Monday, July 17, 2017

Republicans Voting Against Their Own Interests: It's the Hatred, Stupid...

In his recent NY Times op-ed (”What's the Matter with Republicans?”) David Brooks asked, "Why do working-class conservatives seem to vote so often against their own economic interests?" It's an excellent question relating to a truly inexplicable phenomenon. But I disagree with Brooks' thesis that it's primarily attributable to anti-government fervor. The truth is much uglier than that. 

The Republican party, and most recently Donald Trump, have perfected the art of playing to the lowest common denominator of the GOP's base which, over the past several decades, has fully succumbed to a toxic cocktail of ignorance, intolerance and hate. 

Just as Trump's perfected the art of demagoguery—scapegoating immigrants, Mexicans, women, the judiciary, the intelligence community and the media—to brainwash his followers while stoking their anger, sexism and racial animus, the GOP has also historically used abortion, religion, guns and gay marriage as smokescreens to deceive those who voted for them and who most need their economic help. 

The party has succeeded in diverting these voters' collective attention away from the issues that should matter most to them—jobs, education, healthcare and the environment, for example—instead harnessing their most basic, primal fears and insecurities and converting them into invaluable political capital. 

In Trump’s 2017 America, the media is “the enemy of the people” while a brutal dictator-wannabe from a hostile nation like Russian President Vladimir Putin is a revered world leader who’s allowed to hack into and influence our elections. It’s an America where an attack on our Democracy is more tolerable than an attack on our megalomaniacal president. Where anger, fear and hatred trumps facts and the truth. 

Republican voters claimed to want change. More jobs, better education, affordable healthcare and housing and to ‘make America great again.’ But instead they’ve allowed themselves to be exploited and dragged into Trump’s self-destructive rabbit hole. 

The likelihood is that this bait and switch will continue until poor and middle class Republican voters realize that their fear and hatred has made them complicit in the longest-running con game in political history. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I Lost My Wife Too, Patton Oswalt

3901 days, 15 hours and 10 minutes ago I found my wife, the actor and filmmaker Adrienne Shelly (WAITRESS), dead in her office. Murdered. Her killer staged it to appear as a suicide. She was 40. Young, beautiful, vibrant and the love of my life. She had so much to live for, yet was so easily, senselessly and violently yanked from the world, from me and from the toddler daughter she adored. Adrienne’s death left me devastated, heartbroken and unable to fathom a future without her.

In April of 2016 the actor and comedian Patton Oswalt dropped off his 7-year-old daughter Alice at school, picked up coffee and went home. He immediately discovered that his wife, crime writer Michelle McNamara, 46, had died in her sleep. He emotionally described his tragic ordeal in a moving New York Times story last October.

Fifteen months later, Oswalt is now the target of ridicule and harsh criticism after he announced his engagement to actor Meredith Salenger. Because it’s “too soon.” Because he’s still grieving. Because it can’t be real love. Because people are cruel and judgmental. And because many of them are inherently miserable and would rather see this dude drown in his fucking sorrow than be happy again. And misery loves company, right?

I remember missing Adrienne so much and craving the scent, touch, closeness of a woman. I missed her incredible brain, her ferocious wit and humor, and her intense love for me. But I also missed her body. Her skin. I was so distraught, broken and frightened. Empty. Alone. I just wanted to be held. To be comforted. And so I fell into the nurturing arms of a couple of understanding, compassionate women very soon after Adrienne was gone. While they couldn’t fulfill the deep emotional crater that had swallowed me, they did have bodies. And skin. And they could hold me. And for a moment make me feel good. And safe. And could let me drift and forget that a nuke had been dropped on my world.

Those early times spent with other women didn’t mean that I wasn’t grief-struck. Didn’t mean I didn’t love Adrienne. The truth is, I traversed the Earth in a coma. I was lucky I could put one foot in front of the other and simply walk. These women filled a primal need. Kept me from sinking further into the abyss. I had a daughter to take care of. And I had to take care of me. And so I was with them, unapologetically. My life. My horror. My decisions.

