Saturday, July 1, 2017

JUNE 2017 BONEHED ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Donald Trump. Where would the boneheads be without Donald Trump,  so I’ll start out with two. This morsel derives from his absurd decision to withdraw from the Paris accords. Included is a selection of comments he’s made in the past on climate change.

In the years before running for president, he called it “nonexistent,” “mythical,” and a total con job.”

Reminiscent of Senator “Snowball” Inhoff, whenever snow would fall in New York, Trump would be prompted to mockingly observe” “Global warming has been proven to be a canard repeatedly over and over again,” he tweeted in 2012. Later that year he said the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” A year later he wrote that “global warming is a total and expensive hoax.”

Did belief in the phoniness of global warming lead Trump to pull out of the Paris accord, or was it, as he stated, because the accord was hurting the American economy (or maybe it was that hard Macron handshake)? As with Trump, you never know. As usual, his muzzled staff offers no clue to his "thinking." What we do know is Trump thinks playing to his base is a formula for success. I don’t know what’s worse, Trump or his base?


2. Donald Trump. Everyone knows Donald Trump loves flattery, especially when he can bestow it on himself. In a June 12 cabinet meeting, in which he received glowing praise from his sycophant cabinet, Trump did himself proud, with this boast:

“I will say that never has there been a president, with few exceptions—in the case of FDR he had a major Depression to handle—who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done. . . We’ve been about as active as you can possibly be, and at a just about record-setting pace.”

Never mind that Trump has yet to sign any major legislation, his efforts to appeal the Affordable Care Act remains in limbo (thank goodness), and his administration is months away from unveiling either a major tax cut package or the sweeping infrastructure plan he has promised.

But he has been active. He has cut safety regulations for workers and the environment, rolled back regulations on gun control and on internet privacy, twice attempted to ban Muslims from six countries from which we’ve never been attacked, green lit the DAPL and Keystone XL pipelines while ignoring the giant Keystone leak, turned his back on the growing incidence of hate crimes, begun his mass deportation plan by focusing on people who haven’t committed violent crimes, tried three times to halt sanctions on Russia, lied about saving money on Air Force One and about the F-35, dropped the US out of the Paris climate accord, insulted our NATO allies, and heaped praise on, and invited a who’s who of autocratic, repressive despots to visit the White House. Meanwhile his White House remains mired in the worst scandal since Watergate. Some record, indeed.

For the record, during FDR’s first 100 days he signed legislation that established the Federal Emergency Relief Agency as his opening salvo against the Great Depression, then the Civilian Conservation Corps that fought the dust bowl, the Agriculture Adjustment Administration to get farming back on its feet, the National Industry Recovery Act and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Donald's approval rating is now at 37% and falling.

3. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Republicans have had trouble spinning the ISIS terrorist attack on the Satanist Iran, but leave it to the California Republican to find a way. Praising the attack as a "good thing," Rohrabacher wondered if maybe America can't use ISIS terrorism as a weapon against our enemies.

“We have recently seen an attack on Iran, and the Iranian government, the mullahs, believe that Sunni forces have attacked them. This may signal a ratcheting up of certain commitments by the United States of America. As far as I’m concerned, I just want to make this point and see what you think, isn’t it a good thing for us to have the United States finally backing up Sunnis who will attack Hezbollah and the Shiite threat to us? Isn’t that a good thing? And if so, maybe this is a Trump — maybe it’s a Trump strategy of actually supporting one group against another, considering that you have two terrorist organizations.”

Rohrabacher thinks the attack was a "good thing" because it's targeted other Muslims. (ISIS in fact spends the vast majority of its time targeting other Muslims, which Rohrabacher either doesn't know or has forgotten.) The premise, then, is that maybe terrorist attacks in other nations are a good thing if it's killing people that, in the eyes of certain U.S. policy gurus, maybe need killing.

Setting aside the morality of that logic, the other stumper is the rather odd theory that the ISIS attack "maybe" represents a "Trump strategy of actually supporting one group against another." He seems to be suggesting that perhaps the terrorist attack was a Donald Trump "strategy"? As in, that the Trump administration is "supporting" ISIS in their attacks on Muslim nations?

That would be Rather Big Freaking News if true, and seems Rather Big Freaking News even as a mere suggestion from a Republican member of Congress. The Republican-led executive and legislative branches have gone from a policy of opposing Syria's Assad to a more muddled version, and have gone from condemning Russia vigorously for the invasion of Ukraine to probing how quickly our nation could lift the sanctions our nation imposed afterwards for the act; we are now hearing congressional debate on whether or not the United States should support terrorist groups and plots against international opponents.

That is seriously deranged, and I hope we are all very clear on that. The party has gone somewhat farther than losing its moral compass, at this point—and still Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell trundle on.

4. EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt. Responding to Trump Administration instructions, Pruitt dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency’s regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research. And with that minor test run over, Pruitt has now moved on to a wholesale purge of scientists from his supposedly scientific agency.

The EPA has given notice to dozens of scientists that they will not be renewed in their roles in advising the agency, continuing a scientific shake-up that has already triggered resignations and charges from some researchers that the administration is politicizing the agency.

With climate change data hidden or destroyed, Pruitt directly working to raise funds for Republicans, and actions that go beyond accepting climate change to denying basic science, it’s no doubt inconvenient to have people around who know what the hell they’re doing. So that is being quickly remedied.  And just in case any of those scientists were thinking about saying something Pruitt wouldn’t like, he made sure that wouldn’t happen—at least not on EPA grounds.

