Now, Back To The Madness

Oh. My.

Wanna Get Away From The Madness For A Few Minutes?

We have to share the planet with Donald Trump. Nothing we can do about that. But just for a few minutes we can get a million miles away. Watch this in full screen mode:

How Roger Ailes May Have Helped Destroy The World

“I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

—Tony Schwartz, real author of The Art of the Deal

A a headline in the New York Post reads:

The end is near for Roger Ailes

Let’s hope that the end is only near for him.

From the article:

Ailes, 76 — who built Fox News into an influential $3 billion business — is reportedly being shunted aside in the wake of a sexual-harassment suit filed against him by former anchor Gretchen Carlson.

Ailes has strongly denied the accusation.

I’m going to apply the standards of Fox “News” to this case. I’m going to evaluate the accusations and evidence in the case just like the typical Fox anchor or pundit would do if this were a claim made against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat. Ready? I find Ailes guilty as charged. He did it. Everything Gretchen Carlson—and the other women who have come forth alleging the same kind of harassment since the 1960s—said is true. It must be true because I want it to be true.

With that out of the way, think about something with me.

Roger Ailes, piggybacking on the success of right-wing talk radio, created in 1996 a fact-ignoring environment on television and disguised it as “fair and balanced” news. He sold it to gullible conservatives anxious to see on television what they were hearing on the radio each and every day since the emergence of Rush Limbaugh and his imitators in the late 1980s. That fact-ignoring environment at Fox eventually became a place where a fact-free demagogue and bigot and racist like Donald Trump could thrive. Ailes is therefore guilty of establishing and profiting from a media culture that not only nourished a factless fungus like Trump for the last year, but helped him take over and make over a once-great political party.

Roger Ailes also created a culture at Fox “News” where women were subjected to his male aggression. He created a hostile environment for certain women. He tried to exploit them and, again using Fox truth standards, likely did exploit some of them. Trump’s history of remarks about women indicate he is in Ailes’ league. In fact, they have both harassed the same woman, Megyn Kelly. And Trump tweeted last year:

If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?

Given such sexism, it is no surprise that the first two days of the Ailes-Trump Republican National Convention have featured the most aggressive and shameful verbal attacks on a woman one can imagine at such an event. The delegates have become a hate-filled mob. By Thursday night, when mercifully this madness will end, the crowd may be so frenzied that someone may round up a posse and bring Hillary Clinton to justice, the old-fashioned way.

The theme of Monday night’s convention was dark and disturbing. Essentially, America is a dangerous shithole. Speakers included people like Scott Baio—who essentially called Hillary Clinton a “cunt” on Twitter just ten days ago—and Rudy Giuliani who angrily riled up the crowd, calling both Clinton and Obama liars and saying that Clinton didn’t care “how or why people serving America are killed.” The crowd went wild as Rudy became unhinged. I thought I had stumbled on WrestleMania.

Monday night also brought us perhaps the worst moment in big-time politics I have witnessed. Organizers of the convention, no doubt mostly men, managed to exploit a still-grieving mother, who turned her grief into a despicable and hostile speech in which she, without the slightest bit of evidence, blamed Hillary Clinton for the death of her son. “How could she do this to me?” said Patricia Smith, whose son was killed in Benghazi in 2012. Then, quite tastelessly, Mrs. Smith said in response to someone in the crowd, “That is right. Hillary Clinton for prison! She deserves to be in stripes.” Needless to say, the congregation of merciful, forgiveness-loving Christians were quite pleased.

Tuesday night showcased more Hillary-hating. Mitch McConnell—who mentioned her name 24 times in his few minutes of vitriol—dutifully called Clinton a liar and said,

I’m here to tell you Hillary Clinton will say anything, do anything, and be anything to get elected president.

That’s the equivalent, in this context, of saying a woman will bang the boss to get that promotion. Icky stuff.

Chris Christie, former prosecutor, failed governor of New Jersey, and now a second-class Trump butt-wiper, went after Hillary Clinton like it was Salem, 1692. And the crowd was eager to see the witch behind bars, if not burned at the stake. “Lock her up! Lock her up!” they shouted in Jesus-approved orgasmic unity.

That’s enough. I couldn’t take any more. Off went the TV.

Next week Democrats will nominate a woman for the presidency. That woman, should she be elected, will become the most powerful woman in the history of the world. That bothers a lot of people for a lot of reasons. But let’s not discount the fact that it bothers a lot of people because she is a woman. Which leads me back to Roger Ailes.

Among other things, Gretchen Carlson has accused Ailes of sabotaging her career because of her refusal to quietly work in a hostile environment. Her legal complaint says:

After learning of Carlson’s complaints, Ailes responded by calling Carlson a “man hater” and “killer” and telling her that she needed to learn to “get along with the boys.”

The boys are in charge. The boys should stay in charge.

The complaint also states:

Ailes had made it clear to Carlson that he had the power to make anything happen for her if she listened to him and “understood” what he was saying.

You see? These things are tacitly expressed and then “understood.” Roger shouldn’t have to say it out loud all the time. Women should just understand what they’re up against and submit. Or else.

Or else they will face a witch hunt at the Republican National Convention.

Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned: The Real Author of “The Art of the Deal” On Trump

Someone sent me a link this morning to an article published on The New Yorker website,
“Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All.”
 The article is written by Jane Mayer.

It is a must-must read.

A writer named Tony Schwartz actually wrote The Art of the Deal and he seriously regrets doing so. And I mean seriously regrets it. He feels he sold out for money. He feels he turned a seriously disturbed man into someone appealing. And Tony Schwartz should know. He spent 18 months with Trump beginning in 1985, as Mayer says, “camping out in his office, joining him on his helicopter, tagging along at meetings, and spending weekends with him at his Manhattan apartment and his Florida estate.”

Mayer’s article and Schwartz’s confessions cover some things that we already know. Trump is mostly not a good businessman. Mostly not as rich as he claims. Is a consummate liar and is “pathologically impulsive and self-centered.” Mayer informs us,

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

The article goes on to tell us how The Art of the Deal came to be and how hard it was for Schwartz to write it because Trump wasn’t able to concentrate long enough on one subject for Schwartz to learn anything about his childhood or anything else of importance. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” Schwartz says. Mayer writes,

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

Again, this isn’t much of a surprise to anyone paying attention since June of 2015. To call Trump’s knowledge “superficial” is to grossly overrate his knowledge. He is stunningly ignorant of almost any subject he discusses, or attempts to discuss. You can’t really cTony Schwartzcharacterize any interaction he has with reporters or others as a “discussion.” He’s simply not capable of carrying on a normal conversation.

Eventually, having given up on learning anything about Trump from Trump himself, Schwartz decided to try another way. As Mayer described it, Schwartz “would propose eavesdropping on Trump’s life by following him around on the job and, more important, by listening in on his office phone calls.” Thus, the 18 months with Donald. Mayer said that in the journal he kept during this time Schwartz “describes the hours he spent with Trump as ‘draining’ and ‘deadening.'” Yes. Sort of like his presidential campaign.

There is new stuff about Trump in Mayer’s article. Despite what you hear about how close Trump is with his family, Schwartz said that wasn’t the case when he was hanging around him. Mayer writes,

As far as Schwartz could tell, Trump spent very little time with his family and had no close friends.

Well, now that he is on his third wife, maybe things have changed.

I particularly liked a quote Schwartz shared about Trump from Roy Cohn, who had helped Joe McCarthy do his nasty deeds in the 1950s and who became Trump’s personal lawyer. Cohn was a secret homosexual and became ill with AIDS, which eventually killed him. Apparently, Trump abandoned Cohn, prompting the lawyer to say, “Donald pisses ice water.” Think about that every time you hear Mika Brzezinski or Joe Scarborough or Chris Cuomo or anyone else on television tell you what a great guy Trump is in person.

As I said, Mayer’s article is must reading. And I want to leave you with the most important reason you should bother reading it and why you should try to get others to do the same. You need to pass onto everyone you know, everyone in your circle of influence, something Schwartz said about Trump:

I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.

Perhaps Tony Schwartz will deserve some of the blame, should the end of civilization come at the hands of a dangerously impulsive and ignorant Donald Trump. But the real blame will lie squarely on those voters who are either too blind to see, or are too eager not to see, the dreadful, terrifying picture of Trump the candidate himself has painted for over a year now.

Baton Rouge, Body Language, And Black Lives Matter

President Obama, addressing the nation after yet another shooting, said on Sunday:

Regardless of motive, the death of these three brave officers underscores the danger that police across the country confront every single day.  And we as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.  Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.

Regarding the killer’s motive, we know the African-American shooter from Kansas City wasn’t at all interested in black lives. Clearly black lives didn’t matter to him. He wasn’t part of any movement to make black lives better. Among the dead on Sunday was montrell jacksonan African-American officer who had movingly expressed his concerns about both being an officer who was not appreciated and, out of uniform, being a black man who had to live with some cultural anxiety. So, the killer, despite his rhetoric in days leading up to his cowardly act, wasn’t interested in affirming the value of black lives.

What the killer was interested in doing was the same thing that other anti-government sociopaths want to do: destroy the fabric of civilized society. As President Obama said, violent attacks on police officers are attacks on every single one of us, those of us who want to live in something called “society,” defined as a group of people committed to living together under rules and laws that respect the rights and dignity of all. The cop killer in Baton Rouge was, apparently, involved to some degree in the anti-social “sovereign citizen movement,” a group of creepy people who hate government and claim laws don’t apply to them or other Americans who declare themselves independent of those laws.

I must confess that up until the last few weeks, I mostly associated such lawless movements with small pockets of angry white people, like those who started the horrific Posse Comitatus movement in the 1960s, which featured members who would later kill law enforcement officers who dared enforce the law against them. Now, though, we all know that the sovereign citizen virus has infected a tiny, but increasing, minority of black people, too.

