Monday, November 18, 2019

When You Can’t Win the Argument, Change the Subject

Republicans still haven’t seemed to internalize that their Golden Calf has been caught dead-to-rights in impeachable conduct, as specified specifically in the Constitution. As witness after witness testify as to the accuracy of the QPQ with Ukraine, the response from the faithful continues to be alibi and distract.

Everyone does it. It’s not illegal, it’s foreign policy. It’s a coup. It’s violating the will of the people. It wasn’t even successful. Hey, look at the scandals from Obama/Clinton/anyone else.”

Nancy Pelosi nailed it when she flat-out called it bribery; the exchange of money for the desired action. Trump offered money only if Ukraine took the action he desired. That action was to dig up political dirt on an election rival. That’s bribery and it’s an impeachable offense according to the Constitution.

Remember that it wasn’t just dirt that the Trump Administration was looking for, they also wanted Ukraine to announce that the election hacking from 2016 was done at the behest of rogue factions within their own country, as opposed to Russia. In other words, lie for him, in exchange for military aid.

This is what otherwise sentient people are twisting themselves into knots to defend.

Everyone does it. It’s not illegal, it’s foreign policy.” No, they don’t, yes it is, and no it’s not. When has a US governmental entity ask for a foreign government to fabricate the wrong-doing of a political rival? See, it’s not a matter of using a foreign aid package as a carrot to induce better behavior like ending the legal persecution of gays. That would be considered “foreign policy.” This is the highest representative of the US government asking another country for something underhanded for personal gain.

Regarding illegality,  “Article II, Section 4, of the Constitution says the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” There’s no finessing around that one. I’m sure that’s why the Democratic leadership chose this hill to go to war on, as opposed to emoluments or obstruction of justice.

It’s a coup. Nope. It’s an action prescribed by the Constitution to address crimes committed by a sitting president. If Trump goes, Pence steps in. Where’s the change of power? And in the unlikely event that they attempt to impeach Pence, it doesn’t seem plausible that they’d both go at the same time.

That’s what would have to happen, because if Pence were to assume the presidency, especially if his name is bandied about impeachment talks, I’m sure the first thing he’ll do is name a VP. That would be essential to prevent Pelosi from stepping in to replace him. Republicans still have the Senate; Pence wouldn’t nominate anyone they wouldn’t approve.

So, no coup. That’s just more panicky talk; just one more piece of something sticky to throw at the wall. Anyone talking about a coup doesn’t know what the word means.

It’s violating the will of the people.” Trump assuming office violated the will of the people, three million more of whom voted for his opponent. But we’ll leave Electoral College talk for another time. The will of the people also voted in a Democratic House of Representatives by a landslide after experiencing two years of Trump-rule and have elected Democrats in just about every other important run-off and one-off election. The will of the people is not looking kindly on the Current Occupant.

It wasn’t even successful.” Talk about a stupid defense. Everyone knows that people still get convicted and go to jail for attempting crimes. Guilt isn’t dependent on the success of the crime. This is the kind of desperate talk we get when people have to blindly defend someone no matter the circumstance. 

Hey, look at the scandals from Obama/Clinton/anyone else. Finally, we get to the What-About-ism; that someone somewhere has done something as bad or worse.

Yes, who can forget the Tan Suit Scandal, the Coffee-Salute Scandal, or the Marine-Holding-Umbrella-Over-President-in-the-Rain Scandal. Oh, right, let’s not forget Hillary’s child-sex ring run out of the basement of a pizza shot that didn’t even have a basement.

Fox “News” spend hours winding people up over these “scandals,” because over eight years, they had to complain about something, even if they were things their own standard-bearer was photographed doing.

I think Jon Stewart said it best when he said at the Rally for Sanity, “When you amplify everything you hear nothing.”

Yes, I know, conservatives think there were more scandalous things during the Obama Administration, but mostly it’s a case of believing their own bullshit. There were some things they desperately wished were scandals, but turned out to be nothing-burgers.

Fast and Furious: An ATF plan gone wrong. They lost the guns. Fox “News” acted like Obama was running the guns himself. Presidents aren’t usually involved in the minutiae of planning and executing ATF operations. Worst case scenario, he said, “Yeah, track the guns.”

IRS persecuting conservative groups: Lots of wailing about that despite the eventual finding that both conservative and liberal groups were denied tax-free status. Plus, the whole thing arose out of a single office in Cincinnati. There was nothing to show any input from the White House.

Benghazi: Somehow this embassy attack was so much more heinous than the multiple attacks that occurred during the Bush Administration. Republicans conducted investigation after investigation and came up with nada. Besides hushing up the voting down of an aid package that would have bolstered security at that very embassy. They don’t talk so much about that.

Her Emails/Server: Again, there were countless legal and congressional investigations conducted with another big, fat bagel to show for it. And it’s almost comic that the Trump Administration did and still does the same stuff Republicans were raking Hillary for… using personal phones and keeping a personal server. The upshot of all the email investigations was that they couldn’t come up with a single “state secret” that was outed on account of her security lapse. Hell, we know that Trump has given military intel to other countries himself, which what everyone was so afraid of Clinton doing.

Or maybe the whole thing was just a cover to keep her name and the word “scandal” in the headlines during a presidential campaign.

It amuses me how so many Republicans think that the Clintons are some kind of mob family with 30-40 kills to their credit. Funny how there’s never been a single piece of actionable evidence to back that up. I say, if she can do all those things she’s been accused of, not have any evidence appear and not have anyone turn on her, then she’s totally the one who should be dealing with the likes of Putin.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Red Hearings

The Republicans seem to be approaching the Impeachment Hearings like Goldilocks… First it’s too private, then it’s too public. I have a feeling the only way it will become “just right” is if they get to turn it into an investigation of Hunter Biden.

Luckily, Rep. Schiff is onto their game and will not allow them to call witnesses that aren’t germane to the subject of these hearings, which is the impeachment of President Trump.

Meanwhile, the GOP is throwing everything they can wrap their trunks around at the wall and hoping something sticks. “Where’s the Whistleblower? Where’s Hunter Biden? Why do the meetings have to be secret? Why can’t Republicans attend? Why can’t the president have his lawyer there? Why can’t we call witnesses to bolster our conspiracy theories? What, we CAN attend? No, we don’t want to now because it’s all a sham.

The one thing you don’t see is any evidence that things didn’t play out on that Ukraine call exactly like it’s been described in sworn, direct testimony. Nor do you see any of Trump’s inner circle who were also on the call, lining up to contradict the other witnesses. That’s how you know the Ukraine phone call story is true.

These are the people who aren’t showing up for their subpoenas. They know that if they hold the party line under oath, they perjure themselves and could face jail time. (See Manifort, Paul.) Their only play is not to go, hence the bending over backward to throw up objections to the hearings themselves.

I really wish Rep Schiff would start having the courts (or whomever) enforce these subpoenas. Let these weasels “tell it to the judge.”

So now you have all the Trump toadies and apologists out there running their stories about how such a quid pro quo / arms for dirt deal isn’t really a crime because Trump’s been doing this stuff for three years. I also read in the paper this morning that Rand Paul says these deals are “common among a variety of American elected officials” in Washington. In other words, “business as usual.”

I would agree that it’s BAU in the Trump Administration, but that doesn’t make it legal. You want BAU? It’s political leaders getting their kids on industry boards of directors. They want to make a big deal out of the young Biden? Maybe someone should start looking into the careers of all the other players in town.

I bet you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of these kinds of sweetheart deals, starting with the First Family. They better be careful about what they blow up into a big deal. Trump’s unemployment numbers might suddenly take a hit if these silver-spoon offspring start losing their jobs.

Speaking of flights of fancy, I’m amused by the talk of getting Mayor Bloomberg to buy Fox “News,” as something that would be more beneficial to the country than running for president. I’m amused because it’s about as realistic as talk of winning the MegaMillions lottery. It ain’t gonna happen.

Even if Bloomberg wanted to buy Fox “News,” why on earth would the Murdoch family sell it? The Murdochs are filthy rich and have huge influence in the world. If they sold out, they’d still be filthy rich but would no longer have the Fox mouthpiece to broadcast their nationalist, anti-worker, anti-woman philosophy. Where’s their upside?

And if Fox “News” was sold, presumably to shut it down or change the focus, what would prevent someone, maybe even the Murdochs again, from firing up a new conservative mouthpiece? All their on-air “talent” would need to go somewhere… might as well go en masse and keep the party going.

So, as much fun as it is to imagine a world without the disinformation of Fox “News,” remember that it’s just a pipe dream. The only way Fox loses its clout is when people stop watching. And as long as you have people have the need for simple answers, having their biases confirmed, and for someone to shit on, Fox “News” will be right there.

And lastly, happy Veteran’s Day to all who have served our country with honor and distinction. My dream is that one day, the politicians stop using veterans as wedge issues and photo ops and take action to provide them with whatever they need. Our soldiers did their jobs, so we need to uphold our end of the bargain and see to their needs when they come home again.

On the bright side, Veteran’s Day comes on a great day of the year, November 11th. Does anyone else get a special charge when they get to type or write 11/11? And back on 11/11/11? Best date day ever! I’m just bummed I’ll never get to see 11/11/2111.

Director’s DVD Commentary: Yes, I’m that easily amused.

Monday, November 4, 2019

If You've Done the Time, We've Got the Cash

I recently read that the city of Baltimore authorized a total payout of $9 million to five men who had been wrongfully incarcerated, two of whom were jailed for 27 and 38 years. The payouts were derived by using the 6-year median income for the state of Maryland, times the number of years in jail.

I think it’s the least they can do. It doesn’t get much more heinous than jailing an innocent man for most of his life. No amount of money will be enough for what these men suffered… lost time with their families, special events missed, kids growing up without them, the onward march of civilization and technology, plus the untold suffering by enduring what the US prison system dishes out. These guys should never have to work again, for what the state put them through.

Just ask Andy.

It’s an expensive lesson for the state, but I hope they look long and hard at the circumstances that brought this situation to bear. I hope they review what kind of evidence they put their trust in, as well as the reputations of those who procured it in the first place.

We all know how the cops have been taking shortcuts and planting evidence in Baltimore. Maybe this is the inevitable conclusion to when there is no accountability among the Thin Blue Line. Maybe this is what happens when there is so much pressure brought to bear, to catch and convict someone… anyone, for high-profile crimes, so anyone who seems plausible can be run in.

As it is, one of the released mis-convicts is suing the police department for excluding exculpatory evidence.

You also have to acknowledge that back when some of these guys were convicted, the oldest case was from 1968, DNA evidence wasn’t a standard thing. Maybe with DNA and better forensics, some of these cases could have been disproven.

What I take out of it is how shaky “eyewitness testimony” can be. All these guys were ID’d by someone who was completely mistaken. It makes one wonder how good a look these “witnesses” got, and how much pressure they were under to positively identify somebody. In a panic-stricken situation, I wouldn’t believe the recollection of anyone regarding the face of a stranger, not unless they had a long, close-up look.

I feel for the prosecutors who find themselves trying cases that don’t have DNA evidence, photos or video. They have to cobble together a case out of whatever is left. The threat of jailing an innocent person must hang like a cloud over their entire professional life. At least I hope it does. The stakes are too high.

Everyone wants criminals convicted and taken off the streets, but not at the expense of a wrongful conviction.

Other Stuff
California is on fire and the president is quarreling with the governor. Well, “quarreling” probably isn’t the best word. The president is making outrageous fabrications and spreading misinformation because he never carried the state in question and never will.  He’s resurfacing his old crap about how California should have raked their forests to prevent wildfires. It was wrong then but even wronger now, because most of these fires have nothing to do with forests. They’re burning up the suburbs and farmland, not forests.

So, this is political payback, with people’s homes and lives in the balance. How very presidential. This isn’t even George W twiddling his thumbs while New Orleans was being washed away. This guy is reveling in the destruction and taunting of those who are suffering.

Impeachment can’t come fast enough.

