Is This “Who We Are”? It Depends On Who “We” Is.

“These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

—Laura Bush

The pictures and sounds of weeping migrant children that are dominating our televisions at the moment fill most of us with a combination of sadness and shame, as well as a mix of compassion and outrage. We are shocked by the unnecessary cruelty involved. We are horrified that our government is not only engaged in such systematic cruelty, but is actively denying it or lying about it or defending it—or doing all at the same time. In short, we are appalled.

But who deserves our wrath for such inhumane policies? The answer can be found in history, or more conveniently, in a short review of three history books, one book published recently (Broken Lives: How Ordinary Germans Experienced the Twentieth Century by Konrad H. Jarausch), and one more than 50 years ago and recently republished (They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933–45 by Milton Mayer), and one written in 1939 (Defying Hitler: A Memoir by Sebastian Haffner). The review (“It Can Happen Here”) was written by Cass Sunstein for The New York Review of Books.

Sunstein, you may remember, is a renowned legal scholar who once worked for President Obama and was the bête noire of people like Glenn Beck and Wayne LaPierre and Alex Jones. Sunstein co-authored a book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, that essentially argued that people, even smart people, frequently make bad choices and can be deliberately “nudged” into making better ones (think: government warnings about smoking). This idea, of course, drove people like Glenn Beck, and even Glenn Greenwald, nuts, especially because people like Obama found it interesting.

The truth is, though, we are all nudged by something or someone, good information or bad, good people or bad, reliable heuristics or faulty ones, irrational thoughts disguised as rational deductions, or confirmation bias in its many forms. The point is, as Tr-mp’s election proved, people can make horribly bad decisions and it is important to try to figure out why they do and, if possible, discover ways to help them make better ones. As Sunstein argued in Nudge, decisions are not made in neutral contexts. Framing is essential. Speaking of which:

In his three-book review Sunstein begins with a brief description of our changing world: “a resurgent Russia” under Vladimir Putin, who “has entrenched authoritarian rule”; a China that “may have surpassed the United States” in global influence, even as it is led by another authoritarian-for-life, Xi Jinping; serious talk of a “democratic recession,” what with the chilling “turns toward authoritarianism in Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and the Philippines”; and, of course, there is Tr-mp. Thus, the purpose of the review:

In such a time, we might be tempted to try to learn something from earlier turns toward authoritarianism, particularly the triumphant rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. The problem is that Nazism was so horrifying and so barbaric that for many people in nations where authoritarianism is now achieving a foothold, it is hard to see parallels between Hitler’s regime and their own governments. Many accounts of the Nazi period depict a barely imaginable series of events, a nation gone mad. That makes it easy to take comfort in the thought that it can’t happen again.

We must confess that Sunstein is right. Anyone familiar with what Hitler and the Nazis did will find it difficult to make realistic connections between “a nation gone mad” and our own. Those of us who have pointed out some of the parallels are often met with “it can’t happen here” and other such hopeful notions. And to be sure, Sunstein, despite recognizing all of the ominous signs that accompany Tr-mp and Tr-mpism (“the United States has not seen anything like it before”), is quite cautious about predicting a fascistic future for Americans:

With our system of checks and balances, full-blown authoritarianism is unlikely to happen here, but it would be foolish to ignore the risks that Trump and his administration pose to established norms and institutions, which help preserve both order and liberty. Those risks will grow if opposition to violations of long-standing norms is limited to Democrats, and if Republicans laugh, applaud, agree with, or make excuses for Trump—if they howl with the wolf.

This is where I want to get back to my question of who deserves our wrath for the cruel and inhumane policies we are witnessing, policies that Tr-mp defended with disturbing enthusiasm today in front of disturbed enthusiasts (in this case, the National Federation of Independent Businesses). Sunstein’s review was of history books that chronicled the rise of Hitler not by focusing on “well-known leaders, significant events, state propaganda, murders, and war,” but by offering accounts of “ordinary life under Nazism.” You can and should read such accounts and make what you will out of them. But it is incontrovertible that there would have been no Hitler and no Holocaust without the assent, too much of it enthusiastic, of ordinary Germans. Likewise, there would be no Tr-mp and no migrant children in chain-link cages without the assent, too much of it enthusiastic, of ordinary Americans, tens of millions of them.

If you look around you, it isn’t Tr-mp or Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or Stephen Miller or Sean Hannity or Kirstjen Nielsen or Rudy Giuliani or Jeff Sessions—abominable actors without a doubt—who are primarily to blame for what we see. It is Matt next door. It is Phyllis down the street. It is Joe at work. It is Tim, your cousin. It is Tom, your dad. It is Pastor Mack. It is your old high school friends who have inexplicably become unrecognizably Tr-mpish. And it is all those you know who, in our peculiar democracy, don’t bother to vote one way or another. We have Tr-mp and McConnell and imprisoned migrant children because of people you know, people you work with and go to church with and wave at as they drive through your neighborhood. When well-intentioned folks say that the way we are treating frightened kids and their asylum-seeking parents is “not who we are,” that excludes millions upon millions of people who insist, “That’s exactly who we are.” 

