Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sweet Dreams, Citizens

You might be witnessing the destruction of American democracy if...

1. ...a president demonizes a free and independent press.

2. ...a president's chief of staff attempts to induce FBI officials to deny press reports that have implicated that president's inner circle in secret dealings with a foreign, hostile government.

3.  ...a president views more than half of the nation's population as a threat to his power, assaults his perceived enemies with violent rhetoric, and takes steps to isolate them (see # 1 above).

4. ...a president is compulsively more concerned about his own image than he is in consensus-building with a majority of the citizens who do not agree with him.

5. ...a president has nothing to fear from a complacent Congress in the way of oversight or investigation.

6. ...a president that claims he cannot have a conflict of interest.

7. ...a president that attacks the 3rd branch of government as "so-called judges."

Friday, February 24, 2017

Bannon's Bumptiousness

Yesterday in front of the CPAC audience -- a gathering of conservative warlords and high priestesses -- Trump's puppet-master Steve Bannon was not shy with his grandiosity: The “deconstruction of the administrative state” has just begun, Bannon declared.

“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said.

How decorously he wrapped it up! But if you think a bunch of billionaires and Goldman Sachs bankers are going to smash government for the benefit of "common people," you're maybe too deep into the Kool Aid to climb out now.

The Mountain Has Moved Closer

"If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain."
For the nonce, "Muhammad" = Sen. Thom Tillis and all the other Republicans representing North Carolina who have refused to meet with their constituents during the current Congressional recess.

About 300 people held a "Tillis town hall" in Charlotte Tuesday night, and they supplied an empty chair for the non-attending Tillis and addressed their questions at it anyway. I'd say this particular town hall turned into an anti-Tillis rally, and that's on him.

For its part, the chair was silent, but no more silent than the absconded senator, who had said that setting up town halls was just too much trouble for his poor, overworked staff and he was afraid of a "scene."

He got his scene anyway.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cooper, Stein Withdraw McCrory's Supreme Court Petition

In his last, sad moments in the governor's chair, the late Pat McCrory petitioned the US Supreme Court to overturn the Fourth Circuit's ruling on North Carolina's voter suppression law, something the Fourth Circuit overturned and said it targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision” to limit their participation in elections. African Americans were not all it targeted (as college students know all too well).

Governor Cooper and Attorney General Stein yesterday withdrew McCrory's request for SOTUS review on behalf of the state. “We need to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote, not harder, and I will not continue to waste time and money appealing this unconstitutional law,” Cooper said in a statement announcing the step. “It’s time for North Carolina to stop fighting for this unfair, unconstitutional law and work instead to improve equal access for voters.”

Cooper and Stein also sent discharge letters to the private attorneys hired by Republican Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore -- lawyers being paid by NC taxpayers, you and me -- saying they were no longer employed to represent the state in trying to retain the voter suppression law. The Berger-Moore attorneys said they couldn't be fired.

And of course, Berger-Moore said that Cooper-Stein couldn't end the Supreme Court appeal, but the catch for them is that they are not named as defendants in the original lawsuit and have no standing in the matter. They may petition to the US Supremes to intervene in the case, and they probably will.

Trump's Belated Denunciation of Racism: Hypocrisy, Yes, But Also Evidence He Can Be Shoved

"Scanning the piece of paper with his finger as he read," Trump yesterday -- during a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture -- "read carefully from prepared remarks decrying bigotry and specifically condemning a wave of recent threats against Jewish centers across the country."

"Read carefully" means read haltingly, with effort, because, as we know, the man does not read. Someone made him do that and wrote out the words for him, not allowing him to free-wheel it in Trump style, because he very likely would have blurted out something that would have further exposed his stone-cold racist heart.

Last Thursday at his first press conference as president, Trump called himself the “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” and, also, “the least racist person.” He was angry that a Jewish reporter had asked for a presidential statement on recent bomb threats at 48 Jewish centers across the nation (and more than 170 Jewish gravestones were found toppled at a cemetery in suburban St. Louis, over the weekend). Trump took the question personally -- wonder why? -- even though the reporter carefully prefaced that he wasn't asking nor implying anything about the president's personal views.

Trump then told the Jewish reporter to sit down and shut up, because he was just another example of the "fake news" media. Trump later claimed that his "opponents" are committing anti-Semitic acts to fuel outrage against him. "Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump. They're put up by the other side and you think it's like playing it straight, no, but you have some of those signs and some of that anger is caused by the other side."

The other side did not cause the White House to release a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not mention the Jewish people or anti-Semitism. It was not the other side that caused Trump suddenly to not know David Duke and refuse to condemn his explicitly racist endorsement of Trump's presidential bid. It was not the other side that installed Steve Bannon next door to the Oval Office -- Steve Bannon who made his fame with the explicitly racist and explicitly anti-Semitic Breitbart News.

The racism is embedded, as is the narcissism, and what goes with narcissism? A disorienting insecurity about how one appears and a neediness for approval, so yesterday at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Trump's insecurity and neediness induced him to read a statement against racism, carefully tracing the words with his short fingers, a statement that someone else wrote for him and told him to read word-for-word, because whoever wrote the words knows that Trump in his heart has no real understanding of what those words mean.
 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Three Steps to Losing Our Democracy

David Frum, the neoconservative former speech writer for George W. Bush and a leader of the Jewish Republican Coalition -- David Frum -- has written an important warning about the presidency of Donald Trump in The Atlantic, where it is guaranteed to be read by no one who's drunk the Trump Kool Aid:
What is spreading today is repressive kleptocracy, led by rulers motivated by greed rather than by the deranged idealism of Hitler or Stalin or Mao. Such rulers rely less on terror and more on rule-twisting, the manipulation of information, and the co-optation of elites.
Our Constitution is based on a basic assumption that any person who becomes president will be "restrained first and foremost by his own ethics and public spirit." "What happens," Frum asks, "if somebody comes to the high office lacking those qualities?" That is exactly what has happened, Frum says. Somebody without personal ethics or any leanings toward "public spirit" has taken control of our nation. He is
a president who plausibly owes his office at least in part to a clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign intelligence service. Who uses the bully pulpit to target individual critics. Who creates blind trusts that are not blind, invites his children to commingle private and public business, and somehow gets the unhappy members of his own political party either to endorse his choices or shrug them off. If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled.
The Republican Congress, which spent eight years opposing everything Obama suggested, should be an important "check and balance" to Trump's lack of ethics, but Frum sees how they roll. They will spend the next four years, at least, trying their damnedest not to find out about any scandal in the Trump administration. They will be successful in their blindness.

Most interesting, perhaps, is Frum's declaration that the greatest burden for resistance to Trump rests actually on fellow Republicans: "The duty to resist should weigh most heavily upon those of us who—because of ideology or partisan affiliation or some other reason—are most predisposed to favor President Trump and his agenda."

He ends with this:
Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Shirkers Inc.

There are 535 members of the US Congress. Some 290 of them are Republicans. Guess how many Republican members of Congress are holding open town hall meetings during the current recess.

No. Go ahead and guess. I'll wait.

19.

And not one Republican member of Congress representing North Carolina. Neither US senator, and none of the Republican members of the House. Certainly not Virginia Foxx, who never meets openly with the people.

They're all running for cover. The senators are sipping cocktails during very important (and gawd knows, pressing) foreign travel, while the members of the House are counting their paperclips. If America is being made so wondrously great again, seems like they'd like to take credit for that.

Instead, they slink away to another fundraiser, or stuff their expensive purse from someone else's food bar.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trump in His Element

Trump has spent the last three weekends at his private resort in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. Private resort. It used to cost $100,000 to join the club. As soon as he was elected president, he raised the fee to
$200,000, and apparently the filthy rich are fighting to get one of those memberships. (Of course, you peasants, there's no conflict of interest in charging the super-rich 200 grand for instant access, because as you should have learned by now, the president cannot have a conflict of interest. He told us that himself!)

Yes, Mar-a-Lago is all about the little guys out there who voted for Trump and whose constant adoration Trump needs, the way the rest of us need oxygen. That is, if you understand that little guys might mow the grass or clean the pool, but otherwise they're not going to get within a mile of that particular high-life.

Who does get to rub elbows? Billionaires like William I. Koch, owner of Oxbow Carbon, one of the world’s largest sellers of petroleum coke, who would also be a significant beneficiary of the Keystone XL pipeline, which Trump has graciously promised him.

High-octane lobbyist Kenneth M. Duberstein is a member. He served as White House chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan and now works as a corporate consultant and lobbyist for clients like the Alibaba Group, the Chinese internet company; Amgen and Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giants; and Dow Chemical and America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents the nation’s largest health insurers. Duberstein got his access to Mar-a-Lago before the membership price doubled, so good on him!

Another member -- Christopher Ruddy -- is the chief executive of Newsmax Media, emphatically not fake news evidently, because Mr. Ruddy is a big donor to Trump, and his publication gleefully spreads the absolutely not-fake manure.

Another member is Janet Weiner, part owner and chief financial officer of the Rockstar energy drink company, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying federal officials to avoid tighter regulations on its products. Save that lobbying money, Janet, honey! Now you can just drop by Mr. Trump's table during dinner.

Trump's company benefits directly from every one of those memberships:
“Mar-a-Lago represents a commercialization of the presidency that has few if any precedents in American history,” said Jon Meacham, a presidential historian and Andrew Jackson biographer. “Presidents have always spent time with the affluent,” he added. “But a club where people pay you as president to spend time in his company is new. It is kind of amazing.”
Yeah. Keep telling yourself he's draining the swamp and helping the forgotten Joes of America.

Trumpolini

The FAKE NEWS media (failing , , , , ) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!


Who says crap like that? An authoritarian dictator says crap like that, just before siccing his goons on those "enemies of the people."

History will not be mocked. But it can be repeated.