Sunday, February 25, 2018

While Trump is Stealing the Show his Cronies are Stealing us Blind

I'm sick of hearing Trump, seeing Trump, laughing at Trump, agonizing over Trump. I'm sick of Donald J. Trump, the squatter in the White House, making a mockery of our presidency.

He's a president like a third rate comic spoofing the highest job in the land would be president. His stake is only in drawing an audience; he has no feeling for what the real job would be like. It's  beyond his capacity to get that deep into the role, and nothing says he has to. He revels in his "free to be me" rhetoric and the crowds keep on coming.

A president, no matter his politics or biases, has to, at some point, recognize he's the leader of a country and not just the spokesman for his base. Donald can't do that. He snuggles into his base, comfy and worry-free, and if there are people screaming for his head on the outside, they're really, really bad, aren't they?  (Chorus: We love you, Donald! Donald: Thank you! Thank you very much! Me, too!)

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.
He came into politics as a reality star and he'll go out as a reality star. One quick read of his off-the-wall, stream-of-consciousness, look-at-me, CPAC speech the other day cements any claim that his main concern is, always has been, and always will be how people react to Donald Trump. (The transcript is here.)

  He's not speaking to his country. He's not even speaking to all Republicans. He's rallying his fans.

This one small section, distilled in a couple of paragraphs, is the essence of Donald:
"So, thank you, everybody. You’ve been amazing. You’ve been amazing. What Matt [Schlapp] didn’t say, when I was here 2011, I made a speech. And I was received with such warmth and they give, you know, they used to give, I don’t know if Matt does that, he may not want to be controversial, but they used to give the best speech of CPAC. Do they still do that? You better pick me, or I’m not coming back.

But — and I got these — everybody, they loved that speech. That was, I think, Matt, I would say that might have been the first real political speech I made. It was a love fest, 2011, I believe the time was. And a lot of people remembered and they said, we want Trump, we want Trump. 
And after a few years, they go by, and I say, 'Here we are. Let's see what we can do.'"
Trump runs his 24-hour-a-day clown act as a distraction, and the GOP loves him for it. While he's on stage they're free to go about their business--which has nothing to do with our business. They're putting in place right wing judges who hold life-time positions, cozying up and giving unprecedented power to gun lobbyists like the NRA, dissolving long-standing protections for women, children, minorities, the sick, the poor, and the working class. We barely recognize ourselves anymore.

We have real problems that need grown-up intervention. Trump is not going to be that grown-up. They can slap any label they want on him, including POTUS, but he'll never be anything but a callous showman doing a bad imitation of a real president.

November is coming. We need to work on getting our people elected and throw those bums out.

We need to work at ending the obscene profits currently the deciding factor in every aspect of our lives, including health care.

We need to repair our crumbling structures, our roads and bridges.

We need to convince our allies we're capable of more than saber-rattling and meaningless flag waving.

We need to work at keeping our children safe from killers with assault weapons.

We need to have some pride.

We don't have time for the kind of mind-numbing side show Trump, the GOP, and yes--the Russians--have been forcing on us. The media's fascination with Trump's silly shtick has to stop. I don't care what he says, I care what he does. When he's not trying to destroy programs and departments we've held sacrosanct for half a century or more, he's busy filling every top cabinet job with agenda-laden, know-nothings famous for their cruel streaks. His administration holds the record for the most scandals ever to come out of the White House, and barely a year has gone by.

We have to stop treating Trump like the best copy ever and get back to reporting on the things that matter to Americans with the most to lose. He's a distraction we can't afford. He's a joke gone on too long.

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The NRA is Killing Us and their Weapon is the Second Amendment

Another massacre. Another killing field. Yesterday, sixteen kids and one teacher at at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were murdered by a teenager blasting away with a semi-automatic weapon. So today we're in mourning--crying, howling, ranting about the unfairness. How could this happen? Why is this happening? Something must be done!

The same old shit. Nothing happens. The families whose lives have been devastated by their losses have our sympathies and we do them the supreme honor of allowing them to weep on TV, or seating them in a prominent place beside politicians at public speeches, but we don't give them what they really want: A promise that it'll never happen again.

