Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Amnesty Don

Wow! And this is from a fellow Republican!

This was created by Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman who was often accused of being too chummy with Donald Trump throughout the primary (when Trump would frequently call into his show for some free publicity).

How things have changed, huh? But Trump has the reputation of being as nasty to his friends as to his enemies, and he's been particularly nasty to the "Morning Joe" co-host, Mika Brzezinski, lately.

Still, this is incredible, isn't it? Increasingly, this whole presidential contest seems unprecedented. And I don't mean that in a good way.

Edit: The really funny thing is that, after all of this, Donald Trump didn't actually change anything about his immigration policies (to the extent that he has "policies" at all). There was no "softening" (as he, himself, had described it), and white supremacists were ecstatic after his speech.

This was either a PR stunt or else no one in the Trump campaign knows what's going to come out of his mouth, including Trump himself.

How to talk to an atheist

Actually, this is a list of what you should not say to an atheist. These are common mistakes Christians make when talking to atheists. (Note that I was inspired by this video.)

1)  Don't tell me what I think.

Instead, tell me what you think. Obviously, you don't know what I think, and pretending otherwise isn't going to advance the discussion at all. If you want to know what I think, ask me.

Note that we atheists aren't united by our beliefs, but only by our disbelief (and only when it comes to a very specific issue, at that). You don't know what I think, so why pretend that you do? When you do that, it's obvious that you're just creating a straw man to argue against (presumably because it's easier than arguing with an actual atheist).

2)  Don't define "atheist" for us.

This is very similar to the previous mistake on this list - and made for the same reasons, often enough. Like most words in the English language, "atheist" can be defined in somewhat different ways. (So can "agnostic," but even more so!)

Even atheists don't necessarily agree on the definition of the label, while Christians often try to shift the burden of proof by defining it as a positive belief (i.e. the belief that there is no god). But what's the point? It's just a label. Why argue about labels?

Anyway, if you don't want me defining "Christian" for you - and trust me, you don't - then don't try to define "atheist" for me. Instead, just ask me what I mean by the word. Then you can argue against what I actually think, if you want.

3)  Don't try to shift the burden of proof.

If you believe that a god exists, let along a particular 'God,' you have the burden of proof. I don't mean that you must literally prove that your god exists, of course. But you have the responsibility to demonstrate evidence to back up your belief.

You might find this easier to understand if you think of leprechauns. I don't believe that leprechauns exist. That's not a claim. It's just that I don't accept assertions that leprechauns do exist, since I've never seen any evidence backing up those claims.

If you do think that leprechauns exist, you have the burden of proof to demonstrate that. I don't have a responsibility to disprove it, because without good evidence, belief isn't warranted. Maybe leprechauns exist; maybe they don't. But nonbelief is the default.

4)  Don't quote scripture.

After all, why bother? Your holy book, whatever it might be, isn't anything special to me. The Bible, the Quran, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, the Book of the Dead, and every other 'holy text' that's ever existed mean no more to me than any random collection of myths and fables.

In order to convince me otherwise, you'd have to demonstrate (a) that a god exists, (b) that it's your particular god, (c) that your particular holy text is an accurate reflection of what that god thinks and wants from human beings, and (d) that your own particular interpretation of that text is the correct one.

Obviously, if you could accomplish even the first of those things, I'd no longer be an atheist. And as long as I am an atheist, quoting the Bible means nothing at all to me.

Maybe this is how you win arguments with your fellow Christians, I don't know. (Given that Christians can't agree even among themselves about much of anything, it doesn't seem to be very effective, though, even with them.) But it's certainly foolish when talking to atheists.

5)  Don't try to disprove evolution.

If you want to debate evolution, that's fine, but talk to a biologist, not to me. Evolution is science, not religion. Even if you could disprove evolution (which you can't), it wouldn't demonstrate that your god is real.

In fact, even if you could prove that biologists are wrong about everything they believe about biology, that wouldn't get you anywhere at all when it comes to religion. At that point, the most you'd be able to say is "I don't know."

I'm not a biologist. I'm not a scientist at all. I know enough about the scientific method to know why it works (and certainly enough to know that it does work), which means that I know enough to accept the worldwide scientific consensus, where there is one. But evolution has no direct connection with atheism, so don't argue about evolution and think that you're arguing for your religion.

6)  If you claim to have evidence backing up your beliefs, don't then refuse to present any.

If you claim to have evidence, we're going to ask you to demonstrate it. If you can't do that, don't make the claim in the first place. That just makes you seem dishonest, and it certainly doesn't help your side of the discussion.

And please know what "evidence" means, too, before you make that claim. Feelings aren't evidence. Generally speaking, if it's indistinguishable from delusion and wishful-thinking, it's not evidence. And that brings us to:

7)  If you claim to have evidence backing up your beliefs, don't try to present "logic," instead. (In particular, don't do that and then use known logical fallacies!)

Logic is a good thing, but it isn't evidence. Things can seem logical without being true (and other things can be true while seeming to violate common sense). Evidence is how we tell the difference.

Evidence is how we compare our thinking with reality. If you can't fact-check your beliefs with evidence, you can have little confidence in them. I certainly won't have any confidence in them.

8)  Don't say that Christianity isn't a religion, but a 'relationship.'

That just makes you seem silly. We atheists don't give a crap what you call it. We just want to know if there are any good reasons to think that it's true.

You might think that you have a 'relationship' with Harvey, the giant invisible rabbit. But if you can't demonstrate that Harvey actually exists outside of your imagination, then who cares? After all, lots of children have a 'relationship' with an imaginary friend. It's not particularly unusual.

9) If your argument is based on philosophy or cosmology or some other specialized field of knowledge, be prepared to explain why most of the experts in that field disagree with you.

Typically, those kinds of arguments are used by people who know little about a field of knowledge in order to convince people who know even less about it. If most of the experts don't agree with you, what does that tell you?

I'm not a scientist, and no one is an expert in every field of knowledge. So I don't expect to be able to conclusively refute every claim you make. But if you use cosmology to demonstrate that your god exists, please explain why the majority of cosmologists are atheists. If you use philosophical arguments to 'prove' the existence of a god, be prepared to explain why most professional philosophers are atheists.

Experts aren't necessarily right, of course, though neither is anyone else. If your argument depends on a specialized field of knowledge, but the experts in that field generally don't buy it, why should we?

10)  Don't use Pascal's Wager.

I ended up with nine tips here, so for aesthetic purposes, I thought I'd make it an even ten. But this is a good one, nonetheless. There are many bad arguments for belief in a god, but none this bad and yet this common.

Typically, Christians will express it as, "What if you're wrong?" The obvious reply is, "What if you're wrong?" Obviously, no one is infallible. Being wrong is a possibility we all face.

And religion isn't an either/or, yes-or-no issue. Depending on your beliefs - and even Christians are all over the place in what they believe - you can't just believe that a god or gods exist. You have to believe in the right god or gods, you have to worship them in the right way, and you have to think and do what they want, while not thinking or doing what they prohibit.

No matter what you believe, some people will think you're going to spend eternity in torment. You simply can't agree with everyone. As I say, there are a lot of bad arguments for God (I talk about some of them here), but most atheists will simply laugh at you if you try to use this one.

What should you do, instead? That's easy. Tell me what you think and why you think it, and then listen to what I say in return.

