Echo Chamber Strikes Back

I don’t usually watch Fox News. Or read the rubbish on right-wing web sites. But my nephew Chris sends me links to various “conservative” propaganda outlets. I guess he thinks I would benefit from an alternative view of events.

Today, his links included a claim from Sean Hannity that left-over Obama sympathizers in the civil service are conspiring with the media to stage a “soft coup.”

Hannity warns that:

Sinister forces (are) quickly aligning in what is becoming now, in my mind, a clear and present danger.

He goes on to argue that the horrors being uncovered almost daily about the new president are cooked up by “left-wing ideologues” to “overturn November’s election results and forcibly remove a duly elected president from office.”

And he says special counsel Robert Mueller is an agent of this conspiracy.

The right-wing echo chamber has picked up the coup-conspiracy claim of course.The link Chris sent me was to a story in the Washington Times giving second-day exposure to Hannity’s absurd charges. And  loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh were already warning about a “soft coup.”

So that’s how Trump’s minions are fighting back.

They don’t deny that Trump is a con artist with ties to the domestic and international underworld. They can’t. It’s on the record. And the investigations triggered by Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election have already made that clear.

What Hannity and the rest of the Trump trumpeters are doing is changing the subject. They’re trying to impugn the motives of the investigators and the media. By getting their followers to focus on the threat of a coup, they hope to obscure the  revolting truth about their grotesque standard bearer.

They’re also attacking the credibility of the investigations.

They know that Mueller and his team are pros, and the landscape is littered with bones they will inevitably dig up. So the echo chamber is setting the stage for a counter-attack.

Sadly, there are people who will believe Trump is the victim of a left-wing conspiracy. But I am sure the vast majority of Americans will see through the smokescreen generated by Hannity and his ilk.

America does not deserve a blackguard like Trump as president. He has to go. And when minions like Hannity talk nonsense about a “soft coup,” I hope they get the ridicule they deserve.

The Washington Times story

 

What Makes Voters Care?

 

Here in Florida a man whose company paid $1.7 billion in fines for defrauding Medicare has been elected and reelected our governor. With term limits kicking in, he can’t run for governor again so he’s thinking of contesting Bill Nelson’s US Senate seat.

Nelson is a third term senator with a solid record, yet he would have a battle royal on his hands if this guy runs against him.

What on earth is going on?

Don’t the voters know about Rick Scott’s past? Don’t they care?

Or do they expect their elected representatives to be crooks?

And is that why Trump still has a loyal following?

Every day we hear some new and horrifying revelation about the president. According to press reports, he and his associates are being investigated for an array of suspected offenses – conspiring with Putin’s hackers to fix the US presidential election, laundering money for the Russian mob, obstructing justice by intervening in the FBI’s investigation of his activities…

Yet Karen Handel credits Trump’s popularity for her victory in yesterday’s special election in Georgia.

So, if personal probity is not a factor in America’s choice of its politicians, what is?

Apparently party policies don’t matter much. The Republicans keep socking it to the majority of voters, taking away their health care and saddling their kids with massive student debt, for example. Yet we the people keep voting for them.

It doesn’t seem to matter that they have abandoned any pretense of protecting the environment, turning the energy barons loose to plunder and despoil the country at will.

Nothing seems to change those voters’ minds.

America is at war, has been at war for nearly 20 years and will continue to be at war as long as the military-industrial complex prospers – and the voters do nothing to end it.

There’s no longer any talk about correcting the injustices – and tragedies – of the criminal justice system.

Our global alliances are coming undone.

Yet Republican candidates keep winning elections. Why?

Of course there are some voters who are so obsessed with stuff like abortion and gay marriage, they care about nothing else.

They don’t even care about their own lives and livelihood.

But don’t they care about their children? Or their grandchildren?

Don’t they care about their country?

Don’t they care about the world?

Scott’s Medicare fine

Handel’s victory speech

Investigating Trump

 

Self Interest? Or Decency?

 

At a time when Senate Republicans are shamelessly trying to sneak through their toxic health care law, it is inconceivable that any decent human being would vote for such a party.

