Unfollow The Leader (2017May19)


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Friday, May 19, 2017                                               8:01 PM

Oh how the proud are humbled—our president has prompted the world to baby-proof their embassies prior to Trump’s arrival—short sentences, plenty of calm—and that is not the usual prep for a visit from (whom we can hardly any longer call) the ‘leader of the free world’. Because America’s preeminence has never stemmed from its military or wealth—in fact, those things cause more trouble than they’re worth, often as not—but from our dedication, to a citizen, to the founding principles of this place.

The rest of the world is not all bad—but it’s not all good either—and for a long time, America was the best place to be. Other countries didn’t care about our tanks and planes, or our banks and factories—that stuff, quite frankly, fits into whatever culture it finds itself in—and eventually gets warped in the same way, making things worse instead of better.

No—people wanted to come here—to live as free people. And most of them were not being oppressed by their laws—they did not suffer for a lack of our Constitution—they suffered from their friends and neighbors—even their families—deciding what their lives would be, what work they would do, who they would marry, how they could live their lives. Most foreigners want to come to America for the same reason young people want to leave home—they want to live their own lives.

The Melting Pot took them all in (I should say took us all in—my grandparents were Irish and English). Making a living isn’t any easier here—in some ways, it can be more difficult—still, what you do with the rest of your life is entirely up to you. That’s freedom with meaning.

But an important part of that freedom is not giving other people grief over their choices—that’s just being a dick. Don’t start none—won’t be none. You can’t claim freedom for yourself and take it from someone else. It doesn’t work that way—that’s like stealing. Freedom doesn’t just enable us to respect each other—it demands that we respect each other—or it isn’t real freedom.

That is why freedom of religion is the bedrock of America—and free speech a close second. We cannot hold each other captive to dogma or censorship. An American can walk away from his family, his faith, and his hometown—not many do, but the choice is there—no one is classified by birth in America.

That is why racism is so divisive—some of us are raised with a hate that is born of old tradition—and some of us are raised to despise racism for the betrayal of America that it represents—and we will never agree to disagree, because hate is not something a person can just ignore—and it becomes a source of injustice and misery.

People talk about the history of the Old South, the Confederacy—I say Fuck that shit. We used to be a British Colony, too—but you don’t see a bunch of New York yahoos, proud of their Tory heritage, yearning to be back as part of Great Britain. How stupid are these people? And to link it with racism—as a cultural touchstone? Fuck me, but there’s more stupid in the world than I can deal with.

Pardon the digression—the idea of bigotry makes me ill. Where was I? Oh yes—the rest of the world looked up to America as a better place to live—a better place for their children.

But now we have a president who doesn’t respect America. He hasn’t studied—he’s been too busy making deals, cutting corners, wheeling and dealing—he doesn’t really even know what the presidency of America is, beyond it being the ‘prize’ at the end of the election.

We have a president who dismisses our sacred vow of religious freedom. We have a president who questions the value of free speech—and of transparency. People can stay in whatever hell-hole they’re already in, and get the same lies, corruption, and incompetence as are presently on offer in the Great United States—land of the free—for now, at least.

More Than Anything (2017May18)


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Thursday, May 18, 2017                                          1:45 PM

Humankind has a pretty long history—even the special case of United States history, alone, is a pretty thick almanac of ups and downs, bests and worsts—centuries of heroism and villainy, celebrity and infamy, achievement and catastrophe.

When Trump says ‘Never before in history…’, he does not speak as an historian. He is using the phrase ‘in history’ as a synonym for ‘very’. He is not merely being (laughably) ignorant when he claims his historical superlatives—he is also, subliminally, undermining the concept of history as meaningful archive. For Trump, a meaningful archive is a threat—evidence of the past.

For an old wheeler-dealer like him, the point of mistakes is to get people to forget about them—to gloss over any negatives and make that sale, close that deal—and move on to new sales, new deals. But for an elected official, the point of mistakes is to investigate them—to scour the records. It would be odd indeed if Trump were a history enthusiast—most of his mistakes have been made before.

