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What I told my friend about Hillary

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Had lunch the other day with a friend, Roy (not his real name), who’s in his late twenties. The topic turned, naturally enough, to politics. One thing led to another, and my friend mentioned that he had negative feelings about the Clintons, especially Hillary.

“Why?”

He couldn’t articulate anything precisely, but stammered something about untrustworthiness, and sleaziness, and suspicions of criminal activity. Hadn’t he heard something about Hillary Clinton buying off the Democratic National Committee? He couldn’t remember the details, but…

Then, yesterday, I read an op-ed piece in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle about how our country isn’t doing nearly enough to combat Russian interference with our upcoming elections—just as they did in 2016. The article quoted a Stanford professor to the effect that “When a person sees a message repeated over and over, even a false one, you tend to believe it more.”

That brought me to consider why so many friends of mine have hated Hillary Clinton. I thought of Ed (not his real name), with whom I had heated arguments in the days leading up to the 2016 primaries and election. He was a Bernie advocate, but threatened that if his candidate didn’t get the nomination but lost it to Hillary, he would either vote for Trump, or not vote at all.

“Why?”

“Because Hillary Clinton is evil. She’s a crook, a murderer. She’s done horrible things.”

“Like what?”

Again, Ed couldn’t come up with anything in particular, and the more I pressed him, the angrier he became. He simply couldn’t stand her, he said, and that was that.What was it with Roy and Ed? Why did they loathe Hillary Clinton, even though they couldn’t say why, except to impugn her character? Three years ago, I offered this explanation to Ed (and again, yesterday, to Roy):

“For thirty years Hillary has been the recipient of right wing lies, smears and inuendoes. She was accused of murdering Vincent Foster, of making millions in a crooked land deal in Arkansas, of trashing the White House on their last day in office, of standing by Bill during the Lewinsky scandal, of covering up a pedophile ring, of being linked to the Oklahoma City bombing, of helping to protect the drug kingpin El Chapo, of running around in blackface when she lived in Arkansas, of unspeakable negligence for the Benghazi incident, of retaliating against critics of the Clinton Foundation by blowing up their home, of being close to child sex traffickers, of assaulting a young girl with her aide, Huma Abedin, of leaving the country right before the Mueller Report was released for fear of being indicted, of helping Iran obtain enriched uranium…

Every one of these lies was repeated endlessly, and exaggerated, in right wing media, especially Fox “News” and on neo-fascist social media platforms. Hillary Clinton became the most investigated American in history—and not a single allegation was ever proven, not a single crime ever discovered.

And then there was the National Enquirer. Owned by Trump’s stooge, David Pecker (who may end up in jail pretty soon), the scandal sheet, as everyone knows, is right next to the register aisles in nearly every supermarket and convenience store in the country. For years, you couldn’t go to a market and not find yourself next to a “shocking” Enquirer cover story about Hillary Clinton: always there was a hideous photograph showing wrinkles, angry, insane eyes, a pursed mouth, under headlines that portrayed Hillary as running a Lesbian coven, or plotting someone’s assassination, or divorcing Bill, or dying from AIDS, or being abducted by aliens, or…

This was subliminal influencing of people’s perceptions of Hillary, and it worked. Even if you never listened to the news or read newspapers, exposure to the National Enquirer was enough to poison people’s perception and feelings about Hillary Clinton. And Pecker did it at his friend, Trump’s, behest.

Thirty years of this! Of lies, insinuations, smears, awful pictures, incendiary headlines, of assaults on our senses. Thirty years! As I told Roy yesterday, “For your entire life, you’ve absorbed this crap—unconsciously, innocently, but nonetheless, it’s been hacked into your brain. And how here you are, in the summer of 2019, saying there’s something about Hillary Clinton you don’t like. Well, this is why. You’ve been infected with a virus that was designed and disseminated by the Republican attack machine—and you didn’t even know it, which is why it worked: A hack only works if you don’t know you’ve been hacked.”

It’s too late to salvage Ed’s, or Roy’s, conclusions about Hillary Clinton, one of the finest public servants in American history. But you can count on Republican operatives and their friends in the Russian government to be working on new lies with which to undermine Americans’ confidence in the Democratic Party, its candidates and in American democracy itself. At this very moment, they’re hatching ever more diabolical plans to get Trump re-elected. When Roy, now becoming alarmed and influenced by my passion, asked me, near the end of our conversation, wasn’t there anyone who could do something about all this, I pointed my finger at him.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You. You can’t wait for ‘someone’ to do something to stop it. It’s up to you.”

I think—I hope—I pray he heard.


