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Friday wrapup: insurrection, Pence’s weird take on women, and capital punishment

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This story got some media play yesterday: Trump’s threat that the angry white supremacist males with guns, who worship him and will obey his orders, will rise up and assault or kill Democrats

if the current investigations continue—which, by the way, they will, in the House of Representatives and in various Districts of the U.S. Justice Department.

That’s a huge, ugly threat, but it’s not one anyone should take seriously. Trump is insinuating that his hold on cops, soldiers and rightwing “bikers” is so strong that all he has to do is give them the green light, and they’ll form themselves into battalions and march into San Francisco, West Hollywood, midtown Manhattan, Oakland, wherever, and do what Hitler’s brownshirts did in the early 1930s: beat the shit out of liberals.

I’m not worried and neither should anyone else be. It’s just more Trumpian bluster, to reassure the most deplorable elements in his base that he’s still with them. They’d better not show up in Oakland. Our cops and our people will rise up and tear them to pieces. But that was only one of the weird stories yesterday that shows what psychopathic reactions the Trump regime has stoked in America. Another was this one about Vice President Pence refusing to take private one-on-one meetings with females, due to some strange twist in his Christian philosophy.

My Senator, Kamala Harris, in an interview rightfully called Pence out. I think that’s ridiculous — the idea that you would deny a professional woman the opportunity to have a meeting with the vice president of the United States is outrageous.” Kamala was being, well, Senatorial in her politeness. I am not so tactful. Pence is a lunatic. He believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible, with all its death sentences for dishonoring the Sabbath and “if a man shall lie with a man” etc. etc. There are only a few groups that are afraid to let men mingle with women privately: the Taliban, extreme Orthodox Jews of the type that rule Israel, and the kind of evangelical Christians whom Pence symbolizes. Pence’s excuse—that he wants to be above suspicion and not get accused of rape or flirtation—is insane, and proves his utter unfitness to hold any sort of high office. He is literally crazy.

Well, there’s your modern Republican Party: a bunch of white guys with guns running around waiting for the President of the United States to give them the order to start killing Democrats, queers, Muslims, Black activists, reporters and anyone else they deem “the enemy,” and a Vice President subscribing to a medieval view of sexuality by which women are seductive temptresses and men, horny devils that they are, cannot be allowed to be alone with them.

Finally, I want to comment on California Governor Gavin Newsom effectively ending the death sentence as long as he’s Governor of California.

I’m a supporter of the death penalty. Tit for tat: some crimes are so awful that the only fair way of punishing the criminal is death. But I have long recognized it’s a complicated issue, with pros and cons on both sides; and I’ve always been willing to change my mind. Gov. Newsom’s action strongly appeals to me. He hit the “pause” button; now, with the issue of capital punishment temporarily off the table, we can have a little breathing room to reconsider the issue. The Governor is taking a terrible beating for what he did: Republicans, predictably, are bashing him for being “pro-crime,” while even some Democrats are annoyed that Newsom seems to have flip-flopped on the issue. And particularly those Democrats in swing districts (which California still has a few of) now worry that their re-election chances have been diminished.

I don’t think so. The death penalty isn’t issue #1 for anyone in California. I think most fair-minded people are willing to give Newsom the benefit of the doubt. He’s still in his honeymoon phase, and is trying things out that he’s thought about for many years. Ultimately, I don’t believe the death penalty is a deterrent. I’ve never heard anyone testify that they would have killed someone, except that the death penalty made them not do it. That’s stupid. And finally, I like the idea of a society that isn’t addicted to vengeance. We can put the bad guys behind bars for the rest of their lives. In a way, that’s even worse punishment than a quick, easy death by injection.


If Pence comes close to being POTUS, we must insist on an inquiry into his religious beliefs

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It was been nearly 60 years since a potential President’s religion was a national issue. In 1960, the potential President was, of course, John F. Kennedy. His religion, Roman Catholicism, threatened to derail his campaign. People were afraid the Pope would rule America, that Kennedy would inject his Catholic values into his governance. Kennedy effectively demolished these fears with his speech, in Houston, in which he uttered these famous words:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

The religious issue instantly disappeared as a result of these forceful words, and since then, no one has dared inject religion into Presidential politics. To do so would be regarded as divisive and unseemly.

