empowerment

The Suicide Pact as a Political Argument

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Contemplation of Justice

This is an interesting starting point:

If the Justice Department and the FBI knowingly used an unreliably biased witness to win a FISA warrant against Carter Page, violating his civil liberties in the process, you would therefore expect that there are some judges on the FISC who are concerned. They, after all, are the ones who were misled. They are the ones who signed warrants and renewals based on shoddy information. Conversely, if the judges on the FISC are not hopping mad, you might take that as evidence that they don’t, in fact, feel misled and that the Justice Department and FBI conduct was, after all, reasonably within the obligations of lawyers and investigators before the court.

(Wittes)

One particularly difficult aspect of the #TrumpRussia scandal is the manner in which the context of dispute overshadows history itself. It is telling, in comparison, that Democrats have come to defend and advocate the individual mandate, but also that Republicans and conservatives turned on their own idea; at some point, we ought to take the note about insincerity. It has, for years, also been true that a liberal political relationship to law enforcement is fraught, to say the least; but it is also true that conservatives have simultaneously drummed up tough law-and-order talk while relying more and more on conspiracy theories denigrating and defaming law enforcement institutions. Naturally, the allegedly liberal party finds itself defending the law enforcement agency and agent that, to the one, undertook irregular actions wrecking the Democratic presidential candidate, and that alone ought to be boggling. To the other, if we set aside Donald Trump for a moment, the FBI is also the agency that reviews its own duty-related killings, and has found itself to be perfect, something like a hundred fifty out of a hundred fifty. Given a day in court to indict all the sleazy tactics of a powerfully effective eugenic “drug war” any liberal would find the FBI in line to defend the necessity of allowing law enforcement to behave that way. Yet the spectacle continues apace, with Republicans hollering until they wheeze and Democrats breathlessly defending one of the most controversial law enforcement agencies on the planet. Without this extraordinary, self-inflicted presidential scandal requiring our priority, what is up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, anyway? Federal law enforcement is still law enforcement.

Just as Democrats finding themselves rallying to defend the individual mandate ought to be significant of something about how we reached this point, or Jade Helm leaving liberals to consider posturing an ostensible general defense of the American military; or, if we can remember back to 2009, the conservative roll from patriotism and the indignity of protesting against the president to the patriotic necessity of threatening the president with firearms; or, hey, we might consider decades of conservative conspiracism including the National Rifle Association, and then wonder whether it will be law enforcement or the military confiscating the guns; so, too, might we wonder at the trend of conservatives behaving so badly that others need to do their jobs for them.

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Butchery and Botchery

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

Chauncey DeVega inquires after a point close to the heart of the #trumpswindle:

What happens when Trump and the Republican Party are done feasting on the “white working class” and their other supporters? When the bones are picked clean, to whom will they turn for a meal? People of conscience know the answer even if it terrifies them.

If a budget is a kind of moral document and a statement of priorities, Trump has shown that he is an enemy of the American people and the common good—including his most stalwart supporters. If Trump is willing to betray them, all others should quake in fear at what he plans for his enemies in the process of “making America great again.”

The question echoes: To call for Main Street over Wall Street, why would anyone vote for Donald Trump? To call for empathy with the working classes, why would anyone vote for Donald Trump? To drain the swamp of entrenched interests, why would anyone vote for Donald Trump?

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The Donald Trump Show (Death Wish Double Trouble Super Fun Follow-Up Sequel Pak)

Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate who also happens to be a skeleton with an afro. (Detail of frame from 'Shonen Jump One Piece'.)

“He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance.”

Andrew O’Hehir

Sometimes the setup requires a bit of seemingly otherwise useless melodrama; and sometimes that seemingly otherwise useless melodrama―your buzzword for the week is, well, okay, two words: “October surprise”―works well enough to address certain otherwise seemingly obvious questions somehow obscured by a hazy addiction to synthesized melodrama. Or, more to the point:

We can’t be sure how many people really support Trump, [Thomas B.] Edsall reports, since there’s considerable evidence that they aren’t telling pollsters the truth. Voting for Trump, it appears, is something white people do in the shadows. It’s a forbidden desire that is both liberating and self-destructive, not unlike the married heterosexual who has a same-sex lover on the down-low, or the executive who powers through the day on crystal meth and OxyContin. Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)On some level you know the whole thing can’t end well, but boy does it feel good right now.

I have argued on multiple occasions that white Americans, considered in the aggregate, exhibit signs of an unconscious or semi-conscious death wish. I mean that both in the Freudian sense of a longing for release that is both erotic and self-destructive―the intermingling of Eros and Thanatos―and in a more straightforward sense. Consider the prevalence of guns in American society, the epidemic rates of suicide and obesity (which might be called slow-motion suicide) among low-income whites, the widespread willingness to ignore or deny climate science and the deeply rooted tendency of the white working class to vote against its own interests and empower those who have impoverished it. What other term can encompass all that?

Trump is the living embodiment of that contradictory desire for redemption and destruction. His incoherent speeches wander back and forth between those two poles, from infantile fantasies about forcing Mexico to build an $8 billion wall and rampant anti-Muslim paranoia to unfocused panegyrics about how “great” we will be one day and how much we will “win.” In his abundant vigor and ebullience and cloddish, mean-spirited good humor, Trump may seem like the opposite of the death wish. (He would certainly be insulted by any such suggestion. Wrong! Bad!) But everything he promises is impossible, and his supporters are not quite dumb enough not to see that. He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance. No wonder his voters are reluctant to ‘fess up.

