Sunday, August 28, 2016

What They Need in Louisiana

Opinion |
Certainly everyone’s heart has to go out to the people suffering from last week’s floods in Louisiana.

The devastation is truly stunning, and I hope you’ll join my family and other people of good will in sending donations to any one of the many worthy charities providing relief to the unfortunate folks in the area. After all, this is the sort of occasion which should bring all Americans together, right?
Well, as the eminent Professor Byrd used to solemnly intone to us at UNC Law School: “One might think that. But one would be wrong.”
As usual, there’s a noisy cadre of right-wingers who see a terrible tragedy and think, not “How can we help?” but “How can we blame this on President Obama?”
We saw it in the wake of the Benghazi murders, where Mitt Romney literally did not wait till the bodies were cold before he took to Twitter to politicize their deaths, and the right-wingers haven’t let up since.
And so it begins again, with the inevitable kvetching about, “Why did Obummer wait so long to go down there for his photo op? He was playing golf! … It’s Obama’s Katrina!”
Well, as for why the president waited till this past Tuesday to visit, it is very likely because the governor of the state, John Bel Edwards, asked him to.
“It is a major ordeal,” Edwards said. “They free up the Interstate for him. We have to take hundreds of local first responders, police officers, sheriffs, deputies and state troopers to provide security for that type of visit. I would just as soon have those people engaged in the response rather than trying to secure the president. So I’d ask him to wait, if he would, another couple weeks.”
Donald Trump, of course, ignored this simple logic  and made his visit last week, where he passed out a few packs of Play-Doh and vamoosed as soon as the cameras were off.

Because if there’s one thing wet, thirsty, homeless people need, it’s some Play-Doh. You can squeeze it to take your mind off your troubles. You can use it to plug leaks. In a pinch, you can even eat it. Ask any kindergartner.
So what was the president doing? Merely signing the orders and making the declarations needed to mobilize the people who can actually do something besides look concerned for the cameras and pass out toys — which those people proceeded to do.
Let’s get one thing straight. The criticism of President Bush over the botched response to Hurricane Katrina had very little if anything to do with how long it took Dubbya to get to New Orleans. The criticism was due to failures that caused hundreds of needless deaths due to cronyism and incompetence.
The response to the Baton Rouge tragedy appears to be at least competent. Resources are getting where they need to go. We don’t have, for instance, a Navy hospital ship complete with rescue helicopters wandering around the Gulf, futilely waiting for orders, which happened after Katrina.
We don’t have FEMA turning back donated supplies of water, preventing the Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel, and telling doctors and nurses who volunteered to help the sick and injured at the New Orleans Airport to mop floors instead “while people died around them” (as later revealed by a CNN investigation).
Instead, as Layton Ricks, the president of Livingston Parish, told the “PBS Newshour,” “What I needed (the president) to do was declare the state of emergency. He did that. FEMA ramped up really fast. Under Gov. Edwards, along with (FEMA Administrator) Craig Fugate, they were helping us get the assets that we needed at that time.”
That’s what happens when a president appoints someone with nearly 30 years of emergency management experience to head FEMA, rather than a guy who’d previously ran a horse breeder’s club but who was a big fundraiser for Bush. Results are what the Baton Rouge area needed from this administration, and that’s what they’re getting.
Some people are so dedicated to the idea of excusing the failures of the President Who Must Not Be Named that every crisis has to become “Obama’s Katrina,” and the response to every terrible thing that happens anywhere in the world is not to sympathize with or to try to send aid to the victims, but to immediately go online to complain that the president played golf somewhere in the general time frame.
Don’t be like those people. If you’re able, grab your credit card or your checkbook.
Donate food or clothing. Volunteer, if you can. Check out the opportunities for all of that at Do something to build up, not tear down, your fellow Americans.

