Archive for the ‘stinking piece of shit’ Category

Trump, destroyer of conservatism

August 23, 2019

(This appeared as a commentary in the 7/14 Albany Times-Union)

Democracy is not so much a set of practices (like elections) as it is a culture; a way of being. It was something new when articulated in 1776 — “all men are created equal” with “inalienable rights.”

The Declaration gave a nod to a “creator,” yet it was clear the kind of society it envisioned owed nothing to him. Instead it was the creation of human beings. And because humans are fallible, it can fail. A recent commentary in the Albany Times Union quoted Judge Learned Hand in 1944: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.”

I became a conservative in the 1960s because of the profoundly democratic values and ideals that entailed. A key precept of the Enlightenment’s classical liberalism, and America’s founding values, has been constraining government power. Recent decades have seen a growing fear on that score. It led to “liberty” and “freedom” becoming, for the right, fetishized words. Badges worn by a political movement that has now gone on to make them a hollow mockery, by falling in to an orgy of tribalism, falling in line behind a false god.

Look what travesties are countenanced. Racial bigotry and divisiveness. Demonization of press freedom. Defying rule of law and government accountability. Inhuman cruelty toward suffering people at our border. Flattering brutal dictators, dismissing Russian subversion, shredding our alliances. A president steeped in corruption, vulgarity, and depraved egotism. All grounded in pervasive lies.

Is this what conservatives’ “liberty” and “freedom” have come to? They’ve lost their moral minds.

The word “conservative” should connote an ethos of humility and carefulness, of respect toward institutions and other people. As The Economist’s July 6 lead editorial headlined, “The new right is not an evolution of conservatism but a repudiation of it.” Actually at war with the classical liberalism conservatism once embodied. Conservatives used to see America as a bulwark for democracy globally. Used to be for free trade and fiscal responsibility and against Russian aggression. Conservatives believed in accepting reality — and certainly hated the idea of government power in the hands of a demagogue whose lies flout reality.

The only thing these latter-day “conservatives” really want to conserve is America’s whiteness.

I am reminded of the idealistic Communists whose faith died when their eyes were opened to Stalin’s crimes. Open your eyes, conservatives. Your faith is dead. Trump has killed it and for that you should revile him.

Our democracy was not eternally ordained by God; nor even by our constitution. Judge Hand was right. It will endure only so long as we keep our grip on the principles, ideals, and values embodying it.

Already almost half the population is a lost cause in that respect. America’s fate rests in the hands of the others.

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Insanity: a global contagion

August 8, 2019

Hong Kong is China’s richest, most advanced, most economically vibrant part. When Britain agreed to return it in 1997, the deal was “one country, two systems.” China pledged to respect Hong Kong’s liberalism, rule of law, and move toward free elections there. The Chinese regime lied. Making clear by now they’ll never allow democracy anywhere.

They’ve shanghaied Hong Kong political targets back to China for intimidation and torture. More recently, they’ve proposed to legalize such extradition. Hong Kong erupted in massive protests. The extradition bill was shelved (for now). But meantime the regime further antagonized the population by meeting the protests with excessive violence. Even deployed gangs of goons to brutalize people. In response, the civil disobedience is ramping up.

A sane Chinese regime would strive to defuse this through dialog with its critics — encompassing most of Hong Kong’s population — making some concessions to mollify them. Instead the regime simply threatens more violence.

This will end badly. Likely China will send its army into Hong Kong, imposing martial law. Another Tienanmen bloodbath. Destroying the jewel of the nation. The regime acts like it was appointed by Heaven to rule in perpetuity, no matter what. That actually was the traditional Chinese theory of rulership. It has no place in the 21st century. It’s insane.

* * *

I’ve written of how India’s Hindu-nationalist Modi regime is trying to make its large Muslim minority into second-class citizens — or even non-citizens. Insanity, given the long bloody history of communal violence.

Kashmir is India’s lone Muslim-majority state. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have quarreled over it; in effect they’ve split it, amid chronic violence. But India’s half has always had its own local government, and elections, like the rest of the country. But now the Modi regime proposes to revoke that and rule Kashmir from the center. To what end? This will surely enrage the population and make Kashmir an even more contentious and violent trouble spot; while poisoning relations with India’s Muslim neighbors (notably Pakistan). Utterly insane.

* * *

Great Britain, in 2016, voted to leave the European Union (“Brexit”), by a narrow 52% margin. That “will of the people” has been sanctified by Brexiteers as holy writ — never mind that it was based on massive lies and disinformation (Russia had a hand). Brexiteers intone “will of the people” yet refuse to consult them further, ruling out a second referendum, even to vote on the actual Brexit deal — or lack thereof.

The deal negotiated with the EU — belying all Brexiteer promises — was clearly worse than continuing membership. But clearly better than leaving with no deal, which would be economic catastrophe. Brexiteers insist that’s a price worth paying. They’re even willing to see the country literally destroyed, as Brexit could well propel Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the union.

So they’ve made Boris Johnson prime minister. An irresponsible goofball windbag at a moment of gravest crisis. He vows Brexit will happen at the new deadline of October 31, deal or no deal, “do or die.” (Trump cheers him on.) Johnson says the odds against a no-deal Brexit are “a million to one,” yet has no clue how to get a deal that can pass his own red lines — and Parliament, which has thrice rejected the only deal possible.

The sticking point is to avoid a “hard border” with customs formalities between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, both of which hate the idea. The EU’s deal solves this by keeping Britain in its customs union. (The EU won’t screw Ireland, a member.) Brexit fanatics refuse to accept this. If Johnson caves on it, they’ll immolate him.

Their Conservative party — like our GOP — has gone off the deep end. So has the opposition Labour party, with 1940s hard left Stalinism.

Parliament (having no Conservative majority) has meantime also voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit. Johnson could get around this by suspending Parliament. Unconstitutional you say? Actually, Britain has no written constitution. This thing is driving the country into very dark waters.

What’s that word again? Insane.

* * *

And what of America? Electing a deranged moral creep, ignoramus, criminal con man, pathological liar, Russian tool, and hate-monger, trashing every ideal America ever stood for. And 40% still support him! While no matter how many mass shootings we have, we still cannot ban military style weapons whose only function is to kill a lot of people fast.

What’s that word again?

Race hate will destroy America

August 6, 2019

Previously I’ve condensed here Michael Gerson columns. Last Thursday’s deserves reading in full:https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ignoring-trumps-racism-betrays-our-countrys-victims/2019/08/01/78b9d0e6-b471-11e9-8949-5f36ff92706e_story.html

Given the vile history Gerson describes, it’s amazing there isn’t more race hatred: by blacks against whites. I see very little. When black passersby smile at me (which is often), I think of the horrors they’ve suffered from whites. Their rising above it bespeaks nobility of spirit. Whites who revile them have none.

Like the depraved creep in the White House who plays with fire in stoking racial hatreds. His scripted sanctimony after the latest mass shooting by a race-crazed gunman is beyond hypocrisy. “Hate has no place in America,” said the hatemonger-in-chief.

Trump himself bears responsibility for inciting this crime. There’s blood on his hands.

If, God forbid, he’s re-elected, I will anticipate no more cordial smiles from blacks I encounter. How could we look each other in the eye?

Suffer the little children

August 3, 2019

Child separation: first they cited the Bible to defend it. Then they said it’s the law — a lie. Then Trump said it was an Obama policy he was stopping. A lie on both counts.

Thousands of children were taken from parents. In June 2018, it was a Federal Judge ordering this stopped. But we now learn at least 911 more children were taken since.

That order stipulated it could be done only upon a determination that “the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child.” Unfortunately a loophole through which the Trump regime has driven a monster truck, continuing to take children, on the flimsiest pretexts. Past “criminal acts” which turn out to be traffic infractions. A child was seized from a parent who didn’t change her diaper fast enough.

What happens to them? Put in cages in concentration camps in conditions so squalid that if they were dogs or cats those responsible would be jailed for animal cruelty. We have not seen shocking photos only because the regime has been assiduous in restricting access.

Thousands of children. Many babies and toddlers. Rampant sexual abuse. Some have died. And many weren’t identified properly so they’ll likely never see their parents again. The human suffering defies my descriptive capability. I think of these children, painfully, every time I see happy kids with parents. Imagine this for your own child.

There is no possible excuse for this crime against humanity (perpetrated by so-called “Christians” prattling about “family values”). It will blacken America’s soul forever. History will judge harshly.

Footnote: Trump’s racist tirade against Rep. Cummings was triggered by Cummings exposing, in hearings, these monstrous crimes. The regime continues to dismiss it all as lies.

Trump and the white trash syndrome

July 31, 2019

Not all antebellum Southern whites owned slaves. Most were much too poor. They lived in squalor. But they had one consolation: holding themselves above blacks.

This actually accentuated after the war, when Southern poverty was ubiquitous. Read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by Evans and Agee, a searing portrait of Depression-era Southern deprivation — among whites. And again there was one thing they could cling to: at least they weren’t black.

It’s the white trash syndrome. Exemplified by the Ewells in To Kill a Mockingbird. In their depth of degradation, it was desperately important to be able to see one group, at least, as even lower.

To be clear, poverty itself is not degradation. Poorer people are not generally less worthy. While some may be responsible for their straits, the bigger factor is mere luck, especially who your parents were. Many poor people live honorable lives. Poverty makes that harder (and so poor people who do live upstanding lives deserve extra credit), but poverty doesn’t make you white trash. It’s what’s in your head and heart that does. And if you do have white trash attitudes, you more likely are responsible for your poverty.

It wasn’t the Southern aristocracy so insistent on keeping blacks “in their place.” Their position was secure and not threatened by blacks. It was instead the white trash feeling imperiled; if blacks prospered as respectable members of society, then the white trash would be on the bottom. So it was they who fought tooth and nail against giving blacks an inch, perpetrating the hideous violence aimed at keeping them down.

We’re seeing a version of this syndrome recrudesce in Trump support. Careful studies of polling data have shown that the one factor most closely correlated with Trump support is racial antagonism. Whites who are doing fine have no cause for animus against other ethnicities flourishing. But a big segment of today’s white population is not doing fine. Especially less educated middle aged men, especially outside major cities. This demographic looms large in the opioid crisis. That’s one way to cope with feeling devalued. Another, as with the old white trash syndrome, is sticking it to a different group they can see as even lower. They need to keep blacks where they were.

But they’re failing. Where non-whites were previously marginalized, they’re now mainstreamed, America becoming less white. This messes with some people’s sense of identity. Today’s America is no longer a collective they really feel tight with. Moreover, some see the change as actually happening at the expense of whites. So compounding the economic malaise is an aggrieved resentment, scapegoating non-whites. All the more potent if you furthermore imagine them inferior.

It’s evident in the flood of comments to a blog post I wrote, titled “Why so many blacks in ads?” One might have expected critiques along lines of “reverse racism” or overdone political correctness. Instead most simply vent hatred toward blacks. A recent one actually said racial divisions are caused by blacks’ violence; you never see whites acting that way! These people are obviously desperate to have a group they can look down on. (Oblivious that they’re actually proving their own inferiority.)

Of course Trump’s never actually said ethnic minorities are inferior — though he’s come close. He did apply the words “very fine people” to the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville. Racists, neo-Nazis, and KKKers cheered this, immensely empowered. Of course his disgusting recent racist tweetstorms play to them. And the cruel war on migrants, racialist at its core, is the core of Trump’s politics: as if he’ll at least keep the country from becoming even browner.

America’s white trash gets the message loud and clear. That’s why they stick with Trump no matter what. Not all Trump supporters are racist. But all racists are Trump supporters. If their hatefulness wins in 2020, America will be a white trash nation.

Hey Trump —

July 29, 2019

Regarding your vile comments about Baltimore — IF YOU HATE AMERICA SO MUCH — YOU CAN LEAVE !

(I’ve been to Baltimore often. Lovely city. The Cummings congressional district includes Johns Hopkins Hospital and University.)

The Golden Door slammed shut

July 24, 2019

A traveler was robbed and beaten, left half-dead beside the road. Two passers-by ignored him. Finally another stopped to help, treated his wounds, took him to an inn, fed him. This story of the Good Samaritan was told by Jesus.

In 2015 I wrote about Germany generously throwing open its doors to take in about a million Syrian refugees. I criticized the Obama administration for taking only a handful. My daughter (working in the Mid East for a refugee NGO) chastized me, reminding me that no other nation has welcomed more refugees than America.

That was then.

Last week, in what The Economist calls a calculated pattern, while Trump distracted us with the “go back” outrage, his administration snuck in a big policy change that went almost unremarked. Trump’s mind is actually not organized enough for such cunning; his outrages so frequent that the timing is mere coincidence. In any case, the new policy is also an outrage.

It decrees that no refugee may apply for asylum at the border without first having been rejected by some other country. In practice this means, for most Latin Americans, the end of U.S. asylum.

To be clear, this is not about “illegal immigrants.” People have a legal right to cross our border to apply for asylum, in cases of home-country persecution or endangerment, to be adjudicated through a formal hearing process. This is codified in the 1951 international Refugee Convention and in America’s 1980 Refugee Act. Trump’s new policy (being challenged in court) violates both. Refugees will simply be turned away regardless of the legitimacy of their asylum claims under (previously) universally recognized standards.

