The Selective Outrage Over Trump


Donald Trump has found success again at being the news, this time by advocating a ban on Muslims traveling to the U.S. The response has been encouraging. The Republican Establishment has joined people of reasonable minds in disavowing his statements. It's good to see anyone for coming out on the side of decency on this issue at a time when certain Americans use the word Muslim as a slur. They use it as an allegation in regards to the president. It’s in a time when Sikhs are assaulted because they are mistaken as Muslims, not to mention the assaults on actual Muslims. Terror acts committed by Muslims have served as an excuse for unleashed ugliness on behalf of hypocritical bigots. It is good that Trump’s statements have reached a critical mass. The question remains why so many other positions staked out by the Republican party that are just as vile get a pass. Here is a mere sample.

Minimum Wage
Camp GOP has staked out its opposition to raising the minimum wage, defending that stance with notions that have historically proven to be false. Of the states that raised the minimum wage in 2015, six have experienced job growth above the national average. In the first half of 2015, only two of those states experienced negative job growth. Typically, the reality has run contrary to their rhetoric. The reality includes the personal stories of hard working people for whom raising the minimum wage makes a real difference. There is nothing noble or decent in taking a position against a living wage and then sugarcoating that disgusting position with lies.

Marriage Equality
On marriage equality, Republicans continue to be predictably antagonistic, jockeying for favor among the conservative evangelical community by framing “traditional marriage” proponents as victims of religious persecution. This is an appeal to a feeling within the Republican base that extending equal access to more people is a threat to conservative privilege to tell other people what they can and can’t have. For the conservative base, most issues, including marriage equality are matters of control, not morality. Anyone who demands their religion or personal tastes supersede the rights to equal access for others are supremacists.

Black Lives Matter
As Black Lives Matter has become enmeshed in the 2016 campaign, the Republican camp has stuck to a position of distorting the real intention of the movement. My take on the BLM message is “go to the tape.” For decades, black Americans have been ignored on the issue of covered up abuse and slayings at the hands of the police. BLM is using burgeoning video technology that corroborates those claims to back up their calls for police reform. The Republican response to this overwhelming evidence is “all lives matter,” or in other words “stop being so selfish.” It’s a brush off of a critical issue, but it’s a critical issue towards which the Republican base is hostile, therefore the Republican candidate response to Black Lives Matter is hostile.

Voter ID
By now, there are enough Republicans on the record admitting that voter ID laws are less about fraud than they are about skewing election outcomes. This is as highly immoral as you can get in American Democracy, but this group of Republican candidates either support voter suppression or won’t say anything about it because they believe it benefits their party. This is the exact sort of thing the Voting Rights Act was established to combat. Simultaneously, the GOP is claiming that many of the reasons the Voting Rights Act was Established are no longer factors. Republicans are engaging in voter suppression, period.

The Affordable Care Act
Also keeping Republican candidates in lockstep has been repealing the Affordable Care Act, not for any legitimate reason, but to appeal to people whose hopes are to destroy Obama’s legacy. At one time, promises to repeal Obamacare came with speculative justifications such as “It will kill jobs, it will kill babies, it will drive up health care costs, etc.” Though the failure of those predictions has proven Republicans to be the poorest of prognosticators, they have stuck with the promise of taking away health insurance from millions of people with no plan to replace it and for no good reason other than soothe their base who would still like nothing more than to politically slay Barack Obama. That is despicable.

General Governance
Since 2008, Republican office-seekers have had to prove to their voters that they would 1) Refuse to cooperate with Barack Obama, and 2) Do whatever they could to make Obama a failure. Republicans who could not pass this test were “primaried” by Tea Party challengers. The result was a Republican congressional caucus obsessed with threats and calls of “shut down,” “repeal,” and “defund.” Republican seats were won on promises of no compromise which is contrary to the tenets of Democracy. Instead of the opposition, Republicans positioned themselves as the enemy, engaging in such unprecedented action as inviting foreign leaders to speak against the actions of the president They have lobbied foreign governments to disavow diplomatic overtures of the Executive Branch. This is not illegal, but it is spiritually treasonous.

It seems almost strange that this one outburst from Donald Trump would finally shake the public consciousness from its inertia to express outrage when everything else the Republican party actually does is equally outrageous. I’m glad Donald Trump is being called out for his recent statements, but they weren’t made in a vacuum. A majority of Republicans support Trump’s remarks! They also support Republican obstruction and voter suppression and taking away people’s health coverage. Is Trump’s Muslim ban any more controversial than the rest of what the Republican party stands for? I don’t think so. I’m not saying we should just ignore it. In an ideal world, we should be just as outraged over everything else the Republican party stands for, as we are for Trump’s religious test for entry.

It's Not So Much the Economy Anymore, Stupid

There are some old conventional wisdoms when it comes to predicting outcomes of presidential elections. The key word here is “old.” For example, if we know anything, we know the economy has been a prime driver of voter preference, historically. It’s not that this is untrue, but it only half-tells the story. The economy has traditionally been an electoral driver for WHITE voters. White voters primarily make up the electoral center that swings from one party to another depending the election. African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics on the other hand have been part of a mainstay of the Democratic party. The reason why election outcomes have deferred to Whites in the political center is because their participation has been enough to outweigh the Democratic base. Relying on this predictive model is proving to be a hard tradition to break though I think it might be expiring.

In 2011, I had discussions with Republican friends who thought that I was crazy or perhaps brainwashed to believe that Barack Obama would be reelected. Granted they were living in the FOX Bubble where all they heard were conspiracy theories and talking points that vilified the incumbent 24/7. There was also a more moderate thread running in the media that this was the election handmade for Republicans due to a sluggish economic recovery, dissatisfaction over Obamacare as well as a series of other issues. Part of this thread was that the coalition that came out for Obama (including blacks) in 2008 would not be there for him again in 2012. But this was the white media. I could have been wrong, but I took it mostly as typical white condescension that a black guy winning the presidency was an aberration. They clearly did not see what was making me so confident in a successful Obama reelection.

I knew what the media had freely admitted in spite of their doubt, that Obama’s campaign team was surgically precise. That being the case, what would keep him from igniting the same fire among black voters that he did in 2008. Add to that the number of voter restriction laws suddenly put in place by Republicans that black voters KNEW were meant to hobble their participation. The message to black voters was that Republicans were trying to get rid of their guy and screwing with their rights as Americans in the process. Assumptions that this would seal the deal for a Republican in 2012 were way off. This would only serve to galvanize black voter participation in 2012.

This doesn’t even take into consideration the growing Hispanic vote with which Obama whomped Romney.

And here we are again hearing assumptions that Hillary Clinton or whoever becomes the Democratic nominee in 2016 won’t necessarily inherit the Obama coalition. This idiotically assumes that Barack Obama will have nothing to do with the election that determines whether his policies live or die. It is being said while DMV offices in Alabama (where voter id laws have been enacted) are being closed in predominantly black counties. Also concurrent with presumptions that Obama’s legacy has no chance of surviving are Republican candidate gaffes that insult Hispanics and question access to women’s health. What if Hillary Clinton, a woman is the nominee and the Obama coalition from 2012 is preserved. Will the economy be as much as a factor as it used to? I don’t think so, stupid. It’s a new era [Insert evil laugh].

An Explanation of BAN ALL GUNS

The sound volume on our gun debate is intermittent. We turn it up to about 5 after an attention-grabbing mass shooting – for a few days. Then it goes back down to about negative 3. Thus begins another interim of inertia until another mass shooting occurs. People who consistently support reasonable gun restrictions find themselves flummoxed  at how nothing gets done in spite of a healthy consensus for some kind of action on gun control. I’m not flummoxed at all. I know what the problem is. What little debate we do have stakes an extreme position of “we need even more guns” against a moderate and reasonable position of “some gun regulation.” The extreme position has won and will win every time.  

If there is going to be any movement on in the discourse on firearm proliferation in America, there has to be a more hearty notion on the table to balance the heft of the “more guns” stance. That would be the position of “ban all guns” whose volume in the gun debate is consistently on negative 11. There ARE people who want to ban all guns, but they are treated like lepers because of the establishment liberals who fear accusations of guilt by association with people espousing extreme positions. Many of them have a sickening need to try to ingratiate ourselves to the people that argue that the reason we have so many gun deaths is because we don’t have even more guns. Basically this large proportion of liberals are saying "hey you totally insane gun nuts who we completely disagree with, we're just like you!" At the same time, they say to supporters of gun bans "get away from me so no one thinks I'm crazy like you." This nuttiness is a regrettable part of the liberal psychological profile.  The one position that has any chance of moving us from ceremonial discussion to any reasonable action, is snuffed out because of congenital liberal fear of seeming liberal.

