Category Archives: GOP

It is not a Distraction

Yesterday President Trump tweeted about banning transgendered persons from the U.S. Military and a number of people declared that the tweets were meant as a distraction, either from the Senate attempting to repeal the ACA or from the Russian election interference investigation. I am not persuaded. Chiefly I don’t agree because it would require a level of coordination and competence that this administration had not displayed but also because it doesn’t fit with what I believe is going on inside this very dysfunctional White House.

In my opinion there are thee factions vying for access, influence, and attention from our man-baby narcissistic president. When you see the president making statements or signing executive orders it can usually be seen as a victory by one of these factions. Understand the factions and you understand who is winning at the moment. Here are the factions presented in no particular order.

GOP Establishment: Centered around Chief of Staff Reince Priebus this faction represents the core Republican Party, you can be assured it’s looking to undo what the Obama Administration had done, cut taxes, and defer to big business in many matters. The recent hiring of a new communications director outside of the traditional GOP personnel along with spokesperson’s Spicer resignations might indicate that this faction is losing influence.

Family Interests: Centered around Ivanka Trump, Jarad Kushner and the president’s other adult children this faction is all about what is good, personally and financially for the Trumps. Their aim appears the be to make the post of president yields as much money as possible for their various enterprises and leverage its prestige to expand their financial dealings. Currently this faction is at the heart of the Russian scandal and appears to be having serious difficulties.

Alt-Right/Ethno-Nationalist: Centered around Steve Bannon this faction represents , in opinion, the most dangerous elements within the Trump administration. This faction is concerned with ‘a clash of civilization’, ‘The West’ versus other cultures, and a near maniacal reverence for a historical version of white western culture that never truly existed. Hostile to diversity, equality, and the modern nation/state they appear to be more interested in tearing down than creation.

(The Legislative Branch has its own factions and they have their own goals and motivations. Perhaps I’ll cover them in another post someday.)

Yesterdays announcement may have come from Trump’s phone but it reeks of Bannon and the alt-right. Of the three factions they are the most focused on traditional masculine and feminine roles. (I think that Vice-President Pence and his social evangelicals have only minimal influence in this administrations and his presence was the work of the GOP establishment.) The wide-scope of the immigration bans is also the work of the Bannon Faction, this latest ban, an attempt to turn back the clock on rights and enforce traditional gender roles, is precisely the sort of thing that motivates the alt-right. It’s not coordination it is that we have several factions in and outside of the administration trying to do all sorts of things and we need to fight several fronts at once.

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This Opera is not Over

Today the U.S. Senate will vote to advance to debate a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act, AKA ObamaCare. There are two bills under consideration by Senate leader McConnell and as of the time of this writing, the freaking morning of the vote, it is not know which bill or bills the Senate will be voting upon.

Consider that for a moment, the forces pushing and pulling at the GOP are so implacable that they are moving forward on legislation that they not only have not read, have not studied, and for which the parameters are unknown but that the exact bill is unknown. Because their margin of votes is tiny, by using reconciliation they avoid the legislative filibuster, they have even brought Senator McCain, still recovering from surgery and fresh off his diagnosis of an aggressive and dangerous cancer, up from Arizona to supply his single vote. (Presumably in favor of stripping healthcare from millions of Americas as he fights for his life with those same resources he is about to strip from thousands that voted for him.)

Whichever bill is advanced, the repeal and replace that will cause about 22 million to lose their healthcare insurance or the repeal and delay that will make that number as high as 32 million, it will be a disaster for individuals, the United States, and the Republican Party. If it’s such a disaster why are they doing it?

Because the GOP politicians, individually, are trapped.

One the House side migration, the rural/urban divide, and gerrymandering, quite a few GOP representatives come from ‘safe’ districts where the Republicans simply cannot lose the general election. However this does not free up the GOP rep to vote as he please, it rather forces him or her further right with each election cycle. Knowing that no one from their ‘left’ can threaten them these representative fear their ‘right.’ To be challenged in their primary is their greatest fear and failing to vote for the end of the hated ‘ObamaCare’ will almost certainly provoke a challenge. That they can lose. It doesn’t matter that this issue is so grave and so damaging that it can flip a safe district. If they do not survive the primary the general is meaningless. So they dig their own graves hoping for a miracle to save them. Moderate Republicans are even more vulnerable to this process as they are already viewed with suspicion by the party members at large.

Senators, facing statewide election and not gerrymandered districts, are less prone to this process but even at the state levels the same forces are at play, some states tilt so far ‘left’ or ‘right’ as to be consider ‘safe.’

I do not know where this will end. Until they are working on and debating the next big bill, likely to be their true love, taxes, the fat lady has not sung.

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John McCain A Lifetime of Service

This week it was announced that John McCain the senior senator from Arizona has been diagnosis with a brain cancer, and worse yet one of the more aggressive varieties of that terrible disease. The 5-year survival rate for patients over 55 is truly bad; the statistics I have read place the number around 2 to 5 percent. Senator McCain has beaten long odds before and I hope he triumphs one more time.

That’s not to say that I am a supporter of the senator. As a politician he has too often been on the wrong side of an issue, he has too often played the team player instead of living up to his image as a maverick, but he is by far not the worst politician in our current political environment.

It should also be remembered that this man has spent a lifetime in service to his country. As naval pilot he has survived the loss of multiple aircraft, survived the heart of the terrible fire aboard the USS Forrestal, and endured years of captivity and torture. When his North Vietnamese offered him a chance to go home early, outside of the proscribed rotation for returning Prisoners of War, an opportunity he knew would give them tremendous propaganda value because he was the son of an Admiral, he refused, insisting he be released in the same order as al the other POWs.

There are many reasons why I do not think John McCain has been a particularly good politician, many way in which I think he has not served the public good, many errors that have made use less safe and less free, but he has always been an opponent and never an enemy. Too often in our politics we take those terms as synonyms.

I wish him a full and speedy recovery.

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The Ultimate Insult

What is the worse political insult you can throw at a person? It’s not fascist. It’s not Nazi. It’s not Communist. I think the worst insult you can hurl a person is either liberal or conservative, and more specifically Democrat or Republican.

Now those sound pretty tame compared to the others mentioned. Surely, it must be far more insulting to be named a Nazi than a Republican. Well that depends on who is doing the naming. Those on the left expect to be called Communist and such from the right and liberals have long named Conservatives Nazi. In a partisan political combat those are practically medals. However if you are a conservative and a fellow traveler on the right calls you a liberal, that burns, that’s a wound. The same is perfectly true from the left. During the last presidential election the insult thrown with the most emotional weight at Hilary from fellow Democrats was that she was really a Republican.

This is the apogee of tribalism. It ceases to be about ideas, solutions, or even principles but everything devolves down being a good member of the team. I certainly know this effect well.

I believe in a second amendment right to bear arms; I believe in capital punishment; I believe a flat tax rate; I believe that capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system, and more than once I have had conservative friends call me a left-wing liberal.

I believe in marriage equality; I believe in a woman’s right to control her body; I believe in social safety nets and universal care; I believe that corporations are not people, and more than one liberal friends have called me a right-wing conservative.

To me being called a liberal or a conservative is hardly noticeable, but to a partisan it is the supreme insult. It is to be called traitor, a turncoat, a quisling for the enemy. People who are partisan will contort and twist to avoid this. If it means taking up the same side or cause as the opposition they will stand silent on events that may otherwise inflame them.

This is opposed to reason and discourse. Free yourself from your tribe; think and speak for yourself.

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Some Random Thoughts While Recovering

This week has been a rough week. Every single of the week I have suffered a migraine attack. Individually each one has been a mild to mid-grade headache, not enough to keep me home but severe enough to seriously reduced my productivity and enjoyment. This morning I awoke with another migraine and after yesterdays I decided to take the serious step to break the cluster. That means staying home from the day job and taking two does of my medications about four hours apart. This nearly always stops a cycle but leaves me fog-headed and a little unsteady. Right now, for the first time in a week, I do not feel like a headache is about to explode.

 

The Republicans have released the Senate’s bill for repealing and replacing the ACA with their own version. It is cheaper, skimpier, and will result in lots of people losing their coverage. If they pass it and Trump signs it, not a certainty as the man’s alignment is Chaotic Greedy, I think they this victory will serve them as well as Imperial Japan’s victory at Pearl Harbor. They will have won a battle but plunge into a war that looks far worse for them. This will have taught the Democratic party two very valuable lessons. First that it is futile to consider the conservative position on health care. The attempt at a mixed mode or public and private systems produced no benefits at all. Second that reconciliation is the method to achieve their goals; that there is no penalty paid for shutting out the other party. In addition to those lessons further making the ground worse for the conservatives the conversation on health care has changed in a very basic manner; the population in general believes that more people should have access to health care and that it’s a proper role of the Federal Government to make that happen. One of the few consistencies in the Trump campaign was his promise to make healthcare cheaper and covering more people. Trump is salesman and he was telling people what they wanted to hear. It is what they want and the GOP plan does the opposite of that. They might make that sale with a fast talk roll and a quick vote but once implements there’s no three-card monte way to hid the results. Let me close out the political thoughts with one more observations. Conservative positions are a package deal, they are all sailing on the same ship. If the GOP sinks the ship over healthcare it will take down everything else that conservatives might care for, tax cut, ‘pro-life’ policies, gun rights, all of this I think is imperiled in the long term. Is that a trade you really think is worthy? Is this the hill to kill your movement on?

 

I’ll wrap up with an artistic observation. I am quite happy with the releases of Mad Max: Black & Chrome and Logan Noir. After the advent of cheap and easy color film, remember The Wizard of Oz and The Adventures of Robin Hood were 1939 but common color films didn’t come about until the late 1960s, B&W film were for only art house releases and the odd film released wide in B&W generally did not do well. Seeing the special editions in the theaters give me hope that we are seeing a generation of general theatergoers who are more open and interested in artistic expressions that go beyond just the basic entertainment.

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The Stages of a Trump Supporter

It has been interesting watching the shifting sands of the Trump candidacy and administrations change individual conservatives positions on the man. Recently I have been thinking that it bears a resemblance to the Kubler-Ross model of grief.

 

First Stage: Denial. This stage occurred during the primary. Trump was rejected as a serious candidate, not worthy of any consideration for his positions, such as they were, or his wild statements,

Second Stage: Anger. Once it became clear that Trump was not going away I watched a lot of anger over his run for the presidency. Usually this anger was directed at those deemed responsible for his continual presence, the Media for making him relevant, various other candidates for not stopping him and so on. Interestingly it rarely blamed the voters, that is the base of the GOP remained clean and pure even as they selected the narcissistic man-baby as their standard bearer.

Denial: Oh yeah there was a lot of denial going on. Denial that Trump cold get the nomination and denial of support should he get it. Denial didn’t endure.

Bargaining: Look, Trump won and for a lot of conservatives this started the bargaining phase. Trump may be a lying, self-centered, grifter, but damn it he is not Hillary Clinton and he’ll sign those wonderful, wonderful GOP bills into laws. Yeah we’ll have to turn a blind eye to he and his kids looting the Republic, but he’s not really that bad.

Acceptance/Full Support: That brings us the final stage. Bargaining gives way to Full Support as the intensity of attack on Trump and his corruption escalates. The very nature of partisan gravity in our bi-polar political system means you are either against Trump, and therefore aligned with Liberals or you stand shoulder to shoulder with Trump and your fellow party-members. No enemies to the right! This is the inevitable terminus of this process. Those who cried ‘Never Trump!’ and ‘I’ll vote Third Party’ will be vocal supporters of his re-election for the far less terrible fate then being called a liberal by those you would have to leave behind.

You can paraphrase Michael From The Godfather all you want, “That’s my party, it’s not me,” but we all know where Michael ended up.

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Words Create Reality

I was going to write a post about the long-term costs to the Republican party if they throw millions of people of their healthcare. (Short answer the cost is high and it endangers everything conservatives want to achieve or protect.) However the shooting in Virginia has prompted today’s thoughts.

 

It may be self-serving for a professed writer to proclaim the power f the word but in my opinion the truth remains no matter the source. Words create our reality. Now clearly I do not mean that in a Newton/Einstein/Bohr sense of reality, but human perceptions of about what the universe is and how is works is vitally important that those perceptions are shaped and created by the words we use to describe our shared understanding.

The words we use to describe ourselves and perhaps more importantly those with whom we disagree contain a terrible power. We can all too easily de-humanize those who are not of our in-group. Once people are de-humanized and no longer seen as ‘really people’ then the processed proceeds easily to assault and murder. This is true in war where propaganda creates the illusion that the enemy solider is a monster and not a person. This is true and vile depravity of racism where entire swaths of humanity are expelled from our family. And it is true in politics when we refuse to accept that those who disagree with us can hold a legitimate point of view. This has been on display far too often lately.

Of course there was the attack this week by a lone gunman who attempted to murder Republican politicians as they played a game. That action is the wholly unsurprising resulted of labeling your opponents Nazis. After all Nazis are the unquestioned evil of our modern age. Pundits on the left and on the right argues endlessly that the Nazi actually belong to the other side’s camp because turning your opponents into Nazis is the ultimate de-legitimization of their position and causes.

Recently we’ve had a spate of people urging that it is always right to assault a Nazi, and lucky for them they get to decide who is and who is not a Nazi. This week was not unexpected; it was the next logical step.

The process plays out exactly the same when you decry they your opponents have a culture of death, that they do not value human life, that their system of belief is wholly evil and violent. When you beat that drum you cannot then be shocked that houses of worship are burned, people are assaulted and people are murdered. If civilization itself is at stake, the reality too often painted with words from that side of things, then how can we exert anything less that total commitment including violence?

I recall sitting on a panel at a science-fiction convention and a fellow panelist called for greater civility in our political discourse while using pejoratives to describe his political opponents and that is the heart of the problem. Those on the right can easily see how the inflamed rhetoric from the left caused this week’s shooting, and those on the left can clearly understand how the right’s rhetoric caused the recent murder on public transit and yet from your own side the perpetrators are always unbalanced people never actually representative.

Yes, these people are imbalanced but it is the inflammatory words that helped prompt them into think that there actions are not only acceptable but praiseworthy.

Choose your words carefully.

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Comey’s Day Has Come

This is not the end of the scandals over Team Trump and Russia but merely the ending of the prologue. I do not know the truth of what happened and I do not know how this will resolve but I feel certain that there are rough waters ahead and our ship of state is in danger.

Many conservative want to hand wave this away. They’ll spout things like “pressure is not obstruction.’ and that we have only Comey’s word for what happened, or that the previous administration had done much worse things and really this is nothing new.

I don’t buy that, but then again to my conservative friends I am the turncoat. I am the Republican who walked away from the party and voted for the other team, but I have never been a good team player.

The Republican embrace of torture drove me from the party, along with the firm grip of the religious right. The years since my ‘defection’ have only supported that decision.

Today’s GOP is proving that there is an inverse relationship between zealotry and competence. Their inability to deal with Trump as a candidate and their embrace of him as an actual president only confirm that observation.

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Unimportant Political Posting

For Saturday here is an utterly unimportant political post about something that ticks me off.

Both Kerry and Obama were mocked by conservative media for ‘elite’ food tastes, Kerry while campaigning for asking about different cheeses on a philly cheese/steak and Obama for asking about deli/spicy mustard for a sandwich. (Not to mention the arugula comment.) these choices were presented as evidence that the respective pols were out of the mainstream culture and elitists.

Recently I have seen liberal media mocking Trump for his food selections, that he loves fast food such as McDonald’s, like catsup on his steaks, insulting him for having ‘common’ tastes.

Fuck off to all of you.

Trump is a terrible terrible president and may well be an inflection point indicating the beginning of the end for American dominance of the globe, but that’s not the point here. The point is that people are allowed to like what they like. They are allowed to take pleasures in the little things in life that help make life bearable.

I will not take part in elitist snobbery from the left or from the right. (And yes, mocking people for not following your tastes is elitist ) frankly food snobs in general piss me off. I see the memes passing around about how you should cook this or how you should consume that and the people who don’t should be asked to leave.

Yeah it’s joking but the heart of the joke is that others are expected to live their lives to an standard that is not their own.

You don’t like the way I order my steaks? You don’t like my choice of sauces.

Screw you. Your opinion on such things does not matter.

The same goes for music, television, books, films, and the like.

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No Fifth Avenue Murder — Yet

Well, the reports now coming out of our nation’s capitol about the Comey memos, and where there is one I am certain there will be many others, is earth shaking.

According to multiple new agencies, quoting unnamed sources, FBI Director Comey wrote up detailed accounts in memo form of his conversations with President Trump where the president apparently attempt to kill an investigation. Apparently these memos were composed directly after the conversations and as I understand it such accounts of conversations like this have been accepted by our court as direct evidence. (I’ll leave it to my lawyers friends to correct if I am wrong about that.)

Now I can hear the cry of ‘anonymous sources means these are all lies’ already welling up from conservative denial land, These are several independent news agencies all verifying the same account. Of course you could write that all off as a ‘vast left-wing conspiracy,’ but the simpler and more direct explanation is that Trump asked Comey concern investigations into General Flynn’s Russian entanglement to ‘Let it Go,’ and I do not think that Trump is a huge Frozen fan.

During the campaign Trump boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth avenue and not lose any supporters. While it is possible that he may have gotten someone killed over his loose lipped bragging about intel from inside ISIS, he has yet to actually shoot anyone. Yet, still he looks to have done some pretty bad things. I understand how conservative can feel a great deal of antipathy towards Democrats and liberals. I know at least one person who has lost their livelihood because of it. However sticking by Trump because he is not Clinton is disastrous. Is this truly the captain you want to go under for?

I believe that between the obsession to deliver the largest tax cut possible, while stripping 20 million people of their insurance, strapping the GOP to this egotistical, idiotic, corrupt conman can only ruin the modern Republican Party.

Is that your goal? Is that what you want? Because that’s is where you are headed.

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