But me—I am a history enthusiast—and Trump offends me on many levels, not least of which is his pretense of scholarship:

This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” – D. Trump

No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly…” – D. Trump

These are professorial wordings, usually used by someone who isn’t pulling facts out his or her ass—Trump uses the words of intellectual rigor, as if to give his bullshit respectability.

Getting down to cases: Mandela spent decades in prison before becoming South Africa’s president. Lincoln and Kennedy were both shot in the head. Hitler and Mussolini were ridiculed in Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” so ruthlessly that the government tried to block its release in theaters.

If we want to talk history—Donald Trump may have a claim to being the biggest pussy ever to take office—as far as his other historic deeds go, we’ll have to wait until after the investigations to say with any real ‘surety’.

Get Ready   (2017May16)


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Tuesday, May 16, 2017                                            9:02 PM

Little things go unnoticed in all the hub-bub—like the continued absence of a replacement for James Comey at the FBI. The only other FBI Director to ever get fired was fired for blatant corruption. And Comey hasn’t been criticized by Trump, in his firing—and certainly not accused of doing wrong. Trump presented it as a preference-based thing, like a re-mod he’d been mulling, just a change.

However, if Comey did no wrong and the president simply wanted someone else in there, why did he wait until the day he fired the FBI Director before he started considering a list of potential replacements? If there was no urgency to the change, why wasn’t a replacement standing by, already chosen, for being better suited to the country’s (and the president’s) needs?

That’s not what the president did—he ‘got rid’ of Comey, and worked out the next steps afterwards—Trump didn’t need someone else in that post—he simply needed Comey out of it. And that has the appearance of obstruction—even if it doesn’t meet the technical, legal definition of it.

My feeling is that Trump dropped a stitch and had planned to make a ‘contest’ out of the selection of a new FBI Director, complete with graphics and dramatic announcements—hoping  to crawl back into the reality game-show realm he’s so comfortable in. Now he’s furious, because everyone else is looking at it the wrong way—and it’s ruining his contest plans. Nobody even much cared about what he and Erdogan talked about today—it’s all Comey, Comey, Comey.

Trump should have picked a replacement—he should have been getting ready to act while he waited for a ‘good time’ to act (“and, by the way, there is no good time to do it…”—our fearless leader). ‘Foresight’ is an important part of the presidency—‘Vision’ is nice, but it don’t pay the bills. In Donald Trump we are finding out what a sore lack foresight can be, in a president.

Trump is used to being the team leader—but he doesn’t know how to be a team player. A bully like him would have never made it up through the ranks of the political arena—and no one so ignorant of the backstory of America, and so unpracticed in the art of compromise—could ever become president within the ‘system’. He had to catapult in, a pure neophyte, from a world that sneers at politics. And many Americans enjoyed sneering at politics, and voted for him.

But now the harsh reality is this: our new president has less working knowledge of Washington than the littlest Congressional page, the very first-day SCOTUS law-clerk, the Pentagon private, or the least-senior White House wait-staffer. President of the United States of America is not a learn-as-you-go job—and we are witnessing the proof of that today. He didn’t even ask his wife if she’d be willing to spend four years First-Lady-ing.

Part of the problem is that Trump’s Traveling Circus becomes more and more embarrassing—and that narrows the pool of people willing to work for him, with every passing day. The Republicans are starting to realize that carrying this guy for four years of ‘legislative gravy-train-ing’ isn’t going to be as easy as they hoped. And if Trump makes it to November 2018, who knows where Congress will end up? So get ready.

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We All Better Hope (2017May12)


Friday, May 12, 2017                                               4:06 PM

We All Better Hope [ or – The President’s Tweets – ]     (2017May12)  

One of Trump’s tweets today was to the effect that “Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our dinner…” And I find this representative of Trump’s virtuosic ability to appropriate the culture of the liberals. Every time we find a new way to express our dismay, it is flipped back at us. People have been using the phrase ‘we better hope’ a lot lately, mostly in terms of the few things that stand in the way of Trump’s autocratic vision of the presidency—and his dark purpose in destroying the established order in DC.