Way back in 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center posted an article (“‘Sovereigns’ in Black”) describing how the sovereign citizens movement was starting to gain some adherents of color. The article described,

a growing number of black Americans who, as members of outlandishly named “nations” or as individuals, subscribe to an antigovernment philosophy so extreme that some of its techniques, though nonviolent, have earned the moniker “paper terrorism.” Communicating through social media and learning from an ever-expanding network of websites and online forums, they perplex and often harass law enforcement officials, courts, and local governments across the country.

With the killing of officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, we can see how quickly paper terrorism can turn into the real thing. Ideology has its consequences. And nasty hate-filled ideology has its nasty consequences. When you expose a disturbed mind to such disturbing and dangerous ideas, and when you make firearms easily available to those with disturbed minds, you will eventually have a Baton Rouge.

We need to remind ourselves, and our family, friends, and neighbors, that the African-American killers who targeted police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were not representatives of any movement created to help secure promised civil rights and equal treatment for black people. Those killers were not interested in furthering the interests of any society, black or white.

Nevertheless, there will be people, some in positions of responsibility, who will use the latest murders of police officers to attack groups like Black Lives Matter, a movement that focuses on systemic racial discrimination in America, including but not limited to in our criminal justice system. The attacks have been ongoing, but they ramped up last night with the appearance, on CNN, of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke—an African-American—who had a heated exchange with Don Lemon, saying,

This anti-police rhetoric sweeping the country has turned out some hateful things inside of people that are now playing themselves out on the American police officer.

sheriff clarkeI watched as he called Black Lives Matter “purveyors of hate.” Apparently, Sheriff Clarke thinks police officers are above criticism and their behavior should not be subject to scrutiny. Apparently, to him you are “anti-police” if you dare question some officer for seemingly shooting in haste an unarmed black man. Apparently, Sheriff Clarke thinks, oddly, that law enforcement is above any attempt to hold it accountable.

Sheriff Clarke also suggested President Obama was part of the problem. Of course. Everything, essentially, is Obama’s fault to these folks. Steve Loomis, head of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, went so far as saying that Obama “has blood on his hands” because in addition to condemning the killing of the police officers in Dallas, the president also noted that police departments aren’t “entirely immune” from bias. How dare the president tell such an obvious truth.

Loomis went on:

The president of the United States validated a false narrative and the nonsense that Black Lives Matter and the media are pressing out there to the public. He validated with his very divisive statements and now we see an escalation.

It appears to me that, like the comments of Sheriff Clarke, such criticism contains within it the idea that officers of the law are somehow in a separate class, a class that always gets the benefit of every doubt and who, if they are criticized for questionable behavior, aggressively pronounce the critics guilty.

But such people like Sheriff Clarke and Steve Loomis should think before they speak. They have offered us ample criticism of President Obama, who essentially is our chief enforcer of the law. If, God forbid, someone in law enforcement plotted to kill the president, based on rhetoric coming from leaders in the law enforcement community, would Sheriff Clarke and Steve Loomis take responsibility for it?

Or will Donald Trump? Will he take responsibility for his racially-charged nonsense about President Obama’s birthplace? For the hate-filled demagoguery and racism that has characterized his nasty and dark campaign? Just this morning, responding to Steve Loomis’ ridiculous comments about Obama, Trump once again attempted to appeal to those who think our president is not one of us. Talking Points Memo reported:

In an interview on “Fox and Friends” addressing the fatal shootings of three police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, Trump even suggested that Obama was using his body language to implicitly signal support for Black Lives Matter protesters over police.

“I watched the president and sometimes the words are okay,” Trump said, a day after Obamacondemned the “cowardly and reprehensible” attacks on law enforcement. “But you just look at the body language and there’s something going on. Look, there’s something going on.”

“What does that mean, there’s something going on?” host Brian Kilmeade asked.

“There’s just a bad feeling, a lot of bad feeling about him. I see it too. There’s a lot of bad feeling about him,” Trump replied.

Trump repeated the phrase “there’s something going on” five times during the interview, referring at different moments to the Baton Rouge shooter’s unconfirmed links to the Nation of Islam, Obama’s sympathy towards Black Lives Matter and the racial profiling endured by black Americans.

Clearly, by using such devious language, Trump is sending a message to his mostly white audience. Obama is not only not “one of us,” he is working against the interests of “law and order” whites. Obama remains a foreigner. Outside the dominant tribe. His “body language” gives him away, and Trump is suggesting that Obama is somehow conspiring to get cops killed in the streets.

But President Obama, fortunately, will not be distracted by such divisive and destructive talk. Speaking yesterday, he said this:

Five days ago, I traveled to Dallas for the memorial service of the officers who were slain there.  I said that that killer would not be the last person who tries to make us turn on each other.  Nor will today’s killer.  It remains up to us to make sure that they fail.  That decision is all of ours.  The decision to make sure that our best selves are reflected across America, not our worst — that’s up to us.

We have our divisions, and they are not new.  Around-the-clock news cycles and social media sometimes amplify these divisions, and I know we’re about to enter a couple of weeks of conventions where our political rhetoric tends to be more overheated than usual.

And that is why it is so important that everyone — regardless of race or political party or profession, regardless of what organizations you are a part of — everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further.  We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric.  We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda.  We need to temper our words and open our hearts — all of us.  We need what we saw in Dallas this week, as a community came together to restore order and deepen unity and understanding.  We need the kind of efforts we saw this week in meetings between community leaders and police — some of which I participated in — where I saw people of good will pledge to work together to reduce violence throughout all of our communities.  That’s what’s needed right now.  And it is up to all of us to make sure we are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Someone once wrote, “A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”

My fellow Americans, only we can prove, through words and through deeds, that we will not be divided.  And we’re going to have to keep on doing it “again and again and again.”  That’s how this country gets united.  That’s how we bring people of good will together.  Only we can prove that we have the grace and the character and the common humanity to end this kind of senseless violence, to reduce fear and mistrust within the American family, to set an example for our children.

That’s who we are, and that’s who we always have the capacity to be.  And that’s the best way for us to honor the sacrifice of the brave police officers who were taken from us this morning.

It remains to be seen whether we are who the president says we are. November will either help validate his optimism or prove him wrong.

Trump, War Hero

So, in response to what happened in Nice, France, and despite the fact that he can’t possibly know right now what motivated the mass killer, Donald Trump wants to declare war.

It should surprise exactly no one that the draft-avoiding presidential candidate’s first response to the Nice tragedy was to essentially ask for the authority, should Americans lose their minds and make him commander-in-chief, to send other people’s sons and daughters to die for his ignorance and impulsiveness. If you are surprised by his response, you haven’t been awake for the past year.

What would be a genuine surprise, though, is if some television journalist—if there are any journalists left on television—would actually ask the tough-talking blowhard just how his war declaration would have stopped a sociopath in France from driving a truck through a gathering of people celebrating French independence, or how it will stop a similar attack in the future. But don’t hold your breath waiting for such a journalistic breakthrough on television. TV journalists are way too busy covering the phony drama surrounding who will be dumb enough to become Trump’s official ass-kissing adulator. And by that I mean Mike Pence.

RBG Speaks Truth, Media Goes Nuts

Dammit! RBG has now apologized. She said,

My recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them.

As far as I’m concerned, she should have hung in there. When you are 83 years old, you are entitled to walk out on the national stage and tell the country the truth.

What exactly was the truth she told? Here’s what Ruth Bader Ginsburg actually said about Trump:

July 7: The AP interviewed her and asked her what would happen if Trump won the election in November:

I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.

Truth. Next:

July 8: The New York Times interviewed her. She said,

I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.

Truth. Next:

July 11: CNN interviewed her. She said of Trump,

He is a faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.

Truth. Every single word. All of it. No one actually disputes it. No one is saying that what she said isn’t true. Her critics, though, are saying she should not have said it. Huh? I thought these were, as everyone says, extraordinary times. Well, then, what’s the problem? Why can’t a distinguished jurist tell the country the truth about Trump?

All of a sudden, after years and years of Scalia and Thomas and Alito waging ideological war on the country via their reactionary rulings, Republicans are worried about Supreme Court justices being “objective.” Yes. That’s right. Texas Senator John Cornyn said of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,

I think she should reconsider and change her course of conduct because I think she’s got into an area that is out of her control.. And that I think will reflect poorly not only on her but on the objectivity that we request and demand out of our federal judiciary.

Cue the laughter. What a knee-slapper.

Speaker Paul Ryan is also suddenly worried about objectivity on the Court. “This clearly calls into question her bias,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. More laughter. Ryan even brought up Bush v. Gore in the context of bias and objectivity. What a funny guy!

Hear me, my peeps. It’s a fiction that the Supreme Court isn’t a political institution. It most certainly is. Bush v. Gore itself proves it. Beyond that, though, it is a political institution because the presidents who pick its members and the senators who confirm or SPDTC ... because Justice is not blinddeny them are all politicians, politicians with political agendas who want judges to validate those agendas, not strike them down.

Why do you think Republicans are doing what they are doing now to President Obama? They are denying him his constitutional right—duty, really—to appoint another justice to the Court. Remember Judge Merrick Garland? Why isn’t he sitting on the Court right now? Politics. (For the record, Justice Ginsburg told the Times: “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.” There might not be anything in the Constitution, but there is something in Mitch McConnell’s political head that says our African-American president has no rights a white man is bound to respect.)

And don’t forget an important fact about today’s Supreme Court. On almost any big issue before the Court, one can, with a high degree of accuracy, predict on what side most of the justices will come down. Especially Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and, before God decided to kill him in his sleep, Antonin Scalia. Again, it is a fantasy that our highest court is somehow immune to bias and politics and ideology. The best we can hope for, and we need to keep hoping for it, is that through the fog of bias and politics and ideology some justice will shine through.

