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The GOP Has Become a Malevolent Force in American Life

The GOP Has Become a Malevolent Force in American Life

Consider these words written in 2012 by non-partisan political scientists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Eight years on things have got demonstrably worse. Republicans continue efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act both legislatively (in 2017, which failed) or in court as GOP states led by Texas pursue a lawsuit currently pending before the Supreme Court that may see the ACA overturned next spring. The consequences to millions of Americans would be devastating.
This in the face of a virulent pandemic with more millions of Americans losing their jobs and their health care who will likely need the ACA. In the current health crisis, the Republicans’ rush to open up the economy before infection rates have decreased or we have adequate testing and contact tracing capabilities promises to cause thousands of unnecessary deaths – particularly among the elderly.

Meanwhile the GOP’s stubborn and obtuse denial of climate change threatens the future of our children and grandchildren. The depressing litany of destructive policies the GOP has embraced over the years whether its unravelling environmental protections and workplace safety regulations, beating up on the poor in America, suppressing voting rights of minorities to name but a handful, do enormous harm to the American people. The reality is of a political party and conservative movement that rejects the worth and role of government to do good and runs it incompetently to prove its point, while doing everything possible to impede the other party from governing effectively.

In this the GOP is robustly supported by its perpetually angry base, and a right-wing media machine that pushes both to the extremes. Negative partisanship is bipartisan but at least most Democrats get their news from reliable mainstream media as opposed to Republicans who are far more likely to be misinformed thanks to conservative media even on something as critical as the coronavirus. The latest conservative conspiracy theory, for example, is that the COVID-19 death rate is vastly exaggerated, a dangerous illusion that promotes a lethal complacency.

In short, Republican governance at every level is severely hazardous to our health and well being. In the present emergency, a GOP administration first weakened the federal government’s ability to combat a theoretical pandemic then thoroughly botched its response to a real one. And while a pragmatic Democratic House has tried gamely to bring some sanity to the government’s response to the economic and health calamities, it’s an uphill struggle against an ideologically driven, boneheaded GOP majority in the Senate. For example, an obvious need to support states with an infusion of federal funding as their economies tank and their revenues plummet is being blocked by a hatefully partisan GOP leadership that sees it as disproportionately (and erroneously) benefitting Democratic states.

When this catastrophe is finally over, Americans need to have a serious conversation on the future of our democracy in light of the bitter divisions that are unlikely to ameliorate even without the vile and divisive presence of either Trump or Senator “Moscow” Mitch McConnell. I don’t pretend to know the answer but I do know that we can never move forward as a country while this extreme polarization, without parallel in any other democratic nation, persists.



Some recent polls show Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is approved by 55-60% of Americans. That is simply insane. Here’s why.

A New York Times article succinctly summarized the administration’s early inaction and mistakes regarding the looming public health disaster:

A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response.

Among them: a failure to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive.

‘This could have been stopped by implementing testing and surveillance much earlier — for example, when the first imported cases were identified,’ said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York.

This despite warnings by the intelligence community in early January of the seriousness of the spreading virus in China, not to mention numerous and urgent red flags raised on both the possibility of pandemic and our lack of preparedness to meet it. That lack of preparedness was caused primarily by the administration’s own self-inflicted wounds such as dismantling the National Security Council Directorate for Global Health and Security and Bio-Defense established under President Obama which would have been laser focused and vocal on the emerging crisis in Wuhan, had it still been around, and the idiotic unraveling of our network of public health liaison officials in China established and buttressed in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations which likely prevented the alarm being raised even earlier.

And then of course there’s the testing debacle which has made us a laughing stock for our incompetence and contributed materially to the fact that we now have more infections than any other country and are heading to a best case scenario of between 100,000 to 200,00 deaths from COVID-19.

But the greatest of Trump’s sins was the fact that thanks to his efforts to downplay the deadly threat posed by the virus we lost valuable time – two precious months of inertia and fumbles in fact – which combined with other missteps has ensured that while South Korea will be the exemplar of how to handle a pandemic, we will be at the other end of the scale, an example of what not to do.  And how many scores of thousands of preventable deaths we will we suffer as a result?

Through it all, Trump has bombarded the American public with a mountain of  lies and bullshit – a cascade that continues unabated, interspersed with blaming everyone and their mother for his disastrous handling of the pandemic whilst congratulating himself on a job well done. And now, somehow, he’s able to swing from saying on February 26th that we only have fifteen cases and that “..soon it will be down to close to zero..” to congratulating himself that there will only be 100,000 or 200,000 dead Americans when this thing is over.