The unbelievable numbers of gun deaths in America are more than a national scandal, they're the product of mass insanity. I don't know how else to explain it. The statistics on American gun deaths are so outrageously skewed compared to other civilized nations, some of us (but obviously not all of us) work frantically to make it stop. We have no power beyond our words, and, even as we're blasting our thoughts into the vast Web we know words won't do it.

It goes on and it goes on because the leaders of this country are in thrall of the NRA and they allow it to go on. They're the only ones who can stop the rampages and they refuse to do it.

The words "I believe in the Second Amendment" are killer words, designed to give permission to any nutcase who needs an excuse to use a gun as a final solution .

When pundits or government leaders preface their rants against violent gun deaths with "I believe in the Second Amendment, but..." I stop listening. It's insane to say they believe in a corrupted version of a constitutional amendment deliberately misused and abused by the NRA, when they of all people should know better.

The NRA is nothing more than an industry promoting and selling deadly firearms, and they do it by seducing Americans into believing gun ownership is fun, cool, deliciously subversive, and an absolute goddamn right.

The NRA and their brothers-in-arms, the gun manufacturers, have built a multi-billion dollar industry off of that crazy talk and our own government has done everything in their power to encourage it. Gun lobbyists spend billions of dollars in Washington alone to keep that murderous myth going. The NRA "donated" hundreds of millions of dollars to Donald Trump's campaign. Many more millions went to dozens of members of Congress. Money over lives. They took blood money.

The second Amendment goes 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, shall not be infringed.
I've written about the misuse of this amendment before--not that it does any good--but let me repeat: The second amendment does not say what the NRA or certain government leaders say it does. It was designed to give the states the right to build their own militias. Nothing more, nothing less.

(And, before you even go there, the Supreme Court's 2008 Second Amendment decision, District of Columbia vs. Heller, did not give a free pass to the country's big gunners.

This, from Antonin Scalia:
"It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. 
Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms.  Miller (an earlier case) said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those 'in common use at the time'. We think that limitations is fairly supported by the historic tradition of prohibiting the carrying of 'dangerous and unusual weapons. ' "
In order to keep the deadly gun industry going, the profiteers want us to go on believing it's the phrase, "the right of the people", that protects gun owners from....

...from what? A rogue government itching to take away their guns and turn them into slaves? That's crazy talk. That's NRA-promoted crazy talk. That's the kind of simplistic drama you might expect from an apocalyptic movie of the "B" kind.

The killing has to stop and it won't stop until this government, right now, right this moment, decides along with us that it has to stop. They have the power. They can do this. And if they don't, the blood of our children, the next victims, is on them.

But one more thing: Whatever happened to the federal bump stock laws? Another promise broken, with more to come. A full 90 percent of the country wants background checks, and more than 50% want better gun control laws, but our government will not take on the NRA, a private but powerful group holding us hostage, whose sole purpose is to profit from the sale of guns

It's on our government to take this on.

It's on them.

Never let them forget, it's on them.

(Crossposted at Crooks and Liars)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The President is a Damned Nuisance. We Get it. Can we Move On?

It's been over a year now, and the squatter in the White House, that odd, clunky, rich guy who said of the presidency, "How hard could it be?"; that sleazy showman who, early on, saw merit in making fun of people whose only sin was in disagreeing with him (Congress, judges, the FBI, the press, TV pundits, Gold Star parents, Heads of State, heads of social name it); that ignorant, irresponsible do-nothing who promised jobs where there weren't any, who boasted he would fix whatever ailed the country single-handedly, all by himself, because nobody on EARTH--no politician, no scientist, no scholar--was smarter than he was...

That guy?

That guy is still there.

If we haven't had enough of him, shame on us. We're supposed to be the adults here, yet we let this increasingly silly Peter Pan (I don't wanna grow up) dominate our every breathing moment.  Seconds after witnessing that hilariously awful image of an imperious Donald Trump descending on his golden escalator, we should have known the only response to such a spectacle would have been a collective, "Yeah, get outta here, ya big galoot".

But, no. We ate it up. What chutzpah! How gutsy! It was like watching a second-rate horror show, a black comedy, a bizarre but highly entertaining version of the worst politician EVER.

