The Bernie Cult

It was disgusting.

At first I thought I had dozed off watching television last night and was having a bad dream. But it was no dream. Actress Susan Sarandon, showing herself not to be a Democrat but only a Bernie groupie, did actually tell MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that she wasn’t sure she could vote for Hillary Clinton, should her beloved Bernie fail to win the nomination. Sarandon claimed that because Bernie-ites were “passionate and principled,” there was “a good possibility” that they might not be able to support Clinton’s candidacy because the Democratic front-runner doesn’t believe what Bernie believes.

sarandonWhat nauseating nonsense. What depressing drivel. Sarandon sounded exactly like your average Tea Party nut. At one point, the prominent Bernie supporter said she had talked to people who will write Bernie’s name on the ballot in November because they feel Hillary is “not authentic, that she’s a liar, that they don’t trust her, so what difference does it make?” By now, that line of attack should sound familiar coming from Bernie’s side. After all, his supporters learned it from his campaign.

Hayes suggested to Sarandon that when faced with the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Drumpf, even Bernie Sanders would “probably” have to support Hillary—there is some doubt about that because Bernie has hinted he won’t support her unless she and the “Democratic establishment” meet his demands. Responding to Hayes’ suggestion, the star-struck actress responded:

I think Bernie would probably encourage people, because he doesn’t have any ego in this thing. But I think a lot of people are, ‘Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to do that.’

“Probably”? Are you kidding me? Sanders would probably encourage people to vote for the Democrat in the general election? Jesus. Susan Sarandon isn’t part of a political campaign, she is part of a cult. There is the evidence right there in her statement about Bernie: “he doesn’t have any ego in this thing.” Oh. My. God. No ego? All politicians have ego and Bernie Sanders is no different. Someone who wants to be the most powerful person in the world definitely has an ego.

In fact, one could argue that it is Bernie’s rather large ego that prevents him from acknowledging the reality that his quest for the presidency is increasingly quixotic. And one could argue that it is his rather large ego that prevents him from productively sanders on young turkschanneling the amazing energy of his younger followers into a movement to win back control of Congress. If Bernie had no “ego in this thing,” he would start attacking Republicans in vulnerable districts and spend his resources and his political capital in support of Democratic candidates who can actually help bring about some needed change. But he won’t. Like almost all politicians, his ego won’t let him.

Sarandon didn’t limit her fantasizing last night to Bernie-worship and Hillary-bashing. As bad as it was that she said she couldn’t be sure she personally, or Bernie-ites in general, would support Hillary Clinton in a race against Drumpf, what she said subsequently was worse. Chris Hayes, rather emphatically, said he couldn’t believe that faced with a choice between Clinton and Drumpf that folks like her would sit it out. Sarandon then said,

Some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately. If he gets in, then things will really, you know, explode.

Huh? Was she really saying that there are Bernie devotees out there who think it would be best if Drumpf actually wins in November because the much-awaited revolution will then come—after the country explodes? Yes. She really said that. And, again, she sounded just like a strange member of a strange cult. Chris Hayes even suggested to her that such an idea was “the Leninist model,” which she did not deny. Oh, my.

Susan Sarandon was co-chair of Ralph Nader’s National Steering Committee in 2000, the year that Nader and his cult following helped make George W. Bush president by taking votes away from Al Gore in Florida. Sarandon has a history of being blind to reality. We can only hope, those of us who don’t want to see America Drumpfed or Cruzed, that there aren’t a lot of Bernie-cultists out there wearing revolution-at-any-cost blinders.

And, my God, at this point we can only hope—we can no longer be sure—that Bernie himself won’t get caught up in the cultic atmosphere that is starting to define his campaign.

 

Hillary Clinton And The Purity Test

During a segment this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Hillary Clinton was all but convicted of “crimes” related to her never-ending email “scandal.” Now, for those of us condemned to watching this daily Drumpf-drumming, Hillary-hating nonsense on MSNBC, the ugly discussion about Clinton’s emails and server was nothing new. The host of the show, Republican Joe Scarborough, makes no secret of his opinion that Hillary Clinton is guilty of something, and she is especially guilty of lying about whatever that something is.

In any case, today’s excuse for yet another Hillary-is-guilty segment was a story published yesterday by the Los Angeles Times (“Clinton email probe enters new phase as FBI interviews loom“) that began this way:

Federal prosecutors investigating the possible mishandling of classified materials on Hillary Clinton’s private email server have begun the process of setting up formal interviews with some of her longtime and closest aides…

Notice something about that intro: “the possible mishandling of classified materials.” What’s so hard to understand about that word “possible”? Here’s some help from Merriam-Webster: “something that may or may not be true or actual.” You see? It may or not be true that Mrs. Clinton “mishandled” classified materials, let alone did anything that could remotely be considered criminal. That’s why the FBI is, uh, investigating the matter. And normally when there is an investigation, there are interviews. That’s the way it works. What’s the jaw-dropping news in that? It would be jaw-dropping news if the FBI didn’t interview anyone, wouldn’t it?

In fact, the same L.A. Times article notes that “a person familiar with the investigation” said that FBI agents “have interviewed a number of former aides so they could better understand how the system was used and why Clinton chose to use it.” And now the FBI is moving further up the chain of people involved, just as we should expect them to do. Is that a big deal? No. It’s not a big deal. But this is Hillary Clinton we are talking about. She is judged by a different standard. Many pundits, especially those working on television, are quick to turn even the smallest trickle of information about the FBI’s investigation into a Niagara Falls of accusations. Why? Because she is presumed to be so damned dishonest. A liar. Everyone knows that, right? Just look at the polls!

But it’s not just right-wingers like Joe Scarborough who make such outrageous claims about Clinton. As I have argued, the not-so-subtle attacks on her integrity are part of Bernie Sanders’ campaign to beat her. She is not to be trusted. She is a liar. And then there are the zany left-wing columnists out there who back Bernie. Let me give you an example of something one of those zany columnists published this morning on HuffPo:

It’s Time for Hillary Clinton to Concede the Democratic Nomination to Bernie Sanders

Yes. That is really the headline. This strange opinion piece, also generated by that L. A. Times article, was written by H. A. Goodman. He’s a real winner. Some of his past gems include “Bernie Sanders Will Become President. The FBI and 67 Percent of Americans Distrust Hillary Clinton” and “The FBI’s Investigation of Clinton’s Emails Makes Bernie Sanders the True Democratic Front-Runner” and “Bernie Sanders Won the Debate Because Jorge Ramos Is Right, Clinton Could Get Indicted” and “33 Percent of Bernie Sanders Supporters Will Not Vote for Hillary Clinton. Here’s Why” and, my personal favorite from just last week, The Case for Writing-In Bernie Sanders If Hillary Clinton Is the Democratic Nominee.” Get the idea? These creeps would rather lose the election than vote for Hillary Clinton.

Goodman, as well as other Bernie-loving leftists, are as sure as Joe Scarborough that Clinton is guilty of something. Goodman’s piece referenced some critics of Clinton who think “a criminal charge is justified” and that if it were anyone else but her, jail would probably await. But none of these people, on the left or the right, apparently bothered to read the entire L.A. Times article that left them all aglow with Hillary-hate. Here is what they missed:

Many legal experts believe that Clinton faces little risk of being prosecuted for using the private email system to conduct official business when she served as secretary of State, though that decision has raised questions among some about her judgment. They noted that using a private email system was not banned at the time, and others in government had used personal email to transact official business.

The bigger question is whether she or her aides distributed classified material in email systems that fell outside of the department’s secure classified system. But even if prosecutors determine that she did, chances she will be found criminally liable are low. U.S. law makes it a crime for someone to knowingly or willfully retain classified information, handle it in a grossly negligent manner or to pass it to someone not entitled to see it.

Once you read those two paragraphs, once you realize that the hysteria surrounding this issue mostly involves the weird and unruly classification of material handled by various agencies in the federal government (blogger Jim Wheeler has an excellent post on that mess), then you see why there is “little risk” of a prosecution for Hillary Clinton. But even so, there remains the issue of her trustworthiness, which is always raised as a liability for her in the general election. And fortunately, someone—someone important in the world of journalism—has addressed the issue in a straightforward manner.

If you follow politics religiously, you no doubt have heard of Jill Abramson. Right now she is a columnist for the Guardian, but for nearly two decades she worked for The New York Times, serving as its Washington bureau chief and then its managing editor and then its first female executive editor. That’s a big deal. That’s a lot of journalistic cred. Today, Abramson published a piece for the Guardian that should be read by every single reporter and pundit:

This may shock you: Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest

“Shock you”? Abramson explains:

I would be “dead rich”, to adapt an infamous Clinton phrase, if I could bill for all the hours I’ve spent covering just about every “scandal” that has enveloped the Clintons. As an editor I’ve launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I’m not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising.

Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.

Abramson, without starry-eyed admiration—she points out that Clinton’s biggest fault is her reluctance to disclose even harmless information—tells us why she thinks her “honest and trustworthy” conclusion is justified:

jill abramsonThe yardsticks I use for measuring a politician’s honesty are pretty simple. Ever since I was an investigative reporter covering the nexus of money and politics, I’ve looked for connections between money (including campaign donations, loans, Super Pac funds, speaking fees, foundation ties) and official actions. I’m on the lookout for lies, scrutinizing statements candidates make in the heat of an election.

The connection between money and action is often fuzzy. Many investigative articles about Clinton end up “raising serious questions” about “potential” conflicts of interest or lapses in her judgment. Of course, she should be held accountable. It was bad judgment, as she has said, to use a private email server. It was colossally stupid to take those hefty speaking fees, but not corrupt. There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor…

As for her statements on issues, Politifact, a Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking organization, gives Clinton the best truth-telling record of any of the 2016 presidential candidates…

Clinton has mainly been constant on issues and changing positions over time is not dishonest.

“Fundamental to understanding her,” Abramson writes, is this:

Clinton distrusts the press more than any politician I have covered. In her view, journalists breach the perimeter and echo scurrilous claims about her circulated by unreliable rightwing foes.

As a once-reluctant Clinton supporter myself, I have come to see why, especially after what Republicans and some in the press did to her in the 1990s, she has tended to insist on maintaining what Abramson referenced as a “zone of privacy,” a space for breathing air not polluted by partisan politics. I’m convinced that is what led her to make that dumb decision to have her own private server, a decision that dogs her each and every day.

But I want to be clear about something. Clinton’s past fights with right-wingers and her distrust of some journalists who made those fights more difficult doesn’t excuse her from the demands of democracy. It sounds tautologically trite, but we need information to make informed decisions, and the job of the press is to get that information. Having said that, though, Hillary shouldn’t be subjected to higher scrutiny than other candidates. As Abramson put it:

It’s fair to expect more transparency. But it’s a double standard to insist on her purity.

Insisting on Hillary Clinton’s purity is not only a right-wing standard of measuring her integrity, but, sadly, in too many cases it has also become a left-wing standard for measuring her integrity.

And the only beneficiary of such unrealistic nonsense is the Republican Party.

Like A Rolling Stone?

My days of reading Rolling Stone magazine go back to the early 1970s, when the undergroundish magazine was using newsprint and was full of strange and stimulating stuff about music and politics that a boy from southeast Kansas couldn’t easily find anywhere else.

Today, the now slicked-up version, still published by its co-founder Jann Wenner, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The editorial endorsing her was authored by Wenner, and I found it not only well-written, but well-reasoned.

Wenner compliments Bernie Sanders for proving “to be a gifted and eloquent politician,” who “has articulated the raw and deep anger about the damage the big banks did to the economy and to so many people’s lives.” He praised him for making it clear “how punishing and egregious income inequality has become in this country.” Wenner says his “heart is with him.”

But:

it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan; it is not a reason to wield power; it is not a reason for hope. Anger is too narrow to motivate a majority of voters, and it does not make a case for the ability and experience to govern. I believe that extreme economic inequality, the vast redistribution of wealth to the top one percent — indeed, to the top one percent of the one percent — is the defining issue of our times. Within that issue, almost all issues of social injustice can be seen, none more so than climate change, which can be boiled down to the rights of mankind against the oligarchy that owns oil, coal and vast holdings of dirty energy, and those who profit rolling stone header.jpgfrom their use.

Hillary Clinton has an impressive command of policy, the details, trade-offs and how it gets done. It’s easy to blame billionaires for everything, but quite another to know what to do about it. During his 25 years in Congress, Sanders has stuck to uncompromising ideals, but his outsider stance has not attracted supporters among the Democrats. Paul Krugman writes that the Sanders movement has a “contempt for compromise.”

Every time Sanders is challenged on how he plans to get his agenda through Congress and past the special interests, he responds that the “political revolution” that sweeps him into office will somehow be the magical instrument of the monumental changes he describes. This is a vague, deeply disingenuous idea that ignores the reality of modern America. With the narrow power base and limited political alliances that Sanders had built in his years as the democratic socialist senator from Vermont, how does he possibly have a chance of fighting such entrenched power?

I have been to the revolution before. It ain’t happening.

Noting that Clinton “is one of the most qualified candidates for the presidency in modern times,” Wenner reminds us about that infamous 2000 Bush v. Gore election and how, “The votes cast for the fantasy of Ralph Nader were enough to cost Gore the presidency,” a sin of the left for which we are all still paying. And as I have tried to do, Wenner compared this moment to a similar one and came to the same conclusion I have:

Rolling Stone has championed the “youth vote” since 1972, when 18-year-olds were first given the right to vote. The Vietnam War was a fact of daily life then, and Sen. George McGovern, the liberal anti-war activist from South Dakota, became the first vessel of young Americans, and Hunter S. Thompson wrote our first presidential-campaign coverage. We worked furiously for McGovern. We failed; Nixon was re-elected in a landslide. But those of us there learned a very clear lesson: America chooses its presidents from the middle, not from the ideological wings. We are faced with that decision again.

After pointing out that this election is “a tipping point like none since before the Civil War”—because “We are at the culmination of a decades-long effort by the right wing to take over the government”—Wenner writes:

When I consider what’s in their hearts, I think both Clinton and Sanders come out on the side of the angels; but when I compare their achievements in the past decades, the choice is clear. This is not the time in history for a “protest vote.”

No. It’s not the time merely to register one’s anger. As I have said and will keep saying, there is too much to lose. Look around you. Out there in the darkness of an easily-frightened, overly-anxious,  often ill-informed electorate, there lurks a Drumpf. Or possibly an even more dangerous beast: Cruz, The Christian Crusader.

Why John Kasich Shouldn’t Be President Either

It is fairly obvious why Donald Drumpf shouldn’t be president. If you don’t yet know why, just go read the transcript of an interview he did with the editorial board of The Washington Post. A more dangerously uninformed, pathetically sophomoric view of everything from libel laws to NATO you will not find.

And we all know what a dangerous Christian demagogue Ted Cruz is. This morning on Fox “News,” Cruz essentially blamed Obama for the terrorist attacks in Brussels. “This administration refuses to protect us,” he said.

But fewer of us know how temperamentally unqualified for high office is John Kasich. Not only is he nearly as politically reactionary as most of the right-wing zealots in his party, but his emotions seem to be out of control. I know some folks have said he is “arrogant” and “condescending” and “manipulative.” That’s bad enough. But he has a reputation of responding with anger to things he doesn’t like. A conservative activist from Ohio said of Kasich:

When you criticize Kasich, you’re sort of dead to him. That’s the way it works.

Even his friends say strange things about his behavior. Take Newt Gingrich, who said:

I never knew Kasich to have anger issues. He has intensity, urgency and passion issues.

No doubt he does. I’ve seen it on the campaign trail this primary season. But what Kasich said today, in response to the massacre of civilians in Belgium, is why he shouldn’t be in the White’s House. Here is the way the AP reported it at 1:30pm:

Speaking to reporters in Minneapolis Tuesday, Kasich says Obama should return to the United States to call European heads of state and assemble intelligence experts at home. He’s suggesting the president is being “too lax” in facing the growing threat of what he calls radical Islamic terrorism.

Now, think about what that means. Exactly what is it that President Obama is supposed to do about terrorists in Belgium? Does Kasich think it is within our power to not only police the Middle East, but to police individual countries in Europe, too? And doesn’t Kasich know that Mr. Obama has access to a phone with which he can “call European heads of state”? Huh?

Kasich thinks that yet another terrorist attack on the other side of the world is enough to completely wash out President Obama’s trip to Cuba and Latin America. Really? There is no imminent threat to Americans on American soil that didn’t exist before the president left on his trip. Terrorists don’t want to kill us more today than they did yesterday.

What terrorists want is an overreaction. That is the point of terrorism. It is to get us to abandon our values, to do what Drumpf and Cruz and most Republicans have done. Terrorists want us to change our lives. They want us to fear them. They want to control us. And John Kasich, who wants to be commander-in-chief, is playing right into their hands.

Kasich told reporters:

If I were in Cuba right now, the last thing I would be doing is going to a baseball game.

Oh, yeah? Why not? What better way to demonstrate that a few terrorists in Belgium are not in charge of the world’s most powerful leader?

If John Kasich had his way, there would be no presidential trips. If his way of dealing with every act of terrorism in the world was to hunker down in the Situation Room and “assemble intelligence experts,” that’s all a president would ever get done. Terrorism would paralyze us.

If there were an attack on American soil or against an American target abroad, that would be one thing. That would require a different response. But, unfortunately, terrorist attacks are happening rather regularly these days all over the world. And President Obama and the administration are dealing with them through intelligence gathering and policing—and through unmistakable acts of war. They can do that and still tend to other business.

What they shouldn’t do is what John Kasich apparently would do when terrorists strike somewhere in the world: drop everything and frantically run back to Washington.

Advice To The Left: Leave The Paranoia To The Experts

On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, host Brian Stelter began the program with a segment on the “troubling behavior by Donald Trump’s right hand man, campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.” It was almost as if CNN just now discovered that there reliable sourceswas anything “troubling” about Drumpf’s campaign at all, let alone what his gangsterish groupies, including those working for him, have been doing at his hateful rallies for months now. But at least, you may have noticed, CNN and MSNBC have lately been critical of some aspects of Drumpf’s effort to become con man-in-chief. That’s a good thing. But.

A guest on the segment, Jeff Greenfield—a television journalist whose political experience goes back to 1960s—made the point that “an appetite for the ratings” has turned much of cable news into Castro-like “state TV” on behalf of Drumpf. Greenfield also made an additional point about the kind of journalism we have been seeing since the GOP front-runner hit the stage with his bigoted act:

I think the desire to have him on—and the unpreparedness of so many of the people interviewing him—will stand for a long time as a serious black mark on the American press.

That indictment is true enough and bad enough. But perhaps Greenfield’s most important point was something else he noted, what he called “one of the essential questions.” He explained:

reliable sources and greenfieldAs the media, some of it, had gotten critical about Trump, it has had no effect on his support, and one of the really central questions we’re going to have to face is whether a chunk of the American electorate has been taught to distrust the media so long and so completely that even when the media zeroes in on some of Trump’s blatant falsehoods or the dangerous rhetoric, his supporters say, “Oh, that’s coming from The New York Times or CNN or in some cases even FOX. We don’t believe it.”

And the whole theory about what the press is supposed to do in a free society, to put spotlights on political people seeking power…we may be in a situation where a fairly large chunk of the United States electorate is saying, “We don’t care what you say. We don’t believe you. If Trump says it, it’s true.”

And that’s a real problem. I don’t know how we deal with that.

Yes. It’s a real problem. And I don’t know how we deal with it either. For years, going at least back to William F. Buckley’s dominance of the movement, conservatives have always distrusted journalists who weren’t conservative. Beginning in the 1980s, right-wing radio made a fetish out of attacking mainstream journalism, with Rush Limbaugh calling it the “drive-by media” because it was, in his paranoid, ideological mind, completely biased in favor of liberals. In fact, there was so much distrust of the press, so much of a market for niche journalism that would tell conservatives what they wanted to hear, that a new cable channel, masquerading as a news channel, was born. And now, ironically, many conservatives, as Greenfield noted, don’t even trust Fox to bring them “the truth.”

But, sadly, it’s not just conservatives these days who are sowing seeds of distrust by attacking the press. Some liberals are doing it too. And such liberal attacks would be okay, if they were actually making specific, valid claims of bias—for instance, lefty Amy Goodman was also on “Reliable Sources” and she made the point that, in 2015, Drumpf “got 23 times the coverage of Bernie Sanders”—rather than just blanket statements that, like what conservatives do, sow general distrust of mainstream journalism. If journalistic malpractice is going on, liberals (or conservatives) should point it out, but they should be specific and not generalize. A general distrust of the mainstream press hurts the country by making us collectively dumber.

Let me give you just one example of such a harmful generalization coming from a liberal, an example from this morning. Robert Reich—a man whose opinion I normally greatly respect—tweeted the following:

reich tweet on bernie

Now, I listened to right-wing talk radio religiously for almost two decades, mostly as a right-winger myself, and I can say that the phrase, “Pay no attention to the national media, who want you to think” is exactly the kind of phrase that would, day after day, slide off the lips of Limbaugh, Hannity, and all the other conservative zealots on the air. And it’s the kind of claim that goes to what Greenfield was talking about when he said a “large chunk” of the electorate so distrusts the press that they simply refuse to believe even basic facts.

delegate count march 21 2016I realize Robert Reich is a fierce Bernie Sanders supporter. Fine and dandy. He can say all kinds of nice things about Bernie and even tell people the race is not yet over if he wants to. But come on. Just because journalists are, quite accurately, reporting how exceedingly difficult the math is for a Bernie comeback, that doesn’t mean Bernie supporters should undermine the role of journalism by resorting to that old Limbaughesque “they want you to think” nonsense. I see no difference between saying, as Greenfield put it, “We don’t care what you say. We don’t believe you. If Trump says it, it’s true,” and “We don’t care what you say. We don’t believe you. If Bernie says it, it’s true.”

The press, particularly television journalism, has a lot to answer for regarding the Drumpfing of America, that’s for sure. The CEO of CBS, Les Moonves, did really say that Drumpf’s presidential run was a “good thing,” mostly, I am sure, because of what he also said: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” Thus, it is completely fair to criticize on-air journalists and their producers and their corporate bosses for specific cases of malpractice, like the way coverage of Drumpf has been handled since last summer. But the conspiratorial rubbish—“Pay no attention to the national media, who want you to think”—is the kind of paranoia that belongs on the right, not on the left.

We should be better than that.

[Delegate graph: AP]

Donald Drumpf And The Three Shtarkers

shtarker: “a Yiddish word  defined by the lexicographer Sol Steinmetz as ‘a strong- minded person willing to wield power.'”William Safire

first of all, if you don’t like the Rolling Stones, you should. But even if you don’t like them or their music, you have to like a story about them involving Donald Drumpf, a story I somehow missed when it came out last summer. The Los Angeles Times, just three days ago, picked up the old story and it is so cool, so revealing of just who Drumpf really is even in real life, that it will give you great joy to read.