From those early physical involvements to removing my wedding ring to subsequently dating to eventually meeting someone and falling in love again, it all happened on my timeline. I didn’t give a shit what the peanut gallery thought. Why should I? Were they with me on the closet floor curled in a fetal position as I cried my eyes out? Were they helping me understand the cruelty in being the happiest schmuck on the planet one minute and a lifeless zombie the next? Were they raising Sophie with me? Did they share in any of the responsibility, the work, of putting this shit show back on track?

Oswalt’s wife is dead. My wife is dead. And ya know what? Only we have a say in what we do and when we do it. No one else gets a vote. Until you excitedly rush to see your wife or husband and find them dead instead, spare us your judgement and wisdom. Our pain and sorrow never goes away. And when it does subside, even temporarily, we just grieve all over again the minute we see our motherless children.

So please just fucking leave Patton Oswalt alone. Be happy for him. He’s a survivor.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mika and the Manbaby


Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” made the colossal mistake this week of reporting on the self-aggrandizing fake Time Magazine cover that President Donald Trump has hanging in several of his golf resorts. Trump, the self-described “counter-puncher,” decided that an appropriate response would be to criticize her face:

595649de1500002500bfb901


Apparently someone forgot to tell Trump that being president of the United States is the toughest, most scrutinized job on the planet, and that criticism of his performance is often fast and furious. It simply comes with the proverbial territory. Especially when he lies and manufactures magazine covers. 

Trump has intense disdain and disgust for our free and open press. He believes the media is an extension of his PR team, and when they fail to perform and instead do their jobs as independent journalists, as did Brzezinski, they reap the merciless wrath of the Manbaby-in-Chief. And his vengeful behavior is particularly savage towards women.

Trump clearly has a serious issue with women and, in particular, their physical appearance. His history of viciously attacking women on personal attributes goes backs decades. Victims of his sexist/misogynist rants include Meryl Streep, Megyn Kelly, Cher, Rosie O’Donnell, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, 1996 Miss Universe Alicia Machado, Heidi Klum, Gold Star mother Ghazala Khan, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Carly Fiorina, Elizabeth Warren, Arianna Huffington and, of course, Hillary Clinton.

During unhinged fits of insecurity and anger Trump’s referred to women in the most derogatory terms. Fat, pig, slob, bimbo, dog are just a sampling of the unconscionable insults he’s hurled their way when he’s felt challenged, criticized and threatened on policy matters. And it doesn’t take much to set him off. 

“Trump is so easily played,” Brzezinski said Friday morning. 

That’s a ginormous understatement. But it raises the question of just how Trump will react if, rather than a morning cable TV host, his buttons get pushed by a dangerous enemy such as Kim Jong Un, Bashir al-Assad or Vladimir Putin. Will he use the bully pulpit, and U.S. military, to start a deadly war of words or worse? Will the unfiltered, unfit, unglued, undisciplined Trump put the safety and lives of Americans in peril because his rapacious, out-of-control raging ego is again bruised? 

Brzezinski’s co-host and fiance Joe Scarborough described a phone call he received from a top Republican congressman who, in a meeting with Trump, felt “scared” by the aggressive manner in which he had described the pair:

"He was vicious when he turned from you (Scarborough) to Mika. His face was red. He started talking about blood coming out of her ears, out of her eyes."

In their Washington Post column published early Friday, Brzezinski and Scarborough wrote "we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show.

Let me take this conclusion further: Donald Trump is not mentally equipped to be president.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Say it Loud, I'm 'Blocked' and I'm Proud!


I’ve arrived. I am part of an incredibly small minority of Americans who I call “The Blocked.” I share this badge of honor with other folks who go to sleep every night with a huge smile on our faces knowing that we got under the extremely thin skin of the President of the United States. That our words matter. That they matter so much that Donald Trump can no longer fathom seeing them anymore. So he blocked us. 

As personally gratifying as being blocked by Trump is, is he violating our Constitutional right of free speech and dissent? According to a recent story in Forbes:

Because the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account is open to the public through which a public official discusses official public policy, Trump should not be able to limit public access to this forum in which vital information is disclosed and discussed. Legally, the president cannot exclude certain people from such a public forum simply for expressing conflicting viewpoints or criticism that he dislikes.

In a letter sent to the Trump Administration earlier this month, the Knight First Amendment Institute, which is representing some members of The Blocked, stated:

“This Twitter account operates as a 'designated public forum’ for First Amendment purposes, and accordingly the viewpoint-based blocking of our clients is unconstitutional. We ask that you unblock them and any others who have been blocked for similar reasons.”

