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.

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

Sanction(s)

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence invites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

     -Meryl Streep

 

Meryl Streep performed last night.

Instead of making a speech that thanked the organizers of the Golden Globe award ceremony for giving her a lifetime achievement award, the veteran actor made a speech that was, shall we say, not as narrowly focused on that – but which was fairly squarely focused on one individual.

From the Washington Post:

Streep accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award — basically a lifetime achievement award — but didn’t say much about her career. Instead, she spent the minutes allotted to her to speak critically of the current political climate and [Donald] Trump, although she did not mention the president-elect by name.

There was one performance this year that stunned me,” she said. “It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.”

Streep was referring to Trump’s remarks during the campaign, when he appeared to mock New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, which visibly limits the functioning of his joints.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” the actress said.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the idea that Streep referenced in that last paragraph. The capacity of a person, by their words or deeds, to give permission to someone (or someones) else to behave in a certain way. To give sanction to certain attitudes and actions.

Curious word, sanction. It’s one of those words that makes the English language both exasperating and glorious. Pointing in one direction, imposing sanctions on a country is punitive. Pointing in the other direction, giving sanction to a behavior is encouraging.

 

Sanction (sank’ • shun) [noun]

[1] a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule. “A range of sanctions aimed at deterring insider abuse” … synonyms: penalty, punishment, deterrent

[2] official permission or approval for an action. “He appealed to the bishop for his sanction.” … synonyms: authorization, consent, leave, permission, authority, warrant, license, dispensation, assent, acquiescence, agreement, approval, approbation, endorsement, accreditation, ratification, validation, blessing, imprimatur

 

Over the last year and a half, we have witnessed the political rise of an entertainment figure. That rise has been, of course, propelled by that star’s words and actions.

These words and actions were unquestionably grounded in antagonism toward (to name but a few) religions, ethnic groups, women in general, and economic classes … and all this antagonism was accepted and embraced by the people who supported the man who said and did them.

The support and encouragement was reciprocal; a circular dance that revealed unsettling truths about the American population.

The political candidate said inflammatory things, did offensive things, and proposed cruel and mean policies; and a great majority of those activities involved the humiliation of individuals or groups of people.

(Khizr and Ghazala Khan. John McCain. Megyn Kelly. Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Alicia Machado. Katy Tur. Serge Kovaleski.)

His supporters heard and saw those words and deeds … agreed with them … urged them forward. His supporters seemed to feel that he confirmed for them that believing and saying and doing those things was okay – because he was rich and famous, or because he railed against “political correctness” just like they did, or for whatever other reason. He gave them sanction to behave the way they’d always wanted to behave. Badly – but now people couldn’t tell them that they were behaving badly. Or if people did, they had been given sanction to tell those people they were losers, and to f*** off.

So they voted for him.

And he won a primary. And then another. And then several others. And then he locked up his party’s Presidential nomination. And then he appeared to garner more Electoral College votes than anyone else.

And all the votes (and, at rallies, all the cheers and chants and adulation) of his supporters convinced him that he was right to say and do and believe and promote these words, deeds, ideas, notions, attitudes. At least partly, he was convinced of this because, for his entire life, he has seen success as being achievable through how many other people gave him compliments and adulation, and in what amounts.

His supporters gave him sanction to continue to be who he has always been, to act how he has always acted, to believe … well, to believe whatever he needs to say, in a particular moment, in order to convince people to like him and do what he wants them to. The art of the deal.

And around and around it has gone.

Sanction as an admonishing concept now appears not to affect him.

Or his supporters.

And we are now eleven days away from inaugurating as President of the United States (one of the world’s most influential positions of role modeling) that person – who rests on the clouds of adulation sent up by his supporters … themselves borne on the wings not of rational discernment but of his cult of personality … and that personality is, quite simply, one devoid of human empathy and therefore teeming with the ability to be unfeelingly cruel.

To allow Meryl Streep to reiterate:

[T]his instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” the actress said.

And here we are. Trump’s America.

 

[Ed. Note: Eleven days until we inaugurate a consciously cruel person, one who seems impervious to constructive criticism like, “hey – quit it. You’re embarrassing yourself”.

[RESIST. REJECT.]

January 9, 2017 Posted by | celebrity, current events, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Oaths, With Occasional Swearing

Foreword:

(A blog post gets a foreword? Yes.)

With apologies: this blog post has grown like Topsy since just before Christmas, partly because of the careening nature of life here at the home of the Blogge, but mostly because of the careening nature of current events. Think you’ve got a handle on the news? Half a day later, there’s an event, or a quote, or something, out there that eclipses what you thought was at the extreme end of possibility.

This post originally started at the Senatorial oath you see quoted in indented-paragraph form below. Shortly thereafter, the post’s topic (target?) – sure enough – did something that may not have eclipsed his previous achievement but assuredly added to the near-cartoonish sense of are you even kidding me?

So I thought I had a new, fresh beginning to the post, which I could place at the beginning of what I thought was the original essay. That fresh beginning begins with the words, “Okay. First thing”, below.

So … a gentle addition, edition, both, whatever, not too complicated; run that baby!

And then, today, in a classic Friday night news dump, a declassified version of a US intelligence-community report was released. The headline in The Hill read: “Declassified report: Putin ordered election interference to help Trump”.

Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report reads.

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

The bombshell document details the intelligence community’s findings but provides little in the way of forensic evidence backing up its assessment, citing the need to protect sources and methods. [Italics mine.]

While the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods,” the report reads.

and it brought my original post screaming back into relevance.

 

Okay. First thing. This brief moment of utter hypocrisy:

The headline reads, “[Sen.] Mitch McConnell [(R. – Ky.)] Says Americans Won’t Tolerate Democrats Blocking Supreme Court Nominations”. The writer continues, “McConnell’s admonition that the American public may not put up with prolonged Democratic obstruction is curious in light of his own plan to not lift a finger on any of Obama’s nominees.”

Curious” is not exactly the word I would use.

Two words: Merrick Garland. 294 days without a hearing. The longest time for a Supreme Court nominee to go without a hearing in the last 100 years.

Two other words: Sen. McConnell, you really honestly don’t care that you sound like an utter, utter hypocrite, right out in the open, do you? It’s not okay if you Democrats want to do it, but it’s perfectly fine and in fact clever and smart if I do it. Tremendous.

Two other words (I know, I know; go with the joke): there’s something else about Mitch McConnell that is related to that — but much, much more important. And it applies to a comparable number of other Washington politicians.

 

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

     -Oath of office for United States Senators (emphases added)

Lemme see if I got this straight.

You’re telling me that in September … well before the Presidential election … the CIA briefed the “Gang of 12”, an inauspiciously-named group of Congressional leaders from both sides of the political aisle. And in this briefing, the CIA reported that seventeen separate US intelligence agencies felt they had credible evidence that Russian intelligence agencies had carried out cyber-activity intended specifically to support the Republican candidate for the US presidency.

Senate Democrats reportedly were unanimous in their recommendation to release this news to the American public. But Sen. Mitch McConnell, US Senator from Kentucky, United States Senate majority leader, advocated not doing so.

I’ll say it here, although it should be so clear as to not need to be expressed: Mitch McConnell should be charged with treason.

Read on.

He saw evidence that a foreign government was interfering with a US presidential election – not conspiring to generically and non-specifically reduce confidence in our concept of Democracy, but conspiring to AFFECT the election in the favor of their preferred candidate. A foreign power had attempted to interfere with this country’s election. This interference might even rise to the level of an act of war against the United States. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, and did, nothing. No – sorry – worse: he advocated actively keeping this information from the voters who could have used this knowledge; which is to say, all of them. All of us.

So much for representative government. So much for being a public servant.

So much for loyalty to one’s own country. So much for upholding one’s oath of office.

So much for professed love for and adherence to the US Constitution.

Treason.

