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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump: Alternative Facts Are Not A Thing



Boy, it has been some week so far, hasn’t it?  Or first few days?  I seem to be aging in dog years mentally.  The last few days have almost seemed like months.  The Will Ferrell-as-Bush sketch where he thinks he’s been President for a few years and it’s only been a few months comes to mind.  The sketch was accurate, but directed at the wrong person.  The “Miss Me Yet?” billboard remains as relevant as ever, for indeed now we’re looking back fondly at the idyllic days of the Bush administration, where he went out of his way to point out that a war on terror was not a war on religion, and that American ideals were ones that included tolerance and respect for others.  Oh, how things change.

Despite the horror of what the phrase itself means as a thing, it is helpful that the first weekend of Trump provided us with the one simple shorthand for what is to come, and that can now summed up by two simple words: “alternative facts.”  Trump himself, and many of his supporters (but not all of them, to be fair, more on that later) live in a world of alternative facts.  This is how statements like “3 to 5 million people voted illegally” that are made without a microbial shred of proof can even survive as a thing for more than a few moments without being immediately discredited as the “pulled it straight from the bowels of his asshole” bald-headed lie that it is.  But this sets the stage: in the Trump era, anyone on his side of the table treats truth as a malleable thing dependent on the whims of the Dear Leader.  Evidence and objective fact need not apply.

Repeat after me: facts and objective truth are not subject to political disagreement.  Say it again: facts and objective truth are not subject to political disagreement.  One more time: facts and objective truth are not subject to political disagreement.  Also, repeat after me: there are no such things as “alternative facts,” these are known as falsehoods.  One more time: there are no such things as “alternative facts,” these are known as falsehoods.  We will not, and cannot, concede such a thing as simple as object, evidence-based truth to the realms of “agree to disagree.”  If we do this we collapse, not merely as a country but as a culture.  The very bedrock foundation on which this whole insane American experiment has been built will have been ripped out from under everything else.  This sort of thing collapses empires, and anyone interested in a country that continues to exist and function even on the most rudimentary level needs to understand and promote this idea.

Let us focus on the facts: Trump’s purpose in office, or at least the seeming purpose of his administration, is to stop completely all of the arms of the federal government that stand in any way in the path of profit at the expense of American safety or environmental concern.  After only a few days, the Department of the Interior, the USDA, the NIH, the EPA and various others have been admonished to stay out of the press, cease appearing in public, and cancel any public-facing events or publications under a general gag order.  Leaks have indicated that the EPA itself has simply ground to a complete halt, a distressing but completely predictable event seeing as how the guy who dismantled Oklahoma’s environmental protection department will soon be in charge.  Looks like the seeming paranoia of data dumping federal climate research data and other health-related data to private servers was spot on, right?  

Those with an anti-government or libertarian bent look at this and say “Good, we could stand to use a bit less government” but the fact is this is an unprecedented act.  The EPA, for one, was created by a Republican, and no one who has served as President since completely stopped it from doing its basic business since then.  We as Americans are about to see what folks in the late 1800s did: the ability of corporations to function in a manner completely unencumbered by government oversight.  I’m not sure the people that currently think this will be a good thing will like what they see.  It’s not been done for generations.  The fact that agencies charged with ensuring our food is safe, that our medicines are safe, that do research into diseases and the effects of pesticides on our food and ensuring our drinking water is safe can no longer do their work is distressing.  Do these agencies have problems?  Yes.  But the lesson from an incident like Flint is not less oversight, and more importantly I’m curious is a majority of registered and likely voters would agree with this.  My hunch is their goal is not less oversight, and I wonder how this will reflect in the approval polls and the elections in 2018 and 2020. 

