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Yes, he wagged the dog



People are asking about the point of Trump’s missile attack on Syria. Aside from bragging rights about what a tough, masculine guy he is, what did it really do for America?

Trump assures us it’s “mission accomplished” (odd choice of words, given George W. Bush’s embarrassing statement), which leaves us to wonder what exactly the mission was. Meanwhile Assad, “casually walking” to work “briefcase in hand,” blows it off as a nothingburger,

We, the American people, have no way of knowing if the strike was effective, or what “effective” even means. A few buildings were blown up: so what? Assad remains in power, but even the tea party has no idea if they like him or hate him, since he’s anti-ISIS. So it’s a puzzle. What we can and do know is that Trump has succeeded, for the moment, in one thing: distracting attention away from his scandals, after one of his worst weeks yet.

Let’s face it, Trump wagged the dog, as Rachel Maddow reminded us on Friday night. Under the most intense pressure yet following the raid on his lawyer, Michael Cohen, and reports that Cohen really did meet with Russian agents in Prague, not to mention the gathering storm of the sexual affairs, Trump waved the shiniest shiny object in his arsenal: B-1 bombers and 105 cruise missiles. Nothing like huge explosions to distract attention! It worked. All the major cable news networks, even MSNBC and CNN, interrupted their virtually nonstop coverage of the Trump scandals to report nonstop on the attack.

Oddly, Trump himself still is obsessed with the Special Counsel’s investigation. Even as the bombs were falling on Damascus and Homs, he was tweeting: “No collusion! All made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!” Lowlifes? Hmm. Pussy grabbing, anyone?

We’ll see, Mister President. We’ll see.

Democrats seemed momentarily off-balance. Most of their senior Congressional leadership is criticizing the attack, but only obliquely; they seem puzzled how to respond more fully. Pelosi called it “no substitute for a coherent strategy,” but then, Obama didn’t have a coherent strategy either. Chuck Schumer called it “appropriate,” but added, “the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria,” a vanilla statement bland as milquetoast. These are contortions. If Democrats outrightly condemn the attack, they seem to be condoning the use of chemical weapons. If they praise it, they alienate their base, which loathes everything Trump does. So they have to thread the needle.

What do the few remaining independents think? They’re the ones that will either swing the Congress to Democrats this November, or allow Republicans to retain it. This is why I think Rachel—the most popular news anchor on cable T.V.—did such a smart thing. Before people could really absorb the news about Syria, Rachel planted in their minds the “wag the dog” scenario. That’s really smart. It now becomes part of the narrative—not “Was the attack successful?” but “Did Trump do it to help himself?”

Look, does anyone think Donald Trump gives a damn about 40 Syrians dying in a chemical attack? This is a man who in his entire life has never indicated a shred of compassion or concern for another human being, except, possibly, his children (certainly not his serial wives, upon whom he routinely cheats). Just two weeks ago, he promised to get out of Syria altogether; now, we’re involved over there up to our necks.

Who knows what really happened with those chemicals? Assad, the Russians, the Iranians and many others insist it didn’t happen, or was staged, or, even if it did happen, it wasn’t Assad, but someone else. Think about it: this chemical attack was a godsend to Trump. He needed something to buy him a little time and click his approvals up a point or two.

But can you, in the privacy of your heart and the honesty of your mind, really say you wouldn’t put it past Trump to orchestrate the chemical attack in the first place, so that he could say Assad did it and then bomb? Do you doubt that Trump has people who could make it happen and completely cover their tracks?

What Democrats and The Resistance should do now is to be silent on this, to the extent they can; if they have to comment because the media is besieging them, then give Trump faint praise, change the subject to RussiaGate and tax cuts for billionaires, and always, always remind people that this could be a case of wagging the dog.

Most of America already believes Trump is a dishonest, manipulative, amoral liar. From a political point of view, reinforcing that suspicion should be the first thing every Democrat does. I believe he wagged the dog. For that matter, I believe his current act, of getting tough on Russia, is fake. No doubt he’s already told Putin he has to pretend to be tough, for domestic political considerations, but assured Putin not to take it seriously. This is all part of Trump’s wagging the dog: Democrats should accuse him of risking nuclear war, and of killing people, for the sake of advancing his own personal interests. Putting Trump on the defensive is not only good politics, it pisses the hell out of him—and that’s a good feeling for Democrats weary of him and his regime.

The Right is freaking out over Trump’s lies



The Wall Street Journal is scared out of their minds about Trump’s impending collapse, and Daniel Henninger’s latest foolishness proves it.

In politics, when your side has done something horrifyingly stupid, the usual tactic is to shift the blame onto someone or something else. You don’t have to be particularly adept at this: even if your lie is utterly transparent, it at least changes the conversation, and may put your political opponents off balance.

All politicians do this, but Trump is the undisputed master. Nearly every lie he’s ever told—more than 2,000 by last January, according to the Washington Post, “about small things and large,” in Jim Comey’s words—was designed as a smokescreen to shift the public’s attention away from his administration’s, and his own, misdeeds. Fox “News” does this a lot: whenever there’s a particularly devastating development in any of the various Trump scandals (porn stars, RussiaGate), Rupert Murdoch’s Republican propaganda machine can be counted on to ignore it in favor of peddling some wacky Hillary conspiracy theory that will get the Breitbart yahoos all in a tizzy.

Trump’s sycophants follow the same course, the latest being the Wall Street Journal’s hysterical columnist, Daniel Henninger. He can always be counted on to stretch the truth to its breaking point, as he did yesterday in his opinion piece, The Zuckerberg Collusion.

Henninger’s conflates many Republican lies into a single hatchet job on—who else?—Obama! His topic is ostensibly about Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress about Facebook’s misuse. But, of course, there was nothing helpful to the Trump cause in Zuckerberg’s testimony, which was essentially non-political, and that presents Henninger with a problem: he has to write about it because it’s big news, and he wants to write about it because the country is fixated on it; but he can’t address the real story—Russian collusion on behalf of Trump—because his job is to defend Trump, not do real journalism. So he has to make something up.

So what does Henninger do? Turn Zuckerberg’s testimony, and indeed the entire Facebook scandal, into an attack on Obama. How’s that again? Here’s Henninger’s B.S. spin: Why didn’t the Obama administration alert the American people in 2015 or earlier to the threat of Russian political subversion? Protecting us from Russian bots wasn’t Mark Zuckerberg’s responsibility.”

You can easily see the problem. It’s always possible, after the fact, to ask why someone didn’t do something sooner. This is a very easy line of attack: no one can defend not doing something to stop a potentially harmful attack. Someone could have done something sooner about Sept. 11, or about the California Wine Country fires, or any of a million other stories. Such questions can be turned usefully into formulating future strategies, but for Henninger to pretend that Barack Obama is somehow responsible for Facebook’s fake posts is scurrilous. One might just as easily blame Trump for the Parkland shootings: Why didn’t the president alert the American people to the threat from assault weapons? I doubt if Henninger would like that very much, and if in fact a liberal columnist wrote it, Henninger’s would damn the liberal to the depths of Hell.

It’s also weird that Henninger claims “Protecting us from Russian bots wasn’t Mark Zuckerberg’s responsibility.” Really? Then whose job was it? As Zuckerberg pointed out in his testimony, he runs Facebook. It is his responsibility to manage it in a transparent way, and to let us, the American people, know when and if Facebook was harming us. That’s what product liability laws are for—and Mark Zuckerberg is probably going to be facing his share of them by users whose data was given to Cambridge Analytica.