The letter hinted at a possible lawsuit if Trump does not comply and continues blocking detractors.

There’s even a new web app, TrumpBlocks.me, which catalogs The Blocked, tracks the newly shunned and could be an important element in future First Amendment protection litigation. The definitive collection of those whose Constitutional rights have been violated by the president. 

As for The Blocked, rumor has it that there are only about three dozen of us. That’s a very exclusive club if true. But I suspect there’s more. But no matter the tally, we hold our heads high with pride and deep, deep satisfaction. We’re the people who’ve relentlessly fired off 140-character missives at the Manbaby-in-Chief in response to his draconian policies, sexist and racist behavior, and general campaign to make America really ugly again. 

Trump’s great at dishing, but he can’t take it. Targets of his merciless online and offline bullying have included women, gays, beauty pageant contestants, immigrants, refugees, the disabled, war heroes, Gold Star families, protestors, union presidents, the UN, NATO, generals, the intelligence community, the media, Amazon, Boeing, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meryl Streep, Saturday Night Live, the cast of Hamilton and even the Pope. 

But he can’t handle my tweets, which apparently riled him so much that they became the subject of discussion in his social media war room. Either that or Trump himself, during one of his late-night/early morning Twitter rants, got so pissed at my prolific digested smackdowns that in a fit of rage he banged his tiny little finger on the “block” button. Either way, I’m quite flattered. 

To be sure, the self-styled “counter-puncher” emotionally crumbles like a petulant toddler at the slightest challenge, criticism or perceived attack. He thinks the world revolves around him. He believes everything he says and does is so colossally amazing. And he so desperately needs the rest of us to agree with him. He’s a spoiled manchild who viciously retaliates when we don’t. 

It’s all a facade though, as in actuality, I think Trump hates himself. I think he knows what a bigly douche he is more than we do. That’s why he blocks us. We’ve forced him to face who he really is: the most ignorant, unqualified, illegitimate president in history. It’s also why he can’t stop re-litigating the election; refuses to acknowledge what everyone else in the world accepts as Russian hacking of that election; and why he can’t stop bashing Barack Obama, a man who has more intelligence, class, dignity, grace, humility and diplomacy in one strand of hair than Trump has in his entire being.

Trump the candidate presented himself as the big, tough, terrorist-fighting, crime-busting he-man. A commander-in-chief who’ll rid the world of ISIS, battle brutal dictators such as Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin. But in truth, the admitted pussy-grabber is himself just a pussy who can’t even handle the Twitter musings of a snarky liberal blogger. 

And by the way, the thin-skinned apples don’t fall far from that sensitive tree. Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka have blocked me too...

Friday, June 23, 2017

Yes, Trump Really Said That...



Donald Trump held one of his patented campaign-style love fests in Iowa Wednesday night, complete with blatant lies, belittling, bombast and bluster. Like him or not, at least with his rabidly loyal base, these events are a religious experience. His brainwashed minions hang on every syllable as if Jesus himself was on stage.That is, if Jesus couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the poor, the sick, the needy...and lied through his teeth non-stop.

But what was most striking in this pathetic display of attention-starvation was the moment when, referring to his cabinet, Trump basically told the crowd...

’To the poor and middle class I say...you’re idiots! Hey, you voted for me, am I right!? But I don’t like you, I don’t give a shit about you, and you certainly don’t belong in my administration... believe me! Just clean my house, wash my car, mow my lawn, drive me places, serve me food, take away my garbage, protect me and put out my fires. But that’s all you’re good for. Just be happy we rich people know how to do stuff and can take care of you inept morons!”

OK, what he actually said was...

“I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person...”

Yes. Trump actually said that out loud. And guess what? The crowd cheered and applauded! The poor and middle class Trumpsters actually cheered and applauded as their tone-deaf elitist billionaire cult leader summarily dissed them—an entire segment of the population—as incapable and unqualified based purely on the amount of zeros they have, or don’t have, in their bank accounts.

Which brings us back to Jesus, a cash-poor man yet rich in intellect, idealism, empathy, compassion and obvious leadership skills. Totally capable of being God, but not quite wealthy enough to serve Trump’s swamp-infested cabinet.

Trump lives in a binary socio-economic world of rich and poor. Rich versus poor. Rich good, poor bad. Where rich equals smart, competent and successful and poor equals total failure. He views everything through the lens of wealth. As president his self-described accomplishments are singularly judged like business deals: how much money he’s either made or saved America. The Oval Office has become the headquarters for negotiating domestic and global financial transactions at the expense of educational, environmental, medical, scientific, technological and diplomatic vision. With Trump, it’s all about the Benjamins.

It remains astounding how an unscrupulous, self-serving kleptocrat was elected president with the support of so many of those whose stand to lose the most from his draconian, heartless policies. But it’s an even bigly’er mystery how, five months into Trump’s chaotic presidency, the sheep are still cheering the bullshitting billionaire despite him constantly shoving his tiny middle-finger in their faces. Despite his unrelenting, shameless lying and reneging on campaign promises. Despite him being hellbent on taking away their healthcare, their financial/banking protections, their clean air and water and their money....all so he can reward his fellow oligarchs with massive tax breaks.

There was a time when these folks would be cheering Robin Hood. Today they applaud the Robber Baron.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Does Everything Have To Be Partisan?

There used to be a time when Republicans were the tough-talking, patriotic, red-baiting, Democracy-defending standard-bearers. Not anymore. Partisanship no longer ends at our shores. These days the GOP and its kleptocrat commandant Donald Trump act more like tools of the Russian government. Like they’re on Vladimir Putin’s payroll. Like...maybe...possibly Putin has something incredibly incriminating on them (hooker pee pee tapes, money laundering?). Because there’s no other explanation for this sudden shift to anti-American behavior. 

Seventeen United States intelligence agencies have unanimously concluded that there was Russian interference in last year’s election. Within the Trump administration, several key former and current advisors and cabinet members—including Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, J.D. Gordon, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions—have held clandestine meetings with Russian officials, including Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, before and after the election. While the issue of lifting U.S. sanctions is suspected as being the primary subject, the bigger issue of interference in the election and possible Trump campaign collusion is now the subject of House, Senate, FBI and special counsel investigations. 

For the past 18 months Donald “I Love Wikileaks” Trump has fed this conspiracy theory with unyielding acceptance and/or support for anything Russia may have done to impact the outcome of the presidential election. He’s maligned our intelligence community and, conversely, has heaped praise on a murderous dictator like Putin (a “strong” leader”). Further, he’s done everything in his power to obstruct the ongoing investigations, including firing former FBI Director James Comey. He recently told NBC’s Lester Holt:

“And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

The very next day Trump hosted Russian diplomats in the Oval Office where he mocked and demeaned Comey, telling the Russians:

"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off.”

Trump’s denied, discredited and disrupted the investigations incessantly on Twitter, and has impugned the integrity of our free and open press, calling it “fake news” 24/7 while showering Fox News (aka Trump Propaganda Network) with accolades and access. 

And the circus just added more rings this week. During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, Sessions repeatedly stonewalled and suffered epic bouts of short and long-term amnesia when asked by Democrats about conversations he had with Trump over Comey’s firing, and whether it was related to RussiaGate. He did not invoke executive privilege nor did he claim it was classified information, nor could he offer up any legal basis for refusing to answer the questions. 

“I am protecting the right of the president to exert it if he chooses," Sessions disingenuously repeated. 

So... Sessions was not answering questions because of the ‘executive privilege’ neither he nor Trump had invoked. Even more incredibly, he also stated he had not been briefed on the Russia investigations, yet was certain no one on Team Trump colluded. Not bad for a guy with massive memory loss.

Which brings us to Republicans in Congress. Those spineless, self-serving oligarchs who’ve sanctioned and encouraged this unconscionable anti-American, potentially treasonous behavior from the Trumpsters. The ‘equal branch of government,’ responsible for oversight and checks and balances, is acting like paid lobbyists for the president. The word ‘accountability’ means nothing to them, even if it undermines the very thing that makes our democracy so great: free and fair elections. 

It is widely believed that last year Russia’s ‘influence’ was limited to email leaks and fake news. In 2020 it could include actual tampering of voting machines...materially impacting the ultimate vote count and thus who gets to sit in the Oval Office as a true Putin puppet. 

But make no mistake: Russia has been and is perhaps America’s biggest global threat. It’s an enemy state which seeks to destroy democracy throughout the world. Judging from our chaotic transfer of power these past five months, Putin’s already succeeding. And while Trump’s deluded himself into thinking Putin’s his buddy, the truth is the Russian president will eventually go after him...if he hasn’t already (which might explain Trump’s bizarre deference to-date). Putin doesn’t see left or right. Just Russia. The existential threat from another, more invasive Russian attack remains. Our democracy’s been attacked, and Republicans just don’t seem to care. 

More mystifying is the behavior of Trump voters—the xenophobic, Confederate flag-waving “USA! USA! USA! crowd who pre-Trump would be calling for the execution of anyone colluding with Russia—who’ve suddenly had such great affection and admiration for Putin and our new pal Russia.  “Why can’t we be friends, why can’t we be friends...”

None of it makes any sense whatsoever. America seems under siege, from within...

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Yes, the F**king Tweets Matter!

What
has happened to America? Are we actually having a legitimate ‘debate’ as to whether Donald Trump’s tweets are ‘official’ statements? Is his bar that low? Has he lowered our standards of presidential behavior to the point where nothing seems rational anymore? Like we’re all now living in his alternate universe? People... have you gone mad!?

Let me attempt to inject some sanity into this utterly insane discussion: It doesn’t matter whether Trump (a) addresses the nation on prime-time television; (b) holds a press conference; (c) issues a written statement; (d) gives a radio address; (e) Tweets; (f) shouts from a mountaintop; (g) or puts a note in a bottle and throws it into the ocean. Whatever he says, however he says it, wherever he says it... it’s an official statement from the U.S. president. Jeez, how the hell is this even a subject for debate?!

To the chagrin of his aides and lawyers, Trump uses Twitter to malign the media, the judiciary, the Constitution and anything and anyone who threatens or offends him including the Pope, the disabled and veterans, war heroes and Gold Star families. He uses Twitter to lie, distort and obstruct the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our election as well as possible collusion by Trump and his campaign.

Trump refuses to give press conferences, refused to answer a single question from American reporters during his European trip, and refuses to give the media and the American people any ability to directly question him about his actions and policies. He obsessively uses Twitter exclusively as his mode of communication. But we’re expected not to take his tweets seriously?

Yes, his tweets count. They count when the 9th Circuit court uses them as a basis to uphold the block on his racist Muslim ban. They count when he unequivocally declares in caps that his travel ban is, yes, a “TRAVEL BAN.” They count when he unconscionably attacks the Mayor of London just hours after that city suffers a horrific terrorist attack. And they count when he uses it to announce his new FBI director.

The problem with Trump is that he views Twitter as improvisational theater, where in free form he can puke out random thoughts, often in an incoherent, childish stream of consciousness. And he’s convinced himself that because there’s no filter for his tweets, no one monitoring or editing them, no formal review process, that it’s just fun ‘Trump talk’ even if they contradict earlier statements by aides and surrogates. He seems to relish his Twitter-effect of mixing things up, keeping people on their feet, throwing them off guard. But all it does is create more internal crises, frustrate staff and leave Americans without a clue as to what he believes in his core (assuming he has one.)

As the United States president, Trump is never “off.” Once elected, he gave up the right to have “off the cuff” remarks. And everything he says has impact domestically and abroad. It doesn’t matter the forum. If it comes out of his mouth, then it’s an official presidential statement.

Trump and his surrogates need to accept that his mounting verbal gaffes and controversies — whether born on Twitter or elsewhere — are attributed to him and not the media, Democrats or anyone else. These are unforced errors created by the president himself. He needs to put on his big boys pants and say “the buck stops here” and stop the pathetic victim act.

Trump promised to “drain the swamp.” But he’s instead pulled the entire nation down into it with him and we can’t breathe. The survival of the greatest democracy in history is at stake. Trump’s damaged our standing on the global stage, created chaos and uncertainty at home, and has turned the office of the presidency into a kleptocratic cesspool of corruption, greed and surrealism...and turned the White House into the Blight House.

But what’s most astounding is that he’s become so unhinged that he’s making us irrational.
So repeat after me: the fucking tweets count...