Day 873 – Trump Is A Cult Leader

The Mexico tariffs that Trump announced would have been bad for the economy–and the Republicans in Congress knew it.  They took the unusual step of confronting Trump and threatening legislation to restrict his ability to use tariffs against Mexico, so Trump begrudgingly capitulated by withdrawing his threat and declaring victory, claiming falsely that the tariff threat against Mexico produced substantial concessions.  In fact, the concessions that Trump pointed to had already been in place for months.  But these facts didn’t deter Trump from lying.

Anyone who has been paying attention can see the same pattern of action from Trump over and over.  It was best distilled in a meme that made the rounds recently in the form of a faux Trump Tweet, actual author unknown:

Trump uses this “fake crisis” process to make himself look busy and potent, when in fact he’s a lazy, golfing, TV-watching buffoon.  His entire presidency, and most of his time during any given day, is devoted to ensuring his re-election.  He watches TV to find out the day’s top stories so he can actively beat them back on Twitter.  He organizes and attends rallies that boost his ego and keep his base excited.  But his base is looking more like a cult than a political party, and Chris Hedges dives into this notion in a new essay in Common Dreams.  Hedges is a radical guy, and I don’t always agree with his outlook on our political system, but in this essay he seems to be spot-on with his analysis of the Trump cult.  Here is an excerpt:

Behavior that ensures the destruction of a public figure’s career does not affect a cult leader. It does not matter how many lies uttered by Trump are meticulously documented by The New York Times or The Washington Post. It does not matter that Trump’s personal financial interests, as we see in his relationship with the Saudis, take precedence over the rule of law, diplomatic protocols and national security. It does not matter that he is credibly charged by numerous women with being a sexual predator, a common characteristic of cult leaders. It does not matter that he is inept, lazy and ignorant. The establishment, whose credibility has been destroyed because of its complicity in empowering the ruling oligarchy and the corporate state, might as well be blowing soap bubbles at Trump. Their vitriol, to his followers, only justifies the hatred radiating from the cult.

The cult leader responds to only one emotion—fear. The cult leader, usually a coward, will react when he thinks he is in danger. The cult leader will bargain and compromise when afraid. The cult leader will give the appearance of being flexible and reasonable. But as soon as the cult leader is no longer afraid, the old patterns of behavior return, with a special venom directed at those who were able to momentarily impinge upon his power.

I encourage you to read the entire piece.  It’s not too long and it’s a powerful overview of how cults and cult leaders interact.  I came away feeling that Trump fits the description perfectly of a natural cult leader.

Hedges also identifies the true rot at the core of our Democracy; the usurpation of our politicians by corporate money and power.  We have to get unlimited corporate cash out of our elections or we will never wrest control back from the CEO class.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 872 – Anyone But Trump

I just returned from my college reunion and it was a fascinating experience.  I attended a small private university in the 80’s that was unusually conservative.  I wasn’t engaged with or particularly aware of politics in college even though I had been raised in a very political and liberal family.  I was aware that my fellow classmates were mostly Republicans and saw the world differently than I did, but I was more focused on my ambitions.  A lot has changed since then!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my fellow classmates this last weekend so I was amazed when one of my freshman hall-mates disclosed that he was a life-long Republican who was prepared to vote for anyone but Trump.  He described himself as a “McCain Republican” and was horrified by Trump and his vulgar antics, noting that the Trump mindset went against everything he valued.  Two female classmates sitting with us strongly agreed.

Later, I spoke to two fraternity brothers whom I assumed were conservative yet they were clearly not happy with the director of our nation, particularly with the tariffs that are destroying our economy and farmers for no legitimate or rational purpose.  They were also horrified by our military spending and the corresponding jingoism that has taken over the Republican party since the presidency of Bush II.

These stories are, of course, anecdotes that have little broader relevance, and yet the experiences were comforting to me.  It was nice to see middle-aged conservatives who might have voted for Trump three years ago see through him now and reject his presidency.

It was also reported over the weekend that support for Trump by women has been dropping.  A Hill-HarrisX poll showed that 53% of registered female voters were very unlikely to vote the Trump in 2020 and another 9% were unlikely to vote for Trump.  Women who are registered to vote outnumber men, and if 62% of them are not going to vote for Trump, it will be extremely difficult for Trump to be re-elected.

So the key to beating Trump in 2020 will simply be to get bodies to the polls.  The greater the turnout, the greater our chances of winning, on both a local level and a Federal level.  So please keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.