How did we get here? One thing that helped is the right’s inadvertent genius strategy of setting “ban all guns” as a pariah position. As always, the left took the bait. So this is how the debate goes:
Right: You want to ban all guns, commie pinko?!
Left: No no no no no. We just want some reasonable….
Right: They want to take our guns!!!

Discussion over. Mass shooting two weeks later. Same ceremonial debate that dies down in days.

Meanwhile, not only do conservatives not mind taking extreme and unpopular positions, they go so far as shutting down the government, or refusing to let the country pay its bills over unpopular stances. They might be wrong, but at least they fight.

I’m not suggesting Democrats shut down the government until all guns are banned. At this point, I really don’t expect much of anything out of dem pols. They are far too cowed by polls and elections to do anything unsafe. What I do suggest is that people who consider themselves concerned about the loss of life from gun violence be more willing to simply discuss a gun ban rather than be scared from even uttering the words “gun ban.” What would be good about a gun ban? What would be bad about a gun ban? How did they do it in Australia? What does our Second Amendment really say? What are the options of limiting guns? These are things that should be brought up in a normal debate on national firearm control. Instead, concerned people have essentially been trained by the NRA to keep the discussion limited to a narrow sliver of market-tested options that have no chance of advancing in this political climate.

An America in which people aren’t afraid of talking about banning guns has the potential to change everything. Here is how that conversation would go:
Right: You want to ban all guns, commie pinko?!
Left: My name isn’t commie pinko and I would love to entertain the notion of a total ban on my guns and your guns. I want to hear what people who support gun bans have to say and I want everyone to talk about it.
Right: (suffers apoplexy from show of lefty spine)

Honestly, I don’t think a ban on guns would poll well enough for establishment Republicans to rush to the table to compromise, but there are several possible effects. It just might increase the public urgency on tackling what we currently call reasonable gun restrictions. This is what introducing an extreme argument does. It creates shifts. In this case we are talking about a shift from doing nothing to doing something. It might not happen over night, and there is a chance that it might not happen at all. Let’s face it, America is like the first grade where everyone is trying to be cool and fit in. No one wants to be a wuss or an outcast. But every once in a while in America, courage gets just enough traction to move the needle - eventually. I'm not talking about the kind of courage it takes to do something that people will marvel at and want to throw you a parade for. I'm talking about the kind of courage it takes to defend unpopular arguments in the face of name-calling, threats of violence, and even actual violence.

As clarification to the cursory reader (who probably still won’t get this) This is not an attempt to convince everyone that we must ban guns. This is a call to drop the fear of expressing curiosity over a gun ban. I have already been misunderstood after by one raging liberal who, in spite of my explanation, kept arguing why he was against banning guns. I had to drop the discussion. Clearly, it’s an uphill battle, but here is one way of looking at it; even if you’re a liberal and you think banning guns is crazy, it’s not nearly as crazy as trying to seem cool to people who advocate reducing gun violence by increasing gun ownership.

Japanese News Coverage of Republican Debate Translated

Before we get to the funny pictures, I confess that after hours of laboring on this post, I was curious as to just how racially insensitive I was being to the Japanese culture. I am not a linguist and I don't speak Japanese, yet I was operating on an assumption of what English translations of Japanese sounds like. Most of these assumptions probably came from television so it was possible that I was way off base from reality. If my TV fed assumptions were right, then the Japanese language is poetic and direct all at the same time, and when translated back into English, many words are required to convey a point.

I had justified to myself that we deal in stereotypes all the time. Some stereotypes are benign. Their propagation does not foster enmity in any way. As a black male, I am keenly aware of that there are  stereotypes that strangers harbor of me that I may find favorable or detrimental. As a complex organism, any of those traits may or may not be true of me. If anyone were to describe me to another person, all I would ask is that they were accurate, whether or not their descriptions included black stereotypical behavior.

