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Repubs about to repeal and replace, while Trump tells another lie

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Just last month, following the House’s passage of the American Health Care Act, we saw Donald J. Trump hold a celebratory fiesta at the White House. Grinning and high-fiving, Trump and the Republicans touted it as following through on their campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. This picture

shows how smug and self-satisfied they were, sipping cold beer in the Rose Garden, as Michael Pence bragged, “Welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare.”

That was on May 4. Now, just six weeks later, we have the Senate on the verge—apparently—of passing its version of the Act, a version said to be not as harsh on the poor and elderly, due to the need to get the votes of Republican “moderates” like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. And what is Trump’s attitude? Now, he “clearly” wants a health care bill with “heart,” Sean Spicer said yesterday, a few days after reports that Trump had called the original House version “mean.”

Okay, let’s get this straight. Trump liked the House version enough to invite House Repubs to his little party. That was then. Now, when the Senate is supposedly softening it a little, he decides it’s “mean.”

Make sense?

Some will claim this is Donald Trump’s attempt to play what some pundits have called “three-dimensional chess” (or, in some accounts, four-dimensional chess). What this means, explains the conservative National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, is that Trump is playing ten moves ahead…that he’s brilliantly distracting the media by creating this or that controversy.” As the website Know Your Meme puts it, “’Trump is Playing 4D Chess’ is an expression used by supporters…when speculating that his campaign is using advanced political strategies to manipulate and dominate the news media.”

The expression, which originated in a Dilbert cartoon, suggests that Trump is a super-brilliant strategist able to think in ways that are far superior to conventional political thinkers, using techniques of contradiction and obfuscation to achieve his goals. Certainly there is contradiction aplenty in him calling the House bill “mean” after praising it—although “hypocrisy” might be a more apt term. But I think his reasoning is far simpler than “four-dimensional chess.”

In fact, his motive is pretty obvious. With record low poll numbers—even Republican support for him is plummeting—Trump realizes he needs to change people’s perception of him as a blithering idiot. In his own analysis, he thinks the public perceives him as “mean,” as well they might, given the insults he routinely hurls at everyone he resents. He knows, also, that the public is scared to death of the American Health Care Act, which will toss tens of millions of people off healthcare, and cause drug prices and premiums to spiral. He’s got to neutralize that perception—or, to be exact, the perception not of the actual bill’s effects, but the perception of himself as uncaring. What better way to do that than to criticize his fellow Republicans as mean? Maybe some low information voters will think, “Hey, Trump can’t be that bad, if he’s sticking up for the little people against those mean Republicans.”

Trump’s stunt is phony as hell. It’s a smokescreen and a distraction and it’s not likely to work. But wait, there’s more, and it has to do with Trump’s pathological lying. He uses words differently from you and me. We all know he means nothing he says, or at least, very little; and even if he does mean something he says today, he can turn 180 degrees tomorrow and feel no shame—perhaps not even remember his flip-flop. What I’m getting at is that, when there is a bill he signs, even if it’s worse than the original House version, Trump will claim that, because of him, it has more “heart” and is in fact filled with heartful, healthful benefits for the American people. Great benefits! Incredible benefits! You’ll love it! It will be one more lie—but his credible voters will buy it, as they have willingly accepted every previous lie he’s told.


Inside the dark, dark mind of the tea party: A case study

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Joe Walsh is a former congressman from Illinois who ran on a tea party platform in his 2010 campaign. He won, but in 2012, too right wing even for his own district, he was beaten by the Democrat Tammy Duckworth, the Iraq War veteran who is now Illinois’ junior Senator.

Walsh was violently anti-Obama during his one term in office. Now, he’s even more belligerent towards those he perceives as enemies: liberals, blacks, Muslims and the gay community. Last year, in a tweet that has since been deleted, possibly because he sensed it was a threat against a sitting President, he wrote, “This is now war” against Obama, and warned the then-President to “watch out.”

In another tweet, he wrote, “…Obama is Muslim” and “has always been,” which, Walsh alleged, “explains Obama’s hatred toward Israel and explains his weakening of America.” In yet another outburst on Twitter, Walsh accused Obama and unidentified “thugs”—a code word for black people–of being “Cop haters.”

Walsh doesn’t just hate on Obama and black people; he is also a militant homophobe. The Chicago website Ward Room, which covers local politics, observed that Walsh is “a fire-and-brimstone tea party homophobe” who received “a zero rating” from the Human Rights Campaign. Just yesterday on Twitter, he celebrated the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that protected so-called “offensive trademarks” even if they are derogatory to certain groups. The original case rested in the complaint of a rock group, The Slants, a name considered offensive to East Asians even though The Slants themselves are Asian-American. The SCOTUS ruled in favor of The Slants–a decision I agree with–but, bizarrely, Walsh chose to interpret the decision in an anti-gay way: “Supreme Court upholds offensive trademarks as form of free speech. Great. Sorry, guppies,” he tweeted, using the acronym for “gay urban professionals” even though gay people had absolutely nothing to do with the case.

As for Muslims, yesterday, following the most recent Paris car attack, Walsh tweeted that “EVERYDAY Muslims commit terror in the name of Islam.” ““Looks like, smells like Muslim terror,” he said, even before any investigation had taken place. In Walsh’s world view, apparently, there are no decent Muslims. All are evil terrorists.

Of course, when somebody actually kills gays or Muslims, Walsh doesn’t seem to be upset. Did he have anything to say about the Orlando Pulse nightclub murders, which targeted gays? Did he have anything to say about the latest London car attack, which targeted Muslims?  Did he have anything to say about the news, earlier this week, about the young white male suspected of murdering a teenaged Muslim girl, whose body was found in Virginia? You tell me.

Walsh continues with his tea party provocations. Like his hero, Donald J. Trump, he obsessively announces his twisted thoughts on Twitter. From yesterday: Scott Pelley, you are a liberal, elite asshole.” “Build the wall.” Muslims are “freaks with no religion.” And, from the day before, a rhetorical question that lets us know the innermost promptings of his dark mind, and is possibly a dog whistle to his talk radio fans: “What does revolution look like?”

Either Walsh really believes these things, in which case he’s deranged and dangerous, or he’s just trying to be the next Michael Savage (one of the most violent radio shock jocks in America), in which case he’s—well, deranged and dangerous. On the other hand, Michael Savage’s net worth is nearly $20 million, making him an economic role model for an ex-congressman who was evicted from his condo when the bank foreclosed on it, and whose ex-wife sued him for “past due child support.”

What? An upstanding, fine, family values, religious Republican who doesn’t pay his bills, and who stirs up hate in order to get rich? Nah. Only liberals do that.

 


Can we please take Christianity out of governance? (Conservatives: “No!”)

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The role of religion in governance has grown more complicated since the nation’s beginnings. Prior to our Revolutionary War, there was very little distinction between the two; in 17th and 18th century America, as in old Europe, the only people who were allowed to touch the levers of power were land-owning, older white Christian men. America was, in essence, a Christian gerontocracy.

Most of the Founding Fathers, however, considered themselves Deists, meaning they were willing to believe in a God of some sort, perhaps even the God of the Bible; but they did not believe that God interfered in the world’s functioning. Wary of state-sponsored religion, such as was found in Europe, the Founders enshrined into the new Constitution the “establishment” clause of Article I as well as the “no religious test” clause of Article VI.

But ever since, some people, mainly Christians, have wanted to insert their religion more strongly into American governance than the Constitution allows. Over the centuries, sometimes the religionists garner more power, and sometimes the secularists do. Since the time of Ronald Reagan, however, the religionists—which means the Christians—have been on an upswing, taking over a resurgent Republican Party fueled by evangelicals who partnered with a conservative economic elite with whom their interests coalesced.

Western European countries have done an admirable job erecting a firm wall between religion and governance, which is why conservative Republicans so frequently criticize Europe as “decadent.” Here in America, we see the First and Sixth Amendments under constant attack. (If you want to understand more of the background to this assault, read the 2016 book, “Dark Money.”)

One beachhead of the religionist attack on the Constitution has been the Wall Street Journal, whose owner, Rupert Murdoch (who also owns Fox News), has made no secret of his Roman Catholic proclivities and admiration for the political (if not the theological) correctness of the evangelical Christian right. An enlightening example of how the Journal argues in favor of greater Christian intrusion into American governance is this op-ed piece from last Friday’s paper.

