Sunday, September 25, 2016

Just Come Out and Say It: He's Lying

Opinion |

Sometimes I pity The New York Times.
I know they’re supposedly the “newspaper of record.” The “Gray Lady.” The venerable institution to which all serious print journalists aspire, or at least used to.
But I swear, sometimes those big-city scribes are as dumb as a dog chasing parked cars. Take, for instance, their recent wrestling with the question of when to call something a lie.
In the court system, judges sometimes have to decide if a witness, particularly a child witness, is competent to testify. An important question is whether or not the child can tell the difference between the truth and a lie.
To determine this, there are certain questions that the attorney calling the child typically asks. One of those is, “If I told you I was wearing an orange polka dot shirt, would that be the truth or a lie?” This often reduces the child to the giggles if, for example, the lawyer’s shirt is solid white. Then they answer, “That would be a lie.”
In 27 years of practice, I have yet to see a child witness fail the test of how to define a lie.
And yet the mighty New York Times seems to struggle with a concept a second-grader can master. Recently, their so-called “public editor” did an entire column analyzing whether it was proper for them to refer to Donald Trump’s now-abandoned assertion that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. as “a lie.”
Specifically, they ran the story of said long-delayed abandonment of “birtherism” under the headline “Trump Gives Up a Lie, But Refuses to Repent.”
Good for them, I say, since “Barack Obama was not born in the United States” is, like “I am wearing an orange polka dot shirt” when I’m doing no such thing, a lie. It is objectively and demonstrably untrue.
And yet the public editor of The Times, one Liz Spayd, felt the need to discuss at length whether the word was proper. “It is not a word we will use lightly,” she said, quoting political editor Carolyn Ryan.
Unfortunately, the polite reluctance to cry “shenanigans” in the face of the most obvious shenanigans is a societal loophole that manipulative sociopaths like Donald Trump drive through like a bulldozer.
People like Donald Trump lie so shamelessly, so rapidly, and so constantly that they simply overwhelm the capacity of traditional journalists to go, “Whoa. Wait. I don’t think that’s true” before they’re off to the next falsehood.
As I’ve noted before, an analysis of 4.6 hours of Trump speeches by the online site Politico found that Trump made, on average, at least one demonstrably false statement every five minutes. Factcheck.orgmarveled that “we’ve never seen his match” when it comes to bald-faced lying.
That’s just the problem. No one has — except maybe online, where one encounters the technique of “argument” known variously as the “Gish Gallop” or “proof by verbosity,” in which someone spews so many falsehoods so quickly that it would take hours to refute each one, so people with actual lives finally just give up and walk away, at which point the “galloper” declares victory.
Actually, given Trump’s usual bombastic, bullying style and his use of the live-action equivalent of the “Gish Gallop,” I’m convinced that he or someone working for him has made a study of internet trolling and adapted it to political campaigning. More than one person, after all, has observed that Trump is “an anonymous internet comment section come to life.”
This bodes ill for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming debates.
Clinton is, after all, a traditional politician who’s spent her whole career dealing with antagonists who play by civilized rules. Even in her triumphant 11-hour slugfest against the Benghazi witch hunters, she wasn’t dealing with anyone nearly as shameless and contemptuous of decorum as Donald Trump.
And while facing the torrent of BS sure to be pouring from Trump’s mouth, she can expect no help from the moderators. Chris Wallace of Fox News has flat out stated, “I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It's up to the other person to catch them on that.”
That’s exactly what people like Trump depend on. Let’s hope Clinton is ready.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

But Yeah, Hillary's the Crooked One

Opinion |

In September of 2013, the attorney general of Florida, Pam Bondi, publicly announced that her office was considering investigating the activities of Hillary Clinton.
A similar probe had already been commenced in New York. Bondi at the time had personally solicited campaign contributions from Clinton.
Six days after the AG’s office announced that they were “reviewing the allegations” against Clinton, the Clinton Family foundation wrote a check for $25,000 to the AG’s campaign, after which Bondi’s office announced that they’d decided not to pursue action against Clinton after all.
Pressed about the matter, Clinton claimed she never even spoke with the AG, a claim which was quickly revealed not to be true by Bondi’s own spokesperson.
The payments came to light only after the IRS levied a paltry $2,500 fine against the foundation because it had violated IRS rules about charities making political donations. It had also, according to a story in The Washington Post, “failed to disclose the large gift to the Internal Revenue Service, instead reporting that the donation was given to an unrelated group with a similar name — effectively obscuring the contribution.”
Just goes to show how corrupt and untrustworthy Hillary Clinton is, doesn’t it? Even though there’s no specific evidence of a quid pro quo, you have to admit it certainly raises questions about her integrity and her fitness for office.
And that ridiculous $2,500 fine? The entitled Hillary Clinton gets away with things the rest of us would go to jail for.
It’s an outrage that this story hasn’t been given front page status in every major newspaper and been the top story on every network. There really should be some Congressional hearings on the shady dealings of Hillary Rodham Clinton. ...
Oh, wait. Did I say Clinton? Sorry, my bad. The family foundation that donated 25 large to the campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was actually the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
The probe being conducted in New York that Bondi said she’d been considering imitating was one into the fraudulent Trump University — you know, the scam where Trump, the Russian-backed presidential candidate with well-documented ties to the New York and Jersey mobs, the Russian Mafia, and the Hong Kong Triads, has an upcoming court date on a racketeering claim.
But everyone knows it’s Clinton that’s the crooked one.
Certainly, however, only some kind of liberal bigot would think there was any impropriety in a prosecutor who’s publicly said she’s considering a formal investigation receiving a large check from the potential target of that investigation six days after said announcement, then deciding “Nah, it’s not worth going after the guy.”
We know there’s nothing improper about it because both Bondi and Trump said so.
Oh, and Trump also gave $35,000 to Texas AG Greg Abbott, who’d already dropped a probe of Trump U after they shut down the operation in Texas and got out of town with the loot. Surely that was just a coincidence, too.
But, you know, Hillary’s the crooked one. After all, her foundation took contributions from, and then had meetings with, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was working to aid poor people with so-called “micro-loans” in Bangladesh.
The Hillary group also met with the head of charitable giving for the cosmetics firm Estee Lauder, who was partnering with the State Department and USAID to fight AIDS, gender-based violence in Africa, and sexual slavery in Cambodia
Then there’s Wall Street mogul Stephen Schwarzman, whose Blackstone Group donated millions to “three Clinton Global aid projects ranging from the U.S. to the Mideast” and who got — well, the AP so-called “expose” on the Foundation that I’m quoting in this paragraph isn’t really clear about what he got. It says he was “one of several attendees” at a breakfast meeting with Clinton, that his wife “sat at Clinton’s table” at the Kennedy Center honors and later introduced Schwarzman, and that the State department was “working on a visa issue” for him.
Nothing in the story says what the “issue” was or what, if anything, Schwarzman got.
Those are the top three examples the AP pulled from all the others to suggest some sort of evil-doing on Clinton’s part. Some pretty shady characters, there to be sure, and some deep skullduggery going on, what with fighting AIDS and sexual slavery overseas and introducing people at the Kennedy Center and all.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump pays off a couple of attorneys general to get them to leave his Trump U scam alone after bragging that politicians do what he says because he gives them money.
He knows the system is broken because he helped break it. And you expect him to be less corrupt if he’s elected?

Monday, September 05, 2016

That (Bad Word) Obama

Opinion |

You know, after rereading last week’s column, it occurs to me that maybe I really have been going a little too easy on President Barack Obama.

Oh, sure, I called his plan to intervene on behalf of Libyan rebels a “terrible idea.” I criticized his intervention in Syria, even though I later had to admit his part in getting Syria to give up its chemical weapons stockpiles was, in the end, a good thing. You can look it up.

But judging from my research into the online Wingnuttosphere, I feel as if I’m remiss, because I apparently haven’t even scratched the surface of the Kenyan Usurper’s perfidy. So, let’s look around and see what else we can blame on TBO —That (Bad Word) Obama.

* In Norway’s Hardangervidda National Park, a hiker recently came upon a terrible sight: the corpses of 323 reindeer, killed by a single lightning strike.

Now, a bunch of egghead “scientists” will probably try and tell you tell you thatthis is something that happens when the reindeer huddle together in a thunderstorm. But science, as we know, has a liberal bias.

Obama, as we also know, hates Christmas, what with all his talk of “Holiday Trees” at the White House (I know multiple fact-checkers have noted that the White House actually uses the word “Christmas” and only “Christmas” in describing the tree. Facts, as we also know, have a liberal bias as well).

Anyway, if a bunch of Santa’s shaggy helpers are found hooves-up and smoking in a field, we all know who’s to blame, don’t we? I’ll bet TBO was even playing golf when those reindeer died.

* Last week, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick whipped good Americans into a righteous fury when he refused to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Kaepernick explained that he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Clearly this is the fault of TBO, who we’re told over and over is the most divisive president America has ever had.

It’s bad enough that he’s black, he has to keep reminding us of it. This has done nothing but embolden other public figures, like professional quarterbacks, to remind us that some of them are black as well. Even worse, they have to keep reminding us that black people might have some actual legitimate grievances about the way they’ve been (and still are) treated in this country.

I mean, a lot of it’s true, but how dare a public figure make us feel bad by reminding us of it? This would never have happened if it hadn’t been for TBO.

* It seems that Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage is going straight off the deep end. On Aug. 24, he claimed to have a “three-ring binder” which proved that “90 percent” of drug arrestees in Maine were black or Hispanic. Asked to provide the binder, LePage had himself a conniption.

“Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers,” he railed at reporters. “You ought to look into that! You make me so sick!”

When The Portland Press Herald did look into that and reported that FBI statistics showed that only 14.1 percent of Maine drug arrestees were black or Hispanic, LePage, realizing — as all good Americans do — that statistics also have a liberal bias, doubled down: “When you go to war, you shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy, and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”

I won’t even go into what LePage said about a state legislator who insinuated that LePage’s comments about shooting “enemy” blacks and Latinos might be a wee bit racist. Suffice it to say that even my powers of euphemism fail when it comes to reporting those comments in this newspaper.

In the resulting furor, LePage suggested he might resign, then immediately retracted the idea. Now, before the advent of TBO, an elderly erratic white Republican governor would probably have been able to rave about made-up statistics about blacks and Latinos without fear of contradiction. But poor Gov. LePage, in the era of TBO, has to deal with pesky questions about actual “statistics” which, as we know … well, you know what kind of bias they have. How is an old racist supposed to keep his sanity in such times?

Answer: He can’t. And it’s all the fault of That (Bad Word) Obama. Isn’t everything? I can’t wait till his term is over. Then everything that ever goes wrong anywhere will be That (Other Bad Word) Hillary Clinton’s fault.

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.