In that spirit I decided that I would verify the comedic premise of this post with the very first website that would back me up, and here is a link to that page. So with no further ado, here is Japanese news coverage of the CNN Republican debate translated into English.

Wanted: Nuke Deal Defense With Some Backbone

As part of their covenant to oppose Barack Obama at every turn, Republicans had been rubbing their hands at the chance to disparage whatever Iran nuke agreement that was to be struck by the “P5 plus1.” In spite of their efforts, it is in fact, a done deal. Senate Republicans do not have the votes to reject it. So in simple terms, it’s a victory for Obama. Sadly, the deal is still a casualty of a weak defense.

Like so many points to Republican arguments these days, their guiding light in opposition to the deal were just ways of sidestepping logic and reality. They led with five words that will never show up in Bartlett’s: “we need a better deal.” Simple words, but just enough to scare ordinary Americans who don’t negotiate accords with other countries on a regular basis. Their talking points actually came from people who don’t negotiate accords with other countries on a regular basis. Yet, Oklahoma Senator Tom Cotton can cast just enough doubts on  the seasoned diplomats and physicists who crafted the draft that ordinary Americans take a fearful note. With just a little TV time, Republicans have introduced to the fray, the notion that a Republican deal would have totally shut down the Iranian nuclear program and the Iranians would have just sat there and accepted it. They are entitled to their own opinion. But as a side note, I would just love to show them the criticisms ultra-conservatives lobbed against their spiritual pillar, Ronald Reagan for signing the INF Treaty with the Soviets in 1987.

While they will fail at squashing the deal, Republicans have remained true to one of their main objectives since January of 2009 – to undermine American confidence in the Obama Administration. And as expected, Democrats did their usual rhetorical capitulation by prefacing their defenses of the agreement with “This is not a perfect deal, but…,” or worse “this may be a flawed deal, but…” Why? Because Democrats are too afraid to realign the dialog from the perverted skewed perspective established by the Tom Cottons. In essence, the Democratic line of support is “I’m going along with this deal that I think is damaged goods.” That is insanity!

Why didn’t they just say “no agreement in our history has ever been a guarantee, but blah blah blah, or “Conservatives also disagreed with Reagan’s INF Treaty of 1987, but blah blah blah.” They don’t do that because they are congenitally predisposed to conceding victory to Republican fear-mongering. It is half-assed leadership promulgated by overly-practical people who believe that if you don’t give in somewhat to whatever false notions people may already believe, then you will come off as tone-deaf. So the result is a Democratic party that continually sings off key in order to convince people they have perfect pitch. Again. Insanity.

While he was Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick screamed in a speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention “It’s time for Democrats to grow a backbone.” Things would be better now if they had taken his advice. For one, they would be praising the allies and work of the professionals who  demonstrated statecraft the way it is supposed to be done. Instead they were all thrown under the bus with another piece of Dem credibility.

Sam Brownback Self-Debunking His Own Tax Cut BS

I'm not a scientist, an economist, a historian, a mathematician, a CPA...
It must be humiliating for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to have recently enacted a historic increase in the state sales tax to repair the debacle he created with his historic tax cuts. Brownback has become a poster boy of Republican failure for what he did to his state, but according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Brownback could share a little of the limelight. The biggest tax-cutting states since 2010 have mostly experienced self-inflicted anemia in terms of growth and jobs. And yes, they are all states with Republican governors.

According to Republican lore, tax cuts are magical things that make everything good. They increase investment, boost savings, make flowers smell nicer, give you bigger boobs/male genitalia, and help you lose weight. In 2012, Guv Brownback went all in by promising to slash his state’s revenue by ridiculous amounts. As a result… state revenue was slashed by ridiculous amounts. No one’s thing-thing got bigger, but they were able to cut funding from their pesky money-grubbing schools for once and for all.

One can try to discount these points with the fact that the CBPP is a progressive group, but I am dying to hear the long-awaited Republican spin on how the failed Kansas experiment is actually a success. Anyone? Anyone? Ben Stein? Oh right. It’s Obama’s fault.

