current events

Barry Blitt's cover art for The New Yorker magazine, portraying GOP nominee Donald Trump as Miss Congeniality beauty contestant

The Weekly Vent: Miss Congeniality

What can possibly be said about the past week and the GOP nominee? I think The New Yorker magazine has summed it all up quite nicely: Cover Story: Donald Trump is Barry Blitt’s “Miss Congeniality”.

And any satire they left out was ably exploited by the Saturday Night Live cast: Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton Debate Cold Open. Seriously, if you haven’t watched it yet — treat yourself. But honestly, these shenanigans are no weirder than Trump’s real-life rants.

Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon play Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in an SNL debate skit

Saturday Night Live joins the 2016 Presidential debates.

Anthony "Tony" Imperiale, leader of 1981 GOP ballot security force in New Jersey.

The Weekly Vent: Voting Rights

I’m old enough now, and have been voting for enough decades, that I recognize a voter intimidation campaign when I see one. And I see one now, unfolding before our eyes.

The GOP nominee has started claiming, with his surrogates, that if he doesn’t win in November, it will be because the election was “rigged.” This, in spite of many polls that show how much ground he is losing, day after day.

So the GOP is now resorting to one of its favorite tactics: “ballot security” measures, that are claimed to prevent “voter fraud” but have been proven to intimidate the minority voters whose precincts somehow attract most of this GOP-organized activity. GOP speakers are raising the same old GOP red herring of “voter fraud”, which the party has been using for some years now to pass state laws that unconstitutionally limit American citizens’ voting rights. Those laws are now being struck down by federal court after federal court, but it’s a slow process. And although the U.S. Supreme Court left in place a consent decree entered into more than thirty years ago to settle a lawsuit against the Republican National Committee for such practices in New Jersey in 1981 (led by the man in the featured image, above), it is not binding on the “independent” political groups that now play such a big part in our elections.

What does “ballot security” mean? We all want our ballots to be secure, don’t we? Here’s what it means, as implemented by the GOP since the 1950s, according to a distinguished political scientist who published an exhaustive study of “ballot security” programs:

[S]ome of the features of vote suppression efforts put forth by Republicans under the guise of ballot security programs, as they have been described in this Report:

1. An organized, often widely publicized effort to field poll watchers in what Republicans call “heavily Democratic,” but what are usually minority, precincts;

2. Stated concerns about vote fraud in these precincts, which are occasionally justified but often are not;

3. Misinformation and fear campaigns directed at these same precincts, spread by radio, posted signs in the neighborhoods, newspapers, fliers, and phone calls, which are often anonymously perpetrated;

4. Posting “official-looking” personnel at polling places, including but not limited to off-duty police—sometimes in uniform, sometimes armed;

5. Aggressive face-to-face challenging techniques at the polls that can confuse, humiliate, and intimidate—as well as slow the voting process—in these same minority precincts;

6. Challenging voters using inaccurate, unofficial lists of registrants derived from “do-not-forward” letters sent to low-income and minority neighborhoods;

7. Photographing, tape recording, or videotaping voters; and

8. Employing language and metaphors that trade on stereotypes of minority voters as venal and credulous.

Ballot-security programs employing these techniques, as the above research has shown, are not usually the work of a few renegades out of touch with the leadership structure. The history of such programs from the 1950s to the present reveals that lawyers, judges, election officials, and people high in the state or national command hierarchy of the Republican Party and its campaigns are typically the leaders of the disfranchising efforts …

That study was published around 2004. Since then, the GOP has pushed hard, often successfully, to lift restrictions on the ownership, use and public carrying of guns, including military-style rapid-fire weapons. There are already documented incidents of “open-carry” activists showing up at meetings of citizens and even legislators opposed to their own positions, openly armed with intimidating weapons. I expect to see more of the same near polling places this November, in largely minority or Democratic-leaning precincts. The GOP’s nominee and his spokespeople are already whipping up their supporters into a frenzy of violent imagery and suggestions — look at their national convention and the rabid verbal attacks and threats made during it and since then toward opponents like Gold Star father Khizr Khan and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

I will vote early this November. I will urge others who might feel intimidated by poll watchers at their polling places to do likewise. I will volunteer as a non-partisan supporter of voting rights at the polls on Election Day. And I will never forget or forgive the many, many GOP leaders who are either backing up and repeating their nominee’s crazed dog whistles to the violent lunatic fringe, or at best pretending not to hear them.

Photo: 1981 Republican “ballot security” enforcer Anthony Imperiale, Newark NJ, in 1969; image from http://www.pastdaily.com

 

Khizr and Ghazala Khan at the Democratic National Convention, speaking about their son Captain Humayun Khan

Sad and Mad Again

I simply cannot believe that there are more than a handful of voters on the lunatic fringe who can actually bring themselves to vote for Trump, even after his disgusting, disgraceful attacks on the Khan family, whose appearance at the Democratic National Convention was one of the most powerful, moving presentations I have ever seen on television. I feel so sad for them, while I can also see their justified pride in their lost son.

However, I am well aware that there are many of my fellow Americans who, as one put it, plan to “vote with their middle fingers” in November by voting for the GOP nominee. What they do not acknowledge is that by doubling down on their support for him after his insane attacks on the Khan family, they are also giving the middle finger to a Gold Star family that deserves nothing but all Americans’ sympathy, respect and gratitude.

What evil miasma has taken over so many of my fellow citizens? I didn’t think it could get much worse than the lunatics who have repeatedly claimed that the bereaved parents of little children murdered in Sandy Hook Elementary School are actors promulgating a government fraud, and that no one was killed. This may be even worse.

I have never voted a straight party ticket in all my decades as a voter, but I will do so this fall, for the Democratic Party, to send a message to the GOP that their embrace of this wicked charlatan at the top of their ticket is beyond the pale. I hope others do that too.

