Tuesday, August 20, 2019

IVANKA FAILS AGAIN

Well, so much for that:
President Trump appears to be backing away from potential support for gun background check legislation, according to White House aides, congressional leaders and gun advocates, dimming prospects that Washington will approve significant new gun measures in the wake of mass shootings that left 31 dead.

Immediately after the carnage in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, Trump said “there is a great appetite” for tightening background checks on people who buy firearms. But in recent days, Trump has focused in public remarks on the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill while emphasizing that the nation already has “very strong background checks right now” — positions that hew more closely to the views of the National Rifle Association.
This is just the latest in a series of failures by First Daughter Ivanka Trump. Many children of rich people become comfortable with failure because their wealth shields them from the consequences -- think of George W. Bush in his youth -- but Ivanka seems to treat failure as a calling. Over and over again, she spreads word to the media that steering her father away from a far-right position on some issue or other is now her main mission in life, yet she fails every time, spectacularly and publicly. What does she think she's getting out of this?

While I was on vacation last week, I read an Axios story about Ivanka's decision to seize on the gun issue. The story was unintentionally hilarious.
Ivanka Trump has quietly been calling lawmakers since the El Paso and Dayton massacres to gauge their openness to movement on gun legislation when Congress returns, sources familiar with her conversations tell Axios.
Translation: Ivanka Trump has been not-so-quietly calling journalists, including those at Axios, to gauge their openness to writing stories favorable to Ivanka Trump on the subjects of gun legislation.
... Ivanka Trump spoke last Wednesday to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), while he was vacationing in Hawaii, to get an update on the bipartisan background checks bill he proposed with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.).

The measure, which was initially introduced in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting, would expand background checks to nearly all commercial firearm sales.

"She called Manchin and said she was trying to get a sense of what bills are out there," a Manchin aide told Axios. "She had him explain how they drafted the bill, where it stands and what changes needed to be made in order for it to pass."
Forget that Ivanka is the porcelain-skinned First Daughter. Think about her the way she'd like to be thought about: as a Very Serious top adviser to the president of the United States. Shouldn't a president's top adviser have, y'know, a staff who can report to her on "what bills are out there"? Has Ivanka ever hired anyone with this level of expertise? Failing that, can't she find someone else in D.C., even during a congressional recess, who has this information at hand? Or hey, couldn't she look it up herself? I can understand wanting to schmooze, but does she have to call a senator who's eating a mango and probably planning nothing more taxing than a few hours on the beach? Do you think he has this information at his fingertips?

And why doesn't she know the history of Manchin's universal background check bill, which he and Republican senator Pat Toomey proposed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, only to see it fail? I knew that without looking it up, and I'm not a top adviser to the president of the United States.

But here's my favorite bit:
Following the mass shootings, Ivanka Trump posted a note on her Instagram story calling on Congress to "enact Red Flag laws/Extreme Risk Protection Orders in every state, increase resources dedicated to mental health support nationwide and close background check loopholes."

... She later reiterated that call to action on Twitter.
Yes, those were her exact words:



"Congress should enact Red Flag laws/ Extreme Risk Protection Orders in EVERY state" -- Ivanka, do you mean Congress should enact a national red flag law? Because it sounds as if you believe Congress passes state laws, and you want it to enact fifty of them.

This story suggested that Ivanka's efforts might really be successful ("Why it matters: This is another sign that President Trump might support new gun control measures, despite the opposition of conservatives in his orbit"). A subsequent New York Times article also portrayed Ivanka as the linchpin:
Mr. Manchin and other senators pressing for action on guns are counting on Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and senior adviser, to keep Mr. Trump from bowing to pressure from the N.R.A. and Republican hard-liners in Congress to not take any actions on guns.

“I think she can — her and the family, but especially her — can be the buffering when the pushback comes,” Mr. Manchin said. “She can tell him, ‘Let’s stay strong; let’s stay true. We know we’re solid with Republicans, with the base.’”
But she's failed again. She's not a closer. What's the opposite of a closer? That's what she is.

I keep hearing that Ivanka Trump will be president someday, and I keep thinking: Who'd vote for her? Here she is pursuing gun control. That alienates the right. Here she is failing in her efforts to lobby her own father on behalf of modest gun control measures. That alienates everyone else. She displeases everyone. Why? Why does she keep doing this? What does she think is in it for her?

A recent New York magazine cover story claimed that Ivanka has a solid fan base in Trump country:
Long perceived by MAGA die-hards as a shifty liberal, Ivanka is now mostly beloved on the right, where she polls better than her father in the critical states of the industrial Midwest, leading to speculation on mid-tier news sites that she might replace Mike Pence on the 2020 ticket and to fans’ dreams about Ivanka 2024.
In fact, Ivanka's poll numbers in those Midwestern states are mediocre:
In a Firehouse Strategies and 0ptimus poll released Sunday, Ivanka Trump was net favorable in Pennsylvania at 38-35 as well as Michigan at 37-36. The first daughter had a net disapproval rating of 35-39 in Wisconsin, but her favorability among likely general election voters surpassed her father's. She was +3 versus the president at -3 in Pennsylvania, +1 compared to his -5 in Michigan, and -4 to his -7 in Wisconsin.

"While not by overwhelming margins, Ivanka Trump maintains better net favorability among likely voters in these three states than her father does," the poll report states.
That could be the slogan for Ivanka in 2024: Awful, but Not by Overwhelming Margins.

Monday, August 19, 2019

CONSERVATIVES HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THIS TACTIC NOW?

There were demonstrators at President Trump's New Hampshire rally last week, and Breitbart's Joel Pollack is appalled by their tactics.
Hundreds of left-wing protesters formed a gauntlet outside President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, last Thursday, forcing Trump supporters to walk through on their way to the SNHU Arena, and endure taunts of “shame” and “KKK.”

... There was apparently no violence in Manchester, thanks in part to the left’s use of so-called “peacekeepers,” who were monitors wearing orange or yellow jerseys. But police — who otherwise did an outstanding job — allowed the gauntlet to form, risking potential confrontations.

Police officers set up a perimeter immediately around the SNHU Arena, but no further, allowing protesters to come face-to-face with Trump supporters. Two officers stood at the end of the gauntlet, apparently monitoring what was happening and conversing with the “peacekeepers.”

The goal of the “gauntlet” tactic appears to be to intimidate and humiliate Trump supporters — and to reflect a sense of moral superiority among Trump opponents.
I can't embed the video, but you can watch it at the link above. What you'll see are Trump supporters walking (unmolested) on what appears to be a crosswalk as Trump opponents chant slogans on either side.

Which is not how it's being described by Breitbart readers (bots?) on Twitter:




Where else have I seen Americans walking through "gauntlets" made of angry, chanting critics? Oh, yes: At every abortion clinic in America.



And women seeking abortions aren't intending to participate in an act of political speech -- they're seeking medical care at a difficult moment in their lives. Whereas people attending a Trump rally are not only engaging in a political speech act, they're attending the speech of one of the most inflammatory political orators in America. Seriously: You're attending a Trump rally and you have the unmitigated gall to complain that someone else's political speech is nasty?

But at least we have some right-wingers on record saying that "gauntlets" are bad. I'm sure you'll want that standard applied across the board, even at medical facilities -- right, Joel?

TRUMP: THE MEDIA LOVES ME! THE MEDIA HATES ME!

There's a lot of talk out there about a possible recession. As Maggie Haberman reports, the president thinks it's all a plot to hurt him. Among other alleged enemies, he singles out the media:
President Trump, confronting perhaps the most ominous economic signs of his time in office, has unleashed what is by now a familiar response: lashing out at what he believes is a conspiracy of forces arrayed against him.

He has insisted that his own handpicked Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, is intentionally acting against him. He has said other countries, including allies, are working to hurt American economic interests. And he has accused the news media of trying to create a recession.

“The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election,” Mr. Trump tweeted last week.
Which is odd, because just yesterday Trump predicted that Haberman's paper would ultimately endorse him:



And that's not a new idea. He's said on several occasions that he'll receive a lot of mainstream-media endorsements in 2020, including from news outlets that don't endorse candidates. Here's a Hill story from last year:
President Trump on Wednesday predicted that news organizations that he routinely attacks as "fake news" would endorse him in the future, saying that they would go out of business if he weren't in office.

"The [New York] Times, I think they’re going to endorse me," he said at a news conference in New York. "I think that ABC, I think — well Fox, I like Fox, I really do."

"But I think ABC, CBS, NBC, The Times, they’re all going to endorse me," he added. "Because if they don’t they’re going out of business. Can you imagine if you didn’t have me?”

TV networks do not issue political endorsements, and the Times endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, as did a majority of the 100 largest American newspapers.
So the mainstream media is motivated by overwhelming anti-Trump bias -- except when it's motivated by naked self-interest, which results in pro-Trump bias. Got it.

Trump could resolve this apparent contradiction by arguing that the media knows he's on track to win by a landslide (even though that's clearly not the case) and that all the attacks on him are just an effort to keep the contest interesting. Or, y'know, he could just shut up and respond to criticism and bad news like an adult. But the GOP base loves braggadocio, and also loves self-pity expressed as hostility (a Republican fan favorite ever since Nixon), so the contradictions will continue.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

LIZ CHENEY: SHE'S RUNNING

Hi, I'm back. Thank you, Yastreblyansky, Crank, and Tom -- great work while I was away.

I return to find out that the crypt has been opened:
Former vice president Richard B. Cheney and his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), are to appear at a lunch fundraiser Monday in support of President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to an invitation to the event....

The former vice president has been critical of the Trump administration’s foreign policy moves. At a private gathering this year, Richard Cheney pressed Vice President Pence on a number of the administration’s foreign policy decisions, particularly the Trump administration’s isolationist stances.

Cheney has criticized the Trump administration’s hard line toward U.S. allies in NATO....

