Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The health care debacle

March 26, 2017

Have you finally had it yet — with the incompetence and dysfunction; the war on truth; the conflicts of interest; the irresponsibility; the ties to Russia’s criminal regime; the just plain craziness?

It would be a joke if it weren’t sickening. The one signature Republican campaign promise — indeed, a downright hysterical vow — to repeal Obamacare — they’ve fluffed. Over seven years, they voted around 50 times to repeal it, just phony posturing without control of the White House. Now they do control it, plus the Senate and House, and they can’t even manage to get to a vote.*

And blame the Democrats! Trump’s fulminating afterwards was simply deranged, saying “explosion” of the health insurance system (a wild exaggeration) will be their problem (“now they own it”), and they’re bound to come running to the White House to make a deal to fix it. As if the Great Deal Maker could consummate a deal with Democrats when he couldn’t even do it among his own Republicans. And as if Democrats control Congress. And as if it’s not actually the Republicans’ problem because they’re the ones in charge now.

Indeed, Trump even says failure of his very bad health care bill may be a good thing, not because it was a bad bill, but because now we can (somehow, later) get that beautiful, tremendous, wonderful program he’s still bizarrely fantasizing about. As if he actually had any idea what such a program might actually be, never mind how to get it passed.

And never mind about health care anyway now. After seven years of obsessing about it, why, we’ll just forget about it and move on. To tax reform, perhaps. That should be easy enough to solve, right?

Before his health bill collapsed, Trump had lamented, “It’s all politics.” Well, duh. The problem is that this asinine blowhard came in with zero understanding of the political system, his ego too inflated to imagine he needed to learn anything, believing he knows everything, and all our problems are because everybody else is just stupid.

We’ve elected an insane creep as president. Doing so was insane. How does this end? How much damage will it first do to America, and the world?

* I was actually hoping they’d at least ditch the tax penalty, which would have helped me and my wife. But not even that could they accomplish.

The health care travesty

March 21, 2017

For seven years, Republicans pursued Obamacare with the obsessiveness of Captain Ahab pursuing the white whale. Now they resemble a dog chasing a car, and catching it. Or Captain Ahab tangled up on the whale’s back and going down with it.

What they hated so much about Obamacare was never quite clear, except perhaps for the “Obama” part. It was based, after all, on what was originally a Republican concept, put forward as a market-based alternative to “socialized medicine.” Indeed, to get something done about all the Americans without proper health care, Obama had to give up the politically difficult government option, and to buy off the insurance industry by giving it what seemed a very sweet deal (selling more insurance).

Anyhow, for all their obsessing, Republicans never did have an alternative plan. Now their bluff is called. And, as a genius recently said, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Yet, whereas Obamacare was hammered out through an agonizing months-long process of give-and-take with input by numerous interested parties, Republicans have skipped all that, and whipped up a bill in the dead of night. Do you suppose they’ve really thought through all its consequences?

Trump had been saying his beautiful, tremendous, but unspecified, imaginary health care plan would cover everybody; with better care too, and at lower prices. Ha ha. Don’t we know by now that Trump just says stuff, with no thinking, or regard for truth, reality, or decency? Of course the now-unveiled GOP plan doesn’t cover everybody. In fact it would kick many millions out of the health care system. It replaces direct subsidies with tax credits — mainly so they can call it different from Obamacare. But it will give low income people much less help. While furthermore, removing healthier ones from the insurance pool will inevitably force premiums up. Most Americans will pay more for less coverage and less care. Older citizens will be particularly screwed. While the richest get tax cuts. When will foolish Trump lovers wake up that they’ve been conned?

Obamacare, at its heart, was based on making younger and healthier folks subsidize the old and sick by requiring everyone (on pain of tax penalties) to buy insurance . This is often defended on the basis that that’s how insurance works – like with car insurance, where safe drivers pay into the system, to cover accidents by others, while if you do have an accident, it’s there for you too.

Wellll . . . not so fast. Actually the concept of insurance is to spread a risk that the buyer wouldn’t want to shoulder alone. A house fire has low probability but unacceptable financial consequences, so you insure against it, spreading that risk among many others doing the same. But that’s voluntary, based on your own evaluation of the risk versus the cost of insurance.* You don’t buy fire insurance to help others, but because it’s worth it to you.

