Archive for the ‘stinking piece of s—’ Category

White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the president they love

August 17, 2017

When white supremacists march with Nazi swastika flags, and one of them, an avowed Hitler flan, intentionally kills and injures counter-demonstrators, the response of the president of the United States should be a no-brainer.

It does not include saying there are “fine people” among the neo-Nazis, defending what they were marching about, and blaming the victim. In a snarling, belligerent rant no less.

It’s suggested that Trump’s veering back and forth reflected some tug-of-war among his lackeys, and he’s calculatingly pandering to his base — at least that small segment that’s racist neo-Nazi. And those knuckleheads, like David Duke, loved it.

But there’s no political calculation here, cunning or otherwise (as if swastikas are a net vote winner in America). Rather, the president is a deranged moral moron without the sense to control his vicious impulses.

Like Trump, white supremacists have no self-awareness. Do they actually somehow imagine that behaving as they do promotes white racial superiority? When instead it screams the opposite: look at this bunch of stupid loser creeps!

And if you really want to advance white superiority, maybe lose the swastikas? Ya think?

Marching with Nazi flags spits on the graves of those who gave their lives fighting the Nazis. So does Trump.

The Nazis too considered themselves a superior race. They showed it by murdering millions they deemed inferior. Is that how superior beings behave? Even if Jews (and blacks) were inferior, even subhuman, shouldn’t superior beings treat them with humane compassion? Even animals deserve as much.

When it’s needful to explain the moral wrong of Nazism it’s a sad day for America.

Groupthink in the Divided States of America

August 12, 2017

I remember, on Election Night 2008, when the result was declared, a middle-aged black woman in Chicago jumping up and down crying, “God bless America! God bless America!”

Though I didn’t vote for Obama, I was deeply moved by her. Just seeing black Americans then made me empathize with how it must feel – after centuries of abuse, now one of theirs was president.

But the coin had another side, which only gradually grew visible. While blacks could now feel more at home in America, some whites felt less so. While blacks saw the president as kindred, some whites saw him as wholly alien. This metastasized into the “Birther” and Obama-as-Muslim nonsense, embraced by surprisingly large numbers, really as badges of their active dissociation from what Obama represented. J. D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy depicts how large this cultural factor loomed among the working class whites he wrote about.

Now the worm has turned. The alien black president has been replaced by one those same whites see as theirs. Never mind that he’s a New York billionaire. After their eight-year Obama-trauma, they’ve latched onto Trump as their guy, seeing him as speaking for them, and they ain’t gonna let go of that. Even if he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue.

A recent “special report” in The Economist, “The Power of Groupthink,” analyzes the phenomenon. Trump’s first months in office have been such a travesty that many are puzzled why his support has not eroded all that much. It’s partly down to what I’ve written already. His supporters’ emotive commitment lets Trump get away with a lot, to change his mind, lie outrageously, behave boorishly, and even to promote policies that actually harm them.

As The Economist elucidates, their stance is not tied to specific policies, nor even realities. Again, it’s mainly cultural, the sense that they, through him, are back on top, or at least no longer being thrown under the bus (even if they are). It’s the old line: “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.”

And it’s important to understand that facts are not much in the picture. The Economist estimates that only about a fifth of Americans are politically engaged and paying close attention; about equally split between pro-Democrat and pro-Republican partisan zealots. “For the rest, political issues are little more than ‘a sideshow in the great circus of life,’” says The Economist, quoting Robert Dahl in 1961.

It’s still true. Most people see political issues “through a glass darkly.” Of course they often have bedrock viewpoints on issues like abortion, guns, gays, and God. But the day-to-day chatter of news reports is just a blurry background buzz.

That applies to the Russia stuff. Most voters just don’t seem to care, failing to understand the powerful reasons why they should. And if Trump says it’s fake news, many accept that, taking his word over that of the news media. Not because he’s actually more credible; they just choose to.

It’s very different now than in the past when so many Americans sat down en masse to watch the evening news. When LBJ lost Walter Cronkhite on Vietnam, he lost America. And I remember seeing John Chancellor open with, “President Nixon stunned the nation today . . . .” Within weeks, Nixon was gone. Now those days are gone.

