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The tipping point: Republicans starting to have their doubts

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I know that most of us believe that the 90% of Republicans who are utterly in love with their fearless leader will never shift their attitudes toward him.

I happen to disagree.

I have always believed there would be a tipping point. Not all of them will defect. Not even a majority. The Breitbart types really are diehards: crazy as loons, but loyal. But we don’t need a majority of Republicans to take over both Houses and then begin serious investigations, not only with impeachment in mind, but with getting back at people like Devin Nunes. Evening scores is part of politics; we need to even some scores with some Republicans.

But first, we’ll need for 5% or 10% of Republicans to fundamentally change their minds about Trump and realize that they made a serious mistake when they voted for him and then supported him for so long. Here’s how I think it could happen, and why.

First of all, Trump’s act is getting stale, even for many Republicans. I have no proof of this, insofar as polls go. But I keep my finger to the wind, and I’m pretty good at picking up on trends. People are tired of the lies, the bullying, the insane tweets, the vulgarity, the insults, the revenge firings, the coverup, the man’s sheer repulsive nastiness–and they’re still disturbed by the cozying up to Putin.

They’re also realizing that Trump’s much-ballyhooed “accomplishments” are Potemkin villages. The North Korean deal? A bunch of bull. Kim Jong-Un is still busy perfecting his missiles. The economy? People are realizing that the recovery started under Obama and is merely continuing. Besides, they’re not really seeing increases in their take-home pay. Instead, they’re seeing top management get more money than ever—and that’s a Democratic issue. Judicial appointments? Republicans love Trump’s, but I don’t believe it’s a rallying cry for all of them; it’s certainly not enough to prevent a Blue Wave in November.

But the scandals and controversies are ongoing, and seem to get worse every day, and this is eating away at Republican support—maybe not in the polls, yet, but around the kitchen table, parents are starting to wonder if Trump (or his children) are the role models they want for their own kids. And there’s something out there that is liable to seriously erode Trump’s support in a way nothing yet has:

The Mueller Report.

I’m sure that a solid majority of Republicans are convinced that Mueller is crooked, and they won’t care what he alleges or proves in his report. But remember, we only need 5% or 10% of Republicans to defect, and a Mueller report that finds serious, credible evidence of crimes (collusion, obstruction, emoluments, etc.) is bound to be taken seriously by that 5% or 10% of Republicans. They’re intelligent enough to realize that Robert Mueller is the real deal: a thorough patriot, a man who has served his country honorable all his life, and a Republican, to boot. They’re wise enough to see through the crap from propagandists like Sarah Huckabee Sanders and KellyAnne Conway and Rudi Giuliani. Just because they’re Republicans doesn’t mean they’ve lost all their marbles!

There’s a final reason I have hope that enough Republicans will come to their senses to put an end to this nightmare. If they get rid of Trump—THEY STILL HAVE PENCE! He’s their insurance policy.

Have a wonderful, safe weekend. Back Monday. Thank you.


The Roman Catholic Church is a criminal outfit

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It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Catholic Church is and has been for a long time a criminal organization of pedophiles.

Harsh language, yes. But after this latest report that hundreds of Pennsylvania priests molested “over 1,000 children,” what other conclusion can we reach? And that was just in one state!

Beyond America, we know that Catholic priests have sexually molested children in dozens of other countries. Wikileaks has reported on priestly pedophilia in at least 28 countries, including a significant number of cases…in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.”

There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world and obviously most of them are law-abiding people. On the other hand, there are 414,000 priests in the world, according to a 2012 report, and while we don’t know the exact number of them that have abused children, or protected those who did, it’s not hard for me to imagine that the number is in the tens of thousands. If we had another organization with the size and clout of the Catholic Church—the Boy Scouts, say, or the YMCA—that harbored so many sexual criminals, we would probably outlaw it.

