politics

The Weekly Vent: Fact or Fiction?

Before the election, I wrote about my sense that Donald Trump was portraying our country as the dark, dysfunctional Gotham City of Batman Returns, claiming “Only I Can Protect You…”. And I was optimistic that American voters would recognize that no, we don’t live in a failed Gotham City and we don’t need to elect Oswald Cobblepot, that sleazy, lying groper.

And then we — or some of us — did.

Not most of us, contrary to the claims of a “landslide.” In fact, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by the largest margin in U.S. history for a candidate who did not win the election: 2.5 million votes. But here we are, stuck with Donald Cobblepot as our President-elect.

And President-elect Cobblepot is now on a “victory tour” of rallies like the ones he used to whip up angry crowds before the election, calling for deeds like deporting millions of people, building a wall between us and Mexico, and “locking up” the former First Lady and Secretary of State who was his political opponent. Scary stuff, and it scared me.

But hey, now some of his handlers are making the rounds, claiming that there are no such things as actual facts any more — all that matters is how many people believe whatever lies the President-elect and his advisers spread in their “post-truth world”. Including the leader of the white supremacist platform Breitbart “News”, the President-elect’s senior adviser Steve Bannon. Sure sounds like propaganda to me, in the mold of the Big Lie — and apparently the libertarian magazine Reason agrees. Trump’s former campaign manager says the press takes “too literally” what the President-elect says and has said. Shucks, he doesn’t really mean any of those things! And yet he continues to repeat them, now, after the election, at the rallies that he so enjoys, with an ugly, triumphal tone that is as far as one can get from being a gracious victor.

And isn’t it weird that he is holding these “victory tour” rallies? Is that customary for U.S. President-elects? Well, no, it’s not. In fact, it’s not customary or normal for most elected leaders of Western democracies. The last Western leader who held post-election rallies like this, full of fire-breathing threats against vanquished enemies, was Adolf Hitler. No, that’s not hyperbole. Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek did the research.

I am really horrified by the spectacle of a President-elect whipping up the faithful into an angry frenzy when he should be learning the job he has so little training to do. His lack of training, or knowledge, or understanding, or even intelligence, has been amply demonstrated by his amateur meddling in foreign affairs and his disorganized communications with foreign governments. So far, he has: seized opportunities to discuss his business priorities with them and ask for favors; included his adult children, who will run the family’s global empire, with foreign leaders like the Prime Minister of Japan; offended the governments of China and the U.K.; undermined the credibility of NATO; and, apparently, endorsed the murders of thousands of Filipinos under the out-of-control president of the Philippines, Duterte. Yes, the one who called President Obama “son of a whore” for having raised concerns about those illegal killings of civilians without any legal process. They had a nice chat on the phone. The chat included the topic of Trump’s major real estate investments and development plans in the Philippines. But, we are told, there are no conflicts of interest between the incoming administration and public policy. Richard Painter, former head of the White House ethics office of President George W. Bush, begs to differ, calling those conflicts of interest real, unethical, and dangerous.

So what next? I hope that the few rational beings who have been named to the incoming Cabinet will be able to keep Trump from conflagrating worldwide conflict. Retired General Mattis seems both sensible and clear on the deference our military owes to the Constitution and civilian control. And I am looking to President Obama for help, though he certainly doesn’t owe this country anything after eight long years of service and having saved the world from another Great Depression. I believe he will do what he can, while he can, to put as many safeguards in place as are available for public lands and waters, voting rights, etc. And I am praying that he will deploy his considerable skills as a constitutional lawyer, community organizer, Senator, President and communicator to help rally organized, lawful opposition to the Cobblepot who will soon move into OUR White House. Let’s not forget that it belongs to us — and he works for US, not the other way ’round.

 

Weekly Vent — from Rage Against the Minivan

This is an article by a mother of four kids, two of whom are adopted black children. She blogs about parenting. If we don’t step up and start demanding adherence to decent social norms from people like the President-elect and his “White House senior adviser”, Steve Bannon, we are on a steep, slippery slope toward chaos. They have got to disavow these extremists.

If you care about me and my family, I hope you will read this. As many of you know, this year my family was targeted and harassed by a white-supremacy group known as the “alt-right” for having adopted black children. Their attack was brutal and relentless. They inundated all of my social media sites with racist…

via The alt-right movement harassed my family for having black children, and Trump is considering their leader for Chief of Staff — Rage Against the Minivan

TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS: PART 2 — FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE — The Belly of the Beast

Be afraid. Be very afraid. At an October 10 rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Donald Trump held up a document. Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald describes what happened next: “He told the assembled crowd that it was an email from Blumenthal, whom he called ‘sleazy Sidney.’ ‘This just came out a little while ago,’’ Trump said. ‘I have to tell […]

via TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS: PART 2 — FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE — The Belly of the Beast

This is a very important analysis by a very capable lawyer. Read it and weep — then go vote. #ImWithHer.

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.