Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trump's 'America First' Dog Whistle

When Donald Trump used used the phrase "America First" in his foreign policy speech today it was a loud and clear dog whistle to his white supremacist and neo-Nazi followers.
Yes, Dr. Seuss drew this.
"America First" is a phrase that reoccurs periodically in US history. For the last 80 years it has always been associated with isolationism, fascism, and racial purity. Before Trump, Pat Buchanan was the last to campaign with that slogan. Buchanan also wrote a book claiming that Britain was mistaken opposing Nazi Germany, should have backed Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, and that Winston Churchill was responsible for the Holocaust.

The most prominent America First movement was headed by famed flyer Charles Lindbergh before the US entered World War II.
Lindbergh received this medal in 1938.
Lindbergh loved the Nazis and Hitler returned the affection, awarding him The Order of the German Eagle and offered him a house in Berlin which Lindbergh refused after finding out it had previously been owned by Jews.

He returned to the United States before Germany invaded Poland.
he lobbied heavily for American neutrality and attacked President Roosevelt and "the Jews" for trying to help the British during the war's early years.

Lindbergh thought that the United State's "European blood" was being being diluted by "foreign races" like Asians, Mexicans, and Jews. Before becoming an isolationist he had urged the US to ally with Nazi Germany to rid the world of the Jewish and "semi-Asiatic" Russia.

All this is what Donald Trump's neo-Nazi listeners are hearing in the phrase "America First." They are hearing a call to purify American blood from an invasion of non-Aryans. A call for trade wars with Asiatic nations like Japan, South Korea, and China. And a call to wage a war of extermination on brown skinned Muslims.

Primary Postmortem

Just a few observations.

Nerd Alert
Ted Cruz describing "that basketball ring" is just the sort of thing any dweeb that had never set foot on a basketball field or football court would say. I wonder how many votes he lost in Indiana were basketball is a holy sacrament.

#NeverTrump, Do They Mean It?
The phrase "conservative in the primary republican in the general" is a mantra of movement conservatives. They fight for the best they can get in the primaries but loyally toe the party line in the general election. Four years ago they hated Mitt Romney right up to when he won the nomination after which they forgot their rabid opposition to Mitt and became dutiful if not enthusiastic supporters.

This time around, most movement conservatives have loudly proclaimed for months that they will never ever vote for Donald Trump in November come Hillary or high water. The time when this principled stance ceases to be theoretical is rapidly approaching and I suspect most of them will pretend #NeverTrump never existed. Movement conservatives will eat their shit sandwich, kiss his ring, and pledge everlasting fealty to The Donald.

Profiles In Courage
I am reminded of this JFK book when thinking of the unbound Republican delegates. I imagine one remaining undecided, unbound delegate from Pennsylvania. Trump's count is 1236 his last vote would put Trump over the top. This lone delegate is besieged by cajoling, bribes, and death threats. He knows he can never return home if he does what is right for the nation and votes against Trump. Will he? Will he have the courage or will he take the coward's way and follow the herd?

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Pact

When I read that Ted Cruz and John Kasich signed a non-aggression pact I couldn't help thinking back to the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939.
They divided Poland between them, Uncle Joe got to pick the ripe fruit of the Baltic states while Brother Adolph got a free shot at France. They still hated each others viscera and it was only a matter of time before one stabbed the other in the back.

The Cruz-Kasich non-aggression pact divvies up the primary map like Poland - Ted gets Indiana while John gets Oregon and New Mexico. And like Joe and Adolph, the question is not whether there will be betrayal but who will deliver the first cut.

The Hitler-Stalin Pact was forged in ambition (for land) and mutual weakness. Hitler didn't think the German army was strong enough yet to fight a two-front war while Stalin had decimated his general staff through his purges and feared the Wehrmacht.

The Cruz-Kasich Pact is also founded in ambition (for a nomination that is slipping away) and mutual weakness. For both the weakness is the lack of money. Kasich is broke while Cruz lacks the resources for the massive media buys he'll need to come from behind in California. Cruz is also expecting another humiliating butt kicking in tomorrow's primaries with more third place finishes meaning he will be limping into Indiana.

We'll see if it works but I anticipate betrayal before success.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Historic Perspective to the Campaign

Understand history is a handy tool for understanding today's politics.

Cruz, Trump, and the Gold Standard
What the gold bugs are doing for Uncle Sam.
If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold. ~ William Jennings Bryan, 1896
Ted Cruz and Donald Trump want to return the United States financial system to the gold standard, a discredited monetary policy that no modern country uses. Pegging the US economy to the price of gold would have no positive effect except for the advertisers on Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity's shows. It would, however, put the country at risk of debilitating deflation and at the mercy of gold producing countries like Russia.