Speaking of Scalia, he was the perfect example of obvious ideological bias on the Court. He (along with Clarence Thomas) spoke at least once at a secret fundraising event sponsored by right-winger Charles Koch. As ThinkProgress also reported,

Scalia also came under ethical fire when he skipped Chief Justice Roberts’ swearing in ceremony to attend a junket to a Ritz-Carlton resort funded by the right-wing Federalist Society.

Objectivity anyone? This is so much fun I’ll go on:

  • In Arizona v. United States—Scalia was on the losing side—the famous conservative justice famously offered negative opinions of President Obama’s immigration policies.
  • In another case, Scalia essentially endorsed ideas that Senator Harry Reid said were “racist in application, if not intent.”
  • Speaking before law students at Georgetown, he criticized the Court’s protection of gay rights by suggesting homosexuals were in the same class as “pederasts” and “child abusers.”
  • Three weeks after the Court agreed to hear a case involving former Vice President Dick Cheney’s desire to keep secret the details of his energy policy strategy sessions, Scalia went duck hunting with Dick. Responding to a question about the propriety of that Dick duck hunt, Scalia said,

It’s acceptable practice to socialize with executive branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That’s all I’m going to say for now. Quack, quack.

Side-splitting humor.

One more thing about Scalia, may he rest in peace. His bias was actually quantified by political science. A couple of years ago researchers did a study that focused on Supreme Court rulings, going back over 50 years, in cases involving freedom of expression. The study examined whether justices tended to favor free speech in those cases where the speaker’s ideology lined up with their own, either liberal or conservative. Guess what? Here’s how one of the researchers, Lee Epstein of Washington University in St. Louis, put it:

The most pronounced in the data set is Scalia … Just in terms of the pure percentages, if it were a liberal speaker he’d support the free exercise claim in about 21 percent of the cases. But if it were a conservative speaker, [he’d support free exercise claims] in 65 percent of the cases.

Whoops. I don’t remember too many editorials denouncing Scalia’s lopsided preference for conservative speech, do you?

Finally, I want to get to what really bothers me about all this. It is Trump’s reaction and the lack of proper reaction to Trump’s reaction. He first tweeted,

Justice Ginsburg has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot-resign!

Wait a minute. Did he really say “her mind is shot”? Donald Trump—Donald Bleeping Trump—is actually sitting in judgment of someone’s mental ability? Yep. He later said, “there’s almost something wrong with her.” Think about that for a second or two. What kind of muddled mind talks that way? In any case, he was asked if he was questioning her mental capacity, to which he said,

Yes, I think I am. I think I am questioning her mental capacity.

Okay. You have a presidential candidate—one who recently launched a racist attack on a federal judge—openly questioning whether a sitting Supreme Court justice is in her right mind. Isn’t that unprecedented? Isn’t that a problem far greater than Ruth Bader Ginsburg telling the truth about Trump? I mean, she didn’t question his mental capacity. She questioned his sincerity and his consistency and his ego and the lack of transparency on his finances. All of those things are legitimate concerns about Trump. Yet, journalists and pundits, even liberal ones, are all torn up about what RBG has done, in terms of how the public might now perceive the impartiality of the Court. The reaction to what Trump said is to ignore it and continue to criticize her. What utter hooey. Doesn’t questioning the sanity of a Supreme Court justice do more to harm the institution than what RBG did?

Let me end this with some wise words from Paul Butler, a law professor and former federal prosecutor, who wrote an op-ed for The New York Times:

When despots have ascended to power in other regimes, one wonders how judges should have responded. Should they have adhered to a code of silence while their country went to hell? Not on the watch of the Notorious R.B.G. She understands that if Trump wins, the rule of law is at risk.

In speaking out, Ginsburg has refused to elevate the appearance of justice over justice itself. The Washington chattering classes may not appreciate the breach of protocol, but history — should the United States remain a democracy – will be a kinder judge.

That, my friends, is absolutely right. Despite her second thoughts now, RBG has done the country a favor by doing what too many journalists, especially those on cable television, refuse to do: she spoke truth to Trump.

______________________

[photo credit: Ginsburg: Allison Shelley/Getty Images; peeping justice: Southern Defender; Scalia: Allen West]

Once More An Amazing Speech

About Americans he said,

At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions. And it is not merely a matter of tolerance, but of learning from the struggles and stories of our fellow citizens, and finding our better selves in the process.

Those weren’t the words of Barack Obama today. Those were the words of George W. Bush. But they beautifully presaged what President Obama would try to do with his own speech in Dallas: help heal the recent wounds of a community, unify a nation, and call us to really find “our better selves” by “learning from the struggles and stories of our fellow citizens.”

I won’t quote from Obama’s speech at the interfaith memorial service for the five police officers murdered last week in Dallas by an African-American man, an angry, radicalized man who sang and laughed at police after he gunned them down. I don’t really want to quote from Obama’s speech because you really should read, and see, it all. But I do want to say, once again, just how lucky we are to have Barack Obama as our president in times like these. As someone said to me, they couldn’t imagine Donald Trump giving such a speech. Very true. But honestly I can’t imagine Hillary Clinton giving a speech like that either. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone we currently know in American politics giving such a speech. For so many reasons, it really was remarkable.

Maybe, and sadly, it’s because President Obama has had so much practice.dallas memorial.jpg

Bernie, Finally, Joins the “Stop Trump” Movement

Bernie Sanders unequivocally endorsed Hillary Clinton today. Good for him. Good for the Democratic Party. And, hopefully, good for the country.

Since I have spent a lot of time criticizing him for his behavior up until today, I owe him my thanks for belatedly doing the right thing. I watched his speech today in New Hampshire, and when he got around to talking about Hillary Clinton, he didn’t mince words. He actually endorsed her like he meant it, even though he knew that doing so would disappoint and aggravate some of his most loyal supporters. He effectively contrasted her positions on the issues with those of Trump and reminded everyone of something essential:

If you don’t believe this election is important, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump will nominate, and what that means to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.

I don’t think those of us who have been critical of Sanders should ignore just how important today is. Sure, Bernie’s delay was somewhat damaging, as was some of the things he and his supporters said and did during the primary season. But it was close to essential to get Bernie on board Clinton’s campaign. His passion and energy, as well as the passion and energy of those who will follow his lead, will help Democrats at all levels. We need all hands on deck. As Bernie mentioned today, Democrats not only need the White House, but the Congress, if there is any hope of getting progressive policies enacted.

Bernie also said something that Democrat-friendly people, who don’t necessarily like Hillary Clinton personally, should think about:

This campaign is not really about Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, or any other candidate who sought the presidency. This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face. And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.

If you have any amount of sympathy for what Bernie Sanders was fighting for, if you have any amount of sympathy for the principles the Democratic Party represents, then it is imperative to get past your difficulties with Hillary Clinton’s personality or with her much-examined history. There is just too much at stake.

clinton and sanders.jpgBut Bernie statement above isn’t quite correct this election cycle. In an important sense, in a sense Bernie never touched on today, this election is about a candidate, a very unusual and unstable candidate. Trump’s utter unfitness for office, his manifestly disqualifying temperament, should be on voter’s minds. If Hillary Clinton is to win, she must focus not just on addressing the needs of the American people, but in reminding them, again and again, of just how existentially dangerous Trump is. Those tempted to not vote for her because they think she’s not progressive enough or because she has taken money from big shots or because they just can’t stand her personality need to know what they are risking.

I was talking to a neighbor the other day, a highly educated neighbor who said she was considering voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. I asked her why. She said she thought Hillary Clinton was too ambitious, and it was clear she didn’t much like her. It really didn’t seem to have all that much to do with Clinton’s policy positions. It just appeared she didn’t like Clinton. Of course I challenged her on that “ambitious” remark, saying that I don’t often hear people criticize male politicians for their ambition. But I also challenged her to think about the fact that a vote for Johnson, or any third-party candidate, is in effect a vote for Trump. It’s a vote that Hillary should get but won’t. And multiplied that could mean a Trump victory that would hurt a lot of people, both here and around the world.

I don’t know what she thought about my challenge, but I do know that people need to think about not just the policies that would flow out of a Clinton or Trump administration, or the personnel that would populate the government by virtue of a win by either, but people need to think long and hard about the damage—long-term damage—that Trump can do to our country by the sheer force of his incorrigible ignorance and chronic bigotry and self-obsessed temperament.

It occurred to me, after hearing Trump cynically say last night, “I am the law and order candidate,” that no one would be all that shocked to hear him say, upon taking office, “I am the law.” That is why Sanders’ endorsement today was so important. And that is why, again, I want to thank him for not being Ralph Nader.

This Is How Trump Stays Viable

On his MSNBC show this morning, Joe Scarborough was, as is his wont and as is the wont of nearly every cable television pundit outside of Hayes, Maddow, and O’Donnell, giving Donald Trump advice. Usually Scarborough’s advice to Trump relates to how the 70-year-old fool and likely GOP presidential nominee ought to behave, how he should “pivot”—mainstream media’s favorite word designed to shkreli.jpgcommunicate to Trump that he needs to stop being so childish, stupid, and nasty—from the primary to the general election.  Today, though, Scarborough was giving advice on whom Trump should pick as his running mate, which, as we all can see, is pretty slim pickings. When Newt Gingrich is one of the options, that means Martin Shkreli said he doesn’t want any part of it.

In any case, about right-wing zealot Mike Pence, who to me is the obvious choice for those people who give a shit who Trump picks, Scarborough said the following:

My concern about Mike Pence is you never know how somebody’s gonna act on the national stage…On the national stage it’s easy to get out there and say some pretty dumb things even if you’re a pretty smart guy. Same thing with the General [Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn]. I would warn everybody away from the General…[because] you want somebody who has been on the big stage, who excels on the big stage. And, really, you’ve got Newt Gingrich who’s all over the place. But then you’ve got the guy who was one of the best campaigners in the fall and the guy who finished Marco Rubio’s campaign single-handedly, and that’s Chris Christie….I will tell you Chris Christie’s a guy you know you can put out there, he’s not going to embarrass you and chances are pretty good he’s going to embarrass the other side.

So, there you have it. If Donald was listening—and we know he was because he is obsessed with those people on cable television who are obsessed with him—he now knows who Joe Scarborough thinks he should pick. He should pick a guy who got his ass thoroughly kicked in the primary and who doesn’t embarrass Trump [!!!] by saying dumb things! Of course!

It is quality analysis like that, coming from one of the most popular political insiders on television, that keeps the Pumpkin Punchinello’s hopes alive that he will one day sit in the White’s House and restore the country to its former greatness as an isolated, xenophobic nation that will embrace the coat hanger as a national symbol for women’s reproductive rights, burn fossil fuels faster than ever, and make white supremacists feel like, finally, they’ve got their country back.

Keep it up, Joe and other pundits on television, you may get your wish.

Bad Moon Rising

I hear hurricanes a’blowin’
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers overflowin’
I hear the voice of rage and ruin

Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

—John Cameron Fogerty

his is the voice of rage and ruin. That is Donald Trump. No doubt about it. His declaration that “the system is rigged,” which he shouts routinely now, is in the cynic’s tongue.

But the extreme cynicism we see all around us—the utter distrust many people have in our democratic institutions, our politicians, in even ourselves as citizens of an experimental democracy—is not the fault of Donald Trump. He has just given voice to it and will, it is guaranteed, try to make a buck off it.

I have been amazed, like most people, at the success Trump has had. More than four in ten Americans, if we are to believe the polls, prefer this ignorant, bigoted, racist demagogue over the alternative, Hillary Clinton. We can blame a lot of people for this phenomenon, including Mrs. Clinton and her troubles, including journalists who make mountains out of rage and ruin.jpgClinton’s molehills and who make molehills out of Trump’s mountains, and especially including Republicans who have, for more than a generation now, figured out how to wreck the machinery of government and create much of the crippling cynicism we see today.

But really, the fault is ours.  We. The. People. Our country really is an experiment in democracy, in self-government. There are no guarantees that the experiment will turn out well. It could go badly. The end could really come one day. What we are really doing when we give up and consider handing our government over to a nasty, divisive figure like Donald Trump is giving up on ourselves, on our ability to make this experiment work. If we don’t vote, or if we vote for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning, we are really opting for failure. We are throwing in the towel. Quitting. Saying to hell with it.

I see the bad moon rising. The voice of rage and ruin is on our television every day. If we let him win, the country certainly will lose. But it may be that his bone-chilling demagoguery has made it such that even if he loses, the country won’t win. All of the rage-and-ruin bluster that is broadcast seemingly nonstop may have pushed us too far already. Trump, and the cynical politicians on the right who have embraced his hate-spewing, America-rending candidacy, may have made it impossible for anyone to govern this country effectively.

I fear it is so. I hope I’m wrong.

 

Again.

All the facts aren’t in yet regarding the case of the killing by police of yet another black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, but we know that without the video evidence available, this case would go down like nearly all have in the past: no one would be held accountable. In fact, even with the video evidence it is more than likely that the two police officers involved, even if one or both actually committed a crime, will escape prosecution. That’s just the way it usually works when cops kill black folks in America.

We also know, sadly, that reactionaries in our society will go out of their way to grossly smear Alton Sterling, who had a criminal record of some kind, but was also a 37-year-old father who, at least judging by the video we have all seen by now, didn’t deserve what happened to him early Tuesday morning. He reportedly had sold homemade CDs for years at the convenience store where he was killed.

Here’s something to consider: by all accounts, Sterling was well-known in the   neighborhood where he was killed. Maybe the two cops who tangled with him knew him. I’m betting they didn’t. At least very well. And if they didn’t know him well or at all, whose fault is that? Isn’t that part of policing? Knowing your community, especially folks out late at night routinely selling CDs in front of a convenience store?

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has taken over the case. The Governor of Lousiana, John Bel Edwards, says he has “very serious concerns” and that “the video is disturbing, to say the least.” Yes. It is disturbing. And depressing. I posted it below because, as many times as you may have seen this or similar videos, we need to keep seeing this stuff until we figure out what we can actually do about it besides wring our hands.

Did Hillary Clinton Kill Someone Yesterday?

She must have. She must have killed a lot of people. Perhaps she perpetrated a mass shooting or blew up a school building full of children. Maybe she set a nursing home on fire and laughed while it burned. Something like that must have happened for there to be such Hillary-hating hysteria on television, the Internet, social media, and in print since yesterday.

It’s everywhere, this hysteria. Coming from the right and the left. I have seen it on Fox. I have seen it on CNN—which is subsidizing Trump’s campaign by paying so many of his surrogates for their on-air appearances and broadcasting his rallies endlessly—and, regrettably, I have seen it on MSNBC, starting last night when liberal journalist Chris Hayes invited Clinton-hating Glenn Greenwald on to have a go at Hillary. MSNBC this morning was even worse, as the crew at Morning Joe lost their minds over the FBI’s failure to recommend indictment of an obviously guilty Hillary Clinton.

morning joe and hillary emailYou see, Hillary’s guilt is determined not by a court, not by people in the law business, but by people in the Clinton-hating business. And as we can now see, that’s a big business. Joe Scarborough, a long-time Clinton hater, said this morning, “Anybody else would have gone to jail.” Scarborough, a Republican with a TV show, gets to play judge and jury when it comes to Hillary Clinton. She has no rights a cable pundit is bound to respect.

Try to keep all this hate and hysteria in context. And by context I mean Donald Trump. As Huffpo puts at the end of every story on the GOP nominee:

Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

That factual addendum leaves out one important fact: the man is clearly mentally unstable and in no way can be trusted with any intelligence information, let alone trusted with putting his tiny, insecure fingers on the nuclear trigger. Yet, this morning I heard the Morning Joe panel giggle over Trump’s unhinged speech last night at his rally in North Carolina, a speech that CNN carried in full and which featured this:

Trump Praises Saddam Hussein Again — This Time For Killing Terrorists ‘So Good’

Yes, Trump really praised a brutal dictator. He has never met an authoritarian he didn’t like. And his followers, who shower him with adoration, have apparently never met a lover of authoritarians they didn’t love. And journalists, on television and elsewere, apparently find Trump not dangerous or disturbed, but entertaining.

Also for context keep in mind the David Petraeus controversy scandal, which comes up during almost any discussion of Clinton’s email practices. What exactly did he do? As the L.A. Times put it in an excellent article:

In the Petraeus case, which came to light in 2012, the CIA director was found to have shared highly classified documents with his biographer, Patricia Broadwell, during the course of their affair. Investigators found more than 100 photographs from notebooks Petraeus had given her, as well as secret PowerPoint briefings on the war in Afghanistan. The Justice Department threatened to charge him with three felonies, which could have landed him in prison for years. They eventually settled on a misdemeanor plea deal, where Petraeus pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI, paid a $100,000 fine and was sentenced to two years’ probation. Petraeus, regarded as one of the military’s most skillful commanders by Democrats and Republicans alike, resigned in shame.

Let me summarize that for you: The good, family-values General was banging someone-not-his-wife, and he knowingly gave that someone-not-his-wife classified information that he knew would be made public because that someone-not-his-wife was a journalist writing a book about him, and then, just for grins and giggles, he lied to the FBI about it. Yeah, that’s pretty close to what Hillary Clinton allegedly did, right? Jesus, people.

Oh, I almost forgot. Remember that George W. Bush email controversy in 2007? You don’t? Haven’t heard the hysterical talking heads mention that one when discussing Hillary?  Here’s a summary from PBS’s Washington Week:

In 2007, when Congress asked the Bush administration for emails surrounding the firing of eights U.S. attorneys, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed that many of the emails requested could not be produced because they were sent on a non-government email server.  The officials had used the private domain gwb43.com, a server run by the Republican National Committee. Two years later, it was revealed that potentially 22 million emails were deleted, which was considered by some to be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

Who went to jail over that? Huh? Karl Rove, who used that private server for most of his emailing while in the White House, is enjoying life on Fox “News” and still working to undermine Democrats everywhere. And Rove never suffered for his part in the public outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Oh, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, knee-deep in that 2007 scandal, was on television this morning criticizing FBI Director James Comey!

What a country.

If I sound angry it is because I am. If you watched and appreciated President Obama yesterday, as he endorsed Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and gave a great speech extolling her virtues, obama and clinton.jpgthen you’d be angry too. That unprecedented event pretty much got lost in all the hate coming from, as I said, both the right and the left. We live in sick times.

If I were Mrs. Clinton, I would tell all the haters out there—especially those Bernie-bots who hate her more than most conservatives do—to go straight to hell. I would tell them they can have Donald Trump if they want him. I would say good luck getting, from a Trump administration, free college and decent healthcare for all and the other things you say you want. I would tell all those young people out there, those who hate Hillary’s guts so much they would prefer a global warming denier as their president, have at it. He’s all yours. I’ll be long dead before the worst of it hits the planet.

I would tell all those working stiffs—including some union folks—who prefer Trump, to enjoy the mess he makes of the economy and the world. Enjoy your lower wages, if you still have a bleeping job. And, finally, I would tell all those journalists, those who are making it safe for Trump to broadcast his bigotry and ignorance and racism and hatred for a free press, I’m outta here. You think it is more interesting to cover someone like Trump? You’ll find out what interesting is. You like the ratings he brings? You’ll be the ones who pay. You think he’s funny? Laugh until you cry.

I would tell them all that I’m going home to play with my grandkids. And when things get really bad, I can move. Can you?