You have the right to believe anything you want. That's undeniable. But if you actually care about the truth of your beliefs,... well, so do I. That's why I like to discuss these things with people who disagree with me.

Seth Meyers: extreme weather and climate change

One of the worst indictments of our political process is that climate change hasn't been a major - perhaps even the major - issue in the presidential campaign.

Of course, Republicans don't 'believe' in science. As much harm as they've done to our country by using racism for political advantage, they've done at least as much damage by making science a partisan political issue.

These days, it's a matter of faith in the GOP to reject reality. But worse than that, it's not just religious faith, but political faith. To be a Republican in good standing, you have to reject reality in favor of Republican Party dogma.

That's why there are "both sides," when it comes to climate change. There aren't two sides to the science. There aren't two sides to the reality of climate change, no more than there are two sides to evolution. The 'controversy' is entirely between reality and fantasy, or perhaps between fantasy and wishful-thinking.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The GOP as a failed state

Josh Marshall at TPM does such a great job explaining the "institutional collapse" in the Republican Party that I'm going to post the whole thing here:
Over the last few years, as 'government shutdown' went from being a crazy ass thing Newt Gingrich did twenty years ago - never to be tried again - to the top item on the Republican policy agenda, you could hear more and more Republicans saying something like this: We thought it was this great thing that we had our own cable news network as an arm of the GOP or the conservative movement, echoing talking points, spinning the news. But at a certain point we realized Fox News wasn't working for us. We're working for Fox News.

This isn't something I'm fantasizing for effect. It's a real recognition by real, specific people. Not everyone of course. In some ways it comes very much from 'the establishment' : elected leaders, campaign operatives, non-BS-based conservative commentators and intellectuals. They thought Fox News was the media arm or comms department of the GOP. But at some point the GOP, the institutional Republican party, the people who run campaigns, formulate policy or try to enact it, became a junior operational affiliate of Fox News. Whether Fox is principally a hugely profitable media company or an ideological endeavor is largely beside the point: the balance of power had shifted fundamentally. Like in decrepit, fragmenting imperial states where the powers-that-be keep on a powerless nominal emperor because he is so easy and convenient to dominate, a figure like John Boehner was kept at the helm by the fringe figures who had become the dominant force in GOP politics along with Fox News. Of course, that's the conceit of Trumpites and Fox, a populist rebellion against the 'establishment' and 'party elite.' Only that conceit is mainly self-flattery and it obscures the deeper fragmentation and institutional collapse within the GOP.

Several months ago I described the build of 'nonsense debt' and 'hate debt' in the GOP which made Trump's takeover possible. Indeed, whether genuine or merely opportunistic, you now have more than a few Never Trump conservative media personalities stepping forward to explain how the rightwing media echo-chamber created a framework in which you are immediately discredited if you do not subscribe to a series of demonstrably false claims, non-facts and theories. And there you have it: Years of build up of fantastical conspiracy theories, completely unrealistic political goals, all leaving the party ungovernable and vulnerable to a takeover by someone like Donald Trump who was willing to satisfy the demand the institutional GOP had studiously cultivated but was both unwilling and unable to satiate. Will Saletan had an observation several months ago which captures this and which I continue to think is one of most apt insights I've seen into contemporary American politics: the GOP is a failed state and Donald Trump is its warlord.

This isn't just a clever aside. The prism of state failure is actually an apt way to look at the progression of the GOP over the last two decades. Trump isn't the leader of the GOP. He's not trying to be. Historic party leaders - FDR, Reagan, possibly Obama - fuse party coalitions together on new and transformative terms. McCain or Romney may have failed to achieve that goal in its entirety. But Trump hasn't even tried. He's simply taken control of the largest constituency block and decided to rule it as his own. The party's institutional apparatus was too weak to prevent it. Like warlordization in a state collapse context, Trump's action confirms the breakdown of institutional control but also makes recovery and unity even more difficult to recover.

The social realities of urbanization, race and deindustrialization are the true engines of change rumbling beneath our politics and driving these changes. But conservative media - Fox News, Talk Radio, Drudge, Breitbart - has been the mechanism of the transformation within the GOP. Fox News as the leader of the pack has increasingly been the one defining the choices and options for the GOP, even taking on the role of providing sinecures for once and future Fox-approved presidential nominees during the off-season. And out of the blue we're now seeing the transformation take full effect with Trump.

Kellyanne Conway appears to be a nominal campaign manager, functioning as something more like a national spokesperson and chief surrogate. The campaign is now really being run by the head of Breitbart news, the disgraced former CEO of Fox News and talk radio host Laura Ingraham. Yes, yes, I know the latter two don't have formal titles. But look at recent reporting about who Trump is really spending his time with and being advised by. Other than Limbaugh taking a sabbatical and taking over as chief strategist, I'm not sure how much more total the conservative media takeover of the rump GOP could be.

How this plays over the longer term is less clear to me. If the rumors are true that Trump wants to use his candidacy to launch a right-wing media empire, it could lead to an even more ridiculous development: right-wing media takes over the GOP; Trump takes over and takes the the GOP private in some sort of ersatz leveraged buyout of a distressed publicly traded company. For now at least the takeover seems total. And even though this precise configuration can't outlast Trump's likely defeat, it's difficult to see how the warlordization of the GOP doesn't become more entrenched by these events.

"The conservative media takeover of the rump GOP." Marshall can really turn a phrase, can't he? And he's right.

Of course, Republican Party leaders let this happen, because it was politically advantageous for them. Heck, they deliberately wooed white racists with their notorious 'Southern strategy.' When you put political ambition above everything else, this is what happens.

Marshall links to this article from January, and I'm going to post a significant excerpt from that. (Remember, this was written months ago, before Trump had actually captured the GOP nomination.)
The disaster, the blame game, and the establishment’s surprise at what’s happening are related. Since President Obama’s election, the GOP has abandoned its role as a national governing party. It has seized Congress not by pursuing an alternative agenda but by campaigning and staging votes against anything Obama says or does. The party’s so-called leaders have become followers, chasing the pet issues of right-wing radio audiences. Now the mob to whom these elders have surrendered—angry white voters who are determined to “take back their country” from immigrants and liberals—is ready to install its own presidential nominee. The Trump-Cruz takeover is the culmination of the Grand Old Party’s moral collapse.

In foreign policy, there’s a term for governments that don’t govern. We call them failed states. A state can fail for many reasons, but weak or clueless leadership is usually a factor. In a failed state, insurgencies grow, warlords arise, and chaos reigns. That’s what the GOP has become.

When did the collapse begin? Maybe it was in late 2008 and early 2009, when congressional Republicans decided to block anything Obama proposed. Maybe it was in 2010, when they refused to compromise on health insurance reform or to agree on a plausible alternative. Maybe it was later, when they staged dozens of pointless votes to repeal the new law in its entirety, treating health care as a campaign issue rather than a problem to be solved. Maybe it was in the 2011 debt ceiling showdown, when they took the nation’s credit rating hostage, or in 2013, when they forced a federal shutdown to protest the health insurance law.

Republicans captured the House in 2010, but they didn’t use that power to cut favorable deals and pass legislation that might be signed into law. Instead, they reduced Congress to theater. House Republicans, unwilling to offend their base, killed immigration reform. In 2014, Republicans captured the Senate. Again, they spurned the opportunity to govern. Forty-seven Republican senators advised Iran not to sign a nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the United States. The Senate became such a farce that according to Rubio, there’s no point in attending, since nothing happens there but “show votes.”

