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!

Filosofa Returns — With Bits ‘N Pieces

Dearest Readers!  Thank you all for the many well-wishes for my weekend hiatus!  I had a great weekend … no car troubles, no injuries, just a nice, relaxing weekend!  I missed you guys, missed your comments that sometimes make me think, other times make me laugh!  I am now back home, safe and sound, although I DID manage to get lost just ten miles from home!!! I am blaming that one on heavy traffic and not being able to get into the lane I needed to be in.  Still, one might think that since I have lived in this area for more than 20 years, I could find my way around!  I am directionally challenged.

I have been responding to comments this evening, and I apologize that my responses are perhaps not as in-depth as usual, but I wanted to get caught up on that tonight and I had four days’ worth to catch up, so I did not expound as much as I might have another time.  I will be working over the next several days to get caught up reading your posts, so be patient.  Meanwhile, since I am not likely to write a full post tonight, a few snippets from the weekend news:

  • I was saddened to hear of the death of entertainment legend Jerry Lewis on Sunday at age 91.  The official cause of death was ischemic cardiomyopathy, which occurs when the heart becomes unable to pump sufficient blood through the rest of the body due to a coronary artery disease. I did not realize that Mr. Lewis had suffered three heart attacks during his lifetime, the first when he was only 34 years old.  He also had Type I diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis, had battled prostate cancer and a fall during a Las Vegas show in 1965 nearly paralyzed him.  He was best known as a comedian, having received several awards for lifetime achievement from the American Comedy Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Venice Film Festival and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But what set Jerry Lewis apart was his humanitarian work. He supported fund-raising for research into muscular dystrophy, as well as many other causes that go beyond what I could possibly cover in this snippet.  He was a fine entertainer and a good human being who will be missed on this earth.  Rest in Peace, Jerry. jerry-lewis-2

  • So, I heard that Steve Bannon is out of Trump’s administration. I received no less than three messages within an hour of the announcement.  Of course, given Bannon’s ideology, I am glad he is out.  That still leaves Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, of course, but Bannon was, I felt, the biggest threat and from time to time I even wondered if he wasn’t, perhaps, the puppeteer.  But I think there is more to this than meets the eye.  On August 7th, more than a week before his ouster, Bannon contacted Breitbart to let them know he would be returning.  And he made a comment that he can do more good on the outside than on the inside.  I am not sure what I suspect, but I am suspicious of … something.  When I’ve had time to study and ponder it more, I’ll try to clarify my suspicions.

  • You know those annoying ‘speed bumps’ that are intended to slow drivers down in areas where children may be playing, or raccoons dancing in the street, or whatever? We have two on our street and they are annoying, but if they slow traffic down, I’m all for them, for here in da hood, we do have large numbers of children playing, riding bikes and skateboards in the middle of the street.  Well anyway, the Brits have come up with “illusory speed bumps”!  According to a report in the Guardian, “They are painted humps on the road: white arcs, about a metre wide, like slightly asymmetrical Vs that, by the miracle of perspective, fool the eye into seeing them as looming out of the tarmac as drivers approach.”  Sure would save wear and tear on one’s suspension system if they work! speed bumps.jpg

  • The Great American Eclipse. They hyped it for two months.  A total eclipse – 99.4% they said.  As I mentioned last week, I was a bit nervous about driving home from Pennsylvania on Monday, because I feared it would become pitch dark and I would not be able to see.  I drove, and I drove, and I wondered when it was to happen.  I noted that the day had become slightly darker, but there were clouds overhead, so that could explain it.  That was it … it got, maybe 5-7 degrees darker.  When I got home, I asked Miss Goose if it had been spectacular here.  Nope … just got slightly darker.  While relieved that I didn’t have to find a place to stop for an hour or so, I am somewhat disappointed. They ought not to have built up so much suspense.  Was it a spectacular thing where any of you live?  solar eclipse

  • Headline news in both today’s New York Times and The Washington Post is that Trump briefly looked up at the sun without protective glasses today. I ask you:  a) does anybody care?; b) so what – he’s already blind in the ways that matter?; and c) why is every bloomin’ thing the man does considered ‘newsworthy’?  Next we’ll be hearing what he eats for dinner each night and what time he poops! Sheesh. not-too-bright

And on that note, I have emails to answer, a suitcase to unpack, and am shooting for a (relatively) early bedtime tonight, as nine straight hours of driving today has just about done me in!  Thanks again, dear friends, and I will be back on my regular schedule by the end of the day!