But there is hope, of course. Sunstein writes about his three authors:

In their different ways, Mayer, Haffner, and Jarausch show how habituation, confusion, distraction, self-interest, fear, rationalization, and a sense of personal powerlessness make terrible things possible. They call attention to the importance of individual actions of conscience both small and large, by people who never make it into the history books. Nearly two centuries ago, James Madison warned: “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure.” Haffner offered something like a corollary, which is that the ultimate safeguard against aspiring authoritarians, and wolves of all kinds, lies in individual conscience: in “decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.”

We have arrived at a moment in our own history when individual consciences will make decisions, consciously or unconsciously, that may or may not have collective consequences comparable to Hitler’s rise to power. But from now until the November elections, through acts small and large by people who aren’t destined for either praise or condemnation in any to-be-written history book, we can nudge ourselves—and others—in one direction or another. And I think it is fair to say, after what we have seen and are seeing now, that when we wake up on November 7th of this year, we will know who we are, whoever that is.

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A Swift And Biblical Solution To The Migrant Parents And Children Problem

“[Kim Jong-un] speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

—Tr-mp

Inspired by Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, accompanied by a Swiftian nudge from the Almighty, I have figured out what to do about the plight of migrants suffering under Tr-mp’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration and the separation of families.

And it is breathtakingly biblical.

Clearly these migrants from Latin America, women and children especially, pose a threat to the spiritual well-being of our God-blessed land. Something must be done in the name of the Lord. And the answer, as these kinds of answers always are, is right there in the Good Book.

My solution begins with recasting the people who, for one reason or another, want to invade the sacrosanct borders of our big, beautiful Christian country. Let us henceforth call these invaders “Midianites.” At this point, if you know your Bible, the solution is clear. If you don’t know your Bible, I will briefly educate you.

In Numbers 31, God tells Moses (who “was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth”) to attack the Midianites, an ancient people who pissed off God because of their lack of respect for his unique qualities and the unique qualities of his Chosen People. Moses, who just happened to be married to a Midianite woman (God is funny that way), gathered up some of his most faithful and ruthless soldiers and sent them out to do God’s genocidal work on the Midianites. These ICE-y soldiers mostly did as they were told. They raided and then slaughtered the Midianites. They burned their towns to the ground and stole their stuff, all of their possessions. But the ICE MEN weren’t quite ruthless enough. They didn’t slaughter all of the pesky Midianites. They kept alive and took into custody the surviving women and children and brought them back to the Homeland. This, of course, pissed off Moses, who wanted them all dead, as God had apparently commanded. Moses, in Tr-mpian fashion, said to the ICE MEN from Israel:

Have you allowed all the women to live? …Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

And there you have the answer to our immigration problem today: a genuine, honest-to-goodness zero tolerance policy. Let’s stop playing around with family separation and tent camps. Let’s get really biblical about this thing. Let’s go full-on Old Testament.

Think of the good things that would come of such a Book of Numbers solution. White American evangelicals wouldn’t have to pay for food and shelter for the “the little ones” who happen to be boys. After the initial expense of giving them a Nazi shower (the expense could be partially offset by selling the meager possessions of the migrants, of course), the boys would be off the books, and there would be no fear they would grow up to be terrorists—or Democrats.

Nor would those pious white folks have to worry about upkeep on the girls who weren’t virgins (determining their status is where Tr-mp’s beauty pageant snooping skills would come in handy, by the way). A simple gassing at an old Walmart, a very humane, if unbiblical, way of carrying out the Lord’s will in this matter, would rid our Christian country of the financial burden and moral headache of those wanton little women.

That leaves us with the virgin girls. As the Bible makes clear, they were to be saved and distributed among the tribes (in Numbers, we find out that God himself got 32 of the 32,000 virgins who survived execution; God’s portion, expectedly, fell into the tiny hands of the High Priest). The Handmaid's Tale CostumeObviously, distributing the virgin wealth may be the most appealing feature of this Bible-endorsed socialist solution, at least among the most faithful Tr-mpers, those zealous men who have a hankering for a Handmaid’s Tale lifestyle.

The girls could become wives. They could become mistresses or staffers for congressional Republicans, often the same job. They could pick fruit and vegetables for wealthy Republican growers. They could clean rooms in Tr-mp’s resorts, or, perhaps the most honest job, they could become Golden Shower specialists at Tr-mp International Hotel in Washington, providing entertainment for all the foreign dignitaries who stay there to curry favor with the High Priest of Tr-mpism. After all, emoluments shouldn’t be a one-way street.