Republicans no longer have a policy agenda. They have a scapegoating, base-stoking agenda. Their economic plan is to blame legal immigrants for the demise of upward mobility. Their social policy is to defund the nation’s leading birth-control provider and promote disobedience of court orders. Their foreign policy is to carpet-bomb Syria, insult the faith of our anti-ISIS partners, and void Iran’s pledge to abstain from nuclear weapons production.

In the race to the right, yesterday’s conservatives can’t keep up. John Boehner, a right-wing rebel in the House 20 years ago, has been purged as speaker by the GOP’s new hardliners. Kasich, another House rebel from the Boehner era, is now ridiculed in the presidential primaries as a liberal. Cruz and Rubio accuse each other, correctly, of having switched positions on immigration. Both men have shifted to the right—Rubio turning against illegal immigrants, Cruz turning against legal ones—in pursuit of angry white voters.

When you run a party this way, chasing after your most radical constituents—in Republican parlance, leading from behind—you shouldn’t be surprised to find that the audience you’ve cultivated doesn’t match your original principles. National Review’s Jan. 21 editorial, “Against Trump,” is eloquent but far too late. Today’s Republican electorate doesn’t belong to National Review. It belongs to Trump.

So,... what's next?

Assuming that Hillary Clinton wins the election - and we're in big trouble if she doesn't - what's next for the GOP?

Donald Trump is unlikely to go away. I mean, he ran for president in the first place to re-establish his celebrity credentials and further the commercial value of the Trump brand. That has backfired with many people, but not with the Trump faithful.

Even if he loses in a landslide (and we can only hope he does), he's going to get more than 40% of the vote - easily. And he's already claiming that the election will be "rigged." Republicans eat that stuff up.

Thanks to that horrible 'Southern strategy,' the GOP has already been filled with racists, xenophobes, and religious nuts. They're not going to go away. And certainly the right-wing media isn't going to go away.

Republican leaders aren't going to be leaders anymore, if they don't accept that the crazies now run their party. (Even then, as William Saletan points out, it's going to be "leading from behind," running as fast as they can just to keep up with the fanatics.)

Sure, their big-money backers will still have immense influence, but it's not going to be as easy as it used to be to use those crazies for their own benefit. (Yes, even the Republican base backs cutting taxes on the rich - though they may not understand that that's what they'd be doing - but you need to win elections first.)

Donald Trump might be new to the GOP, but this situation isn't. It's been building for decades, as Republican politicians took full advantage of that 'Southern strategy,' right-wing talk radio, and Fox News.

When Republican leaders agreed to obstruct Barack Obama - while America was in the middle of two wars and as our economy was crumbling around us in the worst economic crash since the Great Depression - not one Republican Congressman stood up for what was right. Not one!

They brought this on themselves by caring more for their own political power than for America. And again, if you're willing to use racism to advance your political ambition, what won't you do?

The right-wing crazies have always been with us. But they're not such a big problem on the fringe. And historically, they've been on the fringe of both political parties. Unfortunately, the GOP's 'Southern strategy' successfully put all of the crazies into the same political party. That has given them lots of political power.

At first, Republican leaders just threw them a bone occasionally. It was mostly just rhetoric, as they used those people to cut taxes on the rich. But as people unhappy with using racism for political power - African-Americans in particular, but not just them - left the party, that further concentrated the crazy.

Meanwhile, the right-wing media - from Fox News on down - whipped up the anger, resentment, and fear of white conservatives, both for commercial and political purposes. Again, that worked great for decades. A lot of people got rich, and a lot of Republicans got elected to office. But what do you do with the monster once you've created it?

This isn't about Donald Trump. Trump was just the perfect person to take advantage of it. He's used to scamming the gullible, and he's as narcissistic as a celebrity can get. But any fascist demagogue could have risen to the top here. Heck, Ted Cruz was the GOP runner-up!

Of course, it's going to be about Donald Trump now. Trump is unlikely to go away, even if he loses big. Indeed, he's likely to just get crazier. And again, look at the people he ran against. A different crazy person isn't going to be better.

I don't know how the GOP recovers from this. And while I'm not at all concerned about the GOP, I am very much concerned about America. We can't have one of our two main political parties controlled by crazies (and we do need two main political parties).

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The War on Christmas is back!


Imaginary concerns about imaginary problems seems to be all the Republican Party has these days, and that's abundantly clear when it comes to the Trump campaign. For example:
While listing the reasons why his father ran for president in an interview published Thursday, Eric Trump pointed to the tree on the White House lawn and claimed it was renamed the "Holiday tree."

However, in his attempt to explain his father's commitment to combating political correctness and the "War on Christmas," Eric Trump incorrectly accused the White House of renaming the Christmas tree.

"He opens up the paper each morning and sees our nation’s leaders giving a hundred billion dollars to Iran, or he opens the paper and some new school district has just eliminated the ability for its students to say the pledge of allegiance, or some fire department in some town is ordered by the mayor to no longer fly the American flag on the back of a fire truck," Eric Trump told The Stream's James Robinson. "Or, he sees the tree on the White House lawn has been renamed 'Holiday tree' instead of 'Christmas tree.' I could go on and on for hours. Those are the very things that made my father run, and those are the very things he cares about."

The tree that stands near the White House (on the Ellipse) each winter is still called the National Christmas Tree and has never been renamed, as Buzzfeed News noted. And the White House blog also referred to the tree kept inside the residence as a Christmas tree just last year.

PS. I hope I don't have to point out what bullshit the rest of that is. Obviously, we never gave Iran a hundred billion dollars. It was their own money, used to force them to negotiate (successfully, I might add).

Furthermore, we very wisely held back on returning the money until several hostages were freed - not as payment for the hostages (again, it was Iran's money, which had already forced them to do what we wanted them to do), but because it was still potential leverage.

Trump claims to be such a great negotiator. Why wouldn't he recognize effective negotiation when he sees it?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hillary Clinton on Donald Trump

TPM posted the transcript of Hillary Clinton's speech in Reno, Nevada, yesterday, and you couldn't ask for a better take-down of Donald Trump. Really, she pulls no punches.

This is what needs to be said, over and over again. So I'm going to post a large part of it - because she really hammered him - here:
Everywhere I go, people tell me how concerned they are by the divisive rhetoric coming from my opponent in this election. I understand that concern because it’s like nothing we’ve heard before from a nominee for President of the United States from one of our two major parties.

From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.

In just the past week, under the guise of ‘outreach’ to African Americans, Trump has stood up in front of largely white audiences and described black communities in such insulting and ignorant terms. ‘Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing. No homes. No ownership. Crime at levels nobody has seen.’ ‘Right now,’ he said, ‘you walk down the street and get shot.’ Those are his words.

But when I hear them, I think to myself how sad. Donald Trump misses so much he doesn’t see. This is a man who clearly doesn’t know about Black America and doesn’t care about Black America.

Donald Trump misses so much. He doesn’t see the success of black leaders in every field, the vibrancy of the black-owned businesses, or the strength of the black church. He doesn’t see the excellence of historically black colleges and universities or the pride of black parents watching their children thrive. He apparently didn’t see Police Chief Brown on television after the murder of five of his officers conducting himself with such dignity.

And he certainly doesn’t have any solutions to take on the reality of systemic racism and create more equity and opportunity in communities of color and for every American.

