Monday, June 19, 2017

Six Movies to Watch in the Trump Era

All The President's Men (1976)
Key Quote: Follow the money.
The story of the investigation into a corrupt president displays the power and responsibilities of the press during a constitutional crisis. It is not an overstatement that without a news media free to question and report on the government, democracy cannot survive. An all-star cast including Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, and Academy Award winner Jason Robards.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Key Quote: His brain has not only been washed, as they say... It has been dry cleaned.
An American war hero is brainwashed by the Chinese into being a Russian assassin, programed to murder a presidential candidate so a Russian controlled idiot will be elected. Angela Lansbury is outstanding as the treacherous mother of the hero turned assassin who is also his Russian handler.

A Man For All Seasons (1966)
Key Quote:
Sir Thomas More: Then why does your Grace need my poor support?
King Henry VIII: Because you're honest... and what is more to the purpose, you're KNOWN to be honest.

I've mentioned before I think this movie is a good metaphor for Comey-Trump situation. Thomas More, a legal scholar and, perhaps, the last honest man in England during the reign of Henry VIII. He refuses to take the easy path of betraying his conscious and the law to follow the demands of the king. Six Academy Awards including best picture and best actor (Paul Scofield).

Idiocracy (2006)
Key Quote:
President Camacho: Shit. I know shit's bad right now, with all that starving bullshit, and the dust storms, and we are running out of french fries and burrito coverings. But I got a solution.
The President's cabinet
What happens when the United States is run by a gaggle of nincompoops so dumb they can't find their asses with both hands and a chair.

A Face In the Crowd (1957)
Key Quote:
Lonesome Rhodes: This whole country's just like my flock of sheep!
Marcia Jeffries: Sheep?
Lonesome Rhodes: Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers - everybody that's got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. They don't know it yet, but they're all gonna be 'Fighters for Fuller'. They're mine! I own 'em! They think like I do. Only they're even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for 'em. Marcia, you just wait and see. I'm gonna be the power behind the president.

A lowbrow huckster becomes a media sensation. As his popularity grows his ego inflates even faster. He becomes a political kingmaker. His popularity crashes when his real personality is revealed. He then retreats into a delusional fantasy where he pretends he his still beloved. Directed by Elia Kazan and staring Andy Griffith in his first role.

Citizen Cohn (1992)
Key Quote: No! I killed you for the headlines! For the fuckin' headlines!
Donald Trump and Roy Cohn
Roy Cohn was a Jew who hated Jews, a homosexual who hated gays. He was the brains behind Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism. As a lawyer he was the Mafia's favorite attorney. Utterly ruthless, remorseless, and corrupt. In one of the few times God got it right, Cohn died of AIDS. Important because Roy Cohn was Donald Trump's mentor.

And a television series to make us feel better.

West Wing (1999-2006)
Key Quote: I am the President of the United States, not the President of people who agree with me.
Want to remember a time when the White House was filled with intelligent people, patriotic people whose first instinct was to do what was best for the nation, not their egos?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The History of American Politicians
Shot by Crazy People

It is the nature of this country that crazy people have easy access to guns and frequently politicians end up getting shot by them.

In this list I am excluding duels (at least four deaths), wars (one Civil War Senator), and any attack without guns or where no shots were fired.
The Lincoln conspirators.
 Abraham Lincoln (President) 1865: Booth was deluded into thinking that killing Lincoln and other cabinet officials would reverse the course of the war.

James Hinds (R-AR) 1868: A post Civil War carpetbagger politician. Shot by the Ku Klux Klan.

Thomas Haughey (R-AL) 1869: Shot following a fist fight with a supporter of another Republican.

James Garfield (President) 1881:
Assassin Charles Guiteau, an unemployed lunatic, thought he was personally responsible for Garfield's election and expected to be named ambassador to France. Didn't get it. He paid extra for an ivory handled revolver because he wanted it to be museum quality after the assassination.

William McKinley (President) 1901:  The third president assassinated in 36 years. His killer was a reclusive anarchist who felt killing McKinley would end capitalist excesses.

John Pinckney (D-TX) 1905: A public meeting to discuss Prohibition devolved into a Texas riot, 75 bullets fired in less than a minute.

