State of the Yum-yun.

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Seems like a good time to respond to some choice bits from Trump’s first state of the union (or state of the umion, pronounced Yum-yun, if you’re reading the official announcement).

First, the big fat entrance. Rep. Claudia Tenney gets a word in Trump’s ear as he’s working his way down the aisle. Always wearing some bright color and right up front when Trump is in town.

First flub goes to Ryan: “I have the distinct privilege of preventing … presenting to you the President of the United States.”

Now, on to Trump’s remarks, delivered in a slithering, slow voice, lots of breath. Kind of nauseating, frankly.

The chief and his enablers.“A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land,” he tells us, referring to a year ago, then  jumped right in with the anecdotes and the guests of honor. “We always will pull through together, always.” Runs through a litany of lifesavers, mostly from disasters of our own making, through climate change, gun violence, etc. “The state of our union is strong because our people are strong. And together we are building a safe and strong and proud America.” Platitude.

Touting more jobs for Black and Hispanic people. Big cheer for “massive tax cuts,” of course. More take home pay! (Mitt Romney, come back – all is forgiven.) Calls out “cruel” tax of the individual ACA mandate, which very few people actually paid – big cheer from Republican recipients of government subsidized health insurance. Crowing about the titanic benefits of this “new American moment.” “You can dream anything, you can be anything, and together we can achieve absolutely anything.”

Some short takes:

  • “We share … the same great American flag …The motto is ‘In God We Trust,'” he says, then makes a big point about standing for the national anthem. So much for Mr. We’re All In This Together.
  • We’re “…totally defending our second amendment and have taken historic actions to protect religious liberty.” Shoot ’em up.
  • Calling on congress to empower cabinet secretaries to fire people. Is that novel?
  • “We have ended the war on American energy and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal.” So much for the section on climate change.
  • “Companies are roaring back, they’re coming back. They want to be where the action is.” Well, it’s a kind of silent roar.

Trump starts talking about reducing the price of prescription drugs, and he gestures to the Democrats to stand and applaud. He does it again as he talks about repairing infrastructure, though the focus of this section sounds like he wants to roll back the environmental impact review process. He proposes $1.5 Trillion plan for infrastructure, but it must provide for streamlined permitting. Smell a rat?

Starting to talk about lifting people out of “welfare”. “Let’s invest in workforce development and let’s invest in job training, which we need so badly.” Calls for vocational schools and paid family leave – probably the Ivanka plan. A bleat on prison reform – very vague.

Immigration:

“For decades open borders have allowed drugs and gangs come pouring in.” Now he’s naming “guests” whose kids were killed by immigrants! MS13. Using them to call out “alien minors”. This section is fucking disgusting, worthy of Der Sturmer. He is “calling on congress to close deadly loopholes” in immigration laws. Dirtbags are clapping.

He wants to protect all Americans. How? He wants to defend Americans. “Americans are dreamers, too.” Oh, I see. Pretty much the only immigrants he’s talking about is gang members. MS13 again. Talking about arrests of gang members. So what is the problem? They’re going to prison. But Trump is talking about sending reinforcements. Now talking about bipartisan immigration reform – his draconian plan. Building a “great wall”. His rhetoric on immigration is all about violence by immigrants, merit and race based rules, and “protecting the nuclear family by ending chain migration.” Then he’s blaming opioid deaths on immigrant drug dealers. Just a lot of thinly coded language aimed at racial division.

Next, he’s praising cop – another guest in audience – who stopped a pregnant woman from shooting heroin. Then he adopted the baby. Point? This is not a speech; it is a series of extended anecdotes. It’s like a fucking variety show. He’s using these people as human shields.

Foreign policy and military section:

  • “Weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means to our true and great defense.” Calling for end to defense sequester. Well, the GOP created it, so why not, right?
  • Taking credit for eliminating ISIS.
  • Calling terrorists “enemy combatants”. Sounds like the start of an argument for torture, Gitmo, etc. Just signed an order to re-examine detention policies and keep open Gitmo. Score one for the jihadist propagandists.
  • Touting new rules of engagement. Calling out artificial timelines. Recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Asking to cut off aid to countries that criticize us at UN. “Enemies of America.” “America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom.” “Terrible Iran nuclear deal.” “Communist and socialist dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela.”
  • Threatening North Korea again. “Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite … aggression.” Applauding that kid Warmbier. Extended anecdote about Korean guest who crawled to freedom and a further tirade against North Korea. Jesus H. Christ.

Big fat ending:

Patriotic claptrap roll call. Republicans chanting “USA, USA, USA!”

“The people dreamed this country, the people built this country, and it’s the people who will make America great again.” Yep. When they get rid of you.

Shit show.

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This just in: President Trump is a racist. Who could have seen THAT coming? The administration’s childish denials of the President’s “shithole countries” comments, the persistent refrain of “tough language” and swearing all around – all of that belies the reported fact that Trump was bragging about his racist tirade to some of his right-wing allies, a few of which let the story slip. Frankly, I think the administration far prefers the focus on Trump’s verbal diarrhea – it keeps the press from focusing on the underlying issues, which make less compelling television. (It also reinforces Trump’s message to his base that he thinks like they do about dark people, foreigners, etc.)

Trump family reunionThere is also the fact that the President doesn’t understand policy, isn’t interested in it, and is incapable of delving any deeper than the surface of any political issue. He is kind of a blank slate, though he does obviously have deep-rooted visceral prejudices. Third-rate thinkers (and ninth-rate speechwriters) like Stephen Miller can scrawl their alt-right graffiti on the guy and he will repeat whatever they tell him. Retrograde bigots like General Kelly and Tom Cotton guide Trump like he’s their senile uncle. So the President’s feint towards compromise last Tuesday was transformed into the spectacle of last Thursday, when Trump denigrated an entire continent as well as the ex-colony that was a primary source of France’s wealth.

The implicit racism of the administration’s argument on immigration is far more stunning than his gutter rhetoric. They want less people from places like Haiti and Africa (!) and more people from places like Norway; they see this as an argument for a more “merit-based” system, because they can’t conceive of the possibility that people from Haiti or African countries are (a) educated, (b) highly skilled, or (c) industrious. Because they are, well, black, the administration thinks of them as a hoard of hut-dwelling wash-outs in search of free services. That is basically a textbook definition of racism, even without the S-bomb. They have a 1940s cartoon-level conception of these foreign lands and the people that inhabit them, and they use that to add fuel to their fear-mongering.

Let’s face it: immigrants, particularly darker ones, are an easy political target; always have been. I hear people much smarter than Trump employing the same tactics, pointing to crimes by foreign nationals and generalizing select incidents to tar entire populations, an art form mastered by the Nazi propagandists. This kind of hate is our enemy, and we need to fight it on the beaches, in the streets, in the alleys, and in the doorways. We must never surrender to it.

luv u,

jp

Sanctuary found.

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Just heard that Texas’s asinine SB4 anti immigrant bill has been blocked by a federal judge a day before implementation. Now perhaps more undocumented people in Houston will make their way to safety in the midst of this catastrophic storm. It’s conceivable that more than a few people’s lives will have been saved by this decision, though it remains to be seen what will happen on appeal. Texas’s useless governor is determined to push this point with the full support of the Trump Justice Department, furiously waving the bloody shirt of immigrant crime, murder, rape, etc., to make their bigoted followers happy.

Why trust is important.Of course, as police chiefs all over Texas and, really, across the nation know, the effect of this broad policy will be the precise opposite of what Trump, Sessions, and Abbott claim. It doesn’t take a criminologist to understand how this works. The police don’t have omniscience; they rely on people who see something to say something, as the slogan goes. Without the cooperation of people in the community, they can’t effectively do their jobs. Undocumented aliens are not going to step forward if they believe that police will detain them because of their immigration status. The Texas Governor can assure them all he wants that if they haven’t committed a crime they have nothing to fear – that obviously counts for nothing. The police would be severely constrained by this law. If they don’t report undocumented individuals to ICE, they can be fined and even prosecuted. So what the hell is Abbott talking about?

The broader policy is the core problem here. We have a president and an attorney general dead set on targeting undocumented aliens. They have lit a fire under ICE, turning them into Trump’s promised deportation force, which he mentioned during the campaign. What that has meant thus far – and what immigration attorneys are saying – is that in order to get their numbers up, ICE agents are grabbing the easiest people to get. It’s not MS13 that has to worry; it’s the young people they prey on, because they are the low-hanging fruit. This is particularly the case if (and I mean when) Trump cancels DACA. And again, if young, school-age people and their parents are afraid to talk to the police, how are the police going to protect them from gang members? Not going to happen.

So the result of this sickening policy will be Trump’s vision: a higher percentage of the remaining undocumented will be lawbreakers. A self fulfilling prophecy.

luv u,

j

Stirring the pot.

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Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump recalls seeing footage of “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheering as the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. Fellow candidate Ben Carson briefly claimed to have seen the same inspiring vision in his mind’s eye, too, then backed off. (He seems to be recalling the clip of five Palestinians jumping up and down that was most likely a hatchet job.) Trump’s claim is the ideal bookend to his recent suggestion of maintaining a federal database of Muslims in America, a component in his new post-Paris attack national security platform. It’s a simple, time tested formula: call out a domestic population that you can term a fifth column and associate with a foreign enemy, then repeat your rhetoric and watch your polling numbers rise. Oldest trick in the book.

Look in the mirror, America.The thing is, Trump is a mirror to the Republican base, as Sam Seder and others have pointed out. This is a mostly white minority of virulently anti-immigration, nativist, evangelical Christian Americans who are attracted to Trump for the time being because he arrogantly articulates their hatred of the “other” and gives voice to their sense of outrage over being relegated, however temporarily, to opposition party status. I have heard commentators blame this constituency on Obama – the nauseating former Bush adviser Nicole Wallace, for instance – but it’s useful to remember that even in the depths of his second-term unpopularity, Wallace’s former boss retained a solid core of conservative support, including the same crackpots that showed up at McCain/Palin campaign rallies in 2008. That was the nascent “tea party”, the constituency that has kept Trump in the high twenties for months now.

Stirring up racist or bigoted sentiments is always a dangerous game, but it’s one that remains popular with politicians who have no real value to offer the constituencies they seek to serve. We white people tend to think of non-white, non-European, non-Christian people as different. We see this in the response (or lack of same) to the Beirut bombing, compared to the near media obsession over Paris. Even the President does this. When he talks about Paris, he refers to the fact that we see ourselves in the sidewalk cafes; that Parisians are like us. There is a deep reservoir of anti-foreign, anti-other sentiment in our society. It is hard to avoid this mentality when you become an imperial power. You can mask it, conceal it, but it tends to bob to the surface.

We’ve all seen this movie before. I like to think that there are enough decent people in this country to overcome this type of ugliness, but if there is some kind of attack in the United States over the next year, all bets are off.

luv u,

jp

The fence.

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A lot of talk the past few weeks about refugees flooding into southern and eastern Europe, mainly people from the hell that is Syria and the catastrophic landscape of post-revolution Libya. First reaction of the right-wing government in Hungary was to thug them with riot police and hastily build a border fence. One of the more memorable videos was the one where Hungarian officials are tossing baloney sandwiches into a corral filled with hungry migrants, including young children. Then there was the Hungarian broadcast journalist who deliberately tripped a fleeing refugee. Nice. People.

Welcome to EuropeThe thing is, you need to listen to their rhetoric. They’re talking about “illegal immigrants”. They’re echoing the applause lines of our own crackpot politicians. No surprise, because we’re witnessing the same experience on our own southern border. People fleeing from the neoliberal aftermath of our bankrupt Central America policy, starting with support for decades of regressive, kelptocratic Mexican governments to our serial interventions in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and elsewhere, pouring into this country in hope of a better life. And we’ve got freaks like Donald Trump calling them rapists, murderers, etc., and not just him. Those Hungarian xenophobes? Turns out, they are us.

The plan to expel something like 11 million people from the United States is, well, something tantamount to ethnic cleansing. It’s clear that a major party candidate advocating racial profiling raises very few eyebrows these days. Take, for instance, Trump’s town hall event this past Thursday, when one attendee called for the expulsion of all Muslims, to which the candidate said he would be looking at this once elected. Really? As Chris Hayes and Charlie Pierce pointed out the other day, this business is like having a wolf by the ears. When you play with racism and xenophobia, it tends to play back … and hard. Easy to lose control of that particular sentiment. There are plenty of historical precedents.

Here we go. I have to say, as someone who watched a good bit of the second Republican debate, we are headed for some very troubled waters. Beware what a nation will do when it’s effectively fear-mongered.

luv u,

jp

What talks.

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I’m going to light on a couple of issues this week. One is a certain loudmouth real estate developer / reality television start that has been in the news a lot lately. The other is a bunch of poorly acted television ads that had me scratching my head over the last week.