I get that in times of crisis Americans tend to rally round the flag and the president. But history will not be kind to Donald Trump in his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic no matter what he does from this point (in contrast to many of our state governors and local officials who stepped up to fill the void of absent federal leadership). And neither should we.

Nick Cave has Something to Say about Truth and Responsibility

Nick Cave has Something to Say about Truth and Responsibility

Nick Cave sends out a Red Hand File every week. This week’s file was about how we should listen to others and how we should speak while we try to adjust to this devastating coronavirus pandemic.

Now is the time to be cautious with our words, our opinions.

Now is a time to listen to those in more informed positions and to follow instructions, as difficult as that may be, as we step into the unprecedented unknowable. We should be careful about the noises we make — especially those with a public voice — and should not pretend to know what we do not. From within the clamour and tonnage of information and misinformation, of opinions and counter-opinions, of blame-games and grim prophecy and the most panic-inducing version of ‘Imagine’ ever recorded, emerges a simple message — wash your hands and (if you can) stay at home.

That sounds like good advice to most intelligent, caring people. But not to one ignorant and destructive man with a pugnacious public voice, him being President Donald Trump. He ignores more informed opinions, and he does pretend to know what he does not. He is now ignoring the advice of experts on his administration’s coronavirus team and he is amplifying lies and misinformation from dubious sources to rationalize his imperious plan to prioritize business-as-usual over the health and safety of people trying to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

From The Guardian:

[Trump] repeatedly refused to confirm that he would listen to public health authorities if they advised him to keep restrictive public health measures in place, even at a cost to the economy.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

“Our country was not built to be shut down,” Trump said. “This is not a country that was built for this.”

Trump said he expected life to return to normal very soon, much sooner than in three or four months. Asked if he meant the country would be re-opening in “weeks or months”, Trump said: “I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now.”

Asked if Dr Anthony Fauci, the immunologist who has become the public face of the American scientific community during the pandemic, agreed with him on potentially re-opening the economy, Trump said: “He doesn’t not agree.”

He wants to see all of us back at our jobs by Easter, which is April 12th. That’s eighteen days from today. Based on what I’ve been reading about how fast the coronavirus is spreading in NYC and other places like right here in the Seattle area, that’s not going to happen if we all follow the advice of experts. Well at least the “experts” not named Donald Trump.

RZA on the Nature of Truth

RZA on the Nature of Truth

Here is a quote about truth and lies from The Tao of Wu, an autobiographical account of RZA’s journey to enlightenment.

When a man lies to the next man, who is really being played the fool? For truth always reveals itself in its own good time. And a lie is only an illusion. For even when you lie to someone, he or she might not know the truth, but the applicator of the lie knows the truth. And that shows that the truth always exists and a lie is only a temporary illusion that vanishes once the truth is manifested.

There is only one right way, and that is the truth… The only thing you can’t change is the truth, for the truth is that which in time changes things back to their original state. Right now we are living in illusions. Five billion people are living in illusions. And out of all those people, only 5 percent advocate the truth. They are the ones who will produce thoughts of a change.

Keep this in mind the next time you force yourself to watch an entire Trump press conference about the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

What you say? Watch the lies from January through March.

Donald Trump Lies about Winning the Popular Vote

Donald Trump Lies about Winning the Popular Vote

Brian Snyder/Reuters

Donald Trump rebels against anything that doesn’t align with his own version of reality in which he is a supreme being adored by everyone. So as Hillary Clinton continues to gain more and more of the popular vote – last reported as a 2.2 million vote lead – he tweeted out more lies.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

…and a little later

“Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias – big problem”!

There is evidence from actual vote tallies showing that Hillary Clinton leads by over two million in the popular vote, and there is no evidence that millions of people voted illegally. If there was evidence of voter fraud and the press didn’t report it, then there would be bias. But there isn’t any evidence, so there is no biased reporting.

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Donald Trump is Still a Birther

Donald Trump is Still a Birther

Donald Trump pretty much started his run for the presidency as head of the “birther” movement. He led the charge to prove that  President Barack Obama wasn’t born in America and was therefore ineligible to hold office. He demanded that Obama present his official birth certificate to the public, and Obama complied by releasing his long-form birth certificate from Hawaii. Well that wasn’t enough proof for Trump. He thought it was a fake, and continued to question Obama’s citizenship until last Friday, when he said at the end of a thirty-minute pitch to the media about his new Washington D.C. hotel:

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States period. Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again. Thank you, thank you very much.

Vox exposes the numerous lies in that fifty-two word statement.

For the absolute best television coverage of Donald Trump’s statement, watch this “Closer Look” segment from Seth Meyer’s Late Night show.

But you knew it wouldn’t be long before Donald Trump threw them some red birther meat to his deplorable, racists supporters.

CNN – Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that his statement late last week that President Barack Obama was born in the US was motivated by politics, not by a genuine change of heart.

Answering questions about the issue for the first time since his sudden change, Trump said he abandoned his long-held “birther” views on Friday because he “just wanted to get on with” his campaign.

“Well, I just wanted to get on with — you know, we wanted to get on with the campaign. And a lot of people were asking me the questions,” Trump said in an interview with local Columbus, Ohio station WSYX, when asked what had changed his position.

i.e., wink, wink, I didn’t really mean what I said on Friday. Get that? Obama wasn’t born in the United States period.

Mitt Romney’s Campaign: Dishonest and Insulting

Mitt Romney’s Campaign: Dishonest and Insulting

There are plenty of positive reasons for re-electing President Barack Obama next Tuesday week and these have been described eloquently elsewhere. For some of the best and most thoughtful, see Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post and recent editorial endorsements from the Post and The New York Times. For the most thoughtful analysis also check out the latest edition of the The New Yorker magazine.

To summarize, Obama inherited a gigantic financial collapse from his predecessor that threatened an economic collapse of Great Depression proportions, and a country whose standing in the world had greatly diminished in the wake of the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the torturing and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists in Guantánamo and secret CIA prisons.

After four years, America’s standing is largely restored (Guantánamo, alas, remains in operation but the US now follows international law in the treatment of detainees) and the economy is slowly growing thanks largely to a highly effective stimulus package, that placed a floor under its precipitous descent, and well-managed automobile and banking industry bailouts; this, despite strong headwinds from poorly performing economies in Europe and elsewhere.

Yet even if the positive case for Obama failed to convince a wavering voter, the nature of his opponent should make this election a no-brainer.

Mitt Romney has lied and flip-flopped his way through this campaign in a manner that is both unprecedented and breathtaking. For Romney, truth and principle have been about as welcome as ex-girlfriends with halitosis in his efforts to win the presidency and tick off that final box on his career to-do list.

This political chameleon has morphed from a 1990’s moderate who supported a woman’s choice on abortion, who believed in an individual mandate for his state’s Obamacare-like health insurance reform law, who understood that relying on emergency rooms as a substitute for health insurance made no sense, who had progressive views on immigration, gun control and Lord knows what else, into a “severe conservative” who would take women’s health choices away from them, including the right to decide whether to have an abortion, who has become the NRA’s best pal, who will undo a national health insurance reform law modeled on his own in Massachusetts, and who will slash government programs for the neediest Americans so that those in his own class cannot only continue to enjoy their low tax rates but see them lowered still more; a man who will shred the social safety net while spending badly needed dollars on ships the navy doesn’t want or need. Oh and maybe start a war with Iran under prodding from his good buddy, Bibi Netanyahu.

He has been utterly dishonest about President Obama and his own plans. Treating fact-checkers as a sort of white background noise, Romney repeatedly tells whoppers such as Obama’s imaginary “apology tour” around the world or about the stimulus that made the economy worse when independent and authoritative analyses have effectively debunked both claims. He parrots the ideology of the most extreme adherents of what has become an extremist GOP which has no commonality with or similarity to any conservative party in the industrialized world.

The most shocking aspect of all this is how incredibly insulting it is to the American electorate. Some of his contempt was captured in his unguarded comments before a group of wealthy donors in the now famous video in which he dismisses 47% of voters as losers and freeloaders. But beyond dividing the country into strivers and whiners, Romney is also saying without actually voicing the words: I know I can tell lies about my opponent and you people will have no clue; I know I can promise to cut taxes across the board, raise spending on defense and reduce the deficit simultaneously and you idiots won’t realize that the math makes it impossible without eviscerating every other government program you can think of. And I can promise the moon without giving a single useful detail about any of it and you bozos will still elect me president.

I guess a week from Tuesday we’ll see if he’s right.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan at the Republican National Carnival of Liars

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan at the Republican National Carnival of Liars

I’ve been meaning to say something about Mitt Romney’s and Paul Ryan’s convention speeches last week, but I never got around to it until today. Here’s my inspiration – a cartoon by Tom Toles:

Paul Ryan’s speech was so full of lies, one critic had this to say:

“Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.”

And that was from a column on the Fox News website!