Theodore Roosevelt (Presidential candidate) 1912: Shot in the chest by a saloon-keeper who said that the ghost of William McKinley told him to do it. Roosevelt was shot while giving a speech and, being a tough SOB, he finished the speech before seeing a doctor.

Franklin Roosevelt (President) 1933: This one missed but killed the mayor of Chicago who was standing next to the President. The shooter was another anarchist who said he planned to kill every government leader then every businessman.

Sen. Huey Long (D-LA) 1935:
Huey "Kingfish" Long was a cutthroat politician who scored successes by how many careers he ruined. He was gerrymandering a judge off the bench when he was approached by the judge's son-in-law who, of course, was carrying a gun. Long was either shot by him or the wild shooting of Long's bodyguards.

The Capitol Shooting (1955): No one was killed, but five congressmen, two Republicans and three Democrats, were shot by Puerto Rican nationalists who wanted to end American ownership of the island.

John Kennedy (President) 1963: Officially killed by Lee Harvey Oswald who was too crazy for the Russians to keep him as a defector.

Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-NY) 1968:
Five years after his older brother was assassinated, Bobby was killed by a man lashing out against the existence of the state of Israel.

George Wallace (Presidential candidate) 1972: After Arthur Bremer failed to get close enough to Richard Nixon he turned his attention the third party candidate because he was desperate for fame. Any famous victim would do.

Sen. John Stennis (D-MS) 1973: Shot and wounded during a mugging.

Gerald Ford (President) 1974: A follower of Charles Manson, Sara Jane Moore, missed Ford from a range of 40 feet when someone bumped her arm as she fired. She was the second Manson girl in 17 days to try to kill Ford; Squeaky Fromme's gun misfired. (Actually, Sara was associated with the Symbionese Liberation Army. It's hard to keep these wackos connections straight.)

Leo Ryan (D-CA) 1978: Killed by People's Temple followers prior to their mass suicide.

Ronald Reagan (President) 1981: Seriously wounded by a lunatic who thought that would impress actress Jodie Foster.

Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) 2011: Seriously wounded by a man notable for his bizarre behavior who thought women did not belong in politics.

This exhausting list doesn't include the many governors, judges, and state representatives shot over the years in our American shooting gallery.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Only Wall Trump Will Ever Build

Is made of stone.
A few days ago I had lunch at a Mexican restaurant where I used to be a regular but I hadn't been there for several years. The waitress recognized me and knew what my usual order was.
I do not have any recollection of meeting or talking to the Russian Ambassador or any other Russian officials. ~ Jeff Sessions, June 13, 2017
If she could remember that I refuse to believe Jeff Sessions can't remember meeting with a Russian spymaster just six months ago. He is either willfully lying or senile.

Sessions testimony before the Senate committee consisted of him answering those questions he wanted to answer and stonewalling on those questions that were probative. Sessions has cast his lot with a coverup.

Will Trump Fire Mueller?
Anything is possible, but this story is a case of running it up the flag pole and seeing if anybody salutes. Trump wanted to put the option out there to see if he could get away with it. It was also a lame attempt at threatening Mueller. Feckless threats are really the only arrow in Trump's quiver anymore.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Narcissist In Chief

At some level it's hard not to feel sorry for Donald Trump. He is an embarrassingly pathological narcissist who can't help humiliating himself as he strives for public adulation.

Today, he lined up his cabinet secretaries to heap praise on him in front of the press. It was forced and pathetic and more fitting of a six year-old bully at his birthday party, "Now you're all going to tell me how great I am," than a leader. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is what a six year-old bully thinks leadership looks like.

I do not feel sorry for Trump's cabinet who choose to demean themselves into becoming Trump's pitiable sycophants. You made your beds, now lie in the shit.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Is Comey the New Thomas More?

I've been watching "A Man For All Seasons" on Turner Classic Movies and have been struck by what an astonishing metaphor it is for the Comey-Trump story..
If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we'd live like animals or angels in the happy land that needs no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all... why then perhaps we must stand fast a little --even at the risk of being heroes.
There is a scene where Henry VIII (Trump is neither as noble nor as intelligent as Henry) tries to corrupt More into betraying his conscious. Trump needed to corrupt Comey...
Because you're honest... and what is more to the purpose, you're KNOWN to be honest.
Republican politicians are aptly described by the line...
The nobility of England, My Lord, would have snored through the Sermon on the Mount.
For how else would congressional Republicans act during a reading of the Constitution than sleeping through it?