The point is, as Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders reminded us yesterday, the Bible has all the answers to all our problems, especially problems involving those who live outside our Sacred Borders. You just have to find the text you need and apply it in creative ways.

God bless America.

Franklin Graham On North Korea: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Commenting on my last post about the North Korea summit, Bbob wrote in part:

Trump’s base is euphoric. Sad commentary on the religious right.

I want so say something about right-wing Christians out there. As everyone should know, North Korea fiercely persecutes Christians. Fiercely. They are enemies of the state because they don’t worship Kim Jong-un. Some conservative estimates are that 50,000+ Christians are held captive in labor camps. For almost two decades North Korea has been ranked the worst place on Earth to be a Christian, the ranking made by an organization called “Open Doors.”

Now, just today Franklin Graham, evangelical “leader,” was asked about the Tr-mp-Kim summit. He was “very optimistic” about it, according to CBN:

“I think the North Koreans have been wanting to talk to the Americans for a long time and this is the first administration that they’ve been able to talk to directly like this,” the evangelist said.

Graham believes the North Koreans are a prideful people and that the Trump administration has engaged them well.

“The North Koreans just want to be shown respect and other administrations brushed them off like they were nothing,” he said.

Yes. A Christian preacher said that the Christian-killers in North Korea just need some respect. The same Christian preacher who, if Obama had behaved in Singapore the way Tr-mp did, would have asked for his head on a biblical platter. The same preacher who has mercilessly attacked Islam, advocated for a ban on Muslims entering the country long before Tr-mp did, and believes we are involved in a religious—Evangelical Christianity versus Islam—war.

The short of it is, and I can’t say this enough, we are front-seat observers of a nationwide cult, led by a disturbed and ignorant and self-absorbed authoritarian, zealously supported by right-wing Christians who believe God sent Tr-mp as a strange answer to an even stranger prayer—to trigger the End of the World.

 

Jackpot!

Shortly after the Tr-mp nightmare began, The Washington Post adopted the motto, “Democracy Dies In Darkness.

We should be so lucky.

After watching as much cable news coverage of the Singapore Follies as I could stand last night, and after watching the continuing coverage this morning, I am convinced that the West, and the democratic ideas and values associated with it, will not die in darkness, if indeed it does die. It will die, or at least be lost, in the glare of the bright lights of a highly-produced, highly-manipulative gala, a festive celebration of celebrity, a made-for-TV festival of propaganda.

That’s what the so-called North Korea summit was.

This morning, taking a few minutes away from what one on-air reporter called “the big event last night,” CNN was doing a segment on the enrichment of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner—a cool $80 million “earned” last year, part of it from the Tr-mp hotel in D.C. that foreigners patronize to win his favor. That potentially informative CNN segment was just getting off to a start when the reporter was interrupted by the host with “breaking news.” What was it? Oh, it was Kim Jong-un possibly getting ready to head to the airport. Anderson Cooper was summoned to narrate the amazing scene. Except there was nothing visual to show the folks at the moment and Cooper ushered viewers off to a commercial break. In disgust, I switched channels to MSNBC. Not long into a critical discussion of the reality-show summit, the on-air host interrupted the guest and narrated what was now a visual of Kim doing nothing but walking. Such absurdities, including the strange presence of a weeping Dennis Rodman last night, is among the reasons why I am sick this morning and as worried as I have ever been about our future.

Donald Tr-mp once ran casinos, before they went bankrupt. But in a way he is still running a casino, a big one from sea to shining sea. Everyone knows that the environment inside of casinos is carefully controlled. No windows. No clocks. No distractions from the matter at hand: separating you from your common sense so that the casino owner can pick your pocket with your permission. Consider this description:

A casino is a cacophony of wonderful and alluring stimulation: bells ringing, siren-like lights flashing, change clanging, slot wheels whirring, digital sounds beeping – it’s all captivating. Why is it captivating? Because it’s non-verbal communication saying, “Win! Win! Win!”. It gives the impression that everyone is indeed winning when, in reality, most are losing.

However, even as these people are losing, whatever machine they are on is still blaring out festive, euphoric sounds. It makes people want to get in on the action and become part of the winning as well. It’s such a happy place, how can I lose?! Everything is slick, burnished, and gleaming with a hypnotic draw to it. On some level, everyone, regardless if they are a big or small bettor, is attracted to these ostentatious displays of excess and flamboyance.

That’s how we will lose this thing, this fragile thing we call democracy. Bells will be ringing. Sirens will be sounding. Lights will be flashing. Wheels will be whirring. There will be digital beeping and, for some of us, the gnashing of teeth.

A thousand times last night and this morning, I bet I heard some variation of these phrases: “You have to give Donald Tr-mp credit” or “It’s a good thing these two leaders met” or “This was a big win for Tr-mp” or, as David Axelrod put it: “I applaud the president [sic] for pursuing diplomacy.” On top of all that, there was the constant use of the term “historic.” And I mean constant. Even if you had the sound down, you still saw the phrase on your screen: “HISTORIC MEETING.” As I said, it was sickening.

Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of criticism of what happened, or, really, what didn’t happen in Singapore. There were pundits who pointed out that North Korea is nothing but the world’s largest maximum security prison with a murderous warden who Tr-mp tried to elevate to an international star. There were pundits who pointed out the obvious fact that Kim was the real winner of this meeting between two cult figures, one a lying Stalinist and the other who is halfway there, having mastered the art of lying and apprenticing as a tyrant.

There were pundits who patiently explained that there was no substance to the meeting, nothing that hadn’t been promised by the North Koreans before as a way to buy time to continue developing their nuclear arsenal. There were pundits who lamented the lack of emphasis on human rights. There were pundits who noted that even if the impossible happened—denuclearization—that would not solve the problem of the massive amounts of conventional weapons that threaten our allies. And there were pundits who pointed out that, yes, this was a historic event precisely because no American leader had ever been stupid enough, or narcissistic enough, to give North Korea equal footing on a stage with the United States just to distract the gullible from his troubles with the law and other character deficiencies.

Image result for jackpotI said I am as worried as I have ever been about our future. And it’s not because of Tr-mp praising a ruthless killer like Kim, calling him honorable and trustworthy and smart and all that. I expected as much from Tr-mp, who orchestrated this madness just like the controlled madness on the floor of a casino.

I’m worried because we are now more than 500 days into this administration—into the larger madness. And journalists still don’t get it. They still don’t get how it all works. They haven’t yet figured out how to cover this freak of nature. Journalists can offer all the criticism of Tr-mp they want. They can debunk every false statement he makes. They can even call him a liar again and again. But as long as they do it from inside his casino, from inside the environment he has created, with all the bells and sirens and lights and wheels, not enough people will hear. They will only see and hear the “festive, euphoric sounds.” They will only see the “happy place” where losing is an afterthought. People really are attracted to “ostentatious displays of excess and flamboyance,” even if they are losing their rent money. No amount of good reporting, so long as it comes prefaced with phrases like “This was a win for Tr-mp” or “We have to give Tr-mp credit” or “This was a historic moment,” will dehypnotize those who crave the sights and sounds of the casino.

So, no, democracy will not die in darkness in the Tr-mp era, as long as journalists continue to broadcast and report from inside a superstructure deliberately designed to manipulate and distract and, more important, to optimize gullibility. Democracy, like that still, small voice of common sense that urges gamblers to go home before all is lost, will simply be ignored, drowned out by the intoxicating allure of JACKPOT!

 

He Is Above The Law. For Now.

The Founders, despite examples of individual and collective brilliance, gave us Tr-mp. And the Founders won’t let us get rid of him until January 20, 2021. It’s that simple. I’m sorry to keep saying it. But it is true.

I know people who closely follow every development in the Mueller investigation. I follow news about it fairly closely myself. But I also know people who think Mueller will, or at least could, bring Tr-mp down. I’m not one of those people. It’s not gonna happen no matter what Mueller finds. I hope to Allah I’m wrong, but I don’t see how I am.

Like most people who have read his history and followed his rise to Republican royalty, I have a strong suspicion that Tr-mp has committed some number of serious crimes, both before he ran for office and after he conned just barely enough people to get him an Electoral College victory. But I don’t just suspect Tr-mp has, and continues to, obstruct justice. I’ve seen it and heard it with my own eyes and ears. There simply isn’t any doubt about it. We’ve all seen it unfold in real time, starting with firing the FBI director, then confessing to NBC News that he fired him because of the Russia investigation, then onto a more democracy-threatening strategy of discrediting the Justice Department, the FBI, any news organization that dares print or broadcast facts about what is happening, and, of course, Bob Mueller and his investigation. That Tr-mp obstructed justice is a no-brainer.

But so what? So what if Tr-mp obstructed justice? And so what if he committed any other crimes? He has just said, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” He went there. He said it. Think about that. Think about how emboldened he must feel to even express such a thought. That he believes he can publicly express such an anti-democratic, un-American idea really, though, tells us more about the state of the Republican Party than it does about the state of Tr-mp’s mind.

But does he have such a right? Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure, thanks to another oversight by the Founders. But even if he doesn’t have the constitutional right, even if the Supreme Court says he doesn’t have the right to pardon PARDON himself, who will stop him if he does? You tell me, please. Who—WHO—will stop him? And even if—I have heard this theory advanced more than once today—Tr-mp stepped down temporarily under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment and had Mike Pence pardon him before Tr-mp then reclaimed power, who would stop that or make the duo pay a price for such unprecedented and unpresidential behavior? Please tell me.

