Posted tagged ‘Politics’

This Is One For Every Patriots-Hater Out There

May 4, 2016

The invaluable Charles Pierce on Donald Trump’s distinct political superpower:

It was Jeb (!) Bush who learned the second-worst thing for a candidate to be if he’s running against He, Trump—which is a humorless, privileged fop. The worst thing to be is what the Tailgunner was—a self-important dweeb with delusions of sacred grandeur. In both cases, you are a big bag of hot air in search of a needle. That is He, Trump’s only consistent political skill. No wonder Tom Brady loves him. Nobody is more skilled at deflating people than He, Trump.

I’d add — it’s hard for me to read this as anything but Barack I’m-So-Going-To-Miss-This-President Obama’s parting gift to that self important dweeb with delusions of sacred grandeur:

The White House is considering the creation of a national monument to the gay rights movement on a small piece of Greenwich Village parkland across the street from the Stonewall Inn, where a 1969 uprising helped inspire the push for equality, advocates said on Tuesday.

I know, I know. Not a done deal yet; just kicking the tires; who thought to get this out there today…

But still, even if it is a coincidence (and I’m really not sure that it is), a fine story becomes that much sweeter juxtaposed with Torquemada Cruz (you can’t torque ’em ada anything) on the occasion of his exit, stage far right.

Pedro_Berruguete_Saint_Dominic_Presiding_over_an_Auto-da-fe_1495

So yeah, while as many have noted, Trump is a terrifying existential threat to the idea of the Republic, I still get at least some naches any day that Ted Cruz gets his comeuppance upside and down.

Open, the thread, it is.

Pedro Berruguete, Saint Dominic Presiding Over an Auto-da-fe, 1495

Evil Infests Augusta

April 21, 2016

John Brunner said it exactly right in The Shockwave Rider:  “If there is such a phenomenon as absolute evil it consists in treating another human being as a thing.”

With that in mind, let me give you the latest from Maine’s governor, the utterly odious Paul LePage:

Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill Wednesday that would allow pharmacists to dispense an anti-overdose drug without a prescription, saying that allowing addicts to keep naloxone on hand “serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.” [via Kerry Eleved at GOS]

That’s nonsense on its own terms, as the deeply valuable Maia Szalavitz — herself a former addict — has argued over and over again:

As with needle exchange, opposition to Naloxone distribution has mainly come from those who fear that reducing drug-related harm will lead to increased drug use.   Fortunately, also similarly to the data on needle exchange, the research doesn’t find this occurring.

But don’t let any actual experience bother you, LePage!

“Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” LePage wrote, repeating a contention that has caused controversy before. “Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

It’s a strong word to use, I know.  But this is evil.

Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_-_Christ_with_the_Sick_around_Him,_Receiving_Little_Children_(The_'Hundred_Guilder_Print')_-_Google_Art_Project

In LePage’s telling the addict isn’t a person.  He or she is rather just the worthless meat sack that locally reverses entropy between one overdose and the next.  He’s rather let those suffering an overdose die than live because, as he frames it here, the state of addiction robs the user of all other human attributes.

This is how a monster thinks.

I won’t say that this is the view that infects all of your modern Republican party, because on this issue it’s not.  But it remains a perfectly mainstream one — one that kills.

If you needed any more reason to go all yellow-dog Democrat on every line of your ballot, Governor (sic!) Paul LePage is exhibit (n)*

Last, to help wash the taste of tiny-minded misery out of your mouth, here’s Szalavitz again:

…one of the biggest misunderstandings we have about addiction is that tough love—is that being kind will fail and tough love will work. What really helps and why harm reduction, which is this idea that we will meet you where you’re at and we’ll help you whether you’re ready to stop or not—why that works is because when you have addiction, you tend to be very marginalized, self-hating. You might be homeless. You feel like a criminal. Nobody has any respect for you. And when somebody just hands you a clean needle or gives you access to naloxone and says, “I believe you deserve to live, regardless of whether you do what I want,” that’s a really powerful message of kindness.

And here a plug (full disclosure: she’s a friend) — here’s Maia’s new book on addiction.

*Where n is an arbitrary large number.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ Preaching (The Hundred Guilder Print) c. 1649.

Point And Laugh

April 14, 2016

Yes, the Democratic primary has entered its manic and ugly phase.  Yes, I’d dearly love to see Bernie show some sign he truly cares about getting either Democrat into the White House before any other ambition.  And damn-straight I’m ready to just make it all stop.

But it could be worse.  We could have to face this from one of our own candidates:

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful holiday for our friends in the Jewish community – the Passover,” Kasich told reporters after emerging from the matzah bakery, a box of the fresh-baked stuff in hand.

Yes, Jews are known to love The Passover, almost as much they love The Pre-Election Drop-By from vote-seeking politicians.

…Kasich then launched into a brief appraisal of the links between Passover and, um, the blood of Jesus Christ.

“The great link between the blood that was put above the lampposts” – er, you mean doorposts, governor — “the blood of the lamb, because Jesus Christ is known as the lamb of God. It’s his blood, we believe …” [forwarded by a valued reader]

Putz doesn’t even begin to describe the schmendrick who would say such a thing.  Putz is too grand a word, to expansive.  Kasich is a schmeckel, a schtickl, a petseleh, someone of so little use as to be barely worth noticing.

'A_Fool's_Fool'_by_Thomas_Shields_Clarke

But oy gevalt is this dumb.  I got two words for Kasich’s advance team:  blood libel.  There’s no bottom to the evil that comes from associating Jewish rituals with the blood of Jesus — and no limit to the stupid it takes to wander into such a thicket.  Ignorance is a pathetic excuse — to the point of being disqualifying (at least for any Jewish voter I know) in a would-be president.

It gets better, which is to say not so much worse as more bathetic.  Before hitting the matzoh bakery, Kasich tried to hang with some yeshiva bochers at a bookstore who told him that they were studying Talmud, specifically, the laws of the Sabbath.  Kasich’s comeback?

“You know who I like?” Kasich finally said. “Joseph. You guys like Joseph?”

Yeah, John.  Just like we enjoy the top ten commandments.

It is to laugh.  And to mutter a little blessing:

Thank the FSM this guy is their problem, not ours.

Image:  Thomas Shields, A Fool’s Foolc. 1887.

I Pity The Fools (GOP ODS edition)

March 23, 2016

Well, not really.  But over and over again, President Obama does something that rises above — way higher than — ordinary political discourse. Just as Bill Clinton in the 90s was without doubt the best retail politician I’ve seen in my lifetime, Obama does an epic job of being president. He’s the Ted Williams of the job:  he’s got that quality of gracefulness, a stillness within himself, joined to an analogue to Williams’ sweet swing — the capacity to unwind, suddenly, and perform so precisely, so effectively, that the audience doesn’t have time to register what an astoundingly difficult act just happened.  He’s a virtuoso.

Edgar_Germain_Hilaire_Degas_018

What I’m trying to say is that there are people — easy to identify in sports, I think — whom even opposing fans can simply admire, suspending for a moment their tribal obligation to deride and deny anyone wearing the wrong laundry.  Opposing fans could boo Williams.  But they watched, knowing that they might witness something special.  Nowadays, for a sport closer to Obama’s heart, think Steph Curry; even when he destroys your team, you can’t take your eyes off him.

But pity the poor GOP.  President Obama owns his role by this point.  With increasing confidence and skill over his time in office, he defines objectives and outplays opponents* to get what he wants.   As the occupant of the bully pulpit, henails the lay-ups and he blows away the impossible shots.  It’s been really special to watch — someone sustaining a formidably complicated role with ever increasing virtuosity.

All of which to say is that were you to find politics and public life fascinating as well as vital, you should be enjoying this presidency as a performance even if you deplored it’s content.  But the GOP, it seems, can’t allow themselves even that pleasure.

All of that is prologue to say that I don’t think Obama’s speech in Cuba yesterday has gotten enough attention — at least part, understandably enough, because of the Brussels attacks.  But it’s still worth a listen, for what it means within the process of US-Cuba reconciliation, certainly, but at least as much for its formal excellence.  The speech is simply a masterpiece, in my view, a remarkable demonstration of saying difficult things to multiple audiences while moving the rock, at least a little, on that long journey up the hill.  Here’s the transcript, and here’s the speech itself:

It really is an amazing piece of work.  I love the small touches — he clearly worked on his Spanish accent, to pretty good effect, and it was such a hoot to hear him throw a little shade on Raul Castro and his … let’s say, garrulousness.  But the speech as a whole was much more than the sum of its parts and gestures.  It’s completely worth your time, so I’m only going to quote one passage:

…before I discuss those issues, we also need to recognize how much we share. Because in many ways, the United States and Cuba are like two brothers that have been estranged for many years, even as we share the same blood. We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans.

Cuba, like the United States, was built in part by slaves brought here from Africa. Like the United States, the Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave owners. We’ve welcomed both immigrants who came a great distance to start new lives in the Americas.

Over the years, our cultures have blended together. Dr. Carlos Finlay worked in Cuba, paved the way for generations of doctors, including Walter Reed, who drew on Dr. Finlay’s work to help combat yellow fever. Just as Marti wrote some of his famous words in New York, Earnest Hemingway made a home in Cuba and found inspiration in the waters of these shores.

We share a national past time, la pelotero, and later today our players will compete on the same Havana field that Jackie Robinson played on before he made his major league debut.

And it is said that our greatest boxer, Muhammad Ali, once paid tribute to a Cuban that he could never fight, saying that he would only be able to reach a draw with the great Cuban, Teofilo Stevenson.

As I read that, it’s addressed to the Cuban people of course, just like the title of the speech says.  But it’s impossible not to notice who else Obama engages here: an America whose self-portrait is changing faster than its [dwindling white majority] perception of it has shifted.  As the president noted,

You had two Cuban Americans in the Republican party running against the legacy of a Black man who was president while arguing that they’re the best person to beat the Democratic nominee, who will either be a woman or a democracy socialist.

Again — spoken to Cubans; addressed to those back home.

Relish what you’re seeing in this president.  Perfect he ain’t, of course; that’s no one’s inheritance short of the grave.  But he’s so damn good at this now.  We won’t see his like again soon.

*I’m not saying Garland’s appointment will go through — though the odds are better than I thought they’d be.  My point is that Obama’s handling of this on both its substance and politics has been elegant.

Image:  Edgar Degas, Ballet – l’étoile (Rosita Mauri), c. 1878.

Please Proceed, Governor

March 3, 2016

I admit it.

I’m only posting this so I can use that title.

Mitt Romney did his blind pig act today, speaking truth, up to a point, to the looming power that is breaking the china at what should have been the dancing-horse-rider’s-husband’s party:

“If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” Romney said in a nationally televised speech at the University of Utah…

“Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark. He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong. He spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong. He saw no such thing. He imagined it…He’s not of the temperament of the kind of stable, thoughtful person we need as leader. His imagination must not be married to real power”

“Mr. Trump has changed his positions, not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign, and on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row. We will only know if he’s the real deal or a phony if he releases his tax returns and his tape of the interview with the New York Times. I predict there are more bomb shells in his tax returns,” Romney said. “I predict he told The New York Times that his immigration talk is just that, talk.”

[via TPM]

 

R-Money being who he is, the reason he gave for the urgency in stopping Trump was not for The Donald’s sin of describing Republican views and gut-feelings accurately, but because it would ensure a Clinton presidency — and that family is, of course, simply too gauche, too nouveau for true representatives of better-established dishonest money to accept.

But thanks anyway, [former] Governor! Plenty of good stuff there for ads in the fall.

Or, as the man said:  please proceed.

Image:  James Ward, Ferrets, undated, before 1860.

Aux Armes, Citoyenes!

February 23, 2016

It’s just being reported that the GOP caucus in the US Senate has decided that Presidenting while Democrat and/or Black is not to be allowed to happen.

That is — the majority party in The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body™ has decided that it will not entertain any piece of President Obama’s nomination for the still dead Scalia’s Supreme Court seat.  Zip, zero, nada, nothing:  no hearing, no vote, no respect for whatever jurist Obama chooses; for Obama himself, obviously; for the office of the President, clearly; and ultimately for the Constitution so many of those prating thugs assert they hold above all else.

To which my response is:

Thanks

Thank you.

You couldn’t have done a greater service to the Democratic Party’s hopes in November, and thus to the country.

It’s hard usually, as readers of this blog know, to cut through the noise of political blather and the insistent demands of daily life.  But this is one of those moments when stakes and character become clear — enough, I deeply hope, to move the dial in November. Most simply, if there were any enthusiasm gap between the parties, it’s going, going, gone now.

We have two jobs:  for one, elect the Democrat, whoever that may be, to the Presidency.  I’m more a Hillary person than a Bernie one, but I’ll pound the hills of New Hampshire for either one this coming fall, every damn chance I get.

The other:  these embarrassments as Senators must go:  Kirk, Johnson, Toomey, Portman, Ayotte.  The Florida open seat, and as distant hopes, McCain and Burr too.  I’ll be up in New Hampshire (as I may have mentioned a sentence or two ago), pounding the hills for Governor Hassan, every damn chance I get.  If you can get to a race that’s in the balance, do so.  If you can’t, do whatever else you can.

One last thought: I didn’t think that anything the GOP could do — especially an act as predictable as this — would do more than deepen my weary sense of “they are who we thought they were.” But this feels like a last straw. I’m just done with allowing any framing of this as “just politics” or what have you. I and a majority of my fellow citizens voted President Obama into office twice. The disrespect to him is something he can handle (better than I ever would). But it’s the delegitimizing of my vote, my choice, my place in American democracy that has just gotta stop. The current Republican Party has to be destroyed, root and branch. They are blight on policy, and a boil on the body politic. Time for them to go.

Y’all Qaeda Pissing You Off? Fire A Phone Call, Not A Glock

January 6, 2016

I’m enraged by the news in Zander’s post over at Balloon Juice.  Happy to let any of seditionists out of the Malheur HQ — but only into the welcoming arms of federal custody.

That’s a legitimate political view — and you know what sane and patriotic people do with such views?  They call their representatives in Washington to let them know how they feel.

'Telephone_Operator'_by_Gerrit_A._Beneker (1)

I just left a message at Senator Warren’s office and spoke to a nice young (I’m guessing) staffer in Rep. Joe Kennedy’s.  Markey is next on my list.  I told them how disgusted I was at the action of the Malheur thugs — stealing our property, yours, mine, and the whole damn American people’s while, many of them, stealing from the public till for years and years.

The key though is that I also made a request:  I want my Congressional representatives to put the question to federal law enforcement as to why they are not enforcing the law, either by denying the radical right wing intimidators their freedom of movement as long as they remain on the people’s property, or by arresting them when they do choose to wander.

It’s not much, but it’s not nothing either.  These folks only succeed because their supporters are vocal and active, while the hundreds of millions whom they rip off, disrespect and aim to intimidate and coerce just want to go about their business.  A little volume on our side of the playground is actually significant.

So call your official peeps!  Takes a minute or two, and it’s worth the effort.  This is also one where the partisan identification of your representatives matters a little less than on some of the calls to action this blog has made.  Armed take-overs of public buildings strikes a little close to home for a lot of Congressfolk.

So call! Be polite; know the message you want to send; thank the kids on the other end of the line for their help; and lets start making the country marginally more sane, one firmly worded dispatch at a time.

The phone numbers:

House and Senate switchboard: 202-224-3121.  Individual senator phone numbers.  Individual representative phone numbers. (Both lists by state.  You can sort by last name as well.)

Have at it, friends.

Image: Gerrit A. Beneker, Telephone Operator (A Weaver of Public Thought) 1921.


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