This is treason.

It is nothing but.

I’d be saying this if it were merely (!) the sanctity of an election that was at stake here.

But there’s another layer to this.

This summer, the Democratic National Committee website was hacked, AND the Republican National Committee website as well, by Russian intelligence organizations. The Russians released what they found in the DNC website. They did not release anything they found in the RNC database. The Russians released, effectively, opposition research for the benefit of the Republican candidate. They did not release anything like that for the benefit of the Democratic candidate.

Just what did they find out about the Republican candidate for president? About other Republican candidates for other national offices? About members of the RNC staff and leadership? About people who are up for appointed (not elected) Cabinet positions within the coming Republican administration, who have business ties to Russian interests? … What did they find out about them, what bits of tantalizing information, which they knew they could hold back, the better to use in an effort to blackmail any of them, in the future? Or to influence US economic and foreign policy to benefit themselves?

And if I know this (thanks to reputable, not fake-news, sources) … surely Mitch McConnell knew it.

Traitor.

Treason.

McConnell knew.

And McConnell’s not the only one.

But we can start there.

If McConnell knew, the rest of the security-clearance-laden Republican Gang of 12 members knew. Trump, the de facto head of the Republican Party (and the loser of the popular vote) knew. And it is documented that not a one of the Republican members of the Gang of 12 wanted the American public to know.

At the very least, Sen. McConnell put the interests of the American public – our interest in knowing that our elections are conducted in a remotely fair way, and our interest in being aware that a foreign country was making cyberspatial war on us – second. He put his own interests – financial and power-oriented – first.

He was willing and happy to look the other way, when he was among the few people who could have looked straight at what was happening, and said something about it.

And for what?

Maintaining his power and personal fortune? And that of his friends, and family?

(“Must make sure that my wife, Elaine Chao, will still receive a Cabinet-level appointment in the coming Republican administration. Must not keep this from happening.”)

This is treason.

McConnell is a traitor.

And again, it’s not just McConnell.

But it’s a great place to start, perhaps to head off or at least shine a light upon what is actually happening here.

We are looking at a coup.

The Russian government wants to control the American government. And this is cheaper than starting an actual shooting war; and they get the benefits of any part of the American economy that any of Trump’s hired minions control. Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, who would have made a $500 billion deal with a Russian oil company if the US government hadn’t meddled with pesky sanctions against Russia, a short time ago … is the current nominee for US Secretary of State. Hmmmmmm. It all starts to make sense now.

McConnell will never be charged with treason, of course. How silly to think so. The US Congress is in Republican-majority hands, and (I would judge, based on my observations of at least the past six years of that Republican Congressional majority) nothing will keep Republican members of Congress from choosing the good of their party over the good of their country. How I know this is: the fish rots from the head down. The head of Republican congressional leadership is Mitch McConnell, and Mitch McConnell puts party before country. What are his Congressional underlings supposed to do, after all, but rot?

They are cowards. Cartoonishly corrupt cowards. Cowards who seem largely willing to be seen as such, and who seem not to care how cartoonishly corrupt they look. They’ll get theirs, and screw the rest of y’all.

And because these cowards are wealthy (you need to be wealthy nowadays in order even to run for national office), and sheltered (tax- and otherwise; thanks to their guaranteed Congressional lifelong salaries and health insurance coverage, they will never know want) … they will likely never be made to feel the repercussions of their cowardice. They’ll even likely be rewarded for it. Again: they’ll get theirs, and screw the rest of y’all.

The list of corrupt, Constitutionally-challenged cowards starts with Mitch McConnell.

And so, he should be called what he is – and so should everyone in Washington who knew something, but did nothing.

Traitor.

Treason.

This is treason.

It is nothing but.

 

[Ed. Note: Two weeks … fourteen days … until we inaugurate a dangerously unstable person – who will have the assistance of a Congress whose partisan majority is comprised of hypocritical, corrupt cowards.

[RESIST. REJECT.]

January 6, 2017 Posted by | current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment