Contributors

Friday, August 31, 2018

What Trump Really Thinks About His Base

The core of Donald Trump's base is conservative Southerners. Without them breathing down the necks of incumbents, Trump would be completely powerless. 

But what does Trump actually think of Southerners? His shabby treatment of Jeff Sessions, the preeminent Southerner in his cabinet, tells you exactly what Trump thinks:
Seized by paroxysms of anger, Trump has intermittently pushed to fire his attorney general since March 2017, when Sessions announced his recusal from the Russia investigation. If Sessions’ recusal was his original sin, Trump has come to resent him for other reasons, griping to aides and lawmakers that the attorney general doesn’t have the Ivy League pedigree the president prefers, that he can’t stand his Southern accent and that Sessions isn’t a capable defender of the president on television — in part because he “talks like he has marbles in his mouth,” the president has told aides.
Yes, Donald Trump thinks Southerners are stupid. He doesn't like Sessions because he talks dumb, and he doesn't have an elite edumacation. Trump clearly thinks that Sessions is a chump because he adheres to the Southern culture of honor, a concept wholly foreign to the narcissistic Trump.

Trump ran his entire campaign blasting "the elites," by which he meant other Republicans, other rich people, the media and Democrats. His pitch to the voters was that the "elites" think they're so smart but we know they're not.

Yet Trump brags endlessly about how smart he is, how high his IQ is, how brilliant his uncle was, and how elite his schools were.

Trump went to the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School of Business. They're not bad schools, but they sure as hell aren't Harvard or Stanford or MIT or even Yale. And he only got into Wharton because the admissions guy was his brother's pal, and his daddy was rich.

It's obvious Trump thinks his supporters are idiots, so eager for phony praise that they'll swallow any lie. Bragging that people would vote for you even if you shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue is not a compliment. Blind fealty to a murderer implies that his followers have the intellect and morals of a mafia stooge, and that Trump is a mafia don.

Trump clearly thinks he owns these people, that they are his chattel. He demands adulation from his political serfs, even as he publicly derides them.

In February of 2016 Trump smirked, "I love the poorly educated." Given his long history of dissing anyone who doesn't have an elite Ivy League education, what he was really saying was, "I love stupid people. They're so easy to con."

Trump's real opinion of his supporters is starting to leak out, and sooner or later he will blow a gasket and really let them have it. My guess is that when his poll numbers really start to tank, falling to, say, 70% unfavorable nationwide and only 50-50 among Republicans, this senile old crank will crack and unleash a Twitter tirade that will alienate even the hard-core white supremacists.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Rudy Giuliani Is a Romanian Foreign Agent

You would think that after several Trump lackeys have been nailed for being unregistered foreign agents that current members of the administration would be sensitive to the conflicts of interest and inherent corruption of lobbying for foreigners at the same time they're drawing a salary from the US government.

You would be wrong. Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has been caught lobbying for corrupt Romanian politicians:
President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, wrote a letter criticizing an anti-corruption drive [supported by Trump's own] State Department.

The Romanian reaction to the letter — which Giuliani said was written for pay in his capacity as a consultant — was the most concrete indication yet that the Trump administration’s freewheeling approach to ethics and business conflicts is having an effect not only inside the United States, but on U.S. allies as well.

A State Department official told The Washington Post: “Rudy Giuliani does not speak for the U.S. government on foreign policy.” Giuliani, for his part, has insisted that he is a private citizen and was not speaking on behalf of the Trump administration. But that is not the way the letter was received in Romania, where critics of the anti-corruption drive seized on it as an endorsement from a senior official who has Trump’s ear.
Giuliani is using his position as Trump's lawyer to derail Romania's drive to eliminate corruption, and at the same time directly sabotaging the Trump administration's own policy on this issue.

This raises several questions. Why is Giuliani doing this? Who is paying him to promote corruption in Romania? Did Trump approve of this? Does Trump have any connection to the people who are paying Giuliani? (Interesting side note: Trump almost exclusively hire Romanians to work at Mar a Lago.) Is Giuliani also lobbying American officials to back off on their support for the anti-corruption drive in Romania? Is Giuliani registered as a foreign agent?

The optics of this are terrible. Romania was one of the most corrupt countries in the Soviet bloc back in the day. Its leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu, tried to flee the country in 1989 amidst the collapse of the Eastern European communist regimes. He was captured, tried for genocide and executed. 

Now the US president's personal lawyer is fronting for the same kind of corrupt scumbags.

People used to the think of Giuliani as "America's Mayor" because he expressed the anguish everyone felt after 9/11. But he became a two-dimensional caricature when he started running for president, where he failed miserably. No matter what the question, Giuliani's response was always "9/11! 9/11!"

Giuliani then became a one-dimensional shyster selling ridiculous nonsense on television in defense of his corrupt master, spouting nonsense like, "Truth isn't truth!" and "Trump didn't collude and even if he did it isn't a crime!"

And now Giuliani descending even lower on the evolutionary scale, to some kind of slime mold, by cashing in on his connection to the president to help corrupt foreigners stay out of jail.