Hillary Clinton and the Suffragette Victory
By 1916, western states had all granted women the right to vote and Lady Liberty was striding boldly east.
The women's suffrage movement is only the small edge of the wedge, if we allow women to vote it will mean the loss of social structure and the rise of every liberal cause under the sun. ~ Winston Churchill, 1911
Assuming things go as seem inevitable, it will have taken 96 years for America to nominate a woman as this nation's leader. That's quite a long time. Many nations got their first female head of state in the 1970's and 80's. Pakistan beat us by over a quarter of a century, electing Benazir Bhutto just 21 years after women gained the vote.

The Republican nominee, be he Trump, Cruz, or Paul Ryan, will not be so plainly spoken as Winnie was 105 years ago but they will hint at the same prejudices. Women are too liberal. Hillary is a harpy and too emotional for the job (Like Trump and Cruz aren't?). American society will collapse if that woman is elected.

Trump's Campaign Is All an Act
Those morons out there? Shucks, I could take chicken fertilizer and sell it to them as caviar. I could make them eat dog food and think it was steak. Sure, I got 'em like this... You know what the public's like? A cage of Guinea Pigs. Good Night you stupid idiots. Good Night, you miserable slobs. They're a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they'll flap their flippers. ~ Lonesome Rhodes, A Face In the Crowd 1957
I'm far from the first to notice the striking similarity between Donald Trump and Andy Griffith's first starring role as an obscene huckster who became a media sensation and political power. What's new is that Trump's own spokesperson, Paul Manafort, has told Republican bigwigs that Trump's public performance is just a show to excite the crowds and that he will become "presidential" when the time is right.

That evening, Trump was in eastern Pennsylvania throwing chicken shit at a crowd that ate it all up with gusto.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The (NY) State of the Nominations

It's Hillary. It's not Cruz.

Bernie Sanders went all in on New York, spending a shit ton of money and predicting victory. He lost in a landslide. Ted Cruz wasted every second he spent in the state; not just finishing third but a pathetic third. In one congressional district (the 16th) Cruz managed the impossible, finishing fourth in a three man race (Ben Carson got more votes).

I will still vote for Sanders on June 7 but, short of Hillary defecting to ISIS next month, I don't see any way for Bernie to top Hillary in pledged delegates or votes cast. This means he is reduced to convincing the establishment (super delegates) to abandon the establishment candidate. Ain't gonna happen.

As for Cruz, he is mathematically eliminated from a first ballot victory. His only hope is to finagle enough delegates through underhanded maneuvers to steal them from Trump for a second ballot coup.

Democratic Convention
This will be a Hillary coronation. The only way she can screw up this Hillabration is trying to punish Bernie by denying him a prime-time speaking slot. It would be an inanely stupid thing to do but politicians can be petty and vindictive animals.

Republican Convention
Donald Trump will not get enough pledged delegates to insure a first ballot victory. He will need some number of unbound delegates to put him over the top. I put the odds of one chance in three that he will get enough of the unbounds to pledge before the convention to turn it into a Trump coronation.

Trump's only chance at the nomination is on the first ballot. After that first ballot his delegates will melt away faster than a tropical iceberg. Ted Cruz's only hope is a second ballot victory. If all his machinations to snag Trump pledged delegates fail to get him to the magic number the convention won't give the most hated man in the Republican Party another shot. At that point expect Paul (The lady doth protest too much) Ryan to be dragged kicking and screaming to the crown, figure it to be around ballot six.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Conservatives Have Gone Meshuga

Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories. ~ Sun Tsu
People who know me know I read a lot of rightwing sites, I have for decades. The best way to know what the people I'm fighting are thinking is to actually listen to them. So, I'm here to tell you that conservatives, right now, have flown way past batshit insane into a black hole of blithering idiocy.
Entrance to RNC headquarters.
Take Redstate.  For years it has been the go to spot for batshit opinions but lately it is all Donald Trump all the time. This obsession is even more bizarre because they hate Trump. Day after day is a continual upchuck of pettifoggery nitpicking over some tiny piece of Trumpology. They are forced into this silliness because the voluminous legitimate reasons to hate Trump (racism, sexism, xenophobia, islamophobia) are all things that Redstate readers agree with. So they are reduced to searching desperately for microscopic things to hang they Trump-hate on.

Then there is National Review. I used to read National Review when William F. Buckley was alive because, regardless of his politics, he was a witty and gifted writer. Now it is painfully idiotic. The linked article is a long essay defending Ted Cruz's opposition to dildos including Cruz's legal contention that Americans have no constitutional right to masturbate. Really?

Buckley would have dismissed the whole subject with a single wry joke. But National Review as well as many other conservative sites are trying to prove that anti-dildoism is the mark of profound legal scholarship. These many defenses are much more ludicrous than Cruz's originally wasting taxpayers money taking the Texas law outlawing the sale of dildos to the US Supreme Court.
Trying to understand conservative thought is like seeking rational discussions on current affairs at a turn of the 20th century insane asylum. There maybe someone there who'll briefly make a little sense but mostly all you'll get is babbling lunacy.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

This Nation of Hate

A couple recent stories have shown me how pervasively hate motivates Americans.

