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?