opinion

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

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: American Fascism

The more I see of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Fox News and the rest, the more I am reminded of the rise of fascism in the last century. Xenophobia is on display, with know-nothing values, corporatism, authoritarianism, etc. This is nothing new, we’ve seen it before, but it has been repackaged with modern communications and given a smoother surface. And it is scary how many of today’s leading lights of the GOP have fathers who are alleged to have been quasi-fascists: the Koch brothers, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz. For an instructive look back, here’s what Salon.com has to say: It Can Still Happen Here, which recounts the 1944 article written by then U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace, on the danger of fascists in America.

“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism, the vice-president of the United States saw rising in America, he added:

“They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

Sound familiar? Scared yet? I am.

 

The Weekly Vent, Part Deux: More on Yale

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In my earlier post on events at Yale, “Heckling, Hate and Halloween”, I noted my opinion that the Yalies had taken the bait and made themselves into a publicity stunt for an organization named FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Somehow, its president had been present during a confrontation between the undergraduates and one Prof. Nicholas Christakis, the Master of Silliman College (one of the residential colleges at Yale). He hit videotape paydirt when one of the Yale students started screaming at the good professor, shouting him down and cursing him out with a string of four-letter words. Of course, he recorded it on his smartphone; FIRE posted his video online and commented freely on it, after which it was picked up and sent viral, first by rightwing bloggers and websites and then by many others. What good luck for FIRE! Publicity!

Turns out the president of FIRE wasn’t there by luck, accident or coincidence. Continue reading