We now know that Tr-mp’s grotesque TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, thinks Tr-mp could have literally shot the FBI director instead of merely metaphorically shooting him with a firing—and “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Giuliani claimed. The darkly comedic lawyer then offered that the only constitutional option was “impeachment.” Now, whether Giuliani is wrong about a subpoena or an indictment (apparently he is wrong, but who really knows how it will play out at this strange point in our history?), he is right regarding his overall point: impeachment is the only instrument, short of an election, that will rid us of the Founder’s biggest presidential blunder. And that’s the problem.

There will be no impeachment, so long as Republicans control the House. And even if Democrats wrestle control from Republicans in November and vote next year to impeach Tr-mp, there will be no conviction in the Senate. And our nasty nightmare will continue. If you have evidence to dispute this, please share it with me. If you have evidence that there are enough Republican votes in the Senate to convict Tr-mp of anything, please show me and the rest of the country just what that evidence is.

Because even if Tr-mp shot James Comey in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York or here in Joplin on Range Line Road, I promise you that immediately there would begin a TRMP AND COMEYmassive disinformation campaign that would blame the murder on the Deep State, or, perhaps, claim that Comey is still alive somewhere waiting to assume dictatorial power after Tr-mp is dethroned by the Deep State. And that disinformation campaign, whatever its conspiratorial theme, would convince enough Republican voters that Tr-mp is the victim. And those Republican voters would convince enough Republicans in Congress to save Tr-mp’s hide. And if you can even remotely imagine this happening after a public murder, imagine how likely it is to happen for something less. Again, if you have evidence to undermine my claims here, please share.

The sad and depressing truth is that Tr-mp is above the law, so long as voters keep Republicans in office.

 

“Roseanne” Is Dead, But Tr-mpism Lives On

I am happy to be wrong about ABC and Disney. Roseanne, the show, is now dead, again. I didn’t think that would happen. Good for them for doing the right thing.

And good for all of us. Being an active racist does come with at least some consequences. That’s a sign the country still has a moral pulse.

I’ve pointed out several times how strange it is that journalists have constantly combed the countryside for nits who support Tr-mp. The hopeful idea, at least I always wished, was to get a peek inside their confused cultic heads. Oddly, though, reporters never had to wander very far to find out what goes on inside a head sacrificed to Tr-mpism. Roseanne Barr’s Twitter feed tells (told) us much of what we need, or want, to know. Racist? Check. Conspiracy nut? Check. And on and on. The Tr-mpian nastiness is there in one form or another.

But I want to focus on a related characteristic that Roseanne’s disturbed mind reveals about Tr-mp and Tr-mpism and the followers of the cult: utter selfishness. Roseanne had to know that her many unhinged tweets, especially including the latest one about Valerie JaImage result for valerie jarrettrrett, might jeopardize the survival of her resurrected TV show and thus put many, many people associated with the show out of work. The ratings, while relatively good, have been declining since the first show. Thus, ABC had some room to move, if Roseanne ever went too far. Obviously, she didn’t give a damn about going too far. Obviously, she didn’t care all that much about those who worked with her and depended on her to keep her racism and her lust for hurtful lies to herself. Like Tr-mp, she couldn’t allow a disgusting thought to pass through her mind without giving it life here in the real world.

That’s who these people are. We don’t need more polls to tell us. We don’t need more what-are-they-thinking feature stories in the New York Times or The Washington Post or anywhere else to tell us. The Tr-mp cultists—not every Tr-mp voter is a cultist, but the number is growing—have shown us time and again who they are and what kind of country they want to live in.

Just look at the latest tragedy involving the Tr-mp administration aggressively separating children from their desperate, undocumented parents, parents foolish enough to think a Tr-mp-led America, full of white-nationalist Christians, would welcome them. Where is the outrage among always-moralizing Tr-mpers? Franklin Graham is crusading for Tr-mpism in California right now. Is he outraged at how “the stranger” is being treated? Nope. But he is outraged at liberals:

The progressives have infiltrated our schools, our government and our nation. Progressivism is nothing more than godless secularism, and it has stormed through the gates of America’s bulwark.

Evangelicals like Graham aren’t politically neutral Christians who love Jesus and want you to love him too or else He will send you to hell to be tormented forever. They are committed members of the cult of Tr-mpism. Graham was outraged at the recent vote in Ireland to give women the right to control their own reproductive lives, saying, “Just because the majority who voted in Ireland say that murdering the unborn should be legal, doesn’t mean that it‘s right.” While Graham moralizes about Irish politics and American liberalism, he doesn’t have anything to say about children being forcefully ripped from the arms of their moms and dads in the name of Tr-mp’s bigotry.

Nor is there much moralizing among Tr-mpists related to the new report on the actual death toll in Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria, the official estimates were that 64 American citizens died in the storm and its aftermath. A comprehensive study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that more than 4,600 citizens, and possibly more than 5,000, may have died in the days and months following the storm. The response of the Tr-mp administration was, and still is, woefully inadequate. When visiting the island last year, Tr-mp tossed paper towels and told us that the event wasn’t a “real catastrophe like Katrina,” largely thanks to him. The truth is we don’t know how many of the thousands of deaths were due to the lack of urgency among those responsible. But we know many were. And we know not many Tr-mpers give a damn either way.

What is it that connects Roseanne Barr’s latest tweet…to kids from Latin America being forcibly separated from their parents…to the ongoing neglect of American citizens in Puerto Rico? Racism? Of course. White-nationalism? Without a doubt. But the most profound connection is the selfishness involved. Tr-mp cultists are, like their leader, deeply selfish people who want a world in which white Christians maintain their rightful place at the top, no matter what it costs.

To All Democrats Who Want To Be President:

This won’t take long.

If you are a Democrat who hopes to one day fumigate the Oval Office, Air Force One, and other places in the Executive Branch that the Tr-mponic plague has infected, hear this: stop the nice-nice, Spock-like criticisms of the ongoing disaster we are all witnessing and start raising Truman-like hell.

I have heard all kinds of talk the past few months about how Democratic hopefuls should run their respective campaigns in the context of the overt, in-your-face corruption we see, in the context of the utter malfeasance and fraud and grift we behold on an hourly basis, in the context of a dishonesty so bold it doesn’t bother to hide its face. Some people think Democrats should avoid Tr-mp and talk rationally about the issues. Some think Democrats should try to appeal to those “real Americans” who still have the Tr-mp stink on them and want to wash themselves clean (right now I’m thinking of those union workers at a Harley-Davidson factory in Kansas City who voted for Tr-mp and are now out of a job). Other people think Democrats should hang around “the center” and try to win the votes of “suburban white women.” And on and on.

Well, hooey. I’m tired of hearing talk of moderation, talk of reconciliation, talk of appeasement. I’m tired of seeing Democrats in Washington, with fire after fire raging like Image result for kilauea volcanothose around the Kilauea volcano, go on television and take a rational piss on the inferno. Reason is a wonderful and necessary tool. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in politics. People don’t tend to make decisions that way. Thus, merely pissing on the multiple fires with streams of reason won’t do a damn thing to put them out. Maybe nothing will. But, dammit, get out your firehoses and try. Start making a real effort to match this moment we’re all in. The most dangerous place in America should be between you and a television camera, as you can’t wait to rage against the outrage.

Keep in mind I am giving advice to you candidates who want to win nationally in 2020, not those individuals who are running in congressional campaigns or Senate races this year. Campaigns for House and Senate seats have their own dynamics that may or may not include a heavy emphasis on what is going on in the country at large. But you Democrats who aspire to win the Whites’ House in a couple of years should now, right now, start a pound-the-table campaign of “it’s the corruption, stupid” on one hand, and a speak-loudly-and-carry-a-skull-cracking-stick campaign of “it’s the economy, stupid” on the other. The two are linked, of course, which makes it easy to follow the program. “The system is corrupt and the corruption is why average people get screwed.” It’s that simple.

If we want to make progress, we have to have fearless national leaders who don’t just meekly ask, but righteously demand, an expansion of the pie of opportunity and who can attract new voters who want the same thing, even as these lionhearted leaders hold on to Democratic Party voters who have been faithful to that vision all along. It ain’t that hard to do.

Now, go do it, dammit.

 

 

 

 

Rethinking Israel

Today is Nakba Day, the day of “catastrophe.” Today is the day Palestinian refugees—some 7 million of them—remember their displacement from their land, caused by the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and made worse by the subsequent Six-Day War in 1967, in which Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, territories populated overwhelmingly by Palestinians and which are still under Israeli control today.

Not quite four years ago I wrote a piece (“We Are All Living In Israel“) that mostly defended the moral standing of the Israelis, even as they were prosecuting a bloody response to Hamas and the Palestinians at the time. I went back and read, several times, what I wrote. And based on the events of the last several days—culminating in that embarrassing and peace-killing ceremony celebrating Tr-mp and the move of our embassy to Jerusalem—I can say I would not write the same piece today.

It is important to understand that the context for my post in 2014 was the very real threat that Hamas and other extremist groups posed to Israeli civilians through the firing of imprecise rockets (almost 5,000 of them) and mortars (some 1,700) into Israel, many of them striking residential areas. In fact, as the BBC reported the following year, Amnesty International claimed that “Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes.” The BBC article also noted:

Amnesty’s report also detailed other violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian groups during the conflict, such as storing rockets and other munitions in civilian buildings, including UN schools, and cases where armed groups launched attacks or stored munitions very near locations where hundreds of civilians were sheltering.

Amnesty International, which had previously accused Israel’s government of killing Palestinian civilians and the unjustified destruction of property in Gaza, did not let the Israelis off the hook for their behavior in that 2014 conflict. It said some of the Israeli attacks in response to the shelling “also amounted to war crimes,” the BBC reported. But clearly most of the blame was placed on Hamas and the extremists on that side of the deadly exchange, with Amnesty saying,

The devastating impact of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians during the conflict is undeniable, but violations by one side in a conflict can never justify violations by their opponents.

Again, my original focus on defending Israel four years ago was on the relative morality involved. I wrote:

Sure, there are bad actors in Israel. Sure, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Defense Forces have much to answer for. Sure, any solution to the problem between Jews and Arabs is not enhanced by killing civilians in Gaza. I have several times criticized Israeli actions regarding their dealings with Palestinians. But in terms of a larger moral equivalency, there is no comparison between Israel and Hamas, or between Israel and other even more radical Muslim groups.

Today I’m afraid I don’t have the same certainty I had then.

Palestine Mourns Civilians Killed By Israel In GazaWith the approval of an uncompromising and unreasonable and increasingly uncivilized leader—Benjamin Netanyahu—Israeli troops killed almost 60 protesting Palestinians yesterday and wounded hundreds of others. Not much, if any, of the killing and maiming can be justified. Add to that the fact that there is widespread support for the embassy move among Jewish Israelis (Arab citizens are 20% of the population), an ill-timed move that can only mean that too many Israeli Jews have given up on a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and are willing to allow the Palestinians to languish interminably in what essentially are concentration camps in Gaza and the West Bank.

Further add that a whopping 59% of Israeli Jews have a favorable opinion of Tr-mp (he even has a 45-30 favorable mark among secular Jews there), and that, unbelievably, the mayor of Jerusalem is naming a parcel of land near the new embassy the “United States Square in honor of President Donald Tr-mp.” In a Facebook post, the mayor exclaimed: “Jerusalem returns the love to Tr-mp!” What does a sensible American say to that? Try this, written by Michelle Goldberg:

Tr-mp has empowered what’s worst in Israel, and as long as he is president, it may be that Israel can kill Palestinians, demolish their homes and appropriate their land with impunity. But some day, Tr-mp will be gone. With hope for a two-state solution nearly dead, current trends suggest that a Jewish minority will come to rule over a largely disenfranchised Muslim majority in all the land under Israel’s control. A rising generation of Americans may see an apartheid state with a Tr-mp Square in its capital and wonder why it’s supposed to be our friend.

Clearly, an apartheid state is not a moral state. Most of the defense of Israel up to this point has been that it is the region’s only thriving democracy, founded to welcome Jewish immigrants and exiles and, according to its declaration of independence, it had high hopes:

it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Seven million Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank are essentially prisoners, subject to Israeli military law. In Gaza, the living conditions are unacceptable. In the West Bank, Palestinians have watched Jewish settlers—who retain full rights as citizens—move into their territory, most of the settlements authorized and encouraged by Israeli’s right-wing government (which has been “emboldened by Tr-mp”).

It is obviously true that not all the fault for the protracted problems between Palestinians and Israelis belongs to the Israelis. Palestinian leaders have been wedded to the ridiculous and counter-productive notion that they will never recognize Israel’s right to exist as a nation-state. Palestinian extremists have resorted to terrorism time and again, and are teaching each new generation that violence against Jews is their only option, Allah’s will.

But if the Israelis want to be the good guys, they have to be good. As the days pass, as they embrace, with violence, the actions of an American fool who happens to have the power to move an embassy, as they seem to be closing off each avenue for peace, they seem headed into a permanent apartheid state, one that simply cannot be defended on moral grounds.

Here’s One Campaign Promise Every Democrat Running For President Should Make

As zealous evangelicals, using Tr-mp as their vehicle, giddily move us toward their much-awaited and much-desired Armageddon, I will use a few moments to tell you one thing I want to hear from whoever ends up representing Democrats in the 2020 election for president. Before I get to that, though, I want to set it up.

I watched the Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress deliver his opening “prayer” today in Jerusalem, during the peace-killing embassy ceremony. The Jew-hating pastor, as expected, delivered an appalling supplication to one of his Lords—“the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”—and paid galling tribute to his other Lord—the shady shitgibbon in the Whites’ House. Jeffress, to no one’s surprise, managed to offend almost everyone, except those Israelis who are killing unarmed Palestinian protesters and those others who don’t give a shit if they are.

Other than the dangerous stupidity involved in the whole thing, there were any number of reasons to be outraged at the embassy ceremony today, from Jeffress to Jared Kushner to Benjamin Netanyahu, all of whom made sure to mention Tr-mp’s name as often as the indecency of the moment permitted, which is to say every other sentence. But the most outrageous moment for me was when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and shitgibbon’s daughter, Ivanka, unveiled the plaque at the new embassy in Jerusalem. Here is a closeup of a photo taken by Menahem Kahana, of the AFP news agency:

jerusalem plaque and ivanka

There, in letters the same size as the words identifying the embassy, was “DONALD J. TRUMP,” Lord Shitgibbon.