 

Open Letter to Donald Trump – #4

Dear Mr. Trump,

I have not communicated with you since February, as all my previous advice seemed to go unheeded.  However, today I am once again compelled to speak to you, and since what I have to say will require more than 140 characters, I cannot use your favoured method of communication.

During the course of the past seven months, you have had many, many opportunities to prove to the good people of this nation that you were of sound mind and fit to lead this nation of some 300 million people.  You have missed every single such opportunity, in fact have shown us the exact opposite and have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not of sound mind, and are incapable of leading this or any other nation.

While I have many a bone to pick with your behaviour, rhetoric and actions over the past seven months, today I will only address the most recent and most obvious example that you are not a man who can step up to the plate, not a man of honesty and integrity as your predecessor was, and are not a man who can accept the responsibility for his own words, actions and mistakes.

On Saturday, 13 August, this nation suffered a terrible blow.  We saw, in Charlottesville, Virginia, racism rear its very ugly head and groups of people acting with evil intent proved to us that the fight for justice, for equality, is no further along than it was sixty years ago.  Evil men armed with assault weapons roamed the streets, thugs incited crowds of peaceful protestors, and three people lost their lives to white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups.  You were handed a perfect opportunity to respond to the fears of the nation, and yet, your response was neither timely nor appropriate.  You claim that “everybody” said your speech was “beautiful”.  No, Mr. Trump, that is a blatant lie.  I did not hear a single person say it was ‘beautiful’ and even members of your own party, people who, until Saturday gave you their full support, have said your speech was inappropriate, that you should have spoken boldly against white supremacist and other hate groups.  But you refused to do so, and we can only conclude that your reason is because you support the brand of hate that was in evidence on Saturday.  There can be no other reason.

You claim you did not give a timely speech because you were waiting for facts, but you eschew facts, truth has never mattered to you in the past, and in reality, it is obvious that it does not matter now, either.  You let your nation down.  You let the very people who voted for you down.  When you could have led, when you could have been strong and encouraged the people of this nation, you instead hid as a coward, then failed to address the issue at hand, blaming all rather than placing the blame on the shoulders of those who were responsible.

You defend your advisor, Steve Bannon, claiming that he is a “good man” and not a racist.  You are aware, as we all are, that Mr. Bannon is a member of the racist, white supremacist group that calls themselves the ‘alt-right’.  How, sir, does that make him “not a racist”?  Yes, Mr. Bannon is a racist, as are two of your other close advisors, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.  Your Attorney General, Jeff Sessions is a known racist.  You have surrounded yourself with proven racists, yet we are to believe that you are not a bigot. This is simply not credible.

When asked if you thought race relationships had gotten worse or better since you took office, you said “better or the same”.  How you could even say that with a straight face is beyond me.  We have had murders of Indians, Muslims and African-Americans.  We have seen Mosques defiled and destroyed.  Even your favoured state-media outlet, Fox News, reports an increase in hate crimes.  According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. increased by 86% in the first quarter of 2017, since your inauguration.  Both the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center have noted a significant rise in hate crimes since your inauguration, primarily against immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims, and LGBT people.  And yet, you do not address this issue, instead you spend your days making false promises that you have no intention of keeping, tweeting juvenile rants against those who, in your eyes, have failed to do your bidding, and tooting your own horn.

You have been given countless opportunities to do something positive, but every action, every message from you and your administration has been negative.  You are not the president this country needs in order to function as a democracy, and I am now convinced that you can never be.  You are not the president your supporters voted for, and even they are becoming increasingly disappointed in you.

In light of all the above, I am requesting, as a taxpayer, as a citizen of this nation, that for once in your life, perhaps the only time in your life, you put the welfare of 300 million people ahead of your own and step down from your position.  In essence, Mr. Trump, as one of your employers, I am asking for your resignation.  You have had seven months to prove to us that you were capable, but you failed miserably, so, in the words you have so fondly used hundreds of times … Mr. Trump, YOU’RE FIRED!

Sincerely,

Jill Dennison, citizen and taxpayer

P.S. In case you have misplaced my previous letters:

Open Letter to Donald Trump

Open Letter To Donald Trump – #2

Open Letter to Donald Trump – #3

Idiot Of The Week – Jeffrey Lord

Idiot of the Week medalAlthough idiots surround us, seem to be coming out of the woodwork and multiplying exponentially, I have not done an Idiot of the Week post since … well … since my last one!  And that was Wayne Allyn Root on 31 May.  So, I think it’s about time, don’t you?  And as often happens, one dropped right into my lap!  I became aware of Jeffrey Lord some time ago and realized he was an idiot, but did nothing to honour him for his idiocy.  But today, that all changes!  So please welcome this week’s Idiot of the Week, Jeffrey Lord.

Lord-1.jpgJeffrey Lord, 66 years old, is a political strategist in Pennsylvania, who served as an associate political director in the administration of former United States President Ronald Reagan. He has worked as a political commentator, contributing material to CNN, The Weekly Standard, The American Spectator, National Review Online, and other mostly right-wing conservative publications. He has appeared as a guest on numerous television and radio programs. He also works as a political consultant for Quantum Communications, a Harrisburg-based political strategy firm. Since 2015, he has been a regular commentator under contract to CNN.

And now let us take a brief look at just a few of the things that qualify Jeffrey for the award …

Certainly anyone who equates Donald Trump to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., deserves this award.  One Thursday in April, Lord made a remote appearance on CNN’s New Day show:

“Think of Donald Trump as the Martin Luther King of health care. When I was a kid, President Kennedy did not want to introduce the civil rights bill because he said it wasn’t popular and he didn’t have the votes for it, et cetera. Dr. King kept putting people in the streets in harm’s way to put the pressure on so the bill would be introduced.”

Democratic activist Symone Sanders was also on the program, and I loved her response:

“You do understand that Dr. King was marching for civil rights because people that looked like me were being beaten, dogs were being sicced on them, basic human rights were being withheld from these people merely because of the color of their skin. So let’s not equate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner—to the vagina-grabbing president, Donald Trump.”

In February 2015, Lord called upon the Republican Party to demand an apology from the Democratic Party for its role in promoting and defending slavery and creating the segregationist Jim Crow system:

“Will President Obama – the leader of the Democratic Party – formally apologize for his party’s role in slavery and Jim Crow? Will the Republicans now controlling both the House and Senate pass resolutions calling on the president to apologize for his party’s role in slavery and Jim Crow?”

In June 2015, Lord wrote an open letter to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then-head of the U.S. Democratic Party, asking her to apologize for her party’s role in Indian removal, in promoting and defending slavery, in Confederate secession, and in creating segregationist Jim Crow regimes. (This guy wants everybody to apologize, doesn’t he?)

In March 2016, during Super Tuesday election night coverage on CNN, conservative commentator S. E. Cupp said she believed Trump had made to attract prejudiced voters because he had hesitated to disavow KKK member David Duke.  Lord responded that the KKK many decades earlier had supported Democrats and that the KKK was therefore left wing.

Lord-bookLord has also written a book published in January 2016 titled What America Needs: The Case for Trump. The plug on Amazon reads …

“In What America Needs, Lord makes a powerful case that Trump—often denigrated even by other Republicans as too outrageous for the White House—is actually exactly the president our country needs right now: one who will reverse the damages done during the Obama administration and do what it takes to make America great again.”

So, we see that Lord is not only an idiot, but one in serious need of psychiatric counseling.  But all of that simply leads up to his latest faux pas, one which has cost him his job. It happened during a back-and-forth “tweeter-sation” between Lord and Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog organization.  It took only two small words to earn him the proverbial axe:

Lord-sieg heil tweet.png

CNN’s response was swift:  “Nazi salutes are indefensible. Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network.” *

Later, Lord defended himself, saying that he was mocking Media Matters, which he considers to be a fascist organization, and said he has ‘no regrets’ for his words. If there is any remaining doubt in your mind that Mr. Lord is an idiot, guess who came out in support of him after his firing?  None other than America’s #1 white supremacist, Steve Bannon, who called Jeffrey to cheer him up after he was fired.

Jeffrey Lord may not be the most idiotic of all the recipients of this award, but nonetheless, he is well-deserving of it.  The difference between him and past recipients such as Steve King, Ben Carson and Kellyanne Conway, is that he is an idiot whose message is more chilling, less humorous, than the others.  And although CNN has severed ties with him, he has numerous other venues for his brand of hate, as he is still a regular columnist for the American Spectator, a conservative online publication, and others.

And so, Mr. Jeffrey Lord, for your extremist views throughout the years, and your lack of filter for your mouth, and for being an overall jerk, I hereby award you the much-coveted Idiot of the Week award.  I’m sure you will find a good spot on your office wall to hang it. Congratulation!

*  The argument will be made that Lord’s words are protected by the first amendment, and that is true … he broke no law and will not suffer legal repercussions.  However CNN is within its rights to sever the relationship based on its journalistic, moral and humanitarian standards.