Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Curtain Down On The Trump Show Already. Please.

I've got that thing again where my heart races and my belly hurts and I don't know whether those tears are from laughing or crying.  I'm craving chocolate, any kind will do, and I can't stop thinking the end of civilization as we know it is right around the corner or up the street or somewhere in Iowa.

I go to sleep stressing and I wake up stressing.  Terrible things are going on in the world.  I should be stressing over them, and it could be that that's what's going on, but it feels like it's Donald Trump.

He's doing this to me. I should stop listening to him. I should pretend I'm not living in a country where Donald Trump, of all people, could be a front-runner in a bid for the presidency.  I should stop waiting for him to mess up so badly there's no going back.  I should do that, but if I had that kind of self-control I wouldn't be a full-time self-unemployed political blogger on the liberal circuit.  Now would I?

I'm a mess and it's all his fault.  I have succumbed to the slump I call Trump.  Donald Trump has entered my brain and if I don't get this down fast, my words will start sounding like a three-bean salad on a bed of spinach.  (I have no idea!  It just came out.  I'm telling you. . .)

Just this week Donald Trump, the man who would be president (or Tony Soprano, depending on how he strikes you--not literally, of course, though that's not out of the question), told a Black Lives Matter activist/heckler at a public meeting to "get the hell outta here".  This was after the man had been pummeled to the ground and then kicked by one of Trump's goons supporters.  Trump then took to Fox News, and, in his best considered presidential tone, said the man was obnoxious and loud, so, "Yeah, maybe he shoulda been roughed up.  Because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing."

On Sunday he told George Stephanopoulos he has no problem with waterboarding because "it's peanuts compared to what 'they' do".  (Almost every Republican could be heard groaning.  Cheers, though, from Dick Cheney, who, until that moment, hadn't even considered pushing for the job of choosing Trump's vice president.)

Then, with cameras still rolling, Trump assured Stephanopoulos that what he'd said the night before about seeing thousands and thousands of Arab people in New Jersey cheering as the World Trade Center came down was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

George suggested in an adorably nice way that there are some--or maybe all--who can't find a single solitary bit of footage or eye-witness account that would make what Donald said even slightly true.  Donald chalked it up to reporters wanting to be politically correct, and George, not ever wanting to be branded a politically correct reporter (oh gawd no!), thanked him ever so kindly for his time.

I watched that and breathed such a grateful sigh you wouldn't believe.  At last!  Caught in his own terrible lie!  Hoist[ed] with his own petard!  Stick a fork in him! He's done!

But you know what happened, don't you?  Come on, admit it.  You know.

Trump's poll numbers went up.  The crowds loved him even more.  Fifty five percent of likely Republican voters now say they would trust him over all other candidates to do the right thing about terrorism.  (What would he do about terrorists? Namely ISIS?  He would "bomb the shit out of them!" and take the oil. Yay!)

He is a serial liar and is the number one choice among Republicans for the next president of the United States.  (These same people, so deathly afraid of refugee families fleeing for their lives, have no fear of a Donald Trump presidency.  No fear!  None at all!  But there I go again.)

You know by now--because I keep telling you--I tend to take these things personally.   My America is not a plaything.  It's not a joke.  Turning my country over to a non-politician with no government experience would be punking of the worst kind.  But even thinking for one second of turning it over to a lying billionaire braggart who has a history of taking but not giving, who calls people ugly names and shuts up anyone who disputes him, who is such an embarrassment even countries with their own embarrassing characters can't believe we've topped them--that's insanity undisguised.

There are horrifying things going on in the world.  Donald Trump's ascendancy into the heights of American politics isn't one of them.  I know and you know that he'll never become president,  (We know that, right?) but the people egging him on will still be out there, still wishing it had been Trump, and I will still have to live among them.  Festering.

Once Trump is gone, the press, never ones to let an exploit pass, will be egging on Trump's people, pushing them to find someone equally entertaining. Because when it comes to American politics, there's no business like show business and, above all else, the show must go on.

Well, curtain down already.  Footlights off.  Come out into the daylight.  It's a whole different world out here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's Been Fun. But Seriously, Folks, It's The Presidency.

Since at least the turn of the 21st Century it's been a time-honored tradition to bring in the clowns and have some fun with the quest for the highest job in the nation.  You would think the duties and obligations of the presidency of the United States would cause most people to turn and run and keep on running, but every four years the most unlikely characters come out of the woodwork, shouting, "Hey, I could be president!  Why not?  How hard could it be?"

Photo:  Richard Drew/Getty Images
It's like the first weeks of every new season of "American Idol".  Singers?  You want singers?  Be patient, we'll get to that. First we need to haul out the phonies and the almost-singers and pretend they're really auditioning because it's not just about finding the best singer in America, it's about the show, the whole show, and nothing but the show.

I would say the Republicans have outdone themselves this cycle, but I'm still quivering (could have been laughter; could have been dread) over the potential 2012 lineup:  Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Thaddeus McCotter. etc.--remember?

Early on, Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul won the Iowa straw poll, but not before some high hilarity at an Iowa fairground, where blow-up slides, corn-dog obscenities, and fights over the size of their tents took center stage.

Earlier still, pizza guy Herman Cain ran as a non-politician who was pretty sure there was a lot wrong with the government.  His qualifications for the presidency included a vast knowledge of pizza ingredients, a build-up of a chain of pizzerias, and an economic plan that included the numbers "999"--a plan so brilliantly obtuse it shot him to number one in the polls for what seemed like a really long time for a pizza guy wanting to be president.  (Sort of like Sanjaya on American Idol.  Some things are beyond understanding.)

The Democrats haven't been immune to the silly season, either. In January, 2012, just before the New Hampshire primaries, C-Span broadcast The Great Debate of the Lesser-Knowns, a two-hour show where both Republican and Democratic wannabees had a chance to present their credentials and give reasons why America should vote for them. Among them was a wizard named "Vermin", a guy who visited all 1712 US counties and found that "people aren't happy", and a guy who had been in Real Estate but was now out of a job so he figured what the hell?  (It may have been the most fun I've ever had writing a blog.)

So here it is, 2015, less than a year away from our next presidential election and the silly season is upon us.  The Republicans, as usual, are outshining the Democrats, who, to be fair, only have three candidates in the running, all bona fide politicians.  They're way too boring for the pundits, who, if they were honest, would admit what they really want is a burlesque show.  Show us some skin!  We want pratfalls! Where are the comics?

Contrast the Democrats with the Republicans who, as of this writing, have 10 candidates running in the main, three or four relegated to the debate night kid's table, and several, including Lindsey Graham--a real, honest-to-goodness long-time politician--on the outside looking in.

Knowing they have nothing to offer their followers, the GOP keeps coming up with irrelevant attention-getters, hoping nobody will notice.  Donald Trump is a snarly, puffed-up businessman hawking his celebrity in place of actual policy.  Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon whose utterances conjure up Peter Sellers as Chance the gardener in "Being There".  Day after day, they're polling as the front-runners.  Neither of them has any political experience--an obvious asset for a party hoping for another chance to stop the damn governing already!

So last week the two Republican front-runners made political news again.  Ben Carson, because some of his words ended up forming actual sentences, was forced to hold a news conference defending his veracity.  He was accused of lying about stabbing a friend and in order to maintain some semblance of credibility (because he's running for PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES), he had to insist that he was telling the truth.  Oh, yes I did!  I did stab him!  I swear!

And Donald Trump managed for yet another week to keep himself at the top of the pundit dance cards. (Thus never having to spend a dime of his own money promoting his candidacy.)  Much to the delight of the press, he took a break from the hard work of pretending to be a politician to become the first active presidential candidate ever to host NBC's "Saturday Night Live".  He was able to do this even after NBC had kinda sorta fired him from his own show, "The Apprentice" and showed at least outward signs of not being pleased when he insulted Mexicans and dissed Univision, the Hispanic network that refused to air Trump's own personal beauty contest.

The Democrats made it to the news cycle last week, too, for a few brief moments.  On Friday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow hosted the "First in the South" Democratic Forum in South Carolina.  The two-hour program gave the top three candidates, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley, a chance to answer questions without interruptions or attempts to one-up each other. They even had some fun--Bernie laughed out loud--but there was no doubt they are serious applicants for the job--repeat, the job--of President of the United States.

I don't see that yet in either Donald Trump or Ben Carson.  Trump is busy building his brand, so to him Situation Room angst is for losers. And Carson is--I don't know--selling a book?

Meanwhile, there are real Republican politicians like Lindsey Graham, and even Jeb Bush, who don't stand a chance against this need by the media to keep politics so highly entertaining there's no danger of the dreaded channel-surfing.

Photo:  Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons
Someday soon we're going to have to stop looking for the fun part of politics and start cramming for the hard stuff.  We're going to have to be the grown-ups. We don't let children vote for a reason.  It's because they're not equipped to read, to study, to analyze, to decide.  We are.  They don't understand the difference between showmanship and statesmanship.  We do.  They feel no sense of obligation toward establishing a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. As the grown-ups in control, we do and we must.