Surely, the Republican agenda is obvious to everyone by now? Surely, Americans have seen enough of the Trump presidency to be forewarned?

So who is still a Republican voter?

And why?

Who are these people that still side with Trump? What are they hoping to gain? What are they afraid of losing? Have they no decency, no concept of the common good?

Today’s special election to fill Tom Price’s former seat in Congress might provide some answers.

This is an affluent Atlanta suburb,and many of the voters might be rich enough to benefit from the new health care law, which takes nearly a trillion dollars from Medicaid to fund a lavish tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.

But,  even if they stand to gain from the new law – and the rest of the Republican agenda –  surely they  will not accept the thirty pieces of silver? Surely their consciences will balk at such egregious injustice?

What decent American would want to benefit from a law that leaves 23 million of their fellow-citizens without health care?

In any wholesome society, Democrat Jon Ossoff would easily defeat Republican Karen Handel (photos above) in today’s election. Yet, after the Democratic Party poured millions of dollars into the race in an attempt to match the  Republicans’ deep-pocket tactics, the result remains too close to predict.

Are  these Atlanta voters so cynical they will condone oppression, chicanery and corruption, however blatant, if they stand to gain financially?

Today’s election will  test their character – and provide an insight into the moral health of today’s America.

More on the election

More on the voters

The toxic health care bill

 

Digging up the Dirt

 

When the president and vice president of the United States have to hire lawyers to shield them from prosecution,…

When the vast majority in Congress, however poor before they got elected, are millionaires…

When lobbyists and influence peddlers, foreign and domestic, write the nation’s laws…

I have to wonder what Robert Mueller might find when he turns over the rocks littering America’s political landscape.

My bet is that he will find widespread wrongdoing, from money laundering, computer hacking and election rigging to abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

And I have to wonder whether he will be allowed to complete his investigation.

I don’t mean Mueller will be fired, although that is a distinct possibility.

I fear his life might be in danger.

The infiltration of America’s political system by organized crime is a long-established historical fact. With the stakes as high as they are now, who knows what the criminals involved might do?

I vividly recall the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. And I don’t for a moment believe the official version of the tragedies.

There is a broad and deep undercurrent of evil in this country, and it manifests itself in increasingly audacious ways.

The face of evil is more obvious today than it has ever been.

As we helplessly witness the perversion of our political process, we can only pray for Divine intervention.

More on Mueller’s investigation

The millionaire’s club

Organized crime and politics

 

Sinking to Their Level

 

Everyday Americans – working stiffs or retired codgers – have every reason to despise the Republicans in Congress.

Pandering to the most powerful and richest members of society, they have schemed and plotted against us, taking away our resources and our rights, attacking our precious environment, wantonly exposing our kids to death on the battlefield, leaving the sick to die and the poor to starve…

We have a long list of grievances, much too long to detail in a blog.  I’m sure you know what I mean.

I personally would not want any of them as a friend.

But I would not shoot them. Or approve of violence against them. That would be sinking to their level.

I deplore James Hodgkinson’s cowardly attack on a group of Republican politicians yesterday. I don’t care what his motives may have been.

I am sorry for Representative Steve Scalise, who was critically wounded in the vicious attack. I genuinely feel his pain. He must have suffered – and be still suffering – terribly.

I wish him – and all the victims of the atrocity –  a speedy and complete recovery.

It goes without saying that the attack was vile. But it was more than that.

It was an assault on our democracy, a violation of the very principles that distinguish us from the politicians we despise.

Ironically, Scalise was one of the fiercest critics of Obama’s attempts to get common-sense gun control laws through Congress. But I refuse to say he deserved what he got. I only hope he will see things differently now.

As one of those “liberals” that Republicans revile, I abhor thuggish acts like Wednesday’s attack. I believe with all my heart in reason and tolerance, understanding and inclusion.

We liberals are facing a moral crisis. As dark forces inflict their will on our society, we face a test of our own character. Will we fight fire with fire? Or hold fast to the virtues we learned at our mother’s knee?

As for me, I believe that good will triumph over evil – given time. I do not believe that any cause, however just, excuses mayhem and murder.

