning money the states are counting on. Abortion advocacy groups worry that the delay may mean the administration is planning to target abortion providers or rewrite family planning policies.

How sick is it that people who pretend that abortion is murder are so eager to stand in the way of family planning money?


Last September, Tr-mp rescinded the Obama Administration’s DACA memorandum (“Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children”) that protected DREAMers, some 700,000 young folks who know, and only know, this land as their home but aren’t technically citizens. Tr-mp recently said (read: lied) he would sign any deal that could be worked out on DACA. Then, shithole-gate happened and he reneged (reneging is a natural reflex for him).

Thus, DREAMers are, by design or by neglect, in a constant state of fear about their futures. Again, this moral outrage is directly attributable to Republicans. Directly. Don’t even bother arguing about it. If you voted for a Republican for any federal office, you are responsible. Yes, even if you voted for Lindsey Graham.


Consider that there is still no director for the National Park Service and that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to nearly triple the fees at the busiest national parks. And consisder the following from an NPR story headlined “Majority Of National Park Service Board Resigns, Citing Administration Indifference“:

Since taking office, President Trump has sought to roll back protections of national parks and public lands under the auspices of the Department of the Interior. The administration has ordered a dramatic downsizing of two massive national monuments in Utah and has announced plans to open up oil drilling in protected areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic.


For the next outrage, I will go back to July of 2017:

Income Inequality Will Survive the Nuclear Apocalypse: The class responsible for the lucrative rush to war can literally buy its way out of annihilation, thanks to the boom in luxury bunkers.

I confess. I never really imagined there were such things as “luxury bunkers.” Modest doomsday bunkers, yes. But “posh shelters” where the rich “can ride out the coming calamity”? Nope. It just never occurred to me as it did to some folks:

…renovated and newly built bunkers have become popular with Trump’s compatriots in the upper crust. Which is only fitting, since he’s partly responsible for the boom: As the Independent reported earlier this year, “Americans [are] building doomsday bunkers in ‘record numbers’ since Donald Trump’s election.”

Perhaps the most offensive part of this story is how these wealthy folks have planned for their future security after they survive a nuclear holocaust:

But what about jealous outsiders? What if a roving band of mutant proletarians suddenly shows up at the front door? They’re prepared for that, too: The facility [in Kansas, of all places] has a well-stocked armory, a sniper post, and, per their website, “a military grade security system that includes visible spectrum cameras, infrared cameras, proximity sensors, microphones, trip sensors, passive detectors, as well as confidential defensive systems both automated and manually operated.” If the wretched of the scorched earth miraculously make it through all of that, they will then face walls up to nine feet thick, plus a series of blast doors “designed to withstand sizeable explosives.” Now that’s a gated community.

The fact that these wealthy folks have so much spare cash on hand—prices for the Kansas silos begin at $1.5 million for 920 sq. ft and go up to $4.5 million for “penthouse units”— is one thing. It is another thing, a thing that results from our choices as citizens, that such facilities can be planned and built and sold. And if you are tempted to think that prohibiting such activity is an outrageous idea, then tell me this: Why can’t you plan, build, and sell an opium farm?


Finally, on to some personal responsibility. I, like most Americans, have used Amazon to purchase items. Here’s what my personal choice, added to the choices of millions upon millions of Americans, has wrought:

Amazon Is Thriving Thanks to Taxpayer DollarsThe tech giant has received more than $1 billion in tax breaks. The government is also funding food stamps for many of its workers.

As the linked article makes clear, Amazon’s welfare-queen status is “a concerted strategy.” Six years ago, Amazon hired “a specialist in economic development tax credits,” which is a fancy way of saying “a specialist in corporate welfare.” But the bloodsucking doesn’t end there:

The famously grueling jobs in Amazon warehouses have also created strains on local services. Bloomberg reported in October that emergency responders visit the Amazon warehouse in Licking County [Ohio] at least once a day to attend to an injured worker. Local residents have to fund those forays because Amazon pays no property tax in Licking County under their subsidy deal. Voters approved a $6.5 million property tax levy in November to keep the Fire Department operational.

Image result for amazon logoWe all should think about that the next time we click on Amazon to order something. Not only does it hurt retail jobs in our communities, it costs us in other ways. There just ain’t no free lunch. Many of us thought we were getting a good deal when Amazon began and didn’t charge sales tax for purchases, which at the time gave it a critical advantage over local retailers. Amazon also exploited other “loopholes in tax legislation” that have led to this:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of about $100 billion. Take that down to $99.5 billion and nobody working at any Amazon facility in America would need assistance to eat.

The problem is that Jeff Bezos isn’t in the “assistance to eat” business. And the fact that he feels no need to be in that business is partly my fault—and yours if you use Amazon. And, perhaps more important, it is the fault of all those voters who don’t demand from politicians laws requiring employers to pay a living wage to all workers.


Some of us, indeed, have the country we want. Our choices—how we use our suffrage and our savings—have consequences.

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