Tin Foil Hats and Mexican Squirrels

June 24, 2016

It’s staggering. A few days ago I wrote about my confusion over how Trump can garner so many votes, how so many Americans can ignore reality and be pulled into the orbit of fear and hatred. In the past week Trump has said or implied the following:

  • The Orlando shooter was from Afghanistan
  • We should not only ban all Muslims, we should also monitor all US mosques
  • The USA will be “completely wiped out” by terrorists (“nothing will be left”)
  • US soldiers stole money in Iraq (thank God they weren’t tortured as POWs – then they would really be in trouble with Trump)
  • The US nuclear arsenal is tired, old while the Russian nuclear arsenal he hears (from the voices in his head no doubt) is “tippy-top”
  • The President is secretly in league with ISIS

Trump is arguably either psychiatrically disturbed or evil, but who could argue that he was not too dangerous a person to be entrusted with the Presidency? But again, I return to the enigma that even with this obvious decompensation, Trump supporters will ignore the reality of what he says and does, and support him. Give it another week and they will be passing out tin foil hats at Trump rallies while he rails about Mexican Squirrels with knives stealing all the nuts in his forest…


The Real Orlando Killer

June 23, 2016

As the facts begin to emerge from the Orlando killing, the profile of the killer seems less and less like one of a terrorist than the familiar profile of a mentally ill man who got a hold of an assault weapon. Reports that the killer had solicited contacts from “Grinder” – a gay social app – and that he had been to Pulse previously, suggest either that he was more likely a self-hating latent homosexual. There is no doubt that he went to Pulse that evening to kill as many people as possible – the reason why he purchased an AR-15 – but it is unclear if his motivation was political, or simply a function of his own personal hatred.

In the past he had been investigated by the FBI after he told others that he had family ties to al-Qaeda and to Hezbollah. What is significant about that is that Daesh (ISIS) and al-Qaeda are Sunni and enemies of each other and both are enemies of the Shia (Hezbollah). These are incompatible affiliations. Was this a sick man looking for identity or for attention, not a dedicated terrorist with an ideological/political agenda, or maybe just a murderer who switched ideologies anytime to justify his actions? Add onto those facts that he didn’t confess any “allegiance” to Daesh until after he was already holed-up and trapped in the bathroom and then in a second call professed his identification with the Marathon bombers (not ISIS affiliated.) Then you have a person with a changing agenda or struggling to find one other than his true motivation.

I think this man was mentally ill and decided to make his act of hatred an act of terrorism to garner more attention and meaning to his meaningless act of hatred. Somehow he wanted to divert attention away from his own ambivalence about his sexuality. It happens all the time. Homophobia is a defense against a person’s own unacceptable impulses. In our society, this too often translates into a violent defense as a desperate rejection of themselves… kill the gay person and therefore kill the gay desire they have. Maybe that is too psychological for the media and certainly not as sensational (or useful) for those who want to incite hatred of Muslims… Sorry NRA and Trump supporters, this is looking like just another typical American mass shooting.


Thoughts on Orlando…

June 22, 2016

I can’t imagine the terror of the men and women in that club as they scrambled to save their lives, or of their families as they desperately await news of their child’s fate. It makes me feel want to hold my own children a little closer.

Another mass shooting… another hate crime directed at Gay community… another assault weapon used for maximum damage… just another day in the USA???

How does a man on a “watch list” for terrorism legally get an assault weapon and handgun? Thank you NRA.

Trump takes a victory lap and congratulates himself over the bodies of 49 murdered people, then renews call to ban Muslims – from being born in USA to live in the USA?

My first thought when I heard of mass murder at Gay nightclub – another Christian extremist? “GOD HATES FAGS” is mantra of Westboro Baptists and we all know what Leviticus has to say about punishing Gays. Hate is not a uniquely Muslim tenet. Neither is compassion among many Christians and Muslims in the Orlando community.

Ironic that Trump condemns “radical Islam” for killing 49 people – people who he would deny the right to exist with the same Constitutional rights as other Americans…

The response of the community in Orlando is far better than that of politicians and media… the community was supportive (a line to donate blood was over 1 mile long in the 90 degree weather, while local restaurants donated food and water to people), and defiant (will focus on unity and love rather than fear and hatred.) Media with the usual fear mongering, Republicans (and a few Dems) with the hate and fear.

Conservatives poke fun at “political correctness”, but if we were less tolerant of hate speech then the Orlando killer would have been recognized for what he was a lot sooner.

The Thin Veneer of Moral Outrage

June 21, 2016

While most Republicans gradually came around to condemning the racist attacks of Trump on Judge Curiel, their moral outrage did not extend beyond words to actions (e.g. withdrawing their support of their racist for President.) Their leading moral contortionist, Paul Ryan, called the Trump attack the “text book definition of racism,” but somehow justified his continuing support. Of course, the suspicion is that Republicans really are basing their campaign on bigotry – just not flagrant bigotry. (You know, kind of like the “Willie Horton” type campaign of the older, “nicer” Bush.) Others suggest a pragmatic explanation – the GOP can’t afford to alienate Hispanic voters the same way they had alienated African-American voters since the Goldwater days. Maybe their reactions to the most recent racist attack of Trump (“Pocahantas”) offers some additional insight.

When Trump calls Elizabeth Warren “Pocahantas” most Republicans dismiss the slur as “funny.” Invoking a stereotype of Native Americans is just as racist as any other. For example, if Trump has tried to label Ben Carson as “little black Sambo” (another equally offending cartoon stereotype), I suspect that the Same Republicans would be apoplectic. However, Native Americans are not a large voting bloc and offending them is not as problematic to their electoral aspirations. Besides that, Ms. Warren scares them. Senator Elizabeth Warren is an effective voice for progressives, and is fearless of the man most Republicans do fear. She not only exposes their use of nationalism to appeal to grievance-mongering, fear and scapegoating. She also points out their agenda to serve the needs of the 1% at the expense of working families. Worse of all, her fearless responses to Trump point out their own cowardice in failing to do the same.

So the continuing support of a racist, misogynist, pathological liar and sick narcissist (those are all labels Republicans themselves have given to Trump) by Republicans is really about what they truly are at best – moral cowards.

“The Global Economy”

June 20, 2016

Trade Agreements since NAFTA have been blamed for job loss, wage loss and an acceleration of economic inequality. Sanders claims that trade pacts have not been negotiated on behalf of American workers, rather on behalf of corporate profits. Trump claims that trade pacts have been negotiated by weak-kneed bureaucrats with a propensity for concessions. Trump defines “winning” trade pacts as those that increase profits. Sanders defines success as increasing good paying jobs. But apart from their differences on what is the relationship between the “Global Economy” and economic inequality?

The basic problem with international trade recently is simple: in the old world people moved to where the good paying jobs were. In the present economic world the movement of goods is a substitute for the movement of people. We were sold on trade deals like NAFTA with the idea that if import more goods that require unskilled labor then American workers will be required to get more skilled jobs. Then everyone wins: better high paying jobs and less expensive goods. That was the basic line of stuff fed by the Clinton Administration: workers can increase wealth and job security with education. The reality has been that trade pacts have had a dampening effect on all American wages – skilled or not. Why?

The basic reason why trade pacts have diminished the wealth of middle class Americans and accelerated the wealth of the top 1 percent is that worker’s bargaining power over wages have been eviscerated. When our government deregulated the financial world through Clinton and Bush, they made capital highly mobile. With trade tariffs lowered, then corporations could tell workers that if they don’t accept lower wages then the company will simply move overseas. Instead of Countries attracting good workers with higher wages and better living conditions for their families because they restricted the flow of corporate capital out of the country, we now have Countries competing for capital by lowering the wages of workers and offering corporate tax breaks at the cost of public services. It’s just an international version of a professional sports team owner-billionaire telling a bankrupt city “build me a stadium with your money or I will take my ball and play elsewhere. We pay the price while he makes the millions…

This is another example of how government policy has served the needs of the donor class.

1968: RFK 2016: Sanders?

June 14, 2016

As we mark the anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy after he won the California primary, I wonder about the times we live through. It’s awfully hard to explain 1968 to people born since then. In some ways the social conditions were similar. America was very polarized and angry. Even more so than today. The passions ran out into violence in the streets. There was a racist running for President in 1968 (Wallace) as there is now. The political battles were being drawn between the “political establishment” candidates who supported that status quo of war and inequality and reformers, just as there are today. For Democrats, Humphrey was the establishment candidate, much as Hillary is now (although in Humphrey’s defense, Hillary has not accomplished nearly as much). Robert Kennedy was the reform candidate, which seemed strange coming from the political powerhouse family.

Kennedy represented a rejection of war as an economic policy, rejected nationalism and advocated “socialist” policies of uplifting the poor. Sanders is no Kennedy, though he has resonated with that historical epoch. The assassination of Kennedy was the coup de grace of the reform movement, and it has never recovered since then. John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were all killed after deciding against war in favor of economic and racial justice. They had a real chance to change the direction of the Country. I am not so certain now that such reforms are possible without the social unrest we saw in 1968. In many ways, the possibilities in 1968 were far better than they seem to be now. I certainly never thought that 1968 was a more promising year than this one…   

Walk the Walk

June 13, 2016

I wondered how the GOP establishment, even the GOP mainstream (what’s left of it), would respond to Trump’s most recent racist tirade. The attack on Judge Curiel seems to have induced a zombie-like effect on them. Republican after Republican has gone on media and in the same flat affect denounced the Trump racism in terms that are as revealing of their own bias as there are of his. Some say his racism is “unfortunate” or a “mistake,” meaning the comments are only a concern in terms of their chances of winning the election. Some say they are “wrong,” which is a little closer to a moral judgment though not exactly clear as to why his racist attacks are wrong. Maybe they mean they are wrongly worded. I don’t know. Paul Ryan continues to amaze with his utter cluelessness by suggesting that the comments from a man who began his campaign by claiming Mexican immigrants were rapists and drug dealers and refused to denounce David Duke, were coming from “left field.” Maybe he was suggesting that Trump has nothing but a left field in his ballpark, but I doubt it.

I was taught that when it comes to matters of racism, it’s not what people say, it’s what they do that matters. Most racists are cowards and spew their hatred behind closed doors. In public, they tend toward silence or the meek defense of overtly racist speech (e.g. “I think he simply misspoke”). If the GOP were really not resting on a foundation of bigotry, then they would take back their endorsements of Trump. Saying that Trump’s comments were wrong, but doing nothing about it says more about their moral compass than anything else. Worse yet, if it were true that the comments from Republicans about Trump that he was unqualified, pathological, etc. before he won the primaries were sincere, then it illustrates the reason why nothing can get done in government. If politicians are willing to ignore what is best for the Country to win elections, then it explains why we are unable to solve our problems. Once again, what they do matters more than what they say. If Republicans deserted Trump in droves as he continues to reveal his true character, then there may be hope for our country yet…