Add this to the inhuman cruelty of separating thousands of children from parents (many impossible to reunite) and imprisoning them under horrific conditions, some dying for lack of care.*

This is America? My God, what has happened to this once-noble country? My heart is torn out. Yours should be too — if you have one.

The real point of the Good Samaritan story was that he was Samaritan. The two who passed by the injured man were pillars of the Jewish community. And Jews despised Samaritan people — the “other.” Jesus was saying that maybe their hatred for Samaritans was wrong. Maybe those “others” were at least as good as them.

Go back, you tired, you poor,

You huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost away.

I shut the latch upon the golden door!

* By people who say every child’s life is so sacred they oppose all abortions. Who call themselves “Christians.” Who call their critics unpatriotic.

Now it’s official: Republicans don’t know right from wrong

July 22, 2019

Michael Gerson is a Republican, former G.W. Bush speech writer, and columnist. Please read his latest column below. (I have condensed it considerably.)*

Susan Brooks. Brian Fitzpatrick. Will Hurd. Fred Upton.

These four Republicans supported a resolution condemning President Trump’s plainly racist “go back” taunt. The only House Republicans for whom decency still has a political application. The last, scattered exceptions to the rule of malice and bigotry in the GOP. They (along with ex-Republican Justin Amash) refused to rationalize.

Rationalization is the default setting of the human mind. We can’t reconsider our whole view of the world with every new piece of information. So we tend to accept evidence that supports our predispositions and filter out evidence that does not.

But in politics, rationalization can harden into a rigid ideology in which all questioning is disloyalty. And this cult-like ideology, if all the maleficent stars align, can become a cable network like Fox News.

In the mid-19th century, prominent ministers in the South employed the Bible to justify slavery. There were very few examples of unexpected or heroic resistance. Instead, ministers built a complex series of arguments to rationalize a system based on theft and abuse. And the issue was not eventually resolved by the triumph of superior arguments. It was left to those consummate theologians, the Reverend Doctors Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, to decide what in fact the Bible actually meant.

I am not equating slavery to the rise and rule of Trump in the GOP. I raise the example to show how hard it is — and how important it is — to examine the settled convictions of your own community and resist them when they are wrong.

July 16, 2019, should be remembered for its up-or-down vote on political and moral decency. The rationalizations in this case — that Trump’s statement was not technically racist, that the resolution violated House rules, that Democrats are guilty of similar offenses — had nothing to do with the morality of the situation. They were transparently self-serving and political.

As a society, we would punish racist taunts of this type if done on school grounds or a playing field. We can’t accept them in the president of the United States without doing great damage to public norms of respect and inclusion.

There is a point when rationalization reaches the soul and human beings lose sight of simple right and wrong. And 187 House Republicans have now officially reached it.

* His original text: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/187-house-republicans-have-lost-their-moral-compass/2019/07/18/7301f3b4-a980-11e9-9214-246e594de5d5_story.html?utm_term=.95dd56dee317

 

Go back to the sewer you came from, Trump

July 20, 2019

America was built by people coming here from all over, to take part in our great enterprise. That’s central to what America means.

But some Americans perennially forget this. So every wave of people coming here has been slapped with that hateful insult: “Go back where you came from.”

Especially non-whites. “Go back to Africa.” Forgetting the little detail that they were kidnapped and dragged here on slave ships. Yet they too have built this country.

Since 2016 I’ve considered it a duty to call out every bad thing Trump does. Because this is a crisis of America’s soul. I’ve kept saying it will get worse. And so it has.

“Go back.” The favorite line of racists forever. If you deny it’s racism — who do you think you’re fooling?*

Never mind that three of those four Congress members were born here. The fourth, Ilhan Omar, grew up in a squalid African refugee camp. Coming to America, she earned citizenship, became a useful and beloved member of her community, which elected her to Congress. A great American story of which we should be proud.

You don’t agree with everything she’s said? Fine, neither do I. That’s called public debate. It’s what we have in a democracy.

But Trump says she should “go back” to Africa because she criticizes America. Actually it’s him and his policies being criticized. It’s the job of a Congressperson to spotlight things about America that need changing. This again is public debate in a democracy.

For Trump to slime those Congress members as somehow “unpatriotic” for their criticisms would be a grotesque outrage even if Trump himself had not, throughout his campaign, and even his inaugural speech (“American carnage”) wallowed in hyperbolic bombast tearing down this country. Was he told, “If you don’t like it here, you can leave?” It’s his playing the “unpatriotic” card that’s totally un-American, a vicious assault on our fundamental democratic values.

At his rally, he repeated his “go back” garbage, and when the crowd chanted “Send her back!” he stood there smirking, basking in it, for thirteen long seconds. Next day, momentarily jarred by the backlash, he claimed he didn’t like it and had quickly tried to stop the chant. The video showed he’s a liar. And the day after he went back to praising the chanters.

Equally ghastly, he actually had the brass to call the four Congress members, and the whole Democratic party, “divisive” for daring to criticize him. Every accusation he flings at others applies more to himself. Divisiveness is the very heart of his politics. This latest hate-filled “go back” claptrap could not be more divisive. Tribal partisan hatreds are tearing America apart, destroying the country, and he keeps pouring gasoline on the fire.

Polls show two-thirds of Republicans agree with Trump. House Republican leader McCarthy, squirming to avoid criticizing him, said they’re “the party of Lincoln.” Who’s spinning in his grave. These Republicans have lost their moral minds.

On November 3, 2020, America must tell Trump, and all his deplorable fans: Go back to the sewer you came from.

* News media aren’t saying “allegedly racist” or “comments some call racist.” They’re just plain saying “racist comments.” Good for them. Case closed.

Who’s really a citizen?

July 17, 2019

Trick question: what’s the world’s second biggest Muslim country?

If you said America, shame on you. Everyone (who’s reasonably informed) knows Indonesia has the biggest Muslim population; and coming second is India — even though Hindus are a large majority there.

Trump insists we should find out who, living in America, is really a citizen. Seem reasonable? And what’s India got to do with it?

Keep reading.

In India’s 2014 election, I endorsed Narendra Modi, despite blood on his hands from Gujarat’s anti-Muslim pogrom and his BJP party’s Hindu nationalism. He seemed to understand how India’s still very anti-business economic structures kept people poor. And he has done some good in that regard, though not nearly enough.* Meantime, though it may be too soon to quite give Modi the “authoritarian” label, he’s working on it.

Meantime too the Hindu nationalism has become increasingly central. This is bad. Recall some history: Pakistan was traditionally part of India, but was hived off at independence in 1947 to create a Muslim state. Many millions caught on the “wrong” side of the new border migrated — amid appalling bloodshed. But most Muslims stayed put, and their population in India exceeds Pakistan’s.

Given this background, you might think any Indian government would strive for intercommunal emollience, so Hindus and Muslims can live together equably. You would be rational. But religion never is, and India’s BJP government, under Modi, is doing the opposite. Trying to make Muslims second class citizens — if that.

Assam, an Indian state bordering (Muslim) Bangladesh, has a concentration of Muslims. Unsurprisingly, few Muslims vote for the BJP. Which would rather they didn’t vote at all. So now there’s a big push to find out how many are really proper Indian citizens.

Is this beginning to ring a bell?

They’ve created a “National Register of Citizens” (NRC). If your name’s not there, you’re summoned to a bureaucratic tribunal, with the burden of proving your citizenship. It’s mainly Muslims, of course, targeted for this. Realize it’s a region of endemic illiteracy and poverty, with public records something of a shambles. The Economist’s report headlined with the word “Madness” and invoked the ghost of Kafka. And get this: anyone can file an official objection to a name on the NRC. In Assam, 220,000 such poison letters were filed — all ostensibly by a very small group of objectors.

Failure to “prove” citizenship (to the government’s satisfaction) can put you in jail or in one of the archipelago of detention camps they’re building, for “foreigners.” Their fate is uncertain; they cannot be deported to Bangladesh, which won’t take them. But they will be stripped of citizenship rights — including the vote. Which seems to be the real point.

Now this Assam model is being extended to the whole country.

Back to Trump: insisting we must find out who’s really a citizen. If that may have sounded reasonable to you before, think about India, and what the long range Republican game plan is. They already have a despicable record of winning elections by denying the ballot to targeted groups through discriminatory voter ID laws. This citizenship gambit is the logical, and frightening, next step.

And Trump has now said some U.S.-born Congress members should “go back” to some other countries. Is the next step actually to declare them non-citizens (as India is doing)?

Can you prove you’re a U.S. citizen?

* And he did one economically terrible thing, demonetizing the bulk of India’s circulating currency.