So, of course, the phrase turns up in Trump’s PR blasts, i.e. his tweets. He glories in his ability to obscure the truth in any paradigm: he’s done it in his rallies, his interviews, his debates—and now that he has a five-person team to further explain both what he said and what he meant—well, let’s not even talk about the 25 or so news-anchors who add their own translation of what those five (and the president) said, and what they meant—plus, what he Tweeted.

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I saw Sean Spicer say to a reporter today, “The president’s tweet speaks for itself and I have nothing to add.” This was the response for four questions in a row—and on the fifth try, Spicey said, ‘I’ll move on now.’ So, somehow, the President’s Tweets have become some sort of oracle which the press secretary is excused from divining—it’s just supposed to be read—like the Ten Commandments or something—can our president become any more publicly unhinged than he already is?

I also enjoyed his whining about how a busy president finds it hard to coordinate his messaging with his staff—and an ex-press secretary commented, on air, that “Yes, it was difficult, but the former president felt it was important to get accurate information to the public.” I think that news-panel was overlooking the extra time involved in getting the narrative straight—as opposed to simply transferring the facts, without embellishment—I think that may be what the present president is too busy for—lying is hard work—even harder as a team of people who don’t really trust each other. Or should I be polite—and change ‘lying’ to ‘spin’?

This business about loyalty—that takes us to a new level of crazy. Trump isn’t satisfied with being president—he wants his ring kissed, or his dick sucked, I don’t know—he needs to be kowtowed to, overtly—he’s really quite pathetic.

I remember when Obama whined about having to surrender his Blackberry PDA upon taking office—it was considered a security threat, because it was vulnerable to hacking. Obama felt the loss of a technology that allowed him to more easily keep up with a complex agenda. It’s a stark contrast to the Tweeting moron who holds the office today—the national security threat here is what Trump wants people to hear—not what secrets he’s keeping.

My overwhelming reaction to President Trump is shame—not just for what he is—but for the army of fools who voted him into office—at the prodding of Putin’s spies. It’s just like when Bin Laden flew two planes into our biggest skyscrapers—and misled America into decades of panic and hysteria—starting wars by mistake, bankrupting our banks, dumping half our people into unemployment—make no mistake—Bin Laden won that fight—hell, we’re still fighting—and he’s been dead for years. America’s new image in the world is, apparently: the Most Gullible Stooges on Earth—go ahead, trick them—they never look past the nose on their faces—it depresses me to say this—but I can’t lie.

And because Trump embarrasses me, as an American, I burn with a desire to see him impeached—just to say to everyone, here and abroad—‘fool me once…’

I can understand that, in the heat of a two year campaign, all of Trump’s shock-jock tactics kept everyone off-kilter. But for us to allow him a full four-year term of malfeasance and misanthropy—that would seal our reputation as the country that voted itself to death. His incompetent pretense must not stand.

DrEvil

I Got My Eye On You (2017May11)


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Thursday, May 11, 2017                                          4:56 PM

Repeated cries of ‘This is not normal’ inhabited media-space on Tuesday. That is always the first reaction to Trump’s mental dekes—i.e., ‘normal people would never be this irresponsible’—which opens the door to the question ‘Who’s normal?’—and a morass ensues (point to the other team). So they say ‘This’ is not normal—and they can’t be contradicted—Trump makes history every day (though it seems unpleasant history to be making—but that’s just me perhaps).

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Here is my takeaway from the week so far: Comey asks for more resources for the Trump/Russia investigation—Sessions sends a letter to Trump about firing that head investigator of the case Sessions has ‘recused’ himself from—Trump fires Comey with a letter that says “You said I’m clear three times, so it must be true—you’re fired.” Then Trump bars American press from a meeting with the Russians, with the Russian press present, and says they were ‘tricked’ by those pesky Russians when Tass releases photos from the meeting.

 

I think the trouble with the phrase ‘This is not normal’is that you can only repeat it so many times. I think a more honest phrase might be: ‘This is disruptive—in a way so criminal that, if it is not illegal, it should be made so.’ But then we have to address the elephant in the room—people voted for this guy—and many of them still support him.

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How this happened will be answered, in part, by a thorough investigation into Russia’s social-meddling techniques. Some of the wildest disinformation on the web last year, against Hillary and supporting Trump, came from teams of Russian hacktivists—and we still aren’t sure the Trump voters understand that they were ‘hacked’—in some ways, worse than we were.

But it hurts us all the same—threatens all of us the same—that a seventy-year-old with no experience had such a swollen self-regard that he thought he’d try running our country, just for the bragging rights. He doesn’t know what he’s doing—like someone who’d never before been in office—it’s all new to him. Ordinarily, someone thrust into that position would rely heavily on their staff—the experienced staff of the experienced predecessor—but Trump has gutted not just the West Wing and the NSC, but the State Dept, the DOJ, the EPA,—now the FBI—virtually gutting the machinery of government. And by jettisoning all those old hands, the lifers who knew how it all worked, Trump has lobotomized the Federal government, as well.

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Many of his own picks have been turned away or fired—other picks seem designed to destroy the agencies they oversee. Most of his executive orders and legislative motives are: undoing Obama policies—whatever they are, so long as however much of Obama’s legacy can be erased, no other consideration need be added. It’s rabidly racist—but I’m sure Kellyanne Cop-out could explain why it’s actually the very picture of inclusion.

We can only hope that more Republicans awaken from their poppy-sleep long enough to see Trump flying them towards that mountain-face. The grounds for impeachment are there—have been for a while—it just takes the GOP to stop stepping over that pile of dog-poo, pretending they don’t see it.

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Trump’s Lying Treason (2017May10)


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Wednesday, May 10, 2017                                               2:11 PM

There was a Daily Show Reunion on last night’s Late Show—most of Jon Stewart’s old gang reminiscing about the ‘halcyon days’ of 9/11 and the Dubya presidency. Airing on the same night as the news about Trump firing Comey, it poignantly reinforced the difference between the old warring ideologies and today’s faithless partisanship. Back then, we argued over interpretation—today we argue over the plain facts—and the schism doesn’t lie in our hearts, but in our sources of information.

What we overlook is the fact that when two people tell opposing stories, one of them is lying, or just plain wrong. Comey is not a liar, whatever his other faults may be—but Trump is a liar—from Obama’s birthplace on, he has told lie after lie. Only a rabidly pro-Trump partisan would fail to be suspicious of Comey’s firing—he is the third person to be fired while investigating Trump’s ties to Russia, after Sally Yates and Preet Bharara.

Where is the limit? When will the Republicans accept the fact that they are shielding a traitor in the White House—and begin to scrutinize him in the same way they harried the last president? Trump’s impeachment, at this point, is purely a matter of Republican will—it’s right there, if they had the honor to reach for it.

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Double Standard Much? (2017May08)


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Monday, May 08, 2017                                            6:48 PM

This afternoon, Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, and James R. Clapper Jr., former director of national intelligence, testified before a Senate subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism – Russian interference in the 2016 United States Election. I enjoy these hearings when, as a by-blow, they point up our new president’s habit of discrediting all authority: Courts, House, Senate, scientists, journalists, or recognized authorities of any kind—leaving us to wonder what his ‘special sources’ are, that so compellingly contradict all known information from every normal source?

I also enjoy watching professional, ethical people being questioned by pols—as both sides of the committee try to ‘message’ with pointed, weighted questions—questions that tell a goddam story before they end as questions. It’s fun because good folks like Ms. Yates simply answer yes, or no, or they give a specific date or number or name—and the occasional ‘I don’t know’. When she is invited to give her opinion, she demurs.

At one point I was distinctly annoyed by one GOP Senator making a point of Ms. Yates having ‘determined for herself’ that Trump’s original Muslim ban was unconstitutional—he even asked very snidely when she had been appointed to the Supreme Court. However, Senator Franken promptly re-directed, allowing Yates to point out that “any first-year law student could determine that a Muslim ban is unconstitutional”.

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That first senator’s smug assertion that the former AG had a lotta nerve, thinking for herself, is a compounding of the annoyance that the Senator himself did not see the point as glaringly obvious—which seems ignorant. Perhaps I’m being too harsh—or listening too closely—the Republicans hate it when anyone else tries to split hairs or stickle over details.