A little background: Michael Cohl is a big-time concert promoter who, as the Times pointed out, “has worked on massive tours by Michael Jackson, U2 and Barbra Streisand.” Back in 1989, the Rolling Stones began touring again after several years off-road. The band had just released its latest album, Steel Wheels. Michael Cohl hooked up with the Stones and, as the Times noted, “concocted an idea for a boxing-style pay-per-view event that, if marketed properly, would yield huge profits.” Cohl said, “I thought, geez, if I can separate the Stones from their own gig, and just concentrate on the pay-per-view, then I might pull it off.”

The problem was that he couldn’t get any takers for his big idea. Except one. Drumpf. Cohl explained:

…unfortunately, the only person I could get to kind of agree to the site fee we needed and to work it through was Donald Trump. Now I had one of those, “Oh God, how am I going to do this?” moments.

And I opened my big mouth in the meeting with The Rolling Stones where they go, “This is all great, but we’re not going to be affiliated with Donald Trump. At all. Screw you.” And I go, “I will control Donald Trump! Don’t you worry!”

At this point you already have to admire the Rolling Stones. They wanted nothing to do with Drumpf. But it gets better, and I will let Cohl explain it in full, as he did last summer:

So, we signed the contract. Donald agrees that he will not be in any of the promotion except in Atlantic City, and he will not show up at the gig! Holy shit! Well, the quick version is we go on sale. Eric Clapton was there, Axl Rose, Slash, John Lee Hooker – we had a fantastic show; sell out three shows.

Are you ready for the punchline? Three-hundred dollar tickets. That’s where they originated — $300, $250, $150 and it worked. It was spectacular. And that’s how it happened.

The Stones agreed to that ticket pricing in Atlantic City. It didn’t have the happiest of endings, though. It’s the night of the show.

The Stones had such power in those days that the 6:40 p.m. slot on the national evening news was going to be an interview with the Stones to talk about and promote the pay-per-view. At about 5:50 p.m. I get word that I have to come to the press room in the next building. I run to the press room in the next building and what do you think is happening? There’s Donald Trump giving a press conference, in our room!

I give him the [come here gesture]. “Come on, Donald, what are you doing? A) You promised us you wouldn’t even be here and, B) you promised you would never do this.” He says, “But they begged me to go up, Michael! They begged me to go up!” I say, “Stop it. Stop it. This could be crazy. Do what you said you would. Don’t make a liar of yourself.”

I go back to the dressing room. Five minutes later, he’s back up. They call me back over there. Holy shit. I call him out (again). Same thing happens. I say, “Donald. I don’t know if I can control this. Stop it.” I go back to the dressing room. And I leave my walkie-talkie on in the dressing room. Moronic, on my part.

They call me back, at which point Keith [Richards, the Stones’ great guitarist and co-writer with Mick Jagger] pulls out his knife and slams it on the table and says, “What the hell do I have you for? Do I have to go over there and fire him myself? One of us is leaving the building – either him, or us.” I said, “No. I’ll go do it. Don’t you worry.”

I run over. He’s up there again! I go [gives the come here gesture]. We go into the hallway. I said, “Donald. You lied. You broke your promise. One of two things is going to happen. You’re going to leave the building and, at 6:40, The Rolling Stones are going to speak on CBS News, or you’re not going to leave the building and I’m going to go on and do an interview to explain to the world why the pay-per-view was canceled. I know it’s your building and…” – and in my head I’m going, this is so crazy, right? I’m trying to throw Donald Trump out of his own building.

But, anyway, the bottom line is I look at Donald and said, “You and Marla (Maples) have to go. You’re fired.” He looks at me and goes berserk.

“You don’t know anything! Your guys suck! I promote Mike Tyson! I promote heavyweight fights!” And I notice the three shtarkers he’s with, in trench coats, two of them are putting on gloves and the other one is putting on brass knuckles. I go on the walkie-talkie and I call for Jim Callahan, who was head of our security, and I go, “Jim, I think I’m in a bit of trouble.” And he says, “Just turn around.”

I turn around. He’s got 40 of the crew with tire irons and hockey sticks and screwdrivers.

“And now, are you gonna go, Donald?”

And off he went.

And that was the night I fired Donald Trump.

Now, go out and by a Stones album, if not because of the music, because of this story about the night Donald Drumpf was thrown out of his own place, as he would say, just like a dog.

“This Man Scares Me.”

On Thursday night on CNN I finally saw the viral video that has been fascinating people for some time now. Bill Bogert, a Republican actor who turned away from the Republican Party because of the candidacy of an unpredictable extremist named Barry Goldwater in 1964, made an ad for Lyndon Johnson’s campaign. It’s strangely relevant to what is happening today. Here it is:

Vox: “Proof Of Evolution That You Can Find On Your Body”

One of the questions that should be, but almost never is, asked of all candidates during any election is my old favorite: How old is the earth? Or I’d settle for this one: Did mankind evolve by way of a natural process over a long, long, long time? I want to know if a candidate for office is among those 42% or so who think God created human beings as they are now, some ten thousand years ago or less. I think that’s important information.

As sort of a respite from the nonsense we have been seeing in our politics, like discussion of Drumpf’s teenie weenie hands or Hillary’s intonation, below is a video Vox published today that is worth the four minutes it takes to watch it. So, watch it and marvel:

Remarks And Asides, Post-Election Edition

Good riddance: Little Marco Rubio be gone and he blamed the Almighty for his be-gone-ness. He said it wasn’t “God’s plan that he be president in 2016 or maybe ever.” It was, however, God’s plan that he get called out for his phoniness, as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp did on Wednesday. After Rubio falsely claimed last night that he took the high road by appealing to people’s best instincts during the campaign, Beauchamp ratted him out:

He portrayed an America that has never been in greater danger, led by a nefarious president who intentionally undermines his own country. He refused to rule out bringing back torture, and suggested Trump’s scheme for monitoring American Muslims at mosques didn’t go far enough.

Maybe someone should ask Little Marco if it would be part of God’s plan, should Donald Drumpf become president of Christian America. If so, then we are being led by a nefarious God who intentionally undermines his own country by bringing back torture.

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Speaking of torture, this is one way to get what you want:

Donald Trump Warns There Could Be Riots If He Isn’t GOP Nominee

Some of the folks rioting may be Democrats.

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Speaking of riotous Democrats, Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, tried to put the kibosh on that idea:

Democrats should not be popping champagne corks since Donald Trump is doing so well.

Plouffe rightly thinks Drumpf’s unpredictability will present a problem for Hillary and that Obama’s coalition of young folks, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians “should not be taken for granted.” He said the coalition has “got to be earned.” Sure it does. But let’s think about this thang: If Hillary can’t count on young people, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians to enthusiastically vote against a misogynistic racist with a fondness for authoritarian dictators, then those young people, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians deserve a Drumpfing.

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Speakling of taking a Drumpfing, Fox “News” had to cancel its upcoming GOP debate because Drumpf is tired of never answering “the same question.” Newly-anointed establishment guy, John Kasich, said if Drumpf wasn’t showing up, he wasn’t either. All of which left us with master-debater Lyin’ Ted Cruz. He said he would go solo and buff his own banana, if anyone would watch. No takers, even at Fox.

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Speaking of going solo, Drumpf told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski this morning that his “primary consultant” on foreign affairs was his own bad-ass self. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain,” he told Mika, who happens to also be a big fan of Drumpf’s very good brain.

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Speaking of ratings-crazy journalists working for greedy and irresponsible corporate media conglomerates—those who have made Drumpf what he is today—I saw CNN’s Jake Tapper this afternoon do a million-dollar segment on Drumpf’s new 15-second barking Hillary video that he posted to Instagram for free. It’s no mystery why we must worry about the prospect of a former reality TV star—an ignorant, distemperate, gold-plated authoritarian—becoming president. Serious television journalism has morphed into versions of Entertainment Tonight.

Fortunately, there is some glimmer of hope out there. Drumpf’s media-abetted shtick is even too much for Jerry Springer, who said on CNN yesterday that his own goofy show is a “circus” and “stupid,” and he wouldn’t “want someone who’s been on my show to be president of the United States.” When Jerry Springer is the voice of reason on CNN, the world is definitely all Drumpfed up.

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Finally, speaking of enabling journalists, yesterday Mark Halperin, a fixture on MSNBC, told his journalist friends on the set that Drumpf is “one of the two most talented presidential candidates any of us have covered.” Today, that talented presidential candidate, who knows nuttin’ about nuttin’ except self-promotion, thanked Mr. Halperin on air for his kind words. Rest in peace, television journalism, rest in peace.

Bernie The Ideologue

I waited and waited and waited last night. But no congratulatory words for Hillary Clinton ever exited the lips of Bernie Sanders.

Okay. I get how hard it must be to see and feel tremendous enthusiasm among your young supporters at large rallies around the country and then watch voters go to the polls and vote for your opponent. Sure, that is hard to stomach. But Bernie should make an effort to stomach it. At least he should be a little bit gracious when he loses. Or is it that his famous authenticity doesn’t allow him to honor his Democratic opponent-winner with a few kind words?

Here’s how an AP story, written after Clinton surprised almost everyone with her impressive victories Tuesday night, began:

PHOENIX (AP) — Bernie Sanders kicked off his Arizona campaign Tuesday night without mentioning a string of losses to Hillary Clinton in contests in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.

Nbernie in phoenixot a mention. Not a word. It’s as if last night didn’t happen. It’s as if delegate math has no bearing on the outcome of the race. It’s as if Bernie is living in a different world, a place where even in the face of near-certain defeat, he still has to, like a wounded Drumpf, attack, attack, attack. The AP article summarized his post-loss remarks about Hillary this way:

Sanders only mentioned Hillary Clinton twice during his Tuesday evening speech. He slammed her for giving speeches on Wall Street for six-figure sums and for having a Super-PAC funded by financial and pharmaceutical firms. He also cited her vote for the Iraq War, drawing boos from the crowd.

Bernie Sanders is not a fool. He has to understand what is happening. He has to know he is fighting a lost cause. So, even if he wants to stay in the race and keep spreading his stirring democratic socialist message, why does it have to include attacks on the eventual Democratic nominee’s integrity? He can argue for single-payer health care and free college tuition without undermining Clinton’s general election appeal, can’t he?

Maybe not. Unfortunately, Sanders’ disposition represents a form—hopefully in his case a mild form—of dogmatism that I don’t discuss as often as I discuss religious dogmatism. Let’s call it political fundamentalism. Political-ideological true-believers on the left, like their counterparts on the right, tend to shoot down, with fundamentalist fervor, anyone who doesn’t always practice the politics of purity.

Let me give you an egregious example of such ideological spotlessness run amok from just a few days ago. Leftist writer Thomas Frank, of What’s the Matter With Kansas fame, published a piece for Salon.com titled,

Bill Clinton’s odious presidency: Thomas Frank on the real history of the ’90s

In that piece (actually an excerpt from Frank’s new book, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?) you will find some valid criticisms of Clinton’s candidacy and presidency—especially the noxious pre-election execution of Ricky Ray Rector, for which Bill Clinton deserves utter condemnation—and you will find some invalid or misleading criticisms. I’m not going to attempt here to litigate the 1990s and Clinton’s role in what happened or what didn’t happen. But what is the point of publishing this particular excerpt from Frank’s book on Salon—known for attacking Democrats from the left—at this time? Bill Clinton is not running for president. Hillary Clinton is. And she is running on a much more progressive set of policies than her husband ran on and governed by years ago, years ago after Democrats had lost the White House for what seemed to them to be forever.

In Frank’s lengthy excerpt, we see why the piece ran at this point in the campaign. Frank spends one paragraph tying Bill’s “odious presidency” to Hillary. Calling her his “chief political adviser,” Frank then goes on to quote from Carl Bernstein’s not-so-flattering book on Mrs. Clinton. As Frank summarized Bernstein’s claim, Hillary announced that the way to win over public opinion in favor of Bill’s “‘vision’ for what the administration was doing” was to “pick a fight with supporters.” In other words, Hillary’s strategy was to piss off the left, to “discipline” them, so the Clinton(s) could stay in power and do nasty things to working class people like shoving NAFTA down their throats and devastating black people by passing a now-admittedly onerous crime bill.

If you don’t believe that is what Frank-the-purist is claiming, let me quote a remarkable passage from his article, a passage that demonstrates how an ideology, if given enough oxygen, can turn rationality to ashes:

Someday we will understand that the punitive hysteria of the mid-1990s was not an accident; it was essential to Clintonism. Taken as a whole with NAFTA, with welfare reform, with his plan for privatizing Social Security and, of course, with Clinton’s celebrated lifting of the rules governing banks and telecoms, it all fits perfectly within the new, class-based framework of liberalism. Clinton simply treated different groups of Americans in radically different ways—crushing some in the iron fist of the state, exposing others to ruinous corporate power, while showering the favored stratum with bailouts, deregulation, and a frolicking celebration of Think Different business innovation.

Some got bailouts, others got “zero tolerance.” There was really no contradiction between these things. Lenience and forgiveness and joyous creativity for Wall Street bankers while another group gets a biblical-style beatdown—these things actually fit together quite nicely. Indeed, the ascendance of the first group requires that the second be lowered gradually into hell. When you take Clintonism all together, it makes sense, and the sense it makes has to do with social class. What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.

Reading that and knowing it comes from a man of the left is really breathtaking. Those claims are made against a Democratic president. And by extension they are quite openly made against his wife, the front-runner in this year’s Democratic primary. And Frank’s claims dovetail nicely with the message that Bernie Sanders, even facing defeat, is still sending about Hillary Clinton.

Frank’s raging, ideology-driven criticism, and Sanders’ refusal to stop attacking Clinton’s integrity, may tell you why there is so much harmful cynicism in our country today. On my chosen side, on the left, such outrageous criticism tends to produce a cynicism that leads to apathy. Fed a diet of puristic left-wing dogma, working class people—who should naturally look to Democrats for help—often stay away from the polls. Many don’t even bother to register to vote.

And on the other side, on the right, such cynicism that right-wing ideologues have created over the years often leads to anger. We have seen the rise of the Tea Party, which doesn’t give a damn about the Republican Party except so far as it can be fashioned into an instrument of political reaction. And the Tea Party insurgency has done such damage to the infrastructure of the Republican Party that we now see a quasi-fascist as the party’s dominant presidential front-runner, even as some party leaders have desperately struggled to stop him. That’s what can happen when people stop caring for the party as a whole and care only for their particular narrow interests. And that lack of caring was created by conservative ideologues, even though those same ideologues cannot now control what they have created.

In our peculiar American democratic system, political parties should differentiate themselves from each other. But they should not become vessels for undiluted ideological brews. They should not be places where one ideological set of ideas completely dominates all others, nor should they be characterized by my-way-or-the-highway policy positions. And, more important, we should not expect them to be led by candidates with perfect ideological scores. If we want our democracy to flourish, our two dominant parties, given the size and diversity of this country, have to have some ideological flexibility built into them. They have to make room for those hugging the center as well as those closer to the edges. They have to make room for ideological imperfection, or else they will eventually self-destruct, if they first don’t destroy the tenuous unity of the United States.

Today we are watching many working class Republicans, and some working class Democrats, embrace with cultish enthusiasm an authoritarian businessman who could very well lead the Grand Old Party—and possibly the entire country—into a neo-fascist nightmare. And it is ideological dogmatism on both sides that, oddly, has made such a scenario possible. For years now, President Obama has been attacked, sometimes mercilessly, for many of his domestic and foreign policies. But those attacks have come not just from conservative ideologues, but also from left-wing political purists.  And now that Hillary Clinton, Obama’s natural heir, is dominating the Democratic Party’s nomination process, the ideological knives—again, on both sides—have really come out.

And it’s too bad Bernie Sanders, even with no hope of winning, is wielding one of them.

NOW Is It Okay To Call Drumpf A Nazi?

I am tempted to think that now we are perfectly within our rights to call Donald Drumpf a Nazi.

No, it’s not necessarily because of his Hitleresque histrionics and calls for violence against protesters or his racism or xenophobia or his utter hostility toward anything and anyone standing in the way of his will to power.

It is because this morning, at a rally in Ohio, he told the biggest lie of his lie-plagued campaign. He called Bernie Sanders a communist. Again. Yes, he’s done it plenty of times before. But there’s something different about him doing it this morning.

Even his own fellow candidates and some party officials are, finally, expressing concern over the storm of ugliness that surrounds his strange rallies and Drumpf’s failure to rein in the rhetoric that stokes the hate so visible wherever he goes. But rather than come out this morning with a more sober tone—after a bad scene in Chicago last night, where he had to cancel a rally because of the widespread mayhem his campaign is generating—he went on with the same old stuff. And he added a new twist. He blamed the supporters of “Bernie, our communist friend” for disrupting his events and especially for what happened in Chicago last night.

So, that may be it. We may now have permission. The time may have come. Maybe we can, and maybe we should, use the Nazi reference when describing Donald Drumpf’s dark and dreary and potentially deadly campaign.

Remarks And Asides, Right Wing Watch Edition

If you have never visited the great watchdog website Right Wing Watch, you are not up-to-date on the crazy shit conservative Christians are saying and doing. I want to remind you that the headlines below aren’t satire. They be real.

Like this headline from yesterday about the musings of a crazy congressman from Texas:

Louie Gohmert: Obama’s ‘Hate Crimes’ Against Christians Invite God’s Judgment

Now we know why God sent us Donald Drumpf.

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Courtesy of the site’s Right Wing Roundup section, here’s another Gohmert gem:

Louie Gohmert Stands By Claim That Gays Will Die Out if You Put Them on a Desert Island

And gays are standing by their claim that if you put all the Louie Gohmerts on a desert island they will become gay.

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In any case, the loony legislator made more news today:

Louie Gohmert: Only ‘Self-Loathing’ Jews Get Along With Obama

That reminded me of two years ago, when Gohmert, who has said horrific things about President Obama, chaired the annual National Prayer Breakfast. At that strange event, a reconciliatory Obama said that he had “always found Louie to be unbelievably gracious every time I’ve seen him.” Thus, the headline for that day should have been: “Only ‘Self-Loathing’ Obama Gets Along With Gohmert.”

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Also from today:

Glenn Beck: A Vote For Trump Or Clinton Carries ‘A Very Heavy Eternal Price’

Beck said,

I’m not going to face my maker if I drop dead and have Him go, ‘By the way, remember those crazy [constitutional] rights? You were alive then, weren’t you? What did you do? Who did you vote for?’

Funny how Glenn believes in an all-knowing, all-powerful God who can’t seem to remember when Glenn was alive or what he was doing or who he was voting for. If that’s the case, a newly-dead Beck would likely be greeted by the Less-Than-Almighty with this: “Now, who the hell are you again?”

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More nuts in the news:

Dinesh D’Souza Says His New Movie Is So ‘Emotionally Powerful’ It’ll Cause Democrats To Need Counseling

Just to prove that Dinesh D’Souza doesn’t need counseling but a stadium full of psychiatrists, I will show you the trailer for his new movie:

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Here’s a header announcing the amazing culinary skills of the Democratic front-runner:

Michael Savage: Hillary Clinton Will Become A Dictator Who Will Put ‘A Transgender In Your Soup’

I don’t know how appetizing that would be, but I’m guessing it would taste better than a Savage in our soup. And it wouldn’t make us stupid.

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Mrs. Clinton isn’t the only one on the minds of the mindless:

Rick Joyner: Bernie Sanders Is Popular Because The Communist Party Runs The Schools 

Here is a sample of the mindlessness:


Mr. Joyner, a minister of the Gospel, happens to be a believer in something called Dominion Theology, which Wikipedia defines as “a theocratic ideology that seeks to implement a nation governed by conservative Christians ruling over the rest of society based on their understanding of biblical law.” 

Thank God the communists are running the schools!

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And last up, an oldie-but-goodie headline from Right Wing Watch:

Glenn Beck: God Allowed Scalia To Die In Order To Highlight The Importance Of Electing Ted Cruz

Nope. If God really wanted to highlight the importance of electing Ted Cruz, he would kill Donald Drumpf. But he had better hurry.

Watching A Man Surrender His Soul To The Devil On National TV

psychopath: a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.

almost a year ago, presidential dropout and outspoken Christian Ben Carson called President Obama—a family man who has had but one wife and no personal scandals of any kind—a “psychopath.” Do you remember that? It happened. Here’s the context from GQ:

On the nightearlier this year that Barack Obama stepped before the nation to deliver his sixth State of the Union address, Ben Carson—a political newcomer who harbors dreams of soon giving his first—settled into a sofa just a few blocks away. He was eager to hate everything the president was about to say.

Carson had come to the Capitol Hill home of Armstrong Williams, a conservative media impresario who officially serves as Carson’s business manager and who lately has functioned as Carson’s unofficial image-maker and political adviser as well. As the two men turned to the TV, they began dissecting Obama’s performance.

“He looks good,” Williams said. “He looks clean. Shirt’s white. The tie. He looks elegant.”

“Like most psychopaths,” Carson grumbled. “That’s why they’re successful. That’s the way they look. They all look great.”

Later, CNBC’s John Harwood asked him about such stupidity:

“Obama, you referred to him as a psychopath,” Harwood said. “What did you mean by that?”

“I said he reminds you of a psychopath,” Carson corrected.

“And tell me how,” Harwood pressed.

“Because they tend to be extremely smooth, charming people, who can tell a lie to your face with complete — it looks like sincerity, even though they know it’s a lie,” Carson replied.

This morning Ben Carson endorsed a guy, Donald Drumpf, who claims he is successful and thinks he looks great and is sure he is smooth and charming and who has told so many lies that fact-checkers are dying from exhaustion. This morning Ben Carson endorsed a guy who has made fun of him before the world, and as we all know, just last November said this about the former brain surgeon:

I could say they don’t say, as an example, a child molester, you don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. Pathological, there’s no cure for that. Now, I didn’t say it, he said it in his book. So when I hear somebody’s pathological, when somebody says, I went after my mother with — and he’s saying it about himself with a hammer and hit her in the head, I say, ‘whoa, that’s a big statement.’

The guy who suggested that Ben Carson’s psychopathy was akin to being a child molester stood beside the strange doctor this morning and listened to the strange doctor say that there were “two” Donald Drumpfs, as if one wasn’t enough. He said Drumpf was “a very intelligent man who cares deeply about America.” Carson called the guy who compared him to a child molester “cerebral.” And, perhaps to warn us, Carson said that we are “going to see more and more of” that cerebral Donald Drumpf.

When a reporter asked Carson about Drumpf’s child molester comments, which were the political and rhetorical equivalent of taking a hatchet to Carson’s presidential campaign, Dr. Ben said, “We buried the hatchet.” So, the murder weapon, the weapon Drumpf used to kill Carson’s presidential aspirations, will never be found. Unless you have the Internet.

For me, the strangest moment this morning, during the weird press conference in which viewers actually got to see a man surrender his soul to the devil, was when Ben Carson, Christian extraordinaire, said that after spending time with Drumpf, he discovered that there was, “A lot more alignment philosophically and spiritually than I ever thought there was.” I’m pretty sure that doesn’t help Drumpf all that much.

The whole thing strikes me as very sad, not just for the country, but for Ben Carson himself. There is clearly something wrong with the once-great doctor, but, unlike Donald Drumpf, I don’t know what it is. I suspect it has something to do with how fundamentalist religion has poisoned his brain. And I suspect it would take every psychiatrist and psychologist in the entire world, working till Jesus returns, to even begin to explain how a man who makes a show of his Christian faith could call President Obama—about as good an example of a Christian family man as one could imagine—a psychopath, and a year later could stand up and endorse a disturbed and disturbing man for president, a man who not only compared the now soulless doctor to a psychopathic child molester, but a man who is electrifying real psychopaths all over the country, especially at his campaign rallies.

Joplin’s Jane Doe And The Fight Against Fundamentalism

Let me tie together four recent news stories related to religious fundamentalism and the nasty nonsense associated with it. But before I do so, I should say something about my view of religion and religious belief.

I don’t have any knowledge as to whether there is or isn’t a God. I used to think there was and I used to think I knew his name(s). Now I don’t know if there is and even if I thought there was, I wouldn’t know what to call such a being. But here’s one thing I am fairly confident about: you, whoever you are and whatever you believe, don’t know whether there is or isn’t a God either. Okay? That’s where I’m coming from. Now to the stories.

First up is Franklin Graham, son of Billy, the famous evangelist. Graham has recently been making his way around the country in a bus. I’ve seen him on television more than once being interviewed about his mission, which is summarized on Facebook this way:

“America is at a crossroads, and I believe we should take every opportunity to stand up for the things of God and His Word.” –Franklin Graham

Franklin Gbilly graham bus tripraham is traveling to all 50 states in 2016 to hold prayer rallies, to preach the Gospel, and to challenge believers to take a stand and take action. He’ll be urging Christians to vote, to live out their faith in every part of their lives, and to pray for our nation just as Nehemiah cried out to God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore hope to His people.

Graham has said during interviews that his efforts are not partisan. He says he has no faith in either political party, that only God can save the country. Now, this is the same non-partisan guy who, after Obama was reelected in 2012, said the country was on a “path of destruction” and he explained why to Newsmax:

“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.

“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”

And, “maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse” to do that, Graham said. “Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”

Yes, according to one of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the entire country, Barack Obama is responsible for every ungodly act, every offense against God that may force Him to bring us to our collective knees, communicating His divine displeasure to us by unleashing horrific suffering via an “economic collapse.” Funny thing, as I’ve pointed out before, non-partisan Graham had no bad words for Republican George W. Bush, who, as an evangelical himself, actually presided over a real economic collapse, as opposed to the one imagined by Graham four years ago. And it is funny, too, to think that since Graham made those comments, the economy has enjoyed some rather ungodly improvements. Apparently God either decided not to bring us to our knees or he decided to send Donald Trump to do the job instead.

In any case, let’s move on from a partisan conservative evangelist to a partisan conservative judge in Wisconsin, Rebecca Bradley. She was recently elevated to her state’s Supreme Court by evangelical governor and presidential dropout Scott Walker, who was filling a vacancy. Now she is facing voters for what would be a full 10-year term. But she has sort of a problem. It has been revealed that while in college at Catholic Marquette, Bradley authored some God-inspired opinions as a columnist for the student paper, opinions like the one she offered about president-elect Bill Clinton in 1992:

We have now elected a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ’60s radical socialist adulterer to the highest office in our nation. Doesn’t it make you proud to be an American? We’ve just had an election which proves the majority of voters are either totally stupid or entirely evil.

And she gave some wise advice to those thinking about getting sick during the then-upcoming Clinton administration:

One will be better off contracting AIDS than developing cancer, because those afflicted with the politically-correct disease will be getting all the funding. How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments.

Clearly, these and some of this young woman’s other nasty, bigoted opinions could only have been produced by a mind under the influence of some form of fundamentalist religion, some sort of poisonous dogmatism, which, like in the case of Franklin Graham, makes one think and act in such obviously thoughtless and callous ways. And this same kind of dogmatism can and does affect our public policy debates, which leads me to the next story.

Here in Missouri, the State Senate, after Republicans broke a 37-hour Democratic filibuster, advanced a proposed amendment to our state’s constitution that if passed by voters would, essentially, allow Christian cake bakers and wedding planners to only bake and plan for King James Version-approved nuptials. In other words, even though Bible-believing bakers and piety-promoting planners here in Missouri operate their businesses using public roads and services partly paid for by gay people, they don’t want to serve those taxpaying gay people because Jesus and God and Franklin Graham hate gay people, or, to be kinder, they hate the things gay people do, like, uh, being gay.

Obviously, all of this nonsense is related. From the bigot-protecting activity in the Missouri State Senate to the young Marquette kid who hated gays and Bill Clinton in the 1990s to the phony bus tour of a very partisan and dishonest evangelical leader, it’s all a product of zealot-producing cultural hardware and software: fundamentalism. Evangelical and fundamentalist churches and their affiliates are the hardware, and a literally-interpreted, allegedly God-inspired Bible is the software. But we non-fundamentalists are not without weapons. There are some things we can do to, if not stop it, at least slow it down, which leads me to my final story.

This is a local story about courage. In May of 2015, here in Joplin, a group of students at North Middle School were bussed over, during school hours, to a place called Victory Ministries and Sports Complex. It’s not hard to figure out what kind of place this is. On its “What is Victory” webpage, we find that its purposes are, among other things, to “Exalt victory field tripJesus” and “Expand the Kingdom of God.” Expanding the Kingdom of God in this case means, of course, indoctrinating children with fundamentalist views. And what better way to reach impressionable, unchurched kids than a Middle School field trip to a Christian gym with a “Jesus is worthy of it all!” banner proudly hanging on the wall?

It turns out that a courageous mom of one of the students in the class in question alerted the American Humanist Association, whose legal director tried to stop the field trip before it happened. The AHA “forewarned” the Superintendent of Joplin Schools in an email exchange, saying the trip was a violation of the Establishment Clause and threatening litigation if the trip wasn’t called off. It wasn’t. So, there is now an ongoing lawsuit.

The mom in this case is courageous because this kind of thing isn’t easy. Even though she is using the name Jane Doe in order to remain anonymous, she has good reason to. Joplin is a small town, and she and her children would likely be singled out for harassment, if the general public knew who they were. But by putting herself out there to stop fundamentalists from indoctrinating not just her kids, but other kids, Joplin’s Jane Doamerican humanist associatione is a champion of secularism. And she is a fighter against the kind of religious dogma that makes people irrationally hate other people and call down the wrath of God on innocents.

Fundamentalism is nasty and socially destructive. And whether it is practiced mostly without violence under the American flag—although we must not forget those abortion-related crimes—or whether it is expressed with unspeakable violence somewhere under the black flag of ISIS, it needs to be confronted.

Kudos to Joplin’s Jane Doe for doing her part. And if you want to do your part, maybe you could contribute to or become a member of the American Humanist Association. An introductory membership is only $35.

On It Goes

revolutiona sudden, extreme, or complete change in the way people live, work, etc.

congratulations to Bernie Sanders. He won the expectations game last night. Good for him. But jeez, is it too much to ask that he tone down the rhetoric just a bit?  Here’s what Bernie said after his 1.5 percentage point victory in Michigan last night:

What tonight means is that the Bernie Sanders campaign, the people’s revolution that we are talking about, the political revolution that we are talking about, is strong in every part of the country, and frankly we believe that are strongest parts are yet to come.

Revolution? Oh, my.

Since Bernie had been in bed when the race was called late last night and had to get up and make the above statement, perhaps we can and should forgive him for still being in a dream state.

Today, in the freshness of morning, we can and should look at the real world, as brought to us by the Associated Press:

ap delegate count

As you can see, Hillary Clinton is more than half way to becoming the Democratic Party nominee. Ouch.

When someone, especially a politician, tells us there is a political revolution going on and it is “strong in every part of the country,” we should be able to easily see the evidence. It should be everywhere. But as the graphic above illustrates, there ain’t much of a revolution going on. There is a campaign.  A political contest. And right now one side is crushing the other side in the race for delegates—the only race that matters—and the side getting crushed is the side that keeps talking about a revolution. Obviously, talking about a revolution is not the same as producing one.

Bernie SandersBernie squeaked out an unexpected victory in Michigan last night—getting just short of 50% of the vote—a state to which he committed a lot of time and resources because a loss would have been devastating. Simultaneously, he got thoroughly crushed in Mississippi. If Bernie’s “people’s revolution” is “strong in every part of the country,” apparently he doesn’t consider the people in Mississippi (where he got less than 17% of the vote) as part of the country. Or Louisiana (he got 23%) or Virginia (35%) or Texas (33%) or Tennessee (32%) or Arkansas (30%) or Alabama (19%) or Georgia (28%) or South Carolina (26%). Combined with Hillary’s narrower wins in Massachusetts, Nevada, and Iowa, the one thing we can say with certainty is that Bernie’s campaign isn’t revolutionary-strong in every part of the country.

But last night Bernie did win in an important general election state. I will give him that. As I said, he beat expectations, which is what you have to do these days, since journalists thrive on setting up expectations and then announcing this or that candidate “failed” to meet them and thus everyone is “shocked” by the results. That’s how the media game is played.

But the real result of Bernie’s earnest efforts last night was that his opponent won 17 or 18 more delegates than he did. And I’m pretty sure that doesn’t, at least arithmetically, qualify as a revolution, “strong in every part of the country” or otherwise. But it does mean that Bernie has some momentum and, although the biggest of underdogs, is still in the race for the nomination. And while that fact isn’t revolutionary, it does mean this thing will go on and on and on.

[Photo credit: Associated Press]

 

Is It Okay To Call Hillary A Liar And Then Ask People To Vote For Her?

A good friend of this blog, Ben Field, is a Bernie supporter, and lately he and I have had some differences over my criticism of the Sanders campaign vis-à-vis the attacks on Hillary Clinton’s honesty. You can read Ben’s latest criticism of me here, and below is my response to it:

Ben,

You know how much I respect you. And in the past you and I have usually agreed on most things, so I’m not comfortable that we are now so far apart on what is happening and what I am saying about it.

Let me try again because perhaps I haven’t made myself clear: I agree with Bernie Sanders on many of his policy issues. I really do. I would be very happy to live in a country that embraces much of his social radicalism. In fact, I used to love the guy—until he started to attack the integrity of a fellow Democrat who has, from her youth, been involved in progressive causes. Along with some of the unpleasant baggage you mention, Hillary Clinton has a record of supporting many of the things you and I support. She isn’t, for God’s sake, a Democrat In Name Only. That honor, if there is to be such a label applied to anyone in this race, would go to Bernie Sanders, who only recently became a Democrat and, as you suggest, has done almost nothing to help the party itself.

I simply don’t like it when Bernie attacks her character, her integrity. No, let me put it bluntly: I hate it. I’m not “bashing” him for anything other than that. He and Hillary could and should argue about domestic and foreign policy, about past votes, and so on. But they should not question each other’s integrity. And I haven’t heard one Hillary surrogate, or Hillary herself, even hint at the idea that Bernie is dishonest or lacks integrity. But I have heard plenty of Bernie supporters, on TV and online, do so about her. It makes me sick to hear it.

Apparently, judging by your comment—“I do not understand bashing Bernie for insinuating Hillary is less than honest”—you think it is okay for Bernie and his campaigners to question the honesty of someone they will inevitably have to (presumably) end up supporting against a Republican. That’s where Bernie’s reputation for authenticity will run into problems. He and his surrogates—his top media adviser especially—have said “she cannot be believed.” I haven’t heard Bernie disavow that statement, have you? How does Bernie, then, in the near future go out with authenticity and urge his supporters to vote for her, if he fails to get the nomination? How would he do that with a straight face? How would he do that and preserve his own integrity?

You say that I should know that Bernie “is nothing like the GOP.” Well, I hate to say this, but in one way he is acting exactly like the GOP. Do you think that it is okay for him to suggest, and for his top surrogate to actually say, “she cannot be believed”? If you do, I don’t understand that kind of thinking on our side. It makes no sense to me. It’s equivalent to calling her a liar, which Republicans do all the time. All the bleeping time. Just the other day on Fox and Friends, they put up a picture of Hillary on television that has been floating through the sewer that is conservative social media. I timed how long they kept that photo on the screen: 38 seconds. Here it is:

liar hillary pic from fox.jpg

Isn’t that sweet? That’s what Fox “News” and other conservative media do to Hillary every single day, in some form or another. Thus, my question: Do you and other Bernie supporters think calling the eventual Democratic nominee the equivalent of a liar—especially when it plays right into the Republican narrative about her that is pushed and funded by big-money donors—is good political strategy? If you do, I guess I don’t understand anything about politics.

Another thing: I am not attacking Bernie supporters, except those that say they will never vote for Hillary and those who say they would support Donald Trump over her. Such people aren’t really Democrats or don’t really subscribe to even a basic form of progressivism. They are just pissed off at the system and their anger is unproductive. I have a lot of Bernie supporters in my family. They aren’t dumb people. They are earnest people who love Bernie’s message. We just have a disagreement over his electability, that’s all. I am sure they will all, like you, end up voting for Hillary because the alternative is unthinkable. But there are some Bernie fans out there who absolutely will not vote for Hillary under any circumstances. And to the extent Bernie is feeding that hateful beast, I will not hesitate to call him on it.

Finally, you say that I “continually bash” your primary choice. No, I do not. I wouldn’t think of bashing your primary choice. We are both Democrats, for heaven’s sake. Any Bernie supporter who will vote for Hillary Clinton, if Bernie loses, is good in my book. I understand how people can differently perceive primary candidates’ chances of winning in the general election. But I will never understand how people can so very publicly call a candidate the equivalent of a liar and then, just as publicly, urge others to vote for that candidate. Sorry. I just don’t get that.

Duane

Here We Go Again. Is It The Sanders Campaign Or The Slanders Campaign?

More agitated than usual, Bernie once again went after Hillary Clinton’s integrity during last night’s spirited debate in Flint, Michigan. Discussing the salvation of the auto industry in Michigan and elsewhere, including here in Missouri, Hillary said:

I think it was the right decision to heed what President-elect Obama asked us to do.

He sent a letter, an authorized letter, asking us to support that to save the auto industry. Yes, were there things in it that you and I would not have necessarily wanted? That’s true. But when it came down to it, you were either for saving the auto industry or you were against it. I voted to save the auto industry. And I am very glad that I did.

Now, Bernie had previously tried to explain why he voted the way he did on the infamous Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) legislation—which contained money President Obama eventually used to save General Motors and Chrysler—saying last night, among other things, “I will be damned if it was the working people of this country who had to bail out the crooks on Wall Street.”

Fine. That was his right to use his very proper and popular disdain for Wall Street banksters as an excuse to ignore not only Mr. Obama’s recommendation, but ignore the pleas from Michigan’s two Democratic senators, who were trying to save the auto industry in their state. It was Bernie’s vote to cast and he cast it. He made a choice. But that choice, if he had prevailed, would have left the auto industry in the region for dead. Millions of jobs were at stake. And Mrs. Clinton has every right to point out that fact to Democratic voters in not only Michigan, but in “Ohio and Indiana and Illinois and Wisconsin and Missouri and other places in the Midwest.” 

So, after Hillary said she was “very glad” she voted to “save the auto industry,” Bernie-one-note came back with this:

Let me just say this, while we are on Wall Street, one of us has a super PAC. One of us has raised $15 million from Wall Street for that super PAC. One of us has given speeches on Wall Street for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, I kind of think if you get paid a couple hundred thousand dollars for a speech, it must be a great speech. I think we should release it and let the American people see what that transcript was.

That glaring non sequitur is revealing to me. Bernie’s response had nothing to do with Bernie’s vote against TARP and the associated auto bailout. It had nothing to do with President Obama’s controversial and bold move to use around $82 billion of TARP money to save millions of jobs, which would not have been possible if Bernie’s right and righteous anger at Wall Street had won the day. So, why does Bernie continue to go back, time and again, to the Hillary-took-money-from-Wall Street-therefore-she-must-be-corrupt strategy? I wish I could answer that, but his continuing to piggyback on the decades-old Republican slander machine is getting annoying.

Just listen to what Tad Devine, a top Sanders adviser, said during an interview this morning with CNN’s Chris Cuomo about last night’s tangle:

CUOtad devine.jpgMO: The question about the auto bailout seemed to give Bernie Sanders some pause. Do you think that that was a vulnerability for him last night with that audience?

TAD DEVINE: No, I don’t. I think it was a vulnerability for Hillary Clinton because what she did was so utterly disingenuous, so false. She said Bernie Sanders opposed the auto bailout. On December 11, 2008, he voted on the floor of the United States Senate to bail out the auto industry. She knew that. But nevertheless she wants to mislead people here in Michigan and elsewhere on the eve of an election. I mean Bernie supported the auto bailout; he voted for it in the Senate…

Cuomo reminded Mr. Devine that it was a second vote to which Hillary was referring, the TARP vote that would eventually include money to help stabilize the failing auto industry. And it is here that Mr. Devine, Bernie Sanders’ top spokesman, got GOP-style dirty:

DEVINE: Yeah, no, what she was talking about was the TARP, the bailout of Wall Street. And to take that money and to say, ha, ha, you’re against the auto industry because Bernie Sanders says the middle class of America should not bail out Wall Street is totally, utterly disingenuous. And it speaks to her great weakness as a candidate: that she cannot be believed.

There you have it. That attack on the integrity and honesty of Hillary Clinton is the exact same message that Republicans have been, are, and will continue sending to the American electorate in order to take control of the entire federal government. And it is damned sad that the Sanders campaign is helping them do it.

Anthony Weiner For President!

The Party of Jesus must be proud of this headline this morning:

Donald Trump Nearly Turns GOP Debate Into Literal Dick-Measuring Contest

Last night’s Republican “debate” reminded me of something. Remember Anthony Weiner and his penis-pic scandal affectionately known as Weinergate?

Tony the Dick’s problem was that he was just a little premature in proudly promoting his presumably to-be-proud-of penis. If he would have saved his sexting prowess for 2016, he could have been president!

Think of the entertaining spectacle of a Trump versus Weiner general election. The two candidates could go on national television on November 8th and, quite literally, show us their entire package. No need to debate the issues, no need for nasty ads, no need for those annoying voting booths. Just a tape measure will do!

God bless the Republican Party.

Romney Sounded A Lot Like Bernie Sanders

Mittens was back in the news big time today with his accurate and articulate attack on Donald Drumpf. The problem is that he didn’t say anything about him that anyone paying attention didn’t already know. So, we’ll see how that goes.

What I want to bring to your attention, in case you didn’t get to hear Romney’s entire speech, is this nice little boost he gave to the Bernie Sanders campaign:

For the last three decades, the Clintons have lived at the intersection of money and politics, trading their political influence to enrich their personal finances. They embody the term “crony capitalism.” It disgusts the American people and causes them to lose faith in our political process.

A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president.

Sound familiar?

I have tried for a while now to point out that the subtext of Bernie Sanders’ criticism of Hillary Clinton is that she is, essentially, untrustworthy and dishonest, which is how Republicans have characterized her for years and exactly how Romney characterized her today. I have objected to this line of attack from Sanders for obvious reasons. She will be the Democratic nominee and it doesn’t help to have a fellow Democrat lob the same rhetorical grenade at her that Republicans have been using to blow up her chances to become president and, among other things, appoint a couple or three Supreme Court justices.

In case there is any doubt about what Sanders has been doing, let me take you back to that famous exchange between the two during a debate just a month ago. Sanders had said that Clinton represented “the establishment” and that he represented “ordinary Americans.” That’s fair enough for a primary campaign fight. Nothing wrong with that. But after she objected to the establishment label, Sanders came back with this:

SANDERS: What being part of the establishment is, is, in the last quarter, having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street, that throughout one’s life raised a whole lot of money from the drug companies and other special interests.

To my mind, if we do not get a handle on money in politics and the degree to which big money controls the political process in this country, nobody is going to bring about the changes that is needed in this country for the middle class and working families.

Now, any ordinary person, after hearing Sanders make this charge, would immediately conclude that Hillary Clinton is taking money from Wall Street, drug companies, and “other special interests” because she is part of a corrupt political process and she is selling herself and her agenda to the “big money” interests. Clearly, Sanders wants voters to conclude that Mrs. Clinton is corrupt and not to be trusted, which is why she responded this way:

CLINTON: Yeah, but I — I think it’s fair to really ask what’s behind that comment. You know, Senator Sanders has said he wants to run a positive campaign. I’ve tried to keep my disagreements over issues, as it should be.

But time and time again, by innuendo, by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to — you know, anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.

And I just absolutely reject that, Senator. And I really don’t think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of you. And enough is enough. If you’ve got something to say, say it directly.

But you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received.

Naturally, when someone is challenging your integrity, especially someone in your own party, you get a little defensive. And Mrs. Clinton sure did. She should expect that treatment from Republicans, but has a right to get a little upset about having to hear it from a fellow Democrat.

And Bernie Sanders hasn’t stopped. Here’s how The Wall Street Journal described his attacks on her integrity yesterday in Portland:

At a rally here ahead of Maine’s caucuses this Sunday, Mr. Sanders pressed Mrs. Clinton to release transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street firms and mocked the idea that anything she said could have been worth the six-figure speaking fees she collected.

The Bangor Daily News described what he said during that rally this way:

bernie in maineSanders has vowed to stay in the race and take his fight to the Democratic National Convention in July, and his supporters certainly don’t want to settle for Clinton, who has squabbled with the underdog over her ties to Wall Street and big banks.

He hit Clinton on that in Portland, saying there’s “one candidate” taking contributions from banks, the fossil fuel industry and billionaires, “and that candidate is not me.”

Let me be clear about this. I am all in favor of ridding our political system of big money. There is no doubt it is a corrupting influence overall, even though corruption is often hard to prove in any individual case. I was worried when Barack Obama took all that money from Wall Streeters in 2008, but as we all know now it didn’t exactly corrupt him. He still went after them with Dodd-Frank and most of them still hate him for it.

The problem with what Bernie is doing is that attacking Hillary Clinton’s integrity is the kind of thing that will leave some voters unable to vote for her, no matter how much Bernie comes to terms with the fact that she will be the nominee and he will have to endorse her and, presumably, campaign for her. It’s one thing to have policy disagreements with your opponent and challenge his or her judgment on this or that political decision. You can do that and still, after losing, endorse your opponent with credibility.

But it is quite another thing to challenge the trustworthiness and honesty of your opponent and then expect your most ardent followers—in Bernie’s case, mostly young folks—to believe you when you tell them they should put their trust in the person whose trust you have been questioning. Consider this recent headline:

Don’t Assume Bernie Sanders Supporters Will Back Hillary Clinton If She’s The Nominee

I will pull just one quote from that article. It was said by a Sanders supporter named Patt Coltem from St. Paul, Minnesota:

I would vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in a heartbeat. She’s just too shady. She’s a pathological liar. He’s the only other person in this race who doesn’t have someone backing him. Trump is crazy; he does a lot of weird stuff. I would prefer not to vote for him for president, but that’s how much I dislike Hillary Clinton.

We can only hope that there aren’t a lot of Patt Coltems out there. And we can only hope that Bernie Sanders will, if he keeps fighting to the bitter end, at the very least stop sounding like a Republican by attacking the integrity of the eventual Democratic nominee.

[Bottom photo from “Grassroots Action for Bernie”]

 

You Say You Want A Revolution, Bernie? Here Is A Way To Start One

Dear Bernie,

You said it again last night: “This campaign is not just about electing a president. It is about making a political revolution.” Okay. Allow me to take you seriously. Allow me to believe you mean that. Allow me to have high hopes that this election isn’t just about electing you president, but about starting that revolution you talk about all the time.

And please allow me to speak honestly. You said last night that your campaign was partly “about dealing with some unpleasant truths that exist in America today and having the guts to confront those truths.” Bernie, one of those unpleasant truths is that you will never be president. I’m sorry about that. You’re a good and decent man. But Hillary Clinton now has over 1000 delegates. You have 371. Estimates are you would have to win almost 60% of the vote in all the elections to come in order to catch up with her. We both know, or should know, that just isn’t going to happen. So, I ask you this: why prolong the inevitable? Why give a speech last night in which you don’t even bother to congratulate your opponent, who is now, after all these years of your independence, a fellow Democrat? I have to admit that there was something about that touch of gracelessness that bothered me.

Still, though, I want to tell you that I admire what you have done so far. It has been fairly impressive. You have raised a lot of issues that all of us need to think about. And most of the time you ooze with authenticity. But I have to tell you that it disturbs me that your constant line of attack against Mrs. Clinton—essentially questioning her honesty and integrity—is exactly the line of attack that Republicans will use against her later this year. In fact, they aren’t waiting. Right-wing super PACs have spent months and a lot of money attacking her honesty and integrity. In fact, they are actually using your own words against her, and I haven’t heard a peep about that from you. Is that because you stand to benefit from those attack ads? I hope not. I hope you’ve just been too busy planning your revolution to notice how your attacks blend so nicely with those of our real political opponents, including Dangerous Donald.

Which leads me to the real reason for my appeal to you. You said last night your campaign “is about transforming America.” You know how you can really help do that, Bernie? By suspending your campaign and taking all those millions of dollars that those earnest, well-meaning Americans have given you and put it to good use, like helping Democrats win competitive House and Senate races, so that a Democratic president can actually get done some of the things that you and I want done. Don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to become the country’s largest cheerleader for Hillary Clinton if you don’t want to. But you can become a cheerleader for Democrats at least taking back the Senate, so that a President Hillary Clinton can transform the Supreme Court for a generation. Isn’t that something you would be proud of? Wouldn’t that count as sufficiently revolutionary, especially since it has been 40 years since progressives have had control of the Court?

Today, as you know, the Court is considering the most important reproductive rights case in 20 years, a case out of right-wing Texas that will likely result in a 4-4 deadlock. Women need a Hillary Clinton and a Democratic Senate next year to get that fifth vote in some future precedent-setting case generated by anti-choice reactionaries in some other Republican-controlled state. I can’t think of too many things more transformative than establishing a choice-protecting majority, can you? Unless maybe it would be that same majority protecting the voting rights of minorities or overturning Citizens United. The point is, the revolution you speak of can begin with a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate actually having the power to stop Republicans around the country from turning back the clock on so many issues important to all of us who care about the rights of women, of minorities, and of ordinary citizens who, as you often say, live at the mercy of the millionaires and billionaires among us.

Think about it. You can have a tremendous effect in many strategic places around the country where Democrats facing purple electorates need the impressive enthusiasm of your young supporters. You could show up in targeted districts and states and campaign for the transformation you say you want. You can give much-needed money—money you got from folks who believe in your revolutionary spirit—to the Democratic National Committee so that candidates in those purple districts and states have the resources to defeat their wealthier opponents. In that way, Bernie, you could demonstrate that you mean it when you say this isn’t just about electing a president, but about starting a political revolution.

Finally, last night you said this: “Now, I know that Secretary Clinton and many of the establishment people think that I am looking and thinking too big. I don’t think so.” You are right about that, Bernie. You’re not looking and thinking too big, you are actually looking and thinking too small. You seem to be thinking only about your own candidacy, which faces the longest of odds and which, if you continue to the bitter end as you and your spokesman say you will, risks severely damaging the chances of Democrats keeping the White House, and will help Republicans keep control of the all-important Senate.

So, I am asking you to really think big, Bernie. Think about what good you could actually do for not only your new political home, the Democratic Party, but about the country that you have, up until now, so admirably served.

Sincerely,

The Erstwhile Conservative

 

The Real Donald Drumpf

Simply the best and funniest and truest exposé of The Donald you will ever, ever see:

Yes. Barack Obama Is Responsible For Donald Trump. And We Should Thank Him For It.

disintegrateto break or decompose into constituent elements, parts, or small particles

A among the many things we should thank Barack Obama for is just how much his working in the White’s House—not as a servant or employee of a white president, but as president himself—has helped lead to an ugly disintegration of what has become an ugly Republican Party, a disintegration that is now happening before our very eyes.

The Obama-related dissolution and demoralization began in 2009 with the rise of an angry Tea Party, where nuttiness became normalness. Where—even putting aside the occasional and unseemly displays of racism that came with our first African-American president—questioning Mr. Obama’s devotion to his country and his chosen faith became as natural as questioning his birthplace. And the most prominent birther, of course, was Donald J. Trump, a man now the front-runner and face of his party, positioned to win a number of primaries tomorrow. Thus, even though it was quite unintentional, even though it wasn’t part of a clever national Democratic Party strategy to undermine the integrity of the GOP, Barack Hussein Obama is, ironically, cracking up The Party of Lincoln.

Donald Trump has divided conservatives from the Republican establishment. He has divided conservatives from other conservatives. He has divided reactionary evangelicals from other reactionary evangelicals. He has divided the right-wing donor class from working-class Republicans. He has challenged the integrity of the Republican Party’s official public relations arm, known as Fox “News,” relentlessly and classlessly attacking one of it most popular propagandists, Megyn Kelly. He has made two Tea Party extremists, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz—both of whom believe the government should force a rapist-impregnated woman to bear her rapist’s child, and both of whom represent his toughest conservative competition at this point—seem a more rational choice for the Republican nomination than Trump. And he now has prominent Republicans openly saying they will not vote for him in the general election.

Perhaps most important, in terms of non-Fox, right-wing media coverage, Trump has now turned his most prominent cheerleader, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, into a critic. Look at this header from today’s HuffPo:

huffpo and scarborough

I heard the very conservative Scarborough talk this morning. And I found his comments amazing. After months of rooting for Trump, defending him, giving him advice on the air, Scarborough is now all of a sudden surprised that Trump would do something so dumb as not denounce David Duke and the KKK. After years of Trump’s racist birtherism; after make america grreat againmonths of Trump’s assaults on Hispanic immigrants and Muslims, including women and children war refugees; after Trump’s hate-filled attacks on journalists and his most recent suggestion (which he repeated this morning) that, as president, he would make war on a free press and “open up our libel laws” so politicians like him could sue for “lots of money”; after all that and much, much more, it finally dawns on Joe Scarborough that Trump may not be qualified for president?

That tells you what you need to know about the condition of the Republican Party.

Trump’s awkward refusal, on ABC’s This Week, to disavow both David Duke and the KKK shouldn’t have surprised anyone, including Joe Scarborough and the Morning Joe crew. He has, without much pushback from the Republican establishment, openly courted bigots from the very beginning. That’s why he has been very popular among white supremacists and other haters, like Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But Trump, who knows very little about a lot of things, thought he could get away with not rejecting the support of open racists on a prominent Sunday political show because, as he has said before, he really believes he is invincible. He believes he can disavow Duke on one trump rally.jpgday, then pretend not to know who he is on another day, followed by a phony explanation as to why he didn’t openly disavow him or the KKK on ABC. He can do all that, he believes, because his bigoted supporters will get the message: “Yeah, I had to eventually sort of disavow the racists, but my ambiguity should tell you something.”

Apparently it does. Judging by his rally at Radford University in Virginia today, he hasn’t lost an inch of ground. Thousands came out to wildly, and I mean wildly, cheer him and his tiresome bigotry. “We’ve gotta unify our country,” he told his audience, after loudly and rudely ordering a few protesters from the premises. That coming from perhaps the most purposely divisive figure in modern American political history.

Joe Scarborough, born and raised in the South, tried to tell his Morning Joe viewers today that the South has changed. That Trump’s attempt to appeal to racists in tomorrow’s mostly southern primaries won’t earn him one vote. Oddly, Scarborough also said that Trump will win most of the races tomorrow. In other words, according to Scarborough, Trump’s shameless and clumsy appeal to racism on Sunday won’t win him any votes in the South but alswon’t cost him any votes.

If that is true, if Trump wins big tomorrow and becomes very difficult to stop on his way to the nomination, that tells you something not just about the South, but about the Republican Party. The GOP is splintering and will soon no longer be a national party at all, but one that will have to deal with a shrinking group of anxious and angry white constituents who give the party most of its energy, but who just can’t cope with Barack Obama and the browning of America and the loss of white privilege that he so impressively represents.

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

Marco’s Balls Have Dropped!

It’s finally happened. Marco Rubio has reached political puberty.

During last night’s embarrassingly puerile GOP debate, the previously puny Rubio finally dope-slapped the dopey bully, and although the bully didn’t exactly collapse, he was roughed up. And Trump’s move this morning to bring in another bully, Chris Christie, to give him moral support may be a smart way of trying to minimize the damage that Rubio did to Trump last night, but there is no doubt that—if journalists don’t get distracted by the slick Christie play—some real and lasting damage was done. And even given the Christie endorsement of Trump, there are now a lot of Republican bigwigs who have some hope, especially with Romney raising the issue of Trump’s tax returns, that Rubio can somehow stop Trump before he destroys what’s left of their national party.

Don’t get me wrong. Marco still has some growing up to do. He didn’t exactly look the bully in the eye while he was, among other things, ratting him out for his fraudulent university and for hiring undocumented Polish workers and losing a civil lawsuit for doing so. But he did what he has been afraid to do up until now and that is attack, attack, attack. Desperation, and sagging poll numbers in his home state, is the mother of invention, I suppose.

This morning, CNN broadcast most of Rubio’s new anti-Trump stump speech, which he debuted in Dallas. All you have to know about it is that he told his audience, “Friends don’t let friends vote for con artists!”

Well, yes they do. Because no matter whether your Republican friends vote for Donald J. Trump or Marco Rubio—or Ted Cruz, who will never be the nominee—they will most certainly be voting for a con artist. Thanks to Vox (“We’ve lost sight of how wildly irresponsible the Republican tax plans are” and The huge Republican tax cut plans, in 4 charts“) we can see why. I’ll steal just two charts from Vox to make the point.

For all the talk right-wingers do about the national debt, their tax plans would wildly increase it, even more than the famously disastrous Bush tax cuts: How tax cuts compare
And for all the talk Republicans do about taking care of the middle class, they won’t. As always, their plans would take care of their rich donor-constituents:

Javier Zarracina/Vox

Finally, because I don’t think Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will ever be president, I want to specifically focus on Marco Rubio’s tax plan. Again, Vox points out that Rubio’s tax cuts amount to $6.8 trillion over ten years. And Vox asks the simple question: How will he pay for his supply-side voodoo? Here are some possibilities that demonstrate what a con he is running:

On day one of Marco Rubio’s presidency, he announces that he’ll pay for his tax cuts by doing something truly big: ending funding for Medicaid and for the Children’s Health Insurance Program — which 71 million Americans, or 22 percent of the country,rely on for health care. Impressive, right?

The problem is that only gets Rubio about $4.7 trillion.

To close the gap, Rubio could find another trillion dollars by eliminating all education spending — Pell grants, the Department of Education, K-12 funds, school nutrition programs, Head Start, all of it. That gets him to roughly $5.7 trillion.

Knocking out all justice spending could net another $561 billion. But there might be some political resistance to wiping out the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, much of the Department of Justice, all United States attorneys, the entire federal judiciary, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The good news is Rubio is pretty close now. All he needs is another $540 billion or so. And he could get that by wiping out international spending — so closing all US embassies and consulates around the world, zeroing all aid to developing nations, ending all military funding for allies, and closing the State Department, among other functions.

At this point, Rubio’s there. Of course, he’s also proposed increasing military spending by somewhere in the range of $1 trillion, so he somehow needs to pay for that, too. And then to fulfill his balanced budget promise, he’s got to get rid of the deficits that already exist and are projected to grow in the coming years.

By now you get it. Rubio, even with his newly engorged testicles, is as big a con artist as Donald Trump. It’s just that most journalists would rather cover the admittedly entertaining circus that is the Republican primary than cover the nuts and bolts of what Republicans claim they would do if they had total power in Washington.

Ask yourself: When was the last time you heard a journalist ask the remaining Republican candidates about their ridiculous tax plans?

Time Out From Politics For A Look Up

When I was very young, I became fascinated by astronomy. I read books about it and learned as much as I could. And so when I would go out and look at the sky at night, I had a pretty good idea of what I was seeing, at least for a kid. Where I grew up, the sky was dark enough to see numerous stars and that wonderful band across the sky, our own Milky Way galaxy, to which I and all those stars I could see were somehow connected. Since I knew what that band across the sky was and what it represented, I was totally awed by its magnificence and its beauty.

And I miss it. I miss being able to walk outside my house and look up and see it. It somehow comforted me to know it was there, that the Earth, though small in comparison, was part of something so spectacular. These days, though, I live here in Joplin, where the city lights make it impossible to step outside the door and see that beautiful band, our real celestial city, the Milky Way. Thankfully, today there are other ways to see it.

According to National Geographic, this week the European Southern Observatory, located in the Atacama Desert in Chile, released a composite image—187 million pixels—of our galactic plane, an image that took almost three and a half years to produce from more than 700 separate observations. It is called the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy. The APEX telescope is more than 39 feet in diameter and sits more than three miles above sea level in one of the oldest and driest deserts on the planet, a perfect place to put a telescope, since there are few clouds and almost no light or radio interference.

The amazing image of our galaxy was produced using wavelengths of light that fall between infrared and radio waves and thus reveals details invisible to our parochial eyes. As National Geographic described the image:

It reveals finer details of the galaxy than seen in earlier images, including most of the places where new stars are born—such as the mysterious Galactic Center—and cold regions where dust and gas hover mere fractions of a degree above absolute zero.

Just below is a beautiful 8-minute video of the image, set to music. I urge you to put it on full screen and watch it in a dark room with the music turned up. Just sit there and appreciate who we are in this universe. Our galaxy may have as many as 400 billion suns in it and is some 100,000 light-years in diameter—588,000,000,000,000,000 miles! And our galaxy is just one among what may be 200 billion galaxies out there. So, sit there and appreciate the strange beauty of it all, from its size and composition to the possibility that some other forms of life may be living somewhere in that image, forms of life we will never know. Perhaps above all, appreciate the amazing and inquisitive earthbound minds that desire to and can produce and utilize such unfathomable technology for purposes of peace, for purposes of expanding our knowledge about the universe in which we live, rather than for war and defending and perpetuating religious dogma.

How A Joplin Globe Columnist Reveals Why National Republicans Treat Obama Like An Uppity Negro

It is now official. The Scary Negro will have to stay seated in the back of the constitutional bus:

Senate Republicans on Tuesday launched an unprecedented blockade of President Barack Obama’s yet-to-be-named Supreme Court pick, saying they won’t give any nominee a hearing or even meet with the candidate.

obama is a communistLet’s please stop shying away from what that word “unprecedented” means in the context of Obama’s pigmented presidency and even before. From the beginning, he has suffered one unprecedented Republican-led assault on his dignity after another, whether it be absurd doubts about his birthplace and citizenship, or irrational claims that he doesn’t love his country and wants to destroy it, or embarrassing cheers for that infamous shout of “You lie!” during a speech to Congress.

He has been called “lazy” by a Romney surrogate. He has been called “uppity” by a Georgia congressman, and so too his wife by the most popular right-wing radio host in history. There has been constant talk of impeachment, constant charges that he is a Constitution-trampling, lawless dictator. Those and many more personal affronts were either authored by or quietly endorsed by national figures in the Republican Party.

So, what goes on in the minds of people so poisoned by hatred for Barack Obama?

Let’s take a frightening peek into one of those minds, one of those minds that Republican leaders play to when they do such unprecedented things like denying a hearing to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. This mind does not belong to a national figure, thank God. He is a local writer here in Hooterville, a regular columnist for the Joplin Globe. And this local columnist has referred to President Obama as a “monkey” (full explanation here) and yet he is still featured prominently in the paper. In the past, he has used Obama’s name in connection with the word “boy,” and that bothered no honcho at the Joplin Globe. He still refers to our president as Dear Leader, a reference to a dead North Korean communist dictator whose crimes against humanity can’t be numbered. Again, that witless reference is acceptable to his newspaper employer.

After Obama’s reelection in 2012, this regular Joplin Globe columnist called the president an “asshole” and “unAmerican.” He tweeted:

caldwell and obama destroying americaNow, I don’t have the credentials to accurately diagnose what exactly is wrong with someone who would write something so utterly stupid. But The Scary Negro’s reelection was so devastating to white conservatives, that at I am forced, through sheer decency, to at least pity their poor, broken souls.

Following that humiliating election defeat of a lily-white Romney, our lily-white local Joplin Globe columnist lamented that “we left God and he has left us as a country.” He tweeted, “unfortunately life as we all knew it ended…with a minion media sponsored coup by ignorant idiots.” A coup? And just who were those idiots? Why, they were sick Democrats of course:

caldwell and democrats disabledIn case you have never visited there, this kind of sophomoric nonsense passes for brilliance in the strange and nasty conservative Twitterverse. Here is more right-wing brilliance from the local Joplin Globe columnist:

caldwell and the enemies of AmericaYep. That’s so clever. And so insightful. Apparently it is such brilliance that qualifies you to be a regular columnist for our local paper of record. As does this bit of nastiness:

caldwell go fuck yourselves

For the uninitiated, “Argofyourselves” translates, “Ah, go fuck yourselves.” Isn’t that classy stuff, all you selfish bastards? And very worthy of a local Joplin Globe columnist who advertises his Christian faith and his love for his fellow countrymen.

I can and will go on. The Joplin columnist has written that “the world hates the Jews and Obama’s right in there withem.” That despite the fact that Obama wants to increase security assistance to Israel beyond the $3.1 billion we’re already giving them every year. And responding to the 2012 election fact that “Obama won Hispanics 71-27,” our local columnist said, “Racists want what racists want. We pay they take.” By “we” he means, of course, “we white folks” who are supporting all those greedy “brown folks.”

In order to try to understand how profound is the hatred of The Scary Negro, and why national Republicans continue to exploit white racial angst, I want to take you back to November 6, 2012, that great day when Obama was reelected. I want to show you how Obama-inspired hate began to ooze out of our local columnist right in front of God, the Globe, and everyone.

Let’s first start with his pleas to the Almighty Whitey at 4:46am:

caldwell prayer

As it turned out, either Dear Lord thought voters ought to make up their own minds on election day or Dear Lord guided the voters toward Barack Hussein Obama. But so early in the morning, our local columnist didn’t yet know what the will of the voters or the Lord would be. Three hours after that Twitter prayer, hope was still alive:

caldwell put god back in this house

Who knew that God had been homeless since 2009? Where the hell had he been living? In an alley behind Trump Tower?

Anyway, seemingly credible evidence of an Obama defeat was beginning to appear at 2:14pm that day, and it was starting to look like Dear Lord had heard our local columnist’s prayer:

caldwell before election results

You can feel the excitement building! America—excuse me, AMERICA—is coming home! Which would mean that Whites and God will get their House back! But, dammit, at 7:38pm some Almighty Whitey doubts were starting to creep in, and perhaps the earlier optimism was nothing but premature ejaculation:

caldwell on election night

Uh-oh. That didn’t sound very Christianly, did it?  Obama voters didn’t even have one ounce of decency? Or at least one working brain cell? Man. That’s getting close to hating on your fellow man. And by 10:04 in the evening, after even Karl Rove had finally figured out that Obama would live another four years in the White’s House, the Obama-inspired hate was totally unloosed:

caldwell go fuck yourselves2Praise God and the Joplin Globe for making this man a regular on its opinion pages! What Bible Belt class! How proud the locals should be of their Jesus-loving, editorial-writing hero. But our local columnist wasn’t done that night. Besides blaming Ohio voters, he gave a special shout-out to journalists:

journalists are traitors

You’d think that a man who once bragged to me that he had an IQ of 140, could at least correctly spell “traitors” on such a special occasion. But, dammit, he was pissed! God had let him down! This was no goddamned spelling bee! It was the end of the world!

There is this right-wing Twitterer out there who calls himself “White Fright,” for obvious reasons if you read through his tweets. Just to give you a taste, White Fright recently tweeted: “When Trump is elected, I’m going to act just like all the obnoxious blacks did with Obama, and call him ‘MY President.'” Nice expression of white outrage, huh?

Well, it turns out that White Fright was tweeting back in 2012 on election night, when Obama blew White Fright’s mind by beating Mittens. And it turns out our thoughtful and God-fearing Joplin Globe columnist, patriot to the core, had something inspiring to say in response to White Fright’s opinion of the 2012 results:
caldwell white fright response

It is more than ironic that our local Jesus-loving columnist would, in his moment of mental and spiritual agony, turn to atheist Ayn Rand’s goofy white fictional character to express his outrage at four more years of The Scary Negro. But given how much space Mr. Obama occupies in the heads of white conservatives, it is understandable. There is something about our president that brings out the stupid, reveals the nastiness, in white conservatives.

I wonder what it is?

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