It really does take a lot of nerve to ask people he’s ignored and mistreated for decades, ‘What do you have to lose?’ Because the answer is everything.

Now, Trump’s lack of knowledge or experience or solutions would be bad enough. But what he’s doing here is more sinister. Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters.

It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of President he’d be.

And that’s what I want to make clear today: A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far, dark reaches of the internet, should never run our government or command our military. Ask yourself, if he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?

Now, I know that some people still want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. They hope that he will eventually reinvent himself – that there’s a kinder, gentler, more responsible Donald Trump waiting in the wings somewhere.

Because after all, it’s hard to believe anyone – let alone a nominee for president – could really believe all the things he says.

But here’s the hard truth, there is no other Donald Trump. This is it.

And Maya Angelou, a great American who I admire very much, she once said: ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ Well, throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is. And I think we should believe him.

When he was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants. Their applications would be marked with a ‘C’ – ‘C’ for ‘colored’ – and then rejected. Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed.

And the pattern continued through the decades.

State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turnover rate for his minority employees was way above average.

And let’s not forget that Trump first gained political prominence leading the charge for the so-called ‘Birthers.’ He promoted the racist lie that President Obama is not really an American citizen – part of a sustained effort to delegitimize America’s first black President.

In 2015, Trump launched his own campaign for President with another racist lie. He described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. And he accused the Mexican government of actively sending them across the border. None of that is true.

Oh, and by the way, by the way, Mexico’s not paying for his wall either. If he ever tries to get it built, the American taxpayer will pay for it. We’ll be stuck with the bill.

But there has been a steady stream of bigotry coming from him.

We all remember when Trump said a distinguished federal judge born in Indiana couldn’t be trusted to do his job because, quote, ‘He’s a Mexican.’ Think about that. The man who today is the standard bearer of the Republican Party said a federal judge, who by the way, had a distinguished career, who had to go into hiding because Mexican drug gangs were after him, who has Mexican heritage but who just like me was born in this country, is somehow incapable solely because of his heritage. Even the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, described that as ‘the textbook definition of a racist comment.’

To this day, Trump has never apologized to Judge Curiel.

But for Trump, that is just par for the course.

This is someone who retweets white supremacists online, like the user who goes by the name ‘white-genocide-TM.’ Trump took this fringe bigot with a few dozen followers and spread his message to 11 million people.

His campaign famously posted an anti-Semitic image – a Star of David imposed over a sea of dollar bills – that first appeared on white supremacist websites.

The Trump campaign has also selected a prominent white nationalist leader as a delegate in California. And they only dropped him under pressure.

When asked in a nationally televised interview whether he would disavow the support of David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Trump wouldn’t do it. Only later, again under mounting pressure, did he backtrack.

And when Trump was asked about anti-Semitic slurs and death threats coming from his supporters, he refused to condemn them.

Through it all, he has continued pushing discredited conspiracy theories with racist undertones.

You remember, he said that thousands of American Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks. They didn’t.

He suggested that Senator Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Perhaps in Trump’s mind, because Mr. Cruz was a Cuban immigrant, he must have had something to do with it. And there is absolutely, of course, no evidence of that.

Just recently, Trump claimed that President Obama founded ISIS. And then he repeated that over and over again.

His latest paranoid fever dream is about my health. All I can say is, Donald, dream on.

But, but my friends-- but my friends, this is what happens when you treat the National Enquirer like Gospel. They said in October I’d be dead in six months.

It’s also what happens when you listen to the radio host Alex Jones, who claims that 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombings were inside jobs. He even said, and this really is just so disgusting, he even said that the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there. I don’t know what actually happens in somebody’s mind or how dark their heart must be, to say something like that.

But Trump didn’t challenge those lies. He went on Jones’ show and said, ‘Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.’

This from the man who wants to be President of the United States.

I’ve stood by President Obama’s side as he made the toughest decisions a Commander-in-Chief has to make. In times of crisis, our country depends on steady leadership, clear thinking, calm judgment, because one wrong move can mean the difference between life and death. I know we have veterans here and I know we have families - mothers and spouses and children of people who are currently serving.

The last thing we need in the Situation Room is a loose cannon who can’t tell the difference, or doesn’t care to, between fact and fiction, and who buys so easily into racially-tinged rumors. Someone so detached from reality should never be in charge of making decisions that are as real as they come.

That is yet another reason why Donald Trump is simply temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States.

Now, I hear and I read some people who are saying that his bluster and bigotry is just over-heated campaign rhetoric – an outrageous person saying outrageous things for attention. But look at his policies. The ones that Trump has proposed, they would put prejudice into practice.

And don’t be distracted by his latest efforts to muddy the waters. He may have some new people putting new words in his mouth, but we know where he stands.

He would form a deportation force to round up millions of immigrants and kick them out of the country.

He’d abolish the bedrock constitutional principle that says if you’re born in the United States, you’re an American citizen. He says that children born to undocumented parents in America are ‘anchor babies’ and should be deported. Millions of them.

He’d ban Muslims around the world from entering our country just because of their religion.

Think about that for a minute. How would it actually work? People landing in U.S. airports would line up to get their passports stamped, just like they do now. But in Trump’s America, when they step up to the counter, the immigration officer would ask every single person, ‘What is your religion?’

And then what? What if someone says, ‘I’m a Christian,’ but the agent doesn’t believe him? Do they have to prove it? How would they do that?

Really, ever since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, America has distinguished itself as a haven for people fleeing religious persecution, believing in religious freedom and religious liberty. Under Donald Trump, America would distinguish itself as the only country in the world to impose a religious test at the border.

Now come to think of it, there actually may be one other place that does that. The so-called Islamic State. The territory ISIS controls. What a cruel irony that someone running for President would equate us with them.

Don’t worry, some will say, as President, Trump will be surrounded by smart advisors who will rein in his worst impulses.

So when a tweet gets under his skin and he wants to retaliate with a cruise missile, maybe cooler heads will convince him not to.

Well, maybe.

But look at who he’s put in charge of his campaign.

Trump likes to say he only hires the ‘best people.’ But he’s had to fire so many campaign managers it’s like an episode from the Apprentice. And the latest shake-up was designed to – quote – ‘Let Trump be Trump.’ So to do that, he hired Stephen Bannon, the head of a right-wing website, called, as campaign CEO.

Now to give you a flavor of his work, here are a few headlines they’ve published. And I’m not making this up.

‘Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.’

‘Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?’

‘Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield’

‘Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage.’

That one came shortly after the Charleston massacre, when Democrats and Republicans alike were doing everything they could to heal racial divides that Breitbart and Bannon tried to inflame.

Just imagine – Donald Trump reading that and thinking: ‘this is what I need more of in my campaign.’

Now Bannon has nasty things to say about pretty much everyone. This spring, he railed against Speaker Paul Ryan for, quote ‘rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second.’ No wonder he’s gone to work for Trump – the only Presidential candidate ever to get into a public feud with the Pope.

It’s truly hard to believe, but according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Breitbart embraces ‘ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right.’ This is not conservatism as we have known it, this is not Republicanism as we have known it. These are racist ideas. Race-baiting ideas. Anti-Muslim, anti-Immigrant, anti-women –– all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’

Now, Alt-Right is short for ‘Alternative Right.’ The Wall Street Journal describes it as a loose, but organized movement, mostly online, that ‘rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.’

So the de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for this group. A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party.

This is part of a broader story -- the rising tide of hardline, right-wing nationalism around the world.

