One of them.

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Weeks like this give the lie to any suggestion that Donald Trump does not reflect the true character of the Republican party. If there has ever been a more nauseating display of fawning over an American president, I have yet to see it. The celebration over the passage of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” was reminiscent of those bizarre, banana-republic type cabinet meetings where officials take turns falling all over themselves to praise the Dear Leader. This time, it was congressional leaders (many of whom have momentarily taken issue with the president) crowing about what a great legislative partner he is, and Mike Pence, who mostly delivered the national security strategy speech he memorized from earlier in the week. I could see my own Trumpite Representative, Claudia Tenney, in the front row, applauding, gawking at the president in apparent awe, taking snapshots of his ample ass with her phone like some teen fan at a concert.

Where's my Rep? Too close, that's where.The conventional wisdom on talk television, of course, has it that Trump is his own invention; that he sprang fully formed from a crack in the Earth’s crust sometime in 2015; that he was never a conservative but, rather, a “lifelong Democrat”; that his views represent only himself, not the broader party. Total bullshit. Trump is the end-stage product of a Republican party that his been careening to the right for more than 30 years. Sure, he has been in the public eye for that long and longer, as a big-mouth heir to a real estate developer, shameless self-promoter, casino magnate, serial financial failure, and reality show star. America’s right-wing media, its nutcase reactionary movements, and its corporatist Republican party made the very space that he moved into in 2015 as a presidential candidate. He makes perfect sense from that perspective, and almost seems inevitable.

The charge about being a lifelong Democrat, leveled by the likes of Joe Scarborough and others, is perhaps the most laughable. Trump has no ideology other than himself. He was pro-Democrat, mildly, as a real estate developer in New York and New Jersey because the prominent politicians in those states came from the Democratic party. It was a completely transactional relationship; when he began to have national ambitions, he moved away from that and towards his natural place – namely, the core money party, and the one most favored by the KKK (of which his father was once a proud member).

No, the true picture of Trump’s place in the Republican party was illustrated by that moment on Dec. 20, when he was being cheered enthusiastically by the lot of them. Remember in November.

luv u,

jp

Targets.

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The most recent heinous and indefensible mass shooting in America (or nearly so – there’s already been another one) was targeted on members of the House of Representatives. That is part of what makes it unusual. The other part is that it was perpetrated by someone nominally on the left. Typically we get some kind of Klan kid, like Dylan Roof, or some crazy cracker shooting up south Asians because they’re darker than him (and it’s usually a him). Whatever the motive, the shooting at the baseball diamond was a despicable act, plain an simple. And it happened in the usual way: the perpetrator purchased the guns, apparently legally, from a licensed firearms dealer (a 7.62 -caliber rifle and a 9 mm handgun), no problem. The kind of transaction that most if not all of the players on the GOP baseball team wholeheartedly support.

Lets all be nice to each other.Will this lead to a brief era of civility and bipartisanship? Maybe, but probably not. Civility, we should remember, starts at the top, and with a legion of TV pundits decrying the toxic tone of political rhetoric, I have yet to hear anyone call out President Trump for setting that tone during his campaign last year, even to the point of suggesting that “second amendment people” should act against his opponent. Then there were his entreaties from the podium to “beat the hell out of him!” at his various rallies, reminding the mob of the good old days when protesters were “carried out on a stretcher”. Oh yeah, that did happen.

And bipartisanship? I tend to agree with Chris Hayes that it doesn’t have a very positive history. I’m sure whatever this severely deranged one-time Bernie supporter intended, this act of domestic terrorism will only result in pushing forward the very agenda he professed to despise. Thanks for helping, asshole. Political fights are what democracy is all about, and acts of violence tend to take the air out of them. It’s no contradiction to sincerely wish Steve Scalise and the other victims a full and rapid recovery while at the same time holding the opinion that Scalise is a total dick on the issues. Many in Congress have trouble squaring that circle, and given the speed with which Ryan and McConnell are advancing their legislative priorities, there’s simply no time for any interval of acquiescence and deferral.

As for this moronic shooter, the only thing he accomplished was more needless bloodshed and providing additional cover for House members like Claudia Tenney not to hold public meetings.

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jp

Victory dance.

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Okay, can we all agree on something, people? Try this: the President of the United States is a remarkable dolt who knows nothing about anything outside of – perhaps – real estate and licensing his trademarks. His grasp of American history is tenuous at best and indicative of illiteracy at worst. He always seems to return to the subject of slavery and the Civil War, perhaps because he is surrounded by crackpot white supremacists who fill his empty head with their hateful opinions and convenient factual inaccuracies. The comments about Andrew Jackson are just the latest example, though when he talks about people like “Sharpknife” Jackson he seems actually to be talking about himself.

Spot my useless congressmember.It’s not at all surprising that Trump thinks that he himself could have prevented the Civil War. As a master-level narcissist, he thinks himself capable of anything. And even when he can’t accomplish anything, he celebrates and brags about it like he did. This week, when the House of Representatives passed their latest version of the Affordable Care Act repeal and replace debacle, Trump had the GOP House caucus come to the White House for a little victory dance. (My own representative, Claudia Tenney, could be seen in the second row, right behind the doltish Kevin McCarthy, taking selfies with another Republican congresswoman. Watch for that in an opposition campaign ad next year.)

Okay, so maybe that just proves that Republicans – including the massively overrated pseudo-wonk Paul Ryan – never watched Schoolhouse Rock and maybe they really just don‘t know how a bill becomes law. (They haven’t passed a real lot of them since taking control of the House.) Or maybe this is just Trump’s way of rubbing our faces in the fact that he got his way this time. It’s the kind of tactic Trump is famous for, of course. I suspect if he ever stopped bragging about himself, he’d fly around the room like a toy balloon someone let loose. The facts don’t matter – this is an attitudinal presidency, running on gall and braggadocio, tossing steaks out to the base pretty much every week.

It’s not a joke. The policy implications of this president will be enormous, maybe irreparable. We’re obviously going to have to fight for every inch, and this week the prize went to them.

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jp

For the people.

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I live in New York’s 22nd Congressional district, a sprawling, largely rural riding that stretches from the Pennsylvania border to just a stone’s throw from Lake Ontario. On the map, it looks a bit like the silhouette of someone in a Klansman get-up standing on a soapbox with his/her arms out stretched, crucifixion style. In reality, it’s a lot less dramatic than that, though through the decades I have seen more than a small number of confederate flags stuck to bumpers (and one full-size battle flag waving at me from the back of a pickup truck just a few months back). Cook has us as an R+3 district, meaning strong lean-Republican – NY22 went for Trump 55-39% in 2016, which is pretty lopsided even for us, though it suggests a solid 6% independent vote.

Who's intimidating whom?Our current Congress member, Claudia Tenney, won a three-way race with about 47% last Fall. Since her election, she has been a little hard to pin down. It took some weeks to open a district office in the Utica area – she blamed this on the bureaucracy, of course. Up until this week, Tenney has been knocking down any suggestion of holding a town hall-style meeting in the district, having seen what’s been happening to her colleagues. Her big announcement this past Wednesday was that she would call a town hall, though no announced date. Also, she says she’s been receiving threats. Well, welcome to being famous, Claudia. Anyone who raises their head above obscurity in this culture gets threatening emails, Tweets, posts, etc.

Like her colleagues in the House, she does not want to answer directly to constituents for the policies she has supported or plans to support, particularly the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”). When you hold one of these town halls, it’s hard to maintain the fiction that you actually care about what happens to people. And it is plainly that – a fiction. This whole “repeal and replace” line is their way of finessing a very harsh reality; namely that they are taking votes that will result in the loss of coverage for millions of Americans. I don’t just mean people who will be thrown off of their health insurance – I also mean people who will be subscribed to something that’s called “health insurance” but that, in fact, doesn’t cover anything. I had a policy like that, long before the ACA, and it was pretty awful.

Let’s face it: Tenney and her GOP colleagues only see the ACA as a political tool. Flawed as it is, it has, in fact, saved lives, and should be improved upon, not scrapped. If Tenney wants to do something for the people who sent her to Washington, she can start by concentrating on that.

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jp

Rights and wrongs.

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Remarkable week in so many ways. Where to begin? At the beginning.

Attack at Attaturk Airport. The horrendous bombing in Turkey was reportedly the work of three Central Asian extremists, presumably with ISIS though the group has not as of this writing taken responsibility for the attack. Two things come to mind in the wake of this atrocity. The first is that the Syrian conflict is this decade’s gathering place for psycho-fanatical killers from every corner of the region, just as Iraq was in the 2000s, Bosnia in the 1990s, and Afghanistan in the 1980s; hence, jihadists from Uzbekistan as well as the gulf. Second, ISIS is in a love-hate relationship with the Turkish government like the one between the Taliban and Pakistan. This is a monster Turkey (with our support) helped to create, and tragically it’s preying on their good people. Sickening.

Tenney: NY-22's own little Trump cloneRestored Right to Choose. The Whole Women’s Health decision by the Supreme Court has moved the needle in a positive direction on the abortion issue for the first time in many years. I’m hoping that this is the death knell for this generation of TRAP (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) laws taking hold across the country over the past few years. What the anti-choice crowd will try next is anyone’s guess. Another example of why, on the basis of the Supreme Court alone, it is well worth bothering to get out and vote the right way this fall. Just saying.

Primary Colors. Speaking of voting, New York had its federal office primary … another in a series of primary days in the Empire State. What a stupid system! In any case, my home congressional district (NY 22) only had a contest on the Republican side. Our incumbent is the centrist Republican Richard Hanna; those vying to replace him in his party are all significantly to his right: Claudia Tenney, who once referred to Oneida Indian leader Ray Halbritter as “spray-tan Ray” on Twitter; businessman Steven Wells, whose ridiculous commercials appeared to suggest that he would keep ISIS out with a chain link fence at the border; and some other conservative asshole. Tenney won, so now our district stands a fair chance of lurching significantly to the right of where it’s been pretty much my entire life. Tenney will run against Kim Myers, a mainstream Democrat from the Binghamton area.

Suggest people get their asses out and vote for this Myers person, even if she’s not a white-hot progressive. The last thing we need is to be represented in Washington by an anti-choice bigot like Tenney.

luv u,

jp