Until now.

We have a Vice President in Mike Pence whose religion is evangelical Christianity. Pence has never sat down for an interview in which he explicitly outlined his specific beliefs, so we have to infer them from what we know about evangelical theology. The chief axiom of evangelical belief, from which all their other beliefs spring, is the literal interpretation of the Bible. They believe the Old and New Testaments were authored by God, the Father of Jesus, and contain the imprimateur of divine authority. Any conflicting beliefs, they allege, must therefore be false.

From this Biblical literalism several conclusions may be reached in areas of pertinence to millions of Americans. Since Leviticus and other parts of the Bible explicitly condemn homosexuality, evangelicals are compelled to condemn it, and to resist all efforts at marriage equality and other expressions of LGBTQ civil rights. Leviticus also defines the penalty for homosexuality: death.

The Bible also contains its own timeline for the creation of the Universe, including the Earth. This age is generally taken to be akin to the current Hebrew year, which is 5,779. Extreme evangelicals thus argue that the world is precisely 5,779 years old; from this, they conclude that theories of evolution and geological time, as currently understood by scientists, are wrong. The Creation Museum, in Kentucky, carries this notion to its logical next step: the suggestion that Adam and Eve and little Cain and Abel played with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

This evangelical rejection of the theory of evolution and of geological time is the first step in the evangelicals’ further dismissal of all, or most, of modern science, including climate science. This is why so many evangelicals have joined their hard-right colleagues in denying the reality of climate change. Taken at its most fundamental, their attitude can be expressed as this: Since God created the World for the pleasure and use of Man 5,779 years ago, and God loves mankind and promised (after the Flood) never to harm mankind again, therefore climate change, and the “threats” that climate scientists allege it poses, cannot be true, no matter how firm the evidence may appear to be.

We don’t yet know whether Pence believes in these things, because no one has ever made him talk about them. Does he believe in the death penalty for captured homosexuals? Would he appoint judges who vow to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage? How far would a President Pence seek to ostracize LGBTQ Americans? Does Pence subscribe to the notion that the Universe is 5,779 years old? Does he believe that dinosaurs and humans lived coterminously in Eden? Does he believe that the world’s great geological features—the Grand Canyon, for instance—were formed by Noah’s Flood? The Big Question, in other words, is: To what extent does Mike Pence accept the verdict of science, and to what extent does he reject it?

Why are these answers important? Because Pence may be the next President, and it may happen sooner than anyone thinks. There are two obvious difficulties with an extreme evangelical becoming President of the United States. The first is that national policies must rest upon the firm foundation of fact. We no longer live in the Dark Ages. If you remove fact-based rational thinking from lawmaking, you go down a very slippery slope, towards the abyss of authoritarian theocracy. The second difficulty is intellectual, or perhaps esthetic is the better word: Do we as Americans really want a leader who rejects scientific truth and subscribes instead to superstition? Speaking for myself, the answer is, No. It’s embarrassing.

The American media has desisted from having a discussion about evangelical Christians holding high political office. The reasons why are perhaps obvious: no one wants to be accused of stirring up trouble, of resorting to religious tests that historians have believed are long settled. Then, too, the vast majority of American voters are Christian; the politician or media outlet who appears to be questioning their fitness for office runs deadly risks. The media has thus backed off; it has been very ginger in pressing evangelicals, such as Rick Santorum, Pat Robertson and Mike Pence, from hard questions about specific issues.

But if Pence is elevated to the White House, or even appears to be getting close, it’s time for the media to hold his feet to the fire and demand answers. Pence is notoriously squirrelly in responding to questions he doesn’t like; and usually, reporters let him get away with it because they don’t want to appear to be bullies. America, however, can no longer afford puffball questions and non-answers from evangelical politicians. Pence must be pressed on the issues I’ve outlined above. When he tries to squirm out of answering them—as he will–journalists must stand firm and repeat the question, as often as necessary, until he either answers, or is correctly perceived by most Americans as deliberately refusing to come clean.


Leaked! Secret Transcript of Trump-Putin meeting

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We know that Trump’s five meetings with Putin have resulted in no transcripts being released to the public.

There was no one in the room except for the two principles and their translators, and Trump even “confiscated” the interpreters’ notes and told them not to discuss what had transpired with other [U.S.] administration officials.” Thus, nobody knows what deals were struck, not even Trump’s own State Department or Generals.

As a result, speculation has been rampant. Did they agree to continue the coverup of Trump’s collusion with Russia? Did they agree to Trump dropping U.S. sanctions and withdrawing American troops from Syria, both of which Putin desires? If so, what was the quid pro quo? What did Putin offer Trump in exchange for all the goodies?

Now, thanks to leaked transcripts of one of the meetings—in Helsinki—we know. The transcript was provided to me by a source who insisted on not being identified, for obvious reasons. The entire transcript, comprising a meeting of 1-1/2 hours, is too long to reproduce here at steveheimoff.com, but I am publishing the relevant portions, particularly those relating to the quid pro quo.

Donald Trump: It’s great to finally get you alone, Vladimir, away from all those ass-kissing, leaking aides.

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, Donald, there are certain things that can only be said between us in the strictest confidence.

DT: This is my interpreter, Marina Gross.

VP: And this is mine, Oleg Vishinskaya.

DT: I have instructed Marina that she is to give me her notes, and is never to reveal what was said here, Vladimir.

VP: And I have told Oleg the same, so let us begin, Donald. Now, we are here to discuss a deal between you and myself. Let me give you the broad outlines. I require two things from you: first, to lift the sanctions you, and your predecessor, President Obama—

DT: A failed president, Vladimir.

VP: Be that as it may—to lift the sanctions your country has imposed, wrongly and criminally, upon Russia, and two, to withdraw all your troops from their illegal activities in Syria.

DT: Yes, Vladimir, and I am ready to accede to both conditions, but only if you accede to mine.

VP: Of course, that is how deals are made, Donald. You should know—you are the Ultimate Dealmaker.

DT: Thank you, Vladimir. Do you know that “The Art of the Deal” is the best-selling business book of all time?

VP: I did know that, Donald. My security agencies keep me well informed. Now, returning to the subject at hand, I know what your condition is, Donald. Shall I be blunt?

DT: Please, Vladimir. Let there be no daylight between us.

VP: [to his translator, Oleg: “what does this mean?” Translator whispers to Putin] Oh, all right, I understand. In Russia we say “Between the bucket and the water there is no spilling.” So, Donald, here is what I offer you: We have the video-audio recording of your session in the Moscow hotel room with the two, uhh, “ladies of the evening” with whom my security forces acquainted you during your visit to the Ritz-Carlton, in 2013, when you visited for your Miss Universe Contest. It is a most interesting tape. For your information, we had installed three tiny cameras in your suite: one in a lamp next to the bed, one in the ceiling fan, and one in the eye of a painting of Catherine the Great.

DT: I remember that painting. She was a very ugly, fat woman.

VP: Da! Catherine was not known for her beauty but for her ruthlessness. At any rate, these three cameras caught the–let us say–action from a variety of angles. They display–but you know what they display, do you not, Donald?

DT: I suppose I do, Vladimir. But let me just say, in my own defense–

VP: It is not necessary for you to defend yourself, Donald. After all, what is a little indiscretion between friends? And we are friends, Donald.

DT: Yes we are, Vladimir. Huge friends. Now tell me, what do you intend to do with that tape?

VP: The tape currently resides in a safe in my office in the Kremlin. Only one copy exists, or shall exist. And you have my word, Donald, that no one will ever see it, assuming, of course, that you accede to my requirements, which you have already agreed to do.

DT: Yes, Vladimir. And you will destroy the tape once this is over?

VP: Oh no, Donald. Of course not. It constitutes what you call “leverage” and we here in Russia call “Kompromat.” Were I to destroy it, then if you went back on your word, I would have no way of punishing you. So the tape will remain secure in my safe.