Without a doubt, Trump is the most immature, thin skinned man to ever be elected to high office.  On top of that, he has assembled a cabinet that is self-interested, tied in deep with corporate interest, and as loose with the facts as he is.  This is a cadre of corrupt capitalists supervised by the hands-down most childish man to ever occupy the White House.  We officially have a president that gets his information from the same fact-free sources (television news), as his supporters, not his own classified briefings.  We have a president that is still more concerned with how many people voted for him or saw his inauguration than his critics are, and it is already getting in the way of the business of running the country.  I need to ask sincere Trump supporters the following: is this what you voted for?  This question is not meant to criticize, but to understand.  There are people in my immediate inner circle that voted for him, and with some reservation, so I’m not trying to trade barbs or score cheap points.  I didn’t vote for Hillary.  But I really need to know: is he, one week in, the President you hoped you cast a vote for?  Or does the shattering of the idea that he’d have some sudden cathartic change upon taking the oath of office give you serious concern about his ability to even do the job on a day to day basis?  

I, for one, am not merely concerned politically.  I am concerned as a citizen who wants my country to function.  And right now is a relatively calm time, the heated rhetoric being traded back and forth in the media aside.  The Gallup poll of important issues according to Americans released on inauguration day show no clear mandated “crisis” issue for the new president to handle first.  Instead of large majorities saying jobs or the economy were big issues like they were at the start of previous administrations (Obama’s in 2009 was dominated by such issues), the polls show a scattershot of issues including race issues, terrorism, jobs, economy, immigration and the like.  Most poll in single digits.  All are below 15%.  The simple fact, also, is Trump was not elected (by headcount) by a majority of human beings in this country, so his aim should be to win us over with his agenda.  He beat Democrats at their own game by appealing to blue collar voters.  What is he doing to further that win, to build on it and enact policies appealing to them?  These are the questions his inner circle should be asking to set the agenda.  Instead we’re still re-hashing the election and debating crowd size.  It’s pathetic, and the greater media and culture at large needs to stop engaging in such pointless battles and focus instead on the mass opposition and dissatisfaction displayed in the marches over the weekend.  Do not feed into the ridiculous lies that will flow from the new press secretary Sean Spicer.  Simply report the facts: that a thing was said, and that the thing in question is not based on any verifiable evidence.  Then move on.

The Indivisible Guide, which encourages folks to confront their own elected officials directly at their offices, is a good start.  For too long our representatives in Washington have disregarded our voice as citizens and enriched themselves.  While Trump correctly points this out, his aim is not to change anything, but merely to become part of the elite political class that is enriched by the taxpayers, and bringing his already-enriched business criminal friends along for the ride.  The only defense the citizens have against this is doing what the Indivisible Guide encourages: learn from the Tea Party, work locally, be loud, visible and constant, call and send letters, focus on your own elected representatives, and nullify federal corruption and overreach any way you can.  Stay informed.  This now is an era unforgiving to those not in the loop, and complacency right now is not an option.  Simply jamming the gears of government to keep Trump’s damage to a minimum is our only play, and we need to be relentless.  Keep your eye on the ball, and never normalize what we all know is unacceptable: the presidency ought to go to those worthy of the office.  It should not be for sale, and it should always be accountable to we the American people.  Insist on this, and do not stop doing so.  Casting a light into darkness is the only way to reveal what might be going on there.

And don’t believe anything  Donald Trump tweets.

--Joe

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Mission Statement for 2017 and Beyond



The New Year brings with it new challenges: a new government, a new President, and new battles to wage both at home and abroad.  This is a list of what I feel needs to be emphasized as we press into 2017 and grapple with these challenges, and I put these forward mostly to keep both myself and everyone reading focused on the important things, making it easier to filter out all the noise going forward.

First: I support the causes of freedom and liberty in all forms.  To define this: I will oppose, both publicly and otherwise, any effort to curtail the freedoms and equal protection under the law of people of color, of LGBTQ citizens, and really anyone else threatened by the Trump administration or others.  We are all Americans and all deserve the same protections from oppression in any form.

Second: I support the exposure and tearing down of the corporatocracy in all its forms.  The preceding five presidents have done plenty to cede the power held by us as citizens to corporate interests of varying stripes, and the incoming Trump administration promises to be the most nakedly corrupt administration yet.  Not since the days of Teapot Dome was a presidential administration so seemingly entrenched in graft and corporate interest above all and it is incumbent upon us as citizens to not only oppose, but to bear witness and tear down every instance of corruption and graft as they come up.  Dictatorships function in the shadows, so we must cast light on corruption every single time it comes along.

Third: I oppose the bombing of citizens anywhere, either by drone or by plane.  I am against war in almost every circumstance, unless it is a targeted defensive strike in retaliation for a direct attack.  Offensive wars and proactive conflicts in which we invade a sovereign nation without provocation and/or as a result of flawed or false intelligence, such as the war in Iraq starting in 2003, are wrong and I will oppose them as well.

Fourth: Russia is NOT our ally.  While I did not support the Hillary Clinton view on Russia, I also do not support the Trump plan of cozying up to a despot who oppresses his own people.  This is not a New Cold War, and I would never be so ignorant as to suggest that it is.  However, Putin’s Russia is a rival power that is frequently working to thwart American interests abroad, and has done so throughout his term in office.  Dubious accusations of hacking aside, I do not support Putin and will oppose anyone who does, up to and including Trump himself.

Fifth, and finally: I demand that Trump immediately and visibly sever any and all connections to his for-profit businesses and disavow, in public and on television, any interest in said businesses, adding released and independently verified legal documentation proving that he has done so.  Anything less than this is obfuscating the blunt reality that he and his family have, and are poised to profit immensely from his time as president, which is an insult and a perversion of our most hallowed founding principles.  The presidency ought not be for sale, and Trump continuing to delay and redirect the plain truth that he is running a multinational for-profit business while he is also acting as our elected head of state is unacceptable, and ought to be disqualifying.  If he refuses to do all of this, it is incumbent on Congress to impeach him and remove him from office.  The framers of the Constitution were crystal clear on this as a central tenet of the Executive Branch, namely that the President works for us and not himself, and it will be upheld.

The year 2017 promises a lot of hard work ahead, and I for one am ready to roll up my sleeves and begin.

--Joe

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Five Stages: A Democrat's Guide to Grief

It will all soon be over.  No, really.  I mean eventually on a long enough time line we all live and die and spend way more time being dead than we ever spent worrying about money, relationships, the environment or politics, but that is not what I am talking about.  The Electoral College process, the end result of which will be (just as it is now) a man named Donald J. Trump as the President-elect.  Then, on January 20th, he will officially take the oath of office and proceed to loot the country blind as his designated cabal of corporate raiders descend en masse onto Washington to flick on the flashing "Open for Business" sign, lest some lobbyist or corporate scumbag kickback agent not get the memo right away.  We have seen this movie before, sadly.  Rest assured, with the system we have in place, we will again.  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

But there is still a flicker of hope this week amongst spurned Democrats, a flicker that will be stamped out under the cheaper-than-it-looks polished shoe of Donald Trump.  That flicker of hope is that somehow, someway, someone will rise up and, with the will of the Electoral College's bravery behind them, will silence all critics and banish the Donald back to the television from whence he came.  Surely there has to be a storybook ending to this roller coaster ride we've been on these last eighteen months, right?  The good rise up to slay the bad guy?  Hate to say it folks, but life is not a storybook.  It's ugly, messy.  And it looks to be both ugly and messy for some time to come.  No, the electors will not save us.  I am here to map out the stages of grief Democrat/Hillary supporting folks will experience this week as events unfold as I think they will.

Stage 1: Denial

This one we're already in and have been since November 8th: not MY president!  Love Trumps Hate!  In protest after protest, all across the country, sloganeers have been sloganeering on countless signs, shirts and poster boards, usually hoisted high by someone screaming their contents at the top of their lungs.  Surely this cannot be happening.  Surely he did not win.  But, look at how many popular votes Hillary got over him!  How could he win when he said all those horrible things?  Look, I'm sympathetic.  Really, I am.  I was a Bernie supporter but I never wanted Trump.  But this is the system we're stuck with, sadly.  I urge you to weigh the consequences: we continue on with the system we have, leaving it intact for 2020 when we have a chance for someone to throw Trump out on his ass, or we upend the whole apple cart and make it impossible for anyone to ever win ever again.  Do you honestly think this country could rationally amend the Constitution right now, to make things fairer?  Do you honestly think we would not immediately descend into chaos if the electors did not vote how they were allocated under the system we've had in place since this country's founding?  Quote Hamilton all you like, he would not even come close to comprehending what happened in this election, so I doubt his words are very instructive right now.  Just stop.  Hillary lost, and there are many legitimate, controllable ways she could have won.  Destroying the system to help her, or anyone else, end up being President next January is suicide, pure and simple.

Stage 2: Anger

We'll see this starting today: protests, protests, protests.  We will see the following in the next few days, mark my words: large, loud, angry protests in existing flash points like Seattle, Oakland, Portland and other Democratic enclaves, despondent editorializing aplenty, social media reports of angry, sometimes violent confrontations between Democrats and Trump supporters, and enough half-informed memes to make you want to crawl into a warm cup of cocoa from now until New Year's Day.  It will be noisy, and it will be ugly.  Ignore it as best you can.  The anger right now, the death threats against electors, it is all an incredibly misguided waste of time.  Do not waste or use up your anger now.  You will need it later on, when it serves a practical and actionable purpose.  But many will not heed my advice.

Stage 3: Bargaining

The manifestation of this stage, to me and as it pertains to this election, is the Russian hacking narrative.  Is it possible that things happened, possibly things that need some sort of Congressional investigation to get to the bottom of?  Well, they spent four years in Congress to find that Hillary herself did absolutely nothing to warrant any criminal action, and with her defeat chairman Trey Gowdy quietly closed up shop on December 7th, so why not investigate this?  That seems only logical.  But it ends there.  We may never be able to prove Putin knew anything, that Russia had some sort of collusion with the Trump campaign, or that any of this mattered on Election Day.  It may be years before we have any answers at all.  But no matter what we find, it does not change the history written on November 8th and 9th: Trump won.  He lost the popular vote, but captured the requisite number of electoral votes to ascend to office.  Nothing we find on the subject of the Russians or anything Wikileaks did will change that.  I do recommend we find out everything we can, to prevent it from happening again.  But it changes nothing in the here and now.

Stage 4: Depression

This is obvious.  Trump becoming President is depressing.  Having a staunch EPA foe and climate change denier running the EPA, and surely gutting it from within, is depressing.  A Secretary of State cruising the globe to make it easier to burn every drop of fossil fuel possible between now and 2020, with untold damage done to the climate as a result, is depressing.  A union hating fast food chairman as Labor Secretary is depressing.  A cabinet full of Goldman alums surely put there to rub the place blind and blow another bubble guaranteed to explode and cost the taxpayers even more billions is depressing.  But we have to rise above this, to obstruct, to take action, and to expose corruption wherever possible, and use the impeachment process if possible.  But this can only happen after he takes office.  We cannot let depression make us complacent though.  Trump must be obstructed wherever possible.  Act like a Republican and Just Say No.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Optimally the many forces against Trump will be united in criticizing him, obstructing him and defeating him politically in any way possible before the end of his first 100 days in office.  This requires the Hillary supporters currently pushing this "faithless electors/Russian hacking" narrative now to accept that these were losing strategies, just as encouraging Hillary supporters to not worry about picking up Bernie supporters and ignoring much of the American heartland to campaign in coastal liberal strongholds were losing strategies.  Optimally, we're all in this together in 2017 and beyond but honestly, going forward the defeat of Trump is so important, and its base of potential voters so broad and wide-reaching we may not even need most of them to come to their senses.  But hopefully, most of them will.  We accept what happened, and we accept our duty to do everything we can to change it and make sure it never happens again.  Will it happen?

Time will tell.

--Joe

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trump's Cabinet: American Kleptocracy Defined

The Trump cabinet is shaping up to be the sort of “basket of deplorables” we were all warned about, and the news just keeps getting worse and worse.  Never before in America have we had a group of robber barons with actual government power, at least not since the days of Warren G. Harding and his “Ohio Gang” of corrupt thieves.  Harding also promised to consult some of the “best minds” when making his choices, just as Trump did, and in true Harding fashion Trump instead chose “merely best friends,” in this case fellow travelers amongst the 1% and other corporate leaders.  Let’s go over the latest indignities.

Your Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil.  One can hardly imagine a more nakedly brazen pick for a post of such significance than this one.  Rex Tillerson: long a foe of American foreign policy when it conflicted with the international business interests of the only company he has ever drawn a salary from in his adult life, will now be the international deal-making face of America to the world.  Simply a stunning pick, and one that frames every other pick announced thus far in its proper context.  Simply put: Trump has assembled all the pieces of a corrupt kleptocracy, meant to bleed dry both the national coffers and the wallets of every citizen of this country.  Exxon will now surely get the $500 billion Russian oil deal that sat languishing during Obama sanctions, and every country with some natural resources to spare and a corrupt dictator in charge will certainly be paid a visit, out of pure national interest of course.  One can hardly imagine a man more obviously personally profiting and making huge sums of money for himself and those he considers friends while he is in public office, besides Trump himself of course.  Mark my words: just watch the same Republican whore Congressmen and hack pundits who criticized Obama for high gas prices in 2009 laud the corrupt Trump regime for its “good deal-making” even when oil and gas prices shoot right back up again and ExxonMobil’s profit soars.  Trump voters wanted someone to “drain the swamp,” but instead Trump picked a real life swamp monster to high office.

While we’re on the subject of loathsome creatures let me turn to the next pick we will discuss today: the former Governor of my current state of Texas, “Mr. Oops” himself, most recently seen busting a move with Vanilla Ice on Dancing With The Stars, that’s right everybody, give it up for Rick Perry!  Rick Perry: who in three terms made sure every single donor’s palm was well greased, who turned the entire western half into the state into a moonscape of natural gas fracking sites (seriously, check Google Maps), the man who “oopsed” and forgot the name of the agency he will now purportedly lead: the Department of Energy.  Mark my words: if they can frack for natural gas next to Old Faithful or on the edge of the Grand Canyon and somehow make a buck off of it, the wells will go up under this greased pig’s watch.  Perry is a loathsome creature and further evidence that Trump’s strategy with cabinet picks is twofold: either rob the place blind or shut the place down.  I believe Perry’s job is to mostly do the latter, but I’m sure based on his history in Texas he will find a way to also do the former.

When you add these two recent picks to some of the others that were made: foreclosure king and Goldman alum Steve Mnuchin who will try to top Hank Paulson as the most corrupt Treasury Secretary ever, Gary Cohn who joins Steve and the other Steve in a triad of Goldman hacks, Andrew Puzder who made a name for himself as the anti-union leader of Carl’s Jr and a fan of “hot chicks eating burgers,” and Scott Pruitt, the oil industry insider who made a name for himself by being extremely anti-EPA and who will now run the EPA, the message is clear: abandon all hope.  Trump has quite simply appointed the most loathsome list of “stave the beast,” government hating corporate thieves I have ever seen in my adult life.  I challenge every single Trump voter who honestly believed Trump when he claimed he, like Bernie Sanders, wanted to help the middle class to tell me what they’re thinking as these picks are announced.  Do you honestly believe things will improve for you now with these slimy chucklefucks in charge?  If so you’re more delusional than the Democrats still insisting an Electoral College revolt might still save us.  This might just be Game Over.

So enjoy the ride down the drain, folks.  George Carlin would be having a field day with the news of 2016: he saw all of this coming years ago.  It’s a natural progression: instead of appointing corrupt political hacks to cabinet posts who are lobbied, bribed and cajoled into playing ball with the rich business interests, Trump simply recruited the rich corrupt folks right into the government.  At least this way our tax dollars will be stolen with an additional level of efficiency though, right?  The aim now, for those of all political stripes who oppose this brazen perversion of every function of government, is to harness the ease of information sharing of today and expose what happens in every way possible, and to bear witness.  Those who elected this man need to rue the day, and in short order I am sure they will.  Because anyone who is not a billionaire or currently a CEO of a large company is in for a rough ride these next four years.  But at least it will be entertaining even while it’s horrifying, right?

Riiiight.

--Joe