But of course Henninger doesn’t give a damn about protecting Facebook users’ personal data, or about the fake news that got his candidate elected. What he cares about (besides keeping his job) is diverting attention away from Trump’s mounting problems, and the fastest way to do that is by slurring Obama, or Hillary, or Pocahontas, or Oprah, or Daniel Hogg, or some other convenient rightwing bête noir. It’s what all those rightwing smear-meisters do: it’s all they can do, because the horse they’re backing, Donald Trump, is failing, and they just can’t, or won’t, bring themselves to admit it.

Have a lovely weekend!

Trump should take my advice



What do you do if you’re Trump? The walls are closing in…every instinct in your body tells you to fire Mueller, fire Rosenstein, fire Sessions, just blow up the entire investigation and, if it starts to smolder again, stamp it out, as often as you have to, until the embers are cold and dead.

But you can’t do it. All your “friends,” lawyers and even your most pathetic sycophants are warning you not to touch that third rail. All your life—nearly 72 years—you’ve been able to do pretty much whatever you wanted. Ever since you were an adult, you’ve behaved as you pleased—you were a rich prick–and if anyone had a problem with anything you did, you threatened, harassed, bullied or paid them off until they went away, and you were in the clear again.

But you can’t threaten, harass, bully or pay off Mueller. So, for the first time in your long life, you’re having to deal with stuff you’re not prepared to handle. Your blood pressure must be through the roof! No wonder you exploded at that Baltic presser the other day. It was totally inappropriate—those poor leaders must have thought they’d wandered into an insane asylum instead of the White House. Everyone was aghast at your anger and disconnected ramblings. But it’s not really surprising, or shouldn’t have been: you’re cornered, like a wounded badger, and the only thing you know how to do is lash out and claw.

I’m almost tempted to feel sorry for you. Watching your Baltic meltdown, I half expected you to start crying. Your voice choked up, your throat tightened, it was truly marvelous to see. Obama used to choke up from time to time; so did George W. Bush. But when they grew emotional, it was because of death and suffering being imposed on innocent human beings. When you got emotional, it was because you feel unfairly treated. “They” are picking on you. It’s always all about you.

The truth is, the Mueller probe is about you, Mister President. But you were wrong, once again, to call it “an attack on our country.”  You are not the country, Mister Trump. You are an employee of the country. No President is above the law: ask Richard Nixon. That’s the way the Founders planned it. They foresaw the threat of tyranny when they drafted the Constitution. They had had enough of the “King of Great Britain,” who sought to make Justice dependent on his Will alone,” and they had no intention of allowing such autocracy to establish itself in the nascent United States of America.

But you don’t know that, Mister Trump. You don’t know about U.S. history, or the philosophies of the Enlightenment and the Age or Reason that are reflected in our Constitution. You are not well-read, and you do not understand law. The one thing you do understand, quite well, is what is good for Donald Trump, and what isn’t.

Unfortunately, that is not the right skill set for you to possess, if you wish to be an effective president. It can never be about you: ask any of the living presidents (if they even bother to talk to you anymore) and they’ll give you the best advice you never got: Don’t take anything personally. It’s never about the man who holds the job, it’s about America, about the American people, about being the leader of the free world. And it’s about the law! Don’t do stupid stuff, as Obama said. Well, it’s too late for that, in your case: you’ve already done stupid stuff. Now that you have, you can’t undo it: the dominos are falling, and they’re about to bury you.

So my advice is, take it like a grownup. Own up to what you did, and leave office. If you quit now, you might be able to exit with a little dignity, although there’s no guarantee that you won’t be prosecuted anyway for your crimes. You might even have to serve some time. Remember that some of the greatest leaders in world history have been jailed: Gandhi and Martin Luther King, among many others. Not that you’re in their league, or possibly could be. But when you start to feel picked on, think of these men. You’re old, but hopefully, you’re not too old to learn.

Faux outrage from the Liar-In-Chief



Do you believe that Trump is outraged by what’s happening in Syria? Let’s take a close look at his tweet yesterday:

Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…

This is a man who has never in his entire life expressed an opinion about any human rights matter. Not once. He’s had plenty to say about business, taxes and trade, but has not uttered a single concern about people dying in war. How can he expect anyone to believe him now?