This is the guy used to brag about putting corrupt mafia dons in jail. Now he spends all his time trying to get them off.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Finally: a Modicum of Justice

It looks like decades of cops shooting unarmed black boys and men with impunity is slowly coming to an end:
A white former Texas police officer was found guilty of murder on Tuesday for fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager last year as the boy left a house party in a car full of teenagers.

Roy Oliver was fired from the Balch Springs Police Department days after the April 2017 shooting. Oliver killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards after the then-officer fired into a moving car carrying five black teenagers leaving a local house party. Edwards was in the front passenger seat.

Oliver testified during the Dallas County trial that he opened fire after seeing the car move toward his partner. He says he thought his partner was in danger. But his partner told jurors he didn’t fear for his life and never felt the need to fire his weapon.

Prosecutors said Oliver fired after the vehicle passed Gross.
This case makes clear the real reason cops shot people: it's not that they're afraid for their lives, or the lives of others. They're angry because they're being disobeyed and they don't want to "let those cocksuckers get away."

Yeah, it's hard being a cop. But it is the height of hubris -- and stupidity -- to fire a rifle into a fleeing car when you have no idea whatsoever who is in the car or what they might have been doing before you came on the scene.

This is a serious problem with cops: they automatically assume that anyone leaving the scene is guilty of something. They don't seem to get that the best way to avoid being shot is to immediately leave any place where there are trigger-happy people with guns.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Trump's North Korea Deal Is an Utter Failure

Remember a couple of months ago, when Donald Trump returned victorious from Singapore, claiming that he saved the world from nuclear annihilation by getting North Korea to denuclearize? Well, that's not happening.

The other day he told his secretary of state to cancel his trip to North Korea. North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper responded with this:
Such acts prove that the U.S. is hatching a criminal plot to unleash a war against the DPRK and commit a crime which deserves merciless divine punishment in case the U.S. fails in the scenario of the DPRK’s unjust and brigandish denuclearisation first.

We cannot but take a serious note of the double-dealing attitudes of the U.S. as it is busy staging secret drills involving man-killing special units while having a dialogue with a smile on its face.
And guess who Trump blames for the failure of these talks? You guessed it: China.
On Friday, President Donald Trump canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to North Korea, citing the lack of progress on denuclearization and blaming China. "Because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization," Trump tweeted. 
Trump is right. His trade war with China is undermining diplomatic efforts to denuclearize North Korea, as well as other US objectives. 
Trump promised Americans that a trade war would be "good and easy to win." While the trade war may be hurting China more than the US, tariffs are also taking a toll on American soybean farmers and businesses that rely on Chinese imports. Experts expect American consumers to be hit hard if the reciprocal tariffs keep escalating.
Think about it: North Korea has been China's loyal ally and proxy for almost seven decades. Trump has spent the last two years alternating between belligerent racist screeds against the Chinese, and insincere, phony fawning praise of their autocratic communist leaders.

Trump might as well have tweeted, "I kicked China in the nuts and now they won't help me take down North Korea! Waah!"

Why would China help Trump?

This is a genius in the art of the deal? This is why Trump has been divorced twice and his current wife doesn't even want him to touch her in public: he has no idea how to motivate human beings with anything other than threats and phony praise.

Trump doesn't get it. China is a dictatorship with an iron-fisted control over its population. Its leaders control all social media and ruthlessly censor and imprison dissenters. Its leaders have direct control over all Chinese industry and economy. They have life-time appointments and never have to stand for election.

Despite years of trying to undermine the free press, wanna-be dictator Trump cannot muzzle his critics. Americans disapprove of his leadership two to one, in large part because he conspired with a foreign power to steal an election in direct contravention of the Constitution. His congressional allies are facing a crushing defeat in the polls in several weeks, and Trump himself may well be impeached when the depths of his treason and perfidy are documented.

The Chinese leaders will still be there long after Trump and his cronies are long gone. He cannot intimidate them with mafioso-style tactics from the New York real estate market.

In the meantime, the Chinese can weather any trade war Trump tries to throw at them, especially considering how Trump has alienated all our other allies: Europe, Asia, South America, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Even Putin is mad at Trump because he is powerless to stop sanctions against Russia, precisely because he conspired with them.

Trump has unilaterally given up any leverage he might have had over the Chinese with his blundering bravado.

Trump's meager popularity and hold on power hinge completely on keeping the small percentage of rabid racists and misogynists in the Republican Party entertained. The fact is, Trump is only hanging on by a thread, and not just because his criminality is coming to light. His incoherent policies are already hurting his base more than they are hurting China, who can just sell their goods to the rest of the world.

A serious economic downturn -- the inevitable outcome of his foolish trade war -- will kill his presidency. One slip of the tongue -- say, Trump admitting on tape that he thinks his voters are fucking morons who are so stupid they would support him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue -- will alienate his base and cut the legs off his presidency.

Then Republicans in congress, most of whom Trump has insulted or embarrassed in one way or another, will turn on him "like a bitch," as he would phrase it.

Americans love to root for the little guy, which Trump somehow -- against all reason -- managed to cast himself as in the reality show that was the 2016 election.

The corollary is that Americans love to kick bullies when they're down. And Trump is the biggest bully this country has ever seen. When he falls, the people supporting him now will be the ones denouncing him the loudest.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Trump Is Just Another Mafia Thug

The Republican Party is officially no longer a political party, but an organized criminal gang, like the mafia. 

You need look no further than Donald Trump, who is literally the Don of the Republican Party, for evidence of this fact.

He has never sounded presidential, but the other day he showed his true stripes.
“I know all about flipping, for 30, 40 years, I’ve been watching flippers,” he said in a Fox News interview. “I have seen it many times,” he continued, leaning in toward Earhardt. “I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal.”
Trump is supposed to be a real estate developer, so you'd think that the "flipping" he's talking about is buying property at one price, and then turning around and selling it for a much higher price. The practice of flipping was a major factor in the Great Recession, and yes, it almost ought to be illegal.

Except that's not what the Don is talking about. No, Trump is talking about the extremely common legal tactic of getting underlings involved in criminal activities to provide testimony against their bosses in exchange for lesser sentences.

Wait a second -- Trump has "many friends involved in this stuff?" Why does the president of the United States have so many crooked friends prosecuted based on the testimony of underlings? What kind of people has he been palling around with?

When the New York Times reported that White House counsel Don McGahn had been interviewed for 30 hours by the the special counsel's legal team, Trump sounded like an irate mobster:
The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type 'RAT.' But I allowed him and all others to testify - I didn't have to...
A 'RAT?' A John Dean type 'RAT'? As you may recall, John Dean told the truth and provided critical testimony that helped remove a corrupt and criminal president:
Dean pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice before Watergate trial judge John Sirica on October 19, 1973. He admitted supervising payments of "hush money" to the Watergate burglars, notably E. Howard Hunt, and revealed the existence of Nixon's enemies list. Archibald Cox, Watergate Special Prosecutor, was interested in meeting with Dean, and planned to do so a few days later, but Cox was fired by Nixon the very next day, and it was not until some time later that Cox was replaced by Leon Jaworski. On August 2, 1974, Sirica handed down a sentence to Dean of one-to-four years in a minimum-security prison. However, when Dean surrendered as scheduled on September 3, he was diverted to the custody of U.S. Marshals, and kept instead at Fort Holabird (near Baltimore, Maryland) in a special "safe house" holding facility primarily used for witnesses against the Mafia.
That's funny: Michael Cohen, like Dean, just admitted supervising illegal payments of "hush money." This time it was to Trump's mistresses, to prevent their stories surfacing in the media just before the 2016 election.

The net is closing around Trump. The other day Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to several crimes, indicating that Trump had directed him to commit them. Three people close to Trump have been granted immunity to prosecution in exchange for their testimony: David Pecker, the National Enquirer publisher, another Enquirer executive, and Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization.

Weisselberg has been working for the Trump family since the 70s, and he knows where all the financial bodies are buried.

The other day I suggested that Republicans in the House and Senate should threaten to release Trump's tax records unless he resigns from office, and have his successor pardon him and all his cronies before the Mueller investigation dug any deeper. With Weisselberg's cooperation it may already be too late for Trump.

Now we have word that the Manhattan DA is looking into pressing charges against the Trump Organization. Trump and the Republican Party won't be able to pardon his way out of that.

Think about that name, "The Trump Organization." Most legit real estate developers have names like Brookfield Asset Management, Simon Property Group, Prologis, Ventas, Boston Properties, and so on.

But Trump's company sound like some mafia front. And it's no wonder. Trump has a long history of dealing with the mobs that controlled the New York construction industry, had Russian mobsters living in Trump Tower, got a sweetheart real estate deal from a Russian oligarch, and associated with mobsters in Atlantic City with his failed casinos.

Trump's election is one of the worst things that has ever happened to this country. Ironically, Trump's election is also the worst thing that ever happened to the Republican Party -- and him.

If he hadn't been elected he could have continued on his corrupt and merry way, and gotten away with it all. But he just had to open his big fat mouth and invite the Russians to hack Hillary's emails in front of the entire world.

What a moron.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Where's the Fox News Outrage Over Nazi Rapist?

Remember when Donald Trump started his campaign by claiming Mexicans were rapists?

Remember when, after a woman was killed by a right-wing nutjob with a car in Charlottesville, Donald Trump said that some of the Nazi sympathizers were "very fine people?"

Well, here's a story on NPR about a Nazi sympathizer who is a serial rapist that was finally tracked down by DNA on GEDmatch, a public genealogy website:
For more than 10 years, police In Fayetteville, N.C., had been trying to identify a serial rapist. They had tied him to at least six rapes in the same neighborhood between 2006 and 2008. They called him the "Ramsey Street Rapist."

He attacked one woman while she was jogging; in other cases, he broke into apartments. He usually wore a hoodie, and he had facial hair. Victims reported musky breath and bad body odor.

Police had uploaded his DNA into a national law enforcement database. They generated composite images of what he might look like. They tied him to a Peeping Tom case, also unsolved. No luck.
"We were able to obtain his DNA and get it off to the state crime lab, and we got a match yesterday," Lt. Somerindyke said Wednesday. He laughed slightly, on the verge of tears. "I'm sorry, I'm just glad we got the guy."

The story doesn't mention the Nazi connection at all, but the photo of the suspect with a large swastika on his chest tells you all you need to know.

Now, if this guy had been a Muslim or a Latino immigrant, Fox News would be screaming bloody murder about the dangers of open borders, immigration from the Middle East and BUILD THE WALL!

But since this is a good old white boy with a giant swastika tattoo, we're all just going to ignore the obvious: not only are the alt-right Nazi sympathizers murderous racists, they're also sexist, misogynistic rapists.

And this guy is not alone. A hell of a lot of alt-right Nazi sympathizers are misogynists and "incels," involuntary celibates. These men attack women because they won't, for some odd reason, have sex with misogynistic dicks like them. It's not fair! they complain. It's my right to have sex with any woman I see!

There have been multiple murder sprees in the United States and Canada committed by incels, who have killed dozens of people because they're incensed that women find whining angry white men with bad breath and BO somehow unattractive.

The alt-right is luring incels into their movement. As they sit in their parents' basements, stewing in their own testosterone, whining about not getting any, they are baited into Nazi chat rooms that stoke their anger against women, then have that anger switched toward Latinos, blacks and Jews.

To paraphrase Donald Trump's campaign announcement: White supremacists are causing lots of problems. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. They're killers.

When the president of the United States openly spouts racist propaganda and brags about sexually assaulting women, then publicly praises groups that want to eject all American citizens of non-European ancestry to create an ethnic white homeland, he is emboldening the worst people in this country, giving them a green light to start a war against women and minorities.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

How the Republican Party Can Save Itself

With the conviction of Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of Michael Cohen (as well as five other guilty pleas from Trump campaign operatives), it is clear that Donald Trump is a crook.

Cohen claims to have information that proves Trump knew about and encouraged Russian hacking of Americans. From everything else we know about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyers and hackers, it is clear that the Trump campaign conspired with Russian spies to steal the 2016 election.

The Republican Party seems bound and determined to go down with the Trump ship, but there is a way out if the rats desert the sinking ship.

It has long been totally obvious that Trump is a feeble, deranged old man. He proves it every day with his unhinged rants and tweets, his never-ending golf vacations and the infantile prattle he spouts at his Nuremberg-style campaign rallies.

The Republican leadership needs to round up the cabinet, read them the riot act, and then go to Kelly and demand that Trump resign due to "serious medical issues." Trump doesn't have to admit that he's senile or mentally incompetent. He can claim that he has nephritis, or atherosclerosis, or preeclampsia (yeah, he can't have that, be he sure as hell doesn't know it).

If Trump refuses to resign, the cabinet should Twenty-Five him for mental incompetence. If they don't have the guts, the Republican Congress should threaten the ultimate: no, not impeachment proceedings. Releasing Trump's tax returns.

Like Al Capone, Trump's tax evasion and money laundering will be his undoing. He will be charged with thousands of crimes in federal and state courts, and will never get out from under an avalanche of indictments.

Because if the Republicans continue to condone the behavior a president who lies all day and every day, stole an election, is a puppet of a Russian dictator, repeatedly assaulted women sexually, they are likely to lose big in November.

If Trump resigns before November, his successor can pardon him and all his cronies for all their crimes. The Mueller investigation will end. Our long national nightmare will be over. Republicans will look like they stood up to a petty and senile tyrant, and will have a decent shot at holding on to Congress.

But if they let Trump stay in office, Republicans may lose both the House and the Senate, and then Democrats will be in charge. Trump will try to use executive pardons to cover up his crimes, and then he will be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. There will be hearings 24/7 in the House and Senate, and hundreds of Republican cabinet members and office holders will be tainted by their connections to Trump.

It will make the Watergate hearings look like Romper Room.

At that point the country will be in great danger of exploding, and with the Russians, Iranians and Chinese all trying to sabotage our democracy on social media, who knows what craziness they'll whip right-wing nutjobs into.

The Republicans can save this country -- and themselves -- if they dump Trump right now.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Sexual Assault Is a Transmissible Disease, and Donald Trump Is a Carrier

Right-wing trolls are gloating that the #MeToo movement has been discredited by the latest revelation involving Asia Argento. But it just shows that sexual assault is a sexually transmitted disease that infects and spreads from one person to another, like HIV or chlamydia:
The Italian actress and director Asia Argento was among the first women in the movie business to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement. Her boyfriend, the culinary television star Anthony Bourdain, eagerly joined the fight.

But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.
It has long been known that child survivors of sex abuse often turn into perpetrators. It's irrelevant whether victims do this because they hurt and want someone else to hurt, or because they think the behavior is normal. It's an evil cycle that should be stopped dead in its tracks.

This news comes on the heels of the revelation that the Catholic Church covered up the sexual abuse of thousands of children in Pennsylvania (which is only one of dozens of such scandals, from Boston to Minnesota to South America).

One priest abusing 10 children doesn't produce just 10 victims. It produces 10 first-order victims, then maybe 20, or 50, or 100 second-order victims when those children commit the same crime against others, and then hundreds more third-order victims as the parents, wives, and children of direct victims are stricken by the terrible anguish when they learn the awful things their loved ones have done, or what has been to their loved ones.

That's why we can't let one groping go unchallenged or one rape unprosecuted.  If their crimes aren't exposed predators continue to assault more victims, spreading the disease, producing more predators and more victims.

Just the other day a man was found guilty of sexually assaulting a sleeping woman (specifically, fondling her vagina) on a Spirit Airlines flight. He now faces life in prison. The number of sexual assaults on planes nearly doubled from 2014 to 2017.

