Monday, July 03, 2017

The Mad King


I've been quiet over the weekend because I was putting together a surprise party for my wife's birthday (full disclosure: she wasn't terribly surprised because I suck at that sort of thing) but I'm back now and ready to unleash some snark.

Unfortunately, I forgot to account for the sheer volume of stupid that emerges on an hourly basis from the trump administration, making it difficult to choose a topic to address. The tweets against Morning Joe? Nonsense about the health care bill? The flagrant use of the Federal government as his own ATM? Where to begin?

This got me to thinking of looking at this from a higher level. Not "higher" in the sense of "I'm smarter than you" (although, in the case of the idiot in the Honda minivan on Friday who couldn't just pick a fucking lane, already, I am), but in the sense of pulling back and taking a look at the bigger picture. What we have seen to date from pundits of various stripes -- including yours truly -- are attempts to react to whatever batshit crazy bullshit emanates from the roiling mudpit that passes for the brain of trump, sparking discussions, squabbles, and outright fights over whether or not he actually meant what he tweeted or was he just trying to be clever, or is he really going through with this or that policy strategy, or what fools trump supporters are for getting suckered in by the biggest con in United States history, and on and on and on ...

Meanwhile, trump continues to suck off the Federal teat, Republicans in Congress continue to take advantage of his role as Distractor In Chief to ram through an agenda that, in the past, would have been dismissed as being impossibly cruel before it ever saw the light of day, and the Right Wing Shriek Factory is in a hiring spree. On the other side of things, Democrats are wringing their hands in dismay and mumbling something about taking the high road, and they continue to practice pre-trump politics (and yes, we can actually use the term "pre-trump" to describe an era during which politics at least made sense because it followed some sort of rules and structure, as opposed to the anarchic train wreck it has become) by putting forth centrist candidates and focusing their efforts on fundraising.

So what is the bigger picture, exactly?

Simply put, America is being stripped for parts.

This is not a simple difference of governing style. This is more than disagreements about policy. What we are seeing is a wholesale dismantling -- dismembering, actually -- of our system of government, with suggestions that we are staring down the barrel of an America run by a mad king (trump) and his sycophantic courtiers (Steve Bannon, Kelly Anne Conway, Mitch McConnell, et al, with Paul Ryan making a special guest appearance as the court jester).

Entire agencies essentially are being obliterated. The EPA is run by a climate denier who doesn't believe the EPA should be doing anything at all. The Department of Education is being run by a semi-literate right-wing zealot who thinks the main mission of education is "to glorify the kingdom of God." The Department of Energy is headed up by a brainstem who was unaware that the DoE oversees America's nuclear arsenal, and thought he was going to be the most awesome oil lobbyist ever. The Secretary of the Interior is trying to sell off Federal lands as quickly as possible and is considering opening up the Grand Canyon to uranium mining interests.

All of which is bad enough, but now we have this request by Kris Kobach -- the architect of the CrossCheck database, aka the proprietor of Voter Suppression R Us -- for the voting records of all Americans.This reeks of a Nixonian "enemies list," a way for the trump administration to more effectively and efficiently intimidate the crap out of people who don't like him (which, according to the latest polling data, is pretty much everybody, Melania included) and maintain his grasp on power with his teeny-tiny wittle handsies.

It has gotten to the point that trump is painting himself (or trying to, anyway) as a "Dear Leader" of sorts -- sort of an American Kim Jong Un, but without the fashion sense. From a Cabinet meeting (to which the press was invited) that seemed to be arranged solely so everyone around the table could plant their noses firmly in trump's backside and tell him how America is lucky to have him, to bogus Time magazine covers with his picture on them hanging at his golf courses, we are but a short step away from replacing the Washington Monument with a statue of trump, glaring balefully across the Potomac as a missile parade goes down Constitution Avenue from the river to the Capitol building.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans apparently have decided that this whole "representative democracy" thing that we've been trying for nearly 250 years isn't working, and they're going in a new direction in which they only represent a) people who voted for them, and b) people who donated money to their campaigns. BIG money. The philosophy here is that everyone else is obviously flawed and inferior and incapable of making such monumental decisions as for whom to vote (although the GOP wants them to have their guns!), and that it's just better for everybody -- well, everybody, who matters, anyway; Democrats and the poor can go fuck themselves -- if everybody just assumes they know what they're doing and don't ask too many questions.

For months I have been telling folks that we need to mobilize to drive the GOP from power, and I still believe we need to do that. However, it is beginning to look like the Democrats aren't really offering a viable alternative; they (with some notable exceptions -- Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, PA State Representative Daylin Leach, and a few others) are acting like GOP Lite. Every time a new topic becomes the center of attention, the GOP drags it further to the right and everybody else scrambles to catch up. Kim Davis decides to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couple because of her "sincerely held religious beliefs," yet not one prominent liberal pointed out the basic fact that Kim Davis isn't issuing the licenses, the Clerk of the the Court for Rowan County is -- and the office does not have "sincerely held religious beliefs." trump and the GOP routinely squawk about "collapsing Obamacare," and not a single liberal points out that a) it's not collapsing, it's just that insurance companies are leaving the exchanges, and b) they are leaving in large part in response to "poison pill" amendments introduced -- and passed, because the Dems didn't have the cojones to tell the GOP to piss off -- that were designed to make them pull out and to hamstring the ACA.
And it's not just policy. The media is a casualty of this campaign of disinformation as well.The New York Times issues a retraction to correct an error and the RWSF (Right Wing Shriek Factory) jumps on this as proof that the Times -- long considered the gold standard in unbiased journalism -- is nothing more than liberal propaganda, and everything they print is nothing more than a pack of unsubstantiated lies. Meanwhile, right-wing outlets such as Breitbart, InfoWars, the Daily Caller, etc. are able to completely fabricate a story about Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring from the basement of a pizza place in DC, even though a) it never happened, and b) the pizza place doesn't even have a basement, and even though it is immediately discredited it retains enough legs to get a "-gate" affixed to the end of it, and it even gets so far that, when the lack of a basement is pointed out, this is dismissed as "fake news."


So what we have now is:
  • A president that doesn't understand how government works or what his responsibilities are, and who is only interested in how the presidency will enrich him.
  • A Congress whose only interest is a) keeping trump occupied with his Twitter account so he can continue to divert attention away from their nonsense, and b) consolidating their power.
  • A press that tends to gloss over substantive issues of real concern (the voter data request, concealed carry reciprocity, that sort of thing) because they are constantly being distracted by the shiny object that is trump's Twitter feed.
  • A group of supporters who are so in the tank for trump that they will deny actual physical reality in favor of trump's narrative.
In 1773, a small group of colonists in Massachusetts started protesting against the policies of the English king, based on the idea that the colonies deserved to have a voice in their own governance. Interestingly, they were not initially going for complete independence; all they wanted was for the king to take their concerns into account. The fact that he refused to do this is what led to the American Revolution.

We are at that same stage now. The time has come to rise up and demand that our voices be heard, and that government actually represent us, not just big donors and Republicans. We need to hold these folks accountable, and demand that they do the jobs we elected them to do. We haven't quite gotten to the "time for a revolution" portion of our program yet. If we're lucky, and our elected representatives actually listen for a change, we may not ever have to get there.

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I gotta lie down.

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