Friday, December 8, 2017

Response to Taking Things Too Far

(See: Just Above Sunset: Taking Things Too Far)

 We should all be thankful that America’s version of The Enlightenment didn’t mimic the French version, even their PRE "Reign-of-Terror” version, with committees of so-called “citizens” running the country instead of elected presidents and representatives — the “too MUCH democracy” that our founders wisely avoided — and not to forget the mob rule and terror that followed, and eventually, even an emperor, of all things!

But is it because we’re now living in our own bizarre "Reign-of-Trump", where mob-think seems to carry more weight than facts and reason and justice, that a whole bunch of senators can force a possibly-innocent senator to voluntarily put his head in the guillotine?

Yesterday, before his announcement, I was agnostic about whether Franken should resign, but afterward, I decided he should not have — not just on moral grounds but also political ones. (And wouldn’t it be nice if America got back to a time when the “moral” and the “political” shared the same grounds?)

In fact, even as Minnesota’s Democratic governor Mark Dayton expressed his "deepest regrets to the women, who have had to endure their unwanted experiences with Senator Franken” in his statement yesterday, he added this:
"Al Franken has been an outstanding Senator. He has been, as Senator Paul Wellstone used to say, ‘A Senator from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.’ He is very smart, very hard-working, and very committed to Minnesota.”
Let’s face it, whoever replaces Franken is unlikely to do as much for the Democratic national cause as Franken has proven he is capable of doing, and his staying, in the long run, will have done a lot more good for our side than whatever questionable short-term political advantage, if any, the party gets from his leaving.

So now I’m wondering if, in the next few days, when the time comes for governor Dayton to announce Al Franken’s replacement, how nice it might be if he announces that his choice is Al Franken.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Response to The Trump Transformation

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Trump Transformation)

Breaking news! This just in! Trump changes his mind again on Moore:
In a stunning reversal this morning, President Trump says he has now listened a little closer to what Roy Moore’s accusers have been saying, and has withdrawn his support for Moore in the upcoming special election. 
“She totally denies it,” Mr. Trump said of Leigh Corfman, who has insisted she isn't lying about being molested as a 14-year-old girl by then 32-year-old Moore.  
“She says it absolutely did happen,” the president told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla. where he is spending his five-day Thanksgiving vacation. “You have to listen to her, also.” 
Asked by a reporter about whether he worried about Alabama electing “a liberal Democrat” to the senate, Mr. Trump responded by insisting that, “Hey, this isn’t about politics, it’s about morality, and about doing the right thing for a change!” 
“After all,” he continued, “what does this say about Alabama that they can’t find just one measly Republican senator to send to Washington that isn’t a child molester?” 
When asked how he feels about Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent, possibly winning the election, Mr. Trump replied, “What’s the big deal? He’s not such a bad guy! 
"A lot of people don’t know this, but as United States Attorney, Jones prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan bombers of a church that killed four innocent little African-American girls!” 
“And,” he added, “as far as I know, at least nobody’s accused Doug Jones of molesting little girls!” 
The president later announced he was ceasing his attacks on his former political opponent, Hillary Clinton, after hearing she has denied any wrongdoing in her use of emails as Secretary of State, her handling of Benghazi, and allegations that she gave uranium to Russia. 
“Somebody recently asked her about all those things,” the president said, “and she denied it! And by the way, she totally denied it! You have to listen to her, also.”
Talk about a Trump Transformation!

But no, none of that's true. It’s all fake news. (You knew that, right?)

Still, for just one moment, it felt strangely calming to forget what a jerk the guy is in real life, and to imagine him being one of the good guys.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Response to Now Burning in Hell

(See: Just Above Sunset: Now Burning in Hell)