Since Donald Trump explicitly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy you have to wonder: is Trump's election responsible for this specific assault as well as the general increase in these crimes on airplanes?

That's the sort of conclusion conservatives have always jumped to whenever Democrats have done something dodgy. But Trump's Republican and evangelical enablers just sheepishly mumble, "He denies it," when they know full well he did it because he bragged about doing it.

How many women and children are being assaulted right now because Trumpist dickheads think that they should be able to get away with whatever the president does? After all their moralizing about God and morality, Republicans and evangelicals have shown they believe in neither.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Gun Humper Sucks Dick

Like millions of Americans, I've been ROTFLMFAO at Sacha Baron Cohen's newest masterpiece, Who Is America? He has completely demolished multiple gun humpers and MAGA drones over the course of five episodes.

But his best takedown was last Sunday when he got Dan Roberts to suck a dick. Here it is.



Fucking, Priceless.

Keeping It Local

The Democratic Party is finally getting the message: keep it local.

I've been saying this for years. If they want to win and keep it sustainable, they need to mimic what the GOP did from 2010 forward and focus on winning at the grass roots level with candidates that live in the districts. Find the little league coach or the den mother and get them to run.

Currently, there is a high amount of motivation to run given who resides in the White House so we are seeing a lot of first time candidates and a renewed interest in civic participation. This is a fantastic development that needs to carry forward in perpetuity if we want to make sure that the alt right never gains power again.

The election this fall is looking brighter and brighter every day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Is America Heading Down the Same Path as Turkey?

Turkey, once a promising country in a region dominated by corrupt dictators and theocratic despots, is going down the drain.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was the visionary who broke Turkey out of the doldrums, putting many reforms in place after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, rising from the ashes of World War I and making strides toward the West.

For example, though Turkey was a majority Muslim nation, Atatürk made it a secular and democratic republic. Atatürk replaced the Arabic script previously used for Turkish with Latin, which is far better suited to the language.

It wasn't all smooth sailing. Turkey's military staged regular coups whenever civil leaders strayed too far from Atatürk's vision.

That is, until Turkey's current president gained power. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become an autocratic dictator with the popular support of the people in the name of "Islamization." The military attempted a coup against Erdogan in 2016 and failed to oust the dictator. He has since purged the government, schools and universities of anyone not loyal to him, jailed thousands of people (including some Americans), and consolidated more and more power in his own hands.

My wife and I visited Turkey in the 1990s, when it was in the grip of horrible inflation, ranging from 60-100% a year. In 1996 one dollar was worth 100,000 lira.

When we went to exchange money we learned that Turks didn't use banks: on payday they went to currency exchanges and converted their lira to dollars, then went to exchange them back when they needed cash. Converting to dollars prevented their wages from being drained into nothing by inflation.

People remember those awful times, and they credit Erdogan with ending the economic decline of the country in the 2000s. That's why they keep giving him greater dictatorial powers.

But it's not working anymore. Turkey is again in the grip of rampant inflation. At the start of this year the revalued lira was worth about 25 cents. Now it's worth 15 cents.

Erdogan is blaming the United States and other foreign countries for all his problems. In response to Trump's tariffs, Erdogan has called for Turks to boycott American products; in particular, electronics like Apple's iPhone.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Donald Trump is using the despot's playbook, just like Putin and Erdogan. Trump blames foreigners for all our problems. Trump clamors for the "Christianization" of the United States (though Trump is the least Christian of any president). Trump claims he is the only one who can fix things, and that he has the power to do whatever the hell he wants, be it levying tariffs on foreign steel, boycotting American companies like Harley Davidson, cutting secret deals with criminals like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, or grabbing women's pussies.

The United States hasn't been hit by rampant inflation. Yet. But many Americans are already heading into bankruptcy because of Trump. American farmers are being hammered by his economic policies. He has effectively dismantled the consumer protection bureau, allowing predatory lenders to pillage American pocketbooks. His sabotage of the health insurance market is driving up rates and reducing coverage for many Americans, who will go broke and die when they can no longer get insurance. His promises to reign in drug prices were all lies.

Wage growth in the United States has been flat or negative for the last 18 years, and Trump's policies (such as the gigantic tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations) have seen workers' wages shrink even more as CEOs use Trump's tax giveaway to take for themselves and shareholders even bigger pieces of the pie, while drastically ballooning the US deficit.

At some point the huge national debt the Trump tax cuts is creating will blow up in our faces. At that point the Republicans will demand that we cut Social Security, Medicare and social services, crushing less-educated whites and the elderly. Ironically, the people most affected by Trump's disastrous policies will be his core voters. (Minorities are already screwed, so their lot will change little from here on out.)

More and more the United States seems to be going down the same path that Turkey, Russia, and South American banana republics have gone down.

The question is: why are Republicans and the voters who elected him letting this clown get away with it?

Space Force!


Monday, August 13, 2018

Is Trump's Voter Fraud Vice-Chair Stealing an Election?

Last year Donald Trump created a commission to look into voter fraud, but it was disbanded without doing anything. The commission had asked the states to give the federal government sensitive voter information, and all the states had refused to hand over the data because it violated privacy laws.

That included Kansas, where the vice-chair of the commission, Chris Kobach, is secretary of state, where his duties include overseeing elections.

The commission worked for months trying to prove that there was some sort of systemic vote rigging, but they could find only a minuscule number of cases of intentional fraud, and most of those were Trump voters pulling one scam or another.

Kobach is now running for governor of Kansas, and is locked a primary battle that has yet to be decided. The two candidates are separated by a few hundred votes.

Immediately after the primary suspicious things were happening with the vote totals. County totals tallied locally didn't match county totals entered by Kobach's employees, giving Kobach hundreds of extra votes.

Kobach recused himself on Friday, but his deputy, Eric Rucker, a political appointee, is running the show.

Rucker is making decisions that favor Kobach: he's telling poll workers to throw out provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters, after those voters were instructed to cast provisional ballots by poll workers.

He's also trying to throw out mailed-in ballots that were received the day after the election because they don't have postmarks. “The thing that really ticks us off is that for all intents and purposes, it’s the Postal Service that’s disenfranchised that voter. And shame on them.”

No, this hack is trying to disenfranchise voters and throw the election to Kobach. None of Kobach's partisan hires should be making decisions in this election. They have inherent conflicts of interest, and they should recuse themselves.

This episode illustrates the real kind of voter fraud that occurs in this country: legislators who make confusing laws and place onerous restriction on voters, poll workers who may or may not intentionally give voters bad advice casting their votes, and government officials who preferentially discard absentee and provisional ballots based on whether they will swing the election their way.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Con Job of the Century

If you thought the con job of the century was Donald Trump getting elected, you'd be wrong.

No, getting thousands of people to drive for Uber is the con of the century. Because driving for Uber is just driving a cab. And that's one of the worst jobs you can get.

Think about it. The wages are terrible, the hours are terrible, the customers are terrible (drunken, puking morons). In many cities the number of cabs is regulated by controlling the number of medallions issued, making it possible to eke out a living by keeping the number of cabs down to what the local population can support.

But any clown with a car can drive for Uber, which means the number of competitors is determined only by the gullibility of people who mistakenly think they can get rich driving a cab. Uber drivers are "independent contractors" who supply their own cars, pay for the gas, the maintenance, their cell phone bills. If they sit idle for two hours, waiting for fares that never call, they don't make a dime.

The only difference between driving a cab and driving for Uber is that some overvalued high-tech company in Washington takes a big cut out of every fare, instead of staying in the local economy.

What's the running joke in every movie where someone gets into a cab? An immigrant driver who can barely speak English.

And that's because driving a cab is a terrible job. Immigrants get all the terrible jobs in America: the vast majority of dishwashers, hotel maids, meat packers, roofers and cabbies are immigrants, because Americans just won't do them.

I came to this realization while watching an ad for Uber, in which the company's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, apologizes for Uber's past dickishness, promising the company's "culture" has changed. Uber's former CEO, Travis Kalanik, was kicked out a year ago for pushing his employees to wantonly violate laws and regulations in cities across the country, screw over the company's drivers as wage slaves, and blithely ignoring pervasive sexual harassment.

Driving a cab, or an Uber, doesn't have to be terrible. All these jobs should pay enough to live on, and to save up for a down payment on a house, and to help put your kids through college. But Uber pays its employees peanuts, because they've conned people into thinking that driving a cab is somehow a lucrative gig.

New York is cracking down on Uber, capping the number of drivers in the city and setting a minimum pay rate per trip. That may barely squeak Uber drivers out of the hole, but Uber will never give their drivers a decent wage: the company thinks of its employees as just another bot that can be replaced by another bot.

And that next bot will be a self-driving car. Anyone who bought a car thinking that driving for Uber was a long-term investment was taken by the con man of the century, Travis Kalanick.

Trump Gets His Inlaws into US with Chain Migration

“CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!” the President tweeted.
Well, now his in-laws are American citizens because of chain migration.
President Trump has repeatedly and vehemently denounced what he calls “chain migration,” in which adult American citizens can obtain residency for their relatives.

On Thursday, his Slovenian in-laws, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, became United States citizens in a private ceremony in Manhattan by taking advantage of that same family-based immigration program.

Asked if the Knavses had obtained citizenship through “chain migration,” their lawyer, Michael Wildes, said, “I suppose.”

He said chain migration is a “dirtier” way of characterizing what he called “a bedrock of our immigration process when it comes to family reunification.”
Melania Trump had sponsored her parents for their green cards, Mr. Wildes said in describing the process by which the Knavses had become United States citizens. “Once they had the green card, they then applied for citizenship when they were eligible,” he said.

Even as his in-laws were going through the process, Mr. Trump was denouncing it. In November, he tweeted, “CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”

And, of course, both Trump's mother and paternal grandfather came to the United States as a result of chain migration.

