Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

The Axis of Awful

Just this week:

Saturday 2/18:

Popular domestic programs could face budget cuts. Trump’s budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that could be eliminated or have their domestic spending trimmed. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps, and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities are on that list. Most of the programs cost under $500 million annually, a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year. (via The New York Times)

Monday 2/20:

Trump to roll back Obama’s climate and water pollution rules through executive action. While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards. (via The Washington Post)

Republican health proposal would redirect money from poor to rich. The Republican plan would substantially cut funding for states in providing free insurance to low-income adults through Medicaid. And would change how tax credits are distributed by giving all Americans not covered through work the same flat credit by age, regardless of income. The draft proposal largely contains provisions that could be passed through a special budget process that requires only 50 Senate votes, and fulfills President Trump’s promise that the repeal and replacement of the law would take place “simultaneously.” (via The New York Times)

Tuesday 2/21:

Anne Frank Center criticizes Trump’s denouncement of anti-Semitism a “pathetic asterisk of condescension”. Trump refused to address a series of bomb threats against Jewish community centers when asked about the threats by a Jewish journalist last week. Trump cut the journalist off and said “I hate even the question.” The White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day also left out any mention of Jews. (via Talking Points Memo)

Wednesday 2/22:

The Trump administration plans to roll back protections for transgender students, reversing federal guidance that required the nation’s public schools to allow children to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identities. (via The Washington Post)

Thousands of emails show that the E.P.A. chief worked to battle environmental regulation as attorney general of Oklahoma. Scott Pruitt, now head of the Environmental Protection Agency, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities, and political groups to roll back environmental regulations.

Thursday 2/23:

Voter to @SenTomCotton: My husband is dying. We can’t afford health insurance. What kind of insurance do you have? https://t.co/iYFiZtwJ1F” (via CNN Twitter feed)

Today, Friday 2/24:

Republican lawmakers expect that their Obamacare replacement will result in fewer Americans covered by health insurance. The new plan would do away with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all Americans have health coverage or pay a fine, and replace it with rules that let people choose not to buy insurance, instead paying higher premiums or penalties if they need it later. The result would be fewer people covered. (via Bloomberg)

 

When does “amoral” become “immoral”?

The Toddler-in-Chief, and his pirate-band Cabinet, and the cowardly Republican Congressional majority that supports them all … they all represent the absolute worst of humanity: they display exactly no trace of actual humanity.

Instead, their policies and behaviors are full of selfishness, greed, utter lack of compassion, complete absence of empathy, and almost-recreational cruelty.

Their idea of fairness is preserving the rights of us rich straight white guys via the taking away of rights from anybody who doesn’t look or think or worship or love like we do. They got theirs; and screw the rest of y’all.

They seem to revel in activities that make miserable the lives of the most vulnerable people.

Even in previous corrupt administrations, at least there was a veneer of civilization. Not so, now. The brazenness is breathtaking: they’re corrupt and horrible … they know what it looks like … they don’t care how awful it looks … they Do. Not. Care.

We are truly in a kakistocracy: government by the worst people.

Resist, yes.

Reject, yes.

But also this: It’s long past time; but no time like the present. RISE UP.

RISE UP.

February 24, 2017 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Will Receive, We Will Receive

Usually I take a dim view of sports talk radio folks who try to talk politics.  Usually, I think to myself, “you were hired to talk about your area of expertise on the radio; therefore you should try not to talk about subjects that are clearly NOT your area of expertise.

This week, it was the reverse.

Stephanie Miller, my favorite left-leaning political talker, turned her eyes to the Super Bowl, and decided to root for the Atlanta Falcons; because the architects of the New England Patriots’ football prowess, Messrs. Brady, Belichick and Kraft, have all been identified as admirers of Donald Trump, to varying degrees.

When I was in the fifth grade, and prone to hero worship … my view of those gentlemen might have become, if you’ll pardon the expression, a little deflated.

This week, I nonetheless came up with this line of thinking:

Political leanings don’t mean spit when you’re trying not to get sacked, or when you’re trying to analyze the other team’s offensive scheme on very short notice, or when you’re trying to draft the exact right lineman. And if they do, there’s something desperately wrong with your approach to football.

I also try not to validate my personal self-image solely by lining it up with the belief systems of multimillionaire professional sports figures.

On the other hand, I do know these things:

[1] Robert Kraft paid for the construction of Gillette Stadium with his own money and extorted zero dollars from the taxpayers of Massachusetts; which is such a rare thing for an NFL team owner to do that I had to look it up to make sure it’s true. It is.

[2] Bill Belichick has a remarkable (again, not perfect – see also “Aaron Hernandez” – but exemplary) record of taking “problem children” from other NFL teams, parking them in a New England uniform, and succeeding in convincing them to hold themselves up to high standards of behavior and preparation, on and off the field.

And [3] every time Tom Brady completes a ridiculous touchdown pass (into triple coverage, threading the needle in a way no one should be able to do), he always, without fail, visits his offensive line on the bench, letting them know how much he appreciates the fact that they kept him from getting killed en route. Slap on the helmet, whack on the backside, that’s what I’m talkin’ about, let’s do it again.

I also know that, as a Patriots fan since the mid-1970s, I have no business taking Patriot success for granted; as they used to have truly repulsive ownership, ineffectual coaching, and highly breakable quarterbacks with nobody to throw to and nobody to keep them alive. In short, they used to stink the joint out.

So for four hours Sunday, I shall reluctantly set aside my concern for the future medical well-being of large people who crash into each other’s heads for a living; and I shall not wonder, on third down, whether that wide receiver thinks it’s folly to have an oil company executive as Secretary of State.

Go Patriots.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, football, politics, sports | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Distractions

Trump is a distraction.

Admittedly, a professional circus-grade distraction.  A weapons-grade distraction.  A two-mile-diameter key ring full of the shiniest keys humanity has likely ever produced.

But a distraction nonetheless.

No.  I’m not suggesting that he’s harmless, or that we should not worry our pretty little heads about him.

But yesterday, while we were doing the whirling-dervish thing about allegations of prostitutes allegedly doing, well, drippy things on hotel room beds with the Short-Fingered Vulgarian allegedly in the room … and about a press conference that featured both blatant abuse of journalists and faint hints of future fascistic, authoritarian behavior …

Everything else was happening.

By which we mean: por ejamplo, multiple confirmation hearings of Cabinet-level-position nominees occurring simultaneously (the better to keep the press and the public from being able to keep track of all of them, all at once).

One of those got my attention.  Seriously.  Hard.

In what seemed to be the only moment gobsmacking enough to bring the Senate chamber to almost complete silence, in the late afternoon [Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff] Sessions had this terse exchange with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Whitehouse suggested that lists were already circulating suggesting there might be purges or demotions of certain career appointees in the Justice Department. Whitehouse wondered whether Sessions would have a problem with career lawyers “with secular beliefs,” having in the past criticized department attorneys for being secular. Sessions replied that he has used that language about secular attorneys to differentiate between people who recognize objective “truth” and those who take positions “in which truth is not sufficiently respected.”

Whitehouse replied, with a leading, and perhaps slightly conclusory question: “And a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious, correct?” At which point Sessions responded, “Well, I’m not sure.” For a few seconds the Senate chamber seemed to go completely silent.

Sessions was quick to reiterate that he doesn’t believe in religious tests, … But it was one of the very few moments in which Sessions’ deft denials of prior positions and statements veered completely off script. It spoke to the levels of obfuscation that are now customary in such confirmation hearings, especially about matters of faith, and the degree to which hearings become theater in which little [that is] true about the nominees and their most deeply felt positions are revealed. It also demonstrated that the views that Sessions is hiding are absolutely inimical to the democratic values of many members of the Senate and a large portion of the country.

These are the people who, for the last forty years, have been setting the table for this.  They have been laying the groundwork.

Partly for a fascist leader-type to emerge and assume the Presidency, so as to be able to appoint extremist-conservative Supreme Court justices and thereby affect long-term legislative and judicial control over American laws and lives.

But partly for such a leader to emerge who would properly distract from the work that they really wanted to accomplish, once they had control of both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives.  With no opposition-party executive branch to offer veto power to stop their legislative efforts, the sky could be the limit.

And the Vulgar Talking Yam is the perfect distraction/leader, since he’s so over-the-top, and so attention-diverting, and already even before running for President was considered the kind of celebrity whose *anticipated presence* at a podium was reason enough for cable news outlets to broadcast images of that empty podium – because that was news.

Sort of an orange herring.

His words and deeds are so spectacularly over-the-top – and they are, by themselves, entirely deserving of attention and backlash and pushback and righteous indignation and all the other reactions that are entirely appropriate – that it’s almost sensible that all of us who are reacting badly to Orange Muppet Hitler behaving badly that we would miss the other, potentially more horrible things that may be happening.

So now we have a nominee for US Attorney General – a job description which, boiled down, says “the chief law enforcement officer for the United States” – who doesn’t trust people who are not overtly religious to have “just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious”.

And that would doubtless influence how he enforced the existing laws of the United States.

 

For forty years, the groundwork has been laid … for not necessarily a generically authoritarian regime, although that would be considered a bonus by many of the groundwork-layers (see Robert Altemeyer’s magnificent research regarding authoritarian followers), but for a theocratic government.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …” is the very first thing that the very first amendment to the US Constitution says.  Clearly, the founders of our country considered – based on bitter experience – that it was a terrible idea for a government to be allowed to determine a state-sanctioned religion.  That way lies Crusades and the like.

Let’s be honest: this country already has a state religion: the worship of money.  But if Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and the legions of extremist conservatives who have been massing their forces, waiting for the perfect moment to launch an offensive on American government, have their way … well, that First Amendment nonsense won’t get in the way of the establishment of right-wing Christians as the preferred religious and governmental authorities of the United States.

And here, again (readers of this blog will note that I’ve opined on this topic in this space before), Christianity is getting a bad name.

The people who have spent the last four decades infiltrating the government and the media and public life … are the people who would impose their will, autocratically and discriminatorily, on people who don’t look like they do, who don’t think like they do, who don’t have money like they do, who don’t worship like they do, who don’t love like they do.

There are many people in this country – and sadly, they are either in positions of authority or are about to be – who profess to be Christians but don’t know the first thing about it.  Who drape themselves with the mantle of Christianity but who violate the teachings of Christ with their every word and action.  Who give Christianity as it was first conceived a bad name.

In case anyone needs a refresher:

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 5:3-10)

 

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

(Matthew 25:34-40)

 

Apparently, those tenets are for suckers.

Hell, if someone doesn’t look like me, think like me, get paid like me, worship like me, love like me … they don’t deserve the same rights that I do … is what these people are saying.  Some couch it in flowery distracting language; others really don’t, anymore.

 

To be clear – full disclosure – I am a straight white Christian male.

To be clearer, though, I am a straight (who respects the right of not-straight people to live their lives in the way that they do), white (who tries like hell to understand what kind of everyday life non-white people have to live, thanks to generations of white people who oppressed them and still do), Christian (who actually pays attention to the actual teachings of Christ) male (who has nothing but respect for women because they’re human beings, and human beings deserve respect regardless of who they are).

So, I’m totally comfortable saying: I loathe these people, and what they intend to do to this country, via what they intend to do to many groups of American citizens.

Cheeto Mussolini is a cartoon character.  A dangerous one, to be sure – either via his conscious actions or the consequences that will surely occur in the wake of any of his impulsive lashings-out.

But the Congressional majority that has been elected to office (and the voting-rights rollbacks and gerrymandering that have assisted in this represent a topic for another time), as well as the current cartoonishly corrupt nominees for Cabinet-level positions, represent a far greater danger to this country and all of its citizens.

More specifically, the people within those groups who claim to be followers of Christ but wouldn’t know a parable if it hit ’em in the head … and who wish the government could do their religious recruiting for them … and who wish to take away rights from the people who don’t look, think, earn, worship, or love like they do … in fact, who wish to inflict actual cruelty, to PUNISH fellow Americans who are different from them …

These are the true villains in this.

Yes, engage Pumpkin Spice Pol Pot.

But don’t be distracted.

A far more awful game’s afoot.

 

RESIST.  REJECT.

January 12, 2017 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, news, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment