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Concerning the matter of Donald Trump Jr.

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That snot-nosed little pissant, Donald Trump Jr., is showing his contempt for America by refusing to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

Doesn’t he remind you of every bully you ever knew in school? He’s the mean kid who insulted black people and teased effeminate kids, who punched smaller boys in the nose, who bragged about his daddy’s money. He’s the arrogant son-of-a-bitch nobody liked. He’s why so many Americans resent wealth, especially when it’s inherited and used greedily. This lucky sperm punk has never made a legitimate dime of his own. He was (to use the late, great Ann Richards’ classic line) born on third base, and thinks he hit a triple.

He has been caught in so many lies in the Trump-Russia matter, it’s pathetic. I think by this time everybody knows exactly what happened. Russia had dirt on Hillary. A deal was struck directly between the Trump family (Donald Jr. and Jared) and representatives of Putin: if you promise to lift the sanctions when and if Trump is elected, we’ll give you the emails. Plus, we’ll throw in a little extra: our agents will infiltrate Facebook, Twitter and other social media to spread lies that damage Hillary and the Democrats, and you—the Trump campaign—will help us help you by telling us what kinds of stories to invent, how to frame them, and where to run them.

That, in a nutshell, is the situation, and it means that Trump Jr. colluded and collaborated with an enemy state, Russia, to throw the 2018 election. And for sure, his daddy knew all about it, and directed it. You know it’s true, I know it’s true, every Republican knows it’s true, Steve Bannon knows it’s true, Sean Hannity knows it’s true, Donald J. Trump knows it’s true. The Republicans won’t admit it, of course, which is why they’re complicit in treason. But they’ll have to admit it later, when the evidence is overwhelming, and public opinion turns decisively against Trump.

Meanwhile, here’s the little shit, Donald Jr., the Great White Hunter who paid stalkers to drive an elephant to him in Africa, where he murdered it, then sliced off its tail and posed with it, grinning for the camera. Brave guy. Courageous guy. Macho guy. Just like his father.

Trump surrogates are trying to defend Junior by claiming that he’s some kind of moron, too dumb to pick up pencils, much less collude in a high-stakes game with the Russians. Well, sorry, that won’t fly. He may be a moron, but ignorance of the law is no excuse. If he lied under oath, if he obstructed justice, if he violated campaign finance laws, if he collaborated with a foreign power against the United States, he’s committed felonies. Whether he intended to, or knew that he was, is irrelevant.

Well, it’s only early December. The clock is ticking away: Mueller continues his investigation, so do the House and Senate committees, and time is running out on Trump, Donald Jr., Jared and their nefarious cabal. As the case against Trump Sr. mounts in fury, his defenders—dwindling, more desperate than ever—revert to ever more bizarre, unconvincing tactics. Denial no longer works, although they’ll keep on denying. Distraction works to some degree, so they throw out red herrings and smokescreens—Hillary, Al Franken, Jerusalem, Comey, the FBI, Kate Steinle, national monuments, whatever. That’s not very effective anymore, either; it makes Trump’s white supremacist base happy, but their numbers are going down fast.

And Trump, the father? Increasingly fried and frazzled, just as Nixon was in his last days, bereft, confused, drinking heavily, talking to paintings on the White House walls. Do I know for sure Trump is drinking? No, I don’t. But I always felt he was “on” something, maybe some sort of stimulant like cocaine, for his weird, middle-of-the-night tweet storms; and his slurred speech the other day is more evidence that the guy is taking something, to ease his pain and blot out reality.

Won’t work. Nothing will work. Trump did what he did and he can never undo it. The long arm of the law is reaching for him and will catch him. It will catch Donald Jr. too, and Jared, maybe even Pence and Sessions, just as it’s already caught Flynn, Manafort and the others. The dominoes are falling. I believe and hope that there are still enough sane Republicans in the Congress, even in the reactionary, insane House, to ultimately stand up for justice when Trump’s house of cards comes tumbling down, and he’s called to answer for his high crimes and misdemeanors.

Have a lovely weekend. To my friends in Southern California, be brave; we stand with you. Our firefighters are the best in the world.


Trump’s move on Jerusalem is his latest shot at Obama

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I guess it’s only natural for non-Jews to think all Jews are the same. Many non-Muslims think all Muslims are the same, even though we know that Shiites hate Sunnis and vice versa; and some Jews even think that all Christians are the same, which, of course, they’re not: there’s a huge difference between evangelicals who believe Adam and Eve played with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden versus more enlightened Episcopalians, Lutherans and Unitarians.

But all Jews aren’t the same. The distinctions between us can be quite profound. In general, I’d divide Jews into two broad categories: the Orthodox and all the rest. The Orthodox, and especially that sub-group known as Ultra-Orthodox, are our version of the Taliban. They are extremists. They believe in the literal truth of the Bible (in this case, the Old Testament), just as the more irrational evangelicals believe in the literal truth of the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments). Even among Ultra-Orthodox Jews, there are further nuances. Probably the most extreme of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews are the Hasids, or Hasidic Jews. These groupings were formed in the shtetls and ghettoes of Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1600s and 1700s, when the Renaissance was happening in Western Europe; but they tend to live lives that are more medieval and Dark Ages than modern era. These are the men who always wear black suits and wide-brimmed caps. They usually have beards and always have long earlocks, because the Book of Leviticus tells Jewish men not to shave them. And you very seldom see Hasidic women around town, because they’re pretty much kept at home, raising the kids, cleaning the house, and cooking for their large families. (A similarity between Hasids and Islamic people is that men and women are segregated in mosques and synagogues.)

Hasidic Jews are by far a minority in the world, even in Israel, but they have an outsized voice in Israeli politics. There, the governing Likud Party—the party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—is quite conservative, but has not been able to secure a solid majority in order to rule the Knesset, or Parliament. Thus, they’ve had to ally with other parties, and in Likud’s case, they’re partnered with very conservative parties, such as Yisrael Beitanu, which stands for extreme Zionism and right wing populism, including keeping Israel a Jewish state and making Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

It wouldn’t be true to say that there are no “liberals” in Israel. Probably the majority of the population is “liberal” in the sense that they’re secular rather than orthodox; they want a peace treaty with the Palestinians, they think Israel should give back the Occupied Territories and stop building settlements, and they certainly don’t think Jerusalem—a divided city—should be declared the capital.

But the Ultra-Orthodox Jews have much more influence in Israeli politics than their small numbers deserve. It’s as if the wing of the Republican Party that favors Roy Moore were to be able to dictate policies here in America. (They can’t, quite yet, although we have to be on our guard.) With his alliance with Israeli’s Ultra-Orthodox, Netayahu has proven to be an extremely right wing, conservative leader, which is why America’s extremely right wing, conservative leader, Donald Trump, likes him so much.

But there’s another reason why Trump and Netanyahu are political bedfellows. That’s because Trump could not have been elected without the strong support of the wacko wing of Republican Christians, the ones who believe in things like The Rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. These people are among the most pro-Israeli in America, not because they have any particular love for the Jews—they’d convert us in an eyeblink if they could—but because they believe that Jesus can’t return to Earth until certain conditions in Israel are met, among the most important of which is—you guessed it—making Jerusalem Israel’s capital. Thus, the radically conservative American Christians (Franklin Graham, chief among them) are strong supporters, not only of America’s security commitment to Israel, but of making Jerusalem the capital. (And, of course, these Christians also are the most rabidly anti-Muslim people in America.)

Trump needs to keep these right wing American Christians happy, and one way to do that is to give in to their demand that Jerusalem be declared the capital of Israel. Indeed, this is the only way to understand why Trump has just taken the first step towards recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, by declaring his intention to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

American Jews do not support this move. It is provocative—Arab nations will be up in arms, and the safety of all Americans will be endangered. It is stupid—no other country in the world thinks Jerusalem should be Israel’s capital, it will never actually happen, and it will only further isolate us from our friends and allies, mainly the Europeans. And it is so unnecessary. Nobody believes that Trump’s move will move the Middle East closer to peace; indeed, exactly the opposite.