THE GOBSHITES SPEAK: Inveterate liar Frank Staples (aka "skylinefirepest") , who posts every week to tell everyone how much he hates the column he reads every week, is particularly incoherent this week:

Dusty there any Republican that you could like? It's attitudes like yours that keep us from compromising on anything. It's carp [sic] like the liar in chief putting forth a man for the Supreme Court that is an avowed 2nd Amendment hater and should therefore have never been submitted as a Supreme!! It's stuff like this, where trump went and the liar in chief went golfing, that keeps the liberals in something to write know, on those days when hillary is still not being charged and there's only the hatred of trump that excites you. You're a pitiful man, dustie road, [sic] even for a rabid liberal.

Poor old Frank's never gotten over the day several years ago when he showed up at my office, introduced himself as "skylinefirepest" and asked to see me, but my wife thought he was a nutcase (which he clearly is) and sent him on his way. He's been foaming at the mouth over every column since, and he's not above simply making shit up to fuel his screeching diatribes. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Republicans Are Channeling 1984 (The Book, Not the Year)

Opinion |

Philosopher and novelist George Santayana once observed that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Nowadays, however, it seems that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to be Republican spokespeople.
Take, for instance, the latest jaw-dropping assertion from failed presidential candidate and former “America’s Mayor” Rudolph Giuliani.
Rudy appeared in front of a crowd at a Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio, and said, with a straight face, “Before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attacks in the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office.”
Yes, that’s right, folks. The man who milked the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, so long and so hard for political gain that Joe Biden once observed that “there’s only three things Rudy mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11,” the man who stood all teary-eyed before a Republican convention and claimed that on that dark day he “grabbed the arm of then-Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and I said to him, ‘Bernie, thank God George Bush is our president,’” now seems to have forgotten both the day and which president he was thanking God for.
Then you have Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson, the dead-eyed, raven-haired convicted shoplifter and sometime reality show guest star who’s fond of sporting a “Road Warrior”-esque necklace made of bullets during CNN interviews.
When Trump was taking heat over attacking the parents of Capt. Humayan Khan, the American soldier who sacrificed his life to save his comrades, Pierson snarled, “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagements that probably cost his life!”
Only problem was, Khan was killed in 2004, when the president, once again, was George W. Bush. She then went on to assert to an obviously flabbergasted Victor Blackwell in a later CNN interview that “Barack Obama went into Afghanistan, creating another problem.”
Blackwell couldn’t resist paying out a little more rope for Pierson to hang herself with: “So you’re saying that Barack Obama took us into Afghanistan, post-2009?” Pierson, with an expression slowly dawning across her face that reminded me of Wile E. Coyote when he realizes he’s walked off the cliff again and is standing on thin air, nevertheless plowed ahead: “That was Obama’s war, yes.”
Nope. Sorry. Much as I hate to be one of those awful liberals who keep blaming George Dubbya Bush for the stuff he actually did, that one was his, too.
It seems as if Giuliani and Pierson were attempting to appeal to the same crowd I wrote about back in 2013, when a survey by Public Policy Polling found that 29 percent of Louisiana Republicans said it was President Obama who was responsible for the botched response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — and another 44 percent said they weren’t sure. By the “same crowd,” of course, I mean “morons.”
It’s all very “1984.” Not the year, the book. As you may remember, in that bleak novel, people who’d fallen from grace or become politically embarrassing to the Party were stricken from the history books, removed from all records, with even photographs in which they’d appeared altered to remove all trace of their existence. They became, in the words of the Party, “unpersons,” and to even mention their names was to invite torture and death.
In addition, the three superpowers (Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia) were locked in eternal war, with each power occasionally shifting its alliances. But to admit that things had changed might mean that the Party had been wrong.
So, when Oceania stopped fighting, say, Eurasia and turned its armies loose on Eastasia, everyone blithely said, “We have always been at war with Eastasia.” They even got to the point where the good citizens not only believed it, they could shift without a moment’s hesitation when it changed again and they had “always been at war with Eurasia.”
And so it is in the People’s Republic of Wingnuttia. George W. Bush was an embarrassment, and his family doesn’t support Big Brother With the Little Hands, so he’s never mentioned anymore. It’s as if his entire presidency has been edited out, leaving a seamless jump from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama. To the people who once said, “Thank God he’s our president,” poor Dubbya is now an unperson.
And they have always been at war with Obama.

Monday, August 15, 2016

'Second Amendment Remedies' Are Back In Style

Opinion |

Hey, look! “Second Amendment remedies” are back!

You may remember that charming little catchphrase from the 2010 campaign of tea party-backed Senate candidate Sharron Angle of Nevada.
She told a radio host that “if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, ‘My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?’”
Nice, huh? Sort of like saying, “Nice democracy you got there. Be a real shame if anything happened to it.” Angle’s thinly veiled threat of armed insurrection was a major reason she got her hat handed to her by Harry Reid.
But you just can’t keep the Revolution down, it seems, because nothing gets the “Real America’s” juices flowing like threatening armed revolt against the United States if they don’t get their political way.
This past Tuesday, in Wilmington, N.C., Russian-backed sleeper agent and Republican nominee Donald Trump decided to throw in his lot with the insurrectionists: “If (Clinton) gets to pick her judges,” he said, “nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Now, to be fair, he may not have been talking about an armed uprising. He may have just been talking about shooting Clinton in the head. You know, watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants and all.
And to think just the day before, the hacks of our so-called liberal media were falling all over themselves to talk about Trump’s pivot to being “more presidential” because he managed to get through a prepared economics speech without insulting the family of a dead hero or kicking a baby out of the hall. A day later, he’s going full Cliven Bundy.
We all know where it plays out from here, of course. Trump, the guy who his supporters love because he says what he means, will insist he didn’t mean what he said. (Hat tip to my friend and local boy Julian Long for that one.)
In fact, Trump now claims that his reference to the Second Amendment had nothing to do with “bearing arms” against the United States. Just like when Henry II asked, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” he didn’t really mean for his knights to actually kill the Archbishop. Guess what? No one bought that story either.
As for Trump’s rapidly dwindling cadre of hardcore backers, they’ll respond as they always do: not by defending the indefensible Trump, but by raving even louder about Clinton’s emails, Benghazi, and Vincent Foster.
The “both sides do it” crowd that infests our so-called liberal media will attempt to use some statement of anger and disgust by some liberal blogger to try to convince us it’s exactly the same thing when the presidential nominee from the Republican Party suggests that keeping and bearing arms against an elected U.S. president might be a viable option if you disapprove of the president’s judicial nominees.
Of course, she may not even get a chance to nominate anyone, if Republican strategist and Trump insider Roger Stone’s warnings come true.
Referring to Trump’s expression of concern that the election is “going to be rigged,” Stone told, “He’s gotta put them on notice that their inauguration will be rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath. We will not stand for it.” Mr. Stone did not explain how one has a nonviolent “bloodbath.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s fellow Republicans continue to jump ship. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins published an Op-Ed in The Washington Post saying that she could not support Putin’s preferred candidate because “Mr. Trump lacks the temperament, self-discipline and judgment required to be president.”
Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell left the Virginia Beach Republican Party to endorse Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Wadi Gaitan, communications director for the Florida GOP, stepped down to promote “free market solutions while avoiding efforts that support Donald Trump.”
Fifty former national security officials, Republicans all, signed on to a letter saying that they are convinced that Donald Trump “would be a dangerous president and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”
The signatories included retired Gen. Michael Hayden (George W. Bush’s former CIA and NSA director); former Homeland Security Secretaries Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge; and former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills. But I’m sure a former reality show host knows better than those folks.
Sigh. I didn’t want to write about Trump again. I really didn’t. You can ask my wife.
But Comrade Trump’s continued implosion is the train wreck you can’t look away from.
I just hope it doesn’t wreck us all.

THE GOBSHITES SPEAK: Pathological liar and obsessive gun-humper Frank Staples, who posts incessantly under the alias "skylinefirepest" absolutely cannot see a mention of guns in any column without going off on one of his unhinged rants, and this column was no exception. I'll spare you most of his slobbering, but this part really caught my eye:

"You know, I don't really like the man BUT I will vote for a crazy man over a criminal any day! "

Yeah, well, like cleaves to like, I suppose. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Are You Certain You Nominated a Republican? |

Opinion |

Hey, um, Republicans? Can we talk for a minute? Have a seat. Can I get you anything to drink?
No, really. I think you’re going to need something strong.
See, I have some bad news for you. It’s never easy being the bearer of bad tidings, but … well, there’s no way to break it to you gently, so I’m just going to come right out and say it.
This guy you nominated to run for president on the Republican ticket? I’ve been watching what’s been going on and, well … I don’t think you actually nominated a Republican.
I know, I know, it’s hard to believe. I mean, there’s this whole primary process, and all this “vetting” and stuff, so you’d think the end result would actually be someone who believes in the things Republicans are supposed to believe in.
Take, for instance, respect for our troops and for their families. I thought Republicans were supposed to be all about that.
But this Trump guy? He tells reporters he doesn’t respect John McCain’s service in Vietnam: “He’s not a war hero because he was captured. I don’t like people who were captured.”
I’m sure our servicemen and women will feel safer and more secure knowing that the man who wants to be their commander-in-chief will stop “liking” them if they have the bad luck to be taken prisoner.
Then he claimed he’s always “felt like” he was in the military because he went to an expensive military-themed prep school.
Recently, he decided to get into an extended Twitter rant against the parents of a Muslim soldier who sacrificed himself to save his comrades, even questioning whether the grieving mother was “allowed” to speak.
Then, when another mother of a serviceman asked Trump’s veep pick, Mike Pence, how the guy at the top of the ticket could be so disrespectful, the crowd literally booed her. Dissing Gold Star mothers and booing moms of living servicemen doesn’t sound very Republican, does it?
Then there’s his refusal to endorse other Republican candidates. I’m old enough to remember Saint Ronnie Reagan’s 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”
This rule has, in the immortal words of Mark Twain, been thrown down and danced upon by Donald J. Trump. Not just in the primaries, where you can expect a little back and forth, although Trump’s crude and childish disrespect for the members of his alleged party was extraordinary even by the standards of a contested primary battle.
Even after securing the nomination, however, Trump continues to slam other Republicans. He’s called New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte “weak” and “disloyal” and refused to endorse her in her own bid for re-election. He also refused to endorse McCain and House Speaker Paul Ryan in their contested elections. Work across the aisle? This guy doesn’t even play well with people in his own party — or in what’s supposed to be his party.
Last but not least, there’s the whole small government thing. I thought Republicans were supposed to be all about decentralization of power. Yet they’ve nominated a man whose promise to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants would require the greatest mobilization of government power and the greatest suspension of civil liberties in our history. They’ve nominated a man who wants all power centered in himself, because, in his words, “he alone” can fix the broken system.
So that’s the bad news. You guys selected someone who not only doesn’t represent what your party’s supposed to, he’s actively driving out longtime members like former Jeb Bush staffer Sally Bradshaw, who’s worked for Republicans since the days of Bush the Elder and who told CNN that she’s leaving the party and, if the election is close in her home state of Florida, will vote for Clinton.
“As much as I don’t want another four years of Obama’s policies,” she told the network, “I can't look my children in the eye and tell them I voted for Donald Trump.” Rep. Richard Hanna of New York became the first, and probably not the last, elected Republican lawmaker to announce that he’ll vote for Clinton over Trump.
Of course, there’s always the alternative explanation. That is that Trump is actually the perfect Republican, and that the party is what its detractors have always said it is: mean-spirited, bigoted, racist, xenophobic and authoritarian rather than truly conservative and freedom-loving. That they have no actual principles, just resentments, grudges, and fears. Surely that can’t be right. Can it?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Why I'm Voting For Clinton

