reality television

#WhatTheyVotedFor (Corruption Conundrum)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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The basic conundrum, the New York Times explained Tuesday night:

By firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey, late Tuesday afternoon, President Trump has cast grave doubt on the viability of any further investigation into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in the country’s history.

The explanation for this shocking move—that Mr. Comey’s bungling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server violated longstanding Justice Department policy and profoundly damaged public trust in the agency—is impossible to take at face value. Certainly Mr. Comey deserves all the criticism heaped upon him for his repeated missteps in that case, but just as certainly, that’s not the reason Mr. Trump fired him.

Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president. Though compromised by his own poor judgment, Mr. Comey’s agency has been pursuing ties between the Russian government and Mr. Trump and his associates, with potentially ruinous consequences for the administration.

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The Donald Trump Show (Bow Down)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Reality television star and Donald Trump aide Omarosa Manigault explains that the GOP presidential candidate's critics will soon bow down before him.  (Detail of frame from 'Frontline' via PBS, September, 2016.“Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

Omarosa Manigault

And, yeah, you know? Now we know.

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Feldman, Josh. “Omarosa: ‘Every Critic, Every Detractor, Will Have to Bow Down to President Trump'”. Mediaite. 22 September 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Trolling the Gap)

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This is your reminder―

Since launching his presidential campaign, however, Trump has largely ignored what used to be his signature issue. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly broached the subject last night:

O’REILLY: Do you think your birther position has hurt you among African Americans?

TRUMP: I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t even talk about it anymore, Bill…. I guess with, maybe some. I don’t know why. I really don’t know why. But I don’t think―very few people, you are the first one that’s brought that up in a while.

For the record, Trump fielded a question about this as recently as Monday―the day before this O’Reilly interview. When the candidate said no one has brought up this issue “in a while,” that clearly wasn’t true.

(Benen)

―that Donald Trump is the candidate of the internet troll. The whole pro wrestling metaphor really is tempting, all things considered, but let’s just file that under some manner of reality television. You know, to some degree we’re supposed to believe pro wrestling, too.

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What It Comes To (Par Excrement)

Commander Amaro suffers a bout of masculine insecurity. (Detail of FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet')

So ....

If it seemed strange enough that Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump should hit Marco Rubio for sweat, and Mitt Romney for bowel control, and that Sen. Rubio should respond by mocking Donald Trump’s sweat and bladder control, then I have no idea what to tell you about what comes next.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), part of the U.S. Senate's 'Gang of Eight', speaks during a news briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., 18 April 2013. (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)Marco Rubio again unleashed an array of sharp attacks on Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, jabbing at his “small hands” and “spray tan.”

In response to the property mogul calling him “little Rubio,” Rubio conceded that Trump was taller than him. However, the Florida senator suggested Trump had small hands for his height.

“And you know what they say about guys with small hands,” Rubio said with a smile, prompting stunned laughter from the crowd.

The report from Alex Jaffe of NBC News is not exactly encouraging insofar as anyone might care about pretenses of dignity. This is your Republican Party.

It is one thing to wonder how low this can go. It is another to grab the popcorn and enjoy the spectacle. But while this is reality, it is not reality television proper.

Here is a question: How low do we have to search in order to find an upside? Because it only gets worse.

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The Rand Paul Show (Unimpossible)

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference on military sexual assault November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A bipartisan group of senators are pushing to create an independent military justice system with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Why not take a moment for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)?

Steve Benen considers the suspension of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign:

I’ve seen some reports noting that Perry did not technically withdraw from the race, choosing instead to “suspend” his campaign, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a distinction without a difference. The former governor’s national ambitions are finished.

Perry is the first candidate to depart the historically massive 2016 field, which is itself emblematic of a larger truth. In a year in which the leading GOP candidates never served a day in public office, the first candidate to quit is the one who has the most executive-level experience (Perry was governor of one the nation’s largest states for a record 14 years).

msnbcSen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another struggling presidential hopeful, said on Twitter last night, “What does it say about Republicans when a three-and-a-half-term governor with a successful record of creating jobs bows out, as a reality star leads in the polls?”

Under the circumstances, that’s not an unreasonable question.

Ordinarily, when a high-profile presidential candidate effectively withdraws from the race, there’s a brief scramble from the remaining candidates to pick up his or her supporters and top staffers. That’s not really an issue with Perry – at the risk of sounding unkind, his departure doesn’t affect race too much, since the Texas Republican’s support was so weak.

It is, of course, easy enough to postulate snappy retorts about consumerism and Americo-Machiavellian post-capitalism, or some such, but perhaps it is more important to make the point that it is, in fact, possible to find a common point of agreement with Rand Paul.

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Benen, Steve. “Rick Perry exits stage right”. msnbc. 12 September 2015.

