Saturday, October 1, 2016

SEPTEMBER 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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NOTE:  It seems media sorts are only interested in Donald Trump these days. As a result, it has been hard to find bonehead absurdities from other prominent figures, although I'm sure there were many that didn't get wide coverage.  Though I’d like to avoid boring Phronesis readers with yet more Trump absurdities, I couldn't help but include the following dillies. With apologies, I offer this month’s Trump-dominated selections.

1. Former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann warns of an “impending apocalypse” in which godly moral principles will no longer be defended if Hillary Clinton is elected.
 
“I don't want to be melodramatic but I do want to be truthful,” the evangelical Christian said in an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “Brody File.” “I believe without a shadow of a doubt this is the last election. This is it. This is the last election.”
 
Bachmann, who advises Donald Trump on religious issues and foreign policy (go figure), explained that demographic change in the United States posed a disadvantage to Republican candidates since the country’s growing share of minority voters were more inclined to vote for Democrats.
 
“It's a math problem of demographics and a changing United States,” she said. “If you look at the numbers of people who vote and who lives in the country and who Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to bring in to the country, this is the last election when we even have a chance to vote for somebody who will stand up for godly moral principles. This is it.”
 
Bachmann said that if Clinton were elected, she would offer “wholesale amnesty” to undocumented immigrants “so that Republicans will never again have the chance at winning Florida or Texas” and therefore be unable to secure the White House. "She's going to change the demographics of the United States so that no Republican will ever win again," Bachmann insisted.
 
What’s absurd is her insinuation that brown people don’t stand up for “godly, moral principles, not her prediction of future doom for the white-only GOP-- an intriguing prospect, indeed.
 

2. Steve Bannon, CEO for Trump Campaign. The new leader of team Trump fits well on the misogynist and LGBT bashing train. As Trump’s campaign manager, Bannon now has a national vehicle to promote his contempt for women. During a 2011 interview, Bannon said:
 
"That’s why there are some unintended consequences of the women’s liberation movement. That, in fact, the [conservative] women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters' schools up in New England. That drives the left insane and that’s why they hate these women.”
 
The Seven Sisters schools are the historic women’s colleges of Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Radcliffe College, Smith College, Vassar College, and Wellesley College in the Northeast.  Hillary Clinton attended Wellesley College.
 
One can disagree with stands on feminism, family, or other social issues with anyone in the public sphere. We Progressives routinely criticize and even lambaste Ann Coulter, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin, but we do so based on their ideas, not their gender. And if we get caught inserting their gender into the argument, progressive commentators won't let anyone here or elsewhere in liberal media get away with it. It's not acceptable discourse.
 
Steve Bannon is a spiteful misogynist. This is exactly the intolerance and pure hatefulness a Trump Presidency would heap on America.
 
3. Donald Trump rolled out his plan for molding the kids today into proper Americans. The Donald told veterans from across country that he would require patriotism to be taught in schools.
 
“We will stop apologizing for America, and we will start celebrating America,” he said. “We will be united by our common cultures, values, and principles, becoming one American nation, one country under the one constitution, saluting one American flag—always saluting.”
 
Teaching patriotism? I can picture the curricula at Trump Middle School. Students would be required to learn the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, Star Spangled Banner, and America the Beautiful. Real patriots would come in to instruct students on the proper way to remove one’s hat and position a right hand on the heart during the National Anthem. The proper time and way to shout USA! USA! will be spelled out.  Students would be required to write an essay on why America is the greatest nation on earth.  Those who point out ways America has not lived up to its ideals would automatically flunk.
 
Students receiving anything less than an A in “patriotism” would have to come in for extracurricular patriotism activities after school and attend a summer patriotism camp. Since un-patriotic things tend to start at home, families of children who still don’t “get it” will be investigated by an official from Trump’s Department of Patriotism. Homes that don’t display the flag watch Fox News, support the troops, and regularly attend a Christian church will be fined. A second offense will bring a possible prison sentence.
 
Fantasy yes, but not so far-fetched when you consider that most Americans associate patriotism with love of and loyalty to the country, right or wrong. To these folk, calling attention to the country’s shortcomings, or failing to pay due respect to our national symbols, is unpatriotic. I disagree. Flying the flag, saluting the troops, standing up for the national anthem, and shouting “USA. USA” do not validate one as a patriot.  True patriotism means striving to hold our country accountable to its founding ideals and values and expressing pride in an America that lives up to its creed. When it doesn’t, a patriot’s obligation is to speak out. (See my Feb. 2013 post: What Does It Mean to be Patriotic?) Clearly Donald Trump is not this kind of patriot.
 
4. More Trump. Trump acknowledged for the first time that President Obama was born in the U.S., thus ending his long history of stoking unfounded doubts about the nation’s first African-American president. True to form, however, he falsely blamed Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for starting the rumors.
 
"Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it, you know what I mean," Trump said at his newly opened luxury hotel in Washington on Friday morning. "President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period."
 
This is not the first time that Trump has accused Clinton of first raising questions about Obama's birthplace, an assertion that has been repeatedly dissproven by fact-checkers, who found no evidence that Clinton or her campaign questioned Obama's birth certificate or his citizenship. For years, Trump has been the most prominent backer of the so-called birther movement, which lurked in the dark corners of the Internet until Trump forced it into the mainstream. While drumming up publicity for his own possible run for the White House during the last election cycle, Trump began to aggressively question Obama’s qualifications for office.  He never came out and said where he thinks the president was born, but he demanded to see the president’s long-form birth certificate and other records. Trump also claimed to have hired investigators.
 
In April 2011, Obama released his long-form Hawaiian birth certificate in the name of putting all of the conspiracy theories to rest, and Trump congratulated himself and said that he "accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish." That’s The Donald; he’s never wrong and always wins.
 
5. Still More Trump. After lamenting that in the U.S. “we’re not allowed to profile terrorists,” for which he received “Four-Pinocchios” from Fact Checker, Trump went on to affirm his profiling credentials when he said police should use stop-and-frisk tactics more aggressively in black communities.
 
Trump answered the bombings in New York and New Jersey by calling for aggressive profiling of terrorism suspects, and criticized the authorities for showing restraint toward people from “that part of the world.”
 
Mr. Trump has insistently described law enforcement and security services as hemmed in by concerns about “political correctness,” and has vowed to do away with them. He claimed on Monday that the police were so skittish about being accused of inappropriate profiling that they would balk at stopping someone who “looks like he’s got a massive bomb on his back,” if the suspect appeared to be of a certain background.  Later, asked in a town hall on Fox News' "Hannity" how he would combat violence in poor black neighborhoods, the GOP presidential nominee said police should stop and frisk people.
 
"I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York; it worked incredibly well. And you have to be proactive," Trump said.
 
The profiling tactic gained traction in New York under two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani, now a top Trump surrogate, and Michael R. Bloomberg, now a fierce Trump critic. The tactic drew dozens of lawsuits by people who argued that they were unfairly targeted by police on racial grounds as they walked the city's streets. A study from the New York Civil Liberties Union found that blacks and Latinos were disproportionately stopped by police from 2002 until 2013 under the stop-and-frisk policy. Few had committed any crimes. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that New York's stop-and-frisk policy had violated the constitutional rights of minorities.
 
Mr. Trump’s policy prescriptions have stirred concern among some experts in national security and law enforcement, including prominent Republicans who warn that Mr. Trump’s agenda could undermine public safety by generating a backlash in communities that the police and intelligence officials rely upon for cooperation.
 
Along with Trump’s proposals to ban all Muslim immigration and to enlist law enforcement agencies to fulfill his promise to deport millions of people who entered the country illegally, Trump’s advocacy of profiling underscore his contempt for the U.S. Constitution—and this coming from a man who has the audacity to claim he is a strict constructionist.
 
6. Former Chicago Bears Football Coach Mike Ditka. Ditka has not been in charge of an NFL team for 17 years, but the business of being “Iron Mike” has never stopped booming. He’s the tough-as-nails head football coach who’s always ready to shill for any product within arm’s distance or play himself in a Will Ferrell movie. When on ESPN, he is forever armed with a sharp rant and is perhaps their only talking head—other than maybe Chis Berman—who can pass gas on live television and make it come off as lovable. That’s just Ditka being Ditka.
 
But there is another side to Mike Ditka. He’s the guy who was accused of sending players back into games with concussions. He’s the guy who was described this way by former Bears safety Dave Duerson: “Mike was not one who gave a damn about the players or their injuries when he was coaching.” Duerson later took his own life, and in death was diagnosed the brain disease CTE.
 
Ditka is the guy who berated his own Bears players for not crossing a picket line when the NFLPA was on strike in 1987. He’s the guy today who—after a lifetime of supporting right-wing candidates—shills for another dubious product: Donald Trump.
 
And now, true to form, he’s coming out against Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests. On Friday, he said on the Shan & RJ radio show,
 
“I think it’s a problem-- anybody who disrespects this country and the flag. If they don’t like the country they don’t like our flag, get the hell out. My choice is, I like this country, I respect our flag, and I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on,” Ditka said. “I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunity. Now, if they don’t want to look for them then you can find problems with anything, but this is the land of opportunity because you can be anything you want to be if you work. If you don’t work, that’s a different problem.”
 
Mike Ditka, as mentioned, is a Trump endorser—and he is parroting the candidate who in August said that Kaepernick “maybe should find another country to live in.” Trump undoubtedly knows that this kind of statement is a racist dog whistle, that when you tell someone who is descended from the enslaved people that helped build the United States to shut up or find another country, you are telling them—in classic KKK fashion—to “go back to Africa.”
 
Ditka’s comments share similarities in content and tone with not only Trump but also former Indiana University basketball coach Bob “The General” Knight. These braying bullies have appointed themselves as the arbiters of patriotism. Yet when Trump, Ditka, and Knight had the chance to serve in Vietnam, they didn’t. They used whatever means were at their disposal—deferments, foot injuries, coaching Army basketball—to get out of it. I have no problem with anyone who didn’t serve in that horrific war, but I draw the line when blowhards like Ditka, Trump and Knight act like they’re George Patton when they’re not even George W. Bush.
__________________________
 
And the winner is:
 
Given how Trump supporters lap up every absurd statement he makes, it’s hard to decide whether his numerous lies and absurdities represent true bonehead utterances. Perhaps they’re calculated to maximize media exposure. More likely, though, they’re just racist, misogynist Donald being racist, misogynist Donald. Whatever the case, I’ve decided that while I will continue to include Trump absurdities, I will refrain from selecting him as a monthly award winner. This said, this month’s win goes to Michelle Bachmann.

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