It’s absolutely true that the recent DNC e-mail hack by Russian “state actors” revealed that Democratic National Committee staffers favored Hillary Clinton.
But, hey, Bernie Sanders and his supporters (like me) knew that going in. We knew the odds were stacked against us, just like they are any time anyone tries to change a hidebound, inherently cautious organization like the Democratic Party.
Frankly, political pessimist that I am, I’m amazed that the progressives in the Democratic Party have accomplished as much as they have, and believe me, they accomplished a lot.
They proved that you don’t have to run away from liberal values — the party platform reflects that. They proved that you can raise serious cash from small contributions, if you have a populist message that appeals to people other than millionaires and billionaires.
It is also true that ousted DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was awful as a party leader. I’ve been saying that for years. She should have been canned after the debacle of the 2014 midterms.
It’s true as well that giving Wasserman Schultz any position, even an “honorary” one with no staff, no budget, and no defined duties, sent a terrible message. The only thing Debbie Wasserman Schultz should have gotten was a coach class plane ticket back to Florida and a handshake, and I’m being generous with the handshake.
Hillary Clinton’s opponents are always looking for ammunition to use against her; she doesn’t have to back the ammo truck up to the RNC and offer to unload it for them.
But you know what? I’m voting for Clinton anyway, and so should you. Here are some reasons why.
First, the hackers who hit the DNC were almost certainly Russian. As one U.S. official told CBS News, they left “all kinds of fingerprints” on their work that were common to other hacks and attempted hacks by the Russian government. The Russians didn’t do the same to the Republicans.
Now, consider this: Do we want to elect as U.S. president the candidate whom Vladimir Putin prefers?
Tuesday, Comrade Trump even called on his new besties in the Russian intelligence services to find Hillary Clinton’s “missing” e-mails. He now claims he was joking — after denying that on Twitter for two days. Say what you like about Clinton (and I have), I don’t recall her ever inviting the Russians to commit cyber attacks on Americans, even in jest.
Then there’s the matter of the two parties’ conventions.
It may surprise you that, back in 1992, I was on the fence between voting Republican and Democrat. I thought Bush the Elder had made the right call in the first Gulf War, and I had my doubts about this Clinton guy. Two things knocked me off that fence: the Republican and Democratic conventions.
The Republican convention took the politics of resentment, suspicion, and divisiveness and cranked the volume to 11. Featured speakers included RNC Chairman Rich Bond, telling the attendees, “We are America; they are not America,” and Pat Buchanan railing about “culture war.” I quickly decided I wanted nothing to do with these people.
The Democrats, on the other hand, were uplifting, upbeat, and focused on the future. When their convention ended with a packed arena dancing to “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” I was sold.
And so it is again this year. The Republican Convention was one speaker after another delivering the message, “OMG! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIEEEEEE!” and that only one man can save us — Fearless Leader Donald J. Trump.
That final speech, with Trump raging at us for 73 minutes under his own name in letters 20 feet high, proved once again that, for all the problems I might have with Hillary Clinton, this man can never be allowed to get his stubby little fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes or the Supreme Court.
As for the Democrats, they started off in such a fractious mood that Bernie Sanders supporters actually booed Bernie himself. But by the end, absolutely amazing speeches by, among others, First Lady Michelle Obama, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, and of course, Sanders himself had everyone cheering (and some of us wishing Booker or Mrs. Obama were running).
Then the convention pivoted to the kind of positive message that history has showed wins elections. We’ve seen it before: “Morning in America.” “A Shining City on a Hill.” “I believe in a place called Hope.” “Yes We Can.”
Now, we have “America is already great, America is already strong” and “Let’s be stronger together, and look forward with courage and confidence.”
For all my misgivings about Hillary Clinton, that’s a vision I can get behind a lot more than I can one of a grim, dystopian America that only an angry Russian-backed authoritarian can fix — if only we’ll give him absolute power.
No thanks, Comrade Trump.

Of course, the reader comments on the Pilot contained the usual parade of foam-flecked Clinton hatred, include this from the predictably brain-dead "Lenny Bo": ...I predicted last week that Dusty would fawn all over her.

I suppose that, to a drooling Brownshirt like "Lenny Bo," anything less that "AAAGH AAAAGH KILL HILLARY! KILL! KILL!" would be considered "fawning."  But that's wingnuttery for you. 