In the case of Thomas More, the rule of law collapsed under the weight of corruption. How this story of Jim Comey and Donald Trump will end is not yet written.

Will the American system of justice prevail or will the nation be sacrificed, martyred to the consuming greed and lust for power that is Trumpism?

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Trump Told FBI Director Comey, 'I Expect Loyalty'

A question which must be asked, how many other members of the Trump administration have been required to swear personal loyalty to Donald Trump?

Prior to Hitler, German soldiers made the following oath:
I swear fidelity to the constitution of the empire, and vow that, as a brave soldier, I will at any time protect the German Reich and its regular institutions... (source)
On February 8, 1934, that oath changed from fidelity to the constitution to loyalty to one man:
I swear to God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German Empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience... (source)
No longer were soldiers committed to defending the constitution. The constitution had become a meaningless rag.

Prior to Hitler, civilians were not required to recite any loyalty oath. As of 1934 they were:
I swear: I will be faithful and obedient to the leader of the German Empire and people, Adolf Hitler, to observe the law, and to conscientiously fulfill my official duties... (source)
Some Germans refused to swear an oath to a person instead of their country's constitution. Many of these were executed or sent to concentration camps.

On taking office as director of the FBI, James Comey took the following oath:
I, James Comey, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. (source)
The FBI, in their own website, says that loyalty oaths to individuals "too easily leads to tyranny on the one extreme or anarchy on the other."

Trump's expectation of personal loyalty over loyalty to country strikes at the very heart of our freedoms.

Words Matter, and So Does Silence

'I Do Not Support a Livable Wage'
Making Marie Antoinette sound generous.
Republican congressional candidate Karen Handel said one of those sentences that turn professional campaign consultants into alcoholics. She could have said something about opposing a minimum wage hike, which was the actual question, but Handel choose to say what was in her heart - that the poor should be worked to death for peanuts. 

Trump Cuts Our Throat in Middle East
America's Al Udeid air base in Qatar
When Donald Trump tweeted his attack on the nation of Qatar he was undermining the stability of the nation hosting the largest US military base in the Middle East. There are about 10,000 American military personnel stationed in Qatar, it is the forward base for US Central Command and the base for US anti-ISIS activities. Moments after Trump's tweet, Putin was on the phone to Qatari leaders offering Russia's support for Qatar against Saudi and American interference.

The Sound of Silence
ISIS attacked the parliament of a sovereign state, killing more innocent people than in the London Bridge attack yet there is utter and complete silence from Washington, no official comment nor even an semi-official tweet. The victim was the nation of Iran and there are suggestions that the ISIS attack was coordinated through Trump's friends in Saudi Arabia.

Taking the Fifth (sort of)
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers appeared before a Senate committee today and effectively took the Fifth Amendment, refusing to testify about any conversations they had with the President over stifling the Russia probe. They did say they didn't feel "pressured" to do anything illegal, which wasn't the question. Of course, they wouldn't have felt pressured if they had willingly agreed to obstruct the investigation.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Thoughts on the London Bridge Attack

Battle of London Bridge, 1450AD
  • Nothing else I write is meant to disparage the pain and suffering of the victims and their families.
  • The number of people killed in the terror attack is less than the the number of people killed in the United States by gun violence in three hours. (33,000 gun deaths per year)
  • The British people, famously stiff upper lipped, are not cowered by the attack.
  • However American Republicans, led by Donald Trump, are predictably trembling in terror and publicly peeing their pants. "Home of the brave" my ass.
  • Over 3,000 people died on London Bridge in the year 1212 due to a fire. Perspective.
London Bridge Is Falling Down
London Bridge has collapsed several times in history and was always rebuilt. The nursery rhyme probably comes from the collapse in the year 1281. The "fair lady" of the rhyme is Queen Eleanor who embezzled the money designated for reconstruction.

The Battle of London Bridge was part of Jack Cade's Rebellion, an attempt to overthrow King Henry VI. Forty Londoners and over 200 rebels died in the battle. Cade was executed and his head hoisted on a pike above the bridge, a fate shared by other traitors including Guy Fawkes and Oliver Cromwell.