This original insurance concept has gotten perverted in the health care sphere. Like fire insurance, health insurance should cover only major episodes one couldn’t otherwise afford, not every routine little outlay. Doing the latter has meant that health care doesn’t act like a market, with consumers shopping among competing providers; a basic reason why prices have gotten so out of line. And it’s not surprising that Obamacare’s forcing people to buy such insurance, that they don’t judge to be a good deal for themselves, meets so much resistance.

But look. We are a very rich society. The basic idea that we, as a society, should take care of the less fortunate, and make sure nobody suffers unnecessarily, is a fundamental moral concept that most Americans would accept. That’s why even so amoral a creature as Trump would blurt it out (however disingenuously).

We have to come up with a way for every American to have at least minimally decent basic health care. The Republicans are not doing this; they are going in the other direction entirely. While the Trump-Putin administration’s proposed budget gives the Pentagon more billions to waste, and billions for the wall boondoggle, paid for by eviscerating everything else, including all kinds of government help for the less fortunate.

2012 Democratic campaign ad

For years, some Democrat partisans caricatured Republicans as heartless toward those less fortunate, as actually desiring to destroy programs like Medicare and Social Security, to keep poor people poor, and even to make middle class people poor, all just to (somehow) benefit the rich. It was a false caricature before. But Trump and today’s Republicans are making it true.

* Though the bank may require it, to give you a mortgage, because otherwise, if the house burns, you wouldn’t be able to meet your obligations.

Post-Truth politics, post-democratic politics

March 17, 2017

(This was published as a commentary in the March 12 Albany Times-Union)

“Post-truth” has been named word of the year. The subject looms large for America’s political future. It’s not just a matter of occasional innocent misstatements, but of politically weaponizing falsehood.

Gleb Tsipurski (associate professor of history at Ohio State University) writes in The Humanist magazine that if it works for Trump, other politicians will follow his example; if they too succeed, “we’re headed for a downward spiral“ and “the end of our political order as we know it.” This might sound like hyperbole, but Tsipurski is on to something.

Being caught in a lie used to be deadly for a politician. What is so dangerous with Trump is that his fans don’t care, rationalizing away everything. As he put it, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and lose no votes. This resembles a religious faith impervious to reason. And removing reasoned discourse from politics is not good for sustaining democracy.

We must understand how we got here. Mainstream media has traditionally served as mediator, part of our whole system of political checks and balances. That media role might even have been over-large. Recall how it brought down 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean for a single utterance (the so-called “scream”).

Dean’s “Scream”

Obviously, the media proved unable to perform such a function with Trump.

Why? Tsipurski says “this system for determining political truths has required an intangible but invaluable resource: the public’s trust.” And that trust has been eroding in the last decade (part of a broader decline in social trust generally).

Past trust in the media was due, in good part, simply to a lack of other information sources. But now alternatives have proliferated, notably on social media and elsewhere on the web. And, crucially, it’s not just the same information differently packaged. To the contrary, it’s often material tailored to flatter the recipient’s pre-existing biases. Or even the now notorious “fake news.” Why listen to neutral NPR (and hear things that challenge your beliefs) when you can get fare that instead bolsters what you already think? And when those “alternative facts” differ from what mainstream media says, it’s the latter that might start seeming problematic. Thus mainstream media loses not only its audience, but its authority and trust.

Further, its effort to maintain an aura of objectivity actually undermines mainstream media’s ability to deal effectively with a politician who lies so shamelessly* – and accuses it of being against him (which of course it is, for excellent reasons). Thus the handwringing over whether to even use the word “lie.” And watch the journalists on a program like PBS’s “Washington Week” struggle to act as though Trump is just another normal political figure. They’ll soberly discuss the putative deep policy implications of a Trump statement (like his one-state-solution line), unable to blurt out that it’s simply ignorance.

So a weakened mainstream media couldn’t do to Trump what it did to Dean. And Tsipurski says Trump has a genius for exploiting such systemic vulnerabilities. Use of alternative and social media, bypassing mainstream media (thereby further enfeebling it), played a big role in his campaign. Exploiting trust-related systemic weaknesses similarly fueled his financial enrichment. The Trump Foundation self-dealing, and Trump University fraud, were prime examples. And trust plays a key role in business and commerce generally: vendors supply goods and services trusting they’ll be paid. That’s how the system works. And Trump exploited it by simply not paying, over and over and over.

Is all this “genius?” Or walking through open doors?

The press’s authority is maimed even more by Trump’s continuing attacks, even turning the “fake news” trope against it. Another of his big lies. Tsipurski likens our unfolding situation to a “tragedy of the commons” – when it’s hard to protect a communal resource against those pillaging it. Here, our shared resource is a political environment where objective facts (disseminated by news media) hold sway, so that rational policy choices can be made. “This intangible yet invaluable resource,” Tsipurski writes, “is being polluted and destroyed by Trump’s post-truth politics.”

He understands his followers prefer to have their opinions uncontaminated by pesky reality. (He himself exhibits that very syndrome.) Better yet to feed them falsehoods tailored to those opinions. But voters need a source for, and to care about, truth and reality, to make rational political choices. Only thusly can their interests truly be served. That’s why Jefferson wrote that democracy depends upon an informed citizenry. But if the public doesn’t get it, why should politicians care either – about facts and about people’s real interests? When they can instead succeed by emotional manipulation and lies?

That’s the road to authoritarianism. It’s the one Putin followed. He destroyed Russia’s independent media, so he could work his “magic” on citizens unfettered by truth or any accountability. And that’s the road Donald Trump openly steers toward.

* Falsely accusing his predecessor of a serious crime is disgusting behavior for a president. A sane adult would simply admit the mistake and move on. Not this stinking turd.

The French election sex drama

March 10, 2017

Hollande

I have written snarkily about French politics. (Not that today’s U.S. politics is to brag about.) I considered Socialist President Hollande ridiculous when elected, and apparently the French themselves soon did too. He isn’t even trying for re-election.

Yet the Socialist presidential nomination was won by a doubling-down purist left winger, Benoit Hamon – consigning the party to irrelevance. (Democrats take note.)

Le Pen

But the big story is Marine Le Pen. Her National Front party was founded by her father as a racist, quasi-fascist one, toxic to most French voters. But then she took over, booted Dad out, and aimed for detoxification and political seriousness.

Some of Le Pen’s critique of the French status quo is actually on target. Its voters have long dwelt in a fantasyland that romanticizes a paternalistic state and reviles the “harshness” of business and commerce. But unfortunately Le Pen’s platform is  a farrago of populist garbage much like Trumpism. Anti-trade, anti-globalist, anti-EU, anti-immigration, promising to restore the 1950s. (I’ve heard her called a rightist candidate with leftist economics — showing how mixed up these categories have become.) Catastrophic if her program were actually enacted. Yet, after the dimwitted Brexit and Trump victories, Marine Le Pen has been seen as threatening to consummate a populist trifecta by riding the same sort of voter rebelliousness into the Élysée Palace. And thus as profoundly threatening Europe’s whole future.

France votes in two rounds, with a run-off between the first round’s top two contenders. (Nobody ever gets a first-round majority.) Daddy Le Pen once managed to sneak into the second round (pipping another limp Socialist nominee), but then an overwhelming decent-minded majority voted for the conventional alternative. Now Marine Le Pen is considered a shoo-in to also reach the second round – and with far better chances there.

Yet there’s much doubt the French would really break so dramatically with conventionality. Hence whoever faces her in the run-off was still expected to be an overwhelming favorite.

Fillon

Ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy tried for a comeback, seeking the nomination of his center-right party. But he lost to Francois Fillon after they battled to outdo each other in Muslim-bashing, even advocating idiotic burkini bans. Considering too Fillon’s Trumplike pro-Putinism, he did not seem like France’s savior.

And that was before scandals blew up on him. Fillon was charged with giving family members no-show government jobs with fat salaries. And then with failing to declare a big crony loan. How odiously corrupt the French elite is! No wonder outsider Le Pen attracts support. So far, Fillon refuses to quit the race.

So Hamon, Le Pen, Fillon – take your pick. What a depressing menu of choices.

But wait . . .

