Sunday, July 15, 2018

Shall we arm three-year-olds?

Note that the interview subjects here didn't realize that this was a satire. They didn't recognize comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

These gun nuts - these Republican politicians! - were actually serious about arming three- and four-year-olds. "Highly-trained preschoolers"? Really?

This is just an excerpt from the show. According to TPM, "Other politicians not shown in the Showtime clip, including former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, former Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and former Maricopa County Sheriff (and presidential pardon recipient) Joe Arpaio, all report having been duped by Baron-Cohen."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Is Donald Trump a Russian operative?

Here's a fascinating article in New York magazine, written by Jonathan Chait, which describes in detail a very plausible scenario that Donald Trump has been working with, or for, Vladimir Putin for decades.

As the article itself points out:
How do you even think about the small but real chance — 10 percent? 20 percent? — that the president of the United States has been covertly influenced or personally compromised by a hostile foreign power for decades?

It seems crazy,... except that there's just so much evidence pointing that way. Even Republicans seem to think so, though they also seem quite willing to have Russia run America as long as it helps them politically. (Certainly, they're quite willing to have Russia help elect Republicans.)

Read the article for yourself. I don't blog at all anymore, and I'm not going to post any other excerpts. But the idea is both frightening and plausible.

Admittedly, everything about the Donald Trump presidency is frightening these days (and none of it seemed plausible until it actually occurred). What is happening to my country?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Stupid Watergate

Are we Americans just too dumb to maintain a functioning democracy? I was astonished at George W. Bush, but we followed that up with... Donald Trump???

And the Republican Party is right behind him on everything. Make no mistake, some Republicans try to establish a fall-back position, in case Trump finally crashes and burns. But there's a reason why Trump is a Republican. This is the GOP, these days.

This is the GOP after fifty years of their "Southern strategy" of deliberately wooing white racists. This is the GOP after decades of attacking education as a way of getting the ignorant to support tax cuts for the rich in every situation. This is the GOP after wooing the craziest of the crazies, just for their money and their votes.

Often, liberal Americans aren't very smart, either - not even smart enough to vote, in many cases. Liberals are still faith-based and stupidly prone to conspiracy theories - even those pushed by Vladimir Putin and the Republican Party.

Are we Americans just too dumb to maintain our democracy? No, I haven't given up - and I won't give up - but I'm really beginning to wonder.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Noah Lugeons: How to Survive a Theocracy in 8 Easy Steps

Given the political climate these days - even worse than it was during the Bush administration, which I'd thought would be impossible - you might need this.

And you probably need it now - or,... well, before now, really - because some of these steps are going to require a great deal of advanced planning (the first two steps, for example).

Note that Noah Lugeons co-hosts the Scathing Atheist, God Awful Movies, Skepticrat, and Citation Needed podcasts - all highly recommended. You can find them on many different podcast platforms. (Note that you do need a fairly high tolerance for both profanity and dick jokes. They're not exactly safe for work.)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Michelle Wolf at the 2018 White House Correspondents' Dinner

I had to post this. But then, I always post these, don't I? Laugh or cringe - and you'll likely do both - these are the kinds of things powerful people should be hearing.

Oh, sure, afterwards we always hear how mean the comedian has been. These are some of the most powerful people in the country! And yes, I mean the media figures, too, not just the politicians. Michelle Wolf isn't punching down here.

When Donald Trump makes fun of a disabled reporter or attacks a Gold Star family, what makes him and his supporters off-limits? Wolf didn't just poke fun at Republicans, either - although since they control all three branches of our federal government, plus most states, do you really think that would even be an issue if she had?

Again, Michelle Wolf was punching up, not down, here. Like last year, Donald Trump was too much of a coward to even attend the event. Well, that's exactly why we need comedians like this. Powerful people - and again, I'm including the most powerful people in the media - need to have their feet held to the fire.

I'm actually impressed that the White House Correspondents' Association keeps doing this. So far, they don't seem to be chickening out and choosing 'safe' comedians, either. Stephen Colbert in 2006? Seth Meyers in 2011? (That's the one that really pissed off Trump.) Cecily Strong, Larry Wilmore, Hasan Minhaj, and now Michelle Wolf?

Donald Trump chickens out. Republican congressional leaders chicken out, too. I'm even... slightly impressed by Sarah HuckaSanders just for showing up, although it pains me to say that. Although, since she works for Trump, maybe she had no choice about it?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Happy Birthday, Melania

When was the last time a television show was this desperate to get rid of their guest, when the guest was President of the United States?

It's just insane, isn't it? Trump watches Fox & Friends religiously, then tweets everything he hears on Fox. In many respects, Fox News is running our government. But even Fox had reached its limit here!

What have we done to our country? Well, I have to laugh, or I'll cry. Luckily, Seth Meyers had fun with this, too:

Monday, April 2, 2018

The idiocy of this mindset

Josh Marshall at TPM has posted an excellent column about wrongheaded approaches to "Trump and Trumpism." I recommend that you read the whole thing, but here's a long excerpt:
It is perfectly obvious that President Trump’s long run of personal attacks on Andrew McCabe weren’t driven by his possible unfairness to Hillary Clinton or possible misleading testimony about those actions. Trump’s attacks on McCabe are part of his efforts to attack the FBI in order to discredit the investigation into his campaign’s collusion with Russia and related crimes. McCabe has been a useful target since his wife earlier ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the state legislature in Virginia. That is useful in identifying him as an anti-Trump deep state zealot. Full stop.

The fact that the FBI is an imperfect institution, ran ConIntelPro, surveilled Martin Luther King and a million other things is beside the point. And confusing the point by raising these issues is either dishonest or blinkered. President Trump isn’t trying to even the scales for these past misdeeds. He’s trying to create a system that is dramatically worse.

It is equally clear that low wage warehouse jobs, upending of retail businesses, disintermediation of publishers or tax avoidance are not things Donald Trump cares anything about. Indeed, the one thing he really focuses on with Amazon – Amazon ripping off the Post Office – seems pretty clearly not to be true. Amazon is Trump’s target because of The Washington Post.

Amazon doesn’t own The Washington Post. But it is owned by Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. So close enough. President Trump’s attacks on Amazon are entirely part of his attacks on independent and even mildly critical media. Full stop. ...

But the bigger point is that it’s not really about McCabe or Amazon. Having a sitting President launching scaling [scathing?] personal attacks on a federal law enforcement officer and demanding his firing or imprisonment for personal and political motives is wildly outside the norms that govern the American system. Similarly, a President who routinely threatens prosecutorial or regulatory vengeance against private companies because they are not sufficiently politically subservient to the President personally is entirely outside of our system of governance. At present, Donald Trump is an autocrat without an autocracy. The system mostly resists his demands because it’s not designed to operate that way and we have centuries worth of norms that are remarkably resilient. But systems change. And it’s clear that ours is already starting to change under his malign influence.

When an autocrat imprisons or kills people on his own arbitrary authority, no doubt some of the people are really bad folks. I have zero doubt, for instance, that a lot of the people Saddam Hussein had tortured or killed were just as vicious and awful as he was. We don’t say these were the cases where Saddam actually ‘got it right’ because we are or should be against autocracy and judicial murder in general and on principle. Obviously the stakes at present are less severe for us. But principle is the same. And the stakes are quite high. And putting it this way captures the idiocy of this mindset.

As The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson noted yesterday on Twitter: “Countries in which companies succeed or fail because of their relationship with the leader are poorer, more violent and unstable, more unequal. More everything bad. The U.S. and all nations have always, of course, had some degree of corruption. But not like this.”

The same applies to a President who so commonly disregards the rule of law in regards to individuals or government agencies. Preserving a rule of law political system from sliding into one that is corrupt and autocratic is much more important than the specifics of whether any one company is monopolistic or nefarious or the individual rights and wrongs of what some high level executive at the FBI may or may not have done.

Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to America's democracy. Let's not give him credit for that, even if one thing that he says, or even one thing that he does, isn't entirely wrong, in your mind.

That's how politicians work, anyway. At the very least, it's being gullible to let them get away with it. We have to be smarter than that.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Donald Trump is destroying America

I can't even comment about this stuff anymore. And this damage won't end when the Trump presidency ends, or even when Democrats regain political power briefly ("briefly," because if liberals vote in one election, they'll probably decide that they've done enough voting, huh?).

This damage will last for years and years. (Heck, Neil Gorsuch will probably remain on the Supreme Court for the next four decades!) All because Americans couldn't be bothered to get off the couch and actually vote.

Well, we can't change the past. But we can change the future, if we're smart enough and determined enough to never quit trying. Are we?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

More 'family values' from the GOP

America has become the laughingstock of the world.

Of course, that wouldn't be so bad if the Republican Party wasn't also working so hard to destroy our democracy.

Christian evangelicals are helping them do it, because... well, what else would you expect? They're faith-based, not evidence-based. So they're always excusing right-wing Republicans.

Can you imagine how they would have reacted if anything like this had come out about Barack Obama? Can you imagine how they would have reacted over the antics of the Palin family, or Newt Gingrich's affairs, or David Vitter's,... I could go on and on ... if it had involved our first black president, instead?

Would they have been fine with Russia helping Hillary Clinton get elected? Would they have shrugged that off? But when you're faith-based, none of this matters - just like how evidence doesn't matter, and reality doesn't matter, and scientific research doesn't matter.

All that matters is what you want to be true.

I don't know how I'd survive without political comedians these days! And we did this to ourselves. If you voted Republican in 2016, or if you threw away your vote on an idiotic third party candidate, or if you couldn't be bothered to vote at all, this is your fault, at least in part.

Incidentally, did you see the million dollar payoff from Charles Koch to Paul Ryan and the Republican Party just 13 days after the GOP slashed his taxes? This is one of the most corrupt political parties we've ever seen.

But don't get me started!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Fortunate Son

I'm not going to comment about this, not really. I'm just going to point you towards this post at Stonekettle Station. Read it. Read it!

Note that the post isn't necessarily going where you might think it's going. I'd like to quote the last two lines, because I feel exactly the same way. But read the whole thing. You won't get the ending without that.

Also, note that much of Jim Wright's background is similar to my own - up until he joined the military, at least (at which point our stories definitely diverge). I'm a little older than him. I'm also a straight white man, but I grew up watching those old TV shows myself.

And I lived in a small town that was 100% white and 100% Christian (as far as I knew, at least). Even when we went to a larger town for high school, all of my classmates were 100% white all through high school. I'd never even met a black person until college.

I've got a good life. I retired at 55, and I do whatever I want. Do you think I don't know how privileged my life has been? I've seen it all my life. Even as a child, I saw how differently I was treated because I was a boy. Later, I realized how privileged I'd been in other ways, too.

We weren't rich, but I'd always assumed that I'd go to college. I worked my way through college, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I would go there.

There was never any doubt in my mind that I could be whatever I wanted to be. (I didn't know what I wanted to be. That was the problem.)

OK, I am commenting, aren't I? Heh, heh. I don't mean to, but this just really struck home with me. Read the post. Jim Wright says it far better than I could. Optimism shouldn't be just the privilege of some of us!