More on the shooting

Scalise, the gun rights advocate

 

On This Blasted Heath

 

Watching the US Open preview on TV the other night, these lines from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” popped into my head:

Upon this blasted heath you stop our way with such prophetic greeting

Like the witches on that dreary piece of Scottish landscape, the golf gurus were foretelling the future. And as it did for Macbeth, inevitable tragedy looms for the US Open competitors.

Surveying the forbidding tract chosen as the stage for this year’s national golf championship, I was chilled by ominous visions.

The poor wretches trying to play golf on that tract will not be participating in a sport, they will be like pilgrims doing penance for their sins. Traversing Erin Hills will be grim work. There will be a lot more praying than playing in the process.

Hip-high fescue and rocky, bumpy terrain combine to assault the eye and quell the spirit.  Even watching the event on TV will be exhausting and dispiriting.

The USGA has a reputation for selecting unplayable courses for their big tournament – and setting them up to be even more difficult. But this time they’ve outdone themselves. Compared to this blasted heath, Chambers Bay was a walk in the park.

I am at a loss to explain why the USGA inflicts this annual torment on the world’s best golfers – and those of us who watch them.

I thought golf was supposed to be an enjoyable game, not an American Ninja test of endurance.

What’s worse is that success on this type of terrain depends more on luck than on skill.  It’s a crap shoot. An inch or two one way or another determines whether a ball bounces on the green next to the hole or dives into dense fescue never to be seen again.

Courses like this do nothing to make golf popular.  It’s no wonder the great, old game is losing fans.

US Open predictions

 

Trump is at it Again

i think the world of Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell  and the rest of the MSNBC crew, but I suspect they’re falling for one of those classic Trump gambits. They are seriously pondering the implications of Trump firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to dig up the facts behind the Russian hacking scandal.

Of course Trump is capable of firing Mueller. He is a stop-at-nothing kind of guy. But he isn’t going to do it yet.

He has his minions leaking dire threats about him “considering” Mueller’s ouster as a kind of shot across the bows of the investigation.

Trump is serving notice that if the investigation gets too close to home, Mueller will get the boot. It’s Trump’s ace in the hole.

And he is providing yet another diversion for those Republican schemers in Congress, who are currently meeting in secret to sneak through a radical health law do-over that will leave tens of millions in the lurch.

While the liberals focus on outrage over the audacious suggestion that Trump would dare to fire Mueller, the enemies of the people are crafting an unspeakably evil agenda in Congress.

And, by the way, any talk of Sessions resigning rather than doing Trump’s sinister bidding is poppycock. Sessions is up to his armpits in the Russian conspiracy. He has even more to fear from Mueller than Trump does. As I understand it, Trump faces at worst impeachment, while Sessions could end up behind bars.

Nixon didn’t go to jail. But his minions were jailed in droves in the wake of the Watergate investigation.

I would think Trump’s minions might learn from Watergate. They should save themselves before it’s too late.

But they’re not smart enough to do that – or they wouldn’t be working for Trump in the first place, would they?

More on Trump firing Mueller

More on sneaky Senate plan

 

Republicans’ Stealth Attack

 

While the nation obsesses over the possibility of a Trump impeachment, Republicans in Congress are using the diversion to launch a massive assault on the American people.

You and I know Trump, as he once said, could shoot someone dead in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not get impeached. Not as long as Republicans control Congress.

But the “investigations” of Trump’s crimes keeps the media busy and titillates their audiences, so don’t expect them to stop any time soon.

I certainly need no convincing that Trump is a thug. He’s a former casino owner who paid a fine for money laundering for Heavens’ sake. How much more proof do we need?

Did he lean on James Comey to stop the FBI prying into his Russian connection? Of course.

Did he lean on NSA Director Mike Rogers and National Intelligence Director  Dan Coats to help him lean on Comey?  Surely you don’t put that past him?

That”s how he operates. That’s how thugs operate.

And yes, it’s the way Nixon operated. But this is not Watergate. Nixon was forced out because Demnocrats ruled Congress. Now, the Democrats are a spent force. They can complain as much as they want but they can’t impeach Trump with the smattering of seats they have in Congress.

