Sunday, May 29, 2016

Your Front Teeth and a Civil Tongue: Some Musings on Internet Trolls and Bullies

by Nomad

Some idle observations on trolls and other discontents and the pursuit of civility in divisive times. Spoiler alert: It's not easy.

Like Toilet Paper

For bloggers, the appearance of an occasional troll is a sign you must be doing something right. It used to bother me but not anymore.
That kind of reactive abuse is a kind of rite of passage and a validation that the information in the post annoys the very people it is supposed to annoy.

Like toilet paper, there are a variety of troll types. However, the main difference is that toilet paper at least performs a valuable service. 
When it comes to trolls the most common are the illiterate ones who read the headlines and skim the rest. They definitely clearly spend more time with their comments than reading. They explode on the scene, leaving their dung as a marker and then never return. 

There are the ones who direct their personal attacks at me (or other commenters.) "You MORAN!" is the standard salutation and represents the beginning and ending of their wisdom.
I call them snowflakes because they are sharp and cold but so tiny and unimportant. And like snowflakes, at this blog they disappear almost as soon as you notice them.
Think yourself lucky, that you never get a chance to read their comments. Your life would not be enriched, take from me.

Bottomline, I treat such remarks with the same respect as I would picnic trash left in a public park.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why America's Love Affair with Rule-Breaking Leaders Provided an Open Door for Trump

by Nomad

A recent poll revealed an interesting and somewhat disturbing trend in politics. When it comes to leadership, nearly half of the country would be happy with a president that breaks rules. And guess whose supporters overwhelming uphold that idea that rules and laws are for losers? 

Breaking Rules for the Greater Good

Yesterday, I stumbled across some interesting bit of information from one of the thousand of polls. 
According to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, nearly half of Americans (45%) think that because things in the US have gone so far off the rails, the nation needs a leader who's willing to break some rules to put things in order. Slightly more than half of the respondents (51%) disagreed.  

If you think about it, it's really a frightening idea.
But what does it mean "to break the rules"? Does this mean voters think a leader must break laws too? Since laws are rules, that is the implication. And because the Constitution is the foundation of legal powers of the government, does it mean that half of the country would elect a leader that would violate the Constitution? 

And since the Supreme Court is the official final arbitrator of how the Constitution is applied, does this mean that 45% of the nation believes a president should listen to the high court decisions only when he agrees with it? Suddenly the entire question of the rule of law is called into question. All of our international treaties and nation-to-nation relationships are left to the whims of a leader who likes to shake things up and be "unpredictable." 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

No, Mr. Trump. Greed is Not Good. It is a Form of Evil.

by Nomad

A Swiss news story about an illegal profiteering scheme underscores the reality behind Donald Trump's often recited principle about the glories of greed. 

Greed and Moral Decay of the American Voter

The presumptive nominee for the Republican party in this year's presidential election really wants you to know something.
Trump is greedy.. times three.
"My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money. I’m going to be greedy for the United States."
Trump's philosophy is that greed is a good thing. In fact, it is such a good thing that he wants the entire nation to surrender to it. If the Bible says:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Trump's advice?
Ignore it. That idea is for losers.
And if the Christian doctrine says:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
Mister, you'd better wise up.
The New Age of Trumpism is nearly upon us. And for a limited time only, you have a chance to get in on the ground floor!

The very nature of greed- mainly its insatiable self-centeredness- tends to cast doubt on the idea that Trump will ever charitable focus his greedy nature for the sake of the country.
It really makes no sense.
Logically, greedy people are not greedy if they want to share their wealth, their skills or any of their material blessings. Still there are a lot of suckers and chumps out there ready to take that leap of faith and vote for Trump. He's given them enough warning but they want ever so much to believe.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How Donald Trump Tried to Use the Homeless as a Weapon to Throw Obstinate Tenants on the Street

by Nomad

Back in the 1980s, property developer, Trump pulled out all stops to evict tenants from their homes and out into the street. He was even ready to use New York's homeless as a tool in his scheme.

Trump and the Tenants

In the early 1980s, Donald Trump had a dream of putting his personal stamp on the Manhattan skyline. It meant a lot to him to establish himself as something more than the son of Fred Trump.

He had been determined to show the world that he was far more crafty and a lot more ambitious than his father. Fred Trump had worked his own property magic in Brooklyn but son Donald wanted to show the world- and himself- that he was bigger than that.   So, in a literal and figurative sense, Trump was ready to cross the bridge between middle-class hum-drum Brooklyn to the fabulous upper-class domains of Manhattan.

And in that regard, Trump had already made a name for himself with a string of home runs in the late 1970s, such as the development of property owned by the bankrupted Penn Central Railroad. As a twenty-eight-year-old unknown, Donald had to reply on his father's political connections to seal the deal.  The project offered to Trump reportedly included a lot of sweeteners, like tax abatements.
That property would later become the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Then, after establishing his reputation as a deal-maker with his own political connection, Trump was ready for his next golden opportunity.

Mr. Trump had paid just $13 million for 100 Central Park South and the building adjoining it, the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, in 1981. It was prime real estate overlooking Central Park. 
Indeed, it was considered to be one of the city’s most desirable blocks.

And Trump had audacious ideas in his head. His proposal included the demolition of the building and its neighbor- which he also owned. He then planned to construct a luxury high-rise condominium complex facing Central Park. It must have seemed like money in the bank.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Three Ways Clinton Could Go Down in History as the Person who Handed the Presidency to Trump

by Nomad

Philip Wallace, writing for the Washington Post Weekly, offers some words of caution for Clinton supporters who might believe they have the election in the bag.
This has been an election filled with mistaken assumptions. Nothing can be assumed, especially at this point. There are, Wallace observes, three ways that Trump could win the election. 

When Racism is Just a Word

By overestimating the negative reaction to Trump's bigotry and misogynist remarks Clinton could be miscalculating the mood of the nation.
People care most about bigotry most if it translates into harmful acts, says Wallace. In this way, allegations that Trump's remarks are injurious or directly related to discrimination (or violence) could have an impact.

Otherwise, the voting public is much more likely to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, and believe his  heartfelt declaration that there is no hatred in his heart." There are more people who are willing to dismiss Trump's thoughtless and tacit approval of racism than you might think.
"More fundamentally, Trump's chosen idiom is us-verses-them xenophobia, not racism. The "us" part invites "regular" Americans to feel themselves as a people, in large part by identifying and rejecting the elites' cosmopolitanism as poisonous to our national fiber. That way of thinking doesn't have to be racial at all.

Friday, May 13, 2016

All About Newt: Trump Considers Former House Speaker Gingrich as Running Mate

by Nomad

According to the latest rumors, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is at the top of Donald Trump's running mate list.  One can see why Trump would be attracted to a person like Gingrich and yet, once you get past the Republican revisionist whitewash of his history, Gingrich is and has always been one hot mess.

The Ted Cruz of the 1990s

If they can do nothing else, Republicans are extraordinarily good at revising the history record and rehabilitating images. It's something they have to be good at, I suppose. Newt Gingrich is a case in point. Today the Far Right seems to idolize Gingrich as some kind of senior statesman.

His opinion is valued as though his words were made of honey. It was a very different story back in the 1990s. As Speaker of the House, Gingrich was the Ted Cruz of his day and was never one to let his conscience distract him from a political opportunity.  

Hypocrisy and politics generally go hand in hand, however, Gingrich was something of a phenomenon and new records were set for deceit and dissemblance. 

For instance, even while calling for President Clinton's impeachment for carrying on a tryst in the Oval Office, Newt himself was allegedly engaged in an affair with a Congressional aide. (Today he makes the fine distinction that the president had lied under oath. Fortunately, Gingrich was never asked about his affairs under oath.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Ignorance of Donald Trump and the Shameless Capitulation of the Republican Party

by Nomad

When Trump revealed the details of his long-anticipated economic program, economists shuddered. It was suddenly clear that Trump hadn't the faintest grasp of fiscal realities. Tea Party voters and Reagan Conservatives also had their own reasons to tremble in disbelief at their own politicians' endorsements.

With Ignorance and Confidence

The sardonic Mark Twain once wrote:
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
Had he been privileged enough to meet Mr. Trump, Twain might have added a few other more requirements to his epigram: "an angry and ignorant electorate, a compliant or timid press and lots of ready cash."  
Apparently armed only with those five qualities, any fool can rise to the top of the Republican Party and, with a little luck, become president of the United States.

In this election, there's been a shortage of policy discussion from Donald Trump. We know he intends to build a wall and force Mexico to pay for it. He plans to stop all Muslims from entering the country.
We have been assured his plans were going to be "great" and they were going to be "huge." Other than that not much else to report. a surprising number of voters didn't seem curious so long as they were entertained.

It was assumed that he would share his wisdom at some point. sooner or later, people were bound to get tired of the Trump's schtick and start asking for a few specifics.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Meanwhile, Back at the North Carolina State Legislative Building Restroom...

by Nomad

Karma Teaches Former Anti-Clinton Crusader and Baylor President Ken Starr a Lesson

by Nomad

In the late 1990s, Ken Starr was a name on everybody's lips. This was the independent prosecutor whom the Republicans hoped would derail the Clinton presidency.
Today, as president of Baylor University, Starr has been struggling to deal with criticism over the university's handling of a series of rape allegations.

Runaway Investigations

As a walking footnote to history, Kenneth Starr was once a name of everybody's lips. He was portrayed by the Far Right as a heroic independent prosecutor determined to expose all of the scandals of the Clinton administration. Others claimed that he was a commissioned by the Republican party with attempting to destroy the credibility of the president, and to provide the basis for the impeachment of President Clinton. Suffice to say, for awhile, he was a controversial figure. 

Starr was head of what was in some ways a runaway investigation. Initially, Starr was appointed to investigate the suicide death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster.

After three years, Starr made the disappointing discovery that the severely depressed Foster had killed himself, and was not the victim of foul play. This reaffirmed previous findings.
The Republicans were not ready to call it quits.

When that line of questioning proved to fruitless, the investigation was expanded to include the Whitewater real estate investments of Bill Clinton. That too reached a dead end.
In December 1997, Starr shut down the Whitewater investigation because of insufficient evidence.

That inquiry was revived one more time. in January 1998 to include an extramarital affair that Bill Clinton had with Monica Lewinsky

Harrassment and Bullying 

The justification for this expansion was the allegation that the president had engaged in a form of workplace sexual harrassment. The idea that this was a personal matter between two people made no difference whosoever to Starr's case. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Homefront: How WWII and the US Military Provided the First Spark for the Civil Rights Movement 3 / 3

by Nomad

Dwight EisenhowerIn the previous installment in this series, we examined how the a progressive president's wife, a black workers' union and an imposed reform of the armed forces all combined to helped to jump-start the civil rights movement in the US. In the final part of our series, we will show, how a military president from the Republican Party took a very different view.

The Little Rock Crisis and Why Eisenhower Intervened

For moderate Republicans, President Dwight D. Eisenhower is the one president - outside of Theodore Roosevelt- that they can point to as in any way, reformist. They tend to cite Eisenhower's stand on ending segregation in the South as proof that he was committed to equality for the races and progress in general. 

Despite evidence that Eisenhower was a moderate, the part he played in the story of civil rights was much more of a result of his military background, rather than a question of morality or an appreciation of fairness for African Americans. 
It was actually a matter of proper organization.    

When we look a little closer, we see that Eisenhower's attitude toward integration was much more ambivalent than it is commonly painted. Scholars still debate how firm his commitment was to civil rights. 

It is true that he signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960, but he was overly-enthused about having to deal with racial issues.
He never endorsed the Supreme Court’s ruling in 1954, Brown v. Board of Education (Kansas), that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional, and he failed to use his moral authority as president to urge speedy compliance with the court’s decision.
Little Rock CrisisClaiming states' rights, many governors, and legislatures, particularly in the South, refused to recognize the SCOTUS decision.

