Monday, November 27, 2017

Don't Count on Impeachment

Don’t even think about all the calls for the president’s impeachment; it won’t change a thing, except that the sideshow leaves town. Even if Robert Mueller’s investigation brings down his whole team, all of the noxious ideas spewing from Washington will continue

Because he’s the president, everything that’s going on in Washington is being laid at Trump’s feet, but that’s not necessarily the case. What Trump is trying to do comes right from the mainstream GOP leaders and will continue whether he is president or not.

For example, there’s the leadership tussle at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Director of the CFPB resigned recently and named his chief of staff as his interim successor, as stated in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act (which established the Bureau). That successor is to remain in charge until the president formally nominates someone and that person is approved by the Senate.

Meanwhile, Trump named his own interim director, Mick Mulvaney, who is his current director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney has also called the CFPB a “sad, sick joke.” As with other organizations that they deem "business-unfriendly, Trump has appointed a “leader” whose top job is to neuter, defang and destroy the organization he’s running.

Remember that the CFPB’s sole purpose is making sure that the public is not being screwed by banks and providing remedies like class action suits when they are. Ask yourself why the Republicans are siding with banks instead of you.

There shouldn’t even be a discussion of who is going to be in charge for the near future. Dodd-Frank spells it out clearly. Elizabeth Warren has been sharing the text of the bill on Facebook. It’s not at all ambiguous. But President Trump is not concerned with what the law says; he wants what he wants and that’s what all the GOP leadership wants… to make things more prosperous for the upper class.

But impeaching Trump does nothing to protect the CFPB. Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and all the boys will step in and continue the process of milking the American public for every dollar they can squeeze out. And they’ll do it without wearing the clown shoes. As long as Trump is in there, every minute they spend trying to keep a lid on his baser instincts is a minute they’re not spending trying to screw us.

Same issue with Net Neutrality… a concept that simply means that internet providers do not have the right to pick and choose what content they provide to consumers or charge based on the type of content delivered. The Obama Administration, via the FCC, classified the internet as a utility, not unlike the gas and electric companies. The power company cannot charge you one price for operating your TV and another for your stove.

This move was hailed far and wide by the internet-using public and decried by Republican leadership as over-regulation. (Whenever there’s a regulation in favor of the general public at the expense of big business, they call it over-regulation.)

The new FCC leader just announced a proposal to roll back Net Neutrality and allow ISPs to self-determine their method of billing, by removing the utility aspect of the internet. At the moment, ISPs like Comcast are falling all over themselves saying they “have no plans” to change the way we buy internet service.

But you’d better believe they’ll have plans once the change becomes official. There’s a reason they’re all fighting so hard to repeal Net Neutrality and it’s not because of some high-minded concept. They’ll want to make your internet service just like cable service… bundles, packages, pay-per-view… It would all be legal with the new federal guidelines.
Without Net Neutrality, your internet service options could look like this.

Impeaching Trump changes none of that. The rest of the GOP leadership has been fighting Net Neutrality since before The Donald even thought about running for office. It’s another situation where big business gets bigger and richer and we end-users pay the price.

And if media consolidation continues like it has been, there may some websites your provider won’t let you access at any price. Right now, Time Inc. just agreed to be bought by an entity backed by the Koch Brothers. And CNN is being aggressively pursued by Rupert Murdoch, with help from the Trump Administration. They are holding up a merger of Time Warner with AT&T until they sell off CNN and other assets.
It’s not like we have that much media ownership diversity right now.

If you have Rupert Murdoch, the source behind the conservative juggernaut that is Fox “News,” running the show, do you think he’s not going to influence content decisions of his new internet provider?

And forget about CNN ever being legitimate again. In one move, he’ll have silenced a respected provider of inconvenient facts and most prominent critic of his Fox empire.
They can block, restrict or extort for a price, the access to progressive sites, political enemies,
None of these activities originate with Donald Trump and they will not cease if he’s booted out.

This is what Republicans do when they have the carte blanche of operating the executive and legislative bodies. The only legitimate course of action we have is the 2018 and 2020 elections.

People need to make sure they’re registered, right now. Republican state governments are actively trying to “purge their voter rolls of fraud,” or in other words, those likely to vote Democratic. They know they’re pissing off a lot of the electorate and they’ve already gerrymandered the House into their own virtual kingdom, but the last thing they want is a swarm of angry voters showing up to vote.

Look for urban voting centers to be eliminated, licensing agencies to close, fees for IDs to increase and misinformation to blossom as to where and when to vote.

Think that can’t happen? It already has, in red states all over the country.

They don’t care about our voice, they don’t count our votes, they ignore our overwhelming will for common sense regulation, be it guns to abortion to birth control. To Republicans, we are nothing but a source of income; a resource to be wrung dry, a commodity to be bought and sold.

We need to speak up in a loud voice, that we will no longer stand for it. And we must do it at the polls.

That’s the only way that counts.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Odd Bits - The Funneling Upward Edition

More Lying
I want you to keep in mind that every time a Republican refers to the current legislative abomination as a “middle-class tax cut,” they are lying through their teeth. (Much in the same way they called an environmental bill that loosened pollution rules The Clear Skies Act, which did absolutely nothing to make the skies clearer.) It’s all in the name of conning you into thinking you’re getting part of the pie.

As I’ve said before, their primary concern is to get a massive tax cut for businesses and the top 1%. Anything aimed at the middle class will be the minimum amount necessary to get the bill passed. In other words, the scraps.

And they know they have to hurry. Republican control of the executive and legislative branches may end at any time, depending on who gets swept into or out of office on the wave of a scandal.

Notice that the tax cuts for the rich are made permanent, while the scraps for the lower and middle classes expire in a few years. That alone tells you where their priorities are. (They ain’t with you and me.)

Also, notice how they’re giving us the scraps with one hand while taking them back with the other. Sure, we may benefit from a higher standard deduction, but they also end deductions for state tax and other deductions commonly used by us non-rich. End result will often be a wash.  Meanwhile, there is no check or closing of loopholes surrounding the cuts for the highest earners.

They’re also trying to do an end-around on crippling the ACA by ending the mandatory insurance requirement. That saves money on the cost of the bill but results in millions of people losing their insurance when the rates go up to accommodate the loss of premiums.

That section might not make the cut, however, because the same senators who shot down the health care bills before might do so again (unless they can be threatened or browbeaten into submission by the party machinery and rich donors.) At least two, Flake and McCain, have nothing to lose, due to their not seeking re-election. And if they don’t vote before the Alabama election, they might lose another vote there.

I’m not optimistic on that front. If it starts to look like the Democrat is in line to win the seat, I expect the state GOP to pull something like delaying the election. They don’t care how bad it looks; Koch Brothers want their tax cut, appearances be damned. (It’s the same way they were impervious to public pressure when they stalled a Supreme Court nomination for 10 months. Their benefactors’ voice is the only ones they hear.)

That deafening silence you hear? That’s coming from the deficit-hawk tea baggers, who proclaimed for the last 8 years that increasing the deficit was the road to ruin. They should probably issue a retroactive disclaimer that deficits are just fine as long as rich, white people are getting their taxes cut.

Just watch, if this bill passes and the deficit balloons, these simpering bastards will start looking for social programs to cut, which has always been the other half of their goal. They’re not going to cut a dollar from the defense budget, believe me… only programs that help the lower and middle class will be in jeopardy.

And the idea that businesses are going to plunge their new-found revenues into more jobs and higher wages? A group of CEOs shot that one down last week. It was almost laughable. An administration flak asked a roomful of corporate CEOs, how many of you “plan to increase your company’s capital investments?” Only a few hands went up.

Why? Companies are already massively profitable. They can push their cash anywhere they choose right now, but it’s better for them if their profit margin is higher. So, you don’t see that kind of investment now and you won’t see it later if this tax bill passes.

That right there undercuts every rationale the Republicans are using to trick you into supporting a tax plan that screws you just to benefit them. This plan is simply a way to take money from the Have Nots and move it to the Haves.