The lies…

He blamed President Obama for a GM plant closing in his hometown of Janesville, Wiconsin. GM announced the plan closing in June 2008 – six months before Obama took office.

He said that Obama doesn’t credit businesses for creating jobs – he gives all the credit to the government. (See the post below for what Obama really said.)

He said Obama “created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.” Ryan didn’t mention that he served on the Simpson Bowles Commission and voted against its “urgent” proposal.

He said the Obama stimulus plan was a waste of money and did nothing but increase the debt. Most economists agree that the Recovery Act created millions of jobs and pulled the economy out of a free fall.

He said Obama’s budget cuts $700 billion from Medicare without mentioning that his own plan calls for the exact same “cuts” that really aren’t cuts at all. The $700 billion is savings that come from people buying health insurance. The savings would be used to help provide subsidies for those who can’t afford insurance.

Mitt Romney took the stage the next night and touched on all the lies of the previous speakers and then offered up one of his favorites:

I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators.

There was no “Apology Tour.” Ask any Republican you know who believes this lie to quote just one of Obama’s apologies. They can’t. There aren’t any. It’s so wrong that Politifact gave it a “Pants of Fire” rating and The Fact Checker gave it four Pinocchios, just one short of “a whopper.”

The Republicans took lying to a whole new in-your-face level this year. The Democrats need to take note of the press reaction. The lies were so brazen that the press couldn’t ignore it. They had to call out their young, brainy, teller of hard “truths” that they so desperately wanted on the Right so that they could say they were fair and were reporting on real policy discussions.

Blatant lies are never the starting point for real discussions.

Hopefully the Democrats won’t step in Romney’s and Ryan’s stinking piles of shit so that the press can report that both sides are made up of liars that don’t care one bit about policy.

Welcome to Mitt Romney’s Republican National Carnival of Liars

Welcome to Mitt Romney’s Republican National Carnival of Liars

Washington State U.S. House Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers kicked off the carnival with one of the Republicans’ favorite new lies:

Good evening ladies and gentleman. Thank you. My name is Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and I am proud to represent eastern Washington in Congress.

Tonight, we’re going to do things a little differently. I have the pleasure of being your host for the night guiding you through the next few hours.

I’m delighted to report that we have a wonderful lineup for you. Each speaker will be joining together to send a message to President Obama. And that message is three simple words: We built it.

Yes, remember about a month ago when President Obama said to business owners, “You didn’t build that!” And all the Republicans at Fox News and all the idiots that watch them heard that four-word statement and completely ignored everything Obama said before and after it. He was of course was using “that” to refer to infrastructure: roads, bridges, schools, fire departments, police departments, the internet – all things that federal and state governments either funded or continue to run so that we have a solid platform in place that entrepreneurs can count on to be there for them when they start their businesses.

Just in case you missed the story, here’s what Obama said:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

(This segment from The Daily Show covers the lies about what he said better than any other story I’ve seen or read.)

Representative McMorris Rodgers went on to say: “Before I ran for office I worked in my family’s business, the Peach Crest Fruit Basket, for 13 years. I worked hard every day, and I can assure you that my family built that business from the ground up.”

Well maybe her family built the main house and the farm house, and maybe they planted some trees and built a stand to hawk their fruit, but they didn’t build the roads in Kettle Falls, WA, and they didn’t build the state highway that provides a route to and from their town and connects it to the interstate highway system. Nor did they build the schools that provided her with an education, or design and build the irrigation system that supplied their orchards with water, or the phone lines and internet that connected them with buyers of their fruit.

That’s all obvious to anyone with a minimal education, but not to a Republican. That’s why Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post gave McMorris Rodgers and the whole RNC theme “We Built That” FOUR Pinocchios. He had originally given the Romney campaign three Pinocchios, but because they chose to use such an obvious lie as the theme for their carnival, he added another one.

So that was the opening lie. There were many lies to follow, via Krugman:

The claim that Obama has gutted Medicare to pay for the expansion of health insurance — which isn’t true.

The claim that Obama has eliminated the work requirement for welfare — which isn’t true.

The claim that Ryan has a plan to balance the budget — which isn’t true.

The claim that Romney has a plan for economic recovery — which isn’t true. (The Economist: “The Romney Programme for Economic Recovery, Growth and Jobs” is like “Fifty Shades of Grey” without the sex).

There will be more carnival barkers appearing at the convention tonight, including the greatest charlatan of them all, Paul Ryan. He has a very serious plan alright – a plan that gives huge tax cuts to the rich, increases taxes on the middle class, cuts benefits for the needy, and adds trillions of dollars to the federal debt over a ten-year period.