And speaking of, he’s still going ape about the Whistleblower, isn’t he? And all his minions are parroting the company line. Don’t any of them know what a whistleblower is and why there is such a thing?

The anonymity is the point! They stay anonymous so that they are free to tell the truth about bad things going on, without retribution and intimidation from the bad thing doers.

And like I said last week, this crusade is 100% pointless because direct witnesses have corroborated everything the Whistleblower said, and then some. It’s obvious that he feels cheated out of his right to retaliate! He has all this animosity and nowhere to point it, so he rages on with the Twitter.

The Whistleblower program was set up specifically to deal with people like this. I think anyone who leaks or publicizes the Whistleblower’s name should be brought up on charges. I’m not holding my breath, though.

And Another Thing…

Isn’t this what Jesus would do? I wonder why Republicans are so hostile to income equality. Their Lord and Savior was all about giving to the poor and denigrating the rich. It’s almost as if they are only using Jesus as a gimmick to get people to vote for them, and not really interested in his words or works at all.

Apropos of Nothing
I had this dream a couple weeks back, that started as a garden-variety frustration dream. I was at some kind of hotel/ballroom complex with lots of glass walls and giant atriums. I was trying to get through it to go outside on the south end of the building. But I couldn’t seem to go directly; I was being forced to go out the doors on the opposite side from where I needed to go.

So as a couple co-workers and I were wandering around the lobby of this place, Barak Obama walks up to us. I remembered that I work for him, and not only that, he’s still the president! (This turns a nightmare into a daydream.)

He walks with us and because I’m apparently as much of a wise-ass in my dreams as I am in real life, I asked him, “Do you ever stick your head in a room just to see the looks on people’s faces?

He says, “Like this?” and strides into the glass-enclosed lobby check-in area, says hi to everyone there, to a round of applause, grabs a newspaper from the counter and breezes back out.

In the dream, I was thinking, “This guy is so freakin’ cool.” Then I woke up and thought the same thing.

Would that we still had some of that juice around the Oval Office…

Monday, October 28, 2019

Odd Bits - The Educated Edition

Sometimes you see a news story and it just short-circuits all the wiring in your brain.

That happened to me again last week when I saw this article, wherein Fox “News” hack Mark Levin claimed that in the Trump Administration, “there has even been a hint of scandal. Not a hint.”

If ever a news commentary should come with a laugh track, it’s that one. I’ve heard it said that the Fox “News” crowd existing in their own bubble, but this one sounds more like an iron lung.

Hush money to porn stars to cover up affairs.

Ignoring the emoluments clause and not divesting from his hotel business while foreign entities book rooms they don’t even need, just to curry favor.

Tax irregularities to the point of enduring withering criticism and outrage because releasing the returns would be even worse.

“Grab’em by the pussy,” hanging out with Epstein at his teen model parties, accessing the changing rooms at his own beauty pageants and feeling up the contestants.

Russian election interference on his behalf, possibly at his public invitation.

Scores of indictments and arrests of his inner circle.

Ten examples of obstruction uncovered by Mueller investigation.

Openly courting foreign sources of opposition research on an election opponent (2016 and 2020).

Golfing more than any president in modern history and always at the resorts he owns, which funnels government money from The People to His Pocket. (And this, after constantly criticizing his predecessor for playing too much golf.)

Over 13,000 documented lies told in office, including those that need not be lied about at all.

All this, (just off the top of my head), and not even a “hint” of scandal?

Here’s why the likes of Mark Levin see no scandals here: It’s because self-enrichment, self-gratification and back-room deals are practically written into the GOP platform. They don’t even see it as scandalous. For them to consider something a scandal, it must be truly out of the ordinary.

Like if a Republican were to take a tax break for the rich and move it to the Middle Class. THAT would be a scandal to the money-grubbing power brokers on Fox “News”.

College Daze
I see versions of this all the time:

Funny how it’s always posted by conservatives. And I understand why.

Rich Republican donor class is not interested in an educated population. They want us pliable and obedient. They don’t want us to get past their rhetoric and see what they’re up to. So, they under-fund, de-emphasize and demonize education at every opportunity.

Hence you see all the negative stories about coddled students in campus safe-spaces and liberal Ivory Tower professors. They play on tropes like the brilliant nerd with no common sense or social skills. They claim college is nothing but a liberal indoctrination center.

It’s true that college graduates skew Democratic more than Republican, but it’s not because every college is teaching Democratic political tenets. It’s because they teach facts, like, you know, “science” which often come into conflict with the social conservative dogma of the religious right.

College is also a place to learn how to listen and analyze… how to question and use logically sound arguments and identify those that aren't. You can learn how to see through the bullshit thrown at us every day.

So, the Donor Class funds media farms that produce memes like the one above, appealing to the pride of the non-college educated, who dutifully pass it on.

It’s not like you can only be smart by going to college, but it certainly gives you a good head start.

When a party knows that the smarter people become, the less they identify with that party, maybe it’s time to update their platform. Obviously, it costs less just to smear education and cater to the uneducated.

The Dude Does Not Abide
Speaking of seemingly apolitical memes that always seem to show up in conservative Facebook feeds:

I used to see memes like these more evenly divided but lately, I don’t know if it’s just MY stream, but I only see these pleas for understanding from Republicans.

The thing is, I used to agree with them. Political differences shouldn’t spell doom for family or friendly relationships. But then the Republicans began (or just made more obvious) an ugly march into racism, sexism, and violence.

As far as I’m concerned, pleas for political understanding = “I want to support slashing of human rights, ethnic prejudice, subjugation of women and kowtowing to the rich, but I don’t want any blowback about it.”

I have a significant number of conservative friends. I mean, how else do you think I get these memes I tear apart? So, it’s sad to realize that these friends, many of whom I’ve known since I was a teenager, buy into this ugliness.

Each one would swear to you he’s not a racist. But then, by supporting people who are also overwhelmingly supported by avowed racists, they make it clear that racism is certainly not a deal-breaker. And the same with sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and every other anti-social tenet of modern conservatism.

The ugliness of the Republican Party, as currently constructed, means that I have friends whose basic values, I feel, are so skewed and twisted that I don’t see how I can reconcile that with the person I’ve always known.

The Cure for the Blue Flu
Here’s another example of the rampant, overt corruption of the Baltimore Police Department.

The full story was in the Baltimore Sun this weekend but here’s the Facebook snapshot, which tells the basic story:

 The new police commissioner changed a department policy that allowed injured cops to pull overtime while on desk duty. As soon as he revoked the policy, 25 officers declared they were healthy enough for field duty.

That’s just too rich for words. It almost sounds like a piece from “The Onion.” Overtime has always been one of the big corruption points for the BPD. Wherever you found a dirty cop, you inevitably found he was abusing/falsifying his overtime.

Look, I’m in agreement with anyone who doesn’t want to go out and police the lawlessness that is the City of Baltimore. But then, I didn’t sign up to do that very job. And if one is injured on the job, he certainly shouldn’t be prevented from pulling desk duty. They need to be flexible to help injured officers fully recover. But obviously, there were quite a few who were only on “injured duty” to reap the OT dollars. The OT dries up and look, “It’s a miracle!”

I’ve been saying for the last few years that there is a need for a drastic culture change in this city’s police department. No remedies will take hold as long as the internal ethos is that of shortcuts, unnecessary violence, and corruption. The guy at the top has to change that from within and until that happens, no photo ops, press releases or public events will make any difference.

I’m glad to see that they’re finally making some tangible progress.

Easiest Debunking Ever

Forget Rep. Schiff, I’ll answer your questions:
·        To preserve his safety in the face of your White Power hooligans and because his identity is irrelevant. Everything he blew the whistle on has been corroborated by direct witnesses and the accused, himself.
·        It’s not. There are plenty of Republicans on the investigation committees and you know it because you’re one of them.  The relevant question is, why are you lying about it?
·        Because you are hogging the spotlight.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Odd Bits - The Contextual Edition

Impeach Pits
It’s amusing to watch the Criminal in Chief bluster about how his impeachment process is illegitimate. He literally has no legal leg to stand on, because the Constitution puts the entire responsibility for determining articles of impeachment with the House of Representatives. They get to make of it whatever they want.

The fact that the president doesn’t like it doesn’t make it a valid legal challenge.

He wants the impeachment “authorization” vote so he can get some purple-state Representatives on the record and attack them with election ads. And everyone knows that, especially Speaker Pelosi, who has no good reason to give it to him. She’s letting him dig his own impeachment grave with obstruction after obstruction.

Sometimes I think she should just hold the vote, to get things moving. But the thing is, he would just come up with another requirement that prevents him from complying.

And that’s not just a Trump thing… the Republicans made that an art form when trying to get out of that “Grand Bargain” with Obama on health care and federal spending. Every time he agreed to one thing, Boehner (on behalf of the Tea Baggers) asked for something else until the whole deal swirled down the toilet.

I have no reason to think Trump would cooperate any further than he is now, no matter what Pelosi does.

Debate Pt 1
I was disappointed with CNN’s questioners during their last debate, in that they seemed to be pursuing “Gotcha” moments rather than having the candidates illuminate their positions.

This was especially bad when they pressed Elizabeth Warren on raising middle-class taxes to pay for “Medicare-for-all” health care. Now, everyone knows that a program like that will require some up-front capital. Taxes will go up.

BUT, the salient point is that medical costs will go way down, down to zero, in fact, which should more than compensate for the rise in taxes. The Middle Class should net out to the positive.

On one hand, I wish Warren would just come clean and stop evading that question. But on the other hand, she knows what happens if she does… The CNN headline coming out of the debate becomes, “Warren Says Her Health Care Plan Makes Taxes Go UP on the Middle Class!” Fox “News” will trumpet that every day for the next year.

The problem with modern news distribution now is that inflammatory headlines get big clicks. Burying the context in the story doesn’t undo the damage done by the first impression. And often, that’s the ONLY impression. Fox, of course, won’t even bother to add the part about the offset. They’ll just harp on “The Democrat Socialist is gonna raise yer taxes and take away yer insurance!”

That’s how presidential candidacies die.

Debate Pt 2
It is with similar resignation I saw the reactions to Warren’s point that everyone who built a company in the United States did not do it alone. It’s true. No one accomplishes anything in a vacuum. Everyone needs to use the country’s infrastructure, roads, police, fire departments, snow removal, mail delivery, etc.

Republicans love to mock the “You Didn’t Build This” talking point, which, while inelegantly stated, remains a stone-cold fact. All you have to do is omit the context, a ploy at which Fox “News” is adept.

Every American pays into the pot that provides the infrastructure and services; it only takes a modest sense of decency to accept that and contribute a company’s fair share, rather than park profits in hidden offshore accounts and shell corporations.

The businessmen love to preach “small government,” to keep it out of solving societal problems. But they know full well that if not forced, they, the private sector, will do everything in their power to avoid paying money to solve anything but their quarterly earnings. If the government doesn’t act to solve big-ticket items with money obtained by forcing businesses to pay their share, nothing will ever get solved.

That’s the disconnect between the talking point and real life.

Grift That Keeps on Grifting
There is a lot to laugh at regarding the president’s attempt to grift the entire world by hosting the next G7 conference at his own Doral resort in Florida. And I have to laugh, as opposed to having my brain explode, which is the alternative. Has there ever been a more obvious attempt by a president to enrich himself? AND expect applause for doing so?

Yesterday he reversed himself, blaming (in his usual semi-coherent word salad) the “Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility.” In actuality, he changed his stance right after meeting with House Republicans who said they couldn’t support his position.

It’s not that Republicans are against using their elected office for personal enrichment; it’s that they prefer their grift to take place behind the scenes, not on the front page. They can’t afford to let their “base” catch on to who they’re really working for.

Sucks Being Right All the Time
I saw the report this weekend that the Trump State Department ended its 2-year investigation into Hillary’s emails (AFTER the 11 congressional investigations), and to no one’s surprise, found nothing criminal. Most of the stories were reported with headlines like, Clinton’s email practices were risky but not malicious. Subheading: “Investigators found no “deliberate mishandling” of classified information by Clinton and her aides

All they really found were 38 people who could have been more careful in their emailing security practices.