The Depth of Sickness

Women and children from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, August 14, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)

That we do not dispute this or, really, any other aspect of David Frankfurter’s analysis only adds to our horror:

The social context may be just as important for understanding this new policy of sexual enslavement. One thing learned from the study of the small religious movements that have sprung up in the West over the past few centuries is the systematic restructuring of sexual relations that leaders have often demanded at an early point in the movement. This may involve group celibacy or polygamy, the exclusive sexual rights of the leader, or free sexual relations. It can often mean dissolution of prior marriages.

From the Jewish Frankists to the Mormons, the Shakers, the Branch Davidians and others, there is a pattern of inverting or eliminating prior sexual and emotional bonds to establish a new order, administered through the leader and his acolytes at the most intimate level.

This could easily apply to Islamic State’s sexual enslavement policies. The group is declaring its own institutional domination over both the bodies of women it has captured and the sexual gratification of its recruits — as an explicit feature of its new religious utopia.

This is why.

The thing is that this isn’t just Daa’ish or Boko Haram; they are just particularly ugly, heavily-armed manifestations of a terrifying proposition―deliberate conditioning of females for sexual abuse. I wonder if they would put down their rifles in exchange for a reality television show: 3,000 Slaves and Counting.

Unfortunately, that’s not simply a crass joke.

Neither is the common bond between Western purity cult and Daa’ish; assertions of moral and, in some aspects literal, ownership of females is not some random phenomenon that happened within the Daa’ish experience, but, rather, a driving purpose of patriarchal societies. In the end, it is very possibly the reason why.

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Image note: Women and children from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, August 14, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)

Frankfurter, David. “The true motives behind Islamic State’s use of sexual slavery”. Reuters. 8 September 2015.

The Donald Trump Show (Strangers in Cars)

Donald Trump.

There is plenty about this morning’s report from Niall Stanage of The Hill worth considering:

Republican insiders are reconciling themselves to the idea that Donald Trump won’t be exiting the stage anytime soon — and their main concern now is limiting his damage to their party.

The GOP establishment is almost universally hostile to Trump, who has soared in the 2016 polls on the back of his celebrity, his outspoken statements on immigration and trade deals, and media coverage of his antics.

Many party strategists believe Trump did himself serious damage with his recent remarks denigrating Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) experiences while a prisoner of war in Hanoi, Vietnam — but there is not yet conclusive polling evidence available.

Meanwhile, Trump has made clear that he has no serious intention of reining in his rhetoric — or curbing his propensity to tweak the nose of anyone who displeases him. On Tuesday, shortly after fellow White House contender Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had referred to the businessman as a “jackass,” Trump read out Graham’s cellphone number on live television during a campaign event in the senator’s home state.

During that appearance, Trump also called Graham “a stiff” and an “idiot,” and took shots at another critic and 2016 hopeful, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, saying he’d begun wearing glasses to make himself look smarter.

Among Washington Republicans, the hope is that voters will tire of such comments and that Trump will have to push his boat out into ever-murkier waters to continue to command attention.

Well, okay, sort of. There really is nothing to compare to the reality television spectacle of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Over at msnbc, last night, Steve Kornacki helmed TRMS, and pretty much made the point in the eighteen minute A-block by reminding us that Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also declared his presidential candidacy yesterday. And there certainly remains a question of whether Donald Trump’s spectacularly bizarre performance in South Carolina was specifically intended to obscure the arrival of the sixteenth major Republican presidential candidate.

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An Attempt to Explain Republicans to an Overseas Neighbor

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) (C) speaks during a news conference to introduce a GOP-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla)

Ed. note: The following is a repost of a Facebook comment offered to a friend from New Zealand who is constantly baffled by what he witnesses in the American political process, and happened to inquire about Republican efforts to … well, right. It has to do with recent House bills pertaining to the role of science in government policy.

I think the best way to explain it is to once again invoke a Cold War analogy; after all, depicting Democrats as “liberals”, with “liberals” meaning “Soviet Communists” was a key to Ronald Reagan’s electoral success.

But think about it this way, too: By that analogy, Republicans are the “capitalists”.

So it goes, then, that if we look at votes as “capital”, then the actions of the RNC, Congressional Republicans, and various surrogates and allies make sense: Get the capital by whatever means necessary.

That’s why the whole thing is so puzzling to people who, you know, have a conscience. The GOP ain’t playin’ that way. This is about winning votes, and nothing more. And in the United States, conservative voters will take whatever they can get to reinforce their platform. Additionally, superstition and subjective moral outrage are much more attractive to most American voters than obvious logic that, if attended, would skip the melodrama and slapstick that has become our political system.

To that end, we might consider Manichean dualisms or, simply, reality television. Just as many people believe in a basic struggle between good and evil, so also do many people believe reality television depicts reality.

In that context, it becomes a capitalistic ratings game; our elections become a functional part of our entertainment industry.

What Republicans are trying to do here is twofold: (1) Bolster their own political fantasies by excluding reality; (2) create a situation in which government will experience an even greater failure about its performance of duty so that they can complain even louder that government just doesn’t work.

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Abrams, Lindsay. “House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research”. Salon. 19 November 2014.

Benen, Steve. “Republicans take aim at imaginary target: ‘secret science'”. msnbc. 20 November 2014.