Even now he revels in the absolute power of his naughtiness. He cannot be schooled, he cannot be humiliated, he cannot be convinced that he is not God. And why should he change? Nothing fazes him. He is obsessed with building a wall between the U.S and Mexico and nothing will move him away from it--not Mexico saying they won't pay for it, not the rest of us giving him grief over it, not Congress dodging with, "well, hold on now, let's think about this...".

He knows nothing of diasporas or despair, sees little value in aid and charity, has an uncommon fear of black and brown people--even those who do nothing more than kneel. He's a dream come true to White Supremacists and faux Christians; a recurring nightmare to our Dreamers.

A year in and he still doesn't understand why he--the Great and Powerful Oz--can't just snap his fingers and make it happen. No, he can't let the Vice President do all the work. No, he can't stop the presses when they publish unkind stuff about him. No, he can't fire a judge who happens to be Hispanic. No, he can't wring loyalty oaths out of the FBI. No, he can't cozy up to Russia. No, he can't use our nuclear weapons to annihilate North Korea...

He can't stop Robert Mueller's investigation or force Ruth Bader Ginsberg to retire, either.

And, boy, it pisses him off.

So just last week he accused Democrats who didn't stand and applaud his State of the Union speech of being unAmerican. Treasonous, even. How DARE they? And instead of the press questioning how it is that a President of the United States had never seen a State of the Union address before (else he would have known that's how the damned thing works--the opposition always sits it out), they glommed onto the treason comment and completely ignored his abominable ignorance of American politics.

And here's yesterday's Breaking News: Ever since Trump sat through France's Bastille Day extravaganza last July 14 he's been lusting after his own Tanks and Rockets and Stuff Like That parade, Soviet/North Korea style. He kids you not. He pictures it going right down Pennsylvania Avenue, looking something like this:

Soviet Military Parade, Moscow, 1984
The Pentagon guys are madly trying to stall--red tape, lost memos, the logistics behind hauling our country's heavy weaponry to the steps of the White House--the usual--but Trump has spoken. It'll happen. Nobody will be able to talk him out of it. Thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars later, it'll happen. Because, you see, the president has tantrums.

We know all of this in dizzying detail because our media falls all over itself to suck in and blast out every word, every gesture, every twitterpated "How great am I?" brain fart emanating from this hopeless dunderhead who, through no fault of mine, managed to become, of all the crazy things, President of the United States.

Every week the majority of us watching this debacle say to ourselves, "Well, he's outdone himself this time. It can't get any worse." But it does. It does because Trump revels in this stuff. He wallows in attention-getting controversy. Chaos is his Ecstasy. He just can't quit it, and he won't as long as we go on satisfying his craving.

I'm as guilty as anyone, wasting heaps and heaps of time in shuddery fascination, but the bright new thing is that I've finally become bored with it. The President is getting repetitive and tiresome. His antics aren't hilarious or even mildly funny anymore. Nothing shocks me, and that's a bad sign for a showman.

If he can't entertain us, what good is he? That's the position he's in now. He's done nothing to show us he can be--or even wants to be--presidential, and it's clear, after a year without any real leadership, that we don't need him.

Our focus now must be on the Republican majority in Congress. When they're not enabling Trump, a man they know full well is woefully unqualified and has no business in the White House, they're defending his behavior. ("Nothing to see here, he was only kidding, that's not what he meant, he's what the voters want..."). No mystery there. They're hoping for enough time to undo the few things they weren't able to obstruct during the Obama administration; enough time to kill off any other long-term rules and regulations designed, obviously, to obliterate, or at least irritate, the super-rich.

Their unfettered freedom renders them reckless and giddy. (At last! Can't stop us now!) Trump's antics are distractions they're anxious to keep afloat. It's not Trump who bears watching, it's that bunch in the majority who see democracy as an obstacle to their real goals. We're on to them and they know it. The question now is, how much damage can they do between now and November? The answer comes in how watchful we are.

Let Trump be Trump, but without the bright lights and the fanfare. Get him off the stage. Curtain down. Spare us the second act.

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars)