Category Archives: Politics

Pooping on the Doug Jones Parade

Last night’s victory by Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore in the race to fill Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat from Alabama is a good thing because, if nothing else, it means the child molester did not win.  But beyond that, I believe it matters little.

For starters, it means nothing for the upcoming tax legislation vote, which is on thin ice in the Senate because hellacious scumbag supreme, Mitch McConnell, is already up to his old tricks, saying he won’t seat Jones until after the tax vote.  It’s like the Supreme Court all over again!

In the long term, this brings the Dems to a 49-50 razor thin minority in the Senate.  And that sounds good, like John Rambo about to pop out of the water with his machine gun.  But as Republicans get all tie breakers (VP Pence casts deciding votes), the Dems are still two shy.  Meanwhile, the upcoming midterms, now less than a year away, feature Democrats having to defend several red states in Senate elections.  Check out this map of which states have a senate race in 2018.

Continue reading Pooping on the Doug Jones Parade

Louis CK and Roy Moore Walk into a Bar

At first glance, the disparity is stark.  Over the past two months, a litany of powerful men have been accused of sexual assault. Yet reactions from their supporters have been very different.

By and large, Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists have staunchly condemned all sexual predation, including predators with whom they are likelier to stand politically, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and most recently Louis CK.  Meanwhile, many Republicans have not only defended, but even embraced men who brag about being sexual predators (Donald Trump) or face very serious and well investigated accusations of criminal sexual behavior (Roy Moore).

It’s tempting to point out that the GOP has not simply lost the moral high ground, but has impatiently discarded it.  It’s tempting to proclaim that Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists have remained true to their values in a way that many Conservatives seem unwilling or perhaps even unable to do.  It’s tempting to say that Democrats do not tolerate sexual predators, either within their own ranks or without, while Republicans have pioneered new heights in hypocrisy by readily condemning sexual predators outside their ranks, yet making every conceivable excuse for sexual predators within their ranks, right up to equating the sexual molestation of children with the parenting of Jesus Christ.

It is very tempting indeed. But yet, I wonder. Continue reading Louis CK and Roy Moore Walk into a Bar

Return of the Criminal Presidency

We are perhaps on the verge of witnessing, for the third time in 100 years, a U.S. presidency so corrupt that multiple high ranking members will be imprisoned.

In early 1919, former president Teddy Roosevelt was the early favorite to re-assume the Republican Party’s mantle for the 1920 election.  However, he died unexpectedly shortly before the campaign season began, and a crowded field of contenders soon emerged.

Warren G. Harding initially had little hope of winning, and entered the race mostly to bolster his control of Ohio politics; he was one of the state’s two U.S. senators and held sway over much of its corrupt machine.  But when party leaders could not agree on any of the front runners, the convention deadlocked.  They soon settled on Harding, in part because he was from a crucial swing state, and in part because he was relatively unknown and hadn’t offended many delegates.

The compromise candidate from Ohio went on to win a resounding victory, setting what was then a record by taking 61% of the popular vote.

Harding was generally well liked during his time in office as society settled down from the tumultuous effects of World War I and its immediate aftermath. It didn’t hurt that the economy also began to hum.  But he would serve just 2½ years, dying of a heart attack while visiting San Francisco in 1923.

At first, Harding’s premature death increased his already widespread popularity.  It was only after his passing that the litany corruption attached to his administration would become a salacious public debacle.

It turned out that family man Harding had kept at least two mistresses, including one who claimed he fathered her child.  But it was the criminal antics of his administration that would eventually lead Historians to rank Harding as one of the worst presidents ever.

The name that still rings a bell among some Americans who learned about it in high school is the Teapot Dome Scandal.  Interior Secretary Albert Fall took bribes totaling $400,000 (nearly $6 million in today’s money) from oil executives in return for awarding them leases to drill on public land in Wyoming and California.  Fall was convicted, fined, and became the first U.S. presidential cabinet member to do time; he was sentenced to a year, and served 9 months. Continue reading Return of the Criminal Presidency

The Crippling of Donald Trump

Factor 1: More than anything else in the world, more than having a happy marriage, more than raising healthy, well adjusted children, more than God, Mom, or Apple Pie, Donald J. Trump wants to be a WINNER.

Trump has always been hell bent on publicly proclaiming himself a winner. And for him, being a winner means not just being successful, but being the best.  Better than anyone and everything at whatever he does.

It’s not enough to be rich; he has to claim he has more money than he actually does (I’ve actually heard first hand stories about this from a former Forbes journalist).  It’s not enough to screw starlets and gold diggers; he has to “anonymously” phone the press so that everyone can know about it.  It’s not enough to host a long running, highly rated tv show; he has to claim its failure to win an emmy damaged the emmys’ credibility.  It’s not enough to win the presidency; he has to claim he won the popular vote because millions of people supposedly voted illegally, even though they didn’t.  It’s not enough to take the oath of office in front of the entire world; he has to claim more supporters showed up at his inauguration than for any other president, despite the all the aerial photographs revealing him to be a infantile liar.

He can’t help himself.  He must lie and lie and lie, exaggerating every legitimate success and adamantly denying anything remotely smelling of failure.

No wonder then that of all the many insults that Trump lobs like handfuls rice at a wedding, in his mind the biggest, baddest epithet he can hurl at someone is “Loser!”  Because losing is sad.

🙁 Continue reading The Crippling of Donald Trump

Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, and America’s Quest for White Martyrs of Racial Violence

It began with Emmett Till.

He was a fourteen year old black boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1954 when two white men lynched him to death for whistling at a white woman.  That in itself, sadly, wasn’t so unusual.  Thousands of African Americans were lynched to death during the first half of the 20th century.  What was different about this particular lynching was his mother’s response.

Till’s mother demanded her son’s body be returned to Chicago instead of getting a quick burial in Mississippi. She then insisted upon an open-casket funeral so the world could see what they had done to her boy.  The black press covered the funeral as upwards of 50,000 mourners passed by the coffinJet magazine and The Chicago Defender newspaper published photos of his body, mutilated almost beyond recognition.  Afterwards, mainstream (white) national publications also ran the pictures and covered the story in depth, and Emmett Till entered the larger white consciousness as a martyr of racial violence.

Needless to say, there have been countless black (and Latinx and Indigenous and Asian) victims of racial violence in America over the last four centuries.  How many black people have been killed or maimed by whites for, essentially, being black? The number is impossible to know.  As an American historian, I suspect that tens of thousands would be an underestimate.  When considering the ravages of slavery and decades of subsequent lynch violence, the number could easily be in the hundreds of thousands.

Yet prior to Emmett Till, almost none of them ever entered white consciousness as martyrs.  Till became the first, the token black, the only one from among the countless thousands who most white people ever learned about in school or could cite by name.  That Slavery and Jim Crow repression wrought horrible violence was no secret.  But upon whom, specifically?

In the 1960s, Till was joined in this sad canon only by Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers (briefly), and Malcolm X (but only to a minority of whites).  However, with the death of King in 1968, white consciousness considered the civil rights era over, largely went into hiding on the issue of race, and stopped acknowledging new black martyrs of white racial violence.

Why? Continue reading Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, and America’s Quest for White Martyrs of Racial Violence

There Is No Grand Conspiracy

Donald Trump’s most recent interview with a newspaper editorial board is here.  This time the Wall Street Journal had the privilege of sitting down for a tête à tête with the bloviating POTUS.

I think it’s a good idea to read extensive Trump interviews with serious journalists once in a while, whether they be from a liberal paper like the New York Times or a conservative one like the Journal.  Why?  Because they immediately dispel any notion of Trump as the master puppeteer choreographing a complex dance of political distraction.

There’s a line of thought, fairly popular at the moment, that Trump is some evil mastermind who makes outrageous comments to drag our attention away from his insidious plans, which are supposedly unfolding as we waste time parsing his tweets.

The truth is quite the opposite: Donald Trump is just not very coherent, and he lies a lot. Continue reading There Is No Grand Conspiracy

Interesting Times

I was wrong about Donald Trump winning the presidency.  Hell, I was one of those dopes who thought he wouldn’t even be able to get through the GOP primaries.  But at least one of my predictions did come true.

From day one, I told anyone who asked that a Trump presidency would be far more interesting than any other 2016 electoral scenario.  Indeed, a Trump presidency would be one of the most interesting political developments of the last hundred years, maybe of the next hundred.  And I’m afraid I was right.

After all, these are, if nothing else, interesting times.

There are many reasons to be deeply interested in the festering, moldy pyrotechnics of Trump’s amateur hour presidency.  There’s the sheer comedic value of watching him fumble and roar.  There’s the absolutely stunning, slow motion reshuffling of America’s role on the global stage.  There are the painful undulations and muted screams of a Republican Party unexpectedly confronting its own impotence in the hour of its great victory.  And there are all the things you were absolutely certain would happen that will not.

All of these funny, alarming, surreal shocks and many more cry out for explanation.  Anyone who’s paying attention desperately wants to understand just what the hell happening. Continue reading Interesting Times

This Populist Moment

Last week, Barack Obama got beaten up on social media and called out by the press for accepting a $400,000 speaking fee from a Wall Street firm Cantor and Fitzgerald.  It was the day’s major kerfuffle, the non-Trump story of the week, and reactions to it by many of my smart, well reasoned friends surprised me somewhat.

They began with the stance that it simply wasn’t an issue.  Obama’s a private citizen now, so who cares? But lots of people did care.  When the story picked up steam despite their protestations, my friends then blamed the loony left for fabricating the issue, launching a general assault on fringe elements of the Democratic party and a firm defense of sensible liberal or centrist (depending on the friend) outlooks.  But of course it wasn’t just the left.  The right predictably piled on as well, without any prompting from the left.  The story also transcended the partisan divide as the centrist press ran with it.  Christ, even the BBC, the vanilla pudding of international news, covered it.

In the end, the defense of Obama that gained the most traction among my friends, and to some degree in the national media, was a racial analysis.  Some claimed that this brouhaha was another example of white people shaming a black man for earning a paycheck, the imposition of a racial double standard since white politicians and ex-politicians do this kind of thing all time.

This needs to be reckoned with.  Obama was always held to a higher standard, precisely because he was black.  He was always subjected to intense racism.  And the racist backlash to his presidency, as much as anything else, helps explain Trump’s victory.  So was this just another example of that racial double standard?  It’s an important question to ask.

In the end, I don’t think it was.  Which is not to say that Obama is no longer subject to racism and double standards; he obviously is.  And those issues are still at play here, but I don’t believe they’re the driving force.  Because to mark race as the reason for a vast public outcry against his acceptance of money is to ignore the most salient point: where the money came from.

People are not upset that he made money.  Private citizen Obama collecting a $400,000 speaking fee doesn’t violate anyone’s principles, even racist assholes’.  Rather, the problem is that he very specifically took money from Wall Street.  The proof is clear: There wasn’t nearly as much griping when he signed a $20,000,000 book deal last month.

Why did that eight-figure windfall spark nowhere near the outrage this five-figure fee did?  Because no one’s worried that publishing money has corrupted Washington.  No one’s bitter about the book industry crippling the U.S. economy ten years ago, only to reap a massive bailout from taxpayers, and now running amok again.  And thus, virtually no criticism of twenty-million to publish what will probably be the kind of bland, self-serving memoir that every ex-president of late has authored.  But $400,000 from Wall Street is different, if for no other reason than the general public now views Wall Street differently than it used to.

Why did Obama take the speaking fee?  Should he have?  Should people be upset about it?  None of those questions interest me.   Rather, I believe the issue worth considering is: Why exactly did so many people get upset about it?

That question speaks to the current political moment, which Obama seems to have misread, much as the Democratic Party mainstream he represents has been doing for over a year now. Continue reading This Populist Moment

April Fools

Donald Trump’s first hundred days as president are nearly tallied.  Enough time has passed that we can now divide people who voted for him into two groups:

1. Those who: never liked Trump (but made a calculated decision to vote for him); have more  recently developed doubts; or will soon become disillusioned when Trump not only fails to deliver on his promises but actually does the opposite in many respects (eg., loses good paying blue collar jobs instead of creating them; contributes to a national healthcare scenario that’s worse than ObamaCare; doesn’t build a wall or at least doesn’t get Mexico to pay for it, etc.)

2. Suckers

Ahh, the sucker.

Most of us like to pretend we’re immune to crass charlatanism.  I’m not that gullible, you tell yourself, refusing to believe you could be seriously suckered.  Surely, someone as smart as you sees through the vulgar farces dangling before us.

The embarrassing truth, however, is that we all get taken for the proverbial ride now and again.  Continue reading April Fools