Entitled “Believers Need Not Apply,” its author, Sohrab Ahmari—a right wing, polemicizing Iranian-Brit on a crusade against liberalism—advances the tired old canard that liberals lack “conscience,” which, in his logic, reduces them to the level of animals. One of Ahmari’s recent tweets, which mysteriously seems to have vanished but was there yesterday, is Liberals have triumphed spectacularly over faith and tradition. Now they’re targeting conscience itself.”

I’m so tired of these ideological-religious attacks on the liberal struggle for equality, but the slanders have to be confronted and demolished for what they are: phobias and bigotry. In the “Believers” op-ed piece, Ahmari begins by assailing the “gender-and-sexuality orthodoxy” he alleges is being forced down the throats of Christians, who claim that “homosexuality” (they never call it “being gay”) is a “sin,” and that granting homosexuals “rights” violates Christians’ “conscience.”

Sweeping generalizations like this always benefit from graphic examples, and so Ahmari pounces on the latest demographic group to enjoy the odium of Christian conservatives: the transgendered community. Addressing some imaginary “rabbi” (ecumenically summoned, no doubt, so that Ahmari can argue he’s not just speaking for Christians), he says, “You, rabbi, must adhere to strict pronoun guidelines and feel in your soul that Chelsea Manning was always a ‘she’.” (In other places, such as this tweet, Ahmari substitutes “you, devout nun,” for “rabbi.)

One trick of the religious right is to pretend that their bigotry has moral justification. In fact, there is, and can be, no moral justification for trampling on the human rights of any peaceful human group, whether it’s Jews, the handicapped, the Irish, or transgendered people. Ahmari resorts to this pretense all the time: he, personally, doesn’t like the LGBTQ community, but that’s okay because—well, because Ahmari’s “conscience” informs him, and his “conscience” has a direct pipeline to God. Another of his tweets, from earlier this year, was, Transgenderism has attained a religious status among identity leftists. And the politics are bizarre and Orwellian: ‘She was always a she!’”

I find it amusing when people who themselves are members of groups ostracized by bigots then turn into bigots themselves against groups even more marginalized than their own! Surely Ahmari, who is of Iranian extraction, has experienced bigotry and discrimination in London, where he lives (his name alone must occasionally engender rudeness). You would think that someone who’s been on the receiving end of bigotry would be more tolerant of others “lower” on the totem pole. Sadly, in Ahmari’s case, it seems only to have added to his resentments. There must be a Freudian term for this psychological neurosis—displacement?—but even a rudimentary self-awareness should alert a person to when he’s transferring the hate directed at himself onto others. For lack of a better word, I call that “conscience,” which makes it doubly ironic that “conscience” is what Ahmari—so hard-hearted–accuses liberals of lacking. Liberals lack neither “conscience” nor “faith,” as Ahmari smears. We keep our religious faith to ourselves, and invest our public faith in freedom.


A photo album for Republicans

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Kellyanne Conway this week blamed Democrats, and specifically members of the Trump Resistance, for the Congressional baseball game shooting.

Such hateful, charged rhetoric,” she alleged, can easily turn into “armed resistance.” Kellyanne wasn’t the only Trumpster blaming the Democratic Party for the shooting. Republican Congressman Chris Collins likewise blamed “outrageous rhetoric…finger-pointing…and the anger directed at Donald Trump [for] fuel[ing] the fire.” The always entertaining Newt Gingrich, clearly enjoying his role as one of Trump’s chief surrogates, blamed a “pattern” of “hostility on the left” that says “It’s OK to consider assassinating Trump.”

Kellyanne, Chris, and Newt must have missed these pictures, below, which originally were posted online by their fellow Republicans. So, for their benefit, here they are! Kellyanne—Newtster—Rep. Chris — sit back and enjoy! No “hateful, charged rhetoric” here, no “hostility,” no “finger-pointing” at Democrats in these charming images,  just plenty of that good old Republican Christian love. (Sorry, you’ll have to bring your own popcorn.)

THE OBAMAS ARE MONKEYS PICTURES

This meme was very popular during Obama’s presidency. Here’s a cute one.

And here’s another especially for Michelle:

JAIL DEMOCRATS

You’ll see some of your favorite Democrats: Biden, Pelosi, Bill Clinton, Eric Holder and several others, including Hillary. The “Jail” theme was very popular among Republicans, and still is in Hillary’s case.

KILL DEMOCRATS

Related to the “Jail Them” theme was the ever-popular “Kill Democrats” blessing, as exemplified by this striking poster:

And when Republicans weren’t busy killing Democrats, they were hunting down liberals:

I understand this bumper sticker was popular in the Bible Belt:

Of course, the favorite Democrat of all time for Republicans to kill was none other than Hillary Clinton.

SHOOTING AND KILLING HILLARY

Trump never came out and directly called for Hillary’s murder, but he stepped right up to the line with his “Second Amendment People” remark.

 

KILLING OBAMA

Obama didn’t escape the Republicans’ gunsights, either. Here’s a picture where a Republican put his face on a target,

and another where the rightwing fascist called for his assassination for being a “Nigger.”

 

Here’s a triptych where the Republican put, not only Obama’s face as a target, but, just for good measure, Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary’s. Notice how the picture cleverly uses Photoshop to put Joker mouths on them.

 

So, Kellyanne, Rep. Chris and Newtster, I hope you liked this little photo show. Maybe you can share it with your leader, the POTUS. Just in case you don’t, I sent him a link to this blog at his twitter accounts, @POTUS and @realDonaldTrump.

Have a lovely weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 


What Trump could have learned—but didn’t—from the Warriors

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The parade celebrating the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship was just two blocks from my home in Oakland, so of course I went.

The day was warm, the sky blue, the breeze gentle. As many as 1-1/2 million members of Dub Nation gathered along the route, which ran from downtown Oakland, up Broadway to Grand Avenue, then to the convention center along beautiful, sparkling Lake Merritt. Oakland has had its share of woes over the years, but yesterday was all about joy, as it was two years ago, when the Warriors also won.

Much has been made in sports reporting of the key to the Warriors’ success. As coach Steve Kerr pointed out, talent is necessary, but you need more than that. The Warriors are famous for not letting any one man be the leader. Steph Curry himself pointed this out in his talk at the post-parade rally. Give your teammates room to shine. They in turn will give you room to shine, and together, the team will shine.

In improvisational comedy, we have a similar view. See your performance colleagues as poets and geniuses—meaning you do whatever it takes to make them look good. Then they do the same for you. When it all works right, you have a fantastic troupe: a team in every sense of the word. One comic might star tonight; tomorrow night, someone else will. Over time, everyone gets to star; everyone feels like a star. And the real star is the troupe.

Success in basketball, or in performance, or in anything entails risk. There can’t be a winner if there’s not a loser. You have to put your ego on the line to be greater than yourself. Draymond Green, in his rally speech, expressed this when he said, “The further away you get from risk, the further you get from reward.” Being mediocre—in the center of the pack, along with everyone else—is safe. Taking chances is risky, and so is giving your teammate his moment to shine, even if you think it’s your turn; that is part of Steph Curry’s generosity. Being true to yourself, it turns out, is about selflessness.

What a contrast to the way this current president runs his team. Think about that bizarre Cabinet meeting Trump had the other day, the kissing of the ring (or the posterior) ceremony in which his secretaries exalted him, in an embarrassing show of abasement unprecedented in our history. Trump sat there, soaking it in, like some banana republic generalissimo being sworn unfailing fealty by his warlords. This is a man who famously needs to be in charge, needs to dominate. In his narcissism, he cannot abide the thought of sharing the glory with anyone else. He needs to be Number One, the smartest guy in the room, the center of attention–the hog. Trump doesn’t make others look good; he demands they make him look good, while he makes them look ridiculous, as he did in that farce of a Cabinet meeting.

Had Donald Trump been watching the Warriors march their way to basketball history, he might have learned that being humble is one ingredient of teamwork. He might have learned that, if you want to have a friend, you need to be a friend. He might have learned to “put the team into superteam.” He might have heard Steve Kerr talk about his four core values: joy, mindfulness, compassion and competition–lessons that are being learned by everyone from CEOs to high school coaches. Trump might have learned, in short, how to be a decent human being.

But Trump doesn’t appear to know how to learn, or to be interested in being decent. In his paranoia and egotism, his almost sociopathic disdain for others, he knows how to do only a few things well: Bully. Intimidate. Threaten. Lie. Insult. Fire. This is why Steve Kerr leads a winning team, while Trump’s is going down.


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