__________________________

Not that it matters much to anyone it seems, but here is an excerpt from President Obama’s speech yesterday:

Now, let me tell you, North Carolina, my faith in Hillary Clinton has always been rewarded. I have had a front-row seat to her judgment and her toughness and her commitment to diplomacy. And I witnessed it in the Situation Room where she argued in favor of the mission to get Bin Laden.

I saw how — I saw how — how as a former senator from New York, she knew, she understood because she had seen it, she had witnessed it, what this would mean for the thousands who had lost loved ones when the Twin Towers fell.

I benefited from her savvy and her skill in foreign capitals where her pursuit to diplomacy led to new partnerships, opened up new nations to democracy, helped to reduce the nuclear threat. We’ve all witnessed the work she’s done to advance the lives of women and girls around the globe.

She has been working on this since she was a young woman working at the Children’s Defense Fund. She’s not late to the game at this; she’s been going door to door to make sure kids got a fair share, making sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education.

She’s been fighting those fights, and she’s got the scars to prove it….

But you know, it — it wasn’t just what happened in the lime light that made me grow more and more to admire and respect Hillary. It was how she acted when the cameras weren’t on. It was knowing how she did her homework. It was knowing how many miles she put in traveling to make sure that America was effectively represented in corners of the globe that people don’t even know about. There wasn’t any — any — any political points to be had, but she knew that it was important.

I saw how she treated everybody with respect, even the folks who aren’t quote/unquote “important.” That’s how you judge somebody is how do they treat somebody when the cameras are off and they can’t do anything for you. Do you still treat them right? Do you still treat them with respect? Do you still listen to them? Are you still fighting for them?

I saw how deeply she believes in the things she fights for. And I saw how you can count on her and how she won’t waver and she won’t back down. And she will not quit, no matter how difficult the challenge and no matter how fierce the opposition.

And — and if there’s one thing I can tell you, Charlotte, is those things matter. Those — those — those things matter. I am here to tell you that the truth is nobody fully understands the challenges of the job of president until you’ve actually sat at that desk.

Everybody’s got an opinion, but nobody actually knows the job until you’re sitting behind the desk. Everybody can tweet, but nobody actually knows what it takes to do the job until you’ve sat behind the desk.

Clinton Email Nonsense: If “No Charges Are Appropriate In This Case,” Why Did Comey Blast Clinton Anyway?

FBI Director James Comey didn’t quite give Republicans what they wanted. But he went out of his way to give them the next best thing.

Let’s start with a simple admission. Yes, Hillary Clinton brought much of this on herself. Her almost fanatical insistence on her privacy, and her justified suspicions that right-wingers out there would do her harm by obtaining personal information through FOIA requests, led her, just before she went to work for the government as Secretary of State, to establish her own email server, which, she even admits, turned out to be a colossal mistake.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s move on to just why the FBI was involved in this nonsense in the first place, according to Director Comey:

The investigation began as a referral from the Intelligence Community Inspector General in connection with Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail server during her time as Secretary of State. The referral focused on whether classified information was transmitted on that personal system.

Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.

Notice that the FBI’s job in this case was to see whether or not what Hillary Clinton did, related to her use of a private email server, actually violated a federal law. It was really that simple: did she or didn’t she break the law? Comey and his agency found that she did not. Okay, what he said was,

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case…As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.

Why wouldn’t a “reasonable prosecutor” bring the case? Because, as many lawyers have been saying all along, the case would fail. Remember that there had to be malicious intent or gross negligence. After months and months of looking, Comey couldn’t find either, but that didn’t stop the Bush-era Republican from publicly scolding Mrs. Clinton:

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

“Extremely careless”? Extremely? The word “careless” needed that particular modifier? Careless wasn’t good enough by itself? Somewhat careless wasn’t tough enough? That kind of Fox -like criticism hurled at Mrs. Clinton—and that’s really whom this whole thing was about; let’s don’t kid ourselves—is criticism that an FBI Director, who has worked for a Republican administration, ought not to have made in an election year, when the person he labeled “extremely careless” will be the Democratic Party nominee. It might have helped shed light on this controversy if Comey had bothered to mention just how screwed up our system for classifying information is, but he limited his criticisms to Mrs. Clinton, including this unnecessary critique:

While not the focus of our investigation, we also developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to use of unclassified e-mail systems in particular, was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.

Now, if it was “not the focus” of the FBI’s investigation, one has to wonder why Comey found it necessary to essentially badmouth Clinton’s management of the State Department, james comey.jpgat least in terms of how the agency handled classified information. Comey’s unsolicited criticism seemed full of purpose, whatever his purpose was. It obviously helps Donald Trump’s campaign, even if Trump isn’t smart enough to figure that out by himself.

On MSNBC, just after Comey’s announcement, Andrea Mitchell had on as her first Republican guest none other than Ben Carson. Huh? Ben Carson? Really? Was Sarah Palin busy? Needless to say, Carson was—when he was awake—fairly incoherent, but he did manage to say that Clinton’s “judgment” is the real issue, not the legalities. Ahhh, yes. Her judgment. That happens to be a Bernie Sanders special, which Trump has borrowed and devilishly embellished for the remainder of this campaign. The she-has-poor-judgment critique is bolstered considerably by Comey’s out-of-bounds commentary today.

Speaker Paul Ryan, reacting with Trump-like hysteria, said in response to Comey:

Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent. The findings of this investigation also make clear that Secretary Clinton misled the American people when she was confronted with her criminal actions. While we need more information about how the Bureau came to this recommendation, the American people will reject this troubling pattern of dishonesty and poor judgment.

It remains to be seen what the American people will reject since we haven’t had an election yet. But what we can see is that for Hillary Clinton, even when she manages to clear one hurdle, another one is quickly put in front of her. Far from being “above the law,” as Paul Ryan and others have suggested today and in the past, she is in some ways below it. Even when the FBI director basically cleared her of legal liability, the Speaker of the House talked openly about “her criminal actions.” And the FBI director himself offered up, for whatever reason, a double-dose of criticism that happens to harmonize with “crooked Hillary” Tweets from the GOP nominee, a man who is demonstrably and dangerously dishonest, not to mention a walking, tweeting example of poor judgment.

Did James Comey say the things he said today in order to help Trump? I doubt it. He more than likely was trying to deflect criticism away from him and his agency by going as far as he could, rhetorically, to damage Hillary Clinton, even as he said—I repeat—“no charges are appropriate in this case.” And damage her he did. Fortunately, though, we can count on Republicans to overplay their hands, just like they have with Benghazi and other “scandals” of the past. In the meantime, for her it’s on to North Carolina with President Obama, both of them hopefully campaigning about things that matter, like what would a world with a nuclear-armed President Trump look like.

A Reminder To White People

King Beauregard, a frequent contributor to this blog, made an interesting point about Bernie Sanders in particular, but really about privileged white people more generally:

I don’t think Bernie has a single drop of malice towards blacks or Hispanics in him. It’s not just the decades of not interacting with blacks, but (I suspect) the much subtler failing of not personally feeling their pain and therefore not feeling any motivation to investigate their issues.

He then followed up with this:

It’s about realizing that racism manifests in all sorts of subtle ways, sometimes through what DOESN’T happen, and it’s the easiest thing in the world for white people to ignore it because it doesn’t happen to affect them. Worse, the measures to do something about that subtler racism WOULD affect them, and that’s where a great many progressives fall down on the job. Not just because (for example) prioritizing BLM issues means not talking about single payer for a minute, but the very humbling awareness that white progressives and white racists are all used to benefiting from an unfair system.

It is always useful to remind white folks, across the ideological spectrum, that our system, despite the progress we have made, still tolerates and in some cases encourages discriminatory and racist practices. And because whites need to be reminded—again and again—I thought I would post here my response to King Beauregard:

K.B.,

It’s very easy for white people to criticize obvious manifestations of racism in our society. Heck, there are still some Republicans left who will do that. But you are right that a system contaminated by a more subtle form of race-based discrimination is harder to get white people, even white Democrats, to care about. Your point about “what DOESN’T happen” is exactly right. That’s harder to detect and then explain. When people of color are negatively affected by the subtle racism you suggest, white people tend to think those particular negative outcomes are solely or largely the result of a lack of effort or talent, as opposed to something in the system itself that helps determine those outcomes.

Worse, though, than missing or ignoring the more subtle forms of discrimination in our society is this sad and depressing fact: today a significant majority of white people think it is they who are suffering from discrimination! You’ve probably seen this already by way of Vox, but when I saw it the other day I was sort of not surprised:

Americans are split on whether they believe “reverse discrimination” is real.

That “white working class” result probably explains Trump’s mystifying appeal to 40% of the population better than any one factor, perhaps even better than innate preferences for his clownish authoritarianism. Just think about it for a minute. Members of the white working class—who have in large numbers supported Republicans for years now—think their existing problems aren’t because (or just because) they have embraced right-wing economics and anti-union fervor through the ballot box, but because people of color are “taking” their jobs or getting into the best schools and so on. It’s really amazing.

But more amazing is the “white college educated” response. More than four in ten white people with a college education think the system is essentially “rigged”—a term Trump uses with some effectiveness—against them!  That result makes me think some college degrees aren’t worth all that much.

And we shouldn’t ignore the responses from blacks and Hispanics. I can think of some legitimate reasons why those numbers are higher than they should be, but it still is troubling that around one-third of minorities in this country think white people’s problems are related to reverse discrimination. When you put all of this together, it illustrates your point about subtle racism and how it is built into our system in ways even some people of color don’t immediately recognize.

That Vox article also recognizes and explains an important distinction between discrimination and racism:

Discrimination refers to the biases one exhibits against a racial group. Racism, by contrast, reinforces discriminatory attitudes with social, political, cultural, and economic institutions that have historically disenfranchised a group of people simply because of their racial identity.