Nonetheless, Cheney and his daughter, the current chair of the House Republican Conference, are to appear at the fundraiser....
If you look at this through a policy lens, it makes no sense -- Cheney is a neocon who never met a war he didn't like, while Trump rattles sabers but seems hesitant to use them (somehow, we're not at war with Venezuela or Iran). Trump cozies up to dictators Cheney wouldn't (Putin, Kim Jong Un). Meanwhile, the guy who's still leading the Democratic presidential field is a moderate who has not only praised Cheney but would almost certainly have a much more conventional post-Cold War approach to foreign policy.

But daughter Liz is making her move. She's led the GOP attacks on the four first-year Democrats in the House known as the Squad. She's been the self-appointed scourge of alleged Democratic anti-Semitism. She uses the dated language her party's aging base loves -- remember when she called Bernie Sanders a "commie"?

Dad is doing this fundraiser because Liz is running for president in 2024. It doesn't matter that Dick is associated with the now-disdained Bushes. It doesn't matter that Liz isn't an "America first" advocate. It's all about liberal tears, and she makes it her life's work to try to induce them. That's what GOP voters will be looking for four years from now.

Will she win the nomination? Hard to say -- there are a lot of full-time lib-bashers in the party who'll be making their own moves at the same time. But she definitely has a shot.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

For the Record: Devin's Farm



Apparently Devin Nunes, scourge of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and special secret emissary of the White House to the Hill, has gotten tired of all those people mocking him for claiming he's a Tulare County family farmer just because the family dairy farm moved to Iowa some years ago without him, where it's generally worked by undocumented immigrants, while he himself stayed in California growing fragrant and multi-flowered paranoid fantasies about President Trump and the FBI, so he's bought himself a spread of acres in his district, well, maybe half an acre:
Nunes, R-Tulare, reported on a newly released financial disclosure form that he owns a Tulare County farm that generates no income for him and is worth less than $15,000.
Nunes has never before claimed a farm as one of his assets in annual financial disclosures, according to public records dating back to 2007.
That suggests he either bought a small part in a farm recently or he improperly filed previous financial disclosures, according to Delaney Marsco, legal counsel on ethics for the nonpartisan watchdog group Campaign Legal Center.
“Either he had a tiny stake in this farm all along and he’s been improperly filing financial disclosures, or he bought a tiny, tiny farm this year in order to protect his reputation as a farmer in his district,” Marsco said.
Except the reporters couldn't find any records that he or his wife had bought any land in 2018 either, so who knows? Anyway, I just couldn't really resist:



Also, Nunes posted the following remarkable thing:
He didn't say what kind of sculpture it might have been if it wasn't an art sculpture (our friend Ellis Weiner suggested maybe a kitsch sculpture, but that's almost too easy).  I suggested it might be a representation of Donald's esophagus: titled, "The Last Taco Bowl".

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

More Economic Opportunities

Mainland Chinese rapper VaVa registers her disapproval of Hong Kong demonstrators on her Instagram account (which is of course illegal in mainland China except for those with the money to maintain a VPN). This in no way makes her look as if she is cravenly currying favor with the Beijing government, except—well, yeah, it does.

How nuts is the entire world right now?

Well, India's only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, has had its constitution somehow revoked by the Hindu-nationalist government and now the entire state is under something like house arrest, under curfew and phone lines and Internet down for the past 12 days (these are supposedly being restored), politicians arrested, insulin and baby food running out, because that's how Prime Minister Modi thinks he can get the people "more economic opportunities".

That line is another one of the lines that enrages me, with its more than a hint of bribery: "Surely you can put up with a little oppression if we pay you enough." And its buried presupposition that the politician delivering the line is the only one who can deliver the cash, not so buried in the case of Trump:
"The bottom line is, I know you like me, this is a love fest, but you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k)'s down the tubes. Everything is going to be down the tubes," Mr Trump said. "So whether you love me or hate me, you've got to vote for me."
(The day after [checks notes] an 800-point drop in the DJI.)

Modi's economic policies, the thing that was going to make up for his party's overt "Aryan" chauvinism (not going to win him friends in the country's southern states) and Islamophobia, haven't actually been that great for the masses, in spite of continued high growth rates, because the growth isn't shared, but benefits only the top 10%, with persistent caste divisions (Modi and the BJP castigate "caste politics" the way Republicans talk about "identity politics", as a way of shutting down discussion of the issue) sharpening the inequality, which seems to be getting worse:
Annabel Bligh: The Modi government has been accused of withholding jobs data in the run up to the election because of how bad the official figures are. But the latest employment survey, which was approved by India’s national statistics commission, was leaked to the Indian newspaper the Business Standard in late January and showed unemployment was at a record high of 6.1%.
Indrajit Roy: By a lot of standards 6.1% is not a bad unemployment rate. But for India it’s very significant, according to Jens Lerche, because there isn’t strong welfare provision in the country. And the unemployment rate was just 2.2% in the 2011-2012 financial year.
Jens Lerche: Now unemployment is uncommon in a country such as India because poor people have to work. So, people being without jobs to some extent is people that can afford not to work – educated people that have a family background that they can live off for a while. But, what we have seen here is jobs that have disappeared also within the agricultural sector and low end of manufacturing sector. So it does appear as if poor people are also losing their jobs here.
And since his reelection in May things have started looking pretty gloomy for the business community as well:
Despite an uptick in August, Mumbai’s Sensex stock index is about as close to October’s lows as it is to June’s highs. In July foreigners pulled more money out of Indian equities than they put in. India’s cautious business press has begun to criticise the government. So too, even more gingerly, have its cowed business leaders. “There is no demand and no private investment,” groused Rahul Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Auto, a motorcycle-maker, at its annual meeting in late July. “So where will growth come from?” The remark, widely interpreted as a swipe at Mr Modi, encapsulates Indian business’s disenchantment with the man they once regarded as their champion.
The immediate cause of the mood swing was the budget, presented on July 5th by Nirmala Sitharaman, the newly appointed finance minister. Business folk tuned in to the two-hour presentation expecting less red tape, fewer tariffs, more incentives for investment and lower taxes. They got the opposite....
So it seems likely that the timing of the Kashmir action could be related to the general sourness people are feeling about the government. For more, see this interview with the Kashmiri (but London-resident) novelist Mirza Waheed in The New Yorker.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

We shouldn’t buy Greenland — but maybe Greenland should buy the United States. Or to put it another way, Vi skulle ikke købe Grønland - men måske skal Grønland købe USA

Yup, that's what Greenland looks like.
So there’s Greenland, population under 60,000, on what’s been billed as the world’s largest Island, way up there in the North Atlantic. It’s part of sort of, the Kingdom of Denmark. It has gorgeous scenery, glaciers melting at a disastrously fast pace, some strategic value if you get it in your head to bomb Russia, alleged and unspecified mineral deposits of great alleged value, and a population that’s part Innuit and part Danish.

Donald Trump seems to have plans to go there in September. And he seems to want to do a real estate deal and buy the place.

Hey, we’ve a national deficit that’s expected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2020, and it’s climbing. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our government is short staffed to the point of incompetence. To give you one tiny example, Federal prisons are so understaffed that they couldn’t afford fresh, full-time guards to keep an eye on prisoner Jeffrey Epstein who less than a month before had tried to hang himself.

But we can go buy Greenland. Maybe Trump thinks he can get a deal. That’s very scary. If Trump goes to a closing, can a bankruptcy be far behind? Just off the top of my head he either went bankrupt or lost millions on the Plaza Hotel, Trump Hotel and Casino, Trump Airlines. And I’m sure I’m leaving something out here, or maybe several things.

But wouldn’t it be a great deal for us if Greenland bought the United States? As citizens of Greenland we’d automatically have medical care for all. We’d have far more generous vacations and pensions.We’d have so much peace of mind that we probably wouldn’t mind all that much learning Danish.

Also, there’s a good argument for Greenland annexing the United States, with or without paying for us. Seems that Leif Erickson set foot in America a good bit before Christopher Columbus. So perhaps his descendants in Denmark and Iceland have a prior claim to the USA. Ja?

Let’s encourage the open and public transfer or sale of the United States of America to Greenland, before Donald Trump finishes selling it to the Russians, a sellout that no doubt continues as we speak.

I’m so glad Donald brought the matter up.

Cross-posted at The New York Crank

Friday, August 16, 2019

Then again...

Regaliceratops peterhewsi, a.k.a. "Hellboy", a triceratops cousin discovered some 15 years ago in southeastern Alberta, via Smithsonian.


I've been in something of a funk, I don't mind telling you, and I think it must have been Matt Taibbi, someone I am normally able to regard with cheerful disrespect, who got me into the political part of it, with a big report from Iowa in late July in which he suggested that the Democratic party was making the same mistakes the Republicans made in 2016, in fielding a bunch of candidates nobody could possibly want:
The top Democrats’ best arguments for office are that they are not each other. Harris is rising in part because she’s not Biden; Warren, because she isn’t Bernie. Bernie’s best argument is the disfavor of the hated Democratic establishment. The Democratic establishment chose Biden because he was the Plan B last time and the party apparently hasn’t come up with anything better since. Nothing says “We’re out of ideas” quite like pulling a pushing-eighty ex-vice president off the bench to lead the most important race in the party’s history.
But I think Matt may have some difficulty recognizing that women politicians are interesting above the neck, humans you can have conversations with, and that some of them are more attractive than others in the same way as men politicians are. In any case, it's not clear the Republican process was a mistake at all, since for one thing they ended up with a candidate who won, in his own peculiar way, and would have been ready to accomplish all the party's principal goals if he weren't so incompetent as a people manager and so unable to delay personal gratification.

In a way, the 2016 thing was a Darwinian experiment, gathering together a collection of political mutants and seeing which mutations were adaptive, an alternative to the conventional method of seeking the candidate who conforms most to the stereotype the choosers feel comfortable with, and what came up was as big a surprise as the triceratops must have been, back in the day, but it wasn't ineffective. While the Democrats' process may have been too sober. This time around, maybe we're performing a similar experiment, and with some real results, in the sense that some of our oddest candidates are the ones who have risen to the top: our oldest candidates in history, our first professional academic to run since Woodrow Wilson (and a more talented academic than he was by far). We've had candidates who became famous as tough-guy prosecutors like Harvey Dent—Thomas E. Dewey, Estes Kefauver, Rodolfo Giuliani, Christopher Christie, all losers in the presidential stakes—but how about prosecutors famous for opposing the death penalty and being black and putting the screws on a sanctimonious, reptilian Supreme Court nominee?

What I'm trying to say is, maybe our candidates are weird enough this time around to shake up the formula and make this unnatural selection process yield something.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Aaargh




Cleve R. Wootson, Jr. and Ashley Parker for the Washington Post on whether we want the next president to Make America Boring Again:
 All Brian Fisher wants is to make it through Season 2 of HBO’s “Westworld.”
Fisher, 65, retired from Silicon Valley to Alicante, Spain, where he imagined he’d spend his time catching up on television and enjoying the beach.  But now, he jokes, he can’t seem to do either — and for that, he blames President Trump.
 “You think, ‘Well, I’ll have my coffee and see what happened overnight in the States,’ ” he said, before describing a morning ritual that includes copious cable news and scrolling through the news alerts on his phone. “I can barely find time to go out to the beach. I live on the beach in Spain — that’s the whole point — but by the time I finish the news, it’s already getting dark.”
Don't know how come they have to report from Iowa to get a quote from the Valencian coast, but I guess that's our ever-shrinking world.

Meanwhile,

I'm not sure I can stand it any more.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Shit Conservatives Don't Understand, Part 3,479

If Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America is shocked and outraged at a university for acts as inocuous as urging students to "Be open to new experiences", letting students use their preferred pronouns, or even talking to students without their parents present (quick! the smelling salts!)...well, just imagine her reaction to some seriously beyond the pale alternative sexuality:
U.S. Rep. Steve King told the Westside Conservative Club on Wednesday that humanity might not exist if not for rape and incest throughout human history.

"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" he said at in Urbandale, Iowa. "Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages taken place and whatever happened to culture after society? I know I can't certify that I'm not a part of a product of that."
I'm sure she'll condemn this in the most forceful haha just kidding. Because:
The Kiron Republican was discussing his defense of not allowing exceptions for rape and incest in the anti-abortion legislation he tried to pass in Congress.
Yeah, don't expect Penny Nance or CWFA to say anything negative about a guy who's working tirelessly for their number one issue*.

Anyway, in the midst of Penny's pearl-clutching she makes one revealing (if inadvertent) admission:
At one point, after dinner, they sent parents off to oblivious sleep while they lectured students on not making assumptions about each other’s gender or sexuality. Were they suggesting students ought to be fluidly “exploring” their gender and sexuality, as if it were some expected adventure? In the era of “Me Too,” that seems off message. [emphasis added]
Take that, woke liberals! Except...exploring one's gender and sexuality is, or should be, consensual, while #MeToo is all about non-consensual behavior. And in thinking she's made some killer point by lumping the two together, she admits to being entirely unclear on the distinction between consensual and non-consensual. (Just like Steven King, or any other movement conservative.) Which is only to be expected from someone whose number one political priority is forcing women to give birth against their will.

This inability to distinguish consensual from non-consensual behavior is, in fact, the unifying principle of conservative social policy. It's why conservatives like King and Todd Akin keep saying the quiet part out loud, why they can't help equating homosexuality with bestiality or pedophilia, why most have no issue with forcing women to give birth to their rapists' children. And it's one more reason why they have no compunction about supporting a rapist in the White House.


*By the way, that wholesome Black family in the banner on that page? Yes, it's a stock photo. I mean, since you asked.

Hate to say I told ya so but.....

The stock market recovered a little after I accused Trump of crashing it last week. But nothing recovers fully from The Trumpster, and most especially nothing financial.

The Dow lost over 800 points today. Because he's still doing his thing, even when he says he takes back his thing.

Please, please be careful not to walk past any tall buildings, and to look out for falling bodies if you must walk past tall buildings.

Cross-posted at The New York Crank

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

So far, Walmart stands behind your Second Amendment rights. First Amendment? Not so much.

No longer for sale on the Walmart website
The Walmarts of America are among the few places on the planet where you can enjoy the convenience, in a single shopping trip, of picking up a box of crackers, a jug of peanut butter, a six pack of something wet, a sniper scope, and, oh, say 500 rounds of ammo for your AK-47, all at the same store.

I mean, if you’re planning to hunker down in some well protected vantage point and pick ‘em off as they pass, while remaining well fed and happily hydrated, there can’t be a better place to enjoy one stop shopping. 

And after all, didn’t God give us the Second Amendment just so we can stay armed and blow away people who are — you know — asking for it?

But if you’re planning to advertise your fondness for guns, perhaps you’d better shop somewhere else.

On the Walmart website, where you can buy lots of shooting accessories but not guns, probably owing to variances in state laws that are too difficult for an Internet sales bot to interpret, you could still, until recently, buy a T-shirt  that advertised that you liked guns expressly because they could shoot genuine people.

Not that the T-shirts were actually encouraging you to go out and do some random killing. It’s just that one T-shirt, which had a check box for “GUN OWNER” and another for “VICTIM” with a check in the owner’s box made it perfectly clear what your firearm is for.

Another T-shirt, expressing an attitude more than an application, bore an image of a set of crosshairs with the legend, “Gun control is being able to hit your target.”

Notice I’m using the past participle when I talk about the T-shirts.

According to Advertising Age, the T-shirts were offered on the Walmart website by third party vendors, but taken down after Walmart faced some, uh, incoming fire from critics.

Walmart has also taken down a third-party offering of a T-shirt that advertises, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”

Presumably, you can still go into Walmart and buy a rope. For all I know, you might even be able to buy a tree there. Just as in various states, you can still buy your firearms, ammo and  accessories  in Walmart.

Walmart doesn’t care, just so long as you don’t go all talky with your First Amendment rights and begin shooting off your mouth or your T-shirt about it.


Lift My Lamp

Not everybody agreed with the idea of the Emma Lazarus inscription on the Statue of Liberty at the time, including cartoonist Victor Gillam in March 1890 (h/t this blog post by Victoria Emily Jones). 

The All-New New Colossus
by Kenneth Cuccinelli

.................... Give me your tired, your poor,
At least if they can stand on their own feet,
But don't send us those homeless any more
Or people who don't have enough to eat.
Ship them back to their shitholes. Lock the door.

Via Splinter News, a story about Ken Cuccinelli's views on immigrants when he was Virginia attorney general (you'll remember him as the one who redesigned the state seal to conceal the left boob of the goddess Virtus, to make the state safe for Christians) that originally appeared in the lamented DCist: in a call to a conservative radio show in January 2012, he was complaining (falsely) about the District of Columbia catching rats and trucking them to Virginia instead of killing them and claiming (falsely) that the rules prevented them from "breaking up the families" of rats (it's true for some animal species, but rats and mice aren't among them):
Host: Send ’em over to Virginia, that’s right.
Cuccinelli: Guess why I care about that sort of thing?
Other host: I bet.
Cuccinelli: Anyway, it is worse than our immigration policy — you can’t break up families. Or raccoons or all the rest and you can’t even kill them. Unbelievable.
He was a family divider before it went mainstream. Now, of course, he's acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and therefore the public voice on immigration matters of president Stephen Miller, which was why he was on NPR this morning explaining that the US still welcomes "your tired, your poor", but only those who can "stand on their own two feet", reminding us that the statue was erected around the same time as the institution of the Public Charge rule of the 1882 Immigration Act, which was the first step in setting up the  bureaucracy for getting rid of immigrants we have now (or the second, following the Chinese Exclusion Act of the same year):
Upon inquiry of the vessels transporting immigrants, immigration officials were given the authority to expel certain immigrants based on criteria laid out within the Act. The legislation dictated that "If on such examination there shall be found among such passengers any convictlunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of him or herself without becoming a public charge, they shall report the same in writing to the collector of such port, and such person shall not be permitted to land." Furthermore, if a criminal was found to be on board, it was the fiscal responsibility of the ship that brought the immigrant there to take them back out of the United States. The criminal provision of the act did not include immigrants who were "convicted of political offenses, reflecting the traditional American belief that the United States is a haven for those persecuted by foreign tyrants."
Not that there were any food stamps or Medicaid in 1882 to withhold. The US government wasn't really going to save a dime with the Public Charge rule, and that wasn't really its purpose; the purpose was to keep the community timid and on edge with the threat of deportation. The same is more or less true of the new rule, which is just to take points off on your green card application if you've ever used any of the programs (which is a lot less likely than if you're a natural-born American, by the way, but you knew that). It's really aimed at the American children of immigrants with irregular status, just like the Mississippi roundups last week, and it's meant to frighten them.

What Cuccinelli failed to understand is that the Lazarus poem and its attachment to the statue weren't in synch with the Public Charge rule, products of one single society, but in passionate opposition to it (Lazarus herself was Jewish and of course Jews arriving from Eastern Europe were among the main targets of the new restrictive approaches to immigration, along with the swarthy-skinned southern Italians from whom Cuccinelli is presumably descended).

Because this debate has been going on for a while, with pretty much the same racist language ("garbage" in 1890 becomes "infestation" in 2019) on the exclusionary side, and the same moral content. Cuccinelli's not entitled to Statue of Liberty sentiment; he's its enemy.

From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 1882, via Wikipedia. A lot of labor organizations backed the Chinese Exclusion Act, by the way, seduced by the conventional wisdom into thinking it was immigrants rather than abusive bosses who were responsible for their working conditions, also then as now—Wikipedia notes that the IWW opposed it, though, so all honor to them.
Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Thread: Donald's Vacation

Screen capture from the original Dutch Big Brother, 2001.


"By accident" lol.



Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Swedish Phish


In February 2017, our friend the New York Crank told the readers of No More Mister Nice Blog a story about
an attack that in fact never happened — by “terrorist” immigrants who didn’t exist, in Sweden.
Said Trump recently, “You look what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
This left the Swedes scratching their heads. Nothing had happened in Sweden on the night Trump referred to. How Donald Trump turned on his TV to Fox and Friends [which had in fact run a report claiming that the north Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby was an immigrant-dominated "no-go zone" where Christians were unsafe] and arrived at this conclusion is a job for the men with the white coats when he finally arrives in a straight jacket at the National Home for Daft and Bewildered Ex-Presidents.
Crank went on to talk about the international response to the incident as a good model for how we could start dealing with our then-new president, through merciless ridicule, as demonstrated by the group of Danish Facebook users who organized a "Pray for Sweden" vigil, or the German report of a new Ikea product:

Anyway, some unexpected follow-up to the story came up in today's Times,
two days later, as Swedish officials were heaping bemused derision on Mr. Trump, something did in fact happen in Rinkeby: Several dozen masked men attacked police officers making a drug arrest, throwing rocks and setting cars ablaze.
And it was right around that time, according to Mr. Castillo and four other witnesses, that Russian television crews showed up, offering to pay immigrant youths “to make trouble” in front of the cameras.
“They wanted to show that President Trump is right about Sweden,” Mr. Castillo said, “that people coming to Europe are terrorists and want to disturb society.”
Yes, the rightwing effort to paint old Sweden as a Muslim-run hellhole that's been taken over by immigrants is run, at least in part, by Russians:

Schlockmeister

Image via Mayday Productions.

As I was telling somebody with reference to the death of Jeffrey Epstein (you can read my take at the link at bottom) and the immediate batches of conspiracy theories arising around it, I can't stand it when real life starts resembling this schlocky kind of fiction.
But the schlock never stops in today's news, and there's this other thing, with which I was briefly involved. Tito Anchondo, the body shop guy whose nephew Paul was the two-month-old orphan of two victims of the El Paso massacre, was interviewed on Wednesday on NPR in a very affecting segment, at the end of which he did something odd: started talking to the interviewer about how he'd like to meet Trump on his El Paso visit, really kind of asking the radio network to help him out:

The precise words, transcribed this morning by Connie Schultz, were, "I want to see his reaction in person. I want to see if he's genuine & see if my political views are right or wrong. And see if he feels maybe some kind of remorse for statements that he's made. I just want to have a human-to-human talk with him and see how he feels."

But then after he did manage to meet with Trump for that ghastly picture with Trump thumb up and grinning like an enraged chimpanzee and Melania uncomfortably holding the baby, it sounds as if they didn't have a human-to-human talk at all.
It doesn't feel quite right. And meanwhile from the side of the baby's mother, people who refused to meet with Trump, some pretty angry accusations found on her Facebook page:


Do you think Uncle Tito could have been asking the Emperor for some cash? OK, I'm out of here. I'll try to get back to thinking about more elevated topics soon.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Jeffrey Epstein's revenge

Jeffrey Epstein's mugshot. (Public domain)

So New York woke up this morning to the news that Jeffrey Epstein, accused procurer of adolescent girls to the rich and politically connected, was dead, evidently of suicide.

Somehow — despite a previous suicide attempt, despite reports that he was severely depressed, despite his irreplaceable value as a potential witness in the statutory rape and child abuse trials of others — Epstein managed to hang himself.

Or so we’re told.

By some bizarre coincidence, despite his suicide attempt only days before, he was not under suicide watch, according to a report by the New York Times. And even if he was under suicide watch, the watch wasn’t particularly attentive.

Either way this smacks, at the very least, of gross negligence by the people who administer the Metropolitan Correctional Center. But it is almost a guarantee that for weeks, years, decades after Epstein’s death, conspiracy theorists will be having a field day. There’s a rich lode of questions they can ask, and conspiracies they can imply.

Was taking him off suicide watch a deliberate attempt to make certain his suicide happened?

Is there a coverup for a forced murder-by-hanging, in attempt to silence Epstein before he could reveal whom, among his storied “friends” and clients, he had provided with nubile 14 and 15-year-olds?

Are the prison system and the government now so corrupt that they are can be instructed by somebody at the very top to permit a suicide, or to commit a murder?

Whether Epstein’s suicide was real, or simply encouraged, or faked by murderers, it is the worst thing that could happen to people who were in his various social circles in Florida, New York, the Caribbean, and Paris.

Charges might never have been brought against some of these men. Or charges might have been brought but refuted, in some cases. But rumors fueled by conspiracy theories never die. 

Fifty-six years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, theories and beliefs in a hidden hand behind Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, still circulate. Fifty years after Epstein’s death, there will still be whispers about whom Epstein supplied with teen-agers, and in particular about Donald Trump.

So if somebody very powerful did arrange for Epstein’s death, that person made a grave misstep.

No doubt, some low- or mid-level functionary at the New York Metropolitan Correction Center will be found, scapegoated, and punished for the sins of the rich and powerful. Or simply for the incompetence of the prison system. No doubt, somebody will declare that’s the end of it, even as civil suits get launched against some — but not all — of the powerful predators.

And no doubt that fifty years from today, there will still be theories, books, accusations, and panel discussions about who really did what in the case of Jeffrey Epstein.

Which means that, although he is dead, he will not go away. He will never go away. His ghost is hungry for revenge, and that hunger never can be satisfied.

Some very uncomfortable men may have simply wished for the death of Jeffrey Epstein.

As the old maxim goes, be careful what you wish for.



ON THE ROAD AGAIN

I'm leaving town again for a week, though I leave you in the capable hands of the guest bloggers. I'll see you on the 18th.

Friday, August 09, 2019

TRUMP DENOUNCES LIBERAL ELITES FOR MOVIE IN WHICH LIBERAL ELITES ARE THE VILLAINS

About an hour ago, President Trump tweeted this:




He's clearly referring to The Hunt, a forthcoming film that's been the focus of much right-wing scrutiny since a story about it was published by The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday:
Ads Pulled for Gory Universal Thriller 'The Hunt' in Wake of Mass Shootings

"Did anyone see what our ratfucker-in-chief just did?" one character asks early in the screenplay for The Hunt, a Universal Pictures thriller set to open Sept. 27. Another responds: "At least The Hunt's coming up. Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables."

In the aftermath of mass shootings within days of one another that shocked and traumatized the nation, Universal is re-evaluating its strategy for the certain-to-be-controversial satire. The violent, R-rated film from producer Jason Blum's Blumhouse follows a dozen MAGA types who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals.

Over the Aug. 3 weekend, ESPN pulled an ad for the film that it had previously cleared....
At first glance, it's understandable that conservatives are upset by the film:
The script for The Hunt features the red-state characters wearing trucker hats and cowboy shirts, with one bragging about owning seven guns because it's his constitutional right. The blue-state characters — some equally adept with firearms — explain that they picked their targets because they expressed anti-choice positions or used the N-word on Twitter. "War is war," says one character after shoving a stiletto heel through the eye of a denim-clad hillbilly.
But as the anonymous author of a blog called Scriptshadow noted in April after reading the screenplay, the "deplorables" who are hunted in the movie seem to be the heroes. After several of them are killed, a "deplorable" named Crystal appears on screen:
Mom and Pop then get a call that one of the hicks, “Crystal,” is on her way there. “She’s not armed. Have a little fun with her.” Except Crystal doesn’t run in and start freaking out. She casually walks up to the counter and orders a pack of cigarettes. Mom and Pop look at each other. Uhhhh... they’ve never seen this before. Crystal is cool as a cucumber. After paying for the cigs, Crystal leaps over the counter and brutally kills both of them. Crystal is the wrong hick to have brought to the hunt....

It’s kind of amazing that we’re so attached to her considering the fact that she isn’t introduced until page 37. I think it’s because by that point we’d built up so much hatred for the hunters that we were pumped to finally have a worthy opponent.

Crystal casually walking into the fake gas station and outsmarting the hunters was the moment I became invested in the story. Before that, I was on the fence. But it’s impossible for me not to love a character after they cleverly outsmart the bad guys.
From the trailer, it's also clear that the rich liberals are the bad guys:



Some right-wingers reacted the way Trump did. Here's a report from One America News Network that begins, "Concerns of left-wing violence are on the rise ahead of an upcoming release of a highly controversial film."



Note that one of the concerned is Paul Joseph Watson, who made his name at Alex Jones's InfoWars. Also note the shock-cut from the film's bloodshed to a hallway news conference by Congressman Al Green of Texas, who's talking about impeachment, not violence.

But others on the right recognize that this movie isn't an attack on their side. Here's Breitbart's John Nolte:
The Hunt looks to me like it could be a lot of fun....

At first glance, the movie looks like murder-porn for leftists — wish fulfillment when it comes to killing we deplorables.

The trailer, though, actually makes it look as though the deplorables are the heroes-victims, though I’m sure it will be a bit more complicated than that....

Personally, I can’t wait to see The Hunt. Let’s just hope Universal and the fascist entertainment media don’t give the El Paso terrorist one more notch on his gun, one more victory, by deep-sixing it.
And here's Mark Steyn on Fox News:
"I actually approve of making films telling stories about the way we live now -- we live in an increasingly fractious 50-50 nation."
But I assume that Trump was just watching a different segment on Fox:



One of the authors of The Hunt's screenplay, Damon Lindelof (who was a co-creator of Lost and HBO's The Leftovers) has called Trump "an agent of destruction." And yet his screenplay makes rich Trump opponents (like himself) into the bad guys. Liberals can be like that. Liberal comedy often mocks liberalism. (Think Portlandia or any number of Saturday Night Live sketches.) This seems to be the drama counterpart to that self-mockery.

But it doesn't matter. The president and many other right-wingers are treating this movie as a direct assault on their side.

I'm offended because the film seems to equate my political views with elitism, sadism, and murder. It also looks like a lead-footed attempt at satire.

But who knows? Maybe it will become the new right-wing wish-fulfillment fantasy, the Red Dawn of our era. Thanks, liberal Hollywood!