Here comes the man in the white hat. Running as an independent, Emmanuel Macron, only 39, former investment banker and economy minister, who – in France! – actually seems to believe in open free markets and trade, globalization, and curbing the hand of the state. Maybe even that prosperity is created not by government largesse but by productive work, making goods and services people want to buy. How thoroughly un-French; equivalent to being a bomb-thrower.

Naturally this heretic’s chances were rated at approximately zero. Until Fillon’s scandals. Now Macron is on a tear in the polls, and might even beat Fillon into the run-off.

Macron

Pity those poor French if faced with a choice between two run-off candidates neither of whom presents the comforting political pablum they’re accustomed to. Will they swallow Le Pen’s guileful snake oil or bite the unpalatable bullet of Macron’s economic reality?

The world is watching. Let us hope the tide of madness can finally be turned back.

The President is insane

March 6, 2017

imagesSo he was able to read a nice speech from a teleprompter and appear “presidential.” Then he tweeted that President Obama had tapped his phones at Trump Tower and is a “bad (or sick) guy.”

Hurling put-downs that uncannily apply more to himself is trademark Trump. Like crying “fake news” at legitimate reporting, while his own wiretap accusation came from what really is fake news.

images-1It’s not just baseless but preposterous. Laws prohibit it, it’s inconceivable that Obama would have directed federal officials to violate them, and inconceivable that they’d have complied (instead of blowing the whistle). A warrant would have been required, issuable by a judge only upon convincing evidence of a crime being investigated.

“Those restrictions,” said Ben Rhodes (a former top Obama security aide), in a tweet addressed to Trump, “were put in place to protect citizens against people like you.”

Who’s the “bad (or sick) guy” — recklessly flinging baseless accusations? Why isn’t the nation totally freaked out by a president behaving so grotesquely? unknownDaniel Patrick Moynihan coined the trope “defining deviancy down.” When something previously unacceptable becomes accepted. The Trump phenomenon has shredded what used to be America’s civic standards. The media are having a hard time reporting soberly on Trump without their hair on fire, thus giving it all a seeming patina of normality. So this is the new normal. Hence no huge uproar over Trump’s insane wiretap accusation.

images-2I use the word insane not figuratively but literally, clinically. Trump’s behavior — not only this instance, but too many others to count — shows a deep psychological pathology. The President is insane. He should be removed from office pursuant to the procedures of the 25th Amendment.

Yet congressional Republicans now promise to investigate not the President’s insane behavior but the imaginary wiretapping. While thousands, all across the nation, joined the “March 4 Trump” to support him. Is insanity contagious?

Earlier, some of my friends (who did not support him) lamented that Trump is even worse than they expected. I said he’s not worse than I expected, because I knew how bad he is. But perhaps I didn’t. I had also expected the weight of the presidency would have some impact on him. It has not.

unknown-1No wonder the Russians wanted Trump elected. To sabotage America with a dysfunctional, bull-in-a-china-shop president. And if there be method in his wiretap lie madness, it’s to distract us from the Russian connection.

Trump’s is not the kind of mental illness that might elicit sympathy. It’s malevolent. Previously I’ve called him a “vile creep” and “stinking piece of crap.”* But now I’ll have to come up with something stronger.

*  The sanitized version.

Melania sues a blogger: the Trumps, libel laws, and the media

February 21, 2017

First Lady Melania Trump sued a Maryland blogger for $150 million for libel, and he reportedly settled by paying her a “substantial sum.” Such cases are commonly settled because a court fight is so costly. The blogger had suggested that Mrs. Trump had once been a paid “escort,” which he conceded was unsubstantiated. Other similar suits remain pending.

images(When I looked online for a photo — whoah! More of a first lady than we’re accustomed to seeing. I chose one of more tasteful pictures, at left.)

President Trump, hyper-allergic to criticism, has long called for changing libel laws to make suing easier. He is probably thinking of the British system, where the defendant has the burden of proof. This is a huge scandal, and has made Britain a mecca for shameful libel suits. Like Holocaust denier David Irving suing an author who wrote of his historical distortions, putting her through hell to defend herself in court (depicted in the recent film Denial).

Trump also probably wants to change the Times v. Sullivan doctrine. That was a 1964 Supreme Court decision saying that when someone criticizes a public official in the performance of their duties, a libel suit must prove not just falsity but actual malice and reckless disregard for truth.

images-1This makes it very hard for politicians to sue, and is a major bulwark against their abuse of libel laws.* Which is a very real problem in other countries. Singapore’s late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was notorious for using libel suits to persecute political opponents who criticized him, sometimes bankrupting them in the process.

Donald Trump too is notorious for litigiousness; he’s been involved in at least three thousand lawsuits. He wants looser libel laws so he can sue even more people. But it’s also part of his bigger project to destroy the American news media as an independent information source that holds people like him accountable for lies and misdeeds. He has already succeeded partway, his constant baseless attacks having damaged mainstream media’s credibility in the minds of many people.

images-2It’s sickening when the biggest liar in political history calls the press dishonest, “the enemy of the American people.” To the contrary, it’s Trump’s vile rhetoric that’s dishonest and a real danger to America. This is how dictators start. Democracy needs a robust free media to expose lies, corruption, and bungling. Now more than ever, with this egregious presidency!

Getting back to Melania, her feeling hurt by that blog might be understandable. Except that when you enter the White House, especially in today’s febrile political climate, you have to expect a certain amount of garbage thrown at you. images-3The Obamas certainly endured a lot of that (notably from Mr. Donald J. Trump, loudmouth of lying “birtherism”). But the Obamas didn’t go around suing folks. It’s unbecoming for a first family; and frightening to use that power to intimidate critics. America is not Singapore.

Meantime, remember Trump’s press conference claiming to separate himself from his businesses? With all those piles of suppposed documents? Yet another Trump fraud. I wish someone had had the balls to go up and look inside those folders. unknownBut the performance at least showed recognition that exploiting the oval office for private profit is totally inappropriate (if not criminal).

Mrs. Trump, in contrast however, appears unashamed about aiming to cash in on her public position. Her lawsuit claimed that the blogger damaged her potential for anticipated “multimillion dollar business relationships” and other “major business opportunities” expected from her first ladyship. The breathtaking frankness, at least, is refreshing.

Let them sue me for this blog.

unknown-1* Times v. Sullivan saved the posterior of yours truly, sued for $1.5 million for libel in 1973 when I authored a critical book about Albany’s political machine.

Democrats versus Trumplicans

February 15, 2017

I’ve been writing a lot about politics because we’re in a seminal crisis.

1024x1024There’s been much discussion on how to respond. The post-inaugural women’s marches and other protests were great; I cheered them on; I joined an airport protest myself.

But the kinds of issues most such protests have emphasized (refugees, reproductive rights, gay rights, equality, climate change, etc.) do not resonate with Middle America. As David Brooks has written, “The crucial problems today concern the way technology and globalization are decimating jobs and tearing the social fabric; the way migration is redefining nation states; the way the post-World War II order is increasingly being rejected as a means to keep the peace.” You’re not relevant if you’re not engaging with these critical issues.

unknownDonald Trump does, with a full-throated brutalist economic (and barely veiled ethnic) nationalism. “America first” is a crude hammer blow. Pink hats aren’t much of an answer.

That’s why Democrats lost the last election. The stereotype used to be that they were the party of working people; Republicans the party of the rich. Demographically at least that was somewhat true. But no longer. Today Democrats are the party of effete urban intellectuals and minorities. Yet they still feel an entitlement to working class votes. They’re forever whining about folks voting against their economic interests. Democrats don’t understand people voting their values rather than interests. (And often don’t understand economics besides.)

images-1True, Clinton did win the popular vote – by dint of huge majorities in California, New York and Massachusetts. But the electoral college was specifically designed so that big states don’t rule and, unfair or not, we’re stuck with it.

Democrats know they must reconnect with the wayward rustbelt blue collar types. But no real strategy has emerged. They remain flummoxed. They take heart that millions who voted for Trump had actually previously voted for Obama. However, since then something has changed.

The Trump campaign was not just a symptom of that change, but a catalyst. It opened a Pandora’s box. It gutted what had been a generally accepted civic compact about the basis on which our politics is conducted. The conditions that induced a lot of those past Obama votes ceased to exist. imagesWhy eat your vegetables when cake and candy are now on offer? Trump gave many people a type of voting opportunity they’d never had before.

And though some of us are horrified by Trump’s doings, his voters are mostly ecstatic. They feel they’re getting – at long last – exactly what they voted for, and what they want. It’s a Grand Folly, immensely harmful, to them most of all, but trying to convince them is futile. unknown-1They tune out hectoring voices. Virtually every newspaper in the country condemned Trump. That was unprecedented. And had no effect.

Democrats live not just in different locales, but on a different planet. The country is so polarized that the two camps won’t listen to each other. That’s how Trump gets away with monumental contempt for truth, ethics, and decency.

unknown-2Republicans, having drunk the Trump Kool-Aid, are now drunk on power, giving vent to every nasty tendency that lurked in their darker recesses. As witness their idiotic vote to silence Elizabeth Warren, which any reasonable person must abhor.

Meantime a Democratic party that continues moving left and nominates a Sanders or Warren (or, God forbid, Cuomo) type, and talks about gender and climate and complicated government programs, and whines about the rich, will not win against a Trump who grabs his voters by their pussy and they like it.

Yet his core support is still a minority, and some voters at least are persuadable. Brooks again: “If the anti-Trump forces are to have a chance, they have to offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with morality.”

It’s not an easy sound-bite case to make, it takes vision and courage, but it’s the right path. It’s centered upon the fundamental principles of freedom, openness, and global engagement that I have enunciated, that have in fact given us a more peaceful and more prosperous world, with more people thriving, than ever before. Today all that’s endangered as never before.

Republicans have abandoned those principles, that they used to stand for (and America used to stand for) – leaving vacant a vast territory of what ought to be the country’s natural and sensible political center. Democrats should move smartly to occupy that territory.

unknown-3But they still don’t seem to get it. I cannot yet join them. I’ll give up arguing for a third party; if we didn’t get one in 2016, we never will. However, I still have hope that America will ultimately weary of, and prove itself better than, the Trump horrorshow.

The shitstorm continues

February 7, 2017

images-1In Shirley Jackson’s story “Charles,” a child returns from kindergarten each day with a new tale of outrageous misbehavior by “Charles,” the class bad boy. So I sometimes ask my wife, “Did you hear what Charles did today?” Referring, of course, to you-know-who.

On Saturday, after hearing a news report, I ran to tell her the latest: saying the injunction against his Muslim travel ban was issued by a “so-called” judge!

Meantime (trying to defend the indefensible) the administration denies it is a Muslim travel ban. Seriously? After so memorably announcing in the campaign, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States . . . .”

Then he said the U.S. is no better than Russia with regard to political killings. Well — at least here, unlike in Russia, presidential critics suffer only childish insulting tweets. So far.

And he continues calling the press dishonest — him, the biggest liar and fraudster in political history.

And then there’s his attack on the Johnson amendment, supposedly in the name of freedom of speech and religion.

unknownNamed for Lyndon Johnson who sponsored it as a senator, the law denies tax exemption to religious outfits that endorse political candidates. This actually just clarified longstanding policy. The tax exemption for charitable, educational, and religious organizations has never applied to ones engaging in partisan politics.

This restricts no one’s freedom. Anyone is free to back any political candidate. But if you do, you’re not entitled to tax exemption. And political donations have never been tax deductible. The Johnson amendment prevents getting around that by routing a donation through a “church” which then passes it on to a candidate.

Trump’s vow to “destroy” the Johnson amendment, if successful, would open the floodgates for churches to not only engage in partisan politics, but also to launder political money to make it tax deductible.* A very bad idea.

unknown-1From a very bad man. America is full of wonderful people — how did we get this creep as president?

* I actually favor a (limited) tax credit for political contributions, as a form of public campaign finance, to combat pay-to-play culture. But that’s a very different matter.

America’s Shame

January 28, 2017

President Trump’s Muslim travel restrictions are a sickening betrayal of what America stands for. Or used to stand for.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

unknownMy mother came through that golden door in 1938 as a refugee from persecution and violence. But most German Jews were not so lucky. America’s WWII refusal to do more for them remains a stain on our national honor. Today we add a new stain by slamming the golden door against victims of the monstrous horror in Syria, and other Muslim victims.