Using the terms without the necessary distinction (as the study did that produced the graph above), racism simply becomes “a set of attitudes without the power dynamics that give certain biases salience over others.” Those power dynamics that favor whites are what white people either purposely fail to see or are culturally conditioned to ignore, despite the fact that, as the article points out, there is so much evidence out there to prove some forms of racism are still very much with us, whether it be in hiring practices or in our criminal justice system or in redlined neighborhoods or in our education system’s tendency to overlook intellectual giftedness among black students.

Finally, the article notes how belief in “anti-white bias” has been on the rise among white people since the beginning of the civil rights movement in the ’50s, which is no surprise. And Vox asks a question at the end that is very easy to answer:

How will white Americans adjust to an America that cannot and does not focus on their rights alone?

For a big chunk of them the answer can be expressed in one word: TRUMP!

Clinton & Warren?

I’ve thought about it and thought about it.

Everyone is wondering whether Hillary Clinton, after that amazing appearance with Elizabeth Warren in Ohio on Monday, is able to throw her notorious caution to the wind and pick Warren as her running mate.

After dismissing the idea for months, I would now say there is a good chance she is ready. After Warren enthusiastically embraced Clinton—“I’m here today because I’m with her! Yes, her!”—the former First Lady’s speech, full of praise for Warren, contained a passage that, with Senator Warren standing just behind her, stood out to me:

I got into this race because I wanted to even the odds for people who have the odds stacked against them.  And this is not a time for half-measures.  To build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top, we’ve got to go big and we’ve got to go bold.

One way to go bold would be to go Warren.

I have been trying to figure out whether Warren would help or hurt Democratic Party chances this fall. I’m still not sure, but I’m starting to think that, on balance, picking Warren may help us win. Before I get to the positives, though, let me list some of the negatives, some of them obvious:

  • If Clinton/Warren wins in November, Democrats will, at least temporarily, lose a senate seat in Massachusetts.
  • Her age—she’s 67. Hillary will be 69 by election day.
  • Her almost total lack of foreign policy-national security credentials and experience (although Clinton has enough for two people).
  • The whole woman-woman dynamic in a country that has yet to elect even its first female president.  (And, yes, I know about the whole man-man dynamic since the 18th century.)
  • Warren is relatively unknown among folks who don’t closely follow politics until about now, which means her record can be distorted and her political persona can be partly shaped by Republican propaganda (“She’s a socialist!”).
  • Her presence on the ticket will certainly drive some anti-Trump Republicans away from possibly supporting Clinton and definitely fire up some lukewarm Trumpkins.
  • She may tend to rhetorically and theatrically outshine Clinton at times, but, then, isn’t Clinton selling experience and steadiness and wonkiness?

The upside of a Warren pick would include the following:

  • She is Bernie Sanders without, well, being Bernie Sanders. She would help consolidate and solidify support among skeptical progressives.
  • Her Trump attacks. No one has done it better than she has, and she does seem, as Hillary Clinton mentioned on Monday, to get under Trump’s razor-thin skin.
  • Although she is relatively unknown in the Midwest, her genuine Bernie-esque message should play well from Iowa to Ohio to Pennsylvania, as well as Wisconsin and Michigan.
  • Her non-endorsement of Sanders shows she has a feel for the dynamics of American politics in general and Democratic Party politics in particular. She is progressive without being uncompromisingly dogmatic like Sanders. She seems to understand that establishment figures like Clinton and establishment-run parties tend to get more done because, hey, they tend to get elected.
  • Unlike Sarah Palin, to whom lately she has been compared, she’s educated—can you imagine Palin teaching anything at any college, let alone Harvard?
  • But she’s not a typical member of the so-called liberal elite. She’s from Oklahoma and was raised in a lower middle-class family and comes across as genuinely folksy. In a particularly poignant part of her pre-Clinton speech on Monday, she said:

    So today I want to talk about values. My daddy sold fencing and carpeting, he ended up as a maintenance man. And after his heart attack, my mom answered phones at Sears to keep our family above water. And here are some of the values that I learned, up close and personal.

  • Her three brothers served in the military. One, she says, was “career military” who was part of “288 combat missions in Vietnam.” Another, after leaving the Air Force, “got a good union job operating a crane.” And her youngest brother started a small business after some time in the Army and is now depending on Social Security.
  • She worked her way up the ladder through determination and hard work. Her story is the “classic” American story.
  • She was a Republican until late in her life.  Some 20 years ago she saw the light, which means she can critique the Republican Party in a way Hillary Clinton can’t. And she can speak to folks who aren’t hard-core partisans, those famous “independents.”
  • She’s been divorced and remarried—yes, that can be a plus in politics these days.

This collection of strengths and weaknesses isn’t exhaustive, of course. But it gives you an idea of just how hard the decision is. Warren or Senator Tim Kaine—a good pick, too, despite attacks from Bernie supporters—or someone else?

Normally, VP picks aren’t ultimately game-changers. But this year, as we all know, is very different. Crazy stuff has happened. There’s more crazy stuff to come. And, thus, the Libertarian Party ticket will capture some significant number of anti-Trump (and anti-Hillary) votes. Jill Stein, of the Green Party, is polling too high for my tastes. Every single vote of hers is a vote Hillary Clinton should but won’t get. Stein may end up being this cycle’s Ralph Nader.

And then there is Bernie Sanders. He hasn’t lifted a finger, as of yet, to help Hillary Clinton keep an arrogant and bigoted and dangerously dumb Trump from obtaining presidential power. For all we know, the finger he ends up lifting may be his middle one. Bernie is hard at work trying to force a carbon tax into the Democratic Party platform and thereby force Democratic candidates to defend it against vicious and potentially effective Republican attacks—a carbon tax, by the way, that may be helpful in the fight against climate change but will never pass Congress. So, who knows about him and his strange brand of politics.

In the mean time, there is Elizabeth Warren—again, the “go bold” choice. I, for one, never get tired of hearing her say what she said on Monday:

Now Donald Trump says he’ll make America great again. It’s right there, it’s stamped on the front of his goofy hat. You want to see goofy? Look at him in that hat.

But when Donald Trump says, ‘Great,’ I ask, ‘Great for who, exactly?’ For millions of kids struggling to pay for an education? For millions of seniors barely surviving on Social Security? For families that don’t fly to Scotland to play golf?

When Donald Trump says he’ll make America great, he means make it even greater for rich guys just like Donald Trump. Great for the guys who don’t care how much they’ve already squeezed from everyone else. Great for the guys who always want more.

Because that’s who Donald Trump is—the guy who wants it all for himself. And watch out, because he will crush you into the dirt to get whatever he wants. That’s who he is. Just look at the evidence.

Donald Trump cheered on Britain’s current crisis, which has sucked billions of dollars out of your retirement accounts, because he said, hey, it might bring more rich people to his new golf course.

He cheered on the 2008 housing crash because he could scoop up more real estate on the cheap.

And he cheered on students desperate enough to sign up for his fake university so he could bleed them dry and turn a profit for himself.

What kind of a man does that? What kind of a man roots for people to lose their jobs? To lose their homes? To lose their life savings? I’ll tell you what kind of man: a small, insecure money-grubber who fights for nobody but himself.

What kind of a man? A nasty man who will never become President of the United States!

Damn. “A nasty man”? No wonder she gets under Trump’s skin, thin or otherwise.

[photo cred: Clinton and Warren: Aaron Josefczyk, Reuters; Warren in Iowa: Steve Pope, Getty Images]

#Shitgibbon

An old friend of this blog, Juan Don, wrote in to say,

Thanks to the colorful Scots, I found a new moniker for Trump: “ferret wearing shitgibbon.”

Juan was referring to the response Trump received to the following tweet:

As anyone paying two minutes worth of attention to the Brexit vote knew, Scotland voted overwhelming to Remain in the European Union. And now there is a real chance that Scotland may itself exit from Great Britain. Trump, of course, was interested only in promoting his new golf course and, as usual, didn’t have the slightest idea what he was talking about. And the Scots and other EU-supporting Brits were quick to let him know. Actually, my friend Juan didn’t quote in full the best response to that typically-Trumpish tripe-tweet. The entire inventive invective, tweeted by “Hamfisted Bun Vendor,” was:

Now, there will be a lot of insults, all deserved, hurled at Trump from now until the possible end of the American Experiment, but “tiny fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon” will probably never be topped. The hashtag, #shitgibbon, is sort of trending on Twitter. It has generated a new entry on Urban Dictionary. Hamfisted Bun Vendor, who is actually a blogger from South West England, has more than a thousand new followers so far. Good for him.

Thanks to another blogger, Al Bruno III from North Carolina, and Fusion and Buzzfeed, we have a collection of other insults so far generated by Mr. Shitgibbon’s comments on Brexit:

Cockwomble.
Weapons-grade plum.
Tit.
Muppet.
Buttplug face.
Bloviating flesh bag.
Clueless numpty.
Spoon.
Mangled apricot hellbeast.
Weaselheaded fucknugget.
Toupéd fucktrumpet.
WITLESS FUCKING COCKSPLAT!

That represents the King’s English in the age of Trump.

Oh, and speaking of COCKSPLATS!—made famous by British writer Tim Footman—we have Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who obviously wants to be Shitgibbon’s running mate. Regarding Trump’s totally bizarre, completely self-serving, utterly clueless news conference in Turnberry, Scotland—featuring Swastika golf balls!—Corker told CNN’s Jake Tapper:

I thought it was one of his best events. I’m sorry—I know I’m an outlier.

You think? Saying he watched the event live, Corker went on to explain himself:

I thought his answers—I know he began talking about the development itself, he knew reporters were going to ask him about ‘Brexit’—I thought it was one of his best events, and I didn’t take it that he was—he was giving an example, which is obvious, that when the currency fluctuates as it does, more Americans are going to be able to travel to the U.K. more cheaply; some of their exports may go at greater value. I thought it was really just demonstrating, you know, an anecdotal statement relative to its effects. So, again, I thought it was one of his better events.

That kind of sound judgment will no doubt earn Corker a discount on the “incredible suites” at Turnberry, along with the privilege of running with the tiny fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon who, on behalf of white people everywhere, wants to take back the White’s House.

Thus, how scary is American politics right now? There is Trump. And there is Corker—who has close ties with a company that is under investigation by the FBI and SEC and that happens to own Joplin’s Northpark Mall—who has embraced Trump and who is, uh, the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations committee.

There is a tiny bit of good news. A new poll came out on Sunday:

While it is quite troubling that at least 4 out of 10 Americans would vote for a shitgibbon, and while it is quite disturbing that a powerful U.S. Senator is sucking up to a shitgibbon, there is some hope that a majority of Americans will reject our version of Brexit.

 

Bernie’s Game Of Chicken

Bernie Sanders is playing a game. And it is a very dangerous game.

Appearing today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” just after yet another weird Trump press conference from Scotland, Sanders said he would vote for Hillary Clinton because “the issue right here is I’m going to do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump.” There was no Hillary endorsement, just a knock against Trump, whom Sanders rightly called a “pathological liar.” That was about as much as a positive response as Democrats could expect from him, I admit, but—and there is always a but with Bernie—he wasn’t ready to stop his fight over the Democratic party platform and remaking the party in his ideological image. And he said Hillary Clinton had not yet come far enough his way.

In other words, Bernie is tempting fate. When asked if he might want to think of withdrawing from the race, now that everyone but Bernie Bros knows it is over, Bernie said,

Why would I want to do that when I want to fight to make sure that we have the best platform that we possibly can, that we win the most delegates that we can?

He still wants to win delegates? Now why would he want to keep going after more delegates? Power? Is the man playing this game so he can have as much power as possible? Is his ongoing struggle over the soul of the Democratic Party, a party he obviously doesn’t like, worth risking a Trump presidency? I get the impression, from listening to him, that he thinks it is. In fact, and I hate to say this, but I get the impression that what he named this morning as the quite quixotic “goal” of his campaign—“to transform this nation”—is more important than actually electing a Democrat this fall.

Maybe it’s just me, but this man appears to be a disturbing cross between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump: an uncompromising ideologue mixed with an ego much bigger than his delegate count.

Bernie was asked if he was concerned that only about 55% of his voters, according to some polls, were going to vote for Clinton. He wasn’t too worried about it. When asked about disunity in the party, he said,

You talk about disunity, I talk about people in the political process and wanting to have a government and party that represents all of us.

You see? Unity schmunity. Who cares about unity in the party when the party needs to be rebuilt from the ground up? Who cares about unity in the party when Bernie isn’t done having his way with it? Who cares about unity when Bernie still has all those damn delegates!

He was asked what to do about American companies that, say, move to Mexico. He gave the exact same answer Trump has given many times: slap tariffs on them—even though the president can’t do that. When he was told that he sounded just like Trump on that issue he said,

So what?

Yeah. So what? Who cares if Bernie sounds like Donald Trump? Who cares if significant numbers of his voters say they will actually vote for Trump or “anybody but Hillary”? Who cares if Trump is president?

If Bernie cares all that much, he has a funny way of showing it. Appearing a little later on “CBS This Morning,” he was reminded he had yet to endorse Clinton and was asked why he hasn’t done so. He said,

Because I haven’t heard her say the things that I think need to be said.

There you have it. His endorsement is, apparently, contingent on her yielding to his demands. He said he hopes that happens before the convention. But it may not happen before then, he added. They’re in negotiations right now—weeks after the last vote was cast. It took Mrs. Clinton only four days to suspend her campaign and endorse Barack Obama, after it was clear she couldn’t win the nomination in 2008. Yesterday evening I received an email from Bernie that ended with this:

bernie email ending.jpg

Hard to miss that “CONTRIBUTE” button.

Mind you, Bernie’s not doing this for himself. Oh, far from it. He’s not in it for himself, just as Donald Trump says he’s not in it for himself. Bernie, like Trump, says he is in it for the folks. He’s just raising money and keeping this going for, as he said in his email, “the 12 million Americans who voted for a political revolution.” Never mind that almost 16 million Americans didn’t vote for a Bernie-led political revolution during the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Bernie told CBS’s Charlie Rose this morning:

Look, it’s not just me. Charlie, what this campaign has been about is people wanting to transform America.

Transform America? Yes. That could happen for sure. If Mrs. Clinton doesn’t say what Bernie wants her to say, if the Democratic Party doesn’t bend to the will of Bernie Sanders, there may very well be a new America.

And it will have TRUMP stamped all over it.

Never Been Prouder To Be A Democrat

Tonight, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, it continues—

The Democratic Party’s historic “sit-in” in the House of Representatives over the gun issue that plagues the country. Here is an image from MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes” late Wednesday evening:

democratic party sit in

Giving words to that image, Elijah Cummings, congressman from a gun violence-infected district in Maryland, said,

It would be legislative malpractice not to deal with these issues.

Amen. And with the support of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, among others, the Democratic Party is presenting to the county a stark choice: side with sanity on guns or side with NRA-blessed anarchy.

Couldn’t be prouder to be a Democrat tonight.

Roy Blunt, Terrorist Fighter

Roy Blunt, a United States Senator from my state, is a part of Republican leadership. He is supposed to be one of those “adults” in the Republican Party who is anchored to reality.

Ha.

Blunt voted, along with most Republicans, to make it possible for terrorists to get killing machines known as assault weapons. As you will see, he is a favorite of the NRA. And he is a walking—and tweeting—example of what is wrong, not only with his party, but with the entire conservative establishment and, if he holds onto his senate seat this November, what is wrong with the state of Missouri.

Look at this tweet his reelection campaign crapped out on Monday:

roy blunt tweet

There are other, similar, disgusting tweets from that account, all designed to persuade voters here in Missouri that our Secretary of State, Democrat Jason Kander, who is running for Blunt’s senate seat, is soft on “radical” Islamic terrorism.

Except, you know what? Jason Kander is a veteran. And he’s not just any old veteran. He’s a veteran of the Afghanistan war. Here is his return tweet:

jason kander tweet

It turns out, as The Kansas City Star reported, that Roy Blunt is a chicken hawk. He had his chance to serve his country with the firearms he so loves, but instead, like a lot of Republican library-soldiers, decided student deferments were the way to go:

In a news story posted online Wednesday morning, The Star reported Blunt received three draft deferments while a college student in the late 1960s.

He didn’t just “receive” them. He asked for them. And three draft deferments? He must have been proud of those, right? Wrong:

Blunt’s office did not disclose the deferments in 2015, when the newspaper specifically asked Blunt’s office about the senator’s draft history.

Well, that’s understandable. He was protecting his future bravery, no doubt. Protecting his abstract—and vote-getting—fight against “radical Islamic terrorism.”

So, what is the campaign’s explanation for Blunt’s failure to disclose? Simple: old age or bureaucratic red tape or, hell, Alzheimers:

Blunt’s staff said this week that poor memories and difficult-to-obtain draft records may have contributed to the confusion over the senator’s deferments.

Confusion. That’s it! He was confused about not wanting to get his ass shot at in Vietnam. Very understandable. It is painfully obvious how one could forget or get confused about that.

Truth is, I don’t know what to say about someone who attacks his political opponent in such a way as to suggest Jason Kander is squishy about fighting terrorism when Jason Kander actually risked his life to, uh, fight terrorism. Maybe you have words for such an asswipe. Share them.

In any case, back to Blunt’s vote on allowing terrorists here in America access to killing machines. According to a Washington Post analysis,

Sen. Roy Blunt has received more campaign donations from the National Rifle Association than any other current member of Congress…

I don’t know if that’s true. But if it is, that means Blunt is not only in bed with the gun (manufacturer) lobby, but he is on top. If you know what I mean.

Hey, at least humping the NRA and gun manufacturers is safer than dodging bullets in Vietnam. Or Afghanistan. No confusion about that.

The Arizona Asshole

As you know by now, there was more disappointing news on Monday regarding the attempt to sensibly regulate gun purchases in America. As Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said, “The NRA won again.” Well, I like what Senator Chris Murphy, who led a Democrat filibuster that got Democrats the ability to even vote on gun restraint, said about the whole sorry episode:

chris murphy gun voteWe’ve got to make this clear, constant case that Republicans have decided to sell weapons to ISIS…That’s what they’ve decided to do. ISIS has decided that the assault weapon is the new airplane, and Republicans, in refusing to close the terror gap, refusing to pass bans on assault weapons, are allowing these weapons to get in the hands of potential lone-wolf attackers. We’ve got to make this connection and make it in very stark terms.

I like that statement because not only is it true, it allows me to heap a whole lot of orange excrement on war-hero-turned-asshole, John McCain.

Not only does McCain support the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic Trump—even after His Orangeness slandered McCain and other POWs last summer and recently slandered President Obama by suggesting he secretly sides with ISIS—but days ago the Arizona Republican actually blamed Barack Obama for the mass killing in Orlando. He said, three freaking times, that the president was “directly responsible for it.”

Directly. Responsible.

Now, should any future assault rifle-toting terrorist decide to kill innocents, we can use McCain logic and say that John McCain—the sluttiest NRA whore in Congress—and his Republican friends in the Senate (plus Democrats Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester) are directly responsible for it.

Directly. Responsible.

Country First, People Last

“America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.”

Donald Trump, April 27, 2016

A British lawmaker, Jo Cox, was killed today. She was a member of the Labour Party and she was in favor of Britain staying in the European Union. For that, apparently, she was murdered. From Reuters:

Media reports citing witnesses said the attacker had shouted out “Britain First”, which is the name of a right-wing group that describes itself on its website as “a patriotic political party and street defense organization”.

Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, said the attack was “absolutely disgusting” and suggested that Britain first was a common slogan being used in the EU referendum campaign by those who support Brexit.

Britain First. America First. Right-wing groups. Murder. Oh, my.

Two Men History Will Judge

There was this headline today:

Paul Ryan Refuses To Call Out Trump For Renewed Muslim Ban Push

From the story:

When the speaker was asked for his reaction to Trump’s comments on the Orlando shooting, his comments that American Muslims have been harboring terrorists, and his comments questioning whether President Barack Obama really wants to fight terrorism, Ryan saved his harshest criticism for the reporter making the query.

Then there was this today:

Obama Decries Trump’s Muslim Ban, Asks: ‘Where Does This Stop?’

The lede from that story:

In forceful comments Tuesday that repudiated calls to use the term “radical Islam” while underscoring his administration’s efforts to defeat terrorism, President Barack Obama blasted such language as dangerous and reactionary and slammed Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims.

Now, one of these two men—each the highest ranking official in his political party—have it wrong. History will judge one of them, either Speaker Paul Ryan or President Barack Obama, very harshly. For now, you be the judge. To help you do that, I have posted below President Obama’s remarks today about Trump and those Republicans who are with him. Obama made the history-making remarks after first giving Americans an important and lengthy survey of just how much damage has been done to ISIS over the past year or so. Then, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.—standing beside him, he started to get hot:

It is absolutely true, we cannot prevent every tragedy. But we know that consistent with the Second Amendment, there are common sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm. We should give ATF the resources they need to enforce the gun laws that we already have. People with possible ties to terrorism, who are not allowed on a plane should not be allowed to buy a gun.

Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually be tough on terrorism and stop making it easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons. Reinstate the assault weapons ban, make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us. Otherwise, despite obama on trump.jpgextraordinary efforts across our government, by local law enforcement, by our intelligence agencies, by our military—despite all the sacrifices that folks make—these kinds of events are going to keep on happening. And the weapons are only going to get more powerful.

And let me make a final point. For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize the administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us. We cannot beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists.

What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?

The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.

Since before I was president, I have been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As president, I have called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions. There has not been a moment in my seven and a half years as president where we have not able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam.” Not once has an adviser of mine said, “Man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around.” Not once.

So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting? If there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are—that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we have taken off the battlefield.

If the implication is that those of us up here and the thousands of people around the country and around world who are working to defeat ISIL aren’t taking the fight seriously? That would come as a surprise to those who spent these last seven and a half years dismantling Al Qaida in the FATA, for example—including the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk, and the special forces that I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria. They know full well who the enemy is.

So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans—including politicians who tweet and appears on cable news shows. They know who the nature of the enemy is. So, there is no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy.

And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism. Groups like ISIL and Al Qaida want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion of Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions.

They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda, that’s how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims as a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with the entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them.

Now, up until this point, this argument of labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric, and sadly, we have all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship, even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups. That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing and working really hard to protect the American people.

But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind set and this kind of thinking can be. We are starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we are fighting, where this can lead us.

We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. And you hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence.

Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer—they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans
differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith? We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this?

Because that’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our Democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making Muslims in this country and around the world feel like, no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack. It makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.

We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history. This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that.

And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect. The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won and we cannot let that happen.

I will not let that happen.

You know, two weeks ago I was at the commencement ceremony of the Air Force Academy and it could not have been more inspiring to see these young people stepping up dedicated to serve and protect this country. And part of what was inspiring was the incredible diversities of these cadets. We saw cadets who are straight applauding classmates who were openly gay. We saw cadets born here in America applauding classmates who are immigrants and love this country so much they decided they wanted to be part of our armed forces.

We saw cadets and families of all religions applaud cadets who are proud, patriotic Muslim-Americans serving their country in uniform ready to lay their lives on the line to protect you and to protect me. We saw male cadets applauding for female classmates who can now serve in combat positions. That’s the American military. That’s America. One team. One nation.

Those are the values that ISIL is trying to destroy and we should not help them do it. Our diversity and our respect for one another, our drawing on the talents of everybody in this country, our making sure that we are treating everybody fairly, that we are not judging people on the basis of what faith they are or what race they are or what ethnicity they are or what their sexual orientation is.

That’s what makes this country great. That’s the spirit we see in Orlando. That’s the unity and resolve that will allow us to defeat ISIL. That’s what will preserve our values and our ideals that define us as Americans. That’s how we are going to defend this nation and that’s how we are going to defend our way of life.

Why There Is A Trump

Other than white fear and anxiety—which I have written about many times—there are two other reasons we have a Trump.

One I found in an L. A. Times article (“News coverage of campaign greatly aided Trump and hurt Clinton, study finds“), which confirmed what anyone who has consumed the news since last June already knew. But it’s nice to have an objective study confirm what may only be personal bias. The lede:

News coverage of the early months of the presidential campaign strongly boosted Donald Trump’s bid and put Hillary Clinton at a disadvantage, according to a new study from Harvard that is likely to add to the heavy volume of complaints that the media aided Trump’s rise.

There’s that.

Then there’s this, which I found on The Hill:

Carl Bernstein: Trump speech ‘abhorrent’ but ‘effective’

Bernstein, unfortunately, is a CNN commentator. The old Watergate-breaking journalist was critiquing the godawful speech Trump gave today on banning Muslims and protecting those newly-lovable gay people that Republicans didn’t use to love until it became politically expedient to love them. Those same newly-lovable gay people that Democrats like Obama and Clinton are failing to protect because those two America-haters allow every gay-hating terrorist in the world to walk into the United States without so much as a howdy. The speech was, as Bernstein said, quite “abhorrent.” But here’s what else Bernstein said about it:

His speech will appeal to independents, even some Democrats and certainly Republicans because Hillary Clinton, Obama and the Democrats are very late to acknowledge by name that there is a real threat of Islamic terrorism in this country and all over the world and they have been very reluctant to use the word Islamic terror and it’s coming back to haunt them. The impression Trump gave today, with some effectiveness, despite his almost neo-fascist rhetoric, is that the Democrats have not done that.

That is so dumb, on so many levels, I can hardly draw a breath.

First, I don’t know one single Democrat who would find that speech appealing. If there are Democrats out there who do find neo-fascism appealing, guess what? They ain’t really Democrats.

bernsteinSecond, Clinton, Obama, and the Democrats are not “very late to acknowledge by name that there is a real threat of Islamic terrorism in this country and all over the world.” There are plenty of dead terrorists out there to refute that very ignorant claim. Just ask Osama bin Laden, the next time you’re snorkeling for seashells.

Third, what about the reluctance “to use the word [sic] Islamic terror”? Bernstein knows, or should know, why there is reluctance to use the word in the way that right-wingers want Democrats to use it. Responsible elected officials, as opposed to Republican elected officials, have to be careful not to alienate the very people who can help stop terrorists from terrorizing. Bernstein said it’s “coming back to haunt” Democrats. Oh, yeah? Where’s the proof of that? Obama was reelected, even though the right made the same attacks on him back in 2012. He’s also fairly popular right now. Does Bernstein think non-Republican people are so dumb that they think just by uttering “Islamic terrorism” all the terrorists out there will turn into Mr. Rogers?  I can pretty much guarantee anyone that ISIS thugs don’t really give a damn whether Hillary Clinton decided to use the term “Islamic terrorism” today. All they care about, besides killing other Muslims, is not having an American drone as a breakfast guest.

Fourth, Bernstein said Trump’s speech used “almost neo-fascist rhetoric.” No. It wasn’t almost neo-fascist. It was the real deal. At least as real as fascism gets in American politics. Bernstein also said that despite the close-to-fascist rhetoric, Trump’s speech was effective. Again, what evidence is there for that? Trump is a known liar and everyone not already hypnotized by authoritarian bombast has ten thousand good reasons not to believe anything he says about Obama, Clinton, or the size of his bratwurst. The only way anyone outside the Trump cult would give any credence to such a neo-fascist speech, which was full of non-facts, is if people like Carl Bernstein gave them reason to.

And that is exactly what he did. Bernstein should have called the speech what it was and not given anyone the impression that Trump is anything other than a dangerous authoritarian, who at times today acted like a lunatic. He should have said that Trump is quite openly telling us how he will change the country for the worse and how he will dramatically expand the powers of the executive branch beyond anything conservatives have imagined Obama doing. Instead, Bernstein practiced the kind of journalism we are too used to seeing since Trump slinked into our politics. The kind of journalism that has placed America dangerously close to electing a neo-fascist.

Ugly

Thanks to Media Matters, we now know that the maker of the assault weapon—forget the distinction some people try to make; the damn thing is an assault weapon as the Orlando massacre proved—used by the gay-hating killer is a corporate donor to the NRA, as well as “the sponsor” of a propaganda series the NRA produces called “Defending Our America.”

Sig Sauer manufacturers the killing and maiming machine that was sold, quite legally, by a gun store owner in St. Lucie, Florida. That gun dealer is a former NYPD cop, Ed Henson, who appeared on television today, as he tried to answer questions about the tran$action. After it was over, MSNBC’s Brian Williams was fairly effusive in his praise for Henson, the owner who profited from—I repeat: profited from—selling an assault weapon to the gay-hating killer—and, no, it doesn’t matter to me that Henson didn’t know he was a gay-hating killer. What matters is that Henson legally profits from selling guns and ammo designed to do what was done in Orlando.

Oh. One more thing. According to the Daily News, Ed Henson is a pathetic, Obama-hating freak. Noting that he frequently posts on Facebook “rants critical of black lives matters protesters and President Obama,” the paper shared one of his Greatest Hits from November:

He should be handcuffed, removed from Office and charged with Treason and then publicly executed! How can the American People and military stand by and do nothing while this piece of s–t puts everyone of us in danger.

That’s just another way of saying what Trump suggested this morning about Obama’s American loyalty, or lack of it. These are very ugly people. And America is getting uglier with every tweet and every speech Trump gives.

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