Man Removed from a Flight for Saying One Word of Arabic
In modern America, nothing engenders both hate and fear like the Semite language of Arabic. Government and airline officials have threatened and intimidated people just for wearing shirts with Arabic letters. Speaking Arabic or just looking suspiciously Muslim will get people kicked off flights, detained, and interrogated.

For comparison, my flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto was on Air Canada where in flight announcement were made in four languages - English and French (the official languages of Canada) plus Hebrew and Arabic (the official languages of Israel) - and nobody freaked out.

Last month, an Illinois police officer on vacation in California stabbed a teenager for the crime of speaking Arabic within his earshot. In Philadelphia six years ago a man was arrested by police for attempting to learn Arabic.

Trump Visits Site of Racist Murder of Hispanic
Patchogue Village on Long Island is a small town of just 12,000 folks, not a great place for vote harvesting. Donald Trump's venue last Thursday has a capacity of just 1100, which is way too tiny for a typical Trump rally. So, what was he doing there?

Eight years ago, a gang of local white teens were looking for Hispanics to attack. They found and beat several and stabbed to death one, immigrant Marcelo Lucero. Trump's rally was a short walk from the site of that murder. The theme of Trump's rally was hate for Hispanics. The reason for that specific rally in that specific location was to signal solidarity with white Long Islanders who hate the growing Hispanic population of their insular communities and long for a strongman who promises to rid their town of swarthy neighbors.

Cruz and Gay Haters
If there is one consistency in Ted Cruz it is his hatred of gay Americans. Last week he celebrated an endorsement from Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt who describes himself as a gay hating demon hunting exorcist. Last November, Cruz followed Kevin Swanson on stage at Swanson's "religious liberty" conference, right after Swanson openly called for the murder of all homosexuals. Swanson also thinks Girl Scout leaders deserve death. Cruz's daddy is also an outspoken gay hater.

Hatred, it's as American as apple pie.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Thinking of Spiders

I like spiders. Admittedly, most are not a cute as the fellow above but, who is? I consider spiders to be service animals. They eat the little creepy crawlies that hang around my house waiting for an opportunity to get into my ear and and eat their way through my brain.
I kinda have an earwig phobia. I hate those guys. What bug needs to have pincers on their butts? Eww.

Anyway, I like spiders. I have since I was a child and read Charlotte's Web. If I find a spider in my house that I think would do better outside I carefully capture her and release her in my backyard where she can hunt crickets and maybe find some cute little fellow she can mate with and probably eat.

There are dangerous spiders where I live like brown recluse and Black Widows...
No, not her but I wouldn't mind having Scarlett Johansson living in my backyard.
but they don't scare me, we're friends.

All this was inspired by an open letter from a spider published by Pest Control Technology back in October. It's good to know that even professional poisoners have spiders for friends.

Footnote: Yes, I'm this desperate to write about something that is not named Cruz or Trump.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Nogales: The Growth of a Wall

Nogales in 1899. The telegraph wire down the middle of the street marks the US/Mexican border.
Until the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, the scrub land that became Nogales was part of Mexico. The US wanted to build a railroad through the land and told the Mexican government to sell it to us or we would up and take the land and a whole lot more besides.

The twin cities of Nogales (Arizona and Sonora) grew up during the latter part of the 19th century as, effectively, one community. As the photo above shows, nothing prevented people from crossing back and forth across the border.
Circa 1918.
By the 1910's the United States had some concrete posts to mark the border and, with the outbreak of World War I, added armed border guards. That second addition caused a disaster.

On August 27, 1918, a Mexican carpenter crossed the border going home carrying a parcel. A US guard shouted at the Mexican to return to the US side so his parcel could be examined. A Mexican guard told the carpenter he could stay in Mexico. A US guard pointed his rifle at the carpenter. Somewhere, there was the sound of gunfire. The terrified carpenter hit the ground. The Mexican guard pulled his sidearm and shot at the US guards, killing one. Americans returned fire killing two Mexicans. The US military invaded Mexican Nogales, Mexican civilians grabbed their guns and fought back in defense of the homes. As many as 125 Mexicans were killed in what has gone down in history as the Battle of Both Nogales.
Circa 1950.
In the 1920's a chain-link fence was strung down the center of the road separating Mexican Nogales from American Nogales.  The days of freely moving between south and north were over. That not too oppressive fence was good enough for several decades.
The same street as above in 2008.
Over time, the fence was "upgraded" by the United States into a rusting twelve foot tall monstrosity that was, in places, in danger of falling over because its shoddy construction.
Nogales, Sonora 2015.
By 2011, the Border Patrol was proud of their new Nogales fence. Now thirty feet tall in places and more befitting a prison than the border between two democracies, the fence is still tiny compared to the one Republicans want lining the border.
This final picture is of mother and daughter separated by this latest Nogales border fence following the mother's deportation. The evil in the hearts of fence builders know no boundaries.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Things I Slightly Disliked About Israel

The "Russian Compound" is the name of the neighborhood where I stayed in Jerusalem. Those window shutters are made of solid iron.
"Hate" is a strong word, these are really more things I kinda disliked a little.