Meanwhile, the radical right is advancing a terrifying legislative agenda. The House just voted to revoke banking controls put in place to prevent another global economic collapse.  And I haven’t heard a murmur of indignation from our watchdogs in the media.

There’s a lot more right-wing radicalism where that came from.

The EPA is targeted for demolition. The environment and wildlife will be left unprotected. Public education is under attack. Health care – especially women’s care – is endangered. And so are workers’ rights.

So while it is undeniably entertaining to watch Trump squirm, he is not the real danger.

The most terrifying enemies of the people are Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (photo above) and their rightwing allies in Congress.

Trump’s follies and peccadilloes are a mere diversion. Impeaching him would do nothing to stop the radical rightwing revolt. Mike Pence would be even more dangerous in the White House.

The only way for Americans to save themselves and their country  is to vote Republicans out of power – and keep them out.

Republicans’ legislative agenda

More on bank controls

More on Comey

More on Coats and Rogers

Trump the money launderer

 

The Curse of Fake News

Apparently it was a fake news item cooked up by Russian hackers that triggered the Qatar crisis.

The fake news story made Qatar’s ruler seem friendly to Iran and Israel and critical of Trump.

Several Mideast neighbors reacted by severing diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar. They accused Qatar of fostering terrorism.

Trump contributed ill-informed tweets to the crisis.

The president is either unaware of or unmoved by the fact that Qatar is home to one of America’s largest military bases and a key ally in the US war against ISIS. How Trump’s tweets will affect that alliance is unclear, but the tweets are sure to be damaging.

Russia has become a fake news factory. I’m sure you remember how their false stories contributed to Hillary’s defeat.

You and I might wonder why. Those stories were often quite preposterous.

But in a preposterous world, I suppose it’s easy to believe preposterous lies.

Especially if they support your prejudices.

As a former newsman, I am saddened by the deterioration of my craft. As a citizen I am troubled by the lack of information I can trust.

The only recourse I can think of is to rely on branding. Just as I may trust the purity of a particular brand of flour, I trust some news sources to sift through the chaff and find the kernels of truth.

Generally speaking, the Internet is not one of those reliable sources. Anyone can broadcast anything on the web. There is no gatekeeper, nobody to separate fact from fiction.

And TV “reporting” is often mere regurgitation of information gleaned from newspapers, social media and the web.

As printed publications disappear. our sources of reliable information are dwindling. We can only hope that trustworthy web sites and TV channels are emerging to take their place.

As for me, I watch CNN and MSNBC, clinging to the belief that they are doing their best to find the facts and avoid fake news.

And I take anything I get from the web with several grains of salt.

More on the Qatar hacking

Behind the Qatar crisis

Trump’s Qatar tweets

 

The Millennial Riddle

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who became adults on or close to the year 2000, you’re being blamed for a multitude of problems, from the closing of various department stores to the waning popularity of golf.

According to the pundits, you’re the reason golf courses are becoming deserted, theaters are closing, vineyards are failing, homes aren’t selling… and so on.

So what’s the matter with you guys? Don’t you know what’s good for you?

I think you do know.

You just don’t want to be like your  baby-boomer parents.

And I don’t blame you.

Looking back at the Sixties generation, there’s not much to be said that’s favorable. They were a generation of wastrels.

They wasted the political power their numbers generated.  They wasted their formidable talent.

They chose sex, drugs and rock-an’-roll instead of seriously trying to reform society. They had the clout to change things, but they were distracted by self indulgence. To them, life was one big party.

And they left you guys to pay the piper.

When some managed to make a lot of money, they lavished it on tinsel and wallowed in snobbery.

Meanwhile, America deteriorated, income inequality accelerated and perverse forces grew ever more powerful.

Now, the boomers are retired or retiring. And you have to find the money to pay for their Social Security and Medicare. It’s no wonder you became such penny pinchers.

You millennials were left with a diminished world. You don’t have the money or the exuberance to support a flourishing economy. You don’t have the time or patience for pastimes like golf or hobbies like wine tasting.

You’ve endured too many disappointments. The baby boomers used up all your dreams.

More on the millennials