I admit the Catholic Church has done some great things. It helped civilize Western civilization and was largely responsible for shaping our culture and heritage. (As a wine lover, I salute the Church for its role in developing Europe’s wine industry.) The Church fostered our traditions of music, art, architecture and literature. And obviously, the Catholic Church has been a continuing source of solace and faith to hundreds of millions of human beings.

But we really have to come to grips with the extent of the criminality the Church has aided and abetted. And we have to remember the Church’s crimes each and every time a Catholic says something nasty about homosexuality, or same-sex marriage. How dare these people criticize two people who dare to love each other, when so many of their priests are sexual perverts? How can we not assume that every priest or Cardinal who condemns LGBTQ rights has not himself had illicit sex with a child, or has not protected the identity of a criminal priest?

Here’s the Church’s official position on homosexuality, in part: Homosexual desires…are not in themselves sinful. [They] do not become sinful until a person acts upon them, either by acting out the desire or by encouraging the desire and deliberately engaging in fantasies about acting it out. People tempted by homosexual desires, like people tempted by improper heterosexual desires, are not sinning until they act upon those desires in some manner.”

How the Church, which is led by Pope “Who am I to judge?” Francis, can possibly say these words with a straight face is beyond me. Let’s paraphrase the statement: “Pedophiliac desires are not in themselves sinful until a person acts upon them…”. Well, we know that Catholic priests have “acted upon” their pedophiliac desires for centuries. We also now know that some priests even ran “child porn rings” in their dioceses!

These so-called men of God are monsters. And we have no reason not to believe such “sins” are not ongoing even now. So I fail to understand why society continues to cut the Catholic Church slack. At the very least, the U.S. government ought to suspend the Church’s tax-exempt status, until such time as society is convinced the Church has entirely reformed itself beyond the shadow of a doubt, and all the pedophile priests and their protectors have been brought to justice.

Beyond the Catholic Church’s criminality, we have to address the larger issue of the role of religion in U.S. society. We have in America a Constitution whose First Amendment clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” etc. The fact that this was the very first Amendment the Founders wrote shows how seriously they took it.

And yet, today we see an encroachment upon governance by religions, particularly Christianity (Catholics and Protestants), that is driven by radical fundamentalists who do not like the First Amendment, and wish to see an America governed as much by Biblical authority (or their version of it) as by established law. They have no respect for democracy, or for our traditions of representative government, or for the values of the Enlightenment in which the idea of America is grounded. There is really very little difference between these sorts of Christians and religious theocrats abroad, such as Iran’s Ayatollahs or the Taliban. It starts with haters like the Colorado baker who wouldn’t serve gay people and now is refusing to serve transgenders.

And it ends—where? Can we assume that if Christian theocrats seized control of America—as they are trying hard to do—that we would not see hands chopped off, women in veils, forced conversions, stonings, beheadings? Can we assume we would not see the teaching of real science prohibited? We cannot so assume, especially among the Biblical literalists, who believe in all those insane death penalties in Leviticus. The history of religions that gain absolute power tells us that most of the time, the most dire consequences ensue.

 


New York City’s Outer Boroughs, where racism has always been alive and well

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New York City, “The Big Apple,” is always thought of as a center of urban liberalism, but it’s never been as liberal as most people think. The City has elected lots of Republican Mayors over the years, including Fiorello LaGuardia, John Lindsay, the notorious Rudi Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg.

The centers of Democratic strength in NYC are Manhattan and The Bronx. The other three boroughs—Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island—aren’t as liberal. Queens, don’t forget, was the home of Archie Bunker, that quintessential white guy who didn’t particularly care for Blacks or other minorities, and whose social views were, well, like Giuliani’s. In Queens, in 2016, the working class Howard Beach neighborhood gave Trump 84% of the vote. Brooklyn follows the pattern: the Brighton Beach neighborhood also gave him 84% of the vote, West Brighton 83%. Staten Island is reliably the reddest of NYC’s boroughs; its U.S. congressman is a Republican. The borough voted strongly for Trump; the populous Huguenot-Eltingville neighborhood are gave him 87%.