One thing nobody seems to be suggesting as to why Trump might be keeping quiet about Judge Roy right now is the close resemblance between Moore's practice of chasing teenage girls as young as 14 through 16, and that story of Trump walking through the dressing room to see naked 15 year old beauty queen contestants back in 1997:
Four women who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant said Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants — some as young as 15 — were changing. 
"I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here,’ " said Mariah Billado, the former Miss Vermont Teen USA. 
Trump, she recalled, said something like, "Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before." 
Three other women, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of getting engulfed in a media firestorm, also remembered Trump entering the dressing room while girls were changing. Two of them said the girls rushed to cover their bodies, with one calling it "shocking" and "creepy." The third said she was clothed and introduced herself to Trump. … Of the 11 (contestants) who said they don’t remember Trump coming into the changing room, some said it was possible that it happened while they weren’t in the room or that they didn’t notice. But most were dubious or dismissed the possibility out of hand. 
Allison Bowman, former Miss Wisconsin Teen USA, cast doubt on whether it happened. "These were teenage girls," Bowman said. "If anything inappropriate had gone on, the gossip would have flown.” … Billado said she told Ivanka Trump (Trump’s daughter), about Donald Trump entering the room while the girls were changing their clothes. Billado remembers Ivanka answering, "Yeah, he does that.”
Polifact dodged grading that story on their Truth-O-Meter, but there seems to be enough to it, and in light of Trump's own telling Howard Stern about his habit of doing this at other beauty pageants, I tend to believe it.

Can't you imagine the public blowback from the judge if Trump keeps tweeting that he needs to drop out of the race because he's a dirty old man who lusts after 15 year olds? In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Moore has already warned Trump of this possibility, on the down-low.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Response to Losing the Republican Party

(See: Just Above Sunset: Losing the Republican Party)

I’m not sure I buy that "the party is over", but I’m still a bit confused by all these Republicans turning against Moore and saying he should drop out of the race.

I suppose it may be in part that they’re tired of being cast as the party that doesn’t believe women, but from the practical-politics point of view, it seems to make no sense: if Moore drops out, the likely outcome is that the Democratic candidate wins and the Republicans are down one more seat in the Senate. They have to realize that a “write-in” campaign will fail. You’d think the best thing for them would be to let Moore win, after which they can all demonstrate their purity by voting to expel him, at which point he would be replaced by a Republican appointed by Alabama's Republican governor.

But if the Republican party is dying, does this mean the Democrats will take over?

No, the simple reason being that, while everyone may be dismayed by all the incompetence and constant fumbles of the hapless Republicans, they still believe in “Republicanism" — or maybe more to the point, "anti-Democratism”.

To much of the nation, Democrats don’t believe in “personal responsibility”, illustrated by their constantly putting the “takers” (and yes, most of those, in their imagination, being “non-white”) into the position of living off someone else’s wealth. If it were ever proven conclusively that every male elected Republican official, when in their thirties, molested at least one fourteen-year-old, most of the electorate would consider it beside the point, the real point being that we would rather the country be governed by Republicans, even if they all be rascals and rogues, than Do-Gooder Democrats who keep insisting on turning the farm over to all those lazy bums.

I kept waiting for all the Republican phony bullshit to be exposed — the Benghazi's, the emails, and that incredibly stupid Uranium One thing — and for people to finally realize that Hillary Clinton was obviously the most qualified candidate. Sure, she was boring — certainly not a crowd pleaser like Trump, but he’s only charismatic because he’s a goofy dunce who’s able to grab the headlines every other day by contradicting something stupid he said two days before. Sooner of later, even those who voted for him would tire of his shenanigans and were certain to abandon him, wouldn’t they?

I even imagined a circumstance when Republican voters might come to their senses, and we might all actually have an honest debate over differing philosophies of governance — the conservative minimalist view of ever-smaller government and ever-lower taxes, where it’s every citizen for himself, versus the liberal view of a community that looks out for all its members, rich and poor, making sure all have opportunities to become productive contributors, and that those beyond hope at least don’t live out their lives in misery and die a lonely death.

Silly me.

The truth is, at least at this point in our history, just enough of us will never care how smart and competent Hillary Clinton was. The truth is, we didn’t want her to be our president, so we looked for excuses to not trust her, such as her doing something or other with her emails, and somehow seemingly let four Americans die in Benghazi, and maybe something or other about her giving away lots of American uranium to Russia, scandals that nobody can quite explain, but hey, you know, she seems to be surrounded by these "unanswered questions".

The truth is, we just can’t trust her to be president, because to do that, the Democrats would be running things, and we just can’t allow that, even if it means some colorful doofus is in the White House, pissing off the rest of the world, and getting absolutely nothing done.

But that’s okay, because other than getting a conservative on the Supreme Court — which we got! — there really is nothing more we really want government doing anyway, right?

So according to some, "the party is over"? What does that even mean?

Think about it: The Democrats, who seem to be smart enough to be in charge, are in fact just a bunch of smarty-pantses that nobody trusts, and the Republicans, seemingly feckless and dysfunctional and maybe of questionable morals, but in fact, are the party of “non-governance” and not-filling-political slots, now have their hands on the tiller and are steering the ship of state in circles.

Has it ever occurred to us that maybe this is exactly the way they want things to be?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Response to That Southern Man

(See: Just Above Sunset: That Southern Man)

And don’t forget that Neil Young is from Canada! Who was this libtard foreigner to be lecturing Americans on their own glorious history? I’m surprised Lynyrd Skynyrd didn’t pick up on that.

(Although I hate to admit, all politics aside, that “Sweet Home Alabama” is a lot catchier a tune than “Southern Man”.)

I think some Republicans predicted back then that the "Access Hollywood” tape would finally finish Trump off among his base, who they may have imagined to be evangelical prudes. If so, they misjudged Trump’s supporters. They were not moralists, they were anti-establishment everyday pitchfork rabble who were not offended at all by a man acting like a man, even if it might break a law or two.

The trouble with Moore is he follows his own so-called conscience, the law be damned, and since his followers didn’t mind him scoffing at the law in the Ten Commandments and gay-marriage cases, they probably don’t mind throwing in a little statutory nookie, especially since he actually listened to that fourteen-year-old girl when she said “no” and then took her home, which is the very least of how we ask our sexual predators to behave.

And to be perfectly honest, who amongst us has not, at some time or other, at least fantasized about having a dalliance with "jailbait”? So can we really blame him? Besides, it was long ago, and also, nothing happened!

Personally, I never liked this Judge Roy Moore character to begin with, and all this latest stuff adds nothing to my dislike of people who refuse to obey good laws in the first place — especially those who are applying for the job of writing those laws! — so if I were a congressman walking the halls of Washington, I would probably avoid eye contact with reporters. I’d have nothing more to say as to whether Moore should drop out of the race, which I fully expect him not to do anyway.

Unless, of course, Leigh Corfman, the fourteen-year-old who is now 53, files charges, since, as I understand it, there is no statute of limitations on soliciting sex from a minor, which is anyone under sixteen years in Alabama. But I have to admit, I am looking forward to watching Moore once more ignore the law, once he’s found guilty.

And while I’m here, because I got too busy last night to respond to yesterday’s column, “Screaming at the Sky”, I’ll do so now:

I suspect the reason that Donald Trump is pretty much not getting his way, other than being a reflection of his skills as a leader and a deal-maker, has something to do with most of America not really agreeing with the things he wants to do.

Most of us don’t want Obamacare to be repealed and/or replaced; most of us don’t want a wall built between us and Mexico, no matter who pays for it; most of us want clean air and water and worry at least a little about how much we humans are making the earth warmer; most of us want to save the lives of Syrian refugees, if we can; most of us, on mention of Russia hacking our election, don’t immediately think it all had something to do with Hillary Clinton; nor do we want to cozy up with Putin’s Russia, and are not that happy with the fact that Trump has the rest of the world looking elsewhere than the U.S. for leadership.

In short, Donald Trump is a minority president who most Americans didn’t vote for, and would replace if we had the chance.

And in fact, "President Trump” is the kind of thing that happens when you don’t allow the citizens of America to pick their own president. 

Yes, we can say Trump probably won the election “fair and square”, but that’s only because of our stupid “electoral college”. But just because we can say that does not give us the right to say, “the American people elected him.” In truth, the American people didn’t.

When we look at the election map from last year, we need to realize that all that red represents where there’s more dirt than people, while all that blue represents where there’s a higher percentage of human beings in relation to dirt. If things were the way they ought to be, we would allow the people to choose the president, not the land.

And yet, Trump, for some reason, is still suffering under the delusion that it’s harder for a Republican to win the Electoral College than a Democrat!

I keep dreaming that maybe we can somehow take advantage of his ignorance and get him to actually help us change the system to a popular vote, on the slim hope that we could get it done before someone clues him in to reality.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Response to Just Hitting Back Harder

(See: Just Above Sunset: Just Hitting Back Harder)

It’s the Battle of the Tweets!

First, this shot, from Donald Trump:
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Results of recovery efforts will speak much louder than complaints by San Juan Mayor. Doing everything we can to help great people of PR!
Followed by this reply from Howard Dean:
Howard Dean @GovHowardDean
Oh shut up!
Okay, I think we Democrats may have just found our nominee to face Trump in 2020.

But let’s talk about Trump: Calculating, or Impulsively Dimwitted? I tend to believe it's mostly the latter.

After all, he’s probably not in this presidency gig for the money, although this is not to say that, after years of doing everything he’s been doing, money isn’t always somewhere in Donald Trump's thoughts, not too unlike my cat who instinctively makes that staccato eh-eh-eh-eh-eh sound when she spots a bird out the window. Here he is in an account by Jerry Useem in Fortune magazine back in early 2000, when Trump was considering a run for president on the Reform Party ticket: 
Another thought occurred to him: "You know I am the highest-paid speaker in the country?” 
Trump had inked a deal with Tony Robbins, the frighteningly upbeat motivational speaker, by which Robbins would pay Trump $1 million to give ten speeches at his seminars around the country. Crucially, Trump had timed his political stops to coincide with Robbins' seminars, so that he was "making a lot of money" on those campaign stops. "It's very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it," Trump said, adding that "there's no way a good businessman" would have blown the kind of money Steve Forbes had. 
Okay, I take that back: maybe making money IS a motivation for Trump being in the White House, but an equally-major motivator is his maybe-pathological need for being extremely-highly regarded. From that same Fortune article:
"Hey, I've got my name on half the major buildings in New York," he said. "I went to the Wharton School of Finance, which is the No. 1 school. I'm intelligent. Some people would say I'm very, very, very intelligent." Plus, he had written three best-selling books. "Not bestsellers," Trump clarified. "No. 1 bestsellers."
As president, he’s been known to fire at least one high official who refused to swear loyalty to him, and open an on-camera cabinet meeting by going around the table and have everyone, as if unsolicited, sing his praises. If some governor thanks him for his administration’s help in cleaning up after a disaster, in Trump’s version, it will sound like the governor had recommended Trump’s name to the Vatican for canonization for sainthood.

He wants to be “liked”? Maybe “adored”? Something like that. Because he never got love from his parents? Maybe.

But there’s also the possibility that he’s always been a natural-born jerk, possibly because he was born so rich that there was neither opportunity nor reason to develop the normal social skills that normal human beings have to learn in order to survive, and so he instead learned to compensate for this lack by competing with everyone — making more money, buying bigger things, gold-plating and putting his name on them. (Also from that article: "When I don't put my name on it," Trump explains, "nobody knows that I own it.”)

It’s all about the kind of stature that only a bully can appreciate. He doesn’t so much need to be “liked” or “loved” as “respected”, “envied”, “feared”, and “worshipped”.

So is it possible, with Kim, that Trump is cleverly playing bad-cop to Tillerson’s good-cop?

Possible, but I think doubtful. Trump really doesn’t seem to have a history for actual political calculation beyond giving a humiliating nickname to an opponent, such as “Little Marco” or “Pocahontas” or “Rocketman”, none of which serves any pragmatic purpose other than making him feel like he’s won some sparring match with an enemy, which comes as natural to him as brushing one’s teeth comes to you or me.

Forget helping people in need during a natural disaster, Trump's comfort zone is soaking up that adulation he receives afterward for, what, just being there after the dust settles?

His problem, of course, is he doesn’t have the patience to wait until it’s all over, insisting on prematurely blithering on, in tweets and speeches, on what an incredible job he and his people did in doing whatever it is that they were supposed to be doing, never seeming to realize how it sounds like “Mission Accomplished” or “Heck of a job, Browny!”

But regardless of much evidence that anything was done at all, the important thing is to think of it as a “good news story”. It's never so much about the truth, it’s really about what he wants people to believe about himself and his imaginary good works.

And speaking of that comfort zone, Trump never gets as much comfort anywhere else as he does when he’s out rallying with his peeps, chatting up all those issues they have in common, such as people showing disrespect for those things that good American patriots pride themselves on holding dear, despite anything else that might be worth considering. The irony of Republicans is that, despite being in a decades-long refusal to acknowledge a distinction between fact and opinion, putting the party in a death spiral, they continue to provide comfort for delusionals such as Trump and his base, who seem to actually believe that coal jobs will miraculously arise from the dead, tax cuts for rich people will pay for themselves, and that Barrack Obama was born in Kenya. 

Why did Trump pick a fight with the NFL?

If he were a purely calculating politician, he might be returning to earlier years of Republican “wedge issues” politics — remember Vice President Dan Quayle picking a fight with TV-sitcom-character Murphy Brown for choosing to give birth to an out-of-wedlock baby, as if it were just another “life-style choice”? — but if he knew his history, he’d remember the veep got trounced by the fictional character in that one, hands down.

More likely, that NFL thing wasn’t calculation on Trump’s part. More likely, it was Charles Foster Kane, in search of that “Rosebud” sled of his early years, when troubles were few and life was simpler, back when he could get all the things he wanted by just imagining them into existence, without much hassle and without anybody stopping him, and he was happy.

So which is it — crazy like a fox, or the impulsive dimwit? Ockham’s razor or Hanlon’s razor?

My vote goes to Hanlon’s dimwit.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Response to Beyond Football Sunday

(See: Just Above Sunset: Beyond Football Sunday)

"This has nothing to do with the flag and patriotism. This is a matter of who owns whom – as personal property."

Yeah, that’s what Trump thinks, but the truth, of course, is that Trump doesn’t ever really think things through to their logical conclusion, which is that the so-called “owners” don’t own the players, they only own the teams!

The owners realize that, even if Donald Trump doesn’t, which is why tweeting this, as Trump did, is stupid:
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, you’re fired. Find something else to do.”
If he were a team owner, he might realize that he is not the one ultimately paying the star-player’s salary, that the money is coming from the fans, and that he would actually value someone he’s paying millions of dollars to, rather than think he can just fire him willy-nilly, especially if you want the other players to win games for you. It just so happens that, in this case, doing the honorable and right thing is also in the owners’ best interest, and if he knew anything about business, Trump would know this.

But, in fact, I would argue that it’s "the privilege of making millions of dollars” from his sport that probably helped prompt Colin Kaepernick to take a stand, so-to-speak, in the first place. Rather than just taking the money and running, he chose to not ignore the problems of the country that pays his salary, even if doing so costs him a million dollars here or there. 

And lest we forget, it’s not just the right to express an opinion at play here, it’s also what that opinion is about, which is that the republic for which that flag and anthem stands needs to find a way to stop allowing its peace officers to kill those they have sworn “to serve and protect” — specifically, those of racial minorities.

But is the sports venue a place to solve this problem?

My first answer would be, sure, why not!

Yeah, but by disrespecting the flag and the national anthem?

Once again, sure, why not! — even if it’s not really a very good way to do call attention to a problem, since it’s so easy to be misinterpreted as unpatriotic by people who don’t understand America, in the same way that some people overreact when protestors burn an American flag — which, by the way, is considered an okay way, under the law and the U.S. Constitution, to register your dissatisfaction with something your country is doing wrong. And, in fact, there seems to be no very good alternative way for the Kaepernickians to make their case.

But one nice thing about this whole controversy is that it’s just one more vehicle for reminding us that Barrack Obama, when confronted with this same issue — and being a much smarter president than the one we have now — handled this situation with much more understanding of the opinions of the Americans on both sides of the issue:
“I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat, and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing… but I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.”
God, I miss that guy.