Another thing this nation used to stand for was religious openness. images-1George Washington wrote that Jews are not merely tolerated in America, they are Americans. Non-discrimination among religions was a bedrock principle on which this nation was built. Yet Trump’s order exempts Christians from the travel ban.

His action caters to the basest, dumbest prejudices of his followers. Make us safe from terrorism? While these people have an insane love affair with guns, that kill hundreds of times more Americans than terrorism? Where is the common sense? The San Bernardino and Orlando shooters killed far fewer people than die every week through gun accidents. But anyhow they were U.S. citizens who would not have been affected by Trump’s stupid action.

Meantime, he has singled out seven Muslim nations for his travel ban. None of the 9/11 terrorists came from those seven. They all came from four nations not on Trump’s list. But those four (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and UAE) are all countries for which a ban would be politically problematic. So instead Trump picks other ones.

But even if the countries were the right ones, this would still be an exceptionally silly action. As if would-be terrorists would go through the vetting process. As if people willing to massacre others, even to blow themselves up, could not find ways to sneak in. images-2Trump’s despicable action will hurt tens of thousands of desperate, suffering people, while inconveniencing bad guys not at all. (How hard is it to masquerade as “Christian?”)

George W. Bush, in launching the war on terror, took great pains to make clear that it was not a war on Muslims. He understood how catastrophic it would be to antagonize all of Islam. Trump does not; he is doing exactly what Bush took pains to avoid. This will only increase conflict and terrorism.

The action is ostensibly temporary, a “pause.” But when, pray tell, do you suppose Trump will feel able to lift the travel ban without enraging the assholes who love it?

images-3The raw truth is that some people just don’t like people who are different from themselves. That’s what this is really all about, at rock bottom.

Well, some Americans at least are still working to uphold true American values. My daughter is employed in Iraq, with the Danish Refugee Council. After I drafted this, I saw that she had written something on her own blog more eloquent. Please read it here.

But let me quote her: Trump’s “America First” actually “puts America last — last in humanity, last in compassion, last in lifting up the tired, the poor, the huddled masses — which is what made America first, in so many ways, to begin with.”

UPDATE: Today two Syrian families arrived in Philadelphia, with valid visas and green cards, having worked for years to get them. They were sent back.

The Voter Fraud Fraud

January 26, 2017

images-1So now a federal investigation of voter fraud. Which every credible, reliable source has found nonexistent. Trump is not a sore loser but a sore winner — he just cannot stand it that even though he’s now president, Clinton got 3 million more popular votes. He wants that fact to somehow go away; replaced with “alternate facts.”

During the campaign, one of the fake news tropes was that President Obama had encouraged non-citizens to vote. He didn’t, and they don’t. Non-citizens cannot vote, period, and there is no evidence any of them ever try. Yet supposed non-citizen voting, we’re told, gave Clinton her margin. As if millions of non-citizens somehow managed to register and vote and somehow nobody noticed before.

True, voter rolls are filled with people who have died or moved away. But how many try to vote? Or vote using their names? The answer, again well documented, is just about zero.

unknownYet Republicans have for years used lies about non-existent voter fraud as a pretext for restrictions making it harder to vote. To deny ballots to poor, elderly, and minority voters — who tend to vote Democrat. But for these shameful restrictions, Clinton’s margin would have been even larger.

In the last election, the single documented case of attempted voter fraud was someone who tried to vote twice . . . for Trump.

But truth and reality are a different country from Trumpland. This voter fraud investigation nonsense is just one more Trump con to bedazzle those still foolish enough support him. images-2No doubt comments on this blog will back him on this issue. Like Pavlov, he rings a bell, and his dogs duly salivate.

Meantime, of course, there was chicanery in the last election. By the Russians. It seems likely Russian meddling harmed Clinton just enough to produce razor-thin Trump margins in three crucial states. But that’s a reality he doesn’t want to hear about.

Another of his false tropes is the autism/vaccination garbage. Every serious scientific authority says it’s absolute bunk, and very harmful, in reducing vaccination rates, causing resurgences of nasty diseases that had almost been wiped out. Now Trump appears ready to establish a federal commission on this issue, to be headed by Robert Kennedy Junior — a non-scientist and notorious promoter of the fraud that vaccination causes autism.

We’ve elected a stinking piece of crap. Never mind voter fraud. How about voter malpractice?