Monday, June 26, 2017
In the wake of the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, much effort has been expended by the far right to blame liberals and progressives as being haters and fostering an atmosphere where the targeting of Congressional Republicans was the natural outcome. This effort, like so much else spewing from the right is a lie. Yes, the shooter seemingly opposed the GOP's agenda, but he clearly seemed to have mental issues and a very troubled history. Had he been a right winger, the same pundits and Republican apologists would have been listing all the reasons why the shooter was disturbed and argued ad nausea that their extremist agenda had nothing to do with his motivations. A piece in Moyer.com looks at those really responsible for the hatred overtaking the political discourse and it is not those on the left. Here are excerpts:
Many commentators are suggesting that both right and left are equally to blame for all the polarization between them. They’re wrong. The reason for all the bitterness between left and right is entirely the right’s fault. Right-wingers who suggest otherwise are self-deluded — and usually projecting.
Exhibit A: Newt Gingrich. On June 18, Gingrich capped off a week in which he once again blamed the left for a mass shooting by suggesting on ABC’s This Week that the Russiagate investigation is “baloney” because there is no evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians. When anchor Martha Raddatz suggested that an investigation is needed to reach this conclusion in the first place, Gingrich responded with the non-sequitur that Bill Clinton, John Podesta’s brother and the “Iranian deal” should be investigated.
And when Raddatz questioned Gingrich’s false statement earlier in the week that the president cannot in principle commit obstruction and reminded him that he himself tried impeaching President Clinton for this crime, Gingrich dodged with the same non-sequitur: “[T]here’s no evidence” that Trump committed obstruction.
What Gingrich exhibited in just this one interview is a problem that is rampant throughout not only the Trump administration but also the modern Republican Party: bad reasoning. Like the rest of them, Gingrich is marvelously inept at persuading. His points don’t even qualify as sophistry because sophistry at least has the form and appearance of valid, cogent argumentation.
In 2008, Susan Jacoby wrote in her book The Age of American Unreason that the American right has “been so effective at turning the once honorable word [“intellectual”] into a political pejorative. The right wing has been able to get away with this disingenuous logic — and with putting it in the mouths of genuinely anti-intellectual right-wing politicians — because nonreading Americans know less and less about their nation’s political and intellectual history.” Similarly, five years later, then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal urged his fellow Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.”
Unfortunately, the GOP never heeded Gov. Jindal’s uncharacteristically sage advice. Instead, they continued in precisely the reverse direction and chose Trump to be their standard-bearer.
Trump is hardly a trendsetter. He is merely following the lead of the right’s most prominent propagandists on Fox News and hate/outrage/grievance radio: Newt, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, the formerly influential Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, etc. None of them can reason well. When challenged, they don’t act like good thinkers would — by listening carefully and then responding with careful, effective, fact-based arguments. Instead, they interrupt and shout down their opponents, belittle them with some pejorative term (“feminazi,” “libtard,” “snowflake,” “elitist”), attack their character or motives, and then avoid further challenge of their vapid rants by escaping to advertisements.
Reactionary demagogues have effectively programmed millions in their audiences to argue in this willfully — indeed, proudly — ignorant manner. Hence the demonic, furious, malicious, sneering comments that routinely populate right-wing blogs and comments sections, not to mention social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. such baseless, inflammatory comments do not measure up to the kind of rational political dialogue envisioned by our Founding Fathers and encouraged by academic institutions. Just the opposite, they are the odious residue of minds poisoned by exposure to thousands of hours of manipulative, deceptive, McCarthyist filth.
All of this toxic irrationality is very frustrating for the left, who, unlike the right, don’t have it all figured out. Quite the contrary, they always want to learn more, to make intellectual and moral progress, to pursue difficult questions and try to solve difficult problems. They are not afraid of different perspectives, which is why only they, not the right, value multiculturalism, immigration, diversity and scientific exploration.
All that people like Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer have to offer is demonization — demonization of non-whites, of Muslims and of the left.
This unenlightened, know-it-all mindset, completely impervious to conflicting facts and theories, is just not the stuff of rationality, progress and constitutional democracy. It is, rather, the stuff of superstition, cults and fascism. Fortunately, the brainwashed right constitute a minority — only 35 to 40 percent — of the American population. This is why Republicans have to cheat to win local, state and national elections. Because they can’t be honest about their self-serving, oligarchical motives, they have to resort instead to the most ruthless, unscrupulous, anti-democratic tactics: voter suppression (including voter purges), unconstitutional gerrymandering and dissemination of fake news.
The election of the first black president alienated the right, but the fault for this alienation lies entirely with the latter. The same is true today, in Trump’s America; the right, not the left, are the real haters.
[W]e on the left are “not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
One thing that has been noteworthy about the Christofascist takeover of the Republican Party base is that as the power of the Christofascist has grown, so has the dishonesty of the Party. Sadly, as a number of analyses of the Christofascists have shown, they have no compunction about lying. Anything that furthers their theocratic, largely white supremacist agenda is perfectly fine in their minds. The Commandment against lying is treated as if it simply doesn't exist. The Senate GOP's health care "reform" bill underscores how Mitch McConnell - never one for truth and veracity - and his cronies have embraced the tactic of lying without shame. A column in the Washington Post looks at the three big lies being marketed to the public at the moment by Senate Republicans. Here are highlights:
To succeed in gutting health coverage for millions of Americans, Senate Republican leaders need to get a series of lies accepted as truth. Journalists and other neutral arbiters must resist the temptation to report these lies as just a point of view. A lie is a lie.
Lie One: Democrats and progressives are unwilling to work with Republicans and conservatives on this issue. “If we went and got the single greatest health-care plan in the history of the world, we would not get one Democrat vote,” President Trump told an Iowa crowd last Wednesday.
In fact, Democrats, including President Barack Obama when he was in office, have said repeatedly that they would like to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer’s office put out a list of such offers, including a June 15 letter from Schumer to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for a cross-party meeting to “find a way to make health care more affordable and accessible.”
This first lie is important because it rationalizes the Republican claim that the bill has to be draconian because it can’t pass without support from the party’s most right-wing legislators.
This brings us to Lie Two: This bill is primarily about improving health care for American families. No, this effort is primarily about cutting taxes. When it comes to health care, the main thing the bill does is take money away from providing it to pay for the tax reductions it contains and for future bonanzas the Republicans have promised.
The tax cuts in this legislation alone would amount to some $700 billion over a decade, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. About $33 billion of this would go to tax cuts conservatively averaging $7 million every year to each of the 400 highest-income families in the country. What could $33 billion buy? The CBPP reports it would be enough to pay for the expansion of Medicaid in Nevada, West Virginia, Arkansas and Alaska. Talk about income redistribution.
If this bill were truly about health care, Republicans would take all the tax cuts out and use that money to ease the pain their bill would cause. But they won’t, because the tax cuts are the thing that matters to them.
Lie Three: The Senate bill is a “compromise.” Really? Between whom? The House wants to destroy Obamacare quickly, the Senate a bit more slowly while also cutting Medicaid more steeply over time. This is only a “compromise” between two very right-wing policies.
I hope I never have to write about Lie Four, which would be Republican senators who surely know better — including Susan Collins, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Shelley Moore Capito and Rob Portman — justifying their votes for this monstrosity by claiming that it’s the best they could do. . . . . I would like to believe they are too decent for that. I hope I’m not lying to myself.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Much of Der Trumpenführer presidential campaign focused on fomenting racial hatred among white voters and pushing the Christofascists' agenda of placing them above the law under the smoke screen of "religious freedom" - religious freedom for them and no one else. Since taking office, Trump has sought to deliver on his promises to the Christofascists - numerous anti-gay executive actions and promises of special rights for churches - even as he breaks promises right and left on everything else, not the least, his promises that millions would not lose their health care coverage. Both the Republican House bill and now the Republican Senate bill which Trump is lauding demonstrate just how big Trump's lie was in fact. But back to the Christofascists. Mike Pence recently attened a gathering of religious extremists at Focus on the Family - an anti-gay hate group with strong white supremacist leanings - and reassured them that they have an unwavering ally in Der Trumpenführer. Here are highlights from LGBT Nation:
Vice President Mike Pence spoke at an event in Colorado today honoring the work of an anti-LGBTQ organization Focus on the Family at a celebration of its 40 year anniversary.“The vice president is a man of faith,” Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, said in his introduction. “He’s one of us. And I’ve been asked by the media over and over again, why did you invite the vice president? It’s a simple answer: He’s a man of faith, he believes in life, he believes in marriage.”
Pence was then welcomed to the stage, alongside his wife Karen Pence.
Pence congratulated the organization on 40 years of work, and promised them that “you have an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump.”
“He was excited that I was coming here today and wanted me to give you all his thanks and regards,” Pence added to applause.
Pence called Focus on the Family a “cornerstone of American life for so many Americans” and called its founder, James Dobson, on whose radio program he appeared during the presidential campaign, a “friend and mentor to me.”
When Pence wasn’t talking up the work of Focus on the Family, he was promoting the administration’s agenda, and presenting Trump as a president who was one of them.
He pointed to the president’s words at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he spoke of the importance of so-called “religious freedom,” so often used as a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
Pence also noted Trump’s signing of an executive order going after the Johnson Amendment, which prevents nonprofits, including churches, from politicking for any particular candidate or party.
He asked those in attendance to rally behind the health care bill, to help get it “across the finish line.” “While discussions will continue, let me be very clear that the president and I are very supportive of the Senate bill,” he added.
The Senate bill would make deep cuts to Medicaid, putting the lives of many at risk, including those living with HIV/AIDS.
To make matters worse, Trump’s proposed budget would cut $300 million from HIV/AIDS funding. The president’s obvious apathy on the issues led to six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) to quit in protest.
With all the noise over the Senate Republican's Dickensian "healthcare reform" bill - it does everything short of instituting work houses for the poor and debtor's prisons - and the daily lies by Der Trumpenführer aimed at distracting the media and duping his base (the New York Times has a must read compilation here), something noteworthy has failed to get adequate coverage: the case against Trump for obstruction of justice is gaining momentum. The biggest question remains one of whether and when Vichy Republicans will put the rule of law and the nation ahead of their own party. Things will likely get very nasty and it will be incumbent on true patriots to demand that Congressional Republicans cease their own obstruction and allow Trump to suffer the consequences of his actions against Comey and others. Here are highlights from a piece in Vanity Fair:
It’s a very long walk, inside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, from Rachel Brand’s fifth-floor office to Rod Rosenstein’s space on the fourth floor. But the more important gap—in relative power—between the associate attorney general and her boss, the deputy attorney general, could shorten in a hurry.
Rosenstein has become an unexpectedly pivotal figure in the Donald Trump-Russia mess. Two weeks after joining the administration, the mild-mannered career prosecutor wrote a three-page memo that the president used to justify firing F.B.I. director James Comey. After Trump, on national television, revealed the memo to be a ruse, Rosenstein responded by appointing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Those twists pretty much guarantee that Mueller will eventually call Rosenstein as a witness in the investigation—at which point, goes the conventional wisdom, Rosenstein will recuse himself from all things Russia-related.
But the break could come sooner. “It really depends on Rod’s exact role in the firing of Comey, and what Trump told him,” a Department of Justice insider says. Mueller will also want to know about any communications between Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein regarding the firing, and if he establishes those links through other witnesses, Rosenstein may need to step aside even before he’s scheduled to answer the special counsel’s questions himself.
Or he could be given a shove toward recusal by a summons from the newly energized Senate Judiciary Committee. Its rival, the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been faster out of the investigatory gate, reeling in Comey and Sessions for dramatic, headline-making hearings.
Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, a former federal prosecutor, has loudly speculated that he believes that Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived, highly compromised national security director, has already started cooperating with Russia investigators.
On Wednesday, the committee’s leaders met with Mueller to coordinate their probes. Afterward, Grassley proclaimed that Judiciary would now take the Senate lead on allegations of obstruction of justice—which would mean calling Rosenstein, among others, to testify, an appearance that could trigger the deputy A.G.’s recusal.
That would leave the previously obscure, 44-year-old, Dutch-clog-dancing Brand in charge to make what could be administration-toppling decisions. . . . If Brand’s role increases, she could face some wrenching choices: whether to go along if Trump ever tries to fire Mueller, and, if he doesn’t, what to do when Mueller eventually delivers his report, especially if it recommends criminal charges against high administration officials. “She’s got a good reputation as a solid lawyer, committed to the rule of law,” says Matthew Miller, who was an aide to former attorney general Eric Holder. “But so did Rod Rosenstein. People have a way of sacrificing their good reputation for Donald Trump, for some reason. Hopefully, we’ll never find out how she would
Brand would also be making those decisions in a political atmosphere that’s growing ever more poisonous. So far, the attacks on Mueller’s credibility have been scattershot and seemingly freelance: Trump’s nasty tweets, Sean Hannity’s nightly diatribes. The Washington Post acquired a set of anti-Mueller talking points distributed by the Republican National Committee. handle that test.
Trump dropped plans to assemble a White House “war room” to push back against the Russia allegations, but are the president and his allies beginning to mount a coordinated effort to undermine the integrity of the Russia investigation? “Could be,” a Democratic operative says. “To the extent that this White House is organized, which is questionable.”
Time and time again we hear about Democrats having a "religion problem" and not being able to connect with religious voters. In fact, there is yet another op-ed in the New York Times by a history professor in Georgia that suggests that Democrats lost the recent special election because of an inability to connect with "religious voters." I would argue that in contrast that it is Republicans who have a a religion problem - one that will soon catch up with them as the Millennials begin voting in large numbers and older religious voters finally wake up to the reality that the GOP's religion is one motivated by hatred of others, a betrayal of the social Gospel, and down right meanness. In short, the GOP is becoming synonymous with the Christofascists. The hideousness of the new Senate GOP's healthcare "reform" bill shows just how little the GOP's religious values have to do with Christ's message. One third (1/3) of Millennials have left organized religion completely. Nones will soon equal the number of evangelical Christians. The number of non-Christians of other faiths is growing and many view the GOP/Christofascists with alarm. Long term, the GOP, not Democrats will have a severe religion problem, notwithstanding the usual whining about Democrats not coddling the "religious" sufficiently. Here's a sample of the usual whining via the Times op-ed:
Jon Ossoff’s defeat in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District election on Tuesday wasn’t just a sign that Democrats may have a harder time winning in the Trump era than they had hoped. It is a symptom of a larger problem for the party — a generational and racial divide between a largely secular group of young, white party activists and an older electorate that is more religious and more socially conservative.Put simply, outside of a few progressive districts, secular-minded young activists in the party are unable to win voters’ trust.
Mr. Ossoff, 30, represented this new wing of the party. . . . Mr. Ossoff’s secularism would have surprised many American liberals of the 1950s and 1960s, who looked to the moral inspiration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, both of whom saw a religious imperative for social justice. The civil rights movement was grounded so thoroughly in the theology and culture of the African-American church that the historian David L. Chappell has called it a “religious revival.” And the economic views of New Deal and Great Society liberalism echoed the positions of mainline Protestant denominations and the social teachings of 20th-century Catholicism.
[N]ow younger, secular Democrats are attempting to separate their party’s progressive values from those religious traditions. Some may belong to a religious tradition or consider themselves to be spiritual people, but they are not able to speak the language of a communally based faith because it does not inform or shape their political views.
Democratic voters are not as secular as these activists might assume. While only 47 percent of white, college-educated Democrats identify as Christians, Christianity remains the faith of 81 percent of African-American Democrats and 76 percent of Latino Democrats.
The religious differences between generations are just as stark as the differences between racial groups. While 35 percent of millennials report having no religious affiliation, only 17 percent of baby boomers — and fewer than 11 percent of Americans born before 1945 — are religiously unaffiliated.
The party is thus split between a minority of young, educated, secular white activists and a larger group of African-Americans, Hispanics and older whites whose political values are closely tied to their faith. No wonder candidates like Mr. Ossoff struggled to connect with key blocs of the Democratic coalition.
And it’s also no wonder that the Democratic congressional leadership is still dominated by a graying generation of leaders; they are the only ones who can bridge the party’s religious divide.
What can Democrats do to bridge the divide between young, secular party activists and the rest of voters? Oddly, last year’s presidential run by Senator Bernie Sanders, a secular Jew, may suggest a way forward.
Mr. Sanders’s non-Christian background may have hurt him in the South; he did poorly among African-American voters, despite his consistent civil rights record. But he did what few other secular candidates have done: He won a sympathetic hearing from conservative evangelicals with a speech that gave a religious grounding for his economic views, complete with biblical citations. When Mr. Sanders spoke at Liberty University, he did not pretend to share evangelical Christians’ faith, but he showed respect for his audience’s religious tradition.
To do the same, secular Democrats need to study the religious language of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. They need to take the time to learn the religious values of their audience. They need to be honest about their own secularity, but acknowledge their debt to the religious traditions that have shaped their progressive ideology.
Only through a willingness to ground their policy proposals in the religious values of prospective voters will they be able to convince people of faith that they are not a threat to their values but are instead an ally in a common cause.
The author strikes me as one of the many who are still trying to maintain the myth that religion is a positive force for society and that, therefore, it deserves continued deference and respect. In reality, "people of faith" - or at least evangelical Christians - are among the number one problems with America today. Let's not forget that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump and happily embraced his appeals to racism and religious based hatred and bigotry. Simply put, they are not nice and decent people and rather than follow the suggestions of the author, what Democrats need to do better is educate the public about the ugliness of the religious agenda of the GOP base/Christofascist and that they need to stop being duped into voting against their interest by dishonest appeals to religiosity. The Senate healthcare bill can be used as a teaching tool for Democrats. True Christians should find the bill abhorrent. Liberty University and its leadership represents the antithesis of the Gospel message.