(Sour) Cream of the Crop — Part II

Those of us who do not live in Wisconsin have likely never heard of Paul Nehlen.  He ran in the 2016 Republican primary against House Speaker Paul Ryan, and lost … bigly … by about 70%. When Steve Bannon and Breitbart come out in support of a candidate, that should tell you all you need to know.  Paul Nehlen will be once again running in the GOP primary in Wisconsin against Paul Ryan, and it is important we know just what he stands for.

Nehlen is a white supremacist in extremis who blasted House Speaker Paul Ryan for criticizing white supremacists in the days after the rally/march in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.

Paul-Ryan-tweetAt the same time, Nehlen tweeted that the rally was an “incredible moment for white people.”

Breitbart on NehlenA few things we all need to know about Nehlen …

Nehlen was also a major proponent of Mike Cernovich’s imaginary “Pizzagate”  conspiracy theory and told the Associated Press in August that he still believed it to be true.

In 2016, when Ryan   was vacillating about whether to endorse then-candidate Trump, Trump connected with Nehlen and praised him for supporting him in his war of words with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim Army captain. Nehlen called Paul Ryan a “double agent” who is working for Hillary Clinton because he disagreed with Trump on Khan.

In an interview with a Chicago radio host in 2016, he was asked if he supported deporting all Muslims from the U.S.  He responded, “I’m suggesting that we have a discussion about it. That’s for sure. I am absolutely suggesting we figure out how do we, we, here’s what we should be doing. We should be monitoring every mosque. We should be monitoring all social media.”

dump-truckHis invective against Paul Ryan is jaw-dropping. “A  soulless globalist from the Democrat wing of the Uni-Party.” An “open borders politician” who was “grown in a petri dish in D.C.” and added, “He is all in for the cheapest possible labor for Wall Street. That’s what Paul Ryan’s in for. Paul Ryan’s in for Paul Ryan. He is not an American Patriot – he is a Globalist.”  

Nehlen campaigned for Roy Moore, the Senate candidate from Alabama who was twice removed from the judicial bench and also accused multiple times of pedophilia and other sexual misconduct, claiming to have raised more than $1 million for Moore’s campaign.

After a back-and-forth debate on Twitter regarding gun rights, Nehlen tweeted to New York Post columnist John Podhoretz, “Do us all a favor, Podhoretz. Eat a bullet.” He also told Podhoretz, “self-deport you steaming dung heap.”

Nehlen-4On social media, Nehlen shares memes — like Pepe the frog — associated with the “alt-right,” and has appeared on the podcast Fash the Nation, a project of white nationalist Mike Peinovich. Nehlen has also praised Identity Evropa, a self-styled “identitarian” group that holds to the basic white nationalist belief that whites are doomed to extinction amid a “rising tide” of brown and black people controlled or manipulated by Jews.

Though Steve Bannon and Breitbart have supported Nehlen, that support appeared to come to an end late last month.  Amid rumours that Speaker Paul Ryan is considering stepping down this year, Nehlen upped his ante and espoused his white nationalist, white supremacist position more strongly than ever.

nehlin-bannonOn December 18, Nehlen was a guest on a Breitbart radio show, Whatever It Takes with Curt Schilling. During the interview, Nehlen explained that he has adopted increasingly radical positions to “move the Overton Window”  to the right. The Overton Window refers to what the public considers acceptable political discourse and policy at any given moment and how conservative or liberal politicians can be and still win elections. The Overton Window is frequently discussed by white supremacist groups, who believe their current mission, rather than directly impacting national policy, is to push the Overton Window further to the extreme right in order to legitimize white nationalist ideologies. ie., bigotry and racism. The interview was posted on Breitbart’s site, but shortly thereafter was removed, and now Breitbart claims that they cut all ties with Nehlen months before.

Breitbart deletedEleven days later, on 29 December, Schilling tweeted an invitation to Nehlen:  “@pnehlen let’s have you on the show Wednesday, some things I think people want to hear and some questions I think you need to answer. 1:19 PM – Dec 29, 2017”  Nehlen replied: “Sounds great, Curt. Looking forward to it.  …3:57 PM – Dec 29, 2017”

I think it becomes obvious that Breitbart has not, in fact, cut all ties with Nehlen, however after ThinkProgress reported on the scheduled interview, it was abruptly cancelled.   At least twice since December 2016, Nehlen has appeared on “Fash The Nation,” a white supremacist podcast. Nehlen is also promoting his candidacy on Gab, a social media network that caters to white nationalists. Its app was banned by Google and Apple for hate speech.

I could cite endless tweets and comments from Nehlen that would turn your stomach, but I think you get the picture.  He is indisputably a nasty character, an arrogant and bigoted person. Just as I said about Jan Morgan a few days ago, this person would have been run out of town on a rail two years ago, but suddenly, I have no confidence that the people of his state will not support him. Times have changed with the election of the ‘man’ in the Oval Office. While I am not a big fan of Paul Ryan, as he has been licking Trump’s boots for a year now, he looks nearly like a saint when held up in comparison to Nehlen.

Why, you may ask, am I highlighting these unlikely and unsavory candidates?  I think they bear watching.  I think their ability to garner any significant support, even if they do not win the election in November, speaks of the national temperament.  Frankly, I spent more than six hours reading and researching Mr. Paul Nehlen, and now that I am finished, I feel dirty … I need a long, hot shower, for I feel that I have delved far too deep into the rabbit hole and am infested with the filth I encountered there.

I Can’t Stop Watching the Circus!!!

I know, I know … I need to move on to other, more serious topics, like Jeff Sessions’ decision to prosecute growers/sellers/users of marijuana in states where it is legal.  And Trump’s truly terrible decision to open all U.S. waters to offshore oil & gas drilling.  And Paul Manafort’s lawsuit against Robert Mueller.  And … well, the list goes on, for in the Era of Trump, there is never a shortage of jaw-dropping moments about which to write.  And I should be writing about those more serious topics, but I simply cannot seem to leave this ongoing saga of Michael Wolff’s new book, on shelves today, titled Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

A brief recap up to yesterday (Thursday), in case any of you just returned from Borneo and hadn’t heard …

Journalist Michael Wolff wrote the aforementioned book, which is basically an exposé of the past 18 months with Donald Trump, his family, minions and others.  One small section in the book had Steve Bannon, former White House Strategist and campaign manager, saying some things about Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and son Don Jr., regarding the June 2016 meeting between these players and Russian agents.   Bannon called the meeting ‘treasonous’ and ‘unpatriotic’.  Trump immediately fired back and said that when Bannon got fired, he “not only lost his job, he lost his mind”.  That was on Wednesday.

And on Thursday, I awakened to this Washington Post headline:

Trump Lawyer Seeks to Block Insider Book on White House

Beverly Hills-based attorney Charles J. Harder, acting on behalf of Trump, sent both Steve Bannon and the book’s publisher Henry Holt & Co., ‘cease and desist’ letters, trying to halt publication of the book, which was scheduled for next Tuesday, January 9th. But it quickly became obvious that the letter did not constitute any legal obligation on the part of Henry Holt & Co. to halt or delay publication. In fact, it had the opposite effect, and yesterday afternoon, the publisher announced that Harder’s demand for Holt to “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book,” would not only be ignored, but the publication date was being moved forward to Friday (today), January 5th! Harder’s letter also demanded an apology from the publisher to Trump … what do you think the odds are there?  And, they demanded a full copy of the book.  Well, I guess they can go stand in line at Barnes & Noble and buy a copy like everyone else!  Miss Goose informs me that based on pre-orders, the book has already become a best seller on both Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Now, whose side did the right-wing, conservative media take?  Trump’s, of course.  Bannon may well end up regretting his words to Wolff.  From Politico …

“From Fox News to the Drudge Report, all the way down the spectrum to far-right conspiracy sites like The Gateway Pundit and InfoWars, headlines Wednesday afternoon painted former presidential adviser Steve Bannon as unstable and self-interested, and President Donald Trump as a forceful defender of his family and administration.”

The Daily Caller declared, “Trump Puts Bannon In A Body Bag.” Even some of Bannon’s own cohorts seemed poised to desert a sinking ship.  Breitbart commenters weighed in on the side of Trump, leading to a gleeful InfoWars story declaring, “Breitbart.com readers have overwhelmingly sided with Donald Trump over his war of words with former White House senior counselor Steve Bannon.”

But that isn’t the only price Bannon is paying. Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire Robert Mercer of the notorious Cambridge Analytica, pulled her funding on Wednesday. It is, as yet, unclear what the response will be from other financial backers such as: Sheldon G. Adelson, Las Vegas casino magnate; Todd Ricketts, a Chicago Cubs owner; and Bernard Marcus, a Home Depot founder.

For the moment, it seems that Bannon is the biggest loser in the saga of Wolff’s book, but I do not think we have seen the end, for the book has much, much more than Bannon’s comments to give Trump grief.

For example, it is reported that Kellyanne Conway maligns Trump in private, though she is among his staunchest defenders in public.   “She seemed to regard Trump as a figure of exhausting exaggeration or even absurdity…. She illustrated her opinion of her boss with a whole series of facial expressions: eyes rolling, mouth agape, head snapping back.”

Numerous other players in the game are named as having mocked Trump, including his own daughter, Ivanka, who described how he does whatever it is he does with that ‘thing’ on his head.  And there are enough ‘leaks’ about meetings and strategies to keep Trump speculating and seeking revenge for months to com.  Will he even seek revenge against his own daughter?  It wouldn’t surprise me.

Since I said I should be writing something meaningful and serious, but I keep being drawn back to this story, partly for its humour value, I will present two serious questions, in light of the Wolff book:

  1. We all recognize that the revelations in this book are likely to drive Trump on a tear of vengeance and rhetoric spewing for weeks to come. Can he effectively be president if his time is being spent chasing perceived enemies?  He will be leaving no stone unturned to find those who may have spoken against him.  Can he do anything useful, anything that is expected of him for the salary we pay him?  I doubt it, but then I would also say that if his attention is directed elsewhere, perhaps the government can actually run more smoothly, for he is hardly doing a stellar job.
  2. What does this mean for the November mid-term elections? My initial, out-of-the-gate reaction was that it would be bad for the GOP, good for the Democrats, as the Trump-Bannon feud is likely to splinter the party to some extent.  I still lean in that direction, but I think it would be a huge mistake to operate under the assumption, for as we have seen in the past two-and-a-half years, much can go awry.
  3. I know I said two questions, but I had to add this one: How are people, the 37%-38% that are still saying Trump is great and wonderful and doing such a fine job … how are they seeing all this and still thinking there is anything of value in the White House???

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, while I go try to sink my teeth into something more … relevant and substantial.

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Scorned Trump

Next Tuesday, January 9th, a new book hits the shelves.  Its title is: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, and it was written by Michael Wolff, a veteran journalist who has written for Vanity Fair, the Guardian, the Hollywood Reporter and other publications.  While it is not the first book to be written about Trump, it is the first that is not written by a Trump sycophant. If you wish a preview, NY Magazine published an excerpt that is well worth the read.

Fire and FuryOne segment stands out above the rest in terms of drawing Trump’s immediate ire. It is a comment made by Steve Bannon in response to the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and several Russians in June 2016:

“The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” said an astonished and derisive [Stephen K.] Bannon, not long after the meeting was revealed. “The three senior guys in the campaign,” an incredulous Bannon went on, “thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the twenty-fifth floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s–t, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

It took Trump very little time to hit back … his written statement, read by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was as follows:

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.

Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.

Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.

We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.”

Since none of the book seems to paint Trump in a favourable light, I am guessing we’ll hear more of these ‘statements’ in the coming week.  There are so many falsehoods in the above statement, so many incidents of him patting himself on the back, that I won’t even pick it apart, but you don’t need me to anyway, for you are all savvy enough to know the dung when you see it.  And now, the ball is back in Bannon’s court … I am going to guess he’ll lob it back before long.  Stay tuned …

2018 Or Bust …

Many of us, this writer included, have pretty much placed all of our hopes for the future of this nation on the mid-term elections for 33 senators and 435 representatives on 06 November 2018.  For most of this year, I convinced myself, given the shambles that Trump and the current Congress have made of our federal government, that the mid-terms were a no-brainer … the Democrats would sweep, would carry the day.  Some readers, primarily my friends from across the big pond, however, were less optimistic.  “Maybe not”, they said.  “I wouldn’t count on it”, I heard.  It is easy to kid ourselves, to say that they don’t live here, so they don’t understand.  But the reality is that they sometimes see things more clearly than we do, for they have the benefit of a bit of distance and a much longer history.  The more I study the situation, the more I consider, ponder, scratch my head and lose sleep, the more I am convinced that the mid-terms may not be the salvation for which we are hoping.

I have at least six points of concern:

  • Democratic Party disoganized
  • Russian interference
  • Voter disenfranchisement
  • Lobbyist influence
  • Bannon influence
  • Voter apathy, especially among democrats/minorities

To be sure, the Democratic Party has a few advantages at this point.  The president’s party typically loses seats in midterm elections, and Trump is a historically unpopular president – the most unpopular in modern times. Then there are the encouraging wins for Democrats in Virginia and Alabama special elections recently.  But I think it would be a mistake to take those wins as a sign of things to come, for there were extenuating circumstances in both that may not be replicated in the broader mid-term elections.

A Washington Post-ABC News survey released in April found that a majority of the public thinks the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans. I would agree and don’t think that has changed much since April. The Democratic Party will need to have squeaky-clean candidates next year, ones without a breath of scandal in their past, for there is no doubt that the opposition will be digging deep, spending millions to find “dirt” on every candidate.  Whereas Alabamans were willing to overlook Roy Moore’s pedophilia and sex scandals, it must be understood that so much as the hint of any such scandal in the past of a Democratic candidate will be be a death knell. The Republicans have a propaganda machine in Fox News and Breitbart that cannot be discounted, that is very powerful.

The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable that the Russian government did, in fact, have influence in our election process.  The extent of their influence is, I think, still unknown, but there can be no doubt that they did have an impact, a role in putting a madman in the highest office of the land.  We need to be taking steps to ensure that there can be no outside influence in 2018, but are we?  Given that Trump denies any such interference existed, even though such denial is an obvious and pathetic attempt to cover his own posterior, it is doubtful that any meaningful steps are being taken to protect the integrity of next year’s election.

On May 11, 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity”. Mike Pence chairs the Commission, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serves as the vice chair. This commission was established as Trump claimed, falsely, that there was widespread voter fraud with thousands of people voting twice.  Never mind that he won the election, he was offended that he did not win the popular vote.  The commission also serves as a smokescreen for the real issues that made our election a sham, the aforementioned Russian influence. I have written before about this commission, and the fact that Kris Kobach as Secretary of the State of Kansas, has long called for greater voting restrictions, and in July, the commission demanded that states turn over to the commission all citizen’s voting records. Thus far, the commission has not been notably successful, however the fact that it exists is chilling and may keep some voters away from the polls next November for fear of having their personal information shared.  Additionally, the commission has claimed they will remove duplicate names from voter registries, even though in many cases there may actually be two people legitimately named John Smith.

There is no doubt that big donor money plays a key role in elections and it has been magnified many times over this year, with the large corporations and lobbying groups emboldened to tell members of Congress that if they do not vote as the donors wish, they will never receive campaign funding again.  This is a slam against the democratic process and needs to be checked immediately, but of course, it will not end any time soon.  We cannot change campaign finance rules in time for the 2018 elections, but we must make absolutely certain that we do not support any candidate who is taking large campaign donations from these groups.  The information is public, and one only has to do a little research to find out who is being bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex, the NRA and others.

Steve Bannon has vowed to pursue the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” He has pledged to support and promote candidates that are of the extreme right ideology, as he did Roy Moore in Alabama.  He will, I belive, choose his battles wisely and use any and every tactic to put extremists in Congress next year.  He certainly has the money, the voice, and the resources to get his message through, and poses a significant threat to the democratic process.

And lastly, I think that voter apathy or angst played a large role in the election of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton.  It would make sense that voter apathy/angst among Democrats is even higher now than it was in 2016. One reason, of course, is the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the electoral college.  Another is the Russian influence.  People may think the system is rigged, and their vote doesn’t matter or will not be properly counted.  Minorities have absolutely no reason to vote for a Republican candidate, for the current administration and Congress have increasingly supported legislation and spewed rhetoric harmful to African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and the LGBT community.  But does that mean they will come out and vote for a Democrat?  Not necessarily, for they may find it simpler to simply stay home.

The Democratic National Committee must step up to the plate, must become organized, support only those candidates who are above reproach.  They must generate enthusiasm and their trademark must become the very things that our government is lacking today: transparency, honesty, integrity and equality.  And those of us who have a voice, even a voice that may reach only a few hundred people, must help generate enthusiasm, must help explain the issues, introduce the candidates, and light a fire under the voters. We simply cannot afford to end 2018 with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, for as we have seen this year, they are not working for We The People, but for their own interests.  I say it is time to clean house, but do not for one minute think it is going to happen without a fight.

Sold Downriver …

Once again, my friends, we are the lowest on the food chain when it comes to politics in the U.S. and once again, we have been played for a fool.  The tax bill that the two chambers of Congress quite quickly, in the grand scheme of things, given the complexity of the U.S. Tax Code, and given the fact that it is already proven to add trillions of dollars to the national debt, reconciled, has apparently the support of every damn republican in Congress.  Why?  Because it is giving We The People tax relief?  Nope.  Because their donors have told them to pass the bill or else, and because Trump is adamant, like a petulant child, that he must win at something, anything, before the end of the year.  Enter Senator Bob Corker.

corker

Senator Bob Corker, Traitor to the People of the United States of America

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, a republican, announced his retirement from the Senate on Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, stating that he would not seek re-election next year.  Corker was one of the more ‘moderate’ republicans, not uber-right wing, but what they refer to these days as an ‘establishment republican’, whatever that is supposed to mean.  I was rather sad about his announcement in one way, for his kind, the kind that believe in bi-partisanship, in doing the right thing for the nation, are a dying breed, being squeezed out by the likes of Steve Bannon and his chosen few.  But, in another sense I was glad for two reasons: 1) it would open a seat in the 2018 mid-terms for a democrat to win, as there would be no incumbent advantage; 2) Corker now had nothing to lose … he didn’t need donor money next year and he no longer needed to pander to Trump in order to receive his endorsement.  He would be free to vote his conscience, and it appeared that perhaps he had a bit of one, after all.

I was buoyed when I heard him say, “I also believe the most important public service I have to offer our country could well occur over the next 15 months, and I want to be able to do that as thoughtfully and independently as I did the first 10 years and nine months of my Senate career.” It seemed to confirm that he would use his unique position to stand up to Trump and the “Freedom Caucus”.

And so, when the tax ‘reform’ bills of the House and Senate were said to be reconciled, I expected no less of Corker than the stance he took in late November/early December, saying he would not support any bill that would add to the federal deficit.

“At the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations.”

Fools that we are, we actually believed him.  And then on Friday, he went into a meeting with his “Nay” hat on, and came out with his “Yea” hat on.  What happened, my friend?  Moolah, dough, dinero, cash … that’s what happened.  There is virtually no change in the bill’s devastating effect on the federal budget deficit, yet Mr. Corker’s conscience flew out the window of that meeting room.

The conference report (reconciliation of the House and Senate versions of the bill) released last week does nothing to address Corker’s deficit concerns. But there was one small change to the bill, the incorporation of a clause that benefits owners of pass-through businesses with few employees but significant depreciable assets—such as, for example, owners of real estate LLCs. Well, now, isn’t that handy for one Donald Trump, real estate “mogul”?  But wait … it is also quite handy for soon-to-be ordinary citizen/businessman Bob Corker who is ranked the 4th wealthiest Senator in Congress.  His net worth?  $69,450,025.  Yes, my friends, $69 million and change.  Close your eyes and try to imagine seeing that on your bank statement or investment portfolio.

Under the new “tax reform” bill, I am willing to bet that Mr. Corker will pay a smaller percentage in taxes of his net income than you or I in 2018.  So, all of a sudden, it does not matter all that much after all if the federal deficit, and thus the national debt spiral out of control. Mr. Bob Corker will be sitting in his mansion, eating his steak and lobster, and saying, “So what?  I got mine.” And meanwhile, we have once again been sucker-punched, played for fools, and shown just how much conscience any of our elected officials have.

2018 is the year that we need to do some serious housecleaning, get every damn one of those cobwebs out of the dark corners, along with the abominable creatures who made them (my apologies to all the spiders in the world, for spiders are really quite benevolent as compared with the lot in Congress).

We The People need to take stock in what drives our voting habits, need to make sure that our friends on both sides of the aisle understand that at the present time, every republican member of Congress, and quite possibly many of the democrats as well, have been bought and paid for, lock, stock and barrel, by Trump’s friends, the wealthy 1%.  We all need to heed this wakeup call and understand in no uncertain terms that the United States of America is no longer a democratic republic, of the people, by the people and for the people, but rather a plutocracy: government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich, gained by stepping on the broken backs of the poor.

We The People have been sold downriver, and we have little left to lose.  Let Us Rebel!!!

Democracy Dies in Darkness …

Once again, the attempts to discredit our free press are coming in waves, and the press must be ever-vigilant.  This from The Washington Post:

“A woman who falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets.

The Post did not publish an article based on her unsubstantiated account. When Post reporters confronted her with inconsistencies in her story and an Internet posting that raised doubts about her motivations, she insisted that she was not working with any organization that targets journalists.

But on Monday morning, Post reporters saw her walking into the New York offices of Project Veritas, an organization that targets the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups. The organization sets up undercover “stings” that involve using false cover stories and covert video recordings meant to expose what the group says is media bias.”

If the Post had gone with this woman’s made-up story, if they had not ‘smelled a rat’, there would have been loud cries of “Fake News” and Trump would have been all over Twitter screaming about the “failing New York Times”.  Fortunately, they smelled that rat in time, and I sense the hand of a very large rat by the name of Steve Bannon behind this.

Project Veritas is an organization that uses deceptive tactics and secretly recorded conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets, media organizations such as The Washington Post, New York Times and others. Lest you think they are not affiliated with Donald Trump, he donated $10,000 to Project Veritas in 2015. So what was the purpose of this ‘sting operation’ on the part of Project Veritas?  To discredit the women who came forth and told their stories about Roy Moore sexually assaulting them as teens.  If the Post had believed the woman sent by Project Veritas, had run the story, they would have immediately proven it false, and it would have cast a shadow over the other women as well, women whose accusations have been well-researched and shown to be credible.  Most would have assumed that if the Post got it wrong once, they were probably wrong about the others as well.

Even worse, however, on a much wider scale, it would have been one more strike … a large one … against the free press, for it would have shown their vulnerability to reporting untruths.  Now allow me to switch gears for a moment …

Yesterday, Donald Trump, seemingly out of the blue, denied the infamous Access Hollywood video where he was caught on tape making vulgar comments about women and his treatment of them.  He denied the video that was released in October 2016 that he admitted to at the time it was released, referring to it then as “locker room talk”!  He even went so far as to say, “I said it, I was wrong and I apologize.” Now, however, he is saying he “has doubts about the veracity” of the tape. The tape has been proven to be the real thing, by the way, so Trump’s attempts to cast doubt are nothing more than the substance that comes from a bull’s rear end.

To what end … what purpose in all this?  On the surface, it would appear that both the woman falsely claiming to have been impregnated by Roy Moore, and Trumps denial of the well-documented Access Hollywood tapes are both attempts to discredit the women who were abused by Roy Moore in order to help him win the December 12th election for Senate.  Simple, right?  But I think there are further reasons. I think they are an attempt to discredit one of our oldest and most reliable media outlets, The Washington Post.  Why?

A look at the slogan the Post added to its masthead back in February may answer that question:

WaPoDonald Trump’s presidency, if it can be called such, has been a failed experiment.  He is not succeeding, his approval ratings remain below 40% and there is an ever-growing movement for impeachment.  Add to that, the fact that Robert Mueller’s investigation is showing signs of getting a little too close to Trump himself for his comfort, and you have a recipe for disaster, from his point of view.  How better to keep public opinion from going full steam against him than to discredit the very ones who are keeping close tabs on him and his dastardly deeds?  He is running scared and will shoot the messenger before he will allow that messenger to deliver his message.

I am relieved that the editors and reporters at The Washington Post were alert and diffused the threat by Project Veritas before the unthinkable happened.  But make no mistake … there will be a next time, and a next, and a next, for Bannon and Trump are not yet finished.  We, as well as the media outlets, must be ever-vigilant, for Democracy Dies in Darkness.

Have We Learned Nothing???

If you thought the white supremacist/nationalist movement was unique to the United States, think again.  This weekend, some 60,000 people marched in Warsaw, Poland, celebrating Poland’s Independence Day, flying in from various points in Europe:  Slovakia, Sweden, Spain and Hungary.  But more than celebrating the day Poland gained its freedom from a century of foreign rule in 1918, the march was to promote the idea of white supremacy, of hatred … of evil.

Marchers carried signs reading …

  • Europe Will Be White
  • Clean Blood
  • White Europe Of Brotherly Nations
  • Pray for Islamic Holocaust

Poland-4That last one stops my heart … “Pray for Islamic Holocaust” … this from people who are descended from people, some of whom were no doubt victims of Hitler’s Holocaust!!!  Chants of “Pure Poland, white Poland!” and “Refugees get out!” could be heard throughout Warsaw.  What a damn shame that human beings, that mankind, has learned not one thing from the history of only last century.  Is this the direction Europe and the United States wish to go?  Are we really so eager to see millions of people murdered simply because of the colour of their skin, their national origin or their religion???

The march was organized by a neo-Nazi group called The Radical Camp, the name of a 1930s fascist movement.  To be sure, there were some small groups of counter-protestors including anti-fascists and Polish Jews, but they were far outnumbered and largely ignored. Although police and organisers tried to keep the two groups apart, nationalists pushed and kicked several women who had a banner saying “Stop fascism”.

Poland-1In recent years, Poland’s politics have leaned more toward a right-wing, xenophobic ideology. Similar nationalist and racist ideologies are growing in influence in Greece, Austria, Switzerland, and numerous other democracies across the continent. And so I ask again … have we not learned one, single, damned thing from history?

Poland’s resurgent fascist youth movement has embraced Donald Trump, whose campaign manager Steve Bannon worked for years to exploit white ethno-nationalist political energy in western Europe as well as the United States from his position leading Breitbart. America’s own white supremacist and spouter of hate, Richard Spencer, was originally slated to give a speech at this event, but changed his mind after Foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski said that Spencer “should not appear publicly, and especially not in Poland.” Not, mind you, that Spencer cancelled his trip based on a change or heart of stroke of conscience, but he feared he would be denied entry into the country.

Poland-2I have noted many times before, I cannot understand how anybody with even half a brain can think that having pale skin makes a person superior to others.  Obviously, however, some do think so and that number seems to be growing, the ideology spreading like a fast=growing cancer both in the U.S. and in Europe.  The movement has its roots in the Arab Spring movements that began less than a decade ago and produced a mass exodus from Middle Eastern nations, people fleeing for their lives.  As nations like Greece, Germany, the U.S. and many others accepted these refugees, groups like daesh, al qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah were doing their best to make fear of the unknown the order of the day.  Add to this mix people like Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Geert Wilders, Norbert Hofer, Marine LePen, and others — populist candidates whose platform is based on one of xenophobia and of halting immigration — and it is a recipe for disaster.

How do we forget that we are all of the human race?  And where, pray tell, are the banished people of this world supposed to go?  How are they to survive, to live, even to thrive? The homelands of the Middle Easterners are being torn asunder by war and terrorism.  The nations of Africa are poor and already over-populated. And why would we want to live apart from our brothers and sisters who add so much to our lives, make our lives richer by sharing their cultures?

Poland-3.jpgHow do we stop the white nationalist movements that would exterminate, apparently, everyone who does not think, act and look exactly like them?  I don’t have any answer to that question, but I would ask those who feel this way a question:  say you got rid of all the Middle Easterners, the Latinos, those with African heritage … who’s next?  People with red hair?  People with disabilities?  Women?  It is a never-ending process, and it is evil.

The only way I know of to stop such a movement is for every person to take up the cause, to speak out against this evil, and to take time to educate those who somehow feel superior because they have pale skin.  I have said it before, and I say it again today:  those who remain silent in the face of this evil sweeping the globe are as guilty as any.

There are lessons to be learned from the past, but we are failing to learn them.  For fourteen years, Adolph Hitler reigned in much of Europe, his reign resulting in the deaths of between 70 and 85 million people, including six million human beings whose only crimes were to be different.  Do we really need to repeat this atrocity?  Is it not possible for us to learn tolerance, to learn to ignore the Richard Spencers and Steve Bannons of this world and treat people as equals?  Think about it, for we each must make the choice to either speak out loudly against this evil, or to be complicit in helping the haters achieve their goals, thus taking responsibility for the outcome.

ENOUGH!!! (Part I)

 

Senators Bob Corker (l) and Jeff Flake (r)

They need to invent a machine … one that I can scream into, and there will be no sound, it will mute and be absorbed by some material within the machine.  The reason I need this is because when I am perusing the news and see something that particularly sets my teeth on edge, my scream has a tendency to scare the family and the Significant Seven half to death.  So, some of you scientific geniuses out there, please hurry before I either get thrown out of my home, or give everybody else in the home heart failure.

pillow-scream-2


On Tuesday, Senator Jeff Flake, a republican from Arizona, announced that he does not intend to seek re-election next November.  He also gave a very moving, thoughtful speech, which I share with you now …

As I contemplate the Trump presidency, I cannot help but think of Joseph Welch.

On June 9, 1954, during the Army-McCarthy hearings, Welch, who was the chief counsel for the Army, famously asked the committee chairman if he might speak on a point of personal privilege. What he said that day was so profound that it has become enshrined as a pivotal moment in defense of American values against those who would lay waste to them. Welch was the son of a small prairie town in northwest Iowa, and the plaintive quality of his flat Midwestern accent is burned into American history. After asking Sen. Joseph McCarthy for his attention and telling him to listen with both ears, Welch spoke:

“Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness.”

And then, in words that today echo from his time to ours, Welch delivered the coup de grace: “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

The moral power of Welch’s words ended McCarthy’s rampage on American values, and effectively his career as well.

After Welch said his piece, the hearing room erupted in applause, those in attendance seemingly shocked by such bracing moral clarity in the face of a moral vandal. Someone had finally spoken up and said: Enough.

By doing so, Welch reawakened the conscience of the country. The moment was a shock to the system, a powerful dose of cure for an American democracy that was questioning its values during a time of global tumult and threat. We had temporarily forgotten who we were supposed to be.

We face just such a time now. We have again forgotten who we are supposed to be.

There is a sickness in our system — and it is contagious.

How many more disgraceful public feuds with Gold Star families can we witness in silence before we ourselves are disgraced?

How many more times will we see moral ambiguity in the face of shocking bigotry and shrug it off?

How many more childish insults do we need to see hurled at a hostile foreign power before we acknowledge the senseless danger of it?

How much more damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty do we need to witness in silence before we count ourselves as complicit in that damage?

Nine months of this administration is enough for us to stop pretending that this is somehow normal, and that we are on the verge of some sort of pivot to governing, to stability. Nine months is more than enough for us to say, loudly and clearly: Enough.

The outcome of this is in our hands. We can no longer remain silent, merely observing this train wreck, passively, as if waiting for someone else to do something. The longer we wait, the greater the damage, the harsher the judgment of history.

I have been so worried about the state of our disunion that I recently wrote a book called “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.” I meant for the book to be a defense of principle at a time when principle is in a state of collapse. In it, I traced the transformation of my party from a party of ideas to a party in thrall to a charismatic figure peddling empty populist slogans. I tried to make the case for the sometimes excruciating work of arguing and compromise.

This was part of the reason I wanted to go to the Senate — because its institutional strictures require you to cross the aisle and do what is best for the country. Because what is best for the country is for neither party’s base to fully get what it wants but rather for the factions that make up our parties to be compelled to talk until we have a policy solution to our problems. To listen to the rhetoric of the extremes of both parties, one could be forgiven for believing that we are each other’s enemies, that we are at war with ourselves.

But more is now required of us than to put down our thoughts in writing. As our political culture seems every day to plumb new depths of indecency, we must stand up and speak out. Especially those of us who hold elective office.

To that end, and to remove all considerations of what is normally considered to be safe politically, I have decided that my time in the Senate will end when my term ends in early January 2019. For the next 14 months, relieved of the strictures of politics, I will be guided only by the dictates of conscience.

It’s time we all say: Enough.

Senator Bob Corker, who announced in September that he would not seek re-electin in 2018, and Senator Flake, both republicans, are just the latest in an ever-growing list of legislators who are saying Enough of Donald Trump.  And, predictably (ho-hum), Trump had an almost immediate comeback …

“The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!” (precisely 140 characters … how does he do that?)

“The meeting with Republican Senators yesterday, outside of Flake and Corker, was a love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!” (again, exactly 140 characters)

“Jeff Flake, with an 18% approval rating in Arizona, said “a lot of my colleagues have spoken out.” Really, they just gave me a standing O!”

I repeat what I have said so many times in the past … such maturity from the ‘man’ in the White House.

Trump’s remarks are not germane to this discussion, but follow his usual (ho-hum) pattern, a pattern that is beyond old and tiresome.  But, that aside, we are just over a year away from the mid-term elections and should be asking some questions.  The first one is obvious … what does it mean, relative to the 2018 elections, that these members of Congress are leaving?  To date, there are a minimum of 14 who will not be seeking re-election or are leaving prior to the elections.

Common sense would lead us to believe that this is a positive, that it will open the door for democratic wins in both Senate and House, given Trump’s continuing low approval rating of under 40% (37% as of yesterday’s FiveThirtyEight aggregate polls).  And, typically members of the president’s party have a harder path to winning in mid-term elections.  But common sense flew out the window sometime prior to 8 November 2016 and has not yet returned.

For the most part, the representatives and senators that are leaving are among the less radical, more moderate branch of the GOP.  Steve Bannon, who is still, I am certain, Trump’s top advisor, just not on the payroll, at least officially, has stated his goal of putting more far-right conservatives in office next November, rather along the lines of his Alabama pick, former judge Roy Moore, who is the least-qualified candidate for Congress I have seen.

I will return later this week with further analysis of what this all means in the grand scheme of things, as well as a look at some of the specific seats that will be up for grabs with no incumbent next year.  Also, question #2: Why have these legislators kept silent for nine full months?  Stay tuned, folks …

 

Thoughts on “Value Voters”

Recently I have heard the term “value voters” bandied about.  I did not really think much about it until this past Saturday when Steve Bannon spoke harshly at a “Value Voters Summit”, and then I began to wonder … what, exactly, are value voters?  The short answer I found is …

“One who participates in elections and makes decisions based on issues such as religion, abortion, capital punishment and same-sex marriage.”

In other words, one who places their own personal morals above the good of the nation, the security of the world, and the important issues that should be the business of government. Banning same-sex marriage is, to the value voter, more important than protecting the environment, the air we breathe and the food we eat.  Banning abortion takes precedence over international security.  And prioritizing one religion over another ranks higher than human rights.

And the Values Voter Summit at which Bannon spoke on Saturday is …

“An annual political conference held in Washington, D.C. for American social conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States. The Values Voter Summit is hosted by the Family Research Council. There are numerous conservative organizations sponsoring or otherwise participating in the conference. In the most recent summit, 38 organizations and an audience of 2,000 people participated. The summit is usually held in September or October of each year.”

The all-star cast of previous summits have included right-wing commentators and conspiracy theorists Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter.  All three of these have received Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week award … need I say more?

This year, Steve Bannon, Trump’s friend, ‘former’ chief strategist, and advisor, spoke at the summit and ‘declared war’ against the GOP at the ballot box in next year’s midterm elections.

“This is not my war. This is our war. And y’all didn’t start it. The establishment started it. But I will tell you one thing — you all are going to finish it.”

Bannon’s two main targets were Senators Bob Corker and Mitch McConnell.  Corker, you may remember, spoke out last week, saying that republican lawmakers were privately concerned about Trump’s ability to lead the country, and later tweeting, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift …”  Bannon said the incumbents in Congress must now “come to a stick [microphone] and condemn Senator Corker.”

Since leaving the White House in August, Bannon has returned to his post as chairman of Breitbart and made it his express mission to purge the Republican Party in the 2018 primary challenges to sitting members of Congress. His efforts are reportedly being backed by conservative hedge-fund mogul Robert Mercer, a real piece of work in his own right.

White supremacist and former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka also spoke at the summit …

“The left has no idea how much more damage we can do to them as private citizens, as people unfettered. 2018 will be the crucial year. This is the year. Steve has declared war on the RINO class as have I and we must tell them we have had enough.”

Not one to pass up an opportunity to be in the spotlight, Trump also spoke at the summit, the first sitting president ever to do so.

“We know that it’s the family and the church — not government officials — who know best how to create strong and loving communities. We don’t worship government, we worship God.” (Somebody shoot me now, please?)

Trump continued to toot his horn and condemn Congress for failing to rubber-stamp his own agenda, but nothing that we haven’t all heard before, so I won’t waste mine or your time repeating it ad nauseam.  What I would focus on, however, is the ideology of the ‘value voters’ who attended this conference.

This was a group, at least some of whom believe that God placed Donald Trump in the White House.  My snarky self simply cannot resist asking the question, do they believe, then, that Vladimir Putin is God? This is a group who place their own religious values far above truth and integrity in government, environmental protection, global security, human rights, justice, international relations, crime prevention, healthcare, the economy, or any of a number of other serious issues facing our nation today.  These are people, evangelical Christians, as they refer to themselves, who believe this nation should have a state religion:  Christianity.  They have no room in their hearts for those who are Muslim, Jewish, atheist or agnostic.  Many have no room in their hearts, even for those who are Hispanic or African-American.  I am not speaking of Christianity as a whole, but this relatively small group of ‘value voters’ who choose to push their religion upon us all, to the detriment and exclusion of all else.

Bannon, Gorka and Trump knew their audience, knew what would sell.  But they also spoke to a much larger audience:  We The People.  This writer found their message ridiculous, but also chilling, for if they have their way in November 2018, a large portion of Congress will be their hand-picked choices from the radical-right.  Soldiers for Bannon’s army in his self-declared “war” on the 64% of us who do not support Trump and his ideology – an ideology that is the opposite of “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.  That is the government that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed “shall not perish from the earth.”  If Trump, Bannon and the value voters have their way, I fear it will perish after all.

Lincoln

From Failed Judge To U.S. Senator???

Next Tuesday there will be a special primary runoff election in the state of Alabama to determine the republican candidate that will run the race to elect a senator to fill the seat left vacant when Jeff Sessions was nominated U.S. Attorney General.  The general election will be held on December 12th.

Now, guess who is one of the two main candidates for the republican nominations?  While he was not one of my infamous Idiots of the Week, Roy Moore probably ought to have been.  However, I did write a post about him last September, almost a year ago, titled When Justice Is Unjust.

roy-moore

Roy Moore

To briefly recap, Moore was Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court … twice, in fact, having been removed from the bench in 2003, and then re-elected in 2013.  He was once again removed in May 2016, for directing probate judges to continue to enforce the state’s ban on same-sex marriage despite the fact that it had been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Moore is a religious zealot who does not accept the concept of separation of church and state, and has done everything in his power to sabotage said separation.  As such, he has been the source of numerous controversies and the Alabama court system is far better off without him.

However now, he wants to be a Senator and is determined to shake things up.  One might expect that he would be Donald Trump’s choice, yes?  But one would be wrong, for Trump is actually supporting Moore’s opponent, Luther Strange.  But wait, for it gets even more interesting.  Many in Trump’s camp, notably Steve Bannon, Sarah Palin and Papa Duck Phil Robertson are actually supporting Moore, despite the fact that Trump himself is not. The polls show Moore with a 6-point lead over Strange, 53 percent to 47 percent, despite the fact that the Strange campaign has spent four times more than Moore’s.

A brief bit about Luther Strange …

Luther Strange

Luther Strange

Luther Strange was appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley (R) to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R). He was previously elected as attorney general of Alabama in 2010.

Strange announced his intent to fight for his seat in April 2017, saying, “As I’ve said for months, I’m a candidate and I’m ready to run whether the election is next month or next year. As the only announced candidate for this office, I will spend the next several months being the best Senator I can be, upholding Alabama values and working with President Donald Trump to drain the swamp and help make America great again.” On his campaign website, Strange listed defending religious freedom, supporting the Trump administration’s agenda, and repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act as top issues. His tenure as attorney general of Alabama focused on challenging the Obama administration’s healthcare agenda and environmental regulations in court. – BallotPedia 

Obviously Strange is not, by my standards, an ideal candidate either, but at least he is not steeped in racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and overall bigotry, as Moore is.

An article yesterday in The Washington Post  provided some interesting insight into Moore’s intentions, should he actually be elected into the Senate.

The central argument of Moore’s campaign is that removing the sovereignty of a Christian God from the functions of government is an act of apostasy, an affront to the biblical savior as well as the Constitution.

“We have forgotten the source of our rights. We put ourselves above God. And in so doing, we forgot the basic source of our morality.”

In his current campaign, he has called for the impeachment of judges, including possibly Supreme Court justices, who issue rulings for same-sex marriage …

He seems to forget that not everyone in this nation is Christian, that not all of us believe as he does, yet our rights are guaranteed by the Constitution no less than his or his constituents.  This is a nation of tolerance, it is a nation that does not promote one religion over the other, and contrary to what some believe, Christianity is not the state religion.

For more in-depth analysis of the differences between Strange and Moore’s platforms, visit BallotPedia.

So with two less-than-desirables vying for the republican nomination, what about the democratic candidate?

doug-jones

Doug Jones

Doug Jones was appointed U.S. attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, by former President Bill Clinton in 1997. Jones was the lead prosecutor in the reopened 1963 Birmingham church bombing case that killed four black girls during the Civil Rights Movement. His private practice involved white collar criminal defense and commercial litigation.

“The national election was very disturbing, quite frankly, and I know a lot of people in this state voted overwhelmingly for … [Donald] Trump. But there were about 37 percent of the people who did not, and they need a voice too,” he said a few weeks after announcing his candidacy.

Jones identified increasing the minimum wage, prioritizing education as a job creator, encouraging renewable energy and conservation, abortion rights, and preventing discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions as policy priorities. – BallotPedia

Obviously, I see Jones as the better candidate for the U.S. Senate, however … this is Alabama.  In the 2016 election, republican Richard Shelby received nearly twice the amount of votes as the democratic candidate, Ron Crumpton.  In fact, the last time a democrat won a senate race in Alabama was in 1992. The three leading polls indicate that the republican candidate, whomever it is, will have a safe to strong lead on  December 12th.  While no one senator has absolute power, and a majority is required to pass legislation, confirm presidential nominations, etc., one outspoken senator does have the power to disrupt the entire body and create chaos.  Please, Alabamans … keep Roy Moore out of the U.S. Senate!