Rest in Peace
There were a couple of well-known deaths in the news over the weekend.

Most upsetting to me was the loss of AC/DC founder and rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young. He had been suffering from dementia and related ailments since 2014. 
I’ve written about my life-long love of AC/DC before. People usually know his younger brother, eternally schoolboy-suited Angus Young, as the focal point and face of the band, but Malcolm was the heart. As the rhythm guitarist, he created some of the most monumental and powerful guitar riffs in rock and roll.  You know the songs…

You Shook Me, Dirty Deeds, Highway to Hell, TNT, Whole Lotta Rosie, Let There Be Rock, and so many others… they’re all songs you know the instant they come on, due to that signature riff, which was played (and probably written) by Malcolm Young.

Writing hooks that catchy and that powerful… it’s not easy. Sure AC/DC is loud and primitive, but they’ve always had that big hook that goes straight to your groove center and that’s something I find sorely lacking in modern music.

Mister Young will be missed, by a legion of old metalheads, like me.

Director’s DVD Commentary: How cool are my parents when on Sunday, my 79-year old dad sent me a condolences text for Malcolm Young? I must have raised them right.

Rot in Hell
In happier news, cancer on mankind, Charles Manson, died in prison this weekend.

It’s about time. Now we can be spared his regular moments in the spotlight every time he comes up for parole. As if THAT was ever going to happen.

It’s funny though, about the timing. Last month, I just re-read the book Helter Skelter, which is an account of the whole Manson saga as written by the prosecutor who put them all in jail. (I’d seen a TV movie based on the book, back in the early 80s, I think, then read the book a few years later.)

What struck me the most during my re-examination of the story, was how horribly the LAPD botched the investigation. They literally had one of the murder weapons in their possession for months, without knowing about it. And they neglected to investigate the area where it was found, or else they would have located incriminating, bloody clothing as well. A news crew found this stash when they followed the lead themselves.

The prosecutor also lamented his troubles in getting them to, well, DO anything. He’d give them leads to check out, based on his interviews with the Manson clan or associates, then check back weeks later to find they hadn’t worked on any of them.

You’d think that a case of such notoriety would have gotten people off their butts, but they seemed entirely indifferent. It’s a wonder he got convictions on ANY of the killers, let alone the guy who never actually killed anyone himself.

The trial itself was a real three-ring circus. Because Manson was not allowed to represent himself, he hired a lawyer known for his dilatory tactics, like objecting to everything the prosecution said and did. Manson repeatedly disrupted hearings, to the point where he was forbidden from attending. He followed the proceedings from a side room.

His three co-defendants, each with their own counsel, caused numerous disruptions as well, which Manson was assumed to have orchestrated.

As a boy, I remember reading about the murders in our Time/Life Year in Review annuals. I found them fascinating as well as horrifying. It all seemed so exotic, and I guess it was. It’s not like we’ve ever seen anything like that ever since.

Anyway, we’re shut of the likes of Charlie Manson now. The world is a better place without him.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

I said ‘Honey I’ll live with ya for the rest of mah life,’
She said ‘No huggy, no kissy ‘til you make me your wife.’
Oh honey, mah baby, don’t put my love up on no shelf.
She said, ‘Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself.’”

Was no one paying attention to the Georgia Satellites back in 1986? It would have saved everyone so much aggravation. Or at least listen to your mother…

Now Harvey, don’t touch, and for Pete’s sake put that thing away. Nobody wants to see that…”

I guess the famous quote is true: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” ~Sir John Dalberg-Acton

What we have going on in America is an epidemic of uncontrolled ego and power, manifesting itself in boorish and sometimes criminal behavior and it’s allllll coming to light.

The publicized cases seem to be the famously powerful… movie producers, politicians, directors, high-powered actors, and comedians… and I’m sure it runs deeper than that, up to the not-so-famous men of business and industry.

Anywhere there are men who feel they’re beyond reproach, we’re finding men who feel the need to reach out and touch someone. Lady-someones, mostly.

If I were a powerful mogul with shenanigans like that in my past, I’d be trembling in my designer wingtips. That’s the thing with a movement like we’re seeing; the more that comes out, the more people are emboldened to tell their own stories.

People have always known about the Hollywood stories; I mean, we even know the term for it: The Casting Couch. Personally, I always thought that was a thing of the past; something relegated to the old movie studios of the 40s and 50s. Obviously, I was mistaken. A chorus of actresses is telling us that it’s still very much a “thing.”

To me, it’s telling to see how these stories play across the political landscape.

When the Weinstein stories started coming out, Fox “News” was all over it, to the point you thought the guy’s name was “Democratic Fundraiser Harvey Weinstein,” or “Hillary Clinton Donor Harvey Weinstein.” All the knives came out for the “Hollywood Elite,” which is dog whistle for “no-good, uppity liberals.”

Then the Roy Moore story came out. Whole different story.
If true,” huh? Yeah, that’s an important distinction, but only when a conservative white man is accused. Because, after all, the biggest tragedy of them all is one innocent white guy out of a hundred guilty ones, getting punished.

Contrast that to the “law and order” death penalty advocates, where if one innocent black man is killed along with a hundred guilty ones, that’s just the cost of doing business, because he probably did something else no one knows about.

When a Democrat screws up, other Democrats boot him off the team.  Just ask Anthony Weiner.
But just listen to the alibis for Roy Moore. They’re even trotting out biblical quotes to rationalize molesting a 14-year-old girl. And then while they’re sharpening their knives for the victims, they incredulously ask why they didn’t come forward sooner?

Why do you think, Gomer? Because you and your Bible-thumping buddies are about to make their lives a living hell.

One more just came out today. A woman who, when she was a 16-year-old waitress, let Moore (who was the local district attorney), give her a ride home from work, and on the way, he felt her up and tried to force her head onto his crotch. Her story coming out is only possible by the existence of the first four stories.

Moore is most famous as the judge who insisted on posting the Ten Commandments on the courthouse walls and was removed from the bench for defying the Supreme Court on the matter.  I wonder which commandment says to sexually assault a minor.

What the hell is up with Alabama anyway? I saw an article that said that Roy Moore revelations made Alabama evangelical Christians 40% more likely to vote for him.

Alabama: Throwing off the learning curve since the 1800s. It’s the only state where molesting a minor makes a politician more relatable.

You know, every time you turn around, there’s another story about a woman who’s been murdered by her husband or boyfriend. Cops don’t even pretend to look for anyone else unless the significant other is on video elsewhere at the time of the crime. And even then, he probably hired someone to do it for him.

Between getting beaten, raped, killed, sexually assaulted, mentally abused, cat-called, black-balled, and paid seventy cents on the dollar, I don’t see how we even propagate the species anymore. If I were a woman, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near men, let alone live with one.

It’s a testament to Woman’s limitless capacity for forgiveness and seeing the good in people that Man can even find someone to tolerate him.

And speaking of tolerating lower lifeforms, Happy Birthday to Sweetpea. This man thanks his lucky stars every day that she puts up with him.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Professional Wrestling has Nothing on Fox "News"

If you’ve read me for very long, you know I take a lot of shots at Fox “News.” Every one of them is deserved. They are not a news service at all; they are the media mouthpiece for the Republican party. Their only mission is to create and maintain a conservative voting bloc by any means necessary.

If a Democrat discovered a vaccine for cancer and offered it for free to the world, they would call him a Socialist and condemn him for undermining the free market. That’s how skewed a world vision they have. No Democrat has ever, nor will ever, take an action that merits their approval.

While they rarely come straight out and present bald-faced lies as news, they more often skew the context of news stories by slanting graphics or omitting mitigating facts or anything that would lessen the conservative outrage they are trying to whip up.

These tactics have been uncovered and parsed at various other sites. But up until recently, I didn’t know how “canned” their interview and debate segments were until I read this article by former Fox talking head, Tobin Smith.

If you have any friends or relatives who swear by the veracity of Fox “News,” you should click and read the article right now because it shows how every moment of every panel segment is carefully scripted so that the conservatives trounce the liberals in the most psychologically satisfying way.

It is the professional wrestling of the talking head genre, without a genuine moment to be seen.

Here’s how they do it…

They start with hand-picking the actors to play the liberal parts. The liberal panelist will always play to liberal stereotypes. They’ll be geeky, condescending, unattractive and usually a person of color or obvious ethnicity.

These actors will roll out the most strained liberal arguments… they’re practically straw men made flesh… AND, the entire argument will be provided to the conservative commentator in advance.

The faux-liberals will do their thing, guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of the target audience, who are, as Roger Ailes put it, white “men from age 55 to dead.” Then the last word goes to the conservative closer, who comes in and tears the liberal argument to shreds.

It is carefully directed to rile the conservative base and then flood them with “My team won” endorphins as their guy logs a convincing win using time-worn conservative talking points. It’s not at all different to the feeling of watching your favorite football team stage a comeback to best their biggest rival.

Every word of it is a psychological ploy, designed to play on the biases of their base. And now this isn’t just speculation, it’s a fact, coming from a former participant.

Sure, Fox backers may claim, “It’s just a disgruntled former employee.”

If so, where are the lawsuits? Smith’s article came out in May. If his disclosure was untrue, you’d expect them to sue. But the last thing they want is for their production techniques to become common knowledge.

Smith also describes the rampant sexism that flows through the organization.

Granted, it’s not difficult to tell what their physical standards are for female on-air talent. They’re all gorgeous, long-haired (usually blonde) model-types. That’s not an accident.

But for former network head, Roger Ailes, that often wasn’t good enough. From the Smith column:

Many times when I was on set Roger would call down from his 2nd-floor office packed with TV screens to tell female anchors during breaks (“I have a call for you from the Second Floor) to “tart it up — tits up and necklines down.

For the non-endowed female anchors, this meant being required to wear an uplifting “water-bra” while on set to meet Roger’s idea of what a female host on Fox should look like.

“The older the hosts got, the bigger the water bra and the longer the hair/eyelash extensions got too.”

Is it any wonder that one female host after another filed sexual harassment or discrimination suits?
The choreography also extended to the hosted shows, like O’Reilly or Hannity. If you didn’t argue the points they wanted, in the way they wanted, you ceased to get call-backs. So when you think you’re seeing an impromptu interview or discussion, it’s already been informally scripted and agreed upon.

Red State Theater; that’s all it is.

I remember reading something about this by comedian Al Franken, back before he was Senator Al Franken. In his book “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” he talked about the Fox show “Hannity and Colmes.” This was supposed to be a point/counterpoint kind of show with a liberal (Colmes) and conservative (Hannity) battling out the day’s news.

Franken was often disturbed by the performance of Colmes, who never “won” and rarely brought up important, salient points to discredit Hannity.

One time, Franken met Colmes face to face and offered his assistance. He offered a couple of effective facts, counters, and debunkings for future use on Hannity’s assertions.

Colmes’s response?  “That's not the format of our show.”

Franken was like, “Why not, it’s your job to be the liberal, isn’t it?”

No, his job was to be the punching bag who lets Hannity say whatever he wants.

The last thing Fox “News” is going to allow is a liberal to make sense on their network.

If Democrats are to make any progress in the upcoming elections, the effect of Fox “News” must be mitigated. There are vast segments of the country who get their news from Fox and only Fox. They’ve convinced their viewership that any news source that contradicts Fox is by definition, promoting fake news.

Most aren’t equipped to combat the onslaught of misinformation projected at them daily. They are psychologically outgunned by the master-level persuasion techniques wielded by Fox.

The only hope is that they’ll listen to one of their own… a guy for whom they used to cheer.

Scroll back up and click the link to the Tobin Smith column. Become familiar with the contents. Bookmark it if you can. Use it the next time that friend or relative tells you about something they heard on Fox.

Fox “News” is basically lying to every single one of its viewers. They are putting on a fake version of a live discussion panel show. They are to real news as professional wrestling is to Olympic wrestling; a scripted, truth-free imitation of a genuine product and Tobin Smith has proof.

Spread the word.