Once I saw that I knew how conservative media would frame the story. And then, as soon as I Googled the topic, there it was on a Fox “News” website: “38 people cited for violations in Clinton email probe.” The article includes no further mention of Clinton being absolved of criminal activity or concluding there was no deliberate mishandling of classified documents.

I’m sure they’re working overtime to find the identities of these 38 agents of the “Deep State. You got to freshen that enemies list every once in a while, or they get stale.

Debunkery: Getting to the Point
Culled from the wilds of Facebook this weekend:

Here’s former governor and nutjob Jan Brewer tying to thrust herself back into the public eye, by showing what a Republican she is by comparing two superficially similar events while disregarding the context that invalidates her point.

On her part, she ambushed a sitting president, wagging her finger at him the moment he stepped off Air Force One before he even had a chance to comment on the dry heat.

As for Speaker Pelosi, she was reacting to being spoken to, to her face, in derogatory terms, in front of a table of her peers.

So, Brewer and Pelosi both had fingers out. There is nothing else even remotely similar about their actions, which makes any invalidates any logical comparison. And if it were me, I’d probably use a different finger.

Yes, she, in fact, IS wrong.

The country lost a lion of a congressman this weekend when Rep. Elijah Cummings passed away at 68, and I lost my Representative. I was surprised he was only 68; I thought he was in his late 70s, for sure.

But he was on the job even at the bitter end, signing impeachment investigation paperwork from his bed.

We may be able to elect a new representative in his place, but this person will not have anywhere near his power or influence. His district is losing a powerful committee chairmanship, which a freshman congressperson cannot just step into.

I’m not going to go into a detailed retrospective; there is plenty of that all over the news sites. So let me just leave you with some words about our man Elijah, written by my mom, Poet Laureate of Darwinfish2.

“Dancing With the Angels”
for Elijah Cummings  10/17/19

We hear your question
'Did you do right
by our democracy?'

Eternity awaits
a future our children
will never see.

We stand silently
as you dance, smiling
with the angels.

Mary Ann

Monday, October 14, 2019

Talk to the Hand 'Cuz MY Ass Ain't Listening

I’ve suggested before that someone needs to keep track of all the executive orders the current White House occupant has issued so that they might be reversed in the earliest days of the next (Democratic) presidency. But those aren’t the only things of which we should make a note.

When Obama was in office, the Republicans and their media outlets created a lot of controversies and talking points highlighting the alleged failures of the administration. Each one generated the kind of hysteria you would associate with the highest levels of graft, corruption or political incompetence.

Then came Donald Trump, who exhibited, embodied, or enabled each of these previously reviled situations and then added some new ones, and was met with a chorus of crickets from the GOP. What I want to provide here is a list of things I don’t want to hear a peep about, whenever the next Democratic administration takes over.

If they don’t have the honesty or fortitude to complain about it now, I’m not listening to their hypocritical asses later.

The Deficit
As soon as the black guy was in charge, the Tea Party was invented, whose sole purpose was to protest any widening of the deficit. Obama cut the deficit in half from what he inherited and did so with an economy that was spiraling down the toilet.

With his tax cut for the rich, Trump shot the deficit to its highest recorded level in history. So, if they’re not complaining about the deficit now, they have to admit it was not really about the deficit in the first place. It was not liking who was doing the spending, which is not much of an example of high-minded economic analysis. 

Not once did I hear a Republican say, “How are we going to pay for it?” like they do whenever there’s a spending issue that benefits us common folks. They just passed the tax cut for their wealthy benefactors and shut their pie-holes. Without Fox “News” to whip them up, there were no protests, no costumes, no vitriol.

Executive Orders
Remember how the Republicans liked to call Obama’s the Imperial Presidency? They said he was governing via executive order, which was akin to a dictatorship, despite data that showed only one president (GHWB) issued fewer E.O.s than Obama since WWII.

This is from 2014, as are most every other graph I found. I guess that was when Republicans decided executive orders were bad.

Trump is literally doing that very thing and causing a Constitutional crisis while doing it. He’s issuing tariffs via E.O. which is crashing the economy and bankrupting farmers. (The family kind, not giant agri-businesses.) He has usurped Congressional powers of the purse to divert money from US soldier’s homes, facilities and schools, to build his vanity wall. He repealed a rule saying brokers had to put their client’s interests above their own when giving investment advice.

That’s just three; the list goes on, but all without a hint of protest from Republicans. So it must not have really been about Obama issuing executive orders, it was Obama doing things Republicans couldn’t stonewall. When President 46 begins making corrections via E.O., complaints about their use will fall on some deaf-ass ears.

Golf and Vacations
Every single time the Obama family went anywhere, or the president was photographed golfing, Republicans made a big deal about it. Research said the president golfed less than any of his recent predecessors, yet he was portrayed as the one loafing on the job. I’m sure that went right to the tingle-center of those who buy into the trope about lazy, work-avoiding black people.

This president has spent an obscene amount of time golfing (at his own resorts) after being one of the loudest ones complaining about Obama’s golfing, and campaigning on how he would be too busy to golf. Where are the Republican nose-to-the-grindstone types calling him out on that? (There are none.) And this issue leads to:

Financial Deals in Office
Republicans used to complain that Obama made money from books he wrote. It’s funny now how that was the big beef. What is not funny is the deaf ear they turn to Trump’s continued involvement with his hotels and properties. As predicted before his election, foreign governments and businesses curry favor with him by booking floors of rooms at Trump hotels, sometimes without even staying there! That’s just graft, plain and simple.

Sure, he says he’s not running the businesses anymore, but there is little significant difference between running them himself or having his kids run the show.

Every time he stays and golfs at one of his resorts, his whole support and security staff has to stay too. That’s a lot of room fees he can collect right from government funds... you know, the funds his tax cut got his rich colleagues out of providing?

