Thursday, August 11, 2022

"Crazy?" No. "Brainwashed" by Trump Et Al

Why did Ricky Shiffer, 42, attack an FBI field office in Cincinnati Thursday, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and a nail gun?  


We may never definitively know, as he died in a shootout with the Ohio State Highway Patrol a short time later. 


Gilda believes he was “crazy,” a reasonable hypothesis for many acts of violence, such as shoving strangers onto subway tracks perpetrated by emotionally disturbed individuals no longer housed in institutions. Demons inside their heads take over. Perhaps Shiffer succumbed to his inner demons.


I, on the other hand, think Shiffer was “brainwashed.”  


He was but one foot soldier in an army of Trump believers, PINOs (Patriots in Name Only) who have figuratively swallowed Donald Trump’s hallucinogenic Kool-Aid that the 2020 election was stolen, that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president, that law enforcement, particularly the Justice Department and the FBI, is not to be trusted, that, as Esquire has reported, Democrats are part of a “cabal of pedophiles who not only traffic kids for sex, but also physically abuse and even murder and cannibalize them in horrifying Satanic rituals.”


I am not a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a social worker trained to study the human mind and its actions. Yet, it is transparent that reason has been replaced by thoughtless beliefs in millions of American minds, not just fringe members of the population. 


Alex Jones, Mark Levin, Tucker Carlson, the late Rush Limbaugh, all trade on conspiracy theories, the more divorced from reality the better to sway the gullible. And the masses who feel disenfranchised, alienated, stuck in desperate lives by an elite class often found on the East and West coasts. 


Most Republican politicians, on the other hand, are very clear-headed about their fealty to Trump. They see him as their ticket to election and re-election. They’re not in the game to improve the lives of their constituents. Otherwise, they would not have blocked a cap on insulin costs. They would not oppose climate change legislation during a time of unprecedented floods, fires and heat waves. They would not oppose equitable tax reform. 


Trump and his surrogates have made government, especially Washington, the enemy. They believe laws no longer apply to them. 


Remarkably, they’ve convinced—they’ve brainwashed—a sizable portion of the populace they are right. To them, The Rule of Law is an archaic term.

 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Apology Long Overdue and a PINO Threat

Pope Francis’ trip to Canada to apologize for the inhumane treatment of Canadian indigenous people by the Catholic Church is a welcome example of a leader accepting responsibility for the actions of his predecessors, no matter how well intentioned they might have been.


About a year ago a PBS aired a documentary on the forced removal of native children from their families and their placement in boarding schools where the church and  Canadian government hoped to erase their culture, to substitute Western values, to teach them trades.


I was struck by a sign on the wall of a classroom filled with children. It read, “Labor Conquers All Things.”


It was eerily reminiscent of words that greeted Jews and other “undesirables” to Auschwitz and other concentration camps—“Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”). 


The horrors of Nazi death camps lasted a little more than a decade. Sadly, the abuse of Canada’s indigenous people lasted about 150 years.



Great vs. Consequential: There’s a difference between great and consequential.


Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were great and consequential presidents. Harry S. Truman was a great president. Because of his three Supreme Court appointments Donald Trump earned the right to have his presidency labelled consequential.


Conservatives and progressives may debate the positive or negative aspects of that consequence but there can be no legitimate argument about the impact America will experience going forward for years, possibly decades, to come.


As he ponders another run for the presidency one has to wonder how our country and Western liberal society would survive under a second Trump term.


Would Trump assist former Soviet bloc countries, now NATO members, if Vladimir Putin pushes to physically bring them back under Russian control? If the war in Ukraine was still being fought, would Trump stop American support for Ukraine?


Here’s a short list of what’s at stake not just in two years when we elect a president but more immediately when we elect a new House and one third of the Senate:


Free and fair elections; Democracy; Minimum wage; Social Security; Environmental laws; OSHA laws; Same sex relations and marriage; Legal contraception; Interracial unions.


It’s not being an alarmist to point out these vulnerabilities given the conservative bent on the Supreme Court and Republican long-standing opposition to federal regulations.



PINO: One of the victims of the Fourth of July massacre in Highland Park, IL, was Kevin McCarthy, along with his wife, Irina. They left a two year old son, Aiden. 


I wonder if the similarly named minority leader of House Republicans—Kevin McCarthy—now has enhanced empathy for those seeking greater restraints on the proliferation of guns in America?


Who am I kidding? 


McCarthy’s only concern is garnering power for himself. 


McCarthy is what I like to call a PINO, a Patriot In Name Only. He might profess to believe in the Constitution, evidenced by his forceful rebuke of Trump after the insurrection at the Capitol. 


But his allegiance to our country lasted but a few short moments after he realized without Trump’s backing he had no chance of becoming Speaker of the House. His dream of power might still go unfulfilled, but he has become the poster boy of cowardice, of spineless duplicity, of thinking more of himself than of the good of the nation.


Sadly, there’s an army of Trumpsters who either never learned about the Constitution or have chosen to ignore it. These PINOs are a threat to democracy as we know it. They favor the type of repressive regime Viktor Orbán has impressed upon Hungary. Fox News, especially Tucker Carlson, is their cheerleader. 


To defeat them, true patriots must stay alert and vote! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Manchin's Not the Only One at Fault

About the only thing Joe Manchin hasn’t done in his mostly one person crusade to thwart President Joe Biden’s agenda is flash his Republican Party membership card.


Ostensibly a Democrat, Manchin has singlehandedly sabotaged Biden’s presidency. Yes, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema has been a naysayer as well, but Manchin has been the alpha donkey of dissent, given that with the Senate evenly split 50-50 between Democrats (with their Independent colleagues) and Republicans, all Dems must stay together to give Vice President Kamala Harris the deciding vote to pass any legislation.


Manchin has made me into a prophet, a seer of political fortunes, for back in February 2021 I wondered which Joe had more power to control events, Biden or Manchin? (https://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/2021/02/which-joe-is-president-biden-or-manchin.html)


So far Manchin has his hand on the legislative lever. If Biden wants to gain control, he needs to campaign hard, in person, for Democratic Senate candidates in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Ohio, Iowa, Georgia, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, and for as many House candidates as he can fit into his schedule. 


Not much of a positive nature will happen if the House flips Republican. If Democrats hold onto the Senate—by that I mean securing enough votes to not have to rely on Manchin and Sinema—at least they would be in a position to fill federal administration and judicial appointments, especially Supreme Court vacancies should they occur. 


Manchin is an easy target for progressive/Democratic ire. But the real tragedy is that Republican senators where the plains are frying, cattle are starving and thirsty, where floods are sweeping away lives and homes, where water is too scarce to cultivate fields, where unrelenting wind is blowing topsoil away, where glaciers are melting, Republican senators from those regions refuse to act to save our environment. 


Not one GOP senator would sign onto Biden’s bill to save the planet. They’ll all be dead in 20 years or so when payment for their failure to act will come due. But their children and grandchildren will be alive. How do they sleep at night with the knowledge that their legacy is a doomed existence for their progeny, for Earth?



Americans lead a cushy life. Even at a national average cost of $4.52 per gallon, regular gasoline costs less in America than almost anywhere else in the world ($4.19, cash or credit, at my local Costco today). 


Our municipal drinking water is among the best on earth. Yet, we are willing to pay an average of $9.60 per gallon for the freedom to buy bottled water. That’s right—bottled water costs more per gallon than gasoline!


“Last year, the share of household budgets devoted to food was 7.1% in the U.S.; it was higher in European countries like the U.K. (9.4%), Germany (11.7%), France (15%), Spain (15%), and Italy (16.5%), according to Euromonitor International, a London-based market research firm” (https://qz.com/2078132/the-us-spends-far-less-on-food-than-europe-but-thats-changing/).


Nobody likes inflation. It’s running at an ugly, scary 9.1% in the United States. While our rate of change between the first quarter of 2020 and 2022 has nearly quadrupled, it’s miniscule compared to Israel’s 25 times rate. (Here’s a graph from Pew Research Center showing inflation’s growth in 43 developed world countries: "https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/06/15/in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world-inflation-is-high-and-getting-higher/ft_22-06-08_globalinflation_2/".


The last dramatic spike into double-digit inflation happened in the late 1970s-early 1980s. Back then most Americans lacked what they take for granted today—a low-cost provider of consumer goods. 


By 1985, Walmart had but $6.4 billion in sales from 756 stores. For fiscal 2022 ended January 31, Walmart sales in the U.S. hit $466.8 billion from 5,342 stores and Sam’s Clubs. 


Many economists credit Walmart’s aggressive low pricing with keeping inflation down through the years. Add on Amazon’s 2021 sales of $469.8 billion and the impact of low price providers is doubled. 


Of course, there’s a downside to all the merchandise they provide and Americans crave. Much of it comes from overseas sources. Manufacturing jobs have been lost in America. Though more people are working today than ever before, most Americans lack confidence in the country’s and their economic outlook.



Calendar Season: I’m swamped with picture calendars. And peel-off return address labels.


One of the “benefits” of donating to a variety of social welfare causes is the “freebies” they inundate you with, before and after a donation is proffered. 


Calendars and return address labels are among the favorite tokens of their appreciation, leaving me to ponder if I prefer the animal photos from the World Wildlife Fund or the birds depicted in the National Audubon Society calendar, or the magnificent landscape photography of the National Park Foundation, to name but a few of my solicitors? 


It’s a tough choice, especially when they each send not one but multiple calendars. Even more challenging in my case—I prefer a Jewish monthly calendar. Fortunately several Jewish funeral homes provide them free to temple congregants, assuming one attends High Holy Days services in the early fall each year.


As for the return address labels, given my use of email and instant messenger rather than letters or postcards, what am I supposed to do with all those labels? 


 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

A Modern Take on "First they came..."

Conservative Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has endorsed Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion that the Supreme Court decision validating gay marriage throughout the land should be overturned, leaving it up to each state to decide the matter (https://mol.im/a/11022059).


With reverence to German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller and his powerful poem of creeping authoritarianism and the silent complicity of intellectuals and clergy to the atrocities of Nazi Germany (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_...), here’s a modern take on the loss of national freedoms Americans have come to take for granted: 


First they stripped voting rights. 

Next they stripped the right to an abortion. 

Soon they’ll strip the right to same-sex marriage. 

They’ll follow by stripping the right to interracial unions. 

Then they’ll strip the right to use contraceptives.

The separation of church and state will fall next.

The right to peaceably assemble will be curtailed.

Books will be banned, histories will be rewritten, truths will be erased.

Social Security, minimum wage laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act, unemployment compensation, work safety regulations, environmental protections and the Affordable Care Act and will tumble like dominoes. 

All this, and more, because a self-absorbed public will be too distracted and ignorant to care, too indifferent to speak out, too lazy to vote. 


So, in the words of Pastor Niemöller, 


Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”  

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Handicapping Democrats for 2024

With all the clamor for Joe Biden to forego running for reelection in 2024, it’s time to handicap potential successors as the Democratic Party standard bearer.


Sadly, Democrats do not have a well-stocked bench of ( relatively) young, experienced winners with national credentials. Oh sure, it’s true Barack Obama was a virtual unknown when he declared his candidacy, but those were different times. Dems were trying to regain the presidency rather than retain it. It was a PT and PC period—pre-Trump and pre-crazies. It was a time when Democrats could expect to face a principled Republican foe with traditional Republican values.


With that in mind, what’s the morning line field look like:


From the first time I saw Gavin Newsom on “Real Time with Bill Maher” when he was Jerry Brown’s lieutenant governor I thought he would one day run for president. He is media cool (or is it media hot?), his state is the fifth largest economy in the world, he has to deal with climate change, legal and illegal migrants, and he recently has started jousting with Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, a sure sign his vision gazes beyond the borders of the Golden State.


Rate him a frontrunner.


Pete Buttigieg probably wants to run again but his stewardship of the Transportation Department has not been inspiring, even if the problems of high gas prices plus airline delays and cancellations are not his fault. The public has to take its anger out on somebody and Pete has the bullseye on his back and chest.


Rate him a prayer not worth answering.


Beto O’Rourke needs to win the governorship of Texas in November to be taken seriously, and even then he’d be a long shot.


Rate him too wet behind the ears.


The same can be said for Stacey Abrams. Though she is a firebrand whose passions inspire she first has to win the governorship of Georgia in November to secure a reputation as a winner. Recall she lost four years ago to the current incumbent, Brian Kemp.


Rate her a star in the making (hopefully).


Kamala Harris might think she has the inside track as the current vice president but she is saddled with being linked to Biden and for being a mostly uninspiring, ineffective number two.


Rate her not ready for the top job.


Bernie Sanders might think his age should not inhibit him from seeking a third shot for the highest office in the land. Lots of dedicated followers but ultimately he would not secure sufficient numbers to win.


Bernie rates the Democratic equivalent of the Alf Landon trophy.


AOC dreams of a White House address but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is way too radical to claim the nomination, much less the presidency. Still, she is among the most intelligent and committed of legislators but against Republicans who will twist her statements and positions she cannot hope to sufficiently spread her gospel.


Rate her too far ahead of the country to win.


Hillary Clinton will be a spring-chicken 76 during the primary season of 2024, 77 by election day. Aside from her loyal base, could she count on voters who failed to support her against Trump in 2016 because they just didn’t feel their vote was needed or didn’t fully appreciate what a disaster his presidency would mean for democratic/Democratic values? Is the country finally ready for a female president? Would she pick Newsom as a running mate? Would he accept the placement as a stepping stone to the presidency? Or would she opt for a governor from her birth state, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, to avoid criticism that Democrats are only interested in people who populate the east and west coasts? Is the country ready for a Jewish vice president, not just a Jewish second gentleman?


Rate Hillary a strong contender.


If it all seems like, in the words of Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again,” take solace in the choice Republicans have, given the cult-like allegiance Donald Trump commands from primary voting party regulars.


So, are we excited about Hillary vs. Donald, Part II? Each nominee would want to wash away the bad taste of defeat from their respective last race. At least one presidential election loser would emerge a victor.


Would the country be a winner? Depends on your politics.

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Legal Fight to Contain Abortion Restrictions

 Some states have passed/are passing laws restricting anyone from providing counseling about abortions. They also want to ban women from crossing state lines to obtain an abortion. Aren’t such laws unconstitutional as a breach of freedom of speech and freedom of movement? And some states want to pass laws that would prohibit the delivery of mail order abortion pills within their borders. Wouldn’t those laws violate interstate commerce regulations and obstruct the functions of the U.S. Postal Service and private carriers? Is the Supreme Court poised to take away more of our constitutional rights?

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Biden's Time to Act is NOW!

The time for pussyfooting around is over. Joe Biden has just 20 weeks to salvage his presidency and, in so doing, nearly a century of progressive legislation, programs and judicial rulings, including Social Security, voting rights, legal contraception and consensual same sex relations and marriage.


He must embark on a non stop whirlwind campaign for Democrats running for the House and Senate, as well as to be state governors, representatives and secretaries of state.


He must challenge the electorate to provide him with a Manchin- and Sinema-proof majority in the Senate by promising to enlarge the Supreme Court with progressive-minded justices who will defend liberties and not endanger Americans as the current court majority did this past week in overturning Roe v. Wade and in lifting common sense restrictions on carrying concealed weapons in public.


If Biden doesn’t channel Harry S Truman’s fight against the odds and political pundits he will be faced with two years of Republican control of Congress, their only goal to investigate Biden and his family, ultimately leading to his impeachment.


Biden’s only hope is to barnstorm the country campaigning on reinstating social values that the court has trampled and likely will continue to do so, as Justices Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor stated in their dissent to the abortion ruling, and which conservative Justice Clarence Thomas alluded to in his concurring majority opinion. 


No matter how firm the precedent, the Republican majority has telegraphed its intention to return America to a time when states could legislate it was illegal for gays to have consensual relations, much less marry, when states could prohibit interracial unions, when women could not legally obtain birth control contraception. 


Even with low unemployment, more people working than ever before, and infrastructure projects underway, Biden cannot win based on an economic platform, not when gas hovers around $5 a gallon, rents and mortgage rates are trending upward, supply chain issues create product shortages and the stock market dives rather than soars. 


Biden must harness the anger felt by not just Democrats to the evisceration of longstanding rights. He has to hope rage over unfulfilled and at times restricted social values trumps pocketbook issues like inflation and gas prices. 


Now that the right to an abortion has been stripped of federal constitutional protection, will more Americans be prodded to vote for pro choice candidates? Will the inevitable mass shooting between now and November trigger more gun control voters to march to the polls? Having succeeded at the Supreme Court, will the anti abortion bloc become complacent about voting, or will it galvanize its focus to other social issues such as the denial of contraceptive rights and same sex marriage?


And, let’s not dismiss the Trump factor. Will Americans care about their democracy or, in ignorance or rejection of overwhelming evidence presented by the House Select Committee on January 6, will they willingly support candidates who would shred the Constitution and dismantle free and fair elections, or just not bother to show up election day?


Biden cannot wait to find out. No doubt he will be attacked for even suggesting he would pack the court. But erosion of belief in our institutions, first and foremost the Supreme Court, is rampant. When Supreme Court nominees openly lie and obfuscate about their true intentions it becomes a signal to all Americans that the truth doesn’t matter to advance one’s aspirations. That’s how a Trump can arise and spread falsehoods believed by millions. 


When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy can deny his condemnation of Trump for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, despite video records of his revulsion, it is plain to see politicians believe a big lie repeated over and over is more accepted by an impressionable public than the actual event they witnessed.


Biden has no choice but to act boldly. He has little time to waste. Twenty weeks. One hundred forty days. Not just his presidency, but the American experiment are at stake.