There’s one more way to understand Trump’s dumb move: Obama was dead-set against it. With each passing day of this regime, Trump’s main agenda as President becomes clearer: to un-do anything and everything Obama did. His vengeance toward and hatred of his predecessor seem unbounded. Maybe it dates to 2011, when Obama let Trump have it over his birtherism at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and an embarrassed Trump could be seen steaming and furious. Whatever its origin, Trump as President is driven, not so much by policy or even ideology, but by a mad, sociopathic obsession with getting even with and humiliating Barack Obama. It won’t work, of course: personally, Obama is too secure and serene in his own mind to let anything Donald Trump does get to him. And policy-wise, Trump’s stupid anti-Obama moves will easily be undone, once he’s removed from office. The important thing to realize now, concerning this Jerusalem-as-capital move, is that it will never happen, and is merely one more egregious thing attempted by this worst President ever, as he lashes out on his way toward impeachment.


What J.D. Vance should tell his hillbilly friends (but won’t)

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I finally finished reading “Hillbilly Elegy,” J.D. Vance’s memoir of growing up in a hillbilly culture in Kentucky. It’s not the sort of book I usually spend time on, but I really want to understand, as much as I can, what makes these poor, white, rural, Christian, under-educated people tick. From the inter-mountain West through the Bible Belt of the Midwest, the Rust Belt of the Ohio Valley, the hollers and tiny towns of Appalachia to the Deep South and even the Central Valley farm communities of California, these hillbillies elected Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America a year ago last November, so as much as I might want to dismiss them from my thoughts (and there are no hillbillies in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live), they are impacting my life in profoundly bad ways. Which makes learning about them as mandatory as learning about the foods I need to eat (and not eat) in order to control my cholesterol.

It’s an instructive book, and Vance, a Yale-educated lawyer, tells his tale with considerable insight. He also loves the people he describes: his grandparents, his parents, his cousins, siblings and childhood friends, many of them trapped into lives of drug addiction, alcoholism, violence, anger, out-of-wedlock children, obesity, disease and hopelessness–a life from which he miraculously escaped. But at the end of the book, I wanted to track Vance down and throttle him.

He did his best—in his own mind—to be fair; I’ll grant him that. He assigns considerable blame to the hillbillies for creating their own problems. He tells them bluntly they can’t blame Bush, or Obama, or some giant corporation for their failures: they should look in the mirror and see their own limitations, which are usually self-imposed. He understands that no government anti-poverty program, no matter how well-funded, can lift people up, if they refuse to be uplifted. He knows how destructive their hillbilly culture is, both to themselves and to America.

Yet he can’t quite bring himself to condemn them. Even as he wags one finger at them, with the other hand he’s giving them signals that they’re really okay—that while their behavior may be atrocious, it’s understandable in terms of the way they grew up, and so they don’t really have to come to grips with themselves. They can kinda, sorta admit that they’ve blown their own lives up into pieces, but they can also kinda, sorta continue to believe that it’s someone else’s fault (and that someone else is usually a Democrat).

Well, it’s understandable that J.D. Vance doesn’t want to give really tough love to his own people. But what’s the point of writing a best-selling book that purports to describe Trump voters when, in the end, the author doesn’t have the cojones to tell them the truth? Here’s what J.D. should have written.

Dear hillbilly friends and family, especially those who voted for Trump: You people are really, truly fucked up. I can’t even begin to put into words what massive failures you are, or how much you piss me off. You’ve been given every opportunity, in the greatest country in the world, to climb out of your hillbilly gutter, and yet you refuse to do so. You continue to believe in an evangelical form of a religion, Christianity, that anyone with an I.Q. above 50 knows is bullshit, with its “creationism” and denial of science in general. You let these preachers con you out of what little money you have so they can bring prostitutes to motels. You birth kids out of wedlock, whom you can’t afford to raise, thereby guaranteeing that they’ll be as screwed up as you—and then you have the nerve to criticize Democrats like Bill Clinton for having a consensual affair with an adult. And you insult a good, fine man, Barack Obama, who has more decency in his little finger than generations of your own family ever had.

You let hypocritical politicians tell blatant lies to your face and then you forgive them because Sean Hannity, a cynical multi-millionaire who’s gotten filthy rich from pandering to your ignorance, tells you to. You vote for a Roy Moore, knowing full well in your heart that he’s guilty as hell, because another adulterer and sexual predator, Donald J. Trump, tells you that electing a God-fearing, faithful man who happens to be a Democrat is worse than electing a child abuser. You celebrate being ignorant; you accuse men who do well in school of being fags, and then resent them when they are successful in life in ways you never will be because of your own willful stubbornness. You say that radical Islamic terrorists pose a danger to America, but, my friends, the greatest danger to our great country is you and people like you. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Tom Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers must wish they’d never founded the United States of America when they see you.

But J.D. Vance will never speak these words of truth to his people. Despite everything he’s seen and knows, he remains a conservative Republican, a Bible-thumping Christian, an anti-government zealot. Some part of him—the part that was smart enough to get into Yale Law School—surely knows better. But another part of him—the hillbilly who can’t think clearly, who makes apologies for the complete failure of his culture, who’s still too angry to be rational—eventually trumps his native intelligence. Look: there’s no way to legitimize this hillbilly culture, no way to romanticize it, as Vance tries to. It’s toxic. It’s killing America, and its most virulent symptom is Trump. It needs to be confronted, not consoled, and then excised. Unfortunately, J.D. Vance is not up to the task.


Two southern white crackers talk about the tax bill

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Scene: We are inside a trailer belonging to “Hank,” in rural Mississippi. The interior is filthy, littered with old pizza boxes, empty beer cans, soiled clothes, overflowing ashtrays. Hank and his friend, “Jeff,” sit on wooden folding chairs at a flimsy card table. Both are overweight, with bad teeth. Hank wears a MAGA cap, Jeff a cap with a Confederate flag. Each slurps from a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. On the radio, in the background, is Rush Limbaugh’s voice. The two friends are having a conversation.

Hank: Y’all see where Trump done got his tax cut passed?

Jeff: Amen, bro. Here’s to President Trump! [Raises his beer can in the air. Hank does the same and clinks his can to Jeff’s in a toast. The men sip.]

Hank: I sho’ am glad they cut that there cor’pit tax.

Jeff: Wassat?

Hank: You know, it’s the…the…dayum, hail if ah know. But if Trump fo’ it, ah am too!

Jeff: Right on, bro. [Another toast. On the radio, Rush Limbaugh can be heard talking about the tax bill.] Say, bro, what’s that Rush say? Somethin’ ‘bout a ‘persnal zempshun’?

Hank: Yeah, man, that’s the…y’know, the…well, Jeff mah man, it complicated stuff an’ ah caint ‘splain it to ya. But if Trump like it, then—

Jeff: Must be good! [another toast.]

Hank: Did y’all go to that anti-Obamacare meetin’ in Hattiesburg t’other day? Ya know, down at the ‘Merican Legion Hall?

Jeff: Wanted to, man, but hadda go to the clinic for mah di-uh-beeds meds.

Hank: You on the meds?

Jeff: Yeah, man, I signed up for that One Mississippi healthcare thang, y’ know, thuh exchange.

Hank: So did my mother-in-law. She get her heart treated down they-uh. Pretty good docs, she say.

Jeff: Lemme know next time they’s another meetin’ to repeal and replace Obamacare and get the goddam gummint outta our health care. Ah sho’ am glad that nigger’s gone and we got a real decent white man in the White House.

Hank: Don’t forget Melania. She a good white woman, humble an’ obey her man, not like that pushy ho, Michelle Blow-bama.

Jeff: Hey, y’see where the levee flooded old man Pinkley’s house?

Hank: Yeah, ain’t that sumthin’. His people been on that land ovah two hunnert years an’ that ain’t nevuh happened bee-fo. Wonder how that water got so high?

Jeff: Ah think it somethin’ Obama done. Jes like with the Buttahatchee River. Caint even fish that sucka no ‘mo, it so polluted.

Hank: Aks me, it them fuckin’ illegal Mescuns. Send ‘em all down to Gitmo.

Jeff: Too good for ‘em. [Rush Limbaugh is talking about North Korea.] Hell, man, Trump should just bomb the bejesus outta them gooks and make that country a parkin’ lot.

Hank: Yeah. Fuckin’ Obama gave that little slant-eyed freak nukes so he could impose sharia on America.

Jeff: Who?

Hank: That North Korean dude, whatssis name. He a Muslim terrorist. Dintcha know? Rush say so.

Jeff: Here to Rush! [Another toast.] He a good ole boy.

Hank: Rush say this whole Russia thang fake.

Jeff: Yeah, I heard President Trump say the same thang on Fox ‘n’ Friends.

Hank: This Miller guy, y’know, that speshul counsler, Rush say he a closet liberal.

Jeff: Probably queer, too. All those friggin’ Democrats are commie faggots.

Hank: They’ll never lay a finger on The Donald. He too smart. Got it all figgered out. Hey, man, pass them Doritos. [Cuts a fart.]

Jeff: What the hail, bro?

Hank: “He who smelt it, dealt it.”

Jeff: [Burps.] Anyhow, we need a guy like Trump, a bidness man. He know what he doin’. Anybody try ta mess with him, why, ah guess we just gonna hafta lock ‘n’ load.

Hank: [Pats his waistband, which has a bulge underneath.] Ah got ole Bessie right down here, plannin’ on usin’ her next time ah see one o’ them pansy ass librals. Ka-pow!

Jeff: Only thing to do with ‘em, bro. [Another toast.] Hey, looky what time t’is.

Hank: What time’s that, good buddy?

Jeff: Time fo’ Sean Hannity! Where yo remote?

Hank: Dayum, boy, friggin’ cable company done cut off mah TV. Didn’t pay mah bill since lass summa. Jews…

Jeff: How you getting’ the news?

Hank: Rush Limbaugh all I need, man. Too mucha that lame stream media on TV anyway. But ah miss Duck Dynasty.

Jeff: Y’all kin come over mah trailer ‘n watch. Hey, what say we go out an do a lil squirrel huntin’?

Hank: Cool, man. I’m hongry! We can pretend they’s Killary Clinton. Bang!

Jeff: Woo hoo!

Hank: Woot woot! [The two have a final toast, crush their empty beer cans on their foreheads, toss them on the floor, grab a couple rifles, and leave. The trailer door slams behind them. From outside, we hear rifle shots, laughter, shouts of “Make America Great Again!”]

SCENE

 


Nothing new about Trump-style racism in America

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We’re all aghast at the overt racism of the thugs and pigs at Breitbart and in other rightwing fascist circles—the white supremacists and neo-nazis who constitute Trump’s base. But even though it seems Trump has unleashed something new and profoundly ugly in America, the truth is, that sick vein of malevolence has a long, sordid history in this country.

Sometimes it’s in the foreground, like now. Sometimes it retreats to the background. But like the fungus that make mushrooms, it’s always there, percolating, awaiting the right conditions to spread.

Back in 1965, when Lyndon Johnson was President, the great abstract-expressionist, Robert Rauschenberg, created a masterpiece he called “Drawing for Dante’s 700th Birthday.”

It’s currently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where Marilyn and I saw it last Friday. As the explanatory note on the wall explains, Rauschenberg filled the drawing “with images of civil unrest, racist posters…” and other symbols of “forceful political content.”

The part I’ve reproduced is only part of the large drawing; these racist images, however repugnant, are important to show, because they prove that violent bigotry of the kind we’ve come to expect from Trump and his crowd have infected America for a long time.

“Who needs Niggers”, “Down With Martin Luther Coon”, “Negroes Commit 80% of U.S. Crime”—these dreary slurs have been all too common, not only in the South, but elsewhere. Of course, Rauschenberg created this painting at the height of the Civil Rights struggle, when schools and lunch counters were being integrated, the Voting Rights and Civil Rights acts were enacted, and Black activists, especially Dr. King, were appealing to the moral compass of all Americans. It was an inspirational time—I remember it well—but, for a lot of under-educated, ignorant white people, the Movement represented an existential threat.

One might have thought that these people had been marginalized over the last 50 years, as America has evolved into a multi-cultural society. Even in 1965, a majority of Americans viewed them as what they were: sick bigots, the remnants of a KKK that we all hoped was in its death throes. But, like some hideous villain in a monster movie, every time the creature is thought to be killed off, it comes back worse than ever. Thus it is that, in 2017, the sons and grandsons of these racist dunces have returned with a vengeance, released—no, summoned from their dark underworld by the spawn of that darkness, Donald J. Trump.

What will it take to be rid of them? We don’t seem to be able to reason with them. They’re immune to reason, to arguments of morality and ethics, even to the words of the Jesus they profess to worship: “Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.” They can’t be shamed into reform: if they had a sense of honor, they would revolt against their pussy-groping, lying President. But they have no honor or conscience. They can’t even be compelled by law to reform, because, as the Scottish sociologist R.M. Maciver noted, you can’t legislate morality. These haters, for the most part, are beyond redemption, which is why Hillary Clinton was correct when she called them “a basket of deplorables.” 

It’s a hard thing to say of some Americans that they are the enemy. But I’m ready to say it. Trump and his neo-nazis try to convince us to be afraid of Mexican immigrants, Muslims, gays, transgendered people, Jews, Blacks, Elizabeth Warren, the European Union, scientists, gun control proponents–whomever they happen to hate on any given day. Sorry. You know whom I’m afraid of? The “Christian” white supremacists who support Trump, who stockpile ammo depots and are just waiting for an excuse to go enemy-hunting for people like me. Their agenda is a frightening throwback to why the North fought the Civil War against the pro-slavery South. Their agenda is exactly the same as when Robert Rauschenberg portrayed it in his 1965 drawing. Their agenda is what Trump, Jeff Sessions, Michael Flynn, Roy Moore, Sean Hannity, Steve Bannon, Franklin Graham, Ann Coulter and their ilk are trying to resurrect: an America of straight white tyranny and repression of “the other.” Nothing has changed. They’re still out there, these fascists, reading Mein Kampf and hallucinating about a white “Christian” America. Like a cockroach infestation, they’ll never go away completely. But we can control them.


Trump voters: “The Dance of the Dunces”

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“We choose not to work when we should be looking for jobs. Sometimes, we’ll get a job, but it won’t last. We’ll get fired for tardiness, or for stealing merchandise and selling it on eBay, or for having a customer complain about the smell of alcohol on our breath, or for taking five thirty-minute restroom breaks per shift. We talk about the value of hard work but tell ourselves that the reason we’re not working is some perceived unfairness: Obama shut down the coal mines, or all the jobs went to the Chinese. These are the lies we tell ourselves to solve the cognitive dissonance—the broken connection between the world we see and the values we preach.”

This is from the book I wrote about last week, “Hillbilly Elegy.” The author, J.D. Vance, who escaped his rural Kentucky hillbilly upbringing to become a Yale-educated lawyer, is telling tough-love truths to his own family and friends. The clueless people he’s describing are the Rust Belt self-described “Christians” who voted Trump into office.                           

I love the line about how “Obama shut down the coal mines” and exported “all the jobs to the Chinese.” That’s pretty much the essence of Trump’s fake campaign message (plus, of course, the Mexican-bashing and hating on Muslims). Trump knows full well that Obama didn’t “shut down” anything. Coal was dying a long time ago and continues its death spiral today; the Financial Times—not exactly a liberal outlet—recently described the “uphill battle” coal faces. Demand in the world’s biggest economies, the U.S., China and Europe, is plummeting, and even increased demand in developing countries, like India, is not enough to raise total coal use overall.”

Still, facts never stopped Donald Trump from making false claims (Trump University, anyone?). “We will put our miners back to work!” Trump promised coal men in a West Virginia photo op during the campaign. He won’t, of course—but the unemployed miners won’t even remember his insincere promise because of “the broken connection between the world [they] see and the values [they] preach.”

As for the Chinese stealing all our jobs, which Trump continues to allege(“They’re stealing our jobs; they’re beating us in everything; they’re winning, we’re losing.”)manufacturing has been moving to China from the U.S. since the 1970s due to far-lower labor costs there. Moreover, A trade deficit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as more imports into the United States might be a signal of a healthy and active economy, with strong consumer spending.” All those Rust Belt people complaining about Obama and China—the folks who buy their clothes and big screen TVs at Wal-Mart–might be interested to know that the reason the cost is low is because they were produced in Chinese (or Bangladeshi, or Burmese, or Vietnamese) factories. If they want their stuff made in America, as they claim they do, they better be prepared to pay a lot more for everything. Of course, if the price of goods soars, they’d blame that on Obama, too, as the notoriously racist web site, RedState, did, when they lied about “Obama inflation.” The fact is, the average inflation rate during Obama’s eight years (2009-2016) was 1.75%, low by any historical measure. By contrast, the Trump inflation rate for his first ten months is 2.11%.

Cognitive dissonance, indeed.

The problem with these Red State Trump Republicans, as I have repeatedly written (and which J.D. Vance confirms) is that they don’t think straight. The reasons why, as J.D. suggests, are complicated, and the fact that they’re intellectually challenged doesn’t make them evil, or bad Americans, or useless. They are, however, “uneducated, low-information white people,” in the words of Foreign Policy Magazine; in their “dance of the dunces,” they “know who the president is, but not much else.” Education obviously is the key to making them better citizens, but guess why Trump wants “deep cuts” to education, to the tune of 13.5%. It’s because he, and his Republican pals, know that ignorant people vote Republican. The last thing the GOP wants is a smart electorate that would vote the Republican Party out of existence forever.

 


Wall Street Journal: let’s give a huge tax break to Mr. Murdoch

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It’s been fun and amusing to watch the Wall Street Journal go through contortions ever since Trump announced for President.

At first, they were aghast. The paper is the voice of high finance in America, the responsible (more or less) face of capitalism, usually associated with Eastern rich men of the Nelson Rockefeller stripe: educated, reasonable, fair-minded, looking out for their own class, but willing to throw working stiffs an occasional bone. Trump is an Eastern rich man, but he’s never been responsible or remotely fair-minded; even the high Republican circles of Manhattan steered clear of him. His vulgarity, the sordid part of his life (an open secret), his shadowy business practices and non-payment of debts, his ugly self-promotion (proper rich Republicans never promote themselves; it’s unseemly)—these all made Trump persona non grata to the rich Republican class that fancies itself ethical.

So their voice, the Wall Street Journal, couldn’t hide its shock and embarrassment when Trump actually got the nomination. The columnists had that deer-in-the-headlights look: What the hell are we supposed to do now? The only one of them who admitted being ill at ease with Trump’s rise was Karl Rove, and that was more about his own profits than any personal doubts about Trump’s morality. Rove has gotten rich from being a consultant to Republican candidates, many of them as amoral as Trump. But he didn’t see Trump coming; he backed the wrong people, and so he missed the boat.