"My name is Bill. I have no basis. To blame rap music. For all the racists"

In case you haven’t heard, self-described conservative Bill Kristol has chimed in on the Oklahoma frat story by blaming rap music for a racist and terror-laced fight song seen being sung by University of Oklahoma students. I’m sure I’m not the only person wondering what rap music Bill Kristol is listening to. We all know, including Mr. Kristol, that the tradition of whites excluding and lynching blacks, as we heard in the SAE sing-along (to the tune of “If You’re Happy And You Know It”) is centuries older than rap music.

Thus far, public expression over the exposed video has been largely to impugn the judgment of the fraternity brothers. The SAE national chapter shut down the Oklahoma house. Two of the fraternity brothers have been expelled. Just as the spiritual compensation commences, along comes a toxic conservative who tries to peg black music performers as the culprit. These people have no sense of personal responsibility!

Iran receives letter from Republican senators

Letter from Republican senators after being received by Iranian officials.

Forty-seven Republican senators pitched in on a letter to Iranian officials warning that any deal reached through talks on Iran's nuclear program will likely be scuttled by the next president. Though the letter seemed to have no other purpose than to undermine the U.S. and its allies, a gracious but unrevealing response from the Iranian government was forthcoming.

Iranian response to letter sent by 47 Republican senators

Having a little fun at Ferguson, MO's expense before the entire city is fired

With the Justice Department report on Ferguson, MO made public, we now know for a fact that the Ferguson Police Department was tasked with being the city's petty mobsters, raising revenue by routinely violating the constitutional rights of city's black citizens. The report found that officers engaged in competitions of who could rack up as many violations as possible. Here is this writer's rendering of the possible false infractions thousands of Ferguson residents may have been cited for over the past 20 years, and the exorbitant fines.

Possession of litter - $90
Not looking an officer in the eye - $132
Driver not in possession of car’s original floor mats - $109
Road rudeness - $250
Looking an officer in the eye - $132
Domestic vagrancy - $167
Conspiracy to loiter - $165
Accomplice to assembly - $454
Miscellaneous - $83
Unnecessary speaking volume - $45
Expired Costco membership card - $26
No proof of health insurance - $321
Improper bicycle saddle height - $214
Reckless walking - $85
Texting while shirtless - $110
Improper glove box illumination - $156
Unfettered hurly burly in the presence of minors - $245
Attempted tailgating - $182
Loose gum trafficking - $320
First degree nuisancy - $231
Aiding and abetting back talk - $143
Meandering in public - $322
Unsafe pocketbook - $145
Unregistered stroller - $214
Excessive use of turn signal – $122
Lagging while crossing - $182 
Rolling eyes while being written a bogus citation - $240

Ben. Again and Again

Like other conservatives, Tea Party hero Dr. Ben Carson has to find  ways to justify his opposition to LGBT equality that makes him sound a little more sophisticated than members of the Westboro Baptist Church (the “God hates fags” group). In 2013 his best way to do this was to say that gays, child molesters, and beastialists don’t get to change the definition of marriage. Critics pointed out that it sounded as if Carson had imagined gays were in some sort of ideological bloc with beastialists and child molesters which led to a meaningless apology from Carson.

Undeterred, Carson revealed a new line of  palms-to-forehead explanation for his bigotry earlier this week.  His new justification which he unveiled on CNN reasons that being gay is a choice “because a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight. And when they come out they’re gay.” 

We all know how that little roll out went. In response to the blowback, Carson announced that he was not going to discuss gay rights anymore. That would be great for Ben Carson if there was any significant chance anyone took his run for president seriously. It would be bad for Carson’s fellow bigot supporters who feel emboldened when he engages in that signature conservative slapdash denigrating discourse. It would also bad for people like yours truly who get excited when conservative people make my point for me.

I am encouraged by the fact that in spite of flashes of better judgment, conservatives like Ben Carson just can’t control themselves. They are prone to sound off expertly on topics they know nothing about such as rape, sexuality, race, religion, economics, and the law. Like largemouth bass waiting in the shade, they take the same bait again and again and again. Ben Carson saying he’s done talking about gay rights is like a largemouth bass saying “I’m done with worms.” You just wouldn’t believe it – for a variety of reasons.

It makes me wonder, how many former patients of Dr. Carson hear the things he says on TV and then ask in fright, “THAT GUY OPERATED ON MY BRAIN?”