Day 869 – Undignified And Embarrassing

Yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that proved one of the turning points of the Second World War.  Trump traveled from his embarrassing stop in London to visit Normandy to commemorate the sacrifice of our troops, but he was unable to stop abusing decorum and further embarrassing himself.  In an interview beside a US cemetery with gravestones in the background, Trump couldn’t even act with grace for a moment, departing from the day’s memorials to insult prosecutor Robert Mueller–a Vietnam war hero with more courage and honor in his little finger than President BoneSpurs has in his entire body.  Trump later shared a stage with French president Emmanuel Macron and began to prattle about “this being one of the great places…when you think about great places, this is certain among the top…according to some people, the top. ”  Epic fail.  Undignified and embarrassing.

A lot of American soldiers died in Normandy, and yet it was striking to read yesterday that more Americans were shot to death between January 1st and March 6th of this year than died on D-Day.  Gun deaths are an epidemic in this country, but even mass shootings don’t seem to be enough to prompt lawmakers into action to make things at least a little more safe.  Reporting from the Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/06/06/more-americans-were-shot-death-by-march-this-year-than-died-d-day/

Today is the start of the “Wear Orange for Gun Safety” weekend protest organized by Everytown, a gun control organization started by Michael Bloomberg.  They are hosting events, which you can search here:

https://wearorange.org/

In Washington yesterday, it seemed that the House Oversight Committee was getting ready to hold Republicans William Barr and Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas to hand over documents relating to the configuration of the 2020 census.  Barr is also facing possible contempt charges by the House Judiciary Committee for failing to comply with a different subpoena, so it seems the hot water around Trump’s “Roy Cohn” is rising.  Barr has proven himself a brazen partisan hack loyal to Trump, but it’s widely believed that he doesn’t want to be held in contempt and have his legacy stained, so it will interesting to see whether the threat of contempt will stir him into compliance.

I’m going to a college reunion this weekend and won’t be posting again until Monday morning, Day 872.  It looks like a beautiful weather weekend coming up in the Hudson Valley so enjoy and recharge your batteries.  Only by conserving our energy will we be able to continue resisting and working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 868 – Media Calls Trump a Liar

The Republican Party was okay with destroying the ACA while having nothing to take its place.  The party was okay with taking children from their parents and locking them up in cages.  The party was okay with the Russians attacking our nation online and hacking our elections.  The party was okay with a president who broke the law and whose campaign tried to work with the Russians to win an election.  And the party remains okay with a president who profits from his office and lies almost every time he opens his mouth.  But it turns out the GOP is not okay with tariffs.  Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico until they stop all immigration into the United States seems to be a step too far.  The plutocrats who fund the GOP re-election campaigns will lose too much money if the tariffs go into effect, so Republicans in Congress are finally beginning to oppose Trump on this policy.

Trump may have been bluffing, because he’s made so many threats against so many countries very few of which have been put into action.  But the GOP isn’t going to wait to find out.  They’re moving forward with legislation to try to curtail any tariffs that Trump might impose on Mexico.  And in predictable fashion, the stock market rebounded yesterday on the hope that the GOP would succeed.  What sort of tantrum will Trump commit in response to this rebuke from his own party?  We will likely find out soon.

Meanwhile, Trump’s visit to Europe is providing a steady stream of verbal diarrhea.  Trump just can’t shut up, yet his statements and responses to questions are increasingly bizarre.  There don’t seem to be any restraints on his lies–he just makes stuff up in the moment to suit whatever lie or spin he feels he needs.  Yesterday he said that Transgender troops “take a massive amount of drugs” even though our troops “are not allowed to,” which is patently false.  What the hell was he even trying to convey?  His lies have become so frequent and blatant that the ever-cautious mainstream press has finally started to call them “lies” rather than “he misspoke” or “pushed a falsehood” or whatever.  It’s been a noticeable enough change that the Washington Post reported on it last night:

Nowadays, many in the news media are no longer bothering to grant Trump the benefit of the doubt. In routine news and feature stories, Trump’s dishonesty carries no fig leaf. It is described baldly.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/lies-the-news-media-is-starting-to-describe-trumps-falsehoods-that-way/2019/06/05/413cc2a0-8626-11e9-a491-25df61c78dc4_story.html

It’s also becoming clear that Trump’s lies and Tweets are pushing independent voters away from him.  Trump’s disapproval ratings in key swing states are moving against him, including Iowa (54%), Arizona (51%), Pennsylvania (52%), North Carolina (50%), and Ohio (50%).  These are good numbers, and we will need good numbers to overcome the electoral college advantage that Trump will have.

Keep resisting and keep working “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 867 – Chaotic And Ridiculous

Trump’s visit to London has been predictably chaotic and ridiculous.  Thousands of protesters flooded the streets to taunt Trump as he visited Buckingham Palace, yet he told a group of reporters that all he saw were people cheering him on.  Trump is really good at only one thing: lying.  He knows a certain portion of his cult will believe his pronouncements even when their eyes tell them he’s a liar. And he’s become comfortable gaslighting our nation on a daily basis because he has never suffered real consequences.  But the Brits see right through him.  Only 19% of Brits have a favorable opinion of Trump, while 68% have an unfavorable opinion.  And 53% of Brits believe Trump has weakened the “special relationship” Britain has with America.  Here’s a great protest sign from London yesterday:

Funny anti-Trump protest sign.

In the latest installment of “Republican Projection,” the man who brokered a meeting between the Trump team and a group of powerful middle easterners, George Nader, was charged recently with child pornography.  Nader had a prior felony conviction for importing pornographic videos of under-age boys, and Nader was convicted in Prague, Czech Republic, for sexually exploiting ten boys.  Nader along with Trump associate Elliott Broidy had been serving as envoys for Saudi Arabia and the UAE when they became embroiled in the Mueller investigation.  So while Alex Jones and the right-wing lunatic fringe made up stories about a porn ring in the basement of a DC pizza parlor run by Hillary Clinton, Trump and the GOP hang out with people like Nader and Jeffrey Epstein–who plead guilty to a charge of soliciting sex from an underage girl.  In other words, if any political party has become the party of pedophilia, it’s the Republicans.

Finally, if you have access to HBO and you haven’t seen Chernobyl yet, don’t miss it.  Show writer and producer Craig Mazin has created an incredibly powerful, riveting, and horrifying look at the moment-by-moment disaster that took place in the Ukraine.  It’s a tale of power and lies, and has tremendous relevance for our current resistance to totalitarianism and the pathological liar at the helm of our nation.  Here’s a quote from the main character in Chernobyl, a nuclear physicist:

“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth.  Sooner or later that debt is paid.”

Let’s keep working to make Trump pay at the ballot box when we “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 866 – Climate Disaster is Here

The recent historic flooding in the midwest is the latest reminder that our climate is already changing in ways that could be catastrophic.  Farmers in the affected regions remain unable to plant a large fraction of their crops which could spell disaster for corn an soybean production later this year.  And beyond the massive amounts of rainfall, there were a hundred recorded tornadoes in the span of about a week, another unprecedented statistic for the month of May.

This post isn’t meant to be melodramatic or hyperbolic.  But it is meant to be alarmist.  Because we should all be alarmed at the state of our planet’s ecology.  There’s good reason why climate change is the Number One issue for many voters going into the 2020 election–the scientific indicators have been moving swiftly from bad to worse.  If you’re not horrified, you haven’t been paying attention.

It was reported last week that Alaska and the northern hemisphere had record breaking heat in the month of March.  Alaska was, on average, around 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual.  And the arctic saw the greatest historical differential, around 40 degrees F warmer than usual.  These are staggeringly bad numbers, and they’re in line with climate change predictions that temperatures at the polls will rise much more than temps at the equator.  Reporting from Smithsonian:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/record-breaking-heat-alaska-wreaks-havoc-communities-and-ecosystems-180972317/

Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel is trapping heat, but now a warming Alaska will melt the permafrost, which is where a vast amount of Methane is stored–and Methane is ten-times as powerful a heat trapping gas as Carbon Dioxide.

At the other end of the globe, the giant ice cap in Antarctica is now melting faster than anyone predicted, and this also has scientists horrified.  Imagery from space has revealed the the ice cap is not as thick or as stable as was previously thought.  It’s adding more snow to its top layer thanks to more moisture in the air–another byproduct of a warming climate.  But below the surface the ice is being melted by sea water that is also rapidly warming.

Which brings us to the oceans.  For years, scientists couldn’t explain why air temperatures weren’t warmer that observed based on the amount Carbon Dioxide in the air.  Climate skeptics and deniers claimed that the discrepancy was proof climate change was a hoax.  But scientists eventually discovered that our oceans were storing the excess heat, which, along with acidification, was destroying coral reefs around the world and altering for the worse the ocean’s food cycle.  Plankton need cold, dark water to grow, and as the winter ice formation in the Arctic continues to go down, the backbone of the food chain, Plankton, becomes more scarce.  Here’s a report from Pacific Standard Magazine:

https://psmag.com/environment/global-warming-is-putting-phytoplankton-in-danger

When you combine this with overfishing on a global, industrial scale, you arrive at our current situation.  The oceans are on the verge of collapse.  Fish stocks have been wiped out in many regions of the globe, and the larger mammals at the top of the food chain are now in trouble.  Orcas in the Pacific are starving to death.  Certain whale species are no longer reproducing because there isn’t enough food, and others are dying from starvation.  And the animals that survive are poisoned by plastic and mercury.   Article in Smithsonian on dying whales:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/noaa-investigating-dozens-gray-whale-deaths-along-west-coast-180972333/