Aside from Rove, the Journal’s other op-ed writers were clearly adrift. They didn’t know what to say. At first, some were doubtful. As Trump nudged closer to Hillary Clinton in the polls, they began to hedge their bets. It was like they were thinking, “Holy crap, this guy might actually get elected.” Rupert Murdoch himself seemed torn. He’s a billionaire, and not a particularly classy man–four marriages, lots of scandals–but Trump was too gross even for him.

Then Trump had the nerve to get elected, and Murdoch and his columnists had to scramble, and fast. You don’t want the President of the United States to be pissed off at you. So the columnists began to praise Trump—faintly, at first, and then more overtly. Nowadays, the Wall Street Journal has become one of Trump’s biggest fans—not an ass-kissing shtump like Sean Hannity, but close enough. Their editorial page likewise has turned into a propaganda sheet for the regime. They can’t always approve of everything Trump does—the lying, the bullying, the wrong “facts,” insulting foreign leaders, the sexual predation, and did I mention the lying? But when they can’t praise Trump, they can always find a Democrat to bash.

Take Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., who for my money is the most deplorable of the basket of deplorables that writes for Rupert Murdoch. In yesterday’s paper, all he could do was to hop onto the Pocahontas train (with Donald W. Trump as conductor) and add his own insults to Elizabeth Warren. Like a nasty, mean frat boy throwing wet toilet paper, he hurls smears: “the Warren junta,” her “absurdity,” the “ludricrous dispute” she has allegedly launched to protect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Did Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. lose anything in the Great Bush Recession, like so many of the rest of us? Was he happy with the wanton cheating by Wall Street Banks? Did he benefit from the banks stealing tens of billions of dollars from hapless homeowners who lost everything?

Then, to add insult to injury—or vice versa—also in yesterday’s Journal was their second lead editorial, which called Elizabeth Warren and Leandra English “drama queens,” and accused them of doing “photo-ops” this week (as if Warren were the only politician ever to talk in front of T.V. cameras. Someone should tell John McCain about photo ops. Trump, too.)

There is more than a little misogyny in these attacks on Sen. Warren and Ms. English. But then, misogyny, which used to be considered bad manners, now is acceptable, ever since the misogynist-in-chief, who now is the President of the United States, began expressing it blatantly, and getting away with it. The Journal also is—predictably—strongly in favor of Trump’s tax plan; whatever is in it (no one seems to really know), Rupert Murdoch knows he and his family will save billions, which is why the paper’s editorial page has consistently urged its passage. Yesterday’s lead editorial called it “the most pro-growth tax reform in 30 years,” without telling anyone about how much it will benefit the Murdochs (and the Trumps, for that matter). And then, the editorial included this howler: the bill, they wrote, has been “developed in an open process under regular order.”

Really? There have been no hearings. No budget committee, no finance committee has been able to ask anyone any questions. The bill is being rushed through in order to accomplish two purposes: first, the longer it remains a topic of conversation, the more obvious its horrible effects on the poor and the middle class become. Second, Trump wants something—anything—he can claim as a victory by Christmas. Otherwise, his first year will be derided as a joke.

So here we are: Republicans about to pass an insidious tax bill that helps people like Trump and raises taxes on ordinary working Americans. And the Wall Street Journal, like the good Republican fixer it is, is greasing the skids for passage. The one thing I will add, in the paper’s defense, is that its regular reporters—not the op-ed whores, but the real journalists—are professionals. Evidence: an article in yesterday’s paper, “Tax Plan Threatens Affordable Housing.” They buried that nugget on Page B6. You’d never know, from the editorial pages, that this pending tax monstrosity is going to be the death knell for housing the middle class can afford, because Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump don’t want you to know.

It’s odd: Murdoch tried for a year to distance himself from Trump, but now, they’re Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The Republican Party–Rupert Murdoch’s party–is the party of Trump. That’s the message Democrats are going to hammer home as we head into the 2018 elections. People hate Trump: they’re going to learn to hate the Republican Party, too.


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