Now let's see what kind of dirt Trump would sling if the Knavses were the family of his political opponents. Dirt provided by Town and Country in a puff piece on Melania's family:
  • The Knavses speak Slovenian with their grandson, Barron. Why can't they speak English, like real Americans?
  • Viktor was a card-carrying member of the Yugoslav Communist Party. He had a collection of Mercedes sedans and a Maserati. That doesn't happen in a communist country unless you're well-connected insider.
  • Viktor got another woman pregnant, agreed to marry her, then demanded she get an abortion, then claimed he couldn't be the father, and then a court-ordered blood test showed he was. He fought court orders to pay child support all the way to the highest appellate court. Nice guy, huh?
  • Melania also got her sister into the United States with chain migration as well.
  • Next thing you know, Melania will try to bring her illegimate half-brother into the country. Where will it end?
  • Her parents are in their 70s, and will be a drain on the country's medical system after Trump is impeached.
I personally don't have a problem with Melania's parents immigrating to the United States. That's how this country was founded, and that's how 99% of all Americans' ancestors came here.

It's sheer hypocrisy for Donald Trump to slam the door on everyone else's family after he got his wife's in-laws into the country.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Republicans Are Already Committing Election Fraud

A House race in Virginia reveals the Republican strategy for beating the Democrats, which they got from the Russians in the 2016 election. Keep Democrats bickering with each, and put up phony independent candidates to split the Democratic vote, even if you have to break the law to do it:
A special prosecutor was appointed Tuesday to investigate claims that aides to Rep. Scott W. Taylor (R-Va.) illegally forged signatures to help an independent candidate get on the ballot, hoping to give their boss an edge over his Democratic challenger in the midterm elections.

Aides to Taylor, a freshman lawmaker from Virginia Beach, collected signatures for independent candidate Shaun Brown, who analysts say could siphon votes away from Taylor’s Democratic challenger, Elaine Luria.
With their email hacks and social media manipulation the Russians stoked divisions in the Democratic Party, in particular, inciting hatred against Hillary Clinton among Bernie Sanders supporters.

The Russians also backed Jill Stein's candidacy, splitting away Green-leaning Democrats. Here's a picture of Jill Stein with Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn, Trump's discredited national security advisor.


Republicans have used the Greens to sabotage Democrats in the past; in particular, Al Gore lost in 2000 to Bush because of Ralph Nader and the Green Party (the GOP spent money to push Nader's candidacy in 2000 and 2004). The irony, of course, is that if Nader hadn't run, Gore would have won Florida, and Gore would have set us a climate policy that the Greens actually wanted.

Instead we had Bush and now Trump, in large part thanks in part to Green candidates Ralph Nader and Jill Stein.

It is often said that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Progressives can't expect everything to happen at once. Change at the national level is incremental, and unity is even more important ever since the Republicans stole a Supreme court seat in 2015.

We have to elect Democrats to ensure that the House and the Senate have Democratic majorities, even if those Democrats aren't all as progressive as we might want. Our representatives should represent the people of their districts, and if those districts are slightly right of center, their legislators should be Democrats who are slightly right of center.

If the Republicans retain their majorities, Trump will cement his lock on the Republican Party and turn this country into banana republic owned and operated by corporations and the wealthy.

Kids Sue Donald Trump

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United Sates ruled unanimously that the 21 youths suing the federal government over its inaction on climate change can move forward.The U.S. District Court’s trial start date of October 29, 2018. The case is Juliana v. United States. 

The federal government attempted to have the case thrown out because of lack of evidence (!) and they also tried to see the evidence that the plantiffs are going to present before the trial even started. SCOTUS rejected both claims.

This could be a very interesting case. The plaintiffs allege that the United States government's affirmative actions caused climate change, violated the youngest generation's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, and failed to protect essential public trust resources. The facts of climate change are going to be presented in court and entered into the public record. The evidence is overwhelming that it is man made and indeed threatening constitutional rights.

I realize there have been many liberals wringing their hands over the conservative tilt of the court. But this case shows that all of the SCOTUS justices, conservative or liberal, know the law better than any of the rest of us. If anything, dogmatic conservative who refuse to accept reality should be worried about SCOTUS. Their unicorn fart fantasy of turning this country into a conservative paradise ain't gonna happen with Brett Kavanaugh or anyone else on their list.

The law is not on their side.

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Pope Ups the Pro-Life Ante

There are people who pretend to be pro-life, and then there are the people who really are pro-life. Pope Francis is the real deal:
Pope Francis has declared the death penalty wrong in all cases, a definitive change in church teaching that is likely to challenge Catholic politicians, judges and officials who have argued that their church was not entirely opposed to capital punishment.
Before, church doctrine accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives, an opening that some Catholics took as license to support capital punishment in many cases.
The Catholic Church has a long history and hasn't always been on the side of the righteous, but in the last sixty or seventy years the Church has become more consistent on the sanctity of life. It, of course, opposes abortion, but generally favors reasonable reasonable restrictions on handguns, opposes war in all its forms, and vigorously advocates for the poor, minorities, immigrants and victims of terrorism and government oppression.

I may not agree with the Catholic Church on everything, but it has overcome many of its hypocritical deficiencies and is generally a force for good.

This is definitely not the case with American evangelicals and Republicans. They claim to be pro-life, but they're constantly on the warpath, clamoring for more military spending, more guns on the street, applying the death penalty to more cases, torturing suspects in military internment camps, and constantly attacking minorities and immigrants.

Take the governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts. He's supposedly a Catholic, but when the state of Nebraska repealed the death penalty in 2015, the Roman Catholic governor used his family fortune to bankroll a referendum to reinstate it.

American evangelicals and Republicans are all phonies. They claim to be so morally superior to the rest of us, yet they voted in droves for known sexual predators like Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

These are the same people who keep clamoring for more "religious liberty" in the United States, but what they really want to do is insult, ostracize, beat up and eventually drive out all gays and Muslims.

These self-proclaimed moral majoritarians in the White House and Republican statehouses shred the ten commandments every day.

The only reason Republicans oppose abortion is so that they can sucker single-issue Catholics into voting for them. Because people like Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Roy Moore and all the other Republican toads embody everything that good Catholics despise.

Back in the day Republicans demanded that the Catholic Church excommunicate Democrats who supported a woman's right to choose (which is not the same as favoring abortion).

Perhaps the Catholic Church should excommunicate all the Republicans who endorse the death penalty, clamor for the torture of suspects, spread the cancer of handguns, and deny the basic human rights of immigrants and minorities.

Put Them In Gitmo

If you want to know just how fucking sick and dangerous Trump supporters are, look no further than this recent story about Alex Jones (a regular Trump adviser along with Sean Hannity) and the Sandy Hook families.

In the five years since Noah Pozner was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., death threats and online harassment have forced his parents, Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, to relocate seven times. They now live in a high-security community hundreds of miles from where their 6-year-old is buried.

Yep. That's right, folks. It's not merely enough that Mr. Pozner has to live with the death of his child. He also has to live under constant threat from Trumpsters who think that the Sandy Hook shooting was "fake news" and that the parents are crisis actors. These are the people that used to be outliers and now they are part of the mainstream Republican party. For further evidence of this, take a look at this photo taken at a recent Trump rally.













Trump supporters believe that their dear leader is fighting a war alongside a hero named "Q" against a deep state menace that includes the media. Check out how CNN's Jim Acosta was treated at the event.



These people are dangerous. They are domestic terrorists. They need to be Gitmo'd.

Now.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Not All Cop Shootings Are Worthy of Protest

Marchers in Minneapolis are blocking trains to protest the death of Thurman Blevins, who was shot and killed by cops responding to a call about a man drinking and randomly firing a pistol. Video of the encounter shows (though not very clearly) that Blevins had a gun, which was found at the site, along with a bullet casing.

There have been countless cases where police have killed a black man for no good reason, and the African-American community has a right to be extremely angry about their treatment at the hands of law enforcement.

Philando Castile should not have been killed. Michael Brown should not have been killed. Trayvon Martin, though not shot by cop, should not have been killed. Walter Scott, Eric Courtney Harris and Akai Gurley should not have been killed, and in their cases the killer cops were actually convicted.

An awful lot of cops seem to be on a power trip, and start shooting at anyone who disobeys them or runs away, even if it's not clear they've done anything wrong. Many cops think that fleeing is a sign of guilt, when the reality is that being near anyone with a loaded handgun exponentially raises your odds of being killed -- especially black men near cops.

Sometimes the cops even shoot black men who are lying on the ground obeying their orders with their hands up. So it's easy to understand why black men run when the cops show up: they get shot no matter what they do, so they might as well take a chance on running.

But the Blevins case does not seem to be worthy of protest because of his erratic behavior:
According to the 911 caller, that man was "intoxicated," and "walking around shooting off his gun," which the caller labeled a "silver nine millimeter." The caller says the man shot his gun into the air and the ground, and hadn't hurt anyone, and that he was carrying a bottle of Amsterdam gin.
So, yes, it's a tragedy that Blevins was killed. But like most Shakespearean tragedies, it was of his own making.

What if the cops had just let him run away? He might have gone home and sobered up. Or he might have shot his girlfriend, or his mother, or robbed a liquor store and killed the clerk, or went to work and killed six people. You can see how cops feel that they just can't win, no matter what they do.

The reality is, cops don't only kill black men. Last month in Chaska, a Minneapolis suburb, cops responding to a 911 call killed a sixteen-year-old white boy who was acting erratically, threatening his mother with knives and a bat.

Justine Damond, a white woman reporting a rape last year, was killed by a Minneapolis cop who almost took his partner's head off when he fired at her through the squad car window.

And just few days ago in Aurora, Colorado, cops killed Richard Black, an elderly man who had just shot and killed a naked crazy man who'd broken into his house and attacked his grandson. The responding officers mistook the grandfather, who had a conceal carry permit, for the assailant because he was armed.

Which just proves that the NRA is dead wrong: guns do not make you safer. Blevins is dead because he had a gun. Black is dead because he had a gun. And most of the others are dead because cops thought they might have guns.

Cops are on a hair trigger all the time because so many guns flood the streets of America. Every time they approach someone sitting in a car, or in their house, or walking on the street, they face a real danger of being shot. But that still doesn't justify trigger-happy behavior.

African-Americans are killed by cops at twice the rate as whites. This is a horrible injustice. Cops who kill black men without justification should be fired and charged with murder. Cops should not be able to use the "I was afraid so I shot him" defense: they're trained professionals who are paid to make the right decision about deadly force, and should be held to a higher standard.

But protesters should choose their causes more carefully to avoid cheapening the effect: not every black man killed by the cops is a martyr.

Some are just dangerous, drunken idiots shooting up the neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018