Monday, January 2, 2017

DECEMBER 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Senator Jeff Sessions. Back in 2000, Sessions put his finger squarely on the source of problems in America’s schools: disabled children. Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general claimed, on the floor of the Senate, that while it was a good thing for schools to make accommodations for disabled students, it had just plain gone too far:

 
… we have created a complex system of federal regulations and laws that have created lawsuit after lawsuit, special treatment for certain children, and that are a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America. I say that very sincerely….Teachers I have been talking to have shared stories with me. I have been in 15 schools around Alabama this year. I have talked to them about a lot of subjects. I ask them about this subject in every school I go to, and I am told in every school that this is a major problem for them. In fact, it may be the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today.
 
In his statement, Sessions repeatedly cited the federal government falling short of its funding commitments to help schools comply with the law—but his answer was not full funding, it was going harder on disabled kids. Don’t think this is just Sessions rhetoric; the new AG has also walked the walk. As Alabama’s attorney general in the mid 1990s, he fought school equality after a judge ruled on behalf of about 30 of the state’s poor school districts who sought reforms. The case continued to languish in the courts while disability advocates worried that the poorest school systems didn’t have enough to fund the bare essentials for special needs students, according to a New York Times account. The case ended in 1997 ― after Sessions won a senate seat.
 
Add disabled children to the long list of people and principles Jeff Sessions won’t be protecting as attorney general.
 

2. Trump Transition Team. Transition team members are urging President Trump to go after his enemies—as if he needed prodding. Newt Gingrich, for one, is urging him to revive Joseph McCarthy’s HUAC Committee. The team, with Trump’s consent—or more likely mandating —is complying. It is already building a blacklist at the Department of Energy.
 
The transition team has asked the agency to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics, used to estimate and justify the climate benefits of new rules. 
 
Don’t expect the Congress to be any help in heading off Trump’s climate McCarthyism. The questions about the social cost of carbon dovetail with similar, so-far-unsuccessful requests from Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have also sought information about the analysis underpinning that policy and the people who helped develop it. I can hear it now:
 
“Are you now, or have you ever been, a believer in climate change?” 
 
One of the obstacles to a democratic breakdown is the government bureaucracy, whose permanent members are insulated from political pressure by existing civil service protections that make it hard to fire senior officials without cause. … But if the president or his lieutenants can gut government agencies more or less at will, the fear of being fired will lead many experienced public servants to keep their heads down and kowtow to whatever the president wants, no matter how ill-advised or illegal it might be.
 
Sending witch hunters to sniff out those who stepped over the line by practicing actual science in the public interest? This is what we’re in store for. The Donald may not be able to bring back the manufacturing jobs of the 1950s, but he can bring back the atmosphere of fear and distrust, the era of loyalty tests, and blacklists.
 
For his followers, that may be enough.
 
3. Andrew Puzder Donald Trump’s New Labor Secretary. Puzder is well known for opposing an increase in the minimum wage, expanding eligibility for overtime pay, and being critical of paid sick leave. He also advocates the repeal of the ACA. Callous and absurd as these positions are, his take on automation tops the sick list: Increased automation could be a welcome development because machines are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, they never slip-and-fall or raise an age, sex or race discrimination case.”
 
This is the Secretary of Labor, mind you. The norm for Democratic presidents has been to avoid appointing labor leaders as labor secretary, and for Republicans not appointing CEO’s. Trump of course is not normal. Puzder is a CEO extraordinaire with a solid resume of imposing austerity on fast food workers. White working people that voted for Trump are in for a rude awakening.
 
4. North Carolina GOP Lawmakers. This month the Republican-controlled statehouse in a surprise special session passed two pieces of legislation that stripped duties from the governor so that the power of his successor, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, would be curtailed. The legislation limits the governor’s control over election boards, requires State Senate approval of the new governor’s cabinet members, strips his power to appoint University of North Carolina trustees, and requires that party affiliations be included in state Supreme Court elections. Republicans also proposed to substantially cut the number of state employees who serve at the governor’s pleasure, giving Civil Service protections to hundreds of managers in state agencies who have executed the priorities of outgoing GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.
 
McCrory’s power grab is yet another example of GOP hypocrisy. Back in 2014 as governor, he sued the North Carolina legislature for a similar attempt to reduce the governor’s powers, saying at the time:
 
"I have too much respect for North Carolina's constitution to allow the growing encroachment of the legislative branch into the responsibilities the people of North Carolina have vested in the executive branch."
 
Now two years later, after he narrowly lost his re-election bid, his tune has entirely changed. Skirting criticism, McCrory said in a statement that the laws were "hardly extreme changes," and were intended to fix a "broken election process" and "enhance" education policies.
 
Par for the GOP course, the power grab was justified as consistent with the constitutional powers. We’ll see; expect a constitutional challenge, which the Tar Heel state should be getting used to after four years of a wave of legislative-imposed restrictions on voting access and abortion and gay rights. In his response to the move, newly elected governor Cooper said:
 
"Once more, the courts will have to clean up the mess the legislature made, but it won't stop us from moving North Carolina forward."
 
The GOP: becoming the party of cheaters, more and more every day.
 
5. Congressional Republicans. Republicans have been prescribing so-called "religious freedom" as the antidote to LGBTQ advances.  Now, riding the momentum of Trump’s win, which gives them full control of the federal government, they like their odds of finally passing enabling legislation. Led by Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, Republicans are wasting little time in their efforts to roll back civil rights for LGBT Americans.
 
[The First Amendment Defense Act] would prohibit the federal government from taking "discriminatory action" against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: "(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; and, (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."
 
The intentionally broadly-written law would, in other words, enshrine the "right" of any private business to deny service to gay Americans outright if they are personally opposed to marriage equality. It would not merely allow businesses to deny their services in same-sex marriage ceremonies themselves: it would allow any business to discriminate against any customer, gay or straight, for any service, whether it be selling them gasoline or a hamburger, if a pseudo-religious reason can be attached to it.
 
The customer likely doesn't even have to be gay. The business can simply declare that they believe that customer might be an unmarried fornicator or a single parent, or perhaps declare that serving a particular customer might nebulously benefit some gay American later on. The law makes no mention of religious beliefs that are not hostile to LGBTQ Americans or equality; the religious belief declaring LGBTQ equality to be sinful is elevated as the only government-protected religious belief on the subject that will be tolerated.
 
Cruz and team are quite certain they will be able to gain the support of their Republican colleagues and their new anti-civil rights president. Ted Freaking Cruz is a rancid little un-American grub of a man who was foisted onto the nation by a Republican base so riddled with paranoia that they are willing to support any malevolent act or actor if they think doing so will cause harm to Americans they don't like.
 
6. Donald Trump. At a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, among the many dumb things Donald Trump said was this gem about the support African Americans gave him:
 
“ . . . and the African American community was great to us. They came through, bigly. Bigly. And frankly, if they had any doubt, they didn’t vote and that was almost as good because a lot of people didn’t show up.”
 
So, according to the Donald, white people benefit when black people don’t vote. One thing is certain about the incoming Trump administration, the next four years will bring more attacks on the voting rights of people of color. No wonder the alt-right is giddy over his election.
 
7. Bill O'Reilly. O’Reilly has never been much for dog whistles when discussing American minorities and their irritating insistence on rights. He took to his program in December to explain that any talk of ditching the Electoral College system of picking a president is ... an attack on the “white establishment.”
 
“This is all about race,” the conservative commentator said on his Fox News show. “The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with. Therefore white working class voters must be marginalized.”
 
He later added that liberals believe “white men have set up a system of oppression and that system must be destroyed ... The left wants power taken away from the white establishment and they want a profound change in the way America is run.”
 
It's not just the method of picking a president, you see. It's that "liberals," more and more "reliant on the minority vote," are plotting to disadvantage Good White People.
 
The above could have been taken from a Klan rally, word for word. It's a staple of the ever-paranoid white supremacist groups courted by Trump's top adviser. And Bill O'Reilly is quite comfortable televising the notion. Minorities and liberals are coming for you, white America. Be afraid. They’re going to take the power of your “white establishment.”
 
O’Reilly is well-known for racist rants; now he has a soul mate in the White House.
 
8. Working Class Trump Voters. Millions of Americans voted for Trump because they found his racism, misogyny, xenophobia and affinity for white nationalism resonated well with their own beliefs. But, millions more were simply hard-working white Americans who felt abandoned by establishment elites. For the steady erosion of their dreams and aspirations, they blamed immigrants, affirmative action, President Obama’s stewardship, and a generally unresponsive national government. They were ready for an anti-establishment leader who would champion their causes. In Donald Trump they saw a straight-talker who promised to restore industrial jobs, promote their economic swell-being, go after welfare freeloaders, reduce their taxes, and put America first-- a man who would shake up the system that wasn’t working for them.
 
One thing was wrong with their thinking: Donald Trump is a fraud, a duplicitous con man whose constituency is not the white working class, but his billionaire and multi-millionaire friends with whom he identifies. For evidence, one needs to look no further than to his plutocratic cabinet appointments, and in particular his selection of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Defense (See Absurdity #3). Sadly, hard-pressed, working Americans are in for a rude awakening.
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And the winner is:
 
For the ultimate absurdity in believing Trump’s hollow rhetoric, the December prize goes to white working class voters.

1 comment:

  1. Ron,
    It has to be white working class voters. All the other candidates are just calculating politicians, doing and saying whatever is necessary to advance their personal agendas. Wrong headed, yes, but not boneheads.

    ReplyDelete

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