None of the subcommittees will have a chair or vice chair, and all committee meetings scheduled for late summer and fall have been cancelled.

Pruitt’s actions completely wipes out the existing Board of Scientific Counselors. It means the whole board can now be reappointed, filled with industry lobbyists and science deniers, and the EPA can then go forward on the basis that “its scientific advisers” tell it that carbon dioxide is good for plants, only God can change the climate, and Donald Trump is nature’s hero.

President Trump has also directed Pruitt to push for deep cuts in its budget — including a 40 percent reduction for its main scientific branch — and instructed him to roll back major Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection.

To Trump and company, “environmental protection” means protecting polluters of the environment.

5. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA). Members of Congress are weighing in on what actions they'll take in the wake of this latest mass shooting—the one targeting members of Congress, that is, not the near-simultaneous San Francisco one that nobody has mentioned or given any thought to. The answer, of course, more guns.

Loudermilk, who was present during the shooting, leaped immediately to the notion that if he and his staff were carrying guns during their morning of baseball practice, the shooter "wouldn't have gotten too far."

"If this had happened in Georgia, he wouldn't have gotten too far. I had a staff member who was in his car maybe 20 yards behind the shooter who was penned in his car, who back in Georgia carries a 9 mm in his car. I carry a weapon. He had a clear shot at him, but here we're not allowed to carry any weapons here."

Q: But you can carry in Virginia.

"Yeah but most of us are here in DC ... how do you have the gun here and just transport it to Virginia?"

Q: Should members be allowed to carry in DC?

"I think we need to look at some kind of reciprocity for members here, but also we need to look at security details," [...]

We’re going to try to give Loudermilk the benefit of the doubt here and hope he will rethink, but it’s bad news if the initial reaction to the Virginia mass shooting becomes, of all things, a push to weaken Washington D.C.'s gun laws or simply nullify them for members of Congress. Loudermilk noted that "we're not any more special than anybody else but we are targets." But he also used the shooting to justify the Republican lack of "Trumpcare" town halls with citizens.

"This is exactly why there's a lot of fear of even doing town halls at this point. Some of the things this guy is posting on Facebook—we get the same things and even worse.”

There is a tremendous gap between angry Facebook posts and mass shootings, of course—and one presumes loaded assault rifles are already not allowed at congressional town halls, but that may be giving individual states too much credit.

Maybe members of Congress should walk around carrying AK-47’s. Don’t be surprised if such a bill soon surfaces.

6. Steve King (R-Iowa). Leave it to a Republican to find yet another event to blame on President Obama. When Rep. King was asked to weigh in on the latest of America's mass shootings, he responded with:

"I do want to put some of this at the feet of Barack Obama," the Iowa congressman said in an interview with Simon Conway on WHO Iowa radio. "He contributed mightily to dividing us. He focused on our differences rather than our things that unify us. And this is some of the fruits of that labor."

In every instance in which a Republican has been asked to explain their "Barack Obama was divisive" stance, the answers have always revolved around Barack Obama being black and the handful of commentaries he gave, in office, on the experience of being black in America. There was Trayvon Martin, and the "Beer Summit" and Obama's brief remarks in both cases were enough to convince certain Republican lawmakers that there was no more divisive political figure in America than That Black Guy. Steve King has been a racist for some time, the sort of Iowa jackass who kept a Confederate flag in his office because of "heritage." He is always like this. At no point does he rise above it, or even try.

The Steve Kings of the Republican Party—and, unfortunately, the faction is currently dominant, now having commandeered House, Senate, and executive branch—have very specific ideas of what "divides" America. Agreeing with them unites America; disagreeing with them divides it. That is the entire premise of the alt right, the Breitbart right, the tea party right, or whatever else they want to call themselves. They believe it's why civil and voting rights need to be curbed, lest "certain people" get too full of themselves. It is why Jeff Sessions is an attorney general, and why Donald Trump's team presumed that religious exclusion tests would be widely welcomed by an America fed up with the division of immigrants and refugees and non-Christian voices.

But the other "divider" of America, aside from the most prominent black man of any given cultural moment, is considered to be the press. The press reports things that angry up the public blood, like CBO scores and how many people with preexisting conditions will be priced out of affordable health care entirely if a certain bill becomes law. They report on allegations against the "uniter" president. They report court decisions that make the uniters look bad. So they, too, were pointed to as "inciters" of this public violence.

Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) told Fox News Wednesday afternoon that “the media is complicit” in acts of violence like the mass shooting targeting members of Congress “if they keep inciting, as opposed to informing.”

It is the fault of the dividers, after all. It is never about the guns, or whether those with violent pasts ought to have access to weapons of mass murder. It is never about the people who bleat loudly that guns are needed to prevent our own government from descending into "tyranny," or the insistence even from sitting Republican lawmakers themselves that any random American nutcase has an inherent right to decide when their own private visions of "tyranny" justifies those patriotic murders. It is never about any of those things.
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And  the winner is . . . . .

Trump's boasting about his first hundred days is clearly the biggest absurdity, but since I will not bestow any more monthly awards on our certified bonehead president, this month's winner is Steven King.



1 comment:

  1. Ron, You are going to have to come up with a stronger term than "bonehead." I have no suggestions; these guys defy definition in the extent of their stupidity or, of what I consider worse, their willful and cynical exploitation of the baser instincts, fears, ignorance and gullibility of so much of the US population.

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