It was reported a month ago by the United Nations that one million species are facing extinction because of the activity of humans, much of it climate related.  Some scientists say we are facing the largest extinction event in human history.  Here’s reporting from the Washington Post on the UN report:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/05/06/one-million-species-face-extinction-un-panel-says-humans-will-suffer-result/

There are many dimensions to climate change, and any one of them would be alarming.  But together they form a terrifying picture of looming risk.  We are currently at 405 ppm of Carbon Dioxide in our air, a figure that matches what Exxon scientists secretly calculated and predicted decades ago as they were preparing to spend billions lying to the world about the risks of burning fossil fuels.  And we are set to continue to raise that number far past the 400 ppm tipping point that many hoped we would avoid a decade or so ago.  This paints a grim picture for our future.  But we’re no longer talking about our grandchildren’s future.  We’re now talking about our immediate future.

Every prediction about the pace of climate change our scientists made ten or twenty years ago has proven to be too conservative.  Things keep worsening at an accelerating pace, in part because there are self-reinforcing and compounding effects that scientists couldn’t have grasped or predicted years ago.  For example, glacier ice should melt at a certain, predictable pace.  But scientists discovered that it tends to melt faster than predicted because it often traps soot that concentrates on the surface as the ice melts, giving the ice a darker surface which then warms and melts more quickly.

So now scientists are  concerned that we could see massive global effects of climate change in the next thirty years–or sooner.  Like weather patterns so disruptive that they cause a major crop failure.  Or rising oceans that cause millions of refugees.  An article was recently published by two experts, a former fossil fuel executive and the former head of Australia’s military, describing a worst-case scenario that predicted the end of human civilization by 2050 because the Earth and its systems could no longer be able to support human life.  These authors aren’t on the lunatic fringe, they are serious people with a lot of experience:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/597kpd/new-report-suggests-high-likelihood-of-human-civilization-coming-to-an-end-in-2050

Anyone who looks at the science and the evidence can only come away horrified.  There is no way to sugar coat it and no more time to be polite.  We have to face the grim reality of climate change now or we may not get a second chance.  It’s easy to look away and pretend it will all work out.  But it won’t.  We have to push like hell for a solution.  And as Americans, our next step is to run the Republican party and their corporate enablers out of office and support Democrats who will tell the truth and make the hard decisions that we surely face.  There’s no other viable alternative.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 865 – The Coming Trump Slump

Trump’s tariffs against Mexico caused another in a series of stock market meltdowns last Friday.  And the overnight markets were predicting a sharply lower market today.  But the markets are reacting to more than the latest Trump bullying tactic.  They are finally catching on that Trump and his coterie of feckless economic advisers (like Mnuchin and Kudlow) are not just erratic and unpredictable, but also lacking in any long-term policy or strategy.  Trump just reacts to cable TV headlines and slaps tariffs on any country he wants to bully.

The markets are also starting to focus on the long term effects of Trump’s disastrous tariffs and his only-for-the-rich Tax Scam in light of a business cycle that has been going gangbusters for ten years and is finally starting to look weak.  The 2019 first quarter GDP came in at a robust 3.1% and all of the Trumpers were gloating about the “incredible” economy that Trump had wrought.  But it’s looking like that quarter will be the high-water mark of his administration.  JP Morgan just downgraded their second quarter GDP forecast from 2.25% to 1%, and Morgan Stanley dropped their GDP forecast from 1% to a measly .6% in the second quarter.  These are disastrous numbers for Trump, especially if they are becoming the new normal, which is what the bond market has been signalling recently.

The forecasts are dropping, in part, because some of the long-term economic indicators are turning south.  The latest durable goods and retail sales numbers were both bad, there’s been a “notable slowdown” in the retail services sector, and manufacturing activity fell to a nine year low in May.  These numbers don’t bode well for this year’s economy.  Here’s a deeper dive from Bloomberg:

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/28/morgan-stanley-says-economy-on-recession-watch-amid-bond-warning.html

What is bad news for the markets and the economy is bad news for Trump.  The one thing he’s been able to point to with pride for the length of his tenure has been the robust economy (that he inherited from Obama).  But the economy could be running out of steam, hurt in part by Trump’s tariffs, higher gas prices, and higher health care and insurance costs caused by the destruction of the ACA framework by Trump.

What is bad news for the markets and Trump is good news for the Democrats.  To face Trump in an election year with a strong economy would have been difficult.  But to face Trump during a slowdown, especially of his own making, will take away the one giant talking point that Mister Phony Businessman has always clung to when all else failed.

Keep your eye on the stock market.  This may be a good time to sell stocks and sit on the sidelines.  But it may also be a good time for Democrats to point out how abysmal Trump’s record has been on the economy.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Markets finally seeing how damaging the Trump presidency & tariffs will be to our economy.  The mkts have been giving him a pass, unemp is low, etc.