Besides, all the Washington insiders understand perfectly well what’s behind Trump’s new “aggressive posture” towards Russia and Putin. After years of his bromance with the Russian dictator—which has merely fed suspicions that Putin has dirt on him—Trump has to pretend to be tough with Russia. But it’s all fake. As McCain and others are pointing out, words aren’t enough. Will Trump back his rhetoric with actions?

He hasn’t so far. I’m sure Trump and Putin had a conversation that ran something like this:

Trump: Vladimir, I’m going to have to make believe I’m really angry with you.

Putin: I understand perfectly, Donald. Domestic politics. I have them here, too.

Trump: I just want to give you a heads-up. I’m going to say some pretty tough things about you. And I may even be forced to do stuff, like more diplomatic expulsions and more sanctions. But I promise, I’ll do the minimum I can get away with.

Putin: All right, Donald. Do what you have to do. Just don’t go too far.

At the same time, Trump continues his old game of distracting the media (and his base) from continued bad news by smearing Hillary Clinton yet again. Yes, after all the investigations and accusations have proven absolutely nothing against her, Trump just can’t let go. It’s hard to tell whom he hates and fears more, Hillary or Obama. Here’s his latest tweet:

Lawmakers of the House Judiciary Committee are angrily accusing the Department of Justice of missing the Thursday Deadline for turning over UNREDACTED Documents relating to FISA abuse, FBI, Comey, Lynch, McCabe, Clinton Emails and much more. Slow walking – what is going on? BAD!

It’s like a mantra that keeps repeating itself in his mind: “FBI Comey Lynch! McCabe Clinton emails!” How does the man ever find the time to think about anything else? “FBI Comey Lynch! McCabe Clinton emails!” Is it possible for Gen. Kelly or someone else to tell him to shut up? I will:

“Dear President Trump, shut up! There will never be hearings about Hillary or the damned emails. Nobody cares except you and the old conservative white Christian guys who want their taxes cut even more. You’ll go to your grave muttering about “FBI Comey Lynch! McCabe Clinton emails!” and even Melania and your greedy kids will be relieved to be rid of you, with your obsessions and paranoia. And by the way, Mister President, we’re already planning Impeachment parties across America, and you’re invited to mine, right here in the great City of Oakland, whose mayor, Libby Schaaf, sends her best regards!”

Well, anyhow, it looks like we’re taking down a bad guy—Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer. It’s a good start: now we have to take down this illegitimate POTUS. Can Mueller raid the Mar-a-Lago? Stay tuned. I’d like to thank the Special Counsel and the Southern District of New York. At least some people in this government respect the law!

American Christianity: a post-Trump indictment



I am not Christian, and I don’t have much tolerance for many Christians in America, to be perfectly frank, because of their horrible behavior. This isn’t to say that I don’t have Christian friends; even some of my family members are born-agains. It also isn’t to say that I don’t respect the Christian religion, as opposed to the churches that purport to represent them. I was born and raised a Jew, and Jesus, after all, was a Jewish boy until he died. I always was rather fascinated by him, to be perfectly honest. I see Jesus as having been one of the world’s great spiritual teachers. I have a deep understanding of Jewish beliefs, which were Jesus’s beliefs, as well, and that gives me some understanding into his character and historicity.

Moreover, I have read the New Testament many times. I am familiar with the role that Christianity has played in the evolution of European art, culture, philosophy and history. Therefore, it would not be true to call me “anti-Christian.” What I am “anti” is what modern-day Christianity has become, especially in the form of its most rightwing branch, evangelicism. Fundamentally, I am anti-Christian privilege, which is the attitude on the part of so many Christians that they, and only they, are in possession of “the truth.”