One detail from today’s spectacle stands out—the several weeks between Trump being apprised that his NSA pick was disqualified as a security risk—and Flynn’s eventual firing ‘for lying to the Veep’. If I remember the Benghazi hearings correctly, Secretary Clinton was often questioned about how many days it took her to act on intelligence—at some points she was asked about hours and minutes—at no point was she ever asked why she lolled about for weeks before doing her job. I’m just saying—double standard much? Flynn attended weeks of high-level security briefings, after he was revealed as compromised by the Russians—were they feeding him disinformation to pass on to Putin? Or we’re they just flailing around like incompetents? Hmmm.

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But my favorite scandal this week is that Stephen Colbert said Trump was “Putin’s c**k-holster” during his recent monologue and suddenly, he’s a walking hate-crime who should be drummed out of the media. First of all (and it seems this never gets through from the last big huff) it was a joke. Secondly, Colbert has done a pretty good job of scaling back the scathingly raw humor that made him such a hit on cable TV, first on John Stewart’s Daily Show, and even more popular as host of his own satiric talk-show, Colbert Report.

Trying to domesticate Colbert to the ‘family-standards’ of CBS would be hard enough—without this maddeningly stupid president providing a daily dissolving of all that made us civil in years past. To jump all over him because he got a little racy on late-night—please. Talk about McCarthyist tactics—they’re actually calling for hearings—on that one joke! I think it might have been a funnier joke, but it certainly isn’t a crime to let one’s frustration with corrupt politics creep into your nightly monologue about same. Long live Colbert—and comedy—and freedom of speech.

Operation Iraqi Stephen

Stephen Colbert greets troops and civilians at Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, June 5, as part of his “Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando” tour.

 

Friday, May 05, 2017                                               1:24 PM

Saying Goodbye to Health Insurance   (2017May05)

DrEvil

I’m not interested anymore. The politicians can’t be a source of constant controversy—having proven their disability to govern properly, their unashamed bias towards the moneyed interests—these folks can’t be reported on as if they were inherently interesting.

The tragedy of their being elected to public service is old news—all we get now, daily, is a progress report on the rot that accompanies corrupt governance. Meanwhile, stories that lay low for a while simply disappear—it doesn’t matter how big the stories seem—if there’s no movement on a story, it disappears. In a way, it’s evidence that the news-media isn’t practicing real journalism.

It’s all very exciting and entertaining—sure—in its own small-minded way—the hustle-bustle of tweets and rants and bombs and back-walking and self-contradiction—whoopee! But no one talks about the new paradigm: voters can be misled to the point of voting against their own best interests—so, how badly can the GOP overtax them, and screw them over, before the con stops working? And will it ever stop working? Is it an iron-clad mind-fuck—or can people awaken from it? These are the real issues of today—and inquiring minds want to know.

A blow-by-blow of what these public servants (that lied their way into office) are destroying, daily, isn’t so much news, as a death knell.

Think about it—this new healthcare legislation is supposed to scrape 24,000,000 people off the health insurance rosters—and put the onus of paying for serious illness only on those who are seriously ill. And the question isn’t whether people want that—the only question is whether people can be convinced by this, that Obamacare was worse.

Now, the people have been told to hate Obamacare—but they have also gotten used to having health insurance. When it disappears, will they blame the Republicans? Will people have the presence of mind to see they’ve been betrayed? And, with supposedly the free-est press on earth, how did they get conned in the first place?

The truth is that hate and fear have won this round—simple as that—the forces of good got their asses kicked and we have to wait ‘til next time. I can’t help wondering how the bad guys got so much better at getting elected—that’s just not right, is it?

Now, don’t listen to me—I’m an old man, and sick to boot. I can’t get out there and run for office or help someone campaign or protest or any of that good stuff. Maybe you can. Odds are you’re younger and healthier (my sympathies, if you’re not). Maybe you can make a difference—people can, you know. They do it all the time. I used to, in my small way—it felt good. All that is necessary for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing. Be good.