Just yesterday, one of Britain’s most prominent right-wing leaders, a man named, Nigel Farage, who stoked anti-immigrant sentiments to win the referendum to have Britain leave the European Union, campaigned with Donald Trump in Mississippi.

Farage has called for the bar of legal immigrants from public school and health services. Has said women, and I quote, ‘are worth less than men,’ and supports scrapping laws that prevent employers from discriminating based on race. That’s who Donald Trump wants by his side when he is addressing an audience of American voters.

And the grand godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism is Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, Farage regularly appears on Russian propaganda programs. Now he’s standing on the same stage as the Republican nominee. Trump himself heaps praise on Putin and embraces pro-Russian policies. He talks casually of abandoning our NATO allies, recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, giving the Kremlin a free hand in Eastern Europe. American Presidents from Truman, to Reagan, to Bush and Clinton, to Obama, have rejected the kind of approach Trump is taking on Russia. And we should, too.

All of this adds up to something we have never seen before. Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it rising from racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.

On David Duke’s radio show the other day, the mood was jubilant. ‘We appear to have taken over the Republican Party,’ one white supremacist said. Duke laughed. ‘No, there’s still more work to do,’ he replied.

So no one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed. Racists now call themselves ‘racialists.’ White supremacists now call themselves ‘white nationalists.’ The paranoid fringe now calls itself ‘alt-right.’ But the hate burns just as bright.

And now Trump is trying to rebrand himself as well. But don’t be fooled.

There’s an old Mexican proverb that says ‘Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.’

But we know who Trump is. A few words on a teleprompter won’t change that.

He says he wants to ‘make America great again,’ but more and more it seems as though his real message seems to be ‘Make America hate again.’

And this isn’t just about one election. It’s about who we are as a nation. It’s about the kind of example we want to set for our children and grandchildren.

Next time you see Trump rant on television, think about all the children listening across America. Kids hear a lot more than we think.

Parents and teachers are already worrying about what they call the ‘Trump Effect.’ They report that bullying and harassment are on the rise in our schools, especially targeting students of color, Muslims, and immigrants. At a recent high school basketball game in Indiana, white students held up Trump signs and taunted Latino players on the opposing team with chants of ‘Build the wall!’ and ‘Speak English.’ After a similar incident in Iowa, one frustrated school principal said, ‘They see it in a presidential campaign and now it's OK for everyone to say this.’

We wouldn’t tolerate this kind of behavior before and we wouldn’t tolerate it in our own homes. And we shouldn’t stand for it in a presidential candidate.

My friends, this is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Trump. It’s a moment of reckoning for all of us who love our country and believe that America is better than this.

Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits in the convention hall and told any racists in the Party to get out.

The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims ‘love America just as much as I do.’

In 2008, John McCain told his own supporters that they were wrong about the man he was trying to defeat. Senator McCain made sure they knew – Barack Obama, he said, is an American citizen and ‘a decent person.’

We need that kind of leadership again.

We can have our disagreements, and believe me, I understand that. I think that’s healthy. We need good debates, but we need to do it in a respectful way, not finger pointing and blaming, and stirring up this bigotry and prejudice.

Every day, more Americans are standing up and saying ‘enough is enough’ – including a lot of Republicans. And I am honored to have their support in this campaign.

And I promise you this: with your help, I will be a president for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For those who vote for me and for those who vote against me. I will be a president for all Americans.

Because I truly believe we are stronger together.

This is a vision for the future rooted in our values and reflected in a rising generation of young people. The young people in America today are the most open, diverse, and connected generation we have ever seen.

How many of you saw any of the Olympics? Right? I was so proud, I always get so carried away whenever the Olympics are on. And you look at the diversity of our athletes - look at our fabulous Olympic team representing the United Stated of America. Ibtihaj Muhammad, an African-American Muslim from New Jersey, won the bronze medal in fencing with grace and skill. Would she even have a place in Donald Trump’s America?

And I will tell you, when I was growing up, in so many parts of our country, Simone Manuel wouldn’t have been allowed to swim in the same public pool as Katie Ledecky. And now together on our swimming team they’re winning Olympic medals as teammates.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we have a person to waste. We want to build an America where everyone has a place. Where if you work hard and do your part you can get ahead and stay ahead. That’s the basic bargain of America. And we cannot get to where we need to be, unless we move forward together and stand up against prejudice and paranoia. And prove, again, that America is great because America is good.

Yeah, that's a very long excerpt - most of the speech, in fact. But I wanted to show how she kicks Donald Trump up one side and down the other.

She hits Trump where it hurts - his bigotry, his white supremacist supporters, his conspiracy theories, his 'loose cannon' behavior, his disorderly campaign, his alt-right campaign manager straight from, his love affair with Vladimir Putin,... and then brings it all back to his racism, again, and its effect on the youth of our country.

Hillary Clinton deliberately woos Republicans with this speech, and I think she's wise to do so. I certainly don't want her moving any further right in her policies, but in a sane America, presidents come and go. What is happening in the Republican Party right now is not sane and not American.

PS. Well, it's un-American, which is not quite the same thing, I guess. Racism, sexism, and xenophobia have always been a part of America, but as we've progressed, it's been a part increasingly relegated to the loony fringe.

Unfortunately, thanks to the Republican Party's notorious 'Southern strategy' of deliberately wooing white racists, that fringe became concentrated in the GOP. And now it has taken over the party.

Republican leaders keep trying to use those people, just like they've long used bigotry to advance their own interests (primarily for the political power to cut taxes on the rich). But the tail is now wagging the dog.

It's one thing to push sexism, but now that's blowing up at Fox News, as their own female employees have finally had enough. It's one thing to push racism, but as Lee Atwater famously explained during the Reagan years, you have to be subtle about it. (And Donald Trump is anything but subtle.)

Republican leaders have long thought to use the crazies. And many of them are still thinking that way. Others simply don't see a way out of this trap they've made for themselves - a way out that doesn't involve personal sacrifice, at least. (If they cared more about our country than for their personal ambition, they wouldn't have made this deal with the Devil in the first place.)

And still others - after decades of relentlessly wooing racists, sexists, xenophobes, and religious nuts - are fully on-board with the crazy, themselves.

For all of them, it's still about winning elections. But at what cost? Their 'Southern strategy' worked great for decades - terrible for America, of course, but 'great' when it came to winning elections. But now they're looking at a situation that might be terrible for America and for their ability to hold political power.

Sometimes, when you're in a trap, you have to gnaw off your own foot to get free again. Even if it's a trap you set yourself, that might be the only choice. Donald Trump has to lose big if sane Republicans hope to get their party back again. Nothing less than that will do it.

Admittedly, even that might not do it - not immediately, at least. After all, Republican leaders have spent decades encouraging the crazy in their own party, so it might not be quick and easy to get rid of it again. But it's going to continue to get worse if they don't start now.

At what point will Republican leaders decide that their own ambition isn't worth the damage they're doing to America? Is there such a point? I hope so!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Are you a patriot?

This is Mrs. Betty Bowers, "America's Best Christian." Actually, I think it's the first time I've ever agreed with her (with her video persona, I mean, of course).

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Scathing Atheist: an atheist guide to grief

This is an excerpt from The Scathing Atheist podcast. (Yeah, this excerpt is from his YouTube channel, but it's still just audio.)