(O’Hehir)

Nor is this a matter of making the obvious point; with Americans, it’s all in how you say it.

I mean, sure, we can all see it, but explaining the mess is a whole ‘nother thing.

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Image notes: Top ― Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate. (Detail of frame from Shonen Jump One Piece.) Right ― Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

O’Hehir, Andrew. “Appetite for destruction: White America’s death wish is the source of Trump’s hidden support”. Salon. 11 May 2016.

The Ben Carson Show (Setting Star)

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson arrives to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, 3 December 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

Start with the idea of a “Thing ‘Everybody’ Does”, but what it really refers to is a bit more particular and circumstantial, such as a thing every [fill in the blank] does; to further refine that we might invoke notions of sociopolitical empowerment in order to explain that the blank should be filled by some context of something every [not of the group] does when addressing the group.

For instance, the notion of something every white person does when talking to a black people; or something every man does when talking to women. It is a different actual something depending on the people, relationships, and circumstances, but the underlying device is the same.

To cross boundaries and show solidarity by insulting people in an inherently patronizing manner.

Donald Trump comes to mind, for instance.

Or the setting star of Dr. Ben Carson.

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum yesterday and raised a few eyebrows with his bizarre delivery, effectively reading a history of Israel for reasons no one could explain. He also kept pronouncing “Hamas” as “hummus,” making it seem as if Carson had very serious concerns about the influence of ground chickpeas in the Middle East.

But for my money, the really notable part about Carson’s strange appearance was his thoughts on, of all things, the $1 bill. ABC News reported:

Arrangement of stars on a United States one dollar bill often cited as evidence of a conspiracy theory regarding Freemasons.Addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition today, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson told a story about how the Star of David came to be on the U.S. dollar bill.

Only one problem: There’s no Star of David on the dollar bill.

Apparently, Carson believes that if you look at the back of a dollar bill―on the right, just above the eagle―you’ll see stars in a shape resembling the Star of David. The presidential hopeful told his audience yesterday about a wealthy Jewish merchant, Haym Salomon, who is believed to have helped finance George Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War.

“Salomon gave all his funds to save the U.S. Army and, some say, no one knows for sure, that’s the reason there’s a Star of David on the back of the one dollar bill,” the retired neurosurgeon argued.

(Benen)

We might add that this bit about the Star of David on the dollar bill works its way into Masonic conspiracy theories, and pretty much rely on a presumed stereotype of evil, manipulative Jews.

You know, the whole “Freemasons run the country!” thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Ben Carson Show.

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Image note: Top ― Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson arrives to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, 3 December 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP) Right ― Arrangement of stars on a United States one dollar bill often cited as evidence of a conspiracy theory regarding Freemasons.

Benen, Steve. “Ben Carson adds the $1 bill to his list of off-the-wall theories”. msnbc. 4 December 2015.

A Long Note on Political Tradition in These United States

President Barack Obama, delivers his State of the Union speech at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Charles Dharapak/AP)

By now of course we have become accustomed to the proposition that Republicans, once elected, would rather sit around. To some it actually seems a very sick idea; not only did the Speaker of the House demonstrate that Republicans conisder their job description to include going on vacation instead of actually working because, well, the most important part of the job is election and re-election, but in recent months the GOP has shown more and more willingness to simply admit that the inherent failure of government is more of a conservative goal than anything else.

Boehner and the band skipped out on gigs that might need Congressional attention, such as the Daa’ish question, the Ebola question, and the Immigration Reform question; despite their howls of rage regarding the latter, the fact of executive action occasionally arises when Congress refuses to pass a bill and the Speaker of the House calls on the President to use his executive authority. They could have skipped screeching themselves hoarse by simply sticking around and doing their jobs. Then again, the prior statement is controversial if only because it would appear that Congressional Republicans appear to believe their first, last, and only job is to win votes. Given their reluctance to undertake day-to-day Constitutional functions of Congress, such as advising and consenting to presidential appointments—or, as such, formally refusing the nomination—we ought not be surprised that the latest duty Republicans wish to shirk is sitting through an annual speech.

Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right’s mind.

“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.'”

Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one publicly pushing the idea.

Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”

Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”

(Benen)

Wait, wait, wait—sixteen years ago?

Yes. Like impeachment chatter and stonewalling, Republicans want to make refusing to hear the State of the Union Address part of their standard response to any Democratic president.

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Less Unexepected?

We should not say it was expected, as such. That is, certes we’ve heard such things in the past, but one would think that if a stunt is laughed off enough times, people might realize it doesn’t work. Or perhaps that is simply the (ahem!) nice way of saying we would ordinarily expect such things except that we give people in general more credit than that.

Or, as Diana Buendia explains for WBEZ:

WBEZ 91.5 logoSome African-American clergy and conservative Catholics say they’ll ban Illinois lawmakers who vote for same-sex marriage from their churches.

About two dozen priests and pastors joined the Catholic Conference of Illinois to form a new religious coalition yesterday.

“We want to make sure that we a send a message to our elected officials that as a collective community and a collaborative, we will not allow you to speak in our churches, you will not be invited to our church when you’re running for office because we as a community are incensed,” said Bishop Lance Davis, senior pastor at a church in Dolton, who’s part of the group.

In a way, it falls within the realm of the obvious and expected; to the other, though, the problem with such a demonstration seems so obvious that it is hard to believe they are really—yes, really—attempting this stunt.

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