Sunday, October 21, 2018

Trump's Only True Skill

For Trump supporters and apologists everywhere....

“Trump’s only true skill is the con; his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright.

The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them."

--Adam Serwer, The Cruelty Is The Whole Point.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Who are we to believe-Trump or our lyin' ears?

President Trump's reluctance to call out the Saudi government for the assassination of Washington Post reporter Jamal Kashoggi illustrates two very key truths. First, Trump owes the Saudis a bunch of money from his business interests and doesn't want to make waves. Recently, he hilariously tweeted out this...

Yet during the 2016 campaign we have him on tape saying something much different. The clip comes at the end of this video which also details his financial ties with Saudi Arabia.


Who are we to believe-Trump or our lyin' ears?

The second truth that is illustrated by his reluctance to call out the Saudis on the Kashoggi death is he really, really hates reporters (or anyone for that matter) that criticize him. If they get killed, great! That's one less asshole he has to deal with.

The president is not acting in the best interests of this country. He is acting in his own, personal interest.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Democrats Need Their Die Hard Issue

Now that some time has passed since Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed, it's time for Democrats to reflect on how they lost...again. In order to get a good read on how this happened, let's go back to 2008.

Barack Obama won massively in his bid for president. Congress was all blue. Even the state houses looked solid for the Democrats across the country. People were talking about a permanent, democratic majority. Yet while this was all going on, the GOP quietly began to realize they could erode any gains by the left if they were just patient. After all, conservatives have far more reliable voters and knew that if they just bided their time and let the anger/hate/fear propaganda machine fully flow, democratic voters would assume victory forever and not turn out at the polls while conservative voters would vote every year no matter what.

More importantly, the picked one key issue that they knew would get voters out to the polls: JUDGES. 

Flash forward to today and we have a GOP that runs all three branches of government and 30 state houses. This has happened primarily because conservative voters want conservative judges running SCOTUS and all the federal courts below it. This die hard issue drives them to the polls. Donald Trump could be filmed sodomizing a 5 year old boy and then shooting him in the head but voters will forgive him because....


The Democrats look good to take back the House three weeks and might have a shot at the Senate, although that is looking less likely. If they want to build a permanent majority, and they easily can because there are more liberal voters than conservative voters, they need to find that one key issue that people will rally behind no matter what. I think that issue is #MeToo.

The uptick in voter registration is largely a reaction to Donald Trump's misogyny. More women are running for office than ever before. Young voters are turning out and getting more people registered because of the mistreatment of women from the top of our power structures all the way down.

This issue could be the Democrats' die hard issue just as judges are with Republicans. People, especially women, have had enough. They want equal rights. Their anger will not go away after this election cycle. They will not rest until more women are in power at the federal and state level. It's time for Democratic leadership to seize this issue and make it their centerpiece.

If they want to win on November 6th and in every election in the future, this is all they should be talking about from now on.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

First Man

A couple of weeks ago Republicans starting screaming about a movie none of them had ever seen: First Man, a film about Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. Since this is actual history, I can't actually spoil it, but I won't ruin the ending for you.

Republicans were angry because the movie, which came out yesterday, did not have a scene with Armstrong erecting the flag on the moon. The only reason that this fact impinged upon the Republican consciousness was something that Ryan Gosling, the actor who plays Armstrong, said back in August:
“Full disclosure, I'm a Canadian, so this might be some form of cognitive dissonance, but I think this achievement was widely regarded not as an American, but as a human achievement, and that's how we chose to view it,” Gosling said at a press conference in Venice on Wednesday. “I don't think Neil viewed himself as an American hero, quite the opposite” he added. “Neil was someone who was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts...the way we made the film was to honor the way Neil viewed himself.”
Now, there is a flag raising in the movie: Armstrong's son raises the flag in front of their house when his dad is going into space. And flags appear on space suits and space craft and buildings all the time.

But is Gosling right about Armstrong not considering himself an American hero? It seems like it. Read articles that were published at the time of Armstrong's death in 2012:
Armstrong would doubtless have been uncomfortable with all the tributes. People who knew him said he was not a recluse, but he was a private man who quickly deflected credit to others. He described himself, more than once, as a "nerdy engineer." He often protested that while he and Aldrin made the first lunar landing, they merely piloted a mission made possible by thousands of others.
Consider what was written on the plaque left on the on the lunar excursion module's leg: Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.