I get questions like this, too, sometimes - questions that seem just unbelievably dumb, but they don't necessarily come from dumb people. They just have a mindset I don't get (and never have).

Anyway, I highly recommend this podcast, plus their other podcasts, God Awful Movies and The Skepticrat. They're all very funny (though not suited for the easily offended).

Seth Meyers: the new Trump

As usual, this is great. Seth Meyers just gets better and better, doesn't he?

However, I wanted to particularly note this:
But "Says who?" isn't just a dumb Trump supporter's response to a few polls. It's the right's reaction to everything, from climate change to unemployment numbers to health care. "Says who?" is the product of decades of work by [Roger] Ailes and others to dismiss facts that don't align with their worldview.

Amen. The Republican Party has become not just the anti-science party, but the anti-fact party. It's become entirely faith-based. Reality is just whatever they want it to be.

And Trump supporters are the perfect example of this. They don't care what Trump says, what the facts say, or about anything at all but what they want to be true.

But those are the kinds of people the Republican Party has been wooing and encouraging for decades. Is it really surprising that those are exactly the kinds of people who are left in the GOP after all this time?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"I unraveled her"

That's Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen. It's hilarious, isn't it?

But you know what's really funny? He doesn't seem to understand how bad that makes him look. Indeed, he apparently thinks he "controlled the interview."
An interview between a CNN anchor and a top aide to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump devolved into a palpably uncomfortable debate over polls on Wednesday evening.

In a conversation with Yahoo News shortly after the conversation aired, Michael Cohen, an executive vice president and attorney at the Trump Organization, said he believed he “controlled the interview” with Brianna Keilar.

“I think I unraveled her,” Cohen boasted.

Watch it for yourself. That interview is going viral because it's so funny. But Trump supporters are faith-based. They believe only what they want to believe.

And in their imagination, they're winning. The polls don't matter, because the polls aren't telling them what they want to believe.

Don't get me wrong. Trump could win, especially if liberals get complacent and/or stupid. But the election is certainly not looking to be in his favor right now.

Unless you're Donald Trump or one of his clueless supporters, at least. Then, the polls have to be wrong, because they don't want them to be right.

Fox 'News' is pushing that narrative, too, of course, though not everyone there. I have to give Dana Perino some credit, much as it pains me to do so. But Eric Bolling is acting like you'd expect Eric Bolling to act.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is claiming that, if he does lose the election, it will be because the election is "rigged." Obviously, he can't stand to be a "loser," so he's already preparing his excuses. And, at the same time, he's encouraging his loonier supporters to assassinate President Clinton, afterwards.

This is taking faith-based thinking to a whole new level, while also encouraging domestic terrorism. Yeah, this is the Republican Party's presidential candidate. They've brought it on themselves, too. Republican leaders and political pundits have only themselves to blame.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mock the Dummy returns

It's been awhile since I posted a Mock the Dummy video clip, but that's because it's been two years since the last one.

Previously, they've been very short, too. I guess Donald Trump just gave him too much material. Hey, I understand! In my posts about him, I can't stop writing sometimes.

Certainly, Trump is one dummy who really deserves to be mocked!

Friday, August 12, 2016

A little humor

Tired of political humor? I thought that would be a nice change of pace.

Of course, it's religion, so maybe it's not all that different. OK, how about this one, then?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Trump is crazy in small ways, too

Note that Donald Trump isn't just crazy in big ways, like suggesting that gun nuts kill his political opponent. He's crazy in small ways, too. He's petty in small ways. He's unhinged in small ways, not just the big ways.

Here's a little more about that elevator incident in Colorado. This, too, shows what kind of person Donald Trump is:
Last month, Donald Trump thanked a Colorado fire marshal who rescued him and his entourage from a stalled elevator by accusing him of intentionally keeping supporters out of his rally.

What Trump didn't divulge was that a member of his entourage apparently fiddling with an elevator bypass key got the group stuck in that elevator in the first place, internal emails obtained by local TV station KMGH and published Wednesday revealed.

Yeah, this was even crazier than it seemed at first, since Donald Trump's 'entourage' apparently caused the problem in the first place!

I'll skip the details here - read the whole article if you want - because I want to include this part:
Though Trump and his companions were evacuated through the top elevator hatch by members of the fire department, the incident resulted in Trump arriving an hour late to his rally on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus (UCCS).

Upon arrival, Trump proceeded to criticize the fire marshal for keeping some of his supporters out of the venue.

"We have thousands of beautiful, wonderful, great people outside, and we have in the room next door over 1,000 people,” Trump said at the rally. “They won't let them in. And the reason they won't let them in is because they don't know what the hell they're doing."

The emails obtained by KMGH indicated that the fire department, UCCS and Trump campaign all had been in communication about the exact number of people allowed in the main hall and overflow room. The limits allowed for 1,500 people in the event center and 1,000 in the overflow room.

Lacey expressed his frustration in an email to his friend.

"We had worked with UCCS of which we have a great relationship with and their security.. (University Cops)…. And our PD… and worked out the event loading on Thursday,” he wrote, as quoted by KGMH. “All was well.. until they wanted more people… Secret Service were butts too… wanted me to let more people in because he (Trump) was threatening to leave the room.. and they hadn’t secured the other location. I communicated to them that my problem was the public.. theirs was their candidate."

Lacey also wrote that it wasn’t his “problem” that the campaign allegedly “dispersed 10K on-line tickets for a 2500 load event.”

KMGH also obtained a contract the Trump campaign signed with UCCS promising to comply with the facility rules “prescribed by the Fire and Police Departments.”

Contacted by the news station about that new information, a Trump spokesperson said the campaign had no interest in keeping that particular story alive.

Yeah, I'll bet. Of course, with Donald Trump, no story stays alive for long, because he always follows up with something even crazier the next day.

And note that Trump didn't just accuse the fire marshal, Brett Lacey, of being incompetent (immediately after being rescued by the fire department from a screw up Trump's own people caused), but actually accused him of having a political motive for following the rules that Trump's people had agreed with ahead of time.
Within an hour, The Denver Post noted, the GOP presidential nominee was bashing the fire marshal at his rally.

“So I have to tell you this. This is why our country doesn’t work,” Trump said from the stage at his Friday rally, which began nearly an hour late as a result of the mishap. “We have plenty of space here. We have thousands of people outside trying to get in. And we have a fire marshal that said, ‘Oh, we can’t allow more people.’

"The reason they won’t let them in is because they don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

“Hey, maybe they’re a Hillary person. Could that be possible? Probably. I don’t think there are too many of them," Trump said.

Trump isn't just crazy in big ways, in dangerous ways. He's also crazy in the most petty ways you can imagine. And that's the guy Republicans have nominated to be our next president, with the control codes to the world's largest supply of nuclear weapons.

It's hard to imagine, isn't it?

Trump's assassination talk has a history behind it

Here's a follow-up article at TMP on Donald Trump's suggestion that gun nuts assassinate Hillary Clinton. Such remarks don't exist in a vacuum. There's a lot of recent history in which right-wingers push that insane idea.

Some excerpts:
“In anti-government circles, and even in hate group circles, where this idea of 'Second Amendment remedies' is not a joke, who knows how that is going to be perceived,” said Ryan Lenz, the editor of Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog.

“In reality, in the past, we’ve seen it being perceived as a sizable influx of support and validation for ideologies that, up until this campaign, had no place in mainstream political discourse,” Lenz told TPM. ...

... like the language Trump has deployed to discuss immigration, "rigged" elections and Muslims, his rhetoric around Clinton and the Second Amendment wasn’t born in a vacuum. Trump is perhaps the most prominent of a series of conservative politicians who've toyed with the idea that gun owners may need to resort to violence against an oppressive government.

In 2010, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) posted on social media "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" while pointing to a list of Obamacare-supporting lawmakers.

During her 2014 campaign, freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said she believed in her right to carry guns to defend herself “whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Failed 2010 Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) warned that “if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”

And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s (D-FL) congressional challenger in 2009, Republican Robert Lowry, shot at a human-shaped gun range target with Wasserman Schultz’s initials written on it.

Brett Lunceford, a former professor who has researched the political discourse around guns, said these sort of remarks and actions feed into a belief that “the Second Amendment was put in place to overthrow the government if need be."

“[Trump’s] throwing a bone to that mythology, that, if the government is tyrannical, ‘Well you guys are the ones that can do something about it,’” Lunceford told TPM. “There’s this idea that they’re the ones that can stop tyranny. It’s not about self defense, it’s about defense from the government.”

Just think of how batshit crazy that is. It's basically the same thinking as in ISIS. It's terrorism. If you can't get what you want though voting - because you can't convince the majority that you're right - you just start shooting people.

That's how terrorists think. This used to be heard only in the extreme nutcase fringe of the right-wing. Now, it's mainstream Republican Party thinking.

We don't live in the 18th Century anymore, with "taxation without representation." These days, we do have representation. We have a democracy. If you don't like our government, you can change it - up to and including changing the U.S. Constitution itself.

But the trick is that you need other people to agree with you. You're not the dictator here. No one is the dictator. If you want to become president, you need a majority of people to support you. OK, OK, George W. Bush became president without that, so our system isn't perfect. But it's a hell of a lot better than terrorism!

In right-wing mythology, though, you have guns so you can shoot the police, politicians, and other government officials if you don't like the way elections go. How insane is that? Even their beloved 2nd Amendment doesn't imply anything like that, not even close. (Indeed, if you actually read it, "well regulated" is specifically written into the amendment itself.)

This is insane right-wing fringe ideology,... only it's not just on the fringe these days. It's being promoted by Republican senators, governors, and even by the Republican Party's presidential candidate. How crazy can these people get?

Donald Trump said exactly what he meant, and his supporters understood him very, very well: "Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. But the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."

No, he didn't come right out and tell people to shoot Hillary Clinton. Even Trump isn't that stupid. And he probably doesn't want anyone to shoot her before the election. He said it himself. If she's elected and can pick her judges, that's the time for assassination, that's the time for terrorism.

Meanwhile, he's just using that rhetoric for political advantage (which will backfire, I hope). His crazier supporters might not wait, but so what? All Trump cares about is winning. And that means he's become increasingly unhinged as it's clear that he's losing, and losing badly.

I can't predict what Trump will say next, because he just gets loonier and loonier. But what's next for the Republican Party? Will the GOP, too, just get loonier and loonier? Or if they're beaten in a landslide this year, will sane Republicans finally take back their party?

There are still sane Republicans, right?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Twelve reasons to not vote for Jill Stein

This shouldn't be necessary, since #12 should be obvious. We can't have the Republican Party picking more Supreme Court justices - especially given that Republicans in Congress have been unconstitutionally 'saving' a pick for Donald Trump (and especially after this).

And have we completely forgotten 2000 already, when Ralph Nader voters gave us George W. Bush as president? How stupid can people be to not learn from that?

Of course, Jill Stein is only polling at 2-3%. There aren't that many stupid liberals. But it will still hurt Hillary Clinton, who needs to crush Donald Trump in order for Republican Party leaders to get the message.

Besides, I mentioned Gary Johnson the other day, so I might as well do the same with Jill Stein. But I see no reason to waste all that much time with her, so I'll just point you to this list of 12 reasons to not vote for her.

If that's not enough for you, maybe you could check out her trip to Moscow. She's as chummy with Vladimir Putin as Donald Trump is.

Second Amendment remedies

Donald Trump has said many stupid, crazy things during this campaign, but suggesting that gun nuts assassinate his political opponent tops the list, don't you think?
The Republican presidential nominee said of his Democratic opponent: "Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.

"But the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."

It's hardly even worth pointing out that Hillary Clinton has never suggested abolishing the Second Amendment. Obviously, it wouldn't make any difference if she had, since assassination is terrorism, not politics.

Since when can a candidate for President of the United States - the nominee of one of our two main political parties, no less - get away with suggesting assassination, just because the polls show that he's losing badly? How could anyone still support this guy?

Of course, this isn't completely new to the GOP:
This isn't the first time that a Republican has suggested drastic action against Clinton. In June, Trump delegate and New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro (R), who also chairs Trump’s veterans group, said that Clinton should be put on the firing line and be "shot for treason" over the terror attacks in Benghazi. The Secret Service launched an investigation into Baldasaro’s comments.

Earlier in August, longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone suggested that if Clinton wins a state like Florida — where she currently leads Trump in a head-to-head matchup, according to polling — then the election would be "illegitimate," in which case he promised a "bloodbath."

But this isn't just any random moron, this is the specific moron Republicans have chosen as their presidential candidate.

And now this particular moron, Donald Trump, has escalated the rhetoric, magnifying those threats of terrorism, by actually suggesting that gun nuts assassinate his political opponent. And make no mistake, that's exactly what he was saying, despite desperate attempts by Republican leaders to spin it otherwise.

If you vote for anyone other than Hillary Clinton in November, or even if you sit out the election entirely, you will be encouraging this kind of bullshit. We Americans need to take a stand.

And face it, the Republican Party will never change unless the party loses in a landslide. Anything less than that won't be enough. It needs to be a shocking loss, an overwhelming loss, with no possibility to spin it as anything else.

I remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I remember the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. I remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  That's not the kind of America I want. Do you?

I was unhappy when the five Republicans on our Supreme Court stole the 2000 election for George W. Bush. I was astonished when Bush was re-elected in 2004, after we already knew what a complete disaster he was. But I didn't shoot anyone. I didn't even suggest shooting anyone. And I would have immediately turned against anyone who did.

How could Donald Trump be happening in America? Have Republicans completely lost their minds?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Help Trump get a Purple Heart

I thought this was kind a funny. A veteran, who lost a leg in service to our country, has created a GoFundMe campaign to help Donald Trump get a Purple Heart, since Trump said he wished he could have gotten one for real:
On 2 August 2016, a veteran handed Donald Trump a Purple Heart medal at one of his rallies in Virginia. Making light of a military decoration awarded to combat-wounded service members just days after attacking a fallen soldier’s family, Trump remarked “I've always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”

As with seemingly everything else in his life, Mr. Trump got one handed to him instead of earning it. That being said, as a Purple Heart recipient [proof] who earned one the old-fashioned way by returning from Afghanistan one leg lighter, I fully endorse his desire to earn one and would happily oblige his interest in doing so, by being one of the first to chip in to fly him to the conflict zone of his choosing. After all, you're never too old to follow your dreams.

…ok, let’s be serious. Super serious. We’re not going to be able to help Donald realize his conveniently retroactive military fantasies, and based on precedent he could likely get a series of deferments to avoid going even if we tried. So instead, we’re going to convert his toxic bigotry, ignorance, and callousness into something positive. As Michelle Obama said/as Melania Trump might say at some point in the future: "when they go low, we go high."

What better way to do that than to redirect money to a good cause that Donald Trump would vehemently oppose: aiding Syrian refugees. All money actually raised will be distributed to vetted groups working directly with Syrian refugees as well as refugees of similar conflict zones - the decent fellow humans who were unfortunate enough to be in one of these regions when everything around them collapsed, and whom Trump has broadly categorized as likely terrorists unworthy of resettlement.

Anyway, this has apparently clicked with people. At least, when I donated, the goal was only $10,000. But the goal was reached so quickly that it was raised to $20,000 and now $50,000. Check it out.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Seth Meyers: Trump's disastrous week

Seth Meyers just gets better and better, doesn't he? Or maybe Donald Trump just gets worse and worse...

Gary Johnson

I've actually been hearing people talk up Gary Johnson as an alternative to Hillary Clinton. Yeah, it's crazy on the face of it. He's a Libertarian, for one thing. And he's not going to win, so the only thing voting for him would do is help elect Donald Trump. Republicans want to split the anti-Trump vote.

For both of those reasons, it's an insane idea. But if you really look into his positions, it's even crazier. This article explains how Johnson is even worse than Trump:
If all you’ve done is watched a few clips of Gary Johnson on the internet, it’s easy to be taken in. He knows how to talk like he wants to stand with ordinary folks against those big corporate interests. But Donald Trump does that too, and he doesn’t mean it either. Gary Johnson is a deceitful person who sells himself as Bernie Sanders lite while in reality he has consistently supported a far right agenda that would devastate the country. He hawks his liberal positions on social issues while concealing a deeply disturbing and malicious economic agenda. More than anyone else running, he knows how to put lipstick on the pig that is the Libertarian Party

I'm not going to go into the details. You can read them here, if you want, although the fact that he's a Libertarian should tell you all you really need to know. No one is more faith-based than Libertarians. They tend to follow their beloved philosophy to its most absurd conclusions.

And I certainly don't have a big problem with Hillary Clinton. She's more conservative than I'd like, but most people are. And she's certainly capable and knowledgeable, well-prepared to be our next President of the United States.

It should be a slam-dunk. But there are crazy people on both sides of the political spectrum (most on the right, but not all). Even worse, there are stupid people, ignorant people, gullible people. A democracy is only as good as its citizens. Are we Americans capable of sustaining our democracy? I guess we'll see in a few months, huh?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The obvious

Will Donald Trump drop out of the presidential campaign? (Note that he'd lose the election even if he won all of the "tossup" states in the current polls.) Will Republican leaders finally abandon their support of the GOP nominee?

As Josh Marshall at TPM says, I'll believe it when I see it. But he makes a very good point here:
There's a lot of chatter this morning - based on absolutely nothing, so far as I can tell - that Donald Trump might drop out of the presidential race. I emphasize: as far as I can tell, chatter based on nothing but what I suspect is wishful thinking on the part of Republicans. At the same time, reporters are quoting high level Republicans sources saying that in the next few days top tier Republicans might come out in opposition to Trump. I will totally believe it when I see it.

But I can't help but note what seems obvious.

We've had Judge Curiel, Megyn Kelly, the banning of an entire religion from America's shores, the demand to deport 3% of the US population, the Khan family, protester beatings. Tell me when to stop, okay? There's a lot more. And yet what seems to have been the red line was Trump refusing to endorse Paul Ryan and John McCain in their Republican primaries. Yes, the Khan debacle was big. But little more than a week ago we had Republicans coming out of Cleveland saying that Trump was killing it.

Even if you take a more generous view - an extremely generous view - and say that it wasn't really the non-endorsements, that it was just the flood of everything that's happened since the convention, still there's a problem. Because Trump can say, not without real credibility, that the GOP power structure only turned on him when he refused to endorse them. He has maneuvered them into looking deeply craven, having missed the opportunity to abandon him on their own terms. Of course this isn't that unfair since they are actually craven regardless.

In truth, I don't think it's really the Khans or the endorsements. It's the polls.

Let me just add two things. First, I've linked to a presidential scoreboard that changes all the time, and there's a long way to go until November. As I'm writing this, it shows that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency if she won all of the states that are currently considered "strongly Clinton," "favors Clinton," and "leans Clinton."

That means that Donald Trump would lose the election even if he won all of the current "tossup" states.

Yes, that's a ray of sunshine I desperately need. But it doesn't mean much right now. It's certainly no guarantee! Indeed, a convention typically gives a candidate a bounce in the polls, and the Democratic National Convention just ended. By the time you read this, things could be different.

Still, things are looking good for the Democrats right now (not nearly as good as they should be looking, though - I'm just amazed that the election is close at all). Republican leaders are worried, as they should be.

But second, this is the same political party which deliberately used racism for their own political advantage. The Republican Party's notorious 'Southern strategy' set them to deliberately wooing racists in order to gain more political power. It was just unbelievably cynical, selfish, and flat-out wrong.

This is the same political party whose leaders, during the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression - while America was simultaneously fighting two wars - met and agreed among themselves to do nothing the upcoming president wanted, no matter what it was, as a strategy for winning back the White House four years later.

Again, this was a cynical political move, to deliberately harm America (or refuse to help, at the very least), in order to advance their own political power. Luckily for us, it failed.

And this is the same political party whose leaders in the U.S. Senate were arguably willing to commit treason against their own country, by sabotaging America's side in the negotiations with Iran. They may have rationalized that in their own minds - Republicans are nothing if not faith-based - but they were still willing to harm our country in order to advance their own political power.

So I'd suggest remembering all that when looking at how Republican leaders treat Donald Trump. Most of them had problems with Trump - and for good reasons. But when Trump was winning, they were eager to climb on-board. Sure, Trump made them cringe - mostly because he was too blatant about what Republicans are supposed to suggest more subtly - but what's a little racism if you can win with it?

After all, Republicans have made that decision before - indeed, over and over again since their 'Southern strategy' was begun by Richard Nixon and further developed by Lee Atwater in the Reagan years. Hell, the past eight years, they've gleefully ramped up the hysteria about our first black president. Trump himself was a 'birther.'

If there's any integrity left in the Republican Party, it's clearly in the minority. So Republican leaders were quite willing to climb on the Trump bandwagon as long as he seemed to be winning. But the polls aren't looking good now, and that is all that matters to most of them. That's obvious.

Will Donald Trump drop out of the race? Hmm,... maybe. Clearly, he has a real horror of being considered a 'loser.' He's already trying to run away from debating Hillary Clinton, it seems. Among his other bad qualities, he's a narcissist. He's going to look out for himself, regardless of anything else.

On the other hand, he's also been talking about how the election will be 'rigged.' Thus, he seems to be preparing an excuse. He wouldn't be a loser if the game was rigged, right? So that might be enough for him.

I don't think that Donald Trump himself knows what he will do. He's not a thinker. He just feels and reacts (one of the many reasons why he'd be a danger as President of the United States). It's possible that Republican leaders are floating the possibility that he'll quit without Trump even considering that... unprecedented option.

Either way, this whole thing is completely nuts, isn't it?

PS. If you're not scared enough yet about the possibility of a Trump presidency, check out this story about his interest in using nuclear weapons. "If we have them, why can’t we use them?"

That isn't something we should have to tell anyone, let alone the guy with the launch codes!