Why it would have been easy for Trump to order Epstein’s death

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The dumbest remark I’ve heard all week—and I’ve heard a lot of dumb stuff from Republicans—was on Breitbart or, as I like to call it, BiteFart. It was from a woman (obviously not well-educated), who wrote, concerning the Epstein death, “Trump is no murder.” She meant “murderer,” of course, but many if not most of these Republican Trump supporters are sadly lacking in basic writing skills, as a read-through of comments on BiteFart shows every day. (The possibility also exists that the woman is some kind of Russian bot or troll.)

How does this woman know that “Trump is no murder”? He sanctions murder, that’s for sure. A couple of years ago, in an interview in which he was criticized for supporting murderous dictators, he said (I paraphrase), “What, you think America doesn’t kill people?” Coming from the President of the United States, that is a pretty clear indication that Trump has ordered deaths. Given what we know of his personality—sociopathic, narcissistic, megalomaniacal, paranoid—there’s no reason not to believe that he’s comfortable with taking out his enemies. I would not kill—you would not kill—most decent people would not kill—but Donald Trump would, if he could; and he can. He’s the most powerful person in the world.

Look, if he wanted to “arrange” the death of Epstein in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, he could do it with a wink and a nod. Arrange for someone to be off-duty at a crucial moment. Pay someone to “not see” something. Have an important document mysteriously disappear. Epstein supposedly hanged himself (with what, we don’t know). Do you not think someone could have entered his cell, overpowered him, and strangled him, then made the scene look as though Epstein had done the deed himself?

Over at the afore-mentioned BiteFart the running meme is that Bill Clinton (or, in some cases, Hillary) arranged for Epstein’s murder. Just how either of the Clintons retains enough power to pull off a stunt like that is not explained by BiteFarters, who never need evidence for their ridiculous conspiracy theories. Former Presidents have absolutely no extrajudicial power, beyond the power of the pulpit. Sitting Presidents do. I doubt if there’s a person in the entire world whom Trump could not have killed, if he wanted. And surely Trump had ample motive to kill Epstein.

Let’s not forget this telling quote from Trump, given during a New York magazine interview back in 2002: Epstein “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” That’s what he said: I didn’t make it up, Democrats didn’t invent it, it’s what the serial pussy-grabber said. His remarkable understatement that both he and his good friend Epstein like their women “on the younger side” can have only one meaning: both predators enjoyed girls under the legal age of consent. In this age of #MeToo this is a shocking admission. There may or may not exist objective proof that Epstein supplied Trump with girls “on the younger side,” but clearly, had Epstein lived, he would have been in a position to so testify.

But Epstein did not live. His life ended abruptly. Cui bono, the law asks in Latin: Who benefits from Epstein’s death? Obviously his co-conspirators do. We don’t know whom they are, yet. But there’s plenty of smoke emerging from the crime scene, and anyone who doesn’t, at the very least, entertain the possibility that Trump had illegal sex with girls “on the younger side” supplied to him by Epstein, and then ordered Epstein eliminated, is living in a fool’s paradise.


Trump’s Bitch

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I’ve said and written for years that Lindsay Graham—“Auntie Lindsay”–is gay but is afraid to come out of the closet because he represents one of the most Christian and conservative states in the country—South Carolina—where people hate homosexuals. (Note: in this post, I refer to Graham both as “he” and “she.”)

My thesis has long been that Auntie Lindsay’s bizarre defense of Trump, which seems so illogical on the surface, can be explained psychologically. Because Auntie Lindsay is ashamed and frightened by her own queerness, she is “identifying with the aggressor.” This is a well-known defense mechanism, explored by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalyst daughter Anna. It describes a mechanism by which people who are ashamed of what they are (such as Auntie Lindsay) develop “psychological strategies that are unconsciously used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings.”

According to the theory, Graham represses his awareness of his own sexual orientation, a defense that is unsuccessful since it is based on untruth. This heightens Graham’s sense of anxiety: not only is he “evil” by virtue of being gay, his response to the outer world is twisted and distorted. This creates extreme unrest in Auntie Lindsay; she cannot be comfortable in her own skin, and so she seeks to take shelter in the presence of someone else—someone strong, who projects the image of that which Auntie Lindsay cannot be: straight. In Auntie Lindsay’s case, this strong, straight presence is Donald Trump. Graham not only “identifies” with him, but draws sustenance from the fact that straight men such as trump are the historic aggressors of gay men. By identifying with trump, Graham “borrows” some of his strength; and because trump himself is homophobic, Graham is able to convince himself that by protecting trump, he is in fact protecting himself. It’s all very strange, but there it is: and it explains why Graham goes out of her way to excuse trump’s racism, lies and bullying. 

Recently, the Broadway actress, Patti Lupone, found herself in trouble on social media for a tweet in which she said: “Lindsey Graham you are a disgrace. On a personal note, why don’t you just bite the bullet and come out. You might just come to your senses.”