“Christian privilege” was the subject of a workshop organized by George Washington University’s Multicultural Student Services Center last week. The session was billed as an intellectual discussion exploring how Christian America takes on a new set of tensions as our population of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist neighbors grows.” Surely, in an America that is increasingly multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic, not to mention New Agey, agnostic and atheist, this is a good area to explore: how can we all get along? But it didn’t take long for the Christian extreme right to scream foul. Pat Robertson’s failing T.V. station, the Christian Broadcasting Network, castigated G.W.U. for making campus Christians feel “persecuted,” and quoted Christian students who urged G.W.U. to  “do a better job of protecting Christians on campus.”

Laura Ingraham’s show—the same rightwing shock jock bully who insulted Andrew Hogg and lost most of her advertisers as a result—hosted a G.W.U. student who whined about the Multicultural Student Center’s event. It’s shocking…this is a university-endorsed seminar…trying to tell Christians how to live out their relationship with God.”

And then there’s the rightwing televangelist, Franklin Graham, who warned his fellow Christians [to] be aware of candidates who call themselves progressive. Progressive is generally just a code word for someone who leans toward socialism, a person who does not believe in God, and someone who will likely vote against Godly principles.”

The trouble with these holier-than-thou people is that they’ve gotten used to running things in the U.S. They forget, if they ever knew, that America is not a theocracy, but a republic and a democracy. The Founding Fathers [women didn’t count back then] were Christian in name only; in practice they were “theists”–secular humanists, who deliberately crafted the Constitution’s first amendment (in their minds, the most important) declaring that no official religion shall ever be established in the new nation.

Look, no one is “trying to tell Christians how to live out their relationship with God.” No one is “persecuting” Christians. That’s a slur and a lie. But it’s ironic that Christians should use this line, inasmuch as they have told everybody for the past two thousand years how to live their lives, and have severely persecuted everyone who didn’t agree with them. The Christian Church brought us the executions of the Inquisition, Jewish pogroms, the Crusades, sending homosexuals to the flames, priestly pedophilia, and violently forcing indigenous people to convert to their religion, or die. The Christian Church has repeatedly thrown Europe and the world into the most disastrous wars in history. So much for the “peace of Christ be upon thee”!! This is a church entirely intolerant of dissent. It is a church that demands obedience to its theology, no matter how ridiculous, a church that will enforce obedience at the point of a gun, if necessary. It is a church that is fucked up, sexually and psychologically, in need–not of God–but of psychotherapy.

So next time you hear a Christian complaining that “liberals” want to make their religion illegal, know that you are hearing the noise of untruth. Fortunately, some sane Christians themselves are realizing this fact. They understand that the extremists on the tea party-evangelical side are besmirching their religion; they are finally taking tentative steps to root out the pro-Trump factions, on the charge that they might not even be real Christians, after all.

For example, the Boston Globe last week ran an opinion piece, “Are ‘Trump Christians’ Really Christian,” in which the writer examined just what kind of “Christians” people like Franklin Graham really are, and concluded that these Trumpites are not real Christians, but “old white evangelicals, nearly all men, rich, the ones benefiting from the tax cuts.”

Sounds more like the money-lenders Jesus drove from the temple, not the idealistic young men who followed Jesus and inspired the world.

 It’s not my interest or task to define who is a “Christian” and who isn’t. I’ll leave that internecine battle to others. I will say that Christianity is doing itself no favors, here in America, by continuing to stand by a serial adulterer, an abuser of women, a pathological liar, the most uncompassionate and inconsiderate president ever, a rude bully and thug, a greedy cheater who is about as “Christian” as the steaming piles my dog, Gus, deposits on our daily walks.

In the end, it won’t be non-Christians like me who indict Christian lies and hypocrisy and find them guilty; it will be independent Christians themselves, who love Jesus and their religion enough to state, openly and loudly, that the “Christians” who support this regime are blasphemers who must be drummed out of the party, and condemned.

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