No such voices of authority today can nail Trump on his lies and make it stick.* And Chancellor’s assumption of “the nation” reacting collectively, as one, also has become quaint. Now everyone can choose their own truth. And as for what I called bedrock views, voters don’t act like calculating machines. Most, The Economist says, have only hazy ideas of what candidates and even parties really stand for. Rather than picking those “that best fit their own political views, they are deciding on some other criteria.” Some actually first pick the candidate they feel most comfortable with, and then associate that candidate (often incorrectly) with policies they notionally favor. And even bedrock can shift. The Economist notes that in 2011, white evangelicals were the most likely group to say personal morality is important in a president. Along comes Trump, and they’re the least likely to say that now. Similar political expedience has reversed past Republican antipathy toward Russia.

The Economist used the word “groupthink” and this too is a key factor. Bill Bishop’s 2008 book, The Big Sort, showed how America is becoming increasingly segregated politically, with people clustering in like-minded communities. Of course, political dividing lines are to a considerable extent socio-economic (and thusly geographic), with upscale urban professionals seeing things very differently from Vance’s rural working class. And there is some tendency, at least among those who take their politics seriously, to gravitate to locales where they feel at home. But for the less engaged majority, The Economist sees a different factor operating: “Most voters make political choices based largely on what people like them are doing.” If most guys in your local bar are talking Trump, you ain’t gonna be for Hillary. Many voters are political Zeligs who, chameleonlike, take on the prevailing political colors of their surrounding communities, fitting in with their peers.

The human tendency to fall in line with what others around you say is well documented. In experiments (e.g., featuring a “which line is longer?” question), people will even give what they know is a wrong answer if surrounded by others giving that answer.

Remember the “culture wars?” They never ended; indeed intensified. Today’s bitter divisions are as much cultural as political, between two worlds that see each other in apocalyptic terms and don’t even agree on what reality is. One can even imagine the country splitting up. Yet, once more, only about a fifth of Americans take things so seriously, and the rest go about their lives as normal human beings. That would be reassuring, except for this: it’s because America is the kind of country it is that most people can live their lives as normal humans without having to concern themselves greatly about politics. Yet that very character of America is itself a product of our political ethos (somewhat unique in global history), and it’s actually endangered. Maybe we can no longer indulge in the luxury of political disengagement.

*Perhaps they’ve given up. Last night discussants on “Washington Week” mentioned Trump’s claim to have refurbished the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and its being untrue, but without further comment. Previously such a presidential whopper would have been a Big Deal. Now it’s the New Normal.

 

North Korea: fear the madman

August 9, 2017

We keep hearing about the “madman” in Pyongyang. Is Kim Jong Un bad? Yes. Mad? Probably not. It’s the guy in D.C. who’s both.

Kim doesn’t have to be told that attacking America would be suicide. Trump’s “fire and fury” declaration was brainless bluster serving no purpose except foolhardy provocation. He warned Kim against any further threats. Kim promptly responded with a new threat. Where will this schoolyard standoff end?

As long as it’s just a war of words, okay. But this is recklessly dangerous because North Korea in the past has shown a penchant for military provocation too, as with its 2010 bombardment of a South Korean island. In today’s belligerent climate, the moment one side or the other does the least thing military, the risk of tit-for-tat escalation will be severe. Neither will back down readily.

The Economist recently ran a detailed scenario for how it could well unfold, ending in nuclear warfare with mass casualties. Either side could all too easily miscalculate. And Trump is no paragon of finesse.*

So what should we do about North Korea? I’ve wrestled with this problem before. Right now, the answer is: just shut up. Trump’s chest thumping achieves nothing except to make things worse.

We don’t have to do anything. Kim will not commit suicide by attacking us unless we force him to.

It’s the madman in the White House I fear.

* He might even calculate (insofar as he’s capable of such) that war with North Korea would produce a “rally ’round the flag” effect, just the thing to bury his Russia troubles on page 8.

Police State

August 3, 2017

I’d love to get back to non-political topics. But some things demand comment. By now it’s hard to be shocked by anything Trump. His Boy Scout speech was an utter disgrace. But the police speech was worse. Imagine: the President of the United States literally encouraged police brutality. Literally.

Some typically dismissed it as joking. I saw no humor. Trump himself later said he was not joking.

Police chiefs throughout the country have condemned the speech, as urging them to break the laws they are sworn to uphold.

Trump was addressing police in Suffolk County — whose own police chief was recently sent to federal prison for personally beating up a suspect (accused of stealing, from the chief’s car, a bag containing pornography and sex toys).

Police brutality against African-Americans in particular (not fake news) is a major societal sore point. The Trump administration is already thoroughly contaminated with links to white supremacists. And he speaks out for more brutal police behavior? Just what we need.

I sincerely hope that when men in blue finally come to escort him from the White House, they will ignore that speech and treat him with utmost gentleness.

The obviousness of the police brutality problem in some cities had prompted the Justice Department to enter into agreements with their police departments aiming at ameliorating matters. Attorney General Sessions has been working to undo these agreements.

Another major police scandal is the Fourth Amendment, against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” becoming virtually a dead letter with rampant police confiscations of money and property from citizens without needing proof of crime. Here again, the Justice Department, recognizing the abuse, had previously promulgated some rules to curb it. And here again Trump’s administration is rolling back those rules.

Say what you will about Obama (I criticized him plenty), he consistently maintained the dignity of his office, respected the law, and consistently invoked the high ideals and fundamental values that America stood for and which made it great. Trump’s values are of the sewer, smearing America in filth.

Henry Clay and John McCain

August 1, 2017

In my office hangs an old engraving of Henry Clay. It was no accidental acquisition. About 50 years ago I searched antique shops for it, being a political history freak and aspirant. Clay was the consummate model for a public career. The Senate was Olympus, and he its Zeus.

Clay was not a saint; he had eponymous feet; he was human, partisan, intensely ambitious, and scheming. But none of that undermined his devotion to the good of the country. You could even say he saved the country, twice no less, in 1820 and 1850, masterminding great bold compromises over the most divisive issue in U.S. history, staving off civil war.

“I like people that weren’t captured, okay?” said he who never served. “Captured” suggests insufficient warrior mettle. John McCain was shot down flying combat missions in Vietnam. Taken prisoner and tortured for five years. Offered early release because his father was an admiral, McCain considered it wrong to leave without his comrades.

Suffering aggressive brain cancer, John McCain postponed treatment last week to return to the Senate, to speak against the disgraceful way his Republican colleagues were trying to pass a disgraceful health care bill. It should instead be done, he said, in the open, with hearings and outreach and broad input. And, yes, compromise. And then John McCain cast the decisive 51st vote to kill, once and for all, that noxious bill.

Some saw here a rich payback for Trump’s disgusting insult. And perhaps this was some cosmic justice. But the true reason for John McCain’s vote was that it was the right thing to do.

Up in Senate Heaven, Henry Clay was smiling.

Ever deeper into the heart of darkness

July 24, 2017

Now Trump and his creep team are setting it up to trash special counsel Mueller over “conflicts of interest” (the only arguably legal pretext for removal).

The pattern holds. All mud Trump throws eerily spotlights his own filth — “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” “fake news,” Comey a “whack job.” When it’s Trump who’s the most crooked, biggest liar, worst fake news pusher. He fulminates about leakers when the most egregious leak in his administration was his own. And talk about whack jobs!*

What was really in those folders? (Fake news)

So now for Mueller it’s “conflicts of interest,” when Trump’s presidency itself is the biggest snakepit of conflicts of interest ever. That January press conference, pretending to resolve them, was another stinking Trump fraud. This grifter and his family nakedly exploit the presidency for personal financial gain, corrupting their stewardship of the nation’s affairs. Yet bogus “conflict of interest” charges against Mueller and his team will be trumped up (giving that old idiom a new twist).

Mueller is a man of great competence, honesty, and independence. Trump is not fit to lick his shoes.

Meantime we also learn that President Donald pussy-grabber, “University”-fraudster, lawsuit-king, multiple-bankruptcy, Obama-wiretapped-me, McCain-no-hero, so-called-judge, punch-those-protesters, only-I-can-fix-it, New-Jersey-Muslims-celebrated-9/11, I-know-more-than-the-generals, I-really-won-the-popular-vote, my-inauguration-crowd-the-biggest, tax-return-hiding, insult-tweeting, Comey-firing, dictator-hugging, classified-information-leaking, Putin-patsy Trump is thinking of pre-emptively pardoning his flunkies, including family members, for crimes he denies were committed. He may even pardon HIMSELF. Could he actually? Possibly. Not even Nixon dared it. Nor any of the thousands of state governors over the centuries who also may have had that theoretical power.

Well, Trump promised his presidency would be different. The one promise he’s kept.

*Just today: Trump calls Rep. Adam Schiff “sleazy.” I’ve been impressed by Schiff’s intelligence and conscientiousness. Who’s the sleaze?