The rightwing criticisms on Twitter followed fast. Some accused Lupone of having a “double standard…Imagine a conservative tweeting this at Anderson Cooper. It would be national news.” (Never mind that (a) Anderson Cooper came out of the closet voluntarily years ago, and (b) Lupone wasn’t criticizing Graham for being gay, but for lying about it.) Other Graham/Trump supporters called Lupone “a snowflake,” screamed “YOU are the disgrace,” and insisted, “We love Senator Graham! And his lifestyle is nobody’s business. Focus on helping all the loons on the left. That’ll keep you busy to infinity.”

Others defended Lupone. “Everyone knows that Lindsey Graham is gay, he even has a code name on Capitol Hill. I have no beef with that. What I do have a problem with, is his bad policies that hurt Americans. DRAG HIM PATTI! DRAG HIM!”

It’s fine for Auntie Lindsay’s supporters to “love” him even though he’s gay. I have no problem with that. What I, and many others, have a problem with is Graham’s homophobia (as exemplified in his anti-gay stance, including being against gay marriage), and his support of, and connections with, the most extreme homophobes of the so-called “Christian” right. Poor Auntie Lindsay suffers from a mental imbalance that he doesn’t even know he has. Most people with the self-loathing of Lindsay Graham would seek out psychotherapy (if they could afford it, and Graham can), in order to heal themselves and be better human beings. But in order to seek help, you have to be aware that you have a problem—and Auntie Lindsay apparently isn’t.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the biggest problem with trump isn’t his policies (as cruel and stupid as they are). It’s the content of his character: trump suffers from numerous mental illnesses, ranging from narcissism and megalomania to a sociopathic personality that is unable to empathize with human suffering; there’s also, to judge from his behavior, a streak of sadism. It’s a huge problem for America (and for the world) when the President of the United States is mentally ill. Other mentally ill people gravitate to trump because he helps them feel better. They’re not the losers they think they are: how can they be, when the most powerful, successful man in the world is just as sick as they are? This is why the El Paso shooter revered trump. It’s why Auntie Lindsay reveres trump. Graham has been called “trump’s greatest supporter in the Senate.” I call her something else: trump’s Bitch.


We have to shun these Republicans

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I’m sleeping better going into this weekend. I’m now convinced that Trump will soon be gone—either through Impeachment, or the 2020 election, or by his own hand. However it happens, we’ll soon be done with the most disastrous horror that has struck America since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

What brings about this peace of mind is, as I blogged the other day, my belief that the long-fabled Tipping Point has been reached.

Trump’s foulness finally has caught up with him. Like water chipping away at rock, three years of exposure to Trump has convinced a solid majority of the American people that this aberration cannot go on any longer. Black and Brown people are effectively united 100% against him. So are younger voters and those in the suburbs. Even the working-class men and women, ranchers and farmers of the Rust Belt, Bible Belt and far western states have woke to the disgrace and danger this man, and his willing white-nationalist henchmen, pose to America, and to them personally and their families. Things have gotten so bad for Trump that his supporters have to keep their allegiance to him a secret, lest they be ridden out of town with tar and feathers, their companies boycotted, their families shunned.

There is an old concept in civil self-governance: shunning. This occurs, says Wikipedia,

“when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group…as a form of solidarity. It is a sanction against association…Targets of shunning can include…anyone the group perceives as a threat or source of conflict.”

In the olden days, communities shunned members who were perceived as dangerous or undesirable. This had, of course, its bad effects (homosexuals were shunned, and sometimes those shunned, such as “witches,” were brutally murdered), but on the whole, shunning was a good thing. There is such a thing as societal norms. Individuals who willingly breach those norms must be advised that to continue to do so will be more harmful to themselves than to the greater community. This kept people in line, in a day and age before police, courts, newspapers or social media existed.

We as a society must shun Trump supporters. We must let them know that their behavior is completely unacceptable, if we’re serious about valuing diversity, fairness, civility and decency. This is why, when the rightwing billionaire, Stephen Ross, tries to explain away his fundraising for Trump on the fake excuse that he doesn’t agree with everything Trump says or does, his excuse doesn’t hold water. He can’t say he likes Trump’s tax cuts (of course he does!) and then say he denounces the white nationalism and racism. It doesn’t work that way. If he supports Trump to any extent at all, then he’s in favor of racism, of locking brown babies in cages, of vile rhetoric that inspires mass murderers. Stephen Ross can’t have it both ways. When the people who use his Equinox and SoulCycle facilities boycott them in protest, they’re employing a modern-day version of shunning. It’s the only way to get stubborn offenders like Stephen Ross to listen, to hear the voice of the majority.