And now, we’ve got a genocide starting up for the simple reason that he does not want to ruffle the feathers of the dictator who runs a country where he has a property.

Any of these financial entanglements would be enough to topple another president. But have you ever even heard a Republican try to pronounce “Emoluments?”

Personally, I don’t think any of the Democratic contenders would ever consider engaging in such sleazy behavior, but if someone has it in them to write a book, I don’t want to hear JS about it.

The big pearl-clutching moment with Obama was how he “lied about being able to keep your own doctor under Obamacare.” Personally, I don’t necessarily think that was a lie. Maybe he was talking about the initial plan but when the sausage was made, keeping your doctor wasn’t possible in some plans. Being wrong about a prediction is not necessarily a lie. But you’d never know that from the opposition talking points of the time.

On the other hand, we now have… what’s he up to, over 12,000 verifiable lies while in office? The guy lies about everything, even stuff that doesn’t require being lied about. And what do Republicans do? They tie themselves in knots to justify the lies, as if they can just frame it right, they can turn something false into something true. Or at least truthy.

I don’t want to hear politicians lie about anything, but as far as I’m concerned, Republicans have lost their rights to call out lies by anyone about anything. They’ve had 12,000 chances to get it right and they looked the other way every time.

Foreign Policy
Republicans used to complain that Obama was making us weak overseas, that he wasn’t decisive enough, and was getting rolled by other leaders. This was despite his winning a Nobel Peace Prize simply for not being George W. Bush.

But our allies always knew Obama was in their corner and the US was there for them. He was never laughed at by members of the UN for giving rambling and incoherent speeches. He met with leaders on the record, so there was no mystery about secret deals. Oh, and he had bin Laden hunted down and taken out with zero American lives lost.

Trump is a joke on foreign policy. Unless he has a hotel there, they’re all shithole countries to him. He cozies up to the worst dictators on the planet and insults the leaders of our longest, strongest allies. He’s given top-secret intelligence to our top planetary rival, blowing the cover of highly placed assets in the process. And the Republicans are all along for the ride, probably celebrating the cost savings from all the unfilled State Department jobs.

Republicans don’t get to criticize Democratic foreign policy ever again. The current clown-in-chief should be tied around their necks while they’re tossed into the Potomac. A child could conduct fairer and more constructive foreign policy than this guy has.

I had more issues in mind and if I were a more concise writer, I might have been able to talk about them all. Issues like hiring friends and relatives, changing the Senate rules, choosing partisan SCOTUS nominees, packing the courts with partisan and often unqualified judges, abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban or Kurdish Syria to the Turks… the list goes on. Trump and the Republicans did all of this.

Should any Democratic administration do something analogous, I don’t want to hear a peep about any of it. If Republicans silently condone this behavior now, they can STFU about it later. They had their chance to speak on the issue and opted to take their tax cuts, gutted government agencies, and conservative judges and sit it out.

They won’t, of course, because they are shameless in their attempts to smear their opponents for doing things they have already done, themselves. So it becomes our job to call them out on it. We need to remember the shit show from this administration and put those who alibi for its atrocities on notice.

We remember what you did and took note of your stance. If you don’t like what you see now, tell it to the mirror.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Debunkery - The Nepotistic Edition

Republicans still haven’t accepted that their Grand Poobah has really gotten his tail caught under the rocker this time. They’re still out there trying to defend the indefensible. The current tactic is to divert attention. 

Do they really want to poke this hornet’s nest? It seems to me that all politicians are ripe for familial investigations into the lives and bank accounts of their privileged progeny, especially Republicans, who have been stacking their people in government jobs and on corporate boards for decades. Just look at today’s most visible:

 And these are just the Big Names.

Maybe someone can explain to me how Hunter Biden is any different than any other offspring of well-heeled politicians. But it seems to me that it’s just another freshly made up requirement that only Democrats have to follow.

You want to restrict family of political figures getting rich or powerful off the family name, pass a law. I would support it. But until that happens, it’s nothing to even get heated up about, let alone absolve the president from his admitted treason.

Straight from the Troll Farm
This one pisses me off just because there’s so much wrong with it.

1) Do we really know that’s Biden’s house? Could be any big house in a nice area.

2) THAT’S the biggest mansion in the state? I doubt it. If that’s in Pennsylvania, I know for a fact that there are athletes with bigger spreads. If it’s Delaware, I still doubt it, because of the state’s status as a tax haven. I bet lots of wealthy people live there for that very reason.

3) How do we know Bernie has four houses? Because some meme says so? A quick Google check says he has two homes in Vermont and a townhouse in DC. Are they counting the Senate as one of his houses?

4) The Obamas have one mansion and are in the process of buying another. Plus they’re looking at a third in the area of their daughter’s school. Nope, haven’t “got their third.”

5) No one made their money by lecturing on income inequality. That may be a part of their overall political messaging, especially for Bernie, but the statement here is a gross oversimplification.

All those points are really just nits. The biggest issue:

6) The meme creator is attempting to show the hypocrisy of rich people talking about income inequality while being rich at the same time. That’s really a misdirection because none of the people named in the example are what you would call hirers. While they may have their own personal staffs, (whom we have no idea what they’re paid), they do not run businesses, factories, retail outlets, construction or agricultural jobs. The point of those condemning income inequality is the discrepancy between the millions made by those at the top of a company versus the slave wages paid to those at the bottom.

They’re talking about a system that normalizes millions of dollars in bonuses being paid to executives of failing businesses. They may be closing stores and plants and tossing people out of work, but the top guys are still walking away with their bonuses and stock options.

So essentially, this meme is barking up the wrong tree and lining up the wrong, if politically expedient, target.

Now if the Walton family were out there talking about income inequality and were listed on a similar meme, that would be a valid complaint. But let’s not kid ourselves, the Waltons are the poster children for suppressed wages and dead-end jobs. Their Mission Statement is income suppression. They think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

How to be Sexist AND Ignorant

Diminishing AOC as a mere bartender is the very height of sexism and racism, not to mention selective memory. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is a highly educated individual who graduated a high-caliber college with honors, who expresses herself clearly and effectively, so much so that she bounced a career politician from his seat. And in the process, she scared the hell out of the Republican establishment so badly that they do everything in their power to diminish the stature of a freshman Representative; a neophyte who wouldn’t otherwise garner a moment of their attention.