It was clear that the some politician leaders were ready to rebel, and they planned to use the state militias to protect their state's rights.

In the autumn of 1957, the epicenter of this battle of wills became Little Rock when Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas announced his absolute refusal to comply the court's ruling. 
While the Fayetteville, Charleston, and Hoxie school districts integrated without incident, the attempt to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in the fall of 1957 led to a crisis, as Faubus tried to block the attempt to integrate the school by nine black students (the “Little Rock Nine”).

Friday, May 6, 2016

Donald Trump and the Moment Conservatives Have Been Dreading

by Nomad

After years of divisive politics, Republicans are now reaping what they have sowed in the form of their presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. 

The Moment Has Come

Well, ladies and gentlemen, here we are. 
We have finally arrived at the moment. The moment when all of the Republican candidates have been vanquished. The moment many in the party have feared when nothing whatsoever stands between billionaire Donald Trump and the nomination. The road thus far has revealed the true character of the man, his pettiness, superficiality, his ugly bigotry and lack of judgment. 

All of the things that would in any normal election have delivered him into the rubbish heap of US political history.
(This was once, after all, the same nation that disqualified a candidate because of an overzealous war-whoop during the primaries made him look too too ridiculous.)  

Mainstream media has a lot to answer for in allowing this strange reality-tv show character to rise to the top. A lot of people should be held responsible. 
In terms of what kind of president he would be, what he represents and what he believes in, Trump has been vague, bereft of both specifics and sense. Indirectly, however, he has given us a general idea of the mentality.
Carpet-bombing ISIS may sound tough but it is a very stupid idea. Building a wall is neither a practical, nor a plausible solution to illegal immigration.  

Yet, with the state of American journalism today, right wing voters were encouraged, persuaded to take the man seriously. When it came to asking difficult questions, there's always been a bias between the two parties. Palin could be asked what newspapers she read and her party could condemn the interviewer as engaging in "gotcha" journalism.
Thanks to the mainstream media, low-information politicians were suitably paired with low-information voters who thought education and intelligence were products of elitism. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

After Ebola: Congress Would Rather Take Time Off than Vote on $1 billion in Emergency Zika Funding

by Nomad

Less than two years ago, the nation was gripped by hysteria over the possibility of an Ebola epidemic inside the US. Republicans, assisted by right wing media, largely incited a panicked overreaction with baseless conspiracy theories  along with an irrational distrust of health officials.
Strangely, when it comes to Zika, Congress appear to be ignoring the problem altogether. So, what gives?

The Ebola Hysteria

Remember when Republicans and the right-wing media wigged out when they imagined Ebola was poised to attack the US? 
There are a lot of members of Congress who, if they could, would prefer that everybody forgot the things were said and done during the so-called Ebola panic. Understandably too. 

At that time, if you listened to right-wing media, (and much of the mainstream media) you might have thought the world's population was just about to be wiped out. Action had to be taken to save the US. 

Fox News became the theater in the round for the performance which went on for weeks in September and October 2014. At one point, talk show host Elisabeth Hasselbeck demanded that the entire country be put on lockdown like a prison. 
Hasselbeck is described as a "television personality," not- repeat, not a doctor nor political analyst and certainly not a journalist. Yet, despite her lack of serious credentials, before stepping down from Fox and Friends, she pulled in a million dollar salary at Fox News
Nice work if you can get it.

In a bit of race-baiting, Andrea Tantaros of Fox suggested that people who travel to the country and show symptoms of ebola will “seek treatment from a witch doctor” instead of go to the hospital. Fox host Steve Doocy suggested the CDC is lying about ebola because they’re “part of the administration”. Fox also promoted a conspiracy theorist who is trying to claim the CDC is lying when they caution people not to panic.
Fox News was, by no means, the only outlet that used the Ebola crisis to boost ratings. Probably not since the days of yellow journalism has the mass media clamored so stridently for the sitting president to make such a sizable blunder.
The hysteria spread through the right-wing media faster than the most virulent contagion.