The Wall
Commonly called the Separation Barrier, this is the wall that Israel has built to prevent Palestinian terrorists from crossing from the West Bank into Israel to kill civilians. I understand the purpose and it seems to have accomplished its goal as terror attacks in Israel have been reduced significantly since it has been built. But that doesn't mean the wall isn't obscenely ugly and reminiscent of Berlin in 1964 or Warsaw in 1942.

For the second half of my visit to Israel I was hobbled by a mild case of the flu. I really can't blame Israel for that, I probably caught it from another tourist at my hotel's breakfast buffet. It was mild enough that I soldiered on through the symptoms although it did suck the energy out of me making the gentle slopes of Jerusalem seem like towering mountains.

Three Nights

The old city and the Dome of the Rock.
I didn't give myself nearly enough time in Jerusalem, just two days and three nights. Add in my flu companion and I missed a lot. I am going to have to return and give myself a full week in the City of David.

IDF soldiers guarding a Jordan River baptismal site.
You quickly get used to armed soldiers patrolling "soft targets" in Israel. Soldiers patrol the pedestrian promenade on Jerusalem's Jaffa Street, I watched one sipping a smoothie while she walked. I watched a children's Purim party in the Old City being guarded by soldiers carrying automatic weapons. Soldiers with weapons are a common sight on public buses. The reason is understandable. Unlike the United States where Muslim terrorists will attack once every year or two, such attacks are common in Israel. I guess what I hate is that Israelis have to defend themselves this way.

What I didn't see was untrained civilians packing heat, like say in Texas, because that would be fucking dangerous.

Stone Walls and Iron Doors
The entrance to my Jerusalem B&B apartment.
I can't speak for all of Jerusalem, but in the Old City and the older neighborhoods to the west of it most of the residences are made of one meter thick stone walls with iron doors and window shutters. When these buildings were built wood was a rare commodity. Also, stone and iron were safer materials in a city that, during the first half of the twentieth century, saw frequent rampaging mobs of religious zealots.

Still, when your tiny 13 square meter studio apartment has thick stone walls and an iron door it kind of feels like being in a prison cell.

Dead Camera Battery
My DSLR camera battery died while I was in the Old City and, of course, I didn't have a recharger. Just another reason to return to Israel soon.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Things I Loved About Israel

American Christians at the Jordan River. Standing near them in fatigues is a female Israeli soldier armed with an automatic weapon.
For two weeks last month I visited Israel on a long delayed bucket list trip. These are some of the things I loved about the country.

Sign warning visitors not to climb on the ruins of an 800 year old Muslim castle (Nimrod's Fortress) in the Golan Heights.
Before I arrived I worried needlessly that my eight word Hebrew vocabulary would be insufficient for traveling alone in a strange new country. Most of the signage in Israel is in three languages - Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Literally, everyone I met had a much better command of English than I did of Hebrew. When someone spoke to me in Hebrew all I needed to do was look sheepish, say the word angleet in an apologetic tone, and they would shift to excellent English.

I met a tour guide who effortlessly moved between Hebrew, English, and Spanish. A beggar on the Jaffa Road in Jerusalem schnorred with equal skill in Hebrew and English. Even a Bedouin offering photo ops with his camel gave his instructions in English.

Coming as I do from a country where many people throw hissy fits whenever anyone speaks a little Spanish, this universal multilingualism was a welcome change.

Remember those scenes from the epic movie where Lawrence of Arabia blew up rail lines? Well, when the Ottoman Empire built that rail line from Damascus to Medina in the early 20th century they cut down virtually all the trees in Palestine for the construction. Israelis have an almost manic desire to plant trees and their country is the only one in the world with a net gain of trees. The results are beautiful.

Really Old Stuff
The Greek Patriarchate St. in Jerusalem's Old City.
We Californians think we have some old buildings, the Spanish missions are almost 230 years old. But Israel has really old stuff.
  • The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated 1,700 years ago.
  • Masada was build by King Herod as a safe haven over 2,000 years ago.
  • Akko (Arce) has been continually occupied for 5,000 years.
  • The oldest structure in Jerusalem is the remnant of a stone wall that dates back to well before the Jewish people arrived in the Promised Land. It is over 7,000 years old.
Damn they are good. Especially the spicy ones.