 

King Louie in The Jungle Book 2016 movie by Disney Pictures.

“Only I Can Protect You…”

Paraphrase of GOP nominee Donald Trump’s acceptance speech last week? Well, his exact words were “I alone can fix it”, after conjuring up a dark vision of America as the beleaguered, corrupt, twilight Gotham City of “Batman Returns.”

BATMAN RETURNS – Penguin’s speech from DAVE STONE on Vimeo; film by Warner Bros.

But a different movie immediately came to my mind: this year’s remake of Disney’s “The Jungle Book”. The orange hair, the Queens accent … ammiright?

The GOP nominee wants you to believe that only HE can protect you, and he will — for a price. Think about it. I don’t live in Gotham City, do you?

Donald Trump, angry; the 2016 GOP nominee.

Donald Trump, the GOP nominee.

King Louie in The Jungle Book 2016 movie by Disney Pictures.

King Louie; image from Disney Pictures.

 

Goyle losing control of Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement, in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".

The Weekly Vent: Boris Goyle

Brexit, the gift that keeps on giving. So today, Boris Johnson, a politician whose success I have never, ever understood (that hair!), who led the campaign for the UK to leave the EU in a clear attempt to wrest the job of Prime Minister away from his arch-rival David Cameron, announced that sorry, no, he won’t be seeking that job after all. In other words, having unleashed the destructive forces of political and economic chaos, Boris is opting out of the hard work of restoring any kind of order.

And all I could think of was the scene from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” when Goyle starts the Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement, thinking he will destroy Harry, Ron and Hermione, and stands there shaking his wand while the fire rages out of control around him, consuming everything in its path. Boris thinks that he and his ambitions will make a clean getaway while everyone else is reduced to ashes, but I wouldn’t be so sure if I were he. Look what happened to Goyle.

Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Fiendfyre. Image: Warner Bros.

 

 

Congressman John Lewis and other House members sitting in on the floor of Congress to demand action on gun safety and gun control.

The Weekly Vent: A Middle-Aged Sit-In

One of my heroes, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, has had enough with the obfuscation and obstructionism in Congress after so many mass shootings. He is leading a sit-in of fellow members of the House of Representatives. U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who led the recent filibuster on the same issues in the Senate, has stopped by to offer support. I’m glad elected officials are finally forcing a public conversation, because we just can’t go on like this. You can watch some of the sit-in on CNN.

Image: cnn.com

Candles lit for victims of Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub, June 2016.

If Martin Niemoller Were Here Today …

If Martin Niemoller were here today …

They shot the high school students. And I didn’t speak out, because I wasn’t a high school student.

Then they shot the college students. And I didn’t speak out, because I didn’t go to college.

They shot the immigrants. And I didn’t speak out, because I’m not an immigrant.

They shot the midnight movie-goers, and the public employees. And I didn’t speak out, because I don’t go to movies at midnight and I’m not a public employee.

They shot the customers at Luby’s and MacDonald’s, and I didn’t speak out because I don’t eat at Luby’s or MacDonald’s.

They shot Parisians and Texans, and I didn’t speak out because I’ve never been to Paris or Texas.

They shot Tunisians and Egyptians and tourists, and I didn’t speak out because I don’t know any Tunisians or Egyptians and I’m not a tourist.

They shot Sikhs and Jews and the Amish, and I didn’t speak out because I’m not a Sikh or Jewish or Amish.

They shot black Christians in church, and I didn’t speak out because I’m not black or Christian and I don’t go to church.

THEY SHOT FIRST-GRADERS AND THEIR TEACHERS, and I didn’t speak out because I’m not a parent or a teacher.

Now they’ve shot Latino/a and LGBT club-goers and I’m not Latinx, or LGBT, and I don’t go to nightclubs.  Who is left to speak? Will I speak out now? Will you?

#NoBillNoBreak #DisarmHate #HateWontWin

The Weekly Vent: Doonesbury Nails It

The comic strips “Doonesbury” and “Bloom County” are having a field day with this primary season, and who can blame them? The debates are like catnip to cartoonists, especially the Republican displays of cartoonish aggression. This Sunday’s “Doonesbury” is especially chortle-worthy: Doonesbury, February 14, 2016.

Doonesbury 21416

© G.B. Trudeau – All Rights Reserved.

Featured image: Reilly Butler/Flickr.

The Weekly Vent: “Too Poor to Retire and Too Young to Die”

A sobering article from the Los Angeles Times: Too Poor to Retire and Too Young to Die. My spouse and I have diligently worked and saved our whole married life, to provide for our own retirement and our kids’ educations. Our parents did the same, but had more of a safety net, such as company-funded retirement benefits. Those seem to have gone the way of the Dodo.

I don’t think our country has any real idea of the crisis that’s going to hit when that demographic phenomenon known as the Baby Boom hits its 70s, which starts this year, seventy years after the Baby Boom began in 1946. We’ve allowed a generation’s worth of unprecedented wealth creation to become concentrated in the hands of billionaires and corporations since 1980. We’ve allowed infrastructure and basic public services to crumble. And if we don’t get our act together and reclaim some of that undertaxed wealth through revised estate taxes for these mega-fortunes, we risk permanently entrenching this concentration of money and power.

The billionaires distract us by linking their situation to that of people like my family: middle-class people who worked and saved in the hope of being independent and comfortable, not obscenely rich, in our old age. Basically, they are asserting that if they get taxed, savers like us will also lose what we’ve worked so hard to accumulate. Baloney. There’s a huge difference between the size of their estates and ours. We need to stop getting distracted by the political gibberings of the likes of Donald Trump. While we react to his outrageous “campaign”, he is laughing all the way to the bank.