Sunday, December 8, 2019

Vindication Denied?

I suspect that many Trump followers are not well served by their preferred media, which have led them to believe wholeheartedly in various scandals that haven't panned out, even after much investigation, like Benghazi, while not believing in other scandals that are real and unfolding before our eyes. 

A steady diet of Fox News leaves these MAGA folks ill-prepared when the "scandal" of the moment turns out to be a nothingburger. Of course, they will never admit to this.

One of the scandals that may not pan out in the way the Trump cult hopes is the origins (or "oranges", as POTUS might say) of the FBI investigation into Russian election interference in 2016.  

For months, Sean Hannity has been touting that the FBI  Inspector General's internal investigation into the matter will deliver earthshaking revelations into the Bureau's corrupt role in the Russian "hoax", breathlessly promising proof that the investigation was illegitimate from the beginning. Sweet, sweet vindication of a sweet, benevolent prince.  As if anyone not on the Fox payroll could imagine Trump that way. 

The IG's report comes out tomorrow, and already there are signs that Hannity's flock will be disappointed in the report's main findings. I'm crossing my fingers that their expectations will be dashed. Sean has even been hinting at such in his recent radio broadcasts. Guess we'll see. 

Anyway, the lucky thing about having a conspiracy-minded mentality is you always have a ready excuse when things don't turn out like you expected -- namely that the oh-so-deep-state is at it again. If your main source of news is the likes of Sean Hannity, you can hardly think any other way. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

This is a Cult

Okay, the level of crazy during the Trump presidency has always been high, but boy in the last week or so, it’s been upped a couple of notches. Some of the highlights:
Lindsey Graham claimed that the witches of Salem were treated better than Donald Trump has been during the impeachment investigation. He’s talking about women accused, imprisoned and sometimes hung because some of their neighbors acted hysterically. Until I see Donald Trump on a scaffold with a noose around his neck (which for the record I do NOT for a moment wish to see happen), I’m going to say it’s Lindsay Graham who’s acting hysterically. And ahistorical. Graham belongs to a cult.
Tucker Carlson admitted that Trump did indeed lie about how many people attended his inauguration. The president lied to the American people on Day One. But, Carlson basically says, this is okay because Trump is a “salesman” and, as we all know, salesmen lie all the time. My take-away from this is that we should never trust anything Trump says. Of course, this has been my conclusion for years already, but now Carlson has given his Fox News audience permission not to believe anything Trump says. In fact, they would be foolish to do so. Carlson belongs to a cult. Or else Carlson is just cynically playing to his most devoted fans, who do belong to a cult.
A recent poll shows that 53% of Republicans think that Trump is a better president than Abraham Lincoln, the man who led America through a civil war. This is mind blowing. This is mass delusion. Next, they’ll want to put Trump on Mount Rushmore. These people belong to a cult.
Donald Trump retweeted a picture of his head photoshopped onto the muscular body of a boxer (Sylvester Stallone from the movie “Rocky”). Juvenile and not exactly presidential, if you ask me. What’s worse, when the Washington Post -- stating the obvious -- mentions that the photo was “doctored”, the Trump reelection campaign hits back, accusing the Post of having no “evidence” the photo was doctored. As if, without some proof to the contrary, we are expected to believe the body of a 73-year-old obese man looks just like that of a 30-year-old champion boxer. This is a cult.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Tony Channels Donald Trump

Listening to Donald Trump's "on the nose" denials of a quid pro quo in his phone call with Gordon Sondland the other day, I couldn't help imagining a similar kind of exchange...

A phone rings. Tony Soprano picks up.

“Hey Tony, it’s Paulie. Listen, you were talking about Lefty Caputo the other day.”

“You mean my long-time friend Johnny Caputo, who, out of a no doubt sincere, but badly misguided sense of civic duty decided to tell the FBI some very exaggerated stories about our past dealings, completely out of context I might add. And thereby misled the dedicated public servants at the Bureau into wasting tax payer money on unfounded, not to mention unfair, investigations of my business and personal life.”

“Yeah, that guy. What do you want to do with him?”

Tony sighs heavily. “Nothing. I don’t want to have nothing to do with him. In light of his unexpected recent actions, causing me considerable unnecessary legal expense and harm to my reputation, I feel our friendship has ended. I have decided to put him completely out of my mind.”

“So he’s dead to you?”

“I didn’t say that. I did not say that. No. Look, what I’m saying is...though I wish we could have parted on, ah, better terms and I am saddened by this, ah, turn of events, I wish nothing but the best for Lefty and hope he will have a long and prosperous life.”

“Okay, I understand. Like you always say, a peaceful life is the least anyone deserves.”

“That’s right, Paulie. And, as you know, it is a sick indictment of the society we live in that not everyone enjoys that luxury. Even the most innocent citizens are sometimes the victims of senseless, horrific violence. For no reason. A real shame. Needless to say, despite our differences, I would never wish anything of the kind for Lefty. Or his family. Not even his dog.”

“Got it. Yes, and I agree. I too hope the best for Lefty in his future endeavors, and I wish him a prosperous and long life. A long life.”

“Yes. And peaceful. Very peaceful. Okay, Paulie, I gotta go. See you on church.”

“Church? Oh, yeah, yeah, church. Got it. Bye, Tony.”

Friday, November 15, 2019

Law and Disorder: Criminal Distraction

Public hearings in the Trump impeachment have now started, something sure to keep me the edge of my seat for the next couple of weeks. 

In the lead up to all this, one thing I’ve found especially exasperating is how Donald Trump and his followers obsess so much on the whistleblower, as if the whole case against impeachment hinges on whether an investigation sparked by  complaint from an anonymous source is legitimate. Unsurprisingly, this argument makes no sense. Here’s an analogy of the way I look at it.

Let’s say Jim lives down the street from a 7-Eleven. His son Billy runs in to say the neighborhood bully Jack just cold-cocked Mrs. Bailey, a local retiree, from behind in the 7-Eleven parking lot. Jim didn’t see it, but he trusts his son. He's sure it happened. Jim, here, is the whistleblower. 

Jim assumes the police have leads and will immediately arrest Jack, but when that doesn’t happen Jim decides to inform the authorities himself. It's true he biased against Jack, but he's also biased in favor of Mrs. Bailey, a nice old lady. He's also biased against assaulting old ladies. He calls an anonymous tip line because he doesn’t want to give his name. He’s had trouble with Jack’s family before and wants to avoid retribution. Who could blame him?

The police start checking up on Jack, find some people who hang around with him. Some of them saw the whole thing, and one or two are willing to confirm the attacker was indeed Jack. They also like Mrs. Bailey and agree Jack crossed a line in hitting her. The witnesses, in this case, are Alexander Vindman, Gordon Sondland, Jennifer Williams, etc.

Jack is arrested and prosecuted. At this point, the DA doesn’t care who left the anonymous tip. He has eye-witnesses now and other evidence uncovered by detectives. The DA is the House of Representatives. The detectives are the three committees investigating Trump’s dealings with the president of Ukraine. The whole House is the Grand Jury that will hear the evidence and decide if there’s enough to indict Jack, I mean Trump.

To stretch the analogy out further, half of the jury (the Senate) hearing the case against Jack (Trump) happens to be opioid addicts and loyal customers of Jack's backstreet  painkiller retail business. Despite the undisputed evidence, they refuse to find him guilty. Judge G. O. Patterson declares a mistrial, and Jack goes free.

He is still tainted with an arrest record, but no conviction. In the end, he’s an unrepentant scoundrel, but one who’s admired by enough of the townspeople of Dipshitville that they even elect him mayor. To celebrate, Trump (I mean, Jack) goes out on Fifth Avenue and shoots someone. And no one cares. Jack is special. 

P.S. Someone in the DA's office illegally reveals Jim's name to the local paper as being the anonymous tipster, and naturally Jack gives him a horrible beat down. So much for anonymity. So much for justice. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Bottom-Line Valor?

I don’t normally note Veteran’s Day, since I’m a liberal, and liberals tend not to valorize the military the way conservatives do. And by “valorize”, I mean the kind of conspicuous virtue signaling of patriotism that American conservatives love to plaster across their social media. Flags, eagles, that sort of stuff.

However, to make a blatant political point, I thought it might be interesting to talk about the veterans who are currently running for president. What makes this especially relevant is the recent publication of a book by Donald Trump’s son Junior, titled “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us”. (The very long subtitle kinda gives away the plot, doesn’t it?) 

In this book, out just in time for Veteran’s Day, Don Jr. recalls visiting Arlington Cemetery just before his father’s inauguration and how the rows and rows of graves of fallen soldiers movingly reminded him of all the business opportunities his family was sacrificing by coming to Washington, all the revenue they have foregone for the country. Call it “bottom-line valor”. Crass and tone deaf doesn’t even begin to describe it. 

You would think a political family with no history of military service whatsoever would shy away from making those kinds of comparisons. Donald Trump famously avoided the Vietnam War thanks to student deferments and a bogus “bone spur”. What’s more, neither of his sons have served in the military. That’s not surprising, of course. The only prep-school scions of the American elite who join the military are those who really want to (I’m thinking here of John Kerry, Robert Mueller, etc.), as opposed to lower-class folks who have fewer economic options. 

So, I wondered how do the other candidates stack up? 

Let’s start with the Republicans. And, yes, there are some besides Trump, namely Mark Sanford, Joe Walsh, and Bill Weld. The first two were born in the early 60s, and thus too old for any major war event that you might expect would inspire people to join up, like Pat Tillman did. Tillman was the NFL player who retired at the height of his pro ball career to join the Army in response to 9-11. He died in Afghanistan in 2004. He was basically the same age as Don Jr. Hmmm. 

Back to the candidates. Bill Weld was born in 1945, a year before Trump, so he, like Trump, was of a prime age to fight for his country. He did not. Just like Trump. 

On the Democratic side, there are currently 16 candidates. No, 17. I know, it’s hard to keep track. Five are women. I hope it’s not sexist to say women aren’t normally expected to serve in the military, so no one would look askance at Elizabeth Warren not having military credentials to flout. 

The punitive frontrunner Joe Biden, born in 1942 which makes him a bit older than Trump, was in his mid 20s at the height of the Vietnam War. He stayed out of the war with the help of deferments and a history of asthma. His son Beau joined the National Guard as a JAG officer in 2002 at the age of 33. Obviously, that’s serving part-time in the military, though he did serve one year in Iraq. He remained in the Guard until his untimely death in 2014. Younger brother Hunter also joined the service, the US Navy Reserve in the case, somewhat late at the age of 43 (it’s not too late for the Trump boys!), but was discharged after only a year after testing positive for cocaine. Hunter, it seems, is turning out to be a problematic child. 

That leaves 11 other male candidates. Bernie Sanders, even older than Biden, could have served in Vietnam if he’d really wanted, though no one would expect a young leftist political activist who took part in anti-war protests at the time to volunteer to go kill Viet Cong. In fact, Sanders applied for conscientious objector status, which was ultimately rejected, though by that time he was too old to be drafted anyway. 

Tom Steyer is about my own age, too young for Vietnam, too old for the next war. Not that you have to wait for a war. Joe Sestak, who I admit was not on my radar at all, went straight from High School to the Naval Academy, following the example of his father. He graduated as an ensign in 1974, just after the Paris Peace Accords ended the US involvement in Vietnam. Sestak spent 31 years in the Navy, rising to the rank of Vice Admiral and commanded an aircraft carrier battle group operating in Persian Gulf during the Iraq War. 

John Delaney, Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, and Cory Booker were all children of the 60s. That put them well into their 30s during the Iraq War and borderline “too old” even for the Gulf War a decade earlier. On the other hand, Booker was only 22 when Norman Schwarzkopf led the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, though the whole thing was over so quickly, Booker would not likely have seen combat even if he had rushed to join up. 

Julian Castro, Wayne Messam, and Andrew Yang were almost 30 when George W. Bush launched his unnecessary and cursed invasion of Iraq in 2003. Again, a bit too old to take part in any case. 

Pete Buttigieg, the youngest candidate, joined the US Navy Reserve at the age of 27, retiring as a lieutenant after eight years. I guess Reservists, like National Guardsmen, are mostly “weekend warriors”, and for his monthly stints of duty Buttigieg was assigned to a post on Lake Michigan, within driving distance of South Bend, Indiana, where part of that time he was mayor. He did take a break from running South Bend to ship overseas to Afghanistan for a six-month tour as a naval intelligence office and armed driver for his CO. 

Another Democratic candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, is the only female vet running for the White House, maybe the only one who ever has. She joined the National Guard just weeks after the opening “shock and awe” of the American hostilities against Iraq. She continues to serve, currently with the rank of major. She served a year-long tour in Iraq in a medical support unit and a second tour in Kuwait in an MP (Military Police) unit. I’ll leave the question as to whether she’s a Russian asset to another time. 

So, for folks keeping score... 

The current president and his three GOP challengers: Zero military service, though when two of them where of draft age there was a rather hot war going on. 

The 17 Democratic candidates: Of the 12 men running, seven came of age between the Vietnam and Iraq wars, during a time of relative peace. Of the remaining five men, two did serve, one as a career Navy man. Of the five women candidates, one is currently still serving in the military. That’s a total of three vets

It’s a good thing Republicans don’t look for military experience in their leaders. Otherwise, they’d have to switch parties. Or maybe that would be a good thing.