DT: All right. I agree to lift the sanctions and get out of Syria, and you hide the tape. That’s what I call a great deal!

VP: Excellent, Donald, excellent! This proves that America and Russia can be the best of friends, despite occasional differences.

DT: Oh, one more thing before I let you go, Vladimir. Can you please destroy all records of my Moscow Hotel deal? And while you’re at it, make sure everyone who knows about it is silenced?

VP: Of course, Donald. Nothing could be easier. But for that, naturally, I require an additional quid pro quo.

DT: And what would that be, Vladimir?

VP: That the U.S. shall be silent when I occupy Ukraine.

DT: [offering his hand] Deal! Nice doing business with you, Vladimir!

VP: [taking his hand] Anytime, Donald, anytime!

 

							

Trump’s big Oval Office speech was a disaster

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Tuesday, shortly before the speech

I was glad Trump decided to give his first national address from the Oval Office. He’s not an inspirational speaker, and I suspected and hoped he would come across as clumsy and ill-informed. Yes, he’s good on the stump, in front of friendly redneck crowds for whom the chant “Lock her up!” is their idea of good governance. But there’s a reason why, in two years, Trump has never used the Oval Office platform: he knows he sucks at it.

Nonetheless it is a big platform. As soon as I heard the news, on Monday, I knew the Democrats had to have a rebuttal. But who to deliver it? My first thought was AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Why not? She’s on top of the issue, has proven herself to be a compelling public speaker, possesses tons of charisma, and has the huevos (!!) to call out Trump’s lies.

But yesterday morning, when the news was announced that the rebuttal would be by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, I was glad. Democrats went for the party’s leaders. AOC will get her turn: tonight, we have to play the heavyweight Pelosi-Schumer card to balance the Trump card.Normally I can’t stand to watch Trump’s ugly face on TV or even to hear his voice. My late mom felt the same way about George W. Bush, although I have to say I never hated him the way she did, or the way I hate Trump. He just repels me, in an automatic, visceral way. But I will force myself to watch his address tonight. He’s going to say a lot of stupid stuff and a lot of fake stuff, and it won’t be pretty to see the President of the United States make a complete ass of himself in front of the entire world. But then, it will be fun to ridicule him later.

Tuesday evening, after the speech

It was a disaster, and it is easy to ridicule. All over the map, with Trump pretending his wall is meant for humanitarian reasons. That’s rich! When he talked about grieving mothers and grief-stricken fathers I wanted to puke. This sociopath, who has no feeling for anyone except perhaps his children, pretending to be emotionally moved by the plight of the Central Americans whose children he throws in jail. Nobody believes that, especially the racists at Breitbart, who want these brown people to suffer.

Mercifully, his crap was short. When it was over, I couldn’t wait for the Chuck and Nancy show. Nancy cleverly began with “this shutdown,” a topic Trump avoided, since people blame him for it. Clever, too, for her to stay on the shutdown: Trump “holding America hostage” is a great line and so is “manufactured crisis.” She made mincemeat of all his lies about drugs, mules, rapists, terrorists and criminals.

Chuck too started out with the shutdown. Trump is “Pounding the table,” Trump throws “temper tantrums”…great phrases that remind Americans of Trump’s immaturity. More references to “manufactured crisis” and “stoking fear.”

Both Leaders were reassuring, calm, reasonable. They correctly emphasized ending the shutdown. Now.

I can’t wait to see the polls over the next few days. My strong hunch is that the American people will rebel against Trump for his stupid stubbornness, and for this insult to their intelligence. People are going to blame him more and more for the shutdown, and as tales of no paychecks, problems with air control, and generalized suffering become widespread, the people’s resentment of Trump will hit epic proportions.

I make the following statement with the utmost certainty: This speech was the most catastrophic of any president in my long lifetime. Trump’s purpose was to drum up support for the wall. He failed. The speech utterly backfired. Congressional Republicans tonight must be freaking out. Good.


Trump promises, then renegs. His followers don’t even know they were lied to

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Trump said he had denuclearized North Korea. He even had his cohorts set in motion talk about a Nobel Peace Prize.

We now know that North Korea hasn’t denuked, and if anything, they’ve stepped up their enrichment activities. Nor does it seem like they’re going to willingly let go of their nuclear capacity. “The North’s position on denuclearization remains unchanged,” write the great reporters at the New York Times.

But I guarantee you that if you ask a Trump supporter what are Trump’s greatest accomplishments, they’ll tell you that among them, he ended a Korean nuclear threat that previous presidents were unable to. Rightwing media outlets, like Breitbart and the Wall Street Journal, continue to praise Trump for denuking North Korea, while misinforming their readers about the truth: There is no denuclearization in North Korea. It was all just a bunch of P.R. baloney from Trump and spinmeisters like Huckabee Sanders and Conway.

Then there’s Syria. Trump made huge news a few weeks ago with his pledge to withdraw all U.S. forces. The Right celebrated: finally, an end to disastrous foreign wars! Mattis quit, but the Right never trusted him anyway. The word went out, from Hannity and Ingraham to the editorial pages of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal: Trump achieved the impossible! We’re no longer in Syria, and we’re about to get out of Afghanistan!

Not so soon. Suddenly and quietly, it turns out, Trump has decided not to withdraw troops from Syria. We’re staying after all! His premature announcement, possibly inspired by Adderall, a type of amphetamine Trump is said to take, was withdrawn, with Trump stooges like Pompeo and Bolton “clarifying” Trump’s remarks, while promising the troops aren’t going anywhere.

And then there’s the wall. “It will be beautiful,” he promised. “And Mexico will pay for it.” Democrats and thoughtful analysts told the American people two years ago that (a) there would never be a wall and (b) even if there was, Mexico would never pay for it. Most of the American people got that message. Not Trump’s base. And even today, when Trump’s promise has been so dreadfully and horribly proven wrong, the base continues to believe that the wall will somehow be built, and that Mexico will pay for it, “indirectly.”

Right. The wall will be built right after the Tooth Fairy comes for lunch with the Easter Bunny and a unicorn.

And the base? They don’t know that these promises were hokum. Do they even read the news? In trailer parks and at dive bars throughout rural, Red state America, the conversation is how great Trump is for bringing the boys home.

These are but three ridiculous “promises” Trump made to his base that have resulted in bupkes. Trump is a terrible president—we all know that. But there is one thing he’s good at: branding. When you can sell a brand, rather than a product, you’re in the driver’s seat. Of course, not all of the products under the Trump brand have worked out well for him: Trump University, Trump Steaks and the various Trump Casinos, for example, were spectacular failures. But the Trump name still seems to work when it’s plastered onto a hotel, especially in foreign countries.

Trump has figured out that the most powerful aspect of branding is to make promises in advance of fulfilling them. This is known as “selling the sizzle, not the steak.” If enough people believe in the sizzle, then when the actual entrée turns out to be, not steak, but horsemeat, few will notice, or even care. In politics, Trump knows very well that his most ardent supporters are ignorant rubes. They don’t bother to read or listen to the news, aside from propaganda outlets like Rush Limbaugh or the evil, discredited Tucker Carlson. As I stated, most of them have no idea that the North Korean overture is a failure, or that Trump reneged on Syria. They have some vague notion that the wall hasn’t worked out so well (it would be hard to be conscious these days without grokking that!), but they take refuge in the fantasy that it’s either the fault of Democrats, or that even if it hasn’t yet happened it will, and they firmly believe (because Trump tells them) that Mexico will pay for it, through mysterious clauses in a renegotiated NAFTA. We believe, in other words, what we want to believe.

Well, most of us have been saying for years that nothing Trump says is credible. It’s all a pack of lies. Yet the base buys this snake oil regardless of its lack of conformity with the Truth. I’m reminded of that movie, Village of the Damned—the one where the children are these zombie-like monsters who take over the adults’ minds and set about destroying society. That’s Trump’s base: monster-children, programmed only to seize power and destroy. In the movie, Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley battled the monster-children. In real life, I nominate Bob Mueller for the Christopher Reeve character, and Nancy Pelosi for the Kirstie Alley character. May Truth win!


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