Being a bartender or doing any "menial" job doesn't disqualify someone from knowing what she's talking about.

And young Greta? The kid is a powerhouse and any 16-year-old who can give a powerful speech to the United freakin’ Nations in her second language is someone to whom we should listen. When I was 16, I couldn’t find my asshole with both hands and a funnel.

And beyond this raging ageism and sexism, the meme misses still another huge point: These two don’t claim to be climate experts. They merely claim that we should listen to and act on the advice of those who ARE climate experts, who are nearly unanimous in the conclusion that our climate is changing because of mankind’s actions and will cause huge consequences if corrective action is not taken immediately.

The fact that this 16-year-old Swedish girl is getting hate mail for eloquently and urgently stating the obvious says more about male ignorance and insecurity than it does about her.

The knives are out for both women because they scare the powerful rich men who would have to take a financial hit if they were to do anything to positively affect climate change. When rich men get scared, they take action to squash and diminish anyone who would dare to suggest curtailing their profits. In this case, I’d guess they sent word to their troll farm to start sending around the memes to take these two down via social media.

I mean, who cares about lives and property lost someday in the future, compared to a solid 4th Quarter report this year, right?

Monday, September 30, 2019

I Wanna Know, Have You Ever Seen Ukraine...

…Comin’ down on Donny’s Day?”

(Sorry... Weird Al's job is safe from the likes of me.)

When you think of all the things or places that could bring down the presidency, who had Ukraine in the pool? I mean, you would have thought Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, Scotland, or a host of shit-hole countries would be the logical choices.

But boy, did he step in it here. This has all the hallmarks of a good scandal: Personal gain, underhandedness, and a cover-up.

It’s funny how the rest of the Republicans are still pushing the Biden “scandal.” This was an issued that had been debunked ages ago. There is literally nothing there.

I can’t believe Republicans are even interested in this kind of scandal. I mean, how would they like to see a survey of where their kids work? At how many corporate boards are their offspring currently sitting? How much scrutiny about political favors and no-bid contracts can they withstand? I can’t believe they even let the subject come up.

Nevertheless, we now have Republicans pushing a “scandal” on their opponents which has zero proof and denying the president’s scandal that has loads of proof, including self-admitted! They’re not just morally and ethically bankrupt; now they’re actually believing their own bullshit.

This meme on it amused me for its sheer lameness:

Someone, please explain to these guys that it’s not hearsay if the material has been corroborated multiple times by people for whom it was NOT hearsay… people who heard the call themselves. That’s what the Inspector General said in the “Whistleblower Report.”

Plus, there is the “not-a-transcript” that the White House released which confirms everything that was alleged about the conversation. This meme-ster needs to pull his head from the dark place in which it’s lodged.

Did you hear about the Trump supporters in Congress fretting about how he shouldn’t have released the not-a-transcript? They’re not concerned with the mafia shakedown, they’re just upset it got out. There’s the modern Republican party right there. Better to bury the crime rather than admit it. From the Washington Post, one Republican senator said:

The transcript’s release was a “huge mistake” that the GOP now has to confront and defend — while the party argues at the same time that House Democrats are overreaching with their impeachment inquiry of Trump.”

That’s too bad… this pesky transcript contradicts the talking points they’re supposed to follow. How can they deny the facts that the White House just admitted? Golly, what a pickle. It’s made it hard to follow the usual playbook:

Again, it’s too bad their default position is to alibi for the president rather than confront his illegal behavior. Remember, laws are just for Democrats to follow! They’re only the party of Law and Order when they’re not holding power.

Other Republican senators have been quoted as saying they’d for impeachment if the vote was secret.

Well isn’t that the very definition of superior ethics and backbone? Spineless weasels! They’re more than happy to let terrible precedents be set while the democracy swirls down the toilet, just as long as they get re-elected.

What these Republicans AND wobbly Democrats from purple states need to do, in my humble opinion, is own the vote and lean into it. Come out and say, “No one is above the law, including the president. His own transcript showed he sought election help from a foreign government at the exact time he was holding up millions in military aid. That’s not the way this country is supposed to function. This is a matter of national security and I’ll defend that every time.”

Then, if Republican, throw support behind Pence. Hell, he’s practically the same, only substitute oily religious piety for obnoxiousness.

The other juicy angle on this whole affair is how Trump’s handlers diverted the actual transcript onto an ultra-secure server, which can only be accessed by those with top clearance. Or essentially, tossed into a black hole.

At this point, the hypocrisy factor goes off the charts.

I need Republicans to start explaining how Hillary’s server problems were different or more dangerous to the country than this one.

That, right there, is a 5-alarm, no-doubt-about-it, cover-up. That server was designed for national security secrets… troop maneuvers, battle plans, weapon design… serious stuff. It was not meant to be a dumpster for politically damaging conversations. By all accounts, there were no national security implications in that conversation with the Ukraine president. It was a puff call; just something to welcome the new guy to the table. Until Trump sent it off the rails, that is.

Another thing about the not-a-transcript… Was President Zelensky trying to join the GOP 2020 ticket? I haven’t heard such toadying since the last cabinet meeting at which Pence spoke. Looks like the book is out on how to curry favor with the American president.

Now what’s the outcome going to be for this impeachment process? That’s anyone’s guess. I think the House will impeach, for sure. The Senate is where the questions come in.

Mitch McConnell says he’s required to hold a hearing, but we all know what a dog and pony show that can be. The verdict will not be decided until the Koch Brother says it is. He’ll tell Mitch what to do and Mitch will make it so, one way or another.

It wouldn’t totally surprise me if he allowed the impeachment of the president. The fossil fuel guys know that Pence is one of them. He’s been in lockstep with them ever since he’s been in office… any office. The only variable is whether they can get such a wet blanket elected in 2020. We all know they have enough money to throw at the problem. Maybe they’ll figure he’ll do whatever they want to, like Trump does, only Pence won’t step on his dick every week while doing it.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Debunkery - The Patriotic Edition

I usually prowl through Facebook once or twice a day and because I have a number of conservative friends, I get to see a lot of conservative propaganda and memes. You’ve probably seen me debunk these here before; it’s something I enjoy. I do this because I prefer to use Facebook as a way to keep up with friends and family I have all over the country, and not argue politics. (That’s what the blog is for.)

So as much as I’d like to get into a four-alarm flamer over some of these ridiculous claims, I really don’t want to fight with friends. I know I’ll ring a bell that can’t be unrung. Maybe one day soon, or in a time a long way off, I may reverse that position. I may decide I don’t really need quite so many friends or I may hit the breaking point on what I consider to be violations of the minimum of human decency and come out with my keyboard blazing. That will be a big day in family lore.

But for now, I tuck them away for days like today, when I can give them the attention they deserve.

It’s funny though, because there are several scenarios with these memes. Sometimes I see them and I have the gist of my response written in my head in a moment or two. These are usually ones with a glaring logical fallacy or something missing right on the surface. These make up most of the ones I find. Like this one:

I think memes like this say more about the shallowness of the poster than any essay or speech ever will.

It says, “I like my patriotism simple, like me.”

This is really about Easy Patriotism. It’s easy to parade the flag around and claim to be US Patriot Number One. It’s a lot harder to stand up for what the flag symbolizes… a free country where people can speak truth to power and pursue happiness in their own ways.

Conservatives give lip service to that idea, so we’re free to pursue collecting lethal military hardware, until our heart’s content. Who cares if that hobby has the potential to kill tens or hundreds of innocent people?

But pursue a same-sex relationship or marriage and you’re outta luck, despite that it has no practical effect on other people’s lives even a little bit. This “liberty” only extends to being allowed to use one’s religion to harass or deny service to people who make them feel icky. (Or unnaturally warm inside… sometimes it’s hard to tell.)

And believe me, if the stage was draped with flags, they’d complain that the candidates weren’t wearing flag lapel pins. And if they were wearing the pins, they’d complain that they weren’t wearing red, white and blue boater hats, or socks or ties. It’s always something. There is always some arbitrary standard that Republicans think Democrats are supposed to meet.

It’s also noteworthy how they set up “Socialists” as ones who oppose the flag. It’s always the fault of “Socialists,” whenever someone wants to better the situation for the average person. That’s because the rich continue to pump out this message, through Fox “News” bot farms, Breitbart, and other disinformation sources, so that they can keep the status quo going long enough to leave their ill-gotten riches to their offspring, without those pesky capital gains and estate taxes.

Anyway, I’ve probably given this meme too much attention already, considering the featherweight gravity it entails.

Another kind of meme is one where it takes a moment to figure out what their point really is.

Is it anti-college? Anti-celebrity? Anti-immigration? And where are illegal immigrants getting free college? There’s no such program out there…

Then it hit me… They’re talking about the various universal free college proposals from the Democratic debates. Ahhhhhhhhh, there it is.

Here’s another way of phrasing it: “We’d rather saddle our kids (or ourselves) with a lifetime of debt and have nobody get a free college education rather than to let any illegal immigrants get them too.”

That is some industrial-strength racism, right there.

And that’s not even accounting for the favored excuse they’re only against undocumented immigration because “it’s illegal,” yet Republicans keep making it harder and harder to immigrate legally. Unless you’re from one of the white countries, that is. Then you just have to be able to sign your name, and rub your belly and pat your head at the same time. That gets you an “Einstein” visa.

Also, let’s compare and contrast. So far, getting caught cheating to get your kid into college results in a 2-week jail sentence in a minimum-security facility. Contrast that with what happens to anyone trying to immigrate across the southern border, legally or not. Family separation with sketchy odds of reunification (because they don’t bother to keep track of whose kid goes where), indefinite detention in crowded cages, no soap, shampoo or baths, minimum of food and water, and eventual redepositing back in Mexico. Are these really equitable scenarios?

And who are they even trying to kid? Republicans don’t want higher education for anyone, except white guys getting business degrees. They want the population pliable, not educated. They want us to have enough skill to do menial labor and be grateful for the crumbs we get in return. They certainly don’t want us to be smart enough to pick up on their master plans.
(Note: This meme is to illustrate my last point, and is not something that I'm debunking. You can't debunk what's true!)

So let me get this straight… they’re saying, “We don’t want free college if brown immigrants get it too. That way, we get to keep all the money we cheat out of the system and no one is the wiser.” Got it.

Sometimes, and this is rare, I’ll see a meme that I can’t discount on sight, like this one.

When I first saw it, I thought, “Wow that sounds bad. How could that happen?”

But I’ve learned you have to take it a step further and ask: “Is this even true? These things are never this simple. There’s always something omitted.”

Three minutes worth of research told me that was correct. (And two and a half of those minutes were spent reading the article.) Thank to you, who was right on it.

Snopes said that there was such a plea deal with this person, but neither Obama nor the justice department had anything to do with it. The plea deal was produced by the defendant’s attorney and approved by a federal judge, a George HW Bush appointee, to boot.

So, to summarize, this was a raging half-truth. There was such a guy who copped such a plea but the “blaming” portion of it was entirely made up, probably by the NRA, who look like they’re trying to get out from under a mountain of righteous, well-deserved blame.

This is how the Russians (and other untrustworthy social forces) win. They know that if they produce something that sounds true, the people who want to believe it will buy it completely and pass it on.

The last thing they want is for people to check on these memes with Snopes, Politifact, or any other independent fact-checking organization. Knowledge and tenacity are the only ways we beat industrial-strength persuasion tactics of these enemies of the state.

Opinions and arguments are subjective. They can be debated and called out for errors of logic. Memes like this last one are the easiest to debunk because they allege facts and facts can be looked up.

I think I may go back to Facebook and drop that Snopes link into the timeline of the person who posted that last meme. Seems I just talked myself into it.

If you see smoke coming from the internet, please send help.