Consider what Armstrong himself said when he planted his boot on the gray powdery surface of the moon: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Incidentally, the movie kept the quote as recorded, rather than correcting it to "one small step for a man," which Armstrong had intended to say, and was certain he had said. Subsequent analysis appears to prove Armstrong's initial claim correct: the lost "a" was due to a communications dropout.

Clearly Armstrong, and the program itself, wanted to be seen as representatives of all of humanity, not flag-waving American braggarts.

Now, I watched the entire moon walk, live, in the middle of the night, as an 11-year-old child, and I can tell you that the flag planting was not a momentous occasion. It was boring. It was more fun watching them hop around.

You can see Armstrong and Aldrin set the flag up on the moon yourself in the video below, starting at about 46:00. They do it mostly silently and without ceremony or fanfare. It takes them five minutes of fiddling around, trying to unfold it and then making the pole stay in the lunar soil. Armstrong took a couple of pictures of Aldrin with the flag, without comment. Then Aldrin started talking about his gait in lunar gravity.

Armstrong was undoubtedly proud to be an American, glad to be from a country that had the foresight, grit and determination to go to the moon in the face of so many setbacks. But he wasn't a jingoistic blowhard. He was first and foremost an engineer who got the job done. That is the point of the movie.

After Republicans started their tirade Buzz Aldrin also blasted the movie, posting the picture that Armstrong took. Aldrin, a former Air Force pilot, said saluting the flag was his proudest moment.

Well, good for you, Buzz. I'm sure that's how you feel in retrospect. But you didn't say that at the time: you were all about the mission, not puffed-up patriotism. You did your job professionally, as befitting an astronaut.

The movie depicts Aldrin (played by Corey Stoll) as kind of a dick; unfairly, I think, but someone in the film had to tell it like it was. Is Aldrin's ire directed at First Man really because it omits flag-waving or because it doesn't flatter him?

First Man deals with a lot of grief. Armstrong's daughter dies of brain cancer early in the film. Fellow astronauts die in training accidents.

The film examines why these men keep going, and what it takes to keep their cool in life and death situations, when everything is literally spinning out of control and billions of dollars worth of hardware and thousands of man-years of effort are on the line.

First Man, as the title implies, is about the man, not the mission. There are several harrowing scenes where rocket planes, space capsules and LEMs are about to crash or run out of fuel. These all focus on Armstrong and what he sees, or can't see.

We never really see the X-15 he's in when he bounces off the earth's atmosphere. There are very few exterior shots of rocket launches, Armstrong's gyrating Gemini capsule, the Apollo 11 liftoff and the moon landing itself. Even when Armstrong is on the lunar surface, we mostly see it reflected in his gold-plated visor. The movie gives short shrift to all the bombastic aspects of the space program, not just the flag planting.

For a movie about space, First Man must have had a relatively small special effects budget. Because that's not what the film's about. It was about what motivates modest, ordinary men like Armstrong to do mind-bogglingly dangerous and extraordinary things. It's all about Armstrong's reactions and perspective.

We've had hundreds of rah-rah epics about flag-waving hot-dog pilots, from the Right Stuff to Independence Day. Can't we have just one movie about a quiet engineer who did something no one else did before?

First Man comes to an emotional conclusion that several critics and Armstrong acquaintances disagree with. If you're going to argue with the film, that's the argument you should pick with it.

Not the omission of some boring, perfunctory flag-raising.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Man Who Killed Civilization

People were "surprised" when Hurricane Michael suddenly became a Category 4 storm only days after it came up on everyone's radar as a tropical storm.

They shouldn't have been.

Michael's storm track was along Florida's Gulf Coast, which has been inundated by "red tide" this year. A horrendous stench and millions of dead fish have washed up on Florida's western beaches, destroying the tourist industry there. Red tide is an algae bloom, caused by high nutrient content (fertilizer runoff) and high surface water temperatures.

Guess what else comes from high water temperatures? Very powerful hurricanes.

At the same time Hurricane Michael was spinning up the IPCC, the UN panel on climate change, issued a report saying that climate change was going to hit much harder and much sooner than they had originally projected.

That climate change causes higher sea levels and higher water temperatures, exactly those things that drive ever more powerful hurricanes.

Scientists are always careful to say that not every storm is "caused" by global warming. And, yes, that's true. But it's equally true that the force of every storm is amplified by higher air and water temperatures.

If we had started phasing out coal plants back in 1990s when it was clear that climate change was a serious issue, Florida's Red Tide would have lasted a few weeks instead of several months.

If we had imposed more stringent fuel economy standards back then, Michael would have stayed a tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane. Hurricanes Florence, Harvey and Sandy would have been less intense. Fewer people would have died and the destruction would have been far less costly.

But instead we have Donald Trump denying the every day reality of climate change, dismantling the EPA and actively pushing for more coal burning.

In 30 years people will look back on Trump and say, "That was the man who killed civilization." Not just for accelerating the pace of climate change. But for stoking hatred and division at every step: setting America against the world, whites against blacks, native Americans against immigrants, Christians against Muslims, old against young, and even men against women.

Evangelical Christians have long been talking about the end of the world and the antichrist. Well, they got their wish: they elected him president.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Trump's Climb of Shame

Yesterday gossip sites were abuzz with this video of Donald Trump climbing up to Air Force One with something stuck to his shoe:

Unfortunately, it wasn't toilet paper. It wasn't a napkin.

 It was the Constitution of the United States.

Power Begets Power

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Trump Committed Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Tax Fraud

The New York Times got hold of the tax records for Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father, and found a mountain of evidence that Fred and Donald committed tax fraud exceeding hundreds of millions of dollars.

Not only did they evade taxes, but they also screwed thousands of people living in apartments owned by Fred Trump's companies, illegally raising their rents by padding maintenance costs.
The [reporters] began to talk to people familiar with the president’s father and his empire. Those people told them that [All County Building Supply & Maintenance] was a middleman entity created by President Trump and his siblings essentially to move cash from Fred Trump’s companies to his children. After All County bought various items for Fred Trump’s buildings, like boilers and cleaning supplies, a secretary would bill the items to Fred Trump’s buildings with a 20 to 50 percent markup. The siblings would then pocket the difference.

In short, the siblings received millions in untaxed gifts from their father, skirting a 55 percent tax on gifts over a certain value that would have cut the total significantly.

“When we came to that realization, that was a big day for us,” Mr. Buettner said.

Over the next several months, the reporters would obtain tens of thousands of pages of documents, including more than 200 tax returns from Fred Trump, his companies and various Trump partnerships and trusts. (“We have a virtual mountain of spreadsheets,” Mr. Barstow said. “We should have spreadsheets for our spreadsheets.”) The trove included previously secret depositions, including one in which Robert Trump, the president’s brother, admitted that the family used the padded receipts from All County to justify higher rent increases for their tenants in rent-regulated apartments.
Now, I know that Trump supporters will greet this news with a gigantic yawn. Trumpies already know he's a crook. They know he's conspiring with the Russians. They know he sexually assaulted more than a dozen women.

It's the same with Kavanaugh. They know he assaulted the woman who've accused him. They know he was a mean drunk all throughout high school, college and beyond.

They just don't care.

By all rights Trump's supporters should be irate. Everything Trump said about being a self-made man was a lie: his daddy was constantly bailing him out of financial jams. And when Fred was getting senile Trump changed his father's will to make himself the sole executor of the estate, to steal whatever was left.

Trump is the worst kind of elitist: the kind that uses the inside track to enrich himself at the expense of others. The kind of guy that Trump supporters claim to hate the most.

In his defense Trump blamed it all on his accountants and lawyers. Essentially, he's saying that he's a stupid dupe and had no idea all these guys were stealing his father's money and shoveling it into his coffers. Yeah, right.

It's doubtful that the federal government will go after Trump (though they should). Trump has every agency in the federal government cowed. He's pushing the outright lie that the president can't be taken to court for crimes committed before he assumed the presidency, but since the Supreme Court allowed a sexual harassment claim to proceed against Bill Clinton, it's clear that presidents are not above the law.

In any case, the state of New York should be able to use this evidence charge Trump and his siblings with fraud and tax evasion.

And Trump won't be able to pardon his way out of that.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Why I Believe Her

In order to seem less dickish for attacking a victim of attempted rape, Republicans are saying that, since Christine Blasey Ford couldn't give every petty detail about an attack on her more than three decades ago, she must be misremembering who tried to smother and undress her at that party.

I and every other kid who ever got picked on in school know this is BS. People often remember very specific details from traumatic events, and forget everything else. That doesn't make the recollections any less true. I've written about these events before, but they bear repeating.

When I was in fifth grade a bunch of kids would gang up on me when I walked home from band practice. I don't remember the exact dates, or who all the kids were, or even what they did to me (I don't think it wasn't too traumatic -- I could run faster than they could).

But I remember the name of my main antagonist -- Greg M. -- and what he looked at the time (a snottier Billy Mumy). I don't know why this kid had it in for me: he was just the neighborhood bully. The net result was that I never learned to read music properly because I gave up playing the cornet so I could go home at the same time as the other kids. Because bullies like Greg are cowards.

In junior high, there was another kid who chased me once and dented the trash can I had spot-welded in metal shop. Since I was taking metal shop it must have been in 9th grade (wood shop was 8th grade), and it was spring, so it must have been in 1972. His name was Darwin, and I remember what he looked like: a black kid with short hair. I might have done something to offend him -- my best friend at the time was a bit of a racist (he and his dad had a fascination with the Nazis). Maybe Darwin overheard us saying something obnoxious and I was easier to find than my friend.

Then, on another day in junior high, I was walking home along State Street when I saw a gang of boys attacking a girl, grabbing her breasts and laughing, reducing her to tears. I don't remember who the boys were (they were classmates but not friends), or how many of them there were, or even what grade I was in (probably eighth).

But I remember the girl's name (Lori P.), what she looked like (pale skin, big brown eyes, straight dark hair with a pageboy cut) and what she wore (a light blouse and dark, knee-length skirt -- back in the stone ages a lot of girls wore skirts and dresses to school). Lori was nice, quiet, ordinary looking, and completely undeserving of such an assault.

I only remember three girl's names from junior high, and maybe six boys. But it's been 45 years and I still remember exactly what Lori looked like then because what they did to her was so awful, and I was so ashamed that I did nothing to stop it.

So when Dr. Blasey Ford says she is 100% certain that Brett Kavanaugh was the one who attacked her, I know she's telling the truth.

And, having some experience with bullies, drunken frat boys and dickheads who molest girls, I am 100% certain that when Brett Kavanaugh says he didn't assault Christine Blasey, he just can't remember doing it to her because he was drunk out of his gourd and she was just one more bitch in a long line of "conquests" he racked up to brag about to his friends.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Did Kavanaugh Testify While Drunk?

Brett Kavanaugh's performance before the Senate committee was shockingly terrible. It was so bad that I wondered if he was drunk.

Republicans loved how "forceful" and convincing he was, but he came off as whiny, spoiled brat, unable to contain his childish emotions. He sounded like a teenage boy caught drunkenly masturbating with a copy of Playboy by one of his Jesuit teachers, complaining that his life would be totally ruined if his parents were told.

Just listen to Kavanaugh's hysterical, histrionic, whining tone of voice in this Daily Show clip and compare it to to the reasoned, measured tones of Dr. Blasey (who has been inundated by death threats by Trump-supporting whack jobs).

Kavanaugh is an embarrassment. His tirade revealed that he does not have the even temperament required for a Supreme Court justice. Worse, he has proved conclusively that he cannot be impartial in several types of cases, many of which could come before the court in the near future.

First, of course, is any case involving mistreatment of women. Given the intense antagonism he displayed toward his accusers, Kavanaugh has demonstrated he is incapable of rendering impartial judgment in any case involving sexual harassment. He would have to recuse himself.

Second, it's likely some sort of case involving Donald Trump and the Russians or Trump and women he's abused, will eventually wind up before the court. Since Kavanaugh will owe his position on the court to Trump (any other president would have withdrawn Kavanaugh's nomination after his disastrous performance before the Senate), Kavanaugh cannot be impartial in any case involving Trump and would have to recuse himself because he owes Trump everything.

Third, Kavanaugh's comments about the process have been nakedly partisan. He and Lindsey Graham openly expressed hostile and retributive attitudes towards Democratic questioners. Kavanaugh cannot be trusted to render impartial judgment with any case involving Democrats; in particular, cases involving Republican gerrymandering of district boundaries or voter suppression to the disadvantage of Democrats. He would have to recuse himself.

Fourth, Kavanaugh's antagonism toward women and Democrats clearly expose his prejudice against women, on abortion and birth control. His Catholic background doesn't help either. He would have to recuse himself on any cases involving reproductive rights.

Fifth, Kavanaugh was deeply involved with Ken Starr's investigation of Bill Clinton. Most of the documents he produced were filled with sexual references and nakedly partisan attacks on Clinton, which ultimately forced Clinton to testify in a case involving incidents that preceded his presidency. Yet after all that, Kavanaugh expressed doubts that Trump could be prosecuted for any crimes, or even compelled to submit to a subpoena in any case. This rank hypocrisy clearly requires him to recuse himself in any case involving such executive privilege.

Finally, Republicans have been yakking about "innocent until proven guilty" and "reasonable doubt" all week long.

This is not a trial. It's a job interview.

Kavanaugh has a long history of alcohol abuse, going back to his high school years. He was still bragging about it in 2015, when he gave a speech at Catholic University. "What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep."

Kavanaugh clearly lied about his alcohol problem before the committee. He sounded like an angry drunk in his rants, making me wonder if he was testifying while drunk.

Anyone who drinks as much as Kavanaugh has admitted to should know exactly when he's had too much to drink. Yet he refused to say how much that was, giving some weasel words about "the standard amount according to the chart."

I don't drink, and even I know that two drinks will impair the judgment of a 180-pound man, and four will put him at the legal limit (0.08). How can a judge who drinks not know that?

Kavanaugh does not have a right to a seat on the court. If he is rejected, he will keep his current job. He will not go to jail. Though he will probably resign in disgrace.

If Kavanaugh were being interviewed to be the CEO of CBS -- a position just vacated by Les Moonves after several woman alleged inappropriate sexual behavior -- Kavanaugh would not get the job.

Shouldn't a Supreme Court justice be held to a higher standard than a TV network president?

Yes, Brett Kavanaugh's reputation has been destroyed. But it wasn't the Democrats' doing: it was Donald Trump. He picked a flawed man -- a mean drunk with a weird baseball fixation and debt problems -- and tried to put him on the Supreme Court.

This isn't the first time Trump has chosen the wrong man for the job. He does it constantly. Remember Ronny Jackson, the White House doctor Trump nominated to head the VA who had to withdraw? Remember Andy Puzder, Trump's nominee for Labor Secretary, who had to withdraw? Remember the Mooch?

It might seem that Trump destroys the integrity of everyone he touches, but the reality is that he only deals with corrupt and corruptible men. He only trusts crooks like himself.

The upshot of all this: if the Senate approves Kavanaugh for the Court, it has to be with the proviso that he submit to daily urine testing.

The Look On Every Woman's Face

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sticking By Kavanaugh

The old, white men are seeing their world threatened and they aren't happy about it. Clinging to power as bitterly as they are is fucking pathetic.

Watching the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings today, as most of America did, I saw a fairly clear ending to the rule of guys like Lindsey Graham. His tirade today was so incredibly out of step with the times that I am left to wonder what kind of world they think the rest of us want to live in.

Brett Kavanaugh came off like a douchey, frat boy desperately lying his ass off. He's a victim? Please, give me a break. He's got four women that are all telling the same story which means there is indeed a pattern.

I'm just thankful that #MeToo has finally gotten it right and is in the political realm. This is where the laws are made and the real change must be made. This fall, women are running in record numbers and they must win in order to change the patriarchy.