Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’


Trump backed down. He backed down from systematic child abuse and holding abused children hostage to his demand for a useless-as-tits-on-a-boar-hog border wall.

That he would even consider, let alone implement, a policy that traumatizes children and uses the abused children as hostages tells you all you need to know about him.

Add to that the fact that he wasn’t man enough to take responsibility for his horrific actions and attempted to blame others for what he did, and you really begin to understand what Trump is. (Come up with your own epithets — they’re almost certainly accurate.)

But Trump’s actions reveal more than his lack of character, they reveal the “character” of the scared-shitless Republicans in Congress who wouldn’t denounce the pure evil of deliberate, organized child abuse and holding children hostage. They wouldn’t, and won’t, stand up for what’s right if it threatens their self-interests.

As for Trump’s supporters, the most charitable explanation is that they’re brainwashed, frustrated fools (via Fox “News” and Facebook) who take the Glorious Leader’s every word as gospel, no matter how obviously false and self-contradictory. The less charitable interpretation is that they’re fear-driven, vicious racists.

I take a more charitable view:  they’re simply focused on their own economic survival, are too dumb to understand that Trump is not on their side, don’t care about the suffering of others, and are primed to blame scapegoats for their problems.

How can we reach them?

It is possible. At least in some cases. The corporate Democrats (and Republicans) systematically screwed over the white working class over the past four decades, leaving jobless, rotting, hopeless communities in their wake as they catered to the corporate overlords who funded their identity-politics, elitist campaigns. Who can blame people for being pissed off? And who can blame them, given the pathetic job the corporate media does, for being grossly misinformed?

What might bring at least some of them around is how obviously they’re being screwed by Trump and his Republican enablers. Their friends and family members will begin to die shortly, if they haven’t already, because of inadequate or nonexistent healthcare coverage. And things will only get worse — more and more people will die needlessly — as long as the Republicans are in charge and focused on ensuring profits for big pharma and the parasitic (apologies for the redundancy) healthcare insurance industries.

This is the most obvious point of attack. But the corporate Democrats (Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, et al.) won’t even consider attacking it. They’re beholden to their corporate funders, have betrayed the white (and black, and brown)  working class for decades, and think they can continue to get away with it, simply because Donald Trump is, very obviously, a cancerous polyp on the rectum of humanity.

Pelosi, Schumer, et al. have got to go.

Offer suffering people some real relief, and they might turn away from the vicious demagogue and hypocrite Donald Trump, and his enablers.

Donald Trump seems to be gambling that the real pieces of human shit in his base, who enjoy seeing the abuse of immigrant children, will be motivated to get out and vote for his Republican minions in the midterms.

We can only hope that the forces of human decency are stronger.

 

 

 


Thomas Frank

“I don’t like Amazon, and I don’t like Donald Trump either. I would approve enthusiastically if a president started enforcing antitrust laws, but that’s not what Trump is proposing to do. What we are being offered instead is a choice between the worst president of our lifetimes and one of the most rapacious corporate enterprises in the country. And, eagerly, we are lining up with one or the other.

“This in turn seems to me an almost perfect representation of the wretched choices available to Americans these days, as well as the megadoses of self-deception we are swallowing in order to make them. It is everything that is wrong with our politics, and it extends from the most sweeping matters of state right down to the individual reader.

“. . . [T]his [is] where we are now in the world’s greatest democracy. We have the billionaire Republicans, with their bigotry and their war on all things public, and the billionaire Democrats, with their oblivious ideology of globe and technology. To the common people, assembled in all our majesty, the momentous question is posed: who do you hate more?”

Thomas Frank, in his wonderful piece in The Guardian,Trump’s enemy is not your friend

(U.S. readers might not be aware of this, but The Guardian [formerly  The Manchester Guardian] is the single best news source on the Internet, including sources hidden behind a paywall [e.g., New York Times or Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post]; The Guardian is the best source, period. I like them enough that I occasionally contribute money to them. The only other news outlet that I would unreservedly recommend is The Intercept, which due to lesser financial resources posts fewer stories than The Guardian, but whose journalism is arguably of even higher quality. For opinion mixed with news, you won’t do better than Truthdig.)


How Democracies Die front cover(How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt: Crown, 2018, 312 pp., $26.00)

 

It’s often worthwhile to point out the obvious, as Levitsky and Ziblatt have done here: the U.S. is undergoing a stress test of its democratic institutions, the increasingly authoritarian Republican Party is primarily responsible for the stress, and the means used by authoritarian parties to destroy democracy tend to be quite similar across the world.

The authors do a good job of outlining the commonalities of would-be dictators:

  1. Rejection of (or weak commitment to) democratic rules of the game;
  2. Denial of the legitimacy of political opponents;
  3. Toleration or encouragement of violence;
  4. Readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including media.

The authors cite several examples to illustrate these points, including the Erdogan regime in Turkey, the Chávez regime in Venezuela, and the Trump regime (more politely, the Trump Administration) in the U.S.

They also cite three common tactics employed by authoritarians undermining democracy:

  1. Capturing the “referees” (especially the courts);
  2. Sidelining opponents (e.g., via slanderous charges and trumped-up criminal charges);
  3. Changing the rules (e.g., restricting the right to vote).

Again, they provide numerous examples, and again Trump and his Republican enablers are prominent among them.

These examples, these case studies of the attitudes and tactics of authoritarians, are the most valuable part of the book.

As for the analysis of why things have gotten so bad in the U.S., not so much. The authors are conventional liberals who see nothing fundamentally flawed in what, from its start, has always been a weak democracy with, almost from the start, a two-party duopoly under the control of the rich. (The authors don’t mention it, but George Washington, for all his virtues, was the richest man in the 13 colonies.)

While they’re not entirely uncritical of America’s past — for example, they include a good but quite brief history of the political aspects of Jim Crow in the wake of Reconstruction — they paint a remarkably rosy picture of America’s “democratic” past, with “backroom candidate selection . . . keeping demonstrably unfit figures off the ballot and out of office.” And this in reference to Warren G. Harding(!), arguably the most corrupt and incompetent U.S. president until Trump.

The authors are also rather obtuse regarding the underlying economic reasons for the current crisis in what passes for American democracy. They blame post-1975 “economic growth slowing” plus increased ethnic diversity as being the reasons for the current breakdown of political norms.

This is simply wrong. Since real wages peaked in 1972-1973, productivity growth has averaged roughly 1.75% per year, while wages have grown not at all. This means that the amount of goods and services produced per hour worked have approximately doubled over the last 45 years, with almost all of the gains going not to those who do the work, but to those who own the corporations. As well, there has been a distinct redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top over the same period, with the top 1% now owning nearly 50% of the nation’s wealth — a trend which Obama didn’t even try to address, and which is worsening under Trump.

Is it any wonder that people are fed up? That so many voters are so fed up with their stressful economic state and the corporate-controlled two-party duopoly — essentially a choice between evil and greater evil — that 41% of those eligible to vote in the last election didn’t even show up at the polls? Is it any wonder that so many feel so much economic pain that they’ll listen to demagogues who scapegoat minorities?

The authors’ prescription to put U.S. democracy back on the rails? To oversimplify, a return to civility between Democrats and Republicans. That might involve (they say this is a remote possibility) a reformed Republican party casting out the white nationalists and other authoritarians (good luck on that), plus the Democrats fighting Trump et al. in court and on the ballot, and the Democrats advocating a few minimalist common-sense reformist measures, such as universal healthcare coverage and a significantly higher minimum wage.

In the end, the authors see nothing fundamentally flawed in the present system. If you’re looking for bold strategies to address the fundamental inequities, injustices, and outright horrors in present-day America, you won’t find it in How Democracies Die.

The book’s value, though, lies in its clear presentation of the attitudes and tactics of dictators and would-be dictators, and its many case studies of authoritarian figures and regimes.

Recommended.


I’ve written a lot about how the Clintons, Obama, and the the other corporate Democrats have paved the way for the current political catastrophe. How they sold us out, deliberately betrayed us.

Let’s briefly outline how all of the other equally guilty parties have  totally screwed us. This covers so much territory that it’s necessarily schematic. If you doubt any of this — it’s a matter of abundant public record — please, please investigate everything I say here. Facts are facts, “alternative facts” are just lies.

Here we go.

  • Racism. The Voting Rights Act of 1964 severed the Dixiecrats from the Democratic Party. Almost immediately, the Republicans instituted their racist “southern strategy.” Until recently, it was mostly implemented via dog whistles: Willie Horton, “welfare queens,” etc. The Republicans have now reverted to overt racism. Who knew that the racism of the Christian South ran so deep? The Republicans did. LBJ thought the Democrats would lose the South for a generation because of the Voting Rights Act. He was wrong. It’s been more than half a century.
  • Anti-intellectualism. To put it more baldly, pride in being ignorant, pride in being easy for scumbuckets to manipulate. To put it in Republican-speak, pride in not being a “pointy-headed intellectual.” Pride in stupidity ain’t a good thing, folks. But it’s a dominant trait in America. Admiration for Donald Trump, a dumbshit real estate heir with a fourth-grade vocabulary, an IQ probably in the 90s, and a transparently phony “I’m on your side” schtick, provides a good illustration of this.
  • Industrial-Strength Ignorance. Decades ago, George Carlin said, “Think about how stupid the average person is, then realize that half of them are stupider than that.” He’d have been equally right if he’d substituted “ignorant” for “stupidity.” As an example of this ignorance, an appallingly large percentage of the population thinks that the American military is weak — while that military accounts for nearly half of world military spending. They’re ignorant enough  to buy the obvious bullshit assertion that the way to create jobs is to give ever more money to “job creators” (corporations and the top 1%). They evidently think that rich jerks, upon receiving taxpayer largesse, say to themselves, “Yeah, first thing I’m gonna do with this is drive up my labor costs by hiring more people.” (News flash here, folks: Demand drives job creation; tinkle-down economics doesn’t. (hat tip to Jim Hightower)
  • Assaults on Higher Education. Thirty years ago the U.S. had the highest proportion in the world of adults with college degrees. At last count, the U.S. ranked 17th, largely because of the skyrocketing costs of higher education (annual increases averaging three times the rate of inflation). Why would the Republicans, with the collusion of all too many Democrats, permit, indeed foster, this? In general, the less educated people are, the easier they are to manipulate. As Donald Trump put it, “I love the poorly educated.”
  • Disinformation. Manufactured “news.” This has been going on for years. Let’s start with the Acorn deliberate disinformation campaign, accusing this in-part moderate voter-registration campaign of fraud. The Republicans produced no evidence of this, but Fox “News” destroyed this voter-registration campaign in large part because the corporate Democrats were too gutless to call them on it. Trump has now escalated his disinformation campaign to not only routinely lying, but — without a shred of evidence — labeling all honest reporting on his vicious, irresponsible, and often moronic conduct as “fake news.”
  • Voter Suppression. The prime example beyond the Acorn debacle is the utterly evidence-devoid charges that there has been massive voter fraud at the ballot box. Again, no evidence whatsoever. The result? Voter ID laws that have resulted in the disenfranchisement of millions of poor, mostly nonwhite, and elderly people. (My mom, who died last year at 99 , and who never had a driver’s license, would have had to produce ID.) At the same time, Bush stole the election in 2000, and Dumbshit lost the election by almost three million votes in 2016, while claiming, again without a shred of evidence, that millions of “illegals” were responsible for his popular-vote loss.
  • Taxation without representation. Millions of people in the U.S. are disenfranchised, largely because they’ve been sentenced to prison time despite having done nothing to hurt others. We’re talking about drug “offenders” here, folks. The assertion that they “forfeited” their rights by doing or selling drugs is no more valid than the assertion that their self-righteous accusers “forfeited” their rights by being authoritarian assholes. In other words, prove the assertion. Goddamn it. Prove it.
  • An Undemocratic Voting System. People here have a choice between bad and worse. Is it any wonder that 41% of eligible voters chose not to vote in the last election? A proportional or ranked voting system would have encouraged participation. As is, the voting system discourages participation. One minor example of this is that voting happens on a Tuesday with no provision for people to take time off from work to vote. Are you kidding me? Do you want people to vote or not? (The question answers itself.) And let’s not even get started on the Electoral College–a national disgrace for over two centuries that gave us both George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
  • Koch Whores. At this point, money buys elections. Here in Tucson, Kock Brothers’ money bought a house seat for Martha McSally (who’s now running for the senate). Same thing across the country. The corporate Democrats with their superpacs and deep-pocketed corporate donors aren’t much better than the Republicans — overall, they just get less money.
  • Authoritarianism. Probably around 30% of the American electorate are desperate for a “strong man” to goose step behind, and Trump has supplied them with one. Authoritarians want easy answers, want to abandon their responsibilities as independent, decision-making adults, and quite often are driven by sadistic, bullying impulses, which the “strong man” allows them to vent vicariously.
  • Religious Fundamentalism. By its very nature, fundamentalism — blind acceptance of the commands in a “holy book” or from a “holy man” — is authoritarian, anti-intellectual. It demands blind faith and discourages, all too often physically, free inquiry and a questioning attitude. It’s no wonder fundamentalists are such enemies of free thought and free people, and want to impose their views on others: a moment’s consideration shows that their beliefs are contradiction-riddled insupportable bullshit. Is it any wonder that they flock to mean-spirited, slimeball charlatans who screw them (and their kids and neighbors) economically, but promise to impose their theocratic “moral” dictates on others. In the last election, 81% of American fundamentalists voted for Donald Trump. Trump received the votes of 26% of those eligible to vote (Clinton got 28%, and over 41% didn’t vote at all), and almost half of his 26% came from fundamentalists. Nearly a century ago, Clay Fulks, in Christianity, A Continuing Calamity, nailed it:

 

Having fundamentalists in a nation is like having congenital imbeciles in a family–it’s a calamity. Allow their mountebank, swindling leaders enough control over society and though religious faith would flourish fantastically, society would revert to the sheep-and-goat stage of culture . . . Wherefore it is perfectly irrelevant whether your fundamentalist is honest or utterly hypocritical in his religious beliefs . . . It just doesn’t matter. The question of his intellectual integrity will have to wait until he grows an intellect. In the meantime, however, what the forces of reaction are doing with him constitutes a continuing calamity.

 

 

 


Things have been popping in the wild and wacky world of religion recently. Here are a few interesting, horrifying, and amusing things from the last few weeks:

  • Yes, there’s now MormonWikiLeaks, for whistleblowers who want to expose the LDS Church’s secrets. One particularly useful feature of the site (on its front page) is its detailed information on installing and using the Tor browser (for secure, anonymous browsing and communications).
  • Speaking of Mormons, Good4Utah.com reports six members of the horrific cult known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) reached a plea deal on Wednesday with federal prosecutors over a four-and-a-half-year SNAP (food stamp) scam in which FLDS members defrauded the federal government of over $12 million dollars in SNAP benefits, and handed them over to FLDS leaders who shockingly enough didn’t use them on food. The plea deal let all of the fraudsters skate, without jail time, probation or paying restitution. This might seem unjust, but one can rest assured that, in the land of “equal justice under the law,” the “punishment” would have been the same had the criminals been Muslims or atheists.
  • Truthdig has a good piece titled The Truth About Jesus, which explores the historical background of Jesus and his followers and considers the historicity of the deeds and words attributed to Jesus in the Bible. The piece relies fairly heavily on the work of the Jesus Seminar, a colloquium of over 200 Protestant Bible scholars, mostly employed by religious colleges and seminaries, who undertook in 1985 a multi-year investigation into the historicity of the deeds and words attributed to Jesus. They concluded that only 18% of the statements and 16% of the deeds attributed to Jesus in the Bible had a high likelihood of being historically accurate.
  • “Family values” South Carolina Republican representative and Confederate flag waver Chris Corley was arrested the day after Christmas for first-degree domestic violence. According to the arrest report, he beat his wife on the head and in the face with a closed fist before threatening her with a gun — in front of their eight-year-old daughter, who was recorded on the 911 call pleading, “Just stop Daddy. Just stop…Daddy, why are you doing this?” Earlier in the year, Corley voted to, yes, increase the punishment for domestic violence.
  • In another heartening example of religion inspiring ethical behavior, the Detroit Free Press reports that Eaton Rapids, Michigan resident Kyle Craig was arrested last month for erratic driving, hitting several vehicles, and hit-and-run involving injuries to victims. Why — and do we even need to ask? — did he act so irresponsibly? Craig was powerless — he said that the devil made him do it. The Free Press reports: “Craig said he didn’t get much sleep the night before the crashes because he was reading the Bible, and was ‘sucked right in’ while he was driving.” Craig also thanked God for saving him from injury even though he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Craig, however, had no explanation for why God didn’t save his victims from injury. (And yes, we know, God moves in mysterious ways — much as a blind, wildly swing swordsman moves through a kindergarten.)
  • Finally, in a story that has no obvious connection to religion, though it certainly seems that it should, Deadspin has published its annual list based on emergency room reports, “What did we get stuck in our rectums last year?” There are some real gems, both figurative and literal, in the list. Enjoy!

“It’s liberating to run against a guy who’s not qualified to be president.”

–Jeb! Bush (the supposedly smart one)