Okay. Here’s the deal. What I want any presidential candidate on my team, who is asking for my vote in a Democratic primary in 2020, to say is this:

Should I get elected president, it will probably be too late for me to move our embassy back to Tel Aviv—the damage has been done. But there is one thing I will promise you. Among the first things I will do after all the inaugural balls are over, after I sign several executive orders countermanding all the Tr-mp executive orders that countermanded all the Obama executive orders, I will hop my ass on a newly-fumigated Air Force One and fly to Jerusalem. With me, right by my side, will be a gold-handled masonry chisel—the most beautiful chisel you have ever seen—along with a carbide-tipped stone-busting hammer. Upon arrival at the embassy, I will put those American-made tools in my hands and, in the name of the American people, I will personally remove any trace of DONALD J. TRUMP from that plaque. Personally. I mean it. You can count on it. With my own hands. I don’t care how long it takes. I’ll do it.

Oh, and while I’m at it, and just to make clear my intentions, I’ll put the chisel to MICHAEL R. PENCE, too.

I wouldn’t walk, I’d run, to the polls.

The Fact Burner

If you woke up this morning feeling sorry for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you should probably just get back in bed and continue your rest from reality. Because if you do have sympathy for the woman who lies for Tr-mp each and every day, after she was “ripped” by a comedian at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday, then your sympathy is hopelessly misplaced.

Michelle Wolf, the comedian who, among other things, highlighted Sanders’ truth-slaying skills—“she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye”—did what she was hired to do: she told jokes. Some of the jokes were good, some not so good. But there was much truth running through her jokes, including that Sanders, Tr-mp’s press secretary, really does burn facts for a living. And it wasn’t Wolf’s fault that Tr-mp didn’t have the guts to show up for the dinner, like other presidents did until he came along, and defend his propagandist in person.

All day Sunday and continuing into today, journalists have been beside themselves trying to apologize for, or demand apologizes from, Wolf and those responsible for hiring her. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell tweeted, “Apology is owed to and others grossly insulted [by] Michelle Wolf.” Maggie Haberman, of the New York Times, tweeted:

That sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.

Hooey. Double Hooey. Nobody “owes” Sanders an apology. Nor should anyone praise her for sitting and absorbing personal insults. She knew what was coming. It couldn’t have been a surprise.

But Sanders does owe us an apology. And she should praise us for not walking out of the Tr-mpian nightmare she so proudly lies for nearly every time she opens her mouth.

Sanders should apologize for vigorously defending the narcissistic anarchist sitting in the Whites’ House. She should give us a shout-out for not fleeing to Canada, as we still dare to dream that America will come to its senses and rid itself of the parasite feeding on, and quickly depleting, the norms of our democracy. She should apologize to and heap praise upon all those folks who are genuine victims of Tr-mpism and the policies associated with it.

And as for journalists, how about Andrea Mitchell apologizing for endlessly focusing on Hillary Clinton’s emails during the last campaign, while Tr-mp was robbing the country of its dignity? How about Maggie Haberman, who has done good work since the 2016 election, apologize for her paper’s front-page obsession with the Clintons’ every flaw, all the way down to butt pimples, while a crass, corrupt demagogue was tearing down the press and other vital American institutions?

And speaking of obsessions, how about journalists apologizing for focusing on “Tr-mp voters” and their feelings almost to the exclusion of the rest of us? Or how about journalists realizing that there is more to America than those places that voted for Tr-mp? Look at the way Jake Tapper addressed John Kasich yesterday, appearing for the gazillionth time on Sunday morning television, on CNN’s State of the Union:

So, I want to ask you about the midterms. Republican congressional leaders increasingly worried that a Democratic wave is coming, that they will lose the House, they might even lose the Senate. President Trump doesn’t agree. He’s confident in his abilities. He’s confident that the Republicans are going to hold the House and Senate.

You’re out there in real America in Ohio. How concerned should Republicans be, how concerned should President Trump be?

Huh? Ohio is “real America”? Okay. Let’s agree that Ohio is real America. But when is the last time you heard a journalist address, say, a senator from a blue state by saying, “You’re out there in real America in Oregon”? Or how about a journalist introducing the mayor of a large city by saying, “Here’s Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, which is in real America”? Have you ever heard Maxine Waters addressed as the congresswoman who represents people out there “in real America in the 43rd District of California”? No. You haven’t. For some reason, real Americans only live in states Tr-mp won and has the potential of winning again.

It’s effing ridiculous.

I will be the first one to call on Michelle Wolf to apologize to Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the day Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with or without smokey eyes, goes to the Whites’ House briefing room, stands proudly behind the podium, and tells the world she is sorry for the damage she, and her boss, have done to the country.

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