Any Trump supporter can be shunned, anywhere. Admittedly, this can be difficult. Thanksgiving is coming up. What do you do when you run into Cousin Alan at the family dinner when Cousin Alan is a certified Trump nut? Do you forgive and forget and recall pleasanter times? Do you simply eliminate politics from the conversations? I would argue, No. If you let Cousin Alan think all is well despite the disgust you feel for his political leanings, you are sanctioning his beliefs (in a positive sense) and telling him, in effect, “Never mind what I say about Trump and the people who support him, I don’t really mean it. You’re still okay in my book.”

This is a wrong-headed approach. To shun Cousin Alan, to let him know how you really feel, doesn’t mean you don’t love him. It doesn’t mean you’re not hoping and praying he comes to his senses. What you must do is an intervention: let Cousin Alan know, gently and lovingly, that you (and, hopefully, the rest of your family) are shocked at his embrace of a racist monster. Cousin Alan will try to defend himself by arguing that, yes, Trump is a pig, but… (and he’ll have all sorts of “buts” to offer). He’ll explain that by supporting Trump on, say, immigration and tariffs, he doesn’t mean to excuse Trump’s disgusting, racist statements.

Don’t fall for it. Patiently explain to Cousin Alan that by continuing to support Trump he is excusing Trump’s racist statements. His continuing support is tacit support of racism, of neo-nazism, of virulent white nationalism, of undermining our Constitution and our way of life. Confronting Cousin Alan in this way may lead to a temporary straining of your relationship with him. But that will pass, and you can only hope and pray that your words will find their way to Cousin Alan’s heart.

Have a great weekend! Stay safe. If you have a Cousin Alan, confront him.


Biden is clearly the frontrunner—and deserves to be

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Joe Biden is conducting a really smart campaign. He was the last major candidate in; his timing was perfect; he did not want to peak too early. He’s been sparing in his public appearances and press availability, a good thing given his tendency for gaffes, and the fact that he needed to find his footing and develop talking points before jumping into the melée.

He’s now found that footing and those talking points, and his commanding lead in the polls proves that Democratic voters like what they see. The smartest thing he’s doing is to make this election all about Trump. The other candidates are getting lost in the tall weeds of issues: healthcare, immigration, climate change, foreign policy, marijuana. Not Biden; his overriding message resonates: Trump’s utter lack of moral fitness. The other candidates have to focus on specific issues, in order to differentiate themselves from the pack and prove to skeptical voters they have chops. Not Biden. Everybody knows he knows the issues: he was a Senator for decades, and then the Vice President for Barack Obama’s two terms—and Obama remains wildly popular, not just among Democrats but Independents, the most important group Biden must court. Since voters assume Biden understands every issue, he’s free to devote himself to the one thing that matters: taking Trump on.

His speech yesterday was masterful. Joe Biden has an impeccable record in politics and in his personal life. He’s never been in a scandal. His reputation for uprightness has survived since his first election victory. His personal story—unlike Trump’s sordid one—arouses sympathy and admiration. There is not a thing Trump or the Republican attack machine can smear him with. Trump can insult him by calling him old or tired or lazy, but it does no good; Trump insults everybody; the voters see it for what it is: the cranky reflex of an angry, bitter man. Biden’s reputation for integrity, for—yes—family values is rock-solid. More than any other Democratic candidate, Biden is entitled to call out Trump’s indecency, and to do so with power. The public has been primed to regard Trump as a pig—by none other than Trump himself. It’s all too easy for Biden to step happily into that role.

And, yesterday, did he ever! In his Iowa address, he played Trump’s greatest hits of hatred: Mexicans as “rapists and criminals,” “Shoot them,” “rat-infested” Baltimore, “Send her back!,” “invasion,” “animals,” “caravans,” “I am a nationalist,” “Go back”…Americans have heard it all, and been repelled, frightened and disgusted by it. Biden’s job is to remind voters of their disgust; he is doing it perfectly. It was a great speech, delivered by a man not known for great oratory, but so passionate, so sincere, so scathing, you had to be touched, amazed and—if you doubted Biden’s fighting powers–reassured. And if you were Trump, you had to be scared, especially in view of his latest dismal polling numbers in the Midwest.

I’m still prepared to vote for whomever the eventual Democratic nominee is, and I hope you are, too. Right now, it looks like it will be Biden—and that’s fine with me. He’ll run a strong campaign. He’ll have the most popular person in America, Barack Obama, right beside him, with support from the most popular woman in America, Michelle Obama. If the election were held today, Biden would easily win at least 300 electoral votes. And then (with due credit to Kirsten Gillibrand), we can Clorox out the White House and begin a new era of clean, responsible and respectable government in America.


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