Channeling the G.O.P.'s inner Milosevic.First, Trump. As someone who was once a contract employee of this individual (yes, he can say that I too took money from him at some point), I know this guy is more than just a cartoon show for our amusement. What he says and does can have real consequences for people who don’t ride in limos and private jets. So when he talks about forcing 11 million people to leave the country, understand that he is articulating a point of view that is held by a very vocal, substantial minority of Americans. There’s nothing ‘silent’ about this ‘majority’. They want ethnic cleansing.

Consider it for a moment. What would removing 11 million undocumented immigrants look like? It would involve massive police action, broad sweeps of poor neighborhoods, and mass incarceration. Trump would also have them bring along their American-born children, whose citizenship he also questions (claiming that some legal experts he plays golf with say the the 14th Amendment does not apply to American-born children of undocumented immigrant parents.) This effort would put Avigdor Lieberman to shame.

The man talks a blue streak, jumps from topic to topic, but always gets his pander-points out – and believe me, folks … he’s pandering hard. And the further he goes out on that political limb, the further his fellow presidential contenders will follow.

Fix this … fix. Have you seen those terribly acted ads about the nasty government trying to get between you and your retirement adviser? I got curious and stumbled upon a posting that linked to a Wall Street Journal article about the industry coalition behind them. Big surprise: financial advisers are not crazy about being forced by the administration to take fiduciary responsibility for the advice they give their clients. I’d heard about the regulation a few weeks ago, but didn’t connect it to these ads until now. Slimy mothers.

luv u,

jp

Lucy ball.

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The president has announced that he’s taking executive action applying prosecutorial discretion to stop mass deportation of undocumented aliens in certain categories. This is the type of action he originally promised to take over the summer, then backed off by request of embattled red-state democrats, like Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor and others. (How did that work out?) Now that the disastrous election of 2014 is over, he is proceeding with the plan in the face of very vocal condemnation by Republicans in Congress and in statehouses across the nation. That, I confess, is an understatement. They, once again, have their hair on fire about this deal.

Meet president Eisenhower.Trouble is, Republicans ALWAYS have their hair on fire. It kind of devalues burning hair. All of this gas about how the president is going to poison the well by acting in this fashion; that Congress is ready to work with the president, but that this will screw it up. Hoo boy. If the president were to take them at their word on this at this point, I would worry for his sanity. They have been like Lucy and the football more times than I can count. Honestly, I don’t know why Republicans don’t like this guy. He’s basically Eisenhower with rhetorical skills. His immigration announcement was full of a lot of “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” clap trap. He’s deported more immigrants than any previous president. Sounds like their type.

Obama led with enforcement, as is the standard practice. The border is mined, folks! He ended with soaring rhetoric about what it means to be an American. In between was a promise not to deport the foreign-born parents of American citizens, as well as other undocumented immigrants who have been here five years or more. Now, why did he not do this before the election? Pryor would have lost anyway … and frankly, was he worth saving? It’s a bit like asking if “saving” Mary Landrieu is worth wrecking the planet with tar sands oil via the Keystone XL pipeline – basically the fuse leading to the climate bomb.

Either way, the Republicans threats against the president have been treated with the contempt they deserve. So one small point for Obama. What’s next, Lucy? The ball’s in your hands.

luv,

jp

One or two things.

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Same story. Beat to hell. Oh well….

Pulling a Boehner. Minority leader John Boehner appears to think that the Democratic congress is on the verge of a total government takeover of the private sector, including (gulp) tanning salons, presumably. A little over the top, perhaps? (Even for him?) HELL NO, IT’S NOT!

The triumph of Joe Arpaio. So now if you’re driving while dark in Arizona (or wearing the wrong limos), expect to be carded in a very serious way. Like… show me your birth certificate. (Note to Obama – don’t go there. Something tells me they won’t accept yours as valid.)

Drill, baby, w.t.f. That oil rig explosion in the Gulf last week underlines the hazards of off shore drilling. We should expect a lot more of this sort of thing, now that Obama has signed off on increased drilling. Or… we could push back and remind him that it’s a stupid idea. Never sure what the point is, exactly. There isn’t a real lot of oil in these patches, and what’s there is hard to recover. And in any case, are we going to get if for free or something? No… it’s going to be poured into the world oil market and we’ll have to buy it, just like the stuff from Saudi Arabia or Venezuela. We need to start using less, opting for alternatives, etc.

That’s all I’ve got. Time’s up. More later, friends.

luv u,

jp