Donald Trump was born and raised in Queens. Rudi Giuliani, his TV lawyer, was born and raised in Brooklyn. I knew these boroughs fairly well. I was raised in the Bronx, but my parents moved eventually to Howard Beach, where I would visit them and meet their neighbors. I had very close relatives in Queens and Brooklyn whom we visited often, and an uncle of mine owned a business in Staten Island, where my cousins and I sometimes played.

It has been, of course, many decades since I lived in New York; things may be somewhat different today from when I was a kid (although the Trump votes in 2016 suggest that, if anything, the Outer Boroughs are more white and conservative.) Besides, both Trump and Giuliani are my age, and were shaped and succored by their experiences in New York in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. They are products of the Outer Boroughs.

Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island were populated largely by Jews and Protestants, including large numbers of Catholics, back in the day. (Trump was raised Protestant, although religion doesn’t seem to have been very important in his household. Giuliani was Catholic.) There was a surprising amount of racism among these two groups back then (and, of course, Trump’s father, Fred, was in the Ku Klux Klan). Both Jews and Protestants were prone to anti-Black prejudice (and to other forms of bigotry as well) to a degree that has been underreported. Both groups also were, to put it bluntly, New Yawkahs of a type often described as pushy, dismissive, arrogant, rude, aggressive and blunt.

Again, think of Archie Bunker. And then think of Trump and Giuliani. Peas from the same pod, right? And you can include other traits, as well: bullying, exaggerating, insulting, ambitious, unscrupulous in pursuit of business/financial goals, braggarts and xenophobic. Now, I don’t mean to put all New Yorkers down. I am a New Yorker (and Donald Trump and I were born on the exact same date), and I have always had a part of me that shares in these repulsive traits. I have fought against them all my life and largely overcome them, although not entirely.

But Trump and Giuliani have not. If anything, they’ve given into the darker side of their personalities and become more New Yawkah as they have gotten older. We see this virtually every time either of them opens his mouth in public. Lying is not particularly a New York thing, but the arrogance and pushiness than underlie it are, and so is the dismissiveness of others’ points of view, and of facts. Both men are extraordinarily aggressive. Most of us, I should think, are anxious to avoid confrontations, and seek to work out compromises with those with whom we have differences. Not Trump or Giuliani. Both love to fight. Both are unscrupulous and devious in the means they use to win. Both use people for their own ends, and neither cares very much who gets hurt, or how much damage is done, if they’re able to get their way.

This is the downside of New York, or at least of certain New Yorkers of a certain generation. It’s sad that it’s come to this: we’ve been blessed in this country to have for our presidents some amazing, wonderful New Yorkers: Teddy Roosevelt, his distant cousin FDR (whose mother always had a residence in Manhattan), and Grover Cleveland, a Democrat and one of our most underrated Presidents. (Martin van Buren, Chester Arthur and Millard Fillmore also were native New Yorkers.) At their best, New Yorkers are generous, optimistic, compassionate, kind and brave—we saw these qualities in the immediate aftermath of Sept 11. Unfortunately, in Donald Trump and Rudi Giuliani we have New Yorkers who are not the best, but who exhibit the worst of New York.

 

 


A good question

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congressional candidate from New York’s 14th District, who stunningly won her party’s nomination in the June primary, wondered in a CNN interview why the U.S. can afford trillions of dollars for “tax cuts and unlimited war” but not for Bernie Sanders-style “Medicare-for-all.”

It’s a great question that addresses the fundamentals of America: our values, traditions, culture, national security, obligations to our citizens, and indeed the very nature of our democracy. It’s also a question that many Democrats wrestle with.

Republicans, of course, are notorious for their dedication to spending on national defense and cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans. They have historically shown little or no interest whatsoever in issues involving healthcare or the environment. In this sense, Republicans are a very predictable party. They don’t seem to have any deep conflicts, in a philosophical or political sense. They want a few, simple things, and they talk about them, over and over.

Democrats are more complicated. We do have an idealism that is rooted in European-socialist or Democratic-socialist thinking, but we also recognize that national defense is vital. We’re generally opposed to cutting taxes on the rich, but any honest Democrat will admit that taxes are really high, especially when you combine federal, state and local taxes, which together take more than a third of my income.

So when Republicans make their anti-tax speeches, they find some receptivity in Democrats like me. Which leads to Ocasio-Cortez’s remark, and specifically to the question of how Democrats feel about “unlimited war.”

War has characterized American foreign policy from its beginnings. America has fought 12 major wars since the Revolution, but in addition we have been involved in countless smaller ones, from Teddy Roosevelt’s Panama conflict to the Iranian coup to Reagan’s invasions of Grenada and U.S. involvement in El Salvador. Speaking as a loyal Democrat, I believe that war is sometimes necessary. We can argue over just how necessary any particular war is, and we will seldom reach agreement. But the U.S. cannot unilaterally renounce war until everyone else does.

The distinction, though, between wars of necessity and wars of choice is vital. America is currently fighting in Yemen (through Special Forces and other means of support) and in Syria (ditto). Are these wars necessary to our national security, or are they discretionary? I don’t think one American out of twenty could tell you why we’re there, except to utter some vague generality about Israel’s security (what does that have to do with Yemen?), or oil (which both Yemen and Syria produce). Even more generally, supporters of our involvement might argue that we’re fighting to keep Iran (and its ally, Russia) from getting too strong in the Middle East.

These are intellectually acceptable reasons for war, but more and more Americans are wondering why we have to be the world’s policeman. To those of us of a certain age, we’ve grown up with warnings from American Presidents, Democratic and Republican, of threats that never happened. For instance, we fought in Vietnam for decades, but in the end, after the Communists won, nothing bad happened, and today Vietnam and the U.S. are trading partners. So why did 58,000 American soldiers have to die there?

I think this is what Ocasio-Cortez was hinting at in her remark. It seems to me that we can be more thoughtful and less reactive when it comes to committing American forces, equipment and money to overseas wars. Donald Trump certainly takes a classic Republican position in favoring a strong, assertive and sometimes violent American foreign policy, but Obama, and Clinton before him, also asserted American strength overseas; and we may be certain that any President’s foreign policy advisors and national security experts will push him in the direction of involvement. So was isn’t just a Democratic-Republican distinction.

The plain and simple fact is that we simply don’t know what would happen were we to cut the Pentagon’s budget somewhat and invest that money into domestic needs, like healthcare. Republicans love to terrify their base with stern lectures about foreigners invading us and turning the U.S. into a (pick your favorite) Communist, or Islamic, or Mexican, or Chinese, or European socialist, or North Korean colony. But there’s no evidence that the Pentagon needs the $700 billion Trump has given it.

That’s a lot of money—precisely the result of the “military-industrial complex” that Dwight Eisenhower, a solid Republican, warned us about 57 years ago. Yet such is the power of fear, and of Republicans’ skillful use in instigating it, that most Americans remain terrified of the prospect of being too weak to resist aggression. Implanted in our memories is the history of British-French appeasement of Hitler, with all the hideous consequences.

So I admit to being conflicted myself. Will Republicans be able to use Ocasio-Cortez (and Bernie Sanders) to scare enough swing voters to vote Republican? Will they be able to scare Americans that the cost of Medicare-for-all (estimated at $32.6 trillion over ten years by an outfit funded by the Koch Brothers) will bankrupt us? They’ll certainly try.

We need to have this discussion, but unfortunately, Democrats are more willing to have it than Republicans. Republicans resort to their standard litany of fear-mongering and accusing Democrats of hating America—a litany sadly accelerated by the current president, who appeals also to the under-education of his base. I never, ever heard of a Democrat who didn’t want to defend America vigorously, but almost every Republican nowadays seems to want to strip every social program to the bones and throw massive amounts of money at the Pentagon while cutting taxes on the rich—exactly as Ocasio-Cortez said.


Those rascally Repubs! Just when you thought they couldn’t get any worse

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One of the features of being on the road and staying in hotels is the omnipresence of USA Today. It’s not a bad little paper. It brings you up to date in the morning as you line up, cattle-style, for your English muffin and coffee in the hotel “dining room.”

Yesterday’s paper had a front-page story that, while not particularly surprising, was nonetheless horrifying: “Russia no drag on Trump voters.” The paper has a “floating focus group” of 23 panelists who voted for Trump; from time to time the editors ask them how they’re feeling about their president, and overwhelmingly (as the headline suggests), they are dismissive of the Russian collusion, of Mueller, and of Democrats, whose allegations, they believe, “have been overblown or misdirected.”

This is disappointing: a U.S. president who looks like he conspired with a foreign power to get elected has committed treason, in effect. (And we don’t even know the extent of Trump’s financial shenanigans because he won’t release his taxes.) Yet such is the psychological hold Trump has on his people that they don’t care if he is a tool of Russia. They don’t care about anything criminal, immoral or pathological he does. Their commitment is total.

Cult [noun]: a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing. A system of religious veneration or devotion… regarded by others as strange or sinister.

Talk about strange and sinister! These Republicans trapped in their Trump cult have an inordinate amount of faith in their leader. They trust him implicitly. While most Americans feel that Putin is playing Trump or has something on him, JoAnne Musial believes “Trump is playing” Putin. “Everyone’s got it all backwards.”

Musial, a 66-year old retiree from Pennsylvania, is typical of cult members who have lost, or surrendered, their critical thinking skills. She also is typical of people who disregard facts that don’t fit in with their preconceptions. So is Barney Clark, a 51-year old “medical device account manager” from Georgia. The Mueller investigation is “a circus act,” he avers, without having the slightest idea what Mueller will discover, and probably not caring. Then there’s Francis Smazal, 55, a nurse from Wisconsin. Does the fact that Russia manipulated our election bother her? Not at all. All countries do it, she says; “Russia wants to prosper and survive, like we do. Sometimes that involves taking cookies away from us.”

It’s a good thing Francis Smazal wasn’t in charge of American policy after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. She might have said, “Big deal. All they did was take a few cookies away from us.”

Burning cookies, AKA U.S. Navy ships, Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941

If Trump came out and declared that the Sun rises in the West and sets in the East, I suppose his credulous fans would believe it.

JoAnne Musial: Hey y’all, did ya see where President Trump says the Sun rises in the West?

Barney Clark: Really? He said that?

Francis Smazal: Barney, Is that doubt in our President I hear?

Barney Clark: Who, me? Nope. Totally believe the man and everything he says.

Francis Smazal: I should hope so. Way I see it, those snowflake Hollywood libtards been lying to us all this time, tellin’ us the Sun rises in the East when it obviously don’t!

JoAnne Musial: You got that right, Francis. Can’t trust a single damn thing a Demon-crat say.

Francis Smazal: JoAnne, watch you language. No need to cuss around the young ‘uns.

Barney Clark: Praise the Lord!

This is how America ends: not with a bang, but with a mental breakdown.

There’s no getting around the fact that Republicans prefer a one-man dictatorship based on propaganda more than they do a Constitutional democracy of the sort America has had since the Founding. If more proof were needed that Republicans have become and are becoming fascists, here’s this from The Daily Beast:

A public opinion poll conducted by Ipsos found that a plurality — 43 percent — of Republicans agreed that ‘the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.’ Twenty-three percent of Republicans agreed that ‘President Trump should close down mainstream news outlets, like CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times.’”

Shut them down! Lock her up! Lock and load! Arrest liberals! Kill Obama! Cut off Pelosi’s head! Hang Elizabeth Warren! Eliminate welfare! Castrate the queers! Make Christianity the state religion! Deport Muslims! Burn the Constitution! Up with the swastika! Hail Trump!

Trump, to his supporters: “You have my back, I have yours. We will take back America and make her Great Again!”

Cheers! Adulation! Heils! Let the torchlight parade begin!

 


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