And, as always, we see that the Trumpkins don't even bother to tell us what's wrong about my assessment of their guy or what they like about him. It's all about attacking Clinton. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Trump's Handling of Speech Mess Speaks Volumes

You know, I kind of feel bad for Melania Trump.

She seems like a nice enough lady, despite her choice of spouse, and I’m sure she only wanted to help. I’m sure she didn’t mean for a speech which was supposed to be a nice, warm ’n’ fuzzy moment in her husband’s campaign to reveal just how inept and amateurish that campaign is.
At first, Madame Trump’s speech was pretty standard stuff, and a welcome change from a night when we had already endured the ghastly spectacles of, among other things, Chachi from “Happy Days” and a third-tier soap opera star from Italy telling us what’s wrong with America, followed by Rudy Giuliani screaming at the top of his withered lungs like a lunatic on a street corner.
She noted Trump’s loyalty to his family, which must have come as a bit of a surprise to the two wives he’d divorced before her. She asserted Trump’s respect for his former rivals, like “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted,” and the guy whose brother lied us into the Iraq War. And so on.
Then things took a strange turn. Political reporters and pundits who were watching began to realize that, hey, parts of Madame Trump’s speech sounded awfully familiar. And sure enough, a side-by-side comparison of Monday’s speech and Michelle Obama’s speech during the 2008 Democratic National Convention revealed that someone had lifted entire paragraphs from that older speech. We’re not talking about “common words and values,” as Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort lamely tried to assert. We’re talking the exact same words and phrases in the exact same order. We’re talking clear plagiarism.

Now, this may seem like a small thing, easily laughed off, and believe me, I laughed as hard as anyone. Then I started seeing the Trumpista reactions to the situation, and it set me to thinking, which is always a dangerous thing. For one thing, they couldn’t seem to settle on who had actually written the speech. Mrs. Trump claimed she’d written it herself, with “only minimal help” from the campaign. The campaign, however, released a statement saying that Melania’s “team of writers took notes on her life’s aspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking.”
Finally, staffer Meredith McIver came forward and fell on her sword. She said that Mrs. Trump, who’s “always liked” the First Lady (oh! the heresy!) had read her some of Mrs. Obama’s speeches, and neither Ms. McIver nor anyone in the campaign had checked the final draft against their “inspirations.”
Consider this: The Trump campaign sent the woman who would be First Lady out to make a major speech, apparently without any vetting. That speech contained passages that were clearly cribbed from not just any speech, but from a major speech given at an event that a substantial number of the reporters, commentators and other political junkies watching had already seen and would most likely remember. Then, incredibly, they couldn’t get their stories together on who’d written it.
The whole thing speaks of a level of fumbling and incompetence so great that one has to doubt if these people have enough sense to pour water out of a boot even if you printed the instructions on the heel.

But what about Hillary Clinton, you say? Wasn’t her handling of classified information “extremely careless,” in the words of FBI Director James Comey? Isn’t that worse?
First, we don’t know how Trump and his people would handle classified information, since he’s a political novice who hasn’t had to do it very much, but this level of carelessness with what should be simple stuff doesn’t bode well for his competence with complex information.
Second, “you’re just as bad as me” doesn’t make you better. Third and most important, in his later testimony, Comey admitted that even the “very small number” of Clinton’s emails he’d referenced were not properly marked “classified” in the headers as such emails are required to be by the manual controlling such things. Instead, the designation was indicated by a little letter “c” somewhere in the body of the email. Comey told Rep. Matt Cartwright it would be a “reasonable inference” for Clinton to believe that “the absence of a header would tell her immediately that those three documents were not classified” — a detail almost universally ignored by the so-called liberal media.
The Republican party, this past Monday, spent an entire evening trying to frighten us into voting for Donald Trump’s Daddy State policies by yelling at us that the world is a terrifyingly dark place, full of monsters — then proceeded during the course of the night’s keynote speech to show us they’re too incompetent to handle a softball political convention speech. It doesn’t inspire confidence.