(Also appearing at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Friday, October 30, 2015

How The Benghazi Committee Led Me To Hillary

Last week, on the morning of the latest in a long line of House Select Committee hearings on Benghazi, I was finishing up a blog post in which I hoped during the next few months Progressives/Liberals would all just get along.  At that point, on that morning, I thought I was still neutral about the two front-runners.  (Joe Biden has announced he's not running and Martin O'Malley, the only other viable candidate, is so far behind he's almost invisible. It's early yet, but unless someone else shows up, it  going to be either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.)

I finished up just before the hearing began, hit the "publish" button, and settled back to watch what I already knew would be a win-win for Hillary.  How could it not be?  After all this time, the Republican Benghazi committee members are the only ones on the face of the earth who refuse to believe there's no there there.

Credit:  Caroly Kaster/AP
I'm here to tell you, that wasn't just a win, that was a whomping! They can't say they weren't warned.  The Democrats on the  committee begged them not to do it. Members of their own party begged them not to do it.  But do it they did, and as the hour grew late, after 11 hours of gotcha questions followed by Hillary's infuriatingly calm responses (and the interception of some formidable Democrats, Elijah Cummings chief among them), Committee chair Trey Gowdy, soggy as an old dishrag, stopped the madness cold, even after promising certain panel members they would get another chance at interrogating the witness.  Stopped it dead.  Th-th-th-that's all, folks.

Hillary the interogatee showed no signs of exhaustion and instead hung around long enough to give hugs and air kisses before flitting away, off to spend the evening partying with friends.

I realize now I've been leaning toward Hillary for a while, but it wasn't until last week, when I saw her strength and grace under fire, that I decided I could happily support her.  No one in public life has been more scrutinized than Hillary. Barack Obama may come a close second, bless his heart, but his public life can be counted in years and not in decades.  Hillary has been under the microscope since she was a young woman.  That relentless scrutiny is bound to turn up discrepancies--even a pack of lies.  She has spent her entire public life having to defend her every move, her every decision--from hair styles and pantsuits to why she did, in fact, stand by her man.

She's been a First Lady, a Senator, a Secretary of State.  She did all that while being under constant fire from haters on the Right and on the Left.  Is she  deceitful?  Is she reserved?  Is she less than transparent?  I'll bet she's been all three.  Intense, unrelenting public scrutiny will do that to a person.  But her kindness, her friendships, her work for women's and children's causes is almost never acknowledged.  She is an adoring grandmother now, and her charity work is well known.

She held herself back for years, thinking, wrongly, that she needed to show strength and not softness.  Now she knows better and it's driving her enemies crazy.  They so want to keep believing she's a ruthless she-devil war-monger in the pockets of the rich.

Is she too cozy with Wall Street? She was, after all, the Senator from New York. It's no secret she takes campaign funds and Clinton Foundation donations from Wall Street donors.  There aren't many who don't.  (It's a tribute to Bernie Sanders that he can manage a campaign without super-PAC funds.  I wish him luck.)

Her vote on the Iraq War is ancient history.  It was wrong-headed, as she admits today.  I would be more concerned if she were still insisting she did the right thing.

Is she a war-monger?  She was tough as Secretary of State, keen on aiding oppressed human beings, not keen on retreat, but she showed no signs of Condi Riceing us into a reckless sustained war.

Am I leaning toward her because she's a woman?  That's part of it.  I was born when FDR was president and I've lived through 12 more presidents--all of them male.  I would love to see a woman in the White House but I'm not choosing Hillary simply because of her gender.  I choose her because I think she'll do the best job of anyone running.  (I've been a long-time Bernie Sanders admirer and I love his passion for the causes I believe in.  I think domestically--as senator or maybe governor--he's outstanding.  I don't see him in an international role as president. His temperament, an asset when he's leading a cause, is worrisome when applied to "leader of the free world".)

There will be mountains of evidence against Hillary as the months go by.  Some of it will be disturbingly on the mark.  She has made her share of blunders--some of them calculating.  There were times when she was not even "likable enough".  But I see her as a woman under siege.  I marvel at her courage as she deals with it while still building a remarkable life.

She's a pragmatist. She has a history of wanting desperately to win at anything she tries and she's not above pandering to do that.  I want her to be as liberal as I am, of course.  I want her to be as liberal as Bernie Sanders.  I believe she'll be more liberal than Barack Obama (there are others who believe she may even be more liberal than Bernie Sanders), but her presidency will not be FDR's Second Coming.  (Neither would Bernie Sanders', no matter how much he might wish it.)

We need a president who can stand up to the Tea Party Republicans, who understands foreign policy, and knows intimately the workings of Washington.  I don't believe for a minute that she'll be a corporate pawn.  She also won't be Obama's--or her husband's--keeper of the flame.  There's a reason she's so feared by the other side.  It's because she's her own person and no matter what they do to her she doesn't break.

It'll take real balls to lead us through the next decade.  Hillary may be just the woman to get it done.

(Can also be seen at The Broad Side and Crooks & Liars)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

So it's Clinton vs. Sanders. Can't We Just Be Frenemies?

Yesterday Joe Biden stood in the Rose Garden with his wife Jill and President Obama and announced he wouldn't be running for president. (Thank you, Joe, you did the right thing. I love you.) It's still early in the election season (WAY early.  Did you know Canadians can only campaign for 78 days? Must seem like a damned eternity, right?) but unless a dark horse comes up from behind, it looks like it'll be a run between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Way back in 2007-08, Hillary Clinton was one of the two front-runners as she battled it out with Barack Obama for the top Party position. The fact that neither of them were white men made the whole contest especially interesting, but the unofficial skirmishes between the Clinton supporters and the Obama supporters were, let's just say, spectacular!  (I learned bad words I didn't even know existed.)  The miff factor was so strong, so relentless, you can still hear echos today.  Some have never forgotten, never forgiven.  And they're b-a-a-a-c-k. . .

I have to admit, they scare me.  Now they're Hillary and Bernie supporters--fervent, passionate, TYPING-IN-ALL-CAPS supporters--and if that's not bad enough, (Not that either Bernie or Hillary are bad. . . No, I will NEVER say that. I've seen bad and they're not it.) they're on Twitter and Facebook.  And so am I.

Facebook and Twitter, I don't have to tell you, are like vast out-of-this-world megalopoli full of creatures who may or may not be what they seem.  On Facebook we "like" people we don't even know.  We do the same on Twitter except we don't "like" them, we "follow" them.  Sometimes we actually grow to like the people we "like".  Ditto the people we follow.  It works magnificently as long as we don't talk about religion or politics or the Kardashians.  (I'm kidding.  We don't talk about the Kardashians.  We don't even know who they are.)

I, a known political junkie, have chosen to "like" a whole lot of people whose topic of choice is politics.  We do the happy stuff, sharing cute pet memes, taking those tests to show how smart we are, but that's because it's hard work trying to save an entire country. Sometimes we need a break.

Most of the time, when we're on the topic of politics, we agree on almost everything, including the right to disagree.  We're liberals and progressives, Democrats and Independents, religious and not, with a few conservatives, Republicans, and agnostics mixed in, just for flavor.

Until now, it's been good.  But now we're getting into presidential politics.  The big time. The elections aren't until November, 2016, but we've already begun to get testy.  I see trouble ahead.

I've been defending Hillary as if she's an underdog and needs my kind of help.  I've been looking for any little thing to prove that Bernie isn't a saint.  I hate myself already and it's not even Christmas. (By the way, I'll be taking a short break from politics around Christmas to fight for our right to say "Happy Holidays". I'll be back some time after December 25.)

It's early yet.  So far the barbs are polite:  "I'm disappointed to hear you say that."  "I know you're smarter than that."  "You can't really mean that!"  "Sad. . ."  

But we're reaching the point where we're setting up camps and gearing up for battle--against each other. Whichever candidate we're behind is the absolute best.  The obvious choice.  Anyone who can't see that is. . .(fill in the blank, the rougher the better.)

I wish I could just sit one this out.  (I can't, of course.  I couldn't.)  I like the people I "like".  I want us to stay friends, but I can see already that as the months go by our affection for each other, our respect, will dwindle. I don't know if we'll ever get back what we had before.

When the primaries are finally over, one of two people, either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, will be the Democratic candidate.  If the candidate we wanted doesn't win we won't pick up our toys and go home.  We'll stifle our fury and do what we have to do--we'll work to make sure our next president is a Democrat.

It's not enough to win the argument.  We have to win this election.  I hope we can remember that.

(Also published at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars.)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What If The Second Amendment Didn't Exist?

Once upon a time, long before The National Rifle Association stopped being a reasonable, responsible hunter's association and became the NRA, the Second Amendment was looked on, if at all, as a remnant of the olden days, when the writers of the Constitution saw fit to assuage the fears of the states by assuring them they could form their own state militias in case the federal government got too bossy, thinking they owned the place.

These days, even though nothing about it has changed, the Second Amendment is the one and only part of the Constitution actually seen as constitutional by the Right Wing.  (Causing certain politicians who don't know what's going on to keep repeating the magic words, "Second Amendment".  It gets them votes, so what the hell?)

I, and millions like me, say the Second Amendment doesn't guarantee rights to gun owners.  They, and millions like them, say it does.

Former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, in an April, 2014 WaPo Op-Ed, proposed the addition of five words to the Second Amendment, clarifying what Stevens believes the original writers meant.  Stevens' revised Second Amendment would read like this:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed."
To which I say, forgive me, Sir, but. . .what militia, now?

I'm nowhere near Justice Stevens' level of intellect but if that amendment is simply there to address a non-existent militia, it isn't much of a reach to conclude there's no longer a need for a Second Amendment.  (The National Guard may be the closest we come to a state militia, but it's not made up of a motley band of citizens called up whenever the rascally Feds get out of line.  It's an essential branch of the military, an adjunct of the Federal government, enlisted as needed during national emergencies. )

We could resolve these arguments once and forever by repealing the Second Amendment.  Amendments aren't written in stone.  They can be amended and they can be repealed.  Our government repealed the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933, some 13 years after a few rabid anti-liquor folks thought it would be a good idea to do away with alcoholic beverages completely.  (As if!)

So what would life be like without a Second Amendment?  Who, besides the NRA and the gun manufacturers--the wave riders--would be affected negatively by the loss?  Would the arguments for and against regulations and background checks change in any way?  Would each state or municipality have to rethink their local gun laws? Would the Federal government see its chance and confiscate all guns?  Would we be less safe?  Would we be safer?

Once it was gone, who in their right mind would take it to mean their gun rights went with it?  I submit we could lose it tomorrow and it would never be missed.  Nothing would change.  So why is it such a big deal?


(Also seen at Crooks & Liars)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Obama Says He'll Politicize Guns. NRA, Fox, GOP Say No Way, That's Our Job.

". . .And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue.  Well, this is something we should politicize.  It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.
. . .This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America.  We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.  When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer.  When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer.  When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities.  We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives.  So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense."  - President Obama, October 1, 2015, yet another speech after a mass shooting His 11th.

We've had another mass murder, this time on a community college campus in Oregon, where nine students and the shooter are dead. We're outraged, we're grieving, we're looking for answers.  We've been through this before, and the worst part is, we know for a fact we'll go through it again.

Those on the right, when they're not blaming mental health, are blaming liberals in general and Obama in particular.  Those on the left are blaming the NRA and an out-of-control gun culture.  There is enough goddamned blame to go around, but I blame Congress.  They're in control.  They can read the same impossible numbers  that I can.  They can twist arms.  They can make laws.  They can declare the gun epidemic a moral crisis--a national disaster--and go at it full force.  But they're cowards and they won't.

When it comes to gun murders we're so far ahead of any country on earth, there's no danger of any of them catching up with us.  And still we do nothing but argue about it.  We're so good at rehashing the same old stuff, we've become experts at it.  Not at finding solutions, just at rehashing.

I wish I knew what else to do.  I don't. So let me rehash.  This is the column I wrote after the Republicans in Congress voted down what should have been a slam-dunk reform move after the Sandy Hook massacre at Newtown, Connecticut. Congress had all the public support it needed to grind to a halt the bloody mess our love affair with guns has caused.  They wouldn't do it.  They still won't do it.  And without them, we can't do it.  (It's long, I know, but there are voices there that deserve to be heard again.  As you read this, keep in mind that the vote happened more than two years ago.  We've had an election since then and many of those same congressional culprits have been re-elected.)

April 18, 2013:

Politicians out of control on Guns: Never Forgive, Never Forget

Yesterday 46 members of the Senate voted down a proposal that would have been a logical first step to gun control--universal background checks.  They were able to vote it down, even though 54 members voted for it because they rigged the way the votes count now.  Voting it down for no good reason is bad enough but they did it through cowardice, lies and cheats. The whole process was despicable, made even more so by the fact that it happened in the chambers where expectations of fairness and fidelity used to run quite high.

These public servants ignored the wishes of at least 90% of Americans and caved, instead, to willful profit-oriented special interests.  They lied about the content of the bill and insured their success by forcing a 60-vote approval instead of a fairer, more honest majority vote.

In a sane world, this would be enough to cause those who voted against the wishes of the people some actual discomfort, if not some actual punishment.  Our outrage (those of us who have sense enough to be outraged) comes today because we know nothing will happen to them.  They will go on for another day and another day after that making bad decisions that will affect all of us in one way or another, and all we can do is shout about it.

We are outraged.  The parents and families of the Newtown School massacre are outraged.  Gabrielle Giffords is outraged. The president is outraged.  The Democrats (all but four senators) are outraged. Certain members of the press are outraged.  But our rage at these 46 members of the United States Senate who voted to keep guns out of our control is, in the end, no more than hot air.  Rage, like hot air, dissipates.  It weakens to anger, and anger, when it is not satisfied, weakens to a sigh.  We're exhausted.  We'll inevitably leave it behind and go on.

They get away with these undemocratic actions once again because we have neither the authority nor the strength to stop them.  And they know this.

The president gave a masterful speech yesterday, designed to both clarify his rage and to shame them for their actions.  They don't care.

A portion of what the president said:
Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders –- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children.  And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it.  They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.

By now, it’s well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun.  We’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness.  Ninety percent of Americans support that idea.  Most Americans think that’s already the law.

And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea.  But it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea.
A majority of senators voted “yes” to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks.  But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.
Gabrielle Giffords wrote an impassioned editorial in the New York Times yesterday, designed to show her rage and to shame those senators.  They don't care.

From Gabby:
Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.

James Fallows wrote a great piece in the Atlantic yesterday called "For the Love of God, just call it a Filibuster".    They don't care.
  1. Today a provision that would increase background checks for gun purchases was blocked in the Senate, even though consideration of the bill was supported by 54 senators representing states that make up (at quick estimate) at least 60 percent of the American population.
  2. The bill did not fail to "pass" the Senate, which according to Constitutional provisions and accepted practice for more than two centuries requires a simple majority, 51 votes. Even 50 votes should do it, since the vice president is constitutionally empowered to cast the tie-breaking and deciding vote, and Joe Biden would have voted yes.
  3. It failed because a 54-vote majority was not enough to break the threat of a filibuster, which (with some twists of labeling) was the real story of what happened with this bill. Breaking the filibuster would have required 60 votes.

The Twitterverse clogged the place yesterday listing one by one the names of those senators who voted "no".  They don't care.

Journalists, essayists, bloggers, and hundreds of thousands of enraged activists took to their preferred soapboxes and shouted out in anguished rage.  The senators ignored us all.  They don't care.

They're counting on our inattention, our tendency to be distracted and manipulated, our refusal to believe our elected politicians could turn against us so cruelly, so blatantly, and so often.

This is our chance to show them how much we care.  We can't forget.  We must not forgive.  We will not let them get away with this latest insult.  They should not be allowed to win again.  Not if we are who we think we are. 

So that was then.  This is now.

(Also at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Pope's Parting Gift to Bigotry

While much of the country was still coming off of the Papal Visit high last week (it was a trip, wasn't it?), that parade was not only rained on yesterday, it was deluged.  

Less than a week after Pope Francis the Terrific thrilled the country with a visit that filled our very souls with joy (Right?), the Papal love-fest is threatening to become a veritable wash-out.  How did this happen?  How could it happen?

Two words:  Kim Davis.  (No, I'm serious)  Kim Davis, the homophobic county clerk who went to jail rather than obey a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, somehow wrangled a private visit with the Pope.  Her people arranged it with his people and it happened.  Millions of faithful followers who ordinarily would give their left livers to have an audience with the Pope are now left wondering if  it's such a big deal after all.

The rest of us are left wondering.  And not secretly, either.  The internet went nuts yesterday, far into the midnight hour.  The Faithful tried to deny it happened, ever wishing it was so.  The more cynical among us said, "See?  I told you."  Sadness and disappointment reigned.  And the LGBT community went back to business as usual.

The argument from the followers is that the Pope sees saints and sinners alike and doesn't judge.  He went into prisons and blessed the sinners there.  He washed the feet of the undeserving poor.  He does these things.  No big deal.

Here's why it's a big deal:  Kim Davis is not following any sane religious conviction by discriminating against gay partners who want to marry.  Her religious liberties are not endangered because a civil court judge ordered her to do her job.  But the main reason it's a big deal is because Kim Davis's flock will use the Pope's private visit as tacit approval for even more bigotry.

It doesn't matter what he said to her or even if he knew who she was.  (Hard to believe that he wouldn't since the meeting was set up more than a week before the Pope landed on our shores.)  What matters is the optics.  The meeting took place.  It was a privilege and an honor not bestowed on just anyone.  It's an anointment by the Pope, perhaps the most famous and powerful of all religious leaders.

Having a private meeting with the bigoted clerk whose claim to fame is that she would rather go to jail than sign her name to a legal marriage license for same-sex couples does, in fact, show the Pope is judging.  He may not be judging her, but by giving her permission to stay strong in her attempts to discriminate, he is judging every loving same-sex couple wanting to be married in that county.  He has given the bigots all the ammunition they'll ever need.  If we can be led to believe that even this loving Pope makes exceptions when it comes to same-sex couples, their struggles grow exponentially.

It's not just a mistake, it's a tragedy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Okay Meanies, You Can Come Out Now. The Pope is Gone

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how quiet the resident meanies were while the Pope was here? Even Donald Trump gave it a rest for a few days.  Or am I wrong?  Did I just not notice because, to their credit (and my relief), the press took to covering the Pope every day in every way and kept it nice?

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
On Thursday, Pope Francis stood at the House podium and addressed the joint session of Congress.  Speaker of the House John Boehner sat behind the Pope, listened to what the pontiff had to say about justice, goodness, and mercy, and bawled his eyes out.

The next morning Boehner  floated into a press conference singing "Zipadee Do Dah, Zipadee Ay, My, Oh, My, what a wonderful day".   It was a charming if wacky prelude to his message:  "I quit".  Just like that.

Now, John would like us to believe the Pope had nothing to do with it--Lord, no!--but I'm not buying it.  It's true, I suppose, that John has wanted to throw in the towel for a long time, but why now?  He said he woke up and told his wife, "I think today's the day."  She  was okay with it.  (No word yet on the Pope's reaction.)

I want to believe the Pope made John Boehner a better person; a lacking leader seeing the light, contrite--but, as any sitting member of the Republican Party will tell you, that's death on wheels.  You can't be a better person and be loyal to the party.  Nowadays only worst persons need apply.

(Marco Rubio, another presidential candidate, announced the good news to a crowd of his peeps only moments after Boehner made his announcement and, wouldn't you know?--the crowd went wild! Yay!)

Which brings me to the doggedly anti-government businessman and top Republican Party candidate, Donald Trump.  Trump is like the person you invite to the party thinking you've scored a big one--famous person!--and then realize he's obnoxious as all get out but you're stuck with him because there are no insults big enough to make him go away. And you would be too polite to use them, anyway.  (That's why Democrats lose--but that's another story.)

So Donald took the opportunity of the Pope's visit to talk with Chris Cuomo, who took the opportunity of the Pope's visit to ask Donald Trump, of all people, what he would say to the Pope if he had the chance.   Donald said he would have to scare the Pope.  Of course he would.

Carly Fiorina pretended she didn't notice the Pope was here and went on lying about what happens at Planned Parenthood.  She stood out like a sore thumb.

Jeb Bush says something about Democrats offering free stuff to African-Americans and he's attacked for it.  The Pope says giving free stuff to people who need it is God's work and he is cheered.  It's all in the way it's presented.  Whose heart is really in it.

And the press, at long last, moved away from, "How did it feel when so-and-so said so-and-so about you?", and seemed honestly happy to share in a celebration that hurt no one.

We were a land of big hearts last week.  It's been a long time.   It felt good.

(Can be seen at Dagblog, Liberaland, and Crooks & Liars)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

If Will Rogers Had Heard About Donald Trump

I entered this piece in the 2015 Will Rogers Writing Contest and  found out yesterday that I didn’t win.  The person who sent the email  tried to make me feel better by letting me know that I wasn't among the top three prizewinners, but I did place somewhere among the eight finalists.  He didn’t say how many entered the contest in total, so I hope I don’t find out somewhere down the road that I was one of only 11 writers who entered.  That would suck. (Here is the announcement and a link to the winning essays.)

Remember as you read this that the idea was to try to write like Will Rogers.  I love Will Rogers for his ability to skewer without going for the jugular.  Will might have been kinder about Trump, keeping it general without naming names, but Trump was on my mind when I wrote this, and picturing Rogers picturing Trump just seemed like the way to go.

BTW, See the typewriter Will Rogers is using in the picture below?  (I call it “the first laptop”.  Ha!)  I have one just like it.  Exactly.  Now I’m wondering if writing my essay in Will’s voice on Will’s typewriter might have. . .

Naw. . .never mind.


There's This Fellow Named Trump

There’s this fellow named Trump, you might have heard about him, he’s running for president of these United States. Got more money than he knows what to do with.  Has brains, too, if you believe the man. I sez if he’s so smart why’s he running for president of these United States? A smart guy would be finding himself a country where he could be the Grand Poohbah Potentate of everything.

See, in this country the president signs up to be everybody’s “public servant”. We’re his employers, and if he’s even half way okay we’ll give him four years, sometimes twice that, to show us what he’s been doing to earn his keep. One of the perks of being the president is we let him live in the White House. That’s big for some folks, but this Trump fellow is rich. Real rich.

Could be nobody told him he can’t own the White House. It’s ours. He can’t give his full time fancy decorating staff the go-ahead to ruffle things up. He can’t toss out the old goods, neither. He’s more or less a squatter. In a few years, no matter what, he’ll get kicked out, bag and baggage.

It ain’t as if he’ll be exactly homeless, but I’ve been watching this guy and I see he’s a fellow who’d rather be the kicker than the kickee. Our best bet, if he gets in there, is to make sure he don’t get too comfortable.

I’ve been wondering,too, how he’s going to take to the news that being president don’t mean he’s the boss. He’s been acting like he don’t know that. He hasn’t said a word about our good old constitution nor about congress nor about the black robes over at the Supreme Court, all of which gets to say yea or nay on just about everything.

I hear he wants to build a border fence at our southern end to keep out the criminals. He wants it to be a real fancy fence, cause he says he just might want to put his name on it.  (I notice he’s partial to putting his name on things.)

I hear tell he’s got a plan to get the president of Mexico to pay for this fancy fence that’ll keep folks from crossing into our country illegally. Lord love a duck! He don’t know the first thing about presidents. That guy down there’s got no more pull about those things than our guy up here does.

Now, I know a little something about fences. At the ranch I put ’em up to keep critters in, not to keep folks out, but one thing’s for sure. No matter how hard I try, I ain’t going to convince my neighbor to pay for no fence of mine.

I’ve been watching this guy and I see he’s a man of few words. Right there, that’s no ordinary politician!  But he repeats those few words, moving ’em around in different ways so you think he’s saying something special when that ain’t necessarily so. He’s partial to humble words like dummy, moron, loser, total loser, major loser, and—when he’s talking about his own self—great, very great, unbelievably great, and treemendous. Why, he knows how to get those crowds a’going!

Now, this fellow Trump puts on a good show. Rowdy, but entertaining as all get out. If he keeps it up I’d be obliged to tell him he should just go on performing like he’s doing and forget about that other stuff.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

How Do You Shame The Shameless?

Every now and then I get to thinking about shame; about its legitimacy as a teaching tool ("Kids are starving in China and you won't eat your peas?"), about its necessity in a civilized society ("Shut the door! Were you born in a barn?"), and about its mean-spirited use as a weapon ("What kind of #$&*% are you, anyway?").

I've been thinking about it a lot lately and I blame Donald Trump.  If ever there was a poster child for resolute, shameless, bad-boy-ness, it's this guy.  I wouldn't mind so much, except he thinks he's going to be our president come November, 2016.

In a sane world, he would be going about it all wrong.  We tell ourselves we wouldn't in a million years choose a mean guy--a ruthless businessman, hilariously narcissistic to the extreme--as our leader, but then we remember that time we had to live through Bush/Cheney and we know all things are possible.  Even here.

Dick Cheney, a man who should be hiding in a closet somewhere flogging himself bloody for his role in the Iraq debacle, is instead all over TVland complaining about President Obama's Middle East decisions--as if he were some sort of authority on those things.   He knows no shame and flaunts it.

Shame is for sissies.

Fifty women and counting have accused Bill Cosby of sexual attacks over a 40 year span and Cosby says, in effect, "So what?"  So far, he's not in jail.  Shame, it would appear, is on the victims.

John Oliver skewers the televangelist greedmeisters in a devastating take-down, the likes of which would cause a normal person to weep and rend garments, but, as of this past Sunday, not a single one of his targets was a no-show.  They were out there, going strong, still repeating their imaginary conversations with their shill, God, in order to separate the clueless from their money.  Shame, my friends, is what you should feel if you don't open your wallets RIGHT NOW to these people barely even pretending that using religion to scam isn't the greatest gig EVER.  (I wrote about them a few years ago.  Nothing happened then, either.)

In my home state of Michigan, Tea Partiers Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, the two disgraced and demoted ex-legislators now out of a job, not just over their sleazy affair but because they played fast and loose with government funds, are. . .ready for this?. . .getting back into the race.  They're going to run as candidates for their old jobs.  The jobs they were just ousted from less than a fortnight ago.  No shame, no blame.

And, as expected, just yesterday the Republicans (and two lousy Democrats) in the U.S House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood, a major lifeline for millions of women.

So how do we shame the shameless?  The answer is, we don't.  We can't.  They're shameless.  But we don't have to reward them, either.  Shame on us when we do.